The religious sense
recognized instinctively that the ultimate questions human beings
ask–What is the meaning of existence? Why are there pain and death?
Why, in the end, is life worth living? What does reality consist of and
what is its object?–are the defining essence of our humanity…The
conviction that the questions have answers never wavers,
however, and this keeps us from giving up on them. Though final answers
are unattainable, we can advance toward them as we advance toward
horizons that recede with our every step. - Huston Smith, Why Religion
Matters, San Francisco, HarperSanFrancisco, 2001, pp. 274-275
Why is God Waiting?
Despite the defeatism–unattainable–inherent in the above quote, this
article is going to forge ahead and lay out an answer: Jesus calls and
expects us to understand God, and so that understanding necessarily profoundly
intersects this issue of God waiting.
The simple answer is that God IS waiting, and doing so because the ball is
in our court.
If, as we have surmised, original sin was entertaining to
the point of concluding that the character, motives, and posture of the
Creator were less than noble, and violated the human spirit, then eventually this
led to a separation, and a long, tragic downward spiral into a desperate
fallen condition, an experience of evil that is outrageously despicable. Our
world is an example of that. This downgrade, that happened naturally, not
only involved the loss of all the things that IFISEEKUS represents, but
inexcusable sorrow and suffering, predation of fellow humans, torture, etc.,
the whole panoply of evil experience on this earth.
Man descended into being so spiritually dull that
essentially the whole world began to worship a physical object as God, and
in their fear try to placate it. This is absurd, and unworthy of beings that
are supposed to be the sons and daughters of God.
Can we not see that in terms of understanding God, when this
happened, the light
in the world went out? God's chosen ultimate solutions to this deplorable
state was that the Creator himself stopped existing, and was born as
a male in a situation that gave him the chance for the starkest contrast
with the prevailing view and beliefs about God. He FULLY revealed in words,
demeanor, attitude, behavior, and deeds what God is ACTUALLY like, yet there
turned out to be little interest in what he demonstrated. The very disciples
themselves couldn't let go of their cherished religious beliefs, and rather
than pay real attention with interest, ask question, seek clarity, etc.,
they opted to focus on helping him to become the Messiah king, and bickered
with their fellows over who should be ranked the greatest in the future
earthly empire. Disgustingly petty, shallow and stupid!
If we can see that they didn't apprehend the message of
Jesus and the implications, let's forge ahead.
A Challenge to Advent Thinking
Let's suppose that you had children trapped in a
miserable situation where they were suffering and dying, and you have
the ability to not only communicate with them but to come and rescue
them. But you do neither. Even if you had something more important to
do–hard to fathom–wouldn't you at least explain to them why you
couldn't come? Would you leave them in the dark struggling to understand
and have faith in you? Wouldn't that be unthinkable?
Yet that is the situation that most Christians think
that prevails between God and the world, and that God has given us either
the Papal organization and/or the Bible as a sufficient communication for
temporary hope in our plight. After more than two millennia[*], you would
think that there would be a major movement to revisit and challenge this
prevailing eschatology, that being of a grandstand "second coming" in the sky
and its long delay.
Some Christian believers think that over time the
organized "church" will triumph and "finish the work" of separating the
whole world of humanity into adequate believers–the "sealed"–and those
that have totally rejected the truth and will be condemned, lost, and
finally destroyed or worse. This final and total polarization will then trigger the return of the
"Lord" and his powerful activity to resolve the evil human condition..
It is hard to judge which one of these scenarios–a dramatic
Hollywood grandstand "coming again" in the clouds by God to clean
up this mess, or the triumph of organized Christendom–is the most preposterous!
We should not be waiting for God to come again, nor even to inaugurate some
dramatic development, nor for any formal organization to prevail, BECAUSE
God is waiting for us to follow his instructions and honor his prayer for unity.
Why Thirteen Centuries of Nothing?
The following–original question in bold type, my reply in
regular–is part of an email discussion having taken place in early 2013:
"In regard to the challenge posed to the current paradigm
or theology, what has Christian belief amounted to otherwise, though? NOTHING
MUCH in the last 2000 years!!!!!!!!!
