Our Only Hope in Life and Death

I don’t know how many of you lived in the mid- to late 1960s, during the summers of rioting in large (and sometimes small) cities in America, but this week I have had the same feeling I had then, at age 10-12.  It seemed as if our very civilization was threatened, even if it wasn’t.  it was a haunting feeling.  I can  remember sitting in church and “daydreaming” about what it would be like if some sort of either radicals or communists suddenly burst into the sanctuary and pointed guns at us.  I watched the rioting on TV—the same time as the Vietnam coverage, and the war protests.  Such were the imaginings of a young boy.

Today as I reflect on what has occurred in the last week or month, even though I have that same feeling, I also have a different perspective.  As a Christian, and as one who has studied the temporal movement of history, I know now that it is in the complete sovereign providence of the God of the universe.  That doesn’t mean I am not disturbed by what has occurred.  To the extent the individual police officers were at fault in the shootings in Minnesota and Baton Rouge, my fervent hope is that justice will be served—though in situations like that, it will undoubtedly be difficult to sort out the events properly.  And the shootings of the police officers in Dallas is an evil that I pray will not be repeated.  Unfortunately, it may well be repeated in weeks to come.  The “environment” is too toxic I fear.  But back to my main point.  Though I am no quietist, believing nothing can or should be done (I am in other words, not passive), as I said, I now know and am persuaded of what I did not know and was not persuaded of then, at a young age.  All evil, as well as all good, is in the sovereign hand of God, who moves history and individuals as He pleases for His glory and kingdom.  That fact—and it is a fact, if one but reads his Bible well—ought to comfort any of us who believe our nation is in moral trouble.  I can continue to live each day in the expectation that can make even a small difference for the kingdom.

At the same time, as my colleagues at Bereans have said in blogs and comments, we should not shrink from thinking about and advocating solutions, the chief of which is the proclamation of the Gospel wherever it is allowed and even where it is not.  We cannot become that timid that we would fear telling the most important truth for any and all spiritual and social ills.  Yes, the church has failed to a degree difficult to measure or even to identify.  But I can see churches going to urban communities and establishing “beachheads” for the Gospel that involve not just “commando” raids of preaching, but people living in those areas and becoming part of those communities, with the purpose of also putting ourselves out of business, as it were, as people in those communities themselves take on the task.  That is the hopeful message.

But, on the more pessimistic side, we must also be prepared to see our nation eventually collapse under the weight of anarchy brought about by a breakdown of the rule of law and especially by a general rejection of not only the Christian faith itself but even of its vestiges (Christian morality and ethics).  Let’s not deceive ourselves. It could happen, as it has happened to every civilization on the Earth.  We are not God’s chosen people any more than any other nation—though He has been especially merciful and gracious to this nation.  That too will be God’s providential will and we can accept it as such.  Even calls for national repentance, even actual revivals do not guarantee that we will escape our national destiny.  We need not and should not lose faith in God.  He is never the one to blame, but humans in their inescapable human condition are to be blamed.  But God is the one who ultimately controls it all.

We live by faith, not by sight.  Pray for those affected directly and indirectly.  Pray for justice, yes.  But pray that God will condescend to sinners and draw them to Himself, though they, like Saul, may act in every way contrary to Him.  By all means, if the calling and opportunity converge, become one who can help effect genuine change, spiritual primarily, but also institutional.

“As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

17 thoughts on “Our Only Hope in Life and Death”

  1. Your position regarding free will and divine sovereignty is contradictory, but this is one of your better pieces.

    1. I am sure your stamp of “approval” (“but this is one of your better pieces”) just made Dr. Clauson’s day.

      As to your opinion, it’s not contradictory. Sure, the relationship between the two is hard to understand but we ARE dealing with an omnipotent God with Whom ALL things are possible, and that includes the co-existence of both free will and divine sovereignty.

      1. “but we ARE dealing with an omnipotent God with Whom ALL things are possible, ”

        What about the healing of human amputees?

        How about creating a married bachelor?

        How about creating a weight that God cannot lift?

      2. Really? Are you so desperate?

        Matthew 19:26 – But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.

        Luke 1:37 – For with God nothing shall be impossible

        Jeremiah 32:17 – Ah Lord GOD! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee:

        Jeremiah 32:27 – Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me?

        So, there are the very clear words of God, including from Jesus Christ, on God’s power. Now, we know that there are some things that God chooses not to do. There are things that He establishes and things that he forbids.

        Isaiah 46:10 – Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I WILL DO ALL MY PLEASURE:

        So, with this in mind…

        “What about the healing of human amputees?” – If He wanted to, He could. Jesus Christ healed Malchus’s severed ear after Peter cut it off with his sword. (Luke 22:50-51).

        “How about creating a married bachelor?”
        “How about creating a weight that God cannot lift?”

        Jeff, there is a difference between the truly impossible and the Humanly impossible. If you want me to admit that some things are impossible, I will. The Bible says it is impossible for God to lie. So there are certain things that are impossible but they are not legitimate examples of arguing against the omnipotence of God.

        So why is creating a weight God cannot lift impossible? Because God has infinite power so therefore the weight would have to be infinite itself. But if something has infinite weight then does it really have ” defined weight” that we can understand. I suppose in some abstract sense far beyond Human comprehension it could be possible… but I think you see my point.

        We are working with finite Human minds trying to comprehend the infinite mind of God. Thus, for Humans, it is impossible for us with our limited minds to fully understand the dynamic between free will and divine sovereignty. But Scripture says that both exist. It tells us God knows the future and controls all things but yet that we have the will to choose God or reject him and are held responsible for our actions. You either accept it or you don’t. Apparently, you don’t.

