Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Is God a Christian Existentialist?

The Kingdom of God is like a merchant, who went browsing at a bazaar, and found a peculiarly underpriced pearl. He eBayed his PSP and his Hummer and he got a second mortgage on his condo, so he could have the cash to quickly and discretely buy this pearl, and then resell it. I forget what he bought with the profit, but that's beside the point.

The Kingdom of God is like a utility worker, installing telephone poles in rural, undeveloped land. Once, his pole digger hit something, and made a strange noise. "Treasure!", this bloke thought, and he discretely filled the pole hole, and went on his way. When five o'clock came, he pawned his NASCAR jacket, hunting gun, and his pick-up, he even sold his dog, to buy the land with the treasure in it. Once he struck it rich...

The way these stories were always explained to me, when I was a small child, gluing down cotton-ball sheep in Sunday School, was that I was like the merchant or the utility worker, and I had to give up my stuff so that I could get the better stuff from God. But, what if God was the merchant or the utility worker? What if God was like the stronger man, who beat up the strong man, and stole souls in the middle of the night? What if it's not me, but God, who's like the shrewd servant, who, when he saw that he was about to lose his job, defrauded his boss to butter up the competition?

What did God give up, so that he could have more? What was the PSP, and what was the pearl? What was the truck, and what was the treasure?

Jesus told me I should die, and then I can live. I ought to give away all my stuff, so that I can have way more stuff. This is what Christian existentialism is made of, losing stuff to gain, sacrificing Isaac to have more children than grains of sand on the beach or stars in the sky, pouring water on my altar so that my offering can burn.

Is God a Christian existentialist?


  1. "Jesus told me I should die, and then I can live. I ought to give away all my stuff, so that I can have way more stuff."

    What "way more stuff" do you think that we are aiming for and trying to get (if I am interpreting you correctly)?

  2. What do you think? Which scriptures do you think are relevant, here?

  3. I think Philippians 2 is pretty relevant here. If God is the utility worker or the merchant, then He gave up all that he had to come to earth and live with us for the glory of the Father. Thus, our sacrifice is like Jesus' in that we relinquish comfort, money, time, freedom, etc. in order to glorify God, be in a deeper relationship with Him, and experience eternal life.

  4. Matthew pretty much said it all. I was thinking John 17:3 (eternal life is to know God). I was also thinking about the whole treasures in Heaven thing as well.

  5. Not just, though. There is the notion that some things are better than others, but not because they are more expensive, etc, etc. Take for instance the idea of museums - what is value, or rather, quality?

    The treasure of heaven certainly is eternal life. But what is eternal life? I recall someone saying that if there were no death, then time would have no meaning to us. (i.e, endless time to do what? And when, and why hurry or ever get it done?) On the other hand, we could taste the finest wine in the world, but without the experience of what makes wine good it would be meaningless to us.

    So in a sense, eternal life is like this: a quantity and a quality, it is not 'timeless' like a coma, it is rather everlasting. But it is not like some cheap mortal immortality (not dying) but rather it is a transcending of death.

    It is to have wine and be able to enjoy it, and then to die but rise beyond death. It is to become someone and give that up, to do that again and again.

    Alfred the Great says, "He is ever giving, yet He never wanes in any thing." This is Kenosis, self emptying.

    God invented existence, anyway. So I'd tend to think he has some favoritism towards it, calling it "Kalios" - Good, or Beautiful.

    In a certain sense, it is the ultimate positive sum game: You give to get more so you can give more to get more to give even more until the clock runs up.

    If this comment made any sense, great! No time to edit for coherence or grammar.

  6. For some reason this brings to mind Leibniz' concept that this world is the greatest of all possible worlds. God, wanting some particular byproduct (we assume it is love or glory in the truest of these senses), engages in this kenotic activity for the greatest possible gain.

    I don't know though - it is a hard conclusion to accept fully. Looking at Scripture, God certainly sold everything in the truest of senses. He went one step further than Abraham was forced to.

    I suppose I'm merely forcing things into pointless argument here - but the secondary question that always arises for me concerns the attempt to quantify glory or love...God possesses these in infinite quantities and qualities - certainly they cannot be added to or subtracted from.

    To rephrase...What did God sell it all for?

    'Us' seems to be the only answer I can arrive at & yet - but I can't answer why to any legitimate extent.