The Words of the Colvin Family
History from the Viewpoint of the Restoration of God's Ideal of the Family
History as God's Providence to Restore the Ideal of Creation
As we have examined in the previous lectures, God created us for the purpose of love and intended that we perfect our love in the family. Centering on the true family, we could have established a culture of love, a harmonious society and a peaceful and loving world.
Tragically, the principles of love were violated through the process described in the fall of man. As a result, instead of beginning with the God-centered family as a model, history developed as a history filled with immorality and violence.
In Isaiah 46:13, God declares, "I have purposed, and I will do it." God is absolute, eternal and unchanging. Therefore His ideal for true love is also absolute eternal and unchanging. In spite of our failure to fulfill our responsibility and realize the ideal of love, God has continued to work throughout history to fulfill his original purpose.
What did mankind lose through the fall? What did Adam and Eve lose through the fall? First of all, humankind lost their faith in God. Therefore, before God could reestablish a relationship of love with mankind, it was necessary that some individual go through a course to restore a foundation of faith in God. Without faith in God we can not receive the truth from God according to which we can restore our character and develop a system of morality through which a family centered on the principles of lasting love can be realized.
Secondly, Adam and Eve developed a false character. Instead of reflecting the selfless sacrificial love of God in our personalities, human character became self-centered and body centered. We have been unable to see things from God's point of view. We have lacked the humility and empathy which are necessary to truly love others. We have sought to dominate rather than to serve. In a world lacking the standard of God's love, this fallen nature has multiplied and given rise to peoples and nations which have pursued their own worldly interests for power and wealth at the expense of others.
These two factors, our lack of faith and our selfishness have been the two great obstacles for God in helping us to restore His ideal, and for us in achieving human happiness. God's goal in human history has been to establish a unified people of faith and character who can serve as a foundation for him to give birth to a Second Adam, who can restore what Adam lost - who can establish the way of true love by perfecting the ideal of the God-centered family and laying the foundation of a God-centered culture which can serve as the basis of a peaceful world.
Religion has been the major tool for God's Providence of Salvation
All human beings seek happiness. That is one of the principles of the Declaration of Independence, that it is an inalienable God-given right to pursue happiness. Yet the pursuit of happiness through material desire alone is a futile task. Therefore, in seeking lasting happiness, certain individuals have been compelled to seek answers in the realm beyond time and space, in the transcendent world of the spirit. These people are the great prophets, saints and sages of the world who have founded the world's major religions. It is through religion that our faith in God is restored and the great moral principles and laws which have enlightened our conscience have been revealed.
Therefore, religion has been the central tool of God's Providence. While economics and politics are important, it is our religious beliefs and attitudes which serve as the foundation for cultural development and it is within the belief system of the culture that the political and economic dimensions of social life are developed. Throughout human history, there have been hundreds of cultural spheres. Over time, those cultures spheres with a more profound understanding of truth have tended to absorb less developed cultures and the number has been reduced. In the world today there are four major cultural spheres - Judeo-Christian, Islamic, Hindu, and Far Eastern (comprised of a mixture of Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism). In the last 400 years, these four cultural spheres have been interacting and we are in the process today of the formation of one worldwide cultural sphere.
Religion and the rise and fall of nations
One simple way in which we can perceive the primary role of religion in the history of the world is through examining the rise and fall of empires and nations. Over the past two thousands years, empires and nations have come and gone, but religion persists as the central vehicle of God's providence. In the western world since the time of Jesus, for instance, we have seen the fall of the Roman Empire in the West, the rise of feudal states, the Carolingian Empire under Charlemagne, the period of medieval kingdoms, the rise and fall of the Spanish, Dutch, British, Napoleonic, French, and Austro-Hungarian empires. These political and economic systems have come and gone, but Christianity persists and, in fact, is today in the process of worldwide revival. In the twentieth century alone, we have seen the rise of Nazism and Communism. Indeed, the communist system set as its primary goal the elimination of religion as the "opiate of the masses." Although communism came to dominate almost half of the globe, today it is practically gone, and Christianity is flourishing.
Indeed, if we look more closely at the history of these nations, we will see that those countries which have sought to foster the principles of Christianity and the free practice of religion have prospered while those who have abandoned these principles or, as in the case of communism, sought to abolish them, have perished. This is an astounding fact which clearly indicates that God is working in history through the truth of religion.
The history of Judeo-Christianity is the central history of God's providence.
