Sunday, February 10, 2013

Jesus is Not the Answer

So how does the modern penchant for approaching everything as a puzzle to be solved affect religion? It's almost swallowed it up. That's what BIBLE stands for, right? "Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth." How to have a better life, God's way. God's answers to man's problems.The instruction manual from the Maker.

Which is pretty sad. Think of the scintillating metaphors the Bible uses for itself . . . honey, a sword, fire, bedrock, precious jewels . . . and our favorite metaphor is the most tedious and forgettable lump of words literacy has produced?

There are so many practical examples of this that I won't even bother to list any. You've seen the books, heard the sermons, read the blog posts. Full of how to improve your marriage/financial life/parenting/relationships/happiness by doing things God's way.

Yet anyone who reads the Bible with half an eye for the actual story will find out that a lot of people followed God and had pretty terrible lives; and some other people did a whole lot of awful things and still got rewarded. If you teach the Better Life Jesus long enough and hard enough, people start to notice that life doesn't really work that way and start walking away from the whole facade.

The Bible wasn't written to be a self-help manual and if (God have mercy) that's really what you want out of life, you can get a thousand other more specific self-help manuals for much less trouble. People don't need yet another self-help manual that is a couple of thousand years out of date.

This is practical atheism. The eternal, the transcendent, the permanent--that's an afterthought. What matters is living right and getting rewarded for it right here, right now. It doesn't matter how correct your doctrinal statement is if that message is the one that gets repeated and lived.

Sometimes people don't miss the whole point; sometimes it's framed in terms of man's problem being sin and God's solution being Christ--but this, well, it's still missing the point. It makes the whole thing about us and slants it as if it were all over but the shouting.

The history of the universe, the meaning of life, is not a "problem" with a "solution." It's a story--a tale of love, betrayal, exile, restoration. It's a story we get to participate in, but it is not primarily about us. It is a true story. A real one. It is not tidy or predictable. And it is not over yet.


Diary of an Autodidact said...

Yet again, a thoughtful post.

Wendy said...

This reminds me of some one telling me (intending to be complimentary!) that my religion was a system of wise and good rules to live by.

I was pretty stunned. You think my faith is just about being bound by rules? I can see how it could look that way from the outside, but inside it's about the relationship of love, which results in freedom.

It's back to the problem of getting the right answer (Jesus is the answer - to the deepest longing of our hearts)but with the wrong reasoning. Whenever that happens, you've inoculated people against the truth.

Rachelle said...

Thank you! Don't stop blogging; even if I get really behind on life and don't read for a month or two, I always come back to catch up on sound reason and good writing.