19th Century philosopher Arthur Schopenhaur said, “New truths go through stages: first they are ridiculed, second they are violently opposed and then, finally, they are accepted as self-evident.” One of the assumptions that underwent such radical transition was the cosmology of the Bible.
From the time of Aristotle until the 16th century people held the assumption that the Earth was the center of the Universe and that the earth was flat- bed supported by pillars, with heaven above and the Sheol [a place and time for the wet paint to dry!] below. Copernicus challenged this cosmological dogma and suggested that the Earth is just another planet and that it was not the center of the universe. These assumptions were published at the end of his life because he feared ridicule and disfavor by his peers and by the Church.
The fear of Copernicus was true and the punishment for such revolutionary ideas was certain. His extra-biblical suppositions set in motion a chain of events. A century after his death Galileo would build on the heliocentric Universe of Copernicus and produce the revolution that would sweep away completely the ideas of Aristotle in this regard and replace them with the modern view of astronomy and natural science but not without a price. Galileo Galilee was condemned to the stakes for violating the Biblical truth “the sun stood still” (Ex 17:12), which implied that the sun was moving around a static earth. Interestingly, Galileo revealed the greatest truth of the entire bible saying “Bible is all about our movement toward heaven and not about the movement of the sun around the earth.” The religious authority of the time not only vehemently oppose any such radical unbiblical idea but also readily sacrificed a person for the purpose of giving glory to “God of the Bible.”
Why do we oppose any new idea that does not correspond with the Biblical verses? Is it because the Bible is the encyclopedia and a text book of all sciences? Is our knowledge of Biology, psychology, physiology, physics, evolution and revolution opposed to faith, religion, theology, spirituality and revelation? Are not these diverse sciences nothing but different lenses or perspectives in approaching one and the same mountain of Truth and Reality? Is God opposed to these disciplines and want us to shoot down the extra-biblical rockets with biblical missiles?
We cannot know the infinite truth with the categories of our finite mind. I believe that we need different lenses to understand one and the same reality. “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun (Ecc. 1:9). All that we do is to understand the same truth with insights of difference sciences. Once we approach the bible with an open mind, then we will appreciate God’s dynamic plan of salvation and find clarification about our own redemption.
The creation story in the Bible “The earth was formless void there was darkness over the deep” (Gen 1:1-2) and “such was the story of heaven and earth as they were created” (Gen 2:4), not only point out to the ambiguity of creation but also the clarity of redemption. Similarly, the book of Revelation speaks about the imminence of the last punishment which is the climax of evolution, and fulfillment of redemption and salvation.
Speaking about the Genesis account of creation, the ancient Greek word “kosmos” can mean “adornment” or it may mean “universe.” We derive both “cosmetic” and “cosmic” from the word “kosmos.” The ancient Greek word “poiesis,” means ?poetry? or “to create.” Here the artist assumes the role of God and creates a world which is ornamental. But that world created has its own laws and seasons and physics, and things are taking place in that world, changing, evolving, approaching some final state or estate. St. Paul would say ?For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together with labor pains until now? (Rom 8:22).
Coming back to the book of Revelation, the Greek word “teleiology” denotes some end or final estate which involves purpose or intention or perfection, e.g. the teleiology of an acorn is to become an oak tree. The Greek word “eschatos” simply means “last” or perhaps “latest.” When the book of Revelation speaks about ?The time of waiting is over? (Rev 10:6) which is derived from Greek “kai xronos ouketi estai” which is literally saying “that there should be time no longer” or according to modern translation “and there shall be no more delay.” In this sense, the Book of revelation speaks about the end of historical creation and time, and also about the fulfillment of salvation with a specific end or goal being achieved or gained.
“And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together” (Rev 6:14) offers some basis for saying that some quantum-relativistic time-space phenomenon is being described. Albert Einstein might speak of the end of a time-space continuum, or time at the speed of light, or time at the first moment of the big bang. For those who prefer the translation “no more delay,” then time and space continue, and the new heaven and new earth and kingdom of God are very much like business as usual, but perhaps minus various undesirable things like sin, death, war.
Amidst the horror of Tsunami, this is a time of Faith and Hope. In this digital age where the scientist is the high priest, God?s message is “because of your FAITH-LESS-NESS, my anger has been kindled like a fire, and like a fire it shall burn from the highest mountain tops to the base of the mountains and down to the lowest Sheol (Hell) and shall wither the fruitfulness of the earth, ? it devours the land and its produce, and scorches the foundations of the mountains. I will pile disasters on them; They will be weak from hunger, ravaged by pestilence and bitter plague; I will unleash on them wild beasts with fangs, as well as venomous snakes that slither in the dust ? there will be terror; the young man and the virgin will be killed, the infant and the gray-haired man alike” (Dt 32:20-25). Quite a dramatic form of God?s wrath indeed! Prophet Habakuk?s vision “You see, anyone whose heart is not upright will succumb, but the righteous will live through faithfulness” (Hab 2:4) has universal application and it assures security and life here on earth; whereas those who are not ?faithful? to the Lord, instead rely on themselves and are inflated with pride, run to ruin. Yet, the nature of death the innocent and poor people have suffered does not prove their faith-less-ness and guilt, and does not reflect the righteousness of those left behind. The righteous and the sinners are at the mercy of God and at the mercy of the laws of nature. God does not have any favoritism and the nature has neither mercy nor remorse. Many would agree that the good people are dead and gone, and those left behind will mourn and comfort each other.
In any case, faithfulness to covenant in the Old Testament and relying on Christ and his mercy and remaining faithful to his love, which is the most important element of New Testament, are the only means of salvation of humanity. In troubled times as this, Lord Jesus would not expect us to come up with new prophetic visions and versions of the Bible, rather God of Mercy and Love would demand from every one incorporated into the body of Christ through Baptism to show “Creative Fidelity” to the covenant of His love. It would mean, using all human resources at the service of all humanity.
Would the most modern technological progress and intellectual tools enable humanity to reach out to the suffering brothers and sisters of Christ? Certainly, Yes! Would all people rely on the providence of God and generously share the resources because we are all made one in Christ? Probably, not!
Author: Jossy DSouza – AMKCPS