The doctrine of creation is crucial for the Christian story in three ways: in the initial creation (God made everything that exists and it was very good), in the liberation of creation (Jesus came to redeem and save the world – that is all of creation that was utterly wrecked by the Fall of Man), and in the restoration/correction of creation at Christ’s return (God is making all things new! – Revelation 21:5). Creation is a key component in the Christian story in the beginning, middle, and end.
I think this doctrine is neglected the most within the Church in our teachings concerning the final act of Christ’s full restoration of creation in which all things will be made new. Having this doctrine intact radically changes the “salvation package.” Often times because of the neglect of this doctrine in this key part of the Christian story of salvation, the presentation of the Christian message is relegated to the two-fold imputation of justification – the teaching so excellently explained in Bill Bright’s Four Spiritual Laws:
1.) God loves you and created you to know Him personally; 2.) Man is sinful and separated from God, so we cannot know Him personally or experience His love; 3.) Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for man’s sin. Through Him alone we can know God personally and experience God’s love; and 4.) We must individually receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord; then we can know God personally and experience His love.
As a Lutheran, I recognize that the individual reception of Christ is done through the work of the Holy Spirit (1 John 1:12-13), but other than that distinction, these “Four Spiritual Laws” pretty well summarize the way I have presented the Gospel to people – and as many other Lutherans I know have done as well – except that we, as well as many other Protestants, would add some little tidbit about when we die we’ll be with the Lord forever! End of story. Yet the resurrection of the dead and the restoration of all creation at Christ’s return is the true end (or do I say beginning?) of the complete and final hope Christ has in-store for us!
The neglect of not having a fully developed endgame of Christ’s return in view is damaging in three ways: it makes us think death is a good thing for the Christian, it leads Christians to function as Gnostics, and it diminishes the hope we have in Christ.
First, it makes us think of death as our friend. Even my four-year old daughter has picked up on this false-narrative. She recently heard that someone’s grandmother died, and she immediately said, “Well death is good, because then we get to see Jesus.” It’s true that we get to be with Christ when we die in faith, but that death is not good! I’ve even emphasized the resurrection of the dead at Christ’s return with my young daughter, but she’s still picked up on this placating view of death. Our spirit would be with Christ at death, but that’s not who we really are – we are body and spirit – and even at that moment of being with Christ though disembodied – much more is still wrong in the world that is not yet restored to its sinless glory.
Two – focusing almost exclusively on the salvation of the spirit, and not the full humanity of spirit and body, has in some ways led Christians to function as Gnostics – valuing the spiritual over and above the physical. Obesity runs supreme in the Church (at least in some states or regions) and no one bats an eye about it – while we keep offering donuts as the “snack” at Church. Online churches are now a thing – along with a special designated pastor who is called the Online Pastor. We likely don’t think so much about the care of God’s creation either – one example – the number of chickens slammed into a shed with artificial light stacked on top of each other in in cages crapping on the ones below, getting vaccinated relentlessly against the new diseases that emerge from their environment, and if the chickens get to walk out on a concrete patio for some sparse minutes each day, they can be labeled as “free-range.” Probably not the best stewardship of chickens and our source of eggs – in fact I know it is not, but I don’t really care, because I can get my eggs cheap!
Third, and finally, maybe most devastating is that we have lost sight of the greatness of the hope that we have in Christ, a full and total restoration of creation, a making of all things new again. The good gifts of God in this life should be expected to be present in the world to come. The things we love to do in this life that are good, we should expect to partake of them in some way in the life to come (most of them at least). We’re going to be stewards of God’s re-creation – the new creation at Christ’s return that will be without sin, without curse, and with God visible and in direct relationship with us while we tend to what he has made. What Jesus has in store for us at his return is so much more to live for than that cheap image of floating on a cloud with a harp or singing praise songs forever and a day in an eternal worships service that is so often pitched to us due to the woeful neglect of the doctrine of creation in our Christian story.
Be sure to visit Contradict Movement.