Of all of the religions of the world, Judaism and Christianity have played the central role in the development of God's providence. Judaism introduced the concept of one sovereign God to the world. God worked through the nation of Israel to prepare a foundation for the birth of Jesus. Also the ten commandments - particularly the commandment to honor your father and mother and the commandment forbidding adultery - set a certain moral standard for the family. Jesus revealed that the heart of the one God who created the world is a parental heart. God is our parent and we are to be reborn through divine love to fulfill our true nature as God's sons and daughters. Furthermore, Christianity is the one religion which established the ideal of the marriage of one man and one woman sacramentally blessed by God as the moral standard for the family. As we have seen, Jesus clarified that God made man male and female so that they would cleave unto one another and become one flesh, and he taught that "in the beginning" there was no divorce. Furthermore, Judeo-Christianity in Western Europe established the cultural framework and value system which have given rise to the development of democracy and human rights in the modern world. As we shall see in the next lecture, the United States of America is in fact the product of 4000 years of development of Judo-Christian culture. Other major religions also play a role in God's providence, but it is Judeo-Christianity through which God has been working most directly.
In light of this, the Bible is an extremely important source for understanding providential history. The Bible, of course, is much more than just an historical document - it is a continuing source of spiritual life, inspiration and guidance for all who read it with a humble and searching heart - but is also a key to understanding God's work in human history. The Old Testament is the record of the nation of Israel, a central nation in God's Providence, and the New Testament reveals the life and teachings of Jesus and the history of the early church.
As we have discussed earlier, when God created Adam and Eve, he blessed them to be fruitful, multiply, and have dominion over the earth. God's desire was for them to perfect themselves as his true sons and daughters and to create a true family with God at the center. As this family multiplied, it would have been the nucleus of a culture of true love and a peaceful world. Establishing a dominion of love over the creation, the descendants of Adam and Eve would have established the Kingdom of God on the earth and, after their physical death, would have lived eternally with their Heavenly Parent in the eternal Kingdom of God in the spiritual world.
God did not force Adam and Eve to live according to His will. God created Adam and Eve in freedom and He wanted them to love him freely. In order to achieve His ideal, God gave them a commandment- "Do not eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil." It was our responsibility to abide by that commandment in freedom. Tragically, Adam and Eve failed to fulfill their responsibility. Instead, they violated the principles of love. Instead of realizing a world of true love, they realized a world of false love filled with selfishness. Through the fall, we lost our faith, we lost our true character as the children of God, we lost the truth, and we lost our freedom. No one who lives in ignorance of his true nature can be called free. Instead, he becomes a slave to his desires and a victim of his misconceptions. As Jesus said, "You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
The principle of freedom and responsibility are central to the human condition. Just as God did not force Adam and Eve to respond to His will, God does not force us to respond to His will. God sets before us life and death and implores us to follow the path of life, but he leaves it to us to decide the course of our action. We have our portion of responsibility. If we respond to truth, then history advances toward the goal of God's ideal. If we reject truth and follow our selfish desire, then the progress of history is prolonged. God is unchanging and His will is unchanging. God has been working ceaselessly for the fulfillment of His ideal, but, at the same time, God is dependent upon humankind to respond to His will in order for His ideal to be realized.
In order to save fallen man from the results of the fall, God needs a new Adam to accomplish what the first Adam failed to do. The messiah is a new Adam. As Paul said in I Corinthians 15: 22, "As in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive." and I Corinthians 15:40, "the first Adam became a living being; the last Adam became a life-giving sprit." But before God can send the second Adam, there must be some foundation to receive him. God could not send the messiah to a world filled with faithless, sinful people blinded by ignorance and dominated by selfishness. Before God can send an individual who can fulfill the original ideal and teach people the way to human happiness, God needed to prepare a foundation of a unified people of faith with a certain standard of character who would be willing and able to receive the messiah when he comes. God sends the messiah so that people can believe in him and be saved. Therefore, God first prepares a foundation so that the messiah can be received.
Cain and Abel
As noted earlier, through the fall, man lost his faith and inherited a fallen character. God has been working to restore this in order to create an environment in which to give birth to a new Adam who can restore the ideal of the true family.
God's providence to reverse the effects of the fall began with Adam and Eve's children, Cain and Abel. God asked them to make offerings. Abel made an acceptable offering, thus making a condition to restore man's faith - man's vertical relationship with God.
The acceptance of Abel's offering and the rejection of Cain's was difficult for Cain to accept. He was filled with jealousy and resentment - angry with God and angry with his brother. Actually, this was an opportunity for him to overcome the fallen nature. "The Lord said to Cain, 'Why are you angry, and why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it." (Gen 4:6) If Cain had been humble, viewing the situation from God's point of view and loving Abel as God loved him, then Cain would have been accepted. In order to do so, Cain would have had to go through a process to restore his fallen self-centered character.
Through Cain and Abel, God was seeking to restore in Adam's family the loss of faith and character which resulted from the fall and to recreate a family centered on faith in God. Unfortunately, Cain failed to respond to God's advice. He saw only from his self-centered perspective; his resentment blossomed into rage; and his slew his brother.
