This Saturday I will be presenting at the Ecclesia and Ethics Online Conference on “The Revealing of the Sons of God: Paul’s Restorative Eschatology in the Epistle to the Romans”. For those who are registered, and who are considering attending my presentation, let me provide you with the first few paragraphs in order to allow you to preview what I plan to address:
Romans 1:18-32 and 8:18-39 share several themes: creation (1:20, 25; 8:19-22), image (1:23; 8:29), body (1:24; 8:23), glory or glorifying (1:21, 23; 8:18, 21, 30), futility (1:21; 8:20), and revelation (1:18; 8:18-19). In the first passage (1:18-32) the mood in negative. Paul informs us that the wrath of God is being revealed against ungodly and unrighteous humans (v. 18). Although creation itself makes God known (v. 20), humans have chosen to ignore God (vv. 21-22), choosing instead to worship creation itself idolatrously (v. 25). Paul interprets this misplaced adoration as the exchanging of God’s glory for images of created things (v. 23). God has chosen not to intervene. Instead, he has allowed human thinking to become futile and misguided (vv. 21, 28). This has resulted in the misuse and erotic abuse of the human body (vv. 24, 26-27) as one example of the many dehumanizing actions embraced by humanity (vv. 29-32).
In the second passage (8:18-39) things have changed. Currently, creation is groaning and waiting patiently for the revealing of the sons of God (vv. 19-22), but this is hopeful. When the sons of God are revealed creation will be freed from its present captivity; it state of futility (v. 23). Similarly, humanity itself will be renewed. Paul describes this as resurrection (see 8:9-14), or “the redemption of our body (v. 23).” When this occurs the sons of God will be glorified (v. 30; cf. vv. 21, 23). This is equated with being conformed to the image of God’s Son (v. 29).
Why do we find this shift in mood? Why does Paul move from a pessimistic anthropology to an optimistic eschatology? Also, why does he use language and images that focus our attention upon the state-of-being of humanity and the created order? What is the connection between these two? The short answer: God has begun to restore the cosmos and renew humanity through the resurrection of Jesus.