Reconciling Christian Roots using the Bible

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31 Jan 2022 13:12 #365882 by Loudzoo
Many, but far from all, of us grew up in heavily Christianity-influenced societies. For myriad reasons many of us then rejected the religion (often because of the church, or the clergy, or the congregations!) and sought our spiritual guidance elsewhere. Speaking personally, I have felt uneasy about this for many years and a decent chunk of my recent work has been to reconcile with that of which I am a product.

The following is a heavily expedited version of a way to reclaim deeply buried Christian roots.

“The Christian of the future will be a mystic, or he or she will not exist at all . . . by mysticism we mean a genuine experience of God emerging from the very heart of our existence” Karl Rahner (Jesuit Priest)

Furthermore, “the Bible is the world’s greatest classic of mysticism” Rabbi Barnett Joseph

The kindergarten version of Christianity (and Jediism) can be summarised in the following way:
- Be good and good things will happen to you

This may be true at times, but it isn’t reliable (see the Book of Job) and is hardly a sophisticated theology. Worse, it can all too easily be interpretated as purely transactional, and selfish. Specifically, we are encouraged to follow the example of Jesus and to be like him. However, according to mainstream Christian thought, as the ‘only’ Son of God Jesus has unique advantages, allegedly unavailable to anybody else. At this point, to quote Alan Watts, Christianity becomes an impossible religion to follow.

Many have come to understand that the issue here is not to do with the Bible, but with the biblical interpretation promoted by most Christian churches. Mahatma Gandhi summed-up the feelings of many: “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ”.

What does the Bible actually say on these matters?

Ephesians 4:6 “There is one God and Father of all who is above all, and through all, and in all”

John 10:34 “Jesus answered them, ‘Is it not written in your law – I said you are Gods”

Psalm 82:6 “I said ‘You are Gods, sons of the most high, all of you’”

Galatians 4:7 “So through God, you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then an heir”

1 Romans 8:16 “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children”

Ephesians 4:13 “And so we shall come together to that oneness in our faith, and in our knowledge of the Son of God; we shall become mature people, reaching to the very height of Christ’s full stature”

1 Corinthians 2:16 “We have the mind of Christ”

2 Peter 1:4 “Through precious gifts we can share in the divine nature”

The New Testament is littered with deeply mystical sayings such as these. The message seems perfectly clear – it is your birth right to be One with God (Brahman, The Universe, The Force, the undifferentiated spiritual continuum, etc, etc). It is possible to be Christ-like, to experience Christ (cosmic) consciousness.

However, this is not how we typically think, feel or act. What is the root to a genuine experience of God, kinship with God, true communion and reconciliation? The Bible has further guidance:

1 John 4:16 “God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him”

Luke 6:27 “Love your enemies”

Matthew 5:44 “Bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you”

John 15:12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you”

Now, Commandments to Love are all very well, but genuine, instinctive love for all seems more like the effect, or the product, of communion with God, not the way to communion with God. If cause and effect have been conflated, what is the way?

On this question, the Bible becomes (even more) cryptic:

Matthew 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”

Phillipians 2:6-7 Jesus “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God as a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men”

Are we not all born in the likeness of humans? Here Jesus seems to be referring to what we might call the ‘ego’. A large ego leaves no room for the Holy Spirit – indeed even the recognition of the ego as real can get us all tied-up in knots about with the egoic thinking behind small ego! Meditation, also known as contemplative prayer, is the way to the Kingdom of Heaven (bliss, nirvana, moksha) and out of this trap. Theologians refer to this process as kenosis – self-emptying. The Bible’s favoured metaphor here is the ‘door’:

Matthew 6:6 “When thou prayest, enter into thy closet”

Luke 11:9 “Knock, and it shall be opened unto you”

Revelation 3:8 “Behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it”

Revelation 3:20 “If any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come into him”

To walk through the door, or to allow the Holy Spirit in through your door (depending on your favourite use of the metaphor), is enter into Heaven, into communion with God.

Luke 17:20-21 “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you”

Galatians 2:20 “so that it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me”

When the mind is peaceful, quiet, empty, and the invitation is sent, we can be filled with the Holy Spirit. The experience of this is Heaven within, and without.

2 Corinthians 6:16 “Ye are the temple of the Living God”

“The descent (katabasis) of the divine person of Christ makes human persons capable of an ascent (anabasis) in the Holy Spirit. It was necessary that the voluntary humiliation, the redemptive self-emptying (kenosis) of the Son of God should take place, so that fallen men might accomplish their vocation of theosis [becoming God]” Vladamir Lossky

To quote the Mandalorians “This is the way”.

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31 Jan 2022 18:14 - 31 Jan 2022 18:17 #365885 by Lykeios Little Raven
WOW. This is so relevant to my recent reconciliation with Abrahamic traditions after many years of personal hatred and distaste due to my experiences with “the Church.”

