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Thinking through Creation: Genesis 1 and 2 as Tools of Cultural Critique Paperback – October 31, 2017
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"Watkin does much more than round up the usual proof texts: he rather calls our attention to biblical patterns that diagonally cut through taken-for-granted false dichotomies. . . . Take up and take heed." --Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Research Professor of Systematic Theology, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
"Tears down false dichotomies in philosophy and lifts up treasures of truth. . . .This book helps us to inhabit biblical worlds of thought so that we can see, interpret, and reach our world with the gospel." --Trevin Wax, Bible and Reference Publisher, LifeWay Christian Resources
"Just brilliant! . . . In a rare combination, Watkin shows us at the deepest level what it means to read the world through the Word, but in a way that is genuinely accessible. His demonstrations of biblical patterns and structures are incredibly helpful." --Dan Strange, Lecturer in Culture, Religion and Public Theology, Oak Hill College
"Offers a radical and trenchant critique of contemporary culture and a well-grounded alternative shaped by the Christian Scriptures. I regard this slim volume as a seminal work, and I predict that it will become a classic of its kind." --Albert M. Wolters, Author, Creation Regained
"One of the most refreshing books I have read in a long time. With deceptive simplicity, Watkin defends exegetical, theological, and philosophical verities that are much needed in today's discussions." --William Edgar, Professor of Apologetics, Westminster Theological Seminary
About the Author
Christopher Watkin (MPhil, PhD, Jesus College, Cambridge) researches and writes on modern and contemporary French thought, atheism, and religion. Currently, he is a senior lecturer in French studies at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. He blogs at christopherwatkin.com, and you can find him on Twitter @DrChrisWatkin.
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Thinking Through Creation: Genesis 1 and 2 as Tools of Cultural Critique surfaced out of the realization that a full-orbed contemporary articulation of Christianity must not only explain the Bible to our culture but also explain our culture through the Bible (p. xiii). For Watkin, Thinking Through Creation provides readers “a vision of biblical doctrine not as a series of facts but as a framework for understanding any facts whatsoever, approaching the Bible not as story within reality but as the story of reality, and as the reality itself within which any other stories must necessarily exist” (p. 12). Watkin’s approach is threefold as he establishes his presuppositional structure in Genesis 1-2, including thinking our culture through (1) the Trinity, (2) the creation of the world in Genesis 1, and (3) the creation of humanity in Genesis 2. Watkin does much for the reader as he skillfully uncovers biblical patterns that penetrate many culturally constructed false dichotomies—deficient conflicts that emerge as the truth of Scripture, especially the foundational doctrines of Genesis 1-2, become lenses to analyze the world.
Thinking Through Creation is a fascinating volume. Watkin is a first-rate thinker and presents a clear and persuasive case for recognizing Genesis 1-2 as a vital passage for Christian worldview analysis. The approach is presented in a thoroughly Reformed manner and Watkin has done the reader a great service as he practically applies presuppositional thought to the subject matter. Watkin finds the Trinity to be the establishment of all relational endeavors that exist and does much to see the implications of such on all aspects of cultural engagement. Watkin has provided readers with a unique combination of thought-provoking content that is able shape how one views the world and accessibility which allows such shaping to be experienced far and wide. Thinking Through Creation: Genesis 1 and 2 as Tools of Cultural Critique by Chris Watkin is incredibly helpful and tediously informed, and readers will do well to listen. It comes highly recommended!
His decision to focus on the doctrines of Our loving God’s Trinity and purpose-filled Creation - and how they reveal profound life-giving and life-forming understanding - allows for a series of specific examples to nuance his insights.
Best of all is his introduction to the bible’s diagnolization. Showing how biblical truth cuts through a simplistic either/or view of the world. Is God loving, or all powerful? Is industrial production better than white collar work? Diagnolization unveils the beauty of biblical truth, and the reality of how God created balance.
Undergirded with an evident love for God and armed with a wealth of philosophical knowledge Chris Watkin has given us a thought provoking and insightful primer. This IS the book Chris was looking for - when he couldn’t find it, he set about writing the sort of book he needed.
