Heaven is a Wonderful Place

Heaven is a Wonderful Place

I have desired to go where springs not fail,

To fields where flies no sharp and sided hail

And lilies blow.

And I have asked to be Where no storms come,

Where the green well is the havens dumb,

And out of the swing of the sea.

(Gerard Manley Hopkins)

It is the case that: a longing for a better place, i.e., thoughts of a place in which harms threaten not, and thoughts of an environment where notions of death are expelled from the mind is the norm for the thought-life of the majority of us. Any such thoughts are often accentuated by a realization that—though the creation is indeed wondrous in its beauty and complexity, the environment in which we live, and breathe and have our being is nevertheless a hostile environment in which potential harms lay in wait—to spoil the idyllic day to which Manley Hopkins alludes.  Heaven is our desire because this world is not and may never be such an environment.

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

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 one was well acquainted (a ‘young’ forty-six-year-old), someone that we had met on a reasonably regular basis. Such an occasion as this person’s funeral is particularly poignant.

This is not 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. However, 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 or not there is a dualistic factor ‘within’ that is presently undetectable, there is a strong argument for there being a ‘dimension’ to humanity other than meets the critical eye of the materialist thinker. The philosopher J.P.Moreland ([1]) 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.” ([2]) (2014)

It is often said of someone who has died that they are ‘with the angels’ or even that they have ‘joined the stars in heaven’. If this is the opinion of someone we know and love, someone 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 post-mortem, we shall, most likely, need something akin to our physical bodies with which to function.

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 apparent conclusion of persons ascribing to a worldview 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 whilst allowing for the alleged creative capacity of an indescribable ‘ultimate reality’. However, the Monist notion of this alleged ultimate reality need not be confused with the God of Judeo/Christian Scriptures, which 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 and in 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 experiencing 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.”([3])

Getting back to ‘Heaven’, we are reminded of an international student who, while travelling in the school minibus, would often sing words to the effect of ‘Heaven is a wonderful place’. We were never too sure whether the words were anticipatory or cynical. If we take the words offered above, i.e., that, in heaven, things shall be rather different in that, in the heavenly abode, there shall be ‘no death; neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’ This would have to be an entirely different environment indeed.

In his considerably thorough book on the subject of Heaven, Randy Alcorn reminds his readers that the story of the Christian Faith begins with a story of an idyllic garden in which God was intimately present and in which the progenitors of the human race made the worst possible decisions—bringing about a curse that was to adversely affect the entire biosphere. In order to understand the narrative, it’s necessary to refer to the first book of the Bible (A part of The Pentateuch): “Because of you cursed is the ground.” (Genesis 3:17).

Alcorn asserts that:

…when the curse is reversed, we shall no longer engage in painful toil but shall enjoy satisfying caretaking. No longer will the earth yield  ‘thorns and thistles’ (Genesis 3:18) defying our dominion and repaying us for corrupting it. No longer will we return to the ground—from which we were taken (3:19) swallowed up in death as unrighteous stewards who ruined ourselves and the earth.

Alcorn continues when he opines that our welfare is inseparable from the earth’s welfare—our destiny inseparable from that of the earth’s. (P.103) Alcorn’s expectations are ‘other worldly’ yet rooted in the earth’s flourishing. With regards to the effects brought about by the physical laws, in particular the Second Law of Thermodynamics, Alcorn suggests that there may have been some changes brought about by the creator and sustainer of the biosphere as a result of God’s promised judgement—according to Scripture. This, naturally, creates difficulty in that, according to current scientific consensus, the biosphere is the product of natural processes evolving over some 3.5 billion years.

For the purpose of clarification there is, within the Christian tradition, an increasing 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—known yet 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—even  ‘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 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 ([4]), is based on the idea that every effect, including every human experience, must have a physical cause. Richard Middleton ([5])  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. ‘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, most likely, never the ideal home of men or even of angels


Jesus & Extra-terrestrials’

‘Jesus & Extra-terrestrials’

There are a number of nouns that are synonymous with the word extra-terrestrials: Little Green Men, Space Beings and Martians come to mind. Oddly Angels are, most often, not included in this category though sceptics may suggest that, however, defined, these creatures are too ‘anthropomorphic’ to be taken seriously. Though we get the point, we think that this is an argument that has seen better days. Moreover, it is not the basis for any kind of evidential thesis.

