Hi. Well, my only point is this: I advocate what St. Francis' position about preaching the gospel, and when if necessary, use words. I do not advocate an anti-intellectual approach to religous experience, I have myself a masters in both philosophy and theology. I did my masters thesis on the christology of Piet Schoonenberg, a Catholic theologian. And I fully understand that both Hinduism and and Buddhism have deep philosophical and theological schools of thought...whether it's advaita, vendanta, or mahayana . I just see the limitations of human thought and language when it comes to capturing the experience of the transcendent in our midst. We continue to argue about Jesus'uniqueness etc..as if our lives depended on it and we forget about the more important things such as faith, hope and love.
As far as Ammachi goes, I lived with her for six weeks in India I have followed her for six years, and I see what she does. And, her hug is just a bit more than a hug, in Hinduism it is called "darshan" or experiencing the presence of God. Quite frankly, meeting Amma rekindled my youthful faith in Jesus, because I can imagine that he gathered people around him in the same way Jesus did...and that in Jesus presence, people experienced God's presence in a radically new way. However, Jesus didn't give hugs (or maybe he did), but he did break bread. She inspires me not necessarily because of what she teaches with her mouth, but what she does with her hands and feet.
We continue to argue about Jesus'uniqueness etc..as if our lives depended on it and we forget about the more important things such as faith, hope and love.
Could you give us an example of where you see this happening, Devinath? From your background, you seem to have an appreciation of theology and philosophy, so where do you see people emphasizing this at the expense of faith, hope and love?
I don't think you'll find too many folks around here who believe life's mystery can be reined-in with conceptual thinking. I just found your post a bit ad hominem, given the way Phil began this thread topic:
"Dogma is part of the kataphatic dimension of spirituality; it summarizes what we might call the "content" of the faith, using concepts, but often images and analogies as well. In Christianity, we recognize that God is mystery, beyond concepts, etc., but we also affirm revelation-content that is God's communication to us. This revelation has come through the experiences of a people, through individuals, teachings, deeds--especially in the person of Jesus, and our kataphatic tradition includes all of this. Dogma, as I'ved noted, is a summary of this kataphatic content--the most important aspects. Its expression has often been catalyzed by teachings that came to be known as heresies--errant because they led one away from the kind of relationship with God that Christ had come to bring.
Now the big temptation is that, because the kataphatic/exoteric tradition has a "content," it can be passed along, and to view those who grasp this content as being really "religious" or even "spiritual." I think you can see that that's a misuse of dogma--it's dogmatism, which is akin to Phariseeism, which Jesus condemned. The danger, here, is that the dogma-police are ever on the prowl, ready to condemn people who go astray. It seems that's how some view the CDF (the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith), and that writers like de Mello are a victim of such heavy-handedness. Maybe the CDF is comprised of a bunch of dogmatists (who among us really knows that for sure?), but their role is identifying movements unfaithful to dogma is an important one.
The antidote to dogmatism is not to spurn dogma, however, but to develop the inner, esoteric dimension of religious life to which it intrinsically related and from which its expression arose in the first place. Then one will come to view dogma and other kataphatic content in a different perspective -- as indicating a direction, with boundaries along the safe path. There's value in that, as I hope you can all see. Without this kind of direction, one usually ends up practicing a kind of spiritual ecclecticism, even when they sincerely believe they are being guided by the Spirit. To forsake the discernments of the community expressed in dogma is a perilous thing."
And so we're talking about thinking that arises from interior experience, not divorced from it, which is similar to the poetic quality you mention. It's just that "dogma" and "poetry" are usually not spoken of as compatible dispositions.
I've also had a Hindu teacher, Shri Anandi Ma, and received Shaktipat, and also taken refuge in the Karma Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. So yes, I've also found semi-enlightened folks like these to impart quite a loving presence, but I've still found them fallible and even prone to over-estimating their role in relationship to "disciples," especially when the disciple is western and perhaps looking for a relationship that isn't psychologically and culturally compatible with what the guru intends.
