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Saturn Eating His Children

Here it is 1999!

We are even now signaling our turn into the next millennium. Who can say what it will be like? Some suggest that there is the slightest trace of sulfur in the air, indicating the advance of Apocalypse. Some say that the golden dawn bleeding through the weakened ozone is glint from God's chariots of fire.

Millennial corners! Is there anything to them? Will New Year's Eve 1999 be more significant or ominous than any other new year? It would seem so, for even as this is being written, people are purchasing tickets at great expense to see the new millennium in at the pyramids, or Notre Dame, or the Great Wall.

What is all this about?

Well, this coming New Year's Eve seems to approach as a celebration of our anthropological egotism. Human beings seem all set to celebrate their long evolutionary climb from cosmic worm to pyramid builder. The threshold of the new millennium is the place to celebrate these human triumphs. Yes, folks, according to the secular humanists, we did it! When we crawled out of the cosmic soup, where we once were only eyeless worms, we at last learned to stand. In time, we developed backbones, learned to use tools, and ultimately learned to teach anthropology. It took a while. In fact, these anthropologists say that if all of the world's evolutionary history could be reduced to a two-hour movie, man would not even appear till the last eleven seconds of the film. Still, what an eleven seconds! Get your tickets, come to the pyramids, and we'll celebrate ourselves.

In the Prado hangs one of Goya's "dark" paintings whose horrible image once held can hardly be forgotten. It is entitled Saturn Eating His Children and features a huge demi-urge - a kind of Roman Pluto - holding a half-devoured human torso in his hand. Blood streams from the horrible mouth that has just bitten off a small human figure held in the talons of this devouring gargoyle.

Saturn was the Roman god of time, whose Greek name is Chronos. So the horror of the Goya canvas is real. In the passing of our years, time devours us all. Life is but the clock that God keeps. It winds not fast with God, but with us the years are only to be measured in hurried metaphors of things that swiftly run.

Behind the horror of the image, lies God's Word. James 4:14, "What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes." (NIV)

Job 7:6 says, "My days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle, and they come to an end without hope." (NIV)

Hebrews 9:27, 28 says, "Just as a man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people. ..." (NIV)

Time bales itself in little cubes of measurements. Seconds group themselves in minutes. Minutes gang up in groups of sixty to be hours. Hours gather themselves by dozens into A.M. and P.M. Days group themselves in sevens to make weeks, and weeks bunch up by fifties into years. Then years gather into decades to make centuries, and centuries cluster by decades to make millennia. And here we are at the third millennia. God owns time, and time devours our physical lives by gulping us in graveyards.

Still God owns time, so much of it that a thousand years to Him are but a day (II Peter 3:8-ff.). There's a steadiness in God's clocks. They tick like poor pendulum mechanisms on earth, but they also hum like quartz chronometers in heaven. They tick away the days of our lives, but eternity sees right. There, those who love God give Him their years and nothing is ever wasted in God's keeping.

Humanism in our day celebrates only anthropology. We gather at the Parthenon and Pyramids to proclaim, "Behold man! The Earthling who made it big. The Evolutionary Latecomer who learned mathematics, built libraries, and at last world-wide-webbed his way into Cyberdom."

But who was he really?

Only a man, but never a triumphant worm who left primeval soup to build pyramids. He was a sun-crowned being sculpted by God and affirmed in the humanity of Christ. Those who drop their anthropological egos may in humility cry out from their creaturehood, and be fashioned like Christ in newness. Then they will own the day, and the crumbling pyramids will, one day, weep that they are so temporary, and man so eternal.


Calvin Miller is a professor at Southwestern Seminary.

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January 1999 Edition
Volume 7, Issue 4
January 1999