Thursday, December 20, 2018

It Ain’t Over ’til It’s Over

The Lord is king forever and ever.”

The 2014 NCAA football championship final was an amazing game. The Florida State Seminoles and their Heisman Trophy winning quarterback, high on a record-breaking season, were pitted against the upstart Auburn Tigers, recent defeaters of last year’s national champions. Florida State was touted as the prohibitive favorite — but as they say, it ain’t over ’til it’s over.

Auburn stormed out onto the field and took the Seminoles off guard. Their crafty game plan, superior aggression at the line and some stellar execution by their offense rapidly staked them to an overwhelming 21-3 lead. Meanwhile, nothing the Seminoles tried seemed to work, and Auburn’s every touch of the ball was golden.

But as they say, the game weren’t over yet.

Florida State v. Auburn

On fourth down and long, Florida State suddenly faked a punt and scrambled for a rare first down. This eventually led to their first points of the game. Still, they trailed 21-10 at the half.

In the second half, at last FSU began to make a few plays on defense, and slowly their offense began to put up points. Eventually they were ahead by a mere three points. But with only 1:19 to go, Auburn’s running back scored what should have been a game-winning touchdown. But still it was true that the game was not quite over.

At that crucial moment, the FSU quarterback stepped up and took charge. The team went on a roll down the field, and suddenly the Auburn defense could do nothing right. With only 13 seconds left, Florida State scored the touchdown that put the game out of reach of the Auburn offense. The game was finally actually over, and it was time to tell the tale of the 2014 NCAA National Football Championship.

Team God v. Team Cynical

That’s a lesson we all need to remember when we think about this world. The events that take place here reflect a time when Team Cynical seems to be ahead, and Team God seems to be faltering, and maybe even falling out of the game. Yet this is an old story, and one that is no news to anyone who reads the Bible. Long ago, the psalmist wrote:
“The wicked boasts of the desires of his soul, and the one greedy for gain curses and renounces the Lord. In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him; all his thoughts are, ‘There is no God.’ His ways prosper at all times; your judgments are on high, out of his sight; as for all his foes, he puffs at them. He says in his heart, ‘I shall not be moved; throughout all generations I shall not meet adversity.’ ”
One thing that’s abundantly clear about our world today is that you don’t get ahead by being good, and you don’t lose because you’re evil. The wicked often prosper. The innocent often suffer. There is no denying that if success is the metric, then those who disregard or even mock God appear to have the upper hand. Free of all moral constraints, they can do anything necessary to guarantee that they get ahead. They are kings of this day, free to strut and preen while good people encumbered by moral scruples, and the reverence for God, fall behind. In fact, it often looks like their struggling and suffering has no longer any prospect of redress: justice will never come.

The Reign of Righteousness

But both sides can often lose sight of this: the game ain’t over yet. Until it is, the proud man boasts in vain, and the wicked man struts his success at his own peril.

What they do not know, what they cannot admit, is that God is king forever and ever. End of story.

When God’s reign — the reign of righteousness — begins, it never ends. Those who hate him are kings now, but they are only ‘king for a day’. The Lord is king forever and ever.

It is as the Bard warned us:
“In the corrupted currents of this world, offence’s gilded hand may shove by justice, and oft ’tis seen the wicked prize itself buys out the law; but ’tis not so above. There is no shuffling; there the action lies in his true nature, and we ourselves compell’d, even to the teeth and forehead of our faults, to give in evidence.”
And so it will be.

Life is Like Football ...

And so, in a way, the Christian life is really like watching a recording of a football game. As we watch we do not know how the plays will work out. Who will have the ball, what plays will be run, and what accidents will happen along the way are unknown to us. At times, our team may seem to suffer irreparable setbacks, and the adversaries may seem overwhelming — at times, a defeat so apparently final that we cannot imagine any road back may come into our experience, and we may actually despair.

Yet ultimately, we already know the score. There will be no win for evil, for injustice or for those who mock God. Man is only king for a day.

The Lord is king forever and ever.


  1. That is exactly what is so irritating to the theist. Why would God not even skew the statistics just a little bit in favor of the believer instead of letting the Sun shine and the chips fall so totally impartially? After all that fact is what empowers the non-believer in his presumption that there probably is no God and consistently puts the believer on the defensive.

    Of course, this is a rhetorical question (since I think I have an answer) the answer to which may have different angles. What's yours?

    1. Great question, Qman.

      My suggestion would be this. There are certain things that would not be possible if the world worked in certain ways. For example, as I have written, if the world were a place of supernatural determinism then human freedom would be an illusion. This, of course, doesn't suggest any inadequacy on God's part, but rather describes a feature of the concept we call "freedom." Freedom requires ability to choose.

      Might I suggest that another thing that would be defeated (or at least undermined) by the sort of world you describe? Faith. For faith is a vote of confidence in God, one based purely on what one believes about the character of God, and thus is made possible by the fact that there is *not* an automatic relationship between belief in God and short-term success or practical rewards. And since faith is essential to the kind of relationship God wishes to have with us, a more congenial environment might well undermine the possibility of Him establishing that sort of relationship.

      You are right: this impartiality gives latitude to the non-believer to disregard God; but it also makes possible the believer's belief in God, not as a compulsory fact but as a vote of confidence in the Word of God and the character of His Son. And it is to those who hear His Word and give honour to His Son whom the Father calls His own.

      But admittedly, this is only a reflective guess on my part. Is that anything like your answer?

    2. As you suggest IC the key thing here is faith that could get hurt by a stacked deck of cards. However, I want to suggest below that the deck can be, and actually is, stacked in favor of the believer without impacting faith or belief in God in any significant way. However, it is stacked by God in a completely impartial, fair, logical, but different, fashion that at first glance may elude the more cursory observation. In other words, I am suggesting that God does not withhold anything from us, even, and especially, the application of human logic to all matters and all fields, including religion and faith. If God did that, I would consider this to indeed be a stacked deck of cards (universe).

      The non-believer (I'll use nb for ease), as I discovered in my discussions on a (mostly atheistic/agnostic) leaning philosophy forum, will use the evident and direct unobservability of God as proof that he does not exist. Hence, why should anyone have faith in such an idea. The nb would probably agree that God could exist if the world were observably stacked in favor of the believer as discussed above.

      Here is the clincher, namely, the universe is OF COURSE stacked by God, as a loving father, in favor of the believer simply because God wants to encourage and support the believer's journey in faith (and that means even if you are just starting out). And here is how it's impartially and fairly being done. God is simply choosing to not be responsible for our own choices and therefore is serving up the universe cafeteria style. I.e., here we are wandering through the cafeteria with our empty, or partially full, plates and cups deciding what we should put on our plates and in our cups from the elaborate and rich buffet table before us. Now isn't it perfectly clear, and requires no formal proof, that if you select less healthy fare, you will in the short or long run (depending on what you pick) suffer potentially even serious consequences. Isn't that exactly the way it happens with food in the physical domain and it therefore also happens with food in the spiritual and moral domain. Note that God is completely fair and innocent of anything here, especially since you are doing the stacking and are assembling a winning or losing dish of food under your own volition.

      Naturally, if you select the poorer spiritual and moral fare, the consequences can be very serious, analogous to what happens to your physical body with physical food. It is acceptable to argue that God could/should have removed the poorer selections from the table, but that is where your (IC's) freedom, free will, argument comes into play. We MUST be free to choose healthy and/or unhealthy food and thus voluntarily choose or not choose God.

      One more comment concerning the cafeteria itself. Note that this cafeteria building is not the latest and the greatest. It, due to the biblical Fall, is somewhat creaky, drafty, and sitting on an earthquake fault and in an occasional bad weather zone. The consequence is that there may be water main breaks with flooding and there may be food spoilage, illnesses due to bacteria, viruses etc.. Now, according to the bible, we (or our forebears) even picked the surroundings where they wanted their cafeteria to be located.

      So, the lesson is, pick good food and if you can't find what you are looking for ask the manager (in prayer) to put on the table and resupply those things that are of greatest benefit to yourself, yours, and the human community.

    3. Not bad advice at all, Qman. I really have only one hesitation about your description of the buffet. It's not always apparent which are the good choices and which are the bad, especially if we judge by apparent advantages.

      It think there is a sense in which the deck is not stacked in favour of the Christian at all...and that is that it is actually harder to be a Christian in this world than not to be. The Scripture describes our state as one of "groaning," or elsewhere, of "hungering and thirsting" in ways the nb knows nothing about. Indeed, in a fallen world, much of what we long for does not come to pass, and it might well be much easier to function without those longings, if it were not the case that, as Christ promised, we who hunger "shall be filled."

      But not here. Not now. Not easily. And not in a way that rewards us in obvious, physical, financial, or other such comparatively trivial terms: only in eternal terms.

      Genuinely "good choices" are those made in the perspective of eternity, not the choices which seem to offer practical rewards here on earth.

      Not only so, but many bad choices have at least an *appearance* of being "healthy" or "moral." Think, for example, of the choice to put greater effort into works righteousness; it looks good, but it leads to death.

      I think that the "benefit" you speak of, the one we must look for, is the benefit of making those kinds of choices that conduce to our relationship with God. All other choices are disasters, even if at first glance they don't appear to be.

    4. Indeed IC, that's how a buffet works. You don't necessarily always correctly pick the right dish for various reasons. It may look good but you find it tastes terrible, you think it might be harmless enough to want giving it a try, you are simply tempted because it looks like it could satisfy, be interesting, and so on. I was probably thinking more along the lines that on average the spiritually astute and committed believer will make correct choices more often with the attendant benefits. Naturally, these benefits are of the type a believer experiences even through the path of the cross, but they also do not preclude the more mundane ones like sustenance, health, overcoming adversity, peace of mind, etc.. What I therefore mean is that the believer has an advantage because the goal and attitude is to try and make the right, healthy, selection as often as possible. Since the nb lacks this commitment and also has incorrect information, and is not interested in obtaining such information, concerning caloric value, healthfulness, etc., the nb will be at a totally fair and self-imposed disadvantage, hence the deck is stacked in favor of the believer in an impartial manner.

  2. Yes, of course, that is the answer. I had forgotten about this.It has become even more appealing nowadays since it is more and more recognized that becoming vegan will help our planet, our health and lifes ;-). Hope that the power of the analogy will become more and more apparent.