The Cosmos is a totally biblical concept that helps us to understand God's transcendent purpose for us.
The loving purposes of God involve giving us free will so that we will voluntarily choose the way of love.
Most Christians have no idea of what the Biblical "cosmos" is. Yet the Greek word "KOSMOS" appears no less than 186 times in the New Testament. It is usually translated as "world". For example, the first time it appears, is in Matthew 4:8 where it is describing Jesus' temptation in the wilderness before his ministry began.
"Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the WORLD and their splendour. 'All this will I give you' he said, 'if you will bow down and worship me."
Furthermore, it is also used to describe the people in the world, as in John 1:10, (where the word occurs three times).
"He was in the WORLD and though the WORLD was made through him, the WORLD did not recognise him."
To define the cosmos, I would like to make two statements.
God is everywhere and he is all powerful. Everything he has made, he has made out of himself. He is the first and the last and there is no other. He is spirit and spirit is more "real" than physical matter which has originally been made out of spirit by the word of God. Matter degenerates with time, spirit is eternal.
The marvel is that we have been made by God in his image. How could independent spiritual entities exist when God is all and in all, omnipresent and omniscient?
Just as a woman carries an unborn child inside her womb and it is flesh of her flesh and bone of her bones, consisting of the parents' sperm and egg cells and nutrients that the mother passes to it through the placenta.
Don't think of it as a physical place. We might tend naturally to think of the cosmos as the physical world or even the universe, but that isn't what God sees primarily. I think the best way to illustrate it is to use the example of the worldwide web. (Or cyberspace).
If I have a lap top computer with me with internet connections I can access my e-mail from the worldwide web from wherever I am, at home, at work, on a bus, or even up the top of a mountain. So my internet "identity" is everywhere, but it only becomes active wherever I have the correct ID to log in. In the same way, whoever sits in the same room with me can log into their own e-mail if they use their own correct ID log-in's. My address is not my home in England but rather an internet address that could be anywhere physically. This is because the www is "everywhere" physically speaking, but only become active wherever it is accessed appropriately.
This is what the cosmos is like. God has made millions of spiritual individuals out of himself that can think and make decisions and experience feelings as separate entities. (Spirit is not limited by space as matter is). They live and move and have their being in him. It is in the sense of living within his womb that they grow and develop. What he has done, in effect, is to remove aspects of himself to a degree, from certain spiritual "locations" so that they can experience a spiritual life independently. He is still there, of course, because he is everywhere but he chooses to limit his manifestation to make room for his children.
God has made you to be an independent spiritual being who can exist as a separate individual. Your body joins with your spirit to make you a living soul. This is like your p.c. that is logged onto the internet. That's where your consciousness is. (You can't read you e-mail unless you have a computer or device to access it with, even though the web fills the very room you are in right now).
Similarly, without your body you would have no access to your spirit.
It is a spiritual womb in which God is producing children. It isn't physical space, which goes on forever. God isn't somewhere beyond space. He is here. He is inside you and around you but he has made a space within himself (spiritually speaking) in which he is nurturing you.
By the way, people are not made of "spirit, soul and body". They are made of spirit and physical matter. Oh I know thatÂ 1 Thessalonians 5:23Â saysÂ "May your whole spirit soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ", but that was an expression like "heart and soul" or "heart, soul and mind". Look it up for yourself and you will see thatÂ "The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath (Heb. RUACH, spirit) of life and the man became a living being."Â (Genesis 2:7).
Think about it, if your "body" consists of chemicals and your "spirit" consists of spirit, (which they do), what is your soul made from?
God has purposely made us spirit in a physical body so that we don't live for ever. The life we lead inside the cosmos is a preparation time for Christ to be formed in us. If we had eternal life now as human beings we would resist the work of God in our lives more than we do now. It is all for a good purpose and it is all made by God. Dualism says that the spirit is good but the body is bad. This is nonsense. You are made of both and both are made by God, of himself, for his glory.
