vol 4 paraphrase pg 174
We've been trying to gather together the little bit of knowledge that's available to us step by step about the Body, Mind and Heart [see Volume 4, Book I, Self-Knowledge], and the Will and Conscience. We've seen that there isn't a clear definition of Will and Conscience, and there's no clear boundary between them. Mansoul has many abilities, but Mansoul is one unified being. By carefully analyzing each one, we can gather hints about what each one does, and those hints help us to discover the laws of our nature that will help us to manage ourselves.
Now we're going to leave the outer courts of Mind and Body, and the Holy Places of the Affections and the Will. We're going to enter the Holy of Holies where the person performs his priestly duties. After all, every person is a priest who's responsible to do his job in his Most Holy Place.
The temple that's dedicated to serving the living God in each Mansoul is called our Soul. The Soul of man is so wonderful! We often talk about ourselves as finite beings, but anyone who has experienced the thrill of the Soul when it comes upon a great idea must doubt
vol 4 paraphrase pg 175
that we're finite creatures. Maybe it's because we have a connection with the infinite that we have capacity for God.
What baffles the understanding of a person? Is anything out of the range of what he thinks about, or out of the reach of what he aspires to? Yes, he is baffled every way he looks by his own ignorance. Even the wisest men have unlimited ignorance. But ignorance isn't the same as incapacity. The wings of our souls beat impatiently against the bars of our ignorance. If we could, we'd escape and fly out into the universe of infinite thought and infinite possibilities. How can man's Soul be satisfied? Ruling kings have given up their kingdoms because they wanted something greater than dominions. Profound scholars are frustrated with the limitations that confine them to the outer edges of the limitless ocean of knowledge. No great love is ever fully satisfied by loving. Man's Soul can find no real satisfaction because everything around him is finite, able to be measured, incomplete. But his reach is beyond his grasp. He has an urgent, persistent need for the infinite.
Even we common people who aren't kings, poets or scholars are eager and content while we're pursuing, but we know that once we have attained our goal, whether it's position, power, love or money, that old insatiable hunger will be upon us again. We'll want something more, but we don't know what!
St. Augustine knew what our hunger was for. He said that the Soul of man was made for God and would never be satisfied until it found Him. But our religious thinking has become so poor and ordinary, so self-concerned, that we interpret St. Augustine's words to mean that we won't be satisfied until we find everything
vol 4 paraphrase pg 176
good that we attach to the concept of salvation. We deceive and belittle ourselves with this idea because it's not anything for ourselves that we crave. The dry breadcrumbs we throw to our Souls in the form of one success or another don't quench our hunger.
'I want, I'm made for, I must have a God.' Within us, we have an infinite capacity for love, loyalty and service. But we're hindered and stopped everywhere we turn by imitation in whatever it is we love and serve. Only to God can we give everything we have, and only He can give us the love we really need. The love He gives us is like the air--it's something we live in, and without it, we gasp for breath and die. Who else, except God, who made heaven and earth, holds the key to all knowledge? Where else, except in God who has all the power, can we find the secret of dominion? Our need and search for goodness and beauty are frustrated by one thing, disappointed somewhere else because it's only in God that we can find the whole. The Soul was made for God, and God is what the Soul needs in the same way that an eye was made for light and light is what the eye needs. When we see that the Souls of even the poorest and most uneducated people have a capacity for God and can't be content without Him, can we honestly believe that man is a finite being? But even words themselves are frustrating. We're not even totally sure what we mean by finite and infinite.
We like to say that there's no royal road to learning. But the highest thing that man can attain is available and approachable to even the simple and needy. It can be reached by a path that any traveler, no matter how foolish, can't miss. In that very fact, we see a glimpse of the infinite that we hunger for. It seems strange to our finite understanding that everything we need is offered and attainable even to the simplest and the lowest people!
vol 4 paraphrase pg 177
The Soul has its share of persistent obstacles and deep-rooted diseases, just like the Mind and Heart do. Although we all have an overwhelming need for God and a great capacity to receive Him, very few people ever actually attain anything close to a constant 'fruition of Your glorious Godhead.' Many of us have momentary glimpses of it. But most of us aren't even aware of its existence. There are three main reasons why we're so dead to spiritual things: laziness, preoccupation and repulsion.
