“Darkness and Disintegration”

Today I read this section from Timothy Keller’s book King’s Cross. It’s  a little long for an excerpt, but I wanted to show the development of the ideas and the beauty and power of them.

“In all the world, say the biographers of polar explorers, there is no desolation more complete than the polar night. Only those who have experienced it can fully appreciate what it means to be without the sun day after day and week after week. Few unaccustomed to it can fight off its effects altogether, and it has driven some men mad. In such deep darkness you can’t see forward, so you don’t know where you’re going. You have no direction. You can’t even see yourself; you don’t know what you look like. You may as well have no identity. And you can’t tell whether there is anyone around you, friend or foe. You are isolated. Physical darkness brings disorientation, but according to the Bible, so does spiritual darkness. Spiritual darkness comes when we turn away from God as our true light and make something else the center of our life.

The Bible sometimes compares God to the sun. The sun is a source of visual truth, because by it we see everything. And the sun is a source of biological life, because without it nothing could live. And God, the Bible says, is the source of all truth and all life. If you orbit around God, then your life has truth and vitality. You are in the light. But if you turn away from God and orbit around anything else–your career, a relationship, your family–as the source of your wrmth and your hope, the result is spiritual darkness. You are turning away from the truth, away from life, toward darkness. . . .

If anything but God is more important to you, you have a problem with direction. It’s impossible to discern where you’re going, let alone where you ought to be going. Money, career, love–for a period of time you may feel you have something to live for. But if you actually get the thing you have been seeking, you suddenly realize that it’s not big enough for your soul. It doesn’t produce its own light.

Also, if you center on anything but God, you suffer a loss of identity. Your identity will be fragile and insecure, because it’s based on the things you center your life on. It’s based on human approval. It’s based on how well you perform. You don’t really know who you are. In the darkness you can’t see yourself.

Moreover, in spiritual darkness you are isolated. You are wrapped up in the things that you’re living for, so you’re always scared or angry or proud or driven or full of self-pity. As a result, you become isolated from other people. . . .

Spiritual darkness–turning away from God, the true light, and making anything more important than him–leads invariably from disorientation to disintegration. And, apart from the intervention of God, we are all in spiritual darkness. We are all orbiting around something else. And we’re all incapable of changing our orbit, because we inevitably, ultimately, seek to glorify ourselves instead of God. So we are all on a trajectory toward a life of disintegration.

But that trajectory won’t stop at the end of our lives. When God returns he will judge every action, every thought, every longing–everything our heart has ever produced. And if there is anything imperfect, then we will not be able to remain in his presence. And being out of the presence of God, who is all light and all truth, means utter darkness and eternal disintegration. The biblical prophets describe this final day of judgment:

 9 See, the day of the LORD is coming
—a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger—
to make the land desolate
and destroy the sinners within it.
10 The stars of heaven and their constellations
will not show their light.
The rising sun will be darkened
and the moon will not give its light.
11 I will punish the world for its evil,
the wicked for their sins.
I will put an end to the arrogance of the haughty
and will humble the pride of the ruthless.
12 I will make people scarcer than pure gold,
more rare than the gold of Ophir.
13 Therefore I will make the heavens tremble;
and the earth will shake from its place
at the wrath of the LORD Almighty,
in the day of his burning anger. (Isaiah 13:9-13)

7 The LORD has sworn by himself, the Pride of Jacob: “I will never forget anything they have done.

 8 “Will not the land tremble for this,
and all who live in it mourn?
The whole land will rise like the Nile;
it will be stirred up and then sink
like the river of Egypt.

 9 “In that day,” declares the Sovereign LORD,

   “I will make the sun go down at noon
and darken the earth in broad daylight.
10 I will turn your religious festivals into mourning
and all your singing into weeping.
I will make all of you wear sackcloth
and shave your heads.
I will make that time like mourning for an only son
and the end of it like a bitter day. (Amos 8:7-10)

This was our trajectory, and Jesus’s death was the only way to alter it. This is why Jesus had to go to the cross. He fell into the complete darkness for which we were headed. He died the death we should have died, so that we can be saved from this judgment and instead live in the light and presence of God.”

quoted from King’s Cross by Timothy Keller, pp. 203-206

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