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THE BOUNTY OF TRUTH:
IN THE BIBLE, THERE LIES NOT ONLY THE ANSWER
TO MAN'S VEXED PHILOSOPHY
BUT TO HIS SPIRITUAL DISEASE
Recently, there has been a slight revision for increased perspicuity and reference, to Three Anzas, One Answer Ch. 6. In this, it was indicated that there were two references to an advantage of no small dimension, to be found in giving due expression, as there, to the phenomenal grace, mercy and love of God in its expansive thrust (as in Colossians 1:19ff., I Timothy 2, I John 2:1ff.). This is gained, without for one moment either compromising the splendour of His sovereignty, or the fulness of His knowledge, by His counsel of all that is to be: for He works all things after the counsel of His own will (Ephesians 1:11). The other reference for this result, shown in the above Ch. 6, is to Gratitude for His Glorious Grace Appendix.
Our present Chapter and that one therefore are a pair.
The point in view more precisely is this: fail to be precise in terms of the Bible, and you lose the perspective in terms of which all things cohere and being clear, have their unique magnificence of comprehensive explanation. KEEP TO IT, however, to the very word of the living God, and there is a bounty at once. Neither liberty nor necessity, foreknowledge nor predestination, duty nor responsibility then constitute a collision, an inexplicable endlessly argued fiesta. THEN, they fit like lambs peaceably in the pasture. Comprehensive coverage of reality without reductionism then becomes not a hope but a fact. THIS is the result of keeping to the Bible. It is only one of the many advantages and joys of so dealing faithfully with all of the word of God. It is its own solution. God says what He means, writes it, and this gives the key to all.
Concerning this bounty from abiding in the word of God on these as on other topics, there are many other references available in this site. Such are to be found as such, in the alphabetical index, at predestination. In this present chapter, however, the design is to be simple in seeing the pith of the matter in view. So much darkness seems to love to settle on such issues, that there is a call at times, to see the light beyond it, above it, below it, with little more than a vivifying glance.
It is a thing most wonderful, that when, and only when, we cast aside all philosophical extremes, and keep precisely and continuously to the biblical doctrine in this field of predestination, foreknowledge, liberty and responsibility, guilt and goodness, that we come to the ONLY solution which can now be.
MAN IN ESSENCE BEFORE HIS FALL
and CHARACTER WHEN IN THRALL
Thus when God made man with a liberty to choose and a capacity to see and feel the alternative opportunities of obedience to the Maker and self-assertion for an equal spot in the good-evil continuum - continuum ? nay, stakes, and man DID choose, there was an end to the splendid operation of decisive action in certain understanding and knowledge. Action altered things. Such is the account in Genesis 3.
That wonderful gift of sighted liberty, meaningful understanding that could be faced with a love or an indifference, or even hatred: this now was soiled, spoiled.
Gone was that simplicity in which seeing, it could choose; understanding ENOUGH for the purpose, it could or break with the truth. This then passed.
Man then became complex, and his psychiatric woes and inordinate vanities and ambitions, bringing blood in a flood to his earth, to match the intense agonies recklessly imposed on others, merely attest his instability and resultant spiritual deficit or imbecility (Hosea 9:7). It is not that he is not bright; far from it. But when your main spring is broken, you do not do much good as a watch. When your spirit is soiled, it is hard to be hygienic; when your mind is divorced from its source, try as you will, you do not reach home base. Such is man now.
You may think you have understanding, even a mandate, and kill a few; or hope you do, and spoil a few thousand; or being wrong, be sure you do, and kill millions. These are options plentifully engaged in recently, say over the past century (when you are 80, that seems to be recent...).
Thus what man IS and constantly shows himself to be as exhibited in the HEXAD on these topics*1 , troubles many. He has hidden from God and from light, and hence has become shrouded in mystery to himself. No longer, with an alienated and bruised, a blinded but reminiscing heart, could he SEE the point. He would know it all or know nothing, say it all or be speechless; but the very alternating, hallucinatory dreams of total autonomy or total determinism bruised their longing wings on fact, and none could ever manage to hold the fort*2.
Brutal and unbeautiful clashes became like those of Oxford and Cambridge, but with less ... fellowship!
The biblical depiction shows how readily the philosophical problem of how man can be free not only to do what he will but to will what he will, and so be responsible and non-insane in feeling this. It is solved. It is not solved by guesswork, or by ingenuity. It is solved, as in scientific work that regards facts, and revelatory reality which presents them in testable format in God's name, by careful cogitation based on and constrained by what is given.
For man, now blinded so that the ultimates are no more self-evident (cf. Ephesians 4:17-19), since an endemic holding down of truth (Romans 1:17ff.) moves in his underlying structure of thought and indeed even of being, there comes passion without profundity, digging without delight, romancing with reason and frustration without limit. The case grows rather like that of divorcees who CANNOT be fair to one another; and there is only one solution, a return to the realities, without the hatred and with recourse to a love which is not slanted.
Had man been as at first, there would be no problem. Had he not fallen, all would be simple in ways not only spiritual, but physical and metaphysical.
Now the ONLY way in which man can have liberty at the level which is at once sublime and basic, real and non-illusory, sane and coherent with guilt and reason, experience and results is that of his relationship to God. This then involves man once more in the cockpit, able to be flying understandingly in any direction at all, though without exclusion of crashes, or of communication either. It allows for several things to happen both meaningfully and with that integrity of personal being which brings an end to dichotomies and derangements. It HAPPENS, it is announced, yes it is given in the Bible: these VERY things are precisely what are presented. Let us consider biblically the simple but profound realities and clarities, harmonies and overview.
Firstly, in the status quo at the start for any operation, man must be endued with powers of thought and perception, so that he is enabled to view in thought other ideas than those which occur to him, and imaginations other than those immediately to be discerned; so that such can enter or be invited to his mind or even clamour for attention or acceptance. This however is only part; they must also be subject to logical reviewed as to validity and verification. That is not a problem; all discussion in these areas must begin there, even to be orderly.
Man in God's image must have such abilities; for although he cannot be eternal or all-knowing (he does not even know the beginning modes in inception of causal and material, spiritual, moral and intellectual systems in synthetic co-ordination, such as he exhibits), he must be able to know what truth is and to relate to God not as a someone who is not a mesmerised dreamer, but a researching and honest pursuer of reality. Only then is freedom operational, and not stabs in the darkness, uncomprehending, always amending, never blending, amid shades and shadows of half-perceived inconsistencies.
Thus, firstly, there is the problem child, who had just such powers, now hopes he has, when not in nihilistic mode, or assumes he has, when in autonomous mode. When using these powers carefully, he finds his origin and the character of the case, as presented in the Bible, to be validated and verified. Man however tends to vary this way or that, depending on culture or convenience, aim or ambition, ambivalence or distress, desire or culpability of this kind and that; so that though these things stare into his face, yet mists, rains, fogs arise, like weeping skies in the soul. In this is his very pathology (SMR). If for all that, he decides to hold to these things in his mind, however, while still being divorced from God, he runs into problems, himself the heart of it. If he dismisses them, then he runs into far more. He becomes like a fibrillating heart. It cannot go; it cannot stop. It tremors. Romans 1:17ff. shows the tension, the distension and the evil dynamic as it progressively operates in our race.
Thus man defiled and disgraced outside God's image by wilful distortion at the first, and vile and unrealistic ambition, is not in such a case as he needs to be, to be operative at this level; in this, he is not free (Ephesians 2). Yet his nature is such that it is this that he belongs. Here he lives. It is for this reason that so often he imagines a "vain thing", some ludicrous folly of mentality, being driven there by the joint sense of his own nature (as it WAS), and the natural proclivities of his heart, to act according to truth as a medium for action.
Indeed, mere logic can force the issue and show the truth; but man is not inclined to accept this, being divorced from God. When God the Lord acts, however, then man being restored can understand, and find the truth without the internal mistiness and distortion, asymmetry or astigmatism. Then his own crash results no more disfigure what logically is irresistible, but psychologically unachievable to divorcees: the understanding of the divorced One.
FREELY CALLED, FREELY COME
WITH DIVINE PROTECTION
How then can man be corrected, his condition resolved ? How can man escape the ludicrous stumblings of autonomy and determinism, and being responsible as shame and guilt, based on deliberative realities in his choices, persistently attest ? How then can he find truth without the covers over his spirit ?
It cannot be by CHOOSING GOD (cf. Christ's word that YOU HAVE NOT CHOSEN ME, but I you, cf. Romans 9:16, John 1:12-14), That would be choosing as you will, in your pathological condition, but NOT willing as you will. You would be immersed in your own CONDITION, filtering all in your optic occlusions, and dimness, desires and SELF. You might or might not be true to your self, but it is limited by its severance, self-ness, blindness, bindings.
It would be self-expression, but what of the truth ? Self is not the centre and meaning of the universe, and to express yourself is therefore not the point when truth is the objective. It is a thing to be done, perhaps; but not such as to achieve the result. It is measuring yourself by yourself, which as Paul notes, is not wise! (II Corinthians 10).
