Again and again I think about the consequences our interpretations of the Bible have for us.
In the case of Revelation, it is clear: the near expectation leads to short-sightedness in the church in massive crisis situations, because they expect the return of Jesus now, the rapture, the big clean-up and the end.
This leads to the fact that most Christians do not think about the aftermath of a crisis, do not think about solutions, and often even boycott the solutions that are proposed in order not to act contrary to God’s plan and not to play into the hands of the enemy. See the current discussion about vaccination.
What about the other end of the story?
The creation story assumes that everything started out perfect and that man messed it up. Since then, the goal has been to return man to the lost paradisiacal conditions.
If one takes both interpretations together, the statement follows, which so many Bible-faithful Christian internalized: everything is getting worse and worse.
The hidden belief is this: Everything was better in the past. If we would only return to the morals and ethics of the past, we would be at least one step closer to paradise, to heaven. The co called Golden Age fallacy.
Of course, the average Christian has given up in frustration, resigned, capitulated, because most people will never turn around and accept God’s Word. Just as the bible tells us.
Fortunately, there is the interpretation that before the tribulation period comes the great revival, the great harvest. It is true that this is often forgotten in times of crisis, because now we have arrived in the tribulation period without this great harvest happening, but then one realizes: what is happening now are only the foreshocks of the imminent tribulation period, so the harvest is still possible.
But how will this harvest be brought forth: God must do it, but it will also involve a return to the old values.
This is why the old values are preached, and even more so in times of crisis. Even the pharisees believed that the rigid return to the values of old would bring about God’s interference.
The image I have drawn here in an exaggerated way makes clear that Christianity, because of its interpretation of the Bible, represents an in and of itself futureless, backward-looking world view. The future takes place only in eternity, in the afterlife.
The mandate that we take care of this earth is forgotten. We put our hands to the plow and look back wistfully. We look back to this time that needs to be restored, and tell ourselves that Jesus was not talking of this, but by looking back meant the longing for the old life before conversion, when he said that those looking back are not fit for the Kingdom of God.
All our problems are reduced to the struggle between good and evil because of our wrong decision in the Garden of Eden.
But if we understand the creation story as an archetypal narrative of our awakening as conscious and self-aware creatures, created by God in an evolution over billions of years, as a poem that keeps alive the memory of that wonderful moment of becoming conscious, of the fact that God is behind it all, everything looks different.
If we see Revelation additionally as a description of our inner struggle between true self and ego, a completely different picture emerges.
A wonderful painting of progress continuing in trend with ups and downs but steady development emerges.
God, the Inconceivable, Incomprehensible, greater than all our understanding, incarnates himself in creation and makes it grow. He weaves through everything and constantly gives life.
At a certain point he gives free will and consciousness, which develops in him, through him, and yet freely, becoming his companion.
God becomes the You in creation, the companion, the visible and comprehensible being, without letting go of his first nature of the all-encompassing, incomprehensible.
And God is the creation without the creation being all of God. He is so much greater than everything. In man, he becomes the I. Every human being is an expression of God, just as a son is an expression of the father, consciously or unconsciously.
God incarnates one more time in Jesus. Thus Jesus becomes the model for human life, for what is possible.
In this painting, God has three faces: the incomprehensible It, the tangible You, the becoming I.
In this painting, humanity has a new direction: forward, upward, deeper in and higher up, to speak once again with C. S. Lewis.
And this deeper in and higher up is now no longer only of individual moral nature, but shows a development from the Big Bang over the single-celled organism to the future son of man. And by this I do not only mean the returning Jesus.
Through the traditional interpretation of the two stories as historical-factual descriptions of the beginning and the end of creation in this space, the fundamentalist-evangelical church and a large part of the rest of Christianity does not become a driving force and hope bearer of this development, but a brake block and preventer.
To put it plainly, this Christianity is missing its divine mandate.
Don’t get me wrong: much about the church is positive, and there is a time and place for its fundamental nature, its image of man, its structure, its essence.
God himself brought this structure into being so that man could reach and live through a certain stage of development in the first place.
The simple, even simplistic worldview of the church is suitable for leading children out of the defiant phase around three-ish into a greater sense of community. It is what school accomplishes today, from kindergarten up to puberty.
It is what the law has accomplished from the Exodus from Egypt to Jesus.
It is what gives support to traditionally thinking people today and offers them simple, understandable explanations for what they experience and see.
But it is not a worldview that helps to solve today’s problems and to take the next steps on our way, in our development. It is a necessary prerequisite, but it is not sufficient.
How much our worldview influences us is visible with every topic that contains a moral component. Be it marriage for all, abortion, gender politics in general, we reduce everything to right or wrong.
Interestingly, the traditional view of the creation story should teach us better: the decision for the tree of knowledge of good and evil was the wrong decision. Why then do we still reduce the problems of mankind along this dichotomy?
Jesus himself teaches us not to judge, not to categorize into right or wrong, but to respond to people in love.
But back to the new interpretive approach: did creation, did humanity have the choice?
Creation has a choice at all times. God is the reservoir of possibilities who advises us and wants to guide us to make the best possible choice. Creation, and therefore we, makes the choice, creating a new starting point for the next choice, with new possibilities.
Creation has decided. Man, still unconscious, has made the choice to become aware of himself and his surroundings. Now we all, including God, live with this choice.
We don’t know if other ways would have been easier, we only know that they would have existed, as the creation story tells us. But again, I would like to respond with C. S. Lewis, “Never ask what if.”