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Introduction

A great photo or painting makes you think, makes you come back to it, over and over. A great comment makes me think and then think again. As soon as I published on Stephanie F.’s comment I began thinking about it again. Almost immediately, I realized I had not given it its due. I am going to try again.

First, I will republish her comment in its entirety:

While I have so far been unable to read everything on RHE’s blog, I also greatly appreciated the insights from all angles. I agree that men and women are, in general different, have different tendencies, which are displayed to various degrees in each individual. In many ways, as created by God, we reflect various complementary characteristics of God, which when working together as equals, can help restore this world from its fallen state.

After reading America’s Women: 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates and Heroines, I agree with your take that women have had to compromise who they are to be more like men in order to restore the equality that Jesus himself taught us. So, my thoughts then go to, if Jesus was here to right this world and as part of that show us how to restore our world to the pre-fallen state, this including restoring the place of humans to be equal instead of in any kind of power dominance (men over women or women over men), what happened? What does this imply? Was there a less dramatic “2nd fall”? Need more time to think this over.

Any insight for a busy mom?

First, let me thank Stephanie for her corroboration from another source, of my insights about the uniqueness and (actually) complementary characteristics of males and females. I have made this point in several posts that men simply cannot do anything well if they lack the full weight of women’s views and voices to mutually complement theirs. We, when men and women work “together as equals, can help restore this world to the pre-fallen state…”

And while I think the story of God and the story of the redemption of creation actually mean we cannot return to the “pre-fallen state,” I think Stephanie means what I would mean by that term: to a state of perfection, even if perfection must mean “the city of God,” rather than “the garden of Delight.”

That said, how did we lose so much ground on matters of mutuality? When Stephanie writes, “Was there a less dramatic ʻ2nd fallʼ?” she asks a serious question which my two answers in an earlier post do not address. Was there a kind of slow-motion, second fall within the early days of the new creation which was in some respects similar in effect to the great and radical fall which followed at some point after the original creation? I think there was. Her question also has huge implications for many other aspects of early Christian experience which were also lost to subsequent centuries.

1) Calling; ; 2) Guidance; 3) Healing; 4) Homileo;
5) Mutuality; 6) Pacifism; 7) Submission; 8) Simplicity

Above is a short list of lost Christian disciplines and practices which have been rediscovered and reconsidered by various faith communities around the world. They were all marks of the early communities as far as I know.

In order to get at this virtual second fall, I am going to ask and answer some brief questions about each of these “losses:”

  1. What was or is it?
  2. What happened to it?
  3. Should it be reclaimed?

In my opinion, the most critical loss which the Christian faith has suffered in the past two thousand years is of its “Creation Theology.” I believe the slow fall of early Christianity from the goal and message of God begins with the loss of this central understanding. I cannot imagine that all the rest would have been even been lost to us had early Christians retained this heart of God’s great purposes: the redemption of creation.

Creation Theology (Redemption of Creation)

1. What is/was Creation Theology? With this title I am borrowing a term which N.T. Wright uses in New Testament and the People of God to try to get at what it was that God was doing through Israel and thus I am seeking to lay bare what salvation is all about.

You could ask my question in this way:

What was/is God busy saving, according to the Old Testament?

The answer is simple: all of creation. When human beings rebelled against God, they lost much of their glory, their ability to manage and develop the earth. Therefore, all creation must be said to have fallen along with humankind. The purpose, therefore, of raising up a people from Abraham was to bless all the nations of the earth so that they could all be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and transform it into a place of delight.

And so ever since the fall God has not just been redeeming people; he has been rescuing people to rescue all creation from its fallen condition. The entire New Testament also assumes this goal, that God is busy making all things new, beginning with people but not just people. I maintain this was the message of Jesus and of the entire New Testament. (I could argue this point at length and in detail with biblical passages and narratives too numerous to mention but I will not do so in this series unless someone really has a question about this point. If someone wants me to do so, I will stop long enough to make this case again.[1]

2. What happened to Creation Theology? In the early years of the Christian community there were many attacks on this view and many temptations to compromise on this ultimate goal in the plan of God.

