… when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” – Yeshua in the Good News of Luke, The New Testament.
…the battlefronts … are myriad, and … terribly complicated … all tangled up in the historical allegiances and cultural traditions and political interests … the plight of the unborn. Problems of poverty and housing. Issues of nationalism and militarism. Of war and peace. Of racism. Of sexism. Of ageism. Of consumerism. Of environmentalism … But I would encourage us all to struggle with these issues in the light of the principle of a consistent life ethic …. We seek out ways the most expressive of the love of God and love of neighbor.
Richard J. Foster, Streams of Living Water. (Harper SanFrancisco, 1998), p. 175
In 2021, we still face the issues Richard Foster listed in Streams of Living Water in 1998, plus a few more. The pandemic has graphically illustrated that human civilizations have largely melded and we face a massive global crisis that encompasses all societies and all economies. Life on Planet earth itself is facing a turning point.
Never have we needed faith, hope, and love (charity as it used to be called) more, and it seems too often that it has rarely been in shorter supply. Unless we relearn to look in different places and with different eyes than “the usual suspects”.
Masses wonder what there is to really to trust in now. Will science fulfill the oft-recited litany of broken and ever-amended promises we have been told keep trusting in? Will reason and good-will prevail over renewed nationalism and militarism, solve the widening chasm of wealth-distribution and the spiralling crisis of affordable housing? Will rebooting our economies by a new wave of consumerism be somehow married to the almost point-of-no-return environmental crisis to magically solve both at the same time?
Everyone with a modicum of observational acumen and common-sense knows the whole system is broken and in need of a radical (as in down to the root) reset. But fear is threatening to drive out hope and faith – as it so often has.
This brings us to Yeshua/Jesus’ enigmatic question, “When the Son of Man returns, will he find faith on the earth?” Despite everything laid at the charge of his followers and the churches, Jesus is still a much admired figure. Some see him as the ultimate “good person”, a well-meaning idealist who talked about seeing the world and one another with a different heart and set of eyes rooted in the way the Creator intended us to be. If you take away the Creator, was he just platitudinously saying that we can just boil it all down, Beatles-and-Hippy-style, to “All you need is love?” If so, poor well-meaning but naive Jesus went the way of all deluded idealists. He ran into the stone-wall of the “Establishment”, who decided such fanatics must be removed before they stir up too much trouble.
That is how the Jesus story is often told these days, at least in the public realm when his name crops up despite all attempts to keep it out.
If that is who he was and what he was all about, it’s incredible that such a simple, harmless, loving fellow just preaching love and acceptance could be so misunderstood. How could such a meek and gentle soul end up being crucified? After all, he was just naive in believing that he could recruit a band of counter-cultural rebels and begin to infiltrate the culture of force and oppression and exploitation to change it gradually from the roots up. Couldn’t the authorities have just let his whole ridiculous “Kingdom of God” movement peter out on its own, as such things always do over time? Why so drastic a solution as killing him, and then, a few years later, going after those hapless and harmless disciples of his?
As Shakespeare said, “Aye, there’s the rub.” The problem with this prevalent, popular, secularized version of the Jesus story is that bears little to no resemblance to any of the actual and plentiful historical evidence. It is a complete, whole-wool fabrication created to bamboozle the historically uneducated into dismissing Yeshua/Jesus, and his movement (of which the Christian churches are the outcome, warts and all) as at best now irrelevant, and, at worst, a conspiracy to manipulate, coerce, and control the gullible.
Trust-faith is always a personal affair, a decision made by individuals based on particular reasons that make a convincing case to the decider. Such is conviction. Assurance is a strong confidence that our conviction and trust is well-founded, having weighed the evidence from different perspectives, including the possibility that we may just be wrong in our conclusion, but that that is quite unlikely. Hope is what flows from this combination for hope looks to the future with new eyes, new understanding, new possibilities and vistas founded on trust-faith, and the conviction and assurance that ground it and give it depth.
Although humans still live in distinct cultures with strong elements of what used to be much more differentiated civilizations, we are moving into an amalgamation and blending such that we can begin to speak of a global culture and civilization.
Not everyone is pleased with this. How do we bring so many belief systems together? How do we overcome suspicion and fear of what “they” are inserting into “our” culture and way of life? How do we learn to deal with so many disparate concepts of what we are here for? How do learn to live together in an increasingly interwoven world and society? How do we overcome the prejudice of racism and all other sorts of animosity flowing from so many sources? How do we learn not to think, speak, and act from an “us vs. them” mindset?
We return to the central questions of “Who am I? Where am I? What’s wrong with the world and with us? How do we set the wrong right?” (See also Middleton and Walsh, The Transforming Vision, from which these four essential questions are lifted and slightly modified.)
Can all the proposed answers to these questions be equal? Is everyone’s preferred way of expressing their own identity based on their answers equally valid? Is there any best faith-trust answer to the questions. As to “what’s wrong” we have a pretty good idea about a lot of that. Foster’s list with a few additions is about as good a list as any.
Does trust in a Creator have any place in finding our way through and out of our crisis?
It is useless to propose another long-drawn-out debate or some sort of symposium on whether God/the Creator and or some sort of supernatural realm exists. Intellectual argument has not satisfactorily settles this issue in that last “X” number of millennia, and it will not now either. Many of the best intellects in history have tried their hand at devising an airtight proof for or against the existence of God.
And the secondary discussion that has occupied so much academic (and even personal) energy is: “If a Creator were to exist, would that be a Person or a sort of anonymous Supreme Being/Power/Energy that originated it all but does not manifest any active presence since then?”
To any reader who has followed this blog at all, you know by now that my position is that there is a Creator and that the Creator is a real Person.
Doesn’t millennia of human experience and testimony, apart from speculative intellectual activity, have anything of value to tell us? Doesn’t personal testimony weigh at all in what is perhaps the most critical issue of our, and every age of human history?
It is not critical only for humans either. For we now know beyond a doubt that human powers of creation and destruction are decisively changing the face and climate and the very life-sustaining fabric of Planet Earth, the only planet we absolutely know engenders and sustains life of even the most delicate kind. If we and so much of our planet’s life are to continue to survive, let along thrive, it is critical that we, the human agents, unify to stop and reverse our terrible rape of the great gift we have been given by the Creator.
And to do that, we need to come together in trust-faith, conviction, assurance, and hope.
TO BE CONTINUED