Thursday, March 22, 2012

Auden: the force of spiritual law

Thursday, March 22, 2012
    For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.
    —Romans 7:22-23 (NIV)
    All theological language is necessarily analogical, but it was singularly unfortunate that the Church, in speaking of punishment for sin, should have chosen the analogy of criminal law, for the analogy is incompatible with the Christian belief in God as the creator of Man.
    Criminal laws are laws-for, imposed on men, who are already in existence, with or without their consent, and, with the possible exception of capital punishment for murder, there is no logical relation between the nature of a crime and the penalty inflicted for committing it.
    If God created man, then the laws of man’s spiritual nature must, like the laws of his physical nature, be laws-of—laws, that is to say, which he is free to defy but no more free to break than he can break the law of gravity by jumping out of the window, or the laws of biochemistry by getting drunk—and the consequences of defying them must be as inevitable and as intrinsically related to their nature as a broken leg or a hangover.
    To state spiritual laws in the imperative—Thou shalt love God with all thy being, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself—is simply a pedagogical technique, as when a mother says to her small son, “Stay away from the window!” because the child does not yet know what will happen if he falls out of it.
    ... W. H. Auden (1907-1973), A Certain World, London: Faber and Faber, 1971, p. 180-181 (see the book)
Quiet time reflection:
    Lord, You have told us what is good for man.
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