- Natural Theology is the study of what can be known about God apart from [special] revelation. It tries to show that certain truths about God (e.g., that God exists, that there is only one God, that He is Good) are demonstrable by reason. In a sense, the things even belonging to Natural Theology are contain in Scripture issofar as Scripture speaks of many things which could be discovered by humans without God revealing them.
- For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.
Indeed, things such as "love", “goodness”, “fairness”, “justice” and even “life” itself must have originated from something always existing (which as previously mentioned, in theological terms is identified as God’s aseity). All these attributes we can rationally identify as having a source, which we believe is God. Since the beginning of the world, people have always been able to know God exists because God is clearly seen behind what is made. Indeed, the Psalmist sings (Psalm 19:1-4),
- 1The heavens are telling of the glory of God;
And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.
2Day to day pours forth speech,
And night to night reveals knowledge.
3There is no speech, nor are there words;
Their voice is not heard.
4Their line has gone out through all the earth,
And their utterances to the end of the world.
Take the explicit mention of the rainbow being a sign of God’s promise to humanity, to not wipe us out. I’ll talk more on this later, but the “rainbow”, while most theologians (both YEC and OEC) believe it existed prior to any flood, the rainbow was intended to be a sign of God’s covenant with humanity, a sign that God would work with us regardless, and ultimately redeem us from our helplessness against sin and death.
Keep in mind the conclusion of my last post (part 2), that while physical death is had, such symbolises the spiritual truth that our being separated from the Source of Life (God) results in a true everlasting death -- this is what I call the Natural Theology of death. Like the rainbow is a natural revelation of God’s covenant with sinful humanity, so too physical death is a natural revelation of our very real and possible separation from God, who is the Source of all life.
To reiterate this important point, physical death is another “symbol” we find in our world that is built upon the real and very important spiritual truth that our turning away from God results is our being separated from the Source of Life and a more complete death. Indeed, this death is described in Scripture as an everlasting death, it is one wherein God entirely withdraws Himself from us. What is left of such a person in such a state, I don’t really know. If anything is left, being conscious in such a state I imagine it’d be absolute hell, quite literally Hell. Words in Scripture describe in many unique and even contrary ways what being in such a place is like, conveying its horribleness. Indeed, I see such a place is logically necessary if one rejects God who is the source of life, or if God cannot accept a person due to their unresolved sin and enmity against Him. Besides complete annihilation, what else is logically possible, if one rejects the Source of Life?
As a side issue, I personally believe that a person's heart can respond to God even if they’ve not heard about Christ. That such people, can come to Christ in unique ways. God sees a person’s heart, sees them responding to His natural revelation, and so reveals Himself more specially, perhaps in dreams or the like. While rare, I consider such to be possible, and we even hear of such things happening on occasion. BUT, the question to anyone reading this, you’ve got more than a natural revelation, you’ve heard about Christ and so the question is very different and one of whether or not you believe personally in this Christ? If you’re unsure about what that means, then God’s given you a mind to find out more but your hearts will reveal whether or not you can be bothered moving in such a direction. I pray that if you’re reading this and you're someone where God, let alone Christ, just doesn’t arise in your life as having any significance or importance -- I pray that one day you’ll respond differently to God’s calling out to you and continual attempts to draw you to Himself, that you'll eventually stop ignoring such and writing it all down to coincidence, see God and acknowledge Him. Audie, Kenny, Ed and others, IceMobster to a somewhat lesser degree, I'm talking about people like you.
So then, I see that God gets the complete picture of the person, each human being, each of us, through our lives lived here, whether we even ponder His existence. Many in this world choose to be like Sisyphus, pointlessly rolling the boulder up the hill, to watch it roll back down, and repeating this over and over again (work, eat, drink, work, eat, drink, sleep *repeat until death*), all the while shaking fists at “the gods” who they believe don’t exist—such just gives some all the more motivation to keep going in their lives which will ultimately be meaningless when they, their children and children’s children, and eventually the whole world along with them, expire into nothing.
Is it any wonder that Scripture says those of us who see and know God, who trust in Christ through whom we are made right with God,
- Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21 for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Getting back to the topic of death, and my conclusion here, if there is something that we can be sure of, it is this: Physical death will come to us all, even planet Earth, our solar system and whole universe which is ever expanding and burning out!
We understand, through looking at what has been created, that our world is temporary, it was intentionally made that way. One might here ask, “Why was our world made temporary?”
