As Christians we know that the best things often come in threes, including the very best thing of all: the Persons of the Godhead. And the entire creation springing forth from that Triunity very often breaks down fractally into threes: length, width and height; past, present and future; solid, liquid and vapor; body, soul and spirit. Similarly, in examining the life and calling of the eternal Son of God as manifest in His incarnation, its trajectory breaks down into three distinct and very key stages: creche, cross and crown.
Ah, the creche! So great the mystery therein that the angels of God came to behold; longing (in the Greek “hungering with an intensity bordering on lust” (1 Peter 1:12b) is more accurate) to look into the mystery of the Gospel. And what a soothing thought it is for many. What’s more adorable or less intimidating than a baby? And so the manger, as important as it truly is, becomes the virtual box that many people, including more than a few ministers, like to try and keep Jesus in. Meek and mild, loving everybody; a Messiah who’s no more capable of “sheep and goats” judgments and expressing wrath than a nursing infant.
But why the creche in the first place? It was stage one of a three-stage rocket – a sling that inexorably shot the smooth stone of Jesus’ incarnated life into the forehead of the great serpent-beast. The manger promised Him, betrothed Him to the cross. “Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour.” (John 12:27) “…the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Matt. 20:28) “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” (1 John 3:8) Without the cross, the creche is drained of both meaning and significance. And our redemption, regardless of whatever warm fuzzies we may experience singing “Away in a manger,” is but vapor. Furthermore, without a desire to pick up our own cross, to die to ourselves and follow Christ, that vapor may be condensed into something watery through the machinations of formal religion. But it will never produce the solid ground on which we will need to stand on that Great Day.
But true Christianity doesn’t stop at the cross, or even the empty tomb. (Sadly, many if not most true Christians in the West today have been blinded to this third stage.) Perhaps the greatest mystery of all is how the first fruits of the New Creation, the glorified, transfigured second Adam – the Son of Man – crossed the membrane of this world and stepped into the one to come. He marched through ancient gates and sat down – as a Man – on the throne of both heaven and earth. (Emphasis mine) He received back the glory He had set aside (Phil. 2:7) – and more besides. He was crowned and given a scepter (we should ever remember that a king’s scepter is just an ornate war club), which He in turn extends over His bride the Church with the command to rule over His enemies. (Psalm 110:2). And so by faith we are more than conquerors. (Rom 8:37) And as conquerors it is inevitable that we shall one day join our Beloved, the prince of Peace, in crushing Satan under our feet. (Rom. 16:20)
In this present age, by the way, and not just in the one to come. (Eph. 1:19-22; 2 Thess. 2: 8)
“On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and delivered an oration to them. And the people were shouting, “The voice of a god, and not of a man!” Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last.” Acts 12:21-23
Stumbled across this interesting passage from the great Jewish historian, Josephus that provides a parallel account – with fascinating color commentary – of this provocative snippet of Biblical history.
From Josephus, Antiquities 19.8.2 343-361: “Now when Agrippa had reigned three years over all Judea he came to the city Caesarea, which was formerly called Strato’s Tower; and there he exhibited spectacles in honor of Caesar, for whose well-being he’d been informed that a certain festival was being celebrated. At this festival a great number were gathered together of the principal persons of dignity of his province. On the second day of the spectacles he put on a garment made wholly of silver, of a truly wonderful texture, and came into the theater early in the morning. There the silver of his garment, being illuminated by the fresh reflection of the sun’s rays, shone out in a wonderful manner, and was so resplendent as to spread awe over those that looked intently upon him. Presently his flatterers cried out, one from one place, and another from another, (though not for his good) that he was a god; and they added, “Be thou merciful to us; for although we have hitherto reverenced thee only as a man, yet shall we henceforth own thee as superior to mortal nature.” Upon this the king neither rebuked them nor rejected their impious flattery. But he shortly afterward looked up and saw an owl sitting on a certain rope over his head, and immediately understood that this bird was the messenger of ill tidings, just as it had once been the messenger of good tidings to him; and fell into the deepest sorrow. A severe pain arose in his belly, striking with a most violent intensity. He therefore looked upon his friends, and said, “I, whom you call a god, am commanded presently to depart this life; while Providence thus reproves the lying words you just now said to me; and I, who was by you called immortal, am immediately to be hurried away by death. But I am bound to accept what Providence allots, as it pleases God; for we have by no means lived ill, but in a splendid and happy manner.” When he had said this, his pain became violent.”
