Whose World Is It? Part 1

I know I won’t get far in this topic in this post. I’ve been putting off bringing it up because it’s pointy and layered. It isn’t easily dissected and less so, digested.

So what am I talking about exactly?

A little while back on another blog, a commenter said this, in part:

this is an objectively Christian world regardless of what people think and regardless of whether anyone ever points that fact out. The truth of the Trinity blazes forth from the very creation, so much so that people have to forcibly repress it (Romans 1). Since this is the case, simply presenting the world just as it is – as a broken, warped, redeemed place of buzzin’, bloomin’ confusion – we are actually presenting Christ, because we are subversively attacking those repressing instincts.

… We don’t have to choose religious topics, or even include one second of overt Christian theology in our work – if we are presenting the truth about the world. Like the Dutch painters who began to simply paint ordinary houses and people, rather than saints with halos, they could also present truth, even True Truth, without a single word of religiosity. (emphases mine)

Ordinary houses decay

A Christian world, really? A redeemed place? Is that what Scripture says, or does it refer to this world as a place that is decaying because of sin that goes unchecked more and more each day?

I replied, and received this answer, in part:

Christians can relish and depict the world as it is without the agenda of making Biblical truth obvious because the world as it is happens to be a Christian world. We can present truth, even the Truth itself, simply by reveling in this world.

I have a tremendous problem with the idea that an ordinary house does not proclaim Christ. It is true that Romans 1 teaches God is known through what He has made – and this includes His Trinitarian being (Rom. 1:20). Unbelievers repress this. Yet the rocks and trees all proclaim “God made me! I love God! God is Three in One!” Jesus Himself even said that if there was not a single person left to proclaim God, the very rocks would begin to cry out. Even if we lived in a world where no one was a Christian, it would not change the fact that God made it and everybody knows it. It would not change the fact that the world is suffused at every moment with Trinitarian grace. That ordinary house is a Trinitarian house, regardless of what anybody thinks about it. Every molecule in that house is screaming at every second that God made it, and actively upholds it at every moment.

The implication (at least, the one that I hear!) is that if the house itself cannot proclaim Christ just by being, then the Christian cannot present that house as it is and it be a Christian painting of a Christian house. This then also implies that one must tack onto reality some sort of super-nature in order to make the house able to be presented as Christian like the refried gnosticism of a Thomas Kinkade painting (emphasis mine)

Setting aside the idea of gnosticism in a Thomas Kinkade painting, there’s a lot of truth in these comments. Certainly Scripture teaches that God can be known in what He made. Definitely Jesus said, if need be the rocks would cry out to praise Him.

Does that make this a Christian world?

I don’t think so. Rather, I think this world is the marred image of what God intended. Because of sin it is sinking deeper and deeper into the mire, obscuring God’s face more and more. Scripture says our iniquities have made a separation between us and God. That separation is real. It is not perception — as if this world was Christian but most people are blind to that fact.

This world was never Christian. It was good because God made it good, but sin soiled that goodness and it has not been good since. In fact it is less good today than the first day Adam and Eve stepped out of the garden. Scripture makes it clear, we’re in a process in which this world is failing further and further into disrepair.

Is it Trinitarian that the sex trade is flourishing? That abortion is practiced worldwide? That homosexuality is considered by many to be acceptable?

These things are direct results of sin, as Scripture makes clear:

God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them. (Rom. 1:28-32 – emphasis mine)

I have more to say on this subject, but this is more than enough to get the conversation started. What do you think? Who’s world is this?

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Published in: on November 3, 2011 at 6:07 pm  Comments (21)  
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21 Comments

  1. I’ve heard it said something like this… God created the world and it was His. Then in His covenant with Adam the deed to the world was given to man. But when Adam choose to eat the fruit, he handed the deed over to Satan. Satan became owner of this world and all who are in it. But then Jesus was not bound by this contract because he did not sin. And to all those who place their faith in Jesus accept the righteousness of Jesus as credited to them as their own, and therefore they also are no longer the property of the devil. In this way God is redeeming the world, one person at a time. There will come a day when all that Satan still owns will be destroyed and Heaven and Earth will be made new- restored to God’s rightful ownership.

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  2. Wow, Becky, thanks! You’ve crystallised a lot of my thinking on this over recent days. I have constantly to edit and appraise writing that has a ‘Christian worldview’ that I simply cannot detect. I am always asking: What makes this Christian? I have never been able to get a satisfactory answer. In a redeemed world, everything would cry out, ‘Glory to God who made me and who is Love and Life and Three-in-One.’ Even in a marred world, that happens still to a degree. But, “all creation is straining on tiptoe just to see the Sons of God come into their own.” Still.

