In The Lord, the Giver of Life: Spirit in Relation to Creation , Aaron T. Smith argues that the Spirit in which God exists is not a mode of being but a pattern of relation, which enfolds the world in each moment and gives it a life coordinated with God's. “God” and “world” find mutual determination in the eschatological achievement of covenantal existence, in the triumph of love.
Smith offers a new take on the biblical story of creation by bringing intricate interpretation of Genesis into productive dialogue with prominent voices of the Christian tradition as well as contributions from modern science and philosophy. The creation is not primarily a collection of discrete things, but the divinely-willed event of communion, which takes temporal shape within histories of generation, or the history of each generation. The human creature exists authentically in the time-framing of promise and fulfillment, coming to perceive the giving of life as good and right in the manner of the biblical covenant, and coming to desire it again - gladly consenting to life's interdependent generation.
Aaron T. Smith (Ph. D. Marquette University) is senior pastor of Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Chambersburg, PA, and adjunct professor of theology at United Lutheran Seminary.
Chapter One: God and the Human
Chapter Two: The Human and Creation
Chapter Three: The Human among Humans
Chapter Four: Evil as Event among Humans
Chapter Five: Evil as Event between Humanity and Creation
Chapter Six: Evil as Event between God and Humanity
In this engaging volume, Aaron T. Smith sets out the first part of his pneumatocentric account of the doctrine of creation. The work deftly weaves together biblical exegesis, theological ressourcement, and scientific reflection as it considers in turn the diverse facets of the creation narrative and their covenant implications. At each point, Smith addresses the import and value of construing the ongoing relational communion between God and human beings as dynamic and eventful, as unfolding in the movement of history between promise and fulfilment. This is profound, generative, even provocative work in constructive dogmatics, and merits wide attention.
Cashing in the promissory note of A Theology of the Third Article, Aaron T. Smith has set out to fulfill Karl Barth's vision of what Friedrich Schleiermacher's theology could have been had it started from the premise of God's revelation in the event of Spirit and Word. Structured around a close exegesis of Genesis 2–3, and containing rich analyses of Augustine, Schleiermacher, and Isaak Dorner, among many others, Smith's account of creation is bracing in its clear-eyed commitment to thinking theologically according to the actualism of divine revelation. The result is a doctrine of creation determined from the outset by redemption. Smith develops his account of the covenant as the ground of creation in terms of a theological anthropology and a theological account of evil, understanding humanity as absolutely dependent upon God, created eschatologically for a life of interdependent responsibility, and interrupted by the anti-life nothingness of evil, which God elects to end in Jesus Christ. This is a first-rate theology of creation for the twenty-first century.
Aaron T. Smith provides a theologically dynamic account of the garden story in Genesis. He excels at finding generative theological convergences within the biblical text with the help of a wide range of exegetes and theologians, not to mention insights gained from evolutionary biology and cell research. This book covers a truly breath-taking breadth of research. I can’t wait for the next one.
Aaron T. Smith has generated an actualistic and relational, Christologically-concentrated, and pneumatologically-driven constructive theology of creation. His thesis that “God exists as Giver of Life” further expands Robert Jenson’s dictum that God is whoever raised Jesus from the dead having first rescued Israel from Egypt: “In both cases, ‘God’ is the one who brings life out from its opposite, in the face of opposition; in this double action, God is life-giver.” This book’s rich exegetical, historical, and biological diversity are exemplary and deserving of a corresponding breadth of interdisciplinary reception and careful attention.
The Lord, the Giver of Life is an astonishing work of scholarship that displays a level of intellectual rigor exemplified by the likes of Holmes Rolston III, Alvin Plantinga and John Pokinghorne. Smith’s first installment on the doctrine of creation deserves a widespread hearing. His ideas are innovative, but not fanciful.