Whose World Is It, Part 4 – Writing In Enemy Territory

Clearly, someone writing from the position that this world is Christian will have an entirely different emphasis than someone who thinks this world is in the hands of the enemy.

Let me reiterate, I understand this world is God’s by virtue of the fact that He made it and He holds it all together. Also, “He is the beginning, the first born from the dead so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything” (Col. 1:18b) — meaning that Satan will not successfully pull off his attempt at dethroning Jesus.

Meanwhile, however, we are living in enemy territory. Our citizenship is in heaven, unlike those who set their minds on earthly things. How you perceive enemy territory is very different than how you perceive your home.

If you’re in the hands of the enemy, for instance, you stay alert to deception, you steal yourself against depravity and suffering. You take nothing for granted. The things that appear harmless, you examine closely to see how they might be insidious traps. The outward appearance of a thing, therefore, is utterly untrustworthy. In fact, a disgusting bit of pulp might be medicinal, but a thick cut of meat might bring on death. Everything must be tried and measured and examined to see if it furthers the cause of the king or plays into the hands of the enemy.

So with stories. Some may be bold, assertive, overt declarations for the true king or about his enemy and his coming judgment. Some may be illustrative rather than declarative, but no less concerned with the truth.

Obviously these are broad strokes. Stories might be about individual skirmishes rather than about the entire scope of the war. Some might not show the end, but the successes during the battle.

I can’t help but think of Corrie ten Boom and her sister Betsy thrown into a German concentration camp towards the end of World War II. The world in which they lived was in the grip of the enemy — physically and spiritually. But in them resided the Spirit of the living God, and they had a clear choice whether to live by the evil principles of their environment or the life-giving principles of the Spirit.

Betsy never came out of the concentration camp. And yet she triumphed every day through her generosity and by her refusal to hate. She did not look at the concentration camp as Christian. She saw it for what it was — Satan’s playground. But greater was He who was in her than he who was in the world of that camp.

Christians writing stories have the privilege of showing the way things are, both spiritually and physically. The small aren’t necessarily weak, and the strong aren’t necessarily victorious.

Someone may be a slave but able to bring healing to her master because of her willingness to testify about the Living God. The man who dies young might have more impact on the world than the one who lives into his nineties.

And the Christian writer gets to show this upside down way of seeing the world. We get to make sense of the senseless, to agree with Scripture in the telling of our tales, to serve as the memorial stones that remind readers of the King and His victory — won and to be won.

Published in: on November 8, 2011 at 5:58 pm  Comments (4)  
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Whose World Is It? Part 3

I ended Part 2 of this short series with these questions:

So does God’s sovereignty mean the world is Christian? Or does the fact that Satan rules the world mean it’s not?

By way of review, we know that Satan rules the world because Scripture tells us he does; this point is not arrived at through speculation, inference, or deduction based on observation.

This is a critical issue, I think, and therefore I want to take the time to look at the additional verses I mentioned in the previous post, along with 1 John 5:19 — “We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (emphases in all these verses are mine).

John 12:31 – this verse comes in the midst of an amazing account. Jesus is preparing to go to the cross. As He shares His struggle, He cries out for God to glorify His name. The Father answers. The crowd of people standing around are trying to figure out what they heard. Then this:

    Jesus answered and said, “This voice has not come for My sake, but for your sakes. 31 Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. 32 And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.”

1 John 4:4 — “3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world. 4 You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.”

2 Corinthians 4:4 — “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

John 16:11 — “8 And He [the Holy Spirit], when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; 11 and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.”

John 14:30 — “I [Jesus] will not speak much more with you, for the ruler of the world is coming, and he has nothing in Me.”

Fantasy author Karen Hancock wrote an excellent post on this subject as well, and she’s used an even wider range of Scripture in reaching the same conclusion I have: this world is not Christian.

How can we resolve the apparently contradictory facts that God is sovereign and yet Satan has the world in his grip? Part of the answer is that we’re at war. Satan is in rebellion against God, but there is also enmity between Satan and the woman and her seed. Many Bible scholars understand “her seed” to refer to Christ. But that doesn’t leave us out — not if we’re in Christ; not if He is the head of the body, the church, and we are the members.

But let me be clear. Satan is not an equal foe wrestling against God as if he can bring Him down. A poor analogy, but helpful, might be a two-year-old refusing to obey his parents and put away his toys. That act of rebellion isn’t going to bring his parents down, but for a time his room may be in chaos. And his parents might just let the chaos go for a while as they deal with the rebellion.

Now suppose the two-year-old induces the toys to rebel too, so that they refuse to be put away. (Work with me here — use your imagination. I am a fantasy writer, after all. 😉 ) The two-year-old is no closer to bringing down his parents. All he’s done is make the toys guilty of his same rebellion. The parents are still in charge, and the toys will get put away, but for a short time, the two-year-old will be the tyrant of his room and the toys will be out of control.

Right now, for a short time, Satan is the tyrant of this world. But ultimately, nothing has changed — he has already lost his rebellious struggle (see last Tuesday’s post on this subject — “The Defeated Foe”).

One final question regarding this subject: how does this view of the world, in contrast to “the world is Christian” position, affect Christian fiction? I’ll tackle that one next time.

Published in: on November 7, 2011 at 6:54 pm  Comments (3)  
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Whose World Is It? Part 2

In some ways, I think the commenter I quoted from in Part 1 of this short series may have been going for shock value to call our world a Christian world. Or maybe that’s my wishful thinking. I do know that his view has some validity.

After all, Bible-believing Christians agree on one level that this is God’s world, He being sovereign and all. The corruption of the world and its fading glory are not out of His control or outside His plan.

But just as “God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity” (Rom. 1:24a), I believe He has given this world over to destruction. Jesus said on more than one occasion that heaven and earth would pass away (see Matt. 5:18 and Luke 16:17).

He also told a parable about the world likened to a field of grain.

Jesus presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away. But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also.

The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’

And he said to them, ‘An enemy has done this!’

The slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’

But he said, ‘No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them. Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.” ‘ ” (Matt. 13:24-30)

Here’s His interpretation of that story for His disciples:

And He said, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one; and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels. So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age” (Matt. 13:37-40).

The field belongs to God, but He didn’t plant the tares. He did, however, determine that the tares could keep growing side by side with the wheat. In essence, He gave the world over to what the enemy did to spoil His crop.

Isn’t this what we see in our world today? Tares and wheat, so alike you can’t always tell them apart, growing together, the tares at times choking out the wheat. Not the field God planted.

Peter makes it clear what’s to come of this world:

But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men (2 Peter 3:7).

Clearly, God is not planning to redeem this world, nor has He already done so.

The truth is, as the tares were allowed to grow in the field, so Satan is allowed to rule this world. “We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19 – emphasis mine. See also John 12:31, 1 John 4:4, 2 Corinthians 4:4, John 16:11, John 14:30.)

Because God is sovereign, there’s only one way that the whole world comes under Satan’s power, only one way he becomes the god of this world, or its ruler — God allows it, and in fact turns it over to him as part of the consequence of the Fall.

Hence, God is still very much sovereign and yet this world is not a Christian world. It is a Satan-ruled world.

Does creation still reflect God? It does. As I finish up this post, I’m being treated to the dramatic beauty of storm clouds bunching over the mountains, dropping lower, prematurely graying the fading afternoon. And I’m mindful of God. It’s His handiwork I see, His power in the storm, His mercy in sending the rain and in bringing it to an end.

The field is God’s, and He gave it over to Satan.

So does God’s sovereignty mean the world is Christian? Or does the fact that Satan rules the world mean it’s not?

Published in: on November 4, 2011 at 6:11 pm  Comments (24)  
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Whose World Is It? Part 1

I know I won’t get far in this topic in this post. I’ve been putting off bringing it up because it’s pointy and layered. It isn’t easily dissected and less so, digested.

So what am I talking about exactly?

A little while back on another blog, a commenter said this, in part:

this is an objectively Christian world regardless of what people think and regardless of whether anyone ever points that fact out. The truth of the Trinity blazes forth from the very creation, so much so that people have to forcibly repress it (Romans 1). Since this is the case, simply presenting the world just as it is – as a broken, warped, redeemed place of buzzin’, bloomin’ confusion – we are actually presenting Christ, because we are subversively attacking those repressing instincts.

… We don’t have to choose religious topics, or even include one second of overt Christian theology in our work – if we are presenting the truth about the world. Like the Dutch painters who began to simply paint ordinary houses and people, rather than saints with halos, they could also present truth, even True Truth, without a single word of religiosity. (emphases mine)

Ordinary houses decay

A Christian world, really? A redeemed place? Is that what Scripture says, or does it refer to this world as a place that is decaying because of sin that goes unchecked more and more each day?

I replied, and received this answer, in part:

Christians can relish and depict the world as it is without the agenda of making Biblical truth obvious because the world as it is happens to be a Christian world. We can present truth, even the Truth itself, simply by reveling in this world.

I have a tremendous problem with the idea that an ordinary house does not proclaim Christ. It is true that Romans 1 teaches God is known through what He has made – and this includes His Trinitarian being (Rom. 1:20). Unbelievers repress this. Yet the rocks and trees all proclaim “God made me! I love God! God is Three in One!” Jesus Himself even said that if there was not a single person left to proclaim God, the very rocks would begin to cry out. Even if we lived in a world where no one was a Christian, it would not change the fact that God made it and everybody knows it. It would not change the fact that the world is suffused at every moment with Trinitarian grace. That ordinary house is a Trinitarian house, regardless of what anybody thinks about it. Every molecule in that house is screaming at every second that God made it, and actively upholds it at every moment.

The implication (at least, the one that I hear!) is that if the house itself cannot proclaim Christ just by being, then the Christian cannot present that house as it is and it be a Christian painting of a Christian house. This then also implies that one must tack onto reality some sort of super-nature in order to make the house able to be presented as Christian like the refried gnosticism of a Thomas Kinkade painting (emphasis mine)

Setting aside the idea of gnosticism in a Thomas Kinkade painting, there’s a lot of truth in these comments. Certainly Scripture teaches that God can be known in what He made. Definitely Jesus said, if need be the rocks would cry out to praise Him.

Does that make this a Christian world?

I don’t think so. Rather, I think this world is the marred image of what God intended. Because of sin it is sinking deeper and deeper into the mire, obscuring God’s face more and more. Scripture says our iniquities have made a separation between us and God. That separation is real. It is not perception — as if this world was Christian but most people are blind to that fact.

This world was never Christian. It was good because God made it good, but sin soiled that goodness and it has not been good since. In fact it is less good today than the first day Adam and Eve stepped out of the garden. Scripture makes it clear, we’re in a process in which this world is failing further and further into disrepair.

Is it Trinitarian that the sex trade is flourishing? That abortion is practiced worldwide? That homosexuality is considered by many to be acceptable?

These things are direct results of sin, as Scripture makes clear:

God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them. (Rom. 1:28-32 – emphasis mine)

I have more to say on this subject, but this is more than enough to get the conversation started. What do you think? Who’s world is this?

Published in: on November 3, 2011 at 6:07 pm  Comments (21)  
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