The Age to Come – New Creation After Darwin (RJS)

We’ve been looking at the essays in a book Theology After Darwin centered around a simple question: What are the implications for Christian theology if Darwin was right? The Christian story and Christian worldview is often summarized as Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Consummation. Modern science – cosmology, astrophysics, geology, paleontology and evolutionary biology has an impact, at times a profound impact, on our understanding of all four of these elements. We’ve hit on a number of these in prior posts, yet much remains to be considered.

The last chapter in this book is by Denis Edwards “Hope for Creation After Darwin: The Redemption of ‘All Things.’  Edwards is a Catholic priest and theologian who has written extensively on theology in the context of evolution. In this chapter he starts with an assumption that our Christian hope is for bodily resurrection and asks what this means for all of creation.

The guiding thought in this exploration is what I take to be the fundamental Christian conviction that in the incarnation God has embraced not just humanity, and not just the whole world of flesh, but the whole universe and all its dynamic history, and that this embrace constitutes an unbreakable promise. (p. 171)

This is a powerful idea, and one that must be approached with some caution and constraint. He outlines two fundamental principles that guide the interpretation of eschatological statements in scripture:

The first is that the future of our world in God remains radically hidden to us. The future has been announced and promised in Christ and his resurrection, but it is announces and promised precisely as hidden mystery. (p. 172)

The second principle is that the future will be the fulfilment of the salvation in Christ that is already given to us. It will be the fulfilment of what we experience in God’s self-communication in Christ and in the grace of the Holy Spirit. … We do not have supplementary knowledge of the eschatological future over and above what we have in the theology of Christ and of grace. (p. 173)

A Christian understanding of all elements of the purpose and mission in the world – creation, fall, redemption, and consummation are intrinsically and inseparably connected to the work of God in the incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection of Christ. This is an important point – any proper theology of creation and the nature of human sin must start with Jesus and the incarnation occupying a central position. Incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection are not plan B correcting an error or oversight in God’s plan nor are they responding to a credible challenge to God’s plan. Incarnation and redemption was part of the plan from the beginning. Turning to consummation then -  the age to come is not simply a return to what might have been had Adam and Eve remained faithful it is something completely new and completely different.

Where do you start when thinking about the future fulfillment of creation? Is this impacted or enhanced by your understanding of science – either cosmology or evolutionary biology?

Edwards looks at three sources in fleshing out some ideas about the age to come: Romans 8, the writings of Maximus the Confessor (580-662 AD), and the more recent writings of Karl Rahner in the 1960′s and 1970′s.

Romans 8. This image of birth pains in Romans 8 is significant – creation groans as something radically new is about to be born. This is an anticipation and a longing for the full realization of God’s plan and design.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it. (Ro 8:18-25)

Edwards points to several Pauline scholars, including NT Wright, who see a redemption and fulfilment of the whole of the cosmos in this passage of Paul. Wright takes the view, in his Romans commentary (The New Interpreter’s Bible Volume 10) and in Surprised by Hope, that this passage reflects the anticipation that God will do for the whole cosmos what he did for Jesus at Easter. Edwards connects this with the age of the earth and the evolution of life:

The Earth has given birth to bacteria, trilobites, dinosaurs, mammals, and human persons with their immensely complex brains. It has been a labour that has brought forth staggeringly diverse and complex forms of life, but in a process that has been very costly. In the Pauline vision, it has not yet reached its completion and fulfilment. It will not be fulfilled until it shares with human beings in God’s final redemption and transformation of all things. Creation groans still as something even more radically new is being born. With the information we have today, I imagine that Paul would see God at work in this whole process of evolution of our universe over the last 13.7 billion years and the evolution of life on earth over the last 3.8 billion years, and that he would see God in Christ as promising a future not just for human beings but for the whole labouring creation, when God will bring it all to redemption and fulfilment. (p. 177)

Maximus the Confessor. Edwards uses the writings of Maximus the Confessor as a summary of the Patristic tradition expressing a hope for the whole creation…Irenaeus, Athanasius, Maximus. Edwards summarizes: “The whole history of history is taken up and recapitulated in Christ. The visible universe is destined to be restored and to share in the glorification with the human community saved by Christ.” (p. 177)  The incarnation is central here – Edwards points out that for Maximus the incarnation is ‘the end for whose sake all things exist.’ No plan B here. Everything will be brought into right relationship with God in Christ, the whole of creation fulfilled.

Karl Rahner. Rahner sees a deification of all of creation – not a pantheism, but a completion. The incarnation is a key piece here as well. The resurrection is in continuity with the life Jesus lived and with sacrifice in love he presented in death on the cross. It is not a radical clean break. In the same way there will be continuity in the transformation of creation.

Rahner argues that something similar happens when the whole cosmos is finally taken up into God. All that constitutes our cosmic, social, personal history, the emergence of the universe, the evolution of like on Earth and our human history, will be taken up and find fulfilment in the life of God. On the one hand, the coming Reign of God will not simply be the outcome of the evolution of cosmic history and it will not be simply the result of  the history that is planned and accomplished by humans. On the other hand, it will not simply come upon creation as an act of God from the outside. It will be the deed of God, but this deed of God is to be understood as the self-transcendence of history, both cosmic and personal. It will go beyond (transcend) natural and human history in a real transformation by God. But it will be a transformation and a transcendence of and from what is already there – hence Rahner’s language of self-transformation.

In cosmic terms this suggests that the coming of God will fulfil rather than overturn the laws and processes at work in the history of our universe and the evolution of life on earth. (p. 183)

God’s material creation is good. God entered his creation as a part of creation, a fully human man Jesus of Nazareth. The redemption begun through the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus will be fulfilled in the age to come; an age in continuity with the present world but transformed and completed.

