Original Article Posted at: https://findingthebalance.net
Written by: Chase Orosco
I originally intended this to be a short Facebook post, but how foolish it was for me to assume that something like this could be expressed in few words. For that reason, I’ve chosen to use my blog site to write about it. I’m not going to talk too much about Chan’s recent comments on the nature of communion and the Eucharist as I am about what his comments demonstrate is so important for us today.
What I will say, to the critics of those who have rightly criticized Chan, saying that Chan was simply saying we needed to just stop the division, and that Jesus didn’t start 30,000 denominations, and we need to just come together at the Lord’s Supper, and that’s more important than even preaching God’s word in a pulpit, to those saying this, I would simply defer you to a number of Roman Catholics on the internet right now who are saying amens to Chan’s comments and praying that he “come home to Rome”. The fact that there are Roman Catholics saying this should be compelling reason that, whether he intended it or not, Chan’s comments are swimming in the Tiber River.
Protestants, Rome and Eastern Orthodoxy
I want to talk about what seems to be a thing these days about Protestants finding an appeal towards Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism. I have had friends in the past, and most recent past begin to drift closer and closer to these two institutions, people I once thought were solid in the faith. Surely, a reformed Protestant would be most immune to the lures of EO and the RCC. I was wrong, and being wrong, I’ve had to sit back and honestly reflect myself on whether I could be drawn to that.
If you haven’t listened to one of the most recent Dividing Lines (January 6th) I would highly recommend it. It’s lengthy, and I know I’ve said this before, but if there is one Dividing Line that, right now, you need to listen to, it’s now this one. I get it, you’re busy, you got family and kids and stuff. But I pray you make time to listen to this one. I haven’t gotten through the Leighton Flowers stuff as I write this, and I’m sure that’s important, but for the first hour, Dr. White discusses this issue of the current attraction towards EO and the RCC and I think his analysis is spot-on, right on the money. Almost everything he said was what I have been trying to say for some time now.
I don’t attend a reformed church, so I have the “non-denominational” believers mostly in my circle. It is because they are my primary personal encounters that I am very concermed about this. These people have children about to enter the high school and college years, and so I want to address them primarily in this article. For those people, I know that a lot of you guys will see this and think it’s just a waste of time, that all of this talk gets in the way of the Christian life. Why do we need to study church history? The only church history we need is what’s in the Bible, right? Where’s the value in learning about what is “basically just Roman Catholicism for over a thousand years”? is the general idea.
Well first, it actually isn’t that simple. Secondly, something Dr. White pointed out that I have been thinking greatly on is that the Jehovah’s Witnesses are losing people today and that is because of the internet. That is, there was a time when they could control their people, because they could restrict what information they got. Now that’s not the case. Your kids can access the internet easily these days and when they do, they will almost certainly discover that the world is much bigger than they thought it was. Christendom’s history involves a greater span than just America and Palestine/Israel. Dispensationalism is not the only eschatology out there. The subject of the nature of baptism is not so simple as we were told by our leaders.
The Youth Going to Rome and the East
Parents, your children are smart. They are not stupid, they are connecting dots that you may not even see. I’ve had kids ask me some questions that frankly blindsided me, and made me have to sit down and think through certain issues. One of these days, some (perhaps many) of those kids that you try to keep from knowing about the history of their faith in the world from the first century on to today, they’re not going to settle for the “no creed but Christ” idea. I’m already seeing it happening.
The reason I think that so many young people are attracted to EO and the RCC is having grown out of simplistic, independent Baptist circles (or circles like it) that taught shallow-level concepts drudge through the youth services and they come out doing one of two things: Either throwing the whole thing out, or realizing there are places they can go to get way more interesting “Christianity” than what they were raised in, such as Eastern Orthodoxy. It’s far more magisterial, it’s got rich history and philosophy. Because young people are starving for real, substantial things, such as a real, meaningful Eucharist (Lord’s Supper) not simply a memorial service. It is far more than that.
When they realize that there were people in the ancient past that spoke far more real about the Eucharist than their own elders ever said, there is a great chance they are enamored by it, and all they need is one guy from the EO or from Rome to give them a few quotes from Ignatius or Tertullian on the “real presence” of Christ in the Eucharist, out of its context and meaning, and *finger snap* that kid’s hooked. It’s only a matter of time from there.
Something that could have been avoided if we, A: taught them church history, and B: gave them the biblical foundations to see the problem with the citation, and also with recognizing that even if Ignatius or Tertullian were speaking about “transubstantiation” it would have been in error because neither man was infallible.
The superficial Christianity that tries to separate itself from the history of Christianity is not going to work anymore. Young people are rebelling against their traditions. Let me put it in simple terms: One of these days, your kids are going to learn about smoking. It’s going to happen. What would you rather have? Would you rather have introduced them to it yourself, and have given them the proper foundations to resist it, along with all the other problems of the world? Or would you rather have not, and inculcate them in the walls of your world in the hopes that if they ever do step outside those walls, won’t be attracted to that stuff?
I don’t know about you, but the ladder option rarely turns out well. Suddenly they learn there’s more stuff out there, stuff they didn’t know much about, and they begin to wonder why you not only didn’t make them aware of this, but that you didn’t give them sufficient reasons for why this is bad.
What Lies Outside the Walls
In a novel I am writing, one of my main characters, whose name is Bella, comes to learn that there is a whole world outside of the congested urban city she is raised in. But she’s an orphan with no money to go anywhere. She is found by another of my main characters, a half-elvish character named Annastaria, who saves Bella from her own low-life family (what family she has left). As a consequence, Bella comes with Anna on her own quest across the land, and now Bella embarks on her own journey to see just how big the world is.
This will be illustrated at an important point in the book, and I made that point very specifically for this purpose. She knows the world is far bigger than she ever dreamed it was. But with that also comes great danger. Bella has to learn that with that great wonder comes a world full of dragons, strange and dark creatures, as well as evil men and women who would seek to do her harm.
Hence I am aware of how dangerous it can be to open yourself up to that, which leads me to my final point. When I began to study church history, I had several people (some of which may read this) come to me and were concerned about me. They were concerned that I was going to be distracted by this stuff and end up going down a road that would take me off the road to Christ. They were right to be concerned, and I greatly appreciate that concern.
But it’s one thing to ask someone to be careful and be grounded first, it’s another to try and tell someone that because the “risk” of going off the road is there, don’t ever take the risk. That I cannot do. Why? Because I’m one of those young people who suddenly learned the world of Christendom was much, much, much bigger than I was ever told it was. Indeed, I have opened a Pandora’s Box that won’t close anymore. I’ve opened that door and gone to where there is no return.
Folks, you don’t simply open that door, walk past the walls and just go back to the simple life behind the walls. For someone like Bella (and even like Anna) there is no going back. Now you know there’s a whole world out there. Young people, who may be your kids, will do the same thing as Bella has embarked on. This is just the beginning of her journey. What would you rather them have if and when they do? The awareness of the world and to thus prepare for it when they open that door to go out? Or to blunder into that world with a poor foundation, subject to all the heresy that’s out there? Neither outcome is wonderful, I understand that. But if there was ever a good time for “the lesser of two evils is the best option” this is it, the way I see it.
Why did I not go off into Eastern Orthodoxy? Or swim through the Tiber River into Rome? Ultimately, the only conclusion I can give is by the grace of God. All I knew was that I was committed to Sola Scriptura, because that was the only safe place to be. It was my conviction of Sola Scriptura that carried me and continues to carry me through all the zanniness and weirdness and all the heresy in the world.
I know that we would rather the massive complexity of the history of the world simply not be an issue. Maybe in the next life it won’t be anymore, but where we are now, it is an issue, and my friends, though I don’t have kids of my own, I care about the youth. I know from personal experience, being one of these young people, what can happen when I have to find out for myself that the world is bigger than I was ever told it was. I know teaching church history is a huge risk, as Dr. White said in his latest Dividing Line, but I would rather they know about it from me than from learning about it themselves, without the guidance, without the foundation to confront it.
Author: Chase Orosco
My name is Chase, I live in Texas. I am a Christian, saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. My life and all that I do is to reflect Christ and His glorious gospel. I am an author of the short story “The Champion King of the Remnant” meant to illustrate the divine power of Christ to save all those who have been given to Him by the Father (John 6:39). I have more stories in the works! All of them meant with the sole purpose of glorifying God in this world. I am of a Reformed background, one of those dreadful, mean Calvinists. My desire is to share the gospel message in my writing, to point people to Christ, and be willing to go against a culture that grows increasingly hostile to the Lordship of Christ. I could go on, but I will close simply by saying that I love the Bible, I enjoy theology, philosophy (as long as it doesn’t stray from a meaningful theological foundation), fantasy/fiction, reading, novel-writing, storytelling; I love good music, art, hiking and beholding God’s glorious creation everywhere I go. View all posts by Chase Orosco
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Original Article Posted at: https://findingthebalance.net
Written by: Chase Orosco
What does it mean to believe God? What does it mean to trust Him? How are we ultimately saved? These questions are questions that all of Christendom has asked over the centuries, and it is a question even the cults are obsessed with answering. The LDS gospel claims to hold to Paul’s teachings. But reading it’s own scriptures in the Book of Mormon, and even talking with LDS, you are hard pressed to find them truly confessing the truth of what the Bible had been teaching all along. What does it mean, therefore, to truly believe God?
