Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

Wisdom, Number, Measure, Hunger, Thirst

November 24, 2011

(written 9-29-2000)

When we dwell as pedestrians in a land, we behold the scenery from the most intimate detail and perspective, but that very closeness and intimacy in perspective prevents us from seeing symmetry, intention and design on a grander scale, bearing profounder implications. If we ascend to a mountain peak, we lose discernment of much of the finer details, but we can begin to recognize the “lay of the land” and its geography. From an orbiting space station, we can perceive global structure. And from vantage point of another galaxy, we may comprehend cosmic design.

When we seek Divine intention, design, laws, and principles in Nature, we consider NUMBER to be the highest authority of truth. We seek mathematical certainty. Mathematical proof is the hallmark of modern science.

The Bible also associated “wisdom” with “number”. We find “wisdom” and “number” mentioned together in three verses of the King James Bible:

Job 38:37 Who can number the clouds in wisdom? or who can stay the bottles of heaven,

Psalms 90:12 So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.

Revelation 13:18 Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.

In Job, it is our inability to number and measure creation which exhorts us to humility and surrender to the Divine Will.

In the Psalms, it is the measure of our temporal finitude which gives us pause for the reflection which leads to wisdom.

In the Book of Revelation, it is a precise number which reveals to us that person who is an embodiment of evil.

We never find “wisdom” and “measure” mentioned in the same verse in the Bible, not even in the Books of Apocrypha. Measure is a human activity and not a Divine activity.

We first encounter the word “measure” conjunction with “cubit” in Exodus 26:2 “The length of one curtain shall be eight and twenty cubits, and the breadth of one curtain four cubits: and every one of the curtains shall have one measure.” When King Solomon is in the act of consecrating the newly finished Temple, he suddenly exclaims: 1 Kings 8:27 “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded? ”

A “cubit” is the length of a man’s forearm, which is subjective and variable, not objective, absolute and unchanging.

In Hebrew, cubit is ‘ammah; i.e., “mother of the arm,” the fore-arm, is a word derived from the Latin cubitus, the lower arm. It is difficult to determine the exact length of this measure, from the uncertainty whether it included the entire length from the elbow to the tip of the longest finger, or only from the elbow to the root of the hand at the wrist. The probability is that the longer was the original cubit. The common computation as to the length of the cubit makes it 20.24 inches for the ordinary cubit, and 21.888 inches for the sacred one. This is the same as the Egyptian measurements. A rod or staff the measure of a cubit is called in Judg. 3:16 _gomed_, which literally means a “cut,” something “cut off.” The lxx. and Vulgate render it “span.”

The earliest mention of “measure” is in conjunction with the precise instructions for building the Tabernacle: Exodus 26:2 The length of one curtain shall be eight and twenty cubits, and the breadth of one curtain four cubits: and every one of the curtains shall have one measure.

The third mention of “measure” occurs together with the first appearance of the word “unrighteousness” in relation to dishonesty in trade: leviticus 19:35 Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment, in meteyard, in weight, or in measure.

Mathematicians consider “Number Theory” to be the Queen of all Mathematics. Number Theory deals with such properties of number as Odd or Even, Perfect numbers (which are the sum of their prime factors), and with such properties as “excess” and “deficiency” in multiplication.

The number Nine is a number with several very interesting properties. Nine is a Trinity of Trinities, in the sense that it contains the number three thrice times. In a Greek Orthodox liturgy, the priest or deacon will incense a Bishop NINE times, but the icon of Christ only three times because the Bishop, when vested and serving in his sacerdotal capacity, is considered to be the “Living Icon” of Christ.

Hindus consider NINE to be a divine number, because it may interact with any other number in multiplication, and yet somehow, retain its identity. Two times Nine equals 18, and 1 + 8 = 9. Three times Nine equals 27, and 2+7 = 9. Four times Nine equals 36, and 3 + 6 = 9. So Nine is perfect in this respect, whereas the other numbers are sometimes “excessive” in this respect and other times “deficient”. Two times Seven equals 14, and 1+4=5. Three times Seven equals 21, and 2+1=3. Therefore Seven is deficient in these equations. Three times Five equals 15, and 1+5 = 6. Five times Five equals 25, and 2+5=8. Number Five is excessive in these equations.

If you look at all the sacred scriptures of all the Religions, you will discover that there are only certain sentences or phrases in which is a WHOLE WORLD OF THEOLOGY.

For example, Mother Theresa put Christ’s final words from the Cross, “I thirst”, on her convent wall.

John 19:28 After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, “I thirst”.

How many times in our lives might we read this verse, and pass it by, not seeing the entire world hidden in two words?

A world hidden in a word is a pearl hidden in a field.

Hidden, amidst all the other verses of the Gospels, “out of context”, is something which opens up a whole world in the mind.

In a certain way, the very nature of our thought processes, is a non-sequitur. Hence, structure and form in writing is, in a sense, illusion, or maya. But we come to think of that ordered “structure” as the nature of reality.

Regarding the “I Thirst” of Mother Theresa, Jallaladin Rumi once said, “Do not seek water, for water is EVERYWHERE! Seek THIRST!” For without the THIRST the water is of no value to you.

In the Psalms, “O Lord, I have thirsted after Thee like a deer in a waterless land.”

I have written the preceding as a prelude to the consideration of the motif of “hunger” and “thirst” in the Scriptures.

It is most curious that there are a total of NINE verses in the entire King James Version which mention “hunger” and “thirst” in the same verse. The word “hunger” always appears first, followed by the word “thirst”.

It is significant that the word hunger should always appear first in these verses. We know that thirst will afflict us much sooner than hunger, and the pangs of thirst are far more intense and severe than hunger pangs. We can endure a much longer period of time without food than we can without fluids. Why is it that Hunger is always mentioned first, and not Thirst? Perhaps “thirst and hunger” is the human order, whereas “hunger and thirst” is the Divine order.

The word “hunger” makes its first appearance in Scriptures (Exodus 16:3) PRIOR TO the first appearance of the word “thirst” (Exodus 17:3 ).

This same consistent word order may be observed in the Apocrypha as well; “hunger” always precedes “thirst”. In the Apocrypha, we also find this most unusual verse: 2 esdras 15:58 “They that be in the mountains shall die of hunger, and eat their own flesh, and drink their own blood, for very hunger of bread, and thirst of water.” We may see in this verse the beginnings of the imagery of the Eucharist.

Because NINE is an ODD number (rather than an EVEN number), there is a mid-most verse, the FIFTH of the verses: 5.) John 6:35 And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.

Indeed, this is a most central verse, portraying Jesus as the Bread of Life and the Living Waters.

The first occurance of hunger, (which appears BEFORE the first occurance of THIRST), Exodus 16:3 “And the children of israel said unto them, Would to God we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger.

The first occurance of thirst, which inspires murmuring against Moses and God: Exodus 17:3 “And the people thirsted there for water; and the people murmured against Moses, and said, Wherefore is this that thou hast brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst? ”

We see here the totally Human aspect of hunger and thirst, the fallen nature of humanity, driven by appetites and desires.

The second occurance of “hunger and thirst” is 2.) Nehemiah 9:15 “And gavest them bread from heaven for their hunger, and broughtest forth water for them out of the rock for their thirst, and promisedst them that they should go in to possess the land which thou hadst sworn to give them.”

This is the totally Divine aspect of God, who provides food and drink, and sustains all creatures.

The third occurance of “hunger and thirst” is 3.) Isaiah 49:10 “They shall not hunger nor thirst; neither shall the heat nor sun smite them: for he that hath mercy on them shall lead them, even by the springs of water shall he guide them.”

Here we see a prefiguring of the Book of Revelation, the New Heaven and New Earth, where there are no more tears, no more hunger or thirst or desire.

The fourth occurance is 4.) matthew 5:6 “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.”

We see a UNIFICATION of hunger and thirst as ONE, no longer two, and the object of the desire is no longer physical food and water, but Righteousness. But what or Who is that Righteousness?

The fifth occurance is 5.) John 6:35 “And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.”

Remember that this is the MIDDLE-MOST of the nine verses, about which the other eight verses are symmetrically balanced. This verse answers our previous question “Who is that righteousness for which the blessed hunger and thirst.”

We may note that at the Last Supper, or Mystical Supper, the Institution of the Eucharist, Christ offers the broken bread FIRST, and afterwards the Cup. It is logical that the Bread or Body must be broken first, before there is Blood.

The sixth occurance of “hunger and thirst” is 6.) Romans 12:20 “Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.”

This is the fulfillment of seeing the Divine Image of God in all others, even enemies. And it is We, the Mother Theresa, who now assume the role of the God-Man Christ, as we minister unto our enemies and are perhaps rent asunder, bleeding. St. athanasius said “God became man, so that Man might become God”.

The seventh occurance of “hunger and thirst” is 7.) 1 Corinthians 4:11 “Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling place”, which is the Disciples/Apostles in “imitation of Christ”, taking up their cross.

The eight occurance is 8.) 2 Corinthians 11:27 In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.

The ninth occurance is 9.) Revelation 7:16 “They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat.”. Here we see that time and space, heaven and earth, pass away, and all souls dwell in the very fabric of God, which now becomes their space, light, raiment, sustenance and all things. These souls dwell in “the bosom of abraham”.

The verses ‘The Kingdom of God is WITHIN’ and ‘in my Father’s house are many mansions’ are thought provoking verses. I recently learned that it may also be translated “the kingdom of heaven is AMONG you” , which has very different implications.

If we look at the Book of Revelation, in the chapters surrounding ch. 10…. (where it says…’God shall wipe away every tear’)…. we see that THERE SHALL BE TIME NO LONGER (CH 10, verse 6), and “heavens and earth shall be rolled up as a scroll” (no more SPACE).

So, time and space ceases, and God becomes raiment, light, air, food, etc. An image which is faithful to St. Paul’s words, “..in HIM we live and move and have our being–Acts 17:28” and, Acts 17: 27 “That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us.”

This passage, Ch. 10:6 in Revelation, depicts time and space itself passing away, and all dwell WITHIN God, within the “fabric of God” so to speak.

