I don’t normally blast off a blog in response to a tweet, but this one has me fired up. As I nonchalantly swiped my thumb in an upward motion to keep my tweeter feed rolling I started noticing a number of tweets quoting @PastorMark (Mark Driscoll’s twitter account name) from the Catalyst conference.
Naturally, I stopped to see the trainwreck.
“I know who made the environment and he’s coming back and going to burn it all up. So yes, I drive an SUV.”
Let me be the first to admit I am not an environmental junkie. I do own a Nissan Pathfinder which would be considered an SUV. However, I am a conservationist who believes the Bible has given us a responsibility to and a responsibility for the condition of creation. Regardless of whether you believe global climate change is a reality or if you believe it is part of the political agenda of some group of people, Christians must take responsibility for the condition of creation. It is what it means to be stewards. It is what it means to be created in the image of God who feeds the birds of the air and clothes the flowers of the field.
But the lack of sound theology regarding creation isn’t what has me hot in Driscoll’s tweet.
It is the sheer lack of Biblical theology.
Granted, Christians disagree on what is going to happen to creation when Christ returns. Scores of people have read the Left Behind series believing they are a blueprint for what is to come. Far too many (according to my preferences) regard Revelation as literal rather than figurative; fact rather than symbol. So I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that I disagree with Driscoll. I probably disagree with a lot of people when it comes to this stuff. But when he speaks, so many people listen.
To say that when Jesus returns he is simply going to burn it all up (meaning earth and all that is in it) is to disregard a theology of resurrection, restoration, and shalom. At running the risk of sounding combative, Driscoll’s tweet is more infused with Platonic philosophy than Biblical theology.
Let me give you one example. Romans 8 is a well known passage where Paul exhorts us to endure our present sufferings for the coming glory. In verse 19-21 he writes,
The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons and daughters of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it. In hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.
If you believe what Driscoll said, then this passage makes absolutely no sense. It would mean that creation is waiting for the sons and daughters of God to be revealed so that it can burn. So it can be annihilated. The liberation from decay and the “glorious freedom” awaiting the creation at the revealing of the adopted sons and daughters of God is that it would be thrust into the divine furnace and torched.
I don’t think that is what Paul was getting at.
Now some will point to the passage in 2 Peter 3 that says, “That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.” Two things about this passage. One, when Peter tells us there will be a fire, think refiner’s fire (you can sing the song to an acoustic guitar if you want) not destructive fire. Two, we know we are to think of a refiner’s fire because of the Greek word Peter uses in verse 13 for “new.” In Greek there are two words for new. One means “brand new” and the other means something along the lines of “newly renovated.”
Guess which one Peter uses? The one for “newly renovated.”
We could go on. But I don’t need to. Everything I know about this has been learned from people much smarter than me. Check out N.T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope, Michael Wittmer’s Heaven is a Place on Earth, or C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce.
It is important for us as Christians to think about these things. Orthodoxy matters as right thinking impacts how we act. Orthopraxy doesn’t just happen. I know there has been a push in recent years to say that right living precedes right thinking and there may be some truth to that. However, Paul does not say we are transformed by the renewing of our behaviors. It is the renewing of our minds. Right thinking matters.
Here is why this means so much to me. I woke my three year old son from his nap and took him fishing this afternoon. Today was one of those beautiful spring days in which the sun and the clouds take turns dominating the sky. When the sun was out and the wind died down, it was hot. But when the sun went away, it was just the right kind of cool. We grabbed our fishing gear and walked to the end of our cul-de-sac and cut through the neighbors yard. He pointed at birds, asked why God made fish to eat worms and stopped to pick dandelions. We sat down on the grass next to the pond and he took a worm and gave it to me so I could bait the hook. We watched the bobber together and it rose and fell with the small ripples created by the wind. We caught some fish. He laughed as the fish fought him through the rod and line. He held the fish after I took the hook off and threw them back. Some made it to the water. When it was time to walk home, we packed up, Luke stopped to pick up a rock and throw it in the water, and I started walking. He ran up and, as he got to my side, grabbed my hand and held it.
I want that to mean something. That’s why this matters.