a poem for Palm Sunday

a cartoon sketch of G. K. Chesterton

Every year, when the liturgical calendar reaches certain holy days, I make it a point to re-read certain pieces of liturgy or literature which have come to be favorites in my life.  Here’s a poem by one of the greats of literature that I read each year on Palm Sunday…

“The Donkey” by G. K. Chesterton

When fishes flew and forests walked

And figs grew upon thorn,

Some moment when the moon was blood

Then surely I was born;



With monstrous head and sickening cry

And ears like errant wings,

The devil’s walking parody

On all four-footed things.

The tattered outlaw of the earth,

Of ancient crooked will;

Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,

I keep my secret still.



Fools! For I also had my hour;

One far fierce hour and sweet:

There was a shout about my ears,

And palms before my feet.


Twitter

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I recently set up a Twitter account.  You can follow me @adam_godbold if that’s what you fancy.  I have no idea how involved I will get with my tweets, but we’ll see.


What Christ Undid…

With the Lenten season quickly approaching, here are some thoughts to prompt your mind…

 

“Condemned” to Be Immortal

by Archimandrite Justin Popovich

Through the Resurrection of the God-Man, the nature of man has been led irrevocably to the path of immortality, and death has thus become fearful. For, before the Resurrection of Christ, death was something feared by man; but after the Resurrection of the Lord, man has become something fearful for death. If a man lives in Faith within the Resurrected God-Man, he lives above death. He stands impregnable by death. Death is transformed into a “footstool beneath his feet”: “O death, where is thy victory? O Hades, where is thy sting?” (I Corinthians 15:55). Therefore, when a man in Christ breathes his last, he sheds only the shell of his body, to be clothed with it once again on the day of the Second Coming.Men have condemned God to death; God, however, has by His Resurrection “sentenced” men to immortality. In return for their buffets, He offers embraces; for their insults, blessings; for death, immortality. Never have men shown such enmity for God as when they crucified Him; and never has God shown such love for men as He did in resurrecting. Men wish to render God mortal, but God by His Resurrection designed to make men immortal. The crucified God resurrected and overcame death. Death is no more. Immortality has overtaken man and the whole of his world.

Until the Resurrection of the God-Man Christ, death was the second nature of man; the first was life, the second death. Man had become used to death as something natural. But with the Resurrection of the Lord, all things changed: immortality became the second nature of man. It has become something natural to man, whereas death is rendered unnatural. Just as before the Resurrection of Christ it was natural for man to be mortal, so after His Resurrection it has become natural for man to be immortal.

Through sin, man was made mortal and limited; through the Resurrection of the God-Man, he becomes immortal and eternal. In this precisely lie the power, the dominion, and the omnipotence of the Resurrection of Christ. Moreover, without the Resurrection of Christ there would be no Christianity at all. Among miracles, the greatest of all is the Resurrection of the Lord. All of the other miracles spring forth form the Resurrection and are centered within it. From it spring forth faith, love, hope, prayer, and godliness. The fugitive Disciples, they who fled far from Jesus when He died, returned to Him when he resurrected. And the Roman centurion, when he saw Christ resurrect from the tomb, confessed Him as the Son of God. It was in this way that all of the early Christians became Christians —because Christ resurrected, because He conquered death. This is that which not one other religion has; it is this, the Resurrection, which exalts Christ above all other men and above all other gods. It is this which, in a singular and indisputable manner, shows and proves that Christ is the only true God and Lord of all the seen and unseen worlds.

By the grace of the resurrection of Christ, by the grace of His conquest over death, men became, are now becoming, and will in the future become Christians. All of Christian history is nothing other than that of one singular miracle, the miracle of the Resurrection of Christ, which is eternally contained within the hearts of Christians from day to day, from year to year, and from age to age, until the Second Coming.

Man is truly born, not when he is brought into the world by his mother, but when he comes to believe in the Resurrected Savior, Christ; for then he is born into immortality and eternal life, while the mother brings a child only into death, to the grave. The Resurrection of Christ is the mother of all of us, all of us Christians —the mother of all who are deathless. By his faith in the Resurrection of Christ, man is born anew, born into eternity.

