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“The Gospel is a joyful tiding for the whole groaning creation” by Herman Bavinck

“God so loved the world, the cosmos, that He sent His only Son, the one by whom all things were created. Granted, the word ‘world’ can have unfavorable connotations in the New Testament.

It can signify the organic unity of all created reality as instrument of sin in opposition to the kingdom of Jesus Christ. This ‘world’ lies in wickedness (1 John 5:19), has ‘the devil as its prince’ (John 14:30; 16:11), who is ‘the god of this age’ (2 Cor. 4:4).

This world knows neither God nor His children (John 17:25; 1 John 3:1). In fact, it hates the followers of Jesus as it hated Him (John 15:18,19; 17:14). For this reason ‘the world and its desires’ must be resisted and overcome by faith (1 John 2:15-17; 5:4).

It is undeniable that Jesus and his apostles after Him were drawn to the ‘foolish and the weak’ of the world, to ‘publicans and sinners.’ There is a real fear reflected in their repeated admonitions to be alert to the temptation found in abundance of possessions and in the reminders that this life is one filled with anxiety.

Christianity is the religion of the cross; the mystery of suffering is its center. An aesthetic enjoyment of the world as in the Hellenic tradition is not possible.

This single notion of ‘world’ shows us clearly how wide a gulf exists between the Christian and the classic worldview. And yet, the reverse side is not absent.

It is true that the Cross casts its shadow over all creation but so does the light of the Resurrection.

On the one hand, the kingdom of heaven is a treasure hidden in a field and a pearl of great price for which a man sells everything he has in order to buy it; at the same time it is also a mustard seed that grows into a tree in which the birds of the air build nests and a yeast that a woman takes and hides in three measures of flour until it is all leavened.

While the world is thoroughly corrupted by sin, it is precisely this sinful world that is the object of God’s love.

In Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting its sins (2 Cor. 5:19).

Jesus, who came to the world not to condemn it but to save it (John 3:16,17; 12:47), is the light (John 1:12), the life (John 6:33), the Savior of the world (John 4:14).

Jesus is the atoning sacrifice not only for our sins but for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2).

In Christ all things are reconciled to God (Col. 1:20), and under Him brought together in unity (Eph. 1:10).

The world, created by the Son (John 1:3), is also created for Him as its heir (Col. 1:16, Heb. 1:2).

The kingdoms of this world shall eventually become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ (Rev. 11:15).

A new heaven and a new earth in which righteousness dwells is coming (2 Peter 3:13).

It is impossible to express the thoroughgoing universal scope of the Christian faith in words more powerful and beautiful than these. Christianity knows no boundaries beyond those which God Himself has in His good pleasure established; no boundaries of race or age, class, or status, nationality, or language.

Sin has corrupted much; in fact, everything. The guilt of human sin is immeasurable; the pollution that always accompanies it penetrates every structure of humanity and the world.

Nonetheless sin does not dominate and corrupt without God’s abundant grace in Christ triumphing even more (Rom. 5:15-20). The blood of Christ cleanses us from all sin, it is able to restore everything.

We need not, indeed we must not, despair of anyone or anything.

The Gospel is a joyful tiding, not only for the individual person but also for humanity, for the family, for society, for the state, for art and science, for the entire cosmos, for the whole groaning creation.”

–Herman Bavinck, “The Catholicity of Christianity and the Church,” Calvin Theological Journal 27 (1992): 223-224.

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“A Christian” by Herman Bavinck

“A Christian has found his standpoint in the promises of God’s grace in Christ. The foundations of his hope are fixed, for they lie outside him in God’s Word, which will never be moved. He doesn’t need to constantly examine the genuineness and strength of the foundation on which the building of his salvation has been built.

He is a child of God not on the basis of all kinds of inner experiences but on the basis of the promises of the Lord. Assured of this, he can now freely look around and enjoy all the good gifts and the perfect gift that descends from the Father of lights. Everything is his because he is Christ’s and Christ is God’s. The whole world becomes material for his duty.

