An early Adventist scientist, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, sought to re-define Adventist theology by viewing God, not as a personal Being, but as an impersonal essence and influence in nature. When Kellogg discussed these ideas with Ellen White, she told him: “Those theories are wrong.” “Never teach such theories in our institutions; do not present them to the people”(MS 70, 1905; Biography, 5:281).
One reason some Adventists were seduced by Kellogg’s teaching is because “the path of error often appears to lie close to the path of truth. . . . But the mind enlightened by the Holy Spirit may discern that it is diverging from the right way. After a while the two are seen to be widely separated” (Testimonies, 8:290-291).
On the one hand, in Jesus Through the Centuries, Jaroslav Pelikan highlights the scientific impact of the biblical path of truth about the cosmic and trans-cosmic Christ.
The identification of Jesus as Logos also made intellectual, philosophical, and scientific history. For by applying this title to Jesus, the Christian philosophers of the fourth and fifth centuries who were trying to give an account of who he was and what he had done were enabled to interpret him as the divine clue to the structure of reality (metaphysics) and, within metaphysics, to the riddle of being (ontology)–in a word, as the Cosmic Christ” (58). “That harmony, binding together the atom and the galaxy, was expressed in a cosmic systema, all of it brought about by the magnificence of the Creator-Logos” (65). “The Enlightenment’s quest of the historical Jesus [as an alternative to the Christ of faith] was made possible, and made necessary, when Enlightenment philosophy deposed the Cosmic Christ” (182).
On the other hand, the path of biblical truth seems incompatible with some perspectives on science expressed by Matthew Fox in his book: The Coming of the Cosmic Christ.
“Religious believers and all citizens of our planet need to hear the vast and awesome mystery of the scientific story of our origins. The archetype of the Cosmic Christ encourages us to reverence our origins in a way that the anthropocentric religious paradigm of the Enlightenment era could not. It also encourages us to reverence our divinity and our responsibility as co-creators in a way that the Enlightenment paradigm did not” (1). “Divinity is found in all creatures. . . . The Cosmic Christ is the “I am” in every creature” (65).
The Cosmic And Trans-cosmic Christ Of Scripture
The legitimate effort to separate from the path of error should not lead to the neglect the path of truth concerning science and Christ. This includes the cosmic and trans-cosmic dimensions of the biblical title “Christ” which means “anointed person.” The Old Testament refers to the anointing of priests (Exod 29:1-9), kings (1 Sam 10:1; 2 Sam 2:4; 1 Kings 1:34), and prophets (19:16). However, the New Testament refers to Jesus alone as “the Christ” (Acts 2:27, 31). The Samaritans looked for Christ (Jn 4:25) and the Jews expected him to perform miracles (Jn 7:31). Claiming the title of Christ, Jesus announced a universal worship of God which is not limited to the religious centers of the Samaritans or the Jews (4:21-26). The cosmic and trans-cosmic scope of Christ is also manifest in his ascension to God’s right hand to pour out the Spirit on all flesh (Acts 2:17, 32-33) to empower the preaching of the gospel to all nations (2:1-5).
The scope of Christ may be further clarified by a study of the biblical use of the word cosmos (translated as “world” in English Bibles). “Christ, the Savior of the cosmos” (Jn 4:42), is trans-cosmic since “the cosmos was made by him (Jn 1:10). Christ is also cosmic in that “he was in the cosmos” (Jn 1:10). As the trans-cosmic Christ, he says: “I am not of the cosmos” (Jn 8:23; 17:14, 16). As the cosmic Christ, he says: “I am the light of the cosmos” (Jn 8:12). Christ is cosmic in that “God . . . sends His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Rom 8:3). Christ is trans-cosmic in that he is “separate from sinners, and . . . higher than the heavens” (Heb 7:26).
