THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE SECRET – A PROPHETICALLY INSPIRED SEVEN-PART BIBLICAL SYNOPSIS
The book reconciles longstanding doctrinal tensions within and between the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, in the process affirming that God’s benign providence, whilst not universal, extends beyond His elect family of Israel and the Church to “all people of good will”. Such a description utilized amongst others by the Catholic Church will be too vague for many as it was for the author who categorizes such people from Scripture, along with those sometimes referred to as “children of the devil” or “reprobate” being humans typified by Cain who, despising God and his own brother was devoid of the quality definitive to both God and those retaining His image – “agape” or compassionate love. The author ensures that the broader providence outlined does not detract from the essentiality of the Church, the Gospel and especially the incarnation and passion of Christ. For apart from the latter and the blessings that flow to those mystically partaking of His body and blood, the corporate espousal destined for His faithful disciples to One both divine and regal would be unattainable to any child of dust, even (or perhaps especially) if they had neither observed nor experienced the evil as well as the good. Such an observation may provide a clue to our sovereign God’s permission of evil and human suffering in the current dispensation, a theme developed by the author in his concluding theodicy.
In a little more detail:
CHAPTER 1 considers what Jesus meant by “this gospel of the kingdom” and the nature of the secret plan Paul refers to in Eph3:9-11 from which the book’s title is derived. I have come to take Paul at his word when he affirmed that “salvation” has come to the Gentiles in the current age as a result of the Jewish nation rejecting their Messiah (Rom11:11-15), an observation with obvious providential implications given that the Old Testament makes clear God wished ultimately to reconcile people from all nations to Himself but not necessarily by incorporating them within the messianic community which acts in the present age as Christ’s mystical Body on Earth and a priesthood for the world (1Pet2:9). For as I will show, there is salvation and there is SALVATION, the latter being referred to by Paul as “an inheritance amongst the sanctified” (Acts26:18) which even the apostle Peter was not clear was being offered to the Gentle nations (cf. Acts11:17,18). That is, until Paul’s Good News: “The mystery which has been hidden from ages and generations, but NOW HAS BEEN REVEALED TO HIS SAINTS, to whom God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this MYSTERY AMONG THE GENTILES, which is CHRIST IN YOU, THE HOPE OF GLORY” (Col1:26,27)
CHAPTER 2 concerns “the Fall” and its consequences, focusing on an eluded universal covenant in which those represented by Abel who “fear God and do what is right” are accepted whilst those who follow in the way of Cain default and become reprobate (cf. Gen4:7KJV; Jude11; 1Jn3:12; Prov2:13). Unlike the Covenants of Promise from which Ishmael, though blessed by God was excluded, the universal covenant in which Abel was accepted and Cain rejected is INCLUSIVE, pertaining as it does to what is sometimes referred to as “natural law”. It operates primarily through the faculty of conscience by which, Paul observed, Gentile Pagans not possessing the Law sometimes do BY NATURE what is contained within it (cf. Rom2:14) such as showing respect to their fellow man, endeavoring to treat others as they would themselves. That, according to the same apostle is the Law’s primary purpose: “For the entire Law is fulfilled in keeping this one command ‘Love your neighbor as yourself‘” (Gal5:14). Many, regardless of religious faith, sense instinctively that the practice of virtue is desirable and will ultimately be rewarded. No wonder, for as some past spiritual masters have identified, conscience is “the impression of a Divine Light within us, a participation of the eternal law in the rational creature” (so, Thomas Aquinas); a universal revelation, “anterior to the Gospel, supreme over all other human faculties providing everyone with a clear and sufficient object of faith” (so, John Henry Newman).
CHAPTER 3: Adduces that all possessing “agape” (compassionate love: the Mathew25 “sheep”) are acceptable to God through the merits of Christ’s Atonement, even if not “saved” in the biblical sense. For the latter requires spiritual rebirth and empowerment by the Spirit so as to serve the living God (and the rest of humanity) whilst still encumbered by what Paul refers to as “the body of this death”, being the corrupting intellectual vessel inherited from fallen Adam. The Christian disciple on the other hand is spiritually empowered to “POSSESS HIS OWN VESSEL in sanctification and honor” (1Thes4:4). Elected to such a calling by free grace, Christians become partakers of the divine nature, “sharing in (Christ’s) sufferings in order that they may also share in His glory” (Rom8:17). The chapter is careful to affirm that ALL salvation is dependent upon one focal point in human history: the atonement of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the benefits of which avail at two levels – the forensic and participatory. The former provides pardon for all the people of good will referred to above whilst the latter also empowers and purifies those incorporated within the messianic community through their mystical partaking of His body and blood at the Holy Eucharist.
CHAPTER 4 is a short overview of the limited detail the Bible provides concerning the Parousia or “Second Coming”. In general terms, it is not a matter of “Christians escaping to Heaven” (although they are to be sheltered with Christ from the climax of tribulation) but that is with a view to creational restoration (Rom8:19-23) – a uniting of Heaven and Earth, in which those participating with Christ and sharing His sufferings in the current age will reign with Him in the next (2Tim2:12)
CHAPTER 5: Progressive revelation: showing that such was God’s chosen pathway for His Church for certain mysteries such as God’s intentions towards those predating or ignorant of the gospel, but NOT regarding matters essential to personal salvation. With that in mind, the chapter incorporates a review of the earliest Church Fathers’ teaching, drawing attention to the relatively unified understanding of the second century Church. For any reader seeking after Truth as opposed to merely wishing to defend a particular ecclesiological tradition it is the VITAL WITNESS of the Apostolic Fathers who were not reliant on biblical exegesis alone but had received the Good News from the Apostles or their direct appointees. Clearly it is impossible that they could UNIFORMLY be in error concerning essential aspects of church polity, the Eucharist or the nature of saving faith.
CHAPTER 6: The mystery of evil: “spiritual wickedness in high places”, and the role and ignominious destiny of human defaulters from the Universal Covenant considered in chapter two, referred to by Jesus and Paul as children of the devil, devoid of love, truth or conscience.
CHAPTER 7: The theodicy: why a God who is sovereign and described (by apostle John) as Love personified permits the continuance of evil and the human suffering that results from it. The key to the solution being Christ’s own earthly experience (Heb2:10) – a prelude to His glorious inheritance that is to be shared pre-eminently with His faithful disciples; those predestined to be conformed to His image (Rom8:29).