Saturday, November 01, 2008

This Present Darkness

Our wrestling is not against flesh and blood; but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. --Ephesians 6:12

According to the apostle, the darkness of which he was conscious was a result of the fact that these evil spiritualities had seized upon the world, and were dominating its thought; and the inspirations of human activity were the suggestions made in the secret places of human life by these evil forces.

The apostle here recognizes the fact that the apparent is the result of the hidden. To quote from the New Testament, in another connection, something that has another application, but the philosophy of which is patent here also - "What is seen hath not been made out of things which do appear." The apostle recognizes the fact that if we would understand any human situation we must get behind the actual appearances of the moment and discover the inspirational centers from which these things have sprung. He recognizes that the natural is always the expression of the supernatural. I have used these words, natural and supernatural, in our common way, both of them needing to be safeguarded from popular abuse. The natural, that is that which we see, and think we understand, and can account for; this, the apostle declares, is always the expression of what we call the supernatural; that is that which we cannot see, which we do not seem to understand, which we cannot always account for. Out of that general statement of the philosophy of apostolic thinking, we deduce the one application that material calamities always result from spiritual malignity; that the things that create the darkness of this hour in which we live, appalling us with its horror, are the dark things that have been at work for long years. The profoundest calamity is not the immediate clash of battle and shedding of blood, but the mental dislocation and spiritual corruption that lie behind these things; that have made them not only possible, but necessary, and now actual. The warfare of the Christian church is in that spiritual realm. In this very hour of physical conflict she needs to understand her spiritual foes, and so to adjust herself that she may be the instrument of God against the things that make such calamity possible.

What are the inspirations of war? I wonder how many have seriously taken time to ask the question, "Whence come wars?" The march of every army, the mobilizing for war, and all that we are almost sure, presently, to hear and know of slaughter and of the shambles, have sprung out of human thinking. Apart from human thinking, these things could never be. Feeling one's way back then, honestly, to the original inspiring motive, not for the moment referring to any one nation or to any one man, we are bound to say that all war springs out of the lust for power. I admit that under certain conditions, and in certain circumstances, men speak of prestige; under certain conditions, and in certain circumstances, men speak of honor - using the word too often in an abused and degraded way. At the back of everything there is lust for power. War has always been the outcome of it. In the day of battle there may be two opposing nations, forces, or men, both of them actuated by this lust of power; or, on the other hand, war may be caused by one nation's lust of power, and the necessity for resisting that lust for power on the part of other nations. Therefore, there may be an element of righteousness in the conflict. But even then, the beginning is the same; not on the part of those who are driven into the conflict against there will, but on the part of those who are the aggressors. The origination of war in the human mind is lust for power.

The trouble is that this statement does not stagger the soul as it ought to do. And why not? Because we have not yet thoroughly apprehended the meaning of or believed in the declaration of Christ when He said, speaking for Himself and for His own, that the secret of greatness and fitness for the Kingdom of God is not power exercised over someone else, but service rendered to someone else.

I take a step further. If that be the inspiration of war in the human mind, proceeding out of it in the human conscience is the denial of morality. First there is a philosophy of denial, sometimes clearly formulated, at other times not formulated, but always existent. When there is a denial of morality, then immediately there is an apotheosis of brute force.

Here, because I have to deal with matters of the hour, I am compelled to take an illustration. That great nation of Germany, to which we owe so much for its scientific investigation and its wonderful learning, has, for more than a generation, been under the influence of a philosophy that has denied that reality of the moral. The philosophy of Nietzsche may be condensed into this one brief sentence - "Nothing is true. Everything is permitted to the strong." When that is believed subconsciously by a people, it comes out sooner or later as an actuality. At the back of a passion for war, wherever it exists, is the denial of morality. According to the apostolic interpretation, all this proceeds from the influence of the spiritualities of wickedness, and human submission thereto. These movements of mind and attitudes of soul result in ghastly ingenuity for the destruction of human life in order to the obtaining of power. Pride, and hate, and frauds are the things that lie at the back of war. Our nation today is compelled to war in the interest of righteousness, but the occasion of the necessity has been created by an inspiration entirely evil.

The cleanest place in the war of 1914 will be the field of blood, where men, heroic and daring, fall and die! The most corrupt place is the spiritual darkness in which these shambles were made possible. There is the true region of horror; and into that realm the church is called, in order to grapple with the forces of evil that have made the actuality possible and even necessary, and in order that the thing that all men are saying in one way or another may be true: Never again can this thing happen! The trouble is that even we, who name the name of Christ, too often shudder in the wrong place. To take this vast and ghastly business and illustrate it in the microcosm of individual experience - we shudder when the murderer is arrested with the blood of his victim upon his hand. God shudders at the first movement in his soul that makes the murder possible. Jesus said, "It was said to them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; but I say unto you that there is to be in the heart neither contempt nor anger, and then murder will be impossible!" To return from that microcosm of individual experience to this microcosm of shame and agony, let us remember that the place where we ought to shudder and blanch with fear is in the presence of the spiritual and mental derangement that has made this thing possible! There our fight must be fought. Our wrestling is not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers; against the world-rulers of this darkness, the spiritualities of malignant intention in the heavenly places.
--G. Morgan Campbell, This Darkness, from God, Humanity and the War.

This was written during World War I but it applies to us just the same. We are yet in "the mental dislocation and spiritual corruption that lie behind" phase, but closing in fast on the physical manifestation of it.

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