Monday, 21 January 2008

ChnMind 1.6 What is Man That Thou Art Mindful of Him?

Is There Room for Me? The Place of Man in the Creation

What is Man to Jerusalem and to Athens?

"What is man, that Thou dost take thought of him? And the son of man that Thou dost care for him? Yet, Thou hast made him a little lower than God. And Thou dost crown him with glory and majesty. " Psalm 8: 4,5

Jerusalem and Athens are in perpetual conflict. The respective spiritual animus of each city is so diametrically opposed that, in the end, the two cities cannot agree about anything. The antithesis runs both deep and wide.

We have seen where the root of the antithesis takes shape. Jerusalem presupposes the existence of the all governing, almighty, infinite and eternal God—in which all mankind live and move and have their being—as the presupposition of all meaning. Without this God, nothing can have meaning; nothing whatsoever is meaningful. Even a discussion about God's existence and nature cannot take place without already presupposing Him.

Athens presupposes the opposite. While keeping an “open mind” as to whether a god or god(s) may exist, Athens takes two positions: firstly, it presupposes that the God of Scripture cannot possibly exist. Note that Athens does not have an “open mind” about this. Whilst god(s) may exist; the God revealed in the Bible most certainly does not—and cannot. Secondly—and here is the reason Athens excludes the God of the Bible as a possibility from the very beginning—meaning and truth must be discovered and determined by man for himself and by his own standards. These fundamental principles are presupposed by Athens—to discuss them in any sense is to have already presupposed their veracity.

But that is not the end of the matter. There are some other ultimate assumptions in the Athenian market place of ideas. Since the infinite, eternal, and unchangeable God, Who governs totally as the all conditioning Conditioner, cannot possible exist, for Athens the universe and reality are “open”—that is, ungoverned, uncontrolled, and therefore beyond knowledge. The universe, for Athens, is ultimately random or floating on a sea of chance.

So, Jerusalem and Athens will never agree on anything. But that is not the end of conversation with Athens, for there are points of temporary intersection, which enable us to commence a discussion. For example, both Jerusalem and Athens believe and assert that man is a special being, with distinctive honour and dignity. The two cities, however, develop the principle in radically different directions.

Athens, although desperately wanting to believe that man is a special being, is constantly frustrated in the attempt. Anything that can be said to defend or assert the idea that human beings are special floats upon that restless sea of chance. As mankind floats amidst chance, anything and everything is eventually put up-for-grabs: truth, morals, rationality, the past, the future, the self—there are no fixed points, no certainties, no verities. In the end, man is no more than a random temporary collusion of atoms, soon to be dissipated again into the nothingness whence he came.

While Athens may commence speaking about the dignity of man, of his privileges and rights, the tone soon changes. Confronted with an imperfect world, Athens soon demands that, if things are to be corrected and perfected, it must have power. It insists upon the right to take more and more away from individuals, parents, families, children, corporations, and society itself—so that it can make things better. Increasingly, the citizens of Athens find themselves subjected to a remorseless, intrusive, controlling, demanding kafkaesque government, which grinds away their faces, removing—if possible—every vestige of dignity which Athens professed to uphold. Man—individual man—becomes once again the meaningless cipher, a mere nothing in a pointless and meaningless existence.

We have seen this remorseless progression of events in the Western world. At the Enlightenment, liberals were those who spoke forcefully of the rights and dignities of man, of the evils of tyranny, of the perfectability of humanity under the sweet light of reason. Now the very same liberals have become—as will inevitably be the case in Athens—the very opposite. Oppressive, tyrannical, controlling, intruding, bullying, hectoring and thoroughly illiberal in all their ways and days. And the outcome? A remorseless grinding of man, once again, down to slavery.

Athens wants to assert and defend the glory of man. It ends hating man and grinding away the face of every expression of individual dignity and glory.

For Jerusalem, the career and course of mankind could not be more different. In Jerusalem, ahead lies an indescribable glory and future. Created “very good”, man's fall into sin against God was not the end of the story. For God made a covenant—a solemn agreement—whereby God committed to redeeming and restoring mankind. He invited all mankind to join Him in this covenant.

The impeccable dignity and glory of man was sheeted home when Messiah came forth. Very God of very God, He became man. He lived and achieved a life of perfect righteousness—even though born in the likeness of sin, bearing its weaknesses, illnesses, imperfections in his body. This righteousness He freely credits to all who seek Him. Meanwhile, He also offered up His life at Calvary, bearing the full weight of divine wrath against the sins of all His people. Thus, He lived righteously as a perfect human being—and credits that to us that we might be holy in God's sight. But our sins he credits to Himself and takes the full weight of judgment in our place.

God raises Him, as man, from the dead, and as man seats Him at His right hand. Mankind is now perfected and exalted to the highest of the high, over the entire creation. Messiah is the first born; His people come after Him and share in all His glory.

His ascension to the right hand of God is not hoped for. It is a present reality—and it gives all citizens of Jerusalem true dignity and the very brightest of hopes. This blessedness which lies in the future protects and locks in the glory and dignity of man in the present.

Athens brings grinding humiliation and slavery. Jerusalem brings dignity, glory, and hope. The place of man in the two cities could not be more diametrically opposed. The citizens of Jerusalem, authorized by God, cannot but help call out to the citizens of Athens, urging them to leave its arid acrid acidic streets and come to Jerusalem where they will be welcomed with great feasting and celebration—not as some lately come non-resident alien—but as a native born son, who was lost, but who has come home.

In Jerusalem, whence this glory of man? It is God's doing. “Thou hast made him a little lower than God. And Thou dost crown him with glory and majesty.”

Man as God's Image Bearer

The city of Athens is built on the Great Lie of an ultimately, radically random universe. But those living the Lie are constantly confronted with an opposite reality, both material and immaterial. Whereas Athens professes that man is a mere chance collection of random atoms, reality (both internal psychological reality and external reality) screams out that human life is precious, that man is significant, that he is special, that man both reflects and therefore commands a certain reverence, such that to take a life is regarded as a heinous crime, and the death of an individual requires rites and rituals that attempt to reflect the honour of the life once lived, now ended.

Athens refuses to account for its internal contradictions because it cannot do so without humbling itself before the Living God.

Jerusalem, on the other hand, knows why man is a special being; it knows why the material and immaterial realms testify constantly to the glory and dignity of human beings. A significant component of man's glory arises from the very creation itself. Genesis 1 and 2 tell us that man was different from all other creatures, insofar as man alone is declared to be in the very image of God.

In Genesis 1:26 we read: “ . . . Let us make man in our image according to our likeness. . .” The Believing Mind forges all its beliefs and works around this great truth. Man alone, out of the whole creation, is declared to be the very image and representation of God, Himself. This is the explanation and justification for man's glory, honour and dignity. It is why murder is a heinous sin. It is why when murder occurs, the Bible says that the blood cries out from the ground unto God. It is why human life is to be cherished and protected.

But Jerusalem confesses, at the same time, that this truth is a great mystery which cannot be plumbed. God, as we have seen, is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in His being, wisdom, and power. Man, by contrast, is finite, temporal, and changeable—limited in every way. Therefore, to bear God's image is not to be or become divine in any sense. But it is to reflect and bear within the finite created realm—within the universe—a mirror of the Being and Person of God. When the creation looks at man it sees a likeness to God that is not found anywhere else—neither amongst all the other creatures found on the earth, nor amongst the angels and the beings and principalities and powers of the invisible realms.

The second point to be stressed is that the likeness to God in man is not restricted to a particular aspect or part of man, but embraces and includes the entirety of his being. Note that the Scripture does not say, “Let us make the mind or man, or the heart of man, or the will of man, or the emotional intelligence of man to be in God's image.” Man in the entirety of his being is in the likeness of God.

This raises a question as to how the physical or material aspects of man can be said to be in God’s image? How does the hand, for example, reflect the image of God? God is a pure Spirit and does not have a hand. How does the eye? God does not have eyes.

But the hand of man enables him to make, shape, build, create, govern, control, nurture and so forth. In working with his hands, man reflects—is analogous to—the work and activity of God who makes, shapes, builds, creates, etc. The eye of man enables him to see, but in a particular way—to see as God actually sees the world—not to comprehend infinitely, but analogously to God. All human senses are likewise analogous to God.

Being in the image of God means that we are able to imitate God analogically. Our hands can create and make after God, imitating Him. We can see analogous to the way God sees. We can think in a way that it analogous to the way God thinks. We can move in a way analogous to the way God moves. We can imitate God’s dominion and kingship over the creation. Note, by the way, how closely being in the likeness of God is related to the concept and actions of governance and kingship: “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness; and let them rule over . . . all the earth.” (Genesis 1:26).

This is why man in the totality of his being has honour and worth. This is why the physical body is to be reverenced and respected. This is why, in the Christian mind, in the confines of Jerusalem, even the weakest, most disabled, most stricken human beings are cherished, loved, and respected.

