Sunny Days in Heaven
Spiritual/Political/Philosophical Blog on the Nature of Truth and Falsehood and Heaven

Monday, January 31, 2005  


This detail of an article by John Derbyshire is worth examining:

Meanwhile, over at the Wall Street Journal, Eastern orthodox theologian David B. Hart gavbe what seemed to me the best summary of all, pointing out that since man is part of the natural order, the evil caused by human acts and the evil caused by convulsions of nature are part of the same issue:

The Christian understanding of evil has always been more radical and fantastic than that of any theodicist; for it denies from the outset that suffering, death and evil have any ultimate meaning at all. Perhaps no doctrine is more insufferably fabulous to non-Christians than the claim that we exist in the long melancholy aftermath of a primordial catastrophe, that this is a broken and wounded world, that cosmic time is the shadow of true time, and that the universe languishes in bondage to "powers" and "principalities" — spiritual and terrestrial — alien to God.

Mr. Hart succinctly describes the Christian situation and its perversity in relation to other doctrines and philosophies with marvelous power.

One of the problems is that most people want to love life. Not hate it or denounce it as fallen condition, a temporary prison and vale of tears.

In a sense, we want to enjoy as an animal enjoys life; a dog that does as it is meant to do without any thought about reality, simply living moment to moment through the good and bad.

But in another sense, the examined life of Socrates and Jesus, of self-conscious longing for wholeness and happiness, provokes despair that religions hope to ameliorate, and which Christianity promises to cure.

Even then, though, it doesn't quite satisfy when great pain and misery descend upon us.

The notion that we are alien to God, and furthermore, buffeted about by "powers and principalities" which are truly alien from God, and that our miserable condition was all our own fault to begin with -- well, rather than strengthening a soul, that perspective tends to depress further.

There is a theological way out of that dilemma or paradox, but I find that most Christians cannot bend their minds around the idea that 1) God is not omniscient as usually considered, and 2) that the universe is not fallen at all but designed exactly as intended from the start.

These two interpretations demand an entirely new way of thinking about Reality; and that cannot help but clash with the more traditional formulations. In such a battle, tradition wins. New territory creates too many uncertainties for the mass, and there is no justification for it in Scripture.

So long as we are bound by Scripture in all our understandings and formulations, we are handicapped into having to think only as those who have gone before us thought about God. We must work out how to think about God more freely, and open ourselves to understanding that comes from the Holy Spirit in a new way, and which can be verified by human experience over time.

Revelation is progressive to humanity. What the people of Abraham understood is less than what the people of Moses understood, which is less than what the people of Jesus understand.

God is always the same, but our perception of what He means evolves in both our own lives, and in the life of human history.

I have no idea whether present Christianity can get over the stumbling block of hide bound doctrines and the insistance of Scripture as the only authority for understanding God; but I think that humanity cannot make real intellectual progress until Christianity can find its way out of its theological paradoxes and alienation through "the long melancholy aftermath of a primordial catastrophe".

posted by Mark Butterworth | 10:00 AM |