Monday, July 1, 2013

"...where can you run to escape from yourself?" (Eschatological Vision, Part II)

"Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people; but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and His glory shall be seen upon thee. And the nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising." Is. 60:1-3

"...the Day-Spring from on High has visited us, to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace." Luke 1:68-79

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.... In Him was life, and that life was the light of men.... And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us...." John 1:1-18

"Maybe redemption has stories to tell. / Maybe forgiveness is right where you fell." -John Foreman

The second element you find in the Christian eschatological vision is the divine intervention. Now, Christianity is not escapism. Many may claim it as such, preaching so-called "evacuation theology," but they are wrong. Escapism is about us going somewhere else; Christianity has always been about something coming to us (or someone, to be more precise). In the Christian equation, God is always the primary active principle. Any "action" that we take is necessarily secondary, a derivative of His. This is not to minimize our activity, but rather to put it in its proper context, viz., the context called God. He is the source and origin of all movement. He is Life-Giver and All-Sustainer, Creator and Ruler. To put it perhaps controversially, He is masculine while we are feminine: He is the actor, we are the receiver (and re-actor). What we do at the moment of reception (either to welcome or reject) is on us; but we did not make the action itself, neither did we make ourselves as receivers or anything else, and every strength we have or good and evil we do in reaction to His action comes from the life given from Him to us. If this minimizes us in any way, then let us be minimized; for God is, and without Him we are not. That is the singular theme pulsating throughout all of Scripture like the tides beneath the ocean.

It's all linked....
In the beginning before beginning, God acted upon the Nothingness and spoke words of Creation, His Word spoken and yet continually speaking and sustaining all things. Later on He spoke into the lives of many people. He spoke into the life of a pagan idol-maker, calling him the "father of many nations," and led him out into the wilderness to a place he'd never seen to found a people holy to God. He blazed into the life of an exiled shepherd, calling him to liberate His people from bondage and lead them to a "land of milk and honey." He summoned a shy tall man to be king, and then cast Him down and put a shepherd-boy in his place. He continually led His wayward people into captivity, and continually redeemed His repentant people out of it. He spoke through every prophet, from the exiled shepherd to a goat-skin-wearing wild-man living in the outskirts of Roman-occupied Israel. He announced His ultimate intentions to a virgin girl and then gave unto her and us all His Son, the Word Himself, speaking and bleeding and breathing new life into all who would receive. And His Spirit lives on in a Church, diffused and multifaceted yet united by that Spirit, speaking still until the ages end and the Word returns speaking judgment like a sword flowing from His mouth. And when all of the old has passed and the new has come and we enter into God's rest, there is no sign that His activity will ever cease, but rather it shall inaugurate a new thing again and again. So from the beginning of beginning to the very end and eternity beyond, God has the first and final word.

That is not escapism but intervention. Better yet, it is invasion. Other religions may have intervention (or interference), but it is at best mere instruction on how we can save ourselves, or at worst it is simply the randomness of capricious deities. Christianity alone has a different view. Our lives are not at the mercy of randomness, nor is our salvation bound up in moral instruction (as if we haven't had plenty of that already). Instruction would never save us, for our corruption is deep and inevitable. We do not need another code of conduct, nor a babysitter to constantly change our diapers. We need a surgeon to cut out and purge the corruption that has a deathly hold on us. We need a Spirit to speak new life into us, a Word to speak us anew, a Maker to remake us. Such a transformation, such renewal and upheaval, such divine invasion and revolution is the Christian story, from before the beginning until beyond the end.

It is not the optimist's story, who sees humanity saving itself with plenty of pluck and can-do spirit. It is not the pessimist's story, who sees humanity on its endless downward spiral, its mind unloosed from all tethers and its world unchained from all suns. It is not the stories told by the religions of the world, with their myriad retellings of self-enlightenment and self-salvation. It is the Christian vision alone who is the voice crying in the wilderness, crying out that God has acted, is acting, and will act again on behalf of our salvation and His glory, all without our help and all outside of our control and command.

-Jon Vowell (c) 2013

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