We've already discussed how a certain kind of lethargy of the Mind keeps us from entering into the rich inheritance that's available to our intelligence. In a similar way, the Soul is dead and not even aware of the hunger and thirst that only God can satisfy. The Conscience may be alert and demanding things of us such as church attendance, personal prayer, and reading good books. Or it might be dulled and neglect these things. In either case, it's possible to have little or no dread of God. It might not even want to fear God, because a lazy Soul avoids anything that might shake it out of its comfortable life. A lazy Soul wants others to
vol 4 paraphrase pg 178
applaud him for doing no harm, and it wants to take pride in 'doing my duty' when it comes to doing what's expected.
The inner Soul isn't dead, it's just sleeping. It could be awakened if the person's Will would respond to God's kindness, but it's sluggish. Even the urgent cry to 'Wake up! Wake up!' doesn't penetrate its sleepy ears.
A person with a lazy Soul has wickedness in Him because 'God isn't in all his thoughts.' He's able to live hour to hour, day to day, even year to year without ever turning his face to God in the same way that a flower turns to the sun, like any living Soul would do. It isn't that he never thinks about God. Every person has probably said at one time or another, 'God, help me!' and most people sometimes say, 'Thank God!' But an occasional, rare cry to God is very different from having God in all his thoughts.
The only hope for a lazy Soul, whether it's a regular church member or a wild, careless person, is that some random living idea about God might strike his Mind and inspire his Will to desire, to intend and to resolve. This is called conversion, and this is what God does every day with His dull, heartless children. All of us have experienced this kind of conversion in a greater or lesser degree many times in our lives. And sometimes a major conversion happens to a generous person, or to a hardened sinner, and, from that moment, all of the intents of his heart and the ways of his life are forever changed.
A lazy Soul who won't wake up to God's presence is in fatal danger. And so is a Mind or Heart that's so preoccupied that
vol 4 paraphrase pg 179
it has no room for the dominating, absorbing thought of God. 'My duty to God is to love Him with all my heart and mind' as well as 'my soul and strength.' No ability of Mansoul works in isolation. The Mind and Heart have to unite with the worshipful Soul.
It's possible and only far too common for us to be so obsessed with one idea or absorbed with lots of ideas that we don't realize we need God--we might even miss the fact that He exists at all! Whatever we're wrapped up in might be fine in itself--it could be a noble project, family affection, or a passionate pursuit for knowledge. All of those things are worthy and honorable. But any of them can so fully absorb a person that he doesn't care about God. There's no room for God in his thoughts. The mere thought of God might seem like an intrusion because he would rather be thinking about something else. It's not that he's what we would consider a wicked person, but he's living his life without God. He doesn't realize it, but he's suffering from a huge deprivation. It's as if the best part of him is crippled or his highest function is damaged. He has to creep through life like some poor wretched soul who spends his life in a dark room without ever knowing what's it's like to take a deep breath in an open field under a wide blue sky. Such a person usually means well. Imagine the joy he would have to suddenly find the knowledge of God, whether it's here or in the hereafter!
There's another kind of disability that a soul can have that's even more strange and astonishing than any we've already looked at. In human nature, there's an aversion to God. It might be like
vol 4 paraphrase pg 180
Article 9 [of the Anglican Church's 39 Articles of Religion], part of the 'original sin which naturally corrupts every person who is born of Adam's race,' or it might be our freewill's involuntary aversion to authority. It doesn't matter; either way, human nature has a natural stubborn aversion to God as well as a profound craving for Him.
A toddler doesn't want to say his prayers, and a mature Christian senses his own unwillingness and wandering away from God, even though he knows that all of his joy is in God. This involuntary turning away from God is the cross we all have to bear with the discipline of a soul pursuing God. Whatever the cause may be, it does seem to be in the nature of things. If our hearts were drawn to God as inevitably as raindrops fall to the ground, then we wouldn't have the independent choice of freewill, and there'd be no sense of victory when we're faithfully loyal.
