On Pascha (Easter), or the Hope of Things to Come

Icon of the Resurrection

Icon of the Resurrection

Once in the Garden of Eden, at the beginning of our sorrows, the pre-incarnate Christ walked within the Garden looking for Man and Woman. He knew what had occurred. He knew His creation had rebelled. He knew the pain and suffering that was to come.

We can almost hear the pain as we read the most overlooked, but painful words within the entire Bible, “And the LORD God said unto them, ‘Where are you?’” God knew where they were, He knew where they were hiding; His question was a rhetorical one. Man answered and admitted to his rebellion and Woman confessed what she had done. The march toward Calvary had begun.

In a small insignificant town in the Roman province of Judea, the Christ child was born. God in the flesh, Jesus Christ, Son of God who was present at creation and the Fall, had come to fix what was broken.

We cannot begin to fathom what the world looked like through the eyes of Christ. For Him to walk in human flesh amongst His creation, to see the effects of sin on His world, what did the incarnate God feel? “Where are you?” He must have uttered to creation as He walked through the various towns of Judea.

God asked Man and Woman where they were, but He did not wait on them to come find Him. He instead went into the world to find them.

God incarnate, who cursed Man for his rebellion, who sought after Man in the Garden, hung upon a cross. The crafty serpent of old thought he had defeated God, but Christ arose, solidifying His solution. The serpent had bruised His heal, but He had crushed the head of the serpent.

“Where are you?” His question echoes throughout human history up to the present age and all the way to when He returns. “Where are you?” As He watches humanity rip itself apart, as He watches humanity turn against Him on a daily basis, He must be asking, “Where are you?”

In the first garden man was cursed with death. In the resurrection the curse on man was lifted. In the first first garden man tore himself away from God. In the garden of the resurrection, God united Himself to man. In the first garden we were cursed because of the fruit from a tree. In the garden of the resurrection, we were saved because of Who died upon a tree. The first garden was a paradise after creation and cursed in the fall, the second garden was cursed but was made paradise because of God’s recreation. In the first garden Man was lost, but in the second garden Man was found.

Yet, in this rebellious world there are those who are covered by His Son. Just as Man and Woman needed a covering to hide their nakedness, their shame, we too have a covering to hide our wickedness, our shame. Our covering is Christ. There is a future hope, an end to our suffering, a time where we will not sin, where we will be done in our rebellion.

There will be a time when those who suffer from physical ailments, from these disease-ridden bodies, shall be given new bodies where such pain is gone. The blind will look into the eyes of Christ and see the wondrous acts of His love. The deaf shall hear with clarity the songs of the angels praising God almighty. The hungry will feast with the Lord at the great banquet table. The orphans shall feel the loving embrace of their Heavenly Father and no longer feel the sting of loneliness.

There will be a time when the oppressed shall experience freedom in the presence of the Spirit. Those who are bed-ridden, those who are diseased, those who suffer constant pain will walk amongst God’s beautiful creation, dancing and leaping across His land with Christ by their sides.

But all of this pales in comparison to the reconciliation we will have with Him. We will no longer offend Him. We will no longer contradict Him. We will be in perfect union with the Father as we fall down and worship Him eternally. We will no longer have to hear those painful and cursed words, “Where are you?” We shall instead hear His soothing words of grace; “I have found you.”


The Strengthening Weakness of Love

As Christians, we sometimes forget what Christ really brought – what He really brings – into this world. We find it easy to place our message on a bumper sticker, or to put it on a t-shirt, or to make a really cool song out of it. It’s easy to sign a petition or pass a piece of legislation, but we have to ask ourselves, “Is this what Christ really came for?”

Would Christ go to the Republican National Convention? Would He partake in the march against homosexual marriage? Would Jesus really Occupy Wall Street? Would He mock the Republican candidates, or call Obama a Nazi? If we easily see Christ doing any of these things, we must ask ourselves if we are worshiping a Christ of our own invention; if we cannot see Christ doing these things, we must ask why we choose to do so in His stead.

God is omnipotent and powerful, there is no denying that; but out of His love to us He is weak. It is in this weakness that He is ultimately, eternally, and infinitely strong. Love makes one weak because by its very nature it requires sacrifice and self-giving. In the mere act of creation we see God’s weakness displaying His strength. With the mere mention of creation, He brings it about, yet the act itself is one of sacrifice. Here we see His strength in creation, but His weakness in sacrifice.

