A Possible Gospel And New Testament

More Fun Than Fundamentalism.

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For further information, email Darius at possiblegospel@yahoo.com.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Gospel, Final Premise: A Spoken Word

"And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father--the one in heaven.” Mat 23:9

“Everyone who is fully qualified will be like the teacher.” Luke 6:40

“And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right?” Luke 12:57

Here and in the posts that will follow, I judge for myself what is right and what is wrong, seeing that everyone is salted with fire (cf. Mk 9:49); and that, as noted, inspiration-by-definition is uninspired. Inspiration does not confine itself to books designated as scripture by church councils and hierarchies. The spirit moves broadly over the waters. (Cf. Gen 1:2) The Word invites us to speak and does not sentence us to silence.

To write in this manner may even be to engage in a process similar to that which produced those writings that the church has labeled “scripture.”

Consider:

As we saw in the 4/24 post, The New Testament was written decades after Jesus’ death by anonymous authors with access to second-hand verbal and written materials which were handed down to them. They wrote what came to them on that basis.

So will I.

The writers of the various books had distinctive perspectives. In John, for example, composed late in the first century and last to be written of the four gospels, we find a Jesus who has become more God than man. The scene of sorrow at Gethsemane where Jesus asks that if possible the cup pass from his lips is replaced with passages like John 12:27-28, where the Christ is portrayed as saying in effect that he does not suppose for one moment that the cup should pass from his lips. John’s Christ does not die with the agonized outcry of “My Lord, why have you forsaken me,” but with the simple and declaratory, “It is finished,” of John 19:30. Mission accomplished.

I too offer a distinct perspective.

The Koran so clearly draws on the Bible that scholars are certain that Mohammed was familiar with it. The angel said to have dictated the Koran to Mohammed in a cave was working with someone who was certainly inspired by the Bible as well.

I also find the Bible inspiring.

To me, much of the material in the gospels and the New Testament as a whole rings true, or nearly so; and much of it rings false, as though these authors, and probably Jesus’ contemporaneous followers, did not always have ears to hear. (Cf. Mark 4:9, Luke 14:35) Therefore I will not only quote freely from the gospels, but will ring changes on many verses; write others that are inspired by gospel and other New Testament passages; and add original material.

They say Mohammed had a real angel. Mine is made only from stone - as we’ll see next post with Possible Gospel, Chapter One.

55 Comments:

At 2:09 PM, Blogger Preachrboy said...

Darius,

Your definition of inspiration is so broad as to be meaningless. Your cut and paste, mushy-gushy approach to the text is really quite like Mohammed's. Also just as wrong.

It really seems like a case of the "ideas of man" versus the "Word of God". Your continued persistence in placing yourself above and beyond the text will only lead you to more and more questions, or into the next wind of false teaching or your own unreliable ideas which may come along. This is really radical individualism at its worst.

I'm truly sorry you can't just take the text at face value but continue on in willful ignorance. Before spewing more of it, you should really take some time off and read the CHRISTIAN wisdom of the ages. It will do you more good than your recollections of ideologue scholars and self-taught insights.

I really don't mean to come off as antagonistic, but you seem to ask for my continued comment but are deaf to its content. So, as I am starting to get frustrated, I will likely be bringing our discussion to a close soon.

 
At 3:31 PM, Blogger Darius said...

PREACHRBOY AND READERS OF HIS COMMENT ABOVE:

I'm going to temporarily refrain from replying to this comment - curious to hear the responses of others first - to the post itself, of course, as well as this initial reaction to it.

I'd ask readers to try and focus on Preachrboy's content over his style.

 
At 5:33 PM, Anonymous SH said...

Preacherboy,

Your comments are condescending. Yet I think that you don't have anything to demonstrate that your interpretation of the bible is more valid than anyone else's. You refer to some obscure "CHRISTIAN wisdom of the ages", by which I assume you mean opinions of some scholars to whom you find it convenient to be sympathetic. But you forget a simple fact that just because some group of people, even if they are a majority, happened to think a certain way, does not mean that they know the truth. In fact, I doubt that majority of the people agree with your interpretation of the bible. Remember that majority of the people in the world are not Christians and majority of the Christians are not members of your denomination and therefore do not agree with your interpretations.

Finally, how do you know that God is not speaking thru Darius? If you claim to know this, then you claim to know His mind - a very ambitious claim for just a man... And if you don't, then on what basis do you reject Darius' teachings?

 
At 5:45 PM, Blogger Preachrboy said...

sh,

Darius' approach to the scriptures renders them essentially irrelevant. I believe he said he dismisses those portions that don't "ring true" to him. Well, if each becomes the ultimate arbiter of what "rings true", then what do we need the text for anyway?

You are right that "majority rules" is no way to do theology. This is precisely one of the arguments Luther used when he broke with Rome - questioning the authority of the papal "tradition".

But he didn't do so based on his own private musings or opinions, only on the clear word of God (and a rigorous study of it, at that).

Otherwise, Luther stuck with the tradition as handed down to him. This is a useful model for distinguishing truth from the traditions of man. What "seems good to me right now" isn't.

The onus of proof is not on me, but on Darius, who is diverting from not just Lutheran, but the OVERWHELMING majority of Christian theology and scholarship throughout 2000 years of history. (Not just "some guys who happen to agree with me").

Condescending is thinking one knows so much better than all of that... based on... what?

 
At 5:50 PM, Blogger breakerslion said...

Darius,

Your muse might be a stone angel, mine is a stone lion, as my avatar might suggest. Just now he is growling at the self-serving and dogmatic attitude of preachrboy as reflected in the tone of his comment. As you probably know by now, I have even less respect for that party line than do you.

preachrboy: Your objection to Darius' definition of inspiration is incomprehensible in juxtaposition with your presumed belief that the Jehovah god created everything Darius encounters, including Darius himself. Is not then everything potentially inspiring?

"Mushy-gushy" is not a term that I would use, but what differs between Mohammed's approach, and the cut-and-paste editing that the early church did that removed that which is known as the apocrypha, and caused the outright destruction of competing gospels and even earlier source materials? Are you familiar with the history of that which you uphold?