The doctrine of Sola Fide (Faith Alone) is at the center of the Christian faith. Everyone wants to say they have faith in God, but who truly demonstrates it as Paul defined it in Romans 4? To truly capture the heart of this doctrine, it was no coincidence that Paul went to the Father of the Faithful, Abraham. Paul could not have picked a greater candidate to explain this doctrine.
For several reasons Paul goes to Abraham. One is as I stated above: he is the Father of the Faithful. Another reason is because Paul is dealing in Romans with Judiazers who are trying to teach Gentile Christians that to be truly followers of Christ, they must become members of the old covenant first, and adhere to the laws and statutes of the Jews. This is what Paul is responding to, and he does so by going all the way back to the beginning, before the Jewish nation even existed to prove to Jews and Greeks that his doctrine of faith alone supersedes the Jewish laws and customs. This is exactly what Paul is correcting in the Galatian church as well (Galatians 3:16-18).
A God of Promise
What it tells us is that the doctrine which Paul will be teaching us beginning at the end of Romans 3 and into 4 is not something Paul is inventing here towards the later half of the first century. It means that what he is about to explain to us began all the way back to Abraham himself. Before we can get into Romans 4, therefore, we should revisit exactly what it is Paul is pointing us to in order to understand the context of this chapter, which is the citadel of the doctrine of Sola Fide. Paul is pointing us to Genesis 15:
[After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.]-Genesis 15:1-6 (ESV)
This is the passage Paul is referring to specifically. However, I think Paul is hoping that you read further in Genesis 15 to see something amazing, which all has to do with trusting God over our own efforts. Abram (as he was known then) fell asleep and saw a vision. We read this in the passage:
[When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give this land…]Genesis 15:17-18 (ESV)
The three dots indicate that there is more to the verse cited, but what I want to focus on is in the nature of these two verses. This strange ritual that Abram saw in a dream represented Yahweh passing through the pieces of the dismembered animals as an oven, or a fire. The symbolism represents the reality that Yahweh had bound, not Abram, but Himself to this covenant He makes with Abram. Hence the burden of keeping the promise which God had given to Abram earlier in the chapter (verses 1-6) was not on Abram, but God.
If the promise rested upon God to uphold, how then could it fail? It could not. It was not what Abram was going to do, but what Yahweh Himself was going to do. That promise, as Paul tells us, is fulfilled in Christ.
Romans 4: By Faith Alone
He begins Romans 4 with a rhetorical question, iconic to Romans:
[What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh?]-Romans 4:1 (ESV)
The question is meant to get the reader to think. Paul expands upon his rhetorical question in verse 2 that if indeed Abraham was justified by his works, then he had accomplished something apart from God’s own doing.
What Paul is doing here is contrasting a salvation by works and a salvation by faith. He offers no categories of some form of faith plus works–nor even faith with works. Either you work, in which case it is something owed, which means now God owes you according to your merits, and consequentially, your salvation is based on your merits, or it is by faith alone, in which you believe that God has earned the merits for you.
Paul then quotes Psalm 32:1-2, where David describes “the blessed man” who is the one whose sins are covered and their lawless deeds forgiven. How are they covered? How are they forgiven? Many of the cults love to talk about forgiveness of sins, but when you sit and talk with them, they will typically end up describing to you a gospel of works, of legalism in some fashion, and you can often tell when you cite a passage such as Romans 4:1-5, ask them if they believe it and they typically reply, “Yeah, but…” Once the ‘but’ comes in, then they’ve just removed faith from the equation. Remember, Paul does not provide any such categories here for faith with works. It is either by works, in which case faith is null, or by faith in God’s promise to do it for you, in which case it is a gift.
Hence, the Latter Day Saints, the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Roman Catholics, as much as they might like to cheer on faith in Christ, none of them can follow Paul here without interrupting him in some way, indicating they do not truly believe in Paul’s doctrine of salvation by grace through faith, and why as Christian as they may sound, they have no gospel of salvation. How then are we saved by what Paul is teaching here?
Let’s return to Romans 4:3, where Paul takes us all the way back to Abraham. When Abraham believes God, it is counted as righteousness. What does Abraham believe? He believes what we just went through, God’s promise of salvation by covenant. It was when Abraham believed God that he was counted as righteous. What ‘righteousness’ was counted to him, then? Firstly, let’s consider the Greek word being used as ‘counted’ here. The word means to be accounted as, to be considered to be. It is the equivalent of providing to one’s account, such as their bank account, in our day in age.
Abraham’s faith, then, accounts a righteousness to God, and what righteousness is that? Paul just told us in Romans 3:22–the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ, acquired by faith. So it is the righteousness of Jesus Christ. How then does this work? When you consider the Old Testament, particularly in Leviticus, when God is going through the nature of the atonement, an animal is killed on behalf of the one being atoned for, by the high priest. The high priest represents this person in the sacrifice, offers the sacrifice as being the ‘sin-bearer’ on behalf of the person being atoned for. This is to appease the righteous wrath of God for that sinner.
Christ becomes the ultimate sin offering on the cross, bearing upon himself the sins of all those who would have faith in him, and in return, his righteousness he had acquired is given to the sinner Christ represents in his atoning sacrifice. This is what we call the doctrine of imputed righteousness. My sins are placed upon the sin-bearer; not some, not most, all of my sins. And in return, I attain his righteousness; not some, not most, all of it. Since Christ’s atonement is infinite in its value, it atones eternally on my behalf. What left is there for me to do? This is essentially the question Paul asks later in Romans 8:31. God has done this. No one can add to it, nor take it away. Not even my own sin.
Now Christ’s righteous account is made mine by grace through faith, and God has dealt with my sins on the cross. And so we return to Romans 4:7-8 and ask again, how are our sins covered? How are our lawless deeds forgiven? By repentance? No. Paul never mentions it here. Our sins are covered by the sin offering, our lawless deeds are forgiven by the atonement of Christ. When I put my trust in Christ, my sins have all been dealt with. There is nothing left for me to do. It is done and finished, and I can therefore say with Paul in Romans 5:1 that I have peace with God because I have been justified, not by my repentance, not by my works, but by faith in and through our Lord Jesus Christ.
This is how Abraham was justified before God. And if Abraham is the Father of the Faithful, this then is how every believer is justified before God. They are not justified by any of their merits, nor their works, and to bring anything of our own to the cross is to blaspheme the cross and the work of God, claiming that Christ’s work was not enough on our behalf.
Paul continues his teaching of his doctrine of salvation in Romans 4:9, again by using Abraham as our model. He moves on to ask another rhetorical question, which is to ask if this justification occurred before or after Abraham began to work and live for God. This is another important point.
Take, for instance, in the Book of Mormon, in Moroni 10:32, where it says that once we deny ourselves of all ungodliness, and love the Lord with all our hearts mind and strength, then is God’s grace sufficient for us. It is after we have done these things do we have forgiveness. Interestingly enough, this contradicts what Enos says in Enos 5-8, where Enos is not forgiven after he has denied himself of all ungodliness, but rather by faith in Christ.
But for Paul, he goes in a completely opposite direction. Instead, Paul declares that Abraham was justified before he circumcised himself. In other words, before any works were performed by Abraham, he was justified and saved from all his sins. This is the significance of Paul’s use of Abraham. If this is how Abraham, who was the father of Israel, was saved, then that means all Israel is saved in this way (Romans 9:6), and that’s exactly what Paul says in the next set of verses.
To Believe God
This is how we are justified before God. Christ himself, when asked what the work of God was, answered that “you believe in him whom He has sent” (John 6:29). That is, to believe in the Son that the Father has sent. To believe with Abraham what God had promised to him thousands of years ago. Remember, when we go back to Genesis 15, it was not Abraham who walked through the parted animals to make an oath with God that he would do his part. It was God Himself passing through the pieces. It was God holding Himself to fulfill the covenant.
This God has done in Jesus Christ, and it is by this promise we are saved. I am not saved by my works, I am not saved by my obedience. Lord knows I cannot do this work. I have no ability to be perfect, as is demanded of me. Christ was perfect on my behalf, and when I trust in him, his life is for me. This does not mean that works are not involved. Indeed, James speaks of this in James 2. But the works flow out of justification, they don’t merit justification.
