Thursday 2 December 2021

The future of this world is Not assured - All good (mortal) things Will come to an end

I regard it as a serious spiritual error - despite its being so very common - when it is assumed that the future of this mortal world has been assured by the promises of God and Jesus Christ... 

e.g. The idea that eventually the powers of Good must and will prevail on earth... The conviction that The Church must survive and will ultimately thrive.  

Such ideas seem to me deeply mistaken, in terms of setting aside the central fact of Man's agency, his freedom on the one hand; and the fact that this mortal world and earth are ultimately ruled by 'entropy', by the powers of chaos - such that all which is formed and organized needs to be sustained by constant consumption of energy and effort; and eventually degeneration, destruction and death will supervene. 

This is the nature of this mortal life, and such was recognized by the first Men capable of conceptualizing our basic situation - i.e. the ancient Greeks. 

To believe otherwise seems to be one of the earliest and deepest errors that came into Christianity; due, I suppose, to sidelining of the (first and most important) Gospel - i.e. the 'Fourth' Gospel, of 'John'

But the core message of Christianity is (surely?) the the Messiah brought us the possibility of resurrection to eternal Heavenly life; and he did Not (contrary to much Jewish expectation) come to usher in any kind of paradise upon earth. 

Again and again Jesus emphasizes that the things of this world are temporary, but what he brings is - by contrast - permanent (hence necessarily elsewhere).   

The clear and simple inference is (surely?) that our mortal lives, the things of this world, and the earth itself; are all impermanent and will come to an end; but that we shall instead (if we want it deeply, and by following Jesus Christ) receive something much better - because everlasting. 

I therefore find it quite strange to see Christians speaking as if there is some kind of guarantee that eventually 'things' on this world will be sorted-out; as if there was a divine pendulum that would always swing back from the brink of dissolution; or as if history was a wheel that would cycle back and away from disaster.

Such an impulse to reassure oneself seems like clutching at straws; and worse than this, seems to be pushing against the kind of next-world-rooted attitudes which Jesus is often (in all Gospels) reported to have taught as our proper goal. 

Although (ideally) rooted in the next - Christianity acknowledges that the details and sweep of this world - and in particular of our own specific mortal life - is of great and eternal importance; while also being temporary and doomed to destruction. 

So the proper Christian attitude is not indifference or hostility to this-mortal-world. Although destruction will eventually overwhelm creation in this world (potentially including All the churches) - and this needs to be accepted; nonetheless we are placed here by God for Good Reasons - and this is the right kind of world for those-reasons. 

Therefore, here-and-now; we have choices to make, goals to strive-for, work to do - as best we may


Avro G said...

This Scripture verse comes to mind:

"But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up...Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless."

– 2 Peter 3:10,13-14

Bruce Charlton said...

@AG - Indeed. But the thing about specific scriptural verses is that they can be oppositely interpreted according to prior assumptions.

Such has always sabotaged attempts to derive Christian doctrine from examining the Bible in a micro fashion, without first making clear the assumptions which underlie the belief that this is the proper way to interpret the book.

Lucinda said...

I've come to think of the church of God as the body of the God-loving righteous, and aspirants. A mortal church only has any legitimacy insofar as it doesn't exclude the truly righteous. Yet many speak about churches as if the righteous need to prove their righteousness by aligning with a church, when it's really the other way around, a church must prove it really is a collection of the truly righteous.

So by my way of seeing it, the true church of God is eternal already, since most of the collection of the righteous is past mortal life. Whether there is much interest among the righteous dead in 'propping up' any particular church as an earthy foothold of pre-dead saints is ... I guess that is a question.

I think of it as sort of irrelevant though, like you seem to be saying. Mortal manifestations of the eternal church of God tend to collect a lot of dead weight, and there's no way to stop that from happening since everyone must pass through a freeloading stage.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Lucinda - Yes, that sounds right.

Dead weight is suboptimal, because it dilute. But far too many of the large churches now are aligned with the wrong side at the leadership level. That is not just dilution of righteousness, but subversive of righteousness.

I suppose there is a deep division here, between Christians who believe that the church ('their church') is the *primary*, and perhaps essential, means by which Christ's work is done in the world; and those who believe that Jesus works through individual Christians (with church secondary, and not essential).

Also, this situation may have changed through history - as humans developed - indeed, I think this is probably the case. Churches were probably almost essential at times and places in history; but here-and-now they seem to do more harm than good, and lead astray.

Lucinda said...

I suppose part of the issue is that we tend to think of civilization as the ultimate form of productive organization. But in many ways civilization is incompatible with loving sociality because it is based on physical and psychological force. It's almost impossible for modern man to shake civilizational assumptions from his imagination.

And this comes through in how he thinks about leadership in churches. The very idea of personal loyalty in 'professional' settings is seen with suspicion, as though our loyalty should be commanded by impersonal assessments, lest it be expressed arbitrarily. We impose this kind of rule-of-law on ourselves as a civilizational necessity.

And then there is the fact that the most obviously wicked seem to be trying to destroy civilization, and so it can be easy to assume that God's goals are civilizational.