What makes the words of Isaiah, or Moishe/Moses, or Yasef/Joseph, or the "revelatory" ravings of St. John The Mental Patient any more the "word of God" and any less the "ideas of man"? Will your answer to that question devolve to, "because a church-chosen authority figure says so?"

Your choice of phrases like, "unreliable ideas", "radical individualism", "willful ignorance", and "spewing" support my premise that, in you, the church has cranked out another skillful manipulator. The type intent upon damaging self-esteem and creating yet another insecure individual and prime co-dependent for Mother Church. Remember all that stuff about motes and beams in the eye? Your own cup of self-satisfied ego seemeth to runneth over.

How's that strike you Darius?

 
At 6:35 PM, Anonymous SH said...

Preacherboy,

"Condescending is thinking one knows so much better than all of that... based on... what?"

You presume that you "know better" than Darius how the scripture should be read, interpreted and followed. This is evident from: "I'm truly sorry you can't just take the text at face value but continue on in willful ignorance." You claim that Darius is willfully ignorant because he does not agree with your approach to scriptures. This: "Before spewing more of it, you should really take some time off and read the CHRISTIAN wisdom of the ages. It will do you more good than your recollections of ideologue scholars and self-taught insights." is another example of a highly patronizing and condescending rhetoric.

"[Luther] didn't do so based on his own private musings or opinions, only on the clear word of God"

But this is the problem, isn't it? Who determines what is the "clear word of God"? If there are at least two different interpretations of scripture, and we both know that there are countless readings of scripture, are you not the final arbiter who decides which interpretation is the right one? You can't simply point to a tradition for authority any more than you can point to a majority, because there never was and there will never be a single interpretation of "God's word".

Unless you claim that you were brainwashed and forced against your will into Lutheran tradition, you were the one who has chosen to follow this particular interpretation of the scripture. Out of all the religions in the world, out of thousands of denominations of Christianity, you picked one. If you were the one to make this choice, are you not then the one who is responsible for what you consider to be the "clear word of god"?

In fact, the only distinction between your choice of reading of the bible and Darius' is that you bought yours wholesale - an entire package of already "pre-interpreted" dogmas, while Darius is building his interpretations on the case-by-case basis. Thus, your approach has no claim to superiority other than you saved yourself from a whole lot of thinking, which is a very questionable benefit...

 
At 7:15 PM, Anonymous Marissa said...

I'm very interested to see where you'll be taking us with this blog, Darius. I look forward to reading with an OPEN MIND. It's unfortunate that some readers of the blog are apparently so attached to their faith that they can no longer think for themselves or even consider other opinions. I congratulate you on creating a bit of a stir and unapologetically stating your intent, you definitely hit a nerve with this one! :)

 
At 8:10 PM, Blogger Darius said...

MARISSA and later commentators... I'll catch up tomorrow!

Moderator’s Summary 1

It helps to focus on thoughts over emotional reactions…

Here are the main ideas that have been expressed, in order:

PB: D’s definition of inspiration is so broad as to be meaningless.
It is ignorant to take the Bible at anything but face value.
The majority of Christians have always taken the Bible at face value.

SH to PB: You haven’t demonstrated that your interpretation of the Bible is more
valid than that of others.

The fact that a larger number of people hold a particular belief does not
necessarily mean it’s true. Even if it did: most people on earth are not
Christians, and most Christians don’t belong to PB’s denomination.

SH asks PB how he knows that God isn’t speaking through D.

PB: If each of us finds meaning in scripture according to those aspects that
resonate with us, then there would be no need of scripture.

He agrees with SH that what the greater number of people believe isn’t a
a good truth-test, and states that one arrives at spiritual truth by studying
the clear word of God.

He states that D’s views differ from that of the overwhelming majority of Christians.

BL: If God created everything (as BL is assuming PB believes), then everything
that God created is potentially inspiring. D might be inspired.

“Cut and paste” or selective approaches to what people know today as
scripture are valid, since that’s the approach that the Christian church itself
used in deciding which of the earliest writings about Jesus would be included
in the New Testament and which would not.

He suggests that the words of John sounds to him less revelatory
than mentally unbalanced, and asks PB what would makes him think these
are the words of God and not man. He anticipates that PB’s answer will be
a reference to church authority.

SH: There is no “clear word of God.” Even if there were no more than two
different interpretations of scripture we would know this to be the case, and
in fact there are many interpretations.

 
At 8:53 PM, Blogger Preachrboy said...

Darius,

Are you going to offer to delete the comments of those that offend me, like you offered to delete my comments about Islam? Because speaking of St. John as "mental" certainly does that.

Look, I am growing weary of these arguments, and do not have time to answer each issue. I believe that the majority of your comments reflect a post-modern suspicion (dismissal, really) of absolute truth. If I said the sky was blue, 3 people here would argue that "that's just what color YOU think it is." Or I would be called condescending for saying you were wrong to call it pink(ish).

I am not an EXPERT in the devleopment of the canon, but it is not fair to characterize it as a "cut and paste job" the same way I (quite fairly) accused Darius of chopping up the NT. It simply isn't the same thing. I'm not going to walk through the history of it.

How do I know God is not speaking through Darius? How do I know God isn't speaking through my cofee table? God can speak through whatever he wants, but he has only promised to speak through his word. If my coffee table contradicts that word, then I know it's not God talking. If my coffee table says the same thing as the word, then I don't need that anyway do I?

Which brings me to a whole new can of worms, the sufficiency of Scripture. But not today.

Finally, before I leave, and I think it will be for good...

I consider the teachings of Scripture to also be self-authenticating. I believe (as Scripture itself teaches) that there is a power in the Word of God, which is "living and active". I believe it condemns when it speaks law, and forgives sins when it teaches the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

And here is why I will pray that you postmodern types will learn one day to see the truth of the text - because in it are great and precious promises. When you lie on your deathbed, in life's last moments, I hope you can cling to more than "maybes" and "perspectives" and put your sure and solid faith in the Salvation Jesus has, in fact, won for us by his death and resurrection, as revealed in his Word.

Quibble away now... build your labrynth of doubts... but God's Word will stand long after you and I all gone. Peace to you all.

 
At 8:57 PM, Blogger kathy said...

I'm with Marissa on this one too!

 
At 9:57 PM, Blogger Homo Escapeons said...

