Saturday, December 29, 2012

A Dim View...

"But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away.... And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishingIn their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." (2 Cor 3:14, 4:3-4)
Granite countertops look great, but granite minds?
    How important is the Bible?  Even more to the point of our text, how important is the Old Testament?  Tremendously vital... just ask any practicing Jew, Mormon, Jehovah's Witness or Muslim.  The narratives of the O.T. form the historical foundation for all of these faiths;  the moral content is believed to be synonymous and provides a shared code and bond;  the religious authenticity and authority of these 39 books is revered and held to be secondary only to these religions' primary documents (except Judaism, in which it's primary).  Yet all of these faiths are rightly denounced in principle by the teaching of our premier expert on the O.T., Jesus Christ... where do they go wrong?
     If we go to a rabbi, ward elder or imam and ask "Is stealing wrong?" or "Can I cheat on my wife?", we know what the answer will be:  one in accord with the teaching of the O.T.  "Should I be generous with the poor?" and "Can I abandon my children?" (an especially tempting option sometimes!) will also elicit similar responses lining up with biblical morality.  So where's the sticking point? 
"Who do you say that Jesus is?" 
     That bomb will cause our guinea pig clergy to explode into various denials of biblical orthodoxy:  he's an angel, he's a human prophet (secondary to Muhammed), he's a good man who became a god... and when you look at every manmade religion, the same theme prevails:  a superficial similarity on the Golden Rule and other general morality, but irreconcilable dispute over the Person and Work of Jesus Christ.  What's up with that?
     I believe the answer is found in the verses above, and in a firm grasp of what theologians call general and specific revelation;  so last things first:  all people in all times and in all places have been and will continue to be blessed by God with a dim, but inescapable, awareness that they are not alone.  Humanity inevitably clings to the hunch that we've been created, and that our Creator is still hanging around;  we suspect that since we've been created, we are accountable to the One who formed us, and most convictingly, we think He's not exactly happy with us.  Hence the word "general":  God gives every person a conscience with an impression of His Law upon it, and we are "accused or even excused" (Rom 2:15).  On the other side and, in the sense of God's redemption, completing the circle, is specific revelation:  relatively few people are given the spiritual sensory apparatus ("ears to hear" and "eyes to see") to perceive more than this... namely that God has spoken to mankind, most clearly through His Son, and it is the content of this revelation, recorded in the Bible, that dictates ultimate reality and conveys the graciousness of God in the potential of reconciliation with Him in Jesus Christ.  The necessary result of this vision (through regeneration) is an acceptance of and reliance upon the work and Person of Christ and a receipt of the merit of His obedience.
At God's command...
      So what do our texts say about this?  That "their minds were hardened" ("they" meaning the nation of Israel as a whole specifically in chap. 3, but expanded to all "unbelievers" in chap. 4).  By whom?  "The god of this age"...  Wow, that's terrible!  God wanted to save these folks, but Satan was just too quick for Him!  He snuck in and did his mind-hardening hocus-pocus and now there's no hope!  Wait a sec... that's not right!  No one frustrates God's purposes or plans, and "none can stay his hand or say to him, 'What have you done?' " (Dan 4:35).  And above all, "Satan...can do nothing without God's will and consent." (Calvin's Institutes I.xiv.17)  I love when Satan does his worst to Jesus, and then frantically flees at 2 little words:  "Be gone!" (Matt 4:10)  Likely the best example of God concealing His truth from the unbelieving is Christ and His parables:  spoken in simile and metaphor for the express purpose of withholding spiritual insight (Matt 13:13-15).  It is entirely within the realm of God's sovereignty when He ordains that the wicked be confirmed in unbelief.  The terms "double predestination" and "reprobation" are worthy of study, but this post is running a bit long already... I think the best place to close it off for now is where we began:  in and of ourselves, we have no apprehension of, or appetite for, God's truth.  Even repeated, continual exposure to Scripture is insufficient to open our eyes (Jn 5:39).  God must personally intercede with us to enlighten and rescue us.  May this reality encourage and direct your hopes and evangelism.

 Photos courtesy of granite-charlotte and danny.hammontree

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