A Laymen’s Commentary on the Large Catechism: First Article

Shout for joy in the Lord, O you righteous!
    Praise befits the upright.
Give thanks to the Lord with the lyre;
    make melody to him with the harp of ten strings!
Sing to him a new song;
    play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.

For the word of the Lord is upright,
    and all his work is done in faithfulness.
He loves righteousness and justice;
    the earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord.

By the word of the Lord the heavens were made,
    and by the breath of his mouth all their host.
He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap;
    he puts the deeps in storehouses.

Let all the earth fear the Lord;
    let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!
For he spoke, and it came to be;
    he commanded, and it stood firm.

10 The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing;
    he frustrates the plans of the peoples.
11 The counsel of the Lord stands forever,
    the plans of his heart to all generations.
12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,
    the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!

13 The Lord looks down from heaven;
    he sees all the children of man;
14 from where he sits enthroned he looks out
    on all the inhabitants of the earth,
15 he who fashions the hearts of them all
    and observes all their deeds.
16 The king is not saved by his great army;
    a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.
17 The war horse is a false hope for salvation,
    and by its great might it cannot rescue.

18 Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him,
    on those who hope in his steadfast love,
19 that he may deliver their soul from death
    and keep them alive in famine.

20 Our soul waits for the Lord;
    he is our help and our shield.
21 For our heart is glad in him,
    because we trust in his holy name.
22 Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,
    even as we hope in you.

(Psalm 33)


The First Article.

Of Creation.

I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.

What does this mean?–Answer.

I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my limbs, my reason, and all my senses, and still preserves them; in addition thereto, clothing and shoes, meat and drink, house and homestead, wife and children, fields, cattle, and all my goods; that He provides me richly and daily with all that I need to support this body and life, protects me from all danger, and guards me and preserves me from all evil; and all this out of pure, fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me; for all which I owe it to Him to thank, praise, serve, and obey Him. This is most certainly true.

(Small Catechism)


We all believe in one true God,
Who created earth and heaven,
The Father, who to us in love
Has the right of children given.
He both soul and body feeds us;
All we need His hand provides us;
Through all snares and perils leads us,
Watching that no harm betide us.
He cares for us day and night;
All things are governed by His might.

(LSB 954)


Article I.

9] I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.

10] This portrays and sets forth most briefly what is the essence, will, activity, and work of God the Father. For since the Ten Commandments have taught that we are to have not more than one God, the question might be asked, What kind of a person is God? What does He do? How can we praise, or portray and describe Him, that He may be known? Now, that is taught in this and in the following article, so that the Creed is nothing else than the answer and confession of Christians arranged with respect to the First Commandment. As if you were to ask a little child: 11] My dear, what sort of a God have you? What do you know of Him? he could say: This is my God: first, the Father, who has created heaven and earth; besides this only One I regard nothing else as God; for there is no one else who could create heaven and earth.

12] But for the learned, and those who are somewhat advanced [have acquired some Scriptural knowledge], these three articles may all be expanded and divided into as many parts as there are words. But now for young scholars let it suffice to indicate the most necessary points, namely, as we have said, that this article refers to the Creation: that we emphasize the words: Creator of heaven and earth. 13] But what is the force of this, or what do you mean by these words: I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker, etc.? Answer: This is what I mean and believe, that I am a creature of God; that is, that He has given and constantly preserves to me my body, soul, and life, members great and small, all my senses, reason, and understanding, and so on, food and drink, clothing and support, wife and children, domestics, house and home, etc. 14] Besides, He causes all creatures to serve for the uses and necessities of life sun, moon, and stars in the firmament, day and night, air, fire, water, earth, and whatever it bears and produces, birds and fishes beasts, grain, and all kinds of produce, 15] and whatever else there is of bodily and temporal goods, good government, peace, security. 16] Thus we learn from this article that none of us has of himself, nor can preserve, his life nor anything that is here enumerated or can be enumerated, however small and unimportant a thing it might be, for all is comprehended in the word Creator.

The Creed confesses what sort of God we have and who He is.  We have One God and there is only One (Deuteronomy 6:4). In fact, the Creed is really just an extended meditation on the First Commandment.  Thus to know the Creed is to know who God is and what He does.

The First Article of the Creed confesses God the Father and Creation.  Our earthly fathers are a pale example and imitation of who our Heavenly Father really is.  He is the source and fountain of all goodness and blessing.  He is our Father because He created us.  He is also our Father by adoption in Christ.  As such we are both God’s old and new creation (2 Corinthians 5:11-21).

Not only does He create us, He also sustains us (Psalm 36).  God makes and preserves all that we have.  All blessings of this life and the life to come are from God (Psalm 104).

God is Creator (Genesis 1).  Creation is the first act of God in Scripture and His greatest act until the act of Salvation (Revelation 4).  Thus all creation celebrates and confesses the truth of God’s handiwork in His making of all things from nothing (Psalm 19).  It should also be noted that while we identify the Father with Creation especially, the whole Trinity is involved in the act of Creation.  For God the Son is the very Word that brought forth all things, and God the Holy Spirit hovers over the Creation executing the will and word of God (John 1, Genesis 1).  Even with this though the Father is the primary source of all things and is rightly identified with Creation (1 Corinthians 8:6).

