Tuesday, November 22, 2011

What Kind of World?

How does the physical operation of Planet Earth’s systems and our cosmos fulfill God’s higher purpose? Do Earth’s physical systems and Earth’s life forms operate according to the foreknowledge of an infinite, omniscient God? Since the Fall of Adam in the Garden of Eden, are we operating under God’s “Plan B?” That is to say, was God’s perfect creation sabotaged at the moment of Adam’s Fall? These are not only issues of deep theological significance, but profound scientific questions as well.

Many Christians see both the operation of Earth’s physical systems and the spiritually fallen condition of the human race as the outcome of the sin of our Garden of Eden parents. They believe Adam’s action was responsible for both physical and spiritual degradation. Man’s spiritual alienation from God is, indeed, inherited from Adam. Some broadly blame Satan for man’s spiritual downfall. In some sense this is true. Had free will not been gifted to humanity and had Satan not existed, the Fall would not have occurred. But this conclusion seriously overlooks a deeper theological reality.

Long before the creation of man “in the image of God,” long before life of any type existed on this earth, and long before the initial creation event described in the first verse of the Bible, God in three persons existed outside our current dimensions of space and time. Stated another way, God was transcendent. Three dimensions of space and one dimension of time were imposed upon this universe at the creation event. We tend to think only in terms of our current space/time dimensions. In some small measure, theologically and scientifically we are able to grasp the importance of this concept by studying scripture and by discovering the operations of our cosmos from a scientific perspective.

Some of Scripture’s most startling passages refer to the plan of redemption for man. The plan was present in the mind of God even before the creation of our dimensions of space and time. The Apostle Paul, recipient of many of God’s special revelations of truth, spoke at least five times in his epistles of pre-creation divine determination of future events involving man on earth. For example, the New International Version translates I Cor. 2:7 using the term before time began, Eph. 1:4 with before the creation of the world, and II Tim. 1:9 and Tit. 1:3 by the term before the beginning of time. Rom. uses the phrase “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son…” In each of these cases it is clear these passages refer to man’s redemption from sin.

The term grace is used in scripture to indicate, among other things, the reception of something we do not deserve. Again, II Tim. 1:9 states, “Grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.” We do not deserve grace because of our sinfulness. God knew man would rapidly fall into sin when left to his own free will choice. Another term, adoption, refers to the transfer of a person from one condition (family) to another. Clearly, redemption was in the heart of God long before the creation of the cosmos. We may ask, “Redemption from what?” We may answer, “Redemption from a sinful heart condition to a new condition of guiltlessness before God through the sacrifice of Christ.” Did God know beforehand that humanity would fall into sin by virtue of his free will choice? Yes, He did. God did not prevent Satan’s entry into the Garden of Eden, but He could have done so.

The physical characteristics of this world at times result in discomfort, distress, or even death. A broad scope analysis of conditions on our earth, however, reveals an earth with the optimal potential for nourishing and sustaining the lives of seven billion souls. God designed our earth system with our benefit in mind. He has given us the privilege of tenderly caring for it, working it, and reaping benefits from it. It is part of a cosmos gradually running down under the God-imposed “Law of Decay,” but it is a cosmos ideally suited to fulfillment of His plan for the redemption of reborn mankind into the future New Creation described in Revelation 21.

What kind of world do we live in? We may conclude this cosmos is ideally suited to fulfill God’s purpose: the redemption of mankind to a future state in the New Creation. This state is far more wonderful than merely restoring the brief “paradise” which purportedly existed in the Garden of Eden. Man was not intended to live forever in an unredeemed state in Eden. The Creator looked far beyond Eden to the state of redemption in this world and in the New Creation.