We do see in the parable of lazarus and the rich man that Lazarus is “in the bosom of Abraham”, which is metaphorical, but supports the notion of what is described in Revelation

What is interesting is that Christianity condemns notions of Pantheism, that God IS the universe; yet in the final analysis, based on what the Book of Revelation describes, God literally BECOMES the Universe, once the Universe passes away.

In light of the above understanding of Revelation, it would seem that the “many mansions” are WITHIN God Himself.

(a reader’s reply):

Interesting study! Indeed

John 4,10

10. Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knowest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.

11. The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; from whence then hast thou that living water?

12. Art thou greater than our father jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle?

13. Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again:

14. But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. (!)

I have come across a nine pointed form of star. It could be called a master blueprint.

The Seal of Solomon (six pointed star) is said to be all time and space.

Is not the manifest universe a great cycle arising out of the Source? Is not this cycle eternal? Who could count the number of mansions within Gods creation?

 

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Is religious belief a mental disorder?

January 9, 2011

I have spent this entire day arguing with a bitter atheist who insists that anyone with any sort of religious belief (i.e. having “an invisible friend”) must have a mind that is so suspect that their scientific research must be questionable. I find such a notion as abhorrent or even more abhorrent than the notion that people with darker complexions have inferior intellects or that blond haired blue eyed people are a master race. My arguments included medical doctors among “scientists” and the one M.D. who I admire VERY MUCH and thought of all during my arguments is Melissa who is a better doctor precisely because of her religious values. Another disputant in that thread is a professional scientist who said that he doubts many scientists are religious because he rarely hears any of his colleagues express religious sentiments. I countered that every human being has a sexual dimension and I am quite sure he has never seen any of his colleagues behave in a sexual fashion. That does not mean they do not have a sexual side but simply means that they are professionals and they compartmentalize things. The professional community would not feel comfortable if a chemist regularly prayed over his test tubes but this does not mean that chemists never pray. Just as it is human to be sexual it is also human to be religious, and religion may not necessarily express itself as “an invisible friend” but includes a reverential regard for the numinous and transcendent. Taoism and Buddhism are equally “religious” but do not involve “deities” and secular humanism in the style of Thoreau is also spiritual and religious but avoids reference to some deity. I also pointed out that everyone sleeps and everyone dreams during sleep and dreams are often irrational and phantasmagorical yet the fact the everyone has such dreams each night does not mean that they are somehow irrational and incapable of science or logic or reason. The human personality is complex and includes anger, jealousy, depression and even possibly schizophrenia but all this can be present in a person who is also a brilliant scientist or mathematician. Kurt Godel was quite eccentric and died of starvation from paranoid irrational fear of poisoning yet Godel was one of the greatest mathematicians of the 20th century (and a close personal friend of Einstein.)

William: Freeman Dyson said that Richard Dawkins is foolish to tell young people that they must be atheists to be scientists. Dyson describes himself as a religious person although he does not subscribe to one particular creed. But Dawkins drives good minds away from science because the don’t want to give up their beliefs.

Lair: The question is, how “good” can a mind be that finds it necessary to believe in imaginary friends? It doesn’t seem unreasonable to be suspicious of science produced by people who accept as fact things that are incapable of being proven scientifically.

Alan: Religion and Science are fundamentally different ways of looking at the world and they use absolutely different methods of trying to answer questions about the world. While it is possible to be a religious faithful scientist, to do so one needs to be able to set aside their religious way of thinking when they step into the lab. Some people can do it but I think Dawkins is right to point out that religion and science are oppositional. Religion is about believing in things that cannot be known rationally or empirically based upon authority. Science is about looking at the world critically, as opposed to faithfully, questioning everything you are told by authority, and trusting only what you can see with your eyes and what conforms to reason.

William: Lair, with all due respect, could you share with us how far your studies progressed in physics, mathematics, calculus, differential equations, chemistry? I see that you are smirking but as far as I can see you do not have much to boast about academically or intellectually (any more that I do.)

I am guessing that advanced algebra might give you a problem. But you seem willing to judge the minds of scientists and mathematicians when you yourself are not particularly accomplished in math and science. It is not accurate to dismiss all religion and spirituality as “belief in an invisible friend.”

Lair, you seem to feel that a scientific mind MUST be a good mind and a good mind could not possibly hold some religious belief. And yet the converse is not true, namely, a mind which is good like yours in rejecting a belief in “invisible friends” is not a mind which is gifted in math or physics or academic achievement.

Kurt Gödel was one of the greatest mathematicians of the 20th century and a close friend of Einstein and Kurt Gödel actually attempted to PROVE the existence of God –

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G%C3%B6del’s_ontological_proof

Regarding Einstein:
http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/einstein.html
“I believe in Spinoza’s God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with fates and actions of human beings.”

http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/sciencefaith.html

Max Planck (1858-1947)
Planck made many contributions to physics, but is best known for quantum theory, which revolutionized our understanding of the atomic and sub-atomic worlds. In his 1937 lecture “Religion and Naturwissenschaft,” Planck expressed the view that God is everywhere present, and held that “the holiness of the unintelligible Godhead is conveyed by the holiness of symbols.” Atheists, he thought, attach too much importance to what are merely symbols. Planck was a churchwarden from 1920 until his death, and believed in an almighty, all-knowing, beneficent God (though not necessarily a personal one).

Gregor Mendel (1822-1884)
Mendel was the first to lay the mathematical foundations of genetics, in what came to be called “Mendelianism”. He began his research in 1856 (three years before Darwin published his Origin of Species) in the garden of the Monastery in which he was a monk. Mendel was elected Abbot of his Monastery in 1868.

Michael Faraday (1791-1867)
Michael Faraday was the son of a blacksmith who became one of the greatest scientists of the 19th century. His work on electricity and magnetism not only revolutionized physics, but led to much of our lifestyles today, which depends on them (including computers and telephone lines and, so, web sites). Faraday was a devoutly Christian member of the Sandemanians, which significantly influenced him and strongly affected the way in which he approached and interpreted nature. Originating from Presbyterians, the Sandemanians rejected the idea of state churches, and tried to go back to a New Testament type of Christianity

Regarding Max Planck
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Max_Planck#Religious_view

Planck was a devoted and persistent adherent of Christianity from early life to death, but he was very tolerant towards alternative views and religions, and so was discontented with the Nazi church organizations’ demands for unquestioning belief.
The god in which Planck believed was an almighty, all-knowing, benevolent but unintelligible god that permeated everything, manifest through symbols, including physical laws. His view may have been motivated by an opposition like Einstein’s and Schrödinger’s against the positivist view. Planck was interested in truth and a Universe beyond observation, and objected to atheism as an obsession with symbols.

Lair: I ask a question, William. I did not claim to have a “good” mind myself. I said only that it “doesn’t seem unreasonable to be suspicious of science produced by people who accept as fact things that are incapable of being proven scientifically.” You present good examples of scientists who maintained religious beliefs while doing scientific work. Fine. So, yes, scientists can be religious. I will give you that. It doesn’t seem unreasonable, however, to find religious scientists suspect until proven otherwise.

William: Obviously most human beings are by nature very sexual, but if they were to engage in sexual activity in the class room or the laboratory or the library or the office they would probably wind up in prison. Human beings are also by nature spiritual or religious if you prefer. We learn to separate and compartmentalize our urges, instincts, desires, natures. We do one thing on a battle field, and another thing in a laboratory and another thing in a library and yet something else in the bridal suite. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C._Everett_Koop surgeon general was something of a fundamentalist Christian, but he put aside his personal beliefs in order to promote sex education and distribution of condoms precisely because his appointment was meant NOT as a bully pulpit to promote his own personal agendas but as a stewardship to serve the best interests of his constituents.

And what are we to say of those who practice surgery and medicine and yet believe in God and pray and attend church. Are their minds too demented for them to be trusted with a scalpel or a drug prescription pad?

Lair: I don’t question your sincerity, William. You argue robustly, and it does not offend me. Yes, we departmentalize our lives every day. I was very suspicious of Dr. Koop when he was appointed for precisely the reasons you mention. He proved to be intellectually “above” his beliefs, and I became a big fan. However, I do not easily accept anyone with strong religious beliefs, no matter the “department”, without being quite watchful. I come from a very devout fundamentalist Christian background – I can quote scripture with the best of them – and I know the “power” of belief and how it can creep into crevices, and so scientists or whoever will have to prove they can “overcome” before I am prepared to accept them carte-blanche

William: Lair, I have been giving a lot of thought to this thread. For the sake of argument let us say that you are no different from 50% of humanity in the sense that you could not think your way out of a paper bag when it comes to mathematics, physics, chemistry, physiology, etc. If that is the case than why oh why would you worry whether Einstein goes to a synagogue on Saturday, or Stephen Hawking takes communion. Since you are not intellectually or academically equipped to evaluate whatever science or math you know they why do you worry whether the scientists or mathematicians who produced such science are atheist or agnostic, or Sufi whirling dervishes? Lair, whatever it is that you do know about math or physics (which presumably is very little) you “know” it in the sense of hear-say. You hear it on the television or you watch a nature or science channel or you read a magazine or worse yet you find it on the internet, and then you just parrot it back without any deep grasp or understanding. Lair, you do not impress me because you are too clever to believe in “invisible friends,” rather you do not impress me because you never say anything impressive or profound or insightful or intellectual. That doesn’t mean that I don’t like you as a person and it does not mean that I never benefit by reading what you post. Now, IF you were to begin writing some mind-boggling ideas that set my mind on fire I really would not care whether you fantasize about Tinker Bell doing things with Peter Pan or any number of other things. The achievements of scientists stand on their own apart from the personal beliefs or doubts of the scientists who make those discoveries. The scientific revolution itself divorces ideas from the thinker in the sense that it is experimentally verifiable.

Lair: I suppose I am just not up to your intellectual level, William. I can live with that. Most of what you write goes right over my head or my eyes glaze over. It does not communicate anything whatsoever to me. It is intellectual blah-blah, meant, I suppose, to show superiority of intellect. It doesn’t mean that I don’t like you as a person, and it does not mean that I never benefit by reading what you post. I have opinions, no matter whether they “impress” you or not. However, I do not live to “impress’, amazingly enough. Scientific achievements do indeed stand on their own. Good thing, because if I knew the facts of the lives of those that achieve the science, i might be appalled, disgusted, or at least less likely to accept their findings.

