Interpreting the Crisis
Following a crisis of faith experienced by Norman Grubb and shared in his book Once Caught, No Escape, this excerpt lays out the revelation that followed.
The heart of the stabilizing revelation to me, and what has become the total answer to all life for me, has been that there is only One Person in the universe, and that the whole universe is His myriad forms of Self-manifestation. Of course I am immediately dubbed a pantheist and am often asked if I am. Those who ask that either don’t understand what a pantheist is or don’t understand what I am saying about my own beliefs. A pantheist, according to its Greek derivation, means that everything is God. I am saying that everything is a form by which He manifests Himself, much as my body is not exactly I, but an outward form of the inner me. This fact, gleaned through Boehme, confirmed through the writings of many others, and with the foundations in Scripture, has given me my anchor. It has moved me on from my separated concepts, and this I think is the weakness of evangelical teaching, of a God apart from His creation “making” His creation, much as a carpenter appears to be apart from the table he makes.
That is why also I have sympathy, I know against the tide of my evangelical friends, with writers like Wren Lewis, the English scientist, in his marvelous little Return to the Roots, and Bonhoeffer, and the much opposed John Robinson. Some things I dissociate myself from, where any question the historicity of Bible fact and seek to distort it into myth; but I see where these men have an appeal today, because they answer the modern contention that we need not look without to an authority who from some vast distance made this world and laid down standards for living. The answers are found within–for the physicist in the atom; for the biologist in the cell; for the psychologist in the mind; for the sociologist in the inherent rights of man. Is there here an answer for the greatest inwardness, the human spirit in its rebellious self-centeredness? Yes, when we discover the possibility of God as Spirit joined to the human spirit through Christ. For these men point out that God was from the beginning of time revealed as Spirit, confirmed by Jesus who said outright, “God is Spirit”; and Spirit is the Person within, as our human spirits are within our bodies.
So He as the author of the universe is the inner life of it. He “fills heaven and earth,” therefore, is within them. He is to be finally revealed as what He really is–All in all, which leaves nothing but Himself. “The beyond in the midst,” the Transcendent in the Immanent. And as the One Person in the universe, He can only manifest Himself as a Person by persons. So Jesus lived His human life, as the archetypal man, by the Father dwelling in Him (John 14:10), which was the startling surprise to His disciples who, in their separated human outlook, expected an external revelation, when they asked Him to show them the Father. And He went on to say that this was why He had come as redeemer, so that God the Spirit who was in Him would be God the Spirit in an inner unity with all who receive Him. And that was Pentecost; not the outward manifestations which were but a means; but the end—an inner fixed consciousness of their union with Him—He in them— they in Him.
So here, as these writers point out, is the final answer to the human problem. If all resources for all things on all levels are found within, what final resources are there for
the most inward of all–the human self? What solution for the insurmountable self-centeredness of the human spirit which is the cause of all the human chaos? And here is the answer. Christ within. The Holy Spirit within. God dwelling in us: then in that realized union through free choice, in Christ’s cross and resurrection, the human spirit of self-centeredness is united to the divine Spirit of self-giving. “Dead to sin and alive unto God,” man becomes a human expression of God who is love: a perfectly normal man in his perfectly normal environment with his normal human reactions and human weaknesses, yet God’s strength so made perfect in weakness that it is not we living, but He by us; just as a branch is a normal expression of the life of the tree of which it is a member.
It is John who puts into one short phrase the character of this One Person in the Universe–God is love; and love means existing to meet the need of others, with total
indifference to what happens to yourself. Love belongs to need, just as Jesus who was Love in the flesh, likened Himself to bread, which ceases to live its own life in a cornfield and finds its true end in being the means by which others live. All forms of creation demonstrate this to be so, and that they are involuntary manifestations of Him whose forms they are, because everything finds its true end in being something for others: the tree becomes a table for me, the metals in the earth become my conveniences for living. But God as the Person can only be a person through persons, so that in this living union in Christ, as He is limitless love, so we are love in endless variety of expression, for “as He is, so are we in this world.”
But to be a person with limitless potential means conscious freedom. To be a person is to be conscious of endless variety and to be capable of making choices from among the variety. Freedom is not being anything, but is freedom to make choices. All life is making choices, but the significance is that choices make destiny. I become what I choose. The law of choice, which is the same as saying the law of faith, is that what I take takes me. I take food. What I eat takes me! I choose a profession. I choose to become a carpenter, for instance. I apply myself and carpentry takes me over. Carpentry becomes my second nature, and I express my freedom in practicing my carpentry. This is even said of Almighty God. How can the Scriptures say He is Almighty and then say there is something He cannot do? Because they do say so. Paul says, “God that cannot lie.” It is because God is the First Self, and a conscious self makes choices, and there is one fundamental choice a self makes. Should he be a self-lover or a self-giver? A liar is a self-lover, and God “cannot” be that. He is fixed by His choice. He can only be love–the Other-lover, the Self-giver.
But we humans have been caught up in the opposite choice. Through the Fall, we became enslaved to the one who had become by choice the opposite to our God of love, Satan, the devil, once called Lucifer, who became fixed by his choice as the god (the originator) of self-centeredness. According to the Bible, he, as the spirit of error, entered humanity (Eph. 2:2; 1 John 4:4 and 6), and took us captive, so that it is natural to us to be self-seekers and self-lovers. And how can we be rescued?
We have become stolen property, manifesting the character of the wrong god, and already reaping some of its poisoned fruits leading on to an eternal destiny of “everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and the glory of His power.”
But love belongs to need, and God is love, and we are in need. Indeed, the character of love is that need has a claim on love. That is why Paul calls himself a debtor to take the gospel to the Gentiles (Rom. 1:14), because need is always the creditor which can claim payment from love the debtor. And that is why we are told to love our enemies, because if I deliberately hurt you as your enemy, I hurt you outwardly, but I am hurt inwardly by my wicked intent. It is not the one hurt who is in need but the hurter: and love belongs to need. So God is hurt by our rejections of Him, not because we hurt Him but because we are hurting and damning ourselves. So, being love, He gives Himself to meet our need in the person of His Son, “God in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself and not imputing their trespasses unto them.” What happens to Him is not the point. Love is unconditional, and if God must die at the hands of His enemies to save His enemies, then He will die.
So Jesus lays down His life on the cross, none taking it from Him except by His own choice, and God raises Him from the dead. The whole of Scripture interprets this for us as the judicial removal of the inevitable separation of the human race from God for eternity, which is the consequence of us being law-breakers (sinners), guilty, cursed, condemned. This was completed by Him Himself voluntarily taking the place of separation from God on the cross in our place, “bearing our sins in His own body on the tree”; His outpoured blood was the evidence of the completed sacrifice. There would be no efficacy in the death of one man for another. That is why the root of our faith, John says, lies in the fact of the incarnation, “God manifest in the flesh”; so that this was God in human form, the source and upholder of the human race, being “the propitiation for our sins” in His death. The resurrection was the evidence that the atonement was so complete that all consciousness of sin and separation had disappeared for ever, and we who believe are “justified” (Rom. 4:25), legally pronounced as like the risen Christ Himself with “no stain on our character.” Forgiveness would not be enough, because though forgiven we remember what we did. Justification means we are as if the thing never happened.
Yet the blood of Christ shed for our sins would not be enough, if Christ crucified and risen was not the means of a total human revolution, the change of gods in the center of our personality—from occupation by the spirit of error to occupation by the Spirit of truth (1 John 4:6). To have the consequences of a permanent condition of being law-breakers, a life in hell, removed by “the precious blood of Christ,” would not be enough if we humans remained possessed and continually motivated by this spirit of error. Only if there is a change of inner indwelling God, and thus change of motivation, can there be this full deliverance. And this Paul revealed to us as having been revealed to him, particularly in his Romans and Galatians letters. When Christ died, this was the human race on that cross, for He was our representative. So in that identification He was in God’s sight “made sin.” Sin is character of the sin-spirit which produces the sins, and the human race has this spirit within it. Then in His death, it is said “He died unto sin,” for death separates body from spirit, and this separated all who believe from that false god. His burial (still representing all of us “buried with Him”) indicated that there was a dead body in the tomb with no spirit. The resurrection (still we risen with Him) was the entry and union of the Spirit of God with the dead body which represented the human race. And here was the change of gods, by the grace of God, completed for all of us who exercise our free capacity of choice in receiving, recognizing and affirming our union with Him.
Continued in the next issue…
More Articles from The Intercessor, Vol 33 No 1
- Cross Word
- Faith Illustrations
- Faith Notes
- Question & Answer
- Excerpt from The Spontaneous You
- Excerpt from The Intercession of Rees Howells
- I love one whom I don’t like…
- God’s Hidden Ways
- Christ in Congo Forests: Mission History
- Bible Bedrock
- A Letter from Norman
- Life: The What, The Who, The Why
- Interpreting the Crisis
- Editor’s Note