Man: The Key to the Universe
THE WORLD was made for the body, the body for the spirit, and the spirit for God. Everything ultimately, therefore, finds its purpose in God.
In any field of research it is most important to begin by asking the right questions. It is not infrequently stated, in fact, that asking the right question may be even more important than finding the right answer. But contrary to popular opinion very few people do ask questions at all. Most of us take things pretty much for granted, once we have passed childhood.
One question that is not often asked but is an important one for the present discussion is, Why did God need to create anything at all? Viewing the situation anthropomorphically, one might say that when we create something, we have a genuine sense of achievement which gives us pleasure, and therefore perhaps creative activity gives God pleasure. But a moment’s reflection tells us that only when the thing we have created serves some purpose does it give us pleasure, though “purpose” can be defined in very broad terms. In fact, it is doubtful if we can create anything, pleasurably, which does not have a purpose directly related to man himself. Superficially, it would seem that one could find exceptions to this, but it can be shown that the exceptions are only apparent, and by contrast it is more readily demonstrated that creative activity is more purposeful and more pleasurable as it more directly serves some human interest. In other words, creation is for pleasure and that pleasure stems from the fact that it is purposeful in relation to man. It is doubtful if purpose has any meaning, ultimately, unless it does in some way relate to human destiny.
If God created the universe, we must assume, I think, that
He had a purpose in mind. It is inconceivable that He would create it merely for its own sake, for if He did, one might ask immediately, What would He do with it? If, on the other hand, we make the bold assumption that God’s ultimate objective in creating the physical order was to place man within it, so that such a puny creature becomes the justification for such a tremendous act, then we have to find some way of explaining just how man could be so important to God. David asked this question when he looked at the heavens in all their magnitude and then said, “What is man that Thou art mindful of him?” (Psalm 8:4).
Is it possible that the creation of man really is the key to the meaning of the universe? To answer this question, we have to think about two matters of great importance: the first is, In what way is man unique in the universe, and the second is, In what way is he uniquely related to God. The answers to both questions are interdependent, yet they are also capable of separate treatment.
There are three orders of creatures which have conscious life: the angels, the animals, and man. About the angels, we know nothing except by revelation, but from revelation we learn that they are exceedingly numerous, that they can act upon the physical order if they choose — though they are not dependent upon it for their existence — and that some of them at least have sinned against God. If the argument from silence carries any weight in such matters, it would appear that they are not redeemable, for Scripture gives no intimation of such a thing. As we shall see, the reason for this appears to lie in the fact that redemption depends upon an act of God which, for very clearly defined reasons, involved the Incarnation. A great many connected lines of cause and effect are involved in the Incarnation and these must first be broadly set forth before it will be clear why the plan of Redemption revealed in Scripture does not allow for the redemption of purely spiritual beings without bodies. Turning to the animals, a similar argument from silence suggests that the plan of Redemption does not involve them either because, though they do have bodies, they are not held to be morally accountable before God. Thus the angels are not redeemed because they have no necessary corporeal existence, and the animals are not redeemed because they have no moral accountability. (13)
Between these two orders of created beings stands man who
13. Animal Accountability: The possibility that animals are accountable is (continued)
has a corporeal existence ï¿½ unlike the angels ï¿½ which renders the Incarnation necessary to make his redemption possible. At the same time, the necessity for his redemption stems from the fact that he is morally accountable ï¿½ unlike the animals. His possession of a body makes his redemption possible; the possession of a fallen spirit makes his Redemption necessary.
Man is therefore neither animal nor angel but a unique creature of God sharing something of both, the moral accountability of the angels and the dependence upon the physical order of the animals. He bears a relationship to God as a consequence of his uniqueness, which makes him higher than the angels. But this status which he may achieve, and for which I believe he was created, is possible only because he has a special kind of physical life, a special kind of mental capacity, and a special kind of spiritual potential. And the Bible is deeply concerned with the history of all three.
