Why Won’t The Good Come Out Of Us?

Sorry about the prolonged bout of autism I caught during the week when I turned Zoomtard from a theological sketchpad into an incoherent rambling theological weapon, boring you all to death with my sophmoric ideas hatched over prolonged exposure to paint fumes and drinking glasses of milk mixed with white spirits.

S-S-Something From The Comments
Steven took the bait though and asked me a question that amazed me:

If every person starts out with original sin how does one account for babies who are aborted? They can’t make the decision to accept/reject Christ. What happens to them?

What am I? A theological agony aunt? I recommend you write them a strongly worded letter with photocopies of the receipts enclosed and threaten to report them to the ombudsman. Er, no. I recommend you dump them pronto. Then go out to the nearest meat market, drink a lot of beer and follow it up with 3 vodkas in quick succession and then bang the nearest female over the head with a club, drag her home and get that old girlfriend out of your system with 2 minutes of drunken, anonymous passion back at your place. Wait. That was not wise advice. I recommend you ask your priest.

Seriously though, something has gone horribly wrong with modern Christianity if we can ask these kinds of questions without questioning ourselves. Down at heart, below the “I’m simply a Christian” front, I am hardcore enough to know that there is no basis for dreaming up answers to this question because it isn’t even touched on in the Bible. I think that evangelical preoccupation with getting individuals “saved!” probably creates a culture where this question can be asked without a wave of disgust. Babies in the womb are not coveting their neighbours’ goods. They are not sucking their thumb with some Freudian psycho-sexual drama going on inside them. Or let me rephrase those sentences with, “to the best of our knowledge” at the start of them because not only is the question tempting total dreamland speculation far outside the boundaries provided by the Bible, it is tempting a speculation unaided by any empirical knowledge. What does a baby think about? Maybe he is sitting in there thinking about how he would have liked to have stayed a girl. Maybe he is sitting in there singing praises to God for choosing him out of all the infinite hims that could have been chosen and thanking him for the womb to gestate in. Maybe he is sitting in there planning to cause a terror scare by smuggling explosives on to a plane in his nappy. We don’t know.

We know God is love though. We know God cares about babies in wombs. We know that God wants to be reconciled to everyone who has ever lived, regardless of what life they lived. Those lights are probably all that can lead us.

Maybe I am way off base here and I hope Steven will take me up in Tiny Timid Thoughts, but I increasingly think Christianity is not meant to be about individuals. The tradition Steven and I share, Evangelical Christianity, has maybe, perhaps, possibly, please-don’t-kill-me-for-the-heresy, fetishised the role of the individuals’ response to Jesus. Every individual person (who is not in the womb or for other reasons hasn’t got the faculties to respond) must choose or reject the challenge of Jesus. As Sufjan Stevens sings it, “Listen to what He says to you today”. But that listening has to take place in the context of a community, an ekklesia, or in our modern English, a church. All the churches around the world and through time make up the Church and this “Body”, the Church, is the one we should identify with. Little babies get saved. Old men get saved. Self-important bloggers get saved. But that happens through the Church. If we had a little more counter-cultural, New Testament, Acts 2 communal think going on, maybe we’d be better off.

On Popish Ways
Also in a comment, Lucas, who is a brainiac out in UCD, took me to task on my definition of orthodoxy because he felt it excluded Catholics. We’ll skip over that in a sane world, catholic ought to be a synonym for orthodox and get right to the good stuff. The Roman Catholic Church thinks people are saved by Grace, not by works. What that means in a horrible, cutting all the meaning and the beauty out so that you can get a grasp of it in a paragraph, is that you get brought back on good terms with God because of what God does, not you. God loves us because of who he is, not so much who we are. God gives gifts, not wages. God wants to be your father, your friend, your groom, not your boss, tax collector or your boot camp officer. The Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification By Faith beween the World Lutheran Council and the Vatican doesn’t condemn contraception, gay people being allowed to buy fresh milk or electric guitars being used within 100 yards of a church and so it doesn’t get a huge amount of attention in the media. Still, as Vatican documents go, its a pretty good read. Or so I hear. From people more boring than me who read those things. It lays out how justification by faith is expressed differently from church to church and with differing emphases but we all agree it cannot be by our merits, at all. Ever. Even a little bit.

I don’t read Vatican documents, ok? Enough of that now.

It is good that we have cleared that up because Lucas also took me to task on my view of Catholic readings of Scripture. He thought that authority was invested in the tradition of how Scripture is read in Catholicism. Its a tricky issue, because to be honest, many Catholics, including priests, don’t seem to know where to stand on the issue. But there is a document from the Second Vatican Council called Dei Verbum that deals with the Word of God. We read there that:

This magisterium (that is the Bishops who are the bearers of tradition headed by the Pope) is not superior to the Word of God, but is its servant. It teaches only what has been handed on to it.