The post on Wednesday asked about the impact of gospel and the way the gospel message is framed on the conflict between science and the Christian faith.  The vision we see for the nature of the Age to Come – the Kingdom of God also plays a role in magnitude of the conflict between science and faith. If earth is irredeemably corrupt to be destroyed and replaced, if this corruption is the consequence of the sin of Adam, it is hard to see any reasonable consistency between the age of the universe, evolutionary science,  and the Christian story. But a vision of the fulfilment of creation cast here by Romans 8, Maximus in the patristic tradition, Karl Rahner, and and others is, or can be, consistent with an evolutionary creation. Perhaps what we learn about the world around us, in conjunction with a careful study of scripture, can point to a more complete understanding of the mission of God in creation.

How does your view of the gospel influence the way you consider the implications of evolutionary biology or cosmology for understanding the goal or fulfillment of creation?

If you wish to contact me directly you may do so at rjs4mail[at]att.net

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  • smcknight

    Solid post, RJS. Thanks for your work here.

    The theme of new creation confirms the idea that existing materials are taken up into new orders. 2 Cor 5:1-10 and 1 Cor 15 both teach that new creation means the re-formation of current bodies but the re-formation is into the glorified state of bodily existence.

  • normbv

    Quote from article …”The visible universe is destined to be restored and to share in the glorification with the human community saved by Christ.”

    Well it looks like the YEC were right all along that Adam’s fall was from a perfect physical earth and redemption is all about the physical restoration to such an environment. I guess I had better put Ken Ham’s museum back on my agenda of pilgrimages.

    Why is it that we Old Earth adherents are often astute enough to figure out the language of Genesis 1-3 is not about physical earth but then turn right around and forget that lesson as it relates to NT eschatology? Do we have a disconnect somehow regarding the hermeneutical manner we approach biblical origins and endings?

    The simple point is that we are now living in the age to come: the age past was the old creation account of life under the Law. Rom 8 is simply not that hard to understand when we keep it in the OT framework of messianic fulfillment of the removal of Law [look at the previous context of Rom 8 concerning law and spirit that precedes Paul’s discussion of creation groaning]. Consider also that Paul calls those who are in Christ the New Creation: not the physical world around us.

    2Co 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, HE IS A NEW CREATION. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

    Observe then that freedom from BONDAGE under Law is the idea of verse 15 preceding the discussion of deliverance from that same bondage in verse 21 regarding creation. Pay close attention in verse 21 that the deliverance will be the liberty [freedom] of the gospel through Christians. A little exegesis can often help clarify the context of what we read.

    Rom 8:15 For ye received not the spirit OF BONDAGE again unto fear; but ye received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.

    Rom 8:21 that the creation itself also shall be delivered from THE BONDAGE of corruption into the LIBERTY of the glory of the CHILDREN OF GOD.

    The groaning of creation was the expectancy of the New Heavens and earth where God lives with man in the new realities of the Spirit residing in our hearts bringing us in communion with God and bearing fully His Image through Christ. It had absolutely nothing in common with the imaginations that have been rampant in Christendom regarding a renewed physical earth.

    A good biblical example of the Creation being changed once before is found in Hebrews 12 in which the writer [possibly Paul] discusses how at Mt. Sinai the existing Heavens and Earth were shaken through Moses through the addition of their Law. The removal of this Law will again shake their foundations as well especially since the New Kingdom [Heavens and Earth] will be in the Spiritual realm. These NT writers are simply pointing to the consummated removal of Law at Judgment upon Jerusalem and its physical Temple and priesthood. Until that occurred they did not believe the Old Creation [Adamic Death] had fully passed as it was still groaning in childbirth until the children were fully delivered.

    Heb 12:26-28 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I WILL SHAKE NOT ONLY THE EARTH BUT ALSO THE HEAVENS.” (27) This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken–that is, things that have been made–in order that the THINGS THAT CANNOT BE SHAKEN MAY REMAIN. (28) Therefore let us be grateful for RECEIVING A KINGDOM that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe,

    Again in summary Romans 8 is no more about physical transformation than Gen 2-3 is about an earth that was physically perfect until Adam came along. The creation establishment of Adam’s death and deliverance is what is in view here in Rom 8.

    RJS, I love your work but I believe we are headed the wrong direction with this particular post.

  • rjs

    normbv,

    The first comment on YEC being right after all if this post is correct is a rather inflammatory red herring. And completely wrong.

    Beyond that I would summarize your rather long comment as: the scriptural evidence is in support of a total destruction and change with no material continuity between the present and the future.

    Is that a fair summary?

  • normbv

    RJS,

    Yes my opening was meant to grab ones attention and to focus upon what appears to be a dual approach by us Old earth adherents to biblical hermeneutics. However it was in no means meant to be a Red Herring because the premise of my post was to point out how this view of Rom 8 that is being presented is closer hermeneutically to the YEC literalizing method than to sound exegesis we employ for Genesis. The need to illustrate the wrong direction concerning Romans 8 is the reason for the lengthy post. I find sound bite remarks when it comes to theology somewhat limited in usefulness.

    No I do not consider your summary to accurately reflect my point if I understand it properly. Perhaps you may want to expand somewhat. ;-)

  • Percival

    Good post. Lots of food for thought.

    Normbv, you’re sounding a bit gnostic to me. Redemption is about our bodies (the material) as well. All creation is released from bondage. Your rampant capitalization of certain words distracts from the context that Paul is talking about more than just Christian believers here.

  • rjs

    normbv,

    It would be better if you could give a two or three line summary of your main point if I’ve missed it.