But, besides this natural involuntary aversion that we're ashamed of, there's voluntary aversion. This is the animosity and hostility towards God of a rebellious, sinful Soul. This is the kind of Soul that's so full of pride or blatant evil that he can't tolerate even the thought of God. He makes fun of God's Word, defies His laws, rejects His Will and blasphemes His name. We're shocked when we see someone do this aggressively, but when it's done with a cool superiority and good nature with the power of intellectualism, it's enough to sway any of us, even for a minute, and make us wonder if the scoffer knows something that we don't. That's because we all have the seeds of
vol 4 paraphrase pg 181
natural aversion to God in our hearts. But a scoffer has nurtured and fertilized those seeds into a full-grown fruit-bearing tree.
'Let the person who stands be careful not to fall.' We need to hold tight to our loyalty. We know that making a deliberate choice for God with our Will is the only thing we have to offer to God. And we're comforted to know that involuntary aversion isn't a sin, it's just an opportunity to exercise our free choice. When we choose to turn away from God, our sin doesn't remove us from God's mercy, but it's still a very great sin.
vol 4 paraphrase pg 182
When we recognize how much a person's soul is hampered from grasping God by laziness, preoccupation and aversion, we suddenly realize the important job that the Will has to do, and, sparked by a great, uplifting thought, the Will rises to the occasion. But our Will can't sustain us if our perception of God is that it's merely religion and, therefore, optional to take or leave according to our preference, or if we wait around passively for a strong enough impulse or something compelling enough to goad us into doing what should be our first priority. We don't only have the world, our flesh and the devil to struggle against--we also have conflicting moods and tendencies within ourselves. In desiring God, we've chosen an ambitious goal that will require all the courage and persistence we have, and our Will will take on that mission and muster its forces to stand on God's side. Even though there might be lots of times of falling away and repenting after that one major act of the Will when we're converted, we can still hold on to the hope that our Soul has made an eternal decision to side with good. When a soldier is fined and thrown into the brig for misbehaving, he doesn't cease being a soldier. When it's time to go to battle, he doesn't desert like a rebel.
We meets lots of people in the world that we
vol 4 paraphrase pg 183
never get to know very well. Some are in social circles above or below us, some are too superior to do the things we enjoy or they're into things we consider unworthy, and there are some who seem like we'd love getting to know but they're not approachable, and others seem so simple-minded or narrow that we consider them unworthy to open up our deepest thoughts to.
But there's one close friendship available to all of us, whether we're lonely because we feel like everyone around us is inferior, or because we feel unworthy of anyone else's notice. We're amazed to think that such a valuable intimacy is available to every humble soul. Jesus said, 'Eternal life is to know You, the only true God, and Jesus, who You sent,' Knowing the exalted God intimately is something that's available to all of us. There's only one condition--we have to choose it. When we feel like we're not good enough or intelligent enough to be friends with some people, and we're too good or too smart for some crowds, it can seem astonishing that such a supreme friendship can belong to anyone who wants it, because every Soul has the capacity to know God. Not all people are able to understand math, or science, or politics, but the knowledge of God, which floods the Soul like a huge ocean floods a fish, isn't beyond the reach of anyone. Professor W. K. Clifford wrote about an agonizing time when he lost his faith in God and came to the conclusion that 'the great Companion was dead.' But the 'great Companion' never dies. 'He knows when we sit down, and when we get up. He understands our thoughts long before we grasp them.' He is intimately involved in everything we do and everything we intend to do. He cheers up our dull times, gives us rest when we're worn out, consoles us when we're grieving, adds to our happiness,
vol 4 paraphrase pg 184
warns, reprimands and punishes our sin, and gives us what those of us who have ever loved someone generously recognize as the best, most perfect joy, in continually growing amounts: He gradually reveals Himself to us. Like the blind man who received his sight, we can't see anything at all to begin with, then we can see men as if we're seeing tree trunks walking around, and then our eyes are fully opened so that we can see a vision of our God.
