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Divine Frankenstein, Chapter 1, Darkness

Darkness

A New Thing

A few years ago I had an idea. I was reading a critique on Mary Shelley’s book, Frankenstein, and the writer mentioned Dr. Victor Frankenstein’s very obvious god-complex. I remember thinking at the time that what Victor was trying to do was far more similar to what God does than the writer was suggesting. Specifically, just as Victor was using dead and broken parts to create his being, God uses our broken and dead parts to rebuild us. The difference being, while Victor only reanimates death, God creates something new out of it and gives it real life.

As I thought through that idea and tried to figure out how to structure it as a blog post, I started to realize that it was a longer story. One of my favorite books is The Great Divorce, by CS Lewis. What I like most about it the way it’s written as a conversation between two main characters. As I thought through the idea of God as a divine version of Frankenstein, I began to see a story that was centered around a conversation between my own two main characters, one a more mature Christian and the other, a new Christian just waking up to the work of Christ in him. Almost immediately this “conversation” became one that I wish someone would have had with me when I was a new Christian.

So I started writing a book and called it Divine Frankenstein. I am currently working on another book, that will be out before this one, but I felt like I needed to share this first chapter. I have only ever shared it with a few other people (5 exactly), but here it is… Divine Frankenstein, Chapter 1.

DARKNESS

It starts in darkness; creation always does. The second creation can only ever start with darkness. For it’s only in the darkness that the genuine need for hope is realized. Before that, hope is simply an impression that, when the synthetic light we manufactured in the first creation begins to dim, causes us to momentarily ponder what might happen if the light is extinguished. That dimming causes us to search out something to grasp. We look to anything that might help us maintain our bearings, should the darkness come. As children, we seem wiser with regard to understanding darkness. We approach it with a healthy fear or at the very least caution.

Eventually though, somewhere between the nightlights of our childhood and the reading lamp of adulthood, we lose our fear of the dark. We forget that scary things lurk and skulk there. We dismiss that it is the preferred method of cover for the ominous creatures that seek to undue and destroy us. Somehow it simply becomes an absence and we ignore it; sometimes we might even welcome it.

Collapse of the First Creation

But the truth of it is, darkness entering into creation was the most dreadful of things. Darkness in creation reveals void. It exposes the created to emptiness, ultimately ending with the death of all that was intended to be good in the first creation. It stifles the life that creation brings, choking and pressing out every bit of it, until all that remains is a distorted reflection of what once was. Creation was not meant to function in darkness. It was light that was introduced into creation first. Creation was intended to flourish in the glory of The Light.

All created eventually collapses into darkness. Truth be told, darkness has already consumed the first creation. If this were not true, there would be no need for hope. And seeking something like peace, specifically in this world, would be a frivolous pursuit. Likewise there would be no need for the second creation. But we seek hope and we do desire the comfort of the light. The second creation is necessary.

The Second Creation

The desire of The Creator is for His created to release its tight-fisted grip on the first creation and welcome the dying that darkness brings, ultimately surrendering to the work of His second creation. It is only in this second creation that hope can be truly experienced and peace, which until now has only ever been spoken of around treaty tables as a fanciful and utopian idea, becomes a reality. It is in the second creation that we realize the wholeness and peace, we have so long hoped to experience, first occurs in us. Then, and only then, is it able to work its way outward into all of creation.

Peace is grown in the light of the second creation. Light is always brightest as it extinguishes darkness. The only way for second creation to come about, is for the first to end in darkness; there is no other way. And that end of the first creation results in void and emptiness. On the surface this seems a dreadful thing. But without void and emptiness, filling and fullness cannot occur. If we are filled with the trappings of the first creation, what room is there for the second creation? The work of the second creation requires the first to end. And the first ends in darkness. Only after this end can hope take hold and peace become tangible. So it is that your second creation starts in the midst of darkness.

Does the Counsel You Give Justify or Challenge?

 

Counsel

When I approach a friend for advice, I usually want them to give me a clear answer for what I should do. It always seems easier to not have to wrestle with making the “right” decision. Then, if it happens to not be the right decision, I do not have to be fully responsible for the outcome. But, as easy as that would be, those I count as my best friends never just hand me an answer. And I appreciate them all the more for that.

A Counsel of Friends vs. An Over-Saved Response

The way they do this is instead of just delivering me up an answer, they typically walk with me through the issue. That involves asking a lot of thought provoking questions and sharing perspective. One of the best parts of our interaction is the amount of thought and prayer that goes into their end of the discussion.  And, they never flippantly use scripture as a mask for not knowing what to say. But, because they care about following Jesus well and being Him to others, when God does reveal wisdom through His word, they obediently share it. Which, again, I appreciate.

And when it comes to scripture, we all have a friend that is really, really religious. You know, the over-saved friend. The one whose advice is drenched in scriptural references, most of which  doesn’t even make sense for the issue I am dealing with. Something like, me: “Should I take this job or that job?” Friend: “Jesus said, ‘I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.’” What? In hindsight those are my favorite bits of “scriptural wisdom”, because they are hilarious. If we are honest, we are all guilty of this.

