A man slowly becoming a wolf, in Charles Williams, 'The Place of the Lion', seeks his prey. He snarls, “Slowly, Lord, slowly! I’ll make sacrifice—the blood of the sacrifice,” and at that a sudden impatient anger caught [another] young man.
“Fool,” he cried out, “There’s only one sacrifice, and the God of gods makes it, not you.”
I was reminded of this scene as I studied the fifth lesson in the Presbyterian Women’ Bible Study, “Reconciling Paul.”
Starting with the Shaker song, “Simple-Gifts,” lesson five of the Presbyterian Women’s Horizon Bible study barely begins with Scripture before skipping much of the text. The author, Hinson-Hasty, uses some of the text to supposedly prove that humanity is called to strive to bring about the new creation; not through proclamation of the good news of redemption but by less consumption and a sense of interdependence with nature.
She simply skips over the important meat of the text to write about what she refers to as “ecocide.” Jesus Christ and his redemptive work are only explained as they fit within ecological problems. This is how Hinson-Hasty puts it as she writes about 2 Corinthians 5:20:
God and human beings are understood here as working together, co-groaning, co-travailing, in the process of giving birth to a new creation. “New creation is being birthed not only within individuals, but within the whole cosmos. In this lesson, you will explore in greater depth Paul’s understanding of new creation, consider the whole creation as an interdependent reality, and begin to think about the work of reconciliation as a partnership between people and planet earth.
The lesson, “Reconciliation and the Whole Creation,” covers 2 Corinthians 5:11-6:10, which includes rich promises. God reconciles us to himself through Christ Jesus. We are made new and promised a place in God’s new creation. The apostolic witness is the call to proclaim God’s reconciling act in Christ.
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and he has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him. (2 Cor. 5:17-21)
Hinson-Hasty correctly insists that the new creation in Paul’s writing includes more than the individual, and many scholars agree with her that ‘new creature’ may be translated ‘new creation.’ Still by simply ignoring the redemptive parts of these particular verses, ‘not counting their trespasses,’ and “He made him who knew no sin to become sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him,” Hinson-Hasty, has turned the meaning away from its Christological center.
The reconciling is to God through the work of Christ. The work the Christian is to do in this case is to call sinners to the gift of Christ that they might be reconciled to God. Does this preclude being concerned about the health of the earth? Absolutely not, but the author is reading more into the text then is there. And not only is she adding her own political views to the text, she is taking away the importance of the good news of Jesus’ redemptive work.
Hinson-Hasty also uses some of the text of Romans 8:19-23 to explain Paul’s meaning of 2 Corinthians. She writes:
In Romans 8:19-23 the whole creation is groaning and travailing together in pain like a woman in labor. In a sense, the whole creation gets caught up in a larger process of bringing something new into being, co-groaning and co-travailing, in the ongoing acts of creativity and redemption.
But, this isn't the meaning of the Roman’s text; the groaning of creation is not bringing something new into being, but creation and the redeemed are waiting for the new in the midst of pain. The acts of creativity and redemption belong to God alone. The pains are like childbirth, but the action is God’s final act of resurrecting the bodies of his adopted sons and daughters. Then creation will be free.
F.F. Bruce writing of this chapter in Romans notes the glory of the whole event which includes not only the redeemed but also fallen creation:
When the day of glory dawns, the glory will be manifested on a universal scale in the people of God, the glorified community of Christ. Something of the glory is already visible: Paul elsewhere sees a special splendor in the church as the fellowship of the reconciled, and thinks of it as being displayed even at this present time to celestial beings as God’s masterpiece of reconciliation: ‘that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places’ (Eph. 3:10). But what is now seen in limited and distorted fashion will be seen in perfection when the people of God at last attain the goal which he has ever had in view for them—complete conformity to his glorified Son.
Bruce goes on to speak of a transformed universe which occurs when the redeemed are completely transformed. But this is God’s work; creation, including redeemed humanity waits. And speaking of the groaning, and waiting, Archibald Thomas Robertson in his Word Pictures in the New Testament, writes, “This mystical sympathy of physical nature with the work of grace is beyond the comprehension of most of us. But who can disprove it?”
Robertson goes on in several places to show that both the children of God and nature are waiting for the coming of Christ.
The Horizon’s lesson begins with a song, Simple Gifts, written by Shaker founder, Ann Lee, who believed she was the second coming of Christ, yet the lesson fails to lift up the hope of the Christian, the true second coming of Christ and the bodily resurrection of those who belong to Christ.