Universal Salvation of All Creation
Wednesday, September 15, 2021
Elizabeth Johnson, the brilliant theologian, Sister of St. Joseph, and professor at Fordham University, has written extensively about the universal nature of salvation— not only for humans, but for all creation. By focusing our religious conversations on the problem of human sin and “worthiness,” we have often lost sight of the strong scriptural evidence for the universal return of all of creation to God. Dr. Johnson writes:
Biblical writers elaborated the good news using concepts of liberation, reconciliation, justification, victory over the powers, living in peace, fullness of life, being freed from slavery, adoption, and new birth as God’s children to name but a few. These long-untapped resources . . . open doors to understanding more varied dimensions of what is meant by the mystery of redemption.
One result has been renewed awareness of New Testament texts about cosmic redemption that previously just flew by. These texts that extend the promise of a future to all of creation are few in number, but they are strong. . . . The great hymn in Colossians which draws on the Wisdom tradition and the history of Jesus in equal measure, is suffused with this insight:
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominations or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. . . . For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (Colossians 1:15–20)
This passage from Colossians has also been central to my understanding of and teachings on the Universal Christ in recent years. Johnson continues:
The drumbeat of “all things” repeated five times in this short text, coupled with reference to “all creation,” “everything,” and the encompassing “things visible and invisible,” drives home the blessing that flows to the whole world from the cross. . . .
The visionary writer of the book of Revelation hears “every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them” singing praises to the Lamb (Revelation 5:13), and perceives a climactic event of transformation where the One who sits on the throne says, “See, I am making all things new” (21:5). . . . The New Testament includes a hope-filled vision of the whole universe pervaded with divine promise.
Would God bring all of creation to heavenly glory, while leaving out most of humanity, who are made in God’s own “image and likeness”? I can’t imagine that this would be so!
Elizabeth A. Johnson, Ask the Beasts: Darwin and the God of Love (Bloomsbury Continuum: 2014). 223–224.
Story from Our Community:
I credit Richard Rohr with helping me transition from the dualistic thinking I was exposed to as an evangelical preacher’s kid, to a more forgiving and loving way of thinking and being. His many books helped me rebuild my faith and I learned God has an awesome sense of humor. She used one of those “hell-bound,” “idol worshipping” Catholics to help me find my way. Thank you, Fr. Richard! Your books are treasured like friends. You almost rank up there with my dog. —Sharon D.