For the Unbelieving Mind it is a very different story. Athens is shipwrecked here—as in so many other places—and repeatedly intellectually and morally bankrupt. Wanting, on the one hand, to posit the honour and dignity of man, yet having no principle or foundation upon which to ground it, Athens resorts to picking out aspects or parts of man which are said to grant him special dignity. These are said to make man distinct and special over the rest of the creation, over the animals. The faculty of speech, of reason, of communal life, of the capacity to love, of his ability to function according to his potential—and so on—each in its turn has been seized upon as a reason why man should be regarded as a special being. Special privileges or rights (human rights) are then accorded to man within Athens because of this distinctive quality. For example, man deserves a right to life, it is argued, because he has the capacity to think rationally; whereas because animals cannot think rationally, they can be killed without significance or consequence. Or, the faculty of speech respresents the essence of human beingness; it is this which distinguishes a human being from other animals.

As soon as Athens alights upon a principle of distinction for man which reflects only part of man's being, the Unbelieving Mind has to exclude from the human race those people who don't share in this “part” or for whom this “part” is damaged or very undeveloped. Unborn babes in utero, for example, can be killed wantonly, officially, and legally because they are excluded from the category of human being. They are simply not human because they cannot think rationally. Or, if speech is preferred, they cannot speak. Therefore, the unborn child can be classified as a non-person—a non-human—and killed without compunction.

But by reasoning this way, by deciding for itself what is distinct about man without reference to the Creator, Athens sets in train a relentless juggernaut that crushes ever more people. Since unborn children can be killed because they are un-human, why not kill off new born infants, since their reasoning or faculties of speech is hardly developed? In the mindset of Athens it is simply irrational not to do so. It can only be stupid prejudice, ignorance, or squeamish sentimentality not to do so. The fearless, truth seeking, scientifically rational Athenian will clearly advocate that it ought to be so: it is as obvious as the proverbial nose on the face.

Or take the imbecile, or the senile older person. Surely, they have lost what is the essence of humanity. Within Athens, it is simply inconsistent, irrational sentimentality which stays the murderous hand.

The principle is that by seizing on only one aspect or part of man as the ground for asserting his dignity and glory, Athens cannot explain—and in fact has no grounds to explain—why individuals who lack, or who are severely impaired in, whatever faculty or capacity is being hailed to be the essence of humanity should not be treated as sub-human, or non-human. Consequently, Athens has always been a city of blood—and the blood shed is by-and-large innocent blood.

In its long history upon the earth there have been cultures and states within Athens which have sought to be very up front about this. In some ways, judged by its own Athenian standards, these cultures and states have been more rational, more consistent, less maudlin than the untutored masses within Athenian walls. Our modern day practice of abortion is one such manifestation. But other states have sought to exterminate men on the grounds of race, of religion, of origin, or of class. In each case, the exterminatee was regarded officially as non-human. Generally, Athens is terribly embarrassed by such historical examples of inhumanity. But hypocritically so. Athens always classifies a sub-set of the human race as non-human, treating them monstrously as a result. The only credible debates in Athens are around where the sub-sets lie. Credible, maybe, but nonetheless egregiously evil.

From time to time an Athenian more honest will emerge. Ian Wishart introduces us to Peter Singer, whose views may be embarrassing, but they are nonetheless right to the heart of what Athens represents:

“Australian born ethicist Peter Singer, now Professor of Bioethics at prestigious Princeton University in the US, argues that newborn babies should not be considered 'human' until 30 days after birth and that they can therefore be euthanized during that time. He also argues that disabled babies should simply be killed on the spot. Singer doesn't offer any real logical or scientific argument to support his beliefs, other than what academics call 'functionalism' which is that humanity is defined by what you can or cannot do. Singer therefore sees the world through his own eyes as a functioning adult, and regards the disabled and babies as lesser beings because they are not as fully functional. In this sense, he is a reincarnation of the Nazi philosophers.” (Ian Wishart, Eve's Bite [North Harbour, NZ: Howling at the Moon Publishing Ltd, 2007], p. 248.)

Singer is the apotheosis of the Unbelieving Mind. His views are not extreme in any rationalistic sense—although they may cause many Athenians to squirm with distaste. But within the walls of Athens they are the ones with the problem, not Singer. He represents the essence of what Athens is all about. Define humanity in terms of functionality, and, guess what, the disfunctional are sub-human. Athens has always reasoned this way. While Wishart chides Singer for not offering any logical or scientific argument to support his position, he really does not need to. Singer represents the highest flowering of the Unbelieving Mind, reasoning in a manner perfectly logical and consistent with the fundamental assumptions and credo of Athens.

Singer is one of the rational heroes of Athens in our day. Like Socrates, he may not be popular within the city, but he represents its heart. Moreover, Singer may or may not be a reincarnation of Nazi philosophers—but more to the point, he is a consistently true son of his native Athens, even as the Nazis and the Stalinists and the abortionists were and are.

Man's inhumanity to man is not an aberration in Athens. That city will always, as official policy, with the full weight of the law, be acting inhumanly to man in some way, shape or form. Every expression of Athenian culture and thought will have defined some class of the human race as sub- or non-human, and will wreak a terrible vengeance upon them as a result. Athens is intrinsically inhumane—inescapably so. Scratch an Athenian, and underneath you will find the mind of a murderer—as soon as he has decided which part of humanity is sub-human. And that decision is not usually consciously made. It comes from flowing with the tide of consensus of the day.

In Jerusalem, by contrast, man in his entirety, reflects the image and likeness of God Himself. Any impairment of any faculty may mar, but not eradicate, the image of God in any individual. Man was created in the image of God; he cannot lose that image, any more than go into non-being. It is what he is. Therefore, in Jerusalem human beings are always to be treated with a respect and dignity that is appropriate to one who is in the image and likeness of God. Those who are impaired and weak within her streets are especially to be cherished and nourished. Because they are after the likeness of God Himself, even the weakest, most ill, most malformed, or most impaired person is of inestimable value, worthy of the deepest respect and the greatest of care.

Thursday, 17 January 2008

ChnMind 1.5 Creation: It's the Process, Stupid

The Process of Creation is Thick with Meaning


In this series of essays on "The Christian Mind: Foundations in Genesis" we are attempting to distill what the early chapters in Genesis teach us about the very constitution of the world and of man in order to arrive at the basic bearing points of the mental compass. It turns out that Genesis is replete with material which provides the basic outlines of existence--which shape everything else--certainly all mankind. Or, to change the analogy, in these chapters we are confronted with the foundation stones and the basic building blocks of human history.

It is important to get a good grasp of these fundamentals, since our overarching goal is to delineate the Christian Mind--as opposed to the Unbelieving Mind. A basic principle is that the Believing Mind and the Unbelieving mind are fundamentally opposed, or antithetical, to each other. The early chapters of Genesis explain why this is the case--as we will see in later essays. What we are asserting is that the Christian sees, knows, and thinks of reality in a qualitatively different manner to the Unbeliever--who cannot think as the Christian thinks. For the Unbeliever to think as the Christian would be equivalent to a perpetually blind person describing their reality of the experience of sight. The Christian, who once thought as the Unbeliever, has now been made to see the truth and by God's grace can think of things as they really are.

But this is no idle mental exercise. One of the consequences of being given "eyes to see, and ears to hear" is that the Believer comes to think according to the truth, according to the way things really are. Consequently, as the Believer reconstructs his understanding of the world according to God's revelation of it, he comes to think God's thoughts after Him, which leads to the Believer inheriting and developing enormous cultural influence and power.

Jerusalem is interested in power. Not the way the Unbeliever is besotted with power (as he ever seeks to throw off the bonds of God and replace them with bonds of Man-as-god) but power according to the Kingdom of God. Power to subdue the creation, power to influence, power to serve, power to disciple the nations under the glorious rule of the resurrected King of all kings--whose yoke is easy, and whose burden is light, Who is gentle and humble of heart, and Who gives rest to weary souls. (Matthew 11: 28,29) The more Jerusalem conforms itself to the way the world really is, to the way God has created it, the more powerful and influential it becomes.

A simple anecdote may help illustrate the the point. Spurgeon, the great nineteenth century herald of God, was called to serve God amidst the seemingly relentless rise of speculative rationalistic criticism of the Bible. He was asked one day why he did not spend more time and energy in his public teaching defending the Bible. "What!" answered Spurgeon. "Should one spend time defending a roaring, ravening lion. Just open the gate, and let it loose."

Spurgeon had a well developed and honed Christian mind. He had learnt to think God's thoughts after Him. He had worked out how the world really worked. This anecdote shows that he had learned of the creative power of the Word of God. He had learned it from the Bible. He believed it, and practised it. As a consequence he became enormously influential and powerful in his day and generation.

So far in these essays we have learned that God is a person, such that all of life is, therefore, personal. Just as he created all things, every atom matters to Him. He thinks about, works with, predestines and governs the course of every atom in creation. Consequently, for the Believer, everything he does reflects a comprehensive personal relationship with God. Just as every fabric and fibre of creation belongs to Him and serves Him, so, for the Believer, every experience he has of the world is never personal-impersonal; it is always either personal-personal-Personal, or personal-impersonal-Personal. The Believer lives coram Deo--before the face of God--communing person to Person with God about everything that he experiences in this world. Everything is ultimately expressive of and in service to the Living God. Naturally, for the Believer, this changes everything, and utterly shapes the way he thinks of himself and the world.

