Once again this year, in spite of COVID and the attendant restrictions, the Christian church has celebrated Easter. Why do we keep returning to the same themes year after year? The reason is that there are certain foundational Christian doctrines, central biblical themes, which are the basis for everything else. Christmas and Easter are at the heart of these central themes, and we neglect them at our peril. We dare not become so absorbed in the fine details of the Christian life that we overlook the foundations.
Consider, then, three great themes of the Christian faith.
Occasionally we get involved in debates with evolutionists about the origins of the material universe, but, other than that, I’m not sure that a lot of us spend much time thinking about creation. Yet it matters vitally that we have been created by God, in His image—and that we have been created for God. The fact that the universe has been created by God gives us a profound respect and responsibility for the world around us. Moreover, the fact that we ourselves have been created gives us an identity, value, meaning, and purpose. Going even further, the fact that other people have been created by the same loving God leads us to value them; this is the basis for love and respect in all human relationships.
The truth of creation has been simplified into catchy slogans such as “God don’t make junk.” Yet that is how it is with the great truths. They are simple but very far-reaching. They change everything. How the world needs to hear this truth of creation! Meaninglessness, despair, purposelessness, hopelessness—these are the characteristics of our modern society. How people need to hear that they are created by a loving God, that they have value, meaning, and a purpose!
2. The Fall
There is a common argument in the LGBTQ community that “I was born this way.” In church contexts, LGBTQ members sometimes say that God has created them with “a diverse sexuality” and loves then “just as they are.” But the concept goes way beyond that community. How often have you heard someone say, “Don’t mind me. That’s just the way I am”? The assertion can be used to excuse any number of faults—a critical attitude, irresponsibility, a bad temper, dishonesty.
People who assert that God loves them in spite of their faults have grasped the reality and significance of creation, but they fail to understand another foundational Christian doctrine: the fall.
We are created in God’s image, but we are also fallen. We were created good, but our nature has become corrupted by our decisions to sin, collective and individual. We are subject to immoral desires, anger, hatred, fear, and corruption. This is why the argument “That’s just the way I am” doesn’t work. Some of us are child molesters, gossips, murderers, thieves, complainers, and liars—but that doesn’t excuse it. The answer is that we shouldn’t be that way.
The problem goes beyond individual human beings to creation as a whole. How many times have we heard atheistic scientists talk about the “balance of nature” as if it represented the most ideal of worlds? The reality is that nature is fallen too, that the whole creation is groaning and suffering (Romans 8:22). A nature that stays in balance by the cruel devouring of some animals by other animals is not ideal. Such cruelty and fear represents a fallen world that is badly out of balance. This is not how God’s creation was originally intended to function.
Many people—surprisingly, even many non-Christians—understand the fall. They know that the world is an evil place. They know that they themselves are broken. They have been badly damaged by the words and actions of other people. In turn, they know that they have messed up their own lives and hurt many others in the process. They know by experience that they are unable to control their evil desires, their anger, their hatred, and their petty cruelties. Yet that is all they know. They may have been created, but that is overshadowed in their minds by the reality of the fall. They know they are abject failures, and they despair. Often they try to correct the situation by blotting out the source of the problem: themselves—either quickly by suicide or slowly by drugs and alcohol.
Yet the foundational Christian beliefs do not end with the fall. Thank God they do not. More astounding than God’s creative power, more awesome than God’s perfect holiness and justice, is the reality of God’s redemptive love. God made a perfect creation, we have ruined it horribly, but somehow, for reasons we cannot fully understand, God still loves us and redeems us. And He doesn’t just redeem us—He redeems us at the cost of His only Son.
That also is something the world desperately needs to know. We have messed up our lives and the lives of those around us, but God has redeemed us. He offers to save us from our evil desires, our immoral motives, our cruel actions, and our sinful pasts. In Christ, He restores us to meaning and purpose and to loving relationships with Himself and our fellow human beings. He will ultimately re-create the heavens and the earth so that they are perfect once again, a place where the lion will lie down with the lamb. He will ultimately perfectly restore us as well, making us resemble Him again. It seems to me that that truth is worth celebrating again and again. And that is a good reason to celebrate Easter.