Creation is, again, not necessary for God. God’s creative love is not ‘a love which is needy and in want’ and so ‘loves in such a way that it is subjected to the things it loves’; God loves not ‘out of compulsion of his needs’ but ‘out of the abundance of his generosity’ [quoting Augustine].
The words “it pleased God…to create,” in Westminster Confession of Faith 4.1, refer to divine willing, to the decree of God. Creation is due to the will of God. It is not necessary to the divine essence, however. The Triune God is God without creatures and in no absolute sense (or necessary to the divine nature as such) must make creatures. Richard Muller states that both the Lutheran and Reformed of the post-Reformation era agreed on the gratuitous nature of creation. He says:
“The Lutheran and Reformed agree in calling the entire work of creation a free act of God resting solely on the goodness of the divine will. That God created is therefore neither an absolute necessity…resting on an antecedent cause nor a necessity of nature…since God was not bound by his nature to create the world but could have existed without the creation. The Reformed add that creation is a necessity of the consequence…since the divine act of creation does result from the eternal and immutable decree of God…”1
This entails that creation is entirely gratuitous, and this fact ought to enhance our worship as we contemplate it. To be is of the essence of God, or necessary to God, but not to creatures. Creatures do not necessarily exist; their existence is contingent, or by “necessity of the consequence.” God willed to create, to bring into contingent existence that which did not exist necessarily, which is everything other than God. Creation did not appear due to absolute divine necessity. In other words, there is nothing in God that makes creation absolutely necessary. Louis Berkhof’s words are helpful at this juncture. He wrote:
“The only works of God that are…necessary with a necessity resulting from the very nature of God are the opera ad intra, the works of the separate persons within the Divine Being: generation, filiation, and procession. To say that creation is a necessary act of God, is also to declare that it is just as eternal as those immanent works of God. Whatever necessity may be ascribed to God’s opera ad extra, is a necessity conditioned by the divine decree and the resulting constitution of things. It is necessity dependent on the sovereign will of God, and therefore no necessity in the absolute sense of the word. The Bible teaches us that God created all things, according to the counsel of His will, Eph. 1:11; Rev. 4:11; and that He is self-sufficient and is not dependent on His creatures in any way, Job 22:2,3; Acts 17:25.”2
- Richard A. Muller, Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms, Second Edition (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1985, 2017), 83-84.
- Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology (1939, 1941; reprint, Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1986), 130.