Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Elect

   "All is Meaningless!" says the Preacher in Ecclesiastes. "The whole history of humanity is a mere nothing, which is swallowed up in the whirlpool of the temporal." (pg. 304) say s Brunner. Because we are finite, we are have no meaning in and of ourselves. We have tried to create meaning, but that has accounted to be meaningless. The sons of Lamech in Genesis 4 tried to fill this void by creating music, history, and war, but this lead not to meaning. For God looked at what He had created, this finite being trying to fill the void, and declared, "I am sorry that I have made them." (Genesis 6:7) By trying to create meaning on our own, we grieved the heart of God and "The Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth" (Genesis 6:6), for man in his quest for meaning had turned from Him and tried to replace Him.

   Instead of plumbing the depths of the Infinite, Humanity was content to have "his life played out on the surface of the finite." (pg. 304) We have left "the firm foundation in our eternal Origin, and without the firm goal in the eternity at the end of theages, man literally lives 'for the day'."(pg. 304) Carpe Deim has become our motto, forgetting who we were created to be. For humanity is eschatological, not ontological or metaphysical. We are called not to live for the finite, but to live for the Infinite.

    We have elected to live outside of Christ, content to be outside of not only Love, but to be outside of Life. "Whoever excludes himself, is excluded; he who does not allow himself to be included, is not included. But he who allows himself to be included, he who believes, is elect." (pg. 320) When we choose, in our arrogance, not to believe, not love as Christ first loved us, we choose not to participate in or accept the Divine Gift, which is the Life and Love of Christ. We all know John 3:16, the statement that "God so loved the world that He gave His only Son." but we choose to ignore the love poured out on us.

   It is not the work of the Cross to elect us, to choose us, to be saved. For it is "In Him, through Him, but not by Him" (pg. 314) we come to salvation. It is only in Christ, through Christ, that we can find salvation and be saved from from our meaningless existence, according to Brunner. Brunner continues to say that "it is this revealed eternity alone, through which, and in which, I, this individual human being, this individual person, receive eternal meaning, and my individual personal existence is taken seriously." (pg. 305)

   While Dr. Brunner is right that it is only after finding the revealed eternal meaning, Christ, that we can take personal existence meaningful, we do so at the risk of of forgetting the lessons of Ecclesiastes. We live a live that is marked by the curse to toil under the sun, and to labor all of our days to find meaning, only to come up empty. "For to a person who is good in His sight He has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, while to the sinner He has given the task of gathering and collecting so that he may give to one who is good in God's sight. This too is vanity and striving after the wind." (Ecclesiastes 2:26, NASB) Even after we have been given the gift of wisdom and knowledge, the Gift of Christ, we still toil and look for meaning, which is a striving after the wind. We seek meaning for ourselves, it is our lot in this world of vanity and meaninglessness.

   We need to take both sides seriously. We need to understand that God has given us meaning in the Person and Work of Jesus Christ. To add to this, we need to look at the paradoxes that Luther posited. We are both "simultaneously cursed and blessed (simul maledictus et benedictus, simultaneously living and dead (simul vivus et mortus), simultaneously grieving and joyful (simul dolens et gaudens...simultaneously just and a sinner (simul justus et peccator)." (Luther's Theology II, quoted in Hans Urs von Balthasar's Mysterium Paschale) In the same way we can say that we are both just and a sinner, we can say that we  participate in the Eternal meaning given to us by the Revelation of Christ. Yet, we need to keep in mind that we are simul infinitus et finitus, simultaneously finite and infinite, simultaneously meaningful and meaningless.


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