a brief theology of nature (part 3)

In the previous two posts I argued that a proper theology of nature should be both apocalyptic and Christological.

Jesus’ encounter with the man possessed by a legion of demons provides a picture of this. There, Jesus reclaims part of God’s good creation — planting the flag of God’s future in the soil of human life by untwisting this man’s distorted humanity. Yet in disentangling this man from the evil, anti-creation forces that have claimed him, what is required is nothing short of a massive wrenching. In Christ, grace perfects nature apocalyptically.

This provides some leverage on the traditional thought that creation’s telos is to glorify God. Creation is indeed the arena in which God’s glory is displayed (cf. Rom 1.18-20). And so, as Augustine argued (e.g., in On Christian Doctrine), it’s to be used for the enjoyment of God not enjoyed as an end in itself.

All this is true and right, as is a recognition that creation is (in Colin Gunton’s terms) a ‘project’ — something open to the future and full of potential that human beings are privileged to be involved in drawing out (cf. Gen 2.5).

The danger in this emphasis is that it can cause us to skate over the fact that belief in creation is an article of faith. Creation is fundamentally determined by (and answerable to) the reality of God’s Triune being. More, Creation can only become itself and reach its God-ordained telos — glorifying the Father — through the Son (in whom divine initiative and human responsiveness perfectly coincide).

This is reflected in the sequence of thought in Revelation 4 and 5. The stage is set for creation to raise its voice in praise of its Creator by the end of chapter 4. But then there’s an inexplicable pause at the beginning of chapter 5 — no-one is worthy to open the scroll and implement God’s plan for the world. Not, that is, until the Messiah, the Lion of Judah who is also (shockingly) the slain Lamb turns up.

In short, it’s only once the Son makes his appearance, and does his work, that creation can be what it was created to be and do what it was created to do.

So an adequate theology of nature needs to be trinitarian (as well as apocalyptic and Christological).

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