Just how far can we trust our internal sense of rightness when interpreting the Faith?
For a long time, I believed that Christianity was what you got when you took your common sense and turned it inside out. And this is true, to a point. ("For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing...") I enjoyed (gloated over, really) the idea that Christianity was ridiculous, until I started seeing the self-righteous fruit this mentality was producing in my life. Something was wrong.
As Christians we are taught to severely distrust our own intuition. It's true that the heart is deceitful, but what happened to being created in the image of God, walking in the liberty of the Spirit, and having the mind of Christ? Are we so preoccupied with the anomalies that we're missing the answers? I began to wonder.
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness." (Gen. 1:26)
The Lord said to Moses, “Why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward." (Ex. 14:15)
We impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written,these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person's thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. (1 Cor. 2:7-13)
“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him”—
But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him. (1 Jn. 2:27)
I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. (Ps. 16:7)
“For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Cor. 2:16)
Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! (1 Cor. 6:3)
Now concerning the betrothed, I have no command from the Lord, but I give my judgment as one who by the Lord's mercy is trustworthy. (1 Cor. 7:25)
And I will walk at liberty: for I seek thy precepts. (Ps. 119:45)
What does it mean to be made in God's image? Surely it does not mean that we look like Him, and clearly it cannot mean that we possess His divine attributes (the "omni-stuff"). What can it mean but that we were created to feel as He feels and think as He thinks? It's true that in Isaiah 55:9, God says, "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." But does this scripture imply a difference in kind or only in degree?
If God is knowable at all, and the Bible strongly implies that He is, it must be because we share some common metaphysical ground, however small. It must mean we are sub-feelers, sub-thinkers, sub-creators. Most exciting of all, it must mean that we are finding some good within ourselves, as God through His grace reveals His nature in us.
Obviously, not every wish we have leads to spiritual truth. Indeed, our wishes are often conflicting or even contradictory, and as such are (in and of themselves) an unreliable guide to truth.
All that modern stuff about concealed wishes and wishful thinking, however useful it may be for explaining the origin of an error which you already know to be an error, is perfectly useless in deciding which of two beliefs is the error and which is the truth. For (a.) One never knows all one's wishes, and (b.) In very big questions, such as this, even one's conscious wishes are nearly always engaged on both sides. What I think one can say with certainty is this: the notion that everyone would like Xtianity to be true, and that therefore all atheists are brave men who have accepted the defeat of all their deepest desires, is simply impudent nonsense...
So let's wash out all the wish business. It never helped anyone solve any problem yet.*
The point is that we don't find the truth by following our wishes - rather we find our wishes by following the truth. We must simultaneously grant that (A) Christianity satisfies our truest longings and answers our deepest questions, and (B) It does this by virtue of being itself (personified in Christ) and not by us making it into what we think it ought to be. In other words, Christianity provides the inertia necessary for us to escape ourselves. Thus, we must respect it as something raw, real, and other, not something that accommodates our every intellectual whim. It is a window, not a mirror.
Take, for instance, the doctrine of hell vs. the doctrine of universalism (unconditional salvation for all, believers and unbelievers alike). The latter is undoubtedly attractive, (Hitler aside,) and we can even create a scriptural and/or metaphysical case that it aligns better with the nature of God, etc. But is it true?
This, therefore, is, in conclusion, my reason for accepting the religion and not merely the scattered and secular truths out of the religion. I do it because the thing has not merely told this truth or that truth, but has revealed itself as a truth-telling thing. All other philosophies say the things that plainly seem to be true; only this philosophy has again and again said the thing that does not seem to be true, but is true. Alone of all creeds it is convincing where it is not attractive; it turns out to be right, like my father in the garden. Theosophists for instance will preach an obviously attractive idea like re-incarnation; but if we wait for its logical results, they are spiritual superciliousness and the cruelty of caste. For if a man is a beggar by his own pre-natal sins, people will tend to despise the beggar. But Christianity preaches an obviously unattractive idea, such as original sin; but when we wait for its results, they are pathos and brotherhood, and a thunder of laughter and pity; for only with original sin we can at once pity the beggar and distrust the king. Men of science offer us health, an obvious benefit; it is only afterwards that we discover that by health, they mean bodily slavery and spiritual tedium. Orthodoxy makes us jump by the sudden brink of hell; it is only afterwards that we realise that jumping was an athletic exercise highly beneficial to our health. It is only afterwards that we realise that this danger is the root of all drama and romance. The strongest argument for the divine grace is simply its ungraciousness. The unpopular parts of Christianity turn out when examined to be the very props of the people. The outer ring of Christianity is a rigid guard of ethical abnegations and professional priests; but inside that inhuman guard you will find the old human life dancing like children, and drinking wine like men; for Christianity is the only frame for pagan freedom.**
I am becoming increasingly persuaded that Truth and What Makes Sense ought to be the same thing. Only What Makes Sense must be defined by Truth, and not the other way around. (1 Cor. 2:14)
I believe we need a resurgence of the bold Christian intuition, the type that has distinguished great Christian thinkers through the centuries, from Paul to Peter Kreeft. "And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." That is God's promise to us. Do we believe it?
*C. S. Lewis, in a letter to Sheldon Vanauken (Sheldon Vanauken, A Severe Mercy, (Harper & Row, 1977), 88-89
**G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, (Image Books | Doubleday, 2001), 166
**G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, (Image Books | Doubleday, 2001), 166
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