Sunday, October 4, 2009

Above and Beyond Christianity: a summation

Hidden Worship
Nov. 21/07

Depending on how one defines “worship”, in some cases it can be restricted to only conscious and deliberate acts while in other definitions one can worship without being aware of it.

I have found in many Christians' cases their definition toggles back and forth between the two, depending on what the topic is. For example, one must choose to follow and worship Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour, to surrender their will and life through a confession of faith. This must be a conscious and deliberate act. It is not acceptable (or even conceivable) that this may occur unconsciously. But they will most certainly allow unconscious worship; a good example being the statement that everybody worships something. A materialistic secular-atheist may unknowingly worship money or material goods, while never being able to consciously acknowledge it.

I think “worship” (as a verb) incorporates both conscious and unconscious forms, and by no means in the above listed strict or limited ways.

~

By the age of 20 I had given up on institutional religion, abandoned Christianity, and revolted against the concept of God that I held and understood at that time. For all practical purposes, becoming atheistic.

Ten years later I had an epiphany of sorts; an eye-opening experience that revealed a different and truer “image” or concept of God. Although this was most definitely a step away from atheism and towards theism, it was by no means necessarily Christian in and of itself.

Four years after this I took the church-hosted Alpha Course- sort of giving the Christianity I had abandoned 14 years ago a second chance. I had dedicated myself to be completely open and, more importantly, open minded.

Early on, and throughout the course, I repeatedly came across issues or problems, but, in the spirit of legitimate second chances and open mindedness, I overlooked them, didn't dwell on them, or simply “filed” them away.

At one point, I even came to the belief that the most important question everybody should explore and address was, ”Who was Jesus?” Once this question was honestly engaged by anyone they would be left with few options; a madman, a liar, the devil himself, or... God. (the option of a morally good man and wisdom teacher simply wasn't an option).

Although I saw through this at the time, I also buried it deep beneath my open mindedness, and it would be this point, all these 6 to 7 years later, that brings me back to my initial topic of “hidden worship”.

Many Christians unconsciously worship the bible.

...Yeah, I know... ouch.

In chapter 2 of The Alpha Course Manual, the author attempts to establish Jesus’ status as God by appealing to human reason and using logic. He does this by quoting C.S. Lewis,


“A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher” he’d either be insane or else he’d be the “devil from hell”. “You must make your choice,” he writes. Either Jesus was and is the Son of God, or else He was insane but, C.S. Lewis goes on, “Let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” The Alpha Course Manual, pg. 10

The Alpha Course begins this process of educating by offering up logical possibilities as to Jesus’ status.

What this point really is saying is the same thing that Sherlock Holmes said in The Sign of Four:


“How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?”

My problem lies in its methodology (and even possibly in its potential of manipulation).

They are appealing to our logic to accept the only possibility left – no matter how incredible it may seem to the modern mind, while deliberately sidestepping an equally possible answer. That the gospel stories themselves could be opinions or partially fabricated stories by unknown authors, or written as response to other wittings, or even influenced or tainted by previously established doctrines.

Like Sherlock Holmes said, once we have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable (or undesirable), must be the truth.

Although the Alpha Course is attempting to educate or teach, what it is beginning is the process of indoctrination; teaching what to think rather than how to think. I don't believe it is intentional, but I do believe it is a byproduct of Bible-worship; the bible being believed to be unquestionable.

The books of the Old Testament are listed chronologically. However, the books of the New Testament are not. The four gospels come first, followed by the Pauline Epistles and other shorter letters. I've wondered why. The fact of the matter is that all of Paul's letters chronologically occur first and therefore outdate the gospels. One conclusion I've come to is that Christianity as we have it today is based upon a Pauline construct. I believe Paul made Jesus Christian. However, Jesus (Yeshua) preached and taught “the Kingdom of God”, but what he got was the Church. The gospels (not only written significantly after Paul's letters and the beginning of the established orthodox doctrine, but even after his death) may very well have been tainted by this Pauline Christianity. There is significant evidence of editing and additions and tampering, possibly for doctrinal purposes. (1 John 5:8, the endings of Mark, etc.). But, again in the spirit of fairness and open mindedness, it is also possible that they were not.

I am left only with the idea that the truth of the Rabbi Yeshua of Nazareth is so enmeshed and coddled as to be inaccessible, hidden and even unknowable. I am fully aware that many Christians will argue that the Bible is inerrant and without contradiction and that any perceived contradiction is the fault of the reader who doesn't fully understand...
... there's not much to say to this. This is a statement of belief, not fact. It is also an admission to the abandonment or lack of objectivity and willingness to learn.




This is unconscious worship
bibliolatry


~

Coming to this conclusion leaves me with two problems:

1) The first is the Incarnation; whether Jesus was literally God.
Where at one point in time a few years ago I believed this was a critical question all needed to explore, I am now of the belief that it is a question that not only should be left unanswered, but shouldn't be asked at all. Mu.

