Questions about Origins – Now Answered!

 

Ten Urgent Questions and Answers about Origins

by Christian Research Institute

 

This article first appeared in Christian Research Journal, volume 35, number 01 (2012). For further information or to subscribe to the Christian Research Journal go to: http://www.equip.org


Of one thing I am certain. People want answers. Concise, well-researched answers to questions concerning the single most important apologetic issue—that of origins. Indeed, how you view your origins will ultimately determine how you live your life. Think Lady Gaga. If Gaga, like Madonna before her, is merely a material girl living in a material world, her choices are not free—they are fatalistically determined by such things as brain chemistry and genetics. Conversely, if she is created in the image of God, her life has eternal meaning and significance.

Here then are ten of the most urgent questions confronting Christians today concerning origins—along with ample evidence to believe that the opening words of Scripture, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” are perfectly suited for the age of scientific enlightenment in which we find ourselves.

DOES THE “FINE-TUNING OF THE UNIVERSE”
POINT TO A SOVEREIGN CREATOR?

One of the most astonishing discoveries of the twentieth century was that the universe is fine-tuned to support intelligent life. From the force of gravity to the balance of matter and anti-matter, the universe is balanced, as it were, on the fine edge of a razor.

Consider the force of gravity. If it were stronger (or weaker) by one part out of 10100 (that’s a 1 with a hundred zeros behind it!), the universe would not—could not—support intelligent life! Lest we miss the gravity of gravity’s fine-tuning, consider that the number of atoms in the entire known universe is only about 1080.

Furthermore, the fine-tuning of a force such as gravity could not be a function of physical law. Why? Because gravity could be stronger or weaker and still be gravity—so physical law does not dictate its precise value—but were it not fine-tuned as it is, it could not support intelligent life.

Finally, the fine-tuning of the universe cannot reasonably be attributed to chance because of the infinitesimally small range of values involved. Chance is infinitely more likely to produce a life-prohibiting universe than one that is life-sustaining.

The only plausible source of the fine-tuning of the universe is an external, transcendent, incalculably powerful and intelligent, personal Mind, who we call God.1

IS EARTH A PRIVILEGED PLANET DESIGNED
FOR SCIENTIFIC DISCOVERY?

Scientific sophists serendipitously suppose that Earth is a singularly insignificant speck of soil aimlessly adrift in a meaningless universe. As documented by astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez and philosopher Jay W. Richards, however, evidence refutes the principle of mediocrity (Copernican Principle), demonstrating instead that our Earth is a singularly privileged planet designed for discovery.

First, the unique conditions necessary to support intelligent life turn out to provide the best overall conditions for scientific discovery. Examples abound. Earth is situated between two spiral arms of a flattened spiral galaxy—the Milky Way—not too close to the core to be exposed to lethal radiation, comet collisions, or light pollution that would obscure observation of the distant universe; and not so far that a privileged planet could never form or where we would not observe different kinds of nearby stars. The atmosphere of our privileged planet is both oxygen-rich for survival and transparent for discovery. The moon is the perfect size and distance from Earth to stabilize rotation and to facilitate human habitability. Not only so, the moon and sun’s relative sizes and distances from Earth provide perfect solar eclipses, which played a vital role in the development of modern science (e.g., determination of the nature of stars and confirmation of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity).

Furthermore, we live in the best overall age of the universe to do cosmology. In our time the cosmic background radiation left over from the Big Bang is readily observable, but it won’t always be—this radiation confirms that the universe is not eternal but began in the finite past. Moreover, most of the astrophysical phenomena astronomers rely on to measure the universe were not observable earlier in the universe’s development, and they will eventually fade (e.g., cosmic background radiation)—but neither could we have survived at earlier or later stages.

Finally, the setting of our privileged planet permits a stunning diversity of measurements, from the universe at large (cosmology) to the smallest of subatomic particles (quantum physics) to the middling size of Earth and humans (geology and anthropology).

From habitability to discoverability, Earth’s status in the universe is surely one of privilege. To reduce this to an accident of cosmic evolution is short-sighted; to recognize it as privileged, sublime.2

IS THE FINE-TUNING OF THE UNIVERSE
NEGATED BY THE NOTION OF A MULTIVERSE?

The theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking is infamous for supposing that the existence of a vast number of universes (multiverse) negates the fine-tuning of the universe. In other words, given a sufficient number of random universes, one of them is bound to have the necessary conditions to support not only intelligent life but the proposition that blind chance can account for fine-tuning. In reality, the multiverse proposition is an utterly desperate attempt to account for an unfathomably fine-tuned universe.

First, we should note that there is not a shred of empirical evidence to support the existence of a physical universe other than our own, much less a virtually infinite number of such universes. Hawking’s hope, and the hope of multitudes who share such fanatical presuppositions, is based on theological and theoretical pining, rather than scientific discovery.

Furthermore, in addition to undermining science, the multiverse hypothesis throws plain old common sense under the bus. Imagine trying to convict a murderer in a multiverse in which empirical evidence has been sacrificed on the altar of philosophically improbable propositions. In such a multiverse, stories of revolvers materializing out of thin air might well be as credible as eyewitness testimony.

