“The sad truth is that many of us are, at best, only half awake. We think we’re engaged with the real world — you know, the world of stock markets, stockcar racing, and stockpiles of chemical weapon — but in fact we’re living in what Lewis calls the “shadowlands.” We think we’re awake, but we’re really only daydreaming. We’re sleepwalking our way through life — asleep at the wheel of existence — only semi-conscious of the eternal, those things that are truly solid that bear the weight of glory.” — Kevin Vanhoozer, In Bright Shadow: C.S. Lewis on the Imagination for Theology and Discipleship
“If I had only one sermon to preach, it would be a sermon against Pride. The more I see of existence, and especially of modern practical and experimental existence, the more I am convinced of the reality of the old religious thesis; that all evil began with some attempt at superiority; some moment when, as we might say, the very skies were cracked across like a mirror, because there was a sneer in Heaven.”
~G.K. Chesterton: “The Common Man.”
“Christianity was to introduce the notion that humanity was fundamentally identical, that [people] were equal in dignity – an unprecedented idea at the time, and one to which our world owes its entire democratic inheritance.”
– Luc Ferry, atheist philosopher
“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”
– Rainer Maria Rilke
Christianity is not a new religion, nor a made-up religion. It is the fulfillment
and continuation of the religion of the ancient Hebrews. It is a uniquely historical religion, built upon God’s self-revelation to real people in the real world.
The Old Testament showcases how amazingly unique ancient Israelite religion was: in the midst of polytheistic and superstitious cultures around it, the ancient Hebrews claimed that there was only one God. They asserted that there was one supreme being who created and upholds all reality. Furthermore, they said this God was separate from his creation – he was not part of it. Neither did he need any help to create the universe. And perhaps most amazingly, he didn’t have an “image”. There were no statues or carvings or amulets to be made. This one true God insiste
d on it. He is to be worshiped, yes. But as the supreme spiritual being his essence cannot be captured or portrayed adequately through the skills of moral craftsmen.
The emergence of this Hebraic monotheism is completely unexpected and unique. Here’s what one scholar said about this:
“There is absolutely no parallel in the ancient Near East for a people resisting the current universal religious thought patterns, challenging the prevailing world views and producing a national religion and literature that in its fundamentals goes against the stream of the entire existing tradition of which historically, culturally and geographically it is a constituent part. The phenomenon defies all attempts at rational explanation, for a linear, evolutionary development of monotheism from polytheism is not otherwise attested.”
[quote is from Nahum M. Sarna, “Paganism and Biblical Judaism,” Great Confrontations in Jewish History: The J. M. Goodstein Lecture Series on Judaica, 1975, edited by Stanley M. Wagner and Allen D. Breck (Denver: University of Denver, Department of History, 1977/5737), reprinted in Studies in Biblical Interpretation (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 2000/5760), 17.]
John Calvin (1509-1564) was one of the most well-known theologians of all time. His most influential work, Institutes of the Christian Religion, is still standard reading for many studying theology today.
By nature Calvin was not an outgoing person. Like many people he preferred to be away from the limelight. But God worked on him, and brought him to a point in his life where he had to push beyond his comfort zone. I was once like this myself (but now it’s hard to shut me up!)
I found this interesting quote:
“While my one great object was to live in seclusion without being known, God so led me about through different turnings and change that he never permitted me to rest in any place, until, in spite of my natural disposition, he brought me forth to public notice.”
When God is at work in a person’s life, dramatic change can happen. What we think we are not, God can make us – and use us in his service in ways we could never have imagined.
What happens when we die? What will heaven ultimately be like? The Bible gives Christians much to hope for when it comes to our future. For the Christian, heaven is being with Christ (Phil. 1:23). It’s paradise (Luke 23:43). It’s the ‘new heaven and the new earth’ (Rev. chapter 21). It’s ‘gain’ (Phil.1:21). It’s the ‘resurrection’ (1 Cor. chapter 15).
The Bible employs a host of imagery when it comes to both the afterlife and the final state of believers. Why? American theologian Richard Mouw says,
“My own hunch is that God has provided us with a rich storehouse of diverse images of the afterlife, all of them hints in the direction of something that is beyond our present comprehension, so that we can be free to draw on one or another of them as a particular situation in our life may require.”
In other words, the many varied images and concepts about the afterlife and ‘heaven’ are given so that, in particular times of need, we may be encouraged about what is to come. If I am lonely, knowing one day I’ll be with Christ is a great comfort. If my body is failing, knowing a resurrection body awaits is wonderful. If I am discouraged about the state of the world in general, I can rest in the promise that God will remake and renew this broken place, fill it with his glory, and give me a place in it.
Soli Deo Gloria.