Wednesday 25 September 2019

Evangelism in an officially-evil world: the Fourth Gospel perspective continues to unfold...

I find that I cannot stop the incremental process of restructuring that was initiated by my reading the Fourth Gospel as the primary and most authoritative source of revelation on Jesus Christ. In particular, the implications that Jesus brought resurrection to eternal life - specifically resurrection. I feel that resurrection is much more important, and much simpler (child-like) than I have been aware.

That, for another day perhaps.

In a strange way, the function of the Fourth Gospel has been to clarify that the work of Christ did not depend upon any gospel; his work was primarily to make possible our resurrection to life eternal. The work was done, it was done well - and in a vital sense nothing more needed to be done.

From that point, it was up to each individual person to make the choice of whether to follow Jesus. That is, to love, trust, have faith in - and also literally follow Jesus through death to resurrection into life eternal, in Heaven, as members of the divine family.

For this decision, revelation is not necessary since we all know Jesus from our pre-mortal spirit lives - so that when we have died (biologically) we will know (recall) what it means to follow him, and will then choose.

This was and is a necessary part of the plan, since salvation could not be made to depend upon contingencies such as date or place of birth or parents. God will ensure that each gets what is needed for this decision, but cannot (because of the absolute nature of freedom) assure that the revelation and scriptures, teachings and authorities, are correct and correctly-motivated.

Which is just as well! Because - from a Fourth Gospel perspective - major errors and distortions were built into the Christian denominations, theology and churches from as far back as is known. If men were reliant upon the validity of teaching, ritual and scriptures, and the validity of their own ability and motivation to interpret these, salvation would resemble a lottery with very poor odds.

And a lottery with poor odds is Not the kind of world that would be made for us, by a loving God who is our Father, and is also the creator of this world.

For Christians this world must (surely?) be fit-for-purpose - yes?

This world is God's creation, and it is well designed for its core purpose. From each person's individual perspective, that purpose is to give us experiences from which we can learn in ways that will benefit us in the coming life eternal (if we choose it). What happens during this mortal life is (from God's perspective) therefore about theosis - the process of becoming more divine, living more divinely - this world is Not primarily about salvation.

That is (ultimately) why we do not remember our pre-mortal lives - for theosis we must live this life with full realism; not as a temporary prelude to eternity. We need to be separated from immersion in the divine in order to choose, freely, our own future - do we choose loving creation, or do we reject it? 

It is the demonic powers who try to make this mortal life about salvation, by trying to induce people to reject Jesus.

Some will do this naturally, spontaneously (some demons have always been evil, since eternity); but some individuals have a choice. Up to that last decision whether or not to accept or reject Jesus's gift to dwell in Heaven in a life of creativity and love; anyone can decide for Jesus (this is what repentance is about, and its absolute power).

To induce such people to reject Jesus is difficult, because it entails them embracing an inversion of values - such that good and evil, virtue and sin, beauty and ugliness, truth and lies become inverted. However, we can see that this is possible, because mainstream modern Western society is already 'officially' and extremely value-inverted society.

All that modern people have to do is go along with the mainstream moral, aesthetic and bureaucratic practises; and they will quite 'naturally' choose hell in preference to Heaven, having decided that Hell is the 'real' Heaven, and Heaven is 'really' a place of evil (full of judgemental, hypocritical 'haters').

However, getting the mass of people to reach this inverted state has been a long, multi-generational, delicate process of subversion. The main (not the only, but the major) weapon has been the sexual revolution - such that the demands of sex and (now) sexuality have gradually weakened, demolished and replaced the entirety of the innate, natural and spontaneous value system of humankind.

So, that is the current situation - made possible by the decisions of millions of individuals to reject the gift of Jesus Christ, for all kinds of reasons - and the effect that such has had upon modern Western society.

But - Nothing Has Gone Wrong with what Jesus did 2000 years ago. The Plan has not been sabotaged or anything of that sort - although the mix of personnel has changed, although the nature of social pressures has changed; the ultimate situation is the same now as it was from the time of Jesus's ministry and death, resurrection and ascension.

Each of us still has exactly the same chance of accepting the gift of Jesus; about which we already know from pre-mortal life, and which we will recall after death. I am not saying that each person has exactly the same odds of making such an acceptance, because in the first place these are incalculable, and secondly that is the wrong way to regard our situation.