Finally, eminent theoretical physicist—and Hawking colleague—Roger Penrose, though himself agnostic, has rightly concluded that the multiple universe hypothesis is both “impotent” and “misconceived.” The Big Bang turns out to be an event of almost infinitesimal probability, and the probabilistic resources provided by a multiverse turn out to be insufficiently rich. As such, the most plausible explanation for the fine-tuning of our universe is yet, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”3

CAN THE BIG BANG BE
HARMONIZED WITH GENESIS?4

The Big Bang postulates that the universe began as an infinitely dense singularity and has since been expanding for billions of years. Though Big Bang cosmology is not communicated in the Genesis account of creation, it lends scientific credibility to the Scriptural contention that God created the universe ex nihilo (out of nothing).

First, like the Bible, the Big Bang postulates that the universe had a beginning. As such, it stands in stark opposition to the scientifically silly suggestion that the universe eternally existed.

Furthermore, if the universe had a beginning, it had to have a cause. Indeed, the cause of all space, time, matter, and energy must be nonspatial, nontemporal, immaterial, and unfathomably powerful and personal. As such, the Big Bang flies in the face of the philosophically preposterous proposition that the universe sprang into existence out of nothing and lends credence to the Genesis contention of an uncaused First Cause who spoke and the universe leapt into existence.

Finally, though evolutionists hold to Big Bang cosmology, the Big Bang does not presuppose biological evolution. In other words, Big Bang cosmology answers questions concerning the origin of the space-time continuum, as opposed to questions concerning the origin of biological life on earth.

While we must not stake our faith on Big Bang cosmology, we can be absolutely confident that as human understanding progresses creation will continue to point to the One who spoke and the universe leapt into existence.5

WERE THE GENESIS CREATION DAYS
LITERAL, LONG, OR LITERARY?

There are three dominant schools of thought within evangelical Christianity regarding the Genesis days of creation.

First, the popular twenty-four-hour view posits that God created the heavens and the Earth in six sequential literal days. A majority in this camp view the universe to be approximately six thousand years old and consider all death, including animal death, to be a direct function of Adam’s fall.

Furthermore, the day-age perspective posits that God created the heavens and the Earth in six long sequential day-ages totaling billions of years. In contrast to the twenty-four-hour perspective, the day-age view posits that nature red in tooth and claw is the result of God’s “very good” creation prior to Adam’s fall into a life of perpetual sin terminated by death.

Finally, the framework perspective holds that the seven days of creation are nonliteral, nonsequential but nonetheless historical. In concert with the day-age perspective, they view animal death to be consistent with the goodness of God’s creation and believe that the age question is settled by natural revelation (Book of Nature) rather than by special revelation (Bible).

In my view, the literary framework interpretation most closely corresponds to reality—though I cannot abide animal death prior to the fall as consistent with a “very good” creation (see discussion below under “Is Animal Suffering a Consequence of Adam’s Sin?”).6

WHEN WAS THE UNIVERSE CREATED?

Based on the speed of light (186,000 miles per second) astronomers have determined that the observable universe with its hundred billion galaxies each containing a hundred billion stars is at least fifteen billion light-years in diameter (a light-year is the distance light travels in a year—a distance measured not in billions, but trillions—about 5,878,499,810,000 miles!).

Furthermore, the age of the universe is measured in billions of years due to what is popularly referred to as the red-shift of the galaxies—the reddish light marking motion away from the Earth much like the audible pitch of a train shifting as it moves off into the distance. The red-shift marking galaxies moving apart at the speed of light allows astronomers to extrapolate backwards billions of years to a point at which the “stretching of space” began.

Finally, science points to realities such as background radiation, radioactive decay, entropy, star ages, and white dwarf stars as proof positive that the universe is billions of years old. For example, a star becomes a white dwarf (essentially a dead star) only after billions of years of nuclear fusion and subsequent cooling. These multiple independent empirical means all converge on a limited range of dates for the origin of the universe between ten and twenty billion years ago.

The finite nature of the universe—a universe measured only in billions of years not infinite time—is insufficient for the evolution of a protein molecule, much less a living cell.

DID GOD CREATE HIS HANDIWORK WITH
THE APPEARANCE OF AGE?

It is frequently argued that God created the universe and all it entails with the appearance of age. Does this correspond to the reality of both Scripture and science?

First, we should note that the Bible doesn’t answer the age question. Some say Adam was created with the appearance of age. In reality, we simply do not know. Was Adam created with calluses on his feet? Did he have a belly button? Was he fashioned replete with childhood memories? One would think not, but the Bible simply doesn’t say.

Furthermore, the notion that God created His handiwork with the appearance of age is logically unfalsifiable. In other words, you can neither prove it nor disprove it. For example, how could you falsify the notion that you were created five seconds ago and your recollection of the previous paragraph is just an implanted memory?

Finally, consider an observable astronomical event such as Supernova 1987a—with an identifiable “before” and “after.” Prior to 1987 this supernova was a star in a distant galaxy 168,000 light years away. On February 23rd, 1987, however, the star exploded, becoming a supernova. In other words, 168,000 years ago the star exploded and in 1987 the light of that event finally reached Earth—unless, of course, God created the universe 6,000 years ago. Then the supernova would be like a documentary film of an event that never really happened.

