Monday, December 07, 2015

Creation and relevance

In many an Evangelical church, there are difficulties with regards to the relevance of Christianity for living life on this world. Christianity is seen individualistically for personal salvation, almost as a hell insurance policy. The "struggle" then is to show how the faith is relevant for this world, through "life application" sermons on a variety of topics like marriage or ethical issues like abortion and birth control, or even intellectual through gaining doctrinal knowledge. Since it is viewed individualistically for salvation in the afterlife, Christianity seems to be remote from this world and the issues of this world

To combat this seeming irrelevance, some churches have moved into social activisim of either the left or the right (e.g. social justice, "Moral Majority"). Others have a more holistic solution of creating a Christian "world and life view," christening various spheres of society into spheres where God's grace works (neo-Kuyperianism). Similarly, the New Apostolic paradigm mirrors neo-Kuyperianism, but in a more triumphalistic and spiritual (Charismatic), as opposed to intellectual and artistic, sense. All of these movements, which in many aspects are opposed to each other, have in common the goal of relevance of Christianity for this world.

What is missing in all these movements is the actual way the Scriptures have shown themselves to be relevant, which is history. That is why the doctrine of creation and doctrine of consummation is so important, for it locates the world as we see and experience it in the narrative of God's story in real history. Notice that I listed it as the doctrine of consummation, not eschatology, although they refer to the same thing, because of the emphasis I want to make. The emphasis in the doctrine of consummation is not so much on the various millennium schemes, but on the fact that the physical world we live in will have an endpoint when Christ comes again. On that note, the doctrine of creation focuses on the fact that creation is an actual historical event in real history, as historical as World War 2 for example.

We humans live our lives in light of some narrative, telling us who we are and where we are going. There is a beginning, and there is an end. The secular narrative that is spun out for the consumption of many is that of the Big Bang event as the beginning of this reality, and either the Big Crunch or the Heat Death among other theoretical ends of the universe. Humanity, like other life forms on this planet, had evolved ultimately from non-life, and we are still evolving, albeit slowly. As our evolution is from the simple to the complex, from single cell organisms to ancient primates to humanity, the expectation is that we are evolving towards some form of glorified humanity, better than the current Homo Sapiens the same way Homo Sapiens are superior to Homo Erectus. While certainly Marvel Comics' idea of mutants with spectacular powers are rather implausible in real life, yet they have the concept of the optimistic view of evolution's goal of humanity's future right. Homo Sapiens would one day become some version of Homo Superius, or, in Nietzsche's words, the √úbermensch. (That of course assumes evolution upwards, which is by no means guaranteed.)

The secular narrative provides a "scientific" way of understanding the "real world," as opposed to the "spiritual" world of Christianity. The first eleven chapters of Genesis have been relegated to "myth" through the "scientific" discipline of the the History of Religions (religiongeschichtlichschule), through comparisons to Ancient Near East (ANE) creation myths. So not only has secularism provided its own origin story as being the "real history" of the world, they have supposedly discredited the Bible's narrative of origins. Christianity has thus been relegated to the life and teaching of Jesus, and thus even if all that Jesus said and did were acknowledged as being true, Christianity would seem to a spiritual religion that historically begins with Christ (or Abraham for those who give credence to the Old Testament). Thus, the "real history" of the world follows the Big Bang Cosmology, and biblical history begins around 2000BC with Abraham.

As for the world's telos, Christianity with its doctrine of Christ's second coming can be acknowledged as being spiritual in nature, according to the world's viewpoint. It is after all for the afterlife in heaven, where the picture is portrayed of saints as being like the angels playing harps in heaven before God in worship. But secularism insists that for the "real world" the telos is that of the end of the universe. For humanity, the idea of continual evolutionary improvement gives rise to the project of transhumanism, a more practical project compared to the Marvel version of Mutants (or Inhumans). As humanity continues to evolve, we would slowly eradicate diseases and become more enlightened and live longer and better lives. Thus, we have the specter of terminally ill or dying patients subjecting themselves to cryogenic preservation with the understanding that they can be thawed and awakened in the future when a cure for their disease(s) can be found.

Now, much can and probably should be made of metaphysics in particular and philosophy in general. One can use the Cosmological argument to speak about the real existence of God, or whatever philosophical proof of Christian theism one desires to use. But all of these, no matter how valid or invalid they may be, are abstract and theoretical. For people living on this earth, we need something concrete. Jesus' death and resurrection is indeed concrete, but by itself it is like Mechizedek, without beginning and without end. Just holding on to the historicity of Jesus' birth, death and resurrection is insufficient, especially when wedded to the secular Big Bang and evolution narrative.

For Scripture to norm our narrative is to norm our view of this world. If this world is God's, then its history must be God's history of this world. Therefore, human history must be encompassed in the time between Genesis and Revelation. Genesis must be speaking of actual real history. There must be a real Adam and Eve, a real creation ex nihilo, a real Fall. The table of nations in Genesis 10 must be speaking of the origins of the various nations of the world such that it is theoretically possible for every ethnicity to trace its real history (not "myth") to one of the patriarchs in the Table of Nations, if they had the genealogical knowledge necessary to do so. This then is our true narrative, and any supposed "facts" or "theories" put forward in the name of "science" is either a false interpretation of the real data, or based upon false data. Similarly, the end of this world is exactly what is put forward in apocalyptic form in the book of Revelations. Christ would indeed come back to the earth and human history would end. There would be no heat death, no Big Crunch and no Homo Superius.

The modern strategy in Christianity is to situated the Christian message and make it relevant within the confines of the secular narrative. What we are to do however is the exact opposite, which is to situate the world and everyday life into the confines of the biblical narrative. Within this narrative lies the common realm, which is NOT a neutral realm which Kuyperianism hates, but a realm for everyday life. Neo-Kuyperianism treats the world as secular-needing-redemption, and therefore neutrality implies atheism, whereas the biblical narrative treats the world as God's by creation, being split into the ecclesiastical and the common realms.

Once we begin with the norming of the biblical narrative, then Christianity does not have to be proven relevant, for it describes the very essence of reality. Everything we see is created by God, everything we experience is providentially guided by God. We are living in God's narrative, not the other way around. God is the center, we are not. Is there anything more relevant about Christianity than this? But for all this to be the case, we have to recover the relevance of the real historicity of Creation and Consummation, and reject the supposed "findings" of modern science that say otherwise.

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