April 26, 2017
The Potential of Mankind in the Sons of Noah
Shem, Ham and Japheth and the Eternal Kingdom
Hugh Dryden, writing on The Scientist in Contemporary Life, wrote “Man's life at its fullest is a trinity of activity: physical, mental, and spiritual." Dryden was not speaking of the theological concept of man as a trichotomy of body, soul and spirit. What Dryden is pointing out is that there are three areas of human involvement which must all be taken into account and nurtured if man is to develop his personality to the full. He must live in the sense of surviving as a viable entity, which means food and warmth and shelter and so forth.
For man to reach his fullest potential, he must be allowed to stretch his mind and explore with his intellect whatever attracts his attention, which means mental stimulation and challenge. And he must not overlook the fact that there is a spiritual side to his nature which is not satisfied either by bread alone or by intellectual exercise or rational argument, but something which transcends them both. A healthy body and a healthy mind do not guarantee, but may contribute to, spiritual well-being. It is not solely a matter of emotions and yet it must involve the emotions to be satisfying. For most men, it is best described under the general heading of Religion, but it is best understood in terms of man’s soul.
Research into the factors which influence personality development has shown that whenever these three "needs" are appropriately cultivated, character develops in a normal and healthy way. But when one of them is neglected or denied the individual becomes somehow unbalanced.
It would be wrong to suppose that, as man is constituted at present, any one of these three "capacities" is more important than the other. The overly spiritual man is no more a balanced person than the overly sensual. It may seem that he would be a preferred type, but experience shows that the mystic can be quite as unbearable at close range as the "trousered ape" (to use C. S. Lewis' phrase). Neither does the purely intellectual prove to be any more desirable at close quarters. It is difficult to know which is more unpleasant, spiritual or intellectual pride, but both can be insufferable.
Thus, as an individual, man can live in any one of the three realms almost to the exclusion of the other two with virtually no awareness of his own loss. He can become almost entirely sensual, or almost entirely intellectual, or almost entirely a mystic. In the first case, he is likely to be looked upon as crude, in short, an animal dedicated to his own physical comforts. In the second case, he is likely to be thought of as impractical, a "brain." In the third case, he is likely to be looked upon as other-worldly, a man whose feet are not on the ground. Of course, there are many combinations, though there are limits to these.
There may be a man whose animal tastes are strongly defined and yet who has a keen mind. Such a man "succeeds" in the worldly sense of the term. He is a clever creature. On the other hand, the man who is both a "brain" and spiritually inclined is apt to be a theological type, a success in his chosen field. But a combination of the animal and the spiritual is hard to conceive; the bridge between the spiritual and the physical lies in the intellect, which can be joined to either of the other two or can unite them all.
As with the individual, so with a society, a culture, or a nation as a whole: when the "body," the "mind," and the "spirit" of a people receive equal encouragement and cultivation, the society enjoys a measure of health and well-being which is not only reflected in a higher level of creative activity but in a reduction of the evil effects of the Fall. By contrast when any one of these three components dominate (or is seriously neglected) the effects of sin in human nature become in some way aggravated. This is particularly clear when a society becomes dedicated to the satisfying of its animal instincts, the things of its "body." It ends up by degenerating; it becomes barbaric. It is not quite so obviously detrimental when a society turns "intellectual" to the exclusion of all else, and we probably have little to go on from a study of history.
The Golden Age of the Greek philosophers may be a case in part, and at times "intellectuals" have possibly dominated life in India. There is little question that such societies do not or cannot survive for long. The needs of the body must be recognized, and these needs can only be ignored by the few if they are in a position to demand that the many take care of the matter for them. Intellectual elites survive only while a lower class is willing to serve their need, and history shows that human beings will not perform this kind of service indefinitely.
Nor does a purely spiritual society do very well, either. Not a few such experiments have been made, retreats from the world, cloistering’s in out-of-the-way places. The greatest danger has been spiritual pride, and spiritual pride is surely even more disastrous to man's total health than intellectual pride is, for it has no self-correctives.
What is true of the individual, history therefore has shown to be true of whole cultures. And nations also have personalities. Revival is not always merely personal and spiritual. It may be intellectual, too. And it is most certainly national.
In some circumstances, the physical side of man's life has been so badly neglected that a frightful poverty has resulted and the consequent desperately small margin of survival (characteristic of some primitive cultures of recent times which have recollections of much happier days) contributes to the decay of the other capacities as well. Revival in intellectual life and revival in spiritual life are both apt to be observed anew when the burden of physical life has also been eased.
It appears that the world in pre-Flood times shared a measure of spiritual truth which was presumably revealed at the very beginning but had increasingly become corrupted due to man's sinful disposition and his tendency to worship what he himself creates.
At the time of the Flood, it may have been true that Noah was the only man left with any measure of purity of faith and spiritual understanding. One gathers from Genesis 9 that Shem shared more of his father's spiritual insight and love of God than either Japheth or Ham, and Shem's godly disposition seems to be the source from which arose the subsequent stream of spiritual insight that remained after the Flood. However, by the time of Abraham, this stream had narrowed to one man. God called Abraham out and took him under His wing in a special way, through whom He would bless all the nations.
The question is simply: “How does God redeem the world to bring about man’s fullest potential?”
- A kingdom to come?
- A kingdom that is now?
- A combination of them both?
See Appendix 22 – Is the Kingdom of God Now or Then?