This is impossible, the skeptic responds. And the Resurrected God-Man replies: “All things are possible to him who believes” (St. Mark 9:23). And one who believes is he who, with all of his heart, with all of his soul, and with all of his being, lives according to the Gospel of the Resurrected Lord Jesus.

Our Faith is the victory in which we conquer death; faith, that is, in the Resurrected Lord. “O death, where is thy victory? O Hades, where is thy sting?” “The sting of death is sin” (I Corinthians 15:55-56). By His Resurrection, the Lord “removed the sting of death.” Death is the serpent and sin is its sting. Through sin, death injects its poison into the souls and bodies of men. The more sins that a man has, the more powerful the sting by which death injects its poison into him.

When a wasp stings a person, the person makes every possible effort to extract the stinger from his body. But when he is stung by death —this sting of Hades—, what should he do? He must, with faith and prayer, call upon the Resurrected Savior, Christ, that He may take from his soul the sting of death. And He, compassionate as He is, will do so, for He is the God of Mercy and Love. When many wasps set upon a man’s body and wound him with their stings, a man becomes poisoned and dies. The same thing happens when a man is wounded by the many stings of manifold sins. He who is not resurrected from sin succumbs to death.

By conquering the sin within him through Christ, a man conquers death. If a single day passes and you have not yet conquered at least one of your sins, realize that you have become all the more mortal. If, however, you have overcome one, two, or three of your sins, you have become more greatly renewed in that newness that does not age: immortality and eternity. Let us never forget that, for one to believe in Christ, this means that he must struggle ceaselessly against sin, evil, and death.

A man demonstrates that he truly believes in the Resurrected Lord by his struggle against the passions and against sin; and if he so struggles, he must know that he struggles for immortality and for eternal life. If he does not struggle, then his faith is in vain. For, if a man’s faith is not a struggle for immortality and eternity, then what is it? If by faith in Christ one does not attain to immortality and victory over death, then to what end our faith? If Christ is not resurrected, this means that sin and death have not been conquered. And if these two things have not been overcome, then why should anyone believe in Christ? He who, through faith in the Resurrection of Christ, struggles against his every sin, however, has profound reinforcement within himself of a sense that Christ is in fact resurrected, that He has in fact removed the sting of death, that He has in fact conquered death on all fronts of battle.

Sin deeply scars man, draws him near to death, and transforms him from something immortal to something mortal, from something incorruptible and unbounded into something corruptible and limited. The more sins a person has, the more mortal he becomes. And if a man does not feel himself immortal, it is obvious that he is wholly mired in sin, in short-sighted thought, and in dead feelings. Christianity is a call to a struggle to the last breath against death, until, that is, the final victory over death. Every sin is a falling-away, every passion a betrayal, every evil deed a defeat.

No one should ask why it is that the Christian succumbs to bodily death. This comes about because the death of the body is a kind of sowing. The mortal body is sown, St. Paul tells us (see I Corinthians 15:42ff), and is raised in power, becoming immortal. Like the seed that is sown, so too the body dissolves, that the Holy Spirit might give it life and perfect it. If the Lord had not resurrected in the body, what benefit would we have taken in this from Him? He would not have saved the whole man. Had He not resurrected the body, then why was He made flesh? Why did He take upon Himself a body, were it not to give to it of His Divinity?

If Christ did not resurrect, why should anyone then believe in Him? I confess sincerely that I would never have believed in Christ, had He not resurrected, had He not conquered death, our greatest enemy. But Christ was resurrected, and He gave to us immortality. Without this truth, our world is nothing but a chaotic display of odious stupidities. Only with His glorious Resurrection does our wondrous Lord and God free us from despair and senselessness. For without the Resurrection, there is nothing more senseless in the heavens or under the heavens than the present world; nor is there greater despair than this life without immortality. For this reason, in all the world there is no more misfortunate a being than a man who does not believe in the Resurrection of Christ and the resurrection of the dead (see Corinthians 15:19). “Better for that man if he had not been born” (St. Matthew 26:24).

In our mundane world, death is the greatest torment and the most hideously cruel thing. Freedom from this torment and cruelty is precisely what salvation is. Such salvation was given to the generation of man only by the Conqueror of Death, the Resurrected God-Man. Through His Resurrection, He revealed to us the whole mystery of our salvation. Salvation means to be guaranteed immortality and eternal life for the body and for the soul. But how do we succeed in this? Only in the life of the God-Man, in the life of the Resurrection, through the Resurrected Christ.

For us Christians, life on this earth is a school in which we learn how to secure for ourselves immortality and eternal life. For of what benefit is this life, if we cannot attain to eternity within it? But for a man to be resurrected with Christ, a man must first die with Him and live the life of Christ as his own. If he does this, then on the Day of Resurrection he may say, along with St. Gregory the Theologian: “Yesterday I was crucified with Christ, today I am glorified with Him; yesterday I died with Him, today I am given life with Him; yesterday I was buried with Him, today I rise with Him.”

And in a few single words we may summarize the four Gospels of Christ: “Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!” In each of these words one can find the Gospel of Christ, as in the four Gospels one may find all of the knowledge of the whole of God’s world, both known and unknown. And when the feelings of man, along with all of his thoughts, are centered on the thundering din of the Paschal greeting, “Christ is Risen!,” then the joy of immortality moves all things, and all things in rejoicing proclaim the Paschal miracle: “Indeed He is Risen.”

Yes, Christ is indeed risen! and a witness of this is you; I am a witness; every Christian is a witness of this, beginning with the Apostles and reaching up through the Second Coming. Because only the power of the Resurrected God-Man Christ can give —and continually gives now and will continually give in the future— the power to each Christian, from the first to the last, to conquer all that is mortal, and by this death itself; all that is sinful, and by this sin itself; and all that is demonic, and by this the devil himself. For simply by His Resurrection, the Lord, in the most convincing way, showed and proved that His life is Eternal Life; His love, Eternal Love; His good, Eternal Good; His truth, Eternal Truth; and His joy, Eternal Joy. He also showed and demonstrated that all of these things He gives, in His incomparable love of mankind, to every Christian in every age.

With regard to these things, there is not a single event, not only in the Gospels, but in the entire history of the human race, to which greater testimony has been given, in a manner so forceful, so unimpeachable, and so undisputed, than the Resurrection of Christ. Without doubt, Christianity, in all of its historical reality, in all of its historical force and omnipotence, has been established on the fact of the Resurrection of Christ, that is, on the Hypostasis of the God-Man Christ in Eternal Life. And to this all of the long and ever-miraculous history of Christianity bears witness.

Indeed, if there is one fact with which one could summarize all of the events in the life of Christ and of the Apostles, and more generally in all of Christianity, that event would be the Resurrection of Christ. Moreover, if there is a reality which summarizes all of the realities of the New Testament, that reality would be the Resurrection of Christ. And finally, if there is one miracle in the Gospels which can be said to summarize all of the miracles reported in the New Testament, that miracle would be the Resurrection of Christ. For only within the light of the Resurrection are the person of Jesus Christ and His work made miraculously known. Only within the light of the Resurrection are the miracles of Christ, all of His truths, all of His words, and all of the events of the New Testament fully explained.

Up to the time of His Resurrection, the Lord taught about eternal life; but in the Resurrection, He shows us that He Himself is Eternal Life. Up to the time of His Resurrection, He taught about the Resurrection from the dead; but in the Resurrection, He showed that He Himself was indeed the resurrection of the dead. Up to the time of His Resurrection, He taught that belief in Him took one from death to life; but in His Resurrection, He showed that He Himself had conquered death and had thus assured those afflicted by death of passage from death to resurrection. Yes, O indeed, yes: the God-Man Jesus Christ, by His Resurrection, showed and demonstrated that He is the only true God, the only God-Man among all humankind.

