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Providence speaker stresses all creation needs redemption

Salvation means creation restored and humans are partners with God in making it happen was the focus of Terry LeBlanc’s lectures.

by Doris Penner

The aboriginal peoples of Canada and the rest of the world have a lot to teach colonialists says David Johnson, interim president of Providence University College and Theological Seminary in Otterburne.

“Our hope is that Canadian aboriginals will be willing to engage with us at Providence so we can learn from them,” he says.

The college has begun the process of engaging First Nations. Last week the annual public lectures which brings together students, faculty and the public to hear from an outside expert on some topic of contemporary interest brought in Mi’kmaq native Terry LeBlanc to address aspects of indigenous biblical theology.

“We were pleased with what Terry said, and how he said it, being both articulate and informed, yet casual and conversational,” says Dennis Hiebert, sociology professor at Providence who organized the event together with the Public Scholarship Committee. “He did well to challenge our thinking.”

LeBlanc is the founding chair and current director of NAIITS, the North American Institute for Indigenous Theological Studies, and as such is sought after as a lecturer at seminaries and universities.

The focus of LeBlanc’s three lectures at Providence was the difference between how indigenous people and most of the western world looks at scripture and the plan of redemption.

The underlying and crucial difference is the indigenous view that all of creation including all components of nature need to be redeemed and restored, not just humanity which western Christians deem to be the most significant, he suggested.

God’s spirit in nature

“The gospel is more than only salvation of humans,” said LeBlanc, noting western Christianity focuses on relationships between God and man, and person to person, ignoring human relationship to the natural world.

“God is in all of creation—He is omnipresent,” he reiterated, adding that this means God has placed His spirit in all of nature.

LeBlanc pointed out this apparent lack of belief that God was “in everything” was evident when European missionaries first arrived in Canada and encountered the “savages” to save and baptize them as if God was completely absent.

He pointed out the western understanding of nature is very similar to Gnosticism that views the physical world as “evil” and the spiritual as “good.”

“This led to the theory we must ‘escape’ the evil world—that the Rapture will take us all away,” said LeBlanc, noting he believes the Bible to say that all creation will be restored to what it was at the beginning as described in Genesis chapters one and two.

“We are partners with God in restoring creation to what it was meant to be,” he said, painting a beautiful word picture of the Garden of Eden being restored at the end of the age by “the tree in the centre”—that is, the cross which becomes the “tree of life.”

“Salvation means creation healed,” he said. “This is the original intent of God.”

A question and response session followed each lecture and the day ended with a panel discussion made up of Providence faculty and students.

David Johnson noted that the college is in discussion with NAIITS to begin an undergraduate major at Providence in community development for example, to teach people to listen to communities in order help them develop sustainable living patterns in their own environment.

“We want to teach people the Christian values of human dignity, sustainability, stewardship, forgiveness, justice and peace,” he said, noting that as a Christian academic community, their hope is to enlist people from every culture to worship the “Creator God.”

Johnson said they have invited Howard Jolly, pastor of First Nations Community Church in Winnipeg, to sit on the board in order to ensure a continued aboriginal perspective.

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