In sum, the notion that the universe is not authentically old but merely manifests the appearance of age creates more conundrums than it solves. Indeed, what good teacher would ask you to put your faith in a textbook intentionally filled with lies?

WHAT IS THE CAMBRIAN EXPLOSION?

The Cambrian Explosion is biology’s version of the Big Bang. Just as cosmology’s Big Bang undid the dogma of an eternal universe, biology’s Big Bang uprooted Darwin’s Tree of Life.

First, were all of geological history compressed into a twenty-four-hour clock, most of the distinct animal forms the world has ever known would appear suddenly within a two-minute time span at around the 21st hour. The abrupt and simultaneous appearance of this panoply of complex body plans signals an infusion of a vast amount of information, which can only rightly be attributed to an Intelligent Designer.

Furthermore, Darwin theorized that every organism evolved from a common ancestor as a result of natural selection acting on random variations. The Cambrian Explosion points in precisely the opposite direction. Darwin said it best, “The distinctiveness of specific forms, and their not being blended together by innumerable transitional links—is a very obvious difficulty.”

Finally, while Darwin predicted hundreds of thousands of transitional forms leading to the fossils of the Cambrian explosion, in actuality none appear. And since Darwin, the problem has only gotten worse. The fossil record has greatly expanded. Yet all known animal body plans appear in the form they possess today. In the words of Rudolf Raff, distinguished evolutionary biologist, “All of the known animal body plans seem to have appeared in the Cambrian Radiation.”

Darwin’s candor is to be commended. “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.” This is precisely what has happened.7

DID ADAM AND EVE REALLY EXIST?

A growing number of Christian thinkers say no. Francis Collins, founder of the Biologos Foundation and tapped by President Obama to be Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is among them. In his view, science dictates that modern humans emerged from primates a hundred thousand years ago in a population numbering some ten thousand—not two. Not only so, but according to Biologos biblical expert Peter Enns, “the Bible itself invites a symbolic reading” respecting the first man and woman. Thus, the question: Did Adam and Eve exist, or are they merely allegorical?

First, while Collins and company staunchly defend Darwinian evolution, their views hardly correspond to reality. Darwin hung his hopes on hundreds of thousands of transitional forms leading to the fossils of the Cambrian explosion. In actuality the poverty of the fossil record has been an embarrassment. Virtually all known body plans appear abruptly in the Cambrian. Plainly put, the Cambrian radiation vaporized the Darwinian Tree of Life. Moreover, molecular biology has increasingly become an intractable enigma for Darwinian dogmatists.

Furthermore, Scripture plainly opposes the collective rhetoric of theistic evolutionists who deny the reality of a historical Adam and Eve. Paul made it crystal clear. “From one man God made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth” (Acts 17:26). Indeed, sacred Scripture in concert with sound science makes plain that kinds reproduce “according to their kinds.” Moreover, had the first Adam not fallen into a life of perpetual sin terminated by death, there would have been no need for a Second Adam. Paul was emphatic: “Since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:21–22).

Finally, our Savior’s words should cast a pall on all Adam and Eve deniers. “At the beginning,” said Jesus, “the Creator made them male and female” (Matt. 19:4). Lest one be tempted to allegorize the words of our Lord, it is instructive to note that Jesus further affirmed a historical Adam and Eve when he referenced the murder of their son Abel (Matt. 23:35). Not only so, but Luke, writing to a primarily Gentile audience, extends his genealogy past Abraham to the first Adam, thus highlighting Christ, the Second Adam, as the Savior of all humanity. Should that prove insufficient, Chronicles provides a historical record from Adam to the exile. Likewise, Moses provides “the written account of Adam’s line” (Gen. 5:1).

Of one thing we can be absolutely certain, though Genesis is historical narrative interlaced with Jewish poetry, it is hardly a Collinsesque allegory.

IS ANIMAL SUFFERING A CONSEQUENCE
OF ADAM’S SIN?

“I cannot persuade myself,” wrote Darwin, “that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae [parasitic wasps] with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars.” This conundrum ultimately led Darwin to dispense with the notion of a Creator God. In reality, however, Adam, not the Almighty, bears culpability for the origin of moral and natural evil in the world.

First, the Bible contends that “sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin” (Rom. 5:12). And as a result, the whole of creation was subjected to “frustration” and “decay” (see Rom. 8:19–23; cf. Gen. 1:29–30; 9:1–4; Ps. 104:19–28).

Furthermore, the federal headship of Adam (Rom. 5:12–21; 1 Cor. 15:20–26) extends beyond humanity to all of God’s creation—even the ground was cursed as a direct result of Adam’s rebellion. Not only so, but the present curse and the promised redemption extends beyond the ground to the very animals that walk upon it (e.g., Isa. 11:6–9; 65:25; Rev. 21—22).

Finally, far from dispensing with God as a result of contemplating such natural horrors as a parasitic wasp, nature red in tooth and claw should have driven Darwin to contemplate the full consequences of alienation from God. Indeed, exposure to natural evil outside the comforts of the Garden must surely have caused Adam to understand the full gravity of his fall from grace. Put another way, chaos outside the Garden reflected the horror of his sin-sick soul.

