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SYMBOLS AND EXPERIENCE
See also Massifs of Pure Splendour in the Celestial Alps of Christ Jesus Ch. 3
The Insidious Splendour of Symbols
Correlative with the claims made already, this Report Religion deems it a true dictum that RELIGION HAS LARGELY SYMBOLIC LANGUAGE. On p.230 of the Report we read: 'They are less literal in their understanding and better able to interpret and use its largely symbolic language.' After all, it also deems all the religions to be such as to have their own consistency; and each even to possess 'its own inner logic so that it constitutes a consistent world view for its adherents' (p.152). Compared with God, this Inner Logic is not really very good: this 'logic' is neither consistent nor clear, requires no test, laughs at religions which require no test and is an object of such apparently and almost ostentatiously abject worship that its every mood is sacred, so long as its speech is not clear. Like Organic Evolution compared with Scientific Method, for its standing, it stands where there is no ground; it lives by defiance of logic, and calls itself after the name of what it neglects. Insidious, it is so embracive as a drunk and disorderly can be, wanting to possess what it cannot understand, and having a 'logic of its own', which does not relate to rationality.
But let us return to the specific matter of symbolism and see what 'inner logic' does with it. The assertion: religion has largely symbolic language.
True, this claim is empirically and historically wrong: of course Kierkegaard allowed his readers to wring from what appeared to be his heart, the assertion that one had to thrust the will into the arena in religion, and commit a virtual intellectual suicide (scarcely a synonym for a conception of a consistent world view). True this fact is about as well-known as the Buddha statues' seeming attention to their navels. True also that this precise position is not necessary to the Report Religion (although it may smooth things in popular reaction); but it is indicative of the slant. The CONCEPT of consistency in some subjective sense specifically to be contrasted with the scientific - shall we say certainties? or rather hypotheses? - is evidently eminently dear in the philosophy exhibited in the Report. It seems too strange that such an error as this could be made; for the Report, whatever its other deficiencies, does not give gross evidence of merely wilful haste. In fact, to its leisurely style and literary method we plan to give attention later.
Nevertheless, we can discern the immediate point without undue intellectual dyspepsia. IF all the religions (oh yes, well then. in fact, the acceptable ones) ... have a consistency and world view possessing Inner Logic in some perhaps esoteric but apparently statable sense; and if so many so flatly contradict each other so vitally, deeply and in some instances competitively, what then? Clearly, any outer logic. any actual consistency between themselves being actually precluded as sufficiently to the point as a criterion, and an inner logic of a mystic variety being allegedly the case, we look for ... symbols. What else?
The concept is popular, as can be seen for example, in the Book of Confessions, adapted by the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. (1967). Here a number of things are asserted which by no means are coincident; but a certain drift and trend is seen to be present. and all the cited creeds (including contradictions as infra) are taken together like so many multi-vitamin pills. Concomitantly with this fact, we find it asserted in the actual Confession of 1967 (a comparatively new one) that the thought forms, the cultural forms were dynamic that were implemented*24 in the divine writings; and this occurred in such a way as by no means to preclude error. Thus we are led to symbols capacious enough to hold contradiction, and to retain 'meaning', so that error can commend the actual diction at the conceptual level. Symbols, symbols ... there lies, we gather, the implicit answer.
It is not of course meant that words are symbols expressive of reality, by this; but that words (including syntactical combinations) are symbolic even in their connotation of the realities which are hidden in the love of God*24.
After all, Kant felt there was an 'as if' test case; certain profundities were to be taken (with all concessive grace) AS IF they were there. Certain morals in some sense actually mentionable could croon in weird distance and yet penetrate the impenetrable and still make themselves known. It is an exercise in contradiction, where lucidity is the opposite of the procedure, and instability the nature of the expression. One almost wonders if there is enough STATIC quietness about anything to allow any word or meaning to be allowed to stand long enough for it even to be enunciated. Even if, however, it is actually got out before change sets in, we still have the delightful restfulness of knowing, it is only by being impossible that it becomes actual. If you think that is nonsense, we are in concurrence. It is however the sort of background which helps one to make some estimate of the meaning of a document so blatantly self-contradictory as the Russell Report.
Thus, in the Kantian drama, the philosopher would not have man KNOW intellectually that they were there, at least in theory; for the noumenal was not allowed to be known. That was a rule in the game.
In reality, men were permitted to know it was there; know it could not be known, whilst cognitively becoming aware of its ground and character of unknowability even to the point that its categorical intellection was in fact already performed. Man could indeed even know its species of relation to what they were permitted to know, and categorise in the areas of its domain - and their own, like globe charters setting forth an unknown continent (Terra Australis?) in vague outline on their maps. Indeed men could know with intellection (rational thought in comprehensible categories) its impact, so that a substantive and imperative dictum and datum, a categorical imperative was communicated all too conveniently to our intellection.
