Published by Worldview Publications
March/April 2003 

Covenant and Creation

There is One God. His name “YHWH” is derived from the Hebrew term hayah. Hayah is not a noun but an action verb that means “to be,” “to effect” and “to become.”1 Thus, the One God has a threefold manifestation — “Being,” “Effecting” and “Becoming.”2 This relational trinity constitutes the inner covenantal character of the Godhead. However, because his nature is ultimate action, God could not be satisfied with internal covenantal relationality alone. He therefore embarked on the long-term creation of reality “other” than himself.

Creatio Ex Nihilo

. . . [L]ook upon the heaven and the earth, and all that is therein, and consider that God made them of things that were not [creatio ex nihilo]. — 2 Maccabees 7:28 (emphasis supplied).3

God’s initial Creation reflected the fullness of His “Being.” God acted by command to bring forth Creation out of nothing (creatio ex nihilo). Because he had infinite potential, he made the universe with infinite potential. This included positive, constructive possibilities and negative, destructive possibilities. The existence of both positive and negative possibilities inevitably threatened the foundation of relationality. The consequence of this is “naturocentric evil” (disease, disaster, destruction, death).4

From the beginning the created universe has undergone both expansion (inflation) into the distant cosmos and collapse (deflation) into black holes. Throughout this process billions of galaxies have formed, and within each galaxy billions of stars have been burning. For over 10 billion earth-years, astral ashes have been condensing under the force of gravity to form planets. (See Outlook, “Origins” [September 2001]).

Creatio Ex Abysso

And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep [Latin, abyssus]. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. — Genesis 1:2.

Around 3.5 billion earth-years ago, conditions on planet Earth permitted God as Spirit — the “Effecting” One — to create biological life. Life developed under God’s command through a long succession of historical events. Then, about 100,000 earth-years ago, human beings appeared. God intended that humanity would ultimately reflect the image of his own “Otherness.” About 10,000 BCE, in order to hasten the development of humanity, God endowed mankind with a derivative god-consciousness that resided in the right temporal lobe of the brain in right-handed people and in the left-temporal lobe in left-handed people.

Positively, this god-consciousness gave mankind a tremendous advantage in competing with other life forms and in contending with the physical elements of nature. It also led to great advantages involving the utilization of inanimate elements and the domestication of plants and animals.5 Negatively, this god-consciousness was also used by mankind to domesticate other human beings. Such “sovereign freedom” soon led to the over-domestication of others through warfare, slavery, torture and death.6 Thus, this moral or “anthropocentric evil” involved the implicit rejection of “otherness.”7 It was in this context that ancient civilizations emerged and subdued others. Such civilizations included Harappan in the Indus River Valley, Sumer beside the Tigris and Euphrates, and Egypt along the Nile.

In this critical setting God acted to terminate god-consciousness and its attendant “grand-domestication” and to introduce an initial self-consciousness. This coincided with a global catastrophe that virtually destroyed major world cultures and launched the first Dark Age (ca. 1200 BCE). Evidence suggests that this calamity involved a vast volcanic eruption on or near the islands of Crete and Thera in the Mediterranean Sea.8

Creatio Ex Vetero as Promise

. . . [Creatio] . . . ex vetere . . . [is] the . . . transformation of the old creation.9

One of the consequences of this calamity was the liberation of the Habiru from enslavement and their escape from Egypt into the Sinai desert. Soon thereafter God endowed his Chosen People with the first intimations of self-consciousness. It was David who first articulated the “I” of the individual: “ . . . [T]he Psalms . . . are filled with I’s: the I of repentance, the I of anger and vengeance, the I of self-pity and self-doubt, the I of despair, the I of delight, the I of ecstasy.”10

This divine action involved a monumental transition. It signaled the end of creation by command and marked the beginning of creation by promise — creation by means of “Becoming.” It was in this context that David and Solomon were led to the design and construction of the First Temple, which symbolized the emerging humanity of God himself.11 Through the Temple metaphor, God intended to convey that the fullness of his love and compassion would be manifested in his own condescension and ”kenotic” emptiness to become human (see Philippians 2:5-8). Initial divine “command” would be replaced by human “promise,” for God’s self-consciousness required a free and responsible human “other,” just as mankind’s self-consciousness needed the free and responsible human “Otherness” of God and of the “neighbor.”

