Bartholomew invites chapel to have holy desires for Christ

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On Tuesday and Wednesday at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Dr. Craig Bartholomew spoke at the annual Page Lectures on the topics of Desire and Violence.

Dr. Bartholomew is the H. Evan Runner Professor of Philosophy and Professor of Religion at Redeemer University College in Ancaster, Canada. He is also The Principal of The Paideia Centre for Public Theology and Adjunct Faculty at Trinity College Bristol. Dr. Bartholomew is a prolific author whose works include The Drama of Scripture: Finding Our Place in the Biblical Story, Ecclesiastes: Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms, Where Mortals Dwell: A Christian View of Place for Today, and Hearing the Old Testament: Listening for God’s Address

Bartholomew’s lecture topic was entitled, “Desire and Violence: René Girard, the Tenth Commandment, and the Good Neighborhood of Proverbs.” 

He said, “Violence and desire are extensions of our freedom of being made in the image of God, but we must remember we are still creatures and not God. As imagers, we need an exemplar. Genesis 3 tells us that we want to be our own gods and in control of our own lives. Through our freedom, we want to be our own special creation.”
Bartholomew said that René Girard’s work, I Saw Satan Fall Like Lighting, emphasizes that the center of being human is mimetic desire, a copying or imitation of something or someone else. Humans need an exemplar, whether that exemplar is human or an entity said Bartholomew, summarizing Girard’s work.

“Because we are humans,” Bartholomew continued, “and thus creaturely, we need an exemplar model to fulfill our desires. Thus, Girard draws a connection between mimetic desire and the image of God. What we desire to become like shapes our very being. Looking at Scripture, Girard understands that mimetic desire can easily lead to rivalry. The rivalry between oneself and another leads to violence, like Adam and Eve’s desire to be like God or Cain’s desire leading to murder his brother Abel.”

God wants humanity to fully flourish said Bartholomew. Yet in the prohibition to not covet – found in the Tenth Commandment – this is when desire goes wrong. It is misdirected desire. Bartholomew stressed to the attendees that God has created the world with a “good” structure and because human beings have a capacity of freedom, desire takes God’s structure and misdirects it.  

“Desire is a gift from God to feel passionately,” uttered Bartholomew. “But desire is easily misdirected into rivalry. God has created and ordered the world with boundaries and limits, and when Christians truly understand these creational designs, we can live beautifully within those created limits. For instance, the Book of Proverbs is trying to stoke the human heart to Wisdom. Wisdom is a way of becoming fully human in ways that we never imagined possible, to flourish within God’s creational design and order.”

Bartholomew concluded the Page Lectures stating: “Conversion is the beginning of the reordering and redirecting of our unholy desires. Christians are justified, that is, made whole in Christ and sanctification is becoming what you have been proclaimed in Christ. Hence, sanctification and holiness will shape what we think it means to be fully human. Humans are relational creatures, made for deeply profound relationships with the Triune God, fellow humans, and the created order. And the Spirit is redirecting your unholy desires to become holy desires flourishing before the presence of the Triune God.”

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