The Genesis text unequivocally states that God’s conclusion, on ‘the sixth day’, was that the creation was, indeed, ‘very good’. The question, however, arises as to how this ‘very goodness’ can apply to an evolutionary creation. The key, we suggest, is in the literary function of the “And God said” phrases—sometimes referred to as ‘divine fiats’—occurring, as they do, at least nine times in chapter one of Genesis. Firstly, it should be noted that there is no need to assume that the ‘time’ and location of the creation of the devil (an Archangel) and the other angels should be accounted for in the Genesis story of creation. Moreover, it is important to maintain the notion of these extra-terrestrial beings as having the will to choose ‘wrong’ from ‘right’: to bring about a state of affairs that might not be the preferred will of God but, rather, the outworking of minds opposed to the good. NB. This is not to say that God’s ultimate purposes were subjugated by the will of created beings—whether angels or humans…

There can be no reason why angels could not be endowed with the kind of abilities with which, even scientists, have no present/personal acquaintance. Indeed, even though God may be incorporeal, i.e., without physical form—God, nevertheless, cannot be restricted to any particular ‘reality’ designated by either science or philosophy—as if God, who is spirit, could not possess, within God’s life, such things as personality, will, intellect and ‘personal existence’. Angels (both holy and unholy), though usually without form (incorporeal), may, as Scripture makes clear, inhabit the ‘physicality’ of carbon-based life forms. Moreover, as with God, who is Spirit, angels have personal qualities that are far superior to that of mankind. These creatures were, according to Scripture, privileged beings with powers that far surpass those of human agents. ([1]) Hebrews 2:7-9 (also Psalm 8:5) refers to the ‘position’ of the incarnate ‘son of man’ who was, ‘…for a little while lower than the angels.’ ([2])

Made a little lower than the Angels

That God is ‘Triune’ is an essential element of the Christian faith—the incarnation of the second person of the Trinity an essential part of the ideas in this book. The notion that Christ ([3])should be no more than a prophet or an angel is therefore in error. It is not only in error in terms of unwarranted assumptions from other worldviews, which is particularly the case regarding the teachings of Islam, but it is also in error because it implies a misunderstanding of the person and character of God.

That Christ was a prophet or an angel rather than the second person of the Trinity is not a new idea—though this notion has been rigorously championed—especially since the 19th century, and further explored by others as a part of the ‘quest for the historical Jesus’ (2000). Or the  ‘quest for evidence’ that would either prove that Christ was a non-historical person, or that Christ was simply ‘a man’ or [perhaps] an ‘angel’—but not ‘The Son of God’. (Ehrman, 2014). Louis Goldberg notes that the connection between the angel of the Lord and the pre-incarnate appearance of the Messiah cannot be denied:

Manoah meets the angel of the Lord and declares that he has seen God. The angel accepts worship from Manoah and his wife as no mere angel and refers to himself as ‘Wonderful’; the same term applied to the coming deliverer in Isaiah 9:6 (Judges 13:9-22 ). The functions of the angel of the Lord in the Old Testament prefigure the reconciling ministry of Jesus. In the New Testament, there is no mention of the angel of the Lord; the Messiah himself is this person. (Goldberg, 2009)

Goldberg’s conclusion is disputed by others who argue that—while New Testament authors could regard Jesus as “..pre-existent and present with the Israelites in their sacred history (see 1 Corinthians 10:4,9; Jude 5), there is no indication that he was ever identified with the angel of the Lord, not at least until the time of Justin Martyr in the second century.” (2014) Much has been written and continues to be written on the subject. The apostle Paul makes much of the subject—especially with regards to the resurrection of ‘Christ’, whom Paul assumes, was not an angel and did not become an angel—post-resurrection but rather is THE incarnate Deity—the Word of God, the second person of the Trinity. The apostle’s words in 1 Corinthians chapter fifteen clarify Paul’s conviction regarding the resurrection of the ‘man’:

Now, if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain, and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God because we testified about God that he raised Christ,…But, in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

(1 Corinthians 15:12-14,20)

