PEACE FOR THE WICKED


There is no peace for the wicked,’ saith my God. But is there peace for the righteous? Is there peace for the millions who before you shed suppliant tears, who anguish over the evil affairs of this earth?

The labourer will work his hand coarse and still will have scanty bread on his table; the mother will cry her heart out but her ailing child will still die in her arms. The man who refuses bribe will still go unpromoted. There is no recompense; there is no mercy; there is no peace: there is only wretchedness for these hordes whom you have pronounced peaceable.

O my God, walk my street and do not turn your face away! Look, the offscourings who litter the walkway, who stretch out hands for mercies that come in trickles, for whom no sun brightens their countenance, for whom no rain refreshes their soul. They are the remnants of a nation which cannot sustain itself; nay, they are the filth of a nation whose bourgeoisie feed their dogs with gold. The rest are hollowmen, soulless indwellers of your earth whom no music can rouse to a dance. Aho! What plaintive cadence can rouse their forgotten selfs? What alien hope can infuse life into their inexistence? There is no peace for them, my God.

But there is peace for the wicked. There is peace for the looters of the national treasury. There is peace for those who make bonfires with naira notes to warm the houses that have become cloyed with comfort. There is peace for those who drink from chalices of gold the sweat and blood of their fellow citizens. There is peace for those who wad currencies in their sock away pits, who erect edifices for no man’s occupation, who run to foreign lands to heal a toothache. For these first sons there is peace.

There is peace, my God, for those who mock your name on the pulpit. There is peace for those who use your name as bait for their victims. There is peace for those who build temples for you but turn around to inhabit them, who defile your temple and defy your power. There is peace for those who rob in your name. There is peace for those who ride on your wings while treading on the souls of your redeemed, the seventh sons of your calling. Yes my God, there is peace for those who defame you.

They have peace who trouble others. They have life who kill others. They have families who wreck other people’s homes. They have children who enslave other people’s children. There is but one death for the man who had killed a thousand. There is but one charnel-house for the man who had buried a nation. They have love who incite others to hate. They have peace who incite others to arms. They have tranquillity who set afire other people’s homes.

What speak of justice? What speak of the tens of thousands who have grown decadent beards because Justice does not know their ilk? What speak of the outlaws whose dark deeds have been whitewashed at court sessions? There is justice for the master, O my God; but where is the justice for the servant? There is justice for the herder, but where is the justice for the oxen? O God of Justice, are these whom Justice embrace your children – and are these many others the condemned, the unknown, the Ishmaels who may weep in vain for a drop of comfort?

Talk then of justice and peace for the meek! Talk of the meek who are now the carpet for the wicked’s trampling. The meek are not the possessors of the earth, my God. The fruit of their kindness is bitterness. The hand which gives, the heart which aches, the soul which forgives – there is for them a common denominator of sorrow! Men will trample upon the flowers of the earth and it will go well with them. Men will uproot refreshing seeds and still live their full terms of life. The wicked spreads his memory abroad – on edifices, on statues, on parchments. Yes, even at death the tombstone of the wicked keeps him alive. But for the meek there is no stone to mark his grave; no eyes had shed tears for his passage; no clouds had gathered to mark his fall. In death, as in life, the meek remains barren – the meek whom you have proclaimed the possessors of the earth!

My God, speak of guilt to consciences deadened with evil schemes! Speak of guilt to souls alien to goodness! They will know no heartbreak who break the hearts of others. They have paramours in dozens who seduce the faithful man’s betrothed. She who has lived her whole life in concubinage will marry and birth children, but the chaste lady will wither in helpless spinsterhood.

There is neither peace nor justice for the righteous, O my God! The earth is not the possession of the meek. Happiness is not for the heart which aches for you, nor song for the mouth which supplicates you.

But for the wicked there is peace!

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SOUL-BOND



In moments like this, when my spirit is at its lowest, when all else deserts my mind, and in the emptiness of my soul there is neither comfort nor hope; at moments like this, I find you are there. You are among mortals my sole heart craving. Not for what you have to give me, nor for what I have to give you. But this, this inexplicable attachment, this soul-bond between us which we may deny but is always there. It’s what keeps me coming back, even when weighed by anxiety, and with nowhere to rest my soul,  I come to you. I know that you too, in your loneliness, think of me, though there’s in me no comfort for you. I know and so do you that we don’t crave comfort from each other, nor satisfaction, nor even hope; we need but the awareness of that kindred spirit which far or near still elicits the bliss of agonized souls. 

Ah, we are here now. Someday we’ll not be. You’ll look for me and not see me; or I’ll look for you and not see you. We shall have succumbed to the inevitability of mortals… And yet when that moment comes, when you find I’m not here, you shall not look for empty hope, for the feel that has ceased inexorably, for that small voice that delighted you… none of these false hopes will tickle you, but yet you’ll survive. You’ll survive because in you shall be the fond memories…. Nay, not fond, just memories of our togetherness, of our yearnings, of our inexpressible bond. So shall I, in that moment when I shall look for and not find you, when the mourners bear your coffin away, and people whisper and voices wail true and false… I shall be silent, I shall not observe, I shall not hope…. But in me will be the little glitter left of the shiny days, in me will be the memories we have shared. In me shall be the remnant of that fire that sorrow has attempted to douse… But in my silence shall be our reunion. I don’t know what lies behind mortality, whether men shall ever be as they are now, or if religion has deceived us all. Sometimes in the chaos of existence, I entertain this hope, this longing for another life, for a life that has no end. But shall we, dear one; shall we live again? For you see, if it does exist, and if ever it is meant for men such as have lived on the earth, we shall be there, even if in its removed corner, observing those worthier to occupy its elegant part. All we need is our togetherness, and the earth might apportion to the rest as it wishes…… 

