After professing that God is “the Father, the Almighty” the Nicene Creed affirms that God is “maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.” Referring to God’s role as creator, this phrase calls to mind the creation accounts in Genesis 1 and 2. Unfortunately, a modern perception of God as creator can be blurred by extreme interpretations of these two chapters. Some people assert that they must be taken literally while others point out that science seems to contradict and therefore invalidate them. These views forget that these stories are more concerned with presenting religious truth than scientific fact. While they may not be scientific, both accounts, along with various passages from Psalms and other books of the Old Testament, reveal of God as the all-powerful yet loving Creator.
What do these accounts tell us about God? First, God, motivated by love, chose to peacefully will creation into existence out of nothing. This contrasts to the polytheistic creation myths of other ancient cultures, where the gods were said to create out of pre-existing substances (water, chaos, etc.), often through acts of violence or sexual intercourse (see the Babylonian myth, the Enuma Elish). God is revealed to be all powerful (omnipotent) and peaceful unlike the “gods” of other nations who had to work and struggle against other gods to create the world.
Genesis 1 and 2 also reveal that God gave humanity a unique place in creation. We see that human beings are made in God’s image and likeness (from whence comes our free will, our relational nature, and our rationality and potential for good). Having given humanity this loving gift, God sets them above the rest of creation. In Genesis 1, God gave Adam and Eve dominion over the created world. Similarly, Genesis 2, God asks Adam names the animals and gives him the responsibility of caring for and tending to the Garden of Eden. This dominion or stewardship of creation therefore comes with the responsibility of caring for the natural world just as God cares for humanity. Again, this contrasts with ancient Near Eastern myths, where the gods created human beings out of necessity to worship them and to be their servants/workers on earth.
By professing belief in God the creator, we embrace the goodness of creation and accept our role as its stewards. How do we do this? First, we must learn to recognize/know God through the natural world, just as we recognize artists by their works. Next, we should acknowledge that every human being is made in God’s image and likeness and therefore has inviolable dignity. It is tempting to say “It’s not my problem” when we see others suffering and, at times, we want to hurt those who have hurt us. However, we must overcome both instincts. When someone takes a parking spot you’ve been waiting for, pray for them; when an acquaintance or coworker talks about you behind your back, don’t retaliate, forgive; when you see people in need (a homeless person, an elderly neighbor, or a co-worker who is facing difficulties, etc.), find a way to help them. Third, if we believe God is the creator, we should express this belief by acting as good stewards of creation: conserving water and electricity, recycling, avoiding excessive consumerism (we don’t need to get the latest smart phone, car, or tablet), etc. God gave us the gift of dominion, let’s exercise it responsibly.
When calling God creator, the Nicene Creed also stresses that he made “all things visible and invisible”. The Creed lays out orthodox/apostolic Christian belief against heterodox or heretical beliefs. At the time it was composed, the Gnostics a heretical sect, claimed that the physical (visible) world was created by a lesser god and therefore inferior or even evil while the spiritual (invisible) world was created good and therefore superior. The Nicene Creed refuted this by emphasizing that God, who called all creation good, created everything, both physical and spiritual.
In chapter three of The Creed, theologian Berard Marthaler says that, this phrase serves an additional purpose. In ancient times, few people repudiated the existence spiritual world (ie heaven, hell, God, gods, and lesser beings such as angels or demons). Today, however, many people doubt or even deny the existence of anything they cannot see. Others profess an intellectual belief in the spiritual world but deny in practice it by focusing exclusively on earthly concerns. If we truly believe what we profess, we should focus our attention on both the physical and spiritual worlds. To do this, we need to resist the temptation of living only for earthly matters (money, power, technology, success, etc.) as well as the temptation to withdraw from the physical world in order to focus solely on spiritual matters. Christians are called to hold these two “worlds” in tension. As Jesus says in John 17, we must be in the world but not of the world.
God lovingly created everything in existence, both what we can see and of what we cannot see. Human beings, as men and women made in God’s image and likeness, are called to be responsible stewards of creation. Let us work to make this world a better place while also directing our attention to our ultimate goal of sharing in God’s life in heaven when our earthly lives are over.