Tuesday, October 28
-D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, p. 117
“God – the Triune Jehovah, Father, Son and Spirit; three Persons working together in sovereign wisdom, power and love to achieve the salvation of a chosen people, the Father electing, the Son fulfilling the Father’s will by redeeming, the Spirit executing the purpose of Father and Son by renewing.
“Saves – does everything, first to last, that is involved in bringing man from death in sin to life in glory: plans, achieves and communicates redemption, calls and keeps, justifies, sanctifies, glorifies.
“Sinners – men as God finds them, guilty, vile, helpless, powerless, unable to lift a finger to do God’s will or better their spiritual lot. God saves sinners – and the force of this confession may not be weakened by disrupting the unity of the work of the Trinity, or by dividing the achievement of salvation between God and man and making the decisive part man’s own, or by soft-pedalling the sinner’s inability so as to allow him to share the praise of his salvation with his Saviour. This is the one point of Calvinistic soteriology which the “five points” are concerned to establish and Arminianism in all its forms to deny: namely, that sinners do not save themselves in any sense at all, but that salvation, first and last, whole and entire, past, present and future, is of the Lord, to whom be glory for ever; amen.”
J.I. Packer, “Introductory Essay,” in The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, by John Owen (London: Banner of Truth, 1959) 4-5.
Friday, October 24
"...and together through ages of the world we have fought the long defeat." -Galadriel to Frodo in The Lord of the Rings
I was prompted to write this post by an article I read (found here). As a fan of JRR Tolkien myself, I have often pondered the concept of "the long defeat" and its place in the Christian worldview. Tolkien himself made such a connection in one of his letters.
"Actually, I am a Christian, and indeed a Roman Catholic, so that I do not expect 'history' to be anything but a 'long defeat' - though it contains (and in a legend may contain more clearly and movingly) some samples or glimpses of final victory."
This concept of The Long Defeat is intricately intertwined with the idea of eucatastrophe. Tolkien claimed that just as we have the word "catastrophe" in English we should also have it's opposite, "eucatastrophe." As the first word means a sudden change from good to bad, the second one signifies a sudden change from bad to good. For Tolkien this was the essence of the Gospel. "The Incarnation is the eucatastrophe of human history, and the Resurrection is the eucatastrophe is of the Incarnation," he once stated.
This is crucial. The Incarnation is a eucatastrophe (sudden change for good) because God has been born into a history marred by sin and suffering. But in response humanity as a whole (and Israel in particular) rejected their Creator; as the Apostle John said, "He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him."
This led to the catastrophe of the crucifixion. We humans took our Lord and nailed him on a cross because of our rebellious natures. This could have been the end. The Father could have said, "That's it. Your finished," and delivered to us the damnation that our sin deserved. Instead, Jesus said, "It is finished." God then turned the catastrophe of the Cross into the Eucatastrophe for us by raising him from the dead and thus signalling the Father's acceptance of Jesus' atonement for all those who believe. Both the catastrophe of the Cross and the victory of the Resurrection show us that God's grace triumphs over our worst; indeed, even our evil is made to serve his accomplishment of salvation. Eucatastrophe!
How does "the long defeat" factor into this? For Tolkien (and for all Christians) the final victory has been achieved, but not yet inaugurated. Jesus also ascended to heaven, and has yet to establish his earthly reign until the Eschaton (the Second Coming). Save for the present reign of Christ through his church, this world has been left free to "storing up wrath for [itself] on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed." (Romans 2:5)
So as Christians pilgrims in this present age we are fighting a long defeat. There is no hope for history. Only when Christ invades history and takes his rightful place on David's throne with his enemies under his feet as a footstool will the final Eucatastrophe have taken place. Let us hope for the future as we look to the past. Let us rejoice in the "samples or glimpses of final victory." Let us look to the Resurrection and wait for the Eschaton with patient endurance in preaching the gospel of eucatastrophe to all tribes, languages, and peoples. Let us fight the long defeat.
I am actually a frequent viewer of HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher, and have yet to see the movie. However I can say that, being familiar with Maher's acidic attitude towards religion and Christianity in particular, Dr. Hazen's assesment is accurate.
Wednesday, October 22
I really had no particular reason for starting this side blog; just a great name and URL until my co-blogger Joshua Jones suggested I use this site as something of an annotated "tumbler": a place to post the great (and some not so great) content found across the blogosphere with a bit of my two cents. It will mostly focus on Christ-exalting posts that the myriads of myriads of my Christian brothers and sisters are putting out there.
Hence the site name: "The Confessional." I hope this blog spurs us all to confess Christ more and more in our daily lives.