What kind of World?

When thinking about the feasibility of life in/on a ‘New Heaven & Earth’ it is necessary to consider, a little, the purpose of what we may call, the original model. It isn’t so much a question of the time taken to get where ‘we’ are today. According to the latest scientific data, thoughthe answer to the question is ‘approximately’ 15 billion years from the original spark, and some 6.5 billion years since all the biochemistry, bacteria etc. began shaping the world’s biological diversity. Obviously, from a theological perspective, we would not be suggesting that everything that has ever existed (‘from Bacteria to Bach’) has been the product of ‘chance & Necessity’, i.e. a little bit of luck every ‘so often’ over these billions of years, but rather that there is, indeed, a mind with a view to design or—if you prefer—in some mysterious way—to craft (no excuses for the use of anthropomorphic language) past and present lifeforms.

Is it possible that the creation of the biosphere—what we shall term as ‘a state of affairs’—from its beginnings up until the arrival of humankind—could have, however speedily in terms of actual space-time, turned into what Alfred Lord Tennyson described as, ‘Nature, Red in Tooth and Claw’ (‘In Memoriam’, Canto 56). That Nature is ‘Red in Tooth and Claw’ is not in question—the questions lie elsewhere.

Should the God of the Bible desire to create a world, it would, contain: beauty, diversity—as well as a complexity of creatures—for, we believe, it is in the nature of the God of the Bible to bring about such an outcome—and  that is exactly how the first chapter of Genesis describes the (if we may) ‘process’ observed  in the Biblical text. We shall define God’s creative actions as ‘Divine Fiats’, decrees, acts of God:

“’Let the water teem with living creatures, let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens’. God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it (according to their kinds) and every winged bird (according to its kind). And God saw that it was good. God blessed them and said, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.’And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day. And God said, ’Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.’ And it was so. God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.’”

(Genesis 1:20-25)

NB.It is important to realise that the Genesis text is referring to a state of affairs that, according to the author, was ‘good’ rather than a state of perfection—i.e. a state of affairs that may have been ruined by circumstances beyond God’s control—that God has allowed[1].

Eons before the shadow of man’s presence on earth there existed a creation that would have, in spite of it being ‘Very Good’ have, in retrospect, been described as being ‘red in tooth and claw’. Whether considered to be: the result of an intentionally created system—’patterned’ by the mind of God, or of a ‘naturally selected’ process of evolution—without mindfulness or intentionality—sans ‘blue-print’, sans anything of ultimate meaning or purpose—or the result of interference from extra-terrestrial dissenters—Creation, as the author of Genesis (1:31) announces, was and is very good.

In his comments on Genesis 1:31 Umberto Cassuto states that:

…we have here, at the conclusion of the story of creation, a more elaborate and imposing statement that points to the general harmony prevailing in the world of the Almighty. On the previous days the words that it was good were applied to a specific detail; now God saw everything that He had made, the creation in its totality, and He perceived that not only were the details, taken separately, good, very good, but that each one harmonized with the rest; hence the whole was not just good, but very good. (Cassuto, 1998)

It would seem, prima facie, most incongruous if the state of affairs Cassuto describes could be that of the ‘genesis’ of the evolutionary process but that would be to miss the point—for the Genesis narrative (1:31) states that, on the sixth day, “God saw everything he had made, and behold, it was very good.” The question is: Would it have really been a time for rejoicing for an Omnipotent & Omniscient creator with any semblance of morality in his character?

Making reference to the laws of physics, in particular the Second Law of Thermodynamics, Physicist Alan Hayward (1985) comments that The Laws of Physics—particularly The Second Law—does not denote a universe where things have gone wrong but that, “It characterises a universe where energy transfers can occur, and consequently where things can happen—in other words, a ‘very good’ universe.”  A world where the Second law did not operate would be, in Hayward’s opinion, stagnant. Christopher Southgate (2008) refers to the beautiful rhythms of the first chapter of the Hebrew Bible that culminate in the assertion that what God had made was ‘very good’. Southgate however points out that humans have always known that the creation contained ‘violence and pain’ and accepts that there is a real problem in affirming with Genesis 1:31 that this creation is “very good” . He nevertheless holds that creation is good: “—in its propensity to give rise to great values of beauty, diversity, complexity, and ingenuity of evolutionary strategy.” Southgate makes clear nevertheless that these kinds of values do not of themselves act as justification for creation by means of evolution. We agree with Southgate i.e. that creation’s propensity to give rise to ‘great values’ is a ‘good’. The view in this book though is that God’s ‘very good’ refers not to the beginnings of the creation [process], but to the whole of God’s planned intentions for the creation—the ‘alpha and omega’. In other words, God sees—in his mind’s eye—or otherwise, the whole picture and it is this that is ‘very good’. For God, surely, sees the beginning from the end and rejoices in the fact that ‘Creation’ is, de facto, very good. And this de facto good is not because ‘the ends justify the means’ but rather that ‘the means’ (the process) is the only possible way for God to bring about an end that not only justifies the creator but that brings, at the eschaton, the best of possible outcome for all creatures.

Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’(Genesis 1:26)

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[1] NB the Hebrew word used here is ‘tovand in Genesis 1:31 ‘tov me’od—meaning good and very good rather than perfect—the implication being that ‘it was as God had intended rather than a ‘perfect state of affairs’ that had been ruined by the disobedience of the pair in The Garden

Heaven is a wonderful place, isn’t it?

Reading the words of St John’s Gospel at the head of the funeral cortege is a most surreal of experiences:

“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,…”

(John 11:25,26)

This particular occasion was the funeral of someone with whom we were well acquainted—someone that we’d met on a reasonably regular basis; such an occasion as this person’s funeral is particularly poignant. This isn’t the place to speculate as to the post-mortem destiny of any particular person—or to philosophize as to the actual/temporal post-mortem state of affairs prior to the biblical notion of ‘The Judgement’—save to say that, according to the Bible, there is the promise of ‘personal existence’, i.e. the survival of the person after death. It is the author’s opinion that, even though ‘the matter’ (no pun intended) isn’t settled regarding the actual nature of man, i.e. whether there is a dualistic factor that is presently undetectable, there is a strong argument for there being a ‘dimension’ to humanity than meets the critical eye of the materialist thinker. The philosopher J.P.Moreland[i] opines that “…if the dualist arguments are successful the principle/seat of life and consciousness is a transcendent self or immaterial ego of some sort.” (‘The Soul: How We Know it’s Real and Why it Matters’ P49, 2014) It’s often said of someone who has died that they are ‘with the angels’ or even that they have ‘joined the stars in heaven’. Of course, if this is the opinion of someone we know and love who is referring to a deceased relative or friend, we are not likely to question the sentiment behind the aspiration. However, as far as we are able to comprehend the ‘reality’, it is the case that, in order to function as individuals, it is necessary to ‘inhabit’ the ‘space’ i.e. the physiology that makes up the material—the DNA that, it is perceived, makes us who we are. Ergo in order to continue to exist postmortem, we shall, most likely, need something akin to our physical bodies. The idea of there being any such thing as post-mortem survival is, of course anathema to both Materialists and Monists. Indeed, it is the obvious conclusion of persons ascribing to a world-view that allows for no such possibility at death. For the Monist ‘soul-life’ is a social construct that evaporates into the oneness of a universe that is seen as having a ‘soul-life’ of its own—a non-personal figment of a lively imagination—that, somehow, denies the potentiality of the soul-life of the individual person whist allowing for the alleged creative capacity of  an indescribable ‘ultimate reality’. The Monist notion of this alleged ultimate reality, however, need not be confused with the God of Judeo/Christian Scriptures who is an entirely different proposition.


[i] Moreland, J.P.,’The Soul: How We Know it’s Real and Why it Matters’, 2014

It’s often said of someone who has died that they are ‘with the angels’ or even that they have ‘joined the stars in heaven’. Of course, if this is the opinion of someone we know and love who is referring to a deceased relative or friend, we are not likely to question the sentiment behind the aspiration. However, as far as we are able to comprehend the ‘reality’, it is the case that, in order to function as individuals, it is necessary to ‘inhabit’ the ‘space’ i.e. the physiology that makes up the material—the DNA that, it is perceived, makes us who we are. Ergo in order to continue to exist postmortem, we shall, most likely, need something akin to our physical bodies. The idea of there being any such thing as post-mortem survival is, of course anathema to both Materialists and Monists. Indeed, it is the obvious conclusion of persons ascribing to a world-view that allows for no such possibility at death. For the Monist ‘soul-life’ is a social construct that evaporates into the oneness of a universe that is seen as having a ‘soul-life’ of its own—a non-personal figment of a lively imagination—that, somehow, denies the potentiality of the soul-life of the individual person whist allowing for the alleged creative capacity of  an indescribable ‘ultimate reality’. The Monist notion of this alleged ultimate reality, however, need not be confused with the God of Judeo/Christian Scriptures who is an entirely different proposition.