Thus, God embarked upon the “Becoming” of human creation. For a thousand years he endeavored to convey his purpose to mankind through the instrumental witness of the Chosen People. He used prophets, priests and kings. He used the Temple and its services. He employed the Scriptures, his own appearances and his symbolic presence (Shekinah, etc.). Yet, despite all his efforts, the Chosen People misinterpreted God’s purpose to “Become” human. Instead, they assumed that his covenantal promise meant that they themselves had become divine partners with God. In their assumptions and actions, the Chosen People exemplified their submission to the Edenic serpent that had tempted Adam and Eve to become covenantally equal with divinity (see Genesis 3:5).

Because the Chosen People failed to appropriately respond to God’s gift of self-consciousness and his own promised “Becoming” as a fellow human, God sent his people into exile. Eventually the southern tribes were allowed to return to the Promised Land under Persian rule during the reign of Cyrus II, who was prophetically regarded as the Messiah (Isaiah 45:1). However, the Judahites again misapprehended the divine purpose and regarded themselves, rather than YHWH, as the promised “otherness.” Their subsequent actions only confirmed this misunderstanding. The prophetic office and the kingship were terminated. The Scriptures were canonized. Foreigners were excluded, and a walled theocratic power structure was established. In all this, and in commanding submission to at least 613 laws, the restored Hebrews profoundly departed from God’s intended purpose. They further distorted God’s intentions by making the rebuilt Temple into a symbol of their own divinized power rather than a symbol of God’s promised condescension to become human. These distortions continued throughout the subsequent Persian, Hellenistic and Hasmonean (Maccabean) periods. Finally, under the dominion of Rome, the Hebrews accepted Herod the Great, who claimed to be the Messiah, and submitted to the imperial cult, which declared that the reigning Caesar was the Son of God and that his deceased predecessor was ultimate deity itself (Father).12,13

Creatio Ex Vetero as Inauguration

. . . [T]he fulness of the time was come, [and] God sent forth His Son . . . — Galatians 4:4.

It was under the shadow of a divinized Rome that God fulfilled his covenantal promise to become the “Human Other.” Jesus Christ was born, lived, ministered, suffered, died and then rose incorruptibly to “Become” the New Adam — the New Progenitor of a New Humanity. As Jesus Christ, God himself accepted ultimate emptiness (kenosis), endured ultimate submission to all evil, suffered ultimate rejection, but then irrevocably prevailed.

In fulfillment of Jesus’ own prophecy, the Herodian temple was superseded and finally destroyed. Meanwhile, Jesus Christ as the Human One constituted the New Temple that was raised up in just three days (Matthew 26:61). The resurrected Lord constituted the New Creation — creation by means of “Becoming.”

Jesus explicitly declared Himself to be YHWH (“I Am”) (Mark 14:61, 62; John 4:26; 6:20; 8:24, 28, 58; 13:19; 18:5, 6, 8). Moreover, Jesus’ disciples referred to him with such metaphoric derivatives of YHWH as “The Name” (HaShem) (3 John 7), “Alpha and Omega,” “the beginning and the end,” “the first and the last” (Revelation 1:8; 22:13), and the Lord (Adonai). Yet the followers of Christ almost universally failed to perceive that Jesus was the One-and-Only God, YHWH. Nevertheless, the power structures of Rome and Judaism clearly recognized that Jesus Christ had claimed to be the human manifestation of God. Because they recognized that the Human One was the ultimate threat to their divinized power structures, they leveled the charge of blasphemy against him. It was under this indictment that Jesus Christ was crucified and mankind moved to the ultimate sin of “theocentric evil” — the rejection and murder of God as human “Other.”14

After receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, Jesus’ disciples repeated the history of Israel by regarding themselves, rather than the Promised One, as the covenantal fulfillment. To them Jesus Christ was simply a proleptic (anticipatory) exemplar. Thus, the Jerusalem church saw itself as constituting the fulfilled covenant through the indwelling divine presence. The Gnostic community saw itself as the true god imprisoned in the flesh by the evil god, but to be liberated by the acquisition of true knowledge (gnosis). After the collapse of the Pauline ministry, the orthodox church emerged with the conviction expressed by Athanasius of Alexandria (293?-373 CE): “God became man, so that man might become God.”15 Thus, the followers of Jesus overturned God’s historic intention to become human in order that mankind might also become human.

