Often, the overview-history worldview or overall conceptual framework of Christianity is said to be 'Creation, Fall and Redemption', with some adding 'Final Consummation': We were created; we fell (turned away from God); God acted to redeem; we will experience full consummation with God. But the Fall is not integral-important to God - though God made provision for it. CFR(C) is humanity's perspective, in which we turning against God is seen as a central event, a necessary precursor to Redemption, and this has unfortunate implications (see below). It makes the negative, against-God central.
What would it look like from God's perspective? This page tries to chart an overview-history or worldview or conceptual framework from God's perspective: in terms of what God intended through Time and into Eternity. It tries to trace major themes of God's Plan? It has grown over the years to have five theological issues rather than around chronological ones. Each of them (too?) conveniently is expressed in words beginning with 'R'.
Click on each to read it, or else read through.
I call it 'New View' but hope to find a better name sometime. There's a lot to fill in yet. And a lot to work out. Please email me with comments, discussion or questions. Some might wonder where Fall is: It's there, but given a more appropriate place. Read on ...
--* New section 27 March 2016: What Do We Shepherd? *--
PLEASE NOTE: Though I have tried to write this to be understandable to all people, this version is written mainly for Christians of an evangelical persuasion, and assumes a certain attitude to and knowledge of the Bible. If you are not of that persuasion, you should still find it interesting, even though you might miss some of the connotations or not appreciate the style of argument. I hope to rewrite it for a wider readership later, but want to get the ideas down first.
"Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad. Let the sea resound and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant and everything in them. Then all the trees in the forest will sing for joy. They will sing before the Lord, for he comes, he will judge the earth; he will judge the earth in righteousness and the peoples in his truth." Psalm 96:11-13, Psalm 98:4-9, I Chron 16:31
"You will go out with joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands." Isaiah 55:12
"Let Israel rejoice in her maker" Psalm 149:2
"Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people." Romans 15:10, Deut. 32:43
"Rejoice in the Lord always; I say it again: rejoice!" Pail. 4:4
"God is love" I John 4:8,16
Everything rejoices when it experiences God - and especially his truth and justice because they are what upholds Reality. Human and social situations light up when God comes into them. People gain hope and vision.
In Genesis 1 God pronounced all created reality Good - meaning, not just morally good, but that all works as it was intended to. Not just in a functional way, but with rejoicing and clean, long-satisfying fun. Reality rejoicing. (If we find God or his influence via people stifling or restraining, we have the wrong idea about God, or his people misrepresent him. More on these problems, and how God overcomes them, below.)
This is for past, present and future. It was so in the original beginning before what we call the fall. It is so now, even though the joy is partial and contaminated. And it will be so in the end - but in a much fuller way than we can ever imagine. Because, at the end of history, the contamination will be removed and all things shall be transformed and be completed in God (or, as the Apostle Paul puts it, completed in Christ). (There is a difference between partiality and being contaminated by evil; see table.) Then our real life will begin.
|Pre-Fall Past||Present Era||Post-Redemption Future: Real Life|
|Rejoicing||Rejoicing, with pain||Rejoicing in fuller ways|
That, I believe, is God's Cosmic Plan.
The rejoicing is rich, diverse and yet coherent. Not one-dimensional. It has many aspects, many diverse ways of being meaningful and good. It is what is carried and intended by the Hebrew word shalom and the Arabic word, salaam.
Let us look in more detail.
It seems that God delights in his creation, in a way that is self-giving. See more in the page on love.
We must not over-emphasise the love of God at the expense of all else, but rather we can perhaps see it as the latest revelation of the character of God, which became clear only towards the end of the period of the whole of Scripture - when John was writing his letters. It was always there, of course, but in glimpses in the Old Testament, demonstrated in Jesus' life and death, portrayed and urged by Paul in his letters. But it was most clearly expressed as a universal statement in John's letter - and that is why we quote it from there. In no other religion do we find a clear expression of God's agapé love. The love of God should, therefore, be seen as centrally important, and we should expect it to integrate with all other characteristics of God, even if they cannot be reduced to each other. Later, for example, we see the integration of God's love and justice.
I now believe that Law is Good News, not Bad News. God's Law is there to enable diverse blessing and enrichment of, and joy within, the whole Creation. It is there to enable and guide, not to constrain nor to condemn. Paul seemed to recognise this in Romans 7:7, 3:31, perhaps Jesus had this in mind in Matt 5:17,18, and how could the Psalmist exclaim "How I love your Law!" in Psa. 119 if he did not see God's Law in such a way?
Yet - and this is the wonderful multi-functionality of what God created - Law has several other purposes too. It also has an extremely important role in a fallen world in that, when it is expressed in verbal ways (not always an easy task!), it shows us what the deepest types of good and evil are.
But it does even more: it gives every thing in Creation dignity. I used to assume that God had created all entities (animals, plants, mountains, humans, etc.), designing and fashioning them individually. I now believe, rather, that what God has created is not so much the entities as the potential, the laws by which things come into being, live, function and pass on. The beautiful crystal in the rock is not fashioned by God's 'finger', but rather by physical entities responding with joy to the laws of physics that God set in place.
