A Christmas Version of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah…:
This sketch of the human story began in a cave; the cave which popular science associates with the cave-man and in which practical discovery has really found archaic drawings of animals. The second half of human history, which was like a new creation of the world, also begins in a cave. There is even a shadow of such a fancy in the fact that animals were again present; for it was a cave used as a stable by the mountaineers of the uplands about Bethlehem; who still drive their cattle into such holes and caverns at night. It was here that a homeless couple had crept underground with the cattle when the doors of the crowded caravanserai had been shut in their faces; and it was here beneath the very feet of the passers-by, in a cellar under the very floor of the world, that Jesus Christ was born. But in that second creation there was indeed something symbolical in the roots of the primeval rock or the horns of the prehistoric herd. God also was a Cave-Man, and had also traced strange shapes of creatures, curiously coloured, upon the wall of the world; but the pictures that he made had come to life.
A mass of legend and literature, which increases and will never end, has repeated and rung the changes on that single paradox; that the hands that had made the sun and stars were too small to reach the huge heads of the cattle. Upon this paradox, we might almost say upon this jest, all the literature of our faith is founded. It is at least like a jest in this, that it is something which the scientific critic cannot see. He laboriously explains the difficulty which we have always defiantly and almost derisively exaggerated; and mildly condemns as improbable something that we have almost madly exalted as incredible; as something that would be much too good to be true, except that it is true. When that contrast between the cosmic creation and the little local infancy has been repeated, reiterated, underlined, emphasised, exulted in, sung, shouted, roared, not to say howled, in a hundred thousand hymns, carols, rhymes, rituals, pictures, poems, and popular sermons, it may be suggested that we hardly need a higher critic to draw our attention to something a little odd about it; especially one of the sort that seems to take a long time to see a joke, even his own joke. But about this contrast and combination of ideas one thing may be said here, because it is relevant to the whole thesis of this book. The sort of modern critic of whom I speak is generally much impressed with the importance of education in life and the importance of psychology in education. That sort of man is never tired of telling us that first impressions fix character by the law of causation; and he will become quite nervous if a child’s visual sense is poisoned by the wrong colours on a golliwog or his nervous system prematurely shaken by a cacophonous rattle. Yet he will think us very narrow-minded, if we say that this is exactly why there really is a difference between being brought up as a Christian and being brought up as a Jew or a Moslem or an atheist. The difference is that every Catholic child has learned from pictures, and even every Protestant child from stories, this incredible combination of contrasted ideas as one of the very first impressions on his mind. It is not merely a theological difference. It is a psychological difference which can outlast any theologies. It really is, as that sort of scientist loves to say about anything, incurable. Any agnostic or atheist whose childhood has known a real Christmas has ever afterwards, whether he likes it or not, an association in his mind between two ideas that most of mankind must regard as remote from each other; the idea of a baby and the idea of unknown strength that sustains the stars. His instincts and imagination can still connect them, when his reason can no longer see the need of the connection ; for him there will always be some savour of religion about the mere picture of a mother and a baby; some hint of mercy and softening about the mere mention of the dreadful name of God. But the two ideas are not naturally or necessarily combined. They would not be necessarily combined for an ancient Greek or a Chinaman, even for Aristotle or Confucius. It is no more inevitable to connect God with an infant than to connect gravitation with a kitten. It has been created in our minds by Christmas because we are Christians, because we are psychological Christians even when we are not theological ones. In other words, this combination of ideas has emphatically, in the much disputed phrase, altered human nature. There is really a difference between the man who knows it and the man who does not. It may not be a difference of moral worth, for the Moslem or the Jew might be worthier according to his lights; but it is a plain fact about the crossing of two particular lights, the conjunction of two stars in our particular horoscope. Omnipotence and impotence, or divinity and infancy, do definitely make a sort of epigram which a million repetitions cannot turn into a platitude. It is not unreasonable to call it unique. Bethlehem is emphatically a place where extremes meet.
Chesterton, G. K. (2012-12-19). Everlasting Man (Kindle Locations 2461-2496). . Kindle Edition.
By James Ross Kelly
For post modern westerners among a diversity of worldviews, there is only one moral discourse that remains resolute through time—this is the Christian worldview in its orthodox sense. You may disagree with this statement and this worldview as you perceive it, but you may not adopt another that has held sway for as long without leaping out of your own culture and shakily into another.
There is however a nominal view of Christianity that academically operates outside this orthodoxy and considers itself scholastic, vital—and at the same time considers itself valid in its own formality. It must be said that now, this scholastic endeavor and its formality has little, or no basis of really calling itself Christianity—for it has little or nothing to do with Christ Jesus. Where once the university system held the Christian paradigm sacrosanct it is now relegated to only part of comparative religion.
In what has been termed the “Post-Modern era,” a number of scholars such as those involved with the “Jesus Seminar,” have published a number of titles whose popularity has made books sell briskly in the secular press. However, today, even the term “orthodoxy,” rolls off the tongue with a slight to fervent distaste by the media and manufacturers of our popular culture. What pundits in orthodoxy’s stead, have embraced—is a counter-doctrine: that Jesus of Nazareth the founder of Christianity, while still a premier moral and ethical fulcrum philosophically, in Western thought—was not divine—but an historical person who has developed mythical proportions due to the exaggeration of scripture. This dogmatic counter-doctrine juxtaposed against two thousand years of orthodox thought and teaching is one that is fervently embraced by most elements of secular academic paradigms and the secular academic culture. Can Christianity share a canopy with this thinking—and remain vital?
The world s not going to be changed by Christians who merely go to church. the nature of the church in post-modernity has to be that of a spiritual community that strives to go beyond the modern concern for correct doctrine and institutionalism A spiritual community is not based on dogma but on relationship to God and to one another.
Chuck Smith, Jr., The End of the World…as We Know It
The most paradoxical and at the same time the most unique and characteristic claim made by Christianity is that in the Resurrection of Christ the Lord from the dead, man has completely conquered death, and that “in Christ” the dead will rise again to enjoy eternal life, in spiritualized and transfigured bodies and in a totally new creation. This new life in the Kingdom of God is to be not merely a possibly received inheritance but in some sense the fruit of our agony and labor, love, and prayers in union with the Holy Spirit. Such a fantastic and humanly impossible belief has generally been left in the background by liberal Christianity of the 19th and early 20th centuries, but anyone who reads the New Testament objectively must admit that this is the doctrine of the first Christians.
Thomas Merton, The New Man, 1961