Posts Tagged With: C. S. Lewis

 
 

Special Revelation II: God in Christ and Christ in Us

Throughout the ages, God revealed Himself by speaking through prophets and manifesting His power in the lives of the Israelite people. Eventually, He gave the ultimate revelation of Himself by becoming a man like us:

“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs” (Hebrews 1:1–4; all Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise indicated).

Picture by Banksy98 [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

Throughout the Old Testament, the writers recorded God’s revelation of Himself to the Israelite people. Moses recorded the earliest encounters of men with God and the revelation of God’s laws in the first five books of the Bible. The writers of the historical books (Joshua, Judges, Ruth, First and Second Samuel, First and Second Kings, First and Second Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther) recorded how God displayed His sovereignty, love, and power to the Israelite people. Prophets spoke for God, revealing His will to the people in various times of crisis.

In the fullness of time (as St. Paul put it in Galatians 4:4), God sent His Son Jesus into the world. Jesus is God in human flesh. He is the most perfect revelation of what God is like. If you want to know what God is really like, look at Jesus. If you want to know what it means to be a man of God, look to Jesus—for He is both God and man. If you want to know how you can be like God, look at Jesus and imitate Him—because He is God who became a man. If you want to see the radiance of the glory of God, look at Jesus as He suffers and dies while hanging on a cross. If you want to see the exact imprint of God’s nature, behold Jesus as He refuses to avenge Himself while He is whipped, scourged, and abused. If you want to see the full power of God, watch Jesus as He rises from the dead and ascends to the right hand of the Father. If you want to experience the full power of that revelation in your life, invite Jesus into your heart and allow His Holy Spirit to empower you.

Jesus Himself tells us that He is God:

“If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (John 14:7–9).

Many people view Jesus as a great moral teacher, but as C. S. Lewis observes, claims like this prohibit this option. The entire Jewish religion hinged on a simple truth: “The Lord is our God, the Lord is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4, NASB). The worship or acknowledgment of any other deities was a violation against the very first of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:3). If Jesus was not God, His bold claim in John 14:7–9 would be punishable by death under the Old Testament law. Jesus did not give us the option of thinking of Him as a great moral teacher or a mere prophet. As C. S. Lewis writes in Mere Christianity:

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

Jesus did not give us the option of admiring Him as a great moral teacher, a prophet, or even as a good man. Others who believed they were God usually proved that they were among the most wicked men on Earth. If we believe Jesus is even a good man, we must accept His claims. To see Jesus is the same as seeing God. If we want to know anything about God, we can simply look at Jesus or learn about Him.

The entire secret of the Christian life is to participate in the unity of the Triune God. Jesus speaks of His connection with the Father as a relationship where they are “in” each other:

“Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves” (John 14:10–11).

Then, He tells us that this unity extends to our relationship with Him and with other Christians:

“The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me” (John 17:22–23).

Genesis 1:26 tells us that God made mankind in His image. Like us, God is a personal being, not merely a force or an abstract ideal concept. While He is a personal being Who is far greater than anything we can imagine, the most appropriate way to reveal Himself was in a personal form. That form was the man, Jesus Christ. Today, Jesus continues to reveal Himself—not merely through His written Word, but through the people in whom He has chosen to dwell: all who call upon His name for salvation.

Copyright © 2019 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Revelation and Scripture | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments
 
 

Hard-Wired to Seek God

So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for
“‘In him we live and move and have our being’;
as even some of your own poets have said,
“‘For we are indeed his offspring.’
Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent….” (Acts 17:22-30; all Scripture quotations from the English Standard Version, unless otherwise noted.)

How can we know God? How can we know that there is a God? And, if there is a God, how can we know what He/She/It is like?

These are important questions, from which many of the other great questions of life spring forth. These questions lay below the surface of many of our cultural debates. Later this week, I will attend the March for Life, because I believe abortion is immoral and should be illegal. Likewise, I believe homosexuality, sex outside of marriage, murder, stealing, and racism are sins. I believe that such actions and attitudes are completely opposed to God’s will for humanity. I believe they contradict the two great commandments spelled out by Jesus Christ: love the Lord your God, and love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37-40). If there were no God, then perhaps survival of the fittest, as described in the theory of evolution, would be the greatest virtue. In that case, it might be okay to murder anybody who brings inconvenience into our lives, to have sex with anybody or anything (whether they are willing participants or not), or to pursue our own desires regardless of how it affects other people.

Likewise, if God was different from how I believe He is, my moral values would be different. What if the Lord of the entire universe was more like what the Bible calls “Satan” or a being from Norse or Greek mythology? Would my ideas about right and wrong be different?

