Is God Knocking at the Door of Whosoever’s Heart?

To know Christ means not merely to know who He is, for the devils know and tremble. Do you know Christ; have you received Christ, do you believe in Christ, do you love Christ more than anything else. The Apostle John adds that we should also obey God’s commandments:

[1] Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. [2] By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments (1 John 5:1-2 ).”

A follower of Jesus obeys God’s commands not in order to be saved but because he is saved. Someone who relies on his own works doesn’t need a saviour, cannot believe in Christ, and therefore cannot be a child of God. The person who sees his own inability, his own helplessness is a child of God. The child of God has no confidence in the flesh:

[2] Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. [3] For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh” ( Philippians 3:2-3 ESV). The Gospel makes it clear, however, that “works” (fruit) is an integral consequence of faith. In sum, “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God” (1 John 5:1) and the evidence of this fact is that we “obey his commandments” (1 John 5:1). And we can only believe if we do not trust in the flesh but in Jesus alone.

The question I would now like to tackle is the Arminian-Calvinist (synergist-monergist) controversy of how we come to faith and whether this has any bearing on one’s standing as a child of God.

In Calvinists, Neo-gnostic Calvinists and Seeking Arminians, I began by saying that when non-Calvinists bring up Calvinism (not too graphically, I hope), they are generally referring to the monergist doctrine that salvation is 100% of the Lord. The Arminian argues we certainly need grace, lots of it, but it is up to man to make the final decision, because “forced love is rape, and God is not a divine rapist!” (Norman Geisler in “Chosen but free”).

Yet, if Charles Spurgeon is correct when he says “If you began in the flesh, you have gone on in the flesh, and in the flesh you will die” (“God Promises you,” 1995, Whitaker House, p. 13), then how should we understand the following bible passages?

1. “…. who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:13), and 2. we “who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh” ( Philippians 3:3 ESV).

If you can honestly believe my hope is built on nothing less than Jesu’s blood and righteousness, I dare not trust my sweetest frame but wholy lean on Jesu’s name, on Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand,’ then you are for certain a child of God.

Now, here’s the rub: assume a lost person believes he cooperates with God in receiving Him and also believes with all his heart: “my hope is built on nothing less than Jesu’s blood and righteousness, I dare not trust my sweetest frame but wholy lean on Jesu’s name, on Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.” The question I would ask, and I think Spurgeon would also ask is: “Did this lost person “put no confidence in the flesh” when he believed ( Philippians 3:3) or did he come to believe by “the will of the flesh,” or, to put it another way by “the will of man” (John 1:13)?

Arminians and Calvinists both agree that someone who relies on his own works doesn’t need a saviour, and so cannot believe in Christ, and therefore cannot be a child of God. The person who sees his own inability, his own helplessness is a child of God. In other words, both the Arminian and the Calvinist would agree that the child of God puts no confidence in the flesh. The Calvinist, however, says the whole process of coming to faith is entirely God’s work, while the Arminian says that this can’t be so because God has sovereignly decreed that the believer decide; his reasoning being that God does not want robots for children.

The question is: Does the person’s action of deciding – his will, his flesh – form an integral – indeed the crucial – ingredient of his justification (made righteous)? Most Protestants in the Arminian-Calvinist controversy believe in justification by faith alone, that is, no works (no actions) are involved in coming to faith. The Arminian will argue that although he works at something – a big something, because ultimately it depends on him, when he cooperates (opera “work”) with God in his salvation, this cooperation (co-work) does not mean the same as “works” in contrast of “faith.” He might give the following example:,

[28] Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” [29] Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

(John 6:28-29 ).

It, is of course true, that “to believe” is an act, is a work, of the will, but this work of the will only comes into operation after the will has been set free. When is the will set free? When the Son sets you free, and when He does, you will be free indeed (John 8:36). Then when you sing “Amazing grace…who saved a wretch like me” you will really understand it, for how can you understand it if you think that the door to your heart can only be opened from the inside – by you. If it is you who decides what you will be doing with God’s plan, if it is you who has ultimate control over whether you become a child of God, whether you are saved, if that is what you think, how can you really understand “I stand at the door and knock” (Revelation 3:20)

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20). If you’re an Arminian like John Stott – whose “The Cross of Christ” has been called a masterpiece by a Calvinist like J.I. Packer, and which I also think is a great work – Revelation 3:20 means this:

Yes Jesus Christ says he is standing at the door of our lives, waiting.” (Stott is talking to the unsaved, those who are dead in sin, the unsaved – Ephesians 2). “He is the landlord; he bought it with his life-blood. He could command us to open to Him; instead, he merely invites us to do so. He will not force and entry into anybody’s life. He says (verse 18) ‘I counsel you.’ he could issue orders; he is content to give advice. Such are his condescension and humility, and the freedom he has given us” (John Stott, “Basic Christianity,” Intervaristy Press, 1958, p. 124).

