When man aspires to become Deity, the nature of the folly is such that he does not start to close in on his goal. The demented vision is such that what starts happening is divergence, not convergence. He does not become ever more godlike and sublime. The floors are not the polished marble of Valhalla, but rather more like the concrete floor of the monkey house at the Cincinnati Zoo.
We were created to be godlike, in that we were created in the image of God (Gen. 1:27). But in order to function appropriately as the image of God, we have to be content with reflective and derivative glory. But the nature of the rebellion that began in the Garden began with a discontent over having anything at second hand. “You shall be as God,” the serpent said.
The experiment begins well enough. There we are, standing on the walls of Babylon, looking down on the hanging gardens, luxuriant and fine, and the next thing you know we are down in the meadow, grazing in the green grass, right next to Nebuchadnezzar.
Calvinism in the Chaos
The song above sums it up nicely.
So hold your peace,The Jenny Geddes Band
The Lord is God
And you are not.
The temptation for Christians, those who can clearly see the fact of the cultural insanity around us, is to think that the insanity is somehow as out-of-control as it looks. But the insane rebellions of mortal men—who all breathe through the nose—are all nestled in the palm of God’s hand. God is doing all this for a purpose, and moreover, that purpose is good, and righteous, and holy. Understanding this is Calvinism in the chaos.
The book of Ecclesiastes teaches us a dual vision that we must master. Under the sun, a phrase that occurs around 28 times, refers us to a place of vanity, folly, and cyclic repetition. This is the place where we sweat and labor and strive in our ongoing efforts to shepherd the wind. There goes yet another cowboy, out to lasso a retreating breeze.
This makes intelligent observers sometimes conclude that absolutely everything is pointless, and that everything is absolutely pointless from top to bottom. But no, God is in His Heaven, and because of that we need to understand that everything is actually exquisitely calibrated.
“He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.”
Ecclesiastes 3:11 (KJV)
God is up to something, from beginning to end He is up to something. He is up to something, from top to bottom. Just as a painter uses darker paint as part of a beautiful picture, or a composer uses discordance as part of a symphony that is altogether lovely, so God Almighty uses the lunatic machinations of men in rebellion against Him in order to bring about His wise and holy purposes.
We can say, on the basis of the Word, that this is so. We cannot explain why it is so in the particulars. We do not know that, and cannot know it. “No man can find out the work that God maketh,” as Solomon puts it. We are in the back row of the airplane, eating our little bag of pretzels, and we trust the pilot.
The Whole Duty of Man
But we are not just along for the ride. We have a responsibility to contribute our part as God sees fit to use us. The thing to remember, however, is that we don’t have the whole master plan spread out on the table before us. We don’t have a master plan that explains to us way our part fits into the big picture. Not a bit of it. We are not in the command center, moving the troops around. That is not our responsibility.
So what is our responsibility?
“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.”
Ecclesiastes 12:13–14 (KJV)
What is the whole duty of man? The first is to fear God, which cannot be done apart from justification by faith alone. To acknowledge the sovereignty of God apart from forgiveness of sin and redemption through Christ will of necessity deteriorate into a sheer fatalism. But Calvinism is not fatalism. The one who holds all things in the palm of His hand is our heavenly Father, the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, the one who together with Christ pours out His Spirit upon us. Put another way, Calvinism is a covenant relationship.
Having been forgiven, having been put right, what are we to do then? What practical things can we do in order to make a difference? The answer to this question is the thing that humbles us.
We cannot know the ways in which God will weave together all the details of human history into the most beautiful story that has ever been told. We know that He will do exactly that, but we don’t know how He will do it. And we don’t even know the nature of most of the subplots. We know that Christ crucified and risen is at the center of the great story, because He has told us that part, and we know that the story is a comedy, not a tragedy. The story begins in a garden, and ends with a garden city. It begins with a simple wedding in a garden, and it ends with a magnificent royal wedding in that garden city. We do know that much, again because we were told.
For the rest of it, we are players on the stage, not directors or producers. And so what should we do? If we have learned the fear of God, by faith alone, and so then what? We are to keep His commandments because this is “the whole duty of man.”
Our task is not to unravel the tangled knot of the meaning of history, or even the meaning of recent American history. Our task is to delight in the law, to meditate on the law day and night. The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul. And no, this is not turning grace into law—rather it is the realization that God’s gifts to us, all of them, are nothing but grace upon grace.
“And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.”
John 1:16-17 (KJV)
Moses was grace, and Christ was more grace. Grace instead of grace. Grace piled on top of grace. God gives us His Word, and His Word is a light in a very dark place.
“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”
Psalm 119:105 (KJV)
God’s role is the Lord’s, and our role is to recognize the difference between God and man.
“The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.”
Deuteronomy 29:29 (KJV)
So you see America teetering on the brink of the Abyss, and you want to know what you can do? Here’s is what God calls us to do, and this is how we cooperate with Him as His willing sons and daughters.
You want to save America? Here’s the plan. This is the play we need to run, on three. Love your wife. Respect and obey your husband. Control your temper. Stop drinking so much. Learn to be as precise and as honest in your business dealings as a person can be. Get your kids a Christian education. Bring your family to church, every week bring them to church. Throw yourself into your Bible reading. Sing psalms. Laugh at the theocratic pretenses of mortal men. Eat the fat and drink the sweet. Mow your lawn. Have a cold beer afterwards.
Again, on three.