“What’s the Point of it all?” : a cross post from St. Disillusion

Browsing through the blogs, I found a very interesting blog from “St. Disillusion” on “Christianity is a Travesty”, with a post here:

 

I am so taken with the blog and the good saints comments, even more his questions, that  I posted a rather extensive response to his remarks about the purpose of life. Since I have been mulling these ideas over for a post here, I decided to break protocol and cross post my own response, although I very much encourage you to go visit with Saint D. I expect to return often.

For the record, I thing God is greatly pleased when we ask such questions in the same spirit with which a child, having been wounded or undone by the actions of a parent, never less comes to that parent in faith to make his complaint.  Think the book of Job.

Below is my response, which I hope to flesh out almost as a theme to these pages.

———

An Interesting post and a hugely important question to contemplate.

My own thoughts run in this way:

God is not surprised by the fall, seeing the end from the beginning. If time is not a medium in which the transcendent God exists, but rather space/time is part of what He created, then his experience of our action is not limited to sequence. Before the first act of creation, the whole scheme of the fall and redemption was seen. He is not “making it up as we go along” As the Prime cause, He cannot be simply reacting to mankind, but is acting – and we are still in the process of creation, of being created. As (I think) St. John said, “It has not yet appeared what we shall be…”

 

OK, what then is God about in  creating humankind?

When God says “let us create man in our own image” there is a mandate to think about the attributes of God, in order to understand something of what that “image” is. There are two related concepts that leap to my mind-

 

1) He is as I mentioned, a source of events, an “unmoved mover” acting by His will, being under no compulsion to act in any way other than His own nature. Among the thngs of this creation, we see that they are not so; inanimate objects act in pure accord to the physical forces upon them. Animate objects do the same, reaching higher into the beginnings of personality, with instinct and learning. I of course do not know how high the higher animals reach. But with us,we see at least the glimmer of causality. In the Genesis 2 story, “the animals were brought to Adam to see what he would call them, and whatever he called them, that was its name” The name of course being a defining characteristic of what something or someone IS. But man’s word was free, it was authoritative, and it was effectual, having consequences. Later the fall of man is listed as free choice (although Eve and Adam both pleaded that they did not choose freely, but were influenced by the serpent and by each other, and ultimately by God himself –they abdicated their power) with permanent consequences.

Theologians from  St. Paul to St Augustine to the reformers speak of there being bondage of sin. In part, this refers to our diminished ability to act as we know is right, and as we wish to act. Secular mental health practitioners sometimes will model “health” as an enhanced power to make effectual choices in our life: to stop only reacting to our circumstances, but being able to make autonomous and authoritative decisions and actions that can start a new chain of causative effects for those around us and for ourselves.

In my understanding, God created Adam (including Eve) whether one reads that story as symbolic and metaphorical, or historical, with free will like His own. That being a gift with tremendous destructive possibility, we misused it, bring its loss.  But being that God’s choices are always effectual, the plan from the beginning is a restoration of that authority for us. That is a part of what I understand by salvation.

 

2) Another attribute of God is Trinitarian. His existence is described as “Three Persons in One Being” or, a “plural unity”

This suggest to me that at the core of creation, since like creates like, the highest mark of His creation will in some fashion share that attribute. We too are meant to experience alife as a plural unity, and in the old formula, “Neither confusing the persons, nor dividing the essence” And that we are being worked with in a way to develop that among us. My greates example is in marriage, which is a dual unity, “one flesh” and yet I am not my wife, she is not an appendage to me. The Father is not the Son is not the Holy Spirit, and yet “He who has seen me has seen the Father”  There is another chapter or two here, which I have touched on in other places, but enough for now.

Also remember Jesus’ prayer “…that they all may be one, even as you and I are one…”,

And our corporate identity as “the bride of Christ” There’s that marriage thing again!

