The Big Picture of Christianity - Convincing us to Keep the Gift of Paradise After It is Delivered to Us
Suppose you were God. Moreover, you are a doting father who loves his children. You would do anything for them. You delight in giving them gifts. You give your children the gift of life and the gift of paradise simultaneously. Yet, you witness your children abdicate the gift of paradise for godlessness after you have delivered it to them. You witness Lucifer walk through the door that separates paradise from godlessness. You witness a gaggle of angels follow Lucifer through the door. You witness Eve walk through the door and Adam follow her. You witness the prodigal son walk through the door. They keep the gift of life; they don't abdicate this gift because, the alternative, death, dissuades them. But they abdicate the gift of paradise. The alternative, godlessness, does not dissuade them. They do not understand it. They assume that it is congenial. Their assumption is wrong. Your heart is rent in twain by the ingratitude of your children (Godlessness). But, godlessness is hostile territory. Their dangerous escapade into godlessness triggers your paternalistic instinct to rescue them. In godlessness, they are in trouble. They need your help. Yet, to help them, you do not want to turn paradise into a prison, yourself into their warden and your children into prisoners. You do not want to lock them up even if the cage is gilded. A cage is a cage no matter how gilded. You do not want to keep your children in paradise against their will. You respect the free will of your children. You want your children to choose paradise of their own volition. Now, "God", here is your assignment. Devise a plan that will prevent your beloved children from abdicating paradise for godlessness. Devise a plan that works - that is "intrinsically" effective - that will keep the children of God in paradise after the gift of paradise is delivered to them regardless of their merit or demerit, regardless of their worthiness or unworthiness - a plan that will prevail should the gates of hell open up and all manner of powerful and pernicious evil pass through to war against it (Matthew 16:18). Stop them from repeating the "original sin" of Lucifer, the gaggle of angels who followed Lucifer, Eve, Adam and the prodigal son. What would you do? What plan would you put in place? Can you devise a plan that satisfies all of these requirements?
Here is what God did - the real God.
He inserted a delay between the delivery of the gift of life and the delivery of the gift of paradise. During the delay his children taste the sourness of godlessness for themselves (Proverbs 13:24). God's children learn for themselves that godlessness sucks. Experience is the most persuasive of teachers. The delay is short because God is merciful. But, the delay is harsh medicine. The medicine is harsh because godlessness sucks. Godlessness is not a happy place but "a valley of tears". The medicine is effective, however. When the gift of paradise is delivered to the children of God, they will keep it. They know better. The prodigal son is never going back to the pig sty and neither are we. Unfortunately, the harsh but effective medicine is the source of all the complaints about God and God's plan. God, however, is willing to put up with his children's complaints, sighs, mourning and weeping from this valley of tears because, when he delivers the gift of paradise to them, they will keep it. Getting us to keep the gift of paradise after the gift is delivered to us is God's goal - it is the goal of God's plan. Eventually, God tries to ameliorate the sourness of godlessness by revealing to his children the sweetness of paradise. He shows his children the secret that makes the crosses of suffering that nail themselves to us as we pass through godlessness bearable. But that is another story.
The Big Picture of Christianity - Revealing the Secret of Passing Through the Sourness of Godlessness
Suppose you were God. Your plan to prevent your children from abdicating paradise for godlessness is working. A short stint in the the shithole of godlessness is stopping your prodigal sons and daughters from returning there after the gift of paradise is given to them. In exile in the valley of tears, however, your children are being eaten up and ripped apart, broken and shattered. The wolves are devouring the sheep. The sighs, mourning and weeping of your children break your heart. In your mercy, you limited their exile in the valley of tears to just a lifetime - an infinitesimally thin slice of time when compared to the thickness of eternity. But you want to do more for your children. You want to ameliorate the sting while your children learn for themselves the truth that godlessness is sour, oh so very sour. Is there a way to lessen the harshness of the medicine yet maintain its effectiveness? What would you do?
Here is what God did - the real God.