This story of Adam's family offers valuable insight into the roots of our society's problems. In the fall of Adam and Eve we see the root of immorality and family breakdown. In the story of their children we see the outbreak of violence and murder. A generation of immorality followed by a generation of violence. These are the two fundamental problems in the world today - immorality and violence - and we see that one flows from the other. It is no surprise that one generation after the sexual revolution of the '60's we see the epidemic violence of the '90's. It is no surprise that scholars like Patrick Fagan identify the root of crime as the breakdown of the family.
Abraham and Isaac - a foundation of faith
Abraham was born in the city of Ur. His father, Terah, was an idol maker. God revealed himself to Abraham and told him, "Go from your country and your kindred, and your father's house to the land that I will show you. And I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing." (Gen 12:1-2) Abraham traveled to what is today the nation of Israel. After he arrived there, God asked him to make an offering of a heifer, a she-goat and a ram, and a turtle dove and a pigeon. He directed Abraham to cut each of the offerings in two. Abraham cut the animals in two but failed to divide the birds. After making his offering, Abraham fell into a deep sleep and God appeared to him in a dream, telling him that because of his failure, "Know of a surety that your descendants will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs, and will be slaves there, and they will be oppressed for four hundred years." (Gen 15:13) By not dividing the birds in two, Abraham failed in his first attempt to make a successful foundation of faith, and this failure resulted in his descendants suffering in Egypt for 400 years.
Subsequently, God gave Abraham a second chance. But this time his offering demanded even greater faith and the faithful cooperation of his son as well. God asked Abraham to offer Isaac, his only son, as a burnt offering. Abraham took his son Isaac and proceeded to the place appointed by God. As they proceeded, Isaac said to his father, "Behold, the fire and the wood; but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?" Abraham replied, "God will himself provide the lamb for the offering."(Gen 22:7)
When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar, upon the wood. Then Abraham put forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. But the Angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, "Abraham, Abraham!" And he said, "Here am I." He said, "Do not lay your hand on the lad or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me." (Gen 22:9-12)
Then Abraham saw a ram behind him. He and Isaac offered the ram to God. This was a momentous event in the history of humanity, for through this event Abraham and Isaac restored a vertical foundation of faith and established a condition for God to work through the descendants of Abraham in order to save mankind.
Jacob and Esau - overcoming fallen nature
It still remained for Abraham's family to make a condition to overcome the fallen character derived from the fall. Interestingly, we see a situation develop between Abraham's grandsons, Jacob and Esau, very similar to the situation which existed between Cain and Abel. Jacob and Esau were the twin sons of Isaac and Rebecca. Even in the womb, the children struggled within her. Rachel prayed to God to know the reason and God said to her
Two nations are in your womb,
and two peoples, born of you shall be divided;
the one shall be stronger than the other,
and the elder shall serve the younger. (Gen 25: 23)
As it happened, Esau sold his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of lentil soup when he was hungry. Then, when the time came for Isaac to give his blessing, Rebecca, knowing that the elder was to serve the younger, prepared a meal of savory lamb while Esau was out hunting, disguised Jacob, and sent him into his father who gave him the blessing. When Esau returned he was furious. Esau was filled with resentment and hatred toward Jacob, just as Cain had felt toward Abel. He said to himself, "The days of mourning for my father are approaching; then, I will kill my brother Jacob."
Rebecca heard of Esau's plan and counseled him to flee to Haran until Esau's anger abated. Jacob spent 21 years in Haran, working for his uncle Laban. During that time he established a family with twelve children, and amassed a great deal of livestock. Then, God appeared in a dream and told him to return to the land of his birth.
As Jacob traveled back to Canaan, he sent messengers before him to notify Esau of his return. The messengers returned and told Jacob that Esau was coming to meet him with 400 men. Esau's anger had not decreased and he intended to destroy his brother just as Cain had destroyed Abel.
O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O Lord who didst say to me "Return to your country and your kindred, and I will do you good." I am not worthy of the least of all the steadfast love and all the faithfulness which thou hast shown to thy servant... Deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I fear him, lest he come and slay us all... But thou didst say, "I will do you good, and make your descendants as the sands of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude." (Gen 32:9-12)
Then Jacob divided his herds and sent them forward with his servants giving them instructions that when they met Esau and he asked to whom they belong, they should each reply, "They belong to your servant Jacob; they are sent to my lord Esau; and moreover he is behind us." Jacob did this thinking that "I may appease him with the present that goes before me, and afterwards I shall see his face; perhaps he shall accept me."(Gen 32:20)
That night, as Jacob rested alone at the ford of Jabbok, an angel appeared and wrestled with him all night long. Although Jacob's thigh was knocked out of place, he did not give up and when the dawn came, the angel said, "Let me go, for the day is breaking." Jacob refused to release him unless he gave him a blessing, and in return the angel renamed him Israel "for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed." (Gen 32:28) Thus Jacob became Israel the progenitor of the Israelites.
