A Possible Gospel And New Testament

More Fun Than Fundamentalism.

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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Gospel Preface 2: The Last Word?

“Blog-Back” addendum 4/30/06 below.

A Closed Book?

Scripture. The word of God. The age of divinely inspired writing. Last post, we noted that the idea of writing a gospel or testament today raises many questions. Here’s another: Is God’s word a closed book that ended 2000 years ago - or perhaps1500 years ago? For Muslims believe that Mohammed was the Seal of the Prophets. While they honor the Old Testament prophets and regard Jesus as a prophet, they believe that the Koran was divinely dictated to Mohammed by an angel some 500 years after Jesus’ death. For Muslims, Mohammed is the culmination of prophesy, and the Koran represents God’s last best word to humankind.

In religious matters, it seems that everyone has wanted to have the last word. I wonder if this is really such a religious tendency; or might it be a human kind of thing.

In reality, will any of us have the last word? Can we expect that two or four thousand years from now religion will look just like it does today? Is it true that from now until the end of time we should expect that God will never again speak to anyone directly?

The End of an Era? (Using Whose Calendar?)

Did prophesy really come to a sudden end some 1500 years ago, 2000 years ago, or earlier, according to whether you’re Muslim, Christian, or Jewish; or did cultural changes take place over the intervening millennia in how we view one another such that perceiving a person as a prophet is no longer possible? Is it possible that in our time we have not perceived great leaders like Martin Luther King and Gandhi as prophets because we have known too much about their lives to tell believable stories to each other that involve them with angels, resurrections, and voices from the sky?

Has God changed or have we changed? Remember that the West’s most important takers of divine dictation, prophets, and even that person whom Christians decided was God himself, were ordinary people of their day. Did God, 1500 years ago or earlier, abruptly decide to stop speaking to carpenter’s sons, shepherds and caravan attendants (Mohammed), and folks like those anonymous early Christian church members who wrote to tell others of the good news which they had come to believe had been revealed by God to fishermen? Did God decide a couple millennia ago that he would transmit all further major communications bureaucratically through church councils and official pronouncements by men who would rise in the ranks to occupy high positions in church hierarchies? Is this really how God behaves in the world; or is this really how people behave once they have power?

What is “God?” What is the nature of true spirit? How do we discern it? And what of the whole world of non-western religious traditions?

Blog-Back: Global Cooling of the Divine Ethersphere?

In the comments section, Kevin posits that there was indeed a kind of Age of Prophesy (my phrase) ending 1500 or so years ago (with Mohammed) in which God communicated to us more directly and powerfully than He/She has done ever since; providing us with what Kevin calls some “basic instructions” in the form of scripture. Such a view, it seems to me, is implicit to any scripture-based belief system. It appears that God addressed humankind much more directly way back when.

My position is that we live beneath the same broad light of day that existed 2000 years ago, and that the reason we no longer perceive gods, goddesses, or prophets walking the earth and taking divine dictation is because changes in society and world-view in the intervening millennia have made it impossible for most of us to view other persons in such terms. I'm not aware of any evidence for a global cooling of the divine ethersphere that could account for God failing to continue making fiery, unexpected appearances in small towns and cities of the Mideast every now and then. But there’s plenty of evidence that our world-view today differs from that of the Mideast a couple thousand years ago.

So I don’t think that God really started relating to us differently once Jesus and Mohammed had completed their work, bringing some sort of "Age of Revelation, Prophesy, and God-Come-To-Earth in Much More Concrete Terms than Just the Holy Spirit" to an end. I think we just lost the capacity to view other persons as prophets or as God him/herself – or, conversely, gained the perception that other people always turn out to be other people.

If I’m right about this, then nothing that a person could say or do today could convince us that he or she was God, or a prophet in some kind of special and direct communication with God. (Unless maybe we were members of a cult, which most of society would see as – well, a cult, with all the implications of that concept for being misled.)

If I’m wrong about this, then someone should be able to tell us how we’d be able to recognize a genuine prophet. This could be an important skill. In terms of Major Western Revelations on a history of religions time-scale, it really hasn’t been all that long since the last one. Maybe we’re about due.


At 6:30 PM, Blogger Keshi said...

Enlightening post...I always thought abt who wrote the bible, thriptakaya, mahabharath, koran etc etc..

If God came to Earth in those days in human form, and people believed Him to be divine etc why is it not so now? I mean why doesnt He come ard now? And even if He did, would ppl believe Him to be God?

Ans would lie in ur won hearts...ppl can argue forever abt His existence, but we r all not gonna arrive at one happy conclusion. In the modern era it's more of bloodshed than just discussing it! Times have changed that much. Whatever changes, what matters is if ur heart has faith in Him.

**What is “God?” What is the nature of true spirit? How do we discern it? And what of the whole world of non-western religious traditions?

God is in you...find Him urself.


At 7:03 PM, Blogger kathy said...

wow!I think you brought up some great questions here. you said:"In religious matters, it seems that everyone has wanted to have the last word. I wonder if this is really such a religious tendency; or might it be a human kind of thing."

I think you hit on it, it's a human kind of thing because humans created religion in the first place.

