4. A QUESTION OF LIFE, RELIGION,
SCIENCE AND PHILOSOPHY
An Overview of NCCG Thought
Q. Every religious system has a paradigm, or is based on certain assumptions. I think many people, especially fellow Christians, find it difficult to categorize the New Covenant Christian Movement. By your own definitions, you say that you are neither Catholic, Protestant nor Restorationist, and that you do not have roots in any particular tradition. And yet obviously you have more things in common with some Christian traditions that with others. I wonder if you would explain a little more fully just what the New Covenant is?
A. One of the problems we have found in our ministry is defining terms. Words not only mean different things to different people but they also change in meaning over time. New Covenant Christians therefore often go to great lengths to try and explain what words mean because in our age, with the advent of the "pop culture", there is tremendous confusion in the meaning of words.
We live in a world, whether we like it or not, where language is the principal means of communication. It was not always so. Spiritually enlightened cultures in the past have communicated in other dimensions such as art, movement, symbol, dance and even telepathically. Though there is much art, music, movement, symbol and dance still the spiritual laws and principles by which they were governed in the past have all but broken down. Artistically the world lives in a time of great moral and therefore spiritual chaos. Most music, for example, is a reflection of the lowest common denominator of the human condition, whereas in the past music was originated and preserved by an élite, aristocratic class. Our age is one of the culturally classless society.
Q. Do you mean by that that it is the worst in society that has become the norm?
A. Let us take an example from the animal world. Human beings are regarded by most people as the pinnacle of the biological world endowed with intelligence and abilities not found in other animals. Although making a classification is neither strictly speaking possible nor perhaps desirable, one might say that life exists with man at the top of the spiritual tree, descending through mammals and birds, reptiles and amphibians, fish, worms and simpler forms of life. There is also a certain hierarchy in nature, with some species being more successful over others. Worms don't control men, but predators like owls certainly control mice. Mice never dominated snakes.
On the spiritual plane, though, the very reverse has happened. What one might call man's snake-like nature is very much dominant. Instead of being enlightened, as man ought to be with his superior gifts, he crawls around in the ground of sin like a worm. He delights in that which is filthy and degrading. He is cunning and deceptive like a snake.
Now such analogies are limited and I don't want to stretch a point, suffice to say that man is so busy looking down at his earthy nature that he never thinks once to look up. Frequently when I am waiting for my tram or bus in the morning, I look at the people in the street, and I observe what they are looking at. Mostly they are either staring down at the ground or vacantly ahead of them. Hardly ever do I see anyone looking upwards into the sky! Yet the sky is a big place, full of marvelous things -- the sun, wonderful colours, clouds, and birds. The vast canopy over our heads is almost invisible to people, and particularly city people.
Q. It is a city society we primarily live in, isn't it?
A. Yes, the vast majority of the human race is now urbanized, at least in the northern hemisphere, whereas in the past most people lived in the countryside and were close to nature. I think when modern 20th century man reads the Bible that he forgets that, for the people who wrote the Bible, with perhaps the exception of Paul (and he is by far the most intellectual of Bible writers), were rural folk.
Q. And it is Paul who is most understood, is he not?
A. Paul was a good thinker, a clear thinker. He was versatile and could use the language and expressions of different kinds of people. He could put himself in someone else's position and ask, "What if.....?". The trouble is, uneducated Christians and critics assume that his "What if...?" statements are "It is this way" statements.
Most Christianity -- particularly Protestant Christianity -- is a kind of Paulism. By that I mean they primarily base their message on a misunderstanding of Paul.
Q. You're not saying that Paul preaches a different message to Jesus and the other apostles, are you?
A. Oh no, absolutely not. But he did address unique situations and had to formulate answers to the pressing questions arising out of those circumstances. When preaching to Gentiles he could not make the same assumptions as preaching to Jews for they came from a totally different background. With the Jews he could climb up a few rungs of the ladder of the knowledge of religious truth and preach from their vantage point, but with the Gentiles he had to have his feet placed firmly on terra firma and teach basic principles.
Q. This is one of the reasons, is it not, that the New Covenant insists on the importance of modern day apostles to address the present situation?
A. Absolutely. The paradigms of modern 20th century society are radically different from those two thousand years ago. We cannot preach from the same platform. Whilst the principles in the Bible remain the same, the environment is not. Therefore it would be quite meaningless for me to stand up on a platform and start preaching from one of the prophets in the Old Testament and call people to stop worshipping idols. Though such may be relevant in some cultures, it is not in ours.
People are sophisticated today. They have been educated with science and they think out of a different background to men and women two thousand years ago. People's minds have been shaped by the paradigms of science and must be answered from that background. Therefore we need new apostolic council, applying the timeless principles revealed in Scripture and applying them to a modern situation.
Q. Does that mean you re-interpret the Bible?
A. We must be careful here. New Covenant Christians are not liberals -- we do not believe in watering down the Gospel and "adapting" it to 20th century tastes and expectations. We are, of all Christian Churches, one of the strictest. We will not compromise God's Word. We believe that God's principles are timeless and universally applicable. Thus we condemn immorality with the same force as the Bible. But where we differ from the prophets and apostles of the past is that we explain the veracity of the commandments out of a 20th century mind-frame. Like Paul, we wear the "clothes" of our generation and explain the truth out of their context.
One area where 20th century man is different from those two thousand years ago is his expanded consciousness. Now by that I do not necessarily mean he is more enlightened than the people of the past -- more often than not I would say the reverse is true -- but rather, because of his scientific knowledge, he is more aware of his surroundings.
Q. Does that place New Covenant Christians in the "consciousness movement"?
A. Be careful. The so-called "consciousness movement" is another name for the "New Age Movement". Here again we must define words. Certainly you could say that we are a part of the "Christian consciousness movement" because we believe in being aware of everything around us. Again, this is not to say that we are a "Christian New Age" Church, and there are many of those around. They, as all New Agers, claim to be expanding human consciousness and awareness. They are certainly doing this, but in the wrong direction.
Q. What do you mean?
A. There are two ways to come to consciousness and awareness. One is through sin, and the other is through communion with, and obedience to, the God of Israel. Adam and Eve became "conscious" and "aware" through rebellion and were rewarded with guilt because they were out of harmony with divine principles. New Agers become "conscious" and "aware" of spiritual realms by dabbling in the occult and establishing channels of contact with demonic realms. They become aware of the wrong things by rebellion against the commandments of God. Their knowledge -- and it is possible to get great knowledge through the occult -- costs them dearly. Remember Satan is extraordinarily intelligent -- he has great power and knowledge -- but he is the devil nonetheless.
Q. How can the devil be so knowledgeable?
A. Satan began his career as an archangel of light. He possessed tremendous power and knowledge. But he fell because of pride and lust for power. He still has that knowledge and power.
Q. So how does his knowledge differ from an angel of Light?
A. He has no knowledge about love. He cannot understand it, though once he did. One of the characteristics of the New Age is that whilst its adherents often obtain increased mental powers and the ability to manipulate physical matter, their "heart-knowledge" is stunted. They experience "ecstasy" and "bliss" (such as one feels warm and relaxed after strenuous physical exercise) and they may even feel strong stimulation in their heart -- feelings of what they would call "overwhelming love". But it is a counterfeit love. There is a missing dimension to their "love", and that is the agapé love of Christ, what the scriptures translate as charity.
New Age "love" is self-get love. It is an incredibly ego-centric religion, despite its boastful claims to be promoting world harmony and unity. It is totally devoid of sentimentality.
True Christian love is quite different. It has cosmic awareness -- a consciousness of God's sovereignty everywhere -- but it also has intense local awareness. It nourishes and protects family life and closely guards the principles that cause it to flourish, because it knows that family life is a microcosm of heavenly life.
For the New Ager, paradise is total absorption into a cosmic nothingness or "Nirvana", a loss of individuality and personal consciousness. Having first renounced family for self, he then takes the next, awful self to loosing his complete identity. Heaven for him is quite unlike anything earthly -- there are no heavenly "families".
This is the opposite of Christianity. God created us to develop ego and personal identity and to then expand that into family, national, global and finally cosmic identity. The essential person is eternal but becomes subject to wider, cosmic interests. So we are consciousness movement but our goal is the very antithesis of the "New Age".
Q. Therefore the knowledge we seek is different too...?
A. Yes. The occultist-New Ager is seeking meditational and other techniques to "let go" of his personality so that he can surrender himself to an unknown force, which in reality is that of the devil. The Christian seeks to know the Person of God, to imitate Him, through imitating the incarnate Jesus Christ. He does not believe in cosmic absorption or personal extinction -- he believes that he will be an individual throughout eternity, constantly growing to become more like his Heavenly Father, developing a greater awareness of, and love for, God's Creation.
Q. How has science contributed to this New Age vision?
A. In many ways. But please do not think that science is the property of the occult. Strictly speaking, science belongs to neither. Science is simply an empirical way of analyzing the universe. It should be, though rarely is, non-philosophical.
Q. What do you mean?
A. Well, whether we like it or not, every scientist has religious or philosophical beliefs and his quest for scientific knowledge is usually in some way motivated by those beliefs. The Christian scientist is out to discover how God's Creation works, whereas the atheistic evolutionary scientist is out to prove that everything came into existence without external agencies. The New Age scientist is out to find parallels with science and the occult, and so on.
Q. So all science is philosophically or religiously motivated to some extent?
A. It shouldn't be, but it is. A powerful, pervasive philosophy lies behind all modern science, and that is Darwinian evolution, whether of the atheistic or the theistic variety. The fact it treats Creationist scientists as religious misfits actually demonstrates just how religious it actually is. Science ought to be philosophically and religiously neutral but it is the very opposite. Power corrupts. And evolutionary scientists have that power, which they shamefully abuse, even though they never received it from the democratic voice. They are a tiny minority of the public who see themselves as a scientific-aristocratic élite with some kind of "divine right" to guide society. What the priests of Christendom were to the Middle Ages, the scientists are to the 20th century.
