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Does Pleasure Fit in the Plot of Scripture? (Excerpt from Michael Wittmer's "Becoming Worldly Saints")
The following is an excerpt from Michael Wittmer's book Becoming Worldly Saints (releasing 2/3/15), which asks us: Can you serve Jesus and still enjoy your life?
We often read the Bible as if it were an encyclopedia, looking up passages on parenting, patience, or whatever we’re struggling with. As helpful as this can be, a selective reading of Scripture can lead us to easily forget that the Bible, like any other story, has a plot. Its plot supplies the outline for this book and a map for integrating the high purpose of heaven with the normal pleasures of earth.
Scripture’s story line is straightforward. Genesis 1 – 2 opens with creation, a garden of delight that conveyed but could not contain God’s hopes for the world. God created Adam and Eve in his image, empowering them to expand the boundary of Eden until the entire world flourished under their loving care.
This earthly paradise was shattered by Adam’s fall. Genesis 3 – 11 describes his rebellion and the curses it unleashed on our broken world. The ground was cursed, Cain was cursed, and finally the whole world wasdestroyed by a flood. The earth was awash in such violence that God openly wondered if creation had been a good idea (Gen. 3:17; 4:11; 6:5 – 7).
But rather than light a fuse and walk away, washing his hands of our sordid mess, God chose to enter our world and set things right. God initiated his plan of redemption in Genesis 12, when he promised Abraham that “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (v. 3), and he carried out that promise through the end of Scripture, which closes by imploring Jesus, the divine descendant of Abraham, to return and finish the job.
This, then, is the story of Scripture: creation, fall, and redemption. Some people add restoration, but this is redundant, since restoration is already assumed in the act of redemption. Redemption means to buy back, so everything God redeems he also restores. It’s better to say that God’s story ends in consummation, which can be viewed either as the final act of redemption or a discrete step that follows it. The consummation is “redemption plus,” meaning that God not only restores his original creation but also lifts it to that higher level it was always intended to reach. I’ll say more about the consummation in chapter 21, and much more about creation, fall, and redemption throughout this book. For now I want to highlight how the redemption of creation enables us to integrate the purpose of heaven with the pleasures of earth, or our Christian life with our human life.
Most Christians rightly think the “high purpose of heaven” means serving redemption by sharing our faith and making disciples of all nations. We must go above and beyond a routine human existence — work, play, sleep, repeat — for we were made for more than this life. This is true. However, if redemption restores creation, then it’s also true that it will not neglect our normal human life. Redemption may do more than restore the pleasures of creation, but it will not do less. And if persistent pleasure comes from finding purpose — note the many aimless retirees who need to be needed — then the heavenly purpose of redemption must also aim to restore the original purpose of creation…
Read more of Michael Wittmer's thoughts on human flourishing tomorrow. Meanwhile, learn more about his book Becoming Worldly Saints.
By Michael Wittmer
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