‘Aitch-Two-Double O’: A poem by Geoffrey Bingham

Peroxide

In July 1994, I invited my father to hear someone who I considered to be one of Australia’s greatest theologians and preachers, Geoffrey Bingham. My father is someone who is always seeking redemption via the ‘new’ (like every human being, my father is ‘a believer’; he attends faithfully to the altars of the Enlightenment), and in 1994 the panacea of the day was hydrogen peroxide – the blessed H2O2! My father, with all of the enthusiasm of a new convert, shared this alternative ‘good news’ with Geoffrey who then went away and wrote this delightful little poem for him:

‘Oxygenate or perish!’ was his cry,
And I who heard it didn’t care to die;
I listened to his song of therapy
And thought, ‘Maybe he sings this all for me.’

We huff, we puff, we make intake
Of breath – our lungs enlarge to make
Sufficient air or wind or breeze
To give full life to arteries.

‘Alas!’ he said, ‘that air is not enough
To depollute the toxic stuff
That lies along our various veins
Infecting flesh and heart and brains.

‘You need to oxify the lot
To purify each tittle, and each jot
And all the flowing bright red stream
Until it’s fresh and new and clean.’

‘Enough!’ I cried, ‘Dear expert tell
How I can save me from this hell
Of inner sludge and darkest stains
And thus renew my hopeless veins

‘And purify my flesh and mind
Until my blood perfection find,
And I can breathe the wholesome air
When blood is pure and life is fair?’

‘Aitch two double O,’ he said,
‘Will like as raise you from the dead,
Its name is easy – “per-ox-ide”
That cleanses all your blood inside.

‘You put it in your drinks or food,
Or take in tablets – they are good –
Whatever means you use you gain
Fresh flow in artery or vein,

‘So oxygen will purify
And you will live until you die
And folk will cry ‘Until he died
His life was wholly per-ox-ide.’

Ah, blessed gas! Ah glorious mix
Of elements that quickly fix
The sluggish flow and give a wealth
Of glorious life and glowing health,
That we who might so soon have died
Live on through packaged per-ox-ide!

My father, who has a good sense of humour, seemed to appreciate the poem at the time. I hope he still does.

‘David: Psalm 51’, by Geoffrey Bingham

Thou requirest truth
In the inward parts:
Not merely on the lips,
Where man may mutter anything,
And seal his subterfuge,
Making it truth for him
And those who hear.

Thou requirest truth
When man is truly man:
Down in the depths beneath,
Where You alone may see:
Man senses but he does not know
That truth is the truth
That You require.

I, David, was a man of joy,
Of pleasant power,
Of daily purity.
True, I too was tempted,
But should I fall
Would know I fell
And cry to You for help.

When then I fell
And said I did not fall,
When kept within
The hellish sin I did
And made it joy, not sin,
The fires began
That ran into my soul.

At nights they burned,
By day they flamed,
Hot coals that dried
Or sweated me
Until the power had gone,
That once I knew
In doubtless joy.

When Nathan came
His piercing eyes
Looked to the depths
(His eyes were Yours);
The holy flame
Burned even more.
I was undone.

The mercy cried
Was mercy come,
The lava fled
Its burning core,
And I was freed—
The flame was gone
By mercy’s love.

The truth required
In inward parts,
The purity
Within the heart
Have come again.
No greater gift
Was ever given.

Here then I weep
For grace and sin,
The wasted hour,
The splendid grace:
Both show me truth
Is what I need,
With wisdom.

Teach me, then, Lord,
Of sin’s deceit,
The sludge of sin
That full defiles.
Give me the love
Of purity,
The only truth.

Now sings my heart,
The heart so pure
The miracle of love
Has made again.
The man destroyed
Is made anew
For purity.

I know, dear Lord,
The cost is Yours.
Sin’s suffering
Is mine alone,
But Yours the pain
Messiah takes
Unto the death.

Broken I go,
Though healed.
Wisdom I know,
Though foolish.
You have unmasked
The sin that binds,
And set me free.

Freedom thus bought
Is freedom prized
And holiness
Is gift most high.
Man breathes eternity
In holiness
And knows You true.

This is the wisdom required:
This is the gift of God
Set in the inward parts,
True purity in peace
And holiness in joy.

– Geoffrey C. Bingham, The Spirit of All Things (Blackwood: Troubadour Press, 1992), 72–4.

‘Love Is the True Pain’, by Geoffrey Bingham

Love is the true pain: true pain is the love
That lives not for itself, but for the love
Which has come to it. In God is pain.
God’s pain is not the anguish that destroys
The searing harshness that comes to Him
From the rebel spirit of Man
And celestials become demonic,
Leaving their first estate.
It is not the pain of jealousy
Made bitter by holy lips that press
Or teeth divine that bite
On acrid aloes of Man’s sin.
It is not the irrational anger
Against gods destroying the beauty
Of the original Man.
This is not pain divine,
But pain Man reads upwards from himself
Into the Eternal Love—Himself Who’s love,
As Love Himself.

