Here is an excerpt from my latest essay exploring the incompatibility between conservative Christianity and the New Testament's central Christian values and ideals.
"...my current thinking about this has distilled the primary dichotomy down to underlying contrasting views about freedom and equality.
This may be just one more oversimplification, but here are the basic propositions:
1. Progressives view freedom and equality as collective agreements, supported by evolving cultural norms and the rule of law, that facilitate the most comprehensive collective benefit possible for everyone in society. In other words, progressives view equality between all citizens, and the maximization of freedom for each individual, as a consequence of mutually agreed societal expectations. And why are those agreements important? Because they can achieve egalitarian outcomes across all of society. Importantly, the equality and freedom of all people are predetermined assumptions about both ideal individual rights and the ideal conditions in which they ought to live. Therefore, progressivism tends to view itself as inherently aspirational, aiming for “life as it could be,” in perpetual opposition to a flawed status quo.
2. Conservatives view freedom as a natural right of every person that facilitates their ability to pursue beneficial outcomes according to their skills, aptitudes, and capacity to compete with others. Equality is likewise viewed more through a lens of merit – it is less a predetermined assumption about all people being equal, and more a possibility of achieving equal standing in society that can be earned through demonstrated effort. And what is the presupposed outcome? That some people will be winners, with a greater experience of equality and freedom, and some people will be losers, with less of that experience –but the conservative accepts this as the natural and somewhat fixed order of things. Therefore, conservativism tends to view itself as inherently pragmatic, embracing the status quo of “how things are” – a static view of cultural norms that benefit those who achieve privilege and position – and defending ways those norms can predictably continue.
Much time and effort could be spent appreciating the subtleties of this topic – details like equality of outcome verses equality of opportunity, facilitation of agency verse extinguishment of agency, positive verses negative liberty, and so on – but it seems to me that this boils down to different approaches to ending poverty, deprivation and oppression in their many forms.
The conservative views the world as rich with opportunities, with the only major barriers to actualized freedom and equality – and the consequent attenuation of poverty, deprivation, and oppression – being interference or competition from other individuals, and interference or competition from civic institutions. The progressive, on the other hand, views the world as encumbered with many structural and pervasive cultural barriers (racism, sexism, classicism, ageism, tribalism, etc.) that need to be removed through collective agreements –most often embodied in civic institutions and the rule of law – in order for freedom and equality to be actualized, and for poverty, deprivation, and oppression to be vanquished. At its core, therefore, this remains a diametric opposition.
But which approach does the New Testament endorse? What does Jesus promote? For me this is where things get really interesting. Because the New Testament consistently presents very much the same contrast we see embodied in progressivism and conservativism. With regard to “the world as it is,” there are frequent reminders in scripture that the world cannot be changed, that its machinations, power structures, oppressions, arrogance, striving, and injustices must be accepted and its burdens dutifully borne. At the same time, the kingdom of God
is promoted as “the world as it should be,” full of compassion, forgiveness, kindness, humility, generosity, and mutual aid. Christians are encouraged again and again not to conform to the world’s values, priorities, and divisive norms, but instead to evidence the fruit of the spirit of Christ (Gal 5:22
) by reforming personal priorities and values – and the collective priorities and values within the Church – to reflect a new way of being. In fact, such reformation is itself proof of the kingdom of God’s establishment in the world. And what characterizes that new way of being? The virtues of righteousness, peace, trust,
that we explored in the earlier table, and which are embodied in progressive praxis.
This contrast between the way of the world and the way of the spirit is really the central drama of all New Testament scripture.
As Jesus personifies the way of the spirit in all of his interactions and pronouncements, he is confronted with antagonism from the status quo – from those who wish to preserve the way of the world and their own places of power and privilege within it. Jesus and his Apostles become ambassadors of a more egalitarian ideal, an aspirational vision of “life as it could be” in the kingdom of God, and thereby encounter tremendous resistance and resentment from those who currently benefit from the status quo, and therefore feel threatened by anything that challenges its power structures. This is why the Pharisees and Sadducees were enraged by Jesus’ pronouncements, why the Romans were concerned by Jesus’ rise in popularity, and what ultimately resulted in Jesus being condemned to death by crucifixion. Jesus was the radical progressive visionary of his time, while the pragmatic and entrenched conservatives were, in fact, the ones responsible for his death."
You can read the full essay via this link.
It is unclear what the question means by “remain forever outside the Kingdom of God.” Certainly grace extends into both past and future, and nothing is beyond its reach.
In terms of how we live, however, I would offer the following contrast from the Apostle Paul:
1. What it means to live “inside” the Kingdom of God:
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” — Romans 12:1–2
2. What is means to live “outside” the Kingdom of God:
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience — among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath….” — Ephesians 2:1–3
But even this, too, has little to do with time: it is more a state of mind, a state of heart, a state of being. We cannot excise our past from who we are any more than we can deny the shortcomings or missteps we demonstrate in each emerging moment. Which is why grace is such a powerful force in the lives of those who accept it. At the same time, there is little benefit in receiving that grace if we can’t respond with gratitude, loving kindness, discipline, and devotion: “…faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.” — James 2:17
So Christians are exhorted to demonstrate a transformation — not by denying the past, or suppressing it, or imagining that it is “outside” of the Kingdom of God, but by having compassion for that unenlightened soul that is still part of us, and choosing a path of hope and love that blesses and serves others, radiating God’s grace out into the world. This is how the Kingdom of God is “in our midst;” how it is created from moment to moment.
“…therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” — 1 Peter 4:7–11
I hope this was helpful.
Luther’s ideal had a noble aim: to remove institutional authority and any elite classes from scriptural interpretation, and place interpretation in the hands of lay folk.
Luther’s view of course coincided with the invention and widespread availability of the printing press, and with the consequent rise of literacy and availability of the Bible across Europe. Before this time, only a small percentage of Church members (probably less than 30%) would have been literate, and very few literate or non-literate churchgoers actually had familiarity with Biblical texts. By the end of the 1500s, both of these conditions saw a pronounced shift. So again…it was a noble ideal, especially in the context of the abuses of the Catholic Church and its hierarchy in preceding years. Consider how revolutionary the idea was that any and all individuals could learn about personal salvation and spiritual life without prostrating themselves to some hierarchical authority, or paying lots of money for it?!
This was, essentially, the beginning of the democratization of Christian orthodoxy — the elevating of individual ability to formulate and navigate Christian principles on their own.
Of course, any good idea can be taken too far. Some evangelical denominations assert that the Bible basically interprets itself, and does not require any education, or understanding of historical Christian traditions — or any other sort of preparation or education — to understand. Again, this is very empowering for each individual Christian to be able to navigate their own faith — and this certainly seems like a positive thing. But it also introduces an inherent weakness that we see echoed across many different areas of expertise in modern times: that any armchair opinion is equivalent to a well-researched, well-educated, well-informed opinion from an expert in that field.
Sometimes, this can be liberating. But quite often, cultural pressures and pervasive groupthink begin to poison the well via things like the Illusory truth effect.
Just because “everyone in the Church” is repeating something over and over again does not make it true…and yet this is how much of scripture ends up getting interpreted in modern times among evangelical denominations.