There are a number of ways that the knowledge of God can come to us. We might be drawn by the words, actions or looks of people we know and learn a very convincing lesson. A little piece of moss or a bare tree in the winter might suddenly awaken us to a knowledge of God. Or we might feel a strange longing in our own heart, or experience a nudging for repentance and love, or receive sweet answers to our meager and selfish prayers, or sense tokens of friendships that we can't definitely pin down. All of these are steps towards that most important knowledge.
In the same way that a person listens closely to the voice of a beloved friend and reads his letters again and again, a person who loves God will search the Bible to know God more fully like he craves. It makes no difference to him if one book repeats the sentiments of another, or whether certain passages are attributed to a different author than the title indicates, or that myths and legends may have been recorded as well as Jewish historical events, or that the latest scientific knowledge contradicts some passages and history contradicts some stories [many of the contradictions that alarmed Christians in CM's time have been corrected by later discoveries]. These things may or may not be true. The person who truly wants to know God appreciates scientists and scholars for doing their work, and he acknowledges that the Bible shouldn't be exempt from textual criticism. But he also knows that there are a lot of reasons to be cautious and not to be too quick to accept
vol 4 paraphrase pg 185
the latest pronouncement from the critics. He remembers an article in the newspaper about the King of Servia who had to take off his crown twice during his coronation because it was too heavy for him, and how the royal flag fell as it was carried in procession to the cathedral. These omens made the people there uneasy. Yet, in the future, historians might claim that these incidents were merely legends, and, according to their proper procedure, remove them from history texts because they want their books to only contain scientifically proven history.
Little things like this make a student of the Bible stop and think. He respects truth reverently, and he welcomes investigation into the truth. But he also knows that the latest critics aren't infallible. But even this is beside the point. As far as he's concerned, even if false statements, books credited to the wrong author, and other inconsistencies were found on every page and proved to be inaccuracies of the text, he still believes that the Bible is the one and only place to find revealed knowledge about God.
The poems, histories and sacred writings of Greece, Rome, India, Persia and China all unwittingly affirm that it isn't possible for man to understand God by searching. A lovely gleam of divine inspiration touches one wise person in one place, and another person somewhere else, and another in a different place, but every time they tried to combine these stray inspired gleams into a complete concept of what the Deity is like, they produced a legion of gods, or a monstrous deity. The insight and wisdom of past thinkers has given us all of the philosophy about human life that we have, and every kind of knowledge there is--except knowledge about God.
How are we better than those great ancient civilizations who knew so much and accomplished so much? Only in inheriting a treasure of knowledge that was passed on to the world by the Jewish nation whose spiritual insight
vol 4 paraphrase pg 186
made them suited to receive it. As a result, we have something that ancient cultures didn't--a revelation of God that completely satisfies man's Soul, and guides all of his Soul's aspirations.
Consider just one amazing revelation--that God is love:
This is a bit of knowledge that men in previous times didn't even dare to dream about, except as revealed in the Bible. But, unbelievably, some people act like someone who finds a gold nugget and tosses it aside because it's imbedded in a piece of iron and he doesn't want to bother separating it. In fact, his eye can't even pick out the difference between the two. This seems insane to the diligent miner. And that's how it is with the Bible. The Soul is capable of grasping God, and when it grasps God, it finds life, freedom and satisfaction. When the Soul knows God, it lives in its proper environment and is complete, free and as joyful as a bird in flight. But without that knowledge, 'the heavy, weary weight of the entire confusing world' feels like it's crushing our life.
