Today, many in America will sit down and feast until their hearts (and bellies) are content. We are a blessed people, and it’s good and right that we are thankful for all of God’s provision. It is good to remember that many around the world will not feast on turkey… there will not be gravy on every table. For untold millions, their bellies will not be satisfied. But amongst those who’s bellies are full, even multitudes of them will not be satisfied—full maybe, but not satisfied.
This sad paradox is the reality of the fallen world that we live in, and it illustrates an important spiritual principle. Real satisfaction does not come from consumption, but from the Lord.
The prophet Haggai spoke to the nation, because of their neglect of the God:
“You have sown much, but harvest little; you eat, but there is not enough to be satisfied; you drink, but there is not enough to become drunk; you put on clothing, but no one is warm enough; and he who earns, earns wages to put into a purse with holes.” – Haggai 1:6
It is possible to have everything you need to sustain life, but never enough to make you truly satisfied.
Jesus presents a radically different proposition. He not only offers satisfaction, he delivers it! With Him, spiritual satisfaction is guaranteed. Jesus said: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” -Matthew 5:6
The Apostle Paul wrote about his own experience with satisfaction… “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.” -Philippians 4:11
Whether filled or hungry, Paul knew a contentment that was beyond physical, it was supernatural.
Remember the loaves and the fishes? The multitudes shared very little actual food. Their plates were not “full”, nevertheless, the scripture says: “They all ate and were satisfied” -Mark 6:42 Not only that,… there were 12 baskets of leftovers.
When we have a right relationship with Jesus, He gives to us a satisfaction that is beyond physical provision, beyond a temporary contentment, but a lasting, sustaining provision of Spiritual life. He Himself is the bread of life (John 6:48), and He alone Has the Living Water (John 4:10)
Today, let’s feast! Let’s feast in thankfulness for all of His provision! Let us eat of Him and drink of Him, and be truly satisfied, because with Him, satisfaction is guaranteed!
But at last he came to a part where it was more level and the valley opened out. And there, on the other side of the river, quite close to him, in the middle of a little plain between two hills, he saw what must be the White Witch’s House. -C. S. Lewis The Lion The Witch & The Wardrobe
Now when evening came David arose from his bed and walked around on the roof of the king’s house, and from the roof he saw a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful in appearance. -2 Samuel 11:2
For at the window of my house I looked out through my lattice, And I saw among the naive, And discerned among the youths A young man lacking sense, Passing through the street near her corner; And he takes the way to her house, In the twilight, in the evening, In the middle of the night and in the darkness. -Proverbs 7:6-9
And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living. -Luke 15:13
Sometimes the journey can seem like progress, going up as it were, for a while. It’s just steps. Sometimes they are few and sometimes many, but they can be steps… not up, but away.
Edmund’s steps were uphill, climbing to the castle. Urged on by appetite, he was enchanted by the taste of turkish delight and the promise of his own importance. Only the witch new how to appeal to the evil within him.
David’s steps were few and easy, as he was enticed by the desires of his eyes and the lust of his own sexual desire. Sometimes it only takes a few steps, or one wrong turn, to invite disaster.
The steps of “the young” man were “lacking sense”, they were careless and carefree, and he wandered into a snare. It might have been different had his steps been purposeful. If you don’t know where you are going, you are sure to get there.
The prodigal’s steps were rebellious and many. Blinded by his own desire for independence from his father, he took a road that led to the pigsty. Independence is immaturity, maturity is interdependence.
The Christian adventure is always that -an adventure! We walk by faith, nevertheless it should always be a careful walk. There are many signs that say “come this way” each appealing to some weakness of the flesh. They promise adventure, comfort, or riches, but they may be steps away rather than steps up.
Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. -Ephesians 5:15-17
I read a commentary recently regarding ISIS, the recent attacks in Paris, and San Bernardino, CA. The author drew a moral equivalent between what he referred to as radical Muslims and radical Christians, referencing the KKK and abortion clinic bombers as radical Christians along side the likes of the jihadists. Though he condemned acts of violence from both parties, I think he, like many, misunderstand and misapply the terms they use in respect to religion.
There are many labels being thrown around these days, creating much confusion about who is, and who is not, a radical as well as who is, and who is not, a moderate when it comes to the practice of these particular religious ideologies, and the confusion is not helpful as we try to combat the hate and violence that we are seeing with frightening frequency and intensity.
