Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The God Who Wept. The God Who Bled. The God Who Died.

I've had several conversations about suffering and evil lately.

And not just the kind of theoretical conversations where you try to "explain" suffering and evil.

But the concrete, real-life conversations where you are called to actively resist suffering and evil, by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

In some recent study I was reminded of John Calvin's definition of faith:

“Faith is ultimately a firm and certain knowledge of God's benevolence toward us, founded upon the truth of the freely given promise in Christ, both revealed to our minds and sealed upon our hearts by the Holy Spirit.”

Notice a few quick things:

First, notice that Calvin doesn't define "faith" in the context of the question of whether or not God exists, and then attempt to establish God's existence by appealing to various proofs.  Believing in God is elementary, compared to where he's going.

(No, I don't mean to dismiss the conversations about God's existence altogether... I'm merely pointing to a context that people of faith may find to be deeper and more "actualized.")

Second, notice that Calvin's definition presupposes evil and suffering.  It's a matter of having a firm and certain knowledge of God's benevolence toward us, even in the face of evil and suffering.

What if you suffered an unspeakably abusive childhood?  What if you live in an area of the world where conversion to Christianity immediately invites the death penalty?  What if an untreatable disease leaves you with chronic pain that will never be healed in this world?  What if your closest friend or family member selfishly betrays you?  What if your precious child is lost to you?

Now—in that context—read Calvin's definition of faith more carefully.

Third, notice what faith is founded upon.  It's not founded upon "proofs" and it's not founded upon our "feelings"—to highlight but two mistakes often made by two very different but equally confused people.

It's founded upon "the truth of the freely given promise in Christ."  Christ Jesus, the Son of God who became a man, so that he might suffer the wrath of God in our place, for our salvation.

In Christ Jesus, God is revealed as the God who loves us.  The God who wept for us... bled for us... and died for us.

And who is risen.  And in whom, all things will be made new.

Fourth, notice that faith is something that is both revealed to the mind and sealed upon the heart.  Never separate the two.

If someone's experience of faith in only a "heart" matter, that hardly constitutes the fullness of Christian faith.  At best, it's a very childish faith that desperately needs to grow up (while remaining child-like... which is very different from childish).

At worst, this person is deceived.  Sentimentality is not faith.

Fifth, notice that Christian faith is Trinitarian.  It's a firm and certain knowledge of the Father's benevolence, founded upon the redemptive work of the Son, applied and sealed to us through the power of the Spirit.

Now.  Let us go past the theoretical world of explaining suffering and evil.  Let's move on to actively resisting suffering and evil, by faith.  Read Hebrews 11.  This is the Christian life.  

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