Ecce homo’ (Behold the Man) John 19:5

Michael F. Bird argues that:…among the Church Fathers, the strange ‘angel of the Lord’ in the Old Testament was regarded as an appearance of the pre-incarnate Christ (i.e., a Christophany), a tradition that is as early as Justin Martyr in the mid-second century…the descriptions of Jesus in Revelation 1:13-16 and 14:14-16 do have angelomorphic qualities as Jesus is described in terms reminiscent of angels…So, is Jesus simply the human manifestation of the ‘angel of the Lord’? Did Jesus morph into an angel after his exaltation to heaven? (2014) Bird most certainly refutes the likelihood of the above though others continue to look for answers that are considered more acceptable. Bird makes the point in ‘of Gods, Angels and Men’ that anyone whose presuppositions will not enable them to consider the existence of God, let alone the incarnation are not likely to be persuaded otherwise—though an angel may be acceptable for some. ([4]) Larry Hurtado makes the following apposite comments—referring to the ‘remarkable’ feature of early Christian devotional practice where Jesus was given the sort of place that was otherwise reserved for God alone:

Also among the constellation of specific devotional actions involved were songs/hymns concerning Jesus (and sometimes sang to him) that formed a characteristic feature of early Christian worship, the well-known passages commonly thought to be ‘Christological hymns’ and thus the earliest extant artefacts of this particular practice. (Hurtado, 2005)

Michael Heiser notes that: “…as Christians affirm that God is more than one person and that each of these persons is of the same essence—we affirm that Jesus is one of these persons. He is God. But in another respect, Jesus isn’t God—he is not the Father. The Father is not The Son, and the Son is not the Father. But they are the same essence.” (2015) In his comprehensive work on the identity of the ‘Angel of Yahweh’ Heiser puts forward the following arguments, which are offered here in a condensed form rather than in their entirety; though even in this condensed form they are easily identifiable as being of sound argument. Firstly Heiser points out the fact that the concept of a  ‘Godhead’ in the Old Testament has many facets and layers. Abraham’s spiritual journey includes a divine figure—that is integral to Israelite Godhead thinking: Heiser refers specifically to the appearance of the Angel of Yahweh in Genesis 22:1-9. This passage relates to the appearance of the Angel of Yahweh to Abraham as, under God’s instructions, he proceeded on his journey to Mount Moriah—where he would offer his one and only son as a burnt offering. Heiser points out that the angel speaks to Abraham, but immediately after doing so he commends Abraham for not withholding Isaac ‘from me’! “There is a switch to the first person, which given that God himself had told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac (Genesis 22:1-2), seems to require seeing Yahweh as the speaker.” Besides this one example, Heiser highlights other examples—offering the strong possibility that the Angel of Yahweh—is:

Y-H-W-H.

Genesis 26:1-5 marks Yahweh’s first appearance to Isaac: “Isaac went to…Gerar…and Yahweh appeared to him.” In Genesis 26 (vv23-25), Yahweh appears to Isaac again—Isaac receives the same divine approval—in a series of ‘visual encounters with Yahweh. In Genesis 39: 28-29, we read that Jacob names the place Bethel—‘House of God’—and erects a pillar to commemorate the conversation he had had with Yahweh (18,19). Genesis 32: 28-29 makes it [reasonably] apparent that ‘the man’ with whom Jacob wrestled was a divine being—indeed this mysterious combatant himself says: ‘You have striven with Elohim’—a term that can be translated either as ‘God’ or ‘a god’. According to Heiser, the narrative, “…nowhere says Jacob’s encounter was only a vision. This Elohim is tangible and corporeal.” NB. The apparent  ‘corporeal’ nature of the Angel of Yahweh need not be confused with that of the future incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity—as being in the form of mankind—but that it was, in a real sense a tangible presence—perhaps akin to the resurrected body of Christ. This is, of course, speculative but not beyond the realms of possibility.

