Until That Final Glory

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Contemplating the events that transpired yesterday in Boston, the savaging of the runners and their friends and family during that part of the Boston Marathon that is mostly about ordinary runners, their friends, and their families, I had two responses. One was to change somewhat a message I was to preach (today) in the Asbury Seminary chapel. I’ll post on that later. The second came from my daughter’s blog, a quotation that I’d seen, but forgotten. It deserves careful thought. This is not an easy quotation, but comes from one of the most thoughtful, scholarly and challenging theologians of our day, David Bentley Hart. It is from his book The Doors of the Sea: Where Was God in the Tsunami? Hart is no fan of easy glib answers. I think this quotation bears on our response as well to the events of April 15, even though they were not the events of a natural order gone out of control, but of the human order, equally out of control.

Until that final glory, however, the world remains divided between two kingdoms, where light and darkness, life and death grow up together and await the harvest. In such a world, our portion is charity, and our sustenance is faith, and so it will be until the end of days. As for comfort, when we seek it, I can imagine none greater than the happy knowledge that when I see the death of a child, I do not see the face of God but the face of his enemy. Such faith might never seem credible to someone like Ivan Karamazov, or still the disquiet of his conscience, or give him peace in place of rebellion, but neither is it a faith that his arguments can defeat: for it is a faith that set us free from optimism long ago and taught us hope instead. Now we are able to rejoice that we are saved not through the immanent mechanisms of history and nature, but by grace; that God will not unite all of history’s many strands in one great synthesis, but will judge much of history false and damnable; that he will not simply reveal the sublime logic of fallen nature, but will strike off the fetters in which creation languishes; and that, rather than showing us how the tears of a small girl suffering in the dark were necessary for the building of the Kingdom, he will instead raise her up and wipe away all tears from her eyes – and there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, nor any more pain, for the former things will have passed away, and he that sits upon the throne will say, “Behold, I make all things new.”

May we all live and work toward “that final glory.”

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I'm 60 years old, professor of Old Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. I love my wife of 36 years, my three adult children and children-in-law. I love our three horses, two cats, and whatever other creatures decide to call our place home. I hate mowing grass, hanging pictures or shelves, or anything involving punching or drilling holes in walls. I love my job of studying and teaching the Old Testament. I've recently contracted a fierce interest in archaeology. I also enjoy guitars, jazz, vintage firearms, airplanes, photography, drystone masonry and, visiting the lands of the Bible.

1 COMMENT

  1. I love that quote, and have read that book a few times. I’ve actually used segments of that quote in Easter sermons because I think it gets right to the heart of the matter. Very good stuff from an insightful theologian.
    I think one of the helpful things his writings have done for me is to make very clear that we can name an enemy and attribute acts of death and destruction to their proper place. I love the line about not seeing the face of God, but the face of his enemy. It gives me hope.
    Anyway, thanks for posting this. It’s helpful stuff to remember while living in a broken world.

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