Pagan Principles

Hello again, internet. After having deactivated my Facebook and more or less devoted myself to my graduate studies (and some intense Sonata Arctica listening on the side), I am finally back on my blog to levy additional criticisms against my former theological paradigm (“Conservative Evangelical Christianity”).

Recently I was reading a blog written by a Roman Catholic cleric. It was about “The Protestant Principle,” something that the great Lutheran existentialist Paul Tillich once wrote about. After thinking about that for a while (it moved me as a self-identifying Protestant), I began to ask myself, “Is there such a thing as a pagan principle?”

(I have four beliefs on the level of worldview that I believe play strongly into my opinions. 1) I believe that Jesus’ crucified body was physically, bodily resuscitated and resurrected from the dead. I say resuscitated because without resuscitation, it was not resurrection but with only resuscitation, it would not be resurrection. 2) I am a Trinitarian. That is, I believe that of the models for describing God’s oneness, Trinitarianism seems to me the best approach. In practice, this basically means that I believe that the numerical identity of the one Divine essence is three, to paraphrase Miroslav Volf. 3) I am a universalist. This means that I believe that God has planned to save all individual humans, angels, demons, and animals and restore them in permanent reconciliation to himself. 4) I am a Protestant. As highly as I regard sacramental theology, I do not believe that institutionalism is the answer to the church’s authority crisis. [Neither is Biblicism, if you asked me, but that is a tale for another day.])

Yes. I do believe that there are at least three fundamental marks of paganism. I list them below.

  1. The principle of Divine aloofness. It is the attitude of a pagan that God, whoever, whatever she or he is is removed from us to the point of apathy and disinterest. If anything, God is angry at us and it the responsibility is ours (or someone else’s) to pacify him before he destroys our crops or causes women to miscarry or something.
  2. The principle of Divine wrath. This is related to Divine aloofness, but it is distinct. Not only is God distant, but God is angry. We must find a way to stop God’s drunkenness from getting out of control before he hurts somebody. In this paradigm, God ought to be pacified from his anger, rather than loved and pursued for his beauty.
  3. The principle of self-preservation. This is the attitude that says, “Who cares about saving this world, let’s just make sure that when we die we’re going to heaven.” This is the attitude that thinks, “Who cares about actually becoming like God, let’s just make him happy and get back to our normal, everyday lives.” Does this attitude sound familiar to you?

What Christian principles might I propose as alternatives?

  1. The principle of Divine intimacy. God, utterly transcendent yet remarkably gentle, loving, and personable, is interested in maintaining a central role in the lives of humans, angels, and animals. By living in harmony with God, we fulfill our human vocation and enter into covenant with God and creation, to reconcile them both.
  2. The principle of Divine love. In this paradigm, love is the only possible basis for Divine anger. (See Jürgen Moltmann, The Crucified God, pg. 272.) God’s anger itself, then, is a loving response to angelic and human error.
  3. The principle of self-abandonment. Now, to be clear, to abandon oneself is to preserve oneself, according to the Christian paradigm. “For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile.”(1 Peter 3:10). “but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.” (Luke 9:24). Self-abandonment is self-preservation. So how then is this principle different at all? It is different in its aims. Why does the Christian abandon herself? “Whosoever will lose his life for my sake” (emphasis mine). For whose sake does the Christian “lose his life?” “And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.” (2 Cor. 5:15). The Christian abandons himself not to preserve himself, but in order to gain Christ. Paul says it like this. “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.” (Phil. 3:7). “For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.” (Gal. 2:19). Christians are captivated by the beauty of Christ to the point that living is no longer breathing in oxygen. Living is knowing Jesus Christ and “becoming like him in his death.” (Phil. 3:10).

(I am not a King James Version supremacist. I just like the fact that copyright laws do not apply to quoting it 🙂 . )

Christians are supposed to be fundamentally different from others. It is impossible to value this world’s system of control-based power and wanton self-fulfillment while also giving concern to Christ’s goal of love-based strength. As the King himself said,”My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.” (John 18:36).

 

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