Thanks for sharing, Loudzoo. I no longer feel that way, but I don’t think I have much to add to this kind of a discussion. Seems like you covered it all, pretty much. I didn’t know that Jesus actually referred to us as Gods ;)

All I can say is this: I am a child of the Gods, and when I die I will ascend. And when I do? Guess what, I will come back to guide those willing to listen. Because that is something I really want to do when my time comes. As a Shaman, I view all Spirits, both “High and exalted” and “low and forgotten” as potential Spirit Guides. I pray to Angels and Saints just as Catholics do, but I am not Catholic. I sacrifice for others, just as Iesou Christo did, I just have been fortunate enough not to be killed for it yet. Lol. And I am not “Abrahamic” in my beliefs, because All of these religious/spiritual/mystic roots predate any and all conceptions of monotheism.

“Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man.” -Zhuangzi

“Though, as the crusade presses on, I find myself altogether incapable of staying here in saftey while others shed their blood for such a noble and just cause. For surely must the Almighty be with us even in the sundering of our nation. Our fight is for freedom, for liberty, and for all the principles upon which that aforementioned nation was built.” - Patrick “Madman of Galway” O'Dell
Last edit: 31 Jan 2022 18:17 by Lykeios Little Raven.
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31 Jan 2022 22:56 #365907 by Loudzoo
Thanks Lykeios - much appreciated! Partly why I wanted to share this is precisely because we don’t tend to hear these passages from the pulpit, or in typical theology classes.

I think the most interesting part to consider is what the ‘ascension after death’ might mean. Are we to take it literally as communion after physical death? Or is genuine communion possible whilst we are physically alive - but have metaphorically died to ‘self’ (small ‘s’). The clues in these passages, and what is stated overtly in other religious traditions, suggest the latter is possible.

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03 Feb 2022 17:55 #365986 by Skryym
Thanks for sharing this Loudzoo - I've wanted to respond for a while (as you know, this is something I've been gnawing at (or perhaps it has been gnawing at me) for years).

To your list of mystical verses found in the old and new testaments, I would like to add a final verse: Romas 11:36 For from him and through him and to him come all things.

ALL is a powerful word. We are quick to attribute job promotions, good friendships, and full stomachs to the grace of God, but we seldom attribute wage slavery, famine, and death to God. Eastern rites of perennialism (Taoism, Hinduism) are more grey and tolerant of what we are quick to perceive as evil - whereas the Bible is staunchly dichotomous between good and evil (this added to the fact that the Abrahamic God drew the line between good and evil, then crossed it as His whim). How do we balance the ALL of Romans and Ephesians with the strictly moral teachings of Jesus? Many words for "love" are used in Greek, Aramaic, and Hebrew portions of the Bible. Among these, "AGAPE" appears more than 200 times, is most widely attributed to Jesus, and is directly translated to "charity"1. In the Perennial Philosophy (1947), Aldous Huxley says it is charitable love which is the primary means of knowing the absolute, for we "can love only what we know, and we can never know completely what we do not love"2. Supposing agape (charity) to be a universal trait of God, then God would have demonstrated a universal and supreme example of Charitable love, the unmanifest incarnate, not just in flesh and blood but in bread and wine.

Many Christians support some concept of "Theosis", in which through ongoing purification they can become "Christ-like", often through this idea of "knowing love." See any work by Richard Rohr for a Catholic (specifically Franciscan) perspective on this3. Jesuit priest Teilhard de Chardin supposed that evolution itself is a process by which creation evolves the faculties to better "know" God4, quite a hot-take for mid-twentieth century Catholicism.

My wrestling with Christianity has caused me to knock upon many doors, and I am not writing this as a lesson so much as a record of where I am right now. Christian emptiness of ego is just as elusive to grasp as nirvana or a psychological FLOW state, but the direction toward Charity provides a lifeline. I appreciate your guidance, and that of Huxley, that urges that such a reconciliation can be found. Until then - I will continue with the FIRST and only job title given by God to people before The Fall: to work and keep the land.

Sources:

Warning: Spoiler! [ Click to expand ]

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04 Feb 2022 16:44 - 04 Feb 2022 16:45 #366007 by Loudzoo
Thanks Skryym.

The question you raise, is essentially the 'problem of evil'. Theologians and philosophers have gone into battle for millennia on that one and since they haven’t made any material progress over that time, I doubt we can solve it here, especially if we are restricted to using only the Bible ( Problem of evil - Wikipedia). I know of solutions to the ‘problem of evil’ that I find reasonably adequate (many people do not find them adequate!) – but they have not been found in the Bible. May as well try though:

The God of the Old Testament cannot be omnipotent, omnipresent, and omnibenevolent concurrently. If forced, I would be most comfortable dropping the ‘omnibenevolent’ expectation. If God isn’t omnipotent, or omnipresent, then I don’t think that entity can be classified as ‘God’. Furthermore, benevolence is a value-judgment, a human artifice that can change over time, and with culture. ‘Omnipotent’ and ‘omnipresent’ are fixed. Therefore, I think we should hold the God of the Old Testament responsible for what we collectively agree is evil.

