Welcome to the sixth of seven articles in response to the Lausanne Theology Working Group's paper on "The Whole Church Taking the Whole Gospel to the Whole World." If you've not had a chance to read the paper, you can do so by following these links:
"The Whole Church Taking the Whole Gospel to the Whole World: Reflections of the Lausanne Theology Working Group" (condensed version)
"The Whole Church Taking the Whole Gospel to the Whole World: Reflections of the Lausanne Theology Working Group" (full version)
You can also read all seven parts of this series here.
3. Regarding the Whole World
The final section of the LTWG paper seeks to answer the question, “What is the World?” This is also capably accomplished in calling our attention to the world of physical creation, the whole human race, and the world as “an interlocking web of systems and structures that perpetuate the effects of our falleness and sin” (p. 30, full version). I have here two items to highlight. Let me take only the first today.
First, I was profoundly impacted by the section on “The World of God’s Creation.” Christian environmentalism has tended to make me very nervous. Still now, I have great concerns about the environmentalist movement that seems to be very often driven by political agendas and ideologies that do not arise out of or even appear compatible with a Biblical worldview. I think we have to be very careful in this regard. But the biblical theology on this issue that is encapsulated in the LTWG’s paper is compelling. In particular, I’d like to draw your attention to a paragraph on p. 25:
“Many Christians’ understanding of the gospel seems to start in Genesis 3 (“We’ve got a sin problem”), to end in Revelation 20 (“There is a day of judgment coming”), and then presents Jesus as a means to solve the first and escape the second . . . . But it is not the whole of the gospel, for it does not tell the whole biblical story. The Bible begins with creation (Gen. 1-2), ends with a new creation (Rev. 21-22), and presents Jesus as the one through whom God has reconciled all things in heaven and on earth to himself through the blood of his cross (Col. 1:15-23). The gospel is good news for creation, for the reason that the gospel is the good news of what God as done in Christ to undo all the effects of human sin and satanic evil and to redeem his whole creation.”
Well, that has just fundamentally moved me in my thinking on this issue. I’m not at the finish line yet, and I look forward to reading other papers on this topic in the future. But, this has me thinking quite a lot. In particular I have found that it has been good for me to consider what I anticipate redeemed creation (new heavens and new earth) to be like. That is, in the same way that mission has become for me about “presenting everyone complete in Christ” (Col. 1:28)--just as they will be in heaven, so perhaps I should be thinking of stewarding non-human creation in the same vein. This is something of an “already / not yet” way of thinking about the earth. Could there be a legitimate component of mission that is focused on moving the fullness of the earth towards God’s ideal which will only be fully realized in eternity? Hmm. . . perhaps. If so, what kind of practical goals should flow out of such a mission? Initially, the following has come to my mind:
· Certainly eternity will feature clean air, land, and water.
· The new creation must be a place that is safe and habitable.
· The new creation will be free from disease.
· The new creation will be bountiful in resources.
· The new creation will reflect the creativity of God through biodiversity.
Question #6 – How can the Church reframe the issue of environmentalism and take the lead in cause of “creation care” so as to ensure that we are working towards a truly Biblical vision of creation, the world, and reality?