The Message of Creation by David Wilkinson is a light commentary with ample contemporary application on the biblical theme of creation. Wilkinson is a competent theologian with a scientific background, making him well qualified to speak on the theme of creation. His pastoral experience shows through as he provides lengthy applications from the many biblical passages he discusses throughout the book. In his defense of the idea of a Creator, he also interacts with well known atheists (past and present) such as Carl Sagan and Richard Dawkins.
The book considers five aspects of the doctrine of creation through 20 passages of Scripture. Wilkinson is quick to point out in the preface that the book is not a systematic theology on the doctrine of creation, though the theologian in him might prefer to write such a book.
It is a kind of journey. Some will want to get to the destination quickly, but that is not what we shall do. We have twenty “villages” to visit on the way in pursuing the doctrine of creation and opening up its biblical themes. Their large number of passages and their diversity is testimony to how important this doctrine is within the biblical literature. (p. 11)
Since the doctrine of creation is one of my favorite themes in Scripture, I was excited to read the book. Upon reading it, I was both pleased and disappointed. Though the book starts and ends strongly, the middle three sections were somewhat of a disappointment. I found a number of insightful comments regarding the initial creation in Genesis and regarding recreation (or “creation regained” depending on your theological commitments) before eternity. As such, this review will focus more on the first and last sections with some remarks on the middle three.
The beginning of creation
Starting with “The Beginning of Creation,” Wilkinson walks through the first three chapters of Genesis showing God as creator of all things, provider of man’s necessities yet the One rejected by the crown jewel of His creation, man. Despite his scientific background, Wilkinson steers clear of the debate over the meaning “day” in Geness 1. But he implies a rejection of the more conservative viewpoint when he lists three reasons why we need to be more respectful of, and less judgmental towards, those who hold to other views (p. 17-18). He believes the “days” of creation discussion is important but “is not central to the message of Genesis 1 (p. 18).” He writes, “This is not a passage about the ‘how’ of creation, nor even primarily about the ‘why’ of creation. Rather, it is a passage about the ‘who’ of creation, and is an overture that introduces us to the Creator God” (p. 18).
While one may disagree with his view of the days of creation, Wilkinson is correct that it is not God’s main theological focus there as He speaks through Moses. Wilkinson argues that Genesis 1 has polemical nature in response to other ancient Near East creation accounts (p. 21). While the differences are clear, Wilkinson notes the following concerning the comparative elements:
God has set the revelation of the truth about Himself into the thought forms and culture of the ancient Near East. Far from corrupting its purity, this gives the revelation even more power. God’s revelation of himself is never in the abstract; it is in the reality of human history. (p. 22)
Thankfully, Wilkinson does not fall into the trap of emphasizing the similarities to the point of ignoring the differences, as does John Walton in The Lost World of Genesis One.
After quickly dismissing a few interpretations of what it means to be made in the image of God,” Wilkinson stresses that the “image” man possesses emphasizes the relational nature of God (p. 36). Following Karl Barth’s reasoning, Wilkinson asserts that Christ is the quintessential example of man in the image of God, since Christ is both God in the flesh and the perfect example of what we as humans should be. This in turn flows from His perfect relationship with the Father (p. 37). Regardless of one’s opinion of Barth, this is one of his better statements and theological insights in the book.
The songs of creation
In the section on “The Songs of Creation,” Wilkinson walks through four classic passages in Proverbs and Psalms that deal with the theme of creation: the wisdom of God in Proverb 8, the majesty of God in Psalm 8, the glory of God in Psalm 19 and the universal praise of God in Psalm 148. There was not much that stood out in these chapters, which is unfortunate given the depth of Psalms 8 and 19.
The Lord of creation
The book’s third section focuses on God as Lord of creation. In Luke 8 Jesus reveals His power over the wind and the waves. Through this, we see God’s presence within creation and His authority over the powerful creation He has made. Through the theologically rich passages of John 1, Colossians 1 and Hebrews 1, Wilkinson brings home the reality of Christ’s presence among His creation, His supremacy in His creation and His rightful position as heir of all creation. These are some of my favorite passages of Scripture and I was disappointed that Wilkinson did not do more with them.
The lessons of creation
Section four focuses on “The Lessons of Creation.” From Genesis 9 we see a renewed trust in God. From Job 38-42 we gain a new understanding of the Creator God through our suffering. In Isaiah 40 we are brought to see how the Creator God gives us strength, and in Acts 17 we see the new life the Creator brings.
The fulfillment of creation
The fifth and final section focuses on “The Fulfillment of Creation.” In Isaiah 65 we are comforted that God promises to restore creation’s disturbed relationship with Him. The most interesting discussion is in the chapters on 2 Peter 3 and Revelation 21 regarding the meaning of “new” creation. In both of these passages, Wilkinson makes the case that, in light of recent scholarship, “new” refers to transformation rather than destruction (p. 261). “The word kainos, ‘new,’ usually indicates newness in terms of quality rather than something new that has never been in existence. Here we have a qualitative contrast between the new and first creation (p. 261).” Further support for this transformative view is found in Christ Himself and His resurrection. Wilkinson sees continuity in the fact that Jesus is seen and touched physically both before and after the resurrection. But he sees discontinuity in the fact that there is some confusion involved in recognizing Him and (in John 20) He defies space. I found this discussion revealing and wished there had been more space devoted to the interpretation. Wilkinson clearly communicates the summation of the newness of creation when he says:
The new creation is therefore not a return to Eden. The new creation is better than Eden, in terms of its security against evil and its freedom from sin. It ‘begins with the tale of a garden and ends with a city of gold’ is not a bad summary of the Bible’s view of creation and new creation. (p. 263)
Despite my disappointment with three of the five sections, and a clear environmentalist mindset in some areas of application (pp. 155, 172), I believe the book helps define some of the biblical aspects of the creation theme. The first and last sections alone make the book worth reading. Those who are well-read about creation in Scripture may not find anything new in the book. For those new to the subject, this book would be a good place to start.
Craig Hurst received his BA in Church Ministries from Clearwater Christian College and finished the first year of his MDiv program at Calvary Baptist Theological Seminary in Lansdale, PA. He currently lives outside of Grand Rapids, MI and plans to finish his MDiv at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. He attends Northland Baptist Church in Grand Rapids where he serves as a volunteer youth worker (along with his wife), and teaches some elective classes.