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In Ch. 6 above, the topic of duty was considered in this manner ...
What then is duty for man ? SInce he is not barren wood, or stage material, and not God, but a creature of the same, one of some eminence in that he is in the image of God, able to reason, to some extent to foresee, to love, to understand, to commune, to communicate, what is his duty ?
It is not the duty of mere law, as if he were part of some natural system, and responsible as well as are responsive to it. There ARE laws, since he is in an environment of vulnerability because of sin in a derivative climate, a double derivative: man is a creation (derivation one), and being so, and equipped with liberty, he has derived from himself by misuse of this liberty, a climate of sin, cultural, academic, social, financial and so forth. In this, it is not easy ... but it is a matter of obedience to find what is prescribed for JUST SUCH A CASE by the One who knows, and has always known, and not only foretells what is to come, but how to meet it, and to await it, and so what duty duly now is.
It is firstly the duty to be reconciled to Himself. Then duty has this second echelon. It requires that a man accept the MEANS which God has invented, in sending His eternal word in format of flesh, to clear the slate for ever in justice, in judgment, in Himself in that outreach. Next, and this needs to be realised when one has become reconciled, there is a duty to desire the word and way of God, since the divorce has led to its compromise and even reviling. Thus there comes the need to love God first, and one's neighbour as oneself, which is highly uninteresting to those whose whole purpose in life is their own elevation. It is morever unattractive to those who want the top for themselves, as God is obviously far beyond this, and them, so that they feel spiritually miffed, and hence remain aliens.
Duty is nothing other than this, the impact on man of the requirements of God, and in this instance, of the initial requirements of reconciliation, reception of redemption and realisation thereby of the reality of God and the course of His ways, and so an awareness of His laws for good, and not to gain acceptance, but as expression of love, to seek to adhere to them.
It may seem lack lustre; but its sparkle as in all duty, more or less direct or derivative, lies in this. It is God who is love, and discerning this, and knowing Him, man becomes enlightened with understanding and so, instead of being restricted by laws, is aided by them. Does a man despise an oil change in his car ? No ? Why not ? It is no more than an expression of the fact that he is not God, that transport is available by means, and that one of these is that one must realise that a care is a derivative of God's world and man's creativity, as requiring service to meet the total environment of specifications. If one loves to travel, does one not even enjoy having the means put in place! Thus does duty become joy, but it is deeper even than this.
Today it is our task to probe further.
DUTY AND DELIBERATION
If now it is the case that a man has liberty of spirit, with whatever limitations and qualifications which do not deny, but the rather implement his derivative status, from God, how CAN their be a duty, some one might ask ?
If it is a duty to reverence and love God, how CAN love be prescribed within liberty ?
It cannot. How then can it be a duty ? It can. Let us see how this is so.
First, consider man in his created state and status. If he hates the Maker, then he hates his very self, this being in the image of the Creator. He is free to hate both, explicitly or implicitly, directly or indirectly, for this is a liberty conferred in the image of God which is his. If defilement limits or even annuls liberty's operation in some respects, it is not for that defunct. God is able to deal even with crashed vehicles, as is the case with all mankind in their inception since the Fall when the unlaudatory effort was made to be 'as God'.
It is one thing to be called with gratitude to partake of such sublimity as being a friend of God, via the image first given and in the love of that possessor of the ultimacy of liberty, the Lord. It is however rather different to demand equality with Him, when it is palpably impossible to donate, even if it were deemed good to do so, since man must and does start, and his systems are not eternal: only his avenue by grace, this is eternal. Many do not like this avenue; for they have liberty.
Is there then a DUTY to follow it ? Yes, there is; but not a necessity.
Suppose now that MAN A who we shall call him, and A for short, were to esteem God not at all. What follows ? He is then at war with the nature of his own spirit, MADE for correlation with God. He is NOT enshrined in a capsule of meaning (Psalm 1), such that his way being KNOWN, he is treated as a PERSON, but rather is his lot now to be as depersonalised in his environment as the good Lord may permit. His mercy is always operative, but this is the bald location on the hill of difficulty.