 

But if from these two ideas, we are to be able to love freely, without compulsion or need, to give in abandon without self interest, in a unity bound by nothing other than mutual love and mutual submission, then there is a process to be gone through to make us capable of that.

 

I’m no Jung scholar, but I believe he described two great tasks of life: first, discovering that I am separate from the world- I am not the world, other people are not extensions of me, etc. I am separate. The second great task is reintegration. This seems to me to perfectly describe not just my own path through life, but also to Christian story of humanity. That while sin is still sin, God knew it befor the foundation of the world, and incorporated it into His plan, in the same way He incorporated the sin of Judas into His plan. The first task of Jung was accomplished early in Genesis, with the rest of the Old Testament devoted mostly to describing that separation, some consequences, and some attempts to restore it. The New Testament describes God’s  actions to heal the breach, to accomplish the second great task of reintegration, culminating with the marriage of the Lamb at the end of the Revelation.

 

With St. John, I have no idea “why” God intends all of this (other than Life overflows, and creates more of itself), but I think this life is not the full story; that we are being made for something, and that God foresaw (or should I say “saw” or even “sees”) this entire process as one creative act of His, to make creatures “In our own image” and fit for what He intends next.

I think it is an exiting prospect!.

-Blessings

 

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2 Comments

Filed under ALL, Christianity, Marriage, Theology

2 responses to ““What’s the Point of it all?” : a cross post from St. Disillusion

  1. thekeynote00

    This is Saint Disillusion… I just wanted to write back and thank you for your response to my post, especially the last portion were you talk about life overflowing and creating more life, as well as the aspect that we that we are being made for something. There is an idea there that the original creation, the fall, and all of history after that was not the end of what God had in store for mankind but only the beginning.
    However, I have a hard time with the open ended foreknowledge of God. From the picture I read in the Bible God is not omniscient, in that he knows every outcome of every circumstance and every future effect that a man choice could every have. The whole idea of omniscient is more of a Greek philosophical term that a Biblical term. I would say God knows more that any being, and more than we could ever understand. Yet, there a often times in the Scriptures that God seems not to know the outcomes of every action, and therefore reacts to some of mans actions. Take for instance the tower of Babel incident where God says, “let us go down and take a look…” Its as if God is investigated man’s actions, and then coming to an decision. Or his dealing with both Abraham and Moses were they seem to change God’s mind and counsel him on a better way.
    Another puzzling idea is that God did not know what it was like to be a man until he became one. God had no idea what it felt like to be human, what it felt like to stand on human legs and human feet. What the hunger in a mans stomach felt like, the temptation of the flesh, or what the pain of death was. Jesus, the 2 member of the trinity experienced those feelings and human perspectives for the first time when he became human.
    I believe God is bigger and more complex than we can grasp from the Scriptures he has given us, but giving him boundless knowledge and power does not make him God it makes him uncontrollable, it makes him infinity rather than God. It may help us answer the hard question in a simple way but it does not really help us to answer anything at all. There is much we will never know. But then again that’s all philosophical reasoning.

  2. Thank you for your very cogent reply, and your worthy critique.
    Two things especially I agree with: First, that there is indeed much we will never know, although I think we shall know much more in days to come. I can pretty much claim Psalm 139:6 as my “life verse” I rather suspect also that while some careers will be plain out of usefulness in the full Kingdom, such as mine as a funeral director!, other folks, particularly the artists and poets and musicians will find themselves pretty useful in helping the rest of us understand the wonders around us. The philosopher, perhaps not so much.
    Also, your last tag about philosophical reasoning reminds me again that while I do value the mind we have been given, and believe that truth is Truth wherever one may find it, we have been given a plumb-line of revelation against which to measure speculation. The further afield I get topically, the more speculative things become. I must always remember that when the musings of my own thoughts cross scripture, I am probably wrong. Now, it may be that my interpretation of scripture is what needs correction, that there is no real conflict, but I must always remember what is the plumb line; not my thoughts, not even my understanding of the Bible, but the revealed Word of God. Itself

    Than being said, back to speculation.