When Jacob lifted his eyes, he saw that Esau was advancing. As Jacob approached, he bowed seven times before his brother. "But Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept." Esau initially declined to accept the gifts which Jacob offered, but Jacob insisted saying "No, I pray you, if I have found favor in your sight, then accept my present form my hand; for truly to see your face is like seeing the face of God ..." Esau accepted the gift and the brothers were reconciled.
Again, this was a significant event in providential history, for Esau was able to overcome the feelings of fallen nature which had compelled Cain to kill Abel. Thus, for the first time, in the family of Abraham, God had a family which had restored a vertical relationship of faith and had overcome, in the relationship between Jacob and Esau, the fallen nature. For this reason, in Judeo-Christian tradition we refer to God as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. From this point, God began to expand the foundation of faith and unity, established in Abraham's family, through the descendants of Israel in order to prepare a nation which could serve as the basis for the restoration of his original ideal. It is to this people, the Israelites that God revealed the ten commandments and the Old Testament and it is through the nation of the Israelites that God prepared for the coming of Jesus, the Second Adam.
History of Israel
As foretold to Abraham, the family of Israel traveled to Egypt, the Egyptians reduced them to slavery, and the Israelites suffered in a land that was not theirs for 400 years. During that period of time, the Israelites multiplied to a people numbering over one million. At the end of the 400 year period, God called the prophet Moses to lead the people out of Egypt back to Canaan. With signs and miracles, Moses led the people into the wilderness, and at mount Sinai, God revealed to Moses the ten commandments and directed Moses to build the ark of the covenant and the tabernacle. The ark of the tabernacle was to be a central object of faith for the Israelites, foreshadowing the construction of the temple. God wanted the Israelites to unite in faith centering on His word and the temple in order to create a unified people of faith amongst whom the messiah could be born.
Leading the Israelites proved to be a difficult task, for they continually fell into faithlessness. At one point, they had reached the land of Canaan and God directed Moses to send twelve spies to scout out the land. Ten of them gave faithless reports filled with terror and the Israelites complained against God longing for their days of slavery in Egypt. God threatened to destroy the entire lot and raise up a new nation from Moses. Moses prayed for them, however, and God relented, declaring that they must wander in the wilderness for 40 years. Of that faithless generation, only Joshua and Caleb, the two faithful spies, would enter Canaan. Thus the Israelites wandered for forty years guided by God until a new generation had grown up. Moses led them to the border of Canaan, but he himself, because of his failure in striking the rock twice at Kadesh-barnea (Numbers 20:12), was not allowed to enter.
Joshua led the Israelites into Canaan where they took possession of the land. The mission of Israel was to establish a foundation of faith and unity in preparation to receive the coming messiah. Yet again, the people continually fell into faithlessness. For a period, they were divided into feudal territories based upon the twelve tribes ruled by judges. When they would turn from the commandments of God, they would be defeated by foreign powers. When they repented and turned to God, he would raise up a judge who would redeem them. Finally, the judge Samuel succeeded in uniting the twelve tribes and God established a united kingdom of Israel. The first king, Saul, failed to obey God's will. David established the kingdom and extended its borders, but God did not allow him to build the temple. David's son, Solomon, built the temple and the nation of Israel underwent a short golden age in which it reached a degree of prominence in the Eastern Mediterranean. God's desire was for Israel to unite centering on the temple. The temple itself is just a building, but it stood as an image of faith for the coming messiah - the second Adam - the true temple of God. If the Israelites had been faithful to the teachings of the Old Testament, and united as a people centering on the temple, then God would have a foundation to receive the coming messiah. The messiah would come as the incarnate Word of God, the true human temple of God.
Unfortunately, Solomon himself, corrupted by his foreign wives and concubines, fell into faithlessness and allowed the temple to be defiled with idols. At his death, God divided the kingdom into two - Judah, comprised of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, and Israel comprised of the remaining ten tribes. God worked through the prophets to try to restore the faith of the people of Judah and then to reunite the people centering on the temple. But the faithlessness of the people continued. As a result, first the northern kingdom of Israel was destroyed by the Assyrians. The ten tribes were transported to the eastern portions of the Assyrian empire and disappeared from the annals of history. Then Judah followed the faithless path of Israel and was taken into captivity in Babylon. The temple was destroyed. The were held in captivity for 70 years until the Babylonian empire fell to the Persians under Cyrus. Yet, even after this, many of the Jews remained and it was not until the time of Nehemiah and the scribe Ezra over a hundred years later that the majority of the people returned to their homeland and the temple was restored. The prophet Malachi instituted a reform movement and foretold the coming of the day of the Lord when the messiah would return.
