Christian cosmology

Still don’t have the time to write properly on a Christian approach to cosmology.  Never mind I’ll jot down some thoughts as they occur.

 

For now, let me just jot down three thoughts on the multiverse, two quotes from Barth and then a suggestion about how to pursue Christian cosmology.

The multiverse

1) The Bible teaches a division of creation into invisible and visible – the heaven and the earth.  This is not the same as the observable universe versus the non-observable multiverse.  For the bible the unseen realm is intimately linked to the seen.  Heaven is the counterpart to earth in a way analagous to the unseen Father’s correspondence to His visible Image, Jesus. 

2) The seen and unseen realms are reconciled to one another in the decisive, once-for-all event of the crucifixion.  (Col 1:20)

3) There simply is no room in a Christian cosmology for multiple incarnations or multiple atonements.  And this is really the downfall of the multiverse – its relation to Christ.  Christ does not bridge multiple universes in multiple incarnation, He bridges heaven and earth in His singular incarnation. 

 

Two Barth Quotes from Dogmatics in Outline

“‘Heaven and earth’ describe an arena prepared for a quite definite event, in the centre of which, from our standpoint of course, stands man.” (p60)

“…heaven and earth are related like God and man in the covenant, so that even the existence of creation is a single, mighty signum, a sign of the will of God. The meeting and togetherness of above and below, of the conceivable and the inconceivable, of the infinite and the limited – we are speaking of creation. All that is the world. But since within this world there really exist an above and a below confronting one another, since in every breath we take, in every one of our thoughts, in every great and petty experience of our human lives heaven and earth are side by side, greeting each other, attracting and repelling each other and yet belonging to one another, we are, in our existence, of which God is the Creator, a sign and indication, a promise of what ought to happen in creation and to creation – the meeting, the togetherness, the fellowship and, in Jesus Christ, the oneness of Creator and creature.” (p64)

 

How to proceed in Christian cosmology

Beginning from ‘the Cosmic Fine-Tuner’ would be like beginning with heaven alone.  Beginning from the standpoint of the anthropic principle would be like beginning with earth alone.  The Christian can refuse both option.  We begin with the heavens and the earth – the theatre of God’s Glory.  Of course God’s Glory is His Son, dying to save.  The cross is the crux of creation (Col 1:20).  When we begin with this in mind we are able to relate the unseen and seen coherently.

The Christian knows that not only is there a Word (Logos) to make sense of the world – not only an explanation beyond.  That Word became flesh, taking our world to Himself.  Therefore the Word from beyond has become a Word in our midst.  The Christian can simultaneously be in touch with this world and with its Explanation – they are one in Christ. 

While we ought not to approach Christ ‘according to the flesh’ (2 Cor 5:16), still according to the Spirit there is a way of examining this earthed Logos.  Now ‘according to the Spirit’ means ‘according to the Scriptures’ and therefore this will be a thoroughly theological enquiry.  And yet it will not for that reason be a groundless, ethereal investigation.  This world in its this-world-ness has been taken up into the life of God and proven to be, beyond any question, a realm fit for God (Col 2:9).

Now that we have seen the creative Word in the world and now that we have seen Him – the visible Image – reconcile the world to the invisible Father in the creative Spirit, we have seen a triune dynamic that is inherent to all creation.  Interpenetration of spirit and flesh, then and now, unseen and seen is at the heart of reality.  This will lead us to expect similar perichoretic dynamics in the created order.  As we move on from what the bible strictly says about creation, we will wear these bible-glasses to investigate creation.  This conceptual framework will help us to understand the inter-related-ness of space and time, of waves and particles etc etc. 

I’ll have to leave it there.

Night night.

.

Posted on by Glen in science, theological method

About Glen

I'm a preacher in Eastbourne, married to Emma.

0 Responses to Christian cosmology

  1. Bobby Grow

    Ahh, going science, Christologically, is so refreshing! These are really great thoughts . . . maybe you should’ve started with this post in the first place ;-) .

    Bobby likes . . .

  2. Bobby Grow

    Woops, I meant DOING science, not “going science.” :-)

  3. glenscriv

    what about *being* science? No wait. that’s dumb. ‘doing’ science is good.

    yeah i should have started with this stuff. I remember reading Alan Torrance (i think) saying that spending time denying natural theology is capitulating to it. being negative about negative theology aint the same as doing positive theology! two wrongs don’t make a right

    interesting though how we always want to ramp up to Christ rather than have Him come down to us from the outset. part of our fleshy religiosity i guess.

