Creation and New Creation - A Review

The doctrine of creation has largely been swallowed whole in evangelical and fundamentalist circles by questions of the age of the earth. For example, theology texts like, L. S. Chafer’s Systematic Theology, Charles Ryrie’s Basic Theology, and Elmer Towns’s Theology for Today deal with the creation as a question of origins. For Chafer, this discussion is embedded in a chapter about the doctrine of man, rather than in a standalone chapter. Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology has a chapter on the doctrine of creation, but the questions he seeks to answer are, “Why, how, and when did God create the universe?”

These are not unimportant questions or unworthy of discussion. However, the age of the earth and the exact time that it took God to make something from nothing does not exhaust the depth of the doctrine of creation by a longshot.

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In a recent book published by Hendrickson, Sean McDonough does a masterful job highlighting the importance of the doctrine of creation, especially as it relates to the new creation. He rightly recognizes that God’s first creation project was always intended to simply continue into his future creation project, with ongoing creation (or providence) in the middle.

The book is divided into nine chapters. Chapter One shows how closely the new creation is connected to the account of the original creation. The second chapter deals with the nature of God as creator, since it is vital to understand his nature to recognize the distinctions between him and what he has made. In Chapter Three, McDonough presents various theories why God made the world. In the fourth chapter, the topic of the relationship of time to the created order is considered.

Chapter Five considers the nature of creation ex nihilo, in particular evaluating the relationship of God to his creation. In the sixth chapter, McDonough discusses the influence of Plato’s dualism on the Christian tradition’s understanding of creation. In Chapter Seven, the question of how creation was made is considered. This leads McDonough to consider the place of humans within creation in the eighth chapter. And, in Chapter Nine, the beauty of the world and its value for God and as a testament to God’s goodness comes to the fore.

Creation and New Creation: Understanding God’s Creation Project is largely an expository book. McDonough presents a survey of Christian thinking, digesting theological writing from Irenaeus to Karl Barth. The overall position McDonough presents is well within the boundaries of Christian orthodoxy, and he handles those on the fringes fairly with appropriate criticism.

The most significant aspect of this book is that it serves as a reminder to Christians that creation is not something that happened at some hotly debated point in the past. Rather, creation began when God spoke all things into existence out of nothing, but it is ongoing as he sustains the world by the power of his word, and will eventually be brought to perfection in the new creation when all things are made new. This has been God’s plan from the beginning and it is so much bigger than an argument over the number of hours in a day, the compatibility of scientific theories of origins, and a discussion of human origins.

Connecting creation to new creation emphasizes the telos of this world. God intended his handiwork of a purpose, and it is trending in a particular direction. His will cannot be foiled. This is a liberating reality. It frees us to delight in the goodness he has created while looking forward to the beauty of the renovated creation, once the sin has been purged. This book is an important one, particularly for evangelicals, seeking to remediate the lack of vigorous treatments of creation in our tradition.

Creation and New Creation is a valuable book. McDonough writes well and demonstrates that he has done extensive research. This is a volume that will be best suited to people with theological training or extensive reading in their backgrounds. Those that are equipped to engage with it will find it well worth their while.

NOTE: I received a gratis copy of this volume from the publisher with no expectation of a positive review.

Worth Reading - 10/14

1. Charles Spurgeon is a giant in the world of Baptist preachers. He was a phenomenal orator and one of the most famous speakers of his day. History has shown that, though he is certainly not perfect, his character was strong. Here's a post from Christian George at one of the other SBC seminaries discussing why Spurgeon died without much money in the bank:

Charles Spurgeon could have been one of the richest millionaires in London.

Instead, he died poor.

Unlike his contemporary pastors in London, Spurgeon did not leave millions of pounds to his family after his death. Susannah told a Baptist newspaper her husband only left £2,000 (Nottingham Evening Post, March 31, 1892).

This number is staggering compared to how much money Spurgeon actually earned. In fact, one of the most overlooked aspects of Spurgeon’s ministry is his personal finances.

Let’s see where Spurgeon’s wallet takes us.

2. An entertaining story of the first all-women city council. They were voted in just after women gained the right to vote in the U.S. and even ousted the husband of one of the new members.

