How new will the new creation be?

I have to admit to a growing confusion. I often read these days about how the future—particularly a perceived continuity between the present and the new creation—ought to shape our Christian lives. Now at the risk of being told “Silly boy, go and sit in the corner of the class”, I’m not sure that I buy it.

Tom Wright argues in Surprised by Hope that the future hope, which has broken into this world in Jesus’ own resurrection, “ought to energise our work for God’s kingdom in the present world … as we seek to bring God’s kingdom to bear on the real and painful world in which we live” (pp. xii-xiii). For Wright the physical resurrection and a strong sense of continuity between the present and the new creation, means that

You are not oiling the wheels of a machine that is about to fall over a cliff. You are not restoring a painting that’s shortly going to be thrown in the fire. You are not planting roses in a garden that’s about to be dug up for a building site. You are—strange though it may seem … accomplishing something which will become, in due course, part of God’s new world. Every act of love, gratitude and kindness; every work of art or music inspired by the love of God and delight in the beauty of his creation [etc.] … all of this will find its way, through the resurrecting power of God, into the new creation which God will one day make. … [W]hat we do in Christ and by the Spirit in the present is not wasted. It will last all the way into God’s new world. In fact, it will be enhanced there. (pp. 219-220)

All those actions “implement Jesus’ own resurrection and anticipate the final new creation” (p. 307).

Now, I read that and think to myself, that’s truly wonderful. It’s so affirming to our present experience. Just think of that: the best of me in this world transformed and transferred to the next. There’s just one little voice in the back of my head asking, “Is it true? … Is it biblical?”

I want to affirm that Jesus’ resurrection is the pattern for our future experience (1 Cor 15:49): it guarantees the victory of God over the forces of sin and death (1 Cor 15:54-57), and so spurs us on to continue steadfastly in our work for God in the present (1 Cor 15:58). I want to affirm that God’s creation is good, and that it is to be received and enjoyed with thankfulness to God (1 Tim 4:4). I want to affirm that because God has made us with bodies, we’re not disembodied spirits longing to escape, but that we ought to serve God with our bodies, which are owned by God—bodies in which his Holy Spirit dwells (1 Cor 6:12-20). All those things are true, but none of it teaches what Wright and others suggest.

By contrast, I read 2 Peter 3:10-13:

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.;

There is virtually no continuity between the present and the new creation. The new creation is truly new. The old passes away; it is burned up and dissolved. The new creation is the home of righteousness and replaces the old. Our response is to heed that warning and live lives of holiness, longing for that day when we will dwell bodily with Christ in that real, physical new creation.

It’s really no surprise that in Surprised by Hope, Tom Wright ignores this aspect of 2 Peter 3.

40 thoughts on “How new will the new creation be?

  1. Amen. Amen. Amen.

    Two groups of people think that the world will be destroyed.

    1. All scientists who say the world has an eventual used-by date.
    2. Evangelical Christians who say this world has an eventual used-by date.

    It is only liberal Christians who go on thinking that that this world will go on forever.

    I think this is such an area of weakness.  I remember reading the social issues briefings about the environment put out by the Sydney Diocese (I can’t find them now) and there was a conspicuous absences of 2 Peter 3!

    As you say, 2 Peter 3 gives us a huge motivation to love other people and care for this environment.  It’s like we’re under the Hippocratic Oath.  We know the world will die.  It doesn’t mean that we won’t operate on it to fix it up in the mean time.

    Thanks again Gavin for this excellent post!!!!!!!

  2. Hi Gavin

    Does such a view imply that matters such as social justice, care for the poor and for the environment are only worthwhile if they are beneficial for the saving of souls into the new creation?

  3. Hold on. 2 Peter 3 isn’t a picture of total discontinuity either, is it?

    6. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed.

