A Possible Gospel And New Testament

More Fun Than Fundamentalism.

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Sunday, June 04, 2006

Gospel, Chapter Six: A Hell of a Problem

Definitions: Please note the two definitions at the bottom of the post if new to this blog…


Like Og, the devil catches us on the horns of many a dilemma. Examples:

Visiting the Sins of the Devil Upon the Possessed

“Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was one of the twelve; he went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers of the temple police about how he might betray him to them.” Luke 22:3-4 Again: “The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him.” John 13:2

The devil is said to make us sin; yet Other-God still judges and condemns those who sin grievously enough. The sins of the devil are visited upon those whom the devil violates.

The theological reason for this is no doubt “mysterious,” or deeply contradictory. For example, theologians might say that we sin by allowing the devil to enter into us. And this is dark doo-doo indeed. If Judas, for example, had just said no to the devil, then Jesus would not have been crucified and resurrected according to divine plan. Judas had to turn him in. The devil’s work is Og’s.

A Devil of a Plan

The gospels tell us that really bad works are absolutely necessary for the unfolding of Og’s perfect plan; for everything is preconceived and foreordained, down to every detail. Og sees everything ahead of time; so don’t worry, it’s all under control. Things always happen just the way they’re supposed to, even when they look – well, really bad. Here are just a couple of the numerous examples from the gospels illustrating the existence of The Advance-Plan:

“Then he took the twelve aside and said to them, ‘See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be handed over to the Gentiles; and he will be mocked and insulted and spat upon. After they have flogged him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise again.’” Luke 18:31-33

And:

“His disciples said… ‘Now we know that you know all things, and do not need to have anyone question you; by this we believe that you came from God.’” John 16: 29-30

The gospels suggest that the world is not as an ongoing act of God’s creation in which we genuinely participate, but a divine plan prearranged in all its particulars, including choreographed performances by people possessed by Satan. The books that some Christians call the literal words of the Other-God depict this world’s events as absolutely predetermined by Him.

Evil With a Good Conscience

How then, do Christians who favor a divine plan world-view reconcile it with notions of “personal responsibility” and “free choice” that are often extreme and amount to:

“Because I did this good thing, you could have done it too; because I avoided this evil thing, you could have avoided it too. And ya should of.”

Yet from a divine plan perspective, evil people are just doing what they’re supposed to do. They’re being as conscientious as anybody can be, which is to say they’re walking around doing exactly what they have to do. Kind of like robots, automatons, or zombies.

If those who do bad things do so because they are inhabited by the devil in a manner mysteriously planned for ahead of time by the all-good Og, then exactly what is it that makes evil “evil” at all? And why are those who commit evil blamed and held responsible for it? Seems downright unconscionable.


Definitions

Og (“Other-God”): The Creator that western religion has imagined as existing separately and in distinction from being, existence, or creation itself.

God: Being, existence, or creation itself - which is itself in-process of creating; the only One in whom each of us truly lives and moves and has our being.

63 Comments:

At 9:00 AM, Blogger Homo Escapeons said...

A couple of things come to mind...
Firstly, Judas has been elevated recently from lowlife (red-head?) traitorous knave to Jesus's closest and most reliable go-to guy.

I think that is very interesting because without this part of the story (Judas's blatant avarice and apostasy) the whole thread of a providencial timetable seems more feasible.

Secondly,there is no such thing as free will without choices. There can be no right without a wrong, no God without a Devil.

Today in our scientific fact filled world people still love to watch channelers/ghost hunters/mediums etc on the telly. Humans adore the mystery of an unseen world filled with past lives and spooky spirits. For christians this new age obssession is a vacuum to be filled with demons sent by Satan.

Lastly, when I think of Hitler, Mao, Stalin, and Pol Pot, I am astounded that so much evil can be accomplished with FEAR, prejudice and the BIGGER lie.
No other word can explain away their sociopathic accomplishments other than EVIL. Unfortunately it wasn't the Devil helping them as much as it was millions of terrified people who stood by and did nothing to stop them as much as it was the fervent dissconnect with reality that excites the hateful followers. Darfur, Congo, Serbia, Sri Lanka......

We humans don't need any help being cruel to each other. I think that the idea of a Devil helps ease the guilt.

 
At 11:36 AM, Blogger crystal said...

Hi Darius,

I have trouble with the devil too, but ...

... Maybe we are responcible for 'allowing" the bad spirit to influence us. Your example of Judas accepting the devil and turning in Jesus as being Og's work is, I think, not true. If Judas hadn't turned in Jesus, he would still have been arrested and killed eventually ... his preaching and actions were considered dangerous by the authorities. You've been reading too much of the gospel of Judas :-)

God's knowing everything doesn't mean he causes everything to happen that way - just that he knows. Augustine has an argument on this, I think, about God being outside of time.

It's possible to be a christian (I think that's what you mean by the believers in Og? :-) and to think that God created the world, but being a creation, it was not perfect (like himself). Some "evil" was the result of this imperfection, like natural disasters and peoples' bad acts. God doesn't cause the evil, per se, and doesn't plan every detail of what happens, and though he might have "desires" for people, they have free will.

 
At 11:40 AM, Blogger chris said...

Man, what a thought provoking post.
I'm not sure how to respond to you questions.There are so many ways to view and interpret the world that it is mind blowing. I like to believe God is in control and his thoughts are far above my own. I think we will all know the answers to the mystery someday.

 
At 2:11 PM, Anonymous Marissa said...

I don't believe in the devil, but I feel that evil acts stem from a person's insecurity, self-esteem, and sense of self/self-confidence. If they have very low self-esteem, they generally will do anything they can to feel better about themselves, and are unable to step outside their own self-loathing and self-pity long enough to realize what they are doing to those around them. The most horrible of course know what they're doing to those around them and feel that that is what will make them feel better as people. But if you want to call insecurity Satan or the devil, fair enough. :)

 
At 7:45 PM, Blogger Dawn....सेहर said...

Well all I believe in is its the evil spirit that lies in one...:)
Nice reading your posts Darius...!
Thanks for visiting my blog ..please do come again
Cheers

 
At 10:03 PM, Blogger Chris said...

Darius I don't think that biblical exegesis is your strong suite.

First Og. Umm...First Jesus was Eastern- not Western. Many of his parables are more eastern than you realize. The west was impacted by the message more than the east. To quote Ravi Zacharias, “What has happened in the West is that His impact over the centuries has been so felt that the ethos and moral impetus of His message changed the course of western civilization. The western naturalist, in sheer arrogance, does not see this.” (You have clamed that you are not a naturalist, but I think you get the picture.) Second biblical thought does not hold God as separate, "...in him all things hold together..." (1 COR.1:15) You cannot be in something if you are separate.

You have hit a major theological discussion of predestination. Whether God controls all, or we have free will and things are let to carry on. I will handle this the best I can, but I want to clear up a misconception of the devil MAKING us sin.

First we have power over satin. "Resist the devil and he will flee from you." (James 3:18)

Notice in John 13:2 it says that he has 'put' it into his heart to betray Him. Not he made Judas to betray Him. The devil does not make people act contrary to their nature, but leads them on to "act out" their proper disposition. The Pharisees were not tempted by satin to crucify Christ, yet they did. This shows that the devil if allowed can have an 'outside' influence. God is the only one attributed to having any kind of internal influence.


Jam 1:12-18 Blessed is a man who endures trials, because when he passes the test he will receive the crown of life that He has promised to those who love Him. No one undergoing a trial should say, "I am being tempted by God." For God is not tempted by evil, and He Himself doesn't tempt anyone. But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desires. Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death. Don't be deceived, my dearly loved brothers. Every generous act and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights; with Him there is no variation or shadow cast by turning. By His own choice, He gave us a new birth by the message of truth so that we would be the firstfruits of His creatures.

Darius you argument is brought down by the Bible itself. You cannot look at one piece without the other. Interpret the verses you use in conjunction with this one. (At first there may seem to be a conflict, but in actuality there is not.) The bible does assert God’s sovereignty, but never asserts any kind of violation of one’s will. The entire bible is written in the language of choice not predestination. And when it does refer to predestination it is in the context of Him reconciling the world from the evil that you abhor.

If you want to know God’s idea for our work in His creation it is found in Genesis, not Luke or John. The Gospels are the account of Jesus, and reconciliation. You wanted to know if we are involved in the ongoing act of God’s creation so here it is:

(Gen 1:26)
Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the animals, all the earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth."
(Gen 1:27)
So God created man in His own image; He created him in the image of God; He created them male and female.
(Gen 1:28)
God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every creature that crawls on the earth."
(Gen 2:15)
The LORD God took the man and placed him in the garden of Eden to work it and watch over it.

God still calls us to watch over that which He created.

The last part that I would like to address is your concern about those who favor your conception of the divine plan. It has the name of Calvinism, and they do it by understanding that God is bigger than you, and His knowledge far supercedes anything that you can comprehend, so questioning His word is a foolish act. I have had many debates with them, and find their understanding illogical as well. But you have not provided a fraction of the case that they have. Those verses are not the ones that point to God’s complete control; those are just His plan for reconciliation. But since you want to believe that God works that way here are the correct verses that would show God’s complete control without our say so. Romans 8 and Ephesians 1.

