The Pattern of Heaven on Earth

God created us in His image and likeness. He created the universe according to His wisdom, according to an order (Ecclesiasticus 16:27). That order is the pattern of heaven on earth: it is the Will of God, hence the prayer “Thy will be done as in heaven, so on earth.” The New Testament actually places heaven before earth here, even if English we reverse the order. But the New Testament is correct: the Will of God is imprinted first in heaven, then – in time – upon earth. The pattern of heaven on earth is still potential in its fullness.

Consider this: when the sun shines on the sea, it makes a pattern. It may look as if lights on the water are sparkling, or as if someone in the sky has cast down bags of gold coins onto the water. Sometimes the water is a glassy mirror of light; or the setting sun may cause a shining road to appear on the ocean. In each case, we have a natural symbol of the pattern of heaven on earth: the higher is reflected on the lower, and forms changing designs. We know that the sun in itself is always the same, but that we see it differently depending on the time of day, the season, and what is happening in the atmosphere (e.g. Is it cloudy? Is it clear?).

And this sort of picture is – or can be – a picture of theology, specifically, of the ancient Semitic way of doing theology, which we can call typology. According to typology, the whole of the universe exemplifies the pattern of heaven on earth. Typology is a form of theology which is not concerned with arguments, with establishing propositions, and logically reasoning from them to arrive at a conclusion. In fact, typological thought works according to a different logic from the dominant one in Western theology. I mean by this that typological thought is a different way of thinking, from anything we have ever associated with theology or philosophy. Although there are or have been elements of typology in Western philosophy and theology (e.g. in Plato), this is true of those subjects, as a whole.

If we are not speaking about arguments and contentions, what do we mean? Typology is theology by looking, looking outwards and inside to see the connections between heaven and earth. So, in typology, we see an infant being born, and we make the connection with the Nativity of the Lord. When we think by typology, we see someone being baptised, and we make the connection with the Baptism of the Lord; we see a pregnant woman and we make the connection with the Blessed Virgin bearing the Christ child.

This is not how we usually understand theology. The eighth edition of the Macquarie Dictionary defines “theology” as: 1. a systematic study of God, His attributes, and His relations to the universe; the study of divine things or religious truth; divinity. 2. a particular form, system or branch of this study.

Typology is certainly systematic: one looks for the pattern of heaven on earth. It tells us much about the attributes of God: we see them in the world around us, but we have to use revelation to understand what we are seeing. I add this because, as mentioned, the divine Will is yet to be fully realised on earth: therefore we need to be able to see when and where His Will is achieved, and when it is not, and even when it is opposed.

Now, When we think of theology we probably also think of priests, pastors and lecturers arguing with each other, or delivering lectures and sermons. We probably think of theology as something rather hard to understand, and even harder to participate in. But with typology, everyone can find their own parallels. And it is hard to see how someone can say that they are wrong, assuming clarity in the parallel. For example, if I say that in the dew of the morning I see a type of the Holy Spirit, who can say that is inaccurate? What I am saying is that I have seen or felt the grace of the Holy Spirit in the gentle fall of life-giving dew.

Typology is, if you like, a “people’s theology,” and, I would suggest, more truly a people’s theology than so-called “Liberation Theology,” which was invented by modern intellectuals, and which the people of Latin and South America have largely rejected in favour of Pentecostalism: the form of Christianity which is eating Catholicism in those countries.

With typology, we do not need to worry about different “isms” in theology. We do not need to worry about ideologies. We do not need to worry about biblical handbooks so complicated that you need a degree to understand them. Scripture is not read as if it were the text of an ordinary book such as Homer, to be analysed, divided into layers, and reconstituted as one removes what one believes to be interpolations and later additions. Rather, it is read as the Word of God: a mystery to be engaged in by the faithful as they try to live the faith.

Perhaps at the end of the day, that is exactly the point of typology: it is done in the middle of life by seeing and reflecting. I shall pursue these ideas in the future, but by reference to typology, I can bring into one system the many ideas set out in books like Sebastian Brock’s Eye of Light. It includes not only reading the New Testament in the Old Testament, but is a complete system of theology (e.g. it explains the Incarnation of the Lord as the manifesting of the pattern of heaven on earth) and of ethics (the Golden Rule is based on that pattern, ethics is the ordering of the world in accordance with the Will of Heaven).

For more on types, see my posts


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