Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Real Christianity

Most people are confused about Christianity. Both people who think they are Christians and those that don't can be profoundly confused about what are they accepting or rejecting. Is it about going to heaven and avoiding hell? Is it about being a good person? Is it about knowing why we are here? There are so many reasons why Christianity is accepted or rejected that only touch on a small fraction of what it is about. This is why Christmas matters. It brings us back to the beginning. God became man. The Logos became flesh. The light entered the darkness. So much talk about religion is so small compared to such a huge truth. The Being that holds the universe in existence entered the womb of a woman. Understanding Jesus as someone who wants you to be nice or wants to take you to heaven is such a small shadow of that.

This is why so many describe Christianity as wishful thinking. For many Christians it is. They imagine the God they want. Nothing more. But real Christianity is not wishful thinking. We could not possibly wish for something we cannot even comprehend. It is too big an idea to be made up. Truth is stranger than fiction. Christianity only ceases to amaze us when we water it down. When we reduce the faith to family values or social action or the sinners prayer or whatever. Christianity is about meeting God.

This is why the early church was much more focused on who Jesus is than it was on what Jesus taught. Look at the creeds. God from God. Light from Light. True God from True God. Consubstantial with the Father. It does not talk about loving your enemies or helping the poor. They are not unimportant but they are not central. The central matter is exactly who it is that came to the world on Christmas morning.

Modern scientific humanism can be quite open to Christianity. They are OK with saying Jesus is someone who advanced human moral thinking. They are OK with saying Christianity is one of the great positive influences in history. But to say Jesus is God is quite another matter. If Jesus is God then He is not just one of the great goods this world has to offer. If He is God then He is the Good by which all other goods are measured. Modern man wants to decide for himself what he will call good. Like pagans who were always willing to make room for another god in their worship. But the one God that demanded to be in the ultimate place of worship was too much. Modern man is like that. We will give Jesus faint praise along with everyone else's favorite good. But putting Him over everything is too much.

Christians are not that much better. We confess Jesus is God but often we don't really deal with the fullness of what that means. We don't enter into a love relationship with Him. We can fall into using God for our own ends. It is wrong to use people as a means rather than as an end. It is more wrong to use God that way. This is why getting theology right is important but only the beginning. We need to get liturgy right. We need to get prayer right. We need a whole spirituality that is focused on loving the true eternal God as opposed to our pious imagination of what He might be like. That is why I see the church as such a gift. It gives us a fighting chance at getting this right.

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