The question goes back at least to the Book of Psalms: “Why do the nations rage? And the people imagine a vain thing?” (Ps 2: 1) and probably a lot further than that as well, writes Rev Sydney Maitland. And there are (at least) two questions – one is about why politics is so violent, and indeed the second is just plain “Why?”
People have been observing these things for a long time, and asking the same questions, even if they have been coming to a variety of conclusions, some of which may indeed be fairly illuminating, although perhaps, others are not as helpful as many may wish.
But the questions are linked by that of how the popular mood is defined and moved. It also asks how the popular mood defines itself. So many questions, so few answers, and those answers that are offered may not be very satisfying.
I suppose it depends on where you start. If it is with God, then either we blame God or we wait on Him. And even if we blame God we find to our astonishment that He actually takes – indeed He has taken – the blame. Was and is He blameworthy however? Again it depends on where you start. Yes He has created us, but in doing so He gave us the freedom to make personal and moral decisions, even if they turned out to be disastrous for ourselves and for our world. As Christians we believe that in complete self-abandonment He gave Jesus to be born, to live and to die among us, taking personal responsibility for the corruption of the world, and this could not have been done if He had been corrupted Himself. He had to live long enough to be exposed to all the kinds of temptation that are in the human condition and to resist them. In this the principle of our freedom of choice and of action was not compromised, but then neither was the love or the perfection of God.
There are other possibilities of course: to deny that as humans we are moral beings capable of making moral choices. In this view all our choices are pre-determined and so do not exist as choices. But if this is the case then what is the role of writing or painting or music or sculpture or architecture? If they do not probe or expose or communicate the human character, then why do they exist at all? Indeed what of human personality – or as some describe it, “consciousness”? If we cannot make choices than do we have any kind of identity or personality – or are we all automata within an infernal machine? Much of this reasoning allows us to escape who and what we have become and indeed the moral consequences of our condition and of our choices. This may be fine if we see ourselves as so many glorified vegetables, and believe that when it is all over then we will not even know or remember that we ever existed.
To pursue this kind of reasoning is to make our own paths to self-annihilation and indeed to contrive our own kind of hell. But we do not have to do this, and other options are available. Perhaps the evidence of our own eyes shows us that there is indeed order in the universe, which enables the organs of our bodies to work and to do so consistently, which allows us to reproduce and indeed to communicate. All this relies on sufficient commonality in our being, in our bodies and in our speech to enable us to live socially, and if socially then economically and culturally and politically.
If order is the basis of the universe then I cannot believe that this has occurred randomly – for order penetrates the cells of our bodies and the molecules and atoms that form those cells. Either it is all random or it is not: I cannot see any other possibilities.
And in seeing order I see creation and its creator – and in seeing these then I can receive and respond to both. So “why do the nations …?” For their own self-love. And why did God …? For He loved the world so totally and extravagantly that He gave His only-begotten Son that we may not perish in our self-contrived hells but be released into His everlasting life. For hell must surely be that realm where we are determined to abide having eternally rejected the fullness of the love of God in Christ Jesus.
It works for me.
Wishing you all a merry Christmas and a happy New Year.