April 24, 2013 by Gerald Hiestand
In Plato’s Timaeus, 33c-34c, the Demiurge (the supreme god) fashions the world to be self-sufficient. It has no eyes, because there is nothing to see beyond itself; no ears, because there is nothing to hear beyond itself. He makes the world a circle, “spinning around on itself” because a circle denotes self-containment. Thus the world is a “single solitary universe, whose very excellence enable it to keep its own company without requiring anything else. For its knowledge of and friendship with itself is enough. All this, then, explains why this world which he begat for himself is a blessed god.”
Plato here personifies creation, and makes the person of creation an isolated entity. Notably, the Demiurge does not create the world to be in relationship — with other created beings, or the creator. For Plato ( typical of Greek thought), needing something outside oneself is a sign of weakness. Independence is a sign of divinity. The whole framework is notably non-Trinitarian, and radically different than how the Hebrew Bible frames both divinity and the relational interdependence of creation.0 Comments
January 6, 2013 by Jason Hood
My nine-year-old has begun using “epic” to describe nearly everything. His mother and I have pointed out that this really robs the word of its meaning. Thankfully, there’s one epic that really clarifies the definition.
New SAET fellow Philip Tallon has consulted with his braintrust to create a visual guide to the Great Epic. [[Update: credit to Allie Osterloh for some sweet artwork here; find her at http://www.arocreative.blogspot.com/]] The following five visuals riff on the biblical drama as articulated by Bartholomew, Goheen, Al Wolters, Sandra Ricther and others.
October 18, 2012 by Jason Hood
I don’t think I’ve ever cited Barth in an article, book, or blogpost. I confess I haven’t read much of him since a course on contemporary theology in seminary. Here goes.
“[T]his position of lowliness and dependence and relativity in relation to God does not involve a degradation or deprecation or humiliation of the creature. To be lowly before God is its exaltation. If it is nothing without Him it is everything by Him: everything, that is, that He its Creator and Lord has determined and ascribed and allotted to it; everything that He will continue to . . . execute with and by it. . . .
If we are to understand the divine world-governance rightly, there is one idea that we can never resist too strongly, one notion that we can never reject too sharply. The fact that God causes His will and His will alone to be done in all things, does not mean that the ruling God is an oppressor who grudges it to the creature even to exist at all, let alone to have its own value and dignity over against him. It is the glory of the creature to be lowly in relation to god. . . . To be able to serve Him alone with all its activities and in all its join-effects, to be in His hands and under His control only as a means, an instrument, the clay of the potter—this is its direct and original glory.
. . . it can go forward on the basis of this humiliation. To exist in any other way but in his relativity [dependence] towards God would mean misery and shame and ruin and death for the creature.
Karl Barth, CD, 3.3.1700 Comments
July 16, 2012 by Jason Hood
N. T. Wright reframes the “heaven” discussion in terms of “life after life after death.” 2000 years ago, the NT framed the Christian life as “life after death before death.”
The disciples in John’s Gospel are far from ideal. Much of what Jesus says about himself confuses them (2:18-22, 12:16). Peter struggles with the concept of a crucified Messiah.
So in order for Peter or any other disciple to follow Jesus, understand his message, love one another, and sacrifice themselves for Jesus and the kingdom, a radical change in the disciples had to take place.
Jesus promises a solution. He and the father will send a Helper (7:39; 15:26; 16:7), and his followers will participate in his resurrection: “Because I live, you also will live” (14:19).
When Jesus returns to his disciples after his resurrection, he launches them out into a mission like his mission: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” As he commissions them, he solves the problem of their pitiful state by breathing Holy Spirit life into them (20:22). John’s description reaches back to the original creation account and OT promises of New Creation. The same verb for “breathing into” is used in Greek translations of Genesis 2:7 in the same form (enephusesen) to describe God’s act of breathing life and spirit into Adam. John wants readers to see in Jesus’ action that the promises of new life and new creation in passages like Ezekiel 37 and John 3 are beginning to come true.
Here, as in Paul, we see a connection between the last Adam and the life-giving Spirit (1 Cor 15:45-47). The disciples are raised to new life, just as God gave Adam life. They are the New Humans, regenerated and alive in God’s world, and sent out just as the Last Adam was sent out, empowered by the same Spirit, for a similar (certainly not identical) mission.
And as if to underscore this gift of resurrection life, 20:19 tells us that this New Creation empowerment happens on a Sunday, the first day of old creation, now the first day of New Creation.0 Comments
June 27, 2012 by Matthew Mason
In relation to creation, the gospel is not a crown on a canary. God’s purposes in Christ do not replace, subvert, or alter his original design in creation; rather they redeem and deepen it, bringing it to completion. Grace does not replace nature; grace restores nature and brings it to its proper perfection. As John Bolt explains, this was the heart of Herman Bavinck’s understanding of the Christian religion.
Repeatedly in his writings Bavinck defines the essence of the Christian religion in a trinitarian, creation-affirming way. A typical formulation: “The essence of the Christian religion consists in this, that the creation of the Father, devastated by sin, is restored in the death of the Son of God, and re-created by the Holy Spirit into a kingdom of God.” Put more simply, the fundamental theme that shapes Bavinck’s entire theology is the trinitarian idea that grace restores nature.
…In an important address on common grace…Bavinck sought to impress on his Christian Reformed audience the importance of Christian sociocultural activity. He appealed to the doctrine of creation, insisting that it s diversity is not removed by redemption but cleansed. “Grace does not remain outside or above or beside nature but rather permeates and wholly renews it. And thus nature, reborn by grace, will be brought to its highest revelation. That situation will again return in which we serve God freely and happily, without compulsion or fear, simply out of love, and in harmony with our true nature. That is the genuine religio naturalis.” In other words, “Christianity does not introduce a single substantial foreign element into the creation. it creates no new cosmos but rather makes the cosmos new. it restores what was corrupted by sin. it atones the guilty and cures what is sick; the wounded it heals.” (John Bolt, ‘Editor’s Introduction’ to Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Volume 3: Sin and Salvation in Christ, 17).
October 31, 2011 by Jason Hood
Let me throw out a take on Jeremiah 29 and the creation mandate, found in Genesis 1 and elsewhere:
Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce.
Have dominion…subdue the earth…live in my world…have the trees and plants for your food.
Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease.
Be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth…3 Comments
October 17, 2011 by Jason Hood
Guest post by Doug O’Donnell
There is an old adage (likely an English one) that goes something like this: “When you have two sober Irishmen talking about wisdom literature, expect nothing but folly.” Perhaps I have that wrong. Or, maybe I made it up. You be the judge. Nevertheless, I thank my fellow Irishman—Ryan Patrick O’Dowd—for his two reviews (ed. note: see the intro, then here and here) of my new book.
Now, we come to my reply. Before I so, please allow me to add some scholarly credence to it, and to up the Irishness of it as well. That is, allow me to add my confirmation name. The name is “Michael.” That’s right, named after the mighty archangel. So, my full name is Douglas Sean Michael O’Donnell, or in my home I go by the humble title D. S. M. O’Donnell. Here is what D. S. M. O’Donnell has to say about creation theology, the major critique O’Dowd raises.
My reply is fourfold.
1. First: I agree. I should have made some or all of the connections you suggested. Very helpful. Thanks. We all have blind spots.
2. Second: I did, however, make some connections, and at the points I felt valid. For example, my section on Jesus the sage (pp. 44-45), Ecclesiastes’ uses of creation themes—sun, wind, and sea (p. 65) and eating, drinking, and working (p. 87), and then my paraphrase of God’s speech to Job (p. 111). And, how about my dedication page?—to my creation-theology-loving son!
3. Third: My study, while attempting to be an overview of WL, had its limits. I was working with six particular biblical texts, all of which were not loaded with creation motifs (in my view). If I was expounding other texts, I’m certain I would have made some of the important and necessary creation connections you did. In sum: creation theology should have made it more into my book; I don’t think it was completely absent; and I feel it would have been exegetically forced to add it in some places.
4. Fourth: It is my contention that what is too often missing in WL studies today are answers to questions like, “Does WL fit into the history of redemption?” and “If so, how?” (In many studies such questions are not even raised!) I obviously think those are important questions, and have attempted to answer them.
To me, those are not questions which dismiss creation theology nor put it underfoot, but ones that seek to raise the notion of the covenant God’s plan of salvation in Christ above the toes, perhaps even to the tops of our heads. If the fear of the Lord (which is the key conception in WL) has anything (much!) to do with a life of faith in Yahweh, then I offer no apology for emphasizing the categories of salvation and morality.
Douglas Sean Michael O’Donnell
October 14, 2011 by Jason Hood
Method in Douglas Sean O’Donnell, The Beginning and End of Wisdom
My last review of this light and engaging book examined the book’s sermons. I also want to highlight the importance of being alert to our own methods and the power they have to shape what we preach.
O’Donnell’s method is perhaps most clearly revealed in the way he makes us of scholarly works. He cites many of the most renowned wisdom scholars like Gerhard von Rad, James Crenshaw, Bruce Waltke, Michael Fox, and Leo Perdue. Without exception, these scholars characterize biblical wisdom as knowledge of the harmony, order, and structure built into the creation. Yet O’Donnell does not mention the link between wisdom and creation nor with the creation order. Nor does he mention two of the most profound wisdom texts: Proverbs 3:18-20 where wisdom provides a path back to tree of life and the lost garden, and the longest poem in Proverbs 8:1-36 where Woman Wisdom testifies to the origin of her expertise: she saw the world made. Creation, that center of ancient wisdom theology, does not really appear in his book.
But why? And what does appear instead? O’Donnell’s Reformed focus is shaped by a theology of salvation and the glory of God which seems to send him looking for three themes: salvation, moral guidance, and metaphysical concepts about God, like omnipotence and sovereignty (pp. 137 and 209 n.3). While these are all central, biblical themes, I’m not convinced they are at the heart of the wisdom literature. None of these biblical books mentions the covenants or Israel’s history of salvation. Their primary context is creation – its breadth, its order, and its inner operations.
How might a method of a fuller theology look different than what we find in O’Donnell’s book? First, take O’Donnell’s focus on morality. What if, as many argue, ethics has its roots in a theology of creation? Wisdom, in this case, would be more than just doing good, but actions that are good because they seek out the justice, order, and hierarchies of the moral world God has created. This greater depth is important. A law professor I know often reminds me that few legal issues are solved by applying individual laws. Most situations fall somewhere between two or more laws and the job of the lawyer or judge is to discern the best application. That’s wisdom: the comprehensive moral viewpoint that sees the system as a whole and finds justice in each new situation. God fit this thing together and that should give every one of us confidence that wisdom can guide us in the countless decisions we make in our homes, neighborhoods, churches, and jobs – moral or not.
Second, the wisdom-creation focus also goes further than O’Donnell in affirming the goodness of the created world and the whole of human life. In other words, as I observed in my earlier review, wisdom affirms the enormous range of human callings to make something out of this world, just as we find in the valiant woman in Proverbs 31 who excels at farming, textiles, trading, wine making, parenting, and social justice. If there is an order to creation then there is an order or harmony within each of these callings. Wisdom, focused on God’s final design for the world, is the way to access that order.
Finally, tying wisdom to the created order also opens new windows into the meaning of Jesus’ work and ministry. O’Donnell chooses not to address the long poem in Proverbs 8 where Woman Wisdom sees the process of creation, and for this reason he has no reason to mention that the New Testament writers put Jesus in the place of this woman “in the beginning” (John 1 and Hebrews 1). Only for these NT authors, the Creator has become the Creature in order to restore all of the order, beauty and wholeness that have been lost in the fall. In so tying Jesus to wisdom, Hebrews and John announce good news for us and for everything else too: parks, cities, schools, families, gardens, the arts, medicine and so on.
O’Donnell’s path through these books gives us a wise and Sovereign God, a generous Savior, and a call to faith that results in righteous living. The wisdom literature is no easy genre and, in a day when a vacuous “spirituality” is increasingly in fashion, his emphasis is very much appreciated. My own approach, guided less by the doctrines of the Reformed tradition, pursues the close theological link in these books between creation (stuff) and wisdom. On this path we meet God as our Creator and the Savior of creation. God’s salvation work in Jesus – the Creator who took on flesh – banishes the sin of death and restores all things to their fullness in the power of his fleshly resurrection. Creatures are not just forgiven, but, as wisdom scholar Al Wolters has said, “Creation (is) Regained.” I would hope that the church will come away enriched by both methods of study and both ways of preaching this excellent literature.0 Comments
September 13, 2011 by Jason Hood
Al Wolters (author of this amazing book) wrote a great article dealing with 2 Pet 3:7-10. “2 Peter 3 speaks of three ‘worlds,’ each consisting of heaven and earth: a world before the flood, called ‘the world that then existed’ (3:6), the present world between the flood and the Day of the Lord, called ‘the heavens and earth that now exist’ (3:7), and a future world after the Day, called the ‘new heavens and new earth’ (3:13).” These aren’t three worlds, Wolters notes; they “are really the same world in three periods of its history.”
Peter’s comparison of a final eschatological shift with the flood points not to mere destruction, but ultimately to transformation and recreation. What Peter is describing is not a “burning up” (the normal Greek term for “burning up by fire” is not used) but a melting purification or refinement. What has thrown us off for centuries is the fact that the KJV, based on much later texts, including the normal Greek word for “burning up.” Notice in the ESV on 2 Peter 3:7-10 that the footnotes account for several options. The last part of verse 10 is probably best taken as saying something like, “through fire, the earth and its works will show what they are made of.”
Wolters concludes that some earlier scholars “have read into Peter’s text features of a Gnostic worldview which looked on the present created order as expendable in the overall scheme of things. The text of 2 Pet 3:10, on our interpretation, lends no support to this perspective, but stresses instead the permanence of the created earth, despite the coming judgement.”
In a recent version of Tyndale Bulletin, Jonathan Moo follows the same train of thought for 2 Pet 3:7.
For nerds, Al Wolter’s article, “Worldview and Textual Criticism in 2 Peter 3:10,” WTJ 49 (1987) 405-13 is online. For theocultural spectators, Wolters’s book Creation Regained (1985) made him one of the chief architects of the resurgence of the neo-Calvinist, Kuyperian approach to culture in the Keller/Covenant/A29 wings of the Young Reformed movement. But if you’ve never heard of him, don’t fret. Wolters is singularly uninterested in marketing himself or his accomplishments.0 Comments
February 14, 2011 by Matthew Mason
- Each Person of the Trinity is involved in creation and providence —Father (Gen 1:1; Matt 10:26-30; 11:25; Rom. 8:28;1 Cor 8:6), Son ( Jn. 1:1-3; Col. 1:15-17; Hebrews 1:2-3), Spirit (Gen. 1:2; 2:7; Ps. 33:6; 104:30).
- The Father is the origin of the work of Creation—all things are from him and for him (1 Cor 8:6)—the Trinity creates according to his will. He is also the telos of creation: all things are created for him; the time will come when the Son will hand all things over to the Father and God will be all in all (1 Corinthians 15:28). Just as Son and Spirit proceed from the Father, and ever and eternally return to him in love, the creation-redemption pattern of exit from and return to God, finds its source and goal in the Father.
- The Son is the form of creation—all things are created in him (Col. 1:16); the act of creation is an analogue of the perfect begetting of the Son; and, as he himself possess all the Father’s perfections, as the image, the radiance of the Father’s glory, and the exact imprint of his being, so the creation participates in his perfections in a way appropriate to its nature as creature.
- The Spirit, as the one in whom the Son is eternally begotten, who nevertheless also proceeds from Father and Son, is the perfecter of creation, who enters into creation, hovering over the surface of the deep, and moves it day by day from one stage of glory to another. His work is fundamentally teleological and eschatological. This means, as we shall see, that his work is supremely Christological in focus.