Thursday, November 29, 2012

Two False Extremes

A couple of weeks ago, this article of "50 things to love about religion" was posted:

To which a guy I met during my year at community college responded with this list of "50 things to hate about religion":

I do not really agree with either list. Not only that, I do not find such lists to be in any way helpful to such a discussion. First off, note that neither list is really about religion. They are both about how Christianity comes across to certain people. Second, neither starts with God. This is to be expected from Justin Grey's list, but it is contradictory to a Christian perception of Christianity. Third, partly because they are both man-centered lists, they are each lopsided. 50 things to love is all about God's grace to us, his love to us, etc., while 50 things to hate is about the wrath of God on the one hand, and the implications of believing something that is false. This is the fourth: each assumes, in Justin Grey's case that Christianity is false (in which case we are of all people most to be pitied), in the Huffington Post's case that it is true, that it's truth is irrelevant, or that its truth is subjective, I'm not quite sure. Fifth, lists are inherently vague and unsupported. I'm not entirely sure what is meant by "3. No one preaches at me", "8. Jesus", "16. Silence", "17. Mystery", "22. No dogma","25. Oneness of God", "27. Hatred for none", "29. Inclusive", "39. Creativity of the Spirit", "42. Simplicity", or "45. Consciousness", to note the ones that jumped out most to me in the 50 things to love list. Not to say I don't agree in some way, just that merely stating such labels is misleading: there are many things that might be meant by, for example, "Inclusive," some of which I agree with, some of which I do not. Sixth, both lists mix doctrines (God's grace/wrath, etc.) and human things (beautiful liturgy, ugly sermons, etc.). The doctrines are fair game, so long as we are allowed to say, "but I don't believe those doctrines" or "what is wrong with that doctrine?" The ways in which people have misapplied them, not so much, unless we are allowed, similarly, to say "but we should not have behaved that way, and here is how acting like that contradicts our doctrines."

Both lists apply to false, human centered religions. Neither God's grace, in the way represented, nor his wrath, in the way that was represented, constitute the whole beauty of religion. Only the glory of God can satisfy, and the glory of God shows itself quite well in the cross: God's wrath poured out against sin, and God himself taking that wrath in order that he might save a people for his own possession, that we might have the immense privilege of glorifying him for his ultimate value--for he created us--for his grace to us--for we deserved that wrath--and for his justice against sin--that our guilt has been removed, and the world made right again--and these, his glory, we shall praise him for, forever and ever, thanks be to God.

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