God cares, do I?

The last lesson of the truth project was by far the best. In most of the other lessons, Dr. Tackett outlined a divisive cosmic battle between those on the side of God’s truth and those who believe the “pernicious lies” of the world. The Truth Project approaches truth from a religious right, Us versus Them worldview. In this lesson, titled “Community & Involvement: God Cares, Do I?” Tackett finally got to a central truth of Christianity – God commanded us to love one another.

The central premise of the lesson is that because God cares about the needs of the people, we need to care about others as well. When Jesus was asked, which is the greatest commandment, he responded, “‘Love the Lord your God with all of your heart and with all of your soul and with all of your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

The Heart of God

Here, at last, The Truth Project zeroed in on the heart of God. Though God is exalted above all others, He especially has a heart for the needy and the lowly. God cares about those who are considered the least among us.

Though the Lord is exalted, he looks kindly on the lowly;
    though lofty, he sees them from afar.

Psalm 138:6

We learn about the heart of God when we look at Jesus. Anyone who has seen Jesus, has seen the Father (John 14:4-9). Jesus was gentle and humble. He did not use his equality with God as something to use for his own advantage. Instead, he took the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30

Seeing others as God sees them

Tackett said that we should see others as God sees them and recognize that we all have eternal significance. He quoted C.S. Lewis, who wrote, “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.” Everyday, we interact with people who are full of incredible potential. We should take each other seriously and remember that we are all on a journey of eternal spiritual significance.

In this lesson, I finally saw what was missing in the other lessons – love. It was moving to see the tears in Tackett’s eyes when he spoke about God’s love for ordinary people. I wish that The Truth Project had made the love of God the central theme and not just the last word.

My Critique of The Truth Project

One of the discussion questions asked, “do you have any closing comments about our twelve weeks together and the ground we have covered?” I’m glad they asked. While The Truth Project includes a lot of scriptural content, for me that did not make up for the errors in their teaching.

Either/Or, Us versus Them Thinking

The purpose of The Truth Project is to contrast the truth claims of God with the lies of the world. In lesson one, Dr. Tackett presented a list of supposedly opposite words that illustrated his binary thinking about the battle for truth: Unity vs. division. Diversity vs. unification. Roles vs. jealousy. Responsibility vs. blame. Authority vs. rebellion. Delegation vs. tyranny. Freedom vs. bondage.

The truth is, not everything is black or white. Not everything is knowable. Diverse communities can be unified by common values. While submitting to authority is generally a desirable thing, when those in authority abuse their power, rebellion may be necessary.

I couldn’t help but notice that there are words in Tackett’s list that are not opposites. When he suggests that “roles” are the antithesis of “jealousy” and “responsibility” is the antithesis of “blame,” he seems to be attributing motives to people he does not know. In doing so, he does not acknowledge the complexity and diversity of human thoughts and behavior.

The Truth Project leaves no room for a both/and worldview. You either believe like Dr. Tackett or he claims that you believe lies. One of the best examples of this was the lesson on science in which Tackett made his case against evolution. The study guides says that “fallen man ignores the plain evidence of objective scientific inquiry and promotes the atheistic philosophy of evolutionary theory primarily because he is determined to do as he pleases without answering to a higher authority.” Here again, Dr. Tackett ascribes bad motives to people he does not know. Many Christians simultaneously believe that God is the Creator and believe scientific evidence.

Comparing human institutions to the Holy Trinity

In several of the lessons, Tackett spoke about social institutions that he believes reflect the divine design of God – the family, the church, the government, labor, community, and the relationship between man and God. For example, Tackett believes that families were designed by God to be triune in nature. He equates the relationships and roles of husband, wife and children to the Father, Son and Spirit, based in part on Ephesians 5:22-33, which says that wives should submit to their husbands.

I take issue with The Truth Project’s claims about the divine design of social institutions because it glosses over the sinful nature of man and the fact that God gave mankind the freedom to exercise dominion over our world. Where are the biblical examples of social institutions that reflect God’s perfect unified nature?

The Bible teaches that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). All individuals fall short of the glory of God. All families fall short of the glory of God. All governments fall short of the glory of God. All churches fall short of the glory of God.

Thinking Christians can fix the world

Finally, The Truth Project promotes the idea that if Christians just take a stand against the lies of the world, we can fix it. Tackett says that if believers want our government to be based on biblical principles, we must carry on the “experiment” of our Christian forefathers.