I further believe that these laws are of many and varied kinds, not just physical and biological, but also lingual, aesthetic, social, ethical, and many others. This can explain why the rejoicing is so rich. Every one is designed for the diverse blessing of the Cosmos. Whether this is an intrinsic part of the New View, or just one variant I don't know, but my belief is influenced by the notion of aspects in philosophy.
The dignity of a rock crystal differs from that of a plant, which differs from that of animals, which in turn differs from that of human beings.
We humans have the dignity or joy of working as individuals, but there's lots more. We also have joy of working together. Further, we also have the joy of, together, building social and societal structures, like the political, economic and transport systems, which can (and are intended to) amplify, conduct and spread the blessing-effect of individual action. See page on power.
Holiness is thrilling. It is not stuffy nor confining. It inspires, first awe and an awareness of something utterly greater and more real that we are. It inspires a sense of 'this is my home', 'this is where I really belong', 'this is what I am destined for'. Holiness is deeply satisfying. But, to unholy people (because of the fall), holiness is also terrifying, and as we see below that terror must be assuaged by the action of God before holiness can be thrilling and satisfying.
If God is holy, transcendent creator of all that is, and even of all possibility, then none of these possibilities are self-dependent. All depends on God, the ground of our very existing. So (and this is a philosophical argument that I won't go into here) we cannot get to God by any means other than those that God himself enables. God proactively revealed himself. Most of this revelation is written in the Bible, and much of what is revealed therein is an expression of God's diversity of Law to enable blessing, fulfilment and blessing within creation, so that Reality will Rejoice.
Some Christians find joy only in church or other religious activity ("joy in Thy Presence"), often seen as in contrast to the world, or an escape from it. Joy should be experienced in the very midst of life, everyday life. Everything in creation is destined for joy. Fullest joy of the Lord, which is our strength, is to be found in the midst of life, not apart from it. (This is not to say that the religious enclave cannot be a haven, but this should be abnormal rather than the expectation.)
"Then God said 'Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule ..." Genesis 1:26
In Genesis 1:26-28, the Bible tells us that humankind has 'dominion' over the rest of creation, and is made "in the image of God". What do these mean? But what sort of dominion? What may we do with this dominion? Why did God give us this dominion? And how does dominion link with image? Centuries of Christian and humanist assumptions about this might have been wrong.
But, I discovered, this is not what God meant by authority, by the 'dominion' humankind has been given. Though others recognise something similar too, what I discovered took me further than most. Let me tell you how I came into it; you can take this route too if you like.
I examined how the Hebrew word for 'have dominion over' is used in Scripture in order to find out what the kind of dominion given to us should be like. The word is radah, and is relatively rare, used used twice here (vv. 26,28) and in only ten other places. In most of the others, it is used descriptively, as in I Kings 4:24 (Solomon ruled over many kingdoms), I Kings I Kings 9:23 (Supervisors of workers); see all its uses in Radah Analysis.
In only a few it is used normatively (indicating what God values). In Leviticus 25 it is used several times to require Hebrew slaves to be treated well. In Ezekiel 34, God says:
"Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves.
Should not the shepherds take care of the flock?
You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool, and slaughter the choice animals
but you do not take care of the flock.
You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured.
You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost.
You have ruled them harshly and brutally." (NIV version)
The word 'ruled' is the one that is, in Hebrew, radah. Now, ask yourself:
I realised that shepherds are there for the sake of the sheep, not the other way round. The role of shepherd is one of care, protection, healing, leading the sheep to good things. It is not the role of consumer - which is what the condemned shepherds had assumed. Shepherds have authority, radah, over the sheep, but this authority was to be used not for their own sake but for the sake of the sheep.
It was not wrong per se for them to use the wool, the milk and even eat the occasional sheep. But they should only do this if they were expending themselves for the sake of the sheep, taking care of them. Two attitudes are contrasted here:
(Christians might remember that Jesus talked about the good shepherd who "lays down his life for the sheep" [John 10:11].)
Realising this was the same word as in Genesis 1, I applied this idea back to our dominion/authority over the rest of creation.
Apply this to Genesis 1. By comparison with Ezek. 34, ask yourself:
I suggest, the latter. Humankind is there for the sake of the rest of creation, and the authority we have over it is specifically so that we can care for it, for its sake and blessing rather than our own. The Westminster Confession suggests "the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever" - and it is wrong; the chief end of man is to shepherd the rest of creation, for its own sake and blessing.
Kevin, a Celtic Saint, was praying in his tiny cell with outstretched arms. One of his arms was through the window. A Blackbird settled on his hand and laid an egg. Kevin remained in place while the bird laid and hatched her eggs and flew. Imagine the self-giving in the aching arm, the sore knees, determined not to move but welcome what God had allowed, for two weeks or more. But also, if the arm was not numb, the joy in feeling the warmth of the bird, the fluff of chicks, the pricking of beak and claws. Perhaps that is the kind of radah that God wants us to exbibit - just as he himself did for us.
|By contrast, humanist dominion over creation consists of: taking stuff from the world, without replenishing it; 'having a good time' while the world is hurting, and believing it is right to do so; not realising that our having a good time is what actually hurts the world indirectly, and refusing to listen to those who tell us so; refusing to take any pains to heal the world, even while lamenting some of the problems we see on TV; or healing only those bits that are of interest to us. We are like the shepherds of Ezekiel 34 - whom God destroyed. Our hearts are almost getting to the level of Ezekiel 16:49, arrogant, affluent, unconcerned - which is what led God to destroy Sodom. There is currently (5 November 2009, coming up to Copenhagen meeting) much talk of climate change, and much fear, but our hearts are not changed.|
We have heard it said that we should not see ourselves as consumers of the rest of creation, using it for our own pleasure, convenience or to serve our own agendas (as Humanism has assumed), but as stewards of it. We should recognise that the rest of creation belongs to God and so we should care for it for that reason. But I want to suggest another role: shepherds of the rest of creation.
