One Christian view of God is described as "too high up and too far away" in the movie Inherit The Wind

(Mark D.) #1

I’m not sure if this thread is entirely appropriate for the forum but I guess I won’t find out if I don’t try. I wonder what reaction it may have elicited from those of you who have seen it. I liked it a lot.

I just stumbled upon the movie Inherit The Wind with Spencer Tracy on television and had a chance to look at it again from the perspective ofthis website’s mission. It seemed to me there were many points raised which come up here perennially. I have to think it is even more poignant for many of you to watch than it was for me. This is the link to the movie’s final scene where the defense attorney played by Spencer Tracey defends the fallen William James Bryant and turns on the mean spirited newspaper man who seeks to illicit in him the same dismissive scorn he himself feels: In about 15 seconds beginning at about the 2 minute mark we find out the difference between the two men’s non belief. While the younger newspaper man just sees Bryant as deluded, Spencer’s character (described as an agnostic) says he “just looked for God too high up and too far away”. He then lambastes the newspaper man for his meanness, emptiness and shallowness.

In this final scene those of us less familiar with the bible find out that the movie’s title comes from a passage of the bible, Proverbs 11:29: “He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind: and the fool shall be servant to the wise of heart”. From my point of view, the house in question is the greater society of men. The William James Bryant character disturbs that house by seeking to force his understandings into law and onto others. Spencer’s character exposes the egotism and pride in that. The lesson, I think, is that what is sacred to each person should be honored and certainly not be outlawed and punished. To do otherwise is a violence to ones own character as well. It requires humility to respect each person’s path and values, but love and tolerance is better for everyone as it “does not troubelth ones own house”. The wind thus let into a troubled house is the ill will which a harmonious house keeps out.

(Randy) #2

@MarkD, thank you for this thought provoking point. Bryan reportedly was wonderfully liberal socially…kind tonthd poor…so that adds on more dimension to this message of avoiding one dimensionality in labeling or discussion. I have to see this movie sometime.

(Oliver van der Togt) #3

I do believe Christianity as a religion is very much inferior to those religions that place the emphasis on meditation (not prayer) and fasting. To search for God within oneself and not as an exterior force.

(Mark D.) #4

It is in black and white but beautifully filmed. The acting is a bit overwrought for my tastes but maybe a good fit for the time it came out and the time it portrays. If you do see it please do let me know your impressions.

(Randy) #5

Welcome and Greetings! What would your definition of God (or god/deity) be then?
Thank you.

(Mark D.) #6

I believe many self described Christians hold a private belief in an inner God, though many of those seem still to think this inner God capable of miraculous interventions involving more than one’s inner world. I can’t go that far but I respect the beliefs of many who do. To my mind this inner God is plenty important without such capacities but those raised in the faith are accustomed to expecting much more. I’m in agreement with Spencer Tracey’s character that holding such expectations places God too high and far away. (If I’m not careful that phrase is going to get stuck in my personal lexicon.)

(Oliver van der Togt) #7

I see God as achieving a higher spiritual plane. Our Consciousness achieves a kind of Omniscience through meditation and fasting. Denial of the body (abstaining from food) and deprivation of the senses (distractions such as music, company…)
We become Godlike in our understanding. Everything in the world around us makes sense.

(Mervin Bitikofer) #8

That seems to have a pretty good dose of eastern mysticism in it (minus the ‘Godlike’, anyway), but it doesn’t appear to have much in common classic Christianity.

Welcome to the forum, by the way! Obviously you aren’t alone here in conceiving that a god is no more than a thought in our heads. This is a good place to kick around those thoughts, so to speak.

My own thoughts are … that as important as my thoughts are (to me!), it would be disappointing in the extreme if the “penultimate substrate of all reality” exists only in my head. Christianity does (or should) work to get us to have outward focus - on others and on the rest of God’s creation. To collapse into an inward orbit around ourselves is the sweet temptation we all give in to far too often, but it is a spiritually decaying state.

Matthew 16:25:

For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.

(Randy) #9

I’m not sure I follow you here. What is sense? What is prayer in your estimation?
I agree that meditation and fasting, with self denial, are important spiritual disciplines. They’re actually a huge part of Christian tradition that we Westerners have dropped, perhaps since the Enlightenment; to our detriment (though they do continue in many places).

The Coptic Church in Egypt has multitude of fasts, for example; and my own Western father (who I admired greatly) fasted frequently (I do, on occasion, but not enough). I strongly agree with you that fasting, denial (Paul advocated that) and meditation are great for us.

I’ve recently read on the Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard–that have Biblical (especially NT) support throughout. We went through them in Sunday School:
He suggests 7 disciplines of abstinence and 8 of engagement:

  1. Solitude
  2. Silence
  3. Fasting
  4. Frugality
  5. Chastity
  6. Secrecy
  7. Sacrifice


  1. Study
  2. Worship
  3. Celebration
  4. Service
  5. Prayer
  6. Fellowship
  7. Confession
  8. Submission

Your thoughts and comparisons are welcome and educational. Thanks.

