Immutable Laws of Nature

By Bob Hiller

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This past week, California Governor Jerry Brown made this comment to the LA Times concerning climate change, ““The laws of nature are immutable,” he said. “You have to conform to them, not make them conform to you.” Now, I’ll let the smarter, more politically savvy Jagged Word bloggers point out the irony that these words come from a governor who endorses the systematic killing of unborn children. Rather, I want to deal with the words themselves. Because, the way I see it, they are true. The laws of nature are immutable and no matter how hard we will it, we cannot overcome them.

This is no mere truthism, it is also sage advice to pro athletes who are in the twilight of their careers. This week, Kobe Bryant announced he would be retiring. A premier athlete who had trained and willed his body to perform at the top level for the better part of 20 years can no longer physically carry his team on his back. The law of nature got him. Despite his will to win, he needs to retire. And let’s be honest Bronco fans, after watching Brock team up with the officials to take down the dark side of the force (i.e. the New England Patriots) on Sunday, aren’t we all kind of hoping Peyton takes a cue from Kobe? His age and injuries have caught up with him to the point that the majority of his passes are becoming a liability for the offense.

I never thought I’d see the day where Kobe or Manning struggled to produce on the field. But even they have to conform to the law of nature, because no matter how much you want to play, nature will not conform to you. To put a quaint theological spin on it, the law reveals the truth about the body’s ability to stay young forever. The law puts those dreams to death, no matter how strong one’s desire is to play more.

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This truth about the laws of nature is true for nature itself, our bodies, and (if I may take a dark turn here) human nature as well. Once again this week we saw the truth of human nature before our very eyes. As three gunman opened fire in San Bernardino’s Inland Regional Center, we were once again subjected to Satan’s tyrannical work. And, despite all the well-intentioned sentiments were about the strength of the human spirit and how we all stand with the victims and their families, we are once again confronted with the reality that the laws of the sinful nature are immutable from our end. We can’t stop the sinful nature from wreaking havoc on this world.

Somewhere Chesterton says that the only Christian doctrine that is empirically demonstrable is the doctrine of original sin. He’s right. Beyond that, it is also true that no matter what measures are taken to keep that demonic work of sin in check, it finds ways to oppress, attack, and kill. Whether it is on a small scale with gossip that seeks to harm another’s reputation (the most valuable thing we have, Luther says) or on a larger murderous scale as we saw in Paris or San Bernardino, the hard facts in this world are that we cannot do a thing to stop sin from its destructive work. We can’t even seem to keep our hands out of it!

So, people will set out to adjust gun laws or create more government regulations. Others will suggest we keep gun laws the way they are and leave the government out of it. And though there may be enforceable and peaceable solutions to stopping gun violence in our country, we must not kid ourselves into thinking that fewer guns will result in fewer horrifying tragedies.

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Now, don’t read this as some simplistic “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people” pablum. It is rather an acknowledgement that this world is filled with people who are either empowered by or made helpless by sin. And we can expect hell and horror to be a part of lives, quite frankly, until Christ returns.

Nor am I saying that we shouldn’t work towards a world that is full of truth, goodness, and beauty, as our Virtue in the Wasteland teammates like to say. But, it is to acknowledge that such virtue is not the norm when the wasteland is the context. In the wasteland, it looks at times as though God has forgotten that He is merciful and powerful and is the only one who can stop the immutable law of sin. This is the wasteland where the laws of the sinful nature are immutable, and death, it seems, reigns.

I don’t mean to be a downer. But, the law of the sinful nature, as we could call it, is really pissing me off lately. Frankly, I hope it pisses you off too. I hope when you see stories like this, it makes you sad and angry. I hope it makes you long for something more. I hope it forces you to cry out to God with the words of Psalmist, “Awake! Why are you sleeping, O Lord? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever! Why do you hide your face? Why do you forget our affliction and oppression? For our soul is bowed down to the dust; our belly clings to the ground. Rise up; come to our help! Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love!” Psalm 44:23-26

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Perhaps this is a little heavy for a sports blog in the season of Advent, but dear friends, this is what Advent is for: longing, repenting, crying out for mercy. We pray “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” not as a sentimental Wednesday service favorite, but as a longing cry of lament for Christ to come and end Satan’s tyranny, and to put death’s darks shadows to flight.

Advent is for lament. But, lament is not without hope. For we who cry for mercy have a God who listens. A God who, in answer, put on flesh and himself cried for His blessed mother. We have a God who embodied our laments on Good Friday as He suffered outside the city in the God-forsaken wasteland of your sin: the cross. And, though He walked through the valley of death and suffered under the immutable law’s condemnation on sinners, He walked out of the grave on Easter morning, which is a real Christmas miracle! For, as He rose, He muted, silenced, the immutable law of death, and promised for the sake of His steadfast love, to redeem us from the tyranny of Satan. This is the promise we cling to and cry for. To lift from Samwise Gamgee’s profundity, our Jesus is coming and will take all that is sad in this world of immutable sin and make it come untrue. All that is sad and evil and deadly in this world will be damned to hell forever. And Christ will reign. And the only thing immutable will be the Lamb on the throne, your life, and the songs of the angels. Even so, come Lord Jesus.

