Wednesday 9 May 2007

Twelve indispensable books on creation

Here’s a list of 12 indispensable books on the doctrine of creation. It’s not really a balanced list – e.g. there’s nothing here on the New Testament, and I’ve restricted the list to modern works. But in any case, these are some of the books that I’ve found most impressive and most useful. Here they are, in chronological order:

  • Hermann Gunkel, Creation and Chaos in the Primeval Era and the Eschaton (1895; translated 2006)
  • Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics III/1 (1958)
  • Jon Levenson, Creation and the Persistence of Evil: The Jewish Drama of Divine Omnipotence (1988)
  • Henri de Lubac, The Mystery of the Supernatural (1967)
  • Claus Westermann, Creation (1971)
  • T. F. Torrance, Divine and Contingent Order (1981)
  • Jürgen Moltmann, God in Creation (1985)
  • Bernhard Anderson, Creation Versus Chaos: The Reinterpretation of Mythical Symbolism in the Bible (1987)
  • Kathryn Tanner, God and Creation in Christian Theology (1988)
  • Wolfhart Pannenberg, Systematic Theology, Vol. 2 (1994)
  • Alister McGrath, A Scientific Theology, Vol. 1: Nature (2001)
  • David Bentley Hart, The Beauty of the Infinite (2003)


Anonymous said...

You left out Papa Benedict! :-) Ratzinger's 'In the Beginning': A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and Fall is fantastic -- I definitely recommend it.

I'm ashamed to say I haven't read the Tanner book, though -- I need to put that on my list.

Ben Myers said...

Hi Chris -- oh yeah, I was actually planning to include Ratzinger's In the Beginning, which is superb (and definitely the best popularly-written account).

As for Tanner's book: yes, it's a real gem. It's a uniquely brilliant analysis of the "grammar" of creation-theology, and (in my opinion) it's one of her finest books.

Anonymous said...

A good list, especially the Torrance book. I would add Colin Gunton's 'Christ and Creation'.

Anonymous said...

Ben, have you read any Meredith Kline? His "Kingdom Prologue" is the best thing on creation I know.

Anonymous said...

Also, what about Gunton?

Anonymous said...

Im probably not very popular on this blog but the entire concept of "creation" implies two things:
That Real God stands outside of "creation"; and that we human beings are also separate from "creation" and Real God--we always "create" images of "god" after our own image and depth of self understanding.

Please find these quotes.

"The "God" who is irreducibly separate from mankind is an idol--a false "God". Such a "God" is not the Real God Who Grants Life and Who IS Love-Bliss-Life.

The realm of cosmic Nature(creation) that mankind may only observe and know is a mirage, a terrifying illusion, a lie. Such a world is not the world that is Alive in Real God and that is not other than one's own Life in Real God.

Real God and Cosmic Nature Are a Single Paradox, incapable of existing as an Object, or "Other", to humankind. Humankind is inherently INVOLVED in the Paradox of the world-process. Humankind is inherently ONE with the Living Divine Presence of the Self-Existing and Self-Radiant Divine Reality."

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this list, Ben.

For a big fan of Jenson, I'm surprised that he doesn't make your dozen - Parts IV and V of the Systematic Theology (1999). Or did you just run out of numbers?

As for Gunton, there is also The Triune Creator (1998).

And for a little gem that punches well above its weight - it's even shorter than Westermann's Creation - try Michael Welker's Creation and Reality (1999).

Ben Myers said...

Hi John -- I appreciate your criticism of a God who "stands outside of creation" alongside humans beings who "are also separate from 'creation' and God". This is a good point, and many Christian theologians would agree with you. Again, I'd recommend Kathryn Tanner's book on this point -- her main argument is that the Christian doctrine of creation centres on a non-competitive relationship between God and humanity.

JBH -- I haven't read Meredith Kline, but it sounds like I should give her a try. And as for Gunton... well, I've read his various books on creation, but for some reason I've never really been able to find his thought exciting or engaging. Perhaps that's my own fault, not Gunton's!

And yes, Kim: I just ran out of room for Jenson, although I really like his treatment of creation in the Systematic Theology. And I agree that Michael Welker's book is well worth reading (especially the emphasis on the differentiated character of creation, and the methodological fusion of dogmatics and exegesis), even though I wouldn't rank it with the other books mentioned here.

By the way, if we were to include non-translated books as well, I'd definitely add Dirk Evers' extraordinary scientific analysis of creation-theology: Raum – Materie – Zeit: Schöpfungstheologie im Dialog mit naturwissenschaftlicher Kosmologie (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2000).

