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All new material and a new look!


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

FALL - Making Sense of Our Brokenness and Pain (Worldview Revisited)

__"God saw all that he had made and, behold, it was very good" (Genesis 1:31).
But things are not looking so hot these days. What happened? Why is everything so bent and broken? Why, God? Why am I so bent, so broken? And others, too?"

With those words, David Naugle opens an excellent article in COMMENT in a series on Creation-Fall-Redemption. Naugle, of course, is dealing with “The Fall.”

The Fall, understood biblically, explains why things are not the way that (we feel instinctively) things should be. When bad things happen, we wonder, “Why?” And the Bible’s answer is “The Fall.”
“This is the second ‘act’ in the overall narrative of the Scriptures, the next major theme in a biblical view of life and the world. First, there is the good news of creation, but now we have the bad news of the fall. It introduces fundamental conflict into the biblical drama, which must be resolved before God's story ends. It shows, contrary to other worldviews, that evil is not rooted in creation itself, but in the moral rebellion of the human race against the divine authority of the holy God. I sometimes call this episode the ‘uncreation’ because of the damage it did to God's very good world: how it twisted his intentions for humanity, for our knowing and loving and culture-making, and for all the earth.”

The Fall “makes so much else understandable—in particular, our persistent brokenness and the world's deep pain.”

The cause of the Fall, according to Genesis 3, are
  • The human temptation to believe the serpent/Satan’s aspersions on God's character, suggesting subtly that God is stingy with his provisions.
  • The human temptation to rebel against God’s sovereignty in order to be “gods” ourselves, that is, autonomous beings, doing our own thing, living in freedom as we please.

Naugle points out that the consequences of the Fall came in the form of four separations and three curses.
“First, human beings are separated from God (3:8-9)…”
“Second, human beings are separated from or within themselves (3:10)… Fear, shame and guilt have shattered the previous sense of wholeness and well-being. The line dividing good and evil will cut through the heart of every human being, as Solzhenitsyn has noted.”
“Third, human beings are separated from each other (3:11-13)…”
“At this point in the narrative, God announces a series of curses upon the serpent, whose humiliating "dust-eating" defeat is prophesied; upon the woman, who will struggle mightily as mother and wife; and upon the man, who must sweat profusely in order to have dominion over the earth. Then we die.”

“Once these three judgments are administered, a final separation is described at the end of Genesis 3. God drives the first human pair from the Garden, and stations an angelic battalion at its east entrance to prevent them from reentering it again (3:20- 24). We traded the bounty and blessing of Eden for the chaos and confusion of a broken world. Ever since, we have sought to get our happiness back by our own "utopian" efforts, whether individualistically or collectively.”

That is “the Fall.” The next chapter is “Redemption,” which will be my next post, reflecting on Jamie Smith’s thoughts on it.

Naugle gives a hint of what is to come:
“Only God and his kingdom can fill the longings of the heart. Life without God is vain and futile.”

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

Is Jesus "a third way"?

Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola have written a new book, Jesus Manifesto: It's Time to Restore the Supremacy of Jesus Christ (Thomas Nelson). An article based on the opening chapter of the book appeared over at Emergent Village. I have really enjoyed Len Sweet's books and Frank Viola's blog (Sweet's book, Out of the Question...Into the Mystery: Getting Lost in the GodLife Relationship is still one of my favorites).

But I'm wondering something: Exactly who needs to "restore the supremacy of Jesus Christ?" Sweet and Viola state,
__"The body of Christ is at a crossroads right now. The two common alternatives are to move either to the left or the right. It’s our observation, however, that we are living in a unique time, when people are frozen as they look in either of those directions. When they look to the left, they decide that they cannot venture there. When they look to the right, they feel the same. Whether they realize it or not, people are looking for a fresh alternative—a third way.
__"The crossroads today, we believe, is one of moving forward or backward. We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is that third way—and the only way—that we can forge a secure path into the future. If the church does not reorient and become Christological at its core, any steps taken will be backwards."

Certainly, "those on the left" had lost their Christology. But had "those on the right?" This notion of focusing on the supremacy of Jesus Christ may be revolutionary for those in the emergent crowd that come from the liberal left end of American Christianity, but these words are nothing new to those on the right.

There's nothing revolutionary about this manifesto that I see. For 2000+ years, the true church of Jesus Christ has been primarily marked by the statement that Sweet and Viola say is their "Jesus Manifesto:"
"What is Christianity? It is Christ. Nothing more. Nothing less."

Certainly those "on the left" that lost this in the past 100 years need to hear it afresh. And I praise God that Sweet and Viola have their ears.

But those "on the right"?


CREATION: Worldview Revisited

Al Wolters gives us fresh insight into CREATION > FALL > REDEMPTION with his recent article in Comment.

In much of Christianity, there is affirmation of the glory of Creation. The wonder of a sunset - or a mountain range, or a blooming flower, or the depth of the stars in the sky, or the birth of a baby - all makes us go, “Wow! God is incredible!”

But the Neocalvinist tradition takes this wonder of the glory of God’s creation to the next and best level: As Wolters writes, “Creation is conceived of in a particularly comprehensive way, and even salvation is in large measure understood as the retrieval of creation as God originally intended it. Creation is foundational to everything. Moreover, creation is good in a deep and primordial sense— so deep, in fact, that the goodness of creation continues to manifest itself even in the midst of terrible perversion.”

