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Posts Tagged ‘creation’

you shouldnt have[A repost from the early days of the King’s English]

On the King’s English I’ve been thinking about a triune creation.

In the beginning

Let there be light

Let us make man in our image

Be fruitful and multiply

Behold, it was very good

God rested

The Breath of Life

It’s really striking me how profligate is the triune God of grace.  The Father, Son and Spirit bubble over in love.  A unitarian god needs creation.  And all relations between such a creator and its creature are quid pro quo arrangements.  The triune God does nothing about of necessity.  It’s all about gift and free overflow.

We can genuinely say “You really didn’t have to.”  And the Lord will reply, “I know, but I wanted to.”

So my friend, whoever you are.  Know in your heart: You are entirely unnecessary.  Entirely.  Unnecessary.  You are a profligate extravagance, a superfluous addendum, a needless flourish.  The Lord, His universe, His church, His kindgom purposes could so easily do without you.  You are completely surplus to requirements.

And you say “I need to be needed!  If my children don’t need me, I’ll fall apart.  If my church doesn’t need me, I’ll crumble.  If my work doesn’t need me, who am I?”

But you don’t need to be needed.  You only think you need to be needed because you’ve forgotten you’re loved.  So let me remind you…

You are wanted.  You are desired.  And not for anything ‘you offer.’  You are surplus to requirements.  But our God doesn’t deal in requirements, He enjoys the surplus.  He delights in you.

Because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved.  (Eph 2:4-5)

You are entirely unnecessary, but utterly loved.

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Famously Adolf Von Harnack asserted in the History of Dogma that much of Christian theology betrayed the “work of the Greek spirit on the soil of the gospel.”  Now to be fair, the old liberal didn’t have much gospel himself but the observation has something to it.

On the one hand we have the Scriptures beginning with a very good creation, full of promises of land and seed and a Saviour taking flesh to renew heaven and earth.  On the other we have a Hellenizing spirit which pits body and soul, earth and heaven, time and eternity against each other.   When this spirit meets this gospel – and Harnack was right, this is a perennial danger – it always yields bad fruit.

But in this series I want to look at two towering exceptions in the history of theology – Irenaeus and Athanasius.  In their day they resisted ‘the Greek spirit’ and called the church back to the fertile soil of the gospel.  There they found the Fountainhead of those unities which escaped the philosophers of this age.  In Jesus Christ they saw creation and salvation held together as one work performed by one Word.  And from there flowed a unified account of all reality.

In our own day we would do well to hear their voices.  Because we too find it completely obvious to fall for the old dualisms.

In the realm of the body, we see self-harm and eating disorders, promiscuity and confusion over sexual identity, compulsive dieting and body-building, cosmetic surgery and gender re-assignment.  These are problems commonly found in the world but also in our churches.  We seem deeply uncomfortable with our bodily existence.

In the realm of the environment, we see the extremes of those who simply consume the earth and those who worship it.

In worship there are the ritualists who consider their sacramental practice to work ex opere operato and there are the low church minimalists running scared from anything physical.

And theologically, as we consider the relationship of creation and redemption, some mistake political harmony, social justice or economic liberation for salvation.  In reaction, some cut loose creation from salvation with an anti-physical gospel and an escapist eschatology.  And some will dissolve any final distinction between creation and redemption and opt for universalism.

In view of this, the proper co-ordination of creation and redemption (and its attendant co-ordinations of body and soul, time and eternity, etc, etc) is a vital task for us all.

Irenaeus and Athanasius are going to help us massively.  And they will help because they put Jesus Christ at the centre of their thinking.

This is a repost.  The subsequent posts are here: part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7.

And here is Mike Reeves introducing Irenaeus and Athanasius – well worth a listen!

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A round based on Luke 1:78-79.

