Thursday, June 28, 2012

Infinite Humility Displayed!

To appreciate the Incarnation we must think in terms of infinity. God is infinite. This means he has no boundaries, no limits, no stopping point in any of his attributes. This is one of the reasons that God is a Spirit, that he has no physical properties. If he did they would render him finite “When we say that God is infinite,” wrote A.W. Tozer, “we mean that He knows no bounds. Whatever God is and all that God is, he is without limit…To say that God is infinite is to say that He is measureless ”

By definition, therefore, anything finite, no matter how big, when set next to Something infinite recedes into comparative nothingness. If God is infinite the universe itself, with its billions of stars, when set next to God becomes almost irrelevant. It is finite. As an infinite God gets larger and larger compared to a finite universe, the universe gets comparably smaller and smaller. This is what Psalm 145 means when it says that God’s “greatness is unsearchable” (Vs. 3). Here is how Isaiah words it—

“Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are accounted as the dust on the scales; behold, he takes up the coastlands like fine dust…All the nations are as nothing before him, they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness”(Isaiah 40:15–17).

The nations, a “drop from a bucket?” Think about it. That mean the seven billion people currently alive on planet earth are only like one solitary drop from a bucket that at one time held millions of drops.

But it gets worse. Isaiah tells us that the nations are only “fine dust” on God’s scales. What does dust weigh? Essentially nothing. It is irrelevant. It cannot move the scales up or down. It is meaningless.

Isaiah continues. All the nations past, present, and future are “accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness.” How can anything be less than nothing and emptiness? Emptiness is a low point. But less than emptiness, less than nothing? That we cannot imagine.

But we are not emptiness. We are real flesh and blood people, all seven billion of us. So why did Isaiah write this? He knows we are finite, and anything finite is of almost meaningless compared to something infinite, and God is infinite.

I am not writing this to depress you. You need this information to appreciate the Incarnation. To the degree that sin becomes bitter grace will become sweet. To the degree that we see ourselves for who we really are the Incarnation becomes utterly astounding. It is because we think so highly of ourselves that the Incarnation has so little impact on us.

If Jesus Christ is God, and if he descended down from an infinitely glorious status to take to himself a finite human nature, then it follows that his descent was an infinite emptying. He travelled an infinite distance downward. This is the measure of God’s love for small, insignificant, finite creatures like you and me. And it is because of this that Paul describes God’s love in infinite terms. He calls it “love…that surpasses knowledge” (Eph. 3:19).

Here is how John Flavel, one of the great seventeenth century Puritan preachers, tried to grapple with this truth—

“For the sun to fall from its sphere, and be degraded into a wandering atom; for an angel to be turned out of heaven, and be converted into a silly fly or worm, had been no such great abasement; for they were but creatures before, and so they would abide still, though in an inferior order or species of creatures. The distance betwixt the highest and lowest species of creatures, is but a finite distance. The angel and the worm dwell not so far apart. But for the infinite glorious Creator of all things, to become a creature, is a mystery exceeding all human understanding. The distance between God and the highest order of creatures, is an infinite distance.”

Here is the love of God. Christ descended an infinite distance to atone for sins infinitely serious in God’s sight.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Man & Woman in Paradise: Part 4, Illegitimacy

God's intention for men and women is a relational Paradise. However, as we have seen in recent posts, that is not the experience of our culture.

We have noted the curse of androgyny, and the rise of the professional woman, both results of feminism and the sexual revolution. In addition the revolution has decoupled sex  from marriage and commitment. So great is the disconnect that, according to The Social Trends Institute, over forty percent of births are now to single moms.

About four million babies are born in the United States each year. In addition, there are about one million abortions. Forty percent of four million is about 1.6 million babies born without fathers. But for abortion, it would be 2.6 million, or over fifty percent of today’s pregnancies. In summary, over 50% of American pregnancies are aborted or born to a single mom. In addition, The New York Times reports that, for the first time in American history, over 50% of births to women under age thirty are to unmarried women. By contrast, in 1960, without either birth control or legal abortion, only five percent of our children were born out of wedlock. This is a social disaster. No culture has survived, long term, the abdication of fathers from the crucial process of socializing children.

“Virtually every major social pathology of our time,” writes Dr. Stephen Baskerville: “violent crime, drug and alcohol abuse, truancy and scholastic failure, unwed pregnancy, suicide, and other psychological disorders—all these correlate more strongly to fatherlessness than to any other single factor.” Fatherless children are susceptible to a host of well-documented social pathologies. Confirming Baskerville’s quote is the Fatherhood Initiative . “Teens from fatherless homes are: 5 times more likely to commit suicide, 32 times more likely to run away, 20 times more likely to have behavioral disorders, 14 times more likely to commit rape, 9 times more likely to drop out of high school, 10 times more likely to abuse chemical substances, 9 times more likely to end up in a state-operated institution, and 20 times more likely to end up in prison.”

In addition, the greatest correlate between poverty and affluence is the presence or absence of a father. The government could end the bulk of its anti-poverty programs just by motivating men to get and stay married.

Illegitimacy is not God's plan for the human family, but this is the reality in our day. We should be deeply grieved. Of greatest concern is the truth that these trends have invaded our local churches more than we care to admit.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Man & Woman in Paradise: Part 3 Androgyny

God designed the union between a man and woman to be a paradise in experience. To the degree that the sexual revolution and gender feminism have compromised the church that paradise is lost. The last few posts have examined some of the fruits of these movements. Today we consider another...Androgyny.

