October 12, 2005
In His Image
One of the difficulties of being arrogant, as I am, is that it takes some measure of arbitrariness to decide whom is worth hearing out. Since I am on a constant quest for wisdom, I don't often hear out evangelists. I figure I already know what they are going to say. I am reminded of this today by an (arbitrary) collision of three interesting things.
The first is conversation / apology I had with Mickey which George alludes to on his blog. The second is this thread of memory from the Evangelical Outpost. The third is a referral that I got today on my old post about The Gospel of Thomas. Tangential to that is a search I am on for 'Mel'.
When I finish up here - and who knows when that will be. I intend to begin looking at America (the world is too big, I think) strictly from a moral and philosophical standpoint. As I do so, I anticipate a great number of conflicts to be initiated and hopefully resolved with Christians, Agnostics, Atheists and Buddhists of all stripes. But right now there is a powerful idea that I cannot resist, and that is the idea of God creating man in His own image, coupled with my interpretation of the Forbidden Fruit, the value of Earthly Works and Predestination.
It essentially boils down to this:
If human beings have free will, then God has endowed us with His own sense of Good and Evil.
The implications of this are as about as profound as I can imagine anything being. In the context of mathematics and philosophy, I am saying that man's sense of his morality is complete. Another way of thinking of it is that if salvation were a matter of picking out the colors of the rainbow, God has insured that human eyes all see blue as blue and green as green. Our sense of morality is innate and perfect. It is the same as God's own. Without it, we physically could not understand God's message, or our purpose.
Having a sense of something, even a perfect sense of something, is distinct from having an understanding of something. You may know something to be blue, but you may not understand its significance or what exactly to do about that percieved fact. But the underlying fact remains. All non-defective humans develop this moral compass just as surely as they develop eyesight. Morality is our seventh sense.
The first place to take this idea is to the heart of the Protestant Revolution. But I'll not do that today. What I'll do today is explain a little bit why certain things trouble me about church. They trouble me because I believe that any man is capable of gaining understanding of their moral and spiritual purpose without the assistance of formal theology or the community of Church. However I give a great deal of credence and respect to theology and spiritual community. The difficulty is found in the conflict between the three. They force a considerate person to make choices which can be rather upsetting.
It is the upsetting nature of these choices that have me at odds with various orthodoxies, notably the fundamentalist nature of Christian evangelicals in the American public, and the libertine progressivism of various sects regarding the matter of Holy Matrimony. I am between two rocks, neither of which are particularly comfortable. Above and beyond this is the practical nature of the original Gospel and the ways and means by which this information comes to us through various instruments of theology and tradition. Whatever happened to the Sacred Feminine? Was Jesus' decentralization of Judaism a device appropriate to the times or a model for all time?
These are all things I would imagine I could engage some friendly theologian over time, and perhaps one day I will have the luxury to invite such an individual over for a regular Sunday dinner. It's an Old School dream of mine - I should live so long. In the meantime, I have faith that I'll be doing enough good, so as not to pollute my chances with the vanity of knowing for certain. I'm not in a rush to figure it out.
But I sure wish I knew the answers.
Posted by mbowen at October 12, 2005 07:40 PM
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good stuff here. plenty to talk over sometime. dog tired at the moment. guess i need to hop to it and go ahead and read armstrong and pagels. i own some of both, but haven't gotten around to it yet. i replied to your post over on matt's blog, where you can find the link to my stuff. seems like i am moving in a more theological vein lately, too, and my writing is beginning to reflect it. working on a theology of suffering, and a spiritual memoir, and more political diatribes. really regretting that i didn't get to speak with you longer/come to your session (which everyone says was the very most informative). next year?
delighted to be part of your tangental search. keep me in the loop, i will keep checking back.
Posted by: mel at October 12, 2005 09:13 PM
did i mention that i am not going to get a lick of sleep now? could definately chat about this for many hours.
Posted by: mel at October 12, 2005 09:16 PM
Let's back up Cobb, in fact you are saying exactly what is the theme in the New Testament, general revelation, and basic subconsious understanding of right and wrong.
But suffice to say, the 'ultimate' argument is not about a fundamental morality, that is secondary to the true Christian. The issue is salvation of which morality is not efficatious in providing.
Yes the nature of man is imprinted with a latent knowledge of Good and Evil in a general sense. This general sense can be distorted or destroyed through the process of free will and rejection of the latent knowledge.
But in applying this in a broad based way one must ask this (as an apologist), if indeed morality is imprinted, based upon being created in the image of God, then what is the purpose of morality in light of the Creator God? To me that is the bigger question.
You shouldn't be arrogant, you should be cocky, it is cooler :)
Posted by: Dell Gines at October 13, 2005 01:51 PM
The question I'm begging is that of the doctrinaire style of John who's language is one of submission to Jesus, whereas the Gospel of Thomas suggests that people need to find their inner goodness.
It goes centrally to the question of Worship. Why are Christians *commanded* to *worship*, whereas Buddhists study to find God within themselves and in the harmony of nature. These are two entirely different approaches to recognizing divinity, and yet within the Gospel of Thomas, I believe I've found the bridge between them.
Why was Jesus not King of the Jews? The idea of Jesus as Lord (and master) contradicts the fact that he did not take on that role. Did the Apostles look at him as 'master' in the sense of fuedal lord or in the sense of Sensei?
I am actually saying with regard to morality, that corrupt people know that they are corrupt, and they never lose a sense that they are wrong. If they do, they are sociopaths - a mental defect. But in normally healthy people - they know. So that renders a certain aspect of ministry redundant.
objective morality, or conscience, is part of your heritable instinctual understanding of the world. however, in order to make us of this faculty, you have to get past all the egoic trappings of good and evil, most especially, you have have normally functioning access to your emotional center.
all of preliminary christian praxis focuses on recovery of the normal faculties of cardio eso anthropos..., the philosophers you've cited in this post can be of little assistance in this endeavor
The Gospel of Thomas? The textual criticism of that book is not very good as it relates to the rest of the New Testament.
