Monday, August 17, 2009

Cosmic Redemption--a brief post


Just some quotes and thoughts from a so-far excellent book by Michael D. Williams: "Far As The Curse Is Found: The Covenant Story of Redemption"

“The essence of the Christian religion consists in this,” said Herman Bavinck, “that the creation of the Father, devastated by sin, is restored in the death of the Son of God, and recreated by the Holy Spirit into the kingdom of God” (quote from, “Far As The Curse Is Found” by Michael D. Williams, pg. xi).

The above quote might be the most concise and profound statement regarding the purpose of God in Christ that I’ve come across. The only change I would make is substituting the term “death” with “Christ-event” (properly understood). I would do this because the Bible speaks of the restoration of all things in the terms of Christ as the fulfillment of all the Scripture. It’s not just His death but His subsequent burial, resurrection, ascension and enthronement as the King/Priest that the Scripture speaks of with regard to Christ. The “Christ-event” is the sum total of the Person and Work of Christ as the fulfillment of all the Scripture and it is this paradigm (not solely the “death” of Christ) that is the basis of God’s restoration of His creation.

With that in mind, however, Bavinck’s quote succinctly expresses the central theme and storyline of the Bible which, according to Williams, also forms the overarching literary structure of the Bible: creation-fall-redemption-consummation (ibid, pg. xi). And it is this theme that is so often missed by sincere Christians as they attempt to understand the Bible. As Bavinck points out, it is God’s intention to restore the fullness of His creation, not just mankind. The “Christ-event” is not just applicable to “man”, it is cosmic in scope. The curse has affected the entirety of God’s creation and Christ’s purpose to overthrow the curse is likewise universal—all of creation (though not every individual human being) will one day enter into Christ’s redemption so that the curse is nowhere to be found!

Speaking of the glory of Christ’s resurrection, Williams puts the cosmic nature of redemption this way: “God’s unstoppable goal is nothing less than the restoration of his good creation, the eradication, not of it (creation) but of the sin that has damaged it, even the triumph of the body over death itself” (ibid, pg. 2). As Christians, we need to see the Gospel in all its glory—Christ’s redemption restores all things to their created purpose and destiny. Again, not every individual person will be “saved”, of course; but Christ’s coming was to recover the entirety of creation, not just “man”. As the “Seed of the Woman”, when Christ crushed the serpent’s head at the Cross (with all that the Cross entails) it was to deliver not just “man” but the whole of creation from the curse of estrangement, sin…and death.

22 comments:

thekingpin68 said...

This is the reply from my blog.

'I guess it makes sense that if we elevate philosophy over revelation we have then made "man" the arbiter of truth; revelation must then conform to our philosophical structure rather than our philosophical understandings being formed from a biblical structure.'

Agreed and well stated, GGM.

'p.p.s. How did that stuff get up on my FB page? I didn't submit them. Do they randomly post links like that? (I don't mind, of course...just wondering)'.

I am not sure why Facebook Networked Blogs posted your old post on my Facebook News Feed page. I am surprised they posted an old post but was glad to see your work posted.

Thanks for all the encouragement!

thekingpin68 said...

Bavinck has been helpful with my finale PhD revisions.

thekingpin68 said...

'Herman Bavinck, “that the creation of the Father, devastated by sin, is restored in the death of the Son of God, and recreated by the Holy Spirit into the kingdom of God” (quote from, “Far As The Curse Is Found” by Michael D. Williams, pg. xi).'

Well stated.:)

Great Googly Moogly! said...

Thanks Russ.

Greg said...

Interesting viewpoint, though I don't see it the same way. No other creature on earth is capable of sin, and no other creature has an immortal soul. Except for the human soul, all of Creation is temporal, so therefore will not be present in the New Jerusalem (heaven).

Then again, whatever plan the Lord has is all right with me, for it will be glorious!

Great Googly Moogly! said...

Hey Greg,

Thanks for the comment. I was starting to read the first part of your testimony the other day but called called away. I look forward to reading it all at one sitting.