That is precisely what James was discussing, and indeed Paul’s doctrine, by implication, says what James also said of Abraham; that it was because Abraham was already justified and saved that he began to live in faith towards God. Abraham circumcised himself not to be just before God, but because he was, and he was trusting that God was going to do what He promised to do. It was because Abraham trusted God and His promise that he was willing to sacrifice Isaac, the promised and beloved son of Abraham, because his faith carried him through the trial, it made him see that somehow, some way, God was going to get Isaac through this because He promised. That’s what it’s all about.
In Hebrews 11 (which I believe was a written sermon of Paul by Luke), he says this very thing as he goes through all of the patriarchs of Scripture. From Abel, to Abraham, to Moses, to Gideon, David and on to all the elect, that it was faith that drove them, not their works in or towards God. They were not driven by what they were going to do. They were driven by what God promised He would do. That is who our God is, a God of mercy, of grace, a God of promise. That is what it means to believe in God.
Author: Chase Orosco
My name is Chase, I live in Texas. I am a Christian, saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. My life and all that I do is to reflect Christ and His glorious gospel. I am an author of the short story “The Champion King of the Remnant” meant to illustrate the divine power of Christ to save all those who have been given to Him by the Father (John 6:39). I have more stories in the works! All of them meant with the sole purpose of glorifying God in this world. I am of a Reformed background, one of those dreadful, mean Calvinists. My desire is to share the gospel message in my writing, to point people to Christ, and be willing to go against a culture that grows increasingly hostile to the Lordship of Christ. I could go on, but I will close simply by saying that I love the Bible, I enjoy theology, philosophy (as long as it doesn’t stray from a meaningful theological foundation), fantasy/fiction, reading, novel-writing, storytelling; I love good music, art, hiking and beholding God’s glorious creation everywhere I go. View all posts by Chase OroscoPost Views: 60
Original Article Posted at: https://findingthebalance.net
Written by: Chase Orosco
Many years ago I attempted to give Game of Thrones a try. It was at the release of season three in 2013. As a promotion for the highly acclaimed show, HBO offered people to watch the first episode for free. I didn’t know anything much about the show at all, and decided to give it a try. I couldn’t make it through the episode as it featured nudity unlike anything I had ever seen before. And it seemed particularly accustomed to violence in a way that was disturbing. As it turned out, many Christians had come to the conclusion that the show is unhealthy for a Christian to watch, and I agreed wholeheartedly.
Still, however, I found the plot of the story interesting, and it was a great shame that the overall concept was ruined by the graphic nature of the show. I maintained what I like to call a distant interest in the development of the story. I frequent some video game/television media and fan sites, and my YouTube recommendation circulations include a lot of the recent gaming and TV show news. Game of Thrones came up especially during pre-season release periods and during the season, and YouTube would have clips of episodes released.
Without watching the whole series, and rather only some key moments, I was able to essentially put together the basic plot points without going into the detailed stuff. I heard enough rumors, theories and so forth about some of the most horrific moments of the show, such as the live burning of a little girl, a boy pushed out of a window (I did see the clip of that anyway), incest, the sexual affairs, the brutal rape of Sansa and all that other stuff I really don’t need to see to believe. I don’t need to see Ramsey being a complete psychopathic nutjob. Everyone’s talking about it, I’ll take their word for it.
A Question of Purpose
But as I took in all of this information over the years, I was brought back to that episode I tried to force myself to watch in order to get to the other side, and asking myself, “Is there a point to all of this?” I never finished the episode to get an answer to the question. I lost all interest in such a pursuit because the graphic nature outweighed the desire for an answer. It didn’t seem like the show was lessening its graphic nature as it went on, and hence what was the ultimate goal? What was it about this show that drew people so much to the senseless violence? It was like a soap opera, only far more adult in content.
There was simply something truly disturbing about this show that went beyond the simple graphic content. It honestly felt filthy to watch it. Returning to Ramsey one more time, and hearing about the sadistic things he did, I remember asking myself, okay, he’s obviously insane… What’s the point of all of this? It was almost as if the show made a monster and was enjoying the reality of that monster. It was glorifying his sadism.
I realize antagonists are necessary for conflict in a story, and I love a complex, more-than-one-dimensional bad guy. But there comes a point where the writers are indulging the antagonist to a point that one has to sit back and say, “Okay, I get it, he’s a loon. Do I need to see more of this?” It’s like someone who watches a documentary about Charles Manson, and after that looks for another one, and then another and begins to take an unsettling fascination with his character. At a certain point, it honestly gets very uncomfortable, and again one must ask, where is this all going to?
The show begins with one interesting character, and I say interesting because he is the only one of his kind throughout the entire show. That is, Ned Stark. He is king of the realm at the beginning of the season. One thing I have to give the show credit for is that it begins on a high note, with a seemingly functioning, peaceful kingdom. But as the Bible says, there are wars and rumors of wars. All is not well in King’s Landing, as it seems.
Ned was the one good guy of the whole show. He was what you wanted in a strong, lead protagonist. The show seems to set Ned up as the main hero of the whole story, and it does a good job of that. But there is a purpose in doing this. The purpose is to cut that hero’s head off. Literally. When Ned is betrayed and then executed, all hell, as it were, breaks loose. That begins what one might really say the Game of Thrones.
We might go a little farther and take this into a biblical perspective. When Ned is executed, God’s judgment on a wicked land began. When all virtue, salt and light is removed from a land, you can be sure as the Bible demonstrates that this is God judging a land. From that point on, there was nothing but evil, wicked, vile debauchery having its way. The only real good character was removed.
When I say good, I intentionally leave out some of the more noble ones (most of whom die because they won’t play the game). I even leave out Sansa, who later seems to harden up, but it might be too little too late at that point. But even during the middle of the show, what amount of leadership was Sansa showing? Not much. And what about Jon Snow? Who seemed to be the only character in the show incorruptible by evil? Likewise, Snow lacks the leadership trait.
When I say “leadership” I don’t mean a kind of humble and modest attitude he seems to demonstrate in the show. At a certain point, quite frankly, all that humility becomes cowardice, and I think that’s what his character shows ultimately. He was far more fit as a person to be king and he wouldn’t do it. When the Night King threatened the land, instead of seeking the throne, he knew what had to be done. That’s the quality of an admirable man; he was willing to toss aside the game of thrones for a more pressing evil to be stopped. No one showed more qualities for that throne than him, and yet he’s not asserting his leadership in the end. And why is this? Because it’s not convenient for the show. We can’t really be having good, admirable men as models of virtue for our story. It ended with Ned Stark all the way back in season one, and it was intended to stay that way.
The Tragedy of Daenerys
When I heard about how people hated the way this show ended, I had to somewhat chuckle at the irony of it. As I stated before, while not watching the show, I did see a few clips here and there on YouTube, and some of those clips involved one of the main characters, if not the main character, Daenerys. Commercials when the show was starting, made her to appear as very innocent. But that’s not who I saw in the clips. I saw a girl gain power and order the merciless and rather inhuman execution of certain people. I didn’t know the background of these sorry individuals, but whatever it was, it was hard to tell who was the good guy and the bad guy.
So when the end was approaching in season seven, when I saw the clip of Danny and Jon Snow meeting for the first time, I saw a spoiled little brat, not very different than Joffrey. I saw someone who was getting so obviously lost in power that it was pretty clear where this was going. You can’t let someone like that on the Iron Throne. So by the end, when Daenerys cooks the entirety of King’s Landing, I was honestly not very surprised. I do understand many of the criticisms of how it led to this, but to those so naively disliking the wicked tyranny of Daenerys showing its true form, how could you not have seen this coming at all? Debate on its execution all you want, it was inevitable nonetheless.
Of course, then I began to learn about some details here and there, particularly about Danny’s parents and her “Mad King” father. So what we have in traditional storytelling formula is a child who comes from a history of evil men who can, as it were, redeem that history by not being what her father was, or what her brother was turning out to be. While she seemed to start out well, history itself shows that even noble intentions don’t always end in noble victories. In fact, rarely ever they do.
In the end, the potential foreshadowing that Daenerys could “break the cycle” of a mad ruler went up in flames with King’s Landing as she destroyed it with her last remaining dragon, killing more people in one episode than any of the vile characters in the whole series put together, and Daenerys was not able to break the cycle. For many, following Danny through all her pain for the past decade or so, to see her blow it all away here at the end was too much. I again hearken back to the fact that the signs of this were seen a mile away.
In reality, the demise of Daenerys was really an ingenious move, whether the writers intended it or not. What does it show us? Absolute power corrupts, absolutely. What the end shows, right up to the point that her last dragon burns the Iron Throne, is that all this throne has brought was death and destruction. No one person is fit to rule it, because no one is beyond the corruption that exists within them. Every single one of us is corrupt to the core with our sinfulness, born of the seed of Adam, inheriting the sin nature he induced upon us all (Romans 5).
