So last week we explored all the ways humanity think it can rescue itself from the mess that is the world gone wild. On the big scale it’s war, famine, injustice, global prostitution, slavery, murder, ISIS, illegal drugs, indifferent goverments; and on the little scale it’s selfishness, doing good things as long as those things are meeting our needs, have false motives and intentions, turn good things like sex money and power into idols we need, not living even to our own standards (unless one has very low standards), we feed our addictions, turn people into objects, say we live to love as long as it doesn’t demand too much of a sacrifice for me, always looking out for number one, wanting to get my own way all the time, use things in order to met our ends, turn the blind eye, define what I think is right and wrong. And all this stuff effects each other in multiple ways in a convoluted mess. And as a result, on some level, we relate to some of these: we are sick, lonely, depressed, unsatisfied & unfulfilled, have broken families and broken lives, we have hidden issues that deep down affect us, we are anxious, we have hate, anger, revenge; we dress ourselves up to look okay but deep down on both a personal level and global level we are in too deep. We think technology, or self-expression, or education (and perhaps psychology or law & order*) can save us. But those things, though not inherently wrong and make good means of transformation, aren’t the transformation itself as they don’t go deep enough into the depth of the human problem that is -the dirty little word- sin. As much as we hate this word, its original meaning (see ‘The Dirty Word Part II’) enlightens and confirms to us a reality we know is true.
I ended my last blog post saying that Jesus teaches us the right things that conform to who we are as a person made by God, and through Himself brings the ultimate progress of humanity by a execution cross and a change of hearts; He makes such a re-conforming to that image possible by destroying the things that hold back such a reality. And that’s what I want to introduce to you today.
So what does Jesus, a guy who was around 2000 years ago, have to do with us today in the here & now? We lump him into the other great thinkers of religion: Budda, Mohammed, and so on. We like his nice lessons he offers (along with other religious thinkers) and apply aspects of what he said (and others have said) today. But that’s it. However I believe this trivialises the deeper distinctions between faiths and also doesn’t take into account the deeper truth of what Jesus came to do (Truth’s of which, I will argue, are transformative in the here & now). The lack of deeper introspection into faith that gets beyond the similar morals is expressed in this following story of theologian Karl Barth as he is leaving church one day:
Karl Barth was coming out of church one day when an astronomer asks him “you know Karl isn’t true that all religions and morality and faith can really be summarised into one sentence?”. “There’s a sentence to sumerise all faith and all morality?” said Barth, “what’s the sentence?”. The astronomer says “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you, isn’t that the point? Why even have this religious stuff?”. Karl Barth thought for a little and said “Well, can’t all of astronomy be summarised in one sentence?”. The astronomer is clearly baffled and says “What are you talking about?? There are gravitational forces, there’s the study of weak forces, the way atoms started the sun and are now making us, you’re talking about space and time, and so much more- how can you summarise it in one sentence?”. “Well…” Karr Barth says “It’s ‘Twinkle, twinkle, little star, how I wonder what you are.'”.
The point of the story is this: don’t trivialise the faiths of the world- at deeper levels there are differences and things that radically distinct them out from each other; they might agree upon surface morality but at a deeper level are radically different- and it’s that deeper level difference that really matters; we might functionally all get along well on the surface but to suppose that all that life is about is being a good little person actually isn’t that deep. To say “All people can be moral based of particular religion” well that’s if what’s fundamental to a person is transformation in relation to morality of xyz system, however I would argue that a deeper change of personhood isn’t in relation to morality on the surface but in relation to the deeper beliefs behind that mere morality. And here’s the thing: Jesus did not come to bring good moral teachings but to make a new humanity and reverse the effects of sin in the world. I have heard it said by a world religions professor (who himself not a Christian) that if you take the teacher away from the world’s great faiths you are still left with the teachings, but if you take Christ away from Christianity then Christianity dies- why? Whilst Jesus isn’t less than a teacher He is indeed more than one.
In Christian circles the word ‘salvation’ is translated in people’s mind as “going to Heaven when you die”. However this is not what Jesus (or the prophets of the Hebrew scriptures, or the writers of the early church) meant when referring to salvation. Salvation isn’t “going to Heaven when you die” rather it’s “the eventual rescue & transformation of this world”- it’s that the God who loves this world loves it enough to rescue it from all the defaces His good world. It’s that this world is broken and this fault line runs down all of our hearts, and this fault line rattles the world in many personal, social and systemic ways- but the Good News is that, whilst we have lead the world down this broken pathway into chaos, God promises to fix the world one day. The Hebrew Scriptures speak of a Day where God will clean up this world once and for all-there will be no more death, sin, suffering, and love with glory will flood this world, and we will be given a new heart which is truly capable of loving God. And it will be a person, who will embody God’s very nature & purposes in Himself, which will move the world forward towards that glorious day. It’s in that person of which the world needs.
So how does Jesus be that person who moves this world forward and ultimately defeats evil? This isn’t just a question but the question is it not? What will bring the ultimate healing of the world?
Well I thought I’d answer that today but alas I feel that this will take a lot to explain…So perhaps next week will be my last blog on this then!
*I might advise my previous post to includes this beliefs as well.