“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” – John 12:24
“The last enemy to be destroyed is death...Death is swallowed up in victory.” – 1 Corinthians 15:26, 54
"The greater the sin, the greater the mercy, the deeper the death and the brighter the rebirth.” - C. S. Lewis
"This story...has the very taste of primary truth." - J. R. R. Tolkien

Friday, April 3, 2009

A Greater Revelation of God’s Perfections

Having considered God’s sovereignty over and purposeful design of evil events, specifically the cross, despite it being an evil that resulted from the free choices of creatures (possible because God “held back” his influence), let’s take a look at what this divine design accomplishes. I wrote earlier in “The Cross as Revelation,” that God poured all that he is into his Story, centered on the cross, in such a way as to more fully “display his infinite beauty and immeasurable worth” (Spectacular Sins 34). Jonathan Edwards puts it this way:

It is a proper and excellent thing for infinite glory to shine forth; and for the same reason, it is proper that the shining forth of God’s glory should be complete; that is, that all parts of his glory should shine forth, that every beauty should be proportionably effulgent, that the beholder may have a proper notion of God. It is not proper that one glory should be exceedingly manifested, and another not at all…It is highly proper… that the splendour should be answerable to the real and essential glory…

Thus it is necessary, that God’s awful majesty, his authority and dreadful greatness, justice, and holiness, should be manifested. But this could not be, unless sin and punishment had been decreed; so that the shining forth of God’s glory would be very imperfect, both because these parts of divine glory would not shine forth as the others do, and also the glory of his goodness, love, and holiness would be faint without them; nay, they could scarcely shine forth at all.

If it were not right that God should decree and permit and punish sin, there could be no manifestation of God’s holiness in hatred of sin, or in showing any preference, in his providence, of godliness before it. There would be no manifestation of God’s grace or true goodness, if there was no sin to be pardoned, no misery to be saved from. How much happiness soever he bestowed, his goodness would not be so much prized and admired, and the sense of it not so great…”

– Jonathan Edwards, “Concerning the Divine Decrees
Indeed, this supreme revelation of all that God is is the purpose not only of the cross, but of all the suffering and evil in the world, and of having a broken and fallen world in the first place. It is nothing less than the purpose of all creation. Without Christ’s death and resurrection it would be impossible, and without a world filled with evil, Christ’s death would be impossible. Just as the brightness of light is revealed more fully against the background of darkness, so the fullness and perfection of God is made known more completely when viewed in light of evil, and the supremacy of God and all that he is is revealed more fully in his triumph over evil. The vast and immeasurable gulf between the good that God is and the evil that he is not is shown for what it is, and thus the superiority of God is revealed more fully.* God’s beauty, wisdom, majesty, power, God’s nature, character, qualities, attributes, the innumerable glorious facets of God, the paradoxically diverse aspects which comprise the united whole that is the Trinity, the majestically complex yet beautifully simple riches and treasures of God, the depths and heights and fullness of God! All this – that is, God himself, who cannot be described with language – will be made known to finite creature minds and will shine forth in the realm of created reality to the greatest extent possible.
“Who has done this and carried it through, calling forth the generations from the beginning? I, the Lord…so that people may see and know, may consider and understand, that the hand of the Lord has done this.” – Isaiah 41:4,20

*This is not to suggest that God’s goodness and beauty would be diminished in a world without evil. God does not change – his goodness is neither more nor less than it was before the world was made. It is the understanding of God’s character given to creatures that is, I think, increased because of redemption.

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