Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Influence of Creation and Eschatology on Worldview and Mission: Part 3

The basic trajectory of the narrative is radically altered depending on which perspective you are operating from.
In light of the first perspective, the story proceeds with things getting worse and worse. God loves the people (or at least their essence), but sees the creation project as incorrigible. By implication, all matter becomes evil while only “spiritual” things are good (because, after all, they are the things that are going to last). God, who is unwilling to let the spiritual essence or “souls” of people perish without a fight, enacts a plan. He enters into a covenant with a man named Abram and his descendants. Within their arrangement, God gives them a moral and ethical code to live by in addition to a set of basic propositions to believe. In return, God promises that they will be his people and that He has a plan for reconciling their “souls” to Himself. Eventually, God becomes a human being named Jesus who takes the destruction/punishment due us on Himself by dying a sinner’s death (though he was without sin). In this view, the overriding sentiment about Jesus is that He “lived to die”. Aside from “not sinning”, everything else Jesus did and taught during his life is either viewed as proof of who he was or simply nice but almost irrelevant. After His crucifixion, Jesus rises from the dead thereby defeating “death” itself and ensuring the souls of those who believe and obey a place in Heaven after they die. In his book, In The End—The Beginning, Jurgan Moltmann sums up this trajectory as follows: “The traditional doctrine about the Last Judgment…also talks about a restoration, but it refers only to all human beings, the purpose being that all of them, beginning with Adam and Eve, can receive their just verdict. Afterward, only heaven and earth are left. The earth will be superfluous and is to be burnt. This notion of judgment is exceedingly hostile to creation.”
Alternately, the second perspective paints a very different picture. The story proceeds with a God who is quite unwilling to give up on his dream for the world. He enacts a plan, not just to save the spiritual essence of individuals, but to pursue the “restoration of all things”. God enters into a covenant with a man named Abram and his descendants. They are to be the people of God, whom God will bless so that they might be a blessing to the world around them. Eventually, God becomes a human being named Jesus who lives out God’s dream of Shalom and teaches others to do the same. He dies a sinner’s death (though he was without sin) to free us from disharmony with God, each other, and creation (which is the definition of “sin”). On the third day after His crucifixion, He rises from the dead and his body is glorified. In this action, He frees people from death, gives them a preview of their own resurrection, and apparently opens the door for everything to be not only restored to its original condition, but for the project to go where God originally intended. Moltman concludes “The raising of Christ from the dead was not, either, a ‘return’ of the life he had lived; it was a transformation of his life on earth into eternal life. And it is in this light that we ought to imagine the design of the restoration of all things: its purpose is the transformation of this world into the future world of the eternal creation. The restoration of all things is to initiate the rebirth of the cosmos to its enduring form.”

(To Be Continued)

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