During the four hundred year period between the rebuilding of the temple and the birth of Jesus, the Jews suffered tremendously, first under the Greek Hellenistic rulers who came into power after the successful invasion of Alexander, and then under the growing power of the Romans. But their faith in God remained strong. Due to their suffering, their longing for the coming messiah actually intensified in their hope for deliverance from foreign domination. The people of Israel were united in their hope for the coming of the messiah; the temple was a central object of their worship; and they honored and upheld their faith in the commandments of the Old Testament. Thus, through this period of suffering, God finally succeeded in preparing the descendants of Israel as a unified people prepared for the coming of the messiah.
This period of time from the restoration and reformation of Israel until the coming of Christ, was a period of tremendous spiritual activity and change of human consciousness not only in Israel but in the world at large. It is referred to by historians as the first great co-axial period. The first co-axial period was the period when most of the worlds great moral and religious teachers appeared. Buddha in India, Confucius and Lao-Tsu in China, Zoroaster in Persia, and Socrates in Greece all lived and taught within the period roughly 500 years before the coming of Christ. This is an amazing occurrence which has astounded many historians and philosophers. Yet it is clear that this was God's Providence at work. God sends the messiah not just to save one nation but to save the entire world. In the centuries preceding the birth of Jesus, Buddhism came to be the dominant religion of the Indian sub-continent under Asoka, Confucianism came to be the official philosophy of a unified Chinese Empire, and Zoroastrianism became the religion of the Persian Empire. At the time that Jesus was born, religious scholars in Persia were anticipating the coming of a messiah, Indian Buddhism was entering into its third phase of development - messianic Buddhism stemming from Mahayana Buddhism, - and China was learning a philosophy foretelling the coming of the Righteous Man. Indeed, not only Israel, but the entire world was prepared for the coming of the second Adam.
Jesus, the Second Adam
God had prepared the nation of Israel for two thousand years for the coming of the messiah. Throughout the words of the prophets he had extolled the people to be faithful to the teachings of the Old Testament, and to unite in worship centering upon the temple. It had been impressed upon the Israelites that they had a portion of responsibility. If they believed in and were faithful to God's word they would be blessed, if they disbelieved and were unfaithful they would suffer. The fortune of the Israelites and the timely fulfillment of God's Providence was determined by the belief and compliance with God's word as revealed through the law and the prophets. The law and the prophets foretold their fulfillment through the coming of the messiah who would initiate the kingdom of god throughout the earth.
The messiah comes as the second Adam. that means that he comes as the perfected son of God to correct the failure of Adam and accomplish the original ideal of God. The original ideal of God is the perfection of the human heart, and the establishment of true God-centered families as the foundation for a worldwide culture of true love.
This is the mission that Jesus was born to accomplish. Jesus overcame the faithlessness of Adam. When he was tempted during his fast in the wilderness, he remained absolutely faithful to the word of God. Jesus was indeed the perfected son of God. He was God's living temple. God was dwelling in him and speaking through him.
Unfortunately, as the Gospel of John tells us, "He came to his own home, and his own people received him not." (John 1:11). When the rabbis, the religious teachers of Israel, questioned Jesus, "What must we do to be doing the works of God?" Jesus answered them, "This the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent." Jesus wanted the people of Israel to believe in him. God had prepared the people of Israel to believe in him. As he entered the city of Jerusalem, Jesus broke down in tears lamenting, "Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often I would have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!" (Matt. 23:37)
Even John the Baptist, the great prophet that God had raised up to go forward in the spirit and power of Elijah to prepare the people of Israel for the coming of the messiah - the same John the Baptist to whom God had revealed directly "This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased" - fell into faithlessness before his death, sending a weak message to Jesus. "Are you he who is to come, or should we look for another." (Matt 11:3)
Malachi had prophesied that before the messiah came, the prophet Elijah would come, "turning the hearts of the children to their fathers." When the meager disciples that Jesus gathered went out, the scribes and Pharisees asked them "Where is Elijah who is to come?" If Elijah had not yet come, there could be no messiah. Jesus told the people that John the Baptist was Elijah. "If you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come." (Matt 11:14) But when the scribes and Pharisees asked John directly "Are you Elijah?" John replied, "I am not."(John 1:21) John's denial made Jesus look like a liar, and the religious leaders of Israel, rather than accepting Jesus as the messiah, denounced him as a false prophet, rather that accepting him as the Son of God they denounced him as the son of Beezelbub.
When it became apparent that the people of Israel were not going to receive Jesus, God revealed to Jesus that he must go the way of the cross. After teaching the immanent coming of the kingdom of God, Jesus suddenly began to teach about his coming crucifixion. Even his disciples who had been with him for three years found this difficult to accept. But Jesus was absolutely faithful to God's will.