In our days of scientific progress and discovery, a question has arisen that has caused concern for many Christians regarding Creation. Can the Creation account in Genesis be reconciled with Science?  After all the current scientific consensus is that of Big Bang Cosmology and Evolution, both of which would say that the universe is 14 billion years old and that the cosmos and life came about from chaos.  This clearly contradicts what Scripture plainly says. Is Scripture wrong?  Is modern science incorrect?  Can we reconcile the two?

First, let us ask, must we believe in a literal 6 day Creation?

  1. Genesis is plainly written as history, not mythology or allegory.  Comparison against ancient creation myths shows the very different character of Genesis.
  2. The words of Genesis indicate that it was 6 literal days of normal length, “evening and morning”.  One would not say this unless a literal day is meant.  There is nothing in the text to suggest that it was not 6 actual days.
  3. God later says in Exodus 20:11 that He created the universe in 6 days.  This seven day week is foundational for the liturgical life of Israel.
  4. If we do not have a literal Adam and Eve, what then of Original Sin?  Of Christ? What about St. Paul in Romans 5:12-21? What of the other sections of Scripture that are clearly written to be taken literally?
  5. Do we presume to doubt God’s power to do what He says He has done?  See Job 38:1-42:6

Since it is clear that a literal 6-day creation is required, how shall we reconcile this with what Science claims and shows?  The options and objections are as follows:

  1. Science is right and Christianity is false: What then of Christ and His resurrection (1 Corinthians 15)?  What about the historicity of the Scriptures?  Where did the universe originally come from?  Can Science really provide all the answers? What about morality? What about the fact we have a rational universe that we are able to comprehend?  What about the obvious fine-tuning that we see?
  2. Christianity is right and Science is false: What then of all the evidence that shows the universe to be 14 billion years old?  What about the utility of Science as a method for understanding the surrounding world?  What about the independent observational facts that support the theory?
  3. Both are right and must be reconciled.

Obviously, we must reject the first two options.  For Scripture is evidently true, and science does have great utility and has proven itself.  Plus one would not expect Scripture and nature to contradict each other for both are from God.  Given that, there are a variety of ways to square the Biblical account with what we observe in nature.

  1. Theistic Evolution: The evolution of world guided by God’s hand. This option demands an allegorical interpretation of Genesis but squares with the current scientific theory. It is permitted by the Roman Catholics and liberal theologians. This option is rejected by Lutherans and other conservative denominations as it does violence to the text of Scripture and puts man’s reason above Scripture. Major Issues: What of the historicity of Scripture?  What of Sin?  What of Man? What of Christ? What of death?  Evolution runs counter to the Fall and description of God’s creation in Genesis 1.
  2. Creation Science: Creation Science trusts the Biblical Account and tries to use Science to prove it.  It assumes that the current scientific theories are simply misinterpreting the observational evidence we have from nature.  Creation Science provides many needed critiques of modern scientific thought and some interesting theories for reconciling with the Biblical text. Major Issues: Many articles are not peer-reviewed or accepted by the majority of the scientific community.  As such, some of the science is questionable at best and outright incorrect as other evidence contradicts it.  In many cases, it tries to explain miracles with science which is a fool’s errand.  In addition, the community seems to be an echo chamber and many scientific theories are presented as if they were demanded by Scripture.  There are also examples in their literature of theological arguments being used as scientific evidence.
  3. Intelligent Design: Intelligent Design argues from pure science that a creator is needed.  This is done by permitting a designer as a valid answer to scientific inquiry, which is by default rejected by the majority of the scientific community.  Intelligent Design provides many interesting philosophical and scientific arguments for a creator.  It also gives a valuable critique of modern naturalistic theories. Major Issues: Intelligent Design does not specify who did the creating. Since Intelligent Design is a pure scientific route, there are no demands regarding the reading of Genesis; thus, Intelligent Design is a broad tent including anyone from Old Earth Creationists to Young Earth Creationists to those who would confess a different creator than the Trinitarian God.  Thus Intelligent Design is a Diest approach. Similar to Creation Science some of the science in Intelligent Design is suspect and not well peer-reviewed by the broader community.
  4. Omphalos Hypothesis: In the Omphalos Hypothesis the universe only appears to be 13 billion years old.  It really came into existence roughly 6,000-10,000 years ago in accord with the plain reading of the text of Scripture.  God makes a universe that is self-consistent and that is in full working order.  Thus trees are created fully grown, starlight is created in transit, planets and stars are created in the middle of their life cycle, humans are created fully grown. Since God cannot lie, He tells us He makes all things by His Word and wants us to trust His Word. This hypothesis is also amenable to use in conjunction with Creation Science and Intelligent Design as all the Omphalos Hypothesis describes is why the universe would appear old. Major Issues: Why did God create a universe that deceives our senses?  God doesn’t lie after all (Titus 1:2).  What about all the human remains and artifacts we see in the geological strata that go back further than 6,000 years? What about all the dead animals we see throughout the geological strata?

