Monthly Archives: February 2017

Unbelievable!

Unbelief is not the unforgivable sin; no one can choose what to believe anyway, and of the 244 mentions of “pistis” in scripture, none of them are about “making a decision” about the epistemic truth of god-talk. In all instances, “belief”, “faith”, the words used for “pistis” are about God’s “divine persuation” to His will, which is goodness; that draw being entirely the meaning of faith and belief. Our only choice is to participate or not. That’s it. Non participation is the unforgivable sin; not whether we think there is or is not some “Big Other” keen on sending folks to Hell because His existence wasn’t at all clear to many, and God not making it crystalline Himself.

“According to such an exegesis, ‘blasphemy’ does not properly consist in offending against the Holy Spirit in words; it consists rather in the refusal to accept the salvation which God offers to man through the Holy Spirit, working through the power of the Cross … If Jesus says that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit cannot be forgiven either in this life or in the next, it is because this ‘non-forgiveness’ is linked, as to its cause, to ‘non-repentance,’ in other words to the radical refusal to be converted. This means the refusal to come to the sources of Redemption, which nevertheless remain ‘always’ open in the economy of salvation in which the mission of the Holy Spirit is accomplished.”

Pope John Paul II, Dominum Et Vivificantem.

That is to say, it is unforgivable to be numb to your actions, unremorseful because the Holy Spirit cannot work in you.

To grieve the Holy Spirit is to also say that unbelievers are unforgivable merely for the fact they don’t believe in God; for it is to deny the Holy Spirit is at work in them as well, especially when their lives are very much bearing its fruit.

“… I found some astonishing things in the course of my study that had never occurred to me. Frankly, in the days when I thought I’d had it with religion, I just found the whole thing absolutely incredible. These doctrines seemed unproven, abstract. And to my astonishment, when I began seriously studying other traditions, I began to realize that belief — which we make such a fuss about today — is only a very recent religious enthusiasm that surfaced only in the West, in about the 17th century. The word “belief” itself originally meant to love, to prize, to hold dear. In the 17th century, it narrowed its focus, for reasons that I’m exploring in a book I’m writing at the moment, to include — to mean an intellectual assent to a set of propositions, a credo. “I believe:” it did not mean, “I accept certain creedal articles of faith.” It meant: “I commit myself. I engage myself.” Indeed, some of the world traditions think very little of religious orthodoxy. In the Quran, religious opinion — religious orthodoxy — is dismissed as “zanna:” self-indulgent guesswork about matters that nobody can be certain of one way or the other, but which makes people quarrelsome and stupidly sectarian.

“So if religion is not about believing things, what is it about? What I’ve found, across the board, is that religion is about behaving differently. Instead of deciding whether or not you believe in God, first you do something. You behave in a committed way, and then you begin to understand the truths of religion. And religious doctrines are meant to be summons to action; you only understand them when you put them into practice.”

Karen Armstrong, My Wish: The Charter For Compassion, Ted Transcript March 2008

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Cover To Cover

The Old Testament entails to the story of what happens when God shows up to free His people.

The New Testament entails to the story of what happens when God shows up to free His people.

The entire Bible can then be told as a story of exodus.

The two questions that will continue to plague Abrahamic religions is who are God’s people, and, how will He set them free.

It seems that in the New Testament, everyone is God’s people, because in Adam, all became slaves. No one genuinely knows what happened when Jesus showed up on God’s behalf, as Moses did. In general, Christ atones, and that’s all Christians agree on, even though what atonement means is likewise debated.

What is clear is that whatever Jesus universally accomplished, it has made “grace” through “faith” the efficacious means to freedom.

Grace is God’s active presence in the world. Faith is a persuation, a draw to the good; God, himself being goodness itself. There’s no more to it than this except a commitment to participate in the goodness around you.

What is clear is that regardless of what God’s people think or how they act, God shows up and sets them free; uninterested in retribution and only engaged in restoration.

This is the judgment (dikaiosuné) of God in Exodus, and His justice (dikaiosuné) has no necessary tie to retribution at all, as the story of Exodus reveals.

If you feel the need to argue who is and who is not “God’s people”, I think you’ve missed the plot “in the beginning”. If you feel the need to put people in Hell “in the end”, you’ve likely missed the story of Christ, in the middle.

Just a thought.

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The “Other” Of The “Big Other”

It seems to me the R.C. Sprouls and the Rob Bells of the world have it wrong; representing polar extremes of the other ideologically.

If the Gospel is the the good news that the Kingdom of God has arrived and that we’re all participants in it, it seems to me that any view on how that ties into punishment is doubtful. That’s whether there’s torture for the wicked or love for all.