William: Lair, what I write about each and every day is exactly what I think and how I think. I touch type 80 wpm. I dont do it to impress anyone. I do it as an exercise, like jumping jacks. Personally I feel like an intellectual failure. I look for a few people who are head and shoulders above my level who will have the patience to put up with my slow-witted nature. There are a few people who follow what I write because they feel that I am on a higher level than them and they seek to elevate themselves. I know who those few people are and we correspond privately. I do this because it is my nature, it is in my blood, it is all I know how to do. I have been like this since I was age 10 or 11. My high school class elected me class philosopher and I thought it was some kind of joke or lark at the time. Only years later did I realize WHY they chose me as class philosopher. I did not choose or want to be this way. I was simply born this way. Yes, it is true that I chose to exercise and nurture this nature that I was born with. I had a friend in Beijing China who was doing his Masters degree in English. He was under the gun to write a philosophical paper in English in two weeks. There was no way he could do it. He was not equipped to do that linguistically or intellectually/scholastically. I did a paper off the top of my head in 3 hours, ten pages, as fast as I could type and I could do that because I have thought and rethought the same issues for years. Then we spent some time “dumbing it down” so it did not sound like the writing of a native speaker. They wanted to give him a prize for it but he declined. The things that I post come into my head automatically. If I dont write them down they I forget them, they disappear. Sometimes I actually wake up in the middle of the night with a new idea and have to write it down before I forget it, which means that I even do this stuff in my sleep. There are a few people who are exactly on the same wave-length as I am. We have long discussions and stimulate each other to new realizations. In fact, sometimes we complete each others thoughts and sentences. By the way, some of these people are Hindu, some are Muslim, some are Catholic, some are Jewish, and some are even Atheist or Agnostic. Their religious or spiritual is as irrelevant as their gender, age, skin color, native language, sexual orientation, politics, etc.

Lair: I do know how to respond to what you just wrote, William, except to ask, am I such a bore for you that you would prefer I not respond to your posts? That would be fine with me if that is what you would prefer. I notice that many of your posts receive no response. This one I responded to because it touched one of my “buttons”: what I think of as the silliness of religion. But I can just as soon read them and go “huh” and move on without responding.

William: Lair, I do not worry about the credibility of what physicists and mathematicians do on the basis of their religious beliefs, and I consider myself a dummy, so if most of what I am saying is flying over your head, then EVEN LESS should you worry about whether some theistic scientist is leading you down the path of deception or destruction. You made what I consider to be an erroneous observation, namely that any religious mind must be incapable of mathematics or science. I tried to make you aware of why I find your observation to be erroneous in a firm but cordial manner. The majority of humanity are nit-wits who smoke when they know it causes cancer, abuse intoxicants, engage in dangerous sexual practices and get over their heads in debt. Taking some medicine developed by some orthodox Jew scientist is the least of your worries. I have 1060 friends on my list. About 100 or less say things which impress the hell out of me and that doesnt happen every single day. The other 900 are simply nice folks. I enjoy reading what they have to say. Sometimes, I have some reply that helps or amuses them. Different people read what I write for any number of reasons. Perhaps some of them think I am a raving fool and enjoy a good laugh. I read everything that everyone writes. I try to be compassionate and helpful. Sometimes I just remain silent. Sometime, like in your case today, I feel it is my duty to say what is on my mind. What can I say?

Barbara: ‎”Faith” is an interestingly human condition, whether it is faith in something we can see and touch or faith in something unknown. I have faith that the earth will still be revolving around the sun when I wake up tomorrow. I also have faith that if I continue to put one foot in front of the other, my body will continue to move forward. One day, one or the other of those things may not happen according to the faith that I have, but for now, that faith makes my life easier because I don’t have to spend all my time checking to make sure that either is still true.

Since the “faith” that each of us has is created and maintained for the sole purpose of making our OWN lives easier, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to try to convince one person to give up his faith because it is wrong according to the other.

Atheism is “faith.” It is the faith that there is no super power over all of us doing anything at all. But, if we were to delve deeper, would we find that all atheists really don’t believe in any super power at all? What about the power of nature, humanness, “cause & effect?” The atheist may not believe in a supernatural “being” ruling the world (which technically I don’t believe in either even though I am NOT atheistic because I don’t believe that I can prove there is no supernatural power ruling everything…) but he might believe that the earth will still be revolving around the sun tomorrow morning and that really IS “FAITH” by the strictest definition of the word. Buddhists believe that all the “power” is inside ourselves…. that we are our own higher powers, so to speak. Is Buddhism not a “faith?”

I read all of the comments here, and I noticed something interesting. Each person was trying to convince the other that his own way of thinking about faith is the right way to think. And that is the Christian way… to try to convert everyone else to the Christian faith. However, when I return to the start of my comment now, I have to say that it is also FUTILE to try to convince others to give up their OWN faiths in order to believe something we believe. Each of us has to figure these things out for ourselves or it just doesn’t work in the way it needs to work for each person — it won’t make life easier and it will then be abandoned by the other as useless.

Some things can be proven; other things can’t be proven. But, I honestly don’t think that Lair is going to be persuaded into believing in Bill’s faith through being berated or having his intelligence (or lack thereof if there actually is such a lack in him) shoved in his face. I am not very good in mathematics (above the level of algebra) but I obtained a degree from the university anyway…. with Ds in Calculus.
I have heard tell that Einstein had his own difficulties with mathematics when he was in school. But, maybe that was merely rumor.

I used to type really fast. Now, I just sound like I am typing quickly to all those who type with two or three fingers. If I type faster than 60 wpm now, I would be amazed! But, it really doesn’t matter in the whole scheme of life.

Life is not a contest as much as some would like to make it so. It is not a race, or maybe I should say, it should not be a race or it is not a race for me. No matter what we believe, we will all end up in the same place at the end of our lives, … , DEAD. So, we may as well enjoy our friends along the way.

As for Dawkins, Dyson, and all the rest, it is MY OPINION and nothing more, that science and faith CAN AND DO exist concurrently in all of us. We can get rid of neither, because faith is a part of the human condition whether it is a faith in the fact that you can prove that there is no supernatural “god” or a faith in something else. I agree with all of the points of view expressed here and I agree with none of them,…, on different points and as far as I am concerned, that is what makes me human, too.

Yehoshua: Most things that we live by and stake our lives on are things we accept not by rigorous proof but by experience and what we consider to be an extremely high probablity of their being true. The vast majority of world religions base themselves on founding events experienced by one person or a few. The outstanding exception to this general rule is the revelation of Sinai. This is the only instance in which a religion makes a claim that an entire nation experienced at least part of the fundamental revelation. Of course Christianity and Islam accepted Sinai and built their own structures over it. The basic revelation was never questioned until Spinoza. And don’t forget that the Jews are not and never have been a credulous people.pretty skeptical, in fact. See the first book of Rabbi Yehuda Halevi’s Kuzari (medieval Spain), or for a contemporary exposition of this argument, Kelemen, Permission to Believe.

Bryan: The claim that Einstein “believed in God” is misleading. Einstein believed in an orderly universe which he referred to as “God,” not in a Christian or Jewish God who was interested in the action of individual people. He was very clear about that.

Speaking as a working scientist, I can state that scientists, in general, rarely discuss their beliefs on religion and don’t introduce these beliefs, should they have them, into their work. It simply doesn’t really come up. This suggests to me that most either don’t believe, don’t care, or, if they do, don’t consider their beliefs relevant to what they are working on. If a scientist were to attempt to introduce “beliefs” into his or her work, that person would run a strong risk of being ejected from the class of working scientists.

Barbara: Bryan’s experience has also been mine in not only science but also business in general. The *discussion* of faith is nearly non-existent and in the rare cases that someone actually brings it up in relation to the work, others become very uncomfortable to the point of separating themselves from the “offending” individual… even with the slightest mention. I have to admit that I also react by pulling away from those who interject the faith issues into the business world. Those ideas seem unduly intrusive and biased in that circumstance.

BUT, I will remark that we are ALL influenced by our faiths… often in ways that we don’t immediately notice. Our morals, how far we are willing to go in any endeavor that threatens other life, what we are willing to say and how we couch those statements about purposes, endeavors, goals, etc. We are all effected in one way or another by the ideas of acceptable “damage” in the process of knowledge or financial gain. And, whether we accept it as such or not, to a huge degree, these “limits” have been defined for us by the “faith” morays of our societies.

For instance, most of us would not consider it acceptable to kill the people who are trying to disprove our own theories in business or science, even if those individuals endeavors are believed by us to be so threatening to our own that we could end up losing financially or others “could” use the results of the offending endeavors to harm others…e.g., gun or chemical manufacture each of which “could” and do cause damages to others later. Why don’t the greatest majority of us we revert to animal instincts when we truly believe that something someone else is doing is going to have results that we truly believe will be harmful? Because, it is also part of our morals not to do so and the process of learning that we aren’t supposed to murder others is always part of our “faith” based learning.

It is instinctual for us to protect ourselves at all cost, but it is a learned belief that we “should not” act on that instinct the way many animals do. And, the reasoning for not behaving instinctively justifies the control against such acts as what is “right” rather than what we may think is necessary to survival. It would be much more natural for humans to be as aggressive as any other aggressive animal, but we are all taught to control those urges and GIVEN faith-based reasons for that control… the faith that as “better people” we gain something that is supposedly greater than what we would have if we did not exert that control.

Regardless of *which* “faith” we credit with teaching each of us this important action, it is indeed faith in something that gives us the idea of greater rewards if we live according to a certain set of “moral” rules.

And, when someone DOES deviate from that set of rules at their basest, EVERYONE generally agrees that the person is wrong or somehow sick… regardless of faith or culture proving that there is a universal idea among humans of what is “right or wrong” on the most basic levels. Anyone who has had children knows that these understandings of “right and wrong” are NOT something the children are born understanding. It is taught, and then the person’s ability to adhere to those “rules” depends on other experiences or “chemistry” in that individual.

