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Worldviews in Conflict: Christian Cosmology and the Recent Doctrine of Spiritual Mapping (Part 1)

 

Under these conditions, man could not work the field, fish in the river, or take a walk on a cloudy day without imagining the spiritual life at work in the natural environment. A spiritual vision of this magnitude produced in our primitive ancestors a unique sense of awe and fear with regard to the supernatural and the spiritual, but it also limited man’s progress in the physical world. If everything is spiritual or sacred, then we have no right to inspect the earth, reconstruct our environment to improve human conditions, or take medicine without swallowing a ghost. It is no coincidence that wherever these primitive ideas are still held in the world today, industry and technology are severely retarded.

To summarize, our worldview is shaped by our culture and the times in which we live. Some of the cosmologies that have shaped today’s cultures include the idea that the universe is non-real. It is true that in the modernized Western world, some philosophers deny the spirit world altogether. Still others have advocated the philosophy that the physical material world is real, but not as real as the invisible, supernatural world. Finally, we see how Dualism has attracted some people to the idea that the spirit-world belongs to God, while another dark invisible force controls the world of matter, events and things.

In each case, the worldview shapes, not only the perspective of the adherent, but his environment and habitation. It should be apparent by now that our interpretation and understanding of what is real is foundational for Christian doctrine. A sound Christian cosmology, however, should not be shaped largely by ideas simply because they are historical, philosophical, experiential, or even popular; rather it should be shaped by the authority of Scripture. For Christians, the revelation contained in inspired Scripture is the only reliable—and ultimately authoritative—source to which we may anchor our trust. We now turn to a biblical perspective of creation, spiritual reality and the cosmos.

Toward a Biblical Cosmology

A distinctively Christian cosmology starts by examining the doctrine of creation as it is first presented in the book of Genesis. Only by searching the Genesis narrative for its perspective on creation can we begin to understand the relationship between material and spiritual realities, or whether one reality is actually “more real” than the other. Our intent here is to assess the fundamental perspective of the Genesis author, to capture his sense of reality—so to speak. Two questions are important in our analysis: (1) What does the Genesis account teach us about God’s relationship to his creation? and (2) what is the biblical view on the relationship between spirit and matter?

Concerning the first question, we are told in the first chapter of Genesis —in matter-of-fact expressions—that God created the world. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). The utterance ignores the apologist’s appeal to arguments for the existence of God. Instead it invites the reader to imagine the wonder and awe of God’s unique creative act. The narrative is simple, but penetrating, lucid but beyond the scope of human comprehension. Two things stand out immediately to the reader: (a) that the universe has a fixed point of origin; i.e., it is not infinite like God; and (b) that God created the universe solely from within his own power, without the use of preexisting materials; i.e., creatio ex nihilo (creation out of nothing).

Each premise attacks the core belief systems of the ancient world, including later Greek philosophies. The world of the ancients claimed that the universe was eternal and that time and seasons revolved in endless cycles. A majority of Greek philosophers, following Plato,19 believed that the universe had been derived from some kind of pre-existent substance. The Manichean heresy enlarged this cosmology in its affirmation that good and evil had existed equally and eternally in this primordial state.20 They agreed with orthodoxy that God’s existence furnished the ultimate basis for creation, but they wrongly assumed that the world was created out of some pre-existent material. Genesis clearly contradicts these schools of thought by clarifying that, at a fixed point, God acted by creating the world. Only God existed before creation, and only by his act of creation did anything come into being at all.21

 

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Category: Fall 2001, Living the Faith, Pneuma Review

About the Author: Larry L. Taylor, M.A., D.Min., is Affiliate Faculty at Regis University in the Denver area and formerly professor of humanities at Portland Bible College. Larry Taylor founded a church in Colorado and has 17 years of pastoral experience.

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