    Frankly the idea that this interpretation of Romans 8 is similar to the literalism of YEC is completely off the mark. This is an interpretation that allows for a reality underlying the figurative language and forms used in the text. Such a reality underlying the figurative is what we need in Gen 1-3 as well.

    Not “just myth” not “just speculation” not “just apocalyptic” – the figurative actually refers to something significant.

  • Alan K

    Normbv,

    Are our bodies to be resurrected from the dead like we confess in the Apostles’ Creed? Will we share, like Romans 6 suggests, in a resurrection like that of Jesus Christ? If so, then we need to re-read everything in light of that reality.

    To suggest that how we read Genesis 1-3 should provide some governance for how we read the NT is a questionable hermeneutic. The Old Covenant, while most certainly an important witness, is by no means the lens by which the New Covenant is to be look at and understood. If anything it is the other way around.

  • normbv

    Percival,
    Throwing the Gnostic charge around is not cool, especially when Christ came to establish His Kingdom of life through the Spirit. Tell me then if redemption is about our physical bodies how did your physical body change when you confessed Christ and entered into His Body of redemption? How about rover: is he part of the renewed creation through Christ? Is that what Isaiah 11 is all about is the animals being changed physically some day in the future?

    Sorry about the caps for emphasis, if I could figure out how to bold or underline to emphasize key thoughts in scriptures I would.

  • http://mysticallimpet.blogspot.com Travis Greene

    Norm,

    You’re not really helping yourself against the “Gnostic” charge, buddy. I think Percival was using it not pejoratively, but descriptively. Your views seem to have no sense of the salvation of the body or of human nature as inherently embodied. If we are misunderstanding you, please correct us. If not, what do you see as the difference between your position and Gnosticism (again, used descriptively and not as a discussion-stopper)?

  • http://coffeecup.theobloggers.com/ Darryl

    First off, I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed, so detailed discussions of science leave me feeling out of my league. Also, my view of Scripture is not dependent upon whether micro-evolution is true or not.

    Having said that, I’m still not convinced that micro-evolution (i.e., Oparian’s theory, Darwin, etc.) is what has taken place. I’ve muddled through books by Behe and other micro-biologists who seem to suggest Darwinian evolution is just impossible–as well as some mathematician’s who question the statistical probability of micro-evolution. So I tend to lean that way until I see really overwhelming evidence that we evolved from single-cell coacervates. It just seems to me the fossil records have not demonstrated adequately any real transitional “links” from simpler life forms (which are not really simple) to humans.

    Now, I am prepared to eat my words and more than willing to point out that we are wading into waters that are over my head (and I’m not a good swimmer). My faith, though, doesn’t rest on whether evolution occurred or not. It rests on a death, burial, and resurrection.

    The article does lead to a question for me: are you suggesting that the transformation of creation will be gradual (evolutionary…almost post-millennial) or a specific one point in time event?

  • http://coffeecup.theobloggers.com/ Darryl

    Oh, and I apologize that seemed oblivious of the discussion of the previous comments (actually, I was oblivious)!I didn’t read them until just now. But if I may wade into the discussion: I cannot see how even a cursory reading of Romans 8 would lead one to think the redemption of our bodies or creation is somehow non-physical. Pair this up with 1 Corinthians 15 and it would seem very inconsistent to read Romans 8 as non-physical. Paul’s treatment of the body in 1 Corinthians 15 cannot in any way be mistaken as a non-physical event (remember the contrast is not spiritual versus physical: it is spiritual versus natural “soulish”).

  • John I.

    I find N.T. Wright very helpful on this issue, especially his understanding that the spiritual work that we do here is building something that in the future will be taken up and used by Christ.

    As to gnosticism, my understanding of that word is also the same as expressed by others, viz., that gnostics were not just about secret knowledge to imparted to disciples, but also platonic in that they deprecated the body and sought spiritual escape from it. Christ, as the first fruits, has already received his resurrection body and it is one that is physical enough to be seen and touched, and to walk on roads, and to eat fish. Given that we are embodied souls, we are not fully human unless we have a body. In addition, escape from bondage is not escape from physicality, but escape from sin and strong desire for the wrong things. So, overall, I do not see how one can escape the physicality of the new creation.

    I get the point about literalist interpretation of the apocalyptic figures and images as being a flat reading of the text and insensitive to genre and thus as similar to the YEC approach. However, the genre is apocalyptic, and though there is much metaphor (which as noted has led to rampant useless speculation), it is not necessitated by the genre that there is no phsycial reality at all to the post-death resurrection, renewal and life.

    Re using bold and italics: to start the bolding of text, type “” without spaces, then to end the bolding type without spaces “”. And for italics, just use “i” instead of “b”; for underline use “u”.

    John I.

  • John I.

    Hmm. let me try that last line again: (a) to start, type the less than sign, then “b”, then the greater than sign, and (b) to end, type the less than sign, the forward slash, “b” and then the greater than sign.

  • http://coffeecup.theobloggers.com/ Darryl

    John I.: Exactly. It seems when it comes to the Bible we forget all the rules of literary interpretation.

  • http://coffeecup.theobloggers.com/ Darryl

    And that is the point: Romans 8 and 1 Corinthians 15 do not appear to be poetic or apocalyptic.

  • http://coffeecup.theobloggers.com/ Darryl

    I would also point out that if evolutionary theory is true and Genesis 2-3 are not speaking of an actual historical event, the text still does not suggest the world of Genesis 2-3 is not physical. That seems to be something that is being overlooked. Could Genesis 2-3 be a metaphorical take on the Fall? Yes, but even the metaphor assumes that what happened (even if not historical) happened in a physical world among physical people. To say “Romans 8 is no more about physical transformation than Gen 2-3 is about an earth that was physically perfect until Adam came along” is to make a false parallel.