The Unbelieving Mind acknowledges nothing of this. That is why the Believer is said to live, while the Unbeliever is declared to be dead in his trespasses and sins.

Secondly, we have seen that God created the world ex-nihilo: out of nothing. This means that all which exists apart from God is completely, utterly and totally dependant upon Him. I cannot think or frame or do anything without drawing upon Him and relying totally upon Him. If God were to withdraw His Spirit the world would immediately revert into a black hole of nothingness. This means that the Unbeliever, even while lifting up his fist to shake it in God's face, is utterly dependant upon Him even to frame and express his rebellion. This makes Unbelief the most contemptuously mindblowingly stupid and shameful orientation possible. Not that the Believer therefore treats the Unbeliever with contempt per se, for the Believer knows only too well that he was once like that and that the eyes have been opened by God's grace alone. Therefore, the Believer tends to regard the Unbeliever with compassion, and pleads with God that He might be merciful and open the eyes of the blind--to the ultimate glory of the Saviour.

Thirdly, Genesis reveals to us that God created all things out of nothing by the mere utterance of Words. God's Word is sovereignly powerful. Its mere enunciation calls what it speaks of into existence. Similarly the course of human civilization is conditioned and ruled over by His Word. His servants become powerful and influential as they both master language in general, and His Word, in particular. Mastery of the Word does not mean mastery over God; rather, the reverse. It means the Believer is mastered by the Word; his or her speech becomes as one speaking God's Words after Him, so as to exercise great influence and dominion in the Creation, which is also ruled by the same Word. Ironically, the Word becomes a key to wielding power--but not through gaining mastery over God and His Word--but through becoming a true and humbled servant of God's Word, so that His law and command governs our lives, male and female, rich and poor, bond and free.

The Processes of Creation Teaches Us a Great Deal

God took six days to complete the Creation. You may ask, Why? For surely God could have called all the Creation into existence instantaneously. Of course. But the answer lies in that the very process of Creation is for our sake, that we might learn about God, our world, and ourselves. (Note here that we are asserting six literal twenty-four hour days. Anything else is contrary to the clear meaning of the biblical text itself. Anything else leads to theological monstrosities, as we shall endeavour to show in a forthcoming essay. But the debate between "literal creationism" and "long time theistic evolutionism" is nevertheless a highly instructive case study of the antithesis which exists between Jerusalem and Athens. Its takes us to the heart of how the Believing mind works and is framed, and how, by contrast, the Unbelieving mind works and is framed--and never the twain shall meet. Thus, we can learn much of rich illustrative value from the debate.)

We learn that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, but that the earth was "formless and void" (Genesis 1:2). The basic material of creation had now come into existence--yet it pleased God to work with this material, gradually, systematically, and developmentally over a period of six days. Why? So that we might learn that this is how the Creation is made to be interacted with, as it were. Key themes of life are revealed here:

1. The theme of creational development (lower to higher forms of existence, immaturity to maturity, the move from potential to actual, and growth).

2. Process--which requires building gradually and incrementally--is the way not only that the world came into being, but it is the way it was made to work ever thereafter. He or she who is to have cultural power must relish the disciplines involved in building gradually and incrementally. The Believing Mind never despises the day of small beginnings! The things that last are those that begin insignificantly and are developed and shaped gradually over time. The Believing Mind is rarely in a hurry--the process is as important as the outcome--in fact, we may say the process is the outcome. This reality is everywhere present throughout creation, but probably the most striking illustration is that the Lord has decreed that it should take twenty to thirty years to develop a baby into a mature adult. In modern parlance, that's a long time. It should not surprise us that genuine responsible maturity only comes to those parents and children who submit to the process, to its length, and work hard every day at training and development.

Given that from the very beginning the Creation came into existence through gradual and incremental process, it should not surprise us that the most powerful cultures are those which think and live their lives in terms, not of decades, but generations. Nor should it surprise us that the Believing culture will ultimately triumph upon the earth, for the Spirit of Him Who sits at the right hand of God has been poured out upon the earth. He has taught us to think, not only generationally, but in terms of thousands of generations. (In this regard, it is not without great significance that the Decalogue, which contains some key statements of self-revelation by the Lord to His people, includes this: "for I the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, and on the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands (of generations) to those who love Me and keep My commandments." [Deuteronomy 5:9,10]. The phrase "of generations" with reference to thousands is not contained in the text, but the parallelism with "third and fourth generations" implies it. Deuteronomy 7:9 further confirms that the Lord's lovingkindness extends down a thousand generations and that, therefore, this is how we must read the Fourth Commandment. Assuming a generation consists of thirty years, the Lord instructs us to anticipate God's lovingkindness to extend through a thousand generations prior to His final advent--that is, thirty thousand years. We must reject all "end is nigh" millenarianism, with all the spiritual impotence that it brings in its wake.)

If cultural influence and power comes to those who think and act long term, a sign of extreme cultural weakness is evident when a people are focused upon the immediate, the instantaneous, the here and now. It is no accident that as the West has moved into a post-Christian era, its influence has waned. As it has systematically undermined everything that requires a lifetime of work and commitment (marriage and family amongst the most salient) and as it has focused upon instantaneous gratification; so its influence is crumbling before cultures and movements that have a much longer perspective, such as Islam. The West is powerless to resist Islam, for Islam thinks of world domination and of generations to achieve it.

Not that Islam will triumph in any permanent sense, for in the long run it too will be crushed and destroyed for the idolatry that it is--as the King of all kings stretches forth His imperious hand to redeem out of Islam a mighty people for Himself which no man can number.

3. The theme of systematic development amidst extreme creativity. System, pattern, structure and order--amidst the most extensive demonstration of creative Power that has ever been. Spontaneous creation generating, producing structure, pattern and order. We often think of these two things (creativity and order) as opposing poles, unable to co-exist. Yet the opposite is the truth, and it has always been the case since the very creation itself. True creativity takes place, and is enhanced, within a framework of structure, harmony and order. True creativity leads to structure and order. True order and structure thoroughly embraces creativity, and is always looking for the paradigm shift, because above all structures stands the creative Word of the Creator God.

The Structures of the World Expose the Folly of Unbelief

Firstly, we note the wonderful harmonious balance of the six days—which speaks volumes about how
the “world works”, as it were.

1. Light 2. Sea and Heaven 3. Earth (with its plants)

4. Luminaries 5. Fish and Fowl 6. Land creatures and Man

The existence of a deliberate pattern in the account has been cited by sceptics as evidence of literary artifice--which, in turn, is offered as a reason for the Genesis creation account not being a literal historical record. But this is simply gratuitous question begging. Rather, the harmonious pattern exists in the text because God created in a harmonious pattern--which, in part, is to teach us that creation is structured according to harmonious patterns--and that He, Himself, is a God for Whom order, structure, balance and harmony are intrinsic to His being.

Clearly, such harmonies and patterns are everywhere present throughout the world. The Athenian mind cannot provide a credible account for the existence of these patterns--more of which are being discovered all the time. It knows they exist. It inevitably frames its discourse in dependance upon them. It constantly uses them and refers to them. It sets its clocks and navigational instruments by them.

However, at the same time, and in the same breath, when discussing the origin of the world, the only ultimate "reality" in the cosmogony of Unbelief is always raw, brute contingency. (This, as we have argued previously, is the inevitable position of the Unbelieving Mind. Rejecting the very possibility of the Almighty, all governing, self-sufficient God, the Athenian has to grasp the nettle of reality being ultimately ungoverned and uncontrolled--that is, at root, random.) So, the Unbelieving Mind, while not only accepting the absolute necessity of structure and order throughout the creation, but also acknowledging that they are so fundamental that nothing meaningful can be accomplished without employing and trading on the structured order, at the same time (and almost in the same breath) the Unbelieving Mind insists that structure exists on a sea of ultimate pure randomness--it arose from ultimate randomness, it's essence is random, and all reality will collapse again into randomness. Structure and order are therefore a mere illusion--temporary at best, like misted breath on a winter's morn.

The Athenian mind confirms its errant foolishness and militant ignorance by simply shrugging its collective shoulders at the issue, choosing to ignore it. It prefers not to reckon with the inescapable inference that in every Unbelieving cosmogony man himself necessarily has to be ultimately random and meaningless--and not just mankind in collective abstraction, but every single individual on the earth. Preferring not to face that uncomfortable conclusion, the Unbeliever prefers simply to shut his eyes. When you are faced with unresolved problems in your world view the best you can hope for is studiously to ignore the problem. Hopefully, it might go away! And even if it doesn't, at least we can pretend that it has. So passes the monumental stupidity and ignorance of the Unbelieving Mind.

As Karl Popper once trenchantly observed, if the theory of Evolution were true, it could never be described. If it can be described, by definition it cannot be true. What did he mean? Well, even to posit the theory requires drawing upon laws of logic and reason, grammar and syntax, cause and effect, assumptions of uniformity through time and space; it assumes commonality of the human mind, such that language and reasonable discourse is understandable across minds, cultures, and time. Moreover, the theory posits certain governing laws, such as "survival of the fittest" to account for its operation. But the theory of Evolution, if it is to be taken seriously, makes the existence of such things impossible and meaningless.

On the other hand, clearly the theory can be described and argued for rationally--albeit untruthfully. Clearly, laws of logic and reason do exist, for logic and reason exist. The existence of such realities--of such structure, patterns, and order--prove beyond all reasonable doubt that the theory of Evolution is a fiction: therefore, its widespread popularity and universal promulgation can only be for ulterior reasons. We will discuss what those ulterior motives may be in a future essay.

The Entire World, As Created, was Very Good

We notice that six times (at the end of each day’s work) the Lord declares that what had been done was good. In classical Hebrew, repetition means emphasis. The Bible is making it emphatically clear that the world, as created, was completely and thoroughly good. Moreover, when creation had finished on the sixth day, the Lord declared that it was very good (Genesis 1:31). The Hebrew word for good, “tov” means “excellent, pleasant, fantastic, the very best.” This insistence upon the excellence of the creation tells us that the world in which we live is a wonderful and blessed place. It requires that the Believing Mind always holds the created world in deepest respect.

The Lord is also making a statement about the intrinsic goodness of matter and the created world. Here again we come to a watershed of distinction between the Christian and the Unbelieving Mind. The Unbelieving Mind, we remember, fabricates its gods as finite and limited, constrained and co-relative to an eternal "stuff". Man and the gods are therefore on the same "chain of being." The gods are merely "bigger" or greater extensions of man. But insofar as the gods of the Unbelieving Mind are immaterial (Pure Reason, Absolute Love--as examples of impersonal deities--or Zeus, Allah--as examples of personal deities) the Athenian Mind will ever tend to posit the consequent inferiority of matter, and the superiority of the non-material, for matter is clearly limited and, therefore, weak. For example, in seeking a distinction between animals and humans, the unbeliever will always tend to alight upon non-material attributes of man to establish his , such as reason, speech etc to indicate the superiority of man over the animals. (This mindset works in reverse as well. It is instructive that in the campaigns against whaling, the pagans of our day will attribute human emotions and rationality and personality to whales as a reason these animals ought not to be killed.)

The Bible teaches something very different. God created the material world out of nothing. He created the immaterial world (for example, the dimensions of time and space) out of nothing. Both the material and the immaterial world are good--excellent, wonderful. The material world is not, therefore, intrinsically evil, lacking, or wicked.

Plato, in his dialogues, expresses the contrary view--a view which has always been part of the Athenian Mind--and which, regrettably, has insinuated itself into and dogged the Church to this day. It is the classic "Chain of Being" view, where Man, to achieve salvation, must shuffle off the mortal coil and move up the chain of being to divinisation. To the Athenian Mind, the physical world will tend to be couched as one of two extremes: either the material world is all that there is (in which case we should "eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die") or beyond the material world there is a higher spiritual or immaterial world (in which case we should do out utmost to escape the world and get to the higher realms.) For the Greek, the body should either be subject to relentless debauched behaviour, or one should deny it with ascetic abstemiousness. Both extremes and all points in between proceed on the view that the physical world and matter are unimportant and inferior.

For Plato, clearly the latter view was to be emphasized. This is illustrated in the Phaedo Dialogue, where Socrates is contemplating his own death. We pick up the dialogue as follows--as Socrates asks his friends whether there is such a thing as death.

"To be sure," replied Simmias.

"Is it not a separation of soul and body? And to be dead is the completion of this; when the soul exists in herself, and is released from the body and the body is released from the soul, what is this but death?"

"Just so," he replied.

"There is another question, which will probably throw light on our present inquiry if you and I can agree about it: Ought the philosopher to care about the pleasures--if they are to be called pleasures--of eating and drinking?"

"Certainly not," answered Simmias.

"And what about the pleasures of [carnal] love--should he care for them?"

"By no means."

"And he will think much of the other ways of indulging the body--for example, the acquisition of costly raiment, or sandals, or other adornments of the body? Instead of caring about them, does he not rather despise anything more than nature needs? What do you say?"

"I should say that the philosopher would despise them."

"Would you not say that he is entirely concerned with the soul and not with the body? He would like, as far as he can, to get away from the body and turn to the soul."

"Quite true."

"In matters of this sort philosophers, above all other men, may be observed in every sort of way to dissever the soul from the communion of the body."

"Very true." . . . .

"Then when does the soul attain truth?--for in attempting to consider anything in company with the body, she is obviously deceived."


"Then must not true existence be revealed to her in thought, if at all?"


"And thought is best when the mind is gathered into herself and none of these things trouble her--neither sounds nor sights nor pain nor any pleasure--when she takes leave of the body, and has as little as possible to do with it, when she has no bodily sense or desire, but is aspiring after true being?"


"And in this the philosopher dishonors the body; his soul runs away from his body and desires to be alone and by herself?"

"That is true."

"Well, but there is one other thing, Simmias: is there or is there not an absolute justice?"

"Assuredly there is."

"And an absolute beauty and absolute good?"

"Of course."

"But did you ever behold any of them with your eyes?"

"Certainly not."

"Or did you ever reach them with any other bodily sense?--and I speak not of these alone, but of absolute greatness, and health, and strength, and of the essence or true nature of everything. Has the reality of them ever been perceived by you through the bodily organs? or rather, is not the nearest approach to the knowledge of their several natures made by him who so orders his intellectual vision as to have the most exact conception of the essence of each thing which he considers?"


"And he attains to the purest knowledge of them who goes to each with the mind alone, not introducing or intruding into the act of thought sight or any other sense together with reason, but with the very light of the mind in her own clearness searches into the very truth of each; he who has got rid of, as far as he can, of eyes and ears and, so to speak, of the whole body, these being in his opinion distracting elements which when they infect the soul hinder her from acquiring truth and knowledge--who, if not he, is likely to attain to the knowledge of true being?" (Plato, Five Great Dialogues, translated by B. Jowett, [Roslyn, NY: Walter J. Black, 1942]. Phaedo: pp. 93--95. Emphasis, mine.)

Clearly, according to Plato a higher stage of being is achieved when the soul is severed from the body, and can contemplate the purest abstract knowledge without the distortions and distractions of the senses, and of the physical realm. Clearly, man will only learn and know truly after he dies and the soul is liberated from the body, the material realm. Unfortunately, there are many professing Christians who would add their "amen" to these ideas. But such concepts are not biblical--they reflect the Athenian mind of unbelief, not the world-view revealed in the Scriptures.

The Material World is Holy, Just and Good

Contrast this Athenian world-view with Genesis. The Creation revelation comprehensively rejects the idea that the material world of flesh, senses, and bodily appetites is a sub-standard deviation, from which we must be liberated if we are to find the truth, or be saved. The world of body, parts and passions, the material world as created by God, before sin entered the world, was utterly and totally good. As the Catechism has it: "the work of creation is God's making all things of nothing, by the Word of His power, in the space of six days--and all very good."

Yet all too often the Christian slips back into Unbelieving thought frames. He divides his existence up between the "spiritual" and the "worldly", the sacred and the secular, the soul and the body. The worldly, the secular, and the body are seen as intrinsically inferior and as warring against the spiritual and the truth and what is considered godly. Such dichotomies are drawn from the wells of Athens, not Jerusalem. The first two chapters of Genesis completely shut the door on any such notions having biblical traction. Consequently, biblical terms such as "spiritual" or "worldly" need to be carefully delineated in the light of Genesis 1 & 2, not eviscerated of the biblical context, then subsequently filled with Athenian paganism.

In the Christian world view, salvation and redemption are not an escape from nature, but a restoration of nature as it was intended to be and become (the dynamic of development being intrinsic to the creation.) Grace restores nature; it does not obliterate it. Can you imagine a stronger contrast between Jerusalem and Athens. Socrates argues that salvation is escaping from the material world and the senses; the Bible reveals that salvation instead restores the material world and the senses, making them more potent and glorious.

How do we know this to be the case? There are many biblical evidences, but the strongest and most compelling are the incarnation and resurrection of our Lord. Our Lord is the second Adam, the Head of the new human race. He is the first-born of His people--and as the first-born He is the resurrected One, in human nature, in human flesh, in the material realm. Hence, in post-resurrection appearances, He insisted that His disciples understand the He was bodily raised. He ate with them. He insisted that they touch Him to grasp just how material and corporeal He is.

Consequently, we will all be raised bodily, which in turn will lead to the redemption and restoration of the entire created world to the unfolded state it would have achieved, had Adam never fallen. "For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will also be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body." (Romans 8:19--23). We are not going to be set free from creation: it is ironically the exact reverse. Creation itself is going to be set free from from us--that is, the futility of our sins; as the new mankind comes forth following the resurrected Son of Man, the firstborn from the dead, so the entire creation is born again into the glory it had before the fall of Adam and mankind into sin.

But this idea was utterly foreign to the Greek mind. It undermined the entirety of their Unbelieving world view. Just how foreign can be discerned when Paul preached on Mars Hill. Paul was listened to carefully as he proclaimed to them the One true Living God. He challenged them with the forthcoming judgement: "He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness." The Judge will be a Man--but not just any man--the Man, the Son of Man, Who has been appointed by God as judge of the whole earth. The proof of this investiture as Judge over all men is that God has raised Him from the dead. (Acts 17:31).