    Not all of creation was destroyed in the flood, was it? Nor was it merely the character of relationships or humanity that was carried in the ark. There were at least a couple of cats, dogs etc. And I presume the vegetative world survived its deluge somehow. If so, is the image of the world being “laid bare” (3:13) one of removal of every created thing, or of the searching power of judgement that leaves no hiding place? Might not God somehow rescue some remnant from the created world then?
    Do we tend to read into the metaphor of destruction by fire what Peter isn’t intending? Paul uses the picture in 1 Corinthians 3:13–15 yet definitely doesn’t suggest utter destruction. We can’t overplay discontinuity, even as we complain that Tom focusses too much on the continuity. (My criticism of Tom leans heavily on what I’ve read and heard elsewhere. I’d find less to complain about in Gavin’s quote. Tom’s suggestion of continuity for “[e]very act of love, gratitude and kindness” is fairly easy to defend. I have more difficulty if he’s suggesting a physical continuity of “every work of art or music inspired by the love of God and delight in the beauty of his creation”, but is that what he’s meaning? Or is he saying it will in some sense contribute to the character of the community that will one day be, as we relate in this very human, created way now?).
    The message of 2 Peter is that, while creation has an apparent permanence now, history tells us that this provides no basis to scoff at the One who brought about its existence by the power of his word. The flood is the dominant paradigm for remembering that God can unleash terrible power in judgement (cf 2:5). Creation is not as permanent as it seems, and its Creator not to be scoffed at.

  4. I can hear the howls already, but can I suggest that your reading of 2 Peter 3 be approached with a historical-metaphorical lens rather than a literal-factual lens.  In this way, this passage is entirely consistent with the Pauline quotes you supplied, and it also provides entry into the Tom Wright position.

    and to Andrew Barry – where have you seen/heard/read of the liberal position denying the end of the world, I would be interested in following this up.


  5. Geoff et al,

    Re 2 Peter 3 and its relation to doing good in this world, see my earlier sola post on Social action and the last day.

    For Peter, the motivation for doing good now is not the continuity of this present age, but its destruction.


  6. Yes: but even if the discontinuity here is the motivation, it is not at all clear that the discontinuity is as radical as Gav makes it out to be. Or that the discontinuity is absolute.
    Gav said:
    ‘There is virtually no continuity between the present and the new creation.’
    I am not at all convinced of this. The resurrection pattern given in 1 Cor 15, remember, involves a radical transformation likened by Paul to the ‘death’ of a seed put in the ground. There is loss and judgement involved – but there is a definite continuity between the old and new which 2 Peter 3 does not contradict (as I read it).
    Continuity and discontinuity are perhaps the wrong terms for us: ‘transformation’ is better. See also Romans 8 and the groaning of the creation; and also the reconciliation of ‘all things’ on the cross in the Colossian hymn.

  7. Hi Gavin,

    As one who is about to complete a PhD which examines such matters, I can appreciate that 2 Peter 3 is the most challenging text to those who wish to espouse a view of material continuity. However, 2 Peter 3 is not the only text that bears on this issue, and responsible exegesis of the entire canon must include consideration of the relevant data from Isaiah 65:17-25; Ezekiel 47:1-12, Romans 8:18-23; Colossians 1:15-20, and Revelation 21 and 22, amongst others, in order to truly offer a broad analysis. Just reading 2 Peter 3 is insufficient. I attempt just such a reading (however poorly) in my dissertation, and I am happy to affirm some sense of material continuity, as I do with Jesus resurrection. At the same time, I engage the difficulties that 2 Peter 3 poses, and am yet to find a satisfactory resolution. Although I am yet to be fully convinced, many evangelical interpreters do embrace a non-annihilationist view of 2 Peter’s eschatology (see the commentaries of Richard Bauckham, Peter H. Davids, and the articles by Gale Z. Heide (in JETS), and Al Wolters (in Westminster Theological Journal).

    Furthermore, it skews the evaluation heavily in a forum like the Sola Panel, to brand the ‘continuity’ view as being primarily represented by N.T. Wright. Many readers of this blog have already adjudged Tom to be heterodox in a great many of his opinions, and therefore his advocacy of this position is likely to immediately arouse suspicion. But in advocating continuity, Tom is part of a long line of evangelical interpreters who embrace this stance, including Anthony Hoekema, Richard Bauckham, Douglas Moo, Rikk Watts, Michael Wittmer, Tim Keller, Harry Hahne (whose monograph on Romans 8 is essential reading), and David M. Russell, to name but a few (and please understand, I am only naming people off the top of my head). It would be fairer to the position to represent it as a widely accepted option in evangelical circles, and which also happens to be embraced by Wright.

    Andrew, in response to your post, no evangelical interpreter I know of embraces the idea that the present cosmos is inherently eternal. For them, the scientific data is neither here nor there. Their belief that the present creation will be renewed and transformed for eternity is based on their belief in God’s faithfulness towards creation, rather than any inherent property in the creation itself.

