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Are we Dependent or
F. Earle Fox
A New Year's email
to my extended family. We get into some amazing discussions...!
Happy New Year to All, and a Merry 12th Day of Christmas!!! (It is still
only 10:43 pm if you are up...)
BBB, I am glad that you are
explaining your views. I hope others will explain theirs as well.
You mentioned recently that you
relied upon yourself, suggesting that that is what we all need to do. There
is, of course, a sense in which that is true. We all need to come to
the place where we can trust ourselves to know the truth about something,
trust ourselves to make decisions, etc.
But, be that as it may, suppose
that we are inherently dependent beings, i.e., that we need things outside
of ourselves just to exist, let alone exist well. That is not a slur or a
slander on us. It is a matter of fact -- either we are dependent beings or
we are not. If we were not, then we would need nothing from outside of
ourselves to flourish. But if we are dependent beings, then would it not
make sense to acknowledge that fact?
And, are there not a whole mass
of things we need to exist -- beginning with the cosmic constants, the
amount of mass in the universe, the strength of gravity, and literally
hundreds, if not thousands, of other things which scientists are routinely
discovering? Those of course are beyond our control and so we are dependent
But some of those things you are
interested in are also areas of our dependency - the quality of the
environment, for example. We need food, warmth, clean air, sanitation. We
need each other, not just for practical tasks, but for companionship, for
meaning and purpose.
And is not a large part of our
downside the crappy way we go about managing our production and distribution
of all those things? Someone said, rightly I think, that the most obviously
and empirically true of all Biblical teachings is the Fall, i.e., that we
have by one means or another alienated ourselves from God, and come to the
place where are often our own worst enemies, and do not seem capable of
turning that around. Our technologically advanced 20th century by half way
through had killed a greater percentage of the world's population than any
previous century. And, so far as I can see, no good reason to think that is
going to change.
I do not see how the world
without God can supply our two most necessary stabilities: (1) stability of
personhood, of identity, of being; and (2) moral stability. Do we not want
to know (1) who we are and (2) where we are going?
If it is true that only God can
in fact supply those 2 at a fundamental level, would not that be a realistic
and practical reason for getting to know Him? If Jesus is God reaching to
do that supplying, is not that an important part of the equation?
As John Eldredge's article
pointed out, Christians have often done a very poor job of explaining the
answers to queries like yours. But you seem to see only the negative view
of Christianity to which he points as wrong. I agree with him, have always
agreed, and wanted to teach the better view as I began to understand it. I
remember the day I stood in the pulpit at St. Stephen's Church in East
Haddam, CT, and announced, "It is always a good idea for me to be Earle
Fox. It is always a good idea for you to be you. God does not create junk,
and behind the notion of original sin is a deeper and more fundamental
notion of Original Goodness, to which the Bible witnesses in the very first
chapter of Genesis."
It was one more step in my emerging out of that early negative
pseudo-Christianity in which I had been raised. It was a long and scary
trip because I had very few allies and knew lots of people with a negative
If God is indeed the creator of
heaven and earth, then He has the only life-giving faucet. So if I distance
myself from Him, I am distancing myself from the water of life, am I not?
If that is so, am I not dependent upon God, whether I like it or not?
You say that having the good and
the bad together does not mean that we need saving. Well, ask the
inhabitants of the Gulag, of dozens of other concentration camps, nearly
50,000,000 little babies who never saw the light of day in the Land of the
Free and the Home of the Brave, the victims of countless tyrannies, whether
secular, pagan, or Christian. Seems like a lot of people have
needed saving. Not only from what others have done to them, but from what
they are doing to others and to themselves. We are both victims and
perpetrators. All of us in one degree or another. Would not being saved
from that make sense? If culture is all screwed up, and if there is no God,
then who is doing the screwing up but us humans? Would not being saved from
that be a good thing?
But if we are really dependent
beings as described above, then what hope have we that we can do that on our
own? If I am dependent on things in the world around me for my life and
welfare, then I will always in some sense be a "child" of that system, never
an adult who can stand on my own feet, independently of it. I will always
be forced to commandeer the resources of life for my own survival and
personal integrity, competing with others. Eat or be eaten. But if there
is a resource outside of the world system upon whom I can be dependent for
my two stabilities, then I do not need the world to supply them, and can be
indeed an adult in the world precisely because I have become a child
(dependent) of God.
That, I think, is how we can
become genuine brothers and sisters, by being children of the same
Parent, dedicated to each other's welfare, even at great cost to ourselves
-- because our personal integrity and meaning are no longer at risk to the
circumstances of the world. It is, as Christians say, hidden in Christ. I
can become a freestanding adult in the world because my childhood
(vulnerability, neediness) is invested now in God.
So, it seems to me that
you have a mistaken view of what the Christian faith implies, that we are
subverted from the start and then blamed for not doing well. That is not
the Biblical message, though it is certainly what many Christian writers and
preachers have given us. Anyone interested might look at
What is "Original Sin"?
There is lots of sin, lots of
rebellion against God, lots of hurting each other, which requires lots of
repenting and forgiveness. But honest repenting is a positive way to deal
with the mess, not negative. It is like getting a cancer diagnosed
properly. You want the truth because only the truth can set us free to deal
with the brokenness.
I hope that, again, concerning
what I believed, any and all will forgive me for whatever part I had in
communicating to you that unhappy error of negativity about being oneself.
Love to all, Uncle/Earle/Dad/Grampa
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Date Posted - 02/18/2009 - Date
Last Edited -