Stewards are responsible to the Owner to manage his resources, and expect to give an account when the Owner returns; they have a duty but do not love the stewarded objects. The good shepherd loves the flock, even laying down their lives for the sheep. Theologically, the steward view separates radah from being in the image of God. Would not angels make better stewards than humans would? In any case, why does God need stewards? Believing we have a duty towards God is not compelling enough.
Instead, we are called to be more like good shepherds of the rest of creation, loving it with a love like God has. And thus being 'image of God' to it, with the same inner attitude of heart as God has towards it. "God is love." God wants more than mere management or stewardship; he wants us to love the rest of creation as he does. When we love the rest of creation, as the New View interpretation of radah implies, we are relating to it in the way God would: with self-giving love.
As we shall see later, this radah-as-love is not just for the pre-Fall Garden of Eden, but is what is restored in Rich Redemption and is what will continue into eternity under the theme of Representation.
I choose to believe that our radah, as loving, self-giving shepherding, is to be interpreted broadly in God's intention for humanity within the Creation. That is, I take it to be God's intention that humanity is to open up the potential of all of created reality - the animal kingdom, the plant kingdom, and the human 'kingdoms' of theory, of technology, of language, of relationships, of economy, of art, of politics, of ethics, of faith, and so on. They are opened up by research (the 'sciences') and practice.
The reasons I believe this is: (a) That there is a difference between the two lists suggests that their meaning is approximate, and not fully compassed in the lists, but rather in the word radah; (b) That it does not make sense that the realms of technology, art, etc. are allowed to go where they will; (c) That research and practice both seem to be blessed by God allowing Adam to give the animals their 'true names' (Genesis 2); (d) That at that time the most pressing need, the most obvious thing for humanity to rule over, was the natural world, and that art and technology had yet to begin, so God spoke only about what humanity would immediately experience; (e) That this view gives ultimate meaningfulness to 'secular' things like technology and art, not just to serve 'sacred' ends, but to be part of the rejoicing reality and to enable the rest of reality to rejoice the more.
A philosophical note: This chimes with Dooyeweerd's 'Christian' philosophy, which sees the mandate of humanity as the 'opening up' or the 'positivization' of the potential of all aspects (from whose list of aspects my list of realms above was derived). It also chimes with Heidegger's idea that technology is 'revealment'. It chimes with the idea that the sciences (from maths, physics, biology, through sociology to theology) have a role in God's Plan.
So, to summarise, I believe that radah is intended, in God's Plan, to mandate humanity to open up all aspects, for the blessing of the entire Creation.
Instead, however, humankind has tended to look to itself as the pinnacle of Creation and, in recent centuries, as the sole creator. Instead of living and working for 'the rest' humankind has lived for itself.
At the individual level too, do we not find selfishness, self-centredness? Those of us who have plenty resources use them for our own pleasures, comforts and conveniences, rather than to give away to benefit others or to bless the rest of Creation. All of us seek self-actualization ahead of service engaged with others.
All these might be valid activities, but all have been oriented to meaningless ends instead of fruitful ones in God's Plan. We are meant to enjoy life, but not to put our enjoyment above all else. Love has disappeared.
Back to start of Radah section. (See also an earlier page on Radah.)
"[Yahweh] God said 'It is not good for the man to be along. I will make a helper suitable for him." Genesis 2:18
To Abram "I will bless you ... and you will be a blessing ..." Genesis 12:2
"Their descendants will be known among the nations, and and their offspring among the peoples" Isaiah 61:9
"... restore him gently ... carry each others' burdens ... share ... let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers." Galatians 6
"There is no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgement of God in the land. There is only cursing, lying and murder, stealing and adultery, they break all bounds and bloodshed follows bloodshed. Because of this the land mourns, and all who live in it waste away; the beasts of the field and the birds of the air and the fish of the sea are dying." Hosea 4:2-3, emphasis added.
"They sacrifice on the mountaintops and burn offering on the hills ... Therefore your daughters turn to prostitution and your daughters-in-law to adultery." Hosea 4:13
"Because you have depended on your own strength and on your many warriors, the roar of battle will rise against your people." Hosea 10:13
"They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind" Hosea 8:7
The first few show a connectedness between people, the long one from Hosea 4 shows a connection between what people do and the health of the natural world, the next two show the connectedness between faith / attitude and the state of society, while the final one shows a general connectedness. Connectedness? Connectedness in a dynamic way, as repercussions, which is the Biblical way. Some show repercussions of good, but most there show repercussions of evil.
We have emphasised radah-as-love: that our role is to bless the rest of creation so that it experiences something of the character of God as we do so. But we are not autonomous sources of blessing (only God is that). Rather, we also are part of creation and, as such, we are dependent on the rest of creation. In this sense we find the rest of creation to be a resource for our living and we also derive enjoyment from it.