Q. Are you making a direct comparison?
A. Yes. Freud once said that religion consists of "certain dogmas, assertions about the facts and conditions of external (or internal) reality which tell us something that one has not oneself discovered and which claim that one should give them credence" (The Future of an Illusion, 1928, p.43). He also said: "If we ask on what their claim to be believed is based, we receive three answers which accord remarkably ill with each other. They deserve to be believed, firstly, because our primal ancestors believed them; secondly, because we possess proofs which have been handed down from this period of antiquity; and thirdly, because it is forbidden to raise the question of their authenticity at all. Formerly this presumptuous act was visited with the very severest penalties and even today society is unwilling to see anyone renew it. In other words, religious doctrines are "illusions"; they do not admit of proof and no one can be compelled to consider them as true or to believe in them" (Ibid, p.45-6,55).
These are strong words and there is much truth in them. So much of Christian tradition is imposed by churches, and typical is the divine right to exclusive authority -- "all other churches but ours are wrong -- just believe what we tell you." The evolutionary scientists are no different. Despite not one iota of proof for evolution, society is expected to believe it. And why are they expected to believe it? Because they are expected to believe that all religion is "illusion".
Q. Then who is right?
A. Neither. Both are wrong because both are standing in the place of God, dictating what people should believe. You see, the authoritarian method always breaks down on critical analysis. When authorities conflict -- evolution vs. creation, one church tradition vs. another -- we are compelled to go beyond authority. Usually, the authority is commended to our acceptance on the ground that the author has superior knowledge. The scientist "knows more" than the man on the street; the guru "knows more" that the hapless disciple or devotee. The church fathers "knew more" then we can ever hope to know, or the apostles "knew more" because they lived with Jesus, whereas we do not. But all of this is authoritarianism.
Of course, it may be shown later that indeed there are scientists gurus and apostles who know more than us, but this should never be the raison for slavish obedience.
Q. Are you saying, then, that a person should not be given a Bible and told to obey it unquestioningly?
A. That is an invalid question, and I will attempt to explain why. The Bible itself teaches that we should "prove all things, and hold fast that which is right". God even challenges us to "reason with Him", yet such things are conditional. Please note here that we are only entitled to test those things which we do not know. If I want to make friends with someone whom I've never met before, I have a legitimate right to know if he is trustworthy before I embrace him in my bosom. I would be crazy, for example, inviting a murderer into my home knowing that was what he was.
In the same way once we know that God is reliable, we should no longer test Him. That shows a lack of trust. BUT WE NEED TO KNOW HIM FIRST. To do that, we must have the spirit of free enquiry and the right to think for ourselves, which is not necessarily the right to think unlike others. Every individual must discover the truth for himself and not have it pressed on him by some authority figure or tradition.
When there is a spirit of free enquiry the defenders of authority do not openly persecute the critically minded and are often anxious to appeal to reason in support of authority. This is true in the religious world. Religions that once had political power and openly persecuted those who would not agree with them cease such behaviour in an open society. These same religions are open to discussion because free enquiry forces them to get off their high pedestals and come down to the level of the ordinary man. They may persecute people within their religion but not those outside it.
The evolutionary scientist is today wearing the same shoes as once the major branches of Christendom wore. They persecute and hound out non-evolutionary scientists because they are not open to public scrutiny.
Q. So really any religious organisation or secular philosophy could end up persecuting others?
A. That is the lesson of history. Communists in democratic countries are usually quite reasonable people. Put them in a position of power and they will crush out all opposition. Even fascists in democratic countries must appeal to people's reason, but put them in power and they will crush all dissenting voices. There have been absolute "Christian" régimes in the past and they have burned heretics. There are Islamic régimes today and they often brutally silence dissenting voices. One Islamic régime recently "voted" in parliament to totally exterminate a nation and all its people!
In the end, the evolutionary scientists will be forced off their high pedestals. The truth always prevails in the end, though unfortunately not until alot of people have suffered in the process. This is true of ALL HUMAN AFFAIRS.
Q. Is this not contrary to the principles which the Holy Order teaches?
A. God is a supreme ruler but He invites us to test Him and find out that He is what He claims He is. Once we know that He is true, loving, benevolent, fait, just, and 100% reliable, then have we any grounds for rebelling against Him? Once we know these things, then His benevolent dictatorship is a million times preferable to man's fickle democracy.
Q. The New Covenant has always taught that democracy is the best for man, has it not?
A. Yes, democracy is the only safe form of government for fallen, rebellious man. It is inefficient and clumsy, but by and large it protects society from authoritarianism. Yet authoritarianism can also conceal itself under the guise of democracy. It is astonishing how many communist states used to call themselves "democracies"!
Q. What would you say to the accusation that reasoning in religion is only a rearrangement of our prejudices?
A. This is only a half-truth. It is true, of course, that millions people are "Christians", "Muslims" or "Hindus" because that is the way they were born. That is nominal religion. I was born an Anglican but I was never an Anglican in my heart. Mostly this is a social label.
Q. What about New Covenant Christians? Are they born such?
A. Of course, our children are born into our tradition, but there is no automatic admission to the Church. They must search things out for themselves. Indeed, we even challenge our adults to scrutinise some of the assumptions on which their faith is built by constantly comparing the Church with the teachings of Christ.
Our children are never pressurised to join the Church. The door is open when they are 8 years old but they must make the decision themselves. The insincere, who want only to imitate their elders, are usually deterred by the fact that they must make a true confession of faith before their local congregation before they will be accepted as baptismal candidates. They know that baptism is not just a social admission into the community but entry into a personal relationship with Christ. My own 11 year old daughter is unbaptized and has been told that she must choose as and when she wants to. I have never tried to force her.
Q. What do you say to the critics when they accuse Christians of arm-twisting their children into accepting their faith simply by teaching them religious principles? Isn't that a subtle form of brainwashing and religious conditioning?
A. The Scriptures teach plainly that the only commitment of any value to God is a "free-will offering", the free choice of the individual in response of a call by the Lord. This is a fundamental teaching of the New Covenant. All must personally come to faith by an inward call independent of any external pressure.
However, it is hopelessly naïve to maintain that parents should not teach their children, or teach them to be religiously "neutral". Such is impossible. Every parent or culture influences its children in one way or another, even if that influence is agnostic or atheistic. The atheist maintains, of course, that atheism is religiously "neutral" when, in fact, it is blatantly religious. Look how religious communism was with its prophets (Lenin, Marx, Engels, Mao, etc.), its Millennium (the socialist world), its Scriptures (Marx's Communist Manifesto, Mao's Little Red Book etc.), its priests (political commissars), and so on. But this is my point -- every point-of-view is by nature a religious one, especially if it is beyond the realm of proof. Even democracy is a religion; indeed, the defeat of communism by democracy is essentially a religious conflict -- a conflict between belief. The way democracy is spoken of in the media one would think it is a god.
It is impossible to give a child a totally neutral view of the world. It has never been done and never will be done. Each parent must take personal responsibility for what he or she teaches. Political and scientific leaders are under no less accountability.
Q. What would the New Covenant's ideal form of education for children be?
A. In secular society, our belief is that all children, irrespective of their religious background, should be taught about the biblical values of right and wrong, in short, ethics. You can't be neutral about such things. Honesty, chastity, industriousness, racial tolerance, good manners, respect for authority, should all be taught (Deut.6:7). These form the basis of all the major world religions. This ought to be taught in school.
Thereafter, it is the responsibility of parents to teach about God. Naturally, New Covenant Christians expect the freedom to teach their children of the traditions of our Church, and we recognise the right of the parents of others traditions to teach theirs. The guiding principle should be respect for all people irrespective of religious or racial background.
Q. This doctrine, at least in the schools, does not allow for such things as free sex and other points-of-view, does it?
A. No, and on the ethical front you cannot mix principles. You cannot teach the adultery is wrong and yet be free to go and commit it. That is true.
Q. But isn't this authoritarianism?
A. In one way, yes, but it is not irrational. It is easy to explain the effects of promiscuous living -- the effects are clearly anti-social, for its philosophy is basically that the freedom of the individual to do whatever he or she likes is more important than any negative effects of society as a whole. There has to be a balance between freedom of the individual and the interests of the society. We live in an age where anything that is "minority" is sacrosanct. Whilst minority points-of-view must be protected, where they clearly endanger society as a whole they must be controlled.
Now, admittedly, such a position is open to abuse if not properly checked. But this is not impossible. Honesty, for example, should be self-evident. No society, with perhaps the exception of ancient Sparta, has ever thought there was anything positive in theft. But one area where there is disagreement is the family. The family has almost been destroyed by liberal, permissive ideas, and needs to be strengthened and protected. However, this is a large subject which is perhaps beyond the scope of what we have principally come to discuss here today.
Suffice to say that I believe that moral values should be actively promoted, not deviant behaviour. Minorities should be free but should not be permitted to have influence out of proportion to their numbers.
Q. Like the doctrine of evolution, or homosexuality, for example?
A. Exactly. Evolution is a legitimate hypothesis and should be taught and freely discussed in the context of other competing theories for the origin of life. From a scientific point-of-view, there is no absolute evidence for either evolution of creation. Both should be taught and the children allowed to make up their own minds.
Similarly, homosexuality cannot be brushed under the carpet, nor should it be (see Apostolic Interviews, No.3, "A Question of Homosexuality). It needs to be discussed. Its active promotion as a normal "alternative" lifestyle in the media should be banned, however, as anti-social and detrimental to public health. Homosexuals should not be persecuted, however, as once they were. Homosexual acts should have the same status as prostitution, because both undermine the family and society.
In a non-theocratic state, there must be a sensible balance. The secular society should not be allowed to prosecute or persecute adulterers any more than it should be allowed to prosecute homosexual offenders. But it should actively teach that such things are wrong and only allow those who observe the ethical principles of the state to serve in public office. The democratic state should have high ethical ideals and only allow those who observe them to serve in responsible positions.
Q. Such as?
A. Government ministers, doctors and nurses, teachers, lawyers, and policemen and women.
Q. In short, there should be a core leadership of moral people?
A. Yes. It is the only hope for society. People will have the freedom to sin in the ordinary professions but not in what I would call vocations.
Q. It's a big question and one perhaps that will never be fully answered...
A. Probably not. The immoral minority (which is a majority now in some societies) would cry out, for one. On the other hand, the world as a whole is on such a low moral level that I doubt the ideal will ever be achieved by human effort now, and certainly not with the advent of super-states like the European Union (EEC).
Q. We have talked quite about about authoritarianism and how this quenches the spirit of truth, especially in relation to the individual's search for religious truth. We've also talked about democracy, its strengths and its weaknesses. But I'd like to steer the conversation around to some theological principles if I may.
