“… looking around on the national and international scene, we must confess that it is a very wicked and corrupt one. Strife and famine, oppression and injustice, flourish on a scale which makes a mockery of our dream. We are tempted to lend an ear to …. “How can you believe in a good God in the face of the mess that the world is in?” [to which we can reply] “How can you expect the world to be other than in a mess when the good God and his laws are ignored?”Harry Blamires, The Post-Christian Mind, Exposing Its Destructive Agenda. (Ann Arbor, Michigan. Servant Publications, 1999), p. 119.
We finished last time with the question, “Why is evil still so prevalent and persistent?” To which we may add, in the same vein, “Why has it always been, since the earliest records of human society? Why has it always manifested in even the most primitive and simplest societies?”
Blamires, a well-known and respected English Christian teacher and author and disciple of C.S. Lewis, puts forward a very simple and succinct answer: “How can you expect the world to be other than in a mess when the good God and his laws are ignored?”
But do we really need to revert to tales of God and fables of a human “Fall” from grace and innocence in a perfect Garden of Eden? I do not intend to run down the rabbit trail of the literal historicity of the Bible’s account of origins. I do not think that is really to the point in this discussion. However, in saying this I am not declaring that the Genesis story is not true. Whether we accept it as actual history or as poetic allegory, it is completely true to human nature as we find it and experience it in our own lives.
Everything begins with a Creator. If we deny this essential starting point, we have already thrown away the road map for the journey. After that, we wander “lost” in an uncharted wilderness, having to discover everything for ourselves and to find our own meaning for everything. We become subject to all kinds of fancies and whims about “who, what, where, when, why, and how”. We create all our own answers to all the basic questions of existence. And we are tremendously proud that we can do this and have done it, like fully matured and emancipated adults.
Over and over again, we run into this wall. We of the West and the Postmodern, Post-Christian world, have “emancipated ourselves from God”. We have bravely and with “mature” wisdom found that God, or at least the old legend of God, held us in a kind of childhood bondage. But now, through the liberation of reason and science and technological prowess, “We no longer have need of that hypothesis.”
Now we can re-imagine our primordial beginnings. We can use the sciences (actually, speculation inspired by science) to reconstruct our earliest evolution and the emergence of human consciousness and self-awareness. Like Rousseau, we can postulate that, long ago (although very recently in the evolutionary timeframe) the human race emerged in a state of innocence, or “noble savagery”. Then, as awareness and the first societies began, order and rule began to assert themselves. Tradition, custom, and “law” appeared, backed up by awe and fear of the unknown. It was for the good of the whole to accept law, and the unknown powers and forces were personified and placated by resort to forms and rituals of propitiation.
Nature was/is cruel and impersonal, we are told by Darwinism. The strong survive. But humans are an anomaly. As soon as we see homo sapiens present, we already see a deep sense of right and wrong, justice and injustice, caring and compassion – and their opposites, jealousy and ruthless selfishness. But it is already clear that that sort of character and behavior was reprehensible. It was and always has been part of human nature and experience to know and revere both the wonderful beauty and majesty of nature and its terrible power and cruelty. And even in “primitive” cultures, life is cherished and valued, even “weak” life. Although, for the good of the greater number, the weak and unfit are sometimes left to perish in hard times.
The question of questions is the origin of such sense and awareness in the human heart of hearts. Evolution really has no satisfactory explanation for such sensibility. In fact, in any objective account of human nature, it is a fundamental need from the core of our being to acknowledge and seek the meaning of what is, not least of our own relationship to the Great Mystery of Being. Every human being is born with it, and there is no accounting for it from any inventive application of evolutionary principles that has ever been devised or is likely to be devised.
It is easy to ascribe the sense of the worth of human life, even the weakest and most fragile, to “the instinct for survival of the species”. We do not find this in the animal kingdom. And now, in our enlightened, emancipated world, we find it dissipating in the Post-Christian West as well. We kill our own young almost indiscriminately because of inconvenience. A quarter to a third of all pregnancies are now aborted. We have so desensitized ourselves to this monstrous behavior that we refuse to even discuss it as a matter of principle, citing issues of “personal choice” and using bogus science to treat the unborn as “not yet human”.
For all our vaunting of the “law of Progress” in human development, it is impossible to justify this sort of flaunting of the most basic laws of nature (let alone of the Creator) as any sort of “Progress” in either our evolutionary development into some sort of higher, superhuman kind of being, or into “God’s children made in the Creator’s image” from the other perspective. Yet we find ourselves incapable of even the most primal honesty with respect to it.
Once more, we hear Blamires’ question, “How can you expect the world to be other than in a mess when the good God and his laws are ignored?”
The question of abortion is a terrible symptom of a society gone far, far astray from any true standard of what is right and just. In the West, we find the same moral sickness, disorientation, and bi-polar behavior infecting every other question about the worth and quality of human life. Increasingly, we find the same phenomenon at work in the non-Western world, although in some cultures the level of value and respect for human life never rose to that of what was once Christendom.
In “The Moral Compass” (#7 in this series), we noted that even a growing number of secular western thinkers are acknowledging that it is perhaps really not possible to hold a firm standard of “good” in the struggle with evil without an appeal to an absolute standard based on some sort of Divine authority.
But is it really and finally as simple as returning to “the good God and his laws” as Blamires puts it? It is certainly a place to start, rather than remaining adrift on an ocean of chaos. That sea is becoming more and more choked with the nature-killing rivers of our death-filled industrial pollution while we devalue everything that is truly good and noble and beautiful and praise-worthy in the name of our fantastical, wild Mr. Toad ride of self-indulgence and “self-actualization”.
Whether we believe in “nature restoring order and balance” according to the “laws of the Universe” or in “the good God” ultimately restoring that order and balance according to His/Her laws placed within us and the Creation He/She made us to steward, enrich, and enhance, we would be wise to view the present pandemic crisis as a pause, a brief reprieve, a time to take stock. If we have eyes to see without being overwhelmed by personal economic and/or health crisis (a tall order, I admit), we might note how clean the air has been, how clear the water has flowed, how much our consumption addiction has decreased.
There is grace even in suffering. There is hope even in facing evil, especially when we open our eyes and look past our personal pain to the One who is saying something in and through it.
TO BE CONTINUED