    Finally, if you want to see a well-reasoned engagement on how an eschatology of material continuity can contribute to our thinking on the environment, see Doug Moo’s paper at the CACE conference in Wheaton in 2006 at



  8. I’d suggest that the place to start in thinking about this question is with the empty tomb of Jesus and not with 2 Peter 3.

    Some consideration of the way apocalyptic language functions would also be good.

    On the meaning of ‘new heavens and new earth’ it would be good to go back to the use of the term in Isaiah, where a fair degree of continuity seems to be promised.

    Piper’s sermon on the ‘Triumph of the Gospel in the new heavens and the new earth’ is also quite good on this question.

  9. Further to Michael’s helpful comment, my honours work was on Paul’s view of resurrection bodies, and there again I found a view across the various texts in the Pauline corpus which supports material continuity in some sense.

  10. Hi Michael

    I’m prepared to accept that the continuity could be greater than Gav’s post suggests. Or not. It seems to me rather like the somewhat foolish question in 1 Cor 15:35 (‘How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?’). We don’t really know, except to say (as Paul does) that it will be as different from this body as a kernel is from the wheat.

    My point (which I’m pleased that you accept) is that, according to Peter, the motivation and rationale for righteous action now is not the continuation of its fruit into the next age, but the cataclysmic and destructive judgement that is coming.

    That’s where I think NT Wright (and others) slip up. They want to argue for political and social action now on the basis of the continuity with the next age. And so they maximize continuity wherever they can find it, and minimize discontinuity wherever it inconveniently presents itself (as in 2 Peter 3).

    But as Monty Python might say, “The continuity don’t enter into it!”


  11. [I certainly appreciated Mark’s comments about using Wright in this debate btw! Who wants to be seen to be his defender? ]

    I addressed the continuity question because Gav made such a sweeping statement about it.

    The opposite of course could be said of some evangelical (especially pre-millennial) thinking. They justify a certain politics (or a-political stance) by means of maximising the discontinuity and minimising the continuity.

    I think it is not the discontinuity per se that is the motivation for righteous action, but the reality of the cosmos-wide judgement.

  12. <i>I think it is not the discontinuity per se that is the motivation for righteous action, but the reality of the cosmos-wide judgement.</i>

    Yes indeed. The impending judgement is the thing, not the continuity/discontinuity question. Thanks Michael.

  13. I am often surprised by the desire we Sydney evangelicals and others have to distance ourselves from “all things N T Wright”.  When he’s wrong, he’s wrong – but he has written one or two helpful things from time to time.  There are, I suspect, some others that we ought to be more worried about.

    Having said that, I am somewhat intrigued by this discussion.  And if Gavin has represented him fairly, then I’m not sure that Wright’s view of continuity helps us much.  I would have thought that the primary motivation for my acts of righteousness (meagre though they be I assure you) is my desire to be like my heavenly Father and to love those he loves.  And my engagement in acts of creative beauty are an expression of praise to God as I delight in the gifts he has given me and the privilege of using them to bring joy to others.

    Probably a bit simplistic, I know, but I’m not yet seeing how Wright’s views add much.


  14. But Tony, you said earlier:

    ‘For Peter, the motivation for doing good now is not the continuity of this present age, but its destruction.’

    I am confused.

  15. Hi everyone,

    My own take on 2 Peter 3 is close to Michael’s. The point Peter is responding to is that the ‘scoffers’ in the congregation are denying the reality of God intervening in judgement. This eschatological scepticism was resulting in an ethical permissiveness. Peter reminds them that God has intervened in radical judgement once before, and will do so again. God is an interventionist God (sorry Nick Cave!). The whole point is that their evil works will one day be taken into account. Hence the key verb in verse 10 is heuresthetai, for the earth is not said to be burned up (as older translations have it on the basis of another variant), but rather the earth and the works done on it will be disclosed/laid bare/uncovered. Hence, the point of Peter’s cosmic dissolution imagery is not so much to emphasise discontinuity, as to emphasise that the evil deeds of the scoffers will not be able to be hid from the sight of God (they will be laid bare before him). Richard Bauckham’s commentary is particularly good on this point, as is Peter Davids.

    So, to pick up on Tony’s line, continuity/discontinuity just don’t come into it.

    And Bob, I quite like N T Wright, even though I think he is wrong on some points. I just don’t like seeing a viewpoint trashed in a “guilt by association” move.

