Monthly Archives: November 2015

How Many Generations?

How many generations passed between Joseph and Moses, seeing nothing but the decay into slavery and the lonely, weary, angry rebellion of a heart against the unkept covenant?  We do not know what they thought, how they might have raged against the God of their fathers.  And rightly so.

How many more generations passed between the prophets of a newly restored Israel and the astonishing revelation of a dead and risen Messiah?  We know much more about what these people thought, as Persian conquerors gave them hope and Greek conquerors changed it to temptation, as Seleucid conquerors then made it despair and Roman conquerors finally scattered hope to the winds.  We know there was a brief period of victory for “God’s people,” though even that fell easily to corruption and made even the holy temple a place of simony and nepotism.  Wicked, aggressive and ultimately co-opted Hasmoneans gave the Davidic throne to an Idumean tyrant and sold priestly office to aristocrats.  No wonder Essenes changed hope into waiting in the desert, and Pharisees changed hope into the labor of establishing a perfect law.

How many generations shall we who live these millennia later labor in hopeless fear of a glorious faith sold to a culture of achievement and self-satisfaction?  We, like those who waited for centuries in apparently forgotten silence — we will cling to an ancient promise in our spiritual moments and in darker moments secretly despair of a real world’s redemption.  We cannot remove ourselves to some hermitic cave nor pretend a perfect law in Talmudic detail. Yet we, too, must continue these centuries alone as an over-used faith dies of a passed popularity.

Hope for Claudius

The show of piety in the prayer of Claudius is enough to stay the murderous hand of Hamlet, but Claudius himself knows it is not enough.  He knows he cannot truly repent of a sin that he intends to continue to enjoy.  Admittedly, the theology of Claudius — and of Hamlet, too — is too magical for most of us, but even so, it is difficult to know how to announce grace to a Protestant Claudius who cannot imagine the practical reality of repentance.  Some there may be who could really spurn the usurped queen and throne; some there may be who could truly abandon middle-class wealth and the idolatry of American sexuality.  But few.  And so what hope is there for Claudius?  Only grace.

But beware: Reliance on grace cannot become antinomianism, and freedom from the law cannot become acquiescence to sin.  So if there is hope for Claudius, it must be in some kind of longing repentance that acknowledges his inability to “go and sin no more.”  It must be a kind of repentance that sees him perhaps struggle and cry and continue to feel the pangs of guilt, even while knowing he is made guiltless.  He must continually accept grace and continually want to be better than he is.  He must be uncertain; he must be uncomfortable.  Claudius must be willing to be unhappy.

There must be hope for Claudius because there must be hope for me.