But it was precisely at the point at which they heard of the resurrection of the dead that the crowd began to sneer and ridicule the apostle. To the Unbelieving Mind, the body was so earthy, so evil, so finite, so limited, so brutish, and so slavish that instead of Jesus resurrection from the dead being a proof of divine investiture as Judge of all, it was a compelling proof that He was utterly incapable of being in any way a judge of men. To the Greek, if there was to be a judge at all it would have to be one who had escaped mortal life and had come to understand the essence and true nature (that is, the non-material nature) of everything--or, at least most things.

To this day, the Resurrection of our Lord is a stumbling block to the Athenian Mind. It is offensive. The sheer corporeality of our Lord offends the Unbeliever. It disqualifies Him from serious consideration. "It makes Him like us," they opine. "Therefore, He cannot be our Judge." The exact reverse is the case. It is precisely because He is exactly like us that He is qualified to be our Judge. He is appointed as the only qualified Judge of all mankind--the alone qualified One who will judge all sin committed whether in body or heart. For He became like as we are--born after the likeness of sinful flesh--yet without sin--the public declaration of which was His resurrection from the dead.

Examples of Platonism Falsely Insinuated into Jerusalem

When a person ceases to be an Unbeliever and repents, turns, and believes in the Lord he is made a new creature. All things in Christ have become new. The old has passed away. (IICor 5:17). However, parts of the old man remain, and need to be gradually removed through a process of Christian growth and sanctification.

Consequently the patterns of thought that properly belong to Athens are likely to be carried over into the Christian faith, unless there is a deliberate attempt to weed them out. Many Christians continue to "read" the world wearing the spectacles of Unbelief. This is why developing a Christian Mind is so important. It is part of putting off the old man and putting on the new. In developing a Christian mind we are self-consciously exposing ourselves to the correction of the Bible, subjecting our patterns of thought, our ideas, our paradigms and our pre-conceptions to the Word of God. As we do this, we are making every thought captive to Christ (IICor.10:5).

Very early on in the history of the Church of the New Covenant, under the pervasive influence of the Athenian mind in the ancient world, Greek concepts about gods and about man were insinuated into the Church, and the Bible was read through the spectacles of Unbelief. The idea was to mix the best from the pagan world with the "higher light" of Christianity. It was suggested that the Greek mind, represented by Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, plus some lesser lights, represented the apotheosis of enlightened thought, that was "not far from the Kingdom of God." Therefore, all that was needed was to add a bit of Christian truth on top of the Greek foundation, like icing on a cake, and all would be well. Thus, the Gospel and Jerusalem itself came to be understood as propounding enlightened paganism, plus.

But we have argued that just as oil and water do not mix, so there can be no agreement between Jerusalem and Athens. There are no foundations in Athens upon which Jerusalem can build. From the very beginning Jerusalem believes in and confesses the infinite and eternal God Who made all things of nothing, such that all that exists apart from Him, is under His sovereign sway and rule. There is no potentiality or actuality outside of His sovereign conditioning command. But Athens denies that such a God can exist. From the very emergence, from the very beginning of Athens upon the earth, the gods were conditioned and constrained by being and actuality and potentiality that lay beyond them--by "things" they did not control. The gods of unbelief are suspiciously like us--the creature--albeit in a "suped-up" version.

For the mind of Unbelief, salvation becomes a matter of becoming more like the gods--which involves a metaphysical change within man and his world--to become less material and more spiritual. We saw this in Socrates. For him, true enlightenment and salvation came when he died, shuffled off the mortal frame of sensory distraction, and contemplated being itself. Once he want through this metaphysical transformation he achieved a higher state of being, having been freed from the limitations of the material world.

These pagan notions were allowed to fester in the body of the Church. Salvation and spirituality increasingly came to be seen as a matter of escaping the mundane and the ordinary and their attendant distractions. Thus, the emergence of monasteries (an escape from worldly affairs to live a life of "pure" service to God); of vows of celibacy (removal from the worldly cares of family and the implicit sinfulness of sexual relations); of vows of poverty (escaping from the cares and responsibilities of possessions to enable pure service to God); and of false miracles, revelations, relics, sacraments (to ensure that one was really being confronted with God).

To this day, words such as "spirit" and "spiritual" retain a strong Greek pagan gloss in the way they are used and are understood amongst many Christians. "Spiritual" is what is opposed to worldly things--and worldly in this context means material possessions, cultural activities, careers, education, the material world. In other words, spirituality means undergoing a metaphysical change to where my being is modified. The impact of the material and the physical attenuates and I am more and more cast up into the immaterial, invisible realms. Many Christians read the Bible with this set of pagan spectacles.

However, in the Bible "spirit" and "spiritual" means that which is filled with, and controlled by, the Spirit of the Living God. A spiritual body is not an immaterial body--but a body, flesh and bone, completely under the control of the Spirit of God, to do His will. The opposite of spiritual is to be involved in works of evil (characterised as works of the flesh--or sinful human nature--see Galatians 5:16--24). We have seen in the beginning that God created all things of nothing by the Word of His power and all very good. In this frame, to be spiritual is to be in accord with the creating work of the Spirit of God--as revealed in Genesis. Thus, to be spiritual is to be intensely material and physical, amongst other things. (That is why, incidentally, when the Lord provided skilled craftsmen to build the tabernacle, the Bible characterises them as men filled with the Spirit. Exodus 35:30ff. Their being controlled by the Spirit meant that they were intensely skilled in craftsmanship--which, last time I checked, was a very material and physical activity.)

The way, the very processes, by which God made the world reveal to us the original spirituality and holiness of the creation, both of its material and immaterial aspects. As the Spirit of God falls upon us, we will lay aside the false spirituality of paganism, and will become again a people that are world and creation affirming, as we seek to bring every human thought and action captivity to Christ.

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Wednesday, 9 January 2008

ChnMind 1.4 The Creative Sovereign Power of the Word of God

The War of the "Words"

In popular parlance the culture often draws a distinction between words and actions. Talk is cheap, we are told. Actions count. "Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names (words) will never hurt me." "He's all talk", is another common epithet, as is, "hot air". And we are all familiar with the proverb, "actions speak louder than words."

Common to these expressions is the idea that words and speech are weak and of little significance. The really important thing is what one does. But does this idea capture reality? Maybe the Bee Gees had it right when they sang, "It's only words, and words are all I have, to take your heart away."

It turns out that from the beginning of time there has been a relentless war of words and that words are powerful. Words shape creation, history, and culture. Words or speech actually "makes things so"; words call reality into existence. True words call truthful reality into existence. False words, or lies, call falsehoods into existence. Words have an intrinsic power, either for good or evil, and they always will. How do we know this? Because that is how the world came into existence in the first place.

We see in the creation account of Genesis 1-3 that the Bible emphasizes over and over that the Creation took place by the spoken Word of God. The refrain “Then God said, . . . and it was so” occurs repeatedly in Genesis 1. The way God created and made the world becomes constitutive of its existence. Just as God created space and time, and those two dimensions influence and shape everything thereafter, so His creating by uttering Words has made words and speech to be influential and powerful throughout the warp and woof of human existence.

This is a fundamental theme not just in Genesis: it runs throughout the Scripture; it is a theme which refers to one of the fundamental constitutive realities of the world, of history, and of our existence. In developing the Christian Mind, it is vital that we pick up on this fundamental importance of the Word of God—for this is how the world “works”, as it were; this is how the world is constituted.

We see in Genesis 1 that God “speaks” the Creation into existence. Thus His Word is not merely an authoritative declaration amidst a dispute—that is, not merely that God is the highest authority, and therefore what He says is right—which, of course, is very true. It is much more than that. The Word calls into existence the very things of which it speaks. It is a powerful, constitutive, creative Word.

From the very beginning this "power-word" for ruling and constituting the Creation is reflected within man--who of course bears the image of God. Not only can Adam speak, but he can speak in a way that constitutes and shapes the very creation. This is what it means in part to be in the image of God. In Genesis 2:19,20 we find Adam naming the animals. His word reflects the creative Word of God; “whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name.” Adam’s word was powerfully shaping and constituting the creation, after God. Adam’s word was a reflection of God’s Word—that is part of the power, dignity, authority, and glory given to Man in God’s image. He has a power-word, like God. He is a servant of God’s Word. His words are to reflect God's Words, and as man speaks in a way that is in accordance with God's Word, so rules powerfully and effectively over the creation, shaping it with his derived "power-word." It may be true that, "words are all I have . . .", but what a Word!

A second instance of the theme is God’s dealing with Noah. (Genesis 8:20 & 9:8—17). Firstly, God declares that mankind will never be wiped out again, as happened at the Flood. That Word has governed human history to this day; we live within it at this time; it will govern all history in the future.

Again, God establishes the seasons with a covenant. This Word, in a similar fashion, is constitutively powerful to the ordering of our lives daily—and it will always be so. "While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night, shall not cease!" (Genesis 8:22) As the seasons turn, so our lives and their activities are shaped and conditioned, made and moulded by a Word spoken millennia ago--global warming not withstanding. Let all climate apocalytics and millennarians stand warned. False words create a powerful false world--for a time--before its false words and fabricated existence are broken upon the rock of the one true Word.

After the Flood we indeed see just such a demonic inversion of this "power word" theme in the account of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11). The power-word of man had become demonic, and the word of man was being uniformly deployed for evil purposes. The account of Babel is framed as a confrontation and clash between two "words"--and, therefore, two worlds.

"Now the whole earth used the same language, and the same words (verse 1). . . . And they said to one another, 'Come, let us build for ourselves a city . . . and let us make a name for ourselves "(verses 3-4). When the Lord came down, the text explicitly records His counter-action, "And the Lord said . . . " (verse 6). The magnitude and extent of the destructive threat of mankind against God derives from their common purpose, forged through a common language or word. "Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. . . . (N)othing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them" (verse 6). This is a signal demonstration of how the creation and human society is constituted by and around words--in this case, for evil.

The divine judgement upon this rebellion is to "confuse the language of the whole earth" (verse 9), resulting in the fracturing of mankind into dissolute pieces, thereby nullifying the demonic attempt to pervert the power of God and seize upon the power of words to shape a united rebellion against God. God breaks apart the univocal word of man into a multitude of languages, and so restrains their evil.

Judgement and Illiteracy: the Removal of the Word

The events and revelation surrounding Babel introduce a further, related biblical theme: when God is breaking down a culture and rendering it to a state of greater weakness, He will break down its language. As the Lord judges a culture for idolatry He removes its mastery over its own tongue. Eventually, He removes its ability to read, write, and communicate powerfully and effectively. People become like the idols they worship--deaf and dumb--with the attendant cultural sterility, impotence and primitivistic superstition.

So in our day. It is not by random chance that illiteracy is on the rise and that an increasing number of people can no longer communicate or speak effectively and powerfully. These things have been manufactured by our statist education system. But in so doing they are working our His divine judgements upon the Unbelieving Mind. "Professing to be wise, they have become fools." Claiming to be the Master and Determiner of all truth, the rationalist education system has set itself the task of disembowelling education of all objective truth whatsoever. Inevitably this leads to the deconstruction and destruction of language itself. So pure rationalism relentlessly morphs into its irrationalistic doppelganger.

Theodore Dalrymple's trenchant essay We Don't Want No Education, begins with the wonderfully ironic paragraph: "Education has always been a minority interest in England. The English have generally preferred to keep the bloom of their ignorance intact and on the whole has succeeded remarkably well, despite a century and a quarter of compulsory schooling of their offspring."

He goes on to describe his experience of the state of modern education. "Very few of the 16 year olds whom I meet as patients can read and write with facility; they do not even regard the question as to whether they can read and write as in the least surprising or insulting. I now test the literacy of nearly every such youth I meet, in case illiteracy should prove to be one of the causes of his misery. . . .

"Most of the young whites whom I meet literally cannot name a single writer and certainly cannot recite a line of poetry. Not a single one of my young patients has know the dates of the Second World War, let alone of the First; some have never heard of these wars, though recently one young patient who had heard of the Second World War thought it took place in the eighteenth century. In the prevailing circumstances of total ignorance, I was impressed that he had heard of the eighteenth century. . . .

"Thus are the young condemned to live in an eternal present which merely exists, without connection to a past which might explain it or to a future which might develop from it. Theirs is truly a life of one damned thing after another. Likewise they are deprived of any reasonable standards of comparison by which to judge their woes. . . .

"Clearly, something very strange is happening in our schools. Our educational practices are now so bizarre that they would defy the pen of a Jonathan Swift to satirize them. In the very large metropolitan area in which I work, for example, the teachers have received instructions that they are not to impart the traditional disciplines of spelling and grammar. Pettifogging attention to details of syntax and orthography is said to inhibit children's creativity and powers of self-expression. Moreover, to assert that there is a correct way of speaking or writing is to indulge in a kind of bourgeois cultural imperialism; and to tell children that they have got something wrong is necessarily to saddle them with a debilitating sense of inferiority from which they will never recover." (Theodore Dalrymple, "We Don't Want No Education," City Journal, Winter 1995.)

Life is a succession of one damned thing after another . . . How did it come to this? It has come to pass because God's hand of judgment was firstly upon Babel, and therefore it is now falling upon the (post-Christian) West. For the West sought to unite mankind in a new Babel--a new language of universal scientific rationalism. The very triumph of Athens has mediated its own internal destruction. A growing number of people can no longer even read. The power-word of Athens has been broken down into a swelling cacophany of voices of the irrationally, helplessly ignorant.

This is a great trial and a tribulation, on the one hand; but on the other, it presents a wonderful opportunity for God’s covenant people, or the Believing Mind. Jerusalem, for her part, has inherited the Living and Abiding Word of God through Jesus Christ, the Second Adam. Like Adam, we are now the servants and wielders of that Word. That Word remains meaningful, constitutive and powerful. That Word can rescue even the irrationally and helplessly ignorant. And so, the covenant people, as we are faithful and obey, will grow in power, influence, destiny, and significance, in our culture and in generations to come.

Redeemed by the Word

We have seen that the universe in general, the world in particular, and mankind specially are constructed by God's power-Word. Jerusalem understands and accepts this and looks to the Word of God as the source and frame of all life. Athens completely rejects the Word of God, even as it rejects the God of the Word. Consequently, Athens is always acting within a make-believe, fundamentally untrue world. The Athenian cannot see the world as it truly is. Jerusalem, however, seeing and believing the world in truth, has access to enormous cultural power. Athens is constantly paddling upstream--and that through endless rapids--whereas Jerusalem is always paddling downstream, being carried along by the tides of God's power-Word.

An illustration of the "with-the-tide" versus "against-the-tide" construct is found in our Lord's appearance to the rebellious Saul while on the Damascus road. Paul's account of the event in Acts 26:14 reveals our Lord arresting Saul with the words: "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads." Whilst Saul lived in unbelief, with the mind of an Athenian, there was a sense of the whole of creation being inevitably arrayed against him. He was kicking back against the goads: it was a painful process.

This is not to say, of course, that Jerusalem does not experience trouble, suffering, and hardship. It clearly does--and the Word confirms that this will always be the case. But the wonderful irony is that even our sufferings are constituted by God's Word, such that they are never in vain, but always work together for good, for ourselves and the Kingdom. So, the Believing Mind is able to rejoice and glorify even in its weakness and frailty, knowing that it is part of riding the rushing tide to the consummation of all things. So, Paul: "there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me--to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I entreated the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.' Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me." (II Corinthians, 12:7--9)

The Word of God, however, does not only structure the world of creation. It also structures salvation. It is clear in Genesis, that salvation is called into existence by the spoken Word of God. The earliest indication of this is the pronouncement to the serpent which pronounces his inevitable defeat by the seed of the woman. "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise you on the head (the fatal blow), and you shall bruise him on the heel (a trifling blow)" Genesis 3:15. Similarly, the prominence of the Word to create and structure redemptive history is clear in Genesis 12:1—3, when the Lord calls Abraham, who is to be the father of the Believing Mind: "(n)ow the Lord said to Abram, 'Go forth from your country and your relatives . . . I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you . . . and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.' " The entire course of human history has been, is, and will be shaped and governed by those marvellous Words.

Similarly, in Genesis 17: 1—8 which is the third statement of the promise, we read, "Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him . . . . 'As for me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations.' "

This Word calls forth Abraham into covenant with the Lord. Out of that covenant will come the chosen people, the Messiah, and then God’s grace to all peoples and nations—that is, to the Gentiles. The significance of Abraham cannot be overstated--he is the father of all believers, everwhere. This Word to Abraham constitutes our lives to this very hour. In that Word we live and move and have our being.

Throughout Scripture this great theme of redemption being commanded and called forth by God's Word comes back again and again. Isaiah 51 is one of the most beautiful passages in Scripture in this regard. Israel is in disarray. But the Lord says, “Look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were dug. Look to Abraham your father, and to Sarah who gave birth to you in pain.” Pay attention—I will set My justice for a light of the peoples. (Isa. 51:4). Despite all the calamities and discouragements--none will prevail--for arrayed against them is the declaration of God to Abraham, which governs all aeons, all ages, all peoples, and all nations.

God speaks and thereby constitutes Abraham as our rock, the root and principle of everything that we are. To this very hour we, the citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem, are constituted either as a son or daughter of Abraham and Sarah—that shapes who that we are, it shapes how God looks upon us; it shapes how we are to live, and will live. (This is why Christian covenantal whakapapa is so important for us and to us.)

God says, “and in you all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.” I cannot resist quoting Pangle at this point with respect to Abraham:

As such, his name or glory will be brilliant; nay, his name will be not merely known as some object of historical memory or wonder or awe (like Cyrus’s, for example); the name of Abraham will be, God promises, employed lovingly, as a blessing—by every family on the face of the earth. One can wonder if any man of political ambition and love of glory has every dared to hope for, let alone has ever been promised, so total a satisfaction of his deepest longings. (Pangle, p. 129)

Another insight into the creative power-Word of the Lord is found in Isaiah 55:6—11. The Word in Genesis 1 which called forth the world out of nothing has not ceased to speak. It continues to go forth, and equally powerfully and imperiously as in the day of creation, it calls forth divine fruit, out of nothing. "For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth, and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so shall my word be which goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it."