Rom 9:14-16 What should we say then? Is there injustice with God? Absolutely not! (15) For He tells Moses: I will show mercy to whom I show mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion. (16) So then it does not depend on human will or effort, but on God who shows mercy.

The question that comes to mind after reading this is who has God decided to show compassion, grace, and mercy to?

And we have seen and we testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world. (1Jo 4:14)

He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for those of the whole world. (1Jo 2:2)

This is good, and it pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and man, a man, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself--a ransom for all, a testimony at the proper time. (1Ti 2:4-4)

God desires all be saved by Christ, but in respect to our free will He allows people to chose him, or not.

For everyone who asks receives, and the one who searches finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. (Mat 7:8)

But God knows that some will not truly accept the door that will be opened.

Mat 7:13-14
(13) "Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it.
(14) How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it.

So I ask all that read this.

Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts. (Hebrews 4:7b)

For those who like poetry:

“Hound of Heaven” By Francis Thomas

I fled Him down the nights and down the days.
I fled Him down the arches of the years,
I fled Him down the labyrinthine ways
of my own mind: And in the mist of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter
Up vistaed hopes I sped;
Down titanic glooms of chasmed fears
From though I knew His love that followed
Yet I was sore adread
Lest having Him I have naught else beside.
All that I took from thee I did but take
Not for thy harms
But just that thou might’est seek it in my arms.
All which thy child’s mistake fancies are lost
I have stored for thee at home:
“Rise, clasp my hand, and come.”
Halts by me that footfall:
Is my gloom after all,
Shade of His hand, outstretched caressingly.
Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest,
I am he whom thou seekest!
Thou dravest love from thee, that dravest me.

 
At 10:49 PM, Blogger Lady Wordsmith said...

Homo Escapeons makes a compelling – and I believe accurate – point in reply to Darius’ question with the comment:

“We humans don't need any help being cruel to each other. I think that the idea of a Devil helps ease the guilt.”

Yes, Homo Escapeons, I think you’re right about that. Believing ‘the Devil made me do it’ absolves me of the sins I am loath to admit, least of all confess. It means I am not responsible. At least, not for the sins I committed.

The only thing I need to own in this belief system is that I allowed for the space - or freedom – to allow the Devil in so he can do his evil. To save myself from this evil, all I need to do is get down on my knees, say my rosary, and pray for deliverance. Pray for the strength to say “Devil be gone. Let me be saved from sin!”

Or if I haven’t got the strength for that, I need to turn my fate over to the faith of others who will pray on behalf. Pray to exercise the Devil out of me.

Without getting into any commentary about whether or not it is high minded, weak, or what have you to believe in this practice, I will say that it worries me. No. It scares me. Believing the ‘Devil made me do it’ doesn’t just alleviate us from the guilt of personal sin – it distances us from the sin of others.

I’m reminded of a graduate class discussion about the mental state of Jeffrey Dahmer. He was labeled a monster. A human abnormality of horrific proportions. He was pure evil. Not normal. Not like us. And then I spoke up and suggested he wasn’t crazy or evil.

I suggested he was just like us. With the real exception being not in his state of mind, but in how he acted on his impulses and urges as compared to the rest of us who aren’t cannibalistic serial killers.

The reaction I got – you would have thought I confessed to being Dahmer’s lover. Or maybe his protégé in training. But I didn’t budge from my suggestion. I still believe it.

And that belief system is infinitely more scary and awesome. It suggests that only by free will do we become, or avoid being, another Dahmer.

It also acknowledges that there really is only One. There is no ‘other’. What is perceived as ‘other’ is contained within The One. The One has all things contained within – not separate and apart. (Perhaps this is just my more long-winded way of repeating Dawn’s eloquent succinctness.)

Once again, I find myself reading this blog and looking at Taoism. (Curious in itself considering I identify as Catholic – struggling with it, but Catholic none the less) Taoism suggests that good and evil are relative – not absolutes – and they all go back to The One. And if everything goes back to The One, does this make so called ‘evil actions’ part of what is destined?

Try to fight against flowing water. Do you change the tide’s pull? Can you stop the water? Do you weaken yourself? No. No. And, Yes.

Like the water, God is all. If we don’t fight Him and instead allow His path to lead us, we arrive where we are destined to end. Fight that path, resist the flow given to us to make the path easy? We still arrive where we are destined, but incredibly more tired. Energy wasted.

 
At 6:27 AM, Blogger Mr. J said...

So much hi funda stuff here.. :-s

 
At 7:59 AM, Blogger Matthew said...

Darius said:
Like Og, the devil catches us on the horns of many a dilemma.

Too true. Seems better to simply let that guy fall out the bottom of our theology, or try to move to something odder and more angelic, like the quality-assurance accuser in Job.

Of course, we don't want to entirely drop the notion of evil personified ... because that's the greatest trick the devil ever pulled, right? I think that there's actually some value in separating people from their bad actions, because even if some devil-person didn't do it, there were probably some environmental factors that at least contributed to the bad behavior, or even determined it entirely.

So even if we refuse to affirm the existence of an other-devil, we should accept the truth of the varied bibilcal witness: sometimes the evil comes from outside of us, and sometimes from inside ... sometimes we can resist it, and sometimes it's literally impossible to refuse.

 
At 11:47 AM, Blogger Stacey said...

If those who do bad things do so because they are inhabited by the devil in a manner mysteriously planned for ahead of time by the all-good Og, then exactly what is it that makes evil “evil” at all? And why are those who commit evil blamed and held responsible for it?

Precisely.

I believe in an all-evil Satan no more than I believe in an all-loving OG. Life is shades of grey. And I refuse to believe something just because I am afraid not to believe or fear consequences.

As a Jew, I thought I'd share the Jewish viewpoint on this. We are taught that humans are born morally neutral and have free will. Jews have no concept of Original Sin and do not accept it. Instead, Judaism affirms that people are born with a yetzer hatov (literally, "the good inclination") and with a yetzer hara (literally "the evil inclination). In Judaism all human beings are believed to have free will and can choose the path in life that they will take.

 
At 11:47 AM, Blogger Trish said...

Hey. The Meyer's Briggs, eh? I took a pseudo one of those. I'm an ESFJ or something like that. It's really rather amazing that psychology is so "science-y" that they can come up with things all about you without even meeting you. Unless, of course, it's kind of like a horoscope where just about anyone could fit into the mold for the day... Have a good one.

 
At 1:46 PM, Blogger Leila said...

I think that "Satan" is just an excuse. I don't believe in him. Humans are evil in their root...we have to work to rid ourselves as we grow. We're not born innocent.

Maybe I'm just grouchy and tired. But you must know I am not a pessimistic person normally.

 
At 2:33 PM, Blogger BarbaraFromCalifornia said...

Ok...I just came bye to say hello, and wish you a good day.

Be well.

 
At 2:34 PM, Blogger Benjamin said...

Hi all. This good and bad, free will or determinism thing... the lemon juice in the baby's bottle, is it sweet or bitter? I was saying good can't exist without bad, the baby has to have something to compare the lemon juice to.

The argument against this is hard to conceptualise but suggests that there could be something that was simply wholly good but it's just either the way our minds work (or maybe the way we come to view the world) that forces us to make comparisons. The logic of our mindsets thus sees everything as either/or.

Basically, we're only human beings, maybe we don't know how it all works, maybe we view things from a blinkered perspective, and maybe there is some very deep and true reality that says all is good or conversely it may say all is bad. The point being that it's totally hypothetical, we don't know.

Where do we go from this conundrum? I suppose I go where I want to go (my will is not free for my will, by its very nature, is striving for something). And I analyse that. I am a person searching this website for answers to the riddle of my existence. I am a baby crying out for love.

 
At 5:50 PM, Blogger Chris said...

Benjamin I think that it is the other way around; bad cannot exist without good.

Anything bad, or evil, is simply a void, or vacuum, of something else. A nonentity. One example is a lie. I lie is not something in and of itself, but the absence of truth. Death is not something in and of itself, but an absence of life. While, good is original and wholesome; bad is empty and nothing.

Simply put: Bad requires good exist; good does not require bad to exist.

For instance a person can tell the truth all there life and never lie, but to lie requires there to be a truth. If all our desires where fulfilled (good) then there would be not need to covet other peoples stuff (bad). We can have good, and never taste bad.

But something has skewed that. And thus I will leave you on your journey.

 
At 7:17 PM, Blogger Lady Wordsmith said...

Ahhhh. Chris. Yes. We can have good without tasting bad. This is the way of non-action. Not fighting the water. Wu Wei.

Thank you my dear good man. How luvely of you to provide your direction to dearest love craving Benjamin and in turn show me the way!!!

Bless you both. Namste. Ever yours -Lady

 
At 8:29 PM, Blogger Keshi said...

Satan can very well be the loser next door :)

Keshi.

 
At 6:03 AM, Blogger Lady Wordsmith said...

Darius dear - I know you've exiled us to converse amongs ourselves while you watch (father-like?) above us to see that we behave and not give in to the evil of bashing each other, but ....

I just noticed the luverly kindness of your link and had the thank you. Gushing with thanks and pleasure, ever yours -Lady

 
At 7:05 AM, Blogger Darius said...