Man could audit its unspeakables and intellectualise its
non-cognisables till shame, in this agony of self-contradiction, would
seem to force them to acknowledge that it was not alien to cognition, but
merely to comprehension. As to that, there is still the original
'problem': the religions are lavish in divergence, the one from the other;
and no clash of opposites produces logical meaning, but only the certainty
that one or both must be in error. But that is too obvious to be permissible
to abstruse philosophy. If the game is up, there is nothing further
to play. The avid readers however must here be referred to my larger and
detailed work on this topic in Predestination and Freewill
Thus it is no newer than Kant, or older than 1967 that
the symbolic approach to religious 'truth' is to be discerned in vigorous
operation. It is so common as to be commonplace*25
. We are thus forced to this estimate of the Report Religion, admittedly
bordering on a consensus approach, especially, interested in statistics
and questionnaires. Black and white surfaces may be reconciled when
they are 'seen' on symbols of colour. There is of course a slight
problem: those who may have seen the colours are less ready to dismiss
the divergencies, ignore the contrast or equate the radiance of the
one with the near nullity or the other. The one reflects much; the
other has already lost this power, having absorbed indeed but not having
The Essential 'Experience'
We have noted the express and manifest contradiction to Biblical Christian-theism which this constitutes; and to the Jesus Christ depicted in Scripture. Now however, we wish to turn amid our cumulative and accumulating, and so consistent evidence of the Report Religion to its approach to experiencing things.
This will have two values for us: first, it will increase our creedal components or their preliminaries as we seek to make the Religion under examination (Report Religion) less demure and retiring, and more manifest - a major aim prior to final systematisation of it; and second, it will allow a further contrast between it and such Christian-theism. This in turn will help to indicate clearly that this Report incorporates a religion, but one antithetically related to numerous increasingly attested components of that historic faith, some thousands of years the senior of the Report Religion itself. All this in turn will help us to ponder a little the constitutional questions of having such a religion investing - that would seem the mot juste - our governmental schools.
In the Report pp.163-49, we find: 'Cultic prediction, religious stories and religious feelings are in this category and can be explored by school children of all ages ... They can enjoy, too, the religious stories which accompany and explain the festivals, and they can enter into the feelings of awe end wonder, joy and solemnity which these festivals elicit in participants.'
As to the stories, the Digest already referred to advises us: 'Provided each story is presented in an atmosphere of seriousness and respect and is set in its normal context of worship or celebration, then children should be able to feel that though the story appears strange and magical, it nevertheless embodies a serious if mysterious core of meaning,' (p.14).
This last of course has such an air of kindergarten teacher noble condescension to the presumably inarticulate symbols of religion, that while one might agree relative to the more obviously irrational religions (where, for example, deification of a leader claiming there is no god arises), there is encoded an attitude of frank and rank unbelief in the ostensible contextual propositional validity of the class of assertions in question, in advance. Back of the 'magical' look *26 (whatever that might be - it is certainly present in the rambunctious occurrences in Greek mythology), there is a mysterious core.
Since the Report
area concerned includes, in the religion called Christianity, in its Biblical
authority, the most rationally (not rationalistically) perspicuous
birth and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we find here a clear confusion
of Biblical categories with certain others. This of course is most illuminating
relative to the Report Religion, and its authoritarian presumptions
which go under the guise of interpretation, but which are in fact a pseudo-papal
and non-rational collection of culture clichés brought onto the
question of what religion is. In fact, as noted already, there is a wholly
ANTI-MAGICAL and PRO-FACTUAL emphasis in the Bible so intense as to become
one of its CHIEF CHARACTERISTICS.
The fact that GOD DOES THINGS, evidently intolerable to the Report Religion, of which He can speak, and which He may first speak and then perform, is NOT magical , for it is the reverse - the ascription of adequate, formal power for accurate formulable consequences. The magical is rather the Report Religion's endeavour to secure a logic which is self-contradictory and still has rational force, coherence and validity. EVEN MAGIC however cannot achieve this.
The Objective Reality
1) The PERSONAL GOD
Thus, there is no mysterious core correlated with a magical look, when the Creator who made man in His image (obviously spiritually, since the God concerned is a Spirit - as has been Biblically maintained continually) assumes a format adequately expressive for His own manifestation. There is nothing magical-and-mysterious in correlation about a woman bearing this incarnating form - how otherwise would be the incarnation, in man? Nor is there even pause to objective understanding if God makes directly the creative act which man would make sexually and indirectly, any more then in the case of His making bread direct, rather then by the means He made for making it, or having it made by man. The magical look would imply the invocation of mysterious forces in an uncoded or fantasy fashion, not the action by the maker of the world, operating here by choice within it- with power appropriate and tact perfectly congruous with the long stated purpose.
In the resurrection, the intervention of the creator of (the human) body in the removal of normal rotting from a dead body, to the extent that this same body was by this means, caused to resume and extend operations - this is not even strange. It is highly congruous with the power wholly explicated in the stated purpose; and this last is clearly enunciated in terms of the Being personally concerned - God Almighty. We should have minimal conceptual trouble with the concept of 'person', since each who reads this, has to BE one in order to read it with any comprehension at all. The confusion of the fitful fantasies of exotic magic with the sublimely logical, interpreted and procedurally exquisite actions of the reasonable God: this is a solecism so profound as in itself to give no small grounds for typing the Report in prospect. That is - for attributing to it a TYPE of approach, of slant, of philosophy, of presupposition. It is equally a ground for tending to confirm such typing, already adumbrated, after due research, in retrospect.