Whoever wrote The Book of Isaiah seemed to agree:
Isaiah 45:7 “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things”.

In this context, the ‘All’ of Romans 11:36 should include evil.

It’s pretty clear that by the 1st Century CE there was a desire from some sects to reform Judaism. Out with the sometimes jealous, murderous, vindictive, God of the Old Testament and time for something more in keeping with the then contemporary society. Key to this, was a shift from the Monad to The Trinity, ultimately causing a split of Christianity from Judaism.

The formulation of a Perfect Son (Jesus Christ) in early Christianity, served to quell many concerns. Amongst them, the problem of evil. For anyone uncomfortable with the Monad (and the moral mess that creates) they now had a perfectly virtuous aspect of the godhead to worship – much cleaner. Furthermore, the way to join the Father was through emulation of the Son e.g. ”I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6) irrespective of the moral ambiguity of The Father.

Therefore, the way to total communion with the godhead is through virtuous thought, and word and deed, in the manner of Jesus Christ. He becomes the blueprint for communion with God, in secular times what we might call, assimilation into universal consciousness. From the perspective of universal consciousness there is no virtue, no evil, there is simply being.

Put another way, virtue and evil only have bearing on manifested incarnation, not in pure universal consciousness.

The confusion and paradox evident in the Bible is apparent because the conception of God evolves throughout the Book. The visions of God in the New Testament are fundamentally different to those of the Old. The nature of God has not changed one iota, but the perception of God as recorded, has changed and evolved continually.

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Last edit: 04 Feb 2022 16:45 by Loudzoo.
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20 May 2022 07:41 - 20 May 2022 07:41 #368157 by Blunder
After reading this, I wanted to offer my humble thoughts.

"The God of the Old Testament cannot be omnipotent, omnipresent, and omnibenevolent concurrently. If forced, I would be most comfortable dropping the ‘omnibenevolent’ expectation. If God isn’t omnipotent, or omnipresent, then I don’t think that entity can be classified as ‘God’. Furthermore, benevolence is a value-judgment, a human artifice that can change over time, and with culture."
-- I agree with this. God, while He shows a certain degree of respect and love in different ways, He is not benevolent to everyone. He is very transparent that while He will welcome anyone once and many many times after that, He will not look kindly upon those who reject Him or commit evil.

"Therefore, I think we should hold the God of the Old Testament responsible for what we collectively agree is evil."
-- This is what I disagree with. In the event of a creator deity of any sort, I see no responsibility. He is above any earthly authority or idea. When a being has created something at such a cosmic level, it stands alone in my mind. This being, as God, may do as it pleases. What separates this deity from a savage is reason. When God does enact damage upon the Earth, it is never without fair warning, and due cause according to the rules He has placed over His "house" (being the Universe as we know it.). What many fail to see is that this enactment is on a scale much like crime here on Earth. What we see is alike to Hitler's Genocide. "Oh, I don't like you now so you must be punished and killed." However, the true logic is more like "I have warned you many times, and each offense has still been more heinous than the last." and just as stealing a candy bar and stealing a car are different in consequence, so is an offense against a God. It is merely the proportionate consequence.

"Therefore, the way to total communion with the godhead is through virtuous thought, and word and deed, in the manner of Jesus Christ. He becomes the blueprint for communion with God, in secular times what we might call, assimilation into universal consciousness. From the perspective of universal consciousness there is no virtue, no evil, there is simply being." (Bold for emphasis)
-- This is essentially Foundational Christian Doctrine. It is though His example that we become closer to God.

While I am unsure of any change in God, although unlikely, over time, I see no reason to hold Him responsible. For one, we cannot, two, it is above us. These cosmic matters are best left to Gods. And three, He was justified I believe. He gave fair warning and acted within His right as Creator.

With Respect,
Micah
Last edit: 20 May 2022 07:41 by Blunder.
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23 May 2022 09:23 #368243 by Loudzoo
Thanks for your contribution Blunder.

Would be very interested to hear your thoughts on these quotations:

John 10:34 “Jesus answered them, ‘Is it not written in your law – I said you are Gods”

Psalm 82:6 “I said ‘You are Gods, sons of the most high, all of you’”

- it seems we cannot absolve our responsibility and leave it to ‘other’ Gods. We are implicated too.

I’m not sure we hold God responsible unjustly, or ‘blame’ God without justification. God makes it quite clear that ‘he’ is responsible:

Isaiah 45:7 “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things”.

These passages may seem contradictory but are resolved by recognising our kinship with that which we call ‘God’.

As for people somehow deserving what happens to them - I think that idea is dangerous, and wrong. Irrespective of the questionable moral implications, the entire Book of Job is about awful things happening to someone who absolutely does not deserve it!! One could say the same of the events surrounding the death of Jesus. You are entitled to your opinions but they don’t seem founded in the Bible.

It strikes me that the only sensible interpretation is that sometimes we do get what’s coming to us, and sometimes we don’t. It’s not one or the other, it’s both, sometimes at the same time!

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