And something further: without the Resurrection of the God-Man, it would be impossible to explain the witness of the Apostles, or the martyrdom of the Martyrs, or the confessions of the Confessors, or the holiness of the Holy, or the ascetic labor of the Ascetics, or the wonders of the Wonder-Workers, or the faith of the Faithful, or the love of those of love, or the hope of the hopeful, or the prayer of the prayerful, or the repentance of the repentant, or the mercies of the merciful, or any Christian virtue or labor.  Had the Lord not risen as the Resurrected One and had He not filled His Disciples with life-giving power and miraculous wisdom, what could have brought these cowardly and fugitive men together, giving them the courage and the strength and the wisdom so fearlessly to preach and to confess the Resurrected Christ and to go with such joy even to death on His behalf? And if the Resurrected Savior did not fill them with His divine power and wisdom, how could they have ignited in the world the inextinguishable fire of the New Testamental Faith, these simple, unlearned, and poor men? If the Christian Faith were not a faith in the Resurrection and, as a consequence, in the Eternally-Living and Life-Giving Lord, who would have been able to inspire the Martyrs in the feat of martyrdom, the Confessors in the feat of confession, the Ascetics in the feats of asceticism, the Unmercenaries in the feat of penury, the Fasters in their feats of abstinence, and any Christian in any Christian feat?

Thus it is that all of these things are true for me and for every human being —through the Resurrection of Christ. The Wondrous and Sweet Jesus Christ, the Resurrected God-Man, is the only Being under the heavens in whom man here on earth can conquer death and sin and the devil and come to blessedness and immortality —becoming a partaker, indeed, of the Eternal Kingdom of the Love of Christ. For the human being, the Resurrected Christ is the all in all throughout mankind: all that is Beautiful, Good, True, Precious, Harmonious, Sacred, Wise, and Everlasting. He is all of our Love, all of our Truth, all of our Joy, all of our Life, the Eternal Life unto all the sacred eternities and infinities.


Jesus > Religion?

Please let me, first, offer a simple explanation of my misplaced responses. It had just arrived at a youth meeting (Bible study, prayer, fellowship) when I noticed that things were getting “heated up”. As I waited for folks to show up, I decided to read some of the comments that were being posted and began commenting as I was reading. Consequently, I found myself unable to keep up as folks were chiming in; each time I posted, Facebook would then notify me of several other comments that had actually been posted prior to mine. Please bear with me as things certainly came across inappropriately and my comments seemed out of place and – perhaps – crass.

Please let me, second, make it clear that opposing viewpoints are certainly allowed and are even appreciated. It should be duly noted that I gave the guy on the video the benefit of doubt: suggesting that he is either a liar, a lunatic, or an idiot. My suspicions are that he is sincere and is not lying, is sane an not crazy, and mistaken and far too loose with his words, ideas, and the communication of both. Perhaps ‘idiot’ is too strong of a word for the faint at heart, but – to be sure – I was using the term etymologically… He seems oblivious of his relationship to the outside world and, thereby, proudly proclaims a Gospel lacking either biblical substance or theological coherence.

Please let me, third, clarify a few thoughts that have come to my mind regarding the contents of the video and the discussion that has ensued:

  1. As has been noted, he fails to define his terms, which is the first step of reasonable debate. He doesn’t seem to care to dialogue; he seems to simply care to make a cool video that can go viral. He seems to be confusing scriptural religion with false religion and should take note of James 1:26-27 among other passages which acknowledge true Christian faith to be indeed religious in character and expression. God gave religion to the Hebrew people as a means by which He would reveal Himself to the people with whom He graciously entered a covenantal relationship. The word of Scripture is that He instituted Hebrew religion, even establishing the rituals and festivals by which they would rightly worship Him and through which they would reliably know Him. Jesus was – perhaps – the most religious person who ever lived. He knew the Law and the Prophets and followed them faithfully. He even warned His followers that their “righteousness” must necessarily exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees if they are to ever hope of knowing and loving Him and, thereby, having spiritual life.

  2. I’m sure some are wondering why we call can’t just call it quits and stop debating the doctrine within the Church. After all, what about the “friendly fire” of Christian theological conversation? We should heed the exhortations of Jude, Paul to the Galatians, and the epistles of John certainly among other writings in the Christian Scriptures. Who Christ indeed is and what Christ indeed instituted is of utmost importance. Many will say unto Him, “Lord, Lord!” Truth matters, for He who is the Truth is Himself and not another. It is incumbent upon us as His people to speak of Him and His Church in great care and with great passion.

