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The Meaning of History, Part 3

For the goddess brings forth the great sun and the bright moon.

—Zoroaster, The Chaldean Oracles (c. 250 BC)

True spirituality is not achieved in our own energy… It is the power of the crucified, risen, and glorified Christ, through the agency of the Holy Spirit, by faith.

—Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality (1971)

“The Goddess Is Alive”

The late twentieth century saw the rebirth of goddess worship in the West.  This religion is essentially pantheistic.  It assumes the existence of a feminine spirit or principle immanent in the Earth or in the cosmos itself.  It sees Nature as self-existent, self-generating, and infinite in potential.  In this respect, the modern goddess is very like the virgin goddesses of the ancient world.  She brings forth life, salvation, and healing out of her own being without any help from any male principle or power—and especially without any help from the masculine God of the Bible.

Goddess worship, like all forms of pantheism, must understand history as the unfolding or self-expression of what already is.  History is merely and only Nature, and nothing new can arise out of it.  And so there is nothing above history or beyond it that can give it any sort of meaning or purpose.  Man has no transcendental standpoint from which he can make sense of its currents, eddies, and backwaters.  Man finds himself drowning in a rushing river of brute facts.

He can’t touch the bottom or rise to the surface.  He can’t see the river’s source or its end.  Man can talk about life and growth and potential, but the words have no referent beyond the stream of time itself.  Man is trapped between stasis and flux, between the One and the Many.  Either history is the illusory diversity and individuality that overlays true Reality, the great Oneness of all things, or it is a meaningless, self-determined flow of cause and effect.  In neither case does the word “history” have its traditional meaning or any rational significance.  History is what it is, nothing more, and there is certainly no reason we should be paying university professors large sums of money to teach it.

Why the Woman?

Though feminism refuses to see it, Scripture gives a high place to women in the history of redemption.  God phrased His first promise of redemption in terms of the woman.  Addressing the serpent, Satan, God said:

And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. (Gen. 3:15)

“Seed of the woman,” like “seed of the serpent,” is a figure of speech.  Women don’t have seed.  The two seeds in question both come from fallen humanity; both descend from Adam and Eve.  The difference between the two isn’t genetic, but covenantal and spiritual.  The one seed will be like Eve: snatched from Satan’s kingdom and restored to God’s service.  The other will be like Satan and dedicated to personal autonomy, serving only lust and lies.

Adam, the Man, is absent from the promise.  Adam had already served as the covenant representative of the human race (Rom. 5).  He failed.  He knowingly and willfully rebelled against God and brought sin and destruction upon all of humanity (Gen. 3).  There could be no hope in Adam, not even metaphorically.  Humanity needed a Second Adam, one who could undo the work of the Fall.

Eve had rebelled, too, of course.  She was the first to listen to the serpent, the first to fall into sin.  Yet God promised to save her.  Now there was nothing in Eve that was worthy of God’s grace and mercy.  Eve was dead in trespasses in sins (Eph. 2:1).  She had no inherent spiritual power or worth.  She couldn’t, by her own reserves of virtue and goodness, bring forth anything pleasing to God.  That is to say, she was exactly like all of humanity, male and female— absolutely hopeless outside of Christ and completely passive before a gracious and sovereign God.  As such, she was the perfect image for the people of God as Bride and Mother.

The Woman and the Seed

When Genesis 3:15 speaks of the woman, then, it first of all means Eve, for she is “the mother of all living” (Gen. 3:20).  But it means more than that.  Eve also stands for redeemed humanity, for the covenant people as a whole.  The redeemed are Yahweh’s Bride (Isa. 54:5)—in the New Testament, the Bride of Christ (Rev. 21)—and the Mother of the Seed.  The Church under the Old Covenant labored for four thousand years to bring forth one particular Seed, the promised Messiah (cf. Isa. 26:17-18; Rev. 12).  The Old Testament traces the genealogy of Christ from Eve to Mary, and every boy-child in that Messianic line is in some measure an image and figure of the one true Seed who was to come.  So Abel was the Seed, but he was slain and Seth became (typically) the Seed reborn or resurrected (Gen. 4:25).

