Today, Kieron Lynch, a recent IBI MA graduate, gave a paper at our IBI ‘research group’ on ‘The Hermeneutics of the New Creation’ specifically addressing the question of what happens to the earth in the future new creation.
Before getting into it, a question linked to what was said the other day in this post:
How does your eschatology (belief about the future Christian hope) shape your life, your conduct, your mission here and now?
This is one of the biggest questions lying behind the New Testament and huge theological ramifications flow from how it is answered.
Some answer it emphasising radical discontinuity – the earth will be destroyed and remade. Everything will be utterly new. And this can impact how we look at things like environmental concern, social action, the scope of the gospel and so on. The purpose of the gospel can be taken to mean ‘a ticket to get the hell out of here’ …
Others answer emphasising continuity – the future new heavens and new earth are this creation made perfect. And then argue out the implications of this theology for environmental concern, social action, the scope of the gospel as including the redemption of this earth and all creation. The gospel is presented more in terms of holistic mission.
Kieron examined three key texts and focused on the future of this earth:
2 Peter 3:10-14: the classic discontinuity text talking about the annihilation of this earth? But rather than interpreting it as destruction and remaking of the earth, it is better understood as a purging fire that will purify this earth.
Romans 8:18-23: the classic continuity text – this creation will be liberated. It makes no sense at all for the creation to be liberated and then destroyed!
Revelation 21:1-5: a discontinuity and continuity text. The old does pass away, the new does come. A transition from one to the other (rather than annihilation).
There are parallels to the great resurrection passage in 1 Cor 15: the continuity between the old and new body, yet discontinuity that ‘flesh and blood will not inherit the kingdom of God’.
And the big issue so often reversed in popular understandings of heaven is that the final destiny is God descending to the new earth to be with his people. The future is not some sort of ‘uncreation’ of disembodied souls floating around in the clouds.
Creation is good.
‘Man’s ultimate destiny is an earthly one’ George Eldon Ladd
So what are the implications?
Kieron followed people like Stephen Williams and Tim Chester who, while agreeing with some form of continuity rather than annihilation, caution against continuity as the main basis for social action, environmentalism and mission. In this they are pushing back against what they see as an over-continuity seen in Miroslav Volf and to a lesser degree in Chris Wright [and Rob Bell]
Rather our main basis for such action is LOVE.
Love for God. Love of others. Love for God’s creation.
Comments, as ever, welcome.