FINAL NOTE: THE NEXT VERSE IN ACTS IS “BUT THE WORD OF GOD INCREASED AND MULTIPLIED.” (Acts 12:24) Oh, the difference between the words and power of men versus God!
Whether a man can “marry” another man with our culture’s approval (Rom. 1:32) comes before the highest secular court in our land today. The nine judges and sundry legal advocates will conduct this mockery of true justice under the symbolic gaze of Moses holding the Ten Commandments (and ironically during Holy Week).
The one Advocate who absolutely will not be allowed to testify? The triune God and His law-word. And that is why we are ultimately doomed. My guess (and prayer) is that the forces for unraveling the gender and sexual norms instituted by our Creator will only achieve a partial victory. But make no mistake about it. God will not be mocked. As long as we continue to tell the King of King and Lord of Lords that there is no room at our national table, our accelerating slide into the abyss of chaos and “reaping-what-we-have sown” judgment will continue apace.
By the way: this is not a white-flag of surrender comment. I for one plan to continue to stand for our nation’s King, pray, preach the truth, educate, agitate and in general make war on the armies of night. Because I know that in the end He will be glorified and have His way. America will continue her decline, be plowed under in some form or fashion, then be re-seeded with the Gospel of the Kingdom and rise again from the ashes.
Arise and take courage ye Gideons! The Roman empire wasn’t conquered in a day!
Not surprisingly, gay-rights advocates have used the process for selecting the new bishop of Rome to score points for their side. Andrew Sullivan is just one who has noted that the new head of the largest organization still pushing back on the efforts to normalize homosexuality was chosen by representatives that deliberated in a room arrayed with the most famous frescoes in the world. Their creator? Michelangelo Buonarroti, artiste and supposed homosexual extraordinaire.
Oh, the irony.
Allow me to take Sullivan’s claim, break it apart, and see what light it may shed on our own culture’s deliberations concerning the love that at one time did not dare speak its name.
1. No learned person would deny that homo-erotically inclined people have existed in every time and place immemorial. But it has only been in the past 150 or so years that the notion of a homosexual — a person who self-identifies primarily on the basis of their all-encompassing and supposedly immutable same-sex inclinations — has come into vogue. Before that people just had sex, many wherever they could find it. And if it happened to be with someone of the same sex, for many cultures that mattered only a little or not at all. And very few of these people would do it exclusively and, furthermore, would have created an identity based around this particular behavior or inclination. So to call Michelangelo a homosexual is an anachronism right out to the gate.
2. Along with our modern obsession with self — self-actualization, absorption, definition, love, pleasuring…everything “self” except “self-control” (which by the way is the cultural seed-bed from which the modern notion of a “homosexual” sprang) — our era tends to eroticize everything. We have substituted the orgasm for the Cross “as the focus of longing and the image of fulfillment,” as Malcolm Muggeridge so poignantly observed. As a result, any deep love and affection between two men is immediately charged with all manner of homo-erotic overtones. And this is particularly true when viewed by people who have same-sex inclinations themselves and a interest, whether conscious or not, to make them seem common, normal and, all the better, the disposition of extraordinary people. (The same impetus drove the 10% myth for so long…until studies finally popped that balloon.) I would suggest that Sullivan’s insinuations say more about him than the Roman Catholic church.
So Michelangelo and Tommaso dei Cavalieri had a deep and affectionate relationship. What does that prove? So did Jesus and John.
Oh wait, homophiles think they were homosexuals as well.
Frankly that’s almost as blockheaded and agenda driven as it is blasphemous.
3. Even if Michelangelo had homo-erotic impulses, there is no evidence he acted on them. Contrary to the LGBTQ playbook, having these types of feelings (which are actually something many men will experience at some point in their lives) and not acting on them no more makes a person a homosexual than other men’s innate sexual interests in a beautiful woman who is not their wife makes them an adulterer. Orientations are not necessarily sinful. Acting on those that are contrary to the word of God is.
