Why It All Matters

This is an apologetics site, not a specifically evangelical one; and relatedly, I tend (and prefer) to write apologetics--defenses and establishments of little pieces here and there, so that real evangelists somewhere else will have a little better soil to work with when spreading the seed for harvest.

My recent series (which I'm about half through with) is one such case: despite the meticulous detail, I really have only a dozen or so relatively small points to make with it, compared to the hundreds (or thousands?) which a fully conversant Christian might believe (and which a sceptic might, or must, be prepared to believe in order to profess her loyalty--certainly not to me, but to Someone infinitely greater than I, Whose sandals I am not even fit to untie.)

But, do all those things matter?

In one sense, no, I don't believe they all matter for some purposes. I think what matters, and so what matters to God--whether now or in any life to come--is this: that a person is willing in principle to walk according to the truth, looking for more truth thereby. And by "the truth" I certainly don't mean "my own beliefs about what is true". I don't even mean that the person has to be walking (that is, acting) according to facts correctly believed by that person to be true. The person could be mistaken about what he believes to be true, beliveing something falsely instead--so long as it is an honest mistake. (Dishonest mistakes are a whole other matter.) Never mind: the person was still in principle walking in accord with, together with, The Truth; and, in doing so, looking for more and better light than what he or she already has, so that the person can walk more truly.

But such a walking matters nothing, unless Christianity is true--and yes, I mean unless a particular kind of Christianity is true.

Again, normally I don't bother talking about the question of "What's in it for me?" "What benefits will I get if I believe this and it turns out to be true?" This is why I don't talk much about the socio-cultural benefits of Christianity-the-religion. Mainly, I just want to know whether something is true or false, whether or not the actual truth of something happens to benefit me personally or not. I would rather other people not accept this-or-that Christianity to be true, unless and only if they themselves believe it to be true. And I would rather they not accept it to be true unless they're prepared to walk according to that truth, the first and vastly most important step of which is to begin building a personal relationship with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (with the Father, through the Son, by means of the Holy Spirit, for example) as Lord of their lives. For what benefit to God?--nothing! For what benefit to those people?--I would prefer they be thinking primarily in terms of the benefit to other people in the dedicant's loyalty to God! Does my loyalty to God benefit other people? If it doesn't, then... well, I've been told pretty directly how God is going to treat my "loyalty" to Him, in that case. (Indeed, we've been told, in the judgment of the sheep and the goats, that God will treat our benefit to other people as being the same as loyalty to Himself, regardless of who or Who we expect to be judged by, or whether we expect to be judged by any judge at all. Then again, we've also been told--and by "we" I definitely mean "us Christians"--that even if we are helping people in doctrinal loyalty to God, up to and including even doing miracles empowered by God, we may yet be only rebels and doers of injustice. Doctrinal accuracy, even to the proper testing of apostolic claims, will not 'save us'; nor will 'good works'. And by 'us', again, I certainly mean "me".)

But what do "good works" matter, or even "truth", if (a particular kind of) Christianity isn't true? What does anything at all matter, if something or anything else is true instead?

St. Paul, in one of the great hymns of the Western Classical Age, sings that without true love (agape), everything is worthless. (1 Cor 13) He doesn't specifically mention God in relation to that true love--which is probably one reason why those verses are so famous across world history, and are admired even by ardent anti-Christians. (In my own experience, it may be why a significant number of Christians within Christianity seem to have problems believing that God's own love could really be like that!--to the detriment, I'd say, of "Christendom" throughout history.)

But if these three things are to really be remaining--faith, and hope, and love--and if the greatest of these is really true love (greater even than faith and hope!)--then that can only be true if the final ground of all reality is, itself, true love: an eternally and actively coherent interpersonal unity. If God is not self-begetting and self-begotten, in a unity of mutual cooperation between persons (not merely modal descriptions of God thereby), then God is not and cannot be intrinsically love. The end, period. There are no alternatives. And if this love of God does not proceed, personally, as a free and gracious gift of God (first and foremost between the Persons of the Father and the Son), then even that love of God is utterly and altogether useless for anything or anyone (including for God Himself).

