OK, here it is, the proposal for my dissertation:
Genesis 1:31a And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.
Despite the early scriptural affirmation of the goodness of creation, Greek philosophical dualism, where heaven=good and earth=bad, still pervades much Christian thought. Heaven is to be ‘sought after’ and all that matters in the Christian life is that, one day, we will be in heaven with God. Heaven becomes the ‘be all and end all’ of faith, turning attention away from the needs of this world and its inhabitants.
Yet this theological perspective, with its unfortunate implications for Christian ethics, does not enjoy incontestable scriptural backing. Rather than leaving this ‘bad’ earth behind, the apostle Paul speaks of the redemption of creation, freeing it from decay (Romans 8:20-21). NT Wright argues that Paul has ‘reimagined’ Jewish Messiahship and salvation in the context of an inaugurated eschatology, encompassing the entirety of creation. It is not, nor has it ever been, God’s ‘plan’ to wipe away this ‘bad’ earth and start afresh.
Driven by the scriptural emphasis of redeemed creation and an inaugurated eschatology, our theology and ethics must encompass a better sense of what the ‘new heavens and the new earth’ mean for the ‘here and now’ and not just for some indeterminate future.
Picking up on Wright’s insistence on a ‘reimagined salvation’ encompassing all creation, this dissertation will explore the theological ground of what eschatology means for creation itself.
My supervisor is looking likely to be Professor David Fergusson and he reckons it’s “a worthwhile dissertation topic”. I’m currently trying to put together a possible bibliography, but the names Wright, Moltmann and Polkinghorne seem to crop up with regularity when searching for suitable sources, so I guess they’ll feature somewhere.