What difference does the glory of God make? In a person’s life? In a nation? The power and distinction of God’s glory was the message that emerged from this unusual interview with Charlie Jarvis. You may not have heard of Charlie, but he’s been a friend of Boundless from the beginning. As Executive Vice President of Focus on the Family, he championed the launch of this site. Before that, he worked in the Reagan administration. Today he is the President of USA Next, a conservative alternative to AARP that has a broad vision for an intergenerational partnership between grandparents and the young people who will inherit the fruit or consequences of their decisions.
We met Charlie just blocks from the White House at the Occidental Grill, a fixture in this town of power brokers. That alone would have been slightly intimidating. But we had other reasons to sweat: we ran over during our interview with the guys at Capitol Hill Baptist Church and were running late. Then we ran into traffic. And to top things off, the restaurant staff missed our message about needing a semi-private table to accommodate our recording equipment.
By the time we arrived, Charlie was already half-way through his lump crab cakes, roasted asparagus and creamy mashed potatoes and sitting … smack dab in the center of the busiest part of the restaurant. We tried to nonchalantly plug in all the cables, boot the computer and mic Charlie’s lapel. Just as we were about to begin taping, the manager noticed what we were doing and raced over. “You can’t have all this equipment here. These cords are in everyone’s way. You’ll kindly pack up your suitcases and check them with our hostess.”
“Oh wow, we called ahead to let you know about our plans to record this interview. Someone must have misplaced our request for an appropriate table,” I said. Hoping she’d have mercy on us and find a table closer to a plug and further from the action.
We were desperate. Charlie’s a busy man. If he finished that meal before we could get things worked out, we knew we might miss this opportunity.
Thankfully the manager of the restaurant-with-a-good-reputation found a place for us in a room off the main dining area. With only a handful of tables around us, we were able to talk more freely. It’s a good thing.
Almost immediately, Charlie began talking about God’s glory. And as he did so, with utter reverence and conviction, God’s presence was palpable. The food — just minutes before a gourmet feast — lost its appeal. The clatter of plates and water glasses being refilled were unwelcome intrusions into what was for that hour, a most holy place.
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A Theology of Grandeur
Charlie Jarvis: The theology of the United States and Evangelicalism is increasingly personalistic, familiaristic, friendship oriented, and what’s missing is the Grandeur of the Lord. When you’re missing the Grandeur of the Lord, what you ultimately look for are human relationships to give you the kinds of stability that you should only find in your identity with the Lord.
A “theology of grandeur” is built on the idea of “kabod,” which is the Hebrew concept of “the crushing, heaviness of God and His Character.” He is other than we are, and whenever someone comes into communication with Him directly, they fall on their knees.
In the theology of America, people are not falling on their knees; they’re calling Jesus “my best friend” or they’re finding Him to be a solution to some mundane problem, rather than having this overwhelming sense that Isaiah had when he was before the Lord of Hosts, when even God’s identity as the “Lord of Hosts” was crushing in its weightiness. That’s why every time someone impinges upon a Christophany [an appearance of the Messiah in the Old Testament], prior to Jesus coming as a child in Bethlehem, they are driven to their knees, and what’s revealed is the Glory of the Lord.
What’s fascinating is when Jesus is born in Bethlehem, the shepherds come running to tell the story of what had happened, and the Scriptures says that the Glory of the Lord shown around about them, and they were “sore afraid.” They were so afraid they were sore is the way I like to think of it. In other words, they were deeply overwhelmed.
If you don’t have a theology of grandeur, what you’re going to be looking for in life are practical hints and techniques. You’re going to look for what is typical of America, which is a theology of technology in which techniques bring happiness and order to your life. I’m not saying that technology and techniques in life aren’t important. I’m just saying what people do is they replace the theology of glory with the theology of techniques and technology. That is, you have three steps to get a person to Christ, you have five steps to become a happy person, or you have 10 steps to get rid of whatever is plaguing you emotionally.
Boundless: What is the Church doing specifically to enable this loss of Grandeur?
Charlie Jarvis: Well, it’s interesting. Because you look at the United States and the influence of the Church here today, and then you contrast that with the influence of the Church 225 years ago when it was at the core of society. It was defining outward from itself the reality of what life is, what’s good and what’s evil, what’s acceptable and what’s unacceptable, all of that. And in the last two centuries, what you have is the Church becoming more and more retreatist, in the face of scientism in the 19th century, of evolutionism in the 19th century and in this century technologyism. What you see are people basically becoming overwhelmed with a sense of what’s around them and where things are going.