Whatever the Report's implied degree of disbelief, its characterisation confuses the nature of what it is grouping together, with such disbelief; and that is of course a highly subjective, wholly unacademic and devastatingly unscholarly procedure, unfit for public State consumption in anything purporting to cover the topic of 'religion'. It does not discover it; it suppresses it in presuppositions which render so opaque the actual territory in question, that it is not even discerned. The presuppositions stride in like rough-house boys into a bar, and take-over the place, without concern at breakages.
Indeed, it evinces, in particular, a failure to make an elementary and categorical distinction regarding the explicit NATURE of Biblical claim. This in turn corroborates our claim not to have met any adequate treatment of the very fact of Biblical Christianity in the Report; for the category seems removed from vision in this generalisation; just an it seems far from sight elsewhere, in any substantial characterisation.
If then the relevant class of contextually indicated connotations of religions (however improperly constructed as a class) do not all have intrinsic objective validity, it is jejune merely to assume them all to lack such validity for that reason. This is true, however didactically convenient such a generalising attitude might be, and with whatever' tolerance' extraneous reconstructions, might be ... authorised.
You could categorise religions by claims, by claim-product correlation and so forth. However to categorise them by a prior philosophy which cannot even distinguish the most gross features from nullity, is a form of blindness which scarcely deserves the reward of publication.
Let us now pursue this point in the Report context, faithfully ...
To one concerned (as is the writer and as have been for centuries Christian apologists) with the objective validity of Scriptural assertions in God's name, for example, it is as an a priori creedal item in the implicit Report Religion, a marvellous and wonderful thing to find that ALL the religions in their teeming contrarieties have the 'inner logic'. This apparently is a statement made as an act of faith, for by sight, it is not apparent; nor is evidence supplied by the Report. In the author's The Shadow of a Mighty Rock, the reverse sort of proposition is formally demonstrated over some 900,000 words. In other words, these are matters for research and demonstration, not for articulation as though the mouth had no reins!
In terms of illustrative analogy, this sort of Report concept prior to ground, and without support, is rather like some ebullient dabbler in mathematics opining: 'Why then, it is all one. There have, it is true, been certain problems in mathematics, whether for example 2+2=4 is a necessary, a possible, a tautological, an a priori, or an inductive proposition; and this is all true. Indeed, it is also true that 2+2=5 and that there is an inner logic, an inward consistency in this, perceptible to the exponents of the view, whose works we should treat with the joy at the sense of attainment they evince. This is socially necessary and intellectually respectable' ... Frankly, it sounds like the very latest in kindergarten teachers, before she has seen the need to evacuate some of her teaching about how to teach infants, by watching it work!
But to return to our mathematics illustration... A nice guy, this speaker? Perhaps, you might say: But no mathematician ... unless words are so twisted on to be vehicles of confusion by connotative re-definition designed to confuse. In the long run. there is little niceness in confusion of either kind. It does not work.
To revert then to the Biblical, Christian-theism, let us ask this: How do these views relate to it? - views of experiences and joining in rites and ceremonies, with happy empathy with the inner core of dimly discerned, symbolically conveyed, story material. Let us ask Elijah.
The account is available in the Bible at I Kings 17 and following. Firstly, it in noteworthy that some difference of opinion is evinced between the prophet and one Ahab, king of Israel. He invokes the name of God, who in context is the creator of heaven and earth, a matter already adequately attested supra, relative to Biblical testimony. THAT Is the context.
Elijah then acts with the express and intimate cooperation of the same deity. He is provided for and directed, and in addition, exercises prayer to the deity in such a relationship that a child whose spirit had gone, is restored. After the third year had come, and rain did not grace the pastures specially dear to the King Ahab, the opposition with his false prophets in tow, those alien to the religion of Israel, to God Almighty as there revealed for so long and so consistently, there was then, and therefore, a natural tension between the King as agent for himself, or as he might have conceived it, his nation, and - on the other hand, the prophet Elijah, as agent for the deity to whom we have referred. Krushchev and Kennedy were small in divergence compared with THIS! That is undoubtedly the contextual emphasis.
This was so manifest that the majestic opponent of the prophet addressed him in this way: "Is that you, O troubler of Israel?" A certain lack of tolerance is regrettably (?) visible, and a certain failure to share, indeed, in the religious proclivities of Ahab. Realities did not matter; national convenience was the convenient, and the accurately predicted no rain did not fit, as discipline or otherwise. After all, they were even in the same overall country, Israel, even if they had not had the inestimable advantage of being acquainted with the Report Religion. Could they not bury their differences? Did God matter so much, one way or the other ? Was it REALLY so very important, and could not the symbolism of the Baals and that of the other One, be in some way linked in an inner logic of harmony? This was the way it should be in the nation. Could not such a thing be done in some way or other?
Were there not, when the matters were surveyed, larger questions of social worth, individual Importance and communal character? Did these not far transcend the mere postulate of some (anachronistic Kantian) god, presumably symbolically expressed anyway?