Hence subject to depersonalisation, with those various odious commitments to pride, glory, social elevation, human adulation, survival, advance - in whatever direction, and so forth, he becomes a sort of psychic detritus, often felt to be in eminent need of help by others often in the same position, called psychiatrists, many of whom do not know a spirit when they meet one, and resemble doctors engaged in considering amputation, when they have not yet met a leg.
If this is sad, truth has grief.
It is DUE, it is man's due to find his Creator, since the alternative option is to be confounded, not found, to be at war with his own construction, to suffer constriction and to be in a collision with law, constitutive of the very character of the universe. Worse, it makes him adjunct to the opposition to God, who having made freedom, deals with its results. That opposition, as often is the case in Trade Unions and such bodies, can have a vested interest in its own glory, and in this case this is so. The Satan is not some imagination, but a force so vital, so vigorous, so defamatory of reality that it is like some huge suction in intertwining whirlpools, such as those featured in that excellent film, I KNOW WHERE I AM GOING!
Thus, out of place, the slithering soul becomes apt for the manipulation, wittingly or unwittingly, in principle it is indifferent though not in person ... by the Satan. Thoughts once abhorrent can become in this manner merely normal, and disregard of God's other creation can become a subject even of delight. One's advance, importance, power, self-will can declare themselves under the flag of vanity, which can even become a Haughty Flapper, intermingling its unfurled colours in the diligent breeze.
Duty calls to regard one's own construction; but daring insists it will make a new one. Duty asks for some semblance of consideration of the design of God, but delinquency laughs in self-glory, and valour enlists in the devastation of whatever is in the way of the principles being opted.
If it is not so in inglorious vainglory, then it is so by implication and by hidden exercises of the soul.
Duty insists that since man is not self-made (cf. Psalm 100), then he OUGHT to regard his Maker, but will gleams in insidious egotism and disregards, saying, Who is He that I should worry about Him!
Yet in disregarding the Maker, it is like disregarding the operating instructions of one's aircraft, and so risking ditching at any moment. It may come in a heart attack, a stroke, a paralysis, a business setback in which the funds of others suffer, or in such insistence on one's own way that other ways seem fuzzy in their disfavour. It acts to let its origin surcease, and its present lies mortgaged. It is hence IRRESPONSIBLE.
THE WOEFUL WAYS OF WILL
But Will may insist: Not a bit of it. I am doing what I am MADE able to do, and whatever comes, I AM GOING TO DO IT!
It is, however, one thing to be so made that error can be executed - in the sense of done, not killed. Each is a possible entrancement for this amazing creation call mankind! It is another thing to WILL to make this error. You do not have to stab because your table knife has this capacity, given will and hand. It is merely an option. Option is not duty. It is possible action, no more.
Nor is this all. In view of the fact that man is in a system, both his own and his environment, and in a historical parturition, which has been born from the womb of the past and yet is carried in the womb of the future, and both in the oversight of God who made all: therefore each man's irresponsibility has a contribution to make. It gives this to the vortex of vice which now in this way, now in that, seizes its victims: whether in the realm of starvation or disease, where privileges are few and consequences abound from those futures which quickly are subsumed to become for other nations, their past, or in diversified spiritual oddities and anomalies, perhaps worshipped instead, or in both.
Hence is the IRRESPONSIBILITY the greater. Further again, the oversight of God is no more available for the MEANING of the product called man, and man A in particular, so that this becomes a voluntary cessation of meaningfulness, and a self-determined delimitation of life into channels neither fit for its amplitude nor fitting for its exercise.
DUTY calls back to the design, to the Designer, to the Oversight, and to the Predestinative Wonder of the entire weaving of the particular into the thrust of the whole, and of its contribution to this; but will won't.
