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THE BEGINNING OF IT ALL
- ACRID ABSOLUTISMS -
It is always salutary in cases of disease or disturbance to be able to find the beginning of it all. Some one incident or virus or accident may prove of inestimable value if it can be scanned and related to symptoms or sequences. To the exact weak spot in the body, it may point. Verification all but lunges into the realm and finds ... if so be, the crack or the fissure, whatever underlies so many symptoms otherwise so diverse and difficult to correlate in any rational system.
One of the merits of the Russell Report
is that it possesses, albeit suitably hidden after the manner of so much that
is so academic, such a key index. On p.166, following so much earlier
that is tendentious and indicative rather than quite obvious and blatant, it
makes its decree.
Again, though we may pause to contemplate the potentials for such consequences in our divergences, the word 'may' is undoubtedly correct. In some instances, and even outside a presumed Hegelian mode, there is an undoubted proclivity for some interpretations, for example, of certain works to be mutually complementary and stimulating to the diverse proponents alike. Yes, 'may' is right. But let us not be wafted into sleep. It proceeds. In this sort of work, it usually does. Let us hear it:
It is not so emphasised, or typed in red in the original; so we have provided this service to aid thought.
Now what is an absolutism? Webster's dictionary gives us two definitions of the term. BOTH seem reasonable enough. The first is the 'state or quality of being absolute, or without limitation or condition; quality of that which is immediate, assertorial, or downright.'
Let us apply this possibility. It would
mean that the destructive (and we shall yet regard this more keenly in context)
thing, the baneful item or agenda or approach, it is that which incorporates an
attitude, evinces an atmosphere and more particularly evidences a belief not
subject to qualification, compromise or barter, to banter, controversion
or contradiction - as to its
MODE of being held. This? it is NOT DESIRED!
Yes, the desire might be met by saying the 'point in question is not incontrovertibly true for the race of men per se.' (Preferably, indeed, it would be by not even thinking it, for the abhorrent referent here is conceived as a QUALITY, inlaid into the conception. It exists in the minds of its propounders as it is given out to these who do not conceive it true, but merely a possibility if indeed, that.)
It is THAT 'absolutist' quality, it is pronounced, it is THAT - scorned like a scorpion, which brings on the detestable wars, the despicable tantrums and the evil dissolutions - variants of the destructive in the poor old race of man. This then seems to be the sense, at that level.
The other sense is obviously to designate the absolute to which the belief refers, the absolute to which the mind kneels, the heart responds, the reason yields in integrity and worship. Here it is no longer a question of the mode of believing whatever one believes; now it in a matter of believing relative to an absolute that it IS. It Is now a matter of content. Thus Webster on absolutism: 'Doctrine of that which is absolute independent or unconditional ...' Webster makes some reference to various philosophies in this, contra-distinguishes various Platonic and Hegelian approaches from some Eastern religious approaches and so on. However, our need is OBVIOUSLY not to deal In these sub-species, since the context is general in kind, and as such precludes a mere sub-species in the sweep of its denunciation. A glance at some such ingredients, however, introduced by Plato, might be instructive.
Some Modern Developments, and an Ancient Contributor
Now of course we COULD speak of Plato's forms, and of his form of the good; but also of his flirtation with providence* 11 and sovereign impositions of justice in which he seems to transcend some of his earlier forms without interpreting the apparent transcendence of this righteousness, or its specificity, beyond the ear1ier inclusivist interpretive models, which earlier figure at times so strongly in his writings... Plato is tender about truth, but there is no doubt that it is THERE, to be found, and in some ways known as to the mode of finding. The procedure undoubtedly is more apparent than the result; but as always when the Creator is not found in His speech, presuppositions surely come to light concerning what is to be found; and in the Timaeus, there is a certainty concerning righteousness in the divine being.
And we could mention the Hegelian preoccupation with a dynamised, inclusivist model with historical pretensions in his 'phenomenological' quest, such that a thrust from the historically anterior with marvellous modulation moves on its activated way, from potential to actual. It is all absolutely sure, in its internal inter-relations and its external progress.
This it does as if the sufficient reality were not THERE from the first which manifests itself through so many whorls and dialectical dynamisms into so glorious an ultimate, indeed one to be equipped with such majesty and necessity, when it should come into actual being. Indeed. to secure such an end, how much greater would the basic enterprise be which would not only, in terms of reason, need to set it in motion but set it up that it might so move.
This is absolutism absolutised in its overall controlling kernel which REQUIRES all that is to be, to be! Here is the birthplace of Marxism in its fundamental dialectic, and it too is likewise absolutist in its persuasions and intimations, its control and its grand insertion of necessities which overarch like a dictator, all that is to be. Not from nowhere does this absolute come; not nothing is its interview with practicality; not for nothing is there always, according to this dogma, always one result; even if in practice as Popper points out, the result in fact does not come. It is the theory we look at, however deplorable its relationship to practical things in this instance (update - para added: see The Shadow of a Mighty Rock, pp. 925ff.). It is NOT ACKNOWLEDGED; but it is there.
We could even speak of Kant. In fact this has been done at length, with discard of his pseudo-antinomies in my 1964 Thesis PREDESTINATION AND FREEWILL, We could dissect his illegitimate concept of the unknowable noumena, vested with contradiction systematically, as there shown. And if we did, we might dwell on the soothing effect such a dichotomy can have on the minds of those customarily interested in rationality.
After all, if matters too profound are
unknowable: How then give so many quite rational soundings?
and - Why, giving prescriptions and proscriptions concerning them, indecently expose their depths to the mere intellections of philosophy? On the other hand, it might aptly be asked: By what supernal means, the philosophy can nevertheless describe and conceptualise these very depths, in order that we might be advised concerning them, and so be impressed with the grace and gravity of their existence? and again: If the maker of these depths, or of this formulation of them, can even issue practical depth prohibitions because of the character of certain proclivities of depth issues - then there is much intellection already actualised concerning the character of these prodigious things, these prohibited areas, these grandeurs, these vastnesses. Not any more are they locked in their fastnesses, but mobilised into the very arena of thought for their categorisation and description as to the quality and nature which they have, in divorce from some things, with special qualities and modes of their own.
Notwithstanding, we learn that they are to be held as systematically far removed from our (but) human intellection. Such all too obvious devices, albeit not necessarily consciously contrived, act in the manner of camouflage for systematic weakness. Yet they cannot protect that system, which has rationally been erected in order to present it to our eyes, from rational inspection by the same visual instrument. It is no good conceiving of the inconceivable, even in order to site us in its domain; it in useless to preserve its dignity shrouded in noumenal mist, when the signs and signals are confidently read concerning its slippery slopes and metaphysical alleys. To do this, one must understand the thing; conceive its essence and consider Its proclivities. One simply does not, because one cannot systematically and consistently do this if the thing by NATURE is exempt from all conception (see SMR Ch.5).
