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April Newsletter Drops Today

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This month we cover a recent story about the movie A Quiet Place and how the idea of finding a Christ-figure in stories is becoming banal. That’s a theme in the book we’re working on.

We also share a couple of documentaries and Ted talks we’ve enjoyed and give an update on the progress of our book project and our plans for a podcast.

If that interests you, you’re welcome to sign up at the top of the page.

The Gospel: There was the Cup. Hell was in It

There was a giant cup of God’s wrath with enough in it for all his people. And Christ drank it all. There’s not a drop left.

There was a gun with enough ammunition to take out all of us. He took every bullet. There’s not one left. The clip is empty.

There was a whip with enough throngs to touch us all. He took the whip until it wore out and broke. It disintegrated against his back.

There was the cup; hell was in it; the Savior drank it—not a sip, and then a pause; not a draught, and then a ceasing; but He drained it till there is not a dreg left for any of His people! The great ten-thronged whip of the law was worn out upon His back; there is no lash left with which to smite one for whom Jesus died! The great bombardment of God’s justice has exhausted all its ammunition; there is nothing left to be hurled against a child of God!

-from Charles Spurgeon’s sermon, It is Finished

 

For People Who Have Been There

Steve Brown quotes J’s former pastor:

My friend Lea Clower says that religion is for people who want to stay out of hell, and Christianity is for people who have been there.

-Steve Brown, Approaching God: Accepting the Invitation to Stand in the Presence of God, p. 85

Of course the good news of this, as his been said by others many times, is that this life is the closest to hell the Christian will ever face (and the closest to heaven the non-believer will ever experience).

Does the statement need defending? Maybe.

C.S. Lewis describes hell as a “ruthless, sleepless, unsmiling concentration upon self.” In another places, he says, “We must picture Hell as a state where everyone is perpetually concerned about his own dignity and advancement, where every has a grievance, and where everyone lives the deadly serious passions of envy, self-importance, and resentment.” If you’ve tasted those things in your own life, you’ve tasted some of the poison that makes hell what it is. You’ve touched the edge of the flame. And it’s when you realize that that’s what it is – poison, flame – you’re just on the cusp of being ready to escape.

How do you escape? Realize that there’s already somebody there to whom you can scream for help. (See the previous post for an explanation on that one).

 

Making Sure Someone is There Before You Scream

Steve Brown makes the point that honesty in prayer is a key component of our relationship to God. We tend to forget that he already knows what we’re facing before we bring what we’re facing to him. As if we can cover up our suffering, shame, and pain. The good news is, his always being there, and knowing and understanding what’s happened, frees us up to be honest:

Childlike honesty doesn’t just include honesty about one’s feelings. It includes telling God where it hurts. The next time you see a child fall and scrape his or her knee, watch what happens. The little girl or boy will be picked up by mom or dad, and in that moment there will usually be silence before the storm breaks. Do you know what is happening? The child is making sure someone is there to hear – that he is in the parents arms before he screams.

-Steve Brown, Approaching God: Accepting the Invitation to Stand in the Presence of God, pp. 84-85

He’s there. You can scream if you need to.

Natural Man Sees Shadows

If you think in terms of Paul on Mars Hill, man erects idols that are mere shadows of reality. These are monuments to an unknown god. They think by making an image they are making something concrete. They’re actually making something that has no true material existence. It’s a caricature, a parody, a shadow of something they don’t even know.

Now take this brief but loaded comment from Van Til on the state of humanity in sin:

From the point of view that man, as dead in trespasses and sins, seeks to interpret life in terms of himself instead of in terms of God, he is wholly mistaken. ‘From this ultimate point of view the “natural man” knows nothing truly. He has chains about his neck and sees shadows only’…

Scott Oliphant, the editor of Van Til’s book, comments:

Plato (through Socrates) describes people who are confined to a cave and who see shadows only. Eventually they begin to interpret the shadows as the true reality. The philosopher, on the other hand, is the one who escapes the shadows of the cave and thus ascribes true forms to reality. Similarly, the natural man sees shadows only and thinks that such shadows are the substance of true reality. He is never able to get to the basic truth of the matter.

The natural man sees shadows. Those shadows come through in natural man’s work. They come through in movies, novels, art, etc. They cast the shadows onto their canvases. They are common grace glimpses of truth that don’t put forth the actual substance of Christ. But those who have the Spirit see Christ even where natural man only puts forth and sees shadows.

For instance, you see a heroic act of self-sacrifice in a movie. It’s a shadow. And it’s all the natural man sees. Maybe it makes him emotional, but he still misses the substance – it all points to Christ as the ultimate self-sacrificer. That goes for stories of true love, of humility, and probably a good thousand other subjects. This is why Tim Keller has said that, for the Christian, every story is two stories and every song is two songs. It’s shadow and substance.

For more on this, see C.S. Lewis’ essay Transposition. I’ve written about that HERE.

-Quotes from Cornelius Van Til, Common Grace and the Gospel, p. 196

March Newsletter Drops Today

If you haven’t signed up for our newsletter…

This month’s newsletter includes four movie recommendations and one short story recommendation We tell you what we got out of each that led us to Christian themes. We also give an update on the progress of our book and a tentative table of contents along with an update on our soon-to-begin podcast.

Sign up if that interests you. The form is at the top of the page under the logo.