A little like savouring an ice-cold lassi after gorging on a excessively hot Vindaloo, I’m currently reading a book that’s proving to be a soothing balm to my red-hot life.
It’s not a run-of-the-mill, lukewarm mega church sermon repackaged to look like a book; it’s a book comprised of expert depth, profound nuance and tear-jerking substance; it’s a prophetic homily to the gift that we’re all meant to eagerly desire (1 Corinthians 14:1) while majoring on the “office” that not all of us will hold.
God doesn’t call all of us to be prophets any more than he calls all of us to be teachers or administrators or pastors, and yet we are all called to be prophetic. Which means, we’re all called to understand what I’m about to explain.
Think of this blog as an “International Understanding the Prophets Day”.
What Manner of Man is the Prophet?
Abraham Heschel begins his classic with this very question and then quickly answers it by, in essence, saying: one who is catastrophically ruined by the indwelling evils of our socio-cultural worlds.
Indeed, the sorts of crimes and even the amount of delinquency that fill the prophets of Israel with dismay do not go beyond that which we regard as normal, as typical ingredients of social dynamics. To us a single act of injustice – cheating business, exploitation of the poor – is slight; to the prophets, a disaster. To us injustice is injurious to the welfare of the people; to the prophets it is a deathblow to existence: to us, an episode; to them, a catastrophe, a threat to the world. (Emphasis mine).
In short, the prophet is a prophet precisely because of something called divine pathos: the imperfectly-felt empathy of man with the holy and divine heart of God.
It’s with this stunning sanity in mind that I want us to now turn to Mark 10:2-12. (Click/read it first).
To keep this blog to a sensible/helpful length, I’m going to just make a few brief comments about,
a) What I see going on here and
b) How this relates to divine pathos in the world in which we live
Divorce – Mark 10: 2-5
- The first thing to highlight here is that the Pharisees aren’t genuinely seeking Jesus. Their intention is to trap him (cf. Matthew 22:34-35). Thundering echoes of Isaiah 29:13 should be pelting our consciences at this point because these men are really no “experts in the law” at all – the irony is as sick as it is thick.
- Jesus immediately emphasises that the only reason that divorce was permitted under Moses was due to the universal problem of human hard-heartedness (unbelief). Perhaps the sacrilege of marriage then wasn’t all that different to the joke marriage has become now?
Point No.1: Divine pathos “shares” the sense of God’s catastrophe of divorce, especially as it relates to hard-heartedness and unbelief, especially in the Church.
Remarriage and Adultery – Mark 10:11-12
- This is tricky because I know plenty of people who have not only divorced but who have then “progressed” in their theology to remarry. This is what happened when Prince Harry and Meghan Markle married “in the presence of God” and in the “sight of man”: the sanctity of marriage was made a laughing stock in front of a celebrating world and a gullible Church. This teaching of the Bible is as clear as John 3:16.
- Jesus clearly defines adultery as remarriage after divorce. This, as Heschel says, is not slight; it is disaster. When churches and church leaders are complicit in this disaster, they become agents of spiritual harlotry and purveyors of the grossest distortion of what marriage actually is: a theological reality not a sociological construct. They remain accountable.
Point No.2: Divine pathos “shares” the sense of God’s catastrophe of adultery, especially as it relates to members of the Body and as it points to the eternal reality of Christ and His bride.
Male and Female – Mark 10: 6-9
- Notice how a Pharisaical question about divorce, within just a few breaths, has plumbed the depths of human origin and specifically the gender differences between men and women, boys and girls. It’s doubtful that the adjudicating Pharisee had Genesis chapters 2 and 5 in mind when he asked Jesus about divorce, but this is immediately where Jesus takes us. (The world may dare to quiz God about the fruits of the tree while, emphatically, He issues a lesson about its very roots).
- How is it that a question about divorce relates to an answer about gender? According to Moses, Jesus (and Paul), a man leaves his mother and father (a man does that) and cleaves to his wife. There is an active half of this equation as well as a passive half. A man is joined to a woman. Think about the mystery of spiritual union but especially think (in graphic detail) about the act of sexual intercourse. This is what happens only between one man and one woman – the becoming of one flesh. The act of sexual intercourse between one man and one woman is a picture of the “one fleshness” of what literally happens “in the presence of God” during marriage, irrespective of what may happen in the “sight of man”. This is what Piper calls the “parable of permanence”. When a man leaves his parents and cleaves to his wife, they literally become one flesh. Google the word sarx. (imho, this is where the pre 2011 NIV translation lost the plot – see here)
- So, a question of divorce isn’t answerable without a lesson on gender. Do you see how pervasively disastrous the change of UK law on marriage was in 2014? David Cameron has not only given way to national confusion about what marriage is – who God says God is – but also to all the symptomatic issues touching on this most basic building block of humanity: our gender. But, of course, Scottish children of the age of five are now allowed to choose their gender to be whatever they ‘feel’. This is of course nothing at all like divine pathos.
Point No.3: Divine pathos “shares” the sense of God’s catastrophe of gender dysphoria, transgenderism and aggressive activisms to “normalise” the counterfeit redefinitions. Divine pathos does not allow the prophet to keep quiet. (See Jeremiah 20:9).
Surrogate Babies – “Unnormalising” the New “Normal”
I watched the BBC News at Ten last night and, in the very same report, heard of both Ruth Davidson’s struggle with her mental health as well as her expectations of becoming a mother later next month.
Ruth is gay meaning that it is impossible for her to have conceived a baby with her partner, Jen Wilson. Indeed, the couple “conceived” via IVF. It would seem that nature will be shoe-horned and bent to their will because Ruth can’t ‘reconcile her sexuality with her Presbyterian ‘roots’. Ms Davidson, if you ever read this, that is the point…you can not (and Beeching can not) ever reconcile the gospel to anti-Christ beliefs.
Is there any wonder mental health is so horribly strained?
For the prophet, the divine pathos relating to such realities in our socio-cultural-political world are palpably painful and spiritually nauseating.
Why? Because they are for God.
An analysis of prophetic utterances shows that the fundamental experience of the prophet is a fellowship with the feelings of God, a sympathy with the divine pathos…
Of course, the ball will be batted back to me because being told that “homosexuality/raising a child without its biological Father is not right” is also very painful. (Who am I to use the ‘trump card’ of religion?). Sure, ‘painful’ in the sense of challenging one’s basic modus operandi in the context of our godless society and our hatred of Jesus.
This blog is therefore the ‘call to repent’ – not primarily from divorce, adultery, transgenderism and surrogate parenting, but from the spawning, Jesus-rejecting, hard-heartedness that comes from sin.
Divorce, adultery, transgenderism, polygamy and incest (mark my words) all come from the sinful, proud disdain of a humanity who reject the loving God who made them.
Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people – Proverbs 14:34
God is not so much angry about these moral, ethical, humanitarian failures (although He is angry) as He is heart-broken. It’s important that we think of God like this: “gutted” like a Father whose little girl has sold herself for sex to strangers.
This is what it means to be a divine-pathos-carrying prophet, slapped and beard-yanked by those who can only see hatred and bigotry.
The task of the prophet is to convey the word of God. Yet the word is aglow with the pathos. One can not understand the word without sensing the pathos.
What is your role in this?
Please, pray now for our nation, pray for the UK Church and pray for those, like us, who are called to prophetically intercede and communicate.
(Emboldened text above contains hyperlinks to related reading and/or Scripture)