We may indeed enjoy the rest of creation, and use it as resource for living, but that is secondary and not primary. God's plan is this: Primarily, we serve and bless the rest of creation, and then in return it responds and blesses us. Shepherds look after sheep, but, having done so, they can use wool, milk and even meat. God's plan is for a 'virtuous circle', in which as we bless the rest of creation, we are blessed in turn - and the whole results in blessing and praise to God. The apostle, Paul, understood this.
Jim Skillen puts it this way: Each creature has honour of being what it is, and each creature is hospitable to others. He finds this in the order of the days of creation: light and dark are hospitable to land, which is hospitable to plants, which are hospitable to sea creatures and land animals and these are hospitable to humans. Everything in all creation is there, not for its own sake, but for the sake of all others - and this is most true of humans.
We can understand this better if we recognise that the central rule of creation is interconnectedness, relatedness. Everything relates to everything else. There are food chains. There are networks of causality. There are cycles of blessing. There are relationships of responsibility. Nothing stands alone, nothing stands apart from others and especially not above it. All is dependent on all else. All refers beyond itself. And, ultimately, the whole cosmos refers beyond itself to God, and the interconnectedness we find in the cosmos is an echo of the love of God. Love is always relating and referring beyond itself. Note 4.
Let us look at what this entails - including looking at what Christians call The Fall. Or jump directly to Rich Redemption - Romans 8 revisited.
Part of this is technology. We are to fashion and control according to some purpose, rather than let things happen. (For example, rampant plants like Rhododendron should be controlled for the sake of other 'weaker' species.) For example, we can discover and employ the properties of timber, iron, silicon, and so on. But I believe the type of technological development God had envisaged would be different from ours - controlled, patient, at peace with the creation (see fruit of the Holy Spirit) - and especially that part of the fruit which is being patient with the speed and way in which creation works rather than using technology as an excuse for being impatient with it.
Part of this is economics. We are to frugally and skilfully manage, respecting, accepting and creatively working within the limitations of resource we encounter. Very different from current economics, based on removing limitations, on maximization of owner value, on production and consumption.
Part of this is poetry and music. And rest. Notice how the climax of the creation story at the start of Genesis is not human beings but rest [thanks to Jim Skillen for pointing this out].
And so on. I find Dooyeweerd's aspects provide a useful insight into the diversity of creation and how it may be properly opened up.
In Westminster Abbey is Poet's Corner, where famous poets are buried. I used to think this was blasphemy because many of these poets had not been true followers of Jesus Christ and did not die "in the Lord". But today, though my opinion of them has changed little, I no longer see it blasphemy, because even these people have opened up something in the Creation Order and thus contributed to fulfilling humankind's commission. This relates to our discussion of the contribution of the non-believer.
In other views, we try to understand it in terms of God's authority: selfishness, pride and idolatry usurp God's authority. While this is logical, and there is obvious truth in this, this understanding on its own contradicts itself, in that it suggests a God who is himself 'selfish'. While Christians, Jews, Muslims and others might just accept that, many find it difficult to stomach.
Under the New View this problem is lessened. If we see both pride and idolatry, not as resisting God's authority but as denying our interconnectedness - denying or ignoring, for example, our responsibility to others, our ability to bless others, our causal effects on others, etc. - then we can see how damaging these can be to others. Since God loves all he has made, this hurts him. This enables us to bring God's love and justice together.
But now consider that all is interconnected. Suppose I do something that harms other things. Because God loves those other things, he is sad, and perhaps even angry with me. And so he punishes me, perhaps as retribution but certainly as a warning to stop what I am doing that harms the others. God's justice is because he loves others as well as me. There is no now tension between God's justice and his love.
This is the New View of the relationship between God's love and his justice, wrath and so on. The wrath of God is derivative, not original, secondary not primary. We no longer have to deny one to uphold the other.
Paul Marshall defines justice as 'right relationships among all things in the created order' - linking justice with relationships. Righteousness is also linked with relationships: indeed, righteousness and justice are the same thing.
The standard view seems to portray God as a petty official who, peeved that his creatures did what he told them not to, instituted various curses and pains by way of punishment, retribution or even, if we are honest, revenge.
But I no longer see it so. Rather, I see these things as a natural outcome of what we have done, because of the interconnectedness inherent in creation.
Thus the so-called 'curses' are not. They are merely God telling us examples of how creation, with which we are interconnected, will work against us if we take to ourselves the right to determine what seems good and evil. He cited three examples - in obstetrics, in food production and in family relationships. Our wrong actions break the cycle of joy and blessing that we mentioned above. No! God is no petty, peeved official. He is still love.
The problem is that we have chosen to see the world in a certain way: to take to ourselves the right to determine what is good and evil, and this is a deep orientation of heart, not just a matter of thinking or doing. (See longer piece on 'The Fall'.) Because we have done so, we are blinkered and keep on with self-justification. To overcome this requires repentance, not just deductions, discourse or determination, because all three of these are themselves distorted.
