W W W W World Wide Web Witness Inc. Home Page Contents Page for Volume What is New
From Reason we arrive via the station of Evidence, express to it. Once there, at the Bible station, we find the panoramic splendour of all things, visible in consistent perspective that is quite startling in a world notable for philosophic muddle, sociological clangour and psychological clash in theory.
Before we turn once again to the heart and source of Biblical teaching that Jesus Christ is sovereign Lord and solitary Saviour, being "GOD ... MANIFESTED IN THE FLESH" (I Timothy 3:16), ''justified in the Spirit'', Himself so perfectly attested as God's personal visiting card: let us briefly ponder positively, some of the astonishing assemblage of verificatory resolutions of problem areas of thought. These are so surely provided by Biblical perspective. Daniel says of God that He "gives wisdom to the wise, and knowledge to those who have understanding" (Daniel 2:21-22), and that He 'reveals the deep and secret things'. He is indeed a 'dissolver of doubts', and His word provides answers to perennial human questions, queries and chronic problems of understanding. As such it verifies its claim to be the word of God. It solves what nothing else can, or does.
We could call this The Powerful Penetrating Perspective Uniquely Presented By The Bible. It is this book which, claiming with singular aptitude to be the very written word of the wholly articulate God, also presents in its innermost sanctuary: One claiming to be the very incarnate God, the living word expressed - in perpetuity; and outshining as man, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Vision for truth, words for understanding and God for joy, deliverance and salvation, are found in this striking trio: Bible, its application and its central figure. Each alone, and all in one, flash the fire of their personal attestation: Christ, Lord of the word, and the Bible, the word of the Lord, being self-attesting.
We turn now to the results of that word, its power to engender vision for truth where eye is not closed to see it; and then to the Christ as depicted in that word (Chapter 6 infra) for those who will look that they might see.
However, whoever it is that looks, He is there and the results are there. A view is not created by the eye, nor does shutting the eye remove it. It is there and attests itself.
We come then to: confirmation by conspectus and considerations of comprehensibility.
Confirmation, then, by conspectus.
Now a man may object that he has analysed his own nature and is free; but we must ask, within what limits and with what equipment did he analyse his nature, his own nature ? You cannot escape the implications of inclinations, qualifications and limitations within him.
On the other hand, with no less force, in favour of some measure of real freedom, we observe that a man can dispose his intellect to see many things, and evaluate and see alternative principles. He can resolve for one or the other of them, whether these principles be similar or dissimilar to his own background or environment, or indeed, to his own period of history at all. He can even resolve against what he feels to be best. And especially can he know shame and guilt.
So what is it ? A seeming paradox of the free and the fixed ?
The philosopher Kant would have it that there is a moral imperative (*1) which tells you that you must do so and so. Yet, apart from any grounds he may feel he has for this view, beyond a merely psychological account of such irruption into his mind, at the superficial level - Kant would have God to be unknowable as He is. Kant holds that the intellect of man has a certain self-sealing property, by and because of which, it cannot find out ultimate facts as they are.
According to his theory, the intellect intervenes and re-orders the raw materials coming from the senses to the mind; and the cast of thought, through the intellect, re-shapes them. No concept, he holds, can come with its naked reality, since the mind automatically re-organises and covers all with its own conceptual structure. It is like dark glasses - all you see comes through the tint.
This however would mean that this very Kantian moral imperative, just because it involves concepts and thoughts - if he is to be consistent - could not be an ultimate thing anyway. So much for that ! You can never deal with ultimate structure and nature, as this theory attempts to do, without having access to the real, to what is actuality, to do it.
If you do have intellectual knowledge of the real, the ultimate, the actual - then it is useless to deny that such knowledge is possible. If however you do not have such knowledge, it is useless to draw up a theory comparing and contrasting the real, and the unreal; or laying claim to what you have already noted you do not, and cannot have; or for that matter, to draw up a scheme or plan specifying the systematic relationship between real and unreal; or even a statement saying that anything at all - including any theory at all - is the case, or is true.
The moment you do, you deny that which you have already affirmed.
By the way, this same Kant has a view about the nature of causes, by which he thinks the mind of man makes them up, concocts, forms or composes them within itself, and imposes causes as intruders on the raw material meeting man's mind from the outside world .
Once again he has insuperable - and really quite necessary - problems. You see, not only would he not be able to know this, because all his thinking (since it is thinking) is confined by his very own quaint Kantian chains, which would prevent its knowing the ultimate - while, on the contrary, this thought would be ultimately true, and hence for him unknowable; but of course - as already indicated - the whole idea attacks the very validity of any observations and facts and procedures, on which he might have hoped to draw, in making such a theory. Thus again, any such theory could not be true, at the outset, and on his own grounds; so that it can not concern us. (Cf. pp. 397 supra, 739 infra.)