Religious life does have its own content and independent value. It remains the center, the heart from which all the Christian’s thoughts and acts proceed, by which they are animated and given the warmth of life. There, in fellowship with God, he is strengthened for his labors and girds himself for the battle.

But that mysterious life of fellowship with God is not the whole of life. The prayer chamber is the inner room, although it is not the whole house in which he lives and functions. Spiritual life does not exclude family and social life, business and politics, art and science. It is distinct from these; it is also of much greater value, but it does not stand irreconcilably opposed to it. Rather it is the power that enables us to faithfully fulfill our earthly calling, stamping all of life as service to God.

The Kingdom of God is, to be sure, like a pearl more precious than the whole world, but it is also like a leaven that leavens the entire dough. Faith isn’t only the way of salvation, it also involves overcoming the world. The Christian, as he is drawn in Scripture and as he speaks in the Heidelberg Catechism, stands and works in this conviction. Reconciled with God, he is also reconciled with all things. Because in the Father of Christ he confesses the Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, he cannot be small-hearted and constricted in his affections.

For God Himself so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. And this Son came to earth not to condemn the world but to save it. In His cross heaven and earth are reconciled. Under Him all things shall be gathered together with Him as head.

The history of all things proceeds according to His counsel toward the redemption of the church as the new humanity, toward the liberation of the world in an organic sense, toward the new heaven and the new earth. Even now, by rights, everything in principle belongs to the church, because it is Christ’s and Christ is God’s. As a priest in the temple of the Lord, he who believes this is king over the whole earth.

Because he is a Christian, he is a human in the full, true sense. He loves the flowers that grow at his feet and admires the stars that sparkle overhead. He does not disdain the arts, which are to him a precious gift from God. Nor does he belittle the sciences, for these, too, are a gift from the Father of lights. He believes that everything God has created is good and that, taken in thanksgiving, nothing is condemned.

He labors not for success and doesn’t work for wages, but he does what comes to hand, seeing, by means of God’s commandments, though ignorant of what the future may bring. He does good works without thinking twice and bears fruit before he realizes it. He is like a flower that spreads its fragrance unawares.

He is, in a word, a man of God, perfectly equipped to all good works. And while for him to live is Christ, in the end to die is gain.”

—Herman Bavinck, The Certainty of Faith, trans. Harry der Nederlanden (St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada: Paideia Press, 1891/1980), 95-97.

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“I’d turned into a boy again” by C.S. Lewis

“They went to the rocks and sat down looking out across the bay while the sky got paler and paler and the stars disappeared except for one very bright one low down and near the horizon.

“I won’t tell you how I became a—a dragon till I can tell the others and get it all over,” said Eustace. “By the way, I didn’t even know it was a dragon till I heard you all using the word when I turned up here the other morning. I want to tell you how I stopped being one.”

“Fire ahead,” said Edmund.

“Well, last night I was more miserable than ever. And that beastly arm-ring was hurting like anything—”

“Is that all right now?”

Eustace laughed—a different laugh from any Edmund had heard him give before—and slipped the bracelet easily off his arm.

“There it is,” he said, “and anyone who likes can have it as far as I’m concerned. Well, as I say, I was lying awake and wondering what on earth would become of me. And then—but, mind you, it may have been all a dream. I don’t know.”

“Go on,” said Edmund, with considerable patience.

“Well, anyway, I looked up and saw the very last thing I expected: a huge lion coming slowly toward me. And one queer thing was that there was no moon last night, but there was moonlight where the lion was. So it came nearer and nearer. I was terribly afraid of it. You may think that, being a dragon, I could have knocked any lion out easily enough. But it wasn’t that kind of fear. I wasn’t afraid of it eating me, I was just afraid of it—if you can understand. Well, it came close up to me and looked straight into my eyes. And I shut my eyes tight. But that wasn’t any good because it told me to follow it.”

