Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Who Threw God Out?

A while back a friend made comments on Facebook that were similar to sayings that most reading this have likely heard before. He lamented that the United States Supreme Court had "thrown God out of the public schools." In response, I noted that the Supreme Court decision had been by a vote of 7-2 and lamented that even with the help of two jurists from the highest Court in the land, God's omnipresence had now been compromised by the seven justices who ordered him to get out and stay out. Either God had become deplorably weak, or those justices had fearful power over him.

This friend, seeming wounded by the criticism, angrily told me that I knew what he meant. Actually, I have no idea. I would be happy to have someone turn that phrase into something that is doctrinally sound.

Someone has said that the time to find out what one's theology actually consists of would be when a person does not believe that he is talking about theology. If that is the case, and it seems at least a plausible possibility, then large segments of American Christianity think God is a bit actor in the drama of this world. The decisions and power of people -- such as the Supreme Court -- are what really count. Of course, put that way, most Christians would disagree -- "you know what I mean," they might say. However, what one says might, in fact, be closer to what they believe. If that is the case, not only are their thoughts unbiblical, but they also cut that person off from the courage and the comfort offered by the biblical understanding of God's sovereignty.

Biblically, even in those times where it seemed that the enemies of God had the upper hand, God's people found encouragement in their understanding that God remains everywhere. The Psalmist, in Psalm 139, found solace in the realization that even if he descended into Hades, God was there. In the year that King Uzziah died (the good king dying meant that his monstrous son would take power), Isaiah "saw the Lord high and lifted up." Daniel and his friends recognized God's sovereignty, even after their nation had been destroyed, their temple had been raided and its artifacts brought into the service of pagan deities, and they had been forcibly been exiled. Rather than telling their contemporaries that Nebuchadnezzar needed to let God back into the palace, they confidently asserted that God would deliver them from persecution, whether by life or by death, and that ultimately a kingdom not formed by human hands would reign eternally. The Book of Revelation, read properly, asserts the final triumph of God in the midst of a world in which death and depravity seem to have come out on top.

Of course, believers ache when evil seemed to triumph, and some of the Psalms take the tone of asking God why He is allowing the same. In the end, however, the faith of Christians is that God's purposes may remain mysterious to us, but that the kingdoms of this world will become the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever. Even when the evidence appears otherwise, God is triumphing both in this world and in the one that is coming.

That is the theology -- and the faith -- that Christians need at all times in a broken world. While some times and seasons will be more pleasant than others, ultimately our citizenship lies in another land. While we should enjoy God's blessings in the life that is here, including the exercise of the vocational gifts and pleasures that He has provided us, we look with certainty toward a nation whose builder and founder is God.