Signals of Transcendence

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Os Guinness, in his outstanding new book Fools’ Talk: Recovering the Art of Christian Persuasionpage 139:

The foundational assumption is always the same. Whatever anyone claims is the truth over against God’s view of truth, the real truth is still the truth, always the truth, and it points toward its Creator. We are therefore homesick for truth, and through the signals of transcendence the whole of creation is inviting us to think of its Creator—and ours. Inevitably and inescapably, then, all who will not hear the signals, and all who hear them but refuse to follow them, condemn themselves to be restless. This is already the chronic state of unbelievers in the fallen world, but the problem is made worse under the conditions of the advanced modern world, and especially in the world of consumerism and its disordered desires. For a consumer society thrives by stoking unquenchable desires into unsustainable cravings and fanning them with an inflated rage for rights. The restlessness it creates by providing false satisfactions and deadening true desires simultaneously fuels the economy and destroys happiness.

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22 Responses to “ Signals of Transcendence ”

  1. Seven or eight years ago I attended a talk by an Oxford educated professor of philosophy who also happened to be a committed Christian. I hesitate to call him a Christian philosopher because he worked for secular, state run or public university. However, as a Christian and part of his personal ministry he did speak and teach quite regularly at various local churches, mainly on ethical issues. I don’t remember what he was talking about that evening but I do remember a statement he made. He said during his talk that “Christians don’t have a world view; we have the truth.”

    I wasn’t completely convinced by what he said at the time. It reminded me of a theological fad and slogan that became popular during the 1970’s: “Christians don’t have a religion; we have a relationship.” While that in a very real sense is certainly true, it is still useful at times, in my opinion, to talk about Christianity as a religion. I think it’s actually biblical to think of Christianity that way.

    In the same way, while I think there was a lot of merit to what the professor was arguing, I still think it is useful to think of Christianity as a world view. However, I totally agree with him we need to be convinced that our world view is the true world view. We need to be reasoning and arguing from a position power, conviction and confidence. The secularists and skeptics need to be engaging us according to our rules, not theirs. Our confidence in what we believe is a lot more important than the terminology that we use.

  2. Every religion believes that they are the holders of the truth. Muslim, Hindu, Mormon, Christian – they all believe that they have the true God and that anyone who does not believe what they believe is wrong. Obviously, they can’t all be right. Most, if not all, have to be wrong. The problem is how one determines who is right and who is wrong. No one that I know of has come up with a reliable method for determining which religion is the correct one.

  3. As Christian apologists we are not asking people to individually examine and sort through all the worlds’ religions. That would be a rather difficult, demanding and daunting task. Rather we are asking people to approach the question of truth by comparing basic world views. While there are a lot of religions, there are relatively few basic world views. For example, Christianity is based on a theistic world view opposed to pantheism or naturalism. In the west the primary debate for the past few hundred years has been between theism and various forms of naturalism.

    I think I can give an argument using five basic reasons—answers to some basic philosophical questions– why Christianity is true. Most theists will agree with me on the first four. Naturalist on the other hand, cannot provide an equivalent set of reasons to the underlying philosophical questions. For example, why is the universe intelligible? There is no good answer from a naturalistic perspective; there is from a theistic one.

    Can I prove Christian theism is true? No—no one can prove that his world view is true. However, I can argue that Christian theism provides the best answers to some basic philosophical questions—questions we all ask and try to answer. This is the approach that Francis Schaeffer, Os Guinness’ mentor, took. It’s also the approach that Guinness and virtually all contemporary apologists take.

    Here very succinctly are the reasons I believe Christianity is true.

    Christian theism provides:

    1. An ultimate explanation for existence. Why does anything at all exist?

    2. An explanation for the nature of existence. Why does the universe appear to exhibit design and purpose?

    3. A sufficient foundation for truth, knowledge and meaning.

    4. A sufficient foundation for moral values and duties.

    5. An ultimate solution for mankind’s moral and spiritual crisis.

    Of course, more can be and needs to be said about each one of these reasons.

