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Friday, February 24, 2006

kaine ktisis ("new creation")

i've been reading geerhardus vos's the pauline eschatology for a class. for those who don't know of vos, he was a theologian at the turn of the 1900's at princeton theological seminary. he basically wrote the book on eschatology and biblical theology (in fact, his book biblical theology is a great book) and how both of those topics relate to systematic theology and classical reformed theology.

what i want to comment on, however, stems back to christian's post on "cruciform community." brian had asked me to comment on paul's use of the "new creation" language in 2 corinthians 5. my basic point is that we are new creatures in christ because of the fact that christ has ushered in a new world order which we are transferred into when we participate in his resurrection by faith.
1 cor 5.17, Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
the normal interpretation of this passage is merely a transformation of the individual who is "in christ." paul certainly has this in view, but that is not all that is in view. Vos states on page 47,
There has been created a totally new environment, or, more accurately speaking, a totally new world, in which the person spoken of is an inhabitant and participator. It is not in the first place the interiority of the subject that has undergone the change, although that, of course, is not to be excluded. The whole surrounding world has assumed a new aspect and complexion."
this is especially apparent when we see how paul uses the word translated "creation" (ktisis) elsewhere, such as romans 8.19-20 or colossians 1.15 where paul has the whole creation in view and not just individual people.

what vos is really trying to get it is the climactic change that has been wrought by the resurrection of christ. this event changed the world. people who are united to christ by faith certainly undergo a change, but the change they undergo allows them to see the world as it really is. they then continue to change as the holy spirit continues to illumine to them the truth about the resurrection. for me, this is why we can expect whole communities to change as the gospel penetrates every facet of society.

i can't think of a better illustration for this than the movie, the matrix. when neo takes the blue pill he is immediately transformed out of the world of bondage-where he is finally able to see the false reality of the matrix-and has his eyes opened to the reality of the world as it really is.

i could illustrate this with other scriptures from the new testament (see 2 peter 3.5-7 where peter speaks in terms of two world orders with reference to the time leading up to the flood and the time after and correlates that to the before and after of the cross. or look at 1 cor 15.42ff where adam and christ are compared as the representative heads of two distinct epochs-one physical and one spiritual.) but i don't have the time to expound on them.

basically what vos is trying to get at is that a major change in the world happened at the resurrection. it is not a complete change, as there is a future element, as we all know (already/not yet). what we need to realize is that the christian is living right in the middle of this transition, yet the future aspects of christ's kingdom are present now in the holy spirit, acting almost like a tractor beam, pulling us into the future.

paul puts it frankly, we are new creations. the blinders are off. we can see the world as it really is. so wake up and start living like a new creation. there's so much more i could say on this, but i have to end this. i'd love to see some discussion on this idea. one last point to make is that this in no way diminishes my view of sin. in fact, part of seeing the world as it really is, means i see myself and others truly as well and we still struggle. life is still hard and there is a still future aspect to be expected and anticipated.


At 9:03 AM, February 24, 2006, Blogger Brian said...

Thank you Ryan! Great post! What Vos has to say is so important for our faith today as we hopefully try to tear down some of our gnostic idols. How much greater is a Gospel that that brings redemption not only to the soul of man but to all of Creation as well!

Sam Koenen used a great picture the other day to describe kind of how we begin to already see the effects of Christ's death and resurrection in the world now. Because Christ has already conquered death and ultimately ushered in this "new era", there is a complete redemption that is just waiting to come in full force; and at times it begins to already poke through in different areas of our lives.

To add to a possible discussion, I want to ask that if the effects of the ressurection on the earth are felt and experienced by Christians, are they also felt by unbelievers too?

And, what kind of eschatological repurcussions does this have?

Thanks again, Ryan!

At 9:25 AM, February 24, 2006, Blogger Christian said...

Can unbelievers experience this? I think so - at least a taste. I think that is what makes Christianity attractive and compelling to unbelievers - it's like a scent in the air that you know you have smelled before, but you just can't quite put your finger on it. You know it's good. But it's scary as hell at the same time. And they're not sure why. That's what our lives are meant to be - heaven breaking in all around, pointing people to Christ.

And as for the 'eschatological repercussions', we'll have nonoe of that language around here boys! Seriously, before answering this question, I want to challenge both Ryan and Brian to try and define/explain it first, in non-technical language that an unbeliever would understand.

Do that well, and I'll buy YOU a 6-pack of beer... (watch my brother Jake come out of the woodwork on this one now) :-)

At 9:27 AM, February 24, 2006, Blogger rs said...

i don't think i actually used the word in my post, did i? that was the point of the post, to explain eschatology without using the word!

i'll have to revert back to my matrix illustration to answer your question. BEER PLEASE!!!

At 1:42 PM, February 24, 2006, Blogger Brian said...

Just for clarification I am quoting from Ryan's first paragraph of the post:

" . . . he basically wrote the book on eschatology and biblical theology . . ."

Granted, the word is not used in his explanation, but it was still used in the post itself. By the way, I was wondering what you meant by biblical theology? ;oP

Without downplaying the Matrix at all, I still want to say that in this specific case I'm not sure it is an adequate illustration to make your point (or maybe Vos's). (No offense, its all about the beer.)