(Oliver van der Togt) #10

I do agree that these disciplines lead to Enlightenment. To be honest most of these (apart from frugality) I adhere to involuntarily. The others I’d abandon given the opportunity. So you can say I am a reluctantly Enlightened.

(Randy) #11

Thanks, Mr Van der Togt.

I’m sorry. I wasn’t clear. I meant that in some ways, the West has lost its Christian mysticism and self discipline after the Enlightenment–through emphasis on logic and reasoning (which we should adhere to), we accidentally threw out the baby with the bathwater–we should also attend to discipline and the soul–things which Christianity used to excel in. Glad you see you like to work on the above; I have a lot to learn in the respect of discipline myself.

(Oliver van der Togt) #12

I see Enlightenment more as discovering meaning and purpose in one’s existence.

(Randy) #13

Thanks. Can you elaborate and explain? What is meaning? What is purpose for you?

(Oliver van der Togt) #14

To be honest I am essentially a Nihilist and reason from a position of loneliness and boredom. However when I consume Cannabis the scriptures in the Bible (Genesis, and the teachings of Christ) start to make perfect sense and seem to be revealed to me.
It is my assumption (never tried) that this state of ecstasy can also be achieved through meditation and fasting. It produces a kind of omniscience.
"Omniscience is the capacity to know everything. In monotheistic religions, such as Sikhism and the Abrahamic religions, this is an attribute of God. In some other religions that do not include a supreme deity, such as Buddhism and Jainism, omniscience is an attribute that any individual can eventually attain."

(Randy) #15

What do you call omniscience? I am puzzled. Do you actually know everything, in a factual sense, or do you feel like you know everything?

I am sorry you are lonely. That is very difficult. What do you think of the spiritual disciplines of engagement–worship, service, prayer, fellowship, confession, submission, study together; or of the abstinence of sacrifice? Would these be cures for loneliness?

My father pointed out to me during some of my loneliest times (middle school, for example, when everyone was critical of each other) that the unkindest children who criticized were the most fearful and loneliest. He said, “If you see someone who is unnecessarily unkind in word or deed, that nearly always comes from a sense of deep personal inadequacy.” He recommended that I pray for them. I had a hard time believing him at first, but it worked when I tried it. I also found, sadly, that he was right–every one of the children that was unkind was deeply hurting. It helped me to try to rely on God to change my attitude to help them, rather than concentrate on my hurt. I know that that was a spiritual exercise, and that prayer frequently changes us rather than anything else. It was a really interesting and helpful lesson to me–one that I continue to need daily.

I wonder if you would enjoy this interview with Dr Richard Mouw. He suggest that a definition of self comes in obedience to God.

thank you for this helpful discussion! God bless.

(Oliver van der Togt) #16

As I said, I understand the deeper meaning of the scriptures in the Bible such as Genesis and the teachings of Christ. I viscerally understand how Man is motivated and by fear and pride (Ego). Have you read Pinocchio? I find that story profound on so many levels. We are Pinocchio until we have been in the belly of the beast. (dark, seclusion, isolation, abstinence etc. where we achieve Enlightenment.

(Oliver van der Togt) #17

I don’t believe in Evangelical Pietism. I have more affinity with ‘seeing the light’ as an experience and that is not achieved by following principles or dogma’s. As I said I am much more inclined towards Buddhism and Jainism. And really only those that have formed their opinion through meditation and fasting.

(Randy) #18

Thank you for clarifying for me. I would agree with and support this part very much–that loneliness, in the right situation, can be a gift. Good insight. Christ in the wilderness for 40 days, Jonah in the fish, Job alone and suffering–the monastic experience in many religions (Buddha)–a wilderness/alone experience can be very helpful.

However, would you not also agree that being alone can lose some things? I have known good friends who have permanently lost their grip on reality because of herbs they consumed (everyone is different); being alone indefinitely can be unhealthy

I keep coming back to the point that there is objective truth; that I don’t know all of it; and I am grateful for the constant battering of the sea that outside of the whale teaches me (with God’s help).

thanks for your discourse!

(Oliver van der Togt) #19

I am not alone. I live together with my wife. I am more referring to spiritual emptiness (meaning and purpose). My wife is a lovely woman but these subjects do not interest her.

“engagement–worship, service, prayer, fellowship, confession, submission,”
No not really. I’m am searching for like minded people. People who share my belief.
I basically have a belief and am now looking for the religion that shares this belief or find people I can convert to my/this belief.

Pinocchio (Man being manipulated by the strings of his desire and Ego) finds redemption, not through obeying certain principles of codes to live by. He has a visceral experience that changes him into a real person.

(Shawn T Murphy) #20

Dear Oliver,
I have been through a number of visceral experience that have allowed me to find my true self. Buddhism is the closest modern religion to my belief set, but this does not seem to be the platform to discuss these topics. Feel free to message me through a private channel.
Best Wishes, Shawn