Terrorism & Metaphysical Stability

F. Earle Fox

1. Metaphysics

The word 'metaphysical' refers to that which is beyond or behind ("meta-") the physical. Metaphysics is a branch of philosophy which studies that which is beyond the physically sensible world. Is there anything beyond, and if so, what is it?

Philosophers since the 1800's have pretty generally concluded (with a few Christian exceptions) that there is nothing beyond the physical. That is the meaning of secular materialism. There is no metaphysical reality. Metaphysics is dead. The world is physically a closed system. There is no appeal beyond what you can physically see and measure and control. Our only source of existence is to evolve out of whatever stuff preceded us.

Depending on your viewpoint, you see that as, 'We are blessed to finally be free to be our own autonomous, self-sufficient decision- makers...! No God to tell us what to do...!" or , "We are condemned to be our own autonomous, not-so-self-sufficient decision-makers. We do not know what to do."

Any cosmos which is a closed system is a dead-end for life, because there is no evidence whatsoever to show that the cosmos can explain itself or give us meaning and stability.

When Jesus said: "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father but by Me," or "My kingdom is not of this world...," He was making metaphysical remarks. He was saying that He is leading us back outside the created physical order to the source of life, to the Father. Jesus was saying to the philosophers that what is beyond the physical cosmos is not some philosophical essence or principle, but God, the omni-Person, the "I AM", the omnipotent, omniscient, omni-present Creator-ex-nihilo of the cosmos.

Within the physical cosmos, there is no substantial stability. The very best we can accomplish is either to create order by the domination of a super power, as in the two- century-long pax Romana, or, a balance of power (i.e., terror) among the competing power- strugglers, as during the recent "cold-war".

Several years go, the problem was candidly illustrated by several world-class experts during the panel discussion following the TV showing of the nuclear holocaust story, The Day After. No one could come up even remotely with an answer to the problem of disarming to ensure peace.

That is because the problem is insoluble apart from God, the metaphysical reality outside the cosmos. If it could be shown that we are in fact autonomous beings, that we do not need anything outside of ourselves to be ourselves, such a view might work. That is precisely what the serpent promised Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden: "You shall be as god." He lied. And we all know he lied. No matter how clever or strong we are. we all die.

The logical conclusion from the fact of our inherently dependent nature is that we had better find something dependable to depend on, or we will find no stability. Stability is precisely what the closed system world cannot provide. We are always at risk because there is nothing ultimately dependable within the cosmos.

God warned Adam that if he ate of the forbidden Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, i.e., the tree of independence from God, he was a dead duck. There is no eternal life apart from God. The cosmos does not explain itself, nor does it, by itself, support meaningful life.

Only in God is there stable and meaningful life. That is not a bit of religious froth "for those who like that sort of thing", but which you give up when you mature into intelligent adulthood. That is the fact of life which either we deal with, or it will deal with us -- sometimes through terrorists.

2. Terrorism

Terrorism is the conducting of a war by behind the scenes, covert, secret means, attacking the whole of a population indiscriminately so long as it gains military victory. The primary object of terrorism is to destabilize a population, to render it not only physically incapable of resistance, but to so demoralize it that it no longer has the will to resist takeover.

Some pagan cultures have practiced terrorism as a policy. Ghengis Khan and the Aztecs (noble savages that they were) would pile up skulls of their victims in the town square to impress the opposition that they were not to be fooled with unless you wanted your skull in the pile too. And secular cultures have also practiced terror as a political tool: the French Revolution, the Nazis, and the Communists.

But western culture, with roots in the rationality of Greece, the legal system of Rome, and most of all, the law and grace of the Bible, had developed a sense of order and of righteous conduct that was to be followed even in time of war. Combatants would fight each other, but not unarmed citizens on the sidelines.

George Washington had spoken to his troops at Valley Forge: "While we are zealously performing the duties of good citizens and soldiers, we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of religion. To the distinguished character of Patriot, it should be our highest Glory to laud the more distinguished Character of Christian." Obedience to God was more important than winning. The Continental Congress purchased 20,000 Bibles, not to impress God or the Church, but to ensure that they were conducting the war on Godís terms, not their own. The war was conducted with little terrorism -- on either side.

3. Western Breakdown

But soon, even in largely Christian America, the Civil War sowed a major break with that tradition of law. General Sheridan's plunder of the Shenandoah Valley and General Sherman's march to the sea through Georgia were radical reversals of the traditional limitation of war to the battlefield. They both understood that they were violating the laws of warfare learned in their military training. Northern tactics were studied by the Nazis and Bolsheviks for strategies to subdue, not only the opposing military, but the populace itself. Sheridan continued his terrorism policies after the war while in charge of Indian affairs in the west.