Some dislike the theology of sin and its attendant theology of atonement. But, once we have stopped trying to make points, and begin to see ourselves as we are, we know we are warped inside, trapped in the warp, and separated from God our source of Life and Joy. All we do, even the best, is tarnished by selfishness, pride, arrogance, self-will, rejection of others. Sin is not only there, but is noetic.
See a longer discussion of sin, evil, dysfunction.
(But, some might say, has not nature been 'put out of joint'? See below.)
We make much of those verses that say that God will make all things right. And yet, much of the evil in the world comes about indirectly rather than directly. We are used to direct repercussions of what we do. But because of interconnectedness, what we do sets of a chain of repercussions. I use someone spitefully or unjustly, they get hurt and irritable, they go home and snap at their family, who in turn feel hurt and snap at each other, and a row breaks out, and one of the children goes round to their friends in a bad and cynical mood and causes trouble there, and so on.
In environmental issues, it is the indirect rather than direct impacts that are harmful. For example, I drive my car, and the emissions contribute to climate change, which causes storms that destroy the homes and livelihood of thousands in central Africa.
One very important indirect impact comes not from our actions but from our world view - the taken-for-granted assumptions about how the world is, what's important, what's wrong and what's right. Our world view affects they way we live and work, and what we put effort into and what we let go by, which in turn emanates in our actions, which in turn have impact. The Biblical world view involves proper radah, and would lead us to use our car less and do the 'inconvenient' thing of walking or cycling more (but with increased health!). But most of us Western Christians have a world view like that of the worldly consumerist, and don't bother. My world view - whatever it is - emanates in a myriad of small life decisions that have an impact, whether direct or indirect. That is why world view is so important, and why Rom. 12:2 tells us it is God's plan to transform us by changing the way we see things.
"The fathers will not be punished for the children, nor the children for the fathers; everyone will be punished for his own sin." God punishes those who commit sin - but the sin we commit has multiple indirect repercussions. And they stand against and accuse us in the court of God's judgement, as evidence to what our sin really is: "affluence, arrogance and unconcern for the poor" [Ezekiel 16:49] in our hearts and attitudes.
The soldier who perpetrates acts of unnecessary brutality is obviously guilty. But are not his colleagues, who egged him/her on also guilty? Is not their commander, who turned a blind eye to lesser brutality and refused to exert proper discipline in the past guilty to some extent, though perhaps in a different way? Are not the high-ups, who fostered a certain attitude guilty too? Are not the whisky-swilling generals, who set the tone guilty? Are not the politicians and media in the home country, who give the impression that their armed forces should be given privileges, guilty to some extent? Are not the public, who treat armed forces as heroes who can do no wrong, equally guilty? Those anti-war protestors, who cause a hero-worshipping reaction among the media and public - do not they also have a hand in this? From the other side, is the victim of the brutality completely innocent? Did they not unnecessarily taunt the soldiers? Were they not brutal to others of their community?
What about the child caught shop-lifting: who bears some guilt there? What about the tax-avoiding business? What about the politician; are we not all guilty there? What about the child abuser or the rapist?
Guilt is a web. None of us is completely innocent. At the very least, we acquiesce to prevailing beliefs or prevalent attitudes. As someone years ago put it, "It is enough for evil to triumph that good men do nothing."
But if we acknowledge the relatedness of all in creation, and especially indirect impacts, then frequently poverty and powerlessness come about indirectly because of what we do, even though we don't intend it. The very world view we hold becomes inscribed into the society or environment we create around us, into its very structures. If that world view is idolatrous or distorted, then so will our society, environment and structures.
Even the best-willed person can do things that, unwittingly, create detrimental conditions for others - whether those others are human, animal or anything else in creation that 'groans' (see below).
God recognises this and helps those who are affected in such ways. But he does not simply step in on every occasion to right wrong, for two reasons. One is that he has given humankind responsibility and wants us to develop that and learn to employ it. The other is that this life is not the Real nor Final Life; that is to come (for most of us beyond death).
(1) Is not the discourse on rights closely linked with self-serving considerations, or even selfishness? Does not our thinking develop as "I'd like this - We'd like this - We want this! - We need this! - This is a basic human right."? On what basis may our jurists decide what is a right and what is not, especially when a large cohort of the media are shouting for it? We need a foundation for differentiating rights from needs, wants, wishes, preferences.
(2) Clash of rights. My rights versus your rights? Our rights versus those of faraway people we have seldom heard of and who are insignificant to us? Our rights versus those of later generations? Our rights versus animal rights? Our rights versus the sustainability of planetary systems? We need a foundation on which rights of all kinds can be discussed, without the articulate and powerful always gaining more rights than those without a voice. (Especially when 'our' rights are mere preferences?)
This idea of relatedness goes some way towards providing a foundation. All rights may be seen as deriving from the impact or possible impact within the web of interconnectedness - which turns the discourse about rights towards one about responsibilities.
Interestingly, this has happed in the British Green Party. After Paul Marshall and a couple of others came to speak to its working group on Rights in the 1980s, we began to understand the radical distinction between Green and Liberal: Green is about interconnectedness, the acceptance of responsibilities and the reasonable constraints that result. We amended our Manfesto for a Sustainable Society, and renamed the working group the Responsibilities and Rights Working Group.
More interestingly for Christians, perhaps, is that the Relational Foundation in the UK is exploring the importance of relatedness. It is trying to develop policy and thinking based on relatedness rather than on individualism.