  • normbv

    Ok, let’s get back to focusing on the purpose of my response in the first place.

    It appeared to me that the premise of this post was based strongly upon the interpretation of Rom 8:18-25 which discusses the groaning of Creation and it’s futility in bondage. My premise as I presented in my lengthy first response is that there was a misidentification of the meaning of Paul’s language here. My point is that contextually “creation” represents the manifestation of relationship with God and under their present NT times they still were under a ‘bondage” to “Law” thus the use of groaning. Paul has spent three and ½ chapters detailing this bondage from Adam till Christ and in the first half of Rom 8 he lays out living in the “flesh” is equivalent to remaining in Bondage under “Law”. He transitions by comparing the tribulations that they were undergoing was worth the wait until the Law would finally be removed [Rom 8:18]. Paul simply looks toward this time when “Law” would be fully and completely annulled under what he calls the “creation”.

    Therefore if we are going to discuss Rom 8:18-25 and use it as a proof text it first needs to be determined what exactly is the nature of Paul’s use of “creation”. If it is simply as it exegetically appears to be concerning the removal of “Law” and consequently “sin and death” then it should not be applied as relating to a physical transformation of planet earth in some form or fashion. My premise is that the language is not about a biological change but is a covenantal change in which they were awaiting its consummation.

    For those who recognize that the NT is considered the New Exodus it might be instructive to appreciate that from Pentecost to the Temple’s destruction is the 40 year period typically under NT discussion. Those looking forward to entering into the Promised Land were using the sign of Jesus terminus [the Temple destruction in their generation] as this focal point. It’s important to understand this to properly frame scriptures in their historic contextual discussions.

    PS. Poetic or apocalyptic has little bearing on the identification of Biblical symbolic nomenclature as they can be used in any form of literature genre discussions.

  • Susan N.

    I wonder if the concept of dualism applies here? Seeing the material, bodily world as inherently bad, while holding the spiritual realm as separate and transcendent? In Jesus, fully man, fully divine, can be seen a wholeness and perfection that God is working to bring about through and in Christ?

  • Alan K

    But Normbv, the slavery that is alluded to is not bondage to torah but rather is bondage to decay. The Romans already had the Spirit, which is downpayment. But they and we all groan inwardly because we are not yet obtained the freedom of the glory of the children of God. Torah had already fulfilled its purpose in Jesus Christ, “the climax of the covenant” as one author puts it. But still the Roman church and we groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. Covenantal and biological cannot be split it two at this point. The meager church in Rome was not groaning because some form of the temple still stood in a place where none of them had ever been. Rather the glory to be revealed is resurrection of the body.

  • dopderbeck

    Great stuff. Does he discuss Moltmann at all? If you really want to dig into this theme, read Moltmann’s Theology of Hope and The Crucified God.

    Where this starts to get into dicey territory — where IMHO Moltmann’s thinking needs correction — is when the transcendence of God isn’t properly maintained. At some point it’s easy to slide into panentheism and process theology, and too far away from the transcendent Triune God.

  • normbv

    Alan, I consider myself fully adopted and a son of God already through my faith in Christ and receive the abundant life through the Spirit. I’m not waiting for anything physical to happen to me or the earth. As sons of God I have eternal life and once I breathe my last I will be just like Jesus with Him and God and a home in Heaven. I’m not looking to come back to this old planet which will not last eternally and as many of us recognize it will expire someday in which no one knows when.

    Torah had not yet passed unless the Jewish Christians in Act’s 21 were confused and the Apostles were afraid to set them straight. We need to be careful to not mix the Jewish Christians situation with the Gentiles who were never under Torah but through faith in Christ they would be a Law unto themselves. Hebrews 8 & 9 presents that they were expecting the old covenant to pass away shortly but they understood that as long as the firs tabernacle (temple) was still standing it was still in force.

    Heb 8:13 In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.

    Heb 9:8-9 the Holy Spirit this signifying, that the way into the holy place hath not yet been made manifest, while the first tabernacle is yet standing; (9) which is a figure for the time present; according to which are offered both gifts and sacrifices that cannot, as touching the conscience, make the worshipper perfect,

    The standing of the physical temple in Jerusalem had no power except the recognition that it was prophetic fulfilment of Daniel 9:26 & 12:7 and Jesus himself about its demise. If one understands OT judgments then to the Jews the judgment upon the Temple would be a Sign that God had left them due to apostasy. This was a clear understanding from the first Temple destruction and its implications.

  • Dana Ames

    Wow, this author seems to really encapsulate well what we do know, and is able to leave as mystery what we don’t yet know. His ideas fit right in with Wright. Science doesn’t really have much to say about these things; they are meta-physical. And that’s ok. The greatest interpreters of scripture, Maximos among them, didn’t get hung up on origins.

    My understanding of the relation of origins to this depiction of the future is that God is superintending it all. God created a world into which, at some point, he could become incarnate for the purposes Maximos and Rahner delineate. If our best understanding of how that creation proceeded from its beginning is evolution, then God is superintending it.

    At some point, humanity (adam) became able to accept or reject God, but our rejection didn’t stop God’s purposes. And God doesn’t need to destroy material reality to bring about new creation – if he did, then darkness would have won. Edwards makes it very clear that darkness does not win.

    Now that’s Good News!!!

