This is a gem of a book. First published in 1985, it has been reissued several times since then, with the newest edition appearing in 2005.
The gist of the book can be stated this way: there are two major themes in biblical theology - creation and redemption. Unfortunately many believers today only consider the latter. Sometimes they have reduced Christianity to just one thing: getting souls into heaven. Now that of course is vital.
But Wolters reminds us that this is not the entire gospel. Redemption is important, but so too is creation. Recognising that one day there will be a new heaven and a new earth should remind us that this world is not just secondary to God's purposes. In fact the two-fold nature of the biblical worldview is really a threefold one: creation, fall/redemption, and re-creation.
God is not finished with this world, and has great plans for it. Indeed, argues Wolters, we need to have a more wholistic view of what biblical redemption in fact entails. He says that "the redemption in Jesus Christ means the restoration of an original good creation. . . . In other words, redemption is re-creation".
Everything that God created - be it social, relational, cultural or personal - is part of God's good creation and is meant to be redeemed, to be taken into the Lordship of Christ.
As Wolters says, "everything is creational". That is, every aspect of natural life is part of God's created order. As we are commanded in the so-called dominion mandate of Gen. 1: 27-31, we are to tend God's creation; we are to be his stewards on planet earth. "Almighty God has withdrawn from the work of creation," says Wolters, but "he has put an image of himself on the earth with a mandate to continue".
He explains, "Mankind, as God's representatives on earth, carry on where God left off". And our task is no less than the development of civilisation, and all which that entails. Thus a cultural order is to be developed and sustained by God's people. And a political order. And an economic order. And a social order, and so on. All these are aspects of the civilisation which God intended mankind to develop and propagate.
Thus in one sense there is to be no sacred-secular dichotomy. This whole world is God's world. Satan has sought to claim it as his own, but it is not. It does not belong to him. It belongs to God, and doubly so: by creation and by redemption. Again, the goal of the church is not just to get disembodied souls into some cloudy-like heaven, but to get whole embodied people into a new earth in the future, and remake them on this earth now.
So we are partakers with God in the creation/recreation theme that pervades all of Scripture. "Creation is not something that, once made, remains a static quantity," says Wolters. "There is ... an unfolding of creation. This takes place through the task that people have been given of bringing to fruition the possibilities of development implicit in the work of God's hands".
In other words, "We are called to participate in the ongoing creational work of God, to be God's helper in executing to the end the blueprint for his masterpiece". Seen in this light, the Christian life is far more than what happens on a Sunday morning, or in daily devotionals, or in "witnessing:. It takes on the whole of life.
Thus writing a novel, tending a garden, or singing in a choir can all be parts of God's creational and redemptive work. Doing the best job you can in a factory can be just as important as becoming an overseas missionary. As Paul reminds us, whatever we do, we should do all for the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31).
What Wolters wants to remind us is that "human history and the unfolding of culture and society are integral to creation and its development". They are "not outside God's plan for the cosmos, despite the sinful aberrations".
Wolters argues that we must take sin and its effects seriously, but we must remember that the beauty and purposes of God's creation are not totally eradicated by sin. Believers are called to redeem the created order, bringing it under the Lordship of Christ. That means every area, not just what we consider to be "spiritual".
The view being put forth by Wolters (a view which has always been part of the Reformed biblical worldview) helps us to think outside of the box, and see our calling and mission as much larger than how we tend to view them. Wolters rightly says, "The scope of redemption is as great as that of the fall; it embraces creation as a whole".
Wolters deserves much credit for reminding us of these foundational truths that have in many ways been lost in much of the church.