A sermon from October 16, 2011
“How this assembly of galaxies got so big, so fast is a mystery,” Tim Miller, a doctoral candidate at Yale University and lead author of one of the papers, said in the statement. “It wasn’t built up gradually over billions of years, as astronomers might expect. This discovery provides a great opportunity to study how massive galaxies came together to build enormous galaxy clusters.”
Theophilus gives two reasons: Theological, to prove that Adam and Eve were not created by different gods. Anthropological: increase their affection:
And Adam having been cast out of Paradise, in this condition knew Eve his wife, whom God had formed into a wife for him out of his rib. And this He did, not as if He were unable to make his wife separately, but God foreknew that man would call upon a number of gods. And having this prescience, and knowing that through the serpent error would introduce a number of gods which had no existence,—for there being but one God, even then error was striving to disseminate a multitude of gods, saying, “Ye shall be as gods; ”—lest, then, it should be supposed that one God made the man and another the woman, therefore He made them both; and God made the woman together with the man, not only that thus the mystery of God’s sole government might be exhibited, but also that their mutual affection might be greater.
Theophilus of Antioch, “Theophilus to Autolycus,” in Fathers of the Second Century: Hermas, Tatian, Athenagoras, Theophilus, and Clement of Alexandria (Entire), ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, trans. Marcus Dods, vol. 2, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 105.
Theophilus next commences with a long discussion of the Creation. It is interesting that he takes Creation as the great distinction between the pagan and Christian worldviews. Interestingly, Peter Jones makes exactly the same distinction as the “bedrock” for the difference between Christianity and other positions:
In either case, here we reach rock bottom. Either the transcendent Creator— one God in the unending interpersonal life and love of the Trinity— is at the origin of everything created and sustains it all, or the universe itself, in all its seeming variety, is all there is. And in either case, whether we worship nature or the Maker of nature, we are dealing with a statement of faith and an expression of worship. We cannot step out of the universe to find an objective point of view. We must make a faith decision between these two alternatives— and there are only two. If God and nature make up reality, then all is two, and everything is either Creator or creature. On the other hand, if the universe is all there is, then all is one.
This choice is exemplified in the stark separation between two points of perspective: that of the Bible, and that of Camille Paglia, a contemporary philosopher. The Bible begins by saying: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth [i.e., nature]” (Gen 1: 1). Paglia begins her book Sexual Personae very differently: “In the beginning was Nature.” [footnote] These two views of reality have always existed, but because we have lived for centuries in a Christian environment, the reemerging conflict startles us. Paglia wrote what she did in conscious opposition to the perspective on the world put forth in Genesis. Christian thinking starts not with Paglia’s view of existence but with that of the Bible.
Robert Sokolowski, a professor of philosophy at the Catholic University of America, puts it this way:
Christian theology is differentiated from pagan religious and philosophical reflections primarily by the introduction of a new distinction, the distinction between the world, understood as possibly not having existed, and God, understood as possibly being all that there is, with no diminution of goodness or greatness.
Jones, Peter (2015-06-24). The Other Worldview: Exposing Christianity’s Greatest Threat (Kindle Locations 252-267). Kirkdale Press. Kindle Edition.
In making this argument, Theophilus relies heavily upon the text of Scripture, quoting out long sections of Genesis as argument. A few observations about Theophilus’ rendition of the creation account. First, he gives the rationale for the creation of human beings:
And first, they taught us with one consent that God made all things out of nothing; for nothing was coeval with God: but He being His own place, and wanting nothing, and existing before the ages, willed to make man by whom He might be known; for him, therefore, He prepared the world. For he that is created is also needy; but he that is uncreated stands in need of nothing.
Theophilus of Antioch, “Theophilus to Autolycus,” in Fathers of the Second Century: Hermas, Tatian, Athenagoras, Theophilus, and Clement of Alexandria (Entire), ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, trans. Marcus Dods, vol. 2, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 97–98.