        God’s sovereignty is meant for exactly the purpose Dr. Clauson has discussed, to give the Christian comfort. Why you, one who claims to be Christian, seem so determined on destroying that comfort, or making people doubt their certain knowledge of that comfort, is beyond me.

        This post was meant to be an encouragement to others during a time when it seems the world is spinning out of control. Yet you apparently feel the need to work against that encouragement. Why? Only you and God can answer that.

  2. “I now know and am persuaded of what I did not know and was not persuaded of then, at a young age. All evil, as well as all good, is in the sovereign hand of God, who moves history and individuals as He pleases for His glory and kingdom. That fact—and it is a fact, if one but reads his Bible well—ought to comfort any of us who believe our nation is in moral trouble.”

    No one KNOWS this. We accept it by faith. You may FEEL you know it, but feelings are not knowledge.

    Asserting something as certain knowledge does not make it so. Just saying… :-)

    1. How do you KNOW “No one KNOWS this”? What divinely inspired text superior to the Bible, God’s Word, which is the way we can KNOW, gives you this “insight”?

      1. Knowledge is demonstrable. If you KNOW something, you can SHOW it. If you cannot show it, then you don’t know it.

        We cannot demonstrate that we have certain knowledge of anything. We can speak of limited knowledge and imperfect knowledge, but that is as far as we can go.

        One may BELIEVE that one has knowledge, but believing in something is not the same thing as knowing something, even imperfectly. Saying that you BELIEVE something to be true is merely stating a claim. And claims can be rejected without evidence.

        We can say that we have FAITH, but that is not the same thing as knowledge. If it were knowledge, it wouldn’t be faith-based.

        The Bible is quite clear on the difference between faith and knowledge, actually.

      2. You can believe what you want to believe, of course. Though I question your motives for this whole tirade on knowledge. Why make such a point of it? Is there some reason you have a need to try to convince everybody of your opinion they can’t have full confidence that God is in control?

  3. You question my motives only because you cannot challenge my arguments. Your response only affirms the weakness of your position.

    You fail. Sorry Charlie.

    1. Jeff, you can deny certain knowledge all you want but it does exist. For instance, Jesus Christ said “I am the way the truth and the life”. John, who heard him say it, recorded it.

      No one questions the certainty that Abraham Lincoln said “Fourscore and seven years ago” or that MLK said “I have a dream”. We KNOW they said those things. We know because the people who heard them say it recorded it and were eyewitnesses of it. We KNOW that Jesus is the Messiah and the Son of God because he proved it to eyewitnesses who recorded the events of his life, and saw him resurrected.

      “I wish you would stop questioning my motives (all that does is show you have no argument to make) and start questioning my points.”

      I did question your points. I gave Scripture verses, I gave examples. I discussed your points and why I disagreed with them. I even said “If you want me to admit that some things are impossible, I will. The Bible says it is impossible for God to lie. So there are certain things that are impossible but they are not legitimate examples of arguing against the omnipotence of God.” I even specifically gave an example (Malchus’s ear) that showed that God DID heal an amputee.

      You are free to disagree with my points, but not agreeing with my arguments does not equate to me having not given them at all. If you wish for me to stop questioning your motives then quit being dishonest about what I have done or not done.

      “You question my motives only because you cannot challenge my arguments. Your response only affirms the weakness of your position.”

      Also, maybe I would question your motives less if you dropped some of the academic snobbery. Yes, that is how you often come across to me with statements like this. I question your motives because I seriously question what they are. NOT because I cannot challenge your arguments. Once again, you are functioning as prosecutor and jury and for me that only affirms the weakness of your position. If you have to declare such things, then you must be afraid others will not see it the way you do so you try to manipulate the narrative.

      Anyway, just calling it like I see it.

      1. The way I see it, you don’t understand what absolute certainty is. But I am not saying that with absolute certainty.

        Your points beg so many questions, and I have only so much time to waste on this forum. I don’t know where to begin. So I won’t even start.

      2. Fair enough. since there are things that I don’t think you understand. And like you, I don’t say that with absolute certainty either.

        I share your observation regarding time spent on this forum though I am sure both of us saying that seems rather ironic since, if I were to guess, you and I probably account for the bulk of replies given.

        And I do wish more of them were more substantive and less combative. And I admit my own share of blame for that. I guess there are just too many things we both feel so strongly about we cannot help but respond. For you one of them apparently is the issue of certainly of knowledge. I guess in the end I can respect that.

        Have a good day :)

  4. “God’s sovereignty is meant for exactly the purpose Dr. Clauson has discussed, to give the Christian comfort. Why you, one who claims to be Christian, seem so determined on destroying that comfort, or making people doubt their certain knowledge of that comfort, is beyond me.”

    I wish you would stop questioning my motives (all that does is show you have no argument to make) and start questioning my points.

    Since we are humans, certain knowledge is an illusion. If we had certain knowledge, faith would not be necessary. Salvation by grace through faith, not by grace through certain knowledge.

  5. Jeff, I know you were responding Nathan, but I have one thing to say, based on your comments. You most evidently are either a logical positivist or a logical empiricist. You are consistent in that, but, I believe it is a dead end scientific philosophy. But I will continue to interact.

    1. I am neither. But thanks for your comment.

      If it matters, I have a lot in common with William James’s pragmatism, although I have issues with his philosophy of religion. Kierkegaard too has shaped my thought. I could go on but it really does not matter.

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