Sunday, 9 August 2015

The Deadfall Pit

"I grew up in a town like this, we knew the names of every street
On the surface it looked so safe, but it was perilous underneath
That's the place you shoved your doubts and hid your ugly scars
God forbid if word got out about your house of cards"

Mary Chapin-Carpenter

All of us have things we relish. One of the biggies for me (and, I suspect, lots of you) is chocolate. I can't recall the first time I ate some, but I can easily tell you the occasion when I ate something that claimed to be the desired item and it wasn't. I was in America a decade ago, and I thought I'd buy the popular brand and give it a go... most of it went straight into the bin. Gone was the smooth, rich encounter with dairy milk confectionary, to be replaced by a sickly, OTT sugar bar (no wonder the Americans label it candy). I was so relived that I'd brought some good old British Chocolate with me and that later in my stay, I found somewhere that sold the real mc coy - phew!  Imagine my shock, then, to walk into my local store recently to discover several shelves of the confectionary counter now selling the American glupe (I can call it that because that's the way several of my American friends describe it) - have people lost all taste?

It is, of course, one of the issues of the day - our seemingly insatiable passion for sugar, which, it appears, is softly killing a generation.

Now, I appreciate that there's always going to be an issue of tastes when it comes to something like which chocolate bar you consume, but what about when it comes to truth?

I spent some time this past week looking at and conversing with people on a "progressive christianity" site to see just where such theology desires us to go with regards to the nature and the value of truth. It's always interesting to see that what counts in such a realm is not what you or I may believe about God - particularly when it comes to the nature and message of Jesus Christ - but that we really just need to figure out how we can, well, just get along with everyone, because that's what counts, right?

The 'gospel' here then, so far as there is one, is that Jesus came to give us an example of love, so all the seeking to see Christianity as something that needs to defined in the manner given to us by The Apostles and others in scripture is, well, pretty pointless - we just have to follow the 'golden rule' of loving people and everything else will be fine.

Well, I'd agree that religion can be all about what we do - Adam's first "religious" act was to cover himself with pretense when God came looking for him - but it really doesn't begin to deal with our deepest problem; that we're alienated from God and need rescue. You don't tell a drowning man that he needs to do all manner of things to be comfortable with where he is (any more than that man thinks his rescue is his doing) - you just reach out and save him! That is why the key message from the moment we fall into our own exile is how God will brings us back (Genesis 3:16, John 3:16) - Jesus is the one who rescues us.

I think what bothered me most about this last week's discoveries was the way in which people could blithely dismiss the actual theology of the faith, usually on the pretext that my concerns (or, as they put it "interpretations") were marginal or only "one view", which was fine until I submitted materials from the early church which showed that this wasn't the case at all, at which point the retorts became more personal and the silence regarding what I'd supplied telling. How can we call something "Christianity" if it seeks to distance itself from the clear and vital sources of that faith?

If we take away the very nature of God, revealed in Jesus, and the good news of what has been given to our world through Him, then there's not much left to say. The problem for the 'progressive' movement is that, like certain kinds of candy, you may develop a liking for it, but it only leaves you liking something that is a substitution for something better - it leaves you hiding with your own pretensions, and whilst you may think it tastes/feels OK, it's really doing you no good, but a great deal of harm.

The Apostle John says in his letters that real fellowship can only come when we know that God is our Father, and we know that because we trust in the love He has shown in sending His Son. Those who wish to effectively dismiss what John is telling us here and in his Gospel have placed themselves into a very deep pit indeed.