How God’s Work of Creation Differs from His Provision for Creation

Creation vs. Providence: Critical Differences

by Dr. Terry Mortenson on September 29, 2023
Featured in Answers in Depth

As Christians think about the origin and history of the universe and everything in it, it is important to distinguish between God’s work of creation at the beginning and his work of providence since the beginning. There is considerable confusion about these two aspects of God’s work in the world.

Editor’s note: This article is adapted from my article in Pillars (a quarterly publication of Faith Theological Seminary in Catonsville, MD, Volume 3, Fall 2023) and is used with permission.

When we say “creation” here, we are referring to God’s work described in Genesis 1 when he created the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all that was in them in six days, as he affirmed in Exodus 20:11.

When we speak of “providence,” we are referring to God’s work since the creation week ended in Genesis 2:3. Providence describes his work of sustaining and sovereignly ruling over everything in the universe and his work of instructing, judging, redeeming, and forgiving humans, as he fulfills his purposes in the world.

These two works of God are significantly different. And we need to think carefully and biblically about them to properly understand and correctly think about the claims of the scientific majority regarding evolution and millions of years.

Supernatural Creation

In his work of creation, Scripture reveals that God supernaturally spoke things into existence in the course of six days. Some things were created ex nihilo (out of nothing), such as the initial earth covered with water, and the sun, moon, and stars. Other things were made supernaturally from things he made previously in creation week, such as plants, animals, and Adam and Eve. Genesis 1:11–12 and 24 might suggest that God made the plants and land animals from preexisting material, for God said, “let the earth bring forth.” But since all the kinds of land plants were created on the third day of creation week, and all the kinds of land animals were created on the sixth day, these were not natural processes like we see today (and certainly not evolution), as will become clear below. However, Scripture is explicit that Adam was supernaturally made from the dust of the ground (Genesis 2:7), and Eve was made supernaturally from Adam’s rib (Genesis 2:21–22).

Some Christians who believe in evolution or in millions of years of earth and cosmic history say that Genesis tells us that God created but not how or when he created. But this is incorrect. Ten times in Genesis 1 we read “And God said” before his creative act. Seven times God saw what he made and called it good, and six times the text says, “and it was so” (meaning it happened just that way). This repetition is emphatic: God spoke, things came into existence, and God saw and made a declaration about what he made before he went on to his next act of creation. Psalm 33:6–9, Hebrews 11:3, and 2 Peter 3:5 also emphasize that God created supernaturally by his spoken word.

Genesis 1–2 further confirms this how of creation by distinguishing between how God created the first plants, animals, and Adam and Eve (by his Word: supernatural creation) and how under God’s providence all subsequent plants, animals, and people would come into existence (by natural procreation and sexual reproduction). Hence, the text refers to plant seeds (Genesis 1:11–12) and to animals being fruitful and multiplying (Genesis 1:22) “after their kinds.” So the “processes” (really acts) by which the first life-forms came into existence were not the processes by which all subsequent life-forms have come into existence.

God reveals in Scripture that his creation work was supernatural in that he called everything into existence in six literal, normal 24-hour days.

Furthermore, God reveals in Scripture that his creation work was supernatural in that he called everything into existence in six literal, normal 24-hour days. These were not figurative days representing millions of years, nor were there great gaps of time between the days, nor was there millions of years before the six days, which started in Genesis 1:1 (not Genesis 1:3). This is clear from the language of Genesis 1 itself and as well as from God’s own commentary on Genesis 1 given in Exodus 20:8–11.1 Genesis 5 and 11, combined with other chronological information given in Scripture, reveal the when of creation week. It was just a little more than 6,000 years ago.2

Very Good Creation

The entire original creation was “very good.” The garden of Eden was not a paradise surrounded by a dangerous and suffering world like ours today, full of thorns, death, disease, hurricanes, tsunamis, asteroid impacts, exploding stars, etc. There was no carnivorous behavior: man and the animals were herbivores (Genesis 1:29–30). Millions of years of animal death, disease, extinction, and other natural evils never happened, as evolutionists so arrogantly claim.

