An Infernal Mindset: The Son of the Morning

son of the morningI don’t know that many have undertaken the task of understanding the infernal mindset–getting into the Devil’s head, so to speak. It’s really seems like a rather distasteful exercise in one sense. The two that come to mind, of course, are C.S. Lewis’ portrait of a tempter in the Screwtape Letters, and Dostoevsky’s portrayal of Mephistopheles in The Brother Karamazov. I’m sure there are others, of course.  One thing that I’m quite sure I’ve never seen is what Oh Sleeper‘s did with the title track on their second album “The Son of the Morning”: put it to fabulously shredding metal:

The dominant voice is that of Satan himself, Lucifer, “The Son of the Morning”, addressing God, the “weak forgiver”:

“I am the rival. I am the one who speaks in whisper.
Hear me now, dear, weak forgiver.
Hear me now, weak forgiver. Hear me now…

Don’t send an angel to face the devil.
You’re wasting power on grace.
A maggot will always seek to feed from the grave,
where I’ll lead them and teach them to feast on the skin that defeats them, the skin they crave.”

Every night I start my rise, climbing high into the morning sky,
but soon after I lose your bride and I damn your son for stealing my light.
This world is mine…

They call me the son of the morning.
They call me the son of the morning.

I can mound all your fallen past the clouds as they roll in,
and when I do I will claim your throne through all these cowards you call your sons.
I am the lord of air and my dawn will last forever.
Go on pouring out because in the end I will have them.

I have to confess, I’m always moved by this song. Both in the blindness that I find mirrored in my own heart, as well as the goodness of God seen through perverted eyes.

Satan here is proud, the “rival”; a fallen glory, bitter with rage at the Son who “stole” his light. The Son of the Morning is a tragic figure–deluded, the bitter has-been, though eclipsed by the True Son, is still furiously trying to reclaim what he never had. He is, as I think my friend Morgan described him, a diva who cannot accept that all creaturely glory is but a refraction of the Glory of the Son. At its heart, the infernal mindset is a refusal to acknowledge our creatureliness and delight in the proper joy of creatures, which is to reflect, to bask, in the glory of the Son. We imitate the great thief when we forget our glory is not our own–we do not sustain ourselves.

The infernal mindset is also uncomprehending of the goodness of God. God is a “weak forgiver”, according the logic of hell, that does not recognize the cosmos–reordering power of the Cross. His grace lavished on sinners, is fruitless prodigality to the Accuser of the Saints. In his eyes, we’re nothing but perverted cowards that God shamelessly and foolishly calls “sons.” I’ll admit I’ve shed tears at those moments when I realize that, apart from the grace of God, he’s right.  And yet this is God’s plan–to take cowards, adopt them, and make them his courageous sons.

Satan’s is not the only voice we hear, though. The Lord is given a word to speak in the chorus:

“If you could see like me you’d see you haven’t won anything (anything)
If you could see like me you’d see, it’s by my grace that you’re breathing (breathing)
If you could see like me you’d see you haven’t won anything.
If you could see like me you’d see, your precious light is fading.
Your light is fading.”

This is the heart of the amazing delusion of Satan: it is even blind to the grace that sustains it. No, it is not special, saving grace, but more like the rain that God sends on the just and the unjust. If we could see with the eyes of God, we’d understand that it is still by his grace that the deceiver even draws breath. Thankfully, one day he will draw his last and his lies will come to an end. The Son has won an unshakable victory and the false, distorted light of the Morning star will pass from this world forever.

Of course these same words hold true for those of us who remain opposed to God, fighting him as his enemies, setting ourselves up as false suns in the universe of our affections. God graciously gives us space to breathe out defiant words. Thankfully in our case it is time to repent, draw near, and be converted from rebels to beloved children.

Soli Deo Gloria

Is ‘Grace’ Only a Redemption Word?

Jan_Brueghel_the_Younger_Creation_of_AdamMany of us tend to think that ‘grace’ is only a redemption word; God is gracious to us because he decides to forgive us and save us through the redeeming work of Christ. While the grace of redemption is deep and glorious, three authors point our hearts to understand the grace of God in Creation as well.

