Friday 5 October 2018

Could someone infer Jesus from Life, without scriptural (or church) revelation?

Not, of course, the specific person, his name and history; but yes.

Since we can have a relationship with the Holy Ghost, and have the possibility of direct knowledge from the Holy Ghost; we can know Jesus without being told.

We can know from death and its implications, that we need a saviour - who could offer us eternal life.

We can know from life and its problems and limitations, that we need to become divine; that we need theosis: we need to become Sons of God.

Thus we can know what we need and that we cannot get it for ourselves; and we could learn - directly from a relationship with the Holy Ghost - that we have, in fact, been granted what we need - if we choose to accept it.

So, even if there was no Bible, or we had no access to Scripture, or if it had been corrupted; or if Christian churches were absent or corrupted - we could come to know and love Jesus Christ.


Chiu ChunLing said...

Strictly speaking, this is not inference.

What one can infer working only from mortal life, without reliance on direct or scriptural knowledge of God's plan, is that death is inevitable and beyond any human power to effectively oppose.

This then psychologically necessitates the assumption that there exists some higher power, above humans, willing to intercede to overcome death. The alternative is to become indifferent towards personal survival, resulting in dying sooner than otherwise. But from this we can only infer that our genes code for instincts to avoid giving up on life, since genetic compositions that do not code for such instincts end up not being passed on. To believe that an instinct is predictively 'true' rather than a result of irrational processes is to appeal to divine providence.

In the myths of every people, there is the beloved figure of the dying god, who saves helpless and unworthy humans by the sacrifice of his own life. But it is always assumed, rather than inferred, that such a being must exist. Because if not so, then life would be meaningless.

The inference rather than assumption only becomes possible through the scriptures and revelation. And without the scriptures revelation would hinge on the assumption being made already.

Chiu ChunLing said...

I think that on the whole your description of the essentially universal accessibility of Christian belief through revelation is correct enough (though I have no objection to direct and specific benevolent intervention as a complement to general providence, I find the modern neglect of gratitude for providence difficult to understand and thus appreciate discussion of it as a divine gift).

I'm merely quibbling over the term "inference", I suppose. The universal elements of the human condition cause men to assume that there must be a Christ-figure, and the direct revelation possible through the Holy Ghost makes it possible for them to be instructed by God once they accept the necessary assumption.

Or perhaps it is deeper than that, I think it is possible that we could say of most men that the assumption that there is some meaning in life is a fundamental part of being alive...there are many aspects of normal human experience I do not share and thus it could be the case that this assumption is one of them.

For me, the assumption that there is any meaning or purpose in life has always seemed entirely optional (if clearly having survival fitness implications) and I have commonly read many aspects of the literature about life written by humans as verifying this. But it may be that the literature is only exploring a hypothetical, indeed most such literature raises the possibility of not assuming life has meaning only to demonstrate the impossibility of life without meaning.

Bruce Charlton said...

@CCL The background to my post is that when I became a Christian I agreed with CS Lewis that paganism could be, in fact was, universally attainable without any specific revelation - and I still regard that as correct, and confirmed by what we know of history.

But I also agreed with Lewis that Christianity required specific revelation - such as scripture or the traditions and teachings of the churches.

Now, I feel that this cannot be correct - because God who is our loving Father would not have placed his children in such a condition of dependence on contingencies.

For a while I bridged the gap with the assumption that God had ensured - by direct, miraculous, interventions - that the necessary scriptures would arise, be preserved as truthful, and disseminated (and something similar for the churches) - but my study of the Fourth Gospel now seems to tell me that the Holy Ghost was specific provision for all necessary direct divine revelation and guidance - without absolute need for writings or teachings (about which nothing is said).

The conclusion is that what is necessary to our salvation and theosis can be learned without us being told it - in the past this knowledge of a Saviour was mostly unconscious; nowadays it probably would have to be conscious (at least in The West), because so actively culturally subverted.

I don't say this is common - not least because there seems little motivation for getting real 'answers' but I'm pretty sure it must be possible.

In this final formulation I was influenced by Rudolf Stieners's 1920 lectures 'The new spirituality and the experience of Christ of the twentieth century'; the seventh lecture entitled 'The future spiritual battle between the East and West' (which I listened to on the site As always, my reading of Steiner is selective - the lecture can be found at .


"Man will say to himself: “The being of man that lights up in me inwardly is far higher than anything I can realise externally under these conditions. I must introduce into the social structure something quite different, something of which the spiritual heights can take cognizance. I cannot entrust myself to the social science derived from natural science.”

"The essential thing is for man to sense the inner discord between his dwarf-like existence on earth and the experience of himself as a cosmic being that can light up within him. Out of all that men can absorb from modern culture — that culture which today is lauded to the skies — a twofold feeling will develop. On the one hand man will be aware of himself as belonging to the earth; on the other he will say, “But man is more than an earthly being.” For the earth can by no means satisfy man; it will have to be transformed into other conditions before it can do that."