For nearly two thousand years the misperceptions of Christ’s followers have prevailed. Christians have regarded themselves as already divine, as becoming divine, or as destined to become divine. Except for those in the Pauline and Johannine communities, none perceived that God abandoned his own self-existent divinity in order to become human and then transform the animality of mankind into full humanity.

It is in this context that the misperceptions of religious fundamentalism — Jewish, Christian and Islamic — threaten our world.16 These distortions are evidenced by mutual antagonism and by efforts either to achieve divinity or to demonstrate divinity both personally and through derivative power structures.

Creatio Ex Vetero as Consummation

He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus. — Revelation 22:20.

A glorious future for our world is assured, but only through the Christ event and its promise of the irrevocable and eternal appearing of the “Human One.” There will be a final covenantal action, a consummation, an ultimate creation — creation by means of God’s ultimate “Becoming.” This creation will involve the transformation of mankind from its old animality into full humanity. This creation is imminent. It will not mark the end of the world or the end of history, but their truly human beginning! As Dietrich Bonhoeffer said to a fellow inmate as he was called from his prison cell on the morning before his execution, “This is the end — but for me, the beginning — of life.”17

At this time of crisis, are any believers in the Risen Lord prepared to be his witnesses, to understand his purpose, to accept his plan, and to celebrate his parousia (appearing)? With a representative response, our human “Friend” will soon appear to effect our ultimate inclusion as his covenantal partners. He will appear to initiate our eternal, unconditional “otherness” with himself. He will appear to celebrate with us the beginning of a human world and a human history.

Summary and Conclusion

The One-and-Only God, YHWH, is the relational God of action, who long ago embarked on the process of covenantal creation:

1. God as “Being” first necessarily acted by command to bring the “otherness” of the created order into existence. The created order was endowed with infinite possibilities — both positive (constructive) and negative (destructive). The destructive potential of the physical order is evidenced in naturocentric evil.

2. The initial relationship of God to his created “otherness” was one of command — of domination and submission. Yet, because of God’s longing for free and responsible relationality with the created order, he gave Creation the option of rejecting submission to himself.

3. After bringing forth mankind, God hastened the development of humanity by endowing Homo sapiens with a derivative god-consciousness. However, man ultimately used this god-consciousness to over-domesticate his fellow man and thus to manifest the anthropocentric evil of rejecting human “otherness.” Along with a global catastrophe that introduced the first Dark Age (ca. 1200 BCE), God terminated god-consciousness and introduced the self-conscious “I.”

4. God then intervened to supersede the commandable Creation with a promise of his own “Becoming” as human. His purpose was to enter into full, compassionate and equal relationship with his created “other.” However, those whom God chose to bear his promise to the world misinterpreted his intentions and concluded that he wished to transform mankind into uncreated gods. After 1,000 years the world was dominated by the divinized power structure of Rome. At that time of historical crisis, God acted to “Become” human as Jesus Christ. While emphatically announcing and demonstrating His own divinity as YHWH (“I Am”), Jesus emptied Himself and submitted to the existing power structures. Accused of blasphemy for uttering the divine Name and applying that Name to himself, Jesus was captured, tortured and subjected to crucifixion by the reigning authorities, who thereby committed the ultimate theocentric evil. In his submissive death Jesus Christ assumed the entire burden of naturocentric, anthropocentric and theocentric evil.18 And on the third day he rose from the dead to inaugurate a new and transformed humanity.

