If you’ve followed this blog for even a short time, you’ll know that I am a big fan of Crossway’s Short Studies in Biblical Theology. These books make Biblical Theology approachable to the masses. So whenever Crossway offers the books, I jump at them.
And that was the case with the latest entry to the series ‘From Chaos to Cosmos: Creation to New Creation”, by Sidney Greidanus. This theme is a major one that spans the entire Bible, and when I heard that it was to be released I was excited.
A number of issues, related to the idea of chaos and cosmos, that would have been easily accessible to the Bible’s first readers tend to escape us today. This book aims to bring the topic back to understanding, tracing it through creation, fall, redemption and the new creation.
Chapter 1 introduces us to the the idea of chaos and cosmos. Greidanus does this by looking at the first verses in Genesis 1 where we see the idea front and center.
“The earth was without form and void (tōhû wābōhû), and darkness (hōšek) was over the face of the deep (tĕhôm). And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of waters (māyim).”
He points out that a (good) dictionary defines the terms as:
chaos: “The infinity of space or formless matter supposed to have preceded the existence of the ordered universe.”
cosmos: “The world or universe regarded as an orderly, harmonious system.”
Using these two terms, he then begins to explore the Biblical data surrounding them. He is very convincing as he works through Genesis and Exodus, and I picked up a number of points from him.
Chapter 2 though is a bit odd. It appears that any verse that references the idea is pulled out and printed, with a short explanation. This makes the chapter feel like a concordance of the idea, rather than a readable explanation of how the idea develops. This makes the book feel very different to the rest of the series. Of course, we want to be looking at scripture as we work through, but that’s where references are useful – the verses did not need to be printed. It is possible that in order to point out the idea to the lay reader, that transliteration of the chaos/cosmos words needed pointing out. But it does make the entry hard to read, and I wonder if an average reader would persevere.
If you make it through to Chapter 3 though, you’ll reach the comments on the New Testament. The writing style reverts back to chapter one, but not completely. As a chapter, it is readable, but the quotations are quite dense. Greidanus’ main point in this section is that “Jesus is the one who can turn chaos into orderly cosmos.”
A number of threads are also tied up in this section, that are really powerful. For example, in this chapter Greidnaus makes a defence of amillennialism (or present-millennialism as he calls it), based off the Biblical Theology of chaos and cosmos. This is a powerful argument, but it does get a bit lost in the forest. I plan to go back and follow the argument through more closely now that I know it is there.
Finally, in Chapter 4, the book ends with how to preach a series on this theme. This is where the book really is different to others in the series, with others not having this section. It is an interesting addition, but it does make the book feel like it’s written for pastors/preachers rather than the lay person. The easy to reach volumes in the other series made biblical theology something for the masses – I feel that this particular addition to the series does not reach the same audience. Perhaps the theme is too complicated – but I do not think so. I wonder if a bit more editing on the manuscript may have helped bring this material back down into the average readers hands.
Overall, there were some interesting insights in this book, but the style of writing made it hard to follow. I must admit that I did not read this as avidly as I have others in the series, and it took a lot longer for that reason to finish. The theme is an important one though, and there are diamonds if you put the effort in to find them.
Once again, a big thanks to Crossway for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book through their Blog Review Program.
From Chaos to Cosmos is out now in the UK!