Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Blogging Lent

Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise (Luke 23:43).

1. I’ve always asked “too many” questions. This verse was the source of my earliest question I can remember. I was six years old, attending a Presbyterian church with my mom. Presbyterians say that Christ “descended into hell for three days,” so I asked the pastor “then, how could Jesus tell the thief that he would see him that day in paradise.” The pastor’s answer was something like “kids ask the best questions!”

I still don’t know the answer to this question, but I’m not committed to the notion of Jesus going to Hades.

2. This word “paradise” makes me feel both joyful and foolish. Joyful because this world hurts, and I'd like to go somewhere that doesn't. Foolish because it must be this kind of talk that led Karl Marx to declare that religion was the opiate of the masses. And yet it does speak to one of the greatest human longings, to be free from this world and its cruel constraints. I guess I ask, “so what’s the evidence that this paradise exists?” For me, the primary evidence is Jesus, both in the plausibility (particularly versus any other explanation of His life) of the Gospel accounts of his life, death, and resurrection being true, as well as my personal experience with Him in my life. He’s with me; I interact with Him; I would be lying if I said otherwise.


Jeff said...

Is there a such thing as "too many questions?" Why? Aren't questions a good thing? Wouldn't God like us to question things? Would religion be able to provide us with the answers if there weren't any questions? Isn't faith, itself, just the act of asking a question and knowing that God has the answer?

Ok, that's probably getting annoying.

kennyching said...

I've always been "pro-question." One of my personal religious tenets has always been that if God is real, then the truth poses no threat to Him, so, question away.

Ρωμανός ~ Romanós said...

Yes, God has nothing to fear from our questioning, nor do we. The robust quality of the Abrahamic faith that Jews and Christians share comes down to this: That Abraham, the man of faith, is able to question God, and repeatedly, because of that faith. Still, we also see from the account, that there can be a point where God just says, "Don't ask me this anymore." He is, after all, still the Lord.

And so we are expected to ask questions. How else are we to learn?

The particular question, Kenny, that you posed about the "good thief" to whom Jesus said, "This day you will be with me in Paradise." Well, hmm, who knows the answer for sure? We can, as always, only ask. And those of us who have some inkling of the truth to share, we can share that, in humility. In my case, you know, I've never thought of it in linear terms. Paradise and Hades don't share a spatial-temporal relationship with earth or with each other. I just always pictured (if you can call it that) the thief walking at Jesus' side. Jesus is, Himself, paradise in this frame of reference. His descent to She‘ol (Hades, in Greek) occurs without doubt. Why? Because to say He descended into She‘ol is synonymous to saying He endured death and the grave. Again, She‘ol has no spatial or temporal identity. Its nature is inexplicable to mankind. It just is, that's all we know about it. Whatever it is, beyond our experience of death itself, the Christ entered it and, demolishing its annihilating power, He empties it of its captives, from Adam the First-Created, down to the man, woman or child, who has just died a moment ago (for death and She‘ol know neither time nor place). "By death trampling down death, and to those in the tombs bestowing life," as the one-line Orthodox Easter hymn Χριστος Ανεστη puts it.

Where was the thief when all this happened? When did it happen? In the split second (how small can a particle of time be parsed?) after the thief (having his legs broken) died, or when the Christ expired after saying, "It is finished," or can the question "when?" even be asked at all? (At last, we find out there really are some questions that cannot be asked! Asking a question is not the only way of finding an answer.)

Here we are, then, having gone from a child's question to an answer only a child might be able to accept, but only after having to bring into play words and ideas that only veil the truth the more they try to reveal it.

Yes, my brother, let's always keep asking the questions He has placed us here to ask, because He wants us to know Him as He knows us, so that we can be transformed into the Image that we reflect.

Anonymous said...

But the Apostles' Creed says Jesus descended into hell, so it must be true.

Isn't this one of those hell=Hades=Sheol things?

First Peter talks about Jesus preaching to the "spirits in prison" (which could mean the dead who are not in Paradise or condemned angels I guess), so wherever that is sounds like Hades (or Hell or Sheol)