Must he be literally God incarnate? I've stopped asking this question. I think the answer to that question hinges solely on choice, is inconclusive, but damningly divisive and destructive. I have come to leave it unanswered.

When we force the question of, "Was Jesus literally God" to be answered, we begin a journey down a path that cannot end in any other way but intolerance, discrimination, suffering, and a counterfeit religion. It ceases to be authentic – and some might argue – even valid

How do I, personally, come to terms with it? I am perfectly content (if I may use that word) in accepting Yeshua as a mortal man (even perfect man) – and wisdom teacher – who, through his life, presented a perfect or near perfect representation of the nature of God. God incarnate in metaphor. I don't (and believe, can't) look any farther. (This isn't denying Christ but rather avoiding Christolatry [Matthew 19:17, to some degree could suggest this position. Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God...”]). [And on a side note, to the Evangelical who would tell me this is the difference between Hell and Salvation, I say Jesus' core message was never “worship me or burn”].

I suppose by many definitions I am by no means even Christian.

2) The second problem embraces exactly where I stand right now.
Although to many my path could have led to atheism, in my case it most certainly did not. It does not diminish my belief in God at all. But when faced with the issue of following the will of God, the question must be asked, how am I to know the will of God? And again, in a certain and odd way, we return to the topic of “worship”.

I believe, as I've mentioned earlier, that it is completely possible and likely that we “worship” both consciously and unconsciously.

I don't and never have believed we should pray or worship Yeshua, but rather God as presented through Yeshua. I also believe it is completely possible and probable that people can unconsciously worship this same God.

Just as an atheist can unconsciously worship material goods so too can this atheist worship the God of Yeshua through action and practice... or Jew, or Buddhist, or Muslim, or Confucian, etc.

Yeshua said he was the way (to the Kingdom I presume). He never said he was in the way and he never said he was the destination.

Could the Kingdom of God exist in a completely non-Christian or Christ-ignorant community or society? Maybe a better way of asking this question is to ask, is Yeshua's way present in non-Christian or Christ-ignorant societies or communities?

I believe it is.

I (also) believe the critical flaw in most Christian-based systems is that they have made Yeshua the goal or the destination, rather then the path. They have failed to successfully answer the question of what that destination is.

To call this belief an Anonymous Christianity would not only be insulting to these people, but technically incorrect, but it gives the basic idea. (Yes, I am a religious pluralist by some definitions. No, I don't believe all religions lead to God.)

I am left wondering where am I to journey from here? I suppose following some sort of path of religious tolerance or even pluralism, but ultimately I know it involves moving past Christianity.


Moving Past Christianity (Originally posted as Finale)
July 4/09

Am I searching for happiness? Well, yes, of course I am – we all are. I'd be lying to say otherwise. But I don't believe searching out God has much to do with happiness.

Christianity never offers that. Joy possibly, but not happiness. What does the Christian seek? Or have they found everything they seek so that they seek nothing? Ultimately I think the Christian seeks God's approval, or possibly to be found worthy of God (whether manifested by the desire to be a servant to others or of God or to become more Christlike.)

But as far as my understanding is limited to, these two goals – divine approval and divine worthiness - have, by implication of the cross, already been accomplished. God has already shown His approval for the human race. The divine has already found us worthy. The only purpose the Christian may seek is entrance to a heaven of the Afterlife – which, to me, would seem to reek of spiritual hedonism and most selfish causes. I feel almost as if it is a carrot dangled before my face. Happiness is never promised, Joy is. What is joy in the face of adversity, but passive resignation?
The truth is offered, not as a process but rather as the completed and final product.

Over the past 8 years I have found that Christianity faces some of its most difficult questions and problems with the poor and self-serving methodology of the Anti-Theory. And when it doesn’t use an anti-theory, is takes its answer by distorting something far out of its Jewish context.

~

The four canonized gospels were written significantly after the rest of the New Testament books. Is there any way of knowing whether they were written as a supplement to the Pauline Epistles and possibly influenced or tainted by them? Are the four canonized gospels historically accurate or are they a rewritten and reinterpreted history?

I am at a point where I believe the evidence is inconclusive. Although I believe Jesus is the Truth (whether literally or through metaphor), I no longer believe he is ‘accessible’ through the bible. It is because of the canonized bible that he has become isolated in a hidden and inaccessible part of history.

I have come to believe the New Testament is a product of what would become mainline Christianity and Christians of the early church. The 1st-Century Church was not a product of the New Testament. I no longer believe the early church was shaped by the New Testament, but that only a certain 'branch' shaped it. I’ve come to believe various other ‘branches’ were simply snuffed out – they lost the ‘competition’.

