Magazine Article

​Materialistic or Superintended Creation?

God does a lot more than just create.

G. T. Javor

Creationists expand maximum effort and energy in apologetic works, demonstrating the validity and even superiority of biblical creationism. In my years of teaching biochemistry and microbiology to undergraduate, graduate, medical, and dental students, I integrated creationism into the curriculum, stressing the sophistication and complexity of biochemical and biological systems. After the main biochemistry course for graduate students concluded, I gave two lectures on the impossibility of life arising spontaneously under any conditions, demonstrating that the very existence of life was a proof

for creation.

Can Creationism Be Materialistic?

For 37 years I believed I promoted biblical creationism through my lectures and also the occasional articles I published on the subject. But several years after I retired from teaching, it occurred to me that by dwelling only on what the Creator accomplished originally, I implied that the created world and everything on it were exquisitely sophisticated machines.

My creationist-oriented message was (unintentionally) that although the Lord can be justly credited for our design and origins, our day-to-day existence is governed by the laws of chemistry and physics. These laws appear to be essentially adequate to explain all physical phenomena. There was no difference between a materialist and me regarding how our world operates in the here and now. Created matter is independent of the Creator. I call such an ideology “materialistic creationism.”

This stance avoids even the appearance of pantheism, the notion that God is in everything. It is supported by everything science has discovered. But is it in harmony with the biblical view of existence?

During my years teaching biochemistry and microbiology, I did not know what to do with the notion that the Lord is continually involved with the routine operation of nature.

The biblical references of the Lord’s involvement in the created world are unambiguous. “The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command” (Heb. 1:3, NLT).1 “If God were to take back his spirit and withdraw his breath, all life would cease, and humanity would turn again to dust” (Job 34:14, 15, NLT). “He himself gives life and breath to everything, and he satisfies every need. . . . For in him we live and move and exist” (Acts 17:25-28, NLT).

There are also pointed comments on this subject by Ellen White. “It is supposed that matter is placed in certain relations and left to act from fixed laws with which God Himself cannot interfere; that nature is endowed with certain properties and placed subject to laws, and is then left to itself to obey its laws and perform the work originally commanded. This is false science; there is nothing in the Word of God to sustain it. God does not annul His laws, but He is continually working through them, using them as His instruments. They are not self-working. God is perpetually at work in nature. . . . It is not by an original power inherent in nature that year by year the earth yields its bounties and continues its march around the sun. . . . It is by His power that vegetation is caused to flourish, that every leaf appears and every flower blooms. . . . In God, we live and move and have our being.”2

God in the Everyday of Nature

During my years teaching biochemistry and microbiology I did not know what to do with the notion that the Lord is continually involved with the routine operation of nature. In an essay, published in 2000, I wrote: “These and other similar passages in the writings of Ellen White suggest the Lord’s intimate engagement in the operation of our world. But science and scientists are clueless to deal with such a concept. To us matter behaves in a perfectly predictable manner, obeying the fundamental laws of gravity, attractions between positive and negative charges, etc. . . . While it may be suggested that the Lord works precisely through these and other laws of nature, it is a very unsatisfactory solution, because it is not testable. . . . Accepting the Creatorship of the Lord does imply that all matter proceeded from Him, and that the Lord is aware of every atom in the universe. But it does not necessarily follow that the Lord micromanages the universe through actively superintending every chemical change. I am more comfortable letting the mystery of the nature of the Lord’s involvement with our world linger until we enroll in a university on the earth made new.”3

Thus, all through my teaching career, I lived with an unresolved tension between the clear statement of the Spirit of Prophecy quoted above, and my inability to integrate it into my understanding of science.

Following my retirement, I had an opportunity to make a presentation on teaching biology from a creationist’s perspective. In preparing for it, I revisited my difficulties of the Lord’s intimate involvement with the created world in scientific terms. Whereas, until this time I had questioned the need for the Creator to push atoms and molecules around to make chemical reactions happen, I soon focused on the very existence of subatomic particles and the forces that control them. Thinking of the fundamental forces—gravity, electrical charges, strong and weak forces within the atomic nucleus, which undergird the behavior of matter —I asked, “What if all of these manifestations require the continuous expression of the Creator’s power?”

Superintended Creationism

This concept does not advocate the Lord pushing subatomic particles, atoms, or molecules around to make things happen. Rather, the very existence of matter depends on a continuous input of the Creator’s power. This sustaining power is required at the most fundamental levels of existence. I call this “superintended creationism.”

If this is not so, then we have a situation in which the created universe is independent of the Creator. Such a construct is not far from the materialistic view of the universe, which posits that matter alone is sufficient to account for everything in existence.

More recently I found another quotation from Ellen White, where the word “superintendent” is connected with the word “Creator”:

“Those who have a true knowledge of God will not become so infatuated with the laws of matter or the operations of nature as to overlook or refuse to acknowledge, the continual work of God in nature. Nature is not God, nor was it ever God. . . . The natural world has, in itself, no power but that which God supplies. . . . God is the superintendent, as well as the Creator, of all things. The Divine Being is engaged in upholding the things that He has created. . . . It is through the immediate agency of God that every tiny seed breaks through the earth, and springs into life.”4

Superintended creationism affirms:

The eternal Godhead Creator existed from forever, before time, space, and the universe.

Every particle in the universe has been created by God.

Every particle in the universe is sustained by the Creator moment by moment.

Should the Creator withdraw His sustaining power, the universe would cease to exist.

On a personal level, the concept of superintended creation assures us that we are constantly under the care of the Creator. Our very existence shows that we are not forgotten.

The Creator is deliberate in His work. “For he spake, and it was done” (Ps. 33:9, KJV). The apparent chaos and less-than-perfect state of our world and our solar system are consequences of the great controversy and show a degradation of the Creator’s original design.

On Sabbaths we may worship the Creator not only for creating and redeeming us but also for sustaining us moment by moment. Superintended creation cements our relationship with our Lord, as we confess that we cannot exist
without Him.

  1. Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
  2. Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1948), vol. 8, pp. 259, 260.
  3. G. T. Javor, Biblical Approaches to Biology. Christ in the Classroom: Adventist Approaches to the Integration of Faith and Learning, comp. A.H.M. Rasi (2000), pp 481-502.
  4. Ellen G. White, Selected Messages (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1958, 1980), book 1, pp. 293, 294. (Italics supplied.)

G. T. Javor is a retired professor of biochemistry and microbiology, Loma Linda, California, United States.

G. T. Javor