From God & Men by Herbert H. Farmer (New York, Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, 1947).
SKEPTICISM AND FAITH
WE have said that Christian teaching insists firmly on what we have called the holiness or "God-ness" of God. He is the omnipresent, omniscient, omnicompetent, sovereign, creative Will, utterly transcending our under-standing, in whose grasp the whole creation lies, "of whom and through whom and to whom are all things." We have said, further, that the Christian revelation brings its special and all-transforming contribution to this doctrine of God by characterizing him also as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; the God who is creatively at work in the world and in all human history is, in respect of his relation to persons, fatherly love—interpreting both these words in the light of Jesus Christ.
It is characteristic of the Christian view that it holds these two things together. On the one hand—to take them in the reverse order—by its doctrine of the fatherly love of God it puts the individual person right in the center of the picture and steadfastly holds him there; God as fatherly love values every human person and is at work in his life, seeking to bring him, in ways consonant with his status as personal, into that fellowship and co-operation with the divine will which are his only true freedom and blessedness. On the other hand, God has made the whole vast order of nature, and has set moving the ongoing complex process of collective human history. He is at work in these also; they mean something to him, and he purposes something through them.
To my mind there is something quite daring in the way in which Christian faith has held steadfastly to both these things—to the assertion, that is, that the one transcendent divine purpose holds in its grasp the whole created universe and all the long ages of history and at the same time is unweariedly interested in individual men and women. It is indeed a grasping of the nettle with both hands. For when you contemplate nature and history, it is not at all easy to believe that there is a sovereign power at work in them which is interested in individuals as such—least of all in a way that might be even remotely characterized as loving. Is not the prime source of all the unsatisfied yearnings and heartaches—and sometimes despair—of sensitive human souls all down the ages to be found just here, namely, in this apparent frightful contradiction between the outward order of nature and history and the individual's inward sense of his own status and dignity as a person? It is this, surely, which is the source of what has been called the tragic sense of life, never more heavy upon us, perhaps, than now.
That the Christian faith should thus grasp the nettle and hold it might be urged as at least a hint—if nothing more—that there is at the heart of that faith a uniquely compelling and self-authenticating source of light and truth, which it would be foolishness in any man to pass by or to dismiss too easily. For, be it noted, the conviction that there is behind all things a wholly trustworthy love has emphatically not been confined, as is sometimes suggested, either to the comfortably-off bourgeois classes or, on the other hand, to dull and half-defeated souls who, in their poverty and misery, have wanted an opiate for their sorrows. It has just as often gripped and transformed the lives of vigorous and sincere men and women who have both faced in thought and grappled with in action the challenging facts in all their anguish and mystery. The apostle Paul is a case in point—to mention only one example.
I propose that in this concluding chapter we try to face frankly this challenge which at once presents itself to our minds when we put the individual life in the setting of the whole vast process of nature and history and seek to envisage both as grasped and ruled by one and the same sovereign love. I propose that we do this for two reasons: first, it is important that in the presentation of our message we do not lay ourselves open to the charge that we have ignored, or are unwilling to face, the difficulties of belief; second, and more important, to do so may help to clarify, and perhaps deepen, our understanding of what the Christian faith essentially is, and of what sustains it.
Let us set forth the contrast—if that is not too mild a word—between, on the one hand, the impression that nature and history make upon us as we look out upon them and, on the other hand, the Christian assertion that there is at work in both a sovereign love interested in individual men and women; and let us, in our brief statement of this contrast, be as vivid and uncompromising as we can—even at the risk of overstatement. We will first put the case for unbelief—and allow full rein to that skeptical voice which I confess sometimes whispers in the back of my mind whenever I hear anyone say, or whenever I myself say, "God is love."
God is love? Consider, then, the voice might comment, the vast, vast amplitude of the sheerly material universe, particularly as modern research has disclosed it to us. Consider the infinite universes of the heavens, the innumerable, literally unimaginable multitudes of the planets and stars, their unthinkable distances, measurable only in light-years, their incredible age, the unfathomable abysses of empty space, and amid it all our own infinitesimal earth, smaller in comparison, infinitely smaller, than a grain of dust. What of the vast whirling nebulae, the flying comets that appear out of the void and vanish again, the flaming stars, the stars that are cooling, and still more the stars which hang out there in space frozen and dead. Think only of the sun, one among ten million such, and ten million times ten million, a vast globe of superheated gas, blazing, roaring, hurtling through limitless space for ten million and ten million times ten million years. Or—stranger still in some ways—consider that flat, cold disc of the moon staring down upon us, suspended there in the night sky, so silent, so lifeless. What does it all mean, what can it all mean? How does the love of the personal God fit into it all?