Here we go..
divine inspiration is where the theologians and the philosophers will always part ways. The theists are not allowed to question the source and the philosopher must start with questioning the source. Let's save some time and agree that ne'er the twain shall meet.

I hope that everyone can streamline these posts within posts and agree to disagree. Just find the common ground, shake hands and tell us WHY you believe what you believe. Personalise your journey.

People don't care how much you know, they want to know how much you care.

 
At 10:07 PM, Blogger Keshi said...

I can see a free dove flying his own path in a very peaceful manner...this dove is ur blog :)

Keshi.

 
At 3:51 AM, Blogger gautami tripathy said...

I find both the article as well as the exchanges enlightening. There are various ways of percieving the same thing. Sio lets justleave it that. We all are entitled to our opinions. To each his own.

 
At 7:18 AM, Blogger Stacey said...

Also just as wrong.

And who are you to deem anyone's approach wrong?

Just because it is written somewhere doesn't make it necessarily true.

How is what Darius will do any different than what the original authors did?

Darius, your Jewish blogging buddy is very interested in hearing your perspectives and insights.

 
At 7:55 AM, Blogger Don Iannone said...

Ok Darius. I will weigh in on this one. The preachrboy's statements are precisely why I departed the ranks of Christianity some years ago.

I believe we need a new myth of God: one that is infinitely alive today, directly accessible to all of us, devoid of religious dogma, and non-dependent upon preachers, priests, and other charlatans claiming special access to the sacred or divine.

It's up to each of us to seek our own god of self-understanding and align with the truth that speaks to us.

My personal view is that it is up to each of us to open the mystical door inside us and meet our god face to face.

The only thing keeping us away from our own luminous nature is a badly warped myth of a distant god who is separate from us.

Seek in silence, wait and listen, trust the power that knows, and walk in peace and loving kindness.

 
At 8:03 AM, Blogger Liam said...

I agree with Gautami as far as the question of respect goes. I offer the following comments in the spirit of dialogue and not confrontation.

Darius, I also find that I cannot read the Bible without keeping in mind the fact that, although it is inspired, it is also the production of human beings who could not have escaped their own cultural context. The text is not thoroughly consistent either in details (the names of the apostles, the amount of time Jesus spent in Jerusalem) or in perspective (your discussion of the differences between John's take on things and the synoptic gospels is a case in point). This does not mean that it is completely self-contradictory, only that interpretation is required.

Preachrboy is right to advise caution at the moment of interpretation lest we fall into absolute subjectivity, yet at the same time, for the reasons I mentioned above, it is impossible to "take the text at face value." As far as "2000 years of history" goes, interpretation to a greater or lesser extent has always been seen as a necessity. Origen of Alexandria saw in the 3rd century that certain parts of the Bible could be read only allegorically.

Also, though as an ecumenically-minded Catholic who has great respect for his Lutheran sisters and brothers I do not wish to appear to criticize Martin Luther, to say that he relied completely on scripture without having to pick and choose at all would be incorrect. He relied on his own inspiration, for example, when he decided that the works-based justification in the Epistle of James made that text incompatible with his vision of salvation.

Breakerslion, I'd have to disagree with your perspective on the assembling of the canon. There was more a consensus than a decision handed down from on high (unless you want to believe Dan Brown's pseudo-history) and gospels that were not included (if you mean the gnostic gospels) were from a later period and expressed the views of a small and exclusive sect. I do believe that the Church established the canon (as a Catholic I have no problem with that), but it was a long and thoughtful process, not a backroom strong-arm deal.

As far as the Book of Revelations goes, it is a weird, beautiful, and difficult text. It is not a collection of ravings, nor is it a code that can be deciphered to predict the end of the world. It is true that it was added to the canon at a late date, but I still believe it can be a great read spiritually, as long as you're not a conspiracy theorist.

 
At 8:13 AM, Anonymous Rachel said...

I believe that the majority of your comments reflect a post-modern suspicion (dismissal, really) of absolute truth.

It's not that I don't believe in an absolute truth but that I believe the absolute truth is greater than any one religion, much greater than any one denomination of any one religion.

The absolute truth is not about sectarianism. What matters isn't the differences between religions but the "absolute truth" at the heart of each of them, which I would say is a matter of the heart: compassion (in the way the Buddha described it) and love (in the way that Jesus described it). Just as I believe that different passages in the Bible are directed at different people, so I believe that different religions are meant for different people. But how can that be, some will ask. Not all religions are of equal value. I would say that when a religion deviates from a message of loving kindness, then it should be judged accordingly. I would also distinguish between what is done in the name of a certain religion and what the original messenger of that religion had to say. I don't think Jesus would have sanctioned the Holy Wars carried out in his name.

This is not the time to advance any particular sect, church, or belief. We have too many sects. They are only outer forms. The things that really matter are deeper.

— Hazrat Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan

 
At 8:18 AM, Blogger Stacey said...

Don Iannone: Your comment was most interesting. I quite agree with it. (And I am thrilled to know that you are from Cleveland).

 
At 8:26 AM, Blogger Don Iannone said...

Stacey,

Do you have a Cleveland connection?

I stopped by your two blogs. Loved the "Kids blog." Children are wonderful teachers. Too bad we sell them short at times.

Most kids have a more immediate connection to the divine than adults. I suppose that is why adults need to cultivate their inner child.

 
At 10:49 AM, Blogger crystal said...

Hi Darius,

any particular stone angel? There are people who claimed to have insights and info from God after the bible texts were written, and the church has said (I think) that they are worthy of belief, though belief isn't necessary ... Catherin of Sienna, for instance.

I look forward to reading what you have to impart :-)

 
At 1:04 PM, Anonymous Rachel said...

Yesterday one C-Span I heard the religous writer Karen Armstrong speak. One of the things that she said was, "No one has the last word on God."

Here's an excerpt from an interview with her I found online:

Dave: What do you want readers to take away from your books? Is there one thing more than others?

Armstong: My book, I hope, will be a critique of the way we're religious today. It often seems to me that in our various religious institutions we're producing exactly the type of religion that people like the Buddha wanted to get rid of. Buddha and Isiah and Socrates, all these people, who said, "Question everything. Never take anybody else's word for it. Never take anything on faith. If a religious belief doesn't conform, if it doesn't work for you, leave it, that's fine. Question everything, even utterly sacred truths." Like the prophets of Israel saying that God is not reflexively on the side of the Israel, as he was at the time of the Exodus.