What are the alternatives? That neither reason nor morality are fundamental to reality. That persons do not really exist but at best are some kind of illusion (ones with, at best, illusionary meanings of meaning). That something other than reason and morality is just as fundamental, or moreso, than love and rationality. That justice is, at best, a declaration of power over other persons to compel behavior (or else, at best, a non-rational bout of genetic gas leaving once again an illusionary impression in the illusionary minds of persons who do not really exist).

I am not even being hyperbolic when I say, to whoever is reading this: if anyone, or even only anything, matters to you at all: then the truth of orthodox trinitarian Christianity matters!

I like to quip, and this quip is true, that I am a Christian because I truly love and appreciate non-Christians. Because I do in fact believe that even non-Christians can be rationally and morally correct about at least some things--even against Christians (sometimes. Maybe even often against Christians, depending on how sucky we're being at any point in time. {wry g}) It would be more psychologically true to say: I am a Christian, and will always be a Christian, because I truly love and appreciate at least one non-Christian. I have a particular one in mind. {s} She matters to me. Even if I was not a Christian, the importance of her truth as a person would sooner or later lead me, as a totally logical conclusion, to the belief that ortho-trinitarian Christianity is true--and then to expect, from God, what we're celebrating as Christians today and this week, every year, as Easter.

Christian apologists are in the habit of saying that the resurrection of Christ (especially as God) proves how much God loves us. I come at it from a different direction: God is essentially love, therefore I may with total assurance expect God (for reasons I'm skipping over the details about right now) to voluntarily be born among us and to share and suffer death with us, and to rise again for all our sakes, in a transformation and affirmation of the importance of Nature. Even though Nature is not itself (or herself) God, Nature still is beloved by Love Almighty--which is why Nature exists, not only God, at all. Matter (a word that in English we derive from "mother") matters, truly matters, if Christianity is true.

It is no far stretch to say, that the reason it is proper for a man to give a flower to a woman, as her lover, as her husband to his wife, is because God sends flowers in springtime to the earth--something pagans also have had an inkling about occasionally. {s} God Almighty gives Himself, self-sacrificially, to the beloved, for the sake of the loved--if Christianity is true. God sends Himself to be born of the earth and to live on the earth and to die on the earth and to once again be buried in the earth, as a seed is buried--to rise again, not leaving the seed behind but in transformation of it: just as a man may plant flowers for his wife.

Which is all very mythological. But if Nature matters, then natural history matters; and if people matter, then human history matters (along with the history of any persons not specifically of our species!)

Consequently, I expect as a matter of principle for God to enact this in history, once for all, the Son the foundational Action of God revealing to us in history what the Father and Son and the Holy Spirit is (and are) doing always for all of us, above and outside of history.

The question, then, from this metaphysical perspective, is whether God has done what may be expected of Him to do in history, not only for but with us.

And there is a story. A story that isn't only making "mythological" claims, but also claims to be historical.

Is that story historical? And if so, to what extent?

If it isn't, fine--I still expect God, the trinitarian God of all reality, to enact that story someday. In details not overly different from what I find in those accounts, and in the stories (and prophecies) leading up to those accounts (in the history of that story, at the least).

But if it is, in fact, historically true?--historically true enough to tell us that God has indeed already done this with us here in history? (Not only from on high, above and outside of natural history?)

Then even better!

Because she matters. And because I matter. And because you, my reader, whoever you are, matter.

And that is why Christianity, the kind our site exists to be an apologist for, matters.

Happy Easter, to all our readers all over the world, today and every day.

Amen. {s!}


Jason Pratt said…
I wish I had gotten this out in time for Easter morning, instead of Easter evening! {g!} But, as they say, better late than never.

Brad Haggard said…
This is great stuff, Jason, a real powerful application of Trinitarian theology in the face of Unitarian alternatives.

BTW, am I hearing Moltmann behind this?
Jason Pratt said…
Thanks Brad. {s!}

I haven't read anywhere near enough of his work to consider it to have been derived from there; studying his ouvre is on my to-do list. But I've been told it's similar enough to Moltmann often enough to expect we've developed it independently.

(It would be hard to trace where I'm picking up specific cues from, but I'm definitely in the MacDonald/Lewis school of theology and application, with differing variances on each depending on the topic.)


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