Tragically, Darwin could only conceive of time as linear. Had he comprehended a God unbounded by time his evolutionary hypothesis may never have taken root. Surely God could cause effects of the fall to temporally precede their cause! As intelligent design theorist Dr. William Dembski has well said: “Just as the death and resurrection of Christ is responsible for the salvation of repentant people throughout all time, so the fall of humanity in the Garden of Eden is responsible for every natural evil throughout all time (future, present, past, and distant past preceding the fall).”8

Hank Hanegraaff is president of the Christian Research Institute and host of the Bible Answer Man broadcast heard daily throughout the United States and Canada via radio satellite radio Sirius-XM 131, and the Internet. For a list of stations airing the Bible Answer Man, or to listen online, log on to http://www.equip.org. Look for Hank’s forthcoming work, The Creation Answer Book (Thomas Nelson, 2012).


 NOTES

  1. Source (and a resource for further study): William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, 3rd ed. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008).
  2. Source (and a resource for further study): Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay W. Richards, The Privileged Planet: How Our Place in the Cosmos Is Designed for Discovery (Washington, DC: Regnery, 2004).
  3. Source (and resource for further study): Craig, Reasonable Faith.
  4. An earlier version of this question and answer appeared in Hank Hanegraaff, The Bible Answer Book, vol. 2 (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2006).
  5. Source (and resource for further study): Paul Copan and William Lane Craig, Creation Out of Nothing: A Biblical, Philosophical, and Scientific Exploration (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2004).
  6. For further study, see The Genesis Debate: Three Views on the Days of Creation, ed. David G. Hagopian (Mission Viejo, CA: Crux Press, 2001).
  7. For further study, see Darwin’s Dilemma: The Mystery of the Cambrian Fossil Record (DVD) (Illustra Media, 2009).
  8. For further study, see William A. Dembski, The End of Christianity: Finding a Good God in an Evil World (Nashville: B and H, 2009).

Christian Research Institute | August 9, 2013 at 5:05 pm 

URL: http://wp.me/p2pJZ3-7D5

 

 

Inspiration during everyday life

Have you ever got inspired during your session in the comfort room or the shower? Or while walking or driving down the road? I think all of us have, only the others would be embarrassed at the acts when seen by others. Yet we all have our unique moments of inspiration, no matter how weird or strange they may be. Believe me.

But why do our moments of greatest epiphany happen at the least opportune times?

Maybe the reason we get inspired at inopportune moments is because those are the few times when actually slow down.

For many of us, our days are consumed with busyness. As we bounce from one activity to the next, we multi-task and double-up on responsibilities, constantly striving to squeeze out just a little more productivity from our already-limited time.

However, we also need to give ourselves time to relax. Let’s “time-out” from all those things that give us stress the whole day and give space for yourselves to breathe. That way, you’ll find the best platform for your creativity to flourish.

Hey, here’s a question for you, guys: “What’s your most unforgettable moments of great inspiration?” Don’t be shy about details. It’s your experience, a wonderful thing to share to our other fellows here in Word Press.

 

Call for Advice and Feedback!

To whomever may read this:
Can you please tell me about my writing? How is my work seen by you? What are the errors and mistakes that you see? What are the good points that I must complement on? What are your suggestions for my improvement? Please, I really need your help. I am just a beginning novelist and poet and this is my first time publishing my works for the general public. Send me your feedback through my blog or my email address:”jenshinhoshiko18@gmail.com”.
– Jenny Mae Talver aka jenshinhoshiko18

Perseverance Is Key

When you give up, you let go of the chances that you can fulfill your dream. That’s being a coward – and no, I’m not joking about things here! You must have the will to persevere in your dream if you really really want it to come true.

Katherine Givens

http://under30ceo.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/persevere.jpegProgress in my writing career gives me some authority to dispense this bit of advice. When it comes to a dream, goal, or an achievement perseverance is required.Reaching a milestone in an overall plan needs hard work, determination, and a love for what you do. The love is the most important factor, because this sustains your perseverance!

Throughout every bump in the road and obstacle, you must keep pressing on for what is over the horizon. The recent sale of my novella, In Her Dreams, only came to fruition because I outright refused to give up hope. Rejections came and went. Small triumphs were collected, but now a big milestone has finally come.

Perseverance is key. If you quit on a dream or a goal because of a few failures, you just might be cheating yourself. I can certainly vouch that receiving word of the acceptance of my novella…

View original post 57 more words

The Weight of Glory by C.S. Lewis

The Weight of Glory

by C.S. Lewis

Preached originally as a sermon in the Church of St Mary the Virgin, Oxford, on June 8, 1942: published in THEOLOGY, November, 1941, and by the S.P.C.K, 1942

If you asked twenty good men to-day what they thought the highest of the virtues, nineteen of them would reply, Unselfishness. But if you asked almost any of the great Christians of old he would have replied, Love. You see what has happened? A negative term has been substituted for a positive, and this is of more than philological importance. The negative ideal of Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point. I do not think this is the Christian virtue of Love. The New Testament has lots to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself.

We are told to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses in order that we may follow Christ; and nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains an appeal to desire. If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

We must not be troubled by unbelievers when they say that this promise of reward makes the Christian life a mercenary affair.

There are different kinds of reward. There is the reward which has no natural connexion with the things you do to earn it, and is quite foreign to the desires that ought to accompany those things. Money is not the natural reward of love; that is why we call a man mercenary if he marries a woman for the sake of her money. But marriage is the proper reward for a real lover, and he is not mercenary for desiring it. A general who fights well in order to get a peerage is mercenary; a general who fights for victory is not, victory being the proper reward of battle as marriage is the proper reward of love. The proper rewards are not simply tacked on to the activity for which they are given, but are the activity itself in consummation. There is also a third case, which is more complicated.

An enjoyment of Greek poetry is certainly a proper, and not a mercenary, reward for learning Greek; but only those who have reached the stage of enjoying Greek poetry can tell from their own experience that this is so. The schoolboy beginning Greek grammar cannot look forward to his adult enjoyment of Sophocles as a lover looks forward to marriage or a general to victory.

He has to begin by working for marks, or to escape punishment, or to please his parents, or, at best, in the hope of a future good which he cannot at present imagine or desire. His position, therefore, bears a certain resemblance to that of the mercenary; the reward he is going to get will, in actual fact, be a natural or proper reward, but he will not know that till he has got it. Of course, he gets it gradually; enjoyment creeps in upon the mere drudgery, and nobody could point to a day or an hour when the one ceased and the other began. But it is just in so far as he approaches the reward that be becomes able to desire it for its own sake; indeed, the power of so desiring it is itself a preliminary reward.

The Christian, in relation to heaven, is in much the same position as this schoolboy.

Those who have attained everlasting life in the vision of God doubtless know very well that it is no mere bribe, but the very consummation of their earthly discipleship; but we who have not yet attained it cannot know this in the same way, and cannot even begin to know it at all except by continuing to obey and finding the first reward of our obedience in our increasing power to desire the ultimate reward. Just in proportion as the desire grows, our fear lest it should be a mercenary desire will die away and finally be recognized as an absurdity. But probably this will not, for most of us, happen in a day; poetry replaces grammar, gospel replaces law, longing transforms obedience, as gradually as the tide lifts a grounded ship.

But there is one other important similarity between the schoolboy and ourselves. If he is an imaginative boy he will, quite probably, be revelling in the English poets and romancers suitable to his age some time before he begins to suspect that Greek grammar is going to lead him to more and more enjoyments of this same sort. He may even be neglecting his Greek to read Shelley and Swinburne in secret. In other words, the desire which Greek is really going to gratify already exists in him and is attached to objects which seem to him quite unconnected with Xenophon and the verbs in μι. Now, if we are made for heaven, the desire for our proper place will be already in us, but not yet attached to the true object, and will even appear as the rival of that object. And this, I think, is just what we find. No doubt there is one point in which my analogy of the schoolboy breaks down. The English poetry which he reads when he ought to be doing Greek exercises may be just as good as the Greek poetry to which the exercises are leading him, so that in fixing on Milton instead of journeying on to Aeschylus his desire is not embracing a false object. But our case is very different.

If a transtemporal, transfinite good is our real destiny, then any other good on which our desire fixes must be in some degree fallacious, must bear at best only a symbolical relation to what will truly satisfy.

In speaking of this desire for our own far-off country, which we find in ourselves even now, I feel a certain shyness. I am almost committing an indecency. I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you—the secret which hurts so much that you take your revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism and Adolescence; the secret also which pierces with such sweetness that when, in very intimate conversation, the mention of it becomes imminent, we grow awkward and affect to laugh at ourselves; the secret we cannot hide and cannot tell, though we desire to do both. We cannot tell it because it is a desire for something that has never actually appeared in our experience. We cannot hide it because our experience is constantly suggesting it, and we betray ourselves like lovers at the mention of a name. Our commonest expedient is to call it beauty and behave as if that had settled the matter.

Wordsworth’s expedient was to identify it with certain moments in his own past. But all this is a cheat. If Wordsworth had gone back to those moments in the past, he would not have found the thing itself, but only the reminder of it; what he remembered would turn out to be itself a remembering. The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing.

These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited. Do you think I am trying to weave a spell? Perhaps I am; but remember your fairy tales. Spells are used for breaking enchantments as well as for inducing them.

And you and I have need of the strongest spell that can be found to wake us from the evil enchantment of worldliness which has been laid upon us for nearly a hundred years. Almost our whole education has been directed to silencing this shy, persistent, inner voice; almost all our modern philosophies have been devised to convince us that the good of man is to be found on this earth. And yet it is a remarkable thing that such philosophies of Progress or Creative Evolution themselves bear reluctant witness to the truth that our real goal is elsewhere. When they want to convince you that earth is your home, notice how they set about it. They begin by trying to persuade you that earth can be made into heaven, thus giving a sop to your sense of exile in earth as it is. Next, they tell you that this fortunate event is still a good way off in the future, thus giving a sop to your knowledge that the fatherland is not here and now. Finally, lest your longing for the transtemporal should awake and spoil the whole affair, they use any rhetoric that comes to hand to keep out of your mind the recollection that even if all the happiness they promised could come to man on earth, yet still each generation would lose it by death, including the last generation of all, and the whole story would be nothing, not even a story, for ever and ever. Hence all the nonsense that Mr. Shaw puts into the final speech of Lilith, and Bergson’s remark that the élan vital is capable of surmounting all obstacles, perhaps even death—as if we could believe that any social or biological development on this planet will delay the senility of the sun or reverse the second law of thermodynamics.

