Tag Archives: God

On the connection between Predestined and Included

A member of our church called me this past week and asked me to put in writing one of the main points from last Sunday’s sermon on Ephesians 1:11-14. [That sermon is available here.] Specifically, she asked me to (1) provide a definition of ‘predestined’ (2) Provide a definition of ‘included.’ And (3) describe how the two are connected. My answer is below. If you’re interested in my personal journey on this topic, you can read this post.

Predestined:  In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.” (1:11) I’m not sure I can provide a definition of predestined but I can offer a description of it. First, we have been predestined/chosen to receive the blessings of salvation; to be made holy and blameless (1:4) and to be adopted to sonship (1:5). Second, we have been predestined/chosen according to God’s eternal will, “before the creation of the world” (1:4). Third, this means that God always initiates salvation. His actions are always prior both in purpose and time. To the extent that we respond in faith – and I believe that our response is a real and free response – it is because God demonstrated the initiative. There is nothing about which I could boast.

Included: “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation.” (1:13) “Included in Christ” carries with it two interlocking ideas. First, it means that we have been spiritually united with Christ through personal conversion. Second, it means that we have been included within the people of God. Notice Paul’s argument in 2:11-22. Prior to Christ, the Gentiles were “separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel” but now they have been “brought near by the blood of Christ.” To be brought near is to become part of one body, become citizens with God’s people, and become members of one household. We are included in Christ when we hear, and by implication believe, the gospel.

What is the connection between predestined and included? There’s an interesting parallelism going on in these verses. “In him we were also chosen, having been predestined… And you also were included in Christ.” The two are not identical concepts (as I’ve hopefully shown above) but they are interrelated. How, then, are they connected?

First, we need to note that the concepts of election, predestination, and being chosen, do not come out of nowhere for Paul, but are built on Israel’s history. Abraham was chosen by God to be the father of a nation. Israel is God’s chosen people. To be “chosen” in the Old Testament would mean being part of Israel. The purpose of God choosing Israel was to bring glory to Himself and so that Israel could be a light and a blessing to the world. We see the same concept here in Ephesians. Paul’s emphasis is not just on the individual nature of salvation, but on the reality that God is forming a people of faith by including both Jews and Gentiles in Christ.

Second, this previous point is emphasized by a very important shift in pronouns. Verses 3-10 uses the pronoun “us” and describes the reality for all believers. Verses 11-12 “In him we were also chosen… we were the first to put our hope in Christ” uses the pronoun “we.” Verses 13-14 shifts the pronouns to “you.” “You also were included…” There’s some dispute here but I take the “we” to be Paul and his companions who were believers prior to the creation of the Ephesian church, and the “you” to be those in the Ephesian church (and likely surrounding churches) primarily made up of Gentiles.

Why does this distinction matter? It highlights one of the purposes of God’s election. Like Israel we see a two-fold purpose. First, it brings glory to God (see verse 12). Second, it is God’s way of creating a people who will be a light to those who are yet excluded from Christ, aliens and foreigners, without God and without hope. To be chosen, then, is to be called to proclaim the gospel so that others may believe and be included in Christ.

This doesn’t resolve a number of mysteries, but those I leave to God, like how to reconcile God’s sovereignty and man’s freedom. I think this means that we are chosen to by virtue of our being members by faith of God’s chosen people and it means that we are members of God’s people by virtue of our being chosen before the creation of the world. Only an eternal God can make that all work. But he’s a good God, so that’s enough.

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Globalism/Nationalism, Church/Nation

Flags_of_the_World

One of the more interesting aspects of this election is the political and theological debate around questions of “nationalism” and “globalism.” Both of these words are used almost entirely in their derogatory sense and are put up as bogey men, as concepts of which we should be afraid – and when used in that sense we should. Most of the arguments I have seen are also simplistic and underdeveloped. Here’s my attempt to bring a little nuance (read: boredom) to the discussion.

First we need to “come to terms”. I’m going to use “nationalism” in a broad and non-derogatory sense, as “the desire for national achievement.” It goes without saying (though I’m saying it anyway) that I am against a “nationalism” which causes us to place nation above love of God or love of neighbor. I’m also going to use “globalism” in the same sort of broad sense, as “a concern for the entire world”, and not in the sense that global interests should always outweigh national or local interests. I’m going to parse each of these out more below but I wanted to state up front how I’m using the terms so that you don’t just write me off as an idolater.