    Norm, two things. The passage where 2Cor5.17 is found is pointing to the reason Paul is preaching and the ultimate reason Jesus died. Within that passage, he exclaims, “If anyone is in Christ — New Creation!” The words “he is a” are added by the translators. But if you read the verse in context, with the Greek as above in mind, it would fit what Edwards is talking about. Your explanations of things lift scriptures out of context and pile them up to make your point. Not meaning to offend; it’s just that this way of dealing with scripture was one of the things that made the Evangelical “theological train” run out of track for me, and it’s hard for me to even want to follow your line of reasoning sometimes.

    Secondly, you asked above and in another string somewhere recently how exactly Jesus is making changes in the material world right now. Welll, as an Orthodox Christian I believe that as I receive the Eucharist, as a member of the Church, Jesus’ body of redemption, by having been baptized, I do actually take in his body and blood, in a way that he has provided for me to do so as a material, physical being, and that by this means (not *only* by this means, but by this most significantly) he is actually effecting a change as he enters into my “cells, bones and inmost being”, as one of our Communion prayers says. Don’t forget that handkerchiefs that Paul touched healed people… I know you’re not going to agree, and I’m not trying to “convince” you. It’s just that your arguments for a strictly spiritual/non-material interpretation of things sidestep the incarnation and what that means for the material world, a la Maximos, and I can’t go there.

    Dana

  • Darren King

    Norm,

    I’m guessing you haven’t read much NT Wright.

    Disembodied bliss is not our eternal destiny.

    Resurrection (meaning, by definition, bodily) and the fusing of Heavens and Earth/Our Universe is what the Bible suggests awaits us.

  • Dana Ames

    Having said that, Norm, I do think you’re right about the judgment on the Temple. It’s the logical outcome of the cry, “We have no king but Caesar!”

    Dana

  • normbv

    Darren you mean like Wright’s quote below where he just declares Heaven as “a temporary holding pattern” apparently without a body until He’s finished with Earth and then recreates it into Paradise on Earth?

    ABC interview excerpt … “In a radical departure from traditional belief, Wright says that Christians are not ultimately destined for a spiritual place called heaven. He says that at the end of time as we know it, God will literally remake our physical bodies and return us to a newly restored planet.
    “Heaven is important but it’s not our final destination,” he explained. “If you want to say that when someone dies they go to heaven, fine. But that’s only a temporary holding pattern that is life after death.

    http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/FaithMatters/story?id=4330823&page=1

  • Percival

    Norm,
    Sorry for the delayed response, but I wasn’t trying to charge you with the heresy of Gnosticism. However, I think most heresies are based on a truth taken too far or by ignoring a balancing idea. I just want us to find the balance.

    Your question in number #8 is actually a very good question. You asked:
    “Tell me then if redemption is about our physical bodies how did your physical body change when you confessed Christ and entered into His Body of redemption?”

    There are a lot of reasons why it was important for Christ to redeem the body and why we need to believe he did. One of the reasons is related to RSJ’s topic of future fulfillment of God’s purposes for creation, material and non-material.

    Other reasons are also found at the crossroads of science and theology. Does our salvation affect only the mind but not the brain? What about the relationship between memory and personhood, bondage and chemical addiction, faith, placebos, and healing, etc? So yes, I believe that a door was opened on Easter where my body was saved and continues toward fuller salvation until that day.

    (In this area, I’ve learned something from teachers from my Christian heritage — teachers like A.B. Simpson and E. Stanley Jones, but I’m afraid we don’t hear much about this in evangelical circles these days.)

  • normbv

    Darren,

    By the way where did I say we would be disembodied in Heaven. I’m expecting what Jesus has there now.

  • John I.

    Further on the gnostic error, and rjs’ and others rejection of it:

    “The first of the three makes this point graphically. When I was in college we studied Gnosticism as a strange ancient phenomenon, little imagining that it was already alive and well in western culture and that it would sweep through our world dramatically, not only in obvious thing like The Da Vinci Code but in the subtext of half the Hollywood movies and, more sadly, half the would-be theological thinking in our church. Two features stand out. First, a radical dualism in which the created order is irrelevant because we, the enlightened ones, are just passing through it and can use or ignore it as we please. At this point the Gnosticism of the right says, We can do what we like with our planet, because it’s all going to be destroyed soon and we’ll be snatched away to a distant heaven. And the Gnosticism of the left says, We can do what we like with our bodies, because they are irrelevant to the reality within us. And both are held in place by the larger Gnosticism of the western Enlightenment itself which has said, for the last two hundred years, We westerners are the enlightened ones, with our modern science and technology; we can make up the rules, we can saunter around the world exploiting its resources and its people, we can drop bombs on people to make whole countries do what we want, and it doesn’t matter much because we, the enlightened ones, are the natural possessors of justice, freedom and peace so those other people don’t matter as much as we do. ” As stated by N.T. Wright in his lecture at the 2008 Lambeth Conference entitled, “The Bible and Tomorrow’s World”.

    There is an essentialy material aspect to creation that is recognized by evolution, and by the Bible, and which continues into the future. Given the radical way in which Christ’s new resurrected body acted, it might be more accurate to call it a non-nonmaterial body. That is, though it’s not material in all the same ways as our current bodies are (and His former body was), it is not a purely spiritual and nonmaterial body. Hence, I agree with rjs that normbv’s comment is missing the point.

    Jews in the second temple era knew what a resurrection was and that among other things it was a bodily one. Wright summarizes well the overwhelming view that “Where second-Temple Jews believed in resurrection then, that belief concerned on the one hand the reembodiment of formerly dead human beings, and on the other the inauguration of the new age, the new covenant, in which all the righteous dead would be raised simultaneously. Resurrection meant both that the dead would be alive again with new of renewed bodies and that the Age to Come had at least been inaugurated.” (1998)

    This brings me back to rjs’ post and the reflective question on evolution’s significance on eschatology. God has taken over 13 billion years of physical development of the universe to get to this point, and has spent millions of years evolving life on it. It makes more sense, therefore, to see that God highly values physicality and that a redemption and new creation of the current physical universe will not involve wholesale elimination of it. It is not a transient phase of bondage for our nonmaterial selves, but the giving of significance to embodiment and to our embodied souls as representatives of God and his temple in which he dwells.