As for your comment, I really don't know any other way to understand all the "renewal" and "restoration" language of the Scripture. Everything I read (Old and New Testament) suggests that the language of the "New Heaven and New Earth" speaks of the recovery of God's original intention in Creation (whether that is a completely new creation, which I don't believe the Scripture teaches, or a renewed creation that is restored to its original intent and purpose). Taken as a whole (which I believe is the way God intends for us to read His word), the Scripture portrays the purpose of God in Christ as that of removing the curse and restoring all things in Christ. I don't see God's purpose being limited to "man" (though it is intimately connected to "man"), especially in light of NT passages that bring further clarity to the OT emphasis on creational restoration such as Romans 8:18-23, Eph. 1:10, Col. 1:13-20 (which, btw, speaks of creation as being made by Him and for Him).

I agree that "sin" is a manifestation that is unique to mankind, but the curse is creation-wide; so when we consider the biblical emphasis on Christ's purpose to crush the serpent's head and overthrow the curse, it really doesn't make any sense if it is not talking about this present creation in full--a completely new creation would have no curse associated with it to have to be removed. And just because animals have no soul to "save" doesn't mean that there will be no animals or plant life in the New Creation (e.g. Isaiah 11:1-9, Isa. 35, Isa. 65:17-25, etc.). The bible never creates a complete dichotomy between "this" world and the world in the consummated Kingdom of Christ. The idea that man's soul was created immortal (a debateable premise to begin with) does not necessarily mean that "man" is the only redeemable creature. I believe the bible speaks of the need for the redemption of the entire created order and the accomplishment of that purpose in Christ.

It's funny that you made that comment because I was thinking about continuing in a longer post or...gulp...a series of posts in which I would try to explain how a dimishing of this important aspect of the Gospel indicates, in my opinion, a lack of biblical appreciation for God's perspective of His creation and that it actually truncates our Gospel witness.

Maybe I'll continue this line of thought....

But I do agree with you completely when you say, "Then again, whatever plan the Lord has is all right with me, for it will be glorious!" AMEN to that!

This is why as an Amillenialist I'm not going to cry if my post-mil or pre-mil dispensational brethren are correct--I will be enraptured with the glory of God either way!

This is a great topic for internal Christian discussion. If you're interested in this idea, you would enjoy Michael Wittmer's, "Heaven is a Place on Earth: Why Everything You Do Matters to God". This is a great, great book...and a very easy and quick read.

Thanks Greg.

satire and theology said...

Excellent lead photo.

Great Googly Moogly! said...

Thanks Russ,

I've been enjoying taking a lot of sky pictures from our deck in the backyard. We really get some great clouds out here in Colorado!

satire and theology said...

Bob Ross: 'There.'

satire and theology said...

A good debate=more comments.;)

But yea, I am kind of fried...too much computer.

Yea, context is so important and not always explained (implied often) in a post where I am making points and not wanting to argue the conclusion in the premise.

Jeff said...

GGM,

I have never completely understood what it is that you believe. Is it Kingdom Now/Dominion/Restoration theology?

Jeff said...

it really doesn't make any sense if it is not talking about this present creation in full--a completely new creation would have no curse associated with it to have to be removed.

True, a new creation will have no curse. But a completely new creation will replace the original (cursed) creation. The Bible says there will be a new heaven and a new earth, and that the present heavens and earth will be completely destroyed by fire...it does not say there will be a 'fixed-up' earth.

Jeff said...

OK, I see that you said you are an Amillenialist , GGM. I believe that the Bible clearly states that Jesus will reign on this earth for a thousand years, and that Satan will also be unleashed and reign at some point for a thousand years, so it seems we definitely disagree on this point.

The idea that man's soul was created immortal (a debateable premise to begin with) does not necessarily mean that "man" is the only redeemable creature.

Wow. I thought that only a non-Christian would debate the biblical idea of man having an immortal soul. And as far as man being the only redeemable creature, I consider that to be obvious from Scripture. I don't believe Jesus died for zebras.

It seems that we definitely disagree in many ways, but I do not wish to get into an argument or debate. Recently, I have decided to try and learn to apply Titus 3:9 to myself, as much as possible: "But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law, for they are unprofitable and worthless." In my case, I have recently decided to [try to] apply that verse to debating about doctrine. However, being detailed by nature, and believing that I have the gift of discernment, it is a difficult lesson to learn.

