Friday, March 29, 2013

COLORBLIND IN A PURPLE WORLD

The ancients saw a purple world. They looked at the human condition as violet-colored, existing as a combination of the sky-blue heavens and the clay-red earth. The interpenetration of these two realms—the spiritual and the physical—provided a platform for contemplating human life, which appears to include elements of both the natural and the divine. We have bluish angelic minds that think lofty thoughts of virtue, beauty, meaning, and morality. But we live in reddish animal bodies that grow up, become active, slow down, and return to the rust-colored ground.

For human nature, the red world of cosmic dust sounds a note of finality. Being tangible and plainly visible, it can be explored, analyzed, and quantified. If human life can be reduced to this red realm only, then our destiny at death is disintegration and annihilation. This is the logical result of an atheistic, materialistic view of the universe. But because the farthest extent of the blue realm is invisible and out-of-reach, it offers hope for human survival in an afterlife. This possibility exists only within a theistic, spiritual universe.

In modern times, we still live in a very purple world—still an obvious mixture of the blue and the red—but some are colorblind to it. They only see red. They may do so from personal anger at the God or gods of the blue realm portrayed by religion. Most would deny this. They simply say that science and human reason together reveal that only the red realm is real. Space, time and matter are all there is. Thoroughly investigating them can explain all human experience, including what appears to come out of the blue.

Well, that’s quite a leap of faith, to put it mildly. The blue world, which they can't bring into their laboratories, refuses analysis and quantification. Yet, this untamed, humanly uncontrollable realm keeps breaking into our red world with unforeseeable regularity. In global unison, personal testimonies today and down through history bear witness to these blue-world intrusions. Whether they be ghosts, near-death experiences, inexplicable stories of divine guidance, or miraculous answers to prayer, the evidence of the blue realm won't go away. Yet closed-minded red-realmers keep preaching that such repetitive episodes in human experience have no bearing on reality. Being in denial has few better illustrations.

But colorblindness is only one problem red-realmers face. There’s another major blind spot. They learned their atheistic, materialistic view of life from those who developed it by entrusting their thinking to the almighty Science of their day. Much of that science is now obsolete, superseded, unreliable. Each year brings new scientific discoveries that demand a constant revision of theories, rendering one semester's trusted textbooks outdated the next. The red realm has turned out not to be as measurable and codifiable as past atheists supposed. In fact, the mystery of the red realm keeps unfolding beyond their devotional confidence in a belief-system based on materialism alone. In the midst of such intellectual flux, stubborn faith—of which they glibly accuse their optimistic blue antagonists— has had few better examples.

Blue-realmers can be temporarily fooled by red-realm magicians who use their discoveries to perform blue-looking parlor tricks. The performers may ridicule the simpleminded gullibility of their audience when they reveal the mechanics of their “magic.” But when true magic breaks in from the blue realm, red-realmers themselves are put on the spot with a choice to make. Will they acknowledge their own gullibility toward the teachings of atheistic predecessors? Or will they stay in denial, colorblind to a purple world.

Of course, if they are right, then this world is not purple. When you die, there’s no blue world afterward. We are just temporarily conscious sophistications of dust blown in the wind. Nothing we say or do has eternal significance. Nothing ultimately matters, because when this decaying universe finally comes to an end, all remembrances of those who lived, all records of human history, will dissolve into oblivion.

But among the hopeful blue-thinking alternatives to this depressing prospect is one that uniquely answers our human longings. It’s the Bible’s “good news” that the Maker of heaven and earth became human to restore our fallen world and salvage our lost and wandering race. Taking up the blood-red flesh of the first Adam [“red” in Hebrew], God in Christ became the second Adam, bringing heaven to earth. The purple purpose that joins heavenly blue to earthly red awaits royal fulfillment in the coming Reign of Christ, the returning human King. This is a truly human-friendly faith. There’s nothing human-friendly at all in atheistic colorblindness.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

GOD HAS SOME QUESTIONS FOR YOU

When God asks us questions—as He frequently does in Scripture—they are of the utmost importance. Of course, being omniscient, He already knows the answers. He’s not gathering information. He asks them rhetorically to tell us what we need to learn or need to remember. Look for God’s questions, as you read the Bible, but be sure you meditate on the very first three (Genesis 3:9-11), because they form a foundation for most others in Scripture. This brief article points to a few of things I’ve gleaned from studying them.

Where are you?

God already knew Adam had gone astray, but Adam needed to know it. God asked him (and us) “Where are you?” because He wants lost humans to know He’s searching for them. As a shepherd looks for sheep that go astray, God wants to find and bring us home. The old saying is accurate: “If we feel far from God, guess who moved?” We did—we fled. But God is on our trail. His first question tells us that if we run, He runs after us. We may try avoiding Him, but ultimately He shows up. The poet Francis Thompson describes this God as “The Hound of Heaven”:
I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him, . . . .
But with unhurrying chase,
And unperturb├Ęd pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
They beat—and a Voice beat
More instant than the Feet—
‘All things betray thee, who betrayest Me.’
God’s first question also helps us to see where unfounded fears take us: into hiding—hiding from each other behind fig leaves, hiding from God behind bushes, hiding from our human calling and its responsibilities behind excuses. A proper response to His question is to agree that we’re lost and let Him lead us to safety. But Adam didn’t respond properly.