Or come nearer home, the voice might continue. Consider the dark inscrutabilities of nature as it immediately environs our lives. Consider deluge, earthquake, tornado, volcano, and all the violent and eruptive destructiveness of our world; not only do these crash in upon our human lives and human undertakings, making mockery of them, but they are utterly baffling in themselves. Why should there be a long process of evolutionary creation involving all this conflict and interplay of titanic forces—cooling crusts, ice ages, arctic wastes, the surging oceans, the blistering deserts, hideous monsters battling in the primeval swamps? Or consider the prolific, wasteful, and fiercely competitive fecundity of life on this planet alone—the mind reels at the thought. What a blank incomprehensibility is the enormous busyness of an ant heap or a wasp hole! What mystery looks out through the gentle eyes of a dog, or through the cold beady eyes of a cobra, or sounds through the howling of wolves on the chase! Why the wart hog, the tarantula, the cholera microbe, the hookworm?
How does the love of the personal God fit into all these?
tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
Did He smile His work to see?
Did He who made the lamb make thee?
Or finally, the voice might conclude, consider the long ages of human history as modern knowledge has brought these vividly before us. The endless, endless procession of the generations of mankind, being born, suffering bitterly so many of them, living at most a few short years, and then dying, century after century—from the primitive savage beating his tom-tom, quailing before his witch doctor, and burying men alive in the grave of the chief, through the great civilizations which have risen and passed into nothingness and are now only a few moldering stones in a field where rabbits breed and feed, to this present civilization, latest product of what some are pleased to think of as progress, with its atomic bombs dropped on teeming cities, its slaughter of thousands of young lives, its massacre of Jews, and all the horrors of this time. What does it all mean, where is it all leading—the anguish, the cruelty, the disorder, the tumult, the chaos, the frustration, the swift transiency of human affairs—the seemingly endless and meaningless going on, and turning back, and perpetual getting nowhere of it all? Fit the personal love of God, if you can, into that picture!
What is the reply to all this? It is certainly not any attempt to provide a theory which shall so explain and illumine the mystery and darkness that none is left; Christianity has never attempted to do that, though Christian thinkers have succeeded in saying, in the light of the Christian revelation, some things which shed a glimmer of light here and there. No, the reply is to ask for a deeper understanding of what the Christian faith essentially is and whence it is derived.
First, it is important to insist, with ourselves and with those to whom we speak, that the Christian gospel has from the beginning claimed to rest on God's own active disclosure of himself in the midst of our world as holy love. The Christian gospel is not, strictly speaking, the simple statement that God is love; it is rather that God himself discloses, exhibits, commends, makes credible, his nature and purpose as love to us through Christ, and very especially through Christ's death on the cross. The Christian faith has certainly never claimed that the proposition that God is sovereign love is self-evident to the human mind. That would be absurd, for quite plainly it is not self-evident; judging, indeed, by the history of religions, the only statement about God which comes near to being self-evident to the human mind is that he is inscrutable power. Nor has it claimed that God's love can be inferred or proved from, or read out of, the facts of nature or history; indeed, it fully admits that from the point of view of many of these facts the doctrine has very little credibility, if any at all.
That is precisely why it needs to be revealed. It is God, and God alone, who has disclosed his character and purpose toward us—in Jesus Christ. It is God, and God alone, who has broken through the thick clouds which veil his being and has permitted us to see his heart. It is God, and God alone, who has sent forth this light out of the midst of the otherwise impenetrable darkness and mystery by which we are surrounded. Whoso says Christianity says revelation. If the doctrine of the love of God is not revelation which God himself increasingly authenticates to any who, feeling in the least degree its compelling power, will commit themselves to it in faith, Christianity has very little it can say in answer to the voice we were listening to a minute ago. From this point of view the Christian gospel seems to me to be realistically consistent with our actual situation. It does not say that history teaches us, or nature teaches us, or science teaches us, or the events of our own times teach us, or that our hearts teach us, that God is love; for it knows very well they do nothing of the sort. It says, that God has of himself, and by his own intiative and act, told us this about himself, namely, that he is holy love.