The word, “faith” is commonly taken to refer to a certain brand of belief by many people, but technically, that word can and does cover much more ground than merely ONE religion. “Faith” is NOT inheritently the same as “Religion” and neither word is strictly limited to any particular belief in any particular supernatural power or the lack of belief in said power in the strictest sense. Assuming those words always refer in those ways to only ONE set of morays or even more limits to only ONE brand of religion is the way that humans attempt to expand the beliefs of others to match their own in more ways than the simple basics that we all learn to agree to in this world — the “do unto others as we would have them do unto us….”

William: Bryan seems to FAIL to grasp my earlier point that just because no one in the science field seems to express religious feelings is not an indication that they do not have religious feelings. I would venture to guess Bryan that no man or woman whether superior, or subordinate or student behaves towards you in a sexual fasion. Does that mean that those people are not sexual beings? Certainly not. It means that they are professionals who can compartmentalize religious feelings and sexual feelings. I think there is definitely a strong element of prejudice in our society today that a person cannot be spiritual and also scientific. At the point of Obamas election, I was speaking at length to a college studen in Beijing China. He said to me “Well, your President Obama is a lawyer, while our Communist Chinese leaders are SCIENTISTS and everyone knows that scientists are more logical and rational than lawyers.” I tried to explain to him in a polite and gentle way that he is brainwashed by his Communist party and that if his leaders have some piece of paper from some Chinese University which says they are a “scientist” then that means nothing but rather show me in journals actual contributions that your scientific leaders have made to science and mathematics. Different Communist Chinese story: I was helping a graduate student who majored in English near Beijing. Because of the time difference it was 3am for him. He said, “Oh my wife is calling for me to turn off the computer and come to bed.” As a joke I said “Tell her, OK, I know you want to make love so I will be there in a moment.” HE WENT INTO UTTER SHOCK and said “Oh, I would NEVER have such a thought. My only thoughts each and every day are to be a good citizen and Communist and help my society. I never have sexual thoughts.” I told him that he is brainwashed into denying his own nature because I guarantee you that there is not a male on the planet from the Dalai Lama to Pope Benedict to Billy Graham to Jimmy Carter to Chairman Mao who is never visited by a sexual thought or fantasy or desire. By the same token, there are capable scientists and mathematicians who have religious or spiritual sentiments. Obviously the scientific community takes a dim view of someone suddenly spreading a prayer mat on the floor or praying over their test tubes just as they take a dim view of someone suddenly grabbing someone else’s body parts in public. But have no doubt that religious sentiments exist in the human heart, along with sexual sentiments.

As for Lair, he made a ridiculous statement which insinuates that IF I go to a doctor or surgeon I must inquire whether they are an atheist, because if they believe in “invisible friends” like Jesus or Allah or Krishna then they must be incompetent lunatics. I would venture to say that medical practitioners are the only scientists that most of us come into contact with who may have some positive or negative influence on our well being. I personally dont care what Lair believes or does not believe but with regard to this particular statement of his I felt like pouring a bucket of cold water on his head to wake him up. If he is not man enough to take that then so be it. I do not throttle my thoughts simply to win popularity contests and I do not seek association with others who hold back simply to be nice or polite.

Dawn: I agree, the problem isnt with people that believe in a GOD, the problem is with their definition of what god is. we all exist, and therefore whatever facillitated that existence, whatev er governs what is Possible for us, is OUR GOD. the problem is people cannot help but personalize something that is OBVIOUSLY not a person.

GOD is consciousness manifesting, and all things that are manifested. God is Being not a human being, but being itself, it is what it is. I AM means conscious existence

Fenton: Atheists (like me) assert that there is no God.

God is excluded by the scientific method which says ”We will believe in all things for which there is good and sufficient evidence, and in no things for which there is not good and sufficient evidence.”

There is not one scintilla of credible evidence for the existence of God, or for the idea that anything supernatural is necessary to explain the appearances or the knowledge we obtain from Nature.

To say that one does not believe in God is a small quibble away from saying “I do not believe that God Exists”, which is only a micro quibble away from saying “God does not exist.”, which is only a nano-quibble away from saying “There is no God”.

Could a person be a person, and a scientist, and yet not have all of their thinking and all of their beliefs consistent with the scientific method. They would apply that method within the domain of their scientific activities, and yet, as persons in full (and not algorithms that must be 100% internally self-consistent) they would have other activities including worship, prayer, or spiritual communion with Nature, (or in my case, the Tao).

Correct answer (and this IS Fenton here) — Yes.

Only Thought Nazis and Logic Fascists believe that, within a person in full, all activities must follow one set of rules such that all beliefs must be self-consistent as a set (such that each belief is consistent with all the other beliefs, and with the one set of rules).

Jazzy folks know that Alan Watts was right — Reality is Jazzy, and it moves to its own beat, and it’s syncopated, and has riffs, and obligatos, grace notes, and cadenzas, and see, you can learn a lot from music.

A person in full equals not an algorithm.

Reality equals not an algorithm.

A person in full meets reality and the scientific method is PART of that meeting (Fenton/Cosmos) but not ALL of it.

The house of Human Existence has many mansions and they may require different keys to get into. Science has its “Open Sesame!” but the life divine, may require “Abracadabra!”

Mr. Bart used to tell me that you can see different things from a kneeling position. I never followed him there, and never saw those things. But I have seen other things, some of them what Alan Watts and Lao Tzu saw.

This is a paradoxical comment coming from a Dawkins fan, and an atheist, and a Carl Sagan fan. So here’s a little sweetener to help you swallow it — Fenton is always right. Be with that. Abide with me. I wouldn’t kid you about something like this.

Dawn: atheism makes no more sense than any other ism, the absence of god is no more proveable than the existence of GOD.

we exist whatever facillitated that existence is OUR GOD, Natural law and consciousness is our GOD

William: Robert Ornstein wrote a small book called “Multi-Mind” which basically talks about how our brain is an example of how ontology recapitulates phylogeny in the sense that there are structures in the brain that resemble every stage of human evolutionary development from worm-like creatures on up the evolutionary ladder. It is because our “mind” is not a “one” but a “many” a multitude that we can have very different things going on and some of those may be in conflict with others. A brain surgeon may for the briefest moment cast a glance at a nurse’s bosom and a romantic thought flits across the brain for a nanosecond, or he/she will suddenly think about some old Ben Casey episode with the symbols birty, death, male, female, infinity, or if he/she is an atheist the though may pass through their mind “suppose there IS a God” or if he/she is a believer the thought may pass through their mind “suppose there IS NO GOD” and so on and so forth. Fenton seems to often give a good answer. Fenton is fond of systems like Taoism. Taoism, Buddhism, Jainism, and various other isms may not be characterized with Lair’s favorite “invisible friend” criticism. The most telling thread that I found the other day was from a professional mathematician in India. Now few Americans can truly understand what daily life is like in India. But there are so many scientists and mathematicians who are deeply into Vedanta and vegetarianism and a host of other “religious” trappings. There are Muslims in India who celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi. The very essence of syncretism (practicing a mixture of religions) and pluralism demonstrates our multi-mind plurality.

Dawn: well “I want to learn to think Like GOD” thats albert einstein, you swallow that.

we cannot KNOW whether GOD exists because all KNowing inherently consists of previous experience and since we cannot have experienced GOD , we cannot say that GOS exists but we also cannot say that GOD does NOT exist. and thats KANT so you and DAwkins can swallow THAT.

we could sit here all day and argue trhe existence of GOD, and it doesnt make a damned bit of difference because neither can be proven.

we exist, whatever source that brought us here, we all came from the same source. and we are all bound by the same laws of natural law, and THAT is therefore OUR god. if you want to believe theres no consciousness behind it, its your choice but dont fool yourself into thinking that your way is any more scientific than believing there IS consciousness behind it. because thats FALSE.

science measures measurable pehnomoneon, GOD is NOT a measurable phenomenon, any more than freedeom or justice, or time. its is all subjective to the person experiencing it.

William: I have come to the conclusion that every educated and rational person must describe themselves as “agnostic.” No one can prove that there is no such thing as a God or a transcendent intelligence. No one can prove that some sort of God exists. Reasonable people realize that they are in the position of agnosticism. But religiosity, reverence, awe, the sense of the numinous, as well as superstition are inherent in human behavior. I have listened to interviews of Communist Chinese students who speak with an almost religious sense of awe about party leaders and the Communist doctrine and then speak of the West as fallen demons. One teenage Chinese party member said that teens in the West only think about sex and drugs and filthy things while she is pure and only things about the welfare of society and the values of the Communist party. It was obvious to me that she was reverent and deferential to her ideology in exactly the same manner that religious people venerate statues or icons or altars or a printed copy of the Bible or Qur’an.

Dawn: and I will agree with you to the bitter end william, its the only intelligent answer possible.

William: If I were to tell you of one scientist or mathematician tell me that he/she saw elephants flying through the clouds you would tell me that surely they are mad and their scientific endeavors are worthless. But if I told you that they were relating a DREAM that they had then you would think nothing unusual. The point is we ALL sleep and we ALL dream even if some of us never remember the dreams and dreams are filled with insane irrational images and fantasies, and yet THAT TOO is part of the human mind.

Lair has confided to me that most of what I write goes right over his head and he assumes it is some kind of “mumbo jumbo” that we intellectuals say from time to time to impress each other.

I did not quote Lair accurately. I paraphrased what I remember him saying. Here is what he actually said: “Most of what you write goes right over my head or my eyes glaze over. It does not communicate anything whatsoever to me. It is intellectual blah-blah, meant, I suppose, to show superiority of intellect. ”

The truth be told, I have very low self-esteem. I feel like an intellectual failure. I am definitely a failure in life in many ways.

I do sense that some people will not understand something I post while others will. I have one friend that I like and their most frequent post is to say “so and so is an @ss hat” … now that is not the way I choose to express myself, but I just overlook it and wait for something which is “common ground” for us to discuss.

Dawn: william, most people dont WANT to understand the world, and most people are too busy to waste their time trying to understand the world, the more you understand the less you have in common with those who dont understand, its the price of understanding.

I understand how you feel, and in fact, I feel the same. you thought I was talking crap the first time I posted in your thread too, but its just because we both have different means of garnerring understanding, and unless we have knowledge of the same sources theres going to be an element of confusionm present.

as KANT says nothing can be perceived without some prior knowledge to make it perceivable to the perceiver. Its ok, you make sense to me.