And compassion is the key. No interest in doctrinal formulations, very little interest in the afterlife most of those religious leaders were just concerned with living fully. All this is very different from the way people conceive of religion today.

Armstrong: The main thing I want them to get is this idea of compassion. That's what we need now.

Dave: That everything boils down to the Golden Rule.

Armstrong: I'm convinced of it. It's in all the traditions, and it's what the world needs now more than religious certainty, more than doctrinal statements or more rules about what people can do in the bedroom and who can get married and who can be bishops or priests. All this is like fiddling while Rome burns.

http://www.powells.com/authors/armstrong.html

Here's another link to a more recent interview about her latest book "The Great Transformation: The Beginning of Our Religious Traditions" (the one she was talking about on C-Span.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/gate/archive/2006/04/10/findrelig.DTL

 
At 1:27 PM, Blogger White Forest said...

a mind-boggling post!

 
At 4:06 PM, Blogger Darius said...

PREACHRBOY: Your position diverges from the other views expressed. In addition to thanking you for sharing your outlook, I want as simply as I can to state a premise that I think may be central to what makes it different - I think this may help make clear why the endless differences you point to can arise.

(In earlier posts I had a few commentators whose views are more consistent with PB’s, so please feel free to clarify, as well as PB, if my understanding in what follows is incorrect.)

The Conservative Premise: The Bible provides us with the actual words of God. PB has pointed out that this doesn't require reading the Bible literally – he’s remarked previously on how it obviously contains many non-literal uses of language (poetry, hyperbole, parable, etc.).

What conservatives do seem to believe is that the process through which the Bible was written differs from the writing process used by all other human beings in all times and places. It was informed in some especially direct way by God.

For religious conservatives then, whatever the Bible says has to be correct. In the New Testament, theology was clearly central to the text in the minds of those who authored it. These theological or belief-aspects – that Jesus was God incarnate and was crucified, resurrected, and will come again to send believers to heaven and unbelievers to hell – here is the essential “good news” (= “gospel”) declared by the gospel writers.

If you believe that the Bible, and specifically The New Testament, came straight from God, then although some things may be subject to interpretation at the margins, there’s no way that you can avoid believing the theology that its authors put front and center.

PREACHRBOY, RE. ISLAM and your reference to our last exchange on the May 7 post: I don't find it inconsistent that here in this post I paraphrased another commentator who suggested that the author of John sounds “mentally unbalanced” to him. It’s a specific assertion. The author of John does present Jesus as saying things, such as repeatedly telling those who disagree with him that they’re going to hell, which, to someone who doesn’t accept the conservative premise I just described above, could, imo, be fairly interpreted as sounding less than mentally and spiritually well.

On the other hand, your remark of May 7 casts aspersions on Islam itself. However it’s phrased, one can’t state or imply than a different religion is bad or wrong without offending many of its adherents. I haven’t deleted the comment you posted there, but I would if any Muslim who were to read it asked me to.

Admittedly a judgment call, but I’d do the same for any faith (or unfaith) group.

RE. MY DEF. OF “INSPIRATION” as too imprecise – A post or two back, I basically defined inspiration as creativity in the area of religion and spirituality. This indeed is less precise than defining it as adherance to the belief that Jesus is Lord and Savior.

HI KATHY - But don't forget, as SH pointed out and as Preachrboy agreed - it's not about the numbers! (I know you know that, just wanted to highlight one point of consensus!)

HOMO ESCAPEONS: Important point - it's more informative to others to give indications of why you believe what you do than to reassert the belief or to stress your view of its importance.

KESHI: Thanks, and I like to think that the Holy Spirit itself turns out to be a dove and not a parrot...

GUATAMI: Certainly everyone is entitled to their opinion. Speaking personally, I’ve always found the questions involved with trying to arrive at opinions that are as truthful as I can be with myself and others, much more interesting than the fact of my entitlement.

STACEY: I agree that it's wrong to judge another's faith (or unfaith)perspective as wrong. I think that matters of faith, belief (or unbelief) and spirituality pertain to a path, a way - a direction. Who can judge where another "should" be at any particular point in his or her life?

DON I: What you sketch here appears very similar to my perspective – an approach focusing on the experiential. I wouldn’t want to paint with such a broad stroke though, re. clergy as “charlatans.” I feel certain a great many are sincere, though certainly many are not.

LIAM: Thanks for this informed commentary, and that’s a great example – Luther’s emphasis on justification not by works, but faith - while other parts of the NT clearly stress a strong relationship between works and faith. (“Judging the tree by its fruit” may be the most familiar, though there are more explicit examples.

Oh gosh, what you said to Breakers Lion re. The Book of Revelation by John…. Of course, BL meant that to him, The Book of Revelation sounds as if the author may have been mentally unbalanced. And I thought he meant the author of the Gospel of John! Well, if nothing else this does illustrate how varied the material in the Bible is, and how various our responses to it can be. (I love the opening of Gospel John…)

I wonder about your idea of the danger of “absolute subjectivity” in people’s responses to the Bible. Why would it be any more absolute than, say, our responses to the works of Shakespeare?

RACHEL: So eloquent, your first comment – I don’t have a word to add or subtract. Thanks for that information on K. Armstrong – I think that’s the author who may have started all the current interest in the Gospel of Thomas.

HI CRYSTAL - Yeah, she actually was a very particular angel. And I wonder what the church would make of insights that have nothing to do with belief - if it ever wanted to consider them.

WHITE FOREST, thank you.

 
At 4:53 PM, Blogger Liam said...

Darius, no, it wouldn't be that different for Shakespeare. I think, for an obvious example, if someone said that "MacBeth" was not set in Scotland and did not treat ambition and murder, they would be wrong. There are times when you can say someone is wrong.

I am, to use PB's word, "post-modern" to the point in which I think absolute truth is difficult to arrive at and many different paths to that truth may be valid; still, I do believe their is an absolute truth that exists, perhaps beyond our understanding (and why is this postmodern? for Pseudo-Dionysus in the sixth century it was "negative" theology).