Christianity basically divides up into two schools of thought, liberal and conservative. Conservatives maintain that the universe is specially created, and usually claim that it is only a few thousand years old. Liberals embrace evolution and say the universe must be millions of years old. Am I right in thinking that whilst the New Covenant is Creationist, it is not necessarily committed to a young earth or universe?
A. We have made no dogmatic pronouncements on the subject because there are too many unanswered questions. Our people must have the freedom to explore within the context that God is Sovereign and that Christ the Redeemer is literally the "second Adam"...
Q. Meaning, that the doctrine of universal atonement must be preserved?
A. Yes. Doctrines like reincarnation undermine totally the atonement and the unique ministry of Christ. This is not an area we are given to compromise because its consequences are utterly antithetical to the Christian faith. If the atonement has no basis in reality, then we might just as well become New Agers. But we know that this doctrine is satanic, not simply because it contradicts Biblical teachings, but because we have experienced and tested its spirit and observed the demonic influence behind it.
Q. Couldn't the "second Adam" passage in scripture be interpreted to mean that Adam was the first of a certain kind of human and that Christ was the last, that in Christ a new type of human is being created?
A. You are suggesting pre-Adamites who were a different species. That is the doctrine of the theistic evolutionists who postulate that there were ape-men before Adam, that God took an "ape-man" and breathed into it to create a homo sapiens. It is an interesting theory but it does violence to the scriptures. There isn't a shred of evidence that ape-men ever existed, either scientifically or scripturally.
The scripture you cite says: "The first man Adam became a living being (soul); the last Adam (Christ), a life-giving spirit" (1 Cor.15:45, NIV). This passage must be seen in context. Paul also says: "For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive" (Ibid., v.22). These references are not to the creation of a new species of human being, as New Agers would like to teach (they teach that yet another "new species" is about to be formed, a spiritual super-man, even greater than the spiritual "species" that Christ created). The Scriptures teach that Adam, and Adam alone, was the first man. There was no-one before him. The passages in Corinthians refer to fallen Adam. Christ brings redemption, thus restoring the collective human race to its previous condition, provided it accepts the terms offered by Jesus, namely, repentance and a reformed life.
Q. Is it not true that astronomy has now stretched out space to infinity where distance is measured in light-years? If it takes tens of thousands of light-years for light to reach us from distant stars, then surely that is proof that the universe is millions of years old?
A. Maybe, I don't know. Nobody knows. I do know of one theory, which is quite credible, which states that the speed of light has been decreasing over time.
Q. You mean, that it isn't a constant as physicists maintain?
A. Yes. An Australian scientist called Barry Setterfield has done much research into this possibility. Whilst his theory cannot be proved or disproved, it does at least show that there is still the possibility that the universe is young. If Light has been slowing down exponentially, as he claims, then the light we see from distant stars may not have taken as long to reach us as we first supposed.
We have no revelation on this subject and there is no doubt a reason why the Lord does not intend us to know.
Q. What might that be?
A. To encourage us to search and explore -- God loves creativity. He wants us to find out things for ourselves and not just to be spoon-fed by revelation. That is the way we spiritually grow and mature.
Q. Is it not strange, if we are the only human beings in the universe, that God has created such a vast cosmos with trillions of stars? Why would He do such a thing?
A. Who said we were the only human beings? I know fundamentalist Christians believe this but there is nothing in the Bible to indicate that this is true. The universe is far bigger than we ever dreamed. The great sun around which our earth revolved is but a small speck amongst a hundred thousand million other stars in our galaxy, which itself is but one of millions of other systems.
I cannot believe that God brought this vast universe into existence just for us here. Why should He? By what right do we presume such a privilege? As Sir James Jeans once observed: "It seems incredible that the universe can have been designed primarily to produce life like our own; had it been so, surely we might have expected to find a better proportion between the magnitude of the mechanism and the amount of the product" (The Mysterious Universe, 1930, p.5-6).
Q. What about the UFO phenomenon? Does this not suggest that other life forms exist in the universe?
A. Perhaps. This is a big subject which I wish to speak in detail on another time as this phenomenon is a part of the great end-time delusion. But yes, I accept that there are other life-forms and possibly other probation planets like our own with good and evil beings. This is my opinion. However, I do not believe we should expect to be guided by extra-terrestrial life forms, or that God has made provision in the Scriptures for such to come and teach us. I certainly do not believe the Lord has ever commissioned such to teach us the Gospel of Salvation. When He has wanted spiritual teachers, He has raised up prophets and apostles from our own earth-bound stock.
Q. Therefore you would counsel against expecting salvation from outer space?
A. Absolutely. We have revelation on this subject in the Holy Order which makes it clear that UFO's are not a part of the Plan of Salvation and that the vast majority of them are under the spiritual control of Satan.
Q. If there are other worlds with developing civilizations, and if some are more advanced as us, then they would need more time than fundamentalists allow, wouldn't they?
A. That is logical. Consider the sun. Was it created just for a short 7,000 year mission? The sun burns 250 million tons of mass every minute. Since there is no known source of replenishment which can supply new mass to it at even a small fraction of this rate, we must assume that the sun has been given a fixed amount of mass from the beginning. At the present rate of loss, it will continue burning for another 15 million years, or possibly even longer.
I ask myself the question: Why would God create such a magnificent object, with the potential to burn for millions of years, and then extinguish it after a short 7,000 years? Is the whole universe, with its trillions of suns, to be "shut down" after only a few thousand years?
These are just questions but they are ones that deserve answers. Perhaps they are the wrong questions, perhaps not. I believe God to be a God of economy. I also believe that God, in His greatness, has not gone to all the trouble of building this vast universe just for this little planet. That is not to undervalue the human species, which we know is precious to Him, but simply to try and put things into proportion. I am not God, but were I God, I would not limit My creative activities to one small planet. Again, this is only a personal opinion and maybe, for some reason unknown to me, God did only create one inhabited world.
Who can understand or fathom the Omnipotent, Omniscient God? There is a tendency in human nature to limit God to our own expectations. We try to fit Him into our tiny universe. We must, if we are to develop our spiritual awareness, allow God to be what He is. It is for the same reason that we refuse to dogmatically limit Scripture to one book, the Bible, even though that is the only one we use in public. That the Bible is providential is undeniable, but that it is all that God is capable to saying or writing is plainly ridiculous.
It is interesting to observe, however, that man stands midway in size between an atom and a star. He is almost exactly as much larger than an atom as a star is larger than a man. Is this not interesting? There is a valuable spiritual key here. And yet we can neither understand fully what a star is or what an atom is! They are either too small or too big for us to comprehend. Particle physics is nowadays largely philosophy, the search for real or imaginary particles. Cosmology is largely guesswork since we cannot dissect a star on a laboratory table. Here we are, suspended between two poles of size -- the smallest, and the largest!
There are other parallels too. Spengler likens cultural units to plant growth. They pass through the stages of growth, blossoming and decaying. An apparently immutable law governs the rise and fall of races and cultures. History seems to circle in fixed orbits and with as predetermined a movement as the stars themselves. It is as though a plan is being worked out amongst us at all levels of creation. Even stars come and go, flaring into existence in a burst of glory and then finally burning themselves out. There is strong evidence that they are still being created today.
Q. But I thought that all the stars were created in the fourth day of creation?
A. That's interesting, isn't it? The Bible teaches that the earth was created before either the sun, moon or stars. This has caused Christian scientists numerous problems.
Take Psalm 19:4-6 for example, where the sun is poetically displayed as an athlete running a race across the sky, as it "rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other" (v.6). Theologian Richard Müller rightly argues that this "a description of the world simply as it appears to the eye and relates to the individual" (The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, Vol.4, p.1113).
Even today we talk about "sunrise" and "sunset" yet the sun actually does neither of these things.
Q. Surely such statements would be regarded as heretical by some fundamentalist Christians?
A. Unfortunately, yes. But they are the ones who are boxing themselves into an undefendable position by maintaining the dogma that the Bible is not only verbally infallible but scientifically accurate. I certainly accept that the Bible is scientifically correct where it is being scientific for I do believe that it reveals a little of God's scientific knowledge. But that is not what the Bible primarily is. It is a book of revelation on moral principles. It is also highly poetic.
Much of the narrative in the Bible is in earth-centred style and this was misunderstood by the first Christian cosmologists. The Bible is a revelation from a certain viewpoint -- from the point-of-view of earth-bound man. That in no way invalidates it, of course.
The Bible nowhere pretends to be a scientific account of how the earth came into existence but a testimony of who brought it into existence.
Q. Isn't this a license for admitting evolutionary teaching?
A. Not at all. From a purely scientific point-of-view, evolution shows its bankruptcy by the sheer lack of evidence. It is an old pagan doctrine invented long before Charles Darwin. It is the doctrine par excellence of the New Age Movement with all its mish-mash of superstition, spiritism, and pure demonism.
The point is we don't need to be coerced into rejecting evolutionism by being forced to accept another dogmatic proposal. Sometimes the Creationists try to fit a quart into a pint pot, I feel. Why do we need to be dogmatic? There is still too much that we don't know. But humans are hungry for answers, for paradigms, into which they can fit their belief structure. The problem is that when you do that you tend to close to door to new revelation from God.
The Book of Genesis was written thousands of years ago. Alot is lost just in translation to another language. Take the wonderful introduction to Genesis which describes the earth as being "formless and empty". Are we to understand these words literally -- that the earth had "no form" and was "empty"? But if we go to the original Hebrew we will discover something quite marvelous, namely, that these words are a play on sound, for it says "tohu wabohu", which is roughly equivalent to our colourful English phrases helter-skelter, willy-nilly, or mishmash.
You can't dissect poetry on the laboratory bench. It is probably useless pouring over such words as "formless" and "empty" and expecting to extract deep scientific meaning from them. In fact, the imagery used by the writer of Genesis suggests that of an eagle protecting its young. Similarly, the Lord lovingly hovered over the earth as He brought about its formation, by a process we can't yet remotely guess at.
