Just a word and all wonders wrought,
God announced, and behold, it was all good.
Creation had communion with the Creator,
God walked in the Garden.
Yet with Adam the serpent did conspire,
and brought the world into mire.
Beckoned to the grave,
The curse burst upon the scene,
but in the midst a seed of hope was seen.
Yes, long of told
the Scriptures told ,
of a King who’d come.
In His wake,
death shall quake ,
and the deserts they shall bloom.
Yet, many men came and went,
was the hope of promise spent?
Many lambs, prophets, priests and kings,
yet none with true salvation in their wings.
Darkness for a time,
no prophet’s voice was heard.
Yet in the darkness,
I light it shone,
and it would overcome the darkness.
Behold, O’ world, your Prophet, Priest, and King,
Jesus the Promised seed and Lamb.
The curse brought in shall be expunged;
yes, replunged upon the Son.
Christ was crushed as promised,
but in His crushing, crushed Satan, sin, and death.
Yes, He was cursed to reverse the curse.
He felt our plight to set all things right.
Yes, creation Creator collided
yet we did not hide
for God He brought no wrath,
there was no blood bath,
the world did not implode or explode into non-being.
Instead, angelic greeting:
“Peace on the earth,
goodwill to men” because the Great I AM is come.
Our Lord, Messiah, Savior in a crib.
Prince of Peace,
Bright and Morning Star,
He who lay the foundations of the earth,
laid in a manger.
The Infinite born,
a swaddled babe.
Yes, He that holds the nations in His hand,
grasps His mother’s hand.
He that calls the stars by name,
spoke no name,
He formed Himself
in His mother’s womb.
He upheld the nails
that held His hands.
He died for you,
He became poor
to restore our riches.
Yes, He felt our plight
to set all things right.
He was born to die,
that we might live.
salvation in His wings.
Man once again will be in the Garden
because God’s Son walked from Gethsemane to Golgotha.
No more brier prick or thorn to stick.
All shall be made new.
When our King all subdue,
all shall be made new.
All foes to be forgotten.
Forever banished now.
Satan’s role will be revoked,
the Lord Messiah come.
The demons tremble in His wake;
the blind see,
soon the groaning’s cease.
This is the time in between,
the already and not yet.
The Kingdom has come, but not consummated;
it shall be slightly belated.
Peace on the earth,
goodwill to man,
God’s eternal plan in fruition.
The Kingdom has come in God’s Son,
the lion to lay down with the lamb.
No tent or temple,
for the LORD tabernacled.
Yahweh is Messiah.
born the balm,
for the vacuum of our souls.
Yes, the myth came true in the manger.
God is no longer a stranger,
but makes Himself known in His Son.
Jesus, Joshua’s namesake, true!
The LORD our Savior come!
He was, and is, and is to come.
All things consummate(d) in Him.
(click here for audio)
True beauty and art subvert the lie whispered in the Garden that roars in cacophonous echo today: “You shall be like gods!”
We walk the path that was blazed by our forebears; we autonomously seek for meaning in ourselves. Yet, periodically we stand before a sunset or Mozart or some other masterpiece and our autonomous walk is halted and we know, we intimately know, and even bask in the fact that we are not god and our good is not in autonomy, it is outside of us. We need. We need God.
In the book of Genesis we read of societal progress. There are advances in technology and the arts. Yet, the problem remains: We have sinful hearts. Thus relationships and truly the world remain fractured. Like humpty dumpty; we can’t put it back together again. The answer to my problem, humanities problem, and the world’s problem is external to us.
One would think that
“Auschwitz destroyed… the idea that European civilization at least was a place where nobility, virtue and humanizing reason could flourish and abound… It seems remarkable that the belief in progress still survives and triumphs… People still continue to this day to suppose that the world is basically a good place and that its problems are more or less soluble by technology, education, ‘development’ in the sense of ‘Westernization.’”[i]
However, today’s problems, like that of all history past, is not solved by advances in technology or even any sort of knowledge or morality. It is solved by a Savior. It is Messiah Jesus that will once and for all eradicate sin and suffering (see e.g. Rom. 11:26-27; Heb. 12:23; 1 Jn. 3:2; Rev. 3:12; 21:1-8, 27; 22:3).