Duty insists that there is a way for liberty, which nevertheless may choose to negate this; and liberty may insist equally, if only by the nature of the case, temporarily, that it is not interested, simply not, that it should serve anyone but itself. But itself ? What is this self but a combination of capacities vested in a personality, which can so reduce itself vitally, just as it can so engage in reductionism philosophically, that it becomes a mere remnant, as in a remnant sale, certainly related to what it once was, or was part of, but now a mere fragment.
Yet WILL says, A says, No! I would rather be a remnant floating in history than join the hypocrites who say they love God and yet are interested only in their own oily substitute for spirituality. I at least will be free and mean what I do, and not beat about the bush with words. I am selfish and I mean to be; but my selfishness has more of morality in it than that in a thousand of those crawling substitutes for manhood.
This not particularly appealing self-portrait, however, assumes hypocrisy in others while vaunting itself with a glory the foundations of which are not visible. It generalises about 'others' in a way which would never pass a school logic test. It provides will but no evidence that hypocrisy, instead of being the swamp of some specious spirituality, is its ocean. We have treated these topics in some depth when covering some of the book of Job, and to this the reader is directed*1. In this case, Job was explicitly subjected to tests of an appallingly trying kind, losing wealth, status, privilege, children, love of wife, respect from friends, and even being subjected to multiplied barrages based on the assumption of hypocrisy, which did not happen to be near to the truth in his case.
He trembled at times, and on occasion some inveterate odour of sanctimony might appear; but for all that, the truth was something he WOULD not surrender, and his actual nature and past was not something he would subject to deft re-interpretation by ignoramuses on the topic, whose forte seemed to be that of affecting knowledge on the basis of something so close the theological hedonism that it would be hard to differentiate.
The purport was often little more than this: The 'good' are protected and wealthy; Job is not. Therefore he is not good... Not so, however, is the equation with God. His servants like Samuel and David and Moses and Josiah, have suffered; and they have wrought and laboured and believed and denied themselves and followed Him who called, to do His bidding, believing in His grace, His sovereignty, His will, His gracious lovingkindness and His discipline, so that as David put it, one would rather be a door-keeper in the house of the LORD than dwell, inhabit the tents of wickedness. `
Failure to distinguish between faith and fraud is not a recommendation for a philosophy.
Nor is the distortion concerning oneself which would be involved in any hostile generalisation of this kind, particularly impressive. What is, is, what is not, is not: building on a lie is not likely to achieve any truth (cf. SMR pp. 255ff., 292ff.).
THE SELF-ACCLAIMING TOAST OF THE REBEL
We revert to the self-acclaiming toast of the rebel against God. It is not made better by artless and insidious denigration of others, or cynical substitution of desire for fact in that realm. It must fall on its own sword, since facts, unlike people, are not available for distortion except by lie, which does not relate to our enquiry.
Granted then that I failed to do justice to others, says our A, yet for all that I insist that I have no DUTY to love or reverence God, or to do this or that to others. I will decide that for myself.
Perhaps. After all, the psychic splendour of being limitless, unmanipulable even by one's own blind pride, it is not given to man. We find the wrecks of time on many an ocean bed, filled in their day with the unconquerable will that had its thrill, paid its bill and departed. Man is not self-sufficient, so that the concept of DOING WHAT I WILL, though of some limited application, is not logically fitting in this case. It is an expression which makes an impression, but it fails to make a concession which reality exacts. It is limited in time, in power and in purity - if purity is a word for such self-exaltation. Further, self-exaltation in the face of what is reality, is merely a denigration self-imposed on one's life. To portray it with a sealed character it lacks is not to achieve anything more than blather.
As the kindly predestinative counsel of God is thus removed from the arrant and arrogant soul which insists on trusting itself, though not participant in its initial production or capable of resisting its various reductions, nor of making another system in which it may inhere: so is the meaning and power divorced, so that it becomes an instrument astray, gaining whatever usage confers or circumstances are permitted to admit.
It ceases to be what it is, and becomes psychic flotsam and jetsam.