Love is the true pain that searches out
The beleaguered spirit of lost Man,
That reaches out to where sin has confused,
Where will in its acrid anger—
Misplaced against the Deity—
Burns in its own acidic rage
Baffling its inward search and outward reaching
To what is the image in itself
Of the Divine Real—the true God,
The Being that is love Himself
Who in His heart implores all day
And into the reaches of eternal night
That Man return to Him, come home
To the Divine love that gives itself
On the timbers twisted by Man’s hate
Into Cross shape and Cross rages,
And Cross rejection.

On the Cross is the true pain, yet it began
Before even the creation of the
Purposed peerless Man, and the utter glory
Of the commanded creation. It always was
Without beginning, as it always is
Without cessation. Futurity
Is love come to the now-time,
And love taking what it loves
To the eternal time of love.
Love is the pain that kills
Forever all pain that brings to birth anew
That which had died to love—the spirit loved,
Breathed into Man until he glowed
As the living image, destined to become
The palpable glory of the Living God
From time into all eternity.

Was it that Man saw in the Reality—
In the One Whom he imaged—
The impossibility of no-pain,
The essential nature of the essential love
That must inevitably—though of free choice—
Reveal the mystery of its Being
In the timbered Cross, in the love-pain
That redeems the created beloved? Did Man
Know the full Nature when the serpent moved
To beguile the woman and entice through her
The knowledgeable man who chose
The path that would never know pain?
Was it rejection of love that is pain
Until that love brings through to no-pain
What it has created? If this be so
Then deception was deceived.

Love is a mystery—love that has pain—
And pain is a sad sorrow where love is refused,
When sharing in the divine Nature is rejected,
When Man seeks to kill pain out of his own sources
And turn the earth to manufactured anodynes
And tranquillising measures. Man fears pain,
But—deeper—fears the love that loves
Man in his pain, his deep distress self-wrought
And making spirit all awry in the matchless beauty
Of the granted gift—the joyous creation.

Faith leaves it there, even when the brain
Ponders the great imponderable;
Ruminates in the cud of the mind
The mystery that veils itself until it’s seen
On Calvary’s peerless hill. Here the true anger
Burns against evil, is a high furnace
That dissolves the dross: is a raging wrath
That knows love’s hate against the dread evil
Of the love-rejecters—both celestial and mundane—
Until all evil’s judged; until the pain
That wracks Man’s spirit is forever gone,
Banished into no-being and no-pain.
This is the love that is the true pain.

We then, who love, dare not escape—
Nor would we—from the heart of love.
This only moves us to the perpetual giving,
The never asking in return. Rageless we range
The hurts and haunts of men with the Divine balm
That brings its healing salve
To the lost and helpless spirits
He once encapsulated within his heart
That suffered the eternal pain
In the infinite compassing within the finite time,
All that was human lostness, human death
And human unknowing of the love that’s pain.

– Geoffrey C. Bingham, ‘Love Is the true pain’, in All Things of the Spirit (Blackwood: New Creation Publications, 1997), 106–08.

‘Identification’, by Geoffrey Bingham

William Congdon, "Crucifixion No.2", 1960

In the dark reaches of Golgotha’s anguish,
His cold and nerveless hands—
Heavy with the pain of entire human sin,
And all cosmic evil (embracing all time)—
Reached out in a purposeful groping,
An attempted desire to reach,
Reach me, the lonesome, loathsome object
Of his insistent love.

In that moment I knew—in the moment of pain
And the high, wild cry—I knew he had embraced me,
Become me wholly as I was in my dream,
In my ineluctable anger and hate,
With all the dark deceits of my heart.

Me he became, and he anguished
As the intolerable pollution spread
Across the pure reaches of his holy self,
Drawing there out of me
The evil that was mine alone.

In the soft silence of his tomb I lay,
One with him in the unconquerable peace,
And with him I rose
When the world dawned new,
And I was the new man.

— Geoffrey C. Bingham, ‘Identification’, in All Things of the Spirit (Blackwood: New Creation Publications, 1997), 1.

The judgements of mercy

Kim Fabricius has posted a thought-provoking reflection (does Kim ever post any other kind?) on why the Iceland volcano is God’s judgement! It reminded me of this wonderful hymn penned by Geoffrey Bingham:

1. We have not been knowing the voice of the Father,
We have not been hearing the voice of His pain,
We have not been knowing the heart of His loving;
Our own have been sinning—yes—time and again.

2. Long have we persisted in ways of rebellion;
Unnaturally pressed in the ways of our loves:
The love of our idols and love of our pleasures,
Ignoring the grace that flows full from above.