For this reason (that mankind is inherently corrupt with sin) the founders of the United States chose to go a different path than that of a monarchy, than that of one ruler over many. Instead we would be a constitutional republic, a federal government, where power was distributed to three different branches (two of which are themselves a plurality). No one branch can exist without the other. Since absolute power corrupts absolutely, then the one thing no man could ever, ever have, was absolute power. No one is able as mere men, to hold and maintain such authority without it driving them mad. Daenerys demonstrates this. A young girl who began innocent and noble, still showed that deep down, she was as corruptible as the rest. The lure of the Iron Throne, like that of the Ring of Power, was too great for a mere mortal, even of her hardship, to grasp and resist its temptation. In the end, what difference was there between Daenerys and the Night King? In the end, what was the show trying to prove, if not that fallen man cannot save himself?
The Vicious Cycle of Nihilism
Watching it end like this also reminds me of the Walking Dead. I was listening to Steve Deace talk about this on his show (which inspired this article, by the way) the other day and it was so absolutely true what he was talking about. He hit the nail right on the head about what Game of Thrones and the Walking Dead are all about. But going back to the Walking Dead for a moment, Steve said he realized the show was going nowhere when Neagan showed up and bashed in Abraham’s and the other dude’s head (forgot his name because I honestly didn’t care for his character at all).
I would disagree slightly with Steve and say that I caught the hint that the show was going nowhere at the end of season one (if I am recalling correctly) when the group of survivors found the laboratory with a doctor who was experimenting on his undead wife. It seemed then and there like the show was giving us a direction for the team to go in on how to redeem all of this, but the doctor blew up the whole lab, committing suicide, and taking all his research with it. At that point, it was clear to me that the show was closing the door and locking it shut, with no way out. Neagan’s introduction was simply the nail in the coffin for me, the catalyst for me giving up the ghost and leaving the show to become quite literally a walking, dead show.
The only difference between the Walking Dead and Game of Thrones is that at least Game of Thrones manages to end its existence by connecting the infinite, vicious cycle back to where it all starts to go round and round again. For the Walking Dead, it seems like they are going to carry this entire endeavor as far as they possibly can, which, as it seems now, it has finally run out of life.
The question here to ask at the very end is, what was the purpose of it all? What was the goal? What message were the creators trying to convey? I bring things back to that question I asked myself when I tried to watch that one episode in the opening of season three: Is there a point to all of this? After everything that happened, even with the Iron Throne being destroyed, one might think that this was a time where there had to be a better way to do things. Instead, all they do is convene in a counsel in the end, and make preparations to rebuild and to crown a new king.
It seemingly ends right back to the way it all began, minus an Iron Throne and a functioning King’s Landing. But you see the point of it all; it goes back full circle. The throne has a new ruler, Bran, and whether he will be good or bad, no one knows, but either way, it starts over again. The betrayals, the politics, the lust, violence, sex, wars and all that wicked mankind has to offer. The cycle is not broken. Even the mighty Daenerys falls to the lure of power upon the throne.
If there is anything to grasp out of the entire drama of Game of Thrones, its that humans have an inherent sinful problem, and it leads them to do the most vile things that you see in this show. On that, I can certainly agree. To me, the greatest irony of this entire show is that it depicts the wickedness of mankind without God and His grace, and what a godless society leads to; a vicious cycle of endless misery, and the most amazing thing is that secular people all across the world who love their sin hated the way this ended. It goes to show that even indulging in the sin they love, the imago dei shows forth amidst all that suppression of the truth, and they know that in the heart of hearts, they yearn for something more than what this world has to offer.
Because all this world has to offer you is death. I am reminded of the book of Ecclesiastes and what the great takeaway of it was. Over and over again the author’s great complaint is summarized as grasping for the wind. He is trying to find in this life something to satisfy the longing in his heart. He has all he could ever want. He has women, a great palace, riches and was a god among men. He was wiser than all, a library in and of himself. Yet he was not happy. He had no joy.
Fredrick Nietzsche is often known for his famous saying “God is dead” and it’s said as a chant and cheer. Most people don’t realize that Nietzsche uttered the words in great despair. As the father of nihilism himself, Nietzsche did not find the idea comforting. And towards the end of his life, he expressed a deep longing for eternity. He would die in insanity.
Of course, what can you expect from someone who sees the future only as more of what we have now? When your entire worldview has nothing to look forward to beyond this world, when you have no redemptive element, there is nothing else to do but repeat the cycle we all know in this world. How can a man who creates a world like Game of Thrones give you anything more than what the show started and proceeded with when he has no redemptive element, no doctrine of fallen man, no God, holy, righteous and awesome, to have the power to redeem?
A Desire for Eternity
All mankind, being made in the image of God, thus shares a common truth, and that truth is redemption. That truth is eternity. It’s why we contemplate the abstract, purpose, love and life. It’s why we write music, it’s why we love to travel, it’s why we desire in and from each other a deep love. But what we carry with that common desire is a corrupt sin nature. That sin nature, as the Bible teaches, clouds and distorts these natural desires. The desires are part of who and what we are. The sin twists it.
Hence, while we may desire purpose, redemption, and fulfillment, our clouded hearts and mind, not looking to the God who provides these things, will seek their fulfillment in something other than Him. It’s why progressives do what they do. They, like us, want a Utopian dream of peace, prosperity, and justice. But you need God to make this real, you need one to rule as the unifying truth to bring order to that. This the progressives will not tolerate, and hence someone has to fill that position of “God”. And so the government becomes the god. Twisted mankind must be the supreme, just ruler of twisted humans. And twisted man will be anything but just.
Game of Thrones gives us a picture of this vicious cycle. When the established order of fallen, sinful man proves itself unworthy of such power as the Iron Throne, what do they decide to do next? To repeat the cycle, because while Game of Thrones, intentionally or not, shows you the reality of fallen man, it doesn’t give you anything to fix it. Because as we have seen, when you don’t have a God who has a purpose in all things, who transcends all time and space, who holds the universe in His hands, who is righteous, glorious and true in all ways, who is sovereign and absolutely supreme, you can offer image bearers of that God nothing to satisfy the longing in their hearts.
[He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.] -Ecclesiastes 3:11 (ESV).
What was the great difference between Game of Thrones and the Lord of the Rings? There are many, many differences we can point to, but if we can sum it up in one, it would be as what I alluded to previously. It is the Iron Throne and the Ring of Power. Both are very much alike in many ways. They are the objects of absolute power in their respective worlds. The difference was that in the Game of Thrones, everyone wants it, and kills for it. In the Lord of the Rings, it’s clear that the great power is far too great for anyone to wield. The difference is that in the former, the power is being sought, in the ladder, they are trying to get rid of it. Because in the former, it operates on the will for power, without any warnings against it, and in the ladder, it operates on the recognition of what that power does to even good men. It is the difference between a man-centered story, and a God-centered story, in essence.
And so you see how the Lord of the Rings offers a very important message to its audience about absolute power in the hands of men. Game of Thrones may do this, but it never destroys it, because it cannot, because the worldview of its creators do not have anything else to offer. If man as we see him today is all that we have, then a warning about absolute power in his hands is a foolish endeavor. Of course, the alternative then is nihilism. No purpose, no redemption, only death.
“You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.” -Augustine of Hippo
A King Worthy to Rule
In Christianity, and in truth, there is indeed a great and wonderful future and answer to all of this. I said earlier that Daenerys proves that even someone who seemed to start so innocent, with such a noble cause, can turn to madness in the end with the lust for power. It proved that no man, no mortal, corrupted with sin, can truly hold a throne. And I criticized the fact that after this is so clearly proven in the show (whether intended or not) that perhaps it is best we have no monarchy at all. It seemed as though I was criticizing the entire idea of a kingdom.
But I did no such thing, of course. A mere man, mortal and corrupted with sin cannot bare the reality of a throne. What about one who was not a mortal, was more than a man, and was not tainted with the corruption of sin? Imagine a great king who had none of these fatal flaws. Ned Stark was the best we had in Game of Thrones, but he was just a man, and he was mortal. What about a king who could not be slain, could not be fooled, and ruled with a righteousness so pure, no shadow of turning was in him?
After God had secured a home for David and Israel in 2 Samuel 7, David, the chosen king of Israel, declares that he wishes to give the Lord a temple to dwell in. In response, God tells David through Nathan that He had asked for nothing in return, because David could not give God anything that was not already His.
Instead, God gives David a promise through Nathan in 2 Samuel 7:8-17. That promise was to establish David’s house forever. David’s line would not perish, hence. Israel would have a king that would never be removed. Ever since, Israel has been looking forward to that great promise, for that wonderful king who would fulfill the promise of God to David.
