Crossing the Creator-Creature Distinction

Whenever the line between Creator and creature is blurred, error and idolatry result. Harold Netland makes this reality plain in his book Encountering Religious Pluralism.  Consider his words,

Eve was tempted by the suggestion that she, a mere creature, could become like God (Gen 3:4-5).  The tendency to blur the distinction between God and humankind–either to bring God down to our level or to deify human beings–is a common feature of religion and can be found in the polytheistic religions of the ancient world as well as in many modern-day traditions (Harold Netland, Encountering Religious Pluralism336).

From the start, mankind was tempted to reduce the distance to the Creator. It is an utter impossibility, like squaring a circle or taking the weight of the infinite, invisible God. But yet, Adam and Eve tried to become like God, and the result was disastrous. Ethically (or better: covenantally), the problem was that they broke God’s law, but metaphysically, they failed to understand that God is sui generis (that is a fancy word meaning ‘one of a kind’). He is not by a matter of degrees; he is in a class by himself. In this way, Satan’s invitation to be like God was not even possible—in truth, they were already “like” God, as creatures made in his image.

This truth is vital to get: We are made in his image and likeness, but he is not made in ours. Miss this point, and you will mishandle your whole worldview.

Whenever, we begin to fashion a god like us, idolatry results and anger ensues. God said to Israel in Psalm 50, “You thought that I was altogether like you, but I will rebuke you!” The context here pertains to worship and Israel’s slide into unethical practices; it is not a statement about ontological misgivings. Nevertheless, the point remains the same. Whenever, we begin to make God like us, we invoke his wrath.

God is the Creator; we are the creation. When Adam and Eve rejected this reality, the world was irreversibly wrecked—well, irreversible for Adam’s offspring.  Again, God is different. So different, that while he denies us the ability to draw near to him and cross the Creator/creature division, he sends his Son as a man to draw near to us. God, the creator, can become a creature; man, the created, will never become divine. (The divine nature spoken of 2 Peter 1:3-4 speaks to man’s final destiny—being restored in the image of God, not becoming (semi)divine).

In theology, this is called the communicatio idiomatum (‘the communication of attributes’).  Though some have argued that when Christ took on flesh, parts of his human nature ‘entered’ the divine; the more proper view is to uphold the Creator/creature distinction and to assert that while Christ took on flesh; there was no admixture or confusion of his divine and human natures. The metaphysical divide has been maintained, even though, in Christ, there is now a covenantal union between redeemed flesh and Spirit.

All in all, what mankind attempted in Eden—to become like God—is the fundamental flaw of human nature. It is idolatry, pure and simple.  Praise be to God, that in response to Adam’s upward fall, the Father sent his son to die on the cross to raise mankind to life.

Let us maintain the Creature-creator distinction, and continue to marvel at how the who is not like us took on flesh to draw near to us, so that in our sinful humanity we might approach the heavenly father through the mediation of his Incarnate Son (1 Tom 2;5).

This is but part of the gospel message, and it begins with rightly understanding the division between Creation and creature.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

One thought on “Crossing the Creator-Creature Distinction

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