Deus Ex Machina

"This is the generation of the great LEVIATHAN, or rather, to speak more reverently of that mortal god, to which we own under the immortal God, our peace and defense." -Thomas Hobbes: Leviathan

The Reason to Believe in the Christian Gospel is God; A Short Discussion on Natural Religion

I read some time ago an Anglican Vicar John Richardson (who has since passed on), about the alleged necessity for the Church of England to allow for woman bishops so that they “don’t look completely stupid in the eyes of society”. He writes:

Whenever I hear such observations, I’m reminded of a woman student I spoke to just after the passage of the legislation to introduce women priests. She was a Christian sharing a house with a number of non-Christian women, all of whom were glued to the television news. As the result was announced from General Synod, a great cheer went up. “Oh,” said my friend, “I suppose this means you’re all going to start going to church, does it?” Embarrassment ensued all round.

Nobody is going to submit their hearts, minds, body, spirit and soul to the will of God who already adopts a posture of judgement towards Him. Is it even remotely plausible for anyone to say, Oh gee! God panders to my idealistic wish-fulfilment, therefore I am going to negate my own desire and submit to his will? This is utterly ridiculous. Nobody is going to sacrifice their desires before the altar of God’s will on the basis that God panders to those very desires whom one is supposed to give up. (Jesus after all didn’t bat an eyelid when the rich man turned away from him after he instructed him to sell everything and follow him. What Jesus wants is righteous submission to God’s will, not being maximally relevant and minimising turning people away from him.)

And even if you have such converts, rare as they are, who turn to the Christian faith on the basis of these idealistic wish fulfilments, you would not have stable believers because ultimately for them, religion and faith is simply a means to some further ends of fulfilling their own desire or whatever and when the religion is perceived not to fulfil that function they simply abandon it. And naturally, the world is better at pandering to the desires of the world than the Christian faith which is revealed from above.

The primary reason to believe the Christian Gospel therefore is simply God. One believes in Christ simply because you accept the Gospel or message that the will of God is realised in the person of Christ. Thus the fundamental attitude towards the reception of the Gospel is that of submission to the will of God revealed in Jesus Christ.

This understanding assumes that everyone already has a basic sense of divinity or God prior to the reception of the Gospel. Contra Barth and Kierkegaard in his more existential moments, the coherence of the Christian Gospel hangs upon the coherence of natural theology or religion. It is necessary for us to affirm that God already constitutes the substance of our lives anterior to the proclamation of the Gospel or the reception of the Christian faith.

We must, in some sense, affirm that “extra calvinisticum” of Reformed theology that “the divinity is indeed beyond the bounds of the humanity [of Christ]”. Naturally our understanding of God prior to the revelation of the Gospel would be profoundly different, but it cannot be radically discontinuous.

It is important however that we distil once more the “seed of divinity”, known to all mankind, from the inevitable human idealism and idolatrous accretions and wish-fulfilment and projections unto God. The basic sense of divinity consists of the fact that the world is ordered by an intelligent mind, this is known to Cicero and the pagans. However, this rational ordering of the universe is not to be confused with intentional or purposeful ordering, in other words, there is no obvious “direction” to our lives and the world. The picture of God which emerges out of this natural theology is more akin to Fate or the “indifferent” and even amoral God of Thomas Hardy. It is experienced at the ground level as a sheer power or force beyond human agency or control, who distributes goods and gifts without a discernible pattern. While there is of course natural law which provides sufficient order and stability to form civic commonwealths and earthy goods and joys, its integrity and health is not guaranteed, and is still ultimately dependent upon an element of luck or Fate, the sheer mysterious power of God over the whole world. You can of course try to pray to Him, He may condescend to answer… or he may not.

What the Christian Gospel reveals is that this God whom we “worship in ignorance”, now has revealed himself in Jesus Christ. It is no Kierkegaardian leap of faith into the unknown but an identification and realisation of Him whom we have always known, who has been directing our whole lives, both the good and the bad, for the moment when we would at last know his good and gracious will in his Son Jesus Christ. The world and our lives acquire a teleology in Jesus Christ, it is now no mere Fate but has a direction, directed by the will of God in Christ.

Of course there is a lot more to be said about the continued reconciliation of natural theology, natural law, etc, with the goals and ends of revelation of God in Jesus Christ, however, I think this basically outlines the proper motivation and reasons to receive the Gospel, in short, because you believe that the God who rules the world, now rules it in his divine Word Jesus Christ.

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This entry was posted on September 30, 2014 by in Uncategorized.
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