Wednesday 11 December 2019

Never Left Bereft: the (unrepentant) prodigal son as a stereotype of modern life

The story of the prodigal son and his father is about Man and God. No matter what mess, what depths of depravity he falls into by his choices, the son will always be welcomed home and taken-in by his father.

Our situation is the same... and yet we don't ask for that help which would so freely and lovingly be given. Because to do so would mean admitting that we had been wrong; and an explicit admission of error and sin is the one thing that modern Man refuses to do (even unto death).

(This shows why pride is the core sin.)

No matter how far we have fallen, no matter how terrible our situation actually is - we are never left bereft by Jesus: always he is there and ready to lead us to life eternal; but we must acknowledge his reality, ask for his help. Jesus helps by consent and desire; he cannot help those who turn from him, hate him, deny him. 

Modern Man is too proud to allow himself to be the prodigal son. No matter what depths of misery he sinks-to by his own choice, he will not turn-to God - just as he will not turn-to his family. The two refusals are related.

I often read biographies (and I have know the same in real life); and it is striking how often modern people leave home, fall into sin and find themselves in a situation of - by their own accounts - extreme poverty, violence, loneliness, misery, depression and despair... such that they consider suicide (either actual suicide; or the covert suicide of alcohol, drugs or repeated patterns of reckless courting of violence and disease). They are - by their own accounts - actually living in a verson of hell.

Yet, it often emerges that the whole time he was in this (self-described) hell; there was a family back home who would have wanted nothing more than to welcome and take-in the prodigal, feed and shelter him, love him.

In few things is the evil of modern mainstream official (mass media-bureaucratic) life so clear; as the fact that this refusal to acknowledge error and sin and seek help with 'the father' (and mother) is regarded as admirable, a strength to be emulated.

The idea propagated is that it is better to die alone, in misery and despair, by slow- or fast-suicide; than to acknowledge the error of an hedonic, responsibility-avoidant lifestyle (sex, drugs, violence, rock and roll - or whatever).

This is how we have come to the point of officially-funded, propagandised and (increasingly) mandatory celebrations of unrepentant prodigal status - the many demonic festivals of Pride. That these festivals are celebrated by self-styled 'Christian' churches, tells us all we need to know about such churches.

The parable of the prodigal son is also a picture of how and why people choose hell and reject Heaven; because Heaven and hell are a choice, rather than a judicial judgement.

Another (spiritually lethal) deficit of modern people is that they affect not to understand why anybody would choose hell, knowing the nature of Heaven; and yet here we have it, in our daily lives!

Even in this mortal life we see people choose a version of hell - despair, nihilism, spiritual death; when all the time an actual living, loving family (an imperfect Heaven, but the closest picture we know) is ready to welcome them.

Note: Nowadays, the prodigal 'son' is perhaps most-often a daughter. 


Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

I had completely misinterpreted the title of this post! I thought you meant that modern prodigals do not repent *because* they are “never left bereft” — because modern life is so soft and easy that they never hit rock bottom as the biblical prodigal did and thus never feel the need to change. Certainly it’s easier now than ever to be a “happy sinner,” shielded from the natural consequences of one’s actions.

edwin said...

So true. But there is another factor that prevents the Prodigal's return: often the family lacks the spiritual resources to provide the needed help and have, to some degree, contributed to the problems of the Prodigal. Prodigals need fathers who are both wise and loving, and we are seeing a crisis in fatherhood in the West. When we no longer see God as a father, how can we be channels of His paternal grace? God as less than or other than a Father leaves us orphans.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Wm - You have a weird mind...

@edwin - I'm not talking about those instances; and anyway, how spiritually resourceful does a welcoming family have to be to be preferable (one would have thought) to living in a hellhole or extreme degradation? Not very. This is a matter of biology... except that spiritual pride/ addiction to sin overcomes even that.

I certanly agree that God is literally as well as symbolically our loving Father, the creator; and I find this the single most important fact to bear in mind.

I also believe that we have a Heavenly Mother, the spouse of the Father in the dyad that is Godhood - but there we get into Mormon theology -

Faculty X said...

Lots of fathers reject 'the matter of biology'. It's their pride over the last 60 years in the West that stands out, not that of the sons.

Bruce Charlton said...

@FX - yes but that's not relevant to the argument here. Indeed, a loving Mother alone (Father absent) - who would rescure and take in her prodigal child - would (one would suppose) be far superior to living in hell-on-earth; yet that option is rejected, and plenty of people prefer to stay (maybe die) in hell-on-earth than acknowledge they have erred and return home.

Lucinda said...

Regarding prodigal daughters, I tend to think it’s not exactly pride as much as a rejection of freedom itself; that is, rather than saying, “I’m right”, they say, “I have no choice”. Men see such as an admission of weakness, unattractive, but women feel it makes them more attractive.

A prodigal daughter will often require concession from family that she is a victim before considering returning home. This is not the best set-up for loving relationship.

Well, that’s why prodigal daughters are more difficult to help. And help often ends up not being helpful.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Lucinda - I think you may be right about that - and the 'it's not my fault' move is certainly encouraged by the peer group. There is a type of woman who always feels herself to be a victim (even when she is a billionairess power broker); whereas the equivalent man has never been wrong about anything (so far as he is concerned).

Lucinda said...

I believe the necessary condition for a woman to make good use of her self-sacrificial tendencies, and come to herself, is motherhood, especially of older children. This seems to be when she can stop worrying so much about social consensus and status and move on to examining needless suffering consequent to bad choices, but the choices of her children, rather than her own.

Feminism gets quite a lot of mileage by getting women to put off motherhood, which is the frame women need to make sense of the lessons of life. The prodigal’s mother needs the lesson brought home by the prodigal son.

Jared said...

I think the essential part of the prodigal son as he leaves home is, perhaps paradoxically, his lack of confidence. 'He who builds on a sandy foundation trembleth lest he should fall.' When the prodigal son left home, he didn't think he had what it takes to be like his father, so he wasted his living on hedonism.
When he returned home, he was able to acknowledge what brings true happiness, whether or not he was 'up to the challenge'. He was acknowledging that his Father's way of life was better than his. Therefore, he was making the first crucial step to build upon the rock, and could accomplish good things.