Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Is Christianity A Crutch? Part Four - Not Exactly Rocket Science

Well, here we are, still looking at crutches. We have been looking at crutches for a while now. This is Crutch Post Number Four, and I'm happy to say that this will be our last look at crutches. Next post we will look at something else. Something that isn't crutches. Maybe something that is non-weight-bearing entirely. I'm not sure what yet. It might be the Top Ten List Of Movies Where Someone Has To Talk Someone Else Into Returning To Somewhere That They Alone Have Escaped From Because They Alone Escaped From It And Can Therefore Act As A Guide For The People Who Now Need To Go There. Though that depends a bit on whether I can a) Find a more concise title and b) Find another seven films where someone has to talk someone else into returning to somewhere that they alone have escaped from because they alone escaped from it and can therefore act as a guide for the people who now need to go there.

But for now, let us push on through to the end of our crutchy series. In case you have not been following along, here is the question that prompted the crutch quadrilogy:

Is Christianity Just A Crutch For The Weak?

Is Tiny Tim's crutch just a crutch? Maybe. But does he need it?
Well, no, apparently, but that's because he's got a Kermit too.

In Part One we said that the answer is basically "Yes, but you are asking the wrong question". The right questions are: Do we need it? Does it work?
In Part Two we said "Yes, you need it". Because everyone needs it. Because we all face death, and we all face judgement.
In Part Three we said "Yes, it works". Because those who are "in Christ" will be rescued from death and rescued from judgement.

So here we are in Part Four. And if you agreed with parts one to three, then the question on your lips should now be: How do we get it? If we need this crutch, and it actually works, where do we have to sign to get ours delivered?

Having this crutch, as we saw in part three, means being "in Christ". Or "belonging to Christ". So how do we get to be "in Christ"? What does that even mean? How do we get to be in the club? Do we have to be especially nice? Do we have to renounce the evils of alcohol, dress in white robes, grow a beard, buy rainbow straps for our guitars, start helping old ladies across the road? Do we have to earn our way into Christ's good books by giving money to charity, singing Gregorian chants before breakfast every day, rescuing orphaned hedgehogs and building trampolines for underprivileged squirrels?

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh!

This, I think, is the commonly held view of Christianity - both outside and, sadly, inside the church. Okay, maybe not the squirrel trampoline bit, but something like this: Do Nice Things To Get On God's Good Side. Or worse, Stop Doing Fun Things So As To Avoid Getting Smit*.

Just like the whole "works for some people and not for others" view of Christianity we debunked in the last post, it's hokum, bunkum, balderdash and tosh.

Let me try to explain what being "in Christ" really means, via my slightly tortured Royal College of Music analogy.**

At the Royal College of Music, I studied the violin with Professor Dona Lee Croft. Dona Lee is lovely. She rescues stray foxes. (I know this for a fact, because I met them.) She's the kind of person who probably would build trampolines for underprivileged squirrels, if she thought it would help. And she's a great teacher. Her pupils love her. Being her pupil is a Smashing Thing.

How did I become Dona Lee's pupil?

Well, it's an incredible story... but it went something like this. Ready for this?

Me: Hi Dona Lee, please would you be my teacher?
Dona Lee: Hmmmmm... why, yes dear, okay.

Not exactly rocket science.

You see, I didn't become her pupil by dazzling her with my amazing violinistic ability - in fact, I started going to her for lessons shortly after failing my end of year recital exam. There was no way I could have impressed her with my playing.
No, I became her pupil by asking, and being her pupil meant listening to her, trusting her, and trying to obey her - which made me more like her (a good violinist). The crucial point here is to distinguish correctly between cause and effect: being her pupil made me good. Being good didn't make me her pupil.

Now, Dona Lee is not the Messiah, lovely as she is***. But that white-knuckle thrill-ride adventure story of how I became her pupil is a reasonably good analogy for how we get to be in Christ.

So we don't become Christ's by dazzling him with our amazing goodness - in fact, as we know from part two, if there was an end of year exam in being "good", we'd all fail it. There is no way we can impress God with our "goodness".
No, we become Christ's by asking, and belonging to Christ means listening to him, trusting him, and trying to obey him - which should make us more like him. The crucial point here is to distinguish correctly between cause and effect: being Christian should make us good. Being good doesn't make us Christian.****

So. Let's stick the whole shebang in a nutshell:
Christianity.
Is it a crutch? Yes.
Do we need it? Yes. Everyone does. Even nice people.
Does it work? Yes.
How do we get it? By asking for it.

"Do I still get my trampoline? Do I? Do I?"

So there you go. That's the end of this series. If, by any chance, you made it through all four of these posts, please think carefully about what to do next. You could do a lot worse than hunting out a Christianity Explored course, where you'll be able to consider all this in more detail. Albeit with fewer random pictures. Or get in touch here with any questions.

At any rate, do come back again for my top ten list of films where someone has to talk someone else into returning to somewhere that they alone have escaped from because they alone escaped from it and can therefore act as a guide for the people who now need to go there. It will be the best top ten list of films where someone has to talk someone else into returning to somewhere that they alone have escaped from because they alone escaped from it and can therefore act as a guide for the people who now need to go there that you will read this year.

* Past participle of "smite", and my new favourite word.
** Well, I did write this as a talk for the Royal College of Music Christian Union, so what do you expect?
*** Though there are shrines to her in some of the fox burrows of West London.
**** Some of the nicest people I know aren't Christian. They are, very nicely, hobbling crutchless towards disaster. 

2 comments:

  1. I prefer this http://adam4d.com/crutch/ to the crutch analogy.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Joel, thanks for reading! Yes, Adam4d nails it, and usually in about 1/1000th of the number of words I use...

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