But how can anyone fulfill this promise? As Game of Thrones shows us, everyone dies, even the king. In the Bible, and in reality, it is no different. Old covenant Israel is replete with kings who lived and then died, and however good they may have been, their dynasty and legacy died with them. Generations to come would soon forget all the good deeds they may have done for Israel. Surely, then, God’s promise to David had to go beyond mere mortality. If in the end, death always wins over a great king, how can anyone truly fulfill God’s promise?
In the psalms, we have particular “royalty psalms” that speak specifically to this picture of a great king over Israel. Psalm 2 is one of these, and it speaks of a mighty king, who is almost a kind of divine figure; holding a very close relationship to God. In fact, in verse 6-8, the king in this picture is said to have been “begotten” by God. This king therefore bears a very unique relationship to Him, and to him, God gives the nations, indicating this king is sovereign over the world under the authority of God.
In Psalm 72, another picture of a great and wonderful king is given. He is a righteous king, who is merciful to the oppressed, and absolutely righteous and just against all evil-doers. In the midst of the psalm, in verse 5, one might almost say that this king’s rule is eternal. Psalm 102 may perhaps be the most telling of all our examples here of the character of this king. It begins with a mysterious saying:
[The Lord says to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand,
until I make your enemies your footstool.”] -Psalm 110:1 (ESV)
The construction of the words are strange. “The Lord says to my Lord” is what we find most peculiar. There seems to be some form of conflation going on. Two Lords are in view here. If we connect all of this with Psalms 2 and 72, we might say here that Yahweh says to David’s Lord (since in each psalm, Yahweh appears to exalt a king, and particularly in 72, one whom He calls a son) to sit at His right hand. The first Lord is capitalized in the text, which is the translator’s way of telling you that you are reading the tetragrammaton for Yahweh (YHVH), the covenant name of the God of Israel.
The use of the phrase “sit at My right hand” is to show absolute power and honor in the Bible. It signifies that the King of Israel is the ruler on behalf of Yahweh. Later in Psalm 110, another fascinating statement is made:
[4 The Lord has sworn
and will not change his mind,
“You are a priest forever
after the order of Melchizedek.”
5 The Lord is at your right hand;
he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath.] -Psalm 110:4-5 (ESV)
Verse 4 is the tetragrammaton once more, and so God is speaking to David’s Lord that he shall be a priest, but not only a priest, he shall be a priest forever. He sits at the right hand of Yahweh. What do we make of this? Three things. (1) He is a king; (2) He is a priest; and (3) He is eternal.
The Bible hence gives us a picture of what Israel was to look forward to as the fulfillment of God’s promise to David. But as you might see, who could possibly fit this description? It’s a tall order to fill, to say the least. Firstly, the king has to be a perfectly good and righteous ruler. That means he cannot have the taint of sin. The king has to be eternal, as well; his reign is forever.
That great King, the Bible says, came over two-thousand years ago, and told the world that he was the King of the Jews, descended from the line of David, and fulfilled the promise of God to establish that throne forever. That King was Jesus Christ. The New Testament connects Jesus to the line of David (Matthew 1:17, Romans 1:3). Jesus is also declared to be divine and eternal in his nature (John 1:1-4, John 8:58, Hebrews 1:3, Hebrews 1:8-12).
The book of Hebrews declares that in Jesus was the fulfillment of Psalm 2. Notice in Hebrews 1:3, Jesus is declared to have sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high (or of God the Father). This is said right after Jesus “makes purification for sins”, something the High Priest does, and Jesus, in Hebrews 5:6, is the fulfillment of Psalm 110:4.
Jesus then is that great King that Israel had been waiting for, who would fulfill the promises of an eternal King. He is King because He is man, and He is eternal because He is God. As we have said earlier, corrupt, mortal men cannot truly rule the throne of the world. What about someone who is immortal, incorruptible, and is more than a man, and by his very nature alone has the right to rule the world? All of this, Jesus Christ is. Corruption cannot take hold of him, as it is shown in the gospels, such as Matthew 8:1-3. Leprosy was a form of extreme, physical disfigurement that infected anyone it touched. When Jesus touches the leper, rather than Jesus becoming unclean, the leper is cleansed. The power of Jesus and his divine origin is demonstrated here. He has the power over sin, death, and corruption.
The Gospel of the Kingdom
The Old Testament was looking forward to a pivotal moment in the future for a figure to appear by divine appointment who was going to bring an end to Israel’s great suffering. That moment came in the person of Jesus Christ. If you read Matthew’s gospel, Matthew’s great desire is to show a Jewish audience that Jesus is the fulfillment of these prophecies. The Messianic figure of Isaiah 7:14, 8:8, 9:6-7 is fulfilled in Christ (Matthew 1:23).
In Matthew 3:2-3, the prophecy of the one who prepares the way of the Lord from Isaiah 40:3 is fulfilled in John the Baptist. Consequentially, this fulfills the prophecy in Malachi 3-4. In those prophecies is a description of the coming Lord and a great judgment that then follows after the Lord comes to His people. The coming of Elijah in Malachi 4:5 is also fulfilled in John the Baptist, and therefore this prophecy was being fulfilled at the beginning of Jesus’s ministry.
It is the prophecy that would lead to the ultimate judgment on the nation of Israel, leading to the destruction of the city of Jerusalem in 70A.D. Before that time came, however, Jesus’s ministry and message was summed up into one phrase. He went about telling people, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand”. The call was a call to turn away from sin, because the kingdom of God was in their midst. God had come, and He “tabernacled” among His people (John 1:14). The King had finally arrived, and hence proclaims a warning to surrender to His reign and rule, or perish (Matthew 4:17, Mark 1:14, Mark 3:2).
Jesus is always speaking among the people in such a way that the kingdom of God was here and now (Matthew 4:23, Matthew 5:19). After Jesus had lived, died and been raised from the dead, He gives the great commission to his disciples in Matthew 28:18-20. He says that all authority had been given to him, and to therefore make disciples of the nations. The kingdom of God was here, and now the message of the gospel, of the risen King, who will rule with righteousness and justice commands us all to come to him in repentance and faith and service to his Lordship, bringing all nations into his subjection.
As we have said, it is the Gospel of the Kingdom. So far what we have given was the gospel of the King, however. He is the most central figure of that role, but there is good news for us as well. As I had mentioned before, we have a great sin problem, and how can a holy God allow sin to dwell in His kingdom? He cannot. What then must the just King do with us? He must destroy us. All corruption must end. But God has done something wonderful to answer this problem.
The Gospel of Salvation: A Story of Redemption
First let’s remember what happened in the garden. Adam had not sinned yet, and hence he had no corruption. But once he committed the sin, he forever doomed his seed. Romans 5 is a great descriptor of what we call in theology the Federal Headship of Adam. All born under Adam’s seed inherit the sin nature at birth (Psalm 51:5). After Adam had sinned, God had the tree of life guarded by cherubim (Genesis 3:24) so that no one may enter paradise (Eden) again.
The story of redemption in the Bible is the story of being able to enter Eden once more, where God dwells, in His paradise with Him. During the construction of the Ark of the Covenant, Bezalel made upon it two golden statues of cherubim (Exodus 37:7). This was the mercy seat. When the high priest offers the blood of the sacrifice, he splatters the blood on the mercy seat as an atonement. A life for a life, as it were.
As the book of Hebrews shows us, all the constructions of the old covenant artifacts were a picture of the real ones, the heavenly ones (Hebrews 7:4-5). The symbolism was the return to Eden, to remove the angels guarding the way by a sacrifice. No one could do this, which we will see why as we explain how God redeems us in Jesus Christ.
Here is where Jesus fulfills the role of the High Priest. The high priest in the Old Testament was to atone for the sins of the people of Israel. He offered a sacrifice in their place for Yahweh on the mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant. But as the Book of Hebrews tells us, the high priest himself was sinful, had to offer sacrifices for himself, and did not live forever to be a perpetual mediator for the people of God. As Hebrews 10:1-4 sums up so well, the sacrifices of bulls and goats could never truly take away the sins of people. Man owed the debt. Only man could pay it. But for me to pay my debt means for me to die and perish. Then my salvation is hopeless in me. There is only doom.
Now we read on into Hebrews 10, in verse 5, where the Son speaks to the Father and says that a body had been prepared for Him. Now the Son, as a man, can pay the debt man owed, and He could pay the debt eternally because His life was of eternal value. In verse 11, the author again elaborates that the ordinary high priest could not truly fulfill all righteousness, being a sinner himself. Christ, who lives forever as High Priest, with an everlasting sacrifice in His own blood, offers one sacrifice, once for all who believe, purging their sins in eternity, becoming their Priest and King, and saving them fully and completely for the coming kingdom.
[For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.] -2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV).