3. The work of the Cross is as nought in our thinking,
The plan to redeem but a trifling thing,
’Tis worship we worship, but not in the Spirit,
’Tis love that we love, but not Him who is King.

4. Our hearts are so barren though we have such riches;
Our riches are rags—not the raiment we claim;
Our spirits are naked, yet flaunt we our hardness;
Our wounds are so deep, but we say there’s no pain.

5. His judgements that come are the judgements of mercy—
The droughts and the famines the gifts of our God;
The pain that we feel is to heal us from evil;
The scourge in our spirits the blessing of God.

6. The judgements of God now release us from judgements,
The death of our dying to bring us to life;
The pain of our idols will drive us to Jesus,
To cry in the days and to weep in the nights.

7. There’s balm in the fountain of Calvary’s Gilead,
There’s healing from pain in the Cross of His love,
There’s pardon that heals us, and purifies wholly;
There’s peace for the conscience which comes from above.

8. The Father has healed from the wounds of our sinning,
Has clothed us with beauty—all brought by the Dove;
The judgements are finished, ’tis joy until glory,
’Tis grace upon grace, and is love upon love.

— Geoffrey C. Bingham, 1991

For those who would like a copy of the music to this hymn, here it is. By the way, this hymn, along with hundreds of others, is available freely from New Creation Teaching Ministry whose hymn books are, to my mind, among the richest collections of songs for congregational worship around. They are available in C, Bb and Eb music, and as overheads. Some of the songs are also available for purchase on CD.

Geoffrey Bingham: His ministry was wider than one church

BinghamI was bitterly disappointed that I was not able to make it to Geoffrey Bingham‘s funeral last week. Geoffrey was in many ways, as I’ve noted before, my grandfather in the faith. Certainly no creature has helped me more to see the heart of the Gospel in the Fatherhood of God and the revelation of that Fatherhood in the Cross. Thank God for this remarkable man. A copy of the funeral service has since been made available for download as MP3 or video from here.

Also, the Sydney Morning Herald recently published this obituary on Geoffrey Bingham by Lesley Hicks and John Sandeman:

‘Geoffrey Bingham was an author, soldier, prisoner of war, farmer, Anglican minister, evangelist, missionary, theologian, entrepreneur and down-to-earth thinker about life, love and community.

In the mid-1950s he packed the Garrison Church, Millers Point, on Sunday nights as he preached on holiness, influenced by stories of revival in East Africa brought back by the then Moore Theological College lecturer Marcus Loane, later Archbishop of Sydney.

Eventually, Bingham’s take on holiness changed and he rejected the Keswick-influenced view that a life of victory could be attained by faith. Instead, he adopted the reformed view that Christians will struggle against sin throughout their lives.

Geoffrey Cyril Bingham, who has died aged 90, was born in Goulburn, the sixth of nine children of Horace Bingham, a dentist and later farmer, and his wife Eileen (Dowling). Her father was originally a Tattersall’s bookmaker who was rich, and generous in philanthropy, but the family kept quiet about his earlier occupation.

Bingham grew up mainly in Wahroonga and all his life was conscious of what he called the Presence – the inescapable awareness of God. He began studies at Moore Theological College, but joined the army when World War II broke out, despite inclinations to pacifism.

He was assigned to the 8th Division Signals and left for Malaya in February 1941. A year later, he earned a Military Medal for outstanding courage and leadership under fire as Singapore fell to the Japanese. For the rest of the war, with a badly smashed leg, he was a prisoner in the Changi and Kranji camps.

The experiences of the war, especially the suffering of POWs in the Japanese camps, shaped or broke the faith of Christians who lived through them. Bingham was one whose faith was immensely strengthened and he developed a powerful and practical philosophy of how the law of love, the love Jesus Christ exemplified, could shape human behaviour and create community even amid extreme degradation.

He became camp librarian and shared his faith, focusing on the cross, in a way that inspired his fellow prisoners and gave them hope.

He discovered that even in that food-obsessed environment, close to death from starvation, it was possible, with freedom and even joy, to resist the temptation to claim the best and biggest of the rice cakes on offer and take the smallest.

Back home in 1946, Bingham married Laurel Chapman, a nurse, and farmed for some years before re-entering Moore College. His first (and only) parish was the Garrison Church. He then served with the Church Missionary Society in Pakistan from 1957 to 1966 and founded the Pakistan Bible Training Institute in Hyderabad.

He returned to Australia in 1967 to become principal of the Adelaide Bible Institute (now the Bible College of South Australia) at Victor Harbor. In 1973 he left the college and became an itinerant Bible teacher, and set up New Creation Publications, an independent, non-denominational ministry, with a second-hand duplicator in a borrowed farmhouse. Soon, as New Creation Teaching Ministries, it became the base for the rest of his life’s work.