Do what they will, then, we remain conscious of a desire which no natural happiness will satisfy. But is there any reason to suppose that reality offers any satisfaction to it? “Nor does the being hungry prove that we have bread.” But I think it may be urged that this misses the point. A man’s physical hunger does not prove that that man will get any bread; he may die of starvation on a raft in the Atlantic. But surely a man’s hunger does prove that he comes of a race which repairs its body by eating and inhabits a world where eatable substances exist. In the same way, though I do not believe (I wish I did) that my desire for Paradise proves that I shall enjoy it, I think it a pretty good indication that such a thing exists and that some men will. A man may love a woman and not win her; but it would be very odd if the phenomenon called “falling in love” occurred in a sexless world.

Here, then, is the desire, still wandering and uncertain of its object and still largely unable to see that object in the direction where it really lies. Our sacred books give us some account of the object. It is, of course, a symbolical account. Heaven is, by definition, outside our experience, but all intelligible descriptions must be of things within our experience. The scriptural picture of heaven is therefore just as symbolical as the picture which our desire, unaided, invents for itself; heaven is not really full of jewelry any more than it is really the beauty of Nature, or a fine piece of music. The difference is that the scriptural imagery has authority. It comes to us from writers who were closer to God than we, and it has stood the test of Christian experience down the centuries.

The natural appeal of this authoritative imagery is to me, at first, very small. At first sight it chills, rather than awakes, my desire. And that is just what I ought to expect. If Christianity could tell me no more of the far-off land than my own temperament led me to surmise already, then Christianity would be no higher than myself. If it has more to give me, I must expect it to be less immediately attractive than “my own stuff.” Sophocles at first seems dull and cold to the boy who has only reached Shelley. If our religion is something objective, then we must never avert our eyes from those elements in it which seem puzzling or repellent; for it will be precisely the puzzling or the repellent which conceals what we do not yet know and need to know.

The promises of Scripture may very roughly be reduced to five heads. It is promised, firstly, that we shall be with Christ; secondly, that we shall be like Him; thirdly, with an enormous wealth of imagery, that we shall have “glory”; fourthly, that we shall, in some sense, be fed or feasted or entertained; and, finally, that we shall have some sort of official position in the universe—ruling cities, judging angels, being pillars of God’s temple. The first question I ask about these promises is: “Why any of them except the first?” Can anything be added to the conception of being with Christ? For it must be true, as an old writer says, that he who has God and everything else has no more than he who has God only. I think the answer turns again on the nature of symbols. For though it may escape our notice at first glance, yet it is true that any conception of being with Christ which most of us can now form will be not very much less symbolical than the other promises; for it will smuggle in ideas of proximity in space and loving conversation as we now understand conversation, and it will probably concentrate on the humanity of Christ to the exclusion of His deity.

And, in fact, we find that those Christians who attend solely to this first promise always do fill it up with very earthly imagery indeed—in fact, with hymeneal or erotic imagery. I am not for a moment condemning such imagery. I heartily wish I could enter into it more deeply than I do, and pray that I yet shall. But my point is that this also is only a symbol, like the reality in some respects, but unlike it in others, and therefore needs correction from the different symbols in the other promises. The variation of the promises does not mean that anything other than God will be our ultimate bliss; but because God is more than a Person, and lest we should imagine the joy of His presence too exclusively in terms of our present poor experience of personal love, with all its narrowness and strain and monotony, a dozen changing images, correcting and relieving each other, are supplied.

I turn next to the idea of glory. There is no getting away from the fact that this idea is very prominent in the New Testament and in early Christian writings. Salvation is constantly associated with palms, crowns, white robes, thrones, and splendour like the sun and stars. All this makes no immediate appeal to me at all, and in that respect I fancy I am a typical modern.

Glory suggests two ideas to me, of which one seems wicked and the other ridiculous. Either glory means to me fame, or it means luminosity. As for the first, since to be famous means to be better known than other people, the desire for fame appears to me as a competitive passion and therefore of hell rather than heaven. As for the second, who wishes to become a kind of living electric light bulb?

When I began to look into this matter I was shocked to find such different Christians as Milton, Johnson and Thomas Aquinas taking heavenly glory quite frankly in the sense of fame or good report. But not fame conferred by our fellow creatures—fame with God, approval or (I might say) “appreciation’ by God. And then, when I had thought it over, I saw that this view was scriptural; nothing can eliminate from the parable the divine accolade, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” With that, a good deal of what I had been thinking all my life fell down like a house of cards. I suddenly remembered that no one can enter heaven except as a child; and nothing is so obvious in a child—not in a conceited child, but in a good child—as its great and undisguised pleasure in being praised. Not only in a child, either, but even in a dog or a horse.

Apparently what I had mistaken for humility had, all these years, prevented me from understanding what is in fact the humblest, the most childlike, the most creaturely of pleasures—nay, the specific pleasure of the inferior: the pleasure a beast before men, a child before its father, a pupil before his teacher, a creature before its Creator. I am not forgetting how horribly this most innocent desire is parodied in our human ambitions, or how very quickly, in my own experience, the lawful pleasure of praise from those whom it was my duty to please turns into the deadly poison of self-admiration. But I thought I could detect a moment—a very, very short moment—before this happened, during which the satisfaction of having pleased those whom I rightly loved and rightly feared was pure. And that is enough to raise our thoughts to what may happen when the redeemed soul, beyond all hope and nearly beyond belief, learns at last that she has pleased Him whom she was created to please. There will be no room for vanity then. She will be free from the miserable illusion that it is her doing. With no taint of what we should now call self-approval she will most innocently rejoice in the thing that God has made her to be, and the moment which heals her old inferiority complex for ever will also drown her pride deeper than Prospero’s book. Perfect humility dispenses with modesty. If God is satisfied with the work, the work may be satisfied with itself; “it is not for her to bandy compliments with her Sovereign.” I can imagine someone saying that he dislikes my idea of heaven as a place where we are patted on the back. But proud misunderstanding is behind that dislike. In the end that Face which is the delight or the terror of the universe must be turned upon each of us either with one expression or with the other, either conferring glory inexpressible or inflicting shame that can never be cured or disguised. I read in a periodical the other day that the fundamental thing is how we think of God. By God Himself, it is not! How God thinks of us is not only more important, but infinitely more important. Indeed, how we think of Him is of no importance except in so far as it is related to how He thinks of us. It is written that we shall “stand before” Him, shall appear, shall be inspected. The promise of glory is the promise, almost incredible and only possible by the work of Christ, that some of us, that any of us who really chooses, shall actually survive that examination, shall find approval, shall please God. To please God…to be a real ingredient in the divine happiness…to be loved by God, not merely pitied, but delighted in as an artist delights in his work or a father in a son—it seems impossible, a weight or burden of glory which our thoughts can hardly sustain. But so it is.

And now notice what is happening. If I had rejected the authoritative and scriptural image of glory and stuck obstinately to the vague desire which was, at the outset, my only pointer to heaven, I could have seen no connexion at all between that desire and the Christian promise. But now, having followed up what seemed puzzling and repellent in the sacred books, I find, to my great surprise, looking back, that the connexion is perfectly clear. Glory, as Christianity teaches me to hope for it, turns out to satisfy my original desire and indeed to reveal an element in that desire which I had not noticed. By ceasing for a moment to consider my own wants I have begun to learn better what I really wanted. When I attempted, a few minutes ago, to describe our spiritual longings, I was omitting one of their most curious characteristics. We usually notice it just as the moment of vision dies away, as the music ends or as the landscape loses the celestial light. What we feel then has been well described by Keats as “the journey homeward to habitual self.” You know what I mean. For a few minutes we have had the illusion of belonging to that world. Now we wake to find that it is no such thing. We have been mere spectators. Beauty has smiled, but not to welcome us; her face was turned in our direction, but not to see us. We have not been accepted, welcomed, or taken into the dance. We may go when we please, we may stay if we can: “Nobody marks us.”

A scientist may reply that since most of the things we call beautiful are inanimate, it is not very surprising that they take no notice of us. That, of course, is true. It is not the physical objects that I am speaking of, but that indescribable something of which they become for a moment the messengers. And part of the bitterness which mixes with the sweetness of that message is due to the fact that it so seldom seems to be a message intended for us but rather something we have overheard. By bitterness I mean pain, not resentment. We should hardly dare to ask that any notice be taken of ourselves. But we pine. The sense that in this universe we are treated as strangers, the longing to be acknowledged, to meet with some response, to bridge some chasm that yawns between us and reality, is part of our inconsolable secret. And surely, from this point of view, the promise of glory, in the sense described, becomes highly relevant to our deep desire. For glory meant good report with God, acceptance by God, response, acknowledgment, and welcome into the heart of things. The door on which we have been knocking all our lives will open at last.

Perhaps it seems rather crude to describe glory as the fact of being “noticed” by God. But this is almost the language of the New Testament. St. Paul promises to those who love God not, as we should expect, that they will know Him, but that they will be known by Him (I Cor. viii. 3). It is a strange promise. Does not God know all things at all times? But it is dreadfully re-echoed in another passage of the New Testament. There we are warned that it may happen to any one of us to appear at last before the face of God and hear only the appalling words: “I never knew you. Depart from Me.” In some sense, as dark to the intellect as it is unendurable to the feelings, we can be both banished from the presence of Him who is present everywhere and erased from the knowledge of Him who knows all. We can be left utterly and absolutely outside—repelled, exiled, estranged, finally and unspeakably ignored. On the other hand, we can be called in, welcomed, received, acknowledged. We walk every day on the razor edge between these two incredible possibilities. Apparently, then, our lifelong nostalgia, our longing to be reunited with something in the universe from which we now feel cut off, to be on the inside of some door which we have always seen from the outside, is no mere neurotic fancy, but the truest index of our real situation. And to be at last summoned inside would be both glory and honour beyond all our merits and also the healing of that old ache.

