Friday, October 21, 2011

Examined Christian Faith 'Getting Out of the Hole' 2.5 What is Christainity

All this leaves us with a frightening alternative.  Either the man I have been writing about was and is exactly who He said He is, or he is a lunatic.  It seems obvious to everyone that he is not a lunatic, so however strange, unlikely or terrifying it may seem, one is left with the inescapable conclusion that He was and is God.  God in-fact ahs landed on this enemy-occupied planet in human form. 

But why?  What was the purpose of it?  What did He come here to do?  To teach us, to correct our view on numerous, far and wide ranging issues.  However, you can not escape the current that runs through the New Testament, that always there is the discussion about something different - about His death and His rising again.   Christians believe that the primary point of the story of Jesus lies right here.  The main reason He came to earth was to suffer and to be killed and in the process His death somehow gave us a fresh start.  His death put us right with God once again.  

Christians believe that the death of Christ is that one moment in human history that something absolutely unimaginable from outside the universe shows through into our world.  We struggle with trying to picture the atoms of which our world is constructed, how can we possibility grasp and picture something like this?  We can not possibility understand it, and that is exactly the point, if we could then it would show that it was not what it professes to be – the inconceivable, the one thing that wasn’t created, the thing beyond nature and our universe, striking down into a broken world like a bolt of lightening.  But we do not have to understand it fully, just as I eat dinner every night without fully understanding how that food nourishes me.  A person can accept what Christ has done without knowing how all of it works.  How His death, gave me a fresh start with God.  

We are told that Christ suffered, was tortured and killed for us, that His death has washed our sins away if we believe and obey; that by dying He disabled death itself.  That is Christianity.  But if God was prepared to let us off, why didn’t he just do it?  What possible point could there be in punishing an innocent person instead?  I can’t see any, if you think of punishment in the sense of police –court- prison sense.  On the other hand, if you think of it more as a debt, there is a huge point in a person who has assets paying it on behalf of someone who does not.  

This is just my viewpoint, my picture of how this works.  Think of it like this, a person who has gotten themselves into a hole, usually needs a friend to get them out.  That is exactly the sort of hole that we got ourselves into.  We tried to set up ourselves; we behave as if we belong to ourselves.  In short, we are not a creature who needs improvement, but instead we are rebels who must lie down our arms.  This is where it gets tough, laying down your arms, surrendering, saying you are sorry, admitting you are on the wrong track and are ready to start over again from the ground floor – that, that is the only way out of the hole we have dug.  This process is what Christians call repentance. 

Let’s be perfectly clear, repentance is no fun at all, surrendering your will to His will, shifting your direction into full speed astern is much, much, much harder than merely saying “I’m sorry”.  It means unlearning all the self-conceit and self-will that we have trained ourselves into, it means killing part of yourself, undergoing a kind of death.  In fact, it takes a very good man to repent, and that’s the catch; only a bad person needs to repent, and only a good person can repent perfectly.  The worst you are, the more you need it, and the less you can do it.  The only person who could do it perfectly would be a perfect person- and he would not need it.  

Keep in mind that repentance is not something God demands of you before He will take you back, it is simply a description of what going back to Him is like.  If you ask God to take you back without repentance, what you are really asking Him is to let you go back without going back.  It can not happen, no matter how much you what to pretend it does. 

The same badness that makes us need repentance so much is exactly what makes us unable to do it.  Can we do it if God helps us?  Yes, but we need God to lend us a little of His reasoning power, a little of His love.  God loves and reasons and holds our hands while we do it.  We need God’s help in order to do something that God, in His own nature never does, to surrender, to suffer, to submit, to die.  Nothing in God’s nature corresponds to this process at all.  So the one road we need God’s leadership most of all is the road that God, in His own nature has never walked.  God can only share what He has: this thing in Hi sown nature, He does not have. 

But suppose God became a man, suppose that our human nature which can suffer and die was combined with God’s nature in one person- then that person could help us.  He could help us, He could surrender His will and suffer and die, because He was man, but because he was also God, He could do it perfectly.  Thus you and I can go through this process only if God does it in us.   Just as our thinking can succeed because it is a drop out of the ocean of his intelligence, we can not share God’s dying unless God dies; and He can not die except by becoming a man.  That is the sense in which He pays our debt and suffers for us what He Himself need not suffer. 

I have heard some say that Jesus had an unfair advantage, that His suffering and death must have been easy for him as He was God and knew the outcome.   That the perfect submission, the perfect suffering, the perfect death were not only easier to Jesus because He was God, but were possible because He was God.  If that is correct or not I do not know, but what I do know is that if I am drowning in the ocean and a man who is on a jet ski offers me a hand which will save my life, I will not shout at him “No, it’s not fair!  You have an advantage; you’re on a jet ski”.  The only reason why he can be any use to me is precisely because He has an advantage.  Who will you look to, if not to one that is stronger than yourself?

Like I said this is my own way at viewing what Christians call the ‘Atonement’.  But it is really only a picture; do not mistake it for the thing itself.  And if it does not help you, just dismiss it. 

A great resource to add to your library is "Unless I See... Is There Enough Evidence to Believe?"  by   Patrick Zukeran

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