  4. Rich Owen

    “The Christian knows that not only is there a Word (Logos) to make sense of the world – not only an explanation beyond. That Word became flesh, taking our world to Himself. Therefore the Word from beyond has become a Word in our midst. The Christian can simultaneously be in touch with this world and with its Explanation – they are one in Christ. ”

    That is a beautiful paragraph. Christ is so big! AMEN

  5. glenscriv

    Amen to that Rich!

  6. codepoke

    > This conceptual framework will help us to understand the inter-related-ness of space and time, of waves and particles etc etc.

    Agreed. A strong post, Glen, and good conclusions. I’m remarkably stubborn, though. If you’d posted this one first, I’d still have kicked at the other ones. I think building up to this was a good plan.

    > Christ does not bridge multiple universes in multiple incarnation, He bridges heaven and earth in His singular incarnation.

    I don’t really have a quibble here, but it seems like reading an awful lot into the little revelation we have about God’s plan. There was a time Christians would have said there was no room in Christianity for a black hole being the center of the galaxy, instead of the Earth being there. :-)

  7. glenscriv

    Hi Code,

    Happy Lord’s day to you!

    I think multiple incarnations of the Son and a denial of the once-for-all-ness of Calvary is in a different category to where we place the centre of the galaxy wouldn’t you?

  8. codepoke

    Thank you, and a blessed Monday to you, Glen.

    Not at all. I think they’re a very equitable analogue to each other.

    Once upon a time the church could not imagine the Earth as anything but the center of God’s purpose, and therefore of His creation. The Earth being found in the unfashionable end of a backwards spiral galaxy so far from where things were really happening was unconscienable for them. Entertaining the possibility was to make the incarnation a trivial event. Any student of scripture knew that the center of God’s purpose was also the center of God’s creation.

    Eventually Galileo’s data was incontrovertible, and theology was rewritten. Now we all take it as perfectly obvious that Christ is central and that this has nothing to do with precisely where in the galaxy He happened to rise from the dead. Now my statement looks like a category error, but it’s only because these massive changes are now a part of our training from birth.

    So, wielding my NF imagination only for good, I picture a multiverse. One trillion universes and one trillion incarnations resulting on one trillion deaths and resurrections of the Lamb. Paul tells Timothy that Christ was manifest in the flesh. What if the atonement was both a physical and a spiritual event (which, of course, it was), and what if the spiritual event only happened once for all times and places and the physical event was only manifested once per universe?

    If the multiverse were to be proven to correctly explain what God has done, then we’d have to reunderstand our theology to conform to reality. God would not have changed, but our understanding would have taken as large a leap as happened those few hundred years ago when the universe got so much bigger overnight.

    I could imagine such an answer if this big ol’ universe God created happens to have other intelligent beings in it also formed in the image of the One Creator. His image might possibly not be fully expressed in homo sapiens. And if not, our theology of 1 Tim 3:16 would have to expand in a new way, not to change reality but to let reality unfold a better understanding of God.

    Anyway, please don’t interpret any of the above as me postulating other species or multiverses, only as imagining things that might cause us to expand our understanding of God in a profitable way.

    On the subject of the multiverse proper, you might check out this article which basically says the multiverse is trashed. The authors have found a quantum dynamic way to replicate the creation of an empty universe that complies with Einstein’s non-quantum general theory of relativity. No one has ever gotten close to doing that through any of the string theory methods. The mathematical magic they employed to make it happen is HIGHLY theistic, and conforms to some of the points you make in this post.

    I’m sure they’re atheists but they struck out in a new direction. They introduced a mathematical factor for “causality” and suddenly the need for a multiverse vanished. Excellent stuff, and it passes the smell test much more effectively than the multiverse ever did.

    http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=the-self-organizing-quantum-universe

  9. glenscriv

    Hi Code,

    Thanks, I’ll have a look at that article when I have a minute.

    I think these are radical but absolutely fundamental gospel claim:

    * God the Father is one being with that baby born in that stable and laid in that manger.

    * The fulness of deity dwells not apart from that body but dwells bodily in that man called Jesus. (Col 2:9)

    * That Jesus reconciled all creation – seen and unseen – to the Father by His once-for-all death on the cross.

    * That Jesus of Nazareth with those five wounds and that life history rose and ascended to the throne of heaven.

