Lou Everard's Reply
Some More Thoughts
(in response to Dan Everard)
Theological discussions are in danger of missing the point, when they concentrate on man, not God. The discussions I have read have spoken a lot about how people view God, and not so much about how God views people. I would like to be bold, and try to infer something about God's view from the reflections from the little piece of the diamond that I am currently able to see.
The concept that any "religion" can in some way "lead to God" is a difficult one. I am with Dan in the view that any religion, i.e. a man-made construct of belief which tries to encapsulate the truth, has the inevitable tendency to get it wrong in many ways. And because different religions get it wrong in different ways (and to different degrees), they are often in conflict. And because people get passionate about religious beliefs, conflicts can be very intense, and lead to great evil.
That is precisely why I follow Jesus Christ, because Jesus is a person, not a construct of beliefs, and through him we see God, and can get to know him better. It is a process of learning, not an instant understanding, as well, so we can never claim we "know" the full truth about God. John records that Jesus said to Philip, "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father."(i)
He went on to point out that the work he was doing - healing the sick, performing miracles, raising the dead, releasing people from their various earthly chains, forgiving their sins, teaching them about God, bringing glory to God - was God's work, done through him, and that once he was again with the Father, his disciples would also be able to do God's work, in the same way, by asking him, Jesus, to do it with them. After his resurrection and ascension, and after the Holy Spirit came on them at Pentecost, this came true. The Acts of the Apostles is full of reports of miracles performed by the disciples, of generosity, self-sacrifice, all kinds of acts of love, performed under Jesus's authority (i.e. God's authority).
I would like to ask a question prompted by the observation that there are many things Dan and Jeff agree on. One of these is that Jesus rose from the dead. If this is so, what does this mean? Where is he? What implications does this have for us?
The first unavoidable truth is that he is not on this earth as he was when he was born into the human race, grew up in a family as a child, lived as a man, and was capable of being hurt and killed. Like all other human beings, he was mortal in the sense that his body died. There is proof of this. His resurrection was a physical resurrection, in the sense that after his death he was seen, spoken to, touched, by many people. But it was different from Lazarus, for instance, in that he did not then go on living on earth as man, and (presumably, as with Lazarus) die of old age. He ascended and disappeared from the sight of his disciples. His life, therefore, and the life he offers (eternal life), is supported in a different way from the life we currently live.
It is a shame that Dan dismisses the Revelations of St John as "the sort of thing you tried (in the Sixties) to help people get over". Please don't confuse drug-induced hallucinations with God-given visions! Just because the first exists, it doesn't mean the second doesn't also! If Jesus lives, he is "somewhere", and that somewhere is where God is. If Jesus is with the Father, and is part of God, and the Holy Spirit continues to maintain the communication with God which God intended from the beginnings of creation, it is not unreasonable that someone as close to Jesus as John was should receive special visions of heaven and of the future, to share with other believers.
I believe God wants us to have a glimpse of the glory of heaven, (and, on the other hand, the desperate pain of hell) to encourage us, and remind us that this world is not all there is. It has often been noted that the most effective, practical social reformers are those who have a clear vision of eternal life in heaven, and that this motivates them to do as much as they can for other souls on earth.
Admittedly, this begs questions - what is heaven really like? Will I like it when I get there? But like other questions about God, I believe it is best to bring the answers down to the essentials of what we do know, and not speculate too much about what we can't. What I know about heaven is that Jesus is there, and so will be souls of people who have followed him and believed in him. This gives me a yearning for those I love on this world who do not believe, because I am in danger of being separated from them, eternally, and they are in danger of being separated from God, eternally.
So what do we know about how God views us? Firstly we know he is in charge, and there is no bucking the system. He is a benevolent dictator, but more than that. It is people's disobedience to God's purposes, and preference for their own ideas and control over their own lives which has led the human race astray, and broken down all kinds of relationships, causing pain and possibly spiritual death - the second death, the lake of fire (ii). So let's just face up to the fact that we are subjects of a King, and he requires our allegiance. It's an unpopular thought, in democratic times, but the reason we have democracy is that few earthly kings have been able to rule in the benevolent way God exemplifies. His rule over us is love. He is committed to his creation, including, and especially, mankind, as a good father is committed to his children.
He is so committed that, when his chosen people, the Israelites, turn out so disobedient, and no manner of prophets, good kings and supernatural signs can lead them back, he puts himself in their place to be reviled and tortured and killed. The truth is, the "Son" and the "Father" are one, aren't they? In the relationship of the Trinity, the different persons express different aspects of God, as Dan describes so vividly. I cannot avoid the conclusion, reading Dan's account of the Trinity, that Jesus is the personification of the '"hands" of God...[who] makes things, changes things, works at the continuing task of creation.' (iii). God wants his people to become those hands, too, and has given us "sonship" through faith in Jesus. "Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God - children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision of a husband's will, but born of God" (iv). So we come to the glorious, central truth of the gospel, that God wants to adopt us as sons and daughters again, even though, when we were his sons and daughters, we rejected him. And this is a hope for every individual.
I am going to give the last word to Paul, the apostle, who tried so hard to express the unexpressable, has been quoted, misquoted, interpreted and misinterpreted ever since, and has been so harshly judged by Dan for it! I am quoting from "The Message", mainly because familiarity with particular phraseology can often block real understanding, and one can always go back to other translations later to check out meaning, but I think it expresses a lot of what Dan has said, and I hope it will encourage him to give a Paul a second chance.
"This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It's adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike "What's next, Papa?" God's Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what's coming to us - an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we're certainly going to go through the good times with him!
"That's why I don't think there is any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. The created world can hardly wait for what's coming next. Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile the joyful anticipation deepens.
"All around us we observe a pregnant creation. the difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it's not only around us, it's within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We're also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don't see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful the expectancy.
"Meanwhile, the moment we get tired of waiting, God's Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don't know how or what to pray, it doesn't matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That is why we can be so sure that every detail of our lives of love for God is worked into something good.
"God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. he decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in him." (v)
Lou Everard, August 1998
i.) John 14 v 9 [Back]
ii) Revelation 20 v 14 [Back]
iii) Dan Everard, "Some Thoughts" [Back]
iv) John 1 v 12-13 [Back]
v) Romans 8 v 15 - 29 (as translated by Eugene Peterson in "The Message") [Back]
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