Evangelicals & Man as Enigma

Enigma: a person or thing that is mysterious, puzzling, or difficult to understand.

Man is an enigma. This Enigma must be solved, and if you spend all your life at it, don’t say you have wasted your time; I occupy myself with this Enigma because I wish to be a man Fyodor Dostoevsky

Man is an enigma, whose only solution can be found in God, Herman Bavinck, the great Dutch theologian.

I do not understand what I do, but what I hate I do … I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it … What a wretched man that I am (Romans 7 v. l5ff)!”

For those who might remember, I closed my last blog post with a planned next post dealing with Parenthood. Conventional wisdom persuaded me since I covered the issues of Motherhood and Fatherhood in my two previous posts; it only made sense to complete the discussion with a look at the combined topic of Parenthood. Do not become mistaken that my deviation indicates a sudden departure from understanding the need to cover the topic. No, I submit the subject is still discussion-worthy, and God willing, I will address the matter at some near time in the future.

I believe all Evangelicals, when found living in the will of God, albeit flawed with abiding sin and inconsistent holiness throughout, can pursue their heart’s desires at the time. The Holy Scriptures promises, Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4). So, instead of pursuing my previously envisioned plan, I take full advantage of the liberty I have being found in Christ to write with fear and trembling about the Man as an Enigma because the topic resonates profoundly in my soul over the last few days. Even if my musing blesses only one soul, my feeble efforts will be accredited to my account on that Great Day when I stand under the All-Seeing gaze of my Lord & Savior, Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

Man, the pinnacle of God’s mighty creative acts enumerated in Genesis 1-3, is nonetheless an Enigma Wrapped in a Conundrum. In one sense, the Bible reveals God expresses repentance that He ever created mankind. In yet another sense, the Bible declares He loves His Creation so much that God sends His only begotten Son to redeem the pinnacle of His Creation.

For instance, King David can pray under the full inspiration of the Holy Spirit to God, Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings (Psalm 17:8) and retain the sole biblical praise of being the apple of God’s own eye (1Samuel:13-14), yet still be the severely spiritually flawed individual who commits adultery ((2 Samuel 11:4), murders (2 Samuel 11:14-18) and pridefully orders a national census to flex his superior military might (2 Samuel 24:1).

Father Abraham can step out on mind-boggling and salvific history-altering faith to eventually graciously receive the lofty moniker Father of the Faithful. Gallantly vanish hordes of ravenous bandits who kidnapped his nephew (Genesis 14). Demonstrate complete and utter dependence upon God by willingly sacrificing his long-awaited and at that time, only begotten son Isaac. Yet, despite these acts and being featured prominently in Hebrews’ Hall of Faith, Abraham is nonetheless still a full-fledged member of the Man’s Enigma Club for the singular occurrence of his choosing to lie about his wife. As the Evangelical knows, God is so Holy; all it takes is one solitary sin for God to regard you as utterly ruined for fellowship with Him.

Here we have, with both Father Abraham and King David, two quintessential examples of Man as an Enigma. The careful Bible student knows I can easily include the stories of other prominent virtuous Men and Women of the Bible. Moses, with his sinful decision to strike the rock, Samuel, with the tragic rearing of his two mischievous sons, Peter, with his numerous stumbles: Pre and Post-Resurrection: Matthew 16:22 & Galatians 2:11-13 to just name a few of the ubiquitous characters I could regale.

The one individual I would like to narrow my focus on is the Apostle Paul. I submit there are Enigmas, and there are Enigmas, and boy can one classify Paul as the Enigmas of the Enigmas!

Paul, the writer of thirteen of the twenty-nine Epistles of the New Testament, and who knows, we may enter eternity to come to realize Paul was indeed the author of the Book of Hebrews to make it fourteen books.

This same Paul is the author of the third quotation that begins this blog post. He knows the good to do, and you best believe he did plenty of good that will accumulate in the plus column of God’s heavenly accounting ledger. Yet, Paul dreads the reality that time and time again, he knows the good to do but instead chooses to do just the exact opposite. An Enigma Wrapped in a Conundrum.

Despite the flawed conclusion of some in the Evangelical community, Paul is not describing his spiritual disposition before his regeneration in 1 Corinthians 7. Instead, Paul used present tense terms to lament his current disposition as he penned his Apostolic letter to the Corinthian Church.

Still, under the inspiration of the Holy Writ, Paul writes in 1 Timothy 1:15 that he is the Chief of all Sinners. Please do not be mistaken at this point. Paul is not engaging in false modesty to appear humble or pious. No, I submit Paul is speaking literally, not because he was involved in gross immoral actions that would undoubtedly disqualify him as a genuine Apostle. The deeper Paul grows in his sanctification, the more he understands Man as an Enigma. It may have taken me more time than what is necessary, but God is graciously removing the scales from my eyes, piece by piece.

Paul writes as he does because God has given Paul the spiritual eyes to understand Man as an Enigma. Regrettably, this Man as an Enigma will remain until Evangelicals experience what theologians regard as the third stage of the salvation journey. The three stages are known as justification (past), sanctification (present), and glorification (future).

I submit Dostoevsky [he of the first quote to begin this blog post], wittingly or unwittingly, was speaking God’s truth whether he intended to do so or not. Bavinck [he of the second quote to begin this blog post] explicitly addresses the presence of the Enigma, but thankfully God empowered Bavinck to offer the only eternal remedy to the Enigma Wrapped in a Conundrum: Himself!

If I were to inquire of you who is the greatest person you know, I can guarantee your answer would be the same as the inquiry of who is the evilest person you know. You see, the crux of the question is not grounded in the terms greatest or evilest, as these terms are subjective superlatives that cannot be objectively quantified. The only facet you, as an individual, can objectively assess is the terms you know.

I employ the terms objectively assess oh so cautiously because the Fall entails every human being entering time and space created in the Imago Dei but nonetheless grievously tainted by Original Sin. Thus, man can never ascertain his spiritual standing before a Thrice-Holy God with flawless accuracy. Yet, God has condescended to allow man to retain still the ability to know ourselves (1 Corinthians 2:11) in a way only surpassed by the knowledge of our Creator.

Consequently, the answer to both inquiries as to the greatest and the evilest person you know is one and the same: You.

There is no need for alarm or frustration or even bewilderment. You are living out the reality of every individual born after the Fall. You are an Enigma Wrapped in a Conundrum. Simply by virtue of being created in the very Imago Dei, you possess a divine value that no one can ever eradicate. Like all others existing in time and space, you are an individual capable of wondrous innovations, inventions, and achievements. Think of events like Jonas Polk’s discovery of the polio vaccine or the discovery of DNA by Watson and Crick.[1]

Still, when we consider the total impact of man’s existence as God’s creative pinnacle, we have to include the invention of atomic weapons that can literally annihilate every human being in mere seconds. We can include the sinful and wanton disregard for man to be wise stewards of the natural resources God graciously gave His pinnacle of creation to subdue and have dominion over. Every war or human actroticies has begun because some man, individually or collectively, has initiated some act of aggression for self-aggrandizing motives.

I pray you can follow my argument because I have labored all this time to make this point, following the Apostle Paul’s lament about his Enigma. He employs first-person language. He says, “I do, “I hate,” “I want to do,” “I do not want to do,” “I keep on doing it,” “I who do it,” “wretched me I am.”

The Apostle Paul understands what far too many people in the Evangelical community, in general, and AA Evangelical community, in particular, are not fully grasping. I humbly submit for the majority; it only gives stark evidence they have not been regenerated and thus do not possess the requisite spiritual eyes to see or spiritual ears to hear.

I submit temporal matters will never substantially change for AA Evangelicals as long as we remain enslaved to a faulty theological understanding of our collective lack of human flourishing. Human flourishing, unlike the God-hating theology espoused by the Woke Mafia[2], is predominantly based upon Personal Agency, not external factors like Systemic Racism or Satanic-inspired ideologies like Critical Race Theory or Satanic-inspired organizations like Black Lives Matter.[3]

As a fully regenerated but simultaneously sinful individual, I increasingly understand from personal experience I am my own worst enemy. I am the weak link in my marriage, not my spouse, no matter how frustrated I may be by her actions or lack of action. I, not any of my brothers, was the biggest headache for my parents. I am the weakest link in my local church. I most graphically impair my local church from being the very best it can be as Light and Salt in our local community.

It is most tragic man demonstrates we have not learned from the missteps of Adam and Eve in the Garden. When confronted by God, they both looked outward instead of looking inward.

Genesis 3:11-13… And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

I conclude by drawing your attention to the solution that Herman Bavinck proposed to Man as an Enigma: whose only solution is found in God. One day every Evangelical who has fought a good fight, finished his course, and kept their faith will no more wrestle with Man as an Enigma.

The only hope for this world and the world to come is found in this promise from the Word of God,

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure (1 John 3:2-3).

I submit this is why God’s Grace is Truly Amazing. One day I will no longer be the weak link. I will put off the Old Man and put on a New Man no longer tainted with Original Sin. That glorious time will not require any man to teach another about the things of God because God will place His Law within the heart of every believer.

For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more (Jeremiah 31:33-35).

Until then, Evangelicals will remain in the Already, Not Yet phase of their salvation journey. I encourage my Brothers & Sisters in Christ to heed the words of Dostoevsky. The Enigma must be solved, and it will remain a vexing Enigma Wrapped in a Conundrum all your remaining days before you meet Jesus Christ. I just hasten to exhort you to further heed the admonition that Bavinck proffers as the only solution: God!

As always, let me know what you think. Until then, keep your hands to the plow and seek to serve for an Audience of One.

With fear & trembling,

Ricky Kyles, DEd.Min

P.S. If you have never come to terms with your sin by repenting and placing your faith in Jesus Christ to serve as the sole propitiation of your sin, then your first order of business must be to bend the knee to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. It is simple as confessing you are a sinner and Jesus Christ will serve as your substitute before God. In the end, someone has to pay for your sinful rebellion. The only question that remains is who will pay: You or Jesus Christ?

Be reconciled to Jesus Christ Today, for tomorrow is not promised, so I urge you to confess Christ as Savior today!

[1] Many people believe that American biologist James Watson and English physicist Francis Crick discovered DNA in the 1950s. In reality, this is not the case. Rather, DNA was first identified in the late 1860s by Swiss chemist Friedrich Miescher. 

[2] Woke Mafia is a pejorative term I used to label people whose entire existence is predicated on maintaining the conversation that society is inherently racist and in need of revolutionary change by political, economic, or military might.

[3] Editor fully acknowledges racism is a very real and palpable past, present and regrettable future reality of the human experiment. Still, history records even in the face of more overt and explicit marginalized like Negroes of slavery and Jim Crow nonetheless experience consistent advancements in all of the human capital markers for human flourishing.

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