  3. What we have done in the modern evangelical church of the West is amazing. We live in a largely post-Christian culture, one which – for the most part – has forgotten all Christian memory, and what have we done? We have addressed the problem, which is – in large part – biblically illiteracy and theologically ineptness with a pathetically anemic pop-Christian solution; namely, wholesale biblical ignorance and discount bumper sticker theology. And now, after decades of “cheap grace” and “keep it simple” sermonizing, how better off are we? How changed is the world? How wealthy are the poor? How incarnate is the Body?

  4. Those stepping up to the mic to call our folks and inflict wounds on the “Church” and “Christianity as a religion” would do wisely to choose their targets well and to, then, aim accurately. In slamming “religion”, he’s shooting at everyone! What’s with all of this “we” business? About whom is he talking? Most of the contemporary Christian music on the radio is guilty of the same fault: dogging out “us religious folks”. I find myself constantly wanting to yell back, “Who? What church? My church?! Yours?!” Meanwhile, we (i.e., we who have a “relationship” with Jesus and are proudly “non-religious”) drive along, nod our heads, raise a hand in agreement, and mutter, “Amen,” never doing a thing to change the world and – all the while – being convinced that it’s everybody else’s (i.e., those “religious” folks’) problem that the poor are poor and the world remains untouched by the Body of Christ.

  5. In regards to Jesus’ statement that the Kingdom is “within you”, Jesus’ intent is, in fact, lost in translation in most instances. The Greek phrase, ἰδοὺ γὰρ ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ ἐντὸς ὑμῶν ἐστιν, should be translated, “For, behold, the Kingdom of God is in your midst [or, among you].” Yes, the Jesus taught a present Kingdom, one established among His disciples here and now at this time and in this space, but He was not teaching them to search for pseudo-gnostic spiritism that they can find in themselves if they would just look diligently. He was declaring Himself to them, incarnate, and proclaimed – elsewhere – them to be His presence in the world likewise.

  6. The message of the New Testament is that of the Old. What the Old “majors” on, the New “minors” on; meanwhile, what the Old “minors” on, the New “majors” on. What’s more: we as the people of God should take note and boldly proclaim the message of both the Old and New Testaments, both concerning unequivocally the salvation of the world, the grace of God, and love for God and neighbor leading to faithful obedience to God and self-giving service to one’s neighbor. No one in the Old was ever saved by adherence to the law, just as no one in the New or since has ever been saved while neglecting it. In regards to the intent of the commands… They were, in many cases, object lessons, given to teach God’s people about who He is, who they are, and how they are to approach Him and relate to one another. They were, in – perhaps – all cases, teaching simple obedience. If God commands, we must obey. Hence, the old covenant (i.e., external law on stone) was made obsolete by the new (i.e., internal law of flesh) and the subsequent indwelling presence of God the Father and Christ the Son by means of the Holy Spirit.

  7. As far as “the message of Christ”… Where do you find it other than in the reliable testimony of the Scriptures and in the remembering life of the Church?

  8. The Gospel is – indeed and by its very nature – subversive, but it is not only subversive to political loyalties and “God in the dock” ritualism but is also – on the same token – subversive to heavenly escapism and “nothing is sacred”, iconoclastic pop-evangelicalism.

What the world needs is the presence of Christ. What the Church offers is the presence of Christ in its faithful, incarnate, gracious, sacramental life as it embraces the Lord and His world, uniting heaven and earth in its worship to God and self-giving to His world.

If the guy in the video hasn’t found this kind of “church” or “religion”, he should keep looking… After all, for such Christ died and to such Christ has given Himself.


Care to read through Isaiah this Advent?

Here’s a a version of Dr. Oswalt‘s outline of Isaiah offered in The NIV Application Commentary: Isaiah, which I’ve modified minimally so as to provide daily servings throughout this Advent…

Advent Scripture Readings (Isaiah)


On the Image of God in Man

Genesis 1:26-27; 3:1-13

In an ultimate sense, all being is dependent upon the Triune God. In an endeavor to explore the radical implications of such a statement, John Zizioulas rightly argues that being is inevitably, then, dependent upon communion. If one is to be (or, even exist), then he must find himself participating, in some sense, in communion. Evidence of such a fact can be seen on a basely human level in that every member of the human race – every man, woman, boy, or girl – has (or, at least, at some point in time has had) a belly button. Though usually taken for granted, the simple existence of a belly button points beyond its bearer to the one who bore that person in her womb. Even further, however, we know that for a woman to bear a child, the involvement of a man – another person – is also necessary. So, in human existence – though we may often forget it – we can clearly see that communion, at least on some level, is absolutely necessary to even natural life.