This probably doesn't need much amplification. Most people believe this, on an intellectual level at least. The problem is that Christians have largely misrepresented him out of sheer ignorance and foolishness. This has resulted in many people being turned off Christianity and with good reason.
Well, would you think a god was "loving" if they were representedÂ to you as doing the following?
Do you really want to cuddle up to this God? Can the God of the Old Testament be the same one the New Testament describes? Can we wonder that people aren't beating a path to our church doors?
Actually, he is the same God in the Old and New Testaments. But the Church has done a bad job of explaining the Bible to people for them to understand why God has done what he has. He is love and everything he does is motivated by 100% altruistic concern for mankind. But some of our cop-outs are pathetic. Like "Well, all the suffering we see on earth isn't God's will. He allows it but it's not his perfect will. It's only his 'allowed' will."
What nonsense. If God is all powerful why doesn't he just make sure that everything that happens IS his perfect will? Or is the devil just too strong now? This brings us to my next point.
God is all-powerful, all present, all knowing, all responsible.
Nothing happens that he is not ultimately responsible for. If you say anything else you are making out God to be weak. Suppose you made a robot. You designed it to perform complex tasks. It even had the ability to "think" and modify some of its tasks in logical ways. Would you ever turn around and say "What it does is my 'allowed will' but not my 'perfect will'". Of course not! If what it did wasn't your perfect will then you would re-programme it so that it did your perfect will.
If you make something you can't control it doesn't say much for your abilities as a creator, does it? "But the devil upset God's plans," some will say.
Oh really? Who's the most powerful then? The devil that is supposedly filling up hell with his billions of souls or God and his little flock?
Have you ever done a difficult jigsaw puzzle? I remember one particularly tricky one I did that I got nearly to the end of and found that the few pieces that I had left simply didn't fit in the few gaps that were left in the puzzle. I realized that either they had put the wrong pieces in the box when they made it (a bit unlikely) or else I must have put some earlier pieces in the wrong places. Guess what? Some of the pieces I had put in earlier were wrong. Once I took them out I was able to see the correct places for all the pieces. It's like that with these doctrines. You think, "Certainly God couldn't possibly be responsible for all the terrible things that we see going on today? Aren't millions suffering through dying of AIDS, famines and wars and diseases and then going to a lost eternity in hell?"
Well, if you took that piece out again and examined it you would find that the Bible teaches that hell is redemptive. It is for a season - it's not for eternity. Once you realize that - you begin to see how many scriptures there are that tell us that Jesus is the saviour of the whole world, that he loves everyone equally, that he isn't calling everyone today and that he has "Bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all." (Romans 11:32).
Then things begin to fit together. God really is in charge of everything that is happening because he is working it out for everyone's ultimate good. Suffering has a purpose. Life's unfairness isn't without meaning or an ultimate restoration. God will reward us one day and put right all the wrongs of this life. (And, I might add, we will be staggered to see who gets the top seats at that heavenly banquet. The Bible says that the first will be last and the last first. Think about that.)
The universe is safe in his loving hands. The salvation of all mankind is his purpose and nothing and no-one can thwart him. It's important that we are obedient to him for our own sakes but believe me; someone else's salvation doesn't rest in your hands.
A dear Christian brother once told us of something that was haunting him in his walk with God. Some time back he had the impression that God wanted him to "witness to" someone. He was nervous about just going up to them cold and talking about Jesus and so he vacillated, the moment was lost and he didn't do it. Shortly afterwards that particular neighbour died suddenly.
Can you imagine the torment that this brother went through as he believed that there is someone who had gone to a lost eternity of unending torment because he didn't pluck up the courage to witness to them?
God looks on the heart. To him, the case of this brother is no different from that of any one of us who has failed to respond to a prompting of the Holy Spirit at any time. He would rather we had obeyed. It would have been better for us and caused blessing to others in all probability. But God has got it all in hand. The fate of all rests with him and him alone. What a relief!