How should we pray, when and for what?

January 4, 2011

Joel: Have you tried praying about it? I know people with more guts than I who would actually turn such a place into a mission field (seriously). I’ve found God really enjoys these tough nut cases because He does the unexpected to resolve them in a way that nothing you could have done would do.

William:
Well, Joel, if prayer is effective, the would it not suffice for YOU to pray on his behalf and of course, since Jesus said one should not pray on the street corner, you would modestly keep the fact to yourself. And, why stop there? Pray for and end to war and poverty. Pray for a cure to AIDS and cancer. Pray the ultimate prayer that no further prayer would be necessary because all that is needful would be done. Or, perhaps it is simply God’s will that the world be exactly as it is. Do you think God is sitting around waiting for someone to pray for something? Does it make sense to you when a football prayer makes a touchdown that he kneels on the field and thanks Jesus. Do you think Jesus is sitting up in heaven watching all the disease and war and suffering and murder and torture that goes on every day and Jesus really cares about some disgustingly overpaid athlete making another touchdown or goal or home run? DO YOU? Tell me! With all due respect, I really want to know, because if you really believe these things then I question the soundness of your judgment and values and it would be to your benefit to re-assess your beliefs.

David: For having never met you, and disagreeing with you on any number of things, I have nonetheless found your insights and challenging comments to be one of the values of a medium such as Facebook. I appreciate the perspective you bring to discussions, and the earnest manner in which you seek knowledge and truth.

All that said, I think your last comment crossed the line in terms of educated, and polite discourse. There are ways to make your point without slipping into such brutal verbosity with someone you don’t otherwise know, and in a medium where the softer elements of direct communication are not available to gentle the impact of such language.

This was the first time I’ve ever seriously contemplated deleting a comment from a blog/webpage/whatever I’ve had some control over. I tend to be rather guarded with whom I choose to deal because I believe that sensitive issues need to be both discussed and yet done so with sensitivity–something depressingly lacking from nearly all wide-open public fora… In the past I have found you to be someone both capable of genuine insight, and deft touch.

I’m very saddened that you have failed to live up to the standard of excellence that I have otherwise learned to expect from you.

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William:
I think you should all have the courage to confront my the obvious things which I point out. If you don’t have that courage, then what is the value of your prayers going to be?

In fact, check out the Epistle of II Peter, ch. 3, 16 I think which you will rarely hear any sermons on but it basically says that “there are people who are weak in understanding and twist and distort various verses of scripture to their own destruction.” If I am correct in what I point out, then it is a serious matter. And if I am obviously in error, then I am just a foolish old man. But you know what? At least I have the guts to say exactly what I think. Thats what the martyrs did. They said exactly what they think even upon pain of death.

I suggest that you leave my post and let anyone who cares to reply and either refute me which will be to my instruction or perhaps agree with me and benefit from the correction which I offer. What meaning does freedom of speech have if we delete things that make us uncomfortable or that we do not know how to respond to? I happen to have a rabid atheist on my list who repeatedly attacks me whenever I say anything positive about any religion. I give her challenging responses and I refuse to delete or defriend her or delete a word of what she posts because that would be cowardice on my part.

Justin:
Oh… and I would pray really hard (and I’m not being facetious) before I did this and while this was going on. I’d like to address William’s comments, who made reference to 2 Peter 3:16, which says, “He [Paul] writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.” What does Paul talk about? Well, in 1 Thess. 5:17, Paul himself says, “Pray without ceasing.” So, one might make the argument that one of the difficult things that Paul talks about (and Peter references in 2 Pet. 3:16) is constant prayer – and “ignorant and unstable” (to use Peter’s words) distort what Paul and others say about prayer in the Scriptures to their own destruction.

Why pray? Because as a Believer, I’m commanded to do so, and I’ve seen it work. James 5:16 says, “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” As a Christian, I don’t see prayer as a Santa Claus wish list, but rather it is talking to an all-powerful and living God, Creator of Heaven and Earth. It is communicating with my Savior.

So, I don’t know about all those touchdown prayers or the problems in the world with suffering. But personally I think it demonstrates a hubris and lack of faith in the human soul to go about tasks without prayer. For me, it is saying to God, “I can solve this on my own… I don’t need you.” And yet, I am so guilty of doing this so often. Prayer is not passing the buck. It’s not saying, “I’m not going to do anything about this, but I’ll pray.” It’s not as former gov. Jesse Ventura said, “a crutch for weak people.” Sometimes the answer to prayer will compel us to action (that has been the case in some of my experiences). But we will never know unless we pray.

I also pray because I know that I myself can’t change people’s hearts. And to be honest, that’s the real problem in this thread. There’s a drug dealer and a cop with a calloused core, and I myself can’t change that. We can report people, send them to jail, take action, but no matter how many correctional facilities we build, we can’t change the heart of the individual. Perhaps many of our world problems have continued to worsen because of our lack of prayer… which is due to our misconception of prayer – that we should only take a knee when we’ve reached the proverbial end zone.

William: @Justin: Good advice. Good rebuttal. Thank you for your effort. The fact that I do not see eye to eye with you should not detract from the fact that I admire your detailed reply.

I see all the theology from the Reformation on as a demonic distortion which in no way represents the piety of the first thousand years of Christianity (East and West.) I find it hubristic and deluded for someone to claim that they know “just the sort of problems” that God likes to work on. And I find it Pharisaical for people to publicly boast of their spiritual activities on the street corner or on the Internet or to suggest to others who obviously have religious education that they might consider actually praying over the matter.

I wonder if God would be MORE pleased if those thousands of spectators crammed into the stadium squandering their time and money on overpriced beer and hot dogs would all stay home and pray and take all that money and donate it to alleviate human suffering (or even animal suffering) but some seem to feel that it is sufficient if all those bleary-eyed bloated spectators look on as one of the athletes “takes the knee.” And why is it that the losers do not “take the knee” in prayer in gratitude for their defeat? Are we only supposed to be grateful over gain and victory or are we supposed to be grateful over loss and suffering? I though James said something about “I count it all joy.”

Now Paul is not specific in WHAT things he advocates in this passage but I feel that some of the points I made conform to this advice: http://bible.cc/philippians/4-8.htm Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

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Based upon your personal understanding of sort of person that Jesus is and based upon your personal understanding of what the Republican and the Democratic parties stand for do you envision Jesus as a Democrat or a Republican (and explain what you see in Jesus and what you see in the party that causes you to see Jesus as aligned with that party.)
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It is fascinating to read biographies of Darwin who actually seriously considered a career in the clergy. Darwin had his own long, slow struggle over faith. When Darwin published his “On the Origin of the Species and the Descent of Man” he expected that only a few thousand scientists would bother to purchase and read the book. Darwin never dreamed that every butcher, baker and candlestick maker would buy a copy. In my opinion, the REASON that the general public was so attracted was that they WANTED to find something to discredit the organized religion which forbade them to indulge in things which they secretly desired (but this is only my conjecture.)

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I should state for the record that I consider evolution to be no longer a theory but a scientific fact proven time and again. The theologians of the first several centuries of Christianity were big on metaphorical interpretation and not literal fundamentalists. Basil the Great wrote a homily on “The Six Day Creations” (Hexemeron) in which he points out that “with God a day is as 1000 years and 1000 years is as a day” and hence the 6 days might be a metaphor. It was the condemned heretic Marcion who FIRST suggested the idea of a canon of approved scriptures in a certain sequence. It was Bishop Irenaeus of the 2nd century who coined the metaphorical understanding that there should be EXACTLY four Gospels because of the vision of the prophet Ezekiel of the flying object with four faces and because of a similar verse in the Book of Revelation. The ancient pagans had little respect for anything which did not trace back to antiquity so the early Christian teachers had to be quite metaphorical and demonstrate that actually Christianity was quite ancient and concealed in the Old Testament as well as in various ancient pagan writers. I think Augustine said “the New Testament is in the Old Testament concealed and the Old Testament is in the New Testament revealed.”

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One would think that devout people of various religions would reject modern medicine on the grounds that scientists are evolutionists and a bad tree has never produced good fruit. Women should refuse any form of pain medication during child birth since the Bible condemns them to bring forth children with travail. Those Muslims who endeavor to mimic the Prophet Mohammad down to every detail of his life (even plucking his underarm hairs) should refuse any form of anesthesia since anesthesia is a form of intoxication and the Qur’an forbids intoxicants. Of course the clever Imams have come up with arguments as to why modern medicine is acceptable. People who object to abortions should refuse to seek the assistance of fertility specialists when they cannot conceive but simply accept God’s will that they must be childless.

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The REAL question is NOT what Jesus himself would or would not do (since we can never know that) but rather for each reader to confront their own personal understanding of the personality of Jesus and their understanding of what the political parties stand for. Anyone who fails to engage in this exercise is simply evading the real issues of expressing your own personal values and understanding. Sadly our educations often teach us how to be evasive and fool others and, worst of all, deceive ourselves.

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I commend David for his courage to resist the understandable temptation to delete my post but instead allow for this free discussion. I am pleased to know that there are some who give prayerful thanks even in defeat or disappointment. I must do some things today and so I will comment on and off but I value this sort of challenge. I have greater respect for Roman Catholicism than for the Reformation Churches but I have greatest respect for the small minority of old calendar Greek (and some Russian) Orthodox who most closely resemble what I understand to be the Christianity of the first 800 years. I must do some chores right now but I shall continue to think upon these things and post what comes to mind. I shall also make a test post on David’s wall just to see if there is some FB qwirk which prohibits you from posting. Right after I made my previous post quoting Paul’s ” if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” it occurred to me that right here is a problem, a conflict, for what can it mean for Paul in one verse to recommend to everyone to “pray at all times without ceasing” but in another verse to exhort people to “think on these things” (and without specifying any details about what sort of things they might be or whether there even are such worthwhile things.) And now I shall do the test post to David’s wall, and do some chores, and give some more thought to this thread.

Joel:
IIRC David’s wall is private because of problems with his father. I can’t find the post but I recall seeing it a while back.

