day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes
(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)
how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any—lifted from the no
of all nothing—human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?
(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)
The Lord says, “The time is coming when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the old covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and led them out of Egypt. Although I was like a husband to them, they did not keep that covenant. The new covenant that I will make with the people of Israel will be this: I will put my law within them and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. None of them will have to teach a neighbor to know the Lord, because all will know me, from the least to the greatest. I will forgive their sins and I will no longer remember their wrongs. I, the Lord, have spoken.
The human race is haunted by the desire to do what is right. People invariably defend their actions by arguing that those actions do not really contradict a basic standard of behavior, or that the standard was violated for good reasons.
The first five chapters of C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity (1953) discuss this objective norm to which people appeal and by which they expect others to abide. Lewis claims that although everyone knows about the law, everyone breaks it. He further asserts that something or somebody is behind this basic law. This obvious principle of behavior is not created by humans, but it is for humans to obey. Different people use different labels for this law — traditional morality, moral law, the knowledge of right and wrong, virtue or the Way. We will call it the Natural Law.
According to Lewis, we learn more about God from Natural Law than from the universe in general, just as we discover more about people by listening to their conversations than by looking at the houses they build. Natural Law shows that the Being behind the universe is intensely interested in fair play, unselfishness, courage, good faith, honesty and truthfulness. However, Natural Law gives no grounds for assuming that God is soft or indulgent. Natural law obliges us to do the straight thing regardless of the pain, danger or difficulty involved. Natural Law is hard — “as hard as nails” (Mere Christianity, (p. 23).
Deep down in every man, woman, and child is the fundamental idea of God. It may be obscured by calamity, by pomp, by worship of other things, but in some form or other, it is there.
He said, “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.
When Law and Gospel are properly distinguished, the Law is stern and rigorous, the Gospel free and sweet. When the two are confused, an element of sternness is introduced into the Gospel, making it demanding, or an element of laxity is introduced into the Law, making it more attainable.
It is not at first as easy to see why this would be considered a confusion. Is not the New Testament Gospel demanding? Sure, the promises are sweet, but what about the way Jesus turned away his reluctant followers (Matthew 8:18-22)? What about Paul’s example of chastening his body so that he would not become a castaway (1 Corinthians 9:24)? Or the dozens of other warnings and exhortations given in the New Testament? The Gospel is sweet, but surely it is not pure sweetness, is it? And in the same manner, can we not find some laxity in the Law? The Reformers could not be correct in stressing the unattainable harshness of the Law in the Old Testament. There was room for weakness. What else was the sacrificial system set up for?
When we ask questions like these, it is clear that we have missed what the distinction between Law and Gospel is about. We have fallen into the belief that the line between Law and Gospel is drawn between Matthew and Malachi, at the end of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New. What we have missed is that Law and Gospel are two different ways that God speaks to us. If he is speaking Law to us, his purpose is to hold us accountable, not to give us anything through that Law. As Paul says: “we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather through the Law we become conscious of sin” (Romans 3:19-20). We must recognize preaching to be Law whenever it is making us accountable to God.
Crux probat omnia, Luther says. Gerhard Forde worries that too many have romanticized Luther’s theology of the cross, and fallen into the shortcut of circumnavigating this painful but stubborn dimension of the cross. We have too quickly made Jesus into ‘the one who “identifies with us in our suffering,” or the one who enters into solidarity with us “in our misery.” Forde is concerned about the ‘serious erosion’ or ‘slippage’ of theological language. ‘Sentimentality leads to a shift in focus,’ he says, ‘and the language slips out of place.’
We apparently are no longer sinners, but rather victims, oppressed by sinister victimizers…We no longer live in a guilt culture but have been thrown into meaninglessness — so we are told. Then the language slips out of place. Guilt puts the blame on us as sinners, but who is responsible for meaninglessness?…As Alan Jones, Dean of the Episcopal Cathedral of San Francisco put it once, ‘We are living in an age in which everything is permitted and nothing is forgiven.’
A helpful way of understanding being a ‘theologian of the cross’ is in contrast to what Luther calls being a ‘theologian of glory.’ Theologies of glory are approaches to Christianity and to life that try in various ways to minimize difficult and painful things, or else to defeat and move past them, rather than looking them square in the face and accepting them. In particular, they acknowledge the cross, but view it primarily as a means to an end—an unpleasant but necessary step on the way to good things in the future, especially salvation, the transformation of human potential by God and the triumph of the Kingdom of God in the world. As Luther puts it, the theologian of glory ‘does not know God hidden in suffering. Therefore he prefers works to suffering, glory to the cross, strength to weakness, wisdom to folly, and, in general, good to evil’ (The Heidelberg Disputation, Proof to Thesis XXI). This is the natural default setting for human beings. A theology of the cross, by contrast, sees the cross as revealing the fundamental nature of God’s involvement in the world this side of heaven.
A really good picture looks as if it’s happened at once. It’s an immediate image. For my own work, when a picture looks labored and overworked, and you can read in it—well, she did this and then she did that, and then she did that—there is something in it that has not got to do with beautiful art to me. And I usually throw these out, though I think very often it takes ten of those over-labored efforts to produce one really beautiful wrist motion that is synchronized with your head and heart, and you have it, and therefore it looks as if it were born in a minute.
I frequently hear the question, “What do these images mean?” This is simply the wrong question. Visual images do not have to conform to either verbal thinking or optical facts. A better question would be “Do these images convey any emotional truth?”