Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Inter-Blog Dialogue: Part 4- The Never-Ending Journey

In a previous post a fellow blogger, Ben, at Discovering God's Holy Plan brought up a few questions as to the nature of my beliefs. A quick answer would be Love, but quick answers are not interesting nor insightful. If we were the Borg or in the Matrix we could plug into our neighbor's thoughts and we would know what they believe, but unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) we are restricted to human language. Ben's response, which is found in the comment section of this previous post, will be in black and mine will be in reddish brown.
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

[I honestly don't remember where I found this picture, but if anyone knows the name of the author let me know so that I can give proper credit.]

Conclusion: I love you brother, and I love your blog. I see that you are on a journey, and you are a great writer. The question I have is: Where is this journey for God going to end? The way I see it, you have 1 of 3 main endings:

1. Always believe there is a God or first cause, but reject all religious interpretation of God. Thus, you are sort of creating a new religion, or remaining somewhat atheistic or agnostic, but saying "I think there could be something there." This, in effect, changes nothing at all because you can be a good person without God anyways. To be good because there is a God, is nothing if that God can't be defined or directly quoted.

2. Reject that there is a God altogether, and join the dark side of the force (atheism). Again, this is very similar to the 1st option.

3. Conclude that if there is a God, the God of Abraham obviously has more evidence supporting him than another other "god" in history. Eventually you may accept the God with the most scientific evidence, prophecy, revelations, followers, etc (the God of Abraham), and then work our the theological doctrine which you think fits best & is supported by the most evidence (scripturally & otherwise).

Again, I totally respect your views, and I love reading your journey. But all journeys have a destination. The question is, which one will you end up choosing? The first two mean nothing, as we can all be "good people with or without God." The third one defines what "good" is, what God is, and ensures that if there is indeed a God, how to please him, what he says about us, what our future destiny is, etc.

Or, more than likely, I will take the 4th option which is unseen by those within a religious mindset, and that is the journey to experience God without labels by seeking the universal truths buried within the world religions. In a sense, I may be called someone that is spiritual but not religious and because I embrace the world outside of the religious box my journey has no end. To again quote C.S. Lewis, my journey is similar to the "Wood between the Worlds" in The Magician's Nephew. If you remember, the Wood between the Worlds was a linking location where one can access other worlds. I use this as a metaphor to explore the richness of other religions. I see myself as a spiritual traveler traveling from pool to pool in hopes of learning something from the experience.

As you said in your about me section, "Living a life that pleases God, and learning about God is a JOURNEY–Not a DESTINATION."
Our paths are similar in that we are awakened to the fact that we ARE on a journey in comparison to those who are asleep. It's not that those sleeping are spiritually "lost" but that they're missing out on something spiritually enriching. The results of my journey are twofold: it allows me to better understand my fellow man which leads to increased love, and through meditation and reflection my spirituality grows.

Sorry for the tremendously long comment, lol. I would be intrigued to hear your views & thoughts.

Also, I just wonder if you have really considered other sides of many of the "atheists" agruments. Sometimes I get the impression that you really haven't seen or read a lot in the way of "apologetics," which provides a lot of scientific, archeological, and physical evidence which shows the bible to be extraordinarily accurate. Even stuff that seems silly at first glance (Noah's flood, Moses & the Red Sea, etc) actually have some pretty good explanations for them, as do almost any critical views of the bible I have ever come across.

