More time, please

Beliefs evolve, I guess they adapt and I am sure mine are no different. In this post I am jumping to the end. Yes to the big one the ‘eschaton’, but I want to do it in a way that pulls back into the here and now, into our context.

I believe in the ultimate transformation of what we term creation. Will it look the same – solar system, sun, earth, moon and all that makes up what we might term creation? I guess there will be similarities and dissimilarities, as the body of Jesus is the pattern. Recognisable (visible wounds, eats, talks) and not simply with dissimilarities such as appearing and disappearing but as I hold he(?) is no longer male some big dissimilarities (OK dropped that in so that you hope the rest of the post will be worth reading). A material creation – ‘resurrection’ (as symbol and reality) and such words as ‘regeneration’ can hardly suggest something different. Some of the final words in Revelation of seeing a ‘new heaven and a new earth’ with God making ‘all things new’ – not making all new things – are strong words indeed. Strong words that can almost mock us when we read that every day in the past 12 months has seen the ocean temperature at the highest on record. Can creation survive? Time is not on our side to give a positive answer to that one.

There are (for me) two options. Either Jesus returns and bales us out, the ultimate rescue mission for this creation… or… And I hope for the ‘or’ possibility.

I hope for the ‘or’ option cos I consider that the work of Christ is finished as far as redemption is concerned, and redemption involves the whole of creation; I hope for the ‘or’ because I consider Jesus is worthy of more than being called on to rescue us; I hope for the ‘or’ because creation is looking to the ‘sons and daughters of God’ for its liberation.

The work of Christ is finished… the work of the ekklesia is not finished. My belief in the ‘end’ means I have to examine other beliefs too. Yes from the obvious of ‘do we go to heaven when we die?’ to ‘is the centre about a narrow view of salvation or is it about cosmic transformation?’ The latter gets my vote. If so it calls for a major shift in how we understand the ekklesia, discussions on deconstruction move into a whole different arena. To be clear ‘church’ takes many forms, not simply as we have it with diverse manifestations and denominations, but it serves in many ways – not surprisingly as the heart of it consists of those who have found personal reconciliation to the God of all creation. Training, healing, restorative, catalysing koinonia… but also as the channel through which the transformation of all things touches our world – yes the door through which the qualities of the new age enter this age. For that to take place there has to be a deconstruction of our theology and an impact on our practices.

The so-called ‘new church movement’ is what shaped my thinking, a restorationist movement that was shaped by a belief that there needed to be a partnership with God so that the church could be restored and as a result the ‘world’ would be impacted (‘want to join’ is probably what it really meant). I am sure there is some of that that still influences me, but I have made a shift from ‘restoring the church’ to a restoration of the world as the desire of heaven, and I am agnostic as to what we will see happen, but remain adamant that we are here to pray, and act in ways that the focus of a new world might become visible among us. That has to include the big ones of a new economy that does not reward those who comply (‘buy and sell’) but who are working in a way that humanises one and all; it includes that of creation care; it includes the smallest act that faintly mirrors the age when there will be no more tears.

Maybe Jesus returns and there is a millennial age when a model of true governance takes place (I really don’t go there, but accept that there is a historic pre-millennial view that has been around for centuries, nothing like the pre-millennial view of the ‘left behind’ hijackers of the term)… Maybe a lot of things… but my hope, which might be my belief, is that we are given a whole lot of more time to get out of our narrow mindedness and into the big mindedness of God and give our best shot (and a very small one that will be) at contributing toward the restoration of all things, with at the heart of it showing at some small way tiny elements of the coming age.

Practically, for scripture is very practical, if we have any sense of the time we live in, we have something around 15(with a very small ‘+’) years… could we see something happen that means we will not need to be baled out? I hope so, hence I know that we have entered through the door of the great unravelling.

[I am continuing – too slowly for my liking to write on eschatology… the next pdf I will get out will be on the direction of movement – hence a quick rebuttal of ‘the rapture’, a brief look at the history of Dispensationalism, and the final part will be on the consistent end of renewal being when the ‘trees clap their hands.]

7 thoughts on “More time, please

  1. Thanks so much for this Martin, what you are digging into here is so needed at this time especially among those who claim to follow Christ. Big picture in view yet traction for my feet today .

