As a pastor, there are plenty of conversations I don’t look forward to, but the one that gives me the most heartburn goes something like, “what’s your stance on the age of the earth?”
For some, questions about the age of the earth and the mechanics of creation serve as a litmus test for those who “actually” believe the Bible. For others, those questions help to distinguish relevant churches from those out of touch with reality. As Todd Wilson acknowledges, “There is hardly a more controversial subject among evangelical Christians” (p. 45).
Whatever “one might think about the question of origins, the proper posture of the creature before the Creator is that of praise and thanksgiving."
Into this debate, Creation and Doxology: The Beginning and End of God’s Good World (InterVarsity Press 2018), gives us the conversation we need. This work brings together an eclectic group of writers who center around the belief that whatever “one might think about the question of origins, the proper posture of the creature before the Creator is that of praise and thanksgiving” (p. 4). The theme of praise and thanksgiving, found in each essay, is a helpful tone to not only inform, but also to model the type of conversation we need to be having in our congregations.
This collection of essays is organized into three broad categories. In the first part, “The Doctrine of Creation Expressed,” the four authors tackle more of the current and expected debates regarding age of the earth, evolution and the resultant theological issues. Wilson’s article, in particular, “Mere Creation: Ten Theses (Most) Evangelicals Can (Mostly) Agree On,” is a helpful schema to organize the conversation and equip congregations for unity in the midst of constructive debate.
The second section, “The Doctrine of Creation Explored,” represents a creative variety of essays, including a discussion on sacramentalism, the devil, creation in Wendell Berry’s writing, and an introduction to John H. Walton’s “Immanuel Theology.” Each essay helps expand the conversation beyond just the mechanics of creation to what it reveals about God—that He created us with the intention of being with us. This section is about appreciating and valuing God’s creative creation, not as a throw-away, but as God’s loving work.
The final portion, “The Doctrine of Creation Practiced,” is the most pastoral. Extending the discussion, this section explores how the doctrine of creation informs some of our most current questions and issues—from pursuing justice to discerning the lengths to which we should pursue technological and medical advancements.
The aim of the work and of each author isn’t directed at solving the conversation around creation but rather to have the conversation we need to have.
The frustration for some readers is that Creation and Doxology won’t solve the creation debates. Every essay provides a unique perspective, and it should be understood, this work isn’t like a “multiple views” book. Each author is asking different questions with different aims. This is perhaps where the most significant critique comes.
At times, the eclectic nature of the book led to confusion as a whole. However, the aim of the work and of each author isn’t directed at solving the conversation around creation but rather to have the conversation we need to have. It is a side-step from the all-too-common debates around how to read Genesis, into a conversation that focuses on praise and thanksgiving toward the Creator of all.
In the end, readers will have more questions, but they will be better equipped to approach the discussion around creation within their congregation. Creation and Doxology is a fitting resource for every pastor.
Gregory Waybright—senior pastor at Lake Avenue Church (EFCA) in Pasadena, California, and former president of Trinity International University—wrote the concluding article, which highlights the most important reason for any pastor to read this work:
I believe that, as a part of my pastoral calling, I need to be a catalyst facilitating a congregational culture in which we are not afraid of difficult questions, even those that seem to pose challenges to our faith (p. 206).
May this work lead pastors and congregants into the conversations we need to have with the humility in which we need to have them.
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