A quick peek in from the outside
I never watched the television series Lost until the series finale last night.
Okay, not quite true. I never watched a full episode until last night. I caught part of an early one on SyFy (I think back then it was Sci-Fi Network) and there was a polar bear on a tropical island threatening marooned survivors of an air disaster, and a voice-recorded distress beacon that had been going for fifteen years, and I couldn’t make any sense of it. So I turned off the television.
This morning, a quick scan of the CNN bulletin board on the finale pretty much confirms what I expected to see: people either loved or hated the finale, even if they loved the series … and it left most perplexed and unsatisfied, even the ones who thought they “got it.”
Hey, I’m no genius. I expected to see that reaction because I’ve seen it before. When a television show like the original The Prisoner or its 2009 re-visioning has a finale like Star Trek: Deep Space Nine‘s “What You Leave Behind,” people are going to either love or hate it … because not all of the loose ends are neatly tied up at THE end.
Some folks love and embrace mystery. So they’ll love it.
Some folks can’t stand an unanswered question. So they’ll hate it.
Which brings me to a hypothesis about people and religion and Christianity in particular.
There are all kinds of people who follow Christ. People who are okay with the fact that they will never fully, in this life, understand God or have all of their questions about Him answered … and people who aren’t. We all tend to have a bias, one way or the other.
The first group of people don’t have to know everything; it’s enough to love Him and be loved by Him.
The second group of people can’t settle for that; everything has to fit together somehow into a completed puzzle that is rational and logical and makes sense.
I think the danger for the first group is the extreme that the puzzle pieces which actually do fit together – the aspects of God’s nature that are clearly revealed by the Spirit in scripture – don’t matter all that much. If they want to believe that a loving God will save everyone, or that hell is figurative while heaven is literal, or that only mental assent to Christ’s Sonship is all that is required to be called “faithful,” they’ll believe that. It’s all a mystery, anyway, and a merciful God loves us, and if we don’t have to be right about everything then why should we have to be right about anything and so what?
I believe the danger for the second group is the extreme that only certain puzzle pieces matter; the crucial missing ones – the aspects of God’s nature that are obscured by the Spirit in scripture – are all that matter. If they want to believe that a just God will save only the perfectly righteous, or that the solo works of people unaccompanied by the Spirit’s help contribute to salvation, or that mental assent to this doctrine and that are also required to be called “faithful,” they’ll believe that. It’s all right there in scripture, if we would just take the time and the brain cells to parse it all out, and a righteous God will judge us, and if we have to be right about anything then we have to be right about everything and so there!
The problem with both extremes is that God is like us – and yet He isn’t. He isn’t simply just and righteous; He isn’t simply loving and merciful. He is complicatedly, perfectly both. He doesn’t have a bias one way or the other.
So He leaves us perplexed, with some answers (but not all) and some instructions (but not a million-volume rule book) and some hints / glimpses (but not a street map of eternity).
He leaves us transfixed, staring upward at the foot of His cross, and He gives us a choice.
We can either follow our own hearts and heads; walk away, and die and be lost … or follow Him to the tomb and the resurrection and a life worth saving.