    Oh, and just to add some more Reformed thinkers to the continuity view, see Michael Williams (of Covenant Seminary), G.C. Berkouwer, Hermann Bavinck, and perhaps even Calvin himself (Inst 3.25.9 is a little ambiguous)

  16. Tony said:

    <i>It seems to me rather like the somewhat foolish question in 1 Cor 15:35 (’How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?’)</i>

    This is a useful verse, although as you’ve hinted Tony, let’s not ignore the context. Immediately following this verse is Paul’s exclamation “You foolish person!” (v 36a)

    I suggest that a lot of the speculative foolishness that occurs in NT Wright and others

    <i>and NT Wright is a currently useful canary in a coal mine for thinking that is heading in a dangerous direction</i>

    comes about because people are devoting enormous intellectual and emotional energy to this question of continuity between the present creation and the next. The rebuke of 1 Cor 15:36 should be sufficient here.

    On the other hand, speculation about <i>dis</i>continuity is positively encouraged by passages like the one Gavin has drawn attention to. Not all speculation is bad speculation, and speculation about just how awful the last day will be is a great spur to present holiness. That of course is the apostle’s point in raising the subject in the first place.

  17. Thanks for all the thoughtful comments.
    I still can’t see how any real sense of continuity can be maintained in the light of 2 Peter 3, and so on the principle of interpreting Scripture by Scripture, the ‘hints’ (and they are only hints) that some of you see towards continuity in other parts of the Bible cannot be read in that way.
    Certainly the word ‘eurisko’ in verse 10 is rendered best by something like ‘exposed’ or ‘judged’, and that is why I deliberately chose the ESV translation rather than some of the other English translations. The context here is definitely judgment, as Mark pointed out.
    However, I’m not sure how other phrases in verse 10 and 11 can be read consistently with the continuity/transformation position. Eg. ‘the heavens will be dissolved/burnt up’, ‘the elements will melt (teko) in the heat’ (v. 12).
    I can see why Mark, in the midst of his studies in this area, still finds 2 Peter 3 the biggest obstacle to the direction he wants to go. I look forward to reading your thesis when it’s published grin

    On Wright. I don’t mean to impugn this position by associating it with someone you may have already put in a certain basket. It just happens to be the book I’ve read on this most recently. I find the way of thinking equally puzzling when I hear it in someone like Keller – whom I appreciate in all sorts of other areas.

    I agree with Bob and Tony in their affirmation that our social-ethical motivation ought to spring from a simple commitment to love our neighbours – those made by God and in his image.

  18. Perhaps the language of ‘continuity/discontinuity’ is not helpful.  Perhaps the language of destruction/new creation is better. 

    On another random point.  Where in the scriptures is the resurrection of Christ linked to non-human resurrection?  Jesus didn’t die and rise for the angels and he didn’t die and rise for the rocks, the plants and animals, the fjords of Norway etc…  Sure when he rose – all things were placed under him. But he was raised again for us who put our hope in him.  Perhaps the resurrection of Christ is the foundation for the resurrection of his people and therefore the foundation of fulfilling the hopes of creation.

    PS. Stephen J.  The liberal position I was referring to was that of Tom Wright who could write a book on the future hope and avoid the facing the real reality of the destruction of the old, before the creation of the new. And if Gavin’s right miss 2 Peter 3.

  19. Andrew: ‘Jesus didn’t die and rise for the angels and he didn’t die and rise for the rocks, the plants and animals, the fjords of Norway etc…’ Well, Col 1:19-20 would seem to suggest that he did, don’t you think?  Also Rom 8:23 links the redemption of our bodies (ie, resurrection?) to the liberation of the creation from bondage to decay.

    Gav: ‘I still can’t see how any real sense of continuity can be maintained in the light of 2 Peter 3, and so on the principle of interpreting Scripture by Scripture, the ‘hints’ (and they are only hints) that some of you see towards continuity in other parts of the Bible cannot be read in that way.’
    This is a very odd hermeneutic, isn’t it? It seems to me, as Mark has shown, that 2 Peter is the more obscure passage, and that quite clear elements of continuity (not ‘hints’ at all) that come through in the other passages he mentions ought to be factored in to 2 Peter 3. Besides which, any number of reliable evangelical commentators don’t agree with you.