Personally, in my approach to scripture I want to avoid relying only on my own judgment -- but I don't want to be a slave to tradition or institutional Church, either. I want to be open to inspiration and follow faith's duty to use my own head, while avoiding making my interaction with scripture nothing more than my ego and a text (I'm not saying you do this, that's just what I mean by the danger of absolute subjectivity).

 
At 5:45 PM, Blogger Darius said...

MARISSA - Oops... I see I only gave you a "pre-reply..."

Yes, I would think open-mindedness would be something anyone might be interested in practicing in the sense of being willing to set aside one's own thinking enough to genuinely try and see things from the other's perspective.

By "setting aside," of course I don't mean abandoning one's own views, just being able to engage in conversation that extends beyond simply trying to discredit the other's viewpoint - as if it were a debate with someone keeping score.

LIAM: I agree that bringing one's ego to the text is the wrong approach. So wrong that at its worst extreme it results in the phenomenon of "religious" violent attacks.

I think though, that outside of people who misuse scripture to promote violence or oppression, the many readings of scripture represented by the various denominations and by the conservative/progressive ("traditional"/"post modern"??)continuum don't represent foolishishness, like in your Macbeth example. I mean, no one's claiming the gospel narrative is set in Wisconsin and doesn't involve a cross!

So I think the various possible ways of looking at scripture are in some sense legitimate attempts to understand it, even those I disagree with most, and not subjective in any extreme sense.

 
At 8:51 PM, Blogger SusieQ said...

Darius, you came to my blog recently and asked me why I believe in the Resurrection. I had made this simple statement of faith in my Easter Greeting. You said that you asked it as a non-believing Christian. I wrote a post in response to you. Maybe you would like to go and read it.

I have a question for you. The Resurrection is the central doctrine of the Christian faith. I believe you are a good person. But how can you call yourself a Christian yet reject the doctrine of the risen Christ?

 
At 5:25 AM, Blogger kevin said...

See Darius? Didn't I say It is very easy to see the state of one's ego depending on one's reaction to the issues of authority?

Preachrboy, for instance, what does his response say?I really don't mean to come off as antagonistic, but you seem to ask for my continued comment but are deaf to its content. So, as I am starting to get frustrated, ~ ie; because you fail to follow the authority that I have determined to be "true" you are therefore "wrong". This is what this says to me.

There are ways of mapping out the different ways an ego may follow in approaching Reailty, one way that I have become familiar with posits this kind of REACTION as the "commanding ego" - the ego that commands the self to a simply obey it needs. As you can see by his comment of frustration that his need of being understood and agreed with is not being met... Is this the only facet of us, no of course not, we are diamonds.

 
At 6:21 AM, Blogger Don Iannone said...

Nice summary Darius. This was an interesting series. What's next?

For me, it's all experiential. No scriptures really needed once you find your way inside.

 
At 9:05 AM, Blogger Darius said...

SUSIEQ: I’ve answered to your post by copying the relevant part of what follows. Here, I first want to say how wonderful it is to find a statement of belief minus ego! Kevin’s comment below refers to how our egos can get bound up with our religion - and I think that’s never a religious thing, whatever our tradition is. East and West, and whether it’s termed, “unenlightened” or “sinful”, none of the world’s religions endorse the sinful or egoistic self - despite how often religion is misused by that self.

In your post, you point to what might be summarized as three sources of belief – not only for belief in the resurrection, but for holding any religious belief. The first is a sense of tradition, including being able to pass it on to your children and grandson. The second is participation in a faith community – and pretty much any such community, especially in Western traditions, is going to be belief-centered. The third is that belief in the resurrection makes life meaningful for you.

As you point out, these aren’t reasons for belief. I would characterize them as powerful motives to believe. I’ll add that you aren’t the only believer that isn’t able to offer compelling reasons to believe. I think that no one can. Here are a couple things that suggest this. First, people don’t become Christians when someone presents them with such compelling logic and argumentation that they end up saying – “Oh yeah, I see what you mean… don’t know what I could have been thinking not to believe that Jesus was God resurrecting in the flesh!” Second, people raised in other belief-traditions, like Islam and Judaism, are in exactly the same position as believing Christians. They believe, yet are unable to offer reasons that others find compelling.

I would disagree with Pascal and say rather that the heart has no reasons, and doesn’t need any.

As to your question, “How can you call yourself a Christian yet reject the doctrine of the risen Christ?” First, you’re absolutely correct: that’s the central doctrine and “good news” or “gospel” of Christianity according to those early Christians who authored the books of The New Testament and according to the church today.

Personally, I’m not concerned with being identified or not identified as Christian. My primary ethnic/religious/national/and racial identification is “human.”

However, it does happen that I was raised Catholic, and that the single most powerful outside influence on my own heart has been The New Testament. Central for me isn’t the resurrection doctrine, but what Jesus calls the two greatest commandments: Love others and love God. For myself, I’ve found that these aren’t commandments coming from outside myself, but words that found me out by resonating with a presence already with me, and that I am sure is with us all.

I also love truth, which I consider inseparable from my own way of loving God.

KEVIN: Okay, I see what you mean. Before I wasn’t following exactly how you were connecting egoism to authority, but now I do. I also agree that knee-jerk reactivity is a major characteristic of our egos. Was it Buddha who said to always think twice before speaking?

DON I: Next up is my angel…

I agree with you, but have you noticed how tricky it is to talk about spirituality as a matter of looking within? Some Christians would say, “Aha! You’re saying it’s all subjective and relative, and that there’s no such thing as religious truth!” Yet I know you’re talking about an inwardness that all of us share as human beings at a level more intense and aware than the level of psychology and personality; and that, far from representing subjective self-absorption, it very much connects us to wholes greater than ourselves alone.

 
At 12:01 PM, Blogger Don Iannone said...

ijotjDarius...What is your definition of "religious truth?"

I subscribe to the "spirit = consciousness school.Many Buddhist concepts work for me. I also find some of Carl Jung's ideas about the religious function of the psyche to be of interest.

Religious (spiritual) experience is intimately personal and subjective, and according to Carl Jung, there is most definitely a role of the psyche in this process.

Personally, I am committed to the mystical path in a modified way.

Don

 
At 2:13 PM, Blogger Dale said...