Bingham’s early war stories, such as The Laughing Gunner, were published in The Bulletin. Short stories, novels, poetry and hymns, Bible commentaries and other theological writings, in total more than 200 books, poured from his pen over the years.

With teams of fellow teachers (now successors) such as Martin Bleby and Ian Pennicook, he established and led missions and annual or weekly preaching and teaching schools – at the NCTM headquarters in Victor Harbor and Coromandel Valley in South Australia, and in Chatswood in Sydney.

He was often invited abroad as well. He preached and taught in Britain, the US, New Zealand, Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Thailand and New Guinea.

Bingham remained an Anglican priest and pastor, but his vision and ministry was wider than one church. His influence extended across all denominations, including to the enthusiastic pentecostal churches. He never sought to compete with churches, only to supplement and strengthen them.

In 2005 he was appointed a member of the Order of Australia.

Geoffrey Bingham is survived by Laurel, five of their six children, 11 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren’.

Geoffrey Bingham: ‘O Cross of Christ, O place of bliss’

Crucifixion

1. O Cross of Christ, O place of bliss,
Of man’s invective traitor’s kiss,
Of sin and shame, of wounds and fear,
O Cross of pain you call us near.
The world cannot escape Your Cross,
Its mind reject fore’er the loss,
The darkness of the limbo dread
From which You cried for us—the dead!

We cannot know the pain You bore,
Nor ever live the anguish sore
That tore that holy cry of shame
From hellish depths of dreadful pain.
In You the ancient evil met
The modern guilt, th’eternal debt,
The wrath of God, the curse of law,
The separation evermore.

2. The wounds that sin in us had wrought—
Unholy sickness that we caught
From evil’s madness, from the womb,
That led us to eternal doom—
These, these were there upon You laid,
You wounded were by wounds we made,
Our wounds were Yours upon the Tree,
That we into Your wounds may flee.

In You the sins of all the race
Distorted body, mind and face,
Until You seemed as man no more,
Destroyed—as Man—for evermore.
O Holy One, You suffered much
To free us from the doomful clutch
Of sin and Satan, wrath and law,
And liberate us evermore.

3. Sometimes when all the world’s asleep,
Sometimes when terror’s passions deep
Come stealing to us from their grave—
Those sins from which He came to save
Our race of doom and dreadful death—
We cry as though our latest breath
Had come at last, and we are lost,
Upon guilt’s storm forever tossed.

But grace comes throbbing through that night,
And sin’s forgiven, and holy light
Breaks to us from Your Cross and Tomb
As You come to our upper room.
O Christ now risen from the grave,
You gave Yourself ourselves to save,
And all the pains of memory
Are banished in that holy Tree.

4. The shame of guilt cannot return,
Nor fire of curse within us burn.
You sin and guilt and curse became
To save us from eternal shame.
Our spirits in Your Cross rejoice,
And with us all creation’s voice
Is lifted in the highest praise
For love and grace and all Your ways.

O Cross of Christ, O place of bliss,
Of man’s invective, traitor’s kiss,
Of sin and shame, of wounds and fear,
O Cross of pain and love so dear,
We praise our God for love that gave
As Son to die, as Son to save.
We lift our songs, our hearts adore
And worship You for evermore.

Geoffrey C. Bingham, 1994

Geoffrey C. Bingham (6 January 1919 – 3 June 2009): ‘Beyond Despair’s Beyond’

Geoffrey BinghamGeoffrey Bingham – a man who I’ve often referred to as ‘my grandfather in the faith’ – has died. Geoff was one of Australia’s ablest theologians and gifted teachers. He was also a prolific writer of books, (long) hymns and poetry. Thanks be to God for such an inspiring and encouraging servant.

Geoff had a ministry throughout six States of Australia and in a number of countries overseas. An Anglican minister trained at Moore Theological College, he had pastored one church before going to Pakistan with his family under the aegis of the Church Missionary Society. There he was the Founder-Principal of the Pakistan Bible Training Institute at Hyderabad Sindh. He saw revival break out along with his ministry and had a wide coverage on the Indian sub-continent and beyond.

In 1966, he and the family returned to Australia and in 1967 he began as the Principal of the Adelaide Bible Institute (ABI, now Bible College of South Australia, BCSA). He left the college in 1973. Shortly after, New Creation Teaching Ministry was formed.

In 2005, he was honoured by being made a Member of the Order of Australia ‘for service to the community through Christian ministry, encouraging cross-cultural theological education and as an author’ (The Advertiser, January 26, 2005, 10).

Here’s one of Geoff’s poems, entitled ‘Beyond Despair’s Beyond’:

I have been born
Into a world
Strong with despair,
Tensing with fear,
Alert to the evil and calamity,
Straining and pawing at the birth,
With the tensed mother
Waiting the articulate cry
Of the new indignant,
Or protesting, flesh.