We can then add these additional interferences to the mix, which further dilute the ability of a sola scriptura
approach to bear consistent or reliable fruit:
1. Distortions due to biased translation of the Greek and Hebrew.
Unless a reader educates themselves on the original Hebrew and Konai Greek in which the biblical texts were written, how can they know they aren’t being sold a particular doctrinal view because of a particular translator’s decisions…?
2. Distortions due the original selection and canonization of particular texts.
Most of the New Testament as we know it today wasn’t formally canonized until 363 at the Council of Laodicea — that’s about 300 years after most of the texts were written. But as many who have researched the early Church know, many additional texts were also circulated among the earliest Churches, texts which are today considered “extra-biblical” or apocryphal. So why aren’t those texts part of the “infallible single authority” under the sola scriptura
doctrine? That decision preceded sola scriptura
…and therefore disrupts its purity as a standard.
3. Distortions due to legalistic, literalistic methods of interpretation.
This is a subtler issue to discuss, as it is grounded in the concept of hermeneutics — that is, the principles that guide how we go about interpreting a given text. Unless those principles are clearly thought through, we can inadvertently misunderstand scripture by forcing a particular filter or bias of interpretation onto it. And, unfortunately, that happens a lot in denominations that push sola scriptura
into the realm of nuda scriptura
(i.e. “scripture left naked” of all traditional contexts).
Sola scriptura also had a rather devastating effect on something else over time — something which was a far more liberating and “democratizing” idea in early Christendom.
And that was the promise that holy spirit
would continue to provide Christians with guidance and wisdom in their spiritual lives. In this sense, most scripture is the “milk” of the Word — the easily digestible spiritual food for young babes in Christ, teaching the most basic concepts. And, of course, what is easier to do, learn to listen to the subtle inner promptings of spiritual insight — or accept the presence and power of “spiritual gifts” like prophecy — and then develop mature discernment over time, or to accept rigid legalistic interpretations of a written document that “keeps things simple?” Tellingly, both Jesus and the Apostle Paul exhorted early believers to develop more mature spiritual insight through agape, holy spirit, and disciplined practice — instead of relying on legalistic habits like those of the Pharisees and Sadducees, or relying on simplistic “milk,” and never moving beyond it. Yes, studying scripture is part of the mix…but only part. Developing deep discernment, and reliance on the guidance and gifts of holy spirit, takes discipline, focus, hard work, and time.
And yet this is the truly liberating and enduring power that Jesus offered as part of a revolutionary shift: everyone and anyone could enter the holiest of holies; everyone and anyone could participate in the Kingdom of God; everyone and anyone could receive the holy spirit as helper and guide. But too many members of the Church — both centuries ago and today — are simply not interested in exercising this incredible privilege and gift. So they rely exclusively on scriptural authority instead.
Just my 2 cents.
P.S. I thought this article from a self-described evangelical was a thoughtful take on sola scriptura vs. nuda scriptura: Sola Scriptura … Not Nuda Scriptura!
In most traditions that “fine line” is to simply be guided by love instead of dogma or rigid doctrine on the one hand, or cultural traditions on the other. Dogma is a kind of black-and-white reasoning that sees all situations through the lens of lockstep conformance. What is considered “common sense” can often be a cultural reflex that isn’t carefully thought through. Love, which in most religions was the original basis or inspiration of all primary religious tenets, is able to see through the eyes of compassion, acceptance, encouragement and support — it doesn’t rely on dogma. And when we can practice skillful compassion, which discerns the most constructive way to respond in each unique situation, we demonstrate wisdom. Ultimately, both “common sense” (cultural) and “religious” (dogmatic) responses to a given challenge become much more effective when framed with wisdom and compassion. In my experience, both common sense and religious doctrine are softened and refined by skillful compassion.
My 2 cents.
To discuss this topic fully would be to recap centuries of hermeneutics (i.e. how the Bible can be interpreted). There is plentiful scripture that addresses this question specifically, so perhaps that is a good place to start — though this, too, would require many hours of discussion and copious references. So, for the sake of brevity and as a general overview, I’ll offer you these few guiding principles for consideration:
1. Scripture is often multivalent
— it can sometimes be literal, sometimes figurative, sometimes poetic, sometimes prescriptive, sometimes exhorting, sometimes evocative, and so on. So quite often it is the level of understanding the reader has — and their level of spiritual or moral development — that will determine what a given passage “means” for them. This is not to say interpretation is subjective — not at all. It is just that scripture will actually have a different meaning based on the stage of a given person’s spiritual journey. This applies to both Old and New testaments scripture.
2. According to Christ and many New Testament teachings, there are additional components of Christian understanding where scripture are concerned — including active interventions by holy spirit.
In other words, holy spirit assists believers in understanding the deeper meanings of scripture, beyond its surface reading.
3. Having a consistent hermeneutic
is very helpful for understanding scripture over time. In the first chapter of my book, A Progressive’s Guide to the New Testament
, I cover what I believe to be a reliable but simplified hermeneutic. This combines and balances four methods of interpretation:
(author’s intent, context, language, cumulative NT references, and early Christian acceptance and application)
(inner inquiry and invocation)
(discernment through practice, and discipleship); and
(dialogue, communal insight, and communal experience)
4. One component of the analytical approach has been particularly helpful for me, and that is delving into the Koine Greek
of the original texts of the New Testament — and to a lesser degree the Hebrew of the Old Testament. An interlinear, an exhaustive Greek lexicon, learning the Greek alphabet, and understanding the basics of grammar can illuminate passages that were previously very difficult to understand.
5. As mentioned initially, understanding the history of Biblical interpretation can be extremely helpful
in working through this question. It is, of course, a rather involved area of study, but for me it was worthwhile. Perhaps it will be for you too.
My 2 cents.
Yes, absolutely. Some examples:
1. Jesus was a radical feminist — not just for his time, but even by standards of the late 1950s.
2. Jesus promoted economic attitudes and practices that can best be described as anarcho-communist— and fundamentally at odds with capitalism and neoliberalism.
3. Jesus consistently respected and honored Nature — something that has been present in previous conservative values, but has been almost completely abandoned by modern day conservatives.
4. Jesus rejected the legalism and dogma of religious conservatives in his day — in fact the attitudes and rigidity of modern Christian conservatives very much resemble those of the Pharisees and Sadducees that Jesus railed against.
5. Jesus didn’t condemn “sinners” shunned by society, but forgave and embraced them — modern conservatives do pretty much the opposite, especially to any class of “sinner” they don’t understand or are culturally prejudiced against.
6. Jesus advocated caring for the poor, orphaned, widowed, etc. — conservatives consistently defund programs that have proven effective in helping these groups.
So, really, modern conservatives — and most certainly those who have embraced Donald Trump as their folk hero — are living, voting, opining and acting in complete contradiction to the teachings of Jesus Christ.
Then again…this is exactly what the New Testament predicted would happen in the apostate Church. So…modern conservatives are at least fulfilling prophecy in that regard.
My 2 cents.
LOL. No. Jesus’s teachings and the later apostolic practices and records describe what is probably most akin to anarcho-communism in modern terms. Capitalism (which also didn’t exist at that time) is anathema to everything he taught and exemplified….though modern Christians often seem to forget this.
My 2 cents.
Comment from Bill Hartmann:
"Contrary to popular opinion, Jesus did not attack commerce or wealth. These were areas of little interest to him, as his objectives were people’s souls. “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, renter unto God that which is God’s. “
In at least three of his parables, one of the roles was a wealthy man: Prodigal Son, Vineyard, and Talents. The wealthy man represented God the Father in each case. In Prodigal Son, he gives mercy to the son who did not deserve it, in response to the son’s repentance. In Vineyard, he punishes those who abuse his property, attack his people, and refuse to listen to reason. In Talents, he rewards the person who invested and gained the most profit (!!) and punished the person who refused to put the money at risk.
If Jesus was so against wealthy people, why did he use that role to represent his Father in Heaven?
Judas Iscariot is seen as the ultimate villain in the New Testament; someone who knew Jesus yet turned on him. Judas put helping the poor above saving souls and was obviously unhappy with Jesus declaring that poverty would never be cured.
My conclusion is that Liberation Theology and Social Justice were not key perspective of Jesus. Lots of support for giving to the poor and other works of charity. None that I can find to changing the government to do these things for us."
What does government have to do with this discussion? I did not mention government at all, and in fact specifically referenced anarcho-communism. Nevertheless. the Apostle Paul advocated in his letters and actions that relying on government to fulfill God’s will was a prudent and spiritually justified position. I can provide many verses on that — even though it wasn’t my main point. But on to what my main point actually was….
Regarding Jesus not attacking commerce or wealth — or asserting that these areas were of “little interest” to him — you are woefully mistaken.
The opinion you are promoting is actually the more “popular” one among the prosperity-doctrine crowd of certain evangelicals. Here are just a handful of examples of scripture that contradict your (and their) position. These barely scratch the surface of the plentiful examples available, but nevertheless soundly refute what you’ve stated…
First, from Jesus himself:
Luke 16:9 — “And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.”
Mark 10:17–22 — “And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.”
Mark 10:23 -25 — “And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”
Luke 16:19–25 — “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish.’”
Matthew 6:19–21 — “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Matthew 6:24 — “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
Matthew 21:12–13 — “And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”
Later on, there are countless other examples elsewhere in the New Testament, such as what the newly formed Church did in Acts, etc. But perhaps the most cogent summary of the pervasive sentiment is Paul’s discourse in 1 Timothy chapter 6. I recommend reading all of it, but here is a particularly noteworthy section:
1 Timothy 6:6–10 — “But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.”
I could fill many pages with such excerpts, and there is really nothing at all in the New Testament that supports your position. In all of the parables you allude to, the entire point of the parables is about bearing spiritual fruits in the Kingdom of God, in preparation for Christ’s return — they actually have NOTHING AT ALL to do with making material profits or managing money.
Just ast the parable of the sower (in Matthew 13) HAS NOTHING AT TO DO WITH FARMING
…but is also about bearing spiritual fruit. A parable is a metaphor, and is not to be taken literally. It would be understandable for someone who has not studied scripture to think of parables as “literal” examples, but that is not what they are. In fact, Jesus himself anticipated that the worldly-minded would not comprehend what he was trying to say in parables:
Matthew 13:10–13: “Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.”
Again, “more will be given” is referring to wisdom, insight, spiritual understanding, salvation, etc. Not money.
If you wish to understand the very parables you reference — and why they actually have nothing at all to do with worldly wealth or making a profit — then you need to let go of capitalist culture’s programming, study and meditate on scripture more carefully, and allow holy spirit to renew your mind. You should note, however, that many of the countervailing examples I provided are not parables, but direct teachings and demonstrated actions. IMO this is an important consideration when navigating the meaning of New Testament scripture: there is what is direct, plain and obvious (i.e. that material wealth and money are inherently problematic for followers of Jesus to have or pursue), and what is more nuanced and implied (that a Christian’s “riches” are spiritual in nature, and thinking otherwise is a corrosive distraction from our faith).
My 2 cents.
Thanks for the question. I think it is difficult to know for certain. Joseph Smith did assert that he had mystical knowledge and insight — and he performed certain practices that had the appearance of invoking special spiritual consciousness — but he also did a lot of things that made these apparent mystical practices and insights seem a bit like a con-artist or circus performer, rather than the genuine article. This speaks to motivations, of course, and it is always difficult to know for certain what someone’s motives are — especially if they lived a long time ago. But consider these well-established facts:
1. When Smith — and convicted con-artist — utilized elaborate methods of performance to “interpret” the prophecy of ancient papyri while traveling around the U.S., this resulted in his Book of Abraham, one of the foundational scriptures of the Mormon Church. But when those papyri were later examined by archeologists, it was discovered that they were merely fragments of the Egyptian Book of the Dead, the Breathing Permit of Hor, and so on. In other words, Smith was completely fabricating his interpretation out of thin air, and making it more authoritative by misuse of these archeological props.
2. Once the earliest Mormon Church was established, Smith’s successor Brigham Young used his lieutenants to enforce rigid control over the Church — not infrequently resorting to murdering anyone who challenged Young’s authority, left the Mormon Church, or were considered any sort of threat.
Just these two points alone are fairly damning, and remind us of many other cults that have made things up and then rigidly controlled the power within the cult. Scientology is another excellent and well-documented example of this.
This is not to say that modern Mormons themselves aren’t good-hearted people, don’t do good work, can’t be compassionate and charitable servants of their faith, etc. I want to be careful to differentiate Mormons from Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, the Danites, etc. in that regard. But, at the same time, it’s pretty clear that Smith wasn’t a good person, wasn’t good-hearted, and engaged in some pretty nefarious deception and oppressive evil-doing while he was alive. Smith just graduated from petty conman (divining gold deposits) to creating a conman’s religion (again, much like L Ron Hubbard did with Scientology).
So was Smith a mystic? Possibly…just not a very kind, wise or genuine one. He certainly didn’t allow his mysticism to mold his conscience, the accuracy of his insights, or the compassionate efficacy of his actions…which leads me to doubt his level of mystical proficiency. Certainly he was not a mystic who followed Christ. Then again, there has been a long tradition of spiritual hoodwinking and cult creation in the U.S., so perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that so many people were (and are) so gullible. At the same time, what is fairly shocking is just how large and influential the Mormon Church became, when it was founded on such unsavory deceptions and power-grubbing machinations.
My 2 cents.
Thanks for the question Carl.
I would separate “religion” into two distinct categories or aspects, both of which can be found in almost all religions:
1) The esoteric, the mystical, the spiritual, the enigmatic, the intuitive, the acquiescent
2) The exoteric, the institutional, the dogmatic, the hierarchical, the rationalizing, the dominating
If there is a “spiritual” dimension of existence (even if it is exclusively part of our interiority), then aspect #1 is really just the sensitivity to, interest in, and exploration of that dimension. I would call this kind of religion an “openness to the infinite,” or spiritual curiosity if you will. I think most mystical traditions (Sufism, contemplative Christianity, Toaism, Kabbalah, Hindu mysticism, much of historical Buddhism, etc.) fall mainly in this category, and actually end up in conflict with traditions that emphasize the second aspect. This aspect of religion does not “live in denial,” because it is constantly questioning along deeper and deeper lines of inquiry. If you spend time with any of the great mystical traditions, it quickly becomes evident that they are attempting to penetrate truths beneath the surface of more superficial, materialistic presentations of reality.