In The Truth Project’s worldview, I see legalism at work – the belief that we can earn salvation by obeying God’s commandments and that keeping God’s laws is an end in itself. Legalists sometimes err by making up their own rules and pretending that they are God’s.

The legalist focuses only on obeying bare rules, destroying the broader context of God’s love and redemption in which He gave His law in the first place.

3 Types of Legalism, from R.C. Sproul

Even if all families consisted of a husband, wife and children, even if the only form of government on this planet was theocratic, even if all secular schools were banished from the earth and the ten commandments were prominently posted where everyone could read them, people would still lie and cheat and steal and murder and commit adultery. And even those who outwardly appear to be righteous, law abiding citizens would still have hearts that are not right with God.

The truth is only God can transform people. God changes people from the inside out. God changes hearts.

What did I get out of The Truth Project? Not what Focus on the Family would hope, I’m sure. I choose to not look at the world as a battleground. I believe that God wants me to see the world as He see it – with grace-filled eyes.

See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.

Hebrew 12:15

***

Photo by Tyler Nix on Unsplash

Created to work

My small group finished The Truth Project several weeks ago. The next to the last lesson was titled Labor: Created to Create. In this lesson, Dr. Tackett argued that negative attitudes towards work are at odds with a scriptural worldview. Work is not a curse but is rooted in the very nature of God, the Creator.

I have disagreed with Dr. Tackett on a lot of issues but I can’t argue with him about the value of labor. Human beings were designed to work. He is correct in saying that the wealth produced by labor meets the physical needs of mankind. If you can find work that not only meets your physical needs, but also fits your God-given talents and abilities, you are blessed.

In lesson seven (Sociology: The Divine Imprint), Tackett identified six social systems or “spheres” that he believes reflect the triune nature of God. Just as I thought it was a stretch when Tackett claimed that God imprinted his triune nature on the family or the state, I see no basis for his claim that labor, as a social institution, reflects the three-in-one nature of God. Once again, Tackett drew a circle to represent a social system and wrote the names of three members of that system – God, employers and employees – inside the circle. He noted that there is a superior/subordinate relationship between employer and employee, similar to God the Father and Jesus the Son. That’s it.

Seven Economic Principles

Putting aside my disagreement with Tackett on the divine design of labor, I think he made valid points with what he calls economic principles. Whether you are an employer or an employee, the principles Tackett laid out are worth reflecting on. All things belong to God. We are stewards of God’s goods. Our skills and abilities are gifts from God. We are to love God and not money. Because God has been generous in entrusting us with everything we have, we should be compassionate and generous towards those who are in need.

  1. All things belong to God.
  2. God appointed man to be a creative steward of his goods with ownership rights.
  3. Theft and coveting of another’s goods is wrong.
  4. Skills and abilities to work come from God.
  5. Work is profitable, good and to be pursued; laziness is not.
  6. Love God and not your goods.
  7. Be compassionate and generous with your goods to those in need.

Prideful people boast about their accomplishments and forget what God has done for them. Greedy people pursue more and more wealth and power, never satisfied with what they have. Envious people compare themselves to others and covet what others have. Selfishness and indifference stop those who have plenty from sharing with those in need.

Created to ________________

The subtitle of the lesson, “Created to Create” gives me pause. Tackett said that our creativity is a mirror-image of the creativity of God. God is Creator and since we were created in his image, we were created to be creators, right? Many people are creative. Artists and inventors come to mind. But what if I’m not really creative? What if the kind of work I was created to do does not require creativity? Creativity in my profession (accounting) is actually frowned upon.

We were created to fill in the blank, to contribute to our families and communities. We were created to do all sorts of things. Nursing, teaching, preaching, caring for children, repairing, cleaning, installing, delivering, building, farming, managing, researching, investigating, judging, defending, advising, serving, etc. Whether our jobs are creative and exciting or mundane and routine, the work we do matters.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

Colossians 3: 23-24

Tackett said that labor is designed to be so fulfilling that “the Lord deemed it necessary” to command us to take a Sabbath. I don’t think Tackett appreciates how difficult and unrewarding some jobs are. Not everyone has a job that is “a source of joy so fulfilling and wonderful” that they have to be commanded to stop working. When people in our culture speak negatively about working, it isn’t necessarily because they are against working per se. Perhaps they have a bad manager. Perhaps they have difficult coworkers. Maybe they are overworked and underpaid.