On November 2, 1920, the citizens of Yoncalla, Oregon, got a big surprise as the ballots were tallied in their local election. All the incumbent men on the city council had been voted out. Yoncalla, a small town of 323 residents about 40 miles south of Eugene, had voted in an entirely female city council.

Newspapers flocked to the story. Mary Burt, the square-jawed daughter-in-law of Yoncalla’s benefactor, became the town’s new mayor. Nettie Hannan displaced her own husband, the local butcher, from the council. The town’s most glamorous resident, Jennie Lasswell—the wife of the outgoing mayor, Jess Lasswell—was also elected to the council. The Literary Digest, the Newsweek of its day, reported, “He had no knowledge of the step to overthrow his administration, let alone the fact that his wife was on the opposing ticket.”

3. Someone called the ongoing collapse of evangelical sub-culture in this article in the Christian Science Monitor from 2009.

We are on the verge – within 10 years – of a major collapse of evangelical Christianity. This breakdown will follow the deterioration of the mainline Protestant world and it will fundamentally alter the religious and cultural environment in the West.

Within two generations, evangelicalism will be a house deserted of half its occupants. (Between 25 and 35 percent of Americans today are Evangelicals.) In the “Protestant” 20th century, Evangelicals flourished. But they will soon be living in a very secular and religiously antagonistic 21st century.

This collapse will herald the arrival of an anti-Christian chapter of the post-Christian West. Intolerance of Christianity will rise to levels many of us have not believed possible in our lifetimes, and public policy will become hostile toward evangelical Christianity, seeing it as the opponent of the common good.

4. The Democrats continue to promise amazing and expensive things like 'free' college and 'free' universal healthcare. Not only do they not seem to understand what that word means, but more significantly, an opinion column from the L.A. Times in July argues that before trying to fix the (pretty good) college system, the Dems might consider trying to fix the state run high schools that are failing students and families.

You’re already familiar with the purely fiscal objection – that “free college” isn’t actually free. Somebody will have to pay for it, and that somebody is everybody who pays taxes. And you’ve likely heard the pedagogical critique – that college and university curricula are antiques that don’t adequately prepare Americans for life in a quick-changing, free-market economy.

But I’m here to say something different: Never mind free college. I’d be ecstatic if Hillary, Bernie and the Democrats pledged to deliver universal high school education.

You’re thinking we’ve already got that. But what we’ve got is nearly universal credentialing.

The dirty little secret in public education is that millions of American kids are conveyor-belted through a system that does not produce math proficiency or English literacy at grade level.

Just look at Los Angeles.

5. A writer for the Atlantic admits that evolutionary thinking has invented a creation narrative that is just as faith-based as the Christian creation story.

Earth is constantly remaking itself, and over the eons it has systematically erased its origin story, subsuming and cannibalizing its earliest rocks. Much of what we think we know about the earliest days of Earth therefore comes from the geologically inactive moon, which scientists use like a time capsule.

Ever since Apollo astronauts toted chunks of the moon back home, the story has sounded something like this: After coalescing from grains of dust that swirled around the newly ignited sun, the still-cooling Earth would have been covered in seas of magma, punctured by inky volcanoes spewing sulfur and liquid rock. The young planet was showered in asteroids and larger structures called planetisimals, one of which sheared off a portion of Earth and formed the moon. Just as things were finally settling down, about a half-billion years after the solar system formed, the Earth and moon were again bombarded by asteroids whose onslaught might have liquefied the young planet—and sterilized it.

6. My latest post at the Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics discusses the difference between the biblical conception of greatness and the popularly conceived notion.

We get it backward all the time. We desire the wrong things regularly. Instead of looking for ways to serve, most of us get caught up in seeking roles that will advance ourselves. We want to be the boss, to have the shining moments, and to reap the benefits. That’s how the world defines success. But Scripture paints a different picture of the nature of real greatness.

In the end, someone has to be in charge. If no one takes the responsibility to look ahead and make strategic plans, then a company, family, or church will miss opportunities and often find itself unprepared to meet the future. Having leaders, and being a leader, is a good thing.

The danger of being in charge, though, is that one gets used to being looked up to and comes to believe the hype. When people congratulate a leader on a good decision, it is easy for the leader to begin to think that she is the important one and somehow more valuable to the world than the janitor, the clerk, or the unemployed.