Out of the cover
Of the dark cavernous womb,
Into a larger womb,
The still confining world,
The wider prison
Of the engulfing cosmos.

Listening I hear the sounds,
The murmured opposition,
The muttered protest,
The first ripples of indignation
That will grow to the anger
Bursting in a surfing roar,
The battering protest
That first invades, then crashes
On the unassailable shore.

Of what am I speaking?
What is my astoundment about
But the inherent, the innate
Rise to the justified anger
Of the beleaguered humanity
Beleaguering the vindictive world,
The harsh weight
Of the unavoidable circumstances,
The poor jokes on the holy venom
Of the indestructible God.
This the understood Fate,
Inexorable and not comprehensible,
Fearful and vengeful,
Implanting the guilt faculty
That the imagination may twist
The knife of failure, the sharp edge
Of intolerable finitude
And human helplessness.

I am a man, one such
Of whom I speak,
I too have scanned and felt
The inexorable God and His fate,
The unpassioned, the uncanny action
Of His devastating wars, the destructible,
The shattering spears of pain
Piercing, evoking the inner stress,
Causing the fear of dreaded doom.
With other men—the other angry—
I am the warrior of despair,
The vagrant marine of anguish,
The flighting airman of the cavernous skies,
The doomed terrestrial of the Holy bloodiness,
Clenching my fist at the Uncaring,
The calloused and unfeeling One
Indifferent to His earthlings,
Of the flesh that knows beauty,
And the heart that hates
When confined concepting
And intense intellecting
Breaks into the wider sphere
And ranges round its God,
Raging and raging, scaling,
Eagling the higher realm,
Unmantling the supernal Majesty,
Unmasking the Ineffable,
Unclothing and revealing
The Eternal Failure,
The incompetent Deity.

I have lived where men and women
Crouch in the cabins of despair,
Freighted with the contemporary burden,
The massive accumulation
Of the unending sorrow, the suffering
Of the unending race, the timeless
And the angry passing on
Of the caravans of their past,
Weighted with bewilderment
And loaded with the bric-a-brac
Of useless anguish. I have lived
Where the hot and hasty anger
Compounded itself;
Shrieking at the Inexorable,
Little wonder that the puny fists
Beat in their hatred, hammered in wrath
And unmagnificent despair
On the stolid gates, the impassive
And pillared doors, silent as sentinels
Of the heedless Eternal.

Not for all time can man thus live,
Pitting his wits, securing his weak wisdom
Against the silent Celestial.
He must act. He must hate.
He must rage until the inner fires
Commit their own holocaust,
The self-destructing of the savage soul
Until it withers down
To muttering inanity, mouthing
The incomprehensible gloom
Of his dark nether regions.
Not for long, not for ever
Can the galled spirit sustain itself;
The rushing and receding tides
Of its stimulating but suddenly
Sterile adrenalin. The Object must enlarge,
Expanding into the Gloomy and the Vengeful,
Old Inexorable with His relentless grasping
Of the poor prideful flesh, the befuddled
He once initiated and now
Sustains for its self-wrought orgies
Of justful pride and bloody indignation.

Give us the heights to soar, discovering;
The depthful depths to plummet,
Uncovering the dimensions that we did not know—
If they be there (they must be there)—
Or wholly annihilate, compress
Into ultimate nothing the wounded
And the angry, or else
Make us the creatures who can comprehend
The fool futility, and know
Despair’s dimensions are but tragedy,
That justful anger is but baneful pride,
Hubris above the true Celestial,
Idiocy of the self-appointed judge,
The earthly fleshling soaring high
Beyond his rightful realm.
Show us the guilt is but the good,
The gift of God, communicating,
The prodding of the conscience,
The awakening power
Of the new sensitivity.

Not in the ultimate is despair;
Not in the outcome is the fear;
And not the terror is the true telos:
But in the gentle spirit, meek in face,
Of the Inexplicable. Knowing is there
For the finally humbled,
The consummated simple one
Who no longer batters at
The serene Celestial.
His is no bitter wrath. Not one is justified
Who has not hung on the same Tree
As that of the Authentic Sufferer.
None has entered into the true anguish,
The embracing love, the universal agape
That answers only the proliferating query,
That brings the ignorant questionnaire
To its own and obvious end.
Nerveless hands cease their trembling,
The baffled spirit its eternal questing,
And the angry muttering
Dies to a painful silence
Where the constant steady dripping
Of love’s clotted gouts
Strike answers on the desolate rocks
And the dry and dreary stones
Of more desolate Golgotha.

Not in the brilliant concepting,
Nor in the peerless logic
Of immaculate man—the justified one—
Lies the answer. Not in the burning quest
For cosmic and anthropothic justice
Lies the healing, the final peace
Of the embattled and embattling
Humanity. Justice brings nought
Of itself. No peace ineffable,
Or serenity ensconced; not
Until the love itself
Justifies the unjust, the prideful,
In the vast and swirling vortex,
The incredible complex
Of the Ineffable, suffering.