Yet duty remains. It is a duty to face an obligation to be what you are since the other option is to wreck it. Wrecking is to spoil what is not one's own property, since one did not make oneself; and even those who like to call themselves 'self-made men', are not in fact so, but there is the inveterate presence of parent or friend, teacher or good fortune, wealth or opportunity which is NOT MADE, but simply used. Further, when you make something of one design, fitted for it internally and externally, into something else, it is not, unless you share the creative wisdom of the Creator, anything other than a misprint, misfaction, misfire and mischief.
The duty remains. It is only the POWER which is available for such an abortion of designed life. Even this is merely transient, and apparent, since self-deception and manipulation are not even possibly excluded, and at that, the price is destruction. This becomes a case of someone going about destroying Someone Else's property. What is that to me! says A. I AM a property that has power to dispose itself, and I WILL dispose myself.
This is WILL, but has no bearing on responsibility and duty. A thief can indeed thieve; but this is no duty.
In the end, the acquisition of power is not the diminution of responsibility; and the taste for a swollen head is not the mode for the performance of duty.
Even if God were not filled with lovingkindness, even if He were a tyrant, which is not even possible (cf. Cascade of Truth, Torrent of Mercy Ch. 6), one would have the same responsibility for the use of property, to the Maker. Since however He is not, and in fact has gone to the opposite extreme in the domain of His love, and become man so that the sickly spiritual squalor of the race could have not merely an example of purity and truth, of mercy and of grace, of power and of responsibility, but a redemption so that its limitations and disqualifications could not contain it, true liberty becoming alive again, this is not even relevant.
If one were in contest with God to imagine that one led a rebellion against unrighteousness and evil, then where is the standard which makes apparent the source where these things exist, by which it is inveterately determined, the truth for the contest since now you are groundless; and in what are you moving, if not in some department of your psyche, lacking meaning and far more, truth ?
Such is the model (cf. SMR Ch. 3). It is merely illusion, even before it is found to be ineffectually based on a ground which is not in existence. One would be reading it, if true, on the basis of a truth obtainable, actual and realisable. Hence, there would need to BE a truth, and it would need to be obtainable without the collusion of internal error or self-manipulation, hence from the Personal Being who it is, and hence from God (as in SMR Chs. 1, 2, 10); and hence one would have to find from Him, the exposure that He was a liar and a fraud, which again is not even per se possible (cf. Barbs, Arrows and Balms 6 -7), His truth and His word being exquisitely in balance, since nothing in Him attacks anything else, nothing being imposed, He already being precisely what He wishes in the absence of all power to the contrary. Even internally, there is no 'enemy', for there is nothing to resist.
Such a rebellion, therefore would suffer from two collapses. First, it is based on what cannot at the outset be true; and secondly, it is based on what is not in fact in accord with factual truth, but its opposite.
It is based on what it denies, and denies Him on whom it must be based (cf. SMR pp. 211ff., 254ff., 294ff., 303ff.). All such views are self-contradictory, making the interstices of man the basis of belief, whereas their very limitation is their downfall. If they appeal to 'truth', then where is its objective revelation, and from whom, since they denigrate reality into defiled downdrafts from a corrupted 'god' ? If there were no absolute being, then there could be no absolute truth, so that it would not be attainable, and yet they rebel on the basis of knowledge! All directions lead to antilogisms, rational ruin.
SELF-BLIGHTING OF THE BALEFUL,
THE ASSURED, THE WOULD-BE AUTONOMOUS
What then have we found ?
If they avoid the source of truth, annihilating it in their too ready minds, for themselves, then they have none, and can declaim none. If on the other hand, they attack an absolute being, in this way they attack it as corrupt and self-seeking, so that rebellion is needed; but from what do they then gain truth, since they allege its source is corrupt and unreliable, even alien and contrary ?
If it were corrupt, for what gain does it seek, having all ? If it were merely adventitious in desire, seeking to gloat in power, where is the gloating in having for ever what is yours, and what is to be gained when all is present already ? It is mere contradiction in terms. If it were perversity, then what is perverted and what has done the corruption ? Has desire ? It is not possible, all being present already. It is a twisted desire to inflict pain ? then there is a deficiency in what lacks nothing, a NEED, and this is therefore some other being: not God.
The entire crusade against God is as valueless logically as the crusade to ignore Him, dispense with Him, anneal Him. Rebellion is undutiful; but it is also based on unreality and merely meretricious. It is irresponsible both in principle and in practice, founded on lies, based on irrationality and contrary to the necessities of truth and its self-attestation both in the Bible and the Christ over millenia of inerrant performance, yes and this in the milieu where God is sure to act, since it befouls His products and denies His truth. Not so does the Almighty regard the corruption of His work, the denial of His principles and the imposition of this undutiful liberty from man, for the self-seeking satisfaction of his sinful delusions. He has spoken and spoken from the first, and His word continues to the last. On this Isaiah (8:20) speaks simply:
"Seek out of the book of the Lord and read, for if they do not speak according to this word,
there is no truth in them."
If in such a world, He had not spoken, He would not be there. If He were not there, neither would this world be there (cf. Calibrating Myths, Machining Dreams and Keeping Faith ... Ch. 6, SMR Ch. 1). However both logic and history show that He has spoken and that the world is there, so that all coheres in truth. Validity demands it, reality attests it.
He has spoken, has sent the Saviour, has foretold the path of this world's history, has indicated with perpetual precision the history of the Jews from the first and is carrying it out to the last (cf. SMR Chs. 8-9). He has done the same with the Gentile contour in history, and with the current state of the world and conveys not His compliments but His requisition that undutiful conduct be left, and repentance gained.
Paradise is lost, but He has refounded it for man, not in man's inclinations of the heart, but in His own longsuffering, which led to acute suffering in the Cross of Calvary, when Christ sent to die and dying on the stated date (Highway of Holiness Ch. 4), performed that cover for justice which made compassion actualised, dying the just for the unjust to bring us to God (II Peter 3:18).
THERE is the essence and example of duty, that loving and gracious meeting of need in terms of one's own power and placement in a universe governed by God, and open to aid; and hence directed by His word, His Spirit and His unction.
Duty however, though part of the lot of man, and a beautiful one, does nothing to reduce liberty to rags. On the contrary, it allows it in love to find its place and to perform it as before God, in the grace of God and power of God. As such it can participate freely in creativity, for with God all is free. HE has nothing to gain, but only to give. Man is even free to leave His presence with a sense of duty to a self which lacks any rights, possesses only delusion. The Lord does not invasively prevent it, though He go far to secure the better end.
Man's freedom having become his intoxication, God has provided detoxication-dynamic at the Cross where shame intersects with love and sin with salvation (II Cor. 5:19-21); but He still stands back from invasion of the temple of man's soul, not waiting on will, itself defunct, but knowing its ways and where man is, and so selecting whom He may with His inviolable integrity and incalculable patience. He has not stood by while a limping world drags itself to the brink of annihilation; but working has spoken, foretelling the scope of His plans and the movements to come; speaking has acted, and acting has covered the case. Thus in covering it, He has both foretold what He would do and has done it.
It is not in heaven, but has come to earth; it is not in hell, but suffuses its speech throughout the earth. The Gospel of God is His testimony and His word is His instruction (cf. Barbs, Arrows and Balms 17, TMR Ch. 3, Joyful Jottings 22-25). Knowing all, He has foretold; foretelling He has done: having done He has provided, and providing He has set a terminus. It is not for ever that a limited being like man is confronted, gains opportunity and is provided with infinite scope for deliverance.
Moreover, to rebel when love that is impeccable, truth that is undimmed and power that is demonstrated continually is to rebel AGAINST THESE VERY THINGS. What a rebellion is this which is metaphysically absurd and factually misaligned with reality, detrimental to love and contrary to kindness! Yet even so, at the worst, it would be an effort at mutation which could not succeed, and an effort to manipulate which could not achieve its aim. Creative man is; but infinite in wisdom he is not.