Scriptural Counsel

When an issue comes up, one of the easiest thing to do is throw a few bible verses at it, regardless of whether they are contextually applicable. We all do it, as both the seeker and giver of counsel. As the seeker of counsel, we look to scripture that justifies our behavior or response, rather than letting Holy Spirit speak to our actual need. To be clear, I am all for using scripture as the foundation for the counsel we give. I wish, as a community of believers, we were more dependent on the word of God for how we are to live out our daily lives. How much fuller would our life in Christ, both individually and communally, be if we sought counsel from the word of God on an everyday basis? After all, wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord and understanding comes with knowledge of Him (Prov 9:10). So to be clear, using scripture is not the issue.

Scripture that Justifies

The issue is when we mis-contextualize scripture for our benefit. If you feel like someone has wronged you, how much easier is it to find a scripture that justifies our anger, rather than let God lead you in how to handle it? If you did, the possibility exists that God may require you to let it go, like, to just drop it. Or worse, He might ask you to forgive the offense and reconcile. Those can be jagged pills to swallow. Instead, we recall our favorite scripture verse to justify, rather than challenge. But comfort, in that sense, is never God’s desire for us; Christ-likeness is. And it has always been that idea that has always been the foundation of some of the best counsel I have ever received.

Counsel that Challenges

I do not remember the issue I was dealing with at the time, but I do remember the counsel. Whatever the issue was, my friend’s counsel came in the form of a question. He asked, “Regardless of the situation and how you feel, what actions would honor Christ?” Bam! Hard question to answer if I am looking to justify myself. It brought me to 1 Cor 10:31, which says, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” If you want a bible verse that can apply to a whole host of issues, this is one. And, while it does not provide an outright answer, it does force you to ask a better question.

Rather than throwing scripture at each other in an attempt to justify, our love for one another ought to compel us to challenge each other toward Christ. I am not suggesting that there is never a time to use scripture to comfort. On the contrary, the Holy Spirit is our ever-present Comforter (John 14:16) and Counselor (John 14:26). There are occasions when it is more than appropriate to use scripture as a healing salve. But, scripture was never intended for use to justify our actions. If we desire to “walk as Christ walked” (1 John 2:6), asking “what would honor Christ”  is a question that we should ask each other often.

 

photo: Flickr/Bill Strain

Loving Your Enemy Requires Radical Love

Radical Love

A few months ago I heard a story about a musician who befriends members of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). That may not seem like an impressive feat, except that the musician is a black man. His name is Daryl Davis. And, while Daryl did not set out to make friends with a group that outright hates him, because of his skin color, that is what happened. And because of those friendships, hearts are changing and people have departed from the hate fueled and filled group. You can listen to some of Daryl’s story, here.

After hearing Daryl’s story I wondered what type of love prompts this depth of change. It is not clear if Daryl is religious. I also do not know if he would name love as a motivator for his actions. But, regardless of what he calls it, elements resembling love are present. As Christians, it is worth examining what Daryl does and considering it regarding Jesus’ instruction to, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt 5:44).

Drawing the Line

When it comes to loving others, the distinction between how you love them and what type of love you offer is often blurry. In meeting needs there does not always need to be a distinction between the types of love offered as long as it originates from Jesus. But, for loving our enemies, we have two options; relevant love or radical love. On the surface it may seem like there is little difference, but there is enough of one that we must acknowledge it. Although subtle, when we look at the definitions of both words we can tease out an important difference.

Relevant means “having significant and demonstrable effect on the matter at hand.” While radical means “relating to or affecting the fundamental nature of something.” Both words cause change, but it is the last part of each definition that makes them different. Relevant “effects the matter at hand” and radical “affects the fundamental nature of something.” The main difference in them is what motivates them and what they change.

Relevant

Relevant love sees a specific need and responds to it. And while responding to needs is important, this love allows the situation to dictate the response. Because of that, when the need changes, the response changes. This love is a waning love. It allows us to decide the seriousness of the need and the level of love to apply. While responding with any love is honorable, this contradicts the love that Jesus instructed us to use with our enemies. Not only is it motivated by a specific circumstance, it only focuses on effecting the person’s behavior. Often, relevant love only changes behavior. And, although the love offered does not always intend to only change behavior, it is unlikely to create deeper change. I am not saying we should not respond to needs, but rather that we should offer love that reaches deeper than surface level needs.

Radical

Radical love does that. When we consider the purpose of the love of Christ, we see a love that changes everything. The love of Christ is so radical that it changes the very core of human nature and creation. Radical love arises out of the understanding that “love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). Radical love is also the foundation by which Jesus walked out His entire ministry. It was the love that he offered His disciples in the invitation to follow Him. He offered it to the woman caught in adultery. He even offered it to a Roman centurion (His conceivable enemy).

In every case he changed the core of each person and ultimately the very nature of entire existence. Because of radical love, that changed everything, we get to be reconciled to God. And, while Daryl may not describe what he is doing as “offering radical love”, his response to the KKK is unquestionably radical and at the very least, challenging, if not changing, the core belief systems of many.

To be clear, any response with love at its core, is a good response. I would settle for love as a response in every situation, regardless of the type. But, we still need to understand that relevant love responds to changes in the culture and radical love is a change agent within the culture. When it comes to the type of love we are called to as Christians, it is always a love which affects the fundamental nature of creation.

photo: MNU Blog
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