|Monroe County Community College|
And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.
- Genesis 1:3
When God said "Let there be light" it was not in the sense of "Permit there to be light." Rather, as John Goldingay writes, it was in the sense of "There is to be light" or "There must be light" or "There shall be light." God simply demands like a theater director, "Light!"" (Goldingay, Old Testament Theology: Israel's Gospel, 32) Lke: "Lights! Camera! Action!"
When God says "Light!" that is enough to make it happen. So we read "and there was light."
"The process involves supreme illogic. There is nowhere the suggestion that somewhere there is a dynamic source of light that can put forth light. In the same way, when God says "The waters are to gather together" or "The earth is to put forth vegetation," there is no implication that waters or earth already have the potential to obey these commands. It is the command that mysteriously generates them, as words can." (Ib., emphasis mine)
Philosopher J.L. Austin, in his philosophically famous book How to Do Things With Words, explained how certain words can do things; that is, certain words, said by people who have authority, have "illocutionary force." In such cases, saying makes it so.
For example, because I am a pastor recognized by the state of Michigan, when I say the words to a couple "I now pronounce you husband and wife," they are, upon my pronouncement, husband and wife. But should you, assuming you are not a pastor, walk up to a couple on the street and utter the words "I now pronounce you husband and wife," nothing will happen. Your speech act will "do" nothing, except tperhaps get you taken to the hospital. In Austin's language your speek act "misfires" because you lack the authority to do such things with your words.
It was Jesus' claim to perform illocutionary acts with his words that had the religious leaders marveling about his authority. In Mark 9:10, for example, Jesus states that he, the Son of Man, has the authority to forgive sins. Then Jesus tells a paralyzed man, "Get up, take up your mat, and go home." Here Jesus' words do two things:
1) at his word one's sins are forgiven; and
2) at his word the paralyzed man is healed.
God said "Let there be light." And light came into existence.
Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.
- Matthew 10:1
Because of this God-given authority our words have illocutionary force.