Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Viewing the World as God's Creation

“Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith...who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.”
1 Timothy 4:1-5
The truth that God is the Creator of this world has implications for us literally all over the place. Rather than rejecting marriage and certain foods, we can say that these earthly physical things are good. They have a purpose and definition from God. We are held responsible for our use of them. Our relation to the Creator is foundational to our relation to the world. If we are in rebellion to God, we will be frustrated in this world. We might then say with T.S. Eliot before his conversion:
“Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table.” 
But if we have been reconciled to the Creator as our Father, we look at the sunset as a glorious manifestation of His beauty for our enjoyment. We can receive it as it was intended to be received - with thanksgiving.

One of our Missouri sunsets
But from where does evil and suffering come? Unless we believe in the doctrine of creation, it will seem that suffering is natural to this world and that man is a victim. But believing that God created all things good, we see that evil is an intruder into the world, suffering being a result of this, and the responsibility for this is laid at our feet. Sin is not natural, but it became natural to us when we rebelled against God in Adam. Humanity’s relation to God, as covenant-keeper or covenant-breaker, determines the fate of the world. When humanity fell morally, the whole world was cursed. Evil is not nature’s fault. We can’t blame suffering on the fact that we are physical. Rather, our relation to God is central.

This leads us back to the creedal recounting of Christ’s life given in 1 Timothy 3:16, which immediately precedes 1 Timothy 4:1-5 (quoted above). Jesus did not save us from our flesh. He did not save us by forbidding things like food and marriage. Salvation is not defined as escape from creation. Rather, He saved us, body and soul, by becoming man and bearing the curse in His death. He restored our relationship with God. Humanity had become the source of the problem, therefore He created a new humanity. He rose again to new life and was taken up into glory. Those who participate in His work through faith are restored us to a life of godliness – a life that is just as human, but not under bondage to sin’s guilt and power.

This teaches us to see sin and suffering as invasive and unnatural. Christians learn to see their sin as repulsive and antithetical to their identity. We have died with Christ and have been raised with Him to new life, to a renewed creation, one which is alien to sin. We also groan with lament and expectation, knowing that suffering, death, and decay still abide in this world but will not be here forever. Yet we also can enjoy the goodness of creation that still exists. Marriage, food, work, art, and community can be pursued with joy. We have been restored to the good work of living in our Father’s world. Rather than being the out-of-tune instrument in the band, we have been repaired to join back in the song of creation. In other words, Jesus “gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14). Good doctrine leads us back to our callings in the world. God’s story leads us to godliness. Saturating in this truth should make it more and more natural to serve our Creator in all of life with thanksgiving for all He has given us.

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