4. Michelangelo was famously unconcerned about his appearance, often sleeping in his clothes, and lived a very austere and, by every indication, chaste life. And there is some evidence that he once strongly rejected what would be many gay men’s dream. It was reported that a man once approached him about taking his son on as an apprentice, telling him that boy could double as a willing partner in bed. Michelangelo refused and sought to get the man fired from his job for having made the offer.
5. Cavalieri was not the only inspiration for Michelangelo’s poetry. Later in life he fell in love with a widow, Vittoria Colonna. They became very close, writing poems to one another. Sadly, she died before the relationship could go any further, something the great artist called the greatest regret of his life.
6. If Michelangelo was homo-erotically inclined and actually had a sexual relationship with Cavalieri, that’s not anything the LGBTQ world should crow about. The great artist was thirty-four years his senior.
This brings up a little discussed problem within the homosexual ethos. The number of May/December romances (and that’s putting it kindly) is pretty incredible and creepy. Troy Perry, the founder of the gay “Christian” denomination (Metropolitan Community Churches), after numerous failed attempts, is at last in a long term relationship…with a man young enough to be his son. Beat writers Allen Ginsberg and William Burrough’s preferred younger men (by corey jefferson). Sadly their fame among the younger, drug-addled kids of the 60s gave them ample opportunities to explore these interests. Gay rights icon Harvey Milk was known for not only his promiscuity but his interest in younger men. And the British writer Christopher Isherwood was forty-eight when he began his relationship with Don Bachardy, eighteen.
One of the great but little-known ironies of the gay rights movement of the time was that one of its heroes, Evelyn Hooker, the psychologist who supposedly “proved” that gay people were completely normal, was a close neighbor of Chris and Don. She wouldn’t allow them both in her home she was so disturbed by their relationship.
Now this isn’t to say there aren’t any May/December relationships between heterosexuals that are troubling. Any relationships that involve great disparities in age, particularly when the younger party is yet a teenager, are troubling. But I would contend that heterosexual May/December relationships are less troubling than the homo-erotic relationships going back to the Greco-Roman world and beyond that reflect a fascination with “boy beauty.” When you factor in the father issues that affect so many gay men (politically incorrect to say but nevertheless true), things get even more disturbing. Finally, May/December heterosexual relationships at least embody the male-female structure that nature and nature’s God ordained.
6. Finally, if Michelangelo was ahead of his time by five-hundred years and was a self-identified, practicing homosexual like Andrew Sullivan, what would that prove? Every advocate of Biblical morality that I know, and I would presume that would include the college of cardinals and certainly the new pope, accepts that homo-erotically inclined people can be talented, bright, kind, etc.; possessing all manner of positive attributes. No one who isn’t simply ignorant or a bigot thinks that gays have any less value than other people and shouldn’t be afforded all the protections and rights due any other citizen of this country. What relevance does it have if Michelangelo was straight, gay or, more than likely, just an odd genius who redirected so much of his energies to his art that he never found the way to be one or the other? His genius should be marveled at and enjoyed regardless.
One can only wonder whether in the end Michelangelo’s frescoes helped inspire the cardinals to choose well and give the world a man who will stand on the word of God rather than the vagaries of trends or ill-founded traditions; a man who will lift up the cross of Christ as the true focus for longing and fulfillment.
A recent Huffington Post article on trends in snake-handling among some pentecostals got me in a reflective mood. So I have a confession to make that will likely surprise some of my friends and the fans of The Apologetics Group and Real to Real Ministries.
I’m a long-time, habitual snake handler. And not in the herpetologist or “having a pet snake” sense of the term. I’m talking about a real, old-fashioned, Biblical — as in Mark 16:18a — type of snake handler. And since 9/11/2001 (a memorable move-in day), I’m also a resident of Middle Tennessee.
Can I get a witness?
Furthermore, it’s my sincere hope that every Christian who reads these words will join me in this blessed calling.
