Perhaps no doctrine is more insufferably fabulous to non-Christians than the claim that we exist in the long melancholy aftermath of a primordial catastrophe, that this is a broken and wounded world, that cosmic time is the shadow of true time, and that the universe languishes in bondage to “powers” and “principalities” -- spiritual and terrestrial -- alien to God. In the Gospel of John, especially, the incarnate God enters a world at once his own and yet hostile to him -- “He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not” -- and his appearance within “this cosmos” is both an act of judgment and a rescue of the beauties of creation from the torments of fallen nature.
Whatever one makes of this story, it is no bland cosmic optimism. Yes, at the heart of the gospel is an ineradicable triumphalism, a conviction that the victory over evil and death has been won; but it is also a victory yet to come. As Paul says, all creation groans in anguished anticipation of the day when God's glory will transfigure all things. For now, we live amid a strife of darkness and light.
When confronted by the sheer savage immensity of worldly suffering -- when we see the entire littoral rim of the Indian Ocean strewn with tens of thousands of corpses, a third of them children's -- no Christian is licensed to utter odious banalities about God's inscrutable counsels or blasphemous suggestions that all this mysteriously serves God's good ends. We are permitted only to hate death and waste and the imbecile forces of chance that shatter living souls, to believe that creation is in agony in its bonds, to see this world as divided between two kingdoms -- knowing all the while that it is only charity that can sustain us against "fate," and that must do so until the end of days.
Although perhaps Mr. Hart misses an inherent demand of the Gospel, that eventually all evil must be made to serve ‘God’s good ends,’ he captures well the reality that we live in a fallen cosmos, where ‘all creation groans for its day of redemption.’
For people of faith, our proper stance is a battle stance.
It is an undeniable assertion of Scripture that we now live in the shadow of the struggle of forces – light against darkness, order against chaos, good against evil.
From the primordial Creation, where God brooded over the chaotic waters to bring forth life and order, to now, where God invests us with the task of bringing forth civilization and order, the struggle is against the forces of chaos – the cosmic Rahav of the Hebrew Scriptures.
The ‘chain of being’ is indeed a chain held in the hands of an unchained God, so we cannot quickly depersonalize and divide fate, or the natural forces, from our human struggle. “We wrestle not against flesh and blood…”
This is why there is great symmetry in the same carrier group that fights terrorism rushing across the oceans to provide aid, water, health and order to these poor victims. We are at war with the forces, on the side of good and God. We fight chaos and death wherever it is found.
Granted, we fight this fight in a very flawed, human way…but the fact remains: Judeo-Christian civilization understands itself as irrevocably at war with the forces of evil and chaos. We strive to conquer nature’s forces; we strive to conquer terror. In that our calling still broods over chaotic waters…
This is why it is high naiveté, at best [and selling out, at worst], for theologians to face this disaster by denigrating the U.S. military budget. Even with all our fallenness, take the light of the U.S.A. out of the world community, and ‘behold, what manner of darkness!’
‘All creation groans until the day of redemption,’ and until that Day, we are in a stance of opposition to the fallen powers.
Of course, this is not to baptize all usage of U.S. force! Humans are ever prone to be co-opted by the powers, but we only make that co-option easer by denying the essentials of the struggle. We must recognize the reality of our struggle. All creation groans…terror and darkness stalk human civilization at every point, in every age.
This is why, again and again, Scripture asserts that the proper response to disaster is repentance. This only makes sense if our struggle is first a moral struggle. This only makes sense if the cosmos is now at spiritual war.
We fight the great cosmic battle against darkness by first addressing the corners of darkness in our own hearts. Even on this personal level, ‘our striving would be losing,’ were not the ‘right Man on our side.’
It is here that the Incarnation speaks with infinite power.
The universe is at spiritual war, but the great trump card is held by Christ. Christians confess this transcendent hope in the face of every tragedy – even the worst iterations of death and carnage.
“The kingdoms of this world have become the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ.”
Chaos must be conquered. Indeed, in Christ, it has been conquered. Time has been changed in Incarnation. The curse began running backwards at Calvary, and will completely unhinge in the face of Christ at the Second Coming.
Until then, our only option is to take sword in hand, and bow at the feet of Christ.
Confession, and battle.
Confession, and battle.
Here is the great glory of humankind: in the face of inhuman darkness, we were counted worthy of a place in divine struggle, through conversion to Christ.
Then let us to our prayers and to obedience.
And let us be converted again.