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Thursday, December 20, 2018

"Creation and Doxology" ed. by Hiestand and Wilson. A Review


Creation and Doxology: The Beginning and End of God’s Good World
Ed. Gerald Hiestand and Todd Wilson
IVP Academic
IVPress.com
October 2018
ISBN: 978-0-8308-5386-1; $25.00
3 Stars of 5 Stars

How should Christians think about creation? Not only the creation account in Genesis, but the created order around them at present? Gerald L. Hiestand, interim senior pastor at Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park, Illinois, cofounder and director of the Center for Pastor Theologians; and Todd Wilson president and cofounder of the Center for Pastor Theologians and former senior pastor of Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park, Illinois, have compiled a series of articles from numerous authors on this very subject. The 230-page softback “Creation and Doxology: The Beginning and End of God’s Good World” includes the manuscripts from the 2017 annual theology conference of the Center for Pastor Theologians. It is a collection of essays that “is an effort to “return love” to the Maker of the world, to acknowledge his ultimate transcendence in all things and before all things, to give him thanks, and to affirm that praise to the Creator is the ultimate telos of creation” (3). This bundle of grandiose aims weaves in and out of the articles, sometimes thinner and sometimes thicker.

After the introduction written by the editors, the book pans out in three broad categories: the doctrine of creation expressed, the doctrine of creation explored, and the doctrine of creation practiced. Several papers are more gratifying and edifying than others. Unfortunately, it appears that the book has an over-representation of authors with BioLogos connections or sympathies.

The book opens with four chapters tackling the Genesis creation account. Michael LeFebvre theorizes that instead of Genesis 1-2 retelling a creation account as a creation account, it is a festival calendar, specifically focusing on the Sabbath, and therefore the “text’s function as a calendar calls us to re-center our interest in the text on its practical calling of God’s people to a weekly vocation and communion” (21). As an astrophysicist and the president of BioLogos, Deborah Haarsma explains why she sees that “God is still making new stars! The universe is continuing to develop, growing in complexity. God’s creative work isn’t once and done; its an ongoing process” (28). Which feeds her unconcerned acceptance of evolution. Next Todd Wilson lists ten propositions that the majority of Evangelical Christians can mostly agree upon, whether they accept evolution or not. Thankfully, though Wilson acknowledges evolution, he lists many of the consequences to the Christian faith if we come to deny “Adam and Eve as real persons in a real past” (51). Lastly, Hans Madueme defends what he calls “dogmatic creationism,” in which Christians can still rationally hold onto God specifically making all things of nothing, and without evolution, “in spite of what seems to be overwhelming evidence against” that position (62). He posits the resurrection of Christ as the prime support for his claim:

“Let Christology be our guide. The cornerstone of Christian faith is the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus…However, every school child knows that resurrection is scientifically impossible…. Every known science points unequivocally against bodily resurrection. But if it is paramount for Christians to dissolve any conflicts between science and theology, then why don’t they abandon belief in the resurrection? Why indeed” (67)?

After three chapters with a steady drumbeat of “Why we have to accept evolution as Bible-believing Christians....and how insignificant it really is....and how we have misread the Bible for, oh, so long....and really, it won't hurt us any” reading Madueme’s chapter was like someone opening the door, letting the breeze come in and blow the smoke and dust out of the house!!!!!

The second part of “Creation and Doxology” deals with the goodness of creation. “Is the world sacramental?” is the question Jeremy Mann takes up and skillfully answers, concluding that “I believe reserving sacramental as a term related to the two sacraments is a helpful way of signaling linguistically the like-nothing-else quality of salvation.” Yet we must still “open our eyes to the glory of the world, testify to its power, draw others to see it, and then preach of the God who made it, a God whose glory is without peer” (98). In a bold move, Gerald Hiestand teams up with Irenaeus to tackle the devil and his relationship to creation in which Hiestand shows how Irenaeus saw Satan’s ultimate conflict as not really a tussle between the adversary and God, but with humanity over creation. In the end, the

 “basic contours of Irenaeus’s devil narrative do not encourage us to view the material world as a throwaway husk, a ladder to be climbed and then kicked away once we’ve reached the angelic top…It reminds us that Christ has come not only to save our souls but also to save our home – indeed, to save his home insofar as he too is now forever the embodied Son of Man” (117).

This, too, was my conclusion which I mapped out in my book “Gnostic Trends in the Local Church.” Next on stage is Stephen Witmer and his take on Wendell Berry’s recognition of the valuableness of the materiality of creation. Finally, John Walton, attempts to make the case that the storyline of the Hebrew Scriptures is not about redemption, but about creation as a place of fellowship with his people (137). To do this he dismissively throws out Genesis 3.15 as messianic, pushes to the side any notion of Eden being restored in the eschaton, and even makes this cheeky assertion about the fall in Genesis three: “the Old Testament never looks back to revisit that moment to explore its significance or probe its implications” (138). These claims, and more, are part of his support for his mantra that the “Bible is much more interested in creation as establishing God’s presence than in the mechanisms used by the Creator. Science studies mechanisms; the Bible is more interested in agency – God as Creator embarking on his mission to create people among whom he will dwell and who will be in relationship with him forever” (144).

The remaining chapters speak to some of the ways Christians can engage creation. Andy Crouch momentarily glances back at 1917, passes over 2017 and gazes into 2117 as he ponders our views of Creation, science, and the future of Christianity. Another discussion was facilitated by Paige Comstock Cunningham where she examines the place of medicine, technology and how we should view life. The author made several sound observations that were helpful, as she deciphered how consumption “of technology in pursuit of a well-curated life can lead to counting on technology to alleviate all pain and suffering. Rather than the unrealistic pursuit of lives that are pain free, and comfortable, and under our control, might we consider instead a well-lived life” (173)? In a different direction, Kristen Deede Johnson scrutinizes the calls and clamorings for justice, critiques the root of much social justice advocacy and leaves the reader with sage advice:

“When it comes to talk of justice, it is easy to move right to discussions of what we ought to do to seek justice in this world. And it is easy to let notions of justice be shaped more by the latest political and cultural ideas than by what God has shown us to be just and right…Christians…want to root our call to justice in Christ and Scripture…When we allow Christ to frame our understandings of creation, we see that our calling to seek justice flows from the invitation we have received in Christ to participate in the communion that Jesus the Son has always shared with the Father  by the Spirit. With this framework in place, the invitation to seek first God’s kingdom, justice, and righteousness is good news indeed” (199-200).

The book wraps up with a final chapter by Gregory Waybright telling stories of how various members of his congregation, Lake Avenue Church of Pasadena California, have dealt with science and Scripture.

In some ways “Creation and Doxology” became cramped and claustrophobic. The dominating presence of those who embrace evolution was disappointing. Especially the way most of them dismissed any substantial consequences to the Christian faith if the Church accepted, carte blanche, modern scientific theories of origins. There were bright spots here and there, but over all I found the book’s value to be mainly these two: (1) it gives the reader a clearer picture of how messy the Evangelical Church is; and (2) it presents the voices of one particular side in evangelicalism that is more cooperative with, and uncritical of, the reigning scientific theory. I recommend it if you are wanting to know how one specific faction of evangelicalism views evolution and the creation account in Genesis.

My thanks to IVP Academic for sending the book upon my request. I used that book for this review, scribbled notes in many margins, marked it up and made it truly my own. The only thing IVP asked of me is to give my honest review, and I have done so here within.

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