Hacking the Hexateuch* to Finish Well

God’s Call to Oppose Evil and the Passivity of Adam

“No, that’s not right.” Four simple words.

Oftentimes, though of course not always, these very words can serve as a powerful deterrent to evil, if only someone will have the temerity to speak them out loud, for all to hear. One clear, calm voice has more power than we imagine, especially when it is guided by the Bible. God creates by speaking (Genesis 1; Psalm 33:9). Man stewards creation by speaking (Genesis 2:19-20). If nothing else, speaking clearly does not allow bystanders to mistake silence for assent.

It’s no coincidence that modern Western culture is blindly fighting tooth and nail to erode the foundations of truth that promote its own well-being. Our collective tendency to self-destruct ought to be a given by now, considering the arc of human history, but I am deeply persuaded that the harshest judgments await not those who actively campaign against the moral standards found in God’s Word (2 Corinthians 6:14) but those who know better and yet choose to remain silent (Genesis 3:17-19).

In recent months, it’s been agonizing for me to occupy a ringside seat to some high-profile ministry failures, both local and national. How is that we men, in particular, come to the Lord Jesus humble and broken…only to turn right around and allow the passage of time to make us self-righteous, haughty and sinful? It’s almost as if we somehow “forget” our daily need (Luke 11:3) for the empowering Word of Jesus to fill us each morning with life and breath (Acts 17:25) and for Him to pray to God the Father on our behalf (Romans 8:34). Christian faith is not rightly viewed as having Jesus rubber-stamp your passport to worldly adventure, it’s more accurately viewed as critical life-support being given to a car-crash victim. The Christian man who walks away from regular contact with prayer, Scripture and faithful Christian community is analogous to the diabetic throwing away his entire supply of insulin and saying, “Hey, I’m doing great right now.”

Men of Courage by Larry Crabb I’m not sure how exactly I have managed to be a Christian for almost 20 years and in all that time missed out on the helpful words of Larry Crabb. Suffice to say that it would be difficult to over-praise his book, Men of Courage: God’s Call to Move Beyond the Silence of Adam. Don’t be foolish (like me) and allow yourself initially to be put off by the title and the cover artwork; this is not a book about wartime heroes performing impossible feats of self-sacrifice, deeds that you and I know full well we are unlikely to accomplish. Rather, this is a tremendous collection of personal accounts from three men who go beyond “Blood, Guns and Guts” to the bravest act of all, stripping themselves of all human pretense.

Though Crabb dutifully lays all the necessary biblical groundwork we need to understand that, in Genesis 3, Adam was indeed watching silently during his wife’s temptation – and therefore entirely culpable for The Fall – I was immediately drawn in not by the biblical scholarship on display (which is impressive), but rather by the brief bios provided by Crabb and his co-authors, Don Hudson and Al Andrews. Their willingness to talk about their innermost fears of being “exposed” speak directly to the heart of every man I have ever met; we are all secretly terrified and often paralyzed by the unspoken, 100% certainty that we are “not enough.”

Larry CrabbBy God’s grace, all men are given the chance, at some level, to participate in the stewarding of God’s creation, even if it’s something as simple as holding the elevator door open for an elderly person. Every day is rich with opportunity to love and serve others…if only we will allow ourselves to have eyes to see! Yet, daily kindnesses aside, nearly all men will refuse to venture out into the unknown, which helps explain the raw terror a decorated war veteran feels when asked to change his son’s diaper.

According to Crabb, the fallen nature we men have inherited lies precisely in that unwillingness to enter into areas where we suspect (or know) that we are not competent. Fix your engine? Sure. Shoot a deer for you? Absolutely! Sit quietly and lovingly as we work through some serious relational issues? Yeah, not so much. These clichés are born, according to Crabb, out of the historic truth that men fear failure and are thus unwilling to enter in. Adam, as the supreme example, did not enter into the temptation discussion because he knew full well that he would be in over his head; Satan was clearly smarter. Why, then, did Adam not cry out for God’s rescue? Pride? Vanity? According to Crabb, it’s both.