In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus prayed three times that the cup of death would pass from him. He did not pray this prayer out of weakness. He prayed this prayer because he knew that the people of Israel had been prepared to receive him. He loved them as God's people and he foresaw their tragic suffering after his crucifixion. Jesus knew that his mission was not only to perfect himself, but to restore a bride and to perfect a family of true love according to God's ideal. Therefore, Jesus referred to himself as the bridegroom. Jesus knew that if he were received by his people he could totally restore the failure of Adam and Eve and initiate long cherished ideal of God - a world of true love. His crucifixion meant that the fulfillment of God's ideal would be prolonged.
As the time for his death approached, Jesus began to speak of the his second coming. The messiah would have to come again in order to fulfill the providence of God. Mankind had rejected the true son of God who held in his bosom the opportunity for the realization of the kingdom of God.
On the cross, Jesus was alone, rejected by humanity and abandoned by God. "Father, why have you forsaken me," he asked. And yet still he remained absolutely faithful. Adam had abandoned God, and broken His heart. Jesus, suffering immeasurable pain on the cross for the sins of all people, consoled the suffering heart of God. Jesus taunted by his persecutors, prayed for their forgiveness. "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do."
Because of Jesus absolute faith and unity with God's will, God was able to resurrect Jesus. But Jesus did not resurrect in an ordinary physical body. As Paul describes in I Cor 15: 42-50, Jesus resurrected in an imperishable spiritual body. Jesus appeared and disappeared before his disciples. He appeared in a locked room. The resurrected Jesus gathered his remaining disciples together and remained with them for 40 days. During this time he kindled an undying faith. Forty days after he left them, the disciples were gathered and the Holy Spirit descended upon them. Through Jesus and the Holy Spirit, Christians regain rebirth as the adopted children of God. Since that time, as Christianity has spread throughout the world, god has been working through Jesus and the Holy Spirit to inspire the spread of Christianity in order to advance and fulfill God's providence. Jesus gave the great commission to his disciples, "Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo I am with you to the end of the age." (Matt 28:19-20)
Jesus foretold the time of the second coming of the messiah. Why is a second coming still necessary. Because the final restoration of God's ideal remains to be accomplished - the Marriage of the Lamb - the perfection of God's ideal of love through the family. Christians receive spiritual rebirth through believing in Jesus and receiving the Holy Spirit. But the body still remains subject to the influences of the Fall. Thus Paul lamented, "For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin which dwells in my members."(Rom 7: 22-23). Again, Paul explains in Romans 8: 23, "We know that the whole creation is groaning in travail together until now, and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies."
The messiah must return as a third Adam to completely save us from the effects of the fall - to restore our bodies - to restore the ideal of true love which was violated by Adam and Eve - and to finally establish the world of true love for which God has been striving.
History of Christianity
The mission of Christianity is similar in many ways to the mission of Israel. God was working through the nation of Israel and the religion of Judaism to restore a foundation of faith and unity as a foundation to achieve the realization of his ideal. Since the time of Jesus, God has been working through Christianity for the same purpose - only this time Gods purpose is not only to prepare a single nation, but to prepare the entire world. Thus Jesus taught that only after the gospel had been preached to all nations would the time of his coming approach. Christianity is in a sense a new spiritual Israel. But whereas, in the Old Testament era, God had both a nation and a religion, with the destruction of Israel by the emperor Hadrian, there was no longer a nation. God worked through the religion of Christianity, like a mind without a body, seeking to restore peoples faith internally, and seeking to restore a sovereignty externally which could help to advance Gods providence.
Over the past two thousands years, Christianity has undergone a historical course which is similar to that of Israel. Just as Israel suffered in Egypt for 400 years, Christians suffered persecution by the Romans for nearly 400 years. In the year, 325 the emperor Constantine recognized Christianity as a legal religion, but it was not until 396, when Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire under Theodosius in 396 that Christianity was truly liberated from persecution.
Thereafter, as the western Roman empire declined and Western Europe entered the period of feudalism, Christianity grew under a system of Patriarchs - with Patriarchal sees established in Rome, Alexandria, Constantinople, and Antioch. Gradually, the Bishop of Rome gained primacy and in the year 800, on Christmas Day, Pope Leo III sought to establish a united Christian Kingdom, by crowning Charlemagne as the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. There was a shot-lived Carolingian renaissance, and Charlemagne succeeded in briefly unifying Western Europe. He also entered into negotiations with the Eastern Empire, but ultimately this attempt at unifying Christendom centering on a unified relationship between the pope and the emperor failed. After three generations of Carolingian rule, the empire was split, and Western Europe relapsed into feudalism.
Furthermore, the church fell into corruption with many bishops and clerics seeking worldly gain over spiritual goals. In spite of many attempts to reform the church by saints inspired by Jesus and the Holy Spirit, corruption and disunity within western Christendom continued. Even the Crusades degenerated into a more worldly that holy venture, sacking Constantinople and squabbling over trade. Eventually Christendom was shocked and demoralized by the defeat of the final outposts of Christianity in the Holy Land by a united Moslem front under Saladin.
