Obey Rulers or God?

Daniel in the Lions Den - Briton Riviere - 1872

Daniel in the Lions Den – Briton Riviere – 1872

Then they answered and said before the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or the injunction you have signed, but makes his petition three times a day.”

Daniel 6:13

Earthly princes deprive themselves of all authority when they rise up against God, yea, they are unworthy to be counted among the company of men. We ought rather to spit in their faces than to obey them when they… spoil God of his right.

John Calvin, Commentary on the Book of Daniel

Big Questions – why are we wrestling?

Only the best of free online stock photography for my blog.

Only the best of free online stock photography for my blog.

Having had a number of Question Nights at my church, I’ve learned a little about how and why people ask questions.

Asking questions of faith is important and good.  But we’re not really thinking about simply information-seeking questions.  What people are normally chewing are the Big Questions.  Like, how can I reconcile God’s goodness with suffering in the world?  Or, how free is our human will?  For someone who has some familiarity with the Biblical story made they’ve asked:  How could God apparently command the slaughter of Canaanites?

These are big questions that are not to be lightly skipped past.  They’re serious and they matter.  Every serious person of faith, or reader of the Bible, has probably wrestled at least a bit with ones like them.  But as we ask our question, let’s ask ourselves, why are we wrestling?

Sometimes we wrestle because we want an answer we don’t have.  Some things are really unknown.  We can be wrestling in order to make sense of something.  Like how can God be good and permit/allow/ordain suffering?  (That question is super old, by the way, so no points for originality).  There are things to discover about that issue, and sometimes they take a lot of wrestling.


Sometimes we wrestle because we have an apparent answer that we don’t like.  A lot of wrestling with big questions is, after it all, is just this.  God really does appear to command the slaughter of Canaanites.  That is not that obscure.  Like previously, there are things to discover about that that could help us in our wrestling.  But the question comes back to us:  Do you like the answers?

The Answer is Always Jesus – Christ in every part of Scripture

Pick a page, any page, Jesus will be there.

Pick a page, any page, Jesus will be there.

It’s a cliche that if you doze off in the midst of a Bible study, and the leader asks you a question (that you didn’t quite hear), just blurt out “Jesus” and you’ll be ok.

My daughters opt for a similar tactic when we read the Bible and pray before bed.

But there is something to the idea that Jesus is always the answer to the question.  <insert Karl Barth joke here>  If what Christ says is true, that all the Scriptures bear witness to him, and that all the Scriptures (Moses and the Prophets) can be interpreted in light of him, then we should expect to see Jesus pop out of the pages.

This is especially helpful when we look at the Old Testament and harder passages to understand.  John Calvin was a master at finding the Christ focus in every story, law, and prophecy of the Old Testament.

Therefore, when you hear the gospel presenting you Jesus Christ in whom all the promises and gifts of God have been accomplished, remember this:

He [Christ] is Isaac, the beloved Son of the Father who was offered as a sacrifice, but nevertheless did not succumb to the power of death. He is Jacob the watchful shepherd, who has such great care for the sheep which he guards. He is the good and compassionate brother Joseph, who in his glory was not ashamed to acknowledge his brothers, however lowly and abject their condition. He is the great sacrificer and bishop Melchizedek who has offered an eternal sacrifice once for all. He is the sovereign lawgiver Moses, writing his law on the tables of  our hearts by his Spirit. He is the faithful captain and guide Joshua, to lead us to the Promised Land. He is the victorious and noble king David, bringing by his hand all rebellious power to subjection. He is the magnificent and triumphant king Solomon governing his kingdom in peace and prosperity. He is the strong and powerful Samson who by his death has overwhelmed all his enemies.

John Calvin, Commentaries

No God? No meaning?

Hitchens - meaningWe can all get what the late Christopher Hitchens is complaining about here.  The claim that without God, life has no meaning.  There was certainly a lot in his life that must have given him meaning.  There’s a lot in all our lives, regardless of what we believe, that gives meaning.  We ought to be careful not to denigrate what others find makes their lives worth living.

But is that what is meant when we, as believers, say that without God there is no meaning to life?  No, it’s not.  Finding satisfaction in friendships, experience of love, good books doesn’t require belief in God for us.  If you believe that scoring more touchdowns than anyone else gives your life meaning, then it can give someone subjective meaning to their lives.  If you score more touchdowns than anybody, it will indeed give you meaning.  Subjective meaning, though.  That is, the meaning that we ourselves give to our lives.

But without God, that’s the only type of meaning we’ll ever have.  To have objective meaning, you need something outside, larger, and greater than yourself.  Without God, the only meaning or purpose in the universe in that which we assign it ourselves.  Without God, our lives are puffs of vapour that will only have the meaning we attach to them.  Without God, our world and all history is not – can not – be headed in any direction.  Without God, we’re left making good things (friendship, love, irony, humour, parenthood, literature, music, battling for the liberation of others…) into ultimate things.

And it’s in that way, that without God – objective meaning evades us.