The second aspect is all about control, power, orthodoxy, tribalism, and so on — also very common characteristics of human institutions. It is aspect #2 that tends to slip into greater and greater cognitive dissonance as it attempts to maintain its primacy over other social structures and centers of gravity in society — it perpetuates denial as a primary feature of its striving for dominance.
My 2 cents
Thanks for the question Pete. A number of verses come to mind, but to appreciate why they express nonduality may require some contemplation. First, I would recommend comparing parallel verses of what Jesus says about “the kingdom of heaven” and “the kingdom of God” across the gospels (i.e. Matthew 5:3/Luke 6:20; Matthew 19:14/Mark 10:13–14; etc.). and then just carefully examine what all Jesus says regarding that kingdom. That will be an eye-opener for some folks, and certainly speaks to nondual themes.
I would then turn to the Gospel of John, beginning with this:
“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”
And then some of the rest…
“I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
“My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. If anyone's will is to do God's will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood.”
The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”
Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken— do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”
“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
These are some of the easier verses. There are others that require a bit more time and openness to grok and fully receive within a nondual context. For example, John 11:9 “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world.” Or John 13:20 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.” IMO, both of these verses have not been adequately interpreted by most scholars, because they speak to a deeper, more unitive truth than is apparent on the surface (and even seems confusing).
My 2 cents.
Basically Aquinas argues from the position that — logically, intuitively, observationally, analogically — there can't be an infinite regress of causes, and he does this along several lines of reasoning. In essence, in order for God to be God, that prime mover can’t have a preceding cause. It would negate the primacy (and thus the divinity) of that mover. To appreciate both the context and the details of his arguments, it would be helpful to read the entirely of his discussion on the existence of God at the beginning of Summa Theologiae
. You can read that online here: The existence of God (Prima Pars, Q. 2)
The stumbling block here is that different realms of conception are being mixed together — like oil and water. In mathematics, integers range from negative infinity…through zero…to infinity. In philosophy and spirituality, nothingness or void can be included in definitions of an Absolute that encompasses all existence. However, there is also the concept of non-existence which is outside of existence, and by definition outside of conceptions of the Absolute as well. Other terms — such as “emptiness” or “unmanifest” — can refer to the potential for existence that is noncontingent, and thus imply a certain something that is neither nothingness nor non-existence. In physics, informal reference to “nothingness” is actually the majority of what exists as empty space — what is between all matter — but which is quite busy at the quantum level. And all of these are semantic distinctions which do not equate each other. Infinity is not equal to the Absolute, and nothingness and void are not equal to non-existence, nor is “empty space” the same as “unmanifest,” and so on. The error of the OP’s proposition is in ignoring these semantic differences.
My 2 cents.
Thank you for the question Roberto.
So getting to the heart of any answer to the question posed (“How did Spinoza [reconcile] his faith in Christ with his philosophy of God?” ) IMO will require reading through at least a few portions of his Tractatus Theologico-Politicus. This work is much more accessible than his Ethics, and clearly spells out his views on both the nature and role of faith, the place that Jesus Christ holds with respect to knowledge of God, and indeed the “flexibility” of what remains — namely the specifics of revealed knowledge. This last part, which speaks to Spinoza’s philosophy of God, is the most critical to appreciate IMO — with respect to Spinoza’s thought, and to answering the OP’s question. Spinoza’s overarching message in Theologico-Politicus is that the details of any individual philosophy about the nature of the Divine are completely and overwhelmingly overrun by what scripture instructs us to do: namely, to be obedient to God in our love for others, regardless of our personal justification for doing so. This is Spinoza’s chief contribution to discussions of spiritual relationship with the Divine, and IMO deserves our full attention. His point is really just a variation on what Christ taught: that all the rules and justifications and dogma of religious orthodoxy are just chaff to be burned up in the fires of agape. To be kind and charitable and fiercely outspoken — often in self-sacrificial ways — for the good of others is the expression of God’s essence that embodies genuine obedience — that is, as opposed to following a rigid set of rules. At the same time, how a believer chooses to understand, evaluate and execute this mandate is really entirely up to them — according to the culture within which they live, their native intelligence and abilities, and (and here I am extending Spinoza’s logic rather than summarizing his POV) their level of spiritual and psychosocial development. That is how Spinoza explains the different individual expressions of faith and different collective religious dogmas, and why he dismisses their importance in anything but a facilitative sense. Again, though, all he is really doing here is reiterating and extending Christ’s central message.
In conclusion, then, there is nothing to reconcile: Spinoza’s view of Christ as the preeminent communicator of God’s essence — that is, the perfect expression of the Mind of God in word and deed — does not at all contradict, undermine or interfere with Spinoza’s view of God. They are, in fact, in complete harmony with each other — both regarding Spinoza’s view of God’s expression of essence or nature in Christ, and in the variability of philosophical viewpoints that serve that expression. Human philosophy is, for Spinoza, only superficially divergent from revealed knowledge — because both are bounded my human imagination and interpretation, and both are a superficial layering over the core tenets of salvation: to reify compassionate affection and joy in relationship with others as evidence of God/Christ/holy spirit-in-us. And so, when Spinoza elaborates in Ethics on God as “a substance consisting of infinite attributes,” and that human thought and intuition are an extension of the Mind of God as modes of one such attribute (thought), he is really just elaborating on all things in existence being a continuum of Divine essence. In this sense, all the previous discussion here (about Christ, revelation, faith, salvation, etc.) can be framed within the context of the myriad extensions and attributes (or expressions of essence, if you will) of the Divine interacting with each other according to their Divine nature. Human consciousness then becomes a veneer layered on top of this dynamic interplay, a partial component seeking to understand the whole. And, once that whole is understood according to the capacities available to us — once the veneer is removed to expose the essential unity of a Creation that is the cause of itself — this produces boundless joy for us. And the logos of Christ? It is a powerful nudge in that very direction.
So there is no contradiction or even tension the nature of Christ and the philosophy of God for Spinoza, there is only imperfect understanding that gradually gives way to an inherent harmony. Again, though, I would spend some quality time with Tractatus Theologico-Politicus to further appreciate Spinoza’s perspectives around theology in this regard.
My 2 cents.
Probably not. More likely the “indulging in sexual immorality and pursuing unnatural desire” alluded to in Jude is referring to wantonly destructive unbridled lust — regardless of how those impulses manifest. Remember that in the case of Sodom being referred to, “all the men from every part of the city of Sodom — both young and old — surrounded the house,” then demanded to have sex with Lot’s house guests (who in this story were angels), threatening to break Lot’s door down to sate their apparently uncontrollable desire. Just think about that for a moment. The ENTIRE town seems to have intended to forcibly RAPE Lot’s house guests! Clearly what was at issue here was not homosexuality, but something else entirely — some degrading act of abandoning all compassionate sense and moral conscience to pursue hateful and injurious appetites. It would really be no different, IMO, if the townspeople had demanded to roast Lot’s guests alive over hot coals and eat them; at its core, their intent was willful, selfish, mindless, callous self-gratification in the form of a violent mob. Similar moments have repeated themselves throughout recorded history all around the globe — it is part of who we all are, when we lose the light of compassion and kindness within, and instead turn ourselves over to our basest, most animalistic impulses.