Alexander Mclaren resonates with Stott:

He holds back the vengeance that is ready to fall and will one day fall ‘on all disobedience.’ Not till all other means have been patiently tried will He let that terrible ending crash down. It hangs over the heads of many of us who are all unaware that we walk beneath the shadow of a rock that at any moment may be set in motion and bury us beneath its weight. It is ‘in readiness,’ but it is still at rest. Let us be wise in time and yield to the merciful weapons with which Jesus would make His way into our hearts. Or if the metaphor of our text presents Him in too warlike a guise, let us listen to His own gentle pleading, ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him.’ (Mclaren, “A militant message”).

Those two arm-in-arm commentaries are obviously Arminian in spirit. Here is the Calvinist interpretation from Charles Spurgeon, which I consider to be the correct one. Spurgeon is addressing the depressed Christian:

Let me speak to the depressed, and remind them that the prayer is instructive, for it shows that all that is wanted for a forsaken, forgotten spirit is that God should visit it again. “Remember me, O Lord. Anybody else’s remembering can do me no good, but if thou only give one thought toward thy servant, it is all done. Lord, I have been visited by the pastor, and he tried to cheer me. I have had a visit in the preaching of the gospel in the morning and the evening of thy day. I went to thy table, and I did not get encouragement there. But, Lord, do thou visit me!” A visit from Christ is the cure for all spiritual diseases. I have frequently reminded you of that in the address to the Church at Laodicea. The Church at Laodicea was neither cold nor hot, and Christ said that he would spue it out of his mouth; but do you know how he speaks of it as if he would cure it? “ Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in and sup with him, and he with me.” That is not an address to sinners. It is sometimes used so, but it is rent out of its connection. It is evidently an address to a church of God, or a child of God, who has lost the presence and the light of God’s countenance. All you want is a visit from Christ. All you want is that once again your communion should be restored; and I do bless the Lord that he can do that of a sudden, in a moment! He can make thy soul, “or ever it is aware, like the chariots of Ammi-nadib.” You may have come here to-night about as dead in soul as you could be, but the flashes of eternal life can reach you, and kindle a soul within, within the ribs of your old dead nature once again. You may have felt as if it was all over, and the last spark of grace had gone out; but when the Lord visits his people, he makes the wilderness and the solitary place to rejoice, and the desert to blossom as the rose. I do pray it may be such a happy hour to you that the prayer may be fulfilled, “Visit me with thy salvation.” I have great sympathy with those that are cast down. God, the comfort of those that are cast down, comfort you! May he bring you out who are bound with chains; and you solitary ones, may he set you in families! And I do not know a wiser method for you to pursue than incessantly to cry unto him; and let this be the prayer, “Remember me — me — with the favor which thou bearest to thy people: O visit me with thy salvation” (Spurgeon’s sermon “Psalm 106:4 Fine Pleading”).

Here is Revelation 3:20 again:

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me”

In the context of this Revelation 3:20 passage, “anyone” does not refer to anyone in the world, but to any one of the believers on the other side of the door of the “church.” In other words, a believer needs to grow closer to Christ, needs to grow up in Christ, needs to be in closer communion (“sup”) with Him. The “anyone” on the other side of the door is not a blanket whosoever, blind and naked; he is the whoever who has heard “my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24).

The whole controversy revolves round the question: “How does one come to faith in Christ?” How does one come to believe? Back up to John 5:21: “For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will (John 5:21-23). With regard to unbelievers in Christ, there’s nothing in the Bible about “any searchings of heart, any exercises of conscience, any sense of need, any felt desire after Christ. It is simply Christ, in Divine sufficiency, speaking to spiritually dead souls, empowering them (by sovereign “quickening”) to hear.” A.W. Pink.

