Adopting a Kingdom worldview
Nov 14, 2018
The Greek philosopher, Plato, taught that man does not create anything but simply makes copies of reality. Reality, to him, was the world of ideas, rather than substance. The Bible would modify his view by saying that man shapes or gives form to that which God created. Man does his work according to his level of authority under God (i.e., under God’s sovereignty).
God Himself did not need to copy anything; hence, He was a true Creator, as Genesis 1:1 says. The medieval Church philosophers recognized this, but they mistakenly thought that God created ex nihilo, “out of nothing,” whereas Paul says that all things came “of Him” (Romans 11:36 KJV), or “from Him” (NASB), or “out of Him” (The Emphatic Diaglott). The Greek phrase used is ex autou.
To me, this means that all things came out of God in His act of creation. In other words, all things were created out of God, not out of nothing. God is thus intimately connected to His creation and has a personal stake in its outcome. If any part of creation is lost forever through Adam’s sin, then God will be forever incomplete. Because it came out of Him, it must also go back to Him, as Paul affirms. Romans 11:36 says,
11 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things [ta panta, “The All”]. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.
The term, ta panta, is defined specifically in Colossians 1:16 as the totality of creation itself.
16 For by Him all things [ta panta] were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things [ta panta] have been created by Him and for Him.
The fact that The All was created “for Him” shows first that He created it for His own pleasure and purpose. The fact that God is sovereign and all-powerful ensures that His own pleasure and purpose will be fulfilled. So a few verses later, as Paul completes his thought, we read in Colossians 1:20,
20 and through Him to reconcile all things [ta panta] to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.
“The All” was first created and then reconciled through the blood of Christ, who died on the cross to pay the full penalty for the sin of the world. In this way, all things go back “to Him” so that creation as a whole may fulfill its divine purpose. Anything short of all things being reconciled would constitute a failure or a partial failure on God’s part.
But God cannot fail, because failure is sin. The Hebrew word khawtaw means literally to fail to hit the mark, or, as Paul wrote in Romans 3:23, “fall short of the glory of God.” The word picture is of a man trying to hit a target (goal) but falling short. In this case, the goal is to manifest the glory of God. This is best illustrated in Judges 20:16,
16 Out of all these people 700 choice men were left-handed; each one could sling a stone at a hair and not miss [khawtaw].
To “miss” is to “sin.” Sin is failure to reach one’s goal. History is full of Christians who give lip service to the sovereignty of God while believing that creation is largely a failure on His part. They try to shift the blame to man on account of his “free will,” but the law of God makes it clear that a Creator is an Owner and is therefore responsible for that which He owns. Whether man has free will or not, God’s responsibility cannot be so easily absolved.
The biblical solution is not to remove responsibility from God but to believe that He will succeed in the end. God’s New Covenant promise (vow, oath) will be fulfilled, not because men can succeed, but because God is able to perform all that He has promised (Romans 4:21). Herein lies the secret of faith itself. It is not faith in our own vows or intentions but faith in God's vows and in His ability to keep them.
As He did with Saul, turning him into the Apostle Paul, God is able to change the hearts of men and transform them into His image. He does not do this apart from man’s will; He is simply greater than man’s will, for His sovereignty is more powerful than man’s authority.
Dead-end Paths of Salvation
So we can see that the biblical worldview is different from Plato or any of the Greek philosophers. Each religion has tried to account for the human problem in its own way. Each religion has its own theory of the origin of all things, which then determines its belief about the end of all things. Religious practice itself has to do with the process in between the beginning and the end.
The Apostle Paul weighs in on this philosophical discussion by telling us that all things came out of God, they go through Him, and they return back to Him. That is the outline of history and provides us with the parameters of all truth. Anything deviating from this outline transgresses the law of God, reduces His sovereignty, and demeans His dignity.
Greek philosophers tried to explain the human condition and the problem of evil by claiming that matter was created by the demiurge (devil), and that matter will therefore inherently be evil. They made a separation between matter and spirit, claiming that the problem was that matter and spirit had comingled. The solution, then, was to separate matter from spirit into their respective spheres. Far from eradicating evil in the end, they affirmed its eternal existence, never dreaming that God might actually remove the evil from matter and put all things under the feet of Christ.
Their view was the virtual opposite of the Hebrew Scriptures, where a good God created matter as inherently “very good” (Genesis 1:31). Sin was introduced afterward, and history is God’s long-term plan to reconcile all things back to Himself. The biblical solution is not a great divorce between good spirit and evil matter but a great marriage, where the will of God reigns supreme in both heaven and in earth.
The Greek worldview thus peered into the future and foresaw the day when God and his equal counterpart, the devil, would declare a ceasefire with a boundary drawn to divide the universe into equal kingdoms. The result was that their religion pursued the goal of separating their spiritual soul from their material body. If they could just allow their good spiritual soul to escape from the confines of their evil body, or somehow to rise above it, then they might escape the darkness and go into the light.
