Grace-fulfilment, not wish-fulfilment
Regular columnist James Knight identifies similarities between the current Labour leadership contest and some people’s attitude towards Christianity.
The current Labour leadership contest between Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith is further dividing an already divided Labour Party. At the centre of the party’s division is Jeremy Corbyn, with some partisans favouring his brand of hard left socialism, and other partisans being more centre-left. But as things have progressed, there appears to be a third faction of partisans: those who are sympathetic to Corbyn’s views but who have come to believe that he has very little chance of winning a General Election.
For that group, a leader with what they believe to be attractive beliefs is little use to the party they support if he’s going to consign them to electoral defeat. The charge against Corbyn is that even for those with whom he’s popular, the likelihood of those policies being part of an elected government is wish-fulfilment.
For some, the Christian faith has also been thought of as being similar to a wish-fulfilment in that the salvation offered to us is a mere comfort blanket. I’ve always found this a strange objection, as we also often hear from some sceptics that apparently the God of the Bible is a bloodthirsty tyrant under whose dictatorship a nightmare befalls us.
Given the difficulty in arguing that the Christian faith is both a comfort blanket and yet simultaneously a tyrannical nightmare for those supposedly comforted by it, I think a better explanation can be offered.
I think we should be under no illusion that Christianity offers trivial comforts, strokes our ego, or tells us what we want to hear. While offering hope that transcends all earthly qualities, there is little sense in which the Christian faith tells us things ‘comforting’ about ourselves.
In fact, the whole basis on which we are offered the free gift of salvation through grace is that Scripture points out some pretty disquieting things about us – even going so far as to declare that ‘all our righteous acts are like filthy rags’ (Isaiah 64:6).
Politicians so often tell us the things they think we’d like to hear in order to court popularity. Christianity tells us what we should want to hear – that we are saved not through ourselves but through grace – but with a message that is in no way flattering to ourselves, only worthy of lifting our praise to God. It can be unsettling news for the ego, but it’s the best news of all.
This article first appeared at http://www.licc.org.uk/resources/grace-fulfilment/ and has been reproduced with permission.
The above image of Jeremy Corbyn is courtesy of Commons.Wikipedia
James Knight is a local government officer based in Norwich, and is a regular columnist for Christian community websites Network Norfolk and Network Ipswich. He also blogs regularly as ‘The Philosophical Muser’, and contributes articles to UK think tanks The Adam Smith Institute and The Institute of Economic Affairs, as well as the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity (LICC).
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