thread: 2006-08-31 : I think my expectations are screwed

On 2006-09-07, Joel P. Shempert wrote:

Ok, I THINK these comments are still relevant and non-redundant. it's getting hard to tell. I've had to do a lot of reconstruction after working a long time at 3 in the morning then forgetting to tell the site I'm a human. :P

Oh well. It was pretty long and possibly less than coherent. I'll just think of it as nature's little revision process.

there's a positive side (or, perhaps, positive counterpoint) to the Matthew Arnold poem that Charles shared. I'll paraphrase C.S. Lewis (Since he seems to be in vogue here, to my delight): The insigificance of the speck called man against the vast backdrop of the infinite universe is an illusion created by man him(her)self. The vast and terrible majesty of the cosmos is conferred on it BY man. It is man's greatness that makes other things great. Pascal was terrified at the vastness of the void, but it is man's significance and value that inspires even Pascal's terror.

Also, Charles, "Well-established first principles" goes a long way for me in understanding what "Scripture" means in the context of this discussion. Thanks.

Anna, The idea that Christ had to die to save us from sin is based on feudalistic notions that the severity of a crime is based on the dignity of the person offended. . .So the Western idea of "Christ died for our sins" is basically a holdover from the Feudal era!

Eastern Christianity sees Christ's death completely differently. They see Christ's death as the ultimate witness to the life of love. His only mission on earth was to live the ultimate life of love here on earth, and his death on the cross was the culmination of that. Christ's death, therefore, becomes part of an educative model of salvation - making it possible for humans to achieve divinity in the fullness of time.

Wow. This is like a bolt of lightning to my brain. I think I've heard something like it somewhere, but still. . .seeing these two concepts in contrast are amazing in the first case because I wasn't aware of that historic context for the concept of Jesus' death that I grew up with as just a given, and in the second case because I had no idea there was a church tradition which takes a position so similar to my own recent (and still growing) understanding of what Jesus means to me.

Sydney, your Lewis-inspired point of "it works, even if I don't know how" is well taken. But the thing is, I see a moral quality in a statement like "I know Jesus saves me, whether it's a substitutionary atonement, or appeasing an angry God, or just pure love, or what." If we choose, say, "appeasing an angry God," then we can do all kinds of damage in our inner lives or outer behavior. Inner-wise, we can get all caught up in this God's mad at us" thing, and even though we trust in Jesus' payment to stave him off, still live lives of fear and self-loathing. I've seen it in tons of people, I mean, it's that self-selected group thing again, yeah, but it's the group I've got, and it's real. And outer-action-wise, it's even worse: maybe we start to really identify with Angry God, and why SHOULDN'T he be angry with all those unbelievers and heretics still defying him, and BY GUM we're angry too, and the next thing you know there's Jews and Muslims up in thumbscrews.

So these moral distinctions matter, and we're not just quibbling over how sleep works. It's important to how people live their lives, which I think is YOUR point: playing with ideological fire is dangerous. I agree.

One of the pastors at my eccentric, non-denominational, street-youth-oriented church started a Bible study recently. He started out running the various historic Creeds by us, then pointed out, "These are all about mechanics. It's like a plumbing schematic. There's nothing in here about love, about what God values.

Here's where I think Lewis' "dunno how it works" principle is more applicable: in the mechanics, not the morality. Thus, "I know Jesus loved me enough to die for me, but I don't know whether that means I'm 'saved,' or if it was just an example or what." Similarly, Jesus' divinity: "I know Jesus was like God, but I don't know if that means he's God incarnate, or sent by God, or if he just showed God's love by living it perfectly."

To Blankshield and Anna, on inclusivity and the prevalance thereof:

Bearing in mind once more the "self-selected group" caveat, I'd have to say as a kid growing up Conservative Baptist, my experience is the opposite. Exclusivist Christianity seems pretty prevalent from where I'm standing. And it's not just Baptists, it's the whole "Evangelical" movement. It could be that Evangelicals aren't as great a portion of the Christian populace as I thought, but I'd always had the impression that, in the U.S. anyway, they wrre pretty numerous and dominant.

Your description, Anna, does jive with what I know of my post-Vatican II Catholic friends, though.

Tris, I'm not sure whether anyone with pagan beliefs would find a patronising "you are on the right track, just keep going and you'll get to what I believe" more or less annoying than a "I think all of you are deluded actually".

I'd say Lewis has at least as much right to say it as anyone, since that's exactly where he came from. He felt that pagan myths prepared him for Christianity, and continued to love them as a Christian. Also, while I've no doubt many a pagan (like, say, "all of them") would dissent strongly, and possibly be offended, but a suggestion that their faith is just training wheels for Christianity. And who can blame 'em? If they agreed with the proposition, they'd BE Christians. But hey, how many of themfeel that Christians are either deluded, or only part right, and could do with expanding their frame of reference to include Pagan ideas? Sure, Pagans are pretty non-proseletyzing, and probably more likely to be "hey, whatever works for you" than Christians are. But all's fair in thinking other people are wrong. :)


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