Down there in the dark maelstrom,
The inexplicable anguish, the strong tides
Of the simple suffering lies the complete.
There alone is the living solution,
The unknowable revelation made known,
The outworking actuation of the love
That dooms death to death,
Tails dread mortality and its evoked anger
To its inevitable extinction.
Incomprehensible is love’s comprehensible
Until the astounded spirit grasps the hem
Of the Celestial suffering.

The dark tides of the self-compounded anger
Still rage in the multifarious madness
Of the enraged humanity. The crazed surf
Still breaks with its booming
On the barriers of seeming fate.
The roar, however, is the lie
And the sneering sophistication
Of the unwise, the smooth, superficial
And blasé creature, cynical and joyless,
The ungrateful man, unknowing yet knowing
He must cast the Eternal love in gloomed garments
Of the Inexorable, the ruthless, relentless
And painfully pitiless, the darkly Inexplicable;
Else would his own unempathy
Be unmasked, and his fierce tides
Protesting in hypocrisy his own primal purity
Appear as the sewage of the heart,
The pathetic litter of his own wayside
Strewn from eternity to eternity;
The graffiti of his own mind
Inscribed in furtive secrecy
Against the kindly Eternal
Who gave him birth in love.

Beyond the despair lies No-despair;
Beyond the gloom, the doom, and justful rage
Of the unjust imagination
Lies the serenity, the peaceful persistence
Of the generative love. Think not then
The high indignation upthrust from authentic truth,
The true purpose, the living telos:
Know, rather, that its rebel pride
Rears back from the true submission,
The functional fullness
Of the primal creation. Lordship is lost
When the prideful spirit reaches to take
And grasp the Celestial initiative
And its high prerogatives.

Believe not the brilliant artistry,
The cunning sophistry, the conniving,
Portraying the stark, deifying despair,
Giving grandeur to its indignation
At massed cruelty, divine ruthlessness,
And feeding the impassioned spirit
With fuel for its indignation.
Come, dethrone the judge within;
Let him stand under judgement,
Bowed in the dock of God, accepting the verdict
And the Divine execution, the true edict
Of the holy Judge; then let him say
If ever he saw such vindication,
Such fiat of acquittal, such liberation
Of the darkful doomed humanity,
Such glory of liberty imposed
By holy Love, in the empathic motions
Of the eternal crucible, the Cross
Crucial to man and God, the pitted hate
The Ineffable endured in the paling flesh
Of his ceaseless suffering. Anger not only dies
But with it the despair and the doom;
The gloom dissolves in the brilliant blaze
Of the Sun of righteousness
Who breaks on the ebullient day,
Emancipating the purified spirit,
Delivering it to its true destiny,
Thrusting it forward resistlessly
To the Divine delights, the endless banquet
Of the eternal Love. Pleasures are prodigal
At His right hand, everlastingly.

Here, where the new humanity
Breaks into transforming truth,
The lie is doomed to die, the light to flow
And the new un-anger and un-rage
To gladly justify the God who justifies,
And for ever to explore
The stately and stretching dimensions
Of the authentic, the promised peace
And the eternal serenity.

– Geoffrey C. Bingham, ‘Beyond Despair’s Beyond’, in The Spirit of All Things (Blackwood: Troubadour Press, 1991), 65–72.

If creation fails …

creation

 

‘If creation fails, then all has failed: God has failed. Making a new and different creation is not the sign of God’s success but of His failure. Indeed a new creation has no guarantee, either, that it will succeed. If the work of redemption is a corrective and an aid to initial creation, then that is not good enough: creation would still prove to be defective if it were to fail. It must succeed’. – Geoffrey C. Bingham, Creation and the Liberating Glory (Blackwood: New Creation Publications, 2004), 73.

The purification of the conscience

In his wonderful study, The Conscience – Conquering or Conquered? (Blackwood: New Creation, 1987), Geoffrey Bingham contends that a person ‘cannot displace the creational faculty of the conscience, so he must war with it. He must seek to control its elements which, not being allowed to help man, must now be enlisted – against God – to give him the peace which may only come from true obedience, i.e. true creational functioning. Man then, seeks to control his conscience and re-educate it, even to the point of being enlisted in idolatry’. (pp. 15-6).

Idolatry not only perverts God’s creation, but also demeans God and the idolater. For God to do nothing in the face of such perversion and demeaning is unthinkable. Just as Forsyth argued, for God to do nothing in the face of evil manifested in Germany in the early Twentieth Century would be unimaginable. Judgement is the only possible outcome. So it is on the personal level. Psalms 32:3-4 and 38:1-8 bear witness to the truth that the human conscience refuses to let us off the hook, despite our best efforts to pervert and appease it. Deeply down the nemesis is working. Only perfect obedience from the side of sin will satisfy God and purge the evil rampant in God’s creation. The conscience ever testifies to this, even if the human mind insists otherwise. Satisfaction is a must, and the conscience knows this. The cross alone satisfies the human conscience – and God’s.