Here is Richard Bennett’s comment on the teaching, “Give your life to Jesus and be saved.” (The Invincible Gospel and the Modern Evangelical Lie):

“This teaching is in error for two reasons.  First, man in his natural condition is “dead in trespasses and sin.” Sin is what separates a man from God.  Only God Himself can bestow forgiveness and eternal life.  Eternal life is a gift (Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 5:15-18, 6:23). A person does not give anything for a gift. God gives this gift to a person when He places that person in Christ Jesus. With the gift of salvation also comes the gift of faith to believe that this is what God has done (See also John 5:24-25).”

“Second, such phrases as “give your life to Jesus” wrongly presume that a person has some-thing worthy of God to give. Spiritually dead people cannot give anything that will save them from their sins. Because man is dead in sin, Christ Jesus gave His life for the sins of His people, “Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father” (Galatians 1:4). There is no Bible verse that says or teaches that a lost, spiritually dead person gives anything, not even his life, in order to be saved.”

But what about Jesus saying to his listeners, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you?” (Matthew 7:7). Very good. (Human) knocking, asking, preaching, coming, believing are the human means God uses to draw his sheep, to enable them to come to him, where the coming is the effect of the drawing/enabling. And those who come are granted eternal life. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day (John 6:44).

Thy will be done” says the Lord’s prayer. This does not mean that although God wants His will to be done, He generally fails – fails because of man’s refusal to allow Him to fulfill His will. “Thy will be done” means (to God!)“Thy will shall be done” (“shall” the strong third-person grammatical form of “will”), and nothing, including man’s will shall prevent it.

[26] The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed’— [27] for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28] to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place (They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen)” (Acts 4:28).

The LORD Almighty has sworn, “Surely, as I have planned, so it will be, and as I have purposed, so it will stand” (Isaiah 14:24).

Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose (Isaiah 46:8-10).

Recall Stott (above):

He will not force and entry into anybody’s life. He says (verse 18) ‘I counsel you.’ he could issue orders; he is content to give advice. Such are his condescension and humility, and the freedom he has given us.”

But didn’t Jesus say that only after you know the truth, will you be free. How does a dead person know the truth, how does a dead person (to the things of God) have freedom to choose God? (Ephesians 2:1-8)? In contrast to Stott, the Bible says: “I will accomplish my purpose.” (Isaiah 46:10). What is God’s purpose in salvation? What is his counsel in salvation? It is to save, and save perfectly those whom he has drawn into His eternal Life.

Hans Herzl (3): Catholicism, liberal Judaism and death

This is a follow-on from two earlier pieces on Hans Herzl – Hans (1) and Hans (2). I discuss Hans’ involvement with Christianity and liberal Judaism, his death and final burial on Mt Herzl.

Matt at the Roshpinaproject (RPP – a Messianic Jewish site) expressed a common Jewish view of Jews who convert to Christianity: “Most Jewish converts to Christianity who claim any orthodox background are very fishy (they claim they grew up “conservadox”, or that their parents were orthodox).” And Bubby also at the Roshpinaproject, who told me – a convert to Christianity – that she suspected that “you never had the opportunity to find out the truth about Judaism and Torah so you feel like an outcast and you are angry and hostile.” I was a bit hostile in some of my comments on RPP but not because I felt a Jewish outcast. The reason for my hostility was that Bubby and other Jewish comments at the Roshpinaproject stressed that it was tragic that a Jew would give up his Jewish soul (neshamos) for the worship of the “man” Jesus. I kept on and on stressing – and stressing out; yes, that’s what it was, and not hostility – that what ultimately matters to me was Christ in me. Contrary to Hans, I had a thorough Jewish upbringing in my early childhood – from the age of 3-4 to 9, which was spent in a Jewish orphanage. (I wrote about the Orphanage years here).

Earlier, I examined the life of Theodor Herzl for whom Zionism was purely a political movement. Whereas Theodor Herzl’s struggle, was political, his son’s struggle was social and ethical Contrary to the brilliant atheistic minds of modern times, Hans believed that ethics proved God. His interest transcended Zionism and Judaism. If God was universal, he reasoned, then He must be God for all mankind, a universal God. For this reason, Hans did not believe in a historical Messiah. What was important was not the historical but the ethical. The ethical teachings of Christ could, then become, Hans said, the basis for the creation of a World-Church, which would subsume Christianity and Judaism. For Hans, the ethical teachings of Jesus were in complete harmony with Judaism.