Q. One of the accusations of unbelievers is that religion is just fantasy or illusion. How can this notion be dispelled?
A. The trouble is, most religion is exactly that. A tremendous amount of religious experience is pure fantasy and this has been exploited by religious leaders throughout the centuries. As Thomas Hobbes once said: "To say (God) hath spoken to him in a dream is no more than to say he dreamed that God spoke to him. To say he hath seen a vision or heard a voice is to say that he dreamed between sleeping and waking" (Leviathan, Bk.3, ch.xxxii).
I can understand the sceptics and sympathise with them to some extent. So man's mystical experiences, which he attributes to God, are simply projections of his own unconscious. But to then dismiss all mystical experience on this basis is most foolish.
How does the sceptic explain the man who saw a vision of a woman he had never seen before, and then, by a series of circumstances, found himself in a far land and then met the woman concerned? Well, this happened to me, and such experiences have happened before, hundreds of times. The chances of this being a coincidence were several billion to one against.
Q. You seem, if I understand you properly, to be advocating a cautious approach to the unknown -- to scientific theories of creation, visions and dreams, etc.?
A. Experience has taught me to be careful. In a Church like ours, where we are open to mystical experiences and the spiritual gifts, all sorts of spiritually immature people are going to be attracted who are going to claim revelations from God that are no more than personal psychological projections or the influence of demons. Discerning these things is learned only by experience.
God has placed us in our circumstances to solve certain problems. Some may be philosophers or scientists, but not all are called to be philosophers of scientists. It is the same with spiritual gifts. Some churches insist that the absence of certain spiritual gifts indicates that a person is not in right relationship with God. This is terribly dangerous for you then find people working themselves up to a pitch until they get, as they suppose, the gifts.
Q. I know you are quite sceptical about the gift of tongues for this reason...
A. And not, I believe, without good cause. So many Christians, as well as non-Christians, experience what I would call psychological dissociation and start speaking unintelligible blurb. They themselves, as well as gullible onlookers, assume it is the power of God. But it is "soulish"...
A. Yes. By "soulishness" I mean projections of the human psyche which appear to be spiritual simply because they are disassociated. If you have ever seen a woman in shock who speaks unintelligible gibberish you will know what I mean. The priestess or the Sibylline Oracle, Shamans, and witchdoctors all do this, sometimes under the influence of demons.
But the influence of the Holy Spirit is quite different. The Spirit of God is coherent, dignified, and under the control of the person experiencing it.
Q. So the New Covenant does accept tongues?
A. Oh yes. Admittedly it is not a gift used much by us as we tend to favour the prophetic gift, our experience being very much in dream states and visions. But it may well come into more widespread use later.
Q. Do you think the people may be inhibited by the cautiousness of the leadership?
A. That is possible. We have made it a firm rule that unless there is an interpreter in public, the gift should not be used. This may have caused potential recipients of the gifts to shy away because of fear of not having an interpreter. I know one member of NPKF who has experienced singing in tongues without interpretation and she was absolutely sure it was of the Holy Spirit. She may well be right. But we shall tread carefully, for the abuse of gifts can cause tremendous damage if not properly controlled. As a general principle, as a people we have been more attracted by spiritual knowledge that comes from meditation on God's Word followed by prophetic insight.
Q. Now I know that the New Covenant is very sceptical about people who claim exclusive authority or truth, and yet it admits to the possibility that it itself may, either now or in the future, become such?
A. Let's be careful here. We have never said that this body of people, currently the NPKF or its other orders, may become the "truth". We have always maintained that the only incarnation of pure truth is the Lord Jesus Christ. He alone is "truth" in perfect, human manifestation. Neither have we claimed exclusive authority. We have been at pains to explain that spiritual authority is in constant flux depending on the peoples' righteousness and closeness to the Holy Spirit. I may have authority to act in God's Name today and loose it tomorrow -- or I may have it one minute and loose it the next. It all depends on my inner condition. I have, for example, no authority to preach on having a pure heart if, during my sermon, I suddenly have an impure thought. The latter instantly cancels my authority to represent God.
I have never heard of a perfect Church or a perfect religion, though I have heard of one or two that have perhaps come close. There was a time when vast temples were built for Moloch and Baal, mighty in their own day with crowds of worshippers, gods (so-called) who uttered commands and prohibitions interpreting which priests spent their long lives. To doubt their power and presence was to be condemned as a heretic and thousands suffered death and persecution, but who is so poor today as to recognise them, much less do them reverence?
Q. Perhaps some of the booming satanic cults?
A. Maybe. What has happened to the Egyptian Ra and the Babylonian Shamash, to Isis and Ashteroth, Zeus and Athene, Janus and Vesta, gods mentioned with fear and trembling and believed in by millions? Their day is done, and their altars smoke no more, apart maybe amongst a few obscure fanatics? We can smile at the naïvité of those who assume that while all other gods will pass away their own will abide for ever. The broken idols of the past seem to have no lessons for them. The history of religion is the record of conflicts of contradictory systems, each of them claiming dogmatic finality and absolute truth, a claim made absurd by the plurality of claimants.
Q. But don't you believe you have the truth?
A. That depends what you mean by truth. If you mean that I know everything, obviously not. If you mean that my Church is the only repository of truth, absolutely not. But if you mean that I believe in a perfect God who knows all things, then yes, I believe in that. Do I have Him? Sometimes, a little. I consider it a life exercise drawing closer to Him. If you ask if I believe that He manifested Himself in the flesh as the Lord Jesus Christ, then I certainly believe in that; and because of my belief I can see more of the truth now than before I knew Him. Do I believe that Jesus was superior to other religious leaders? Yes, I believe that, for I believe He is the Son of God. But as to whether I have Jesus within me in the fullness, that is another matter.
What about our Church system, its organisation -- do I believe that to be perfect? No, for it has changed. So has the organisation of every church and religion on the earth. They have all changed, every one!
When will people learn the lesson of comparative religion, that every religion is molded by fallible and imperfect human instruments, and so long as it is alive it will be changing. Spirit is growth, and even while we are observing one side of life, the wheel is turning and the shadow of the past is twining itself into it.
Q. But what about the Church that Jesus established?
A. You know, we, and other Christians, have tried to re-create that Church, but it is impossible. How can you re-create something that emerged in unique conditions? Any church is influenced by the things that is going on around it. The first Christian Church underwent enormous change even during the lifetime of the apostles. It was growing, adapting, making mistakes and correcting them.
Q. And the Holy Spirit was leading them through all of this?
A. Yes. The Holy Spirit is not a slave-driver. It moves people only as they allow themselves to be moved. That is why higher revelation comes when it does, when people are ready for it and are prepared to act on it.
Q. Are you saying that the first Christian Church was essentially structured by the personalities that led it?
A. Yes, and by the ordinary members too. It was shaped by the people's willingness to be true and obedient to the Gospel in all its many facets. Why do you think the same miracles that happened in the New Testament Church are not happening today? Why, when people supposedly speak in tongues, do they not have tongues of fire above their heads? Oh yes, the gifts happen here and there, but not in what might be called a regular or systematic way. The same people who experience miracles one day find that nothing happens the next, and explain it as the inscrutable will of God. Maybe it is. The point is, we are bombarded by forces, within and without, that shape our faith and decision-making processes. Why aren't people being struck down dead like Annanias and Saphhira? Aren't people cheating God of their tithes today?
You see, man tries to control God -- to make Him fit their expectations. Once miracles start, people go crazy, as in a gold-rush. Churches want miracles and seek them and inner forces are stimulated, many of them egotistical. God's will is often forgotten. People are so busy, so anxious to get God working for them that they would manipulate Him if they could. And that's what the pagans did, though is was not God who served them, but demons who progressively extracted heavier and heavier prices for their shows of power. It's happening all over again in the New Age Movement, the "New Paganism". Satan delights in giving supernatural shows -- telepathic communication, levitation, astral travel to mystical planets, UFO's, strange tongues, weird music, and so on.
It is all sensual, all carnal, because it is centred in lust. Mankind, bored with life because disobedience -- a failure to live God's commandments -- seeks for a drug-like "quick shot" of spiritual ecstasy, gets addicted, and is drawn further and further in. Even Christians do it, thus opening the way for demonic influence. Miraculous tongues, healings, visions, dreams and the like -- it's all sensual when not centred in God.
Q. Are you saying that God doesn't heal?
A. No. God heals, causes all kinds of miracles to happen, but in such a controlled way that man doesn't get carried away with himself. There are more important things. God wants whole people centred in Him. "Be still, and know that I am God," he told the Psalmist. God is still. We have to learn to be too, and learn to experience miracles in stillness also. I would suggest that perhaps the greatest miracle of all is the stillness of soul that allows us to make a direct connection with the Lord. The greatest miracle of all is a person suffused with love throughout his being -- everything else...tongues, healings, prophecies, knowledge, visions, etc. pale into insignificance before the great miracle of divine love. This was the message the apostle Paul was desperately trying to get over to the churches but they were more interested in what I would call "peripheral" or secondary miracles.
Q. People are so complicated, you need to be a psychologist to understand them!
A. Sin is complicated because it fragments people, making them have all kinds of competing desires and lusts. Actually, people seek for miracles and signs that re-enforce their fallen tendencies. But love -- when you seek for that -- demands nothing less than a total reorientation of your personality. It demands that you clear the débris of your sinful nature so that God can replant you.
The love of God cannot co-habit with sin without inner warfare. Only one person can sit on a throne, and love demands the only seat on the throne of your heart. That means everything else has got to get off that throne -- and you're the one who has got to clear it off.
Yes, we are complicated, but only because that is the way we have chosen to be. My children are presently going through a Lego craze and are building all sorts of things. When the structure is finished, whatever it may be -- a house, say -- they admire its elegance. It looks so simple because it is ordered. But when you take the Lego apart and scatter the bricks and accessories all over the place, it looks a mess, and usually nobody wants to tidy them up. But unless they do, they're going to find building complicated and tedious as they rummage through piles of bricks of different colours and shapes.
Love is an ordering principle. Name me a person who is not peaceful and stable when they have love in their soul? The wind and rain of adversity may beat upon them but they remain firm and unmovable. A lack of love leads to chaos -- our structures...views of life...crumble around us when we lack love. Love gives meaning, purpose and orderliness. And when you have love, life begins to seem so much more simple. Because the commandments remove all the variables of life -- the chaos that results from broken marriages, theft, disrespect of families, etc. -- things are less complicated when a person lives the commandments. But they won't, and then they wonder why life is so complex and chaotic, why their feelings rise and fall like the giant waves of the sea in a storm.
We are all in flux -- changing -- but there two kinds of flux. There is meaningless flux, like the ever changing shapes of sand dunes in the desert which have no purpose or goal. Then there is orderly flux, the gradual changing of our personalities into Christ-like personalities as we conform our selves more and more to the commandments and transform our selfish natures into loving ones. Everything is in flux whether we like it or not -- nothing is stationary, save the eternal Will of Almighty God and the commandments which he has decreed as being the basis of stability in the Universe.
It is incredible that human beings - stupid human beings -- can say that moral law is in flux when all around them -- in nature, the universe, they see constancy. The universe has a fixed rhythm, a determined path, a destiny, if you like. So why shouldn't there be absolute moral and ethical laws?
Q. If the Church and people are in flux, what about the Scriptures?
A. Oh, you've found a golden calf here! I think some Christians love the Bible more than God. Now, I'm not going to dispute that God's Word is eternal, or that it ever returns to Him void. This is an axiom of our faith. But what is God's Word?
Q. The Scriptures.
A. Are you sure? Kindly read Genesis 3:5...
Q. "'You will not surely die,' the serpent said to the woman. 'For God knows that when you eat it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing God and evil." ....but they did know good and evil...
A. Yes, but Satan lied. He said they wouldn't die. Is that God's Word?
Q. No, that's true. But surely it's the context of the words that makes it God's Word -- God is teaching us important principles?
A. These are half-truths. What you are saying is one of the many classical arguments used by believers in defence of the infallibility of the Bible. But let's not kid ourselves. What Satan said was the word of Satan, not the Word of God. He lied. God doesn't lie. Therefore at least part of Genesis 3:5 cannot be the Word of God. Take the book of Job where his friends try to make him sin -- is that the Word of God? No, of course not.
Fundamentalist Christians have really got themselves tied up in a series of knots. They invent dogmas as a counter to liberal Christianity which really does undermine the truths of God's Word. Scriptures, like all books, are the products of history, and some parts of them are even forgeries.
Q. The Bible contains forgeries??? That's absurd!
A. Have you never heard of the comma Johanneum? It is almost universally recognised as a Catholic forgery interpolated to bolster the Trinity doctrine. It's in 1 John 5:7-8 and is found in only one New Testament manuscript.
Q. But isn't this what liberals say? That most of the Bible is a forgery?
A. They say that, but we do not. But their basis is atheism, for they do not believe in prophecies or miracles. Therefore they say that most of the prophecies in the Old Testament were written after the event. We in the New Covenant do, on the other hand, believe in prophecy, revelation and miracles. But that does not alter the fact that the Bible has undergone historical alterations by scribes in places.
Q. People will say that you are trying to undermine faith in the Bible...
A. Not at all, for we believe in all the principles taught in the Bible. What we do not believe is that every Hebrew or Greek word was dictated from heaven. We do not believe in verbal, plenary revelation in every part of the Bible. Some parts, like the Pentateuch and Daniel, and possible some other books, are indisputably verbal, plenary -- letter for letter infallible -- but other parts are undoubtedly conceptual revelation.
Q. So who is to decide what is inspired and what is not?
A. If people were filled with the Holy Spirit and learned to listen to God, as the first Christians did, they wouldn't need anyone to interpret the scriptures. That is why apostles are called today as in days of old.
Q. But what if they are misled?
A. Then they will mislead the people and become accountable to God. And alas that has happened all too often. There are many self-styled apostles today claiming direct contact with heaven yet whose spiritual plate is empty. And there are many in the past who have led their people down forbidden paths.
Q. What of New Covenant apostles?
A. We are cautious and say nothing without good reason. What apostles say must harmonise with, or be legitimate expansions of, what has already been revealed in the Scriptures. They must also be able to explain what they teach in a logical and consistent manner, allowing the people to prove all things for themselves.
Q. How are apostles called?
A. God calls them individually and through the existing apostles, and God gives a testimony to the people.
Q. Are there always twelve?
A. Not necessarily. That is the maximum. But we do not go filling offices for the sake of filling them.
Q. Are they equal in authority to the first apostles of the New Testament?
A. As I understand it, no, for the New Testament appears to teach that the first apostles are the foundation pillars of Zion. Possibly this could be interpreted in another way. But for modesty's sake, we assume the former position.
Q. Can you say a little more about the scriptures and their authority...?
A. Some of the scriptures, such as in the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah and Israel, are simply genealogical records. Some parts are manifestly unspiritual and quite useless for spiritual growth, as for example some of the deeds of David's mighty warriors. Would you maintain that the details of how people were slaughtered is of any spiritual value?
The Bible should be seen as literature rather than a single book. Their inspired character does not imply divine dictation necessarily though obviously large parts are indeed God's very words as penned down by the prophets who heard them. Many parts of the Scriptures contain the hopes, fears, anger and expectations of men of faith. God even wrote one part of the Scriptures with His own finger, the Ten Commandments.
Don't Christians habitually read some parts of the Bible more than others? And why do they do so? It is either because certain scriptures meet immediate needs or, more likely, because some parts are evidently more inspired than others.
Q. Could you give an example?
A. Yes, The Old Covenant Law taught the people to kill their enemies. The New Covenant Law reformed by Jesus taught men not to kill their enemies but to love them. We see here a classical example of light and truth on a higher level. The original was an adaptation for a people on a lower level of consciousness and spiritual sensitivity. Does that make the former commandment false? No, it was correct in its time. But not now. Does that mean that truth changes? No, truth is static. It is men who change.
Q. I don't understand that. How can killing be right and wrong at two different times?
A. Let's take democracy. Democracy pre-supposes that the people are guided by common sense and a certain level of moral enlightenment. Democracy requires people to be responsible and can only work when these conditions are men. If people are not moral, then they will vote for immorality, as they are doing now. Would you accept as binding the democratic vote of a council of demons? Of course not! They are without responsibility, love, light or truth.
Democracy would have been quite wrong, say, in Soddom and Gemmorrah. What would the people have voted for there? You can guess, I am sure. Simon Bolivar, the South American revolutionary leader, was astute enough to see that democracy in the wake of violent revolution would have led to anarchy. We see in Russia, which has had no democratic tradition, or the awareness that comes with such a tradition, ripped apart by chaos following the collapse of communist dictatorship.
Q. Are you saying that it was wrong to make Russia a democratic country?
A. Russia needed a metocracy, a half-way house, something like China's. She needed strong, central leadership with slowly evolving democratic structures. Forcing democracy on Russia has led to chaos and anarchy. In China, which is experimenting with capitalism, a strong centralised leadership insists on basic socialist values by clamping down on prostitution, the black market, gambling, and the other vices. Now I'm not saying the Chinese have necessarily got it right -- the government is cruel and oppressive, but it must be given credit for the right things it is doing.
The same principle can be seen to work in the capital punishment debate. Capital punishment is right in certain circumstances, depending on the people's sensitivity. When a people declines into immorality and loose their conscience, sometimes capital punishment is the only recourse of wise government if it doesn't want anarchy. Of course, it is open to abuse, like most things.
In the days of ancient Israel, it was not unusual for whole nations to be exterminated in what we would call a blood bath. Most of us recoil with horror when we see that the ancient Israelites did to their enemies. But that is only because we are coming out of a different cultural context. Your next door neighbour today doesn't go offering his babies as life sacrifices to idol gods like Moloch. Indeed, any kind of child abuse is usually met with great public indignation, though the more it happens, the more people switch off and don't pay attention any more. The people executed by the ancient Israelites were so depraved that moral reformation was impossible.
Now some people would argue that this is a strange way to look upon the value of life. Humans, especially non-believing ones, see life only in the context of this brief mortal span. But God sees into eternity. This life is but a wink in the stream of time. We are here for a purpose -- we are on this planet on probation. We are here to do and learn certain things, and we must do it together with others who are here to do and learn certain things. If everyone is to work out their salvation, then social conditions must be established, not withstanding Satan's attempt to destroy those conditions, to allow people to freely experience life.
The life of the soul is more important than the life of the body. The latter is important, to be sure, and is protected by one of the Ten Commandments, but it is not the chief end. The chief end is to reform personality. If the pagans of Canaan had been allowed to continue, they would have destroyed the Plan of Salvation -- the establishment of a Hebrew theocracy and its unfoldment into Christianity. Conditions for the Son of God to come into the world would not have been met.
Q. So everything was foreordained?
A. The Plan of Salvation was foreordained. The world was created for this purpose. Everything else is secondary. Satan would have you believe that everyone should be allowed to do their own thing, to work out their karma in whatever way they want to, and so on. But God says, no. Man is here to do and learn specific things, which he can do if he will forsake a life of wickedness. He has only one chance, and is given all the necessary keys to choose correctly, either here, or, if he is thwarted by Satan against his will, in the next life.
God wiped out the whole world because of its wickedness, save 8 souls. For some reason people don't mind this as much as Israelite soldiers slaughtering pagans by the sword.
If someone is about to murder my child and persuasion fails to dissuade the killer, am I wrong to use violence to prevent him, even if it means his death? I don't like violence or blood -- I positive hate it -- but the slaughter of a murderer cannot be compared with the slaughter of an innocent. A choice, however horrible, has to be made.
Killing is right...sometimes. But I suspect the main reason why people attack the Old Testament is not because they are morally outraged by what they perceive to be a "cruel God" but because they are rebels themselves. Their anger is against a God who demands moral righteousness from them when they wish to go their own, sinful ways.
Therefore we must learn this lesson, and it is that truth is greater than any revelation. Revelation is not itself truth. Truth always stands above revelation. The truth is greater then the Bible. The Bible is but an expression of the truth. What is right at one time may be wrong at another. Eating a steak maybe good for adults but positively wrong for a newborn infant. So let us be wise and not make silly judgments before all has been careful scrutinised in the light of God's Word.
Q. So does what you say mean that the Bible is equal with other religious scripture?
A. No, I haven't said that at all. The Bible is truth unfolded as man unfolds. But other scriptures, though containing much truth, also contain many untruths and lies designed consciously, or unconsciously, by their authors to mislead men and take them away from God.
Only the Bible, of other world religious literature, shows how a man can truly draw close to God through Jesus Christ. To the Koran Jesus is but a prophet -- its truths fall short of a most fundamental truth for salvation. What of the Hindu Vedas? They do not teach Jesus at all, and modern Hindus place Him alongside all their other gods, most of whom are demons. What of the Buddhist Scriptures? They can help a man get to know himself better but not the Saviour of man -- they too fall short of what is necessary for salvation. None deal with the problem of sin and how to deal with it because only faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, can.
So the Bible, and that which comes out of it (e.g. there are many missing books of the Bible), is unique. It is the book God has ordained to bring fallen mankind to Himself. Let there be no misunderstanding about that.
Q. If God has ordained it, why has He suffered different levels of inspiration? Why not cause men to put together a more perfect volume?
A. I don't know the full answer to that but I believe He has tried.
Q. Is anything impossible for God?
A. No, but it is up to men whether they will receive it or not. Powerful political and socio-religious forces took control of the Bible and of Christianity after the apostles were martyred -- it was kept away from the people for centuries. And the older something is, the more revered it becomes.
Q. Couldn't the Lord have used inspired men to preserve that which He wanted in the Bible?
A. That is the argument of orthodox Christianity, namely, that the various councils that convened to decide which books the Bible should contain were led by the Holy Spirit. That is pure supposition and dogma. Indeed, as one reads about these councils, the one thing that stands out in my mind is just how uninspired they were. They couldn't agree. Many books we consider inspired were once regarded as uninspired. Even Martin Luther rejected some of the books of the Protestant Bible. And the Catholics have included books known to be historically inaccurate, the Bible, incidentally, selected by the Councils.
Now, strange though it may seem, I do believe the Lord uses unregenerate men to effect His purposes. I do believe that the Bible books were selected by inspiration, even by so confused a rabble as the Councils. There may have been more than one occasion where He directly intervened unknown to the council members. However, whilst I believe that the books selected are inspired, allbethey on different levels of inspiration, that does not mean that I believe that all inspired books were included in the canons. I have studied many of those books rejected and it is plain that most are not inspired, but equally I have read some non-canonical scripture which I have no doubt is inspired.
Q. For example?
A. For example, the Wisdom of Solomon and Ecclesiasticus found in the Catholic Bible but not the Protestant. (Some Protestants actually quote from the latter which goes to show that many recognise there is God's Word outside their canon). For another, some of the Pseudepigraphic books such as the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, and many others. There is an astonishing amount of literature that has every right to claim to be Holy Scripture, but most Christians are too timid to consider such possibilities, much less willing to take the responsibility of coming out with it publicly for fear of dividing Christendom further.
Q. And that's why the New Covenant Church sticks to the Bible, isn't it?
A. Yes, we don't need further controversy at a time when more unity is essential as the end-time delusion gets closer and closer to its full realisation. I know many Christians find that hard to accept -- the fact that publicly we use only the Bible but privately accept other scriptures, but really if they were honest with themselves, they would discover that they accept alot of extra-Biblical material as dogma, such as the pronouncements of various Church councils and the testimonies of the "Church fathers". We at least stick only to the Bible and lean on no other scriptural authority in defence of our beliefs, though as we've said before, we do accept the Apostles' Creed as a summary of the faith.
Q. Do you think that is possible that some of the conventions and "laws" in the Bible were set down by prophets and seers to meet practical needs and that all the principles behind them are not necessarily timeless?
A. I believe the principles are timeless but that the details may only be particular to a certain historico-cultural situation. The Law of Moses was framed around an agricultural society. Jesus taught out from the same kind of society. Ours is a highly technological one and different situations require different rules. This is where apostolic dictum is important. Today the apostles and elders meet, as they did in New Testament times, to discuss present problems and to seek answers to them.
Q. Most churches would claims to do the same, wouldn't they?
A. Yes. The larger, older more established churches convene Synods to resolve contemporary issues but their decisions are never elevated to the status of scripture. And not surprising, since so many of them flatly contradict scripture.
Q. Such as...?
A. They are legion! To name but a few, celibacy of the Priesthood (contrary to Paul's teaching), acceptance of homosexuality as an "alternative" lifestyle (contrary to the law), ordination of women to the same priesthood as the men (contrary to New Testament teaching), baptism by sprinkling (contrary to plain Bible teaching), baptism of children who have not arrived at the years of accountability, the idolatrous use of images, statues and icons which are given sacred status, separation of clergy and laity into two different spiritual classes, indulgences, and so on. The "resolutions" of most of these synods are so out of touch with God's Word that to assert they are "apostolic" is nothing short of blasphemy.
God's principles do not change. There is only one form of baptism, marriage is enjoined on all (in fact, the priesthood/clergy/leadership are required to be married according to Scriptural teaching), homosexual acts lead their perpetrators out of the Kingdom of God (they were executed in Old Testament times), and so on.
Q. So the New Covenant Church's Apostolic Council sees itself in quite different terms to the synods of other churches?
A. If they teach false doctrines then we must do. If we teach true doctrine and they teach false, then who is inspired by God?
Q. And that is then the basis of the authority you claim?
A. Our authority is based on obedience to true principles and moral righteousness. No more. We do not claim external "apostolic succession" as the basis of our authority, even though we do have that.
Q. Can you say more about that?
A. I will say no more than we have an uninterrupted chain of ordinations to the ministry from the time of the apostles to the present day. I am not going to say any more than that because this is not what we base our authority on to the world.
Q. Why not?
A. Because we feel such matters lead to fruitless debate. The Catholic and Orthodox Churches claim apostolic authority on this basis, as do the Mormons and others, but we do not. For us, life is the Spirit, not certificates. We want the Spirit to speak, not legalistic claims.
Q. So really, that makes you somewhere between Protestant and Catholic/Orthodox?
A. Spiritually, we identify with the Protestants on this matter, and for us that is the most important thing. Legalistically, we can make the same claims as the Catholics, Orthodox and Mormons, but we do not press the issue. Indeed, we don't discuss it all.
Q. But what if one of these churches challenged you to produce your credentials?
A. Let them. We know the basis on which we are going to be judged at the Last Day, and that basis is our conduct and faithfulness to the Word. We are not going to be bottled up by man's expectations, however sincere he may be or however right he may think he is. We are answerable to God and our consciences. And on the whole, I think most people would accept our position. You can't reason with someone who basis his claims to authority on legalism, but you can with someone who is based on the Spirit. Legalism is a brass wall to spiritual communion. It is the basis of so much conflict as one person has insisted on his "rightness" over another based on pure dogmatic assertion that cannot be tested.
You see, once you maintain your personal "rightness" or "righteousness", you take away the edge from ethical striving. You intellectually define your righteousness and don't allow the possibility of being wrong. So much arrogance and high-mindedness stems from this legalistic framework, and this in turn has led to so much oppression of spirit and body.
Plato was close to the mark in this sphere, I think. He said that the Good which is the True and Real shines everlastingly like the sun in the high heaven. He likens the human condition to a man dwelling in the cave of his ignorance, bound in the chains of his stupidity and selfishness, who takes the shadows thrown upon the farthest walls by the light of his own passions to be reality. Such a man does not know that there is another source of Light and Good, an eternal source of Life. If his eyes were cleared up, he would see reality. The philosopher Hegel maintained that all we have to do is remove the illusions which makes the "consummation of the infinite end" seem unattainable.
They are both right, as far as they go. Religious dogmatism, Christian or otherwise, chains a man's soul in hell so that he can't spiritually grow. Most religions want to control their believers for control's sake. The leaders want to be God's intermediaries because that gives them power over the people. But this is both idolatrous and satanic. The people, bound in their spiritual chains, and fearful of the shadows, turn to their priests to save them.
Of course, this is the antithesis of true Christianity. We have only one intermediary, the Lord Jesus Christ, and if I were the sole person on the planet, I could come to salvation and exaltation without a Church altogether. That is a foundational principle.
But we are created social creatures. Aloneness is not natural to us, even though we can force ourselves to be alone by living an aesthetic life alone with God. But, though such a life brings certain benefits, it stunts our spiritual growth in other areas. Indeed, the Scriptures teach the salvation is as much a personal affair as a communal affair, because we are destined to be communal throughout eternity. Fellowship with God and with each other is essential to full happiness and spiritual development, therefore we must learn to work together. It is for this reason we have the Church, and why God has instituted leaders to guide the fellowship as a whole, as well as to give spiritual counsel to those less mature.
Baron von Hügel once said that religion is "an isness and not an oughtness". What that means, to put his philosophical concept into Christian terminology, is that salvation is dependent upon our being aware of the Spirit which is "environing" and "penetrating" us.
Q. I don't understand...
A. The other day one of the members of the fellowship told me of an observation that her mother has made about her children -- she has 13 children! -- namely, that each child is his own walking little world. Occasionally two worlds collide and fighting breaks out.
Well, dogmatic religion is just like that. Christians (or anyone else for that matter) define their worlds and live within them. Occasionally they collide and conflict results. But this is not true Christianity. True Christianity consists, in large measure, on the apprehension of reality -- of all the forces around us; it is not based on the achievement of what is not.
I see you are puzzled, so I will elaborate. God, through Christ, is seeking to influence us second by second. He wants us to make direct contact with Him. What He doesn't want us to do is say, "(I am saved" and then throw a wall around ourselves. Rather, he wants us to be open, so that not only can we receive everything that He wishes to give us, but so that we can also enter into other peoples' worlds when they open up, interact with them, and lead them into the far greater world of life in Jesus Christ.
Now I know you will have heard lots of Christian clichés like "I am in Christ" but I want to clearly distinguish between a dogmatic assertion, because of intellectual conversion to a set of doctrinal propositions, to actual life and living dynamically in Christ.
The realisation of goodness is not, as von Hügel would have maintained, a future contingency but an eternal and necessary reality. True religion is not just adoration but CREATIVITY. The God of Israel is the Creator-God, and He is still creating today.
Q. So what you're saying is that a life of adoration -- or praise -- isn't enough?
A. A life of aesthetic adoration makes people insensitive to the woes of the world in which we live. Religionists seem to think that pure religion is just spiritual exercise, such as worship, prayer, and so on. Vital though these are, by themselves they are illusion, because they divorce people from reality. God is not just outside Creation in heaven, but He is here in this physical world too, working out man's salvation. We must never divorce eternity from time, or spiritual realisation from earthly life, because if we do we end up killing the only eternity of which we have knowledge, which is what I would call the eternity of intense living.