When we control the measures to make a utopian society the way we think it should be, it fails. Whether we control “the stirrings” (e.g. The Giver), emotions (e.g. Equilibrium), everything (e.g. The Lego Movie), or the socioeconomic structure (e.g. The Hunger Games) the result is not paradise; it’s a sort of hell, at least for many. We messed up utopia, we can’t with our fallible minds design a new one. Only our Lord can. He has the only infallible and incorruptible mind. He perfectly balances justice and grace. And He alone can make us and all things new.
So the recent movie and classic The Giver does more than entertain. It teaches us a profound truth, one we would do well to remember: There is no utopian society outside of Christ. We can’t fix it. There have been many botched attempts throughout history. They lay died with their victims.
“Everything is awesome. Everything is cool when you’re part of a team…” As catchy as The Lego Movie song is, it is not exactly right. Everything is not awesome, not yet. However, it will be. But not from our own doing (Notice I am not saying we shouldn’t work for social justice. We should! Yet, it will not bring the ultimate and forever peace that we long for.).
Heaven comes down (Rev. 21:2). We don’t, nor can we, build it here. I am with you and Miss America in saying I desire world peace, yet it won’t ultimately come until our Lord does. When our Lord comes He will wipe away all evil, pain, and tears, not some charismatic leader or government (Rev. 21:1ff). Jesus will make all things new. Jesus will bring utopia.
Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus, come!
Sin is not good. But Jesus is. He will bring the shalom we all desire. Live for Him.
[i] N.T. Wright, Evil and the Justice of God, 22-23.
Sin Leads to Enslavement
Sin is like Gollum’s ring. It enslaves and destroys. It looks so good but ends in lava.
Truly, “What we revere, we resemble, either for ruin or restoration,”[i] and we all revere something. So “when we speak of ‘worship’ …we are not speaking about an activity of one’s life, but speaking of the activity of one’s life.”[ii]
Thus, “What distinguishes us (as individuals, but also as ‘people’) is not whether we love, but what we love. At the heart of our being is a kind of ‘love pump’ that can never be turned off—not even by sin or the Fall; rather, the effect of sin on our love pump is to knock it off kilter, misdirecting it and getting it aimed at the wrong things.”[iii]
Yet when we aim at the wrong thing, worship the wrong thing, and thus deprive God of His glory, He deprives us of ours[iv] and we end up empty and doing all manner of wickedness. This is woven into the fabric of the universe, our very existence.
We will worship. That’s not the question. The question is who or what will we worship and to what end. What will be the result?
One catechism asks, “With what design did God create man?” The answer: that we should know God, love and glorify Him, and so be happy forever.[v] Truly “God is to be worshipped, not simply because he demands to be, but because this is the proper destiny of his creation.”[vi] Worship is inevitable.[vii] It will and is happening. The question is not will you worship but what? And what will it lead to?
Will it damn you and lead to enslavement; or will it bring eternal shalom and human flourishing (i.e. true cross-cultural human flourishing not the mere individualistic perception of flourishing) (recall Rom. 1 and 6)? Is it true or is it false?
When we worship the LORD we are going with the grid that is innately ingrained within us since the beginning. This is innate within us but it is strangely not natural. We have been dispossessed of where we were, where we should be. Yet, it is where we should be. The worship of the LORD God is true and right but it also works, it is the way it was designed to be (and thus it not surprisingly works that way).
We were made for ineffable joy and thus we not surprisingly seek for it. The thing about the joy we seek (sehnsucht) is that it’s not quite like our hunger, thirst, or other desires; it cannot be filled within the earth. So, apparently, we with our longing seek to fill it with that which cannot fill it. We think that, similar to our other “thirsts,” it too can be quenched here on earth through tangible means. Yet experience, many wise people, and Scripture have exhorted us that that is just not the case. There is a greater thirst within us, yet also a greater quenching. There is joy unimaginable, though now not wholly obtainable.
So, hear Romans 6:20-23: “When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at the time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Thus, sin is not good because it enslaves and leads to death although it promises life and fulfillment.
[i] G. K. Beale, We Become what we Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2008.).
[ii] Noel Doe, Created for Worship, 20.
[iii] James K. A. Smith, Desiring the Kingdom, 52.
[iv] cf. Noel Doe, Created for Worship, 29.
[v] Longer Catechism of the Eastern Church , question 120.
[vi] Noel Doe, Created for Worship, 39.
[vii] cf. e.g. Noel Doe, Created for Worship, 230, 231.