The best counter example that God entails to love in the Rob Bell sense is our very existence. A God of love certainty doesn’t love in a way that doesn’t lack pain and suffering, yet I don’t know of but few exceptions who wouldn’t call existence a wonderful state of affairs even so.

In the case of our existing as we do, it is clear pain and suffering exist as part of our experience. That’s God’s doing. All we can say is that pain and suffering are necessary.

It would be splitting hairs to say there’s a difference that makes a difference in making pain and suffering necessary because it makes us better and aware human beings versus pain and suffering being necessary for the punishment of sins. That’s simply saying God is immoral in either case, because with the former, the ends don’t justify the means. With the latter, if punishment is to change the sinner, it’s again the ends not justifying the means, and ends never justify means. If on the other hand, punishment is pointless, then God is whimsical and not good nor can He be seen in a moral light at all though we’d be inclined to call that sort of God evil, no question. That is, save the God-love of the Sproul, evangelical genre.

The fact is, God must be divorced entirely from our concepts of good and evil and is beyond all our ideas including love; they all lead to error or absurdity.

The good news of the Gospel is that the Kingdom of God is here and we have been left to our evolving sense of moral sentiment and moral reasoning in hopes that we’re going to desire that “thing which God is like” (goodness) and be at one with God in getting a better and better polish on that mystery we’re supposed to be reflections of no matter if it’s this existence or some other.

Just a thought.

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Fundamentally Speaking …

Many Fundamentalists have no idea that the Old Testament was never supposed to have been written and that it had been as a result of the first destruction of the Temple. That it was written down caused a huge schism in Judaism; the liberals wanting it written for the sake of preservation, and the conservatives wanting to follow the letter of the law and rejecting the written scriptures.

This presents a fantastic irony!

Conservative Hebrews feared that scripture would become sacrosanct and then idolized, feared the contents of scripture would cease to be community stories that bound them together and instead would become something inaccessible to all but priests, rabbis, and scribes, feared God’s word would be lost along with their national identity were it written down.

The New Testament appears to be a collection of writings also never meant to be written scripture, and also the product of the Temple’s destruction (this in 69 CE, and the first in 6 BCE). That’s some 30 years of purely oral tradition with no emphasis on a written expression of the meaning and practice of Christianity until as before, some believed the ideas that centered their community could be lost.

The irony is in many places, but one is that it is only because of liberal Hebrews that conservative Christians are possible. Second is that it’s an identical mindset between conservative Hebrews and conservative Christians but each would have repudiated the other. Another is that in each case, the liberal saw the importance of not putting blind faith into the idea that God would preserve the people (thus needing or not needing to write the scriptures). In so doing, the liberal of old agreed with the conservative today to the importance of scripture. And the liberal today cautions in agreement with the conservative of old, that we must take scripture seriously, but not literally, and not idolize it as God’s words, but as a set of stories through which people may understand the will of God, which is what Hebrews and Greeks alike meant by “word”.

The most significant irony to me is that Christans want to write off liberal theology, having no idea that what goes for liberal and what goes for conservative is purely seasonal.

This is no more clearly demonstrated than by Christian fundamentalists failing to note that they’re merely a very extreme form of 6 century, Hebrew liberalism!

Go figure.

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According To …

“The Gospel According To Mark” is the story that Jesus has inaugurated the Kingdom Of God on Earth and, that it exists whenever and wherever a person brings it about. It is the description of what that kingdom is like and then, what we are meant to be like at our fundamental level of being as human beings. That is, that like Christ, we are to be God incarnate; love.

Mark seems to be saying throughout that the kingdom is over there in what Jesus is doing … now you must go do it too.

Like Mark, I also don’t see any need to think about virgin births or resurrections when thinking about what the good news is. Paul does. And like Paul, I don’t see any need to talk about the miracles of Jesus. Mark does. But in “The Gospel According To Steve”, I see no need to think of any of these things — which are legitimizing devices it seems, however historical or actual they may have been — because in taking part in the gospel, the fruit of the experience affirms its validity in soundness.

The only miracle in Mark’s Gospel that concerns me is the one I and you can experience: the miracle that someone may actually take up their own cross and discover in doing so, a resurrected savior in the experience of bringing that goodness into the world.

Just a thought.

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To Do Or Not To Do …

​Some number of decades studying theories of human knowledge leads to an obtuse but otherwise obvious fact.

No inquiry is a search for truth.

All inquiry is an attempt to answer the same question: What must I do?

The only thing that changes is the topic one is considering. Inquiry reduces formulaically to this: I want to understand x so that I can relate to x appropriately. There are thousands of years of thought on human knowledge, but not much else of it need be mentioned.

I make this point because it often baffles my mind that “believers” often just “believe”. But there is no relation to belief and God for this kind of person. This person has not approached the question genuinely wanting an answer, because of course, he obviously hasn’t asked what he must do in relation to the idea of God, and just as obviously, his behaviour has not changed as a result of “believing in God”.

There’s no difference that makes a difference in belief and behavior. They are responses to how we think of reality. If you have beliefs that have no real impact on your behavior, there’s no sense to calling them beliefs.

For many religious people, they simply ought to own that they either don’t believe in God, that there’s no difference for them between belief in God and disbelief in God, or that the question of God is really just insignificant, given the above and the lives they live.

Just a thought.

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When The Immaterial Is Material

​If as a materialist you think an idea is irrelevant because you cannot touch it, I think you’ve missed the point entirely, because what matters is that ideas touch you. If you think similarly, maybe like most Theists do, then what probably matters to you about God is the reality of God and since God cannot be touched, then I suspect like many Theists, great and heated debate is focused there. Instead, there is the very inarguable sense that matters to believer and non and that is that the idea of God touches us all.

The most legitimate Theology will then only concern itself with the images of this ineffable “Big Other” we are forced to create. That’s because the most fundamental question when it comes to the idea of God is how we are going to react to that idea, what is one to do because of the idea, whether it is believed true or not.

From there, Theist and Atheist can and should, together, challenge these images because if they are not unfettered images of humanity at its best, then we have no use for them at all, nor should we.

Ultimately, the idea of God is the very idea of our ability to be God, as we imagine God to be; as any other conception is incomprehensible and therefore, literal nonsense.

Just a thought.

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The Trump Card

​For me, Trump provides a field day of opportunity to discuss one of my favorite studies, Ethics. I don’t think most are equipped or otherwise prepared to genuinely talk politics, myself included. However, I do think we can all ask ourselves about morality in various contexts and then apply those principles to the larger scale with success.

How can you abstract DAPL, global warming, alternate fuels, refugees, and immigrants into a personal context where you must act in one way verses another, where political party association means absolutely nothing?

In doing so, won’t your association be in alignment with moral principles where you often find that you cannot align with a political party outright or at all? Surely no one thinks that a political party aligns with moral principle in as much as it’s merely advantageous for all parties to claim to be! I’m sure there are folks who think that way, but we immediately know there’s no point in talking to such folks in their delusion.

Can you parallel a social concern to a personal, concrete example?

Do you know how to abstract to a moral principle?

Do you know what a moral principle is?

We’re all ignorant of something; it’s just a question of topic, of the subject. I think in the Trump years to come, the best way to approach the conversation is to dive into these sorts of questions, not only because it will directly apply to events at hand but also apply to unknown circumstances in the future, any future. That’s the beauty of what principles are and how they work.

Just a thought.

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Non Compartmental Theology

​One of the most venerable views of Theology for me is in some like John Dominic Crossan iterating the indivisibility of the sacred and the secular, the anti Epicurean view of unity and oneness; such that for example with the Lord’s prayer, “There are always two halves [in Jesus sayings] and you don’t get one half without the other, [so, taking it that way], There’s no Kingdom Of God unless everyone gets daily bread.”

This is an essential understanding of sacrament where from our inability to know God, there can be no difference between kindness and the Kingdom Of God, forgiveness and the Kingdom Of God, mercy and the Kingdom Of God. The necessary univocal language then implies that there is no Kingdom Of God when we are not kind, do not forgive, do not show mercy, and so on. “On Earth as it is in Heaven” becomes our injunction rather than a hope that God will realize for us.

It isn’t up to our believing these things are equal or understanding them to be, but it certainly means there is no need of faith at all. The practice of these things are the only glimpses we can have of the divine and validation isn’t magical. It is experiential. Definite. Faith returns to its historic meaning which is fidelity, commitment to act.

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On Nostalgic Thinking …

​The post-modern problem isn’t that we rightly pronounce there isn’t an object in the world called “truth” or that the word “truth” isn’t absolute. The problem actually is the result of the belief that there is such an object and it is absolute. The problem itself is that few have even understood the task of Enlightenment responses to problems and all history future to the Enlightenment has no ground.

The entire saga of great minds trying to get at what truth is has, in the whole of human history, only been able to suggest truth is a word given to ideas we feel good about believing. In other words, there is no reason to claim truth is anything more than this. That is, if we justify our beliefs according to facts rather than hopes, truth as an object in reality, independent of the human mind, absolute, doesn’t exist as a matter of fact. To say it does is then a matter of hope, but of what, no one could have any clear idea because the hope points to nothing we encounter, lest it be a fact of the matter and finally settle the question.

What is truth? Reason to assert. Warranted assertability. What makes the most sense to believe, and only for the best reasons to believe.

Just a thought.

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