“All the man words have been brought to account and corrected,” writes Yale scholar, Harvey C. Mansfield. “Mankind has become humankind; man of the year, person of the year; and so on…A gender-neutral language implies a gender-neutral society, marking a pervasive way in which we live our lives.”

Androgyny is a compound word formed from the Greek word for man (andro) and the Greek word for female (gyny). It literally means male-female, one without male or female characteristics. It is the attempt to eliminate the distinctions between the sexes.

For at least thirty years feminism ha evangelized Western Culture with the lie that human beings are androgynous. George Gilder, in his classic book, Men and Marriage, as early as the late seventies, prophesied that the fruit of androgyny would be the increasing empowerment of women and the emasculation of men.

Androgyny is also the new ideal for marriage. An androgynous marriage is one without sex roles. Who earns the money, protects, nurtures, or leads is not decided by gender but by a contest of wills, usually in the early stages of the relationship.

As we will see, the results are predictable. Many men are increasingly insecure about what it means to be masculine. What does society expect of me? Is chivalry sexist? Should I hold the door for her, or should she hold the door for me?

In her article, “The End of Men,” recently published in the Atlantic Magazine, Hanna Rosin chronicles a symptom of this growing male insecurity. Men are increasingly withdrawing from socially productive commitments.

The implications for culture are momentous. We will develop them in future posts.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Man & Woman In Paradise: Part 2, The Beyaz Woman

The world constantly bombards the church with messages about sex, and men and women’s roles, that are incompatible with the gospel. It is impossible to completely protect our self from these influences.

A recent TV commercial for Beyaz birth control pills is a good example. It opens with a group of attractive, well-dressed, 25-35 year old professional women entering a gift store. As they begin to shop, a background voice drones, “You know what you want today, but you never know what you might want tomorrow. Its good to have choices. It is good to have Beyaz.”

Stacked on the display tables are various life “choices.” The ladies begin to fill their baskets. On one table is a stack of college diplomas. Another, labeled “significant other,” contains pictures of handsome, eligible men. Another shelf boasts pictures of tropical vacation destinations. Then a beautiful brunette passes a stork with a cloth bundle representing a baby. The stork moves towards her, but with a smile she shakes her head and turns away. She puts a “trip to Paris” in her basket instead. The scene closes with another woman putting a new home in her basket. This ad expresses several assumptions about the ideal contemporary female.

• She is a well-educated professional.

• Even though she is in her late twenties or early thirties, she is still single.

• She is in control of her life. She doesn’t need a man or family.

• Her priorities are material and vocational. They are not maternal.

• Yes, she is interested in “relationships,” but that doesn’t necessarily mean marriage or children.

Here is the bottom line. Our culture’s plan for today’s successful woman does not prioritize marriage, parenting, or family. At the root of this is a more fundamental denial of the differences between men and women. This denial has produced a growing reluctance to marry; the decoupling of sex from commitment; a radical growth in the number of illegitimate births; and the gradual withdrawal of men from leadership and responsibility.

This post, and the ones to follow, contend that marriage and family, as biblically defined, matters greatly. In the words of Cicero (106-43 BC) “Prima societas in ipso conjugio est,” The first bond of society is marriage. Since this is true, the church should be a showcase of healthy, holy, happy marriage and family life.

More on these specific issues to follow tomorrow.

Man & Woman in Paradise, Part 1, The Church and a Toxic Brew

Since 1970 three crucial social changes have rocked Western Culture. All three are related. The first was the sexual revolution that began in the late sixties. The second was the gender-feminist movement. It emerged as a significant cultural force in the mid seventies. The third was growing social momentum to mainstream homosexuality. Gay rights first gained serious traction in the mid eighties. This article is about the first two, the sexual revolution and feminism, and their affect upon the church.

The mixing of secularism, pluralism, relativism, the sexual revolution, and feminism has produced a toxic brew. The effect has been an unprecedented social disaster. We should not be surprised. Neither relativism or pluralism can provide a lasting basis for social flourishing. Without ultimate meaning and value— moral absolutes— we have no basis for social order. We can expect only social chaos on the long run.

However, my concern is not Western Culture. It is a subset of Western Culture, one highly influenced by Western Culture, the church. Jesus calls his people to be “the light of the world…a city set on a hill” (Matt. 5:14-16). In other words, we are to be different. God’s people are to be holy, and behind the word “holy” is the idea of separation. The behavior, motivations, and attitudes of holy things are to be separate from what is common to fallen culture. I contend that in terms of the family and male-female roles the word “separate” does not describe us frequently enough or sufficiently enough. The siren call of “political correctness,” the pressure to fit into the world’s agenda, is powerful. God’s people have drunk this toxic brew, and the moral, spiritual, and social indigestion has been significant.

We are locked in a mortal spiritual conflict, the roots of which go back to Genesis chapter three. Human sexuality has always been fundamental to this conflict. We are currently in a life and death struggle over the nature of family, what it means to be male and female, the willingness to have children, and God’s intention for human sexuality. The flourishing of the church rides on the outcome. Although the conflict has raged since the beginning, the intensity has differed from generation to generation. I contend that its current ferocity is unparalleled in human history.

The church does not exist in a vacuum. We live in the crucible of a fallen world. So, in order to understand the pressures that seek to conform us into its image, this post, and those that follow in the next few days, will explore the fruits of this"toxic brew," the degree to which the church has imbibed its poison, and the cost of compromise...

Until then...