What does the term radical mean? Well, it can mean quite a variety of things depending upon the subject matter and the presupposition of the user of the term. One could say, for instance, that Jesus was a radical in terms of bringing a teaching that seemed contrary to the socio-religious climate of His day, yet I imagine that we would never categorize His commands to “love God” or “love your neighbor”1 as radical thoughts. Radical can mean extreme, fanatical, even militant, in a negative sense, or thorough, rigorous, and complete, in a positive sense.
While many scholars have sought to understand Muslim practice by deciphering the Qur’an, I think an examination of the actions of Mohammed and the origins of Islam, might be a better place to begin, just as an examination of Jesus’ life and early church practice helps to understand authentic christianity. In the study of these, we will find what is, and is not, truly radical in the positive sense of the word.
While it is true that Mohammed was a peaceful man in his early (Meccan period) years, preaching a peaceful message of tolerance, even advocating for orphans and widows, that cannot be said of his latter years. After moving to Medina in 622, the peaceful “prophet” became a warmongering murderer, inciting violence wherever he and his (now political) followers went.2 When we examine the historical record, we find that his most ardent followers, have in turn, created terror throughout the civilized world.3 These are not then radical in the negative sense of the word, but authentic Muslims -so radical, in the best sense of the word.
By contrast, when one examines the teachings and practice of Jesus and the first century Apostles, you find the highest teaching on love,4 morality,5 and sacrifice 6 that the world has ever know. The message of the gospel of Jesus is certainly an aggressive one, but it is one where love and reason are the methods of recruitment, rather than Mohammedan tactic of terror and coercion. You simply will not find, in the historical record, anything but the message of love, inspired by Jesus’ early followers. So, radical Christians, are individuals who strictly follow the examples and doctrines of Jesus and the Apostles, -they are radical lovers.
Some of the confusion is exacerbated by a misunderstanding of what it actually means to be a Christian. Many people in America self-identify as Christians, yet would not hold to many of the teachings of Jesus or the early church. For example, Jesus taught that to actually be a follower of His, one needed to be reborn spiritually,7 not simply claim His name.8 There are a great number of cultural Christians -individuals who identify as Christians, even attend church services, yet do not hold to many of the beliefs that Jesus taught. They may not be Christians at all, even though that is how they identify themselves.
The same is true with Islam. With an estimated 1.6 billion adherents,10 many of them are cultural muslims, who may practice some tenants of the faith, but live vastly different lives, and have much more secular views than the author of their tradition. These moderates are in fact, the Muslims that ISIS and it’s so-called radical counterparts have no problem killing as infidels. As one former Muslim, Brother Rachid, has testified in a statement directed at President Obama,”they consider them infidels and not Muslims.”11
Our secular society values impotent religion over what it considers fanatical religion. I believe that is a major contributing factor to what has become a confusion of terms. Many would like Christians to simply be nice people and be quiet about their faith, that is the politically correct and acceptable form of religious expression, and so they would like the same for practitioners of Islam. This is the false hope of President Obama, and many of the talking heads, but it is just that –a false hope. Neither authentic religious expression will be killed off. One will continue to kill, conquer, and subjugate, the other will, love, help, and give –until Messiah returns.
1. Matthew 22:36-40
2. “The Historical Muhammad:
The Good, the Bad, and the Downright Ugly” / David Wood, 4truth.net
3. “Jihad vs Crusades” / Bill Warner. PhD.
4.John 13:34; John 15:9 / Jesus Christ ; 1 Corinthians 13, Romans 5:8 / Paul the Apostle ; 1 Peter 4:8 / Peter the Apostle ; 1 John 4:7-15 / John the Apostle …the author could perhaps cite an endless amount of New Testament references.
5. Matthew 5
6. John 10:17;John 15:13; Romans 12
7. John 3:1-21
8. Matthew 7:21-23
9. Matthew 10:6;
10. Pew Research Center, April 2015
11. “A Message To President Obama From A Former Muslim”@6:12 / Brother Rachid
Then his servants came near and spoke to him and said, “My father, had the prophet told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” – 2 Kings 5:13
The story of Naaman is a great illustration of how our pride and religiosity can keep us from recieving God’s grace. Like Naaman, we are broken and in need of healing. But when the simple offer of salvation by grace comes to us, we think it’s too childlike, or not demanding enough. We look for ways to earn or pay for the favour we so desperately need.
