The Doctrine of Creation: A Constructive Kuyperian Approach (Part 1)

Dr. Benjamin Quinn interviews Craig Bartholomew about his and Bruce Ashford’s forthcoming The Doctrine of Creation: A Constructive Kuyperian Approach (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2020).

BQ: How and why did you and Bruce decide to write this volume?

CB: In Canada, several years ago, from time to time we would gather a group of scholar friends simply to chat and think together. At one particular weekend we reflected on the state of systematic theology today. It seemed to us that we were seeing a lot of work on theology …, but little constructive dogmatics akin to that of the major theologians of the previous era.

For example, many books have appeared opening up a dialogue between creation and science, but few substantial theologies of creation. In this volume we deliberately avoid making the dialogue with science our agenda, aiming instead to develop a constructive doctrine of creation for today. Only in the final chapter do we interact with science amidst several other areas such as time, the self, philosophy, etc. This is not to suggest that the creation-science dialogue is unimportant, but it is to suggest that we first need a robust doctrine of creation.

That got us thinking about doing something in the area of theology. We also thought that far too much contemporary theology is very thin when it comes to deep engagement with Scripture. All in all we discerned a need for constructive – note the word in the subtitle – systematic theology rigorously engaged with the Bible. From these discussions I developed a proposal for a new dogmatics, and this went to and was agreed by IVP Academic, USA, much to our delight.

BQ: Will this be the beginning of a series on dogmatics?

CB: I hope so! But not all by us. The initial proposal was for a multi-authored series of volumes in the Kuyperian tradition covering the major loci. However, there has been quite a lot of water under the bridge since then, and our current arrangement is that we will see how this first volume does. If it does well then it will become the first volume in a Dogmatics Series.

BQ: Why did you begin with the doctrine of creation instead of another locus of doctrine?

CB: The doctrine of God is the primary locus of Christian theology. However, fast on its heels comes the doctrine of creation. Amidst the privatisation of religion endemic to modernity and the sacred/secular dualism that continues to bedevil far too much Evangelicalism, there is often a rush to the cross and the resurrection which bypasses creation. We affirm the utter centrality of Christ, but the failure to develop a robust doctrine of creation has been profoundly damaging to the church’s witness amidst modernity and skewed our understanding of the Christ event. Creation is the first and foundational act of the great drama of Scripture and Bruce and I were drawn to attend to this locus.

Furthermore, as the subtitle indicates, we work consciously in the Kuyperian tradition – that of Abraham Kuyper, Herman Bavinck, J. H. Bavinck, and many others – and one of its great strengths is its attention to creation and its insight into how creation colours all the major areas of Christian belief, doctrine, and practice. Thus, both in terms of the strength of the Kuyperian tradition and in terms of the needs of our day, it seemed obvious to us that we would work together on this wonderful doctrine.

Benjamin Quinn is academic director of the BibleMesh Institute. This interview was first published by the Kirby Laing Institute for Christian Ethics at Tyndale House.