But, although it's proper and necessary for us to know our God, it isn't inevitable. As we've already seen, the Soul is very stubborn and tries to evade the very knowledge that makes it healthy. We need to start with a determined, steadfast act of the Will, a deliberate choice. And then we have to work to get what's best for us, having confidence that when we ask for it,
vol 4 paraphrase pg 187
we'll receive it, when we search, we'll find, and when we knock, the door will be opened for us. But our searching needs to be single-minded and purposeful. We can't sincerely be diligent about seeking a thing that we consider worthless, whether it's something in the Bible, something in the way the world operates, or something in our own life. We need to expect to find grains of gold. And, as we gather a collection of it, we'll be walking and living in continual intimacy with Divine Love, and we'll be constantly worshiping Divine Beauty with freedom because the Truth has made us free.
vol 4 paraphrase pg 188
It's hard to separate and isolate the different functions of the Soul because they all work together. But in order to have fullness of life, we need to continually talk with God and continually hear His responses, although the Soul is humbled by the wonderfully sweet hope that God will answer. These things are necessary if we're going to have the intimate union with God that we were made for. A hundred times a day, our thoughts turn to God, sometimes to repent, sometimes to request something, sometimes because we're afraid or have aspirations, and sometimes, most wonderfully of all, in shared understanding with God. Our hearts thrill with delight when we see the beautiful blue of a flowering herb, or a glorious star in the sky, or when we experience the grace of hearing some good news. And then we lift our hearts to God, even though we may not say a word, and our impulse is a feeling of mutual joy, because we know that God also delights in beauty and goodness.
These continuous impulses of the Soul towards God hardly seem like prayer to us, but they get a response. We cry out in fear, and a word of hope comes to us. We confess a sin, and we sense a feeling of peace. We express delight in God's work, and we grow in love. These are answers that God, our 'Heavenly Lover,' gives in response to the clumsy, erratic impulses of our pathetic hearts. We've all experienced how
vol 4 paraphrase pg 189
we pray for definite things and, so many times, answers have come that we were able to recognize as God's hand. Even our willful prayers that don't end with, 'Your will be done' get an answer. Our restless heart becomes calm. We learn to see things from God's perspective, and that quiets us.
I think that most people who are seeking to know God would say that they never in a long life of praying had a prayer that didn't get answered. In every case, they've recognized the answer.
Perhaps they had an experience where the walls of Jericho fell before them, or the Jordan River parted, or their enemies were destroyed on the battlefield. Perhaps these things happened in natural ways that weren't obvious, with no interference from nature. But that doesn't mean they weren't supernatural, since they happened in spite of nature, ordered by God who 'holds back the spirit of princes,' and who 'rules and governs the hearts of kings.'
Even though there's continual communication between God and our Soul, the habit of praying needs to be reinforced by establishing routine times, places and occasions to pray. We need to give ourselves time to pray, and set aside regular times for prayer. First thing in the morning when we get out of bed, we need to seek God and lay our day and all its anxieties, hopes and desires out before Him with a reverent attitude and attentive mind. We need to bring those we love before God for His blessing. We need to ask God to help people who are sorrowing, have needs, are sick or in trouble. As the habit of praying becomes established, we'll begin to feel compelled to go out and provide help for those we pray for even before we finish our prayer.
Every time we hear about war, hunger, ignorance, crime,
vol 4 paraphrase pg 190
or misery, we'll be quick to pray. As we pray, our love for all people will grow, and we'll think of many ways to help. We'll remember Jesus's caution against praying with too many words, for 'God is in heaven and we're on the earth.' So, before we begin our prayer, we'll reflect on what we want to say.
But we need to remember that our requests should be thought out with purpose, and they should be combined with a strong desire on our part. It's true that,
But that doesn't mean we can neglect planned and purposeful meetings with God that make our Soul feel free like a bird stretching its wings.
vol 4 paraphrase pg 191
God said, 'Whoever offers Me thanks and praise, he honors Me.' We're taken aback to realize that it's up to us to add honor to the Supreme God--yet we often don't put our praise and thanks into words.
'Weren't there ten healed? Where are the other nine?' Sadly, we're often just like those nine poor, pitiful men who received so much and gave nothing in return, not even a thank you. We should take note that 'the ungrateful and evil' are paired together in the list of lost souls that we find in the book of Revelation. We do have moments when we're thankful and we say,
But our mistake and great failure is that we don't take stock of the blessings in our lives that make us grateful and 'transport us' with wonder, love and praise. We neglect praising God partly because we're too preoccupied with some stress or problem of the moment, and partly because of the stubborn way we turn away from God
vol 4 paraphrase pg 192
that puts us in danger. We need to set aside time to take stock of our lives and count our blessings, even if it's only on Sundays, or, even less often, even if it's only during the major holidays.
