Andrew Naffin, Theology, church, scripture, N.T. Wright, Karl Barth
 
Hey gang, I'm up here in Alaska fishing for the summer.  That's why things have been so quite lately.  Posts will be a little spotty throughout the rest of the summer, but I'll try to get some up.  Once fall rolls around again I'll be settling back into more of a regular pace.

Alaska is gorgeous and reminds me of how beautiful and fierce God's creation can be.  It is a wild place and seeing so much untouched territory is staggering.  Once upon a time I felt like creation was most beautiful when left entirely untouched.  I thought that the best thing for creation was for humans to just leave it alone.  So much of what is touched by humanity withers and becomes ugly.  The landscape is trashed and the environment destroyed.  I thought the best thing for creation was for humans to leave it alone.  But as time has gone on, and through the challenge of an old friend (Danny Burbeck), I have come to the conclusion that I was wrong on this.  Certainly it is possible for humanity to malign and misuse the creation in which we live, but this is possible with everything that we encounter in God's creation.   Humans were called to cultivate and protect the creation.  God placed Adam and Eve in a garden to care for it.  Their God-given mandate continues beyond the garden to the creation itself.  As a result of the fall mankind toils with this task, but the mandate to care for the earth, to protect it, to cultivate it and to develop it still remains.  Humanity is to have dominion over the earth, that is, to be its rulers.  This is completely different than having domination over the earth, something that has been consistently misunderstood and abused for years.  This misunderstanding has been amplified with the onset of the industrial revolution in which the impulse to selfishly use creation was given the technological power to destroy it.  The earth is not for humanity to do with whatever it pleases.  The creation does not belong to us, but rather to God.  As humans, we are to be guardians and our charge is to care for the earth in which God has placed us.  The earth is to be cultivated and cared for as a garden is cultivated and cared for.  It is meant for sustainable use and beautiful development.  This requires ingenuity and creativity as well.  We are meant to progressively cultivate through means, both technological and aesthetic, the earth so that it becomes a place of continuing beauty and productivity.  This is central to the original and continuing vocation of humanity. 

Part of the mandate for Christians is to redeem the brokenness that has come upon the world as part of the curse. Everywhere Christians are to be partaking of the healing of the world.  We are most familiar with the healing of the spiritual brokenness within people that has come as a result of the curse and this is of central importance when it comes to the work of Christ.  This is at the center of Christ’s redemptive work because it is the heart of people being turned inward that causes the brokenness and abuse in this world.  But the work of the Messiah not only is concerned to change the hearts of people, but to also heal the creation which itself has been broken as a result of broken people living in it.  A significant part of the work of the redeemed community is to be about the task of cultivating and protecting the earth once again.  Romans 8:20-21 talk of how the creation itself has been subjected to frustration as a result of the fall and now through the work of Christ it is being “liberated from its bondage to decay”.  Now that the fall is being overturned, decisively through the death and resurrection of Christ, the covenant people are called alongside to be co-workers with Christ; that is to be about his work in this world towards all of creation.  At the end of the Bible a picture is painted with words to describe the full redemption of humanity and the creation.  There, a city is described in which the redeemed live and where God dwells with his people.  This city is richly cultivated with rivers and trees, but also streets and gates.  The final and ideal picture of creation is not creation left “better off alone”, but it is creation cultivated, protected and nurtured.  It is a place where creativity, productivity, ingenuity and beauty come together in meaningful work that serves the community.   It is here at the end of the book of revelation that the city meets the garden and in which the vocation of humanity and the use of creation finds its full realization. 

Abby F.
8/16/2012

Thoughtful post, Andrew. I recently studied Romans 8 and appreciate how you tied in our call in Genesis to have dominion over creation...

Good food for thought!

~ Abby

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Andrew Naffin, Theology, Church, Scripture, N.T. Wright, Karl Barth