A few months ago I discovered that replays of Casey Kasem’s American Top-40 were playing on a local radio station starting at six each Saturday morning. In May I found myself settling into a ritual of listening to part of the show each week. I did this while sipping hot coffee during a half-hour commute to a class I attend. Whether or not it has been the most edifying activity, I have come to enjoy quiet roads, serene sunrises, and coffee fogging up my driver’s side window as Casey counts down the sounds of cultural resonance from some lost era of the 1970s or 1980s.
Perhaps there are others like me who feel like Casey Kasem was a friend from long ago; one who entered my home every Sunday night as a kid and told little-known stories about popular musicians, and issued warm and engaging long-distance dedications. I remember arranging and rearranging the antenna on my radio until that little red light indicated a solid signal. I had to do it quietly and in the dark, as most of the weekly show aired after my bedtime. The later it became, the more the tension increased between heavy eyelids and the anticipation that accompanied the weekly unveiling of the number one song in the country. I must admit, I did not always make it to that moment. But when I did, the combination of the drumroll and my heartbeat made for a memorable finale on a Sunday night.
[recent_products per_page=”4″ columns=”4″ orderby=”date” order=”asc”]Not long after my recent Saturday routine began, I learned of Casey’s death on June 15th. I really didn’t read about it or think about it much, although it did put things in a different light as I listened each Saturday morning. It did briefly run through my mind one morning and I could not help but think of life’s pursuits amid the reality of death. For whatever reason, the thought came to mind during a song by a popular group at that time, Tears for Fears. This steered my contemplation to another song by the group that many may remember – Everybody Wants to Rule the World. I later learned that the song had reached number one on the charts exactly 29 years earlier from the day of his death. 80s bubble gum music and theological reflections are certainly an unlikely marriage, but that morning they seemed to be working in concert. At least in title, this English band had expressed a profound concept and one that is thoroughly Biblical.
Man, made in the image of God, is wired to rule. We have been put in charge of creation from the beginning (Gen. 1:26-28). Dominion is a real aspect of our nature that remains intact after the fall. We till the ground. We keep livestock. We still name the animals. We build businesses. We build cities. We invent. We preside over our homes and instruct our children. We don’t have to look far in our daily lives to observe the reality of man’s dominion-oriented activity.
The question is, in whose interests do we rule? With the fall came a perverted sense of dominion. Man rules, but left to himself, he does so according to his corrupt nature. God’s image remains intact, but is distorted. Through Adam’s ethical rebellion, we are dead in our sins. It is only through the power of the Holy Spirit that we move from a position of being slaves to sin to a position of being bondservant to Christ. Yet, in either case we still carry out the rule of a master. Either we carry out the will of our creator or we seek to subdue the creation for our own glory in an attempt to become gods ourselves.
Insubordination to God is subordination to Satan. There is no zone of neutral ethical representation. There is also no escape from the reality of representation. Our actions are either in accordance with the will of the Father or they are in the interests of the father of rebellion. Everybody does want to rule the world in the sense that they are ultimately serving one of two masters. Each master desires to be glorified. It is because of this that we live amidst a war. It is a war that has been definitively lost by Satan (John 19:30), yet there are still battles to be fought in history. The question is how are the battles fought? What are the weapons of warfare?
A key to answering these questions is an understanding that this is an ethical war. It may manifest itself in a number of ways, but it is primarily and fundamentally ethical in nature. Therefore the only effective weapon, and the only weapon that should be able to move one side or the other toward the desired victory, is ethical conformity to one’s master. Yet, this is not wholly true. There is a curious predicament in which one of the camps finds itself. It is this: God’s historical victory comes through the ethical conformity of his people through the power of the Holy Spirit. Yet, if Satan were to seek victory through the ethical conformity of his representatives to himself, it would result in death. Proverbs 8:36 says that all who hate God love death. Therefore, what we find is that Satan has to borrow God’s weapons to experience historical success.
The non-Christian, then, in Van Til’s famous illustration, is like a child sitting on her father’s lap, slapping his face. She could not slap him unless he supported her. Similarly, the non-Christian cannot carry out his rebellion against God unless God makes that rebellion possible.[i]
The point is, the only rule God’s enemies can establish in history is accomplished by standing on God’s ground and ethically conforming to him to some degree. The inconsistent non-Christian literally functions within the worldview of the consistent Christian to achieve any level of success in history.
This post is to serve only as an introduction to the concept of law as it relates to rule, dominion, and the present warfare in which every person finds himself engaged. Left to his or her sinful nature, everybody wants to rule the world. This desire was first asserted in the Garden of Eden. Since that time, man has continued in God’s image and has sought dominion as representatives of either God or Satan. Man subject to Satan wants glory. God will not share it. This is the basis for the war. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, God’s people become subject to him. They are on the winning side of the conflict. Christ’s death and resurrection ensured it.
God’s people also have two distinct advantages. First, they have the Bible, the very Word of God revealed in history. Second, they have the Holy Spirit who sanctifies them and brings them into conformity with the ethics revealed in scripture. They are set up for victory over time. So, why are there so many today that would assert otherwise? The answer to this revolves around ethics. From a Biblical standpoint, historical victory or defeat cannot be discussed without reference to law.
“I can’t stand this indecision, married with a lack of vision”. Those familiar with the song mentioned earlier may remember those words as some of the more memorable lyrics. Many may also remember these words from Proverbs.
Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law. (Proverbs 29:18 ESV)
In many ways, both indecision and a lack of vision (God’s revelation) are two of the main culprits in a widespread defeatist Christian worldview. We would all do well to better understand the dynamics surrounding all of the aforementioned issues. I will be posting more content in the near future to that end. And although I hope for more refined musical experiences in the lives of my children, I am thankful for God’s work through Tears for Fears and Casey Kasem on that Saturday morning drive.