Following Paul’s lead in Colossians 1:15-20, Athanasius points out that it is God’s kindness which leads to our existence, for he holds the world together through the Word:

But the reason why the Word, the Word of God, has united Himself with created things is truly wonderful, and teaches us that the present order of things is none otherwise than is fitting. For the nature of created things, inasmuch as it is brought into being out of nothing, is of a fleeting sort, and weak and mortal, if composed of itself only. But the God of all is good and exceeding noble by nature,—and therefore is kind. For one that is good can grudge nothing: for which reason he does not grudge even existence, but desires all to exist, as objects for His loving-kindness. Seeing then all created nature, as far as its own laws were concerned, to be fleeting and subject to dissolution, lest it should come to this and lest the Universe should be broken up again into nothingness, for this cause He made all things by His own eternal Word, and gave substantive existence to Creation, and moreover did not leave it to be tossed in a tempest in the course of its own nature, lest it should run the risk of once more dropping out of existence; but, because He is good He guides and settles the whole Creation by His own Word, Who is Himself also God, that by the governance and providence and ordering action of the Word, Creation may have light, and be enabled to abide alway securely.

Against the Heathens, §41

Athanasius lyrically reminds us that in itself, creation is not self-sustaining, having been made out of nothing, but must receive its coherence and existence from without. This is exactly what God gives it through the gift of creating through the Son, the Word, who gives the world his own order because “the God of all is good and exceeding noble by nature,—and therefore is kind.”  God’s grace is seen in that he doesn’t even begrudge us our existence, but gives it to us freely and under no compulsion.

Robert M. Adams proposes another way in which grace has a role to play in creation. Many have suggested that if God is perfect, his creation must necessarily be the best of all possible worlds. But given the presence of evil in the world, many doubt this could be the best of all possible worlds. Channeling Augustine’s argument in, I think, Book 3 of On the Freedom of the Will, Adams suggests that it’s not necessarily the case that a perfect God must create the best of all possible worlds:

A God who is gracious with respect to creating might well choose to create and love less excellent creatures than He could have chosen. This is not to suggest that grace in creation consists in a preference for imperfection as such. God could have chosen to create the best of all possible creatures, and still have been gracious in choosing them. God’s graciousness in creation does not imply that the creatures He has chosen to create must be less excellent than the best possible. It implies, rather, that even if they are the best possible creatures, that is not the ground for His choosing them. And it implies that there is nothing in God’s nature or character which would require Him to act on the principle of choosing the best possible creatures to be the object of His creative powers.

-“Must God Create the Best?” in The Problem of Evil: Selected Readings, pg. 281

Contingent beings that we are, it seems that God exercises his grace in creating less than perfect creatures like you and me. Writing in the same vein, Miroslav Volf tells a story that claims rabbinic origins:

Before setting out to create the world, the Almighty took a moment to look into the future of creation. God saw beauty, truth, goodness and the joy of creatures, but the All-Knowing One also saw a never-ending stream of human misdeeds, small, large, and horrendous, a trail of sights, tears, and blood. “If I give sinners their due,” though the Just One, “I’ll have to destroy the world I am about to create. Should I create just to destroy?” And so God decided to forgive the world in advance so that the world could be brought into being. Creation owes its very existence to God’s forgiveness.

Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace, pg. 136

While the story is certainly extra-biblical and a bit speculative, Volf rightly contends that it contains a truth testified to in the Scriptures that Christ is “God’s Lamb” destined “before the foundation of the world” (1 Peter 1:20), to be sacrificed to bring sinners into the family of God. For the All-Knowing One, grace towards sin has to be extended even before creation.

God’s grace then, is the foundation, not only of our redemption, but our creation.  We would not exist if it were not for the unmerited and unrestrained bounty of the Triune God pouring forth blessing upon unworthy creatures such as us.

Soli Deo Gloria

I Hate Writing About Sex (CaPC)

no sexI hate writing about sex; I want to be over the whole sex conversation in general. Honestly, as interesting a subject as it might be, there is nothing easy, simple, or straightforward about it; it’s not the sort of subject I get up and think, “Wow, that would be a great angle for an article to write!” Honestly, I get a pit in my stomach. Culturally-speaking it’s a minefield. The amount of shame, hurt, obsession, money, and political-vitriol attached to discussions of sex makes it nearly impossible not to trigger some negative experience for someone. Our media is over-saturated with issues either directly or indirectly tied to it (gender, family, homosexuality, etc.) making it nearly impossible to say something on one topic without somehow involving another, making the whole thing exhausting and daunting.

The problem is that the conversation about sex isn’t going away. In fact, it just keeps getting louder.

You can go read the rest of my piece HERE at Christ and Pop Culture.

Soli Deo Gloria