Further, if the activity of the mind were the cause of the idea and reality of causes, then it would be true to say that the mind or intellect causes (this thing which we call) causes!! That of course is arguing in a circle. He tries to account for causes; to do so he assumes their existence. He assumes their prior existence, in order to prove how they originated. They are logically prior as causes, to the consequence, which in this case is: that you have causes. Having causes to operate before the mind "invented" them, and so that it could invent them, so that it could have the ability and power and system to have them as a consequence - this whole concept is wholly circular. Question begging, it is totally deficient in value.
Indeed, it is obvious after just a little thought, that you can never make or dream up a cause for causes themselves, for causes as such, without having to assume that they operate, in order to do it. You need, in other words, to use them in order to account for them; so that in some way, they already need to have a precise operative validity. But in that case, there is no question of its being true that they are not valid apart from your method of accounting for them; rather is it the case, that your method of accounting for them cannot be true, systematically, unless they are true independently of it. But if that is so, then your theory of claimed origin for them, must be false. They have to be pre-supposed before their imagined origins, even for one to be able to talk about their origins, to account for their cause, or to expose the systematic circumstances allegedly back of them!
Now the Christian, from the Bible, shows that cause has changed in form within our world of creation; but not in nature or reality. Perfectly valid, it is derived here from the Creator revealed in Scriptures, from God who has Himself external and intrinsic operative force.
Thus in seeking to make causes only seem true, you at once lose the ground by which you might have attacked them. This method is a "self-destruct" one.
These points are just a little development of the general principles, you recall, which we sketched in at the first of this treatise. Much of the argument about God is simply some sottish theory coming in for a day to deviate straight thinking, if it can; followed by its removal; and then more straight thinking; then some other attempt, its removal and so on. Kant had to forego claiming he was consistent; in other words he had to admit, though not nearly boldly enough, that his own theory did not hold together. Therefore it can hardly hold anything else together.
Unnecessary as this last point is, it is instructive. Unbound then, and ungalled by Kantian chains (*2), let us investigate further into freedom again. People sometimes try to say: We just are free. But what do they mean ? We have already shown the limit which continually interferes... the sources within you, which are with you and of you, which help to direct, limit and dispose you. If you have some ultimate person in your soul, which just knows no pre-dispositions, we have to ask: What is its origin, what is its function, equipment, why does it do what it does, and so on ? It either is something or nothing. If something, what is it ? and if anything, and it did not invent itself, how is it free ?
Quickly let us answer that there is some sort of freedom because of deviation (*3), shame and guilt, and the sense implicit in disposing one's answer (or not) to truth; or indeed deciding whether to be true and so on. But how ultimately and in the deepest and most determinative matters, can one be free except one is free to have a change of nature ! !
The Bible teaches that one can have a change of nature. It is precisely then one can be free, because even one's nature is transformed, which could otherwise define and delimit this "me", or this "mine" or this "personal". As Paul asks: What have you that you did not receive ? (I Corinthians 4:7). And if you plan to will to make yourself willing for something, by what shall you will, to plan to make yourself willing ? We have touched on this in principle before. It is God who can take account of what - before His sovereign and analysing inspection, and despite every analysis away from Him - was unwilling to receive a new nature in general, and Himself in particular. It is God who can know before all time and creation, deeds apart, all action of every kind apart: vitally penetrating, indeed foreknow (*4) who are His. This He does despite delusive deployments or damage beyond recognition: nothing can mislead, deceive or disorient Him, from whom truth takes its name. He foreknows; and He predestines. All this He does in monergistic splendour and tender reality. Of the entire Salvation, the Lord and not man is the author (Hebrews 12:2, Ephesians 2:8).
In philosophy however, there is always this tension, never solution; for in its limbo, unlit by the light of God who has revealed the truth, it is so hard to be fair to both sides of the imperfectly understood question. Reductionists would reduce the thing to unfactual simplicity and determinism; while Romanticists try to erect a soul that is wholly its own boss (as if it divinely decided one day what it should be, as well as deciding what it wanted - granted it was already made this way or that).
Before we complete this discussion showing the Bible as uniquely placed to answer effectively the philosophic problem here, let us note it does more. It shows why people want these two options, neither being logical. They are made in God'simage, and if rejecting Him, readily become ridiculous in their disoriented pretensions. There is this origin, scope for destiny. On the other hand, the material universe is in a material-causal mode, and souls that cannot know God, rejecting the only way to do so in Jesus Christ the entry port (John 14:6, 10:9, 3:17-19) readily misconstrue themselves, defeated and almost ridiculous, flipping about in a domain which is neither their home nor their haven, but a wonderfully intricate stage for life. In effect, you could almost say that they then tend to allow the stage, in many cases, to upstage them: a wanton, ridiculously pathetic, yet poignant failure of their whole lives, enshrined in philosophy, in the case of some. There are many possibilities, but these are common, and their theoretical consequences often appear.
All this the Bible explains, as well as the problem itself; thus showing itself uniquely, superbly and sovereignly competent in dealing comprehensively with the area.
For all these things, then, the Bible shows that it is in God alone the soul can ultimately be free and indeed can have any meaning and place. It cannot be its own boss; for either it will be contained by its species of quality, discipline and disorder with disorientation... by its calibre before its Creator- (with a limit and a blindness which denies the very possibility of ultimate freedom); or it will submit to God. In neither case is it a god, which the romanticists make it, while fighting with the determinists (for ever and ever, but no amen).
In God alone is there freedom, for in God the soul then desires discerningly to be and to have the nature it now has; or not fully having, yet can see and move towards. It is then that its nature is no mute limit or solemn abortion of freedom. Only then is it no longer bound either through blindness, or through predisposition; or through non-perspective (*5) resulting from an aching void where the true and absolute standards to determine anything, should be.
Since moreover, God made the soul and as the Bible teaches, loves and cherishes and develops the converted soul, such a soul then has a form and a place which is admittedly assigned, but a place in God in whom it can work, and labour and desire and delight; a place where as a son, it may need chastening or receive enduement from God. From Him, too, it can take mission - or begrudge it while being awakened anew; and in Him it can live with exuberant and thrilling completeness, indeed with a dependence which is a friend of initiative.
It is all a matter of seeing freedom in place: and that place is the sphere of reference to God as God. When knowing the truth necessarily unknowable outside God, you want what He gives, then you are free. Outside Him, free of truth, you are bound to falsity. It is a short step to the concept of hell.
This Biblical perspective and presentation
solves the whole problem of freedom, transcends determinism and interprets
romanticism: and nothing else has resolved it, or does resolve it. Far
less does it fully explain why the tension between these two was
there in the first place.
Let us now consider for good and evil:
But, if God is the beginning (self-sufficient, and eternal and one), then from limited initial freedom - the choice to receive and rely on God, or to deny and depart from His care - something not at all evil in itself, you have possible sin. Humanly that is the position; and divinely those are the conditions. If now this possible sin becomes actual, why then the result will be certain evil. This applies whether you think of "evil" as God's judgments on sin; or as the consequences of conflict with the creator; or both. Indeed, evil may be seen not only as judgment, but as the internal consequences of breaking the conferred constitution made availab1e to you by God. Consider doing the same to your auto: then, both the mechanics, and the thing and ultimately the law of the land, might attest your error. (See Romans 1:28 ff., Hosea 8:7, Proverbs 1:20-31 esp. 31. Otherwise put: such a consequence is an implicit judgment, to which explicit judgments may be added Hosea 8:7.)
How then does sin arise ? It arises from the disposability of the will: and how is this will so disposable ? It is so because that is how God made it. But why did He so make it ? He did so because it seemed good to Him to have such freedom and personality and everything that goes with it. I for one am exceedingly glad that He did, and certainly you can prove no evil in that, or any intellectual inconsistency.
If man could not will evil, he could not be free, being programmed or constrained or restrained to the point of puppetry; if by design, he can do evil, then a failure to be so able would simply mean a fault in the construction. On the other hand, a success, if he so wills (and we refer to the Biblical test case, the first man, freedom towards God being defiled by the sin which the race gained through the first failure, and its enduring consequences)... means that he may will good, and he may will evil: and then do it. Success, in the special case of deciding to will evil does nothing to show an evil 'bent', merely a good design. What a masterpiece is such a construction of personality!
Returning now to the aspects of good
and evil, we come to:
What is the nature of
man, that this should be so? Why do we not simply note the data
base for each individual, ah yes, so much good, meritorious, so much not
so good, type A-2b, etc., neatly categorising it all, as with microbes
for their characteristics or
There is in man a longing which is correlative with a languishing; there is an admiration which parallels blame, a joy which relates intimately to shame, in its negative format. There is a readiness to blame, a sort of assumed or assured set of criteria which, differ how they will, seem to touch the same background or basis, as if they were all radio sets, some not properly tuned, but all setting forth the noise with prodigious assurance.
C.S. Lewis has been at pains to discuss the similarities of so much of the purely ethical side of human aspirations, expectations or notations, in very many cases. He notes the tendency to blame for a certain sort of thing, over and beyond specialised details which may differ or diverge, in his Mere Christianity, the opening chapter.
Amusingly and accordingly, we recall that the Communists blame and speak of shame with no ground on their materialist system. There is no shame if you do not think there is on such a system; only punishment. Yet they do not so act or speak.
The ideologically materialist Western phalanx, often deeply entrenched with their superficial codes and self-contradictions, do no less. People will talk of ethical systems, but they practise shame and blame on very readily recognisable grounds with very considerable continuity and conformity. Why ?
It is explained by nothing else but this: that this is not universal racial lunacy (not well documented); but the result of what we are. We follow a trend because of our design. That is the way we think, because that is our construction. That is the way we blame; for we have, however dim and repressed, an awareness of what ought to be. People fume or fret because so-and-so did this or did not do that! and clearly he ought to have done so; and this happens all but routinely in wholly uncontracted circumstances.
