September 9, 2010

John Wesley's Vision of New Creation

John Wesley was no amateur when it came to the composition of English prose.  Here's an exemplary excerpt from his sermon on "The General Deliverance."  Considering the question as to the state of creation at the time of manifestation of the children of God, Wesley says,
The whole brute creation will then, undoubtedly, be restored, not only to the vigour, strength, and swiftness which they had at their creation, but to a far higher degree of each than they ever enjoyed. They will be restored, not only to that measure of understanding which they had in paradise, but to a degree of it as much higher than that, as the understanding of an elephant is beyond that of a worm. And whatever affections they had in the garden of God, will be restored with vast increase; being exalted and refined in a manner which we ourselves are not now able to comprehend. The liberty they then had will be completely restored, and they will be free in all their motions. They will be delivered from all irregular appetites, from all unruly passions, from every disposition that is either evil in itself, or has any tendency to evil. No rage will be found in any creature, no fierceness, no cruelty, or thirst for blood. So far from it that "the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid; the calf and the young lion together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall feed together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain." (Isaiah 11:6, &c.)
And further,
Thus, in that day, all the vanity to which they are now helplessly subject will be abolished; they will suffer no more, either from within or without; the days of their groaning are ended. At the same time, there can be no reasonable doubt, but all the horridness of their appearance, and all the deformity of their aspect, will vanish away, and be exchanged for their primeval beauty. And with their beauty their happiness will return; to which there can then be no obstruction. As there will be nothing within, so there will be nothing without, to give them any uneasiness: No heat or cold, no storm or tempest, but one perennial spring. In the new earth, as well as in the new heavens, there will be nothing to give pain, but everything that the wisdom and goodness of God can create to give happiness. As a recompence for what they once suffered, while under the "bondage of corruption," when God has "renewed the face of the earth," and their corruptible body has put on incorruption, they shall enjoy happiness suited to their state, without alloy, without interruption, and without end (emphasis mine).
"Amen. Come, Lord Jesus" (Rev 22:20).


ἐκκλησία said...

It's wonderful what a high view of restoration John Wesley had, as shown in the two quotes you've provided. We'd be wise to adopt an equally high view.

However, it would be nice to see his Biblical justification for thinking restoration will somehow be greater than initial creation for two reasons.

1. It implies God's restoration will result in a creation that is 'better' than the initial creation (which implies initial creation was not as good as it could have been).

2. It implies God will purpose a different creation (in response to sin) than He did at the first.

The problem with the first assumption is that God has only one standard of 'good'. When he looked upon his initial creation and saw that it was 'good'[Gen 1:31] it conformed to His standard of Good. If restoration results in a creation that is 'better' (or even different) than the first and it also conforms to God's standard of 'good', that implies God has multiple standards of 'good'.

The problem with the second assumption is that it contradicts the idea that God is without shade or variation. [James 1:17]

For either of those 'assumptions' to be upheld there must be some Biblical basis as Wesley was _very_ Biblical.

Matt O'Reilly said...

In his sermon on "The New Birth" Wesley says, "But, although man was made in the image of God, yet he was not made immutable."

There are indicators in Gen 1 & 2 that the original creation was always intended to move forward to a greater consummation. In Gen 1:26 ff., God grants the divine image and dominion to his human creatures. They were to till it and to keep it. God apparently wanted them to do something, to cultivate the creation. Presumably, there was an as yet unrealized purpose for the world. Creation, while good, was still going somewhere.

Similarly, the covenant made with Adam with regard to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil presupposes a further unrealized purpose. Many historic interpreters (including Wesley) believed that Adam was in a trial period where, if he persevered, he would be granted eternal (resurrection equivalent) life.

So, biblically, I don't think its a problem to say that new creation will surpass the original creation. New creation has been the goal from the beginning. The goodness of the original creation is not contradictory to the perfection of the future new creation.