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Are we Dependent or Self-Sufficient Beings?

F. Earle Fox
A New Year's email to my extended family.  We get into some amazing discussions...! 
 

        Yes, 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 upon them. 
 
        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 view. 
 
        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 - 09/15/2012