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Sunday, October 09, 2016

What is required of us, as Christians?

Is Evangelical Christianity the worst evil ever manifested by humanity, as averred by a recent online article? No, I do not believe that. I put that in there to manifest not its inherent evil but to 1) prod the reader; and 2) to bring up the underlying premise of that article: what is required of a Christian?

The blog's author, CK Ratzer, basically states that nothing is required. Christ has given his Grace once and for all and the Law is without effect (this is the antinomian view, from anti=against; nomos=law). That is the Good News. He then postulates that Evangelical Christianity preaches a "mixed" gospel, one of repentance and grace, then one of required action, action that never accumulates into goodness, but is a cause of guilt and shame and never-ending judgmentalism.

Anyway, I didn't want to argue what he has already argued. Read the article and see for yourself.

As to what is required...

We know that "repent" is a mis-translation. It may well be, as is often repeated, the worst translation in the Bible. The Greek is "metanoia," and it means a total transforming alignment with God. Not a feeling of sorrow for one's past transgressions with corollaries about never walking that path again. But let's say we have "metanoia'd" and we are born again into a heart-to-heart with the Creator-God. What then?

One might imagine a life lived sinless, expectation-less, without further wish fulfillment. Can you imagine such a life? Neither can I.

What I imagine is a life when one might experience the joy of metanoia, but it would be fleeting. It would be maddeningly short-lived, but it would remain in one's memory. It would have been life-changing; and we would always want it back.

How do we then live our life? Do we say, I'm born again so I am saved? Now to tell the others? What of my sins, which I know full well I'm going to commit, despite Paul's assurance that we can put it all aside? [And what do I think sin is? I think sin should more be defined by weakness, a failure to live one's life as one wants to live it in accordance to our joy in metanoia.]

Does sin/weakness mean I am no longer saved? Jesus said, Go, be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect. Paul said, basically, that the flesh is weak, the flesh sins ("nothing good dwells in me"), and but that the flesh isn't the "I" who sins but only the weakness of the flesh. Huh? This I think, is silly, and wrong. (As to my personal view of Paul's letters as scripture: they aren't. Paul apparently thought he was in the End Times and so I think he was attempting to be an apostle for Christ, to lead people to Christ, to explain things, but not speaking as God's Word: Why would he think of his letters as scripture if it was the time of Christ's return?)

It is weakness that lives in me, even after "metanoia." We are weak. But Grace has nothing to do with weakness. And it has nothing to do with belief (which I think really should be translated more as "trust"). A God that depends on belief --a rational, mental activity-- for being saved is not a God that I can imagine. No, belief would have nothing to do with it. It is a full-on trust; and this trust can be conceived (must in fact be) as acting on those who have no capacity for rational thought: the comatose, the mentally-handicapped. If a person with an IQ of 40 cannot be said to be saved then what is being saved for? God cannot require rational belief in order to save someone. I certainly reject such a God.

In order to envision trust, imagine a sleeping body floating in a pool. The person is incapacitated and held up by only a hand, the hand of another standing by the person's side. If the hand slips away, the person's body flips over, drowns. The mind does nothing for the grace. It is only the trust of the person for the other holding him/her that saves.

The person's body in the illustration is not an actual body: it is the person's oneness. Call it soul, spirit, essence. It does not rely on thought. It relies on the hand supporting it. The spirit trusts the hand of God. I think it might be this when we experience metanoia, joy. We sense it, profoundly, and at once. In the Now! [It should be mentioned that I believe it to be important to stress the "it might be this" of our little hypothesis...we have too much of the "this is that" kind of nonsense: we suppose, we guess, we wonder...we don't know squat.]

The weakness of the body --what others might call sin-- of ourselves, continues unabated in this life. We never get stronger. We can never rely on our actions to save us. Some have suggested that since we are sinful creatures we can confess our sins and then go on sinning...only to confess again. Once saved, after all, saved forever, right?

We are always floating in the pool. Always weak and almost drowning. The metanoia keeps us from drowning, the trust in the hand that holds us. To say as we just have, that we can confess and then go on sinning just misses the point: we are always sinning; we are always weak; we are always floating and in danger of drowning. Always. Being saved isn't like removing us from the pool. I know a lot of people think that it does, that we are then saved and we don't sin anymore, that we can just climb on out, say Whew! and be done. That just seems silly to me. It isn't the world that I know, at least.

I like this metaphor of floating, almost drowning, because the next question comes up quite naturally: Why do we drown? No, really drown, or die, or suffer? Where is that mysterious spirit hand then, eh?

Well, we die. We are all going to die; it is our fate. We don't like to think about it. We pretend we are going to live forever. Someday our last breath will be taken. We are saved --we experience metanoia-- in our life, while we live; it is not about any hereafter. It is about the Now! And perhaps every day there is suffering for us; there certainly is suffering all around us.

There are two human emotions that have the capacity to join us all together: Love, and Suffering. Both can have elements of selfishness. Love can veer toward desire, can be all-consuming to the point that we shut out the rest of the world. But Love can be enormous, can be world-wide in scope, it can be amazing. And strong! Suffering too can be identity focused. We are in pain and we think of ourselves and how we don't want to feel this way. But when seeing others suffer, and seeing them thus we feel their pain, we are drawn to them in that suffering: it is painful and it is awful in a way that is the complete opposite of Love. It reminds me of the taijitu symbol (yin-yang), opposites but inhabiting the whole.

The fact of our human suffering does cause many to reject God, reject Christianity. This may be wrong. We Love; we Suffer. This is being human. There is no escape. What is required of us, as Christians? Perhaps it is merely this: to Love, and to Suffer, and to reach after what joins all of us, the Now!, the metanoia, the joy.


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