This does not go all the way, because we need to understand the nature of the entities at the nexi of interconnections, and the nature of the interconnections themselves. That can be helped, for example, by Dooyeweerd's philosophy, a so-called Christian philosophy, which roots all entities and relationships in meaningfulness, and offers a way to distinguish distinct kinds of meaningfulness ('aspects') as implying distinct kinds of possible or actual relationships and responsibility. Dooyeweerd's aspects are well founded.
Jesus clearly spoke about the Real (Next) Life when he:
We can see how this all chimes in with our notion of Radah as managing the rest of creation for its own blessing. Paul seemed to understand this well when he said on a number of occasions that the rest of creation would be resurrected and given new shape along with human beings.
(Note: I have placed this issue, not under the theme of Redemption below, but under the theme of Relatedness partly because it follows naturally from discussing the Fall and the Poor and the clearing up of problems that befall us, partly to emphasise its continuity with the present regime, and partly to avoid any suggestion that Real Life is either some kind of contingency plan by God made necessary by the Fall or on the other hand that our current regime is somehow inferior in God's plan. Both this life and Real Life were part of God's plan from the start, with or without the Fall. See Paul Marshall's book Heaven is Not My Home.)
(cf. PDL Day 4, Day 5, Day 64)
That is not how the Bible sees it. Most of the Bible sees heaven as the realm where celestial beings live, such as angels, the realm that is 'not Earth' and is 'above' Earth, both physically, morally, etc. Possibly because of the influence of Greek thinking, this was seen as the 'spiritual' realm as opposed to the material realm of earth.
Because, the Jews and other reasoned, God is not physical, God must be spiritual, and must therefore be 'in heaven'. The Bible; however, sees God as Creator of both heaven and earth, rather than being 'in heaven'; indeed Solomon knew that even "the heaven of heavens" cannot contain God. So heaven is not to be seen as 'God's home'.
This New View tries to understand heaven in the way the Bible shows it, as the realm of the celestial beings, as that part of creation that is not Earth. Heaven is probably governed by laws different from those we experience, including different physical laws.
The destiny of those acceptable to God is not heaven but a renewed Earth. Heaven is Not My Home wrote Paul Marshall, and Heaven It's Not the End of the World wrote David Lawrence.
Most of the above text has been copied to it, and here will be reduced to a summary when appropriate. I have moved the note and references relevant to this section to here for convenience when I do this.
Note 4. Philosophically, referring beyond self is what Dooyeweerd meant by 'Meaning'. But we are used to thinking of independent entities rather than meaning, of self-actualization rather than self-giving, of emancipation rather than interconnectedness. Jim Skillen gave a talk at CPC2011 on 'Four patterns of creation's meaning', which are:
This is very like this New View. He will soon publish a book on this.
Lawrence, D. Heaven, It's Not The End of the World. Scripture Union.
Marshall, P. Heaven is Not My Home.
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son." John 3:16
"there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" Romans 8:1
"those who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God ... you received the Spirit of sonship. By him we cry 'Abba, Father'. The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children." Romans 8:14-16
"the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control" Galatians 5:22-23"
"... the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager longing for the sons of God to be revealed" Romans 8:19
"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:38,39
This is clearly set out in Romans 8, perhaps my favourite passage of Scripture at present, because it reflects my theological development of three dimensions of salvation:
In these three stages, of 'no condemnation', 'Spirit of sonship', and 'creation awaits God's sons', the circle is completed, right back to Genesis 1's statement of God's cosmic plan, and our mandate to 'shepherd' the earth with the self-giving love that God has. It is this, and this alone, which enables humankind to fulfil its mandate to be image (representative) of God to the rest of creation, so that the rest of creation would experience something of God via us as well as directly.
We, whose hearts were turned away from God, are to be no longer condemned, are to be lived-in, cleaned, transformed and empowered by the Holy Spirit, and are to reflect again God's own character and attitude to the rest of Creation and work God's work in his world, so that reality will be able begin rejoicing again. No wonder Paul expresses confidence and joy in the fourth part of the chapter: "We know that in all things God works together for good with/for those who love him", "If God is for us, who can be against us!", "I am certain that nothing can separate us from his love".
This is expanded in a separate page on Romans 8 and on Three-dimensional salvation.
Repentance for wrong actions, words and thoughts is the best-known and most visible. For example:
However, two deeper ones the Holy God has revealed. In various revivals, the Living God has challenged people about deep attitudes. If we are willing and active in repenting the above things, we often find ourselves with wrong attitudes, such as:
Now the kind of repentance that is perhaps hardest for those who know these two: repentance of lifestyle and way of seeing the world. In his excellent booklet on The Great Divide, Mark Green calls us to:
Repentance is not always the huge barrier that traditional Christianity seems to magnify it into. Whereas traditional 'born-again' Christianity focuses on this repentance, I don't think New View does. It focuses on the good news. Whereas traditional Christianity gives the impression that repentance is a huge barrier, New View suggests it is a natural response to God's goodness in redemption. Whereas traditional Christianity gives the 'bad news' of "Unless you repent, you'll go to hell", New View gives the good news of "Repent, and you'll be part of the rich redemption." But those differences need closer examination.