We may put it another way by saying that the Christian faith claims that in Jesus Christ the light has shined out of darkness. It is darkness out of which it shines, and in many ways it remains darkness; nevertheless it is light that is given, and to those who choose to walk in it, it is light enough. Or we may put it in still another way by saying that Christianity, while it claims to give knowledge, asks always for a certain humble agnosticism in a man's thought about God, and in his attitude toward God. As was said in the preceding chapter, it never allows us to forget that when we talk of the love of God, we are speaking not only of love but also of God—the infinite and eternal creator, unfathomable in the awful mystery of his being. He is not the less this for being love; but also he is not the less love for being this. He is God and not man.
In this connection we may point out a certain foolish anthropomorphism which may be detected lurking behind our skeptical voices comments. These comments continually hint that there is an intrinsic absurdity in the idea that so vast a universe should have at its heart an all-comprehending and individualizing wisdom and love— a wisdom and love which knows and has a concern for every man, woman, and child born on this infinitesimal speck called earth. Yet obviously the argument might well run, and indeed ought to run, in precisely the opposite direction. Just because the universe is on so vast a scale, it is surely in a way easier to maintain that the power which has fashioned it, and holds it together as a universe, so that it does not collapse into final chaos, might know and love every finite person it has called into existence—numbering, as the Bible says, "the very hairs of his head." To suppose otherwise is surely to think of God after the image of the managing director of a department store, who has far too many important affairs on his hands to know anything about the charwoman who scrubs the passages.
I remember reading, some years ago, an even cruder example of what is essentially the same argument in a newspaper article. The writer, a distinguished scientist, solemnly said that he just could not believe in the survival after death of all human persons because such an unthinkably large number of them must have lived since the beginning of history. I do not know quite what was in-tended by such a naive piece of thinking. I can only suppose that the implication was that there would not be room for them all. Yet one would have imagined—if one is to think of these matters in spatial terms at all, which perhaps one should not do—that a universe whose distances we can only dimly comprehend in terms of light-years might be able to get us all in without undue overcrowding.
Nevertheless, even though there is no need to aggravate our difficulties by childish arithmetical anthropomorphisms of the kind just described, there remain both the impossibility of inferring the love of God from the facts of nature and of history and the need for a divine revelation. In accordance with this the Christian message has always insisted that the proper response to the revelation given in Christ is something which it calls "faith." Faith is that attitude of mind which, finding itself laid hold of by the truth concerning God's love as given through Christ, commits itself to that truth in adventurous trust and obedience, in spite of all the mystery and all the perplexity that remain. Discerning the love of God at work at that one point in historical time, the Christian is prepared to trust it over all history, all time; discerning it at that one point in space, he is prepared to trust it—as it were—in all places whatsoever, and over all space; discerning it at work in that particular complex of personal relationships which constitutes the earthly life of Jesus, he is prepared to trust it to be at work in all personal relationships whatsoever. Moreover, only in such adventurous trust and experimental obedience—particularly in the sphere of personal relationships—can the truth that God is love be authenticated to the soul and built up into a massive conviction, despite all the mystery and darkness. So the apostle Paul, after meditating on what he calls "the groaning and travailing together of the whole creation," is yet able to write what is surely the grandest expression of faith in all literature--an expression which is the more grand for burking none of the facts:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? . . . I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, not things to come [shall we say, no dimension of time, no long-drawn-out enigma of history?] nor height nor depth [shall we say, no dimension of space, no infinite immeasurability of the suns and the stars?] nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in [which meets us in, discloses itself to us through] Jesus Christ our Lord.
Second, in our presentation of the gospel it is important to give due weight to the fact that the Christian message of the love of God manifested in Jesus Christ does not run away from, or minimize, or gloss over, the cruel and challenging facts of our world and of human history. The revealing action of God, according to that message, culminates in Calvary; that is to say, in an event so cruel and so challenging that the voice of skepticism could scarcely cite anything worse. It culminates in the brutal flogging and agonizing execution of a young man—a young man who, be it noted, had lived his life in the faith that God is wholly trustworthy love; the whole vile thing being brought about by the alliance of political and ecclesiastical trickery with brutal military power and a propagandized mob inflamed with national feeling.