Best on full screen with headphones.  And do join it.  That’s the point…

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Happy Friday

Horribly, cringefully, hilarious…

Wonderfully, gloriously, beautiful…

…and everything you always suspected…

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Brian Cox – dream-boat physicist, not craggy-faced actor – recently said this:

 Our civilization was built on the foundations of reason and rational thinking embodied in the scientific method, and our future depends on the widespread acceptance of science as THE ONLY WAY WE HAVE to meet many, if not all, of the great challenges we face. (here)

Well now.  Them there’s fighting words.  Therefore, I thought it was time to repost this from two years ago (see how cutting edge CTT is?  Discussing Cox two years ago!)

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Just watched this documentary on the Large Hadron Collider: “The Big Bang Machine.” (BBC4) presented by Brian Cox.

Here’s an extract from around 4:20 – 7:20.

Physics is stuck and the only thing left to do is recreate the universe as it was a fraction of a second after the big bang.  That’s what the LHC is designed to do.  To smash bits of matter together at energies  never before achieved so that we can stare at the face of creation…

So here’s the aim – to stare at the face of creation.

And this is the means – to smash particles together.

Notice the disjunct between the stated aim and the means!   Cox excites us about the scientific quest promising us a ‘face’ to creation.  Of course “face” says communicative, conscious.  It says personality.  It’s no wonder that Cox wants to reach for this kind of language because at bottom it’s personal reality that we long to see.  But all Cox can give us is particles.  This is the trouble.

What do you say of a person who promises you a face but gives you only particles?

What do you say of an enterprise that can describe a face only in terms of its sub-atomic particles?

He continues…

…Every civilization has its own creation story.  The ancient Chinese, indian mystics and Christian theologians all place a divine creator at the heart of their creation stories.  Science too has an elaborate story that describes the universe’s genesis.  It tells us how the fundamental constituents of the cosmos took on their form.  The difference with this story is that we can test it.  We can find out if its true by tearing matter apart and looking at the pieces.  All you need is a machine powerful enough to restage the first moments after creation…

This was the sentence that made me sit up and take notice: “Every civilization has its own creation story.”  And Cox puts ‘science’ in there among Indian mystics and Christian theologians.  Ok good.  We’re all telling stories about the world around us – scientists included.  But what does Cox say is the difference with science?  Answer: “we can test it.”  Hmm.  How will science be tested?  Tearing apart matter and looking at the pieces.

Well now that’s a very sensible test if you think that matter is what explains everything.  If you have a story about the world that says everything came about via material means then test matter.  Yes indeed that’s testable.  But it’s not the only thing that’s testable.  What if your story about the world says ‘Everything came about via the Word who was with God in the beginning and then became flesh and dwelt among us.’  Is that testable?  You betcha!  Every bit as much as the ‘science’ story.  It’s just that you test this story in ways appropriate to its nature.

All science works by testing its object of study in accordance with its nature.  You don’t do astronomy with a microscope – your means of testing is adapted to the thing tested.  So if you think it’s all about matter, you study matter.  But if you think it’s all about the Word then you study the Word.  Theology in this sense is completely scientific.  It is taking its Object of enquiry completely seriously and pursuing thorough investigation according the nature of the Word – ie it is listening obediently to Him.  That’s good science.  And it’s our only hope of actually seeing the Face that explains our world.  Particles won’t get you to the Person – but the Person can help you explain particles…

Cox continues…

In the beginning there was nothing. No space, no time just endless nothing.  Then 13.7 billion years ago from nothing came everything.  The universe exploded into existence.  From that fireball of energy emerged the simplest building blocks of matter.  Finding experimental evidence of these fundamental entities has become the holy grail of physics.

Notice first that this creation story is just as miraculous as any other.  “From nothing came everything”.  No explanations are given.  None ever could be.  This is the astonishing miracle at the heart of our modern creation story.  It is not the case that only primitive ‘religion’ believes in miracles.  The ‘science’ creation story is equally miraculous.