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9 thoughts on “Immutable Laws of Nature

  1. I normally like the things you have to say. But I disagree, here. If we live and lament for the second coming, we miss the life we have in Christ, here and now. Our eternal lives are already here.

    What does such baptizing with water signify? –

    Answer.
    It signifies that the old Adam in us should, by daily contrition and repentance, be drowned and die with all sins and evil lusts, and, again, a new man daily come forth and arise; who shall live before God in righteousness and purity forever.

    Where is this written? –

    Answer.
    St. Paul says Romans, chapter 6: We are buried with Christ by Baptism into death, that, like as He was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

    As Christians, we no longer face each day under the tyranny of sin, death, and the devil. These have been defeated and stand already judged and condemned. Rather, we live each day in the freedom won for us by Christ. We invite others, this Advent, to join us in preparing to receive the promise of eternal life, to receive our King.

    It is in this freedom that we point to and condemn the culture which covets means of death and misery and seeks to obscure the victory we have by shifting our eyes from the cross to our own misery; turning us from the one who has overcome the world to a world we feel is still to be overcome.

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    1. Thanks for reading, hlewis! I do appreciate it!

      I am a little confused over your response. My concern here is not about “the baptized life” or sanctification so much as it is about the horrible events we are facing in our daily lives. I have no problem lamenting for the second coming because we live in a world of sin here and now. The life I have here and now faces all kinds of horrors and sins and evil. It is the Psalms that teach us how to pray amidst all of this (again, Psalm 44 is for you and i to pray).

      Lament is absolutely a responsibility of the Christian. As Paul says, we are to weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn. We pray for Christ to return soon. We mourn, but not without hope. So, yes, we point others to the hope in Christ, but not with false assurance that there will be no problems in the world. The reality is, though I believe God is active and listening, I don’t always see it or experience it.

      So, we pray lamentations, crying out for the Lord to return and make all things right.

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      1. I fully agree that we mourn and lament, we wish for a permanent end to suffering. But waiting for the end can often mire people in despair or immobilize them. Leading with it is good but ending with it is not. God’s absence is most perceived on the cross. Looking at from this side, there is a dead man, murdered. Has God ever been more hidden?Jesus forsaken by himself? How is that possible?

        Jesus is God’s answer to that Psalm. I don’t believe God is waiting to make things right. I think He intends working toward the right, through us, each day, with the completion upon His return. We bring comfort and peace and joy when the venting is past. We bring Christ to situations where the sorrow doesn’t seem to be passing. Flawed, temporary, fleeting, and in the hands of justified sinners, He isn’t making us wait for comfort, He expects us to have at least a taste of it now so that we look with joyful anticipation toward His coming not only as the end of suffering and the introduction of happiness but the increase and perfection of the joy we already have.

        Christ has come, Christ has saved, Christ is with us in Word and sacrament. Each time we lament, it ends with Christ, even before He comes, again. Perhaps, the times we cannot see Him make the times we can more joyful?

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      2. Though I agree we are to bring Christ to those broken situations, we aren’t naive to think such situations cease to be.

        I simply think “joyful anticipation” is missing in San Bernardino this week. Nor, do I think we should impose joy on the weeping. But, hopeful lament certainly exists and results from Christ’s promises.

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  2. “We can’t stop the sinful nature from wreaking havoc on this world.”

    I’m a fan Bob, and your article is apparently Lutheran orthodoxy, by virtue of the similar sentiments that I’ve encountered on Confessional social media. However, I must boldly push back against such an ethereal view of Christianity, which basically has no interest in and is fatalistic about God’s creation.

    Did God not entrust human beings to steward creation? Did not God institute government to restrain evil. Are not Christians charged with loving their neighbors in their vocations? Do not Christians have in their vocation as citizens the responsibility to work for good laws and officials to bear the sword to protect us?

    America is self-destructing, on some higher principle of so-called liberty (idolatry), in which the only solution is vigilante justice. Any one who understands the Simul (not to speak of pagans) should know where that leads.

    I think people with your view lack the courage to call a thing a thing. So, the argument left is, blame sin and wait for heaven.

    Like most arguments, of course there’s truth in what you say, but it lacks the complete picture of God’s plan. Please don’t reduce Christ’s cross to an escape hatch.

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    1. Jean, with all due respect (and I sincerely mean that, I truly appreciate your comments on our blog…BTW, are you the same Jean on the radical lutheran Facebook page? Just curious…) let me attempt to have the courage to call a thing what it is: evil people ruthlessly murdered innocent victims in a cold blooded shooting and Jesus didn’t stop the bullets. Where was Jesus in that? Where was God’s left hand to restrain the violence there?

      Yes, Jesus is the answer. So, I pray he comes soon to make this right because we who have been entrusted with stewarding creation really suck at it.

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  3. Bob, I’m the same Jean. We, in America, seem to suck at restraining evil within our borders a lot more than just about every other western country (all of whom, most would consider much more secular, by the way). Ironically, however, many want to export our way of life, even by the sword. Do you not perceive the disconnect?

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    1. I think I see the disconnect, but I think you are now asking questions beyond both the scope of my article and my feeble brain’s ability to answer. My point is that only the return of Christ will ultimately end evil’s attacks.

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