God wouldn't be in any particular group of people...he's everywhere and in everything. God is in Nature. What is God? God is the Great Spirit that the Native Americans speak of...it flows through everything! The prophecies of the Native American Indians and that of the Hopi's makes more sense to me than what is written in the Bible.

At 7:12 PM, Blogger kathy said...

Buddhism has the characteristics of what would be expected in a cosmic religion for the future: it transcends a personal God, avoids dogmas and theology; it covers both the natural & spiritual, and it is based on a religious sense aspiring from the experience of all things, natural and spiritual, as a meaningful unity.

-Albert Einstein

At 8:20 PM, Blogger Jim Jordan said...

You do have a lot of questions. The best one can do is study the Bible, the Koran, and a few other major religions, and see what sticks (note: not what "works for you" but what sound true). What seems real and what seems made up. The Bible has convinced me over and over that it gets the truth exactly right. The other major religions do not pass the smell test for me even though they all have their good points. Here are a few problems with Christ's detractors.

1) Mohammed made claims about Jesus that were verifiably false, such as Jesus' supposed claim that his mother was part of the Trinity. Mohammed had an inchoate knowledge of Christianity. His revelations were made to him in a cave. There were no witnesses but Jesus had hundreds of witnesses to His resurrection. Mohammed turned his religion into a political juggernaut before the ink was dry on the Koran. This is an ungodly thing to do. Christianity may have entered politics but not at the behest of its founder.

2) Buddhism still pleads that time had no beginning, even though science has ruled out it's infinite, uncreated cosmological model. I believe there are many profoundly true declarations in the Buddhist faith, but it gets the problem wrong. We can't overcome our separation from God unless we begin to think like Him.

3) Hinduism claims that we are living in a universe that is an illusion. No one can be part of an illusion and be self-aware any more than Mickey Mouse can open his own bank account.

4) Judaism was all about waiting for a Messiah who was clearly spelled out in the Old Testament. If you take all the prophecies of the "Christ" - Greek for Messiah, you'll find that Jesus fulfilled all those predictions. The odds that Jesus was NOT the predicted Messiah is one in infinity (trillions and trillions).

You stated that "it seems that everyone has wanted to have the last word". God gave the first word and He'll give the last. You seem to be saying "no one gets to know" but the truth is that God reveals Himself innumerously through the Bible and in everyday life.
You asked, "Can we expect that two or four thousand years from now religion will look just like it does today?" Do you really care about what religion looks like in 4,00 years? You sound confused.

My advice; seek God, not Mohammed's God or Buddha's God, but God. Like Kathy says "God is in everything" = He reveals Himself everywhere, and as Keshi says He is in us too. But we run the risk of taking those truths and crazy-gluing them to an idol of our own making which is not God. Just remember He is real and He has the last word, not us.
Good luck.

you quoted Einstein "Buddhism transcends a personal God, avoids dogmas and theology; it covers both the natural & spiritual, and it is based on a religious sense aspiring from the experience of all things, natural and spiritual, as a meaningful unity."

Do you agree? If God is not personal, could He still be spiritual or natural? Regarding the "all things" claim do you know if that includes corrupted things? Can good and evil have a meaningful unity?

To all I say God is in us but also independent of us. We must be careful not to try and mold Him but let Him mold us.

At 8:29 PM, Blogger grumblefish said...

I don't know enough to speak succinctly about the Torah or Quran, but i'm repeatedly stricken
by the way the Bible and its various teachings have been shrouded in the mechanics of church
and religion, then shoe-horned into
politics. If there are lessons to
be learned, then perhaps written
scriptures are actually a divine
entrance exam, implying that, "If man is incapable of deciphering and
learning from these (comparatively)
simple lessons, then there's little
likelihood that, as individuals, they are ready or able to take any
direct guidance." Exclusionary logic like this would sit well with Popes and Mullahs alike, since they could make any spiritual claims they like on mere
people. It may very well be that we really ought to stop acting as
savages to one another, but if a few thousand years pass, and we can't do better than we are, then
maybe some force majeure events are a necessary remedial class. At
least, it might eclipse the manmade crises, and get peoples'
minds off of the status quo. Faith
in God seems more likely than the
unshakeable belief in our own earthly causes, especially formal
religions, which are subject to
man's rules. The search for an immutable truth goes on.

At 10:12 PM, Blogger Liquidplastic said...

Is God’s word a closed book that ended 2000 years ago - or perhaps 1500 years ago?

One would have to answer this based on the version of God one believes in. As for the closed book part, well --- the Bible again is a book of stories, and whether the stories are true or not is debatable. So I can’t answer this question, because I don’t know who this God is or if this God exist. I believe that there is a Higher Spirit, and I believe it can be found within every human being. It’s interesting to note that the Koran and the Bible both are very cruel when it comes to women. Therefore I surmised that they both were written by men, for the benefits of men, not humanity as a whole. Of course based on this observation, I guess the God of Men is still talking --- because they are as cruel today as they were yesterday.

I think when one individual try and have the last word, it’s because they are not really confident in their beliefs system, especially in religious matters. So I would have to say, it’s a human kind of thing. Looking at history, as it relates to Religions, I think we are going backward not forward. Life is about change, and it seems to me the persecution that is going on in the name of a God/Gods and pushing individual doctrine around the world as the one and only truth is very primitive. The last word, in my humble opinion is when we all, individually, accept the fact that we don’t all believe the same --- and let it go at that. Is this possible, I don’t know --- the word possible has hidden within it the word “I Boss - Bile is Boss - So Be Boss” --- it also have the word “lie”in it too! Ahhh Darius, just a little sense of humor, it getting real serious in here.

