“Yeah, I understand what you’re saying about Christianity. I’ve been there, a long time ago, but now that I’ve moved on, I have a different relationship with the universe and things are going much better for me on all levels.”
This reply was given to me by an elderly engineer, in a festive and celebratory setting, as he spoke to me about a “unique philosophical book” he had written. He requested my unconditional assistance in getting it published. What qualified me for this noble task? The fact that I had graduated from the Faculty of Philosophy and was teaching at a related institution at the time. Despite the festive context, intrigued by his remark, I tried to get a better understanding of the person behind it, as I already had a biblical criterion in mind for discerning people’s character: “By their fruit you will recognize them” (Matthew 7:16). Unfortunately, the fruits of this particular gentleman had long been affecting those around him. He was what one would call “a follower of the last-read book,” ever-changing like his readings.
A similar negative evaluation of the Christian faith and worship came my way a few years later from someone I esteemed as an intellectual and an artist. I noticed the same condescension towards the “novices” in unravelling the enigmatic depths of this universe, who had not yet earned the privilege of being indulged by the stars and were still diligently pursuing humility.
Another educated individual, whose worldview and perspective on life had transitioned from Christianity to a “mosaic” of Eastern wisdom, provided the following explanation for the conflicts with his mature son: “Of course, we don’t get along because he is only on his 53rd reincarnation, a raw and fragile spirit, whereas I seem to be on my 470th.” Naturally, when explanations are replaced with existential justifications, issues such as guilt, mistakes, sin, and redemption can be conveniently discarded along with their Christian framework.
One person managed to upset me the most when, in response to my enthusiastic testimony about what I had learned from the Bible regarding prayer, the individual replied, “It’s not quite like that. I learned something else in this sacral therapy course… but I can’t tell you. Don’t get upset, I paid a hefty sum to find out!”
Ignorant self-sufficiency? Pride? Superior evasion? Shortsighted selfishness? A little bit of each can be found in such characters, but they all betray the self-justification of a feeble creature towards its Creator. They don’t completely elude Him, but they diminish Him in order to include Him in a greater god: the Universe. Perhaps somewhere out there, in the vastness of the universe, one can also find the Christian Holy Trinity. Yet, within the vastness of the universe, transposed into galaxies and aeons, all possible conceptions find their place, in a democratic fellowship of celestial harmonies or in the apathy of infinite time and space.
Self-justification as self-validation
Why does self-justification appear as something negative from a Christian perspective? Why couldn’t we adopt the same ideological “tolerance” towards any belief that portrays Christianity as an outdated form of culture, an atavism, or a “childhood disease” of humanity which it will eventually outgrow in a mature ontological future?
The stakes of Christianity cannot be traded for any other stakes. It concerns the eternal salvation from death of those who recognise Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the only Saviour. Replacing this stake with any other completely distorts Christianity. One can only be a Christian for this stake, found in what has been referred to as the “golden verse”: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Not for any other stake: not for the soul’s comfort at any cost in this world; not for an easy, pleasant, cosy life; not for the justification of any mistakes and sins; not for a pleasant relationship with a church and its parishioners; not for social recognition or rewards for good deeds.
On the other hand, any other major stake proposed to us for a religion, beyond the Christian one, is clearly precarious. How could the impersonal merging of a spirit with an impersonal entity—the absolute—be more appealing? Who would delight in it? How could eternal love arise from a cosmos devoid of a conscience and feelings, one that only gives rise to fleeting biological life? Who could have placed in the limited human, with all the finite elements of their existence, the “thought of eternity”? If the universe implies order, how could human lives be completely subject to their choices, indefinitely, and still contribute to universal order? If there is no sense of existence established by the Creator, then how does His own existence reconcile with this lack of meaning? Did He also create the absurd? How do we simultaneously accept the absurd, chance, and the aspiration for merging with the absolute?
Deviation from an initial Christian faith to such macro-visions, “integrative” through their vagueness, seems to be more morally convenient: if we were created by an impersonal force or randomly animated by a form of energy, then we have no moral obligation towards such a creator. It is as if an egg could not embark on a search for the bird that brought it into the world, to express gratitude or get to know it. However, if this Creator is the Heavenly Father and He created us to draw us with His love into an eternal life in a world without blemish and without death, then an implicit moral relationship with Him arises. If every orphan, at some point, feels unease and a longing to know their parents, then so will humans be eager to know their Heavenly Father.
