Nakedness and Necessity

goldringby Glenn Fairman   3/30/14
Until we stand naked before the Living God, we shall not have assumed the proper perspective for building the foundations of an everlasting relationship. It ultimately comes down to a question of how vividly and honestly we perceive our need in Him. God is bound by no necessity. He, by nature, neither needs nor seeks completion through any externality that exists apart from His Triune Being. We, in contradistinction, are veritable oceans of desire and need. Our unregenerate natures, in their relentless longing for completion (and if they were able to) would absorb His entire creation to fill that boundless aching vacuum left within us, upon having evicted our rightful Master. Both parties, therein, occupy asymmetrical states of being — and a humanity divorced from its ultimate and sole fountain of satisfaction is wretched and restless beyond all comprehension.

It will not be possible for Natural Man, by reason of his carnality, to allow the proper approach of God in his life, because humanity will relentlessly seek to offer its Creator the scraps of its earthly virtue as evidence that a self-directed life possesses an inherent worthiness– an auto-generated Goodness that mankind can bargain God with — a fig leaf from which it can hide its nakedness. It is only by dispensing with the faith one has invested in his own working virtues that work can commence. And in transferring that faith to the True Sole Object that can forever salve this neediness, He can then begin His Great Reclamation Project within us. By admitting to ourselves the scope of our nakedness (a need that the Living God is well aware of), our feet can be anchored on solid rock and the Creator can begin an “addition by subtraction:” leveling our ramshackle edifice by dismantling the misconceptions, vanities, and self-interest that have masked themselves as bragging rights before God.

We are, then, effectively relinquishing the directorship over our own sovereignty and admitting to our utter futility – even if our life looks healthy from the outside or whether we have dashed ourselves on the rocks of calamity. Our impoverished need then becomes the default state where Christ meets us. Only in our unclad wretchedness will God finally have the opportunity to lovingly, but thoroughly, cleanse us and offer us raiment of light and a ring of fine gold.
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Glenn Fairman writes from Highland, Ca. He can be reached at arete5000@dslextreme.com. • (2061 views)

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24 Responses to Nakedness and Necessity

  1. One of the best descriptions of “original sin” that I’ve seen. You avoid both the Pelagian I’m-OK-you’re-OK and the TULIP total depravity. We just aren’t what we used to be. We used to be perfect and now we’re not and for each of us that must be righted and by the grace of God, He will see to that for us. Hosanna.

    • ronlsb says:

      Sorry, Deana, but I have to disagree with your assessment of Glenn’s description of the human condition. Rightly understood, he has accurately described man in his “total depravity”, as you call it. The doctrine of “total depravity” is a slight misnomer in that it never meant that man was as depraved as he could be. After all, Hitler could have killed seven million Jews rather than six. It simply means that man in his unregenerate state can do NOTHING to please God. It does not mean he is as evil as he could be. God’s common grace to humanity prevents that, thank God! I do believe this is what Glenn has attempted to describe in his article.

      • Rosalys says:

        Given the right circumstances and the absence of restraints, there really isn’t any depth of depravity that the unregenerate man is incapable of sinking into – and sometimes even the regenerate man can sink pretty low when he takes his eyes off God. The atrocities of the Third Reich were committed by people who were in many other respects quite normal.

  2. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    He, by nature, neither needs nor seeks completion through any externality that exists apart from His Triune Being.

    This may be so. But how do we know this? How do we know that he wasn’t going bored out of his mind in his Triune Being and needed to start a project — the universe? I don’t mean to be flippant. It’s just that I think when we try to get inside the head of God, we’re beyond our element.

    But it is a standard theme, and one that I have sympathy for, that we are oceans of desire that can never be filled on our own. Mankind coming to terms with this is arguably the means to not going crazy and not being barbarous.

    • john hartnett says:

      “How do we know that he wasn’t going bored out of his mind in his Triune Being and needed to start a project — the universe?”

      For God to be bored out of His mind and needing to start a project would necessitate incompleteness in Himself. He is the first cause, outside of creation in which imperfection is inherent –“I am Who am”. He is all. He necessarily bears no imperfection, no incompleteness, nothing lacking in Himself.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Again, that may be so. God may be complete in himself. That is the common conception. But my question is, and was, How do we know this? Or even, Why should we suspect this to be the case?

