Last night I had the joyful task of reading with my grandson. His mother has introduced him the Chronicles of Narnia, and it was my turn to pick up at one of the most poignant passages of the entire series (subjective judgment, of course). It is scene in which Eustace undergoes his “conversion” from the dragon he had become into a new version of his former person. The climactic moment came when he tried to shed his scales, his dragonhood if you will, by his own effort. He could take off a layer, feel a sense of freedom, but realize that there was always another layer remaining. Only when Aslan came and surgically and quite painfully penetrated to the core of Eustace himself could the process be completed and the self be renewed. I love that passage; I hate that passage.
The good news is that though people have rebelled and made a mess of things, God in Christ intervenes to change things–dramatically and eternally. I’ve been reviewing Greg Gilbert’s book What Is the Gospel? He offers a framework of God-man-Christ-response for answering that question. Gilbert affirms the absolute necessity of a substitutionary view of atonement, while acknowledging that other models contribute to our limited grasp of what Christ has done on our behalf by his incarnation, life, death, resurrection, and ascension. And because he has done these things he and he alone can change us from dragons into children of God.
Like Eustace, dragons must first recognize their true nature; the first part of Gilbert’s framework is necessary to parts 3 and 4. We need to know who made us, and we need to recognize our failure–both in living as we were made to do and in our efforts to do it better without His intervention. If God in Christ went to the extent He did to redeem us, there really cannot be any thought that it was not necessary for Him to do so, or that there is an alternative. And if God acts, we can have confidence that what He does is sufficient for the purpose. Sufficient, but effective for those who respond, who go under the great Lion’s claw to have removed what they cannot remove themselves.
There is more to the story, more to the gospel. I’ll finish the series with one more post to talk about the greater extent of what God is doing in the world.