Of course, Hans said, there is a precondition: by giving up the outdated dogma of the historical Messiah, the Synagogue would become a constituent member of the World-Church, and the unification of the human family would be completed by the inclusion of the Jews. Then the ethical content of Judaism could attain its fullest development, and renew national “Christianity” from within. This is how I see the Jewish mission, and Jewish nationalism: a Christian Theocracy of Jewish faith… I am a Christian – but in the spirit of the apostle Paul, in whom Judaism and Christianity were united in the worship of One God… Don’t you see that the New Testament is only a continuation of the Old, just as the teachings of Jesus are but a continuation of the Ten Commandments?” (Hans to Marcel Sternberger).

Between the ages of 26 (1917) and his suicide aged 39 (1930), Hans searched for an answer to the Jewish ethical and political problems. He studied Zionism but found it inadequate. He believed that the Jewish question would never be solved unless the Jews united with Christians in seeking a universal solution for humanity. If Judaism and Christianity were united in the worship of the One God, as Hans claimed, where would one look for an institution that embodied universal brotherhood (see Hans Herzl (1): The World-Church and Unification of the Human family). In the Roman Catholic Church, perhaps. But before, Hans flirted with the Roman Catholic Church, he became a Baptist for a while. After he left the Roman Catholic Church he tried various other denominations. I focus on Hans’ sojourn in the Roman Catholic Church not only because I belonged to that church for more than two decades but also because it is the church that is the most universal (“catholic”) of all the other Christian denominations – and that was what Hans was looking for: a “universal” movement.

The (Roman Catholic) Church’s main tenet, writes Abraham Coralnik, is a spiritual authority that unites peoples and nations into a universal unity, with one sole center – Rome. This is Catholicism’s eternal dream. This is what has strongly attracted romantics and people with imagination, from Dante to Cardinal Newman…One can well imagine how a man like Hans Herzl came to embrace Catholicism. Just because he was a Herzl, just because he was an “orphan of Zionism,” as it were, an orphan of the Jewish people, he felt perhaps more sharply than the rest of us, the chasm that lies between Judaism as a religion and Judaism as a political, national institution. What meaning did Judaism have for him? What did he know about it? In his father’s house, he heard talk of a Juden Staat, a state to be build with old crumbling material” (Reflections on Jewish Civiliation (Across the Great Divide Series: The Selected Essays of Abraham Coralnik, Vol I, p. 130). Coralnik’s “old crumbling material” refers to Herzl’s political foundations contrasted with the solid foundations of Judaism.

Coralnik’s “orphan of Zionism” seems to allude to the fact that Hans and his sisters were left orphans after the death of their parents:  “…the founder of Zionism spent his life fighting for a home for his people. His orphaned children spent their lives searching for a home of their own” (David Zax; see “The fall and the fall of the Herzl Dynasty (1): The clouds open.” If Coralnik means by “orphan” the fact that Hans lost his parents at a young age, I don’t see how that relates to Coralnik’s description that “he (Hans) felt perhaps (italics added) more sharply than the rest of us, the chasm that lies between Judaism as a religion and Judaism as a political, national institution.” Coralnik’s “perhaps” indicates that he is only surmising that Hans’ orphan status had any direct bearing on Hans’ – very real – conflict between religious and political Judaism. But even such a suggestion is not warranted because a (Jewish) orphan may choose to become an orthodox Jew or an assimilated Jew, without the conflicts that did actually occur in his life influencing such a decision.

The Roman Catholic Church was nothing like Hans envisioned it. He was perhaps deceived by the name catholic “universal.” If, however, if he was living after Vatican II, especially during John Paul II’s reign he would have felt much more at home. The papal encyclical Nostra Aetate (“In Our Time”) states:

(Nostra Aetate is the Declaration on the relation of the Church to non-Christian religions proclaimed by Pope Paul VI, October, 1965)

The Church therefore has this exhortation for her sons: prudently and lovingly, through dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions, and in witness of Christian faith and life, acknowledge, preserve, and promote the spiritual and moral goods found among these men, as well as the values in their society and culture” (Nostra Aetate 2). (See Buddhism, Judaism and Catholic Nostra Aetate and Universalism and the Mystical Desertion of the Gospel.