A new condition guided the thinking of the first fallen humans. They had eaten from a tree that gave them a “knowledge of good and evil” independent from a direct relationship with God. It brought them, and all their descendants, into a condition of spiritual death. Adam’s reply to God revealed that he had adopted a new form of morality that was essentially legalistic in nature: “I was afraid at your approach because of my nudity, so, of course, I hid.” To God, such behavior was a novelty, not a matter of course, and it led to His next rhetorical question.

Who told you that you were naked?

Most Bible teachers avoid the clear implications in this second question by skipping over it without comment. For them, lingering here is embarrassingly dangerous. It might unmask the real root of their teachings about the shamefulness of the naked human body. In fact, I enjoy exposing this cowardly theological neglect with a bit of my own humor:
Serious consideration of God’s 1st question to fallen humanity, “Where are you?” might lead a person to repent and become a Christian. Serious consideration of His 2nd question, “Who said you were naked?” might lead a person to repent and become a nudist.
In a totally naked world—like the original creation—nakedness had no moral meaning. Shame about it had to come from outside, introduced by someone who detested the openness nakedness fosters. Who, from outside the naked material cosmos, would want to camouflage reality, hide truth beneath lies? God leaves no room for denying the obvious. His question, “Who told you that you were naked?” clearly identifies the foreign source of humanity’s body shame.

The point of God’s second question is this: “Where did you get these new ideas about your body? Who have you been listening to? Have you been listening to a deceiver, that lying fallen angel who hates the naked glory of My embodied image? Is he now your teacher? Have you traded My instructions for the word of a liar?

It’s crucial for us to acknowledge the sin of entertaining falsehoods. Unless we realize our error, we will continue listening to the deceiver of souls, who wants to destroy us. To be set free from false thinking, we must look to our Maker alone for moral guidance. The opened eyes Satan promised our first parents laid them wide open to deceitful suggestions. We must vomit up and spit out the forbidden fruit of moral independence and learn to live by feeding upon every word that comes from the mouth of our Creator (Matthew 4:4).

“Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?

Of course, the purpose of Satan’s deception was to get us not only to believe lies, but to disobey our Maker. Again, God is completely aware of our sins. Our answer to this question is for our benefit, not His. We cannot experience God’s healing forgiveness unless we fully acknowledge our disobedience.

This question also reminds us how much God cares about our welfare. His commandments, His directives, His rules-to-live-by, weren’t intended to stifle our happiness, but to secure it. God wants keep us from doing what harms us. We pave our own road to destruction by failing to realize the grave consequences of doing our own thing. Safety for the human soul lies only in living according to God’s will and ways.

This last question calls us to confess our sins, which is a direct path to divine mercy (Proverbs 28:13). What would have happened, if Adam and Eve had responded in confession and repentance? Perhaps human history would have been quite different. God was kind to them in the midst of their newly fallen world, but He never got to show them the “mercy” bestowed on those who confess and renounce their sins, because they didn’t do it. Instead, as they had tried to hide their bodies with fig leaves, they tried to cover their sin with excuses.

How Will We Answer God’s Questions?

God still asks fallen humans, “Where are you? Who have you been listening to? Did you fail to do what I told you?” Try to answer them while reviewing the circumstances and situations you experience, the mass of information you receive, the various failures and shortcomings you bring into your earthly journey. These three questions reveal the heart of the God Who asks them. He is our loving Creator Who seeks to find us, guide us and heal us.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

BETWEEN THE WOMB AND THE TOMB….

What are we supposed to learn during our lifetime, during our journey between “the womb and the tomb”? What has been built into creation that can teach it to us? I’d like to share this poem—from my fourth book of poetry, Poems Between Birth and Resurrection—which tries to answer those questions, and more:

CREATION QUEST

There’s beauty in a panoramic view of land and sea.
There’s dancing in the heart that hears a birdsong’s melody.
There’s sweetness in a flower, majesty within a storm,
Amazing grace and glory in our naked human form.
There’s mesmerizing loveliness in every clear night sky,
Enchantment in a sunset, as it captures every eye,
And mysteries in ocean depths beyond the sunlight’s rays:
God’s miracles abounding all around us, all our days.

But while we stare bedazzled at creation’s lovely charms,
Our God who stands behind them waits for us with open arms.
Enthrallment and enjoyment were intended by His hand.
In everything He crafted are delights divinely planned,
Not just to please our senses, but to set our souls aflame
With thirst for greater pleasure than this world can give or name,
A joy that all creation was proclaiming from the start
That’s found alone in union with our Maker’s loving heart.

— David L. Hatton, 6/21/2006

Creation is waiting to be set free by the Divine Human, the God-Man Jesus Christ. Even in its longing and “groaning” in awaiting that liberation, it teaches us where the human race can “alone” find happiness: “in union with our Maker’s loving heart.”

(see also on this blog "Poems Between Birth and Resurrection")