His spiritual potential can readily be shown to be dependent ultimately upon his special kind of mental capacity, and this in turn results from his possession of a special kind of central nervous system which is only partly shared by the animals. It is, however, dependent upon the world in which he lives, the physical order of things in which he moves and has his being, the air he breathes with its special composition, the fluid which forms so large a part of his body, the temperature of his environment, the gravitational forces which play upon him, in short, his very existence in the right kind of a world. And frorn here we move one step further and perceive that this is the right kind of world for him because it is appropriately set in the right kind of solar system and accompanied by the right kind of satellite ï¿½ the moon. So we rnove from God to the human spirit, to the mind, to the human body, to the world which he inhabits, and on out into a larger realm. . . . And perhaps if we knew enough, into the galaxy of which our solar systern is a part, and the universe within which our galaxy belongs. We do not know enough to be sure that our solar system bears some unique relationship to its galaxy or our galaxy to the universe, but I think it is likely that such unique relationships do exist and that we shall discover them in due time, just as we have come to learn how important the size of our earth is and how critical its distance from the sun is.
suggested by several passages of Scripture which Custance has examined in “The Extent of the Flood”, Part I in The Flood: Local or Global? vol. 9 of The Doorway Papers Series.
But all these are ultimately related to man. This is what makes them significant. Perhaps they might be matters of interest in themselves, but I suspect that if we made inquiry we should soon find, as indeed many students do find, that the mere study of astronomy, geology, or any other science for its own sake tends to lose its power to inspire action, unless it is related to human destiny in some way. When one is young the concept of “human destiny” may be adequately defined in terms of personal ambition, but as ambition in terms of success in this life tends for all but a very few people to become tarnished and inadequate, there comes a time when human destiny has to be defined in terms that are much broader, indeed that are transcendental. It is then that men begin to feel the need for a sense of purpose that reaches beyond personal ambition. It is at such times that the possession of an adequate World View proves to be so important. Without it life is impoverished, for man does not live by bread alone. Even Julian Huxley admits the inadequacy of the present scientific philosophy: (14)
Some system of beliefs is necessary. Every human individual and every human society is faced with three overshadowing questions: What am I, or what is man? What is the world in which I find myself, or what is the environment which man inhabits? And, What is my relation to the world, or what is man’s destiny?
Men cannot direct the course of their lives until they have taken up an attitude to life: they can only do that by giving, some sort of answer to these three great questions; and their belief system embodies that answer.
It seems virtually impossible to create such an adequate World View unless man is made the key or the end for which the world was made, and the world the end for which the universe was made. How beautifully simple it is to believe that God made man for Himself, the world for man, and the universe for the world. Such a simple framework makes such a tidy neat little bundle out of experience. Perhaps it is naive to hold such a belief in this day and age. Yet it is surprising how much of what we know can be woven smoothly, reasonably, satisfyingly, indeed even excitingly, into such a World View.
I know that there are many intelligent people who feel no
14. Huxley, Sir Julian, “New Bottles for New Wine: Ideology and Scientific Knowledge”, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, vol.80, Parts 1 & 2, p.16. The whole question of the need for a personal philosophy of life or world view is dealt with at length by contrasting medieval times with the present, in “Medieval Synthesis and Modern Fragmentation of Thought”, Part III in Science and Faith, vol.8 of The Doorway Papers Series.
real need for this kind of philosophy of life. But there are many who do feel a genuine dis-ease whenever they read, as one does with increasing frequency these days, that the universe and man are pure accident, and that God is non-existent. To my mind, the evidence of purpose is everywhere to be seen provided that one makes the single bold assumption that purpose does exist, that it exists in relation to man, and that it exists in relation to man as a special creation of God. At any rate, we are making this assumption only because I believe it is an entirely scriptural one; and we propose to explore it without further apology. This exploration will involve the study of the universe as a setting for man viewed as a creature uniquely equipped for a certain kind of understanding which makes possible a special relationship with God that sets him apart from both animals and angels.
