January 2, 2017


God's Dilemma (WALTER RUSSELL MEAD, 1/02/17, Via Meadea)

[F]or Christians, the heart of the matter is this: God is love. Love doesn't just describe God's relationship to the creation; it describes God's essence--his inner life and being. This as we have seen is the origin of the Christian idea of the Trinity: Love is so intrinsic to the divine nature that we cannot conceive of his unity as solitude.

From a Christian perspective, God's act of creation is an expression of love. God made the world because He wants an abundance of beings and sensibilities to love, to be with, to share life with, and to make happy.

That is where we come in. We have no way of knowing whether there is life on other planets, much less what, if anything, it thinks and whether it has religious aspirations, but among those life forms we know anything about, people have a particular place in God's plan.

The Bible tells us that God loves animals and even plants. He knows when any sparrow falls and it is his care that provides the beasts of the field with their nourishment. As the Psalmist says, "The eyes of all wait upon thee; and thou givest them their meat in due season. Thou openest thine hand and satisfiest the desire of all things living" (Psalm 145:15-16). God clothes the lilies of the field, Jesus says, more gloriously than King Solomon in all his robes (Matthew 6:28-29).

But people have a special place in the Creator's heart. Made in God's image and given both personality and intelligence, we were created because God wanted beings with whom he could share the kind of love that animals and plants can't give. Strange as it may seem, the Maker and Ruler of the universe seeks out the pleasure of our company and has made Himself vulnerable to us; we can please God and we can hurt Him by the ways we treat Him, treat ourselves, and treat one another.

All this means that human beings present God with an extraordinary problem.

On the one hand, God finds us irresistibly lovable, beautiful, and, where God's love is concerned, needy: How could we not be? Beings made by love out of love are inescapably drawn to the perfect Love from which they come. No matter how grizzled and grumpy we become with the passing years, or how pimpled and snarky we turn in our adolescence, God looks at us with the kind of tender solicitude and hopeful anxiety with which we look at small children.

Yet at the same time, like many angelic-looking children, we're a fairly nasty bunch of characters, more Lord of the Flies than Little Lord Fauntleroy. Just pick up a newspaper or go to your favorite news site: genocides, starvation, vast contrasts of poverty and wealth; terror, arms races, environmental destruction; the rich and the poor cheating and stealing from one another, with the rich generally doing best because they've got more power to abuse; nations nursing ancient wounds as hatreds fester.

Or back off from these entrenched historical evils and look at what goes on in families, neighborhoods, and among friends. Abused children grow up to repeat the cycle. Children of alcoholics and addicts grow up with psychological wounds that predispose them to repeat the same sad behavior. Widespread epidemics of cheating in school, cheating on taxes, cheating on expense accounts, cheating on spouses. It's a bit like the national debt; each generation gets the bill for its parents' shortcomings--and passes that bill with some additional charges down to their own heirs.

Christians talk about this situation under the heading of original sin, saying that our species has been a big, dysfunctional family since the dawn of time, and that each of us repeats and adds to that cycle of abuse and betrayal in our own way even as we suffer from the damage done by those who came before. Other religions object to the kind of metaphysical structure that Christians give to the concept, but virtually everyone intuitively gets this picture of a human race somehow at war with itself and fundamentally out of whack.

This flawed race trapped in a cycle of cascading pain and wrong is what, and who, God is bound and determined to love; the question is how can He do it?

Nevermind that we love each other despite, or because of, all our flaws, when God became Man it revealed that He too would be so flawed if mortal.

Posted by at January 2, 2017 11:44 AM