But there is more.  In discussing the “seed of Abraham” in Galatians 3, Paul lays great emphasis on the grammatical number of the word “seed”:

Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made.  He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. (v. 16)

God’s promise to Abraham did not speak of many distinct and independent seeds.  It spoke of one Seed, the Messiah.  Yet the word “seed” can still be collective, and Paul picks up on this at the end of Galatians 3 when he writes:

For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.  For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.  And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (vv. 26-29)

One Seed, but in that one Seed, a many-fold seed in covenantal unity.  What is true of Abraham’s seed is true of Eve’s, for the Seed Himself is the same.  Everyone who is “in Christ” is also the Woman’s seed.  And every believer, whether under the Old Covenant or the New, suffers with Christ the malice of the Enemy and shares with Christ in His victory over sin and death and hell.

The Woman and Her Seed in Both Testaments

Throughout the Old Testament, we find stories of women raising up a seed to do battle with the Enemy.  Many are in the line of Christ, but many aren’t.  Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel all suffered barren wombs—the image of a spiritually sterile humanity; but from each God raised up a seed—Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph.  All were types and images of Messiah, and Isaac and Jacob were His ancestors.  But Joseph wasn’t.  Neither were Samson and Samuel, though both of their mothers were also barren for a time (Judg. 13; 1 Sam. 1).  We may also think here of Deborah, who may have had no children of her own, but who raised up a whole generation to battle God’s enemies (Judg. 4 – 5).  The Hebrew midwives, queen Esther, and princess Jehosheba, who rescued the child Joash, are women who played mother to the seed.  Each risked her life to preserve the seed—and the Seed (see Ex. 1; 2 Kings 11).

Scripture also reckons the people of Israel as feminine.  Isaiah, for example, describes Israel as the wife of Yahweh and the mother of the faithful (Isa. 50; 54).  Paul continues this in Galatians 4 where he calls the heavenly Jerusalem “the mother of us all” (v. 26); that is, of all true believers.  And in Revelation 12 John sees the Radiant Woman (the Jewish Church) give birth to the Seed, the Messiah, but then sees the Dragon go forth to make war with “the rest of her seed,” those who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ (v. 17).  Finally, John sees the New Jerusalem, the Bride of Christ, descend from heaven with light and life for all the nations of the world:  she is both wife and mother (Rev. 21—22).

Sovereign Grace and True Spirituality

The New Jerusalem descends from heaven.  She is the product of heavenly grace, not of human effort.  The City of God isn’t the result of human evolution, whether biological or spiritual.  Humanity is dead in trespasses and sins, and any new humanity must be the gracious work of the sovereign Lord of history, the God who is both transcendent and immanent.

Goddess spirituality is conscious participation in the immanent feminine reality that underlies or makes up Nature.  It requires self-recognition, but not repentance; self-understanding, but not humility.  For every one—or at least every woman—is the goddess in miniature.  Of course, this is exactly where Eve fell:  “Ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:5).

Biblical spirituality, however, is the work of the sovereign Spirit of God, who moves as He chooses (John 3:8).  The Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, from eternity into history, to give life and salvation.  On the historical and covenantal basis of Christ’s death and resurrection, the Spirit becomes in every believer the existential fountain of faith, life, and power.  Yet the believer must yield to the Spirit.  Schaeffer speaks of an “active passivity.”  We don’t conjure up or control the Spirit, and we certainly don’t live the Christian life apart from His power.  But we must yield ourselves to Christ. We must trust Him, and as we do, He brings forth His fruit through us in the Spirit’s power.

Conclusion

For goddess theology, as for pantheism generally, history is illusion and nonsense.  Humanity works out its salvation by accepting its own divinity.  Everything else is ultimately irrelevant.

For Christianity, history is the creative work of the Triune and sovereign God.  God made history; in Jesus Christ He entered history to redeem history, to graciously bring about “the restitution of all things,” to “make all things new” (Act 3:21; Rev. 21—22).  The Lamb’s bride has a crucial part to play in that program as she trusts her risen Lord.  Here is the true meaning of history.

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