God the Poet (Wooster, OH: Weaver Book, 2014)
I enjoyed portions of this book, and learned from it, but I think I was let down because it didn’t really live up to the title. The title is stupendous, and promises the moon, which rhymes with June. Nevertheless, the book did what I like books like this to do, which is to get me kind of churned up.
The evangelical hinge is not whether sacraments accomplish the blessings they speak of. The issue is whether they accomplish every blessing they speak of.
The sacraments, like the Scriptures, like the gospel itself, like the very existence of the Church, are eschatological. The words of baptism are future-oriented — from that moment forward, the baptized person is to be reckoned my brother or sister. The words of institution at the Supper are future words. “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come” (1 Cor. 11:26). We baptize and we commune leaning forward. Every Lord’s Day we break bread toward the end of the world.
In the meantime, the Church is God’s salvation community in the world, and there are two ways to come into this community. The first is real conversion. When someone is truly converted, and he comes into the Church, he receives all that the Church contains, or ever will contain (which is to say, Christ). Faith — and only faith — enables a person to inherit this complete future. Listen to Paul talking about this very thing when speaking of the riches of a true heir — “whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future — all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s” (1 Cor. 3:22–23, ESV).
If I am Christ’s, and Christ is God’s, then everything is mine. That includes — in Paul’s express words — the future. This means that if my future is not salvation future, then at some foundational level, my present is not salvation present. From this simple reality, all evangelical theology flows.
“Much has been made of the Puritan opposition to Christmas, but more than a little bit of the problem was caused by how Christmas used to be celebrated . . . The problem was actually comparable to us objecting to the drunkenness and fornication at Mardi Gras, only to be told that we have a problem with the resurrection because Lent is the preparation for Easter, and Mardi Gras is the last blowout before surrendering things for Lent. One of the central reasons Puritans were opposed to it was because of all the immorality that was going on in the name of Jesus” (God Rest Ye Merry, pp. 77-78).
“One of the most common caricatures of the Puritans is that they were a lot of ecclesiastical killjoys, and that if their eyes were any closer together, they would each be on the other side” (God Rest Ye Merry, p. 75).
“The star appeared in the sky to announce the birth of one who would hold a universal scepter, and such scepters are not held privately, or stored in closets” (God Rest Ye Merry, p. 72).
“We don’t want culture warriors who can be lured by the trappings of victory without any actual victories — the equivalent of big hats, missile parades, and sunglasses” (Rules, p. 24).
One of the central arguments that materialistic atheism offers against the Christian faith is that the reality and universality of suffering is inconsistent with the doctrine that we were created by, and are loved by, a gracious heavenly Father. If we intend to do our job in training our students to be able to defend their faith as they go out into the world, it seems to me that we ought not to begin by granting the foundational premise of unbelief.
Believe me, the pressing reality of natural evil is a major argument that the atheists use, and the theistic evolutionists will have to do a lot better than they have done thus far in mounting a reply.
If evolution was God’s means of creating, then this means that pain, struggle, suffering, agony, and torment were His means of creation, and He pronounced all of it “good.”
There are two kinds of evil that we have to consider — natural evil and moral evil. While moral evil is more horrendous, it is a little easier to handle because we are doing so much of it to ourselves. We can handle that another time. But natural evil is a different thing altogether, and on the theistic evolutionary account natural evil cannot be considered evil at all.
Here we have to posit millions of years of death-dealing events — volcanoes, floods, tar pits, and so on — without anybody having done anything wrong such that it would bring this state of affairs about. This is just how God likes to do things.
This means that the pain and suffering of sentient animals has to be simply dismissed with a wave of the hand. It is no longer the problem of evil, but rather “evil? no problem!”