The Bible’s Hidden Cosmology
By Gordon Strachan
The Bible’s Hidden Cosmology is an enquiry into the links between the bible and ancient cosmology. By cosmology I mean the way in which biblical writers and their contemporaries viewed the universe and how that view affected their faith in God. Using a surprisingly sophisticated range of symbol, metaphor, analogy and philosophy, the ancient biblical writers presented a coherent model of the cosmos which has much to teach us today. Over the centuries, many aspects of it have been ignored or dangerously distorted by historical Christianity, which has tended to emphasise an inward looking, church centred understanding of religion rather than a creation centred, cosmic one, with potentially tragic consequences.
Over the past twenty years, in America in particular, there has been a strand of Christianity which not only ignores, but positively looks forward to the destruction of creation as a sign of the return of Christ. This form of apocalyptic Christianity teaches that the world will end, not with a whimper, but with a bang, ushering in the 1000 year reign of Christ and all the saints, as prophesied in the Book of Revelation.
Using an interpretation of biblical cosmology to be found in certain key books of the bible, such as Daniel, St Paul’s letters and Revelation, which read the signs of the times as heralds of catastrophe and judgement, this brand of apocalyptic Christianity has spread ominously over the whole of the USA and has become a very strong political force. It influences people in positions of immense power and responsibility including various Presidents and their advisors who use it to justify war, imperialism and environmental irresponsibility. One of Bush’s spiritual mentors, James Robison, for instance, denounced peace activists because: ‘any teaching of peace prior to Christ’s return is heresy… It’s against the Word of God; it’s Antichrist.’
In a recent study of apocalyptic religion and American imperialism, called An Angel Directs the Storm, theologian Michael Northcott exposed the thinking behind President Bush as based on a faulty interpretation of certain passages of scripture, and an inflated sense of prophetic calling to save the world. In his inaugural address in 2001 “George Bush clearly articulated his belief in his own and America’s divine calling to lead the world in an apocalyptic struggle between the forces of good and evil.” As far as the fundamentalists are concerned, Armageddon, that last great battle between good and evil is on its way - the signs of its imminent arrival are all around, from the creation of the Jewish State in 1948 to the destruction of the Twin Towers in 9/11.
There is no hope in this worldview – only disaster. It is at this point that I enter the debate with another very different cosmology. It is drawn, like the apocalyptic theology, from the Book of Revelation, but also from other more reliable scriptural writings. It has a very different message – one of hope and harmony.
The fundamentalists believe that the world will end soon with the battle of Armageddon, but it is my thesis that, according to the bible, it is not the world that will end, but only a Cosmic Age, i.e. one month of the Great Year. An unexpected ally in this thesis is the international best seller, The Da Vinci Code in which a clear distinction is drawn between the end of an age and the end of the world. According to the book the year 2000 AD marks a period of transition between the age of Pisces and the age of Aquarius. This time of transition is called the ‘End of Days.’ As Langdon, the main character says, the term “refers not to the end of the world, but rather the end of our current age – Pisces, which began at the time of Christ’s birth, spanned two thousand years and waned with the passing of the millennium.”