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Conscience and Man in his Calamity
Christ and Man in his Opportunity
Being Empirical and Scriptural
Ineffable Peace and Grace, Amid the Smoking Candles,
Flaming Flares and Polluted Products of Man Ch. 1
THE CONDIGN CONSEQUENCES OF SIN
Let us get the biblical picture clearly. Man is made in the image of God and this means
1) there is scope for fellowship in the very nature of our reciprocity-function, as created by God.
2) the fellowship opening is with God our Creator, first of all; but since we are ALL so made, then there is at least potential for spiritual fellowship, relative to each other.
3) there is room in us for morality, principles, meta-functional facilities, which being in the nature of God, are inherent to a significant extent in us as first made, not so much as to contradict the liberty also inherent in the image of God, as far as it goes (that is, this liberty is not enough to make ourselves other, but to spoil what we are in terms of a certain measure of independence).
4) when the morals, principles and procedures, innate in man, are violated, then there is impact on us, and on our relationship to God and likewise to these principles.
5) empirically, when these components or their base and basis are broken, they tend to cry out, except when somewhat muted by alienating teaching very young; though even then, they are no readily suppressed, even in the midst of great wickedness as in Shakespearean drama, true to what occurs in man, in the case of that notorious spot which Lady Macbeth would give so much to remove, but alas, which all the waters of Arabia could not sluice away.
6) culturally, when alternate propositions are pushed, or used to rule, as in Hitler youth, or Communist youth, or atheistic households, regimes or rules, as the development of the USSR highlighted and the book, The Games War (Christopher Booker) so well attested, there tends to be excitement for a while. This can come, in the crass multitude who follow folly, leaping over humanity and equity alike, to gain something, be it material or of the dream-world type, illusory substitute for vision. However the almost predictable divisions in the grossness of thought or aspiration involved (just as is the verified case in organic evolutionism which is a morass of wit, split and spit because none of the violently contending parties has any basis for belief in their philosophy), are very apt to arrive. One such led to an ice-axe it seems, in the skull of Trotsky.
These divisions begin to illustrate the conscience condition: stricken, coerced, aroused, smitten, or any combination of such conditions. These animadversions or even perversions or incursions move in the midst of the people and in their hearts; and they begin to show in the historical results, which tend to bring to undue prominence, rulers and counsellors, advisors and know-alls who assault one another verbally or otherwise, pollute youth in exclusivistic false education, with propaganda typing as in much of the world now,with advisors and the usual riff-raff of opportunists, using dreams as appears to have been the case in the end at least with Lenin, amid due debasement of all dignity, meaning and attractiveness to life.
Such movements tend to bring on a special, or at least more acrid situation.
In conscience, it can become like a series of leg-wounds in someone who wishes to hike. Everywhere they turn, there is molestation of truth, of rules, of principles, of hope, of reality, so that the limping, bleeding conscience tends to become confused; and times of great spiritual angst come upon the neglected spirit of man by which the evil system was chosen (by some, who used force on others) in the first place. Emptiness becomes a neurosis, as Carl Jung pointed out for the popular condition of his time*1, not only for totalitarians, but for others who in other systems had in other ways suppressed conscience, or replaced it with savvy-talk, sophisticated nonsense and ignorant embellishment in the dream-world.
Then hopelessness and amorality, with perhaps a certain zest either for folly or stasis, for repugnance to all things or to oneself, can arise only to be contested. In some such atmosphere, judging from his writings, Stefan Zweig famously committed his empty and disillusioned suicide. Others grow cynical in horror, only to find some faint glimmer of hope, to follow (as became a significant movement in the once so plastered atheistic nation of Albania, now showing some thirst for something stable, endemic and true). Conscience, always - because of sin against the God who created it and man, in danger of confusion, or false fixations, then tends to act like one out of hospital too soon; and this may now be accentuated because of the evil cruise which a nation may have made, whether with fanfare or that ennui which can come to almost any system of government and ideation which is chosen, when initiative goes to the head, corruption to the pocket and principles to the dogs.
