Eternity

Cosmology: Part Two

Eternity
Friday, September 6, 2019

I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. —Revelation 21:1

John doesn’t say the old earth is destroyed; it’s made new. Not only humans, but the whole of creation is moving toward a full maturation of the God-seed planted within. This makes Christians on some level evolutionists. History, like the universe, is unfolding. For me, this is the meaning of the second coming of Christ. The unfolding mystery of the Body of Christ is the second coming, and it’s ongoing. [1] Read more of theologian Denis Edwards’ insights on this theme:

Jesus Christ is God’s irrevocable promise of salvation within the evolving cosmos. In the light of Jesus, and God’s promise given in him, Christian theology knows that final catastrophe, and a total halt to progress, are not the future of the unfolding universe. The final goal of evolutionary history for free bodily human beings is intimacy with God, a future shared in some way by the whole created cosmos.

What relationship is there between the world which we help to build by our participation and the new Earth? How is the new Earth related to our work, to culture and to science? How is it related to our efforts to create a just and peaceful world? Is all of this simply the place where we prove ourselves? Or is the new Earth directly related to what we are constructing here and now?

[Karl] Rahner [1904–1984] answers that the coming kingdom of God will be the deed of God. This is the standard Christian tradition concerning the end time. The final consummation will not be simply an outcome of what has been planned and worked at by [humans]. We face a future which is radically mysterious and uncontrollable, because it is of God.

But Rahner claims this deed of God can be thought of as the self-transcendence of our own history. [2] Human history, like the history of nature, is to be transformed from within by the power of God. Human history is destined to endure, but it will endure in a radically transfigured form. God’s action is free and beyond our calculations or control, but it comes from within.

History itself passes into definitive consummation in God. . . . It is not just human beings who endure into eternity, nor is it simply some moral distillation of what they achieve. Rather “that which endures is the work of love as expressed in the concrete in human history.” [3] Human work and human love have eternal significance. . . .

The human vocation, then, is to be true co-workers with God and stewards of creation. The human task of completing creation derives its meaning from the redemptive and divinizing will of God. This applies even to those who do not know the significance of their contributions. Those whose actions are directed toward the good of the cosmos, believers and unbelievers alike, fall under the impulse of grace.

References:
[1] Adapted from Richard Rohr, Brie Stoner, Paul Swanson, “Jesus, Incarnation and the Christ Resurrection,” Another Name for Every Thing, season 2, episode 1 (Center for Action and Contemplation: August 10, 2019), cac.org/podcast.

[2] Karl Rahner, “The Theological Problems Entailed in the Idea of the ‘New Earth,’” Theological Investigations, vol. X, trans. David Bourke (Seabury Press: 1977), 269.

[3] Ibid., 270.

Denis Edwards, Jesus and the Cosmos (Paulist Press: 1991), 96-97.

Image credit: Fish Magic (detail), Paul Klee, 1925, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: To see evolution as revelatory of the divine Word means that we come to see the various forms and rhythms of nature as reflective of divine qualities. —Ilia Delio

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