God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good

The line from Genesis 1:31, “God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good” is quite a challenge to faith. How easy it is to believe will depend on circumstance; a victim of the Holocaust, someone dying from cancer, a brilliant man being made to teach nothing but English composition. It is tempting to quibble that it is not God saying it was very good – just the Biblical writer – but probably the proper response is “if You say so!”

1Eric Voegelin writes that the role of philosophy is to save us from evil; to develop pairs of concepts that cast light on good and evil and that “philosophy springs from the love of being; it is man’s loving endeavor to perceive the order of being and to attune himself to it.”[1] Voegelin adopts the classical Greek cosmocentric fixation on being. A Logos permeates existence and we should align ourselves with that Logos. If, however, God is not a being, but beyond being, then to concentrate on being is to ignore God and transcendence, the very thing Voegelin opposes and attributes to modern Gnosticism. To simply love “being” seems to include loving all the horrors inherent in being.

It can seem like there is a heavenly Logos and an earthly Logos. Success on earth is often going to mean failure in heaven, and vice versa. The first shall be last and the last first. People have a strong awareness that things are not as they should be down here on earth. There may be a perfect equality between people as unique Persons, the heavenly, but attempting to create equality on earth is a reality-denying horror show.

For Berdyaev, philosophy begins with an intuition of God and transcendence. The main philosophical question then becomes how the spiritual and the earthly are related. Getting it wrong can have the most dire consequences. Progressive atheists have spiritual intuitions of sorts which, on the most charitable interpretation, involves trying to create heaven on earth. Less charitably, it is a power play and nothing more, in line with their Foucauldian progenitors.

Voegelin goes on to reject what might be called the world Logos in favor of transcendental criteria. He notes that we worship strength and success when we should value phronesis; those who act with the Last Judgment in mind. Statesmen like Themistocles or Pericles are praised for making a people great and powerful, Athens in this case, while those same people suffer a moral decline.


Pericles and Aspasia Visit Phidias’ Workshop

The Biblical claim that creation was good is one of two crucial but enigmatic articles of faith.  The other is that man is made in the image of God, which confers intrinsic value on people who do not seem to deserve it. We can offer ourselves a syllogism for the first that does not prove anything, but clarifies what we are to believe, namely that God is good, God is the Creator, therefore his creation is good. The purpose of creation is inscrutable, however, and its goodness seems questionable. Not for no reason has the world been described as a vale of tears.

It is important to distinguish between the world as created by God and what we humans have done with that world. To a degree, God handed us a supreme work of art, and we defaced it. We are co-creators with God. Metaphorically, He handed us Michelangelo’s Pietà, and we handed him back a pile of rocks.

Voegelin attributes to Gnosticism alienation from the world as a hostile place and a rebellion against the divine Ground of Being; a closure to divine Being. The Order of Being is seen as unjust and defective. “To take control of being,” Voegelin writes, “requires that the transcendent origin of being be obliterated.”[2] This taking control is the second part of a Gnostic point of view and it just makes things worse. Modernity is inundated with attempts to remake reality in this way.

Voegelin makes the interesting Aristotelian observation that the nature of a thing cannot be changed. To attempt to change man into superman is to murder man. In Christianity, “the world through out history will remain as it is and…man’s salvational fulfillment is brought about through grace in death.”[3] The world remains as it is given to us. It is not within man’s power to change its structure. Utopians suppress some element of reality in order to construct an image of man, or society, or history, to suit their desires. To face the world with no belief in heaven or an afterlife; with therefore no chance of salvational fulfillment is just too awful, and it drives some people to murderous violence.

Berdyaev rejects the classical philosophical interest in Being and identifies the spiritual as beyond Being. Philosophy deals with all that science omits – consciousness, morality, value, purpose, meaning, emotion, love, and beauty. Everything truly significant in human life is invisible because interior. If one were to die, go to heaven, and meet Jesus, Jesus like you would have a spiritual body but what is significant about him would be on the inside; still invisible. The theosophists and Swedenborg describe heaven as some kind of geography lesson that leaves the spiritual untouched.