In the end, none of these options are completely satisfactory to our reason. (Author’s Note: I am personally a proponent of the Omphalos Hypothesis as it’s the only way I can reconcile what I know from astrophysics with Genesis).  Ultimately the question comes down to who do you trust more: Men’s Reason or God?

Thus according to our confession in the Creed and Holy Scripture, we hold that: God is Creator.  He is the Creator of all things, He does so as He describes in Holy Scripture. Our own lack of ability to square things with our reason is only a testament to our lack of imagination and the fallenness of said reason, not a lack of the Lord’s ability to create as He says He does.

17] Moreover, we also confess that God the Father has not only given us all that we have and see before our eyes, but daily preserves and defends us against all evil and misfortune, averts all sorts of danger and calamity; and that He does all this out of pure love and goodness, without our merit, as a benevolent Father, who cares for us that no evil befall us. 18] But to speak more of this belongs in the other two parts of this article, where we say: Father Almighty.

God also preserves us from all danger and evil (Psalm 5).  For we confess that the Father is Almighty.  Thus God is Omnipotent (all powerful), Omnipresent (present in all places), and Omniscient (knows all things).

God having all this power leads to the classic philosophical question known as theodicy. Namely, if God is all powerful then why do bad things happen to good people?  This conundrum is answered by pointing out the false premise.  We are all evil (as demonstrated by the 10 Commandments), none are good (Romans 3:9-20).  Thus we justly deserve death, punishment, and all the ills we receive in this life.  It is love for us that restrains God from obliterating us all.  It is a miracle that He deigns to save any of us, much less let us live without immediate condemnation.  To see what God truly thinks of us we should look to the Cross where He saves us by His weakness not His strength as we will see in the Second Article of the Creed.

19] Now, since all that we possess, and, moreover, whatever, in addition, is in heaven and upon the earth, is daily given, preserved, and kept for us by God, it is readily inferred and concluded that it is our duty to love, praise, and thank Him for it without ceasing, and, in short, to serve Him with all these things, as He demands and has enjoined in the Ten Commandments.

20] Here we could say much if we were to expatiate, how few there are that believe this article. For we all pass over it, hear it and say it, but neither see nor consider what the words teach us. 21] For if we believed it with the heart, we would also act accordingly, and not stalk about proudly, act defiantly, and boast as though we had life, riches, power, and honor, etc., of ourselves, so that others must fear and serve us, as is the practise of the wretched, perverse world, which is drowned in blindness, and abuses all the good things and gifts of God only for its own pride, avarice, lust, and luxury, and never once regards God, so as to thank Him or acknowledge Him as Lord and Creator.

22] Therefore, this article ought to humble and terrify us all, if we believed it. For we sin daily with eyes, ears, hands, body and soul, money and possessions, and with everything we have, especially those who even fight against the Word of God. Yet Christians have this advantage, that they acknowledge themselves in duty bound to serve God for all these things, and to be obedient to Him [which the world knows not how to do].

23] We ought, therefore, daily to practise this article, impress it upon our mind, and to remember it in all that meets our eyes, and in all good that falls to our lot, and wherever we escape from calamity or danger, that it is God who gives and does all these things, that therein we sense and see His Paternal heart and his transcendent love toward us. Thereby the heart would be warmed and kindled to be thankful, and to employ all such good things to the honor and praise of God.

24] Thus we have most briefly presented the meaning of this article, as much as is at first necessary for the most simple to learn, both as to what we have and receive from God, and what we owe in return, which is a most excellent knowledge, but a far greater treasure. For here we see how the Father has given Himself to us, together with all creatures, and has most richly provided for us in this life, besides that He has overwhelmed us with unspeakable, eternal treasures by His Son and the Holy Ghost, as we shall hear.

Thus for all these rich blessings, we should thank, praise, serve, and obey God (1 Thessalonians 5:12-28).  So few people believe this article though.  People live like there is no god.  Alternatively, we boast that we have made and earned these great treasures, not recognizing that they are truly from the Father (James 4:13-17)

As the Father’s dear children we should hold everything in this life with great humility and reverence.  As everything we have been given comes from the Father (Hebrews 3:12-19, Exodus 34:6-7).  The Father gives of Himself to us as pure gift.  He has given the Son and the Holy Spirit to convey His good gifts and unspeakable love (Colossians 1:24-2:5).

1 Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bidd’st the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep:
O hear us when we cry to Thee
For those in peril on the sea.

2 O Christ, whose voice the waters heard
And hushed their raging at Thy word,
Who walkedst on the foaming deep
And calm amid its rage didst sleep:
O hear us when we cry to Thee
For those in peril on the sea.

3 Most Holy Spirit, who didst brood
Upon the chaos dark and rude,
And bid its angry tumult cease,
And give, for wild confusion, peace;
O hear us when we when we cry to Thee
For those in peril on the sea.

4 O Trinity of love and pow’r
Our people shield in danger’s hour;
From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
Protect them wheresoe’er they go;
Thus evermore shall rise to Thee
Glad praise from air and land and sea.

(LSB 717)

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