The trans-cosmic “God was in [the cosmic] Christ reconciling the cosmos to himself” (2 Cor 5:19; cf. Rom 11:15). “In him dwells the [trans-cosmic] fullness of the Godhead bodily [that is, within the cosmos]” (Col 2:9). Christ, who was trans-cosmic “in the form of God” and “equal with God” (Phil 2:6), became part of the cosmos in “the form of a bondservant” “in the likeness” and “appearance as a man” and “became obedient to” “the death of the cross” (Phil 2:7-8).
Biblical texts on the relation of Christ to “all things” also indicate the cosmic and trans-cosmic scope of his ministry. “There is . . . one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things” (1 Cor 8:6). God will “gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth” (Eph 1:10). “God . . . created all things through Jesus Christ” (3:9) who is “head over all things” (1:22) and “head of all principality and power” (Col 2:10). He “is before all things, and in Him all things consist” (1:17). “In the beginning was the word (logos). . . and the word was God [trans-cosmic]. All things [in the cosmos] were made by him . . . . and the word was made flesh [in the cosmos]” (Jn 1:1, 14).
Ellen White’s Perspective
Ellen White does not use the English words cosmos and cosmic. However, her perspectives on Christ-centered science-theology dialog are based on the biblical texts surveyed above.
“The great storehouse of truth is the word of God–the written word, the book of nature, and the book of experience . . . . Here are the treasures from which Christ’s workers are to draw. . . . Through his own appointed channels the Lord will impart a knowledge of himself to every seeker. . . . Natural science is a great treasure house of knowledge from which every student in the School of Christ may draw. . . . It is the written word that a knowledge of God is most clearly revealed . . . . This is the treasure house of the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Christ Object Lessons, 125-126).
White charts the separation between the apparently close paths of truth and error with regard to the cosmic and trans-cosmic Christ. On the one hand, she rejects the blurring of the distinction between God and the cosmos by some “who question the reliability of the Scripture records . . . . [and] attribute infinite power to nature” (Testimonies, 8:258).
“Vital power is attributed to matter, and nature is made a deity. . . . This is false science; there is nothing in the word of God to sustain it” (259). “God's handiwork in nature is not God Himself in nature. . . . We are not to regard nature as God” (263) “Above all lower orders of being, God designed that man, the crowning work of His creation, should express His thought and reveal His glory. But man is not to exalt himself as God” (264).
On the other hand, White uses body language to highlight the close relationship between Christ and the cosmos.
It is “the work of God’s dear Son . . . to link the created with the Uncreated, the finite with the Infinite, in His own divine person” (Review, Jan 11, 1881). “Every church member should feel an interest in all that concerns the human brotherhood as well as the brotherhood in Christ” (Testimonies, 7:392). “Let us bear in mind that Christ is the great central heart from which the lifeblood flows to every part of the great body of humanity. He is the head from which extends the nerves that reach even to the most remote and most minute parts of the body” (Review, Oct 16, 1894).
Ellen White also uses body language to describe the role of the cosmic and trans-cosmic Christ when “the great controversy is ended. Sin and sinners are no more. The entire universe is clean. One pulse of harmony and gladness beats through the vast creation. From Him who created all, flow life and light and gladness, throughout the realms of illimitable space. From the minutest atom to the greatest world, all things, animate and inanimate, in their unshadowed beauty and perfect joy, declare that God is love” (Great Controversy, 678).
My study of the biblical perspective on the cosmic and trans-cosmic Christ leads me to conclude, with Ellen White, that the path of truth may not be at the opposite extreme from a path of error. Both extremes may be erroneous. The biblical truth about Christ corrects two extreme errors: (a) that Christ is simply a part of the cosmos or (b) that Christ is separated from the cosmos. In contrast, the Bible teaches the truth that Christ is both distinct from and closely related the cosmos. Therefore, the cosmic and trans-cosmic Christ should be the center of the Christian interpretation of relations between science and theology.
Martin Hanna has previously written for Memory, Meaning & Faith on: