If you read an article and wish to comment, then please do.
Do not worry about the date it was written.
I promise that I or the articles author will answer.
Today we'll examine the fourth thesis of the Heidelberg Disputation, it states:
Although the works of God always seem unattractive and appear evil, they are nevertheless really eternal merits.
If the last thesis jarred your head a bit, this one should definitely put many wrinkles in the old noodle. This thesis is more of a reflection, or perhaps the inverse of thesis three, for its structure and propositional content is essentially the same but only inverted. You see, mans works appear good, but, are in fact evil; while God's works appear evil, when they're in fact “eternal merits”.
Now, when we pious folk think of God, we think of nothing in him but goodness and light. And this is a right way to think of God; indeed it's most certainly true, however, God, when he works in his creation, does not always work in a way that is attractive to us, reasonably speaking, of course.
This is where many atheists have made their stand against the idea, and existence of an all powerful god. The argument goes something like this: if "he/she/it" exists, why would a good and omnipotent god allow evil to go on unabated? Do they not have the power? If not, then there really not omnipotent, are they, nor are they subsequently god for that matter, right? Well, it's a good argument, and I suppose worthy of meditation, yet, this is only the case if you allow for the premises to stand unchallenged. You see, this question really does not apply in Christendom, for in Christianity, under its own premises the question should really be: if there is a good God, then why does he let any of us evil people go on living and committing more atrocious behavior amongst ourselves? However, the atheist will not give ground for this argument because we're essentially and admittedly starting from two different vantage points; the atheist is seeking for some non-identified "god's" existence all the while believing they have a solid case in claiming the amorphous "it" evil, and therefore non-existent, on the other hand, the Christian presumes God's existence and questions his justice, and in so doing, is unwittingly claiming God to be evil as well, whether the believer is aware of it or not.
However, when most believers feel their reason begin to "connect-the-dots" regarding their perception of how unattractive their God appears, many will "shoo" away such thoughts and attempt to make their God's actions reasonable. This is because their “god” is actually their reason, thus many theologians will bend themselves backwards to make God appear good, but only result in twisting themselves into philosophical pretzels. In doing this they appear as fools to the learned and wise. Unfortunately, these futile attempts at theodicy, so as to make Christianity seem like the wise option, are completely unnecessary, for it is the work of the Holy Spirit to deliver the renewal of mind given solely by the power of the Gospel. Evangelizing is not equivalent to winning reasonable arguments; Evangelizing is bringing God's Word of the Gospel to broken people who despair of themselves. This work in “breaking” is not ours; this work is Gods and Gods alone!
Luther best shows the case for this in his proof of thesis 4, which states:
“That the works of God are unattractive is clear from what is said in Isa. 53[:2], "He had no form of comeliness," and in 1 Sam. 2[:6], "The Lord kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up." This is understood to mean that the Lord humbles and frightens us by means of the law and the sight of our sins so that we seem in the eyes of men, as in our own, as nothing, foolish, and wicked, for we are in truth that. Insofar as we acknowledge and confess this, there is no form or beauty in us, but our life is hidden in God (i.e. in the bare confidence in his mercy), finding in ourselves nothing but sin, foolishness, death, and hell, according to that verse of the Apostle in 2 Cor. 6[:9-10], "As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as dying, and behold we live." And that it is which Isa. 28[:21] calls the alien work of God that he may do his work (that is, he humbles us thoroughly, making us despair, so that he may exalt us in his mercy, giving us hope), just as Hab. 3[:2] states, "In wrath remember mercy." Such a man therefore is displeased with all his works; he sees no beauty, but only his ugliness. Indeed, he also does these things which appear foolish and disgusting to others.
This ugliness, however, comes into being in us either when God punishes us or when we accuse ourselves, as 1 Cor. 11[:31] says, "If we judged ourselves truly, we should not be judged" by the Lord. Deut. 32[:36] also states, "The Lord will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants." In this way, consequently, the unattractive works which God does in us, that is, those which are humble and devout, are really eternal, for humility and fear of God are our entire merit.”
You see, we humans, since the fall of our first parents, have been trapped by the lie of the serpent. After Eve had told the snake what God said regarding the penalty of death for eating the fruit, the serpent responded in Gen. 3:4, by saying:
“You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
Unfortunately, since then little has changed. We still judge God by our reason, because we'd rather trust in our own little “self-god” we're accustomed to, thus not solely relying upon His Word as Adam and Eve should have done. And now that we no longer commune with God in our natural selves, which is original sins consequence, we all the more do not understand him and his ways which is attested to by St. Paul in Rom. 11:33-35, it states:
“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!