On the cross we see the strength of God crushing sin of death, but this strength is only seen due to the weakness of His love, His willingness to die on our behalf that He might remove death from our nature.

I am not trying to say that God is not omnipotent – far from it – but instead drawing light to the fact that within the bounds of love the world could turn upside down; what is strong could be weak and what is weak could be strong. In a strong world, in the world of the Übermensch (Nietzsche’s “Superman”), the one who is able to enforce his will on others is the strong one. In a weak world, the one Christ displayed to us, the greater the servant, the more power he has. This is quite the paradox, that the weaker we act, the stronger we really are. Such is the mystery of God’s love.

Where does this leave us Christians in the 21st century? Should we continue to make power plays for political offices? Should we continue to push “our guy” to take charge of the nation? Should we pray for the day that we control the schools, the government, and make this a “Christian nation” once again (or for the first time)? Is this really what the strengthening weakness of love looks like?

Perhaps we as Christians need to reconsider what it is to have strength. Perhaps we need to realize that strength is found in weakness. Hope is not found in acquiring a political goal, but in the self-emptying act of service towards those who cannot repay us.

The love of God is weak enough to cause God to stoop down to become a man. It is weak enough to grab that girl who suffers from life. It is weak enough to cause our all-powerful God to serve humans (for what is love if not service?). The love of God is weak enough to look at the young man intent on a life of self-destruction and long for the young man to turn around to his original purpose, which is Christ. The love of God is weak enough to wander through the hospital wards soothing the broken bodies, sacrificing for the sick, and giving grace to those who can no longer continue.

The love of God is weak enough to take the almighty Eternal and place Him within the womb of the Theotokos. The love of God is weak enough to cause the Eternal to walk where we walk, to experience the pain that numerous victims worldwide have experienced. The love of God is weak enough to cause Christ to give His life that we might have life. But the love of God is strong enough to ensure that all of this has an actual, eternal effect.

The love of God is strong enough to grab the girl who suffers from life and give her a new life. It is strong enough to draw humans to love God as well and serve Him (for what is love if not service?). The love of God is strong enough to look at the vapid young man and convict him of his ways; it is strong enough to turn the young man from death to life. The love of God is strong enough to wander through hospital wards proclaiming that He is the ultimate healer, that in His love all will be made whole someday.

The love of God is strong enough to shape and save our nature through His glorious Incarnation.  The love of God is strong enough to cause us to walk where the Eternal has walked and is walking. The love of God is strong enough to cause Christ to raise from the dead that we might have life.

If God’s love displays His eternal strength through weakness, then what should this say of us mere Christians? Shall we continue to pursue the power on display in the world? Certainly there is nothing wrong with standing up for justice in the public square, but should this be our primary vehicle for displaying God’s love?

Christ came down as a king, but never claimed the seat of Rome. He came down as a ruler, but to a kingdom without a border. Christ came down as the Lawgiver, yet made no declarations or decrees for the nations to follow. If we become a people who seek after kingships, after controlling borders, after laws then we have forgotten what Christ accomplished.

The millions of humans who are abducted into slavery every day don’t need another Christian song or another tract; they desperately need the love of God to rescue them from their plight and restore their humanity. The millions of homeless people don’t need another sermon on how they’re worthless or how trusting in God will make things better; they need food, they need shelter, they need help (even if they’re crazy, this doesn’t make them not human; all are fallen from God, so all are crazy in degrees, the man who mumbles to himself is only slightly crazier than you). Those who are hurting, lost, in despair, wondering about the next paycheck, suffering from abuse, don’t need another law, another rally, another city to occupy, another mega-church, another politician to save us all; they need only Christ, they need His love, they need His followers to cease seeking after the worldly idea of power and instead become weak that they might truly become strong.

In short, the world doesn’t need more Christians attempting to live up to the standards of their culture; it needs more Christians attempting to live up to the standards of Christ. The world needs people who display their strength in their weakness, and this is only possible through Divine love.