  4. Thanks for responding, JAD. You ask some very good questions.

    As Christian apologists we are not asking people to individually examine and sort through all the worlds’ religions. That would be a rather difficult, demanding and daunting task. Rather we are asking people to approach the question of truth by comparing basic world views.

    You don’t want people to sort through all of the world’s religions(A) but you want them to examine all of their worldviews(B). I think performing B is going to be nearly as daunting as performing B.

    Here very succinctly are the reasons I believe Christianity is true.

    Christian theism provides:

    1. An ultimate explanation for existence. Why does anything at all exist?

    2. An explanation for the nature of existence. Why does the universe appear to exhibit design and purpose?

    3. A sufficient foundation for truth, knowledge and meaning.

    4. A sufficient foundation for moral values and duties.

    5. An ultimate solution for mankind’s moral and spiritual crisis.

    Of course, more can be and needs to be said about each one of these reasons.

    I suspect followers of other religions, including but not limited to Islam and Hinduism, come to the same conclusions for their religion, too. This does nothing but reaffirm to the believer of a particular religion that their religion is true. These are generally the questions most religions answer for their followers but it does nothing to separate the true religion from the many false ones.

  5. Patrick Reynolds,

    You don’t want people to sort through all of the world’s religions (A) but you want them to examine all of their worldviews (B). I think performing B is going to be nearly as daunting as performing B.

    If you do the work that I and others have done (including some former sceptics), you’ll find that it’s not that daunting at all. It does, however, require some honest desire or curiosity.

    Please be careful to read what I write and notice the terms that I use and how I use them. Notice that above @#3 I said basic world views: “we are asking people to approach the question of truth by comparing basic world views.” For example, Judaism, Christianity and Islam are all theistic religions which means that they share at the basic level a theistic world view. Because they are all theistic their explanation as to “why anything at all exists” (reason #1 above) is very similar. Christian philosopher William Lane Craig, for example, goes back to medieval Muslim philosophers such as al-Kindi and al-Ghazali, to develop a modern form of the kalam cosmological argument. Kalam is an Arabic term which according to Collins English Dictionary means “discussion and debate, esp relating to Islamic theology.”

    As theists, Jews, Christians and Muslims all believe that the existence of the universe– and everything in it– can be explained by an eternally-existing, transcendent personal being who is the ground of all being. By contrast, what is the explanation for the existence of the universe from a non-theistic perspective? As far as I can see non-theists (naturalists, pantheists etc.) must rely on some kind of infinite regress, either linear or cyclical. But how can an infinite regress ever be said to be an ultimate explanation? With an infinite regress of finite causes you never reach an ultimate explanation, because every explanation is explained (or caused) by something immediately prior to it, which in turn is explained by something prior to it… prior to it… prior to it… forever and ever. You never reach THE explanation.

    So right off the bat, when we focus on basic world views, we can see there is a big difference between theistic and non-theistic world views. The explanations are not the same, nor are they equal.

    Of course, there is much more to a Christian-theistic world view than just intellectual arguments. Indeed many people don’t see the intellectual arguments because the do not want to see them (Romans 1:18-22, 1 Corinthians 2:14.)

  6. Patrick,

    As JAD has explained, it’s not too hard to understand the difference in worldviews between naturalism and theism. It’s also not that difficult to see the difference in worldviews between Christianity and most of the rest of the world’s religions.

    The basic paradigm of the majority of the world’s religions goes something like this. You must do “A” and “B” and “C” to make yourself acceptable to God. Those things include things like what you eat, how much you pray and how you act.

    Christianity, on the other hand, offers a different paradigm. Instead of telling you what you must do to to be acceptable to God, it tells you what God has done for you to make you acceptable to him. It’s not about what you eat or do but only in believing in who came and did all that for you.

    These two paradigms couldn’t be more different. One asks you to earn God’s favor and love. The other asks you to believe that God loves you and gives you his acceptance and love in an act of grace. In one, it’s strive without ceasing. In the other, it’s rest assured in his gift of love.

    You don’t have to sort through all the world’s religions. If you start with a reasonable understanding of what the basics of their worldview describe it simplifies the process immensely.

  7. “At the center of all religions is the idea of karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics — in physical laws — every action is met by an equal or an opposite one. It’s clear to me that karma is at the very heart of the universe. I’m absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called grace to upend all that “as you sow, so you will reap” stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff.” (Bono)

  8. I just listened again to Eric Metaxas’ July 17, 2015 interview of Os Guinness about his new book. The following are a few thoughts I had. Some of it agrees with what Guinness talked about, most of it is my own thinking.

    I think Christian apologists sometimes make the mistake of focusing too heavily on intellectual arguments. Part of this has to do with recent church history. Christian apologetics of any kind was virtually lacking in the first half of the twentieth. Christian theology in general– conservative, liberal and neo-orthodox– appears to have been dominated by a vague form of fideism. No doubt the contemporary apologetics movement is, perhaps subconsciously, trying to overcompensate for this. Unfortunately this just creates new problems.

    I think we need to keep apologetics in the broader context of evangelism. Evangelism is not just about giving rational answers. It begins with a call to repentance. The gospel is good news but only to those who confess their sins and repent. That is why the gospel is something that needs to be preached. If Christians are going to have any influence on culture and society preaching, about mankind’s moral fallibility and the devastating effects of sin, is something that we must do. It is not optional.

    My point here is that truth, from a Christian evangelistic-apologetic perspective, is multi-dimensional. Think of a tripod or a three legged stool. For the tripod or the stool to sit stably you need all three legs, about equal length more or less equally spaced. To carry out the evangelistic-apologetic mission we need more than persuasive logically sound intellectual arguments (the 1st leg); we also need strong moral arguments (the 2nd leg) along with spiritual arguments (the 3rd leg).

    Obviously then, arguing doesn’t always mean reasoning. Sometimes it means confronting, or as I mentioned in a preceding paragraph, it means preaching. This requires a lot more courage and boldness—something that I see as badly lacking in the church today. Unfortunately many Christians have bought in the idea that love means niceness, but love is not always nice. When a father disciplines a child he’s not being nice. Yet he’s disciplining his child because he loves him. Other times we are not really arguing or reasoning but teaching and informing.

    I think we need apologetics but apologetics alone is not going to do the job. We need to see it in the broader context of evangelism.

    Finally we need to rely on the work of the Holy Spirit. Jesus himself taught evangelism is the work of the Holy Spirit (John 16:8-11).

    8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

    13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth…

    Notice that the Holy Spirit is not being nice.

  9. Good day all,

    I want to start by saying that I am a deeply religious Theist and I would love to see the great religious paths, found in the bible, become universally accepted. The Old Testament’s path of God’s Will, or what might be called the path of correct or honorable behavior is sorely needed today. The New Testament’s divine path of love is also essential.

    However, I have a real problem with churches that take the Bible too literally, and here is why. Beyond all things I love and worship God. God is more loving than Jesus, more enlightened than the Buddha, more honorable than Washington, wiser than Einstein, and more beautiful than any creature that ever walked the earth. God is more reasonable than any man and this is inconsistent with many things that are attributed to God in the Bible.

    The idea that a criminal can confess his sins and believe, and then be saved, whereas Gandhi is sent to hell because he is Hindu is ridiculous, and I cannot believe that God is ridiculous.

    My almost constant prayer is that the Christian Church can break from this old God demeaning dogma and become God centered rather than book centered. It is only your relationship with God that counts after all.

  10. Love is a peculiar affair.

    That is to say – love compels reason towards the Triune God – and – thereby – into Christ.

    Love’s ontological landscape is a peculiar affair as logic compels convergence with that very landscape such that should self-giving love in fact be the elemental nature of The True, should self-giving love in fact be the constitutional shape of The Good, then it is inescapable that we have what the Naturalist and the Unitarian cannot truthfully give to us – ever – and what they therefore cannot truthfully assert – ever – as we arrive at what David Bentley Hart describes as the “….absolutely singular and indivisible reality which no inventory of material constituents and physical events will ever be able to eliminate. Here again, and as nowhere else, we are dealing with an irreducibly primordial datum.” The Christian’s sweeping claim conveys us to love’s eternally sacrificed self – to the end of all things where we discover the express image of such other-filling amid the express image of such self-emptying within what can only be a metaphysical singularity. How odd that love’s contours inevitably deliver us into something not only uniquely triune but by all accounts into something necessarily triune as the metaphysical singularity of volitional love’s ceaseless reciprocity amid all that is Self/Other/Us within the Triune God instantiates that very footprint – image – across Mankind’s entire potentiality, across Mankind’s entire actuality. And it is that which is the metaphysical locus where the Christian semantics of potentiality transpose to the Christian semantics of actuality.