Let us look at this rich redemption in more detail: Christ, freedom from condemnation, the Holy Spirit, an being like God. Or jump directly to Representation - Knowing and Experiencing God in everyday living.
No wonder, as Paul said also the another group of believers, "For this reason God has highly exalted him [Christ], to a Name above all other names, and to him every knee shall bow." And the author of the letter to the Hebrews echoes this in saying [1:2] that Christ will inherit all things, and God places all things under his authority.
Now, let us look at the threefold redemption in more detail.
God himself has paid the penalty for our wrongdoing. That is the ultimate in love. Even forgiveness, letting us off, is not the ultimate in love; it is when God himself suffers to the ultimate, in order to forgive us. When we see it this way, a huge swathe of Scripture, including the life and sayings of Jesus, make sense and become a coherent story.
The strong implication of this is that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. This means not just when before God's judgement seat, but right now. Right now, in life, there is no condemnation. We are justified (before God, before the cosmos and in our own eyes) not by being good, not by avoiding wrong, not by not making mistakes, not by saying sorry, but by the sacrifice of Christ. And, unlike these other uncertainties, this one is certain and strong. And nobody, but nobody, can gainsay it while Christ stands.
That is precious especially for those who have been downtrodden or are suffering. It does not stop there, however.
The work of the Holy Spirit is not an add-on, but is essential. Three things the Holy Spirit does: growing his fruit, changing our world view and aligning our will with that of God.
This is the fulfilment of what Jeremiah 31:31-34 called the New Covenant: God's law is written in our hearts, no longer will one person tell another "Know God", and sins are forgiven. Because of this, we can afford to take risks ("with great caution" though), because our inner tendency will be as God wants (and also because there is now no condemnation if we get it wrong). No longer need Christians be risk-averse. Hallelujah!
We can see that redemption is not just 'to accumulate souls into heaven' nor just to get a band of loving worshippers for God. It is much more glorious: it is to find a way in which humankind could once again image God to the rest of creation and bring about that realm of joy and peace and shalom that God intended.
But, someone will ask, is it not possible for people to be responsible carers for God's creation on their own, without the Holy Spirit? Maybe for a time, and maybe for a few individuals, is this so, but not sustainably. We have a small example of this in the U.K.: in the 1980s many people wanted low-consumption cars, aiming for 50 mpg. But 20 years later we no longer heard much about this; what people aspired to then were SUVs and sporty bits that do less than 30 mpg. IN the 1980s, only the fashions outside people changed; the hearts of the people were not changed.
What this world needs is people whose very hearts are changed so that, even when fashions are for damaging lifestyles, those people will ignore them and still seek after responsible lifestyles. And a lot of such people, not just a few individuals. Moreover, such people must do so, not out of a sense of fulfilment or self-actualization, but out of a changed heart. This is why the work of the Holy Spirit is essential, not an add-on. (See Hand - Face - Heart.)
It is in this way, and not by means of law, that we become like God. We grow into his image. That leads to the grand and cosmic issue of representing God, which is not just for temporary purposes, but is the very heart of God's plan in his creation.
"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them ... Rule ..." Genesis 1:27.
"'You are my witnesses,' declares [Yahweh], 'and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he.'" Isaiah 43:10
"God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation." II Cor 5:19
"No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. ... And they will reign for ever and ever." Revelation 22:3-5
"Preach the gospel to all creation" Mark 16:15
"You are salt ... you are light ..." Matthew 5:13-16
"My house shall be a house of prayer for all nations." Isaiah 56:7, Mark 11:17.
Representing God is one of the central ideas in the New View in Theology and Practice. During the fallen period, where humankind is oriented away from God, God's people represent him to the rest of people. But before the fall and after the consummation, when sin will be no more there is still representation: humankind representing God to the rest of creation - and this theme also applies during the intervening period of the fall. It is a possibility always innate in the creational nature of humanity and the rest, and made possible right here and now in Christ and by the Holy Spirit. Notice how Jesus wants the gospel preached, not just to human beings, but to all creation. The New View sees 'image of God' as meaning, not a privileged status with respect to the rest of creation, but as representing God to the rest of creation.
The theme of representing God was there from the start, is here right through history and will be there after the end of this age. In this New View, the following themes are important in, and are elaborated in the separate page on, Representing God.
Just look back to where we began: Reality Rejoicing - That's God's Cosmic and Eternal Plan, and each of us is invited to be a willing, joyful, effective part of it.
A: While it is certainly true that there is continuity with earlier views, the difference from older views is more than additions. First each theme is different, second each theme is necessary, and third the differences are in underlying world view and not just in individual beliefs. Also, see tabular comparisons with various doctrines and three ground motives.
Q: New View seems to suggest that the evil effects of the Fall are merely due to our seeing things wrongly and having wrong expectations and goals. But has not nature been 'put out of joint'?
A: Yes, there may be an element of nature being put out of joint and not working as it should, but I am trying to stress something that has been forgotten. The put-out-of-joint theology rests on a single verse. The thesis that much even comes about because we have wrong and idolatrous expectations, goals, views is supported by a huge weight of Scripture, especially in the Judges, Kings and the Gospels. See page that discusses this.