Thus, the existence and nature of God are among the most essential questions all people must face. I will share a few thoughts in the next few posts about this. In a blog like this, it may not be possible to give a perfectly satisfactory answer that will address every possible proof or objection. Entire volumes of theology and philosophy have been devoted to this subject, yet great minds find themselves disagreeing about the existence and nature of God.

However, I will state from the beginning that I believe it is possible for a rational, intelligent human to believe in God. We can know God through a process that theologians call “revelation” or “illumination.” There are two broad kinds of revelation. General revelation is available to all mankind and allows us to know that there is a God. Special revelation (particularly, God’s Word, the Bible) lets us know what that God is like; it assures us that the One True God is the one revealed by Jesus Christ, not something similar to Satan or pagan deities.

Nevertheless, I will begin where C. S. Lewis began his proof for God’s existence. He and several other authors believe that human instinct can lead us to believe in God. In his classic book, Mere Christianity, Lewis began by showing that humans tend to believe in notions of justice, fairness, righteousness, and other moral and ethical ideals. We seem to assume that there are certain ideals that all people should accept (whether different cultures or religions agree about those ideals is a different question). We even cling to certain ideals when evidence might lead us to doubt them:

“My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?” (Mere Christianity, p. 6)

Why do we believe in notions like kindness and cruelty, justice and injustice? Why do we think one is better than the other? Why do we believe that everybody should accept our conviction as the one true ideal? I mentioned the two great commandments of Matthew 22:37-40 a few paragraphs ago. Modern American culture has replaced Jesus’ command with a new value to cherish over all others: tolerance. We are told that you must tolerate diverse viewpoints and lifestyles, and it seems like most Americans cannot comprehend how someone can think other values take precedence over “tolerance.” In fact, they simply cannot tolerate anybody who will not worship at the altar of tolerance! Even when rejecting the biblical “intolerant” God (or, at least, rejecting the intolerant people who say they worship Him), they offer a godlike idea in His place.

Such craving for an object of faith seems essential to our being. It seems “hard-wired” into our psyches. In Acts 17:22-30, St. Paul observed that this instinctual spiritual craving had driven the residents of Athens to build an altar “to the unknown god” (apparently the numerous ones they already had names for and myths about did not seem sufficient). In 2004, geneticist Dean Hamer claimed to have discovered that humans carry a “God gene” which predisposes us to spirituality and mysticism. While it was a controversial theory—religious thinkers like theologian/physicist John Polkinghorne believe faith cannot be reduced to genetics and biochemistry—Hamer claimed his theory is consistent with the possible existence of God. In an article in the Washington Post, he said:

“Religious believers can point to the existence of God genes as one more sign of the Creator’s ingenuity — a clever way to help humans acknowledge and embrace a divine presence.”

(Before you jump to the conclusion that Dr. Hamer is a Christian, I must point out that he is also partially responsible for promoting the common belief that homosexuality is a genetic trait. In the coming weeks, I may quote scientists whose statements suggest the possible existence of a supreme being or creator; not all of them believe that supreme being is the God of the Bible.)

Is the ability to believe in God or the desire to know Him hard-wired into our nature? It seems that humans by nature are disposed to religious conviction. Most human cultures have a religious tradition. Although Western society is drifting from a common belief in the biblical God and traditional religious faith, seeds of religiosity abide. I mentioned the almost religious deification of “tolerance” earlier. in addition, many people have adopted a faith in “the universe” as their higher power. Others adopt a faith inspired by the spirituality of the Star Wars movies, worshiping an impersonal “Force” that manifests itself in a light and dark side. In an age when many people claim humanity has become “too enlightened for faith in God,” many merely replace the God of Scripture with other “gods” of our choosing. We cannot seem to escape it. To quote lyricist Kerry Livgren from the 1970s progressive-rock band Kansas, “Everyone needs something to believe in” (from the song, “On the Other Side“).

This religious instinct helps inspire many people to seek Christ. I know many Christians (myself included) who say they came to faith in Jesus as a result of a spiritual-searching phase. Something inside us compelled us to seek answers to questions like, “Why am I here? What is the purpose of {my} life? Is there a God? Can I know Him?” I cannot honestly say that I chose to seek God; rather, I felt something compelling me to ask these questions. The Bible tells us that nobody comes to Christ without being drawn by God (see John 6:44). Perhaps He does that by somehow tapping into Hamer’s “God gene.”

In a way that might be difficult to understand or explain, God seems to find a way to reveal Himself to people even when they have no knowledge of His Name or Scripture:

For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. (Romans 2:12-16)

Something inside all of us gives us the opportunity to seek God. Another aspect of general revelation helps us to see His hand in action. We will see His witness in creation in a forthcoming post.

Copyright © 2019 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Revelation and Scripture | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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