Thursday, July 7, 2005

In due time their foot shall slip...

Ah, I see there's a new page up at Christian CounterCulture. CCC is normally pretty sound, and is in fact written by a number of fellow Reformed/Presbyterian contributors. And even when I do disagree, we ought not disagree for disagreement's or philosophy's sake, but for Scripture's. But how the crap did this get in there? Obviously someone has taken the "highlighter approach" to God's word:

This simple but life- transforming truth [of God's love] has been kept hidden by some of the most famous sermons in the history of the Church. Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God was delivered by the renowned preacher, theologian and revivalist, Jonathan Edwards at Enfield, Connecticut in 1741:

The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten I thousand times more abominable in his eyes than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours. You have offended him infinitely more than ever a stubborn rebel did his prince; and yet it is nothing but his hand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment. It is to be ascribed to nothing else that you did not go to hell the last night; that you suffered to awake again in this world, after you closed your eyes to sleep. And there is no other reason to be given, why you have not dropped into hell since you arose in the morning, but that God's hand has held you up. There is no other reason to be given why you have not gone to hell, since you have sat here in the house of God, provoking his pure eyes by your sinful wicked manner of attending his solemn worship. Yea, there is nothing else that is to be given as a reason why you do not this very moment drop down into hell.

Commentating on Edward's sermon, the academic Ola Winslow reflects, "Two centuries and more later, this is still a grim sermon on the printed page and delivered to a packed auditory under the strain of 1741, it would have been almost unbearable!"

Preaching like Edwards' has been all too representative of the portrayal of the gospel by the Church over the last few hundred years, and, by implication, of any popular understanding of the message of Jesus. And though today, for the most part, the worst of this ferocious rhetoric is a thing of the past, the residue of such portrayals of the gospel still echo across the world. People still believe that the Christian God is primarily a God of power, law, judgment, hell-fire and damnation. A God whose strapline is probably, "Get in line fast or I'll squash you!"

[Editor's Note: Could this be why so much "Reformed" and "Fundamentalist" Christianity exhibits a spirit of judgement and harshness, as opposed to a spirit of grace, love, and kindess? I think so.]

If you read Edwards' sermon closely, you'll find that the final several paragraphs are a call to God's mercy upon sinners who deserve nothing but his enmity. Edwards knew his hell, but even more so, he knew the glories of Christ in heaven, like all good preachers in the Puritan spirit. In fact, the next sermon of Edwards', I believe, was entirely about God's lovingkindness exhibited in Christ. There is no gospel, no excellency in the propitiatory sacrifice of Christ, if there is nothing from which we need to be delivered. The gospel is only "good news" if, in fact, our condition is otherwise beyond any remedy--which it indeed is. We are held captive by Satan to do his will (2 Tim 2.25) and are thus hopelessly hateful of God. We want not only rebellion, but mutiny. As such, we deserve God's holy ire. But he instead grants repentance and faith and delivers sinners from underneath the feet of the Lamb, who will one day tread the winepress of his fury until blood covers the earth like that red goo in War of the Worlds.

I'm so irked by writing that denies the gospel in this way (the worst of which is a book called If Grace is True: Why God Will Save Every Person), including Gregory Boyd's recent writings that Calvin's God couldn't be a God of love. (Strangely, it seems like so many things fall hand-in-hand: lessening God's justice and our will's bondage to sin and corruption, denying God's minute sovereignty, and denying God's foreknowledge. Their God is too small!) Jesus is the most loving person in and outside of the universe, and yet he spoke about hell (gehenna or Hades) far more than anyone else.

Now I'm not nit-picking this because I'm already saved and so I can be pompous and arrogant about something I don't have to deal with anymore. I say it because it was God had set eternity in my heart, and I was damn scared of where I was going to spend it. I sure as hell (pun intended) didn't desire to spend it in unending agony. I didn't even originally want to gain God, but escape hell. Thus I believe that deliverance from the coming judgment is sufficient grounds for the gospel. "Since the children [of God] have flesh and blood, [Christ] too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death--that is, the devil--and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death" (Heb 2.14-15).

No comments: