Maol Iosa – Diary
Maol Iosa = servant or follower of Jesus. I should make clear that the entries were written last year (2012) on the day of the events described or on the day after. As will evident by now, the ‘Diary’ is not just a diary of events but includes musings on the question of suffering and truth from a Christian perspective. Summary: At a ceilidh – ‘the age of reason’ – the Lisbon earthquake – Paine and Voltaire – a Newtonian universe – their effect on the Bible – the world of the Spirit and the natural world.

Servant of Jesus
Thursday 12th July 2012
A quiet day. There is a Gaelic course going on in my home village of Flodigarry. I should have been tutoring but I’m not. I would naturally rather be with Margaret in her hour of need. We went to the course Ceilidh in the local hostel. It was a bit uncomfortable for Margaret meeting people and getting sympathy. Sympathy in these circumstances is a little hard to take. I agreed that I would take the students on a walk next morning while Margaret is in Portree at the shops. We are thinking of tomorrow and whether we’ll hear word of what is to happen after the medical team’s meeting tomorrow. In a situation like this, the waiting is definitely the worst.

I often think how things change through the centuries and yet some things never change. The 18th century is sometimes known as “the age of reason”, and not without reason. The European Enlightenment and the Scottish Enlightenment meant that reasoning was questioning everything. Voltaire was the only philosopher I heard my father mentioning, although we did have a copy of The Reasonableness of Christianity by John Locke in the house. The reason he mentioned Voltaire was because he thought he had a deathbed confession of belief in God. Voltaire was no Christian. He was a Deist. Probably the Lisbon earthquake of 1755 confirmed him in his Deism.

The earthquake was an unmitigated disaster. Much of Lisbon was destroyed and 30,000 – 40,000 people lost their lives. At the time, it wasn’t understood why earthquakes happen. And some would have looked on it as divine judgement. But of course it wasn’t, it was the laws of nature following their natural course. And being the age of reason people questioned the whole notion of a God who was in control. How could a God who was in control allow such tragedies to happen? It was much easier, in a century when Isaac Newton had shown the apparent clockwork nature of planetary motion, to believe that God had set the universe in motion initially and then didn’t interfere.

And such a universe would have no miracles. Later in the century Thomas Paine (1737-1809) became notorious for his book The Age of Reason in which he advocated Deism. He mocked the Christian religion as myth. He looked on all institutions of churches as human inventions.

Of course, the idea of a Newtonian universe is now antiquated, overtaken by Einstein’s revolution and, with quantum mechanics, the discovery that the universe isn’t so mechanical after all. Despite all attempts by scientists, philosophers and all kinds of scholars, including Biblical scholars themselves, to discredit Christianity, it stubbornly refuses to go away. Why? Is it because there is some truth in it? Very few people read Voltaire and Paine, billions read the Bible. Despite all the calumny of people like Voltaire and Paine and countless others it is still far and away the most widely read book in the world. It has been reckoned that 3.9 billion copies have been sold.

There is an intersection which we must confront. There is the world of natural events. Its laws and consistencies apply to Christian and unbeliever alike. This speaks to the love and justice of God. God is never unfair. The sun shines on the just and the unjust, as the Bible itself says.

But then there is the world of the spirit, the first world, the source of the other three worlds, their alpha and omega. It has its own laws. It is the world from which miracles issue and in which they happen. Its laws span this world and the dimensions beyond. Its chief law is love. Its power is the Spirit of God. Its laws are felt in the inner self. From the human point of view, the heart is its centre and the vital connection with God the Spirit. (The supra-temporal heart, as Dooyeweerd calls it.) When the heart is open to its power it is felt as a connection with all things. The world of natural law is chronological and horizontal: the Spiritual world is vertical. When we open the eye of the heart to the Spiritual world, we will understand and accept the laws of the natural as well. Praise the Lord for the interior vision which is the only thing worth having in this cruel and grievous world.

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