How Does Sanctification Work? by David Powlison, Free for CAPC Members
David Powlison dispels the myth that there is a “key to sanctification” and then lays the biblical groundwork for spiritual growth.
He has a brain defect, but that’s not really a bad thing. This particular brain defect allows New York City lawyer Eli Stone to have amazing visions that tell him how to help others. If the story sounds far-fetched that’s okay, because it is the latest plot for a new ABC comedy.
The show is built around the premise that Stone’s brain aneurysm is causing him to have hallucinogenic visions which compel him to do things he would not normally do. In the premier episode, for example, Stone takes a job as defense attorney for a single mother against a major corporation (one which his law firm actually represents). The vision that compelled him to take the case had George Michael signing his hit song, “You gotta have faith” in Stone’s living room. So, naturally, Stone put faith in his defendants claim that a major pharmaceutical company put a substance in her child’s medication that made him autistic.
The story is a typical mercenary lawyer changed into a “do-good Samaritan.” The visions are a humorous twist to this otherwise old story, but it does make for a good laugh and some decent acting on the part of main star (Jonny Lee Miller). But there is something that Christians should note in this show. At one point Stone, in an attempt to seek medical help for these visions, goes to an acupuncturist. Stone’s brother, a medical doctor, tells him that it is a brain aneurysm, but Dr. Chen says otherwise. He tells Stone that there may be a divine answer to his visions and begins by suggesting that the lawyer may actually be a prophet of God. “If God could call Moses, why not a lawyer?” Dr. Chen asks.
Indeed, why not a lawyer? Certainly God can call anyone, anywhere, at anytime. And He has a track record of using more outlandish choices than evil corporate lawyers (i.e. the Apostle Paul, persecutor of the church). But is Eli Stone really comparable to the Prophets of old? Eli himself certainly questions the whole notion. He has never spent much time with God before, nor has he shown much interest in the Almighty. But Dr. Chen has an answer for that too. What is God? He is love, justice, and helping the oppressed and those are all things that Stone believes in! The implication being, of course, that this man is a new prophet Eli (similar to Elijah perhaps), and right in line with the prophets of God from of old.
What makes this relevant for Christian consideration is not the possibility that there might be an actual new prophet named Eli Stone on an ABC television show, but rather the question of what God is. The writers are clever enough to point out that God is indeed love, justice, and helping the oppressed. This is not a fallacy, but neither is it the whole truth. In such language this show suggests God is an idea, or an ideal. He is religion, and religion is doing the right thing for others. All that may be well and good, and one certainly wants to recognize the good that Eli Stone does. Yet this is far short of the person of God. God is not an idea. God is a divine being who, while certainly being the very epitome of love, justice, and help, is not solely bound up in these abstract ideas. He is a divine being who shows His love, justice, and help to the oppressed, mostly clearly in dealing with man’s sin problem on the cross. Jesus, God in the flesh, came to earth and died on the cross at Calvary for man’s sins. Paying a debt to God that He did not owe so that sinners might know life and salvation. This is God!
Is Eli Stone a prophet? I say hardly. He may be a humanitarian. He may even be crazy. But a prophet of God is one who knows the Almighty in an intimate relationship and who speaks His words calling men to repentance and to faith! Eli Stone may remind us that human beings are to love one another and help out the poor, needy, and oppressed, but he falls far short of reminding us of the source of such real, lasting, and genuine love: Jesus Christ, the God-Man. Simply put, “You gotta have faith” in something more than the human spirit.
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