Monday, August 28, 2006

If Christians were Engines ...

If Christians were engines would they be fueled by a hatred of sin or by a loving concern for the plight of humanity? Do people become Christians because they share God's hatred of sin and seek the only way to be free from sin? Or is it because they are so truck with the depth of love God has for humanity?

First off, I don't think there are two independent options, but in general we Western Christians lean towards a bias in one of these two areas, and perhaps see them as two points on a one dimensional line.

A bias in the first direction seems to come from (or lead to) an understanding of God as primarily the punisher of sin. It leads to a preoccupation with deciding whether individual acts are sin according to Scripture. Once an act or practice is shown to be sin, it is then seen to be universally sin, ie for all time, in all places. A new law is written, and the church becomes the moral guardian of society convincing people that God is angry with them. The problem is that once people are saved by grace from sin, they either have to stick rigidly to this law code, or they find God once more angry with them. They know God forgives if they confess their sin, they know there is no new law in reality, but this does not square up with the motivation they had for becoming Christians, and their understanding of God's motivation.

A bias in the second direction might lead to seeing God primarily as lover of humanity seeking always the greater good of humanity. From a human viewpoint there is a danger of seeing God as a hedonist. The greater good of humanity is a fluid concept always changing as populations change, as dominant cultures rise and fall. Sin is anything that harms other humans, or the local community. Therefore a sinful act in one era is not a sinful act in another era. Since currently the right of self-determination for each individual, or each community within society, are seen to be essential to the greater good, there are less and less actions that can be considered sinful - certainly not universally sinful. The most sinful idea is the one that people need to be saved from something, since this implies an externally determined good.

Both of these are charicatures, but they are two possible trajectories for lines of thought that pass through one or other of the two motivations for being a Christian. This leads me away from the idea of a single dimensional line. Rather, these two motivations are supported by Scripture, (God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son. So that those who believe need not perish [when God punishes sin]). so perhaps within a multi-dimensional reality there is a trajectory (neither of the two trajectories illustrated) that passes through both of these points. If so, the trajectory would also pass through a motivation of "love for God", based on God's love for himself (or would it be sourced there?).

Did the Trinitarian God love himself so much that he tri-laterally gifted space within himself for creation, and its kingpin, humanity. Does God love himself so much that this humanity was to be given rights of personhood within the Trinity to fully relate to the Trinity in the fulness of its being? Is sin not anything that turns humanity in on itself to rely on itself rather than the Triune source of life. (Does this not include a new law as much as it includes the rejection of externally-determined good). Does this turning in on itself not deny the very life that sustains it, and rejects the interpenetrating love of God, making humanity a foreign body in the divine life. Did God penetrate anyway through the Son becoming man, taking on the rejection of the foreign body for himself and inviting humanity to participate in the interpenetrating love by giving up their own lives to enter into the life of Christ, making it clear that to do so would lead to the fulness of being and participation in the divine life, whereas failure to do would be to participating in the foreign body that would be rejected from the divine life.

I seem to remember once talking about concrete reality ...

Friday, August 18, 2006

Which Toolkit for Fixing Reality?

I've been away for a while. Seems really hard to find time to sit and write for a blog. Would be easy enough if I just kept a diary, but I never meant that to be the purpose of this. I wanted to share theological thoughts and get into theological discussions.

This seems to be happening quite a lot at work at the moment with one of my colleagues who attends a brethren assembly and holds pretty strongly to a Darby-esque theology, in particular dispensational pre-millenialism, and plenary inspiration of Scripture. It has been really challenging (and enjoyable) to chat with him, but I have realised how different it is to debating theology when the debating parties are using the same tools. He uses ultra-literal interpretation and proof texting, (with a very impressive amount of scripture memorised and cross-referenced mentally, albeit within a particular theological interpretive grid) while I tend to come at things with a more philosophical viewpoint - Scripture provides a springboard for speculating on theories to explain what isn't explicitly written. I think it reflects a difference in approach to life in general ... details vs concepts. (Perhaps one reason why I was going to have to come out of engineering eventually). It does help me to realise how quickly I can leave scripture behind once it is used as a springboard. This is fine as long as I am discussing in circles where "this is what might be the case, and I'm OK if it isn't" is an acceptable outcome for my meditation, but not much good in the concrete world where people are asking "what does God actually expect of us, and what part is he promising to play in my everyday life".

But our differences don't cause aggro, or disrespect, which has been great. I'll finish with a quote from CS Lewis which I hope you won't find to sentimental to be meaningful ...
"The man who agrees with us that some question, little regarded by others, is of great importance, can be our Friend. He need not agree with us about the answer." (The Four Loves, Collins 1960, ch4).