Once again we must insist that the Christian message is not simply that God is love; it is that God has revealed his love in Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ is Jesus Christ horribly crucified—there is no other. That is to say, according to the Christian faith, when God discloses himself as love, he does not in the least lead us away from the terrible things which happen in history. He does not say, "Come away from the horror of things and take a look at the daffodils and crocuses in the springtime; let them speak to you of my goodness." On the contrary he leads us right into the very midst of the horror of things, and meets its there; he speaks to us out of the heart of the darkness. No, let us never forget that at the center of the Christian gospel is the Cross. The, gospel is not lyrical sentimentality about the loveliness of the world; it is not saccharin stuff about being "nearer to God's heart in a garden than anywhere else on earth"; that is a very typical bourgeois sentiment, and it simply is not true, unless, indeed, we are thinking—as the writer of it certainly was not—of the Garden of Gethsemane, where one was in such dire agony of soul that it is written of him that the sweat fell from him as it had been blood.
There is indeed a profound and realistic adequacy here in the Christian message, which can hardly be denied, even though the message may not be believed. After all, suppose it is true that God is holy love; it may well be true —there is nothing intrinsically absurd or impossible in the idea itself. Suppose, too, that God, being love, did purpose to get it across to men in such a way that they could become, and could remain, possessed of the truth of it, no matter what evil of darkness could overtake them. How would he do it—how could he do it? Short of hypnotizing men into believing it, which would not be treating them as persons, or short of shattering the world to bits and making another of an entirely different kind, which God no doubt has good reasons for not doing, it would seem that there is only one way in which he could achieve such a purpose. That one way would be for him to thrust home the truth about himself to our hearts in and through and out of the heart of just those things which seem most fiercely to question it. This, according to the Christian faith, is part at least of what God did at Calvary. If God causes the light to shine out of that sort of darkness, what other conceivable darkness can ever suffice to blot it out?
Many years ago as a young man I was preaching on the love of God; there was in the congregation an old Polish Jew who had been converted to the Christian faith. He came to me afterward and said, "You have no right to speak of the love of God until you have seen, as I have seen, a massacre of Jews in Poland—until you have seen, as I have seen, the blood of your dearest friends running in the gutters on a gray winter morning." I asked him later how it was that, having seen such a massacre, he had come to believe in the love of God. The answer he gave in effect was that the Christian gospel first began to lay hold of him because it bade him see God—the love of God—as it were, just where he was, just where he could not but always be in his thought and memories—in those blood-stained streets on that gray morning. It bade him see the love of God, not somewhere else, but in the midst of just that sort of thing, in the blood and agony of Calvary. He did at least know, he said, that this was a message that grappled with the facts; and then he went on to say something the sense of which I shall always remember though the words I have forgotten. He said, "As I looked at that man upon the cross, as I heard him pray, 'Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do,' as I heard him cry in his anguish, 'My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?' and yet thereafter say, 'Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit,' I knew I was at a point of final crisis and decision in my life; I knew I must make up my mind once and for all, and either take my stand beside him and share in his undefeated faith in God—committing myself to the transcendent clarity of the vision of one so infinitely purer than myself—or else fall finally into a bottomless pit of bitterness, hatred, and unutterable despair."
Third, as we face the darkness and mystery of the world and of human history, it is important to remind ourselves and our hearers of what we have more than once spoken of already, namely, that God's action in the world, and in particular his coming into history in Jesus Christ, is not yet, according to the Christian faith, a completed and fully consummated action. On the contrary, Christianity has always said that whatever it is that the infinite God is doing in and through this mysterious universe—its whirling suns and stars, the teeming life of nature, the tumult and chaos of history, our individual lives so swiftly running out into the silence of death—whatever it is he is doing in his wisdom and love and power, it will only finally be achieved in a kingdom which lies beyond and transcends this observable world of space and time. There is an unfathomable "beyond" to it all; the purpose of the eternal God must be something infinitely bigger than this present finite, tiny world. No doubt, when God's kingdom comes, it will take up into itself, and justify, all the long travail involved in the creation and history of this planet; but it will not itself be contained in that creation and history.