When I think about what I do for a living and about the work that others do (whether paid or unpaid), I am grateful that God designed each us with unique talents and abilities and personalities. I am grateful for work because not everyone who wants to work is able to work. I am grateful that other people have the desire to do the kinds of work that I do not want to do and that others have the skills and aptitudes I lack.

A Mess of Contradictions

My small group finally watched lesson 10 of The Truth Project, The American Experiment: Stepping Stones. In this lesson, Del Tackett claimed that Christians used biblical principles as the foundation for America’s republic and that believers today must carry on that experiment if America is to survive and succeed. I knew before watching the video that I disagree with Del Tackett’s claim that God has a divine design for government. I believe that in trying to “take America back for God” through political means, Christians have done great harm to Christianity and evangelism. Nevertheless, watching the lesson motivated me to dig deeper into God’s truths.

Religion and Morality

The video for Lesson 10 began with Dr. Tackett speaking outside the normal classroom setting. He said there were going to be three ground rules for the lesson: he would not seek to deify America, he would not try to deify the Founding Fathers, and he would not cast blame on non-Christians.

Tackett began by discussing the role that religion once played in childhood education and in well-respected higher educational institutions like Harvard, Columbia, and Princeton. He quoted Gouverneur Morris, a contributing author of the Constitution, who said that “religion is the only solid basis of good morals; therefore education should teach the precepts of religion, and the duties of man toward God.” He quoted Noah Webster: “In my view, the Christian Religion is the most important and one of the first things in which all children, under a free government, ought to be instructed…no truth is more evident to my mind than that the Christian Religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privilege of a free people.”

Before he spoke at length about the founding fathers, Tackett described how his own understanding of the nation’s religious and moral foundations evolved when he went to Washington, D.C. to work in the George H. W. Bush administration. He observed that there were many religious murals in the Capital rotunda. He found himself reflecting on Revelation 2:5. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.

He said that he watched a reenactment of George Washington’s Farewell Address and it was then that he understood that as a child, he had been lied to about the nation’s religious history.

Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice ? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

George Washington

Tackett then presented quotes about religion and morality from several founding fathers or influential thinkers including John Adams, Benjamin Rush, Samuel Adams, Charles Carroll, and Patrick Henry. Several expressed the view that religion and morality are the foundation for an enduring republic and that liberty is not possible without morality.

the only foundation for…a republic is to be laid in Religion. Without this there can be no virtue and without virtue there can be no liberty, and liberty is the object and life of all republican governments.

Benjamin Rush

In his blog about The American Experiment, Elliot Ritzema notes that “Christianity was not the only influence in the founding of the United States, but one of many…” While Tackett demonstrated that many of the founding fathers believed that religion and morality were important for preserving liberty, he did not prove that the United States was founded as a Christian nation based on biblical principles.

In an ideal world, government would be based on a sound moral principles and all government officials would be virtuous. In reality, even our greatest heroes had feet of clay. I admire John Adams, but he was proud, hot-tempered, and envious of his peers. I admire Thomas Jefferson’s views on liberty and equality and yet he owned slaves and was very self-indulgent.

If we are to learn anything from history, it is imperative that Christians be truthful about our messy and contradictory history.

Idolatry

Can patriotism become idolatry? Patriotism is not a bad thing. We should be grateful for the blessings of liberty. But when patriotism combines with political ideology, it often supplants the gospel.

When this happens, debates begin to rage about caring for the poor, the sick and the immigrant, debates which would be incomprehensible in any other era of the Church. When patriotism becomes an idol, the poor can become our enemies, the alien among us can become someone to be feared and the outcast can become someone we actively seek to marginalize. When patriotism becomes an idol, the “other” whom we despise is the least of these.

Zach Hunt, Relevant Magazine

Tackett pointedly said he would not deify America or the founding fathers. When he exalted America’s founding fathers for being religious and moral based on a few selected people and a few selective quotes, he engaged in the same sort of historical revisionism that he often complains about. He presented a glorified, false image.

Without providing any examples, Tackett said that there is a deep hatred of America in liberal educational institutions and that it is now in vogue to hate America. In his blog post, Elliot Ritzema quoted Tackett as he explained why he thinks there is a rise in hatred for America:

Darkness doesn’t overtake light; light overtakes darkness. Why this rise of hatred for America? Why is this historic revisionism going on? If the enemy can destroy the Christian’s passion for America, then he has won the major battle for the soul of this nation. If you do not have a heart for her, if you don’t have a passion for her, you can learn all you want about Christian worldview… but you won’t do diddly doo for her… If Jesus removes the lampstand, we will become a dark nation like many who have fallen before us.