I am convinced that this fact of human existence – the necessity of another – lies at the heart of the Imago Dei. What did God mean when He said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (1:26a ESV)? Well, it is most certain that there are many implications that such an Image carries with Itself. In fact, Dennis Kinlaw does an exceptional job of pointing to and expressing those implications, when he makes conclusions concerning personhood in the light of personhood as seen in Jesus. In chapter three of Let’s Start with Jesus, he discusses consciousness of identity, relational webs, the reciprocal aspect of relationships, freedom, moral consciousness, openness, and trusting love. Each of these aspects, though, point past themselves to what lies beyond – communion, which lies at the heart of being itself. Therefore, when God freely chooses to make Man in the Divine Image, He chooses to make Man a person – an intensely relational being.

Relationality lies at the heart of Who God is; He is the eternally free and blessed Father, Son, and Spirit. This is alluded to in the simple fact that God even chose to make Man in the first place. Why would He? Because, it is His very nature to give love, share life, and desire others. Even further, though, the relationality of God is hinted at in the phraseology of the text. Dr. Kinlaw would urge us to not take lightly the fact that God appears to be in dialogue as He chooses to make Man in His Image (Let’s 31). In dialogue with whom? With Himself, as the three Divine Persons freely choose to give, share, and desire even beyond Themselves. It should also be noted, though, that in the Hebrew the subject in this dialogue (“Us”) is plural and personal, while the verb (“make”) denotes singular action. Now, while it would be dishonest to place upon the text a false idea of how much Israel might have understood about the triunity of God, it is also unnecessary to plainly dismiss any implications of the text whatsoever simply because early Israel did not share with us in the benefits of the Creeds.

What I would like to do is delve into what the Image of God in Man looks like. To do so, it is my present desire to take a snapshot of that Image as it is seen in Man, but, for a balanced look, I would like to explore two aspects related to that Image in some depth and, then, make some concluding remarks related to a final related aspect. The first these aspects I would like to explore is the Heart of the Image. The second is the Corruption of the Image. Then, to wrap things up, I would like to make some comments regarding the Redemption of the Image.

But, first, the Heart of the Image – Man is, by nature, a relational being. In the movie Castaway, Tom Hanks plays a character who ends up stranded on an uninhabited island. After only a couple of weeks, he becomes so desperate for communion that he goes so far as to turn a volleyball into a “person” named Wilson, though it remains obvious that he knows this ball is, indeed, not a real person. Nevertheless, he decorates Wilson, talks to Wilson, even argues with Wilson. Hanks’s character vividly captures a basic human need. The fact is that Man simply cannot avoid living in relationships – the most necessary of these relationships being that of parent to child. We know that a child cannot even exist without his parents. But, even after birth he still cannot persist without another, for he is initially incapable of self-provision and self-protection.

It would seem plainly assumed by our text that before the Fall (and even after) Man depended upon God. In the Garden, he freely and innocently lived under divine-provision as well as divine-protection. His Creator was the personal Source who met all of his needs. Even after this relationship had been marred by sin, though, we find that God continues to provide and protect – preparing skins for the couple, continuing the ability for work and childbearing, and even shielding them from the disaster that might ensue upon a reentry into the Garden.

The relational aspect of God’s Image in Man clearly lends itself to at least two relationships of self-giving, self-surrendering love – that with God and that with neighbor. In his book Created for Community, Stanley Grenz argues that a relational aspect lies at the heart of the created order. He makes it quite plain that Man was created to be in communion with God, fellow Man, and even nature itself (in an appropriate sense). Please allow me to spend some time looking at a couple of these relationships – what are clearly the two most important and foundational.

Prior to the Fall, it appears to be quite clear that Man enjoyed a relationship of love with God, as he was the apex of creation itself. Man enjoyed the benefits of being one who was made in the very Image of God – an Image of relational, self-giving love. For the couple’s reaction to the coming of God in chapter three to carry its shock-effect, it must be seen that they had experienced a unique friendship with their Maker. We are told that they heard God walking in the Garden in the cool of the day, and nothing is said that would lead one to believe that this was an unusual occurrence.