Notice here that the Scriptures declare Jesus to be sinless. It was because he was a spotless lamb, his atonement was pure. When I trust in Christ, my sins have been forgiven in his blood, and now his righteousness becomes my own before God. Hence it is through Jesus Christ, the Bridge, the Doorway that I may enter Eden again. As Jesus himself says, no one comes to the Father except through him (John 14:6). All of my sin, therefore, has been dealt with on the cross. Does this mean I no longer sin? Not so. John says in 1 John 1:8 that if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. How do we make sense of this, then?
From Death to Life
In the prophecy of Jeremiah 31:31-34, the Lord will make a new covenant with Israel, and in this new covenant, God will put His law in their hearts and remember their sins no more. This the author of Hebrews declares is fulfilled in Christ in Hebrews 10:17.
In a similar prophecy, Ezekiel in chapter 36:25, Yahweh says that He will cleanse His people of all their idols. In verse 26, He declares that He will remove our hearts of stone and give us a heart of flesh that He will cause to obey Him. He will give us a new heart. This we call regeneration. A dead man comes to life (Ephesians 2). The point here is that something takes place when my sins are forgiven. The Spirit of God dwells in me. To put this all together, once I am saved, God begins to work life in me. Sin dwells in my current body, but as Scripture tells us, we are to be killing this flesh daily. Only regenerate Christians, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, will begin this process.
In Romans 6, after explaining the doctrine of justification by faith alone, Paul asks a rhetorical question, which is that if I have been forgiven of all sin, doesn’t that mean we can just live our lives in sin and continually say we are forgiven since all our sin is forgiven? Not so. Paul’s answer is that if you have been truly born again, something has happened to you. What is that? That you were buried and raised with Christ. Your sin is killed with him. Hence sin here means more than just bad actions–your corrupt state under Adam’s headship has been dealt with, though it still lives in this world. Now begins the new creation in the New Adam, born from eternity, that shows forth into this world.
This is what baptism represents. Notice what Paul says in Romans 6:5-8. He speaks of dying with Christ and being raised with him. Baptism symbolizes the going down under (the grave), and coming up alive, anew, and washed of sin. Hence the story of redemption, if we can sum it all up, is a story of how God conquers death through it. Through dying in Christ, we shall live (John 11:25-26). He says that he who believes in him [the Christ] and that he has been sent by the Father, has eternal life; they will not face the judgment but have “passed from death to life” (John 5:24).
An Eternal Hope
Thus in the gospel of Jesus Christ we have that great hope, that great redemption that was fulfilled in Christ when he came over two-thousand years ago, and will one day, at the end of time, be fully consummated in a new heaven and new earth, and for us who hold onto him, follow him in faith and repentance, restoration unto a new, pure and sinless life.
He is all that man was supposed to be, but couldn’t be and more. Like Game of Thrones, the Bible tells us of a great story. In the story is great evil, great pain, destruction, sacrifice, betrayal and loyalty. There are epic battles, and history-defining moments. But unlike Game of Thrones, the God who has written this story, who is telling this story always has a divine purpose; He is telling not simply a story of the reality of where we are now, but of a coming reality beyond this, where He will redeem all the evil, and all the pain, in something far greater than what we have.
The progressives, as we have said, desire a great Utopia. But their Utopia is built on this world, which is passing away. Like the story of Noah, it mattered little how big your house was in the world before the flood. It was going to be destroyed in the judgment. Only those who rest in the Ark will be saved. Only those who cling to the cross of Jesus Christ will be saved, and will exit the Ark of Christ into a new and restored world. Only, unlike Noah, this world will remain new every day. It never ends. It is an eternity of love, an eternity of music, an eternity of joy, an eternity of traveling, an eternity human relationships, an eternity of learning and grasping hold of an eternal, never-ending God.
There will be no sin that corrupts, corrodes and destroys. There will be no factions, no need to take sides. For all there are neighbors, all there are reconciled children of a great and merciful God. And they will serve a King whose reign never ends, whose glory is their light in the day, whose justice will never, ever fade away.
Author: Chase Orosco
My name is Chase, I live in Texas. I am a Christian, saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. My life and all that I do is to reflect Christ and His glorious gospel. I am an author of the short story “The Champion King of the Remnant” meant to illustrate the divine power of Christ to save all those who have been given to Him by the Father (John 6:39). I have more stories in the works! All of them meant with the sole purpose of glorifying God in this world. I am of a Reformed background, one of those dreadful, mean Calvinists. My desire is to share the gospel message in my writing, to point people to Christ, and be willing to go against a culture that grows increasingly hostile to the Lordship of Christ. I could go on, but I will close simply by saying that I love the Bible, I enjoy theology, philosophy (as long as it doesn’t stray from a meaningful theological foundation), fantasy/fiction, reading, novel-writing, storytelling; I love good music, art, hiking and beholding God’s glorious creation everywhere I go. View all posts by Chase OroscoPost Views: 82
Original Article Posted at: https://findingthebalance.net
Written by: Chase Orosco
In every major religion that, in some form or fashion, arises out of the middle east, which is to say Islam, Judaism and Christianity (along with all of Christianity’s subsets and cults), throughout all their differences has been one thing in common that each have said is necessary to live out their religions, and that is faith. Faith is the buzz word, it is the ingredient that seems to be the bloodstream or the life of each religion.
Truly the word goes with almost all forms of life, religion, or spirituality. It’s a catchy word that has a mystical and romantic essence to it. To simply say “Christianity” or “The Christian religion” as well as “The Islamic religion” sounds almost too academic, or too static in some sense. To instead say, “The Christian faith” or “The Islamic faith” personalizes them. It makes them sound more than a simple exercise in formal living. The use of the word faith almost takes the object being discussed into a realm of transcendence, beyond the physical into the metaphysical.
There is a reason for this, however, which we will discuss soon. But for now, I wish simply to say that what I will be discussing in this article is the very nature of what faith is and ought to be. What is it truly? Does it have any relationship to reason? Does it go deeper than the simple experiential aspect we are prone to think it is as by today’s culture? I will begin by seeing how the secular world defines religious faith, and contrast that to what the Bible teaches that faith really is.
Faith in the Secular World
If you go on YouTube and listen to all the celebrity scientists such as Neil DeGrasse Tyson, or Richard Dawkins, two men well known for their animosity towards religious faith, you will see how they define what faith means. It is described as a “blind faith”. The secular world sees the word faith as a trust in non-reason, in irrationality.
In their view, faith means that where all reason goes out the window, my feelings and wishful thinking take over to formulate what they describe as faith. On the other hand, they say, they have science, which is truth, which is reason–solid grounding. They don’t need to have “faith” (in their definition) to believe in what they believe, they only need to “know” the truth of scientific discovery.
The Birth of Blind Faith
This narrative is borne out of the Enlightenment era, wherein the rising secularists and philosophers against religion began to push forward the rhetoric of separating faith and science, as it once was in a perfect unity. Notice how I said that it was “rhetoric” that was at the forefront of this. That’s because all it really was, was rhetoric, it was never really attempting to meaningfully engage what the biblical idea of faith was.
Fredrick Nietzsche, for example, along with other well-known atheists like Karl Marx, never attempted to contemplate with any meaningful inquiry (to my knowledge, anyway) the validity of the Christian faith that built the societies they lived in. Instead, they simply assumed it was false, unreliable, and needed to be abandoned. It was superstition by virtue of its own existence, nothing more. Hence it required no real, meaningful contemplation upon. It was simply dismissed as archaic and no longer useful as an answer to society’s problems. The western world was entering a new era, and needed new answers as a result. Science had proven that the god of lightning was simply a phenomenon of weather patterns, and so on. The great question of the philosophers of their day was, “If God does not exist, why are people hopelessly religious?”
The question was not an honest inquiry for truth. It was an assertion–God does not exist, yet people cannot help but need Him to exist. Why is that? That was the essence of the question. Neither Nietzsche nor Marx really attempted to discover the truth of this. Instead, the two used rhetoric, which is the art of using articulation and thoughtful speech to gain an audience, rather than actually debating ideas.
The centuries would prove the use of rhetoric a useful tactic; pragmatic and economic, in some degree, as we see that the rhetoric of Nietzsche’s atheistic existentialism and Marx’s classless society of communism make devastating inroads into western civilization. There was also Immanuel Kant in the nineteenth century Enlightenment, whose work also contributed heavily to the separating of reason and faith that would eventually be the catalyst for what we have in society today, which is a rhetoric that faith and reason are on complete opposite ends of the spectrum.
It is the works of men like these, particularly during the Enlightenment era, that gave rise to secularism’s definition of faith. It was not a matter of, “Are faith and reason compatible? Is there a fundamental and meaningful relationship between the two?” Rather, it was, “Due to the scientific discoveries of our current age, religion is no longer necessary to answer the questions man needs.”