Shortly thereafter, the church itself was thrown into turmoil when Clement V moved the papacy to Avignon under the strong influence of Phillip IV of France. For 70 years the papacy was constrained to remain in France, a period which is referred to by church historians as the Babylonish Captivity of the Papacy. Following the return of the pope to Rome in 1377, the church went through a period of continued confusion, with sometimes two or three different competing Popes reigning at the same time. There were also many church councils seeking to resolve the situation or to reform the church - this was the period of John Wycliff in England and John Hus in Bohemia. Eventually the papacy was restored to its original power and those leaders such as Hus who had tried to reform the church were executed.
If we were to view the world toward the end of the fifteenth and the beginning of the sixteenth century, little would we guess the dynamic forces which would soon be unleashed in Europe propelling Christendom to a position of world-wide ascendancy and transforming the world in the process. Europe was comprised of a number of squabbling feudal kingdoms and principalities. The greatest empires in the world at that time were the Chinese, the Mogul, and the Ottoman. In fact the Ottoman empire had just begun its ascent, capturing Constantinople in 1452 and bringing about the fall of the more than thousand year old Byzantine empire. The Turks were to move on in the next few centuries to rule the Balkans and threaten central Europe.
Yet forces were at work in Europe which were to bring the world into a new era, and indeed this process has not yet ended. The people of Europe were restless. The defeats in the crusades shook their faith in the religious and political structures of the day. Many were disillusioned by the worldliness of the church. Merchants and tradesmen in the cities felt constrained by the power of feudal lords. The study of Arab philosophers in the newly forming universities introduced thinkers to the thoughts of the Greeks, and this trend was further stimulated by the arrival of scholars fleeing to Italy from Constantinople. People did not feel satisfied either spiritually or physically. People wanted freedom - spiritually, politically, and economically. The European world was ripe for change and the change came in two forms: the Renaissance and the Reformation.
As a young man, Martin Luther was going to study law, but a spiritual crisis during a thunderstorm induced him to join a monastery. As a monk, Luther lived in fear of Gods judgment, for he felt that he continually fell short of Gods standard of righteousness. In his scrupulous study of the scriptures, Luther was liberated from his suffering by the discovery of passages such as Galatians 3 and Romans 1:17 which instructed him that salvation came not through works but by faith through Gods grace. As Luther felt Gods redeeming love through faith, his mind became critical of many of the teachings and practices of the church. In 1517, he posted Ninety-five Theses criticizing the churches practice of selling indulgences.
Little did Luther realize at the time the momentous events which this action would cause. As the Church sought to have Luther recant his doctrine of salvation by faith alone, Luther responded by developing a further doctrine, the priesthood of all believers, challenging the very structure of authority of the church. Luther rejected the churches appeals to tradition and insisted on scripture alone as the standard for determining Christian doctrine and practice. On this basis, Luther proclaimed that all Christians have the right to read the scripture and proceeded to translate the Bible into German.
The seeds of reform had already been planted throughout western Europe, and the Protestant revolt against papal authority spread quickly amongst clerics, scholars, and lay persons alike. Indeed, as the Reform movement spread, Luther found himself out-reformed by other reformers. Zwingli, Calvin, and others joined in seeking to discern the truth of the scriptures and formulating doctrines and creeds based upon their study. In time the Catholic Church itself recognized the need for reform and organized the Counter-reformation.
Christianity as the driving force of the Modern Era: Religious Freedom, Political Freedom, and Economic Freedom
The events set in motion by Luther and carried on by Calvin and other reformers transformed not only the religious world but the political world and mans economic behavior as well. It is difficult in some ways to divide changes which are religious, political, and economic because we are not solely political, economic or religious beings - we are all three. But by asserting that each man has a sphere of conscience by which he can, with the aid of scripture by the grace of God, directly relate to God, Luther set forth one of the basic principles in the quest for freedom in the modern world.
This drive for freedom has expressed itself in several forms. That which is most clearly related to the Reformation is the drive for religious freedom. If every individual has a conscience and is individually accountable to God, then the state should not interfere with the freedom of conscience and belief. It took several hundred years and many bloody wars before this doctrine was fully developed and implemented. Medieval states and the early reform rulers both felt that the people should subscribe to the faith of the sovereign. Fortunately for persecuted believers, a new world had just been discovered, and the British colonies proved to be a sanctuary for non-conformists. It was in the American colonies that a theological justification for complete religious freedom was first put forward by Roger Williams, and the colony of Rhode Island was the first sovereignty in the western world to embrace this tenet. Later John Locke developed a political argument for freedom of conscience. These two ideas came together in the mind of James Madison and were implemented in the United States Constitution in the first amendment of the Bill of Rights. The ideal of freedom of conscience, while not yet fully realized throughout the world, has now become the accepted standard to which the governments of the world are held accountable in international law.