The Gnostic idea that the world is created by an evil God and the true God is elsewhere is an understandable reaction to the horror of much of earthly existence. God’s accurate description of what men and women can expect from life is entirely Biblical, “To the woman he said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children.” And “cursed is the ground because of you…Both thorns and thistles will it yield you… By the sweat of your brow you will eat your bread until you return to the ground.”

Berdyaev suggests that though human history has no meaning or significance in itself – there is no structure, no “progress” – history must have an extra-mundane meaning. History itself presupposes the existence of God. History only exists if freedom exists, otherwise it is merely a catalogue of events, and freedom only exists if the transcendent exists. This connects with Wittgenstein’s ideas that the meaning of the world lies outside the world. The world is the merely empirical and the empirical and measurable is meaningless in itself.


Unfortunately for us earth dwellers, human history has no intrinsic meaning. The popular progressive notion of being on the right side of history is laughable. The American Founding Fathers, for instance, did everything they could to limit the power of the federal government, and successive lawmakers and judges have done everything they can to increase the scope of centralized power with great success. But we can hope all this has some transcendental meaning to God.

The Gnostic is right that we are surrounded by a reality hostile to us. Our interior has a spiritual connection to truth, goodness, and beauty, and we use these things to critique the world. The fact that the biological world stays in existence by one creature eating another does seem satanic. Bears, apparently, are happy to rip into their prey without bothering to kill them first. Lionesses are known to begin with eating the testicles of some of their prey, buffalo and wildebeest, also while the prey are still alive. The proper Christian attitude to this is to hope for salvational fulfillment upon death. Also, while the world itself may be a fairly miserable place, all of us have a permanent link to God and infinity on the inside, and it is the inside of our fellow man with which we commune, when communion is achieved. We are not divorced from God even here.

It is truly remarkable that around half the country has not embraced nihilism. Those dominating political culture must surely be asking themselves, what more do we need to do? How can just about every possible access to American minds be filled with unrelenting propaganda, and intimidation, and yet resistance continues? I suppose the subjects of the USSR and the citizens of East Germany did not all simply fall in line. They remained aware of the difference between truth and lies. The fact that mob rule, violence, and fear continue to be necessary proves that a sizable number of people have not lost their minds. It would be interesting to compare the number of true believers in the USSR and East Germany versus the number in the US. It is tempting to believe there are more here, than in those times and locations. However, Solzhenitsyn in The Gulag Archipelago writes that nearly all the political prisoners in the USSR in the 1930s imagined that the other prisoners really were enemies of the people and the state, and that their own case was an aberration and a mistake that would surely be fixed – suggesting a very successful indoctrination program.

[1] xiii, Eric Voegelin, Science, Politics and Gnosticism.

[2] xv, Eric Voegelin, Science, Politics and Gnosticism.

[3] xvii, Eric Voegelin, Science, Politics and Gnosticism.

7 thoughts on “God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good

  1. You’re correct. God puts great value on His people and all the generations before this generation prove that doing our best to live, vote, and declare the Words and principles of God work for the good of all. God’s people always rise to the occasion, not because His people are perfect but because God always wins.

  2. Pingback: God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good | Reaction Times

  3. ‘Black lives matter’, on the face of it, is a perfectly noble sentiment (although it seems only to have application to blacks lucky enough to have been born). However, why are many criticised and even ‘cancelled’ for the also perfectly noble statement that ‘all lives matter’?

    It seems to this Irishman, looking in from the outside (from a political entity that was certainly systematically oppressed for centuries by a neighbouring one, but for cultural and religious reasons rather than for any specific genetically racial ones), that many of those continually making accusations on a racial basis are, in truth, the real racists because they seem wholly incapable of looking at another human being and seeing anything deeper than the colour of his skin-the complete antithesis of what Dr King intended.

  4. a.morphous, you wrote:

    I can’t even parse the rest of your comment; it looks like an attempt to make the slaves responsible for their own enslavement, which I won’t dignify with a reply.

    Well, were your interpretation of that aspect of my comment to which you allude the correct one, then it wouldn’t deserve to be dignified by response. We can certainly agree on that point, even if your interpretation of my words seems to me to be straining to contort them into the worst possible meaning.

    By way of explanation, I should point out that it was not in fact an attempt to make the slaves responsible for their own enslavement, which of course is a monstrous claim; it was a *poor* attempt (at least in part) to defend the good name and character of our ancestors who took this alien and savage (uncultured, uncivilized, and even unsexed) people in and did – I won’t say “the best they could by them,” for even Dr. Dabney, as well as numerous other more or less influential Southerners denied that claim – but a lot more than our modern ingrate know-it-alls (black and white alike) give them credit for in any case. The other part of it was intended to get us thinking at least somewhat ‘outside the box,’ because I’ve been in enough of these conversations to know how easy it is to get boxed into (kicking and screaming, even) a line of thinking that stubbornly refuses to take any of the relevant factors or circumstances into consideration. At which point the “discussion” either collapses under its own weight, or quickly deteriorates into a “slavers were evil and you’re an idiot – no they weren’t, and you’re the idiot” (!!!) pissing match between otherwise at least semi-intelligent persons all jacked up on emotion and talking (or rather, screaming) out their hindparts. But anyway,…

    Hopefully we can agree that they (the slaves) were indeed brought here – against their will, as well as against the will and better judgment of our ancestors – in a savage condition. And as if that weren’t enough, they were landed on the American continent speaking an entirely different and primitive language, observing entirely different and primitive customs and mores, bearing no, or at least precious few, useful skills and so on and so forth. Now, given their condition on arrival – to say nothing of their poor and sickly physical condition, which is another matter I don’t especially care to get into because it angers me to no end to even think about it and how easily such a thing could have been prevented – my honest question was what better alternative was given our forbears than to take these people in, to see to their care and nurture them back to good health, and to begin the slow and arduous process of developing in them those sorts of skills and habits of body, mind and spirit they would need to imbibe in order to merely survive on this continent, to say nothing of living decent lives and prospering? Again, my honest question was, are you aware of a better way any of that could have been accomplished other than to enslave them; than to create a common interest between master and slave? I’ve written before, in defense of my/our ancestors, that had they flatly refused to take these poor unfortunates in, or otherwise have left them to shift for themselves in a state of “freedom” and independence, then the libels leveled against those good and noble men and women would have been, and would still be, perfectly accurate and justifiable. As it is they’re just libels, leveled by the ignorant, the lazy, and the unthinking.

    As to “systemic racism,” I’m not sure anyone in this discussion is disagreeing with you as much as we’re trying to be sure that we’re all at least in the same book and chapter, if not precisely the same page, as to what the term really means in spite of Motte & Bailey equivocations. That’s not an accusation against you specifically, btw; it’s just that these sorts of equivocations are a normal part of this business. You wrote:

    I’m trying to have a serious conversation here.

    Of course. As am I. I agree with you (we all do, I should imagine) that this is a difficult and complex issue. As are lots of issues that people tend to over-simplify, which of course leads them to believe all sorts of nonsense that is either wholly untrue, or at least mostly untrue. BTW, when I mentioned reparations (in its broad sense), I wasn’t referring to anything specifically you’d written or that otherwise vanished from the thread (that I’m aware of anyway). If we’ve wronged blacks through systemic/systematic racism, then it stands to reason we owe them some kind of reparations for that wrong, and going as far back as it stretches in time. I meant reparations of any and all kinds. How far back do we need to go to *repair* all the damage done to blacks by the sins of our ancestors, inasmuch as their sins were truly sins, and not, in fact, a “necessary evil,” for lack of a better term?, was the gist of my question. The Devil is probably in the details of trying to sift through all of that history and properly discerning between the two, but thanks for explaining that you take no firm position on the issue of reparations in any case. I’m very happy to know you acknowledge the complexity of this issue, sincerely.


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