A Celtic Christian Worldview (11)
As to its [the firmament’s] shape, whether it covers the earth from above like a dish or whether like an eggshell it encloses on all sides the whole creation contained within it there is no lack of thinkers who hold either opinion…Accordingly whether the firmament covers the earth from above as a stretched skin covers a tent or surrounds the huge mass of the world on all sides just as an animal’s limbs are covered by its hide there is easily support for either opinion.
- The Book of the Order of Creation IV.1, 3
I have seen the God-given task with which the sons of men are to be occupied. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.
- Ecclesiastes 3.10, 11
The writer turns next to a brief consideration of the firmament (Gen. 1.6-8). He has little definitive to say about this matter, but his summary reveals a good bit about how to do the work of Christian worldview.
Everyone has a worldview. Many people could not articulate their worldview, they just live what they see going on around them, with some of their own hopes and priorities added. Christians should be active and attentive at developing their worldview, since God has entrusted the whole of His creation to our care, for us to bring out and develop His order and goodness (Heb. 2.5-9). Unless we have understanding of that part of the world which comes under our influence, and some sense of how to order it, and to bring out the goodness of God in it, then we are merely living like those who have a worldview but have no idea what it is, or how to use that worldview to improve their world.
Our writer shows us that developing a Christian understanding of the world requires time and effort. The Christian begins with the Scriptures, taking them at face value and trying our best to understand them according to their original intent. We see our writer doing this as he follows the text of Genesis 1 and references other Scriptures, to help flesh that out as much as he can.
But he does not rest merely on his own opinion about the teaching of Scripture. He turns to other “thinkers” and “various authorities” to see what they have concluded on this matter, and he finds two different views about the firmament, which he summarizes in brief.
The important thing to note in the writer’s comments is that the firmament, for him and other ancient thinkers and authorities, is a kind of container or boundary between all created reality and the Creator. In his view, and that of the authorities he searched out, the cosmos is not infinite. It is contained, and it is separate from its Creator, Who created everything in the universe, as well as the dish or shell or skin that contains it. This much we can know for certain, based on the revelation of God in Scripture.
Beyond that, speculations about the firmament in our writer’s time diverged. He could see truth in either view, and he did not think it necessary to render an opinion on where he stood, because it seems he wasn’t persuaded one way or the other. He concludes, “because there is disagreement between such great men about so great a matter of such a kind we think no one’s opinion should be set above another but send the reader to these as judge of either side.”
Try recommending that in America’s public schools.
Our writer had reached the limits of what he could understand, and he didn’t have a bone to pick for either side of this discussion. He granted that it was a matter of great importance, but he still believed there was room for honest people to disagree honestly. The truth will make itself known more fully when God wants it to; we shouldn’t try to force His hand or presume to know more than He is pleased to reveal.
A Christian worldview doesn’t presume to know all the answers, but it never stops asking questions.
Mark Noll explains, “To construct Christian worldviews and to act for Christ in daily existence on the basis of those worldviews is a high calling. History shows two things about such a calling: that by God’s grace it can be done, but also that it is never an easy task.”No, developing and living a worldview that honors Jesus in every area of life is not an easy task. It requires faithful and deep immersion in the Word of God, reading and study in Christian thinkers from various periods of history, and prayerful, thoughtful, daily obedience to the leading of God’s Spirit.
It is a difficult task, but it’s also a high calling, and, by following the example of our forebears – such as the writer of the Liber – we can make real progress in this exciting challenge and adventure.
Questions for Reflection
1. How would you summarize your approach to developing a Christian worldview?
2. How can Christians help one another in this high calling?
Psalm 111.1-4 (Manoah: When All Your Mercies, O My God)
Praise the Lord! O let my heart give thanks here amid His chosen race!
Your works are great, O Lord, and sought by all who know their grace.
For Your work is full of splendor, Lord, and of majesty most pure;
Your righteousness, O glorious God, forever will endure!
You have caused Your many wondrous works to remain before our face.
For You are full of mercy, Lord, and abounding all in grace.
Lord, this seems like an awesome task, but I want to see the world as You do, and live in it as Jesus did, so help me to…
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T. M. Moore, Principal
All Psalms for singing from The Ailbe Psalter. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
- T.M. Moore
- March 21, 2019
It's hard work, but we all have to do it.
A Celtic Christian Worldview (11)
T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.