Where Things Went Wrong and Why
Personality is freedom, and if persons are the expression of The Person, it must be freedom through freedom. How can there be such a delicate relationship that humans are real humans, all retaining their individuality, all conscious of themselves in their choices and actions, and yet the Deity Himself is imaged through each? How can that be?
First, we must have the meaning of “freedom” in focus. We humans have played fast and loose with the word, as with many others which press us too hard. We tend to regard the word as meaning a dispensation to be and do anything. Not so. Freedom is a meaningless concept unless it is freedom to choose. If there was only one thing in the world, there would be no choice, and therefore no freedom. There would not be such a word. But freedom has as its firm base the responsibility of making intelligent choices, and right ones. Then, when we have made our choices, freedom has its limitless expression within the bounds of that choice.
So freedom is limitless potential, expressed within limited choice. Marriage would be a human illustration. A supposedly intelligent choice is made, and then all freedom in family living is expressed within the limits of that choice. A young man chooses a profession, and then within its boundaries puts all he has into the development of his calling.
The startling proof of this being the meaning of freedom is that it is stated to be true of God. We say He is unlimited. The Bible says He is limited. Paul speaks of God that cannot lie. The writer to the Hebrews says it is impossible for God to lie. Not that He does not lie or should not, or did not, but He cannot. Therefore there is something God cannot do. What does that mean? To lie is one form of self-centeredness. It is preserving one’s own interests at the expense of another. Therefore, it is saying God cannot be a self-seeker, self-lover, self-magnifier.
Why, if God is freedom? Because freedom means right choice and all activities as an expression of that choice; and it is here saying that from eternity that “choice” has been God’s eternal nature. He “cannot” be a self-seeker. He can only be a self-giver. Everything He has ever thought or done is in some form of self-giving. There is nothing else in His nature for all eternity.
“The eternal will to all goodness,” William Law calls Him, and His real life is not being Himself, but living the life of His creation. This is love and this is the Trinity—the invisible Father who took form in the Son, from whom the Spirit proceeds in reproduction and creation; and it is for this reason that everything has a trinitarian form. It is the Father—Son—Spirit in manifestation; space—length, breadth, height; time— past, present, future; matter—energy, motion, phenomena; action—thought, word, deed; man—spirit, soul, body; any living thing such as a tree— essence, form, reproduction. More than that, everything has God’s character of self-giving love, though, of course, in an involuntary way; everything has its true life, not in being itself, but in becoming others or something to others: the tree becomes the chair and table: bread and meat become our body: water is our life. Everything is a servant, by giving up its independent life to become somebody else’s life; and this is God.
So now back to us humans. We will ask again and answer again: If God is the one life of the universe, if He, the Trinity-in-unity, is self-giving love, if all the universe is really He manifesting Himself in various forms and on various levels, what are we humans?
The answer is clear. God, the Living Person, in the free expression of His self-giving love, cannot manifest His invisible self in freedom except through free selves. A person can only express personality through persons, like through like, consciousness through consciousness, intelligence through intelligence. Therefore, The Person must have persons for His free manifestation. Therefore, we are persons.
Immediately there arises the dilemma of all history. If God must have free persons by whom to express Himself in freedom, freedom implies conscious choice, and then free self-expression within the limits of that choice. Freedom is limitless potentiality within the limits of a decisive choice; and we must be sure it is the right choice.
Here we come back on our human level to the same basic choice as we see in the God who is nothing but love and cannot lie. We cannot say that God, the Eternal One, ever made a choice in time, as we do; but we say that God, the Three-in-one, always was love. But for us there is the choice. Having their being in God, created persons could have consciously chosen to affirm that relationship and thus be natural free expressions of the self-giving God. But equally in freedom of choice, created persons can choose to be themselves as if independent of God and live for time and eternity in the illusion, yet dreadful reality for them, of being independent self-loving selves.
While all creation is God revealing Himself on various levels of self-giving love, each according to its divine capacity, we humans as free persons are the summit of His creation. By us, The Person by the persons, He can be fully Himself in unlimited self-giving love, we in our freedom united to Him in His freedom, every limitless human faculty freely expressing Him. He loves and we love, He thinks and we think, He wills and we will, He acts and we act, we humans being in essence God walking about, God talking, God acting, God loving, in John’s words, “as He is, so are we in this world.”
Are we that? Obviously, derisively, tragically not. Then what has happened? It is not hard to see. Indeed, the Bible makes it quite plain. Freedom can be misused. It can make the wrong choice, which God, the Original Self, never made. What is spoken of as the origin of evil is not difficult to trace.
We have said that a conscious self is only such by reason of the capacity to choose; and every self being an outbirth of the original Self is compounded of love. Every self is love and loves itself. Confronted by the conscious choice of an either-or, it can either love itself by living for itself (in apparent illusory independence in its freedom); or it can love itself by giving itself to union with the divine Spirit of self-giving love.
The Bible tells us what happened. It records the existence of created beings, sometimes called spirits, sometimes angels. Through the misrepresentation of angels in paintings and images, we have a distorted idea of them as halfhuman with wings, but in fact the Bible calls them spirits; and if God is spirit, and we in our inner center are spirits, then we can recognize others of another dimension who are also spirits.
