Forward to Basics


Human beings cannot escape big questions such as:

If we look carefully, we can see that all these questions boil down to one issue:

The idea of 'meaning' either implies some kind of intelligence behind our world; or it means that we as human beings try to create 'meaningful' patterns out of the accidents of matter.

The majority of people in every culture choose the first of these alternatives; they believe that the universe, the Milky Way, the solar system, the earth and the things that live on it are not just nested accidents. Faced with the famous question: "Why is there something rather than nothing?" most people opt for some supreme intelligence, architect, being; the shorthand word for this is God.

Between 1000 BCE and 500 CE, the world's major cultures, grappling with this fundamental question, all came to accept earthly dependence upon some idea of God. The Jews, who were an obscure, nomadic cluster of tribes, fused elements of neighbouring religions into the unique idea of the one and only, supreme, personal God whom we meet in their Scriptures, our Old Testament. From this, the religion of Islam developed the idea of one God, Allah, but Christians forged a more complex idea in the Trinity, three persons in one God, Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier. The second 'Person' of this Trinity was "Incarnated", i.e. became a human being while still being God.

The central attribute of all notions of a God is creativity: God creates and we are creatures. There are also many religions in which God blesses (or, in our word "Sanctifies") the people created; but Christianity is unique in its idea of a "Redeemer".

The general consequences of the creator/created dichotomy for creatures are:

If the creator is, like the God of the Jews, Muslims and Christians, a personal god,  then there are further consequences:

The uniqueness of the Christian idea of God is in the concept of the Redeemer. Put simply, the Christian doctrine says:

God created human beings so that they could freely love him; but freedom is only possible if it includes the freedom not to love which means that we were created imperfect or incomplete; choosing not to love is the sin of deliberately distancing ourselves from God; in becoming a human, dying for us and rising from the dead, Jesus confirmed God's promise that we can be made perfect in death by enjoying perfect unity with God.

Because of the distance between the creator and created, between God and humans, the language we use to talk about God is highly approximate, in a different class, metaphor-ical. This gap creates the concept of mystery. One such mystery is the way in which the life and death of Jesus inter-acts with our ultimate heavenly condition. We are able to believe what God wants for us but cannot explain why or how.

Now imagine that we have chosen the second alternative of meaning, that we are an accident and that humans make their own patterns:

What would the world be like?

By virtue of the meaning of the word, there can only be one God. It follows that all religions point towards the worship of the same God but take different routes.

Are we Christians because:

Some Christians believe that only Christians are "Saved", i.e. enjoy perfect union with God (Heaven); others believe that only a few Christians, "The Elect" are Saved.

Some Christians believe that because God chooses who is saved, faith in God is vital but how we live cannot earn us any greater possibility of Heaven. Most Christians believe that because Christianity is a religion of love, we must live in a profoundly ethical way.