Saturday, June 12, 2010
The Hand of God?
This picture comes from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. It is but a fraction of a masterpiece. But for those of you who have had any fine arts education, you know that one of the hands is God's and the other's is Adam's.
So which one is the hand of God?
Take a look at them. Study them close.
Doesn't it seem that one hand is extended with desire, a pointed reach, while the other is rather complacent, not necessarily over extending itself?
So which one is it? Which one is God's and which one is Adam's?
Though you probably know already who owns which hand, I want to take this to a deeper direction. Let's say these hands are a picture of God and not simply Adam, but mankind in general: if you were going to depict your theology of God and man, whose hand would you assign the one on the right to? And then does the one on the left then line up with your beliefs as well?
Let's just focus on the hand on the right. There are several trains of thought within Christianity when it comes to the relationship between God and man. The first is that all men long to know God and all men have the opportunity to find Him. God loves all men and let's man decide his own destiny. He provided the Way, but ultimately man makes the choice. It's not up to Him - in His sovereignty, He allows mankind to accept or reject Him. It is a free gift offered to all men. So in this scenario, perhaps the hand of God is on the right, reaching for all men and the left shows a hand of choice - the hand of man. Or perhaps the hand on the right is actually man, reaching to a complacent God who allows man to be the aggressor and just waits to see who ultimately chooses Him.
Another belief is that God is does not give man the choice. That sin completely separated man from God and that a relationship between God and man only happens because God goes after one. And although man desires to know God, God only extends Himself to His chosen children. In this scenario, then, perhaps the hand on the right depicts God reaching out to weakened man. Or maybe the hand on the right is man longing for God, but the complacent left side hand is God choosing whether or not He will help this man. It is His choice, right?
Okay, so my second view is not really a belief. It is how the people who hold to the first view, think that those who hold to the second view actually see God. I'll stop describing and just use terms now, so that you understand where I am going.
The first view is the one of free will. God allows all men the same opportunity to know Him. It's man's choice. The true second view is that salvation is God's choice (election) but the way I described it is how those who believe in free will view election. The difference between true free will and true election is the phrase "...and although man desires to know God..." If you believe that deep down men are seeking after God and long to know their Creator, then free will makes all the sense in the world and election is about as unfair as the day is long. But for those who truly believe in election, the starting place is very different.
So here's the true picture of election: God created man and sin killed man. God warned Adam that in the day that he would eat from that tree, he would surely die, and though physical death lingered, spiritual death was immediate. Death. Not illness, but death. This term or some form of it is used nearly 1500 times in scripture and it would never have been there if it weren't for sin. So, man is dead. And since a dead man has no desires (I've never seen any of the dead characters ask for anything on CSI New York), salvation is solely an act of God towards those whom He has chosen to graciously extend His hand. Death is what we have earned - salvation is merciful, forgiving, unmerited. And since man was dead when He gave it to him, it is solely His choice.
Back to our picture. With this description of election, which hand in our picture would be God's? Definitely the right one, however the left one is too aggressive to be the hand of a dead man. So I am going to propose a different picture (I can do this because it's my blog). This picture is a far more accurate picture of God's relationship with man:
Notice the dead body.
Notice the nail-pierced hands.
It really says it all.
So, here are a few final notes - in the God and Adam depiction, the hand on the right is God's and the left is newly, created Adam, still kind of fuzzy on his surroundings. I would post the whole picture here but it does not have a PG rating. Why did I write this post? Because I want to do another series (I really like series!). This one will be looking at scripture concerning God's sovereign act of election. It's one of those truths that once you start to see it in the Word, you see it everywhere...
So stay with me...argue with me (that's fine), but let's dig a bit deeper here and see where it takes us! And remember, our deciding factor will be the answer to this question: what does the Bible say?
Have a great day!