You see, I really believe that Jesus, God the Son, was the promised seed of Eve, the Messiah who crushed the serpent’s head at Calvary. (Gen. 3:15) I truly believe that He bound the “strong man” Satan (Mark 3:25-27) and divided his house by the power of His death, resurrection, ascension and enthronement; that all authority in both heaven AND THE EARTH has been granted to Him by the Father. (Matt. 28:18) As a result, even the least of these (that would be me, and perhaps even you) — by and through the Gospel of the Kingdom and the power of the Holy Spirit — has been made a vessel of heaven’s treasures and an ambassador of that Kingdom, vested with more spiritual authority than even the greatest of the Old Testament prophets. (Matt. 11:11; 2 Cor. 4:7; 2 Cor. 5:20; Rom. 8:11…etc.)
And to what end? So that we can sit on the sidelines, waiting to get yanked out of the arena while we look in wonder as the great dragon serpent deceives the world? May it never be! Rather so that we can go into all the world and disciple nations (Matt. 28:19,20), plundering the very house that once belonged to the now-bound serpent. (The only limited dominion Satan has now is in the spiritual atmosphere and over the hearts of the “children of disobedience.” (Eph. 2:1-2))
And how, in the memorable words of C.S. Lewis, are we to follow the “rightful king” and engage in His “great campaign of sabotage”? By, among other things, handling serpents. Even as Jesus came for the specific purpose of destroying the works of the great serpent (1 John 3: 8), finally crushing its head through the cross, so we are called to wage spiritual war against the lesser powers and principalities that are its offspring. (Eph. 6:12; 2 Cor. 10:4) Wherever these “snakes” manifest, its our job to wrestle them to defeat, secure in the knowledge that their doom is sure:
The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. (Romans 16:20)
For a good portion of the past three years, for example, I have been studying and wrestling with — through prayer and truth-telling — the serpents of chaos, confusion, lust, brokenness and narcissism (among others). These are the spiritual powers and principles operating in the shadows, driving the third and final stage of the sexual revolution that, I believe, could ultimately — albeit temporarily — bring our civilization to its knees. (Our prayer should be that once we’re on our knees we will repent and come back to God.)
But if it does, it will not be because the serpent and its offspring are so strong. Rather, it will be due to the church’s compromise and disengagement with our prime directive, the Great Commission (discipling nations, teaching them to obey Christ and the Word of God). It will be because we have refused the call to wrestle with the serpents of spiritual wickedness. And it will be because we have lost the faith to believe that the “greater One lives in us” (1 John 4:4) so that when we pick these snakes up with our hands or are exposed to their poison they will be no means hurt us. (Mark 16:18b)
Once again: Can I get a witness?!
PS: As I posted this I began to wonder: could our adversaries in the culture wars end up hijacking this article and trying to marginalize me by suggesting I’m a literal snake handler? We’ll see…
I first heard this wonderfully provocative thought when Doug Wilson referenced it during his concluding remarks in his debate with Andrew Sullivan on gay marriage. (I loved Doug’s addendum about “rolling our own” and then smoking it.) Intrigued, I tracked down the original source. It is from a blog entry by Dan Phillips on Pyromaniacs.
I was going to comment on it, but thought “what’s the point?” Phillips just nails it. I would encourage all my fellow Christians to read and absorb this observation and make it a part of your apologetical tool kit. When it comes to a first principle it doesn’t get much better than this.
When Piers or Larry or Tavis or Rosie or Ellen or The View or whoever tried probing me about homosexuality, or wifely submission, or any other area where God has spoken (to the world’s consternation), I think I’d decline the worm altogether. I think instead, I’d say something like,
“You know, when you ask me about X, you’re obviously picking a topic that is deeply offensive to non-Christians — but it’s far from the most offensive thing I believe. You’re just nibbling at the edge of one of the relatively minor leaves on the Tree of Offense. Let me do you a favor, and just take you right down to the root. Let me take you tothe most offensive thing I believe.
“The most offensive thing I believe is Genesis 1: 1 and everything it implies.
“That is, I believe in a sovereign Creator who is Lord and Definer of all. Everything in the universe — the planet, the laws of physics, the laws of morality, you, me — everything was created by Another, was designed by Another, was given value and definition by Another. God is Creator and Lord, and so He is ultimate. That means we are created and subjects, and therefore derivative and dependent.
