Is the Word Enough?
By Eric D. Butler
Just Relationship - Problems of History - Biblical
Translations - The Test of Truth - The
Word Made Flesh -
There is an old saying that even the Devil can quote Scripture in his own interest. Many Christians do likewise, engaging in such earnest controversy about words that they obscure the fact that words are man-evolved symbols for the purpose of reflecting reality in a manner which enables the individual to make greater use of that Reality. Reality would have still existed even if language had never been developed.
Often there is such an unbalanced concentration upon words that attention is directed away from Truths which exist independently of words. Perhaps St. Paul had something like this in mind when he warned against "disputing about words", which does no good, but only ruins the hearers.
Many years ago the American writer Stuart Chase wrote a best-seller entitled The Tyranny of Words, showing how the uncritical worship of words often results in a distortion of the Truth which the words should be used to reflect. Words are a means to an end, not an end in themselves.
Different word-symbols are used in different languages to describe the same Reality. For example, "garcon" is the French equivalent of "boy" in English. "Dieu" is the French symbol of what is "God" in English. Many Christians have tended to become slaves to the "tyranny of words", following the example of the Rabbis at the time of Christ, who slavishly concentrated upon what was "written in law", spent endless time in quibbling interpretations, fragmented into conflicting groups, with such undue concentration upon "the word" that there was no action. All symbols must be seen as but a means to describing Truth in such a way that it can be applied to serve man. The chalk used to write the formula concerning the law of gravity on the blackboard, does not fall to the floor because of the writing; it falls because of the reality of gravity itself, which always operates in the same way irrespective of how it might be described. The nature of water has not changed because man decided to use a formula, H2O to describe it. The symbol merely reflected the discovery of the reality that water consists of two parts of hydrogen and one part of oxygen. Appropriate action may one day result in the hydrogen and the oxygen being separated and used in such a way that the hydrogen can drive motor cars.
The great Francis Bacon, one of the pioneers of modern science, appealed for the establishment of a just relationship between the mind and things. The correct use of word symbols, along with other symbols, is essential for such a relationship. The question is far from being merely academic.
The famous Chinese sage Confucius was once asked what he would do
first if it was left to him to administer a country. Confucius surprised
his listeners by saying that his first act would be to correct the
language. When asked what had this to do with the successful administration
of a country, Confucius elaborated:
When there is a deliberate perversion of the meaning of word symbols, as practised by the Marxists with what can best be described as semantic sabotage, the results are even more disastrous.The Marxists use semantic sabotage as a tactic of warfare. "Peaceful co-existence" means one thing to a non-Communist. Communists and non-Communists agreeing to live together on the basis of friendly disagreement, but to the trained Marxist "peaceful co-existence" is a means of persuading the non-Communists to lower their defences against various types of Marxist attacks.
Large numbers of people today unthinkingly use the term "discrimination" in a derogatory manner, as a type of swear-word. The truth is that discrimination in one form or another is a natural law. Every form of life discriminates in favour of its own kind. The young man who prefers blondes discriminates against brunettes and redheads!
"A person of discrimination" was at one time used widely as a term of admiration. The traditional meaning of the word "gay" was rather different to the current use of the term to describe sodomy.
Much more important than the words used to describe Christianity are the Truths of Christianity.
All written history must be treated with caution as it inevitably reflects the viewpoint of the writer. For example, words are inadequate to describe a beautiful spring morning, which can only be fully appreciated by actually experiencing it. Words are of limited value in conveying spiritual truth. Again, actual experience is essential for an understanding.
What is termed insight is often very difficult to put into words. Artists are said to have a feeling for their subject, which they seek to express in their chosen medium. C.H. Douglas described true history as "crystallised politics", policies of all kinds being a tangible expression of underlying beliefs concerning the nature of reality.
A realistic assessment of Christianity is only possible by a study
of the results of nearly two thousand years of effort to implement
policies rooted in the Truths which Christ revealed. It is significant
that there is no record or suggestion that Christ felt that He should
leave a written record of His life. Unlike a Dr. Johnson with a Boswell
following him around everywhere recording faithfully every act and
word, Christ was content to go around preaching and
In the brief record provided by the four Gospels selected by the Early Christian Fathers as an authentic record of what Christ had revealed, there is no reference to English Common Law, Limited Constitutional Government, Trial by Jury and similar matters. But the Truths revealed by Christ, in the simplest of language, were the seeds which, when treated appropriately, grew into a completely different type of civilisation compared with any of the previous periods.
