Today’s post is by Dr. Brian Mattson, Senior Scholar of Public Theology for the Center For Cultural Leadership, continuing his series on The Apostles’ Creed. You can fan his Facebook page (Dr. Brian G. Mattson), follow him on Twitter (@BrianGMattson), and read his blog (www.drbrianmattson.com).
The late Douglas Adams begins his book, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (a sequel to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), with these words:
The story thus far:
In the beginning the universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.
Not only is this humorous in its fashion, but it is also a perfect expression of the pagan concept of creation. And the root of it is the notion that the dysfunction of the present world in which we live is “given” with creation itself. This is why all the ancient cosmogonies or origin myths held in common the view that creation was the result of strife of some sort, a battle between rival gods and so forth. According to paganism, creation was born under a bad moon.
No less was this the view of the heretical Gnostic sects in the early centuries. The church found itself contending with groups that emphatically denied that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is the creator of the universe. Yes, they spoke of Jesus and his “Father,” but they did not identify this “Father” as the God of Genesis 1:1. Yahweh, the creator of heaven and earth, was a “demiurge,” an ignorant, low-level deity who basically made a “bad move” by creating the world of space, matter, and time. Jesus revealed, in fact, a god heretofore completely unknown, a “Father” above and beyond the creator of heaven and earth.
And so the Gnostics, following standard operating procedure for pagan worldviews, were among those whom, as Adams puts it, widely regarded creation as a “bad move.” The source of our problems and dysfunction is that we live in a world given to suffering, and the cause of that suffering is matter and time. Think of it: are we not betrayed by our bodies when we lust and envy? Are we not betrayed by time, as things continually change and our accomplishments seem so fleeting? Surely the “good” life must transcend this messy place, and our true home must be spiritual instead of material.
Was this only a challenge to the early church? By no means! Neo-paganism (Druidism, Wicca, Deep Ecology, etc.) believes that death is the natural state of affairs and that history is the continual cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. Buddhism and Hinduism believe that our “problem” is that we are caught up on an endless “wheel of existence,” the illusory world of matter and time. We must transcend our bodies and achieve “oneness” with the spiritual reality above and beyond us. Continue Reading…