Home  | The Zodiac Messages | Articles | Services | Visitors Book | Books | Site Map | Contact | Search 

Man and the Spiritual World

How we are to deal with the Testimony of the Bible.

In turning to the Bible for the information we seek, we must be prepared to lay aside certain preconceived ideas that we may have formed, and to deal with the book in a sensible way.

I say 'a sensible way,' for the reason that not all persons so deal with it. Some persons, by their lack of common sense in treating Scripture, practically close and bar the door of knowledge against themselves. It is a thousand pities both for their sake and the cause of Christ that it should be so! For example, we shall not expect to find in some parts of the Bible the clearness and fulness of information that we shall look for in other parts. We ought to remember that the age in which a writer lived, and the degree of enlightenment vouchsafed to him, will necessarily determine the amount of importance to be attached to his statements. We do not look for the noon-tide light when the dawn is but breaking, or the morning is young.

In the Old Testament we shall find the words of men who wrote in the twilight of Divine revelation. Some of these knew little about a Life Beyond; as in the case of Solomon when he stated, 'A man hath no pre-eminence above a beast . . . who shall bring him to see what shall be after him?' (Eccles. iii. 19 and 22 v.).

Others show that a fuller knowledge had been acquired; as in the case of David, who could say, 'Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for Thou art with me' (Ps. xxiii. 4 v.).

On the other hand, in the New Testament we shall find the utterances of Christ Himself. He stood in the broad daylight. He knew all the secrets of the Spiritual, was Himself the 'Light' and the 'Truth,' and 'brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel' (2 Tim. i. 10 v.). There, too, we have the writings of men who learned the truth from His Divine lips, and were specially equipped at Pentecost to transmit it to the world. Bearing all this in mind, we shall avoid the foolish mistake that so many good Christians have made, viz., of placing all statements of Scripture on the same level of revelation.

Remembering that the fuller truth relating to the Hereafter was not disclosed until the Christ came, we shall not commit the absurdity of looking for it in the writings of men who lived before the knowledge had been imparted. And yet this is the principle upon which no inconsiderable amount of theology has been built. Take an instance. Our Lord and His Apostles bear testimony, in terms as clear as can be, that there is an Intermediate World, and yet, strange to say, thousands and thousands of pious readers of Scripture have completely failed to perceive this truth.

Perhaps you ask—how is it possible? The answer is—because there are a number of texts in the Old Testament that reveal that their writers had little or no knowledge of the existence of that World.

The persons to whom we have alluded suppose it to be an indication of faith and a mark of 'orthodoxy' to try and force the fuller statements of the New Testament into agreement with the imperfect statements of the Old. Of course, they have not succeeded; their principle of interpretation has been wrong. Instead of looking forward for illumination they have been looking backward. They have directed their gaze towards the twilight of human knowledge and attempted in vain to wrench the words of Jesus and His Apostles into conformity with the words of men who stood on a much lower platform of spiritual thought and enlightenment. Thus, by distorting the statements of the New Testament by stripping them of their natural and grammatical sense, and by infusing into them meanings never intended, the utmost has been done to 'bring again the shadow of the degrees' on the sun-dial of revelation.

Christ's truth-disclosing and beautiful words spoken to a dying robber have had the significance conjured out of them, because David in an age of less enlightenment wrote, 'In death there is no remembrance of Thee' (Ps. vi. 5 v.).

St Peter's glorious assertion that a merciful Saviour preached His Gospel to poor lost sinners in the World Beyond (see 1 Peter iii. 18-20 v.; and iv. 6 v.), has been, forsooth, absolutely and angrily denied, because in a far - away age Solomon wrote, ' In the place where the tree falleth, there it shall be' (Eccles. xi. 3 v.).

Now, without discussing the point as to whether Solomon in this passage was referring to man's future Life at all—and I certainly think he was not—it can be seen at a glance that there is, undoubtedly, a radical and vital distinction between the conceptions and utterances of Bible writers who lived before Christ and of those who were contemporary with Him. To which class of utterance, we ask, are we to attach the greater importance and authority? Are we to place first the words of Him who was 'the Truth' and of those who were taught by Him, or the words of those who knew less than He and they did, because the 'Light' had not come? Surely there can be no hesitation in giving an answer. If we acknowledge Christ as the great Revealer of Truth, if we believe that it was He who lifted the veil that shrouded man's future, then there can be no question as to how the matter stands. The two classes of Biblical writers were not on the same level, and the words of Christ, and of the men directly instructed by Him, must be placed before the pronouncements of all others. We must read the Old Testament in the bright shining of the New, and not (as has so often been done) read the New Testament in the glimmer of the Old.

So then, if the statements of the men of the twilight fall short of, or do not harmonise with, the words of the Saviour and those whom He taught— what of it? We shall not be perplexed, not even surprised, and most certainly we shall not dream of rearing an edifice of doctrine on so poor a foundation as their partial and imperfect knowledge. We shall not forget that the Almighty's law (as far as man has ever been able to observe it) is the same in regard to the impartation of spiritual knowledge as of all other knowledge accessible to us: first an unworthy, very often erroneous, idea of the truth; then a better, yet still a dim and indistinct, perception of it, and at length—only after stages of long and gradual enlightening—a full and comprehensive grasping of the same.