    David Bentley Hart, in his “The Beauty of the Infinite: The Aesthetics of Christian Truth”, touches on such a God of love – the truly divine – Himself filling, sustaining, and actualizing the truly human:

    “God’s apatheia is that infinite refuge from all violence and suffering that is the heart’s rest, the deathless glory for which creation was shaped in the beginning as its tabernacle, which in Christ has been joined indivisibly to our nature, and which will achieve its perfect indwelling in creation in the final divinization of all the heirs of glory and the transfiguration of the cosmos. It is also well to remember that, for Christian thought, divine impassibility is the effect of the fullness of trinitarian charity, rather than a purely negative attribute logically implied by the thought of divine simplicity and bodilessness, and so is properly synonymous with “infinite love” – for love, even for creatures, is not primordially a reaction, but the possibility of every action, the act that makes all else actual; it is purely positive, sufficient in itself, without the need of any galvanism of the negative to be fully active, vital, and creative. That said, for Christian tradition, no less than for pagan metaphysics, to speak of God’s impassibility is to assert that the divine nature is in itself immutable and immune to suffering, that God is impervious to any force – any pathos or affect – external to his nature, and that he is incapable of experiencing shifting emotions within himself. And this is why the teaching has become as scandalous to many modern ears as was the other side of the same mystery – that the immortal and changeless God had entered into time and space, had lived a human life, suffered in the flesh, and died a human death – to the ears of antiquity.

    Clearly those who want to reject the language of divine immutability and impassibility, misguided though they be, generally want only to do justice to the Word’s incarnation and crucifixion: it seems simply obvious, after all, that here we must be talking about a change within the being of God, and of a suffering endured by God, and so in both cases of a capacity endemic to his nature. From the vantage of the cross, how can the traditional metaphysical attributions of divine transcendence not appear to obscure a clear understanding of who God has shown himself to be? What does it profit one to assert, along with Cyril of Alexandria, that Christ “was in the crucified body appropriating the sufferings of the flesh to himself impassibly”?”‘ Or, with Melito of Sardis, that “the impassible passible suffered”? How can one avoid the sort of “contradictions” that litter the christological treatises of Cyril, for instance, who insisted with more fervor and ferocity than any other theologian of the early church upon the absolute unity of Christ, the perfect simplicity of the identity of the incarnate Logos in all his acts, and yet who apparently felt bound by metaphysical commitments with which this unity seems incompatible? “When the only-begotten Word of God became a human being, he did so not by discarding his being as God, but by remaining, within the assumption of the flesh, that which he was. For the nature of the Word is immutable and unalterable, and can suffer no shadow of change’. Rather than trading in paradoxes, why not lay down our metaphysics at the foot of the cross? The truth is, however, that we err when we read such phrases principally as paradoxes; they are actually intended as formulae for explaining, quite lucidly, the biblical story of our salvation in Christ. To begin with, the denial that the incarnation of Christ is a change in God’s nature is not a denial that it is a real act of the living God, really coming to partake of our nature, nor certainly is it an attempt to evade the truth that, as the Second Council of Constantinople put it, “one of the Trinity suffered in the flesh.” The divine person of the Logos – the only hypostasis to which the humanity of Jesus belongs longs – has really, through his humanity, suffered every extreme of human dereliction and pain and has truly tasted of death. What the Fathers were anxious to reject, however, was any suggestion that God becoming human was an act of divine self-alienation….. a transformation into a reality essentially contrary to what God eternally is: for this would mean that God must negate himself as God to become human – which would be to say God did not become human.