And so we begin with God Himself. The character of any plan which God may have with respect to man
will naturally depend upon what kind of a “Person” God is. The Bible tells us that God is both love and light. We cannot understand God’s love for us except in terms of human relationships, but our experience of human relationships is unfortunately distorted by the fact that man is a fallen creature and all our relationships are on this account troubled. We can only see His love through the filter of our own nature as it now is. Had we lived when Jesus Christ walked the earth and had we been able to observe how He behaved towards men, we imagine our vision would have been quite clear; seeing Him, we would have seen God and our understanding of what God is like would have been perfect. But this is not true. The disciples lived with Jesus daily, week after week, month after month, and still did not see what He was really like or that God was really like Him. Philip said, “Show us the Father and it sufficeth us” And the Lord answered, “Who hath seen me hath seen the Father.” But they had not seen Him at all, as His words to Philip clearly show (John 14:9) .
We have in the New Testament, especially in the Gospels, a portrait of what God is like. Nevertheless we still see through a glass darkly. But this much is certain: God loves man and seeks his company even at unimaginable cost to Himself; and for all our indifference, His delight is still with the sons of men. From Scripture as a whole it is clear that God created man because He sought an order of beings capable of entering into a unique relationship with Himself, a relationship that was to result from an experience which man was to undergo, an experience
involving (1) a Fall from a state of innocence to a state of conscious guilt, and then (2) a redemption to an entirely new level of virtue and fellowship with God as a direct consequence of that Fall. The special relationship was therefore “special” because it involved redemption.
It is apparent that angels worship God and rejoice with Him and in some sense form His “Court”: yet I think it is implied in Scripture that while they may be company they can never achieve the status of companions, for they neither comprehend nor respond to His love, knowing only His holiness. (15) Yet love is the very essence of God’s being. Angels cannot experience the redemptive power of God as men are able to, and accordingly they lack any personal realization of the love of God. It seems that in some way, incomprehensible though it is, God also felt this lack and therefore determined to create a being towards whom He could make manifest His love and not merely His holiness, by one single act that depended upon the existence of a physical world and which, on this account necessitated its creation.
As far as we know, there was only one way in which the love of God could be displayed comprehensibly, and that was by sacrifice, a sacrifice in which God Himself would become like His creatures in order to enter into their world, experience their kind of life, and finally assume their guilt and translate His great love into comprehensible terms by becoming responsible for the very sin which had been a necessary element of the experience.
The fact is that we can have, and do have, no other clear proof of the reality of God’s love for man except that which was displayed at Calvary, (16) and if man had not sinned, there could have been no occasion for the Cross. It is foolish to speak of the love of God while at the same time ignoring the meaning of the death of Jesus Christ His Son. The world is full of contradictions of the idea that God loves man. Apart from Calvary, the evidence of God’s care for man is easily overwhelmed by the facts of
15. Worship, of angels: the only indications in Scripture of the attitude of angels toward God reveal recognition of His holiness and His wisdom. At the completion of the initial creation the angels “shouted for joy” (Job 38:7), and in Isaiah’s vision they are worshipping God and saying, “Holy, holy, holy” (Isaiah 6:3).
16. I John 3:16: “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us.” This passage is especially remarkable because the wording of it is such that the reader cannot but go away with the realization that it was God who laid down His life in order to demonstrate His love, thereby leaving no doubt as to who it was who sacrificed Himself on our behalf.
history which suggest rather His total indifference. Indeed, among the Jewish people there are those today who believe that God could not have remained silent in the face of Belsen and Dachau unless He really is dearl. They have their “God is dead” people, too. The lot of man through the centuries does not confirm faith in the love of God. Only at Calvary does proof appear unequivocally. And this fact alone is sufficient to show that here, therefore, is the pivotal point in God’s dealings with man.
We only deceive ourselves when we suppose that the love of God is self-evident, that the Christian understanding of the death of Jesus Christ is not essential to the proclamation of God’s love, that we can forget Calvary and persuade men of God’s love without reference to it. The man of the world knows better. He contemplates the world about him and seeing its tragedy and its pain, its poverty and hate and destruction, he is not moved by assurances of God’s benevolence.
But Scripture properly sees the key to all history in this ultimate revelation of God’s thoughts towards Man, the death of Jesus Christ. And it is a comprehensible revelation, a revelation which is bound up in historical events occupying time and space in man’s time-and-space world. It was the climax of divine planning and preparation. It was no accident. A whole series of circumstances were required to make it possible, and these prerequisite conditions are analyzable; and their analysis involves not merely the most rewarding of all intellectual exercises, namely, theology, but also the study of natural science and history.