Then, Jeremiah 1:1—10. By the Word, nations are changed; the tectonic plates of history are altered. "Then the Lord stretched out His hand and touched my mouth, and the Lord said to me: 'Behold I have put My words in your mouth. See, I have appointed you this day over the nations and over the kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.' " Jeremiah never picked up a sword. He never formed a political party. He never led an army. Yet he cast aside and destroyed nations. He raised others up. His word, which was God's Word revealed to him, shaped and controlled the history of nations in the Near East.

It is important to understand that we live today in the climax of this redemptive development. We live in the days of Messiah. And it is not without the deepest significance that He comes forth as the Word: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him; and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. . . .” John 1:1—3

The creative, power-Word is now at the right hand of God, reshaping all human history, and placing all God’s enemies under His feet. And He is doing so by means of His Word.

So, it is of the greatest significance that we read in Acts 2:14: “But Peter, taking his stand with the eleven, raised his voice and declared to them . . .” And so begins the unleashing of the Word of God upon the nations that commences the great work of redemption where all nations are being discipled unto Christ—this great work to which we are called, in our generation, to play our part.

And so, with respect to the theme of the creative power-Word—just a few more texts:

Romans 1:15, 16: “Thus, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome, for I am not ashamed of the Gospel of God, for it is the power of God for salvation for everyone who believes . . .”

I Corinthians 1:17ff. The word of the cross is powerful to those who are being saved. God was well pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.

I Peter 1: 22—25 “You have been born again . . . through the living and abiding word of God. . . . . The Word of the Lord abides forever. And this is the word which was preached to you.”

The War of the Words

Throughout human history there has been a war of Words. In the Garden of Eden it was God's Word arrayed against the word of the serpent. "Has indeed God said this . . . but I say to you . . ." The Tower of Babel represented the epitome of the hope of the Unbelieving Mind to create a unified world, based on a single univocal word.

The Lord thwarted this attempt by a judgement of breaking apart the univocal word of Unbelief, substituting a competing cacophany of tongues. But like Sauron and the Ring--ever the mind and heart of Unbelief yearns and longs for the power of the one Tongue, the one Word which would unite them all and bind them in a final darkness. In both ancient and modern times this yearning has taken political forms. The Pax Romana, promising universal peace through the rule of Rome was one. In the more recent twentieth century we have seen several "one world empire" movements: National Socialism--the Third Reich of One Thousand Years; International Communism where the workers of the world were to unite, and so forth.

But ever since the Enlightenment--which was a re-discovery and re-assertion of the one univocal word of Babel--the West has been offered the power-word of man. All language, all culture, all human endeavour was to be united under the univocal word of human reason: the age of secular rationalism flourished. There was no room for God and His Word, for these were offensive to humanist reason.

But the Babel of the West is doomed. Its univocal word of human reason is being inevitably fractured, once again, by the endless diversities and ultimate meaninglessness of post-modernism. The power of the word of man is a lie, a chimera.

Against this false word of Athens stands the true Word of Jerusalem's God. Across the nations marches the King of all kings. His sovereign power-Word is calling, making, shaping, conforming--and finally, all earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of God as the waters cover the sea.

Some Abiding Implications

1. As God’s people, we will ever be a people of the Word. Since all of creation and providence lives and moves and has its being through the Word of God, wherever and whenever the Spirit of God applies redemption to man you will find a respect and reverence for the Word of God, the Holy Scriptures. Whenever Jerusalem becomes infected with a rationalistic imperative that puts man's reason above the Scriptures to test and prove them, Jerusalem is robbed of its power. It begins to crumble. This is effectively what happened to the Church in the West in the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries, as higher criticism became academically fashionable and men--under the influence of Enlightenment idolatry--sought to exert human authority over the Bible, to authenticate, purify, and liberate it from its "less comely" aspects.

It would appear, however, as though this destructive movement is now runing its course. Those truly of God have extensively turned away from such idolatry and have increasingly returned to a position of submission to all of Scripture. Not surprisingly, they are beginning to show aspects of spiritual authority and power again over the world--even as they make their own thinking and acting congruent with the Word which governs and shapes all reality.

2. Our times of worship will be filled with meaningful utterances of God’s Word. Worship of the Living God is the most holy and ennobling of all human activities. It is the Word of God which is to structure and give content to our public worship. When we worship using the content, promises, strictures, examples, and commands of Scripture we are worshiping as we ought, since all of creation is similarly structured by the Word.

At the same time, our worship will be verbal and intelligible. Over the past one hundred years, Jerusalem has been deeply infected (there is no other word) by a false spirituality which substitutes gibberish, claiming it truly to be a re-emergence of the gift of tongues found in apostolic times. There are many problems associated with this nonsense; salient amongst them is that it denies or devalues the power of intelligible speech, and therefore of the Word.

3. Our tongues and speech are to be culturally constitutive and powerful.

4. We will guard our words very carefully, seeking to speak as the very oracles of God. As James tell us, the one who is able to control what he says is able to rule his whole body. Self-mastery comes with mastery of the tongue. This is both positive and negative: it encompasses not only refraining from speaking lies and evil, but also positively speaking that which is needful, godly, and appropriate for the occasion.

The person who has learned to speak thusly will be a person of significant spiritual influence and power.

5. We will make language (that is, word, especially our native language) one of the major studies of our lives, so that we might be true servants of the Lord, in His image. Mastery of (at least our own) language is a major responsibility of all citizens of Jerusalem. To the extent we master our own language, to that extent our mastery over the creation increases.

6. Our covenant schools will make the study of language, mastery of speech, written expression, vocabulary etc at the heart of the curriculum.

7. Skill in, and mastery of, language is to be a great joy.

8. Parents will make biblically sanctified language the bedrock of their relationship with their children.

9. We will understand the spiritual power of language, and will use it for the extension of God’s Kingdom.

Saturday, 5 January 2008

ChnMind 1.3 The Independence of God and the Dependance of Us All

The Self-Sufficiency of God

"Although man knows number and its secret he no longer knows that even number, which determines days, years and seasons, is not self-contained, that it too rests only upon the Word and command of God. . . . We have forgotten this connection. . . . What we comprehend is the godless language we speak ourselves, the language of an eternal law of the world resting in itself, silent about the Creator and boasting about the creature.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, cited by Pangle, op cit. p.35).

In the confrontation between Jerusalem and Athens, between the Christian Mind and the Unbelieving Mind, there are certain persistent matrices of difference and conflict. The Unbelieving Mind has a myriad permutations and combinations--including endless variations of religion and belief in false gods. However, all unbelieving thought necessarily has certain key common assumptions or elements--representing the "ground rules" of unbelief. These key unbelieving assumptions are beyond proof or demonstration. They are unproven, non-established assertions--and as such represent the fundamental irrationality of all unbelief.

These key assumptions of unbelief represent the points of irreconcilable conflict between the Unbelieving Mind and the Christian faith. The first irrational assumption common to all forms of unbelief is that the God revealed in the Scriptures cannot possibly exist. From the outset, He is excluded from the terms and content of the discussion. (We are not saying here that the Unbelieving Mind will not have extensive debates and discussions about god[s]--in fact the reverse is the case--but we are saying that the Unbelieving Mind will assert at the very outset that while god[s] might exist, the God revealed in the Scriptures is an impossibility.)

A second point of irreconcilable conflict turns around creation. The Scriptures attest that the Living God created all things of nothing. The Unbelieving Mind from the outset proceeds on the assumption that this cannot possibly be true. In the Athenian worldview if there is a creator or an impersonal creative force (to the Unbelieving Mind it is ultimately irrelevant which; both are comfortable and congruent with the worldview of unbelief) he/she/it began with something. There has to be an eternality of conceptual frames (ideas) or matter; or a combination of the two. The gods of unbelief work and interact with this non-created material. Creation ex-nihilo versus creation ex-substantio represents a point of irreconcilable conflict between Jerusalem and Athens.

All unbelieving thought posits the eternity of matter in some way, shape, or form. Only Christians—converted through the grace of God—have come to believe and understand the following truths:

1. There was a "time", before the creation of time, when only God was.

2. Before that “time” there was nothing apart from Him.

3. There existed no matter, no space, no time, no creaturely thought/reason/rationality.

4. The Living God was (and is) completely self-sufficient. Theologians call this the “aseity of God” meaning “origination from self.”

5. All of the creation—which is limited and finite—utterly and completely depends upon Him. He has called it into existence out of nothing.

The Tri-Unity of God

We now come to another irreconcilable point of difference between Jerusalem and Athens. God has revealed Himself to be Triune: one God in three Persons. The Scriptures do not make a "big deal" of this--in the way that they do about the atonement of Christ, or the resurrection from the dead. But that is not to say that the triune nature of God is unimportant--rather, the very reverse, for the Scriptures treat the tri-unity of God as self-evident, in the same way that the very existence and nature of God Himself is treated as self-evident. (In contrast, the truths of the atonement of Christ and the resurrection of the dead are not self-evident--they are works of God's free grace and in almost every way completely unexpected. Certainly they represent blessings and favour from God to which we have absolutely no title or right from Him. That is why the Scriptures make so much of them--because they are contrary to expectation. Therefore we hardly dare to believe that they are true. The Lord condescends to our weakness by insisting repeatedly and explicitly that they are the truth.)