In Exodus 3:12, we read that the Angel of Yahweh appeared to Moses out of the burning bush. Verse 6 informs us that ‘Moses hid his face.’  Why would Moses have hidden his face from a burning bush—apart from wishing to protect himself from the heat? There was clearly an appearance—a Theophany—the Angel of Yahweh. What does the ‘angel’ say? Well, according to the text, the ‘Lord’ speaks in the first person—about His dealings with the people of Israel. In verse 19, we read that—“Moses said to God”—not to a mere angel but to the Angel of Yahweh, who is, most likely, Y-H-W-H. Joshua 5:13-15 and 1 Chronicles 21:16 both explicitly name the Angel with the drawn sword as the Angel of Yahweh. Heiser argues that the connection is unmistakable—on two accounts. 1) Joshua bows to the man—an instinctive reaction to the divine presence. 2) The commander orders Joshua to take off his sandals—because the place on which he stood was holy. There is a lot more to say on this issue, but space will not allow for further comment. The point is that the Christophany referred to as the Angel of the Lord can be identified as the second person of the Trinity—the ‘Word’ that was to take on the form of man.


[1]These references pertain to the ‘position & power’ of angels: Psalm 34:7; Psalm 82:1; 1 Chronicles 21:15; Isaiah 37:36, 63:9; Ezekiel chapters 1 & 10. Ezekiel 28. The book of Revelation is replete with examples of such creatures as angels. Genesis 6 also makes mention of their being creatures other than humans ‘on earth’; this it can be assumed was a reference to pre-history.

[2] As Christ was made in the form of a man and had subjected himself to this position (Philippians 2:7-8); he, temporarily, had made himself ‘lower than the angels’.

[3] Son of Man: Daniel 7:13;John 5:27:Matt. 24:30;Mark 13:24,27; Luke 21:27 Angel of the Lord: Genesis 16:7-14; Judges 5:23, 13:9-22; 2 Kings 19:35; Joshua 5:13-15; Isaiah: 9:6; Zech.1:12. J.

[4] Michael F. Bird, Craig A. Evans, Simon J. Gathercole, Charles E. Hill and Chris Tilling add considerable weight to the opposite notion that—Indeed Jesus Christ is the Son of God and not an angel. (2014)

anotherEDEN

New Book

I am pleased to announce the publication of the book I’ve been working on since the beginning of the 2020 Covid-Lockdown. The book is entitled ‘another EDEN: Gaining a Fresh Perspective on Evil, and The Purposes of God’, and is available on Amazon.

Essentially, the book is a further development (though less academic in its content) of my Post Graduate work at The University of Exeter (2011-2015).—of which, as you’ll no doubt recall, you were one of my external examiners. The book addresses the Problem of Evil (Natural and Moral) in a world that is considered to be the result of natural processes or has, alternatively, been enabled (by God) to ‘create itself’, i.e., a naturally selective processes that either denies the immaterial or insists upon any likely intervention of God in the process as being an undesirable possibility—due to its conflict with the priorities given by a purely naturalistic (Darwinian) interpretation of the creation/evolution of the biosphere; the book discusses how this corresponds with the Creation of the world by a Benevolent Omnipotent & Omniscient Creator, i.e., The God of the Judeo/Christian Scriptures. The book is, mostly, not difficult to read—and does offer an argument for ‘The Goodness of God’ from a different perspective. NB. It is not a work that defends a Young Earth Notion—or one that denies an evolutionary process.

The raison d’être for the writing of this book is, first and foremost, to offer an argument for the Sovereign purposes of the God of The Judeo/Christian Scriptures.

  • To offer an argument for the absolute goodness of the God of Judean/Christian Scriptures.
  • To opine that, what are described as ‘Universal Physical Laws’ are, necessarily, in existence so that the God of The Judeo/Christian Scriptures, who is both omnipotent and benevolent, may bring about the best possible outcome creative processes—so as to allow for the causes and effects of the free will action of both Men and Angels.
  • To opine that the presence of the physical laws that permit the ‘ills and effects’ evidenced within the biosphere may be considered a necessary state of affairs.
  • To address the notion of whether it can be argued that there may have been different—if not better possibilities regarding the de facto state of affairs referred to as ‘Nature Red, in Tooth and Claw.
  • To address the notion of this world being the ‘only possible world’ that God could have possibly imagined or engineered, i.e., that this world is the best of possible worlds according to the purposes of the Sovereign Creator and sustainer of the universe.
  • To offer an argument regarding the state of affairs necessary to offer an ‘other-worldly’ Hope for Heaven.