HOMO ESCAPEONS: Human fears, lies, and cruelty are clear sources of so much evil, I think I see what you mean – doesn’t leave much business for the Devil, so to speak…

CRYSTAL: You mention that you troubles with the idea of the devil too, so I’m wondering what they are…

Re. your thought that Jesus probably would have been arrested and killed anyway, even without Judas: makes sense to me too. But the gospels don’t present it that way. I only gave a couple quotes, but there are numerous verses portraying the events of Jesus’ life and crucifixion as foreordained. Also, plenty of verses that show demonic possession as the source not only of human evil, but even disease. (I haven’t read the gospel of Judas – just looking at the canonical gospels.)

I’m not following the moral distinction between an all-powerful Og-A, who causes evil in an active manner, vs. an all-powerful Og-B who, being all-powerful, could stop it but instead decides to passively allow it to happen. To me, Og-B doesn’t sound like an improvement!

If Og knows everything, yet isn’t the cause of everything happening the way it does, this reduces his power. I wonder which things that end up happening are not the will of Og, and how you can recognize them?

By believing in Og, or Other-God, I mean believing in an externalized or objectified God. "Og" could just as well stand for “Objectified-God.” My perception is that the more conservative a believer is, the more that he or she views God as Other, regardless of whether the person happens to be Jewish, Christian, or Muslim.

Imagine a circle. Call it “the universe.” It's full of smaller circles: planets, stars, you, me, lightbulbs, rocks, cereal boxes... When we’re kids, a lot of us grow up believing in an Og who’s an object among objects – the Guy in the Sky.

That doesn’t work for most of us when we grow up. We realize that we could travel all over the cosmos in a rocket ship and not run into Og.

So we draw another circle next to the circle representing the universe. We call that other circle, “God.” Maybe it touches up against the universe, but Og is his own distinct entity – the Creator of creation. Og is the supernatural Super Object.

Personally, I find no form of evidence, reasoning, or inner necessity - from the scientific, to my own most conscientious introspection and reflection on the deepest experiences I’ve ever had -for the existence of Og.

Certainly though, there are conceptions of Og that make Og less alien, so to speak. The theologian Paul Tillich comes to mind, with his idea of God as “the ground of being.” Similarly, when people refer to “the divine” they also seem to be pointing to it as a dimension or aspect of reality or existence, rather than something apart from or outside of life itself.

Often, we seem to like to have it both ways, so you get theologies of “immanence” and “transcendence” – God is a transcendent Other (God the Father) who also informs life as we know it - the Holy Spirit. But when Christians define the spiritual in terms of professing that Jesus as the Christ once “the third person of the Trinity” informs us that this is the right creed to profess, then the idea of “spirit” becomes objectified too.

As Ogs go, I like your version – where he’s not all powerful. (You suggest that Og was incapable of making a perfect creation, resulting in evil.) As I mentioned previous post, you’ve got to reduce Og’s power or Og’s goodness, because for an all-good, all-powerful Being to have created and remained in charge of this world is contradicted by the reality of evil.

CHRIS: Mind if I call you, “Chris Photo” from now on – to distinguish you from the other Chris? (Or pick a better moniker!) Yes, I think “knowing the answers to the mystery someday,” in one form or another, is one of the major human hopes…

MARISSA: That sounds right to me: that the root of evil is a sense of fear, insecurity, or threat. I don’t think people hate without feeling personally threatened in some sense. “Hateful, serene people” – you just don’t see much of that…

DAWN: Sounds like you probably mean that we do bad things ourselves, although you could possibly mean an “evil spirit” that enters into us – that is, the devil!

CHRIS: You begin with, “Darius can’t do exegesis well, and doesn’t even know Palestine is in the Mid East.” This is kind of silly, so let’s skip that. PLUS, by using that “exegesis” word, you may have just scared off those commentators who tell me this blog is too brainy. Wait, wait! Come back! “Exegesis” just means, “interpretation!” (of the Bible). Besides, “Darius” is a pseudonym and I’m really a hot babe who always types responses to readers while sitting in her thong bikini! I do the blog thing just to get away from sex once in a while!

Okay… Chris, you head in quite a few directions, many of which I find problematic. For example, to paraphrase your last paragraph, you essentially say: “Darius, the Bible is a perfect whole with zero contradictions even though it’s an anthology written by numerous authors over thousands of years, and it sure does look a lot less well organized, than, say, the Encyclopedia Britannica, or even a good term paper.”

Well, okay, those last few words were actually mine. But it’s just to point out that the notion that the Bible contains no contradictions is an untenable exegetical framework.

(Casual readers, wait! I’m sorry! Remember, I’m really a girl! And my legs are very pretty!)

For the rest, to bring the focus back to the post, the main idea is this: the idea of a divine plan is something assumed by many if not most believers. It’s easy to see how this notion derives from the Bible. Creation, the garden, Satan, and the Fall, the Christ’s intercession in human history to save us from sin and death, his return to judge the living and the dead – these are the larger aspects of the plan as presented by the Bible.

The quotes I cited were to give an indication of how very detailed the planning is made out to be, even in terms of the role of the devil and sin in helping to promote its realization. Satan is clearly depicted as entering Judas and making him betray Jesus. (And how often do we hear Christians counting themselves “blessed” if something good happens to them; and perceiving others as justly “punished” when something bad happens to them? Millions of Christians, Muslims, and Jews, have bought into, “The Plan” – in one version or another.)

You maintain that it isn’t the devil that makes us sin by pointing to a verse saying that the devil can be “resisted”. You could probably post additional verses. I could post additional verses showing demons entering into people and making them do things.

You go on to talk about free will; and how although we can “resist” Satan, sometimes he “puts sin in our hearts anyway…” These ideas have problems in themselves, but still take us away from the larger issue I’m trying to point to, which is that the following doesn’t add up – which is why “the problem of evil” can only be resolved by depicting an Og who is either less than fully good or less than all-powerful. So here’s what doesn’t work:

Og is all-good.
Og is all-powerful.
Evil exists in the world.

It doesn’t work because if Og created everything, he created not just the design of the pieces and the game board, but the very rules of the game. So however you try to explain away evil as not being Og’s responsibility, it doesn’t work. Whether we imagine “free choice” exists, or if we imagine a devil who tempts or dallies or sticks out his foot or even his tongue to trip us up, and then sometimes we have to fall but at other times we were predestined not to fall… – Whatever!

If Og was able to create whatever sort of world Og wanted to at will, then we would now be in heaven. The rule could have been: Zap! The Kingdom come, My will be done! The end time, the eschatology, that wonderful eternity where some people experience eternal bliss because they accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior, and others are tortured forever because they didn’t use the correct phraseology – that would now be the state of affairs.

And of course I’m begging the question of why an all-good Og would find that sort of eternity “the best.”

I’m not following when you speak of my idea of a divine plan. I have none (as per the “Runner” stuff I posted recently.)

LADY WORDSMITH: Okay, so you’re the resident Catholic Taoist! I’m glad – those are hard to come by! Seriously, you mention having had the nerve to suggest that Jeffrey Dahmer might possibly be just human rather than “a monster.” I remember once hearing some expert on criminal psychology commenting on how shocked he was to find how ordinary and banal the most horrific murderers were when he interviewed them...

The same societal taboo exists on Osama Ben Laden. You can’t begin to suggest that maybe he has reasons for his attitude that might be worth knowing without shocking maybe 80% of America. To me, assuming that, like other homo sapiens, he has reasons and trying to understand them instead of just repeating “Awful evildoer!” – I mean, we already know that what he did was evil – just makes sense. How can it hurt to have a good grip on the real motives of someone who’d like to wipe your country off the map? I mean, it would be information. Also, understanding his reasons, lousy as they’d be, might tell us a few things about ourselves.

ME: Does that mean you think this is a fundamentalist blog??

MATTHEW: Pun intended? Letting Satan “fall” out of our theology sounds like a great idea – and so well put! A second “Fall,” only from our own collective good graces! Probably be a long long time coming though… A lot of people seem to be pretty big fans of Satan, although of course they don’t worship him in any sense whatsoever. I mean, they don't even like him, they really really hate him. They just like having him around a lot so that they can recognize his presence in other people and hate them.

STACEY: That Jewish concept of people being born morally neutral (with good/evil inclinations, both) corresponds to a thought I’ve often had when confronted with either the “original sin” doctrine, or the humanistic “people are basically good.” I came to the conclusion some time ago that the best I can do is say: “People are basically ambiguous.”

TRISH: Yeah, but what about MY blog? Good and evil… Any thoughts? People don’t know that we’ve been talking about personality tests on YOUR blog… That’s just SO "ESFJ" of you… (kidding, I’ve forgotten what most of those letters stand for…).

LEILA: Yeah, Satan has no credibility with me either – how little will be seen next post! You also seem to imply an interesting thought: maybe people are born “grouchy and tired.” “Original grouchiness and tiredness” could explain a lot – why we seek coffee in later years, often snap at one another in office settings, etc.

BARBARA: Hi Barbara, and don’t worry about me – I’ll be ok as soon as I’m finished done wrestling with Satan... (OOF! POW!!! ZAP!...)

