Intro to Biblical Axiology [Pt.2]
Mereology, Man, Marriage, and the Priority of the Individual
[Cont. from Pt.1]
Parts & Wholes
Given that axiology and ontology are bound together via the doctrines of God’s existence and creation ex nihilo,1 it behooves us to take a look at the question of mereology. As the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy defines it —
Mereology (from the Greek μερος, ‘part’) is the theory of parthood relations: of the relations of part to whole and the relations of part to part within a whole.2
In Scripture, we are taught God is ontologically simple. As Berkhoff explains this means that he is “not composite and is not susceptible of division in any sense of the word.”3 God’s creation, however, is a synthetic whole comprised of parts which are either simple or complex (i.e. made up of integrally related parts). God did not only bring the heavens and earth into being from nothing, he also fashioned them.
Berkhoff writes —
In the narrative of creation, … three verbs are used, namely, bara', 'asah, and yatsar, and they are used interchangeably in Scripture, Gen. 1:26,27; 2:7. The first word is the most important. Its original meaning is to split, to cut, to divide; but in addition to this it also means to fashion, to create, and in a more derivative sense, to produce, to generate, and to regenerate.
The word 'asah is more general, meaning to do or to make, and is therefore used in the general sense of doing, making, manufacturing, or fashioning. The word yatsar has, more distinctively, the meaning of fashioning out of pre-existent materials, and is therefore used of the potter's fashioning vessels out of clay.4
God created the raw stuff of creation from nothing, speaking it into existence. He rearranged, formed, structured, fashioned the elements of creation into various complex arrangements. Scripture does not delve into this deeply, but it gives us enough information for us to affirm what we have stated so far.
Hebrews 11:3 states —
By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.
There are two words related to creation in this verse that shed some light on the way in which God created all things. The first word is translated as “created;” it is the Greek word καταρτίζω (transliterated, katartizō). καταρτίζω signifies fitting, equipping, putting in order, arranging, and adjusting.5 The second word is translated as “made;” it is the Greek word γίνομαι (transliterated, ginomai). γίνομαι signifies becoming-to-be or coming-into-being.6
Looking at this verse we see that there are two assertions being made with the words καταρτίζω and γίνομαι, namely: