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Table of Contents

Part I

Part II

Part III


Part V

Part VI

Part VII



Part II: Nature as Part of the Kingdom of God

Chapter 3

God Within Man

     IN HIS BOOK Escape From Freedom, (59) Erich Fromm has examined in a new way some of the more serious conflicts which stem from the fact that man appears to have freedom of will in certain critical life situations. Out of this circumstance arises a particular phenomenon of human history which finds a spectacular expression in the field of politics.
     Fromm suggests that in any state with a continuous history extending over a sufficient length of time, political opinion as represented by the feelings of the majority will tend to swing from an extreme form of democracy to an extreme form of dictatorship, sometimes passing from one extreme to the other violently and sometimes through a series of intermediate stages. The cause of this, he holds, is that people demand the right to choose their way of life for themselves until they find that this introduces so many conflicts and so much confusion that a state of national emergency develops, at which point depression, insecurity, and general disillusionment reach such a level that the society begins to search for a dictator who will rescue them and restore order and bring back prosperity. Having tasted the consequences of being perfectly free to choose for themselves and having discovered that there is no guarantee that the choices made will be good, people begin to search for someone who will relieve them of this burden of freedom and tell them what to do. So societies may oscillate between two extremes, for the dictatorships accepted with such relief soon turn out to be equally intolerable and men begin to cry once more for freedom.
     Whether as a useful analogy or whether because he believes the story to be factual, I do not know, but Erich Fromm suggests that man's deep conviction that he ought to be free to choose for himself coupled

59. Fromm, Erich, Escape From Freedom, Rinehart, New York, 1941.

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with an equally profound distrust of his ability to use such freedom of choice wisely, finds its earliest reflection in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve, unlike the other animals, were given freedom of choice in certain very critical matters. They were advised what was best for themselves, but they were left free to accept or reject the advice. Augustine with profound insight observed that in his unfallen state man could freely choose to be righteous or unrighteous, but that having once made the wrong choice, he thereafter acted freely only when he was doing the wrong thing. In short, man is no longer acting according to his true nature when he chooses to do right but only when he chooses to do wrong! Dostoevsky put it so aptly, "Man commits sin simply to remind himself that he is free." (60) Thus man now finds pleasure in wickedness rather than in righteousness because it is a true expression of what remains of his own free will, and he sins because by so doing he is proclaiming himself to be a free man.
     In his personal life, the consequences of this freedom are serious enough to the individual. In national life these consequences are greatly multiplied and become even more tragic, lying at the root of all international tensions and wars as well as all community strife and disharmony.
     In spite of Tennyson's picture of Nature, we do not find in the animal kingdom anything at all comparable to the social evils which plague mankind. Somehow animals are wise in their relationships with one another and are able to meet each life situation with an appropriate form of behaviour which seems quite beyond man's power to emulate. Animals know without being taught how to build their homes, how to select the appropriate diet, how to communicate with one another, how to make provision for the future, when to fight and when not to fight, how to raise a family, and even -- as in the case of the fox with the broken leg -- how to care for themselves when injured. They walk, run, swim, or fly by instinct. In contrast man is, as Kipling put it, indeed a poor frog. It has been questioned whether he has a single dependable instinct except that of swallowing, even breathing at first may have to be induced.
     How does it come about that the crown of creation should be so poorly equipped by contrast with the rest of Nature? Some writers have hastened to point out that man's very weakness is the source of his strength for he has been forced to make up by his wits what he lacked in other respects. But this is only part of the truth. I believe that Erich

60. Dostoevsky, F., Letters from the Underworld, quoted by D. R. Davies, Down Peacock's Feathers, Bles, London, 1942, p.10.

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Fromm by his appeal to the story of Eden gets much nearer to the heart of the matter. In so far as animals are guided by instinct they are guided by the law of God written within them, as it were. In the essentials they have no freedom whatsoever in the human sense, but by being obedient to this perfect law of God they are in another sense completely free, for perfect obedience to perfect law is perfect freedom.
     Now it follows that man, too, could be perfectly free if he also were perfectly obedient to the law of God. But for natural man the law is not written within, as instinct, but is presented to him from without. Since the day that Adam exercised complete freedom of choice and chose wrongly, man has never been able to gain perfect freedom because his obedience to this perfect law has always come short of perfection. This is the nature of sin. It is the tragedy of all human philosophies that they are almost right. The more nearly they are true, the more deceiving they are, and the more dangerous. The whole of human history is a record of the consequences of this "almost."
     But why is it that in spite of the increasing clarification of his ideals as witnessed, for example, in the Charter of the United Nations, man comes no nearer to achieving those ideals than when he was a forthright barbarian? The ideal becomes clearer but the achievement is as far away as ever. I think it is because in his fallen state he cannot see, he cannot understand, what his own nature really is and therefore what God really wills him to do as a first step towards the achievement of his ideals. We must go one step further still and say that he would not choose the will of God in his present state even if he could understand it. Something has to be done to internalize this perfect law in such a way that without destroying his free will he desires only to be guided by it. When this happens, he becomes obedient to the same system of perfect law which governs Nature, and thereby he becomes, with all other creatures, part of the kingdom of God and thereby truly free. Only, in his case, obedience has become conscious, an expression of free will rather than unconscious and an expression of instinct. In this respect he is raised far above the rest of Nature.
     This distinction in rank between man and the animals resulting from the fact that he may be granted the capacity to obey the law of the kingdom in a deliberate and conscious way, is the one fundamental characteristic which according to Scripture sets man above the animal creation. The granting of this capacity is one of the essential features of the New Covenant as revealed in Hebrews 8:10, and until he has it man is not true man at all.
     To my mind, one of the strongest evidences of the inspiration of Scripture is the fact that from Genesis to Revelation its writers have

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been led to use particular words with very special meanings and have apparently "agreed" to this though separated from one another by hundreds of miles and hundreds of years. Moreover, nowhere is there any specific statement by any one of them that they have consciously entered into this agreement. The agreement, therefore, is tacit. The casual reader is given no special clues that such an arrangement exists. It is possible to read the Bible from end to end and never make this discovery. But when the deeper meaning of any one of these words is once perceived, it suddenly assumes a new significance in passage after passage, and there appears at once a marvelous concordance throughout Scripture, a concordance that seems to me clear evidence of its inspiration by a single Agent.
     As an example, consider the word "understanding." Let us examine some of the passages in which it occurs. Let me say to begin with that I believe this word is used to signify the one possession by which a man is raised far above the animals in the kingdom of God and without which he is less than man by God's definition.
     It is commonly thought that artificial respiration is a modern practice. In actual fact, it goes back a very long way. Scripture records four instances, three of which are in the strict sense historical, the other is not. The three historical cases are to be found in 1 Kings 17:21; 2 Kings 4:34, 35; and Acts 20:10. The last of these has been variously interpreted, but because the report was written by Luke, a physician, it is felt by some authorities to be a valid instance. This leaves one case which we may term "proto-historical" -- it is recorded in Genesis 2:7. Here it is written:

    And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

     Man's first breath was drawn from heaven: his first consciousness was God-inspired. With this act man received according to the original Hebrew "the breath of lives (plural)." It is a remarkable thing how Scripture uses certain terms in such a subtle way. A further illustration is to be found in the Hebrew word for "face" which also takes a plural form, since man clearly has more than one face.
     Turning, then, to Job 32:8 it is written, "But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding," a statement which appears to mean that when the Spirit of God comes into man, he receives understanding. At this stage, this interpretation may seem fanciful, but when we come to consider other passages, for example, such as John 20:22 taken with Luke 24:45, the interpretation will become quite reasonable.

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    In Psalms 49:20 there is the well known passage, "Man that is in honour, and understandeth not, is like the beasts that perish." This statement seems to imply that the uniqueness of man as man lies in the possession of understanding. This understanding is not merely what we commonly think of as intelligence, because the Psalmist is careful to add the words "that is in honour," by which I gather he means that even a man of distinction if he has no understanding is not truly man. Intelligence, per se, does not make a person a man in God's sense of the word, because intelligence is not a uniquely human possession -- since animals also have it. 2 Peter 2:12 speaks of men who "understand not" as being like "natural brute beasts," and the psalmist (Psalm 94:8) calls upon those among the people who are "like brutes" to "understand." Evidently this understanding has something of a spiritual quality to it, something which is not shared by the animals. It is clearly, then, not to be confused with intelligence. In Psalm 53:1 and 2 it is written:

     The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God. Corrupt are they, and have done abominable iniquity: There is none that doeth good. God looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, that did seek God.

