The basic idea consists of the following:
- Time and space began at some point in the past, and the universe has since then proceeded to exist in a straightforward existence.
- History will at an unspecified point in the future come to some sort of conclusion.
This may be expressed in religious or secular terms, but the idea is basically the same. Time flows linearly on a one time run, so to speak, from point A to point B. This is closely connected to the idea of progress.
So instead of consisting of a single straightforward journey from A at Creation to B at the End of the World, time and history unfold according to repeating patterns.
1. Everything in the physical world is cyclical, so time must be as well.
2. Many of the most ancient traditions agree that our world is only number so-and-so in a succession of different creations.
3. The alternative linear-progressive view is a comparatively recent idea, and lacks any ancient pedigree.
One might argue that the monotheistic religions teach a linear view of history. Most perennialists agree the monotheistic religions only focus on the current cycle, and the exclusion of any mention of previous or future cycles gives the impression of a linear view. However there are traces of a cyclical worldview in them as well. An important example is the last sentence of the Nicene creed: et vitam venturi saeculi. The life of the coming age/world.
Does Christianity positively confirm that after our world there will be no other? No, in fact there is some talk of a ‘coming world’.
It might be argued that the doctrine of Creatio ex Nihilo is directly opposed to the idea of our world having undergone one or more previous ‘existences’. This is only an apparent contradiction however, as the doctrine does not rule out the idea that between the original creation of matter from nothing and our current world, there could have been more than one subsequent ‘forming’ of that matter into the shape we know. What the phrase ‘from nothing’ means exactly in the context of monotheistic theology has been debated by theologians and philosophers for centuries, so the technicalities are far from obvious. Perhaps at the end of a major world cycle all matters disintegrates again into nothing and is then once again created ex nihilo to start another cycle. In the end only God is self-sufficiently absolute.