Saturday, 2 August 2014

What would convince modern people of the divinity of Christ? What would answer their major fears?

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Divine Accommodation: "God's revelations are always limited to the current capacity of humans to comprehend." - Rodney Stark, Discovering God - 2008, p6.

Stark's idea is that Christ's incarnation was a divine revelation that had the features necessary to convince people of his divinity, in the Jewish and Pagan context of that era. This is why Christ was presented as primarily a sacrifice and a propitiation, because of the then-current focus on sacrifice and propitiation - especially among Pagans, but also Jews. That was why there was a focus on the fulfilment of Jewish prophecy (to convince the Jews), and on miracles of healing (to convince pagans). People understood that death was not the end, but were terrified about what might happen after death.

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I found this idea pregnant when I revisited it recently, I mean the idea that God works in the context of the time; when I considered how relatively ineffective this focus would be (and is?) in the modern context of 2000 years later - because modern culture is not concerned with sacrifice and propitiation, disbelieves or is indifferent to prophecy, and regards healing as a medical-scientific (or perhaps 'psychosomatic') affair.

If Christ had been incarnated into the modern world and needed to prove his divinity (silly idea, I know), or if a modern prophet wanted to proclaim the message of Christ, then it would simply be ineffective to focus on sacrifice, prophecy and healing. People would not be interested - most importantly, people would not be convinced - because these are not modern concerns.

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So, what would be the equivalent focus? What are the concerns of modern people? If Romans around 30 AD were afraid of God/ the gods, then what are we afraid of? 

Well, my understanding of 'the modern predicament' is that it is related to three main deficiencies which are, at root, not so much beliefs as fears: and they relate to purpose, meaning and relationship.

1. Purpose: Moderns have come to fear that life and the world are going nowhere, that there is no destiny or direction.

2. Meaning: Moderns have come to fear that nothing means anything, it is all just cause-and-effect. Stuff happens!

3. Relationship: Moderns fear that each is ultimately alone, that there is nothing real that is binding humans, there is no genuine communication, and that the rest of the world is dead.

So, divine revelations for modernity would tend to accommodate to these current fears and concerns - to explain (presumably in a single and interlinked package) the direction of human life, and to emphasize that each person is not alone in the world - but actually and always embedded in a network of relationships and communications.

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Perhaps this modern predicament or primary concern can all be summarized by the dominance of each person's fear of the insignificance and isolation of his own, specific life.

The message of Christ to modern people would perhaps need to be addressed to this - to accommodate to this; such that every individual could appreciate it as an explanation of the unique necessity and meaning and purpose of my own particular life in relationship to other people's lives, and the world as a whole.

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