Creation or endless cycle of re-creation?
Does God govern an endless cycle of destruction and rebirth? Or does God govern a linear view of history from creation to consummation in Christ? R.M. from India writes:
Bible itself says we need to take only what is “fine” (kalose, Greek, intrinsically good) from the Scriptures (1 Thess 5:21) because there are many contradictory and confusing verses in the Scriptures. Existence of many contradicting factors need not be a problem because we can read in between lines, events and isms. Let us make a try:
We see what is new becoming old and decadent as the time passes by. What has become old can be renewed by God Almighty. This means history starts with perfect conditions and remains as one world family for some time, and gradually becomes imperfect when people become egoistic; and a measure of disorder sets in many avenues of life—some of the humans and animals becoming eaters of flesh of other living beings and some of the micro organisms turning malevolent and migrating into human bodies causing illness … etc. Each experience teaches us something, and pain-mechanism tells us how to avoid further/future pain, which makes God’s intervention and communication unnecessary on every choice each individual makes. If humans make onward progress taking lessons from pain, God doesn’t have to intervene. But if humans repeat their wasteful acts and situation becomes the worst, then God has to intervene, and renew the provisions for life’s enjoyment whenever they deplete/destroy them. (Mathew 19:28) This would mean history is a cycle of New World and Old World. [Each cycle of history cannot be very long because we see population doubling in every 50 years. Even if we give an extended period of 150 years for population to double, each cycle would be still a few thousand years. Go on dividing the present population of 8 billion by 2 for 32 times, you will find only two people on earth].
Renewal of Old World at regular interval is in harmony with two opposing isms—Theism and Atheism: Theism says “From the more comes the less,” and atheism says “from the less comes the more” [as implied by Natural Selection which is “the process ultimately capable of generating complexity out of simplicity,” God Delusion, Richard Dawkins] Thus both agree that something comes from something—a fact that can have no beginning nor end. Religions differ only in some details, not in essence because they all teach God exists, everyone receives what he/she sows … etc. We are now nearing the time when God next renews provisions for life’s enjoyment because we see they are nearing their depletion/destruction.
This cycle of New World and Old World [or cycle of paradise earth becoming a hellish earth which would again be renewed to paradise earth] is in harmony with what we see in the nature. Nature has a rhythm and things happen in cycles such as cycle of night and day, cycle of season, carbon cycle, nitrogen cycle… etc. There are cycles happening within us too—our breathing is a cycle of inhaling and exhaling; cells in our bodies become old and are being replaced with new ones at regular intervals! Even when we sleep at night, we typically go through several sleep cycles. And each one of these cycles consists of 4 different stages of sleep—awake, light sleep, deep sleep and REM sleep. Those cycles show A MUTUAL INTERDEPENDENCE and purpose. For example, each season emerges from the previous and gently turns into the next. Winter snows feed the ground for Spring’s blossoms. Summer’s heat ripens the plants for Fall’s harvest. While in day, we desire for night and vice versa. While in hot Summer we wish it was Fall. While in cold Winter we wish it was Spring. This is true of the greater cycle of New World and old world alternating on earth.
Increasing population also reveals something interesting — the way in which everyone reaps what he/she sows. “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:38) Every one receives varying rewards according to the degree of his righteousness they chose to display when they lived during previous cycle. In each cycle, souls descend at varying times, but go back at the same time all together. When the Old World ends, all the souls return to heaven at the same time, as though children returning for home from play ground, and remain there till the New World is recreated on earth, and start coming down to play at different timings, number-wise, according to the degree of righteousness each one chose to display when they were on earth during previous cycle. Most righteous ones descend first into New World, followed by the less and less righteous ones; thus population on earth go on increasing which means heaven is being gradually emptied. Once on earth, souls go on reincarnating. It means those who descend first get more births living through better conditions and those who descend last get only one birth when earth looks like hell, and those who descend in between vary in the number of birth they get depending upon the degree of their righteousness. In other words, in each cycle of history some have varying number of reincarnations while others have only one birth. This means some good people are always available on earth, in some form or the other, as a moral force for good. Thus righteous ones live through both New World and Old World whereas the rest live through Old World only. And next cycle begins. Thus God plays His role of One who renews/recreates at regular interval which means He is silent on other occasions which implies he is not interested in our worship. We as His children have to be worship-worthy by doing good to others without expecting anything in return—which is the core quality of God (Mathew 5:44–48)
CMI’s Shaun Doyle responds:
My first question is: where’s your evidence for any of this? The biblical references you offer are either irrelevant to what you claim, or they contradict your claims.
- 1 Thessalonians 5:21 doesn’t encourage us to discard some Scriptures, but to test things against what God has said (in the Scriptures). Jesus said “Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35), and Paul said that every Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for us (Romans 15:3–4, 2 Timothy 3:16). The implication being that God's word is perfectly trustworthy and inerrant. Instead, people were commended for testing Paul’s message by the Scriptures (Acts 17:11). Jesus and the New Testament writers all thought that a quotation of Scripture (usually introduced with the formula “it is written”) was enough to settle a matter. Obviously, we believe in the inerrancy of Scripture, but if you want to dispute it, please see our Answering Bible skeptics page.
- Matthew 19:28 isn’t a general principle of destruction and renewal; it’s referring to a singular event. It’s about the restored creation Jesus will usher in after He returns. The creation will always remain in that condition after it has been restored (The New Earth).