Have you tears to shed? Have you laughter left? Have you in this world moments we can cherish? O dear fearless one, remember me in your sorrow and your joy. I may not always say it but you know I love you. Yes, even if the time comes when neither you nor I shall mention love, we’ll know it is part of us, indelible. And what are words to souls that know the eternity of feelings? If all fails, who lives should remember : there was US. 
©2016 Joshua Omenga

PREDESTINATION VS FREEWILL: GOD IN THE SCHEME OF THINGS 


Caveat – Concepts explained – Freewill demonstrated in Biblical examples – the price of freewill – Reward and punishment, considered in the light of predestination – Biblical examples of predestination? – Foreknowledge, not foreordination – Questions for thinking predestinationists – Credo
CAVEAT
This topic implies a conscious belief in the existence of God rather than of an impersonal force responsible for ordering or sorting the chaos of existence. Therefore, the starting point is stating the necessary (and perhaps the obvious): that God exists, not just as a being, but as the Supernal Creator responsible for life in the universe. It may be noted too that this topic, although relying heavily on logic and human reasoning, is actually a Scriptural topic and references will be made prodigiously to the Bible. Finally, it should be borne in mind that this is not an exegetic attempt to justify the ways of God to man; for although the writer is of the firm conviction that God is not an incomprehensible mystery, he does not think it his role to justify Him, or even to attempt to explain His reasons for doing things. 
THE CONCEPTS EXPLAINED
Predestination is the doctrine that whatever is to happen has been UNALTERABLY FIXED by God from THE BEGINNING OF TIME, especially with regards to human salvation or damnation. The doctrine posits that God has foreordained EVERY event throughout eternity. The emphasis is that this predestining or foreordaining of things is the work of God, and he is therefore the centre of the predestination doctrine. 

Superficially, this doctrine would seem not only rooted in the Bible but also a humble acceptance of God’s omnipotence, an acknowledgement of His immense and ineludible superiority. One may even, in defence to this doctrine, describe as heresy any assertion that God does not foreordain things, for the Scripture proclaims God to be the ‘One declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times the things that are yet done.’ – Isaiah 46:10.

The doctrine of predestination is premised on God’s prescience and omnipotence. The argument is that one who is able to foreknow absolutely – ‘for all things are open to him with whom we have an accounting’ – should be able to ordain or manipulate the happening of events or order them according to his supreme will. This is, as it stands, a correct assumption, and to preach otherwise is to undermine the concept of Godhood. One who believes in the authenticity of the Bible as God’s revelation will have no problem agreeing that God CAN order events. However the argument is not whether he CAN but whether he DOES order events at all times. But much about this later.

The opposite doctrine – FREEWILL – is the power of making choices unconstrained by external agencies, i.e. the power of self-determination. Stated simply, this doctrine is the belief that man is imbued with the freedom to choose his course of action, whether for good or for evil; that God does not set man on an undeviating path, but that while He might command and lay down principles, man may choose to obey or disobey them. This is the doctrine I believe in; this is the doctrine I believe resonates in the pages of the Bible. This is the doctrine whose truism I propose to establish, even though by the refutation of its opposite, predestination.
FREEWILL DEMONSTRATED IN BIBLICAL EXAMPLES
Adam provides an example of the operation of freewill rather than of foreordination. In planning the creation of man, God declared His intention to make him in His image. The image of God in which man was to be made is not His physical make-up; for while God is a spirit, intangible and of humanly unquantifiable and undefinable proportion, man is fleshly and tangible, and if God had willed for man to physically resemble Him, He had markedly failed in creating man flesh rather than spirit and the declaration that man was made perfect would have been a prevarication. Man’s semblance to God lies in man’s faculty, and just as one cannot conceive of God constrained in His choices, so did God purpose that man, the crowning glory of His earthly creation, should also be free to choose his course of action. In this light, God’s command to Adam to eat of every tree of the garden except the tree of knowledge of good and evil would make sense. If God had foreordained Adam to eat of the fruit and subsequently commanded him not to eat of it, He would hardly be worthy of the attributes He claims and His standard would be lower than that of many men. Indeed, more than simply being a contradiction to His claimed attributes, Adam’s very ability to obey where he had been destined to disobey, or disobey where he had been destined to obey, begs the question as to the extent of God’s power in foreordaining things. Happily, that is far from the case as God’s illimitable power has been proved once and the repeated time; and the fact that Adam could choose obedience or disobedience testifies that God had not trammelled his choice. This ability to choose is not a personal gift to Adam but an inherent attribute of the human creation, part of what constitutes man the image of God.

The example of Cain provides another demonstration of the operation of freewill. Upon Cain’s indignation at God’s favour upon Abel’s sacrifice, God said to Cain: ‘Why are you so angry and dejected? If you turn to doing good, will you not be restored to favour? But if you do not turn to doing good, sin is crouching at the door and is craving to dominate you; BUT WILL YOU GET THE MASTERY OVER IT?’ (Genesis 4:6,7). Let it be imagined for a moment that God had foreordained Cain to murder Abel. Where would be the need, much less the wisdom, in God’s urging him to desist, to master his evil intention, to change his course? Even an imperfect man cannot hold such contradiction to be wisdom. God could only hold out the prospect of overcoming the lurking sin to Cain because he could make choices.

The history of the fleshly Israel is replete with instances of choice-making on a much grander scale. Through Moses, God at one time declared: ‘See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil; in that I command thee this day to love the Lord thy God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments…THAT THOU MAYEST LIVE and multiply; and the Lord thy God bless thee in the land which thou goest to possess it. BUT IF THY HEART TURN AWAY, so that thou wilt not hear but shall be drawn away and worship other gods, and serve them, I denounce unto thee this day, that ye shall surely perish…I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore, choose life that thou and thy seed may live.’Deuteronomy 30:15-19.

Neither the wisdom nor the love of God consisted in imposing ‘good’ on the Israelites; rather, he set before them both choices, but lovingly urged them to choose the good. (Deuteronomy 11:26-28). Prior to covenanting with them, God had given them a choice. ‘If you will obey my voice indeed and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me…Ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priest and holy nation.’ The people’s reply after Moses’ consultation: ‘All that Jehovah has spoken we will do.’ (Exodus 19:5-8) It was after hearing the people’s reply that God proceeded with the covenant; he did not impose the choice on them, despite that it was for their good.