Del Tackett

Think about these words. If the enemy can destroy the Christian’s passion for America, then he has won the major battle for the soul of this nation. I would argue that if Satan can deceive people, especially Christians, about the true purpose and meaning of Christianity, he has won a major battle for our souls. If he can convince Christians to use the power of the sword instead of the power of the cross, he has won a major battle for our souls. If he can take Christ out of Christianity, he has won a major battle for our souls.

In equating America to the Church in Revelations 2:5, Tackett idolizes America. While America has done many good things to help other nations, in comparing her to a light on the hill (Matthew 5:14-16), he exalts a nation that is far from righteous. Pew Research reports that only 39% of Americans are highly religious, and a small fraction of those attend church regularly or read the Bible.

Tackett also broke his own rule about casting blame on non-believers, blaming liberal educational institutions for somehow spreading hatred of America and blaming both Charles Darwin and Christopher Langdell, a Dean of Harvard Law School, for the evolution of law school teaching to a case study approach. In suggesting that anyone who criticizes America hates her, Tackett implied that America is above all criticism. This too is idolatrous.

Grief and Hope

According to Tackett, the founding fathers implemented an experimental form of government based on religion, specifically Christianity. Tackett grieves for America. “America has largely forgotten God and denied the validity of her biblically based Christian roots.” Tackett asked believers to consider how far we have fallen as a nation and to take deliberate steps to salvage it. Yes, do consider how far we have fallen. American Christians who believe that government’s role is to enforce morality overwhelmingly chose a godless, amoral man to lead this nation.

I also grieve for America but not in the same way as Tackett. I grieve not for the soul of the nation but for the souls of Americans and for Christians who have been led astray by false teachings. I grieve for those who come here thinking this country is a beacon of light only to have the door slammed shut in their faces. I grieve for Americans who will never hear the Good News because Christians have made Christianity so unappealing. I grieve because this nation is a mess of contradictions.

What did I get out of this lesson? The desire to seek a different kind of kingdom, where the King of kings and Lord of lords has the power to change people from the inside out. He will proclaim justice to the nations. In his name, the nations will put their hope. In his name, I put my hope.

Here is my servant whom I have chosen,
    the one I love, in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him,
    and he will proclaim justice to the nations.
He will not quarrel or cry out;
    no one will hear his voice in the streets.
 A bruised reed he will not break,
    and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out,
till he has brought justice through to victory.
  In his name the nations will put their hope.

Matthew 12:18-21

The Truth Project – Conflating Politics and Religion

At the beginning of lesson nine of The Truth Project, Dr. Del Tackett predicted that many people would find themselves conflicted when contemplating his message. If we are conflicted, he concluded, it is because we have been taken captive by a lie. While Tackett claimed to expose liberal views as a lie, he proved to me how dangerous and hypocritical it is to conflate politics and religion as he selectively used scripture to support his conservative, neoliberal view of government.

This is because, as a result of the raging of the Cosmic Battle, many people in our day have been taken captive by the lie that the state, and not God, is to “go before us” as our savior and sustainer and the source of all good things. This discussion is calculated from beginning to end to expose and challenge this assumption. There are obvious implications here for the debate between proponents of “liberal” and “conservative” social policy (i.e., the “welfare state” and its opponents).

The Truth Project, The State – Whose Law?

Money

At the beginning of lesson nine of the Truth Project: The State – Whose Law?, Dr. Tackett told the story of James and Heidi, a couple who had a successful farm. Then they died in a car accident. A gang broke into their house and took half of their possessions. Tackett asks, is that stealing? Of course, everyone agrees that it is. Then he asks, what if the government came in and took half their property? Would that be stealing? Can the state steal? In presenting the estate tax as theft, Dr. Tackett made the argument that the government breaks God’s law by stealing.

Dr. Tackett used 1 Samuel 8 to support his belief that by taxing its citizens, the state takes what does not belong to it. When the people of Israel told Samuel they wanted a king to lead them, Samuel prayed about it. God told Samuel to listen to the people but to solemnly warn them about what the king will do. So Samuel told the people that the king will make you and your children his servants. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and give them to his people. He will take a tenth of your earnings and give it to his attendants. Dr. Tackett concludes that government takes the first fruits and tithes that are meant for God and redistributes them to others.

I don’t believe that the government steals by taxing my income or property. I willingly submit to the state’s authority to take a portion of my income to pay for public goods and services, fully aware that the government often misuses and wastes the public’s money. I believe in a government of the people, by the people, for the people.

