What has Clay to do with Salvation?


Quite a lot!

The classic passage in Jeremiah 18 about the potter and the clay is very famous and an incredible lesson for us in how to hear, and expect to hear the Word of the Lord in the ordinary everyday things of life!

While I was studying and preparing a recent sermon, the thought occurred to me too that because God always does what “seems good to do” (v4), and He never hesitates to rework the clay into another vessel if the clay is spoiled in whatever way.  Whichever way it happens, God will work on the clay!

But.  Human beings don’t exist just so God can shape us.  We don’t exist to give God something to do!  We all exist for a purpose, an exquisite purpose with divine intentions, and those intentions are…. (you guessed it) salvation.

In 2 Timothy 3:15 Paul instructs Timothy that the Scriptures (God’s Word) are able to “make us wise for salvation.”  Not just to merely give us salvation, but to make us wise for salvation.  This is the language of maturity in Christ, growing up in Christ, reaching the full measure of the stature of Christ, putting away childish things, thinking as adults (i.e. maturely, wisely, biblically), and on and on.

I love the Church because it was God’s idea and it’s a flamin’ miracle, but too many in our churches treat salvation like a lump of clay.  There they sit, in the pews week after week, like a lump of clay on the potter’s table, refusing to be shaped, refusing to be crafted by the potter.  Why should they?  They have salvation – don’t they?

A fuller account of salvation is not that we are on the table, but that we are pushed and pulled, to and fro, turned, kneaded and squeezed.  Salvation is about the shaping and the contours of the pot too.

Clay was never meant to remain clay.  People are never meant to just have salvation.    Clay is meant to be shaped into a vessel.  People are meant to be made wise for salvation.  The potter shapes the clay to the image of a pot.  The Father shapes us into the image of his Son.

Don’t miss what God is doing in the ordinary things of our lives, because what He is doing is extraordinary.  Jeremiah saw it.  Do you?

Moral Idiots

Atheist delusions

Towards the end of his brilliant and devastating critique of contemporary new-atheism, David Bentley Hart writes, of professional academics:  

“Admittedly, I am still talking about only a small number of particular individuals here, and those manifestly moral idiots.  Living in the academic world, moreover, I am acquainted with their kind to a perhaps unhealthy degree.  Some of them are, however, influential, and it is not entirely insignificant that their ideas – which at one time would have been rightly regarded by almost anyone as the degenerate ravings of sociopaths – are strangely palatable and even compelling to many of their fellows.

Their voices may, then, be acute manifestations of a more chronic condition.  If nothing else, their ideas demonstrate how easy it is even for educated persons today to believe – for no reason other than unreflective intellectual prejudice – knowing that how genes work is the same thing as being authorized  to say what a person is or should be.

This is one of the many reasons that I suspect that our contemporary “age of reason” is in many ways an age of almost perfect unreason, one always precariously poised upon the edge of – and occasionally slipping over into – the purest barbarism.  I suspect that, to a far greater degree than we typically might imagine, we have forsaken reason for magic: whether the magic of occult fantasy or the magic of an amoral idolatry of our own power over material reality.

Reason, in the classic and Christian sense, is a whole way of life, not the simple and narrow mastery of certain techniques of material manipulation, and certainly not the childish certitude that such mastery proves that only material realities exist.

A rational life is one that integrates knowledge into a larger choreography of virtue, imagination, patience, prudence, humility, and restraint.  Reason is not only knowledge, but knowledge perfected in wisdom.  In Christian tradition, reason was praised as a high and precious thing, principally because it belonged intrinsically to the dignity of beings created in the divine image; and, this being so, it was assumed that reason is always morality, and that charity is required for any mind to be fully rational.

Even if one does not believe any of this, however, a rational life involves at least the ability to grasp what it is one does not know, and to recognize that what one does not know may not be the only kind of genuine knowledge there is.”


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