Monday, January 19, 2004

I've recently become friends with an Emergent coordinator from England who is working on his Doctor of Ministry: Leadership in the Emerging Culture. This essay writen by Jason Clark's focuses on our need to recover the doctrine of creation in relation to redemption, Being Human: The Nature of Spiritual Experience

after reading it, hear are some of my thoughts (which I also sent to Jason). If you have any thought to add please do, even if you just have to catch the drift from my comments, although jason does a good job historically, worth reading.)

the turn back toward creation is great, absolutely necessary. Reading Webber’s ancient-future faith set me on the track of creation-incarnation-recreation rather than creation-fall-redemption. It has been shaping my thinking ever since. Also, your outlining of the debilitating effects of a narrowly defined “substitutionary atonement” are also right on the mark. I have been struggling with that similar gospel of “sin management” ever since high school. The eschatological aspects of creation and redemption are also very helpful. The focus on creation and redemption make much more sense of OT prophecies than Dispensationalism ever did to me.

I have two comments, not really critiques, just suggestions for further exploration…
1) Your link between creation and spiritual formation is definitely worth discussion/recovering, but it seems that this question is really one of justification and sanctification. If we are forensically, legally justified before God (through Christ’s substitutionary atonement which you alluded to) then why do we talk about sanctification? So while a recovery of creation (a doctrine of creation) certainly goes a long way to rectify this situation, we must focus on God’s plan work this redemption through a particular community, His covenant people. We only have a dichotomy b/w justification and sanctification b/c of the Reformation misunderstanding of Paul and the Judaism’s relationship to the Law. As N.T Wright says in What Saint Paul Really Said, “The purpose of the covenant was never simply that the Creator wanted to have Israel as a special people, irrespective of the rest of the world. The covenant was there to deal with the sin, and bring about the salvation, of the world.” And most of what Paul was talking about in his doctrine of “justification by faith” concerned not how people get saved (soteriology), but do we know people are part of the covenant community (ecclesiology). Anyway…I agree with you that most Churches aren’t read to work through these issues. I’m teaching a pre-baptismal class in our small church plant and I’m trying to work through all these creation/salvation/redemption/conversion issues as we go.

2) the turn back toward creation is also a turn back toward the Creator, implying the question, Who is the Creator? Which then bring us to what man is, or “Being Human” as you but it. As many might do, we could start from ontology, discussing God impersonally as the ground of being. We could start from ethics, discussing God impersonally as the standard of the Good, or we could start from the perspective of Uncause Cause, etc,etc. But this doesn’t begin where Scripture begins, with as a personal God. In relation to theology, if YHWH is personal, and the theologian is a person, then theology is a conversation, a dialogue, a disagreement, or even a misunderstanding between persons, toward which practice is it ultimate goal and expression, elevating prayer and worship as ground of theology/izing. And as you said, being human then is a question of being like Christ who is human to perfection, rather than just being divine. But more could be said about all that…

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