Prime example of why bad theology leads to bad practice. Also, great example of why he is such a polarizing figure and why we should be on the frustrated/dissatisfied side of that polarization.
The part that frustrates me most about this is that even the founder of his own tradition (John Calvin) totally disagrees with this interpretation of the Petrine theology. This is a dispensationalist rendering of 2 Peter 3, not a Calvinist or Wesleyan view.
2 Peter 3:10 & 12 says, "the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed... because of which the heavens will be set ablaze and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire?"
Calvin says, "What afterwards follows, respecting the burning of heaven and earth, requires no long explanation, if indeed we duly consider what is intended. For it was not his purpose to speak refinedly of fire and storm, and other things, but only that he might introduce an exhortation, which he immediately adds, even that we ought to strive after newness of life. For he thus reasons, that as heaven and earth are to be purged by fire, that they may correspond with the kingdom of Christ, hence the renovation of men is much more necessary. Mischievous, then, are those interpreters who consume much labor on refined speculations, since the Apostle applies his doctrine to godly exhortations.
"Heaven and earth, he says, shall pass away for our sakes; is it meet, then, for us to be engrossed with the things of earth, and not, on the contrary, to attend to a holy and godly life? The corruptions of heaven and earth will be purged by fire, while yet as the creatures of God they are pure; what then ought to be done by us who are full of so many pollutions? As to the word godlinesses (pietatibus,) the plural number is used for the singular, except you take it as meaning the duties of godliness. Of the elements of the world I shall only say this one thing, that they are to be consumed, only that they may be renovated, their substance still remaining the same, as it may be easily gathered from Romans 8:21, and from other passages."
Let me paraphrase...
- Calvin wants to use the word "purge" not "burn it all up."
- Calvin says that this passage's main point is exhortation or encouragement to godly living. It is not speculation about the end times and people who use it to make grand speculations he deems "mischievous."
- "Of the elements of the world I shall only say this one thing, that they are to be consumed, only that they may be renovated, their substance still remaining the same..." It will not be burned up, it will be redeemed, restored, re-created, re-purposed - in effect, it will be new creation, new heaven and new earth.
Christ is making all things new. He has given us this responsibility, this ministry, reconciliation and new creation. Therefore, we live in such a way as to anticipate this. We make things new. We protect, steward, and facilitate people and creation towards new creation. We redeem broken and discarded things. We bring resurrection to everything we touch. We do not discard for all creation is very good and all of creation will be reconciled and made new. There will be a refining of creation. Evil, injustice, death, disease, and sin will be rooted out (those things not of God). But Christ is in the business of redeeming what he made. It was deemed very good and it will be good again.