    * The universe is ruled by that same Jesus and awaits its consumation when He steps back from heaven to earth.

    Multiple fleshes incarnating the one Logos is a big problem. To divorce the Word from that specific Nazarene is… well… it includes the heresy of Nestorianism. Col 2:9 – the fulness of deity is not found apart from but in the Man Jesus.

    To imagine multiple incarnations would mean not only mean imagining multiple atonements and resurrections but multiple ascensions and multiple reigns from multiple thrones! At what stage do we declare such a prospect anti-gospel?

  10. codepoke

    > I think these are radical but absolutely fundamental gospel claim

    On what basis would you call these radical? Radical to unbelievers perhaps, but surely not to any Christian.

    On the surface I’d say you’ve not entered into the challenge of thinking through the possibilities. Certainly your prerogative, of course.

    > To imagine multiple incarnations would mean not only mean imagining multiple atonements and resurrections but multiple ascensions and multiple reigns from multiple thrones!

    It would be to imagine all the above, except multiple thrones, unless you believe the throne of God is a literal, physical throne found entirely within the visible universe.

    > At what stage do we declare such a prospect anti-gospel?

    Great question. I say at the point a prospect injures a person’s ability to know God as He is, it becomes anti-gospel.

    Nestorianism critically injures a person’s ability to know God because they fail to see the entirety of Godhead on Earth in Jesus Christ. Any attempt to make the incarnation “add up” will inevitably do this.

    > To divorce the Word from that specific Nazarene is…

    … a fundamental error in the thought experiment. If the incarnate Jesus has to be less than the Jesus revealed in scripture and history, then the thought experiment fails. The failure of an experiment is sometimes the best thing that could happen, but only if it’s played out rigorously.

    We once thought there was only one planet, and people who imagined that there might be more were rejected as heretics. Did failing to entertain the question help the church?

    Can you be utterly certain that God did not create another species in some other galaxy of this universe? From scripture? I cannot in good conscience. He’s shown a habit for only partially revealing His plans and promises in the past.

    So, imagine some other species is out there. Are they all damned because there can be no incarnation in their world? Does God require them to believe the revelation that there was an incarnation somewhere else in order to be saved? Does it break the revelation given to us if it is also given to them? Is God being enough to fully dwell in a single particular human and a single ‘nother member of some other species?

    Maybe I should wait until we find some other species to ask those questions. But the root question is here today. Why did God create such an immense universe to hold one planet of people in His image. He’s not proven Himself to be a wasteful Creator. There is a reason.

    I’ll tell you one thing about that article I forgot to mention earlier. As it’s dismantling the multiverse, it also dismantles the need for it. It shows the first inkling that fine tuning may be a natural effect of adding causality to the equations.

    Complexities abound.

    I stand with you on all your points of gospel, as far as they are revealed.

  11. glenscriv

    Ah so we see how radical those claims really are! And to Christians as well! Because I think those claims do entail that all reality is ruled by the Man Jesus of Nazareth – that One who still bears those 5 scars.

    Now His throne is not “found entirely within the visible universe” no – His throne is in the highest heights – the third heaven – the true Holy of Holies and very much therefore the invisible universe. But here again is the radical nature of the gospel. The ascension is precisely the doctrine that this Man comprehends all reality in Himself. Having reconciled heaven and earth by His blood shed on that cross, *this* Man, made like us in every way, now ascends to rule the cosmos. It is the One who descended who has now ascended to fill the whole universe (Eph 4:10)

    The invisible world has at its centre the LORD Jesus – son of Mary, son of God. All creation – seen and unseen – is ruled by the Son of David.

    The one-ness of being between the Father and this Spirit-Anointed Man, His Son, Jesus is such that this oneness *is* the very eternal life of God. The Father does not have one relationship with His Logos and another relationship with this Man. Jesus simply IS the second Person of the Trinity. That sounds like such an obvious statement, but I maintain that it is extremely radical. It means that the Jesus crucified under Pntius Pilate is in no sense incidental to the life of the Trinity – He is internal and essential to God’s identity – His eternal identity at that.

    To imagine other Jesuses is to imagine other gods – such is the irreversible and unbreakable oneness between the Father and His incarnate Son. In the end its the homoousios that disallows the multiverse.

    Put it another way – if a scientific theory “necessitated” that we conceive of multiple gods for the muliple universes – each ruling their own cosmic domains – you would refuse the challenge. I’m pretty sure you would anyway.

