Looking to the Special Legislative Session for What?

Aug 15, 2023 by David Fowler

Looking to the Special Legislative Session for What?
The Governor’s call last week for a special legislative session in response to the great pain experienced by so many Tennesseans because of the murder of children at Nashville’s Covenant School is understandable. It is also understandable that all of us would want to do what we can to prevent another such painful event. But something about the call, and perhaps even more so the expectations surrounding it, seemed amiss to me. I think I finally know why.
The “Problem of Pain”
C.S. Lewis offers great insight into what he called “the problem of pain” in his book by that name: “[P]ain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
He then adds: “[U]ntil the evil man finds evil unmistakably present in this existence, in the form of pain, he is enclosed in illusion. Once pain has roused him, he knows that he is in some way or other ‘up against’ the real universe.” This recognition, Lewis says, results in one of two things, and consider which of the two you have seen demonstrated.
The First Response to Pain
The first response is to rebel, “with the possibility of a clearer issue and deeper repentance at some later stage.” The rebellion, Lewis writes, is against the claim that “the proper good of a creature is to surrender itself to its Creator—to enact intellectually, volitionally, and emotionally, the relationship which is given in the mere fact of its being a creature. . . . In the world as we now know it, the problem is how to recover this self-surrender. We are not merely imperfect creatures who must be improved: we are . . . rebels who must lay down our arms.” (emphasis supplied)
“[T]o surrender a self-will inflamed and swollen with years of usurpation is a kind of death,”—which we resist—but not to surrender in this life is to allow death to claim us for eternity.
The Second Response to Pain
The second response is to “make[ ] some attempt at an adjustment, which if pursued, will lead him to religion.” Lewis doesn’t say it will lead to Christianity, but to religion, and in that broader sense Lewis is correct.
For example, “atheists, like Mr. [Aldous] Huxley, are driven by suffering to raise the whole problem of existence and to find some way of coming to terms with it which, if not Christian, is almost infinitely superior to fatuous [silly or pointless] contentment with a profane life.”
To ameliorate the pain, the atheists have deluded themselves into making man god (“man is the measure of all things”), and now each man and woman is god individually. As godlets we try to “adjust” the universe by using technology and enacting laws in such ways as in the moment seem to address the pain.
Of course, these kinds of adjustments are regularly needed. In the capricious universe represented by the evolutionary thinking that dominates our culture, everything is always changing. Certain pains increase in degree or new pains arise, and law and technology must once again be looked to for (temporary) amelioration.
The hamster on the wheel seems an appropriate metaphor for human existence.
God Actually Multiplies our Pain—For Our Good
Lewis continues: “No doubt Pain as God’s megaphone is a terrible instrument; it may lead to final and unrepented rebellion. But it gives the only opportunity the bad man can have for amendment.” (emphasis supplied)
Here we find the meaning of a passage in Genesis, in which God says something to Eve that would otherwise make no sense after she, as creature, rebelled against God, as her creator; in fact, if not read in context, it would make God out to be evil: “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; in pain you shall bring forth children . . . .” (Genesis 3:16, emphasis supplied).
Because I did not know the goodness of God as a Father who does not withhold any good thing from His children (Matthew 7:11; Psalm 34:10), I always read this as a mere punishment for disobedience.
And that might be the truth if God’s statement did not immediately follow the words He spoke to the Serpent, who had deceived her: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel” (Genesis 3:15, emphasis supplied).

The multiplied pain of childbirth was to be a reminder of the glorious promise of a seed who would come through childbirth and take God’s vengeance on the Serpent for deceiving Eve, and for breaking the perfect and unpolluted fellowship she had had with God. God is jealous for us, not of us.
The multiplied pain in childbirth was a megaphone to point to the God who knew the cure for the pain. The greatness of the temporary pain in childbirth is to be compared to the matchless greatness of the eternal cure for all pain.
The rest of the Old Testament is a looking toward that seed—first in Seth, followed by Noah, then narrowed to Abraham in the patriarchal era and David in the national era. In the New Testament, we learn that the seed is Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:16), the Son of God incarnate, born of a woman as was declared by God to Eve centuries earlier.
God is faithful to His promises for He is (and must be) faithful to Himself (2 Timothy 2:1). He came to “destroy,” not ameliorate, smooth over, or adjust our lives to “the works of the Devil (1 John 3:8).
Application to the Special Session
When we put the pain brought about by the Covenant School shooting in the preceding context, we can quickly conclude that no law our legislature enacts will address what the pain of the Covenant shooting is ultimately pointing us to. It points us to a desperate need for the God who created us, and a repentant gratitude for the mercy shown us in every breath He gives despite our rebellion against Him and for His moment-by-moment withholding of the justice rightly due us for that rebellion.
But like the Pharisees of old, I used to think that by law we could make things better. I was wrong. We need more laws because as a people more of us are worse than before, but more laws won’t make more of us better people.
For that, what we need is life– the real life, the life God intended for us. It is a life that internalizes in our heart the law of God and a love for and delight in it. That is the promise the Gospel offers (Jeremiah 31:33, Ezekiel 36:26-27, Psalm 40:8, 119:97). Nothing else promises that.
Thus, when I think of the upcoming special session, I am reminded of these words from the 17th century English theologian John Owen: “Where God hath put an impossibility upon any thing, it is in vain for men to attempt it.”
And the vanity is this: Even God did not give us a law “that could impart life” (Galatians 3:21). If we think we can do by legislation what God did not do, then we are fools.
Will Pastors, Elders, or Deacons Call the Session We Most Need?
We may need a special legislative session, but I believe the most special (and needful) session will be the one called by pastors and elders to lead their congregations in repenting of the ways in which Christians have either (A) abandoned politics and law to those who do not understand what this world’s pain points to and know the limited role of civil law, allowing the unrighteous to use law to grow unrighteousness in a nation to the point of destroying it or (B) looked to politicians to solve the problem of pain and use law in a way that reduces righteousness to the outcome of a political struggle, thereby denying the active presence of God in His world to bring about His righteousness and exalt a nation. In this way, Christians can lay down their arms before asking others to do so.
Personally, I think we need a solemn assembly of professing Christians more than a special session of the legislature.

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