I think "postmodern" is a red herring, here; I haven't heard a single statement here that I'd categorize as postmodern. "Arriving at the truth takes some doing" has been the mainstream position in Western thought since Plato. As Aristotle said, "If truth were self-evident, rhetoric would not be necessary."

Preachrboy's position, that scripture explicates itself, if you just surrender to it (that's what I understand him to be saying, anyway) is actually the radical one. I'm not sure he's really clear on the distinction between saying that scripture has special authority and saying that it needs no interpretation. At the moment the position he is defending seems to be both that that scripture needs no interpretation, and also that his church's interpretation is the correct one. I don't think you can have it both ways.

 
At 3:52 PM, Blogger Benjamin said...

I have been following this debate and have little to add. I await the coming of the stone angel with interest x

 
At 5:50 PM, Blogger Darius said...

DON I: Religious truth... in abstract terms...

Guess I'd say that it's found where our own interiority - there's a great word, right there -our inner lives, then - connect us with the larger world.

I've mostly thought about it in the more concrete terms of what for me are the most important features of this inner-yet-outward-turning landscape of who we are: for example, love.

DALE: Yeah... I really don't know what "post modern" means or how it would be different from "modern" - or, if we're talking the Bible, from, "informed by applying modern methods of scholarship" (e.g. archaelogy, the study of ancient languages, linguistics, etc.). Preachrboy used the term here and seems to use it a lot on his blog.

Great point - the distinction between seeing scripture as authorotative, and seeing it as somehow being available to us "interpretation-free" or as somehow self-explicating.

Many Christians, including clergy from many if not all denominations, share the same beliefs as conservatives about Jesus as the Christ, also consider the Bible to have special authority, but don't understand this authority as somehow communicable to us apart from a heart and mind that engages with the text to interpret what it reads.

BENJAMIN, appreciate your interest, that should be posted late Weds. at the latest -

 
At 6:58 PM, Blogger Paul said...

I have not read the posts or the comments on this blog. If I am not mistaken the premise is whether or not God still speaks today and therefore is it possible to have new and updated "Gospels" written.

If you are interested in a Christian Perspective on this subject check out my last pondering: God Still Speaks.

 
At 7:54 PM, Blogger Darius said...

PAUL: Thanks, I read your post with interest. If you'll take a look at my May 3 post on inspiration, you'll see that you're working with what I'd call inspiration-by-definition. That's the one many Christians use; I don't use it for the reasons I give in the post.

 
At 7:52 AM, Blogger Don Iannone said...

From Paul's Ponderings: "One problem with Burning Heart Moments is that they are easily imitated. Remember the Bible tells us that Satan can appear to be an agent of good: But I am not surprised! Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no wonder that his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. In the end they will get the punishment their wicked deeds deserve (2 Corinthians 11:14-15; NLT). We can't simply go with experience alone. Too many people have been led astray by doing what they thought “God” had told them to do.
Since this is the case we need something to filter all our experiences, traditions, and philosophies through so we can know the Truth. Henry Blackaby constantly reminds his readers of this truth: “Our experiences cannot be our guide. Every experience must be controlled and understood by the Scriptures. The God revealed in Scripture does not change” (page 13). The Bible is the filter through which we pour our experiences, our traditions, and worldview to see if it fits within God’s will."

Paul, we have only our experience, and that too is merely a fleeting reflection of our own consciousness.

To which, I respond with loving kindness: http://conscious-living.blogspot.com/2006/05/on-christian-way-by-don-iannone-too.html

 
At 10:53 AM, Blogger Paul said...

don iannone
You wrote; "Paul, we have only our experience, and that too is merely a fleeting reflection of our own consciousness."

We have more than just experience and reflection. We have reality. For example 2+2=4. That equation is real no matter what culture you live in or what time period your from.

Along with that we Science. Western Scientific though is the result of men who believed that God created the universe and as the result it could be studied and known. For God is a God of order and not chaos. Though this is not the foundation anymore the reality is the same: science studies what is knowable about the universe.

There is evidence. I know Abraham Lincoln was president during the Civil War because of historical evidence, not because of experience. We can look at the evidence and judge whether or not something is true. That is the basis of our court system.

We also have logic. We have these wonderful organs in our heads called brains and they help us process all the information which comes at us. They help us determine what seems to be right and wrong.

If all we had was experience we wouldn't ever be certain about anything. Is there a God or isn't. C. S. Lewis said that when was an atheist there were times when Christianity seemed reasonable, and after he became a Christian times when atheism seemed the better choice. When experience alone is our guide we flip flop back and forth based on our emotions, location, and company. Experience sure wouldn't lead us to believe that love was the best virtue to live by. Experience tells us that it is every man for himself and that you have to take care of #1, myself.

Where did you arrive at the idea that love was the best way to live? It sure wasn't given to you through an evolutionary process. Besides that what are we to love? Myself, country, other people, money, or a sports team?

The fact that you say love is important points to the reality that there is Something bigger beyon yourself. If the God of love did not exist you would never know what love was. Love would have no meaning to you what so ever. Just as if there were no light in the universe, and therefore no creatures with eyes, light would hold no meaning. You wouldn't even know it existed.

Further more if any of you reading this blog are really open-minded and are seeking the truth then I challenge you check out and engage the evidence I have linked to on my blog: God Still Speaks

 
At 12:21 PM, Blogger Don Iannone said...

Paul,

Let me start with a couple questions.

First, which version of God are you referring to? I suspect your referring to the Christian God. Is that correct?

Second, when you refer to reality are you pointing to an objective physical reality? That is the one that Western science brainwashes us into thinking that what is most real is what is outside us and is strictly matter-dependent.

There are two major problems I have with Christianity. First, its insistence that there is only one way to find and experience truth, love, peace, goodness, and spiritual unity. It's the Christian way or the highway. Right?

My second problem with Christianity is its dualistic nature, which creates more walls than bridges in the world. The biggest wall created by Christianity is separating the Divine from the rest of life. Moreover, it says only "true believers" will be granted access to the Divine. You talked of "logic." What kind of logic is an appeal to a miracle for an explanation? An appeal to a miracle explains nothing from a logical reasoning standpoint.

