Two Choices

Maybe it’s because I see things in black and white more than gray. I don’t know. But I seem to have this “two” thing going on right now. Anyway, my thought is in relation to Genesis 13. Lot decides to live by sight rather than by faith, whereas Abram lives by faith rather than by sight. This leads to two ironies. Lot doesn’t see Sodom and Gomorrah’s wickedness, whereas Abram is told to “Lift up his eyes to see” the land. If our choice is to live by sight, then we will not see the hook that Satan has so well hidden by his bait. If our choice is to live by faith, then God will open our eyes to really see. Lot slips by degrees into Sodom and Gomorrah, much like the frog that is in the pot, and gradually dies because of the temperature gradually rising. Abram, on the other hand, is given the entire world forever. All four points of the compass. That belongs to us now, who are the true seed of Abraham.

So, to choose what Lot chose is to choose to ignore “one little sin,” not realizing that one little sin leads to other slightly bigger sins, which lead to other still bigger sins. Sin is a snowball going downhill. The hill is steep. It is like the boy in Pilgrim’s Progress, who chooses to have his toys now. Only a little while later, his toys are all destroyed. The other boy has patiently waited for his toys, because they are better toys. That choice faces us ultimately, even as it faces us every day of our lives. We should choose the way of Abram, the way of Jesus Christ, who did not buckle under when Satan told him, “It is only a little loaf of bread, into which you should turn this stone. It is only one little prank on the top of the temple, and it is only one little bow to me.” Satan hides the hook. Jesus has made that decision. And in being united to Christ, we have that decision made for us, even as we make it every day.
That is a short precis of my sermon for tomorrow.


Music and Theology

Again, contra Johannus Weslianus, here I am talking about music again. When I played the Liszt b minor Sonata on my senior recital, it was only after my teacher and I had struggled to understand the piece as a whole. There were serious difficulties in the way: the piece was half an hour long without a break, the piece could easily be sectioned off into movements if one desired to do so, and the piece was very demanding of both performer and audience. So, how to make the piece understandable was a question that burned in both my teacher’s mind, and in my own.

This is very analogous to theology. It is extremely easy to cordon off various parts of theology to suit our fancy. Most of the time these days, it is exegetes who sniff at systematic theologians, thinking that systematic theology has no bearing on how to interpret a text. Au contraire. Pardon my French. But when you come to a text that says, “God repented,” do we allow other Scripture to weigh in on this? Do we say that Scripture has no errors or contradictions? God does not lie. When He says at one point that He does not change like shifting shadows, and then elsewhere that God cannot lie, then we need to allow knowledge of those texts to influence how we read the statement, “God repented.” If we do not do this, then open theism might be the result. Open theism is the belief that God is open to the future, and that if plan A does not work, then God goes to plan B.

Of course, this interaction of systematic theology and exegesis must not be allowed to flatten out biblical history. God did not drop Scripture out of heaven all at one time. There is a progression. Systematic theology and exegesis are inseparable yet distinct. Those two words seem to be watchwords in Reformed theology. They apply to the Trinity, Jesus’ divine and human nature, the benefits we have in union with Christ, and probably many other vitals of the Christian faith. Systematic theology must take into account the biblical progression of revelation. Apologetics must not be forgotten, nor must church history, or practical theology. They are all like spokes of a wheel, interrelated yet distinct.