We spoke of this earlier when we were considering modern views of progress, with their naive faith in a perfect end state of human life to be realized at some future date on this earth. We saw how this inevitably degrades the personal status of those who live meanwhile but who, in the nature of the case, will never participate in the end state of perfection when it comes. As against this we said that it is part of the radical personalism of Christianity that it puts the realized kingdom of God beyond history—for only thus can the personal value which the love of God bestows on the individual man or woman be preserved.
We now come back to the same truth from a different angle; it all fits together. The point now is that if the divine purpose of love transcends history, as it must, then for us who are still in history there must remain a considerable darkness and mystery which will entirely baffle our understanding; to expect anything else would be like expecting to understand the deep meaning of a Shakespearean tragedy by reading only the first scene. The Christian believer, therefore, by the very terms of his faith, is not baffled and defeated by the darkness and con-fusion, the apparent meaninglessness, of the world he looks out upon; indeed, in a measure he expects it, and so is reconciled to it, for he knows that the world's real and final meaning lies beyond itself. But he is sure of one thing, and that is that within and above all is God's sovereign and undefeatable love. The Christian is thus called to live in the peace and power of "the world to come."
But, be it noted, this conviction that the final realization of the divine kingdom lies beyond this world—so that what God is doing in this world cannot be under-stood in terms of what is observable in this world, but must always wear in some measure an inscrutable face to us—does not make this present world a merely dark and meaningless affair, which we must get through as quickly as we can and the more quickly the better. Such a false and selfish unworldliness has nothing whatever to do with Christianity, though it has often masqueraded under its name. For, clearly, it is utterly contrary to the Christian insistence that God's claim for our trust and obedience meets us here and now in the claim of the neighbor to our love. God's claim upon us in the here and the now of history is not any the less claim because in and through that claim he is fashioning us for, and calling us into, a kingdom whose final consummation lies beyond history. On the contrary, this otherworldly aspect brings an added solemnity to the claim. It is in this world, here and now, and in the living of a right human life in it, that the redeemed man—redeemed that is, through the revelation in Christ—is under the rule of God and has fellowship with him; he already lives in that kingdom of love and light which in its realized fullness is vet to be. This brings us to the fourth and final point.
If a man is in any degree now to enter into that kingdom of God, to come under that rule of God, which in its fullness is yet to be, then it is most necessary that he should continually submit himself to the revelation given in Christ of the way in which God works in the world. He must be prepared radically to rethink his notions of what the true values of life are, and wherein they are to be found. That will not be easy, but there is no escaping it, for part of the Christian answer to the confusion and suffering and perplexity of life—and perhaps the most important part of it—is that men need desperately to have their sin-blinded vision cleared. Many things are dark and mysterious in themselves, for the reasons we have given, and we must be content to wait for light upon them; but they are made more dark by the distortions of our own minds. The shadow that rests upon our lives is always in some measure cast by ourselves.
To take only one central example: There is one craving and expectancy which all men bring with them to the interpretation of life, and which they must get rid of if God's rule in the world is to be understood at all; it is extremely hard to get rid of it, and for most of us it needs a continuous effort of mind. It is the craving and expectancy that God should rule men's lives on a basis of strict distributive justice. The natural man has an incurably legalistic and prize-distribution mind; God, he says, ought to bring it about that appropriate rewards are given to the good people and appropriate penalties to the evil ones —such rewards and penalties being pictured for the most part in terms of the good and bad things of life in this world. The man who lives a good life ought to receive, in proportional degree, present prosperities and delights; the man who does not live a good life ought to receive, in proportional degree, the reverse. How deep-seated this craving is needs no pointing out to anybody who has any power to observe his own mental processes. The first and most repeated criticism of life which falls from the lips of a child is usually, "It isn't fair," and the habit persists with most people to the end. "What have I done to deserve this trouble?" they cry. "What has he done to deserve that success? Why do the innocent suffer for the guilty? Why do the guilty prosper by the sufferings of the innocent? It isn't fair." People ought to get their deserts. If they do not—and quite obviously they do not; the facts are plain and undeniable—then the question is, "What is God doing? How can we have any assurance that God is ruling the world?"
