During an online discussion on the nature of Christianity, I wrote down my particular idiosyncratic conceptualization of Christianity, so I though I’d post it here just for fun. I have a strong dislike of using technical Christian jargon when writing for non-believers (even “sin” and “guilt” are hackneyed, let alone “Sanctification in the Eschaton through Justification from Redemption by Propitiation”), so I tend to use non-traditional language and imagery.
Fans of C. S. Lewis will note that I draw heavily on his The Great Divorce.
Update: New! Improved! Revised! Version!
In the Christian view, God created everything good, but she also created intelligent beings who had free will (humans, and also angels, who don’t come into the story much*). God wanted them to be unselfish and love the world, each other and himself, but in order for that love to be valid, they had to have the choice to be selfish and unloving. And as we can see from history, most did.
Christians believe that our conscious existence survives after we die physically. So when we die, if we’ve chosen to be good and loving and head toward God, that’s where we’ll end up. If we haven’t, we’ll spend forever getting farther and farther away from God. (The Bible talks about there being flames and worms and things if we’re not headed in the God direction; many people have taken this literally, but I think it’s a metaphor that’s trying to express the horribleness of existing without goodness).
It’s the inertia of history, the weight of all those human choices focused on every newborn child, that makes everyone prone to take the non-God direction. Traditionally, “Original Sin”. It’s pretty much impossible for a person to shake off all that non-Godness and head back in the right direction.
God had a cunning plan to fix this. God became human, as Christ, and somehow took on himself all that inertia of non-Godness, to the point where he died and was cut off from goodness. But, being God, he can do anything, so he shook it off, came back to life, and was restored to goodness.
So now God is handing out free u-turn passes. If we like we can add all our intertia to what Christ took on, and turn in God’s direction. Anyone can do this, regardless of what they’ve done or how great their personal intertia. We may still have a lot of bad things to get rid of in our lives, but we’re now pointed in the right direction.**
The important point here (so important that it inspired the Protestant Reformation) is that we can’t make the u-turn simply by doing good things. The original intertia is too great. We’ve got to take the lifeline, and we don’t really need to do anything else.
The good things that Christians are supposed to do are really just cosmetic (this is not to say they’re not important). Christians are supposed to love the world, each other and God, so they’re supposed to do things that reflect that, instead of hurting the world, each other and God. But it’s not the good things that we do that make us Christians, nor does doing bad things make us not Christians. It’s the stance and direction of our life, the mystical choice that says “I choose to head towards God through Christ”, that makes the difference.
* Actually a significant part of Christian doctrine is that those angels that headed away from God have some influence in our world and try to screw things up for people. Traditionally, “Satan” and “demons”.
** Originally this was two paragraphs, and phrased quite differently. I like the new version much better; it’s simpler, consistent with the metaphor, and pretty much an exact translation of the traditional formulation (I’m ashamed I didn’t think of it right away). The original paragraph read as follows:
On his way back in the good direction, Christ (we don’t know how; it’s a mystery) provided us with a lifeline, so that whoever grabs on to it gets a free u-turn. This doesn’t mean they’re perfect, just that they’re now heading in the good direction instead of the bad direction. So when they die, they end up with God instead of without God.
And this is available to anyone, regardless…
*** I’ve changed all the rhetorical pronouns to “we” instead of “you”. I’m still debating which is better. “One” is a little stuffy for what I’m aming at.