        If god is the idealized “completeness in himself,” then why this universe? To me an idealized sense of completeness is to reduce god to nothing — no wants, no desires, no personality…nothing.

        Given the Big Bang, the existence of evil, and the predominance of suffering, an equally valid philosophical proposition would be that God went a little bonkers one day, being all by himself for so long, and had a fit of something.

        And whatever one thinks about god’s completeness, He most certainly did start a project: the universe.

        I simply think we make too many pronouncements about what God is when we couldn’t possibly know such things.

        • john hartnett says:

          You commented: “Again, that may be so. God may be complete in himself. That is the common conception. But my question is, and was, How do we know this? Or even, Why should we suspect this to be the case?

          You ask further: “If god is the idealized “completeness in himself,” then why this universe? To me an idealized sense of completeness is to reduce god to nothing — no wants, no desires, no personality…nothing.”

          And I respond that we should know this to be the case because He created all from nothing. That ought to be a self-evident truth as nothing created can create, or has ever created, something from nothing. Only that which is uncreated, outside of creation and pre-existing, could have done so.
          This boredom that you speculate on, if it existed, must have of necessity been born of some need. Creatures have needs, being limited/finite, the deepest of them stemming from an inherent need for completion, the need for union with their creator. But how can THE creator, Who alone exists outside of creation, be incomplete or deficient in any way? Would that not imply that there must then be some other “first cause” greater than Himself Who is complete? And if so, then we still end with the First Cause being perfection Itself.
          As to Why this universe?
          The answer to that, I believe, is love. Love, by its nature is expansive. And infinite love is infinitely expansive, sharing in nature.
          Sharing with whom?
          Us. Mankind. And maybe others out there, somewhere. But maybe not. That will probably remain a mystery to us forever.
          If the common intelligence of humankind of all generations put together were equivalent to a single grain of sand on a beach, the mind of God, I submit, would be something akin to all the grains of sand on all the beaches and under all the seas of the entire world. So in that sense I agree that we can not truly know the mind of God. But, following Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas, Augustine and others, and through divine revelation, we can still know much about His nature.
          Love wants to give; love wants to receive love in return. Not because it is deficient, but because it is effusive. Rational creatures, men, have the capacity to receive and return love. So do angels. But the beauty of it with men is, that because of free will, we have to choose to return it. He Who is love receives freely given love in return in a continuous, infinite cycle.
          As far as your comment: “To me an idealized sense of completeness is to reduce god to nothing — no wants, no desires, no personality…nothing”, I would respond that nothingness and completeness are incompatible, no?
          Again, I come back to love. God needs nothing; he is infinite; He is. But in His being, He is, as the Apostle John told us, Love. And I return to the nature of love as stated above. And personality: He is the source of “personality”, again, the creator.
          And I also return to the impossibility of our ever coming close to fully understanding the mind of God, outside of revelation and that which is observable, i.e. Aristotle et al. Most of that which pertains to such a being, so far beyond our comprehension, is and will remain a mystery to us, at least in this corporal life. We are matter and spirit; He is spirit. and more than that, uncreated spirit, infinite, without limit.

          • Pokey Possum says:

            Yep, LOVE!

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            But how can THE creator, Who alone exists outside of creation, be incomplete or deficient in any way?

            Because we don’t exist outside of time and space, that would be difficult to answer. You seem certain. I don’t think from our position we can be.

            And that gets back to my original question: How do we know a Creator is complete onto himself? Again, this could be possible. But how would we know? We’re basically self-defining God as “complete unto himself” because he’s God. That’s tautological.

            Would that not imply that there must then be some other “first cause” greater than Himself Who is complete?

            Yes, I get the metaphysics. I’ve read Thomas Aquinas. I get (as much as any mere mortal can) the idea of “necessary being.” But even if we take this idea as a given, what can we really say about what it means to exist as that being? That’s really all I’m saying. I’m being honest about my epistemological humility. I’m not making up stuff about God just because it sounds nice.

            As for love being the general organizing principle, even that doesn’t pass muster as far as I’m concerned. It seems more of a cliche, something that everyone says. But life itself (and our experience of it) is far more complex than mere love. We can assume love, if only because it sounds nice to say so. But do we really know? Might the emotions and motivations of the Creator be larger and/or other than we can experience ourselves?

            I would assume so. It’s so easy to project ourselves onto God. But I say let God be God and try to figure out exactly what that is. If someone wants to believe it means one thing and not another, then fine. But my way of thinking is that we need to back things up with at least a little logic or plausibility.

            • Pokey Possum says:

              “But life itself (and our experience of it) is far more complex than mere love.”

              Brad, will you expound upon this statement please?

  3. john hartnett says:

    If one were to try to write a very succinct synthesis of The Imitation of Christ together with the classic on Humility, by Deitrich von Hildebrand, one would be hard pressed to do better than what Glenn has written in this piece.
    Even after the cleansing of baptism, the residual effects of pride and concupiscence upon the soul blind us to the Light and to the paths toward union with our creator; in our blindness we forever grope about chasing after one ephemeral thing or another, following our selves, who are nothing, inevitably to nowhere. Only, as Glenn so aptly describes, by discarding ( by grace and endless effort) all that is of self, all that is born of pride, can we lift up our gates that the King of Glory may come in.
    Shorn of pride then, we must follow the way of the cross in order to reach the resurrection.
    There is an old Catholic saying, seldom heard these days; per crucem, ad lucem (through the cross to the light).

    • Timothy Lane says:

      One might note that in the early days, there was no confirmation and evidently no last rites, and baptism was considered to wash away ALL sins (not just original sin). This is why many Christians (such as the Emperor Constantine the Great) waited until near death to be baptized (which could be risky if they suddenly died from violence), since such absolution could only be done once.

  4. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Pokey asked:

    Brad, will you expound upon this statement please?

    Sure: Hitler loved his dog. Trying to make love the central organizing principle behind all of creation is problematic. Feelings alone are neither good nor bad. It depends upon what you love.

    Only if one defines love as only the good things (and none of the bad things) can one cite “love” as the gist behind all of creation.

    My own view is that there is too much order inherent in reality for randomness to make a claim on it. Besides, no one has yet shown how “randomness” itself can be a sufficient cause for any kind of order.

    My own inclination is to think of god as a Creator. And Creators generally are driven by many other things than love — passion for instance. Few would deny that reality itself — even with all its harshness — isn’t a stupendous feat of creation. But what of motive?

    Of course, if purely on faith one believes that god is complete unto himself (however that works), and all the various other things that were said, then fine. But one should perhaps separate out faith observations from logical observations. This discussion has, frankly, made me less enthusiastic about the Christian faith, not more. For me, God has to be not just a projection of what we want, but what really is.

    • Pokey Possum says:

      “Only if one defines love as only the good things (and none of the bad things) can one cite “love” as the gist behind all of creation.”

      What are the “bad things”?

      • Timothy Lane says:

        I think Brad’s point is that bad people can love (and be loved, as Adolf Hitler certainly was by many people, including many in his entourage). Love therefore is not associated solely with good. But I admit that metaphysics is very definitely not my field.

        • Pokey Possum says:

          You are talking about Hitler being bad, not Love. Brad?

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Love therefore is not associated solely with good.

          Exactly, Tim. And metaphysics might not be your field, but this isn’t a deep metaphysical question, per se.

          If, on faith, one assume that God’s nature is x, y, and z, then fine. But this particular discussion wasn’t about that. It was about taking these things on faith and then back-filling with logic that, in my opinion, doesn’t hold up to the barest of scrutiny.

          We have a god who is supposedly complete unto himself, and yet it is common knowledge we also have a God of wrath — and more. The God in the Bible was going to completely destroy Sodom. Lot talked him out of it. He supposedly negotiated with God. This God sure sounds like the God who has a personality and who is a bit more interesting than the various idealizations such as “complete unto himself.”

          I can relate more to a God who gets pissed off, who wipes humanity off the face of the earth as he supposedly did in Noah’s flood (quite an act of “love” there). It was the greatest “do-over” ever performed. And then God changes his mind and says, in effect, “Okay, I’ve had my fit of petulance….I won’t do that again.”

          Jesus was also a sort of manifestation of the God of love…and a manifestation that said that many would be going to hell. There’s more than must “love” going on there. The Catholic Church in some ways is based upon legalism whereby if you don’t get a Sacrament at the right time and in the right order, you are going to hell.

          None of this is said to disparage religion or Christianity but to point out that, as much as we might want to simplify things, things aren’t going to be a simple as we can imagine. It’s logical to suppose that not only are things more complicated but that we can’t even conceive of the sorts of complications that exist in realms that are not our own.

          I just don’t put God in this nice tidy box as some others do.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        What are the “bad things”?

        Hitler loved fascism. There are many women who love men who beat them. People have the warm-fuzzies all the time regarding things that are either bad or aren’t good for them. To therefore define “love” as the very foundation of the universe is to squeeze all other aspects and content out of the equation. It’s to turn God and creation into little more than Jonathan Livingston Seagull, a sort of kitsch of religious sentiment.

        • Pokey Possum says:

          “1If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,[d] but have not love, I gain nothing.
          4Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[e] 6it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
          8Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
          13So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” The Holy Bible, 1 Corinthians, Chapter 13.

          A true Christian has received the gift of God’s Holy Spirit as a deposit made toward the promised eternal blessings. The Holy Spirit dwells within the Christian, and you can often see His presence reflected in the windows to their soul. The Spirit is, among many things, a teacher, guide, and counselor to those in whom He dwells. There are some things that a non-Christian cannot understand, no matter how hard he tries, because he is missing this major component, the Holy Spirit. Still, as this passage points out, we, even now, know only in part. Yet, this being said, is there anything about this definition of Love with which we can disagree?

          Christianity is not a game, to be won such as chess through cunning and reason. Christ can only be gained through surrender, as Glenn explained so well, by shedding all of our vanities and becoming naked. Upon exposing our need, we are able to receive the covering of our shame for which by His blood, Christ paid.

          The understanding of this is critical, because without this covering of Christ’s blood over our sin, our eternal souls will suffer the eternal consequence that sin deserves. It is the sin which incurs the consequences, not a lack of Love.

          God is an awesome God.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            There are some things that a non-Christian cannot understand, no matter how hard he tries, because he is missing this major component, the Holy Spirit.

            That’s a faith proposition. That’s also carte blanche to say that everything you say is true and that if another doesn’t understand it, it’s because he’s of a lesser stature.

            Frankly, Pokey, this is the kind of stuff that gives religion a bad name. Assuming the Holy Spirit is active in our lives, how does one determine that Person A has it (and thus is privy to secret knowledge) and Person B doesn’t? I’ve never been of the mind to declare myself better or more informed by declaring some supernatural virtue that otherwise is undiscoverable. But that’s just me.

            I understand that Christianity is not a game and not something based upon an equation. But is it to be then little more than nice-sounding tautologies or things that may raise our sense of esteem?

            One of my favorite quotes is from Thomas Jefferson, one that Glenn Beck often quotes: Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear.

            The God I search for is mysterious and larger than I am. He cannot be contained in syllogisms or slogans. And he does not exist for my self-satisfaction.

            It seems to me that many Christians have turned God into a dead “thing” to be manipulated by our doctrines instead of our doctrines bending to reality, as best we can know that reality.

            Again, if someone makes a faith declaration, that is one thing. But I think the trouble comes when you try to reason your way to this faith. The world itself does not necessarily point to many, if any, of the faith propositions.

            And I would expect a world that is a reflection of God to have much self-evidence built into it. To me it is not wrong to use logic and reason, even if logic and reason are not the total answer. But by using them, we may pare away the non-essentials to get to the essentials. To my mind, we are all in the role of anthropologists trying to figure out what is what from sparse clues.

            And one of those clues, or methods, may be the idea that we block our way from a deeper understanding by getting stuck in otherwise superficial dogma. Our words are meant to point to God, but God is not our words and is bigger than our words and concepts. I wonder if people ever have this in mind when talking about this stuff.