    Gav further says: ‘I agree with Bob and Tony in their affirmation that our social-ethical motivation ought to spring from a simple commitment to love our neighbours – those made by God and in his image’. Well strangely, this isn’t what 2 Peter 3 is saying at all – it is urging us to live a certain way because what we do will be exposed to the judgement of God…right?

  20. Hi Michael,

    I agree that all creation is affected by our future resurrection – but neither Col 1 or Romans 8 talks about the new creation itself being based on Christ’s resurrection – but Romans 8 makes it based on our resurrection.

    Christ is raised … so that his people are raised … then all creation can be renewed by God’s powerful word – just like he did at the beginning. Revelation 21. 

    I think it is important to see that God has not ‘saved’ the whales or the angels or the fjords of Norway through Christ but that he has saved people and that in that turn affects creation. 

    See Hebrews on this …

    Heb. 2:14-16
    Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.

    For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants.

    PS. Hebrews also gives a very clear word on the destruction of ALL created things.

    Heb. 12:26-29
    At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.”

  21. I’m not sure how much clearer Peter could be when he speaks against the continuity of the old creation.

    His argument against those who think otherwise is terribly ungentlemanly in the earlier verses of 2 Peter 3:

    <i>3 knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. 4 They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.”</i>

    It is an unpleasant attack on the character of those who hold an opposing view. If it weren’t apostolic we would feel obliged to censure him for it!

  22. This has been a very interesting discussion and reveals the need for us all to do some fresh and serious thinking about the end and its implications for how we live now. Clearly the Bible affirms both continuity and discontinuity and clearly a great deal of contemporary writing emphasises continuity at the expense of almost all reference to discontinuity.

    Clear thinking about precisely what the New Testament motivations for taking seriously our lives and actions now — and the world in which they occur — is very important.

    The movement from incarnation to bodily ascension must remain pivotal, of course. There are very obvious implications here for the value of the material world in which we live. Yet these theological implications need to be placed side by side with a whole range of explicit biblical statements which speak of both dimensions of the future: the fulfilment and reaffirmation of God’s purposes in creation and very real ‘newness’ of the new creation.

    Careful theological reflection not only gives an account of the coherence of God’s revelation to us but seeks to preserve a biblical sense of ‘proportion’ as well. It has been all too easy so often to elevate one dimension of the Bible’s teaching in a way which obscures another important dimension.

    On the Tom Wright question, of course it is fair enough to ground the discussion in his very popular book. After all, he is self-consciously trying to change what he sees as aberrant evangelical thinking. Let’s not get side-tracked by the man and his foibles though. The issue is important enough on its own terms.

    Perhaps we might profitably ask ourselves what we see as the impact on contemporary Christian life and preaching of imbalance in either direction.

  23. My final comment. Thanks for the discussion, although it appears none of us are likely to change our minds!

    Gordo – the question in 1 Cor 15:35 likely reflects the Corinthian belief that any kind of involvement of the body in eternal existence was just plain absurd. For them, resurrection likely sounded like resuscitation of a useless corpse – and anyhow, embodied living is a lower order of being, so why repristinate it? That being the case, the foolishness of the Corinthians lies in their ignorance of God’s transformative power, in which the mortal can put on immortality. I do not see this as a general rebuke on thinking about “corporeal continuity”, particularly given the way the passage develops from this point, where Paul talks at length about our future body. So on that basis, I will continue to think about this, as the Spirit illuminates his Word.

    Second point Gordo, the major point that Peter is trying to establish is NOT cosmic discontinuity. That is a secondary implication, if true at all (and I remain open to the possibility). The main point he is establishing, and what the scoffers are scoffing at, is God’s radical judicial intervention. The point that this text must be about total discontinuity ignores the fact that the earth is NEVER said to be dissolved or burnt up. Surrounding texts do talk about the heavens and the elements being changed (and there is debate over what stoicheia means), but the crucial verse on the earth does not speak about the discontinuity (or continuity) of the earth. That’s because the issue is primarily judicial not metaphysical.

