20 February 2015

The New World and the Old

nt-wrightOver the past few months, from time to time, I’ve been using the phrase ‘Living Between Two Worlds’ to highlight and to teach the distinctively Reformed view that the world in which we live is God’s world, is good and is the subject of God’s renewal in new creation. We live in a fallen world, yes, but it is God’s good world that is fallen. New creation has begun in the Church through Jesus the Messiah. This new creation brings redemption, and we await the complete renewal and redemption of all creation. This view is not just doctrine; when grasped, it transforms our lives and mission as God’s people.

I’m mining Paul and the Faithfulness of God, N.T. Wright’s magnum opus on Paul for gems for my thesis at the moment. Here’s a couple of quotes on The New World and the Old that I needed to share…

It is this robust version of the Jewish monotheistic doctrine of creation that underlies Paul's equally robust affirmation that the present world of space, time and matter is itself good. That is why marital union is good in itself (1 Corinthians 7), why all meat is good in itself, even if offered to an idol (1 Corinthians 8, 10), why all time, all days, are basically the same in the sight of the one God (Romans 14.5). Here we see the creational element of Paul's inaugurated eschatology. One might have imagined that, if the new creation had already been launched, everything about the old one would become not only irrelevant but somehow shabby, tarnished, shown up as in some sense actually evil, so that Paul would be advocating escape. Not at all. For Paul the old creation has, of course, been relativized. It no longer assumes cultural, or even cultic, significance. But it remains good, and can be enjoyed if received with thanksgiving. The new world, already launched with Jesus' resurrection, reaffirms the essential goodness of the old one even as it relativizes its ultimate significance. As with the biblical texts on which he drew, Paul understood the entire created order not as a static entity to be observed but as part of a narrative, a narrative which had now, he believed, entered its long-awaited new phase.  PatFoG, 1368.

And again, Wright emphasises the two poles of Paul’s eschatology of creation: continuity (God’s covenant commitment is to this creation) and discontinuity (this creation will be renewed, and set free from everything that spoils it)…

For Paul, the renewal of the existing creation was just as important as the renewal of the existing creation. Without the second, one would be trapped in a world of inevitable entropy. Without the first, the idea of new creation would collapse into some kind of gnosticism. PatFoG, 1372.