In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1). The presumption of the author is that before there was creation, there was God.
Beginning with that reality, my intention is not to fabricate an answer to the question posed by critics in Augustine’s Confessions 11.12.14: “What was God doing before he made heaven and earth?” The question assumes a sequence: this happened, then this followed. But Augustine responded that one could not speak with meaning about “before” when there was no time “before” the work of creation (11.13.15).
So any reflection I can offer about God “before” the beginning of creation will focus only on one thing: God as being exerted some activity. Being is intimately interwoven with action. The nature and goal of activity is in turn affected by the nature of the being performing the “Being is intimately interwoven with action. The nature and goal of activity is in turn affected by the nature of the being performing the activity.”activity. Creation is a more accessible theater of God’s activity, but reflection on who and what God is will affect the understanding of what God has done and why he does what he does. This relationship between being and action has enormous implications on many fronts and it certainly has enormous implications for those who are identified as made “in his own image” (Genesis 1:1).
We catch a brief glimpse of divine activity through the words of the Lord Jesus in John 17:24: “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.” Assigning his own unique application to this verse, Augustine would state in De trinitate: “But it is unthinkable that God should love someone temporally, as though with a new love that was not in him before” (5.4.17). God was loving before the creation, an attitude as well as an activity. God as being also acts, and although John 17:24 concerns the relationship between the Father and the Son, this love would also be expressed to created beings who embrace the Lord Jesus by faith.
God’s love would have pervasive impact on his act of creation. There is activity but it is of a particular sort because of the nature of God’s being, properly described with many other attributes, but not less than love. God’s act of creation is permeated by provision, preservation, nurture, and an orientation toward good will for his creation. This in turn affects what should be considered as an appropriate expression of the being and activity for human beings as “image-bearers of God.”
This means that there are attitudes and behaviors in line with being God’s image-bearers. Human beings do not exercise their image-bearing autonomously, and the creation reflects a standard of acceptability for being and action.
Join me as I explore the significance of this connection in future meditations.