Christianity also embodies paternalistic and anthropocentric views of world, which places yang (male energy) over yin (female energy), and it perpetuates the dangerous myth that human beings are somehow divinely special and have the right to write whatever they wish on life's canvas. It's high time we set the warrior aside and gave center stage to the healer.

Paul, there is no reality we can know outside our experience. By the way, experience takes two forms: 1) direct; and 2) indirect. Your knowledge that Abe Lincoln was the President during the Civil War resulted from your indirect experience, which resulted from acquiring this information through reading or through some other experiential means such as a TV documentary or having someone else tell you. Either way, you know through your experience.

Experience is an extension of consciousness, which is what and who we are at any given moment. Consciousness is not a fixed state either. It is quite transitory. No fixed self either. No permanent personality called Paul or permanent personality called Don. Just illusions created by our minds.

Consciousness = mind = spirit. It's all the same ball of wax. Therefore, there is no version of reality you can know other than that which is granted you through your consciousness.

The entire universe is embued with consciousness. It (consciousness) goes all the way down, including the cells of matter (And no, I don't buy the Creationists' Intelligent Design [ID] argument.)That's another discussion.

Consciousness = mind, but it does not equal brain. Logic is a function of mind, and not the physical organ called the brain. The mind is not limited to the brain, nor is the spirit confined to the heart organ. If you look at the panpsychist worldview, there is no separation between mind and matter. Moreover, both exist and are real.

Western science would have us believe that we lived in a dead and dumb universe until a couple million years ago when brains and central nervous systems evolved. Western science would also have us believe that mind (consciousness) grew out of matter. Consider the possibility it may be the other way around.

Finally, regarding your question about love. That's simple. Love is our true essence. Everybody's wired for it. The Christian God has no lock on love. We live in a loving universe.

 
At 3:00 PM, Blogger Paul said...

don,

Let me answer your two questions. First, I believe in the God of the Bible, the Father of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Don't apply your misconceptions about the "Christian" god to this. Granted God has gotten lost in a bunch of Christian religious baggage and has been misrepresented.

Second, I speak mainly of the physical reality. Not that I disagree with what you say. This physical nature is not the greatest part of who I am and there is more going on in the world than we can see and touch. Yet the physical nature of life is what is most real to us. It is first and foremost how we interact with other people. That is why Jesus wanted His followers to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give water to the thrist. On top of that it is what provides the metaphors and the gateway to experiencing the spiritual side of life. The reason I call encounters with God Burning Heart Moments is that they are brief and rare. They are a part of life, but not the whole part.

Of course we have direct and indirect experiences. Anything we learn and any knowledge we have will be experienced is some way or another, that is rather obvious, and misses the point. The point is that there are somethings that are real and knowable whether we experience them or not. They are real and true whether we choose to believe them or not, but they provide the path way for us to know about ourselves, our world, and the people around us. So it is more than just experience and personal reflection alone that help us in our quest for knowledge and understanding.

You also wrote an curious thing. In attempt to give me an answer of where love came from you end up saying basically what I said: that it is hardwired into us (which doesn't sound like experience to me). That is exactly my point. We believe it is good to love, that we should love others, but why? Did the "Creator" who ever that maybe design us to love? Is it an evolutionary by product? Is it a gift for beings from another world? How did love become our true essence?

To me there must be some basis for us to make this the supreme virtue. Not only that but to decide what type of love is the best. Love for country can drive people to do horrible inhumane acts. Love for a person can cause another to do hurtful things to others. So love, like anything else, when used unwisely causes pain and heartache. How do we know how to love?

 
At 3:20 PM, Blogger Don Iannone said...

Paul,

I don't think the Christian God I refer to is any different than the God you refer to. All the same.

On experience, we are talking on two different levels. I see experience and consciousness as the best it's gonna get. That is as high as you can get. You see experience as simply an interim state that is transcended by the supernatural. Ain't no supernatural in my book.

Nobody or nothing gives us love. You missed my point. We ARE love. That is our nature.

In any case, good swapping ideas with you. Thank you. Been a while since I'd been around this bush. I see it's still the same bush.

What is your basic view of "human nature?" Mine is that our nature is good and loving.

Take care and may your god of self-understanding bless you.

Don

 
At 5:39 PM, Blogger Dale said...

Just as a footnote, "postmodern" actually has a quite precise definition, in linguistics and literary & cultural criticism: it refers to a (very heterogenous) school of "theorists of meaning." What they mostly have in common is a very convoluted style of writing and a conviction that the relationship between reality and its representation in words was more problematic than is generally thought. The smartest and most extreme of them was probably Jacques Derrida, who is often caricatured as someone who thought words just refer to other words, and have nothing to do with reality at all. This, in the view of some conservatives, dovetails with moral relativism to create the disastrously solipsistic and intellectually impotent modern outlook.

All of which has precisely nothing to do with anything any of us has been talking about :-)

 
At 6:54 PM, Blogger Darius said...

PAUL and DON: Nice to hear the overlap-with-a-difference between you guys - and with no shouting match. Speaks well of both of you.

Here's what strikes me:

It sounds to me like your actual experiences of life, and the kinds of experiences that you find most meaningful, are similar - really, the same. I also get that idea from looking at your blogs.

The difference seems to be that in Paul's view there is some necessary connection between such experiences and holding to traditional Christian beliefs. Don doesn't see the connection, but does seem to have another belief system that he correlates with having such experiences.

DALE: Thanks for that clarification! I'm definitely not a post modernist - never been down that road...

"It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is." - Bill Clinton, being questioned about Monica Lewinsky.

So maybe Clinton is a post modernist, or that's what anybody turns into faced with inappropriate public questioning about their private lives?

 
At 9:53 PM, Blogger Jim Jordan said...

Darius
Clinton's impropriety had nothing to do with the word "is". He used his position as President to be a pimp. The questions weren't inappropriate. Had he not been as focused on his own flesh he would have done a better job.

Don Iannone - You are old and foolish.
You say, What is your basic view of "human nature?" Mine is that our nature is good and loving.

If you were young, I would excuse your inchoate knowledge of human nature.

 
At 10:39 PM, Anonymous Rachel said...

Personally, I am committed to the mystical path in a modified way.


Don,

What do you mean by a modified mystical path?

 
At 3:07 AM, Blogger Don Iannone said...