The Israelites chose to obey God, to be his people; as a proof that the choice was a willing one, not an absolutist, undeviating one, the Israelites did for countless number of time break the covenant, to the extent that God was sorely vexed with them to the point of annihilation. He appealed several times to his rebellious people: ‘Come and let us reason together… Though your sins be as the scarlet, they shall be as white as the snow; though they be red as crimson, they shall be as wool. IF YE BE WILLING AND OBEDIENT, ye shall eat the good of the land. BUT IF YOU REFUSE AND REBEL, you shall be devoured with the sword.’ (Isaiah 1:18-20) It would be pointless of God to appeal to a people already destined for good or evil since they would not thereby deviate from their set path; and heartless of him to set them to the sword when he himself had set them to the track of rebellion. But this is manifestly not true of God’s dealings with Israelites, his special property, his eyeball, a people chosen for his name, his glory among the nations.

Thus we see in this, and in many other examples in the Scriptures, that both in individual and in collective cases, God had always left the choice open, and this is only meaningful if such people have the freedom and ability to choose, otherwise it would be merely giving with one hand and taking with the other.
THE PRICE OF FREEWILL
Freewill comes with a price: living with the consequence of one’s choice. Those who question the wisdom of God in suffering Adam to sin and thereby subjugating the human race to the thraldom of sin, insist that God would not have left Adam with the tree of knowledge of good and evil so that he would not have had to choose. This assertion is prompted by the enormous consequence of making the wrong choice. Perhaps they are right in that having no object of sin before him, Adam might not have sinned, and consequently the entire human race. But that would not be a reflection of God’s purpose for man. God is not a tyrannical exactor of obedience; the obedience he demands and values in his creations is willing obedience, one borne out of love, not out of inability to disobey. Only with choices open can man be said to be truly in the image of God, and only then can man’s choosing of right gladden God’s heart.

Allowing man to suffer the consequence of his choice, be it good or evil, is a demonstration of God’s justice and a reinforcement of His guiding attribute, love. For while he is full of mercy and ready to forgive, ‘he will by no means leave the guilty unpunished’. (Exodus 34:6,7). To leave unpunished those deserving of punishment, to subvert the result of an unwise course, would be not a show of love but an undermining of God’s constancy, the very foundation upon which believers hope for the fulfilment of God’s promises. The words that go out of his mouth will not return to him without results (Isaiah 55:11) and sooner would heaven and earth pass away than for his decreed purpose not be fulfilled. –  Isaiah 40:8; Matthew 5:18; 1 Peter 1:25.

Indeed, if God had shielded Adam from the consequence of his disobedience, consider how this might have been a vindication, not of God, but of Satan. Satan had said to Eve: ‘Ye shall not surely die, for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil’ (Genesis 3:4,5). Note that this is the very opposite of God’s pronouncement – ‘in the day you eat from it, you shall surely die’ (Genesis 2:17). Not punishing the errant Adam with the foretold punishment, death, would have proved Satan true – that they would not die as said by God – and proved God a liar! But it was Satan who had lied and remains ‘the father of the lie.’

Consider also the immense implication of God’s command to Adam. ‘Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shall not eat of it, for in the day thou eatest thereof, thou shall die’ (Genesis 2:16,17). If God had predestined Adam to eat of the fruit, it would be gross injustice on God’s path to punish him for a course of action that he is powerless to change. On the other hand, if God had destined Adam not to eat of it and Adam had eaten of it, this would mean that, apart from undermining the whole concept of predestination, God had told a great lie when he proclaimed the created man ‘perfect’. For perfection consists of the ability of a thing to function flawlessly as purposed, and if God had purposed Adam not to eat the fruit and he had eaten of it, he would not have acted according to purpose. In free moral agents such as man was created to be, perfection does not consist of unerringness; rather, it is the full capability to choose to err or not to err. This ability to choose good or evil did not start with man but with the spirit sons of God, where Satan and other angels chose wrongly by rejecting God’s sovereignty and advocating others to do the same.
REWARD AND PUNISHMENT, CONSIDERED IN THE LIGHT OF PREDESTINATION

The foremost predestinationist, John Calvin, defined predestination as ‘the eternal decree of God, by which he determined what he wanted to do with each man. Not all are created in the same condition, but eternal life is foreordained for some and eternal damnation for others.’ Regarding Adam, he said: ‘God not only foresaw the fall of the first man, and in him the ruin of his posterity; but also at His own pleasure arranged it.’ While not many predestinationists will subscribe to this extreme view, the sum total of this doctrine amount to little else but this – foreordination of eternal salvation or damnation for people.

Even to a mind not attuned to the qualities of God, this is a callous thing to propose. If before the founding of the world God had determined those to be saved and those to be damned, wherefore suffer Christ to die as atonement? If the blood of Christ would not redeem the already damned, and the already saved would not be damned at any rate, it would be impaling Christ in vain. Again, consider that even predestinationists are earnest preachers of the gospel. They, like Jesus, spend time and efforts calling on men of all sorts to repentance. Yet they do not perceive the manifest contradiction: if men have been predestined for salvation or damnation, preaching to them is futility since they must inevitably, immutably commit to their destined course. Christ himself would have known this, and his gospel would have been pretension. But they, like Christ, hope and desire all to attain to repentance. – 2 Peter 3:9.

In fairness, some predestinationists hold that God does not order events from ‘the beginning of time’, but rather at birth or sometime thereafter. This might look like an appeasement from the God whom this doctrine has painted cruel and unwise, but really, what difference does it make if once one has chosen an evil path, he is incapable of turning around? Of course, even if he does turn around, it will amount to his having been preordained to turn around – in other words, he would have been destined for salvation without his volition!

