VOICE OF THE HARVEST MAGAZINE

ENGAGING THE COMMUNITY IN A CHRIST CENTERED CONVERSATION

DEC 2019

LOOKING TO CHRIST, NOT SELF OR MAN

RENAISSANCE

BY MIZHRAIM RIVERA

The Renaissance, was a historical period of cultural rebirth. This historical period saw new methods develop in art, architecture, politics and religion. You have heard their names. Da Vinci, Michelangelo and Botticelli. Copernicus and Galileo. Cervantes and Shakespeare. Columbus and of course Luther. If not all their names ring a bell, their exploits sure will. Da Vinci’s Mono Lisa, Michelangelo’s sculpture of David. A Portrait of a Young Girl, by Botticelli, a rendition of which graces this issue’s cover. The Heliocentric model, also known as the Copernicus model. An astronomical model that shows planets, including earth, revolving around the sun. The countless contributions of Galileo, known as the father of modern science. Great literary works like Don Quixote by Cervantes, recognized as the first modern novel. Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Othello and Macbeth among other notable works. The discovery of the Americas by Columbus and the Ninety-Five Theses of Luther which ushered in the Protestant Reformation. As an admirer of history, I sometimes wish I lived in such an age. But I am reminded quickly that not all things are as they appear.

The year was 1304. Significant in that a man by the name of Francesco Petrarca was born. He is better known as Petrarch. He is considered the father of the Renaissance. This article is not about Petrarch, but understanding somethings about him and his contemporaries will help you better understand what the Renaissance is all about. Like other contemporaries of his time Petrarch melded Christianity with the teachings of Classical antiquity, what the Romans and Greeks taught. From that emerged what we call humanism. Humanism in the Renaissance can be defined as an intellectual movement that believed in the superiority of the Roman and Greek cultures over that of medieval times. Perhaps Petrarch was driven by a sense of freedom that comes with doing something different from what those around you are doing. It’s a sense that is still alive today. In America a turn towards liberalism has conjured up hopes of a better human race. One that is inclusive and diverse. However, the parameters have not been defined and an all-out free for all seems to be underway, if it’s not already here.

The Renaissance was something like that. Petrarch relished the idea that bringing back the classical thought of the Romans and Greeks would be beneficial. And while I agree that it's good to look back into history to learn lessons and avoid pitfalls. To turn to the philosophies of fallen civilizations does not seem to be the place where we ought to start.

The Middle Ages however, and a time in history known as the Dark Ages seemed to be a real concern for Petrarch and his contemporaries. They believed there were no new ideas coming forward. Societies had stagnated. The original church no longer looked the same and had been bloated beyond comprehension. The arguments that the original church fathers used to defend and uphold the gospel had turned into a penance collecting hierarchy structure known as the Holy Roman Catholic Church that made everything seem cold and indifferent.

Now we should not be surprised by this. The teachings of the gospel center on the person of Christ. And they center on the person of Christ partly because he was to be our primary example of how to live the Christian life. The early church fathers understood this and followed passionately after Christs example. Many of them were martyred, while most lived castigated by a community that did not desire to seek God. This brand of Christianity of course can be disruptive. As governments sought to grow and expand their empires, the last thing they wanted was to contend with a people that increasingly became more obstinate to the ways of the world as they committed their lives to follow Christ. Overtime, political moves were set in motion that made Christianity the center of government so men could claim divinity in their political positions. The thought in some ways was, "how do you argue with God?"

Of course, this was not the intent of Christ’s sacrifice, neither was it his teaching. It's clear from scripture that Christ never blended his gospel with politics for the expediency of political gain. The proclivity did exist among the population in general. But the idea of a divine authority in government was not new to the Romans who were the world power at the time. We see examples of it in the Greek Civilization before the Romans and in other civilizations like the Babylonians and Persians as well. Where does this idea come from? I believe that it becomes obvious to people, if not immediately, certainly within a lifetime, that we cannot govern ourselves well from a set of facts that we can derive from the world or even the universe. It takes a bigger influence. And if you question that in the least, ask yourself, when was the last time you promised yourself to do something and did not do it? Think diets, budgeting, work etc.

The question is, what is the bigger influence? Primitive man figured out that the influence had to come from outside of the realm of himself. In cultures throughout history what we find is people looking either into the cosmos or into the surrounding nature to find those things that are not changing and that represent a sense of stability. These same cultures then raise these things above themselves and subjugate themselves to them. When we study these cultures, we find that in order for them to align themselves with what they felt was good, they sacrificed what they believed was best among them.