Second, we need to clarify that we are going to be speaking about the interests and the roles of the nation as distinct from the interests and the roles of the Church (=universal Church, not institutional church). The two group’s interests and roles cannot be completely divorced from each other but they aren’t the same either. Speaking of “nationalism” in terms of the nation means something very different from “nationalism” in terms of the church. Confusing the two, and the roles of the two, will get us into lots of trouble. I will address each separately:

In regards to the nation

A government’s primary responsibility is to its own people and so, in that sense, I want my government to put “America first.” But that “America first” message is not without limits. While it is not required to treat non-citizens as citizens, it must still act justly towards them and treat them as people (and in the Christian sense, those who bear the image of the living God). This means that it still bears some – though more limited – responsibility to individuals of other nations. It seems to me that these obligations would include advocating for basic human rights such as the freedoms of life and religious expression and taking appropriate action when those basic freedoms are threatened, as in the case of genocide.

“Nation first” can be good call as long as it doesn’t mean “nation only” and as long as it is constrained by virtue. What was so frightening about Nazi Germany was that it was a nationalism that was unconstrained by virtue. It made the advancement of the nation the greatest good, at the expense of justice for all.

There are dangers on the side of “globalism” as well. Many fear the consolidation of power in global institutions and this fear is not entirely unfounded. While there is some good which global organizations can bring the tendency will always be for more and more centralization of power. Since power can be used for evil just as easily as it can be used for good (maybe more easily?) I want the power of these global institutions to be limited, specifically limited by the sovereignty of the individual nation. I don’t want my nation to give up its national sovereignty for the same reason that I don’t want national power to be centralized in Washington but distributed to States, counties, and cities, and that’s because I want a government which will not overstep its bounds.

Another issue that has come up is the economy. Here I find myself in a minority. I agree with the many economists who argue that access to markets is one of the most important ingredients to a strong economy. Therefore, I want my country to embrace a global economy and the trade deals that go along with that economy. I see open markets as a way of fostering peace and building global wealth, things which would be good both for the country (America first) and for the world, particularly the global poor. I am of the perspective that open markets (when constrained by virtue and justice) are one of the greatest tools for loving our neighbors.

Family Metaphor

Perhaps one of the best ways to understand this is to think about family dynamics. The responsibility of the father and mother is to take care of their family first. In most cases the bulk of their time, energy, and income will go to providing for the basic physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of the family. A father or mother who spent an inordinate amount of time away from their family, or gave away income essential for the care of the family would be guilty of dereliction of duty. Also, parents shouldn’t abdicate their responsibility to some higher level organization – like a church, or a school, or the government.

But that doesn’t mean that parents should only concern themselves with their own family or their own children. Instead, they should lead their family in service towards others, give out of an abundance of resources and love out of an abundance of love. A family does not exist only for itself, but as an essential part of the broader society. A family with this outward focus actually helps itself, since in serving and caring for others outside of our circle we fulfill one of our reasons for existence.

I think this principle can be applied to governments as well. Governments have a primary responsibility to their own citizens, but they also exist within a global framework and need to engage that broader world responsibly and justly.

In Regards to the Church

The Church, as in those who have put their faith in Jesus for salvation, is transnational. It is cross-cultural. It is multi-lingual. It is made up of people from every nation, tongue, tribe, and people. This characteristic is central to its very identity. Because of this fact there will always be a tension between the “globalist” inclinations of the church and the “nationalistic” inclinations of the nation. This tension is healthy, and it shouldn’t be resolved either by the church separating itself entirely from – or wedding itself to – the life of the nation.

I am currently reading the Eric Metaxis Bonhoeffer biography and noticed that (one of the) most significant heresies of the German Christians (and opposed by Bonhoeffer and others) was that it embraced the idea of a “national church.” It willingly submitted itself to the authority of the State and to the nationalist interests of the State at a time when it should have been resisting. The problem in Germany wasn’t only that it contained an unconstrained nationalism, but that the German Christians embraced such a close relationship with that government.

That said, the church does not exist independently of other institutions, but is historically and nationally located. Christians have a dual citizenship. We are both heavenly and earthly citizens. As heavenly citizens we have responsibilities towards all within the church, wherever they are located which, on some occasions, would supersede our responsibilities to the State. For instance, Bonhoeffer recognized that he had responsibilities to Jewish Christians who the Reich barred from leadership in the German church. As heavenly citizens we also have the mission of evangelizing the nations, of showing love through both word and deed to those outside the faith wherever they may be found.

As earthly citizens we recognize the context in which God has placed us and that, too, confers responsibilities and duties. We are responsible towards our families. We are responsible towards our local church, our city, our state, our nation, and the rulers and authorities of that nation. In participating in politics we merely ask that the government do its God given task of being the government. In so doing we serve both the nation in which we live and the God who has placed us in that nation. It is appropriate for Christians to have a sense of patriotism so long as that patriotism is understood in terms of gratitude to God and responsibility and so long as patriotism does not lead to idolatry characterized by either misplaced trust or misplaced fear.

So where does this leave us in term of nationalism/globalism? Here are a few concluding thoughts.

First, there will always be some tension between the nationalistic goals of the nation and the more global mission of the church. We need to live within that tension, understanding our dual citizenship.

Second, our task is to love our neighbors, local and global. One way we love our neighbors is by asking the government to perform its role as government, which can rightly pursue the success of the nation so long as it does not inflict injustice on those in other nations.

Third, we can remember that we are part of the global kingdom of Christ and yet participate in very local and concrete settings. We can begin by serving those directly within our sphere of responsibility, while never forgetting that God has called the global church to a global mission.

The one time you won’t be bringing up the problem of evil

I heard this week that atheist Stephen Fry was asked what he would say if he were confronted by God. Fry’s response: “I’d say, bone cancer in children? What’s the about?”

Fry imagines that if he were confronted by the God of Scripture he would challenge him with the problem of evil. “How dare you create a world to which there is so much misery that is not our fault?” Indeed, I do not claim that Fry’s question is wrong by itself. It’s a question I can imagine King David asking, or perhaps one of the Old Testament prophets. It’s a question you may have asked, and its one Christian theologians have wrestled with over the centuries. But it’s not what you, or I, or Stephen Fry would actually say if “confronted” by the living God.

In his suffering Job wrestled with the apparent injustice of his predicament but when God “confronted” him all his objections were silenced and he simply replies, “I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted… My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:2, 5-6)

The prophet Isaiah, too, had an experience with the living God. How did he respond? “Who is me!” he cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty” (Isaiah 6:5).

When the nation of Israel was in the desert and they stood before the mountain of God and heard his voice they were filled with awe and fear. “The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, ‘I am trembling with fear’” (Heb 12:21).

In the last day all will see the glory of God and will be “confronted” by the risen Christ. At the name of Jesus “every knee will bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth” (Phil 2:10).

This is a vision that Stephen Fry finds repulsive, even evil. And right now he has the luxury of thinking and feeling this way. The question of evil is a tough one, and it’s one we may ask today. But it’s not one we will ask when encountered by the living God. In that day we will all be undone by the majesty of his presence. We are wise to take the counsel God offered to Job: “Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you will answer me” (Job 38:2). Better yet, we are wise to find refuge in the place God himself has offered us salvation, His Son, Jesus Christ.

Selective Hearing

When I was a kid I spent a lot of time at my friend C’s house. His dad had some seriously selective hearing. If we were in the same room as him we had to practically shout to be heard. But, when I would spend the night we would often stay up late watching TV. The TV was in the living room downstairs and C’s dad slept upstairs. We would turn the TV down as low as possible and sit really close. Even then, it seemed, C’s dad would come down stairs and tell us the sound of the TV was disturbing his sleep. I think we eventually resorted to using those wireless TV headphones, sharing a single pair, straining to hear the improv show In Living Color.

I realized recently, though, that sometimes I get a bad case of spiritual selective hearing. I find myself wondering – God, why can’t I hear you? What are you trying to say? More often than not I discover later that God has been speaking, he just hasn’t been saying the things I want him to say. My autonomous self only wants to hear those things which are particularly comforting to me or puff me up. I don’t want to hear the voice of rebuke, of judgment, of warning, or of self-denial. So I close my ears and then blame God for being silent. This is nothing less than rebellion.

This Sunday I’m preaching on Hebrews 10:19-39. It’s a passage not only do I feel uncomfortable hearing, it’s one I feel uncomfortable speaking. It’s a word of warning. It’s a strong word of warning. Here’s the particularly jarring passage:

26 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. 28 Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.  – Hebrews 10:26-31 (NIV)

It’s got everything that flies in the face of our prevailing culture – a God who judges, hell, the exclusivity of Christ. This isn’t a “comfortable” Christianity. Yet, it’s the Word of God. I can’t tell God he’s being silent and yet fail to listen to what I don’t want him to be saying.

