Monday, February 09, 2015

The Substance of the City of God

The Christian doctrine of creation is of primary significance to the church which confesses its faith in "God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth". That God made all things is part of the fabric of a Christian response to revelation. For this basic (though not uncontested) reason Christian doctrine relates creation to eschatology: this good but presently broken world which God made will be re-made, freed from its warped and corrupted nature, freed once more for its God-given purpose to exist for Jesus Christ

One current debate in the theological world is how to relate the two doctrines. Is the future such a breach from our current existence that the new creation bears little to no correlation to creation? The proposed solution in our previous approach was to relate the two Christologically, so that the eschaton is the perfection rather than the breach of creation.

The implications of this debate touch a whole range of areas: work, culture, the environment, and so forth. What is clear though is this issue is not an innovation of the third millennium and its present ecological crisis. A century ago the Dutch Reformed theologian Herman Bavinck also reflected on this issue. Following on from Paul's description of the σχῆμα of the world - the outward form, appearance, and way of life according to BDAG - passing away, the substance of the creation is redeemed and renewed in the new creation. Bavinck at times is carried along with the poetry of his language, but nevertheless do not let that detract you:

"All that is true, honourable, just, pure, pleasing, and commendable in the whole creation, in heaven and on earth, is gathered up in the future city of God-renewed, re-created, boosted to its highest glory. 
The substance [of the city of God] is present in this creation. Just as the caterpillar becomes a butterfly, as a carbon is converted into diamond, as the grain of wheat upon dying in the ground produces other grains of wheat, as all of nature revives in the spring and dresses up in celebrative clothing, as the believing community is formed out of Adam’s fallen race, as the resurrection body is raised from the body that is dead and buried in the earth, so too, by the re-creating power of Christ, the new heaven and the new earth will one day emerge from the fire-purged elements of this world, radiant in enduring glory and forever set free from the ‘bondage to decay’ (…Rom. 8:21). More glorious than this beautiful earth, more glorious than the earthly Jerusalem, more glorious even than paradise will be the glory of the new Jerusalem, whose architect and builder is God himself. The state of glory (status gloriae) will be no mere restoration (restauratie ) of the state of nature (status naturae), but a re-foration that, thanks to the power of Christ, transforms all matter . . . into form, all potency into actuality (potentia , actus), and presents the entire creation before the face of God, brilliant in unfading splendor and blossoming in a springtime of eternal youth. Substantially nothing is lost."

1 comment:

Jonathan H said...

that's a great quote from Bavinck! Thanks Matt.
Never read the big B. Perhaps I should give him a go..