One might say these were not terrorist tactics because they were done in the open. But that was only because the terrorists in this case were militarily winning. They did not have to hide. So they caused a severe erosion of international law which has led to sneaky terrorism as a common long-range strategy for revolution.

Terrorism in the specific sense of secret, deliberate destabilizing of a whole population by targeting the people for random and unpredictable violence will come into its own when the general culture has lost its moral foundations. The loss of credible (i.e., objective) moral foundation of the nation states gives the terrorist excuse for seeing his terrorist activities, defiance of law and creation of chaos, as a morally superior, or at least equivalent, stance.

The West, including America, had experienced just such al breakdown of the Biblical worldview, the understanding that we are both personally and corporately responsible before God for our behavior, both in civil law and in military action, issues well understood by our founding fathers. Terrorism as experienced recently in New York City and Arlington, Virginia, at the Pentagon, is a result of this collapse of law which inevitably comes when the sense of objective moral obligation dissolves. Some terrorists clothe themselves in the garb of religious law, such as Osama bin Ladin. But their behavior tells us that they are simply seeking their own will, not truth or righteousness.

Moral obligation apart from God has no objective meaning -- which is to say, no meaning. It all comes down to power struggle. When that point is reached, there are no moral differences between contestants. It is simply a matter of who can win by whatever means possible. If killing noncombatants is the way to do it, that is what you do. The Allied and Axis powers were both guilty during World War II. The rule of law was collapsing because civil government no longer understood itself to be under an Authority higher than itself. The slide was inevitable.

4. Christian Failure

The highest level of existence, the Kingdom of God level, is that of law and grace eternally wedded. Grace requires personal relationship with the Law Giver. When grace (the metaphysical relationship) fails, there is still a residue of law, a kind of safety net to keep us from falling into total chaos, giving us a time to repent. But we often, as in the West, begin to imagine this residue of law to exist apart from God (which is logically impossible). When that Godless morality fails, as it must, then chaos erupts as a strategy to impose the will of whatever tyrant is behind the chaos. Terrorism is not an end in itself, it is only a tool to establish tyranny, a reassertion of law and order by one's own will.

Those nations who wish to defend themselves against terrorism are at a disadvantage because the other side is no longer going by recognizable rules. We are no longer in a black and white war, we are in a gray, murky war, with indeterminate and fluid rules, if any at all. We do not know where the enemy is or where he will strike next.

The terrorists might be amoral, evil-minded, and power-hungry. But even the terrorist knows that in the end, he must win the moral PR battle. He must convince the people, at least, that he holds the moral high ground. That is what gains him the following of the people-at-large. Communism won for 70 years, not primarily by military subversion, but because they captured the moral high ground in the minds of so many. Only so were they able to "justify" their terrorism.

Christians had long lost both the intellectual and moral high ground in western culture because they were unable to defend the Biblical view that God exists outside the physical world of time and space. A metaphysical God. A Creator of all that is. Most Christians have become practicing humanists, making their daily decisions on a secular basis, not on the basis of a living relationship with a living God.

As a result, the nominally (or formerly) Christian nations are operating largely on the same basis as the secular and pagan terrorists. There is no God whom they really trust, no living metaphysical relation with God beyond time and space into whose Hand they are willing to put the whole weight of their being and stability. So they are limited, like the terrorists, to those resources within time and space.

That is a fatal mistake which leaves them exposed to the strategy of the terrorists. Within the closed system of a God-less world, there is no adequate defense against chaos.

5. Vulnerable - Unstable

How does a nation defend itself against such an enemy? The inadequacy is clear from examination of the strategy of terrorism -- aimed at destabilizing.

Americans are wrestling with recurring mental images of passenger-filled airplanes ramming into the twin towers of the World Trade Center, erupting into fireballs, and collapsing in a firestorm of glass and twisted metal. The visual images were repeated over and over on television. Those kinds of images are the stock-in-trade of the terrorist. They are what destabilize the population. A people who cannot handle those kinds of images will be destabilized.

The blowing up of bridges, the bombing of population centers, the derailing of trains on the outside are primarily tools to destabilize us on the inside. What the terrorist destabilizes is our sense of security, our sense of being, our sense of the meaning of life. If these horrendous things can happen, what can life mean? Who am I? I am totally at risk, and my life is just a fragment of froth on a sea, to be swept away by the next wave of chaos.

But that is life in the closed circle.

When we are terrorized by anything at all, our first step ought to be to ask: "OK, Lord, show me where I am vulnerable. Where is my unconfessed sin? My inner brokenness? My ignorance of who You really are? Show me where I have given ground to the enemy to use circumstances for his own ends. Where am I expecting the government, my money, strength, reputation, friends, or other circumstances of my life to do for me what only You can do? Make me someone who can stand straight and tall anywhere, anytime, in front of any person as Your child."