Too much blogging, now back to thesis said...

'The Bible says there will be a new heaven and a new earth, and that the present heavens and earth will be completely destroyed by fire...it does not say there will be a 'fixed-up' earth.'

I am not dogmatic on this point, however...

David F. Payne writes that 2 Peter 3: 7-10 discusses the earth being burned up and from the Greek this likely means things will be laid bare with the idea of a singed earth. Things will disappear. p. 1569. This is the more common view I have come across in scholarship.

PAYNE, DAVID A. (1986) ‘2 Peter’, in F.F. Bruce (gen.ed.), The International Bible Commentary, Grand Rapids, Marshall Pickering/ Zondervan.

Scripture states that the earth will be burned up, laid bare, singed, the old will disappear.

Revelation is eschatological symbolic literature at many points.

The new heaven and new earth is quite possibly figurative literal and not plain literal language.

Okay, why I came to this blog in the first place...sigh.;)

It was audio/video versions of material like this that got me writing the s&t post, but I do not want to seem too confrontational with LDS people that I wish to witness to, and dialogue with perhaps, and so I need to be a little less direct.

byu radio

Episode 15 - Beware of False Prophets (Elder M. Russell Ballard): Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles discusses the teachings of the Savior concerning the period of the last days before His second coming. The sign of false prophets and false teachers is of special concern, and Church members should be especially wary. Revelation for the Church, outside the established priesthood line, is a sure sign of false prophets. Sometimes Church doctrines are attacked openly. There is no such thing as loyal opposition in the Church. We should fill our heart and souls with the gospel of Jesus Christ, as taught by the established prophets and apostles. Download MP3

Great Googly Moogly! said...

Hey Jeff,

I understand where you are coming from when you say that when the Bible speaks of a "new heaven and new earth" that it means a completely new creation. I used to believe the same thing; but then again, as I've said numerous times, the SBC never lets anyone know that there are other viable biblical interpretations, so I assumed that everyone believed this and that it was a mark of orthodoxy (like believing in a literal rapture before a literal 7 year "great tribulation" period, etc.).

I always had some nagging questions about the pre-mil dispensational interpretation of Revelation (esp. chpater 20). There were just too many inconsistencies for me. But I figured that if Jerry Falwell says this is true, then it must be true and everything else must be heresy.

I've since come to the conclusion that post-mil, a-mil, and historical pre-mil dispensationalism are all valid (though I don't think equally valid) eschatological interpretations of the Scripture and consider those in all three camps my Brethren.

"Reconstructionism", that is, the Reconstructionsim made popular by Greg Bahnsen in the Reformed Theology camp (not the Dominion Theology of the Charismatic movement), is a post-mil position but one that I disagree with. They are not heretical, but just too literal.

My change from the historically recent (and very "American") pre-mil dispensational to the more historically rooted amillennialism coincided with my change from Arminianism to Reformed Theology (not strict Calvinism). Though I'm not a Reformed Covenantalist, I believe it is much more biblical than dispensationalism. I would call myself a New Covenantalist, though with some clarification.

Anyway, that's a quick summary of my overall eschatological outlook. I will respond specifically to your dogmatic claim that the Bible only speaks of the new creation and new earth has a completely new creation in a little bit (I'm getting ready for work right now). As you've probably guessed by now, I disagree with your claim. :-)

BTW--I don't believe that Jesus died specifically for zebras or any other individual animal, but He did die to recover all things to the Father. I'll explain later.

Good seeing you, Jeff!

BTW--I don't think what we are talking about is "foolish controversies". The consummated Kingdom is a biblical subject that is very much worthy of discussion because in this we are glorifying our great God and Savior and the work that He has done!

Stay tuned!

Jeff said...

Thanks, GGM, for your kind response. One day, we will know for sure what the correct interpretation of the things in Revelation is. Unfortunately, it will probably be after the fact.

I am glad that you are Reformed, because I, too, consider myself Reformed, to whatever degree.

I assume from your reply that you don't hold to Dominion Theology. From your article and previous comments, I was thinking that was what you held to, but it sounds like I was mistaken.

As far as Titus 3:9, I am really trying to find a balance between standing against false doctrine, which seems to be prevalent in the Church today, and trying to avoid angry arguments.

