The Untamable Lion

Spurgeon once wrote:

See you that lion. They have caged him for his preservation; shut him up behind iron bars to secure him from his foes! See how a band of armed men have gathered together to protect the lion. What a clatter they make with their swords and spears! These mighty men are intent upon defending a lion. O fools, and slow of heart! Open that door! Let the lord of the forest come forth free. Who will dare to encounter him? What does he want with your guardian care? Let the pure gospel go forth in all its lion-like majesty, and it will soon clear its own way and ease itself of its adversaries.

I used to love this quote. There’s something exhilarating in thinking about the Word of God as a wild and ravaging lion, striking fear in the heart of its enemies with a thunderous roar that demands reverence. Recently, however, this quote began to trouble me.

Why was the lion in a cage to begin with? After trouncing its enemies, do the guardians escort it back into the cage? I know, if you squeeze an orange too hard the seed may pop out and hit you in the eye, I get it. But hear me out.

We search the Scriptures, study them, assuming the law of noncontradiction, we then piece them together to formulate a theological grid of sorts –a lens through which we will analyze and comprehend the comprehensive whole. Kantzer posits that the goal of the systematic theologian is “to systematize and present as a unified whole the truth concerning God and His relationships to men and the universe as this is authoritatively revealed in the Holy Scriptures and to relate this truth to human thought and life.”

Again, assuming the law of noncontradiction, this synthesized grid should, ideally, fit seamlessly on the texts from which it was constructed. But sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes the Bible isn’t as neat as we synthesizers would like it to be. Sometimes the i’s I wish were dotted, and the t’s I wish were crossed are not. Sometimes, no matter how many times I run the experiment, the results don’t affirm my original hypothesis.

I loved Spurgeon’s quote because I never imagined the beast in the illustration as a timid domesticated cat, until I put it back in its cage…

What happens when you realize that the cage you constructed is not large enough, nor strong enough to contain your massive, untamed lion? Fear begins to register as your lion crushes any illusion you had of it ever being your lion, and reminds you that you are its prey.