    Evolution gives hope because of its emphasis on materiality, physicality, God’s use of change, and the concept of something being created good, but not yet complete or perfect. Hence, evolution looks forward to completion and perfection, and to a completion and perfection that is achieved via embodiment. God values the physical and will not abandon it but rather bring evovle and redeem the physical.

    Evolution insists that the past was physical and the future will be physical as well. It argues against a metaphysical and nonmaterial understanding of New Testament creation and recreation passages. Evolution gives a negative answer to the question “Why is it that we Old Earth adherents are often astute enough to figure out the language of Genesis 1-3 is not about physical earth but then turn right around and forget that lesson as it relates to NT eschatology?”

    Genesis 1 – 3 is an ANE myth about a real physical earth, and the apocalyptic is about one too. Just because the ANE “wrongly” described the upper sky and stars as a physical dome does not mean that there was no physical sky or stars to be talked about, or that they were not talking about real entities.

    John I.

  • Percival

    John I #28,
    Loved most of your points, but a phrase like,
    “evolution looks forward to completion and perfection”
    really makes me cringe. Is it just me, or is that overstating the case a bit?

  • Alan K

    Norm, what then do we do with Romans 10:4 that says Christ is the end of the law? And also, Hebrews 9:8-9 cannot be understood apart from the verse that comes two lines later: “But when Christ came as a high priest…” What is the point of the temple if Jesus is already sitting at God’s right hand making intercession for the world? The status of the torah was not validated by its being followed by Jews who didn’t know of Jesus Christ. Rather, as both Romans and Hebrews makes clear, the new covenant in Jesus Christ signals that the pedagogy of the torah is completed.

  • John I.

    re 29, I was writing from the perspective of evolution and what it can contribute. What it does contribute to the sense of development, completion and perfection can be taken in several different (and not always nor necessarily theistic) directions. Moreover, what it suggests about the future, in terms of completion, falls short of what we know of by way of revelation.

    Evolution as secularly understood points toward ever greater complexity and develpment. Understood theologically, we can see evolution as part of God’s design to start with the good and bring about perfection over time. Evolution is not the be all and end all of perfection, and on its own (i.e., apart from being directed by God, if such a thing were possible) would never result in the perfection that comes from redemption, renewal, and the indwelling of God.

    What I was suggesting were what I thought might be the strong and helpful points of evolution: its stresses on physicality, development, and a movement from less complex to more complex (i.e., more complete, more perfect).

    Personally, I don’t find Darwinian, or neoDarwinian approaches to evolution all that convincing, but that doesn’t rule out the discovery of a better or more workable theory. The concept of lateral gene transfer, for example, is very recent but has had a profound effect on the theory. Who knows what the future might hold?

    Just as we’ve seen the hand of God at the commencement of the universe, and in the leading and protecting of Israel, and in the resurrection of God, I think that the complexity of life and the presence of information point to the hand of God intervening. However, just as naturalists have faith that the beginning of the universe, the “miracles” in Egypt, and the resurrection of Christ can be explained naturalistically, they will continue to have faith that evolution can also be explained completely naturally.

    Until Jesus returns, we will never be doubt free nor able to live without faith in what cannot be seen or proved.

    John I.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    I have lots to absorb here, but it seems to me that the science needs to inform the theology on one point. This earth is going to be swallowed by our sun so it cannot be the eternal place and our bodies will not have much fun being here.

    Therefore the new creation must be something else and I am perfectly happy to speculate that it could be as different from this earthly life as being something more resembling non-material existance.

    I definitely like the Wright and biblical embodied new creation, but I can’t get around the fact that this place is not going to exist in the future.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    I think we also have to have the rather obvious notion that we will most likely not be on earth at all. Well before the sun swallows earth we will have traveled somewhere else, and my bet is that our bodies will be quite different than they are now, probably more like artificial life. That would be a new resurrection body!

    So, it seems that the prognostications of future states *must* be figurative.

  • normbv

    Dana,

    Look, I’m striving to get a little discussion going here to see how folks handle scriptures and evolution and I’m not overly concerned with folks not agreeing with me as each of us is responsible to our own conscience through faith in Christ. I respect people and where they are on the spectrum of biblical investigations but I have a suspicion that some haven’t been exposed to some hermeneutic approaches that may challenge them. That is what I’m about today is to expose ;-)

    By the way I appreciate the honor of being declared a proof texter, ;-) but let’s just look at another translation in which the same Greek word translated Creation is also translated “creature” giving it an individual application. If you notice the creature is also under discussion in Rom 8 and is the same Greek word which is translated either creature or creation depending upon the Translator’s idea of the context.

    2Co 5:17 YLT so that if any one is in Christ– he is a new creature; the old things did pass away, lo, become new have the all things.

    Rom 8:19-22 KJV For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. (20) For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, (21) Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. (22) For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.

    In the end Dana it really gets down to whether my exegesis is correct concerning whether Paul is speaking about bondage to Law and the Faithfull’s anticipation of being fully released from that limitation. If I’m correct and I’m betting the farm that I am, then we are simply proof texting this section out of its appropriate context to reinforce a personal supposition through a misunderstood literal reading. All of us do it until we realize we may be applying something incorrectly. I’m hoping to point this out so that folks will construct their arguments appropriately once they understand.