My 2 cents.
Thanks for the question Dida. Here’s the current state of my thinking on this….
1) From the perspective of ignorance — the result of a lack of personal experience, or an absence of careful introspection, or an incomplete education in the history of sociology, philosophy, art, science, religion, etc. — all positions, assertions, insights and so forth may appear
to be relative. In reality, they are not, and appearances can be deceiving…much like the shadows on the wall in Plato’s cave.
2) After a requisite amount of experience, introspection, education and integration, it becomes apparent that there are indeed many different positions along a given continuum of ever-increasing efficacy and certainty. At one end of that continuum are unskillful, uninformed, impulsive and conditioned/reflexive responses and actions that lack efficacy and certainty…despite feeling “relatively” true to the person acting them out — we might call this the “conditional” end of that continuum. At the other end of the continuum is highly refined, skillful, informed, carefully considered responses and actions that have a much higher level of predictive efficacy…even though the person acting them out may still have doubts; this is the more “absolute” end of the continuum. And all along that continuum are incremental shifts that lean in one directly or the other. I think research into the Dunning–Kruger effect
sheds some light on this process across many different areas.
3) From a subjective point of view — or even across an entire homogenous culture — it can be difficult to appreciate why a given aesthetic, or value, or ethical standard, or cultural expectation seems so contradictory to those of someone else, or those of another culture. But again, this seeming
begins to erode via emotional, intellectual, relational and indeed spiritual development that incorporates intersubjective and intercultural perspectives and experiences. The more absolute
truths emerge not from an homogenous, sheltered and self-absorbed or protective existence, but from an open, engaging, porous synthesis through intimate interactions with others, empathic immersion in their experiences, and a fair amount of courage.
4) Thus mature wisdom tends to become more and more integral and integralizing — more able to suspend certainty in favor of holding all apparent contradictions lightly and compassionately until their fundamental ground (in shared, essential characteristics) becomes clear. Ultimately, this unitive process results in an enduring perception of the common underpinnings of seemingly
divergent perspectives. But it is quite difficult to return to the cave and explain this illumination — and it takes time to free oneself from old emotional habits and modes of thinking that persist from earlier stages of development.
My 2 cents.
Thanks for the question. In my opinion, it is not the primary aim of religions to teach moral values. Often, religious institutions will, over time, elevate moral correctness or dogma to an excessive level — seemingly just so that adherents can be more easily controlled, or to create a standard of conformance that qualifies as the appearance of being religious. But when we read the scriptures of the world’s spiritual traditions, it rapidly becomes clear that there is much, much more being discussed there than “100 things we must do,” and “100 things we must not do” in order to be a moral person. Instead, the focus is often on a much more subtle development of character, or a specific quality of faith, or a transformative change in attitude, or ways to develop discernment and wisdom, or a clearly defined avenue to “all spiritual truths” — moral and otherwise. So morality, as such, really becomes a secondary property of spirituality; advanced moral values are a natural outgrowth of spiritual maturity — evidence of our progress, if you will — rather than a central aim.
My 2 cents.
First, let’s set the record straight. When Brady Stephenson writes in his answer that “Christians believe ‘all Scripture is inspired by G-d’ (2 Timothy 3:16) and recognize the Book of Enoch is not Scripture” he is profoundly mistaken
. For the first five centuries of the Christian Church, The Book of Enoch
was widely circulated, commented upon and venerated throughout the Christian community. Indeed it seems to have endured even through the expunging of “the Gnostic heresy” that attempted to establish a more rigidly dogmatic orthodoxy. And of course the Epistle of Jude
— which is canonized New Testament scripture — quotes the first chapter of Enoch
directly. Despite what some modern detractors might opine, this fact alone should assure even the most fundamentalist view of scriptural hermeneutics that Enoch
is worthy of examination…and indeed meets an essential criterion of being “divinely inspired” (at least the part that is quoted does!). Now if a Christian does not trust that the holy spirit indwelling them is sufficient to help them decide what writings provide spiritual edification — that is, what solid food of spiritual gnosis
is suitable for their level of spiritual maturity — then they will forever be stuck in the milk of the word (Hebrews 5) and not grow up in Christ.
And it is precisely this type of infantilization that maintains the worldly power structures within the apostate Church in modern times, and helps disrupt the full flowering of the kingdom of God.
As for Enoch, why not read it? It is readily available now, just as it was in the time of Christ. Jesus would certainly have been familiar with some earlier forms of the Book of Enoch
, as would any of his more educated disciples. I would expect the Apostle Paul knew it quite well. So to answer the OP’s question “How much light does the Book of Enoch throw on the origin and foundation of Christianity?” it almost certainly
offers a substantive glimmer in this direction and is worthy of careful examination.
My 2 cents.
Comment from Brady Stephenson: "I’d be interested to see documentation of five centuries of widespread veneration of the book of Enoch."
Sure, that’s pretty easy; some places where Enoch is referenced as scripture in instructive ways:
1) Jude references
2) Other NT refs that have a very similar content to the Book of Enoch: 1 Corinthians 11:10; 1 Peter 3:18–22; 2 Peter 2:4; and Revelation 4:1; 2:8. You can also see some of the more abstracted correlations here: On the Book of Enoch
2) Tertullian refers to it as scripture repeatedly (even calling it “the Scripture of Enoch”), and defends it wholeheartedly for edification (quoting the same 2 Tim reference you do Brady!) — see Tertullian’s “On the apparrel of Women” ch.3
3) In Origen’s “De Principiis” (Book IV) he favorably compares the authority of the Book of Enoch to Psalms.
4) The Epistle of Pseudo-Barnabas quotes the Book of Enoch in numerous places (again as scripture)
5) Athenagoras’ Legatio relies on the Book of Enoch (repeatedly quoted) to support his angelology.
6) The above are not isolated occurrences…the veneration of the Book of Enoch was very widespread and well-documented, with references in Justin Martyr, Minucius Felix, Cyprean, Hippolytus, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Commodianus, Lactatius, Cassian, St. Augustine and many others.
7) And of course the Ethiopian and Eritrean Orthodox Churches continued to treat Enoch as canonical up into modern times.
Of course, after the Council of Laodicea, Enoch’s popularity declined. But even as late as Nicephorus I of Constantinople Enoch is listed as an apocryphon, which would have been carefully studied by those committed to a deeper understanding of the Christian faith at that time.
I hope this was helpful.
1. As a meditative koan: If air is everywhere, what’s so special about your personal ability to breathe it?
2. As a psychological reality: A person in a crowd of people can still feel alone — unless they have a meaningful relationship with one or more those people.