Life is so good, it's so joyous to be outside, even if it's in the streets of a city! It's wonderful to see the sun! It's good to enjoy health, even if we're not well and can only enjoy the small bit of health we have. All the sweet aspects of family life, the love of family members, the kindness of our neighbors, the love of our friends is so good and warm. It's good to be part of a great country and to share in all her interests and concerns. It's good to belong to the world of humanity and to recognize that anything that concerns others, also concerns us. How wonderful to have books, art and music! How enjoyable knowledge is! How delicious our food is! How comfortable our clothes are! How refreshing our sleep is, and how joyful to wake up!
The Soul that considers all these things, and a thousand other good things in its routine life, is indeed a 'Soul that rises and sees,' rising to God the Father, who 'knows that we need these things,' and the heart overflows with love, forcing the Soul to express thanks and praise. Even an occasional act of thanksgiving like this can make our life seem sweeter. Spontaneous thanksgiving rises up out of us every day and every hour. We might say a prayer of thanks for a kind look we received, or a beautiful poem, or an enjoyable book, as naturally as we might give thanks for a good dinner. In fact, more so, because 'man doesn't live by bread alone.'
But we tend to think so little of ourselves. It doesn't seem to us like it matters whether we thank God or not for all of the surprising sweet gifts and blessings that He gives us.
vol 4 paraphrase pg 193
In fact, we never would have known that it mattered at all, except that God, using the sympathetic grace that most earthly parents don't show, told us that He's honored by our thanks! It seems impossible that we could add anything to God, much less add to His honor! This is a great opportunity--let's give thanks!
Most of us probably fall on our knees to thank God for special requests that we've begged God to provide for us as a loving Father--perhaps the healing of a loved one who was sick, or to have some stressful problem taken care of, or to open up an opportunity that we longed for. When God blesses us with these kinds of graces, we're generous and unreserved in our thanks. But the habit of continually being grateful is more than that.
vol 4 paraphrase pg 194
Our dull souls can be slow to think--but they're even slower to praise, because praise demands an ability to appreciate with discrimination, reflection and thankfulness.
We all know how distressed painters and musicians get when they get compliments from people who don't understand their work, but they're thrilled to get a word of discriminating praise from someone who knows what they're talking about. They're honored. And that's the kind of honor that God wants from us.
The Church has always sung, 'We praise Thee, Oh, God.' Prophets, persecuted Christians and martyrs have praised God with their lives, and, in some cases, by their deaths. Even today, there are people who devote themselves to lives full of pain and risk to honor God and serve their fellow man. We recognize that they're also living lives of praise to God. Some poets have been given inspiration to write some necessary message, some painters have illustrated 'The Light of the World' for us, or other images of Jesus, like Russian Ivan Kramskoi's picture of Jesus seated in the wilderness. We know that these artists praise God, but they're few and far between. Honest, down-to-earth people who tolerate trials with patience
vol 4 paraphrase pg 195
or live their appointed lives with a conscious sense that their lives are appointed also praise God. We recognize and revere all of these ways of praising God, but we incompetent common people seem to fail at it ourselves. We're no angels; we have no harps or halos.
But the responsibility of praising isn't only for occasional events or rare circumstances. The responsibility is waiting at our doorstep every day. We never would have dared to presume that the Great Craftsman, like every skilled artist, loves it when others recognize the beauty, perfection and harmony of the work He creates. It's so good to know this about God. It draws Him nearer to us by making us as humans more able to relate to Him. The Psalms says, 'The merciful and gracious God has made His wonderful works to be remembered.' [Psa 111:4] He never got tired of telling how 'the heavens declare the glory of God, and the skies show His handiwork' [Psa 19:1] and 'He feeds the young ravens when they cry out to Him' [Psa 147:9] and 'All the trees of the field clap their hands.' [Isaiah 55:12] We see all of these things, but David did more than see them. These things sang in his heart to a continual hymn of praise. He knew how to honor God with praise, and the Bible says that he was man after God's own heart.