We have a ground for our conduct; and this is that we have a ground for our personalities, and that ground is such that we react and respond with moral criteria inbuilt, even when brash theories do not agree with the way we feel and act. Man does have the power to propose otherwise; but he expresses it consistently neither in theory nor practice. Indeed godless man lacks power to account (*6) for these phenomena in ways which are verified in experience.
When we look at the fact that we are a design (that is what the scripture says, and we have proved it truth: here we merely verify what it says), then we see all this answered with a simplicity, a thoroughness and a total rational explanatory power which is quite overwhelming in its total success. Nothing is left out, all is dealt with - and easily!
We know that there is right and wrong, there is what is apt for our design and not apt, good for our souls (however disease may erode that knowledge); we are aware of the transcendent magnitude of God who created our designs and talked the language of our cells into them (however this may be repressed and rantingly argued against in desperate and often guilty fits of rebellion and folly). Hence human souls, especially in this century of the ultimate in irrational rationalisation, play-boy theories which neither explain nor satisfy nor provide the goods of living together, this ultimate century for barbarism, perhaps, in all of history: these souls suffer in torpidity, stupidity, gullibility. (Cf. Romans 1:28 ff..)
Especially is this so in religion, where rebellion makes the right answer wrong in advance, by a necessity of the will! (It is like rebellious teenagers who, whatever else, will not take 'home' for an answer.) Man thus blames and admires, rejoices and regrets, accuses and excuses, is thrilled and appalled because he is a design with responsibilities inbuilt, and to which he may consciously address himself, or from within try to escape. This increases his severity in judgments on others, because guilt writhes and a tortured or abashed soul swaggers, often, in self defence, lashing out with a frustration which exacerbates, and with a vigour derived from stored up mountains of known, if repressed wrong within.
This is one syndrome, common and often found in practice and revealed on conversion.
Because man is a design with self- and world-consciousness, he reacts according to design. Because his design incorporates a certain freedom of thought, he may reason, often ludicrously, to seek to justify what he wants; and he is not seldom disturbed because there is an innate, or partly occluded awareness that he is both wrong in action and wrong in motive to justify himself; and wrong in his reasons.1
The fact is that he often indulges in arguments in this field so absurd, so wholly absurd that for a reasonable being, we have to postulate some enormous, intrinsic force within, defiling his equipment. The Bible states that this is so, names it sin, and denotes it as a subject to both the wrath and the judgment of God. (The aids and helps... of the specialist in fallen pathology, and in applied temptation in particular, the devil, the Satan, the adversary, 'help' considerably with man's blindness, sometimes like gnats, stinging the exposed flesh. They do nothing to remove his responsibility for accepting such futile and fallacious offers of assistance, born from the first from doubt, defiance or irrational assertiveness towards the loveliness of the Lord, and the beauty of His provisions.)
Sin then is individually subject to the wrath and judgment of God (Ephesians 2:3, 4:19 - see Chapter 7 for Scriptural treatment). Of course, so it is. This is also felt to more or less degree, repressed to more or less extent, and that creates a vortex of vice within, which often leads to explosive and sometimes to expulsive results, amounting at times to ruthless conduct, so well articulated by Shakespeare, of Macbeth.
Incidentally, it is to be noted that many of the most famous plays of Shakespeare imply or teach a moral universe, a moral law, a moral accountability, a divine responsibility and a human perversity in ways expressed with singular aptitude. That is one reason why they have been so amazingly popular, granted that they are not particularly easy reading. We read of the universality and so forth, with which Shakespeare has painted his pictures: meaning the ability to touch on many things found in many cultures with much facility, because he has principles, analyses and perceptions which seem so true to so much that is seen.
And what is seen ? morality and putridity, personalities in arrears in ... down-payments on truth, escaping personalities, repentant personalities, guilty personalities, personalities flickering alive with self-destruct, distrust of others, seeking and humbled, overcome and remorseful: personalities sensing greatness and finding littleness through warped desires, warped treatment of conscience, warped relationship to the divinity who constructed them, pell-mell distortion of morality; and evoking hideous seeming vengeance on desecrated liberty... Yet all this is not without pity, pathos or poignancy, often even increased by the feeling that opportunities to repent, and realise and conform to design and designer, were avoided, even when new chances came. The hideous is the obverse of happiness.
All this is merely one literary expression of these daily experienced facts; and the basis is found in the concept of One Universal Design and One Universal Designer, such as the One who put the one universal micro-biological genetic language in our cells. Where the matter is visible, it is seen; where it is invisible, it is felt, it is observed.
The fact of human personality, in brief, is hereby accounted for with nothing left over. In a short, simple, superbly adequate and uniquely explanatory fashion, the image of God statement of Genesis accounts for it all. Oh, given that this image means nothing geometrical, since God is statedly a spirit, and that it implies an aptitude for fellowship with God, a degree of independence and a capacity for good or evil, being in some ways free: and there it is. The rest ? the presence of the remedy; the folly of not finding it, using it; and the additional guilt and repression and frustration which this occasions (like seeing the only one to win Wimbledon twenty times and ignoring such a person in seeking the best player over time): all this exacerbates and explains the ever new, but always old overtones that exhibit the rotting design, the frantic failure to find the Designer's Panel-beating yard, and alas with extraordinary frequency, the failure to enter it. Cf. pp. 251 ff., 316E-G, 329 ff. supra.