Man is also seen experiencing a deep and fulfilling relationship with a neighbor – namely, his wife. With joy, Adam declared, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (2:23a ESV). God Himself, even saw that it was not good for Man to be alone, but that he should have someone suitable for himself (2:18). There existed, in the relationship between the man and the woman, a unity like no other in the created order, as we are told that husband and wife become one flesh (2:24). Further, there seems to be complete freedom in Man’s relationships, for we are told that the couple was naked and, yet, unashamed (or, free from fear). It is quite interesting to note that in verse 27 of chapter 1, while expressing the creation of Man in the Image of God, the text makes it a point to express that Image in terms of maleness and femaleness – “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Man without Woman is incomplete. In the midst of all the goodness of creation, God declares that one thing is not good – for the man to be alone – without the woman, another free person who is personally like him, yet physically different and distinct in every way (2:18).

Let’s now look at a second aspect related to the Image of God in Man… the Corruption of the Image – As is man and reflective of the nature of God, sin is, by nature, relational in character. Sin is not some eerie substance floating in space but is, rather, a loss of relationship (class notes, page 62). Such a loss assumes that the one who sins and the one sinned against are relational beings. In the Fall, we find that Man made a free and conscious choice (i.e. Wesley [class notes, 63]) which terribly marred his share in God’s Image. Where sin is present, this is always the case, for the heart of the Image is relationship; therefore, sin being relational itself is destructive to that Image and, ultimately, to relationship as well.

The Temptation itself challenged Man to dare to grasp for himself rather than receive from another. The man and woman traded divine-provision for self-provision, divine-protection for self-protection. They once freely received, and in their Fall they found themselves greedily grabbing and taking for themselves, as their hands reached for the forbidden fruit. This self-assertiveness would inevitably lead to a perversion of all relationships in which they participated.

As relates to his relationship with God, Man found himself freely exchanging his love for God for a perverted and inappropriate fear of God. It is one thing to stand in awe of one’s Maker, but it is totally another thing to hide one’s self in fright as his Provider and Protector reliably comes to meet in fellowship. The problem of his relationship with the One in whose Image he had been made was an issue of separation. Sin had distanced his heart from that of God. And Man’s answer to God’s question concerning where he was is so revealing – he had heard God coming, was gripped by fear, and in shame had hidden himself from the only One who could ultimately redeem his condition (3:10).

And what about his relationship with his wife – the woman? No longer did he find love and joyful fulfillment in her. No, now would find himself using her for self-provision and self-protection. When questioned about whether or not he has eaten of the forbidden fruit, the man immediately passed the blame off to the woman. She had, indeed, offered him the fruit, but he had freely chosen to take and eat it for himself. And now, in order to protect himself, he points to her as the one who’s to blame. As a result of sin and its relational nature, Man has turned inward upon himself. He is radically self-centered, no longer finding fulfillment in another but, now, setting himself up as his own source of fulfillment. And the woman’s response, when asked the all-searching question, “What is this that you have done?” (3:13 ESV) – Oh, she places the blame off on yet anotherj created being – the serpent. So, you see, all of the created order, it appears, finds itself in desperate tension. Fingers are pointed; blame is placed; everything is someone else’s fault. And, why? Because Man now fends for himself, being gripped by the deadly clutches of self-centeredness. The outcome of such self-centeredness is vividly depicted in C. S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce. In the opening chapters, Napoleon is mentioned as an example of the inhabitants of the depressingly gray town – a town in which no one lives anywhere near another in a desire to be left to one’s self. For, you see, others can impose.

Even in these opening chapters of Genesis, it is clearly seen that Man is, by nature, radically relational in character – the central mark of the Image of God. Further, we can see that, subsequent to the Fall and as a result of sin, Man finds that relational Image terribly damaged and deeply perverted. His affections have changed; his fulfillment is skewed; and his relationships are devastated. However, rather than ending with such a grim tone, let’s end on a positive note… the Redemption of the Image.