It is only because an imaginary and delusive pseudo-truth is set behind such efforts, whereas on the model chosen, the fact remains that truth, absolute truth neither does nor could exist: it is only for this reason that it has for some even momentary plausibility. Rebellion against God is rebellion against truth, justice and compassion, and pits the antagonist against that reality which makes truth to matter, kindness to be above contempt and love to have preciousness: it is, then, against the omnipotent and omniscient Constructor of the soul of man and so contrary to the values which, with whatever distortion, it desires. He only has total purity, is totally giving, has nothing to gain, and has provided all, attesting all and proclaiming His way first at creation and then for its recovery from ruin.
Rebellion against Him therefore is breach of all duty, irresponsible and in the end, uncreative to boot, for it means that the source of creativity being under assault, the Creator of the capacity opposed, there is an attenuation of the connection between source and product leading at last to the degeneration of one and all of the parts of the creation, the product itself. It fouls as it falls, and falls as it fouls; and great is its fall. If a tower falls, what is the good of its breezes, which might cool some as it goes!
THERE IS NO
SOURED or SLITHERY SUBSTITUTE
FOR THE BEAUTY OF DUTY
Many not walking with God, become soured by false duties which are given an absolute status whereas they are mere evanescences of the pride of man, being duty to the country in war, even if it ruthlessly invades, to the traditions of man, even if ludicrous in irrationality and absurd in the extreme, or to employer even if he lies and so forth. Some become cynical about duty because they were misled in a combination of misplaced ideals, self-centred smallness of this or that entity, or of themselves: always irrational where self is not factually the centre.
Seeing the error of misplaced duty, they detest the very word, precisely as some, erratic in 'love', and failing in hope, detest that word and deny the reality which only in their own lives is aborted, and continues happily without their patronage!
It is not to such errors that more error needs to be added. Summation and statistics depend on the direction of flow! Floundering bounders are not the stuff of reality, but its discharge. Muddled from error, for many repulse from unreality may become pathological avoidance of reality; whilst it should lead to the truth. Perversity can become an obsession, and negativity a disease.
Duty has another path. Responsibility has another way to go. It has no desire to be gutted because of untruth, or confounded because unfounded, making of itself a foundling because it is unwilling to be found by the One whose foundry founded it, and whose fires have fashioned it. Rather, aware of the predestinative counsel of God, it can meet challenge with fortitude, not recklessness, knowing the test is granted (cf. Acts 5:41) within bounds, with reason (I Corinthians 10:13) and that God may be glorified. So in practical outcome, duty has its relish, its rationality as well as its rationale, yes and its endearing opportunities.
How merciful is the God of predestination who has achieved the humanly impossible but even to divinity, the costly, in knowing His own without invasion or pollution, without their rank autonomy or His complicity in anything but love, hence delivering the undeliverable and securing those in the strangle-hold of futility with a purity and grace matched not only by power, but by a practical self-sacrifice securing redemption, which is the very centre of love! None need repine saying, I CANNOT! … GOD CAN.
It is His good wind which blows (John 3), and it is to Him in confidence that one may go, for so far from obstructing, He moves if by any means all may come to repentance and to the knowledge of the truth (I Timothy 2:1ff.). If God is for you, who can be against you ? If God has come for you, why not go to Him ? He is near, as near as this earth; He is far, as far from evil as the East from the West, and in His mercy it is to this displacement that He sends the sin which obfuscates and the folly which slanders ... even Him! (cf. Psalm 103:9-12).
On Job, see:
Barbs, Arrows and Balms
Things Old and New Ch. 1,
The Power of Christ's Resurrection and the Fellowship of His Sufferings Chs. 3, 4
Christ, the Wisdom and the Power of God Ch. 2;
Importunity, Opportunity and Purity of Heart Chs. 1 , 2, 3, 6, 7
The Christian Pilgrimage Ch. 9;
Three Anzas, One Answer Ch. 4