Sunday, 24 February 2008

Getting the Facts Right

"But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovered country, from whose bourn
No traveler returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have,
Than fly to others we know not of". Hamlet.

It's been an interesting few weeks.
I've been both delighted and intrigued to participate in an on-line discussion which has certainly touched upon the deeper issues of just how is someone 'made right' with God and equally, assuming that transpires, how do you then live?
(Anyone wishing to read the discussion for themselves can do so at the Internet monk blog site.
Here is the archive link to this:
http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/riffs-021308-the-white-horse-inn-lawgospel-and-why-i-want-my-sermon-on-the-mount-back#comments

Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a big Science Fiction fan, and one of the common scenarios in this genre is humanity facing places or circumstances that are totally alien.
A good example was in the Star Trek series, Enterprise, where in the third season, the ship and crew have to traverse an area of space where the normal physical laws no longer apply, making their journey very strange and perilous indeed.
What is true in such fiction is equally true about reality.

The revelation we are supplied in scripture informs us that the original realm we once inhabited has gone, and with it, our genuine humanity. If you or I were to even view that placed described as "Eden" as we are right now, it would truly be an alien world to us - we are so 'detached', so alien to what we were created to be.
There are telling 'whispers' inside each of us that prompt us of that reality - we're aware when we do something wrong, and we're afraid, especially of death, because we sense there is just something not right about corruption and decay - about that part of us that leans all to easily to evil or to fear.

Such a 'voice' tells us that there is something more, but it leaves us in despair about how we reach beyond what we are (we can, of course, pretend we're doing OK, but the 'voice' is still there, telling us how things really are).

Christianity is the answer because it tells us that God is not seeking to turn us into something alien (dis-embodied souls, re-incarnated creatures or nothingness) - He is about restoring us to live in the world we left behind - making us truly human once again.
Now maybe we think we know this - we've been to church a few times and been 'in the group' long enough to know the guide - but how directly does this reality impact upon the way we look at life each day? How do you 'unpack' such redemption in your everyday experience?

What was fascinating about the blog discussion I referred to earlier was just how many think the way forward is to seek to revert to some kind of understanding or behavior which they had even before they were Christians - employ the 'voice' of do's and dont's as the safe policy. The guide gives so many rules, so many requirements, goes the reasoning, that surely the way to make progress is by just seeking to keep these - isn't that why they are there?

The problem here is, just like in a good sci-fi story, applying the wrong solution in the wrong circumstances is well nigh disastrous!

Back in the 1500's, Martin Luther wrote an amazing book - the Bondage of the Will - which sought to expose the fatal flaw in such reasoning - acting that way is totally alien to what we now are, so what is needed is not rule keeping, but life in the new!

Christ came to free us from the tyranny of our 'alien-ness' to God's good work, to clothe us in a new nature that we might actually begin to live well. When the nature of Jesus Christ becomes evident in us, then the genuine characteristics of that life (love, joy, peace) will become expressed in what we are and what we do - not by rule keeping, but by living in the life which comes from Him.

That is what the good news is really all about!

"It is the story of something that happened here on earth, strong enough to break the hold of (the old) on us, strong enough to turn this earth itself into a place of light and life...
It is (giving back the) voice that is strong enough to make us and keep us human,
to enable us to live as we were intended to live - as creatures of God".

Gerhard Forde.

I must conclude my thoughts here by saying that whilst there were some in the discussion who suggested what might be termed 'law keeping' was the best way forward, there were others that recognized that Christianity really calls for much more -
a 'death' to everything tainted by mankind's departure from God (including our own moralizing and rule-making) and a 'resurrection' each day to the life that comes to us from above.
That indeed is the hope which can help.





2 comments:

fashionista said...

Howard: Many thanks for posting this -- I need to be reminded that the Christian faith is NOT a list of rules. Kathleen

Vernon T. Schwump said...

Spoken truly, as a man that has encountered the darker side of human existence and by the Grace of God, the darker side of himself.

For it is when we are encountered by the Living God, made known to us in the person of Jesus Christ, that we come to the realization of who and what we really are.

"Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinner."

But to realize this fact is not to lower oneself into an place wherein one can start the ascent back to where God would have him, but rather it is to place oneself totally at the mercy and within the grasp of a loving Father who desires nothing more than to restore that person to authentic life in Jesus the Christ.

Breaking the bonds of sin, death, and the devil, is nothing short of impossible for the old sinner that is a part of each of us. Those that reduce this restoration to a formula of action, or a religious set of rungs to climb, have not yet been encountered by the fullness of the gospel. For it is not until the old Adam, or Eve, is killed off, that the new person can be brought to life. God is a God of new beginings. This is his specialty...creating something, or someone, from nothing.

Thanks again, Howard, for bringing to light the glorious manner in which our Lord has decided to restore us to Himself. Not that He is beholden to us, or in spite of us, but because He has chosen to do so.

To Him belong all glory, and honor, and thanksgiving...Jesus Christ our Lord!

- Steve