In contrast to this “very good” creation, the present creation under God’s providence is cursed because of Adam’s sin. God cursed animals, he cursed the ground (outside the garden) so that thorns would plague man, and physical death entered the human race (Genesis 3:14–19). The sins of Adam’s race and God’s curse resulted since then in all kinds of moral and natural evil. The whole creation is groaning in bondage to corruption and futility waiting to be liberated at the second coming of Christ (Romans 8:19–23).

The creation is still good in many ways. It is not inherently evil. It bears the evidence of God’s creativity, power, wisdom, and faithfulness in the beautiful plants and animals, the mind-boggling complexity of the DNA molecule, the orderly movement of the heavenly bodies, and the resilience of the earth and its ecosystems to be a very habitable dwelling for man.

But we do not live in the very good, original, pre-fall creation. We live in a broken creation. It is not broken because of how God created. He is infinitely wise, omnipotent, loving, and perfectly good. He could never create and destroy things for billions of years before he created man, as is implied if the evolutionists’ claims about billions of years of earth and cosmic history were true. No, the world is broken and damaged because man sinned, and our holy God judged. All attempts (e.g., gap theory, day-age view, framework hypothesis, cosmic temple view, etc.) to harmonize the Bible with the myth of billions of years contradict the Bible’s clear teaching on these points about the fall and the character of God.3

Completed Creation

Another difference between creation and providence should be noted. God completed his creation work (Genesis 2:1–3; Hebrews 4:3–4). He will not resume that kind of work again until he creates a new heaven and new earth at the return of Jesus Christ. During the time of God’s providence, he occasionally has done and is doing miraculous things, even creative acts: e.g., the parting of the Red Sea, manna in the wilderness, water turned to wine in Cana, healings of the deaf and blind, and the physical resurrections of dead Lazarus and Jesus. But God never resumed his Genesis 1 creation work.

This means that scientists today are not studying the processes and actions by which God created the world but rather the processes and actions by which he providentially sustains the world that he created and endowed with what we call “the laws of nature.” We cannot study the present creation and figure out how God created the universe and everything in it. The way plants and animals and people come into existence and grow and change today is not how God created the first plants, animals, and people at the beginning. So, Christians are mistaken when they say that God used evolution and/or millions of years of presently observed processes to create the universe.


When Christians accept the millions of years of geological and cosmological evolution, they are knowingly or unknowingly undermining the Bible’s metanarrative.

The biblical metanarrative is Creation-Fall-Redemption-Restoration. Creation and Restoration are the very short times (days) of supernatural creation work by God. The Fall and Redemption are in the few thousand years of his providential work. Jesus is coming back to restore a creation ruined by sin and God’s just curse. He’s not returning to fix his inept job of creation (by creating and then destroying by disease and disasters that he could have prevented) and re-creation over millions of years. When Christians accept the millions of years of geological and cosmological evolution, they are knowingly or unknowingly undermining the Bible’s metanarrative.4

Our God is a glorious Creator and wonderful, providential Sustainer and Judge of his creation. We can trust what he says from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21.


  1. For a short discussion of the biblical evidence for literal days, see Six Literal Days. For a longer defense of young-earth creation, see Young-Earth Creationist View Summarized And Defended. Exodus 20:11 absolutely rules out millions of years. See Exodus 20:11—An Insurmountable Stone Wall Against Adding Millions of Years to the Bible.
  2. See When Was Adam Created?, which is chapter 5 in Searching for Adam.
  3. For more on the theological and biblical problem of accepting millions of years of death, disease, and other natural evils, consider The Fall and the Problem of Millions of Years of Natural Evil. For scientific reasons to reject the millions of years, see various articles and videos at Age of the Earth.
  4. To see this more clearly, consider my 20,000-word critique of Wayne Grudem’s excellent biblical and theological criticisms of theistic evolution in which I show that nearly all his arguments are also strong reasons to reject all old-earth views in the church, including the two that Grudem favors: Theistic Evolution: A Response to Wayne Grudem, Making the Same Errors He Opposes in Others. A 3500-word summary of my critique is here: Wayne Grudem’s Seriously Inconsistent Opposition to Theistic Evolution.


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