Elijah was decidedly not of this view. In fact, with what some might deem quite deplorable (immature?) brinkmanship, he forced the issue, acting on the clear assumption that absolute truth was at hand, was God, and had spoken to what was in rebellion against the same, indeed defiant rebellion and inexcusable opposition through mere arbitrary wilfulness, and a pollution of the human spirit so intense as to be intolerable if any posterity would continue for long to grace the realm. In opposition to God, the prophets and the king were in a position of greenhouse gases, refusing any control, and insisting on being profuse in their imaginative emissions of imaginary religion. Not imaginary, however, were the results! and these immoralities, like those of today, were legion.
'How long,' asked Elijah, 'do you halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow him. But if Baal, then follow him!'
The people at least seemed operationally to have more in common with the Report Religion, almost as if to censure (?) this busy occupation with the largely symbolic affairs of the prophet - as indeed, they may have thought them. They did have quite a feat of accommodation in manipulating the elements of their former and latter ways; and this in always an operationally attractive, if not an intellectually thorough-going way out.
How did they evince this possible 'maturity'? Why - 'they answered him not a word.'
That is precisely what is habitually found by this author, in confrontation. There is NO rational answer in those so besotted, and none is provided. Thus rationality with revelation is reduced in order for compromise to proceed, and rebellion is misnamed harmony as it becomes a seductive substitute for clarity and truth, in order for lies to be lord in a new religion, or lack of it, depending on preference for nomenclature and placement.
Some politicians possibly follow a similar course. 'What, Mr. Smith, was your finding relative to your adversary in the Unions? ' 'No comment!' - comes the reply.
Now you will observe the light and darkness approach,
the right or wrong attitude with Elijah. This is consistent.
What if the deity who created heaven and earth sent you on a mission to
a dilapidated relic of real religion ('real' being that which concerned
the absolute truth as known to the absolute God, in such a context)?
There would be a species of knowledge possible and (if He had spoken intelligibly
as Scripture repeatedly states or implies), of knowledge indeed that was
actual, which would not coalesce with the shadowy postulates of rebellious
ignorance, or disaffected forgetfulness.
|For how could these profusionists,
these multi-god dabblers in the time of Elijah,
who yet lived with the ‘one God’ in their nation,
|how could they pretend to be able to universalise this,|
|that we REALLY know nothing, but ‘prefer’ what is ‘appropriate’,|
|when this they knew,|
|that we know nothing...
but rather taste and
contrive and dabble and feel.
|Is that not knowledge? To KNOW that
NOTHING factual is KNOWN!
Or is knowledge to be in two classes, what the priests know, and what we know; or equally for the report, what those with the facilities of the Report writers are free to know, and what the victims of their products would know. It is knowledgeable indeed to be so sophisticated as to know that no-one, when it comes to God, knows anything, and that all merely exercise options within the confines of what is desirable and appropriate. Doubtless Baal seemed desirable and appropriate, or whatever else was, or is imported by pure will. But in that debilitated, and insalubrious event, it is still knowledge in the field. THIS you know about the divinities. This licence you have in their realm. Agnosticism is either ignorance or knowledge.
If it is ignorance, since you are lazy, you should pick up the feet; but if it is inability because you are human, then you are knowledgeable, instructed, informed, impart knowledge, teach babes, as the Report writers do, slowly releasing their irrational package.
You cannot have it both ways. The horns of the dilemma are purely practical. The case itself is perfectly clear.
With Elijah, to revert from the sort of model to the actual case, both parties seem to recognise this, to the point they engaged in a decided competition, each seeking to arraign, display or employ the power of such god or God who seemed real, realisable; with the Baal variety, postulated, hoped for, in some erratic way, with Jehovah, was known to be so.
If the question admitted of no argument, the recorded result did nothing other than reflect this. The sardonic mockery of Elijah, let us be frank, is maximally contradictory of ALL that the Report Religion advises. Not merely does he not enter into the designated feelings of awe end wonder, joy and solemnity which 'these festivals elicit in participants' (here the priests of Baal). Far more is the case than merely that.
Elijah in fact goads. He seemingly relishes their deficiencies whilst ignoring the merely symbolic, or largely symbolic (sic) character of their works and knowledge. He reminds us indeed of what the Lord SAYS in Isaiah 41:26-27, in the context already noted above.
With deplorable lack of sophistication, sufficient to give instant failure from any knowledgeable 'objective' and 'impartial' approach to religion (that is, any approach for which agnosticism is a premise so that meaningful contradiction is an offence), he chides them mercilessly. It would seem the mercy was past and justice supervened. James, in the New Testament, cites this Elijah as an exemplar of faith, and Christ effectively indicates that John the Baptist has come in the power and spirit of Elijah (cf. Matthew 17:9-13).
Baal had no measures with which to discredit Jehovah, a case not unparalleled with the Lord Himself: ONE was right; the OTHER was wrong. One was nonexistent, a species of depraved symbolism which in its synthetic sin, had penetrated the land from outside; the other was existent, a concerned deity dealing with the objects of His specifications, His people Israel, in their now long course of historical contravention of His orders and arrogation of His authority (cf. Psalm 16:4). His very removal of them from the power of Pharaoh had been an almost hilariously ironic degradation of the gods of Egypt, mocking them whether gods of the frog, the fly or the cattle, the resurrection or whatever: gods without power to deliver, inept and symbolical beings, capable of synthesis, of addition or subtraction, but not of deliverance.
Jehovah specialised in factual, practical deliverance, rose at confrontation, performing as the case was deemed to require - BY HIM, and in terms of His words. In the case of Elijah, HE ACTED, differentiating Himself in action from the enforced inactivity of the Baal, who was indeed PURELY SYMBOLIC, and hence UTTERLY UNABLE to do ANYTHING. Perhaps he is out hunting, derided Elijah, or asleep! The Baal preferers made one fatal mistake, the thing was put to the test. There is no evidence of the slightest desire on the part of the Report Writers' product, to do that!
Ah but, the reader might defensively protest, or even offensively enunciate: you are in the Old Testament.
True; and such cases relative to contrariety and
discipline, on the basis of acutely predictable propositional
and particular divulgements of deity, could be multiplied to the point
of virtual dizziness (a few more peeks at Kings and Judges would help);
but the case in not unfamiliar. Whether it relates to Josiah, Gideon,
Jehoshaphat or Jehu. Yet what of the New Testament?
2) The BIBLE
First, what of Matthew 5:17-20? Non-destruction of the former writings (Old Testament) is the expressed aim of that Jesus whose cognomen gives the name to Christianity; the fulfilment of these same stated books, the law and the prophets of the Old Testament, is the stated intention, and the assured result which history will exhibit. The value and validity of this same Old Testament (as we now call it) is expressed by Jesus the Christ, in one of the most remarkably concise, multiply emphatic statements ever perceived by this writer (cf. The Shadow of a Mighty Rock pp. 1176ff., where the reasons for this statement are laid down in explicit detail).
NOT a jot or tittle will pass till heaven and earth pass (not apparent as yet). NOT the smallest particle (Jot), or the smallest obvious difference between the letter symbols (Tittle) will pass, till all be fulfilled. No embarrassment with the Old Testament is, to say the least, apparent. No intention of the application of a basically new broom looms large. We could not readily, for example, attribute such sentiments to a Labour or Liberal Government entering into the joy of their kingdom, following a period of rule by the others. Einstein did not seem to rejoice in quite the same precision, in any adoption of Newtonian physics, excellent though it may have been.
Yet Christ does indeed go still further in His vast, vital, precise, emphatic and dynamic endorsement of the Old Testament as the word of God, and His indication of just what THAT implies! And what is it that it implies ? This, that the name of God is involved, His power and His precision are involved. HIS OWN WORDS are similar: Heaven and earth will pass, but His own words will not. This is precisely the verifiable nature of them (cf. The Shadow of a Mighty Rock, Chs. 8- 9).
The faithful teaching and performance of 'these least commandments' , Christ declaimed, leads to high praise, and the reverse to degradation (v. 19). The least of the commandments so taught and done (and we must remember of course the Sermon on the Mount prescription regarding 'doing' , and the spiritual character deemed essential; but we shall not digress): what does He say of this ? It is a way in which even the least (included, of course, in 'whosoever') may reach elevated congratulation. Further, failure here is enough to degrade the greatest correlatively, and the most eminent, to comparative obscurity.
But which commandments are these of which He speaks? Those enshrined in the contextual relevant datum. And that? He stipulates it explicitly: 'The law and the prophets', or the compendious signification the law of Moses and the prophets who followed. It was a common phrasing of zero ambiguity. That, in HIS opinion is the TRUTH: and the New Testament is centred and focussed on Him as not merely essential, or even authoritative, but definitive of God, while equally it is directed explicitly to implement His intentions (e.g. Mark I:1-2, John I:1-14, 20:30-31, 14:21-23, Acts 1:1-9, Romans 1:1-5, Galatians I:1-9, II Corinthians 11:1-4 etc.). HE is the TRUTH (John 14:6) and THIS is what He declares to be underwritten to the largest and smallest degree, by God.
Yet did He implement such an attitude? We might recall the episode of the Temple cleansing (John 2:13-16) where whips were a didactic technique; for thereby He helped instil His point, though admittedly He had in mind, evidently, the removal of certain ones involved, in their own way, in religious ceremonies. That, as to mode, He did not tolerate. Of course, truth is in its nature intolerant of error, and He said He was the truth - and this in exclusive jurisdiction (John 14:6); and that He spoke it (John 8:45).
It all revolves round the simple fact that when One IS TRUTH, error is discernible by those to whom that One imparts Himself. The alternative of course is to disbelieve such a One. But that is a frank rejection of a religion; it Is scarcely a plausible combination. toleration or interpretation of its truth. You do not tolerate the truth of what you reject as untrue. The 'deeper unity or the human situation beneath all the differences of creed, code. cult and Institution..,' is not apparent when one, Jesus, says:
Thus, in I John 4:39 we read:
Without doubt or possibility of refutation,
this is what the Bible consistently teaches; and any religion
based on it, to the extent of following it, is not merely in strong and
categorical contradiction of the Report Religion, it is in fact
inferentially, if perhaps intentionally, in the class of what is
excluded by it. This point is simply seen an a result of a careful
inspection of the documents appertaining to both; and it is not set forth
in any sense as an expression of personal, subjective or religious opinion.
Smiling Murder ?
As to these two religions, the words do not agree; the concepts contradict. This is a fact.
From a Biblical position then, the Religion of the Report, in its injunctions or encouragements to participation in the cultic and other practices of religions, as already noted, is encouraging sympathy with sacrilege, idle hours with idolatry, or leisure activities with abominations.
The words are not too strong: this is the Biblical position; and it was, in fact, when theocracy ruled, a matter of death penalty to engage in such participation: as in Elijah's case, in that of Jehu (II Kings 10:18 ff.), and of Josiah (II Kings 23:20).
Indeed, Moses, despite the deeply felt throes of enormous compassion and concern, brought the death penalty on the unrepentant in this sphere (Exodus 32:26-28 - cf, 32:11, 32:32). The term 'fury' is not Scripturally inappropriate for the divine response to performances in this area, especially where sustained, on the part of His people (Leviticus 26:27-3), who ostensibly were devoted to Him.
Asserting there is no God apart from Himself, Jehovah assigns folly to those of His people who construct or form a god (Isaiah 44:10, cf. 44:8). It is because there is no other God, that the practices, performances proper to such other gods are displayed in the form of spiritual insanity on the part of those naming Him as God (cf. Hosea 9:7, Deuteronomy 32:17-21,6).
Paul, in the New Testament, is most stringent on those called Christians who practice idolatry (a worship contrary to, or other than that prescribed in the Gospel - Galatians 1:6-9) - something tantamount to dealing in a different or divergent dynamic and reality altogether. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 is lethal, in apostolic perspective, towards any real involvement in a form of idolatry by those nominally Christian. For this, fellowship is cut. Their destiny is utterly different.
It is perceptible that II Corinthians 6:11 ff. is even highly proscriptive against spiritual fellowship or communion or participation with unbelievers. This in not a sociological but a spiritual matter.
It is not a matter of taking up the sword, explicitly excluded as a spiritual formula, by Christ in so many words, in a religious situation, to enforce worship. It is not a matter of physical warfare and hate, violence and pugnacity in the international extension of Jehovah's worship. Nor, for that matter, was it so in Joshua's day, but rather a judgment on certain terminally polluted nations, executed through Israel, in their end of their journey from the slavery of Egypt to the place prepared. To those nations eventually (Genesis 15:14-16) judged, came an enforced vacation from the land, for it was on the part of those who had long vexed God in rebellion, and were now free to leave the earth!
No question of force on faith was involved;
but one of judgment on lives in the entrenched follies of hundreds of years (cf. The Shadow of a Mighty Rock, pp. 1179ff., 1080ff., 986ff.).
The point however is this: the zeal of the Lord was consistently directed against the abuse of EXPLICIT LAWS, DEFINED MORALS, the REFUSAL of truth and the insistence on ignoring it. While in international cases, His patience was all but incredible, the results are again and again made sure and noted (as for example in Nahum and Isaiah 34). IN the PROCESS, in this last instance, the PRECISE nature of the DIVINE JUDGMENTS and DURATION is spelled out, as internationally also in the case of Jeremiah 25, the specifics are presented.
Using 'other symbols' in the sense of what they stood for, latitudinarian approaches to God, cut-your-own compositions and acquisitions, and teaching these: such conduct constituted a matter of individual State death-penalty in the theocracy; it was not a question however of civil turmoil, but rather orderly government such as had for centuries imposed death penalties (Deuteronomy 13:1-5).
Now, however, let us repeat: even this civil judgment is denied, since there is now no theocracy where this teaching is wholly and solely enshrined. The message however remains, as do the strictures of Paul on just such conduct (cf. Titus 3:10)!
Ephesians 5:11-12 must also be read in the Scripture's uniform attribution of error and fault to spiritual participations in, or departures from the Biblical God. Contextually, then, the issue in a dead one. Liberty for Report Religion is infinitely in the negative. The commandments are quite lively in the sphere.
The divine abhorrence of these practices, it will be observed in I Corinthians 1:18ff., is not removed by the ignorance of the participants (and on this, see Romans 1:18-19 ff.). Its application may be intensified where knowledge has been perverted (Romans 1:20-21); but the rejection of such practices is not originated by this consideration. Prohibitions abound; participation is excluded. But the Religion of the Report has it otherwise.
As to prospective creed
for the Report Religion,
we seem to be confronted with a very different injunction which,
taken from all our assembled Report data,
appears to read somewhat as follows:
A REPORT CREED,
ENSHRINING ITS TEACHINGS
Thou shalt not use the name
idols; for how does THOU know;
for these have an inner logic of their own, though they be not thy gods.
Thou shalt not at all use the name idols; for it inhibits thine educational practice, disturbs the bonds of social grace or plagues the public relation experts, who interpret statistics and their implications for government.
Thou shalt revere thy neighbour’s gods and worship thine own, if need be, if thou shalt so will. And thou shalt cautiously demythologise what should be so treated.
Thou shalt not be arrogant, or anti-social as if any religion thou mightest have, should be the right one; nor shalt thou perturb thine neighbour, since he dwelleth securely by thee, by implying he is wrong. For what is 'Truth? and dost thou thyself know? This too is true.