Therefore, the self-justification of abandoning Christianity seems to be rooted in the pursuit of psychological comfort in what some people say. However, regardless of how intelligent, important, or renowned they may be, what they say is contrary to the revealed Word, a Word that expects something from us. Beyond the Word, you have the freedom to consider yourself a special being in a universe that becomes nothing more than a backdrop. Through everything you are and the spectacle of evolution based on your own choices, you construct an ontological scaffolding all the way to nirvana and back…and you feel special. You deserve everything you desire, the entire universe. Reality exists only as a mould of your will. Thus, the circle of desiderative thinking is complete!
This attitude of self-justification has a long history, even though it dons the new garments of emancipation from a Christianity that suggested long ago that we believe the Word, that is Jesus, also known as Christ, who can take away our sin, a sin that is only paid through death. At the core of this attitude lies what I call the “Luciferian imprint,” which is the root of evil in the world. The origin of evil is, indeed, a mystery, but we can understand this: that love, when it ceases to flow outward towards others, especially towards the Creator, and turns inward, becomes distorted into selfishness, self-glorification, and self-justification. From here, all other vices and sins are born. We could trace a psychological journey of each of our vices and sins and arrive at the same turbid source: the Luciferian self-justification, a rebellion against God that has subsequently impacted fallen humanity.
Other centrifugal attitudes towards Christianity
Another negative aspect that we can observe in this rejection of the Christian faith is a sense of boredom, a wearing down of the “receivers” for grace and miracles. There is a confusion between the evolution of one’s own life and the evolution of civilization and that of all of humanity. If something happened to you a long time ago, you are left with a vague impression from back then, even though things, people, knowledge, opinions, and information have changed, enriched, and become much more complex than what you believed or knew in the past. It’s a way of saying, “Yes, I’ve heard enough about the great truths, the divine plan of salvation, the Way, but there are other novelties that excite us, that attract us. Perhaps future generations will be directly interested in the ‘pearl of great value,’ but we have so many colourful beads to explore…”
What saddens me the most is the fate of those elderly individuals who only had a doctrinal, cold faith in the Son of God, in His sacrifice, but remained ungrateful and failed to appreciate it. This deprived them of an authentic and fitting relationship with Him. They simply did not discover Him in their own lives.
Others have silently contemplated, from a statistical perspective, “Perhaps Christianity remains one of the paths to follow in life, for some, one of the gifts of the universe. But there are so many other gifts that don’t require you to change anything about who you are, perhaps only about what you possess…” They fail to realise that it is precisely those deceitful gifts that will change them in ways they never desired, gradually and unnoticed, much like in The Picture of Dorian Gray. Meanwhile, the gift of the Saviour only asks you to “pay” with your heart of stone, receiving, in return, a “heart of flesh,” a new and loving heart (Ezekiel 36:26).
The negative perception of the Christian faith as something regressive is sometimes formulated as a response to the ideological distortion caused not by the message of Christ, but by the ritualistic forms, the institutional and doctrinal Pharisaism, and by one’s own failures in interacting with the flesh. However, these should not affect the essence of the Christian faith, and one should not confuse Christ with Christians.
Another negative attitude towards Christianity can be identified in those who have “seen it all,” those who “weren’t born yesterday” and ask emphatically, for over two millennia, “Are we blind too?!” This is how we imagine all those who abandoned the Saviour on the day He spoke to them about His body and blood as the sole atonement for human sin, telling their grandchildren, years later (John 6:54): “Yes, we followed Him for a while, He said nice, sensible things, performed miracles, fed us all with two loaves and a few fish, but that was a long time ago… We’ve moved on from that phase; it was just too much. Who could bear His presence and actually do what He told us?!… The universe is vast, He might be out there somewhere, but we have so many stars to choose from, to worship according to our ability, to reach for and to resemble…on the utmost heights.”
The only end will be the end of this Earth’s darkness, as warned by the Word. Until then, those who fail to understand the words of the Saviour will be in danger of falling: “Whoever is not with me is against me” (Matthew 12:30). His expulsion from our lives does not make us free, but rather unconscious prisoners of evil “on the utmost heights” (Isaiah 14:13).
Corina Matei challenges the prejudice that places Christian religious faith in “outdated” stages of one’s personal evolution.