I’m grateful he did. You will be too when you read it & as you ponder on the study sections he’s added.
Grab this book for Christmas and enjoy some profound depths and a mind workout over a relaxed holiday break!
I received a copy of the book from the author, in return for an honest assessment.
After completing the course, Christopher asked if I would like to receive free copies of some of his forthcoming books, in exchange for reviewing them online: I happily agreed — free things!
The first of these new books, Thinking Through Creation is a great read, and I hope it will quickly became a classic among those, like in AFES, who are seeking to equip Christians to think deeply and Christianly. This book is the first of a much larger work that Christopher intends to produce, doing similar stuff across the whole Bible: not just reading what the text of Scripture says, but unpacking the underlying ideas, and the values and actions which flow from these.
Christopher looks at the philosophical and ethical implications of the doctrine of the trinity, of creation, humanity, personhood work, Sabbath, power, functionalism, environment and much more. For those who have already read a bit in this, much of the content will be familiar, but it is great to have a one-stop-shop for all these ideas.
Likewise, Christopher is not the first writer to expose unsatisfactory dichotomies, by finding a more sophisticated middle way (his term for this is 'diagonlisation'). But his contribution to this area of nuance and synthesising approach is a highlight of the book, as he uncovers so many of these false dichotomies:
—Impersonal structure vs Unstructured personhood (tackling the Euthyphro Dilemma masterfully)
—The one vs the many
—Reality is transparent to language vs Language imposes an alien structure on reality
—Functionality vs beauty
—Fact vs value
—Nature vs culture
—Intellectual work vs manual labour
—Sacred groves vs trees as facts (you'll have to read it to see what on earth that means?! :-P)
A particular strength of the book is the way in which Christopher provides substantial quotes from and interaction with various philosophers and other theorists. This is more than the easy grab-quotes from an IVP apologetics book, but rather genuine contact points with different philosophical views. Reading the footnotes and supporting material gives you heaps of leads to explore further, both Christian and non-Christian thinking.
There were a few points where I raised an eyebrow or wanted more:
—I am not convinced that love comes before power, as Christopher argues on page 35ff. Why not both? If power is seen as secondary, then, as it seems Christopher goes on to argue, we cannot form an ethic were the possession and use of power also has a place. Power is entirely subservient to love. While, love, service and personhood are fruitful paths to explore social ethics, I also think the just and proper use of (and restraint of) power is also a fruitful and ethical path to explore at the same time.
—Some of the political and social applications left me wondering how this would work out 'in the real world' of globalised economic. Footnote 7 on page 57 points to The Jubilee Manifesto edited by Michael Schluter and John Ashcroft to explore further, so it's great to have a good pointer. However, I would love to have a bit more meat on this occasionally, to stop this ethical reflections from seeming like thin idealism.
—On page 94 he writes "Christ is the only normal human being to have ever lived, and his character defines perfect humanity". And I am cautious about this statement. Is it a bit too Barthian/supralapsarian? The unfallen Adam was a normal human being... and defines perfect humanity, too, no?
—I think there is more to the ethical caution against 'playing God' than Christopher gives credit on page 114. You know, Jurassic Park I, II, II, Jurassic World and now Jurassic World II.
—I would have liked to hear an explanation for why, if the biblical worldview apparently solves to many problems, Christians have not historically been more consistent on all these matters. But then maybe this is for Volume 2: Genesis 3 and beyond?
The writing is clear and engaging, although there are extended quotes from philosophical sources and a decent smattering of technical terminology ('basicity' was one that particularly made me laugh). The text is broken up with simple diagrams and helpful headings which help you keep track of the argument. Each chapter ends with a summary of basic ideas and rich tutorial-style questions for further reflection or discussion. There is also a glossary at the end of the book.
The book would be a great training text for uni students, MTS apprentices or theological students. It would also be enriching reading for the tertiary-educated Christian keen to keep thinking deeply. The would would serve preachers as a great companion book for sermon preparation, to help apply theological concepts to everyday life.