Monday, November 29, 2004

A Brother for Adam

Genesis 3 and 4 serve as an introduction to the book of Genesis as well as the rest of Scripture. Throughout the book of Genesis we read stories where the antithesis between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman plays itself out. This is the story of Cain and Abel. There is certainly much to be gleaned from this story, but one important principle is the antithesis that already shows up in Adam’s family. Sin brings enmity, and Cain kills Abel. But how will the seed continue? Will God’s promise become void? Abel seemed so faithful. But God is faithful and he gives Seth to Eve, giving her a younger son who will be blessed and will carry on the blessing of God instead of the older. Interestingly, this theme does not end here. The theme of struggle between older and younger brothers continues. Cain, Abel, and Seth; Shem, Ham, and Japheth; Ishmael and Isaac; Esau and Jacob; Joseph and his eleven brothers; Ephraim and Manasseh are all stories of the triumph and blessing of the younger brother. The antithesis is between offspring. There is enmity in the family line, but God continues to prove his promise sure by raising up younger brothers. There is story after story of the victory of the younger over the older and salvation from the younger brother. What does this mean?

If we think back on the fall, having outlined the rest of the book of Genesis as a complex collection of stories about the need for a faithful descendent and the struggle between younger and older brothers, we realize that there is something missing. God gave Seth to carry on the blessing when Cain murdered Abel. God raised up Jacob when it was clear that Esau would not be the bearer of God’s covenant blessing and promise. God gave Joseph to Jacob’s house when there was a famine, raising him to the highest place in the kingdom of Egypt. Having read all these stories (and the others) we ought to reach the end of the book of Genesis and realize that Adam needs a younger brother. These other younger brothers are small pictures, but there needs to be younger brother to Adam, a man who can stand in our place, like Adam, a man who could keep the covenant that Adam broke. But alas, Adam has no siblings. If we read the rest of the Genesis we see salvation coming from younger brothers and our immediate thought should be: If only Adam had a younger brother! And we would have to realize that this younger brother would have to be like Adam, having God for a father, because a physical father would carry Adam’s curse. But the man couldn’t be simply made from the ground again, because it too is cursed. Therefore, keeping his promise, God determined to bring forth Adam’s younger brother from the womb of a virgin. The Holy Spirit "overshadows" Mary, as He has once done in the beginnning, and brings forth a new man. Adam’s younger brother is the Lord Jesus Christ who was conceived like Adam without a natural father. In the mystery of God, the seed of the Woman is Adam’s little brother. Mary, in a glorious way, is the new ground from which the new Adam was formed. This is the glory of God and the wonder of Christmas that God not only created a new man, a brother for Adam, but that God himself became this man for us, God gave himself to be Adam’s younger brother, the seed of the woman who would bruise the head of the serpent.


Sunday, November 28, 2004

Genesis 3

Notice in Genesis 3 that the serpent is ‘Aroom’ which means crafty or prudent. After Adam and Eve eat of the tree they know they are ‘Aroomim’ which means naked. Surely this is a pun. The serpent said they would become like God, but they have actually become like the serpent.

Also, God is walking in the garden 'in the cool of the day' or (woodenly) ‘to the spirit in the day’. The word ‘spirit’ is often translated ‘cool’ or ‘breeze’ because it is ‘ruach’ meaning spirit or wind. However, in the context, the only other use of the word is in 1:2 where the ‘ruach’ of God hovers over the waters. It seems strange to have this referring to a time of day. Rather, like its first use, it is referring to a quality in God, or more specifically, the person of God that prepares to create. Now God is commencing a new creation, even as his creatures have fallen and sinned.


Thursday, November 11, 2004

The Incredibles

Perhaps the most incredible thing about the Incredibles is that fact that Disney allowed its name on the latest Pixar production. Not because the film was once again quite a bit better than anything Disney has produced in a while, although that is true. But the incredible thing is what the movie was all about.

