Late last week during a presentation at the Catalyst conference, Mark Driscoll said, “I know who made the environment and he’s coming back and going to burn it all up. So yes, I drive an SUV.” Now before I get too far into this post let me state I was not at the conference. I cannot speak to the context or the purpose of the statement. As someone who speaks in public on occasion, I know there are times you cringe as you hear the different things that come out of your mouth. Mark might want to nuance or withdraw this statement. It is not Mark I am interested in here, but the argument because this idea is out there in the Christian world.
One place I will agree with Mark’s statement is our God is the Creator God. Central to the Christian belief is that Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise to Israel. The God we read about in the creation stories is the same God who raised Jesus from the dead.A theology of creation begins with a communion forming out of love. Paul talks about us as the bride of Christ. Creation was not designed by the ego-driven deity, but formed with the desire to rest with creation. In this sense, creation is defined by God’s love and care for the other, and God is glorified as he communions with creation. And God created with the divine intent for his creation to move towards a goal—to mature, adapt, and change.
The God we meet in creation is the God who will return. However, this return will not be to burn everything up but to put everything back together.
God’s creation was not finite, but given the ability to move towards God’s preferred and promised future. This means the Garden of Eden was not God’s finished product. In Genesis we are told Adam and Eve had work to do. They were to partner with God as they moved creation towards God’s promised and preferred future. Human sin ushered a veil of evil and death into the world; bondage of decay placed its defining mark on all creation. While God’s creation was changed as sin and death emerged, God’s preferred and promised future remained.
This future, the Kingdom of God, is alluded to throughout Scripture. From the Jubilee language in the Torah to the prophetic imagination most clearly articulated in Isaiah. This imagination comes to life in the person of Jesus. The Messiah is Jesus the Suffering Servant of Isaiah. Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promises.
As Romans says, Jesus is the first of those ones who are raised. Jesus ushers in the Kingdom of God through his life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. One thing we notice in the resurrection is Jesus has a body yet this body is a little different. The risen Lord has been made new from the flesh Jesus took on. If Jesus is the first one to experience God’s transformation then it is important to notice there is a relationship to the present. The resurrection points to a New Heaven and a New Earth that is put to right or refined.
Creation theology believes God is working in our time and space to remake all creation. The world is not to be thrown aside, but God is somehow transforming creation into the New Heavens and New Earths. This means we are to live in this world restoring the broken places. We, the covenant people, are invited to proclaim and embody the new creation of God in our world.
If creation is lost, then the material existence is a lower order concern. The real concerns are the infinite, the soul and this leads to an escapist mentality. The faith community often only concerns itself the soul of the believer, so is unable to traverse differences in belief and circumstance. Fellowship is formed around a set of beliefs and religious tenets, instead of the mutual love that gave birth to creation. Secondly, the church sees itself as saving souls as opposed partners in reconciliation. This bore itself out as churches setting aside God’s call to break down barriers in favor of the church’s prejudices. An “everything is going to burn” view of salvation dulls the senses of the Christian to the real situations of the world, but it is in margins where true fellowship with Christ is found.
Therefore, in view of God’s action in creation, the church is to live a certain way. The mission is to join God’s move towards the other. Our desire must be to embrace and love the other. This means our mission is to be involved in the lives of all people. We are not to minister to but with others. Also we have to see ourselves as part of God’s redemption in the world. From the beginning, humanity’s vocation was to worship God in all thoughts, words, and deeds. This does not only happen through songs, hymns, and spiritual song, but partnering with God in moving the creation towards fullness. As NT Wright says in After You Believe, we are to be “rulers” in God’s new world. So we bind up people in love, we proclaim good news to the broken, we heal the sick because we believe we are joining God in his work in the world.