The Renewal of Creation: Are We Co-Redeemers?

One of the questions raised by the new social justice movement is: are Christians called to be co-redeemers in the renewal of creation? Dr. Craig Troxel addressed this in his essay from Confident of Better Things, a book of essays commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church:

With regard to the world as the created suborder, the Bible does not speak of it as something that is in the process of being redeemed. For example, Romans 8:21 states that “the creation itself will be set free from its bondage”. But the context of Romans 8 teaches that the liberation of the created order will take place along with the revealing (“apocalypse”) of the sons of God, that is, at their glorification (vv. 19, 23). This renewal of creation will happen when it undergoes a purging by fire, and when the new heavens and the new earth are ushered in at the close of this age (2 Pet. 3:12, 13). This will take place, not in a process, but on the “day of the Lord” (2 Pet. 3:10). Secondly, this will take place, not through human efforts to preserve or “save the planet,” but by the mighty hand of God, with fire, just as he once deluged the creation with water (2 Pet. 3:6, 7). How are we to understand a form of redemption that bypasses the cross and is accomplished by and through our good works? Typically we associate the vocabulary of atonement, repentance, faith, and forgiveness with redemption, but how do we construe the church as a “co-redeemer?” We must be careful of rhetorical excess and consider the query of our forefather, B.B. Warfield, who asked in wonder whether we really think that we can understand “redemption” and “Redeemer” to refer to whatever benefit we happen to think it means–no matter how loose or superfluous that meaning is.” (354-355)