Compelled by Grace: The majesty of the gospel
Art and logic.
They’re usually set as opposites, aren’t they? Art is beauty for beauty’s sake – it goes beyond what’s pragmatic to explore the mystery of the aesthetic. Logic is order and structure, all right angles and black and white, helping us understand what can and cannot be. It sorts the past and almost gives us a glimpse into the future. Logic engages the intellect – art stirs the emotions.
But we know that they’re not entirely separate. They are, and always have been, strangely and deeply intertwined. Art without symmetry is less meaningful. The most beautiful things that exist have pattern and rhythm, a sort of foundation that only adds to the creative appeal. And logic is a kind of art all its own – like a solemn dance of the mind and the cosmos. It is a beautiful ordering of our world, and it brings with it a settled understanding, a kind of peace.
It’s complicated. Maybe I’m making it more complicated than it needs to be – who knows? But there’s one thing I know about these two things: we need them. We need them both to be satisfied. Aren’t we born panting after beauty? Don’t we begin making our own poor kinds of art before we even fully know what it means? And at the same time, we are born needing to know things – we have a perception of justice and a desire to make sense of our world.
Our God is a God of logic and of creativity. He shaped this world and set the stars in place, founded on a set of intricate rules that have amazed the sharpest minds in history. And what is the result of this ordering? Beauty – pure beauty. When we look up at night and see the Milky Way arching our window to a universe so immense we cannot begin to comprehend it, we acknowledge that the cosmos is a work of genius and a masterpiece of art.
Incredible as God’s creation is, His gospel exceeds it in glory. The gospel is a thing of stunning, sweeping majesty. It combines logic and artistic appeal in such striking perfection that it takes our breath away. God has woven His eternal plan so skillfully that nothing is lacking – it grips our hearts, dazzles us, inspires us, while at the same time engaging our intellect and answering our questions.
We all know those stories – when everything seems hopeless, something silly or inexplicable happens to turn the tide. The wicked witch in the Wizard of Oz melts when a bucket of water is thrown on her. Little Red Riding Hood is rescued alive and well from the belly of a wolf. These stories may be fun, but they aren’t sound. We have to suspend belief, and just enjoy the whimsical aspect. The gospel, though, is the opposite. The gospel makes sense. Our sin problem couldn’t magically disappear – God couldn’t just wink and sweep our rebellion under the rug. God took the path of reason and rightness, even when it cost Him everything. It wasn’t convenient for Him to send His Son as a blood sacrifice. And yet He did it, so that our minds could be satisfied by the gospel as well as our hearts. Even the devil understands that God’s world must be ordered according to logic, not whim – and even he has understood, at last, that God has used logic, as well as love, against him, and that hell is defeated by it. These passages from C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe express the logic of the gospel in a beautiful way. God keeps His own rules – even at great cost to Himself.
“Have you forgotten the Deep Magic?” asked the Witch.
“Let us say I have forgotten it,” answered Aslan gravely. “Tell us of this Deep Magic.”
“Tell you?” said the Witch, her voice growing suddenly shriller. “You at least know the Magic which the Emperor put into Narnia at the very beginning. You know that every traitor belongs to me as my lawful prey and that for every treachery I have a right to a kill. That human creature is mine. His life is forfeit to me. His blood is my property.”
“Come and take it then,” said the Bull with the man’s head in a great bellowing voice.
“Fool,” said the Witch with a savage smile that was almost a snarl, “do you really think your master can rob me of my rights by mere force? He knows the Deep Magic better than that. He knows that unless I have blood as the Law says all Narnia will be overturned and perish in fire and water.”
“It is very true,” said Aslan, “I do not deny it.”
“Oh, Aslan!” whispered Susan in the Lion’s ear, “can’t we – I mean, you won’t, will you? Can’t we do something about the Deep Magic? Isn’t there something you can work against it?”
“Work against the Emperor’s Magic?” said Aslan, turning to her with something like a frown on his face. And nobody ever made that suggestion to him again.”
And so Aslan – the type of Christ – appeases the Deep Magic by dying himself in the place of the traitor boy. And when he rises triumphant from death, he says,
“Though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know: Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards.”
We see that the gospel is logical. It follows a pattern – sin requires death, so God gave Himself in order to satisfy that ancient law and purchase back our lives. Don’t let anyone tell you that the gospel is a fairy tale, a cute story that doesn’t prove to be valid in the end. No – the gospel is as solid as a scientific equation. It is consistent. It adds up.
And yet, this story is by no means lacking in artistry. It has all the compelling beauty of a fantasy or a legend. Every aspect is present: a long feud with an ancient enemy. A crippling curse that binds the world. The darkness of despair, the persistent thread of hope. The yearning passion of a Lover for his bride.
The ages go by and each generation is left looking, waiting for the One. The One who will break the curse and put all things to rights. The One who will rescue the princess and set up His kingdom “ever after.”
And then He comes. The Hero – the Chosen Champion – the Prince – the Warrior – the Rescuer.
Right from the start, His story is pierced with shafts of irony that only add to the wonder of this tale. Our long-awaited Hero arrives looking weak and unlikely. He comes into the world in most humble of ways, born in blood and pain to a young unknown virgin, amid the dust and hay of a stable, the stress of a census, and the darkness of an uncertain age. When He’s only a baby, His family has to flee for life to a land of desert, running from a sadistic and jealous puppet king.
But He is more than He first seems to be. He is God on earth, Divine power veiled in rags and dirt and human form. He walks the land, surprising His own followers at every step.
Still young, He dies – dies in sacrifice for the Bride He has come to pursue. But we all know that is not the end. The most beautiful part is still coming. This Champion throws off death, flings it aside like a blanket. He is too strong for it. Hell and death and sin came together against Him, shoulder to shoulder, and He fought them all and defeated them in fair combat. He then returns in glory to the Father who sent Him on this mission.
And when the time is right and His palace is prepared, He will sweep in on His white horse to claim the woman for which He suffered.
“Christ will have the prize for which He died – an inheritance of nations.” – O Church Arise, Keith and Kristyn Getty
Friends, what could be more beautiful than this? And what could be more sound and reasonable and right? God has displayed through the gospel the heights of His wisdom and His glory. With it filling our minds, we are not drawn by the false logic of worldly philosophy or the empty shimmer of sin’s gorgeous appeal.
May this story bring you to your knees today.