As Naaman turned away from the prophet’s instruction to simply wash himself in the water of the Jordan, we too can refuse to follow the simple instructions of the Savior, “come, follow, and believe”. This pride often times keeps us in our desperate broken state, never receiving the assistance we truly need.
Friend, stop looking for ways to impress God, or earn His favour. Jesus has done that for you. All you need to do is come and recieve what He offers freely: forgiveness, peace, -life!
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30
I wanted to write something here about the rainbow. I logged into my WordPress account to write, only to be confronted yet again by a rainbow:
Even WordPress is on board with the rainbow theme. I went to the Chase ATM the other day and was greeted by a rainbow and the reminder that “it’s PRIDE month. I saw on WA State Governor Jay Inslee’s Instagram that they had hoisted the rainbow flag up alongside the state and national flags. It was interesting that the picture was taken at an angle that elevated the PRIDE flag above the others.
State Ferrys are flying the rainbow flags; (I was careful on the spelling there) Seattle painted 11 crosswalks with rainbow colors; even christian authors are using rainbow themes in their discussions of homosexual issues.
It all makes me wonder if anyone remembers where that rainbow came from and what it means?
In the words of Inigo Montoya, “I do not think it means what you think it means.”
The rainbow is a symbol or sign from God, and it is a reminder of things past. It is a reminder of the deluge.
Before the flood the sin on the earth was terrible.
Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. The LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD. –Genesis 6:5-8 (NASB)
God caused a worldwide flood that destroyed every man, woman, child, & animal, except those who were preserved by Him in the ark of Noah. For the first time in history there was rain, as the firmament above and depths below erupted with water.
God wiped away the wickedness of humanity and preserved Noah, a man of faith. When it was all over, God made a promise, that never again would He cause a worldwide flood to wipe out humanity. The bible tells us that God set a bow in the cloud as a reminder of this promise.
“I establish My covenant with you; and all flesh shall never again be cut off by the water of the flood, neither shall there again be a flood to destroy the earth.” God said, “This is the sign of the covenant which I am making between Me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all successive generations; I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth. “It shall come about, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow will be seen in the cloud, and I will remember My covenant, which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and never again shall the water become a flood to destroy all flesh. “When the bow is in the cloud, then I will look upon it, to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” And God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth.” –Genesis 9:11-17 (NASB)
Like all symbols, the rainbow means something: God, although a Righteous Judge, is also full of mercy.
There is another symbol that God has given for us to consider, it’s the cross. The cross is where the justice of a Righteous God was satisfied for sin. It’s also a place where the grace and mercy of God was demonstrated for all of humanity. God, gave His Son, Jesus, to pay the penalty for sin. The rainbow and the cross should remind us of the same things. God is righteous, and He has and will judge sin. But He has also provided escape by faith using a the ark, the cross, -symbols of His lovingkindness and salvation.
It would be nice to leave it there, however there is more to the rainbow. Matthew Henry has this to say:
“As the old world was ruined, to be a monument of justice, so this world remains to this day a monument of mercy. But sin, that drowned the old world, will burn this.” -Matthew Henry
Even as the prediluvian world was reviling in their sin prior to judgment, so the antediluvian world will be culminating in the same apostasies. Jesus spoke of the day in which the world could expect His return:
“For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. “For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be. –Matthew 24:37-39 (NASB)
Men and women are celebrating under a symbol that they do not understand. They are reviling in sin against God and nature. Although God has extended mercy and grace through Jesus,… like the ark, if people refuse to get on board (by faith in Jesus) -only judgement remains. Future judgement is a certain as it was in the past, and that judgement is not through water, but fire.
Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water.
But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. –2 Peter 3:3-9 (NASB)
I pray for our nation, our leaders, our world,… that many would come to repentance and put faith in Jesus, the only hope of salvation.
One cause of misery and vice is always present with us in the greed and pride of men, but at certain periods in history this is greatly increased by the temporary prevalence of some false philosophy. Correct thinking will not make good men of bad ones; but a purely theoretical error may remove ordinary checks to evil and deprive good intentions of their natural support. An error of this sort is abroad at present. I am not referring to the Power philosophies of the Totalitarian states, but to something that goes deeper and spreads wider and which, indeed, has given these Power philosophies their golden opportunity. I am referring to Subjectivism.