Yes, I see your puzzlement. But look, salvation is not just a reference to the next world, it is the reality of building the Kingdom of God on earth. Everyone is called to do that. Why can't people realise that we will never be given this life again? This earth life is a vital and unrepeatable part of our eternal progression. We can do things here impossible in other realms.
Most religion is world-fleeing. Jesus teaches the opposite, for He entered the world completely and took all of it upon Himself in an act of atonement. We cannot do that, nor do we need to, but we are supposed to be in the world so that we can penetrate it with our lives and bring God's Spirit to bear.
Q. But surely God's Spirit can go where it wants to?
A. Are you sure about that? That's what people are led to believe, and so they lay back and say, "Oh, then let God take care of the matter -- He can go where we can't". But that's a lie. Indeed, God's Spirit has the power to go wherever it wants to, but it does not do so.
Q. Why not?
A. Because it is restrained by a fundamental law, and that law is that it cannot violate free agency.
Q. But then neither ought we to?
A. Try to get the wider picture. If an individual falls into sin deliberately, the Holy Spirit withdraws. A wall is erected which it will not attempt to penetrate by force. It may sneak in through gaps here and there to irritate the conscience, but no more. When the gaps are filled, then a man is totally cut off and in darkness. That is why the Holy Spirit can never, and will never, penetrate demons. That is why they, and satan, are beyond redemption.
This is a picture of an individual. But expand that onto the winder social level. This whole planet is fallen. There is, as it were, a wall separating earth from heaven, an invisible spiritual wall. It exists as the construction of the collective will of man. Collectively, mankind has rejected God. The Holy Spirit can no more violate that wall than it can the individual wall of a sinner. It can, of course, sneak in through the odd crack here and there, to bless societies that have some goodness.
And here is the power and effectiveness of prayer. Many people ask me about prayer -- they can't see why it is necessary to pray if God observes everything we do, feels all our feelings, hears all our thoughts, and can act where and when He will. But the question is wrong.
The prayer of a righteous man is very effective, the Bible says. How so? Because the prayer of a righteous man penetrates that collective, spiritual planet-wide wall..
Q. You mean, that prayer actually opens up the world to the Spirit of God?
A. Yes, it opens a conduit through which the Spirit can flood in. The Spirit-filled Christian is literally puncturing the earth's wall of sin and rebellion so that God can act. He does not force Himself in, but comes only by invitation. His righteousness and holiness make Him voluntarily self-limiting, because He strictly respects free-agency, unlike Satan.
Q. So that is why God was forced to destroy the world by a flood in Noah's day?
A. That is one of the reasons. There was so much darkness in the world because there were only 8 souls puncturing that wall. The world was already doomed. Can you see how mass death was essential to the world's survival?
Q. Very clearly. It was an act of redemption...
A. Exactly. And remember that we have been told that the earth will be exactly like the days of Noah in the end time. That wall of sin will get thicker and thicker, built up by all these Satan-inspired New Age powers. God will have to intervene to save the world, otherwise it will be lost. That much is permitted Him -- a safety net, as it were, to prevent the total extinction of the human race.
In the meantime, our prayers are most important. They are the gateway of the Holy Spirit. Never suppose that praying is unimportant.
Q. So prayer is not just to sensitize an individual to the Holy Spirit -- to make him more compassionate and aware?
A. Absolutely not! It does that, to be sure, but it is also a power that opens up spiritual doors for the one who is praying and the one who is being prayed for.
Q. So that is why you have taught the people to make their prayers specific and not general.
A. Yes. Pray for an individual. If you are righteous -- that is, if you are right with God yourself -- then you will open a door in the planet's spiritual wall and guide it through the darkness to the person you are praying for. The Holy Spirit will find that person and seek to enter in through whatever cracks there are in his own personal spiritual wall.
Q. Is physical proximity important?
A. The Holy Spirit is not limited by time and space but physical proximity is certainly of value to the one praying so that his own spirit can play a rôle in the process.
Q. Are spiritual awakenings to therefore be explained by the concerted prayers of large groups of Christians?
A. I suspect so. When hundreds or thousands of people pray in power, a large hole is opened in the spiritual mantle of the earth and the Spirit of God can come down in great force and cover a large area. Many churches do this, and to great effect.
Q. So it is true to say that a church's prayer life is a measure of its spiritual aliveness?
A. A Church which does not pray, or doesn't want to pray, is a dead one, for it excludes the Holy Spirit. Churches stop praying when they leave everything up to God and do nothing themselves. But praying is not enough -- the people have to be actively involved in good causes in the world, as I mentioned earlier.
True religion is self-sacrificing love and redemptive might. It is not doctrinal obedience for its own sake, or ritualistic display. In the depths of the true faith there is always a negation of life -- self-sacrifice -- just as Christ sacrificed Himself for us. But there is much more -- much, much more. It does not seem to have occurred to most religionists that Christ also lived for us. We are warm-blooded human beings designed by God to enjoy ourselves too. We are not sexless neuters or bodiless ghosts. Human nature is regarded by most Christians as so vile that it must be hacked and twisted out of its shape in order to become endurable in the eyes of God. Indeed, religious men seem to have developed unduly the instinct for being unhappy. They seem, as Bertrand Russel pointed out, to have a perverted ingenuity for finding out new contents for sin.
Well, we do have a fallen, lower nature, but sometimes I think Christians have become so pre-occupied with it that they have forgotten that we have a higher nature too, and with it a capacity for great joy. God does not want us miserable and craven; yes, we need to be aware of our limitations and our tendency to, and to acknowledge their reality when they reveal their ugly heads, but he wants us to conquer them, not by assailing them with vicious instruments, but by opening the gateway in our hearts to the love of Christ. Sometimes, sharp instruments may be necessary, but they cannot be the end. Surgery must always be followed by convalescence. Better, though, to open up to the giver of life, and to live that life abundantly. Let me remind you of Jesus' own words: "I have come in order that you might have life -- life in all its fullness" (John 10:10, TEV).
Now unlike Bertrand Russel and other atheist philosophers who attack religion because they want to live their own lives apart from God and his laws, we do maintain moral standards. Indeed, the life Jesus talks about is impossible without a life of willing obedience to the commandments.
Q. So what is the key to this abundant life -- I mean, for a person who is a Christian but can't seem to find joy in life?
A. You know, there are as many answers to that questions as there are individuals -- it depends what that individual's problems are. But I will say this, which will probably apply to many Christians as well as non-Christians: When we assume that we have the beginning and end of all spiritual wisdom and direction for all time and all mankind, it soon becomes our "duty" to impose it on others by force or arms or subtler substitutes.
In the name of religion men and women have been put to death for not believing that evil spirits inhabit human bodies, for misunderstanding the mystery of the Trinity, for doubting the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures and such other innocent departures from orthodox doctrines. Spiritual absolutism is responsible for the judicial murder of some of the divinest figures of antiquity, not least the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. It exalts orthodoxy above holiness of life.
Now this is why we refuse in our Church to defend legalistic claims to apostolic succession or make absolute doctrinal statements about the Godhead which no-one can prove. That is why we have different levels in our Church so that people can grow according to their ability and willingness. We aren't interested in heated doctrinal debates though we will happily discuss doctrine in a spirit of mutual respect. In short, we aren't interested in the kind of religion, so common today as in the past (nothing seems to have changed), that engenders hate instead of love. Never do we want to be a part of a religion that has its popes, crusades, idolatry and heresy-hunting. We want people to be free to choose to come or go, and to experience our love, through the grace of Christ, whether they are within our ecclesiastical "walls" or not.
We don't want to be a part of any religious piety that destroys moral sanity or sensitive humanism.
A. The recognition of the intrinsic worth of the human being. I don't atheistic humanism, of course, but what one might term "divine humanism", meaning that we are God's creation and therefore precious in His sight.
We are not out to destroy other religions for the sake of social betterment or world peace (remember, the New Age wants to massacre several billion souls on "lower vibrational levels", or Moslem Iran which wants to exterminate the nation of Israel and its people). We do not want blind, fanatical worship which leads to ever increasing tyranny. We never want to fall into the trap of fatal logic, so typical of some cults today, of ordaining the destruction of anyone. We are not ancient Israel, neither are we God. And we never want to fall into the snare of what might be called "religious patriotism". Yes, we have a code and a flag, but we are not going out with them like an army bent upon destruction of rival codes and flags. We are not going to declare anyone who has a different opinion to us to be a social outcast.
Again, the key is love. In one of Strindberg's plays, a nurse who is an ardent Christian seeks to convert a captain who is an atheist. She talks to him about the love of God. He replies, "It is a strange thing that you no sooner speak of God and love than your voice becomes hard and your eyes fill with hate." How terribly true this is. And how abused is Christianity by glassy-eyed fanatics preaching the love of God when that is what they most lack themselves! And therefore we, of the New Covenant, maintain that we are going to claim no other authority than the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. And if every Christian were to do the same, then Christendom could certainly unite.
Q. But it won't...
A. No, alas. Therefore we, and other Christians who seek to emulate the same principles, must become a light to the world, God willing, by following the only Path we know, the one I have tried to trace out in this discussion.
We are going to see the dark side of religion raising her ugly head again in these last days as she has done before. Be prepared for it. For where religion has not been herself the oppression upholding darkness by violence, she lends her authority to the oppressors and sanctifies their pretences. Catholics and Protestants did it in nazi Germany, though a few courageous ones would have nothing to do with so unholy an alliance with a régime that planned to exterminate all Christians or convert them to heathenism. You wait and see how despots in countries try to harness religion to achieve their own diabolical ends. Don't forget how Stalin recruited the Church during the Second Word War to maintain the peoples' spirits and then savagely turned against her after the war was won, turning on his erstwhile ally by again claiming that religion blocks the way to progress. And so it does, sometimes. Latter-day Stalins will do no less than the late dictator himself.
Let the world stand up and notice -- it won't, but I'll say it anyway: Spiritually-speaking, an external or ceremonial religion is good for nothing; materially it has failed to stop the strong man from exploiting his weaker brother; psychologically it has developed traits which are anti-social.