NB. I previously engaged with a publisher I am acquainted with—and he advised me that the likelihood of any Publishing House taking the (financial) risk of publishing such a work was negligible; consequently, I am publishing the book with KPD Publications.

Soli Deo Gloria

Derek.

Lookalikes


IMG_2253

While finite minds make sense in a universe created by a Divine Mind, they are exceedingly difficult to account for in a naturalistic universe. Physicalist approaches to explaining mental properties ultimately fall short because mental properties possess unique characteristics that cannot be reduced to physical states, events and properties. [1]J.P.Moreland 2014,P109

[1] J.P.Moreland 2014,P109

April 2nd 1968, might have been what occurs at the end of a nine-month term of pregnancy—the arrival of a newly born with all the associated joys that help balance all the negative experiences of human childbearing and birth.

In the early evening, I had arrived at the hospital to be informed by my young wife that ‘we were having twins’. What she meant was that we (well, she) had given birth to twin girls. We had had no idea that ‘we’ were expecting more than one; at the time the technology wasn’t able to predict any such outcome. The twins were rather tiny and were in need of a bit of extra care. Now, some fifty-three years later, they are parents and grandparents. Rebecca & Esther were not identical twins though they looked/look very much alike. But even identical twins don’t have the same DNA. Esther has lived abroad in Australia for over twenty-five years, whereas Rebecca has lived mostly in the UK. It is said that twins have a special—even telepathic bond. When something is amiss with one (no matter the space between them), the other is somehow aware.

            “The body like a prison be, locked in for life’s mortality.”

I wrote the above poem during the ‘transitional period’ of my journey from atheism to Christ. Then, as now, I had been considering the problem of suffering; I hadn’t at that time enquired into some of the more esoteric ideas of religious philosophy but had been thinking about the possibility of the transmigration of ‘the soul’—that, somehow, there was such an entity as the soul and that somehow it was personal—moreover that it pre-existed any present incarnation. I was so pleased with the poem that I typed it out put it on display in the kitchen. The ‘poster’ was noticed by a friend of my wife, who happened to be the wife of a Baptist Minister. Although she was aware that, at the time, I was not a Christian believer, she nevertheless passed on some comments through my wife, who was also a committed Christian. The message was that the idea we (us) pre-existed prior to our conception and birth could, most certainly not, be defended from a Christian perspective. This question is of the upmost importance. If human beings, like any other animal, are merely the result of the interaction pf physical forces then we should not expect to survive that material existence. It would be a case of ‘when you’re dead, you are done for’. Ergo, from this perspective, we are all the products of our genes–inheriting most, if not all of our parents’ physical characteristics. If we were to study Rebecca and Esther’s features—and some other traits of which we might not be too fond. We would see that the twins exhibit a likeness of both of their parents—and even grandparents. However, our personal DNA is unique to all of us. So might there be something ‘within us’ that science has yet to ‘pinpoint’? Is it possible that, somehow, we may survive our apparent demise? The argument here is that we do and that, moreover, we retain that which we have obtained throughout our earthly lives. ‘WE’ shall survive. The implications are large—for those of us who have retained a sense of personal identity and those, who through accident or illness, seem not so to do.

Derek J. White 05/21

Subjective (#heresthething)

#subjective

The time has come,” he (Jesus, that is)said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” [find it in Mark 1:14,15]

For some readers/hearers this may seem like just a personal call to change their way of living. Well,it is most certainly that. BUT it is NOT just that.Absolutely not: Here we have Jesus announcing an arrival of universal significance—things would/could never be the same again. So let’s be clear, it is nothing particularly to do with our escaping judgement —but all to do with what it means to live as if this ‘Kingdom’ has any clout in our personal space. In other words that anyone/everyone claiming to have been redeemed into this Kingdom must fully understand the implications of its effects/challenges/claims on our/your lives—no matter how ‘good’ or ‘bad’ it seems to be working out. NB. The other thing is: Who do you say Jesus is? Your profession makes little difference if your ‘heart’ is not moved to act on this profession. Fellow ‘professors’ we cannot remain unchanged. The Kingdom of God has arrived (present perfect tense).DJW/09/04/21

Purposeful

Purposeful

It is only from the perspective of our ‘mental life’ (the ‘imago Dei’ factor) that we can imagine how God’s ‘being’ might be, and how God might act in the world that God has created and that the Triune God sustains. If we should deny God ‘his mental life’, i.e., God’s distinctive ontological existence, we might imagine anything other than the God of the Judeo/Christian Scriptures. (Derek White 2021)

In the foreword of the 2017 book, ‘Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical and Theological Critique, Sociology Professor Steve Fuller writes:

The cumulative effect of the set of papers assembled in this volume is to suggest that the ‘God hypothesis (or what philosophers call divine action) remains very much as a scientific explanation for events in the history of life.

