Carisa A. Ash is director of student advising and adjunct professor in educational ministries and leadership at Dallas Theological Seminary. Her study analyzes use of the created order as a legitimate means of revelation in evangelical systematic theology. According to Ash, though evangelical theologians acknowledge that God reveals himself through the created order, they rarely make use of it in their systematization of theology. She hopes that her work will serve “as a springboard for discussion and further thinking” for evangelicals on the issue of revelation (p. 157).
Ash begins by surveying the landscape of evangelical works concerning systematic theology and integration. She clearly and concisely demonstrates how these works functionally neglect the created order as a source of revelation. She concludes that confusion “abounds among evangelicals” in their use of the created order (p. 54), and she advocates for a method of theology that seeks to systematize all truth (including the created order), based on the model of Lewis Sperry Chafer (p. 156).
In her survey of works on integration, Ash examines evangelical statements and practices concerning the topic, which she defines as “the exploration and understanding of the interrelationship of God’s revelation through the Bible and through the created order” (p. 75). She finds that many who affirm the reality of revelation through the created order neglect it in their practice of integration (p. 74). She advocates for a method of integration in which Scripture and the created order “come together in a mutually informing way” rather than in a hierarchical relationship (ibid.). The result of her integrative practice is the construction of “a more complete picture of God, the world, and the relationship between the two” (p. 77). Ash also criticizes the typical “general” and “special” revelation labels, noting that they “lead to confusion, and a neglect of the creation as a form of divine revelation” (p. 90). These labels draw attention to the differences between forms of revelation, often subordinating general revelation to a less authoritative status. The result is that many “overlook commonalities between forms of revelation” (p. 97).
Ash successfully exposes the neglect of the created order in evangelical systematic theology and integration. This highlights the need for an evangelical theology of revelation, which she provides in the final chapter of her work. She focuses on similarities between forms of revelation, rather than differences. For example, she observes that all forms of revelation (Scripture, the incarnation, and the created order) are equally true, and equally authoritative with regard to the matters upon which they comment (pp. 118–19). Therefore it is incorrect to relegate the created order to a secondary status. Even so, “Scripture exists as a unique and important form of revelation . . . Commonalities between forms of revelation do not necessarily diminish the uniqueness of and place of privilege for Scripture” (p. 89). Though the created order can be misinterpreted, such is also the case with Scripture, due to human fallenness (p. 131). In place of the general/special dichotomy often proposed by theologians, she suggests a threefold division of revelation, into “created word, Incarnate word, and written Word,” reflecting a more logical approach to the topic of revelation (p. 158).
Ash’s work has identified a significant need for reexamination among evangelicals. She has proved that although evangelicals acknowledge the reality of revelation in the created order, they neglect it. Her argument could have been strengthened by addressing issues related to ways the corruption of creation (e.g., Gen. 3:17) has impacted the once-pure revelation of God within it. Even so, Scripture nowhere affirms the skepticism of the created order as revelation that Ash discovered in her survey of evangelical theologies, which is a major strength of this well-written work.
A Critical Examination of the Doctrine of Revelation is ideal for church leaders and teachers or students of theology who need to be alerted to their neglect of the created order as revelation. It provides a firm foundation for a theology that is informed by all forms of revelation. Ash’s book successfully argues for a theocentric view of all reality, desperately needed in an age that seeks to compartmentalize faith and reason.
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