Sin, Resulting in the Fall, Explains Humanities Wretchedness and yet Greatness
I think it’s accurate to say that “any viable worldview must successfully explain the seemingly paradoxical nature of the human condition.”[i] The philosopher Blaise Pascal lamented, “What sort of freak is man! How novel, how monstrous, how chaotic, how paradoxical, how prodigious! Judge of all things, feeble earthworm, repository of truth, sink of doubt and error, the glory and refuse of the universe!”[ii]
“the inexplicable phenomenon of mankind: unquestionably corrupt, subject to inconstancy, boredom, anxiety and selfishness, doing anything in the waking hours to divert the mind from human wretchedness, yet showing the vestiges of inherent greatness in the mind’s realization of this condition. Mankind is also finite, suspended between twin infinities revealed by telescope and microscope, and aware of an inner emptiness which the finite world fails to satisfy. No philosophy makes sense of this. No moral system makes us better or happier. One hypothesis alone, creation in the divine image followed by the fall, explains our predicament and, through a redeemer and mediator with God, offers to restore our rightful state.”[iii]
Human greatness split the atom, human wretchedness uses the same to kill millions of people. A great, though wretched, leader, Adolf Hitler, will lead a nation to slaughter millions. A great leader, Winston Churchhill, will lead a nation in their defense. As much as we are great, we bare God’s image. As much as we are wretched, we bare Satan’s. Ben Carson, with his intelligence, will fight for cures; others will inject poison. Humanity is simultaneously great and wretched. What explains this paradox? We all innately sense it but why is it here?
Humanity is fallen. So “the line between good and evil is never simply between ‘us’ and ‘them.’ The line between good and evil runs through each one of us.”[iv] We are made in God’s image and thus can do fantastic things and fantastic good but we have been marred by the Fall and often reflect Satan so we can also do acts of unbelievable wickedness.
Thus, sin is not good because it wreaks havoc on our greatness, on the fact that we were created in the image of God, and distorts it to evil ends.[v] How sad that we who are capable of exploring the limitless expanse of the sea, the mind, space, and biology so often content ourselves with razing and rioting. How sad that though we as humanity are capable of such good, there is such grave injustice. I’ve read for example that a woman born in parts of South Africa is more likely to be raped then to learn to read.[vi] This surely should not be!
[i] Robert Velarde, “Greatness and Wretchedness” “How can one species produce both unspeakable wickedness and nearly inexplicable goodness? How can we be responsible both for the most disgusting squalor and for the most breathtaking beauty? How can grand aspirations and self-destructive impulses, kindness and cruelty, be interwoven in one life? The human enigma cries out for explanation” (Thomas Morris, “Making Sense of It All: Pascal and the Meaning of Life” as quoted in Robert Velarde, “Greatness and Wretchedness: The Usefulness of Pascal’s Anthropological Argument in Apologetics”).
[ii] Pascal, Pensees, 131/434.
[iii] D.G. Preston, New Dictionary of Theology, ed. Sinclair B. Ferguson, David F. Wells, and J.I. Packer (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), s.v. “Blaise Pascal” as quoted in Robert Velarde, “Greatness and Wretchedness: The Usefulness of Pascal’s Anthropological Argument in Apologetics.”
[iv] N.T. Wright, Evil and the Justice of God, 38.
[v] Sadly, “human nature itself, with its vast and mysterious amalgam of capacities to think, feel, supervise, love, create, respond, and act virtuously—that is, with its vast capacities for imaging God—has become the main carrier and exhibit of corruption” (Plantinga, Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be, 30-31).
[vi] Yet how strange and how sad that we hate the thought of this and yet many still struggle with the wickedness of pornography. Most of humanity hates the thought of human trafficking but yet enjoys the very things that feed that market.
Sin is Humanities Death Wish
I was always told growing up that it’s not good to do bad things. And for a time I was content with that. It didn’t need to be explained to me. However, as time has gone on and temptations have increased, or at least my perception of them, I find it helpful to understand and remind myself of why “it’s not good to do bad things.”
Obviously, “it’s not good to do bad things” because it doesn’t please God but why doesn’t it please God? Why are bad things bad? We see from reflection on Scripture that bad things are bad because they are not in accord with God’s character and thus apart from being bad they do not finally work with the way things are. In short, they are against the universe. Against existence. Against the way things are. Against the way things work. This is because God is good, supremely good. And creation is thus to operate in a certain way. Sin, evil, and bad are not innate within God’s good creation. They don’t “work” and will one day soon be expelled from the whole system. Then, and only then, will all things be put right and made new.