Though not a laugh out loud comedy, The Incredibles was a genuinely enjoyable movie that tried to tell an interesting story. And perhaps the most interesting bit was the attempt at saying something somewhat unique. "If everyone is special no one is special". Coming out of the jaws of the egalitarian shrine of Disney that's pretty impressive. The good guys are trying to preserve inequality and the bad guy is an ungrateful kid who tried to be more than he was. His goal is now to level everyone so that no one can be special. But the super heroes win. Inequality reigns.

The moral of the story: be the very best you can be where ever you have been placed. If you're normal be the best normal person you can be. If you're super be the best super you can be. And even more important: be thankful. Be thankful that you are where you are and that other people are different. And some of them are even better than you at some things. That's true, and that's decent stuff.



It seems like the doctrine of Creation does a lot more than we give it credit for.

If God created everything and out of nothing, then we didn't. And if we didn't everything is grace. Everything comes to us a gift, undeserved favor in every nook and cranny. But this also means that salvation is necessarily a gift also. Not that we don't think that already. But we often put a lot of our effort into showing that we are unable to save ourselves (total depravity, irrisistable grace...) all that stuff. I'm of course in basic agreement with the point of it all. But it seems like Creation already affirms that nothing is ours to take credit for ultimately.

In the story of history we do things, we have things, we use things, and in so far as Creation is real, we really act, do, have, and use things. No problem. But in so far as God created it all, it's all from Him and for Him. We're not gnostics: faith has a body. But the body was created. So when it comes to salvation of course we're saved by grace and that not of ourselves: it was a gift. "Not of works so that no man can boast" seems like another way of saying... you didn't make yourself, silly.

Pelagianism and anyone else wanting to give some credit to man must be at their foundations creational heresies. A denial of sola gratia is an attempt at retelling the creation story. So also with every form of ingratitude. We'd have made it better, we grumble to ourselves.

This is why salvation is rightly described as re-creation.


Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Drama in the Lab

I'm teaching high school Chemistry this year, something for which I am utterly unqualified. I took Chemistry in high school. That's one credential. I remember some of it. That's the other. But I'm thankful for the opportunity. I'm thankful for Chemistry and Chemists, and scientific endeavors in general.

It's the way God made the world to see life out of our head. He gave us certain eyes through which we see everything. And everything we see has a way of bleeding into everything else we see. And this applies to the rest of our bodies. There's a sense in which we are always leaving vestiges of ourselves everywhere we go, and at the same time, there's a sense in which we are dragging our past with us into the future. But I was talking about Chemistry.

That is to say, I'm an actor. Or more truly, I've occasionally had the opportunity to take part in some drama. But everyone acts. But that's not my point. It's the Chemists that I'm actually thinking about and the computer programmers and the all the other scientists out there. Yeah, you. You are acting. You pretend the world is perfect. You, geometricians and engineers, you act as though the world contains circles and straight lines. You pantomime the world with equalities and perfect symmetries. And that's fine. I love suspension bridges; we're grateful for our cars.

I just wanted to point out that every science has to isolate whatever it studies for just a moment. It's impossible to study something without imagining it by itself. But of course nothing ever occurs in absolute isolation. Science is dramatic art. It puts its object of study on a stage, places certain props around it, and tells a story through it. If the scientist tells a good story, his findings will benefit the real world. But the scientist must always remember that he's pretending in the lab. In real life, chemical equations and reactions are never balanced and circles do not exist.


War: Catholic and Schismatic

War divides. It cuts nations and people apart; it tears and rips like a terrible machine devouring families and churches and faces. War stings. It burns fissures through communities and cultures. It rumbles below in the deeps and swallows brothers and fathers and mothers. War separates friends. It severs loyalties; it bursts old wine skins. It dislocates limbs. War divides.

War unites. Where men refused to look in one anothers' eyes; they unblinkly charge eachother to the death. War brings nations crashing against eachother like opposing tides: rushing, roaring together to mingle and mix. War brings brothers together; it puts them face to face, hand to hand. It makes them bleed for eachother. War is reunion. It reunites friends, families, and communities. Where life could not help, death provides the calm. The field is the table where all are one.