Creation as a Trinitarian Act

From “Creation and the Heart of Man” by Fr. Michael Butler and Andrew Morriss

 

The Orthodox Church affirms that creation was a free act of God. However, the Orthodox go a step further and say that creation is not simply an act of God but a cooperative act of the Holy Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. For ‘in the beginning,’ when ‘God created the heavens and the earth,’ ‘the Spirit [pneuma] of God was moving over the face of the waters’ 4 and God the Father spoke through his Word, and the creation came to be. 5 Indeed, St. Irenaeus of Lyons (d. ca. 202) calls the Son and the Spirit the ‘two hands’ of God with which he formed the world, 6 and St. John of Damascus (d. 749) says,

Since, then, God, who is good and more than good, did not find satisfaction in self-contemplation, but in His exceeding goodness wished certain things to come into existence which would enjoy His benefits and share in His goodness, He brought all things out of nothing into being and created them, both what is invisible and what is visible. Yea, even man, who is a compound of the visible and the invisible. And it is by thought that He creates, and thought is the basis of the work, the Word filling it and the Spirit perfecting it.[1]

Or, as St. Basil the Great puts it,

When you consider creation I advise you to think first of Him who is the first cause of everything that exists: namely, the Father, and then of the Son, who is the creator, and then the Holy Spirit, the perfector.… The Originator of all things is One: He creates through the Son and perfects through the Holy Spirit.… Perceive these three: the Lord who commands, the Word who creates, and the Spirit who strengthens.[2]

These statements of the Fathers are perhaps most simply put in the Symbol of Faith (the Nicene Creed), which acknowledges that the Father is the ‘maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible,’ the Son is he ‘through whom all things were made,’ and the Holy Spirit is ‘the giver of life.’


Bibliography

Butler, Michael, and Andrew Morriss. Creation and the Heart of Man: An Orthodox Christian Perspective on Environmentalism. Kindle Edition. Edited by Dylan Pahman. Acton Institute, 2013.


Endnotes

[1] St. John of Damascus , On the Orthodox Faith, 2.2 (PG 94.864C10-65A5), cited in Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev), The Mystery of Faith: An Introduction to the Teaching and Spirituality of the Orthodox Church (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2011), 43– 44.

[2] St. Basil the Great, On the Holy Spirit, 16.38 (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1980), 62– 63 (PG 32.136A15-B3, B9-10, C11-13).

 

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