Thomas Hardy was raised in a Christian environment, but turned away from the faith in adulthood, eventually arriving at the point where he believed that life had no meaning. He incorporated that journey from faith to nihilism in the last of his novels, Jude the Obscure, which is the next entry on my literature website. The story involves a young man from a poor family who longs to become a scholar, and perhaps even a clergyman. He is thwarted at every step, both by a class-conscious society and the relationships in which he becomes involved, first with a pig farmer’s daughter who seduces him and tricks him into marriage, and then with his freethinking cousin who draws him into her godless philosophy because of his love for her. His relationships bring him nothing but misery and he dies, penniless and alone, at the age of thirty. Hardy compares Jude’s suffering to that of Job, but his worldview allows no room for a redemptive ending. The book is also a critique of the educational system, the class system, the Christian religion, and especially the institution of marriage. The novel was given such a poor reception by critics, one of whom tagged it “Jude the Obscene” despite the fact that it contains no overt sex or profanity, that Hardy gave up penning novels and spent the last thirty-three years of his life writing poetry. One might wonder what a person might expect to gain from reading such a depressing book. Aside from the obvious writing talents of the author, which a believer can appreciate as the result of God’s common grace, Christians can see clearly on display the consequences of the rejection of God and the pursuit of humanist freethinking – a life without hope and suffering with no redemption. Job’s life ended with the enjoyment of God’s blessing, while Jude’s ended in despair.
The sixth course in the adult series on the central doctrines of the Chrstian faith is now available. The course on the Doctrine of Salvation follows the ordo salutis from eternity past to eternity future, with each lesson focusing on key biblical terms that describe the gracious work of God through Christ in the lives of those who belong to Him. The Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 8:29-30, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” From the marvelous truth that God “chose us in [Christ] before the foundation of the world” through effectual calling, regeneration, justification, and adoption, the gifts of faith and repentance by means of which we respond to the heart-changing work of the Holy Spirit, through sanctification, perseverance, and ultimate glorification, we see that salvation is the work of God from beginning to end. The plan that the members of the Trinity arranged before time began is so certain of final fulfillment that Paul can even speak of ultimate glorification in the past tense. As Jesus told His disciples, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”