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For the Love of All Creatures: The Story of Grace in Genesis

Author: William Greenway
Published By: Eerdmans, (Grand Rapids, Michigan)
Pages: 162
Price: £11.99
ISBN: 978 0 8028 7291 3

Reviewed by Stephen Beasley-Murray.

Reading For the Love of All Creatures brought back memories of hearing a series of sermons lyrically both embracing the best of literary criticism and insightfully engaging with philosophy. The style of writing in this book is that of the preacher and, if this is a style you enjoy, then, even if you have reservations about some of his judgements, you may feel as I did, spiritually and mentally refreshed for spending the few hours it takes to read this very worthwhile book.

His masterful use of literary criticism reminded me that the creation texts were not given their final redaction until around the time of the Assyrian empire and the late Isaiah texts. In this period of international violence and cruelty, not so unlike that of Fascism in our own time, to affirm a faith in a creation of goodness and an all righteous God that loved it, was an extraordinary faith stance. It was not a text written for those at ease in Zion. It was a word spoken by people 'seized by a love for all creatures' in the face of horrific evil and brutality.

In his philosophical chapters, Greenwood contrasts biblical spirituality with that of contemporary empiricism, a movement that he sees as characterised and motivated by a desire to escape from moral culpability. He particularly examines the writings of Thomas Hobbes (a prime minister under James I) who had a formative influence on this philosophical movement of 'force in motion', (and it might have helped to have added an examination of those of John Locke who developed empiricism in support of slavery) to show how little it has changed in our time, as found, for example, in the writings of Daniel Dennett and other notable aggressive atheists. As an aside, Greenwood might have enriched his arguments if he had quoted from the giants of philosophy, such as Kant, John Dewey, Ortega y Gasset, Heidegger, Kierkegaard, Hegel, Marx and Leibniz, all of whom equally had no time for empiricism.

It is hard not to agree with Greenwood's assertion that fundamentalism and creationism misses the point when it seeks to undermine science. The hard sciences simply give us the evidence from which to tell the story of our planet. It is left to us to give its deeper story, its inner story, one of love, faith and hope in the God of grace, 'for the love of all creatures'.

Stephen Beasley-Murray

Now retired, Stephen has degrees in science and theology and also a PhD in philosophy of religion, and has taught in academic institutions in Hong Kong and the USA.

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You are reading Issue 66 of Ministry Today, published in March 2016.

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