“Therefore, we are not free to create meaning or value. We have only two options. We can discover the true value assigned by the Creator and revealed in His Word, the Bible; or we can rebel against that meaning.
“Any time you bring up questions about any of these issues, you do so from one of two stances. You either do it as someone advocating and enabling rebellion against the Creator’s design, or as someone seeking submissive understanding of that design. You do it as servant or rebel. There is no third option.
“So yeah, insofar as I’m consistent with my core beliefs, everything I think about sexuality, relationships, morals, the whole nine yards,all of it is derived from what the Creator says. If I deviate from that, I’m wrong.
“To anyone involved in the doomed, damned you-shall-be-as-God project, that is the most offensive truth in the world, and it is the most offensive belief I hold.
“But if I can say one more thing, the first noun in that verse —beginning — immediately points us forward. It points to the end. And the end is all about Jesus Christ. That takes us to the topic of God’s world-tilting Gospel, and that’s what we really need to talk about.”
I mean, why quibble about minor offenses, when we know how to take them right to the mother lode of all offense — that God is God, and we are not?
When examining sexual mores throughout history, one discovers that adultery, polygamy, misogyny, rape, occult prostitution, homosex, gender confusion, pedophilia, pederasty, infanticide, etc. were not aberrations, departures from traditional morality. In point of fact they formed the bedrock of what is truly traditional sexual morality.
As with all problems, we can blame this largely on the Fall (Gen. 3). Once man was cut off from the Source of Life and locked himself in his own ego-box; once he was left to parse reality through the self-referential lens of his own fallen, fallible and finite mind; once his divine nature was exchanged for the filthy rags that necessarily invited the wrath of God; once the sons of Adam and the daughters of Eve were sold unto slavery to the dark prince of the air (Eph. 2:1-4), it shouldn’t surprise anyone that all hell would break loose. (Correction: that all hell should try and break loose. In His mercy, God has shot the world through with grace. And this — what theologians call common grace — has kept things from being as bad as Satan would have them be and as man is capable of being. That particular infinite nightmare is being held at bay until hell is finally stocked with the devil and his proteges, both demonic and human.)
It is only as Christianity has taken root and been cultivated over generations that the genie of lust, pride and power has been bottled enough for the “Ozzie and Harriet” ideal to finally emerge: covenantal, conjugal (from the Latin “join or yoke together”) marriage between a husband and a wife (only yesterday it seems it would have been redundant to name the two parties) featuring romantic love, complete equality and mutual submission (with male headship), a commitment to sexual and emotional faithfulness “until death do us part” and the awesome potential to create and then nurture and raise new human beings created in both the image of God and their parents.
More than a few scholars credit this harnessing of libidinous energy (particularly on the part of men) and the normalization of conjugal marriage and the nuclear family as the key foundation for a healthy, flourishing culture; that when these absolutes are tinkered with or — worse — discarded, that culture is doomed. (One of the best books on the subject is The Family and Civilization.)
Tragically, the western world has been chipping away at this cornerstone for some time. The sexual revolution of the 1920’s, crescendoing in the 60’s, was a major blow to the bottle. Ditto the tsunami of no-fault divorce laws that swept over our nation in the 1970s (by corey jefferson). The current move to redefine marriage and normalize homosexuality (and a raft of other impulses that “destroy the binary” and make fluid gender and sexual identities) is the third blow.
Three strikes and we may well be out.
Personally, there’s no question in my mind that the genie’s bottle is on the verge of being shattered. And what is sobering — chilling in fact — is that there has never been a society in history that has recovered once the genie has been rereleased. (Matt. 12:43-45)
I can’t remember the source of the original quote (T.S. Eliot?) or even its exact words, but the sentiment went something like this:
It can take a millennium to lay a foundation stone of the Kingdom into the earth – but only a generation for any culture to see it lost.