If heaven is such a ‘wonderful place’ then one might expect that it has an altogether different set of physical laws than experienced on earth andin the known universe. Scripture gives a strong impression that, in heaven, there is a different environment. In the book of Revelation we read the following words of comfortable promise: I saw Heaven and earth new-created. Gone the first Heaven, gone the first earth, gone the sea. I saw Holy Jerusalem, new-created, descending resplendent out of Heaven, as ready for God as a bride for her husband. I heard a voice thunder from the Throne: “Look! Look! God has moved into the neighbourhood, making his home with men and women! They’re his people, he’s their God. He’ll wipe every tear from their eyes. Death is gone for good—tears gone, crying gone, pain gone—all the first order of things gone.” The Enthroned continued, “Look! I’m making everything new. Write it all down—each word dependable and accurate.” Revelation 21:1-5

The book of revelation is exactly that—a REVELATION. It is addressed to the seven churches in late first century Asia Minor (present day Turkey)—churches in: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea. There isn’t the space to delve further into the life of these seven centres of Christian life and worship save to say that they were vibrant centres of community life—moreover churches that were having rather mixed fortunes. Dennis  E. Johnson describes Revelation as a letter for a church (churches) under attack, “Its purpose, to reveal ‘things which must soon take place’ is not to satisfy idle eschatological curiosity or feed  futuristic conjecture but to fortify Jesus’ followers in steadfast hope and holy living.”

The book of revelation is exactly that—a REVELATION. It is addressed to the seven churches in late first century Asia Minor (present day Turkey)—churches in: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea. There isn’t the space to delve further into the life of these seven centres of Christian life and worship save to say that they were vibrant centres of community life—moreover churches that were having rather mixed fortunes. Dennis  E. Johnson describes Revelation as a letter for a church (churches) under attack, “Its purpose, to reveal ‘things which must soon take place’ is not to satisfy idle eschatological curiosity or feed  futuristic conjecture but to fortify Jesus’ followers in steadfast hope and holy living.”[i]


For the purpose of clarification there is, within the Christian tradition an increasingly disparity—or rather a polarization between the view that sees a newly refurbished earth on which the incumbents, somehow, live a ‘New heaven & New Earth existence’, and the view that has a less than earthly hope, i.e. the view that realizes the belief that the Sovereign God—creator and sustainer of all that exists— both known unrealised.  The argument here is that any ‘permanent abolishment of death must take seriously the words of the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 that should death be swallowed up by victory, there would be a totally different state of affairs in operation, i.e. ‘different physical laws’:

 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man in heaven. I tell you this brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, neither does the perishable inherit the imperishable…and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed .For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable and the mortal puts on an immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory’ ‘O death where is your sting?’   (1 Corinthians 15:49,52,53,54,55). The writer of the letter to ‘The Hebrews’ refers to ‘a better country’, i.e. a ‘heavenly country’ (11:14) and ‘a kingdom that cannot be shaken’ (12:28}. The implications are obvious: heaven, wherever its location, cannot be a renewed version of the old—it has to be an altogether different state of affairs. in heaven—on the ‘new/refurbished earth’—than exists anywhere on Earth. Clearly there shall be an altogether ‘different’ order. And yet there are many, well meaning, well informed, theologians who insist on informing us that everything created has always meant to be material—and all that there will ever be—at least to do with the created biosphere—shall only ever be material. Materialism, as Edgar Andrews outlines[i] is based on the idea that every effect, including every human experience, must have a physical cause. Richard Middleton [ii]poses the question of why it is that the idea of an ‘other worldly destiny in heaven’ has displaced what Middleton refers to as ‘the biblical teaching of the renewal of the earth’. Middleton we believe is ‘half-way’ correct—yet he, along with a growing number of others, seems to want to ‘throw the baby out along with the bath water overflowing with, it is alleged, 19th century fundamentalist theological denial.


The objective of this book is to offer some light regarding the state of affairs necessary to offer an ‘other-worldly’ hope. ‘Heaven’ is, we suggest, ‘worlds apart’ from the material world on offer by those with a fixation on a return to a ‘biospheric utopia’, which was never the ideal home of men or even of angels.

[1]Moreland, J.P.,’The Soul: How We Know it’s Real and Why it Matters’, 2014
[2] Johnson Dennis. E, ‘Triumph of The Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation’, 2002
[3] Alcorn, Randy,’Heaven’, 2004
[4] Andrews Edgar, ‘What is Man? Adam, Alien or Ape?’, 2018

[5] Middleton Richard, ’A New Heaven and a New Earth: Reclaiming Biblical Eschatology’, 2014