     In this passage there is the implication that lack of fellowship with God is associated with the lack of understanding in some way. This is borne out by a confession made by a certain Agur, the son of Jakeh, in Proverbs 30:2 and 3 in which he says, "Surely I am more brutish than any man, and have not the understanding of a man. I neither learned wisdom, nor have the knowledge of the holy (One)." This is evidently something more than lack of fellowship, however, for it is also a lack of knowledge of God. Manifestly, fellowship with God is not possible unless we know Him personally, but knowing God personally brings much more than fellowship for, among other things, it begins to make sense out of life. For, knowledge of God has a special meaning in Scripture which is not limited merely to the knowledge that God exists but has a much deeper significance -- in fact, knowledge of His will. Thus in Ephesians 5: 17 Paul writes, "Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is."
     One of the oldest problems in theology, a problem which has issued in many lengthy debates, is the question as to why, if God is omnipotent and His will is done in the world by the ungodly and not merely by the godly, He can be justified in punishing the ungodly. Is it ever right for God to punish a man for some deed performed according to His will? Superficially the answer is obviously, "No, and He never would." In actual fact, He does. For example, those who crucified the Lord of Glory did so because it was part of the express will of God that

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the Lamb should be slain in this way (Acts 2 :23; 4: 27,28): yet those who performed this deed were called wicked and were punished for their wickedness. For what were they really punished? For doing the Lord's will? I think not. They were punished because what they did was what they wanted to do. The motivation was a purely sinful one. It was not done because they had any real understanding of God's will and did it for this reason.
     As we show in another Doorway Paper (61) men are neither punished nor rewarded for doing the will of God. Scripture is full of illustrations of this fact. A man is not rewarded for doing the will of God, but only for choosing the will of God; and the sin of the world is not that it does not do the will of God, but that it does not choose it. This is a point of fundamental importance. No man can choose the will of God unless he first understands what that will is, and accordingly there is no reward possible to the man who has no understanding of it. God works in the Christian to will His will, as Paul put it in Philippians 2:13, "For it is God who worketh in you both to will and to do [in this order] of his good pleasure." This seems a very simple statement but actually it is a very crucial one. For the completion of God's master plan for His creation, it is essential that His will be done, but this could be achieved quite easily by simply overruling the actions of men so that, willy-nilly, they did what was required of them. There is no need for them to know they are doing His will, any more than that the animals should know, and in Scripture there are many instances of ungodly men who fulfilled God's purposes in just this very way, i.e., without realizing it. They were servants. But if in some way God could have broken through their consciousness and said to them, "This is what I want you to do," and they had forthwith knowingly set out to do it, the same objective is achieved but God would reward them in some way. In the first case reward is inappropriate, as it would be inappropriate to reward a kindness unwittingly performed by someone who had no intention of performing it.
     On the other hand, a man may find himself required inescapably to perform a certain task, yet if he also happens to want to perform this particular task, there is a very real sense in which he does it of his own free will. Thus, if God can so move in our hearts that we choose to do His will, we can perform it as a perfectly free act. This is another way of saying that perfect obedience to perfect law is perfect freedom. We do it because we want to; and this is the real reason why we do it, even though we cannot do otherwise because He has so determined. Something which one must do becomes nevertheless an act of free will. In

61. Custance, A. C., "The Omnipotence of God," Part IV in Time and Eternity, vol.6 of The Doorway Papers Series.

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this we see a distinction between the Christian as a member of the kingdom of God and animals as members of the same kingdom. They do His will perfectly, unconsciously; we may do His will perfectly, consciously. But to make this possible, it is necessary to know what His will is, and this knowledge is what Scripture terms understanding, man's unique possession as true man. It is this understanding of God's will which renders man no longer a servant, but above a servant, a friend. This is explicitly stated the Lord Jesus in John 15:15:

     Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.

     Consequently, it is not surprising to find that after the Lord had said, "Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do" (Genesis 18:17), this same Abraham was called, in a special way, God's friend (2 Chronicles 20:7).
    When Paul was writing to the Ephesians he pointed out how God had made known unto us the mystery of His will (Ephesians 1:9), and he concluded subsequently (in Ephesians 4:17,18):

     This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind,
     Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them. . . .

     And John re-affirms the positive side of this when he says, "and we know that the Son of God is come and hath given us an understanding, that we may know Him that is true. . ." (1 John 5:20).
    There is a remarkable instance in Scripture in which the loss of manhood through lack of understanding is likened to being turned into an animal, for animals do not understand God's will in the way that a Christian may. In Daniel 4:16, after judgment had been pronounced against Nebuchadnezzar for his pride in supposing that his own will had secured for him his greatness, God says, "Let his heart be changed from a man's, and let a beast's heart be given unto him." And this came to pass, quite literally, the stricken monarch assuming even some of the habits of a dumb animal. But in due time his punishment was fulfilled, his humanity was restored, and the king uttered these significant words (Daniel 4:34-36):

     And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honoured him that liveth for ever whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation:

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     And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?
     At the same time my reason returned unto me. . . .

     In other words, the king had perceived something of the nature of God's will, and in doing so he acknowledged His kingdom, regained his understanding and with it the heart of a man.
     Sometimes we behave as true man, and we understand and choose the Lord's will (1 Corinthians 14:20); but there are many occasions when we do not. Unlike the animals which are guided by God from within, it is sometimes necessary for Him to guide us from without by the force of circumstances. At such times He secures our obedience to His will in much the same way that we achieve control of animals by such means as a whip, a goad, or reins. But God much prefers to convey His will to us without the use of such externals. Thus David tells us how God had said to him (Psalm 32:8,9):

     I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.
     Be not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee.

     When we began this Bible study, we proposed that Job 32:8 meant in effect that man receives this understanding by inspiration, that is, by God's in-breathing, and that Adam received it when he drew his first breath, thereby becoming true man. Of course, he lost it when he rejected what he knew to be the will of God, so that he, like all other fallen men, needed a new in-breathing of God before it could be restored. This is what happens when a man is born again and the new law is written within his heart, when the will of God becomes internalized, and when he has the kingdom of God within him (Luke 17:21). Only, for man, in contrast to the animals, this is a conscious possession. The Lord Jesus performed such an in-breathing upon the disciples. In John 20:22 it is written, "When He had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Spirit." And in Luke 24:45 we are given some further details of this same occasion where it is written, "Then opened he their understanding."
     Scripture has a beautiful consistency. Just as without this understanding, without this internalization of the law of God, a man is not truly man, so a group of people are not really a people. In Hebrews 8:10 and 11 it is written:

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     For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people.
     And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.

     This passage is full of light. The new covenant is now fulfilled when the law of God is written within. It is not, however, merely written in the mind that it may be known and understood, but on the heart that it may be chosen freely. And when this happens, there is a sense in which it is not necessary for men to tell others what to do, for they will know.
     So many things hinge upon this experience. Even the psalmist says, "For God is the King of all the earth: sing ye praises with understanding" (Psalm 47:7). Again and again in Scripture we find the association of these ideas: the kingdom of God, the understanding of His will, the internalization of His perfect law, and the achievement of true manhood. All these things depend upon the new birth. Except a man be born again he has no part in this kingdom: except a man be born again he has no insight or understanding of it (John 3:3,7). And what is needed when a man is born again is a renewing of the mind (Romans 12:2; Ephesians 4:23). The spirit is reborn to give a man membership within the kingdom, and the mind must be renewed to give him insight into it.
     It is quite possible to read too much into Scripture. It seems to me that one is doing just this when it becomes necessary to interject all kinds of words and phrases and sentences into a passage of Scripture in order to "elucidate" its meaning. By such a method of interpretation, Scripture itself tends to become almost incidental. But there is one passage where the clear association of ideas is difficult to draw out except by elaborating the text. This passage is Matthew 6:25-34. The association of ideas here is rather striking. The Lord is telling the people how God insures that grass shall grow to provide the basic food for all earth-bound creatures (verse 30), and how the fowls of the air are equally the subject of His watchful care (verse 26): and how God is concerned also with those elements of Nature which beautify it and perhaps serve more for its adornment than its sustaining. And so the Lord mentions the nurturing of lilies as things of pure beauty (verse 28). He then draws from this a practical lesson and warns His listeners that if they will make sure first that they belong to the kingdom, the kingdom of God, they too will find themselves cared for as is the whole realm of Nature. The essential requirement is to be a member of the kingdom of God, and this membership, for man, is achieved only by being born again.