In other words, how could pathological man choose outside the constraining powers of what it is that HE IS! It is possible only if someone who has love for man so that His desire is for man to be what he ought to be, is made to be - would be if he could be and still wanted to be as in the initial case of Adam and Eve - acted from outside him. It would require an operation at once delicate and radical. He would be liberated by infinite knowledge outside himself which, unlimited by superficialities and the perception of man's diseased state, could find what is the truth, past the automatic delusions of sin, and dissuasions of its rule over man. It would not be subject to the ignorance of blindness and the bindings of mere selfhood, as minister to thought.
In fact, Adam fell; he had what it took and took what was illicit, so losing what he had, in that antiquely horrible pattern for man. Not merely did he not realise the infinite significance of his simple defilement, default from duty, irresponsibility in autonomy, violence against truth when he fell (as in Genesis 3); but he did not understand that death does not live, death of the spirit. In other words, when you fall in this sphere, at once you are not spiritually what you were; you gain 'everything', but are not 'there', in continued existential reality, to possess it! Adam however DID realise this: that what he did was forbidden by reality, by God who made him. Adventurism had appeal; self-elevation has charms. Sin is like that. He therefore fell into a multitude of problems, light distant, darkness near .
God however had plans for remedy.
With power to overcome innate distortions in man and will to realise what would be true if these were not so, this God can therefore make man free to will as he will. He must, having KNOWN and foreknown this, then IMPART the result in regeneration dependent on Himself alone. THIS is what the Bible teaches (John 1:12-14, Ephesians 2).
What then ?
1. God would have all to be
reconciled to Himself, having made peace by the blood of the cross (Colossians
2. Man is unable to choose in the
sphere concerned, God Himself. Sin prevents it. The self is a shroud,
self-limited (Romans 9:18).
3. Pathology makes it so (Ephesians
4. God KNOWS from eternity which of
the creation called mankind, without dictation or manipulation, in truth past a
pathological generality, are His (II Corinthians 2:19, Romans 8:29ff.). He would
like all (as in 1 above), but His love like all true love, is chaste, not making
of its object a means of self-fulfilment. That is not love but pleasure.
5. In such love, man is KNOWN (I John 4:7ff.), and with this devotion to truth, he is sought, and in regeneration he is restored not by his will, but in accord with the truth concerning him, so that where love may reach, it does; and where it would be violation, it does not (Matthew 23:37, Luke 19:42ff.). There is no merit in this for man when he comes back to God, because it is as foreknown.
There, where sin is not the dominating feature, and God is not learning from it but giving grace beyond it, seeing all and able to dismiss what He wills, God knowing beyond it, there IS no superiority, only reality. You are not better or worse when viewed in the eternal mind of God, past sin, being foreknown, works apart. It is sin which makes inferiority and superiority (all being below par, but some in more ways than others, though all are either with or against the Lord). Where it is not involved, such things are irrelevant, a matter of another model. God knows all before time, and knows them absolutely we learn in Romans 9, quite apart from any question of human attainments.
This then is what works. This is what solves the problem of sick man choosing to be what he will, when his will is morbid and its condition polluted. The will is dysfunctional, but not absent; God is functional and present, and God knows what is beyond the power of man to determine, with that intense and illimitable passion, though it be chaste in quality, which seeks for all objectively. So the Bible gives the gen, the data, the perspective in which alone not only is the whole spectrum of competing philosophy resolved, but the underlying need is met, and all is explained. More, it is remedied, but not for all; for some PREFER the darkness.
When there are options, there is liberty. Where these are within reach, it is operational. When there is dysfunction, this is frustrated. When there is power, love and wisdom to seek for man to find him and place him where in reality he exists as operational and where alone, then the self of man no longer is the criterion, and past this bondage, man is placed in an investigatory medium which both makes the option and secures its action in integrity.
The practical matter was difficult because pathology; but not too hard for the One of such objective love and inherent virtue to perform, who became practical on the Cross and all the way to it, to undo what wrought for man, a devastation defoliation. The sacrifice was horrific, but in principle not complex. It is multi-faceted, but not unclear. God did, paid, redeemed, secured, knowing the payees.
It was simple before the pathology; and in principle, it remains so. It is just that disease takes cure, and when it is spiritual, only God can do it. He does it constantly, acting in love from foreknowledge, assured in predestination, so that WHOM HE FOREKNEW those He predestined, and NOT VICE VERSA. It all depends on the knowledge, indeed the foreknowledge (not about performance, but the reality, for performance expresses the self which is only an indirect way of not having freedom, if it be a criterion for choice).
This is necessary; and it is PRECISELY what God indicates is the case! This is found in Romans 9:10-11.
