I wanted to share something that has been on my mind since last week. Strangely, as the last few days have passed, it has brought me both peace and strength.
I believe in God. I do struggle with organized religion – Religion, Inc. – with its mega-churches and deified pastors but thanks to the small, intimate and family based churches I grew up with in rural Mississippi, I do have a personal relationship with God and I have placed my soul in the nail-scarred hands of Jesus Christ.
I also believe in Divine Providence, that God has a way of revealing to his people the wisdom they need, when they need it. I don’t pretend that everyone believes that, nor that everyone believes the way I do – but I’m at peace with that thought.
I’ve had the occasion to look at the Book of Micah this past week because my father-in law asked for my opinion on the Sunday School lesson he is leading this Sunday. I must admit, I find Micah a little repetitive what with all his gloom and doom and he appears to be a bit of a scold but I am left to wonder if God was speaking to me through my Father-in-law’s request.
This is an excerpt of the scripture lesson from Micah, Chapter 2:
1 Woe to those who plan iniquity, to those who plot evil on their beds! At morning’s light they carry it out because it is in their power to do it.
2 They covet fields and seize them, and houses, and take them. They defraud people of their homes, they rob them of their inheritance.
3 Therefore, the Lord says: “I am planning disaster against this people, from which you cannot save yourselves. You will no longer walk proudly, for it will be a time of calamity.
4 In that day people will ridicule you; they will taunt you with this mournful song: ‘We are utterly ruined; my people’s possession is divided up. He takes it from me! He assigns our fields to traitors.’”
5 Therefore you will have no one in the assembly of the Lord to divide the land by lot.
Sounds a lot like the past couple of weeks.
Micah is considered one of the 12 minor prophets of the Old Testament, a contemporary of Isaiah, Amos and Hosea. He prophesied the future destruction of Jerusalem and Samaria, the destruction and then future restoration of the Judean state, and he rebuked the people of Judah for dishonesty and idolatry.
One of the most aggravating things to humans is to be told you are doing something wrong when you already know you are. It seems to add an extra layer of anger and denial when our conscience knows we are wrong and then someone else confirms it out loud.
Micah is trying to get the people to see that they are remaining ignorant by choice, and that was not God’s doing.
A man who had a significant impact on the life and philosophies of Thomas Jefferson, and therefore on the foundations of America, was the German philosopher, Immanuel Kant. Over the past decade or so, I have read Kant’s works and have studied his influences on men like Jefferson and Marx. Kant was an exponent of enlightenment, which he defined in his seminal 1781 work, Kritik der reinen Vernunft or translated, Critique of Pure Reason.
There was a time in my life when I thought that Kant was a Godless figure, an enemy of religion – but that was until I applied his philosophy of Sapere aude (Dare to know). He actually asserted that, due to the limitations of argumentation in the absence of irrefutable evidence, no one could really know whether there is a God and an afterlife or not. For the sake of morality and as a ground for reason, Kant asserted, people are justified in believing in God, even though they could never know God’s presence empirically. He explained:
“All the preparations of reason, therefore, in what may be called pure philosophy, are in reality directed to those three problems only [God, the soul, and freedom]. However, these three elements in themselves still hold independent, proportional, objective weight individually. Moreover, in a collective relational context; namely, to know what ought to be done: if the will is free, if there is a God, and if there is a future world. As this concerns our actions with reference to the highest aims of life, we see that the ultimate intention of nature in her wise provision was really, in the constitution of our reason, directed to moral interests only.”
Where Kant ties into Micah is that Kant also proffers the proposition that man cannot stay stupid forever and should he submit to elective idiocy, he is an enemy of not only himself but all of mankind:
“A man may postpone his own enlightenment, but only for a limited period of time. And to give up enlightenment altogether, either for oneself or one’s descendants, is to violate and to trample upon the sacred rights of man.”
In other words, we ignore reality at our own peril as the fact that the world continues to turn and change is inevitable and is a simple consequence of natural law. What you refuse to learn on your own, Nature will teach you…and not always in a gentle or kind manner.
The Israelites knew they were doing wrong by committing crimes, taking advantage of the poor and generally exhibiting greed.
The key to understanding Micah’s admonitions to the Israelites is that he believed that they knew the Word of God but were actively ignoring it. They wanted him to be quiet and to just let them carry on because they didn’t want to change. That’s the issue with most people. It’s not the knowing the right thing to do so much as it is actually doing it, that part is really, really hard.
It’s often the person who shouts the loudest, who celebrates the most, who rubs his “victories” in the face of his enemies who does so to distract others from his own knowledge of his evil deed – isn’t that the very basis for propaganda?
I believe the vitriol constantly spewed against Christianity is right in line with Micah’s prophesy – the evil know they are evil, they know they are breaking God’s natural laws to live in a fantasy world, they just resent to hell and back when God tells them.
As 1 Timothy 1:8-11, tells us, God’s laws are not for the righteous:
8 But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully,
9 knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers,
10 for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine,
11 according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust.
Didn’t mean to get all preachy on everyone, just to share something that was meaningful to me in hopes it would calm the seas a bit for someone else as we navigate these unfamiliar waters (metaphor alert!).
Some may question the way I tied Micah to Kant but just to be clear, I have found through studying the struggles of the empiricists and the humanists to explain the world, they eventually reach a philosophical dead end that cannot be explained without a concept of a Supreme Being. I have found as much validation of God in Kant and Hume as I have in recognized theological texts like those of Aquinas. I don’t make the case that the Enlightenment rejected the Divine, just that it taught that man could overcome evil on his own effort through reason and education, effectively pushing the role of God to the sidelines. The inconsistency I see in my unenlightened mind is that they never can seem to explain where the capacity for reason and education originates…
I realize Kant’s work was used as a basis for postmodernism but postmodernists are just a bunch of petulant, confused children, so they don’t count.