And again do you how science proceeds?  It proceeds like theology.  The scientific worldview says there must have been simple building blocks of matter that existed after the big bang.  Of course we’ve never observed these.  Nonetheless the worldview tells us they must have existed.  Therefore science seeks after evidence of what it believes to be true even without the evidence.  It has faith (an assurance of things hoped for (Heb 11:1f)) and from this faith it seeks understanding.  That is the scientific pursuit and it is no more or less a faith-based enterprise than theology.  And that’s no bad thing, it’s just the way things are.  It would just be nice if scientists came clean about it!

The point is this – don’t let anyone tell you science is about matter not miracles or fact and not faith.  The truth is we all have our creation stories.

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On the King’s English I’ve been thinking about a triune creation.

In the beginning

Let there be light

Let us make man in our image

Be fruitful and multiply

Behold, it was very good

God rested

The Breath of Life

It’s really striking me how profligate is the triune God of grace.  The Father, Son and Spirit bubble over in love.  A unitarian god needs creation.  And all relations between such a creator and its creature are quid pro quo arrangements.  The triune God does nothing about of necessity.  It’s all about gift and free overflow.

We can genuinely say “You really didn’t have to.”  And the Lord will reply, “I know, but I wanted to.”

So my friend, whoever you are.  Know in your heart: You are entirely unnecessary.  Entirely.  Unnecessary.  You are a profligate extravagance, a superfluous addendum, a needless flourish.  The Lord, His universe, His church, His kindgom purposes could so easily do without you.  You are completely surplus to requirements.

And you say “I need to be needed!  If my children don’t need me, I’ll fall apart.  If my church doesn’t need me, I’ll crumble.  If my work doesn’t need me, who am I?”

But you don’t need to be needed.  You only think you need to be needed because you’ve forgotten you’re loved.  So let me remind you…

You are wanted.  You are desired.  And not for anything ‘you offer.’  You are surplus to requirements.  But our God doesn’t deal in requirements, He enjoys the surplus.  He delights in you.

Because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved.  (Eph 2:4-5)

You are entirely unnecessary, but utterly loved.

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…continued from here

Implications

We’ve been following the thought of Irenaeus and Athanasius and have seen creation and salvation united as the one divine work of the one divine Word.  Creation is a gospel project for the Gospel God.

Let’s sketch out some implications.

Perhaps the first application of these truths should be in the realm of evangelism.  Such a theology of creation and redemption means that the call to “trust Jesus” is not just for Christians.  It is the calling of every creature.  All are to find their peace, their life, their goal in Him.  If, as the Apostle Paul says, “All things are made by [Christ] and for [Christ]” then the question for every creature is, “Am I for Him?”  Christians must have no embarrassment about the greatness of the commission laid upon them for the One they herald is not simply a spiritual Teacher for spiritual people.  He is the Maker and Heir of each one of us.  Pointing to Jesus is not simply a special calling for sprecial Christians but our vocation as human beings.

Secondly, the ‘cultural mandate’ as it’s often called (‘fill the earth and subdue it’, Gen 1:28) is recapitulated in the great commission.  If Irenaeus is right that Adam’s is a ‘sketched out’ ensouled humanity to be filled out by Christ’s spiritual humanity then it is right to see Adam’s commission as similarly recapitulated.  In Matthew 28 Christ, as the Second Adam, tells His people to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth with the gospel.  “Making disciples” is not a second task alongside a quite separate ‘cultural mandate’.  That would be to assume that God has two works, creation and redemption rather than one work of creation-redemption.  Therefore, making disciples is the renewed and elevated mandate given to new creation people.  This means that care for the environment and socio-political involvement must be strictly co-ordinated under the over-arching requirement of gospel proclamation.  We are to care for this old creation, but we are to do so by pointing to its one hope, Jesus.