The whole point of apologetics (apologia, απολογία, speaking in defense) is to prove and defend that your view is correct. Muslim apologetics are going to provide evidence that Jesus spoke of the prophet Muhammad in the Gospel when he spoke of the Comforter (paráklētos) instead of the Holy Spirit. Just as some Jews and Christians are going to defend that the Israelites journeyed through the Sinai desert to the Promised Land as a literal event. Even though we haven't found ANYTHING that suggests that over 1 million people mass migrated through the desert (no pottery shards, encampments, graves, etc). You mentioned Exodus Decoded in the comment section of the previous post which is an excellent explanation to the plagues in Egypt. A more challenging documentary was recently shown last year on PBS Nova called the Bible's Buried Secrets. It's premise suggests that the stories of the Bible didn't happen exactly as they are portrayed or that they never happened at all, they're just stories, myth, told by the people. Of course the archeologists in the documentary also have "evidence" to support their claims, but as we both know evidence can only let us speculate so far until it becomes empirical. New Testament Bible scholars across the board agree that Paul wrote 7 out of the 13 epistles attributed to him. So for these 7 the consensus is that he did indeed write them. And for various reasons that is too long to go into, NT scholars are in disagreements as to who wrote the others. This is where the realm of fact and faith split. Evidence, whether in support or against your view, can only take you so far and from there you have to take it on faith. This is why matters of faith should not rest on evidence because these could always be disproven in the future.

Again, if a God created us for a reason, we would have to assume he cares about His creation, and would possibly communicate to it. Yet you seem to reject all communications as nothing more than man's own ideas.

I don't believe all communications are made up by man but the interpretation of revelation is one of many ways that the communications with the Divine can be tainted by human fallibility. Atheist would say that anything paranormal are just chemical reactions in the mind, I accept that this is possible but we can't say it is the only possible explanation for past events because we have no way of analyzing the prophets of the past.

So if God has never revealed himself, why care about God at all? If he doesn't care about us, why care about him? If he doesn't make an effort to tell us laws, why obey them? If he didn't seek us out in history, why seek him out now? He is either forever hidden & unknowable, or he has already revealed himself fully & completely. It has to be one or the other.

I don't and can't believe that we are stuck with only two choices which seems too dualistic and final. If God is forever hidden & unknowable then everyone that has had any sort of mystical or Divine experience, including prophets, were merely hallucinating and their ability to impact history in such monumental ways means these guys (and gals) were really charismatic. On the other hand, if God has revealed himself fully & completely then there would be no need to interpret the scriptures to look for God. There would be no searching and we never would have had this conversation. The knowledge of the existence of God would be as common as the rising of the sun. And since God has revealed himself fully then those that don't follow God's laws fall into two camps: those unaware of the laws and those that are aware and willing break them. This again is too dualistic and is assuming that God's morality can be explained in human terms (and vice versa). This is of course if you speak of God's nature in western thought. In Hinduism God is constantly revealing itself through avatars, guides sent to remind us of our divine nature, that all of reality is a part of Brahman. And the purpose of life for all of us is to enjoy life itself while realizing you are a part of this divine reality. Reality, as we know it, is God's Play, and we are to experience, cherish, and enjoy life while never forgetting our Atman, our true self. When you reach this realization then you no longer feel the need to commit any of the immoral and injustice acts you have mentioned. You realize that if all reality shares an intimate interconnectedness you obtain a greater respect for all life.

In Conclusion: Humanity is fallible. We can question, rationalize, and speculate about the Divine but this will only take us so far. We can believe in whichever path that leads us to becoming moral creatures but belief can only take us so far. We can also participate in
experiences (which is a purpose of rituals in religion) to commune with the Divine, but this can only take us so far. Humanity is fallible, and the very thought of our fallibility should be incredibly humbling.

What I am doing now is learning as much as I can about the world religions, but they are all so spiritually enriching that to entrench/commit myself into only one would be like living in a house with only one window.
I may take on a religion as my base (although I claim Christianity as my base) but I can not see myself limiting myself to only one. This works for me and may not work for everyone. I know you are just trying to give me "some things to ponder" on my journey, so that I may "choose my destination well", but the fact is that I've already weighed and considered everything you've stated and have moved on from this your line of thinking years ago. This does not mean I am unable to learn anything from you but that I've already heard all of your arguments/points before.

I'm sure I could be saved and learn to love my fellow man within Christianity but I see this as too limiting.
If this is seen as dangerous or misguided and if God were to damn my soul for this then I would rather risk personal damnation so that I may increase my love for my fellow man than to save myself and limit my love.

As always, love & peace to you friend!

And peace and blessing be upon you brother.

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