Seeds or acorns possess within themselves the potential to grow into beautiful flowers or a majestic oak tree. But that potential will never be realised unless the proper conditions are provided. In the field of human associations, appropriate action must be taken by individuals.
The Word must be made Flesh.
The world into which God manifest Himself in the form of Christ was such that Christ had to speak the language of His day. He was addressing a simple, unsophisticated people. And so Christ also made extensive use of the technique of the Parable, the telling of a story which conveyed His message. Some of the world's most famous "fairy stories" are, of course, just that - stories. But, like Hans Anderson's famous story about the Emperor's new clothes, they do convey great truths. Many professing Christians have failed to seek the Truths which the recorded words of Christ have sought to convey.
While many were understandably upset by the change of style in the new translations, there was comparatively little concern about whether there had been any distortion of the original meaning of what Christ said. No serious student disagrees that the King James version of The New Testament was based upon a Greek text marred by a number of mistakes, containing the accumulated errors of fourteen centuries of manuscript copying. There are always problems with translations and there have been many debates amongst students.
But these debates only highlight
the importance of not becoming enslaved by the veneration of word
symbols. Those enslaved by the worship of words are also enslaved
by the type of rigidity imposed by the Pharisees. They ignore the
importance of historical Christianity, the progressive growth of
two thousand years and the prospects for still greater growth.
And what was the purpose and destiny of man?
To know and to love God and his fellow man. But to know God requires freedom to discover God and God's truths. The truth shall make ye free, said Christ. But truth must be discovered.
Tremendous technological developments are often described as the product of Science, now venerated as some type of new God, capable of providing an answer to all man's problems. But Science of itself produces nothing. Like Reason or Logic, Science is but a means of making use of God's Truths.
Logic can be compared to a slide rule, only capable of producing the sum total of all the factors fed into it. The logic used concerning a subject may be perfect, but if all factors are not considered, the end result must be defective. True Science is an orderly arranging of different aspects of Truth.
But Truth must first be discovered. Truth is not created by the scientist or anyone else. It exists. But generally-used word symbols often obscure this fact. For example, the term "generating electricity" obscures the reality that electrical generators are really energy convertors, changing the form of energy, but not the energy itself.
There are certain vital aspects of reality which cannot be adequately described or measured, but only experienced. There is no mathematical formula by which we can measure love or fear, or attempt to assess a work of art. And yet both love and fear are tremendous forces in human affairs. Fear is negative, destroying judgment. The Law of Love, as proclaimed by Christ, was a major factor in the development of a Christian Civilisation.
C.H. Douglas has described Integrity as the most irresistible of social forces, referring to it as "single-mindedness - the mind of a little child". We must become as little children, said Christ.
The root meaning of religion is a binding back to what one believes to be real and true. The test of whether what one believes is in fact true, can only be measured in the field of action. The materialist who believes that there is no reality beyond matter, that which he can see or hear or measure, acts accordingly - with disastrous results.
The famous Jewish writer, Dr. Oscar Levy,
said that the ideal is the enemy of the real. The idealist is one
who is convinced that he knows what "ought to be". The Marxists
are idealists. They believe that collective farming, with the individual
working for the common good "ought to" produce better results
than where the individual
"selfishly" works for himself.
Like the Pharisees the Soviet planners attempt to force human nature into their neat blueprints. Christ taught that the Kingdom of God was within each individual, that all were children of God, and that freedom and personal responsibility were essential for the life more abundant.
There is a common saying that Christianity has failed and cannot therefore be true, because of the state of the world. If the state of the world were the result of applying what Christ taught, then it could be said that Christianity was not true. But where Christ's teachings have been applied, the satisfactory results have been beyond all argument.
Christ insisted that it was impossible to get figs from thistles, grapes from thorns or good fruit from bad trees. The realistic way to consider Christianity is by its fruits. And these fruits have been the result of works by individuals. Time and time again Christ stressed the importance of works as the ultimate test of the Truth He brought.
Peter said of Christ that "He went about doing good". That is what the follower of Christ is also expected to do, seeking to create a Christ-centred Civilisation. Over nearly two thousand years there was an attempt to create such a Civilisation. Countless people not merely expressed their belief in Christ as the Son of God, but took appropriate action to give life and substance to the Truths to be found in Christ's teachings. God's Truths of themselves do not result in works. Faith can only move mountains if God's resources and truths are used to build heavy earthmoving equipment.