A point at which predestinationists cavil in support of the doctrine is found in Revelation 17:8 – ‘The beast that thou sawest was and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition, and they that dwell on earth shall wonder WHOSE NAMES WERE NOT WRITTEN IN THE BOOK OF LIFE FROM THE FOUNDING OF THE WORLD…’ Aside from the fact that the book of Revelation is full of symbols which are not always literal, let us inquire – ‘Is the book of life a book in which a name not written cannot be written and a name written cannot be blotted out?’ The testimony of the Scriptures shows otherwise.

In Psalm 69:28, the Psalmist prayed of his enemies: ‘Let them be blotted out of the book of the living.’ In a plea to God to preserve the Israelites, Moses said: ‘If thou will not forgive their sins…blot me, I pray, out of thy book which thou hast written.’ Jehovah’s reply: ‘Whoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book’ (Exodus 32:32,33). These scriptural passages show that a name already written can be obliterated if the person becomes unfaithful, sinful.

Note also that the permanence of one’s name in the book of life is contingent on one’s continued faithfulness to the end. ‘He that overcometh, I will not blot out his name from the book of life, but I will confess his name before my father’ (Revelation 3:5). The crown of life, the reward of faithfulness, is sure not at birth but at one’s death, if one proved faithful to the end (Revelation 2:10). Whatever may be the meaning or interpretation of ‘FROM THE FOUNDING OF THE WORLD’, the Scripture shows that name written in the book can be blotted out and that salvation is dependent not on a name having once been written, but in the continued faithfulness of the one whose name has been written. Moreover, the wicked whose name is not written may have his name written by turning around and repenting of his sins.

Ancillary to this is the doctrine of eternal salvation – ‘once saved, always saved’ – which doctrine purports that who has once been born in Christ, i.e. repented and is saved, is saved for all time. The proponents of this doctrine do not, like predestinationist, propose that those not saved will never be saved, only that those already saved are ‘forever saved’. However, without inquiring deep into the topic, it may be noted that this is a scripturally erroneous doctrine, for if once saved is always saved, the crown of life would be given – or at least sure – upon salvation, not upon the finish of the race of life in faithfulness. Unless if by salvation they mean faithfulness unto death, in which case no man is ever saved until death – the very negation of their belief that they are saved once they confess the Christ and surrender unto him. – 2 Peter 1:10.
BIBLICAL EXAMPLES OF PREDESTINATION?
One may point, perhaps not unreasonably, at some examples in the Bible which seem to prove that God does predestine people’s lives. A prominent example is that of Judas Iscariot. Some insist that God predestined him to betray the Christ, and unless he betrayed the Christ, things spoken of by God through the prophets would not come to pass. The argument is potent, but does it by any means prove that Judas was predestined to betray the Christ? The prophecy regarding Jesus’ betrayal is given in Psalm 41:9 – ‘Yea, mine own familiar friend in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his head against me.

To say the obvious, this is one of the numerous instances of prophecies – demonstrations of God’s superior foreknowledge and foretelling of events. God foresaw how the Christ would be betrayed and foretold it. Let it be noted here that the almighty God whose power is illimitable, CAN manipulate events, which may be people’s lives, to suit his purpose. To say otherwise is to deny God’s omnipotence. However, his ability to do this – and despite that he MIGHT have done it in select circumstances – does not mean that he in fact orders the course of people’s lives. When the Bible states that nothing is impossible with God, it does not thereby state that God does all things. ‘Two immutable things in which it was IMPOSSIBLE FOR GOD TO LIE’ (Hebrews 6:18) does not imply that it is physically impossible for God to lie; it is but an impossibility of principle, for lying is against the nature of God. It is therefore not the impossibility of ordering or destining things that keeps God from doing so; he is only being guided by his own immutable principles.
FOREKNOWLEDGE, NOT FOREORDINATION
It will be seen that on examination, the alleged instances of predestination are only demonstrations of God’s foreknowledge. Defined, foreknowledge is the ability to know in advance the outcome of an event, or series or events. The outcome foreknown must be in the future, and it does not matter how far in the future. But for foreknowledge to be meaningful in the context of this discussion, it has to be more than reasonable deduction. For instance, it will hardly be regarded as foreknowledge on the part of an adult who predicts fire when he sees a child taking naked flame toward a jar of petrol. Yet even in this crude, intuitive precognition, we may attempt to differentiate foreknowledge from foreordination. The adult knows, perhaps out of experience, that children are unreasonable and reckless and that with the child’s destination, the outcome is fire. Instead of taking the trouble to analyse how this child’s action would lead to fire outbreak, the adult could simply predict fire – and very likely, his elementary prediction would come to pass. But it does not thereby mean that the adult has set the child on the course of causing the fire. He could but he did not.

We may take a step further and be scientific. Users of smart devices like handsets often take for granted the complex processes that take place to provide them comfort and convenience. They look at the screen of their phones in the morning and ascertain at once whether it would rain or be sunny with incredible degree of accuracy. This is possible because of years of collection and analyses of data about weather which enable scientists to determine the outcome of the combination of given set of phenomena. Similar process is used in predicting volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and many other natural disasters. These scientific feats have acquired the appellation of forecasting, and while many will decline to regard their predictions in the religious sense, it will at least be acknowledged that they are a demonstration of effective use of knowledge to predict the future. But none will for a moment conceive of crediting the scientists with causing these disasters simply because they foreknew them.

Of course it will be absurd to say that God is ‘scientific’ in his predictions. I do not presume to know, neither is it necessary to inquire, how God arrives at his unerring knowledge of the future. But if man, by his limited knowledge, is able to do so much, consider what little effort it will take God to foretell the future, considering that he has been in existence for uncountable years, knows all things to their minutest details, searches the human heart and innermost thoughts. It will in fact be a marvel if such a One cannot foreknow the future. Understandably, God proclaims, ‘I am God, … declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times the things that are yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand and I will do all my pleasure’ (Isaiah 46:9,10). God could therefore challenge the gods of the nations to prove their godship by foretelling the future. – Isaiah 41:22-24.

