Monday, April 4, 2011

The Divine Preference for the Ordinary

"But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, 'Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord'" (1 Corinthians 1:27-31)

Why do movie stars, athletes, and politicians get paid tons of money doing "work" that gives off seemingly ephemeral results, while those in occupations that truly contribute something of lasting value to society receive meager compensation? I believe it's because fallen human nature crave God-like glory and independence, and will do everything it can to forget that man is situated in a world totally submerged and embroiled in pain, ugliness, suffering, destruction, and sin and that he is ultimately accountable to his Creator. Movie stars, athletes, and politicians appear immune to the effects of the Fall and so we feed the illusion machine with more money-fuel to keep the party going.

In the church, this tendency is all too apparent. Whereas the Lord, in His classic underdog and lowly style, chose to mediate Himself to His people through such ordinary and mundane means as Scripture spoken, bread broken, and water whisked, the showbiz (escapist) fanatic in many in the church give off the impression that adrenalin and endorphins are the 4th and 5th objective means of grace.

Seeking ecstasy in extraordinary experiences in an attempt, perhaps, to prove to himself that he is indeed saved and being sanctified, the radical measures his "encounter" with God by how much emotional fervor and excitement is stirred up. To be sure, the whole man must be involved in the worship of God, but could it be that the desire for heightened experiences of emotional delight, which can only be satisfied in ways other than the ordinary means of grace, is an indication of a fallen taste rather than a pious palate?

John Calvin interjects, bringing to the fore the rationale behind God's preference for using base and meek artifacts:

"We see that God from the beginning ordered matters so, that, the gospel should be administered in simplicity, without any aid from eloquence. Could not he who fashions the tongues of men for eloquence, be himself eloquent if he chose to be so? While he could be so, he did not choose to be so. Why it was that he did not choose this, I find two reasons more particularly. The first is, that in a plain and unpolished manner of address, the majesty of the truth might shine forth more conspicuously, and the simple efficacy of his Spirit, without external aids, might make its way into the hearts of men. The second is, that he might more effectually try our obedience and docility, and train us at the same time to true humility. For the Lord admits none into his school but little children. Hence those alone are capable of heavenly wisdom who, contenting themselves with the preaching of the cross, however contemptible it may be in appearance, feel no desire whatever to have Christ under a mask. Hence the doctrine of the gospel required to be regulated with this view, that believers should be drawn off from all pride and haughtiness" (Commentary on 1 Corinthians 1:14-20).


  1. Funny how "ordinary" is such a significant theological term for the Reformed. It's key in avoiding the theology of glory.

  2. It reminds us of the Creator-creature distinction and the utter dependency of the latter to the former.

    Pride is a confusion of this distinction.


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