There also tends to be a tendency among Hindus to equate the Holy Spirit and kundalini or human loving presence. This would be an area where "dogma" would provide important distinctions, arising from how people experientially familiar with both know them to be different yet related. And that much would bear upon how Christians understand the vital difference between Christ as the Godhead incarnate and human adepts at various stages of evolution in consciousness.
It's good to have you with us! I actually drank a
Point beer in Stephen's Point once a very long time ago. Nice college town. My dad went there on business. We were living near Chicago at the time.
Thank you for sharing about Schoonenberg, and your experience with Amma, as I am seeking such experience.
Our female spiritual leaders in the United States
have a different flavor:
#1 non-fiction book in America. Amma help us!
Hmmm..maybe it is an argument I just continue to have with myself.
I just remember after having written my thesis about the personhood of christ as explicated in Schoonenberg's christology, after it was all done, I kinda smiled to myself and realized that I seemed to just be pretending that I was saying something meaningful about something that I actually knew nothing about: I mean, the very concept of divine personhood, what could that possibly mean? I mean, do we really even know what we mean by human personhood..there seems to be plenty of mystery in that to go around, much less speculate on the personhood of God.
My first experience of Christ was as a twelve year old boy in a fundamentalist tradition...born again, as it were..the experience was real enough. But I soon became involved in a form of fundamentalist pharisaism and just kinda chucked it all during college. I experienced plenty of Christians who would be more than willing to argue until they were blue in the face about how Christ was the only way and every one else's religious experience was of "the devil" both Catholic and Protestant. etc..they had plenty of passion but little love,a lot of self-assured and smug certainty with which they would talk of God's unconditional love on one hand, but conditioned in believing a certain teaching, person, or holding to a belief. So much certainty about so much bad poetry, that was my thinking. I have never been comfortable with Christianity since then, I'm afraid. Though I have to admit I still love Jesus..
And then when I met Ammachi, who hugs thousands of people with an unconditional love that transcends culture and beliefs, it was as if I was seeing God herself wrapping divine arms around a poor suffering humanity. She rekindled my interest and love for Christ just by watching Her.
Perhaps this is too personal for this forum and I need to go to another, but this has been on my mind recently and I just discovered your forum yesterday.
P.S. MysticalMichael...dittos on the liberal church comment.
Devinath, you wrote: I mean, the very concept of divine personhood, what could that possibly mean? I mean, do we really even know what we mean by human personhood..there seems to be plenty of mystery in that to go around, much less speculate on the personhood of God.
Well, yes, we do know what we mean. For one thing, we mean to be saying that God is not impersonal, and so we can have a relationship with God because God is a Person and so are we. I know you didn't mean to imply that God is impersonal, but I think you can see the spiritual significance of dogma, here. Calling God "Father," and speaking of Christ as "Son" implies that they possess subjectivity in a manner analogous to the way we do. Also, personhood implies intelligence and volition, and revelation tells us something about the loving intent of how the divine intelligence operates. This, too, enhances the movement to relationship.
I experienced plenty of Christians who would be more than willing to argue until they were blue in the face about how Christ was the only way and every one else's religious experience was of "the devil" both Catholic and Protestant. etc..they had plenty of passion but little love,a lot of self-assured and smug certainty with which they would talk of God's unconditional love on one hand, but conditioned in believing a certain teaching, person, or holding to a belief. So much certainty about so much bad poetry, that was my thinking.
Well, sure, there are people like that. Are those the only kinds of Christians you met? I'd say you had a very narrow experience. Then there is the matter of official Church teaching, which doesn't say that eastern religions are of the devil -- not Catholic teaching, at least.
I understand how your experiences have influenced your thinking, but I think you indulge a generalization fallacy in your judgment of Christendom. We even do have some "huggers" in our midst. (Watch out for MM, in particular.
How long since the experience with Amma, and what has happened since then?
w.c has a very good point above regarding Christ as godhead. He wrote:
There also tends to be a tendency among Hindus to equate the Holy Spirit and kundalini or human loving presence. This would be an area where "dogma" would provide important distinctions, arising from how people experientially familiar with both know them to be different yet related. And that much would bear upon how Christians understand the vital difference between Christ as the Godhead incarnate and human adepts at various stages of evolution in consciousness.