5. For the last 2,000 years the Risen Human One has longed for his followers and the entire world to recognize his own inaugural “Becoming” as human. Yet his followers have either ignored or misconstrued God’s own “Becoming” as the ultimate corporate personality. They have sought to achieve or assert their own deification through personal mysticism and divinized corporate power structures.19 Now we have reached another historical crisis, triggered by religious fundamentalism. The time has come for God to consummate the transformation of mankind into full humanity. Along with this imminent transformation, God will end the negative reign of naturocentric, anthropocentric and theocentric evil, and the universe will begin the full exploration of its infinite positive potential.

“For thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river . . . — Isaiah 66:12.

The threefold Creation — creatio ex nihilo, creatio ex abysso, creatio ex vetero — will be complete. The triune crises of evil will be forever ended. The eternal covenant will be fulfilled. God will be for us, to us and with us forever and ever.

Notes and References

  1. “The verb hayah . . . is a true verb with full verbal force. . . . [It] has three principal meanings, ‘to become’, ‘to be’, and ‘to effect’; but these are related internally and form a unity.” — Thorleif Boman, Hebrew Thought Compared with Greek (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1960), pp. 38, 39. (go back)
  2. Under the Carthaginian theologian, Tertullian (160?-230?), the triune nature of the Godhead was defined as three “persons” — Father (Being), Son (Becoming) and Holy Spirit (Effecting). The term “person” is derived from the Latin persona, mask (especially one worn by an actor). (go back)
  3. The concept of Creation out of nothing (creatio ex nihilo) was first articulated in the apocryphal book of 2 Maccabees. (go back)
  4. The term “naturocentric evil” was devised to define those breakdowns of relationality within nature that produce disease, disaster, destruction and death. (go back)
  5. See Julian Jaynes, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1990). (go back)
  6. See Karl W. Luckert, Egyptian Light and Hebrew Fire: Theological and Philosophical Roots of Christendom in Evolutionary Perspective (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1991). (go back)
  7. The term “anthropocentric evil” is applied to the distortion of human relationality that leads to the domination, rejection and murder of “other” human beings. (go back)
  8. See Jaynes, Origin of Consciousness, pp. 212, 213. (go back)
  9. John Polkinghorne, “Kenotic Creation and Divine Love,” in John Polkinghorne, ed., The Work of Love: Creation as Kenosis (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2001), p. 91. (go back)
  10. Thomas Cahill, The Gifts of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels (New York: Doubleday, 1998), p. 93. (go back)
  11. See “The First Temple: United Monarchical Period,” Outlook (November 2001). (go back)
  12. “The first messianic claimant of whom we hear is the infamous Herod.” — Louis H. Feldman, “Palestinian and Diaspora Judaism in the First Century,” in Hershel Shanks, ed., Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism: A Parallel History of Their Origins and Early Development (Washington, D.C.: Biblical Archaeology Society, 1992), p. 6. (go back)
  13. See Will Durant, Caesar and Christ: A History of Roman Civilization and of Christianity from Their Beginnings to A.D. 325 (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1944), p. 226. (go back)
  14. The term “theocentric evil” is applied to the human rejection of God and to the assumption that mankind itself has been, is becoming or ultimately will be God. This includes distortions such as atheism, pantheism, panentheism, Gnosticism, etc. (go back)
  15. “This participation in the divine nature is commonly called ‘divinization’ or ‘deification.’” — “Eastern Catholic Spirituality,” at www.nativityukr.org/worship/eastern_spirituality.html. (go back)
  16. See Karen Armstrong, The Battle for God (New York: Ballantine Books, 2000). (go back)
  17. “Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Pastor and Theologian,” at elvis.rowan.edu/~kilroy/JEK/04/10.html. (go back)
  18. The following passage suggests that God, as Jesus Christ, embraced all levels of Creation: “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matthew 25:40). (go back)
  19. See H. Wheeler Robinson, Corporate Personality in Ancient Israel (Edinburgh: T & T. Clark, 1981). In His human manifestation as Jesus Christ, YHWH is the ultimate corporate Person, who stands for, to and with all humanity. All others — kings, princes, priests, prophets, “chosen ones,” etc. — are simply proleptic (anticipatory) representatives and/or witnesses to/of the ultimate corporate Person and covenantal Partner. (go back)

 

Copyright © 2003 Worldview Publications