Did God Create the Universe and Then Step out of the Picture?
by RC Sproul (find orginal article here)
What was the defense that Christ presented for telling the paralyzed man that it was OK to carry his bed on the Sabbath day? It was brief but astonishing. He said, “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working” (John 5:17). You may wonder what is so interesting about that simple statement. Jesus was reminding the Jewish authorities that Sabbath rest was built into creation because God created all things in six days, then rested on the seventh day. That set the pattern for man to work six days and then rest every seventh day. But Jesus showed these theologians, who should have known this already, that when the Bible says that God rested on the seventh day, it doesn’t mean that God ceased being active.
The deists believed that God was the great watchmaker. In their view, God formed the universe, established its laws, and fixed the gears and machinations of the machine, much as a watchmaker builds a watch. He then wound up the mechanism and stepped out of the picture, allowing the clock to run on its own. That is not the biblical view of God or of creation. The very word “create” in the first chapter of Genesis is the English translation of the Hebrew word bara, which implies sustained action. God did not simply create the universe and then step out of the picture. God created all things and continues to sustain them. He didn’t just bring the world into existence, but He continues to preserve it and maintain it. That’s why there is still a world. If God stopped working for one instant, the whole universe would be annihilated, because in Him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). Without God upholding the universe from moment to moment, nothing could continue to be.
But that’s not the way we think today. We’ve been overwhelmed with a naturalistic view of science that tells us nature operates under its own steam, by its own power. It may be indebted to God for its origin, but once things were started, God was no longer needed. This naturalistic view of the universe has even pervaded the church. How many times have we heard this question: “Where was God on September 11, 2001?”? The assumption behind the question is that God was off somewhere taking a nap, uninvolved with human events.
When Jesus said “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working,” He was saying that the naturalistic understanding of the universe is wrong. He was denying that God is some nebulous power who merely started the ball rolling. Instead, He was affirming that God is the omnipotent Lord who governs everything that He makes from moment to moment.
This excerpt is taken from R.C. Sproul’s commentary on John. Download the digital edition free through January 31, 2014.