BENJAMIN: Don’t know as you had a chance to read it, but in responding to Matthew’s comment – I think his first to the previous post – I was pointing out that an all powerful Og could have made the contrast between good and better rather than good and evil.

To me the question of contrast being necessary is finally empirical, not logical – as I think you’re kind of implying. My suspicion is that a contrast between opposites isn’t necessary to have some form of positive experience. So if you put sugar on a newborn’s tongue, my hunch is, given that it has taste buds, it would experience something pleasurable even if it had never tasted anything bitter.

KESHI: If by Satan as the guy next door you mean humanizing Satan – per Lady Wordsmith’s first comment and my reply – I see what you mean. Glad you’re still around, sounded from your blog like you were about to go on leave – maiitte! Did I pronounce that right? It’s hard to work on your Australian accent in type!

LADY WORDSMITH: You're welcome. Yeah, this was just an experiment. Frankly, half of it was just me being lazy and hoping to get you guys to do more of the heavy lifting in critiquing each other's comments. The devil is wearing me out!

It must be him that gave me the idea of this experiment... Sloth is one of those seven deadly sins I think...

 
At 7:16 AM, Blogger Mr. J said...

OMG... I feel so dumb in the midst of this discussion. And nope, didn't mean to hint at anything. It's just too huge for my too little head to comprehend.

 
At 7:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Satan is our underdeveloped ego. When one completely plunges into its (the ego) depths then one can cope and control the "evil" force. I agree with Chris, only good really exists. Everything else stems from early childhood repression. The trouble is that our society does not encourage and facilitate this process! Our society takes this maturation process too literally, which creates NEEDLESS self-help solutions and competition (i.e. the incredible cash cow market ranging from the dope show of wonder drugs to Dr. Phil). But I can see how this process is easily manipulated. To plunge the depths of ones soul is traumatic and can be as highly charged of an event as issues such as abortion, the death penalty, etc. Nonetheless, in my opinion, this process takes precedence over all because what have we if not a healthy society?! With the advent of technology we are surely doomed if this is not addressed. This should be the most profound piece of legislation enacted to our U.S. Constitution since the abolition of slavery!! I will challenge anyone on this.

Blessings,
Pheidippides

 
At 7:30 AM, Blogger Matthew said...

First off, to go along with this post, happy 6-6-6, everybody!

Now on to exegetical bikini babes...

Chris said:
Darius I don't think that biblical exegesis is your strong suite.
Lots of fun misspellings this week! Reminds me of a similar slip long ago on a different blog, about fruit garnishes. (I would elaborate, but I'm a little busy trying to resist the temptations of satin.)

Darius you argument is brought down by the Bible itself. You cannot look at one piece without the other. Interpret the verses you use in conjunction with this one. (At first there may seem to be a conflict, but in actuality there is not.)

I'm just going to flag this comment as a major intepretive difference between Chris and Darius. Chris, I expect, is assuming direct inspiration of every verse in the Bible, and so it's unnacceptable that any two verses should be in conflict. Darius, on the other hand, takes a broader view of inspiration, one that allows that there might be conflicts, confusion, and even outright disinformation within the canonical books of the Bible.

The last part that I would like to address is your concern about those who favor your conception of the divine plan. It has the name of Calvinism, and they do it by understanding that God is bigger than you, and His knowledge far supercedes anything that you can comprehend, so questioning His word is a foolish act. I have had many debates with them, and find their understanding illogical as well.

First: Darius is not espousing Calvinism. If anything, he is arguing against it.

Second: when it's well-defended, Calvinism is a very logical worldview, and just as defensible (on purely logical grounds) as anything else I've ever heard. I mean, c'mon: one begins by positing this God who creates everything ex nihilo, and a world with very well-defined physical constraints. So of course God can predict the future, because people don't have any control over what they do. And therefore, it's a logical necessity that God has foreordained who will be saved and who will shuffle off to eternal damnation. In a closed system, what other possibilities are there?

I'm not saying that a theist or even a Christian has to swallow Calvinism as the only option. But if you're going to stick to the interpretive rules I mentioned earlier, it's going to be hard to squeeze human choice out of all those prophecies and foreordination passages.

 
At 7:42 AM, Blogger kevin said...

Do you folks remember when the band Motley Crue did the song "Shout at the Devil"? I recall the bands respsonse to all the hubub that came up was, "well, the song is Shout AT the devil, not shout with.!"

anyway, I digress.

I just don't buy the idea of absolute evil, where's the proof? I don't think that anybody or thing has any power that isn't borrowed...

That being said, I think I agree to an extent with Chris, in making the distiction that the devil, suggests something, in Islam Iblis, or Satan is a sworn enemy of man and promises to lead them astray. God replies, "You have no power to lead them astray, only I have that power." The gist is God gives you what you want...

I think Lady Wordsmith picks up a fine point: "I suggested he was just like us. With the real exception being not in his state of mind, but in how he acted on his impulses and urges as compared to the rest of us who aren’t cannibalistic serial killers."

I think that "evil" is the suggestions, or ideas that have become embbeded within our deeper consciousness that society teaches us to suppress. What does it mean when we get mad during an argument? Isn't there a latent capacity for violence that most of us are actively controlling? I think it is possible that there are objective beings which prey on these latencies and try to trigger them in us. Does this absolve us of guilt? How can it? If you KNOW it is wrong to murder then how can you fluff your responsiblity onto another? Haven't all of our mothers at one time or another said, "Well, if your friend told you to jump off cliff would you?"

So I think the summary of what I see here is that I think we have these latencies for "wrong doing" that society teaches us to handle, but there are entities whoes job it is to manipulate us into ignoring these good rules of conduct. In general there aren't usually self serving reasons for not following decent rules of conduct, so we need to see how it is that some of us have chosen to ignore them. From a darwinist standpoint, why did Jeffery Dalmer choose to do what he did? What survial benfit did he gain, really? None that I can surmise, which leads me to believe that his behavior was suggested from outside of his self, Dalmer's culpibility in his deeds are the fact that HE did them, he obeyed the instinct to act repusively, when he should have said, "no, this is wrong, there is nothing good in this." and restrained himself.

O Children of Adam! We have revealed unto you raiment to conceal your shame, and splendid vesture, but the raiment of restraint from evil, that is best. This is of the revelations of Allah, that they may remember. Quran 7:26

Some proof for this kind of activity is in places of where horrid things occur, you can see the breakdown spiralling out of control; people whom normally might retain control of thier tendencies to do wrong loose their sense of proprity and join in with the crowd. Do I need to name names? Abu Garib, Iraq, Armenia, Bali, Jones Town, ect...

 
At 9:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I appreciate all the comments and explanations on the concept of "evil" or "Satan." But what I've said is the most accurate explanation thus far, I'm sorry. There are those who don't have to desperately struggle with their ego at the outset of their life. They’re born that way or they’ve got crafty parents or elders. Who really knows? And they may never have to go through a long and deep struggle like others who were born to less-charmed circumstances. These people tend to over think things to the point that knowledge becomes a tool for them to occupy their time. These people are addicted to expressing themselves in long scholastic discussions. Reminds me of some of my college classes where one kid or adult in many a class would just talk to the professor for an hour during a two-hour class! When one is writing blogs that are consistently over 300 words it is a pretty clear indication that the person is inflicted with this kind of problem. And it is a problem b/c for ONE it takes up other people’s time before they can even chime in. For instance, it would take someone a half a day to read through 3 comments! And secondarily, it’s a serious problem for these long-winded types b/c they’re neglecting the most important part of living, which is observing and absorbing other viewpoints. The art of communication is the true gift of life b/c of the diversity and opportunity that it provides. IT IS ALL ABOUT THE EXCHANGE FROM ONE HEART TO ANOTHER, esp. when we’re discussing the deeper meanings of life! You’re not going to miss anything people. Let life come to you.

Blessings,
Pheidippides

 
At 9:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lastly, I'd rather read a string of comments that go back and forth, which are 150 words or less than reading 500 words that try to break down points into chapters. People would appreciate this and the dialogue would last longer and it would be more productive. Thank you.
Pheidippides

 
At 9:35 AM, Anonymous Marissa said...

I think animal instincts have a lot to do with "evil" acts as well. When a person is tired, or overly stressed out, insecure, having a bad day, etc, that person is more likely to not be able to control their animal instincts as well as they might normally be able to. We have these protective instincts, fear responses, fight-or-flight, all of which are overstimulated by our media. A normal mammal probably feels these extreme feelings much less frequently than we do. But because we've developed almost a tolerance to them, I think it becomes easier to fall victim to violent impulses. It all comes back to strength though, and a good, solid sense of self. If you have those two things, you're not likely to choose to let your animal instincts overtake you in inappropriate ways.

Darius- you should change your profile photo to one of your "true self", the lovely legged lady. :D

 
At 12:35 PM, Blogger Darius said...

NOBODYS IN PARTICULAR: I always hear that for every commentator there’s some greater number of non-commentators just reading. But if that’s true, why are they such a “silent majority?” And why are most people who comment to your blog other bloggers whose blogs you’ve posted comments to yourself?

Seems to me it's so easy to post comments anonymously/pseudononymously that if there were really so many non-blogging readers out there, they'd be posting at least as many comments as people who have blogs themselves...