To fulfill God’s desire for the true companionship of creatures capable of responding to His love, no other being seems to have been possible than such a one as Man is. And such a being cannot be conceived without taking into account his unique capacities as well as the physical environment in which he lives out his life. These circumstances invite us to examine the relationship between man and the universe in this light. And his varied capacities require us to examine how God undertook to preserve him against destroying himself completely after he had sinned, while His purposes were being carried through to completion. The animals do not belong in the spiritual world as far as we know, and angels do not belong in the physical world; but man belongs in both, and in this is neither animal nor angel. He is unique because he is redeemable, and the mode of his redemption is the key to the existence of the time-space universe of which he is a part.
If God were unwilling that the human race should be saved, except through the death of Christ, when He could have saved them by His simple will, see how, in so judging, you question His wisdom; for even if man were for no sufficient reason to do with great labour that which he could have done with ease, he would certainly not be judged wise by any one.
In other words, why did God adopt so painful a way to redeem man when He might have accomplished it merely by an act of will? But, Anselm argues, since we cannot doubt God’s wisdom as we might doubt a man’s, we must think of the plan of Redemption taking the form that it did as an objective “desirable to God’s love, which infinite power, guided by infinite wisdom, could not accomplish by a simple act of the divine will, an objective by which God could show that He was prepared to pay the great cost and self-sacrifice it involved.”
The easy way of merely exercising His infinite power and saying “Let Man be redeemed,” much as He had said “Let there be light,” would never have served to show at what personal cost God was prepared to effect man’s redemption as a showing-forth of His love. The hard way was necessary: for otherwise there was no justification for the creation of a race of men who were capable of falling into sin. No good could have come out of the tragedy of human experience, only the undoing of it.
And so we must examine carefully the mode of our Redemption, (18) requiring as it did that God become Incarnate in the world He had created and there subject Himself to many of its laws for man’s sake.
The Crucifixion stands as the pivotal point upon which all else depends. All events, and all achievements, acquire their significance only in its light. It was a unique event requiring that
17. Anselm puts these words into the lips of Boso in his Cur Deus Homo? Book I, Chapter 6.
18. The Incarnation: Hebrews 10:4-7 speaks first of the body prepared to make the Incarnation possible, and then it proceeds to show that because the sacrifice of such crearures as were appointed in the Levitical code were totally inadequate to take away sins, the Incarnation was necessary. I can never read this passage without being reminded of Isaiah 9:6, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given . . .” where the “child born” looks forward to John 1:14, whereas perhaps the son given” looks forward to John 3:16.
certain circumstances should come about which can be considered from two points of view: First, there are those circumstances which relate to the historical setting, the theatre as it were, upon the stage of which the Lord at one particular and appropriate time in history entered into the stream of human affairs and sacrificed Himself. Secondly, there are those which relate to the manner in which His physical death actually came about, circumstances which bear critically upon the nature of Adam’s body when he was first created, (19) and therefore upon the kind of physical world which had to be planned for him from the very beginning.
The more I reflect upon the matter, the more convinced I am that if there is meaning to the universe, the key to that meaning is to be found in the birth and death of Jesus Christ, the Second Adam, because the physical world itself was required in order that these two unique events could take place. And these unique events were required that God might by a process of Redemption show forth His love toward an order of beings whose very existence was made dependent upon the creation of just such a physical world. Thus the birth and death of Jesus Christ were not accommodated to a physical order already independently in existence, but quite the reverse. The physical order was deliberately structured to make these two events possible. These events were the cause, not the consequence, of creation. They preceded it: as Revelation 13:8 says, Jesus Christ was slain from the foundation of the world.
Moreover, in the course of time, acting according to the predeterminate counsel and foreknowledge of God, (20) it was these same creatures who brought to pass the very event by which they themselves were to be redeemed, having after 4000 years or so of historical development under the guiding hand of God, perfected the cultural setting in which that event was to occur.
19. Directly bearing on this issue is Arthur Custance, “If Adam Had Not Died,” Part III in The Virgin Birth and the Incarnation, vol.5 of The Doorway Papers Series.