So many questions, and I don’t have any answers. But I am trying to communicate --- I have come to believe that time is an illusion, use to measure change for humanity --- seasons, etc. According to the how Christianity is taught, every one who say they are an ordain minister, sees himself as a Prophet. Of course, this confused me, because man ordaining man --- where does God fit in here?

History is control by the ruling class, be they Kings, Politicians, or Popes, so 2000 years from now, what we are reading will probably have changed, and men like King and Gandhi will be seen as Gods. For example, the Catholic Church has a lot of secrets hidden in their vaults that the general public does not have access to.

Like I said, the God of the old and new testament is still just as cruel as he ever was … just look at all the wars fought in the name of this God --- Yesterday, today, and tomorrow. A good example of this is Israel and the Palestinian; they have been at it since the dawn of time. Add to that, Islam and/or Muslim vs. the Christians. All these worshipers of whatever God they, desire to be right and yet none of them follow their own teaching; such as “tolerance” & “judge not lest ye be judge”.

I say we are all gods/goddesses and devils alike, for one does not exist without the others. We act as human, be it good or bad, and chose a deity to excuse our cruelty or uphold our goodness. It’s an individual thing, so what does any God has to do with it?

God backward is Dog. Dog backward is God. There really is no one or right answer to “What is “God?” But then again, Men backward is Nem, and we all know that Nem mean to assign or take, and that what man does in the name of their Gods --- all over the world.

However, I believe that the true spirit is the imagination of the human mind, and how it creates matter from thought. How it bring an idea into fruition, and a woman giving birth to new life, or the goodness of an individual towards his neighbor --- this is the true spirit to me. As a child I have been forced to serve two masters --- the white god and the black god, these days I look past them both, and found the goddess within myself; this is my old and new tradition.

Darius, I am not an educated scholar, I am just a simple person with simple thoughts --- I hope I have kept to the subject and was able to bring something to the table, even if it's not new.

At 7:02 AM, Blogger Darius said...

Keshi - So on the one hand, you mention we oould argue forever about God's existence; on the other you state that God is in us. Is there an argument that could persuade people of that? If not, what's your basis for that statement? I think I'm pretty much with you on this, just looking for further clarification

Kathy - So any idea of God that is provincial is unsatisfactory. I agree. Therefore, imo, the existence of sectarianism is itself an indication that we don't have it right yet.

As to your Einstein quote: I'd heard brief references of his to God in quotations of his, but hadn't heard that he was leaning toward the nonanthropomorphism of Buddhism. Interesting.

Welcome Jim - If I may say so, your overview of world religions isn't exactly unbiased. There are books out there that offer succinct overviews of the major world religions - I know Huston Smith wrote one.

If the arguments for Christianity were really compelling, then intelligent, thoughtful people everywhere would have been converting all along. By now, 2000 years later, we'd all be Christians. It would have just been a matter of laying out any number of arguments like the ones you offer and bingo! Another convert, unless the person just wasn't that bright.

In reality, of course, people all over the world try to make the case, with similar forms of argument, that their religion is The Truth. The arguments only seem to work for people who already see it that way.

I care a lot about what religion looks like in 4000 years. It may relate to whether our species is still here.

Not sure why you're wishing me good luck, but I appreciate it.

Grumblefish: Sounds like you see a lot of human stuff getting thrown in with religion. I agree. Often I hear people talk about God with condescension and swagger that I can only call egotistical.

You're stricken by how "the Bible and its various teachings have been shrouded in the mechanics of church
and religion, then shoe-horned into
politics." I'm struck by how you turn a phrase! That's great!

Liquidplastic - Lots of interesting thoughts there, I'll just pick up on a couple that struck me:

To me, it seems pretty evident that the Bible is a product of its time and place. So I don't feel that every single verse must be somehow defended, justified, and proved right. As you mention, women's issues... also slavery, I know of at least one passage cheerfully accepting that institution - so I think there are quite a number of things we've improved on since then.

At the same time, I find some definite wisdom and powerful inspiration in the Bible. I don't think it has to be viewed as either terribly wrong and misguided, or 100% right.

It is true that a lot of terrible things have been and are being done in the name of religion. At the same time, it's a force for good in many lives. Like you and other commentators, I see religion as it is now frequently confounded with all-too-human attitudes.

At 9:05 AM, Blogger Liquidplastic said...

Darius, there is inspiration and good to be found in all things, and all people ---I do not deny this. I believe that it’s “this all-too human attitude” that creates Gods. It seem impossible for human to believe themselves as Gods, because of what they term are their “human” imperfections, even though the Jesus they are following said, that “we are all children of the same Father, and we would do greater things than him” so to speak (this might not be the exact quote, but I remember hearing it over and over again at Church).

I do not put down anyone’s beliefs, I just disagree that we all have to be of the same beliefs --- it’s not humanly possible to have one mind. Our ego will not allow it. Diversity is our curse and blessing. One man’s god is another man’s devil, and vice verse, nothing wrong with that. But pushing one belief in the literal meaning of the Gospels, as the one and only truth --- well that’s too much like brainwashing to me, and I have been brainwashed too much and far too long by the Bible, no matter how inspiring it is.