~

I needed to ask myself a question:
Do I believe in God?
Let's not be sidetracked here. I am not asking whether I believe in Church (or Synagogues, or Temples, or Mosques); I'm not questioning whether I believe in Religion or the organized institution. I don't.
But do I believe in God?

That's not really the important question. (Even demons believe in God, they just don't obey God). Belief in itself really isn't the question or issue. The real question is, Do I want to be obedient to God?
But how is one to know the will of God, most especially without Religion?

I've come to the conclusion that I am a Religious Pluralist.
I do not believe all religions lead to God... I believe no religion leads to God.

God is not a nationalist. God does not suffer from Tribalism. That is a human affliction.
I have chosen to seek out God's word, wherever it may be found – I have chosen to find God's Spirit wherever it might lead – I have chosen to find God's wisdom wherever it may thrive.

I realize there are some inherent difficulties with this perspective. I have hoped more than ever to attempt to explore these difficulties, without beginning with a preconceived notion.
It had become draining.

I am seeking out the truth; little to do with happiness or approval or worthiness.
But seeking the truth for what purpose? I don't believe the truth is a goal but a process, a journey. And I am beginning to believe that is where Christianity ends for me.

In its attempt to become the only truth, Christianity has effectively made what actual truth it possesses inaccessible at worst and only 'knowable' through 'faith' at best. If it were only willing to compromise its exclusivity to the truth, this might not have been the case.

The proof is in the pudding. Christianity is no longer a world sweeping religion.

I think I am at a point where I need to move past Christianity. I realize this might sound like an arrogant statement. I realize one can spend two lifetimes studying the bible and Christian history and doctrine, but I am not speaking of moving beyond some sort of academic knowledge.

I have had Christians imply to me that family members (wife and children) will not be saved.
I have lost friends through Christianity, having hedged themselves slowly away from the world in hopes of maintaining “Holiness” and “Purity”.
I have been “un-invited” to a Christian 'coffee-house' kind of discussion group before – ostracized from any further contact. Told not to phone or email.
I have enjoyed warmer welcomes and hospitalities from secular and even atheist friends of mine. To be honest, I prefer the company I find out there in the “spiritual wilderness” more than I do behind church doors.

I am beginning to believe that Christianity is a religion that failed; that Christ was the God who failed through his followers.

I believe God encompasses and reveals His truth to all people in all cultures. The moment we feel justified in defending God (like an omnipotent deity needs our defense) is the same moment we abandon God and fall victim to idolatry; creating God in our own image and defending our concept of the god we hold.

Woven
Aug. 28/09




I can carry Taoist values, as reflected through certain martial arts - dichotomies often existing in harmony, not at the expense of one another.

I can learn the tranquility of the Buddhist, to let go of issues that cause stress, as there is a time and place for passivity.

I can value, revere, and worship the divine
directly through Nature, paralleling paganism.

I am free to hold Christian and monotheistic metaphoric truths to further understand the incomprehensible and hope to love others better, without the trappings of
literalism, tribalism and legalism.

I can appreciate and accept Catholicism’s veneration of the Virgin Mary as a manifestation of the much needed yet unaddressed divine-feminine.

I can see the symbolic power and beauty of Orthodox icons and not suffer from idolatry.

Because of the Gnostics, I hope to be free of the addictive nature of
historicity and religiosity.

I need not abandon the open-eyed skepticism of the Humanist, Atheist, or Agnostic on watchful guard for liars, “words of knowledge”, cheats, spiritual frauds, “prophetic gifts”, and charlatans.

~

I am Woven; a living tapestry of identities, languages, cultures, and faiths.
A piece of burlap; Strong and tightly bound, yet unbound in my liberty.
I am not a subject of the lowest common denominator. I am a gestalt. The unweaving of one part is the undoing of the whole.

What the
Religionist must call purification – the purging of alien practices and ways – is to become unwoven. A single thread is easier to capture than a richly woven tapestry.

The lost, the forgotten, the abused, the broken, the abandoned, the common, and the mundane; we are woven.





3 comments:

Jim Schoch said...

yo bro are you invited to my blog yet?

shoktheagnostic.blogspot.com .... if not just drop me your email at shokthegerman@gmail.com love to have you there

Bruce the Agnostic said...

Great post. Honest. Pointed.

There are many of "us" out there. :) You are not alone. (sounds like the making of a sci-fi movie)

Here is my take on the whole God issue.

http://brucedroppings.com/god-is/

Bruce

Fred said...

Loved your post!!
I personally keep going back to the beginning in Genesis where God says we are created in his image which to me means we have the ability to create and relate.
There are a lot of people who I don't discuss this with because over the years I have become disgusted with religion and most churches but I was excited to read what you had to say. I believe there is so much that we miss by trying to be right, possessing truth.
I think we are on a great journey of discovery.