Keeping Creation and Redemption Together
“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.”
The New Testament shows us that Christ came to bring us salvation. It is truly a divine rescue mission that saves us from sin and promises us a future when there will be shalom. The world will be as God intended. When I was growing up, I believed that this salvation was not only a rescue from sin, but ultimately a rescue from creation. After all, there are Bible verses that tell us there will be a new heaven and earth (e.g., Rev. 21:1), which I understood to mean that God would literally perform an act of new creation after obliterating the current creation.
With that view, this passage in Romans is very hard to understand. Paul talks about the creation waiting for redemption (v. 19) and groaning (v. 22) as if there is some actual future for the creation we currently inhabit. Consider that we as human beings are also part of this creation. Humans taken from the dust of the earth are the crown of creation, and when we think about God’s future for us in the consummated kingdom, we expect that somehow our resurrected bodies will be renewed versions of our current bodies. Just as Christ was raised with a glorified version of the same body that was crucified and buried, so, too, will we have a “new and improved “ version. If we carry this thought into this passage in Romans, we then see that Paul is telling us that current created order is waiting for the day when God will also transform and renew it. Salvation, then, is not an escape from creation, but ultimately the renewal of this world that God originally declared as “very good” (Gen. 1:31). While there is much beauty to appreciate in the creation now, we can barely imagine how amazing it will be! God will make us and the rest of the created order truly glorious.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: What have you learned about how redemption relates to creation? Do you tend to think of salvation as an escape from this world? If God is going to ultimately renew the creation we now inhabit, what does that mean for how we currently think about matters like creation care? Is thinking “green” only for a special interest group?
PRAYER: Our God, who has created a world that can leave us awestruck as we gaze upon its natural beauty, may we grow in our appreciation of the great salvation you have brought to creation. Thank you that we have the promise of new life in transformed bodies and a renewed creation. Give us guidance so that we steward our lives and your world in a manner that brings you glory. In the name of Christ we pray. Amen.
P.S. from Mark: Dr. Vincent Bacote has been on the faculty at Wheaton College since 2000 where he is currently Associate Director of Theology and Director of Center for Applied Christian Ethics. His work on Abraham Kuyper, race, ethics, and other topics has appeared in publications such as Commet, Cambridge Dictionary of Christian Theology, Christianity Today, and his book The Spirit in Public Theology: Appropriating the Legacy of Abraham Kuyper. Marcus Goodyear, Senior Editor of The High Calling, first met Dr. Bacote at the Jubilee Conference and we have been looking for opportunities to work together ever since. We are excited to have him leading us this week as our "guest reflector," and we commend his work with enthusiasm!
Image courtesy of Laity Lodge, one of our sister programs in the Foundations for Laity Renewal.