From Faith to Reason
The great sadness in all of this is how the church responded. Rather than meaningfully confronting this rhetoric with the truth of Scripture, the church attempted to adopt the trending philosophies of “rationalism” of the day to try and make a synthesis with Scripture. The result was to allow an epistemology that is fundamentally at odds with the Christian worldview into the church and begin to infect it from within. The key error in this (which the church still utilizes to this day) is to attempt to sell Christianity to the culture, rather than expose them to the God of the Scriptures.
The emphasis was on trying to preserve the church, rather than God’s word, a fundamental error that has led to the Roman Church, and the LDS Church, which are focused primarily on the foundation and structure of their institutions over God’s revealed word. It’s a common confusion of God and His church, one that is easy to fall into, but is nevertheless costly. If we don’t distinguish between God in the revealed Scriptures and the church He has made in Christ on the authority of Scripture, the result is the tendency to defend the church at the cost of God’s revealed truth. This confusion has and continues to lead to a de-emphasis on Scripture, and eventually an abandonment of it as theopneustos (God-breathed) and to instead defend an institution that is nothing more than an empty shell without God’s word to give it life.
In response to the works of Kant and Nietzsche, Hume and others, Soren Kierkegaard developed his philosophy of Christian existentialism, wherein instead of attempting to combat the rationalistic arguments of the Enlightenment thinkers, Kierkegaard capitulated and codified the idea that faith was a blind leap into the dark of irrationality, separated from reason. Few true endeavors were made by Christian thinkers to combat the presuppositions of the titans of the Enlightenment.
Yes, even our soteriology was compromised–the great slogan of the Reformation, that salvation was a work of God the Holy Spirit by a supernatural rebirth of the soul was replaced with believing that the human mind had the ability, in and of itself, to rationally connect the dots and come to a saving knowledge of Christ. Salvation, then, was wrought by “reason” and not God’s sovereign grace. Once this fundamental truth was compromised, it was only a matter of time before the corrosive effects of secular, post-Enlightenment thought would break away at the foundations of the church from within.
Faith in Scripture
Having understood, in a brief sense, what the secular world, out of the Enlightenment, saw faith as, we will begin to contrast that with what the Bible says faith is. As stated before, today’s secular people see faith as a kind of blind, senseless, irrational leap into the dark. And the church’s capitulation to this rhetoric, rather than to confront it head on, only allowed it to persist, and to eventually make inroads into the church itself that has led to all the problems we have today.
Remember as before, the Enlightenment thinkers never really attempted to interact with the Bible’s concept of faith. It was simply dismissed. This is important because if we are going to honestly speak truth, we have to honestly investigate propositions and worldviews. A worldview rises or falls on its presuppositions. Hence to discover this, one must investigate the worldview in question. Simply to dismiss it is to at the same time dismiss one’s own credibility on the subject. You don’t go for a medical checkup with someone who hasn’t honestly understood the medical field and who is not a licensed doctor for the checkup. Why, in the same way, would we rely upon people who are openly, willingly ignorant of biblical theology, for understanding what the terms related to biblical words are?
It is therefore necessary that if we are going to have a proper understanding of what the Bible describes as faith, we must go to the Bible’s understanding. It is a bad form of argumentation to impose upon the Bible a foreign concept of faith and use that as its definition. In the Greek, the word for faith is pronounced “pistis” which means to trust, to believe, to be convinced of something or someone. That is the simple meaning of faith.
Based upon this, can we already declare that the secular idea of “faith” is the same as the Bible’s? No. For the secularist, faith is a blind, irrational and unsupported belief in something that’s not real. Biblical faith is to trust in something. Whether that something is worth trusting in is not even relevant to the subject. But for the secularist, this narrative has to fit, otherwise their argument collapses. We can talk about whether what we have faith in is a reasonable thing to have faith in, but it is simply false to demand that faith means not only trust in something, but trust in something inherently foolish.
Real faith, then, is to trust, to be convinced in the mind of something, or of the words of someone. What then does the Christian–the true Christian, have faith in? Romans 3 and 4 give an in-depth discussion on the nature of faith, and how we are justified by faith, or through faith, apart from the law (Romans 3:28, 4:1-5). Clearly there is something about the nature of “faith” that makes it powerful to save. Exploring Scripture helps us to see what that is.
Faith to Salvation
There are many places to start, but I think one of the best is to begin with what I believe is the citadel passage on the nature of faith as the instrument of salvation, and that is in Romans 4. Of course, in reality, it begins back in Romans 3; in Romans 3:1-20, Paul is laying down humanity’s greatest problem, that we are desperately wicked before a holy God, completely and utterly exposed to His righteous wrath against sin. Our very existence is an abomination in His sight.
It is only after this, beginning in verse 21-26, that Paul finally shows us the Light and that is Christ. Our hope comes apart from the Law, meaning that our hope does not come from obeying God’s commandments, but from beholding the One who has obeyed the commandments. Hence, as verse 21 says, this salvation is “apart from” the Law, but the Law “witnesses” it. This righteousness is the account of Christ, and it is acquired not by the exertion of the human will, which Paul just condemned as utterly unreliable.
It is acquired “through faith”. When rendered from the Greek, it literally reads: righteousness now God dia–through or by; because of–faith-in Jesus Christ. The word for righteousness in verse 22 in the Greek means primarily that this “righteousness” (dikaiosyne) is authored, or brought about by God. It’s not a righteousness that God presents and says that this is the kind of righteousness we need to build to get into heaven. It is a righteousness that He Himself has revealed and brought about in Christ that is acquired by faith.
In Romans 4, Paul explains this doctrine more clearly, using Abraham as his example. The point once again is to show that Abraham was ultimately made righteous before God by a righteousness that God was the author of, not Abraham. Abraham simply believed God’s promise in Genesis 15, and it was counted as righteousness to him (Romans 4:3). It was when Abraham believed God, which is to say when he was convinced by God, that he was declared righteous, or justified before God. It wasn’t his willingness to work for God that did. That very idea Paul rebukes in the following verses.
Faith then is the instrument of salvation, it is through faith that God saves by the righteousness of Jesus Christ. But we are not done yet by any stretch. Faith indeed is the instrument whereby we are saved, but so many Christians don’t go any farther than this. In point of fact, the Bible has much more to say about faith. We must go deeper.
Faith to Repentance
From that point, we move on to our next. We could easily combine this section with Faith to Action, but I want to take time here to focus exclusively on repentance. What is repentance? Repentance is often gravely misunderstood by the cults, and by Christians themselves, and no less by unbelievers. Repentance is often viewed as a form of working, of building oneself up. I know that I personally struggled with this confusion for a while, and primarily because as someone who held so strongly by conviction (to this day) in the doctrine of sola fide (faith alone), why was repentance so important, then? Not that it wasn’t, but if my repentance doesn’t earn me anything, why is it nevertheless necessary?
The problem of course was with what I was assuming, and that was that repentance was a form of making oneself worthy before God. It was because I confused repentance with this that I struggled with understanding how it fit into the whole issue.
The word “repentance” in the Greek (metanoias) means to have a change in mind; to turn from one state of mind to another. In this case, to turn from the love and desire of sin to the love and desire of God. You may ask again, how is this not working our way to heaven? It seems that way if you understand, again, repentance to be earning you something. But it’s not.
Remember that in justification, I’m made righteous by a righteousness outside of me, authored and perfected by God. My turning away from sin, therefore, does not merit me anything. It’s not something I do to be righteous, because I already am by legal declaration. It’s something I do firstly out of love for what God has done for me, and because it cleanses me. It doesn’t make me more valuable, more noble, it cleans me from sinful thoughts and desires. There are many places that we can go to demonstrate this, but my favorite is in Isaiah 44:21-22:
“Remember these things, O Jacob, and Israel, for you are my servant; I formed you; you are my servant; O Israel, you will not be forgotten by me. I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist;return to me, for I have redeemed you.” -Isaiah 44:21-22 (ESV).
Notice here the order: First God declares that He Himself has removed, or sent away into the sea of forgetfulness the sins of Israel, His people. Who did this? Do the people blot out their own sins and then come to God? No, God Himself does it. I don’t declare myself righteous, I don’t undo my sins–God does. And what comes after this? After this, God now commands Israel to now return to Him. In other words, repent! Thus, our repentance is not something we do to attain forgiveness, it’s something we do because God has already forgiven us.
In John 8:34, Jesus declares that anyone who commits sin is a slave to sin, so this is everyone, since everyone is born in sin (Psalm 51:5). John 14:6, Jesus says that no one comes to the Father except through him. In John 6:44, Jesus declares that no one can come to him unless the Father first draws him. This means that the precondition for anyone to come to God is squarely in God’s initiative. John 8:36 says that if you have been set free by the Son, you are free indeed.
Put all of this together, and what we have is that a person is born in bondage to sin, in a state of hatred towards God (Romans 3:9-19), and thus by our position, have no capacity, no power to come to God. We are dependent upon God to act first (Ephesians 2:1-10). This is why no one can come, because they don’t want to. God gives it to them to come (Ezekiel 36:26-28), the Father draws. A person comes because they are drawn, and they come to the Son. The coming is synonymous with repentance.
