1. Why we need redemption *
2. Jesus, the key redemptive figure *
3. The past is redeemed *
4. Creative redemption *
5. Redemption, the final phase *
1. Why we need redemption
It is in our nature to be both spiritual and grounded, and we operate on both an intuitive and an analytic level. Uniting these modes of awareness is very difficult for us because at any moment we are working either in one mode or the other. We try to rationalise and systematise our religious impulses and without help are in danger of losing sight of the spirit and succumbing to the law.
2. Jesus, the key redemptive figure
We cannot pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps, so God entered His creation in the human/divine form of Jesus Christ to draw us to Him.
3. The past is redeemed
The intuition of the child is gradually overcome by the demands of living which encourage analytical thinking and the development of the self. God’s intervention brings us to a new and enriched state of innocence.
4. Creative redemption
Through the redemptive act of Jesus Christ our divinity is awakened.
5. Redemption, the final phase
In the final stage of evolution we are given the opportunity to move from ego-centredness to God-centredness, and are helped to bring about the Kingdom of God on earth.
Late October, leaf-fall is with us.
And still we gather apples;
Fat and fair ones at tree-tip, torn by wild winds.
From long, wet grass I grasp them,
Some already nibbled by black slugs.
Out-of-humour and with spleen, I brush them to the ground.
Bent over brim-full trays I philosophize.
Life’s a fight and always has been:
Wild winds, and pests that invade and grow,
Fruit-fly, wasp, and black-speck slugs,
The flea that rides the rat that brings the plague,
Ague from the buzzing flight that bites,
Sly, malevolent cells that make life hell.
Jesus faced wild winds.
Roused from sleep by frightened men, he calmed the storm.
In the wild man of the tombs, the tormented boy,
He calmed inner storms.
Yet in the temple he could raise a storm.
He worried out the weevil in men’s hearts,
Exposed the creeping canker in their minds.
We sorely need someone to calm our storms,
Need a power to right the wrongs,
A restorer of the good that God once wrought
Before Eve sought the middle tree in Eden,
Before she took the fatal apple-bite.
Journal entry 19th April 1997
Einstein once said
"Science without religion is lame, Religion without science is blind".
Science is mainly a "left brain" activity, fed in brief moments with insights from the "right brain". Religion is primarily a right brain preoccupation, safeguarded from subjective excess by left brain discipline.
Martin Luther King’s words reiterate this truth
"Science investigates, religion interprets. Science gives men knowledge which is power; religion gives men wisdom, which is control. Science deals mainly with facts; religion deals mainly with values. The two are not rivals. They are complementary. Science keeps religion from sinking into the valley of crippling irrationalism and paralysing obscurantism. Religion prevents science from falling into the marsh of obsolete materialism and moral nihilism."
We are ever in danger of losing our balance. Our position in the creation as part physical/part spiritual, part rational/part intuitive, part saintly/part satanic, is a precarious one. We need a constant stabilising influence in our lives, but how are we to find it? Not by mustering our own resources. Once in right-brain or left brain activity we, or rather, the self, becomes totally engrossed within that context. We need something, or someone, other than the engrossed self to rescue us. This is why religious thought is focused upon the need for redemption. And this is why Christianity is primarily concerned with seeing Jesus Christ as our Saviour. He becomes the one hope as a stabilising influence in our lives. His spirit is the controlling agent that holds the balance of right/left brain. Like a parent holding the hand of his child as he walks along the top of a wall, His is the protecting hand; His is the caring love.
Journal Entry 8th April 1997
Irene and I listened to a Jeremy Paxton discussion over breakfast, in which a Sikh spoke about his religion. Sikhs do not, (as Christians do), allow the idea of God taking human form. Neither, of course, do Jews. Their monotheism is restricted to the divine.