After studying his environment man has begun to study himself. Up to that point, he had assumed his own reason and through it seen all other things. Now, his own reason has become the object: it is as if we took out our eyes to look at them. Thus studied, his own reason appears to him as the epiphenomenona which accompanies chemical or electrical events in a cortex which is itself the by-product of a blind evolutionary process. His own logic, hitherto the king whom events in all possible worlds must obey, becomes merely subjective. There is no reason for supposing that it yields truth.
As long as this dethronement refers only to the theoretical reason, it cannot be wholehearted. The scientist has to assume the validity of his own logic (in the stout old fashion of Plato or Spinoza) even in order to prove that it is merely subjective, and therefore he can only flirt with subjectivism. It is true that this flirtation sometimes goes pretty far. There are modern scientists, I am told, who have dropped the words truth and reality out of their vocabulary and who hold that the end of their work is not to know what is there but simply to get practical results. This is, no doubt, a bad symptom. But, in the main, subjectivism is such an uncomfortable yokefellow for research that the danger, in this quarter, is continually counteracted.
But when we turn to practical reason the ruinous effects are found operating in full force. By practical reason I mean our judgement of good and evil. If you are surprised that I include this under the heading of reason at all, let me remind you that your surprise is itself one result of the subjectivism I am discussing. Until modern times no thinker of the first rank ever doubted that our judgements of value were rational judgements or that what they discovered was objective. It was taken for granted that in temptation passion was opposed, not to some sentiment, but to reason. Thus Plato thought, thus Aristotle, thus Hooker, Butler and Doctor Johnson. The modern view is very different. It does not believe that value judgements are really judgements at all. They are sentiments, or complexes, or attitudes, produced in a community by the pressure of its environment and its traditions, and differing from one community to another. To say that a thing is good is merely to express our feeling about it; and our feeling about it is the feeling we have been socially conditioned to have.
But if this is so, then we might have been conditioned to feel otherwise. “Perhaps,” thinks the reformer or the educational expert, “it would be better if we were. Let us improve our morality.” Out of this apparently innocent idea comes the disease that will certainly end our species (and, in my view, damn our souls) if it is not crushed; the fatal superstition that men can create values, that a community can choose its “ideology” as men choose their clothes. Everyone is indignant when he hears the Germans define justice as that which is to the interest of the Third Reich. But it is not always remembered that this indignation is perfectly groundless if we ourselves regard morality as a subjective sentiment to be altered at will. Unless there is some objective standard of good, overarching Germans, Japanese, and ourselves alike whether any of us obey it or no, then of course the Germans are as competent to create their ideology as we are to create ours. If “good” and “better” are terms deriving their sole meaning from the ideology of each people, then of course ideologies themselves cannot be better or worse than one another. Unless the measuring rod is independent of the things measured, we can do no measuring. For the same reason it is useless to compare the moral ideas of one age with those of another: progress and decadence are alike meaningless words.
All this is so obvious that it amounts to an identical proposition. But how little it is now understood can be gauged from the procedure of the moral reformer who, after saying that “good” means “what we are conditioned to like” goes on cheerfully to consider whether it might be “better” that we should be conditioned to like something else. What in Heaven’s name does he mean by “better”?
He usually has at the back of his mind the notion that if he throws over traditional judgement of value, he will find something else, something more “real” or “solid” on which to base a new scheme of values. He will say, for example, “We must abandon irrational taboos and base our values on the good of the community” – as if the maxim “Thou shalt promote the good of the community’ were anything more than a polysyllabic variant of ‘Do as you would be done by’ which has itself no other basis than the old universal value judgement that he claims to be rejecting. Or he will endeavor to base his values on biology and tell us that we must act thus and thus for the preservation of our species. Apparently he does not anticipate the question, ‘Why should the species be preserved?’ He takes it for granted that it should, because he is really relying on traditional judgements of value. If he were starting, as he pretends, with a clean slate, he could never reach this principle. Sometimes he tries to do so by falling back on “instinct.” “We have an instinct to preserve our species”, he may say. But have we? And if we have, who told us that we must obey our instincts? And why should we obey this instinct in the teeth of many others which conflict with the preservation of the species? The reformer knows that some instincts are to be obeyed more than others only because he is judging instincts by a standard, and the standard is, once more, the traditional morality which he claims to be superseding. The instincts themselves obviously cannot furnish us with grounds for grading the instincts in a hierarchy. If you do not bring a knowledge of their comparative respectability to your study of them, you can never derive it from them.
This whole attempt to jettison traditional values as something subjective and to substitute a new scheme of values for them is wrong. It is like trying to lift yourself by your own coat collar. Let us get two propositions written into our minds with indelible ink.
1)The human mind has no more power of inventing a new value than of planting a new sun in the sky or a new primary colour in the spectrum.
2)Every attempt to do so consists in arbitrarily selecting some one maxim of traditional morality, isolating it from the rest, and erecting it into an unum necessarium.
The second proposition will bear a little illustration. Ordinary morality tells us to honour our parents and cherish our children. By taking the second precept alone you construct a Futurist Ethic in which the claim of “posterity” are the sole criterion. Ordinary morality tells us to keep promises and also to feed the hungry. By taking the second precept alone you get a Communist Ethic in which “production,” and distribution of the products to the people, are the sole criteria. Ordinary morality tells us, ceteris paribus, to love our kindred and fellow citizens more than strangers. By isolating this precept you can get either an Aristocratic Ethic with the claims of our class as sole criterion, or a Racialist Ethic where no claims but those of blood are acknowledged. These monomaniac systems are then used as a ground from which to attack traditional morality; but absurdly, since it is from traditional morality alone that they derive such semblance of validity as they possess. Starting from scratch, with no assumptions about value, we could reach none of them. If reverence for parents or promises is a mere subjective by-product of physical nature, so is reverence for race or posterity. The trunk to whose root the reformer would lay the axe is the only support of the particular branch he wishes to retain.
All idea of “new” or “scientific” or “modern” moralities must therefore be dismissed as mere confusion of thought. We have only two alternatives. Either the maxims of traditional morality must be accepted as axioms of practical reason which neither admit nor require argument to support them and not to “see” which is to have lost human status; or else there are no values at all, what we mistook for values being “projections” of irrational emotions. It is perfectly futile, after having dismissed traditional morality with the question, ‘Why should we obey it?’ then to attempt the reintroduction of value at some later stage in our philosophy. Any value we reintroduce can be countered in just the same way. Every argument used to support it will be an attempt to derive from premises in the indicative mood a conclusion in the imperative. And this is impossible.
Against this view the modern mind has two lines of defence. The first claims that traditional morality is different in different times and places – in fact, that there is not one morality but a thousand. The second exclaims that to tie ourselves to an immutable moral code is to cut off all progress and acquiesce in stagnation. Both are unsound.
3Let us take the second one first. And let us strip it of the illegitimate emotional power it derives from the word ‘stagnation’ with its suggestion of puddles and mantled pools. If water stands too long it stinks. To infer thence that whatever stands long must be unwholesome is to be the victim of metaphor. Space does not stink because it has preserved its three dimensions from the beginning. The square on the hypotenuse has not gone moldy by continuing to equal the sum of the squares on the other two sides. Love is not dishonored by constancy, and when we wash our hands we are seeking stagnation and “putting the clock back,” artificially restoring our hands to the status quo in which they began the day and resisting the natural trend of events which would increase their dirtiness steadily from our birth to our death. For the emotive term ‘stagnant’ let us substitute the descriptive term ‘permanent.’ Does a permanent moral standard preclude progress? On the contrary, except on the supposition of a changeless standard, progress is impossible. If good is a fixed point, it is at least possible that we should get nearer and nearer to it; but if the terminus is as mobile as the train, how can the train progress towards it? Our ideas of the good may change, but they cannot change either for the better or the worse if there is no absolute and immutable good to which they can recede. We can go on getting a sum more and more nearly right only if the one perfectly right is “stagnant”.
And yet it will be said, I have just admitted that our ideas of good may improve. How is this to be reconciled with the view that “traditional morality” is a depositum fidei which cannot be deserted? The answer can be understood if we compare a real moral advance with a mere innovation. From the Stoic and Confucian, “Do not do to others what you would not like them to do to you”; to the Christian, “Do as you would be done by” is a real advance. The morality of Nietzsche is a mere innovation. The first is an advance because no one who did not admit the validity of the old maxim could see reason for accepting the new one, and anyone who accepted the old would at once recognize the new as an extension of the same principle. If he rejected it, he would have to reject it as a superfluity, something that went too far, not as something simply heterogeneous from his own ideas of value. But the Nietzschean ethic can be accepted only if we are ready to scrap traditional morals as a mere error and then to put ourselves in a position where we can find no ground for any value judgements at all. It is the difference between a man who says to us: “You like your vegetables moderately fresh; why not grow your own and have them perfectly fresh?” and a man who says, “Throw away that loaf and try eating bricks and centipedes instead.” Real moral advances, in fine, are made from within the existing moral tradition and in the spirit of that tradition and can be understood only in the light of that tradition. The outsider who has rejected the tradition cannot judge them. He has, as Aristotle said, no arche, no premises.
