Klink III, Edward W. The Beginning and End of All Things: A Biblical Theology of Creation and New Creation. ESBT; IVP Academic, 2023. Xi+203 pp. Pb. $24.00 Link to IVP Academic
After ten years as an associate professor at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, Edward Klink now serves as senior pastor of Hope Evangelical Free Church in Roscoe, Illinois. He previously published Understanding Biblical Theology: A Comparison of Theory and Practice (with Darian Lockett, Zondervan, 2012) and the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on John. This new contribution to IVP Academic’s Essential Studies in Biblical Theology series focuses on creation as the overarching theme for the canon of Scripture.
In the introduction to the book, Klink explains that, because of his involvement in the Creation Project, he realized that creation is more than just about origins, and he was finally able to “unchain” creation from the origins debate. He argues in this book that the whole of Scripture can be considered the story of God’s creation project.
He outlines the story of the whole canon of scripture as “creation, redemption, and new creation.” New creation is the goal (telos) of God’s creation project. Notice he has omitted “fall” from this familiar outline. Klink argues that redemption is God’s provision for his creation in Jesus Christ rather than a response to the fall; the cross is not Plan B. “God’s creation project assumed from the very start that the first Adam required the second Adam” (15). Since Adam failed, Israel took up the role of prophet, priest, and king from Adam. Jesus takes up Isarel’s role and fulfills God’s plan (Klink says Romans 5 makes this clear; but does it?)
He blames medieval imagery of heaven and hell (which led to a theology that looked forward to “going to heaven when we die”) and “Left Behind” theology (which makes the goal of the Christian life “going to heaven while the world burns”) for undermining a proper biblical theology of creation. It is possible to add “creation science” as a third contributor to the narrowing of creation to only origins. For Klink, a deficient biblical theology of creation results in a natural division between spiritual and material realities. The spiritual is good, while the material is bad. But, Klink says, “The creator is also the Redeemer!” (9). A deficient biblical theology of creation sees only spiritual things as good. Anything done for the material world is unimportant. As a result, our Christian responsibility toward this world is diminished. (How many conservative Christian environmentalists are there?) Finally, due to their stunted biblical theology of creation, Christians abandon culture.
“Creation is the story of the Bible” (12). Klink begins with the now ubiquitous idea that creation is God’s cosmic temple. Following Greg Beale, he explains that Eden is a sanctuary in which God is present. Humans were intended to be God’s prophets, priests, and kings. All satisfaction and abundance of life flow from God from this garden sanctuary. He concludes that when the Bible speaks about creation, it refers not just to the beginning of the world but also to the purpose of the world (17). The culmination of the creation project is the New Creation (Revelation 21-22). There is a new garden-shaped temple where God dwells so that “the earth is full of his glory” (Isa 6:3).
Klink makes extensive use of covenant language. For example, he says, “Before God commands creation into its proper form (Gen 1:3), he holds a ceremony of sorts that makes a declaration that will extend throughout scripture and the history of the world” (25). From this assumption, he says there are three covenantal claims about creation implied in the Genesis creation story: God’s presence over creation, God’s power over creation, and God’s pattern for creation (27-28).
Like other popular books on biblical theology, he leans heavily on temple language for Eden. Here is his following Greg Beale and John Walton. Klink also uses a typology of “prophet, priest, and king,” initially found in Genesis 1:26-31, but also in the history of Israel, the ministry of Jesus, and the church’s commission for the present age. This is similar to Ben Gladd’s initial volume of the ESBT series.
Here is one example of how a biblical theology of creation is developed. In Chapter 9 (“Creation’s Commission”), it is not surprising that the Great Commission is the priority (139). But the subtitle for the section is the” Cultivation of Creation.” Looking back to the creation story, the image bearers, now the church, are “to extend God’s temple to the ends of the earth.” This resonates with Adam’s Commission in Genesis 1:28. Looking forward, Klink says, “The church has been formed as a foretaste of the new creation” (142). Klink connects the mountain in Matthew 28:18-20 to Sinai. It was at Mount Sinai that the people of God consummated their relationship with God, developing the Adam typology of prophet priest and king for the nation of Israel. Now at a new mountain, God’s people are given the same commission as Adam, Israel, and Jesus. He also considers the reference to heaven and earth in Matthew 28:18 as an allusion to the creation story. “Baptizing” orients the sons of Adam to their creator, the second Adam. “Instructing “is how the church reflects the creator in Word indeed. God has formalized the church to manage God’s covenant and mediate his kingship as the recreated humanity of the second Adam. This is a fair point and could be improved by observing Paul’s description of the church as the body of Christ functioning in the world to continue Jesus’s ministry.
Klink indicates that one goal of the book is to serve both the academy and the church. His pastoral side is clear from his friendly introductions and conclusions to chapters and his frequent use of alliteration throughout the book. Chapters often read like short sermons. This is certainly a scholarly book, but it is clear that Klink has a pastor’s heart.
Given the introduction to this biblical theology of creation, I expected a call for Christians to be more involved in contemporary culture (environmentalism, social justice, the arts, etc.). There are two pages in the final chapter (“pastoral reflections”) on creation and culture. Given the Calvinist worldview lurking in the background of the book, I expected some reference to Abraham Kuyper or Christ and Culture. Other than a brief reference to Moo and White, Let Creation Rejoice: Biblical Hope and Ecological Crisis (IVP Academic 2014), I do not see much in this biblical theology of creation that calls Christians to care for the material world. This is likely my own interests coming through. This criticism does not detract from the value of the book.
Conclusion: The Beginning and End of All Things is a well-written book that explains many common elements popular in evangelical biblical theology today and integrates them into the overall story of Scripture. The book will appeal to laypersons and students who want a primer for canonical, biblical theology.
Other reviewed commentaries in Essentials of Biblical Theology series:
- Benjamin L. Gladd, From Adam and Israel to the Church: A Biblical Theology of the People of God
- Matthew S. Harmon, Rebels and Exiles: A Biblical Theology of Sin and Restoration
- L. Michael Morales, Exodus Old and New: A Biblical Theology of Redemption
- G. K. Beale and Mitchell Kim, God Dwells Among Us: A Biblical Theology of the Temple
- T. Desmond Alexander, Face to Face with God: A Biblical Theology of Christ as Priest and Mediator
NB: Thanks to IVP Academic for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.