God’s love: originating, sustaining, restoring
Jonathan R. Wilson on the inseparability of creation and redemption
“To say that humans are creatures is to say that our identity, our meaning, our life depend on our relationship to the One who created us. This assertion runs counter to most of what we are taught. On the one hand, we are told that we are our own rulers. We have been set free from all external authority and power. We are dependent on no one but ourselves. . . . We make ourselves. We determine our own destiny. . . .”
“On the other hand, we may be told (if we are not creatures) that we have no identity. There is no such thing as constructing our own selves and determining our own destinies. We are merely products of the forces to which we have been subject and other forces that determine our lives today. Our genes, our families of origin, our traumas, our failures and successes, our particular biochemical make-up, market forces, ideologies, brain chemistry, and more converge on the aggregation of molecules that constitutes our lives. These forces determine who each of us is. We have been constructed by these forces. . . .
“One of the gravest errors we can make in our witness to the good news of Jesus Christ is to separate creation and redemption from each other. The place and meaning of creation are found in its redemption. The place and meaning of redemption are its reclaiming and healing of creation. This is the good news of the kingdom of God in Jesus Christ. Apart from redemption, creation has no purpose in the gospel. As we will see in detail later in this chapter, we recognize ‘creation’ as creation only in relation to God’s work of redemption. Likewise, we recognize ‘redemption’ as redemption only in its relation to God’s work of creation. When we sever the connection between creation and redemption, we lose both: we remove both creation and redemption from the gospel. In doing so, we may continue to perpetuate some version of the ‘good news of Jesus Christ’ that we live and proclaim, but it will be a pale version that often drifts into a loud proclamation of ‘good news,’ which upon close examination turns out to be bad news. . . .
“This commonplace denial of the interweaving of creation and redemption is deeply enshrined in beliefs and practices that regard this world merely as a container for God’s work of salvation, not as an actual participant in God’s work of salvation. It is as if this world were the stage set for God’s work of redemption. Once that work is done, the set is taken down and discarded because it is no longer needed. . . .
“We reduce the incarnation by regarding it only as a necessary step toward God’s act of redemption. In this reduction, the Word became flesh to bear our sins and live long enough as a human to teach and perform miracles that display and confirm his divinity before being crucified. In variations on this reductionist account of the incarnation, the Word becomes flesh as an instrumental act necessary to the work of redemption.
“But that understanding of the incarnation reduces the Word becoming flesh to a skeleton with some flesh hanging on it. In contrast to this deracinated image, we must retrieve, celebrate, and live the fulness of the incarnation as the climactic act of God’s love for God’s creation. The Word became flesh not as an instrument toward our salvation but as an embrace of the whole of creation in this one person — an embrace that redeems all creation. As it is, this ‘one person’ is the one by whom, through whom, and for whom all things were made. It is this very one who enters fully, deeply, passionately into the life of the creation. This is the action of love, love that began before the creation of the cosmos, gives life to the cosmos, holds the cosmos together, embraces and enfolds the cosmos into the life of God through Jesus Christ, and promises life eternal for the cosmos by weaving together creation and redemption in a new heavens and a new earth.”
—from Jonathan R. Wilson, God’s Good World: Reclaiming the Doctrine of Creation (BakerAcademic, 2013)
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