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A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

So, last night I got to be sexually violated in absolutely unspeakable ways.

Fortunately, I was only dreaming. I have stress dreams which often turn nightmarish, eight to ten hours every night -- for about forty years now. I can wake up and deal with whatever I was dealt with living and maybe dying through the night before. I've had a lot of practice.

But for very many people in the world today, and for vastly many more throughout all history, that living hell isn't a dream they can wake up from. It happens in their waking life (and also, I suppose, in their dreams). Maybe all their lives, for years or months or weeks or days, or decades, until they die.

Christmas is for them, of course -- although when I say "of course", let me pause a moment to give cultural context: here in modern Western Civilization we might easily think "of course, whatever good Christmas means, it must be for victims of the worst injustice". But that expectation is a result of Christianity. When Christianity was born, when Christ was born, and for long afterward, and still today in many places throughout the world, the idea of the ground of all reality being messily born as a human to suffer with any victims of injustice, was and is a ridiculous concept. And moreover, people just had to accept, and within their beliefs today still often have to accept, that a lot of victims of injustice, maybe all of them in the long run, will never be saved in any meaningful way from what happens to them.

But I didn't title this Christmas Day reflection "Christmas Is For the Victims of Monsters". Even though that's true, and I wanted to acknowledge that first.

What I don't want, what I very much do NOT want

is for Christmas to be for monsters, too.

But I have to accept it is. Christmas is for the worst of monsters, too.

When I talk about God saving evildoers, when I write technical articles (like earlier this week) about the assurance that God intends to save all sinners from sin, or about the assurance that God will certainly succeed in saving whomever He intends to save from sin, (or when I write about both, as I typically do) -- I'm not doing that because I have some kind of warm, fuzzy feeling for monsters of injustice.

I want them to die the death. I want them to suffer and suffer hard before they die. I don't want them to suffer forever, simply because I don't want to be a monster like them, but if that happened one way or another I wouldn't be unhappy about it. Oh, did that guy who rammed a crowd of Christmas shoppers in Germany last week, spend a few hours dying of a gunshot wound to the gut? I haven't heard that he did, but no complaints from me if so. Merry Christmas, you wretched waste, and may you find out how truly great God is.

I don't want Allah (as Christians call Him in Arabic) to be merciful and compassionate to evildoers. I don't want God to have {makrothumia}, maximum suffering-patience, for any vessels of dishonor that pour out destruction; much less do I want to consider {makrothumia} to be salvation for them. I don't want them to be reconciled by God through the blood of the cross, whoever they are, whether in the heavens or on the earth -- because if God reconciles them, how much more surely shall God be saving them into His life. And I don't want that. I don't want them saved from their sins. I don't care about that. I don't care if God's secret will is for them to be brought to do love and justice forevermore, even if they are devils -- especially not if they are devils, the worst of evildoers, doers of injustice, who use their power to abuse other people in the most unimaginably horrifying ways, scarring the bodies and minds and souls of their victims and enjoying every moment of the suffering they inflict on others.

And hey, there are ways within Christianity that I could console myself and even rejoice, that Christmas isn't for them. Plenty of Christians do. Plenty of Christians will this morning, when we go to church for services. Christmas is for us. Not for them. Christmas is for good people, not for bad people. Christmas is for Christians.

And I want to end here, because I hate those other people. I don't hate them so much that I will let my emotions knee-jerk me into attacking them -- or not so much, maybe a little. No, I hate them with a cold hatred. I know logically I have to go on, but I don't want to. The idea of them, of them, those monsters whoever they are being saved, offends me. I wouldn't vomit on them if their hearts were on fire, although come to think of it vomiting on them while their hearts are set on fire sounds like something I feel like I could get behind occasionally.

But Christmas is for them, too. It isn't only for me. It isn't only for people I love. It isn't only for victims of injustice.

Christmas is also for doers of injustice. Christmas is for the worst of monsters, too.

And while I don't at all feel like saying that this morning -- if I don't, then what I had to suffer through last night will be wasted.

Because when I say Christmas is for me -- sooner or later I have to remember, I'm a sinner, too. My injustices may not hurt people as extensively as other monsters, but I'm still a monster, too. I victimize people, too. In my own way, I'm like those people.

