Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Conundrum of the Unconditional

The Crux of Christianity

In Rob Bell's book - Love Wins - he spells out painfully and simply the problem (as far as I'm concerned, the real good news) with Christianity – that of an unconditional grace.
“And that question raises another question. If the message of Jesus is that God is offering the free gift of eternal life through him – a gift we cannot earn by our own efforts, works, or good deeds – and all we have to do is accept and confess and believe, aren't those verbs?

"And aren't verbs actions?

"Accepting, confessing, believing – those are things we do.

"Does that mean, then, that going to heaven is dependent on something I do?

"How is any of that grace?
How is that a gift?
How is that good news?

"Isn't that what Christians have always claimed set their religion apart – that is wasn't, in the end, a religion at all – that you don't have to do anything, because God has already done it through Jesus?”
Rob Bell, Love Wins, page 11
This is Unconditional Grace.
This is the conundrum of the unconditional.

This is the crux of Christianity.

Ultimately, this only points out that we have a simple choice.
Either Christianity has always been flawed and little more than just another religion not necessarily worth keeping, or that what we have today is a hijacked corruption of what its founder(s?) intended.

There's no doubt that this conundrum of the unconditional, has and is causing a lot of rumbling and controversy in church circles. There are few acceptable options to the church... and this conundrum cannot simply be written off.

If they truly loved what they say they do, then they would follow it. This conundrum, this crux becomes a delusional mirror.

The Conundrum of the Unconditional

I believe a certain Christian view of Judaism (as a symbol, not necessarily the faith itself; possibly the Pharisees themselves) represents the Law, Legalism and the trap of legalistic religion – all religions; all religiosity in its numerous forms.

I believe Christianity with its unique concept of Unconditional Grace (which I believe Christendom and Churchianity will never fully understand nor accept or embrace), not only frees us from the constraints and shackles of Legalism, but also signifies the death of Religion itself in its most absolute sense.

Christianity cannot be a replacement for all religion. (Not even a benevolent once-and-for-all one). This makes Christianity a process. This makes Christianity a transitory state; something that one evolves through and out of, but extremely important and valuable for what it is. Maybe even globally necessary.

Once we realize that there is nothing we can do or need to do to “get right” with our God (or “gods”) - that we don't need to gain forgiveness or appease them because that acceptance, that forgiveness, that “salvation” was always there. Once we discover that innate and inherent unconditional grace I believe the only question left is, “Now what?"

The more and more I learn of it, I believe Buddhism might be a continuation of that question. Buddhism isn't the destination but the “how to” response. It can be a practical way to living with oneself and with others (or for others). (But let us be mindful, Buddhism itself is not immune to religiosity).

I realize that many Trapped-Christians believe God and only God can help us – never the actions or deeds of our own doing. I think these Trapped-Christians misunderstand this as Grace. (But it's conditional, and conditional grace is no grace at all. If it's conditional it is that path back to the Law, Legalism and Religiosity. That's why they are trapped. It's a perpetual circle)....  maybe I should stop calling them Trapped-Christians and start calling them shackled, or fettered; or simply Trapped. For they are by no means exclusively Christian. They are simply victims of religiosity.

The Buddha said, 'To be attached to a certain view and to look down upon other views as inferior – this the wise call a fetter.'” From the Sutta Nipata, translated by K.R. Norman.

I realize that many of those Trapped also believe that Buddhism is some sort of self-help guide to earning one's salvation. A sort of “Who-needs God? I-can-do-it-myself” scheme. I think many (some?) believe, the Buddhists believe, that enlightened state of Nirvana is supposed to be synonymous and interchangeable with Heaven. They are not synonymous.

Clearly, this Western modern day Buddhism - this new opening petal of the Dharma lotus - needs to be better explored, better understood, better interpreted, and "unpackaged".

"The three Jewels of Buddhism are 1) the Buddha, 2) Dharma, and 3) Sangha.
"I don't believe this concept belongs exclusively to the religion of Buddhism. I believe Buddhism only expresses it through its own particular paradigm. In fact, I think these 3 treasures - these three jewels - are universal truths. I see these as three Lotuses.
“Nirvana shares one quality with the lotus. As the lotus is untainted by water, so is Nirvana unstained by all the defilements”.
"The first jewel – the Buddha – does not necessarily have to mean Siddhartha Gautama himself, but, in all likelihood, might refer to the awakened nature of all beings. I see this as extremely similar to the martial art's Taekwon-do's tenet Guk-gi (Self-Control). (And Solace is a fruit of Guk-gi).

"The second Jewel, Dharma, is the teaching, but let's not take this too literally. This doesn't have to mean Buddhism's teaching(s). We shouldn't become frightened that to accept this Dharma means a path away from whatever belief or religion we currently belong to. No, I think this treasure - this universal truth - is simply being open to learning. I take Dharma as taking and accepting truth whenever and wherever we find it. (In fact, this might very well fly in the face of propositional truth [fundamentalism?]). I see this Dharma as akin to what is borrowed from the Chinese -do, or Dao, or possibly Tao, meaning the way or path or route to something, and that something is the fundamental nature of the universe.

"The Sangha in Buddhism generally refers to the Buddhist's community itself. But the further we take this concept the larger one's Sangha becomes. On its largest level we are faced with the global community as our own, and I think this is a perfect place for us to reflect on the underlying concept of Compassion. I think it is important not to mistaken, or force a necessary interpretation, of this Sangha as meaning a specific and exclusive religious body of followers. I take this Sangha concept as being boundless and without boarders.
"I believe the most valued truth that we can discover is that of Solace and Compassion.
"And Solace and Compassion are entangled by Dharma." (Excerpt from The Three Lotuses).

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