People with expanded consciousness, people within a state of enlightenment have profound impact on the life of ordinary human beings. Their experience seems to be more related to the emergence of Self-consciousness than anything else. Ordinary people are mostly governed by their law impulses because their law nature is not purified. For this people encountering with an enlightened person has an extraordinary impact on their life. An enlightened being usually reflect invisible power and often have charisma. Ordinary people under their law nature have no possibility to discern if that powerful energy they experience is pure or not. Only at the higher level of Christ-integration it is possible to discern. So, I'm not surprised you and many other people are attracted to Amma. I also know many people�s downward spiral life is diverted through encountering Amma. All is good. However, the ultimate aim of salvation is not liberation from our earthly addiction. The aim of salvation is the reunification of soul and God. This reunification process involves cleansing of our sin through the journey of dark night. This salvation can only be gained through our lord Jesus Christ because he is the only lord who beholds the key of heaven. This means he is the only lord who possesses the most pure energy in universe. The opportunity created by Christ is beyond expression; we need only faith the rest of the job is done by him. Most of the time we are not even aware when Christ purify unless we are in a state of high alertness. This is really amazing Grace.
It is good that your encounter with Amma evoke the presence of Christ within you. I know Holy Spirit guides us through different avenues. I would recommend you to pay attention to your inner feeling; perhaps the Spirit wanted to guide you to focus exclusively on Christ.
I think dogma relates back to the key question of what we can and cannot say about God.
If God/Ultimate Reality were totally unknowable or non-existent, we end up with agnosticism or atheism. Virtually all the world's major religions discuss the need to be able to talk about spiritual realities in positive terms.
However, all the world's religions also emphasize the unknowability and ineffability of spiritual realities. Hence it is important we recognise our limitations when it comes to understanding what we cannot see with our eyes or sense with our perception.
In Christianity, it has been recognised it is essential to affirm certain things about God and also about Christian belief, to make sure it is clear what Christianity is and what it is not. Dogmas like the incarnation and the Trinity were clarified in the face of heresies like Gnosticism or Arianism, which proclaimed certain things about God, the world, or Jesus which seemed to the teachers of early Christianity totally inconsistent with the message of the Gospel. Even back in the very early stages of Christianity, when Paul wrote his letters, he was deeply concerned to refute heresies he felt were entirely against the proclaimed Gospel.
However, Paul and later Christians also understood God is ineffable and incomprehensible and ultimately a mystery. Paul's beautiful speech in 1 Corinthians is the finest example of this outside the Gospels themselves. Later theologians and mystics like Gregory of Nyssa elaborated on this and all Christian spirituality emphasizes God's imcomprehensibility.
However it is also critically important, today, as was in the past, Christians are able to talk about God. If we can't say anything or preach anything about God or Christ then no-one can be converted to the faith. This is why it is important to be able to speak about God, but at the same time any theologian recognises our language is limited and God ultimately transcends our language and our concepts in his own perfect and infinite reality. Thomas Aquinas summed this up by saying we can know God analogically, and talk about God analogically, in the sense we say God is just, wise, powerful, perfect, and loving, not in the sense that God is these things as a human being is just, wise, or powerful, but these things exist in God as perfections or attributes of the divine Being, which is One and also a Trinity without division.
Christian dogma then is in my view Christian 'talk' about God and God's work, with the understanding of our limits when it comes to comprehending God.
This is a hot topic for protestants, too. The concern among older folk is that the young -- yes, even the ones who consider themselves evangelical, born-again Christians -- have all but abandoned traditional Christian dogma in favor of "moralistic therapeutic deism." There have been several books written about this de facto abandonment of dogma. A starting point for the study of the issue is provided by Wikipedia (where I get all my information from, LOL):
I grabbed those quotes, and forgive me for being sparse on the context, because it seems to me that a large part of the difference that exists between your views and those of Christine or samson (or myself) is epistemological, and I think it's an interesting discussion.
