[Written by John Piper and Originally Posted at Solid Joys]
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30–31)
I feel so strongly that among those of us who have grown up in church and who can recite the great doctrines of our faith in our sleep and who yawn through the Apostles Creed — that among us something must be done to help us once more feel the awe, the fear, the astonishment, the wonder of the Son of God, begotten by the Father from all eternity, reflecting all the glory of God, being the very image of his person, through whom all things were created, upholding the universe by the word of his power.
You can read every fairy tale that was ever written, every mystery thriller, every ghost story, and you will never find anything so shocking, so strange, so weird and spellbinding as the story of the incarnation of the Son of God.
How dead we are! How callous and unfeeling to your glory and your story! How often have I had to repent and say, “God, I am sorry that the stories men have made up stir my emotions, my awe and wonder and admiration and joy, more than your own true story.”
The space thrillers of our day, like Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, can do this great good for us: they can humble us and bring us to repentance, by showing us that we really are capable of some of the wonder and awe and amazement that we so seldom feel when we contemplate the eternal God and the cosmic Christ and a real living contact between them and us in Jesus of Nazareth.
When Jesus said, “For this I have come into the world,” he said something as crazy and weird and strange and eerie as any statement in science fiction that you have ever read.
O, how I pray for a breaking forth of the Spirit of God upon me and upon you; for the Holy Spirit to break into my experience in a frightening way, to wake me up to the unimaginable reality of God.
One of these days lightning is going to fill the sky from the rising of the sun to its setting, and there is going to appear in the clouds one like a son of man with his mighty angels in flaming fire. And we will see him clearly. And whether from terror or sheer excitement, we will tremble and we will wonder how, how we ever lived so long with such a domesticated, harmless Christ.
These things are written that you might believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who came into the world. Really believe.
I was thinking about this after watching so many superhero movies and realizing that every power that those superheros have, Christ has. And yet we don’t look at Him with so much awe as we do Superheros. Good reminder.
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I’m glad you liked it! I was really convicted by this post, which is why I decided to share it. Having grown up in the church, I’ve found that it’s so easy to get jaded to the sheer awesomeness of who God is and what He’s done for us. I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions, but I’m hoping this next year to take more time to be still and sit in awe of Him.
What a fantastic post!! Merry Christmas.
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Merry Christmas, Brittany! I hope you had a lovely day! ❤
The Surrealists say, that the true work of art is that wich the observer knows is not describing reality, but is so well made, that the observer does not even care, immerses her/himself to it, and is taken by the unreality of the work – like a dream, in wich we experience the weirdest stuff and it feels like reality to us.
Have you ever tried to read really great stories by men, like The Lord of the Rings, the Kalevala, or for example the Iliad? Those all surpass the Jesus story in splendour and in depth and especially in coherency, though I do admit it is a bit of a matter of tastes. If you are really interrested in actual historical stories from the antiquity, then I recommend you to read Xenophon and his Anabasis.
Men have expected the end of the world to happen on any day from the dawn of time. It is a nonsensical expectation unless they are actively seeking to fullfill it. Wich is a freightfull thought, because they might be wrong about their expectations of paradise after the end. Could they not?
And as we say here in Finland: Hauskaa joulua ja onnellista uutta vuotta! 🙂
Yes, I have read both The Lord of the Rings and the Iliad, and I am certainly one who can lose myself in a good fantasy story, living the book with the characters and perceiving it as real until the spell is broken by the ringing of the phone or a knock at the door.
I understand the point you are trying to make about the “splendor and depth” of works of fiction; however, this post spoke not to writing style but rather content. While we know LOTR to be a work of fiction, for those of us who believe the Bible to be true, how much more awesome then are the miracles contained therein?
The idea that God would come to earth clothed in the flesh of a mere man for the purpose of dying (and being raised from the dead) on behalf of those who murdered Him – and to die in the place of all mankind because of His unfathomable love for the most broken of sinners… That is a love story of terrible beauty that pierces the soul and, writing style aside, cannot be trumped by the likes of even great works of fiction like the Iliad.