The big buzz today is the alleged meltdown of the liberal left, caught on camera as Rep. Keith Ellison (Democrat Rep. from Michigan) went on a tear while being interviewed on the Fox Network’s Hannity by its host. I received numerous messages via the web about the exchange, citing it as proof that the progressives were becoming increasingly and manifestly unhinged. Then out and about in my car today, I heard Rush discuss the rant at length. And Hannity, in turn, used it to open his radio show and then proceeded to break it down with a “gotcha” glee. I’m guessing it will be a big part of his TV broadcast tonight.
Now don’t get me wrong, among our elected national representatives Ellison is among the biggest “useful idiots” in the Marxist/humanistic/Jihadist tool chest — though there are certainly many more in the same tray. But while I would not want to suggest any moral equivalence here, I’m no great fan of Hannity either. His talking points are right out of the neo-con playbook. His regular and sycophantic interviews with Karl Rove (the “Architect” Sean calls him) are deeply troubling. He seems to be clueless about the realities faced by the poor and disenfranchised in this country. Sean’s oft-repeated “pulled myself up the bootstraps” Horatio Alger testimony – as if any old black kid living in a one-parent home in the inner city can just as easily do what he did — is painful to listen to. I can go on.
As I watched Ellison rant (and you would have to admit it was technically a pretty good rant) I was reminded of the story in 2 Samuel 16 where King David was upbraided by a man by the name of Shimei. One of the king’s lieutenants, offended and self-assured conservative that he was, offered to shut the fool up by cutting off his head. David, in effect, told him not to do anything, for perhaps God had sent Ellis.I mean Shimei, to teach him something. (vs. 5-14)
Would that all of us on the conservative (I prefer Christocratic) side of the deepening divide in our country model the humility and the listening ear of King David.
Personally I thought the useful idiot made some useful points.
I went to Amazon.com today to order another copy of Skousen’s seminal work, “The 5000 Year Leap.” (Written almost 30 years ago and once out-of-print, Glenn Beck has almost single-handedly resurrected it and turned it into a best-seller.) While there I took a moment to read some of the reviews that had been posted. I wasn’t at all surprised to see a majority of 5 Stars sprinkled with a handful of 1 Stars. This is one of those love it (if you’re a thoughtful Christian) or hate it (if you’re a committed materialist/secularist) books. I took the time to read one of the later postings and found that old prophetic bile rising up in my throat and decided to take a moment and respond.
If you’re interested:
“Like books of this type, don’t waste your time on this. It’s another one of those “Founding Fathers created a Christian Nation to glorify God” fantasies. Despite the well-documented facts that many of the founders were either agnostic or at most deists, the myth persists that somehow this was a Christian nation, blessed by God from the beginning. I’m as patriotic as anyone and a Marine vet and would still fight for this country I love, but I am sick of this myth.
The first people that came here were largely trying to escape state-religion, but then set about to create their own in each colony or settlement. I’m very big on religious freedom, freedom of thought and conscience, as well as speech, but am sick and tired of this same story. It’s not much different than a Christian Taliban. I’m quite sure some of those that founded the nation did indeed think that they had been given this continent by God. That’s why they had so little problem moving and removing the “savages” that were already here not to mention the various witch hunts.
The main message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is to love one another as He loves us! Not just the others like you that are in the same church, but ALL of the others. All the rest is dogma, footnotes and the apostles’ efforts to try and understand this while figuring out how to build a new church/faith.
My Response (Nashville, TN): “
Shut your eyes and repeat after me, “There is no place like home. There is no place like home.” Except now you don’t want to go back to Kansas (reality) but rather remain in Oz. Wishing that America wasn’t founded overwhelming by Christians and intended to be a Christian nation doesn’t make it so. And cherry-picking from the handful of contrary evidence and ignoring the avalanche of facts that support the “Christian nation” premise is manifestly disingenuous. My favorite example of this insanity (and proof that God has an interesting a sense of humor) is Thomas Jefferson’s famous letter to the Danbury Baptists. This “founding document” (if you tilt your head and squint a little) is the source for the infamous “wall of separation” between church and state. (By the way, this is a completely Christian notion when properly understood – something that statists/secularists are loathe to do.) Now without question this letter and phrase are the holy grail for the ACLU and their ilk. The irony? The letter was written on New Year’s day, 1802 – a Friday. Just two days after penning it Jefferson attended Christian church services held — drum-roll please — in the Supreme Court chambers; at that time located in the Capitol building. H-m-m-m-m-m-m.
