Sometimes it seems to me that modern man, modern Christian man, is no better off with regard to God than were his ancient pagan ancestors. The gods of the nations, our old gods, were very mysterious, very enigmatic, hiding themselves from us by day, revealing themselves to us in fleeting, dreamlike encounters by night, fostering an ever-increasing legacy of mythology that, poetic though it was, offered no real clues that could be followed to their source. As Orual, the queen of Glome, mused in C. S. Lewis’ greatest novel Till We Have Faces, ‘Why must holy places be dark places?’
So the modern Christian often complains of finding God, his God, mysterious, elusive, unresponsive, disprovidential, and even absent. It makes good subject matter for book writers, both for those who lodge the complaint and for those who seek to defend God against it, as well as for those who try to lay down some method to track and trap God, so that the believer can finally pin Him down and make Him own up to His responsibilities.
All this comes from a pre-existing religious condition in mankind. This is something that, like original sin, seems to be universal. Every race of mankind has it, something like a spiritual birth defect, a built-in compensation for original sin. It makes mankind a species of religious animals, always trying to cover up their nakedness before God, while simultaneously shifting the blame elsewhere, and hoping to gain God’s approval somehow.
Religious animals is what we became after the fall of Adam. Before that fall, there was no such thing as religion. Man walked with God, and God walked with man. Our mutual familiarity and intimate friendship left no room for religious exercises. We walked with God, He walked with us. That was all the exercise we had need of.
But after the fall, what do we find?
Starting with Adam’s grandson Enosh the son of Seth, scripture says, ‘At that time men began to call on the name of the LORD’ (Genesis 4:26 NIV). Now it’s not a bad thing to call upon the name of the Lord, but it shows perhaps that we believe that God is somewhere else, or that we are, and He has to be called. Hence, religion came into being as a channel of communication with Him with whom we used to talk face to face.
Now, this is where we find ourselves in the natural man. An opaque veil shrouds us from the Divine Nature, to protect us, in the same way that the Ark of the Covenant is shrouded when carried among the people, not to hide the Ark from their eyes, but to protect them from it. The natural man follows after the First Adam, no longer able to walk with God because of sin, or to see Him and speak to Him face to face.
There has come a Second Adam, however, who like the first is called ‘the Son of God’ but who, unlike the first, has not disobeyed and fallen. He still walks with the Lord and speaks to Him face to face, and this ability to speak to the Father and to walk with Him side by side, as in the Garden, He has given ‘to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name.’ To them, to us, ‘He gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God’ (John 1:12-13 NIV). This is something that appears quite incredible to the world, and to the natural man, but to the spiritual man, the man of faith, this is an open door.
The Second Adam has opened the gates of Paradise to us, starting with the repentant thief who, not being able to steal the things of this world anymore because he was nailed like Jesus to a cross, stole something immeasurably greater, re-admittance to the Garden, going in as thoroughly naked as an infant enters into this world.
What happened to the religious animal that is the natural man? Walking in the Garden with Jesus, side by side with His Father and our Father, speaking to Them both face to face as one speaks to his friend, religion like the skins of animals has been left behind without being replaced by fig leaves.
‘Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests.’
Luke 2:14 NIV