People would have you believe that you can't understand free will. But is that true? Why not apply a bit of logic for a moment and see what conclusions we come to?
Imagine for a moment that you were as clever as God. (Okay - total fantasy but bear with me). You want to make a robot that has free will. How would you do it? There would be no problem with making it extremely complex and able to make decisions on complex matters. But would its decisions always depend on the data that it received? Of course! Regardless of whether the factors that caused the decisions to vary were from external stimuli or internal stimuli as well as data from various sources, the basic decision making system would be logically based upon the input received.
The point is that you can add a random factor so that the decisions are based on evaluating the data in varying ways so as to come up with different decisions from time to time. But, nevertheless, this is still a "cause and effect", "output based on input" system.
No it isn't. When we talk about free will we essentially mean that it is something that we can be held accountable for, don't we? We have laws in our country that carry penalties such as fines or imprisonment for people who break them. The basis of this is that they are accountable for their actions. If we were all "programmed" to act in whatever ways we do simply because of the inputs we have received from our genetic makeup and our environment combined then we must come to the conclusion that no-one could be blamed or punished because of the way they act.
But we believe that people can choose whether or not to do wrong. (Of course, there are situations where this freedom of will is diminished or even removed, such as when people are under the influence of drugs or compelled by addictions or illness etc. etc.) But the courts take such situations into account.
Free will, therefore, cannot be explained by Skinnerian psychology or mere cause and effect from physical stimuli alone. There is a spiritual factor involved in human behaviour that is not present in the same way in animals or plants. I say "in the same way" because I believe that animals also have a spirit (not the same as a human spirit) that imparts consciousness to them on an animal level and that appears to enable some animals to "choose" their reactions at different times.
The Bible says, "For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him?" (1 Corinthians 2:11)
It is the human spirit that God puts into each human being when they draw their first breath that imparts to them the consciousness that we understand as "human". Sometimes, if there is brain damage this is not manifested, but human consciousness, which is far higher than animal consciousness and imparts the ability to think abstractly and appreciate beauty and also to exercise free will etc. is a result of the human spirit working in conjunction with the human brain.
Because we have a spirit, we are able to exercise free will on a natural human level.
But this is totally different from being able to make choices on a spiritual level. The verse in 1 Corinthians goes on to say...
"In the same way no-one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God".
This means that if a person doesn't have the Spirit of God (the Holy Spirit) then they can't understand the mind of God. They have human free will but they cannot choose to please God, it's impossible for them to. They are simply human and essentially selfish without the gift of faith that the Holy Spirit imparts to a person and without such faith it is impossible to please God.
Later in 1 Corinthians 2 it goes on to say,
"The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned." (Verse 14)
People would have you believe that God will burn those in hell forever who fail to respond to the gospel in this life. But if the truth of the gospel is "spiritually discerned" from them, God could not blame them for their wrong "choice" could he? Wouldn't that be grossly unfair? Some Bible teachers would tell you that this is exactly what God does and they support their claim by quoting Romans 9,
"Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use? What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath - prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory...?" (Verses 21-23)
In other words, who are you to question God? If he wants to fry some of your family forever, you have no cause to be unhappy with him. After all, you're chosen, so you can live happily ever after.
Of course, this is a gross misrepresentation of the letter to the Romans and one that would become apparent to anyone who reads through the entire book. It says later on that:
"God gave them a spirit of stupor , eyes so that they could not see and ears so that they could not hear to this very day....For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that HE MAY HAVE MERCY ON THEM ALL". (Romans 11:8 & 32)
As far as salvation is concerned you don't have free will. God chooses whosoever he chooses. Do you think that Saul of Tarsus had free will regarding his salvation? Before Jesus confronted him on the Damascus road he was a zealot serving God to the best of his ability within Judaism but without illumination from the Holy Spirit. As such he couldn't please God (spiritually speaking). Once the Holy Spirit opened his spiritual eyes (and closed his physical ones) he was converted because God chose to call him to accomplish the ministry that he chose for him.