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Systematische Theologie: Dogmatik


Spjuth, Roland


Creation, Contingency and Divine Presence in the Theologies of Thomas F. Torrance and Eberhard Jüngel.


Lund: University Press 1995. 242 S. 8° = Studia Theologica Lundensia, 51. Kart. SEK 192.­. ISBN 91-7966-327-3.


Donald L. Huber

The doctrine of creation is certainly one of the "hot" topics on the current theological agenda. Whether from the perspective of ecological concerns, or from the point of view of fundamental science/theology issues, books and articles pour from the presses in a continuing stream. The first question that must be asked when another such appears is therefore: What contribution, if any, does this writing make to the ongoing discussion? In the case of Roland Spjuths dissertation, the answer is: He analyzes and critiques in a helpful way the explicit and implicit notions of creation which are to be found in the theologies of two leading exponents of Karl Barth, namely Thomas Torrance and Eberhard Jüngel. This is a useful enterprise for a number of reasons, including the intrinsic importance of the theologies of Barth, Torrance and Jüngel as well as the topic ­ creation seen in relation to contigency and divine presence ­ which is addressed.

As one would expect of a dissertation, the book is rather narrowly conceived, but its discussion is thorough. S. is careful to lay out the methodological issues in detail and to set limits both to the scope of his topic, and to the range of permissible theological positions which he will consider. For example, he does not take seriously any doctrine of creation which either sees the world as profane (separated from divine presence), or that permits the human exploitation of nature. He also makes it clear that he is limiting his topic to the relationship of God with the physical/social creation in the present; he does not deal with the subject of cosmic origins.

S. reaches some fairly negative conclusions about both of his chosen theologians in relation to the doctrine of creation; broadly speaking, he charges that Torrance fails to take the contingency of the creation seriously enough, and that Jüngel has a weak notion of divine presence "in, with, and under" the physical/social creation. He takes both theologians to task for not developing a more dialectical approach to contingency-presence issues, and for allowing their Christocentrism to become monothematic. He also identifies weaknesses in their sacramentology and their pneumatology. The weaknesses in their positions are traced not only to dependence on their common mentor, Barth, but to other influences as well ­ Luther and existentialism in the case of Jüngel and the British tradition of science, philosophy, and natural theology in the case of Torrance. Nevertheless, S. concludes that both Torrance and Jüngel have made promising suggestions toward a Christocentric doctrine of creation which takes both contingency and divine presence seriously. In an afterword, he affirms that a theology focused on redemption can have universal relevance and can be explicated in a meaningful dialogue with those outside the Christian faith. He concludes that Torrance and Jüngel can be helpful in that task, specifically with reference to the doctrine of creation, provided that correctives are taken with regard to the weaknesses of each.

This book will be most useful to those who are already deeply immersed in the theologies of Barth, Torrance, or Jüngel, or who are pursuing the doctrine of creation in depth. Occasional lapses from idiomatic English generally do not obscure the meaning of the sentences in which they occur. There is an extensive bibliography, and an index of names.