John Piper’s point was, when we are stirred by great works of fiction, may we be reminded how much more awesome are the truths contained in the very real, very true story of Jesus!
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Well, by any sane historical research methodology, the Iliad could be just as “true” as the Bible. Both come from the Mediterranean culture of antiquity, both are set in actual historical sites and time frame, both have questionable ethics and flippant god characters, the original writers of either are not known and both make wild, but totally unsubstantiated claims about the supernatural. The only reason why one of them is taken at face value by many even today, while the other is not by anybody, is that the supporters of one of these mythologies persecuted the supporters of the other mythology to death hundreds of years ago. Correct?
In the real world, where both believers and non-believers do exist, the value of the content of either Iliad, or the Bible is only a matter of taste, because religious faith is based on mere taste most often aquired by cultural heritage. Both books have great human issues in them and give us a glimpse of the past cultures they were written in. In that sense both are equally valuable. The value of the Bible as a lesson on culture and morals is sadly diminished and degrated by the fact that people take it at face value and refer to it as some sort of moral authority, when it sports very unethical ideals from a segragationist moralist theocratic culture.
I really hope you will not be offended by what I say, but to me the “love story” you refer to, is quite unethical by content. As what it tells us is, that a god with power to create an entire universe, made people as we are, was displeased at how we turned out and thousands of generations later decided to repair the problem, by experiencing a relatively very short disconvinience to encourage some people to believe without evidence ie. have faith, in a particular story. And as a result people, who by far mostly by cultural indoctrination in a particular cultural heritage (that they have inherited from ancestors who were forcibly coerced into the particular religious culture), accept this fairytale element at face value and are supposedly rewarded for it in an afterlife of wich we have no more evidence than of this god ever existing and alledgedly the rest of us deserve eternal torment just for not having any rational reasons to share in that particular religious heritage. From my perspective this is vile. Can you see why?
Perhaps, it is a beatifull story. That depends once again on the tastes and the understanding of ethics, but it still is just a story. There is no rational reason to think any of the supernatural elements in it are any more true than those in the Iliad. Or are there?
Uggh, there is so much – SO MUCH – to say in response to this post. This would be significantly easier in person, but alas! I will work with the medium we have available to us.
1. “questionable ethics” – Disagree.
2. “flippant god characters” – Disagree.
3. “the original writers of either are not known” – Disagree.
4. “both make wild, but totally unsubstantiated claims about the supernatural” – Disagree.
5. “to me the “love story” you refer to, is quite unethical by content. As what it tells us is, that a god with power to create an entire universe, made people as we are, was displeased at how we turned out and thousands of generations later decided to repair the problem… From my perspective this is vile.” – Disagree.
1. I assume that you are speaking to the code of ethics in the Old Testament; that is, the Law of the Mosaic Covenant. We are no longer under that covenant. Rather, we live under the New Covenant in which we are forgiven and brought into right relationship with God by His grace through faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And this code of ethics – in Jesus’ own words – is to love God and love people. “The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” And the result of God’s indwelling Holy Spirit are “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Surely you cannot argue that this code of ethics is questionable.
2. My God is not flippant. His character stays the same in aeternum. He has always been perfectly Just and perfectly Loving. He is Holy. Certain aspects of His character have certainly been drawn out in different chapters of the story of humanity, but He is anything but flippant. Perhaps you could cite examples to discuss.
3. For those of us who acknowledge the Bible as the Word of God, the original writers are often identified in the writings themselves. However, if you think of the bible as just a story that may or may not be true, I cannot rationally argue faith into your soul.
4. Wild? Yes. Totally unsubstantiated? No. Like #3, this one has to be taken on faith, so it’s not really worth discussing. You won’t change my mind, and I won’t change yours with simple back-and-forth debate.