And Pope Paul II wanted to do tshuva (prayer of repentance). Rabbi Blech relates that Pope John Paul II’s favourite teachers at Acting School were Jews. The Pope described how the Nazis shot his Jewish teachers in front of his eyes. “This (Rabbi Blech relates) changed his whole perception. He said we have to go to the Kotel [wailing wall] to do tshuva”, he used the Jewish word tshuva. (Blech addressing his audience) [You say it] can’t be because he is a goy. Goyim can change.” (See Rabbis, “evangelicals” and Messianic Jews of Maozisrael

, ostensibly, also thought so – that goyim can change. According to the majority modern Jewish view of Isaiah 53, the following words emanate not from the Messiah but from the repentant mouths of the goyim:

Isaiah 53:8b

For he (the Jewish people) was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people (the goyim) he (the Jewish people) was stricken.”

Here is the prevalent rabbinic opinion of Isaiah 53:

Isaiah 53 contains a deeply moving narrative which world leaders will cry aloud in the messianic age.  The humbled kings of nations (52:15) will confess that Jewish suffering occurred as a direct result of “our own iniquity,” (53:5) i.e., depraved Jew-hatred, rather than, as they previously thought, the stubborn blindness of the Jews.” (See Isaiah 53: The grammar of modern rabbinical interpretation).

Hans would probably have found in Mother Teresa the missing piece of the puzzle; not only because of her good works, but also because of her universalist theology – she tried to reconcile the dying to their gods. But, Hans died long before Vatican II, and so did not have the opportunity to savour a church that was becoming catholic (“universalist”) in ways that that would have shocked the Catholic Church of pre-Vatican !!; for example, the video “Catholicism: Crisis of Faith” has film footage of an ecumenical gathering of the Dalai Lama chanting, African shamans calling on their gods, and Muslims chanting from the Koran. The altar that was used for the service had a statue of Buddha on top of the Tabernacle (an ornate container for consecrated bread). Catholics believe that consecrated bread is literally the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ. Putting a statue of Buddha on top of the Tabernacle is, in effect, elevating Buddha above Jesus Christ. A sedevecantist’s (a minority of traditional Catholics) worst nightmare, and, perhaps, Hans’ dream of universal brotherhood come true. (A sedevecantist is a Catholic who believes that the changes of Vatican II such as the one I have described are heretical; therefore, the popes from the beginning of Vatican II (1962) onwards are heretics. This means that the Chair of Peter is now vacant (empty – sede vacante – “empty seat”) because it is not longer “Peter” who sits on the papal throne but a impostor

After a brief sojourn, Hans left the Roman Catholic Church,which merited him instant excommunication. But then, all that “excommunication” meant to Hans, and to many others who leave the Roman Catholic Church, is that they no longer have any communion with that church. Hans tried various other Christian denominations and dropped those too. Protestant denominations don’t excommunicate you from the church for leaving, because they have a different definition of “church,” (to the definition of the Roman Catholic Church), which refers to “children of God,” that is, sinners who have been born again. I don’t know whether Hans was familiar with these distinctions or took any interest in them. His next “religious” move was to a liberal synagogue in London, which suggests that he was not searching for God – God as Creator of the universe, who is also personal – because liberal Judaism, of all the different kinds of Judaism, is the furthest removed from traditional Judaism (of whom Moses Maimonides is a prime example).

In Judaism (and other religions), one of the main issues is the degree of importance of the Law. For ultra-Orthodox Jews, all 613 laws (mitzvot) are essential. In contrast, Conservative and Reform Jews are selective. Then there is a vast swathe of Jews who don’t believe in the Torah at all or in the God of the Torah. These are the Reconstructionist Jews and to the right of them (believing less) are the liberal Jews. (See The Torah: shared myths and other stories in Reconstructionist Judaism and The Eternal, History and Reform Judaism.

The Liberal Judaism website says:

Liberal Judaism arose in early nineteenth century Germany as an attempt to reconcile the basic principles of Judaism with the Enlightenment values of rational thought and scientific evidence. As the Jew emerged into Western society, Liberal Judaism affirmed the possibility and desirability of making compatible the practice of Judaism and a Jew’s participation in modern society. Liberal Judaism’s main departure from traditional Judaism concerns revelation. Liberal Judaism believes that the Hebrew Scriptures including the Torah are a human attempt to understand the Divine Will, and therefore uses Scripture as the starting point for Jewish decision making, conscious of the fallibility of scripture and of the value of knowledge outside of Scripture. In the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, there are over thirty Liberal and Progressive Jewish congregations, large and small.”

