More than a ticket to heaven
The topic around here the past few days has been the scope of the gospel. We’re so used to talking about it in terms of individual forgiveness that it’s easy to lose sight of what it’s really about. Not to mention that we don’t consistently get what the gospel looks like on an individual level either. Marc Vandersluys has been talking about this too. He asks, “Where on earth did we get this notion of Jesus ‘Your Ticket to Heaven’ Christ?” Referring to N.T. Wright’s Simply Christian, he writes:
Biblical faith, according to Wright (and others such as Dallas Willard, I believe), the belief that God is “setting the world to rights”, as Wright would put it: restoring justice, truth, beauty and spirituality (and forgiveness fits in there as well!) through the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Christ. And we play a role in this: the Church is to bring God’s future-when heaven and earth with permanently intersect or overlap–to the present. We are to live out (perhaps as practice) God’s future of justice, mercy, beauty, spirituality and forgiveness here and now. As Wright puts it, Christianity is about “life after life after death”–not about where we go when we die, but what happens after that, when the end and eternity has arrived, when creation is restored, when Jesus reigns and God once more walks among us.
Then today I heard Cornelius Plantinga Jr., president of Calvin College (more on that later). I was flipping through one of his books during the break and read this:
At their best, Reformed Christians take a very big view of redemption because they take a very big view of fallenness. If all has been created good and all has been corrupted, then all must be redeemed. God isn’t content to save souls; God wants to save bodies too. God isn’t content to save human beings in their individual activities; God wants to save social systems and economic structures too… Everything corrupt needs to be redeemed, and that includes the whole natural world, which both sings and groans…The whole world belongs to God, the whole world has fallen, the whole world needs to be redeemed – every last person, place, organization, and program; all “rocks and trees and skies and seas”; in fact, “every square inch,” as Abraham Kuyper said. The whole creation is “a theater for the mighty works of God,” first in creation and then in re-creation.
Marc writes, “God isn’t working on evacuating us from the world, leaving it to rot–God is working to restore the world, to set it right, and church (and that includes you and me) is to play a part in that!” We talk about salvation being great, but it’s even better than that. That’s why there is no one gospel presentation. It’s much different, much bigger than we may have been thinking.