Every era seems to have its own prophets. They might be painters, poets, or whatever, whose task is to lead their culture in praise. Perhaps in our day, it's scientists who have been promoted to this high honor. And they reveal so much for us to praise! We are correct in calling those kinds of men discoverers because their scientific findings were already there. they didn't create
vol 4 paraphrase pg 196
them, but they were allowed to discover them and then share them with the rest of us. Every day there's some new reason for us to wonder, admire, and praise because some previously unknown great concept has been revealed. These new discoveries are mighty displays of God's power, and scientists today understand that divine power is behind all the workings of nature.
Imagine ships in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean that can communicate without any visible cables or wires to the land a thousand miles away! And the potential and laws that make this possible have always been there, known by God, but only recently have been discovered by a man who was prepared. What other secrets might still be hidden, just waiting for us to be ready to discover them? So many amazing discoveries have been opened up to us just in the last few years! A sense of God's existence permeates all of nature. 'How excellent Your works are, Oh God! You have made them all in Your wisdom. The earth is full of Your treasures!' 'The person who gives thanks and praise is the one who honors Me.' Let's not neglect to lift our offering of praise to our God every day.
vol 4 paraphrase pg 197
'My duty towards God is to believe in Him.' That's our main duty, the priority of our lives. Without that, the other duties don't seem to count much.
As a girl, I was told, much to my great annoyance and sadness, 'just believe.' If I'd been told, 'Just fly,' I might not have been able to fly, but at least I would have known exactly what was expected of me. But 'just believe' is meaningless. Of course I believed, in the same way that I believe something like, yesterday was Wednesday Oct 5, or there was a Queen Elizabeth, or Pharaoh ruled in Egypt. These things, and a thousand other things, weren't things I ever bothered to doubt. I believed them as a matter of course. But--to believe in God?
Of course I believed that God existed, but what difference could that make? I had the awareness that belief of that kind wasn't part of my life, but I didn't know any other way to believe.
Confusion of this kind undoubtedly troubles many people who are persuaded that their duty is to believe in God. It's my duty towards God, and I have to do it for myself. No one can do it for me and
vol 4 paraphrase pg 198
nobody can give me any real help in doing it. No one can give me faith. But it's possible for some people to give me some guidance. We're told that 'faith comes by hearing, and hearing comes by the Word of God.' In other words, faith in God comes in the same way that faith in a friend does--with knowledge. We trust our friend because we know him. Because we know him, we believe in him. Faith, trust, confidence and belief are all the same thing.
If we said that we believed in a person we hardly knew anything about, like the Emperor of Korea, we'd sound like a fool. Yet sometimes we do say that we believe in a particular politician or preacher or whatever. In fact, the entire government and finance are all carried out on a huge system of trust and mutual belief. We might say, 'as safe as the Bank of America,' but even the Bank of America operates on a system of credit. We send members to the House of Representatives based on our belief in them. Members of families believe in each other, and, if jealousy or mistrust develops between parents and children or husband and wife, it's an exception to the norm--a disgraceful exception to the general law of family trust.
The same is true of dishonesty and corruption in routine sales transactions and public trust. Sometimes it happens, but they're shameful exceptions. In general, we live by having faith in each other. The common trust we share comes from common knowledge. Experiencing the world and life itself teaches us faith. Only bitter, bad-tempered people base their judgments on the exceptions, agreeing with the Psalmist in his darkest mood that 'all people are liars.'
There are two kinds of faith that we exercise towards others--a general faith we give to people
vol 4 paraphrase pg 199
and institutions which comes from general knowledge and experiences, and the kind of intimate, specific faith we put in people we think we know very well. That faith is love. In the same way, there are two kinds of faith we can have in God. There's a general faith that trusts that God is in control, everything is for the best in His plan, God will provide, and that He will have mercy on us.
