is creation still good?

Working from some thoughts in a recent sermon, this is the last post in a series asking the question, "So what if creation is good?" (You can listen here, but sorry for the buzz)

Post #1 - So what if creation is good?
Post #2 - What does "good" mean?

Post #3 - What about the Fall?

Ok, so far we have been introduced to a tension – good creation vs. the absence of good. Which wins? Well, as I've suggested, sin and brokenness does not redefine reality, but rather disrupts what God deemed good. I noted that we cannot allow the Fall to become determinative for how we experience the world. This last question then, "is creation still good?" becomes paramount for how we view our lives in this world.

If we look at the teaching and ministry of Jesus and the early church, while the absence of shalom is by no means ignored, the presence of God and the hope for a restoration of good in this world is a prominent theme. For example, whether it's providing a tasty beverage for a party (Jn. 2:1-11) or healing the eyes of a man born blind (Jn. 9:1-12), John's Gospel describes Jesus' ministry as creation-oriented not only "in the beginning" (Jn. 1:1), but in his in the world as well. Jesus was restoring shalom in this world. And from Paul we hear how the early church continued this holistic view of Jesus' redemptive work:

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross (Col. 1:19-20).

Finally, we know from Revelation 21-22 that our shalom-absent world will be fully restored - made "new." The new creation in Revelation echoes the "good" creation of Genesis 1 - "the end brings us back to the beginning" (Gordon Wenham). The "old order of things" - this distortion of shalom - will no longer determine life in the world. And while the details for this restoration are beyond us, the images from Revelation speak of a new reality that is both spiritual and physical - radically different from the absence of shalom, yet radically the same as the goodness of the garden. As Elmer Martens concludes, "The fragmentation of the present will once again be brought into healing and wholeness...shalom."

I began by asking, "So what if creation is good?" I believe knowing that God's approval extends beyond Genesis 1-2 changes the way we view our lives in this world. We can have hope for the here and now knowing that our role as God's image bearers continues as an integral part of following Jesus. We can participate with God as "shalom-makers" as I proposed.
Our task, then, is to properly communicate a theology and faith for here - the belief that our world is still good, acknowledging the victory of Christ reconciling all things (Col. 1:20) back into God’s original intention - shalom. In this manner we can conclude that God’s statement, “it was very good” (Gen. 1:31), echoes from the beginning throughout eternity.

To begin exploring how this may look in our everyday lives, I close with a quote about Jesus' resurrection from N.T. Wright's excellent book, Surprised by Hope:

The point of the resurrection…is that the present bodily life is not valueless just because it will die…What you do with your body in the present matters because God has a great future in store for it…What you do in the present—by painting, preaching, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbor as yourself—will last into God's future. These activities are not simply ways of making the present life a little less beastly, a little more bearable, until the day when we leave it behind altogether (as the hymn so mistakenly puts it…). They are part of what we may call building for God's kingdom.


Darren said...

Dave - I really like where you are going here. Too often Christians view things of this world and, in fact, this world itself as worthless other than as some sort of proving ground for the next world.

David Warkentin said...

Thanks Darren - I think there is much Christians can offer in how we view the world, even in contemporary environmental fads and such. We don't just value this world because it's popular to do so, but because we firmly believe our role as God's image bearers persists and that what we do now offers glimpses of what's to come - "proving ground" as you say.

Darren said...

Right - the way I see it, we experience heaven (or hell) in the here and now by the things we do and the way we interact with others here and now, so ... I don't want to ruin anything by jumping the gun but I'm going to say yes, creation is still good! =)

David Warkentin said...

Just curious Darren, your description of hell, and perhaps mine as well, puts a lot of emphasis on the human ability to offer an alternative - pretty easy to say in our comfy N.A. lives.

How does this view of human participation in creating or disrupting what is good work in parts of the world less fortunate to us? Are they more sinful? Or is sin evident in different ways here (less visible)?

Anyway, just some thoughts I have running through my mind as I process these ideas more...

(We're off on vacation, so I may not respond promptly)

Darren said...

Good questions Dave - I don't like to think of suffering in the world as being the result of sin (indirectly maybe, but not in a personal and direct causal sort of way).

Of course, I can't claim to understand the reason for suffering in this world, but if it was a direct result of sin, N.A. and Europe would not be the affluent and comfortable places they are. Poverty and wealth would be much more evenly distributed. We have to assume that suffering comes as a result of some other cause and serves some other purpose than on-the-spot judgment for sin.

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