Passing Thoughts

  • Sumo

By Jesse Mullins

It is interesting that the Bible doesn’t so much promise quality of life as just life itself. We tend to focus on the quality of life, or worry about it, or dream of it, overlooking the very fact of life. The Bible says very little about life in heaven. The Bible says, you shall have life, and it says it in such a way as to suggest that what we have now is not life… And you know, it’s not. In a sense, we don’t know what life is, and if we did, we’d not worry about the quality of it. It probably doesn’t have a sliding scale of quality, as we apply to so many earthly circumstances. If it did, then surely some parts of it would be inferior, and this surely could not be true in heaven.

What if psychologists were to discover that those unfortunate people who blurt out indecencies are not really afflicted with a disorder at all? What if it were discovered that those people are just actors in this season’s sit-coms?

Being an author seems to me to be like setting out to be a professional athlete. Your competition is the whole world. You could be one of the top 1,000 in the nation—certainly be someone of rare talent—and, as in athletics, still not be good enough to be third string on a pro team—in other words, not attract the least attention from the public. To be the 950th best author in America and to risk one’s livelihood on it, to risk it all on what you think you may be, is a great risk indeed. Name recognition, for one thing, would not be working in your favor. Would the 950th best athlete in the world strike off on his own?

It is the inevitable death of the organism – any organism – that makes naturalistic origins of life from inert matter so improbable. The organism is on a course for death as soon as it is alive. Only reproductive capabilities give it any chance of survival. What we should find surprising is not just the fact that we are not regularly witnessing the rise of new life forms from inert matter (though we don’t even see that). No, what ought surprise us most is this: It is the idea, as probability would have it, that for every (reputedly) spontaneously generated life form that arises with full reproductive capabilities, there ought to be a near-infinite number of far-simpler organisms arising withOUT reproductive capabilities, and dying unsurvived. Therein lies the problem. Where are those life forms?

The pure pacificist’s dismay that two different religions could be at militaristic war with one another, and the premillenialist’s ideas of a rapture (and the health-and-wealth preaching of so many televangelists) are all of a feather. At the bottom of these attitudes is a disinclination to believe that God’s real purpose lies beyond the grave, a disinclination to believe that even something so drastic as a foreshortened earthly life could lead to the real point of one’s existence – the afterlife. These beliefs share in common the message of (hopefully) missing out on the grave, even if it is by the expedient of missing out on it by a quick return of the Savior, and that is a message that many hope to hear. But that is to delude ourselves. Mordecai said to Esther, “Who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” knowing that she would be risking her life. If we fix our eyes on anything short of eternity, if we fix our eyes on our welfare on this side of glory, we can never know for sure what we are asking for.

We sometimes ask of God that he give us our lessons in small doses. The song “One Step at a Time Dear Savior” comes to mind. We ask these things, presumably, because we feel we lack the strength to take large steps. We are too undisciplined in the faith. But might it be that we receive these large, dreaded (though more infrequent) trials in our lives – the kind of trials from which we plead deliverance, plead for what might be considered a smaller, “dose-a-day” version – might it be that we receive these large tests instead because the Lord, in His wisdom, sees that we are not yet ready for the more measured path? Does He see that it might be “easier” for us this way than the other way? For surely it is the other way, the way of small steps, that is indeed the way of the disciplined and the strong. It is the undisciplined, the weak, who must learn by jolts, jerks, and hard lessons. And this indeed may be a mercy. Only the strong, the steadfast, the wise, and not the weak, can keep themselves in line merely by heeding the slight reminders that are the small steps. For the rest of us, it is the way of the wrenching chapters that pull us back to our senses, and take us back down to our knees. Yet can we not find incentive, from this analysis, to discipline ourselves to heed more closely the one-step-at-a-time reminders, on the chance – even perhaps the likelihood – that heeding such gentler cues will spare us the harder lessons? Surely this approach holds some promise.

For us to truly possess and to exercise free will, there has to be more than just a reason for us to choose something. For our choice to be free, there must also be a contrary possibility, and a reason, however good or bad, for us to choose that instead. Logic tells us that incontrovertible proof is not choice, but mere acquiescence. When we say that something has been proven to us, we are not suggesting that we have exerted our will. There is no act of the will, where knowledge – where knowing, or learning – is concerned. Quite the contrary. To whatever degree a specimen of knowledge requires an act of the will, to that degree it is a proposition that remains unproven. Proof is acquiescence. Belief is something different. Belief entails an assertiveness that is not found in the act of knowing. We do not believe in a proof. We believe in a choice. Yes, we understand a proof. We accept a proof. But we do not believe it, unless there were enough uncertainty (i.e., that “contrary possibility” mentioned above) still available to us for us to be able to say we were exercising our will. Belief, then, is an act of the will, an assertion of the self, and thus is the proper test of a truly free creature.

The collector looks to that fine day when he rounds a bend, beholding the object of his desires. The speculator looks to be around, too, that fine day, that desired object to be holding.

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