Tuesday, 17 November 2009

transforming culture

Some evangelicals believe that the task of the church is to transform culture. They believe the church is called to 'redeem culture'. Nature, they say, is restored by grace.

There are a number of mistakes in this analysis it seems to me. I want to focus only on one. I think the idea that nature is restored by grace is flawed. It implies that what the gospel ultimately achieves is merely a return to Eden. This is far too limited a perspective. The gospel is about 'new creation'. New creation is not simply the old restored it is the birth of a new plane of being and existence.

Nowhere is this distinction more clearly and succintly made than in 1 Cor 15

1Co 15:45 Thus it is written, "The first man Adam became a living being"; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.

The First Creation is energized by the 'soulish', the earthy the Second is energized by the 'spiritual', the heavenly. Adam, even in pre-fallen condition, was not the ultimate; the ultimate is Christ in resurrection, the Lord from Heaven.

Eschatology precedes everything. God's first plan was always the Second Man, the Last Adam. God's goal for humanity is not the reinstated image of the earthly Adam but the 'image of the man from heaven' His is the spiritually energized life that truly images God in righteousness and holiness.

This world in its unfallen state was transient, and in its fallen state is condemned. It is passing away. God's vision from before the beginning was a new creation and that vision gives to his people. They live here as pilgrims looking for a city built without hands whose builder and maker is God. They pant as aliens for a better country, that is an heavenly one. They look by faith to 'a new heavens and new earth' that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading. That is their vision, their goal, and their home.

Of course, this does not mean they selfishly neglect the world in which they live. Rather the opposite. They seek the welfare of the city in which they live as aliens. They seek to show compassion to its citizens. They help them where possible and more, strive to introduce its citizens to the world to come that will never pass away. But they are under no illusions. They know this world and the fashion of it is destined for destruction. Their primary and most urgent task is to call others to flee from the City of Destruction, Babylon the Great, and begin a pilgrimage to the Celestial City, the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, that comes, not by redeeming culture, but 'comes down out of heaven from God'.

God's plan is not that grace may restore nature but that grace will birth from the death of the old a new creation unspeakably more glorious and vibrant where the former things are no more. Grace does not restore nature, or transform nature, it transcends and eclipses nature in its vision of the future. A vision summed up by John in Revelation when he says,

'Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away... the former things have passed away. And he who was seated on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new." Also he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true."'

No comments: