Here is a story of near heresy. But its tale is telling.
It is a story of a reality revealed illuminating the dreamworld of a theology run amuck.
A devil, a pupil and a god.
The god is one of Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Calvin and Piper. The pupil is you and I. The devil, well, here’s a character you thought you knew. And he’s the one who does the illuminating.
THE PUPIL AND THE TUTOR
Leaning back in his giant leather chair one evening, blissful and confident in his theology, Calvin studied his pupil who sat in silent awe, looking sheepishly across the large oak desk.
“God is sovereign.” Calvin smiled at the pupil’s confirming nod. “No, no, no. You misunderstand me.” He could see it on his face. “By ‘sovereign’ I don’t mean to hint that he is ‘overall,’ for who would dispute with that?” He dusts his cigar off in the ash bin. “He’s an Infinite Being, existing from first to last all at once. Smile? He does not smile. Feel? He does not feel. Think? Nonsense! He thought once, but that ‘once’ is a single static moment that continues on to this day. The brick has been laid. Like Walt Disney’s first animated Micky Mouse, you and I and every moment we ‘experience’ are but flat and motionless drawings placed strategically along the brick, one after another. This gives the illusion of life. The illusion of time passed. But really, hogwash! There is no such thing as time, as pass, as life. Except, of course, for God. But even there, ‘life’ is but one static moment.”
The pupil reveled in the deep wisdom of the monk and his profound insight into the philosophical mysteries of reality. But one question prodded to be asked. “What of the devil?”
“What of him!” retorted Calvin. “A pawn. A pansy. A puppet. Just as lifeless as you and I. Just as much of an illusion too. In the same way that Micky Mouse ‘appears’ to move, to feel, to do. So with each of us, and so with the devil. We each ‘do’ precisely as we’ve been assigned to do, which is what the artist sketched us to do on each individual static sheet of paper. Just as Micky Mouse does not know what his next sheet of paper has him doing, so with you and I, and so with the devil.”
“But why did the Infinite Being include the devil in his cartoon?” asked the pupil.
“Have you ever read a good story that did not include a villain?” Calvin drew from his cigar, swished his cheeks side to side and then blew rings like an expert. Calm. Relaxed. Confident. “A good story must include a villain. But we must never forget that the villain in a comic is subject to the whims of the author.”
After a long pause Calvin continued. “And that is what I mean when I say God is sovereign.”
The pupil pondered this for a moment before asking one final question to close off the session, “What of God’s love?” The question was asked with more than a hint of sentimentality.
Calvin pulled his cigar from his mouth and squashed it in the ash bin as he jerked forward. “You’re think about this all wrong.” He stood up and leaned across the desk with both hands. “You should concern yourself less with God’s love and more with God’s glory, for the first can only be understood in the second. But since you asked about God’s love, I shall explain both to you.”
“God is indeed love. But God’s first and ultimate concern is for God’s own glory. Everything he does, everything that exists exists to serve that one thing alone. In the giant comic strip of creation God has chosen to show his love to a few select individuals – of which I may be one. They are an elect group. The ‘good-guys’ if you will, made good because they were elected according to the script.
“He has chosen to show his love to everyone else too. He did this by bringing them into existence and giving them a prominent role to play in his story. Just as God’s glory is shown through his mercy and grace extended to the ‘good guys,’ so is his glory shown through his wrath and judgment extended to everybody else. Without them God would not be able to exercise his full glory. But thanks be to God that he has created them for wrath, and this is a great honor. It is indeed an act of love.”
To be continued…