We are told that their leader, Lucifer, which means light-bearer (which he was destined to be, but not light in himself), did this very thing we are talking about. He chose, not to be the bearer of God the Light, but to be his own light; in other words to find the answer to life in self-reliance, self-seeking, self-magnification, self-satisfaction.
He, therefore, broke open a dimension of the self-life which should never have been exposed, which never was known in God, a dimension where the self expresses itself in self-love, and all that self-centeredness produces becomes its way of life—covetousness, lust, vanity, pride, hatred, jealousy, lying and the rest. The Bible speaks of him as a god, for a god is an originator, an author, and this one was the author of this kingdom of lawlessness, which the Bible calls sin. The law of the universe, which is the way the universe works, is God as self-giving love; therefore, lawlessness is every form of self-seeking love.
Here was the origin of a realm of total separation from God, being the opposite to Him, and, therefore, darkness, confusion, disharmony, the slavery of self-gratification, and ultimately for those who voluntarily continue that way that the Bible calls “everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and the glory of his power,” which in common language we call hell.
Hell on this basis is as rational and necessary as heaven. Yet it can still be said to be “in God”: for all self-hood is an extension of His self-hood, and in that sense, as Paul says, “all have their being in God.” But this is a perversion, a misuse of what created selves are destined to be, in union with Him. By refusing that union and its implications, they are still living by God’s life in them but it has become negative in its effects in them, producing wrath and condemnation and the death which is separation from Him, and His light in them has become darkness.
Evil is a misuse of self. It is an inevitable potential in a free self, and to that extent is implicit in the existence of selves. A rough illustration is the sun and light. The sun is burning and consuming. If we are in a wrong relationship to it, we are consumed (“God is a consuming fire”). In a right relationship to it, however, we see that the fiery sun goes through a constant process of inner “death and resurrection,” by the fusion of its hydrogen atoms, which in becoming helium release the energy which reaches us as beautiful, blessing, gentle, life-giving light, and we live in that light. Yet no fire, no light.
In the same way, a self is a burning fire, whether in God or man. The fire is the source of his energies. In God, His fiery self “dies” to its own independent self-existence, and lives anew in the begetting of His Son and the creation of His universe, and in the Son, the fire is only known as blessed light. We also, as selves out from His self, are consuming fires.
If, in our freedom, we choose just to burn as ourselves and for ourselves, we have diverted the self to a use which never should have been in existence, and which is hell: but if, with our being in God, and now through the redemption in Christ, we choose that He should be His self-giving self in us, then we become light and love in Him.
Here is the origin of evil, and from this we learn how evil captured our human race; and the record most surely tallies with the facts of our experience. Here are Adam and Eve, the first of our race, capable of intelligent choice, yet not yet knowing the distinction between good and evil. What they do know is that they have a Heavenly Father who has abounded in His love to them in all the good gifts of nature around them in the garden. But He has also conveyed to their consciousness that there is one direction in which they must not go, for if they are to be adult humans, exercising their freedom fixedly in its right dimension, they must discover themselves to be free selves, and made a conscious choice. So they are confronted with a tree of which they must not eat. Implicit in that is an ultimate No to self-pleasing and a Yes to self-giving in God. Here was the crux of the matter. Here was the ultimate choice.
The time came when this god of self-centeredness, whom we now call the devil or Satan, presented them with all that could attract them to eat of the forbidden fruit. Humans are meant to be attracted, life is response to stimuli; that is normal, not wrong. But they knew that to yield would be the way of self-pleasing and not their Father’s way. By themselves, if they act in independence, they cannot resist, for independent self is self-love and will always go for what it really wants. It is made that way. But deeper than desire is the capacity for choice, the exercise of freedom. It was possible for those two to call on their Father, tell Him of their compulsive desire and that they could not resist it: but to tell Him also that they wanted to do His will, not theirs, and would He rescue them somehow. The means of rescue was there all the time—the tree of life.
All through Christian history the eating of the fruit of the tree has been the symbol of the fact that humanity was created to contain deity, and thus for the union of the human spirit with the divine spirit, for every time we partake of the bread and wine in the Lord’s supper, we eat of the fruit of the tree to represent partaking of Christ. If the cry of the heart had been right, the remedy would have been quickly revealed, resulting in the re-direction of the drive of the self-desire. The eating of the fruit of the tree of life would have united the spirit of man with the self-giving Spirit of God, and the light would have swallowed the darkness; for the tree of life, we are told, symbolized the gift of eternal life, and eternal life is Christ. By the same token, the eating of the wrong tree symbolized the union of the human spirit with the god of self-centeredness: and it is not difficult to recognize the truth of this Genesis record through all our human history.
That we are a “fallen race” needs no proof when we define the essence of the fall as self-centeredness; nor is it difficult to detect the demonic elements in our human behavior, the one to the other, “man’s inhumanity to man” engraved on all the blood-stained records of history, which are only the public records of the private life of all of us.