Simultaneous with that, you have a theology of escapism. The early Church prayed “Maranatha, come Lord Jesus” when they were nobodies. They prayed Maranatha and they took over the world within a few centuries. Since the 19th century, the Church in American prays Maranatha but then gives up every single area of authority in life.
Now that’s not a blessing, that’s a curse. What that is, literally, is ichabod. In the Scriptures, you will remember, that when the Lord leaves the temple, it says He pronounces ichabod. The word “kabod” is “glory;” “ichabod” means “the glory is departed.” The glory has left. And what we’ve seen in this country is a gradual leaving of the glory from the Church. Now what are left are well-tested techniques and technologies of relationships and evangelism and that sort of thing. But what’s missing is the core of purpose, which is the theology of the grandeur of God.
Boundless: Isn’t it true, too, that the techniques are transient. People can treat them like New Year’s resolutions, where they say, well, those techniques didn’t work for me. I’ll try something else.
Charlie Jarvis: And they go from book to book to book. There’s never been a point in American history when there have been so many Christian books, magazines, albums, seminars, conferences, and even Christian churches for goodness sake, and yet never has the Church been less influential in the deepest and most profound sense of the word.
A Theology of Purpose
The second area of theology that’s missing in America is what I would call a theology of purpose. What’s our purpose? That’s the question everyone should be asking. But if you have a very small view of the grandeur of God, you’re going to end up with a theology of purpose that’s driven by techniques; a Christian technology, or technique-orientated philosophy. If you’re missing the core of the purpose of everything, which is that the kabod of God dwells in the midst of His people and reveals His Glory, you don’t realize that in Him you have life.
Corinthians says that, “The god of this world has blinded the eyes of the unbelieving.” What has he blinded them to? What’s his purpose? “So that they might not see the light of the Gospel of the Glory of Christ.” To this Paul adds, “Christ, Who is our life, when He appears, we shall appear with Him as well.” Together, God is saying, “Look, I want to reveal my Glory through you.” That’s the theology of purpose.
So you start to realize it’s not enough to look for three steps to that and five phases to that and six insights to that. “The purpose is to know God,” Paul says, “and the power of His Resurrection.” The Greek word for power here is dunatos and dunamous — the root word from which we get dynamite. What I read here is that when His resurrection authority is communicated to us through His glory, it means we’re going to be exploded. All of our preconceptions will be exploded.
Why is it when Isaiah meets the Lord face-to-face in the temple, he says, “I’m undone”? I mean we’re worshipping in church, and we say, “Wow, isn’t He something?” Isaiah sees the glory of the Lord, and he says, “I am undone! I’m overwhelmed. I am falling apart at the seams, because I’ve seen the Lord of Hosts.” Worshipping the Lord should lead to that kind of understanding. To cause us to say, “I am in awe of Him.”
A Theology of Legacy
So if you’re missing a theology of glory, and you’re missing a theology of purpose, you’re going to miss a theology of legacy, which is, “Why am I here for goodness sake?” I’m not here just for me. I’m here because He wants me to create a legacy where the glory dwells in the midst of His people.
So if you don’t have a theology of grandeur of God, you’re going to miss the purpose of God, which is that Grandeur is supposed to be worked out in us. There’s something to be so special about us that people look at it, and they go “Oh, whoa; this is very, very different from anything I see all around me everyday. This is unique.” They are so peaceful. As they are burned on those stakes they die with an outstanding dignity. And so you have centurions who witnessed these deaths who are driven towards the mercy of Christ.
Who is it, then, that starts the hospitals? Who is it that takes the kids who’ve been abandoned under the bridges? It’s the Church. Who is it that takes the sick and the dying? It’s the Church. Who is it that ministers to the poor? Not just ministers in some vague way, but actually begins to inform them about their lofty purpose in their identity with glory, Who is Christ, right?
The whole passage of the shepherds was about glory. God had pronounced ichabod — His glory was gone. But at Christ’s birth, glory was back. He was back in the world. He was blessing us with His presence. Kabod was here among us. Who is He? He’s Emmanuel. God with us. What does that mean? The glory is with us again.
Copyright 2006 Charlie Jarvis. All rights reserved.