Thirdly, the gospel we proclaim needs to be much more comprehensive than the communication of certain moral or spiritual truths.  The gospel is about everything.  In fact, it is the reason foreverything.  In ‘pointing to Jesus’ we are not narrowing things down to a small range of religious truths.  Rather we must see how all of history, philosophy, science and the arts, all of created life, is a gospel reality.

Fourthly, we should beware of escapist eschatologies that despise the body and our earthly future.  Our great hope is not some aphysical, anaemic vision of heaven, but of a renewed creation summed up under Christ.  Yet this rightly orients our concern for the environment.  It is not environmentalism that will save the world but Christ Himself.  Our love for the world must take its shape from God’s gospel love for the world.  This will entail a passion for His gospel mission.

Fifthly, we must take seriously our embodied physicality in life.  Our bodies are neither to be despised as unspiritual nor merely indulged or worshipped but they are “instruments for righteousness” (Rom 6:13). More specifically, our gendered embodiment, as part of God’s good creation, is internal to our identity and not something incidental to our personhood.  It is a neo-Gnostic spirituality that would tell us that we are ‘trapped’ in the body of the opposite sex or that a union of bodies is not really a union of persons or that gender is immaterial to such unions.  In modern debates about gender or sexuality, the liberal arguments may present on the surface as a celebration of bodily life.  Yet this is quickly undermined as soon as it is asserted that “my gender or the gender of my partner is immaterial.  What counts is…”  Such arguments are a rejection of our concrete creatureliness in order to ground our true being elsewhere.  It becomes the very opposite of a celebration of bodily life.  We need to return to the more robust doctrine of creation provided by the bishops (the ancient ones, that is).

Sixthly, we must take seriously our embodied physicality in worship.  The evangelical wing of the church will more usually emphasize worship as an all-of-life sacrificial service (Rom 12:1).  This is a right application of the creation-redemption union.  But the catholic wing of the church points with equal and justified concern to a right reverence for the sacraments.  It is not more spiritual to bypass the creaturely gifts of water, bread and wine.  It is not more spiritual to close our eyes and disregard the bodily.  Our spiritual life takes shape precisely in our creatureliness and will do so eternally.  This is not a fact to be lamented but celebrated.  These two wings of the church can help each other to live out the creation-redemption link in worship.

Conclusion

Wherever salvation is spiritualized, wherever the body is denigrated, wherever gender is trivialized, wherever the future is immaterial, wherever the sacraments are Platonized, wherever worship is merely internalized, we have lost the insights of Irenaeus and Athanasius.

Irenaeus must be heard again as he proclaims the triune Creator’s good purposes for this world.  Man ruling under God was the creation blueprint realized in Christ, the Heavenly Man ruling under God in the redeemed creation.  Christ’s work is the triumphant reversal of Adam.  More than this, it is the kingly accomplishment of God’s eternal plan for the creation.  Christ reigns from the tree.

Athanasius must be heard as he holds out Christ as the divine Agent of creation and redemption.  The incarnate work is nothing less than a re-creation of the de-created cosmos disintegrating under the weight of sin and death.  The Redeemer is therefore no-one less than the Creator taking responsibility for His handiwork and making all things new.

When we fail to hold together creation and redemption, Christ’s work is entirely misunderstood.  It is either considered as a superfluous addendum to the purposeof creation or it achieves a goal subordinate to it, or it begins a work alien to the creative intention or, worst of all, it is won as a salvation from the created order (and perhaps even from the Creator).  Yet none of these say what the Scriptures insist and what Irenaeus and Athanasius knew must be proclaimed.  That is, that redemption is the accomplishment of the one work of God, encompassing both creation and redemption.  Christ’s work is not an awkward adjunct but rather the accomplishment and consummation of His own creative intent.

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For more applications see Dev’s recent post.

Here’s Leon Sim on Irenaeus and the Trinitarian OT – great stuff.

Dan Hames on Irenaeus.

And Mike Reeves’ introductions to Irenaeus and Athanasius
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