    Hence, a strict distinction must be drawn between the idea of divine change and that of divine kenosis. When Scripture says “the Logos became flesh says Cyril, the word “became” signifies not any change in God but only the act of self-divesting love whereby God the Son emptied himself of his glory, while preserving his immutable and impassible nature intact.’ God did not, he says (here following Athanasius), alter or abandon his nature in any way, but freely appropriated the weakness and poverty of our nature for the work of redemption. And Augustine makes precisely the same distinction: “When he accepted the form of a slave, he accepted time. Did he therefore change? Was he diminished? Was he sent into exile? Did he fall into defect? Certainly not. What then does it mean, `he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave?’ It means he is said to have emptied himself out by accepting the inferior, not by degenerating from equality.””‘

    This may appear at first to be a distinction without a difference, but it is in fact a quite logical and necessary clarification of terms, which can be justified on many grounds. For one thing, the absolute qualitative disproportion between infinite and finite allows for the infinite to appropriate and accommodate the finite without ceasing to be infinite; as all the perfections that compose a creature as what it is have their infinite and full reality in God, then the self-emptying of God in his creature is not a passage from what he is to what he is not, but a gracious condescension by which the infinite is pleased truly to disclose and express itself in one instance of the finite. Indeed, in this sense, to say God does not change in the incarnation is almost a tautology: God is not something that can be transformed into another thing, but is the being of everything, to which all that is always already properly belongs; there is no change of nature needed for the fullness of being to assume – even through self-impoverishment – a being as the dwelling place of its mystery and glory.

    Moreover, as human being is nothing at all in itself but the image and likeness of God, then the perfect dwelling of the eternal image and likeness of God – the Logos – in the one man who perfectly expresses and lives out what it is to be human, is in no sense an alien act for God. The act by which the form of God appears in the form of a slave is the act by which the infinite divine image shows itself in the finite divine image: this then is not a change, but a manifestation, of who God is. And finally, and most crucially, the very action of kenosis is not a new act for God, because God’s eternal being is, in some sense, kenosis – the self-outpouring of the Father in the Son, in the joy of the Spirit. Thus Christ’s incarnation, far from dissembling bling his eternal nature, exhibits not only his particular proprium as the Son and the splendor of the Father’s likeness, but thereby also the nature of the whole trinitarian taxis. On the cross we see this joyous self-donation sub contrario, certainly, but not in alieno. For God to pour himself out, then, as the man Jesus, is not a venture outside the trinitarian life of indestructible love, but in fact quite the reverse: it is the act by which creation is seized up into the sheer invincible pertinacity of that love, which reaches down to gather us into its triune motion.”

    We come, inevitably, to the contours of “…the God who is glorified by sacrificing Himself for creation and not by sacrificing creation for Himself……” (Fischer).

    It is as peculiar affair that the Unitarian cannot fathom Christ for, if we pull back to mere creation we find all his fears in-play, fully intact as two natures are there too found in a singularity (the created order). In denying such he (the Unitarian) is denying all that is reality itself. It is that or else he must (first) embrace either one of two absurdities for, as one follows out the implications of “pure material” or “pure created contingency” which is, somehow, a stand-alone void of God – that is to say – void of Being Itself, one (thereby) must embrace, on some level somewhere as one tracks it out, either Deism or Occasionalism, and also, one must then (secondly) embrace the Materialist’s reductionism and deny the necessity of transposition.

    What shall we call the metaphysical contours of love? Pure created contingency? Or perhaps purely human? And so on – and so on. Of course not. There is no “problem” with two natures within a singularity – for all that exists just is this or that degree of such. And as we ponder that it becomes unavoidable that the very Logos of God with certainty can and with certainty does birth, generate, sustain, fill, animate, and – therein – become the very essence of the outworking of the Divine Mind. In fact – where created worlds are concerned – it becomes glaringly obvious that such an ontological seam is inescapable. That such can obtain independent of Man, or through Man, or in Man, or in spite of Man, or what have you, is certain. But His motion is clear and so we need not guess: Logos – His Image – the image of an infinite love – the fully divine – will circumscribe, constitute, fill, the fully human.