    My thoughts about the omniscience of God relate largely to my ideas about eternity, and time. Although I am not philosophically schooled, I think there is a lot of the Greek in it, and also a lot of Thomas Aquinas, although I have never read him. My ideas are strictly assembled second hand. They have to stand or fall on there own merit, their pedigree will not help them at all.

    I take as a starting point that God exists/existed That He existed before all worlds, meaning that before there was any environment in which He existed, before there was any context, He simply was. If time and/or three dimensional space existed as an environment in which God existed, we have abandoned the transcendent ground of being and prime cause and replaced him with a powerful local god, who may or may not have rivals. We have opened the door to dualism, or to polytheism. The real source of all things will have been moved back a level, to either that space and time itself (a sort of spiritualized materialism) or to some entity which is the true source of all things. Cutting out the middleman, I understand God as the one who created even time and space. That time is geometrically a ray, with an origin, not a line, with an arbitrary zero point while continuing to infinity in both directions. Better yet, I think time is more accurately a line segment, with finite beginning and ending points. If this is so, and I think it axiomatically so, then God exists not as a character in that along that segment, but the segment exists as an element in creation. One of the background features, common to all the rest of creation to be sure, but it is subordinate to the creator. To use another metaphor, the river of time flows through the Kingdom of God, but the Kingdom is not itself floating along the river.

    This seems to suggest the “Eternal Now” in which all time is equally now to God. No, that makes no sense to me. I can no more imagine that than I can imagine a 5th dimension. I can only speculate in metaphor and image about things that seem like they must be so.

    Perhaps I have a less literal understanding of Scripture than you do, although I do hold it as the pure word of God, perfectly designed by Him in the Holy Spirit to convey exactly what He wants us, and me, to hear. That being my position, I have no problem with the idea that in particularly the earlier parts of Genesis, that God is speaking (accurately) through pictures, and the same through much of the OT. I have no problem with miracles, but believe some of the anthropomorphic thoughts delivered from God are there to tell us more about the depth of our separation than they are to tell us of the nature of God. If in so doing, they convey an image of God as something less than transcendent, and describe Him in terms of the passions of man, well so be it. The picture is not wrong, but it is far from complete. I think that if we were given a fuller theology in those places, we would end up emphasizing the wrong thing, and come up with something more like “the force” than the true God. We tend to say ‘just a symbol” as if a symbol should be watered down to get to truth. No. A symbol is always less than the thing symbolized. The truth is always more, never less.

    Your pictures from the incarnation are fascinating. The paradoxes involved in the perfect God learning obedience, growing in favor with God and man, even learning how to fasten his sandals is breathtaking. John describes him as the one “without whom nothing was made that was made” and yet the creator of the forests presumably had to learn how to plane a board!
    The only way I can grip it is that this is what the transcendent looks like, if and when he chooses to exist along that time segment, inside the river. A to Him “knowing” what it is like to be human, two thoughts: First, To know in full intimacy is to experience. There is no “head knowledge” There is no “theory” with God. All is actual. Everything that can be done, somehow is done. We wonder about why God didn’t just erase the first sin as a false start. He answers that question with Noah. Not just in the abstract, but as deeds and consequences. So it is with the incarnation. He knows. Secondly, as a result of the incarnation, we know that He knows and are reassured thereby as Hebrews tells us.

    But to sum up in reference to your post, I do not think we can go wrong by overestimating the transcendent nature of God the Father, nor the counterbalancing intimacy of God the Son in the incarnation The Christian holding of these two ideas together is what I understand gives the rest of the religious world such a scandal.

    Oh, and thank you for gently accusing me of oversimplifying! (in your last paragraph) I have been accused, often with some justice, of many things, but cutting ideas down just to make them simple has rarely been seen as my native error!

    -Blessings

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