"The Christ will not come in the spiritual sense if men are not prepared for Him. But a man can be prepared only in the way I have just stated, by sensing the incongruity I have described, by feeling the discordance weigh heavily upon him: “Of course I must regard myself as an earth-being. It is the intellectual development of recent centuries that has created the conditions which make me appear an earth being. Yet I am no earth-being. I cannot but feel myself united with a Being Who is not of this earth; a Being Who, not untruthfully as the theologians do, but verily in truth can say: — ‘My kingdom is not of this world.’” For man will have to say to himself: — “My Kingdom is not of this world.” And to do it he will have to be united with a Being Who is not of this world."

A said...

Thanks for your posts on this. It’s something that has bothered me for years - I don’t know why - but “could one trapped in Plato’s cave, slavery, etc. come to know God and Jesus?”

Your answers are interesting.

Unknown said...

It is interesting how different cultures respond to universal human problems.

Taoism for instance responds to death by accepting and embracing it as natural. It has never occurred to them to need an escape from it.

Likewise the finitude and imperfection of human life. This was not seen as an evil that needs rectifying, but was fully accepted. In fact the imperfect and lowly was in some ways considered more desirable, as being more in tune with nature.

The Western idea that we are not of this world has no analog in Taoism - Taoism is precisely the feeling that we are natural parts of this world and not at all alienated from it, if we only understood ourselves.

I think there are basically 2 ways to respond to human inadequacy - becoming a God, or changing your consciousness to realize you are an inseparable part of everything, and thus in a sense already "God".

These 2 options exist all over the world, but the West choose to emphasize the first option, mostly.

Anyways, its interesting how radically different human responses can be to the same predicament.

Bruce Charlton said...

@U - I regard Taoism as a theoretical attempt to regain hunter-gatherer 'animistic' spirituality in a civilised context; but I don't think it is actually possible to do!

In Owen Barfield's terms - the early human spirituality (childhood, and hunter-gatherer) was unconscious, passive, immersive. Taoism is nostaligic for this original state, in preference to the conscious and alienated religions of settled society; but you can't *really* go back to it any more than to childhood.

Unknown said...

Interesting perspectve, Bruce. There is definitely some truth in that view of Taoism.

Taoism doesn't really suggest that you become unconscious or passive, but rather "go with the flow" of nature - act in a way that's with the grain, not against it.

Action is natural so long as it's not striving, so it's not quite passivity.

But it's also about a mental insight that it shares with Buddhism - the world (of separate objects) is a dream and not to be taken quite seriously. Really, everything is a part of everything. Our alienation is an illusion. Seen this way, the frustrations and anxieties of life don't even have to be transcended, they aren't even serious to begin with.

Anyways, just a very different response to our human predicament, which I find interesting.

Chiu ChunLing said...

Taoism isn't an attempt to civilize animism, it is a powerful antidote to the fixed preference for civilization over nature.

When you come to accept death as natural (on the terms that it is natural rather than engineered), the underlying impulse towards civilization is removed as well as the justification of morally licit organized violence to maintain civilization. The outright anti-civilizational tendencies of later Taoists were an unfortunate excess, but a natural extrapolation of a movement that fundamentally denied that civilization is better than savagery and clearly opposed the trend towards being more civilized.

I feel that civilization is also part of human nature, and the cycle of civilization rising from the efforts of a generation subject to harsh natural selection and then enduring for a short time in prosperity before failing due to the population having lost natural fitness after being protected from natural selection pressure is, on the whole, an expression of the larger pattern which exists in natural ecologies.

But I also think that humans, or at least most of them, should prefer civilization to savagery, that is what drives the cycle. It is a very natural thing to prefer alleviation of selective pressure, after all.

It is also natural for humans to vary in their mental ability and disposition to stand apart from and above their natural desires and see them as part of a greater pattern. The wise should ponder how ageless wisdom and divine truth is to survive the cyclic rise and fall of civilizations, or rather how it does survive.

Bruce Charlton said...

@CCL - some good qualifications.

What is interesting about Jesus's attitude to death in the Fourth Gospel is that it is acknowledged as Both a deeply sad event (eg the Lazarus episode, and the Garden of Gethsemane); and Also the absolutely-necessary portal to something far better (the born-again Nicodemus episode and the resurrection of Jesus).

Chiu ChunLing said...

It's also interesting how it comes across. Jesus is clearly more troubled by how mortal death must bring grief to those whom He loves rather than directly upset by it. But there is little rebuke to their sadness, it is granted unreserved sympathy without criticism of their limited viewpoint.

The sorrow of loss is, perhaps, a necessary prelude to the joy of redemption. This theme is brought forward in other ways by Jesus' teachings. At the same time, not all losses are necessary. Nor can certain willful losses be redeemed, at least not fully.