Anaesthetized by Kant, philosophers who may
not at all share some of his system yet would erect what - by a sort of
ideational tariff barrier - they would protect from rational enquiry.
However, in accounting for things - a passion in Kantianism - one cannot
consistently indulge in the erection of the unaccountable as a form of mental
machination; and where appeal to warrant and sufficiency of reason is a
consistent note in a philosophy, one cannot coherently, by reason, surround
areas in a protectorate from reason; not, that is, unless one honestly is
prepared for the charge of simple oblivion of rational quality.
We have purposely given broad scope to our referral to the absolutes of this world, with respect to our dictionary definition, as we have already made it clear that a mere particular system, as such, would do violence to the context of the statement cited from the Report; and the absolutist systems are so diverse that a common quality is obviously the criterion of the meaning which we are seeking from the Russell Report words, through its philosophic wards. It is however a useful glance we have made, for we have already perceived the trend towards grand assertion and feeble consistency which can characterise certain absolutisms, as well as the tremendous sweep of the concept. Now it must be closely related back to the Report context.
What then of its reference to an imperviousness to 'the deeper unity of the human situation, beneath all the differences of creed, code, cult' - to 'what we must depend upon in order to be able to unify in a more fundamental way the differences that appear on the surface'? This is a major problem for the Report concepts, and provides reciprocally an index following survey, to the 'destructive' folly of 'absolutism', to use its gracious words. It is assuredly destructive of putting words into the mouth of God, as by some instructive prosthesis, a sort of false voice by some oral dentist. If the words are out, it is hard to put them in, since the liability to contradiction is so vast, for any dental insertion to be made.
We can indeed be more specific in interpretation of it, than the term 'absolutism' in itself might suggest. It could not fit in the context that it should mean 'unknowable noumena' for example; for this would be quite ideal for a composition in various keys derived from various phenomenal twists of the noumenal; and some, perhaps not so phenomenal ... It would be MOST constructive, allowing virtually any insertion; for then nothing being out ready for control of what man would put in, he has liberty; and that seems so dear to the heart of those who are what you could consider perhaps, here, as word of God builders, or religious innovators, or synthetic religious alchemists, for the Report Religion.
Many religions could be orchestrated on such a basis. NOTHING being known ostensibly, ANYTHING could be said, on that illustrious presuppositional basis! That is assuredly some licence ...
circumstance that the phenomenal phantasmagoria (legitimate metaphorical
depiction for such a base of hiddenness) would not
actually incorporate the reality, so unknowable, might be of small concern to
some; though not of small impact. With NO reality, NO actual WORD of any
ACTUALLY binding character on any, and ANY liberty to change ANYTHING which in
ANY way seemed odious to the reconstructionists,
there is a liberty, as to the guillotine in revolutionary
At least, all (of those of this Report-style mind) might agree on such a basis. What is there to lose, since as to truth, nothing was gained - except of course, on the Kantian base, the truth of the Kantian base; though this too would be inconsistent, since it would involve a capacity to discriminate intellectually concerning the actual truth which is regrettably so hidden. When the jump-suits are off, and reason returns:
Even Kant could not be true, if truth were unknown!
It is therefore, ostensibly at any rate, not
any of these rationally illicit - if in one way useful - conceptual
contraptions which is involved, in the relevant contextual absolutism which the
Report condemns. It might, however, be - on that base - certain
phenomenological transitions (Hegelian style) improperly tenaciously held, or
certain phenomenal features improperly vested with substance, at which it
disburses scorn. Any impediment, rational or irrational, might be deemed
on absolutism for it does not give absolute liberty for the Religionists to do
absolutely anything. Truth is always going somewhere, is a basic premise of
many of these philosophies, and since it is never getting anywhere, it is
always a flat contradiction in terms, to have anyone at any time able to know
the truth, such as this assertion is claimed to be, that truth is always going
somewhere; and only the lepers of morality want us to understand that it is
THIS or THAT. Like the white rabbit in his busy work with
Thrust on the way to go (METHOD to be strict), with bust on what is there on arrival (liberty after obeisance formally to some method) would be permissible, it would seem, since it is what on arrival, is to be proclaimed, declared and invested with power, dominion and authority, which the Report appears to be seeking. Perhaps all of these procedural absolutisms would do, provided we were not saddled with righteousness, as in Plato, the German State as in Hegel, or the unknowable making strangely clear dicta in the OUTCOME (which could embarrass depending on what they actually are), in the case of Kant.
Indeed, we must stress that it is by no means hard to see that it is exactly on such a philosophic base that the words of the Report make immediate sense. Thus the thrust appears to have some sort of configuration as this: 'How vain, how undesirable, how immature, premature, how adverse to the fate of the race, that some stick-in-the-mud proponents of passť thought, or facile fabrications of the deep unknown should, oh so blindly, insist on the spine chilling horror of sticking to their thing (whatever it is). But how much worse if they do not see the truth (pardon) that it is not the truth! The Actual Truth, in the Report, being an absolutism, is disallowed in advance; and THAT, according to the Report, is the actual truth! Strange document!'
Now to this, you may exclaim: 'Hold! hold! do not ascribe to such men in the honourable exercise of their corporate critical faculties such a thing! The truth? Why you must be joking! On such a base, they would hardly go on to subscribe to the very sort of thing the Report has just proscribed; to indulge in what they are manfully calling egocentricity; and they would not release the archly desirable hold on hard-won maturity by doing such a thing! They COULD not. Such things could not be.'
No? You think not?
Proof of this impossibility in the corporate composition of the Report would be needed, as to type; for the philosophic cap fits the conceptual head provided for us to examine, all too well. Indeed, we are not ascribing to the Report corpus, this or that philosophy - merely noting how one could make some sort of sense of their claims, and taking their production as an object in itself, for examination per se; and there is little to be found which would seem to clash with such a conception of the conceptions as presented. They KNOW or CAN KNOW what EXCLUDES every OTHER ABSOLUTE judgment but their own, and need no semblance of proof, since OTHERS are NECESSARILY wrong while their propositions are EDUCATED, and APPROPRIATE and therefore certainly correct. This is the NOVEL ABSOLUTISM which, based on a couple of code words, is as empty of substance as of method, of logic as of style, and requires absolutisms (other ones) to cease to be, while erecting like an idol, its own: untamed by logic, unrelieved by revelation, captive of culture, self-contradictory in basis and intolerant in disposition.
What then of the Report predilections and desires? They fit nicely too with a more modern variant, that of Teilhard de Chardin; they merge smoothly with the thrust in a more specific field, of Henri Bergson, and, incidentally, they have at least a bond of accord with the theology of Karl Barth. The conventional reader may expostulate; and in case there should be any of such, let us expound the point, a little.
This bond with Barth, is NOT, it in true, his emphasis on 'the word', the divine word, at least to all appearance. It is however not a little found in his concept of 'the word' as it actually is evinced; for the historic Biblical word, for him - say words , are prone to err, as may readily be found by those willing to believe his Church Dogmatics. As to God, He is so absolutely other, we are advised. that it would seem that when we intellectualise concerning Him, our thought at once glides out of relation to His actual substance. It is in no small way reminiscent of Immanuel Kant, that other and very different Immanuel.
As to Barth, then, in his words on the word of God: Our categories and His, they do not, he avers, conform - and this, not because of our mere wilfulness or lack of instructions, but rather because of our construction. Now Barth in inconsistent as is usual in this sort of approach; he has all the futility, in such assertions, of a Kant, and for just the came type of reason.
He is however more than Kant (though in the
last analysis, with marvellous similarities),
wonderfully equipped with knowledge on all of this; and can talk seemingly not
unhappily or with any undue sense of stress, and indeed at great length,
concerning a revelation, although in theory, once
it is cognitively captured into human intellection, alas, it must, we
find, be said to have vanished - systematically. The Cheshire
cat's grin in
Now it must be confessed that in this last case, the capacity for containment policy regarding the particularities of religion would seem small by reason of the actual Bible. In practice however, that is available rather for inchoate inculcations from the unknowable to the knowable, knowingly ingested by the percipient, or participant. This in not, Report-wise, very dangerous. Thus it is quite apt, the Barthian approach, formally; and of course forgetting the internal logical inconsistencies, for the usage of the Russell Report, which is being reviewed. (Some vintages of Barthianism, of course, may have superficially, at least, mutated - see Cornelius Van Til's Christianity and Barthianism).
Essentially, if the thing in opaque to intellection as a mode of inspection, in the good old vintage Kantian sense, or in any dynamised, textualised, theologised sense that still bows to essential model nescience, then it is ideal as a manipulable mental module. It has enormous worshipful community possibilities, precisely in the mode of the Report's desideratum. Indeed, the (sense of) underlying unity may be asserted more and more, whilst this sort of absolutely-other absolute can do absolutely nothing to prevent it; even when his 'word' is in the hand. Quite ingenious is this flat self-contradiction in Barth, since the words abounding about it tend to soften it just a little! and oh, so useful to Statecraft, that dramatic stagecraft of popularising a religion without actually being religious, if one may refer to the 'secular' approach being ostensibly sponsored in the Report!
As to that, its interesting historical proclivities and racial particularities may then be engaged in, on the part of the school subject of Social Studies as a quest; and all very unifying it may be stated to be, as the past of the race is inspected. It could at least to this student, seem to have a high potential for such a purpose; and to be able to contribute especially well for it, in view of its prima facie resistance. (Perhaps, as with fish, resistance makes for interest?)
Let us, some may say, indulge in intellection with freedom then; for what can it signify? What, in the end, is there to lose when so little was gained? Administrators of the Report religious program might well say of such theology: The thing is superb for a conceptual collaboration with the 'deeper human unity' theme (section so-and-so; and sub-section ...).
Very well, it is seen that such explicitly
and implicitly phenomenal and phenomenological approaches*12are
at least vulnerable to the Report approach; and their presumptions would
explain how the Report, without any apparent sense of the ridiculous, could
make such an approach for its own part. It seems reasonable to suppose
that such enormously influential cultural cults,
philosophic models, theological para-models
and so on, have had their influence.
However, even if they had not done so, yet there remains a necessity for the Report. It vaunts an overview, an incorporation or a coalescing of so much religion (loc.cit. pp. 166-167), one which condemns what resists this official, governmental style of approach, in terms of absolutism. The Report itself must be true in the perspective from which the condemnation is derived, and for which the exhortation is delivered. If now the Report be not true, how would its complaint be more than querulous ... indeed, itself an absolutism of that destructive kind which must vie, and excite difference by its obstructive and perhaps opinionated self-assurance ! THAT, after all, is the gist of what it appears to want to condemn!
Surely if it were not true, itself, it would condemn itself; and presumably this is not its intention, since no obvious suicidal machinations seem to cloud its sweated brow. The Report? It is ostensibly indeed here for our deliverance; and this especially from destruction. How very like its religious counterpart (its cultural background? Christianity), it therefore superficially becomes.
It must however know (pardon the personification - but it is rather like the concept of a 'legal person'), it must then know what it is talking about; otherwise, how would it know what is 'destructive' - far less, what the necessary realities are which are threatened. Knowing reality, alas, is so obstinately obtrusive in appearance. Every time we are condemning those who are too sure, we are ourselves sure; and when we condemn them for being too sure of a concept of certainty, are we not certain of it? that is, of our own by which we condemn theirs? And is this not PRECISELY that from which the Report, caught in the guilty act, is seeking to deliver us? It is indeed a strange form of deliverance which delivers to the captive, the chains from which he aspires to loose him, complete with wrists within!
Thus when one absolutely condemns absolutisms, he has of course implicitly constructed or adopted another, 'most true'.
More specifically, who can castigate those
who lay specific claim to knowing the truth in religious perspective, without
themselves knowing the true perspective - about knowing perspective at least ?
Otherwise, where would the perspective for knowing perspective arise?
How absolute are the implications for such knowledge! In short, he who lacks
valid epistemology had better not goad through his
'knowledge', the man who is epistemologically content, and
do it on the a priori ground that the later cannot be
true. That would be not merely inconsistency; self-contradiction: it would
involve the use of ostensible ignorance as a systematic ground for imparting
knowledge. And that! it is neither ingenuous nor
logically attractive! The difference indeed would be that the absolutism, in
this case, is not
Now it would be wrong to imagine that our approach to this claim, this assured claim of the Report concerning what is and what is not appropriate, is merely the querulousness of the assaulted. It is, in fact, not least the astonishment of the citizen confronted by a directive voice (at least in prospect) and ordered to deliver; who perceives that he himself holds a (logical) gun, and while the assailant happily grabs for gun ... the same grabs but air; and who notes that the said assailant has just dropped a pamphlet on the wickedness of having guns, but especially of holding people up! The assailant, however, while not yet equipped with a viable gun, grabbed for it, and when properly accoutred and governmentally equipped, he may then use that of force, when the logical equivalent is tossed aside, being in his case, merely a violation of design. NO GUNS! he says, while he holds you up! It is unnecessary and just a trifle false.
These things done, we may observe that our little excursion into some historical movements of philosophy, and minor incursions into theology intimately related, DOES give some help in understanding A VIEWPOINT which would bring a rationale to the Report at this point: hence it helps us to be understanding of its proponents.
It also shows us that the province of the absolutisms is not devoid of variety. There can be static absolutisms and kinetic ones; there can be historic ones focussing the past, and prospective ones looking to the future; there can be (hold for it ...) relativistic ones, in which an absolute is really unknown so that we are left in our ephemeral insights of the moment, given merely an absolute guise, either in name or in attitude (of relativists holding to them in reality): there are those which give absolutely no warrant, and those which would be warranted by an absolutely unknown absolute. Not all of them, it is true, make claims not readily assimilated by the Report approach; in fact, most of those noted admit through their inconsistencies, a ready passage for an inclusivistic dynamic.
It is where, then, there is ostensible is
often inconsistent obstruction to this pragmatic inclusivism
of the Report approach, it would seem, that
absolutism is Report-wise, 'destructive'. Of what?
Well, of inclusivism anyway. Such absolutisms, being more practical and working harder to earn their
name, would seem to have at least something relatively difficult to disperse;
and one can see the objection to them in the Report.
3. The 'Deeper Unity'
- and Some Major Religions
Thus, in context, the main thrust of the connotation of the term absolutism would appear to be this definitively assertive element, rather then the variable and all but ingenious elements we have noted, at least most frequently: for these are truly congenial to the Report's position here. Under attack by the Report, with commendable certitude, though less commendable basis for it, is whatever is resistant to this 'deeper unity of the human situation'- the one which is 'beneath' - as a Tillichian 'ground of being'? - 'all the differences of' creed ...' The reader is asked to indulge this usage of red; for it is used rather sparingly, and for its cognitive rather than picturesque impact. ALL - the differences... Thus this underlying unity, so dear to the Russellites (assuming they are in agreement with the Report, and do not envisage any minority work) is to embrace, give meaning to, incorporate, interpret discreetly - any metaphysically untamed absolute.
We may turn now more specifically to the religious foreground; say rather, the foreground of some major classic religions; the traditional giants and their historic position - sufficiently at least to establish impact from the Report, The Report does indicate an interest here (p.193). Let us then ponder the Koran for example.
In that work, there is a suggestion of a certain rightness and exclusiveness about the possession of truths, in that there is deemed to be but one God (exclusive of so MANY approaches!); and Muhammad seems to wish to possess, or to attribute to himself the possession of a certain relation to this ONE being as the prophet of the same. Whilst Jesus is not entirely dismissed, his Biblical model of true incarnation and bodily crucifixion seems but little desired. The Pauline gospel is not recognised as the finale of truth in the area (as in Galatians 1); nor are the Biblical words of Jesus deemed, after all, not to have passed away till the end of the world. In fact, it was this Biblical Jesus who said: 'After me shall arise false Christs and false prophets... ' (Matthew 24:24), and 'He that is of God hears God's words; you therefore hear them not, because you are not of God' - (John ); and again, 'Heaven and earth shall pass away but my words shall not pass away' (Matthew 24:35).
The practical transcendence of another uttermost purveyor of revelation despite Muhammad's claims and the profound transcendence of one claiming to beg, incorporate and of course, speak the truth as Christ claimed (John 14:6, 17:249 8:45-46): these things Koran-wise and Bible-wise would possess no more underlying unity then light and darkness, unity and plurality, truth end error.
Even scientists who diverge possess two arms and legs normally, as well as a heads and propensity for rational or at least pseudo-rational discussion, linguistic assimilation and even idiomatic usage: but these admittedly intricate resemblances would do nothing to abate the reality of their fundamental and often irreconcilable differences; and in practice, one or both is often found wholly wrong on the point at which difference arose. It would be mere obfuscation to talk in such cases of the fundamental unity of their concepts relative to their variance: as relative to their agreement in other spheres. It would do nothing to the point in terms of resolution of the perplexity, to note such a concept. It would rather abuse the air with irrelevance while the winds of contrary hypotheses blew at gale force level. It would be to suggest Valium instead of verification.
Now it must not be thought we are asserting
that a reference back to what element or elements are actually held in common
is merely otiose in such a case; on the contrary, it may be vital. It may
reveal the point at which one of them took a tangent, or collided with what had
seemed a mutually supported proposition. But merely to wave an
intellectual wand in the direction of common territory, and to assert that this
is after all the fundamental reality, would be obscurantist with respect to the
divergence. Of course, there
is an agreement, elsewhere; the issue is the DIFFERENCE.
That difference may be as total in some respects as that between
Again, in science, the difference is often - not always, as in the Einsteinian end Newtonian concepts show - minor. Sometimes as in the case of Pasteur and the 'scientific' concept of 'spontaneous generation', it is categorical and leads to the whole foundations of the study! In the field of religion, the divergences in some vast regions of that field are often fundamental*17and embrace, the whole efficacy or otherwise of the system in question: IN TERMS OF ITS CLAIMS AND CONSCIOUS INTENTS. It is one thing or the other; it is one claimant or another; it is one condemnation or another; and it is one which can be verified, and one which cannot (cf. The Shadow of a Mighty Rock).
Thus if the Biblical Christ be believed, the Koran's Muhammad is a false prophet. not holding to Christ's words as there recorded; and if Koran's Muhammad were believed, the Biblical Christ BY IMPLICATION would be an impostor. Do not, acute reader, quarrel here, only an impostor COULD claim incarnation contrary to fact, however nicely a reconstructed and non-Biblical Christ might be prepared for coalescing ( cf. Appendix on Miracles infra).
Such a procedure as that, at least superficially, has real assimilability with the Report. Muhammad too found his way to incorporate ( ?) some sort of Christianity.
The Muhammad method was to divorce it from its available record of history and
make a peace with a reconstructed form, engendered from sources outside
history. This allowed a practical, if not a metaphysical transcendence,
to one Muhammad, who was to be believed even
where the Bible was not, and whose reconstruction was to be accepted, without
evidence on the basis of his saying so, with whatever other unseen elements of
aid at his beck and call, or to which he was responding: Muhammad was a
practical man, as his defence of a sacred truce
month, organised caravan raid might suggest (Koran, Surah 11, 214).
An 'underlying unity' can scarcely be found on the surface ( e,g, of written documents). Biblically, even the 'deeper unity' of the Report's aspiration is denied the Moslem and the Christian depictions of God.
In fact, it is truly said that Biblically, the disbeliever in a revealed and presented Christ based on the Scriptures, is an atheist. This is at this point and in this context, merely an understanding of the text. Naturally, we shall pursue it . It makes the point with clear incisiveness relative to any 'underlying unity' between Biblical Christians and followers or the Moslem Koran.
To this task, then, let us attend.
First, we should define this conception. An atheist in this context is taken to be one who does not believe the God who is there, who exists, who has actuality. Someone whose theistic belief is devoted wholly to a god who is not there, in this context, would be someone who did NOT believe in the God who is there (assuming him a monotheist in intention, and not a believer in some plurality of adventuresome gods, vying gods, striving gods, or some other polytheistic concept of inter-relations and deputed or disputed powers. An illustration may assist perception here).
If I believe in trees, and connote
what is not in existence by that name, whilst also disbelieving in what
does exist by that name, I do in fact reject what trees are; and the use of the
term merely adds confusion terminologically to my rejection. If we could agree,
at least in connoting the disbeliever in what we
( reader, you and I ) believe to be trees, we would freely acknowledge that if we be right, he is frankly a disbeliever in trees; he is dis-cognitive concerning the conception ( he might so invent terminologically in the stress of such an occasion, the thought that he is an a-treeist). What they are, he does not believe in; what they are not, he does, and he calls that something else 'tree'.
At once into the ideational controversy might leap the Kantian or the existentialist ( with various degrees of consistency or inconsistency trailing in the mental wind), and such a person might say:
"Hold. Your analogy is perfidious. You beg the question, argue by analogy, abuse authority and do other unthinkable things supposedly dragged successfully from your illogical soul as a pass-word, via English Expression, for entrance to this tertiary establishment. Do not rend the air with such immaturity. It is PRECISELY because, as Hirst argues ( do your homework, Russell Report pp. 144 ff.), religion is not in this testable area that we have trouble. There is no way to know; hence your very presuppositions in the analogy are otiose. It Is UNTHINKABLE that such a FACT as whether this or that god concept is valid, could be known. Hence it in unthoughtworthy of you to envisage a comparison in a field which would imply the contrary."
Possibly such an Interlocuteur has received the Report uncritically. Certainly we are not in this predicament. Even Hirst does not speak by revelation; he voices an opinion. In some limited areas, there is some truth in it, indeed. Some religions do not allow themselves the privilege of being tested. They do not make testable claims; they neither predict nor retrodict; they give no ingredients for results of a specifiable character that surpasses our subjectivity; they incorporate contradictions and even appear to lend riot to the reason of their devotees. In such views as these: that religion is not relevant to reason. But we must not generalise, despite the Report. We must respect the existence of ... individual differences in religious survey: they are able to show that various religions are as diverse as earth end sea, Krushchev and Christ; just as their results have already been diverse; as have alike those of Stalin and the Biblical Saviour.
testability is not truth. It helps enormously. It is however not identical;
unless therefore our interlocuteur has a revelation
that there is no revelation, or the truth that there is no truth, both of which
concerns would be flat self-contradiction (and when one contradicts oneself,
there is of course no need for anyone else to do so), religions remain like
anything else, true or false. Tests, however? Let us look in any case at this consideration, and that not without some pleasure and
Christianity, for example, Biblically - and its entire establishment accepted the New Testament canons, conspectus and concept in the first four centuries - involves a profoundly testable concept of prophecy, promise and provision. Either the Church would fail or it would not; if it did, THAT alone would invalidate the religion. Testable ? but of course!
Untestable? Scarcely. Either
the Gospel as Biblically defined (see Galatians
I for the prohibition on variation from what Paul HAD by then preached for
example) would perish from the churches which continued, or it
would not. If It did. then the Biblical religion would
itself be demonstrated to be not only unpopular but WRONG as a result; for
Biblically the true and indestructible Church adheres to the Scripture (Matthew
24:35, 16:18, John 14:21-23, 1 Corinthians 16:22 ...). Another body
of the some name would do nothing to redeem the situation for the Biblical
writers' prescriptions and predictions as to the faith and the body of
Christ. Again, had the world become better and better morally so
that a reign of righteousness anointed the heads of the supermen who 'evolved',
the men of tomorrow who happily inhabited that distant time, then the Bible
would have been categorically wrong, devastatingly unreal.
In that case, this religion would be one more for the phenomenal; and the noumenal - as it were - would remain unveiled. More precisely, the 'word' would have been kept in heaven and would not have become available on earth - if indeed known at all (contrary to John 1:1-18, Romans 10:6-9); would have deceased; or would never have been uttered.
It would be, to a point, a mark for Kant's direction of flow, despite his irrationality; or for his movement. Thus a look at Matthew 24, 1 Timothy 4:1-3. 11 Timothy 3:1-9, 11 Thessalonians 2, Revelation 17-19 (after all, the Word of God does deal with a world in a what is, statedly, a spiritually and morally malodorous mess) - denoting time prior to the institution of the kingdom of the Lord and of His Christ ... shows plainly that evil men and evil itself shall wax more and more. They will increase, exercise advanced modes of impact, become highly visible, with zoom-in profile (cf. Luke ).
This is not the place to enlarge on the precise features specified (see however The Shadow of a Mighty Rock, Chs. 8-9, which is, and which accordingly provides great detail in verifying the point). Sufficient that this deterioration is said to involve developments leading to a situation of a short-change approach to truth ('ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth' - II Timothy 3:7 predicts) ; specifiable moral peril in view of this and similar features (such as a growing trend to be 'without natural affection', 'blasphemers' and to exhibit this syndrome - 'a form of godliness, but denying its power'); and distinctively designable characteristics of this kind for a time. Which time ? It is specified for one late relative to that of the Apostle's writing (thus - 'In the last days, perilous times shall come').
This is testable.
If the Church*13, being genuine and godly, had overtaken the world and controlled it; or if its sanctity had covered the globe without Christ's return (Matthew 24:27-30, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-16, II Thessalonians 2:3-10); if indeed, its external sanctity had continued uninvaded and immune from assault and battery (II Peter 2) - then the Bible, being TESTABLE, in any one of these cases, would have been here tested by now, and found wrong. Its claim to divine inspiration so that its words would be vindicated, effectually standing by the fact of God's knowledge and speech (Matthew -18. I Corinthians 2:12-13, Matthew 24:35, lsaiah , 34, 59:21 etc.) - this would be invalidated. Its bogus character in making such claims would be exposed. The religion would remain for the dishonest or the psychopathic, the perverse or the confused. Logically, it would be finished.
This was testable: eminently so. In fact, the tests have been successfuly confirmed in each case. It might seem that it is so certain that this is so, will continue to be so and ever has been so, that people growing restless with the obvious and seeking some sort of kick or spark, or electricity of the soul, might seek for innovation. When one reads many of the modern theologies, this is precisely the appearance: logic is often in abeyance, gut feelings, existential throbs and the like pulse through the weary pages, and innovation occurs, without evidence in general, opportunity to verify, merely the knowledge that since it is CONTRARY to the Bible, which is verified, its record does not even begin to compare scientifically, in terms of truth.To add briefly to the point, the Bible in fact indicates that PRECISELY THIS WILL HAPPEN, a sort of lust for innovation without ground (II Peter 2:1, I Timothy 4:1, II Timothy 4:3, 3:1ff.), in the "last times" or "latter days", when the sunset of this present Age glowers on the polluted horizon.
As shown, incidentally in The Shadow of a Mighty Rock, this designation has a referent which is precisely covered by the contemporary situation, independently of the innovation point just made. There is in short a sensationally monolithic evidential, verificatory reality in JUST ONE RELIGION. It is vain to talk of prejudice where facts are concerned; even on the part of those who regard them as irrelevant to religion. How COULD they be when competitively, they are most relevant, and critically indicative, of the relationship between truth and the word of that religion, in just one case! That is not merely to beg the question; it is to fail to ask it and to know the answer by some apparent revelation; and that, in a field where revelation of an absolute character is ... prohibited! or, for the present, more precisely, made odious, unsophisticated and undesirable.
We need not, however, here
elaborate lest we lose our main aim in the survey of our
areas of discourse. Suffice that Christianity, for one, is testable; is statedly so (Isaiah 41,43,48) and provocatively so, in claims that there IS NO MATCH TO IT in this regard. It is quite exposed, eminently vulnerable and delights in being so; as for that matter, was Jesus the Christ when He came to be tested, so that if He should have been shown to have failed in ANY ONE of the vast numbers of THINGS HE HAD TO DO, and the WAY IN WHICH THEY WERE TO BE DONE (including the date of His death, and His resurrection - The Shadow of a Mighty Rock, pp. 886ff.; Ch.6), He would be demonstrably an impostor.
And this ? It is in
a field called religion, where the Russell Report writers FEEL it wrong to have
convictions! Is science then also to be divorced from longsuffering mortality ! Once the censors clamp down with their
anti-evidential preferences, there is no end. The principle is deadly, as both
Similarly, the early proponents and
exponents of Christianity were free in the beginning to observe whether there
was or was not a resurrection of the body, whether the healing miracles
predicted (Isaiah 35) occurred, and whether He were born in Bethlehem (Micah
5:1-3) and so on. Without these things, the
Biblical Christ had to be an imposter - and, as C.S. Lewis has noted (infra) in terms of His claims for such a case: something not even on a par with someone who thinks he is a poached egg.
Now the apostles were in a position to consider this claim in realistic retrospect - either the evidence was there or it was not. The claim was there (Acts 2:31-34, I Corinthians 15:4, Matthew 28:6, John 2:18-21, Psalm 16), both in the Old and the New Testament, as also in the New Testament relative to the Old Testament (e.g. Acts 2). In the New Testament, it appears from Christ (supra and Luke 24) for His own part, and concerning the Old Testament; it proceeds from the apostle Peter and from the out-of-season apostle Paul.
As to Peter, he declares that concerning the resurrection Christ's flesh did not rot (italics added - Acts ). As to Paul, we may read for example In 1 Corinthiens 15:3-4 that 'Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he were buried and that he rose again the third day, according to the scriptures.' Now the 'he' who was buried in the 'he' who was raised; or 'that which' was buried', being the subject, is 'that which' was raised' - as J. Gresham Machen so well pointed out*14 . What is conceptualised as a spirit is not subject to physical interment: It is not assimilable in content - it is not the buriable item. (See also on this area: 1 Corinthians 15:14,53-55, Philippians 3:20-21 and 1 John 3:2, Matthew 28:69, John 20:17, 20:24-29, 21:12-15, Luke 24:39, Acts 2:29-32).
Biblically, the assertion of the fulfilment is unmistakable, repetitive, cumulative, crucial and categorical. What then? The apostles were exposed to the evidence; in all integrity, they would require the evidence; it was Implicit in the Old Testament; explicit in the words of the Biblical Christ. It was explicit in the apostolic claims; received as wholly crucial as a bodily and therefore TESTABLE datum by the apostles. This - as so much earlier Deuteronomy 10:20-22 - exhibits a cardinal characteristic of the Biblical faith; and the Bible is the agreed basis as the written word of God from the time noted.
Some an unhistorical amalgam or invention might be constructed: but as to the historic record of the founder of the Christian religion, no substitute is possible. If He be rejected as deity, then He is as C.S. Lewis notes, rejected as sane*14. If He be rejected as deity, He is no valid founder for the religion, being insane. If He be accepted as Deity, there in no possibility of creating Him, since the Bible to which He so intensively relates, and from which in fulfilment He draws immense rational basis, insists on His Deity in normal Biblical terms; and the creation of God Is there described as idolatry. It would involve a fundamental contradiction in terms. It would end the rationality of the religion; and this as a result of a simple resurrection test, for which the relevance was stated hundreds of years in advance and the results have been profound and unexceptionable, ever since (cf. The Shadow of a Mighty Rock, Ch.6 , pp. 931ff. and Spiritual Refreshings for the Digital Millenium Ch. 5). The religion, then, is testable; and not in these ways only.
It is crucially a matter of test in such ways. In Biblical terms this has always been so (Deuteronomy 10:20ff.; Isaiah 48:1-5; John ). ONE failure on the part of Christ to answer His adversaries; ONE failure in knowledge contests which sat well from the side of the established politico-religious authorities in the land, and were actively pursued by their knowledgeable exponents (cf. Luke 11:14-23, 11:46-52), just ONE would terminate His credibility. It would show that scribal scholarship, established religion replete with advantages of wealth and political power, as well as social impact, has His measure; and that any claim on His part to be the Messiah (cf. Isaiah 11) would be mere mockery and folly, delusion and triviality, as well as blasphemy.
It did not because it could not. This is the
test area and that has at all times been the test result. Like Don Bradman in batting, one may expect excellence. It is not so
sensational when it is obtained. But when, for all that, it is Christ, then the
REQUIREMENTS are more than skill; they require power and learning,
understanding and healing, depth and INFALLIBILITY in the face of learned,
motivated testers of a contrary mind, regaled with power, envious of position
(cf. Matthew 27:18). It would like the hangings in
Further, any claim to Christ's being
the truth, to being a man who told them the truth )cf. John 8:40-44)., to
being unlike many of His opponents, in not having the devil for a father
(John 8:44-45) would be ludicrous; pompous and vainglorious nonsense, the
product of one more imposture, the purveying of one more spiritual egg-head,
one more psychopath... If He were once to fail! The
test was open end manifest, and it is clear something, at least, of the
stakes were realised: Matthew 22:41-46, . False Messiahs tended to suffer rather
extremely in exposure. Truth had no margins.
Such issues are given considerable attention
in my works: Reason for Faith (or
Reason, Revelation and the Redeemer, The Shadow of a Mighty
Rock and That Magnificent Rock esp.) especially in the
final section; and to this work, or to these works, is
the reader directed who desires a more minute treatment. It is
available. However at this point, we shall terminate this aspect with a
quotation from former Cambridge Professor, C.S. Lewis (God in the Dock in
the Essay, What
are We to Make of Jesus Christ? p.158):
To some, who may be inclined to stumble at this, it is necessary to point out that the underlying Biblical definition of deity to which Christ as a fulfiller and not a destroyer of the Law (Matthew 5:17-10 ) - and in order to fulfil His test in Scriptural prophecy, would have to relate, was one of
The claimant to deity had to be this to relate.
That this was recognised well enough was shown poignantly but tellingly in the record of Matthew 27:42. If HE were the Son of God, why then, let Him come down from the Cross, they ranted, and we will believe Him. Of course they would, for then He would show Himself just the same self-centred, self-seeking, self-fulfilling rabble as so many others, and to believe Him then would become no moral challenge. One could be like that without any change, even in the worst possible cases. It was in fact necessary, in prophecy (Isaiah 9, 11, 42,48, 52-55) for Him to be crucified and if He DID come down without completing the job, THAT would be DEFINITIVE DISPROOF, just as His complete and detailed obligation-performance equation was DECISIVE VERIFICATION at every point.
It was obvious: to the Jews, God was not some
muck of a phantasm of the existential or subconscious; but God Almighty. If One were to be He, the ONLY way to act it, was to be it.
Infinity is not reproducible, even with the best will in the world. For one
thing, it is now as it was then, far too late to begin!!
If you had gone to Buddha and asked him
'Are you the son of Bramah?' he would have said,
'My son, you are still in the vale of illusion.'
If you had gone to Socrates and asked,'Are you Zeus?' he would have laughed at you.
If you had gone to Mohammed and asked, 'Are you Allah?' he would first have rent his clothes and then cut your head off.
If you had asked Confucius, 'Are you Heaven?', I think he would have probably replied,
'Remarks which are not in accordance with nature are in bad taste.'
The idea of a great moral teacher saying what Christ said is out of the question. In my opinion, the only person who can say that sort of thing is either God or a complete lunatic suffering from a form of delusion which undermines the whole mind of man.
5. The Underlying Unity Revisited
It Is time then to revert to our initial point. The contention of the Report concerning an underlying unity; the objectionable aura of the absolutisms is at hand. Now in both senses, Biblical Christianity is under attack IN FACT. The Christ of Scripture claimed to be so absolute that truth took its name from Him; He performed not only what Deity did operating at the level of the God who is unique (John 5:19-23), and as John indited it, all that was made was done in His company; indeed He did it!
It is difficult to be more absolute IN ANY SENSE than in being the co-originator of all form and fact in the original universe, the co-creator and judge of men; and being the criterion of Judgment as well as the truth. If anything COULD be guilty of an absolutism in clear sense 2, that we mentioned, this must be. Absolute and unfettered in judgment, origination and understanding, this Christ is to be given equal honour with the Father whom He divulges in His Person (John 14:7, -23, 1:1-3. Matthew 7:21-23 and supra). In sense 1, which we also indicated, it is also absolutism. The WAY in which this truth is to be esteemed is such that it may not be yielded or compromised, prejudiced or conditioned (Luke 9:26, I John 4:1-3, Hebrews 11:32-40, John 15:t.4. Galatians 1:6-9, 1 Thessalonians 1:5, ).
In our excursion into absolutisms, we have found various vulnerabilities which would render some of them susceptible to the approach of the underlying unity of the Russell Report. We have indeed found some which would serve well as a philosophical basis for its own presuppositions and presentations at this point. However, inconsistent as our proponents often tend to be, as far as our survey went; and ludicrous as it might appear at first sight that the Report thought might itself be imbued with any of those ignoble things which they censure, it was of course the case that there were certain assertions giving to some of their own views, the title 'absolutisms'.
There were, also, other absolutist views which could possibly harbour such depraved elements. Unless, now, these elements were yielded, there could be contortions; except to the extent these were such merely theoretical absolutisms that they might be harmoniously manipulable, manoeuvrable and manageable socially in the interests of being non-destructive. And we have noticed that some of these more amenable absolutisms are of just such a kind; and such indeed as could underlie some of the Report's own thinking.
However, as for the Report Itself, it must conform, for consistency (indeed for ... honour?) to its own canons; and hence is already defunct in its major assault.
We have then observed that there is moreover a fundamental cleavage between certain religions and the Report approach. They are not, in their classical and historic form, and duly related to their long asserted authoritative canons, at all harmonious to each other, or to the absolutist area of the Report. We have observed that
In so doing. we have returned in more depth to the impropriety of seeking to give even conceptual unity to the very class of religion, while Christianity participates. (Its background religion of the Jews, now moulded into Judaism, also has resistance in terms of its same sacred, historic literature, that Old Testament which Christ exalted. The circumstance that three major religions in their basic canonical forms are so thoroughly anti-Report in construction makes one wonder if a course on comparative religion is not, after all, possessed of some merit. It might introduce more forcibly the extent of the assault on religions of some import, which is - if not contemplated then in construction, in the Report!
However, in common with the Report, we plan to specialise more in our own country's more certain religious past, to the extent it is relatively so characterisable; and we look for a more detailed study of the relation between Report religion and this Christian Biblical faith.
If then Biblical and historic Christianity is to participate n the class or category, religion, there is grave antithesis in our midst, as we lock for conceptual unity in the term. Thus such Christianity is seen to be fiasco, if not true; and impervious to assimilation if true. Its non-assimilability to Report-style religion, moreover, is seen to be heightened when we realise that this religion in BOTH dictionary senses of the term, is 'absolutist': it qualifies an an absolutism with first-class honours. At the systematic level, it is a perfect fit. It is thus, alas, albeit we may hope unconsciously, condemned for its - what shall we say? folly? vanity and pride? or is this to be 'true' only of its proponents: and of such persons - as C.S. Lewis would add - as this Jesus, whom it serves, worships, adores and in whom it sees God expressly, definitively and uniquely incarnate (cf. John 1:1-14, Philippians 2:1-10, Revelation 1-2) ?
At all events, if this Christian faith could be removed, the underlying unity of the pluralistic society's purveyance of religion, the society which 'tolerates and encourages a variety of life styles and faith commitments', thereby would be aided and abetted. Then we might - it seems - be assured that there would be a net decrease in that regrettable things the 'destructive'. It is not quite so clear how the enthronement of such things as would remove or wreak vengeance on Christ, or His Church in so doing, could help non-violence, since NONE has been so constructive and non-destructive in the history of the universe, seeking at enormous personal peril to remove the chains of destruction from those, even those addicted perversely to them.