Jim Jordan,

Inchoate, eh? No. Still learning, yes by all means. By your post, I can see that you are still learning as well.

On a personal note, I'm pretty good at reading people, Jim. It's a gift that seems to run in the family. I sense anger in you. I wish you the peace you seek and speak about on your MSC blog.

I read your first post on your MSC blog about science and Christianity being friends. Science (matter) and spirituality (mind or spirit) in many religions are developing positive new bonds. I am pleased to see this. The two camps are finally discovering they need each other.

The Dalai Lama talks about this development in his new book, The Universe in a Single Atom: The Convergence of Science and Spirituality. Amit Goswami says much the same in his book the Self-Aware Universe. This convergence is an important theme running through Wayne Teasdale's book The Mystic Heart. Teasdale does a wonderful job making the case for why "interspirituality" is needed in the world. His point is that spiritual belief systems need to seek greater unity. I agree with him.

You mention Einstein in your first MSC post. Are you a fan of Einstein? Einstein said this: "The religion of the future will be a cosmic religion. It should transcend personal God and avoid dogma and theology. Covering both the natural and the spiritual, it should be based on a religious sense arising from the experience of all things natural and spiritual as a meaningful unity. Buddhism answers this description...If there is any religion that could cope with modern scientific needs, it would be Buddhism."

There remains a huge gulf between science and religion (any form). Science is fundamentally matter-energy based, save the "new" scientists who are advancing quantum physics and related disciplines. Religion, on the other hand, is fundamentally about the realm of mind/spirit. The new science is all about the connection between (matter/energy) and (mind/spirit). I hope that is possible. It could bring about the healing that this universe so badly needs.

Best wishes,

Don

 
At 3:24 AM, Blogger Don Iannone said...

Rachel,

First let me say that I enjoyed your posts on this series. Really neat observations. Thank you.

In response to your question about following a "modified mystical path," like Wayne Teasdale (The Mystic Heart), I believe that everyone has a mystical side. That is we have the ability to commune with the Divine directly. It comes in different forms to different people. For me, at times, my intuition is keen and my dreams tell me things that I need to know. The key is learning to pay attention. I have had a meditation practice for some time because contemplation is important in my life. My meditation practice, like that of many others, is about observing my mind and its workings. More and more, I just laugh at myself. (Even now as I write this reply to you.)

I follow a "modified" mystical path because I choose to live in the world and not a monastery. I also work on cultivating habits of the mind (intellect) and spirit (the compassion and love you reference in your quote in this series). Excuse the distinction. I don't really see mind and spirit as separate.

So, there you go. And how about your path?

Namaste,

Don

 
At 8:46 AM, Blogger Darius said...

JIM: Mainly meant that as a lighthearted remark about "post modernism."

I think everyone can agree, however, that Clinton's behavior in the sexual realm was out of control and disappointing.

If you feel the questions directed at Clinton were appropriate, it must be as troubling to you as it is to me that given the present Republican dominance in both houses, no one's investigating Bush with equally appropriate questions.

 
At 11:51 AM, Anonymous Rachel said...

Hope this works.

 
At 12:22 PM, Blogger Don Iannone said...

Rachel,

Thanks for this link. Great one!

Teasdale is wonderful. His book is a must read. Thanks Rachel. BTW, I responded to your earlier question in another post.

 
At 12:25 PM, Blogger Don Iannone said...

Rachel,

Here is one you might enjoy:
http://conscious-living.blogspot.com/2006/05/i-am-that-and-so-are-you-by-don.html (Copy and paste in your browser)

Don

 
At 3:01 PM, Anonymous Rachel said...

Don,

Thank you for mentioning Wayne Tesdale. I had never heard of him.

 
At 11:13 AM, Anonymous Rachel said...

Don,

Thank you for describing what modified mysticism is and for the link to your site, which hooked me up to other great sites. Have you ever seen the t-shirt: "So many books. So little time."? I want one that says: "So many blogs. So little time." LOL

You also asked me about my path. I would say I am a spiritual seeker and that I am on a path (at some times more diligently than others). I was raised in a Protestant church, but, over the years, have developed an interest in other practices, especially Sufism and Buddhism.

This wasn't easy for me to do at first because I was raised to believe that if I wasn't a Christian I was going to hell. Feeling spiritually bereft (as a friend once termed it), I prayed and prayed for guidance, and I received it but not in a form I could have anticipated.

I am indebted to Joseph Campbell for helping me to grasp the poetry of myth as opposed to being stuck in the dogma of religion. I am indebted to many teachers I have never met and to the voices inside certain poems:

"Listen to presences inside poems.
Let them take you where they will.

Follow those private hints,
and never leave the premises."

Rumi

I've tried reading Jung, but he is a hard nut to crack. LOL I do better with Jungian psychologists like Hillman, Thomas Moore, Robert Johnson, Pinkola Estes.

For some reason your comment about laughing reminded me of a story Campbell told about an American philosopher who told a Shinto priest: "I don't get your ideology. I don't get your theology." The Shinto priest thought hard, shook his head, then replied, "I think we don't have ideology. We don't have theology. We dance." (The Power of Myth, xix)

 
At 6:26 AM, Blogger Don Iannone said...

Rachel,

Thanks very much for the personal sharing and responding to my question. I love your observations about Jung and the Rumi gems.

Jung is very hard, and yes it is much easier to read those writing about him. I am now reading Lionel Corbett's The Religious Functions of the Psyche, which is all about the Jungian perspective on religion and spiritual experience. I have Corbett for a course this semester. He teaches at the Pacificia Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara, CA.

I started out as a fundamentalist Christian and the fear-based approach drove me away. to say nothing about the judgemental way that many Christians are.

Finally, we are all on the "path" so to speak. It's been a humbling one for me. Getting beyond ourselves is never easy. My practice has shifted from self insight to compassion.

Start your blog!

Namaste,

Don

 
At 11:38 AM, Anonymous Rachel said...

My practice has shifted from self insight to compassion

It's been my experience that exploring my "blocks" to compassion leads to greater self-insight and humility, which in turn--and in time--makes compassion easier.

 
At 12:57 PM, Blogger Don Iannone said...

Rachel,

So well said. I can say the very same thing with respect to compassion and empathy.

Thank you!

Don

 

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