With regard to acquiring true masculinity, the most compelling paradox has been whispering to us since the dawn of time; Jesus Himself affirmed that the way up is found only by going down (Matthew 23:12; Luke 14:10-11; John 3:30). In my own life, there have been many amazing times of allowing myself to be (temporarily) “emptied” for the purpose of allowing God to “fill me up” such that He is able to use me in a way that is both unique to who I am as a man but also empowering to those directly affected as a result. Crabb explains it far better than my own ability to witness:

I suggest that a man is most authentically a man when he admits, “I don’t know what to do in this situation, but I know it’s important that I get involved and do something. I will therefore envision what God may want to see happen in this person’s life or in this circumstance, and I will move toward that vision with whatever wisdom and power God supplies me.” A strong man moves even when there are no recipes. (Page 63)

Men are called to move into darkness, to keep moving ahead with purpose and strength even when they cannot clearly see the path before them. (Page 70)

Most men would probably not start out a conversation by saying, “Hey, guess what? I am in active rebellion against the living God.” And yet, the pride and vanity that is revealed so methodically (and, it must be said, lovingly) by Crabb and his co-authors is in fact the very stuff of man’s rebellion across the millennia: “I refuse to accept my role as a creature that is entirely subordinate, tangential and subject to the will of the Creator.” Walking away from situations that are too complex or too fearful is, like it or not, an act of unbelief and rebellion. When a man refuses to step into difficulty because he is unwilling to acknowledge his inadequacy, he has denied God’s sovereign will and closed himself off from an opportunity to allow God to unleash His power through him: “If I cannot handle this without being revealed as utterly dependent, I won’t go there.”

The reason we have guilt feelings is that we have real guilt. And the reason we have guilt is that we are in a rebellion against the real God.
James M. Boice, Genesis: An Expositional Commentary

Coming full circle to my own fear of a spectacular, late-in-life ministry failure, one common thread that rises to the surface appears to be the wrongheaded belief that goes something like this: “Because I do, in fact, know what the Bible says forward and backward, and have been at this so long, my allegiance to King Jesus cannot be questioned or examined by others.” In short, my faithfulness comes to depend on me, and my abilities, and not on the gracious (and unmerited) life support I receive every day from the King Himself. I have forgotten how poor, wretched, miserable and hopeless I was, and still am, (Revelation 3:17) and have begun leaning more and more upon my own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-8). Before too many years go by, we end up asking ourselves that terrifying question: “How did I get here?”

As men, we have such high opinions of ourselves that we imagine we can do just about anything. But actually we can do very little when measured by the activity of God. In salvation we can do nothing.
James M. Boice

Men of Courage has found a permanent place on the Mayer family bookshelves; for me, it has been one of those rare and immediately-relevant books to crack my personal Top Ten. Those of us who work or volunteer in Christian ministry are, I suspect, especially prone to (wrongly) thinking we have our act together; our sinful hearts can slowly be drawn away by a deceptive self-assessment that we are actually “doing pretty well” on our own, thanks so much. Ministry successes, in particular, are not only 100% gifts of God’s grace but, as so many tragic headlines have demonstrated, they can prove lethal to a long-term life of faith if we allow ourselves to be conned into thinking we have created them. We are all beggars looking for bread, and thus we always remain.

As we move together down the road of faith, as we age (gracefully?) and God goes to and fro throughout the Earth looking for weak, foolish men who are content to be strong only in Him (2 Chronicles 16:9), may we all not allow ourselves to be conned into thinking that we ever “arrive” or get our diploma of Christian faith. Regrettably, the next high-profile ministry failure is almost certainly just around the corner; let’s at least make sure it’s not one of us. When darkness comes, may more men speak into it and allow God to unleash His power through our feeble efforts.

“So the final conclusion would surely be that whereas other civilizations have been brought down by attacks of barbarians from without, ours had the unique distinction of training its own destroyers at its own educational institutions, and then providing them with facilities for propagating their destructive ideology far and wide, all at the public expense. Thus did Western Man decide to abolish himself, creating his own boredom out of his own affluence, his own vulnerability out of his own strength, his own impotence out of his own erotomania, himself blowing the trumpet that brought the walls of his own city tumbling down, and having convinced himself that he was too numerous, labored with pill and scalpel and syringe to make himself fewer. Until at last, having educated himself into imbecility, and polluted and drugged himself into stupefaction, he keeled over–a weary, battered old brontosaurus–and became extinct.”
Malcolm Muggeridge

But do remember, the only thing that matters is the extent to which you separate the man from the Enemy [God]. It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards do the trick. Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one-the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.
C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

1 Peter 5:6-9 (ESV)
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.

*Hexateuch: The first six books of the Bible, Genesis to Joshua, collectively.

Hacking the Hexateuch* Three-Part Series

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