Redemption is not:
- just making life in creation a little bit better (as the optimistic humanist or evolutionist would suggest)…
- a matter of rescuing spirits and souls from the evil of a material world (as the Gnostic would suggest)…
- the remaking of creation once evil has been dealt with.
- the remaking of creation began with Christ's resurrection (inaugerated eschatology), in which God redeems his image-bearing people (Christians) to begin the work of redemption in creation here and now (that's why we pray, "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven")
- the remaking of creation will come to fruition (future eschatology) when Christ returns to eradicate evil once and for all.
- Therefore it is not one extreme or the other (as the two sides above indicate), but something else altogether (which those two extremes hint at). God is indeed (a) calling us to work toward doing good in the creation today seeking to improve the condition of life (though we do not expect to ultimately succeed in creating a utopian existence without God's future intervention), and (b) we await a time when we will ultimately be made anew by God (though not in some diembodied spiritual future, disconnected with our created physical existence in creation).
Romans 8:19-22 is not treated with the weight it needs to have—it teaches the renewal of all creation. Yet this section of Scripture is treated as mere embroidery around the edges of what we feel is "really important": the emphasis on individual, personal hope of heaven (at the expense of the larger picture of God’s redemption of all creation.)
"19For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. 20Against its will, everything on earth was subjected to God’s curse. 21All creation anticipates the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. 22For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time." (Romans 8:19-22)
By the way, this has implications on my "environmental wackoness":
“If the second coming is about people being snatched away from this present world to live somewhere quite other, you probably don’t need to bother too much about transforming this world; if the second coming goes with the expectation that God is going to redeem creation, we have a mandate already.” --N. T. Wright
see www.vanguardchurch.com for more