This ability to know the outcome of any cause of action is what enables God to foretell events. He can foresee not just the outcome of an individual’s action but also that of a nation. He could also, if he chose, manipulate events. In Pharaoh’s case, for instance, God manipulated events by hardening the heart of Pharaoh so that his further refusal to let the Israelites go resulted in the manifestation of God’s power upon Egypt, to the glory of God on all the earth. But nowhere in the Bible is it suggested that God’s ability to manipulate events means that he in fact manipulates them all the time; he only does so in fulfilment of his set purpose.
QUESTIONS FOR THINKING PREDESTINATIONISTS
If God predestines man to eternal salvation or damnation, and this from the beginning of time, ‘before the founding of the world’, i.e. even before the entrance of sin into the world – what is the use of the ransom since assured salvation can never be revoked, neither assured damnation? Or could it be that Adam’s sin and the consequent need for the ransom had also been foreordained by God – and how can they not? Where is the justice in condemning Adam, and his offspring after him, for a course of life he is powerless to change – a course of life which, were he to even change it, would be undermining, indeed inimical to, the fulfilment of God’s immutable purpose? Wherein lies the truth in calling God a God of love if he condemns millions, nay billions, without their willing act, even before they are born, to an eternal damnation, which damnation some hold to be eternal torment in an ever-burning fire? What justice, even, in imposing salvation on an unwilling person? Even humans with an imperfect mind would not regard as infinitely wise and loving a God who could make such decree. Predestinationists may have to clear this smudge on God’s name and ‘justify his way to man’ – otherwise it will be seen that their doctrine has contributed in no small way to the derogation of God.
CREDO

  • I believe in an illimitably powerful, infinitely wise, absolutely just, immensely loving and all-merciful God whose thought for man is of good, not of evil.
  • I believe that man is created in the image of God, imbued with His qualities and is fully capable, with His guidance, of choosing his own course of life and living with the consequence of his choice.
  • I believe that God shows the right way but does not dictate that man follow it.
  • I believe in a just God who rewards good deeds but does not refrain from punishing evil, and that such punishment is compatible with the character of God.
  • I believe in a forgiving God who sees beyond the act, examines the heart and intentions and mercifully extends forgiveness where He thinks fit.
  • Above all, I believe in a loving and wise God who knows us even more than we know ourselves.

© 2016 Joshua Omenga

CREDO:ON GOD AND SUNDRY MATTERS 


(an Apology to my readers
Necessity compels me to write this, not in defence of God, as might be expected, but to clarify matters which have arisen inevitably, albeit foreseeably, from the posts that I have put up on blogs and social media. Although for the avoidance of doubt it should be understood that this writing is aimed at clarifying those posts about God and sundry matters philosophical and religious, it should not be understood that I have embarked even marginally on an exegesis of spirito-religious matters. This writing, then, is aimed principally at clearing some misunderstandings that I have perceived that some people have about my posts with regard to what I believe about God.

Not of course that what I believe in is of any moment to any soul, nor that I am obliged even morally to explain my beliefs or lack of it. However, I have perceived that most readers find it difficult to separate my writings, or certain aspects of it, from my person. The blame is largely mine, for in choosing to use the first person (stream of consciousness method) in issues of personal and emotional importance, I have often created a fusion difficult to separate if at all separable. The inevitable interpretation in the mind of a rational reader is that such expressions are mine, and the result is that such a reader may not understand why instead of taking responsibility for such writings, I only offer feeble disclaimers after the harm has been done. It is out of respect to such well-meaning reader who misunderstands me through a fault entirely mine that I make this apology.

I will take a moment to explain an aspect of the literary world that readers rarely avert their minds to, but which writers are constantly battling with, and I ask beforehand that you pardon my pedagogic approach as I do not know how else to do it. Characters are the creations of a literary artist, and even the ‘real’, non-fictional characters have had their own mouldings in the hand of the artist. Characters are the mouthpiece through which the writer passes his message or expresses his actions and through which he demonstrates his perception of the society. Proceeding for the most part from within him, the characters should naturally be the writer, but they are not. The characters of even the most incautious writer who sets himself up as a mirror of his creations are not him: they are either the abstraction of his good part, his bad part or just his desires; but most of the time, the characters have nothing to do with him. Otherwise, is one to imagine that those writers who create as divergent personalities as there are characters even in a single book are a concatenation of those characters? On the other hand, can one imagine a writer whose writings are peopled by characters who are a mirror of himself? It does not matter how interesting his person is, his readers would inevitably confine his works to where they belong: in dustbin.

What the writer does in practice is to use his imagination in creating his characters. He is free, but the limits of his freedom are circumscribed by the society in which he lives, or rather, of which he writes. He must hold up his creations to the mirror of nature; anything done otherwise is banished to the genre of fantasy where the readers venture principally to escape from the realities of life. In holding up his characters to the mirror of nature, the writer is bound to reflect differing characters in his creation. These differing characters may be so divergent as to represent an impossibility in any mind that such could be a reflection of any one person. Take for example Milton’s ingenious creation of God and Satan, angels and demons, heaven and hell. His depictions of the characters and events and places, apart from being as widely contrasting and yet pungent as one can imagine, are themselves creations which, even taken singly, a man with the fullest of vision would fail to achieve, much less a man labouring in blindness. No one ever imagined that Milton had to be God to create a God, or the Devil to create a devil, neither is any one less convinced of his depiction of heaven or hell because he knows that Milton was never in either place. No one has ever seriously questioned how Homer as the quite observer of the happenings in the Trojan plains, managed, when the need arose, to transport himself to heaven in order to observe that he might tell, the melodrama of the gods. In their imagination, writers are gods, omniscience their licence – they know what they need to know, they are where they need to be, for the sake of their creation. That is the liberty available to a writer, the liberty from which he derives the immunity from the actions and expressions of his creations.

