How do we begin to show people that a full-orbed view of the kingdom involves more than just salvation? Webber points out what is the dominant trend in much of Christian worship:
“The exclusive preoccupation with the satisfaction theory of the cross has failed to adequately see the unity that exists between creation, the incarnation, and ultimately the restoration of all God’s creation. It fosters instead an individualistic form of Christianity.”
I had a friend remind me recently of the persistent nature of society to make communities nothing more than means to ends. That is to say, people are convinced that communities exist as nothing more than vehicles to give them what they want. So why would they view Jesus any differently?
This plays itself out tragically in the church when our people are taught over a period of decades that all Jesus came to do was save our souls. As I have previously argued, I am by no means saying that we should take a smaller view of the atonement, justification, or the issues of soteriology that directly and indirectly relate to this point. What I am saying is precisely the opposite: our views of all these things mustn’t simply stop with soul-care.
When we stop at soul care, we lose the notion that Jesus cares at all about economies, social networks, cultures and civilizations, environments and conservation, stewardship and ethics, and the list goes on. I have been thinking more and more of late about the reasons why so many find the ultimate and complete sovereignty of God so offensive and off putting.
One reason, I think, is that the church has fed her people a steady diet that has reduced the redemptive work of Christ simply to matters of justification and salvation. So if that is true, then why would God care about the outcome of an economic summit; after all, that isn’t a “church” thing! But, if Jesus is restoring all things to himself, these things do matter.
Observe what Richard Mouw writes in When the Kings Come Marching in: Isaiah and the New Jerusalem:
” My own impression is that the judgment that will visit the ships of Tarshish is of a purifying sort. We might think here of the “breaking” of the ships of Tarshish as more like the breaking of a horse rather than the breaking of a vase. The judgment here is meant to tame, not destroy. The ships of Tarshish will be harnessed for service in the Holy City – a process that will require a “breaking” of sorts.”
Mouw goes on to explain a bit more in detail from Isaiah 60 exactly what he thinks the ships of Tarshish represent in terms of culture and cultural artifacts (in regards to their redemption):
” It is not, then, the ships as such that will be destroyed; it is their former function that will perish. It is worth noting that it was a ship from Tarshish that Jonah boarded to flee from the call of the Lord (Jon. 1:3). This incident aptly suggests the ships’ pagan function, because they are means of rebellion against God. They are vessels used to flee from his presence, instruments designed to thwart his will.”
But now one must stop and think: how will all the vestiges of this world be redeemed? What will be redeemed? Mouw’s thoughts again are provocative:
” God’s present attitude, then, toward these instruments of culture is an ambivalent one. As tools of human rebellion and objects of idolatrous trust, he hates them, and he warns his people not to be contaminated by them. But he hates them because of their present uses. And his hatred will lead him to transform them into proper instruments of service.”
One of the ways we communicate that they matter is by expanding our palette of worship to include more than the “satisfaction story” of the cross.