Fuller’s charge against Theistic Evolutionists, especially those employed in the scientific endeavour, is that they tend to leave their religious commitments when they enter ‘The House of Science’ (P.28). Fuller’s comments aside, there is an Elephant in the Room here, e.g. The Materialist’s view is that ‘nature is all that exists’—yet often ‘praising’ the magisterium of Natural Selection. The Theistic Evolutionist, whilst giving praise to God, i.e., to the same magisterium—the ‘creator of an apparently ‘natural world’ in which God is not allowed creative intrusion. Indeed, advocates of Theistic Evolution, most likely,reject the notion of God’s intervention in the biotic world of nature; seemingly, because Natural Selection offers a whole package whilst notions of ‘intelligent design’ offer an unnecessary confusion—allowing for ‘the god of the gaps’—who, it is opined,may well disappear as science offers an all-encompassing picture of nature’s ability to allow for the continued cycle of life. This, idea, whilst allowing for the ‘magisterium of creation’ renders the God of Scripture to the role of a helpless onlooker whose passivity might be excused by the incarnation, death and resurrection of the second person of The Trinity. However, for this world to be anything like ‘God’s Best of Possible Worlds’ there has to be space that allows for God’s plans and intentions—in other words God’s Goal (telos) for Creation.

In his book entitled ‘The Origin of Higher Taxa…’ T.S.Kemp poses a question:

Are major evolutionary transitions adequately accounted for by normal Darwinian natural selection, proceeding for a sufficient length of time or are unusual genetic processes and/or special environmental circumstances required? The default explanation expressed implicitly if not explicitly by the vast majority of evolutionary biologists is that Natural Selection acting on an interbreeding species population is ‘sufficient’ explanation and that the particular genetic changes and environmental conditions are of no special significance beyond the contingencies of each individual case. However, the very act of making this reductionist prior assumption universal leads to the automatic exclusion from consideration of other possible evolutionary processes that might exist…(P.1)

It is reasonable to suppose that, in spite of any objections raised by ‘prevailing materialistic paradigms’, God may be allowed to have aspirations, i.e., ‘plans and purposes’—a goal (telos) for creation’s raison d´etre.

In 2016, thirty years after the publication of his book entitled ‘Evolution: A Theory In Crisis’, Michael Denton produces an equally challenging volume entitled ‘Evolution: A Theory Still In Crisis’. The biochemist’s continued questioning is not to do with natural selection per se but with implications brought about by the notion of its being the ‘sole progenitor’ for biological changes/adaptions. In other words that the whole of the history of biotic life on earth has been contingent on a material process—a process without reason, blueprint or direction. Denton opines that:

…because of an unshakable commitment to the contingent view of life—and perhaps because to embrace ‘a biology of law’ might be seen as the first step towards a re-introduction of teleology into  biology—many Darwin skeptics are among evolutionary scientists unable to cross the dangerous waters and leave behind the realm of contingency. …Whatever the ultimate cause of things, whatever teleological implication or otherwise may be inferred, the validity of structuralist claims and my advocacy of lawful biology are supported by the scientific evidence. (Denton, 279 &.281)

In order to establish as to, whether or not this world is ‘God’s best of possible worlds’, it is not necessary to prove that this is the case—but to allow for such a possibility. Given that this world is not to be confused with any utopian state of affairs (e.g. Heaven)—a state of affairs that, one could imagine, is not presently available for inspection—it is necessary to imagine that God shall provide such a state of affairs. Moreover should we allow for the notion that this world—at its beginnings (Genesis 1:31) was not perfect but very good—we shall be able to realize the possibility that this world is that which God (allowed) intended for God’s purposes. 

This, world, is not Heaven, neither can it be so.


	

Building: The Church?

