Deliberations and Resources on Radical Christianity

The Cosmic Christ

I listened to quite an interesting guest preacher at my church today, a Northern American fellow by the name of Matthew Fox, who was speaking on the subject of “The Cosmic Christ,” derived from the famous hymnal passage from Colossians 1:15-20.

He was speaking, in a nutshell, of the profound truth whereby Christ is found quite literally in all things, and that all things hold together in him. For St. Paul, therefore, one cannot be a Christian without being a mystic, for this is an essentially mystical component of how a person views the relationship between Christ and Creation. Matthew went on to explain that we Christians ought to be among the most concerned about climate change, as it is one of the most (if not the most) pressing issue of our times. Beyond this, if we are meant to have faith in a creation which is inherently divine, why wouldn’t we be concerned?

Because I am summarising, I obviously cannot do justice to Matthew’s sermon, which captivated me the whole way and touched upon many highly important issues. Hopefully if All Hallows produces an online stream of his talk, I’ll be able to link to it from my blog at some point in the future, so you can listen to him for yourselves. One thing I did find notable above all else during his sermon, however, was this: That this whole concept of “Original Sin” wasn’t one known to Jesus, and wasn’t even a Jewish question. The Jewish question is, “Are we all creatures of God?” The defining point then is not original sin, but original blessing, and this resonates with me since it’s something I’ve suspected for some time now. God never said to Abraham “You believe in me, therefore I have spared your worthless life.” Rather, the Bible tells us “You believe me, therefore I have accredited it to you as righteousness.”

Why are we who believe that we are made in the image of God often quick to believe in the same breath that we are utterly and completely worthless? The whole dynamic doesn’t seem to make much sense, and it doesn’t seem to be found in the Bible either:

Psalm 8
3 When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,

4 what is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?

5 You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.

6 You made him ruler over the works of your hands;
you put everything under his feet:

7 all flocks and herds,
and the beasts of the field,

8 the birds of the air,
and the fish of the sea,
all that swim the paths of the seas.

This doesn’t seem to paint a picture of humanity in relation to God in which he finds himself “totally depraved.” (Totally unable to find God of his own accord, perhaps, but not necessarily totally depraved) There is a place for us to be humble, but not a place for us to be hard on ourselves. God is the Liberator, not the condemner (Have you noticed that, Biblically, this is Satan’s job?).

Likewise, why do we forget the beginning of the Biblical narrative, wherein God brings forth His creation into being, and declares it “good?” There is, of course, just cause to say that creation has been put under a curse because of humanity’s sin (lest I be accused of dismissing other portions of Scripture), but what is that sin today? Could environmental negligence be our new sin, which confines creation to the “curse” of global warming?

Our sin doesn’t define who we are, nor does it define the creation around us, it simply taints it, like a smudge on a beautiful masterpiece. The smudge devalues the masterpiece, but it cannot and does not change what lies underneath.

The time is coming, sisters and brothers, when we shall have to ask ourselves important questions on how we are stewarding the creation; when we shall have to appreciate where our vegetables are coming from; when we shall have to understand the difference between how meat is put on our plate now and how it was put on our plate 2000 years ago; when we shall have to acknowledge the consequences of taking two overseas holidays every year; when we shall have to realise we can’t throw our refuse into a landfill and expect it to go away.

We are going to have to do all we can to remove the smudge we have placed, not just on ourselves, but also on a beautiful creation. Remember, the Bible says that the creation is decaying, but it never says we are supposed to contribute to that!

Meditating on this has also given me some preliminary thoughts on the whole paradigm of atonement and the “penal substitution” doctrine. More on that for a later post, watch this space…

7 responses

  1. I think this might be repeating you, but I want to say it in different words😉

    My problem with “original sin” is the word ‘original’. As you say, God created everything and it was good. ‘Original’ suggests that the origins of humanity were sinful. This isn’t the case. Of course, you can agree with me about all that without denying the fall etc (or any other bits of orthodox Christianity). It’s purely a seminatic issue; but I love those.

    September 23, 2007 at 10:54 pm

  2. Yes, you philosophers and your semantics!😛

    You’re right though, and I was kind of getting at that in one part of my post but realised I may not have conveyed myself too well; that the orthodoxy we’ve come to know isn’t necessarily nullified, it just needs to be put in a far better context.

    September 24, 2007 at 2:23 pm

  3. “For St. Paul, therefore, one cannot be a Christian without being a mystic, for this is an essentially mystical component of how a person views the relationship between Christ and Creation”

    That is an unusual definition of being a “mystic”? What would you say was distinctive about historical Christian mystics, such as Teresa of Avila?

    “Matthew went on to explain that we Christians ought to be among the most concerned about climate change, as it is one of the most (if not the most) pressing issue of our times.”

    Millions of people lack access to adequate food, water and sanitation today. That is far more pressing an issue in my view.

    “Beyond this, if we are meant to have faith in a creation which is inherently divine, why wouldn’t we be concerned?”

    Isn’t that just slightly heretical? Christianity is not pantheism.

