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Veli-Matti Karkkainen: Creation and Humanity

His adoption of evolutionary theory also requires that he defends the uniqueness of humanity against the notion that we are just another animal (cf. p. 235). Therefore, Kärkkäinen claims that humanity must be understood in relationship to Christ, not the rest of humanity. Likewise, he rejects dichotomy (spirit/body) in favor of multidimensional monism. Regrettably, Kärkkäinen does not adequately appreciate the principle of sufficient reason. It seems to this reader that the principle is enough to defend human uniqueness even if we cannot pinpoint what makes us uniquely different from animals. Interestingly, Kärkkäinen goes to great lengths to affirm the equality of the sexes but avoids LGBT issues by failing to say whether gender is fixed.

Kärkkäinen appears to reject the idea of original sin because the doctrine lacks sufficient biblical and scientific support. Regrettably, his conclusion draws heavily on science and philosophy to the neglect of exegesis. His use of the term “intuition,” to refer to historic Reformational teaching, insinuates that Augustine and the Reformers based their ideas on personal insight rather than on divine revelation. Kärkkäinen does not help his case when he makes comments such as, “As do contemporary Christian theologians, Jewish theologians rightly acknowledge that in the Genesis story there is ‘no doctrine of the fall of the race through Adam, of the moral corruption of human nature, or of the hereditary transmission of the sinful bias’” (p.413). I suspect many readers of this review would take exception to this statement for various reasons.

Readers looking to connect Christian thinking to those of other religions and recent findings in science, will find this volume a helpful entry way. Kärkkäinen’s ability to lay out the issues and to push for new ways to resolve old conundrums will certainly stimulate theological reflection in anyone willing to engage openly and honestly. Those interested in the ontology of humanity as it relates to cutting edge science should read Chapter 12.

Kärkkäinen vigorously and smartly defends the dignity of humanity. At a time when humans are seen as a scourge on the environmental landscape, Kärkkäinen’s insightful affirmation of the value of humans, even those that are weak and disabled, demands a hearty amen.

Kärkkäinen’s willingness to adopt novel ways of thinking brings liabilities, such as when he criticizes Leviticus for its prohibition against the disabled becoming priests (p.429). Likewise, his negative view against the death penalty flies in the face of the mountain of evidence in scripture and history concerning its role (p.456). It appeared to this reviewer that Kärkkäinen does not believe the bible is the word of God but only that it contains the word of God and even that may be too cloaked in unfortunate language to be accepted directly. Could this be just a sophisticated type of or watered-down form of Marcionism? Thankfully, Kärkkäinen does not always jettison historic Christian teaching. For example, Kärkkäinen vigorously and smartly defends the dignity of humanity. At a time when humans are seen as a scourge on the environmental landscape, Kärkkäinen’s insightful affirmation of the value of humans, even those that are weak and disabled, demands a hearty amen.

On balance, Evangelical readers who are secure in their theological understanding will find much to consider in this text. But to those lacking sufficient theological depth in the issues should read other texts and return to this book after gaining theological maturity.

Reviewed by Stephen M. Vantassel

 

Publisher’s page: https://www.eerdmans.com/Products/6855/creation-and-humanity.aspx

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Category: Fall 2018, In Depth

About the Author: Stephen M. Vantassel, Ph.D. theology (Trinity Theological Seminary), M.A.T.S. Old Testament (Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary), B.S. Biblical Studies (Gordon College), is a tutor of theology at King’s Evangelical Divinity School in Broadstairs, U.K. and Assistant Editor for the Evangelical Review of Theology and Politics. His dissertation on the role of animals in Christian theology was published in expanded form in Dominion over Wildlife? An Environmental-Theology of Human-Wildlife Relations (Wipf and Stock, 2009). He lives with his wife in Lewistown, Montana. He regularly posts articles at kingsdivinity.academia.edu/StephenMVantassel.

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