The Goodness and Goal of Creation
Before turning to the Fall’s impact on our theological discussion, we must pause to re-emphasize the inherent goodness of creation. Why do this? Because inherent to the theology of fitness and health is this realization. To establish the inherent goodness of creation is itself to lay the foundation for avoiding many of the modern pitfalls regarding bodily pursuits, idolatries, and mischaracterizations we see currently in the 21st century.
“It was good,” God declares at the end of days 1-5 in the creation narrative, climaxing as “very good” at the end of day 6. Claiming the inherent goodness of creation is to say that it was without sin. It is not to say that it was mature or had reached its goal. The trajectory of the creation week and goal of all of creation is to enter into God’s rest, day 7, which is an open-ended day, summoning all of creation to enter into His rest forever.
Though we will explore the unfolding of creation in history more below, suffice it to say for now that God’s creation was without taint of sin but was also on a trajectory toward something greater, which will ultimately climax by the end of the story of the Bible in a new creation which will fulfill the original creation’s intent in every way.
The original goodness of God’s creation means that we cannot conclude that we need to escape creation nor that we need to escape the body.
Unfortunately, history and heretics tend both to repeat themselves. And the claim that the body and the physical world are bad is no stranger to this pattern. Gnosticism has reared its ugly head throughout church history, claiming that the godly must try to escape the physical world for the spiritual. Though there has been a resurgence of those caring for the body and the physical world in our current generation, there has also been a recapitulation of Gnosticism in some parts of the Protestant church, in particular, claiming that bodily and physical pursuits are not worthwhile because they are not the truer spiritual pursuits.
Rather, the creation account declares the physical world to be good and a communication of divine glory. We will explore more comprehensively the entrance of sin into the physical world and how this relates shortly. However, for now it will be sufficient to recognize that the physical body and world are not inherently evil but quite the opposite. The relationship of sin to the physical world is as one of a parasite rather than as an infiltrate (Albert Wolters, Creation Regained, 2nd Edition, 46). The trajectory of the Bible furthermore shows a creation that is groaning and longing for its original purpose to be fulfilled in the new creation (Rom 8:19ff). Thus we cannot accept any practice which inherently causes us to devalue the body as inherently meaningless or evil.
On the other hand, trendy groups are springing up in this generation claiming that we should return to the earth, causing not the aforementioned error but leading others down an alternatively tainted path. The creation account, although good, is not one to be sought or longed for as the ultimate fulfillment of the physical world. In other words, although it is good, it is simply the seedling of the more glorious, blossoming expressions of His glory to come. It is not yet mature. There are those who take up a Rousseauian ideal of returning to nature, though perhaps unintentionally, and claim that anything that is returning to the original or the natural must inherently be the best (so much for naturally poisonous mushrooms!). This view bleeds over into one’s view of the body, health, and fitness, with some claiming that the highest ideal must be in returning to nature (more on this later). However, to do so is to miss the whole purpose of the Bible, which is the glory of God as exponentially expanding into all of eternity through the development of His-story, centered in the Christ. In other words, the purpose of the creation account is that God made people to be image-bearers who would develop and expand the proclamation of His glory to the ends of the earth.
So thus to the subject of the image of God we will now turn.