It sounds like a theoretical, obtuse question. But I don’t think it is. How we answer that question impacts how we view the world and our place in it. Different answers to that question getting played out in concrete situations with real people.
- Wheaton College has moved to terminate a tenured professor of political science because she publicly expressed agreement with Pope Francis’s statement that Christians and Muslims worship the same God.
- The Anglican Communion has suspended the Episcopal Church in America for resolution to change language that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.
- The international refugee crisis is fostering vigorous disagreement about whether we should welcome Syrian Muslims as refugees
- Disagreement within the Christian community over the use of handguns.
I continue to marvel over how sharply divided people of the same faith can be. I wrote about this a few months ago with reference to the Kentucky county clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. Now, it’s the issue of gun safety that has me thinking about it again.
A friend posted a few sentences critical of President Obama’s recent executive orders about gun safety; when I read some of the discussion that followed, I ran across this: . . .the entire point of Christianity is that the human race is overwhelmingly corrupt and evil. . .
This gets at the crux of the divide. How do you view the heart of God? And consequently, how do you view the world and your own place in the world?
I view the world as full of good. It’s not a place to be feared, but to be embraced. God’s creative dynamism fashioned a world full of beauty, full of goodness, and full of people whom God has created in God’s image. Sure, there is plenty that is wrong, and my heart often aches over it. War, violence, brutality, starvation, suffering — all of that is real. And none of that is God’s intention. God is at work bringing healing and restoration; God is working through God’s people to bring things to that fulfillment. And I want to do everything I can to push violence and suffering and death to the edges of our life together with the hope and expectation that they will eventually fall off the cliff. It’s our job as the Body of Christ to get out of the churches and into the world to be a part of God’s big work of reconciliation, redemption, and peace.
And there are brothers and sisters who see the world as a “corrupt and evil” place. There is much to fear. God’s big work in the world is to judge the people and the forces that are evil. All this evil will continue to accumulate until God finally gets fed up with it and destroys the whole thing. Then all the good people will be taken to that paradise in the sky. It’s the work of the church to deliver the profligates from their hellbent eternal destiny and the church has to take a defensive and righteous posture over against the world in order to remain free of it’s corrupting influence.
Admittedly, I’ve polarized here to illustrate a point. Have I oversimplified it too much? What do you think?