East of Eden, this trance in which were caught. Serpents all around, lies within, lies without. Death, death, unspoken though it be, prevails. Prevailing misery, wrapped in supposed ecstasy. Whisper, whisper; slither near, they speak the lies into my ear. Sell it all, the order built tall, fails. Embrace it all, accept all, end null. Trudge on and live and die, for what do we expire? Only all we desire. Endless cycle of misery, never free. Eat the apple, embrace the noose. Slither near, oh yes, my dear. Come here, constrict me. Worthless cycle, the viper of this world, strikes fast yet the venom kills slow. How strange, but the hand that feeds me, bites me. Diluted profit, fruitless field, this the futility that we yield. Strive for the Garden, yet we embrace the curse; oh, the contradiction that is humanity.
East of Eden, for a season, the King will soon return. Every foe vanquished, for every thorn a rose. The King, He soon shall reign! Then, the refrain, forever remain, “life, life!” The serpent is gone, we sing a new song forever of our Savior. We ate of the tree, He died on a tree to be the curse we created, and with His death, death’s defeated.
I was in Germany for my job a few years ago. I got to wander the streets of Nuremberg with a few friends. It was a great time until…
Until my friends just happened to stumble upon the red-light district. I saw a woman, made in the image of God, standing naked in the arch of a door offering herself up for purchase. It was very sad.
…Imagine a dozen roses being trampled underfoot and ground into the pavement. Or your families heirloom vase being thrown crashing to the ground. The intended beautiful design gravely marred and belittled…
We didn’t walk down the street.
…Nuremberg is a beautiful city. The city from all I could tell is thriving. Yet it has places, I suppose like any city, where the thin veneer has washed away and the anti-creation is showing. Where the inner man is as visible as the graffiti on the walls…
Here’s a poem I wrote later that day:
Strained by tears that she wears inside
Never to hide
Ever inspected for beauty
Yet coldly rejected
Infected by the strain
The strain of prideful lust
Her bosom embraced but not with kind face
Ever the look of lust
She is a mere possession
A brief obsession
To use and then discard
Disregard that she’s a person and use her for your end
clothed in agony,
the only veil she knows
She roams the streets
Anything for the right price
O’ but this woman that we deface
Is more than a nice face
Men may have her
and hate her
but for her,
Christ He died!
Jesus cries, Daughter!
You are my daughter, no whore!
I will embrace and wipe your tears
I will love and calm your fears
O’ my child, for you I weep
I long to tenderly clothe you
To clothe you with love
To you, show the meaning of true love
When Jesus our King returns
Clean will be the streets
Greet the reaper as he reaps and weep because of the same This silly game We do this to ourselves We’ve mapped out our whole mission We sketched the whole thing out The plan for our destruction The black hole that is you It will consume you More, more is your mantra The only thing that will not go is “no” Inject the pleasure Digest the pain Is it all a game? You dance, You dance to your own dirge
“A trail of mutilated frogs lay along the edge of the island.” This is the sad result of sin. In C. S. Lewis’ book Perelandra, Weston, now the “unman,” leaves a trail of mutilated frogs. Weston is the epicenter of evil. He is whole-hearted evil, a predecessor to the Miserific Vision.
Yet, Weston, the “unman,” is just a concentrated picture of what we saw with Adolf Hitler and his regime. It is a picture from a different angle of the mutilation that lays in the wake of Planned Parenthood. When we anonymously try to create our own utopia we leave a trail of mutilation. Whether we listen to the Nazi idea or the Planned Parenthood idea that says, with our culture, “have it your way,” “listen to your heart,” “do what feels right.” When we “have it our way,” “listen to our heart,” and “do what feels right,” then “might will make right” because there will be no higher authority and we may just have a reincarnation of the atrocities of Dachau and Auschwitz. We might just have people “aborting” the “clump of cells” in their womb because that is just what they want to do, it is what is convenient; we might just have “doctors” sell that “clump of cells” as human organs.
Truly, as much as we think we can, we can’t “have our cake and eat it too.” We can’t indulge in sin and also think it won’t bring consequences. Sin since the beginning has been accompanied with consequences. We can’t, for example, indulge in pornography as individuals or as a society and not have an avalanche of abominations over take us. When we make humans sexual objects to be exploited that is sadly what they become, and so human sex trafficking and child abduction ensue.
To quote an unlikely source, Friedrich Nietzsche says in Beyond Good and Evil that philosophy always creates a world in it’s own image, it cannot do anything different. When we create a world where morality doesn’t exist then in a very real way morality doesn’t exist, at least that’s how people live. In this world each will do what is right in his own eyes, might will make right, and atrocities will flourish. Various attempts at the “Final Solution” will abound, and so will death and desolation.
We reap what we sow philosophically so right now we’re reaping a whole host of debauchery. Could it be that teachings have been tainted and thus a litany of death ensues. Maybe it’s time to re-explore worldviews and their corresponding idea of human flourishing and the ability that they have to match reality to their claims.