            And maybe the Holy Spirit guided me to say all this. Maybe God is tired of being treated like a caricature. It could be.

            • Pokey Possum says:

              Brad, I would never say that I am better than you or anybody else. I’m sorry if it comes off that way. If you continue reading after the quote you highlighted, you will see that I qualified what you perceived as a declaration of superiority.

              I don’t expect or even want you to believe everything I say. We all know I am not the source of supreme knowledge :-). Christians, upon making a proclamation of faith, are often held by others to a standard of perfection, while at the same time being accused of holding ourselves above non-Christians. Isn’t that contradictory?

              How can I state what I believe is the truth of God’s word in any other way than what I have done? My only alternative is to be silent. And silence is certainly a safe position for the Christian. But I don’t really give a rats behind about being safe – and that’s where the love comes in, because there is too much at stake for the unsaved. I’m talking about these things, this salvation, because I believe it to be true and I hope that every non-Christian reading this will, at the very least, be curious enough about what I have written to seek the truth on their own: That by God’s grace, while we were yet sinners, Christ died in our place for our sin because of His deep love for us. And by that same grace you can be saved through belief in Christ. This salvation is a gift from God. You can’t work for salvation. It is offered to you to accept, or reject.

              I agree with Thomas Jefferson that we should question the existence of God by using reason. By simply contemplating Creation, we can reason that there is a God. Acknowledging His existence is, of course, the first step to knowing Him in a more intimate way.

              I not only agree with you Brad, but believe with a depth that I cannot convey that “God is mysterious and larger than I am”. He cannot be contained, and His greatness is unfathomable. These statements can seem trite and contrived. But the proof of one’s belief is reflected in how one lives. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom…” (Proverbs 9:10, also see Psalms 111:10 and Proverbs 1:7). This fear is a reverence for His holiness, His power and might, His justice, and His love, just to name a few of His self-proclaimed attributes. There is a connection between one’s reverence for God, and the choices one makes. And though it does seem that many Christians do not have a broad understanding of who God is, as reflected in their pursuit of “religion”, it is understood that there is a growth process where faith is concerned. I am not the same “Christian” I was July 21, 1968 when as a six year old I had just “asked Jesus into my heart”. Thank God!!! I am not the same, day to day, as I was when I surrendered to His will for my life March 7, 2006 (what some would refer to as a rededication). Every day brings opportunity to know Him more through His Word, prayer, and quiet communion with Him.

              Creation points to God, but the ways of man (the world) do not. As you said, Brad, “Our words are meant to point to God, but God is not our words and is bigger than our words and concepts. I wonder if people ever have this in mind when talking about this stuff.” Certainly. Like I said at the beginning, I only hope that my words will prompt you, and others, to consider God, and the salvation He offers – by Christ’s sacrifice and the power of His resurrection.

              Indeed, God is not dead.

              • Timothy Lane says:

                I think there is a capacity for faith that is lacking in some people (such as me). So I tend to be a bit skeptical (and at times in the past strongly anticlearical), but at the same time — unlike many who claim to be skeptics — my skepticism applies to both sides of the religion vs. mechanistic science divide. Since about 1968, as a result, I’ve tended to alternate somewhat between deism and agnosticism, lately inclining to the former. But I also gather from my evangelical friends (including my housemate, Elizabeth) that some skepticism is likely at some point in most religious people’s lives. I think most of them would thus agree with you. (I’d like to get Elizabeth to read this thread and see what she has to say.)

              • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

                How can I state what I believe is the truth of God’s word in any other way than what I have done?

                That’s fine. I can appreciate that. I have no problems with professions of faith. But I also will not tend to just remain silent myself when someone frames the argument in terms of having a certain ingredient (the Holy Spirit) — something that can never be measured or tested — as the basis for discerning what is supposedly the deepest truth of the universe. You may believe that. And I’m fine with you believing it. But the light that one might say that God gave me does not acquiesce so quickly to such things. I’m afraid I’m a bit of a rationalist.

                It seems our lot to go through life without a sufficient (for me, at least) amount of certainty regarding the Ultimate questions. I may reflexively not agree that we can define god as this or that and be sure of it. But I also admit that you could be right.

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