A Letter to a Nephew

Vulnerability [sign]

When is One’s ‘VIEW” not a World View…

Firstly, it isn’t possible for me—or anyone else to offer an opinion that isn’t, in some way, affected by a ‘worldview’ so I shall not attempt such an impossible scenario. So please indulge me.

As we all have ‘opinions’ that, subconsciously or otherwise, affect our view of everything, we are not able to offer an unbiased opinion—presuppositions prevail!  Take for example ‘absolutes’: It is the case that we all follow ‘absolutes’—though it is the case that some [relative] world-views absolutely deny others the right to think in such absolute terms . Of course, as a Christian, I believe in Absolute Truth—and the existence of Absolute Moral Values—something that enables me to distinguish what is ‘absolutely’ right from something that is ‘absolutely’ wrong; there are grey areas (here) but if we take, for example the commandment ‘no murder’, we can, within reason, comprehend its meaning. Of course if this is simply relative to our (present) notion of ‘Good & Evil’, we might decide that it is OK to murder—should it be necessary—or it’s OK to abuse children—depending on our personal preference. Political legislation though inhibiting our behaviour/practice–does not affect our worldview (WV)–though it’s possible for us to experience a paradigm shift or a religious conversion, which may well change the way we see the world.

Divine or What?

What possible criteria would one use to identify such an elevated state of affairs? How would one measure the progress? If  one has reached the ‘true sense of divinity’ you refer to, it cannot be left to ‘feelings’—for the reality of our true nature [the self]–something that ‘you’ desire to be rid of–would be crouching in the corner waiting for us to stub our toe when we arise/descend from this state of ‘self-delusion’. The other difficulty with this is that, in spite of our remonstrations to the contrary, it takes effort to avoid striving for  release from the ‘self’; it is ‘energy expelled’—in whatever way one wishes to ‘dress it up’. For example, the Buddha’s  mantra not to strive—to have no desires’–so that we may reach this state of spiritual maturity, is in practical terms an oxymoron.

The Apostle Paul gives his own example of what he describes as ‘the wretched man’ (Romans Chapter 7). Here he describes a man (most likely himself) who, with all the best intentions to keep the [absolute] Laws of God, fails at one point or another. Humanity is fallen—is not at his full potential—which is what you seem to be inferring—though you mention a ‘true sense of divinity’—which is, according to the Bible the root of the problem, id est, our desire to be ‘god-like’ rather than ‘like God’. It is, God’s desire that we humans (imago dei) know him—indeed that is, as far as we can fully ascertain. One of the reasons God instilled in humanity His ‘likeness’.J.I.Packer has written a classic book entitled, ‘Knowing God’, in which he deals, most fully, with the subject. Of course, it does depend on which ‘god’/GOD you mean. (chapter four of my book deals briefly—not exhaustively—with this). NB.The Christian notion of God is Triune—not to be confused with the ‘Allah’ of Islam—or the ‘gods’ of any other world-view—save that of Judaism—but that is another discussion.

The questions of  a ‘true sense of divinity’ and ‘spiritual maturity need unpacking a bit—both relate to a WV. What does ‘divinity’ mean for creatures that may be described as ‘nothing but atoms and molecules’—or carbon based lifeforms with a high level of consciousness. From my perspective mankind is body & spirit—or body, mind & spirit. Jesus (John 3:6,7)  says, “ Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’” This is what you’ve been thinking about, isn’t it—the ‘true’ nature of the person—what Koestler described as ‘the ghost in the machine’; but that is yet another discussion.   However, from the Christian WV a human being does not pre-exist as a disembodied spirit—angel-like creature  but rather was created to be in relationship with his creator—the Triune God. That is not to say that man is not a spiritual as well as a physical creature he is both. However, he is not ‘angel-like’. My view, the CWV, is that the possibility of any ‘true sense of divinity is, indeed, non sequitur. However, my ‘spiritual maturity’ is another matter altogether—so I am happy to give it some further thought as it, most certainly` is germane to any sort of ‘spiritual quest:

I guess the difference between the idea of ‘spiritual maturity’ and the quest for holiness is that they are actually polar opposites.Of course spiritual maturity can be considered a sustained state of affairs—and is related, in some sense, to the quest for ‘holiness’. To be ‘Holy’ is to be like God—i.e. to model oneself on ‘perfection’. Indeed the Bible makes it clear that those professing Christ should desire it: “…for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’”(1 Peter 1:16). Here, Peter is referring to the Old Testament:

Leviticus 11:44
‘For I am the LORD your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. And you shall not make yourselves unclean with any of the swarming things that swarm on the earth.
Leviticus 11:45
‘For I am the LORD who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God; thus you shall be holy, for I am holy.’”
Leviticus 19:2
“Speak to all the congregation of the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.
Leviticus 20:7
‘You shall consecrate yourselves therefore and be holy, for I am the LORD your God.
Isaiah 35:8
A highway will be there, a roadway, And it will be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean will not travel on it, But it will be for him who walks that way, And fools will not wander on it.

Nephew,f you’ve read through the Bible, you’ll be aware that the absolute holiness of God is the reason we cannot enter the place where absolute perfection dwells. When the apostle Peter offers the above imperative it is not that Christians have to be ‘perfect’ but that they should, indeed be different—not because it is a ‘requirement’ but that it ought to be the response of those who have been ‘saved’ by Grace, i.e. that those born again by the Spirit of God have the resources to actually be ‘that different’—but ‘perfection’ belongs to the Divine Persons: Father, Son & Holy Spirit and not to the created. In his letter to the Philippian Church[s], in reference to perfection/ holiness, St Paul states: Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” (Philippian3:12) Oswald Chambers expresses it thus:

 It is a trap to presume that God wants to make us perfect specimens of what He can do—God’s purpose is to make us one with Himself. The emphasis of holiness movements tends to be that God is producing specimens of holiness to put in His    museum…Christian perfection is not, and never can be, human perfection. Christian perfection is the perfection of a  relationship with God that shows itself to be true even amid the seemingly unimportant aspects of human life. When you obey  the call of Jesus Christ, the first thing that hits you is the pointlessness of the things you             have to do. The next thought that  strikes you is that other people seem to be living perfectly consistent lives. Such  lives may leave you with the idea that God is         unnecessary—that through your own human effort and devotion you can attain God’s standard for your life. In a fallen world this can never be done. I am called to live in such a perfect relationship with God that my life produces a yearning for God in the      lives of others, not admiration for myself. Thoughts about myself hinder my usefulness to God. God’s purpose is not to perfect me to make me a trophy in His showcase; He is getting me to the place where He can use me. Let Him do what He want. Oswald Chambers.

Therefore, spiritual maturity cannot be ‘positional’—me getting myself (the personal me) out of a hole. It is, indeed, impossible for human beings to rescue themselves from the state of affairs the Bible refers to as ‘fallenness’. Indeed, as Romans 3:23 states so eloquently, ‘…all have fallen short of the glory of God—there are no righteous people—none at all’. This isn’t saying that there are no good people but that there are none who are, naturally or through their own effort—right with God. The ‘self’ cannot drag itself up by its, metaphorical, bootstraps to an imaginary ‘spiritual maturity’. With regards to myself—to answer your question: I do consider myself a ‘mature Christian (not necessarily age-related J) i.e. ‘spiritually mature’; I would say that I have and do experience what I perceive to be the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. If I am out of God’s will—through my wilful turning away from God’s ‘best practice’ then I should not expect to know His presence—though feelings are deceptive—so we may imagine a divine indwelling but it, indeed, may well be something that emanates from personal deception or from the effects/influence of the enemy of souls—even Satan (my book addresses Satan and the fallen angels). The following words from the New Testament some it up so much better than I am able:

“So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit,you are not under the law. The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:13-23)

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-13)

The apostle Paul is referring, to ‘spiritual maturity’—the difference it makes—both to the individual Christian believer and to those in close proximity and—to those ‘abroad’.

To the religion leader, Jesus said that, “Flesh gives birth to flesh but spirit gives birth to spirit. You must be born again.” (John 3:6,7)

Best Regards.

Uncle Derek


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