"You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth." Acts 1:8

To try to handle those images and fears and anxieties with military readiness apart from a living relation with God can be only nominally effective. That might be good PR for politicians desperate to do something, but they are the efforts of the Godless, closed-system universe to do what only God can do -- give stability and direction.

The Evil One is the ultimate terrorizer, and will use the Osama bin Ladinís to do his work. If he inspires such images in our minds and hearts, we must immediately bring those images before the Father in heaven. But we can do that only if we have followed the Son of God to that heavenly throne. We must trust God to handle those terrible images. He is in charge, not bin Laden, not Satan. We need to let go of our own control sufficiently so that He can prove that to us.

Then we will begin to experience the stability from which we can deal directly, truthfully, righteously, and yes, compassionately, with the terrorist -- as Christ does with us all. We will be able to do that because our own needs, our own egos, will not be at stake. Our lives will be hid in God in Christ. The metaphysical relation. Our stability will rest where the terrorist cannot get at it.

Imposition of international law can provide an outward stability -- if it is lucky enough to be successful. But only grace, a personal relation with the Law Giver, can provide that deep inner stability which overrides any possible circumstances which a terrorist can throw at us.

Political efforts apart from God to contain and control, let alone stamp out, chaos are inevitably futile. How many times have we heard: "The war to end all wars..." "We will never let this happen again...." Our President is quoted as promising to "eradicate the evil", presumeably with military and intelligence preparedness. And the press and commentators are demanding up to and including nuclear retaliation.

A Christian man as dedicated and learned as George Bush should know that he is not going to eradicate evil, that the potential for evil, including terrorism, lurks always within the fallen human heart. A Christian man should know, and be willing to say out loud, that the only real answer to terrorism is the stability that we can have in Christ, that if our lives are hid in Christ, if we are putting the whole weight of our needs into the Hand of God, if we are listening to and obeying His direction, then there is nothing that the bin Ladenís of this world can do to destabilize us. Our lives are impervious to his threats. They can trash our bodies and our belongings with terrorist attacks, but they cannot touch our deep inner being. And further more, out of that marvelous grace of God in which we live, we are willing to lay down our lives for the salvation of bin Ladenís soul.

That does not mean that the government should not send up fighter planes to intercept terrorist flights, or that the CIA should not search far and wide to identify terrorists and bring them to justice. We should be engaging in all the proper military and other preparedness that make common sense.

But it does mean that all these things should be done under the law and grace of God, not independently of, or in rebellion against, God. We are to administer the justice of God, not our own. "Vengeance is mine" saith the Lord. With those who gave us our nation, we should exalt the character of Christian even over that of Patriot. We are first of all children of God, citizens of the Kingdom, and secondly citizens of these United States of America, or of any other nation.

6. Repentant, Stabile...

The only way to the Father is by picking up our crosses daily and following Jesus to the heavenly throne. The metaphysical trip. The only way to follow Jesus is to repent of our own sins, and to be willing to forgive others of theirs. Both very difficult tasks which will cost us our pride, self-pity, resentment, idolatry, and all the other poisons which, in our confusion, we think we need -- and therefore have a right to.

The service at which the President spoke at the National Cathedral was a beautiful and appropriate way to help lead the people of America through their grief. But hardly a word has been spoken anywhere about the need for America and Americans to repent, that we have brought vulnerability upon ourselves by (among other things) declaring legally that God is not our sovereign, by poisoning the minds and hearts of our children with criminally abusive sexuality in our public schools, and by the slaughter of millions and millions of babies in the womb.

It is imperative that our spiritual and political leaders guide us to take the log out of our own eyes before we try to help the bin Ladinís with whatever is in their eye. That is a command from the Son of God. We cannot stand on our victim status.

Getting the log out of our own eyes will give us a clarity of spiritual and moral vision and a stability of soul which will enable us to deal with terror, terrorism, and terrorists. It will be the foundation of joy and peace, no matter what the enemy attempts to do. And it will be the way of the cross for drawing closer and closer to the Source of all life, so that we ourselves can become the channels for life when all about us seems to be headed toward death and destruction.

That is the metaphysical stability of the children of God.

7. ...and Aggressive

Is Christianity so heavenly bound as to be of no earthly use? Not by the plan of God. Time and space are His creation and His property. God invaded the world precisely to reclaim and redeem it for His own purposes, not to destroy it. He plans to return time, space, and ourselves to His original intent for the cosmos. The way it works rather than the way it self-destructs.

God is calling America, and any other nation with Christian people, to become channels for His freedom. He is calling us to proclaim liberty throughout the land and throughout the whole world, that our political freedom in this world can only, and will always, rest on our metaphysical freedom in Christ -- whose Kingdom is metaphysically not
of this world.
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