Thursday, September 23, 2010

Mud and Stars

Two men looked through prison bars:
One saw mud and the other saw stars.

I recently re-encountered this couplet in a Christian article. It brings back a guilty memory, from when I furtively borrowed my sister's Trebizon boarding school stories. In the very first novel, the school headteacher encourages the heroine with this mud/star two-liner.

Apparently, it's a quote by Frederick Langbridge, although wikipedia wasn't too forthcoming with information about him. Anyway, it's the thought that counts - any situation is what we make of it. Do we see that the glass is half-full or half-empty?

As a Christian, I find that I have plenty of causes for optimism. I see the stars, twinkling gleams of glory, and anticipate a wonderful future - rejoicing in hope.
Of course, I'm not unaware of the mud. Most of the time I'm trudging through it, or perhaps assisting others. But the stars help put things in perspective.

Richard Dawkins mentioned something similar in a recent debate with John Lennox. He conceded that Christianity offers a real hope for the future, and a purpose for living in the present. Dawkins could offer neither. Unfortunately, the atheist's horizon does not extend beyond the mud.

Obviously, I believe that Christianity is more than wishful thinking. However star-gazing (literally and metaphorically) is a good pastime for citizens of heaven, as Paul reminded his friends at Philippi (Phil 3:20-21). At the same time, there should be some star-light luminosity exuding from our lives too (Phil 2:15). Perhaps we could be a means of bringing hope to other muddy people?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Natural Disasters

Whenever catastrophes occur, like the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, we often ask why an Almighty God would allow such disasters to happen. I have read some thought-provoking articles from other authors. Perhaps I take a slightly different view.

The Bible talks about creation groaning and travailing in pain [Ro 8] - very literal, if anthropomorphic, language to describe plate tectonics. We live in a fragile world, a fractured universe, a fallen creation. Why?

Jesus' plaintive words, "From the beginning, these things were not so," apply contextually to ruptures in society, but they ring true for the sad state of the cosmos. Originally, God deemed His creation to be "very good." [Gen 1]. However a perfectly innocent creation has been spoiled by mankind's rebellion against God - initiated by Adam's disobedience.

Here is my main thesis - just as God did not intervene directly to prevent Adam's choice of evil, so He does not intervene today to curtail its consequences. Our world is a dangerous place, and will remain so for the foreseeable future.

Does God operate on a passive, non-interfering basis? Not at all! God has moved to rescue humanity from sin. This rescue-mission was effected by the Lord Jesus Christ, when he gave his life "as a ransom for all, to be testified in due time". [1 Tim 2]. However, salvation requires an opt-in - God's grace and our faith are both necessary salvific ingredients [Eph 2]. Once we receive "the gift of God which is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" [Ro 6], we become part of God's "new creation." [2 Cor 5].

Ultimately, God will re-create the physical world we inhabit. There will be "no more sea" on the new earth [Rev 22], which symbolises the end of restlessness, transience, groaning and travailing. I don't see any cause for plate tectonics in the new creation...