We need to get used to regarding our situation in a very personal and responsible fashion. This is a great advantage of this modern, Western era. The pervasive evil of our society means that any honest and virtuous person will distrust external authority, and will realise that external authority is arbitrary and labile at best - and over the long term is evil in motivation.

This means that we are each being all-but compelled to take explicitly direct and personal responsibility for our life choices, for our understanding of our situation, for our salvation. This has, in fact, always been the true situation - but in the past a passive, externally-regulated person could go through life without being confronted by the stark fact of it - and this was itself an extremely spiritually hazardous situation, since the ultimate choice was unavoidably personal.

What does this imply for Christian teaching and evangelism. Does it mean that it is unnecessary or futile?

No, it does not. We should learn from the current vast and pervasive environment of evil propaganda that personal choice can be influenced. We are each a part of the environment for 'other people'. Recalling that all this operates at a strictly individual level - what we personally say and do, how we personally think and behave, is a part of the environment that God can use to help other people in their theosis. We are part of the experience of others.

Some people are solidly evil, have made their choices; some would find Heaven intolerable, some are dedicated to the destruction of creation. It would indeed be futile to evangelise such people - even if, as is possible, they are a large majority of the population in the West.

But other individuals are evil because they have been induced into inversion and have chosen that which will make them miserable (even though many people will double-down on that which makes them miserable). These are the people who are open to a change of heart.

A person who is well-motivated - that is motivated (at that particular moment) by truth, beauty and virtue - may make a positive difference... of course! We know this from our own experience, don't we?

The best and most powerful motivation is love - and I believe it is operative post-mortem and at the actual moment of choice for or against Heaven. But effective love is essentially dyadic, and can't be compelled or made; and saving love has a narrow range. The 'benign altruism' kind of love espoused by preachers and edifying writers (such as myself!) is a very different and much weaker thing than real interpersonal love. 

So, evangelism is (as everyone already knows) something that all Christians should do at some level - that hasn't changed, ever; and that level ought to be personal - not systematic (not necessarily systematic). If done once, for one person - and it hits home, and if it helps towards a change of heart...

Well... given what is at stake, that of itself would be a cosmically vast achievement.


Desert Rat said...

Wonderful insight. I will be rereading this one many times. Thank you.

dearieme said...

Why do you call John's the Fourth Gospel? Is it because by convention it comes fourth in the bible or is it because you believe it to have been the fourth by date of composition?

Bruce Charlton said...

@d - (It would save time if you read the book! It would only take an hour or two. )

...Because it is fourth in the Authorised Version, and because it was Not written by John. (Of course, I still need to reference passages as 'John'.)

By my understanding, it was written by Lazarus; and was (Chapters 1-20) the first Gospel; is the only eyewitness account of the mortal Jesus that seems to have survived - and (presumably consequently) is the only clearly-coherent and valid Gospel in its essence. It says very simply but poetically/ symbolically (as we now read it - but that is how people thought and understood in those days and place), and over and again, what Jesus taught.

When read as such; the other Gospels, and the rest of the New Testament, come across as collections of secondhand information of variable validity, and often (Matthew especially, also Luke) with a perspective alien to the Fourth Gospel (e.g. the Second Coming ideas, the insistence on a special lineage, a miraculous and prophetic Nativity etc).

dearieme said...

"It says very simply but poetically/ symbolically (as we now read it - but that is how people thought and understood in those days and place) ..."

Yet Mark, with the bogus bits removed, reads as if it is in the style of modern history/biography. Perhaps whoever wrote it had rather literal mind?

Bruce Charlton said...

@d - I thin that if something from 2000 years ago reads as-if modern, then we can we 100% sure we are misreading it!

But the illusion comes, I think, from its likely provenance as a notes collected from multiple sources - a chronicle (like the Anglo Saxon Chronicle) rather than a finished 'work'. Mark (as is ) is not really making a point, nor saying "what it all means". Another comparison is some of Aristotle I once attempted (I can't remember which one), which looks (in the translation) like a series of headings, or summary lecture notes.

David said...

Great post Bruce! I can feel God's love shining through my heart again as I read this. Jesus loves us with such tenderness. We are called to be fisher's of men, even in small ways. This takes courage. Something which I often lack. Your comment about us influencing the environment of others stuck a chord with me. I need to strive forwards with that firmly in mind!