The Churches’ Own Pandemic

‘Shut everything down’, they said; ‘but please allow the bread’, was the muted reply. ‘The bread you shall have, there’s a surplus of supply, so no one should go without, by and by.

They opened things up for the ‘essential’ supplies; we could even wander between the product spires. That man cannot live on bread alone, I do recall; the like of which isn’t found on any market stall.

It soon appeared, on examination, that buildings alone don’t allow contamination. ‘Open the doors—allow them in, but whatever you do, don’t allow them to sing.’ That the building’s the ‘Church’ was the configuration, opening the doors should remove the ‘indignation’.

Should ‘the building be the church’, it would be only too plain that any ‘change of use’ might render it lame; Now, the ‘meeting together’ encouraged for all, has now been replaced by a screen on the wall. That the Church’ be the Body of Christ is not in question, though its heart surely misses a beat without its essential connection. The Meeting Together.

Derek J. White 2/21

Praying [in] The Kingdom

But you, when you pray, go into your inner room; and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father, who sees in secret, shall reward you. And when you are praying, do not babble on and on like the pagans; for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. Therefore, pray in this way: ‘Our Father in heaven, sanctified be Your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’(Matthew 6:6-13)

Although I’d read, what is commonly referred to as ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ countless times since personally professing and committing my life to Christ1975, it wasn’t until we started attending an Anglican church in around 2015 that I realised its significance within the life of the Anglican Community, i.e., that it has a kind of incorporeality—a presence that edifies those gathered. Of course, we should not confuse this with the ‘communion of believers’ (when ‘the church’ comes together to share communion) but rather to express appreciation for its cohesiveness—its ‘drawing together’ of those gathered.

Any kind of gathering (whether in a building or not) that detracts from personal communion with Christ may have injurious results on the believer’s personal devotion—especially in times of social isolation. In such times of separation, should we have relied too heavily on our regular times of gathering, we may realise that such reliance has left us bereft of the ‘connection’ with Christ we believed ourselves to have realised. The words of Hebrews   ring clear as the writer implores Jesus’ followers (The Church) “…let us encourage one another all the more…” (Hebrews 10:24). It is, of course, essential that the ‘assembling together times’ are times of mutual encouragement—especially through the teaching from Scripture—and through songs/hymns of worship that nurture and develop our discipleship.

One doesn’t have to look to closely at the above passage of Scripture to realise the importance of Jesus’ words—that Christ’s followers should enter a place/be in a place by themselves, without others, so that they could commune directly with God. Indeed, the prayer Christ advocates is one of an intimacy which essential to Kingdom Life—on earth rather than in heaven. This is all about the impact of Christ followers wherever they may be. According to Craig S. Keener[i], “Jesus probably adapts an earlier form of what became a basic synagogue prayer—the Kadish…Jesus prayed the prayer on the basis of an intimate relationship that denotes a respectful dependence and affectionate intimacy. When Jewish people called God by the Old Testament title ‘Father’ the title connote intimacy as well as respect and dependence. Jesus summons his disciples to appropriate this intimacy more deeply still.” The point here is that the prayer relates to the personal life and commitment of God’s people—so that when the prayer is uttered (from the heart—even in a private place) it is a prayer of commitment to God’s ideal for his people—so that there would be an increasing presence of the will of God as witnessed through those committed to God’s cause—specifically to the disciples of Christ throughout the ages—until the Parousia.  NB. The ‘Lord’s Prayer’, surely, is not an affirmation for the renewal of the earth, but rather, it is for the will of God to reign ‘on earth as in Heaven’—in and through those redeemed by the atoning/renewing work of Christ. We might look back over the last two thousand years and wonder what difference the presence of the redeemed have made. We don’t, of course, have all the data—though we may assume that God does. What we do know though is that, without such a presence the history we look back on will have been so much darker—and the present—who can say.