    Andrew, I think Michael’s point is fatal to your position on resurrection and new creation. I cannot think of a clearer link between resurrection and the non-human creation than Rom 8:18-23. Your distinction between our resurrection and Christ’s resurrection ignores the language of firstfruits and the linkages the NT provides between the two. Sure, the liberation of creation belongs to a different order than the liberation of the sons of God, in the same way that the cursing of humanity and the cursing of creation in Genesis. But humanity (the steward of creation) and the non-human creation are inextricably linked in their destinies. Creation gets “dragged along” with the fortunes of its steward. Thus, we can legitimately say that grace restores nature, which is a thought from Bavinck, if memory serves. This doesn’t mean Jesus died for the sins of the whales – it means Jesus died for the sins of humanity, which caused substantial (but not irreparable) chaos to all things. As strongly as my fellow interlocutors feel about the ‘certainty’ of reading 2 Peter in annihilationist fashion, I similarly feel certain that the longing of creation for its own liberation cannot be regarded as creation longing for its own destruction/annihilation. Nor do I think ktisis here can be made into an anthropological reference (as J. Ramswey Michaels and a ton of Germans try to do). So I will see your 2 Peter 3 and raise you with my Romans 8.

    In the end, if your presupposition is that 2 Peter 3 is the starting point, then that will decisively affect your outcome. If your presupposition is that Rom 8 is the starting point, then that will decisively affect your outcome. Interestingly enough, I can think of few other areas where 2 Peter would trump Romans in evangelical exegesis : )

    In the end, we agree to disagree, and I hope you will all buy a copy of my dissertation! My own position is that the whole witness of Scripture, on balance, leans towards transformation and renewal, although some difficult texts remain. See ya!

  24. Hi friends,

    This will be my last post on this topic, as I think we have sufficiently hammered out our respective points so that we agree to disagree. Some final thoughts:

    Gordo and Tony – The 1 Cor 15:35 reference is likely to the fact that the Corinthians could not countenance any kind of belief in an eschatological embodied existence. Paul’s charge of foolishness therefore relates to their inability to understand that God can transform the present body from a frail, mortal, corruptible thing into an incorruptible, immortal thing. The foolishness lies not wanting to know the resurrection body will be like (after all, that is what he talks about for the next section of text), but rather in the denial that the body could be involved at all, because the Corinthians wrongly assumed that the body was inherently inferior. Paul’s point is that their folly shows up in their inability to countenance transformation into glory.

    Gordo – In terms of 2 Peter 3 – I cannot say that I am certain that it teaches absolute cosmic discontinuity. The passage is not primarily about cosmic continuity/discontinuity – his anger is reserved for those who scoff at the idea that God would intervene in radical judgement, the kind of judgement which divides the ages. Yes, the heavens and the elements (possibly the stars: cf Isa 34:4 LXX) are explicitly said to experience change, but this is so that the earth is revealed to the penetrating gaze of the divine judge, meaning that evil works (and people) cannot hide. But no explicit word is given on the ontological fate of the earth – none whatsoever. It has to be assumed from the wider context. Heurethesetai is a judicial verb in this context, not metaphysical. Therefore, there is room for debate, even though I freely admit that a discontinuity reading is more likely. If 2 Peter 3 were the only text pertaining to this issue, then I would concede the point. But in my view, a mass of other texts do pertain to this issue, which is why I join with Michael in reading Scripture through their majority lens, rather than 2 Peter 3.

    Andrew – I agree with Michael. Romans 8 explicitly links resurrection with the renewal of the whole creation (a theme which is present also within Jewish apocalyptic). Yes, the renewal of creation is of a different order than our own salvation, in the same way that the cursing of creation in Gen 3 is of a different order to our experience of curse (after all, creation wasn’t responsible – Rom 8:20). Nevertheless, in both cases, the actions and experiences of creation’s steward (humanity), impact on the non-human creation. Hence, I would avoid saying creation is saved (the image of a whale doing Two Ways to Live comes to mind), and instead adopt Paul’s language that creation will be liberated from curse. Therefore, it is the presently enslaved nonhuman creation which will participate in eschatological existence. Nothing I have seen so far in the comments really engages with how clear Romans 8 is on the transformative renewal of the present creation.

    Furthermore, Andrew’s distinction between Christ’s resurrection and our resurrection does not appear to fit Paul’s conception of Christ as the firstfruits. Our resurrection and his are part of the same crop – it is just that his happened in advance, and enables the rest of the harvest.

    Much talk has ensued on how certain people are that 2 Peter 3 teaches cosmic discontinuity. On the other side of the ledger, I am certain Romans 8 teaches cosmic continuity. For the life of me, I cannot work out how the nonhuman creation’s eager longing is for its own annihilation. This is even before considering other texts which I believe teach renewal.

    Thanks for chatting!