Natural goodness is the natural design,
soiled in sin, and the residue of conscience, appealing to right, however
imperfect the flicker: this is such in principle; and the ultimate, unsoiled,
unspoiled, unchanged, unmoved, the supernaturally good One, from whom goodness
comes, it is God. Achieved goodness is the virtue which, a fruit of His
Spirit in His people, works itself out in them, as they abide in the Lord
(John 15, Romans 5:1-5), being first restored to spiritual vitality, by
being changed (John 3).
Another 'insoluble' problem solved through the Biblical presentation is that of beauty. How are some things so magnificently beautiful, decked with a splendour so much greater than what is biologically necessary ? It is because God is an artist. You see, He made artists and artistry alike. Both sin and judgment mar beauty (sin indeed mars the ultimate beauty - the beauty of holiness); but the final judgment and separation is not yet; and meanwhile beauty abounds. Let us look at this in some more detail now. What is the place of beauty ? Why does it enthral, or inspire with a sense of vision ?
This is its place. It is a correlative, at the creaturely level, of the vision of God. It is an intuition, a vigorous ideal, providing a scent, an awareness that comes because God, who made all things, gives a sense of His personality in His products; and this is one of its dimensions which He applies and enshrines at will.
Where blessing rather than cursing is in view (cf. Romans 8:18-23), the sheer prodigal profusion of unabashed creation, or where the light of it is still relatively undimmed, the view of beauty may carry touches of His divine glory, so that it is His mind which is evidenced without the entrammelments of the misused freedoms of creation.
But it is as persons that, naturally enough, we may experience or intuit a special sense of beauty. If, for example, there is a free and lively love of freedom, truth and goodness on the part of someone who is fellow man or woman (or even child!), then there may be elicited a sense of... something near beauty.
Not only is it dedication, devotion or dutifulness, fine though these may be. Rather is it the awareness of a certain freedom, a willing, lively and if you will, lithe, unconstrained choice of virtue at its source that touches a feeling of exquisite rightness, moral design, aptness that seems, in the presence of God, to suggest beauty.
Where the Lord is in the matter, then there is that acute authenticity as of ringing of beautiful bells, that carries a rare sense of beauty. It is not misplaced, misused, distorted into dereliction of ultimate duties; but imbued, embossed and surrounded by majesty, the majesty of the Lord. Thus a certain sculpture shows simple people amazed at the presence of an angel. Not their faces, but the light of them; not their experience, but the source of it seems to diffuse loveliness into the scene. The object of life can create in its product something of the beauty of its atmosphere, when communion is inter-personal and the spirit of man senses the spirit of God... in His workings of beneficence in the intimacies of peace, the wonders of restrained power or the grandeur of design.
Such feelings, intuition, perceptions are no more susceptible to the simplistic presumptions of reductionism, than is the song of a bird to wave lengths, or are words to angles in the tracing of a pen. There are forms; these convey neither the meaning nor the spirit of the thing. That is a simple fact. Angles there are, but it is what that 'code' signifies that is important; and that is far beyond angles. A treatise on angles, in any attempt to understand what words are about, would be a vulgar irrelevance, a blind obtuseness, an intellectual death, when the main thrust is concerned.
So here - but when we face what this perception of beauty is, in its datum, its style and its experience, then there is a solution to the question, the quest and the mystery, to this pre-occupation of man, this aspiration and this source of argument in practice, both as to its base and its implementation. It is this sense of a lovely, unforced, virtuous, free and lithe moving inter-relation with God; and it is lovely if so be the grace is sufficient, precisely because He is. Further, it has derivatives within the creation, more or less direct, liquid with reality or defiled or even desolated in a sort of ruined magnificence ...
This is why beauty transcends preference, and a sense of it is not satisfied with mere subjectivism, any more than is a sense of goodness.
Just as nothing but God explains why men rank goodness above any substitute of pleasure or commendation, in the way we have seen: so only God explains the primary force of the experience of beauty, so that men may vigorously debate where and in what it occurs. They act most frequently perhaps rather like those comparing accounts of the racing form of horses, knowledgeably... Similarly, mere form, whether in goodness or beauty, can undoubtedly carry to those who love it and find this superficial, a sense of betrayal. This is because the form seemed to encode a beauty or a goodness, that the fact failed to confirm.
Where however, even in nature, a sense of the free expression of things that embraces tenderness (of colour), grace (of form), exquisiteness (of design) is found, and the more when their composition (as of wind, sea and sky) has a sense of greater ultimate design: then a profound sense of beauty may be experienced. Such things touch the created design chord in the resonance box of the human heart. They tend to bespeak both the Creator who gave one's life birth, and His pure powers of free expression in other fields, simultaneously... and this when any sense of judgment is distanced. The works verify the Worker.
