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The Last Christian


Adi Gibb
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14th October 2084

 

I am the last christian!

 

Ron died this morning, so I am the last! Of course, nobody knows this. Maybe a decade ago you could declare yourself a person of faith, if you were brave enough, but not today. It would be, almost literally, insanity to do so. Not that Ron or I would have been thrown into jail or tortured for our belief, but we would be seen to be as deranged as those, in my mother's youth, who declared themselves to be Julius Caesar or abducted by aliens. We would be ridiculed, mocked, perhaps even ostracised, and I have a career and a reputation I don't wish to lose. No I can't declare myself a christian, even though I am the last, I just can't, can I?

 

You see, though I hate to admit it, I have started to ask myself if maybe I am deranged? How can my belief, on an intellectual level, be tenable, if literally the rest of the world has abandoned it? How can I still hold my faith to be true and real when I am the only one who feels its reality and truth? My faith, once adhered to by the majority on this planet, is now like a river in drought. Its shell still stands, its structure can be seen, and what it once was is obvious, but the life has ceased to flow through its walls, and it crumbles, thirsty for droplets of purpose. I have to face facts, Dawkinsism is the philosophy of the world now. Faith is dead, everybody else can see that, by I still pray. Why?

 

I hate myself for my wishes! I wish I didn't read the gospels and tingle with inspiration. I wish I didn't see Jesus as the face of God, and believe in an empty tomb. I wish I didn't feel the presence, the real and tangiable presence of the limitless divine when I pray, or watch a sunset, or give my last five dollars to a homeless man. I hate myself for wishing that the love I feel caress me when I think of a man who lived over two thousand years ago would go away. I wish these things. I wish they could just leave my mind, and that science and logic and reason and all that the rest of humanity feels comfortable with would satisfy me. But it doesn't! And my wishes remain just that. Hateful wishes.

 

So what do I do? Do I accept the will of the masses and reject my faith, a faith that lives though I wish it to die? Do I declare my faith, with pride, with strength, and suffer the consequences? I would no doubtedly lose many of my clients, my boss, an ardent Dawkinsite, would probably sack me, and some may even suggest I have lost my mind. But so what, that doesn't matter right? I may be the last one, I may be the only one, but that doesn't mean my faith is not real! Right? It would be worth it! Even if I lost everything, it would be worth it. But would it? What if I am wrong? What if I am deranged? Why would I be right, me, worthless me, and the rest of the world wrong? The numbers don't add up, do they?

 

So tell me, dear reader from who knows where, or when, what should I do? Please tell me, what would you do?

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Hi Adi,

 

The question you raise here is an interesting one. I confess I can safely assume that I would not be a Christian if there were so few left, or if I were the last one. But that is in part due to the way I approach Christianity. If I were somehow convinced that Christianity constituted the truth, I'd be much more inclined to hold on to it. But for me, Christianity brings me to truth, but it is not the only such path. Plus, it is difficult for me to imagine what it could mean to be a lone Christian, or to conceive of Christianity without the context of community. The 'church' in a generalized, universal sense is the way or context in which Christianity exists. The way I see it, without the church or community, Christianity would lose its definition and meaning.

 

To comment on another interesting subplot in your story, I really doubt that homosapien will ever ditch its religious impulse in favor of a Dawkins-like worldview. I know Dawkins and the new atheists are hoping we will, but it’s just not going to happen nor should it happen.

 

Another interesting thought, should 2086 roll around, or for that matter 2286, will Christian fundamentalism have survived? The further we become removed from the first century the less convincing any second-coming scenario seems. Right now we’re experiencing some powerful global shifts as we enter the early 2000s, so left-behind theology is still very popular. But how long can such expectations endure in the modern world? We may very well be witnessing the last serious revival of interest in Christian eschatology...I know many fundamentalists who are staking their faith in the expectation that it's going to happen any day now...

 

 

Peace to you,

Mike

Edited by Mike
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G'Day Mike,

 

Thanks so much for your thoughts. One thing I am looking forward to seeing is what people take out of the above scenario, so interesting to see your take.

 

I agree with you whole-heartedly about the innate religiosity of humanity. Karen Armstrong, in her latest book, The Case for God, says something very much the same in her introduction when she says that the Dawkins and Hitchens of the world have missed a vital point, that Homo Sapiens could juat as easily be called Homo Religios, that religion and spirituality are as essential an element of life as any other.