So Bingham, this time from Everything in Beautiful Array:

‘The things of which I was deeply ashamed, the things that harrowed my spirit, and that burned their shamefulness into me, are now expending themselves upon this great High Priest who is the true Guilt-Offering, the true Holy Oblation. Into his pure self flow the sin and evil of me, only to be met by such utter purity that the evil dissolves in the pure, the darkness in the light. Pain it all is to him, but effective pain, for it destroys all my evil, all my guilt, and it destroys it wholly until not one fragment remains. There is nothing in me or about me which is evil: no sin remains, no guilt is in my conscience. That conscience has been wholly purified and so has given me the first true sight of the loving God whom now I desire to worship in my purified spirit.’ – Geoffrey C. Bingham, Everything in Beautiful Array (Blackwood: New Creation, 1999), 75.

On Bastard Philosophies, Stolen Generations, and the Forgiveness of Sins

Writing of Bacon, Locke and Scottish common sense philosophy (uncritically lumped together), Nevin writes: ‘The general character of this bastard philosophy is, that it affects to measure all things, both on earth and in heaven, by the categories of the common abstract understanding, as it stands related to simply to the world of time and sense’. – John W. Nevin, Human Freedom and a Plea for Philosophy: Two Essays (Mercersburg: P. A. Rice, 1850), 42. Cited in Alan P. F. Sell, Testimony and Tradition: Studies in Reformed and Dissenting Thought (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2005), 173.

This leads me to draw attention to a recent reflection by Aussie theologian, Frank Rees, on what it means for the new democratically-elected Australian government to say sorry for past and not-so-past sins, and why ‘sorry is not the hardest word: indeed, it will be a word of life’. Frank’s post is a timely reminder of how ‘bastard philosophies’ don’t bring life, but only death; in this case that death bred of fear, misunderstanding (of the issues, of people, and of the gospel itself) and mistrust, the wounds of which will probably take decades, if not centuries, to heal.

In a related post, Rory suggests that the apology to Australia’s stolen generation should be made on our behalf by the Governor General rather than by the Prime Minister. He writes: ‘He is the head of government in Australia, and he holds a position that is above party politics. Whatever you think about the virtues or otherwise of the current government, surely addressing this part of our history is bigger than who won the last election. I can only think that an apology coming from the GG would better speak for the nation, and it would allow the apology to loose itself from any particular party’.

I think I like this (Are there any good reasons – constitutional or otherwise – for why this cannot, or should not, happen?). But regardless of from whose vicarious lips the apology comes, one hopes that it may also model and encourage the way of life and a softening of heart (and a less bastardly-informed philosophy) for other people, governments and organisations. One hopes … [I confess to having no such confidence in human nature of itself to bring about such a change of heart. This too must be a work of the Spirit].

Frank’s and Rory’s posts reminded me of Stevan Weine’s book, When History Is a Nightmare: Lives and Memories of Ethnic Cleansing in Bosnia-Herzegovina, a volume which includes some powerful documentary of those closely affected by the tragedies attending the recent conflict in the Balkans. One such testimony witnesses:

I remember Bosnia as a beautiful and peaceful country. We all lived together. Before the war, it was unnecessary to know if your neighbor was Serb, Croat, Muslim or Jew. We looked only at what kind of person you were. We were all friends. But now I think it is like a kind of earthquake. A huge catastrophe. After this war nothing will be the same. People will live, but I think they will not live together. they will not share the same bread like before. Maybe they will be neighbors, but I think the close relationship will not exist any more. Because the Bosnian people, especially the Muslim people, had a bad experience, partly as a result of our attitude. (p. 13)

In his brilliant treatment on forgiveness, The Cleansing of the Memories, Geoffrey Bingham reminds us that ‘memory has always been a problem with mankind. It may seem a curious thing that man can be troubled by his past, as also delighted by it. Some memories bring a renewal of shock and trauma when they come unbidden’. Bingham proceeds to speak of ‘God’s holy amnesia’, of ‘the Divine forgetfulness’ or ‘the Divine non–remembering’. ‘God refuses to remember our sins! If then God refuses to remember our sins, why should we choose remember them?’ While our consciences never let anyone off the hook, Bingham writes, ‘God–through Christ–has so purged our sins, that they have been worked out to exhaustion and extinction, and all their power of guilt, penalty and pollution has been erased. In other words there are–effectively –no sins to remember! God has not simply ignored our sins. He has destroyed them, forever! … Of course–from time to time–we will remember the sins we once did, but we must not make them back into substantial things. God has denuded them of substance, of guilt, power and pollution. If they come to us in memory, then in faith in the Cross we should say, ‘Whilst you represent the sins I committed, you have no substance. God has emptied you, purified you, and taken away the guilt which accompanied you. You are wraiths, ghosts of the past come back to haunt me via the accusations of Satan and his hosts, but you have no substance’. [See The End of Memory: Remembering Rightly in a Violent World by Miroslav Volf, and my post here on Redeeming Bitterness – An Interview with Miroslav Volf].

