Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Growing Up...

Simon Le Bon reflects as he writes about losing his faith in The Atheist's Guide to Christmas:
Religion helps people cope with many things. It helps them deal with death. And I believe in marriage - I doubt the institution of marriage would have existed without religion. To some extent, religion has upheld essential morals and modes of behaviour. There are some really important values in all religions.

However, I think human beings go through different stages. As a child you have someone looking after you. And then you start to break away from that, and eventually you achieve a degree of independence from your parents. Maybe humanity neeeded a parent and that was the part that religion played. Maybe we're at a stage now where we are growing up and ready to achieve a greater degree of independence.
I can't speak for other religions, but when it comes to Christianity, Le Bon speaks better, perhaps, than he gives himself credit.

The Bible speaks of exactly that - humanity growing up and coming of age, but the plot is a little more developed. History is a story of two humanities not one, the first represented by Adam, the second by Jesus Christ.

Adam, made in the image of God, was placed in the Garden of Eden (a kind of Kindergarten) from which, he would move out when he and Eve were ready and spread their God-given dominion across the face of the earth. But he failed the training as he rebelled against God and was disqualified from that privileged position - exiled to roam the earth. His first born son, Cain is a parable of that judgement. Adam and his offspring are maturing in all kinds of rebellion against God which rises and falls over history and will come to its apex at the end of the age just before Jesus returns - assuming my eschatology is correct.

But there is a second humanity, those who come under the covering of Messiah (promised to Eve not Adam). The Bible says that this humanity was looked after like a child for thousands of years (for the duration of the Old Testament) by guardians such as the law and angels, until the time that the new human - Jesus Christ appeared (1 Cor 15:47).

Then at the giving of the Spirit, those who had been waiting for Messiah "came of age" as they were grafted into this new humanity under Jesus Christ. They did not cut themselves loose from God, but in view of God's mercy (Rom.12:1-2) now took their place as adult children ready to be sent into the world on mission. Just as God kept Adam in the "playpen" of the Garden until he was ready to move out into the world (he never was), so God's chosen people - Abraham and his descendants - were kept in the "playpen" of Israel being trained by the Law and the prophets until the coming of Christ and the giving of the Spirit (Gal.4:1ff).

Just as when you come of age, you get keys to a house or a car or a place of work, so God's people at Pentecost were given the keys of the kingdom (Matt.16:19).

I may have left home, but my father is still my father. My mother is still my mother. I haven't suddenly started denying all knowlege of their existence. True, their training has indellibly marked me (for the better) and means I can make most decisions myself. True too that I don't have to ask them permission for things as they are more friends and confidants now than all-consuming authority figures. But I would be a fool to ignore what they say and I love them very much. Moreover, watching them is the best indicator of how I will be x years from now - a sobering thought no less.

The point of humanity coming of age is not so that we can ignore / cut ourselves loose from God, it is so that we can enter through Christ into a deeper, closer, more interesting fellowship with God. (John 15:15). Something our forebears in the Old Testament could only dream of 1 Peter 1:10-11 (like a young boy dreams of one day being able to drive a car).

Then, entrusted as mature and obedient grown-up children we take our place in the "family business." No longer just children playing with plastic pretend screwdrivers or even apprentices with no real responsibility, we have been given the keys of the kingdom and entrusted with the real blood and sweat task (not the pretend tomato ketchup one) of spreading the gospel of Jesus to the ends of the earth (Matt 28:19-20).

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