When I was reading ‘A New Kind of Christianity’ it occurred to me that we need a new way of thinking about the world. A way that includes God. This sort of bothered me. My ‘light bulb moment’ happened standing in a supermarket queue (I don’t think anyone noticed). It was not a new idea for me, I’d explored it before as a way of thinking about some of the gospel stories but I realised I needed to lay it out as an idea on its own before looking at the implications. I’ve called it ‘Three Worlds’. And here it is.
I’m sitting at my desk, looking out the window; its been raining and there are spots of water on the window. These are all real physical things. World one is the physical world we move around in. What we can see, touch, feel, smell and taste. Yet this is not a simple thing. When I look out the window each tree is a different colour and the pattern of leaves is different. And how we experience the physical world is different for each of us. On my pilgrimage last month, I just wanted to look at everything, some people wanted to touch things. Others were concerned with signs and symbols. For many people the overwhelming experience was what was happening inside their body. Blisters, aches and pains, were taking up front space in their minds. Science is discovering more and more about our physical world. I honestly believe that some of these give us a clue to the mind of God. He cares about our physical world. He made it beautiful.
World 2 is the social world. We need to live in a world connected to others. Loneliness is a terrible thing and can cause illness and even death. We understand this world instinctively as clearly as the physical world we live in. I’m thinking that one of the reasons why social media is so important in our society is that it is an attempt to recreate the village communities that we have lost. It is said that in one day a modern person sees more people in one day than someone living 150 years ago saw in a lifetime. So creating and maintaining communities of people who really care about and for each other is incredibly hard. Yet this is what we long for. The picture here is of some of the people on our pilgrimage after a private church service. We all had something to say, a connection to be made.
We also make connections to animals, places and even objects. One of my friends is always telling me to ‘declutter’. ‘What can you possibly need with all those books?’ she asks. I’m not sure she understands!
World 3 is God’s world. Jesus called it the ‘Kingdom of Heaven’. We might call it the ‘Spiritual dimension’. In my very first post on this blog I talked about our nine senses. To recap these are:
- The sense of the inside of our bodies.
- The knowledge of our own thoughts.
- The reasoning or judgement on these thoughts.
- The sense of the presence of God.
And, just as almost everyone can see, it seems that almost everyone can sense the presence of God. There is even a word for the presence of God in the everyday world – Numinous. I’m going to quote Alister McGrath for a definition of this word:
“numinous” – a mysterious and awe-inspiring quality of certain things or beings, real or imagined, which (C. S) Lewis described as seemingly “lit by a light from beyond the world”.
We sense this in the beauty of the natural world, in art, in the love we feel and receive from other people. For half my adult life I was an atheist but I was still moved by religious music. My heart knew that it was telling me something important and real even if my head didn’t understand it. More than anything else this presence of God in the world shows His generous nature. Everyone has access to his presence in this way even if they don’t believe in him.
From time to time God seems to break in and act in a more direct way. These are not necessarily true miracles, but they are experiences and events that cannot be explained in any other way. The tendency of our secular world is to do exactly that even if it means calling otherwise sane and rational people deluded. But if we accept the reality of God’s world it means that the world we see, feel and talk about makes a whole lot more sense.
Three Worlds together
The idea behind these three worlds is that they create a framework to understand the whole world we live in. What I’m hoping to do is to use this framework to think about all sorts of things. I’m going to go back to the start of my journey with God and look at Chaos Theory (Yes, really) and look at how we can understand some of the Gospel stories better using this framework. I’m not sure where we will end up. It should be interesting.
‘The Book of Sparks’ by Shaun Lambert. The quote is from ‘C. S. Lewis, A life’ by Alister McGrath.