Creation and Doxology (pt. 3)

(Read Pt. 1 and Pt. 2 first!)

CREATION AND REDEMPTION: CHRIST AND NEW CREATION

            Throughout the New Testament, the main use of creation theology is to link creation with redemption, resulting in the praise of the Creator through the Creator-Redeemer, Jesus the Messiah. However, the linked concepts of creation and redemption have a rich OT history. For example, cited impetuses for keeping the Sabbath are Yahweh’s creative work (Exod 20:11) and his redemptive work (Deut 5:15), revealing a close connection between the two actions.[1] The logic behind this correlation is one of continued creation: Yahweh is personally invested in the success of his creative purposes, the functionality of his temple.[2] Sin and Death will not have the final word. The Creator will redeem by creating anew through his Son.

The New Testament unites creation and redemption in the person of Jesus the Messiah. Evidence abounds, but consider three poignant examples. In John 1:1-18, Jesus is spoken of as the agent of creation (1:3) and the redemptive agent of grace and truth (1:17).[3] In Colossians 1:15-20, Jesus is the “image of God, the firstborn over all creation (1:15),” illustrating his role as the eternal nexus between Creator and creation.[4] Furthermore, Christ is spoken of, again, as both the agent of creation (1:16) and reconciliatory redemption (1:19-20).[5] Finally, in Heb 1:1-4, the author of Hebrews takes special care to link the Son’s creative work with his redemptive work through a verbal parallel: through the Son, the universe and redemptive cleansing are both made (poievw).[6]

Doxologically, the link between creation and redemption is hard to overemphasize, for it provides the explanation, impetus, and goal of worship. By creating anew through Jesus the Messiah, the perfect Eikon[7] or Tselem (image) of God who has defeated Sin and Death, Elohim has begun to renew his holy temple, even as it yearns for full release from its bondage to decay.[8] This act of re-creation begins in the crucifixion and resurrection of the Messiah, reversing Death itself and displaying Jesus Christ as the pioneer of a new humanity, one untouched by God’s cosmic enemies. It continues in the Church, as the priest-kings are re-created in Christ and his resurrection into a new race of people able to worship their Maker by participating in the renewal of his universe, by once again extending his rule throughout the sacred realm, and by living in right relationship to him, to creation, to each other, and to themselves as they await the return of their Creator, Redeemer, and King, Jesus the Messiah.[9]

CONCLUSION

            In light of these things, to relegate the manifold and rich uses of creation theology throughout Scripture to an ongoing origins debate which is thoroughly detached from the biblical text would be a tragedy. At the risk of oversimplification, the myriad creation themes in the Scriptures all lead to one common goal: doxology, as a brief analysis of just three of those themes has shown. Creation as temple provides the parameters for worship of the Creator, setting the foundation for humanity’s relational role as the priest-kings of Elohim. Creation as chaos reorients that worship toward humility and wonder in the midst of a purposefully untamed and sometimes dangerous temple, bringing the wildly complex beauty of Yahweh’s creation to bear on the human experience. Finally, creation as redemption ties the entire story together, explaining the Creator’s refusal to allow Sin and Death to drag his temple back to the watery depths of non-functionality. He has chosen to create anew, to redeem every aspect of his holy temple, from its priest-kings to its wild beauties, through Jesus the Messiah, the eternal intersection of Creator, creation, and redemption. This process of new creation began at the crucifixion and resurrection, continues through the Church, and anticipates the eschaton, when Sin and Death will not only be defeated, but utterly vanquished. The holy temple will again be filled with perfect worship, forever.

It is because of and within this story of creation and new creation that we worship our Maker. Biblical creation theology inescapably leads to doxology.


[1] Daniel J. Ebert, IV. “The chiastic structure of the prologue to Hebrews.” Trinity Journal 13, no. 2 (09/01, 1992): 171. Ebert also cites Gen 14:19-20; Pss 95:1-7a; 135; 136; Isa 45:17-25.

[2] Consider the Noahic Covenant of Gen 8:1-9:17. Even God’s own judgment through the Flood, portrayed in terms of creation reversal, does not result in ultimate destruction of the created order. How much more, then, will the Creator work to redeem against the forces of his enemies, Sin and Death? See the section on “The continuation and renewal of creation” in L. H. Osborn, “Creation.” In New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, edited by T. Desmond Alexander and Brian S. Rosner. (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2000), 432-3.

[3] Ebert 1992, 172. Cf. the parallel uses of ejgevneto in vv. 3, 17.

[4] Osborn 2000, 433.

[5] Ebert 1992, 171-2.

[6] Ibid., 170-2. “Δι᾿ οὗ καὶ ἐποίησεν τοὺς αἰῶνας·…καθαρισμὸν τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ποιησάμενος.” This appears to be a purposeful parallel because the author could have easily used the cognate verb kaqarivzw instead of the classical use of the middle participle and adjective.

[7] With regards to “Eikon” language, I am indebted to Scot McKnight, who uses the terminology frequently in his writing. Consider his discussion of humans as Eikons and Christ as the perfect Eikon who redeems in Scot McKnight, A Community Called Atonement. Living Theology. (Nashville: Abingdon, 2007), especially pp. 15-24.

[8] Cf. Rom 8:18-23. See Richard Bauckham, “The Story of the Earth According to Paul: Romans 8:18-23.” Review & Expositor 108, no. 1 (12/01, 2011): 91-97 and also Michael W. Pahl, From Resurrection to New Creation: A First Journey in Christian Theology. (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2010), 88-92.

[9] Cf. passages such as Rom 5-8; 2 Cor 5:17; Eph 1:10. While the wording of the last two sentences in this paragraph is my own, some credit must be given to Pahl’s remarkably clear summary and explanation of resurrection, redemption, and new creation in his final chapter on Creation. See Pahl From Resurrection to New Creation, 85-92.

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