The temporal vs. the eternal

Posted: March 15, 2010 by Prof. Dan Lioy in Uncategorized

Over at Biologos, there’s a new blog titled “The Things of the Earth”, to which I appended the following response. I thought I’d post the latter here, because I think it bears mentioning. Specifically, evangelicals too often can fall into the trap of having a sort of gnosticized view of reality, in which either one aspect or the other are regarded as being more important than the other. Here, then, is what I recently posted at the following link :

>>>Actually, while not much (i.e. in terms of sheer volume of information) can be inferred about God by observing His creation, there are some inferences that can be made. Specifically, Romans 1:20 points to two “invisible qualities” (TNIV) of God, namely, His “eternal power and divine nature”. The apostle states that these “have been clearly seen”.

Also, while it seems valid to assert that God created the universe for humankind, I think there is more to it than that. Put differently, God’s purposes in creation, while including humankind, are not limited to the latter (cf. Rom. 8:18ff.). Moreover, one meta-objective surely includes the Creator-King bringing glory to Himself.

Now, to the general point of the blog, it is helpful to note that believers should not have a compartmentalized, either-or mentality when it comes to the temporal and eternal, the material and the immaterial, the physical and spiritual aspects of reality. In God’s sovereignty, every aspect of His creation has value, meaning, and purpose, at least from a theological point of view.

Still, from the limited horizon of human existence, reality can at times seem to be filled with paradox, enigma, randomness, and so on. A candid study of Ecclesiastes, the Psalms, Job, etc., bears this point out. The latter observation notwithstanding, Hebrews 1:3 states that the Son is “sustaining all things by his powerful word”, including every aspect of the material universe in which we live. Moreover, Colossians 1:17 notes that in the Son “all things hold together”.<<<

  1. I agree that many Christians are “gnosticized”. I face it in my ministry and feel that I am often offering correctives of how creation is good and how God plans to redeem all things. Salvation isn’t emancipation from flesh, but rather a full redemption of it in the resurrection. I think that American Evangelical piety has been shaped by Ana-Baptistic notions of viewing this world has bad, our flesh has bad, sex as a necessary act to be used solely for pro-creation, etc etc etc.

    While we are called to war against the flesh, the ruler of this age, and much of this world, it doesn’t mean a complete and total rejection of everything.

  2. Dan Lioy says:

    What comes to mind for me is the Jesus’ admonition in John 17 that His followers are to be in the world, but not of the world. On the one hand, our long-term focus is the eternal kingdom of God. On the other hand, we are called to be ‘salt and light’ (so to speak) in the shorter-term. It isn’t easy, but we are to hold these two aims in ongoing, dynamic tension.

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