Thoughts can scurry about of gain, of advantage, of equity, of hope, of former vision, of displacement - for the morally corrupted can become amenable to a sort of DP situation, as after World War II in Europe, but it is here a MORAL displacement which is echoed within, in a conscience confusion.
In the despoiled heart of man, some thoughts within readily ACCUSE the former principles, or even the ones now toyed with, hoped for, or seeking sanction in the mind, whilst others seek a rationalisation, an explanation by which to excuse themselves. This is precisely as Paul in the inspiration of the Holy Spirit reveals in Romans 2:13-15.
"for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God,
but the doers of the law will be justified;
for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature
do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, 1
who show the work of the law written in their hearts,
their conscience also bearing witness, and
between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them."
Romans then at once proceeds to the topic, earlier announced, concerning "the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel." It is well it is by His Gospel in terms of which we find in John 15:22, that the principle of equity is there, in vast and incisive fairness, in terms of His enduring love, which neither forces nor casually forecloses. If HE, Christ, had no spoken the words, done the deeds no other man ever did, THEN they would not have sin (to judgment itself, the topic); but now that they have both seen and heard and not believed, "now they have no excuse for their sin." It is not only man who has the accusing; for when there is negation of the love gift available in the grace of the Gospel, in which man as operator has no part, but where God has in His own character of love done all to make it available at every level, even before time in His omniscience, how rancid the rancour. Thus, when even this is rejected, what possible excuse could there be!
Here in the Epistle to the Romans, the topic is reality versus superficiality, in terms of a religious system, but more particularly, in terms of the biblical covenant. Having it on the tongue (as in Isaiah 29:13) is of no help when reality is concerned, as it always is with God who is the God of truth (Psalm 31:15, Isaiah 25:1, 65:16, John 14:6). It must be in the heart, in the innermost counsels, in the soul of a man, in the very perspective of his spirit, unwarped. However, without restitution of man from the dust of his journey since creation, from the barnacles on his hull and the loads on his keel, warping is precisely the problem*2, linked to a dream-world in the matter of ideals, whether to make novel ones or to simply molest the actual ones which relate to man as made; for man is far from being an orphan in a world of meaninglessness, except by his own will; and even that does not make it so, but merely leads to more cat-chasing mouse dramas where false plans meet factual incumbencies, and tension arising, mounts. This in turn results in more attrition, because of more rubbing against the timbers of truth, or contrition, with outcomes most varied, depending on the work of God, who after all, made the thing ... the conscience of man, and indeed the very life of his mind, spirit and body.
THE SAD EXTREMES THAT LURK LIKE SHARKS IN THE SEA
It is strange how some theologians seem to imagine that because of the pollution of man, there is nothing that even smacks of good in his constitution as now fallen, and before conversion; but as the Declaratory Statement of the PC of Australia well says, there are some things which while not good in themselves (as if integumentally good, soundly based and justly operative) are nevertheless estimable and worthy of proper valuation at THEIR OWN LEVEL. There is 'no good thing' (Romans 7:18) in man himself now, in terms of what goodness itself really is, that purity of purpose and position, perspective and God-given image; for all, without Christ, is there warped, denuded or has profusions and exudations of various kinds, and is not based livingly in the living God. Yet there may indeed be movements, as in Romans 2, in the heart of man, as he acts and thinks towards apparent good or apparent evil, as his own construer, constructor and creator in that realm.
Thus good thoughts, in intention, position, in hope, may be in contention with bad things, in desecratory, desolatory or depreciatory mode, as Paul here indicates. Indeed, the Spirit of God may, as it were, place a great prong of conviction of error or evil, into the mêlée of the mixed or even contending thoughts of man, so bringing on a more sober reflection; and truth may come near so as to tasted, though not swallowed (as noted in Hebrews 6:4-5). People may indeed, as we learn there, and evidence seems clearly to attest empirically, be in a situation where they have been "once enlightened," and have "tasted the heavenly gift" and "become partakers of the Holy Spirit," and "tasted the good word of God and the power of the age to come."
