Everywhere Present – Week 3(b) – The Shape of a One-Storey Universe

For tonight please read Chapter 5 “Christian Atheism” and Chapter 6 “The Shape of the One-Storey Universe” of Fr. Stephen Freeman’s book Everywhere Present: Christianity in a One-Storey Universe.  In chapter 6, Fr. Freeman writes of how a one-storey universe is shaped. The shape of a one-storey universe requires that all things have a deeper meaning and that this depth is objective and not subjective.


Fr. Freeman writes that the problem in the modern world is that we see and understand things only as they appear on their surface. There is nothing within, between, or behind the world that we live in and experience. This is what is termed nominalism – things only exist of themselves and cannot point towards nor embody anything beyond themselves. Any spiritual meaning is found not in this world but in the second storey, because this world has no room for anything deeper.

Nominalism infects Christianity when the sacraments are merely bread and wine, or when Scripture is read as a historical narrative (as conservative fundamentalism holds) or only within in its historical sense (as modern higher criticism holds), or when a sunset is just a sunset, or when we say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. When reality is reduced to the literal and meaning is reduced to the subjective then there is no room for the real immediate presence of God.

One-Storey Realism

In a one-storey universe, God is always objectively present. Scripture necessarily has a deeper allegorical meaning (Gal. 4:21) where Christ is always present (John 5:39, Luke 24:27). As Fr. Freeman points out this deeper Christ-centered allegorical meaning is not subjectively inferred from the text but objectively discerned. (p.59).

In the one-storey universe, the sacraments are not a symbol meaning “a thing that represents or stands for something else, especially a material object representing something abstract.” Rather the sacraments are a symbol in the classical Greek etymology as a “throwing” (-bol) “together” (syn-). Within the sacraments, the abstract spiritual is thrown together and joined with the physical. Its one-storey recognition of the sacraments.

In a one-storey universe, God is perceived in the things that have been made. Rom 1:20. We say that something is beautiful because it reflects the beauty of God that is good and desirable and holy. Ps.34:8, 96:9. Beauty is not in the eye of the beholder but in the objectiveness of the divine reality. We simply need eyes that can see God in the beauty of the world.

In this one-storey universe, everything becomes a doorway and a window and a means of participation in the depths of the divine reality. (p.58). Everything makes God known in the here and now.

 Give unto the Lord, O ye mighty,
  give unto the Lord glory and strength.
Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name;
  worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.

Ps. 29:1-2

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