Tuesday, June 21, 2005

 

Dehumanization

I have just discovered some fascinating insights/theories into the nature of Hell by N.T. Wright. Like most of his eternal pontifications, Wright focuses largely on the earthly realm rather than postulating on the post-mortem. In essence, he is describing a veritable "Hell on Earth".

In Following Jesus, Wright predicates his theory on the Biblically-based assumption that we are all made in the image of God. From there he goes on to clarify that this fact should not be treated as a right or a mere possession. Instead it is a gift which he likens to a musical instrument bequeathed to us by a parent or grandparent. He surmises:

...the way to keep the wonderful instrument in tune is to play it - to play it for all its worth; to practice reflecting the image of God, which you do through worship, and love and service to one another, rejoicing with the joyful and weeping with the mourners. You do it, in other words, by following Jesus.

Then Wright turns to consider the alternative behavior. At this point, his observation becomes really intriguing and the consequences are frightening:

But if we worship other gods - and the other gods are powerful and active in our world right now - then all we can expect is for the image to atrophy. The instrument will go out of tune.

...if it is possible, as I've suggested, for human beings to choose to live more and more out of tune with the divine intention, to reflect the image of God less and less, there is nothing to stop them finally ceasing to bear that image, and so to be, as it were, beings who were once human but are not now.

Those who persistently refuse to follow Jesus, the true image of God, will by their own choice become less and less like him, that is, less and less truly human. We sometimes say, even of living people, that they have become inhuman, or that they have turned into monsters. Drugs can do that to people; so can drink. So can jealousy. So can unemployment. So can homelessness, or lovelessness. (Emphasis Mine)

So what are the root causes that can lead people down the path to becoming dehumanized? It seems to me there are two primary sources to blame: distractions and laziness.

Echoing a theme from C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters, Don Miller in Blue Like Jazz opines:

I believe that the greatest trick of the devil is not to get us into some sort of evil but rather have us wasting time. This is why the devil tries so hard to get Christians to be religious. If he can sink a man's mind into habit, he will prevent his heart from engaging God.

In The Road Less Traveled, M. Scott Peck suggests an equally plausible culprit for man's sin nature (or the Great Dehumanizer as it were): entropy. He states:

In debating the wisdom of a proposed course of action, human beings routinely fail to obtain God's side of the issue... We make this failure because we are lazy. It is work to hold these internal debates. And if we take them seriously, we usually find ourselves being urged to take the more difficult path, the path of more effort rather than less.

To conduct the debate is to open ourselves to suffering and struggle. Each and every one of us, more or less frequently, will hold back from this work, will also seek to avoid this painful step.

Why should we even consider such a gloomy scenario as the potential annihilation of our own humanity? I'll revert back to Wright for this answer.

As Christians, we look for the marriage of heaven and earth, not their separation; and in that light we must look with Christian realism at the possibility of a different, and disastrous, marriage, which has become all too real a possibility in our own day: a marriage of hell and earth.

This leads me to consider one of the main things I like about Wright's sermons and writings, which is well articulated by Asbell at The Thinklings Blog:

I find Wright to be refreshing in his insistence that Christianity is not about what happens to your soul after you die. Life's not about just hanging in there until death so you can get your post-mortem reward. I never find Jesus saying "do or believe such and such so that you will go to heaven when you die." He says, "give up your life now and follow me; live a life that truly means something." Followers of Jesus are to live in light of heaven, not merely in anticipation of it.

Comments:
Good post, Chad. Sorry I'm so late getting around to reading it.
 
I'm looking forward to getting more information about this topic, don't worry about negative opinions.
 
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