5. God, who had the power to create the universe, created people with free will because of His love for them. If God created mankind without the ability to make decisions for himself – like, for example, whether to love God and life live as He intended – what kind of puppet master god would that be? But no, God loved us enough to give us free will to make mistakes, and as a result, His creation sinned; fell short of God’s perfect standard. Because God is perfectly just, there had to be a punishment for sin. But because God is perfectly loving, He didn’t leave us to fail at trying to atone for our sinfulness. That’s where Jesus came into the picture. Jesus’ death and resurrection are a free gift of forgiveness and salvation – restored relationship with God – available to ANYONE who believes. You say that this faith is dolled out unfairly, based on heritage beyond one’s control. This is the reason all Christians are COMMANDED to “go forth and make disciples of all nations.” We are told to evangelize. And so I have. Not many do, but those of us who heed God’s command are willing to go to the farthest reaches of the world to share the Good News with anyone who will listen.
You’ve heard the story. If you think faith is unfairly distributed, I’d challenge you to ask for faith and see what happens. “God, if you’re there, please work faith in me.” Praying for you. X
1. I love it, that you find ““love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control”, from your Bible. It speaks loudly for your kind character. 🙂 As I have said often enough, good willing people generally find such good morals from their respective religions and ideologies what ever those might be.
However, a god that alledgedly destroys all of human race exept for one family and later tells one nation to do genoside on other humans – to kill them all, their womenfolk, elderly and even infants, exept sometimes the virgin girls whom the murdering nation can keep as property and then condones slavery, tells that eating prawns is bad, but says nothing about sexual child abuse in alledgedly direct commands on how to behave, is by definition not only unethical, but downright evil by all definitions of the word. There is no way around it. Is there?
2. Have you ever read the Bible? If the god, that sometimes sends people to do genosides, or tells humans to execute other humans fpr their crimes and even sexual orientation and condones slavery (just for example), later suddenly changes his mind and tells people to love their neighbour as themselves and even love their enemies is by definition flippant, as it sets totally different moralistic rules for different groups of people. Sorry.
3. Why is it, that you acknowledge the Bible as a “word” of a specific god? Most believing Bible scholars by far do not claim we know the writers of the four Gospels chosen by church fathers at Nikea 300 years after the alledged life of the Jesus character. The writers of the Old Testament are even more obscure. I have no rational reason to believe such a thing as a soul even exists. Unless it is used methaphorically to refer to our conscious self. Faith is not a virtue, as long as it is to accept and affirm something as true without, or on poor evidence – such as anecdotal stories, or circular “logic”.
4. There are so many claims about the supernatural made in the Bible none of wich have any substantiation, they do not differ in any way from the claims in the Iliad in plausibility. The only reason why one is accepted is the one I told you before, that the believers in the reliability of one book have been killed by the believers in the reliability of the other book.
For example Jesus resurrecting is a claim about the supernatural, but nobody even claims to have seen it happen and if there were eyewittnesses, wich we do not know if there ever were, that he was alive after the crucifixion, then it is much more natural to assume he did not die in the first place, altough to have any firm beliefs about Jesus doing anything would require we knew he even existed in the first place. It is likely that some such man or even several did exist, but it is not very certain in any historical sense. The fact that there is a story in wich some superstitious people emotionally involved in him, thought he did resurrect, by inferring it from an empty tomb and him being alive after the execution event, is not reliable evidence of anything, exept of the superstitious world view of people in those days. Jesus was hung at the cross a very short time even according to the stories and we do know from actual historical sources, that people survived the treatment when they were taken down early enough. There is reason enough for such stories to emerge. Is there not? I do not try to change your mind. You have every right to believe what your conscience and intuition tells you is true. But I hope you can understand why there are people who think differently to you and that we are not evil or deserving of not being saved from eternal torment simply because of our opinions. Or are we?