That is the liberty I ask of you, O reader; and do not imagine that it is any less important to an upstart writer than to an accomplished one. Acknowledge that I have this liberty and you will find it less tasking to understand that I who have never experienced the nearness of death could write about a man dying in his bed and regretting the path he had taken in this life. You will understand, without feeling betrayed, how you can read a passionate article from me about atheism and see me the next day on your doorstep preaching God’s Kingdom. I am not a bundle of conflicts as would appear from such writings, because I am simply not the characters I have created. There is for you, reader, a wide ambit to accept or reject a character and criticise as much as you can conjure up adjectives. There is, alas, no such liberty for me, for I must make my bad character as bad as can be, my bizarre character as bizarre as can be, my good character as saintly as can be; I must attempt to give what I do not have and yet not appear to be at a dearth. It does not follow that, removed from the world of writing, I do not detest these detestable characters as you do, or strive after the good ones equally because they have characters which I do not have, even though I have been instrumental in their creation. For the most intensely constructed character is the sum total of what the creator cannot be: his intense desire or dislike.

I assure you that the writer’s life is an exception to Christ’s proverb that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. I concede the reverse exception: that the character, no matter how far removed from himself the writer creates him to be, will invariably reflect something of the writer. Yet, even where that that is the case, I ask that the creation, not the creator, should bear whatever sentiments you harbour for the character. Pass whatever judgment you wish of the character as he is, or even unjustly if an opinion is capable of being unjust: a writer cannot ask of more. As glorious as Les Miserables turned out as a piece of literary work, if Hugo were to take to heart the criticisms he received of his characterisation, he would have had the book withdrawn from circulation and probably would never have set pen to paper thereafter. But criticism turned out to be good for both him – in his subsequent creations – and his critic-audience who were edified by his improvements. Well, even if I am not improved by your criticism of my creation, I shall still respect your opinion; I have no choice even, for I am duty-bound to accept it as your right, just as it is my right to create without bounds. I have only tried to point out what I think has been responsible for some reader’s misunderstanding.

I may have grossly exaggerated matters! I therefore elect to bear the blame if, instead of your misunderstanding me, I have turned out to be the one misunderstanding you. I ask for your generous pardon in advance. But I will not be just to you or myself if I do not tell you why I have been led into the belief that some of my posts have been misunderstood, namely…

An aggregation of questions sometimes asked and sometimes implied in my posts that have something to do with God. Taken separately, they are nothing serious, but to overlook its aggregate is an injustice. In response to the post, ‘As I Lay Dying’ which in retrospect I concur is strongly worded for any seriously religious mind, a reader who is familiar with me tried to exonerate me by saying that it could not have been my sincere belief. Not so many people have such penetrative minds, or are not quick to judge as to pronounce a man innocent in his absence. Regarding that same post, a friend who knows my religious orientation asked, ‘Does it not contradict your religious beliefs?’ Of course that was just a cautious way of reminding me that my posts are not in consonance with my beliefs. Others have been far more express in their vociferations. What has really broken the camel’s back is my recent post, ‘The Pains of Atheism’. One would think that I would escape harsh criticism by the way I couched the title, but alas, not one reader was deceived! A reader made an emphatic declaration: ‘[God] does exist dear Omenga!’ – as though I was personally determined to prove that He does not exist. The tone of his comment was unmistakably that of disappointment, and on reading that, the Devil himself could have pointed fingers at me and said to God, ‘There goes the man determined to prove that you don’t exist. At least I believe that much.’ Another friend pointed out, quite rightly, that the post was more a vindication of atheism than of theism. Another friend: ‘the lengthy and complicated form of your post keeps many at advantage (whose conviction would have been shaken) as many skip reading…’ Perhaps the most hurtful was a rather jocular interjection of another reader: ‘The atheists have found a friend in Joshua Omenga’. As if in justification, a blog follower commented on the post: ‘I say there is no god, but I am no fool…’ obviously implying that he has found a kindred spirit.

The question is not whether these people are wrong or right; but to me, it is sobering that they should be united in the opinion that I have promoting the things I wrote about. I have, there is no doubt, led them to this belief; perhaps I could have believed the same of another writer whom I have no intimate knowledge of. It is for this reason that I have taken time to write this in clarification of issues; and I can only hope that the reader does not stop somewhere because of the length of this article. That said, let me quickly point out the crux of this matter, namely, God and my beliefs. I need not emphasise again that it is not about God’s existence or His character that I intend to defend, only to establish my belief in Him. If I would attract censure through this, let it be based not on the ground of my belief in God, the rightness or wrongness of such belief, the truism or otherwise of the proof of God etc, but on whether I belief in Him as I claim or not. Having agreed on that, I here present a summary of my credo about God.
CREDO
1. I believe in the God whose name is Jehovah and hold that he is the creator of all living things.

2. I believe in the existence of other gods but do not bother about their attributes or number or significance.

3. I believe that Jehovah is the Almighty God and that His majesty transcends that of any other being who may be called a god.

4. I believe that Jehovah inspired the Bible for the purpose of guiding mankind.

5. I believe that man is capable of understanding the Bible on his own, so long as he is humbly determined to seek God through it; and although a man may benefit much from another’s explanation, he need not depend on others to understand the Bible. 

6. I believe in the perfection of the Bible even though there are passages of it that I do not understand or can reconcile with the remnant gamut.

7. I believe that man’s misunderstanding of God springs not from the Bible’s depiction of God but in man’s interpretation of the Bible.

The above forms my credo about God and the Bible. I believe in them all; but they are not all my beliefs. By them let me be judged.

