I and my good wife went to the temple last night. Through me, through Adam, through Christ, a 17th century Saxon named Christoph H. came into God’s presence. Or came closer to it, anyway.
The temple made me think of Father Adam’s story, which in turn got me thinking about Neuhaus’ December First Things essay. He describes some theologians who argue that since politics and the state are inevitably sinful, Christians should keep well away from them. Neuhaus disagrees and–putting aside the squabblism and snide remarks that happen whenever Nicenean Christians take each other on–I think he’s right.
As best as I can tell, Adam did not want to eat the fruit. He avoided it as a sin. But Eve ate the fruit. When she brought it to Adam and told him, then he then he ate it too. He did the right thing (which means C.S. Lewis just got it wrong in Perelandra). He decided to lower himself with her rather than let her wander alone. The message for us Christians, I think, is that in a fallen world like this we can’t keep our hands too clean or stay aloof. We have to go where the people are and make things work, if messily.
I admit that the Adam and Eve story does give us a contrary example, God’s example. Adam went with Eve but God did not go with Adam. Instead, He drove him out of His garden and set an angel with a flaming sword to keep him from ever coming back. But even then He did what He could to adapt truth and righteousness to Adam’s circumstances and to Adam’s willingness to receive it. He does the same for us. We do not realize what an indignity that is. God makes marvelous and sacred things stupid and little for our sakes, so we can understand them.
And even when He drove Adam and Eve out He knew that someday He would send his Son out into the filth and the power of the fiend, just to find us. He loves us so much that in effect we hold him hostage to our whims and desires. Him! God! He comes to where we are, no matter how demeaning. And of course we think so little of it. We are such sickening creatures.
I have a hard time getting exercised about Theodicy–questions about why God lets bad things and tsunamis happen to us. Partly its because I never really believed that Mormonism, which I believe to be true, was really all that clean, airy, liberal of a faith. Holiness is often as C.S. Lewis described in Till We Have Faces: dank and bloody. But mostly its because I don’t think mankind has much grounds to stand on in our complaints.
I seem to see us conversing with Christ: drink a little from this cup, we say. It’s bitter to the taste, true, but we’re choosing to go into danger and that’s the only way you can rescue us. Drink it, and watch over us while we “find ourselves” and have adventures and learn things and feel fulfilled. I know that cup, he says. It is bitter indeed, and if I drink it I must drink it to the bottom. Well, we’re leaving, we say. You can drink the cup or be left a lone man in heaven. And he does drink the cup, with all its sins, your sins and mine, that have been brewing and burning these many years.