I have just re-read יובל נח הררי Yuval Noah Harari’s bestselling book ‘Sapiens’ and finished reading Douglas Murray’s (from the The Henry Jackson Society) new, excellent and already bestselling book ‘The Strange Death of Europe’. Both have something very important to say about the state of our world. Here are a few thoughts of my own about the books and the work that needs to be done to protect our society.
We know that slaveholders in the American South used Scripture to justify keeping their fellow humans in bondage. They could find no words from Christ on this, for there are no words from him. Just a line in the New Testament from mere mortals presuming to speak for him.
But perhaps it made those who tore apart families, who whipped insubordinates until they passed out, who sold children and cotton bales as similar commodities feel better to know that the monstrous crime of their daily enterprise could be a blessed act.
These days, no less an authority than Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said recently that God “wanted Donald Trump to become president.”
She offered no sourcing for this assertion, as is the case for vaporous claims that rise from the rot of the Trump presidency on a daily basis. But in blaming God for Trump, Sanders echoed a widespread Republican belief that the most outwardly amoral man ever to occupy the White House is an instrument of divine power. He’s part of the master plan.
Mocking Sanders and the many Ned Flanders of the G.O.P. team is unlikely to make much of a dent. Nearly half of all Republicans believe God wanted Trump to win the election. To them, secular snark is a merit badge on the MAGA hat.
But there is a better way to sway the electorate of faith, as the rising Democratic stars Pete Buttigieg and Stacey Abrams have shown us. They apply something like a “What Would Jesus Do?” test to rouse religious conscience on the political battlefield.
Buttigieg, the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Ind., is a Navy veteran who served in Afghanistan, a Rhodes scholar, married to a junior high school teacher. He’s gay and, more surprising for a modern Democrat, he is an out Christian, as quick to quote St. Augustine as Abraham Lincoln. On Sunday, he is expected to formally announce his run for president.
Surely the biblical writer who most helps us discover the Christ Mystery is the Apostle Paul. Letters by Paul or influenced by him form one third of the New Testament. Paul is a foundational teacher for what became Christianity.  Yet he hardly ever quotes Jesus. Paul never met Jesus. He did, however, encounter the risen Christ.
This is not as strange as it may seem at first. After all, the Jesus that you and I participate in, are graced and redeemed by, is the risen Christ who is no longer confined by space and time. God raised up Jesus and revealed him as the “Anointed One” or the Messiah (Acts 2:36). I believe it was not until the Resurrection that Jesus’ human mind fully realized he was the Christ. It seems to have been an evolving awareness, as “he grew in wisdom, age, and grace” (Luke 2:52) and lived in faith just as we do.
The entire biblical revelation involves gradually developing a very different consciousness, a recreated self, and eventually a full “identity transplant” or identity realization, as we see in both Jesus and Paul. The sacred text invites us, little by little, into a very different sense of who we are: We are not our own. Your life is not about you; you are about Life! We gradually find ourselves part of the Great Vine, eventually realizing that we have never truly been separate from that Source (John 15:1-5). Once we are consciously connected to the True Vine, our life will bear much fruit for the world.
Paul seems to understand this well because it happened rather dramatically to him. He writes, “I live no longer, not I, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). Like Paul, the spiritual journey leads us to know that Someone Else is living in us and through us. We are part of a much Bigger Mystery. We are recipients, conduits, and gradually become fully willing participants in the Christ Mystery (which is not to be equated with simply joining the Christian religion).
No biblical writer had yet named what theologians now call “Trinity,” but Paul has a deep intuitive conviction about the Trinitarian flow—Love—passing through him. He comes to know that he is hardly “initiating” anything, but instead it is all happening to him. This is the same transition we all must make. Like the divine conception in Mary, we will eventually realize it is being done to and within us much more than us doing anything. All God needs is our “yes,” it seems, which tends to emerge progressively as we grow in inner freedom.
This understanding gives us an utterly different sense of self; this person is truly a “sounding through” (per-sonare) much more than an autonomous being. This identity transplant is true conversion. It is not about joining a new group or church; it is coming to know a new and essential self that is interconnected with everyone and everything else. Just as in Paul’s conversion, it takes quite a while for the scales to fall from our eyes (see Acts 9:18), with plenty of help from friends like Ananias (Acts 9:17) and others, lots of failures (1 Corinthians 11:17-22), and long quiet retreats in “Arabia” (see Galatians 1:17). His is the classic pattern of real but gradual transformation.
THE HOLY SPIRIT:
We believe the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity, who convicts the world concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment. He is the agent of God in the regeneration of the lost. He is the gift of Christ to the church indwelling all believers, sealing them in the body of Christ unto the day of redemption. He is the divine teacher who guides believers into all truth. He imparts the gifts of the Spirit as found in Scripture. (John 16:6-15; Titus 3:5-7; John 14:17; John 15:26; Romans 8:11; Ephesians 1:13; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11)
.. SECTION 2 – THE HOLY SCRIPTURES
We believe the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be verbally inspired of God and are the revelation of God to man, inerrant and infallible in their original writing. They are the supreme and final authority for faith and practice. (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20-21; 2 Peter 3:16)
.. SECTION 7 – THE KINGDOM OF GOD
We believe the Kingdom of God to be God’s right to rule, which was prophesied through the law and prophets, and came to fulfillment in Jesus Christ. We believe Jesus to be the King in the Kingdom, which is working for consummation at the end of this age. (Mark 1:14; Matthew 12:28; Luke 11:20; Luke 17:20-21; Revelations 19:11-16; 1 Corinthians 15:20-28; Revelation 11:15)
.. SECTION 10 – MISSION OF THE CHURCH
The mission of the church is to demonstrate the power and reality of the Kingdom of God on the earth, specifically through the transformation of people’s lives into the likeness of Jesus by the power of the cross of Jesus Christ and of the Holy Spirit. The biblical means of accomplishing this is evangelism and discipleship. God fulfills His purpose for His church through local churches. (Matthew 5:13-16; Ephesians 3:10; Matthew 28:19; Colossians 2:19)
.. THE LORD’S SUPPER
The Lord’s Supper is a sacrament of the New Testament, wherein, by giving and receiving the bread and the cup, according to the appointing of Jesus Christ, His death is proclaimed. Those who worthily partake, in remembrance of Him, feed upon Him to their spiritual nourishment and growth in grace, have their union and communication with Him confirmed, and testify and renew their thankfulness and commitment to God and their mutual love and fellowship with each other as members of the same body. (1 Corinthians 11:23-24)