The Creation-Fall-Redemption story as understood by Kuyperians is more nuanced that that of other Christians, including other Calvinists (for more on the differences between Neo-Calvinism and Neo-Puritanism, see this previous post).

According to Wolters,
“Unlike other understandings of orthodox Christianity, this vein of the tradition does not see redemption as something pitted against creation (as in dialectical theology), or as supplementing and fulfilling it (as in some understandings of Thomism), or as standing alongside it without intrinsic connection (as in various two-realm theories), but rather as renewing and restoring it. Thus creation, embodying God's intention from the beginning, is the very goal of salvation in Christ. The whole point of redemption is to restore life and the world to the way they were meant to be from the beginning. Salvation means re-creation; grace restores nature.”

If you haven’t read Wolter’s essential book, Creation Regained: Biblical Basics for a Reformational Worldview, stop everything right now and order this book! This is one of the best articulations of the Neo-Calvinist understanding of Creation-Fall-Redemption.

Wolter's recent article in Comment underlines that when those in the Neo-Calvinist (or “Kuyperian”) tradition speak of “Creation,” we don’t just mean the “natural world” (that is, the physical and biological world). We have a more all-encompassing view of God’s good creation
“In the biblical view, creation is everything which God has ordained to exist, what he has put in place as part of his creative workmanship… Creation includes such human realities as families and other social institutions, the presence of beauty in the world, the ability to appreciate that beauty, the phenomena of tenderness and laughter, the capacity to conceptualize and reason, the experience of joy and the sense of justice. An almost unimaginable variety of objects, institutions, relationships and phenomena are part of the rich texture of God's creation.”

Since “Creation” encompasses all things, then God’s order for these things has been in place since the beginning. In other words, the sovereign king has put into place his “creational law” for everything that is.

The next two chapters of the story, of course, are “Fall” and “Redemption” (which we'll cover in our next two blog posts). And these relate directly to this all-encompassing view of the good creation. Wolters writes,
“It is difficult—in fact, impossible—to speak of creation as a Christian in abstraction from the two other fundamental categories of the biblical story: sin and salvation. Sin means the distortion of creation, and salvation its recovery in Christ. This means that creation comes back with a vengeance (so to speak) in the redeemed Christian life. It is in the richly textured glory of created human life, in which mothers sing lullabies to their babies, and children run for the sheer joy of going fast, that God wants to be glorified by our service and witness to him, so that all the world can see what true created human life is like, despite the scars and scourge of sin and death. That applies to our moviegoing and our moviemaking, to our parties and our philosophizing, to our imagination and our determination.”

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


Wonder, Heartbreak, Hope: Worldview Revisited

Comment Magazine has published a series of articles revisiting and re-articulating the biblical worldview storyline of “Creation, Fall, Redemption.” In the next series of posts, I will highlight and discuss the insights of the authors as they attempt to reinvigorate the imaginations of Christians with the amazing story of God. The authors of the articles are three of my favorite Christian theologians: Al Wolters, David Naugle, and James K.A. Smith.

Gideon Strauss, president of the Center for Public Justice and editor of Comment for Cardus, starts us off with three new descriptive words for C-F-R. Check out the article here: 2010 Comment Manifesto: Wonder, Heartbreak and Hope. Below are some excerpts.

The Word and the Spirit of God open our eyes to the wonder of the world God made… Creation is not just nature, but encompasses the God-ordained structure of all of human life and all the things in the world…

With eyes of wonder we can see the diversity and complexity of creation accurately and correctly… We begin to discern the pattern of God's creation, and begin to learn the wisdom of caring for things as they are, neither neglecting nor exploiting their structured possibilities, but rather disclosing their meaning as creatures made and loved by God.

Our dulled tastes, our self-interested arguments, the entanglement of our identity with our consumption, our failures to cultivate expertise, our subtle slights of others and our seeking after status at the cost of justice… all of life (has) fallen away from enjoyment of the good and obscuring the wonder evoked by a good creation.

With broken hearts we confess our own complicity in the vandalizing of God's good and peaceable order. We admit to our own idolatrous love of God's creatures and their diverse qualities: power and fame, sex and wealth, nature and community not least among these. We confess that we seek to shape things into forms foreign to their created purposes, and that we through lack of imagination and enterprise allow things to lie undiscovered and unenjoyed.

As thoroughly as God's good design suffuses all that is not God, so thoroughly does human evil mar all things… The Word and the Spirit of God open our eyes to the heartbreak suffered by the world God made, and mindful of God's pain we find our own hearts broken.

We…yearn for the full recovery of the peace of God, desire the complete restoration of the reign of God, and await the fulfillment of the promises of God.

Our hearts burning with hope, we rejoice in the good news of the cross and resurrection of Christ and the promise of forgiveness and of the resurrection of our bodies and the reconciliation of all things with God. We celebrate the good things, great and small, that are foretastes of the coming kingdom.

As wide as the sorrows of humanity, as deep as the rifts between human and human, as high as the walls that prevent all God's creatures from fulfilling their intended purposes, so wide and deep and high reaches the redemptive work of God in Christ.

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


Think Orange Review Project

Frequent commenter to Vanguard Church, Henry Zonio (of the excellent on-line resource, Elemental Children's Ministry) did a blogging project on Reggie Joiner’s book Think Orange: Imagine the Impact When Church and Family Collide. Several elementary children's ministers contributed their interactions to the chapters of the book.

Thanks for organizing this Henry!

Here are the links to the contributions:

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10