I don’t see any significant difference between “Reconstructionist Judaism” and the above description of “Liberal Judaism.” There is hardly anything in these two modern products of the Enlightenment that represents the Judaism that has existed for more than 3000 years, and continues to exist among those who have been set apart (for God) from the myriads of Jews that make up the bulk of everyday Jews. The Torah is set apart from the world; it is in the world, but not of the world.

The irony is that modern Conservative and Reform Jews, and Jews who don’t believe in the God of Israel at all, are Zionists, whereas Ultra-Orthodox Jews are anti-Zionists. Ultra-Orthodox Jews reject “Zionism” because it is a human, not a divine, creation; it gainsays the Torah. Ultra-Orthodox Jews believe with Rambam that every word of the Tanakh is breathed out by God.

I believe in the words of the prophets. They are the truth.
I believe that the Bible was given to Moses.
I believe that the Bible cannot be changed.”

(Rambam – Moses Maimonides)

For Hans, religion was probably nothing more than a ritual of the senses whose function was to make sense of the rigmarole of life. Church was to Hans what nature was to Baudelaire:

Nature (church) is a temple whose living pillars from time to time
Utter confused and confusing words;
Man enters, passing through a forest of symbols
Gazing on him with familiar eyes.1

(Charles Baudelaire, “Les Correspondences,” my translation).

There is a world of difference between “ritual” and “spiritual.” Here is Charles Spurgeon:

“… much of the religion which is abroad in the world is a vain thing. The religion of ceremonies is vain. If a man shall trust in the gorgeous pomp of uncommanded mysteries, if he shall consider that there resides some mystic efficacy in a priest, and that by uttering certain words a blessing is infallibly received, we tell him that his religion is a vain thing. You might as well go to the Witch of Endor for grace as to a priest; and if you rely upon words, the “Abracadabra” of a magician will as certainly raise you to heaven, or rather sink you to hell, as the performances of the best ordained minister under heaven. Ceremonies in themselves are vain, futile, empty. There are but two of God’s ordaining, they are most simple, and neither of them pretend to have any efficacy in themselves. They only set forth an inward and spiritual grace, not necessarily tied to them, but only given to those who by faith perceive their teachings. All ceremonial religion, no matter how sincere, if it consist in relying upon forms and observances, is a vain thing. So with creed-religion—by which I mean not to speak against creeds, for I love “the form of sound words,” but that religion which lies in believing with the intellect a set of dogmas, without partaking of the life of God; all this is a vain thing (Charles Spurgeon’s “Religion – A Reality“). (See My conversion to Roman Catholicism and why I left).

 


Soon after his move to a liberal Judaism, Hans began to lose total control of his miserable life. Judith Rice writes:

In time he found himself attending the liberal synagogue in London. His life had spiralled into spiritual, emotional and personal hopelessness. Word came to him of his beloved sister Pauline’s death in Bordeaux. His depression and self-absorption, his failure in protecting his sister and saving himself (hence his people the Jews) became manic.”

So I turned to consider wisdom and madness and folly. For what can the man do who comes after the king? Only what has already been done. Then I saw that there is more gain in wisdom than in folly, as there is more gain in light than in darkness. The wise person has his eyes in his head, but the fool walks in darkness. And yet I perceived that the same event happens to all of them. Then I said in my heart, “What happens to the fool will happen to me also. Why then have I been so very wise?” And I said in my heart that this also is vanity. For of the wise as of the fool there is no enduring remembrance, seeing that in the days to come all will have been long forgotten. How the wise dies just like the fool! So I hated life, because what is done under the sun was grievous to me, for all is vanity and a striving after wind (Ecclesiastes 2:12-17).

In Bordeaux, the day after his sister Pauline’s death, he wrote the following letter:

If a ritual can really calm our spirits and give us the illusion of being in the company of our beloved dead once more I can’t think of anything better than a visit to the Temple: there I can pray for my parents, ask their forgiveness [Hans’ father hated religion] and repent my apostasy before God. I am destitute and sick, unhappy and bitter. I have no home. Nobody pays any attention to the words of a convert. I cannot suddenly turn my back on a community which offered me its friendship.”