    God is not simply the God of the hills or the plains – with other gods overseeing other arenas. He is not simply the God of the earth or *this* universe – He is the God of all creation – seen and unseen. And there are not other gods with their own special realms.

    Well then if such a belief is out of bounds then multiple Jesuses is also out of bounds. Unless, that is, we break the homoousios! If Jesus and His Father in heaven truly exist in a mutually-constituting, unbreakable and co-eternal life then multiple Jesuses ought to be just as unthinkable as multiple Fathers.

    I’m all for being challenged to think through the gospel in ever new ways. But the challenge goes very much in the other direction too – first and foremost we must re-think scientific possiblities in the light of the gospel.

  12. Rich Owen

    Well, the Father intends to come and live on this Earth after it has been purged with fire so for all those other Christians in the infinite multiverse – wrong place, wrong time – bad luck chaps :-)

    There is a place for such thought experiments – they can’t take us into a new understanding, only force us deeper into the old.

  13. codepoke

    > First and foremost we must re-think scientific possiblities in the light of the gospel.

    That’s what I tried to do with the multiverse, but no one liked that idea. :-)

    I guess I’d be interested in what might make you say, “I don’t know?” The Jews felt like they had full and complete revelation, but they didn’t. There WAS a large but well hidden revelation, but it was not completely receivable and it was not completely received. There were things about which they should have said, “I don’t know.”

    Do you believe such a situation might apply to us today?

    All revelation is in Christ. There’s nothing that can be revealed that is not revealed in Christ. Still, we know there’s more of Christ to be revealed or there wouldn’t be a Revelation of Jesus Christ at the end of the bible. The Jews did not grasp the Trinity, though there were clues in their book. Do you think there might be something of equal scale that we don’t grasp?

    Drive on Glen. You’re doing good.

  14. Rich Owen

    @Code – really excellent question. There is plenty that I think we’d have to shrug our shoulders about:

    What is it like to be without sin? Exactly who at my church is saved? There is a whole lot we don’t know about the unseen creation. Even the classic tensions of sovreignty and responsability, wrath and mercy etc, while being accessible and useful, there is a point where we have to bow the knee and say “Lord, I just don’t know, but you are who you are, and the deeper I plumb the depths of gospel truth, the more fully I know you, yet the mystery of your life becomes deeper and more wonderful – come Lord Jesus!”

  15. glenscriv

    The unseen realm will one day be united to the seen.
    I definitely have difficulty conceptualising that!
    I have other conceptual difficulties like the relationship of the Trinity to space and time. I think there is much that can be said and much that should be ruled out of court. See Blackham’s latest two podcasts:

    http://web.me.com/paulblackham/Paul_Blackham/Frameworks/Frameworks.html

    But it’s still a conceptual mind-twister.

    Add to this the fact that when heaven and earth marry I expect a fruitful union. I expect multiplication. Of what, I don’t know – dimensions? universes? senses? what else??

    That’s pretty hard to imagine. But I don’t rule any of that out because of conceptual difficulties. In fact my theology takes me towards that kind of freaky stuff which, when pursued, is freakier than anything a materialist could imagine!

    My problem is not conceptual difficulties per se. My problem is faithfulness to the gospel. The gospel tells me specifics. It tells me that the heaven where Jesus began from and later ascended to – that is the unseen realm that will be marrying the earth – the earth where He was born.

    Now once that happens – I’m all for multiple dimensions, space exploration, populating the universe (or even multiverse – who knows!?).

    Anyway… I’ve said too much perhaps.

    What will the bishop think…

  16. codepoke

    Amen.

    The blending of God’s sovereignty and our responsibility is a mind bender. Quantum indeterminacy blows my mind in the same way. When we invented Newtonian physics, we kind of sorted the God Who declares the end from the beginning into a Newtonian box. F=ma, so God could calculate or determine and even factor in His own interventions. But indeterminacy says there are things that are forcibly required to be utterly unpredictable.

    The cool thing is that God is still 100% sovereign, but now I have to discard my illusions about how He does what He does.

    And I love the idea of fruitful union between the seen and the unseen. I’ve never heard it put that way before. Excellent.

    I’ll chew on that one for a while. Thanks again, Glen. :-)

  17. Pingback: Sexual Identity « יובל

  18. cornishevangelist

    Faith in Christ is the bridge between the seen and the unseen

Add a Comment

Rimons twitter widget by Rimon Habib