Tonight was really good. Friends over for dinner, excellent conversation, and instead of a white elephant gift exchange, a book exchange. We started talking about eschatology, when Jesus returns. Does the whole earth burn up and we start over? Or does something stay? What does that mean for our care and stewardship of the earth?
We agreed we know what we WANT. We want our ecological sensibilities to be inline with our eschatology, to have it match up so nice and neatly. The bible doesn’t really say enough about any of it to be definitive, so we start moving into the realm of logic and theology and systems and extrapolation when we think on these things.
But I had a thought that I like the longer the evening goes on. I don’t remember reading it anywhere, but I’m sure somebody’s written volumes on this; if you know who has, please let me know in the comments.
Here’s the thought: In orthodox Christian belief, there are a couple of things you cannot say about the resurrection of Jesus. You can’t say that it was just resuscitation, merely a re-animation of the body that lived before. Nor can you say the resurrection body of Christ is entirely new, a spiritual body, something completely disconnected with what lived before. Orthodox Christian belief says that the resurrected body of Christ must have some of the physical substance of what lived before death, and must have something that is entirely new, a completely new creation that enabled Christ to walk through walls, among other things.
I don’t pretend to fully understand that; but, doesn’t it make sense that the way in which God brought resurrection to Christ’s body might be analagous to how the world will be “resurrected” in the end? If so, then we couldn’t say that “It’s all just going to burn in the end anyway,” because something of it will have to remain in the “new” earth. And we can’t just say heaven can come now, on earth, exactly as it is, because like in the resurrection body of Christ, the earth waits for some new breaking in of God, something entirely new that will enable us to live in the reality of no more tears, no more war, swords beaten into plowshares, of the lion laying down with the lamb.
I kind of like that line of thinking. It means care for the earth now has some meaning, some purpose, some value, because some of what we have now will remain in a new “resurrected” earth. But at the same time, the hope of our future is still in the unfathomable work of God, and we can never arrogantly believe that we will save the earth under our own power.