  25. Hi Michael
    Just to clarify, my comments regarding our (primary) motivation for righteousness were not with regard to 2 Peter 3 but rather in response to N T Wright as represented in Gavin’s original comments.  I agree that the judgement is also a profound motivation for ethical behaviour, as is also our desire to bear witness to the truth of the gospel.

    I think the argument in 2 Peter against the “scoffers” is not against their view of continuity per se, but more specifically against their belief that the world will continue as it is unchanged.

    More generally, I don’t see the need for a mutually exclusive position anyway.  At times the Scriptures speak of the new creation as being a completely new order, at other times it is viewed in terms of renewal and restoration; they are different angles on the same reality.  Reminds me somewhat of another continuity / discontinuity debate . . .

  26. Sorry about the double up – I thought the first comment had failed to get through, so I had to rewrite it.

    Mea culpa

  27. Mark said:

    <i>Sorry about the double up</i>

    [Moderator comment]: No worries Mark, I realized what had happened but figured there was sufficient non-doubliness to let both comments through!

  28. Hi Mark,

    I disagree with your arguments with me about Romans 8, but what worries me much more is your last paragraph!

    “My own position is that the whole witness of Scripture, on balance, leans towards transformation and renewal, although some difficult texts remain. See ya!”

    Why not include those difficult texts?
    Isn’t a simple reading (if you want to use the resurrection motif for inanimate objects which I strongly object with)… That the whole creation dies and is destroyed before it is resurrected anew.  Just like Jesus.

  29. Andrew – I don’t see how what you are saying now is different from what Mark is saying. When you say –

    ‘That the whole creation dies and is destroyed before it is resurrected anew.  Just like Jesus’

    – then surely you are saying there is a large degree of continuity (but also a huge discontinuity) between the old and the new, just as there was in Jesus’
    resurrection body…

    So how is what you are saying different?

  30. Andrew said:
    “Isn’t a simple reading (if you want to use the resurrection motif for inanimate objects which I strongly object with[sic])… That the whole creation dies and is destroyed before it is resurrected anew.  Just like Jesus.”
    That sounds to me like an argument for continuity more than discontinuity!  Is there any place in the Bible (or in the history of theology for that matter) which suggests that the resurrected Jesus is in any sense discontinuous with the pre-resurrected Jesus?

  31. Andrew,

    I am not aware I have linked the resurrection motif as being descriptive of what happens to the creation, as if creation follows the same arc as the human body. I simply draw the link, on the basis of Romans 8, that this present creation’s eschatological destiny is inextricably bound up with the final stages of our bodily salvation. That is my plain reading of Romans 8. To my feeble mind, such a vision of creational renewal comports well with the creational renewal envisaged in Isa 65:17ff; Ezek 47:1-12; Rev 21-22 (although these texts do not explore the link to human resurrection).

    If I have led you astray by making you think I believe in non-human resurrection in Romans 8, I apologise. Paul does not use resurrection language in relation to the ktisis. His argument is simply that our experience of resurrection will lead to the nonhuman creation experiencing liberating transformation.

    As regards me not including the difficult texts, I include 2 Peter 3 within my dissertation work, acknowledge its difficulties and do not attempt to fudge a solution, nor have I done so in these comments. I freely admit 2 Peter 3 is hard for ‘continuity’ advocates (which I said in my very first comment). But Romans 8 is hard for your position, and you still haven’t told me what you think Romans 8 is saying as regards creation’s liberation. There is no language of destruction/recreation here – it is liberation language. So, what do you think it is that the ktisis eagerly awaits? What do you think ktisis means here? In what does the liberation of the ktisis consist?

  32. Sorry Andrew. One final point I forgot. You encapsulate resurrection as:

    dying and being destroyed and then being resurrected anew.

    I don’t buy that model of resurrection – the dying bit – for sure! – but though the body may die, the same body can then be raised to life. This is my understanding of the empty tomb. The dead body of Jesus is transformed into a new mode of being through resurrection. His body is never destroyed, as far as I can tell.

  33. I am breaking my promise to stop posting. Please forgive me – this is a topic close to my heart. Following Mark Thompson’s lead, and picking up on what I think Andrew might be getting at, it might be helpful for you to know that I do affirm both continuity and discontinuity. God’s eschatological intervention does bring about profound change to the cosmos. It is the same creation, but it does not remain the same. That’s how I read all the evidence. Texts like 2 Peter 3 and Rev 20:11 remind me that the world will be changed in big ways. If you have thought that I am arguing that the world simply perpetuates in its present form, I apologise. If that is what Tom Wright thinks, he is wrong, but I am not certain that is what he does think. My view of transformation implies profound change, meaning some things come to an end and get destroyed, but only some things.