While I have stirred the pot on David’s wall before, I had no such intent and yet I found myself having to scroll on my smartphone about this notification. And scroll. And scroll…

There’s not enough room in FB to fully digress about the problem of suffering so I will leave that there. But reading the other responses has been interesting. Specifically this quote

“I find it hubristic and deluded for someone to claim that they know “just the sort of problems” that God likes to work on.”

It might sound hubristic but it’s fully biblical. Hubris would be “heaven helps him who helps himself”, implying that we need to help God along somehow. God expects you to do your part. You can’t stand in a fallow field and pray for corn without sowing it with corn. In David’s case, the number of things David can do about the issue (that would produce meaningful actions at any rate) is near 0. So what do you do when you have a problem you can’t solve on your own? You pray.

Consider Jehoshaphat. He faced an army he couldn’t defeat. So he ordered a fast and and sacrifice and then prayed to God. He even reminded God of God’s promises. And God came through in a way they could only have dreamed about.

Consider Jesus and the parable of the unjust judge, where Jesus commends us to pray about our problems over and over.

In my own life, I find the largest problems are those handled by God, sometimes before I even know about them. In fact, God prefers us to rely on him in all situations. This isn’t some invention of the reformation church, this is the core tenet of Christianity: that Jesus is the only mediator between God and men and that we pray to Jesus about our problems.

To not pray and to try and solve them myself is true hubris.
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William:
So was World War II won by means of prayer? Did the Germans and the Italians pray? Did Eisenhower pray? I recently learned that Eisenhower was not even baptized until his first term as president and that happened only because Rev. Billy Graham found out Ike was never baptized. Now President McKinley prayed before he sent troops to invade the Philippines and said he heard God telling him to go and civilize the savages, and yet Filipinos had been Christian under the Spanish for 300 years. So American forces invaded the Philippines and behaved in a very cruel and unjust fashion. Do you mean to say that America lost Vietnam because not enough Americans were praying sufficiently? In fact, some of the so-called “prosperity ministers” on TV encouraged people to purchase homes when they could not really afford them claiming that God would cause the banks to overlook the poor credit. Do you feel that it was the prayers of the American religious right that got Obama into office? If Isaiah could say that “as high as the heavens are about the earth so far is God’s mind from the human understanding” then yes I do think it is hubris for someone to claim that they “know just the sort of problems God likes to work on.”

Do you mean to say that atheists never enjoy any success in this world. Did Christopher Hitchens enjoy what success he had because of his devout prayers? If Communist Atheist China one day surpasses America in economic prosperity will it be because of Chinese prayers? When Alexander the Great conquered most of the known world was it because Alexander prayed? When Galileo, Newton and Einstein had their successes and discoveries and fame was it because they prayed?

Now WHY do you end your post by saying “we pray to Jesus about our problems” when everyone knows that Jesus taught people to pray saying “Our Father who art in heaven?”

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Justin:

You bring up some very complex issues regarding prayer that are difficult to answer. And to be honest, I’m far from having all the answers. However, there are some things that I think prayer are not that I hope will be helpful in our discussion.

1) Prayer and action are not necessarily the same thing. One might do action based on an “answer to prayer,” but we should not say necessarily that prayer was related to an action, because it might not be the hard rule. In the case of past Presidents, I have more questions to be asked before I render judgments. Such as, tell me about your relationship with the Lord Jesus, tell me about the prayer you engaged in before making these decisions, tell me about how the Lord answered this prayer.

2) Prayer does not lead necessarily to the conventionally wise thing to do. The phrase conventional wisdom was made famous by economist John Kenneth Galbraith, who used it in an unflattering way. He related conventional wisdom to the acceptability of the idea. Yet, what I find is people who equate answers to prayer with “the conventional wise thing to do” – not because they really feel God telling them to do it but because it seems most reasonable. I had a boss at a religious school (I’m going to refrain from using specifics) say that he prayed about a project and he felt God spoke to him and made a terrible decision. While the context is much more complicated, I’ll spare you the details – only to say, he was clearly trying to convince everyone from the onset that this company offered the best opportunity, everyone who knew anything including myself desperately tried to persuade him otherwise. Not surprisingly, “God” convinced him to ignore the experts and do what he was predetermined to do anyways. I think we could take a lesson from Samuel when he anointed David as King. As each brother passed before him, he was convinced that this one should be king. And each time, God spoke to him and told him “no.” The final answer was anything but conventionally wise. I bring up these points because unless our prayer life and our relationship with God is so strong, it will be easy to confuse the voice of God with the voice of others, or our own voice, or what seems most acceptable.

3) Prayer doesn’t always lead to “success” and failure to pray doesn’t always lead to “non-success.” I use these terms very loosely. Certainly, we see ungodly people who have no prayer life gain success. David constantly points this out in the Psalms – such as 82 – “How long will you defend the unjust
and show partiality to the wicked? Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”

Here’s a clear case of admitting that the ungodly also have success, and if David’s prayer ultimately goes unanswered, then the godly in this case was unsuccessful.

4) An answer to prayer may not be our answer in our timing. When Jesus prayed before his death, He said, “If it be your will, take this cup from me.” That clearly wasn’t God’s will, and Jesus was crucified. However, I would contend that Jesus actually demonstrates something so awesome here. He received an answer to his immediate prayer (though we are not told that he did – except only in the outcome of the event). I contend Jesus received the answer to prayer because He did not use any of His power to resist the torture and crucifixion. He suppressed His fear of the suffering in order to do the unconventionally wise. Yet, Jesus’ prayer is ultimately answered. “If it be your will…” His first priority was to do the Father’s will. Everything was contingent on that, and He proved that that was truly His motive.

Now that I’ve spent time talking about what prayer is not, I’d like to address what prayer is. Since you brought up the Lord’s prayer, that may be a good place to begin. Many have commented that the Lord’s prayer is not just something you recite but rather it is a formula or form to use in your prayer life.

1) Adore God – Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be Your Name.
2) Pray ultimately for God’s Will – Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
3) Pray for your needs – Give us this day our daily bread.
4) Repent to the Lord and ask for the same grace to forgive others – Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors
5) Pray for the fullness of the Holy Spirit and spiritual armor – Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.

I bring this up because I would venture to say that the primary objective in most people’s prayers – or at least the temptation to make the primary objective is #3 – supplication. I don’t think it was an accident that Jesus mentions worshiping God and praying for God’s will before praying for our own needs. Wow, I’m so convicted writing this post! How often I fail to do this!

How can we as a country say, “God we don’t want anything to do with you,” and then in the next breath say, “But please bless America.”? I find our approach (or at least the political landscape) to be so hypocritical and full of hubris. We have turned prayer into the Santa Claus wish list, and as we sit on his lap, we promise we’ll be good… at least until we get what we want.

That is not prayer at all. When President Obama asked us yesterday to pray for the families involved in the terrible incident in Arizona, did he mean for us to first adore God, pray ultimately for God’s will, then pray for these families, not to mention repenting and praying for the Holy Spirit? I don’t know for sure, but I kind of doubt it. But I bring this up to say that our understanding of prayer is so wrapped up in our culture’s understanding of prayer that we are bound to get confused when we ask the reasonable questions like – “What does it mean that McKinley prayed before sending Americans and leading to the destruction of many Philippine’s lives?” or “Why is it that a devout atheist like Christopher Hitchens enjoys so much success?” Is it any wonder then why people make terrible and destructive decisions and call it “God’s answer to prayer” and suddenly the masses are driven to either deny God’s existence or hate God altogether?

I read a book once about the purpose of fasting. The authors’ point was that fasting is not about twisting God’s arm (I’m going to starve myself until you get me what I want) but rather it was about worship (I’m going to forgo all pleasures and distractions in order to concentrate on hearing your will). I think that’s a good understanding of prayer as well. If Paul tells us to pray constantly and that our bodies are the Temple of God, and that we are living sacrifices, then we have God’s ear all the time. But there is one stipulation.

Proverbs 15:29 and James 5:19 talk about God hearing the prayers of the righteous. While I’m not going to say that God doesn’t hear the prayers of the unrighteous because I don’t think that’s always true, I do want to point out this idea of worship and a relationship with God as being a necessity in experiencing the fullness of prayer. If Jesus makes us righteous, then the first step in a full prayer life is surrendering to Jesus.

Thomas Aquinas pointed out that so many people run to God for issues of peace but they run away from God in the sense that they reject Jesus the Messiah. We are so concerned with being PC, that we want to say things like “pray for these families,” but we dare not tell the public to “ask it in Jesus’ Name.” So, for those who vehemently deny the Divinity of Christ, but yet pray for whatever requests, I have to ask, “What must that be like to God?” If Jesus is the Mediator between God and man, if He is the One that makes us righteous (not by our merit, but by his blood sacrifice), then what is the person who does this saying? Aren’t they saying, from the very onset, “I deny your Divine existence and appointment, I deny my sinfulness, I deny my need for a Savior, I deny that Jesus is my Savior, I deny that the Father and the Son are one, I deny that Jesus is my Mediator, I deny that I even need a relationship with you… oh but by the way, here’s what I need you to do for me.”

The reason I said earlier that I would need to ask a lot more questions before I judged is because I don’t know the hearts of these presidents. Did they make that decision and then come to God and say, “Help us today in this action that we’ve already decided to take?” If such is the case, then we should never say that they were motivated either out of prayer or out of a relationship with God.” They threw up a prayer like a “hail mary” in a football game hoping for another immaculate reception.

William:

@Justin You write some good posts. You give some great arguments. I am not convinced by them, but I admire them. But before I read through what you have posted since yesterday (and it looks challenging and intriguing), I am going to give you the one single biggest reason why you are so totally full of baloney that you haven’t the foggiest idea what the message of the Gospels is. You are supposed to LOVE YOUR ENEMY. I am certainly not your enemy. You mentioned that you did not want to “hijack” the thread here. SO I went to all the trouble to recreate the entire thread in my notes, tagged David so it would appear on his wall, and sent you a FACEBOOK FRIENDS INVITATION, which you ignored presumably because you are afraid to have someone on your list that does not swallow your particular line of dogma hook, line and sinker. Now there are those with your convictions who would actually trek into the deepest rain forests of Brazil in the hopes of converting some natives who have never heard of Jesus. Yet here you are, ignoring my friends request and continuing to post on David’s thread. I am certain David does not mind. But I just want to point out the ENORMOUS hypocrisy of your life and values to ignore my FB friends request and ignore the post on my wall where I recreate the important portions of my thread. I think you should seriously reexamine your life and values. Oh, and you’re the one who would have approached all those officers and drug dealers on the street and set up some kind of mission prayer field and got them all to give the knee to Jesus! I have to have my breakfast and I am going to study your posts over coffee. Thanks! I do appreciate what you write and that you take the time to write it, but I hardly think anyone can blame me for seeing a certain hypocrisy in some of your actions (or inactions.)

