What if? What if I get hurt? What if they say no? What if I fail? What if I get embarrassed? What if I don’t like it? What if I’m wrong? The list of “what ifs” could go on and on. I’m sure that anyone reading this would be able to add several “what ifs” for their unique situation. I personally am in a situation where I find myself looking into the future, wondering what is going to happen. I worry about how present and future events will play into the rest of my life. I am aware that every choice I make will have some sort of effect on my life and the lives of others. And there is also quite a bit that I have no choice or control over. There are things in my life that seem to be left up to chance. It is easy to look around at the world and wonder if everything will really work out for the best. The question “what if?” is one that plagues our world. In his book, The Faithful Creator, Ron Highfield tries to address the anxiety and worry in our world. He says, “We live in an age of anxiety, and we always have. Anxiety is built into the structure of human existence” (13). Highfield goes on to explain that the ground of this anxiety is “that we can imagine many futures but cannot control which of them comes to be, that we must act even though we cannot fully determine the outcome and that our forced choices may make the difference between ultimate happiness and final perdition” (13). Since we cannot see the future and the result of our actions it is easy for us to worry. As we find ourselves having to make choices, Highfield points out, we imagine all the ways that things could go wrong. However, this worry and this anxiety about the future is not something new to our modern world. In fact, Highfield reminds us that “Jesus also lived in an age of anxiety” (13).
So, how does Jesus address the worry and anxiety in our world? Well, He actually tells us not to worry. He reminds us that God is faithful and often refers to God’s covenant with Israel. Paul also tells us that we should not worry because of what God has accomplished in Jesus. Highfield references 1 Peter 4:19, where Peter refers to God as the “faithful Creator.” He notes that Peter does not use terms related to the covenant or to what we see in the work of Jesus to describe God’s faithfulness. Instead, he uses the word Creator. By using this word Peter reminds his readers that God, as the Creator of our world, is in control of what goes on in it. It is this phrase that serves as the inspiration for the title and content of this book. In The Faithful Creator, Highfield says that he will “ask first about the character of God’s act of creating heaven and earth and then seek to understand the biblical faith that the Creator will remain faithful to creation and bring it to its glorious consummation” (14). He hopes that the focus on creation and providence can help us realize that “Peter’s advice to place ourselves into the hands of a ‘faithful Creator’ rings as true today as it did when he first counseled it” (15).
Highfield breaks his book up into three parts. Part one deals with the doctrine of creation. He begins with a survey of both the Old and New Testaments in order to develop a few principles about creation in the Bible. From his survey he comes to five theses that he believes can be guidelines for a discussion and theology of creation. Throughout these two chapters he develops these theses and demonstrates how they are seen in the Old and New Testaments. From there Highfield goes on to address many of the issues that arise in developing a doctrine of creation. The discussion goes from who God is to issues that arise between theology and science, ending with a look at the relationship between creation and time.
Part two deals with the doctrine of providence, which Highfield defines as “that aspect of the God-creation relationship in which God so orders and directs every event in the history of creation that God’s eternal purpose for creation is realized perfectly” (209-210). As in part one, Highfield begins this section with a survey of the Old and New Testaments. At the end of this survey he gives us six theses that summarize a biblical view of providence. Even though these theses “present a simple and positive affirmation of divine providence” (209) Highfield notes that there are several issues within this discussion that need to be addressed. He goes onto lay out several principles that will serve as guidelines as he addresses these issues. His discussion of providence includes a look at three different models for divine providence: foreknowledge models, omnipotence models, and open theism. A key part of each of these models is how they deal with the relationship between divine sovereignty and human freedom, which Highfield addresses thoroughly.
Part three addresses the problem of evil. In this section, Highfield looks at how the problem of evil arises in both discussions of creation and providence. In the doctrine of creation one may ask, “If in creation God establishes the being, life, time and space of creatures, what room is there for error, sin and corruption” (301)? When it comes to the doctrine of providence the focus is on how God works through evil justifying it or being evil Himself. He explains how evil is and has been defined both philosophically and biblically. Then, he gets into how the problem of evil is often dealt with by theologians and philosophers. He concludes the book by reminding us that because of what God has done in Jesus, because He is our faithful Creator, we do not need to be afraid of what will happen, even in the midst of evil and suffering.
What I appreciate about The Faithful Creator is that Highfield goes beyond just saying that God is faithful and actually demonstrates it with his discussions on creation and providence. He shows throughout the book, even when he is not speaking directly about it, that because God chose to create our world and because of His sovereignty we know that even in suffering we can trust Him. Highfield does this without compromising any part of God’s character. His discussions on open theism and other providence models help to show that we don’t have to deny or lose any characteristic in order to make sense of our human experience. Overall, this book is an excellent reminder that even though we may not know how our choices will play out in the rest of our lives, we can be certain that God, as our Creator, will be faithful in working all things toward His purpose. It is a reminder that we don’t need to be anxious about the future because God is in control of the world that He has created. We have something to hope in and to trust in. We are reminded in this book that God will work in everything, even suffering, to eventually achieve His purpose.