The Consummation of History and the Admiration of Christ
Bethlehem College & Seminary Inaugural Convocation | Minneapolis
In the late seventies, I was immersed in the writings of Ayn Rand. She was a passionate novelist, philosopher, objectivist, and atheist. Her most famous book is Atlas Shrugged. She died in 1982. I wrote to her before then and tried to bear witness to the glory of Christ. But I fear, with sadness, that she has perished.
Admiration: The Rarest of Pleasures
One sentence, above all others, remains in my memory after thirty years. She said, “Admiration is the rarest of pleasures.” She wasn’t referring to the pleasure of being admired, but to the pleasure of admiring. Admiring greatness is one of the rarest of pleasures.
For her, this sentence was a cynical derision of the modern world and the absence of heroes. For Ayn Rand, there was virtually nobody in the modern world to admire. But for me, her sentence is the echo of the most profound reality in the universe.
Why Bethlehem College & Seminary Exists
God created the world and inspired the Scriptures and is guiding history to its consummation for one ultimate purpose, namely, to share with his creatures the ultimate pleasure that he has in admiring his Son, the radiance of his own glory (Hebrews 1:3).
Therefore, the ultimate reason that Bethlehem College & Seminary exists is to live and teach in such a way that students will see Jesus in every subject as infinitely admirable and thus come to share in the pleasure that God has in admiring the glory of his Son, and then be equipped to spread that everywhere.
“All Things Consist in Christ”
The medallions that President Tomlinson and I will wear signify our acceptance—our willingness to bear on our heart—the weight of leadership of Bethlehem College & Seminary. Inscribed on those medallions is the Latin, adapted from Colossians 1:17, omnia in Christo constant. “All things consist in Christ.” All things hold together in Christ. Christ is the maker and sustainer and ultimate meaning of all things.
Therefore, in every subject of the college and seminary, the ultimate aim is the same: see Jesus as infinitely admirable and share in the Father’s infinite enjoyment of the greatness of his Son, and then be equipped to show it.
The Consummation of History: Admiring Jesus
Ayn Rand was right in this sense. Nothing in the world is enough to satisfy the God-like capacities of our souls to admire greatness. Only the glory of God in Jesus will suffice for an eternity of increasing knowledge and joy. Without him, in the end there will be only frustration or disillusionment.
Paul wrote to the suffering church in Thessalonica, “The Lord Jesus [will be] revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire . . . when he comes on that day . . . to be marveled at among all who have believed” (2 Thessalonians 1:7, 10).
In other words, at the consummation of history, when Jesus descends to complete all his purposes, his ultimate design will be realized: He will be “marveled at” by all who have believed, and the rest will be banished “from the presence of the glory of his might” (verse 9). The Latin Vulgate translates the Greek behind “marveled at” as admirabilis—“admired.” “When he comes on that day to be admired by all who have believed in him.” The consummation of history is the admiration of Jesus.
An Impossible Task
The highest call of God on Bethlehem College & Seminary is to handle all truth in such a way that Jesus stands forth as supremely admirable over all other treasures in the world.
But there is a catch for educators. The outcome is humanly impossible. True, deep, authentic admiration for Jesus is a spontaneous pleasure, not a choice. Admiration for Christ is not a decision, but a delight. It springs like a bright and beautiful flower not from resolve, but from regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit.
The Miracle of Admiring Jesus
It is a miracle. It happens, Paul says, when “God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ [shines] in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). Such seeing awakens savoring—admiring. We do not choose to taste that the honey of Christ is sweet. We choose to put the honey on our tongues, but the taste of sweetness is not a choice. When our taste buds are given life by God’s sovereign grace, the experience of tasting sweetness happens. We admire Jesus for who he really is.
If the consummation of history and the destination of our students’ lives is the pleasure of admiring Jesus with the very pleasure of God in every branch of learning, and if the aim of education is to handle truth in such a way that Christ is seen and savored as supremely admirable over all other treasures in the world, then our job is impossible. Left to ourselves, we cannot see or make others see. And we cannot taste or make others taste the magnificence of Christ. Admiring Jesus, for who he really is, is a miracle. A gift.
Pointing and Praying
But we can point. With every tool of learning and every power of mind and heart, in every nook and cranny of this universe, we can point and say, “Look! Look! This too is the glory of Jesus.”
And we can pray. “O Father, open our eyes and the eyes of our students, may see wonderful things of Christ in your word and in your world. Grant that the admiration that you have for your Son might be in us; and through Bethlehem College and Seminary—and indeed all the churches and schools and homes represented in this room—may the consummation of all things come: the global admiration of Jesus.”
This, President Tomlinson, is our impossible task. And as you feel the weight of this medallion on your chest, may the truth that “all things consist in Christ” set your course and be your strength.