AS I LAY DYING 


Joshua Omenga 

How was I to know that this day will ever arrive when I will look back at all my years of living, all my strivings, all my loves and hates, all my desires and loathing, all my years of devotion to religion, all the pains and travails of my life, and the moments of laughter with friends and wild jubilations for things achieved – that in this moment, as I lay dying, I would look at them all and sum them up in one word: Vanity? Not a prophet could have foretold this…

Now I see clearly the road which I have traversed in this life, the crooked and the straight, the ones in which I have made diligent efforts to choose, the ones I have chosen impulsively; that all of them, the road taken and the road not taken, lead, in this inevitable hour, to one end. Wherefore is that voice that in life warns man of making bad decisions? Is this not the fruition of it all, this narrow end at which all life’s journeys converge? What means the telling of different stories when each man’s story must have this sad ending? O child, do not wet my deathbed with tears! Don’t weep for the life which has ended; weep instead for your life, and if the mist may clear from your eyes, learn what you may of this unvarying tale, for one day, you will find that all life’s end is the same.

I cannot say, ‘Life has given this to me’, for none of life’s gifts is permanent, and none of them is of any use to me now. Shall I talk of the wealth that I have acquired? Shall I remember my tardy expectations, my shrewish bargains, my unreserved husbandry? What do my toils mean in this last hour? What consolation may I derive from them? That they will be for my children? What joy is there in this knowledge, when I shall close my eyes to all affairs, to all sensations, to all knowings? No, there is nothing in it for me except the knowledge that I once had, that I once possessed; yea, that I have…

As for these children that I have shed many tears, spend untold hours to wipe their noses, wrung my heart in worry over their sick beds, held their little hands as they took uncertain steps in this uncertain world, smiled at their full-throated laugh – what are they to me now, when I shall behold them no more, when I shall think no more of them? What does it matter that they think of me when I don’t know that they think of me? Where is the truth in the aphorism that they are an eternal heritage, these children which this closing night will erase their memory from my head?

O child, listen wisdom is nothing! Knowledge is nothing! I have accumulated knowledge, known many secrets, read many books; but O child, they are to me like all the rest of my acquisitions! What is the knowledge that will decay with my brain, the wisdom that will not circumvent this moment? Ah, the philosophers are to blame for elevating wisdom, for parading knowledge as though it is anything. Don’t listen to them:  they all lie! When this moment arrives, you will find that there is no difference between the brute and the sage.

All is lie, child; all the things you hold sacred are nihil. There is no recompense for them all. Shun that voice that tells you to live good; shun that voice that tells you to live evil; shun all voice but yours. Choose that life you will, live it, and when it comes to an end, when this inescapable moment arrives, you will have nothing to regret. Yes, child, for in this last hour, all life is the same. I testify that when life has come to its end, it will not matter what road you have taken to reach it.

What dreams I will encounter in this eternal sleep I do not know. I hear the Voice, the Voice which had sustained my faith; It says, ‘Sleep and be with your God.’ I have believed this Voice, this God; I have laboured in this affair called religion – but what is religion when I close my eyes? What is God when I cease to exist? Is he not for the living – the living who go on suffering for Him, the living who hope to reap the reward of their devotion when they are dead? Whose then is God – the dead who will not have him or the living who will die for him? Ah, where are you God? Will you lend me your hand to feel, tell me what lies ahead in this inexplicable journey of my embarkation? Do not forsake me now, when all else has become nothingness. Or are you too, like them, nothing in the end? Are you merely the conjuration of religionists?

I have heard that it is the soul that you care for, not the body. But of what use is my soul without my body? I want to have my body; preserve that for me and you shall have justified my years of religion. I have tried to imagine the abstraction called spirit and if it is real, if ever in this vast cosmos one may point at a thing and say, ‘This is a spirit’, I see no reason why I should desire it more than other vain things that I have desired in life. I see no reason why, for the promise of a life away from my body, I should spent years of penance and self-abnegation, seek after the justice that the whole world is bent against, and endure persecution for the sake of pleasing you. How clearly I see all things now, when there is no remedy for lost things, when I cannot turn back and follow a different route. But all routes are the same. O vain, this life; one may plan and pray and still come to the same abysmal end. Wherein lies this hope that faith infuses in the heart which believes?

I have been told that sometime in an indefinite future, a vast celestial trumpet shall awake all dead to life and souls shall be restored. Which body will the restored soul occupy? A new created flesh? O God, you may keep my soul, destroy it even; but let this flesh of mine be there, this brain, this me, imperfect and ailing – let it be the object of my resurrection. What is the ‘I’ if I look for my being and not find it? I don’t want that soul whose substance have eluded men; I want this body as it is, this sensate ‘I’, this brain with all its knowledge and unwisdom, not a purified soul worthy of walking beside you.

Grant me immortality! Let there be no time that I will not be. What does it mean to not be, to cease to exist? Tell, O ye immortal – but can you, always existing, know what it means not to exist? I long to know! I long to understand this void for which I am destined! I long to foreknow, to anticipate; else how do I know when I cease to exist, when I have arrive at death’s destination? O God, if you are, if you know, teach me!

I look but I cannot see, I listen but I cannot hear, I touch but I cannot feel; everything is melting away. Nothing remains but this chasmic feel. There is peace around me, bliss ineffable. Am I this floating, unfeeling being in this vast impersonal space? What is this great luminary that provides no light and yet dazzles? I strain for this ethereal sight but I cannot reach it. All things are fleeting. All shapes, all colours, all tastes conjoin in one indescribable swirl and around me they circle; no, they are me. But there is no me – nothing of what once I called ‘me’. And yet, and yet… I grope, in my brain? I strain to think but think I cannot. Ah, this… where… may I… O? Cr… h…

THE PAINS OF ATHEISM 


Joshua Omenga
I have often heard – and will be surprised that any kindred soul in disbelief has not been deluged by – the Biblical quotation: ‘The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.’ It has always seemed to me till this moment that the creator of this Judeo-Christian God is not only creative but daring, having not only proclaimed with such finality against unbelievers but has also attempted to topple other gods. I do not know how those other gods have taken his arrogance, except of course that they too, like him, are the creations of some ingenious minds. But in calling  us, the unbelievers, fools, the maker of this God is, far from being insulting, only being commonsensical. For if this God desires worship as he is depicted; if he is so jealous of it that he would kill his people for worshipping, even temporarily, other gods, how best could he proclaim his interest but to call us, his subverters, fools? Yet I think that this ingenious creator of this jealous God ought to have found a more degrading term. 

