We’ve seen a renaissance of Biblical theology in the last two decades. In part, this is a response to the poor exegesis (or outright unbelief) of the liberal theologians of the mid-20th century. Since then, and building on the work of Vos, we’ve seen an explosion of solid, thoughtful, and useful works of Biblical theology. A part of this explosion is Crossway’s series of Short Studies in Biblical Theology, the latest addition to which is Sidney Greidanus’ From Chaos to Cosmos: Creation to New Creation.
Fair warning: while this book is excellent, it is primarily intended for small group leaders and preachers. Which isn’t to say that it’s not accessible—it certainly is written for the layman. It’s just to say that much of the text is composed of reading guides, questions for reflection, and outlines.
With that said, the book is excellent and worthwhile for everyone to read. Greidanus traces the storyline of, well, chaos and cosmos through the Scriptures. What does he mean by that?
Scripture, then, tells the story of an orderly creation [cosmos] disrupted by sin [chaos] and restored/made new through Christ in the present/coming new creation [cosmos].
The infinity of space or formless matter supposed to have preceded the existence of the ordered universe [chaos]… [and] the world or universe regarded as an orderly, harmonious system. (17-18)
And if we were to stop right there, we might be saying something true, but we’d also be dancing on the edge of gnosticism. Greidanus is a better theologian than that, however. He emphasizes the fact that in Genesis 1 and 2, chaos is disorganized, but not wicked. It is only after the fall in Genesis 3 that evil begins to be associated with chaos—and even then God retains his sovereignty over the fallen world and preserves some ordered cosmos intermingled with the apparently ascendant chaos.
As Greidanus walks through Scripture, we begin to see that we all have a complicated and nuanced place in the world. Yes, things will all be sorted out on the return of Christ, but until then we live in a muck of mingled cosmos, fallen chaos, and, well “controlled fallen chaos” (if not actively “still good chaos”). And while that can be complicated to read, it certainly reflects both our subjective experiences in the world and what we see about the truth of human existence in Scripture. The world continues to be a mixture of good and evil, chaos and cosmos, that perpetually almost seems to incline finally one way or the other, but always ends up tipping back the other direction—this even as we have the sense that cosmos should win and that someday it will. Because of course, good has already won on the cross and will ultimately win at the second coming.
So do read From Chaos to Cosmos. It will sharpen your sense of the narrative flow of Scripture and add a depth and richness to your understanding of what Christ has done for us in his atoning sacrifice on the cross. I of course can’t speak to how helpful this book will be for preachers (not being one myself), but as a congregant I can tell you that a sermon informed by the kind of robust exegesis we see here would be a beneficial one indeed.
Dr. Coyle Neal is co-host of the City of Man Podcast and an Associate Professor of Political Science at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, MO. There’s probably still more chaos than cosmos in his life, if only because he has small children…