What Christ signified was a being that represented both God and man. And beyond that he was a perfect man. This meant that he would be able to sacrifice himself to unite man to God. This sacrifice that took place on the cross became a guarantee into eternity because Christ was not only man, but he was also God.

In the time of the Renaissance what we find is man collectively thinking to himself, “I feel disconnected from that which is good.” He then would collectively hearken back to what he thought was a better time in history. For him that was the Romans and the Greeks. Now, a reason why man always hearkens back to propel himself forward is easily understood. Man’s future is uncertain and his present is murky at best. Hearkening back to a time you know for sure was good, allows man to mimic those times and hope that new ideas get formulated to march into the future with confidence.

The origins of man according to Biblical history placed us in a place where man was in perfect relationship with God. It’s hard to say whether at that time Adam and Even had any sense of the future and if they thought that future was good or bad. But we know that they saw their present as murky. All it took was a few questions and statements from a serpent to bring into question what God had commanded. We all know the story; they both ate the fruit from the forbidden tree and their future became chaotic. They tried to cover themselves and hide from God. God found them and they had to fess up. Except that they did not. They passed the buck. Adam to Eve and Eve to the serpent. They couldn’t find anything good in the short history they had lived thus far, they had all to quickly forgotten how perfect their relationship with God had been.

In the time of the Renaissance, they missed the seminal moment in history that had changed so much of the world landscape and was the only thing that offered a guaranteed solution. They went straight to world powers of the past that both had their long periods of dominance but had not been able to keep the game going.

And so, my point is this. We live in a time when political expediency is prevalent. Here in America, people have figured out that if they lobby the right people in the right way, they can get legislation to pass that will move their agenda forward. Yet, we have a deeper problem than that. And it seems to me that this problem has already happened in history. You have to understand that part of what moved men from the Middle Ages into the Renaissance and later into the age of Enlightenment was a deep seeded belief that man could truly accomplish great things. Like at the tower of Babel where God confused the language to disrupt man from attaining lofty goals of complete self-governance the Renaissance seems to have invigorated men to believe in the power of self. This time they overcame the burdens of language. They traversed the globe in search for resources and land. Discovered new continents and conquered new lands. Circumnavigated the world and saw wealth pour out in ways they had never thought possible. All the while they recorded their exploits in paintings and frescoes that we still admire today. They built themselves up in such a way that whoever looked into the history they wrote would know; they had accomplished something.

Have we not seen the same today in our age? In the sixties we lost our innocence. Ravished by war, the world sought to turn to peace. But they did not seek the peacemaker. Instead, we felt our new philosophies would do. The arts became about our music. Our music started to become our laws. And our laws are religion. We stood up for the less fortunate while being less fortunate ourselves. We attempted at every turn to gouge out the speck of dust in someone else's eye while contending not with the log in our own. The Humanist of this time declared, “The next century can be and should be the humanistic century.” The “self” became more important, but the individual got left behind. It became about self-worth, self-esteem and self-love. These “self” ideas became movements that instead of liberating people to be who God called them to be, God was declared an antiquated idea that no longer worked and that we must look within to find what life means.

But meaning is lost when we dig deeper into ourselves. It's found when we work to become responsible in the light of who God had called us to be. But that is not where we are at is it? We are in a time that all things get doubted and barriers are being removed without asking if we should. Where traditions are shunned and words redefined. We have fallen prey to the dangerous notion that new ideas about what men and women are is a good thing. But new ideas about who we are is not a good thing. In fact, they are almost always wrong. Who we are has been established long ago, when God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” Our abilities are not of our own doing. It's because he made us with a purpose to serve Him that we are able to do anything.

There truly is a Renaissance to be had in this time. I contend that we seek to go as far back as Calvary and stop no sooner or go no further. It's not in the philosophy of men that we will find our new path forward. It’s in the sacrifice of the Cross that everything we hold dear will converge. Here we see the true Renaissance of history. Renaissance means' rebirth, and there's no clearer evidence of a rebirth, a renaissance, that brings about cataclysmic change like the Resurrection of Christ. He took up His cross and walked His path for our sake. We must take up our own cross and move deliberately forward. Not in an attempt to better those around us but to commit ourselves to the call of God on our lives. When we do, we will have a better sense of what we must do now and be able to walk in faith toward our future.

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