Friday, May 01, 2009

Where is God? / A King in Exile

There's an easy wee question for a Friday afternoon. My oldest son, Jacob (10), is now starting to ask life's big questions - why do bad things happen, why doesn't God show himself, all of that sort of thing. A lot of people ask these questions, and it's good to see Jacob growing up and thinking about these things. So I went to the EP shop in Belfast last week and came home with a bagful of booklets for young people, John Blanchard and the like, and Jacob's reading his way through them.

I'm no theologian (thanks to Crawford's writings, Robin's advice and other folk too I'm a recovering dispensationalist!) and for those of you who are your toes will probably curl as I expand this post. I'm going to explore a wee bit around the idea of "a King in exile", and see if there are any scriptural parallels that emerge. More to come later on...


... well, since I posted the bit above, my internet connection has been playing up so I've had a bit longer to think about this than I thought. So I'm going to keep this simple.

(Caveat: Every metaphor breaks down at some stage, because it's in some way different from the thing it seeks to describe. Plus, trying to explain God through a human example is never going to work)

• At this very moment, there are many kings and princes in exile - in Ulster-Scots terms, King Robert the Bruce's 6 months on Rathlin Island in 1306/1307 is a good example. Today, most exiled kings are mainly African and Asian, now living in the West. For generations their families ruled their kingdoms and provinces, but at some point there was an enemy attack, or a coup d'├ętat, or a popular uprising, and the King was ousted, rejected by the people and forced into exile. An opposing force now rules his kingdom. For the time being he is at best semi-detached, and cannot exercise his full authority.

He's not entirely absent - he has a resistance movement of sympathisers and supporters who are still there, maintaining as much loyalty as they can, but sometimes they are discouraged and demoralised. He communicates with them via longwave radio broadcasts, or maybe through tv and YouTube (here's an example of the exiled Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi of Iran on CNN) Sadly, the general public of the country may have adjusted to life under the new overlord, and may even have come to despise the King. However, he maintains an active interest in the affairs of his kingdom, and may even have planted a network of covert agents there who provide him with regular information about the situation. Ultimately, he is planning to return, to retake his rightful place as the Sovereign of that country and to rule it the way he always intended. This may require a military invasion - and above all, perfect timing.

So for the moment he is biding his time, mustering his forces, communicating with his supporters and waiting and watching until the time is right to take back his kingdom.

• The basic Christian position is that the world was once a utopia, ruled in harmony by God - an Eden if you will. But there was a coup d'├ętat, the people rejected him, and ever since the world has been (to some extent) under enemy occupation. However, He's already been back, for 33 years, and is currently planning His eventual permanent return. But for the time being, the world remains detached from His full authority and control, and utopia will not be restored until the return, the invasion, takes place and triumphs.

So we live in a compromised world, where bad things happen, where evil prospers. Good people get sick. Bad people get away with murder.
Things that every fibre of our being tell us are not right, are unfair, seem to succeed. Yet that very thought, that sense of fair play, and of right and wrong behaviour, are surely signals that something has gone wrong in this world - that things are not the way they should be...

(In talking to someone about this over the weekend, I'm told that Ulsterman CS Lewis explores this concept much more eloquently in "Mere Christianity", in the chapter entitled "The Invasion" and "The Shocking Alternative". Here's an excerpt:

"...The difference is that Christianity thinks... it is a civil war, a rebellion, and that we are living in a part of the universe occupied by the rebel. Enemy-occupied territory - that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage..." )

I hope there is something useful in this post.