Christianity without the Doctrine of Incarnation - "the word was made flesh" - is a faith without works. Just as the truths of the laws concerning aerodynamics do not of themselves make planes fly, but must be applied with the building of planes in accordance with those laws, so must the Truths revealed by Christ be "made flesh".
The central revelation by Christ was that every individual could start to seek the Kingdom of God, which could be found within, in the "here and now". Every individual was unique and a child of God, and could make personal contact with Him. The individual was taught that he must also love his neighbour as himself. This teaching revolutionised the prevailing concept of the nature of God and man's relationship to Him. It shattered the view of God which in essence was one of being in man's own image. Not surprisingly, this type of God was often seen as bloodthirsty, a type of tribal deity who on occasions required sacrifices, one who also favoured those who had been "chosen".
Those supporting this concept of God visualised the appearance of some type of Messiah who would create a materialistic new order. The Pharisees and other exponents of this viewpoint were dismayed when Christ said that His Kingdom was not of this world, and that He had no intention of leading a physical rebellion against the Romans.
Christ's essential teachings were a complete repudiation of the religion of what came to be described as Judaism, particularly as upheld by the Pharisees, and yet the legend has been fostered over the centuries, that Christ's teachings are an extension of Judaism.
The commonly repeated statement that "Christ was a Jew" is but one more example of the danger of words losing their original meaning as a result of faulty translation or for other reasons. No greater damage has been done to Christianity than the false teaching that Christ was a Jew, the inference being that Christ professed and practised a form of religion now known as Judaism. As pointed out by authorities like Rabbi Louis Finkelstein of the Jewish Theological Seminar of America, Judaism is an extension of Pharisaism. Christ's complete opposition to Pharisaism as a religious system is beyond dispute.
Christ denounced the Pharisees in the strongest possible language:
The term "Judaism" was completely unknown at the time of Christ. It was first coined by the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus to describe the faith of those who were adherents of Pharisaism. The term "Jew" is derived from "Judea", this being the English of the Latin "Iudaea".
During His lifetime on Earth Christ was generally known as "Jesus
of Nazareth". The words which Pontius Pilate had inscribed upon
the Cross, probably sarcastically as he could not have meant
them to be taken literally, read, "Iesus Nazarenus Rex ludeoru".
Pontius Pilate used Latin as it was the official language of
Roman administrators. The English translation of the Latin is "Jesus
the Nazarene Ruler of the Judeans". Pontius Pilate knew that
Christ was rejected by the great majority of Judeans at the time
of His Crucifixion, so his infamous inscription must be regarded
as a type of mockery. But, irrespective of the Roman Administrator's
motives, the meaning of his words are beyond dispute: he was
describing Christ as the Nazarene ruler of the Judeans.
A study of the Gospel of St. John in the original Greek makes it clear at the time of the Crucifixion the spiritual leaders in Judea protested to Pontius Pilate that Christ was "not the ruler of the Judeans", but only "had said He was the ruler of the Judeans".
During Christ's lifetime no religion was practised anywhere described by the name of "Judaism". This term derived from the political subdivision of the Roman Empire known as "Judea". The English term "Jew" was first used by the English writer Sheridan in 1775, this being derived from the term "Iewe", itself being a corrupted and contracted English word for the Latin "Iudaeus" as found in the 4th century St. Jerome translation of The New Testament from the original into Latin. The modern use of the term "Jew" no longer even remotely refers to the primary meaning of the original Latin.
No one in the English-speaking world today believes that a "Jew" is a "Judean".
The general belief is that a Jew is a certain type of religious person, a member of a certain race, or both. This is not merely a question of academic interest to scholars and students of history. The practical implications concern the fate of what is left of Christian Civilisation. For example, if Christ was Crucified as "King of the Jews", as is often claimed, and the people called Jews today are descendants of a "chosen race", then it is not surprising that large numbers of well-meaning Christians attempt to justify the establishment and expansion of the Zionist State of Israel, even if this means expelling the original owners from the land in which they have lived for thousands of years, and the use of violence and terror, which is diametrically opposed to traditional Christian behaviour.
The future of the Middle East and the whole world is related to the Middle East crisis. Never was there a greater need than to search for that Truth which is the way to freedom. Never was it more important that the correct meaning of words be more widely understood. As demonstrated by the Jewish writer Arthur Koestler in his book The Thirteenth Tribe, the great majority of people who today call themselves Jews cannot even trace their origins back to the Judeans who practised the religion which later became known as Judaism; they are descendants of the Asiatic Khazars, converted to Judaism in the seventh century. They are not one of the "lost tribes" returning to their promised homeland.
The truth about the origin of most Jews and Judaism is so clear to those prepared to face it, that the widely accepted view that Christ was a Jew practising Judaism must be seen as a manifestation of the blind worship of word symbols without any consideration of the realities. There is also little doubt that the descendants of the Pharisees have skilfully fostered the concept of "JudeaoChristianity", a religion with a common origin.
The New Testament record shows that during His lifetime Christ denounced in the strongest possible language the form of religious worship, then known as Pharisaism. So far from accepting Christ as one who was extending this type of religion, the Pharisees saw Him as a deadly threat and planned to have Him crucified. It is blasphemous to suggest that Christ's teachings had anything in common with that of the Pharisees. Christ said that those who were not for Him were against Him.
Once Christians can grasp the truth of the origins of Christianity, they can move on to a consideration of how Christ's truths were progressively incarnated. A Civilisation is not merely a physical creation; it is the incarnation of undergirding intangible values. Death starts when belief and understanding of those values are shattered and eroded. The decaying of the body takes place long after the soul has gone. No one believes that because remnants of the famous Acropolis can still be seen in Athens, the Greek Civilisation is still alive.
Even the system of law was affected by the Christian stress
on the value and dignity of each and every individual. In his
Merchant of Venice, the great Christian artist Shakespeare
brought out the cleavage between English Common Law, reflecting
Christianity, and the rigid Judaic law. Shylock had legality
on his side in demanding his pound of flesh. But what about
the spirit of charity? Shylock could not see it written in
the bond. Portia's mercy speech is one of the finest expositions
of the Christian approach to law to be found in the English
Traditional Christian philosophy has always insisted that God reveals Himself through history. History did not stop when God became man and the word became flesh. A great signpost was erected, showing man the way forward, where and how God could be discovered and how to follow Him. If we believe that God only speaks to man in words, then we may be inclined to believe that words are all important in establishing a deep relationship with God.
But God speaks to man in many different ways. Shakespeare wrote of "Tongues in trees, books in the running brook, Sermons in stones, and good in everything". Shakespeare also wrote that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Reality is not changed by different descriptions. Does not God speak to man when man violates God's laws concerning the correct use of his body, "the temple of God"? Most illness is the result of violating God's truths as they apply to nutrition.
Words obscure reality when it is said that a physician has cured a patient. Only God cures, when the correct action is taken to ensure that God's laws can operate. The self-healing capacity of the human body is one of the most amazing of truths.When man was created in God's image he was given freedom either to fulfil his Divine destiny or to destroy himself and the world.
Men cannot be made moral or perfect through acts of parliament. A Christian society can only grow as individuals work towards establishing right relations with God in all spheres.
In teaching his disciples how to pray, Christ said that they must ask God that His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. If God's will for man is freedom and personal responsibility, then man must work to ensure that all aspects of human affairs come within the scope of Christian principles. Those who claim to follow Christ cannot therefore ignore politics or economics.
And what about education? Should Caesar be left with a near monopoly of instructing the young, much of this brainwashing to fit the young into a society increasingly based on "scientific humanism". Christ said, suffer the little children to come unto me. Far too many calling themselves Christians have abdicated from their responsibilities, often attempting to justify their attitude by verbal expressions of their professed faith. They ignore that they must be "doers of the word" .
Perhaps nothing has so sidetracked many professing Christians as their fascination with prophecy. A prophet can be described in two ways, one who because of his intimate knowledge in a given area, can predict what will happen under certain conditions, or as one who claims to know that certain happenings will inevitably take place because of "Divine will". However, a prophet may point out that what he is predicting under certain conditions need not necessarily happen if individuals take appropriate action to ensure that those conditions do not arise.
In the main, the Prophets of The Old Testament were men attempting to raise the spiritual perceptions of their fellows, warning them of the disasters which would overtake them if they did not mend their ways. The record indicates that they had little success with what were obviously rather stiff-necked types of people. Those who claim to have discovered that there are prophecies in Isaiah, Daniel and Revelation which make it possible to interpret when the "end of the world" will take place, are flatly contradicting the Christian doctrine of free will.