Rethinking the Problem of Evil: A Unified Theodicy (Part 10) – Conclusion

A Unified Theodicy answers the logical problem of evil, evidential problem of evil, and existential problem of evil with one word: Love. Humans were created to love God and to love each other, but when we turned away from our purpose (which is sin) we introduced the world to evil. The irony, however, is that evil was allowed because God loved us.

He loved us enough to let us experience His love and return His love, which through our free will. But with free will inevitably comes a species that will choose sin, that will allow evil. But were God to prevent our free will because of His foreknowledge of what would occur then evil would have triumphed over God’s plans. Thus, God created us, refusing to let evil triumph over His love.

He loves us enough to allow specific acts of evil so that we might help display His love to those who suffer from evil. While some evils can be and are gratuitous, they only become so when we fail to respond to them with God’s love.

He loves us enough that when we suffer specific acts of evil, He is there to comfort us even if no rational explanation exists for why the evil occurred. What is more is that He experienced evil Himself on a cross, all on our behalf.

Certainly more can be added to this theory and other parts challenged. The specifics do leave many questions. Yet, I would contend that any future theodicies must take a whole view of the world into order and more importantly they must include the cross. In a theodicy we attempt to offer up an answer for the problem of evil, but we offer no solution. Only God has offered a solution to the problem of evil, something beyond an answer. For it is on the cross that gratuitous, unmerited, freely given, infinite, perfect love is given as God’s solution to evil.

Rethinking the Problem of Evil: A Unified Theodicy (Part 9) – A Final Plea

The issue of gratuitous evil is, much to the chagrin of the academic elite, ultimately answered by gratuitous love. Though I have presented what I believe to be a solid argument for the logical problem of evil and the evidential problem of evil, it doesn’t offer a 100% rational answer. The reason is that one doesn’t exist, thus any theodicy must acknowledge that it will ultimately be incomplete unless it includes love at the center of its theodicy.

Though this answer isn’t popular among Christian philosophers, we must never forget that in all our theorizing on why God allowed evil, He answered the question of, “God, why this evil” on a cross. Any theodicy that doesn’t include the cross is inherently doomed to failure, because the cross is God’s answer to evil, so how can it be ignored?

The cross serves as the best answer to the existential problem of evil, for while we may not know why God allowed an evil to occur, we can at least know that Jesus suffered evil just as we do. We can know that God was not content to watch us suffer, but instead partook in our suffering. A people may question the king when he allows his people to starve, but if he himself chooses to starve while handing out food to all others then the critics must turn away in shame. So it is with God.

Ultimately, the question of why God allows specific evils will remain a rational mystery to a certain degree. We are limited to say that God allows specific evils because He won’t violate free will in every instance, but this doesn’t say much about why some evils are allowed while others aren’t. But in order to know why God allows some evils and not others requires us to know the mind of God, which is impossible. Why is it that God will step in and drown the Egyptian army, but won’t stop one ethnic group from attacking another ethnic group? We do not know why, other than God has a purpose in stopping some evil. Hence, why evil occurs will ultimately remain a mystery to us, because we do not know the mind of God.

It is in the mysterious aspect, however, that ties into the existential answer to the problem of evil. That it is a mystery and that God’s purposes are known alone to God shows that we should rely on Him even more. To believe in mystery requires us to trust in God. To believe in mystery requires us to rely on Him, which only increases our love for Him.

Conservative Liberation Theology

Glenn Beck has hounded President Obama for attending a church that takes to heart the principles of Black Liberation Theology. In fact, Beck has taken it further warning his audience to be weary of any preacher who calls for social justice, because they might buy into some type of liberation theology.

Concerning the perils of liberation theology, Beck does have a point; all types attempt to supplant the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ with one of the auxiliary issues of the Gospel, generally justice for the oppressed or justice for the poor. While these are areas impacted by the Gospel, liberation theologians tend to place these issues at the center of the Gospel. Thus, Christ died to bring economic parity, or Christ died to end a patriarchal system that oppresses women, or Christ died to free the oppressed. All of these systems then seek to bring about this new type of salvation through revolution or through the government. For the already oppressed in a corrupt nation, they use revolution to bring about the fall of the current government and to uplift a new government that falls in line with this new Gospel. For those in truly democratic nations, they tend to vote for the party that begets the most social change and actively support those parties.

