The Opiate of Our Masses

Karl Marx said that religion is the opiate of the masses.

To the contrary, our opiate is ignoring questions of ultimate meaning. We pursue our careers, work our jobs, give ourselves to our relationships and families, dedicate ourselves to hobbies, pacify ourselves with substance and entertainment, while seemingly ever-avoiding the question, “What does it matter? What’s the point?” We are all going to die someday. So, what of all this will possibly escape death’s menacing judgment of “pointless!” “meaningless!” “trivial!”?

This is the elephant that looms large in the room. And we are content (dare I say, determined) to ignore and avoid it at all costs.

So great is our determination here that we have an unwritten (verbalized) rule for it. We want to privatize religion and its disruptive sort questions along these lines. They’re uncomfortable. “Don’t talk religion and politics,” we say, “(but especially religion)” we mean — that is, if you take religion as something more than sentimental tradition; that is, if you actually believe it to be making exclusive sort of truth-claims.

Some of us are dead set to avoid conflict. “Niceness” (at seemingly all costs) is our culture’s highest virtue. Others of us are far too uncontemplative, or maybe intoxicated with the triviality — “This stuff is all too serious. Take it easy, man.”

So, we keep ignoring that foreboding elephant. We’re like a child who has been given a certain chore to do. We fool ourselves into thinking that by postponing or neglecting it long enough it will just go away or be forgotten.

These questions may be controversial, taxing, and disruptive — they certainly are. And I’m very much aware that it’s quite easier and more soothing to just ignore them. But they are far too important for that.

* * * * *

“‘Vanity of vanities!’ says the Preacher. ‘All is vanity!'” – Ecclesiastes

Death as Absolute ‘Vanitizer,’ Except as Answered by Christ’s Resurrection

My question—that which at the age of fifty brought me to the verge of suicide—was the simplest of questions, lying in the soul of every man … a question without an answer to which one cannot live. It was: ‘What will come of what I am doing today or tomorrow? What will come of my whole life? Why should I live, why wish for anything, or do anything?’ It can also be expressed thus: Is there any meaning in my life that the inevitable death awaiting me does not destroy?

—Leo Tolstoy (A Confession), channeling his inner Qohelet, Ecclesiastes.

The answer: no, nothing, futility, or, as the book of Ecclesiastes itself puts it, a mere “striving after wind.”

Death is the ultimate “vanitizer.” Nothing escapes its finalizing, universal stamp of “pointless.”

That is apart from resurrection.

Enter Jesus. Welcome, Easter.

Reflections on My Grandmother’s Passing

Last night after dinner my grandmother passed away.

We were close. But I think more than anything I’m sad for my grandpa, because he lost his life partner and best friend. He loved her so much. (They were that adorable old couple that’s more in love now than the day they were married.)


Death is an incredible reminder that things are not right in this world. Death is universally typical; but, as a Christian, it is my firm conviction that death is not “normal.” It is an intrusion into God’s good creation, a testimony to and result of humanity’s horrific plunge into deep-seated rebellion against a good God (what we as Christians call sin). And, apart from Christ’s return, it is something we will all face.

As the Biblical book of Ecclesiastes tells us, death seems to stamp the entirety of our lives up until that moment as “pointless.” Whatever was achieved, whatever good was done, whatever meaning was found, whatever joy was had, death puts a (seemingly) permanent end to it all.

But our hope — our only hope from death, the only hope my grandmother has in overcoming death — is the good news about this guy named Jesus, who, as the Bible tells us, is God become a human being for the very purpose that he might take upon himself this human predicament (death), face it square in the face, wrestle it down, and, through his own death on our behalf, deal death itself a deathblow, achieving resurrection-life through his own resurrection.

This is the gospel. This is our anthem as Christians: deliverance from sin and all of its nasty effects (including death) for all who lean wholly on Jesus for their rescue.


1 Cor 15; 1 Thes 4:13-18; 2 Tim 1:10; Heb 2:14; Rev 21:4.

Redemptive-Historical Survey: 10 | Wisdom and Songs (LDBC Recap 4/3/16 Pt. 2)

Explanation

logo-lake-drive-baptist-churchOn Sunday, January 24th, 2016, I began a Core Seminar on Redemptive History & Biblical Theology at my church, Lake Drive Baptist Church. During the course of this series I’ll be sending out emails recapping lessons and directing recipients to resources for further study.

Rather than just share these recaps with my church family, I’ve decided to share them here on the blog for anyone else who might be interested. I will be posting them occasionally over the next couple of months on a weekly basis or so.

See previous posts:

Recap/review

We continue this week’s core seminar recap with a brief–and I mean brief–survey of the wisdom literature and the psalms.

Role within redemptive history

God supplies wisdom and songs for his covenant-bound, new-creational kingdom people.

The wisdom literature and songs (psalms) lead God’s people to live properly as his redemptive-historical people with regards to (a) how they are to relate and respond to God (worship and prayer [think: the psalms]), (b) down to earth, everyday, practical living (think: Proverbs), and (c) abstract questions about life (think especially Job and Ecclesiastes).

These books–Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon–are often the ones that feel the least “redemptive-historical.” They feel the least storied, in other words. The least related to the movement of God’s saving purposes across Biblical history. They feel closer to what we might call “timeless truths.”

But, even still, these books still assume redemptive-historical realities. They have redemptive history in their background.

For example, their guidance assumes the realities of redemptive history like…

(a) God’s original creation design…

e.g., Proverbs understands wisdom as something built into the fabric of creation (see Prov 8).

(b) The fall and the entrance of evil and sin into that design…

e.g., the account of Job is only possible in a world of suffering and evil. Or, again, the book of Ecclesiastes warns us of our sinful (i.e., fallen) tendency to seek meaning apart from God.

And (c) God’s activity to restore his creation through salvation and judgment…

e.g., the Psalms speak of God’s saving activity and his promises to save in the future, i.e., redemptive-historical promises.

Or, again, Proverbs makes clear that wisdom begins with something of a converted state–a disposition that is called “fearing God.” As such, Proverbs assumes the fall, that we are all sinful “fools” who need to be rightly re-oriented to God (conversion, regeneration).

In addition, these songs and wisdom books equip God’s people to live out that role as his redemptive-historical people in the nitty gritty aspects of every day life, in the midst of the full-range of human emotions and experiences.

Overview of Biblical material

Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon. 

  • Wisdom: Wisdom literature provides guidance (wisdom = “The skill of living successfully in God’s created but fallen world”) for God’s redemptive-historical people to live as God’s redemptive-historical people.
    • Job – Wisdom is knowing what you don’t know (e.g., the cause of suffering) while remembering who does.
    • Proverbs – Wisdom is living godly (= the beginning of wisdom is fearing God [chs.1-9]; and here is what that looks like [chs.10-31]).
    • Ecclesiastes – Wisdom is avoiding the trap of seeking to find meaning apart from God.
    • Song of Solomon – Wisdom is relishing sexuality within marriage.
  • Songs (Psalms) – The psalms are scripts that lead us to respond and relate to God properly in the midst of the full range of human emotions and experiences.

And, so, in closing, to recap the role of these books within redemptive history–God supplies wisdom and songs for his covenant-bound, new-creational kingdom people.