The Counsel of Trent

writing is thinking

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

“He’s Real”: Christology out of the mouths of babes…

Even though I’m a big fan of Greek, Norse, and other mythology, I had not included it in my daughter’s education yet (she just turned five). Though I let her read Frog and Toad and Aesop’s Fable’s and things under the general heading of fairy tale, I just didn’t want her to get the wrong idea about the term “god”. This is part of a general obsession I have with the real and, to a lesser extent, the factual. If you ask her who Santa Claus is, she will tell you quite clearly that it is the Germanic form of the name of Saint Nicholas who was a Fourth Century Bishop of Myra. I’m not sure if she’s heard of the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy. Come, come, no pish-posh about “denying her her childhood” or other nonsense. The attempt to systematically deceive children about what exists and what does not is not only a particularly pernicious form of lying, it just sets the stage for all of those comparisons with God made by opportunistic atheists. A sense of the Really Real is important for Children. Those who know me know I’m a huge fan of Fantasy. They’ve heard me say that Middle Earth is more real than the Mid-Atlantic. I read Fantasy to my children and let Fiona read whatever fantasy she wants (you’ve guessed by now that she’s homeschooled. Most welfare school children can’t read much at five and don’t much if they can). However, she knows that there are no fairies which run through the woods and she knows that trees can’t see and hear her. She knows, in her own way, that these things symbolize the truth that everything in the natural world is imbued with spiritual meaning in consequence of being created by God. Anyway, if you don’t know me personally and could thus possibly misinterpret me as some Puritan in the vain of Chaucer’s Parson, then email me at Trent "at" Dougherty "dot" net to be set straight. Anyway, one of the neatest things recently has been her discernment of what is real and what is not. I suspect this process was initiated during our Fall Break when—before heading into the Hercules Glades Wilderness—we stopped by Rocky Ridge Farm in Mansfield, MO to see the museum and tour the house. We had just finished the Little House series (14 books in all) and Fiona had read the kids' versions. The LH series is one of my favorites and its ethos is deeply ingrained in my consciousness. Fiona said something that indicated that she didn’t think there really was a Rocky Ridge Farm or a Laura or a Rose. I assured her that there were and that she was seeing it before her very eyes and began to relay stories which related to objects in sight. From that point on, she began trying to disambiguate which characters were real and which were not. “Daddy, was there really a Beauty and the Beast?” “No babe, that’s a story made up to remind us not to judge people by their outward appearance.” “Daddy, was there really a Sleeping Beauty?” “No babe, that’s just a story people made up to remind us that…well…I’m not sure what the point is, but there probably is one.” “Daddy, was there really a George Washington?” “There sure was, babe, I’ve been to his house and saw where he lived. [Aside: I really look forward to questions about George Washington an the Cherry tree and about Legends (as distinct from Fairy Tales) such as Cinderella and Arthur which have varying degrees of historical basis covered in layers of embellishment. That will be interesting.] So anyway, we’re sitting on the porch today and I’m holding a globe explaining how tornados form (we’ve had lots of Tornado watches lately). Afterwards I was just giving a general geography lesson and I happened to point to the Holy Land and say that that was where Jesus was born. She made a (very) thoughtful face and said, “Huh, he’s real.” I blinked. A year passed. I blinked again. “Yeah babe, He is. He had a Mommy and Daddy like you [I didn’t say “just” like you what with the virgin birth and all]. He wore sandals and went to church and liked fish. He laughed a lot, but sometimes he cried.” I’ve spilled much digital ink defending the historicity of the life of Christ and his miracles, especially the Resurrection. I have done so because it makes a difference. If the Gospels are a fairy tail or, at best, a legend, about an ancient Jew, then we might draw the usual morals, but there’d be no hope. Paul said it all,
13 But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen:14 And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.15 Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not.16 For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised:17 And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.
Pascal was perhaps the first to form a trilemma based on the Apostolic testimony. He says—in essence—that the Apostles were either deceived, deceivers, or declarers of the truth [it’s in the Pensees somewhere, but I’m writing in the park and don’t have my marked copy to hand]. One just can’t be deceived about seeing a crucified man eat fish and people don’t die in large numbers for a known lie (people die for lies every day, but b/c they think they are true). He’s real. Thus, so is our forgiveness and hour hope for eternal live is a reasonable one (1 Peter 3:15). Now the key is to live consistently with this. I think we too often live as if its just a pious legend. We utter platitudes and so forth, but we don’t risk anything on it. What have you risked on his reality lately?

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