In the Gospels, it seems to me that they were written to clean up some of the misconceptions of the Old Testament; to allow the gentile in. So it’s hard to divide one from the other in that concept. Without the Old Testament there could be no New Testament --- the mere fact that the term “old” and “new” exist tells me that change in religion is inevitable. Look at all the books written from the “so-called” inspiration of the Bible. Conversation of God Trilogy, for example --- millions of folks hold those books higher than the Bible. Are books like these a continuation of the Gospels?

The Gospels, as well as the Old Testament makes man out to be God, calling God a “Him”. You asked the question, “What is God”, and that’s a big question. I have been taught that every question asked have the answer somewhere in it, so maybe you can share with me what you think of as God, since you asked the question.

Looking at the Gospels and the miracles preformed back then, there are lots of people who can fit the “God” profile; such as, the doctors who saved my husband eyes, like Jesus --- the doctors and healers who heal sickness and diseases, like Jesus --- the people who heal the disease of the mind, casting out devils, like Jesus --- woman that bring the gift of life into the world, like Jesus --- the people who give of themselves to others, like Jesus --- and so on and so forth. So maybe God is not a “what”, maybe God is just the every day person, and that inclusive of all of us. If I am to believe anything about the Gospels, this would have to be my concept of it. God is every person, place, and thing --- from the lowest to the highest. To me, this type of God is nothing but the true Spirit of Creation, the great Either, Or, and In-between of all known and unknown existent.

My goodness, Darius did you push a button in me – yes, I do believe you are inspiring me to think, therefore to me that make you a (?), because you are creating an atmosphere that foster creative thought, without the chain that binds them. Thank you.

At 10:21 AM, Blogger Darius said...

Liquidplastic: Me too - I don't think we have to have the same beliefs; and I frankly think that proselytizers are on the wrong track. On the other hand, if you believe you have the Truth, I can see how such a person would feel a responsibility to proselytize.

As to what I mean by the word God, that will come up soon. Just a few more introductory posts to get people thinking...

At 11:15 AM, Blogger Liquidplastic said...

Never wonder why I hold you in such high regards, Darius.

At 7:26 PM, Blogger Homo Escapeons said...

Bravo to one and all!
Well, well, well, here is where all of you truth seekers are hiding. All these brave souls who seek the unanswerable. Holy what ifs Batman! I have to stop and take a breath I am so excited!!

I look at our situation this way, we can mentally masturbate until the cows come home about the W5s about GOD(s) it is and always will be the ultimate bastion of exclusivity.

People are either charming or tedious. Naturally all of the charming are perfectly content to share the similarities of their NICE God(s)and can get along famously.

Unfortunately there are plenty of tedious DOGMAHOLICS who are willing to incinerate the planet with their hatred of apostates and fast forward to the REAL WORLD..

It is 2006 and we're still discussing Adam and Eve outside of allegoryville and we have faux Jihadists levelling restaurants. We no longer have the luxury of sitting around trying to justify and revamp old fables and myths that have been edited and re-edited for millenia.

The common'ideals'are completely within the scope of humans. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that everything you needed to know they taught you in Kindergarten.

Add that little my God is bigger than your God and KAPOW!!!!

Excuse the verbose reaction. I just wanted to say that this is a great little forum. Please ignore your initial reaction and invoke the urge to shun this little light of mine.

C'mon an apostate like me is worth a hundred heathen in the grand scheme of things.

At 7:35 PM, Blogger Keshi said...

**So on the one hand, you mention we oould argue forever about God's existence; on the other you state that God is in us.

hehe I think u didnt get me clearly there...wut I meant is ppl will argue forever on His existence...cos there r all sorts of ppl on this Earth. But it's up to u to find Him inm ur heart :) So what I mean is, I know He exists...but u may not believe that.


At 10:04 PM, Blogger Jim Jordan said...

Darius, you wrote
If the arguments for Christianity were really compelling, then intelligent, thoughtful people everywhere would have been converting all along. By now, 2000 years later, we'd all be Christians.
When has there been "intelligent, thoughtful people everywhere"? Of course we're not all Christians. Most of us still are idiots, including many Christians.

It would have just been a matter of laying out any number of arguments like the ones you offer and bingo! Another convert, unless the person just wasn't that bright.

Arguments don't convert people to Christianity, God does.

You wrote It is true that a lot of terrible things have been and are being done in the name of religion. At the same time, it's a force for good in many lives. Like you and other commentators, I see religion as it is now frequently confounded with all-too-human attitudes.

This was an excellent observation. I don't see myself as religious so much as serving the living God that exists, which demands that I serve the disadvantaged and love my enemy as well as my friend. Religion can be a force for evil, but if anything is a force for good, than that is from God. Satan often uses religion, but only God uses good.
Take care and God bless.

At 6:57 AM, Blogger Darius said...

HOMO ESCAPEONS, welcome. I agree that great harm is often done in the name of God when people use the idea of God to enjoy the humble conviction, so to speak, of considering themselves absolutely right in their opinions.

But religion and spirituality are also often positive forces in people's lives, although, imo, many spiritual people today lack a way of expressing this dimension of themselves that they find satisfactory.

