Archives For Holiness

Sproul_1And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him? Mark 4:41

C.S. Lewis said that one of the reasons he believes Christianity is that it is not the sort of religion anyone would have made up. In his book, The Holiness of God, R.C. Sproul makes this same point in interacting with Jesus’s calming of the storm:

It was the father of modern psychiatry, Sigmund Freud, who once espoused the theory that people invent religion out of of a fear of nature. We feel helpless before an earthquake, a flood, or a ravaging disease. So, said Freud, we invent a God who has power over the earthquake, flood, and disease. God is personal. We can talk to Him. We can try to bargain with Him. We can plead with Him to save us from the destructive forces of nature. We are not able to plead with earthquakes, negotiate with floods, or bargain with cancer. So, the theory goes, we invent God to help us deal with these scary things.

What is significant about this scriptural story (Mark 4:35-41) is that the disciples’ fear increased after the threat of the storm was removed. The storm had made them afraid. Jesus’ action to still the tempest made them more afraid. In the power of Christ they met something more frightening than they had ever met in nature. They were in the presence of the holy. We wonder what Freud would have said about that. Why would the disciples invent a God whose holiness was more terrifying than the forces of nature that provoked them to invent a god in the first place? We can understand if people invented an unholy god, a god who brought only comfort. But why a god more scary than the earthquake, flood, or disease? It is one thing to fall victim to the flood or to fall prey to cancer; it is another thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

In The Holiness of God, R.C. Sproul reminds us of God’s pattern for sending missionaries. The prophet Isaiah was “shattered” in the presence of God. When Isaiah encountered the holiness of God he cried out:

“Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!.” Isaiah 6:5

Yet, when God asks, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Isaiah responds, “Here am I, send me (Isaiah 6:6-9).”

Sproul comments:

Two important things must be noted in Isaiah’s reply. The first is that he was not Humpty-Dumpty. In the nursery rhyme the fall of Mr. Dumpty is tragic because no one in the entire kingdom had the power to put him together again. Yet he was no more fragile than Isaiah. Isaiah was shattered into as many pieces as a fallen egg. But God put him together again. God was able to take a shattered man and send him into the ministry. he took a sinful man and made him a prophet. He took a man with a dirty mouth and made him into God’s spokesman.

Earlier in the same section, Sproul writes:

There is a pattern here, a pattern repeated in history. God appears, people quake in terror, God forgives and heals, God sends. From brokenness to mission is the human pattern.

“God will forgive me.  It’s his job.”  Final words of German poet and writer Heinrich Heine.

I don’t know enough about Heine to know if he professed faith.  But, I do know that this is a misunderstanding of God and forgiveness.  We should tremble even thinking of it.  And, I shudder to some degree interacting with the notion of God “having a job.”  But, it can be reverently said that God is true to Himself and his attributes.  In that sense, God’s job is to be holy.

Far better to say with Luther, “Let God be God.”

I read the Heine quote tonight while reading Wenham’s commentary on Leviticus.  Wenham said that Heine’s sentiment has become “the unexpressed axiom of much modern theology.”  Hence, Wenham wrote that God striking Nadab and Abihu dead (Leviticus 10), “Is an affront to liberal thinkers.”

When I came home from my study at church, I googled the quote, and naturally it came up on a poster. . .