Piece 1: I don’t think I had ever read Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde until this week. Not sure how I missed it but it reminded me of a theological truism: man is capable of both great good and great evil. For much of the novella, I was confused. Who was being critiqued? Was it Jekyll, Hyde, Utterson, or Lanyon?
I am a rather dedicated reader, so I hoped I was not guilty of not paying close enough attention to the story as I read and pondered. Eventually, however, the story came into clearer view for me, like I was emerging from a fog onto a clear sea with the shore again in view.
Stevenson was exploring dualities of good and evil, of course, but also worldviews. Is the universe a closed system? Is there no transcendence? If so, on what grounds is anything objectively good or evil? Objective good and evil presuppose a transcendent standard by which to define the terms.
Were the universe a closed system, who gets to define what is ghastly, sordid, or wrong? Why would Hyde’s behavior in the novella be deemed evil in a closed universe? If one were logically consistent, he could not use moral categories because there would be no God or objective morality.
But the fact that we are repulsed by Hyde’s behaviors demonstrates the Romans 1 and Romans 2 salvos of truth–that the law of God is written on our hearts and that we are without excuse.
Piece 2: This week I received an email from a member of our Sunday school class with a devotional in it that came from reading the Old Testament prophet Amos. Specifically, Amos 6:1 was explored. That verse reads, just in the first part of the line, “Woe to those are at ease in Zion.” Why the oracle of woe? Because God is, because he is holy, and because he judges sin. He cannot overlook sin. Otherwise he would not be holy.
Amos is replete with the image of God setting a plumb line in the midst of his people (7:8). In Amos we see that God is, that God is just, that God deals with sin and with us sinners. It’s not a closed universe. There is objective good and objective evil.
Hyde was a moral monster, to go back to Stevenson’s novella. But that is the wicked human heart. Amos the prophet called out to his generation, and his word still calls out to each generation with the offer of the gospel of hope. But we have to embrace it via repentance and faith in the true God, the true Christ, the true gospel.
Piece 3: Today I was leading a small Christian worship service with some young soldiers. One of the lieutenants said to me as we chatted, “Chaplain, I was at your last service. I really liked it. You taught the Bible, not other stuff.” Then I asked him to tell me his story. He was a college graduate, and married. He and his wife have their first child due in a few months. Then he told me something that really resonated with me. He said, “We found a solid church. And they sing the great hymns. It’s not all the drivel. And they root everything in the Bible. My wife and I love it, chaplain.”
Takeaway: I reflected upon this week’s ministry, and after having read about Jekyll & Hyde, and having gone back and read through Amos again, and pondered on the encouraging words from that lieutenant today, and having thought about how many of the great hymns teach biblical theology, and lamented the drivel that so often characterizes so much ‘praise and worship’ music currently, I still was encouraged.
I was encouraged. Why? Because some do see. Some have spiritual eyes and ears to know the truth when they hear it. They recognize that the universe is not closed, that God has spoken, that judgment is real, and that God has indeed set a plumb line in his world.
Most of all, perhaps, I was encouraged because I’d taught from Luke 8 today before I’d chatted with the lieutenant. And the last verse I’d focused on was verse 15: “As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.”
Holding the truth fast in an honest and good heart. That’s a work only God can begin and complete in our hearts–our hearts, which are so often more like Hydes than Jekylls. But thanks be to God, God has done what we neither would do nor could do without divine grace–quickened the spiritually dead, created Pauls from Sauls, rebuked Jonahs to go to Nineveh, after all, with the great good news of the gospel.