Three of my favorite online writers. Please realize these pull quotes aren’t the main course:
Alan Jacobs, “Defilement and Expulsion,” Snakes and Ladders (Feb. 11, 2019) [link]:
When a society rejects the Christian account of who we are, it doesn’t become less moralistic but far more so, because it retains an inchoate sense of justice but has no means of offering and receiving forgiveness.
Lore Ferguson Wilbert, “Second Wife, Second Life” Fathom (Feb. 11, 2019) [link]:
I suppose there is such a thing as what some would call their no-fault divorce, but I have never seen one entirely without faults.
Sarah Willard, “Greatest Treasure,” Blind Mule Blog (Feb. 6, 2019) [link]:
The hardest thing about loving elderly people, and caring for them, is death. It has a way of taking people, you know, clear off the face of the earth.
Our teaching elder has been teaching through the book of Revelation, and it doesn’t look easy. One thing which has been pretty obvious (at least after chapter 5 or so) is that there is a lot of judgment to be meted out in the future.
Of course there is a lot of judgment being meted out now, too.
Everyone, not just Christians, wants justice to be done. More than half of the outrage on the internet is just that kind of thing—people want judgment on Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Roseanne Barr, Donald Trump, Peter Strzok, the molesting priests, Serena Williams, etc., for the things they did (or we think they did).*
Of course we disagree about the particulars, either because we identify with the person being judged, or we simply don’t know enough of the facts, or because we are willing to give some people the benefit of the doubt.
Andrew Peterson wrote a song which begins “Do you feel the world is broken?” and it is hard to believe that there are many people — believers or not — who would not say “yes.”
Everyone feels the need for justice, and thus first for judgment. Religious people are notorious for it, but non-religious people seem to feel the same way. (It’s a big reason for non-belief—how could a good God permit natural disasters and human evil to occur?)
Some people recognize that honestly, they too, deserve to be judged.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote
“If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”
The Gulag Archipelago (1973).
The most obvious theme of the book of Revelation is that, in the end, God wins. But a second theme is that there must be judgment on evil; indeed there must be judgment on all evil.
But that judgment is beyond me, because I simply don’t know enough. I cannot tell whether a person meant what they said, or whether what they did was outside their control, or whether they were warped by the actions of their parents, or whether . . . I just don’t know. And I wouldn’t really make a good judge, because, by all that is fair, that judgment should fall on me, not just Hitler and Harvey Weinstein, because I think and do evil, too.
And in the face of that, the most hopeful message of Revelation is that the God, who has judged and will judge with perfect knowledge, and perfect righteousness, nevertheless offers grace so that none need be separated from his love.
That’s not the whole story, but it is a pretty important part.
*I think only a tiny minority thinks everyone should be allowed to do whatever they want. If you feel like that is a sustainable position, then I guess I am not really writing to you.
Two excellent posts on Fathom, one from a writer/artist I follow online and the other from a journalist I had not heard of:
- Makoto Fujimura, “Which presidential portrait would you save from fire?” Fathom (Mar. 14, 2018) [link].
- link]. , “Outrage Culture,” Fathom (Mar. 14, 2018) [
Fujimura, an outspoken Christian and abstract artist, discusses what he sees as a decline in portrait painting through the lens of the Presidential portraits. This is particularly fascinating since Fujimura’s own work is primarily abstract. Fujimura says:
“A good portrait—like Michelangelo’s depiction of the young Andrea Quaratesi, an extraordinary drawing featured in the recent Metropolitan Museum exhibit, or Madame X by John Singer Sargent across the hall at the Metropolitan—remains enduring because the artist captures more than a person. The portrait moves us away from mere depiction of the external element and begins to reveal the mysteries of the inner person’s soul. Such a work captures both the present reality and historical context of the time. But it also actualizes future audiences to believe in the art of portraiture itself.”
While my friend, Kyle Keith, himself a fine portrait painter, [link] may interact with Fujimura’s thoughts at the level of their shared craft, I enjoyed this as another example of a believer thinking through his work as a way of honoring God.
‘s piece, though, is more practical for me, because it interacts with the temptations I face every single day. Danielsen’s topic is how we might reasonably and righteously display outrage, and it is virtually impossible to read or watch the news without hearing a call to outrage. Danielsen suggests that “Of all God’s attributes, his outrage at injustice—with all its wildness and fiery breath—is among the hardest to wield with integrity.”
He poses four questions for dealing with outrage, eventually asking:
Am I outraged by grace most of all? There is nothing more outrageous than the cross. There, God plows the killing field to level the playing field. Our sins lie on the same plane as those who sicken us most. We both are offered life from one cup.
Knowing this shouldn’t quell our outrage. To guilt-trip or Jesus-juke someone into suppressing righteous outrage is a critical mistake and denies something God-given. Yet as creatures driven by the hope of redemption, we should sigh with longing for even the worst of sinners to stop in the middle of the road and turn around.
Be outraged, and sin not.
Each of these pieces is well worth the five minutes or so it will take to read them.
The same moral as always: Live the life given to you that you may not be ashamed when you stand before the Judge of all lives.