Coherence

How does everything fit together?  How does life make sense?  There must be an intersection and unification of heaven and earth, supernatural and natural.  From the very first statement in Scripture, unity and wholeness were necessary—“the heavens and the earth” meant “everything from A to Z” in the Hebrew mindset. There is a unity of Truth.[1] All “truth” is inclusive within His “Truth.”  Since God alone made “the heavens and the earth”[2] and the whole of creation gives Him praise[3] Christian thinkers must answer the question “how do our studies give praise to God?”[4]

If there is an ordered, structured, stable universe and God finds it a reliable measure of righteousness, how much more our dependence upon “the heavens and the earth” for objective study?![5] The so-called “scientific method,” for instance, can be idolized without the requisite understanding of The Creator’s synthetic creation.  This is the reason why God “calls heaven and earth to testify against His people”[6]: the coherent creation represents the completeness or wholeness of God’s righteousness.

Making sense of reality, finding consistency, knowing that all things literally stick together is the definition of coherence.  True in the material world, so it is in terms of clock schedule and measurement.  Genesis 1:1 establishes a beginning while the end of the book (49:1) anticipates an end (cf. Deut 31:29).  Jesus “holds all things together” (Col 1:17)—matter, space, and time.

There is no dichotomy, no bifurcation of “spiritual,” “physical,” “social,” “emotional,” “intellectual,” etc.  The Greek concept of segmentation goes against the Hebraic concept of wholeness, completion, fulfillment in shalom.  Instead of separating aspects of life into pieces, our responsibility in the Christian academic community is to restore all things because of Jesus’ reconciliation.[7]

Believers can enjoy the ordinary because it all comes from The Extraordinary Creator. Connections to the everyday life of the Hebrews (cf. Leviticus 11-14) makes the point, for instance, that God is interested in everything  There are no “spiritual problems”; no dichotomy exists between the so-called “secular” and sacred—the whole world and all of life belong to The Creator (cf. 1 Chronicles 29:10-16; Psalm 24:1; 50:9-12; 89:11).  It is up to Jesus “to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth” (Eph 1:9-10; Col 1:19-20).

The concept of coherence provides a framework under which Christians think and live.  Teaching God’s intention for unity in creation and life produces the following guidelines for service in the Christian community:

  1. A coherent, comprehensive, consistent, cosmic, creational approach to study must be premised upon an all-encompassing Christian worldview;
  2. Every sphere and system is completely subservient to and in compliance with the Trinitarian mystery of “the One and the many”;
  3. There can be harmony through interdisciplinary study (i.e., math’s function, music’s precision, art’s aesthetic);
  4. There should be a seamlessness of Christian acumen, attitude, and action;
  5. Constant research answering the question “how does one area of study affect another?”;
  6. Individual Christians focused on their own God-given gifts and enjoyment of certain aspects of creation should interact with each other, looking for “touch-points” of synthesis between disciplines;
  7. If there are no “brute facts,” every area of life bears the weight of ethical responsibility;
  8. No one thing, idea, or person is more important than another if all things are dependent upon each other;
  9. If Christ’s Lordship transcends all of life there is no duality between belief and behavior, between the importance of one vocation over another, between what is seen or unseen, between faith and learning;
  10. If God created everything (Prov 8:30; Heb 11:3) then everything belongs to God (Ps 24:1); thus, everything is dedicated to God (Lev 25:23) and serves God (Ps 119:91); since God gave us everything (Ps 115:16), everything has been given to us for our enjoyment (1 Tim 6:17).

“The Biblical Doctrine of Coherence” was first written in 2002 for an ACSI biblical integration enabler and has been used in various venues since. Dr. Eckel teaches for Capital Seminary & Graduate School.

[1] Rahab the prostitute (Joshua 2:11), King Hezekiah (2 Kings 19:15), and Hiram, King of Tyre (2 Chronicles 2:12), all agreed on one thing—The Lord made the heavens and the earth.  Confessing the unity of creation was done by believers as well as unbelievers.

[2] Cf. Nehemiah 9:6; Proverbs 30:4; Isaiah 44:24.

[3] Psalm 69:34.

[4] See Mark Eckel, “Coherence Questions: Intersection and Unification in the Classroom,” unpublished.

[5] A study of “all things” or “everything” in Scripture bears the biblical weight of coherence.

[6] Cf. Deuteronomy 4:26; 30:19; 31:28.

[7] 2 Corinthians 5:17-20; Colossians 1:15-20.

2 comments

  1. I am not scholarly, I work too hard to be a proper thinker, I’m not English-speaking so I struggle with some of the terminology – but this article of yours about coherence comes almost as if ‘sent’ to me! I was doing a Word study on the weekend – actually on wisdom from the epistle of James, where I happened upon the passage in James 3 that describe the ‘wisdom’ from above: it calls wisdom ‘pure’ and ‘peace-loving’. (Amplified)
    Surely it may be a stretch of my own interpretation, but I looked up ‘shalom’ to see how it fits in with ‘peace-loving’. I discovered that the word shalom has much more to do with wholeness than peace as we know the words. It was a surprise to me to notice that ‘pure’ and ‘peace-loving’ (if I may use the word ‘shalom-loving’ here) are so complementary.
    In a later part of the text, the wisdom is also described as ‘wholehearted’ and ‘unfeigned’, and this also connects to James 1 where we are exhorted to not be double-minded. Even then, (when reading and studying this portion of Scripture) I marvelled at how it all fits together. This is why I am pleasantly surprised to find your remark to James Nickel’s status, and this article!
    There is so much more that I am discovering, but I fear that I am not expressing myself properly, and I’m sure that this is not ‘news’ for you. However, I will confess that it gives me great joy to find these treasures in the Word, and it is as if the Lord is helping me to discover some of it by myself – I don’t have to read another book, or ask some-one. It is as if He is helping me Himself.

    1. Hi Christel! I’m pleased that the writing was profitable for your growth in The Word. You are correct about the word for “peace.” In God’s Word the essence of “peace” is “wholeness.” There is a need for completion because our lives have been fragmented by sin. This is the reason why we need coherence. Indeed, The Spirit does lead us to Truth!

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