Monday, April 13, 2009

Misunderstood and Irked

I wrecked my own Easter.

I thought it was a pretty interesting comment, and I certainly didn't mean to create a stir. I'm sure I'm right, and I'm pretty irritated that as simple an observation as the one I made should have created such controversy during our Easter breakfast. But my favorite husband, who is for the moment my unfavorite husband, didn't get it and worked himself up into a little huff all over our delicious Cheesy Egg Casserole. But once I'd opened that door, nothing I said could allay or appease the situation.

Well, here's my first beef. If someone says something that you're sure is wrong, and you have complete confidence in your position, there should be no place for emotion in your response to the wrong thing. All you have to do is say, "No, that cannot be right for this and that reason." Then the other reasonable person will calmly say, "Oh yes, now I see! You are clearly right about that." Or else he will say, "Yes, I see what you're saying, but you misunderstood what I was saying. Let me clarify." And after the clarification, if you still don't agree, you can simply say, "Ah, now I understand what you're saying. But I must still disagree." Is there any need for flapping of wings and strutting about, creating an emotional ruckus replete with accusations of stupidity and folly?

I confess to some residual trauma over the issue, so I'm reluctant to even reopen it. But since my non-existent audience on this blog is so obliging and sympathetic, I will lay my fears aside.

Here's the observation: simply that we do not understand exactly how or why faith in Christ's death and resurrection bestows upon us eternal life. We accept that it does based on God's authority and our trust in Him because He is much bigger and wiser than we are. But nothing about it is obvious or could have been guessed if we hadn't been told. We make up little paradigms to explain it to ourselves, we try to make it make sense given what we can understand. But in the end we must just accept it as true because God says so. We haven't been told exactly why it all had to come down this way.

By the way, this isn't my thought. I got it from C. S. Lewis's Mere Christianity:

"The central Christian belief is that Christ's death has somehow put us right with God and given us a fresh start. Theories as to how it did this are another matter. A good many different theories have been held as to how it works; what all Christians are agreed on is that it does work. I will tell you what I think it is like. All sensible people know that if you are tired and hungry a meal will do you good. But the modern theory of nourishment -- all about vitamins and proteins -- is a different thing. People ate their dinners and felt better long before the theory of vitamins was ever heard of: and if the theory of vitamins is some day abandoned they will go on eating their dinners just the same. Theories about Christ's death are not Christianity: they are explanations about how it works." (Book 2, Chapter 4)

It thrilled me to read this because the quasi-blasphemous thought has always lurked in the recesses of my mind that this doesn't make the kind of sense I like most things I put my faith in to make. Like, if I roll the ball toward the edge of the table it will fall off, if I jump in the water I will get wet, if I don't pay my taxes I will be in trouble, if the sky is cloudy it may rain. All these things can be explained through logic, physics, experience with the laws of this world. There's an obvious cause-and-effect sense to them.

But somehow God appearing in the form of a man, enduring torture and death on a cross, somehow my faith in that pays my debt to God? And not only my debt, but everyone's debt, for all of time, past, present, and future? I accept it because something inside me tells me it's true, but that thing that tells me it's true is not rational logic based on what I know about this world. There's something else going on here that made this necessary, something we just haven't been told.

The fact that we haven't been told doesn't make it less plausible. Why should it surprise us that we don't know everything? There are plenty of things here on this earth that we don't understand, and, in fact, we find that the more we look into physical realities here on earth, the more there is to understand that we haven't even begun to fathom. Why should it surprise us that there are spiritual realities that are beyond our ken?

C. S. Lewis goes on to say that if the models for why this is so help us to understand and accept the truth of it, great. But if they don't, drop them. They're just models.

So who cares? Why is this even worth bringing up? I think it is important to acknowledge our limitation here because the theories as to the why, if presented as absolute truths, can make Christianity sound ridiculous. Let's just 'fess up straight-away: we don't know why this is so, but it is. Flat out. Forget the drivel about it being sensible that God took the form of a man, and that His unspeakably brutal death gains us all entrance into heaven. That doesn't make sense based on anything we know here.

We trust in the truth of it because we trust God. There's no wriggling out of it: Christianity involves trust in Someone we cannot see, but we know in our hearts, if we're being honest, is there. It involves trusting that He is working out things we cannot understand, just like our parents worked out the inscrutable details of life for us when we were children.

Well, here I have the luxury of giving the full explanation of my apparently hazardous thought. I would have been content in a more receptive atmosphere to have confined my discourse to the first sentence or two I wrote here.

Really, I only wanted to mention the joy of resting in God's care, to mention how wonderful it is to not feel the burden of needing to have a complete understanding of the very day we were celebrating. My point was child-like trust in our Heavenly Father. I didn't quite get that far.

Live and learn. Next year I'll remember to talk about the Easter Bunny or something. Not that I carry grudges...

Happy Easter.


  1. Diana, this is a great blog. You are an immensely talented and entertaining writer! Well done.

  2. Also, I have a comment on the blog. I think your point about salvation could be applied to a lot of things about our faith. We can gladly and assuredly accept them as true...but understanding exactly how they are true and explaining their intricacies is another matter. Examples that come to mind are the trinity and the sovereignty of God. I have yet to hear an explanation (usually by analogy)of either of these things that didn't ring hollow in comparison to simple acceptance of the inexplicable (in my opinion) truth.

  3. Having said all of that...I do think that an understanding of the hebrew practices of sacrifice makes the Lord's substitutionary death seem more comprehensible. I still think your points are really good ones. In this case, you need only go to the next round of questions and ask, "why does an old testament precedent change the profundity of the matter?" or "how did the original sacrificial system atone for sins?" or "how and why is faith the vehicle for personal application?" In each case, you can explain the thing, but can't fully explain the essential how and why of the thing. But having observed all of that, and asking indulgence that we keep things at a more superficial level for the moment, I'd say this: Our pastor does a remarkable job of teaching through the whole Word of God, including things like Exodus and Leviticus, and it is amazing how those books shed light on the substitutionary death of our Lord. That's all. Again, great job on this...Jim

  4. Thank you for your kind remarks. Putting my thoughts out for the world to see, even somewhat anonymously on a blog, is at once gratifying and humiliating. So it does relieve me to get a little positive feedback!