This painting, The Creation of Adam, by Michelangelo is one of the most beautiful paintings in history. It speaks of a transcendent reality, of man in intimate connection with the God who formed him out of the dust, of Adam before God unashamed, naked. Their fingers come close to one another, and they look into each other's eyes. The creation account of Genesis 1 and 2 speak of God in the Garden of Eden, in which His unique creation, Adam and Eve, are free to enjoy everything that He has made for them. That is, everything but one fruit, the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. God is Ruler, Sovereign, and must be obeyed. This was the lesson in His command. He is high and exalted and created us to joyfully serve Him. Ultimately, we can only be fulfilled and happy if we operate in the way in which He created us.
But Adam and Eve failed. We failed. The consequences were severe. The connection between man and God was severed. Naked man was covered in his shame. God kicked man out of Eden. Not, however, before covering him with the skins of animals in His mercy (Genesis 3:21). Then He made a promise to man, setting in place a history of thousands of years, played out through the journeys of nomads, kings, prophets and peasants in relationship with God (Genesis 3:15; NASB):
"'And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.'"
Every life is a journey. As I've said before, holistic apologetics is not a unique methodology but instead merely describes a perspective on apologetics that appeals to the head and the heart. Much of this perspective borrows from Dr. Paul Gould's book Cultural Apologetics. In the last chapter, he characterizes the Christian story as home-away-home again (201). There are three central realizations to which we all come in this journey toward home (202-205):
We all long for home.
We are not home.
We can't find the way home on our own.
The problem of our lives and culture is that we don't see this narrative in our lives. As Gould says, we live in a disenchanted culture. Our culture is disenchanted in the sense that we see the world and our lives as mostly mundane. If we reflect deeply about our lives, however, we discover deep wonder and deep tragedy. The world and the people within it are filled with transcendent beauty, but something is wrong. We feel in us a longing to be secure, loved, and whole, but the world is insecure, unloving, and fragmented. We are fragmented people, tossed to and fro by conflicting desires and actions and a deep, inescapable darkness that plagues our hearts and leads us to do and think unthinkable evil.
All of us want world peace. No one like war, famine, sex trafficking, violence, murder, and hatred. But no one wants to think that he is part of the problem.
Is there hope for re-enchantment in a disenchanted culture? How do we ignite a longing for home and encourage others to seek it? How do we come to understand our place in a narrative of ultimate beauty, love, fulfillment, light and life?
It is not lost on me that the unimaginable worldwide suffering of the coronavirus has coincided almost perfectly with the worldwide celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus. In fact, as of April 10, The Hill announced that, according to the CDC director, the U.S. is very close to the peak of the curve in coronavirus cases and deaths. How can widespread suffering lead a desperate and lost people to Jesus?
The timing brings to mind the providence of God for me. His ability to bring history to His ends, even in the midst of a global pandemic, amazes me. At our most desperate hour, President Trump delivers an Easter message proclaiming Jesus as Lord. Whether or not he believes it, the word is going out: Jesus is risen. Today, Franklin Graham delivered an Easter Sunday message at Central City Park in New York City. Since when does the gospel get a hearing in a state as non-Christian, even anti-Christian, as New York? What an incredible opportunity for the gospel to go out in the midst of suffering.
Some months back, in the aftermath of the death of my fiance, I meditated on John 3:8 (NASB):
"'The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.'"
In the context of this verse, Jesus is teaching Nicodemus about the necessity of being born again to see the Kingdom of God. Nicodemus, though a ruler of the Jews, is understandably confused. This verse represents the mystery of the movement of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of people who come to know Him. Being born again is a work of the Holy Spirit, and we often see the results and are astonished by the work of God in people.
I think that the Holy Spirit is moving in this temporary season of suffering. Suffering often ignites in us a longing for home, for a world that isn't like this one. Don't misunderstand; it's much like our world. God promises a new heaven and new earth, not some wispy spiritual realm with clouds and harps. We will feel the grass, the dirt, the trees, and hear the sounds of birds and see the movement of squirrels and other creatures. We will live with each other and be in communion joyfully, but the same "not-rightness" won't be there. No sin. No suffering. No tears. Do you long for it? Of course you do. Read what I wrote above about Adam and Eve and the Garden. Look at the painting. Drink in the truth that it portrays. You were created for that world. You long for that for which God made you.
Many people in our culture doubt the truth of Christianity because of suffering. But does Scripture not affirm the opposite? We are promised suffering because of Jesus in John 16:33 (NASB):
"'These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.'"
Christianity does not teach that we will not suffer. It teaches hope in the midst of suffering. The suffering and death of Jesus meet us in our suffering. My hope and prayer is that people who are suffering will realize the journey and the story of their lives and its ultimate destination: joy in our Creator, who fulfilled His promise to Eve by decisively crushing the powers of darkness and sin and death in His own death. If you are a Christian, take hope in this story of which you play a part. If you are not a Christian, then answer this question. Do you feel it, that longing? Is it possible that you were created by your God to be complete and whole in His love? And is it possible that the hope of the cross is the truth? Wouldn't you want to know? In this, on Easter Sunday, we can find the re-enchantment of our hearts in the suffering and death and resurrection of the Lord for us.
This is a short post, but I wanted to share some things that I was meditating on today. If you think that the message in this post is important, please share it with others. People are dying, and many more are suffering deeply. If you are a Christian, then this hope must be shared freely. Please share it with others today, and pray for the Holy Spirit to move like the wind and bring people to Him. Thank you for reading.
Gould, Paul. Cultural Apologetics: Renewing the Christian Voice, Conscience, and Imagination in a Disenchanted World. Michigan: Zondervan, 2019.
Johnson, Marty. "US approaching coronavirus peak, CDC director says." The Hill, Capitol Hill Publishing Corp., 10 April 2020. https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/492150-us-approaching-coronavirus-peak-cdc-director-says.