Against the background that our destiny is to become like God, we will all - sooner or later - reach a zero point from-which only Christ can transform us.
An analogy is adolescence. Through childhood, our self becomes more and more concentrated and detached until at a point we reach total isolation: the world becomes doubted, as being a delusion of our imagination of our own minds - and then at the zero point we feel that our own minds are a delusion too.
This zero point is one where all seems subjective, and subjectivity itself a temporary illusion.
But to grow-up we must go through this zero point...
(The zero point is very unpleasant to experience and fraught with spiritual dangers; But adolescence is a necessary step in growing up.)
How can this be done? We cannot do it ourselves.
We cannot do it ourselves because at the zero point we utterly lack resources to do it. We have been reduced to impotence - that is indeed the essence of the situation.
Our society is stuck at the zero point. We believe nothing is really-real and despair - and therefore we utterly lack the resources to escape this mental trap.
(But the trap is a necessary step in growing up.)
We deny in our basic assumptions the reality of any external, ordered and benign reality. So, even when we are offered help - we reject the offer as merely another delusion. In fact things are worse than this, much worse... We prefer to reject the offer of help even when we know it to be real.
We therefore respond to the trap by not-thinking about our situation as much as is possible - by distraction, intoxication, frenzied hedonism - and our ultimate hope is painless oblivion after mortal life.
When this fails we despair. And remain trapped.
For modern Man, there is nothing but Man; and at the zero point Man has been brought to nothing.
At the zero point we can only move forward with help - with help from something that is not ourself.
Some agency that will transform us - because we cannot transform ourselves. (It must be an agency; it must be some-thing - some being - that wants to transform us.)
This agency is Christ.
We might consider the transforming agent as God-within - not our human self but the immortal divine self we were born with and accompanies our 'human self' through mortal life; or we might consider it as external God, looking down with mercy upon our plight...
Either way this is Christ - because Christ was himself transformed. Christ was himself brought to point zero such that he had to be rescued and moved forward by God the Father.
(God the Father cannot himself help us through the zero point - because God has not been through the zero point: this is why Christ was necessary for human destiny to be fulfilled. By the Life, Death and Resurrection of Jesus - God was brought to-and-through the zero point.)
When we are helpless, we must be helped.
Yet even in the extremity of helplessness Men have agency. This is a fact of existence. Men choose.
At zero point Men choose whether or not to accept the help that Jesus Christ offers.
Because Man is always agent; help cannot be given where it is refused.
When we are brought to the zero point; when a society or civilisation is brought to zero point we cannot help ourselves, we can only be helped.
We will be offered effectual help: Christ will offer us the answer: He will bring us through point-zero and to the other side.
But this can only happen if we let it happen; if we agree to the reality, Goodness, love and authority of Jesus Christ.
(Christianity cannot be coerced - and I mean cannot be coerced. We can defy God - and that is the temptation of all temptations - called pride. We mortals can in fact defy the creator. He cannot compel us to acknowledge his reality, Goodness or love.)
This is not to be regarded as something like a threat, a legal condition, or a price to be paid for a privilege but instead as a simple recognition of reality and the consequence of recognition.
Christ cannot transform us if we do not agree to it; and we do not agree to it unless or until we regard Christ as real and Good - which is to acknowledge the actuality and Goodness of God's creation and its plan; and our own destiny in that creation. And if we regard Christ as loving us; that is having our own personal interests in his heart.
Christ can save us if we let him; but we will only let him if we know him as real and Good and loving of us, personally.
Note: The above has been stimulated by some sections of Owen Barfield's Unancestral Voice (1965)
This reminds me of a dream I had a few years ago:
All humans had their guardian angel (mine was named Z .. something), but each angel had many humans to care for. The angles would help their protégées all the way through life, to the brink of an abyss, the last obstacle before reaching the gates of Heaven.
The final jump could however not be made unless the human put all his/her trust in Jesus Christ, who was standing on the other side, reaching out and encouraging people to literally take the leap.
Then the dream got blurred ...
"Christ will offer us the answer: He will bring us through point-zero and to the other side. But this can only happen if we let it happen; if we agree to the reality, Goodness, love and authority of Jesus Christ."
But that's the problem. Someone at the zero point, by definition, doesn't believe in the reality, goodness, love, and authority of Jesus Christ, because he doesn't believe in the reality of anything at all.
You seem to be saying that Christ can help you make the transition from nihilism to Christianity, but only if you believe in him. But if you believe in him, you've already made that transition. Christ will let you out of your prison cell, but only if you step outside the cell and ask him -- not a very helpful offer!
@Wm - I think we need to recognise that the nature of Christ's gift is that it was very often accepted in the past by pagans; but that it is seldom accepted now.
What has changed is an attitude in us.
At the zero point the offer is made (this happens, and that it can happen is a consequence of Christ) and its validity is perceived.
In that sense belief is included as a part of the offer - and our primary response is to recognise that it is a true offer. But since we are agent, we must choose to accept or reject it. And we can choose to disbelieve it - although since it is self-validated, refusing to believe the offer has consequences - because if we won't believe *that* then we undermine our capacity to believe anything.
(This is how real atheism leads to a kind of insanity.)
My understanding of agency is one that is very strong - we are indeed gods, and creators, our agency is the name for the fact that we truly can create: that is, originate uncaused thought (objectively, in the universal realm of thinking). This is the metaphysical basis.
As mini-gods the choice is one of alliance or autonomy - but not like a political alliance, more like a family alliance: somewhat akin to the decision of an adolescent over whether to remain part of the family, or go-it-alone.
The offer is such as it only need be accepted (not earned, we have it by right of birth), yet it carries responsibilities that are heavy.
The reason love is the key, is that it is love which makes us want to ally, including accepting the responsibilities. When there is not love, then autonomy (rejecting the offer) seems inevitable.
Ultimately Christ, and Christianity, are about combining theism with agency - other theisms aim at annihilation of the self in service of god/s; Christianity aims at this alliance of our mini-god selves with God (and, second commandment, each other).
The tension between our agency and grace is one of the most difficult themes in the Christian tradition. Your friend William Wildblood had a post about grace in which he wrote:
"But real grace from God or the Holy Spirit must be earned through hard struggle, spiritual discipline and self-purification, prayer, intense and ardent desire for enlightenment and, yes, suffering."
In light of the above discussion what do you make of this sentence Charlton? For me it appears misleading to call something that has to be earned grace, and perhaps inconsistent with Christianity´s emphasis on our dependeny on Christ. On the other hand the themes of spiritual struggle and self-purifying are also prominent.
@AnteB - I discuss this all the time on this blog, more than once a week - but I don't use the term Grace because it is not sufficiently clear to me.
I am an adherent of Mormon theology (a little known subject - not much known even to Mormons! - I am not myself an LDS church member or attender)
Rather than trying to give you the essence in a comment, you might want to look at my archive blog on theology:
The essence of my understanding is related to 'pluralism' - that the beginning of everything includes God, but also the primordial essences of men and women; and that this eternal pre-mortal co-existence is the basis of agency.
Then, we became children of God - in a 'literal 'sense (meaning that we were literally spirit children of God, and our being children of God is Not just a metaphor or symbolic) - and it is being chidlren of God and us living in God's creation (creation shaped, not created ex nihil) that makes God our true God.
'Grace' relates to the gift of Jesus: which includes eternal incarnated life in God's family; growing by striving and experience towards greater and greater God-like divinity (i.e. the process of theosis).
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