The good news of Scripture is that God never leaves Man where He finds him. In fact, as is seen in the provision and protection given to Man after his grave sin, God meets Man in his deepest of needs. As John Wesley argued in his sermon “The One Thing Needful,” Man’s greatest need of all is the restoration of the Image of God. His relationality is central to who he is and is also the central front of sin’s attack; therefore, this is where God meets Man – in this the highest of his needs. His relationships, chiefly with God and neighbor, have been destroyed and are in great need to reconciliation. Therefore, it is only obvious that God’s salvation will, at its core, bring a restoration of these relationships, as He redeems His Image in Man.

In a time when Evangelicalism’s message often pictures salvation simply as an acceptance despite utter sinfulness and a passageway into heaven after one breathes his last breath, it is of utmost importance to remember that in redemption, God always meets needs, especially the greatest of needs. Therefore, an understanding of salvation that does not encompass a restoration of the Divine Image in Man is plainly lacking. Heaven and the joys of the afterlife are pictured in Scripture as bonuses, not the issue itself. C. S. Lewis cleverly asked how one could not but continue to live after death, when he has been infused with the life of God – eternal life. This puts things in a fair perspective – eternity is the outflow, for the issue is the Image and its redemption. However such a redemption might look, it is certainly fulfilled as God gives His life to those who bear His Image. And whatever we might say about redemption, we must, of necessity, involve the Image of God in the discussion, for redemption (or salvation) itself implies a restoration of what was intended and what was once experienced. May it be so!


Contemporvant

Be sure to take note of the awards listed at the end.  Amazing.


The most important thing in life…

is what you leave behind.  That’s right: your legacy.  Oh, to be sure, I could say, “The most important thing in life is Jesus [or to be a child of God, et al],” but think of it… To know God or not is to inevitably leave a legacy.  Perhaps I’m getting the cart before the horse [After all, I’m just now working on my first cup of coffee.], but it seems to me that or choices in life are all investing in one thing: what we leave behind us, what others will remember, what others will garner from our stories.

The other night, it occurred to me while I was putting Emery back to bed [He climbs out and sneaks around the house now.  Ugh.]: What I leave for him is the most special contribution I can make as a person.

A little bit more context… Aidan and Imogene were piled up in my lap watching the Braves game, and Emery got out of bed and snuck downstairs to check things out.  When I noticed him, my first thought was to get his little tail back in bed.  After all, he is the good sleeper of the family, and nothing is important enough to compromise his sleeping pattern.  Right?  Well, I was putting him back in bed, saying further prayers with him, and letting him know that I wanted him to have a good night’s sleep and remain in his bed till morning.  He answered me, “Yeah, sir.”  His eyes were sad, and I could hear tears in his voice.  That’s all it took.  It suddenly occurred to me: I couldn’t care less at that point about his sleeping habits.  [Mine are the pits, and I’ve turned out alright, right?]  At that point, he just wanted to spend time with Daddy like Imogene and Aidan were.  He doesn’t care a lick for baseball or the Braves [Not yet, anyhow.]; he just wanted Dad.  And, to add to that, the only thing Dad wanted was Emery.  So, for the next half hour or so, there we were… the four of us, piled up in a recliner that’s probably as old as I am, watching the Braves pull off an easy win over the Cubbies.

For the moment, the most important thing in life I could offer my three eldest was the memory of staying up late to watch some baseball.  Are there things more holy than that?  Perhaps.  And, then again, perhaps not.


Relocation

I’m reminded, for some odd reason, of the album (and song) ‘Relocation’ by Plankeye.  Think back… a good bit back.

This memory really has nothing to do with the present post save only the sharing of titles.  Nevertheless, coinherence: an attempt has moved.  I know, I know… I don’t have many followers.  I am fully aware of my insignificance in the grand scheme of writing, reflecting, and — certainly — the interwebz.

Even still, I think that it was only fitting to make an announcement and, thereby, keep my two occasional passers-by aware of the change.  [If there are more than two of you, please forgive my neglectful oversight.]

For some time now, I’ve considered relocating to my new host.  In fact, I was a smidgen envious of Lindsey’s blog, especially it’s utility on her side of things.  So, after much consideration and having looked into the possibilities, a few years have now passed, and I’ve made the “big move”.

Well, here we go.  I hope to keep things moving forward.


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