    In our groaning travailing world, where God still veils His glory (let us not mistake the creation for the Creator) and where we see through a glass darkly but not yet face-to-Face, I have the gravest difficulty with the notion that we already inhabit a Christian world and therefore, if we reflect the world truly in our writing, we don’t have to be intentionally Christian.

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  3. Quick thought, Becky …

    One could say that while the world is Christian, and is clearly under God’s control even with its groaning and reeling under the Curse, it is humans who are sinful.

    So it’s not a contradiction to say that the world is “Christian,” i.e., it still declares God’s glory, though humans with our choices have all but ruined it. Therefore the world also bears our scars and terrible consequences, which will worsen all the more until Christ redeems it.

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  4. Creation can only say so much – mainly there’s a wise and great Creator. Without the Word we cannot know the Trinitarian aspects of that Creator, or for that matter, anything Christian.

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  5. Patrick, I love that explanation! It really presents a clear picture, I think. Thanks so much for passing that along!

    Becky

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  6. I have the gravest difficulty with the notion that we already inhabit a Christian world and therefore, if we reflect the world truly in our writing, we don’t have to be intentionally Christian.

    Me, too, Anne. Me too. I think there’s some pretty clear Scripture to indicate the world is not redeemed, and that it will never be redeemed. The fate of this world is destruction. When we see the place Jesus is preparing, we’ll just how fallen and corrupt this world is.

    I try to imagine the world before the animals preyed on one another, before rain, when humans didn’t need clothes even to stay warm, when there was land — undivided — and then there was sea, when people lived nearly a thousand years. Wow! I tell you, this world that we know is vastly different, changed by the effects of sin.

    That doesn’t even touch on the idea that if the world was so Christian that we wouldn’t need to be intentional in presenting the truths of Christianity, why did Christ even need to come?

    OK, I’m planning on addressing this more in my post, so I’ll jump down from my platform now. 😉 (Writers have platforms, not soapboxes. 😀 )

    Becky

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  7. Stephen, I think I’ll address your comment in today’s post. If not, I’ll be back. 😉

    Bob, I agree. Creation lets us know God is, that we have a Creator. We can deny and resist Him or acknowledge and bow to Him. But without Christ, we cannot know Him. Scripture seems clear here.

    Becky

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  8. Hi Bob,
    My background is mathematics. I assure you that the significant aspects of the mathematics of the universe is reflected in the Bible (as you would expect it to be.) There was once a numerical form called the ‘logos’ (yes, it was also a mathematical term!) which was renowned throughout the ancient world. You will find this numerical form in every created thing. You will also find it as a structural design element in Genesis 1 (in fact, it recurs in the story of each ‘day’.) This mathematical form actually encodes the idea of Trinity.

    Because today we separate word from number (or worse assume that a fusion of word and number automatically implies numerology), we generally overlook what was obvious to people of the past.

    So I think that creation can tell us a great deal more than simply there is a wise Creator. Creation is nsilent but it still witnesses to the truth. Christian mathematicians of the past interpreted the ‘logos’ to mean: ‘God is a trinity, God is love, God is resurrection and life.’

    We have surrendered all mathematical understanding of the ‘logos’ and with it a huge chunk of Christian heritage, mainly to the ‘sacred geometry’ of the New Age. Today, it’s called the ‘golden ratio’.

    Herein lies much of the reason I believe we need to be intentionally Christian in writing. Because, if you hold to another worldview, you will always find a way (even if it takes a little folding, spindling, mutilating or omitting) to use the evidence of creation to say whatever you want it to.

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  9. […] some ways, I think the commenter I quoted from in Part 1 of this short series may have been going for shock value to call our world a Christian world. Or […]

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  10. Anne,
    Interesting reply. I did a quick google on the subject and found that the mathematical ‘logos’ concepts, although fascinating, are man-made constructs. I think Harold Camping had a similar notion that he could figure God out by numbers.

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    • Hi Bob,
      That is a neo-Platonic view. Most people see mathematics as neutral so do not consider it necessary to develop a Christian worldview in this respect.

      It raises the age-old question: ‘Is mathematics discovered or invented?’ I happen to agree with the Platonists on this one: it’s discovered. It is not a man-made construct, it is not invented in the man of man. There is division among mathematicians about this; some argue that mathematics works too well and they are surprised by how accurately it can predict the path of an eclipse or the flight of a ball. If we invent it, why does it conform so well to what we observe? As Stephen Hawking says: ‘What puts the fire in the equations and makes a universe for them to describe?’