So here is where I feel like our ideas diverge slightly, and thus my comment on the matrix. You state: " . . . look at 1 cor 15.42ff where adam and christ are compared as the representative heads of two distinct epochs-one physical and one spiritual." I think the epochs would be better described as one mortal and one immortal, or one temporary and one eternal. Your wording seems to make a distinction between physical and spiritual where I'm not sure the Bible ever makes that distinction.

The point is, (and here is my beer-worthy explanation attempt), that the physical things of creation begin to feel a redemptive impact because of Christ's resurrection.

When Adam and Eve fell, the entire world became subject to corruption and a curse. Weeds begin to grow, food is harder to produce, bearing children becomes extremely painful, murder becomes a reality, manipulation begins to grow, diseases begin to occur, etc.

Through the death and resurrection of Christ, this pattern is then reversed and what was corrupted now slowly is becoming redeemed and the curse begins to have less of an effect. Pregnancy today is safer than it has ever been in most of the world, all of the food produced in the world is grown by 3% of the population, we have more effective weed control, we have computers that allow us to communicate over almost infinite distances, medicine is more effecient in treating diseases than ever before, the Church is larger today and more widespread than it has ever been, etc.

So, what I was getting at with the "eschatalogical repurcussions", is, if we really believe that Christ's death and resurrection is this powerful, than how does that change our perspective on the world around us, our jobs, our friends, our marriages, what we eat, how we educate our children, how we evangalize, how we dress, what we do for fun, what type of heaven we look forward to?!

One reason I believe it is important to understand this gets back to something Christian mentioned. All of these things, medicine, technology, the spread of the Gospel, etc., are all blessings that come as a result of Christ and are felt everyday, constantly by unbelievers because of the death and resurrection of Christ. But they are, for the most part, taken for granted; they go unnoticed. And why should unbelievers take any notice of God's grace, mercy, or redemption in these things when His own Church fails to do so?

Now, thankfully we have a gracious God, who despite His bride's unfaithfullness in areas will still call unbeliever's through these everyday instances of "heaven breaking in".

But how much greater will it be when the Church is ever thankful for these blessings and building upon them -- helping in the process of redemption, so that kings and queens from around the world will come to see the riches the Church has to show from so great a Gospel.

So is that worth the six-pack or just the "heretic" labeling your brother gave me last week?

At 2:30 PM, February 24, 2006, Blogger rs said...

Just a word about the 1 cor 15 passage...pick up Gaffin's ressurrection and redemption and you'll see what i mean there about two epochs. you are right that one is eternal and one finite, but the eternal one began at the resurrection and paul distinguishes them by using adam's physical or natural body and chirst's now spiritual body. so the bible does make that distinction.

and i think what you are missing in my matrix analogy (and i don't think it breaks down on this level) is that the world doesn't just begin to change at the resurrection. It HAS changed. the eternal has collided with the temporal and a catclysmic change has ensued.

i'd actually argue that the things you described as being evidence of the resurrection are actually evidence of common grace.

anyone, just food for thought-great thinking and great comments brian.

At 2:49 PM, February 24, 2006, Blogger Christian said...

Just one really quick comment/clarification in regards to something Brian mentioned - when we talk about "spiritual" don't think "immaterial" (that's a Greek notion) - instead think "Holy Spirit infused".

So Christ's kingdom comes in this last and definitive age, which is best characterized by the word "spiritual". Not non-physical, or immaterial, but rather supra-physical - new bodies, new creation, new heaven and new earth type thing. It's already present, but we can't really apprehend it yet (and we live in an age where if you can't see/feel/touch it, it's somehow less real).

I know that was a helpful distinction for me at least as I was hearing a lot of this stuff for the first time...

At 2:55 PM, February 24, 2006, Blogger Christian said...

And now for a question. As I read back over the comments on this post, I find myself thinking "I wonder if ordinary (non-theological) people would actually bother reading any of this?" In other words, the conversation (especially in the area of biblical theology) has a tendency to go pretty technical.

What I'm wondering is
a) would it be better to move this kind of conversation over to my Wayfaring Pilgrim blog (which is explicitly theological) -OR-

b) just be more intentional in our conversations on SLD to try and keep it less technical?

I don't mind having these kinds of discussions here, provided we really try to not use insider jargon. But sometimes the jargon is efficient shorthand, and if the purpose of the discussion is actually discuss the theology itself, then maybe WP would be a better place to do that.

Anyone have any thoughts?

At 3:55 PM, February 24, 2006, Blogger Brian said...

Ryan and Christian, this is your blog, moderate as you choose, and I will follow. (But I will need another post on WP to leave a comment on, so for now I will leave this one here, delete it if you need to.) ;o)

This is a great conversation for me, if you don't mind me being a little selfish in it. This is an area of discussion where I seem to find many different ideas within the Reformed church, and so I'm still trying to work through all of it myself.

Ryan, I agree with your last explanation of 1 Corinth. if you still line up with what Christian added. It just seemed at first that you were seperating anything physical or material from spiritual things; my misunderstanding.

