Thursday, February 01, 2007

Theology Growing Up

Yesterday I was startled by a five year old picture of my two daughters. "Golly," I realized, "they're really getting big."

Good theology is like healthy kids--both grow over time, although you can never tell at one particular moment.

It dawned on me that my thinking about heaven and the end of life has "grown up" a bit when I came across Tod Bolinger's It Takes A Church and quote he shares from a Bishop N.T. Wright sermon:
...Religion in the western world has been less and less about the renewal of creation and more and more about escaping from this wicked world and going to a better place, called ‘heaven’ – going there ultimately when we die...But if you turn Christian faith into simply the hope for pie in the sky when you die, and an escapist spirituality in the present, you turn your back on the theme which makes sense of the whole Bible, which bursts upon us in everything that Jesus the Messiah did and said, which is highlighted particularly by his resurrection from the dead...
The God in whom we believe is the creator of the world, and he will one day put this world to rights. That solid belief is the bedrock of all Christian faith. God is not going to abolish the universe of space, time and matter; he is going to renew it, to restore it, to fill it with new joy and purpose and delight...The last book of the Bible ends, not with the company of the saved being taken up into heaven, but with the New Jerusalem coming down from heaven to earth, resulting in God’s new creation, new heavens and new earth, in which everything that has been true, lovely, and of good report will be vindicated, enhanced, set free from all pain and sorrow. God himself, it says, will wipe away all tears from all eyes. One of the great difficulties in preaching the gospel in our days is that everyone assumes that the name of the game is, ultimately, to ‘go to heaven when you die’, as though that were the last act in the drama. The hymn we’re about to sing ends like that, because that’s how most people have thought. But that’s wrong! Heaven is important, but it’s not the end of the world; God will make new heavens and new earth, and give us new bodies to live and work and take delight in his new creation. And the ‘good news’ of the Christian gospel is that this new world, this new creation, has already begun: it began when Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead on Easter morning, having faced and beaten the double enemy, sin and death, that has corrupted and defaced God’s lovely creation.
I don't know about you, but when I've changed my mind about something, it wasn't due entirely to one person or one event. When I first heard Bishop Wright contend that earth--not heaven--is the true end God that is working toward, his statement really pricked me. And I put together some other pieces of information I've had for years:

For years I used to think that heaven was the end of the story and earth was the left over banana peel. But now I'm persuaded that God's magnificent work of redemption will not only include believers, but also the creation itself.

I can't say when this change took place, but I know my belief is different today than it was in yesteryear.

How have you notice your theology growing?

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