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Copy of ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES

Environmental Studies

What role should believers have in caring for God's creation in light of Genesis 1:26-28 and Romans 8:20-22?

Photo Credit: Sam Cox - Flickr

Reflection: Why Did God Subject Creation to Frustration, “in Hope”? Romans 8 and International Development

Beth Snodderly is a past president of William Carey International University and serves as editor of the WCIU Journal and the  Ralph D. Winter Research Center.

Beth Snodderly is a past president of William Carey International University and serves as editor of the WCIU Journal and the Ralph D. Winter Research Center.

WCIU Journal: Environmental Studies Topic

June 25, 2015

by Beth Snodderly

 Romans 8:19-21:

For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children 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 freedom and glory of the children of God.

1. After Satan used his free will to rebel against God, and because Satan was already the ruler of the earth, God put a long-term plan in place.

2. N.T. Wright explains on pages 22, 23 of his article, “Romans and the Theology of Paul,” :

The divine intention was, always, to deal with the evil of the world …  by heaping it up into one place and there passing and executing sentence of judgment upon it. This “place” was always intended to be the Messiah himself.

The necessary precondition for this judging of sin in the person of the Messiah was that Israel, the people of the Messiah, should itself become the place where sin was gathered together, in order that this burden might then be passed on to the Messiah alone.

Israel was thus, as part of its covenant vocation, called to be the ‘vessels of wrath,’ the place where the wrath of the creator against the wickedness of the whole creation would be gathered together in order that it be dealt with.

This was never intended to be a permanent condition. Israel was like a bomb disposal squad called to take the devastating device to a safe place to be detonated.

3. After the Messiah came, and dealt with the heaped up sin of the world, there was still the creation left groaning under the burden and frustration of what Satan has done to it. Just as God subjected the people of Israel to the frustration of having to know what is right (through the Law) and not being able to fulfill it, in order to show what sin really is, so creation has been subjected to the frustration of “knowing” what it is meant to be and not able to be that.

4. But now, instead of a Messiah to take the burden of the heaped up guilt and pay the price for Satan’s and peoples’ free choices, it is the children of God who have a responsibility for creation, and for those outside the covenant. God’s children have to freely choose to set things right insofar as they can, in the hope that they will choose to do the right thing.

5. God has let a lot of time go. God’s children need to use that time to do what they were originally created to do: be stewards of the earth and reclaim it from Satan’s dominion (Genesis 1:26).

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