We talked about this as we washed up. Why do Christians think it important to couple the figure of Jesus intimately with God? Where in the Scriptures are the grounds for this belief? Regarding the second point, St John’s gospel offers us abundant insight into the divinity of Jesus if we are prepared to accept it. The whole of chapter 17 is inexplicable if Jesus is not in fact one with the Father; and chapter 15 verse 26 and chapter 16 verses 7 and 12 must surely be taken either as indicating the mediatorship of Jesus as son, or alternatively as the ravings of a lunatic .
On the first question - why is it important to couple Jesus intimately with God as both divine and human - Dorothy Sayers makes the important point that
"If Christ was only a man, then he is entirely irrelevant to any thought about God; if He is only God, then He is entirely irrelevant to any experience of human life".
The thesis is as follows:-
1) Man is in a condition of helplessness in that he is aware of an abstract state to which he is constantly striving, but which he is unable to attain.
2) Man’s basic modus operandi is lacking in some way. The possibility of self regeneration is out of reach.
3) We do not understand how we are self-reflective creatures with a sense of identity – personhood.
4) The body – in particular the nervous system – is the expressive vehicle of something beyond our understanding and control. We are the inadequate manifestation of personhood. 5) God is person. The only way in which God can express himself in human kind is to become human and accept bodily limitations so that they might be made perfect. This God did in the figure of Jesus.
6) Jesus Christ’s achievement is that of "tuning", "bending", making available to humanity the spirit of divine personality of God. Jesus’ personal experience becomes transferable. There are now new "origins of thought" possible and fresh experiences of "illuminating newness" because God has experienced (created) them in Jesus Christ.
3. The past is redeemed
We come to remember the bad times exempt, to a large degree, of pain. One might even say that there is a peculiar sense of sober well-being to be derived from contemplation of the past, even events which at the time were painful.
Time is a wonderful healer, and the reason is, I suspect, that feelings are transient. We are able to memorize events pictorially and factually. What we cannot do so vividly is retrieve the pain and emotional anguish initially experienced, and in this we are blessed.
Dorothy Sayers writes about man’s present state, evicted from Eden but reinstated – Paradise regained. But, she notes,
"not quite as it would have been if Adam had never wished to know good and evil, for with God nothing is ever lost or wasted. The innocence is now enriched by all the bitter experience; the evil is not simply blotted out, it is redeemed".
"The innocence is enriched". Is this what I tried to express above – a peculiar sense of well-being? In what sense has all the bitter experience been enriched and sanctified? Certainly we are different persons for being subjected to pain, but in what sense different? Is it that we have been humbled by the experience yet somehow raised in triumph? Perhaps every experience of bitterness is like a foretaste of death – a part of us knows loss, but the loss is made good. In fact it is almost as though we are over compensated. When the ego is reduced and we can find it in us to part graciously with that loss, God, it seems, fills that vacuum with something of Himself which we come to recognise
as an acquisition of infinite worth.
This, surely, is the deep meaning of redemption. It is a personal transaction that takes place between the self and God. Loss of part of self is always painful. The sustained loss and pain may be met with bitterness and rage in which case we merely compound the loss and pain. The prerequisite for redemption is the desire for rebirth; a new beginning. The Book of Common Prayer phrase for this predisposition is : "a humble and a contrite heart". To want and to need God urgently to fill our aching spiritual void is all the invitation God requires. The paradise regained is richer and fuller than the original Eden.
UNCROWNED BY JOY
The joy in every gliding, chirruping bird
Is God’s joy, not the bird’s.
The frenzied chase that wins the rat
Is God’s zest, not the cat’s.
In salmon’s leap, and gannet’s dive
Not bird, nor fish, but God’s alive.
A tiny child in nose-high grass,
Watching painted-ladies pass,
Gives God, and not itself, the crown,
Since self’s a stuff it neither knows nor owns.
The man who, in his memory’s eye
Sees the child uncrowned by joy,
Weeps to be that child again
And in his sorrowing self perceives
The garden Adam sought in vain.
The second Adam seeks our sorrowing selves;
Can rescue them from where old Adam delves.
