Sunday, 23 April 2017

Alone...

Writer and Blogger, Emma Scrivener, has posted a superb little piece on dealing with the loss of a loved one here. I've also added a few, I hope, helpful thoughts and insights in the comments, so if you know someone who might benefit from these thoughts, please pass the link along.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Human?

"More human than human is our motto"  
Tyrell. Blade Runner.

It's so welcome when it happens. Your doing something - watching a movie, reading a book, taking a walk, and suddenly, you see or realize something that hits you hard because it says something true about who and what you are. It can be like laying the final piece of the puzzle.

I had something akin to that this week. Nursing myself through a virus, I was listening to an introduction on the work of an early christian writer, when the broadcast broke to advertise a forthcoming discussion on transhumanism. I listened with intent. I've recently finished attending a series of studies which sought to examine issues of identity and this had lead me to my own further interrogation of where our current social trends are driving, and I now found  another major piece was being dropped into my ears.

We all know moments of personal dread or loss, but what about those moments when we encounter something more universal - a sense of foreboding concerning where 'we' - humanity - are? 

History shows us there are times of cultural death and collapse.

In the book of Genesis, the first eleven chapters of human history speak of several such events, including three which irrevocably change human life entirely -
the fall, the flood, and the tower of babel.
What is imperative in these accounts is that all of these were locked-in to the issue of our identity - to how we define ourselves as 'human'.

It's worth taking a moment to just recall the scale of those times as we now think about today.

However smart and easy technology has made everyday things for you and me, we still often seem to be inherently ill at ease in our own skin, so would detaching us from our flesh so 'we' can become something inherently beyond death be the answer? Would a state whereby 'we' became operation systems for tech that in effect rendered us immortal, equate to freedom, or would we just become something less than we are?

It's no longer science fiction or hypothetical. The next two decades are going to see the rise of the age of robots and growing use of inter-phasic bio technology that will bring about more and more convergence between ourselves and such assistance. The "wow" of such a world promised in countless 'see tomorrow' shows of earlier decades may have indeed been displaced by the sinister dystopia of a tale like Alex Proyus' "Dark City", but these days are coming on fast, so the same question will mark it's (our) time - who am I?

I'm deliberately writing this on Easter Sunday, because the answer to that nagging question isn't going to be discovered in us burying ourselves in more of what we can achieve.

There are telling moments in those three accounts in Genesis - moments filled with foreboding and horror of the most dreadful kind. The 'what if' of transhumanism bears the same ring as the 'what if' raised by God after our fall in regards to our then eating of the tree of life (Genesis 3:22).

The actual answer to our malady is found beyond ourselves in the events of today - easter sunday.
It may be considered passe by our post-modernal estate to speak of death ended by a resurrection (Paul of course faced the same tough crowd in his day - Acts 17), but the ramifications of that empty tomb to our humanity are clear.

When Jesus stands again amongst His friends, not as an apparition or some etherial "being", but as a man, marked by crucifixion yet alive and asking for something to eat, the matter of what is entailed in being human is faced head on.
Our longing to be, and yet be more won't die even if we're wired to devices that breathe and eat for us - we just become, in effect, further away for being us.

The message of the resurrection is that humanity can be found, here, amidst flesh, and then live without enmity to itself and the universe. Real freedom is not the further suppression or submergence of our identity, but the re-discovery and burgeoning of this (John 10:10). What needs to be killed or negated is not our physical bodies, or our relationship to them, but our autonomy from the life we cast aside in those early days of our race.

The "escape" is not about checking out or going away.

Easter is all about coming home.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Killing Heresy

"In the scriptures, the body was created by God and was an inseparable aspect of what made us human. We don't just have a body; we are bodily. Therefore, when the body and soul are separated at death, due to the fall, a profoundly disruptive event takes place... The good news is that the body (us) will be re-united in all of its perfection and splendor (at the resurrection)". Michael Horton - A Kingdom of Priests.

It's been a month of jolts and reminders.

The jolts have been about just how quickly we can fall short regarding the staggering, jarring truth of why we are made as we are, and what that actually means in terms of eternal life. The reminders have been what was actually required to get what we had decimated redeemed and recovered by God descending amongst us as a man and hanging with our sin, our judgement, upon Him.

The jolts are still coming.
Yesterday, for example, I was a little taken aback when I heard a well known Christian apologist on YouTube conclude a presentation on the resurrection with the phrase "You don't have a soul - you are a soul. You have a body". Interestingly, this speaker and at least one other popular reformed writer have mistakenly ascribed the statement to C S Lewis, when it's original source appears to be one William Walsingham Howe in an 1876 publication for children.