Lord, help me both have open ears, and an open mouth, this Sunday.

Incomplete Picture: Bad Science

What happens when we have an incomplete, incorrect, or inadequate understanding of the doctrine of Creation?

For my final post in this series I make the observation that if we have an incomplete view of Creation, we will devalue scientific pursuits. I suppose that it is appropriate that this post follows on the heels of my book review of Alvin Plantinga’s philosophy/science book Where the Real Conflict Lies. Perhaps between the two some reader will decide science isn’t so bad after all.

Let’s start by taking a look at why science has been devalued by so many in Christianity.

Science and Religion Appear to Contradict:

The apparent contradictions reside around epistemology (how we know stuff) and supernaturalism. That is, the “scientific worldview” claims that we only know things through reason and observation and that there are no supernatural processes. Christianity claims several sources of knowledge which include reason and observation and add to those history and Revelation. Additionally, Christianity sees both a supernatural cause behind everything (God creating the Universe) and supernatural intervention at various points in history within the created realm. These first two contradictions can be resolved when we understand that the “scientific worldview” is really a philosophical add-on to science, that is, the scientific method of hypothesis-building and observation. There is no default reason why one would have to accept one with the other and, in fact, I believe Christianity, supernaturalism and all, provides just the right environment to spur scientific discovery.

There is another kind of apparent contradiction, however, and that is between what appears to be revealed through the scientific method and what appears to be revealed in Scripture. The most obvious of these resides around the question of origins. On many interpretations of science, an old earth view best interprets the scientific data but, on many interpretations of Scripture, a young earth view best interprets the Scriptural data. What are we to make of such observations? Do science and religion stand in contradiction to each other? In some sense, it would appear so. This particular interpretation of scientific data stands in contradiction to that particular interpretation of Scriptural data. These apparent contradictions shouldn’t be taken lightly and we shouldn’t try to resolve them too soon. There are important questions at stake. However, ultimately I would say that there is no real contradiction between what God has revealed in nature and what he has revealed in Scripture. The problem must reside in our understanding of one or the other.

Note: A final observation needs to be made here on authority. Christians take Scripture to be authoritative. Because Scripture is “special revelation” it can be used to better understand “general revelation.” It’s our glasses for seeing the world correctly.

Science doesn’t provide the deep answers to our most pressing concerns:

The modern scientific community attempts to answer many questions – Where did we come from? Where are we going? What is the nature of our humanity? Christians, however, already have answers for many of these questions. We were created by God. We are awaiting the New Creation. We are image bearers of the living God, fallen, but able to be redeemed.

So, then, what can science add if we already have answers to these most pressing questions? The best science can do, it seems, is provide limited answers to problems which will be obliterated at the End of the Age.

True, but what happens now still matters and, if science can make advances in medicine, or help solve issues of global hunger, that’s a quantifiably good thing. Our lives are measurably better than they were a hundred years ago thanks, in large part, to the efforts of the scientific community. No, it can’t answer our deepest questions or resolve or most profound problems, but we can still thank God for its contribution in our world.

Science “replaces” Theism as a worldview:

Given the above two concerns there is a fear, not unfounded, that science replaces a Christian (or, generally Theistic) worldview. In fact, Naturalism/Materialism does. It provides a competing perspective on who God is (there is none), who we are (conglomerations of matter), and where we are going (annihilation). But, once again, it is a mistake to equate science with its philosophical add-on: Naturalism.

Science and Theology, friends:

There is another way to view all this and, I think, is quite Biblical. It goes back to Creation. God spoke and the world came into being. If God created the world, and declared it good, we should expect that the study of that world (science) and our study of God (theology) ought to be friends. And indeed they are.

Material creation points to the glory of God. Science helps us better understand material creation. Psalm 19:1 says “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” Creation points us to the glory and grandeur of the Creator. It doesn’t tell us all we need to know, but it does help us know that God exists and that he is Divine (Romans 1:20).

Christianity provides fertile ground for scientific discovery. This is a point Plantinga makes over and over in Where the Real Conflict Lies. If God created us with purpose, it makes sense that we would seek out to understand His creation and have minds capable of understanding the world.

Materialism/Naturalism is not so kind. It is not uncommon for those holding to a materialist perspective to deny the ability of our reason and observations, ironically, by pointing to their own observations. The best they can answer is that we have arrived here by dumb luck. Christianity, on the other hand, provides an explanation for why we are here and can comprehend and a reason to pursue science – in order to see more clearly the glory of God!

