REDEMPTION: To Become Truly Human (Worldview Revisited)

Our redemption is not some supplement to being human; it's what makes it possible to be really human, to take up the mission that marks us as God's image bearers.

Perhaps the most moving article in the series that Comment recently published on a rearticulation of the Creation-Fall-Redemption story was written by James K.A. Smith on the Redemption.

Listen to these words about our Creator-God:
__“What love is this that would take such risks?
__The covenant God of Israel and Father of Jesus Christ is an extravagant, inventive Creator who—in what almost looks like madness—entrusted the care and unpacking of creation to us, his creatures, commissioned as his image bearers. Deputized and gifted to carry out this mission of image-bearing cultivation, we are to work and play, to make love and art, to till the earth and transform its fruit into our daily bread while also incarnating our most outlandish dreams in cathedrals and skyscrapers. Such image-bearer culture-making will be most fruitful when it runs with the grain of the universe—when our work and play runs in the grooves of God's life-giving norms.
__Creation, then, comes with a mission and a vocation. Being God's image bearers is a task and responsibility entrusted to creatures. If God created from and for love, then he also created us with the invitation to love the world and thus foster its—and our—flourishing.”

Wow. Amen! But as we’ve seen in the second chapter of the story (FALL), this vision of the wonderful creation is deeply marred:
__“While God's self-giving love entrusted to us the care and cultivation of his creation, humanity seized this as an entitlement rather than receiving it as a gift. Thus our mission of unfolding the potential latent in creation took the form of unfettered invention rather than normed co-creation.”

Redemption, then, is the story of our good Creator not leaving us to our own devices, but actively intervening through Jesus Christ.
__“Jesus of Nazareth appears as the second Adam who models for us what it looks like to carry out that original mission of image-bearing and cultivation. The Word became flesh, not to save our souls from this fallen world, but in order to restore us as lovers of this world—to (re)enable us to carry out that creative commission. Indeed, God saves us so that—once again, in a kind of divine madness—we can save the world, can (re)make the world aright. And God's redemptive love spills over in its cosmic effects, giving hope to this groaning creation.”

This is an incredible statement of the purpose of redemption. Many, many Christians in America have a different vision of redemption from this. For most American evangelicals, the Word became flesh in order to save our souls out of this fallen world. Redemption is reduced to forgiveness in this life (while we are in these sinful physical bodies) and spiritual bliss in the next life (when our immaterial selves escape this physical realm to live in “heaven”). Jamie Smith does not get into this in this particular article, but this physical/spiritual dualism does not come from the Bible, but from Plato. Against this pagan understanding, N.T. Wright writes in Surprised by Hope, “We are not saved as souls, but as wholes."

Redemption, therefore, is not about saving humanity from this creation, scrapping it and providing human immaterial souls with eternal existence someplace else. God originally created humans as his Image-bearers, and therefore God is redeeming that image-bearing capacity in us. Smith writes,
__“So our redemption is not some supplement to being human; it's what makes it possible to be really human, to take up the mission that marks us as God's image bearers. Saint Irenaeus captures this succinctly: "The glory of God is a human being fully alive." Redemption doesn't tack on some spiritual appendage, nor does it liberate us from being human in order to achieve some sort of angelhood. Rather, redemption is the restoration of our humanity, and our humanity is bound up with our mission of being God's co-creative culture-makers.”

So, why are humans redeemed? For a spiritual immaterial afterlife? Or for something so much more? Smith tells us the purpose of God's redemption:
__“While God's redemption is cosmic, not anthropocentric, it nonetheless operates according to that original creational scandal whereby humanity is commissioned as ambassador, and even co-creator, for the sake of the world. In an equally scandalous way, we are now commissioned as co-redeemers. Redemption is the re-orientation and re-direction of our culture-making capacities… While not quite a matter of ‘save the cheerleader, save the world,’ the scandalous economy of redemption does seem to suggest, ‘save humanity, save the world.’”

The rest of Smith’s article is written so beautifully that I urge you to go over and read it in full. In marvelous, almost poetic prose, he give us snippets of what redemption looks like, sounds like, smells like, and tastes like. Wow! Amen!

And praise God!

Posts in this series on WORLDVIEW REVISITED:
Wonder, Heartbreak, Hope
For more on this Reformational Worldview, see my web resource,
Friend of Kuyper


Great Googly Moogly! said...

Excellent series of articles, Bob. I just became a subscriber to Comment Magazine. My wife and I are looking forward to the reading.

Bob Robinson said...

You won't be sorry. COMMENT is perhaps the best publication for emerging Christian leaders.