The Lord’s Prayer is a cry for liberation—a cry echoed by Paul in Romans 8:20,21 where the apostle refers to GOD’s subjugation  of the earth (Genesis chapter 3)  It is a heart-felt prayer—that “Creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.” It is a cry for the continued salvation of a lost humanity; Ergo it is a cry that God’s will be done on earth as in heaven. Theologian Charles Sherlock[ii] draws a sharp distinction when he distinguishes between the imago Dei before and after Christ—suggesting that “Israel’s witness to the creation of the human race as a whole, in the image of God, is not strongly affirmed in the New Testament (though not contested) pales into insignificance in the light of Christ’s redeemed humanity, i.e., that “…the term ‘image’ (eikon) is not used for humankind in the New Testament apart from reference to Christ.” (P50). Sherlock’s point being that [in] Christ the perfect image is being formed. In the light of this it is reasonable to suggest that the prayer that Christ taught was that which his followers should pray—so that the Kingdom might be realised in and through their witness to (an already) decaying, dying world. NB. There is no suggestion in Scripture that Satan or the fallen (though both continue to have an injurious effect on the world) but that God allows the ensuing state of affairs to continue.

‘The Lord’s Prayer’ is not a prayer given in order that God may be coerced into renewing the planet rather that, through the witness of the Church the world might realise the love and grace of God—found only in Christ. Is it not the case that God’s salvific work is, in some way, bound to ‘Planet Earth’—the ‘land’ from which all biological life has its origins—that any notion of ‘salvation’ has to relate to Planet Earth’s renewal. The notion that Earth is the place on which God shall place the ‘re-created’ (aka regenerated) has more to do with eschatological conjecture, i.e., the repair of the biosphere and the immediate cosmos, than it has to do with God’s ‘purposes’ (goal) for humankind, i.e., ‘second-chance’ Homo sapiens—a scenario that might be entitled ‘Gardener’s Return’. It seems that ‘Nature’ alone can bring about most things—perhaps with a little help from an unidentifiable and unknowable creator. It is ‘the praying [down] of this newly to be regenerated world that is the criteria rather than ‘allow’ for a greater destiny for both humankind and any possible ‘New Worlds’ God may be allowed to bring into being; this is not to say that the Earth has no, present or future significance—neither is there a suggestion that humankind has no responsibility—will receive no chastisement for its failure regarding the governance of the beautiful Blue Sphere called Planet Earth. But this is not the whole story. God’s purposes for His creation may, indeed, not fit in with the views of: ‘Latter Day Environmentalists’, Process Theologians, Openness Theologians or even, dare I say, Theistic Evolutionists. Obviously, we would not expect ‘God’s Purposes’ to fit in with Pantheists or even (as has already been alluded to) Panentheists (the view that ‘all is in God’).

MARANATHA!


[i] ‘Matthew’,IVP,1997

[ii] ‘The Doctrine of Humanity’,IVP, 1996

This World?! Really?

This World! Really? (part 1) #BookExert
What kind of world, is this?

“[Modern] Science presents a working model of the world based on observation and explanation, albeit one which is vastly outmoded. And in case we are tempted towards a feeling of superiority on this point, we should note that our current cosmology may in turn be vastly outmoded by the science of future generations. The history of science teaches us repeatedly that supreme confidence in our own scientific paradigms may well turn out to be misplaced.” Mark Harris1

Scientist and popular writer Richard Dawkins opines that, “The Universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.”2 The opinion/observation offered by ‘Religion Rebutter’, Richard Dawkins has, at first glance, much to commend—though commend is, most likely, not the ideal word for a theist to use –moreover, a theist with a reasonably strong belief in the sovereignty and benevolence of God. However, Dawkins has ‘a point’—one that we cannot afford to pass over without comment: From where we live in semi-rural Dorset, staring into a cloudless sky at night inspires a sense of awe along with a sense of incredulity. How could such a ‘cold and lonely’ universe have any personal significance—its deleterious physical laws adding to the disdain of the dissenters. The lyrics of Leonard Cohen’s haunting song Hallelujah come to mind:

The above lyrics reflect Dawkins’ unbelief and Cohen’s disdain at the apparent absence of God in a world of pain. That the universe is a cold and lonely place is apparently the case as no other life has, as yet, been discovered—though there is often a ‘celebratory tone’ when ‘the right conditions’ appear to be present on some planet or other.


From the perspective of science the search for life (of whatever variety) is one that ‘puts two and two together’ in the expectation for life to emerge without any cause other than there being the availability of the necessary chemical constituents–plus ‘natural processes’. Ergo, the Material Universe is all there is. 1 | P a g e