Except You Enthrall Me, Never Shall I Be Free — The Parameters of God

2008-07-24 645In R.C. Sproul’s book “If There’s a God, Why are There Atheists?” I read a paragraph I found to be saturated with rarely spoken and often unrealized truth.

Sproul says this:  “If ever there is a genuine paradox to be found in the Holy Writ, it is at the point of freedom and bondage.  The paradox is this:  When one seeks to rebel from God, he gains only bondage.  When he becomes a slave to God, he becomes free.  Liberty is found in obedience.  The Anglican poet John Donne understood this when he wrote in a sonnet, “Except You enthrall me, never shall I be free.”

It’s a funny thing – I read a lot of Sproul.  This book, however, was way over my head so it wasn’t one I sat down and devoured willingly.  It’s a book that my friend John would ingest deeply, breathing in each word and excreting it through every pore.  He loves all that esoteric philosophy stuff.  Me?  I could care less what Kant said!

Sometimes you just have to dig in anyway…..so I did.  One of the most valuable things I got out of the book was Sproul’s ending statement:  “The biblical God remains a massive threat to illusions of moral autonomy.  The result is that even though a man may be convinced of the truth of God’s existence, that intellectual assertion in itself could not overcome the moral inclination to flee from that truth.  Man’s corruption is such that he will do everything in his power to disprove, combat, obscure and deny the truth of that knowledge.

I think this one statement goes far to address the confusion and mis-understanding of the character and nature of God in the minds of people today.  It’s not only unbelievers who struggle with this issue.  Many professing Christians also have a hard time accepting the biblical image of God.  God’s truth.  Not our truth – but God’s truth.

For instance, I have a very dear friend who is involved in what I consider to be an aberrant denomination.  She would call herself a Christian but her doctrine is far removed from the teachings of the historic Christian faith.  Initially, during her search for God, she created a definition of what Christianity should be and then proceeded to find a denomination which fit her private definition and joined it.

2008-07-21 303I understand her reasoning process for doing so and am compassionate towards it, but I consider her approach to be a backwards one.  I don’t feel I am being judgmental in my assessment because I am not immune to confusion.  Neither are you.  So before we choose to freely condemn we would be wise to understand the patience that God has with each one of us.  Our spiritual growth, should we choose to grow, is usually gradual, occurring over time.  Thus, I’m not ready to judge anyone in total completeness.  Only God can do that.

My friend struggled with an accurate vision of a Holy, unimaginable God.  She couldn’t believe that God, who professes to be a God of love, could indeed also be a God of wrath.  She could not grasp that we, as sinful beings, are at enmity with God.

She refused and still refuses to believe that evil and sin even exist.  She chose instead to listen to an extra-biblical reinterpretation of the Bible written by a woman of fairly recent years rather than gleaning the substance and truth of the historic biblical text representing over 6000 years of doctrine and teaching.  In essence, she has succeeded in elevating her personal status to godhood, although I don’t think she understands that she has done this.  Who would not desire godhood?

We would all love to believe that evil doesn’t exist, yet it takes no time at all to see that evil and sinfulness are very real in this world.  It is tangible.  It is evident at every turn — in every country — in every culture and personage.   Though real, some people like my beloved friend, want so badly for this not to be true that they create a religious system that denies this truth.  They end up creating their own personal truth in order to make them feel better about God and themselves — their sinful self.

We would all like to believe the latest, greatest, “new” interpretation of the Bible.  Human nature seems to think that “new” is better and more enlightened than the ideas of those who actually lived during the era being written about.  My friend’s decision to believe in a new interpretation of scripture is sadly not unique.

2008-07-21 164In effect, our decision to place God within a box defined by our own parameters ends up defining us.  God, however, is not defined by our parameters.  He defines Himself.  We don’t need to over- and extra-spiritualize each and every word in the Bible to make it mean something more esoteric than it really means.  Yet, we constantly do so.  We create a graven image of a God who is Holy and Sovereign instead of preserving the historic God, Jesus and Holy Spirit of the ancient world — truth.

Really – God is not that difficult to understand.  He has made His presence known so that all may understand if they are willing to hear.  If there is any confusion, then we must ask ourselves if we are being honest and true to the biblical text.  Or perhaps, are we reading into the text what we want to believe?  It’s an honest question each person should ask of themselves.

Sproul reminds us that:  “For Paul, there is no liberty in rebellion, only bondage.  Liberty is found in obedience in the presence of the Lord.”

Perhaps this statement answers “why” we do this.  We are in rebellion.  Yet, if we would only allow ourselves to be put into bondage, then and only then would our liberty be personally known.

Dear Lord, help us to put away rebellious thoughts and desires.  Help us to know the truth of who You are – defined by what You’ve told us You are. Amen.

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