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From Hell to Heaven
Chapter 17 - The Lord argues: submit yourselves to the authorities. Robert questions this commandment, seeking clarification on the nature of Jesus’ human divinity.
1. Say I: “Hearken, My dear friend and brother, I cannot reproach your thinking or acting at all. Wherever there are, between the regents and subjects, such relations as you described, there of course you are completely right in speech and action. But if things were different to how you conceptualise them, how would you then go about judging diverse relationships between rulers and their subordinate subjects?
2. “You indeed said to Me sincerely that you assess relations between ruler and ruled only by My commandment of love, and that celestial laws don’t concern you. But behold, here I cannot agree with you, for many reasons.
3. “One reason already would be My own one commandment, in accordance with which I Myself showed Myself as subject to worldly authority – notwithstanding that I would have had sufficient power to strictly defy them all. And furthermore, where in the temple when the tax coin was required, I commanded, to give to Caesar what is due to him, and to God what is God’s! Likewise, through Paul, I taught to obey all authorities, whether strict or moderate, as none had authority save from above! – What will you say to these, likewise My commandments?”
4. Says Robert: “Noblest humanitarian, I would say that, purely clever human considerations of yore extracted these commandments from You, for better guarantee of Your doctrine, together with Your own Person. For had You, as in the Old Jewish Testament, railed against the kings, as did Jehovah through the mouth of Samuel, then Your lofty morals would hardly have withstood the nearly two thousand-year reign of a most arrogant Rome, except by supernatural means, about which the darkest Romans have much to say. How much truth there nonetheless is to this, You will Yourself be better able to judge than I, who was not able to witness the abominations of this new Babylon!
5. “Behold, I look at it this way: had You been serious about Your commandment to submit ourselves to all authorities, whether good or evil, then You would have had to let go of Your most liberal doctrine in advance. You should have had to admit, that one would have to remain a dark heathen for all time to come,– once a nation was told by a heathen authority to worship the old deities and not listen to Your fledgling teaching!
6. “Of course You said: ‘Give to Caesar what is due to Caesar, and to God what is due to God.’ Yet You failed to specify the actual limits of what in the order of things, is due to Caesar and to God. Hence it was easy for Caesar to unscrupulously arrogate to himself the right of a Deity, and not attend to the duties of his office.
7. “Notwithstanding this, Your temple statement is more explicit than Paul’s counsel, which smells of fear of the authorities. Taken literally, one would have to cease being a Christian as soon as such prince of the world regards Your doctrine as a threat to his dictatorship, – as distinctly shown by the profane Roman doctrine over many centuries, right up to the present.
8. “Otherwise the normally exceedingly wise Paul would have had to impose such mandate for a different reason, for to a healthy commonsense, the thing is nonsense, strictly speaking. Because, on the one hand, it is written: ‘Ye are all brethren, and only One is Lord!’ Yet on the other hand, one is to submit to authorities who regard brotherhood with derision.
9. “This, Friend, is mutually exclusive. Either one or the other! If one is forced to obey both however, then this basically means serving two masters, which You Yourself reproved as impossible! Or one should have to assume a dual nature, according to which hypocrisy, one would do the prince’s will only outwardly, having to curse it inwardly, doing only what the liberal part of Your doctrine demands. And this would be very difficult of course and at times impossible, or at least most dangerous.
10. “Believe me, noble Friend, I have examined this aspect of Your doctrine like few others. I believe to have discerned between what you freely taught as Your main theme, and that which You and Your disciples were forced to interpolate, on account of yonder threatening times. But I nevertheless am Your most fervent worshipper and know how to regard Your most pure doctrine! You said of course that You submitted Yourself to the worldly authorities, in spite of You all-conquering might. This I cannot question, since You had to permit Yourself to be hung upon the cross by worldly laws.
11. “Whether You could have resisted the authorities’ arrest on account of Your supernatural power goes way beyond my capacity to judge! If Your deeds were not attributed to You through demi-godly idolatry, then it is certain that, as a wise man deeply initiated into the control of the innermost and extraordinary powers of nature, these stood at Your disposal. But Your apprehension and execution has shed a strange light upon Your miraculous powers with many enlightened thinkers, offending them. But I and many others merely accepted Your most pure doctrine, discarding everything that appeared like subsequent heathen tail-spinning.
12. “Whether we were right or wrong I hope to now find out from You, in the fullness of truth. As well as what, if anything, there is to Your supposedly, mathematically proven Deity, through a certain Swedenborg, in the eighteenth century? Which for a clear thinker could of course be hard to accept, as this goes somewhat into the burlesque.
13. “Just think – an unlimited divine Being, whose intelligence, wisdom and power must of necessity be of the most extended nature! Hence it would logically be also impossible that such endless and most all-embracing Being could confine Itself to the person of one human! And ask Yourself whether, after some reflection, one can assume that You and the all-embracing Deity could really be identical? As the Son of God indeed, – I have nothing against this, because every decent person can rightly say so about himself. But God and man at one and the same time, obviously goes too far!
14. “Neither do I have anything against this, if it can be proven to me. For if there are things between sun and moon of which no human wisdom could ever dream, then why could You not be the highest divine Being in actuality? Perhaps, according to Hegel, within Yourself, the formerly dormant Deity for the first time awakened and gained full self-consciousness?
15. “Or perhaps It felt the need to manifest Itself to Its created beings as a Human, in order to be understood and beheld by men, without in any way foregoing anything of its all-embracing, loftiest willpower? As said, this all is possible, especially here, where existence itself assumes such most puzzling nature.
16. “But why in that case the Deity, first manifesting Itself as Divine Man, then permitted Itself to be executed upon the most shameful stake by a bunch of utterly foolish Jews – such would hardly take place between sun and moon, my friend! Such a miracle one would have to start seeking between nebulas.
17. “But I don’t believe that You asserted such about Yourself even in a dream. For I know only too well what You replied when they asked You whether You were in all earnest the Son of God? Your answer was that of a wise man: ‘Ye said so’, (not I). Whoever speaks thus at the decisive moment knows what he says and why. - I believe to have also understood this answer – for far as it is within man’s power; taking it that You, as most pure human, in all aspects are a true angelic spirit, but no heathen demi-god.
18. “But that in Your time, when they still believed in an oracle of Delphi, where the Thumin and Urim prophesied, and Aaron’s almost thousand-year-old rod in the Ark of the Covenant still sprouted, there I find it believable that they could attribute a deification to a man like Yourself, whose wisdom has not been surpassed in nearly two thousand Years! - For if the wise Romans already regarded every great man as touched by the breath of God, then how much more Your miracle-addicted compatriots, since You worked things before their eyes, whose probably natural basis they had not the least notion since Abraham!
19. “I now deem myself to have adequately answered Your question. It should now be Your turn. I shall hearken most keenly unto every one of Your words.”
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