    Love compels our deepest suspicions even as logic affirms their fundamental substance.

    Should self-giving love in fact be the elemental nature of The True, should self-giving love in fact be the constitutional shape of The Good, then it is inescapable that we have what the Naturalist and the Unitarian cannot truthfully give to us – ever – and what they therefore cannot truthfully assert – ever – as we arrive at such silhouettes within the necessity of that “….. irreducibly primordial datum.” The Christian’s sweeping claim conveys us to love’s eternally sacrificed self – to the end of all things where we discover the express image of such other-filling amid the express image of such self-emptying within what can only be a metaphysical singularity.

    How uncanny that love’s contours inevitably deliver us into something not only uniquely triune but by all accounts into something necessarily triune as we are carried into the metaphysical singularity of volitional love’s ceaseless reciprocity amid all that just is the seamless simplicity of Self/Other/Us within the Triune God. If love is anything – and it is – then we find our suspicions compelled by both logic and love into the contours of the Triune God – what David Bentley Hart terms “….. the infinite wellspring of being, consciousness, and bliss that is the source, order, and end of all reality.”

  11. scbrownlhrm; I am only a temporary visitor to this site, but I have to say that that was a beautiful post. Human logic is limited and in my opinion cannot grasp the reality of being both infinite and finite. We seem compelled to say that a thing must be one or the other.

    Interestingly there is an example in nature that defies our simple logic in a similar way. It is called the wave-particle duality. This states that things have a dual nature, they are both particle like and wave like, and not one or the other. I know that this is not the same as the argument you are making but it does defy logic in the same way.

    I think it is funny that scientists have been trying to disprove this duality ever since we were forced by experiment to accept it. I think their motivation comes from the fact that they cannot accept a reality which defies simple logic.

    One final comment. The wisdom contained within your post is not confined to Christianity. An educated Hindu would agree with you without reservation.

  12. Ron,

    I agree in large part. In fact, C.S. Lewis also noted that he held materialism to be the philosophy of boys whereas Christianity and Hinduism alone (he felt) had enough metaphysical “oomph” to be worth considering. Obviously they diverge at various ontological stopping points here and there, hence the eventual and (metaphysically) necessary distinctions amid Pantheism and Christianity………

  13. Ron,

    Welcome.

    I’m not sure if you read my above post (#8) but your suggestion in your #11 leaves us quite firmly, I believe, with “the religions that aren’t Christianity” and the above mentioned problem of having to prove our worth to Him. There seems no middle ground here. I know of no religion that offers any alternatives to the contrasting requirements of “the religions that aren’t Christianity” to the grace offered by it.

    I also think it a misstatement that “God is more loving than Jesus”. They, as the members if the Trinity, define and embody love in their eternal relationship with each other. That we say God is love is to say that Christ and the Holy Spirit are essential requirements for that love to exist. To deny Christ and the grace offered to us by and through his sacrifice is to reject God, his wisdom and his love.

  14. scbrownlhrm and BillT thank you for your comments.

    BillT,

    I have read all of the posts and I do not doubt Jesus’ divinity. It is just that I believe God is even more than love. I believe in grace and that grace is the only way to heaven, but I also believe we are expected to do our part. We should work to make the world a better place and try to embody the Christ. I believe this is expected even though it does not lead to heaven.

    scbrownlhrm,

    I have a passion about making the essence of the Old Testament accessible to all of humanity. This will improve our civilization, but I had no idea how to approach this. After reading your post #12 I had some thoughts.

    It seems to me that the Old Testament is about God’s will and authority and rules to live by. It differs from the New Testament in that it does not stress unconditional love. This brings me to the idea.

    If the New Testament is about God appearing as infinite perfect love and giving us the divine path of love, then the Old Testament is about God appearing as infinite perfect honor and giving us the divine path of honor. We are meant to follow the will of God, but we must find a way that is universal and not ethnocentric. That is the path. Jesus told us to love without judging, or unconditionally. Perhaps the goal of the path of honor is to honor unconditionally. I’m not sure that makes sense. It is an idea in its infancy.

