Over at the Christian Apologetics Alliance, Tim McGrew has an excellent summary of the historical fictions being presented as fact in the reboot of Cosmos. Vexing to see yet another “documentary” literally just making shit up, but not of course surprising.
In his summary, Tim makes the following remark, which I’d like to politely question:
The notion that the universe was made just for us sits awkwardly with Christian theology, which says in no uncertain terms that there are orders of created beings older and higher than man.
Of course I agree with Tim that there are created beings older and higher than man—the bene elohim (“sons of God”) and the malakim (messengers). But…
It is awkward to think physical creation was made for non-physical creatures
The Bible indicates that these created beings are were present at the creation of the physical world. Consider, for instance, what God reveals in his challenge to Job:
“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?
Declare, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measures, if you know?
Or who stretched the line on it?
Whereupon were its foundations fastened?
Or who laid its cornerstone,
when the morning stars sang together,
and all the bene elohim shouted for joy? Job 38:4-7
Since these beings pre-existed physical reality, it stands to reason firstly that they are not physical themselves (this is corroborated elsewhere, although they can take physical form); and secondly that they had no need of a physical universe in which to live. So it seems awkward to think the universe was created for them.
Genesis strongly implies the universe was created for us
Consider the structure of Genesis 1 and 2. Even if you don’t hold to a calendar day view, the narrative “points upwards” to the creation of man. Man is the pinnacle of the physical creation in the structure of Genesis:
- Adam and Eve are the final things God creates before he rests. He starts with the basic physical structures, laying the groundwork for a world habitable and hospitable to man—and only when all that is completed does he create man himself. After that, there is nothing left to do.
- Genesis 2 specifically focuses on the creation of man. This part of creation is given special importance and is described in particular detail. Now, this could just be because the Bible is written for man, and so the creation of our kind is of the most interest to us. But certainly it is not awkward to think that God focuses a large portion of the creation narrative on Adam and Eve precisely because Adam and Eve represent the purpose or end of physical creation.
- Adam and Eve are given dominion over physical creation. They are God’s “vice-regents” in the physical realm; they represent his authority over creation. Consider how the image of God is explained in Genesis:
God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the sky, and over the livestock, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in his own image. In God’s image he created him; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:26-27
Notice how the statement of God creating man in his image stands on each side of God’s decision to give man dominion over the earth. This bookend structure is used to explain what the image of God is: dominion. (That isn’t to say that it is merely dominion; Christians aren’t wrong to point out that the image of God includes attributes like creativity and love and morality and intelligence etc; but here in Genesis 1, the image of God is specifically described in terms of dominion.)
Genesis 3 also suggests a man-centered universe
When man sins, the natural order is upset. Now, the curses in Genesis 3 make little sense if that natural order didn’t hinge on the universe being made for man. Here’s what I mean:
One of the heavenly beings, Satan, tries to trick man into getting put to death by God. The obvious reason to do this is that Satan figured he ought to be in charge of the newly-created physical realm. Compare the fact that God made us “a little lower than heavenly beings” (Ps 8:5; cf Heb 2:7), but that “we will judge angels” (1 Cor 6:3). Although the Bible doesn’t explicitly say so, the obvious implication is that Satan had a difference of opinion with God as to the propriety of a lesser being holding authority over a greater one—so he tries to stage a coup.
As a result, he is cursed with becoming lower than all the animals. All the curses of Genesis 3 involve some kind of ironic reversal or contrast. Adam must toil over the earth because he has given up the right to dominion (he still retains it, but at a cost). By the same token, Eve will suffer in childbirth; being fruitful and multiplying will no longer be purely joyful. Moreover, because she reversed the intended authority structure and tempted Adam into sin, and because Adam did not do his job and prevent her from being tricked, their relational desires will be upset. And the serpent, who wished to be in charge of all creation, will instead be made lower in status not just than man, but than every animal.
This, in my opinion, strongly points to the the universe being made for man specifically, with the bene elohim in a role of lesser authority than Adam with respect to the physical realm.
The theological evidence admittedly doesn’t prove conclusively that the cosmos was made “just for us”. (For instance, perhaps God created extraterrestrials as well.) But it is certainly at least consistent with such a man-centered view; and in my opinion seems to point strongly in that direction.
In any event, thinking the universe was made for man is definitely not an awkward assumption. If anything, quite the opposite.