The Theology of the Flawed

The Inner Kingdom Reconsidered


(Image Source: Barry Culligan)

One day I asked a friend of mine to come along to a public meeting that was looking to explore the future of the Church in Ireland. My friend is Eastern European and was raised without any faith-tradition, the nation being strongly influenced by the atheistic policies of Russia. We’d known one another for ages and had often chatted, and still do, about things spiritual. She said, ‘what the heck, why not!’ So, away we went.

The meeting was chaired by notorious Irish comedian Tommy Tiernan. He has long evinced an interested in religious matters and was invited to Chair the meeting on behalf of the Galway based Franciscan Order. The meeting was moving along well enough. Many expressed their hurt and mistrust of the leadership of the religious Orders in Ireland after their unbelievable incompetence and mismanagement of the Abuse Scandals, the Magdalene Laundries, the Industrial Schools and what-have-you. This conversation with the flock was exactly what the Order was hoping to facilitate as a first step toward healing the rift that had erupted between the shepherds and their sheep in the wake of these tragedies.

Unfortunately, as the meeting wore on it came to be dominated by members of an organisation called Youth 2000. They managed to drag the conversation into the dark shadow of organised religion and began to vehemently denouncing homosexuality; effectively derailing the talk. This was exactly the sort of thing I was hoping would not happen. My friend is a gay woman and I had hoped that during this meeting she might encounter something at least intriguing, if not encouraging, but these berks put an end to that. I was hurt and disappointed that she had to sit in silence, listening to the intolerance of these supposed followers of Jesus. That night gave me cause to reflect on the religious and theological underpinnings of the ideologies of these, what are for me, incredibly backward looking groups.

The following day I got online and started raising awkward questions, creating bedlam on one of the forums. However, an interesting point about homosexuality emerged from that dialogue; the fact that homosexuality or homosexual behaviour is not a product of upbringing. What was interesting was this: if behaviour was solely a product of nurture, then all children would ‘naturally’ follow the heterosexual model presented by their caregivers and this is obviously not the case. The row really kicked off when it was pointed out that if kids don’t ‘catch straight’ from their biological parents, they won’t ‘catch gay’ from homosexual parents. Thus was nuked any objection preventing gay couples from adopting. Good result!

One night, some time later, I was reflecting on this issue again – the biblical roots from whence the intolerant camp draw up their bile and was struck by a key teaching of Jesus. He taught us the pre-eminence of the inner life over the outer; that our lives were simply reflections or, perhaps better, projections of our inner desires, longings, and yearnings. He quoted with favour the old prophet that said, ‘out of the heart come the issues of life.’ He warned people to be careful of the desires they nestled in their breast, lest they nestle a fire that could consume their soul. He taught that while men must, perforce, judge according to the senses – what they can perceive – the Father in Heaven judges according to our truest intentions; that He is not so much concerned with our acts as our motivations, aspirations, purposes, goals, ideals, desires and longings. These, to a large degree, comprise the sum and substance of our spiritual life; they are the substantial, causative, transforming, energising element and/or dimension of our being.

Our motivations may be bestial or spiritual, arising from the impulses of the flesh or the urging of the indwelling spirit guide. Thus are we admonished to let our delights be in Heavenly/spiritual realities and not fleeting earthly/material pleasures. Jesus warned us of the challenges of trying to serve two masters, the Beast within or the God within, and that until we settle this matter once and for all, fully and finally, we would be faced with a soul struggle.

Our actions are the shadow of our intentions; they are an effect but they are not – in and of themselves – the cause and, as far as the Father is concerned, the cause is of infinitely greater significance. The Father judges us not by our acts but by our hearts desires, our truest, highest, and noblest intentions. This truth is the foundation of the admonition given by Jesus; ‘Judge not,’ because, as ‘sure as eggs is eggs’, we’re going to get it wrong. We simply do not have access to nor do we understand all the facts, factors, and dynamics that lead up to the commission of an act. And while shadows may look very similar to their ancestral object, the varying substances or ‘objects’ that gives rise to them can be very, very different.

Sexual activity is an act, an effect, a shadow, a consequence, but it is not a CAUSE. A sex act, regardless of the players in the equation, may indeed be an expression of stainless love but it can also be an expression of heinous intent. Simply because a man and woman engage in sexual activity it does not necessarily follow that it is wholesome, beautiful and pure, that it is – in itself – a beautiful thing. Neither does it follow that when two persons of the same gender engage in such conduct that they are driven by unholy, vile or heinous intent. When two persons love one another they are free to express themselves any way they see fit. In the final analysis, that is between them and God. He knows the true desire of their hearts and they will reap according to the purity or corruption of their intentions and not merely according to the act.

If salvation cannot be had by WORKS, then neither can damnation be so secured. It cannot be that works are ineffective in one case but effective in another and contrary case! Similarly, if you are not defiled by what ‘enters through the eyes or ears’ neither can you be so sanctified by what ‘enters through the eyes or ears’! Sanctification comes from the inner regeneration of the soul through the work of the indwelling spirit; it comes from the sincere, humble, contrite, God hungry soul; it comes as a free gift of grace from the Father into the heart of His child and pours forth in the life of the child in the form of the fruits of the spirit; thus salvation and the sanctification thereof comes from the deepest spirit core of the heart, it is not driven in with the hammer of works and that being the case neither is damnation so driven in. The whole theology of damnation and salvation is based upon certain amount of erroneous thinking. Further, if works are not what saves – then why judge people or, for that matter, praise them – for their works? Even in the face of the command that you refrain from such foolishness!

You simply cannot have acts that are inherently sinful, it makes no spiritual sense, the sin doesn’t lie in the act but in the intent, the motivation; the act merely reveals the darkness or light within. It is for this reason that we are taught that circumstances do not create the man, they reveal him; thus does the Cross reveal the Prince of Peace.

At its simplest, religion is an excuse; an attempt to justify what already lies in the heart. Jesus knew this and so he taught. As he pointed out that we are ‘not defiled by what enters through the eyes or the ears but by what comes from the heart; murder, theft, adultery, and divers lusts.’ He likewise said, ‘A good tree bears good fruit, a bad tree bear corrupt fruit,’ and that a good tree cannot bear bad fruit and vice versa. A person with peace and love in their hearts will read the books of their traditions and say, ‘Behold! My God says I must go forth and spread love and peace. My God is good and gracious. I will spend my life doing His will.’ While a different person reads the same books but finds therein that their God says, ‘Go forth and crush the unrighteous, kill the wicked, and burn the infidel. Remove their seed from the face of the earth,’ and so shout with pride, ‘Behold! My God is a Righteous God and a Just God. I will go forth and do His bidding!’ Same text but hearts filled with different values read them different ways. Thus did the Master say, ‘Out of the abundance of the heart flows the issues of life,’ even as the prophet said, ‘as a man thinketh in his heart so is he.’

We are taught that the Lord will put His Law on the tablets of our hearts and that our love for His way will establish us upon His way. In so doing the Father has dispensed with external authorities and deals directly with the souls of His children, leading them from deep within their own souls according to their love for truth and righteousness, their consecration to bearing the fruits of the spirit – the doing of His will.

Now, when I look back upon such wayward and self-deceived souls, I understand that they have truly got everything back-ass-ward. When God/the Kingdom enters your heart it transforms you from within but these guys don’t get that; they seem to think they can effect salvation/transformation from without, using scripture to beat people into conformity with their values and standards. They are lost in the spiritual delusion of the salvific nature of works.

For such scripture is a device, a weapon, used to give expression to the hate they harbour in their own hearts. Their actions; of violence, intolerance, and judgement, are the fruits of spiritual darkness and are the exact opposite of what Jesus demanded from his followers. It is a rather peculiar spiritual tragedy, that these types of people have got it so completely wrong; that the flames that burn so brightly in their hearts, and of which they are so very proud, are not the purifying flames of righteousness but the spiritually destructive flames of hatred for the children of God dressed up in the deceiving habiliments of self-righteousness. Without a sincere, abiding, and devoted love for truth, they can find no way to escape the fire they started. Thus can we understand the admonition of the Master, to pray for those that curse us, God knows, they need it.

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