As Adam Metz points out in Revisiting the Truth Project, Tackett conveniently leaves out scripture that doesn’t support this views on the redistribution of wealth, for example, the Year of Jubilee described in Leviticus 25. Every fifty years, the people of Israel were to return property to its original owners or heirs and debts were to be forgiven.

It’s especially noteworthy that Tackett made no mention of the teachings of Jesus Christ. Jesus made it very clear that we should not worry about money because God knows what we need. We shouldn’t be overly focused on accumulating earthly wealth. Jesus told a rich man, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me (Matthew 19:21).”

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Matthew 6:19-21Matthew 6:19-20

Morality

Tackett asked whether the state can steal because “governments are capable of error and transgression and must be held accountable to a higher ethical law if they are to be prevented from wreaking havoc in the lives of the citizens entrusted to their oversight and care.” Tacket says that the purpose of government is “to punish evil and condone good.” He quoted Webster’s 1828 definition of the word politics and added emphasis to the words “preservation and improvement of their morals.”

The science of government; that part of ethics which consists in the regulation and government of a nation or state, for the preservation of its safety, peace and prosperity; comprehending the defense of its existence and rights against foreign control or conquest, the augmentation of its strengths and resources, and the protection of its citizens in their rights, with the preservation and improvement of their morals.

Politics definition from Websters Dictionary, 1828

I agree that government should be held accountable to high ethical standards and that government has a role in enforcing laws based on morality (e.g. laws against murder or stealing) and laws that preserve the safety of its citizens. But obviously, not everyone accepts God’s law as law. In a democracy, laws should be based on the will of the people.

Many conservative Christians want the government to enforce Biblical moral values. But if government forces people to comply with moral laws that they have not internalized as their own moral values – if compliance with law is not an act of submission and obedience to God – what good does it do? As Jasmin Patterson writes, legislating Biblical morality doesn’t change people and it often turns people away from Christ.

As Christians we have to ask what we are really after. Do we want people to look like they are changed by Jesus or do we want people to actually be changed by Jesus? Do we want to encourage people—albeit unintentionally—to have a form of godliness but reject the power of Christ that actually transforms their lives? (2 Timothy 3:5)

Jasmin Patterson, The Biblical Case Against ‘Legislating Morality’: Does it actually work?

Dr. Tackett warned about big government taking over other spheres of life – God, church, family, labor, education, etc. He said that God designed each social “sphere” for a particular purpose and each sphere has unique laws, roles, and responsibilities to fulfill its purpose.

Tackett warned that the “nanny state” or the “welfare state” causes people to look to the government as their “savior” and as the state tries to solve society’s problems, it substitutes itself for the family. In the study guide for lesson 7 (Sociology: The Divine Imprint), Dr. Tackett says as an aside, “by the way, I can find no biblical support for the position that the state has responsibility for the education of children.”

I find it baffling that Focus on the Family thinks the purpose of the government is the “preservation and improvement of the morals” of its citizens. What then is the purpose of the Church? What is the purpose of the family? If the Bible is silent on an issue such as public education, does that mean that it is against God’s will?

Modern-day Pharisees

Be careful,” Jesus said to them. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

Matthew 16:6

When I searched for commentary on TTP lesson nine, I found an honors thesis written in 2014 by Ben Jordan, a political science student at the University of Colorado: A Dangerous Conflation of Ideologies: the Nexus of Christianity and Neoliberalism. While the student who wrote the thesis was not a Christian, his conclusion is accurate. It is dangerous to conflate Christianity and politics.

On page 28 of the thesis, Jordan lists several themes that make up the neoliberal Christian theology: private property, decreased size or reach of government, decreased taxes and opposition to redistribution of wealth, individualism and self-reliance, and Manichaean theology or the “cosmic battle.” Jordan analyzed the The Truth Project as an example of religious dogma that is used to shape a “conservative political-social-economic ideology.”

Jordan notes that it does not make sense for Christians to hold the neoliberal worldview, a religious ideology based on economic ideology. Even a non-Christian knows that the Bible teaches about the dangers of greed and of the love of money, the importance of caring for one another (including foreigners and the poor), and of our stewardship of the earth. “If Christianity is framed the way Focus on the Family is framing it, then neoliberal policy preferences will follow.” Christians who embrace the neoliberal worldview want to rollback environmental and labor regulations, to eliminate social programs, and to promote the capitalist, free market system.