So if there is really a silent majority of non-commenting readers who don’t have blogs, I’d like proof of your existence. No, this isn’t a ploy to get more traffic here. I mean just one time go, “Here I am!” Otherwise I may do a post disproving your existence. And where would you be then?

JAZZY: If you’re still out there – you’d be among those few non-bloggers who have in fact commented – sorry I somehow overlooked your comment of like a month ago. I just ran across it in my email, but can’t seem to find what post you left it at to respond…

ME: Oh-my, no, don’t start with that… It’s so stupid to call yourself dumb. Really though, you’re maybe the fourth person to talk like that. To think about these things, you only need an ability to think and talk. I’ll admit, however, that this is more than you need, say, to become president of the United States. So my standards really are pretty high after all I guess.

ANONYMOUS/PHEIDIPPIDES: I basically agree, but would toss the word, “Satan” and just call it ego, which may be what you’re saying you’d do as well. (Btw, you can hit the thingy to sign in as “Pheidippides…”)

MATTHEW: You know, I must of exigeted that suite coming and going a thousand times and never noticed the spelling. Thanks! The manager’s got me in the wrong rooms. Hope room service will now include the fruit garnishes…

Thanks for those two helpful clarifications, hope Chris catches them… Seems to me the first is right on target. Everything I knew about the second I forgot years ago right after being required to read about Calvinism…

KEVIN: Tendencies to get mad… latent capacity for violence… I see all that too. For myself though, it’s more than enough. In other words – but maybe this is just me! – I can imagine circumstances under which I might have gone down a wrong path entirely for lack of insight into myself. That ignorance, coupled with the sorts of tendencies you mention, would for me have been more than enough to do great wrong. I think there would have been no need, for me, of a satanic Entity to push me over the edge!

Because Jeffrey Dahmer’s behavior didn’t have survival value really would have no bearing on whether or not a Devil made him do it. All kinds of behaviors have no survival value – many species go extinct in a hurry. That’s just part of how evolution’s thought to work.

ANONYMOUS/PHEIDIPPIDES: So you’re saying, in 3 comments totaling 525 words, that you’re pretty much opposed to wordiness? May I call you “Phei” for short?

MARISSA: But what exactly is a “normal mammal?” Would it be more like a beaver, or a large carnivore? I’m sorry, this is Anonymous Phei’s fault. He made me do it. He’s got these really big horns…

I should stop, but guess it’s just TOO easy to put us girls in a silly mood. I don’t show my photo simply because I’m very shy as well as very pretty.

 
At 12:38 PM, Blogger crystal said...

Darius,

My problem with the devil ... Like most moderns, I have trouble personifying evil. It seems almost unhealthy to objectify something that may simply be part of our nature. But ...

IYou said - That (seeing God as a person) doesn’t work for most of us when we grow up. We realize that we could travel all over the cosmos in a rocket ship and not run into Og. -

t's more challenging to personify evil (the bad spirit) and good too (Jesus/God). I don't believe a more "mature" viewpoint is to see them as metaphors for parts of ourselves, or to see them as depersonalized "forces". To do that is to keep them at an emotional distance, where they can't be engaged by us. And to see Jesus/God as a person isn't incompatable with seeing him also as part of all things. Ignatius sees him as sustainng all things, and loving all things into existence.

I do think the NT assassinates Judas' character ... there were probably a lot of what the writers considered practical reasons for doing so.

About a God who allows evil instead of causing it ... yeah, not much of an improvement :-). But I guess theologians would say that if he intervened, he would be steeping on peoples' free will, or that he would be breaking the laws of nature. It's not that he couldn't do it (omnipotence) but that he chooses not to, for the sake of freedom and congruity . But I haven't come across an explination on this point that is satisfying to me.

 
At 1:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Darius,
450 words, not 525. That's the most I'll ever write in three comments on the same thread, UNLESS someone recognizes the truth in what I'm saying in which I would then engage in subsequent comments (not one or two huge ones). And btw, I wasn't exactly trying to "knock" anyone by what I said.

That's correct, "ego" in place of "Satan" works better. And I'm assuming you agree that 'this process takes precedence over all because what have we if not a healthy society?! With the advent of technology we are surely doomed if this is not addressed. This should be the most profound piece of legislation enacted to our U.S. Constitution since the abolition of slavery!!' Is that not bold enough for you?

PHEIDIPPIDES
(sorry I forgot the password)

 
At 2:17 PM, Blogger Chris said...

Darius: It seems that I hit a nerve this time. I told you that I don’t ‘think’ you do biblical exegesis ‘well.’ Not that you ‘can’t’ do it. And if you are going to write a ridiculous definition of ‘Og’, which is the God of the bible, then don’t say that he is a western religion. If I wanted to the term interpretation then I would have. I used exegesis because it denotes more than simplistic interpretation, but a deep understanding of the text. But if you want me to tone down my vocabulary then so be it. It seems that you want to now belittle me to a four-year-old, and so it will be.

But Darius you forgot something about God.

God is all-good.
God is all-powerful.
AND God is all-knowing.

You forget that as God you know everything, and anything. You know what the best possible world looks like, and what the worst looks like. Since I doubt that your “og” has given you such an answer I know that my/our God has.

“If God was able to create whatever sort of world God wanted to at will, then we would now be in heaven.” First, how are going to put God on your time schedule? Second, what kind of world do you think God wanted to create? Third, is the final destination heaven, or a new world? Fourth, what is time to an eternal being?

Let’s see: Why would God want a heaven full of free creatures that respect and revere Him instead of others who deny His existence and write bad things about Him on there blog? Humm…is that really a hard question.

Here’s the bottom line. 1.) We know there is a God. 2.) We know we have free will, and there is a divine plan by God. 3.) We know that there is an objective moral law. 4.) We know that Truth is by definition exclusive. 5.) We know that people have been trying to bring down the bible for roughly 2,000 years with no prevail. 6.) We know that there was a guy named Jesus Christ who clamed to be God’s Son. 7.) That Man was crucified, dead, and in three day rose from the dead. (You have to concede that He at least died by crucifixion.) 8.) After that there was about a 40% increase in believers every decade from his death that reached roughly 3.2 million by 350 A.D. (Stark) 9.) And even today the battle continues with Jesus against all other false idols. 10.) We each have a choice on which side we want to be on.

Good luck and God Bless.



MATTHEW: I don’t follow the misspelling in that sentience, though I do not doubt that I have misspelled and misapplied words many times in these posts.

Second, I realize that he is not agreeing with it, or condoning; and nether do I. I was merely giving him firepower to throw out how ‘evil’ God is. Calvinism is a very strong interpretation, but flawed in many respects. While I believe in a doctrine of predestination it is not in the Calvinistic sense that I find true. Manly it has to do with the five points, and salvation. But I will spare you the lengthy details. I will say, though, that if you find that Calvinism holds a strong worldview then I would beg to say that the bible holds the True worldview.

Third, by allowing errors in the bible you are not being ‘broader’, or more open minded. In fact it is the reverse. You close you mind to power of God, and play it off as human construct with flaws. Instead of looking throughout the bible to understand a seemingly contradiction verse you give up hope and use the excuse as human error. What can be more open minded than that which is open to the power of an all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good God?

In Christ.
Chris

 
At 5:56 PM, Blogger Benjamin said...

CHRIS. Your comment 'Anything bad, or evil, is simply a void, or vacuum, of something else.' I don't quite see the logic of this. It looks as if you are saying having something is good and not having something is bad. Which would seem to me a pretty accurate description of the prevalent religion of modern times, consumerism, which says if you have things they will make you happy.

DARIUS. I did return to Matthew's original post and find your definition here a little clearer. Yes, I think you either choose an empirical way (from an empirical perspective, all things seem to have an opposite) or something outside of empiricism (perhaps mysticism or perhaps logic but I think religion would fall into this category). Your 'suspicion is that a contrast between opposites isn’t necessary to have some form of positive experience.' I would still empirically question how you can call an experience positive without having experienced some negative state to compare it to. Are you thinking here of a meditative state of mind?

AND TO ALL. There's quite a few comments here that seem to associate the ego or the self with Satan or evil. 'Humans are evil in their root' and 'animal instincts have a lot to do with "evil" acts as well,' some of the stronger points. I think that love and the need to be loved are complementary forces. They need each other. I think this is a big problem in the world, that we tend to regard the need to be loved as a bad thing.

 
At 7:08 PM, Blogger Darius said...

CRYSTAL: When I said that seeing God as an object among objects doesn’t work for most of us as adults, I wasn’t referring to all views of God as person. God as person works well for millions of adults. I was referring to what I called “the Guy in the sky:” the image that many of us have of God when we’re children. You know – the beard, the robes, the deep voice. The Man who exists as an object among objects somewhere inside of the universe.

Correct me if I’m wrong here because I’m inferring this, but from what I’ve read of your blog and comments, I think you might say that God as person works for you as metaphor. Your sense of what God is transcends what it is to be a person; but you find that being human, at least at its best, points us in the right direction as far as experiencing God’s presence goes.

I feel sure that the only alternative to this personalized route to God is not God as a “depersonalized force,” since for myself, my best route to experiencing what I really think is the same presence that you also experience, in your own way, is neither one of those!

Later I’ll be doing posts that try to get at the route I’ve taken – although it will be hard, I think, to do more than hint at it in a blog format. For now, what I’m critiquing as “Og” or “Other-God” – or “Objectified God” – is what I described in my reply to your first comment: God as an Entity existing independently and apart from the rest of existence or reality. (In that circle analogy I made responding to your first comment, this would be the circle next to the circle that represents the universe.) This Deity is traditionally conceived of as all-powerful, all-good, and the Creator of existence, being, or the world. And in the last couple posts, I’ve been saying that the existence of this Entity is contradicted by the existence of evil.

ANONYMOUS/PHEIDIPPIDES: I dunno… I did use that word-count feature… Seriously, I fully agree with what I’m taking as your main point: that what really counts in the here and now is the entirely practical matter of human beings conducting themselves well.

CHRIS: Sorry you feel that way. But your comment may help to illustrate what I see as a problem with an “Other-God” point of view. (I’m not sure you’re reading me on what I mean by “Og.” You could see my two replies here to Crystal.)

When we see God or “Og” as basically “out there” in the sense that I’ve described in those replies to Crystal and in some of the posts, this correlates with seeing the words of our sacred texts as “scripture” - the actual words of Og in some direct, unique, and literal sense. Not that this necessarily means taking everything in the book literally. But still, every sentence has to be right, even if it seems wrong - basically because Og knows everything, and Og, in some manner that is literal, “said so.” (Another classic attribute of Og, of course, is omniscience.) Therefore our job in reading scripture is always to show that every sentence is somehow right.

So to believe in God as Og and to view the Bible or Quran as scripture – Og’s very own words – is to perceive perfect goodness and truth as existing “out there.” Not only do we consider ourselves to have on hand Og’s written statements; moreover, the religious institution to which we belong may tell us that its interpretation of these words is THE correct one, because it and it alone – our particular religious affiliation – is the true mouthpiece for Og in present times. (The church as the “Bride of Christ,” for example.)

Having this perspective, it’s very tempting to objectify people who don’t see it your way as incarnations of evil. You know the truth; you have it in writing from Og; and now you’re confronted with someone who rejects known Goodness and Truth. What can they be but evil?

It’s unfortunate. At worst, you have people literally killing other people supposedly in the name of God. But God is never the cause of our attacks on others.

A moment’s reflection and I’m sure you’d agree that the real God, however differently you and I might conceive of God, doesn’t need your protection or mine. God isn’t threatened. Least of all by somebody’s blog!

BENJAMIN: I see what you mean – for me to say that having a “positive” experience may not require having a negative one is by definition incorrect. Poor choice of words. I might have said “pleasant” instead. To me it isn’t clear that experiencing something pleasant depends on experiencing something painful, bad, or harmful. It might just require experiencing something less pleasant. I’ve never met a chocolate chip cookie I didn’t like, but I do like some brands better than others.

As far as loving and being loved are concerned, I see them as being related. Feeling loved as kids I think helps give us the security and sense of self-love we need to love others unequivocally. To the extent that we don’t feel loved as kids, we often feel unlovable. And until we can get past that, it’s harder to love others.

 
At 7:13 PM, Blogger Matthew said...

chris wrote:
by allowing errors in the bible you are not being ‘broader’, or more open minded.

But see, I don't think I'm "allowing" errors in the bible. I'm simply observing that there *are* errors in the Bible ... basic factual conflicts, if nothing else. (Conflicting numbers of people in identical censuses in different books of the bible, for example.)

Rather than trying to interpret consistency into these spots, I simply attribute those errors to human frailty, trusting that God can communicate a larger truth even using these flawed scriptures.

So I think admitting human authorship is a way of coping with obvious problems in the text, not an attempt to be "broader" or "more open minded."

 
At 7:33 PM, Blogger crystal said...

Hi Darius :-). Actually, I do see Jesus/God as a person but not a metaphore ... really a person I can sit across from and chat with, who answers back, etc. It's partly Ignatian spirituality (imaginitive prayer) and partly my own personal need to have a friend. If he was a metaphor to me, I'd not want to be a christian, because I'd miss the love relationship.

 
At 10:46 PM, Blogger Keshi said...

maiitte indeed :):) fair dinkum he's aussie already!

Keshi.

 
At 6:21 AM, Blogger Darius said...

MATTHEW: To me that seems very well-stated and clear. Would be interesting to learn whether Chris or anybody else would find it acceptable or unacceptable, and why.

Personally, I don't understand why the authors of the Bible ought to be held accountable for having met current standards for journalism, historiography, and science when these fields hadn't been invented yet!

CRYSTAL: That's really interesting. To me it suggests that while people have so much common ground in spiritual matters, our personal approaches still show lots of individuation.

Thanks for sharing that. By way of illustrating how things can be both similar and different from person to person, I'll share something that may not make any sense to quite a few readers!

Anyway, remember I mentioned learning the centering prayer at St. Joseph's? (For Buddhists and others: this is the same as meditation or contemplation.)

There were basically two ways in which I came to experience this. Hard to put this into words, but one of them was about experiencing love. All that I would be aware of was a sense almost of "radiating" or outpouring love - feeling wave after wave of it, with nothing else in my awareness. I found the most unusual thing about this was that it was directed at nothing in particular! Or else everything in general... It was like "being love."

This must sound weird to anybody who hasn't spent some time meditating. But in describing this to someone once, I was told it reminded him of accounts written by St. Theresa of Avila and I think St. John of the Cross, so I suspect it may be a type of meditation that a lot of people have experienced.

KESHI: I was afraid of that... Maybe reading an Australian blog isn't the best way to get the accent down...

 
At 6:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Look, I’m seeing the same problem on this blog that goes on in everyday life – over thinking and repetition, which stifles the flow of interest for the audience (your blog, Darius, isn’t any different than others. Most all blogs are hit and miss like this and that’s why you’ll often see big crowds of viewers “mysteriously” and suddenly tail off.) Again, many people keep running and exchanging ideas back and forth like a hamster inside a wheel. And then I’ve noticed some others just flat out announce how “complex” the dialogues have been (they’re not really all that difficult, btw. Quantum Physics is difficult). AS I DIAGNOSED THIS PROBLEM EARLIER, there’s a fine line when you’re an OVERTHINKER (over thinking isn’t a bad thing if you know how to control it!) First, many ot’s have never plunged the depths of their psyches. This is a must for everyone, as I’ve also mentioned in an earlier comment. The ot that HAS gone through this process is ten times more likely to stop, observe and begin again in a much more personally balanced frame of mind (instead of NEEDING to continue to conduct his thoughts at a similar pace.) The ot that has gone through this process has a fuller sense for the presence of discourse. The ot that has NOT gone through this process inadvertently wears down dissent by treading in the same place at a similar pace. THIS IS IMPORTANT TO RECOGNIZE FOR EVERYONE BEFORE THESE DIALOGUES CAN GO TO THE NEXT LEVEL. Darius, I’m willing to discuss this more. Either the “process” itself or the ot that has not totally gone through it yet.

Blessings,
PHEIDIPPIDES

 
At 8:13 AM, Blogger Benjamin said...

Hi Darius. Thank you for a beautiful description of a blissful meditative experience. I think what is happening there is a completely free exchange of love between your self and your other (the world), imo. I should quit smoking and find 'God' once more! Great blog x

Hi Pheipiddides. You make quite an interesting point. Odd terminology ('over-thinking'?) but I'm pretty much in agreement with your point. How do you think open-minded readers might begin to 'plunge the depths of their psyches'?

 
At 8:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Benjamin, people can plunge the depths of their psyche all by themselves, which is treacherous but ultimately effective. Or, they can do this with the proper support of others who are able to assist them along the way. I mentioned this in an earlier comment. If you’re interested I would be happy to discuss further.

Peace,
PHEIDIPPIDES

p.s. If you have a better word other than “over thinking” please feel free to suggest something.

 
At 9:08 AM, Blogger Darius said...

PHEIDIPPIDES: You’re concerned that bloggers may believe they’re particularly intelligent - as smart as people who do "quantum physics"; that people who blog about religion and spirituality are out of control and can’t help doing this; and that blogs are too repetitious.

I honestly haven’t noticed bloggers bragging about their intelligence. I’m also sure that it’s a great overgeneralization to say that everyone who blogs is compulsive about it - I don’t have that kind of insight into the motives and lifestyles of individual bloggers.

I can only make one of two guesses:

First, for you personally, intellectualization about spiritual matters – talk about spirituality that’s an unhealthy substitute for living it – has been something that you’ve personally needed to struggle with, so you’re aware of that danger.

Yes, that is sometimes a danger for some people. But it’s a big world. Thoughtful discussion about religion and spirituality isn’t necessarily or usually intellectualization.

In general, I look at things said and done in the name of God today and think: the planet’s in no immediate danger from the over-thinking of religion.

My second guess has to be, and I think this is basically where Benjamin's coming from, that you believe you have an answer to religious questions that would eliminate or cut down on the need for people to discuss these things.

In any case, no need to keep us guessing! Please feel free to summarize your perspective in concrete, positive terms, but then I'd like to move on. This sort of meta-conversation is straying far from the actual content of the post and doesn't seem to be of particularly widespread interest.