3. Conscious awareness of a thing is not the same as the “reality” of a thing. For example, a person dozing in a hammock in a tree full of venomous snakes may not feel afraid or threatened in any way…if they aren’t aware of the snakes. The moment they become aware of the snakes in the tree will generally be the moment the personal relevance of those snakes hits home for them. So in this sense, personal awareness evokes personal relevance, regardless of the underlying conditions of a given situation.
4. “Being in the presence of God” has a specific meaning in most mystical theistic traditions. In Sufi Islam, contemplative or neoplatonist Christianity, and Jewish mysticism the experiences of intimate union with the Divine have a profound, transformative effect on self-identity and consciousness. Likewise personal awakening to the Brahman/atman in Hinduism is a transformative insight even though the condition preexisted the realization. So in these traditions the abstract concept of existing within a creation permeated by the Divine does not hold even the tiniest candle to the personal experience of “tasting God.”
5. Among many religious practices it is not uncommon for certain rituals, venerated places or ancient relics to evoke a “nearness” to the Divine in ways that a practitioner may believe are otherwise inaccessible to them. In certain traditions that emphasize a distancing of believers from their gods, and a reliance on certain processes sanctioned by that religious institution, the Divine remains hidden behind a veil controlled by the spiritual elite within that institution. This seems to play an important role in elevating clergy and adepts to positions of power or authority.
6. Physicists and other scientists routinely report that witnessing the results of experiments that validate their theories about the forces and subatomic components of the Universe is an awe-inspiring experience. But why? If they know that the existence of a Higgs boson is necessary to fulfill the standard model, why does actually detecting evidence of the particle create such excitement and wonder? Because it validates a deeper understanding of truth…a more complete grasp of what is. In the same way, a person whose belief is subjectively validated by a personal encounter with Divine Presence will feel a similar sense of awe and wonder.
These are just a few of potential examples of why theoretical omnipresence and a personal experience of Divine Presence are not the same thing.
My 2 cents.
There are a number of ways to approach this — and some will be better suited to who you are (your personality and experiences) than others. For example, you could:
1. Explore the source of your assumptions, and then challenging those assumptions, using the downward arrow technique
or other cognitive approach. This can be done with the help of a therapist, or using a CBT workbook, etc.
2. Introspective meditation on the nature of the Divine, the nature of your relationship with the Divine, the nature of your own spiritual Self, etc.
3. Reading love-centric literature about the Divine, such as the poems of Hafiz, or the Gospel of John, etc. There is a fellow named Daniel Ladinsky who has compiled some of the best of these from different traditions in Love Poems from God
4. Begin a gratitude practice that focuses on all the good in your life, in yourself and in the world. There is a sample outline of this practice in my book Essential Mysticism
, which you can peruse online for free here: Integral Lifework —Essential Mysticism
5. All of the above.
I hope this was helpful.
Well, first off hate is generally either counterproductive or destructive — it very rarely helps alter an undesirable situation. In fact I would say that hate reliably makes everything worse for everyone involved. Also, hate most often issues from fear, ignorance and deep personal wounding…rather than, say, a place of clear-headed righteous indignation or concern for the well-being of others. When we watch children lash out at someone and scream “I hate you!” we instinctively know, as adults, that they are just hurting and irrational little toddlers. Hate therefore requires us to examine our own situation — our own hearts, reflexive prejudices, uninformed reactions, etc. — to see what needs healing. It doesn’t indicate anything about the object of our hate…anything at all, really, except that the object reminds us of our own immaturity, lack of compassion, and lack of skillfulness.
As for religion having some special class in terms of the judgments, prejudices or condemnations that may inspire fear and discomfort, I think the problem arises when we lump a bunch of folks into one big bucket. When we say “all white people are X,” or “all Americans are y,” or “all Muslims are z,” we are applying a generalization that is usually a) not very accurate or insightful, or b) has lots of individual exceptions. In other words, a particular “white American Muslim” won’t actually conform to any of the projected stereotypes — in fact, a LOT of them won’t. So what is the point of such generalizations? Generally, it is to create an “Us vs. Them” mentality, or an “ingroup vs. outgroup” orientation, that helps us feel better about ourselves, and perhaps a little more powerful. It assuages our insecurities and props up a weak and vulnerable sense of self. Unfortunately, this is precisely what leaders of hate groups and hate movements are counting on to gain more followers. And why do they want more followers? To empower themselves, because they are feeling the same vulnerability and insecurity.
So how can we address our own sense of fear, vulnerability, discomfort, confusion, insecurity and weak sense of self that leads us to hate a particular religion? That is a much larger conversation, but I would say it begins with educating ourselves about different cultures and peoples, traveling abroad, making friends with a different worldview and breaking bread with them in their homes, taking a long hard look at our own reflexive beliefs and attitudes, and beginning to heal some of our own emotional brokenness and loneliness. In my personal discipline, called Integral Lifework, the objective is to nourish every dimension of our being so that we won’t feel insecure, disempowered and hurting…and this process of self-care can go a long way toward healing the need to hate anyone or anything.
My 2 cents.
I don’t mean to be entirely
dismissive, but for me this question verges on absurd. Not that I haven’t encountered it before — in fact my first interactions with Christians who were striving to convert me centered around the various approaches to evidence or “proofs” concerning the person of Jesus and his miraculous acts. In the context of many Christian believers I met, it was these proofs that justified their beliefs…and so I think they assumed that the copious amounts of what they considered persuasive evidence would rock my world (though for some I suspect this was more about reinforcing their own self-justifications). But there was always something…well…that felt like a serious falling short
on this particular road to any meaningful conclusions about Jesus and the Divine. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it…and so I shrugged off this rationalistic approach, along with many of these overeager evangelists.
Then one day - at the encouragement of a friend - I decided to read the Gospel of John. And the more I read it, the more a lot of things began to fall into place for me — in terms of understanding the early Christian message, and also understanding myself and what was really important to me. This has to do with what I would call “the felt reality of truth.” To know something in one’s bones in a non-rational but nevertheless profoundly persuasive way. I didn’t know Rumi at that time, but he spoke to this experience artfully:
“Intellect is good and desirable to the extent it brings you to the King's door. Once you have reached His door, then divorce the intellect! From this time on, the intellect will be to your loss and a brigand. When you reach Him, entrust yourself to Him! You have no business with the how and the wherefore. Know that the intellect's cleverness all belongs to the vestibule. Even if it possesses the knowledge of Plato, it is still outside of the palace.”
And of course the non-rational gravity well that the Gospel of John describes is all about agape
— Divine love. Something Rumi and Hafiz also expounded upon extensively, and their writing would later me into “a felt reality of truth” in much the same way that the Gospel of John did. Some other Christian and Jewish texts have had a similar effect — Psalms, Ecclesiastes, The Shepherd of Hermes, The Gospel of Thomas - but the Gospel of John really grabbed me in a way that was meaningful…and enduring. Because it spoke to my heart in a language that my heart knew, but my mind…well…it didn’t really understand anything at all.