The unity and plurality of God is revealed from the very beginning, in the first verse in the very first chapter of Genesis. "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth . . ." The Hebrew word for God (Elohim) is in a plural form, but the subject of the sentence is singular ("created" has a third person singular subject). So throughout the chapter, the Bible uses the third person singular whenever God speaks or acts. But in verse 26,on the sixth day of creation, we read: "Then God said (third person singular): 'Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness' " (first person plural.)

Moreover, in Genesis 1:2 one of the Persons of the Godhead is spoken of specifically: " . . . and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters." As revelation progresses through God's work of redemption throughout the rest of Scripture we learn that there are "three persons in the Godhead, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory." (Shorter Catechism).

The tri-unity of God is not a “higher” doctrine, a doctrine that people “climb” to on their way to a better understanding of God. The doctrine of the Trinity is absolutely fundamental. If God were not triune, He could not exist or be true. If God does exist, He must be triune, or have unity and plurality equally ultimate within Himself, His Being. Without tri-unity we could not believe or assert the absolute self-sufficiency and independence of God. Note that Scriptures reveal God to be equally ultimate in unity and plurality--in other words, the Oneness of God is not more fundamental to His being than his Many-ness.

All the blessed attributes of God have existed within the unity and plurality of the Godhead before all time, and will for all eternity. God did not need the creation in order to be God or to exercise His divine attributes. Thus, divine attributes such as love, faithfulness, covenant loyalty or lovingkindness, generosity, covenanted commitments--all the attributes which require a plurality of persons to exist in the first place--are eternally ultimate in God: the Persons of the Godhead have always been this way (love, faithfulness, etc) toward Each Other. This contrasts with Athenian conceptions of god, where if god is posited as almighty (as in Islam) he is also posited as monistic or unitarian (singular, non plural). The existence of a monistic god's attributes depend upon (are correlative to) the world. A monistic god requires other beings in order to speak, work, serve, and so forth. Without a creation, the monistic god cannot exist as god. The monistic god is thus dependant upon the creature for its existence.

Consequently, the Unbelieving Mind will always deny or exclude from the outset the tri-unity of God because the tri-unity of God and the aseity of God are necessarily related. The Unbelieving Mind will only countenance a god(s) that are limited, correlative to and dependant to some extent upon the creation and, therefore, man. Thus, the Unbelieving Mind asserts from the beginning that the tri-unity of God cannot possibly be true.

No "Chain of Being" Between God and the World

The absolute independence, or aseity of God, and the consequent total, universal, and absolutely comprehensive dependance of all other (created) reality upon Him is unique to Jerusalem--that is, to the Believing Christian Mind. All the religions, beliefs, and philosophies of Athens (the entire world of unbelief) cannot accept the aseity of their gods (which is, after all, rather hard to do when all Athenian gods are figments of human imagination). In a similar vein, all Athenian gods are necessarily dependant in some way on the universe--so that the universe, in some way, shape, or form is co-eternal with the gods, and the gods are limited to, shaped by, or correlative with the universe.

Similarly, the equal ultimacy of the One and the Many in God is unique to Jerusalem. All Athenian gods (whether personal or impersonal) either reflect the ultimacy of the one (unity) at the expense of the many (diversity), or of the many at the expense of the one. The ultimacy of either the one or the many leads inevitably to meaninglessness. Where the one is ultimate, the particulars--the details--have no meaning. Since man is a mere "detail" in the vastness of the universe, in the end he has no meaning. His life is ultimately without reason. Life is a joke. "Eat, drink, and be merry--for tomorrow we die." Consequently, many Athenian religions deny the possibility of any meaning to anything. Or, they assert a totalitarian something (most frequently--in our day--the all competent nanny State) that seeks to obliterate all it does not control. Here, too, the life of the individual has no purpose, significance or meaning. We are just a mere cipher, and IRD number.

Similarly, the ultimacy of the many leads to an equally irrational meaninglessness. In a world where the myriad details of existence are ultimate and have no unifying relationship to each other there is no meaning to anything. If you see your neighbour on the street and either wave as you pass or run him over and kill him or ignore him completely makes no difference. There is no meaningful or true relationship between the two details--my neighbour and me. Even to speak of "neighbour" has no meaning in a world where the many is ultimate. To speak of "me" has no meaning at all either. So, in our day, the Athenian evolutionists struggle (and fail utterly) to attribute meaning to mankind whom, they fatuously and stupidly assert, has arisen from an ocean of pure chance.

Behind all unbelieving religions, philosophies and rationalisms of the Unbelieving Mind lies an absolute irrationalism. This means that every unbelieving mind is fundamentally irrational. That is why the Bible declares, "The fool has said in his heart that God does not exist." (Psalm 14:1)

But there is another watershed between belief and unbelief, Jerusalem and Athens, that is found in Genesis 1--3. Because God created ex-nihilo and is absolutely independent of the creation, there is no "chain of being" that exists between God and man (or the world). By "chain of being" we mean a conception or belief that God and man share the same "stuff"--or that part of man is like God, or that God in some ways is like man and that man and God in some way share the same being or substance.

In contrast, the Unbelieving Mind always posits a chain of being between man and god, whether personal or impersonal, however he/she/it is conceived to be. It is yet another fundamental assertion insisted upon by all unbelievers. There are a myriad manifestations of this "chain of being" concept: it is inevitably intrinsic to the Unbelieving heart--which we would expect, since the Unbeliever steadfastly refuses to believe that all things were created by God of nothing, and that the entire creation is therefore totally dependant upon Him.

But the Unbelieving Mind in its principles of unbelief excludes from the outset the very possibility of God's absolute aseity, and therefore insists that only a limited and dependant god can be countenanced. If the creation is not dependant upon God, then god(s) must be dependant upon the creation. It can only be one or the other. And the Unbelieving Mind is insistent on which "other" it has to be.

The most common conception of the "chain of being" is the idea that there is a spark of the divine within mankind. The Greeks were the first to frame this idea in a formal way. But the Christian church rapidly took it over, and it has resulted in the Church stumbling along ever since--which is to say that the principles of unbelief, or sin, still gnaw at the Church corporately, just as they do in every individual Christian's heart.

The idea is that there are lower and higher levels of being. At the bottom of the chain of being, the lowest level of being, is the primordial slime or amoeba. Then, further up the chain come non-sentient creatures or parts of the creation. Then, next, come sentient creatures (animals). Then comes man who is the highest sentient creature. He is a mixture of material, physical stuff and rationality. He has both a mind and a body. He also has a spirit. Then, further up the chain, is god. He is pure being in its purest form. He has no body, but is pure mind and spirit.

Man is part base (made of the lower orders of creation) and part divine (with a mind and spirit). God and man share the same stuff. Death is a great release for man, because he shuffles off the mortal, physical coil (his lower forms of existence) and becomes pure mind or spirit--in other words, he becomes divine-like.

Because the "chain-of-being" concept is so foundational to all unbelieving thought, we will return to it again and again to identify, illustrate and refute its errors and damage. At this stage it will suffice simply to identify it as one of the inevitable constructs of the unbelieving mind.

Genesis teaches us that God and the creation (including, therefore, man) do not share the same stuff at all. God exists in absolute, infinite self-sufficiency, completely independent of, and transcendent to, the creation. The infinite and the finite cannot share the same stuff or being. Once again the Shorter Catechism is helpful insofar as it drives home the absolute separation between God, the Creator and man, the creature. "God is a Spirit: infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth."

The Unbelieving Mind is utterly closed to the truth. It excludes from the beginning the very possibility that the God revealed in the Scriptures might be true. The Unbelieving Mind not only has no desire to proceed in a rational investigation on these matters, it cannot even conceive of the biblical constructs in the first place. That is why the Bible declares the unbeliever to be blind. The Unbelieving Mind therefore has only one possible response when confronted with these truths: a rejection of the person who has a Believing Mind.

In a certain isolated valley from time immemorial lived a community of congenitally blind people. Their entire recorded history and life experience was of an existence without sight. While they had learned much of the world in their valley, all their framing of the world and their experience of it was in terms of no-sight. One day a traveler came upon them. He began to speak about how wonderful their valley looked and the breathtaking scenery of the bush-clad hills. At first the inhabitants were puzzled. Then they became frustrated at his talk. It was was both heretical--attacking their fundamental beliefs about the world--and disrespectful of them and their culture. Soon they became angry and bitter toward the visitor. They seized him and threw him out of the valley. Many wanted to kill him.

In this parable, it is not the truth or the "facts" that were at issue. It was the blind inhabitants that were at issue. They, and the entirety of their collective world view, were fundamentally under attack by the seditious words of the seeing visitor. So, the Unbelieving Mind will not and cannot countenance the truths revealed in Holy Scripture, unless the Lord Himself, in mercy and grace, removes the hardened scales from the blind eyes.