Monday, December 17, 2007

Keeping it Simple

This last Sunday I preached on why some unbelievers, in spite of being intelligent, hearing, and even understanding, don't turn to God and cry out for salvation, while others in the same state do.
Simple question.
Some theological persuasions make it more difficult and raise new questions (about the goodness of God) by their handling of such a simplicity. I forgive them as they are trapped by an anthropology that forces them into complexity.

I said it was a simple question.
It has a simple answer.
Why don't they repent?
They don't want to.
My anthropology has been mentioned on this blog before. The central task of man is to resolve the nature of feeling. He must govern it into some satisfactory semblance of peace. He chases after his lusts, moderates them and minimizes his pains. He develops his understanding and justifies his action. He knows that he has been given the first draft in the task of governance. He soon finds that he must allow others to share in the governance for he, alone, could not arrange life well enough. He collects into cities and solves thereby some of his needs. They together develop economics and armies and laws. We all know what we are about in this regard. Everything we do is answering the question of who is "lord" over "what".
Enter the God, the God who made Heaven and Earth.
He says, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."
He is asking for everyman to make a crucial grant of lordship and man guards that privilege very closely. In addressing the unbelief of the Jews in Romans 6, St. Paul quotes Isaiah 65.
I spread out my hands all the day
to a rebellious people,
who walk in a way that is not good,
following their own devices;
3 a people who provoke me
to my face continually,
sacrificing in gardens
and burning incense upon bricks;
4 who sit in tombs,
and spend the night in secret places;
who eat swine's flesh,
and broth of abominable things is in their vessels;
5 who say, "Keep to yourself,
do not come near me, for I am set apart from you."

Note the last line of verse 2.
It is their own devices they follow. They want to arrange their lives their way for what they perceive will be an adequate peace.
And verse 5 is their conclusion.
Their every hope is to have a life following the oft remarked key of conservative politics.
"The government that governs least governs best."
Man's own passion, their own feeling, their own way is the single explanation for the wide variety of sin in this world.
As Christ quotes Isaiah 6 in Matthew 13:15
"For this people's heart has grown dull,
and their ears are heavy of hearing,
and their eyes they have closed,
lest they should perceive with their eyes,
and hear with their ears,
and understand with their heart,
and turn for me to heal them.'"
They choose to be blind. They do not honor God as God or give Him thanks.
They would like to be healed (it is our primary need) but they don't want God to do it.
They would be the "master of their own fate, the captain of their own soul" no longer if they bowed the knee. They are no different from the wingnut that refuses to get a social security card, lives in a single wide in Montana and doesn't pay his taxes. He thinks he is man enough to command that difficult task called the human life.
He isn't that smart and neither are we.
While we may be more sensible in our willingness to absorb a loss of individual governance because more power than we have is necessary to fight a war, print legal tender, and maintain sewer lines. We allowed for it and became citizens of it because we knew we needed something we could not individually access and that this fraternity or overlord provided.
God has asked for something more directly about and within us than a city's infrastructure can offer. He has asked to rule our passions directly. This is the seat and motivation of all our pursuits. It is what we feel, both painful and pleasurable. He will have nothing less from us than authority over the arrangement of our feeling. Others, like cult leaders or megalomaniacs and even Satan of Christ, have asked for this control but only a God can provide a moral governance validly. It is a big submission and it must be made and must be made correctly. Heaven knows we need it. He who refuses to submit to God thinks he can make a "good" that is good enough.

The Heavens and the Earth are a monarchy.
Jesus Christ is King and Lord.
The peasants are, well, peasants.
They look on the claim of Christ and sound like the mud farmer in Monty Python.

Man: Come and see the violence inherent in the system! HELP, HELP, I'M BEING REPRESSED!
Arthur: Bloody PEASANT!
Man: Oh, what a giveaway! Did'j'hear that, did'j'hear that, eh? That's what I'm all about! Did you see 'im repressing me? You saw it, didn't you?!


Matthew N. Petersen said...


I'm on board with the "Not Calvinism" part of this post, but:

Do you believe in the Trinity?

Do you believe in the Incarnation?

In short, do you extend authority as the basis of the world all the way up? Is everything the Son does answering the question "who is 'lord' over 'what'?" Prior to creation, is all the interaction of the Father and the Son answering the question "who is 'lord over 'what'"? If so, what is that "what"? Is the Spirit merely a what? Or does he have two masters? And I would have thought all was self-giving. Kinda like Christ does on earth.

Or to ask the same question another way, do you believe verses like John 5:19? Is one of the things the Son imitates the Father doing is renouncing all authority, submiting, being less than everyone else?

Do you believe in the Incarnation? Luke 2:51 says Christ was subject to Joseph and his mother. The Christ Child kept the command to honor his (adopted) father and his mother. The Son in humility considers others better than himself. Does this reflect the nature of God?

And Christ says (in John 16:21) that we shall be friends with the Father. This does nto simply mean on the same side as him, for the Apostles were already allies with the Father. But shall we through our union with Christ be made, as Aristotle says is necessary for friendship, equal to the Father?

Or again, Christ was friends with his disciples, and even promised them that they would become his equals.

But more fundamentally, do you believe in the Trinity? Man is created in the image and likeness of God. And God is a man. Do you believe the Father is fundamentally alone, and joins in community only later?

Matthew N. Petersen said...

And also,

If the Heavens and Earth are a Monarchy, who's the Queen Mum?

I've heard you preach sermons about how the Mother of God is not a good person. Would you talk about Queen Elizabeth's mother like you talk about the Mother of God?

Philistine said...

Back to the first sentence of your post. I wish it were that simple.

There are those of us don't turn to God and cry out for salvation, because our intelligence and understanding make it impossible for us to do so.


Mark said...

1 Corinthians 1: 20Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.

Philistine said...

One probably has to be steeped in the culture of Christianity from childhood for it to appear as anything but a hodgepodge of bizarre the majority of us feel about the teachings of Islam. From the outside, there is nothing intelligent or even cohesive about them.

Luther would agree...

"Reason is the greatest enemy of faith..." and "whoever wants to be a christian should tear out the eyes of his reason..."

Jeff Moss said...


What could be more bizarre than the universe, than rocks and trees, than animals, than human beings, than you and I?

These things may be bizarre, but does that prove that they don't exist? Truth is stranger than fiction.

Matthew N. Petersen said...


Search for the whole quote in context. That's not what Luther said. He said that infants should be baptized.

Philistine said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Philistine said...

I don't want to hijack Evan's blog with this kind of debate. Luther made similar comments on several occasions in different contexts. What he meant seems quite obvious. He was a fallible man making an observation.

That observation; however, is supported by several independent studies, psychology researchers have found that religiosity is negatively correlated with intelligence. I'm not saying that religious people are idiots. This site quite clearly demonstrates that some religious people are extremely bright. Research (and my experience) suggests; however, that that this site is the exception rather than the rule.

The point of Evan's that I was taking issue with was his lament that despite being intelligent, some people do not become Christians. I am pretty well-supported in my assertions that intelligence tends to lead one away from, not toward a God.

For many of us, it is not quite as simple as not wanting to turn to God. It is the inability to ignore the mountain of evidence against the existence of the Christian--or of any other--God. It IS an intellectual problem.

Jeff Moss said...


You may want to watch this and then think about your position again.

Merry Christmas!

Philistine said...

...uh, yes...?

The relevance of an appeal to the dubious authority of a movie trailer about a creationist with a persecution complex (but enough business savvy to exploit the gullible) completely escapes me.

Unless you sent that link in support of my comments about religion and which case, touche.

Jeff Moss said...

Mainly the latter.