I was brought up in the Anglican tradition of "high church" and was encouraged to go regularly to Confession. I was very much under the shadow of a fall/redemption theology. Christianity was for me moralistic and I was made conscious of a universal tendency for mankind to sink to depravity rather than to rise to divinity. This more than anything else created in me a violent reaction in my late teens to an essentially guilt-ridden religion ruled over by a punitive God. It took me a decade before I was able to re-approach Christianity with a fresh perspective. This came in the form of an identification of "new life" with the redemptive act of Christ.
I cannot over state the importance of this liberation, this metanoia or u-turn. Suddenly the polarity is reversed. The significance of life becomes positively rather than negatively oriented. The motivation becomes creative, rather than tainted with a sense of moral inferiority. As Matthew Fox puts it:
"One meaning of salvation that is uncovered in the Via Creativa (creative way) is the awakening to our divinity."
And our divinity "brings about an expansion of the mind, of the person, and of the societies we choose to create after our own images."
We grow into our divinity by way of divine imagination, and this gives God great delight.
It is not a coincidence that soon after this revelation I started to write poetry. I discovered that above all, Jesus was a poet, and it took the poetic genius of St John to reveal this to me. Not so long ago I wrote a poem entitled "Jesus was a poet". I remember how thrilled I became when I had my eyes opened by Maurice Nicoll to the realization that the parables were all insights into the meaning of the phrase "The Kingdom of God". Jesus was trying to let us see the creation sacramentally: he was not moralizing. In Fox’s words he was
"an awakener to the sacrament of the cosmos, of kingdom/queendom of God".
Being a poet, in the broadest sense of the word, is to see everything as a symbol through which the spirit flows and thereby gives the symbol meaning. This is creative thinking, as opposed to literal or discursive thinking. We have to reach out to the creation and grasp its truth, beauty and wonder through the mediation of its symbols.
GAIN THROUGH PAIN
The rose-bush and the yew tree
Both flourish side by side.
Gain for us the cuckoo,
Is loss for some small bird.
`Gain through pain' for few rings true,
For most remains absurd.
And so God stays in perdu,
Who died for love I've heard.
Irenaeus (120 – 202 AD) is quoted as saying:
"God became human in order that humans might become divine."
In saying this he encapsulated the whole wisdom of God’s creative act. Starting with the initial fact – "The Big Bang" – through the formation of galaxies and suns; the elements and the planets that contain them; the eruption of first life forms and the amazing complexity as these forms develop and culminate in us - Homo Sapiens – all this spectacular procession of events was and is aimed at one goal: that God’s spirit might become self- aware and active within His creation through man. This is a breathtaking thought!
Matthew Fox expresses the idea in this way:
" This – the release of the divine Dabhar (energy) through human creativity – is the primary focus of the Incarnation and not a wiping away of original sin. The Via Creativa is among the best of the Good News there is to announce!"
But sadly, what have we made of this Good News, the great opportunity? By concentrating upon our "Fall" we have grovelled in a pathetic sense of inadequacy and unworthiness. Instead of realising that our "state of sin" is an inevitable and temporary (because redeemable) limitation of spiritual perspective which Jesus Christ, the Logos came to rectify in a glorious and liberating fashion, we become self-reflective and absorbed in a morbid sense of guilt and impotence. Instead of accepting our divine destiny with joy we become limp and morally unhealthy specimens ; mere hangdogs of Christ.
The active intervention of the Logos in the creational work goes in steps. Evolution may be seen as a series of divine interventions, not merely a gradualistic Darwinian mechanism slowly unfolding. Life and spiritual evolution go hand in hand. Life and spirit are critically poised in mankind. We await the final redirection of awareness from ego-centredness to
God-centredness. This, God effects in the greatest of all cosmic interventions – his own birthing: the incarnation of Jesus Christ. Through him the final stage of evolution has taken place. Man can become divine. The creative work towards the Kingdom of God on earth is in progress.
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him."
John 3: 16,17