Saturday, May 20, 2006

God! What is it* good for?

To address what salvation means is to say what the point of being a Christian is. Surprisingly enough, it seems many a theologian go through life without ever asking this question. Or at least addressing it directly. Other base their entire thinking on it.

The question can be broken down into several questions. For whom is there a benefit in my being a Christian? For God? I guess one could argue for this, probably by saying that I should believe in Christ because it is God’s will. That kind of God, however, inspires nothing by revolt in me. It would mean that the whole “God is love” bit is merely a charade.

For humanity? I guess this could be valid point, but only in a secondary manner. The only person who’s faith was beneficial for humanity as a whole was Jesus’. But I think it is valid to believe that faith in Jesus should be a positive force in society as a whole. Sadly, it is as often destructive, particularly when believers start to focus on other peoples sexual behaviour and the like.

For me? Even if Christianity has – as Tillich writes somewhere – developed a tendency to get moral panic at the mention of “I” and “me”, this seems to be the only way to go. I believe in Christ because this in someway benefits me. Now how this benefit is to be understood is something that will have to considered carefully.

First, when will I receive this benefit? There are two answers to this question. In this life and in the coming. Christianity maintains that both are true. The real question is where one lays the emphasis. This is a relevant question to the development of a theology of decline, because it is clear that in certain situations the hope in a better life is the only thing a person has left. In a world with increasing insecurity, poverty and chaos, this is not something that should be taken lightly.

The problem with a faith that is focused solely on the coming world is that it disregards this life. It becomes nothing but a preparation for what comes after death. Sadly, I think it is a valid criticism of religion, that because of this attitude, Christianity is co-responsible for the state of the environment today. A Christianity that is focused on bringing people from this world to the next will not care about the right relationship to nature and the environment. This means it will even tolerate behaviour that increases the pointless suffering of other human beings. Surely this is a Christianity that has gone very wrong.

A theology of decline must then formulate how the hope in a better life after this one is to be applied to this life, so as to avoid such errors. For this one has to look also at what the Christian hope actually is.

But while I think it is true as several modern theologians have pointed out, that Christian doctrine only makes sense from the eschatological point of view, I think we should also expect that faith in Christ in somehow makes life in this world better. Again, how this “better” is to be understood is something that will have to be discussed. Here especially questions such as how the sacraments and the Church should function in a world in decline becomes relevant.

* or he/she. It’s only rock’n’roll.

5 comments:

the lost message said...

My 'The Challenge of Univesalism' post is quite similar to this!

Great points though.

Simon

byron said...

Nice self-promotion, Simon. I've got a blog about self-promoting in comments on other people's blog over here.
Patrik, love the radiohead theme, keep it up. As for who benefits from my faith, what about 'the non-human creation'? You rightly acknowledged that all-too-often heaven-when-you-die escapist eschatologies can lead to environmental destruction, but what of a faith in the cross that remains faithful to the earth on which it stands? If our faith causes us to groan, and we find that we are groaning in community with the yearnings of creation, this solidarity in hope has immediate and wide-ranging effects on how we view the world.

Patrik said...

"A cross faithful tot he earth on which it stands". I like that. In my previous posts I have adressed the impossibility of disragarding the "rest of creation". I could well have mentioned it here too. Thanks for pointing that out.

the lost message said...

Great rebuke Byron!

*Hangs head in shame*

Igor said...

"A theology of decline must then formulate how the hope in a better life after this one is to be applied to this life, so as to avoid such errors. For this one has to look also at what the Christian hope actually is."

Or maybe you could consider that the answer is outside Christian hope altogether...

"What of a faith in the cross that remains faithful to the earth on which it stands?"

Where we to be faithful and responsible to this earth and the imbalance brought on by human progress would be truly have a need for faith in the cross?

Cut the middle-man I say! Become the Christ instead of simply following him! Is it the universe shrinking or is it God?