In any case, this message of love “rang true” in ways that invited relationship with the Divine. And so I embarked on a journey to intimately know “the enigma in the mirror;” to explore and eventually embrace a deep and abiding love affair with God. And without the Jesus described in the Gospel of John — without the words and deeds attributed to him in that book — I would not have experienced this transformation. I would certainly still be a spiritual person, indeed I would be a mystical person, and perhaps even a person who learned over time how to be more compassionate and kind to others…but I would not have become devoted to love itself.
And I don’t think I would have been as empowered in this journey (in a spiritual sense) to seek the good of All.
So for my experience of faith
(and I do not mean belief, but Faith as an Intentionally Cultivated Quality of Character
), this Quora question is a mighty distraction from what I feel is essential - from what I now discern to be important and vital in my own religious experience. And, further, I would say that I “know” (in the sense of gnosis
) the spiritual truth of love as an “absolute certainty.” How do I know? Because I was willing to practice, as best I could, the mindset, attitude and relating to others that the story of Jesus conveys — and because I was willing to invite holy spirit to assist me in these interior and exterior efforts.
In this context - the context of experiential certainty of transformative power - “personal theories” about Jesus of Nazareth are intellectual exercises, distractions that do little more than inflame egos into defending or assailing them. Perhaps, as the question poses, such theories can form the basis of a “rational discussion” that appeals to some - perhaps to a fruitful dialectic. But for me it is like trying to explain what it feels like to jump naked off of a cliff into an icy lake…using math, when it really should be poetry.
My 2 cents.
From Quora: https://www.quora.com/Given-that-we-cant-know-for-absolute-certainty-what-are-your-personal-theories-regarding-the-story-legend-truth-of-Christian-figure-of-Jesus
Because they don’t limit themselves to an extraordinarily narrow, mechanistic or reductionist slice of acceptable “proof.” Almost all discussions of “proof” regarding any given POV (for, against, agnostic, etc.) are understandably restricted to the kinds of proof that are acceptable to the belief systems of those participating. This is a classic example of confirmation bias and it’s sibling exclusionary bias across all spectra of beliefs. It’s very human, but it’s inherently polarizing. There are people who don’t “believe” that human beings ever walked on the moon, or that anthropomorphic climate change is real, or that Donald Trump is an idiot, or that cigarettes cause lung cancer, or that eating lots of beef is unhealthy, or that extraterrestrial life is possible, or that fine art is culturally important, or that wealth doesn’t provide happiness, or that empathy is a critical component of human relationships. It doesn’t matter how much evidence we offer…they just won’t accept evidence contrary to their belief investment. In fact there is ample research to suggest that countervailing “proof” just amplifies cognitive dissonance and pushback. In other words, humans are pretty consistently irrational beings - and most especially when they “believe” they are being rational. So for one person, there are qualities of proof that allow them to accept a spiritual dimension of existence, whereas another person just doesn’t trust those flavors of proof at all. And since we tend to be aggressively self-justifying regarding our beliefs, of course we also “believe” that our particular standard of proof is superior to those who disagree with us. IMO this is really the heart of substantial disconnect between theists and non-theists. Beyond that, there is also a frequent inability to accept the other person’s position at all - not even in a speculative sense - so that opposition becomes that much more entrenched. It’s silly, really, because when one person says “my experience has shown me that trusting in, and relating to, the Divine is a worthwhile, self-justifying and intrinsically valuable practice,” that is not inherently contradictory to another person saying “my experience has shown me that trusting in and relating to the Divine is a fruitless superstition with no intrinsic value at all.” These are two separate experiential truths, and both are inarguably true from the perspective of the issuer.
At this point, asserting that one position has intellectual voracity and ego superiority to the other is vainglorious masturbation…but that never stopped anyone from dismissing another’s belief as being “without proof.” Just as, in fact, this question has done.
My 2 cents.
From Quora post: https://www.quora.com/How-can-educated-intelligent-people-believe-in-a-god-without-proof-of-one/answer/T-Collins-Logan
I got a good laugh from this one, because OF COURSE I am a hypocrite - on spiritual and countless other levels in nearly all of my habits. I think it is part of being human. For example:
1. I detest conspicuous consumerism and rail against it constantly…while also consuming beyond what I really need (that is, for the pleasure of consuming).
2. I believe that compassion is the truest expression of spiritual development - and that I have cultivated manifestations of my spiritual Self - but I make choices that are not compassionate all the time.
3. I decry the irrational stupidity of conservative Americans for their self-contradictory choices and reflexive groupthink…while at the same time I will sometimes defend contradictory progressive values without carefully thinking them through.
4. I encourage my clients and students (in meditation, coaching, etc.) to let go of animalistic reflexes in favor of conscious, skillful self-nourishment…but I feed my inner primitive wolf quite often with my own reptilian frustration and impatience.
5. I am confident that the Universe advances along its given trajectory with or without the involvement of my will…but I can still be willful or try to control outcomes in a way that contradicts that belief.
At the same time, I also do TRY to overcome this rampant hypocrisy by adjusting my thoughts, behaviors and responses to align more with my professed values, and avoid situations that would entice me to undermine them more easily. And of course this is like a game of Whac-A-Mole. Ha. But really I think this should flow effortlessly out of my way of being, not in response to conscious discipline. And so for now I must just accept that I haven’t progressed as far as I sometimes wish that I have…and try not to judge myself (or anyone else) too harshly for being a raging hypocrite.
My 2 cents.
From Quora post: https://www.quora.com/Are-you-a-spiritual-hypocrite/answer/T-Collins-Logan
It is known by some Greek orthodox people as ”άκτιστο θείο φώς”/ non-material-divine-light. Most likely there's a feeling of God, and likely an out of body experience/altered state of consciousness.
Thank you for the A2A Chrysovalantis.
Encountering light, working with light, entering light, being filled with light…these kinds of experienced are referenced in the literature of nearly all mystical traditions - theist and non-theist. Sometimes the light is associated with God, sometimes with a particular Buddha, sometimes with life-force energy, sometimes with the unmanifest aspects of the Divine, sometimes with one’s own soul, sometimes with angels or spirits, sometimes with a particular region in a spiritual realm, sometimes with a particular form of consciousness or peak experience. It’s everywhere. Among the gnostic Christians there seems to have been a major interest with one’s own “light,” as well as the light of Christ, and the gospel of John is replete with references to light as a manifestation of the logos, then stating directly in 1 John 1 that “God is light.” The Apostle Paul, in Ephesians 5, pretty much spends that whole chapter discussing light, and I would encourage you to read it and meditate upon it. Also, throughout the Bible we find encounters with the Divine - and agents of the Divine - as often accompanied by a blindingly bright light. So again, it is everywhere.
Regardless of mystical tradition, entering the light, dwelling in the light, and/or allowing the light to dwell in you is more than a metaphor. It is part of an initiation and an ongoing practice. And the many forms of meditation or prayer that invite these conditions are central to mystical practice.
My 2 cents.
Which do we trust - our hearts or our minds? Where do Reason and Passion intersect?