In short, Biblically this course incorporates
Our purpose then, in the context, is to expose this, without hindrance or excuse; and that is our current scholarly task. It is not at all to spare anyone's feelings, reinforce anyone's fantasies or engage in hurtful compromise that one proceeds as if a captive to connivance or contrivance. Nor is it to hurt them. The facts are there; and it is only honest that they be exposed clearly and in the tenor of the original. If this be challenged, it must be challenged on the basis of what it depicts, and from the tenor of that to which it relates, for relate to it, it must conspicuously does.
As The Shadow of a Mighty Rock shows, the
result of logical comparison is overwhelming, decisive and indefeasible,
just as it was in the days of Elijah. We have seen multiplied instances
of confusion and self-contradiction in the Report Religion. Biblical Christian-Theism
never is touched by these. Indeed, the above reference with painstaking
care, proceeds to the simple rational necessity that there is one Almighty
God who has spoken, in written format, in just one place, and that this,
to the test, is the Bible. It is shown to have no single competitor who
possesses validity, and to be independently demonstrable. In the days of
Elijah the test was equally decisive.
In the Book of Confessions, published in 1967, we have some evidence of the trend noted within the United Presbyterian Church. This body, through The Office of the General Assembly, is the publisher.
In Section 9. 29, find that the 'Scriptures, given under the guidance of the Holy Spirit are nevertheless the words of man, conditioned by the language, thought forms, and literary fashions of the places and times at which they were written. They reflect views of life, history, and the cosmos which were then current.'
In the Westminster Confession, Ch.1, Section V, we read: 'We may be moved by and induced by the testimony of the Church to an high and reverend esteem of the holy scripture, and the heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrines, the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole, (which in to give ell glory to God), the full discovery it makes of the only way of man's salvation, the many other incomparable excellencies, and the entire perfection thereof, are arguments whereby it doth abundantly evidence itself to be the word of God; yet, notwithstanding, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit. bearing witness by and with the word in our hearts.'
This latter testimony may be contrasted both with the more recent Confession of 1967 and with the tenets of the Report Religion. Obviously the last named has moved in the direction over time, but has gone much further. Thus, for the Report, religious language is largely symbolic; for the Confession of 1967, error arising from philosophic and other cultural indices must appear in Scripture; whilst for the Westminster Confession 'entire perfection', is present in the form of 'infallible truth' and these considerations arise within the inerrant and all-comprehending perspective that 'God, (who is truth itself,) the author thereof' is found to have (italics added). It is for THAT reason the Scripture is there termed, we read, 'the word of God '.
The Book of Confessions, in which appears the Confession of 1967, view of the admissions made and already noted, can be far more agnostic, comparatively speaking, than its predecessor of Westminster. Thus in 9.09, it declares: 'It is called the sacrifice of a lamb, a shepherd's life given for this sheep, atonement by a priest; again it is ransom of a slave, payment of debts, vicarious satisfaction of a legal penalty, and victory over the powers of evil.
These are expressions
of a truth which remains beyond the reach of all theory in the depths of
God's love for man. They reveal the gravity, cost, and cure achievement
of God's reconciling work.' Since thought forms and cultural concepts are
deemed here to be present-reflecting views of life, history and the cosmos
then current, it is clear that there is this limitation implicit
in cultural occurrences such as debts, sacrifices, slaves. Hence
it has to follow for the Confession that it deems these to be theories.
The 'truth' however is said to lie beyond the reach of all theory, its
site is declared to be the depths of 'God's love for man'.
On the one hand, Jesus indicates the Father's provision of His utterance, "whatsoever 1 speak, therefore, even as the Father said to me, so I speak" (John 12:50 cf. 12:48-49, 8:38), and claims to be God (John 8:58, Exodus 3:14 and supra); while the Father commands we are to heed Him (Matthew 17:6). On the other, Paul indicates the Spirit's provisions - even of the deep things of God and of the actual words (I Corinthians 2:10-13). Again Christ is and tells the truth in words never to pass away, whilst authenticating the Old Testament to the most minute degree, designable by language (Matthew 5:17ff.). The trinity, one and all therefore, would be implicated in Biblical terms, as a liar if such claims were not true, and if the Bible were not as Christ, Paul and the prophets attest it to be.
Rather than 'interpret this', or quite directly, recast it on a view that it is in itself already conditioned and hence cannot even claim aright (a view which rejects the Biblical doctrine of the Bible and hence by implication makes this divine word subject to human review, and hence reaches to the area of specific divine teaching in it, relative to its specific claims): the Westminster Confession merely concurs that God is the author thereof. It points out that He is truth itself, and His word correspondingly infallible.
The Confession of 1967 seizes truth as a bull might seize a kitten (if it had time), scoffing it in a moment, and spits out what it will, which is 'interpretation', once it is digested in some way peculiar to such creatures. The Westminster Confession on the contrary is saying: THIS is what it says, WE believe it true, so THIS is the doctrine of the Bible. One starts with disfaith (The Shadow of a Mighty Rock, pp. 172ff., 999ff.), if not disdain; the other with faith. More material to our present purpose, one rejects the Bible's teaching about itself, and hence is in essence a hostile take-over, having nothing to do with interpretation, but much with repudiation of the Book.