Unfortunately merely believing Jesus is the savior of the world is NOT ENOUGH,
for everyone who knew him apparently is long dead, and the human race has
continued to suffer and die ever since."
One way to relate to this is to take the position that dying
and then being resurrected to “glory" isn't so bad, especially if you are
one of the privileged and advantaged, a good competitor in this world.
We can always do the typical evaluation and compare ourselves to others
less fortunate or successful. And parts of life can be good: there is the drama
of it all, and the aging process can be handled with dignity, humor and stoicism.
No matter how bad it gets, it is only temporary. Besides, can we realistically
think that we have a solid, tangible alternative?
"How does anyone reconcile another
2000+ years of suffering and death with what Jesus said and did..... How can they
believe it is HIS WILL for this abomination to continue?!?!"
I will endeavor to be as sympathetic as I can be in my answer here
so that we can understand the best possible approach. There are lots of
people that have lost their “faith” and many more that are troubled by
the 2000+[*] years of
“nothing”. The majority of Christians are stuck on being Adventists,
meaning that they expect the "Lord" to come back in the clouds at the end
of time for this world, and thus are stuck primarily just WAITING.
"Waiting for the "Lord?"
There are some various answers to why the “Lord” is delaying, including some
really asinine ones like, “for God, a thousand years is like a day.” I used to ask
them if the “Lord”, doesn't realize that it doesn't work that way for us? The bottom
line though is that they believe it is all in the “Lord's” hands! Some believe that the
church will prevail and they just invest their faith and efforts in "the
church". A few believe that it is partly in our hands because we are to be
working to “preach the gospel to all nations” and then the Lord will come. So the
non-clergy go to mass or church, give their tithes and offerings and leave it
largely in the hands of the denominational officials and leaders. The clergy are
busy doing what they are "sure" is the Lord's work, doing good things
on many levels: managing, overseeing, planning, preaching, keeping the
faith alive, and tending to the flock in various helpful ways. They have warm
feelings for those that support the program and take this to be a sign that they have
the love of God in their hearts.
After giving the context of suffering and woe for 2000 years[*]
and getting our minds into it, when I ask dedicated Christians whether we are waiting
for the “Lord” to do something or he is waiting for us to do something, they will
say that he is waiting for us. If some time in months goes by and the context is not
revisited and refreshed, when asked they will usually give the opposite answer to the question.
The unthinkable premise
What has happened here? There are many ways to
characterize it, but they are standing on the packed but shifting sand of
traditional Christian dogma and doctrine and are confused. For them
to accept the idea that the true conception of Jesus and his message never got off the
ground back in the early church is monstrous. Their minds immediately
blanche at the idea that the disciples for the most part didn't understand the message of
Jesus, the Good News, and that the growth of Christianity into the
world's largest religion is NOT total or much validation at all.
Their minds also go to thinking that if this idea
represents reality, then the truth is too obscure and arcane, too hard
to understand, as in “narrow is the way and few there are that find it.”
The disciples got to talk personally with Jesus and personally witness
the miracles, and if they didn't get it, well..."What reasonable chance do
WE have?" And wouldn't this mean
that the Bible couldn't be the word of God, and that all of Christianity is false to a
significant degree. Generally, way too much to even contemplate, much less swallow.
Most recoil from this line of thinking for many reasons, not the least of
which would be the spiritual vertigo of not knowing where they are, not
knowing up from down. To accept these conclusions would put them totally
outside the bounds of the norm in their society, including their family and
friends. Secondarily, they would be overwhelmed to stand on their own and
undertake a rethink or rebuild when there are voices in their head cautioning
them that such a thing would be megalomaniacal and arrogant; or even worse,
The task to sort out all the issues would be overwhelmingly daunting, and they are not
theologians, not trained in ancient languages nor even in rigorous or critical
thinking. Where would they start? If no one has done this in the
last 2000 years[*], surely God would not require or even expect THEM to do this! If
God doesn't have a program besides them undertaking learning “all the truth”, what
good is he? And what does learning this new truth–a new set of
theological conclusions–have to do with Christian growth? And becoming a more loving person?
What's more, this whole idea seems to violate the message that Paul
gives in 1 Cor 13 concerning doctrine versus love.
