I would not forget that there are many in whom foolish forms cover a live heart, warm toward everything human and divine; but let each be true after the fashion possible to him, and he shall have the Master’s praise. If the Lord were to appear, he has been so misrepresented by such as have claimed to present him, and especially in the one eternal fact of facts—the relation between him and his father—that it is impossible for many that they should see any likeness. For my part, I would believe in no God rather than in such a God as is generally offered for believing in. How far those may be to blame who, righteously disgusted, cast the idea from them, nor make inquiry whether something in it may not be true, though most must be false, neither grant it any claim to investigation on the chance that some that call themselves his prophets may have taken spiritual bribes “to mingle beauty with infirmities, and pure perfection with impure defeature”--how far those may be to blame, it is not my work to inquire. Some would grasp with gladness the hope that such chance might be proved a fact; others would not care to discern upon the palimpsest, covered but not obliterated, a credible tale of a perfect man revealing a perfect God: they are not true enough to desire that to be fact which would immediately demand the modelling of their lives upon a perfect idea, and the founding of their every hope upon the same.
But we all, beholding the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image.
To Listen Is More Than To Hear
by Dave Roney
The outer ear is for the detection of sounds, the inner ear for the detection of meaning; thus, a voice speaking is then heard by the one ear and the sounds interpreted by the other. There is no gate or filter for the outer ear but it receives without distinction all which comes to it; it is by the inner ear that understanding is made, for the mind differentiates, interprets, and lends meaning to what the ear has heard. Therefore, with the one ear a man hears, but it is with the other ear that he listens. It is the same for all the five physical senses, which register impressions but which, for meaning, must be interpreted by the inner senses of mind and spirit.
The Greek word rendered “heard” in John 5:37 is the same word meaning to “listen.” It is this same Greek word found in Revelation 2:29 which reads in the English “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” It is the same Lord speaking here to believers and saying in like manner what He was saying to the unbelieving Jews in our passage: For, if by the outer ear is hearing only, then I paraphrase the verse thus for meaning; “He who has an ear by which to hear, let him then use his inner hearing ear to listen to what the Spirit says to the churches.” Likewise, then, for our verse; “You have heard His voice but have not listened to it at any time.” The same applies also to the next part of the Lord's words “...nor seen His shape.” No, the outer eye could not ever see the physical shape of a Spirit God; but He speaks here of the inner eyes which “see” by means of understanding and not visual impression. It is why He concluded “You have not His word abiding in you!”
There is no mechanism in the physical senses for deciding good from evil or truth from error; the physical senses receive as readily one thing as another and draw no distinctions between ought and ought not; they are the sensual, though mindless, couriers of information. How is it, then, that Israel was and is to this day “blinded in part” (Rom. 11:25)? There is no difference separating between them and any others in the native ability of their ears to listen and their inner eyes to see. Their blindness comes, obviously, from within. But if they suffer neither disadvantages nor advantages but are the same as the Gentiles (there being, as the Apostle teaches, no difference between them, neither Jew nor Greek), then it follows that the affliction of the Jew is also that of the Gentiles. And this is everywhere evident; but there is more which may not be so evident to us, which hits much closer to home, this common problem faced not only by Jews and Gentiles, not only by unbelievers, but by believers as well; that of hearing but not listening.
“I would not forget that there are many in whom foolish forms cover a live heart...”
It is perhaps easy to assume that by mere fact of being in Christ the qualities of Christ automatically attach to the believer, but that would be naive, for the qualities in Christ were not His by means of a divinity within Him but by His utterly flawless and perfect obedience to the will of the Father. And by this unswerving obedience He had no “foolish forms” which covered His live heart. The best of men might hear the Voice from Heaven and think it thunder; He knew the living words coming from the Voice at all times and did them, knew what the Voice was saying, be it “heard” in the form of roaring or the gentlest dovish whisper, no difference to Him, because though the words may have to His outer ear been peals of thunder (I do not know; if He were like other men, then He would I think have heard the same as other men) it was by the sensitive inner ear He “listened” to what He heard and thereby understood, and discovered the unfolding meaning of The Will for Him.
