What is salvation?
In my first post in this series I proposed the below chart as a way of answering that important question. In this post I will comment on the eighth sector (8).
|Personal||Forgiveness of Sins and Relationship with God (1)||Moral (Inner and Outer) Transformation (2)||Resurrection of the Body (3)|
|Communal||One Body of Christ: One New Society (4)||Reconciliation and Social Transformation (5)||The Fullness of the Kingdom of God (6)|
|Cosmic||Resurrection and Exaltation of Jesus (7)||Redemptive Emergence of New Creation (8)||New Heaven and New Earth (9)|
Sector 8 identifies salvation as the redemption of creation through the emergence or in-breaking of new creation into the present cosmos. This is cosmic sanctification as the groaning and frustrated creation is progressively liberated from the bondage of decay.
The church is a means toward the redemptive emergence of new creation because it is sustained by the power of the eschatological Spirit dwelling in it. The church serves the goal, which is a creation filled with shalom, that is, a creation filled with righteousness, justice, peace, wholeness and joy. This includes not only social transformation (social ethics) but also the care, enjoyment and protection of the creation itself.
Herein lies the importance of vocation (or a theology of work) in Christian theology. Through vocation believers (and non-believers as well by God’s grace) participate in the mission of God to redeem the creation and further the goals of God’s creative act. Believers are a redemptive presence in a broken world. They work for reconciliation, to care for the creation, and to develop the potential of creation.
God did not create a perfected static reality. He invested it with (indeed, commanded it to) change–be fruitful and multiply. Nothing changes the world like children! But this dynamism is not limited to procreation. Rather, it is filling the earth with the glory of God through participating in God’s agenda for the creation. It is pursuing our vocation, and the many vocations (careers) that flow from that vocational identity as divine imagers. God intended the creation to emerge, grow, develop and become with a view toward a glorious reality. This is the telos or goal of creation.
God created humanity to share the task (the mission) in achieving that goal. As junior partners with God, as co-regents in the creation, as co-creators of the future, God has invested in us the dignity, joy and value of joining God in the divine mission.
We participate in this adventure by living out our identity in vocational mission. Our careers become vocations by which we move the creation forward in redemptive, reconciling and orderly ways. Believers should not choose their careers lightly nor should they reduce their careers to money-making schemes. Rather, careers are vocational, that is, they are callings into the mission of God. Through their careers believers become ministers in the kingdom of God as they use their careers to further the divine goal for creation. Through this giftedness, expressed as love for neighbors and the creation, God redeems, renews and reinvests in the creation.
Nevertheless, creation will groan until the final liberation from death itself. While medical advancements cheat death, they do not defeat it. While justice grows, slavery still exists. While moments of reconciliation bear witness to the glory of God (as in South Africa), much of humanity is still alienated from each other. The church and other human acts graced by God bear witness to and work toward the goal. But the full reality of that goal can only be achieved by God’s apocalyptic act whereby God reverses the curse and makes everything new.
Thus, while the church is an authentic means of grace within the world and for the sake of the world as the new creation already lives and moves within the world through the church, the full renovation and regeneration of the cosmos will only arrive when the kingdom of God fully comes in the coming of our Lord Jesus. We yet wait–patientily, but actively (not passively)–for that climactic and glorious moment.