And if I don't remember that, if I don't care to remember that, then I'm going to be reminded someday, one way or another, even into the eons of the eons if necessary. Just like them, those monsters over there that I hate.

I'm in a position where, emotionally, I can stand to accept that, even if grudgingly. I sure don't blame people who, emotionally, can't stand to accept that yet. But then, I have no excuse not to accept it. I know how the logical math adds up. I know how all those obscure and difficult theological details add up.

I hate knowing that sometimes. Because I don't want those people over there to be saved. But my advantages, such as they are, are not for my sake. And Christmas isn't only for good people, good little boys and girls, good mothers and fathers. Christmas is also for monsters.

And I had better appreciate that, even if I sometimes, usually, can't appreciate it emotionally.

Because I'm a monster, too. And the Christmas for me, the hope and assurance for me, is no less a hope and assurance for them over there, regardless of whether I want it to be for them or not.

After all, there are plenty of people in the world who don't want hope and assurance for me, either. They don't see that God Most High loves me, too; gives His life eternally for me, too; suffers with me, too; intends to save me, too, and will surely succeed in that intention, too; goes the distance on the cross for me, too; was born in a manger to die on a cross for me and with me, too. That's foolishness at best to them, even blasphemy.

I know better; I have more advantages. So I have less excuse than they do.

But that doesn't make it any easier, emotionally, for me to accept. Not when I think about the horrors other people are always enduring. Not even when I think about the few little injustices I've had to suffer in my life.

But Justice loves doers of injustice, too. Not their injustices, but them, themselves.

God loves monsters, and pays for loving them, and pays for us, with us, in having to pay for His loving them.

And pays for loving me. And pays for them, with them, whoever my victims of injustice are, for those victims having to pay for God loving me, too.

He still would pay, and still would love me, however monstrous my injustices, for loving me as a child and not as a puppet or an illusion or a fictional story in His imagination or some theoretical possibility. He pays for making a world for me where I can live as a child, and not as a puppet or a bunch of bits ping-ponging impersonally around -- He pays when other people suffer because of that world He made for me, a neutral and impersonal field of reality where we, the persons, are free to cause effects, and so which goes about its impersonal business regardless of whether or how we persons are being affected or not. And He pays when I, the person who isn't a puppet, choose to add unjust effects into that reality.

And He isn't going to throw me away or burn me up like trash, no matter how much other people may want Him to.

But then -- I have to accept the logical corollary to that. I am only doing more injustice, and sinning against the truth, if I don't.

The corollary is: He isn't going to throw away those other monsters either, or burn them up like trash. No matter how much I may want Him to.

But some days, some holi-days, I have more trouble accepting that than others.

If you, whoever you are, can't accept that either -- well, we can debate about it, but I don't really blame you. Believe me.

But whoever you are, and whatever you've done in your life: God isn't going to throw you away, or burn you up like trash, either. No more than He will for me.

He pays for the injustice you do, too.

Even if I have trouble accepting that.


Christmas Day 2016
in a world of horror and injustice
for which God pays
and which even God suffers
with us
whoever we are
whoever they are

Jason Pratt

4 comments:

Well, maybe those hours trapped in that nightmare can serve some good purpose now.

That technical article from earlier this week, on what the ancient super-trinitarian bishop Athanasius thought would be unseemly to the last degree, in the meaning of the Incarnation, can be found here. I don't much feel like accepting it either sometimes, much less writing it.

Merry Christmas for whoever can find joy this morning. May those who can't find joy eventually someday, too.

JRP

great message Jason merry christmas

Interesting post. I too am thankful that God is not willing that any of us "monsters" should perish, and I too am confident that he will certainly succeed in saving everyone who will repent, believe the gospel, and confess the Lord Jesus. I’m not quite as confident, however, that everyone will in fact repent, believe the gospel and confess the Lord Jesus. Many are called, but few are chosen.

Or, in that parable, everyone was called, and some were even compelled to come in; a few chose to radically insult the offer and either opt out in a murderous rebellion or (for one of those compelled to come in) try to get the benefit without respecting the host.

It's kind of a messy parable to interpret for the purpose that the moral is usually quoted. From the perspective that we're all sinners, a few could be chosen to be an example -- of something. Perhaps of the penalty we all deserve, as far as that parable goes.

Anyway: that's why there are giant systematic analyses to duel chivalrously about. {g!}

JRP

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