    Dana also we all have our beliefs about the physical ramification of our faith in God. I’m a big believer in the power of Prayer for the faithful yet I can’t demonstrate that empirically to a scientist but I still hold to it strongly.

  • dopderbeck

    DRT (#33) – a few people, including folks like Polikinhorne who should know better, confuse the eschaton with what cosmologists say will happen in the ordinary course of things billions of years from now. Here I think we need to assert that the return of Christ invades natural history and that the eschaton is at once continuous and discontinuous with the present creation. The Sun going nova, the eventual heat death of the universe, and so on, aren’t eschatological events.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    oh no, norm the exposer…

  • normbv

    DRT,

    Just make sure you have the right garments on when I expose you. ;-)

    They should be robes of white.

  • normbv

    Alan,

    I know the answer but I’m going to let you wrestle with the language of Hebrews and how they considered that the Temple standing had ramifications for Christ finished works.

    Now you asked about Christ as the end of the Law? Study this carefully and keep it in context in which it is declaring the end of Law for every one who believes and frames it with the Jews in mind. The point is that it doesn’t say “when” the end of Law was fully consummated. If Christ and Paul teach that the Law would not pass until the Temple system was desolated then it already has an answer in the minds who had been instructed by Paul and others extensively on such matters.

    Rom 10:4 YLT For Christ is an end of law for righteousness to every one who is believing,

    Alan now can you give me some reasoning why the verses in Hebrews are not applicable to the end of the old covenant of Law? What did the author mean by as long as the tabernacle was still standing?

    How about this idea. The Holy of Holies resided in the Temple and the curtain had already been torn in two at the crucifixion but the building was still in place. What further proof would the Jews need to illustrate that the Temple Holy of Holies built with hands would no longer support their Priesthood offerings. How about the total destruction of the Temple including the Holy of Holies leaving only Christ as the High Priest in which there was no longer any need for yearly sacrifices and offerings as He had performed it once and for all. Now in completion of Christ cleansing of the Temple and His prophecy about its destruction then it would be clearly established that Christ was the High Priest and represented the Holy of Holies for us when it was abolished within the timeframe that He said it would. Christ as High Priest then would be firmly established through prophetic fulfillment.

    A good book on the Temple is G. K. Beale’s book “The Temple and the Church’s Mission: A Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place of God”

  • John I.

    Hans Schwartz deals with the matters of materialist eschatology (heat death) and Christian eschatology in his 1996 article, “Modern Theories of the Future and Christian Eschatology” [read at: http://www2.luthersem.edu/word&world/Archives/16-4_Corinthians/16-4_Schwarz.pdf

    After some discussion of Teilhard de Chardin (esp. his The Future of Man), he writes, the whole evolutionary process is directed toward and finds its fulfillment in the parousia of Christ, in the creation of a new heaven and a new earth. While for Teilhard God in
    Christ as the all-enveloping force creates the conditions for the ultimate parousia and transformation of the world, lately there have been attempts to dispense with such an enveloping panentheistic vision of God, and to describe this force as emanating from within the created and self-creating order.”

    He then discusses Tipler. “In 1986 the physicist Frank J. Tipler, together with John D. Barrow, wrote “The Anthropic Cosmological Principle”. This principle deals with the noteworthy fact that, from the beginning, the universal constants within the universe have been so arranged that intelligent human life is a possibility. . . . Tipler believes that if the emergence of intelligent life is of the essence of the universe as a whole, then the disappearance of the same life from the universe could not be without consequence.”

    “Tipler knows that the future course of the universe is such that life as an information process cannot continue forever in its present form, that is, as carbon based
    organisms. If life as an information process that can sustain communication is to continue at all, it must continue to exist on some other basis.” Tipler essentially proposes a furture resurrection as computers, and believes that entropy can be escaped.

    Schwarz’ evaluation of these quasi-scientific proposals is negative, and he makes this astute observation:

    One wonders whether the facts that Tipler extrapolates are more credible than the trust which Jesus evokes through
    his message and destiny. If theology is subsumed under physics and eschatology under cosmology, what avenues are there to counterbalance that which the Swiss philosopher Karl Jaspers called Wissenschaftsaberglaube, the superstitious use of science? Once the scientific theories of the future are no longer mindful of the finitude of space, time, and matter, they are prone to replace Christian eschatology in the same manner as the latter will lead to religious superstition if it is oblivious of the earthly conditions to which it adds its ultimate evaluations.

    John I.

  • John I.

    Being a new creation / creature is not simply (and simplistically) being free from bondage, and, moreover, it is a nonevolutionary reading of Scripture to read such passages in a purely nonmaterial manner and to thus ignore their physical import.

    Such an interpretation can only be maintained from a Christian, post-Jewish, vantage point with an emphasis on the transcendent. Jesus and Paul were Jews, and a reading of scripture in such a non-bodily way would not have been within their world of thought. As N.T. Wrights:

    “. . . what precisely resurrection means. In Judaism it is usually left vague as to what sort of a body the resurrected will possess; some see it as a resuscitated but basically identical body, while others think of it as a shining star. But from the start the early Christians believed that the resurrection body, though it would certainly be a body in the sense of a physical object, would be a transformed body, a body whose material, created from the old material, would have new properties. That is what Paul means by the ‘spiritual body’: not a body
    made out of non-physical spirit, but a physical body animated by the Spirit, a Spirit-driven body if you like: still what we would call ‘physical’, but differently animated. And the point about this body is that, whereas the present flesh and blood is corruptible, doomed to decay and die, the new body will be incorruptible. 1 Corinthians 15, one of Paul’s longest sustained discussions and the climax of the whole letter, is about the creator god remaking the creation, not abandoning it as Platonists of all sorts, including the gnostics, would have wanted.”