It is a sort of concretised speech, when the meaning is profound or mellow, like an infinite scaling of the feeling that a portrait may create, when the spirit behind it is profound; or of that behind buildings, such as cathedrals, when there is a scope and grandeur both of design and performance, which interprets matters profound.
With man seeing, however, the work of God, there is an additional depth and a rightness in this: that the eyes that see what the divine artist 'paints', these eyes themselves were in their time moulded by the divine surgeon, one Being, also. And what He made was manifested for those eyes that He made, when He made the person for whom He also made the eyes. Depths on depths, there are, and design on and for and with designs, like ocean waves and skies, in the intimacies of involvement giving a personal awareness of a heightened grandeur, which is never baulked by mere detail... a spirit.
Such fulness and fitness can stir the heart of man as the wind stirs the trees: it is through them, but also beyond them.
Also explained on this basis, are the beauties or blending, the harmonies, intricacies of design and marvels of geometry, faithfully reproduced over thousands of years, far surpassing any sober estimate of the aesthetic powers2 of insects or animals! The sensitively executed layers of artistry, in numerous living forms, at deeper and deeper aesthetic levels, reaching to the profound, and instructing those who are receptive at any level, may on this basis then, also be explained as they will never be explained away. Reductionism, the flaying of reality with the dream of dissatisfaction, the failure to deal with a topic, excluding what one will by a mood of distaste, this is an intellectual game, and anti-scientific. All aspects of any matter need consideration, and each on its merits. Nothing may be omitted, in detail, in totality or in eminence whether through desire, distaste or simple laziness. Majesty, marvel, microscopic wonder, style, aesthetics, whatever it is, it makes demands on the understanding, requiring honest and adequate response to its implications.
Let us take an illustration. Just as a simple thing like a raincoat has a function, so it also has a style. Why ? Why is there a blend of cut, colour, composition and so forth, that is emphatically not merely a matter of pluvial protection ? Why is it that the coat (in a choice case) has far more than the power to exclude rain ? It is this. A person created it for a another's use. Part of this is the expression of the person's sense of style, visual impact and comfort. This occurs because the person is sensitive to and expressive of such things: that is, the tailor. The person is not, for example, an insect or a cow who makes it, or for whom it is made: and so the individual acts accordingly.
What a person values, conceives, then, the level at which a person functions, relates to the level at which a person acts. At times, a fuller expression is given in the very interstices of one's living (how one says, "Good morning!" to different special people...), and at other times the powers of expression are deliberately less exercised. This, we know from our experience of persons, both in production and observation, is how they act.
Although strong (and indeed strongly called for) divine judgment can intrude on beauty, as law-suits may intrude on the peace and beauty of some property, or some people: yet the abundance, yes even super-abundance of beauty still, now subtly, now manifestly present in the world, is exceedingly arresting. Both in its intensity and in its immensity, at various levels, it still clearly attests two things; and these cover the case as no puerilities can or do.
First, the style and cut, or formation of many layers of observable things, the atmosphere - the expressive creativity of design - relates to the Person who for His own purposes, as an expression of the nature of His being, so acts. Second, they also relate to a display of a beauty which has this function: that of inter-personal relations between the Creator and His sentient, conscious, conceiving, imaginative and impressionable, rational product: the person of man. This depth of coverage of all the cases of beauty is also a verification of the truth, both of the Creator and of His word.
The depth of the spiritual realities, rightly construed: naturally, readily and abundantly explains the products and their inter-relations, both with nature and with each other, at the level of beauty. It further explains (cf. Romans 8:18-22) both the magnificence of the beauty, and the anguish, the profundity and the sadness, the joy and the creativity which man meets, in creation; why it is so amazingly high, and why it can be so abased, why so commanding and yet why so ignored by so many, in the moods and distempers of the moment.
Concerning the verification in these
areas moreover, through the solution of profound
problems, happily humbling philosophy for generations of verbal collision:
we observe not merely the unique ability of Biblical truth to explain every
single facet of the matter. What more ? It is the ease and naturalness
with which it does so.
Why do civilisations rise and fall ? And why does so much, so wonderful arise, only to fall into eclipse; and if men are involved, why do they not learn? Is there no mercy, or is there no wisdom ? Are we ever to be afflicted as a race on this earth with falling Egypts, Romes, Persias, Iraqs, Babylons, Ninevehs, Eblas... and a few others like (?) the British Empire ? (Consult Reader's Digest June, 1969 for an interesting reflection, if you will.) One may be thought in this to be prejudiced... but one still thinks that Empire was at any rate better than many. Further... it is always good to start at home, isn't it ? The Anglo-Saxon background didn't save Britain's eminence; so what about America ? (Cf. Jeremiah 2:16-19). Does this go on remorselessly and endlessly, this drab decline- and is it all in vain ?
The Bible teaches there is a remedy for this problem; but so far it seems every nation has preferred to be doomed or damaged by increasing abandon to sin. Further, as Israel shows in its Biblical record: Having a good wholesome start to a national (or a personal) history, even having certain elements of godliness at the start in a family, this is no guarantee for what is to come, when a family or a nation revokes God. (It is true that such an attitude may sound a trifle too explicit for some of the cases... but the intention is assessable by God.)
You ask for it ? You get it (the evil), given a certain splendour of provocation... and it is frequently done in great style. Again, you do not ask for it ? You do not get it (the godliness). He honors those who honor Him (I Samuel 2:30). Toying with Him is playing Russian roulette with pocket atomic bombs, made to serve as bullets.
Churches abound; Christianity is much harder to be found. Thus, did not Christ say: "When the Son of man shall come, shall He find faith on earth?" (Luke 18:8; - or 'the faith'). The context indicates the negative direction at least, of the answer.
God is not fooled by appearances and formal and nominal pretences: He knows the heart. He pursues His plan (Acts 17:26-27). Mercy may limit disasters: indeed the sheer abundance and liberality of that mercy which bears so long with the puny follies and proliferating passions of this provocative race is astounding; but it does not in the end evacuate judgment in its many levels from an unchanged or ungodly nation.
In this stage of history, indeed, the people of God apart, it is the human race that has 'sown the wind' so persistently that the whirlwind (Hosea 8:7 cf. Psalms 78:32-47, 107) advances fast, internationally.
See also: The Glow of Predestinative Power
Ch. 8, History, Review and Overview
You find in the Biblical presentation, the solution to the persistent problem of guilt and shame. A sense of guilt can arise in relation to the set morals of a society, or in contradiction of it, in step with an individual's own stated code, or irrespective of it; and it is somewhat variable in issue, whilst arresting in very reality, to the subject. Here a man can dispose himself to this or that moral system, new or ancient, occidental or incidental or oriental, as his own or not his own; and we note, on top of that, a man can be subject to guilt and shame with or without relation to his overt choice of moral code.
Guilt and shame are not only philosophic as chronic problem areas, but in empirical fact, they are psychologically similar: when the divine disposition of things exposed in the book so appropriately claiming issuance from the Creator Himself, is ignored. To heal this and to explain it (see Chapter 4 supra) is painful to the conscientious secularist; chronically so.
What then do we find to be the tenor of the Biblical summary on this topic ? It is this. Being averse to God, men are prone to mismanagement of the life that is intended for co-operative companionship (one sovereignly disposed) with the life of God, and to an internal awareness of the same. The clanging chaos makes itself felt to the soul and mind, even despite the craftiest rationalisations, or the wildest escapism. When men ignore God's remedy, this awareness - muted, muzzled, masked or simply felt - is still too uncomfortable to be readily accessible to analysis.
It may for example simply prefer to buy a name tag and call itself Angst. Nevertheless, it is too fateful to depart utterly. Hence guilt, smouldering or upsetting or unsettling or cloying guilt: it exercises itself both in principle and in general; and in particular, and in the frequent and ultimately general feeling of the unconverted human heart. Masked as suavity, the occasion of mad recklessness, the cloy of urbanity, the assailant of pity: it can come in a hundred forms, its nature appearing like lightning through the various clouds of the many persons. Whatever the dynamics3; it is destabilised through its wholly understandable presence.
Hence also uncontrolled or smouldering anger; hence many ulcers; hence much foolishness in capitulating to man-made religions in which men are called "master" or "father" or "grand master" in express disobedience to Christ's command, already noted. Hence also desire to put the whole thing back to childhood - where confessedly some of the first conscious materials of guilt arise - without finding there its entire cure, because these early beginnings are not its entire basis. Knowing something about it, does not cure it, any more than knowing who it is to whom you owe money, pays it back.
Hence again, we have the reason
why the Christian, on the other hand, both recognizes guilt, and is not
guilt-ridden; and one reason why he is happy and free.
He is not bound by dark unknowns, but by a desired known: God. In Him,
he is forgiven; and with Him he is delighted.
Here the case is that God is against what is customarily sought. In the last analysis, the non-surrendered soul is simply thieving its created capacities and is a sort of spiritual criminal at large; and the more so, when this soul expressly knows the answer, and then rejects it (cf. John 15:22,24). This disjointedness from the only true government (in that it deals with the soul, the acts of which create the problems of human government), naturally brings foolishness and instability and dark oddities, and things unnatural. It ought to do so, logically; it does so historically. Not only then is this problem solved: but if there were no such problem, that would be contrary to what the Bible would predict, and the whole position of its analysis requires (cf. II Timothy 3): and this not only in form, but in spirit and in aggravated degree as history advances.
Further, the Bible provides a positive
therapy for all this; stopping not merely to present the analysis, but
also the answer; which in turn works the necessary practical changes in
the subjects concerned. (Cf. *2, p. 347
Not only is it true that this approach is shown impossible in our first and introductory remarks; and systematically so in our reference to Kant. It is also self-evidently absurd. To know what you cannot know about a specified area of conception or subject matter, involves two simple points.