You said "reality is cold concrete". Or, as Phillip K. Dick wrote, "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." I think we all actually agree on this point, that there is an objectivity to reality that subsists our experience of it.
Where the difference comes in, and why I said it was epistemological, is the extent to which we believe we have knowledge of that objective reality, how certain and complete we believe our knowledge to be, and what importance our world-views give to the "necessity" of certainty or completeness.
It seems to me that in these matters, your belief is that the knowledge of the truth revealed by scriptures is absolutely complete and certain. It also seems to me that on some level (and forgive me again, this time for potentially misrepresenting your opinion, but correct me if I'm wrong) you believe that it is paramount to "defend" these truths and that it is inherently sinful in some way to be wrong about them.
And I think I at least disagree on both points, at least partially.
With regard to certainty and completeness, the fundamental problem for me is that I think God is a Mystery. There is no doubt that scriptures reveal much about God, humans, and the relationship between the two, but I think it is also clear that there is much that is NOT revealed. The idea of God as hidden, mysterious, unknowable, and beyond human comprehension run through the scriptures. And even in terms of human morality or the "right" way of living, neither the law of Moses nor the commandments of Jesus are given comprehensively. I believe Samson noted Jesus condensed the commandments to only two, and surely there is a lot to unpack there, and a lot of necessary interpretation and discernment that must go into following them. They are not rules that can be followed by rote. Not entirely. There are also several scriptural examples of "rules" that are broken at the appropriate time, like David and the shewbread, which Jesus alluded to when discussing healing on the Sabbath. It seems to me that in Scripture there is not so much an emphasis on an exact and complete codification of behavior, as on the development of virtues. the fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. It is one thing to quote Jesus about who is with him and against Him, but it's important to recognize there is no criteria left to us for absolutely and systematically determining who goes into what category.
Which gets into the second part, the question of what is the purpose in the Christian life of "correct doctrine". I am not certain if you would actually agree to the proposition that knowledge of the Truth is in and of itself a requirement of Salvation, or if to believe in Jesus means to have correct Doctrine. I am fairly certain that I disagree with this idea though, I think it doesn't quite get to what is really meant by belief in this context. "Everyone who believes on him will be saved". I don't take that to mean belief in the sense of intellectual assent, or the ability to recite the proper creed. Because Jesus said "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." And the commandments that are given are more focused on attitude and approach then on a codified set of truths.
He also said "He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward. And he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward." which I think suggests also the idea it's the correctness of knowledge that counts, it's the disposition of spirit, the humility of heart and mind in acting out the commandments. It is the relationship with God and the process that takes place within us.
Now, all of that said, I think the value of proper doctrine, the value of a good understanding of Christ, and Scripture, and church teachings, is that it provides a guide that keeps us from wandering too far into the weeds in our attempts to implement those virtues that we strive for. Discernment is still certainly one of the most important qualities that we hope to develop in the Spirit. Church traditions, the guidance of spiritual elders, and scriptural warnings all help us in that regard. But at the same time when I think about the program that I would recommend to help avoid the pitfalls of our own imaginations or the temptations to follow our own wills and corrupt the revelation of Christ, it is not a program that sets out to protect by erecting walls around dogma and defending them with sword and spear. Instead I think the defense is Humility. It is not to think too much of our own capacity to understand, or to put too much stock in our own speculative theology. It is rather to embrace our lack of knowledge, our lack of understanding, and our lack of ability to do anything apart from God.
And so, my approach to something like Spiral Dynamics (which, to be honest, I think is OK but I'm not that enamored of), is just to be conservative in my estimations of its usefulness or importance. If there is an observation to be found in it that leads to an increase in my life of the fruits of the Spirit, than that is good. If it does so in spite of the fact that it actually is "wrong" on some matter of fact, that's actually also OK to me, as far as it goes, as long as it doesn't go too far. The "not going too far" to me is more a matter of a proper disposition towards knowledge and certainty (i.e a humble one) than a matter of maintaining ideological purity.