But what are the “foolish forms” of which we speak? They are the products of every theology, of any doctrine, of all belief which does not look, sound, and feel exactly like what is detected, evident, and perceptible in our Lord Jesus Christ. These false forms arise from men who read Scripture and “hear” what it is, as they think, saying to them but is sometimes far from what the Spirit Who Guides would have them “listen” to, which is His Voice—at no time does He speak of His own but only of Christ; for He would speak into men a higher truth than their minds are capable of thinking; He would inform that Scripture points to the Savior, that none of it is to be known by any private interpretation of theologians, but exclusively by the open representation of the revealing God in and through Christ Jesus, the understanding of which comes, for us, only from a faithful alignment of how we see, and what we listen to, and that which to our hearts feel, with Christ Jesus our only standard for truth, He being the entire center and circumference of our faith.
What has been taught and propagated in the mainstream of the common theology is often so different from what is found and exposed in Christ and in what He taught that, were He to be sitting on a pew in many evangelical churches this Sunday He might scarcely recognize the message was about Him and His Father:
“If the Lord were to appear, He has been so misrepresented by such as have claimed to present Him, and especially in the one eternal fact of facts—the relation between Him and His Father—that it is impossible for many that they should see any likeness. For my part, I would believe in no God rather than in such a God as is generally offered for believing in.”
And as I was careful to say earlier, the Jew has no advantage nor suffers any disadvantage apart from the Gentile. Therefore, if over long centuries the Jews could gradually formulate a highly flawed theology, then so also can the Gentile; and be the Jew or the Gentile a believer, or an unbeliever, in Christ or not, of the Church or of the world; the same possibility exists and does so in every case without exception; there being no difference then, accordingly, there is no insulation for any against error unless, because of the commonality of our race, there is a like insulation for all; but that all should be right though with so many philosophies, theologies, denominations, sects and doctrines is a thought which defies logic. All may be wrong; all cannot be right. All are hearing, not all are listening.
So grossly have some among the ministers of the common theology departed from what is known to be in Christ, Who only is The Truth; so much have they used Scripture rather than Him as the Lens which is able to correct their faulty vision, that by hearing but not listening to the Spirit when they “compare Scripture to Scripture” they arrive at doctrines which create, in essence, a god who is very much like that of the ancient pagans, unworthy of Him and unworthy of men: So then the claim that “If the Lord were to appear, He has been so misrepresented by such as have claimed to present Him—that it is impossible for many that they should see any likeness” between the image projected by the theologians of the “god” they preach and actual God of Christ Jesus.
Such a thought may seem to some blasphemous but it is not; if God should ever be different than His Son, if He should be a divine ogre, filled with wrath, seething with hatred, at the ready to endlessly torture and keep consciously alive those children He brought into the world, and especially if He were to torture and put to death in the most hideous way imaginable an innocent Man in the stead of a guilty man—if these and many other features found in the common theology be true—then such a god is unworthy of men. Such a god as that, being so different from Christ, would make our Lord, Who declared He and the Father to be “one,” to have the same will, the same love, the same self-sacrificing nature, a liar. And I, being raised and taught that such is God as was preached by the evangelists and inculcated into my boyhood mind, turned to atheism; is it any wonder that the world, being introduced to such a god, rejects true God, having been inadvertently deceived, by men who are good but themselves seduced and deceived through the unquestioned acceptance of sacrosanct long-standing dogma, promulgating and fiercely defending it?
And while these things are hard to hear, that is to listen to, they nonetheless must be said; I do not condemn the man who with best intention and pureness of heart believes the lie about God; I count him as well meaning though ignorant,as seeking only the best, trying with all his might to honor God as he understands Him with his life. And for such a man, if he is surrendered to The Will, if he is amiable to change, if he throws no barrier up to prevent entry into his heart and mind by the Spirit of Truth, then in time God will be able to correct him, will guide him into a better understanding of Who and What God truly is; and the error in the man will cause him no lasting difficulty—even as my former atheism is no bother to me now, nor was St. Paul's former life when he was Saul. “But let each be true after the fashion possible to him, and he shall receive the Master's praise.”
And for those who not only hear but also listen, to whom is being revealed a perfect God, after Whom they pattern their lives and find themselves to be growing more and more into mirrors of our Lord, to all such who are, then, “modeling their lives upon a perfect idea, and the founding of their every hope upon the same,” there is shared a common anthem:
“But we all, beholding the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image.”
Of Good Hearts and Foolish Forms
by Dave Roney
"You have neither heard His voice... nor seen His shape" (John 5:37)
“I would not forget that there are many in whom foolish forms cover a live heart, warm to everything human and divine; but let each be true after the fashion possible to him, and he shall have the Master's praise.”