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The experience of the new birth is a completely transforming one, lifting a man out of Satan's kingdom into God's. Thenceforth the agents of Satan are barred from dominion, though at times such entry may be sought. Satan has never had to ask permission for his spirits to enter the heart of an unredeemed man, for such a heart is rightfully within his jurisdiction. But with the saints the case is different. And it is different with the animals also -- an important point to observe. Satan did not ask the Lord if he might have Judas, but he apparently did have to ask for Peter, a request which was, of course, denied (Luke 22:31,32). Even the dead bodies of the saints appear to be inviolate against possession, for Satan found himself opposed when he sought for the body of Moses (Jude 9). Likewise when the demons had been cast out of the man of Gadara, they had to ask permission before they could enter the swine. These swine, "unclean" as they were for food, were nevertheless still part of the kingdom of God. One can only suppose that the Lord knew it was quite safe to allow these demons embodiment in them, for, perfectly guided by the laws of God written within them, the swine instinctively took the necessary action to rid themselves and the spirits were again rendered bodiless. These animals had no fear of death, and it was in no sense a punishment to them that their lives were brought to an end abruptly. The purposes of God had been served perfectly.
     Many other animals in Scripture have declared themselves members of God's kingdom by their actions. Balaam's ass (Numbers 22:21f.), the raven which fed Elijah (1 Kings 17:4f.), the lions in Daniel's den who obeyed the restraints of God (Daniel 6:22), the whale which preserved Jonah alive and restored him to safety (Jonah 1:17f.), the fish which, refraining from swallowing the coin in its mouth, surrendered it to pay the disciples' dues (Matthew 17:27), the ass's foal which offered no resistance to its very first mount (Matthew 21:5), and the wild beasts which shared the Lord's wilderness without molesting Him (Mark 1:13) -- all these showed themselves to be obedient members of the kingdom of God.
     There is a beautiful illustration of the obedience of the animal world to the governance of God in 1 Kings 13:24-28. It seems to me that this must have been written specifically to point up this wonderful truth. A certain messenger who has clearly disobeyed explicit instructions of the Lord is riding home on his ass, evidently feeling he got away with it. But he is attacked by a lion and slain, and his carcass lies beside the road. The ass, we are told, did not run away but remained standing by his slain rider. "And, behold, men passed by, and saw the carcass cast in the way, and the lion standing by the carcass: and they came and 

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told it in the city. . ." And when the prophet, whom the slain man had served, heard about it, he said, "It is the man of God who was disobedient unto the word of the LORD: therefore the LORD hath delivered him unto the lion, which hath torn him, and slain him...And he went and found his carcass cast in the way, and the ass and the lion standing by the carcass: the lion had not eaten the carcass nor torn the ass." Here is a clear case of one of God's creatures acting with complete obedience as His servant, performing a mission of judgment, even as the lions in Daniel's den had obediently refused to act in judgment where everyone assumed they would. So obedient to the Lord's command was this lion that, according to his nature, he slew the prophet, but, contrary to his nature, he did not slay the innocent ass: nor was the ass afraid enough of the lion even to run away. This is a beautiful illustration of the law of God written within. In Nature such inscription in the heart, or perhaps more appropriately in the mind, is what we term instinct. And Henri Fabre said, perceptively, that instinct is nothing less than "inspired activity." (62)
     I cannot leave this subject without one more observation. I think it worthy of notice that when God spared Nineveh, He gave as part of His reason the fact that He had in this city children who had not yet reached the age of accountability and animals (Jonah 4:11). We know that such children still belong within the kingdom of God (Mark 10:14); and now we see that the same applies to animals. To me, this is a wonderful truth in which to rejoice.
     When man, quite convinced by an evolutionary philosophy that he, too, is of a piece with the rest of Nature, argues from it that if he will only act naturally, he will achieve the kind of society he wants on the ground that the present ills stem from the artificial patterns of behaviour which culture has imposed upon him, he deceives himself completely. For Nature's nature is unfallen, but man's nature is not. And when he attempts to live in this way, his life becomes chaotic and ultimately totally lacking in that kind of freedom which he mistakenly supposes he will enjoy. The freedom from anxiety that living creatures in Nature have, results from obedience to God's law within. But natural man is in rebellion against this law whether he realizes it or not. Man can only become a member of this kingdom by a new birth, and only then can he experience the sense of being a part of the kingdom of God, of which the realm of Nature is another part. Only then does he really understand. 

62. Fabre: quoted by W. R. Thompson in a Convocation Address on "The Work of Henri Fabre," reprinted in Canadian Entomologist, vol.96, 1 and 2, 1964, p.70.

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Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved

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