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


Conflicting Worldviews

In ancient Greece and India, philosophers and religious leaders discussed this riddle of reality, and at times came up with similar solutions. Some Greek philosophers dismissed the physical world altogether, since matter changes by nature, and logically what is “becoming” cannot be also said to “be.”3 About the same time in India, Buddhist doctrine was advancing the idea that the world is illusory, or non-real. In other words, the things that we see and experience through our five senses are not real. The late prominent Buddhist scholar in the U.S., D. T. Suzuki, referred to this as “the Non-Atman-ness of things,”4 and he cites ancient Buddhist scripture to support the point:

Empty and calm and devoid of ego
Is the nature of all things;
There is no individual being
That in reality exists.5

Other early Greek philosophers, as well as some Hindu and Buddhist schools, did not completely reject the reality of the physical world, but assigned a lesser degree of value to it. The most important proponent of this latter metaphysical view is that of Plato (429-347 BC). He maintained that the world of appearances, the world of our senses, is real, but only as it participates in and expresses the greater reality of Ideas or Forms. In other words, a horse that’s eating hay in a barn can only be real because there is a REAL concept called, “horse.” A few prominent Christian philosophers who were impressed with Plato’s cosmology later expressed his notion of real ideas as structured thoughts in the mind of God. 6

By New Testament times, Greek Hellenistic influence was interwoven with metaphysical views that had been imported from the East. Admittedly, this set the stage for a rich exchange in the marketplace of ideas. However, the otherwise tolerant heterogeneous climate remained hostile to New Testament Christianity, since the competing worldviews contradicted the teaching of Old Testament Scripture and the established tradition set forth by the Apostles.

One would think that the Judeans were able to perpetuate the worldview handed down to them from the time of Moses. To some extent, the party of the Pharisees represented the purist reflection of the Old Testament cosmology. However, Hellenistic influence was far reaching soon after the time of Alexander the Great. Jews of the Diaspora and the Gentile pagans were even more susceptible to non-Mosaic views of reality and the cosmos, and this factored into the way Christian converts handled the Apostles’ doctrine and eventually it affected their lifestyle. For example, on the primary issue of the Person of Christ, a second-century sect known as the “Docetists” denied the incarnation of Christ because they were harnessed to the metaphysical assumption that God and physical reality could not be joined.7


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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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