What thinking person would ever look to the shadow of a man rather than to the man, and attempt to explain what the man looks like only by what the shadow reveals? The gray, distorted, and two-dimensional silhouette might in a vague way suggest the man, but could never reveal him truly. And Scripture can be the shadow of God to us, lest we look for the Reality of which it speaks, for which it stands and represents, and what is its singular purpose. There are “foolish forms” which cover the living hearts of men, good men, men who love God and their fellows; but these are those who search the Scripture thinking that in them is life, when, as said our Lord, the Scriptures point to Him; “In Him was Life” and not in the written Word; “and the Life was the Light of men,” and not some supposed “light” emanating from Scripture or especially by interpretations given to it by men.
If the Son of God and Man is divorced from our understanding of Scripture, we are left with but a shadow. And what St. John says following those words hold true for believers as well; “And the Light shined in the darkness and the darkness perceived it not.” Had you thought these words applied only to the sinner and not the saint? Any thought of God which does not mirror and align perfectly with the Truth which is detectable in the Person and life of Christ Jesus is darkness, and it is not the unsaved alone who hold misconceptions of Him, but believers as well:
“If the Lord were to appear, He has been so misrepresented by those who claimed to present Him, and especially in the one eternal fact of facts—the relationship between Him and His Father—that it is impossible for many that they should see any likeness. For my part, I would believe in no God rather than in such a God as is generally offered for believing in.”
In the reading for today is used a term uncommon to most of us; it is word palimpsest. You will know what it is by remembering a paper in which part of the writing has been erased and written over, but the original words are, even so, still to be made out if one studies the paper closely. It is what MacDonald is referring to when he says that some, believing their doctrines (“foolish forms”) “would not care to discern upon the plaimpsest.” It is the true Light obscured by the lamp shade of man's theology, any theology which looks for the truth first in Scripture but not in the Christ of Scripture: The original writing is the Logos, the Word Incarnate; it is Christ, but contemporary evangelical Christendom has erased the clear image and written over it their doctrines, set in their own words presumed higher, more cogent, than the simplicity of Christ, seeking to interpret that which is, or can be, or ought to be, clearly understood with little or no interpretation; and any interpretation laid siege to the Scripture that does not bring the clarity of Christ into purer focus is a blot on that theology. The error is so profound, has such a dead lock on the minds of men, that many will defend their positions to the end without allowing so much as an honest question, a single doubt, to ever enter their minds; these refuse to “discern” what is “a credible tale of a perfect man revealing a perfect God: They are not true enough to desire that to be a fact which would immediately demand the modeling of their lives upon a perfect idea, and the founding of their every hope upon the same.”
But even so thinking, and in fact knowing, "I would not forget that there are many in whom foolish forms cover a live heart.” And this fact none should ever forget, for with men, even the best of men, there will always be errors of thought and of distinguishing, discernment and interpretation; our creaturely limitations nearly demand that it be true. And our only defense is to fasten our eyes steadfastly on the Savior, as He is presented in the four Gospel accounts, and allow that He and only He be our great Lens for the correction of faulty vision, and His Mind be ours for understanding; and above all else to never misrepresent “the one eternal fact of facts—the relation between Him and His Father;” for, He and His Father are exactly alike in every way, a fact lost on many theologians through the preponderant doctrines carefully worked out by them, and there is none other way to understand the Father except by what is discovered in the Son.
As for the errors we make, if they come from “a live heart” they will cause us no permanent damage; and we may here think of the small childlike child of a good earthly father, who misunderstands his father in points but nonetheless is seeking only to please him; such a father will help the child, by love and patience, to learn better of him in time. So also our great Heavenly Father is through His Spirit working with us even unto now. Therefore we can say and believe with confidence “But let each be true after the fashion possible to him, and he shall have the Father's praise.” For, the Father is infinitely more interested in the live heart of His child than the academic mind.
The mind of man will always be less than that of God; His purpose is to create in us a heart as glorious as His own, that the Love He sends into us will be reciprocated in exact kind and degree, sent out from us into Him, Perfect Love returned perfectly. Of human marriage He said from the beginning “For this cause a man shall leave his mother and father and the two of them shall become one flesh;” and I take this as a lowly example of something much higher, greater, more glorious: "For this cause, My great Love, a man shall leave all other things aside, and love Me even as I, his God and Father, loves him, and the two of us, God and man, will become one in Love's perfect union even as My Son and I are One." And if we will start to do this now, to love God with all our heart and mind and being, as best we can, regardless of our faults and failings or our errors in thinking, as long as our hearts are true, we shall, indeed, “have the Father's praise”...