This may certainly come in the process of their internal contests in the realm of salvation, which touches them, but does not take, comes near but does not come into the 'land' of the soul, which has not broken up its fallow ground, so that the heart underlying is still proud, unrelenting, unrepenting, though the very earth above becomes wet with dew and surrounded with beauty. There may be, as Christ put it in Matthew 13, a superficial reception on top of the unchanged base-hardness, and they may "receive it with gladness. Yet this rejoicing is merely reactive rather than reflective, only for a season, but the seed dies, and the brazen ground remains resistant. Only a little testing shows the difference! (cf. Mark 4:17).
Many are the images; one is the condition.
Thus they may taste, it touches their lips, but they do not drink; light has streamed into their souls and they begin, perhaps as in the parable of Matthew 13:20-21, to experience joy in terms of a prospect that seems so fair, as if Captain Cook on the East coast of Australia, saw an attractive bay, but though feasting his eyes on it in a telescope, yet did not feel free to enter it. The light has entered, as when a light is switched on in a dark room, but a nervous twitch of the hand turns it off again after a mere glimmer has been seen. The Holy Spirit may actually be animating them in certain, largely superficial ways, as perhaps happened with the famous case of King Saul (I Samuel 19:19-24), and in sermons or other expositions; or even in personal enlightenments in degree, while reading the Bible, they may find a touch to the heart in the "word of God and the power of the age to come," as Saul seemed to do.
Thus some find a reaction to these divine dynamics and dealings, or even to their own feelings on the topic, as they relish with joy for a season, what is an initial impact, one which never however reaches to the depth of the heart. In the words of Hebrews 6:19, or rather its image, they have never attained to faith, so for them there is no anchor carried for them in Christ into the Holy Place in heaven itself, "an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast". Salvation is by faith, not fidgets.
This is the extreme case where perhaps a certain yearning, burning in the heart, turning in the mind, stirring in the soul begins a revelation, aborted before complete, as in the birth in miscarriage of an infant. Tempest tossed, in such a case, despite these accentuated inner incursions, these special and extraordinary impacts, these expressions of the yearnings of God, even then, there is an excusing, or an ennui, or a test too hard, which merely exposes the fact that the entire function has never become operational, like an aborted flight. Alas, in extreme cases, known only to God, it may be like a take-off aborted at the end of the run-way, leading to massive results, flight never occurring. For flight, you need the engines of God, and to trust Him in heart.
God cannot be played with, nor is He subject to the misfeasances of man, be they spiritual or other; and though many such things are practised upon Him, He knows and has all things in hand (cf. Isaiah 14:27, Ephesians 1:11, Isaiah 48); and except for repentance, the time comes which then becomes an extra ground for the ACCUSING part of the excusings and accusings in conscience, of which Paul in Romans 2, speaks.
THE DIVERSE DYNAMICS AND DEFINITIVE DESIRE OF THE LORD
Knowing His own, the Lord may as with John Bunyan, for long search the heart and soul, and great may be the perturbations involved; but as His light researches the innermost parts of the personality, the depths of a person's spirit, then His sovereign finger, which relates to foreknowledge of a decisive character of what is afoot and its end, can point deeper and deeper till there is a yielding. With those whom His love did not in eternity reach, astray even to the face of salvation as known to Him, even so, much pointed involvement may be experienced by the sinner, who after all, as the Bible relates (John 3:19), and so dramatically indicates (Luke 19:42ff.), and exhibits (Isaiah 49:17ff.), was not received BECAUSE darkness as foreknown, before even sin or this world were for man, was preferred to the divine light BY THE SINNER. It is not of God that these things come, though the creation is, and the plan is, and the payment to cover whoever is to come, all this is of God. God marks it but He does not make it, where love is the focus and the feature.
HE is the lover; mankind is the object; the world is the scope; judgment is the excluded motive: and the result is made in terms of MAN's preference, not that of God (John 3:16-19). To be sure, God's being God MEANS you come or do not to HIM AS HE IS; but the responsibility because of God's stated motives and known power is one. It lies in man 100% in the manifest light of His love, lamentations and stated principles. Thank and praise the Lord that in this, as in all things, He is so uncontrived. He is in this so open, so clear, so categorical, so dramatic, so emphatic, so insistent, so often so eloquent, so persistent, that it is the purest of joy to consider such love as would give so much for such as we, and not prefer some mysterious ones for some X-factor of unknown attraction or purpose. Yes, even to the least, the most ignominious, to one and all, He seeks saliently; and those who do not come, remain their own hangmen, if negation to this is their final, God-foreknown position.
These things impact the conscience of man.
It is not as if the conscience is so clothed in shame that only sham can appeal, for the self-accusings go on, as Paul indicates in Romans 2. Even if at some stage they stop, like setting concrete at last made firm, yet they have been. It is not as if there is no real resolution, because while man can do as he will he cannot will as he will, being caught and contained, constrained and dictated to by his own limiting self! That is not the case, except in Wonderland made by the mind of man for some other case than our own.
GOD both MADE that self, so that while it is dead to a living relationship to Himself, it is by no means without twinge in its singe, without response in its waywardness or without a sense of duty, responsibility, rightness in its excursions from God. It may even be in the midst of impulsions short of compulsion, to heed or even seek the Lord. The resolution is always present in concept, because of the initial manufacture of man, in the image which God made in him, and though the accident of the fall of man makes much of the equipment to become inoperative, dysfunctional or even derelict, it does not cease to be there. It is still before God, if He so act, animatable to the point of deep and even lasting impressions; and this is because of the always lively power of the Spirit of God, who make make incursions as noted earlier, working on that image, defiled though that same image be.
There is then no philosophic 'problem' except for those who use an atheist image in order to interpret a spiritual one, like those who try to see why an aeroplane cannot fly, when regarding the ground plan of a truck! It is staggering the follies that may be committed in this way; but then, that is philosophy, in a worldly grip complete with meaningless gripes which are part of the 'excusing' process! There is however no excuse in distorting the model in view, or in contorting reality into weird counter-types, to show how this cannot go.
Similarly, there is no problem of the vacuous or meaningless when the sovereignty of God is realised. Just as life for the human soul is meaningful because GOD still is, and His WORK is still applicable to the soul which is never in actuality an Arminian imagination, but subject to construction constraints and divine movement and interpretation, delivering it from being a mere mirage in the mind, limited always by its own state; so meaning can sprout like Spring growth. This may indeed be resisted (Acts 7:51), but it may also be imprinted anew, not in perfection, but in incisiveness. Its sense of meaningfulness can be imparted anew, when the Lord as sovereign is seen working in its midst.
In fact, foreknowledge is not the same as dictation: THAT depends on how the knowledge is obtained (as in a spy case, for one caught, and the methods of extraction of knowledge). Just as in love, God seeks and knows how to find in the pre-fallen soul, as in His own mind, what the reality of the response actually is, so this has NOTHING to do with any loss or lack in the reality of the soul's PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY. If God Himself assesses that response, on the contrary, it makes it all the more true and just and sound; for in HIS LOVE for the WORLD, and that it be RECONCILED with all things to Himself (as in John 3, Colossians 1:19ff.), and in His power, He leaves undone NOTHING which might be done to make it otherwise. With what is not love, it might be other; but in love, it is found as it is, a love willing to send His only begotten Son into this world, not to condemn but to save it.
Thus the strivings of conscience, as in the field of salvation, are covered in the biblical context, in precise accord with the reality of man's experience within, in great movements in his spirit, these being BOTH intensely meaningful and relative to two actual ways before his feet: and these ? They are those of accord or else discord with the Lord.
