History isn’t added to creation. Creation isn’t a stable backdrop to the action on stage. It’s not as if God first makes an immobile set of things and structures and then kicks them into gear.
Quite the opposite. The first thing God speaks into being – the only thing He directly speaks into being – is light. By the end of Day 1, He’s arranged light and dark into a dance of days and nights.
Time is the first creature, more basic than space or things. Things emerge in the course of temporal cycles and sequences. Everything in creation has a history, because, down to its very roots, creation is a history. The action of the play begins before the stage is built, so that constructing the stage is part of the action.
From the first, creation’s history is progressive. Each new day is better than the last. The days of creation move from good to gooder, setting a trajectory for the whole of history, which also moves from glory to glory.
God says creation is “very good” only after He’s “completed” everything. Goodness is perfected at the end. The best things come last, like the wine of the wedding of Cana, like the new heavens and new earth. Full goodness is eschatological.
And it’s not just creation as a whole that reaches its full goodness at the end. Every created thing becomes more fully the goodness that it is as it matures through time.
Consider light. Light is good on Day 1, when it’s doing nothing more than beaming over the waters of the deep, reflecting and refracting, flashing rainbow colors on the waves. Day 2 brings a new glory to light, as it illumines not only the waters below, but the blue dome of the firmament.
It gets better on Day 3. Light makes the pied greens of grasses and leaves visible, along with flowered and fruited robes of lily-white, plum-violet, rose-red. More: Light becomes life-giving, providing the energy plants need to photosynthesize. For the first time, something on earth dances with heaven’s light, as flowers open to dawn and modestly close at dusk.
On Day 4, light delegates its time-management to heavenly luminaries. On Day 5, light glances off the sleek backs of whales and shows off the feathery glories of peacocks, macaws, and finches. On Day 6, God offers light-sweetened plants as food for animals and man.
This process doesn’t stop at the end of the creation week. All creation is moving toward a fulness of good, which will be revealed only at the end of all things. Each creature moves toward a fulness of good. We do not know what we shall be, but what we shall be is what we most fundamentally are.
What does it mean for a created thing to be good? Good in Scripture sometimes means “useful.” Good things are things that are good for something. Good also connotes beauty and fittingness.
Fundamentally, we should begin with Jesus’ question to the rich young ruler: “Who is good but God?” Why does God call creation good, when only God is good? It can only be because
creation somehow manifests, reveals, images, and shares the goodness of God.
Thus we should ask: How is God good? What is the good God is and does in Genesis 1? How are created things good in being Godlike?
The good God is Creator; His good creation creates. Earth is fruitful with plants, and trees “make” fruit. Fish make other fish. Birds make other birds, as well as nests and music. Animals multiply and make tools and homes. As the image of God, men and women are the primary makers in creation, and in that we are good.
The good God is a Speaker; His good creation speaks. The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament proclaims His handiwork. Day to day pours forth speech. Everything speaks of Him, not only passively, but in their actions and sounds and life.
The good God is generous; His good creation is generous. Plant a single seed in the earth, and earth gives back 30-, 60-, 100-fold. Each stalk of wheat has dozens of grains. Even inanimate things give themselves. Gemstones generously share their beauty, while coal and iron lend their qualities to steel.
Aquinas had it right: bonum est diffusivum sui: it is the nature of the good to diffuse or give itself. The good God is self-diffusive, and the better creation gets the more divinely self-diffusive it becomes.
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