They saw the body (and all matter) as eternal and irretrievably evil. This is what the Apostle Paul faced as he carried the gospel (“good news” of the New Covenant) to the Greek world. The gospel of Christ ran contrary to the Greek plan of salvation.
Whereas the gospel of Christ set forth God’s winning strategy, Greek religion believed in a war that would end in a draw. Whereas the gospel was the good news of God’s promise to fix the problem, Greek religion depended upon the self-discipline of man and his “works” in his desire to save himself by his own free will—that is, by the Old Covenant method.
Paul uses Greek terminology in Romans 7:24 when he writes,
24 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death.
But this should not be interpreted with the Greek mindset or worldview. A Greek might conclude that Paul hoped to separate his spiritual soul from his evil body. But Paul was speaking of changing his identity from the old man to the new man. The old man was what had been begotten by his parents; the new man was what had been begotten by the word of truth.
Paul, then, was not trying to separate soul from body. His struggle was to walk after the perfect will of the new creation man and not follow the lawless dictates of the old man that was enslaved to King Sin. Paul’s body was mortal because it came from Adam and was under the curse of sin. Paul’s body and soul were both parts of the “natural man” (1 Corinthians 2:14).
Paul’s desire was to escape both body and soul by a legal process of changing his identity. But the Greek goal, believing that the soul was spiritual, was for the good soul to escape from the evil physical body.
We see, then, that because the Greek and Hebrew worldviews were opposites, their plans of salvation were also very different.
Hindu and Buddhist Philosophy
Buddhism views the world as a place of inherent suffering. Although they recognize the existence of sin, as does the Bible, the definition of sin is different. To a Buddhist, sin is ignorance. The Bible defines sin as lawlessness, an offence to God or man. The problem of ignorance is resolved in a classroom; the problem of lawlessness is resolved in a courtroom.
So it is not surprising to see two different paths toward salvation. To a Buddhist, the solution is to reach the state of Anatman (non-self). Ignorance is not knowing about this path or not knowing how to accomplish it. Buddhists, then, turn to meditation to silence the carnal mind, for unlike the Greek philosophers, they see the mind as being a big problem. The Buddhist view of the carnal mind, then, is similar to that of Christianity. Only the solution is different.
Buddhism works to kill the carnal mind. Paul says in Romans 6:6 that we are to crucify the old man, by which he means to put to death the old man (self, or identity). But that is where the similarity ends, for Buddhism does not recognize Christ, nor does it envision a new man being begotten by the Spirit. Hence, a Buddhist seeks non-self, whereas the Christian seeks a new self. A Buddhist reaches his goal when he no longer exists, whereas a Christian reaches his goal when he transfers his identity to become a son of God.
Hindu doctrine sets forth the goal of brahma (universal self). It seeks to eradicate individual self-hood in favor of the universal self. Becoming “one with nature” is one way of expressing this. This is somewhat similar to biblical teaching in that the Bible does present the universe (ta panta) as a single body made of God Particles, as it were.
Likewise, ta panta ends in universal reconciliation, where each individual finds its purpose in the collective whole. However, the Bible does not eradicate the individual self. Herein lies the inherent difference. Whereas Hindu thought ends with a virtual (if not actual) eradication of every individual self, the biblical worldview ends with each individual’s identity preserved but harmonious with all others and especially with God Himself.
Christian and Church Culture
The practical outworking of each worldview is seen in the development or stagnation in each nation dominated by a particular religious culture. Christian culture at first was based upon Paul’s revelation of the law and the covenants that he received at Mount Sinai in Arabia shortly after his conversion. He saw that Christ’s death and resurrection ensured that the promise of God (i.e., the New Covenant) would result in a successful universal reconciliation of ta panta.
After 400 A.D., however, the Church increasingly adopted the idea of inherent and perpetual dualism as a condition built into the structure of the universe. The Church hierarchy suppressed the idea that sin was a temporary intrusion that would end some day at the reconciliation of all things. Heaven and hell, then, became permanent fixtures that a less-than-sovereign God was helpless to remedy.
This had a devastating effect upon medieval Europe during the “Dark Ages.” But the light began to shine once again when the Scriptures were opened up to the people in the time of the Protestant Reformation and the use of the printing press. Fresh ideas of liberty under the laws of God sprang up and were applied to political ideas about the purpose of governments.
Protestant understanding was imperfect, because it often found it difficult to see beyond the former prison walls of Roman theology. Nonetheless, it was a new beginning, and by 1740 books began to be published about Universal Reconciliation as well. Unfortunately, most of these early books adopted a lawless approach to the Scriptures, relying more on Paul’s epistles than the law of God which set forth the foundational revelations about the divine intent to reconcile ta panta.
We now stand at the end of the age, awaiting the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, poised to teach the word and New Covenant understanding that the Spirit will use to beget sons and daughters throughout the world.