The dominant Greek worldviews of the culture nearly all assumed that whatever was made of stuff was inferior to anything which was mental, conceptual or motivational. “Spirit” was not only better than “flesh,” it was viewed by most Greeks as the only thing which was permanent, which could survive. Stuff, after all, given time, fell apart. Ideas were seen as eternal in that they could be passed down from one generation to another intact.

So the Greeks did not care for doctrines like the resurrection of the flesh because they viewed anything created as corruptible; “incorruptible flesh” was an oxymoron and an impossibility for them.

In what could be described, then, as a slow-motion fall, over several generations Christian ideas and teachings proved themselves to be every bit as corruptible as flesh. Slowly, Christianity substituted the Greek spirit/flesh dualism for the Judeo-Christian “creation theology” in which flesh and spirit were both good creatures of God which both needed to be redeemed.

Eventually, many if not most Christian teachers and leaders came to view the restoration of creation as an idea which was foreign to their faith. In their new thinking, the earth, confused with the biblical use of the term, “the world,” became something to be shunned: “Love not the world nor the things of the world…”

Leaders began to teach what amounted to the Greek idea of the immortal soul: “resurrection of the flesh” came to be a way of saying that Christian souls went to heaven to be with Jesus forever – no-matter what the writers of the Jewish and Christian scriptures had taught about standing on the earth in our new flesh.

It does not seem that there was a direct rebellion against God and God’s purposes among the early leaders in the generations immediately after the apostles; at least, there is no evidence of such a rebellion in early Christian writing. Yet, over time, the very ideas of “Jesus” and “God the Father” and “salvation” were redefined along Greek dualist lines.

Christianity continued to be a rigorous faith in the following generations but its goal had changed. It became individuals preparing to go to heaven rather than each one being a part of a community which prays for and brings heaven down to the earth. “Holy living” became a matter of individual goodness rather than a community “bringing to nothing the things which are” (I Corinthians 1:28). The words and messages which spoke of the God-given task of restoring creation by the power of God’s Spirit under the authority of their lord, King Jesus, were thus drained of their significance.[2]

3. Should Creation Theology be reclaimed? There has probably been no greater impediment to the coming of the kingdom of God on the earth (Matthew 6:10; Luke 11:2) than the failure of Christianity to recognize this central goal of God’s long story. For centuries many have thought nothing of life on the earth and assumed that our only Christian task today is saving souls for heaven. This attitude may have delayed the plan of God to redeem creation for a thousand years or more. Who knows for certain. What we do know is that the restoration of heavenly life on earth, the goal of the Lord’s Prayer, has not been the primary goal of the larger Christian community for most of its history.

Yet, the central goal of the story of God is the redemption of creation. Unless Christians rediscover this vision and fill our own imaginations with the “What-it-will-be-like?” of lives which seek to mirror this “Not Yet” reality, Christianity will remain “a religion.” And much worse, we will continue to be a religion within which most believers live largely irrelevant lives merely in order to die. For how many saints has the cry, “Use me, oh, Lord!” turned out to be nothing more than a wish to some day become fertilizer? 

At last, he is giving his all!

Any comments? 

In the next few days, I will take on one or two of the following topics per post. I will cover:

1. Calling (vocation)

2. Guidance

3. Healing

4. Homileo

5. Mutuality

6. Pacifism

7. Submission

8. Simplicity

I am just scratching the surface. Any suggestions for other lost Christian views and/or practices which we should discuss in this new series?

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Endnotes

1 Back to Post Virtually any post on this blog site which carries the tag line, redemption of creation is going to carry this argument forward. I publish on this site in order to carry forward the implications of the redemption of creation into 21st century life.

2 Back to Post What does the Lord’s Prayer mean if it does not mean that we are to pray heaven down to earth? And is there anything we are to pray for but not work for? What does Paul mean in Romans 8 when he declares the creation itself is our inheritance? This is a problem passage for people. How have we been taught to read Revelation 21-22? Backwards. The passage describes the heavenly city coming down to the earth but we have been taught that it means we are going to live forever in heaven. “Salvation” means saved for heaven. “Holy” means prepared for heaven, not set apart to live and work for justice/righteousness on the earth. Etc., etc., etc.

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