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The Blog of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship
August 23, 2013
Why Things Fall Apart Without Jesus
What is a center?
Common definitions say a center is the point around which a circumference may be described or the gravitational axis around which objects are held in orbit.
When a center cannot hold, things fall apart.
Such is the apocalyptic truth expressed by William Butler Yeats in his poem “The Second Coming.”
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world . . .
Reducing the power of a center weakens its gravitational strength. Imagine what would happen to our planet were it not for the just-right gravitational pull of the sun which keeps earth in that “goldilocks zone” for maintaining human life. Think of what would happen if someone switched off the gravitational force at the center of the earth. We rely on gravity at the center of things to keep our solar system, our planet, our very lives from flying apart.
Ponder as well the consequences of removing ethical principles at the center of our society. What would happen to our jurisprudence systems? Would government fall apart, fragmenting into tribal anarchies?
And what if we replaced a true center with a false center? Will any replacement suffice to hold everything together? Will a black hole serve just as well as the sun for keeping the planets of our solar system in constant orbit?
Postmodern Emptiness . . . and Maybe Me
Until modern times, the divine was enthroned at the center of everything. Even when Yeats published his Modernist poem “The Second Coming” in 1921, most people in Western societies still believed that divinity occupied the philosophical center, so searching for the nucleus of our universe was still very much a theological inquiry.
But after Modernism weakened the gravitational power of divinity by questioning the power and love of God (Why does humanity suffer if God is so powerful and loving?), Postmodernism removed the Creator entirely from the center of everything by assuming that the question of a Creator’s existence is irrelevant, since everything is evolved from chance and randomness anyway. So with the coming of Postmodernity, belief that a divine Truth governs all peripheral truths mostly deconstructed, and in place of a weakened Universal, Postmodernism gave us the absence of God and a theological emptiness.
But humanity abhors emptiness, whether in time or space. That is why people are compelled to fill emptiness with music, conversations, philosophies, shopping. In our time, what we have replaced the absence of God with is the human self. The human self, both individual and collective, is the almost universally acknowledged center of everything, the new spiritual truth to fill the theological emptiness. The deity of the twenty-first century is the Me.
If Not Me, Then Who?
But for those of us who take the Bible seriously, the triune God of all creation still matters. And when we believe what the Bible says about humanity, we see that a personal God truly loves us and has embodied such love in the God/man Jesus Christ, the One who claims our allegiance as the way, the truth, and the life—which is why he was accused of blasphemy, for such a statement is tantamount to saying Jesus is deity and hence the center of everything.
This fully divine and fully human Jesus knows our sorrows: dirt clung to his feet, sweat stained his garments, blood from his hands and feet pooled at the foot of the cross for our salvation. If we accept as true Jesus’ claim to the center, then we cannot get beyond the circumference of his sovereignty, for his authority is both infinite and eternal.
But from his day until now, people have tried to evade Christ’s authority, his gravitational pull, by reducing him to anything but the only incarnate Son of God. For generations people have avoided his reach by reducing him to their own image. Yet a merely human Jesus is powerless to hold all things together. Such an unbiblical Jesus is adequate to encourage our virtues but powerless to redeem our sins; such an all-too-human Jesus may be an inspiration to many but he can be a Savior for none.
But worse than reducing the power and authority of Jesus is removing him altogether from the center of Christian theology. Since a human-centered ideology cannot fill a sacred space, some New Age seekers replace the biblical Jesus with a mystical Christ, a cartoonish superhero, whose status as an ascended master holds the same disastrous enticement as the ancient serpent’s temptation in the Garden of Eden when he promised Eve that she would be as God. Without the biblical Jesus at the center of Christian theology, the circumference that differentiates what is Christian from what is humanistic disappears.
Jesus at the Center
In Isaiah 45:5-6, God proclaims: “I am the Lord, and there is none else, there is no God beside me.” In Isaiah 44:6, God says of the Redeemer: “I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God.” And in Revelation 1:8, Jesus says of himself: “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending.” Taken together, these (and other) biblical verses emphatically declare Jesus is the center of everything.
Reducing, removing, or replacing Jesus as the center of everything results in things falling apart; yielding our lives to his sovereignty results in our lives holding together for eternity.
Jonathan Rice is a Senior Editor/Writer with InterVarsity. He has a BA degree in Religious Studies, an MA in Creative Writing/English, an MDiv in Theology/Pastoral Studies, and a DMin in Homiletic and Narrative Theology. He is an ordained Presbyterian minister and served as a pastor for nine years. Currently he works part time with InterVarsity and is writing a novel.