Philosophy Lite: Start over with a clean slate

Jan. 21, 2011 at midnight
Updated Jan. 20, 2011 at 7:21 p.m.

Raymond Smith

Raymond Smith


How many times have we erred and wished for another chance to start over - a slip up that cost us our job, a spat with our spouse that caused a separation, a careless mistake that caused serious injury, or a felony and time of imprisonment. Please God, just one more chance.

A. J. Cronin, a Scottish medical doctor and writer, writes of an experience early in his career. He was tired, having been up all day and half the night and so he delegated responsibility to a young Welsh nurse to tend to a patient who had a tendency to choke.

He told her what to do if the situation came about and went to bed.

Later that night the patient started choking and the nurse panicked, finally calling the doctor, but by the time he got there the patient was dead.

Cronin thought of revoking her license and ending her career, but through her tears and pleadings, he finally gave her one more chance. He later stated that she had by now become the head of the largest children's hospital in England. Just one more chance - something we all could use.

The Latin phrase tabula rasa means a clean slate. In philosophy it means an empty brain at the time of our birth, but I prefer to use the imagery as a person's past being erased and an opportunity given to start over through the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus' parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke chapter 15, was acclaimed by Charles Dickens as the greatest short story ever written. Here is a self-centered young man who wants to live life to the fullest without taking any responsibility. After spending his inheritance and becoming desperately poor, he returns to his father who loves him and gives him another chance.

The obvious lesson here is how God in His love and mercy will erase our spattered slate and give us a clean and a fresh start.

To declare one's faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is to wipe out the past and establish an entirely new life. All the past mistakes are erased from the slate - the person now has a new set of priorities, new goals and a new morality.

The Apostle Paul writes, "Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come."

Many throughout history like Augustine and John Newton spent their lives testifying to that life-changing experience.

We make our New Year's resolutions as a way of cleaning the slate, but for most, I suspect, those resolutions will soon be forgotten.

In our own strength we might overcome a problem or two, but when Jesus cleans the slate He not only gives us power to overcome, but he takes away our sins, which we could never do. Moreover we gain access into His glorious Kingdom where He will reign forever.

Tabula rasa anyone?

Raymond F. Smith is a deacon at Fellowship Bible Church in Victoria and President of Strong Families of Victoria.



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