What then do we find in the presentation of biblical principles ? It is this.
God is free. Man was made so. Man fell and lost the function of freedom at the level of God (and 'died' twice, once spiritually and once more physically); but God did not share this failure or its result.
God restores the function of freedom by regeneration. It is in terms of a universal, divine desire for all to be found, restored to liberty and reality, and that, it is a desire of the heart of God as expounded in detail in Three 9Anzas, One Answer Ch. 6, SMR Appendix B, Great Execrations ... Greater Grace Chs. 7, 9 and elsewhere on this site. Thus the mere revelation of self, as given, is not the limit; the essence of the way it was created in God's image IS the point (Colossians 3:10) to which it must and does come. God as interpreter is the reality which transcends, but does not abort or condition or defile, the reality which, though soiled, remains in man as to principle and power.
It all ends well. Is it all well then that ends well ? Yes, for those with this end it is; but for those whose intractable intransigence is known by God, whose Spirit does not always strive for the spirit of man would wear out before Him (cf. Isaiah 57:15-16), it ends woefully. Yet in terms of truth, it is well, for this is NOT to beguile liberty with pathology, or to limit man by his fall to irresistible subjection to obfuscation. It is God who, rising above it, and knowing it, acts for it, in integrity of truth, in purity of motivation and in passion of heart, with practicalities performed.
If, for all of this, those who are forever ashamed in darkness, have nevertheless wilfully persisted in the private passion of self-possession, then they are in sad case: yet put them in heaven against the Head towards whom they are so negative, by indifference, declaration or device, and what is this ? It would be like but putting a panting divorcee back by force, worse, by manipulative force, right back with her former husband. That becomes a virtual prototype of hell. Man is as his heart is, and where it is not, man is not content; and where guilt speaks atmospherically, in very essence, the light being blindingly bright for darkened eyes, there is no respite there. No heaven is no haven for darkness. It flees.
God does not deal by force in things spiritual, or manipulate. He is a free spirit, not a totalitarian dictator. He is love, not thrust. Power serves truth, not ambition. God is already THERE! He always has been and will be. Some seek to rise on the backs of others, use dynamic to do it.
God is not like that.
Liberty is not another name for manipulation or for nothing; and what is fixed is as free to clamor against the spirit of man as air against the trees.
But nothing changes here. The forces mingle, the facts assemble, the liberties act, the deliverance of the delinquent proceeds, and the issues are resolved as mist by morning light.
Man is not autonomous, but has access to liberty. In seeking irrational power, he sacrifices the very power of spiritual choice to return; but he does not because he cannot sacrifice the love of God, which makes His transcendence of mere polluted will an open door. Thus if ANYONE seeks God, He is to be found. None is frustrated. If He is not REALLY desired, does not God know this ? Past the present, is eternity in which all things are known; but even IN the present, there are signals of destiny and breathings of the spirit of man so intense, that he becomes to some extent aware of the work being done on and in him, and heaves as one restless in his sleep, as the love of God researches his heart, and the wonder of salvation is offered past his own understanding, but in a fashion of comprehending charity which achieves truth in love for liberty.
This Chapter, then, has shown one bounty is so regarding the purity and indefeasible character of the love, unselfish and sublime, of God. It provides the only possible way of making freedom real in man, escaping the bondage of circumstances, culture, history, psychology, emotions amiss or adrift, by penetrating beyond all this, to the reality past this pathology, in man; and so acting. Whom He foreknew, all having NO CLAIM on Him and no merit, being sinners, THESE He predestined.
Man is responsible all the more because of the infinite knowledge and love for him, of God. His guilt is rational. His discomfort has grounds, His madnesses have meaning. His confrontation instead of conformation is a passion illiberal and unredeemed. Yet God has it covered. Man is not left to it. God has intervened, and so liberty in essence is achieved by His action, motivation, knowledge and power.
Self is no more the limit when, based on knowledge infinite, God acts upon it, and fulfils the entire orbit of liberty in Himself, granting grace as the case requires for His operating passion to redeem. Thus the sheep come when called, or not if they happen to be avid beyond all, for not coming; and He who knows, knows how to call His own.
In the next, we shall look at A SECOND BOUNTY from this same basis! God is liberal. His word liberates, and grants riches of understanding (cf. Proverbs 8).
The Hexad, a set of 6 volumes, is named: On Predestination and Foreknowledge, Liberty and Necessity, Responsiblity, Duty and Creativity.
Repent or Perish Ch. 7,
SMR Chs. 3 and 5 in mutual contrast, with Ch. 10, 422Eff. and in overview, and the Hexad as in *1 above.