Such strivings in heart, in conscience, therefore, should never be under-valued or minimised. What is experienced on this earth in this field, may be intensely variable, as more or less of the ultimate movements to resolution are made available to man in his experience, at the discretion of the Lord. Nor should anyone ever be confused sufficiently to think that it is all worked out anyway and so he himself is irrelevant to the result; for God has foreknown not only the result, but what contests and impulsions are involved, or may be shown to be, on the way; and this truth underlying, by which man is intensely responsible, is a vast joy upon reflection. Just think, if EVER a person truly WANTS God, you do not need to philosophise about how this or that can be; all that has been taken care of in foreknowledge in true and passionate love.
All you need to do, is take it, instead of vainly longing for it; or if it be repugnant to you, reflect before ambition or irresolution sinks your spiritual ship, and see if truly this is so, that you prefer other things. Never even begin to think you are uninvolved just because you are not sovereign in this field. Nor imagine God in His love is not maximal toward you, or that blight other than these realities is sovereign. THIS SOVEREIGN GOD IS LOVE (I John 4:7ff.).
He who IS sovereign has a sovereign desire for you as He STATES and shows repeatedly, but WILL NOT force you, or disregard the ultimate desire of your soul, logically and temporally, even before you ever met this earth. He KNOWS His own and this with good reason, for in love He chose them beforehand, with these divinely gracious principles which He relates to all. IF YOU ARE PART of the creation, SUCH is His desire toward you. Desire and do it; do not desire and rue it; but never blame God. HIS action speaks for itself, and He even repeatedly interprets it. It is FOR ALL that it is done, for ALL that He is pleased to seek reconciliation, and this to the very level of the blood of the Cross, effective for many, spread in availability in love's premises toward all. In this, it is given just as was the sacrifice in the Jewish Passover. All are there, it relates to all; but if someone perversely is of another heart ... then alas, his desire is his own ruin (cf. Deuteronomy 29:19ff.).
Time will never warp the wisdom of God who knows all about you: so if you WISH you could or did come, then COME. If you do not, then realise afresh your folly, while the light still shines, and before the darkness envelops you (as presented to the King and Queen in Jeremiah 13:15-17, which follows..
"Hear and give ear:
Do not be proud,For the Lord has spoken.
"Give glory to the Lord your GodBefore He causes darkness,And before your feet stumbleOn the dark mountains,And while you are looking for light,He turns it into the shadow of deathAnd makes it dense darkness.
But if you will not hear it,My soul will weep in secret for your pride;My eyes will weep bitterlyAnd run down with tears,Because the Lord’s flock has been taken captive."
This is seen not least in Jung's Modern Man in Search of a Soul. The very title is evocative and the emptiness is not one of total absence, but of imponderable ponderings, or anguished dumpiness: he likes the idea of an authority somewhere, somehow, for healing; but of course, while this reflects the obvious point that God, the Maker, is the authority who knows what on earth the thing called man is about, and His absence is pathological in the heart, it is like saying the car needs a driver. Quite crucial is WHO: not only licensed, but aware of what a car is for, its purpose is and its métier. That tends to crystallise the basic problem: without authority, man tends to mist over; with it, he is liable to be murdered in mind, body or as far as possible in spirit, by opportunists, paranoid operatives or empty schemers, whose emptiness then becomes legally mandatory.
See Isaiah 47:10:
“For you have trusted in your wickedness;
You have said, ‘No one sees me’;
Your wisdom and your knowledge have warped you;
And you have said in your heart, ‘I am, and there is no one else besides me.’
Whatever system of belief or disbelief, or orientation, if it is not based on the Lord, then it is a warping, since only God is the Lord (Isaiah 44-45, cf. SMR, TMR). It is chosen or accepted or endured, but in any case allowed in the heart, and thus comes from the one who so suffers it, and so is responsible for it, as a work of his or her own volition. There is no moral excuse for shutting your eyes (as in Matthew 13:15ff.).