    “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” — Genesis 1:1

    “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.” — Romans 1:25

    “That this whole concept of “Original Sin” wasn’t one known to Jesus, and wasn’t even a Jewish question”

    Jesus assumed that people were evil

    “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” — Matthew 7:11

    “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone.” — Luke 18:19

    “totally unable to find God of his own accord, perhaps, but not necessarily totally depraved”

    What is the difference between these two?

    “there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”” — Romans 3:11-12

    “Could environmental negligence be our new sin, which confines creation to the “curse” of global warming?”

    Sin is rebellion against God. That takes many forms, including failure to manage the world he has given us.

    “Our sin doesn’t define who we are, nor does it define the creation around us, it simply taints it, like a smudge on a beautiful masterpiece. The smudge devalues the masterpiece, but it cannot and does not change what lies underneath.”

    Our sin makes us God’s enemies.

    “ll of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature[a] and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. ” — Ephesians 2:3

    “Meditating on this has also given me some preliminary thoughts on the whole paradigm of atonement and the “penal substitution” doctrine.”

    Well yes, if you downplay sin and human wickedness, then the meaning of the atonement will naturally change.

    Carl,
    You are right that original sin was not orginal to God’s creation. Orginally God’s world was good. The Christian doctrine of “original sin” however is true, if perhaps poorly labeled.

    October 12, 2007 at 11:28 pm

  4. Good points, Ben. I’m afraid I’m tied up now and throughout the weekend, I just thought I’d leave this message to say that I’m not ignoring them. I knew I was a little crude in how I explained things in my post, so I shall expand on them a little; you and I are not entirely in disagreement here.

    October 12, 2007 at 11:43 pm

  5. “Millions of people lack access to adequate food, water and sanitation today. That is far more pressing an issue in my view.”

    I agree. I did not necessarily concur with Matthew Fox that THE most pressing issue of our time is climate change, but it is nonetheless high up on the list of global issues about which humanity ought to be taking notice.

    “Isn’t that just slightly heretical? Christianity is not pantheism.”

    Absolutely not. But it may have panentheistic attributes to it (panentheistic, not pantheistic).

    “Jesus assumed that people were evil”

    He also loved people.

    ““totally unable to find God of his own accord, perhaps, but not necessarily totally depraved”

    What is the difference between these two?”

    Perhaps I am caught up in semantics, but I don’t think a term as harsh as “totally depraved” is warranted by humanity.

    “Sin is rebellion against God. That takes many forms, including failure to manage the world he has given us.”

    Yep.

    “Our sin makes us God’s enemies.”

    And who commanded us to love our enemies?

    “Well yes, if you downplay sin and human wickedness, then the meaning of the atonement will naturally change.”

    I think you’re being a little rude here. No one *made* you come and read this blog, or insisted that you read the content. If you don’t agree with what I say, then fair enough, but you don’t have to disparage me. As it happens, I don’t actually feel you and I are far from agreement, it’s just unfortunate that the language terms we use are often perceived as leaning in different directions when they in fact converge.

    October 16, 2007 at 9:45 pm

  6. Being an enemy of God is a very serious thing. Your comment saying “And who commanded us to love our enemies?” seems to me to suggest that it is not, because God’s love will cancel out his hatred of sin and sinner. But to be enemies of God is a very, very serious thing.

    “The arrogant cannot stand in your presence; you hate all who do wrong.” — Psalm 5:5

    “The LORD examines the righteous, but the wicked and those who love violence his soul hates.” — Psalm 11:5

    “God is a righteous judge, a God who expresses his wrath every day. If he does not relent, he will sharpen his sword; he will bend and string his bow. He has prepared his deadly weapons; he makes ready his flaming arrows.” — Psalm 7:11-13

    “Because of all their wickedness in Gilgal, I hated them there. Because of their sinful deeds, I will drive them out of my house. I will no longer love them; all their leaders are rebellious.” — Hosea 9:15

    “Still another angel, who had charge of the fire, came from the altar and called in a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, “Take your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of grapes from the earth’s vine, because its grapes are ripe.” The angel swung his sickle on the earth, gathered its grapes and threw them into the great winepress of God’s wrath.” — Revelation 14:18-19

    “Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty.” — Revelation 19:15

    Unless Jesus has taken upon himself the wrath of God against sin, then we must do it. That is why I say that a rejection of penal substitution must lead to downplaying the seriousness of sin, and the fearfulness of God’s wrath against sin.
    I hope the way I express myself does not stop you taking note of what the Bible says about this. We begin to see the true greatness of God’s love when we see how completely unworthy we are of it. We are by nature objects of wrath. Every inclination of our hearts in evil. Being called totally depraved is not demeaning.

    “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” — 1 John 4:10

    D.A. Carson on YouTube – What are the threats faced by the church today?

    October 19, 2007 at 3:31 pm

  7. Idetrorce

    very interesting, but I don’t agree with you
    Idetrorce

    December 15, 2007 at 1:11 pm

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