20. Acts 2:23: “Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.” Note that it was not merely by God’s foreknowledge but part of His predeterminate counsel. The omnipotence of God in the affairs of men is explored in depth, depending almost entirely upon a very large number of biblical references (over 200 passages are quoted) by Custance in “The Omnipotence of God in the Affairs of Men,” (Part IV in Time and Eternity, vol.6 of The Doorway Papers Series). In this study the fact emerges from Scripture that human history, both the good and the bad in it, has been overruled by God for His own purposes to an extent which few of us are probably aware.
The Incarnation and the Crucifixion together are, therefore, the cause of all that is related to the planning of the natural order, and of the creation of man as its most irnportant member. For God’s love is not shown forth here in a way which is self evident so that angels or even animals could understand it merely by witnessing it, but in such a way that only a creature such as man could comprehend it. For this comprehension depends upon a certain kind of spiritual and mental constitution, with the power to see its meaning in the light of personal need, a need which neither the animals nor the angels are aware of. This need does not relate solely to the spirit, for then perhaps the angels would have understood; nor does it relate solely to the body, for then the animals might have been brought within its compass. It relates to a need which is both spiritual and physical. It relates to a death which is both spiritual and physical, a death of a representative Man, which was not “natural” in the sense that other events in the universe are “natural,” but which was necessary in order to abolish the death (21) which all other men now suffer “unnaturally,” and in so doing to demonstrate the love of God whose Son became that representative Man.
The death of Jesus Christ was unique — even from the physiological point of view. The uniqueness of it was possible only because of the Virgin Birth. The Virgin Birth was possible only because of the manner of the creation of Adam as a potentially immortal creature out of whom Eve was taken while he was yet in an immortal state. It is important to understand that immortality here means not that Adarn could not die, for he did so; but rather that he need not have died if he had maintained the conditions of life originally appointed to him. In another Doorway Paper (22) the significance of taking Eve out of Adam while he was yet unfallen has been carefully explored from the physiological point of view. What emerges frorn this study is that while Eve partook of the same forbidden fruit as Adam and thus like him became a mortal creature, the poison in one irnportant
21. Hebrews 2:9: “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man,” and 2 Timothy 1:10: “. . . But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”
22. The derivation of Eve out of Adam has been made the subject of a special study from the point of view of genetics in “The Nature of the Forbidden Fruit,” Part II in The Virgin Birth and the Incarnation, vol.5 of The Doorway Papers Series.
respect affected their bodies in a different way. It poisoned Adam’s body, including the seed he carried. Eve’s body, however, was so structured by divine appointment that the same corruption did not reach the seed which she carried. The consequence was that in all succeeding generations every woman’s seed when naturally fertilized by the male seed has been corrupted by it and this “infection” has resulted in the birth of a mortal child. But because of what has been appropriately termed “the continuity of the germ plasm” (here, the still uncorrupted seed of woman), the possibility has always remained that this uncorrupted seed of woman, if brought to life apart from the introduction of the male seed, would lead to the birth of an immortal Child, who would thus have escaped the poison stream of death which has rendered all other men mortal. This is the significance of the term “the seed of the woman,” as opposed to “the seed of the man.” Yet because Eve was taken out of Adam’s body in its unfallen state, her seed was originally part of the uncorrupted seed of Adam whence she herself came, and thus in the final analysis this same seed was initially Adam’s seed and the Saviour a lineal descendant of Adam though escaping Adam’s corruption. Such is the wisdom and power of God. The Incarnation was therefore itself possible only because of the way that the genetics and chemistry of human life and procreation have been ordered, this “ordering” being clearly dependent upon the natural order and clearly necessary to make the Incarnation possible. So it came about that the whole plan of Redemption was intimately bound up with the created world which herein finds its raison d’etre.
