Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Scope of Redemption, pp. 226-7 of Wright

A common Christian assumption is that all that happens here on earth is nothing more than temporary and transient. Human history is nothing more than the vestibule for eternity, so it doesn't really matter very much. To this negative comparison is added the idea, drawn from a mistaken interpretation of the language of 2 Peter 2, that we are headed for total obliteration of the whole earth and indeed of all the physical creation. With such a prospect, what eternal value can possible attach to the work we do in the local or globalized public square here and now? But the Bible presents a different prospect. God plans to redeem all that he has made ...

Of course the Bible presents the public square, human life lived in society and the marketplace, as riddled with sin, corruption, greed, injustice and violence. That can be seen at local and global dimensions, from sharp practices at the market stall or corner shop, to the massive distortions and inequalities of international trade. As Christians, we need a radical understanding of sin in its public dimensions, and we need to see part of our mission as being called to confront that prophetically in the name of Christ. But for God, the corruption of the public square is not a reason to vaporize it, but to purge and reform it.

Isaiah 65:17-25 is a glorious portrayal of the new creation- a new heavens and a new earth. It looks forward to human life that is no longer subject to weariness and decay, in which there will be fulfillment in the family and work, in which the curses of frustration and injustice will be gone forever, in which there will be close and joyful fellowship with God, and in which there will be environmental harmony and safety. The whole life- personal life, family life, public life, animal life- will be redeemed and restored to God-glorifying productiveness and human-fulfilling enjoyment.

The New Testament carries this vision forward in the light of the redemption achieved by Christ through the cross, and especially in light of the resurrection. Paul comprehensively and repeatedly includes "all things" not only in what God created through Christ, but what he plans to redeem through Christ. It is clear in this text that "all things" means the whole created order in both descriptions of the work of Christ (Col. 1:16-20). Because of that plan of cosmic redemption, the whole of creation can look forward to the future as a time of liberation and freedom from frustration (Rom. 8:19-21)....

And the final vision of the whole Bible is not of our escaping from the world to some ethereal paradise, but rather of God coming down to live with us once again in a purged and restored creation, in which all the fruit of human civilization will be brought to the city of God (Rev. 21:24-27, building on Isa. 60).

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