Scripture, therefore, is the authority. The Cardinals and the Bishops and the priests on the ground interpret Scripture with a very different method to Presbyterians but they don’t make crap up out of the blue. Well, except for the stuff about no women priests, priestly celibacy, no contraception, Papal infallibility and a few other things but that is not for this blog. Those issues are for the blog of an angry Northern Protestant from Antrim who wears t-shirts with Ian Paisley on them. Wait. Shirts with paisley patterns composed of Ian Paisley’s face. No self-respecting Northern Irish Protestant would be seen in something so undignified as a t-shirt.

On Herring And Brine
I went to see Daft Punk last night and it was great fun because it rained and the lights on the stage were nice and they dressed like robots and the song with the dog and his boombox and his broken leg was on and we danced and then it turned into the around-the-world song and it was good.

I can’t really remember it though because I was so out of my head, know what I mean, wha? Mad.

But the night before I saw Mumblin Deaf Ro and Michael Knight along with the 50 people in Dublin who weren’t at Radiohead. Michael Knight is really very good. He sings very witty songs with a piano. That is like serving me tiramasu. I am happy, just with the idea of it. But it was Mumblin’ Deaf Ro we went to see. He played lots of stuff from Senor, My Friend, which I believe is the greatest Irish album you’ve never heard. But he also showcased some new stuff and it was breathtaking.

If I tell you his songs are as beautiful and as satisfying as perfect short-stories, I don’t want you to think that he isn’t a great musician. His songs are marvellous pieces of music. But they are defined by this amazing, unique ability to tell a story. Some lyrics are good, you know, they just work. And some lyrics are witty or smart or touching. And then there is a whole other level where the lyrics are good and witty and smart and touching and they are not just a series of lines collected in groups of 4 to make verses. To say that Mumblin Deaf Ro’s lyrics are great just doesn’t give you the right impression of how deep and great they are. His new album will probably be called Herring and Brine and if you don’t buy a copy for yourself you are an idiot. And to prove it to you, I’ll buy you a copy. So you are warned.

I don’t think he makes videos. Even Mumblin’ Deaf Ro couldn’t make a video as cool as this one from OK Go!

Also, some people who read this blog have English degrees so they will be glad to know (or maybe it will bring back nightmares) that Chaucer has his own blog now.

Your Correspondent, Is Sensitive Like A Stock Market

5 Responses to “Why Won’t The Good Come Out Of Us?”

  1. “Christianity is not meant to be about individuals. The tradition Steven and I share, Evangelical Christianity, has maybe, perhaps, possibly, please-don’t-kill-me-for-the-heresy, fetishised the role of the individuals’ response to Jesus.”

    As Eugene Peterson might say – Oh yes! Christianity, and protestant evangelical Christianity in particular, has become so deeply entrenched in an enlightenment-spawned modernistic worldview that we can’t see straight anymore. We have swallowed whole a philosophy based on the importance of the rational self and the centrality of the individual that is so far from the view of NT christianity that the two can’t even shout rude insults at each other anymore.

    The teaching of the NT is so steeped in a communal, ecclesial outlook – that of God acting in history to draw a people to himself, redeeming them, and through them redeeming the world – that to seperate ourselves from this sort of outlook is to fundamentally misunderstand the gospel.

    I could rant about this for ages, but I’m not that rude. Really, I’m not.

  2. jimlad says:

    I think that attitude you, Bob Heffernan talk about comes, yes under the influence of modernism/post-modernistic society , and as a result of our feeling of not being loved. We want to be respected for who we are, ergo as individuals. God loves the individual. God is love, so the bible says, so of course he does.

    So this modernistic viewpoint would hold no temptation for us if we believed the Gospel more completely. There is no need for us to protect and hold onto our own self-importance. With the freedom that the gospel offers to live as God has made us to live, our outlook on everything would naturally be on the community instead of self-developement etc.

  3. jimlad says:

    Em, I forgot to mention our attitude should be that of Jesus Christ’s who in humility submitted to God and others even to the point of crucifixion. I forgot to mention God as well as Community. I’m always doing that. I say to my wife, “You are the most wonderful person in the world…” followed by nervous glances toward heaven, “..eh, except for God that is”. That’s why Christians can’t be romantic. Romance is a little too close to heresy.

  4. Steven says:

    I don’t like this discussion anymore. You’re using big words.

    Reponse will be coming before the 2nd Coming

  5. zoomtard says:

    My 2nd wedding anniversary is coming up and now I know what to buy Neuro. A t-shirt with “Romance is heresy” written on it. Thanks Jimlad!

    Bob, I am sure you are not a rude man, but we encourage rants around here. We are the furious thinkers.

    Steven, I met a man who told me that because Israel is making illegal incursions into the soverign territory of Lebanon, the end of the world is coming soon. I won’t feel fine until that response of yours is ready!