With this thought we turn to the Bible, and have a clearly - defined idea of what we shall, and shall not, discover in its various parts. Thus, in the Old Testament we shall look for a statement of elementary truth as regards a Spiritual World, and for but little more. We shall expect to find it clearly teaching that such a World exists, and that there is a basis of truth in the universal testimony borne by all ages as to man's experience of the Super-physical: but not much more.

When the Old Testament was written, the Lord of the Spiritual—the one who holds 'the Keys of Hades'—had not come on earth, and as yet the mists of ignorance lay thick about 'the valley of the shadow of death.'

In the New Testament we shall look for the rays of a brighter and more penetrating search - light turned upon the Realm of Spirit.

There is still another important consideration as regards our manner of dealing with the testimony of the Bible. It is this. If we wish to treat that testimony consistently, we must take into account, not only dogmatic and explicit statements referring to future Life, as contained in particular texts, but also that much greater and equally important testimony found in a great number of recorded spiritual facts. In so doing we shall get much nearer the truth concerning our own nature and the World into which we must pass one day, than we can ever get by ignoring the larger testimony named, and restricting ourselves to the texts.

The Bible contains the record of hundreds of interesting and wonderful super-physical facts and of spiritual experiences that have befallen mankind. In grasping the import of these a flood of strong light is flung both upon the mystery that enwraps our being, and upon a Spiritual Universe with which we are seen to be in close relationship. On the whole, this has not been adequately realised.

A great deal of the teaching, past and current, concerning future existence exhibits a grave defect. It has been constructed only on the basis of a few scattered and detached texts, while the significance of great spiritual facts and experiences, as recorded in Scripture, has been overlooked, and not allowed to complexion the teaching.

But, surely, it must be wrong to so deal with the Bible. If we believe the Book to be a trustworthy guide to spiritual truth, we certainly ought to give our attention to all that it says on the subject.

Yet many have not done this. Thousands who would be horrified at the mere suggestion that they only accept a part of the Bible settle themselves to think that very little can be known about the World of Spirit. Other earnest Christians even go so far as to think that to remain in ignorance on the subject is rather an indication of high culture and intellectuality.

Both classes have failed to grasp the meaning of much that has been 'written for our learning.' Scriptural statements of spiritual facts and experiences are meant to be the commentaries on texts. They must be studied together. The texts will be better understood in the light of the facts.

How comes it, then, that this reasonable method of reading Scripture has not been universally practised?

On account of Christians having regarded the spiritual facts and experiences of the Bible, not as disclosures of still-existing truth, but rather as abnormal incidents that happened long ago, and that could not possibly happen now. They must be believed, of course, by the 'orthodox' as what has been, but they are not to be thought of as having any kind of connection with the present age. Their position is outside the circle of practical nineteenth-century thought and idea.

That we have not misrepresented matters may be seen in the fact that churchgoers and chapelgoers smile incredulously at the suggestion of its being possible that spiritual experiences, similar to those recorded in Scripture, may occur to those who are living now.

I know many who would not dream of disbelieving that Moses was seen after death by three Apostles, and that persons whose physical bodies were in the grave appeared to many after the resurrection of Jesus, and that St Paul had an intimate acquaintance with the Spirit-world before he left the earth-life (see 2 Cor. xii. 1-4 v.), who, at the same time, absolutely refuse to believe that any departed one has reappeared to present-day survivors. I venture to assert that the truth concerning a Spiritual Universe would be far better understood than it is were it not that many sober-minded men and women, able to bear witness that the super-physical is constantly happening, hesitate to give their testimony, lest professed Bible-believers should think them untruthful or demented. Depend upon it, if St Paul had penned in the nineteenth instead of in the first century his experiences of the Spiritual, many who revere his writings and think they believe them would not hesitate to account him a suitable case for the lunatic asylum.

But why, we ask, should present-day spiritual experiences and after-death manifestations be considered incredible? The Spiritual World is not less a fact now than it was when the Old Testament was written or when Christ was on earth. The past and present are not dissociated. What has been may still be. Why, if we receive as true the Bible statements of super-physical facts that happened in the past, should we reject as antecedently false all statements of similar facts happening in the present? To whatever extent man's power of perceiving a Spiritual World may have varied at different periods of history (as it, undoubtedly, has done), the Spiritual World itself has always remained the same. What was true of it a thousand years ago is true of it to-day. To it the words of the Gloria may not inaptly be applied—'As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be: world without end.'

So, then, we urge that the Bible shall be treated in a sensible way. All its statements are not on the same level of revelation, and recorded facts, as well as texts, are to be taken into consideration in investigating the subject of ourselves as we stand related to a vast realm of non-physical life and activity.

Unless this be done, an imperfect idea of the truth is inevitable.

To Next Chapter »

Return To Contents of "Man and the Spiritual World"

floppy save button Download "Man and the Spiritual World" (.pdf) floppy save button

Other Books by Rev. Chambers:

"Thoughts of the Spiritual" (1905 American Edition)
"Problems of the Spiritual" (1907 UK Edition)

Rev. Arthur Chambers Returns From "Death" To Speak Through The Zodiac Circle
 Home  | The Zodiac Messages | Articles | Services | Visitors Book | Books | Site Map | Contact | Search