- Luke 6:38 is a warning about how we judge people. It has absolutely nothing to do with population growth!
- Matthew 5:44–48 is about emulating God’s character, not about becoming worship-worthy like God. God is the only one we should worship (Exodus 20:3, Deuteronomy 6:11, Matthew 4:10).
And we agree human population growth is more consistent with a short span for human history than long evolutionary ages (Where have all the people gone?). However, that provides no evidence for an endless cycle of short human histories. It only provides evidence of a short human history; nothing more.
Second, your views entail that God doesn’t give us eternal life. If God ‘rewards’ souls by sending them back earlier in the next cycle, that clearly isn’t eternal communion with God, which is precisely what the New Testament promises believers in Christ all the way through (e.g. John 3:16, 1 Corinthians 15:24,28,53; Revelation 21:3–4). Therefore, your views are contrary to Scripture.
Third, there’s no evidence for this endless cycle of destruction and renewal. The Bible certainly doesn’t agree with it, since it teaches that God created everything, and strongly implies that time began (see Process theism and Did God create time?). Science supports this (Physicists: The universe had a beginning and In the beginning God created—or was it a quantum fluctuation?). Plus, a beginning-less past is metaphysically absurd. Traversing an infinite series of time intervals (e.g. seconds) can’t be done. Can we count steadily up to infinity? No. Can we count steadily down from infinity to zero? No. Why? If one person counted at one number per second, and another at one number every 2 seconds, they should’ve both counted either to or from infinity by now. But how can that be, since one is counting twice as fast as the other? The gap between them is getting larger the more they count. After 10 seconds, one will be at 10 and the other at 5. After 100 seconds, one will be at 100 and the other at 50. After 1,000,000 seconds, one will be at 1,000,000, and the other at 500,000. Thus, time must have had a first interval—time must have begun. (For another reason why a beginning-less past is absurd, please see Doubt your doubts!)
Fourth, your framework doesn’t offer a harmony between theism and atheism. Theism is the claim ‘God exists’, and atheism is the claim ‘there is no God’. Whichever is true, the other must be false; they are contradictory claims. There can be no harmony between them as relates to truth. Indeed, they don’t even always agree that something can’t come from nothing. Some atheists claim that the universe popped into being uncaused. And your framework offers no harmony between the two because it’s explicitly theistic: it posits a God who controls the cycle of destruction and renewal.
It looks to me like you have tried to mix some biblical themes with some Hindu themes to create a hybrid spirituality. Jesus doesn’t allow for such mixing, however. He is either the only way to God (John 14:6, Acts 4:12), or we should ignore Him completely. And He was undoubtedly a first century Jew: He worshipped God (Matthew 4:10), and enjoined others to do so (Mark 12:30). He said God will fix the world permanently (Matthew 19:28, John 5:28–29). He believed God created the world a finite time ago (Mark 10:6).
A crucial problem is this cyclic view of history you have adopted. We of course measure time’s passage using cycles (days, weeks, months, years). But that doesn’t mean the cosmos endlessly cycles through its own sort of destruction and rebirth. Indeed, if it did, why posit God as the cause of that? Can’t He move the world beyond such a cycle? If He can’t, then He’s part of the cycle, and not sovereign over it. Thus, He’s not worthy of worship. And if He won’t move the world beyond such a ‘destruction/rebirth’ cycle, why not? What’s the purpose of such an endless merry-go-round? It would seem like He just periodically hits the ‘reset’ button on His cosmic video game. But nobody’s under the illusion that video game characters are real people. Thus, if God sustains an endless merry-go-round, it looks like we’re nothing more than video game characters to God. I don’t see how such a ‘god’ is worthy of worship.
On top of these theological problems with God causing an eternal destruction-rebirth cosmic cycle, other causes would be simpler. Why not just say the system is self-sustaining? You could parse that in pantheistic or atheistic terms if you want, but the difference between the two doesn’t really matter. Both confess that the cosmos is the ultimate reality.
Rather, history is fundamentally linear—it moves forward from its beginning through time to its climax and consummation of purpose. The climax was Jesus’ first coming, and the consummation of its purpose will be at Jesus’ return to judge all. Why? We’re persons called to share in the divine nature (2 Peter 1:3–4). God honours us by giving Himself (in the Son and the Spirit) to us in love, so that we can give ourselves to Him in loving response and bring us into full fellowship with Himself (when the Father is all in all—1 Corinthians 15:28). Therefore, loving God is our most important duty (Mark 12:29–30). It’s not because God is an insecure glory hog; it’s because He is the ultimate good, and worshipping Him is the best thing for our ultimate good.
Finally, eternal life goes to those who trust in His Son, not necessarily to the most moral people. Why? Nobody lives up to God’s perfect standard (Matthew 5:48, Romans 3:23). Thus, ‘most moral’ in a human sense means precisely nothing before the Divine judge, because it’s not enough. As such, salvation can only come if we’re graciously pardoned by the Divine judge. And that’s exactly what God does in Christ. Jesus took our liability to punishment by God away in the cross (Galatians 3:13), so that, if we latch onto His gift of forgiveness, we won’t be punished by the divine court (Romans 8:1) (Does God judge sinners?). See Good News! for what this is all about.
I highly recommend Christianity for Skeptics for a defence of biblical Christianity.