chapter  3
Christianity
Pages 19

The Christian message could be summed up in a single sentence of Paul's, that 'God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself' (2 Corinthians 5.19). But this sentence would not make much sense without assuming the fallenness of the world, and hence the need for such reconciliation. Someone has said that the 'good news' of the Christian gospel is original sin; that is not a term I use, but it would not be far wrong to say that the good news is the fallenness of God's creation. It is certainly the presupposition of the central message of the gospel, but it is also good news in itself, given that we already know something of what the world is like. At least it is better news than the two main alternatives: that the universe is an accident; or that it is God's unfallen creation, just what God intended, even - in the immortal words of that ultimate pessimist Leibniz - 'the best of all possible worlds'. It is quite clear in the New Testament that God is not the ruler of the world (that phrase is reserved for the powers of evil), and that his will is not done on earth. It is astounding that some people interpret the Lord's Prayer as expressing resignation to what will happen anyway by the words 'Thy will be done'. Nothing could be further from the truth, as is shown by the preceding words 'Thy kingdom come' and the qualifying words 'on earth as it is in Heaven'. Clearly God's kingdom is not yet here, his will is done in Heaven but not yet on earth. It is a prayer for revolution, not resignation. That something in fact happens is not the slightest reason to think that it is God's will. Indeed, Jesus often speaks just as if God the Father were all-knowing and allloving, but not all-ruling: he knows and cares for every sparrow that falls - but the sparrows go on falling just the same.