Thanks for toning down the rhetoric at the end of your comment. People feel strongly about these things. I try to remind myself that no one out there takes the position they do on religion, even if it's very different from mine, just to get me mad. People are being as sincere as they can about this stuff, and it's important to them.

KESHI, thanks for that clarification. Whether I'd believe that you know God exists would depend on just what you mean by "God" and by "knowing." Whether I'd believe that you know God exists probably doesn't matter a heck of a lot...

Hi JIM: No, I wasn't saying there are intelligent, thoughtful people everywhere! That would be great, but alas...

I said that if Christian beliefs could be demonstated as true by reason and logic, then a preponderance of bright people - anyone capable of following the logic - would be Christians. If becoming a Christian were just a matter of following arguments that were truly compelling, then it would be a simple matter to convert any reasonably bright person. The only people who wouldn't be Christians would be people with weak reasoning abilities.

But I see no evidence that Christians as a group are any more or less intelligent and capable of following logic and reason than any other group.

Your statement that arguments don't convert people to Christianity is therefore something I very much agree with. Your statement that God converts people to Christianity is a statement that one may or may not agree with depending on exactly what you mean.

For example, it would depend on what you mean by "God." And whether, say, you believe that when people convert to Islam, Judaism, Buddhism etc., then God is not involved.

"If anything is a force for good it's from God" is a further statements of what you believe. You mention Satan - I'd tend to assume that you believe that anything evil comes from Satan.

Few would deny the existence of good and evil, right and wrong. The existence of Satan and God as two Entities who are the sources of each isn't demonstrable by reason.

Again: If it was, then these beliefs would be widely shared among people with sound reasoning abilities.

The living God is the thing to seek - I think so too. I'm not so sure that this is the same God whose existence people debate.

At 9:18 AM, Blogger kevin said...

there are so many intresting posts and commments that I'm afriad I won't be able acknowledge them all...

Somethings that come to me:

What I understand from the concept of revaltion from an islamic point of view is that the idea that prophecy ended with Muhammad means that for humankind as a whole , God had finished providing us with the basics of relgious instruction; ie, we need to understand we all share One Essential Reality, He/She/It spekas to us, we should speak 'back - pray; be giving unto others "poor tax"; we should travel for the Sake Reaching of God and we should periodically give something up fom this life, "fast".

It is my understanding, that while "prophecy" has ended, "revelation" to each and everyone of us has not. I beleieve this is uphald by all of our traditions, that God talks to us and we can share in a dialogue with Him. Or Her or it or whatever way it floats your boat....

I couldn't agree more, everybody seems to want to have the last word..... What I think, if I may so bold, is that all of our various Prophets, Saints, Messegers, ect HAD IT RIGHT, they ALL knew of God existence (in a real and transcendantal way) and ALSO of knew each OTHERS existence. I think humankind screwed up when we let our so-called scholars, theologians, mullas, and false preachers dictate and scandelously interpret the meanings of what Jesus, Moses, ect had recieved.

For the record, Muhammad did not soley get revalations whilst sitting in a cave. The revalations came for many years, I think for 23 years, in and about many settings. There are numerious stories of him reccieving them while other people were present. Nor am I aware of the Quran making Mary a part of the Christian Trinity. There certainly might be some fools within the muslim community that interpret something as such, but I do not beleieve that is an idea that the Quran explicitly states.

"What is God" an excellant question. I think we should also discuss the pros, cons, follies and benefits of coming to personal realizations on this. One thing that I have always felt, based on a varity of reasons, is that I think I can personally define what "God" is ~ but I am no longer convinced that it is useful in trying to proove my conception of G-d to another person. I think the most we can reach a conclusion together on is a one simple observations at best:

God Exists.

I think that is about as far as we can go!

Cause look at the trouble we'll get into when I or another says: God is One!

Of course, these are just my opinions, faulty at best ~ and I am looking forward to seeing what others of you are experiencing and thinking on this.

At 9:35 AM, Blogger kevin said...

I apologise for my horrid spelling, I need to be more careful.


At 4:02 PM, Blogger jim said...

i am more impressed with your handling of the people and points out here in the comment section, than with the quick scan i did of your articles, i will therefore return when i have more time and read much closer.

whatever your perspective is for real, hang on to it, at least as long as it is working for you, you seem to be well served by it.

At 5:01 PM, Blogger Darius said...

KEVIN: Here are some thoughts about your comment:

You suggest that the age of prophesy may be behind us because with Mohammed, God had provided us with the "basic instructions." Of course one problem is that many Jews and Christians would want to place the date earlier.

To me it seems that if it really were the case that there was an age of prophesy in which God related to us differently than now - for some reason (as you can see, I'd be wondering about the reason...), then I'd concur about wanting to use Mohammed as the end point. You don't have to be Muslim to acknowledge the historical fact that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam developed from out of each other.

I would therefore think that members of these three scripture based religions, which all see God as working in human history, could acknowledge the legitimacy of the idea that God might reveal himself at different times in different ways to different peoples.

I also see theology as muddying the waters more often than not. And I agree that it would be wonderful to have more interfaith dialogue not just among Christians, but among all religions.

