How God’s Holiness is the Key to Finding Peace in a Day of Trouble
As we close out this fall series we will be transitioning into a winter period where we are going to talk some more about Paganism and ways in which Christians need to be watchful that their own walk will not be straddling streams. As we have looked at the existence of the unexplained a constant presence has been an unwillingness of modern people to recognize the spiritual realm, as it is illustrated in the Bible. Pagans don’t deny the spiritual, in fact the opposite is true. The problem comes with how they understand the difference between light and its reverse. The rise in pagan spirituality is a result of the way our Western culture has spent the last several hundred years trying to escape the presence of the holiness of God.
Whether it be demons parading as false gods or forest creatures or even the reality of dark power in the labors of sorcerers and Ba’alike priests we are so thoroughly scientific that if it doesn’t have a physical explanation our minds are drawn to think they cannot possibly be. All men need to remember that there are forces outside our sensory conceptions. Empiricism can be helpful when properly applied, but that’s not how the world works. The method of observation leading to belief, or good old-fashioned American pragmatism reasoning out what works is right has taken us down a path of unbelief and atheism. The story of the church in the eighteenth and nineteenth into the twentieth century is all the data we need to see that.
Sir Francis Bacon was an English scientist who is largely responsible for constructing what today we call the scientific method. That is taking a hypothesis, testing it through inductive reasoning (that means if you have ten of one thing in a sample of a hundred, then you can judge that the same percentage would exist if you had a million of the same). A person may then find the truth through skeptical processes of forcing each step in progression to prove itself to the larger question. Sir Francis is credited by many with opening the possibility of escaping the strictures of religious devotion, ironic considering Bacon was himself a devout Anglican. His hope was that by reorienting the mind towards what could be proved that God Himself would be truly and infinitely vindicated. However, the world that Bacon created did the opposite and led us to this particular situation we find ourselves in today.
As the smart set moved away from spiritual explanations for unexplained phenomenon many in the Church went with them. Ultimately that led to the deconstruction of the Divine into the Helpful. In other words we lost a vision of God which was transcendent and were left with a deity that was a higher version of our own consciousness. Reducing the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost into a vibe led to the people who claimed Christ as their own to deny both His universal existence and the work of the cross itself. Hence why as time went on the New England Puritans became Unitarians and eventually Universalists, all the while without losing the motivation for their navel-gazing. We lost our fear of God because He became less real. We see this in our own tendency to imagine God is in favor of that which we like, and that which we feel. Rather than place our own desires on the threshing floor of the Law, we instead baptize what we think makes us happy and content and declare it righteous. That impulse comes directly from denying that God is God and we are not, which has its commencement in our veto of His otherness. It’s not just a thing the liberals do. It is just as prevalent in conservative circles.
In some sense losing the tangible presence of the holy is not new. Petrus Van Maastricht, a German Christian writing in the seventeenth century notes:
“The pagans, because they cherished gods that were human, liable to the common lot of being born and dying, for which reason their most ancient theological writers were occupied with theogony [the study of where their gods came from], cannot hold to a property inseparable from God.”
Those can sound like a lot of words to say something important. However, what we read there is central to the reappearance of paganism in our own time and place. What truly separates the Christian God from the false gods of the Nations is this teaching of His eternal state, and the denial of this truth has moral as well as societal consequences. We need to make a distinction by defining what we mean by eternal. Eternal and immortal are not the same thing. Being eternal means that you have no beginning and no end. Immortal means that you had a start somewhere, but you cannot cease to exist. Our souls are immortal, our bodies were designed to be before the Fall. No human can be or is eternal. We are by nature created beings. God is not so. He is eternal, the same yesterday, today, and forever. That means He not only knows all things, and sees all things, but all things are not experienced by Him like they are by us. For the Christian this is a great and wonderful comfort. David expresses it in Psalm 147 in this way, “Great is our LORD, and mighty in power; His understanding is infinite.” And how is that a mercy to us? It is found in what comes before that verse, “The LORD builds up Jerusalem; He gathers together the outcasts of Israel. He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He counts the number of the stars; He calls them all by name.”
But what does that have to do with Paganism and our talk about things that go bump in the night? Simply this, cosmic warfare. Again, it’s not that the pagans deny a spiritual realm it is that we understand it wildly different from them. Interestingly enough the Latter-Day Saints are much more pagan than the Christian Church when it comes to how the eternality of God effects how we see the unseen world. In their version of things there is a competition going on in which we play a part. In the Biblical way the battle is won, and the war was never on. Part of the reason why we fail is because we operate with a pagan understanding of reality. We sin because we doubt the eminence and imminence of God. His majesty and His eternal nature. Why should both state and church culture be organized in the way revealed to us in the Scriptures? Because it’s God’s world and it should operate on His terms.
We are pagan because we try and operate with our own ideas in the hope the Lord will gain the victory, with our help and wisdom.
In closing, as we work through these distinctions and make arguments that clarify words like spiritual and mystical and otherworldly it will be valuable for us to take time to work through things carefully and with diligence. As we shall see our greatest asset as Christians is time. We serve the eternal God who has ordered all things to His glory. There is nothing that is not dependent on His person and work. The more we grasp that and live in it the less we will either need to wonder what is right and what is good, and the fewer moments that will find us anxious as the providence of Jehovah unfolds in the day-to-day life we live.
Nothing extra this week.
Blessings in Christ,
Rev. Benjamin Glaser
Pastor, Bethany ARP Church