I have just finished reading Wilhelm Herrmann’s Systematic Theology (Dogmatik), which I recommend. At one point, he notes that ‘It is the realization of the impossibility of friendship with God that creates in us the religious consciousness of guilt. Obviously we cannot be quit of this burden of guilt by any effort for our own betterment; for the sense of guilt before God will paralyse our courage to start a new life’. To all who have tried to be quit of the burden of guilt by their own efforts, Herrmann’s words sound out as a prophetic rebuke and caution against the futility and arrogance of such resolve. This is one of the reasons why in the final chapter of his The Wondrous Cross (reviewed here), Steve Holmes suggests that the message of penal substitution remains an important one to teach us about God’s love, about forgiveness and about justice – for both victims and perpetrators. He writes:

Penal substitution will, of course, teach us something about justice and guilt. It will teach us first that justice cannot and will not ever be set aside. Not that there can never be forgiveness – of course not – the point of the story is precisely that there can be, and is: while crimes cannot be forgotten, yet at the same time they must also be forgiven. Cases of child abuse, where the abuser has used shaming mechanisms so successfully that none of his victims ever speak; cases of corruption, where the politician has cynically sold favours and hidden her misdeeds well enough never to be discovered; cases of war crimes, where the military officer has callously committed certain deeds, feeling secure in the knowledge that they will not come to light: these are the types of cases and situations where penal substitution becomes an important story to tell.

For the victims in such situations, the story of penal substitution holds the promise that there is justice in this world, even for the worst crimes, or the best-hidden atrocities …

For the perpetrators in these situations, the story of penal substitution holds out the invitation to stop trying to escape their crimes by their own efforts, and to find, if they dare to face up with honesty and repentance to what they have done, full and free forgiveness in Christ.

In a recent paper I heard, Alan Torrance bore witness to the truth that it is only by virtue of Christ’s vicarious humanity that we discover the two forms of liberation that are intrinsic to atonement: first, liberation as victimisers for our sin of victimisation; and second, liberation as victims from the bitterness and hatred that attend the sense of irreversible injustice, the hurt of damaged lives, irretrievably lost opportunities, and all the other evils that result from sin. There is liberation here, he said, because precisely at the point where we cannot forgive our enemies the Gospel suggests that our sole representative, the sole priest of our confession, does what we cannot do – he stands in and forgives our victimisers for us and in our place as the One on behalf of the many – and then invites us to participate in the very forgiveness he has realised vicariously on our behalf. On these grounds we are not only permitted to forgive but obliged and indeed commanded to forgive others. Alan said, ‘Where we are not entitled to forgive, the crucified Rabbi is. And where we are unable to forgive, we are given to participate in his once-and-for-all forgiveness and to live our lives in that light and from that centre – not least in the political realm’. He cited his dad (JB Torrance), who defined worship as ‘the gift of participating by the Spirit in the Son’s communion with the Father’. The consequence of any ethic, therefore, that warrants the name ‘Christian’ must be conceived in parallel terms, namely as the gift of participating by the Spirit in the incarnate Son’s communion with the Father. ‘Forgiveness’, Alan stressed, ‘is the gift of participating in a triune event of forgiveness. In an act of forgiveness, the Father sends the Son, who, by the Spirit, forgives as God but also, by the Spirit, as the eschatos Adam on behalf of humanity. The mandate to forgive must be understood in this light.’

The ‘apology’ that will be made when the federal government next sits is ultimately possible because in Christ, God has already confessed humanity’s sins and forgiven all parties. To say ‘sorry’ is to take up Christ’s invitation to us to ‘participate in that forgiveness that he has realised vicariously on our behalf’. It is, as Alan presses, to participate in a triune event of forgiveness in which the Father sends the Son, who, by the Spirit, forgives. And, it is to participate by the Spirit, in the action of the last Adam on behalf of humanity, to the joy of the Father. Whether or not the Australian Government (or Governor-General), those of the Stolen Generation (and their families/nations), and all Aussies (even Faris QC) know that this is what it means to say ‘Sorry’ and ‘Receive the forgiveness of sins’ does not undermine the reality that the very human actions of confession and forgiveness are at the heart of what it means to be imago dei, and to participate in the ministry of the Triune God in our maimed and besmirched world.

‘For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility’ (Eph 2:14).

‘See to it’, therefore, ‘that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him’. (Col 2:8-15)