Humanity at the Boundary

Man is the creature of the boundary between heaven and earth; he is on earth and under heaven. He is the being that conceives his environment, who can see, hear, understand and dominate it: ‘Thou hast put all things under his feet.’ He is the essence of a free being in this earthly world. And the same creature stands beneath heaven; and in face of the invisibilia, of what he cannot conceive or dispose of, he does not dominate but is completely dependent. Man knows about his earthly fellow-creature, because he is so unknowing in the face of the heavenly world. At this inner boundary of creation stands man… Man is the place within creation where the creature in its fullness is concentrated, and at the same time stretches beyond itself; the place where God wishes to be praised within creation, and may be praised.

Karl Barth, Dogmatics in Outline (Harper, 1959), 63.

The Realm of the Kingdom

If the kingdom has come in an initial but not yet consummative form, what does its current form involve? … The emphasis of the kingdom picture in the present phase is not on realm, but rule.

Nonetheless, a realm is envisioned. Jesus’ realm is the world as it is manifested in his scattered followers. The kingdom is contained in Jesus’ total authority over salvific blessings, an authority that is present over everyone. The presence of his rule in believers anticipates his coming to earth to rule physically, when he will exercise dominion and judgement over the earth.

Darrell Bock, A Theology of Luke and Acts (2012), 207

This is My Father’s World

WP_20180506_12_37_04_Pro (2)Why are there so few hymns that express a properly biblical, creational theology? That’s the positively-framed counterpoint to another question: why is it that so many of our hymns express an unbiblical, pseudo-gnostic theology? J. Richard Middleton, early on in his excellent book A New Heaven and a New Earth, has a section entitled ‘Singing Lies in Church,’ which highlights this latter problem. Middleton picks out such perennial favourites as ‘Love Divine, All Loves Excelling,’ ‘Away in a Manger,’ ‘My Jesus I Love Thee,’ and ‘Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone).’ All these hymns, Middleton is absolutely right to point out, contain material that blatantly contradicts the Bible’s holistic vision of salvation. You could add ‘Abide with Me’: which contains the bewildering prayer ‘point me to the skies’; and ‘Great is the Gospel,’ an otherwise great hymn that speaks of longing ‘for greater joys than to the earth belong.’ Creational Christianity understands that the greatest joys that are possible for humanity are intended, in God’s redemptive purpose, to be earthly joys.

There aren’t that many thoroughly creational hymns, but recently I came across one that was previously unknown to me: ‘This is My Father’s World’ by Maltbie Babcock. Babcock was a Presbyterian minister in New York state at the beginning of the 20th century. The hymn is truly wonderful, and its outlook is a thoroughgoing expression not only of the beauty and goodness of God’s world, but of a biblical and holistic hope for its redemption. It expresses the truth of John 3:16-17 – that God loves the world, and has sent his Son Jesus Christ not to condemn it, but that it might be saved.

This is my Father’s world,
And to my listening ears
All nature sings, and round me rings
The music of the spheres.
This is my Father’s world:
I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;
His hand the wonders wrought.

This is my Father’s world,
The birds their carols raise,
The morning light, the lily white,
Declare their maker’s praise.
This is my Father’s world:
He shines in all that’s fair;
In the rustling grass I hear Him pass;
He speaks to me everywhere.

This is my Father’s world.
O let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong
Seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world:
The battle is not done:
Jesus who died shall be satisfied,
And earth and Heav’n be one.

This is my Father’s world,
Why should my heart be sad?
The lord is King—let the heavens ring.
God reigns—let the earth be glad.

Watch it sung (with a great arrangement) at Willow Creek Church in Chicago here.