What Lewis did say was somewhat different: "And as Image and apprehension are in organic unity, so for the Christian are the human body and human soul" (God in the Dock).

The difference is imperative.
When God breathed life into Adam's frame to make him living, it wasn't some temporary experiment to be aborted in favor of 'heaven' if it all went pear-shaped. The Lord invested humanity with His own likeness (Genesis 1:27), and intended for this to be expressed in us to the rest of creation (1:28). The horror, after our fall, would have been that we remained locked in our severed estate for all eternity (Genesis 3:22). Christ came to release us, and all of creation, from that dreadful ruin (Colossians 1:19).

Salvation, then, is something which is indeed extended to the whole world (John 3:16), and inclusion in the redemption that is coming is based upon a trusting in what God has done is His Son (2 Corinthians 5:19), so how is it that we find a popularity of teaching and opinions that state that Christianity isn't actually about any of that, but is really just about us becoming 'heavenly' in a state as redeemed souls or 'angelic' creatures, where what we intrinsically are - bodily - is expunged?

The idea, of course, isn't new. Several of the Early Church Fathers found themselves having to counter beliefs that Jesus couldn't possibly be God and Man - most ancient heresies taught He could only be one or the other - and these were taught amidst a milieu that saw the world, especially the material, as inherently evil, so the need was to escape the prison and ascend, becoming 'whole' again. Christianity proved anathema to such views, because it was all about God being manifest in flesh (1 Timothy 3:16), coming down to us (John 1:14), because what was made is good, and will be redeemed.

Paul clearly shows that because Christ's bodily resurrection is true, our coming back from death to know a bodily life without corruption is certain (1 Corinthians 15), and that it will be our bodies that will experience this (Romans 8:23). "Heaven" is not about God trashing what He has made to make us 'spirit beings' or about us eternally being maintained in some disembodied mode as 'enlightened' souls (2 Corinthians 5:1-5). If God had truly meant us to be that, or indeed, to merely be angels complete with wings and harps, then why would He have bothered will all the messy business of the material in the first place? The life that God has always purposed for us will be lived in a real creation, ransomed and made new by Christ (Colossians 1:20), hence it is here, that we truly see His handiwork, both in Creation (Psalm 8) and Redemption (Colossians 1 & 2).

My reasons for re-stating this are not academic. Accompanying the 'soul' statements on teaching videos like the one I mentioned above were several 'christian' quotes that were clearly happy to express the manner of eternal dualism that so plagued the errors which sought to assail the early days of the faith - the physical, the sexual, the material are merely 'transitional' - they have nothing to do with the real you - something very familiar in our current cultural trends.

Yesterday, as I walked into work across the city centre, I was to encounter a young women displaying herself naked to the world. She was clearly troubled, and was shortly to be arrested because of the responses of those standing around, generally gawking (making swift use of their cameras as they said how 'shocking' it was) until the Police arrived, but I couldn't help but think of the moment when Isaiah, who was to speak so deeply about the coming of Christ, shocked his generation, by doing what God commanded and walked unclothed amongst them (Isaiah 20:3).

We are still as shocked by the revelation of what it means to be flesh as we always have been, for it so often here, in these temples not made of wood or stone, that we are so rudely reminded of who we were made to reflect. Sadly, the response so often is not to draw closer to what is being said to us here, but to denigrate or protest against such a telling vision.

Easter draws us to a man of sorrows, stripped bare and marred, suffering and dying that all such folly, all such hiding, be broken and we are once again exposed to the naked truth of the God we have to deal with, and the sin that so needs that bleeding, dying one.

"There is a truth here. The Cross is set up in the cosmos is order to give future to that which is passing away, firmness to that which is unsteady, openness to that which is fixed, hope to the hopeless, and in this way to gather all that is and all that is no more into the new creation" (Jurgen Moltmann. The Crucified God).

Many years ago, as I entered a church behind the bodily remains of a wife who had suffered with cancer, there was only one piece of music that fortified me so I could face that moment. It was taken from the books of Job and 1 Corinthians:

"I know that my redeemer liveth, and though worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh, shall I see God... For now is Christ risen from the dead".

The core of Christianity, because of His Incarnation, Death, Resurrection and Ascension, is the redemption of all things, to His glory.

Never let anyone tell you it's anything less.