The simple fact is that there were only a handful of deists among the Founding Fathers – and maybe one or two agnostics. The vast majority were Christians. And even more to the point, the few deists – like Jefferson and Franklin – were heavily influenced by Christian thought. It was Franklin, for example, who called the assembly to Christian prayer – invoking the words of Jesus – when the Constitutional convention threatened to blow apart.
Part of me wishes a wand could be waved and the world that this reviewer seems to want could be created – one where the Judeo-Christian worldview was locked out of the public square and every law, every economic and social policy was based on naked human reasoning divorced from all illumination from the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit. I promise you it would make George Bailey’s “Bedford Falls” journey look like a walk in the park. Denton, our tough Marine, would be screaming for Christ’s mercy and presence AS WELL as His presence through the Church and through God-fearing magistrates within a microsecond of his immersion into hell on earth.
Many people are troubled by the amount of controversy and debate that seems to arise from the Bible. Why can’t Christianity’s truths be clearer and less complicated? (That is one of the things that makes Islam such a potent ideology; you can learn everything you need to know − and many of its leaders would say should know − in a few hours or less.) Mystery seems to bleed from all around its edges.
Well first we need to keep in mind that many of the most fundamental truths of our faith are, in fact, simple enough that even a child or the mentally handicapped can embrace them. They are things known more by the heart than by the mind. And they are powerful to save. Thankfully we are redeemed by grace through faith, not because every “i” is dotted and “t” crossed properly in our systematic theology.
Second, when an eternal, infallible, infinitely wise God who can create and sustain an unimaginably vast universe by the word of His power while simultaneously knowing each of us down to the thoughts of our hearts, when that God decides to intersect with our finite, fallen and fallible world and worldviews by revealing Himself through His Word or through the Incarnation, we should expect that sparks should fly! (Personally, I find the mystery of the Trinity very satisfying and consoling for this very reason. Any God that I can get my puny mind around can’t be God!)
And when faced with these sparks, what should be our response?
For those who have a real relationship with God and have grown to the point where they can endure “strong meat” (Heb. 5:12-14), God, in effect, says “Chase the mystery!” (Pro. 25:2) Exercise those powers of understanding and discernment. Grow up. Work those jaw muscles. Don’t you know that one day you will judge angels? There is work to be done in preparation for the challenges of the Great Commission (imagine discipling entire nations), not to mention ruling with Christ in the age to come. Are you going to stop and stare at this obstacle, this mystery, and then shrug and turn around? Or you going to be a man or woman after My own heart and press on?
Too many choose the easy way. And it is not unusual to see them try to justify their reluctance by quoting scripture; for example the first part of the Lord’s well-known admonition in Isaiah 55: 8 & 9:
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
“Well, the secret things belong to God (Deut. 29:29),” they often say. “Calvinism vs. Arminianism, predestination, those freaky verses in the Old Testament, the problem of evil, the book of Revelation and end-times matters, Paul’s ‘hard sayings,’ all those things are beyond our grasp even as the heavens are above the earth. Let’s just love the Lord and avoid disputing about these things.”
But in this they ignore the words of God that follow in verses 10 and 11:
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
In other words, we when see that we are bumping up against the ceiling of our human reasoning and we know that God’s ways are waiting for us somewhere above, we should not look back to the ground in surrender. It is the glory of a king to search out the matter; to seek to know God’s ways. We should turn instead to the Word, humbly and in great faith, knowing that it will not return void. For in the same way that water (O cleansing, life-giving water!) comes down from the natural heavens and causes the land to bring forth fruit, so will the living Word that proceeds from the realms of glory transform us and bring us into greater levels of maturity and understanding.
And don’t be surprised if the understanding you end up gaining tends to offend the natural mind. His ways are higher than ours, after all. In truth, I have found that the closer you get to what Francis Schaeffer called “true truth,” the more the earth-born mind will squirm in discomfort.
Augustine and Anselm were right: Credo ut intelligam. We believe − we have faith in God and His Word − in order to understand.