As before with the question, “Why does death exist in our world?”, one could respond that our world was made temporary as a consequence of sin in world, human sin. Unlike previously though, a temporary world, or a world that is winding down, while a consequent of sin it isn’t necessarily also a punishment for sin. Rather we can see how God creating our world to be temporary forms a part of His redemptive plan for humanity to enter into His eternal kingdom, right? This temporary world allows us to come to many decisions, develop ourselves, sin against God, deliberately turn way one or the other, and hopefully return back to Him to be raised into life everlasting into God's eternal kingdom.
So then, God purposefully designed us and gave us mortal bodies to live out our days within a temporary physical world. The intention being that we would be sown with our physical weaknesses in Him, and raised in strength into an eternal life and kingdom that won’t pass away. Whether or not God replaces the current world that is perishing with some immaterial kingdom called "Heaven", or whether another physical world, a paradise will be restored as some believe wherein wolves live peacefully with lambs, leopards and lions lying down alongside young goats and calves, etc, I’m not so much concerned. As I’ve become fond of saying, my Lord and master is on the other side, so while I don't not exactly what awaits me hereafter, He is there and that’s all that matters to me.
What I am concerned to illustrate here, is that it was God’s intention to design our world to pass away, in order for us to be redeemable and sown into imperishable bodies in His everlasting kingdom wherein Christ reigns forever and ever.
The Apostle Paul is clear of much of this in 1 Corinthians 15:
- 35But someone will say, “How are the dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come?” 36You fool! That which you sow does not come to life unless it dies; 37and that which you sow, you do not sow the body which is to be, but a bare grain, perhaps of wheat or of something else. 38But God gives it a body just as He wished, and to each of the seeds a body of its own. 39All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one flesh of men, and another flesh of beasts, and another flesh of birds, and another of fish. 40There are also heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one, and the glory of the earthly is another. 41There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.
42So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; 43it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45So also it is written, “The first MAN, Adam, BECAME A LIVING SOUL.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual. 47The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven. 48As is the earthy, so also are those who are earthy; and as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly. 49Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we will also bear the image of the heavenly.
The Mystery of Resurrection
50Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.51Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, 52in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory. 55“O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?” 56The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; 57but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
NOW, as I’ve been reasoning in this post, with Natural Theology, we can know things about God from what has been made, so too I believe we can know spiritual matters. To repeat, there exist exemplars, spiritual narratives, that are found in the created order, of our physical world and out in nature.
I mean take the female mantis who devours the males after copulating—oh, how I wonder how Darwin missed the natural theology behind such. He was puzzled about how God could design such a thing, asked the question rhetorically without thinking an answer existed about why would God design such a thing? How many great men have fallen due to beauty of women and whether due to their own stupidity or perhaps being seduced, have fallen due to their lust? Yes, I believe even simple things like this that we observe in nature, that such represent many spiritual truths open to all to see, even those who may not believe in God. Consider Buddhists too look to the natural world for spiritual meaning, as do a great number of poets or lyricists who may or may not be religious. Poetry and songs often provide many spiritual truths using allegory and real examples found in our natural world that convey and reveal true immaterial truths that we can relate to.
So then, I’ll end this by reasoning for “death” in our world, indeed our world which is very temporary, was intentionally designed to represent spiritual truths and played an important role, as the Apostle Paul reasoned in 1 Cor 15, in our eternal redemption. That said, if Adam had not sinned, then God would never have designed physical death as the consequent to sin, there would have been no reason for such. Death is indeed therefore a consequent to human sin.
Now the central question between YECs and OECs is obviously this:
- Given physical death is a symbol of the spiritual truth that turning away from the Source of Life results in an everlasting death, did God create such in his wisdom and foreknowledge as part of the original pre-Fallen world (like say the rainbow which existed prior to any flood but was equally used to symbolise spiritual truths), or was death created as a consequence and the world allowed to deteriorate at the time of Adam’s sin?
To be clear, the question I’ll look to deal with in my next post in this:
- 1) Did God install death as part of the natural world in the beginning in response to sin, and death then came upon humanity as punishment -- physical death representing the spiritual truth of what "death" actually is, chiefly separation from God (i.e., the Source of Life); or
2) Did God install death as part of the natural world after humanity sinned due to sin -- nonetheless physical death is an example of the spiritual truth of what "death" actually is, chiefly separation from God (i.e., the Source of Life).