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An interventionist God


by Andrew Lansdown

For a singer-songwriter who began as a punk rocker, NickCave has come a long way. He can still sing some ugly and mean songs (both music- and lyric-wise), but he now also sings some beautiful and moving ones. The love song “Into My Arms” is one of the latter sort.

Simply and elegantly, Nick expresses in the song a longing that his “darling” will keep returning always into his arms. Piano and voice, melody and lyrics, meld together to create a mood of exquisite tenderness and love.

“Into My Arms” also illustrates Nick’s ability to enrich his songs with theological and/or philosophical ideas. Sometimes such an idea is central to the theme, while at other times it is incidental.

In the case of “Into My Arms”, the theological idea is central. It is the thought with which the song starts and to which it continually returns. It is the concept that gives the song a sense both of unity and of paradox.

Nick’s theological thesis is that there is no “interventionist God”. The first verse and the chorus state, develop and re-direct this thesis:

I don’t believe in an interventionist God

But I know, darling, that you do

But if I did I would kneel down and ask Him

Not to intervene when it came to you

Not to touch a hair on your head

To leave you as you are

And if He felt He had to direct you

Then direct you into my arms

Into my arms, O Lord

Into my arms, O Lord

Into my arms, O Lord

Into my arms

The most striking and moving element of the song is that it is almost a prayer to this God in whom Nick does not believe. Again and again in the chorus, Nick pleads with the Lord to direct his beloved into his arms. It is a subtle, sweet, thrilling paradox.

It is difficult for people not to believe in God. It is difficult not to believe that he exists and that he cares and that he will intervene when we need his help. Nick’s song illustrates the difficulty. And yet Nick himself is adamant that he does not believe.

Whether or not Nick believes in any type of God is unclear. But what is clear from this song is that he does not believe in the type of God who intervenes in the world. He does not believe in the type of God who (for good or ill) interferes with our plans or intrudes in our lives. If there is a God, so far as Nick is concerned, he is a God who is remote from us and has no influence over us. He does not direct or dictate, help or hinder, reward or punish.

“I don’t believe in an interventionist God,” Nick sings. Then adds, “But I know, darling, that you do”.

And I guess Nick knows that, like his darling, Christian people do, too.

Christianity is a faith that is founded on a belief in an interventionist God. Indeed, Christians believe that the one eternal and living God is an interventionist from beginning to end.

God intervened in the beginning when, apart from himself, there was nothing.He created the universe, the earth and all living things.

God intervened at the outset of creation to make human beings in his likeness. He communicated some of his attributes to us so that (in contrast with all other creatures) we could compose songs, express love and debate theology. He made us moral, rational, emotional beings so that we each could relate to him person to Person.

God intervened to bring judgment when our first ancestors rebelled against him. That judgment brought disorder and death to mankind and nature alike.

God intervened to choose a man (Abraham) to found a nation (Israel) through whom he could send a Saviour for all the peoples of the world. And, as recorded in the sacred writings of the Old Testament in the Bible, he repeatedly intervened to bless and punish that nation to ensure its preservation until the Saviour came.

God intervened to send his Son to be our Saviour. Two thousand years ago, his Son became a human being and was given the name “Jesus”. He came to save us from sin and shame and judgment, and he did so by dying on our behalf to make amends to God for our offences.

God intervened through many writers over many centuries to give us his word. He gave us the Bible so that we might have a true and trustworthy account about himself and his will, Jesus and his sacrifice, and ourselves and our need.

God intervenes today through his word to convince and convict those who seek him. As people read the Bible, God illuminates their understanding and sensitises their conscience.

God intervenes today to save those who call on his name and trust in his Son. He cleanses their guilt and changes their affections so that they can be his children and inherit eternal life.

God intervenes today to sustain and advance the saving work he has begun in his people. By his Spirit, he is constantly active in the lives of Christians to help them to become more like Jesus Christ, full of virtue, kindness and valour.

God intervenes today in response to his people’s prayers. He listens to those who love him and answers them according to his wisdom and purpose.

God intervened in the past, he intervenes in the present, and he will intervene in the future. Indeed, his ultimate intervention will involve the second coming of his Son, Jesus, to gather his people and to judge his enemies.

So then, from beginning to end, Christians believe in an interventionist God.

What’s more, every Christian has personally experienced that mighty intervention of God known as “conversion”. This radical process whereby God draws a person to himself through repentance and faith and begins to transform him (or her) into the likeness of Jesus is not only the commonest but also the greatest of God’s interventions today. And every Christian can confidently promise that this same divine intervention can and will be experienced by anyone who calls out for forgiveness and life to God’s Son, Jesus Christ.

NickCave may not believe in an interventionist God, but the woman he loves does. Let’s hope she can persuade him to change his mind.

In the mean time, we would do well to follow the example not of Nick but of his sweetheart. For there is a God, and he is indeed an interventionist God. And he will graciously intervene in the life of any person who humbly invites him to do so.

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