  15. Ron,

    An awareness of Honor “there”, and then an awareness of Love “here” is an interesting approach. It is true to a degree – but we must be careful that we do not ascribe to such things (awareness, knowledge) the work of God’s creative means, as such is not how God goes about creating “Man”. And there is a reason for saying that.

    In a way that sort of loops back to Bill T’s comments earlier and perhaps I can sketch that out a bit further:

    God is Moral Excellence – and – Moral Excellence is God and we don’t find the path into Moral Excellence inside of the OT. According to Scripture, that is.

    In a way, for us to emphasize Mankind’s awareness of honor here, and then Mankind’s awareness of love there, and so on, is an appeal to Knowledge as God’s means to change Man.

    However, both Scripture and the brutal repeatability of observational reality affirm that Knowledge does not change Mankind’s nature – Mankind’s ontological location.

    So I think we have to be careful not to dissect reality into parts (honor here, love there) but rather we need to be observant of the harsh reality of Man’s condition even as we need to be observant of the singular narrative which Scripture is levying atop that condition. It would be a mistake to read the OT as God’s emphasis on a part of the Good (honor) and the NT as an emphasis on another part of the Good (love) given that the narrative which we find in Scripture’s whole is that God emphasizes The Good as the means and ends in-play, and of course it is only God Himself which sums to that. He comes with Himself as Man’s final, and true, good. If we say “honor” and by that we mean (and can mean) “God”, well that would be fine. If we say “love” and by that we mean (and can mean) “God”, well that would be fine. But Honor and Love as some lesser something short of “Final Reality” (short of God) would in fact fail (according to the Christian). God does not come to bring Man to honor – but to Himself, just as, God does not come to bring Man to love – but to Himself. That God is love solves the moral ontology in question – but I think we have to have our horse before our cart, so to speak (if we mean to understand Scripture).

    If one looks into the OT expecting to find a path into Moral Excellence then one has misread Scripture – has misread both the OT and the NT as each affirms one, single meta-narrative. Overall the OT affirms that the Law is not and would never be the conduit by which Moral Excellence would stream into Mankind. Hence Bill T.’s earlier comments about the futility of behavior to pull Man up into moral excellence – into God. We live in a world of Laws and none of it carries us to the nature of Man’s final felicity. The metaphysical impossibility of all of that is lost on the Skeptic who misreads Moses as somehow that which is supposed to be Scripture’s declared mechanism of “actually changing” the ontological location of Man (which is simply the inside of a painful privation).

    Law contains – it does not redeem, does not change. Law constrains death – it does not create, infuse, life.

    What else does Scripture define as insufficient?

    Well, faith in God, trusting in God – there in the OT – as we find described in Hebrews 11 – is insufficient. It too fails to suffice as Man’s path into Moral Excellence – into God. In general terms, Faith is necessary – but it is not sufficient. Faith, or Trust, is a conduit – an aqueduct – a hollow – but unless All Sufficiency Himself – God – pours Himself out – and into – said conduit, said aqueduct, Man has no hope.

    Another way to see these insufficiencies is to see that the OT affirms Christ’s words in that God simultaneously both *hates* “behavior x” (like, say, divorce) and yet regulates actual, real acts of “behavior x” with such contours of, say, “When doing X, do it this way here, and do it that way there” (and so on). The ontology of that is lost on the Critic’s/Skeptic’s anti-intellectual silliness of “God condones slavery! God condones divorce! God condones X!” (…..just between me and you they seem to have a hard time digesting the *whole* narrative of a *whole* book and are always getting lost inside of one paragraph….. wink wink….).

    Knowledge of honor and love isn’t enough. Knowledge period isn’t enough (that isn’t how God creates Man). Knowledge does not create, infuse, life – and Knowledge is subject to decay – can be lost – and hence cannot redeem.

    God’s ends for Man is Himself – and yet Man’s nature finds no path out of his privation vis-à-vis Moses just as Man’s nature finds no path into God vis-à-vis Moses. Even Hebrews 11 – Faith in God there in the Old Man / OT – cannot change Man’s ontological location – Man’s nature. As Bill T alluded to, and as both the OT and the NT affirm, the mechanism for a change of Man’s nature literally, factually cannot ever be Law – nor the behavior / obedience which it circumscribes. Law contains – it does not redeem, does not change. Law constrains death – it does not create, infuse, life.