Firstly: that you know it in its perspective so clearly and relatedly, that you can affirm what not merely IS not so; but what cannot be so. Thus a flat universal negative about an area of thought and conception involves truly deep analytical knowledge of that area; which however, by this very assertion (7 above), is being denied by the one who by implication affirms it! Secondly, it is absurd in that such an assertion is itself a wholly subjective, unfounded, faith type of statement. By these standards (i.e. no known absolute), how could you absolutely know the actuality of anything.. such as this assertion ? Thus, you see, such an assertion is systematically subjective, and is contradictory to its own premises.
You have then an end to this sort of confused rhetoric when you proceed on the Biblical path. You can reason to the absolute instead, and find from identifying Him, the standards which in themselves (being defined by His reasoned-to revelation) - attest an origin beyond ourselves and our system. These standards are expressed in the Bible. Thus and then you neither assert the irrational (as a basis - which the view here treated 'fears', and from its premises despises); nor do you make irrational (because self-contradictory) assertions, which that view does. Instead of those follies, you ascertain the actual, inspect revelation and gain standards and systems, of immeasurable consistency, inevitable rationality and supervening, continual exuberance of verification, on all sides.
No wonder the generation which has specialised in falling away from the truths of Jesus Christ, has also specialised in mental sickness to a degree even a comedy of former times might have hesitated to present as fiction. It is the generation of fiction, of myth; and men who live by myths tend to mythicise their own existence, the more when, in the judgment of God, they turn in pure wilfulness from the presentations of centuries. Instead of being intellectually surrounded by these vitally and continually verified virtues of Jesus Christ, in reality, they find the sad, the cynical and the worn-out, baking it up a little, melding convenient philosophies and religions to produce something vaguely satisfactory to immorality, but entirely unsatisfactory to life, and to reason. Small wonder reason revolts; and the heart is broken. But there is no need.
Outside of a revealed absolute, there can be only inconsistency, instability and subjectivity leaving you stranded like a beached whale with the problem of endless endeavours to escape your predicament - all alike failures - which philosophy with its endless seeming "novel" repetition (see Chapter 10), enshrines... or, to pursue the figure, entombs. This abounds as it must, even from naturally brilliant men. Even a brilliant mind may be sick, and a strong heart, broken.
Thus the faith for which we have given and do give a reason, explains the inconsistency and its grounds in perspective: namely this assertion with which we commenced this point 7. Moreover, as you would expect, having no possible occasion to do otherwise, this Faith for which we speak, remains itself unchanged.
You would expect that - from God; and this in passing provides still further verification.
Whether, then, the endless, insoluble - even systematically insoluble - problems of other claimants to the throne of truth, be considered (such as this present form of self-contradictory claim, that there is no truth); or the persistent and consistent solutions - solutions even transcending in brilliance and stimulus, and exceeding the formulation of the question - which are found in the Bible and the Lord's Christ, the Redeemer, be rather pondered; whether we examine the systematic failure of alternatives, or the systematic success of this one Biblically written, Christ consummated truth... the answer is one.
It is He.
And how deliciously absurd is this point we ponder: that there is no truth. To state it, you violate it; for you state it is true that there is no truth. What lying slanders on God it all becomes. Yet on the contrary, what of that uniquely, overwhelmingly obvious solution, that eminence of resolving power, the truth who is absolute and may be known and whose word alone passes through challenges as Jesus Christ Himself personally passed the questions of doctors of learning, enemies and friends alike ?
This. We should believe that the Christ, Jesus, is the Truth. Logically we have no alternative. Believe that ? We should in consistency believe in Him, for that is the personal proposition He conveys, who is the truth.
Therefore, small wonder is it that the just God has such a thing as this to say in that Bible:
He who has received His (Christ's) witness has set his seal to this, that God is true... He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who disbelieves the Son shall not see life. (John 3:33-36).Page 439 continued in the next section
1. Cf. Romans 1:19-21.
Return to main text
2. The reason why the myriadiform wonders of beauty - of form, colour, ensemble, gorgeousness, depth, delicacy - transcend all need of function (unless to philosopher-insects) is related to the sense of glory in man. (We can make music far beyond soothing or striving, because in us is a depth of feeling and perception vastly beyond anything pragmatic.) The personality of the Creator, though far beyond ours, has explicit analogy to it, Biblically, when man is purified; and the needs logically, for these results in creation, are met by a cause correlative to them, to match their splendour. (Flowers ... what a fantasy of beauty and function is here combined!) In the God of splendour (Psalm 145:5,12), there is a resolution of the aesthetic 'problem' - a 'lower' part of creation challenging our highest thoughts, confronting man with adorable splendour. GOD has touched it.
Return to main text
3. Adoration, baulked, can be misplaced, while angst aches.
Return to main text