BENJAMIN: Glad that made sense to you. Really hope you give up smoking, I had to witness the consequence of that up close. If you've started trying to quit, hope you'll keep trying – I read somewhere that it takes the average smoker something like seven attempts to stop before they manage to do it.

 
At 9:17 AM, Blogger UARIDI said...

In the "Screwtape letters" one of the devil's plan was to make the world forget, ignore or overlook his existence.

I believe the devil exists - he is after all the father of all lies and he knows how to camouflage himself from us.

 
At 9:57 AM, Blogger Darius said...

HI UARIDI: What is it that convinces you the devil exists? And that he has "camouflage?" And what does the camouflage look like?

If the devil didn't exist, would it please you or trouble you?

If I'm too inquisitive I apologize, and no need to reply - but I am curious since I think no one else so far has stated what you just did as clearly.

 
At 11:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Darius,
You’re way off base in responding to what I said. I never implied that anyone was “bragging.” What you call a “meta-conversation” is essential in order to move these burgeoning dialogues to the next degree. There’s a lot of awesome concern for change here that isn’t being harnessed properly to the extent that it could be. And also I do not claim to have specific answers to “religious questions.” The content bloggers share may indeed be excellent information. Most of the time people have a lot of good insights but I can usually pick up the book or google the info myself. THE POINT HAS TO DO WITH THE LENGTH AND PACE OF EACH COMMENT TO SUSTAIN FLOW AND INTEREST. Otherwise, you’re going to be the only one that reads and follows each person’s multiple references. Again, earlier, I mentioned that the “ot” can break his/her comments up. I don’t suggest cutting or eliminating somebody’s voice. This is what I mean by “over thinking.” And, that is why this is more than a “meta-conversation.” I’m not trying to take over your gig, you’re doing a great job. And I’m not big on “ground rules” but there is so much potential here, it just needs some tweaking.

Blessings,
PHEIDIPPIDES

 
At 4:30 PM, Blogger Darius said...

PHEIDIPPIDES: I have the feeling you might be getting ready to start a blog of your own. Good luck!

 
At 6:49 PM, Blogger Liquidplastic said...

Darius, I am just dropping a line to let you know I am still living on this blog. This was a most interesting post, and I dare say the comments took me there and back. Thank you all for your wonderful insight ---

I am very impressed and closely relate to what Homo Escapeons had to say and I don't think no one could have said it any better. "We humans don't need any help being cruel to each other. I think that the idea of a Devil helps ease the guilt." Bravo!

 
At 7:17 PM, Blogger crystal said...

Darius,

I've read that religious experiences seem to have some common chartacteristics. I think I've had an experience like the one you describe ... it was a feeling of being loved (by God). It felt sort of like being in the path of a breeze made of love, dumb as that sounds. No words or pictures, just feelings.

One interesting difference between the prayer styles of centering prayer and imaginitive prayer (the Jesuit kind I do), is that people who do centering prayer often talk about the God within, while I feel more like God is without me - a separate person that drops by - and this fits with the kind of prayer where I imagine he is sitting and talking to me. Maybe different kinds of prayer suit different personality tyoes best.

Maybe this has to do with the difference in our experiences?

The Jesuit who was my spiritual director once told me that theology was, he thought, what people did after they had an experience, to try to make sense of it :-)

 
At 7:19 PM, Blogger Within Without said...

Good God! (And I wonder what God would say to this blog?)

I'll just say that the devil, like the church, the bible and most every other facet of our belief systems, are human creations that really have no more foundation than any book or story of lore or any other concept the human mind can conjure.

And in a world of UFO sightings/kidnappings, sasquatches, Atlantis, Moby Dick, Alice in Wonderland, Superman, the Brothers Grimm or any other writing(s) in recorded history, including the National Enquirer or such similar pap, there is no way of proving or disproving, just endlessly debating and imagining.

You will all believe what you want to believe and need to believe, and as history has shown and continues to show, nobody can be proven wrong or right (well, except for those intelligent design types).

I salute Darius for his ability to think and emote and his desire to question. That's the most important thing anyone can do in the face of fanaticism.

 
At 7:45 PM, Blogger Benjamin said...

Hi Darius. Thanks for the support or advice! No, I didn't explain, last time I quit smoking after two days I had what some might call a 'peak spiritual experience'. Your description just reminded me of it. I'm not currently quitting smoking. I think these spiritual experiences probably happen to everyone x

Hi Pheidippides. I agree with you that we all too often go round in circles in debate. I think we can go round in circles in the patterns of our lives and relationships also.

The problem, for me, stems not from over-thinking but from a failure to really think about the way we think, about how we each construct meaning, to summarise what is a complex issue very briefly (I do hope you approve of such brevity!).

I hope to learn more about your philosophy of life and/or spiritual outlook on this or future threads. Peace x

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

What's All This Then?
My word what a kerfuffle.

Firstly, Darius (you sexy thang), I am forever impressed at your poise and patience. You are providing a valuable service to all of us who enjoy your intelligent thought provoking posts, or in the immortal words of Chingy, "I like the way you do it right thurr, right thurr."

Chris,
Take a deep breath...while I appreciate that your motivation to save us all may well be sincere you are overlooking a few things.
This is a happy place where we come from every angle (that alone is miraculous) and enjoy the journey of exploring what we believe. This also dictates that I must put a bit in my mouth but I have to ask...did you get saved last week? What's with the vitriol dude? Who are you really trying to convince? All the Bible thumping smacks of insecurity..relax..you're scaring off potential converts.

Though you are phantastisch at lobbing scripture scuds at us please consider that many of us do not necessarily identify these words as originating from God or share your 'excess'egesis. Having spent a decade at the pinnacle of the christian world (Go Pentecostals!) I am well aware that you may be casting pearls but these good people are not swine. Please bare in mind that the Bible is not the final word for 4 billion other people either.

Pheidippides Anonymous Maximus,
Ah my learned fellow if you are alarmed by all of this mental masturbation you shouldn't be here or anywhere else in the blogosphere.
Is it really fair to criticise those of us who haven't quite nailed down all of the details.
C'mon?

 
At 10:10 PM, Blogger SusieQ said...

Darius, you said, "All that I would be aware of was a sense almost of "radiating" or outpouring love - feeling wave after wave of it, with nothing else in my awareness. I found the most unusual thing about this was that it was directed at nothing in particular! Or else everything in general... It was like "being love." "

I am very touched by your description of this penetrating experience of outpouring love. I have had the same experience from time to time. I see that many of the contributors to your blog seem to have had this experience too.

I was a teenager the first time I had it. This is so overwhelming that it brings you to your knees....and to tears in my case. To me and for me, it is the living water. It has the power to transform a person if only for a while. It makes me tender. I leave it wanting to caress and nurture everything around me as if I am a new mama and the world is my newborn.

I think each of us uses our own spiritual language in interpreting this experience of profound and, speaking for myself, Divine love. I went on to write about it in my English class at the Catholic High School I was attending. I struggled to find the words to describe the experience. Using my own spiritual language, I ended describing it as feeling like I was walking inside the heart of God.

I think it is most helpful when we attempt to validate each other's spiritual experiences by giving recognition to their authenticity. I believe we often are talking about the same thing, only using different words to describe it.

 
At 7:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Darius: Not exactly sure what you mean by that.

Homo Esc: I was not shunning anyone. In fact, I was complementing them. An untapped ego (and I mean that in the Freudian sense) is very unpredictable.

Benjamin: I don't think it should be difficult to summarize complex issues if one is truly at peace with his own viewpoint. I think one should focus on saying what one feels and comment as succinctly and intelligently as possible. It's important for the dialogue to begin to unfold. I know people like Stephen Colbert (Comedy Central's "Colbert Report") poke fun of speaking or writing from the gut or heart (primarily the way G.Dubya does) but the mind follows the heart. It's the mind that must come in and smooth out the rough edges, so to speak. That's why the ego plays such a HUGE part in this. One must be very comfortable with the ego or there will be frequent times when one won't be able to draw a line or distinguish between the two, that is the heart and mind.

 
At 7:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Darius, I don't care if you think I'm a jerk or not, either way, I wasn't jacking around and sincerely wanted to help.

pheidippides

 
At 7:28 AM, Blogger Darius said...

ANONYMOUS: You are LECTURING everybody. Everyone has an ego. You have an ego too - you might want to notice that.

Unless you can focus on content I'll need to continue blocking future comments.

It's also quite simply and frankly a question of manners. If you want to talk about something other than the content of other bloggers posts, you really ought to start your own blog.

 
At 7:29 AM, Anonymous Marissa said...

I think assuming that we truly "know" anything intangible is rather close-minded. I don't think things are that black and white.

Regarding the need to be loved as a cause for evil, I definitely agree. I remember hearing about experiments done with babies, some were closed off from others and were only touched to be fed and have their diapers changes. While the other babies were treated normally, cuddled with, smiled at, etc (generally treated lovingly). The closed off babies' health started to decline! We definitely need love. But I think self-love is just as important. If we don't love ourselves, no amount of love from other people is going to fill that void within us (and we will be more prone to "evil" acts).

 
At 11:47 AM, Blogger Benjamin said...

Hello all. Darius, my friend, I think you're being quite hard on Pheidippides. This is your blog so you are at liberty to delete a comment. I found it surprising, though, given that I think I read the comment last night and didn't see anything particularly offensive or really off-topic about it.