And what of the second modern objection – that the ethical standards of different cultures differ so widely that there is no common tradition at all? The answer is that is a lie – a good, solid, resounding lie. If a man will go into a library and spend a few days with the Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics he will soon discover the massive unanimity of the practical reason in man. From the Babylonian Hymn to Samos, from the Laws of Manu, the Book of the Dead, the Analects, the Stoics, the Platonists, from Australian aborigines and Redskins, he will collect the same triumphantly monotonous denunciations of oppression, murder, treachery, and falsehood, the same injunctions of kindness to the aged, the young, and the weak, of almsgiving and impartiality and honesty. He may be a little surprised (I certainly was) to find that precepts of mercy are more frequent than precepts of justice; but he will no longer doubt that there is such a thing as the Law of Nature. There are, of course, differences. There are even blindnesses in particular cultures – just as there are savages who cannot count up to twenty. But the pretence that we are presented with a mere chaos – though no outline of universally accepted value shows through – is wherever it is simply false and should be contradicted in season and out of season wherever it is met. Far from finding a chaos, we find exactly what we should expect if good is indeed something objective and reason the organ whereby it is apprehended – that is, a substantial agreement with considerable local differences of emphasis and, perhaps, no one code that includes everything.
The two grand methods of obscuring this agreement are these: First, you can concentrate on those divergences about sexual morality which most serious moralists regard as belonging to positive rather than to Natural Law, but which rouse strong emotions. Differences about the definition of incest or between polygamy and monogamy come under this head. (It is untrue to say that the Greeks thought sexual perversion innocent. The continual tittering of Plato is really more evidential than the stern prohibition of Aristotle. Men titter thus only about what they regard as, at least, a peccadillo: the jokes about drunkenness in Pickwick, far from proving that the nineteenth-century English thought it innocent, prove the reverse. There is an enormous difference of degree between the Greek view of perversion and the Christian, but there is not opposition.) The second method is to treat as differences in the judgement of value what are really differences in belief about fact. Thus human sacrifice, or persecution of witches, are cited as evidence of a radically different morality. But the real difference lies elsewhere. We do not hunt witches because we disbelieve in their existence. We do not kill men to avert pestilence because we do not think pestilence can thus be averted. We do “sacrifice” men in war, and we do hunt spies and traitors.
So far I have been considering the objections which unbelievers bring against the doctrine of objective value, or the Law of Nature. But in our days we must be prepared to meet objections from Christians too. “Humanism” and “liberalism” are coming to be used simply as terms of disapprobation, and both are likely to be so used of the position I am taking up. Behind them lurks a real theological problem. If we accept the primary platitudes of practical reason as the unquestioned premises of all action, are we thereby trusting our own reason so far that we ignore the Fall, and are retrogressively turning our absolute allegiance away from a person to an abstraction?
As regards the Fall, I submit that the general tenor of scripture does not encourage us to believe that our knowledge of the Law has been depraved in the same degree as our power to fulfil it. He would be a brave man who claimed to realize the fallen condition of man more clearly than St. Paul. In that very chapter (Roman 7) where he asserts most strongly our inability to keep the moral law he also asserts most confidently that we perceive the Law’s goodness and rejoice in it according to the inward man. Our righteousness may be filthy and ragged, but Christianity gives us no ground for holding that our perceptions of right are in the same condition. They may, no doubt, be impaired; but there is a difference between imperfect sight and blindness. A theology which goes about to represent our practical reason as radically unsound is heading for disaster. If we once admit that what God means by “goodness” is sheerly different from what we judge to be good, there is no difference left between pure religion and devil worship.
The other objection is much more formidable. If we once grant that our practical reason is really reason and that its fundamental imperatives are as absolute and categorical as they claim to be, then unconditional allegiance to them is the duty of man. So is absolute allegiance to God. And these two allegiances must, somehow, be the same. But how is the relation between God and the moral law to be represented? To say that the moral law is God’s law is no final solution. Are these things right because God commands them or does God command them because they are right? If the first, if good is to be defined as what God commands, then the goodness of God Himself is emptied of meaning and the commands of an omnipotent fiend would have the same claim on us as those of the “righteous Lord.” If the second, then we seem to be admitting a cosmic dyarchy, or even making God himself the mere executor of a law somehow external and antecedent to His own being. Both views are intolerable.
