Tuesday, April 18, 2006

"All Dogs go to Heaven" OR "The Redemption of Creation"

Ok, so this may not be a huge-big deal for you, but it is for me, so deal (or I guess you could just not read it that would be ok too).

So, now that you’re still with me (like a good blog-friend or blriend if you will [frog just won’t work]). I’m sitting in theology class and we’re chatting away (translation: being lectured) about eschatology (a schmancy way of saying: study of the end things). So we get to talk about fun things like the state of the soul after death, but we’ve also discussed the holistic nature of redemption. God created all things and they were good. God created people as whole beings and they were good. Sin entered into the world and messed it all up.

In Genesis 3 we get the ‘curse’ which has been variously interpreted. A couple of things stand out to me. The curse is not on people, but on animals and the earth (reflected in Romans 8 where Paul says: “creation was subjected to frustration . . . the whole creation has been groaning”). People have to deal with their own curse on themselves—by trying to live by our own views and it just doesn’t work. Our ways lead to death and pain and suffering for us and for the people around us.

So God sends Jesus to set things straight (read the book if you need more details right now) and eventually that redemption will be complete. But here’s the thing, redemption isn’t just for our souls. Heaven won’t be a bunch of spirits floating around. God will redeem our bodies and raise us to have new bodies (1 Corinthians 15) and then at the end he will create a new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 21).

So what just hit me is that not only will I be full redeemed, but so will our screwed up environment and our animals and our plants and everything. God created with world and it was good – the stars and the moon and the sun and the oceans and the land and the birds and fish and animals and plants – it was all good. I guess it just doesn’t make any sense to believe that God created the world just to give us a place to stand while we were being redeemed. His vision is bigger than that (bigger than we will ever know).

Do you want to be a whole person? I think I’m ready to sign up. This whole mess about just saving our soul seems so shortsighted and . . . well lame. It just doesn’t work. I want my whole self to be changed by God and I want the whole world to be changed too. I’m not just concerned about people’s souls, because their bodies are a part of them. I’m not just concerned about people, because we are a part of the world. I’m not just concerned about humanity, because we are a part of creation.

I’m really going to need to do some work to make this real.

Romans 8:20-23 (NIV) “For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”


Kristi said...

Hey good post. So maybe this is naive, but if God is going to create a new heaven and a new earth is the cycle set up again? Creation, the fall, redemption, salvation. . .

Agent X said...

Amen. I am right there with ya.

Good thoughts.

I would add that Creation is designed to receive God's image in humanity. When people bear God's image, the world is right. Jesus has come and bore the image. In Him the world is made right.

Thus, Jesus died for the dolphins as well as our souls. And the notion that He died (only) for our souls is deeply reductionistic.

Keep up the good work.

James T Wood said...

Sweet, new commentor!

Kristi - good question. I wish I had an answer, but we won't know until it happens (it makes me think of the Architect from the Matrix). My guess, though is that God will "get it right" the second time (not to imply any wrong-getting the first time around) and set things up so that we go ahead and eat of the tree-of-life instead of the stupid tree-of-knowledge.

HWP: "And the notion that He died (only) for our souls is deeply reductionistic." And selfish to boot - how narcisistic would we need to be to think that. Good thoughts, thanks.

Meg said...

So do I get my 20 year old body back? Because I'd rather have that one, than my 30 year old body. ;)

The girls have been going to Sunday school, and have been coming home preaching hellfire and damnation at me. Teaching them about God's grace and love, and what becomes of us after we die (i.e., do I tell them my own personal beliefs, or what I was taught at Sunday school myself?) has become a REALLY BIG eye opener. God gave me these precious little lives and expects me to tell them everything I know about Him, and emulate Him to them. I haven't been doing a very good job at it, lately.

God has been using you to poke at me, I think. LOL

KMiV said...

I am remembering our conversations in Revelation class about the New Heaven and New Earth and whether it was the church victorious or really heaven. So--if it is the church victorious then here is a question: If the church is the redeemed people where do animals fit into our theology? How often do we talk about the environment, animal rights, and our responsibilities as Christians (also redeemed people)?

Just a thought!

Agent X said...

If i may, I'd like to poke back into this discussion with a fun little theological puzzle. It ranks up there with ... Did Adam and Eve have belly buttons?

My question is this: Will there be BBQ in heaven? I mean if I step off the spiritual elevator and smell BBQ, am I to be happy or should I go double check that the elevator did not go down?:) I mean, if there is no death in the eschaton, then how can you have BBQ? Or if you don't have BBQ, can it really be heaven? Or if you go to hell (I have read Ed Fudge so I am speaking hypothetically here) am I the main course?

BBQ in heaven.... food for thought I guess.


James T Wood said...

Or, the fruit of the tree-of-life could taste like BBQ . . .

Ron, I'm alowed to change my mind, right? I don't quite know how to appropriate animals into my theology, but it must be more than it has been. I'm not thinking of becoming a Hindu or anything, but we could all stand to have a little more respect for that which God called good.

I'm imagining God as an artist who painted and sculpted and drew with passion and love. He poured out his soul in creativity and life and movement, and it was good.

I'm imagining the artist having children and showing them how to hold a brush or a chisel, how he smiles at the smears of paint on the canvas. I imagine his hurt when a child would rather do anything else than be with him in his studio, or when the child tries to destroy a sculpture. I'm amazed that he lets his children stay in the studio in the hopes that they will all be able to appreciate his work.

Anonymous said...

James...your post took me back a few years to a conversation I had while in seminary about the mind/body problem and our reductionistic tendencies to imply that our soul is somehow disconnected from our bodies. Seems slightly arrogant and presumptious to believe that God is only interested in sucking my soul away from this crappy world and a bit more selfish to neglect the whole of creation.

Can't wait to see my dog Wiggles in heaven...whatever and however that may be.

everyday.wonder said...

Yes, but if wiggles will be there, will the mosquito I slapped on my arm?

Just kidding. Great post, thanks for digging into the deeper stuff. I remember the similar revolution in thinking once I actually read what the text said instead of what is floating around in the culture and even in the lingo of your average minister. I fell for the trap when our theology proff at Austin Grad asked, "Do Christians believe in the immortality of the soul?" I nodded in agreement, and he corrected me and told me to look at Paul again. That's when I noticed that he said "Resurrection of the body." That's a whole different prospect.

Here's a big fish to fry: because of the fall-redemption part of creation, will the end product be more wonderful than the original, shall we say, naive, creation, or will it simply be a restoration? Before you answer too quickly, consider that Jesus kept His scars after His resurrection, and don't forget the sovereignty of God in the equation. Ow, I need to go get more coffee...