Emil Brunner and Alister McGrath on the Doctrine of Creation

Genesis-Chapter-1-1Should Genesis 1-2 be used to define our Doctrine of Creation? Alister E. McGrath's excellent three volume study on the relationship between Theology and Natural Science contained an excellent quote demonstrating that beginning with the first two chapters of the Bible, due to it's prime real estate location in the book of the Bible has caused problems in the development of the Doctrine of Creation that has not been a problem for other Christian Dogmas. McGrath uses an excellent quotation by Emil Brunner to demonstrate this point, and concludes that if we began our study of the Doctrine of Creation in John 1:1 instead of Genesis 1:1, we would have avoided much of the controversies in this Doctrine of Creation that we haven't encountered by avoiding this path with other Dogmas.

Scripture, when rightly interpreted, leads to Christ; Christ can be known properly only through Scripture. As Luther put it, Christ is 'the mathematical point of Holy Scripture', just as Scripture 'is the swaddling cloths and manger in which Christ is laid'. John Calvin made a similar point: 'This is what we should should seek . . . throughout the whole of Scripture: to know Jesus Christ truly, and the infinite riches which are included in him and are offered to us by God the Father.'

Considerations such as this raise a question of considerable importance. Emil Brunner raises this in a very focused form - namely, whether Genesis 1-2 is the foundational statement of a Christian doctrine of Creation:

"The uniqueness of this Christian doctrine of Creation and the Creator is continually being obscured by the fact that theologians are so reluctant to begin their work with the New Testament; when they want to deal with the Creation, they tend to begin with the Old Testament, although they never do this when they are speaking of the Redeemer. The emphasis on the story of Creation at the beginning of the Bible has constantly led theologians to forsake the rule which they would otherwise follow, namely, that the basis of all Christian articles of faith is the Incarnate Word, Jesus Christ. So when we begin to study the subject of Creation in the Bible we ought to start with the first chapter of the Gospel of John, and some other passages of the New Testament, and not with the first chapter of Genesis." (Emil Brunner, The Christian Doctrine of Redemption. pg6.)

- Alister E. McGrath, "Scientific Theology: Volume 1: Nature", pg143

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