When comparing the present creation to the new creation, we often say there will be ‘both continuity and discontinuity’. To describe this as ‘both clear and unclear’ would be both an understatement and an overstatement. (Huh?)

I suspect that when people say ‘both continuity and discontinuity’, they often mean simply that the new creation will be both similar and different to the present creation. If so, then ‘both similar and different’ would be a perfectly comprehensible way of expressing that.

But what about continuity and discontinuity? Let’s look them up in a (made-up) dictionary:

continuity n. lacking discontinuity.

discontinuity n. lacking continuity.

Putting those together would suggest that ‘both continuity and discontinuity’ is somewhat, well, ‘meaningfully challenged’. But perhaps a diagram will help:

Continuity and discontinuity

Can I suggest that we wouldn’t do ourselves a great deal of harm if we entirely ditched the phrase ‘both continuity and discontinuity’?

But what would we put in its place? As far as I can tell, people tend to use the phrase to mean one of two things, depending on whether they believe there will be continuity or discontinuity between the present and the future creation. I have a suggestion for each of those cases.

  • If you believe that there will be continuity: that the present creation will be renewed, purified and glorified to become the new creation, then ‘continuity with transformation’ should do the trick.
  • If you believe that there will be discontinuity: that the present creation will be burned up and that God will start from scratch with a brand new, replacement creation (albeit one that has many similarities to the present creation), then ‘discontinuity with similarities’ should serve you well.

Perhaps another diagram will help:

Continuity with transformation, or discontinuity with similarities

If you want my own view on the matter, I’m firmly in the ‘continuity with transformation’ camp, not least because one part of the old creation has already become part of the new creation, through a process of continuity with transformation: the body of Jesus (see my posts on the topic from earlier this year and from 2011).