“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” – John 12:24
“The last enemy to be destroyed is death...Death is swallowed up in victory.” – 1 Corinthians 15:26, 54
"The greater the sin, the greater the mercy, the deeper the death and the brighter the rebirth.” - C. S. Lewis
"This story...has the very taste of primary truth." - J. R. R. Tolkien

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Will "Heaven" Last Forever? Will God stop Creating?

...One question worth thinking about is, "will the Story continue forever?"1 I think it will - it seems to me that God is so overflowing with creative power that his creation must always be growing in new ways. There isn't a "ceiling" - never will creation reach some final, static, unchanging state of perfection. Rather, the Creator will always be creating; the eternal Fountain will always be pouring forth new things into being. In God there must surely be a bottomless well of potential designs and wonders to bring forth - surely He will always be creating and causing creation to grow without limit.

This is not to say that God can only look on his creation as an unfinished work. God is transcendent and eternal, beyond everything He creates, outside of time itself. When He looks on creation, He sees the whole Story as the Author, the Dance in its entirety, as the One who made it. Being the eternal and infinite God, his perspective is that of one who is beyond and outside it all.

But God has also entered creation through the Incarnation. Although He wrote it, He himself took part in the Dance and Story. Jesus Christ was God incarnate, so in Christ God lived as a creature and experienced the passage of time. God in his transcendent fullness is beyond time, and He sees in eternity the whole of (temporal) creation "from the outside," yet in Christ He has also entered time and experiences creation "from the inside," perhaps even looking forward to the unrealized future. How both these truths can stand remains a mystery; it is not a blatant contradiction, but a paradox beyond comprehension. We see in God's relation to time yet another aspect of the paradoxical Creator-creation relationship - both an uncrossable chasm and an unbreakable bond.

But how, one might ask, can even God see the whole Story at once if it will never end, if it is truly infinite? Here we can say little, because we do not see God as He is: infinite and eternal, wholly beyond everything He makes. Could creation ever grow beyond or out away from its Maker? We must remember the great chasm between Creator and creation. God always holds creation in the palm of his hand, even if it is in infinite, never-ending growth.2 If we cannot comprehend infinity, how much less can we comprehend the Maker of that infinity! And if that infinity is unbounded and endless, how much more vast and bottomless must be the One who gave it being! If creation will always be growing, ever higher and deeper, "further up and further in" for all eternity, mounting endlessly to wonders that are far beyond anything that preceded them - if that is the case, then God waits at eternity to receive it all in its fullness. Never can anything grow out away from God, beyond his sight or grasp; all things tend towards Him, because all things come from Him and cannot escape Him. He, the fountain and foundation, gave it being in the first place, and He, the infinite Omega, gathers to Himself His infinitely growing creation. The light comes from Him and returns to Him, and He is all in all.

God alone, then, can see his boundlessly growing creation in a state of completeness - not static or sterile finality, but dynamic fullness. Although we, from the inside, as it were, may never reach an end, God holds the infinite and limitless whole in the palm of his hand. If creation is unbounded and limitless, growing forever, this does not imply that it is always incomplete and imperfect. It may seem so from a time-bound perspective, but God, while experiencing time in Christ, is beyond all in His divine fullness, and just as He rejoices in his own infinite glory and in Himself as the eternal origin from which all the designs of creation come, so also He sees the whole of his endless creative work and rejoices in its perfection.

But for us, human beings whose only frame of reference is from within creation, there will be no end to the journey, no final moment after which there will be nothing new. Our world of experience of who God is and what He has done will always be growing and expanding. Higher and greater revelations, "new dimensions of glory" will never end, and what we see of God will always be infinitely surpassed by what follows. Yet because we are finite and God is infinite, because we are created and God is the foundation of existence itself, we will never know or see Him fully - not all that He is. We will, as Paul says, see Him face to face, but we will never penetrate the infinite mystery of God, and for that He is to be praised.

1 Again, this raises interesting questions about the nature of time. Maybe there is a way for the Story to continue, for there to be growth and change, in a non-temporal sense. What this might be like, we cannot even imagine. When I speak of change and growth, then, I am thinking in the only comprehensible context: time.
2 Creation is always growing explosively, perhaps even gaining momentum indefinitely as God continually makes new things. Reality is huge, "heavy" in the fullness of its being, seemingly unstoppable in dynamic movement, but God holds at all as if it were nothing. It is all from Him and was eternally present in His mind, and He has unbounded and unfathomable power to hold it all together, like a grain of sand between His fingers.

2 comments:

  1. Interesting hypothesis. Rationally your conclusions make sense taking from what we know of God and applying it to what we don't know about God, but I find it difficult to arrive at the same conclusions without any Scriptural backup. Some verses would really help to solidify your post.

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  2. My line of thought here is indirectly rooted in Scripture, to some extent, in that it assumes an idea of God motivated by the Christian story, as told in the Bible. Of course my ideas here go further, and I think that's ok - just because Paul, James, etc. may not have thought about all the questions about God that can be asked does not mean that we should not. Theological arguments are not necessarily deficient if they cannot be demonstrated from Scripture - Scripture is an important path to knowledge of God, but certainly not the only one.

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