Moved Reply: Matt,
What an elegant and nicely presented post! Well done. Quite nicely elaborated. You should post more often; it would do us all good. You put a good amount of thought, time and effort into that post, and it has paid off as one can read in its execution. [It brings a touch of remorse to me that in slapping Pannikar years back, I had unintentionally injured you. Once again, my apologies for that. ]
That said, and while you’ve brought up many good points worthy of discussing or responding to, I would like to address in particular these three thoughts you mention. I hope I can do it as effectively as you have communicated, and in a tone as nice as yours:
So … you’ve written:
1. “It is one thing to quote Jesus about who is with him and against Him, but it's important to recognize there is no criteria left to us for absolutely and systematically determining who goes into what category”.
2. “Which gets into the second part, the question of what is the purpose in the Christian life of "correct doctrine".
3. “I am not certain if you would actually agree to the proposition that knowledge of the Truth is in and of itself a requirement of Salvation, or if to believe in Jesus means to have correct Doctrine. I am fairly certain that I disagree with this idea though.”
I will speak to 2.) and then on to 1 and lastly 3.
You question what is the purpose in Christian life of ‘correct doctrine’; and I take it you feel quite differently than I regarding its significance; and as you’ve written you react against my ‘pounding away at truth’. Matt, I believe that doctrine is immensely significant to Christian life because it encapsulates truth. And of course, I believe truth is crucially important to Christian life. In short, because I believe truth is important I believe its encapsulation via doctrine is important.
Certainly, I think you must agree that truth is important, significant and crucial to ‘Christian life’ because the Father sent the Son (Jesus is Truth) so that we would have the truth (‘I came that you might have the truth’), and in turn, Jesus sent the Spirit of Truth that we would be guided forever in the knowledge of the truth. It’s a Trinitarian thing; something not merely I but they thought (think) paramount. I’m thinking therefore that it must be paramount to Christian life. I’m thinking therefore that it must be paramount to Trinitarian thought and life. Does that not make sense so far? Yet you question its role in Christian life and whether it’s eminently important. At least that’s my understanding of your thoughts. Btw, JPII (and I realize you are OC not RC) when asked by a journalist if he could only quote one scripture to mankind what it would be, said: “The truth shall set you free”. So, there’s not just Pop-pop and the Trinity to be vexed by. I realize that we all might be considered dismissible due to age and the smear labeling of ‘authoritarianism’, ‘dogmatism’ and all labels and concepts thought to blue-meme and pre-modern.
Here, though, are a few thoughts on truth’s role that I consider are very important for ‘Christian life’. Perhaps you will find them of some merit as well.
•Truth (encapsulated in doctrine) enables the passing on of the faith. Do you believe that the faith you now have and practice you would really have at all, if not for doctrine and dogma? Do you believe that the humility and loving attitudes and mystical graces perhaps of first century folk, indeed of any century folk is what enabled the passing on of what you and all Christians today now have and know and live by? Whose humility and loving attitude from the past centuries do you live by these days? Would you consider that your faith today is essentially based on the mystical graces that St. Maximus or St, Simeon the Stylite or some other favorite of yours received? Whose sweetness, whose humility has carried you forward and illumined your life? If you had to prioritize the significance of doctrine and dogma to what you have and know today relative to the humility and love of earlier men and women living the Christian life what would you say was the more pertinent contributing factor? Here I am not trying to negate the role of humility and loving attitudes please realize. Can you honestly tell me doctrine and dogmas have not been the most significant contributing factors to your knowledge and growth in living the Christian life?
•Truth keeps you from error. It prevents misstep. Is this not important? I think it is. Fetal life thinks it is as well. If one were to ask those little millions how they would prioritize ‘truth’ versus the loving attitudes and humility of the many who evangelize in loving and gentle sincerity the taking of their lives, what do you believe they might prefer -- truth … or gentleness and humility? Is there a concrete and objective reality that those miniscules see that a great number of sincere Christians somehow are blind to? Would they sympathize with the worldviews of pro-abortion rights Christians? Is not having a correct worldview (truth) of no consequence? Of how much consequence is it—more than meekness? My and your meekness are important to me and to you in the living of our Christian lives, certainly. Truth is important to ALL in the living of Christian lives – even important to non-believers. Everyone’s fetal life gets killed along with those of aborted Christians. Think about how it is that so many sincere and gentle Christian folk with loving attitudes fail to see the truth -- and the consequence of their NOT seeing the truth. How is it so many are blind to the truth? Sorry to sound like a Johnnie one-note by using abortion as an example when there are so many others, but it’s an easy, good and relevant one.
