Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The suppression of the conscience - Tolstoy

A quote from Leo Tolstoy's The Lion and the Honeycomb

"People smoke and drink not out of boredom or in order to cheer themselves up, not simply because they like it, but in order to suppress their conscience. If that is true, then the consequences must be awful indeed. Imagine a building constructed by people who, instead of using a rule and a square to get the walls perpendicular and the corners rectangular, used a soft rule which adapted to the irregularities in the wall and a square which bent to fit any angle, acute or obtuse!
But this is just what happens in life when we intoxicate ourselves. Life does not accord with our conscience, so we bend our conscience to fit life."

And I would hazard to guess that we also 'intoxicate' ourselves thusly with entertainment, wealth, anger, sexual dis/misorientation, etc. I'll let Tolstoy continue:

"Everyone will find that at each period of his life he was confronted by several moral dilemmas, and that his well-being depended on the correct resolution of these dilemmas. The resolution of such dilemmas requires a degree of attention which constitutes true labour. In any labour, especially at the beginning, there comes a time when the work seems painfully difficult, and our human weakness prompts us to abandon it. Physical labour seems painful at the beginning; intellectual labour all the more so. As Lessing says, people have a tendency to stop thinking when it first becomes difficult; and it is at that point, I would add, that thinking becomes fruitful. A man [or woman] senses that the resolution of the questions before him demands labour - often painful labour - and he wants to evade this. If he had no means of stupefying himself, he would be unable to drive the questions out of his concsiousness, and he would be forced, against his will, to resolve them. Instead of this , however, he has found means to drive the questions away as soon as they arise. As soon as the questions demanding resolution begin to torment him, he resorts to these means and so avoids the anxiety they evoke. ... And yet it is the resolution of moral questions that constitutes the movement of life."

What think you?

Friday, January 11, 2008

A Lack of Heaven

A while ago, I was privileged to take part in a National Ministry Gathering for Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship wherein all the IVCF staff workers from across Canada gather to encourage one another and gain perspective on the purpose of the organization from a national viewpoint. At one such gathering, my conception of heaven was greatly challenged by an insightful and motivating biblical scholar. Because of these thoughts I have come to discard my taught interpretation of heaven (as in, that ethereal 'somewhere' where we end up floating in the clouds playing harps wearing long white robes).

Instead of this evangelical insubstantial interpretation, I have come to believe that I don't really know the place where we will be gathered as God's children. But honestly, I'm far more inclined to believe that we will live, much as we are, in body and in relation to one another but without any fear or shame or selfish ambition, on the earth in its renewed state.

The arguments that intercepted my former belief were this, that the majority of heavenly afterlife visions, and including the coversations of Jesus, speak not of us going 'up' to a 'heavenly' place, but rather, Christ and all God's host returning to earth. The only visions we have of a heaven apart from earth are given in the book of Revelation in John's attempts with his own eyes to describe the indescribable. But what is this place? We cannot know. At the end of the Book of Revelation, there is a description of a 'new heaven and a new earth' (Rev. 21:1) that is described as a gigantic city that is exactly the shape of a cube! A cube?? What an impossible shape for a city. Not only that it was an impossible 1,500 miles in each direction! And it is described as beautiful, with streets of gold and all that, but it's dimensions are a little mind boggling and I can't imagine living in such a place. But what was fascinating was this, that the distance measured for the city was approximately the size of the known world at the time. John was perhaps describing the earth itself ... but more than that. What other place is described in the Bible as a perfect cube? The answer was: the Holiest of Holies. That place within the temple, as laid out by the Lord Himself, where He alone dwelt and could be visited by His people. The living place of God! God's dwelling place. But now we are God's dwelling place by His Holy Spirit. We are His Holiest of Holies. And yet this city descends down to us and becomes for us the living place of all God's loved ones. Could this not be a vision of God coming to us and renewing for us this earth he created, even as we are renewed into His likeness, and then forever living with Him without fear or sin!

God has always ever come to us. I find nowhere in scripture, or in my own life experience, where we have first gone to Jesus. He has always been the instigater of salvation and relationship renewed with his creation. These thoughts just seem to make so much more sense. Not that God needs to make sense, but there is far more to life after death than just sitting around and playing harps, for sure.