5.Do people have free will at heavens? Are they capable of doing evil stuff there, or are they the subjects of a puppet master there? If they do have free will in heaven and their free will there only lets them to choose from between good stuff, then what is the purpose of this world and our ignorance of the existance of this god of yours? Why the requirement for faith in a particular culturally induced religious dogma? What sort of god would require such from humans, knowing full well, that some people miss out just by being born into “wrong” cultures? Well, very many of all the gods mankind has ever imagined. Funny that. The free will of an individual has nothing to do with this issue as the willingness of any individual to believe any particular religious claim about the supernatural is directly and most often greatly affected by their cultural heritage. Is it not?
Not all evil in this world is a result of human choises. Did your god create polio? Why? If it was created by some other means, why did your god allow such suffering? Could anyone honestly claim that a god who supposedly could stop polio from existing , but chooses not to, is “benevolent”? Excusing such a god by saying, that this god must have a higher purpose to allow polio to exist, is equal to saying that the ends sanctify any means to achieve a goal. If a god has a higher purpose to allow polio to exist, then people who have worked against polio were working against the higher purpose of this god. Were they not?
Thank you for your challenge. But if you think about it again, you must see, that it is an immoral one. I do not believe any gods exist, therefore, for me to accept the challenge would require me to be incincere about the issue. And even if I managed to get a direct link to some god by this method, I could not possibly know if that god was a creation of my subconscious, or a real one. Besides, it would not change the fact that most people in the world have no such link and are only expected to believe without evidence and most do not believe in any one particular religion, because of the variability of human cultures and religions. If I believed in any particular god, would that make that god more true, than all the other gods other people believe in? If one particular god talked to me through my subconscious, would that make all the other gods that talk to other people through their subconsciousnesses, less true than the one my subconsious could conjure up from my cultural heritage?
To me prayer equals just wishfull thinking as long as it has not been demonstrated to have any more effect in reality, and regardless of wich specific gods are prayed to. However, I appriciate your sentiment and hope all the best for you too. 🙂
Just wanted to say a word about this reply without intruding on perhaps an uninvited thread.
There are seminary students, grads, and even teachers who do not have the insight that you displayed here with this defense of the scriptures and the God of heaven.
‘Taken on faith, nor really worth discussing’. ‘I cannot rationally argue faith into your soul.’ ‘Code of ethics’ as to the fruit of the Spirit . So true. Perfect.
When the man born blind was given sight, and saw the color blue for the first time, he and his parents were questioned, and he simply said ‘I don’t know how or who he is that did this…but one thing I know, I was blind but now i see.’ He did by the way find out WHO it was.
There is plenty of evidence as you say, through nature, the testimonies of changed lives, and the unassailable word of God itself.
Again, a beautiful and thoughtful answer you gave here.
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Thanks, CS. Your comments are so encouraging and appreciated! I’ve found that it can be difficult to defend God in an intelligent, insightful and yet loving, humble way. Thanks for the uplifting words!
Oh you are welcome.
It has long been assumed that people of intellect are at a disadvantage when arguing faith. It’s the complete opposite. Saul of Tarsus as an unbeliever was very astute, but when he became Paul the apostle and was given a sanctified mind and a new vision, his logic, reasoning, discernment, and spiritual understanding became something special.
Couple this with ‘speaking the truth in love,’ and its a combo that’s hard to ignore. Kinda what u got here.
All the best in a new ’15
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@ColorStorm, you wrote: “Paul the apostle and was given a sanctified mind and a new vision, his logic, reasoning, discernment, and spiritual understanding became something special.” That is so well said and true. Indeed the vision and logic of St. Paul were of the type called special pleading. 😉
If you beg my pardon rautakyy, I must be slow to accept the laud for recognizing Paul’s uniqueness, until i understand this ‘special pleading,’ lest I look like a fool
As a fellow Christian, I’m glad I stumbled upon this post and actually your whole blog. It’s very well-done!!!! You got a new follower!
If you want, you can check out my blog at whatiliketodobysteve.wordpress.com
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Thanks, Steve! Headed over to your place now! 🙂
Lol! Hope you enjoy it!
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