I think the details of this question are the answer to the question. Where reason and passion intersect is what is important. Continually navigating the relationship and synergy of felt experience and rational consideration is what is important. Developing a sense of discernment that proves itself reliable in predicting the rightness or efficacy of a given choice in terms of outcomes…this is what is important. Learning how to most skillfully express compassion for another human being and for oneself…this is what is important. Cultivating wisdom about how best to stimulate love-consciousness in others, and help them make wise, discerning and effective choices for themselves…this is what is important. Learning how to consult the spirit within, and adding this to the mix of inputs to synthesize final insight and judgment…this is what is important.
The goodness of God, in these contexts, is basically irrelevant. If you have a friend that you love, and who loves you, and your experience over a lifetime of friendship with them has been positive, supportive, edifying, empowering and encouraging to your maturity and wisdom…well, would it matter if someone could “prove” to you in some logical way that your friend was more bad than good? Or that they seemed hypocritical or insincere according to that outsider’s perspective? If your experience of that friendship - and your observations of your friend - contradicted these criticisms in fundamental ways, you would know how to answer that person, wouldn’t you, from your own experience? Your convictions about your friend would likely override abstract suppositions…because you know and love your friend.
I think it is such experience of relationship within which passion and reason intersect, and instructs us on how best to trust all of our being rather than just one part - our hearts and minds…and our spiritual insights, our somatic intuitions, our social intelligence, our learned life lessons and so on. Over time, experience instructs us how to integrate all such input streams into a sense of discernment and wisdom. It is from this perspective that a person can say to me: “So all of these internal contradictions I’m observing about the Divine make me just want to run away and deny the Divine exists at all!” To which my response would be: “That’s interesting. My experience of those same contradictions has deepened my wisdom and encouraged me to look deeper within myself for answers. In fact, I would say that my ‘disagreements’ with the Divine have been some of my most instructive experiences.”
From Quora question: https://www.quora.com/Is-any-theodicy-reasonable/answer/T-Collins-Logan
Interestingly, individual beliefs really aren’t that indicative of anything but the viability of the individual belief itself. Believing that a purple rhinoceros mated with the moon to produce the Earth’s sky doesn’t mean that some other belief is, purely by association, misguided or faulty. That is a bit of a classic “composition fallacy,” and can quickly lead to converse errors. Of more import, IMO, are the values, virtues and resulting ethos that a coherent and cohesive body of beliefs consistently support and inspire. That is, for me it is more about the aims
of a hierarchy of beliefs - and whether that hierarchy constructively reinforces and enables those aims.
But first, why are coherence and cohesion important? Only in that, over time, if the belief and values hierarchies are rife with contradictions, inaccuracies, fallacies, etc. we can observe this will likely encourage an authoritative, dogmatic orthodoxy - one that seeks to remedy an otherwise ever-enlarging cognitive dissonance, and often becomes institutionalized. In other words, in response to an inherent instability in those hierarchies, its proponents can become more and more rigid, legalistic and controlling of each other, and in increasingly harmful ways. It is an understandable human reflex - though not a particularly attractive one - to avoid questioning if those questions can quickly undress core beliefs or undermine the structure and interdependence of a given set of values - especially if this then destabilizes social cohesion or personal status.
Also, the issue of emphasis is important. I’ve used the term hierarchy
to specifically call this out. There are core values and core beliefs that are often intimately related, and tend to be grounded in human relationships and interdependence. For example, if I love my father and observe that - in our family at least - his role is to protect my family and materially provide for them, then it is much easier to cultivate a core belief that he is somehow deserving of that role, and that a “father” is in fact defined by these responsibilities. In this way values and virtues like loyalty, respect, obedience, self-sacrifice and so forth can quickly fall into place as consequences
of those core assumptions and experiences. Once this is then observed and agreed upon within a community, supportive beliefs and values - and their cohesive and coherent hierarchy - can become generalized and self-perpetuating.
But what if, at some point, I ask my father where the sky came from, and he tells me about the purple rhino? If I accept the story, it is incorporated into my belief hierarchy…but far down the chain.
It’s veracity is dependent on a very large tree of branching beliefs that are rooted in my love for my father and acceptance of his role in my life. Believing in the purple rhino - misguided as it may be - in no way dilutes the importance and operational basis of all the beliefs that came before it. It would only become problematic if I then inverted
the belief and values hierarchy, and placed ritual and dogma regarding the purple rhino (or some other core belief or value not grounded in relationship) above my love for my father. This inversion is warned against in most religions. For example, that is the essence of the teaching in 1 John 4 “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” And of course warnings against dogmatic inversions is a central theme of the New Testament narrative as a whole. More importantly, if a given belief or value isn’t facilitative of a given core set, it’s going to become vestigial or be entirely discarded…eventually. We might call this “pruning the belief tree.”
Circling back to the central question, then, I would recast it in the terms I’ve just described. Are the hierarchies consistent and coherent? Do they align with subjective and observed experiences? Do they facilitate core beliefs and values that have arisen from - and are intrinsic to - human relationship? Viewed as a whole, does a given belief and values system actualize and sustain itself, synthesizing outcomes that reinforce and amplify core beliefs and core values in its final ethos? If not, then there will be “misguided” consequences.
My 2 cents.
From Quora: https://www.quora.com/What-specific-beliefs-in-a-religion-would-tend-to-indicate-that-its-other-beliefs-are-misguided/answer/T-Collins-Logan
If you are restricting yourself to the King James Bible, that mistaken
correlation could be made between Isaiah 14:12 and Revelation 22:16. Not a very interesting answer without additional elaboration, however, and although I’m not certain you are looking for that, I’ll provide it for you and anyone else who reads this.
References to the day star or morning star aren’t abundant in the Bible, and are used in strikingly different contexts. Most scholars believe these instances - which, it should be noted, may use differing words in the original language - are referring to the planet Venus as metaphor. Thus among our plethora of versions of the Bible we find this metaphor used for the King of Babylon (Isaiah 14:12), King David (Psalm 110:3), Job’s reward for repentance/rededication to God (according to Zophar in Job 11:17); an implied teleios
of Divine revelation (2 Peter 1:19); ascendent authority on Earth to those who keep their faith and do good works “until the end” (Rev 2:28), and Jesus (Rev 22:16). And among these instances, sometimes the metaphor has positive connotations (Psalm 110, 2 Peter 1, Rev 2:28 and 22:16), and sometimes more negative ones that imply a level of arrogance or self-righteousness (Isaiah 14, Job 11). And of course this kind of variation is the case for many words and phrases in the Bible - and indeed many words and phrases in all the languages on our planet - so we must look to the context of each passage to understand the specific meaning.
Now since the King James version uses “Lucifer” in Isaiah 14:12, having relied on St. Jerome’s Latin vulgate translation of the Hebrew (הֵילֵל - heylel), this has created some confusion. However, “lucifer” as a word is purely St. Jerome’s invention from many centuries before…and one which he himself did not capitalize into a proper name when he invented it. But it gained popularity over time, and by the time of the KJV compilation, Lucifer had become capitalized, personified, and associated with Satan. In reality, however, all of this is just an arbitrary development of cultural mythology…without any exegetical basis.
So, really, the answer to your question is: there is no such equivalency, only folkloric contrivance.
I hope this was helpful.
From Quora question: "In which verse of the St. John's Revelation the equivalency of Jesus with Lucifer is made?"