According to C.S. Lewis there are three kinds of religions.
There are nature religions, anti-nature religions and Christianity.
The nature religions are essentially the religons that believe in enjoying the creation around you. It’s about having a good time, and doing what comes naturally. The old pagan religions were like that (you actually got drunk at Bacchan rituals in old pagan Rome). Much of modern atheism (“there’s probably no god, so stop worrying and enjoy your life”) would be like that.
The anti-nature religions are the old Greek stoics, or the eastern mystics like the Hindus and Buddhists. They believe in starving the flesh, and denying those natural impulses that the nature religions revel in. There was a school of Greek philosophers called the stoics- I can best describe them by saying that the word has now passed into the English dictionary as a byword for ignoring pain, soldiering on, and suppressing emotion. Much of the eastern mysticism you see glorified in Hollywood (hardly the place to go for self-denial!) fits into this school- ignore the body, the mind is key and so forth.
But Christianity is not like this.
Christianity is not a nature religion. It does not admit that whatever you feel is good. In fact, it goes to strenuous lengths to remind you that many of our natural desires are very bad, and must be defeated. Christianity believes that the created order is racked by the consequences of sin, and therefore cannot be a good standard of good and bad.
But Christianity is also not an anti-nature religion. The things that God made are valuable just because God made them, and although everything around us may be ruined by the side affects of sin, it is not beyond redemption. Rather, the whole point of the story of the universe is the redemption of it.
Jesus cried at Lazarus’s funeral. He healed the sick. He fed the hungry. He partied with the socialites. Jesus did not live an ascetic life, shunning nature. Nor did he come approving of nature.
He came to redeem it.
And He came to redeem it in a rather funny way. Rather than arriving as an all-conquering king, master of all (which He is), he came as a servant, to help and to heal. He had to die and to suffer to save and rise again. The whole thing is upside down and everything at once.
That’s quite a good description of Christianity on the whole, really. The whole thing is upside down and everything at once.
God doesn’t condemn the physical world to be destroyed by hellfire, nor does He sit and let it run riot. He comes and suffers in order to revolutionise it.
The created world (CS Lewis’ “nature”) is both loved and judged at the same time, and the solution is not what either love or judgement would suggest, but what you get when you have complete love and complete justice at the same time: redemption.
It’s exciting to think that as Christians, we’re part of that redemptive plan. And that’s a whole other blogpost entirely.