 

It is a very interesting point you raise about the 'left-behinders'. The apocalypse and day of judgement etc is not a part of my theology so it is hard to ascertain how those who do have this can feel it as relevant after two thousand years. This type of theology almost always seems to be couched in judgemental sin and a notion of the 'fall of humanity' in the first place. Like Matthew Fox, I prefer the idea of Original Blessing over Original Sin. Do your friends believe you will be 'left-behind' or taken up with them?

 

Adi

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G'Day Mike,

 

Thanks so much for your thoughts. One thing I am looking forward to seeing is what people take out of the above scenario, so interesting to see your take.

 

I agree with you whole-heartedly about the innate religiosity of humanity. Karen Armstrong, in her latest book, The Case for God, says something very much the same in her introduction when she says that the Dawkins and Hitchens of the world have missed a vital point, that Homo Sapiens could juat as easily be called Homo Religios, that religion and spirituality are as essential an element of life as any other.

 

It is a very interesting point you raise about the 'left-behinders'. The apocalypse and day of judgement etc is not a part of my theology so it is hard to ascertain how those who do have this can feel it as relevant after two thousand years. This type of theology almost always seems to be couched in judgemental sin and a notion of the 'fall of humanity' in the first place. Like Matthew Fox, I prefer the idea of Original Blessing over Original Sin. Do your friends believe you will be 'left-behind' or taken up with them?

 

Adi

 

I also hope more people respond because your post is very provocative, in a good way.

 

The only fundamentalists I have any contact with these days are my family, but I am very disinclined to talk theology with them for obvious reasons. :) Now, if my family had any clear conception of where I stand on such matters, I'm certain I would be condemned to be 'left behind,' in their eyes. Liberal theology is a serious offense in the eyes of fundamentalism.

 

I think the revival of interest in eschatology is due in part to the fact that we are approaching the 2000th year since the cross and the birth of the church. The same kind of phenomena occurred in the early 1000s. Yet, today this numerological angst is combined with the general anxiety of what has been called the emerging new world order, a phrase that itself tends to be critically important to left behind expectations. I confess I too have serious concerns about globalization and technology, but my perspective is, I hope, perhaps more balanced.

 

Once the early 2000s come and go like the 1000s, I think the second-coming will be seen as highly untenable by most people. This will probably not take place through any kind of reasoned refutation - if what we know already isn't enough to quell such expectations, then 'reason' is probably not at the heart of what's going on in the first place. I think rather that it will simply go by the wayside as other religious ideas have in the past.

 

Unlike the 1000s when civilization was still under the rule and shaping of the Church, we are in a large sense freed from religious authority and the mindset it produced. So I don't see how second-coming expectations will find the necessary nourishment for long in an infertile modern world. It is as if they are being lead into a desert with no sustenance - not conductive to sustaining many followers.

 

Peace to you,

Mike

Edited by Mike
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Gday Mate,

Hmmm,

 

I would join in except I don't really get it. huh.gif It seems to me a man is what he/she is. Whether one is the first or the last with name has no meaning to me. The only thing that comes to mind for me to recommend is to find find the life. smile.gif

 

What does it matter whether you are the first or the last to be associated with whatever definition it holds for you? No one will stop you from viewing the beauty of a sunset nor will they restrict your hand from giving out your last five dollars to a homeless man. What difference does it make whether it is in the name of Christianity or if you wish to call it something else or nothing at all? Is it vanity or pride we seek? It seems to me faith and life are inseparable and beg no name. What is in a word but a sound speaking of something as if it is that something it is not?

 

Sorry Adi, just don't get it here.... Perhaps I'm getting too old. smile.gif

Joseph

 

 

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Adi,

 

I’m scratching my head also, not sure what you’re reacting to. To me there’s no evidence that “faith is dead” or that the “will of the masses” is to reject spiritual life. Is the religious climate a lot more repressive in Australia -- do people assume that faith in God means believing in hell, creationism, rapture, apocalypse, etc.?

 

I would hope you’d feel comfortable talking about your version of liberal / progressive Christianity rather than lamenting the possibility. Enthusiasm, passion, devotion, intense love of beauty can be expressed by all Christians. Maybe you feel the PC approach is too intellectual at times, or not enough emphasis on service to humanity? just a guess.

 

I didn’t know there was any renewed interest in millenialism. As Deepak Chopra says, “The idea of the Second Coming has been especially destructive to Jesus’ intentions, because it postpones what needs to happen now. The Third Coming – finding God consciousness – happens in the present: a shift in consciousness that makes Jesus’ teachings totally real and vital.”

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If I may do my part to rescue Adi's post from the detractors. :P

What I got out of his story is a kind of a philosophical question: would Christianity still be true and meaningful if there were only one person left who followed it? If I answered 'no', then the question arises of 'what Christianity is to me'. If I say Christianity is true, is it not true whether two billion or only two people believe it? Does truth depend on numbers?

Is Christianity only validated by community, or would it be just as valid if you were the only one? Would you be rightfully called crazy if you were the last such Christian?

Now if I answered 'yes' to the initial question, it is also interesting - how can Christianity possibly be true if it has failed so much as to only have one adherent left?

Whether or not these questions are meaningful at all depend on how one approaches Christianity I suppose.

 

As for eschatology, I'm to blame for that being brought up. But given the huge success that Left Behind, Hal Lindsey, and all the spin off prophecy have been enjoyed these last 20 years, including the 2012 anxiety, I'd say there's quite a big interest in the second-coming. I've grown up with people who are expecting it any day now.

 

 

Peace to you,

Mike

Edited by Mike
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Thanks Mike,

 

I can see the possible intent now as you explained and possible interest some may have in such a philosophical thinking exercise.

 

It did not appear a meaningful thought process to me so i just didn't 'get it' nor do I find a desire to go after it after your clarification anyway. Perhaps, I'll just go and sit on the porch and watch the clouds appear to pass for excitement. laugh.gif

 

Love Joseph

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"[so tell me, dear reader from who knows where, or when, what should I do? Please tell me, what would you do?

 

Adi,

I got this on my facebook, too, but I will answer it here I would continue to practice my faith alone, because it is the way that connects me to God. I would try to understand where commonalities lie between myself and the rest of the world. If they have a desire, for example, to help the downtrodden or to strive for self-improvement, I would support those efforts wholeheartedly. I would speak to what secular people call the "conscience," hoping to reach others to call them to forgive and to actively love others. I would hope that my life would witness to a way of living that honors God. If I had children, I would expose them to the ideas I cherish, knowing they may reject them in the end. I would try to talk to people in the language of the day, rather than the 2000 year old language of Christianity, attempting to renew interest in looking out for others before oneself, etc.

 

Janet

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Hi everyone.

 

Yes Mike got it right, that was the basic question I was posing. Beyond this I was interested to see how people to react to this scenario, so that has been informative.

 

Oscar Wilde once said "A truth becomes a lie when more than one person believes in it". What the exercise was trying to achieve was to get the reader to ask themselves if their faith is predicated on acceptance by the masses, or, if you were the only one feeling these faith pulses, would you be justified in believing that your faith is just as valid? Another question I wanted to pose was how brave are you in your faith (which I can honestly say I am not really). If the rest of the world viewed faith, not just christianity, as anathema, a thing of ridicule, and you admitting to your faith would lead you to scorn and possibly physical violence upon you, would you admit to it? In the world I created above, if the last christian was cornered by someone and asked, point blank, 'Are you a person of faith?', what should he do, what would you do? Would you, like Peter, deny? That is another question I asked.

 

Rivanna I think we are at cross-purposes. Australia is no different from the US or other western cultures in these matters. Anyway the point is not the here and now, in which I am eminently comfortable with my PC and the way it works, the point is to take you out of the comfort of now and place you in a situation which Christians have found themselves in over the centuries, a choice between your faith and your life.

 

For my perspective, and there is no 'right' answer of course, I honestly believe that for most of us 'truth' is predicated on an acceptance by the masses. Although the character in the last christian is feeling a strong and honest faith, because he seems to be the only one feeling that, he is beginning to doubt himself, as would, I think, we all, well I would. Bt I think I would continue in my faith but in a silent way, which is cowardly, and I SO wish I could say that I would stand up for my faith and suffer the consequences, but I don't honestly think I would. Which is something I need to reflect on. Mike covered this really well anyway, just a way on some introspection which, I hope, is something we can all benefit by, as I certainly don't believe I have all the answers, and the need to question is so important I find.

 

Anyway, please keep the responses coming, even you think the exercise is rubbish. All feedback is welcome.

 

Adi

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Nice piece of writing, Adi.

Sounds like a futuristic Noah. For Noah certainly must have felt the deck (no pun intended) stacked against him. I would hope to be as virtuous as Noah were I in the same predicament as the imaginary Adi of 2084.

If I were to seek to please man rather than God, I would have a very flimsy Christianity. Would I really expect to have gained anything by sacrificing my own soul?

Why a spurious arguement that science and logic would have to be abandoned in order to be a man of Christian faith? Has this future Adi actually succombed to the ardent Dawkins?

--

On another note: Isn't fundamental Christian theology to be considered a serious offense in liberal theology? I would think it difficult to explain it as otherwise. Given some apparent predilection to criticize a fundamental belief in Christianity, the liberal dresses himself in what appears to be, say- hypocricy?

--

Now this is on the mark! "...try to talk to people in the language of the day,..."- Janet . This has been a problem too many have not come to grips with.

--

Given the writing skills of Adi, I don't think PC thought could rise to the level of being too intellectual for him.

 

dk

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Hello David,

 

On another note: Isn't fundamental Christian theology to be considered a serious offense in liberal theology? I would think it difficult to explain it as otherwise. Given some apparent predilection to criticize a fundamental belief in Christianity, the liberal dresses himself in what appears to be, say- hypocricy?

 

I'm assuming that this comment was directed to me because I said the converse of the first statement in my post.

 

If your initial premise is true, then it is true because liberal and fundamentalist theology are antitheses of each other. Fundamentalism is by nature not open to what liberal theology has to say, and liberal theology is by nature too open for the exclusivity or narrowness of perspective that is characteristic of fundamentalism.

 

Let us for a moment go beyond the subject of religion and talk about the idea of cultural tolerance versus intolerance, which is a big subject in liberal thinking generally. Liberals speak highly of tolerance of all peoples, but in doing so run the risk of not knowing how to deal with cultures that might be intolerant in their very approach to all other cultures. Now religion and culture are often linked, so that this matter is not removed from our theme. Fundamentalism tends to be by its very nature intolerant - and please understand that I use this word very loosely, fully acknowledging that there are different ways and degrees of being intolerant - of other paths. Liberal theology promotes 'tolerance' as an ideal, but can liberal theology in any practical sense be 'tolerant' of 'intolerance', or are the two just going to disagree by nature?

 

I think many who subscribe to liberal theology, like myself, would like to not have to disagree with fundamentalists - my father and mother and relatives and friends. But it's their position which inherently denies any conversation, any agreement, any common ground, not mine. Their the ones making the claim, not me. How do you have a real dialogue with people who have already sent you to hell in their minds? What is there to talk about if they already have a monopoly on truth? Some fundamentalists even tend to feign an interest in genuine discussion for the sake of proselytizing, as if the only point in conversation is to make the other person become like yourself.

 

So no, ideally liberal theology would not have to be predisposed to reject any kind of belief, but this ideal is, in fact, a cause and predicate to disagreeing with certain forms of belief, because there is no other realistic way to deal with it. I hope I've come across the right way in this as I've tried to make my point without being offensive.

 

Peace to you,

Mike

Edited by Mike
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Mike, I appreciate your honesty. Nothing you wrote offended.

My choice of using fundamental over fundamentalist was purposeful. One can be firm in their belief in the fundamental precepts of Christianity without being overtly militant, that is fundamentalist. (Whether or not one cares to believe those precepts or not is purely the individuals choice.) There are fundamental Christians who run afowl of fundamentalists for there are fundamentalists in any 'religion'; and the liberal community is not any more immune than any other. This is evidenced by much of the liberalist's argument that has falsely demonized the fundamental faith of Christianity and then lumping all who believe it into a fundamentalist mold. Resorting to name calling is a poor defense for ones ideas. My point in the previous post.

 

What you may have to consider now is, is your family really fundamentlist or are they Christians just not able to communicate in a manner you understand? Are they judging you, or are they warning you? There's a difference, and it's often misunderstood by the reciever as much as it can be misappplied by the giver. Are they intolerant of you or of what they believe are bad concepts you may have acquired?

Are you judging them? Are you communicating in a manner they can understand? Are you hearing what they mean to say? Are each of you being slow to anger and quick to hear?

While they are family and friends, you still can't control how they behave, but you can control how you do. One can't convey tolerance if one is intolerant. Be an example of how to love even those who may even just seem intolerant of what you may believe. If they are Christian they know to love first. And each of you should give the other opportunity to demonstrate it. That is Christ's example.

 

This may be better suited to another thread or private messaging. I'll leave that up to you.

 

Dk

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Hi David,

I appreciate your concern, and I have no question that my parents, and Christians like them, have a genuine sense of concern about what they perceive to be unbelief and its dire consequences. And I do not wish to convey a sense that I am embittered about the situation and have a bad relationship with my family because of this - I simply don't talk about religion to them. But whether someone is sincere, whether or not they are earnestly warning me of what they see as an imminent danger, the outcome is the same: closed communication. And sincerity is probably what makes situations like these most difficult, because we're not talking about ignoble motivations, we're talking about people's idea of what's real. If a Christian, for example, sees me reading a book about, say, Buddhism, and tells me that that's of the devil and that I should be reading the bible instead - the conflict is not about sincerity but reality. Hence there's an impasse and somebody's worldview is skewed.

But you are right that this is going way off topic, I think I've derailed Adi's thread far enough, so I'd better stop before I'm scolded. :) If we are interested in discussing this further, perhaps we should start another thread, although I'm not sure that we can say much more about it than we already have.

Thanks for sharing your perspective as it has been a helpful reminder for me to consider.

 

Peace to you,

Mike

Edited by Mike
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Hi David,

 

Thanks for your responses. Needless to say I don't feel one needs to abandon science to be a Christian, in any way, but yes, in the future I presented, the last christian does indeed live in a world where Dawkins and the 'new atheism' holds complete sway. As I said to Mike, I don't believe this world will ever come about, but by imagining it we can ask ourselves questions we may otherwise not, which is what I was attempting to do, however clumsily. What prompted this entire discussion was two things. Someone close to be adopting a new atheist position and the Vatican presenting a path for people of my denomination, Anglicanism, disilussioned with the 'liberalism' of the Anglican Church, to join the RC CHurch in as easy a way as possible. (Saddened to say an awful lot of Anglicans here in Australia will probably take the RC up on this offer) Anyway, the point is these positions made me contemplate what life would be like if ALL the people around me rejected my Christianity, and not just some. The story flowed from there, with some added impetus to make the last christian be faced with a decision; be brave in his faith, or deny like Peter, or stay quiet and hide. It is an introspection of sorts. Like you David, I would love to think I could be like Noah and be brave and bold in my faith, or like Sophie Scholl during the second world war, the thing is, I don't know if I would be, which is confronting.

 

Anyway, really did it to provoke discussion and it has, really interesting stuff too.

 

Adi

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Adi,

Yes- provocative; yes- denomonations all too often become the religion; yes- I think we would all consider questioning our fortitude in the face of death. But, once known, holding to the strength of truth and mourning for, not fearing, those who deny it, would make it much simpler to answer, even if we were the last person on earth to know it.

--

Mike,

You didn't sound bitter in the least.

 

The good thing about reality is- it's real. That means we can have real hope of finding the truth.

While each of us will develop a worldview to explain the questions we have, we find the farther we go in asking those questions, we find there are not many basic answers to any of the great questions of life. That is not to say there are not myriads of details to discuss, (like books on Buddhism) but the bottom line answers are really only few in number.

 

 

dk

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The good thing about reality is- it's real. That means we can have real hope of finding the truth.

While each of us will develop a worldview to explain the questions we have, we find the farther we go in asking those questions, we find there are not many basic answers to any of the great questions of life. That is not to say there are not myriads of details to discuss, (like books on Buddhism) but the bottom line answers are really only few in number.

 

I agree with that, and if I may be suffered to elaborate a bit, I would say that in my own approach to religion is the exploration of literally just a few central themes. True knowledge is always hard to come by, but reality is given to us in all its fullness. For this reason science or abstract philosophy can never replace religion. Religion seeks a wisdom at the heart of life that is often inaccessible to objective or scientific methods. Reason or logic does not absolutely identify with 'Truth'. Just imagine a Venn diagram in which logic overlaps or intersects Truth, but they are not the same. Truth is reality, and logic, if grounded in the right (or truth-ful) premises and method, can reflect or point to Truth. The way I see it, religion's role is the intersection of Truth with real life practice. While true knowledge is scant, knowing truth is limitless.

 

Peace to you,

Mike

Edited by Mike
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I'll try to get us segued back to the topic (???)

 

Gentlemen,

 

I submit that philosophy and religion are asking the same few 'why' questions. Since science is left to the vagaries of one's worldview, it can be relegated to explain only the 'how'.

 

Since reality/truth objectively exists- it appears we can agree it is to be said to be reasonable-, we can therefore rest assured that the truth can be known. I agree that while there is substantial subjectivity and innumerable particulars to wade through, universal truth's objective reality can be known, truly. Though as intimated, clearly not exhaustively.

 

Even though Noah stood firm, he wasn't without casting his eyes about with questions. And Peter's thrice repeated collapse was repented of before he was completely overcome. Alas, we have an added advantage of that historical perspective.

 

The last Christian cannot be satisfied with such as a blind faith religion, that having only a distant or no relationship with reality and it's objective truth's. This explains why, in the original proposition, the last Christian should be hard pressed to abandon his faith in the face of a blindly unreasonable opposition- Dawkin's rampant aetheism.

 

I'm sorry to say, I'm not well versed into the issues involving the Australian Anglican Church v Roman Catholicism v liberals v pentacostals, et al.

 

God's grace,

dk

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