And this brings me to the other sense of glory—glory as brightness, splendour, luminosity. We are to shine as the sun, we are to be given the Morning Star. I think I begin to see what it means. In one way, of course, God has given us the Morning Star already: you can go and enjoy the gift on many fine mornings if you get up early enough. What more, you may ask, do we want? Ah, but we want so much more—something the books on aesthetics take little notice of. But the poets and the mythologies know all about it. We do not want merely to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words—to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it. That is why we have peopled air and earth and water with gods and goddesses and nymphs and elves—that, though we cannot, yet these projections can, enjoy in themselves that beauty grace, and power of which Nature is the image.

That is why the poets tell us such lovely falsehoods. They talk as if the west wind could really sweep into a human soul; but it can’t. They tell us that “beauty born of murmuring sound” will pass into a human face; but it won’t. Or not yet. For if we take the imagery of Scripture seriously, if we believe that God will one day give us the Morning Star and cause us to put on the splendour of the sun, then we may surmise that both the ancient myths and the modern poetry, so false as history, may be very near the truth as prophecy. At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door. We discern the freshness and purity of morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the splendours we see. But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumour that it will not always be so. Some day, God willing, we shall get in. When human souls have become as perfect in voluntary obedience as the inanimate creation is in its lifeless obedience, then they will put on its glory, or rather that greater glory of which Nature is only the first sketch. For you must not think that I am putting forward any heathen fancy of being absorbed into Nature. Nature is mortal; we shall outlive her. When all the suns and nebulae have passed away, each one of you will still be alive. Nature is only the image, the symbol; but it is the symbol Scripture invites me to use. We are summoned to pass in through Nature, beyond her, into that splendour which she fitfully reflects.

And in there, in beyond Nature, we shall eat of the tree of life. At present, if we are reborn in Christ, the spirit in us lives directly on God; but the mind, and still more the body, receives life from Him at a thousand removes—through our ancestors, through our food, through the elements.

The faint, far-off results of those energies which God’s creative rapture implanted in matter when He made the worlds are what we now call physical pleasures; and even thus filtered, they are too much for our present management. What would it be to taste at the fountain-head that stream of which even these lower reaches prove so intoxicating? Yet that, I believe, is what lies before us. The whole man is to drink joy from the fountain of joy. As St. Augustine said, the rapture of the saved soul will “flow over” into the glorified body. In the light of our present specialized and depraved appetites we cannot imagine this torrens voluptatis, and I warn everyone seriously not to try. But it must be mentioned, to drive out thoughts even more misleading—thoughts that what is saved is a mere ghost, or that the risen body lives in numb insensibility. The body was made for the Lord, and these dismal fancies are wide of the mark.

Meanwhile the cross comes before the crown and tomorrow is a Monday morning. A cleft has opened in the pitiless walls of the world, and we are invited to follow our great Captain inside. The following Him is, of course, the essential point. That being so, it may be asked what practical use there is in the speculations which I have been indulging. I can think of at least one such use. It may be possible for each to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbour. The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbour’s glory should be laid daily on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken. It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics.

There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendours. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously—no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner—no mere tolerance or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment. Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbour he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also Christ vere latitat—the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself, is truly hidden.

Are the best things in life free?

God created man in his own image and likeness. In the same way, we are creators of the life we lead – our past, present and futures  – through the actions we do and the manner it affects the people around us. The persons who come and go into our lives shape our attitudes. The events that surround them shape our images. This is our own uniqueness.

It is only too true that God gave every one of his people a specific twist in huis or her life. In the most perplexing ways, trials always come our way. Because God wants to test us. He wants to test how we will do with our unique twists. This is God’s way of connecting with us.

Because we are so caught up with doing something with the twists in our life, we tend to ignore what’s really important. We go to the things of the world. We go for success , fame, power and money as we think that they rule over the world and therefore the ones worth to be sought after. We think and get swayed by the secular drift of our harshly changing world.

Men and women intoxicate themselves with the thoughts of these worldly things, especially money. Since they believe that with so much quantities of it, they can get anything they can ever want. Sadly, this assumption – or rather, way of thinking – drives them to do unspeakable things. Sin abounds and immorality is exposed to those interested and eager for the claim. Yet no matter how they do it, unhappiness predominates the hearts of many.

We humans have forgotten the things that are really worth our time, our presence and the wait. Example, most teens and young adults prefer to give up themselves before marriage. Parents become too busy with making a living that they neglect their children to the point that they no longer feel the love. Friends became bitter enemies when they rival for the same covetable thing. And most importantly, many lose their allegiance to their religion because they no longer think that God exists. Yet these things most of us ignore in our daily lives are the most important, the best things in life. The virtue of purity, unconditional love, loyal and eternal friendship, and faith cannot be bought by gold or silver. They are freely given to those who accept and acknowledge them in their lives. We must cherish them as we receive them every day of our short human lives.

 

Don’t cry becau…

Don’t cry because it’s over,
smile because it happened.

This is the main theme of my novel, Smile, Old Heart, that we should never regret what has happened. Even it’s just memories they left us with, I think it should be more than enough to last them in our minds forever. A short life can be a fulfilled one, given the circumstances.