Thursday 11 October 2012

Become as little children: accept adoption by God


Matthew 18:3 Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.


One of the most tedious and frustrating things about being an intellectual is that one only comes to the obvious via a tortuous and roundabout route; and what is worse, having seen and rejected the obvious on many previous occasions.

Which is why, for a Great Awakening to occur in the West, I believe that we must become as little children again - cast aside the layers upon layers of pseudo-sophisticated deceptions and distortions which have accreted since childhood; and again perceive things as a child sees them.


Thus yesterday I came across, discovered, in a book chapter by J.I Packer (Knowing God, 1973; Chapter 19 'Sons of God) - his great and shattering recovered insight that 'adoption' is the core of Christianity.


You sum up the whole of New Testament teaching in a single phrase, if you speak of it as a revelation of the Fatherhood of the holy Creator.

In the same way, you sum up the whole of New Testament religion if you describe it as the knowledge of God as one’s holy Father.

If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God’s child, and having God as his Father.

If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very well at all.

For everything that Christ taught, everything that makes the New Testament new, and better than the Old, everything that is distinctively Christian as opposed to merely Jewish, is summed up in the knowledge of the Fatherhood of God.

'Father' is the Christian name for God.

[JI Packer, Knowing God, Page 182]


The idea is that the highest and greatest Christian 'offer' is not to be forgiven sin by Christ (although this is vital) nor even to be delivered from death; but for me personally to be adopted as a Son of God, to have God as my Father, Jesus as my Brother, and all other Christians as my Brothers - as these things shall be in Heaven.
This is so obvious and 'in your face' that it is explicitly contained in the first lines of the Lord's Prayer - yet somehow I didn't get it.


To put it briefly the Old Testament is about the greatness, awefullness, majesty, and Holiness of God; the astonishing good news of the New Testament is that this exact same God has given us the offer of adoptive Sonship - allowed all Christians to join His family.


This is of crucial importance to modern evangelism because modern people are post-Pagan and therefore do not believe in the reality of sin, and see no need for forgiveness; and they do not allow themselves to think about death or else regard death as merely a going to sleep forever; so traditional Christian evangelism has nothing to work on.

Yet if there is one psychological problem characteristic of modernity, that problem is alienation: the sense of being isolated, detached from reality, without any personal relationship to the world of people or of nature - thus life as purposeless and meaningless.

What moderns crave above all is to be put back into personal relation with the world: to feel at home in the world.


And this is precisely what Christianity offers as its Heaven: to be again at home in the world, at home in the universe, as a loved and loving member of God's family.

To join this family now. And (as with a perfect earthly family) from that point onward never to be rejected from it whatever we do so long as we sincerely repent and try our best.


In sum, the family metaphors of Christianity are shown by Packer as both literal and symbolic, simple and profound, irreplaceable, and encompassing the very highest level of the Christian good news.

From this perspective many things become clearer and cohere; not least the deadly significance of that on-going strategic, multi-pronged, sustained and unrelenting assault by the secular Left on the traditional Christian family - not least by the sexual revolution (depicted as liberation from the tyrannical constraints of family).

This has succeeded to the extent that the metaphors of family have been tabooed and subverted such that they have all-but ceased to operate as what they should be: the first and best and most universal way into the Christian message.


However, this strategy of evil cannot be wholly effective unless all humans are destroyed; since even those who have never experienced a good family or whose ideas of family have been poisoned by many decades of Leftist propaganda (in fact especially these) nonetheless deeply and ineradicably yearn for real and perfect family and the only basis for human flourishing, and feel cut-off to the extent that they are deprived of it.

Family (like gender) can be attacked only by being defined. To mock, misrepresent, criticize and undermine actually existing, necessarily imperfect and contigent human families in public discourse; therefore serves inadvertently to amplify the private, secret and inextinguishable longing for real, perfect and eternal family.

This, I suggest, is the way into the modern secular mind - pre-armed against almost every other kind of Christian message: the heavenly Christian family as the only sure, complete and permanent cure for alienation; the only way we can feel at home in creation.



asdf said...
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JP said...
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Bruce Charlton said...
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