an upside right cosmos

Russell Minick 1 Comment

Crown~Heart~World is a simplified diagram of a Christian worldview

So the Crown, that’s God.  The self-existing, I AM, King of all, personal God of Abraham ultimately revealed in Jesus.  The heart is for humanity; love and all.  But the circle with the arrow?  That is “the world”.  What?

When I talk through the diagram, the world image has never really been a point of much discussion.  I should be glad.  It could be very complicated.
There has been more discussion on this icon than others.  Originally it was a little globe.  A globe from the perspective of people in the Northern hemisphered; toward the west… it was American.
So, there were efforts to take geography out of it and just show good and then later bad.  The concept is explained as “upside right” and “upside down”.  For a while there was a little arc in the bubble, like a light reflection, but it wasn’t that clear, and then some thought the arc should be in this place or that to reflect up or down.  That defeats the whole purpose.  The icons need to be simple enough that 1) anyone can draw them and 2) that they convey the basic idea easily enough once it is stated.  So, we are currently at the circle with an arrow up to show “the world” upside right, and an arrow down to show it all messed up and fallen and such.

So what is meant by “the world”?  I am afraid that sooner or later someone will ask that, and actually expect a cogent answer.  It really is quite difficult.  The world = the cosmos = everything that exists that isn’t a people or God.  So, obviously that is bigger than the globe.  It includes the whole universe (or other cool name for whatever is everything) as well as non-human spiritual persons.  That would be angels and demons, to be succinct.
One challenge is that I don’t get to address the problem of limited knowledge until the second column.  Beginning with the fall I argue that we really don’t have a full grasp on reality, and then I go out of my way to make sure that even as Christians we don’t have a full grasp on as much reality as we would like including things like angels and demons and God.


This doesn’t settle well with some.  Because of confidence in divine revelation, through the prophets and ultimately in Son, Christian teaching is empowered with confidence in Truth about Truth being truly revealed, and yeah, that is true.  But…  Things which are told, about things which are, are told with limits of quantity and limits of language and limits of the receptors.  People just are not able to understand unlimited amounts of information, or to understand with unlimited precision.  We all, prophets and apostles included, only understand in part.
That broad idea is a very important part of this little diagram.  But for today, I’m trying to touch on the cosmos idea, and can only reference the idea about limited knowledge.  I need to reference it, because I know so little about the cosmos, or about how it is upside right and/or upside down.  Some are much more confident than I.  Some know when and how everything was created and what it all looked and smelled like, including the talking snake.  Some know everything that doesn’t exist and can’t exist and quickly check their list when stories which include a talking snake are told.  I’m neither.  I only know in part.

What I know experientially, even via scientific collections of other people knowing experientially, is all from the perspective of the upside cosmos.  How do I know this?  Only from revelation.  The only overlap with revelation and science in regard to a pre-fall ‘other’ cosmos reality is in plausibility efforts.  Christians (or other creationists) can take scientific bits of facts and summations and try to run them through a creationist story set and see if the bits still make sense, or, even better sense when told through the pre-fall concept.  My favorite example is of the idea of a canopy around the early earth.  The idea is that radiation is kept out and that is why people before the flood are recorded as living for centuries, and after the flood, for decades.  There is also an interesting bit about giganticism and a canopy explaining why dinosaurs could be big then, but there aren’t things that big now.  All very interesting, but all quite messy.

That’s certainly controversial enough, but add in the fall of angelic beings and the gap between empirical and revealed truth is suddenly so big it takes effort to show they are connected enough to even be described as having a gap.  This one is, quite honestly, answered more often by spooky anecdotes.  Even people who don’t claim to believe is spirits and such sometimes wonder why it took Bruce Willis so long to realize that the kid that could see dead people saw him and no one else did.
The discussion can go to anthropology, but it is usually a wash.  Every story that raises one’s hairs also raises questions of epistemology, neurology and cultural presuppositions in framing perceptions of experience.  That is an almost impossible gauntlet to run.
So, somewhere between the empathetic touch on someone’s spooky side and an argument for not being able to know what you don’t know, you may be able to get a hearing about revealed stories of angels and demons.  But like over steering on an icy road, the correction can be disastrous.
Even people who claim not to believe in spiritual beings can be amazingly confident in the taxonomy of those spiritual beings they don’t believe in.  More so those who confidently do believe.  Among those, there are some real gems who actually have charts.  They can tell you about Tartarus, and the dry places, and more than you want to know.  But, too often, those people are not the kind of people you want your kids to grow up and be like; at least not in my experience.
What I’m left with is the following.  (This is why I need a book, not a blog).
The greater cosmos is really big and older than my brain can understand.  Greater cosmos is my spontaneous term to avoid exposing my failure to understand universe vs. multiverse etc.  (Though I did get the jokes in Men in Black 3 about someone living in every possible outcome).  As for ‘old’ I have to admit that numbers over a couple of zeros are not meaningfully manageable for me.  I can fake it, but really trying to hold the difference of 1850 A.D. (or C.E.) vs 1850 B.C (or B.C.E) is relative.  I only do it well enough to be smug and condescending to people who can’t do it at all.  But really, the idea of massive scope, in time or space, is quickly humbling.  The main point of saying it is all very big and very old, is to say I can’t contain the story, any story, of origins.  I am limited, and even though I can learn more and more about more and more, it is never really enough.  I end up like Job before God admitting how much more there is to know than I can know.

So what good is my confession that origins are bigger and older than my thinking?  It limits my claims, which makes the discussion (in my head and with others) more possible.  What I am left to focus on is what I call a sense of “ought”.  There is a sense in which things are a bit off.  They are not what they “ought” to be.  People ought to be more just and good and less stupid and mean.  I am not referring to being frustrated with the pace of evolution or of civilizational development, I’m referring to willfulness.  It seems to me that, very cave like people or egg heads can be willfully cruel.  This happens in remote villages I’ve lived in and in major world cities I’ve lived in.  It is more than some issue of biological development over eons, or culture constructs or even psychological off centeredness.  People have wills, and sometimes they use them shockingly badly.  The do what they “ought” not do.  Why?  And why does it seem so much more than a deficiency, an error, a variant?  Why does cruelty carry such gravitas?  I believe there was and is an “ought” and that Genesis 1 and 2 speaks to that.

Joachim Low places a candle during a visit of the German national soccer team at the Nazi death camp of Auschwitz in Oswiecim, southern Poland, Friday June 1, 2012. Photo AP

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Comments 1

  1. Appreciate your musings here…
    1) Planning on using the 5 columns as part of my sermon this Sunday, was trying to remember how to draw the world correctly (I've noticed & wondered at the evolution of “the world” – symbol – over the years ;),

    2) Was trying to recall how the spiritual dimensions play into the 5 columns – highly relevant to my listeners,

    3) Been working thru the nature of epistemology, of relating our limited capacity & broken perceptions to the reality of special revelation, &

    4) Wondering what you're musing about these days.

    Thanks. Hope you're doing well & enjoying a break from urgency. Really hoping to find balance on that someday, but that's a subject for another night…

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