The ideas of the Reformation also influenced the drive for political freedom. In the case of England for instance, Sydney Ahlstrom, in his monumental work A Religious History of the American People, says
the English Reformation was a variegated evangelical revival which felt the impact of each major phase of the Continental Reformation. Most important of all was the influence of the Reformed tradition on English life; the total outlook involved in this rigorous and radical reconception of Christianity implied a whole new social order In the social and political order, in other words, the expansion of Reformed and Puritan convictions had revolutionary implications; it was a threat to arbitrary and despotic government. The English "revolution" of 1640-1690 is unimaginable and inexplicable if the concomitant "Puritan reformation" is not borne in mind." (p.116, A Religious History of the American People, Yale University Press)
The religious spirit engendered by the Reformation coming to America through the English Reformation had a tremendous influence in the development of social and political thought and institutions in America as well. The drive for political freedom which has its roots in the basic values of the Judeo-Christian tradition has found its expression in the modern movement towards representative democracy. This movement bore fruit first in the United States of America and the ideals, embedded in the Declaration of Independence - that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by there creator with certain inalienable rights, and that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed - are now sweeping the world.
Yet as pointed out by Michael Novak in his book, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism, the growth of democracy in the modern era has gone hand in hand with the growth of capitalism.
modern democracy and modern capitalism proceed from identical historical impulses. These impulses had moral form before institutions were invented to realize them; they aimed (1) to limit the power of the state, in defense against tyranny and stagnation; and (2) to liberate the energies of individuals and independently organized communities. Such impulses gave birth to modern European cities Such citizens sought liberation from the crippling taxation, heavy bureaucracy, and dreary regulation of state and church. The moral vision of such citizens demanded forms of self-government in "city republics" and "free cities." It led them to cherish economies based upon free markets, incentives, and contracts. Gradually, such citizens developed polities based upon covenants, suffrage, and separation of powers, and the declaration of rights. The two revolutions - political and economic - in practice, but also in theory - nourished each other Both sprang from the same logic, the same moral principles, the same set of cultural values, institutions, and presuppositions. (p. 15)
The creation of wealth is indeed another aspect of mans quest for freedom, in this case economic freedom. The idea that the Reformation helped to develop a "Protestant work ethic" which contributed to the development of capitalism is well known and was first developed by Max Weber. In discussing the effect of the Reform movement on economic attitudes and ethics, Ahlstrom says
Most influential was the new emphasis on serving the Lord in ones vocation - as a tradesman, as a merchant, as an artisan, or as a magistrate or "citizen." Formerly it was thought necessary to withdraw from the tainted world to develop the highest spirituality; monasticism was the surest way to perfection. Now it was the life of withdrawal which was regarded as tainted and opposed to Gods will. In the Reformed tradition especially, an additional premium was put on austerity, frugality, and sober living. The effect of such zeal - such "this-worldly asceticism" to use Max Webers famous phrase - on commercial life and attitudes is apparent. (Ahlstrom , p.118)
The last four hundred years have been an explosion in human history. This is not the work of chance. This is the work of the Providence of God. Jesus prophecy that the gospel would be preached to all nations has been fulfilled. The expansion of Christianity has created a world wide foundation of faith. At the same time, God has been working through the expansion of democratic institutions to create a foundation for a world of peace and unity. We are entering an age of global economy linked by a communications and transportation system which even twenty years ago would have been inconceivable. Obviously, the work is not yet finished or we would not be meeting here today. The world is filled with violence and challenged by immorality. But while we recognize the problems, let us not blind ourselves to the Providence of God. The direction of history is clear.
God created the world with a clear formula for the perfection of love - the true family. Because of the breakdown of love, the world that God intended was not realized. When we examine the history of Gods Providence, we see that God has gradually been working to create an environment in which His original ideal of love for all people can be restored. God worked through the nation of Israel to prepare for the coming of Jesus. God has been working through Christianity to prepare the entire world for salvation.
What the world needs now is love. We need to create the kind of families in which we can experience the true love of God. Political and economic freedom are not the goal of history. True love is the goal, for human happiness can only be realized in the fullness of the love of God. God has been working to create an environment of freedom so that we can realize a world of true love. If we fail to realize true love, we will lose our freedom.
Once again, God is setting before us life and death - life in the form of true love centering on the family, and death in the form of false love centering on free sex and immorality. It is up to us to choose.
America has received great blessing from God. Although as a nation we are just over 200 years old, in fact we are the result of thousands of years of providential history. With blessing comes responsibility. America has an important role to play in the world. Above all we need to set an example, not only politically, not only economically, but morally. In our next lecture, we will discuss "Gods Hope for America."
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