Expanding on a Christian cosmology

Some weeks ago I was thinking of writing an article on “the apocalypse of John as christocentric occultism.” I may yet do this, but in the meantime I’ve been thinking I need to expand on the wider topic of Christian cosmology. The thread between the two is language of ‘sacred cosmos.’ What truths of the cosmos are hidden from science but revealed by the Spirit?

Even within scientific circles there has been considerable talk on the limits of reductionism. For instance, how we get time asymmetric entropy from time symmetric physics remains a mystery to reductionists the world over. And beyond this, in the fields of philosophy and ethics, many have highlighted that what “ought to be” is not easily derivable from “what is” scientifically verifiable. So science, powerful as it is, is not the panecea it is sometimes made out to be.

Yet evangelicalism, for the most part, seems bogged down in debate over evolution and intelligent design. I think we need to raise the conversation to a more intelligent level. We often ask, what has been revealed about God to the world? I think we also need to ask, what has God revealed about the world to us … in the deeper sence? What remains hidden (occulted) to the world without Christ? What remains hidden (veiled) even so?

Here are some provisional thoughts. Firstly, history and human experience is governed by the intangible as well as the tangible. Moreover, the universe is open, unable to be fully explained by internal cause and effect. This does not mean tangible and easily discernable causes should be easily dismissed (yes, let science be science) but it does mean our horizons need broadening beyond this. Christ reveals that we should be open to being surprised, that the future is not strictly determined by the past (contra fatalism), that moral forces are at work in the midst of chaos, and that the universe, perceived rightly, is a living temple. Rather than using God’s revelation to stifling questions about our world, let us be open to God’s revelation stimulating questions about our God saturated world.

9 thoughts on “Expanding on a Christian cosmology

  1. nic paton says:

    Matthew Fox pointed out in “The Coming of the Cosmic Christ” (1988) that at the root of our ills lies the lack of a “living cosmology”.
    By this he meant 1) an awe-filled response to the the universe (science) 2) a joyful response to life (mysticism) and 3) an expression of that response by the art of our lives and citizenship (art). That for me is an excellent start to this “expansion”.
    And for anyone interested in the current state of this conversation I recommend “The advent of evolutionary christianity” on http://evolutionarychristianity.com/blog/

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  2. Lucy J says:

    Thanks, for posting the info, nic paton. I really like those three points as a great start to broadening the conversation and increasing appreciation of the seen and the unseen realms!

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  3. Matt Stone says:

    @Nic In some ways Matthew Fox represents the inverse of what I’m hinting at here. From my reading of him, he seems very focussed on finding the hidden God in creation, I’m suggesting there are hidden aspect of creation that may only be found in God. Channelling a bit of Barth at this point.

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  4. nic paton says:

    Matt I like the tension created by these 2 points of view.
    Fox champions “creation spirituality” and panentheism, which is “God in all and all in God”. With that working definition I’d say panentheism hold a good balance between them.
    Talking of “hidden aspects of creation”, are you considering things like the folded dimensions of superstring theory, (theorised but too small to be observed), as well as dark matter (effects observed but invisible)?

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  5. Matt Stone says:

    Nic, no, I wasn’t considering superstring theory. Fascinating as that subject is, I don’t consider the folded dimensions intrinsically unknowable without God. But consider this question: Why are their laws of physics at all? Many superstring theorist advocate a multiverse cosmology, as an extension of the anthropic principle. But this is pure speculation based on humanist philosopy, not scientific evidence. It requires as much faith as the God hypotheisis. Much remains veiled to human knowledge.
    Consider also the abject failure of scientists to logically derive what “should be” from what “is”, to integrate ethics with physics in any sort of logically consistant manner (apart from a few nihilistic social Darwinists who seem very much on the fringe even within the Atheist community). Again there is a question: If immorality is a figment of our imaginations, why condemn terrorism and pedophilia as “immoral”? Why do even Atheists cry for universal condemnation if moral cause and effect is not universal?
    And more, consider angels and demons. Consider the unseen powers that haunt our dreams. Are they worthy of serious consideration? Why do we sometimes talk of systems and structures “taking on a life of their own”? Do we dismiss it as anthropomorphism, or are we prepared to consider this universe may be more mysterious and magical than can be pinned down by reductionist experimentation? To the extent that we’re open to considering this, we must rely on revelation more than reason.
    In essence, how do we construct a cosmology that’s open to more than what can be repeatably experienced or scientifically verified? Creation spirituality explores how we can experience God more expansively through the world. Not against that, but here I ask, how can we experience the world more expansively through God. Is the ground of reality, God, more merciful than observation of nature “tooth and claw” would suggest? Is the ground of reality, God, less bound by the laws of the universe than observation of the universe would suggest? This is not to reject the observation of nature as a useful tool for observing the ordinary, the cyclical, the tangible. But it is to suggest defining God and nature, by what we can see in nature, can be limiting. Theologically, therefore, I tend towards the pan-entheism of Orthodoxy over the panen-theism of process theology if you get my drift (see my article – http://mattstone.blogs.com/christian/2007/10/panentheism-why-i-dont-like-the-word.html – for a fuller explanation).

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  6. nic paton says:

    I might be getting part of your drift Matt. The distinctions you discuss above (where to put the hyphen in panentheism) are new to me.
    I guess this is more of a heart than a head issue for me – when the phrase “All in God and God in All” was revealed to me it was simply a life-giving mantra. Perhaps I am a bit weary of all the distinctions between these various theisms. I have been saying for some time now that what matters to me are the “creative fruits of emergence”, and an evolving, whole-person response to the Divine, in awe, justice, and love.
    Of course, you are doing theology here, and that’s good, so these kinds of details need to be explored, as they become relevant to one’s journey, and I am thankful you are doing so.
    P.S. On process theology and your stance – have you written anything explaining why you reject it?

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  7. Matt Stone says:

    The denial of creatio ex nihilo that seems to accompany Process Theology is one of my main sticking points. I see the universe as far more radically dependent on God than Process Theology would seem to allow. I’m okay with “God in all”, I’m just not as convinced about “all in God.” Interesting you describe this as a heart issue as I’ve always viewed Process Theology as overly heady. Maybe you could explain more?

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  8. nic paton says:

    My assertion that this is a “heart issue” is not to deny the amount of thinking that needs to be done, it’s just to say that the end of all of this is a response of worship in some form or another.
    To quote Bruce Cockburn in “Understanding nothing” :
    All these years of thinking
    Ended up like this
    In front of all this beauty
    Understanding nothing.
    I’ll have to investigate Process Theology a bit more to understand your position.
    Ultimately a panentheist conviction is not so much thought into but felt. Col 1:17 “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together” is an important text pointing to the “All in God” part, but at some point it became a very resonant, might we say revealed, Word.
    Are you suggesting there are some things outside of God?

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  9. Matt Stone says:

    Yes, evil. To explain, while I see evil as ontologically dependent on good, I don’t see good as ontologically dependent on evil. If ‘all’ includes evil, I’m not ready to affirm all in God, for it would mean evil in God. I think more in terms of symmetry breaking.

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