“For who has known the mind of the LORD?
Or who has become His counselor?”
“Or who has first given to Him
And it shall be repaid to him?”
However, our Lord has not left us high and dry, for His Word forever abides with us in the promise of His redeemer Son, Jesus Christ, and by the guarantee of His Holy Spirit. It is by the Law and the prophets that God, as testified by Christ,overtakes our intellect, and puts reason in its right place so as to apprehend our Savior for all eternity. It is by the Law and prophets that our agitated and restless mind can shake off its arduous burden so as to cling comfortably in “child-like” faith onto God's Word alone. It is in Christ and Christ alone where our reason, nay even our whole selves find our final rest in regard to God and His “hidden” ways.
For example, when Joseph's brothers were ready to throw him in a well and leave him for dead, where was God? When his brothers sold him instead, and as a result he was put under the cruel bondage of slavery, once again I ask, where was God? When he was falsely accused of adultery by Potiphar's wife, and was subsequently jailed for many years, where was his God? It's a valid question, because as anyone can see of the Old Testament saints, none was as sterling in character as Joseph, and yet, he was completely mistreated and suffered horribly. Why? Where was God? Why was such a righteous man treated in such a wretched manner? Did God not foreordain this evil to befall his holy and upright servant? Surely God should have known how much he suffered?
However, after Josephs days of great woe were behind him; after he was transformed into a king governing the mighty gentile nation of Egypt, his brothers were to appear before him unaware of this now older-looking and made-over younger brother they had once left for dead. Here Joseph utters a profound truth concerning God's work in his life through his brothers actions, in Gen. 45:4a-8, he says:
"I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will not be plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.”
"So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt.”
According to Joseph his brothers weren't to blame for his calamities, God was! You see, when God has set us aside to suffer it is never without purpose, yet, in the midst of such suffering, whether we've brought it upon ourselves, or we are afflicted from without, we, of our own natural ability are unable to understand that this too is the will of God meant for our own good, and as well for the good of others.
The greatest and clearest example of this in God's Word is in regards to the events of Good Friday. What could possibly be good about that day? Man, unaided by God in any manner was and is completely unaware of what actually happened on the cross.
Jesus' friends and disciples were in a state of complete and utter shock. Here was the most innocent, perfect, Godly, and holy person they had ever known, who was now condemned to death as a criminal by one of the cruelest means imaginable. All they had known, all they had understood was lost, was over, and was to never be again, at least according to their reason.
To the common Jewish citizen on the street, this was the very person they had welcomed into town as the great Messiah King to deliver them from the oppressive Roman magistrates just days before, who now hung powerless and forsaken of God upon a cross.
To Christ's enemies, who came to see if His supposed “Father in Heaven” of whom He so boldly spoke would save Him from this most humiliating death. And as He suffered, as it became utterly clear there would be no intervention from God, they mocked Him all the more because their reason couldn't dream of a Messiah who would ever allow Himself to be treated in such a manner, who would be totally powerless over his captors.
Yet, little did they know, that Jesus, like Joseph was to suffer but for a little while. Little did they know, that Jesus, like Joseph was to attain life for many people by his suffering. And, little did they know, that Jesus, like Joseph would come again to show his brethren that he was not only king of them, but over a vast foreign nation as well. Yet, Joseph is only a shadow or a type of Christ in the Old Testament, for by God working through the life of Joseph he was able to help many people avoid famine by becoming a prudent king over a small portion of the world, but in Christ how many more were helped?
Christ in his suffering took upon himself the sin of the world, the evil power of death, and the wrath of God we so justly deserve. Yet, it is not only that, for in His resurrection He became victorious over sin and death with its ghastly power, and in so doing has promised that we one day will do the same through the gift of faith, given us by God, in this holy work of love done for our sake. Who could have possibly known without divine revelation what exactly took place during those three days? I dare say, even now, as someone who both knows and accepts this most holy truth, I'm still completely incapable of understanding why God had to do things in such and such a manner, yet, nevertheless, I'll rest my reason with God's Word; let Him be true, and every man a liar.
You see folks, the basic lesson and teaching of this thesis regarding our natural judgment of God and the way He does things is this; empirical observation isn't what it's cracked up to be, at least when it attempts to judge God and his works. As Nietzsche once alluded to in response to the logical positivists of his day, there is no such thing as the “immaculate perception”, and so it is amongst us Christians, just because we possess the Holy Spirit doesn't mean that we can see into the “hidden” will of God either. So, when our reason seeks to understand and judge God according to it's ability, it is here where we must suspend it and let God be God.