At this point we must remind ourselves that Christian theology does not believe God to be a person. It believes Him to be such that in Him a trinity of persons is consistent with a unity of Deity. In that sense it believes Him to be something very different from a person, just as a cube, in which six squares are consistent with unity of the body, is different from a square. (Flatlanders, attempting to imagine a cube, would either imagine the six squares coinciding, and thus destroy their distinctness, or else imagine them set out side by side, and thus destroy the unity. Our difficulties about the Trinity are of much the same kind.) It is therefore possible that the duality which seems to force itself upon us when we think, first, of our Father in Heaven, and, secondly, of the self-evident imperatives of the moral law, is not a mere error but a real (though inadequate and creaturely) perception of things that would necessarily be two in any mode of being which enters our experience, but which are not so divided in the absolute being of the superpersonal God. When we attempt to think of a person and a law, we are compelled to think of this person either as obeying the law or as making it. And when we think of Him as making it we are compelled to think of Him either as making it in conformity to some yet more ultimate pattern of goodness (in which case that pattern, and not He, would be supreme) or else as making it arbitrarily by a sic volo, sic jubeo (in which case He would be neither good nor wise). But it is probably just here that our categories betray us. It would be idle, with our merely mortal resources, to attempt a positive correction of our categories – ambulavi in mirabilibus supra me. But it might be permissible to lay down two negations: that God neither obeys nor creates the moral law. The good is uncreated; it never could have been otherwise; it has in it no shadow of contingency; it lies, as Plato said, on the other side of existence. It is the Rita of the Hindus by which the gods themselves are divine, the Tao of the Chinese from which all realities proceed. But we, favoured beyond the wisest pagans, know what lies beyond existence, what admits no contingency, what lends divinity to all else, what is the ground of all existence, is not simply a law but also a begetting love, a love begotten, and the love which, being these two, is also imminent in all those who are caught up to share the unity of their self-caused life. God is not merely good, but goodness; goodness is not merely divine, but God.
These may seem fine-spun speculations: yet I believe that nothing short of this can save us. A Christianity which does not see moral and religious experience converging to meet at infinity, not at a negative infinity, but in the positive infinity of the living yet superpersonal God, has nothing, in the long run, to divide it from devil worship; and a philosophy which does not accept value as eternal and objective can lead us only to ruin. Nor is the matter of merely speculative importance. Many a popular “planner” on a democratic platform, many a mild-eyed scientist in a democratic laboratory means, in the last resort, just what the Fascist means. He believes that “good” means whatever men are conditioned to approve. He believes that it is the function of him and his kind to condition men; to create consciences by eugenics, psychological manipulation of infants, state education and mass propaganda. Because he is confused, he does not yet fully realize that those who create conscience cannot be subject to conscience themselves. But he must awake to the logic of his position sooner or later; and when he does, what barrier remains between us and the final division of the race into a few conditioners who stand themselves outside morality and the many conditioned in whom such morality as the experts choose is produced at the experts’ pleasure? If “good” means only the local ideology, how can those who invent the local ideology be guided by any idea of good themselves? The very idea of freedom presupposes some objective moral law which overarches rulers and ruled alike. Subjectivism about values is eternally incompatible with democracy. We and our rulers are of one kind only so long as we are subject to one law. But if there is no Law of Nature, the ethos of any society is the creation of its rulers, educators and conditioners; and every creator stands above and outside his creation.
Unless we return to the crude and nursery-like belief in objective values, we perish. If we do, we may live, and such a return might have one minor advantage. If we believed in the absolute reality of elementary moral platitudes, we should value those who solicit our votes by other standards than have recently been in fashion. While we believe that good is something to be invented, we demand of our rulers such qualities as “vision,” “dynamism,” “creativity,” and the like. If we returned to the objective view we should demand qualities much rarer, and much more beneficial – virtue, knowledge, diligence and skill. ‘Vision’ is for sale, or claims to be for sale, everywhere. But give me a man who will do a day’s work for a day’s pay, who will refuse bribes, who will not make up his facts, and who has learned his job.