Tag Archives: The Brothers Karamazov

The life and death problem, as explained by your trash

And why an angry God loves you more.

Imagine that you are creating a fabric of human destiny with the object of making men happy in the end… but that it was essential and inevitable to torture to death only one tiny creature … and to found that edifice on its unavenged tears: would you consent to be the architect on those conditions?
–Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

‘Ooh!’ said Susan, ‘I’d thought he was a man. Is he—quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.’

‘Who said anything about safe? Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.’
C.S. Lewis, The Narnia Tales

Last week I spent a day ar a recycling facility in New York City. As it turns out, we can learn a lot from our trash.

Did you know that after your trash is sorted, a ton of “Pure White” paper is worth $450, but that any tint of color or discolor drops the selling price to $350 per ton? It’s value drops from there until it is, well…garbage.

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Christianity asserts that the God of Creation loves us more than we would ever dare hope. It’s a worldview that suggests we were created in God’s image to share in a perfect relationship with Him and to enjoy all the good things He created for us. It provides a plausible explanation of who we are and why we’re here, a rational basis to believe in eternityheavenTruthsignificance and hope, and a tangible prototype of service and love in the life and death of Jesus Christ. In many ways, it’s the answer to what I think we would hope was true if we didn’t know. That is, if God didn’t reveal Himself, we might have invented (this part of) Him.

It’s critical that we dwell on God’s love for us–understand it and bask in it–but it’s also possible to focus so much on God’s love that we end up with an incomplete picture of God Himself. We tend to pick Biblical ideas about God we like…and leave others out. A God who answers prayers, yes; but one who judges…not so much. We like the idea of a loving God but not a jealous one. We’d prefer to take the cuddlier version and leave out the one with teeth–forgetting His perfect Holiness, Justice and Wrath. We would never invent that God.

Ironically, when we strip away God’s Anger, we end up with a less loving god, not the more loving god we set out to create. And perhaps most importantly, we lose an understanding of what sets the Christian worldview apart from all others—the way it addresses sin in the world and in our lives…

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Idol Hope

The story is often told that John D. Rockefeller, an oil magnate and one of the richest men of his time, was once asked when he would be happy. He is said to have replied, “When I make one more dollar.”

Most people, if they had really learned to look into their own hearts, would know that they do want, and want acutely, something that cannot be had in this world. There are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give it to you, but they never quite keep their promise. The longings which arise in us when we first fall in love, or first think of some foreign country, or first take up some subject that excites us, are longings which no marriage, no travel, no learning, can really satisfy. I am not now speaking of what would be ordinarily called unsuccessful marriages, or holidays, or learned careers. I am speaking of the best possible ones. There was something we grasped at, in that first moment of longing, which just fades away in the reality. I think everyone knows what I mean. The wife may be a good wife, and the hotels and scenery may have been excellent, and chemistry may be a very interesting job: but something has evaded us.   —C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

So long as man remains free he strives for nothing so incessantly and so painfully as to find someone to worship.  —Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

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I have spent some time thinking about idols recently, mostly because I find the idea to be so challenging. An idol is something, anything, our hearts desire above God—something we put our hope in and believe will make us happy. I usually have no difficulty listing those things by the handful in my life. And yet, I believe idolatry is at the very core of a lack of peace and joy that often haunts me. Since we were created for a relationship with God in which He is central in our lives, displacement of Him from that place displaces everything else. We end up with broken relationships with one another, a distorted understanding of who we are and either an over- or under-appreciation of the good things God has put in the world for us. To be sure, I mean that loving even things as good as family and friends more than God—or the other way around, even loving our own virtue or sacrifice in not valuing the things of this world—will ultimately leave us broken and disappointed.

Said another way, we were created for a “vertical” relationship with God—created to enjoy all other good things, including our “horizontal” relationships with one another (and the world around us), in light (and proper understanding) of that relationship. But we often try to make the horizontal relationships central, and everything deteriorates from there. This is the very definition of sin in the Bible. Not “loving the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.”

Anyway, all this contemplation about how very many things I am inclined to make central in my life over and above God made me realize two (perhaps?) more encouraging things about idolatry. One—we were made to worship. And two—though basically everything we worship disappoints us, they all point to the One who will not.

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