I am continuing my survey and summary of what has been the most important and impactful book in my entire life. Whatever value you have found in my writing and Bible teaching over the years, I owe a tremendous amount to this single book. I implore you to read it and I think it will have the same impact on you. You can read the first two entries here:
And you can find the actual book in its entirety for free, here.
The Purpose of the World
Jordan poses the question, why did God create the world. Or, more specifically, why did God create this world? Maybe that is not something you have ever pondered, but it is worth asking. God is God and can do anything He wants. He could have made any world He wanted to. Why didn’t he make one where it is just like the loading scene in The Matrix, and it is just us and Him in perfect communion forever. Why this world instead?
He made this one in this way for a very particular reason. And what is that reason? Jordan says “we cannot give a direct answer to this question.” Which is true enough. But scripture points to some of the reasons why God created everything, which Jordan elaborates upon.
To begin to answer that question, he quotes Psalm 8:
3 When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained,
4 What is man that You are mindful of him,
And the son of man that You visit him?
5 For You have made him a little lower than the angels,
And You have crowned him with glory and honor.
6 You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands;
You have put all things under his feet,
7 All sheep and oxen—
Even the beasts of the field,
8 The birds of the air,
And the fish of the sea
That pass through the paths of the seas.
God created everything for man.
That might upset the “we are all just cosmic dust in a near-infinite universe” Carl Sagan/Neil Tyson/Bill Nye appreciators, but it is reality. Creation was made for man. All things are put under his feet (this Psalm finds its ultimate conclusion in the Ascension, but is about mankind generally as well).
This is because all these things reveal God. It is our interaction with God that causes us to grow. It is because everything in the world reveals God to us that we can grow by interacting with the world. We need to explore this in some detail, because it is fundamental to the Biblical view of the world.1
So, one answer to Jordan’s question is that God made this world the way that He did, because it is for man, and specifically, because this world is the means by which God relates Himself to man. It is how God shows us who and what He is.
The World Reveals God
Jordan points out that Romans 1:20 and Psalm 19:1-2 show that the works of God, His creation reveal who God is to mankind. Everything that is in this world shouts to us, not only that God exists, but that what He is like. Jordan likens God’s authorship of the world to that of a famous composer, with the exception being there is no other composer to compare Him to. We can either watch and listen or become blind and deaf.
The Bible tells us that this deafness and blindness is sin: “For though they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened (Romans 1:21). This verse describes the origin of secular philosophy. The sinner does not want to see God’s personality displayed in His works, and so he comes up with alternative explanations of the universe. The “universe simply is.” In philosophy, this “is-ness” is called “Being.” Ultimately, all non-Christian philosophy assumes that the universe is untreated and made of neutral “Being.” Such a universe is silent. For the Christian, however, the universe is created by God, and constantly speaks of Him.2
So why not man and God in a simple, blank world (like the loading scene in The Matrix)? Because God is infinite and man is finite. We are not capable of beholding an infinite God directly. Instead God created this world to communicate Himself to us.
All this can be boiled down to a simple fact: The universe and everything in it symbolizes God. That is, the universe and everything in it points to God. This means that the Christian view of the world is and can only be fundamentally symbolic. The world does not exist for its own sake, but as a revelation of God.3
Man Reveals God
The flip side of the symbolism is that God created man to symbolize Himself. That is the point of the Imago Dei. Although I bet you probably thought the Imago Dei was actually just a club left evangelicals use to beat you over the head regarding the prog cause du jour.4 No, as it turns out, man imaging God is that we comprehend who God is by our very existence. That is the point, the we can something about who and what God is just by looking at man.
Jordan quotes Herman Bavinck extensively here, particularly regarding all the prooftexts of God’s attributes as well as all the anthropomorphic language about God. And there is a lot.
By pointing to anthropomorphic language, this also gets into a more recent controversy, regarding simplicity and impassibility. That may seem like theological gnat-straining, but it is an extremely and you can find a good dialogue concerning it here.
For our purposes, we will leave this at the idea that man is his physical presence, his mind, and his emotions reveals God. A human being’s very existence testifies of the God who created him. We are living symbols.
The World Reveals Man
Man reveals God, the world reveals God, and Jordan therefore puts this together that the world also reveals what man should become. Jordan puts it this way:
God is like a rock (Deuteronomy 32:4), and so should we be (Matthew 16:18).
God is like a lion (Isaiah 31:4), and so should we be (Genesis 49:9).
God is like the sun (Psalm 84:11), and so should we be (Judges 5:31).
God is a Tree of Life (Proverbs 3:18), and so should we be (Proverbs 11:30).
In this way the world models for us what it means to be a “symbol of God.” 5
God created a world that is itself symbolic. The entire point of the world, and the entire point of man’s existence is to act as symbols. That is why we are here and that is why it is here. Therefore, SYMBOLISM is incredibly important. If the existence of the world and mankind as symbol, then we ought to pay very particular attention to the symbols that God has given us in His direct revelation of Himself.
TNE, p. 20.
ibid., p. 21-22.
ibid., p. 23.
e.g. when Trump called MS-13, who have a habit of leaving headless bodies in suburban playgrounds, “animals,” every leftish evangelical furiously tweeted about how these people were “created in the image of God.”
ibid., p. 26.