So what do we have? We have God having set free the sinner, and as a result, the sinner comes to God. Do you see then how a contorted view of man’s free will disrupts the ability to see the harmony of Scripture? Man is not autonomous. Man is subject to his creaturely will, and that creaturely will is corrupted with sin that makes man unable to come to God, like a river that has been congested with so much filth and garbage; it cannot flow and give life to the environment. But once the obstructions are removed, it will go, as it was meant to. When God removes the obstructions of sins, the sinner will come to God.
Hence, repentance is the result of what God has done, not the attaining of what God offers. This leads us then to ask, if we persist in sinful habits, what does this prove? It does not prove we are losing faith, but instead that this sin has not really been dealt with. These are the indicators we are given, when we see the crystallized essence of the gospel, we begin to see that remaining sin is sin not yet released from. Then let us pray to God in great fervor, pray with the Psalmist in Psalm 19:4-6, call upon Yahweh to act, as the Psalmist also does in Psalm 107–cry out to God to save you from this sin, and He is faithful to do it!
Faith to Action
As I said above, repentance and this section may almost be one, but I wanted to dedicate some time on repentance in particular. Now I want to move on to faith that leads to action. What does saving faith cause one to do? As we have seen, it causes one to repent. It also causes one to grow in the light of that repentance. John the Baptist says in Matthew 3:8 to “bear fruit in keeping with repentance”. Meaning that we must repent not merely for the sake of ceasing to do bad things, but repent in order that we, in being cleansed, will in turn grow in faith towards God, and that growth leads to action for Him.
The important thing once again to notice is that faith and repentance is not earning us anything; it is a response on our behalf to what has been done to us. Remember in Ezekiel 36 the ordo salutis (order of salvation): God’s action comes first, and we merely respond. This is absolutely key to understanding the gospel. The gospel is not, nor has it ever been what you can do for God. It is what God has done for you, and you holding onto that with all your heart. It is in the light of this, and understanding this order, that we are disposed to action.
James 2 is often used so poorly as a proof-text for works-based salvation, and that is a terrible tragedy, because we miss what James was talking about. The proof text is often verse 24, where James says that we are not justified by faith alone, but by our works. The problem first is that this interpretation puts James in clear contradiction with Paul who specifically says in Romans 3:28 that we are justified by faith apart from works of the law. So either the Bible contradicts and hence is not God’s word, or there is a proper harmony that makes both speak true to each other.
The reality is that if you read James 2 in its context, James is telling us that faith alone saves, but a mere profession of faith that is not backed up by works is a worthless, false faith. It is not saying that the works are giving life to the faith, anymore than fruit gives life to the tree.
Notice James’ example for a working faith. It is Abraham, just like Paul when Paul is explaining justification by faith alone. So once again, it seems as though the two are using the same character, speaking about the same subject, but yet come to two different conclusions. Not so fast.
Notice that while they use the same patriarch, they use two different events in his life. For Paul, he is going to where Abraham was justified before God, when Abraham believed God (Genesis 15). James uses the event in Abraham’s life when he offered up Isaac on the altar (Genesis 22). This was after Abraham was counted as righteous. What’s the point? The point is that in the former, Abraham was saved, in the ladder, Abraham demonstrated that he was a saved man, under God’s grace by his willingness to sacrifice his beloved son that was promised. Why? Because that’s what faith does! It causes action!
In Hebrews 11, the author is preaching, going through the entire history of the biblical patriarchs and shows that they all were not motivated by any need to make themselves right before God, but that they believed God’s promise to deliver them Himself. It was God they were trusting in, not their performances, not their abilities to do things. They were weak men, who did extraordinary things because they were relying on God and His promises. They were moved to action by faith.
Faith as a Gift
Our next section covers what is often controversial, but absolutely necessary to the subject of faith. We are attempting to present the utmost biblical nature of faith here, and that means we must talk about some things we may otherwise find uncomfortable. Faith, as we have seen, is more than just blind, irrational and empty hope in foolishness. It is an instrumental cause of justification before God.
Now we must recognize faith as going even farther. As we will discuss, faith is a matter of persuasion, but it goes even deeper than this. Remember in Romans 3:20-26, Paul is explaining how we are saved, and he makes these claims in the backdrop of what he said previously, that mankind in his corrupt, fallen state, is utterly hopeless in himself to do anything pleasing to God that would save his soul. No one seeks for God (Romans 3:11). That is, no one in their unsaved state seeks for God.
Later, in Romans 8:5-8, Paul makes the strong statement that those in the flesh cannot please God. They have no capacity to do so. In Ephesians 2:1-3, the same apostle describes our state outside salvation as being “dead in trespasses and sins”, meaning that our state was so desperate, that like zombies that feel no pain when being struck, so to we feel no pain for having violated God’s law. There was no care in us at all–no life anywhere to be found. In verse 4, Paul provides the great words “but God” which indicates that the decisive factor of how such desperately wicked people could believe was because of an act of God.
That’s where in Ephesians 2:8-9, Paul tells us that faith is a gift. If indeed the human mind and spirit is so depraved, dead in sins and trespasses, then how can it even ascend to saving faith? It cannot. Therefore the faith that saves is a faith granted by what? It is by grace (Ephesians 2:8-9). Grace is an activity performed by God unto a sinner that blesses them. It’s done all in grace, meaning it has absolutely nothing to do with the sinner.
In John 6:39-44, Jesus specifically says that it cannot be that anyone comes to him unless it is granted to him by the Father. In other words, anyone you see coming to Jesus comes because God has given them the gift that grants them to do it, and what is this gift? It is the gift of faith, and that faith is far more than an intellectual exercise. It is a faith that causes one to change, to move, to repent and grow more in their trust in God.
The thing that separates the believer and the unbeliever is an act of grace on the part of God to grant that believer faith. And it is because it is a gift from God that it cannot fail.
Blind Faith in Nature
There is an irony in this discussion. Remember how our secular friends identify faith as a blind, irrational leap into the dark. But once again, how does the Greek define faith? It defines it as to be convinced, or to believe someone. Who in our society is immune to this? No one is. We all, even the most anti-religious, take someone on their word for what they say. Hence, they too have great faith in the people like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Bill Nye, or Christopher Hitchens.
But who are these men trusting in? Whose word are they taking on face value? We all adhere in some sense to an appeal to authority. For example, biology, and the nature of the universe. We take that verbatim as being reliable on its face. That is to say, we may be having faith in the laws of nature. But the real problem here for our secular friends is that while both of us may have faith in the laws of nature to be as they are, as a Christian, who believes the essential predication for faith in the laws and uniformity of nature is a God who is Himself eternal, self-existence, absolute and unchanging, I have a strong ground for believing in the laws of nature.
For the secularist, what does he ground his faith in the laws of nature in? The answer must be nothing. He has no reason to believe the laws of nature are of absolute uniformity, and hence, what assurance has he that he will be a coherent chunk of functioning matter today, and tomorrow explode? He has none. He must take the claims of his mere human observance at its word (despite it not being the absolute arbiter one needs to confidently rest that faith in it). We may put this in another way, that the secular atheist, when truly examining his worldview, has to conclude that the definition of “blind faith” that he wishes to ascribe to the Christian is actually true for himself.
As we have explored, the nature of faith in the Bible is far more in depth than our secular friends try to make it appear as. Sadly, it is also far more in depth than many evangelicals see it as. Faith is the instrument that saves us, it is to be convinced in the mind of God’s truth and His promises. Faith is a gift that God grants to His elect that they may be able to hold onto His promises. Faith grants the power to repent. Faith causes one to act.
Earlier in the article we looked at the rising tension between faith and reason in the Enlightenment era, and how eventually these two were on a collision course. But it is not the case that the two are at odds. Faith renews the mind (Romans 12:2), and purifies us more and more. It disposes us more and more to the God of the universe, and in understanding Him more, brings us into greater harmony with His creation. That is to say that true faith does not cancel out reason, but it promotes true, rational, and meaningful inquiry into reality. This is why Christianity can be so exclusive and hold to absolute truths over and against subjective experiences.
Ask an LDS how they know the Book of Mormon is true and they must fundamentally rely on a feeling they get. But God’s world and hence His truth does not operate on this kind of thinking. My thoughts and feelings don’t give rise to reality; God does, and hence the discovery of truth in the world is to, in faith towards God, be subject more and more to a renewing of my mind that allows me to grasp hold of truth more and more.
This is why Christianity is behind the greatest scientific findings in all of history, and it is only when the Creator is taken out of the picture does chaos ensue and mankind deteriorates, and drifts farther into the outer darkness.
Author: Chase OroscoPost Views: 75