@Justin: (sipping my coffee) I must commend you as a person of deep faith and determination to spend all this time responding to my questions, especially since I give the impression of being someone who is unlikely to be persuaded (but then perhaps many others will read this thread.) You mention asking various presidents how they might have prayed before a certain decision. I don’t get it?! Jesus said pray and fast in PRIVATE and what your heavenly Father sees in private he will reward openly. So doesn’t that mean that one should never have the audacity to ask another if they pray or how they prayed? I have seen photographs of G.W. Bush in prayer with squinty eyes and pursed lips resembling someone with a hemorrhoid and I just see that as photo-op hypocrisy. Where in the Bible does it tell us we must pray with eyes closed? Perhaps it does, I am not certain. Where in the Bible does it say to go down on ONE knee, why not TWO knees, or why not a full prostration as Orthodox Christians and Muslims do? And why would so many of America’s leaders come from a strange little secret society at Yale called Skull and Bones which most CERTAINLY must be demonic and against all that Christianity stands for. So in what sense can G.W. Bush be a devout man if he willingly joined Skull and Bones and then spent years drinking to the point of intoxication. And G.W. Bush is described as FAR MORE religious a person than Reagan or Eisenhower. And with regard to FASTING and battle, do you HONESTLY think that I will find some historical examples of soldiers willingly fasting during World War I or World War II or Korea or Vietnam? The most memorable fasting of the 20th century was Mohandas Gandhi fasting almost to the point of death and Gandhi was a Hindu who politely rejected the Christian faith even though he had made an elaborate study of it. Is God pleased by Hindu fasting or Muslim Ramadan fasting? But if Jesus is “the only way the only door” to heaven and approach to God the Father then the prayers and fasting of non Christians must be useless or perhaps offensive.

Justin: first your comments were so hurtful and unjustified, by calling me unloving and a hypocrite, and I hope to have an apology from you once I finish this post.

First the reason I didn’t comment on your other note was because Joel had commented further on this post, and while I considered commenting on the note you created, I decided to continue on this post since Joel had already done so.

Secondly, and more importantly, I did not accept your friend request, and I make no apologies for not doing so. My wife and I have made an agreement that we don’t friend people we don’t know. Honestly, I don’t know you from Adam. My profile has information about my work, where I live, and most importantly pictures of my family. You may say, “What’s the big deal? You have 750+ friends, why not add another one?” The answer is I don’t know you. I have been many places, have many relatives, but I have never met you. You could be a serial killer for all I know.

You say that missionaries go to the most remote parts of the world to try to win the lost, but they don’t expose themselves unnecessarily. Jesus said, “be as gentle as doves but as shrewd as serpents.” In other words, don’t be stupid and act foolishly. If you equate love with stupidity and acting unwisely, then I can’t help you there.

I’ve already seen how you have lashed out at someone on this thread for approaching the subject of prayer, so let’s just say that I’ve already had my guard up with you to begin with. You should consider it a great act of love that I’ve even come back to this post to even consider continuing our conversation after you unjustly railed on me. If such is going to be the nature of our conversation, then count me out… it’s fruitless, unproductive, and not the nature of God nor gentlemen.

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William: How can I apologize for what is so obvious to me. I went to a lot of trouble to invite you, you ignored my friend’s invite. How can I see your action as anything other than that of a hypocrite. And IF you argue that you did not see my invite that would still not explain WHY you did not immediately invite me yourself when we first began this conversation. Would that not have been the loving Christian neighborly thing to do. You SHOULD feel hurt. You failed. It is SO OBVIOUS how you failed. At the very least be man enough to admit to your failure to extend the courtesy of Facebook friendship to me. IN FACT, even if I never apologize to you you are STILL required to love me as your enemy and to return my evil with your blessings, and I am hardly your enemy. Dont you realize that I was waiting day after day to see if you would add me to your friends list?

And, if you don’t know Adam, and you dont know me, and you have read hundreds of words that I have written, then how can you claim to know Jesus and the Father? When those missionaries enter into the rain forests, are they guaranteed a friendly reception. What about the martyrs who face the lions in the arena. Am I truly as scary and dangerous as a lion. I dont think you have the first clue about what it means to be a Christian. What about Dietrich Bonhoeffer going to Nazi Germany and writing “The Cost of Discipleship” which speaks of “cheap grace”… would Bonhoeffer have hesitated to add me to Facebook? I frankly think you let Jesus down and I am not going to apologize for that. I think you should repent over it if these are your convictions.

In fact, I wrote you a cordial note to accompany my request for a FB add and you did not even have the courtesy to write back and explain to me all your reservations and concerns. How do you explain THAT as the actions of a devout Christian?

So if you are fearful of ME on Facebook then how would you have to courage to approach those police and dealers in the street and use your religious skills to reform them?

Incomprehensible mysteries

January 4, 2011

A gem from the Qur;’an: قُل لَّوْ كَانَ الْبَحْرُ مِدَاداً لِّكَلِمَـتِ رَبِّى لَنَفِدَ الْبَحْرُ قَبْلَ أَن تَنفَدَ كَلِمَـتُ رَبِّى وَلَوْ جِئْنَا بِمِثْلِهِ مَدَداً which is one of my absolute faves: “Say: “If the sea were ink for the Words of my Lord, surely, the sea would be exhausted before the Words of my Lord would be finished, even if We brought a sea like to it for its aid.” Surah al-Kahf (Q 18:109)

Thats just like the end of one of the Gospels (John?) which says something like “if everything Jesus said and did were written I suppose the entire world could not contain all the books.”

You know, somewhere in Moses Maimonides “Guide for the Perplexed” he says something like “no one truly understands all these matters” and also “there is a time when one must cease speaking or thinking and just behold in silent awe the mystery” (I am paraphrasing from memory.) When Isaiah says something like “As high as the heavens is from the earth so different is my mind from your mind; my ways from your ways.” Such verses regarding how the infinite is incomprehensible by the finite mind is simply a common sense reminder to simpler readers who might expect to understand everything. Even in the Vedas there is a passage which says “perhaps God is aware of these matters regarding his nature or perhaps not, who knows?” Even King Solomon when he finished building the Temple said something like “Behold O Lord the heaven of heavens cannot contain you so how shall you dwell in this temple which we have constructed.”

A verse in Pauls Book of Hebrews

January 1, 2011

I had a feeling it was in Hebrews and it is Ch. 9 verse 5 “and above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail.” I was struck by the subjective and individual humanity of this statement of Paul in that he is speaking as an ordinary person and not as the sock-puppet of some indwelling spirit; he is admitting that there is a human limit to his understanding of ancient writings. I have the same feeling about the opening passage of the Gospel According to Luke: “Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which are most surely believed among us, it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account…”

A Branch Cut from the Tree Slowly Withering

December 31, 2010

@Mahla: I am guessing that 1054 is a reference to the great schism when Rome and Constantinople mutually anathematized each other. In reality the East and the West had been drifting apart for several centuries. When I was actively old calendar Orthodox in the 1970s and 80s I noticed that the Russians and the Greeks differed significantly on certain things but they still considered that there was enough in common for inter-Communion as long as the Bishops involved were not in any way Ecumenical. The Eastern Orthodox notion of schism and then heresy is the notion of a limb that is cut away from the tree and only gradually withers. But I am certain that the Old Believer Russians saw the official Russian Orthodox church as gradually withering away. And the old calendar Greeks who separated in 1923 once Greece abandoned the Julian calendar likewise saw the new calendar church as gradually withering since in their view it was a branch cut off from the tree. I once visited St. Patrick’s RC Cathedral in NYC and looked at a pamphlet which in small print stated that Eastern Orthodox could approach for communion if they chose because Rome sees them as only schismatic while the Orthodox see Rome as heretical. I am not personally making any argument or taking any stand but am merely putting into words what I came to understand in the 1970s and 80s.

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The Old Calendar Greeks that I went with would only accept baptism by complete immersion and they reject partial immersion (head only) or sprinkling (aspersion.) I was baptized by the new calender Greeks (under Archbishop Iakovos in the 1970s) but when I wanted to go with the old calendar Greeks I was baptized by complete immersion. Their argument was that IF the form of baptism was complete even though performed by, say, Arians, THEN that form could be validated simply by chrismation BUT if the form itself was not valid, then there was no way except baptism. The Russians always leaned more towards Rome and so they were not fussy about complete immersion for an adult. Also I should add that they completely immerse THREE times and not simply once. I must say that I felt something very powerful with my second baptism as compared with the first. And I had no idea they were going to re-baptize me until that morning, so it was not like I was psyched up for it. In the 1970s I experienced greater piety among the Metropolia priests than among the Greek new calendar priests. But I experienced even greater piety among the ROCOR (Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.) The problem with the Greek old calendar bishops is that they are very fragmented into many groups and some bishops are totally alone which is referred to as a “sterile bishop” since it takes two bishops to consecrate a new bishop. Properly speaking there should be three bishops to consecrate but it can be accomplished by two but not less than two.

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For several years I worked in an office with a woman who had majored in Protestant theology and married a minister. Her husband was pastor of a church a few blocks from the office. The first time I met him I asked him how he would characterize his beliefs (i.e. Lutheran, Baptist, Congregational, Calvinist etc.) He looked startled and said “well, I would hope they are Bible-based.” Then I said, “But don’t you see that if you asked the Pope, or the Jehovah’s Witnesses, or the Archbishop of Canterbury or the Latter Day Saints (Mormons) they would ALL say that they are Biblical.) He looked rather embarrassed and agreed.

One day, I asked his with the following: “SUPPOSE that a Roman Catholic attended your church for a few months, like it, and asked to be received; what would you do, would you baptize? She said OH, Catholics are not Christians because they believe in salvation by works so we would have to baptize them. BUT, first we would ask them to produce several witnesses to testify on their behalf that they lead an upright and Godly life.” (NO I am not joking! What a RIOT, you have to be sinless before you can join their church?!)

