"Over against all that reason suggests or would measure and fathom, yes, all that our senses feel and perceive, we must learn to cling to the Word and simply judge according to it."


- Martin Luther




Luther's Rose


I wish most importantly to state a case for Christ and His Cross for the unbeliever, but I also wish to make the case for both the unbeliever and the "blessedly inconsistent" towards the true apostolic and catholic teachings of the blessed and orthodox Lutheran Church.



SOLI DEO GLORIA



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Join the Merry Gang of Fools!




Anybody who reads my blog should have ascertained by this point that my regard for natural, unaided human reason as it relates to theological knowledge is not very high. So, indulge me in a little thought experiment to show you why.

Jesus is “Theanthropos”, meaning, both God and man. Plain and simple. (Well, maybe not so simple.)

Now, some attributes of God are (but are not limited to):

  1. Eternality
  2. Immutability
  3. Incomprehensibility
  4. Omnipotence
  5. Omniscience
  6. Omnipresence
  7. Transcendence
  8. Self-existence
  9. Self-sufficiency
  10. Sovereignty
  11. All-just
  12. All-loving
  13. etc....

The attributes of man are (but are not limited to):

  1. Immortal, yet Earthly finite
  2. Comprehensible, yet not entirely comprehensible
  3. Potent, yet under authority
  4. Knowledgeable, yet ignorant without limit
  5. Fixed in space-time
  6. Subsistently-existent
  7. Subsistently-dependent
  8. Ruled by greater power
  9. Largely unjust
  10. Mostly self-loving
  11. etc....

Here the line is marked between man and God as regarding some of their respective attributes. Now, I wouldn't say that the attributes of man are exactly antithetical to Gods, they're not; however, they are antithetical in this one aspect: God is unlimited, and man is limited to an almost infinite degree!

These are two truths that can never be confounded, for to confound them, to confuse them in any way would cause a contradiction in terms. All that the word “God” conveys would be emptied of any clear meaning if God was found to be limited in some way. Likewise, all that the word “Man” conveys would be emptied of any clear meaning if man were found to be unlimited in some way.

What I have said here is very logical, in that, logic's “law of contradiction” is preserved by not confusing the terms “limited” and “unlimited.” If they were confused, this would break logic's “law of identity” by muddling the definitions of each with the other. In order for our minds to work properly, these two laws must always be immutable, for if they were mutable in some way, then we couldn't make sense of anything we observe, nor would we ever be able to effectively communicate our knowledge gained by observing.

Therefore, we ought to reject anything that violates these laws (at least says the reason of man).

Aha, now we have it! We can go merrily on our way knowing that are knowledge of God and man is secure, logical, and true. Nothing to worry about. That is, until you read this scripture in Luke 2:52, it says:
...Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.

For Jesus to increase in wisdom and stature would imply that these were things not with Him from the beginning.

Wait a second....what? I thought Jesus was God? Should we then reject Him?

It is true that He is one-hundred percent God, and yet one-hundred percent man. How that can be is beyond me, but, when we are exposed to something which affords us no insight, such as the incarnation of Christ, we are to rest our reason with God's Word, just as Jesus emptied His glory while Emmanuel (God with us). For, as it says in Phillipians 2:5-7:
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
So it is that Jesus was a child once created in the "likeness of men", helpless and defenseless, at least by the sight of human eyes and man's fallen reason. Yet Jesus, in His lifetime, expressed fondness for children. His fondness, however, was not anything we might think fond about children. In two instances He said:

in Mark 10:14-16:
But when Jesus saw it [i.e. his disciples withholding children from Christ's presence], he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.

and in Matthew 18:6:
But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.
The verse in Matthew is rather harsh, but shows his deeply held convictions regarding children. We look at children and admire them for their cuteness, their naivety about the world, etc., but to admire them for their ignorance is something else entirely.

This means there is something beautiful in the ignorance of man. Not that ignorance in itself is beautiful, it's not, but the fact that ignorance is something supposed to be beautiful and it's not, exposes a problem within ourselves.

When I speak of ignorance, I am not speaking of it in the sense of someone being belligerently profane. No, I speak of ignorance in the sense of someone being profanely humble. Not that being ignorantly humble in and of itself is profane, but if the world is given the choice between power and humility, power seems to win out more, whereas ignorance is used as an invective against somebody considered to be stupid; weak; inferior. And, where something is used as an invective, it intentionally betrays the insultor as someone who has the fear of being considered ignorant.

In other words, the secular world considers humility, that is in relation to ignorance, as something offensive to it's sensibilities. So much so that the westernized nations pride themselves on the strength of their public education system. A system designed to liberate children from the oppression of ignorance.

So here we have two contrasting views of children. The one of Christ, and the other, the worlds. Why are they so drastically different?

It would have to do with the differences in ignorance as regarding what sphere, would it not? That would be the right question. Of course our reason is a gift from God, and should be used as an end unto itself in all Earthly matters. In this sense the western educational ideal, i.e. a liberal education, is of great importance. However, when applied to the sphere of things spiritual it must restrain it's liberality, and be bound to the Word of God. This is the import of what Luther always tried to convey in many of his writings, in that reason is used within two spheres: the magisterial and ministerial use.

The magisterial use of reason applies to the goings on in this world. So, if you are trying to balance your checkbook, if your trying solve a math problem, or trying to discover the Higgs-Boson particle at CERN Switzerland, all these things require the use of reason as a guiding light in an otherwise dark world.

However, the ministerial use of reason applies to the goings on in the Bible. Not that all reason is surrendered to sacred Scripture, i.e. reason can't be used at all, but that its worldly authority should not predicate dominance over God's Word. So, when reason is in relation to God's Word it surrenders all authority over to the Bible. Reason in this sense is bound, tethered to the good Book as it were.

So, when we look at God, it is hard to not to think of Him as being anything but powerful. His power would be displayed in His "God-like" attributes, such as: omnipotence, omnipresence, omniscience, etc., and humility would be the last thing we'd expect to find. But so it is with Christ, the living paradox. Two antithetical truths in tension in one person. God's sovereignty and God's humility are bound, but not confounded in the person of Christ. The finite contains the infinite. The eternal bound by space-time and eventual death. The unlimited bound by the limited.


Who can understand it?

Relax, we're not supposed to. We are to let God's foolishness be wiser than man's wisdom, to let God be true and every man a liar. So, in that spirit, let's embrace the little Christ Child in infantile faith and be fools together in the riches of God's Kingdom. Let the world scoff us, but pray that one day those who are not  forgiven in Christ will find the atonement He has won for them on His cross and join our merry gang of fools.

2 comments:

Drew Lomax opines,

"The attributes of man are (but are not limited to):
Immortal, yet Earthly finite
Comprehensible, yet not entirely comprehensible
Potent, yet under authority
Knowledgeable, yet ignorant without limit
Fixed in space-time
Subsistently-existent
Subsistently-dependent
Ruled by greater power
Largely unjust
Mostly self-loving
etc...."

You list "immutability" as an attribute of God; however, you do not list "mutability" as an attribute of man. The attributes you do list are all affected by man's essential mutability. For example, immortality is not an essential attribute of man. However, in his essential mutability, mortal man puts on immortality (1 Cor. 15:52, 53).

January 6, 2010 at 6:54 AM  

Daniel,

You make a great point here, and you're absolutely right. So much so that you've reminded me of something I read not to long ago about this very subject. I will post something about it.

Man is mutable in many obvious bad ways, but, if man were not mutable (i.e. in original sin) than there would be no hope for us (i.e. justification in Christ).

Thank you for the correction and inspiration!

Drew

January 6, 2010 at 2:45 PM