In the light of revealed truth, man therefore stands apart from the rest of creation because though he is now a mortal creature and seemingly little different from the rest of the animal world, yet he was not created as such in the beginning. Death is quite natural for other creatures but not for man. And indeed he has always been persuaded that he need not or should not die at all — or that if he must die he will still live on in some other way. The death of a human being has an element of tragedy about it which the death of an animal in old age has not. As for the angels who, in their normal estate, are purely spiritual beings, we do not know what the meaning of “death” to them could be. We do know from Scripture that some angels have sinned. But we have no idea whether it would be possible for God to find some means of redeeming them. To redeem man,
God became Man and not angel, (23) because the process of Redemption required the sacrifice of a life which was like that of the subjects to be redeemed. It is not within our power to conceive of a vicarious sacrifice made on a purely spiritual level by a purely spiritual being which would not at the same time bring about the very cessation of the existence of the one who made it. It had to be possible for God’s love to be displayed by a Sacrifice of Himself which would not lead to His own annihilation. The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is an absolutely essential part of His Crucifixion, and it depended entirely upon the fact that it took place within the framework of a physical order of things. The universe as a substantial reality was therefore needed not merely for the initiation of the redemptive act in terms of Crucifixion but also for its completion in the terms of a bodily Resurrection. It is in this sense that I believe the universe has meaning. It has meaning because it was essential to the plan whereby God displayed His love, and because man was the special object of that display. Man becomes the key to the universe, not man in himself but man as the special creature of God’s love for whom the physical world is essential to his being.
As explored elsewhere, (24) the death of Jesus Christ also involved certain conditions which demanded crucifixion rather than some other form of legal death. No other kind of death would have satisfied these conditions, for no other form of death would have permitted the Lord to decide when He would dismiss His spirit as a purely voluntary act while at the same time satisfying the legal requirements of the death penalty being imposed. In any other kind of death (poisoning, strangling, drowning, thrusting through), only by a miracle could He have remained alive once the process had been initiated. As it was, it was only by a miracle that He died on the Cross when He did, for He died on the Cross but not because of it. His death was entirely an act of His own will, and not merely a willing surrender to circumstance. On the Cross He did not simply choose the time of dying, which would have been merely to commit suicide ï¿½ something any man may do. But rather, having power not to die at all, He chose nevertheless to do so, by dismissing
23. Hebrews 2:16: “For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham.”
24. The reasons why no other form of capital punishment would have satisfied the requirements of the Lord’s sacrificial death have been examined in “The Unique Relationship Between the First and the Last Adam”, Part IX and also “How Did Jesus Die?”, Part VII in The Virgin Birth and the Incarnation, vol.5 of The Doorway Papers Series.
His life as a man dismisses a servant. He never was, like us, subject to death. He deliberately chose to become so — which no other man can ever do.
This event involved the voluntary surrender ï¿½ more precisely, the active termination ï¿½ of a physiologically constituted life process which, unlike the life processes of all other animal forms including that of man as he now is, was not subject to natural death at all. As man now is, the spirit leaves the body when the body can no longer support it. Jesus Christ dismissed His spirit by an act of will that rendered His body thereby inviable. We are subject to death by our fallen nature, He became subject to death by an act of will. Had He willed, He might have lived on indefinitely. As it was He submitted to a form of capital punishment but dismissed His life before that penalty could take its naturally expected effect.
But because this choice, the choice of living on or of dying, had to be available to Him in order to make His Sacrifice vicarious, it was also required that that for which He substituted must at first have been similarly constituted. Thus the creature upon whom God wished to bestow His grace and to whom He wished to prove His love, had to be so constituted at first as unfallen that the Son of God could truly represent him. Otherwise, He would not have been a properly constituted substitute. The Second Adam, an immortal Creature who need never have died, truly represented the First Adam, an equally immortal creature who need never have died. He thus stood as an exact counterpart of the First Adam, accomplishing for man by an act of will what the First Adam by an act of will failed to do. Unless the Second Adam was physiologically so constituted as to be an immortal creature, He could not have surrendered His immortality on man’s behalf; but unless the First Adam had once been an immortal creature, the surrender of immortality by the Second Adam would not have been substitutional for man. We thus find that the Crucifixion was only possible because it took place within the framework of physical and not merely spiritual life, and we must conclude therefore that the creation of man as a physical and not merely a spiritual being was essential in order to make possible God’s plan of Redemption. A purely spiritual human being, some kind of human creature living independently of the physical world, would not have provided God with the “means,” the modus operandi, of a plan of Redemption which
was to serve as a display of His love through an act of Incarnation and Self-sacrifice.
