Monday, January 19, 2009

Summing Up The Bible: Part II

Creation to New Creation
I have before suggested that at the core of the Bible is a controlling narrative about God and his creation. What begins at the creation of heaven and earth culminates in a new creation, the new heaven and earth. These polar points are like two book ends that contextualize all that is found in between. Navigating the Bible is a matter of seeing how this story unfolds between these two book ends. 'In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth' (Genesis 1) relates ultimately to 'then I saw a new heaven and a new earth' (Revelation 21). What connects the two is the metastory of creation in trouble (evil and death) to creation rescued and renewed (redemption).

God's good intentions for creation
Genesis 1-3 prepares us for all that is to come. God creates a world in which everything is declared good, at least it was intended to be that way. The work of creation culminates in the making of mankind in God's image and likeness. As God's image-bearers (representatives), they are charged with the stewardship of God's world. Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.

The reversal of creation
When God's image-bearing representatives define their existence by going against God's commands, they introduce corruption and death into what was to be a prosperous and peaceful world. Genesis 1-11 is the tragic recounting of how evil becomes the colossal reversal of creation, taking it back to primitive chaos and confusion. With creation now in trouble and going astray, mankind experiences grief, pain, death, alienation, corruption, and violence. God was grieved at the new sight, the whole earth filled with corruption and violence. The flood and Babel stories summarize the progress of evil and God's attempts to halt it. His grief moves him to destroy all living things, but each time his mercy moves him to show grace and begin a new project to preserve and then ultimately rescue creation.

The rescue of creation begins . . .
with the call of Abram to begin a new people for God's purpose. The divine choice and formation of this community becomes grand epic of the Old Testament. The purpose of Abraham's offspring (his 'seed') is to overcome the tragic loss of the nations from the good purposes of God for his creation. In Abraham's seed, all the nations of the earth were to be blessed. What now is taking shape in an exclusive choice of a particular people (immediately excluding others) will by God's grace and design culminate in the inclusive blessings to all mankind.

The rescue of creation climaxes . . .
in the story of Jesus. The rescue of God through Israel cannot be fully understood apart from Jesus. The story of Jesus to rescue mankind cannot be fully understood apart from the call of Israel. Jesus is the central theme of the New Testament, as Israel is the central theme of the Old Testament. There stories are inter-locking, inter-dependent stages in God's purpose to rescue and renew his creation. Creation is restored as Jesus bears the evil and suffers the violence that has infected his good creation. Jesus is raised to new life to head a new creation, a new people. He is head of a new humanity. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head of over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in everyway. God's ultimate new heavens and new earth will be headed up under God's new rule where mankind will again be stewards of creation.

The biblical scholar, Arnold B. Rhodes, creatively llustrates the whole biblical narrative in this concise diagram.

--------------------------------------- Creation
--------------------------------- Adam and Eve
---------------------------- Abraham--Israel
---------------------- The Remnant
-------------The One---Jesus Christ
---------------------- The Apostles
--------------------------The Church
------------------------------- Mankind
-------------------------------------- The New Creation

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