That said, there are basic differences in Jewish, Christian, and Muslim belief systems which make that basic instruction manual pretty confusing. For example, either Jesus was God and Savior or he wasn't... Either believing this is necessary for salvation or it isn't...

I share your ecumenical spiritedness, but when it comes to belief, how can "they all have it right?"

I agree: trying to prove God's existence is useless, and for multiple reasons.

You term the existence of God an "observation," which to me is interesting.

JIM: Thanks. The first several posts are introductory. The very first post is meant to briefly give a suggestion of what this blog will be about.

I feel like a few people have more or less said: "Okay, get on with it then!" I don't know; maybe I should have just jumped in with the upcoming, "Gospel, Chapter One."

In any case, it's just a matter of maybe four more prefatory posts. I hope these will get people thinking more about the concept of inspiration, especially in relation to the written word.

For that matter, I hope "prefatory" is a word...

At 5:20 PM, Blogger Dale said...

In my tradition of Buddhism, at least (the Tibetan Kagyu), it's explicitly laid out that one of the things that will prevent a person from reaching enlightenment is regarding anybody else's religion with contempt. I don't know what's taught about this in other traditions, but one of the oldest stories of the Buddha is of a Jainist scholar who came to debate him, and found him so compelling he wanted to leave Jainism and become Buddhist; the Buddha told him there was no reason to leave his own tradition, and that he was needed there, he should stay there. (None of this, of course, prevents some Buddhists from being doctrinaire fundamentalists; that does seem to be, alas, a universal impulse. But it does tend to make Buddhist chauvinism milder than that of some faiths.)

PS I don't know how worthwhile it is responding to caricatures, but "beginingless time" can actually live quite comfortably with modern scientific speculation, since many (I thought most, but maybe I'm wrong?) physicists think that the big bang happens over and over again. Of course there are many other pieces of Buddhist cosmology that science demonstrates can't be true, or at least can't be literally true. But generally speaking, our cosmology is a lot less important to us than the Abrahamic cosmology is to your Western faiths.

At 6:59 PM, Blogger BarbaraFromCalifornia said...

Very provocative and thoughtful post.

How could God's word ever really be finite?

At 7:58 PM, Blogger kevin said...

"with Mohammed, God had provided us with the "basic instructions." "

Actually I would argue that all of the Prophets leading upto Muhammad were involved, without Adam, Moses, Jesus, ect ~ there would be no Muhammad.

Dale ~ "It's explicitly laid out that one of the things that will prevent a person from reaching enlightenment is regarding anybody else's religion with contempt."

That is absolutely wonderful, I couldn't agree more.

Darius, I think one aspect that might be worth considering is when we talk of God, from what perspective are talking?

From humankind in total? Or from a nation or a race? From a familial standpoint? Or from an individual point of view?

I mention this, because I think it relates to the issues of revelation on a national level and others. We know from our books that God speak to nations and to individuals. I agree "they all can't right" becomes an issue, but how? If all we are concerned about is the form, then yes, as differing relgions (or none) we will never agree. But, I think, my opinion... one way around this dilemma is considering that God is beyond form.

Maybe He gave each nation differing ways of approach to knowing Reality.

Of course, there are other vantage points to consider.

What is the phrase? Umm, the map is not the territory? Maybe our cosmologies are just maps? I think Lao Tzu and the Buddah have much to offer. Peace be upon them both.

At 3:12 AM, Blogger jim said...

so all told, you see, i have 2 main points, and then there would be a result. the first point is, that the Words of Jesus be extracted from the stories, (not separated from thier contexts, just pulled out for unobstructed viewing and a kind of indexing that would have been familiar to Jesus Himself) and set down in the Hebrew, which Jesus would have been intimate with ,(that has been done, but not extracted), the second point is that then, the means and methods of the times, that Jesus Himself would have used, as he studied the Word of God, be applied to the Words that Jesus chose to Speak.

The Result will be Jesus speaking for Himself from His Time.

At 6:00 AM, Blogger Darius said...

DALE: Thanks for mentioning things about Buddhism that I bet a lot of us probably weren’t aware of, starting with me. To not regard anyone else’s religion with contempt is fascinating as an explicit religious tenet. And I didn’t know that “doctrinaire fundamentalists” even existed within Buddhism.

BARBARA: What about the distinction, if any, between God’s word and our words about God?

KEVIN: That’s for sure – it would help immensely if there were a universal idea of God. Yet the more specific and elaborated our beliefs about God become, the more parochial they must remain, or so it seems to me.

JIM: Jesus was Jewish, so without being familiar with the details of everything you’re saying, it seems to me too that the closer scholarship can come to getting at New Testament meanings in their Jewish linguistic and cultural context, the better our understanding.

Of course there are limits. We don’t actually know what words “Jesus chose to speak.” We know what words others chose to attribute to him. And for anyone with ears to hear, so to speak, some of these attributions ring truer than others. Yet we don’t all hear with the same ears…

At 1:34 PM, Anonymous SH said...

I wrote some comments to the last update ("blog-back") of this post, but they ended up being a little long and I decided to turn them into a post on my blog instead: Is the "Age of Prophesy" over?

At 3:17 PM, Blogger Renee Wagemans said...

