Catechized: Confessions & Reflections (8)

Q. 8. How doth God execute his decrees?
A. God executeth his decrees in the works of creation and providence.

God created everything that we understand to exist, everything we call reality. There was nothing, and God created everything ex nihilo through the power of His Word, speaking the universe into existence (Genesis 1). The universe continues to exist at His sufferance (Hebrews 1-2).

Philosophically, we can draw from these facts that God’s control over the universe is total.  Nothing happens outside of His control.  Does this mean that God wills for men to sin?  This is generally the trap question that is asked, but it’s a good question.

Consider Exodus 3, where God tells Moses exactly what is going to happen in his interactions with Pharaoh.  The Bible describes this hardening of Pharaoh’s heart against God in two ways: as Pharaoh’s decision (Exodus 7), and as God’s decision (Exodus 9).

Consider further the decision of Pilate to execute Jesus.  In the interest of political expediency (hard to believe a ruler would act in such a way, isn’t it?), Pilate orders the only perfect man in the history of the world to be crucified.  But apart from this sinful decision, none of us are saved.  So did God will that this sin would happen? Was there any doubt that this event would come to pass exactly as God decreed?  At the same time, Pilate was still responsible for his own actions, for this sin.  He acted consistently in accordance with his heart: he did what he wanted to do.  At the same time, there was zero chance he was not going to do it.

Jesus responds to our other difficult question – why do seemingly innocent people suffer and sometimes die? – in Luke 13.  We are not given the explanations we think we deserve (and this galls us, particularly as Americans), but we are told to repent.

Paul addresses these hard questions in Romans 9, as well: make no mistake, the Maker will do as He pleases with His Creation.

It can also be helpful to step back from any narrow passage and consider the story arc of Scripture: from the very beginning, God is working to save a particular group of people from among all the peoples of the world.  He will rescue His people from sin and death: this will happen.  Noah is chosen, Abraham is chosen, Israel is chosen, and many others are not.  Christians in the New Covenant are now God’s covenant people, and we pray (or at least, we should) that He increase the number of His people to fill the world!   But some are going to judgment, and some to salvation, and even our repentance is a gift from God (2 Timothy 2).

Catechized: Confessions & Reflections (6)

Q. 6. How many persons are there in the Godhead?
A. There are three persons in the Godhead: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory.

A triune God is, of course, a physical impossibility, a contradiction in terms… according to the laws that rule reality under the Sun.  Yet God transcends (a word to keep in mind during your prayers and meditations on Scripture) His creation.  For God to be transcendent, He must by definition be larger than His creation.  He is beyond our understanding.

And yet He makes Himself known as three Persons in one essence.  And from the glorious relationships we see here – between God and Son, between Son and Spirit, between God, Son and Spirit – we find the pattern for every human relationship.

Son submits to Father (God).  Spirit submits to Father and Son.  God directs the Son, and Son directs the Spirit.  And yet, in their roles and responsibilities, all are equally and at the same time God and one God.  It makes you a little dizzy, but it is also a wondrously perfect unity from diversity.  When you consider relationships, such as those laid out in Ephesians 5-6 and 1 Peter 2-3, here is the pattern.  Are men and women equal?  Masters and slaves?  Parents and children?  Absolutely, in one sense.  Are there differing levels of authority and responsibility between them even as they are equal in substance?  Absolutely, in another.  Men are not more valuable than women, nor women more so than men.  Yet in marriage men lead, and women follow.  Equal even as they carry out differing roles, roles assigned by the Creator and modeled within Himself.

God has taken a small piece of His Mystery and made it known to us.

a Christmas blessing

The end of another year draws nigh, and we approach the most holy of our days as His children, the Christ Mass.  Praise be to the Gifting God for the blessing of His Great Light in the form of a helpless babe.  Listen, then, and I will tell you a wonder:

How a great King set aside His crown, His sovereign right to rule;
How the mightiest ever among us was celebrated by the lowliest at His birth.
His very people, whom He came to save from death, sought death for Him instead…
for you and I, just assuredly as any soldier of Rome, put those spikes into hands and feet.
He walked among us, as a child, as a man, as a servant, seeking faith He rarely found
even in those He held most dear-
Truly, the world was not worthy of Him.

And so, on a day as black as that winter’s night was bright, they

-we-

took him,

We beat Him, we punished Him for our own sin, and the King of Heaven lay down unto death…

But it could not keep Him.

Indeed, the very grave knew defeat that glorious day, when the Light forever banished Darkness from the souls of men who would seek Him.  The babe that was born this night we celebrate became the greatest of gifts to men…

Hope.

For you see, the beauty of the Christ is that it makes life unfair.  Thanks be to the High King of Heaven, never again need you and I fear being treated fairly for the evil we have done!  Our hope is His Grace, and our just fate is stayed by His Mercy.  And so this day, as you reflect on all that has gone before you, offer thanks to our Blessed Lord for his wondrous bounty.

May the Three of Limitless Love renew the strength of your heart, that your true Hope be found in the Lord of Heaven, far from the wickedness of this world;
May the Three of Perfect Peace bless you richly as you strive ever onward for the Kingdom, and may the rewards of your labor be vast in a place suffering no decay;
May the Three of Boundless Joy bring laughter to your lips, and rejoice with you this day, for your Salvation has come in the form of a babe, Immanuel, God with us!

Les Miserables

Les Mis - posterJust saw this film last night, and you should go, either to the play or its cinematic equivalent.  Law and grace are on center stage, thinly disguised by the names Javert and Valjean.  Their various collisions make for heart-wrenching, heart-warming drama.

Be warned: you will cry tears of joy and tears of sorrow; there is deep value to both.

For this is what the Most High says to all who come before him on their knees.  Having robbed Him blind, of His glory, of the obedience that is His right and His will for us… he forgives, the Son having taken our punishment in our place.  And He doesn’t simply forgive, which by itself would be astonishing: He tells us we forgot to take the candlesticks, too.  Our seat on the galley bench remains empty forevermore.

After all these years, grace is still amazing.