And if someone else undertook this massive challenge how could they
succeed? Even if such a person did exist, how would they find and recognize
that person? How could they possibly trust such an incredible maverick?
Wouldn't they be putting themselves on dangerous ground even listening
to such extreme ideas?
On the other hand, can salvation really be a joint
venture for a GROUP of people? Would that even be fair? Even if
you buy the concept that Christianity has missed the mark, isn't there the overwhelming danger of
being sucked down the rabbit hole again by some new devious paradigm or line of thinking?
If someone did succeed in developing an
alternative theology, even one that was TRUE, wouldn't that person become sort of a new
pope, a new superior with them being left inferior? Or a new leader of a
new movement or quasi-religion?
Wouldn’t they look crazy to their friends and family in joining? Or wouldn't they become
megalomaniacal if they succeeded? Wouldn't they be troubled along the way? Wouldn’t
some of the things or ideas that they were floating sound extreme or outrageous? How
would the new way be really better? Wouldn't the new way require just a different set of
excruciating tests, sacrifices and risks? ISN'T IT ALL SO DAUNTING? Isn't it really all so unfair and unreasonable?
On the other hand, what if it is ALL a pipedream and
misunderstanding, and there is NO SUBSTANCE to the Jesus incident? What
if there really is no GOD, but just an enigmatic creator deity who doesn't really
care that much?
Meanwhile there is “life” to be dealt with, jobs and careers to
further and protect, money to be made; personal, family, community, national,
cultural problems to be solved, and the future of aged debilitation for which to
plan and prepare. The usual thinking is: Better to believe "it is
in the hands of the Lord", and to “trust in the
Lord” and wait for developments whatever they be.
All of the above concerns, worries and doubts
come to rise like specters in the face of NOT UNDERSTANDING the promises of Jesus.
One of his most important claims is that "The truth will set you free."
His description of the role of the Holy Spirit or God attitude is, "That
one will teach you all things" and "That one will lead you into all the
truth." One thing that is not understood well at all is that most of his
promises to us concern our seeking the truth and NOT other blessings,
developments, or accomplishments, at least initially. Promises such as, "Seek, and you will
find. Knock, and it shall be opened unto you" concern the truth and not
other blessings. It doesn't matter how disadvantaged we are in the normal
way of evaluation as to academic acumen. When we are truly seeking the
truth we will be led to success, one way or another.
There are others that call themselves Christian but that have
blended a huge amount of mysticism in with it. They go so far as to say that this is all
an illusion, that salvation is always a totally personal thing and that by
overcoming the illusion and false guilt in their own mind, all will be perfect and
suffering will end. Oh, they are willing to say that behaving properly helps and we can
help each other to do this, but they treat Jesus as just or mostly metaphorical, a symbol of the
ultimate human virtues: love, compassion, mercy, forgiveness, equality, etc. They
don't even need him to be historical, because these virtues are eternal and it
doesn't matter how or what Jesus is or came to be, it only matters that he crystallizes
and encapsulates these timeless values for us.
I could write from now till the US congress becomes incorruptible
about all the variations, and I don't even know about them all and new ones are being
developed all the time. Not so good, is it?
The issue should be settled by the Gospel of Thomas verse 113:
113. His disciples said to him, "When will the kingship come?"
Jesus said, "It will not come by waiting for it. It will not
be a matter of saying, 'here it is' or 'there it is.' Rather, the kingship of
the father is spread out upon the earth, and men do not see it."
See: Thomas 3,51, Mt 12:28, 16:28, Mk 1:15, 9:1, Lk 9:27, 17:20,21, 21:29-33
Commentary: A clear statement that we
should NOT be waiting for it! It is here to be harvested by following the
instructions. The Kingship is available for those that understand the
importance of coming into the unity for which Jesus asked. How much clearer
can it be? The disciples were locked into their paradigm of the messiah and
thus more interested in their status than they were in opening their minds
to their wretched plight in the human condition, and understanding that the
Father has something better for us, and that imminently!
[*] The 2000 years is the approximate value
within the existing standard chronology. The value would be 1300 years in
the revised chronology favored by this site. Still a time much too long.