Am I talking about Christianity, or Hinduism, or Islam? Certainly, they fit into the category sometimes, but I am also talking about atheistic religions such as communism and fascism. Lenin was the prophet of communism and science was its holy symbol. Karl Marx's theory of communism transplanted into the mystic soil of Russia became a religion practicing sanctified methods for its propagation. The active agencies of the communistic parties, the Red Army, the schools, the press and the platform, struggled to rid the country of all religion. The driving force of Communism was, and is, faith, mysticism and willingness to sacrifice even unto death. It was moved by dreams of a new heaven and a new earth, a counterfeit of the Christian apocalypse.
Q. Satan seems to imitate the truth everywhere...
A. Yes, hell is an expert counterfeiter. It has no original ideas so it perverts the good. All evil has some foundation in truth otherwise no-one would believe it.
Everything at its root is religious -- you can't avoid it. The question is: what kind of religion are you going to have -- one that binds down or one that liberates? The former leads to stunted manhood and deformed spiritual growth because it demands unquestioned obedience to a myth. It is little wonder that such religion is ridiculed by intellectuals
True religion breeds sensitivity. It is not so comfortable, however, because of the difficult questions it poses which are also more insistent than those of dogmatic religion where everything is defined by the priestly classes. True religion breeds a desire for truth, a demand for justice, and a passion for righteousness. This striving for truth and justice should be an essential part of our lives. We do not need an Aristotle to tell us that the pursuit of knowledge is our highest duty, for this is a commandment from God and will automatically suffuse our souls if we are open to the Spirit (John 17:3). I therefore remain deeply suspicious of those who think they know it all, who feel they have to search no further, who dogmatically assert they have found all truth in the pronouncements of their religion or Church.
True religionists will treat with scepticism the brash claims of men. However, scepticism is not enough. The searcher after truth must also be courageous and learn faith. Scepticism costs very little, but faith demands everything.
Whilst certain truths will always be fundamental we must be prepared to discover it being expressed in different ways on this material plane. Forms change, even if the substance remains the same. So what is needed? Prophet souls and not priest minds, original spiritual men of understanding and not the mechanical imitators of inherited habits. Prophecy is insight. It is vision. It is anticipating experience. It is seeing the present so fully as to foresee the future.
Q. Do you think that is an absolute link?
A. If you read the prophets of the Bible there is one thing they all had in common: they understood contemporary conditions. They may not have been sophisticated academics who knew about all the latest philosophical ideas but they could clearly see the human condition and what it was lacking in terms of God's law. A true prophet must understand human nature and, above all, he must understand his own.
I have seen so many would-be prophets and prophetesses who are utterly blind to their own condition. Such is the first warning signal to me. Their prophecy is but a distorted image of their own unredeemed psyche. They have fantastic visions and dreams but they are all soulish.
A modern prophet must be aware of what is going on around him. This is a complex world, far more complex than it was in biblical times. There is a mass concentration of demonic forces all arrayed to confuse and mislead in every area of life. The prophet must understand all of these.
Q. You have said before that prophets are not raised in a day. Is that more true today than anciently?
A. I believe so, absolutely. Never has the Deceiver been so active than in our day with so many ideas being communicated through the mass media. The prophetic voice is all but drowned out nowadays. We live in a veritable Babel.
Q. What would you say was the dominant creed in our time?
A. Without a doubt, pessimism. It is a strangely powerful creed, whose immense vogue is an indication that the planet is sick with despair. So often I have heard variations of the theme of Diogenes. When he found the Greek liberties disappear under the Macedonians, he warned his countrymen to "fear nothing, desire nothing, possess nothing, for then no malicious ingenuity of life can disappoint us." Pessimism makes people inward-looking; they give up hope for society and the world and so look to their own interests, or those of their immediate family, which increasingly opens up society to the forces of crime and anarchy. Intellectuals withdraw into their own inner world of art and reflection, which is their particular substitute for religion. There are many escape routes.
Q. What, then, should we do?
A. Well, I think the Greek philosopher Epictetus has the right idea. He bade his disciples remember that after all the door is open; like boys at play, when we are tired of the game we can decide to end it, and while this alternative remains it is not fair to continue and complain.
Q. What's your point?
A. My point is this: no matter what you are or what you believe, you have the choice to change your belief and stop playing around. There are no excuses for complaint. The door to God is open, but it is first up to you to stop playing your own game and come to Him on His terms. In the end, all philosophies of life, religious or otherwise, are going to lead to dissatisfaction and loneliness if you remain open and true to yourself. And believe me, loneliness of the soul is worse than solitary confinement in a prison.
When a soul is out of harmony with God, it feels solitude and isolation in an incomprehensible world. It breaks the vital rhythm that sustains the world. The prophets of disillusion call upon us to seek truth, create beauty and achieve goodness whilst at the same time maintaining that the universe is one big purposeless accident, a universe which is not only indifferent but hostile.
Atheistic philosopher Bertrand Russel had to admit: "It is a strange mystery that nature, omnipotent but blind, in the revolution of her secular hurryings through the abysses of space has brought forth at last a child, subject to her power, but gifted with sight and knowledge of good and evil, with the capacity of judging all the works of his unthinking mother." (Mysticism & Logic, 1918, p.48).
Russel displays the very contradiction of atheism. Clearly there is purpose, and clearly mother nature is not "blind" -- like begets like. We are indeed a microcosm of something far larger. It is little wonder that intellectual giants like Arthur Köstler were driven to suicide when faced with the apparent contradictions of life. If he had renounced atheism -- stopped playing the game -- and made the only intelligent deduction, he could have made his life worthwhile and done a great work for God. But we are free to choose.
So what are we to do? Stop playing the game and accept the inevitable. That the Creation is purposeful and that there is a Creator. Who is that Creator? It is the Lord Jesus Christ. And with that we can then launch out into the real adventure of life and discover just what God's purpose for us in life is.
Q. And that is where the Gospel begins, and many other questions...
A. Lots of questions. And the Bible has the answers to all the most fundamental ones.
Q. What would be one of the first ones you would ask if you were coming out of an atheistic background, as indeed you once did?
A. I think I would ask myself what happiness is. I didn't ask it at the time because I did not philosophize that much in those days -- I simply wished to please God by doing what was right.
First of all, happiness if not to be confused with pleasure. They are by no means the same thing. Happiness consists in harmony, firstly in unity with God's will, and secondly with oneself, in the consciousness of an affirmative attitude to life, in the peace resident in the soul.
Every person is different. No two are alike. That must be realised early on, and that God perfects each person much as He perfects each species after its kind. Pain and suffering may be in the process (and should be expected), but if we are wise we will accept it all with joy and work for the consummation of our individual real nature, which is to be a son or daughter of God.
Q. Shouldn't we avoid pain at all costs?
A. When a man or woman seeks pleasure and avoids pain, he is on a lower spiritual level. The pursuit of truth and the striving after goodness always entail penalties, even death of the body, and yet they contribute to the greatness of the spirit which is real happiness. And, added to this, fellowship in suffering redeems the suffering as well. That is another reason for the Church community. It is much easier to suffer along with others, or within the embrace of their sympathy, than alone.
We must next accept ourselves exactly as we are, not trying to deny things about ourselves we don't like. That is not, of course, to say that we should carry on in our own merry, sinful way. Recognition of a problem is always the first step towards solving it. Thus a seeker after truth will always despise lies and illusion. He will want to know things as they really are, however painful. The person who refuses to face and confront reality is actually on the road to atheism.
Q. How is that?
A. Because atheism belongs to the intellect, to the surface of the mind. Life is much more exultant and mysterious than our intellects can comprehend.
Q. Therefore we should have a reasoned faith?
A. Ultimately, yes. You know, we talk alot about the supernatural as though it were distinct from that natural. That is an error. They are merely distinctions within the same reality, and not between a world we do not know and a world we do know. As one philosopher has said, the supernatural is the natural in her true depths and infinity.
Q. Are you proposing a naturalistic religion?
A. How have to be careful here. If you suggesting pantheism, then, no. The religion I follow is already defined in the Scriptures -- I am not advocating a new religion. What I am trying to do is give it some philosophical refinements. Look how Jesus viewed the supernatural. It was all quite natural to Him. And He said, before He departed this world, that His disciples would perform greater supernatural miracles than He Himself did.
Our problem is that we have been conditioned to think within a narrowly defined universe, because the scientists have the upper hand in our world. They deny the supernatural because they lack the faith to see it. (I speak as a trained scientist here). What for me is perfectly natural would be for others quite supernatural. When I talk about visions, and angels, and other phenomenon, many people recoil in horror as though they were listening to the ramblings of a madman. It is not in their defined world, so they either ridicule it or run away from it in fear. Watching Jesus descend out of heaven to the earth would be the most natural thing for me because I believe it so emphatically.
Q. You believe in a literal, physical, second coming?
A. Why not? I have found Jesus utterly reliable in everything else He has said, why should I doubt Him?
Q. So you accept literally the apocalyptic vision of the world given to John?
A. Yes. To me, that is quite natural and perfectly logical, the consummation of a pattern, the winding up scene of a drama that has been played for thousands of years. It makes sense. The only other alternative is an evolutionistic scenario where everything just goes on until the earth destroys itself or the sun burns itself out. The lessons of history defy such a view. Man didn't start as a monkey but the first civilizations were highly developed, coming, as it were, "out of the blue". Language has always been sophisticated. No, the Biblical scenario is the most logical, and it is the best attested historically.
Q. How is that?
A. Jesus's resurrection is a fact. It was attested to by thousands of witnesses. He is established in the stream of history, unlike the mythical gods of Hinduism who were likely ordinary men whose images became deified over time as their adventures were told with increasing embellishment. Though we are not eye-witnesses, we can experience His power and presence like the first disciples, and do supernatural things without surrendering out free agency or loosing personal control...if God wills it.
Q. What would your counsel be to those who are willing to stop "playing the game" and open the door to Jesus into their lives?
A. Write in to the New Covenant Church of God for some literature, call for one of our ministers, or find a Bible-believing Church. We suggest, if you have no Christian background, that you start with our pamphlet, Come Follow Me: The Challenge of Jesus Christ (PAM-021) or How Do I Become a New Covenant Christian? Get into action. Invite Jesus into your lives, study His Word, and get stuck into a local fellowship. The adventure is about to begin...
Interview given in Little Kadesh, Norway, on Friday 25 May 1994
This page was created on 17 May 1997
Last updated on 13 February 1998
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