The Nature of Existence: All is One, or All is Two?
This question about existence seems very simple, but human beings can only answer it by faith, since not one of us can stand outside of existence to make an “objective,” all-knowing judgment about the nature of things. We need help. The only possible answers are Oneism or Twoism.
Oneism and The Lie
Oneism begins with the conviction that human beings are part of nature and that nature, as the origin of all things, is divine. It also assumes that we are all pure and innocent and that evil is just another side of good. These are two essential faith convictions of Oneism. In the Bible’s account of reality, however, we don’t start with a clean slate of beautiful intentions to love our neighbor and our God with all our heart and soul. We begin, instead, with realism about conflict in our world. We understand that a false definition of existence keeps us in willful ignorance of our truly rebellious state. On this false sense of innocence we build a false notion of God.
The Bible speaks of “the lie,” fabricated by the Father of Lies (Satan), who rejected God before the creation of humanity. The Lie Satan brought to us is a refusal to recognize that we, like all created beings, are accountable to God, the transcendent Creator Lord. The Lie calls the Author of life an Arch-Liar, and constructs human religious thinking on the basis of a fundamental misrepresentation of the truth. This false, pagan view of God is a death blow to any genuine wisdom about the ultimate issues of life. Paul says: although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened (v.21). Such darkened hearts lead to a deadly exchange in Romans 1:25: They exchanged the truth about God for the lie, and that of v.18, …[they] suppress the truth by their wickedness. Human beings know God in the depth of their being, but refuse to act in light of such knowledge. But they do act, because they do have a need for spirituality. The knowledge of God is at the core of our being as humans, so if we reject the Creator God, we will make for ourselves another form of the divine. Paul captures this in one profound phrase: they worshiped creation (v.25).
This is worship, not just an intellectual denial. This denial is expressed in three areas: what we believe about who God is, what we believe about spirituality, and what we believe about sexuality [We will develop these latter two issues in forthcoming blogs]. Regarding God, those who worship creation are living in fundamental, generalized rebellion. That rebellion stems from the way we think about God and about his self-revelation in nature and in words. This is why we speak of “theology,” made up of two words: “theos,” (God), and “logy” (logos), that is, words or thinking about God. So we see why Paul says they “exchanged the truth” about God for “the lie.” Something deep goes on in the human mind.
Twoism and The Truth
Christians also must answer questions about human existence, but they start with faith in a God outside the universe, who reveals himself to us in nature, in Jesus and in the Bible. I once attended the Parliament of the World’s Religions, where I heard Robert Mueller (Assistant General Secretary of the United Nations, and a New Age pagan mystic), say: “there is no ‘In the beginning, God created…’ at the UN.” The Bible doesn’t begin by denying the Creator, like Mueller or like so-called “Christian” Gnosticism. It doesn’t even begin with the heart-warming message, “In the beginning Christ died for my sins.” That comes later. Rather, it begins with precisely what the UN denies, a massive, over-arching statement of the origin of our existence: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The Old Testament stakes its reputation on the goodness of creation and on the eternal reality of the Creator, who stands outside the creation as its Maker. In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul says the same thing, describing God as he “who. . . gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist” (Rom 4:17). This is a verse affirming creation ex nihilo, creation from nothing!
A liberal Old Testament scholar of the last century saw the uniqueness of the biblical message announced by Moses in the ancient pagan world of Oneism and observed:
What distinguishes the Genesis account of creation among the many creation stories of the Ancient Near East is that for Genesis there can be only one creator and that all else that is or can be, can never be anything but a creature.
As a liberal, Westermann may not have believed consistently what he wrote about, but he certainly sees the Bible’s message clearly.
When Jesus was asked, What is the first and greatest commandment?, he answered without hesitation:
The most important is, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mk. 12:28–31)
Jesus is quoting the SHEMA, which is the essence of Old Testament faith. The Jewish people repeated this foundational confession of Israel in their morning and evening prayer services for thousands of years: Sh’ma Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Eḥad. (Apparently, singer Justin Bieber says the Shema before each public performance, which is not a bad place to start!)
This confession expresses the uniqueness of God. God is other than we are, as Twoism requires. We are not God. We are his creatures. God stands behind the amazing reality we call creation.
Even Nobel laureate and atheist Dr. Francis Crick (co-discoverer of the structure of DNA) admitted that because it is impossible to give any numerical value to the probability of chance events, the origin of life appears almost as a miracle. The late English astronomer and atheist, Sir Fred Hoyle (who coined the term “big bang”), was even more courageous than Crick, when he said that it is absurd to think that life came about by chance. He calculated that there is not enough time in the fifteen-billion-year-old universe for mere chance to produce all the incredibly complex higher life forms. The amazing cellular order of the universe had to be the result of an external intelligent design, a theory he thought so obvious that he wondered why it was not accepted as self-evident.
My recently deceased friend, R C Sproul, helpfully observed that “The basis of materialistic atheism is the belief that nothing plus time plus chance equals order and complexity.” Atheists have no account of origins, (which they admit), they merely observe physical changes across time, caused as they say by irrational forces, and yet they are faced with an incredibly complicated and intelligent universe and can only open their mouths to speak by presupposing the obvious fact of an intelligent universe. In other words, this is absolute foolishness. [https://juicyecumenism.com/2018/01/17/atheists-remembering-rc-sproul/]
We all stand before the dilemma expressed by Colin Gunton, one of the best British theologians of his generation, who stated:
There are, probably, ultimately only two possible answers to the question of origins, and they recur at different places in all ages: [either] that the universe is the result of creation by a free personal [intelligent] agency, or that in some way or other it creates itself. The two answers are not finally compatible, and require a choice, either between them or an attitude of agnostic refusal to decide.
Both nature and Jesus teach us the emptiness of Oneism. Twoism is the only one that makes sense of such a rich, glorious world, full of beauty, song, language, morals and human beings—the unique image-bearers of a transcendent, loving Father.
 Klaus Westermann, Genesis (Augsburg Fortress Publishers, 1995), 127.
 Colin E. Gunton, The Triune Creator: A Historical and Systematic Study (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998).