  2. Great reflection Martin. The focus on restoration and regeneration is of course, where I landed. Creation will not disappear or be destroyed by us. The earth and its many different manifestations of climate will continue with or without us. A rise of 2 or 3 degrees will destroy many species. It will create a different looking set of ecosystems. It may make us go extinct and if not then will certainly cause the deaths of many millions, if not billions of humans.

    What we face right now is not the death of creation but rather an adjustment of it to a new climate regime, one we have created with the burning of fossil fuels. Ecosystems are defined by two parameters – moisture and temperature. And you can see that global heating challenges both parameters in every ecosystem on earth, land and marine.

    It means massive die offs and much death as species that evolved for one ecosystem now find themselves living in a new one, one with different parameters that they did not evolve to live in. Either they move, if they can and fast enough, or they die. In some cases, they will evolve. We have already seen that happen.

    Our civilization, based on irrigated agriculture evolved in a particular climate regime though it has been adapted across many ecosystems. Can our civilization, its structures and systems, evolve to adapt to our new ecosystems? Many people will move hence mass migration. Many people will be unable to move and will suffer under a new set of parameters or die. This stresses our systems politically, economically, and socially. Will they hold? Should they?

    Civilization, as we have seen it practiced most in the past 10,000 years, often favors a ruling elite based on sex, wealth, and/or dominance of religion and ritual. Is the church (and yes there are a lot of different varieties of ‘church’) leading back to that, a retrenchment, despite the stresses of changed ecosystems, or away from it? The scope of change we face is immense, beyond our imaginations. I try constantly to get my students to make an imaginative leap when we look at adapting cities. And most cannot. But I think we can sense glimmers of where the church can go and should be leading if it too will survive the change in climate.

    We live on a new planet. One that none of us have ever lived on before. We choose how to live on it. We have all the technology we need to give all of us lives of reasonable quality. We choose how that goes. Are all included in that or only some? Do we recreate the negative aspects of our civilization on the last planet or leave them behind? What kind of world do we want? What kind of world does a resurrected Jesus point us to? The planet/creation will remain. Civilization as we know it, will not. And I’m not so sure about us as a species. What will we knit up out of the great unraveling?

    1. PS: We need to think about what a ‘great unraveling’ actually looks like. It is not a nice or simple reorientation of an institution. When civilization unravels then we have economic, political, and social disasters in addition to the now constant climate crises. People get traumatized, their livelihoods are destroyed, wars break out, famines occur, people die, economies crash, politics become polarized and destabilized reflecting the extremes of the climate. The real question for an unraveled church is what to do to mitigate some of this. Can the church lead in modeling kindness, altruism, caring, giving sacrificially to bring healing at all levels into this kind of scenario? Or does the church make it worse? That is the question we all face right now. Where will we invest our time and treasure? To shore up a notion of stability (return to some “better time”, which technically is impossible to achieve) that may cause great harm to the environment and others. Or to start the adventure of uncharted territory while also living a Christ-like life? Our choice.

  3. Thank Martin and Anne as well, always provoking, helps me to ‘see’.
    My evolving belief suggests a reciprocity in salvation, which means loving the earth and at the same time saves/loves humanity helping us to evolve/ become. We are connected. Personal, future and heavenly only 0salvation along with keeping clear of suggesting earning salvation militate against that kind of relational, connected salvation. It isn’t earning salvation (how is that even possible) but maybe it is revealing the reality of what it means as an embodied reality. Union with God, each other and the planet. Here and now and then and there as well -present and future hope. I think there is a necessary grief (I’ve heard it expressed quite a bit lately) that needs attending to that we might remember what it means to love.

  4. Just came across this quote from Ivan Illich. Really, at this moment, in light of the transformation upon us, we need to articulate a new story. One that allows us to move forward caring for others and the earth. The article with this quote is on CNN and is about the need for a new story/narrative in the USA at this moment.

    “The Austrian philosopher Ivan Illich was once asked about the most revolutionary way to change a society. He said:

    “Neither revolution nor reformation can ultimately change a society, rather you must tell a new powerful tale, one so persuasive that it sweeps away the old myths and becomes the preferred story, one so inclusive that it gathers all the bits of our past and our present into a coherent whole, one that even shines some light into our future so that we can take the next step…”

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