      The answer, to me, is that mathematics is not invented, it is discovered. It is as much God’s creation as a sunrise, the rings of Saturn or a chromosome.

      To suggest that the ‘logos’ is simply a man-made construct is to say that it is simply random chance that every created thing shows it somewhere in its make-up. And that its appearance as a structural feature in Genesis 1 has no relation to observable creation, and is merely coincidence.

      Annie

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    • Hi Becky,
      I have had trouble recently with my comments disappearing as they soon as they are posted – so I hope this doesn’t vanish. I believe you’re right about illustrating, rather than defining. However, the mathematical ‘logos’ in creation predates the mention of the Logos in John’s Gospel. Nonetheless the Person of the Logos predates the mathematics: of which the mathematics is as much as sign or symbol as any other sign or symbol.

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  11. Oops, that should be “it is not invented in the mind of man”.

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  12. Anne,
    I too believe that the mathematical laws of nature are discovered, and they point to a Creator. But it is the Creator who made these laws, and He is outside His creation. Therefore, independent of Scripture I don’t believe a ‘discovered’ formula will define something like the Trinititarian nature of God. Here I think the math is constructed to support that supposition. Example I found: the odds that the universe happened by chance is 10 to the 123 power. See the trinity here? I think this is true with any ‘code’ that is prescribed. It works from the supposition and not in the reverse.

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  13. […] owe this post to Becky Miller who, on her blog A Christian Worldview of Fiction, recently referenced a viewpoint put forth by another Christian blogger that she took issue with. I […]

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  14. To rely on the world for all of our knowledge about the Triune Creator, is impossible, for He willed that we would also need His Word. It’s also insufficient knowledge of man things. As is noted above, to rely only on the world for our knowledge of Him would be awful in practice, because the world’s fallen. We would infer false things about our loving God from observing animal predation, for example. We only understannd predation by knowing that our just God judged us and the world, and that’s the reason for it. We can only explain what we observe about this judgment by learning about our disobedience in Eden. He wills that we have the Creation and His Word for all we need to know.

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  15. […] A few days ago Rebecca Luella Miller responded in a three-part post (which I encourage you to read here, here and here, and there will be at least a […]

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  16. Bob, you said

    I don’t believe a ‘discovered’ formula will define something like the Trinititarian nature of God.

    I’m wondering if rather than defining the Trinitarian nature of God, it illustrates it.

    Honestly, I find this idea fascinating and it answers a huge question I’ve had for a long time — how did the Magi know that Christ was born? They were astrologers and something in their study of the heavens led then to know not only that a king was born but that He was kind of a particular people and that He was not an ordinary king (because presumably they didn’t go globe trotting after every king born anywhere in the world).

    Some people erroneously believe they followed a particularly bright star, but that’s not what Scripture says (not to mention that the star would have mistakenly taken them to Jerusalem instead of Bethlehem). First, the Bible never gives any physical properties to the star they referenced. They simply said they saw it and came. The “following the star” part of the story happened only after they were leaving Jerusalem. Besides, if the star was unusually bright, wouldn’t others, not just these wisemen, gone exploring?

    The better understanding of the event is that they actually “read” something in the heavens.

    That being said, I think we have clear Biblical instruction that we are not to go and do likewise. If Harold Camping was doing so or if he was playing with numerology (which is what I thought his calculations were), he’s wrong on either counts. Scripture makes it clear we won’t know the day or hour of Christ’s return, so Camping ignores the clear teaching for some secret code that he alone figures out? 🙄 That seems to me to be the height of hubris.

    Becky

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  17. Continuing last comment:
    With regard to the Magi: I have looked into Babylonian mathematics and their understanding of the ‘logos’ (which I have to admit, I suspect came from the prophet Daniel, who was twice their leader, according to Scripture). It is possible to predict from that the King of the Jews would be born on a latitude which corresponds to that of Bethlehem about 540 years after Cyrus captured Babylon. Admittedly, it’s a speculation, but it not only works, it explains why they were late.

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  18. To speculate: Perhaps, like the Magi were warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they were alerted to the significance of the star – so they followed it.

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  19. Re, the Magi being late, Anne, I just assumed the star appeared to them the night Jesus was born, and then they started out. I don’t imagine their trip would be like hopping into the car, so it would take time to get it all together and to get there. But that’s speculation on my part.

    Bob, you could be right that the Magi had some supernatural revelation that informed them of the significance of the star. I hadn’t thought about that possibility before.

    Interesting conjecture.

    Becky

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