In my Systematic Theology class we have begun to study creation. Mangina recently noted (briefly) that there are three important heresies with respect to the doctrine of creation. Two of these in particular are pretty rampant in the church, practically if not theoretically. The first of these is Gnosticism.
In my experience amongst Western Evangelicalism Gnosticism is essentially a pillar of the faith (I know I’m generalizing here and not everyone will have the same experience, nevertheless, I’m sure you can identify what I’m talking about in your own experience).
Now I won’t delve too deeply into Gnosticism here. To totally oversimplify (and to serve our purposes here), that Gnosticism has infiltrated the Church is evident in that many Christians believe the material world to be evil. Creation is a problem (in some ways creation is the Fall). So, for these Christians salvation = escape from the material world. For these Christians, our hope is in being raptured out of this world to be with Christ in Heaven. The earth is merely a temporary home. Our real home is “in Heaven”. If you don’t believe that this sort of Gnostic belief is rampant in the Church then walk into most any Evangelical church in Canada and ask a few folks what happens to us when we die. Undoubtedly the top answer will be something along the lines of “going to Heaven”. Yet this is a concept that is totally foreign to the Scriptures. No where in the Old or New Testament is there talk of “going to Heaven when you die”. “But what about the thief on the cross?” someone will ask. Jesus said nothing to him about joining him in Heaven but being with him in “paradise”. In light of the Biblical witness we would be mistaken to think that paradise = heaven.
Now, to be sure, I believe that when we die we are “present with the Lord.” However, I would qualify this by saying that this is not our final “resting state” if you will. Creation is necessarily material. Being human is *necessarily* a material reality. If you die and live in some sort of immaterial bliss for eternity then you’re no longer human, yet, God created you to be human. God created you to be material. In the Incarnation the material creation is affirmed and in the BODILY resurrection of Christ Jesus from the grave the material creation is redeemed and set right. Our hope is not that one day we’ll get the hell out of here and meet Jesus in the sky (which by the way is not at all attractive to me personally). No, our hope is that one day God’s kingdom will finally break through INTO THIS WORLD in all of its fullness and wonder. It is significant that the Bible does not come to a close with humanity going up to heaven but with heaven coming down to be wed to earth (Revelation 21).
One might ask, “does it really matter what we believe about creation?” to which I would respond, “hell yes it does!” What you believe about creation has massive implications for how you will live your life right now. I won’t get into this here but perhaps it’s a conversation worth exploring in the comments section if anyone feels so led.
What might be the practical implications of believing that our hope is that we will one day get out of here to be with Jesus vs. our hope being that one day the Kingdom will finally and fully break into this world and all things will finally be made new?