Well then, having ridded ourselves of this blot, we may continue to see where it leads (one speaks hypothetically for all our ridding is merely miasmic at this point, for the sake of the argument). We can (Report p.167) then proceed to 'unify in a more fundamental way the differences that appear on the surface.'
The former item (ridding ourselves of this absolutism) allows the latter benediction (unifying these little superficial differences, it would seem). It is this deeper unity which 'we must depend on in order to be able to unify ... ' That would seem probable. Unity, it would seem, might well beget unification. The thought does not seem unduly profound, and is in fact an identity proposition.
Unity however is the question and when that despotic and destructive absolutism is in the way, how can the evident academic appetite for the unification be advanced? We can sensitively discern their problem, and understand their intellectual - nay social - hunger. What a result! All the gods in agreement, all the creeds without disunity, all the faithful drafted into one essential faith! How teachable, how ... you could almost say (as they do) 'secular'.
It is, then, no accidental part of this work that such a term is mentioned. The fact that this is precisely what the Report proponents, creators, do appear to say is a form of verification of the understanding we are gaining of their work. As such it is now presented.
First however we must ensure there is no misunderstanding regarding unification. It is realised that the writing of the Report corpus does not envisage an underlying unity being achieved so that superficial differences cease to exist; but it is also apparent they seek such an operational unity, such that these differences will be expressions of that unity, not defiances towards it.
The stimulus is permitted; but those divergences which savour of absolutism were, we gather from their words,
Thus our remarks concerning all the faithful being drafted into one faith is, in our own context, wholly justifiable. What would not be justifiable would be any presumption on the part of the gentle reader that such a situation is interpretable as identical with one in which the one faith did not have happy oddities and options (perhaps rather like power steering, tinted glass, automatic drive) catering to the diverse but fundamentally unified structure of the one faith.
Such a one faith, of course,
might with propriety be called 'humanism' in that it pre-supposes the unity
which any objective absolute God could at once dispense with, in terms of which
religions do or do not relate as truth in truth to Himself; and which any self-revealing absolute god
could dispense with in terms of the simple criteria of positive or negative
response to his revelation. On the other hand, if we start with men as
such and travel in their assumed homologous quasi-theological, pseudo-rational
structures, such a conclusion as that implicit in our p.166 quotation from the
Report follows in just the phlegmatic-seeming way it there appears.
END-NOTES for SECTION II
THE BEGINNING OF IT ALL
In Plato's Laws (and in measure
in his Timaeus, another late work), we
find considerable directness and. perhaps relaxation of caution; although some
might hypothesise a development in an absolute sense.
The form of the good in the Republic had
various difficulties. Not least was the 'good of' everything having to
coalesce In the end; and this would include the
ultimately diverse and the categorically dissonant. Plato needed a higher
interpretive principle than a resultant of backward reading of presumed
purposes, however visionary its concept. His somewhat mechanical seeming
concept of human nature in its basic divisions of excellence in different
classes, intellectual classes, fits better with this rarefaction of the form
of the good, than does a concept which has taken due account, for example,
of the underlying volitional point activating a Schopenhauer. The thought
that the mighty in mind alone could ponder this
'form' , already indicates the specifically intellectual character of such a form. While it is not stated to be an abstraction, it functions rather as one.
In the Timaeus, he
manages to articulate something more concrete and effective for the areas of
metaphysics he has In mind. Here there is a
distinct creative act by 'god'. However, this too is limited for the
primary stuff is already about; the format is to be given, not to mention an
interesting multipurpose soul. He is still wrestling with the old
particular-general concept, in the realm of conflict, without great success.
But in these noted works, Timaeus and Laws,
the work tends to flicker into the realm of the absolute aseity
of God more and more, and to become nearer to a creator and a source and an
actual explanation; and further from a mere conceptual abstraction in
form. It should be stressed that this later thought of Plato, as it
were, tends to move toward a release from his own impediments, visible in the
visionary element even in the Republic - where the simple
interpretation of the ultimate as "conception"
would offend the powerful stress an extrinsic passion (if we may borrow from Wordsworth's Prelude).
On the other hand, in
the Laws, there is more directness of development. An excellent treatment
appears In The Collected Dialogues of Plato, Ed. Edith Hamilton and
Plato is old. Death cannot be far away. The world he is about to leave wears a different look from what it did. It has become of pressing importance. He does not want to look farther and farther into "the beyond", but to come down to earth and realize some of the truth he has seen. He drops poetical thought and storytelling; he holds up now as the chief business of the state to mold character rather than to forward knowledge, although it is true that nowhere does he even imply anything against that basic conviction of his that only he who knows what justice is can be just.
This directness (and certainly it is relatively free from the almost sportive complexities of creative conception which some discern in the Timaeus), and this stress on justice is associated with a fuller approach to divinity. It tends indeed to supplement, and complement in a virtually predictable manner, his earlier thoughts - assuming he would develop. While he still retains the tendency towards an inadequate conception of the will in his explicit puppet analogy for man, he does exhibit, if not a more logically complete divinity possessed of aseity, then at least one who has (with admittedly a degree of inconsistency for the limited being of the Timaeus) strong providential impact. On p.1307 (Book IV) we read these words, accordingly (from the Athenian who in this work seems the summit speaker in the most interesting absence of Socrates):
represents something less than a directly articulate God, for his view; whilst
something more than mere symbolism and arcane agnosticism.
In philosophy, it in sometimes explicit; in theology sometimes only implicit as we have noted. The static model, the neo-Kantian deriving significantly from Kant, and the dynamic - such as the neo-Hegelian: these are crucial for an historic understanding of the passionate angst and the existential commitments in their remarkable relationships to truth as prepositional and intellectually expressible. Their profusion of confusion allows one at least to imagine how Report Writers' product could accomplish such a feat of self-contradiction as is revealed in it.
Far more interestingly from a purely Christian Apologetic point of view, is the underlying fact that ALL THIS confusion is a constraining force, like an electro-magnetic field in physics, TOWARDS ONE religion, ONE set of morals, ONE sort of attitude for man, which is SO convenient not only to cut costs, but in the abolition of truth, to enable ANY imposture, such as the man of sin in II Thessalonians who, without too apparent insanity, is to "show himself that he is god". After all, if you can make gods, without even acknowledging what you are about, you could imagine some canker of humanity deciding to BE one of the ones. Make YOURSELF INTO one! Mormonism in particular has not been without such concepts, nor is evolutionism as in Teilhard de Chardin too obviously concerned about such things!
See, in more detail, my Reason for Faith, final section, also Appendix B, therein;
also Machen, op.cit.; Christianity and Liberalism; and infra.