Our Faith by Emil Brunner
Emil Brunner is one of the great systematic theologians of the early twentieth century. Our Faith was translated by John W. Rilling, and published by Charles Scribner’s Sons, NY, 1954. This book prepared for Religion Online by Paul Mobley.
Chapter 4: Creation and The Creator
The first word of the Bible is the word about the Creator and creation. But that is not simply the first word with which one begins in order to pass on to greater, more important matters. It is the primeval word, the fundamental word supporting everything else. Take it away and everything collapses. Indeed if one rightly understands that which the Bible means by the Creator, he has rightly understood the whole Bible. Everything else is involved in this one word. But if! Do men know the Creator? Do they know what it means to say, God thou art my Creator?
It is not because of God that we do not know Him thus. For just as in a royal palace everything is royally administered, or as in a great artist's house the whole house testifies of the artist, even if he is not seen, so, too, the world is the house of the Great King and the Great Artist. He does not permit himself to be seen; for man cannot see God, only the world. But this world is His creation, and whether conscious of it or not, it speaks of Him who made it. Yet in spite of this testimony man does not know Him, or at least not rightly.
Every man has two hands each of which is a greater work of art than anything else that human ingenuity has created; but men are so obsessed with their own doings that they acclaim every human creation and make a great display over it, yet fail to discern God's miraculous deeds. Every one has two eyes. Have you ever thought of how astounding a miracle is a seeing eye, the window of the soul? Yes, even more than a window; one might even call the eye the soul itself gazing and visible. Who has so made it that the hundred millions of rod and cone cells which together make sight possible, are so co-ordinated that they can give sight? Chance? What harebrained superstition! Truly, you do not behold man alone through the eye, but the Creator as well. Yet we fools do not perceive Him. We behave ourselves in this God-created world (if one may use the clumsy simile) like dogs in a great art gallery. We see the pictures and yet fail to see them, for if we saw them rightly we would see the Creator too. Our madness, haughtiness,
irreverence -- in short, our sin, is the reason for our failure to see the Creator in His creation.
And yet He speaks so loudly that we cannot fail to hear His voice. For this reason the peoples of all ages, even when they have not known the Creator, have had some presentiments of Him. There is no religion in which there is not some sort of surmise of the Creator. But men have never known Him rightly. The book of Nature does not suffice to reveal the Creator aright to such unintelligent and obdurate pupils as ourselves.
The Creator has therefore given us another, even more clearly written book in which to know Him -- the Bible. In it He has also drawn His own portrait so that we must all perceive that He is truly the Creator. The name of this picture is Jesus Christ. In him we know the Creator for the first as He really is. For in him we know God's purpose for His creation.
God first revealed Himself to the children of Israel as - the Creator. At that time the world was replete with religions, but they did not honor the one Lord of all the world. The gods of the heathen are partly constructions of human fantasy, partly surmise of the true God, a wild combination of both. The great thinkers like Plato and Aristotle spoke indeed of a divinity that pervaded all things. But they did not know the living God. It pleased God to reveal Himself to the little people of Israel as the Lord God. That means -- the God whom we may not use as one uses a porter -- as the heathen use their gods. And as the God whom one cannot conceive as the philosophers think of Him, an "idea of God." But to Israel He was revealed as one who encounters man and claims Him as Lord. "I am the Lord thy God." "I will be your God and ye shall be my people." The Lord is He, to whom one belongs wholly, body and soul. The Lord is He who has an absolute claim to us, because we, and all that in us is, come from Him. The Lord God is also the Creator God, and only when we know Him as the Lord God do we know Him rightly as the Creator. The heathen, even their greatest thinkers, do not rightly know the difference between God and world, between God and man, between God and nature. These are all confused with one another. God first revealed Himself to Israel as the One who is over all the world, as its Lord, of whom, through whom and to whom it is created. That a divine being created the world -- is not faith in the Creator, but a theory of the origin of the world, which signifies nothing. That God is the Creator means: thy Creator is the Lord of the world, thy Lord, you belong to Him totally. Without Him you are nothing, and in His hand is your life. He wants you for Himself: I am the Lord thy God, thou shalt have no other Gods (idols) before Me. That is as much to say: thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul and with all thy strength. That is no lovely, interesting theory about the origin of the world; if you believe this, you are a "slave of God," your life then has another meaning, then you are really another man. Rather, you are now for the first time a man. To believe in God the Creator means to obey God the Lord.