Is the aim salvation (relationship with God from the Christian perspective) or is the aim 'morality' in the sense of a certain code of behavior applied in a social setting.
My argument is still the same. Roman's states that man's 'righteousness' is as filthy rags. In the bible old testament and new, faith was always the fulcrum that lead to salvation with the Old Testament sacrifices being representative of Christ's ultimate perfect sacrifice.
Morality as 'imprinted conscience' is purely a tool of God to drive men towards salvation through faith (submission) in Christ and then morality transitions from a driver to an expression of love and faith post-salvation.
The bible doesn't provide for morality outside of faith as being eternally saving in nature. So if we are going to consider the ultimate aim connection with deity, then from a biblical point of view John's position, and the Budhist position are two mutually exclusive positions. One states that faith (which is submission), is based upon externally acknowledging and accepting the work of Christ on the Cross while the other has no such object in its purview, but simple prods one to search internally for that which from a Christian perspective can not be found internally. This means that the buddhist view point from the Christian perspective does not lead one to deity relationship, and vice versa.
You made me pull my old bible degree out the closet.
Posted by: Dell Gines at October 14, 2005 10:02 AM
PS. By externally I don't mean that it doesn't have internal consequences, I mean that Christ work is external to the what the individual can find within himself. Christ is not inherently a part of an unsaved individual.
Posted by: Dell Gines at October 14, 2005 10:04 AM
I mean that Christ work is external to the what the individual can find within himself. Christ is not inherently a part of an unsaved individual.
What is sick is the "spirit of man" in the heart which in the early Christian tradition came to be called the noetic faculty, not to be identified with the intellectual faculty of the Hellenic tradition whose center is in the brain. In its cured state within the heart the noetic faculty allows the brain to function without fantasies of which religion and criminality are by-products. In this cured state the noetic faculty prays without ceasing while the brain goes about its normal chores. This unceasing prayer of the noetic faculty keeps the short-circuit between the brain and the heart in repair without impairing the imagination now free from fantasies which are the main tools by which what is called the "devil" makes his slaves. Thus we have "noetic prayer" in the heart and "intellectual prayer" in the brain which is the foundation of the prophetic tradition of both the Old and New Testament. This was the center of the apostolic Church which became the Orthodox Christianity of the Roman Empire.
This tradition of cure survived in Orthodox monasticism quite strongly within the Ottoman Empire. It was only during the drive of the Empires of Russia, Francia and Britain for the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire that they obliged the Orthodox States they created from its ruins to accept the reforms of Peter the Great as one of the essential conditions for gaining their support. In other words, without realizing it, these three Empires concentrated their attack on the cure of the sickness of religion, whose center had for centuries been Orthodox monasticism. This was replaced by a so-called Westernization, which had been accomplished in Russia, which simply meant that Orthodoxy was being condemned to becoming a religion like Vaticanism and Protestantism.
The clearest New Testament outline of this cure of the sickness of religion is to be found in St. Paul 1 Cor. 12-15:11. Here we have the key to his epistles which become clear only within this context. St. Paul was a Pharisee who stemmed from the same tradition as the Hasidim whereas Christ and His apostles evidently belonged to a parallel tradition with the same Old Testament foundations which makes the New Testament intelligible.
We call religion a neurobiological sickness since it stems from a short-circuit between the nervous system centered in the heart, which circulates the spinal fluid, and the blood system centered in the heart which pumps blood throughout the body, including the nervous system. The cure of this sickness of religion is accomplished by repairing said short-circuit between the two hearts which pump blood and spinal fluid which allows them to function normally. In this normal state the various fantasies, religious and otherwise, produced by said short-circuit between the brain and the heart disappear and with them one's fantasies also disappear, including that of religion. The Bible calls this neurological energy the spirit of man which the Fathers came to call the noetic energy.
What is especially interesting is the fact that both religion and criminality stem from the same short- circuit and its fantasies. When being cured one believes either that which he himself sees and which certain others see, only on the condition that they train their charges to see for themselves. The method of cure is like seeing for oneself what specialists are trained to see by means of instruments what cannot be seen by the naked eye, not only in the next life, but especially in this life. The Bible calls this glorification. "When one is glorified the rest rejoice" (1Cor. 12:26) because he has become a prophet who has seen and participated in the uncreated glory of God which has no similarity whatsoever with anything created. This is why a prophet can guide others to the cure of glorification, but cannot describe the uncreated experienced in glorification. The basis for this restoration of normalcy is that the one who sees has himself been restored to normalcy which is to see the uncreated force which creates and governs all of creation. The one cured actually sees above normal seeing from time to time seeing the glory and rule of the Creator. When not in the state of seeing the short circuit in question is kept under repair by the unceasing prayer in the heart while the brain functions normally.[ 23 ] The Old and New Testaments call this force the 'glory' and 'reign' of God which is "everywhere present dividing itself without division and saturating all creation." Also those who have seen it and guide others to the cure of their short-circuit are the prophets both before Pentecost and after Pentecost.
Any reader, please feel free to visit my website at ( overcomingself.net ). The purpose is to teach basic matters. The theme is: Supporting obedience to Jesus by helping overcome selfishness, spiritual blindness and vainglory. Included are more than two dozen topics - short, medium and long in length - with several hundred scripture references (use Bible). As a minister in the church of Christ, you can send basic inquiries to me through the site. Thanks.
Posted by: Gratz Brown at October 15, 2005 04:52 PM