A Perfect World
Written By: Robert D Brinsmead
Christian theology is founded on perfectionism. God created a perfect universe. So the old story goes. (What utter, ridiculous poppycock, so contrary to science, to history, to reality!) It has been said for ages that mankind’s original ‘Fall’ is responsible for all imperfection, even of nature – despite the evidence of massive explosions, disruptions, destruction of entire celestial systems, supernovae which we can now see and measure happening billions of light years away, meaning that all this was happening billions of years before humans suffered any Fall. Even on this earth, 99% of all species that had lived on the earth had died and disappeared because they were unable to adapt. There have been a lot of discarded life-forms like so many Edsil autos coming off the Ford assembly line. It was a good thing that a great meteor hit the earth to wipe out the dinosaurs before humans arrived on this earth. Even after the earth was purged of threatening dinosaurs, humans still arrived into an environment “red in tooth and claw,” seemingly poorly equipped to engage in the dangerous struggle of survival. Well, hundreds of burial sites dug up around Europe in recent years have proved conclusively that the Neanderthal humans were not able to adapt and survive like Homo sapiens – or Homo, the wise ones.
But then along comes this religious account of how everything began as perfect and a God bent on punishing everything that marred his perfect universe, bent on relentlessly punishing every imperfection of human behaviour. Yes, this God was supposed to establish the honour of his Law, his government, his character by demanding perfection “to the utmost degree to his every decree” (I cite the words of my old colleague, Geoffrey Paxton) and never able to overlook any fault in the human character. So it was that in this schema of theology, God sent his Son to obey every decree to the utmost degree and give to God the perfection that the rule of God relentlessly requires – and having done this kind of doing (the righteousness of his life) had to add to that his dying – but not any ordinary dying, but an actual bearing of God’s wrath against every infraction of God’s perfectionism, fully paying the debt incurred by any imperfection, making atonement by enduring the infinite punishment, meaning that in the most important sense, this perfectionistic God is a Celestial Shylock who never really forgives anything unless the debt is first payed in full – payed out by actually suffering the pains of Hell and divine rejection for any falling short of this perfectionistic glory. So this is the so-called Plan of Salvation – a plan that makes us perfect in God’s sight after all even though we are never perfect. But surely here is a marvellous (magical) plan to meet all these perfectionistic demands while we struggle on in a world where it is plain that all nature is flawed with imperfection and we are flawed with it too. This Plan of Salvation not only saves us so that we can be magically perfect in God’s eyes (when we are clearly not), but it saves God because he does not have to compromise his perfectionistic government. All his perfectionistic demands have been met (and fully paid for) by a human Representative who did it on our behalf- vicariously! That’s the Christian gospel.
This whole religious structure has a long tradition, much longer than Christianity, going back through Zoroaster to the very earliest Sumerian and Akkadian traditions that try to religiously explain the human condition and the challenging human environment where we confront disasters, disease and the fact that everyone who is born on this earth is going to leave his bones on this earth – and like it or not, that includes the bones of Jesus of Nazareth whose ossuary and the ossuaries of his family was recently discovered at Tapiot, near Jerusalem. The whole theological edifice of Christianity is built on these mythical perfectionistic assumptions that have plagued the human race for thousands of years.
In the teaching of the historical Jesus we have the good news (gospel) of a new kind of God who invites us to love our enemies without any thought of retaliation, punishment, atonement, pay-back, getting even, but surprising them with our generosity, forgiveness and kindness – and all this on the basis that this is the way this new kind of God treats his enemies and relates to human imperfection with unconditional forgiveness and acceptance, keeping no score of wrongs and seeing only the best in every person as per that inspired account of love in 1 Corinthians 13.
Instead of this old religious treadmill of endless guilt, shame, self-flagellation about our imperfection, we need to embrace our imperfection in a way that leads us to be more tolerant and forgiving in respect to the imperfection of others. We need to embrace the real human condition as something that is both beautiful and beautifully flawed, like a pioneer who embraces a piece of real estate, or an enterprise as something to be improved, developed and enjoyed. God is not upset and angry about the imperfection of the human condition. It is something we should gladly embrace to develop courage, patience, tolerance, forgiveness, compassion and last but not least, a sense of humour. Rather than become a source of constant irritation, it is far better to embrace this flawed humanity as a constant source of fun and laughter.
Comment by: Wendell Krossa
The ancients blew it early on. They tried to explain the meaning of so much imperfection in life- natural disaster, disease, cruelty of others, death- and concluded that the gods were angry with them and their imperfection and were punishing them. They sensed that they had ruined an original perfection – Eden, the original paradise, and were being punished for that. Someone had committed an original error. Now all were being punished.
And we still cannot embrace imperfection. Gaia is still angry, the planet is angry. Karma is gonna get us.
It takes an atheist like Simon to argue that problems bring out the best in humans, creative problem solving that benefits all. Campbell tells us the hero’s story involving the struggle with monsters and problems. In such struggle we learn lessons that we can bring to others; that we are only fully humanized by imperfection. There is no other possible way to learn empathy than to suffer trauma, struggle and imperfection. Then we can identify with and help others through our experience of struggle. So embrace your monster; your unique problem; your unique story.
And with Alexander I affirm- the infinite Love is right inside each of us, fully involved more than we can know, in our struggle. And hence, like Freeman Dyson’s mother, we then take our experience to add to the great Consciousness at the core of all. We enrich the total with our unique battles and struggles and suffering.
So don’t go looking for solutions outside, in some guru or sky god. You have it in you. Your faith has healed you. So go and continue your story.