Thus on the one hand, some ecclesiastics want to relativise more or less the Biblical teaching whether on secular or spiritual topics: they would institute an invasion of Biblical teaching by current cultural concepts with synthetic consequences. On the other hand, the Bible insists on invading any current contradictions quite explicitly, and it does this in the name of God, authoritatively and competitively; and from the world's concepts and cultural containers pretending to be truth, it demands submission as from the Maker of the minds who make the cultures (cf. II Corinthians 10:5-6, Romans 1:18-32).
In it, the word of God, whether living or written, denounces
even religious traditions (Matthew 23, Mark 7:7), and expressly requires
these to be subordinated to the word of the prophets (as in Jeremiah 23),
as to truth. To endeavour to 'interpret' it by subverting its denunciations,
is not only mockery; it is as a method impossible. It is confrontation,
having a rejection at heart; and its relation to interpretation is the
same as that of any other putsch directed as any other government. It is
just in this case that the government asserted, against which the coup
is directed, is that of God, and the vehicle in this instance, is something
called a 'church'.
Just so Christ bore with, answered end accepted the challenges
of the revisionists of His day, in the persons of the more secular
Sadducees and traditionalistic Pharisees, and made it a point that they
could not convict Him of an error (John 8:12-47). In thus confrontation,
some want to harness the Biblical Christ with their current concepts, more
or less; some want to symbolise Him (e.g. Altizer) and all the others relative
to truth; and some accept Him. The same was true in Christ's day, and those
who so treated His revelation were formally and authoritatively accounted
for in the last resort, in terms of the adversary, Satan himself.
Of interest to any wishing to pursue historical items
in this area, and the inspection of relevant ancient and indeed more recent
date, In Dr Harold Lindsell's Battle for the Bible.
See Dr Francis Schaeffer: The God who Is There:
is There and He is Not Silent; Escape from Reason
elaborate documentation of this point. It Is also treated extensively
by Dr Cornelius Van Til (bibliography).
(See also Appendix, pp. 233ff..)
The Bible for example is not tolerant of magic, magicians, witchcraft and so on, even if the Report Religion is (cf. Deuteronomy 10:9-14; Isaiah 44: 24-26).
There arises here a need, perhaps, for completeness' sake, and because of the astonishingly widespread failure to think clearly in some circles, to make explicit the distinction between interpretation on the one hand, and repudiation on the other. It is that between contextual objectivity and interpretive subjectivity. It divides between literal interpretation (or for that matter, figurative) as an intrusion; and interpretation with contextual integrity, as a scholarly necessity in expounding a religion as it is.
Now obviously, it in the case that figures of speech abound in much literature. Sometimes, as amusingly relayed by Wilder Smith (Man's Origin, Man's Destiny, pp.20-22), this may be implied in science: in magical seeming mysticism about molecules relative to life, or example. Personification of processes may be carried out in the metaphorical illusionism of some so-called science to the point of brilliant confusion, which of course, often has much to do with illusion, illusory theories which illicitly pose as scientific (cf. The Shadow of a Mighty Rock, pp. 211f.). Yet there is nothing magical about this interpretive matter. The figure itself involves a use of imagination, either to avoid logic or to illustrate it very frequently; and where it does avoid it, its exposure can indeed be on a par with political cartoons in the sphere of unfortunate ethics being brought to light. Nevertheless, interpretation itself is a sober matter.
Our immediate point, then, is that where in context the writer evinces figures of speech, it is not a matter of pure and sheer genius to unearth them (or to 'de-sky' them as the case may be). No magic inheres in their purport qua figures of speech. The context is able to make plain what is fact and what fantasy, by the way matters are treated, related and correlated and so on. Symbols, for example, may point the way to power (e.g. mathematical ones, such as E = MC2), but of themselves, they do not act. What has substantive reality however may do so.
To determine these things, we need no 'tolerance' or condescension - though later we may have to be quite critical if the usage is abused in a logical category; if it defiles the validity of what purportedly is cogent; if it permits a slide to improperly novel grounds, or an imprecision abetting illegitimate argument. The present however In simply a matter of literary interpretation with all integrity. There is no question in this interpretation of 'correcting' or 'allowing for' intrinsic errors. We set out the meaning, and in due course in the relevant sphere of discourse, we may diverge from it, reject it and so on; but in this merely construing phase, our concern is to find the intent: what is meant. That is all.
To impress a 'literal' interpretation on a contrary context is as much a failure in such a job - and as little - as to impress a figurative one. There is no question of preference in this: It is the text and the context; and the text is what is written, not in our minds, but on paper or whatever alternative repository. This is a simple matter of scholarship. Thus where an objective invocation of powers and forces to explain or to reveal the significance of an event, is engaged in - except perhaps in a case of assured irony, that is the position. Our attitude may be positive or negative to the presentation; but as interpreters, we must at least be positive enough to indicate what is being told, intended and utilised intellectually, in the writing before us. It may be common for the period; it may be uncommon. (So much IS, that quite a lot can be uncommon, without becoming normal.) It is sufficient if it is there.
Having then removed any delightfully irrelevant question
of modes of interpretation, and failures of integrity in one direction
or another, we can proceed on with apparently 'magical' matters per se,
unconfused by the unduly magical attitudes of such re-writers of religion
as may proceed by some kind of transmutational
trauma with the text.