C.S. Lewis once said, “I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity”. That’s a tough line for a wide section of Christians to swallow. Part of the reason for that is these days churches try anything to get you to come, including promising happiness, health and wealth. I reckon in times past things weren’t that different. Hundreds of years ago, Christians were the majority religion in the West and people were just expected to go to church. Church-going was a criteria in people’s assessment of character, and so (and I speculate here) to gain favour in certain areas of life, or to have the general respect of the public, a person would probably wind up going to church regardless of what they actually believed. I would hazard a guess that if you looked in on any period of the church’s history, you would find that in any church you entered there would be a broad spectrum of people, who all called themselves believers. If you were to ask these people what Faith was all about, you would get a variety of answers as well. Some people would have no answer to be sure, for some it would just be the thing they’ve always done, and for others it would seem to be a very real thing.
The gospel, if boiled down to its essentials is that if we have faith in the sacrifice Christ makes on the cross, our sins are forgiven and we have access to eternity. I think this is the idea that most Christians will agree on.
Death is something that most people do not look forward to. Death is the ultimate defeat of humanity. If evolutionary theory is to be believed, then in a sense, everything about us humans comes as a result of an effort to cheat death. All of nature’s weight, and creative energy and substance is bent in an endless effort to finally win this battle, and nature has had millions of years to figure it out. When the perfect organism comes about, one completely above the possibility of death, naturally selected perfection, Mother Nature will have fulfilled her destiny. If we ourselves can bring this about via technology, then maybe we will have fulfilled ours. We will finally have won. I digress.
Call me negative, but I have come to believe that the only thing worse than death would be eternity. That is to say, if you could stretch out our current experience of life infinitely, that would be the closest thing to hell. I think if anyone’s really honest with themselves, they have to reach the same conclusion. There is too much pain, too much anger, too much hurt, heck too much boredom, and most of it is caused by us. The truth is that humans as we are right now, are not built for eternity. We are certainly not built for it physically, but I almost wish that we were so that we could see how horribly unfit we are for it spiritually and emotionally. Ironically, that is our bigger problem, not the one we keep trying to solve.
I have to conclude then that it would be grossly irresponsible for Christ to offer eternity, without offering something else. He called it a second birth, which is where the expression “Born Again Christian” comes from. Think of it as the final evolution. Just like natural evolution, it involves competition, this time internal competition, between the old man, and what would be the new man. Old desires and new. Old motivations and new motivations. Christ called it “dying to self” and it’s just as well, because evolution always requires a death. The only difference is that this time there is a choice, evolution won’t be blind, the decision is left with us, and it is an almighty decision.
There is a broad spectrum of Christians to be sure, but I think when it comes down it, there are really only two. There are the sorts of Christians that are seeking one part or another of the deal. They are seeking an upgrade in effect, a patch, to fix a few bugs. They are seeking to feel better about themselves, or to have meaning, or to find happiness, health and wealth, looking for a tune-up, to become better versions of themselves, HUMAN-Model 1.1. I think it’s wrong to look down on anyone regardless of where they are on their path by the way, so that is not my aim in saying this. The other kind of believers, are those looking for a trade-in all together. A new life for the old. They are looking to make an evolutionary leap, and they are not waiting for eternity to do it. They understand that the implications of Christ’s teachings are earth-shattering, that to be called Sons and Daughters of God should mean more than becoming a nicer guy, or smiling more, or partying less. That it should change everything about how we see ourselves, life and others. That as we change we should spill out dignity, integrity, virtue, compassion, courage, patience, wisdom. We should see differently, hear differently, and love differently. We literally – more literally and more meaningfully than if we underwent genetic change – should become new men and women.
“Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. ”He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” – Revelation 21: 1-4
I believe everything and everyone can be redeemed, and that lots of things are being redeemed even though we don’t see it. I believe in God and in Jesus Christ, and believe that if we come to Him and are willing He will MAKE US NEW, and that at the end of days He will make ALL THINGS NEW.
This article was originally written as a Facebook note — it is one in a series of notes that have been compiled into a book called Fields of Grace. It is available as an eBook at Amazon.