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The Most Overlooked Doctrine

  • David Murray Professor, Pastor, Author
  • 2012 11 Nov
  • COMMENTS
The Most Overlooked Doctrine

One of the most overlooked doctrines today is that of God as Creator. You’d hardly think so with all words spent on the Creation v Evolution debate. However, one of the casualties of that debate is that when people hear the word “Creation,” they immediately think of what opposes it, rather than working out the positive practical everyday implications of having a Creator and being a creature. The doctrine of Creation is “hijacked” by the Apologetics department, while Practical Theology accelerates past it and on to “the Christian life.”

Yet, there’s a more fundamental and foundational life than the Christian life: that is, “creature life.” Before we are Christians, we are creatures; before God is our Savior, He is our Creator. And He’s not just made us, but in His Word (via sound interpretation) and in His world (via sound scientific research), He instructs us how to care for the apex of His creation – our body-and-soul humanity.

A renewed understanding of our full-orbed creatureliness, with due place given to the body, will produce safety, piety, productivity, and creativity.

Safety
Starting with salvation rather than creation results in a dualism that views the soul as the only important element of our humanity, the body being either a hindrance or an irrelevance. All our problems are “spiritual problems” and the almost exclusive focus is soul-health.

In general, those who cultivate healthy souls enjoy healthier bodies. However, God did not just give us souls to protect our bodies; He gave us bodies to protect our souls. If we sleep well, rest well, exercise well, eat well, and so on, our minds will be clearer, our resolve will be stronger, our emotions will be steadier, and our moral defenses will be higher. When we are tired or stressed, we are much more susceptible to temptation than when well-rested and well-fed. Why do you think the devil assaulted Christ after 40 days of fasting in the desert?

While we cannot neglect our bodies and expect our souls not to suffer serious consequences, conversely, increased body-care should boost soul-care too.

Piety
An excessively soul-focused Christianity also tends to end up with a narrow view of Christian piety and devotion, where worship becomes associated only with “soul” activities such as prayer, Bible reading, and praise.

However, when we include the body in our “spirituality,” the opportunities for piety and devotion are multiplied beyond church and quiet times. By caring for our bodies in accordance with God’s instructions we worship and serve our Creator rather than the creature. Restful Sabbaths, sensible sleeping and eating habits, regular exercising, etc., may then be transformed into conscious acts of worship.

Yes, that means a sleeping Christian may be worshipping God more sincerely than a pastor vainly burning the midnight oil to perfect his sermon (Ps. 127:1-2).

Productivity
If living as a creature with a limited and needy body means taking a day off and working shorter hours, will my productivity not take a hit?

Apart from the fact that even secular research is now revealing significant productivity loss if we work more than 40 hours a week, we may find that trusting our Maker’s instructions for our bodies actually produces greater long-term productivity. The 19'th century Presbyterian pastor, Thomas Murphy, wrote words about the ministry that apply to every walk of life:

The minister must have his resting day as well as other men or he will suffer the consequences. His physical constitution demands it. If it is denied, in time he will break down in health, as hundreds are doing. Nor must it be supposed that devoting one day of the week to absolute rest will be a loss of time in the end. No, the work of the other days will be more vigorous; the physical and mental tone will be kept up, and at the end of the year far more will be accomplished.

Also, although famous pastors who worked twenty-five hours a day, eight days a week are often held up as examples, what’s usually ignored is that long-term ill health or early death limited their productivity.

Creativity
Human beings bear God’s image. Part of that means being creative in our callings, whether that be as teachers, parents, students, mechanics, gardeners, etc. We all have opportunities to invent, innovate, and improvise.

Jonah Lehrer’s book Imagine! begins with an analysis of how the most creative people make breakthroughs. He found that most “Eureka” moments came during “downtime,” in periods of resting, relaxing, and recreation. It’s not called “re-creation” for nothing!

So, if you’re looking for fresh ideas, your first step should be to rest and refresh yourself. The more we live as dependent creatures, the more creative we will be.

An edited version of this article first appeared in  Tabletalk, the monthly devotional from Ligonier Ministries.