Nostra Aetate, Ecumenism and Interfaith

December 30, 2010

I met an elderly nun in the 1990s who made a point of telling me about Nostra Aetate (Our Times/Age) because she knew I was interested in the comparative study of world religions. Hans Kung mentions Nostra Aetate in Chapter 3 of “On Being Christian” and points out that in less than 400 years the Church did a 180 degree about face from stating at the Counsel of Florence (I think) that there IS no salvation outside the Roman Catholic Church to Nostra Aetate saying that it is the duty of Catholics not SIMPLY to respect non-Christian religions but to recognize that God’s saving Spirit is present in the scriptures of such religions. I am recalling this from memory so forgive any errors or omissions. For many years I was in error about one of the final Surahs of the Qur’an believing that it said “Say therefore unto the unbeliever the GOD which we worship is not the GOD which you worship” but what it actually says is “the RELIGION which we worship is not the RELIGION which you worship.” Also I was in error regarding Surah 5 verse 48 thinking that it said “Had I wanted to I could have made you all as one RELIGION (but what it actually says is one culture/nation/people/language/ethnicity) but for my own reasons I made you as different peoples so if you must compete then compete in doing good works and when you return to me I shall explain the reason for the differences.”

Talmudic scholars point to one verse where God says to Abraham “do not worship the stars for that has been given unto the nations” and conclude that there may be other valid religions in the world as well as the 5 Noahmite laws. You know, as I write this and muse, I am struck by the term “law.” Someone who seems to hate organized religion tried to ask me my definition of “sin” and then pointed out that the “big ten” commandments do not talk about kindness or compassion. But what strikes me is people’s emphasis upon judicial notions of “laws and commandments” “dos and donts” “thou shalt and shalt not” and the entire notion of sin or wrong doing. What strikes me at the moment is that there is a dimension of religious devotion which Hindus would call Bhakti and it is Miriam dancing and singing or David dancing before the Ark of the covenant. It is at those moments that we are not thinking about law. Rumi’s saying comes to mind “there is a field beyond notions of right-doing and wrong-doing; I shall meet you there.” If we consider what Paul says in Romans about those nations which have a law in their hearts then we may conceive the possibility of a secular order of righteousness which is purely state and separate from religion. But there is still the dimension of bhakti devotion which is needful to the human spirit.

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There is an old Zen saying (actually there are quite a few) which states “The difference between heaven and hell is the breadth of one hair.”
Jonathan Swift, in “Gulliver’s Travels” speaks of the dispute between the “Big-endians” and the “Little-endians” who argue about whether the hard boiled egg should be opened at the large end or at the small end. When Gulliver inquires the source of the dispute they open their sacred scriptures and show him the verse: “Open thy egg where thou will.”

One Russian Orthodox Bishop, Anthony Krapovitsky, wrote that our salvation was worked in the garden of Gesthemene when Jesus prayed “Heavenly Father, all those whom Thou has given to me, may they be ONE even as you and I are one.” We must constantly remind ourselves that unity is important. Jaroslave Pelikan in his five volume history of Christian doctrine points out how Paul said that of the three things, “faith, hope and love” the most important is love. Pelikan takes the liberty to construe “faith” as meaning dogmatic, doctrinal belief rather than Paul’s definition of hope and confidence of what is not seen. I had to google to remember: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” It is worthwhile to note that the term “faith” only occurs twice in the entire Old Testament. The first time it occurs IN THE NEGATIVE in Deuteronomy Ch. 32 “because of your FAITH-LESS-NESS my anger has been kindled like a fire and shall burn from the highest mountain tops to the base of the mountains and down to the lowest Sheol-Hell and shall WITHER the fruitfulness of the land.” The second occurrence is the one famously used by Martin Luther in Habbakuk “for the just man shall live by HIS faith” but the Greek Septuagint reads very differently and says “for the just man shall live by MY [God’s] faithfulness to my covenantal agreement.” The same word in Hebrew is used both times and it is a word which means honoring the terms of an agreement and not Paul’s sense of faith as “pistis.” And the Septuagint verse in Habbakuk goes on to say “but IF that man draws back [i.e. reneges] then my heart shall take no delight in him.” Perhaps one can add a third instance of “faith” in the sense that “Abraham BELIEVED and his belief was counted TOWARDS his righteous works.” You see, belief itself and profession is a also a work or deed. But Abraham was not righteous SIMPLY because of his belief but also because of his deeds. By the same token Job was not righteous simply because of belief or faith but because of his righteous deeds and actions. It seems to me that a person’s righteous and just deeds attract the attention of God and then God ADDS faith or belief to that person, which means that faith is a gift and a gift which God offers to some but not all based upon a foreknowledge of what a given individual would do with the gift of faith (which is why God hardens Pharaoh’s heart ten times.)

I am aware that the doctrine of Papal infallibility was only formally asserted in the 19th century and then used to proclaim the doctrine of Immaculate Conception. The Eastern Orthodox maintain that doctrinal infallibility is only present in a properly convened Ecumenical Council of which there have only been seven by their reckoning. Hans Kung questioned the doctrine of Papal infallibility and for that his license to teach was revoked and he moved from the theology department across the hall to the philosophy department but retained his priesthood and his right to celebrate Mass (at least this is my poor understanding.) There is even some evidence that [then] Cardinal Ratzinger acknowledged some merit to Kung’s ideas. Personally I have come to equate the doctrine of Papal Infallibility to Plato’s “Noble Lie” although in the Greek it is not really a “lie” so much as a tale/fable/myth/story/account. People always focus on the “lie” aspect and never think about the “noble” aspect. What the magisterium has produced is a body of one billion Catholics who enjoy the greatest dogmatic and doctrinal and liturgical unity of any religion in the world. If you go to Mass in Tokyo, you may not understand the Japanese but the same things will be read and sung as Masses around the world for that day. And if you want to know what the Roman Catholic Church believes then you have only to obtain a copy of the 900 page Catechism which covers every conceivable aspect of human life and relations. I know of no other religion which can provide a similar document. And as for those Churches which boast of being “Bible based” I can only say that the very first portion of the New Testament to be written was not a Gospel but Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians which was around 51 C.E. which means that for 10 or 20 years the Christian church existed with NO New Testament and most likely with little access to the Old Testament in the form of the Greek Septuagint since literacy was not widespread and there was no printing press. The earliest known complete Bible in approximate canonical order is the Sinai Codex in Greek which dates from the 4th or 5th century.

Herods Slaughter of the Innocents

December 28, 2010

As I read your excellent post, I am suddenly reminded of Lamech who was a proud, powerful and vengeful man. When God put the “mark” upon Cain’s forehead (presumably what Hindus might call a Tilak and a sign of clan membership and blood-vengeance) God said that anyone who harmed Cain would receive 7-fold retribution (retaliation). Well Lamech said “If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times.” So, this is basic human nature that when we are angry we seek revenge and the measure of the revenge that we seek is also a measure of our honor or worth. http://bible.cc/genesis/4-24.htm Herod is very much like Lamech and also reminds us of the attempted genocide in the Book of Esther by evil Haman as well as modern day genocides. Now we see the exponential increase from Cain to Lamech and then to Herod but Jesus comes along and says http://bible.cc/matthew/18-22.htm that the magnitude of forgiveness and patients should be seventy times seven. It is obvious to me that Jesus does not literally mean that one should count up 490 offenses and then lower the vengeance boom.

I know a learned fellow on Facebook who has a grudge against Christianity and so he mocks Christmas by asking WHY nativity scenes do not show any reference to the slaughter of the innocents. People who have unreasoning grudges against the Bible or organized religion never take the time to study and question and try to find the value in scriptures which may exist even if such scriptures are purely myth. Even if God is a non-existent myth and this universe is a matter of chance and chaos, still the evil that men do is very real. In our times since the 20th century more than ever we have the technology to perform genocides and holocausts beyond Herod’s and Lamech’s wildest dreams. One 20th century military general observed that “we are technological giants but ethical infants.”

The message which Lura gives us is a very good an important message which has meaning because humans have the capacity to be inhumane to a degree which exceeds any wild beast who simply kills for food and to defend territory.

Jefferson on Religion in Public Education

December 25, 2010

by Robert M. Healy, Yale Press, 1963

I purchased this book sometime prior to 1965. Years ago I opened it and noticed a passage which always stayed with me. I thought I remembered it being in a FOOTNOTE. Finally today I took the book and looked through it for an hour. I discovered the passage and it is much as I remember it but it is not a footnote.

Page 96

The Source of the Variety of Opinion

The rationale behind Jefferson’s efforts to bring about freedom of opinion is not always clear; ultimately it seems to be based on two conflicting motives. The first goes back to the hypothesis, which Jefferson evidently accepted in common with members of the American Philosophical Society, that ideas are determined by the structure of the brain and that since each man’s brain is to some extent physically unique, his opinions must be expected to be so too. To Jefferson thinking, like gravity and magnetism, was a property or mode of action of matter. Thought was therefore determined by the structure of the thinking organ.

In line with this, Jefferson made remarks such as “Our opinions are not voluntary” ; “Differences of opinion … like differences of face, are a law of nature, and should be viewed with the same tolerance” ; and, “As the Creator made no two faces alike so no two minds and probably no two creeds.”

….

Tolerance was not a means of promoting free discussion by which men could approach truth. It was merely an acceptance of the Creator’s intention that all men think differently.

Small Children and Religions

December 24, 2010

The more I think about it the more hideous it seems to take some 6 year old child who has no concept about death or sin and then try to explain to them that they are horrible hopeless sinners BUT God became man (but kept on being God) and people tortured him and crucified him and then he arose from the dead and ascended into heaven and so therefore you should not feel bad that you are a hopeless sinner BECAUSE you have been REDEEMED and so you wont have to roast in hell for all eternity because you are FORGIVEN and that is why we call this book (of course you cant READ yet) the GOOD NEWS, now ISN’T THAT LOVELY DEAR, so pray that if you die before you wake up that God will TAKE your soul, and now go out and play and HAVE A GOOD TIME KID!