Thus, “The consequence of human sin is not to be seen as an arbitrarily imposed penalty, like a judge imposing a fine for drunk driving, but rather as an inevitable outworking of the implications of sin.”[i] “Death is not an arbitrary punishment for sin; it is its necessary consequence,” because “the turning away from the living God which constitutes idolatry is the spiritual equivalent of a diver cutting off his own breathing tube.”[ii]
To turn from God, to sin, is not only wrong but also foolish. Why? Because “God is our final good, or maker and savior, the one in whom alone our restless hearts come to rest. To rebel against God is to saw of the branch that supports us.”[iii]
Sin is humanities death wish in everyway.[iv] To be separated from God is to die, physically and spiritually. Human flourishing, true shalom, is bond up with God.[v] Apart from union with God we can seek but we won’t find.
The world is a dichotomy. It’s two paths. The wise and the fool. New creation and de-creation. Damnation and liberation. Life and death. Hell and heaven. Where, in a very real sense, are you going?
Sin is thus not good because it is innately against true human flourishing.[vi] Sin is not good because it is humanities death wish in every sense.
[i] Anthony N. S. Lane, “Lust: the human person as affected by disordered desires” 35 in EQ 78.1 , 21-35.
[ii] N. T. Wright, Evil and the Justice of God, 109.
[iii] Plantinga, Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be, 123. “Sin dissipates us in futile—and self-destructive—projects. Sin hurts other people and grieves God, but it also corrodes us. Sin is a form of self-abuse” (Ibid., 124). “Sin against God is therefore outrageous folly: it’s like pulling the plug on your own resuscitator” (Ibid., 125-26). Thus “because it is futile, because it is vain, because it is unrealistic, because it spoils good things, sin is a prime form of folly” (Ibid., 126). Proverbs 8:35-36 says, “For whoever finds me [i.e. “wisdom” which is the fear of the LORD] finds life and obtains favor from the Lord, but he who fails to find me injures himself; all who hate me love death.”
[iv] “The association of sin with physical and spiritual death runs like a spine through Scripture and Christian tradition” (Cornelius Plantinga, Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be, 47).
[v] “The biblical vision of human flourishing implicit in worship means that we are only properly free when our desires are rightly ordered, when they are bounded and directed to the end that constitutes our good” (Desiring the Kingdom, 176). Likewise John Frame, God’s “law is not arbitrary, but is based on his own nature… His moral standard is simply himself, his person, his nature” (Frame, The Doctrine of God, 448 see also Frame, The Doctrine of the Christian Life, 133-35). G. K. Chesterton said, “God is not a symbol of goodness. Goodness is a symbol of God” (Chesterton, William Blake [London: House of Stratus, 2000], 40).
[vi] “Human flourishing” rather is “the same thing as glorifying God and enjoying him forever” (Plantinga, Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be, 37-38).
Today’s culture believes that you can’t be fulfilled unless you can have the “partner” you want, whether male, female, multiple, or in some other combination that is preferred, and yet so many signs tell us that humanity has yet to be fulfilled. Take, for example, all the recent rich and famous people, people that many of us would think would be fulfilled, that have committed suicide or died of drug overdose.
What does all this tell us? Or as Blaise Pascal says,
“What is it then that this desire and this inability proclaim to us, but that there was once in man a true happiness of which there now remain to him only the mark and empty trace, which he in vain tries to fill from all his surroundings, seeking from things absent the help he does not obtain in things present? But these are all inadequate, because the infinite abyss can only be filled by an infinite and immutable object, that is to say, only by God Himself.”
We have eternity in our hearts. We seek for good gifts, that have become tainted fruit, to fulfill. But they can’t, they were never designed to. Legalizing same sex marriage isn’t the solution. Drugs are not, sex is not, success is not… Not kids, money, things, marriage… They all fail. There’s nothing to be finally gained under the sun.
We need that for which our souls were made. We need the LORD. Jesus the promised Messiah alone gives eternal shalom for our souls.
interruption of joy
This the plane on which we play
We search for joy
yet buy into a ploy
(that retards our chase)
Oh this race,
Rocked and writhing from the Fall
We crawl into the grave,
We buy into the lie
and then we sell it
We run, and run, and run
and fall into the pit we dug
We raze shalom
and raise Sheol
We damn the good
and embrace Gehenna
We are surely dispossessed,
East of Eden