“You mean it spoke?”

“I don’t know. Now that you mention it, I don’t think it did. But it told me all the same. And I knew I’d have to do what it told me, so I got up and followed it. And it led me a long way into the mountains. And there was always this moonlight over and round the lion wherever we went. So at last we came to the top of a mountain I’d never seen before and on the top of this mountain there was a garden—trees and fruit and everything. In the middle of it there was a well.

“I knew it was a well because you could see the water bubbling up from the bottom of it: but it was a lot bigger than most wells—like a very big, round bath with marble steps going down into it. The water was as clear as anything and I thought if I could get in there and bathe, it would ease the pain in my leg. But the lion told me I must undress first. Mind you, I don’t know if he said any words out loud or not.

“I was just going to say that I couldn’t undress because I hadn’t any clothes on when I suddenly thought that dragons are snaky sort of things and snakes can cast their skins. Oh, of course, thought I, that’s what the lion means. So I started scratching myself and my scales began coming off all over the place. And then I scratched a little deeper and, instead of just scales coming off here and there, my whole skin started peeling off beautifully, like it does after an illness, or as if I was a banana. In a minute or two I just stepped out of it. I could see it lying there beside me, looking rather nasty. It was a most lovely feeling. So I started to go down into the well for my bathe.

“But just as I was going to put my feet into the water I looked down and saw that they were all hard and rough and wrinkled and scaly just as they had been before. Oh, that’s all right, said I, it only means I had another smaller suit on underneath the first one, and I’ll have to get out of it too. So I scratched and tore again and this underskin peeled off beautifully and out I stepped and left it lying beside the other one and went down to the well for my bathe.

“Well, exactly the same thing happened again. And I thought to myself, oh dear, how ever many skins have I got to take off? For I was longing to bathe my leg. So I scratched away for the third time and got off a third skin, just like the two others, and stepped out of it. But as soon as I looked at myself in the water I knew it had been no good.

“Then the lion said—but I don’t know if it spoke—‘You will have to let me undress you.’ I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.

“The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. You know—if you’ve ever picked the scab off a sore place. It hurts like billy-oh but it is such fun to see it coming away.”

“I know exactly what you mean,” said Edmund.

“Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off—just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt—and there it was, lying on the grass, only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly-looking than the others had been. And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me—I didn’t like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I’d no skin on—and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I’d turned into a boy again. You’d think me simply phony if I told you how I felt about my own arms. I know they’ve no muscle and are pretty mouldy compared with Caspian’s, but I was so glad to see them.

“After a bit the lion took me out and dressed me—”

“Dressed you? With his paws?”

“Well, I don’t exactly remember that bit. But he did somehow or other, in new clothes—the same I’ve got on now, as a matter of fact. And then suddenly I was back here. Which is what makes me think it must have been a dream.”

“No. It wasn’t a dream,” said Edmund.

“Why not?”

“Well, there are the clothes, for one thing. And you have been—well, undragoned, for another.”

“What do you think it was, then?” asked Eustace.

“I think you’ve seen Aslan,” said Edmund.

“Aslan!” said Eustace. “I’ve heard that name mentioned several times since we joined the Dawn Treader. And I felt—I don’t know what—I hated it. But I was hating everything then. And by the way, I’d like to apologize. I’m afraid I’ve been pretty beastly.”

“That’s all right,” said Edmund. “Between ourselves, you haven’t been as bad as I was on my first trip to Narnia. You were only an ass, but I was a traitor.”

“Well, don’t tell me about it, then,” said Eustace. “But who is Aslan? Do you know him?”

“Well—he knows me,” said Edmund. “He is the great Lion, the son of the Emperor-beyond-the-Sea, who saved me and saved Narnia. We’ve all seen him. Lucy sees him most often. And it may be Aslan’s country we are sailing to.”

–C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader: The Chronicles of Narnia (New York: Harper, 1952), 473-475.

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