As far as whatever points you and I may disagree on, well, I don't think any two people in this world agree on every point about every subject. Thankfully, one day we will know in full.

Great Googly Moogly! said...

Hey Jeff,

I'm back again!

As I suggested to Greg (with just a few passage references thrown in), I believe that the Bible as a whole speaks of a restoration/renewal of God's "good" creation and that this is often referred to as the "new creation", "new heavens and new earth", the "Kingdom of God/Heaven", "Eden", etc. Reading the "story" of redemption from the beginning to the end (Genesis to Revelation) without preconceived ideas, I think we see the trajectory of redemptive-history as being cosmic in scope. What was cursed in The Fall will be recovered/restored/renewed in the consummation as Christ's redemption extends to the entire created order. The cataclysmic language suggests the complete "purifying" of creation as Christ overthrows the curse (the language of Peter).

I will post a two-page excerpt from a book that helps explain how this passage in Peter supports Creational redemption.

Personally, I don't know of anyone who believes that only human beings will inhabit the new creation. Based on even the few Scripture references I provided for Greg, we see that the "new creation" will not be entirely indistinguishable from our present creation (as exemplified by the resurrection principle). I think its obvious that plants, animals and human beings, as well as bodies of water, will be present in the consummation.

Christ has "redeemed" humanity from the curse...but He's also "redeemed" the creation from the curse. Granted, Christ's redemption has a unique quality/aspect with regard to humanity that is not present in His redemption of the cosmos because sin is unique to man. But redemption in the Scripture is not limited to mankind. Christ's work of redemption extends to all of creation.

That being said, He didn't die for specific animals as He does for particular human beings, but His redemption covers all things such that all of creation experiences the redemptive work of Christ. As Paul explains explicitly concerning the purpose for Christ's death, "He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to an administration suitable to the fulness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things upon the earth." Along with Romans 8:18-22, this passage seem pretty clear that Christ's redemption is cosmic in scope (which again, as I believe, is supported by the trajectory of redemptive history).

Now, as for the "immortality of the soul" question. I'm not saying that I don't believe in the immortality of the soul (of course, the term "immortality" must be defined properly), but unless you are willing to say that Christian annihilationists are non-Chrisitians, you may want to soften your stance here. Many (even non-annihilationists) believe that this concept of the immortality of the soul is a platonic influence on the Scripture. I'm just saying that within Christian discussion, it can be a subject of debate without opponents being labeled heretical.

Hmm...I think I've addressed everything. :-)

I had more, but I exceeded the "character" limit (uh-oh, Jeff's influence is rubbing off! ) :-)

Part 2 to follow...

Great Googly Moogly! said...

Part 2:

I'm with you, though; there are some things that we'll only know for certain when Christ returns. But discussions like these amongst the brethren (if engaged in a spirit of love and respect) can be edifying to the Body because anytime we discuss the Gospel and things pertaining to it, we are growing in our understanding of the greatness and glory of our great God and Savior! And I even feel that is a good Gospel witness to unbelievers as they witness Christians engaged in respectful dialogue concerning our great salvation in the Person and Work of Jesus Christ.

I'm happy that we have differences of opinion to discuss within the pale of orthodoxy because it encourages my growth as a believer. I hope you feel the same way.

Thanks so much for the discussion. If you want to continue, that's fine by me. If not, that's fine as well.

But, as I said, sometime today I will post an excerpt from a book that deals with the 2Pet. passage that will help explain this position.

And again, I encourage anyone out there to spend a couple of bucks on the Wittmer book. It is an easy to read, well-written explanation of the purpose of God in Christ to recover His creation from the curse.

GGM
GGM

thekingpin68 said...

'But I figured that if Jerry Falwell says this is true, then it must be true and everything else must be heresy.'

LOL.

satire and theology (the non-apostle) said...

Twenty...congrats.

thekingpin68 said...

Opinion:

The photo in this post would be a more colourful blog header.

Great Googly Moogly! said...

Yes, I've been thinking about changing it anyway. I put the first header up before I even went through the photos I already had, so I've got much better shots now.

But you're right, this one is much, much nicer and even better suited to my title.

Thanks, Russ