Human bodies ripped from the womb, mutilated, and sold, and the world doesn’t bat an eye. Sad; yet sadly not surprising in our naturalistic, hedonistic, secular day. Truly, “Moral decay doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It is supported by the idolatry of the society at any given time, and expressive of its worship, even if such be completely unarticulated.”[i] Moral decay happens when something other then God is our ultimate good, our summum bonum (cf. Rom. 1). Humanity spirals out of control and implodes in on itself whenever we make gods in our own image; whether infanticide in the Roman Empire, Auschwitz during the Nazi regime, or rampant abortion today. When we decipher and dictate anonymously and subjectively what is good and prospering for ourselves and society we damn ourselves and those around us. We, so to speak, eat again of the forbidden fruit and cast ourselves out of Eden. We fall into a pit we ourselves dug. We kill Abel, revel in Babel, and inculcate innumerable evils. We make life a sort of living hell; picture the living, walking, and tortured skeletons engraved in our memories from the horrors of concentration camps.
O’ for the worlds that lay asunder,
for the shalom that is slain.
We ingrain habits of unrest,
we fester and pass on spoil.
O’ for the earth to break,
for all to be made anew.
For the habits in my heart to pour out,
and for living waters to ensue.
God this world is broken,
we are altogether damaged and damned.
“Destroy the destroyers of the earth”(Rev. 11:18),
destroy what in me destroys.
Shalom was slain
but through the slain Messiah (is/will be) renewed.
O’ God, Maranatha!
[i] Noel Doe, Created for Worship: From Genesis to Revelation to You (Ross-shire, Scotland: Mentor, 2009), 236.
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 Looks Really Good
It is a graphic scene, depicted in the most vivid way. A recent celebrated movie shows the character smiling in glee as he takes his own life. This depiction is sad yet we see it week-in and week-out. The movie is The Return of the King and the character is Gollom. Gollom, previously known as Sméagol, use to be a regular hobbit but was corrupted, enslaved by the ring. His infatuation with the ring started slow (a weekend here and there) but ended desperately. Gollom loved and hated the ring. He was torn, he wanted to be free from the ring and yet relentlessly pursued it.
At the end of the movie, Gollom finally has, as he says, “my precious.” But in getting the ring he has destroyed himself and everyone, indeed, everything around him. Yet his refrain is, “my precious.” Gollom’s last scene is one of great joy (for him). Gollom fights Frodo over the ring, another character that was nearly wholly-destroyed by the ring. Gollom is fierce. He wants the ring at any price. He bites off Frodo’s finger and rejoices over his plunder. He embraces his cruel master as his beloved friend. He falls, seemingly, blissfully in the lava and as he sinks he rejoices that he has comfort from pain, he has everything, he has his “precious.” Then he sinks and he and his “precious” are gone.
This scene, though portrayed differently, is a scene I have seen too often. This scene is the climax and conclusion of far too many stories of sin. Sin looks good. It is so sad to see people enraptured in love with their cruel master and executioner.
Sin is ingeniuine. It makes big promises but never delivers. Truly the world and sin “promises happiness, and nothing less… It promises to satisfy our desires, but only increases them; it gives poisoned pills, but wraps them in sugar.”[i]
Satan sells us lies and blinds our eyes. He would have us contended with filth and miss the glorious Lord who is worthy of all praise and can satisfy our longing soul. Truly Satan is crafty and subtle in his lies (recall the way he talked to Eve; Gen. 3:1ff cf. Lk. 4:1). He is a lion that is crouched low (1 Pet. 5:8). We don’t always see him but his desire is to destroy.
Satan is the god of this world (2 Cor. 4:4; Rev. 2:13) and his worship leads to curses and hatred of neighbor. In him is death and he is the futility of man; whoever lives in his influence shall perish and not have life (reverse of Jn. 1:4; 3:16). The world sits on the back of this evil beast of death (cf. Rev. 17:3). The world doesn’t know it but all people follow the course the beast as set, and it’s a funeral procession, that leads to the grave (cf. Eph. 2:1-3).
So Satan, the lord of this age, is rightly called the “deceiver of the whole world,” the “father of lies” (Rev. 12:9; Jn. 8:44 cf. Rev. 13:14; 18:23; 19:20; 20:3; 2 Cor. 11:3; 2 Thess. 2:9-11; 1 Tim. 2:14). He is a dragon that smites many hosts yet not by the fire of his mouth but by the damning effects of his lies. And what do you expect his children to say? “They promise freedom, but they themselves are slaves” (2 Pet. 2:19 cf. Matt. 24:24; Jn. 8:44; Rom. 16:18; Eph. 4:14). Those that know not Christ are blind and would have us wonder around in darkness too (cf. 2 Cor. 4:4-6). Satan and his children boast of good, but it’s all tainted, and leads to death (cf. Prov. 5:1-6; 7).
Thus, sin is not good because although it can look good, it’s not. It damns and destroys the good world God made. The de-creation voice of Satan pulls us toward death and non-being. It may sound good, as it did to Eve, but it is anything but good. It destroys. It curses and creates confusion. It sends us guilty out of Eden, where our good lays, and into Gehenna.
[i] Thomas Watson, Heaven Taken by Storm, 44.
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.