We can analyze the kind of faith we have by asking ourselves honestly if our faith is the same as love. Does our heart feel a thrill of joy when we even think about God, crying out, 'I will arise and go to my Father' in the same way that our heart springs up and wants to be with a person we love and believe in? If we don't really love God, then we don't believe, because faith doesn't happen to us by accident, or even naturally. When we trust our friends, we're recognizing whatever nobility and beauty there is within them. This is the kind of faith we owe to God. From our knowledge, we recognize that He is Love and Truth and Light and the One our heart cries out to, saying, 'Who do I have in heaven except You? There's no one on earth that I want as much as You.' (From the Prayer Book version of the Psalms.)
We've already discussed the way to get to know God. Faith is the action of the Will that we use to choose Him once we've learned to know Him. Love develops from faith, and service is the result of that love. It's hardly possible to define the different ways in which a Christian heart expresses its desire for God. 'Like the deer desires water from the brook, that's the way my soul longs for You, God.' (from the Prayer Book version of the Psalms.) There we find knowledge, faith and love.
vol 4 paraphrase pg 200
What I want to emphasize is that this attitude of the Soul isn't an option. It's required of us, an obligation of duty that we owe. We can't claim that we don't know, because it's been revealed to us in the Bible. And we can hardly say that we don't believe that revelation. Its truth maintains the ultimate test--it reveals to us the God that our souls need, and find complete satisfaction in. 'His ways are all pleasant, and His paths are all peace.' To say we don't believe is nothing less than an act of blatant insubordination, and an act of disloyalty. It's worse than being unfaithful in a human relationship because God means more to us and is closer to us than anyone else.
People satisfy their consciences and feel like they've met all of their Christian responsibility when they do their duty towards their neighbor. But we don't have the right to pick and choose one part of the law to do, doing the one that's less important and neglecting what's more important--our responsibility to personally know God, and to have faith in Him, love Him and serve Him. We're supposed to do these things directly, not indirectly by serving our fellow man. We're supposed to take care of both responsibilities. It's my duty, and my duty towards God is my first priority.
I don't have space in a small book like this to discuss all the aspects of the Christian faith, even if I were to use something concise like the Apostles' Creed.
We talk about 'the Creed' casually and assume that we understand it--until one of its Articles is challenged by skeptics, and then another one is disputed by critics. And then we have no answer, so we secretly write off one clause after another and plan to hold onto what's left. It might help to know that none of the articles of the Creed is supposed to appeal to our Reason. We know as little
vol 4 paraphrase pg 201
about the Creation as we do about the Incarnation, and as little about forgiveness of sins as the resurrection of the body. It's all a mystery, something that's impossible for a human heart to comprehend without divine revelation.
'The mystery of Godliness is great. God became a man, was proved to be genuine in the spirit, seen by angels, preached to the Gentiles, believed in the world, and then was received up into glory.' [1 Tim 3:16] What a desolate, dreary place we'd be in if our spirits were limited to only what they could understand! But we shouldn't assume that mystery is limited to religion, and that everything else is obvious and within our understanding. The great things in life, birth, death, hope, love, patriotism, what makes a leaf green, why birds have feathers--all of these kinds of things are mysteries. It's only when we're able to accept things we can't understand, and know that certain things are true even if we can't prove them, and when we can tell the difference between a brilliant mystery and a mystifying superstition, that we'll be able to live the full life that God created us for.
There's one thing we need to be sure we grasp, and that's a clear concept of what Christianity is. Christianity doesn't mean 'being good' or serving our fellow man. There are lots of people who do those things even better than we do, and still don't accept the Lordship of Jesus. A Christian has an awareness that Jesus is a Savior Who's always there, nearby whenever we're in danger or in need. A Christian is aware that Jesus is the King, and that we belong to Him, and a Christian is happy to serve Him. Christ rules our destiny and appoints the duties we needs to do. It's a wonderful thing to be owned, and Jesus Christ owns us. He is our Chief, and we love to honor and serve Him. He's our Savior, the One Who
vol 4 paraphrase pg 202
delivers us. He's our Friend and He treasures us. He's our King and He blesses us with His reign. Christianity only seems possible for those who fully recognize that Jesus is God.
Let's cry out with St. Augustine,