“Make no doubt about it: COVID-19 is a dress rehearsal for a police state. Dennis Prager is taking a bold stance on the coronavirus because he is dedicated to truth. He also addresses the left’s contempt for working people, the growing threat of a police state, and the danger of putting our health above our rights and freedoms.”
“…that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on the power of God.”
“…faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
1 Corinthians 2:5, Hebrews 11:1
If I do say so myself, I wrote the most amazing sentence this past week in an email exchange with an extraordinarily bright, non-religious, long-time friend.
Let’s call him John, and his irenic response to that sentence inspired this column.
John had commented wryly but critically about a recent op-ed piece I had written, “On Facemasks … Who Are We?” It was an editorial about American character, COVID-19, and hiding the identity God gave to us behind a facemask.
John’s public observation contained what seemed to be ad hominem vitriol. I pushed back, but our ensuing non-public exchange was thought-provoking. He noted: “My lack of faith means I do take things more objectively, and though your words were almost poetic it might not resonate as deeply with me as it would with a Christian. …”
A nice compliment from a smart guy that revealed a common error about “faith.”
I responded, “Great note John. I deeply appreciate your sincerity. Don’t ever think lack of faith makes one more objective; it makes one (maybe not you) less able to embrace the existence of objective truth, which requires faith. …”
That was my “amazing sentence,” in case you couldn’t tell. I continued briefly about being 47 when I “got” Christ, what a deeply intellectual journey my faith-growth has been, and I noted John’s keen capacity to parse and understand virtually anything.
To that John replied, “I love how your journey has … led you into sureness that (in my wry and respectful observation) you can use a phrase like ‘embracing the existence of objective truth requires faith.’ I … understand that after you have crossed that faith bridge you are no longer tentative but living in a new certainty, such that a phrase that seems to be a contradiction in terms isn’t a contradiction at all.”
And there it is, this week’s column: objectivity vs. faith. John was gently, eruditely, and without condescension acknowledging that what is a contradiction to him, i.e., “objective truth which requires faith,” he understands is not a contradiction to me.
And that seeming contradiction, friends, is what limits the world. It also largely defines today’s truth-obviating post-modernism which positions “truth” as objectively incompatible with the inferior “faith” as objective proof of the reality of Jesus Christ.
John also cited the “metaphysics” required for me to take such a “leap of faith.”
It reminded me—and underscored—how western civilization overly-relies on the ancient Greek philosophical axiom that reality and objectivity are confined to that which can be seen (or discussed) and “proven.” I also think of Francis Bacon’s 17th century “scientific method” that adds “repeatability” to the proof of “scientific” reality. These worldly constructs exclude faith and combine to vacantly imply, “Faith isn’t objective.”
Really? Which is closer to objectivity: God the Creator of all things, His infinite love and eternal relationship, that He made humanity in His own image, and lights our lives with Christ, or the machinations, variations, limitations, and opinions of fallen men?
Life’s objective truth is not a leap of faith; it is a faithful walk in the light of Jesus.
“It is my profound honor to be the first president in history to attend the March for Life. Unborn children have never had a stronger defender in the White House.”
President Donald J. Trump, 2020 March for Life
Tens of thousands gathered in the nation’s capitol Friday to attend the annual March for Life. President Donald J. Trump shared his thoughts on life, creation, and his commitment to continue fighting for the unborn.
“All of us here understand an eternal truth: Every child is a precious and sacred gift from God. Together, we must protect, cherish, and defend the dignity and the sanctity of every human life.
“When we see the image of a baby in the womb, we glimpse the majesty of God’s creation. When we hold a newborn in our arms, we know the endless love that each child brings to a family. When we watch a child grow, we see the splendor that radiates from each human soul. One life changes the world—from my family, and I can tell you, I send love, and I send great, great love—and from the first day in office, I have taken historic action to support America’s families and to protect the unborn.”
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Jesus Christ on the excruciating cross of human salvation is a frightening image, one upon which only the very crassest among humanity would gaze and ask: “What’s in it for me?”
Fact is, none of us wants exactly that – the cross of Christ – as Christian life’s promise. Believe in Jesus, be Christ-like, do Godly things with a Godly attitude, love God, love others, read the Bible, go to church, be selfless, kind, obedient … and what do we get? A horrendous and humiliating public death? No thanks.
That’s not the deal anyone is looking for.
We must be especially wary, then, in our Christian witness and preaching, to be very clear what it is exactly that Jesus did on the cross. The world sees punishment, shame, payment, retribution, and maybe feels a little (or a lot of) personal sin and guilt. The neurotic Christian may wilt with remorse: “That agonizing passion on the cross is my fault! That bloody end is what I deserve!” The arrogant libertine may be repulsed and dismissive: “How can a good God allow that to happen to His son? I don’t believe any of it!” A devious theologian may see a means to control people with fear and guilt.
What we see on the cross is less a picture of God than of what a perfect human will do to glorify God. In that sense a little neurosis about our fate is quite apt. The wrathful God of the Law is the same loving and sacrificial God of the New Testament. God never changes, but the enormous gift we are given through Christ is to see the true nature of a Godly human: Jesus is our example of what a perfect human in God’s eyes actually is. Our fallenness makes it hard to see that.
We are – each of us individually – a great mess of conflicts, fear, aspirations, hope, and pain-avoidance. The sneaky truth of Christ that takes a while to truly see is that our greatest human joy – and our highest, most God-like humanity – is the picture of Christ humbly sacrificing himself for others. Seeing the cross as God’s love and mercy for us, rather than seeing it as God’s anger and wrath for our sin, changes everything about what kind of Christian we can be: loving? … or judgmental?
Our greatest joy, then, is in serving others in freedom, freedom not just from sin but freedom to be all that God created me to be… what He created each of us in His own image to be. I get that the cross is a picture of humanity’s gross failings and sinfulness, but more importantly it is the picture of God’s love, Christ’s humility, and the Spirit’s illumination of truth. In this picture are glory, love, self-sacrifice, humility, restoration, forgiveness, repaired relationship, covered sins, eternal life, the conquering of both sin and death… and overwhelming peace that exceeds all understanding.
As much as we fallen humans focus on “being forgiven,” in Jesus’s entire last prayer – indeed His final teaching we see in John 13-17 including foot-washing, the last supper, the vine, His relationship with God, the Kingdom as life, God as Father, Jesus as Son, the Spirit as comfort, plus persecution, glory, faith, and perseverance – there is not one word about forgiveness of sin. Instead, there is assurance of God’s truth.
When the chips were down and His own end was near, Jesus prayed humbly for God’s glory, His own restoration, and for our faith. So should we. It’s part of the deal.
That’s the best thing I can do for my sake; that’s what’s in it for me.