So the First Adam’s creation was in such a form that in due time the Second Adam could both represent him perfectly as a substitute and die for him vicariously as a Saviour. The demands of the Cross, seen in the light of its total theological context, involved not merely the creation of a certain type of “first man” but also a certain type of physical order in which he could be imbedded, though transcending it. For him was needed a special kind of body, a special kind of mind, and a special kind of spirit. And, in turn there was needed a special kind of total environment for these to operate in. Nor can we isolate this environment from the solar system, nor the solar system from the universe. It is all of a piece, it is a uni-verse we live in, where every thing relates to every other thing and no thing is unnecessary. In a newsletter, recently, one writer said: “Biologists tell us that not a leaf falls in the forest or a raindrop into the sea but that the consequences of each happening must go on for all time and spread through all space.” With pure poetic insight Francis Thompson has that wonderful couplet which reads, “Thou canst not stir a flower, without troubling a star.” And more prosaically, but nonetheless significantly, we find Sir C. N. Hinshelwood saying: (25)
It may not be wholly unreasonable to fancy that to almost every element there falls some unique and perhaps indispensible role in the economy of nature.
It is customary to look upon man’s body as a burden to him, as though only his spirit had eternal significance. And yet Scripture is very clear in stating that the Crucifixion, by which his eternal destiny was determined, was dependent upon One who sacrificed His body. He was made flesh (John 1:14 and 1 Timothy 3:16) that He might bear our sins in His own body on the tree (1 Peter 2:24). We are reconciled now in the body of His flesh through death (Colossians 1:2 1, 22), and perfected for ever by the offering of His body (Hebrews 10:10). Man is not a spiritual creature who happens to have a body. His body is as much a part of his total being as the Lord’s glorious body of His total glory; and man’s bodily resurrection is as essential to his completion as the Lord’s bodily Resurrection was to his Sacrifice.
25. Hinshelwood, C. N., “Some Aspects of the Chemistry of Hydrocarbons,” Presidential address to the Chemical Society, 1948, reported in Journal of the Chemuical Society, Pt. I, 1948, p.531.
For though we have already been re-created in spirit, we still wait to be completed by the adoption of, i.e., the redemption of, the body (Romans 8:25) which is to be refashioned like His glorious body (Philippians 3:21). It is this fact which forces us to look for a vital connection between man and the physical order, and to find in man its ultimate significance.
But the processes of history also have special significance because the Crucifixion could not be merely an isolated event, occurring in some dark age of lawlessness and barbarism, or in some corner of the earth where knowledge of it might filter back into the world only by accident. It was an event which had to be appropriately witnessed and recorded, which had to be performed in an orderly legal way according to an accepted standard of behaviour and judgment to which rmankind as a whole would give rational assent. It had to occur at a time when the event itself would be sufficiently public (one might say, publicized) that there could never be any doubt about it having happened. It had to come to pass when there was a sufficiently sophisticated and dependable means of communicating the news to a large population that was not merely numerous but fluid, so that word of it would be carried far and wide. It required the existence of a legal code of wide application to a large number
of people, so that the “justice” of the event would be comprehensible in the same terms to them all. Roads for travel had to exist and be maintained in safety. A “police force” (the military) had to exist, with sufficient strength to prevent a lawlessness that would quickly have turned the trial into a lynching. A lingua franca was needed which could interpret the record of these events in the light of the Old Testament so that the message would, culturally speaking, be a universal and not merely a Jewish one. These circumstances may have occurred repeatedly since that time and perhaps upon occasion in an even more “effective” way. But it seems almost certain that this was the first time the circumstance had occurred. The Roman Empire guaranteed, at least for a short while, a world ideally ordered as a proper setting, both culturally and legally.
Consequently, as we shall try to show, the course of history has been overruled in a way which has not hitherto been observed by any philosopher of history (even those with Christian persuasion) which once again demonstrates what a wealth of insight is sometimes unexpectedly to be found by the serious study of Scripture.