    [from "Can a Scientist Believe in the Resurrection?", Wright's James Gregory Lecture in 2007]

    John I.

  • Alan K

    Norm, I get what you are saying about the temple, its destruction as a witness and vindicator of the ministry of Jesus Christ. But it carries no ontological significance. It is only a witness that under the old covenant the way into the sanctuary was not disclosed. The writer writes those to draw contrast between the covenants and the greater everything that Jesus Christ represents.

    On a pastoral note, you need to realize that your last post came across quite condescending. I don’t know if this was your purpose, but it was how it was received.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Thanks John I.

    I have the same proclivities as you say for Paul:

    “That is what Paul means by the ‘spiritual body’: not a body made out of non-physical spirit, but a physical body animated by the Spirit, a Spirit-driven body if you like: still what we would call ‘physical’, but differently animated.”

    To me, the nuance of whether this Spirit-driven body is indeed physical or not is of secondary importance since it is plain that it is in a way that we are unaccustomed to perceiving as a resurrection of our current bodies. To me, the theology should say something more like we will have new bodies of God, or something like that. I feel this view is consistent with the scientific observations that a resurrection of our current earthly body is not going to happen.

  • normbv

    Alan,

    I apologize for coming across as condescending and I appreciate your willingness to gently remind me of that appearance.

    Alan the significance of the prophetic end of Judaism finds its very existence throughout the OT in the scriptures that have pointed to the end of Judaism with the arrival of the Messiah. This end is built upon establishing what is called the Temple made without hands contrasted to the one made with hands.

    Mar 14:58 ESV “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’”

    It is prophesied in Zec 6 that the Messiah would build this Temple and so His work would not be complete until the old passed away. The prophetic destruction is found in Dan 9:26 and so must be fulfilled.

    Zec 6:12-13 … “Behold, the man whose name is the Branch: for he shall branch out from his place, and he shall build the temple of the LORD. (13) It is he who shall build the temple of the LORD and shall bear royal honor, and shall sit and rule on his throne. And there shall be a priest on his throne, and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.”‘

    Dan 9:26 ESV And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed.

    Without the extinguishing of the Old Temple all the prophecies of the OT and Christ own would not have been fulfilled. Thus the Law would still be in effect without its ending fulfillment. The H & E spoken of here is speaking of the Old First H & E that John sees being replaced in which the New H & E where there is no Temple as the Lord and the Lamb are the Temple.

    Mat 5:18 ESV For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.

    Rev 21:1-2 ESV Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. (2) And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
    22 And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.
    24 By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it

  • Dana Ames

    DRT,
    “A resurrection of our current earthly body is not going to happen.”

    Well, true, but don’t you think God could arrange matter so that we all end up with physical bodies? And don’t you think that Jesus invading natural history in his fullness could do something to stop the entropy of the sun? I do. Especially if God is holding all of life together already anyhow.

    Norm,
    yes, we do have to do the best we can within our understanding and according to our conscience. What we’re talking about is indeed interpretation. And if you finish the Rom 8 passage in context,

    23and not only so [the creation], but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24For in this hope we were saved.

    So if the “so” above in 23 is understood to refer back to ktisis, it makes no sense in vs 23 for it to mean “creature”; otherwise, it would be a confusing redundancy, not a contrast, as Paul seems to intend. So “creation” is probably the best translation of ktisis in this passage, rather than “creature”.

    Finally, I wouldn’t bet the farm on a negative view of the Law. First of all, Paul doesn’t seem to think the Law was bad; it was a child minder intent on getting people somewhere, and now that it has done so it has fulfilled its good purpose, keeping the people of Israel pretty homogeneous so that the Messiah could come forth from this people group, according to God’s promise. Secondly, as Wright and others show, “the law” in Paul usually means those aspects of Jewish practice (Sabbath observance, descent from Abraham, etc.) that set them apart from followers of other religions. Those things are not bad in and of themselves, but that whole ball o’ wax is no longer the way God constitutes his people.

    Dana

  • Dana Ames

    Sorry, didn’t get the italics turned off where I meant to, at the end of the Rom passage.

    Dana

  • Alan K

    Norm, Thanks. I don’t have time now to respond but will in the morning. Cheers.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Dana,

    Yes, I do believe that God can rearrange things to do anything that she would want to do. But, our stating that there will be a physical resurrection becomes meaningless at that point since God could make it physical, spiritual or plasma and make any property that he wants. So I feel that the specification of a physical resurrection must have an implication or it will be meaningless… Thanks for engaging.

  • Dana Ames

    Well, the implication I see is that all things will be reconciled to God in Christ. I take “all things” to include the material as well as the non-material aspects of reality.

    The bible doesn’t give us all the information about what’s going to happen and how. I just think that if the material world isn’t part of the new creation, then it has been so spoiled that God’s redemption can’t touch it. I don’t think there’s that kind of limit on redemption.

    Have a good evening-

    Dana

  • http://prodigalthought.net ScottL

    RJS -

    You say: the age to come is not simply a return to what might have been had Adam and Eve remained faithful it is something completely new and completely different.

    Is it not possible to say that the age to come will supersede even that which Adam & Eve had?

  • rjs

    Scott L,

    I think it is more accurate to say that the age to come will supersede even that which Adam and Eve had.

    If we look at Gen 2-3 with a degree of literalness, I think the age to come was the goal to supersede that which Adam and Eve had from the beginning – the initial creation was not the completed project.

    I may try a post to explore more of this down the road.