Sunday, April 13, 2008

Do Pagans Make the Best Vosians?

I just preached from Romans 8:18-25 where Paul gives, in the words of John Murray, his commentary on Genesis 3:17-18. The creation has fallen under curse and, therefore, groans under the weight of its bondage to decay, longing for the liberty that will accompany the glorification of the seed of the woman.

Yes, this relates to the way the believer should think about popular culture.

If the sub-human created order can recognize that something is amiss, then, to argue from the lesser to the greater, it would follow that the same insight can be found among non-believing humans as well. After all, if Ecclesiastes is an account of life "under the sun," then all who behold this age from that vantage point can reasonably conclude that it is but an unmerry merry-go-round, a wild goose chase without the wild goose.

What is pagan art if not a commentary on Ecclesiastes? What is Edvard Munch's The Scream, or The Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby," or the Wachowskis' Matrix trilogy if not a commentary on the inexplicable longing on the part of the human soul for something it has never seen but knows is out there?

Paul's point in the passage cited is that the cosmos groans, but "we who have the firstfruits of the Spirit" ache with an even greater frustration. Or at least we should. But if the unbelieving world displays, through its art and other media, an even greater frustration with earth than many believers exhibit, what does that say about where our true devotion lies?

This is why eschatology is so crucial. If Vos's dictum that "eschatology precedes soteriology" is true, then this means that this groaning for glory is part and parcel not of redemption, but of the created order itself. Simply put, you're supposed to feel like a fish out of water (or to correct the simile a bit, you're supposed to feel like a fish in water who longs to be free from it and to enter a new element that it knows, somehow and for some reason, is better).

Could it be that when Christians place their hopes in a transformed culture or a nation recaptured for Christ while their pagan neighbors listen to Bright Eyes while longing for escape, that the latter, rather than the former, are doing a better job at being divine image-bearers?