Firstly I just want to say a very heartfelt thanks to everyone who has commented supportively; such an overwhelming expression of Christian love is quite something to experience, and it has buoyed me up and lightened the darkness until it seems like noon; thank you – all of you.
Someone asked in an email why I had not banned Bosco and the answer is simple, and because it has a wider relevance, worth rehearsing more fully with you. It isn’t just that I do not like banning people, as Fr Aidan Kimmel pointed out in a very lovely comment, discipline sometimes is necessary. It is that Bosco is not unrepresentative of a strain in modern Christian life which ought to be both given an airing, and a chance for it to make its case and to be questioned. It may be that the way it does these last two are jarring and unpleasant to read, but it would be wrong to ignore the fact that it is part of the dialogue in our wider society.
Chalcedon and Geoffrey have both made the interesting and very relevant point that the champion of the New Atheism, Richard Dawkins, actually deals in the sort of God which Bosco and others like him present. If one studies Dawkins’ objections to God, they are all to do with the fact that he is a vengeful psychopath; and his objections to Christians amount to something close to the same thing. It is only when one reads what Christians like Bosco writes that you can actually begin to understand that Dawkins’ objections are to a caricature of God.
Caricatures are not the same as invented pictures; they take one aspect, or some aspects, of a person, and they emphasise them until they come to represent and in fact replace, the whole person; this is what happens with Bosco’s picture of God. It would be interesting to know why it is the judgmental and vengeful attributes of Our God which loom so large for the Boscos of the world; goodness knows that if one consults one’s own deeds, one might indeed stand in fear and trembling. But what is missing is the joy that comes with redemption; the happiness that accompanies the knowledge that Jesus loves us and died to save us; and the sheer relief which is part of knowing that Our God is a Great God and wishes all His people to turn and follow Him. Add that to the picture, and the caricature begins to go away.
It was in Antioch that we were first called Christians. That marked us off as men and women who worshipped Christ and knew He was God. The love we gave to each other, and the support which the poorest got from the riches, these marked us off; in Christ the questions which so exercised the day – Jew or Gentile, slave or free, Roman or barbarian – were irrelevant, because in Him all were one. All were one because all were redeemed.
To say that we have to demand Christ’s attention to be saved is a form of works theology; it is to argue that our actions can, in some way, contribute to our salvation. This is wrong. All is Grace; and by all I mean all. Jesus loves me. He loved me before I loved Him, and however much I love Him, I cannot love Him as much as He loves me. That is, in the literal sense, awesome. I am bowled over – or in that wonderful french word – boulversee – . I can understand wanting to buttonhole someone and tell them the Good News. But the Good News is if you turn to Jesus and Repent, you are already responding to the Grace of God.
I don’t know about you – but that’s a great reason to wear with pride the Name of Christian 🙂