Shout-Outs:

Alvin Plantinga, Where the Real Conflict Lies (see my review here)

Charles Anderton, Screwtape’s Master Plan (see my review here)

Abraham Kuyper, On Calvinism (See his observations on Normalists vs. Abnormalists)

Blog Fide Dubitandum: The blog is apologetic in nature and does a great job at showing the follies of philosophical materialism. It’s good reading.

Real real and Faith real (Is only one religion true? – revisited)

Yesterday at our After School program I asked the students the question, “Is only one religion true?” I got a lot of interesting responses. There were about four kids that chimed in at one point or another. All told, I had a good hour and fifteen minutes of solid conversation with the students with topics ranging from how to witness to your friends, to the purpose of adult baptism, to the differences between Protestantism and Catholicism. All these were interesting discussions but the main focus on the discussion kept coming back to the question “Is only one religion true?” and it is to this discussion that I want to turn.

Not surprisingly, this was a hard question for the students to answer. It is, I think, actually rather ambiguous, which is part of the reason I thought it would be a good question. With the exception of one enthusiastic and articulate Catholic student, the rest basically answered, after a little prodding, “no.” My goal here was not simply to give an answer, but to use the Socratic method to help the students reason it out for themselves.

Here’s a simplified version of how the conversation went:

Me: Is only one religion true?

Students: It’s really just a matter of belief.

Me: What do you mean?

Students: Whatever you believe, it’s true for you.

Me: What if two believe things that are contradictory? Are both of them right?

Students: You could believe anything. I could believe that this Vernors can created the universe and you could believe that God created the universe.

Me: So, doesn’t that mean one of us is right and one of us is wrong? I mean, it’s crazy to think that a Vernors can created the universe right?

Students: Right (thinking). Have you seen the movie Rise of the Guardians?

Me: No.

Students: In the movie fairy tale characters get smaller or stop existing if people stop believing in them.

Me: But, it doesn’t work that way in the real world right? If people stop believing in that Vernors can, it won’t get smaller and smaller, will it?

At this point, the students get distracted by imagining a shrinking Vernors can. So, I tried to ask the question another way.

Me: Let’s say I believe that Jesus is the Son of God and Darwin (another volunteer who had joined, not the scientist) believes that Jesus is not the Son of God. Can we both be right? Or is one of us right and one of us wrong?

Students: (thinking) It’s a matter of belief. (Implying we could both be right)

Me: Aren’t those mutually exclusive things? How could we both be right at the same time?

Students: (restating) It’s just based on what you believe. You would both think you are right.

Me: I agree, we would both think we are right, but are both of us right?

Students: Only the one who created the world would know.

Me: So only God knows everything.

Students: Yes.

Me: I agree, only God knows everything. If God knows everything, do you think he would want to tell us?

Students: Yes, that makes sense.

Me: Has he told us?

Students: Yes, he has told us in the Bible.

Me: And what does the Bible say.

Students: That Jesus is God’s Son.

At this point, I thought I had demonstrated my point but later discussions would reveal that I hadn’t really done so. I decided to approach the discussion from yet another direction.

Me: Is there anything unique about Christianity or are all religions the same?

Students: Well, all religions have a different name for God, but it’s all the same God.

Me: OK, is there anything else that makes religions unique?

Students: They each have different customs and holidays.

Me: OK, is there anything else that makes CHRISTianity unique? (At this point, the Catholic student is ready to answer but I wanted to hear from the others, so I asked him to refrain for now)

Students: Not that I can think of.

Me: (To one of the students who expressed interest in being baptized at our church) So why would anyone want to be part of one religion or another?

Students: Well, I guess you see what your friends do, if you think it’s interesting, if it works for you.

At this point, the Catholic student jumped in and said – “Christianity is unique because it’s the only one that tells us that Jesus is God’s Son, died for us, and made a way for us to be saved.” Everyone agreed… kind of.

All in all, the conversation was revealing to me about how the students think. Here are some observations:

The students had no problem making statements of Christian faith: The same students who were unwilling to say that one person was right and one person was wrong in regard to the existence of God would say, without blinking, that “God created the universe” or “the Bible is God’s word” or “Jesus is God’s Son.” All were able to express, without apology, basic tenets of Christian faith.