Jordan observes that masses of Christians must be ignorant of the “fundamental lessons outlined in their own scared text” because if the Bible says “the complete opposite of what it is being used to justify, what else can ideological shaping do?” To put it simply, when Christianity is shaped by those who have a political agenda, it makes Christianity look really bad. “The Christian ideology, when framed as TTP has, is based on a great deal of sexism, homophobia, militarism, xenophobia, nationalism or patriotism, imperialism, racism, and a general distaste for those different than them.”

Randal Rauser wrote an article called Learning in a Time of (Cultural) War: Indoctrination in Focus on the Family’s The Truth Project. He wrote about the dangers of binary thinking, which “secures an uncritical acceptance of certain assumptions while inhibiting subsequent critical reflection on those assumptions.” He notes that it is an enormous task to educate the Christian laity but TTP subverts the pursuit of truth for its own ideological ends.

The first thing we need in the midst of a perceived culture war is sober self-criticism to ensure that we truly are people living out the truth (1 John 1:6). In addition, we need to recognize that the battle is the Lord’s, so that we do not capitulate to the tempting pragmatism that seeks victory at the expense of truth.

Randal Rauser

It only takes a small amount of yeast to transform a ball of dough. In the same way, it takes only a small amount of false teaching to spread and damage the Church. When Christians conflate politics and religion, they distort what it really means to follow Christ. That is dangerous because souls are at stake.

Unio Mystica

My small group recently watched The Truth Project’s eighth lesson: Unio Mystica: Am I Alone? Unio mystica, as defined by Dr. Tackett, is the mystical union between God and man. While many people think that Christianity is primarily a moral, philosophical, or religious system, to the believer it represents “a deep, intimate, and living relationship with a personal creator.” Truly, the bond between the believer and God is beyond human understanding. For me, the question is not am I alone? for I know that God is with me. The question is, how can I explain the glorious union with my Savior?

Dr. Tackett said that the greatest of all the wonders we will contemplate in our study is the fact “that the God of the universe has come to make His dwelling both with us and in us.” It is truly amazing that the Son of God became like a Son of Man to dwell among us. There was nothing glorious or majestic about him. In fact, he was despised and rejected and ridiculed. The Son of God bore our pain and suffering and paid the price for our sins. The incarnation is a mystery beyond my understanding and yet I believe it.

He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
    nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
    a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.

Isaiah 53:2-5

Jesus Christ said mysterious things that were beyond the understanding of the crowds around him, including those who were very religious. Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.

How can this be?

Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.

Christ in me, Christ with Me

Even before watching this lesson, I had been thinking about the interesting way that Jesus described his relationship with his followers. Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:5).” “If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love (John 15:10).”

The grapevine is a great visual that explains how the believer is one with Christ. We are a branch, an integral part of the fruit producing vine. Yet we can’t produce fruit on our own. If we remain in him, if his word remains in us, he will remain in us and we will bear much fruit.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Galatians 2:20

In Christ, I am a new creation. The old me no longer lives. Christ lives in me. He gave me the Spirit of truth to be my advocate. The Holy Spirit is in me and with me.

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.

John 14:16-17

This is the great mystery of my union with Christ. Christ is with me. Christ is in me. Christ is behind me. Christ is above me. For reasons unknown to me, he chose me. I do not understand this unio mystica but I praise God for it.

The Prayer of Saint Patrick

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, 
Christ on my right, Christ on my left, 
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, 
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me, 
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me, 
Christ in the eye that sees me, 
Christ in the ear that hears me. 

One in Christ Jesus

Another theme of the Unio Mystica lesson is the unity of believers. When Jesus prayed for the disciples, he prayed, “Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one (John 17:11).” Jesus prayed for people like me who came to believe through the message of the apostles “that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.”

Christ’s message is a message of unity and inclusion. The old way of excluding Gentiles from God’s promises was replaced with a new covenant. The despised Samaritan became the shining example of what it means to love your neighbor as yourself.

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 3:28

Dr. Tackett pointed out that the words “one another” were repeated often by Jesus and the apostles. See also Romans 12:10, Ephesians 4:2, Colossians 3:16 and 1 Peter 1:22.

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

John 13:34-35

In my study of The Truth Project, I haven’t agreed with everything that Dr. Tackett says. But on the topic of the intimate, personal relationship between God and man, I agree with him wholeheartedly. There is nothing more wonderful and humbling than the incredible way that God lives with us and in us.

You move us to delight in praising You; for You have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You. 

Augustine, The Confessions, Book I

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Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash