Thursday, September 12, 2013

Checkmate For Hell - Part 8: The Six Line Narrative

This is part of an ongoing series of blog posts, meant to be read in order.  In the first post, I introduced the concept of Universalism, and introduced the concept that I would be defending my position through a series of "chess moves".  I mentioned that I believe I have checkmate in 2 moves, but because a lot of questions would be left, I would use a series of further moves to keep the king in checkmate while I systematically removed the rest of the pieces from the board.  I would highly suggest you read the previous parts of this series before reading this one:
Part 1: Moves 1-3
Part 2: Moves 4-5
Part 3: Moves 6-7
Part 4: Move 8
Part 5: Moves 9-10
Part 6: Move 11
Part 7: Move 12

Now I would like to talk about the concept of visualizing the overall story of the Bible.  I believe that the way many people visualize the overall story of the Bible is similar to a diagram that Bryan McLaren termed: "The Six Line Narrative".  I would like to describe what that is, and then propose an alternative diagram.  This process will take a few subsections, as we are going to completely dismantle The Six Line Narrative.

The Six Line Narrative
A while back I read a book called “A New Kind of Christianity”, by Brian McLaren, which described a system of belief that the author described as “the Six Line Narrative”.  As he described this system, I realized how much it resembled my own.  This system of belief is illustrated in the following diagram:

Now there’s something strange about this system.  If you take a step back and really examine this system, and compare it to Greek philosophies during the time of Christ (and immediately following), you’ll notice that they are strangely similar. 

Around the time of Jesus, there was a big debate in Greek philosophy – the Platonian/Aristotelian debate.  You see, Plato believed that what was ultimately real was not the material earth.  Material was just a shadow of reality – like an image projected on a screen.  In material life, we live in a cave of delusion, and only see shadows of what is real.  Plato believed that we could know for sure that material things are not ultimately real because they are temporal, changing.  Ultimate reality is nonmaterial, unchanging, and eternal.  We see shadows of reality in our cave of delusion that tell us that “maleness” is determined by the possession of certain material qualities, but behind a skin and bone man is the robust immaterial reality of “maleness” and behind a skin and bone woman is the robust immaterial reality of “femaleness”, and we all have “personhood” and “soul”, and so forth and so on.  Plato scoffed at those who only felt that something could be known by pointing to material things.

Then Aristotle came along and reversed it all.  He said that what is truly, ultimately real and knowable is the material world.  "Personhood", “maleness”, “femaleness” are just words or names or concepts, but what is ultimately real is their material form which houses these abstract concepts.  Aristotle scoffed at those who gave flimsy philosophical evidence for truths without any physical proof to back up these ideas.

Plato’s followers would say “Ultimate reality is nonmaterial Being” and Aristotle’s followers would answer back “No, Ultimate reality is material Becoming” to which Plato’s followers would respond “reality is changeless and change is an illusion!”  To which Aristotle’s followers would replay “no, reality is constantly changing and changelessness is simply a mental construction!”  And back and forth it would go. 

Now what is interesting is that this debate still rages on today.  Think of our ideas of “maleness” and “femaleness” – we’re still arguing over how to define these ideas.  Some take the Aristotelian perspective that if you’re born with…um…junk down there…then you’re male, and if not, you’re female – end of story.  But then others say that there are some who are born with the wrong equipment – a “female” person may be born in a “male” body and their spirit demands from an early age that they must be “female”.  The Aristotelians insist that this is a vile perspective, and then, weirdly enough, science begins to back up the Platonians (or is that the other way around?  I’m so confused…) when we discover such strange phenomena as people being born with XXY chromosomes, or when we discover that a variant to the CYP17 gene, which acts on the sex hormones pregnenolone and progesterone, has been found to be linked to female-to-male transsexualism.

Now that’s all interesting, and we don’t need to get too deep into that debate for the purposes of this exploration.  But what is really interesting, and may be somewhat frightening to readers who are stuck in the Six Line Narrative, is how much this debate – and the whole of Greek philosophy for that matter – resembles that system:

Now, you may already be starting to feel a bit uneasy here if you see how closely these two philosophies relate.  To flesh this out a bit more, let’s consider the god of the six line narrative.  This god resembles Zeus very much – he is a dominating, powerful, all male god who can’t stand material becoming.  It absolutely disgusts him.  And what’s more, he can never, ever forgive the terrible sins of his creation that plunged them into this state of…*shudders*…becoming.  This god is bound by Greco-Roman concepts of justice that are more powerful than he is, and demand that he ruthlessly and mercilessly punish the sins of his creation.  We can’t question this – I mean, who are we to do so?  We, who are disgusting material beings of such low status?  And we can’t claim that this eternal torment is unjust – I mean, this god simply has to punish us like that.  As C.S. Lewis put it in “The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe”, this god is bound to do this by a “deeper magic”.  So he’s not so bad after all – it’s not like he really wants to torment us forever, he just has to.  Until his son steps forward and says “I can pay the price.”  So the benevolent son saves us from the mean dad … oops, I mean the dad whose hand is forced … and takes all of his righteous rage … wait … um … the dad didn’t really want to do this, so it’s not rage … erm … the son takes all his judgment … that he’s forced to mete out … there, that’s better … the son takes all of that upon himself.  Whew.  That was close.  Oh, oops… I forgot something - you have to say the magic words and declare your belief in the son or else you’ll still face the punishment of eternal conscious torment.  Make sure you say that incantation the right way, too, or you’re in deep doodoo.  And you better say the son’s name right too – if you mess up and say another name, that’s it!  You’re toast!

The god in this narrative resembles a character we’ll call “Uncle George”.  Uncle George lives in this fabulous mansion – it’s incredibly large and there are so many rooms and you can’t even imagine the things we’ll do there!  And he loves us so much!  He has all these great gifts for us that he’s always giving!  And we love Uncle George, right kids?  Yes, and he loves us with a love that is called agape – unconditional love.  But don’t ever defy him or he’ll throw you down in the basement where he has a dungeon where other people who have defied him are tortured for all of eternity.  Yes, his unconditional love is… erm … conditional on the fact that you say some magic words about believing in him and loving him – once you’ve said that magic incantation, the… um… conditional love then becomes unconditional.  Ok, wait, wait, wait – I know… it’s unconditional because he PREDESTINED some people to be loved and to love him from the beginning of time!  So Uncle George’s unconditional love is conditional on the fact that he predestined you…ARGH!  Ok, let’s skip over that.  There is more important business at hand.  You also need to know that Uncle George says you are incapable of ever doing anything good – you’re totally depraved!  “How is that something a loving relative would say to a child?”  JUNIOR!  You’d better watch it!  He’ll throw you into the dungeon in the basement!  Now, here’s the most important part of all: you need to be saved!  How does that happen?  You recite a magic incantation!  Yup.  Now repeat after me, kids: I love Uncle George!  *said in a wavering, timid, frightened sounding voice that isn’t all that convincing* “yes, we love Uncle George!”  With all your heart, soul, mind and strength?  (The children secretly loathe this monster, but agree to the affirmative, because to say anything else would be to join the unfortunate souls being tormented for eternity in the basement.)

Now, after reading that little story, those who believe in eternal conscious torment might start to worry that I’m being sacrilegious.  They might be afraid that I’m in danger of being thrown into the dungeon in the basem… I mean… THE FARS OF HEYULL.  Interesting.  Remember I John 4:18?

Now we're going to take a break, but when we continue, we are going to dismantle the entire Six Line Narrative.  I've been telling you all along that "Checkmate For Hell" would end with a section called "Diagrams" and then the conclusion...but I didn't tell you that "Diagrams" was going to be split into multiple parts, haha!  Fooled you!  

Here's what you have to look forward to:

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