October 30, 2011

POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAY: Christianity – “For the Cosmos” or “A Humans Only” Club?

Four years ago, I came into the blogosphere with a couple of essays I’d written in a different environment: http://faithandsciencefiction.blogspot.com/2007/10/christianity-anthropocentric-or.html

The comments I got came mostly from one individual named David B. Ellis, who runs a blog called The Paintings of David B. Ellis (http://davidellisart.blogspot.com/) – though he hasn’t posted there since June 2011. They were good comments then and their wisdom has aged since and taken on a smooth, thoughtful character and I’d like to take a stab at the subject again…

His main objection to my thesis at the time was that I wasn’t defining my terms either well or correctly. This time I will try to do both and I’ll look at the Bible, in this case using both the New American Standard version as well as cross referencing an online Greek-English Interlinear Bible (http://www.scripture4all.org/OnlineInterlinear/Greek_Index.htm) to nail down my language.

This discussion will likely turn into a series and I’ll be posting them in the regular PIE column as well as collecting all of them under one tab you’ll find on the right, Christianity: “For the Cosmos” or a “Humans Only” Club?

For the purpose of this discussion, I’m going to be using the term “for the cosmos” instead of “universal”, the term I first used. Taking a roundabout path to explain the change, let me expand on this.

Why the change from universe to cosmos?

“universe” is “all existing matter and space”. The etymological dictionary proposes that the word came from a union of two phrases, unus (which means “one”) and versus (which means “to turn”).

Cosmos encompasses more: "order, good order, orderly arrangement," (the same root as cosmetology) Pythagoras is said to have been the first to apply this word to "the universe"; the Septuagint uses both kosmos and oikoumene. (This is where the name of Ursula K. LeGuin’s interstellar “Ekumen” comes from) so this is a bigger word, a more encompassing word. It seems to include someone who did the order in the first place.

For me, cosmos has a larger meaning than universe. So this point onward, I will say that Christianity is intended for the cosmos.

I want to point out that God created “the heavens” (Genesis 1:1) in addition to the Earth. He is a God of order and “God created” implies an orderly arrangement more than a turning matter and space.

As to that order, Human Christians have no trouble with the “God created the Earth” part of that verse. But as is typical of myopic Humanity (myself included), we ignore “the heavens” and interpret them to mean “everything that isn’t on Earth and therefore not particularly important”.

I am going to say that the heavens are MORE important than the Earth. That’s why they are mentioned first. Even in Hebrew, “heavens” came before “Earth” (http://www.scripture4all.org/OnlineInterlinear/OTpdf/gen1.pdf) though based on the relative unimportance of word-order in Hebrew, that may or may not be significant. However, among the Hebrew-speaking Christians who wrote the New Testament in Greek (where word order IS important), of the nine times where “heavens” and “Earth” are mentioned, seven times heaven is listed first.

I think that this implies that the heavens are at least as important as the Earth and likely more so.

In the Old and New Testament, stars and the heavens are mentioned together 25 times. While this isn’t conclusive proof that the stuff above Earth is important, I would venture to say that the stars are important to God.

If there is intelligent life living on worlds that orbit those stars, I believe that it is important to God as well. The heavens implies more than just stars and the universe, it implies the word cosmos, so that God and His plans are for the cosmos rather than simply for Humans.

Up next? If Humans were created perfect and fell from grace, are there intelligent life forms that were created perfect and did NOT fall from grace?

Image: http://i201.photobucket.com/albums/aa241/silverstream716/human-space-universe-cosmos.jpg

1 comment:

Paul said...

Also, the heavens were included as part of the creation in order to distinguish the Hebrew god from other gods. E.g., where for other societies the sun and the moon were gods, for the Hebrews they were just "the greater light" and "the lesser light"--the fact that they're not even given names in Genesis 1 is telling. I don't know whether the Hebrews thought the heavens were composed of some qualitatively different stuff than Earth, but they certainly believed the heavens were created in a manner similar to Earth's creation.