Basic propositional logic didn’t apply in regards to faith: The question I was ultimately asking was basic propositional logic. “Can A and not A be true at the same time?” Or, “Can God exist and not exist at the same time.” Basic logic says no, and when I applied it to something concrete (like a Vernors can) the students readily grasped my meaning. But when I applied it to God, it’s as though their minds entered another world where logic didn’t need to apply. The history of this reasoning goes back at least to Kant. The students would be unable to express the logic behind it. It’s simply ingrained in the culture.

“Real real” and “Faith real”: As I described parts of this story to another of our leaders she said that, when working with younger kids she sometimes has to say, “I mean really real not pretend real.” Subconsciously, we’ve been conditioned to think of the world in terms of what is “really real” and what is “faith real.” The “really real” world is the world of facts, figures, and science. It is measureable and knowable (Kant would call this the phenomena). The world of “faith real” is the world of morals, religion, the mind, God, doctrine, etc (Kant would call this the pneumena). Our culture doesn’t think it’s wrong or “pretend,” it just follows different rules. It’s the world of opinion. It can’t, or so the story goes, be known. It can be really real, and not at all real, at the same time. This is a false and illogical dichotomy, but as long as you don’t look at it, it’s easy to function as though it makes perfect sense.

In the world of faith, belief determines reality: You see, in the “faith real” world faith determines reality. You can say, “all religions are true because they are true for the person who believes them.” Such a thing is, of course, ridiculous. Jimmy believes God is real, therefore it is real for him. Bobby believes God is not real, which is real for him. That yields a universe where God is both real and not real at the same time. Again, if the rules of logic were to apply anyone could see the contradiction in this. But, in the “faith real” world logic doesn’t apply. The rules of reality shift from the universal to the particular. What you believe makes reality – but only for you. It’s as though we each have our own privatized reality which we create by our own faith or lack of faith.

This idea of faith and reality has nothing to do at all with the Christian, or any Theistic, notion of faith and reality. It really only ever works if “faith real” is either “not real” or “sub-real.”

This idea relegates religion to the realm of personal preference, self-actualization, socialization, and perhaps private morality but removes it from the realm of universal truth. It is not self-sustaining. It is illogical.

Update:

By way of citation, I should say that I have been heavily influenced on this point by Lesslie Newbigin in “The Gospel in a Pluralist Society

Incomplete Picture: Material Beings

What happens when we have an incomplete, incorrect, or inadequate understanding of the doctrine of Creation?

The first fairly obvious deviation from the doctrine of creation is to simply remove God and spiritual reality entirely from the picture.

The logical result of this supposition is that people are only material (non-spiritual) beings. This is a deviation that Anderton explores in Screwtape’s Master Plan. The narrator, Screwtape, a demon, announces his plan in this way “One of our favorite tactics is to convince hybrids [humans] that they should live for themselves and grasp for all the material pleasures that the world can offer because they will soon die.”[1] Since, in reality, we are both spiritual and physical beings attempting this tactic leads to ever increasing dissatisfaction. Screwtape continues, “The ideal outcome is full-fledged materialism in which frustrated hybrids [humans] grasp for ever larger amounts of possessions only to experience ever diminishing satisfaction.”[2] (emphasis added)

We are bombarded with this worldview on a daily basis just by living in a mass-consumer capitalist system. I do not mean to say that capitalism is inherently evil but, as an all encompassing moral system, it promotes a competing vision of who we are as people. As Smith and Denton point out, “Capitalism is not merely a system for the efficient production and distribution of goods and services; it also promotes a particular moral order, an institutionalized normative worldview.” This worldview “constitutes the human self in a very particular way: as an individual, autonomous, rational, self-seeking, cost-benefiting consumer.”[3] It is this last bit, that we are essentially self-seeking, cost-benefiting consumers fits very well with the enemy’s lie that we are only physical beings who can only find satisfaction in physical pleasures and comforts. Luckily, we have an system waiting to fulfill these desires… at the right price.

A complete view of creation gives us the perspective we need. When we can recognize that the physical reality is only part of the story we can appropriate those material needs and desires. We can see that God has created the material world for our good, but that it is futile to attempt to find ultimate satisfaction in the created thing instead of in the Creator. Once we learn to worship our Creator, and not the created thing, and we learn to view ourselves not simply as material things, we can then learn to “seek first the Kingdom of God” and rejoice when he takes care of our material needs.

[1] Anderton, Charles H., Screwtape’s Master Plan. 12.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers.