Creation (Truth and the Christian Imagination)
Alister McGrath (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2005) 82 pages
If you have been searching for a book to use with a Sunday School class or a Bible Study group that treats the doctrine of Creation search no further. McGrath has written a brief but stimulating volume that more than adequately treats the subject of creation with acumen and piety.
McGrath, Professor of Historical Theology at Oxford, is well known for his many books. I recall devouring his work on both Calvin and Luther and his Christian Theology: An Introduction is as fine a text on the subject as is available today. In tandem with Fortress Press, McGrath is writing a series Truth and Christian Imagination of which Creation is the first volume.
Unlike so many dogmatic works on creation, McGrath is intensely interested in the aesthetic aspects of creation, including spirituality. Each chapter (seven of them) is a reflection that is biblical, theological, aesthetic and prayerful. Beautifully illustrated with the artwork of Blake, Rubens, de Flandes, Michelangelo and others, McGrath weaves a tapestry chapter by chapter, each of which invites the reader to consider the creation in the light of the totality of Scripture. Where most treatments of creation become bogged down in discussions of evolution or scientific minutiae, McGrath seeks to lead the reader from theology to worship. “We must do more than simply think about our faith. It needs to percolate throughout our minds, hearts and souls, saturating every aspect of our existence.”
Doctrine is more than just logic for McGrath it is also about imagination, indeed McGrath speaks of ‘the discipleship of the imagination.’ It is imagination ‘following Jesus’ that sets apart McGrath’s discussion of creation. In a bold stroke, McGrath has chapters that explicate this discipleship with regard to creation, chapters on human responsibility for the earth and developing a spirituality of creation. His appropriation of these themes echoes the work of Moltmann, McFague, and Douglas Hall among others.
Finally, each chapter ends with a brief prayer, a tacit acknowledgement that the discipleship of our imagination properly ends in gratitude and worship. This book is an excellent introduction on what constitutes a ‘Christian’ doctrine of creation and is especially recommended for clergy who seek worthy books to place in the hands of their parishioners. (If used in a study group we would recommend considering two sessions per chapter. It would be a pity to shortchange the discussion this volume will produce.)
Reviewed by Michael Hardin