    To my mind, there are too many texts which affirm there is profound material continuity. This is what I am finding difficult about the exchange. My interlocutors note well the witness of the Word to passages where discontinuity is prominent, and I applaud them for it. But I do not hear them incorporating the continuity texts, or at least explaining what they mean in relation to the discontinuity texts. As Michael suggested, categorising such texts as vague ‘hints’ in the other direction is fairly poor form. Some of those texts are quite perspicuous. 

    My arguments have been admittedly one-sided primarily because the original post denied almost all continuity. Hence the need to ‘defend’ continuity. Andrew, I hope this qualms your fears that I might be ignoring hard texts. I continue to wrestle with all of the relevant passages. Having studied the issue at length, I would be heartbroken to discover that I wasn’t hearing God on this at all. But I am always willing to repent. I continue to pray that my heart is soft to all that God has to say to me – the bits I like, and the bits I don’t like.



  34. Hi All,

    I may not have been clear, but my suggestion is one that I give for a position that I do not hold myself.

    “Isn’t a simple reading (if you want to use the resurrection motif for inanimate objects which I strongly object with)… That the whole creation dies and is destroyed before it is resurrected anew.  Just like Jesus.”

    All I am arguing for (and thank you Mark for your comments) is that those who push for a continuity angle include a strong word about death, judgment, destruction as well.

    Also, of course there is great continuity with Christ before and after he died.  He was perfect.  The rest of the world is not.  The rest of the world will be utterly destroyed or shaken, before all things are made new – or to use the language of Romans 8, liberated

  35. <i>Also, of course there is great continuity with Christ before and after he died.  He was perfect.  The rest of the world is not.</i>

    What does Christ’s perfection have to do with it?

  36. Thanks for a really helpful discussion, everyone. I think it’s clarified a lot of issues in my mind.

    Andrew, forgive me for quoting the same line again, but it’s crystallised my thinking.

    <i>Also, of course there is great continuity with Christ before and after he died.  He was perfect.  The rest of the world is not.</i>

    If I understand where you’re driving, then you’re pointing out that 2 Peter 3 is speaking in such strong language of old/new creation because that’s what’s needed at the end of the age—a thorough clean-up. That’s the effect of God’s judgement. And you’re saying that Jesus didn’t need the same kind of clean up. That resonated with me initially.

    But, then I realised that’s what Jesus’ death and resurrection achieves. Jesus took on our “body of sin”, was judged and was raised in resurrection life so that we could participate in a new humanity liberated from sin (cf Rom 6).

    So I’m in danger if I drive a gap between the eschatological events of Christ’s death and resurrection and Christ’s return: I make God’s recreative activity more radical at Christ’s return than at the cross-resurrection event. I say there’s a more terrible judgement awaiting creation than that which Christ bore upon the cross.

    A further danger is that the extra severity isn’t dealt with—it could still be awaiting me. (I’m reminded of Athansius’ <i>On the Incarnation</i>.)

    I really agree with your concern that we not underplay the severity of God’s end-time judgement. And I don’t buy the level of continuity that I see in many modern writings, especially those used to justify radical ecological agendas. Or to underplay the centrality to bringing in God’s kingdom of calling people to repentance and faith. So please keep raising objections.

  37. It’s interesting that many of the issues to do with this question turn out to be issues of Christology.

    On the matter of Jesus’ body, the usual Protestant and reformed understanding is that Jesus took on our fallen humanity. His body was not perfect in that it was subject to pain, temptation, decay and death, but now it has been transformed. Andrew, I think you achieve discontinuity between the creation and new creation (and Jesus’ resurrection and ours) at the cost of discontinuity between Jesus’ humanity and ours. Roman Catholic theologians have been prepared to pay this price (though perhaps for other reasons), but I don’t think we should.

  38. Thanks for the link, Andrew.

    I also made some comments on Michael’s blog concerning our attitude to false teachers, but unfortunately they’ve disappeared. As they are not directly on topic, I won’t repeat them here, but I’m intending to post some observations back at my own blog (including the material that was temporarily on Michael’s blog) in the next few days.

Comments are closed.