There are many schools of thought which in essence say that mankind is moving towards inevitable disaster; that this is all predicted. Acceptance of this point of view tends to paralyse individual initiative.
Many calling themselves Christians stand on the sidelines of the battle for the world, justifying their stance by claiming that as the plight of the world has been predicted, the individual can do nothing about it. Some even take the view that those attempting to challenge events are not only foolish, but are acting contrary to God! Which makes God responsible for the fate of the world. This is a most convenient belief for those who do not want to accept personal responsibility, or become involved in the battle against the anti-Christ.
He was the Truth, the way. He said that it was the Truth which
makes the individual free. Free will and free choice are essential
if individuals are to learn to know God and to serve Him. Christ
warned of the corruption of power when tempted on the mount.
Nearly two thousand years later, the wise Lord Acton, Christian
philosopher and historian summarised the truth concerning power
with his famous statement,
The reality of the nature of power cannot be changed by using different words to describe it. Centralised power can be, and often is, described as democracy. Genuine democracy is derided by Marxist and other totalitarians because it conceives of the will of the individual prevailing over his own affairs. Centralised power makes expression of the individual will almost impossible. Irrespective of how it is labelled, centralised power always kills the spirit. The concept of power centralised on a world scale, a World Government, is one of the anti-Christ. And yet it is accepted by large numbers who would describe themselves as Christians.
C.H. Douglas said, that which works best is
moral. The true scientist is one who is constantly seeking Truth.
He may produce a theory, but knows that the truth can only
be discovered in the field of action. Christ not only claimed
to be the Son of God; he demonstrated the truth of His
claim by going about "doing good". The Gospels record how
time and time again Christ stressed the importance of works.
Two thousand years of history have demonstrated that when the Truths enunciated by Christ are applied to human affairs, they work, demonstrating that they are of God.
One of the greatest tragedies in the history of Christian Civilisation has been the clash between the Church and many scientists. Worshippers of "the word", far too many Church leaders feared that advances in discovering truths in the field of physical sciences would undermine Christianity. Like the Pharisees before them, they were enslaved by a belief that "holy writ" was literally true, that if, for example, The Old Testament said that God actually made the world in seven days, any suggestion by scientists that this could not be possibly true was anti-Christian. The "literalists" have in fact played into the hands of the anti-Christ by failing to stress that every new discovery of truths about the Universe by the physical scientists, is in fact a revelation of the unlimited scope of God's Truths, and that Christ's message concerning the nature and purpose of man directs how those discoveries should be used.
The true role of the Christian Church is to pronounce with proper authority on spiritual and moral realities. Discovery and application of the truths of the physical universe is not of itself progress, so often claimed today. Advanced technology may enable the individual to travel a given distance in less time.
From the Christian viewpoint true progress can only be moral progress, and in this case should therefore be concerned with what the individual is able to do with the time saved in travelling. God's Truths can be used either to further enslave the individual, or to free him. The teachings of Christ were clear: God's Truths should, as they are discovered, make freedom a greater reality.
While the Christian realist must face the fact that he is living in the post-Christian era, this is not a time for pessimism. The Kingdom of God still remains within each individual, waiting to be discovered. The regeneration of Christian Civilisation and culture must start with the regeneration of individuals, making use of their most Divine attribute, creative initiative.
Those who over the centuries acted upon Christ's teaching gradually started to leaven the whole of society. Every form of art was dedicated to the greater glory of God. Through the works of those who sought the Kingdom, God's will was being progressively made real on earth. But, as explained in The Root of All Evil, when the results of the Industrial Revolution opened the door to the fulfilment of Christ's teaching that there was no need to be concerned about the question of "what ye shall eat; or what ye shall drink", that the search for the Kingdom of God had ensured that "all these things shall be added unto you", the Christian Church failed to provide appropriate guidance. The Pharisaical philosophy re-emerged in an even more deadly form. Thus the plight of the world today.
Seeking the Kingdom requires creative activity, a new Renaissance. If God's Kingdom is of the spirit, then he who would truly know God must accept personal responsibility for that Divine gift which has been entrusted to him, and seek to give substance to the spirit by deeds, not by debates concerning words. No great artist has ever appeared merely by reading books on art, or by studying the rules concerning art. Those who seek to march in the vanguard of a new Christian advance must demonstrate the depth of their faith by works which make Truth a living reality.
Christ clearly did not believe that the word was enough.
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