Note 2. It may be noted that the humanist / mediaeval view, that 'dominion' means we can do with the rest of creation as we wish, does link with being in the image of God, if we see this in terms of a prince being the image of the king. But these interpretations of both dominion and image are more in line with Aristotle than with Scripture as a whole. They have no place for the love or the humility that characterize God in Scripture. The New View not only rejects both these interpretations, but suggests new interpretations commensurate with love and humility.
Note 3. Snyder, H. (2005). 'Salvation means creation healed: creation, cross, kingdom, mission. Kingdom Conference, 2005. Available on Internet. Thanks to Andrew Watson for pointing this out to me.
This page, URL= 'http://www.abxn.org/nv/rrrr.html', is offered to God as on-going work in developing a 'New View' in theology that is appropriate to the days that are coming upon us. Comments, queries welcome.
Copyright (c) Andrew Basden to latest date below, but you may use this material subject to certain conditions.
Written on the Amiga with Protext.
Created: 14 December 2003. Last updated: 30 December 2003 several bits under Relatedness (Poor, Eternal Life) etc., added FAQ, placed Representation last and wrote much for it. 1 January 2004 added Reality Rejoices cos I needed to say something about joy and the goodness of God. 11 January 2004 law and revelation. 25 January 2004 holiness, 8 February 2004 link to Love; .nav. 7 March 2004 more on Redemption, and 3 headings; rewrote some of Rejoicing. 28 March 2004 No Condemnation, Holy Spirit, Like God. 12 April 2004 blessing by opening up creation. 16 April 2004 poets corner. 18 April 2004 John 3:16, wv.impact. 11 May 2004 To whom does God's law apply? 27 June 2004 Kevin. 1 August 2004 God's people: tendency to pride; love. 27 September 2004 Jer 10:24-5, Jer 11. 2 October 2004 a bit on repn. 23 December 2004 repn ben Sira. 3 July 2005 three reasons for our radah; new email. 4 September 2005 Holy Spirit essential example. 7 September 2005 stewards. 14 September 2005 USA quotes. 23 November 2005 new section 'working with God'. 7 February 2006 lord's prayer link. 8 April 2006 representing = love, trust. 5 August 2007 Alec Smith quote: Gods people to lead; new section. 15 March 2008 cosmic. 27 March 2008 God's people lead. 20 July 2008 stronger on shepherds r.t. stewards. 24 July 2008 redid stewards-shepherds to incl. resources. 30 July 2008 reworded stewards a bit. 10 September 2008 link to hfh. 19 October 2008 better repres'n. 31 October 2008 link to representation. 28 November 2008 joy in everyday life. 17 January 2009 newcov, some rewrite. 20 February 2009 incarnation. 8 March 2009 began redoing shepherds + dominion, cos of Andrew Watson's comments; some small changes; major rearrangement and rewrite of Radah section, moving stewards earlier and sakes to end. 1 May 2009 what.show section. 22 June 2009 Christ in us all-sufficient. 2 September 2009 shalom, ppf (past,present,future), power. 1 October 2009 link to sin. 5 November 2009 polemic re radah. 16 May 2010 God's love. 20 May 2010 not over-emph God's love. 17 October 2010 verses at start of each. 17 October 2010 weary in well-doing, 'essay'. 9 January 2011 Holy Spirit list. 16 January 2011 repentance. 13 February 2011 shepherds. 15 April 2011 name.shepherds. 1 May 2011 'Stewards?' rpl by 'Consumers, Stewards, Shepherds'. 15 July 2011 rep God all invited. 14 August 2011 link to romans8. 21 August 2011 Jim Skillen. 4 September 2011 Representation reorganised a bit, and rewritten to be clearer; the blessings of God's people replaces joy and love. 6 November 2011 representation forever as well as now (thanks to Anthony Smith for prompting this). 11 December 2011 Rep: not distant but God with us. 21 December 2011 link to miracles. 8 January 2012 deep sin. 22 April 2012 Mark 16:15. 23 April 2012 wrath derivative. 4 July 2012 God delights. 3 September 2012 Facilitating RepGod. 7 December 2012 being involved in God's Plan not ours in rep. 25 December 2012 began moving the Representation section to representation.html, and orientating that part of this page towards more specifically New View theology. 26 December 2012 completed that. 27 December 2012 link to image of God and a few corrections. 3 February 2013 salt.light. 21 April 2013 love v resources, some rewrite of intro, repl code by i tags for html 5. 28 April 2013 three classes of repentance. 24 January 2014 Attitude. 20 April 2014 heaven section. 4 May 2014 Each R is linked to a theological topic; eras table slight reword. 18 May 2014 rep: house of prayer for all nations. 15 June 2014 more relatedness verses; new section on what is relatedness. 15 June 2014 preparing for new page Interconnectedness. 19 June 2014 Schulten; some rewrite of shepherds. 9 May 2015 summarised Shepherds, referring to Shepherds page. 27 March 2016 new section 'What do we shepherd'. 1 May 2016 Intro improved, .end, .nav. 29 May 2016 link corrected, new .end. 2 June 2016 Possibilities. 15 September 2016 Andrew Hartley pointed out an empty quote in Radah section (thanks), so I filled it in, with link to radah.analysis. 18 September 2016 rights. 21 September 2016 guilt. 5 March 2017 new intro: CFR human persp, RRRRR God's; dignity.