Without prejudice, even if all my physical and moral impulses urge me to: I have burned all my bridges… What good is the penance which the Church has ordained for my “spiritual healing”! I torture my body in vain: my conscience is torturing me far worse. My life is ruined… Nobody would regret it if I were to put a bullet through my head. Could I undo my errors that way? I realize how right my father had been when he once said: “Only the withered branches fall off a tree – the healthy ones flourish.” 2

Withered branches” refers to Theodor Herzl’s “The Jewish State,” in which he wrote, “Branches of the Jewish people may perish. Its tree will live.” Herzl’s “branches” reminds me of Chaim Weizmann, one of the key founders of Zionism, who when asked before WWII:

Can you bring six million Jews to Palestine?” I replied, “No.” … From the depths of the tragedy I want to save … young people [for Palestine] “The old ones will pass. They will bear their fate or they will not. They are dust, economic and moral dust in a cruel world … Only the branch of the young shall survive. They have to accept it.” (Chaim Weizmann reporting to the Zionist Congress in 1937 on his testimony before the Peel Commission in London). (See Moral Dust).

Hans was 39 years old (1891- 1930) – not too old for Weizmann – but didn’t wish to survive. The day after the death of his sister Pauline in Bordeaux and thirty-five years after Theodor, his father’s dream about crowning him King of Israel, Hans wrote a short note to the hotel manager, in which he apologised for the mayhem he was about to unleash. Then“with a single gunshot, pierced the head his father had dreamed would wear the crown of Israel.”

His wished to be buried with his sister Pauline, but the Jewish Orthodox community refused. They reluctantly agreed after pressure from the caretakers of Herzl legacy, and Hans was buried – secretly – next to his sister in the Jewish cemetery of Bordeaux. If only I knew in 1962 what I know and interests me greatly now, for I visited Bordeaux on several occasions. It took many more years for Israel to agree to having Hans remains buried in Israel. In 2006 the remains of the once future King of Israel and Pauline were removed to Israel, where they were buried on Mount Herzl next to their father.

The procession which starts at the doge’s palace will be opened by Herzl-Cuirassiers. Then come the artillery and infantry… while all are marching in gold-studded gala uniforms, the high priests under canopies, the doge himself will wear the garb of shame of a medieval ghetto Jew: the pointed hat, the yellow badge… When I thought that someday I might crown Hans as doge… I had tears in my eyes” (Herzl’s diary, 1895, when Hans was four years old).

1Here is the original French:

La Nature est un temple où de vivants piliers
Laissent parfois sortir de confuses paroles;
L’homme y passe à travers des forêts de symboles
Qui l’observent avec des regards familiers.

2Here is some of the original German – “Ich bin eine einsame, verzweifelte, traurige und bittere Gestalt”.Niemand hört auf einen Konvertiten. Ich habe alle meine Brücken verbrannt. Mein Leben ist ruiniert. Niemand würde es bedauern, wenn ich eine Kugel durch meinen Kopf jagte. Ich kann so nicht weiterleben.”

“… much of the religion which is abroad in the world is a vain thing. The religion of ceremonies is vain. If a man shall trust in the gorgeous pomp of uncommanded mysteries, if he shall consider that there resides some mystic efficacy in a priest, and that by uttering certain words a blessing is infallibly received, we tell him that his religion is a vain thing. You might as well go to the Witch of Endor for grace as to a priest; and if you rely upon words, the “Abracadabra” of a magician will as certainly raise you to heaven, or rather sink you to hell, as the performances of the best ordained minister under heaven. Ceremonies in themselves are vain, futile, empty. There are but two of God’s ordaining, they are most simple, and neither of them pretend to have any efficacy in themselves. They only set forth an inward and spiritual grace, not necessarily tied to them, but only given to those who by faith perceive their teachings. All ceremonial religion, no matter how sincere, if it consist in relying upon forms and observances, is a vain thing. So with creed-religion—by which I mean not to speak against creeds, for I love “the form of sound words,” but that religion which lies in believing with the intellect a set of dogmas, without partaking of the life of God; all this is a vain thing (Charles Spurgeon’s “Religion – A Reality“).