Second, he does engage in some allegorizing of the text. This is not in contrast to the “literal” meaning, which he takes as a given, but as an additional layer of meaning. For example:
And we say that the world resembles the sea. For as the sea, if it had not had the influx and supply of the rivers and fountains to nourish it, would long since have been parched by reason of its saltness; so also the world, if it had not had the law of God and the prophets flowing and welling up sweetness, and compassion, and righteousness, and the doctrine of the holy commandments of God, would long ere now have come to ruin, by reason of the wickedness and sin which abound in it. And as in the sea there are islands, some of them habitable, and well-watered, and fruitful, with havens and harbours in which the storm-tossed may find refuge,—so God has given to the world which is driven and tempest-tossed by sins, assemblies6—we mean holy churches7—in which survive the doctrines of the truth, as in the island-harbours of good anchorage; and into these run those who desire to be saved, being lovers of the truth, and wishing to escape the wrath and judgment of God. And as, again, there are other islands, rocky and without water, and barren, and infested by wild beasts, and uninhabitable, and serving only to injure navigators and the storm-tossed, on which ships are wrecked, and those driven among them perish,—so there are doctrines of error—I mean heresies8word of truth; but as pirates, when they have filled their vessels,9 drive them on the fore-mentioned places, that they may spoil them: so also it happens in the case of those who err from the truth, that they are all totally ruined by their error.
Theophilus of Antioch, 100. He also sees the period of testing in Paradise as analogous to a Father raising a child:
The tree of knowledge itself was good, and its fruit was good. For it was not the tree, as some think, but the disobedience, which had death in it. For there was nothing else in the fruit than only knowledge; but knowledge is good when one uses it discreetly. But Adam, being yet an infant in age, was on this account as yet unable to receive knowledge worthily. For now, also, when a child is born it is not at once able to eat bread, but is nourished first with milk, and then, with the increment of years, it advances to solid food. Thus, too, would it have been with Adam; for not as one who grudged him, as some suppose, did God command him not to eat of knowledge. But He wished also to make proof of him, whether he was submissive to His commandment. And at the same time He wished man, infant as he was,4 to remain for some time longer simple and sincere. For this is holy, not only with God, but also with men, that in simplicity and guilelessness subjection be yielded to parents. But if it is right that children be subject to parents, how much more to the God and Father of all things? Besides, it is unseemly that children in infancy be wise beyond their years; for as in stature one increases in an orderly progress, so also in wisdom. But as when a law has commanded abstinence from anything, and some one has not obeyed, it is obviously not the law which causes punishment, but the disobedience and transgression;—for a father sometimes enjoins on his own child abstinence from certain things, and when he does not obey the paternal order, he is flogged and punished on account of the disobedience; and in this case the actions themselves are not the [cause of] stripes, but the disobedience procures punishment for him who disobeys;—so also for the first man, disobedience procured his expulsion from Paradise. Not, therefore, as if there were any evil in the tree of knowledge; but from his disobedience did man draw, as from a fountain, labour, pain, grief, and at last fall a prey to death.
Theophilus of Antioch, 104. This probationary period could have resulted in immortality from the beginning, had Adam kept the law of God:
But some one will say to us, Was man made by nature mortal? Certainly not. Was he, then, immortal? Neither do we affirm this. But one will say, Was he, then, nothing? Not even this hits the mark. He was by nature neither mortal nor immortal. For if He had made him immortal from the beginning, He would have made him God. Again, if He had made him mortal, God would seem to be the cause of his death. Neither, then, immortal nor yet mortal did He make him, but, as we have said above, capable of both; so that if he should incline to the things of immortality, keeping the commandment of God, he should receive as reward from Him immortality, and should become God; but if, on the other hand, he should turn to the things of death, disobeying God, he should himself be the cause of death to himself. For God made man free, and with power over himself.1 That, then, which man brought upon himself through carelessness and disobedience, this God now vouchsafes to him as a gift through His own philanthropy and pity, when men obey Him.2 For as man, disobeying, drew death upon himself; so, obeying the will of God, he who desires is able to procure for himself life everlasting. For God has given us a law and holy commandments; and every one who keeps these can be saved, and, obtaining the resurrection, can inherit incorruption.
Theophilus of Antioch, 105.
The previous post on the Apology of Theophilus may be found here
In chapters V, VI & VII, Theophilus takes his pagan reader to task by listing out all the various things the poets have said about the beginning of the gods and the world, and all the strange and confused genealogies. He quickly shows that the origin stories are wildly incoherent. As such, it would be easy to disregard this section of his apology (who believes in Greek myths any more?). But then he makes this argument which is salient:
And saying this, he has not yet explained by whom all this was made. For if chaos existed in the beginning, and matter of some sort, being uncreated, was previously existing, who was it that effected the change on its condition, and gave it a different order and shape? Did matter itself alter its own form and arrange itself into a world (for Jupiter was born, not only long after matter, but long after the world and many men; and so, too, was his father Saturn), or was there some ruling power which made it; I mean, of course, God, who also fashioned it into a world? Besides, he is found in every way to talk nonsense, and to contradict himself.
