Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Shalom--the goal of God

When we think of Shalom, we usually think of Peace; and when we think of Peace, we usually think of the absence of conflict, both within our own mind (“peace of mind”) and between two parties. While Shalom is certainly the "absence of conflict", the Peace that Shalom speaks of, at least Biblically, is so much more. Biblically, Shalom speaks of completeness or fullness, or as Cornelius Plantinga says, "The webbing together of God, humans and all creation in equity, fulfillment and delight". Shalom is "universal flourishing" within the entire created order! Shalom speaks of an experiential reality not only for human beings, but for the entire Cosmos! The whole of Creation is in view when we consider the Biblical concept of Shalom.
Our church just finished a series on "Sacred Space"; or, more specifically, the Recovery of Sacred Space in Jesus Christ. We defined Sacred Space in this way:
Sacred Space is the habitation or dwelling place of God. It’s the realm in which God is present in relation to His creation. It’s not where God is, as if “heaven” were a geographical location; but it’s how God is with respect to His creation. We can say that it’s the “place” of relationship, of intimacy between God and His creation, focused primarily in Man as Image-Bearer, but flowing out from Man to the entire created order.

In this series, we saw that the Bible focuses on a singular, grand purpose of God: the “summing up of all things in Christ”, as Paul says in Ephesians. This “summing up…” is the restoration of the entire created order in a “Shalomic Paradise” (the Kingdom of God!) that Eden only typified. God’s purpose in redemptive history is the consummation of all things in His Son, the lord Jesus Christ! The Bible, from beginning to end, is the record of the progress of the purpose of God to fulfill His promise in the Garden; that the Seed of the Woman would crush the serpent’s head and thus reverse the curse and restore Creation (all of creation) back to God. I’m not talking about a universal redemption for mankind; I’m saying that the Bible speaks of a universal, or Cosmic Redemption in Christ that has the entire Created Order in view. The Bible speaks of a return to Eden, so-to-speak, only in the fullness of what Eden typified—a Cosmic renewal with the New Heavens and New Earth in a perpetual state of Shalom!

I mention our series on Sacred Space to give some foundation for how we have defined the Biblical principle of Shalom throughout the study. Taking our cue from Plantinga, this is how we defined Shalom:
That state of harmony within the created order in which every created thing finds itself in perfect conformity to itself and its created function, and therefore relates with integrity, in truth to every other created thing and to God Himself.

This is the goal of redemptive history: The recovery of Sacred Space consummating with the restoration of the state of Shalom in the perpetual Shabbat of God’s rest—all accomplished in the Person and Work of Christ!

I’ll have more to say about Shalom and our participation in it in upcoming posts. For now, however, let’s remember that the purpose and goal of God in redemptive history is not simply the “salvation” of (some) men through the forgiveness of sins; this is too small a goal! The purpose of God is nothing less than the Recovery of Sacred Space—the “redemption” of the Cosmos. The goal of God, to borrow again from Plantinga, is Shalom—“The Way Things Ought to Be”.