Refresh 2006: Review of N.T. Wright's "Creation Renewed"
Wednesday May 24th, 2006
N.T.Wright Speaks at the Medical Sciences Building
N.T. Wright - "Creation Renewed" Refresh Conference Plenary Session, May 10, 2006 Review by Tiffany Robinson
As followers of Christ we all know that words such as “salvation” and “glory”, words that point to God’s life-changing involvement with us, can become, by their familiarity, the very things that blind us to God and his work in the world. Tom Wright refreshed the vision of God’s glory and salvation for his listeners in his presentation of “Creation Renewed” from Romans 8:18-25.
His exposition honed in on one particular aspect of these two multifaceted terms: our participation in the renewal of creation. Salvation was explained as the restoration of our place as God’s image-bearers in creation, a place which we lost through sin. Glory was explained as, in part, the experience of our renewed place in the cosmos as its care-givers, reflecting and participating in God’s care for creation.
In making his point, Wright’s consistent sparring partner was Gnosticism or any dualist construal of the Christian gospel that would interpret our role as being over and against creation as opposed to in and for it. Rather than being saved from the brokenness and pain of the world, we are saved in order to be immersed in the world and to be “God’s restorative justice people for the cosmos”.
The fact that the gospel of a risen Jesus Christ is a gospel with cosmic import is a fact that we often claim, but by placing Paul’s claims next to the dualist-inflected interpretations of the gospel common in Christian circles, Wright threw into high relief the fact that the salvation of people is part of God’s desire for the healing and restoration of the whole of created reality.
In developing this theme, Wright was able to show how Paul’s is a political theology, as well as a theology that calls us to ecological concern and to a deep appreciation for the arts. He argued these claims by showing that Paul’s theology is a Jewish theology, steeped in the covenant theology and Genesis/Exodus story of the Old Testament, while being fundamentally structured around the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
One particularly interesting way in which Wright developed this intersection of covenant, resurrection and eschatology was his explanation that the sacraments can be seen as “first fruits”, places where God’s new creation momentarily floods our existence in anticipation of what is to come.
Wright’s lecture was refreshing because of the symphonic manner in which he sketched the God-breathed theological connections between the Old and the New Testaments, thereby placing his hearers into an expansive and yet personal story. By connecting Paul’s argument to the Genesis and Exodus stories, the themes of exile and longing and restoration were given an expanded and rich context that redefined the terms in their application to the church today. Perhaps most beneficial was the fact that it became clear that to take the Christian gospel seriously is to take God’s love and aims for the whole of created reality seriously, and to bear great responsibility in being his stewards, his image bearers, in that creation.