Of course, under liberation theology, there is hardly equality among the ‘sinners.’ In black liberation theology, white people are at a disadvantage when it comes to salvation. In typical liberal theology, the rich are at a disadvantage when it comes to salvation. In all liberation theology, the typical structure is that one group of people is kept down by another group of people, and Jesus came to save the oppressed group of people and to overthrow the oppressors. Such movements are typically liberal.

But since the mid-80’s, conservative Christians have unwittingly bought into a type of liberation theology without realizing it. The Religious Right adopted the Republican Party and began to preach what I would call Conservative Liberation Theology (CLT). Glenn Beck, in all his lambasting against liberation theology, is simply the newest proponent of CLT. The conservative view tends to be less nuanced and holds to more traditional theology than the liberal view, but it is liberation theology nonetheless. Continue reading

Random Thoughts: 9/9/2010

* Saying embryonic stem cell research is justifiable because of the medical advances it might bring is equivalent to saying that Dr. Eduard Wirths was justified in his experiments because of the medical advances he brought about.

* I can’t imagine Paul walking into a pagan temple and taking a hammer to the idols placed within; I can’t imagine he would support burning the holy book of another religion, even if the religion is false.

* A church’s success isn’t measured by how controversial they are or by how big their congregation happens to be. True success in a church is found in the following; fidelity to the truth of God and service to the unfortunate. Should a preacher ever utter a word of heresy from the pulpit or a member ever want for life’s necessities, only then can the church truly be called a failure.

* The world wants nothing to do with Christ for one of two reasons. Either they want nothing to do with Christ because His pure light has exposed their sins or the only image of Christ they’ve seen has been from His followers who’s sins have hidden the pure light of Christ. We should never be an excuse for unbelief.

* Would abortion exist if those who went to picket abortion clinics also chose to take in an unwed mother during her pregnancy and handle her medical woes?

* If Christians were to act in pure love towards each other and towards the world starting tomorrow we would all be committed to the hospital for insanity because the world does not know how to handle true love. But we should not placate the world for fear of our insanity, rather we should desire to live more fully in the insanity of God’s love.

* Christ gained nothing out of dying for us and redeeming us. His glory is infinite, so He did not increase His glory or add to it. His act of death was a pure sacrifice, one where He gained nothing in the process. Let us follow His example.

* War is a hell of a thing – it requires men to kill other men. It requires the human nature to be at combat with human nature. To kill a man is in effect to kill oneself, no matter how justified the action may be. Is there anything in this world more unnatural than warfare?

* “Christianity is a crutch to handle the trials of this world” isn’t an argument against Christianity; it’s an argument against the world.

Damascene Cosmology – On the Incarnation

We now come back to the original point of the last objection the critic may have in recognizing both Damascene Cosmology and Christianity to be true, in the Incarnation God changed. Certainly, to say “God became man” is an accepted phrase or that “God dwelt within Jesus” is part of our orthodox beliefs. But does this indicate that God changed in the Incarnation?

It is true that the person of Christ took on a human nature, but this does not mean that the Word changed. In taking on a human nature, the Divine nature did not mold with the human nature. Jesus was not a third type of nature, a Christian version of some Greek myth where he is part human and part God. In the person fo Christ the whole divine nature and the whole human nature existed, not as a composed single substance, but as two natures within one person.

When Christians speak of the mystery of the Incarnation the mystery they refer to is that two natures existed within two people. How such an event can be accomplished is beyond us, but it is necessary to understand that Christ, though one person, had two natures and acted through both natures. Both natures worked together and in perfect harmony, meaning that the person of Christ experienced life as a human without giving up who he was as God.

When the Divine nature, a nature the Word participated in, took on a human nature this did not change the divine nature. Nothing change in the Father, the Word, or the Spirit and they remained as they were prior to the Incarnation. What was true of the Word prior to the Incarnation remained true after the Incarnation. Any new things we could say about the Word we were saying about his human nature and not about his divine nature. When we say that “Jesus suffered,” implicit within such a statement is, “The human nature within the person of Christ suffered while the divine nature did not suffer.” Again, this is a mystery how the person of Christ could both suffer and not suffer, but it is not a contradiction because of the two natures; it would only be a contradiction if one nature existed. Continue reading