I strongly agree with the idea that the world did change at the resurrection the way you described it. But what I am still trying to figure out is: how did it change? and how is it still changing?

You might have to break the Matrix analogy down for me. Here's where I'm stuck maybe: I see the change that takes place in Neo (and it is such an amazing illustration) but I don't think we see that type of change throughout the entire world at the resurrection. We can see it in individuals and in Christian communities I think though, but that isn't chronologically equal with the resurrection either. It also only seems to be linked to a man's perspective, understanding, or heart, but I don't think the effects of the resurrection stop there, then or now.

I can also see an argument for common grace in some of the things I mentioned earlier; but, is common grace a result of the resurrection? and why does their seem to be an ever increasing amount of "common grace"?

At 4:47 PM, February 24, 2006, Blogger rs said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 4:49 PM, February 24, 2006, Blogger rs said...

Christian, thanks for the extra explanation - that's definitely behind what I was trying to articulate.

Brian, you raise some great questions and I think that we'll spend our whole lives being blown away by how the resurrection has changed the world.

I agree with what you are saying about the Matrix analogy - as with every illustration, it only goes so far. So, let's not take it any farther than I meant to - if we assume the blue pill is faith, then when Neo ingests it, he changes radically (even has a re-birth) and then sees reality. That's as far as I can take the illustration.

I'm also not real sure where common grace ends and "new creation" grace begins. Also, to clarify, common grace is definitely not a result of the resurrection. Common grace has been there ever since God kicked Adam and Eve out of the garden.

The reason I hesitate to go too far with what changes the resurrection actually effects is because of how much believers (the people who are partakers of the resurrection) suffer cancers and all sorts of problems as bad as everyone else.

I need to think through how to articulate this better. I'm not sure I quite have my own mind around it well enough yet either. That's kind of why I wanted to blog on it. Keep asking these good questions and keep offering your own ideas - they are helpful.

At 9:17 PM, February 24, 2006, Blogger Master Aegidius said...

You won't buy me Budweiser, so why even bother?

At 10:30 PM, February 24, 2006, Blogger Mark Traphagen said...

The words "Budweiser" go so well with the phrase "why even bother," don't you think?

At 8:49 AM, February 25, 2006, Blogger Brian said...

Ryan, I'm not sure if this helps or not, but your last comment mentioned how the resurrection effects believers differently than unbelievers, which it definetly does because Christ is the fullfillment of the Law, meaning that our salvation doesn't rest on our ability to live out a defined moral life, but it rests instead on a Man and the life He has lived.

But, what I wanted to try to get at is in what ways Creation is effected by the resurrection so that it is felt equally by believers and unbelievers. In this "new creation", with the understanding that we have already been redeemed (cleansed of sin and corruption) but are not yet fully redeemed (made perfect as Jesus Himself is), there must already be examples that are just as plain to all of us (believers and unbelievers) that can be attributed to the resurrection.

After Adam and Eve sinned, there began to be physical things in the earth a person could point to and could say, "That is there because of the fall."
There must also be things or occurences today that we can point to and say, "That is there because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ." And, these are things that are seen by both believers and unbelievers. It is good practice for us in breaking out of some of our gnostic (spiritualized) shells, I think.

Jacob, maybe I'll bring you some PBR next time I come out to visit.

At 12:49 PM, February 25, 2006, Blogger Master Aegidius said...

the very fabric of creation has itself not changed since the resurrection (iie, it still groans), but how we impact that fabric has definately changed.
If you look at the historical impact that that Christianity has had on culture and environment (yes, the two are linked) as opposed to non-Christian religions, there is a marked difference.

3 points:
1) hospitals in general (Christian concept), and Jonas Salk in particular. That is a big impact on the fabric.

2) environmental issues in general, and compare Western/Christian use of the environment with Eastern European/ Communist/ Athiest use of the environment. Big impact.

3) art and culture as reflective of mans interaction with nature. Compare again Western/ Christian with Middle Eastern/ Islam. If you have studied art history, enough said. If you haven't, I don't have enough space to begin.

And you can go on from here. While Christianity has gotten bad press, history shows repeatedly that it is the best thing out there in relation to culture and environment. Now, just like progressive sanctification, we still have plenty of room for improvement.

P.S.- FOOLISH sage, I am hurt. Our fellowship needs to be restored. Send a 60 pack of Budweiser Longnecks to me.

At 1:33 PM, February 25, 2006, Blogger rs said...


I think maybe what I am trying to articulate (and Jake's comments were pretty helpful) is that the constant challenge of the believer is to see reality in light of the resurrection. There is a new reality, but it isn't necessarily visible to the eyes (Hebrews speaks of faith as being confident of what is unseen). In other words, believe there is another reality even though it isn't staring you in the face.

Part of understanding this world is trying to see it from God's perspective. The unbeliever lives as if this world is all there is, so they horde stuff and try to fulfill all their desires. God's perspective is that this world is already on its way down and therefore is of no use to horde, etc.

Anyway, just some quick thoughts on that.

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