I am thoroughly enjoying NT Wright’s book Surprised by Hope, where he is laying out what resurrection is and what it means for the world and the church. In this section of the book Wright suggests three ways of seeing the future where humans find hope: Evolutionary Optimism, Souls in Transit, and What the World is Waiting For. I briefly discussed the first two in yesterday’s post.
Today I want to look at this third concept, what Wright would call a New Testament image of the future of hope (New Creation/Redemption). To understand this third way, Wright suggests we need to understand three concepts:
The goodness of creation – “[Creation] is good as creation, not as an independent or self-sufficient ‘nature.’” Creation is an act of love by the Creator that is designed “to reflect God back to God in worship and to reflect God back into the rest of creation in stewardship. “ (p. 94)
The nature of evil – Wright denotes evil is rebellion by which we worship that which is created instead of the Creator. He suggests we tend to lump transience, physical death, and decay into the category of evil. These he suggests are natural processes that point to what God is doing with creation: moving the world from its present existence to what it is mean to be.
The plan of redemption – “Redemption doesn’t mean scrapping what’s there and starting again from a clean slate but rather liberating what has come to be enslaved.” (p. 96) Because creation is God’s act of love, God has a plan to redeem creation, to put it to rights as Wright is fond of saying. This plan of redemption is not just spiritual, but physical in nature as well.
Wright then goes on to masterfully discuss six beautiful images the New Testament uses to point to this third way of seeing the future, a future that the whole world has been waiting for: redemption. They are: Seedtime and Harvest (1 Corinthians 15); the Victorious Battle; Citizens of Heaven, Colonizing Earth (Philippians 3:20-21); God will be All in All (1 Corinthians 15:28); New Birth (Romans 8:18-25); Marriage of Heaven and Earth (Revelation 21-22).
To sum up this third way, New Creation/Redemption, in Wright’s own words: “What I am proposing is that the New Testament image of the future hope of the whole cosmos, grounded in the resurrection of Jesus, gives as coherent a picture as we need or could have of the future that is promised to the whole world, a future in which, under the sovereign and wise rule of the creator God, decay and death will be done away with and a new creation born, to which the present one will stand as mother to child.” (p. 107)