Theology and the Nature of Creation

God's Act of Creation is out of Love

John Webster is easily one of my favorite theologians. He has absolutely changed my life, theology, and the way I view God and everything else, especially the act of creation and the nature of creatures. In his opening essay of God without Measure, “Omnia Pertractantur in Sacra Doctrina Sub Ratione Dei. On the Matter of Christian Theology,” he briefly discusses how one should understand the outer works of God. Here's a little gem that opens a window in his beautiful system of theology:

“God’s outer works are most fully understood as loving and purposive when set against the background of his utter sufficiency––against the fact that no external operation or relation can constitute or augment his life, which is already infinitely replete. Once this is grasped, the nature of creaturely being begins to disclose itself as pure benefit, intelligible only as God is known and loved in his inherent completeness.”[1]

When we understand the outer works of God by first studying God himself and then the outer works of God with reference to God's perfect life, we can better understand creatures, their ends, and natures and further, we can see that the act of creation is completely loving and gratuitous. We can see this because God is complete in himself, not being in need to create as if he depended on something other than himself. Hence, the act of creation is not out of obligation. Rather, the act of creation is out of God's own freedom and goodness to give life to something else. He's not forced to create as if he needed to complete himself, for he is already complete in himself, but instead, he freely and generously gives to that which is not himself. Therefore, creation is a loving act. So Webster elsewhere says:

“Creation is a work of wholly adequate love. Part of this love’s adequacy is its voluntary character: it is fully spontaneous and self-original, nothing more than God’s will being required for creatures to come to be. But creative divine volition is not caprice but purpose, direction of entire capacity to another’s good; and it is purposive love, most of all because this other does not antecede the gift of its own being but receives the gift of life from God. Love gives life, and love gives life. In willing to create, God wills the realisation of life which is not his own: ‘Love is also a lover of life.’”[2] 

[1] John Webster, God without Measure vol. I God and the Works of God (London: T&T Clark, 2016),

[2] John Webster, “‘Love is also a Lover of Life’: Creation Ex Nihilo and Creaturely Goodness,” Modern Theology 29 no. 2 (April 2013): 168.