Darius God has never stopped speaking to his own. But to hear him you have to listen and stop with speaking yourself.
If you really want to hear him speak to you all you have to do is say: Father will you tell me what is in your heart.
and He will speak

1 Kings 19: 11-13

God Speaks To Elijah
11 So the angel said, "Go and stand on the mountain before the Lord." And the Lord passed by. A strong wind tore through the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord. But the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind the earth shook. But the Lord was not in the shaking of the earth. 12After the earth shook, a fire came. But the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a sound of gentle blowing. 13When Elijah heard it, he put his coat over his face, and went out and stood at the opening of the hole. Then a voice came to him and said, "What are you doing here, Elijah?"

At 3:49 PM, Blogger Darius said...

SH: Thanks, I'll take a look...

RENEE: Some believe that listening to the beyond-self means hearing something essentially external to ourselves.

Others experience listening to the beyond-self as hearing a voice that resonates on our own breath; that is ours and yet not ours; and that claims us when we own up to it.

At 5:14 PM, Blogger Benjamin said...

Hello. Ah, yeah, good blog. And I liked your last post, Darius, much because, for me, it highlighted the highly suspect nature of doctrine and gospel.

I agree with Kathy that 'the last word' is probably a kind of human failing that has little to do with God.

For you, Darius, 'the reason we no longer perceive gods, goddesses, or prophets walking the earth and taking divine dictation is because changes in society and world-view in the intervening millennia have made it impossible for most of us to view other persons in such terms.'

I wonder if you are heading towards some speculation as to what these changes might be. It is quite possible for any person to consider gods (and demons) walking the earth.

So lots of questions arise from these words of yours, Paul, which hit upon something, I'm not sure what, and while church numbers continue to decline in the Western world I don't believe this implicitly means that spirituality is declining.

Also, historically the 'word of God' has been used by ruling classes and orders as a means of control. Sceptics and atheists struggle in religious societies for who, but a witch, would say there are no witches?

And I think that in Western societies now, religion is no longer used as a means of control and has possibly been supplanted by media or advertising.

God's word is still used as a means of societal control in more fundamentalist countries such as
Iran, I guess. I know very little about the Muslim faith and would really like to learn more.

I think arguments about God are over-hyped. People are usually fighting for some other reason; money, land, oil. Regards, all x

At 11:03 PM, Blogger Keshi said...

**Whether I'd believe that you know God exists would depend on just what you mean by "God" and by "knowing." Whether I'd believe that you know God exists probably doesn't matter a heck of a lot...

hmmm thats why I said that none of us will come into ONE conclusion :) Cos to each and everyone, God is different and the belief is different.


At 6:52 AM, Blogger Darius said...

BENJAMIN: Good point. Religion indeed has multiple functions in addition to its primary associations with spirituality, belief, and making sense out of life.

For example, in addition to the social control you mention, there's the sense, for church members, of belonging to a community.

KESHI: At present, and quite possibly for as long or short as we exist as a species, I agree that people will never see it the same way regarding religion and spirituality.

But movement in that direction, to whatever degree is possible, I think is highly desirable. Because right now, religion is a force for harm and division as well as good.

Meanwhile, the drive of technology is turning the planet basically into one shared space...

At 9:52 AM, Blogger Jim Jordan said...

Darius, Congrats on this great discussion and on your moderate moderating.
On Christianity you had said,
Again: If it was (easy to understand), then these beliefs would be widely shared among people with sound reasoning abilities.

I don't see that you allowed for personal choice in that statement. People often choose not to believe truths that might be inconvenient. Case in point, Al Gore's argument in his documentary on Global Warming, "An Inconvenient Truth". The Bible is full of cases where God reveals Himself unequivocally, yet some refuse to recognize Him.

The other point is that God however self-evident, is not a simple thing to believe. He is that complex that our little brains could never be left in charge of judging others in His place. Would this be a fatal flaw in Islam as Allah delegates judgment of others to his people?

At 2:36 PM, Blogger Darius said...

HI JJ - Thanks for the compliment, and that's a great phrase - "moderate moderating." I think if everybody on religion and spirituality blogs would strive for that, there might be more crossover - which I think is more valuable than speaking exclusively to people who see things your way.

I know I post to a heck of a lot of blogs more conservative than mine - well, okay, mine's not conservative at all, except of The Truth (kidding...)- and it's usually very hard or impossible to get them to comment back to this blog. So I appreciate your input.

I agree with you on Al Gore's comment. There's tremendous investment on the part of wealthy corporations in continuing to use forms of energy that are bad for our own habitat long term. So there's ulterior motive at work.

I don't see an ulterior motive for not believing what would come as wonderful news to anybody: that a benevolent Being is in charge who sent his Son into the world to save us!

Seems to me that motive runs in the opposite direction: there's a tremendous incentive to believe this.

God as self-evident... If by God you mean an Entity existing apart from the rest of reality or nature, I'm genuinely missing the self-evident aspect. I don't even see what could be termed strong evidence for such an Entity.

People have gone through an awful lof of trouble through the centuries trying to prove something self-evident, if this is the case...

I've read the Bible but nothing was revealed to me. I think the concept of revealed relgion is of historical revelation. Scripture tells us that God revealed him-herself to Moses, Jesus' disciples, Mohammed.

For us, isn't it supposed to be "faith" and not revealed certitude?

