Humans do not function as merely and simply biological machinery. All our history and experience from all the history we have any clue about declare that we have ever held to the Cosmos being an awesome and awe-full place which shouts that it was and is created by an operative will according to a design. The will and design are demonstrated by what is, what is in evidence, in actual existence all around us, inside and out, in all things and everywhere all the time. And it all points to Something higher and greater than we – in fact, Someone much more than Something.
There is great mystery in our self-awareness. It is inseparable from our knowledge of the very real existence of both good and evil, right and wrong, justice and injustice, selfishness and selflessness—all side by side in each of us, all vying for pre-eminence in our thinking, feeling, and acting.
Tertullian’s point was that relying on forms of wisdom which exclude the Creator as the final source of truth maroon the seeker in the empty desert of forever chasing new propositions, forever seeking another savant with the next level of understanding, and forever discovering yet another dead-end road with no food for the empty heart and soul. A very fair-minded man, Tertullian criticized Christian deviants as vehemently as he took apart the nonsense the secularists of his day spouted against Jesus and his followers.
The West is in moral, spiritual, and a deepening social and cultural crisis. As the world’s global cultural engine over the last two hundred years, it has dragged the whole world into the maelstrom of its Mr. Toad Wild Ride which shows no end in sight.
Theists, atheists, agnostics, polytheists, Deists, monists, pantheists – it matters not. We are bred to believe, not just to exist. We are made and formed to trust that there is meaning behind the blind-seeming, ineluctable powers and forces enveloping us in the time-space continuum, or the quantum-chance continuum if you prefer.
But the practical side is also crystalline: “Give us today our daily bread” – a request that we receive what we need (not want, lust after, crave to get) materially in the here and now. This is for two purposes – first so that we can carry on with the business of bringing God’s Kingdom into this age for as long as we are here, and second so that we can meet the needs of others who do not have enough and so show them the real love of their Creator.
What it looks like is a subject with no definable boundaries in our “normal” way of talking about human societies. It is also impossible to fully know in “this present age” even though those who find the Door into it begin to experience it as they travel its road. For the Door is a Person, not a place or a thing. And the path is a relationship, not a set of doctrines, dogmas, or commandments. At best, such things can be signposts, but they must not be mistaken for HIM.
Neither whisper is going away. Both will remain, breaking ever in upon us, piercing our armour of self-sufficiency and independence at the most inconvenient and unsuspecting moments. The monstrous Nazi and Soviet horrors of the twentieth century remind us. At such moments the whispers become warning shouts, alarms, that our true nature is other than the myth of self and independence, the conspiracy of silence (or rather silencing) about the greatest story of all time. Even a great leader of the West in that moment (Winston Churchill) recognized that it was really about the survival of “Christian civilization”, which even in 1940 was well on the road to a fading echo, although not then quite a whisper.
The saddest part of the West’s identity crisis is that the triumphant secular establishment does not have the courage of its own proclaimed convictions. It has gone beyond the pendulum-swing analogy of a strong reaction against the stifling shackles of the old religion and its clinging tentacles.
For more than a thousand years, the divide in the West’s soul created the dream of “Christendom” on the one hand while still lured and divided by the old habits of heart and mind of power, greed, and lust. The cynics, or perhaps realists, have always had plenty of ammunition to question the dream of the coming of the Kingdom of Christ in the warp and woof of human history – Christendom!