I’ve never been a fan of Christianity, but there is the uncomfortable fact that many of my ancestors have been Christian in once sense or another. For that reason I should attempt to understand Christian ideas better in order to understand my ancestors. One key Christian idea that never really made sense to me is the notion that God is a cruel father who loves you, but you should be afraid of him.
I’ve been wondering about this concept for a few months now, and the best way I can make sense of this medieval idea of God is to regard it as someone or something that ensures constancy in the world. In our modern times we take it for granted that the world has certain immutable laws, that they are predictable, and by understanding them we can repeat certain actions by understanding the underlying theories. To pre-modern man the world was not necessarily so ready-made.
Ancient myths like that of female Tiamat, the primordial chaos, mating with male Abzu to produce a world less chaotic represent a completely different mindset to our society. Abzu is more aching to the Christian God that brings order to chaos. In ancient times, reality was like a narcotic dream where things can change in a heart-beat. But with the Christian God this is not the case. The love of the cruel father ensures that if you shoot yourself in the foot, and it hurts, you can be sure the same thing happens the next time you shoot yourself in the foot as well. If one time you shoot yourself in the foot, and it bleeds, the next time a unicorn will not grow out of the wound, for example. God ensures constancy. If you know what shooting yourself in the foot entails, you know you should avoid it.
In a sense the Christian harsh God is the basis for material sciences of today. God ensures there are repeatable and predictable patterns in the physical world that we can learn to use to our advantage. Without this God there could be no science as we know it. Men would never have begun classifying and analysing the countless features of the physical world, be it flora, fauna or mineral.
This God represents the Zeitgeist of the late middle-ages and the ensuing Renaissance and Enlightenment. It has led us into the modern times, but now it seems the Zeitgeist is changing. We cannot be sure into what, but I would say back into a more chaotic time. Whether this is actually a metaphysical change in the seemingly immutable laws of nature, or simply a shift in human consciousness and perception, is a good question. I’d say it’s a bit of both.