    In the same way, the OT affirms that it (the OT itself) is the lesser, the incomplete, that which lacks, just as the OT affirms that the greater, the complete, the total, would be up ahead, over the horizon – and Christ there emerges as the New Creation instantiates the peculiar semantics of incarnation actualizing within time and physicality – not the finite morphing the Infinite – but the Infinite morphing the finite (as alluded to in earlier comments).

    Hence, to bisect the singular metanarrative of scripture into parts (honor there, love here) or to lift up Knowledge/Awareness of moral facts to the level of sufficiency is to look for God where God is not. In the same way, to look into the OT with the expectation that one will find the path to Moral Excellence is to misread the singularity that is “Scripture”, or, it is to misread the singularity that is the “meta-narrative” of the OT/NT as a whole.

    The Bible is One. To misread that one meta-narrative as disjointed “parts” is a mistake that every Critic/Skeptic, and a handful of Christians, consistently make. The Bible is One, just as Reality is One – just as Scripture’s meta-narrative of reality is One Meta-Narrative. The A and the Z of such is, and cannot be less than, “Final Reality” Himself (the God Who is love). Be careful! – to take those last few sentences as somehow affirming Pantheism, or as somehow Pantheistic in nature, at all, would be misreading.

  16. Ron,

    I have read all of the posts and I do not doubt Jesus’ divinity. It is just that I believe God is even more than love. I believe in grace and that grace is the only way to heaven, but I also believe we are expected to do our part. We should work to make the world a better place and try to embody the Christ. I believe this is expected even though it does not lead to heaven.

    I’m not sure I completely understand your above reply. You say God is more than love and, of course, he certainly is. Love is only one of God’s many aspects but it was the one we were speaking about. Is there something else you meant by saying that that I’m not getting?

    You say you believe in Christ’s divinity and salvation by grace. Yet, in your first post you seemed to argue against the complete grace (“The idea that a criminal can confess his sins and believe, and then be saved…”) offered by Christ. You say you believe that “grace is the only way to heaven” but seem to reject the means of grace God has provided. The grace that you believe is the only way to heaven only exists in Christ’s sacrifice. Without him we have no one who is that propitiation.

    And you couldn’t be more right that “We should work to make the world a better place and try to embody the Christ. ” But based on what motivation should we do this. Christianity offers, as that motivation, our gratitude for his sacrifice in our behalf. The changed hearts that gratitude produced has been the motivation behind the greatest humanitarian efforts in world history. From the founding of hospitals and orphanages, to care for the poor, the end of slavery, the call for civil rights for all. All these have been motivated by the changed hearts Christianity has produced. I can’t speak to Gandhi’s salvation. However, he knew of Christ and was even an admirer. He had a choice.

  17. scbrownlhrm,

    Thank you for the warning and some new insights into the OT. I did not intend to describe the OT as a path to excellence, but instead God reaching out to our wills in order to turn us toward him.

    God calls to those who do not yet know how to love, but do know how survive and dominate. In my mind this is what made civilization possible. Men with power honoring the law because this opens them to God. It seems to me all churches demand obedience to the will of God, which is done by accepting, honoring, and turning toward God. Loving the Lord with all your heart, soul, and mind comes later, if at all.

    You mention pantheism and I would like to ask you what you mean by this. I have read different definitions and am not Shure what you mean.

  18. Ron,

    I agree with you that honor is on par with other moral vectors – the ontology of which carries us to God (Theism) or to arbitrary fictions (Naturalism). On Pantheism for now I’ll have to refer you to the Stanford Encyclopedia online or perhaps to Wiki ~~~

  19. I looked up pantheism and evidently it does not include transcendence, so that doesn’t work for me.

    I have a great deal of work to do and so I must disappear for a while. I think you have a special site. Even though I visited for a short time, I learned a great deal. Surprisingly, I gained a much better understanding of my “born again” experience.

    I will return when I can to read and learn.