There are a number of things which might be said about this, and which there is not space to say here; some of them have been hinted at in previous chapters. But the deepest and most challenging thing that the Christian faith has to say is that if a man would really fulfill God's purpose for him, and pass through this world in deepening fellowship with, and assurance of, God—thus having something of the stature of a mature son of God—then he must come right out of this legalistic world of rewards and penalties conceived in terms of the good things of this life, and never allow himself for one moment to slip back into it. Only if he does this, can he be freed once and for all from that resentment, frustration, and darkness of soul which has its final outcome in unbelief. For, quite certainly, God does not arrange life on the basis of nicely adjusted rewards and penalties; moreover no one who has even so much as begun to discern the truth about God and men which has been given us through Christ would ever want him to do so.
The Christian man discerns that the real blessedness of human life is in that personal fellowship with God which comes as a man shares in God's purpose of saving love in the world, and not in anything else. It is not a matter of first doing God's will and sharing his purpose and then getting a reward of another sort added on; rather it is that in the doing of his will and the sharing of his purpose the true end of man's life as a person is achieved, and nothing else in comparison with that really matters. "My meat," said Christ, "is to do the will of God"; the meat is not added afterward as a reward. When once this high and difficult truth is glimpsed, however falteringly, then it becomes possible to know—and to have peace in the knowledge—that the worst deprivation or disaster need be no contradiction of the good purpose of God. The deep shadows of life cease to be rewards unjustly withheld or penalties unjustly inflicted; they become rather a challenge to a new understanding of, or, where understanding is still lacking, to a new trust in, his ways. But this emancipating insight is not possible so long as we remain obstinately in a world of distributive justice.
There is no more impressive expression of this profound truth than that which is to be found in the words which Jesus put into the mouth of the father at the end of the parable of the prodigal son. The words are the more impressive for being so simple and natural and unforced—thus showing how utterly different was the world in which our Lord habitually lived and moved from that in which most of us are content to dwell.
The elder brother, on the other hand, perfectly incarnates that mind which, in its thought of God, is working wholly with a legalistic scheme of distributive justice. Witness his words when he hears that the wastrel young brother has not been given his deserts: "Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandments"—pure legalism, the exact performance of commandments. "Thou never gayest me a kid"—rewards in terms of the good things of this life, a claim for them established and handed in. "That I might make merry with my friends"—the sphere of reward is not in the personal relationship with the father, but somewhere else; "This thy son was come"—little love in that; the word "thy" stands the fellow over there, apart from me, merely another competitor in the prize distribution. Now observe the answer, and how it throws into the sharpest possible relief the whole distinctive nature of this new understanding of God's ways: A kid, indeed! "Son, all that I have is thine"—the divine love is reaching out in self-giving all the time, in respect of everything. With your friends! "Thou art ever with me"—the highest and final blessedness of man is to be with God, nothing else in comparison really matters. "This thy son is come"! "This thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found"—if a man is to be "with God," then he must share in God's saving purpose of love toward his fellows. With what superlative art it is all condensed into so few simple words; the very naturalness and simplicity of the words are evidence of their truth.
As soon as a man steps right out of the realm of distributive justice, and sets on one side the idea that rewards and penalties are a clue to the understanding of the divine government of the world, not only is he given an entirely new attitude to such sufferings and deprivations as may be his own lot, but also it becomes possible for him at least to begin to see all the dire sufferings of men—all the long anguish and travail and frustration of history—in a new light. There will remain, even so, much darkness and mystery—much to wring the heart, much to call for faith —but at least it now becomes possible to believe, nay to know, that God is using it all, and will use it all, to build up a kingdom of persons in relationship—a kingdom whose governing principle is not, I repeat, "justice" and the awarding of prizes or penalties, but a sacrificial self-giving which knows and desires no other good thing than to be at one with God, and with all persons, in love. As leading up to that consummation in the divine kingdom which lies beyond history, all that men have suffered so unequally and so perplexingly in history will at last be seen to have been fully worth while, calling for no nice compensating adjustments on the part of God, and no regrets on the part of men.
All this deep and challenging truth is summed up—once again—in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Crucifixion is the most gross and shocking example of injustice in history; for he who was crucified was the only really innocent person who ever walked the earth. Yet God used the Cross to reveal to men's sin-blinded eyes the true meaning of their life and destiny, and to redeem men into his kingdom. Why? Because the meaning of our life and the final secret of God's kingdom is not in justice at all—as men rate justice—but in a sacrificial and self-giving love. "With his stripes we are healed." With his stripes the world of persons is healed.