Theophilus of Antioch, “Theophilus to Autolycus,” in Fathers of the Second Century: Hermas, Tatian, Athenagoras, Theophilus, and Clement of Alexandria (Entire), ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, trans. Marcus Dods, vol. 2, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 96.
In the end, modern creation accounts differ little from pagan creation accounts: In the beginning was the world and the world made itself. There was some original state of stuff which somehow changed itself: but how?
To argue that in the beginning was a singularity may make for “god” with a name more amenable to our ears, but is that really much of an advance? Where did this singularity come from? Where did the rules which gave rise to control this singularity come from — that is information which is capable of molding matter and energy. It certainly has profound powers.
The names are different, the mechanism by which the formation takes place is different, but the basic story is the same.
Ralph Venning, 1650
VIII. Concerning Creation
67. He believes that God wrought six days, and yet he believes that God kept an everlasting Sabbath.
68. He believes that God created all things in time, and yet he believes that all which God does is done in eternity.
69. He believes that nothing has no good in it; and yet believes that God make all things of nothing and behold they were very good.
70. He believes that God never spake a word, and yet he believes that all things were created by the word of his mouth.
71. He believes that the creation was ended in six days, and yet he believes that creation is continued in providence every day.
A new study suggests that there are around 700 quintillion planets in the universe, but only one like Earth. It’s a revelation that’s both beautiful and terrifying at the same time.
Astrophysicist Erik Zackrisson from Uppsala University in Sweden arrived at this staggering figure — a 7 followed by 20 zeros — with the aid of a computer model that simulated the universe’s evolution following the Big Bang. Zackrisson’s model combined information about known exoplanets with our understanding of the early universe and the laws of physics to recreate the past 13.8 billion years.
Every single worldview has to start by answering the most basic question of all. Why is there something rather than nothing? Nothing would need no explanation; the existence of something does. Every single worldview that human beings have ever conceived or understood has to answer this question. The Christian worldview begins with the Christian doctrine of creation, which begins the very text of Scripture,
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
Everything in Scripture follows, and everything in the development of the Christian biblical worldview also follows from that very first axiom, the axiom of creation. Every alternative worldview has to answer the question in its own way. Now one interesting historical note is that it took centuries for any alternative worldview to arise in Western civilization as a rival to the Christian biblical worldview. There simply was no other alternative. That changed, particularly in the 19th century, with the arrival of Charles Darwin, Darwinism, and the theory of evolution. That allowed the development of a non-Christian, non-biblical worldview, an alternative worldview that was established in the axiom of materialism—that is that all that exists is that which is matter—naturalism, meaning that there has to be purely naturalistic explanations for all phenomena, and of course now we have the doctrine of evolution as one of the central doctrines of orthodoxy among the modern secular elites. We also have to note that every worldview moves from one question to another. The Christian worldview, like every other worldview, has to move from why is there something rather than nothing, which Christianity answers with the doctrine of creation, to what’s gone wrong with the world, which is where the Christian worldview answers with the doctrine of the fall and the doctrine of sin.
The next question is, can anything be done to rescue? And that is where the Christian doctrine of redemption, the doctrine of atonement through the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ to the whole doctrine of salvation, plays such a central role. And then every worldview has to answer the question, where is all of this going? That is the Christian doctrine of eschatology. A secular worldview, any secular worldview, or any other alternative worldview, has to answer those same questions; and the answer to that question, the very first question, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” actually, as we shall see, determines all the rest. It sets the trajectory for every other answer to all those other inescapable questions.
Iceland seems to be on its way to becoming an even more secular nation, according to a new poll. Less than half of Icelanders claim they are religious and more than 40% of young Icelanders identify as atheist. Remarkably the poll failed to find young Icelanders who accept the creation story of the Bible. 93.9% of Icelanders younger than 25 believed the world was created in the big bang, 6.1% either had no opinion or thought it had come into existence through some other means and 0.0% believed it had been created by God.
This story about Iceland seems related to this story about Icelanders: More than half of Icelanders believe in huldufolk, hidden people like elves and trolls.
Hebrews 1:1–4 (ESV)
1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.