Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Soul-Poisoning Naturalism or a Soul-Sustaining Sacramental Worldview


Luke 8:22-25 (ESV)

22 One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.” So they set out, 23 and as they sailed he fell asleep. And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water and were in danger. 24 And they went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm. 25 He said to them, “Where is your faith?” And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?”

Atheistic materialism (or material naturalism) is the idea that only matter exists. This view holds absolute sway in the sciences today. Our secular culture imbibes this soul-poisoning worldview and sees nature as independent from God. Even Christians in our culture have a hard time seeing the truth that the Lord is not only our Creator, but also the Sustainer of all things.

In our passage, Jesus shows that he is the Lord who commands nature. This is not difficult for him, for as the Lord, he sustains all things and all things derive their being and beauty from him. The New Testament even teaches that our Lord is mysteriously in all things, for as Colossians says of him, "in him [Jesus] all things hold together." John 1:4 says something similar, when it says, "In him was life, and the life was the light of men." While we certainly need to be cautious of pantheism, for the creature is never to be confused with the Creator, nevertheless, there is a sense in which the Lord participates in all things. The world is sacramental in a twofold sense, in terms of both representation and participation.

Jesus is also sacramentally present in the Old Testament (OT), in terms of representation and participation (see, for example, 1 Corinthians 10:1-5, which sees Jesus as both prefigured and present in the OT). Allusions to the OT are found in practically every passage of the Gospels. Through metalepsis, the idea that the Gospel writers understood the larger context of the text from which they drew their allusions, we see Jesus and his presence in the Old Testament, giving us a deeper understanding of who Jesus is, and who he is for us.

Our passage is filled with many allusions from the Psalms that refer to the Lord's command of the wind and waves. In a number of these the theme of the Lord as a refuge is also found (e.g., Psalm 32:6-7; 46:1-3; 124:1-5). The closest parallel is probably Psalm 107:23-32. Here is part of that passage:
For he commanded and raised the stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea. They mounted up to heaven; they went down to the depths; their courage melted away in their evil plight; they reeled and staggered like drunken men and were at their wits' end. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven.
Jesus promises to bring his disciples to "the other side" --- to the world beyond this one. He will bring us to our "desired haven." But even here in the midst of the journey, Jesus is that haven and refuge, who is present with us even in this troubled world, symbolized by the sea. By faith we see him and trust him as we travel with him and to him on the other side.

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