Hi Pheidippides. I'm not really very au fait with Freudian theories of the psyche. I do see what you mean and, yes, learning a lot here, would surmise that 'ego' (as we see it) is a great problem in our society. But if the ego is at fault so is the super-ego (conscience). I think these are muddled terms that don't closely correlate to the way we think and feel.

Hi Marissa. We all need love. I'm on your wavelength.

To this experience of radiating or outpouring love, just where does this love pour out from. From you or from outside of yourselves? A stupid question because you're in a state of bliss. You go beyond self and other and reach a state of unity. As Pheidippides put it, 'It is all about the exhange of love from one heart to another.'

Follow your head. It leads to the heart. Be well x

 
At 12:30 PM, Blogger Darius said...

MARISSA: Right - and to me it seems like being loved, especially as children, is what provides the surest footing for self-love. Without enough of that as kids, we end up needing to work through it.

BENJAMIN, that's a very thoughtful point about whether that form of meditative experience of love might not be beyond adequate description - whether as the love pouring out of oneself or as receiving love - since it occurs in that "non-dualistic" state of mind that characterizes meditiation.

I really never thought of this until you mentioning it. I have an aunt who's spoken more along Crystal's lines, whereas I've always described it to my self as feeling more like "radiating" love(giving it in some sense).

But what you say here highlights Crystal's earlier point, that maybe either way it's a kind of private "theology" or at any rate, interpretation, of something that's certainly hard to interpret. Main thing, to me, is what people do with such experiences.

A judgment call to be sure, and Phei is more than welcome to focus on substantive matters even that are somewhat tangential - we all do that from time to time.

But I think you may not have gone back and read his entire commentary and my responses. He commented at such length and so repeatedly about how comments here are too long and repetitious that I honestly couldn't tell if he was being serious or ironic. If the latter, I didn't want to play any more; if the former, I've already responded to him on this topic every way I can think to respond!

 
At 12:35 AM, Blogger Benjamin said...

Hiya Darius. That's a very interesting point. Clearly for you at least one type of spiritual experience is felt as an outpouring of love.

I can identify with this. When I'm dancing I often look for something to focus on. Sometimes I selectively locate the energy source as a girl I like the look of (it's actually hard to do), sometimes I choose the music source, the DJ or the speakers (easier), but what comes most naturally is to conceive of myself as radiating love and energy. Which I've always felt bad about, actually (probably such a self-critical stance relates to my problems/personality, really).

Wow!This makes me feel a whole lot better about it. Thank you very much x

 
At 3:42 PM, Blogger Pheidippides said...

Darius,
I stated an earnest exposition, not a “lecture.” And this small community is not “everyone.” You're talking about the gloating "ego." I am not. It's too bad but it seems as if you've slipped into a particular rung of "hell." This may turn out to be a great misadventure that spirals way down, unless a dose of ingenuity and humility is not soon exercised. Life is never as good or bad as it seems. In my opinion, this is especially important to ‘grok’ when one becomes blinded by rash anger. This may indeed be about “ego” or “pride” or commitment or blatant disdain. Essentially, I was only remarking on a certain part of the whole. That part, was my observation or strategy to improve the structure of what I believe is your blog’s opportunity to facilitate a unique civil discourse amongst some very bright and enthusiastic individuals. After all, it IS your project and you have a great idea here. I would not spend my time here if it were not worth it! I have likely learned more than I have taught over the last couple of months from this experience (this is certainly the case if I were to combine the other two or three blogs I’ve been familiar with over the last 7-9 months). “Blogging” is still in a rather infantile stage of development, I might add. It just so happens, in my opinion, that the Freudian Ego philosophy can provide some excellent insight in the way many (not just this blogging community) engage each other in this particular kind of dialogue that consists of deeper content, requiring persistence, clarity, mutual understanding, and patience, for example. I had no intentions, whatsoever, of being a jerk. But I will not hesitate to constructively confront what I observe. Feel free to still consider me an ass. It won’t be the first time I’ve heard that and I know it won’t be the last.
Peace,
pheidippides

 
At 6:44 PM, Blogger Darius said...

{This comment appears out of sequence because it's a re-post of one that was messed up during Blogger's recent malfuncioning...)

HI LIQUID PLASTIC: Me too – seem like comments here are very thoughtful –

CRYSTAL: Ha! I so agree with your former spiritual director. I think the best language about religious experience tries to stick as close to the experience itself as possible – which can be hard to do. It’s like there’s no real vocabulary for this, so there can be a tendency to immediately apply the normative words/phrases used in one’s belief system, if one has a belief system.

WITHIN, WITHOUT: Hope Uaridi gets to check back in, because you’re reminding me that Satan is getting a low vote of confidence here. She stated she was a believer, and I would have been interested in why. Another “why” I have is why is it that Og – the all-good supernatural Entity – is so much more popular? To me both seem highly implausible – don’t see Og as making any more or less sense than Og’s opposite.

Yes – to me thinking and feeling (“emoting”) are equally real and valid, and actually help clarify each other.

BENJAMIN: Oh-oh… I told you a lot of times stuff on your blog goes over my head! It seems we may have been speaking of two different, uh, brands of cigarettes…

Yeah, I hope Phei comes back too, but he’d need to stop explaining, at great and repetitious length, how he thinks this blog would be better if people kept things briefer! I mean, a remark or two like that if fine, but after a while he ends up no longer talking about the post at all. Hence my last response to Phei that he may want to start his own blog and my cruel deletion of his last comment. That’s the first I ever delete, but frankly I thought he might be pulling my leg. (If you go back and read his last several comments, it sounds increasingly suspicious.) Hopefully I’m wrong about that, and Phei will come back to comment on the actual content of posts.

HOMO ESCAPEONS: Thanks for the good-humored back-up, and well-said!

SUSIEQ: You write, “I believe we often are talking about the same thing, only using different words to describe it.” I very much think so too - anytime people are talking about something real. To me, a big problem about how very detailed belief systems and theologies often get, is that after a while it becomes language about language more than about experience.

Wow. It was like “walking inside the heart of God.” Eloquent. Religious experience comes in quite a variety of forms and certainly does change people, sometimes overnight, sometimes cumulatively. But really and profoundly.

I sometimes wonder, with regard to those believers who seem entirely captivated by doctrine: what kind of thing do they imagine Jesus was doing in the desert for forty days? Writing theology? I really really doubt that…

 
At 6:54 PM, Blogger Darius said...

BENJAMIN: I'm glad; doesn't sound like anything you should feel badly about -

HI PHEI: Not mad, I stand by what I said, and repeat it here - because you're lecturing again! Sounds like you know me better than I know myself, and just from reading the blog!

Phei, people just aren't looking for a resident blog-critic to tell them about how they would run their blog in terms of style and content - sounds like you're into Freudian theory in terms of content?

I wasn't kidding! You can start your own blog! It could be about Freudian theory and how you think blogs ought to be run. If you did that, I'd visit your blog - and there, I'd talk about the content of your posts, not try to tell you how I'd run the blog if I were you.

It isn't complicated!

 
At 9:58 PM, Blogger Pheidippides said...

I guess we all really don't want "to change the world." Alas, EVERYTHING IS a hobby. Good luck on your mission kid.

 
At 4:06 AM, Blogger Benjamin said...

Hi Pheidippides. It can be very frustrating when people don't see things from your perspective. One can feel that one's argument is logically consistent and it can seem as if others not so much fail to understand as refuse to read one's clearly constructed points. Such frustration tends to put one's ego into a more belligerent mode of discourse.

We all want our points to be right in our thinking and our arguments and it's arguable how much of this is actually due to seeking acclaim, what we could call an ego boost.

Reality may be nothing but our construction of meanings about life. On a topic of this nature then (religion, God, existence), we often find that people may read posts and ideas, the essence of which they are unwilling to take on board or give proper consideration to, because doing so might seriously destabilise their own set of meanings about the world.

This is an important epistemological point. I don't think anybody reads what I write and thinks, 'Oh, good point, he's right, but I'm a Christian so I can't own to that,' for example. Instead, something I write will not fit into their construction of meanings (and vice versa with things they write not fitting into my construction of meanings).

Actually, I think the difference in existential outlook between people here is very minimal. From fundamentalist believers to sceptical atheists, we are only arguing over a definition of reality that validates the actions of our ego (in your analysis) and one that maintains our comfortable construction of meanings (in mine).

My point being that we are only ever discussing our definitions of reality, and the fact that we can come to this blog and converse in English and most likely live in very similar cultures shows that our definitions of reality (God or no God) do not differ all that much.

I couldn't have this conversation with a snail, a tree, or in Spanish. Sorry, a bit lengthy! Be well x

 
At 7:41 AM, Blogger Darius said...

BENJAMIN: You’re very kind. Thank you for attempting to “moderate” here.

PHEI: You’re again implying that you have a superior point of view without specifying it. I’m again suggesting that if you have something of your own to say, it would be much more constructive for you to start a blog or maybe write a book.

Meanwhile, the blogging norm is that when commenting to someone else’s blog, you direct your comments to the actual contents of that blogger’s posts. Please take that approach in any future comments.

 

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