Until now, I have always imagined the moment when atheism will be vindicated; when we the unbelievers shall laugh at the men of faith and ask, ‘Verily, are they not fools who opine, There is God? And are they not the most miserable of creations, these who have believed and hoped in a God who did not and never existed?’ O, so glorious a moment it would be; so illumining for the race of reasoning mankind, when the mask of several thousand years shall be removed from the gods; when the shackles of dependence shall be broken from the human race! Ah, how wondrous I have thought the moment will be, that I too, in my unbelief, have entertained more faith than believers! Sometimes I even wished that this God existed for the sole reason of bearing the humiliation and sorrows that the belief in him has caused mankind.

But what if atheism is vindicated? What if the great discovery of today is that God did not die but has never existed? Until now, I have never been frightened by the prospect of being right! I have thought it over, mused over the nonsensicalness of religion, of faith in anything other than the physical; and truly, there is not a corner in which one’s reason might point and say, Look, here lies the God you have been looking for. In my search for this God I have become so thoroughly convinced of his inexistence that the only thing which frightens me is the discovery that he exists. How is it then, that faced with an unmistakable demonstration of his inexistence, my own glorious vindication, it seems that a chill courses within me? Is it perhaps out of sympathy for this God – the God whom I never knew, never believed in, never loved? It is in this phrenetic search for my soul’s expiation that it dawned on me, this truth:

In proving the inexistence of God, I shall have won an argument. I shall have toppled the belief of a thousand years, unwritten the history of many nations, undone in a lifetime what the whole generations of humanity have built. I shall have destroyed the base of the human society, torn the faith from earnest hearts, removed the hopes from aching minds. I shall have done these; but I shall also have given the world a truth long unknown: the nothingness of the one thing that controls their actions. I shall have liberated them, given them reason to live not for a God but for themselves. I shall have removed their hopes but I shall also have removed from them the fear of the supernatural that have driven men to despair. And above all, I shall have offered to the writer of Psalm 14 a last laugh: ‘You, brother, have been the fool all along. Your sacrifices, your forbearances, your hopes, your pleas for the help of the inexistent one – all are nihil.’ 

But in all of this, what shall be my satisfaction, I the discoverer of this great truth? Shall there be for me any recompense for my discovery other than the vanity of knowing that I have been proved right where the rest of mankind have been proved wrong? What then is this desire to be right? Is it not a vestige of belief, of faith, that somewhere in the cosmic order, a supernal being shall reward people for their actions? Ah, this my vindication shall be the giving of a cheque to a man lost in the desert: he may have the means to all the money in the world, but what are they to him in the company of sands? I know; I know; there may yet remain for me the tiny spurt of happiness that derives from self, the happiness that does not require the external other… 

And here comes the burden of truth: how shall man live, having discarded his God? How shall the man live whose evil inclinations are checked not by legislations but by the fear of the supernatural? Which man will do good who knows that he stands to profit more from doing evil? Who will leave the satisfaction of self for the satisfaction of another when he knows that no God will reward his goodness? Is he not a fool who, having the power to subdue another without consequences, refrains from so doing out of the goodness of his heart? Ah, such a one were a saint – of nothingness! His purity is excremental, his sacrifices a demonstration of foolishness. Is this the decadence that my revelation will bring on humanity?

Oh, perhaps I have over-expressed my fears. Perhaps mankind will live as it has always lived, and it would not have mattered that this truth is revealed to it; perhaps many there are who now live without knowing of God’s (in)existence. And yet, if humanity survives without a scare the terrible implication of God’s inexistence, how shall I who am always looking onward survive my inner battle? The inner battle – that beyond the few years of existence there is nothing in the gaping future; that any fame I shall have acquired shall come to nought? There is a tragic dignity in man’s mortality – but only when it comes from the belief in the supernatural. It is a mystic emptiness, with no wall and no space – this contemplation that this life is all there is. And yet this is what I have laboured to prove; this is the belief that I have held ever since I unshackled myself from the burdens of religion. I have lived hoping to be vindicated one day. But now, looking at the full implication of God’s inexistence, I desire the lie.

I desire the untruth of theism. I know; I am convinced, that there is no God. I have seen through the lies of spiritualism; I have seen through the charlatanism of religion; I have known all there in this mysterious desire for the supernatural and have seen all its hollow arguments, all its discordant premises – but what consolation is this knowledge to me now? Ah, that I who have sought to know should be frightened by my knowledge!

I envy those who believe. It may be a lie but there is comfort in it. The man who believes in God will live his life with hopes and desires, will give glory to God for his achievements and blame the devil for his maladies. He will do all things with reason: self-condemnation will not follow him when he does a secret good because he hopes in a supernatural recompense; he will refrain from injurious acts for fear of supernatural punishment. It does not matter that his faith is in nothingness: he shall have lived this life with purpose; he shall have suffered for a purpose; he shall have been a libertine fearing for his soul – whether for good or for bad, he shall have lived with a definiteness of the future in his mind. That chaos is what I dread. Let me live evil now and enjoy the fruit of evil, for I know there will be no punishment for me. But how shall I enjoy it when constantly all I see before me is this looming blankness, this incorporeal future beyond which all my achievements and knowledge and being shall perish? How better for the man who faces inexistence without knowing it!

Now do I know what the creator of God means when he says that the man is a fool who does not believe in God. There is no God, but the man is a fool who finds it out. He were better content with the lie that gives him hope, the lie that gives him purpose, the lie that clears the mists from the future and clothe it with corporeality. There is more comfort in his lie than in my truth. And what if my truth is a lie?

© 2016 Joshua Omenga