I don't know Islam well enough to comment on your last point, but a two or three Muslims have checked in previously - maybe someone will help us out.

At 8:51 PM, Blogger Tony Myles said...

A genuine prophet is the kind of person who speaks of risk when we'd rather hear comfort... and comfort when we'd rather have risk... who proclaims division when we'd rather have peace... and peace when we'd rather have division.

The kind of person whom you couldn't put your finger on... that is, until he was held down and crucified.

At 6:45 AM, Blogger Darius said...

TONY: Sounds like you're saying a genuine prophet is more of a guide and leader than a predicter of the future...

At 11:56 AM, Blogger Jim Jordan said...

Hi, Darius
A very pleasureful chat, but I have a few new questions.
You say you don't think God is self-evident. Can He really exist in nature (the author of it's material existence and complexity) and not exist outside of nature?

I've read the Bible but nothing was revealed to me.
Have you ever been part of a bible study or watched one on TV? You've had to have had an AHA moment once or twice.

We don’t actually know what words “Jesus chose to speak.” We know what words others chose to attribute to him.
Are you saying that someone edited Jesus to say something that He never actually said or was even opposed to? If so, which Jesus statements then would likely leave you scratching your head and saying "Doesn't sound like Jesus" to me? Keep in mind that most of the eyewitnesses to Jesus' ministry were alive throughout the period that the gospels and NT letters were written.

Regarding Jesus as the only way, to say that "it was in the Church's best interest, therefore" is a non-sequitir. In fact, the truth is to the contrary; a "moderate" approach would have been more fruitful in the short term and would have kept many early Christians from burning at the stake or being used as a juicy steak for the lions. Remember, it wasn't until the 4th century that there was any security in believing that Christ was the only way.

Last, if you are not well-read on Islam, why do you place so much assurance on its authenticity? Just because a culture adheres to a religious discipline doesn't make it valid. FYI, I found a great resource at this Koran search website. Punch in Isa al masri (literally "Jesus the Messiah" in Arabic and see what is said about him).

Don't get me wrong. I am on your side in the effort for reconciliation of the great religions. As for Judaism, Jesus is the angel of the Lord in the OT and He is the messiah foretold throughout, and in the Koran He is called the Messiah. Three religious faiths, one Christ. One again, Christ is the way to reconciliation, perhaps the only way there, too.
God bless.

At 2:52 PM, Blogger Darius said...

HI JIM - Thanks for checking in, really appreciate getting people with different points of view talking to each other in a constructive manner.

You give so much to potentially respond to - and also, there are some diffences in assumptions that we could address along with the things you raise - that I'll pick and choose if that's okay. But I do think most of what you bring up I'll end up getting into one way or another in various posts.

If God's existence were self evident or even demonstrable, only unintelligent people wouldn't believe in God. All kinds of attempted proofs were given in the Middle Ages. None work. Example:

"...you don't think God is self-evident. Can He really exist in nature (the author of it's material existence and complexity) and not exist outside of nature?"

The idea of an "author" is an argument, not pointing to any self evident quality. It's called the "teleological argument" or argument from design. But it's finally just an analogy.

It says that since there is order in the world, there must be an Order-Forger. It's based on an analogy with how people stand behind human products.

You find a watch in the desert. You know there was a watchmaker involved with the thing at some point.

But the universe as a whole could be like a tomatoe and not a watch. When you see a tomatoe, you don't run around looking for a tomatoe-maker.

Yes, I have experienced Aha! moments in relation to the Bible. Other writings too. And, more than either, in relation to being outside - the trees, sky, sea..

At 2:08 PM, Blogger Jim Jordan said...

When you see a tomatoe, you don't run around looking for a tomatoe-maker.

Why not? The tomato is thousands of times more intricate than the watch.
Since your last post left only this question for me to ask, I think we are coming closer to an understanding on who gets the last word.
Good work,

At 7:34 AM, Blogger Darius said...

JIM: I'll restate it:

The question is, does God exist.

The teleological argments says yes. It says that since there's order in the universe, there must have been a Someone who designed it.

This is an analogy. It compares the universe as a whole to an object designed by a person - something like a watch, a car, etc. If you find a watch, it's evidence for the existence of a watchmaker.

But the universe could be more like a tomatoe. Or tree. Or any other object that displays order in how it is made, but that isn't man made. When we find a dandelion on the lawn, we don't look around for some dandelion making entity. It grows on its own.

There is no logical reason why the universe can't be growing on its own. To say that because it displays order, some Other Entity must have thought-up or created the order is to make an analogy with man-made objects. But the universe as a whole could just as well be analogous to the natural objects we find on earth, and not the mad-made ones.

Analogies can help illustrate points, but they don't constitute proofs.

At 4:56 AM, Blogger FrenchExpat said...

I used to be a LDS Mormon, and as you probably know, they have an additional book to the Bible: The Book of Mormon. So, they do claim to have the last word. Or even to have the latest word, as they believe in an open canon and that prophets today still receive revelations from God regarding his Church. I am not LDS anymore, but I see myself as being some kind of Reform Mormon.

I believe that the Bible is the word of God, but I see it as a collection of inspired texts. Their meanings are still relevant to us today, but we need to be able to understand and interpret them in the light of those these scriptures were given to.

Love your blog!
All the best!


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