Anonymous said...

Helmut Thielicke has some beautiful sermons on creation, How the World Began: Man in the First Chapters of the Bible (1964).

michael jensen said...

This is a very diverse list, though, isn't it? It represents some quite radical disagreements in the doctrine of creation - especially over the issue of God's seperateness (or not) from the world (for example). Can you offer a more critical account of the list? Whose work informs your own position most?

Ben Myers said...

Hi Michael -- well, I guess I wasn't looking for a neatly unified list, but just a list of some of my favourite books on the topic. Certainly my own approach to creation would be more directly influenced by Barth, Pannenberg and D. B. Hart, and, more broadly, by critical Old Testament scholarship (for me, the work of people like Gunkel, Westermann and Gerhard von Rad is really revolutionary -- it changes the whole context within which "creation" is understood).

I have some fundamental disagreements with (e.g.) Moltmann, even though I've learned a lot from his work on creation. Actually, my own understanding of creation also owes a lot to Schleiermacher, although I didn't think it was possible to include him on the list (since he doesn't have anything like a book-length treatment of creation).

Does that help?

Unknown said...

Another good book on the subject, by Cardinal Shoenborn, is the compilation of his cathechesis last year on the theme of Creation and Evolution.
The German version was released last March, under the title "Ziel oder Zufall?". I know the book was supposed to be released also in English, but I am not sure it has.
You can read some of the cathechesis translated into english here

michael jensen said...

Oh yes, that is very useful. I too am a fan of von Rad (though I tend to read him like I read Bultmann - editing out his speculations about who wrote what and going for the exegtical gold!)

Travis said...

I applaud including Tanner (especially now that it's back in print); two other really important works, as much as I disagree with both of them, are Gunton's The One, The Three, and the Many (on top of the other Gunton texts others have suggested) and especially Catherine Keller's Face of the Deep. Even if you don't go in for process theology, going down the rabbit hole of that book is one of the more fascinating reading experiences I've enjoyed lately.

Chris Tilling said...

Thanks for this list, Ben. Helpful. I know you can't put everything om a list, but I wonder if Gerhard von Rad deserves a mention, especially his paper "The Theological Problem of the OT Doctrine of Creation" - this argued that the doctrine of creation derives and is a subset of the doctrine of salvation in Israel's scripture and history. This insight is picked up by Neil MacDonald in his book, Metaphysics and the God of Israel, a book I'm trying very hard not to read - I purchasd it for my church weekend away, which won't happen for a couple of weeks.

Ben Myers said...

Aliocha: many thanks for that link.

Travis: thanks for the tip; I haven't read Catherine Keller, but I know what you mean about process accounts of creation. I reckon one of the reasons process theology has been so successful is simply that it offers such an richly imaginative vision of the created order.

Chris: I'm glad you mentioned Gerhard von Rad's essay on "The Theological Problem of the OT Doctrine of Creation". Actually, I really wanted to include that essay on the list, but I had resolved to restrict the list to books. You're right, though: it's an extremely important and valuable essay, and it has had a huge influence on me personally. I've just started reading Neil MacDonald's new book as well -- if it's as good as it sounds, perhaps it will also deserve a place on this list?

Anonymous said...

Meredith Kline's actually a man. I made the mistake of calling him a her once, in a class. I just want to save everyone else the embarrassment.

Ben Myers said...

Oops! Thanks for the clarification, Nate. I do feel embarrassed for calling him a "her" -- I must admit, this is the first time I've heard of Meredith Kline.

olvlzl said...

I wish I'd gotten over here earlier. This wonder William Blake picture is used on the "Beyond Belief" website. I wish that someone would call them on their theft of a picture to promote ideas that would certianly be opposed by Blake. I asked one of the atheist bloggers who was promoting the "Beyond Belief" stuff if he felt that it was an honest use of a picture by the man who wrote:

Mock on, mock on Voltaire, Rousseau,
Mock on, mock on, 'tis all in vain....

Definitely dishonest advertising.

Anonymous said...

This is an excellent list, especially the volumes by Moltmann and Tanner, but I have to add Langdon Gilkey's Maker of Heaven and Earth and Bonhoeffer's slim little set of lectures, Creation and Fall.

Anonymous said...

Male? Female? Join the club, Meredith Kline! But things could be worse - presumably, at least, her surname is usually spelled correctly!

Matt Jenson said...

Long after the fact, I've got one more book to add. An odd selection, maybe, but one that would shed so much unexpected light on a doctrine of creation seminar: Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.

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