When the Son of God paid us a visit more than two thousand years ago at and about the city of Jerusalem in a region of our planet called the Middle East, he did not come empty handed. He was not that type of guest. He brought with him a gift. The gift was not a useless trinket - a tchotchke to display on a shelf. It was a practical gift appropriate for pilgrims who are passing through the valley of tears. Moreover, the utility of the gift is not limited to just Christians. Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Atheists, etc. can benefit from the gift. Its utility transcends religions.
Our crosses of suffering plant us, like a tree, in the ground, stopping our progress to paradise short of the destination. The gift that he brought from heaven to earth was the secret of transforming ourselves into superman. He brought with him the secret of how to deny ourselves, to pick up our crosses and to carry them so we can continue our journey through the valley of tears to paradise (Matthew 16:24). The secret was not how to rid ourselves of suffering. Suffering is the harsh but effective medicine that vaccinates us against the disease of post delivery paradise opt out. Suffering is a necessary evil. The secret hanging in plain sight from the cross was the secret of how to best pass through suffering.
What is the secret?
Suffering tends to transform us into the most miserable and hideous of beasts. It achieves the transformation by poking a hole in our hearts and draining them of love. More destructive than the crosses of suffering that nail themselves to us as we pass through this valley of tears is the loss of love. Suffering tends to extinguish love. Suffering tends to snuff love out as a wet blanket snuffs out a fire. The tendency is powerful. When the cross of suffering is upon you, your intuition tells you to release your grip on love - your instinct tells you to let it go. Do not trust your intuition. Do not heed it. Ignore your instinct. Deny yourself. Deny this powerful tendency. Fight against it. With the help of God, refuse its urging. Like the serpent, it is trying to steer you in the wrong direction. It is giving you instructions that contradict your self-interest - that are contrary to your welfare. Your natural inclination is lying to you. It is trying to deceive you. You are worse off, not better off, when you yield to it. Cling to love, hold tight and refuse to let go. Do this not to benefit the evildoer. Do this to benefit yourself. Do this to prevent your crosses of suffering from transforming you into the most miserable and hideous of beasts. Keep the fire of love burning at all times. Do not surrender love to suffering. Your welfare depends on clinging to love, holding tight and refusing to let go. Only love makes our crosses of suffering in this valley of tears bearable.
Jesus did not want to just tell us the secret. Secrets told tend to get distorted or lost in their transmission. The Son of God wanted to demonstrate the secret to us himself. Showing us rather than telling us the secret would brand it indelibly on our understanding like a tattoo to flesh. So he mounted the cross of suffering to put on the demonstration.
We tortured and killed him. He suffered and died. Yet, he did not stay dead and did not stop loving us. He arose from the dead still alive and still in love with us. He clung to his love for us, held tight and refused to let go. The Son of God refused to let the sharp edge of suffering poke a hole in his most sacred heart and drain it of his love for us. Buckets of blood spilled though the wounds we opened in his body but not a drop - not a drop - of his love for us spilled. His most sacred heart stayed filled to the brim with love for us.
Love transforms us into superman. It enables us to pick up and carry our crosses of suffering. Clinging to love, holding tight and not letting go allows us to continue our escape through the hostile desert of godlessness from slavery under the yoke of Pharaoh to freedom with God and his holy family in the promised land. Love lightens the load. It makes our crosses of suffering portable. It gives us the strength to pull up the roots we have sunk deep into the hostile desert of godlessness. Love enables settlers to become pilgrims. Without love, we suffer like a hideous and miserable beast. With love, we suffer nobly. Love is our only sanctuary when the storms of suffering rain down upon us in this valley of tears.
The Evidence contradicts the Theory of the Beatific Vision
A cage is a cage no matter how gilded.
The door is unlocked, God has free-willed it.
Satan opted out after the gift of paradise had been delivered to him. So did the gaggle of angels who followed Satan. So did Eve. So did Adam. In his generosity, God delivered the gift of life and the gift of paradise to them simultaneously. Yet, they did not keep the gift of paradise. All of them fumbled the ball.