Wednesday, February 11, 2004

What is God's Plan?

By Ralph D. Winter

This is an edited version of a portion of "The Story of Our Planet" from noted missiologist and Pasadena local, Ralph D. Winter. I found it very interesting. Maybe you will too.

Our final mystery is what the New Testament actually calls a mystery. It was not supposed to have been a mystery down through Jewish history, since it was made clear to Abraham in Genesis 12:3. This mystery involved a radically different way of looking at things, which was courteously or euphemistically called by Paul a mystery instead of a blind spot. In Luke 24 we note that Jesus went further when he bluntly stated that his hearers ought to have understood what they apparently did not-- that a chosen people was called to be blessed and to be a blessing, to special service not just to survival.

This radically different way of looking at things allows us to understand the appearance of human beings as an additional creation for the specific purpose of restoring what already had been created, this to be done by advancing God's Kingdom (see Romans 8:19-22). Alas, however, through sin, human history has become for the most part a story of human self-aggrandizement rather than conquest of evil. Humans, unlike other animals, have more often fought their own flesh and blood, than worked together to restore God's originally "good" creation. Thus, they have given little attention to fighting the principalities and powers, the rulers of the darkness of this earth. This way of looking at things allows us to recognize in the early pages of the Bible the ingredients of the Great Commission in the call of Abraham and his foretold involvement in the redemption of all the peoples of the world--and even earlier, the mandate to Adam to "replenish" the earth, not progressively extinguish all forms of life.

Yet, the followers of Christ have to a great extent fixated on how, personally, to get to heaven. That has been an attractive emphasis, of course. The Evangelicals have done a bit more than that, in a sense, by setting aside a relatively small part of their hearts, lives and resources to assist others to get to heaven (especially those at the ends of the earth). But their idea continues to be that the advance of the Kingdom consists primarily (and merely) in the rescue of humans not the restoration of a corrupted creation and the defeat of the Evil One who did and is doing that corrupting.

By corruption of creation we must recognize genetic damage (not just "defects") both before and after conception. We must pay greater theological attention to the existence of terribly hostile pathogens, viruses, bacteria, parasites, vicious animals, as well as the cruel, hateful, warlike genocide of whole peoples. Jesus' death on the cross, thus, has been seen as (merely) a tragedy essential to the rescue of humans, not the restoration of creation. For most Evangelicals there is a massive "disconnect" here. When we stop and think about it we can clearly see a monstrous, pervasive, intelligent distortion of creation, but we don't realize how illogical it is to blame all that on God, as some do, instead of attributing it to an intelligent Evil One.

A better explanation for the massive suffering in nature might be what was mentioned already--the possibility that many forms of life at all levels of size and complexity, although earlier created benign, have been distorted into vicious mutations by a skillful, destructive tampering with their DNA by the Evil One and his evil servants (whether human or angelic).

But our disconnect blinds us to the theological significance of the corruption of all creation. We tend significantly to reduce our concerns to the purely immaterial--the emotional and mental-- problems of humans. We let Jewish and secular doctors attend to the problems of disease control. They may at this point, unconsciously or consciously, be operating from a more Biblical theology dented, as ours is, by Augustine's neoplatonism.

The curious truth is a common tendency is not only to allow God to be blamed for all appearance of evil, but to resign ourselves to "not understanding God" when evil appears (e.g., Dobson's book, When God Doesn't Make Sense), thus excluding from our thinking any perception of the instrumentality of intelligent, evil powers. As a result our evangelism would seem to be drastically and unnecessarily enfeebled in so far as it does not portray our God as opposing such things, as well as enlisting us specifically to fight against them. Caltech may be doing a lot of that but not Lake Avenue Church.

This view I am proposing ought not to be construed to involve a presumption of human success in quelling all evil, but at minimum a proposed alignment of human effort with God's purpose to defeat all evil. The important point is that hat kind of alignment will more fully portray to an unbelieving world the true attributes of our God, and thus forever remove a truly major barrier to belief--namely, the artificial and unnecessary question of why a good and all powerful God would sponsor evil in nature and human affairs.


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