Divine Mathematics: Jesus + Nothing = Everything, Part One

I’ve been reading Tullian Tchividjian’s book Jesus+Nothing=Everything and have been thinking about this mathematical equation. His central thesis is that when you get Jesus you get everything the heart ultimately desires: peace, happiness, rest, joy, meaning, significance and relationship. Nothing else will ultimately satisfy—we are chasing after idols (false gods), looking to created reality to meet needs that only Jesus can meet.

To understand this divine equation, let’s back up and think about our desires, our longings. This semester, I’ve been reading many of the classic ancient works for a class I am teaching on the History of Ideas. We’ve read the Epic of Gilgamesh, Homer’s Illiad, Aeschylus’ Oresteia and more. As I read these epics, I have been asking myself: what do these stories reveal about the human heart? Themes of conquest, fame, sex, love, friendship, and justice are prevalent in all these works. But at bottom, it seems that there is this universal and insatiable yearning to experience more, as Tchividjian says, “to attain something higher, deeper, fuller, richer, stronger, wiser, safer, happier”[1] Our hearts seem restless, we crave the everything, yet we are never satisfied.

As C.S. Lewis discusses in his spiritual allegory, The Pilgrim’s Regress, there is a dialectic of desire (longing) going on in our hearts. We tether ourselves to some object of our desire, only to find it doesn’t satisfy. And so we tether our hearts to another object and again find it doesn’t satisfy, and the cycle continues ad infinitum. BUT…if we pay attention to this dialectic of desire, Lewis says, it ultimately will lead us to the true object of our desire—God. Lewis writes: [2]

It appeared to me therefore that if a man diligently followed this desire, pursuing the false objects until their falsity appeared and then resolutely abandoning them, he must come out at last into the clear knowledge that the human soul was made to enjoy some object that is never fully given—nay cannot even be imagined as given—in our present mode of subjective and spatio-temporal experience….The dialectic of Desire, faithfully followed, would retrieve all mistakes, head you off from all false paths, and force you not to propound, but to live through, a sort of ontological proof.

I think that Lewis and Tchividjian are correct. Jesus and his glorious gospel, the ‘good news’—the unexpected turn of God becoming man, the scandal of grace—are the only things big enough to satisfy our deepest, eternal longings—both now and forever. And therefore, we need to grasp the incalculable greatness of Jesus Christ himself. “We need it because seeing him for all that he is will ultimately be the only way we can overcome our temptations to idolatry.”[3]

I end with my favorite quote from Augustine’s Confessions:[4]

You stir man to take pleasure in praising you, because you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.

Next week, I’ll consider how embracing this divine equation can define your life in bright and liberating ways.

 

 

 



[1] Tullian Tchividjian, Jesus+Nothing=Everything (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2011), 26.

[2] C.S. Lewis, The Pilgrim’s Regress (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2002), 204-205.

[3] Tchividjian, Jesus+Nothing=Everything, 63.

[4] Augustine, Confessions, Bk.1.1.

3 Responses to Divine Mathematics: Jesus + Nothing = Everything, Part One

  1. Excellent post!

    Our yearnings are indeed insatiable, as you say. And they lead us crazy directions! Yet, as Lewis explains, the desires themselves are good. This is contrary to most weak church teaching which guides us to try to take shortcuts across life and find Christ before we have a desire for him. By doing this, weak teaching breeds weak believers. It breeds non-lovers, something like leeches on Jesus. Jesus didn’t call the satisfied to come find continued satisfaction. He said, “If you are thirsty, come.”

    “The dialect of Desire, faithfully followed, would retrieve all mistakes.” What a thought!

    I hope you don’t mind, but I quoted you in a post. http://triocentric.blogspot.com/2012/03/remote-from-anything-builders-intended.html

    Salaam!

    • paul.gould@facultycommons.org says:

      Hello Doug! thanks so much for the encouragement. I really love Lewis’s idea about the dialectic of desire–pretty cool! Yes, link away my friend! warmly, Paul

  2. Pingback: Divine Mathematics: Jesus + Nothing = Everything, Part Two | Paul Gould

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