Follow by Email

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Jesus-Follower or "christian"? - Part 4b - Unlove

(This is Part 4b.  Click here for Part 1)

God is Love and has no needs but freely chose to create the heavens and the earth.  He programmed the material world to function in largely predictable ways.  Even living beings were genetically programmed.  We like to anthropomorphize animals and pretend that they have human-like thoughts and feelings but for the most part the operate purely on instinct.

Having made and programmed the worlds, God said, "Let us make man in our image."   The Bible doesn't specify what this means but in context it clearly refers to those qualities that differentiate us from the rest of the animal kingdom and that we share with God.

God, being Love, desired to create beings who could Love.  But you cannot program Love.  A sow's "love" for her piglets, or even a dog's "love" for it's master, are not the type of Love we are speaking of.  Love is a choice that often means going against one's instincts (e.g., for self-preservation).  It involves emotions, intellect, will and character. You might be able to program a robot to act and speak in "loving" ways toward you, but you cannot program it to Love you.  Love that is programmed, whether by DNA or silicon chips, is not genuine Love.  For genuine Love choice must be involved.

The problem and danger therefore is that creating beings who could truly Love meant creating beings who could choose not to Love.  One could choose to hate or one could choose to simply not care.  Either way one is making a choice that God would not and could not make.  In choosing not to Love, one is choosing to sin.

So Genesis goes on to tell us how Adam and Eve made a choice not based on Love and Sin entered into the world and into the race through them.  Since that time no human baby needs to be taught how to be selfish or unloving.  With this Sin come all of the problems of modern humanity: wars, cheating, lying, stealing, abusing, as well as all forms of selfishness and not-caring.  We all know how hard it is to live 24/7 in such a way that we put others and their needs and longings above our own.  It was never God's intention for us to be this way.

Romans 13:10 tells us that Love is the fulfillment of the Law.  All of the commandments were given to either forbid behaviors that interfere with Love, or to teach us how to be more Loving people.

But commandments and prohibitions cannot, in and of themselves, turn selfish people into Loving people.  The Law can point the way, but more is needed.  That brings us to another unique doctrine of Christianity, Grace.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Jesus-Follower or "christian"? - Part 4a - Triune Love

This is Part 4a of an essay that begins HERE.  So far we have discussed what it means to be a real follower of Jesus rather than just a member of a subculture of church-goers and why Love is the most important thing for all who truly seek to follow Jesus.  Part 4 will provide some theological groundwork for that statement before we go on to apply it to daily life.

Anthropologists believe that most primitive cultures were animistic- they believed that spirits inhabited all parts of the physical universe and must be regularly appeased by the proper rituals.  Animism eventually largely gave way to Polytheism (except in very primitive societies), instead of spirits there was a pantheon of gods, each of whom was responsible for a different realm.  In spite of their great power, these gods were subject to the full set of human foibles and short-comings.

Polytheism eventually largely gave way to Monotheism (except among Hindus and a few others), first in Israel and then around the world.  The revelation of one eternally existent Creator God, all-good and all-powerful had so many logically compelling advantages that it is very hard today to be an intellectually respectable polytheist!

But then Jesus and His followers came and sort of mucked things up!  Without rejecting the teaching that there is only one God, they equated Jesus Himself, along with the Holy Spirit (aka Paraclete) as being equal in divinity with the Father.  This was later expressed as the doctrine of the Trinity, one God existing as three persons.  Though hinted at in the Old Testament, the paradoxical nature of the doctrine was still a stumbling block that made it even harder for Jews and others to accept the Christian faith. It certainly isn't the type of thing you would invent if you were trying to make up a religion and gain adherents! It is, theologians agree, a teaching that is virtually impossible to wrap one's mind around.

That's a problem, but not really an objection.  Physicists today cannot wrap their minds around all the anomalies and paradoxes found in the physical universe.  We don't even really understand ourselves!  It shouldn't be too surprising that the Creator is more complex than what He has created, or that there are realities that our human brains aren't quite capable of fully comprehending.

And the doctrine of the Trinity brings with it one incredibly important, but often overlooked advantage:  The Bible teaches us that God is Love.  Not just that He is loving,  but that He IS Love.  But how could God be Love if there was no one to Love?  Who did God love before He created anyone or anything?  Jesus' answer is that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit have Loved one another perfectly for all eternity.  Classical monotheism could not solves this dilemma.  Polytheism always broke down in a mass of internal contradictions.  But the Trinity presents a Fully United God who, because He is three-personal, has ALWAYS been fully engaged in Love.

According to Jesus and the New Testament, the very heart and core and foundation of the entire created universe is Love.  Love is the Alpha and Omega.

You might feel like that is almost too good to be true.  But we all have to admit that if it IS true, it is so GOOD that there couldn't possibly be anything Gooder!

So how did we get from a good God creating a good world to the mess we find ourselves in today?  Click here to find out!