•Truth enables the testing of spirits. Matt, all I see and hear nowadays is folk buying into and/or espousing non-truth; error. Satan comes as an angel of light, not of darkness. He is a deceiver. The most intelligent of deceivers. Is it that these are just words to you then --- something you’ve heard but have not seen? There are so many such false angels of light in our contemporary world. Their fruit is the blindness that accompanies our societies. But without the truth, the splendor of truth one cannot test the spirits. Truth is the standard we calibrate ourselves against. Its light keeps us from darkness. (Btw, what false angel of light has deceived our Derek and his 300 souls?) The Divine Revelation of truth, that which has been given us by Christ, and he alone, is the objective standard against which we must test everything. If not – more darkness, more blindness. Civilization decays into anarchy and rubble. We’ve already: ‘come a long way baby’. Can you name for yourself some faked angels of light? See if you can; see if you know what that might mean. It means something after all. What does it mean to you?
•Truth enables knowledge of supernatural realities. prayer, fasting, the angelic realm, spiritual warfare, hell, judgment, heaven, Eucharist and more – these are truths that secular folk, agnostics and atheists are ignorant of. These are truths that religious folk of non-Christian religions are in the dark about. Will they ever learn about all that just by our loving attitudes and kindness? Do they not need to hear and know the truth – not to mention Christ’s commission that we bring it to them? (So they would know—right?) Don’t you believe that there is more to it all then just we and our personal goodness -- as important as that is of course; and it is? Science and technology and all the wondrous rationalizing of an intelligent human mind will not get you there. It hasn’t gotten non-Christian religions there after all – has it? Nor secular mankind either. How much of your and your bride’s love, kindness and gentleness communicates these supernatural realities to others? Certainly some; but what one communicates by good works, as essential as they are, can not pass on the knowledge of the faith.
Love and truth were not divorced in Christ, and they must not be divorced in us. You perhaps associate focus on truth as contrary to focus on love, but it is not. Unfortunately though, the contrary seems to be the case quite often.
Now to your comment 1.): where you state “it's important to recognize there is no criteria left to us for absolutely and systematically determining who goes into what category”. How can you say that, Matt? The H.S. through the scripture writers has clearly given us criteria, and that criteria is still around and will always be around. There’s plenty of criteria left. Who has told you otherwise? Here’s just some: ‘He who loves me keeps my commandments’; ‘He who hears the word of God and acts upon it’; ‘Whoever is of God hears every word God speaks’; ‘I solemnly assure you, if a man is true to my word he shall never see death’; ‘He who refuses to honor the Son, refuses to honor the Father who sent him.’; ‘Those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.’ ; ‘Whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure the wrath of God’; ‘Those who have done right shall rise to live, the evildoers shall rise to be damned’; ‘Why do you not hear what I say, it is because you cannot bear to hear my word.’
Re your statement 3.): I do agree that knowledge of the Truth is not in and of itself a requirement of Salvation – one will be judged only relative to the truth one has had revealed to him/her and relative to one’s openness to receiving the revealed truth made known to us by Jesus who is truth. Re your question: ‘or if to believe in Jesus means to have correct Doctrine.’ I answer: that this is answered by the previous statement in that one believes in Jesus when one conforms his life and beliefs to the doctrine he has been shown. If you have received correct doctrine you show belief in Jesus by being true to his word that has been made known to you. Once again: one will be judged relative to the truth one has had revealed to him/her and relative to one’s openness to receiving the truth revealed and known.
Alas, your being fairly certain “that I disagree with this idea though” indicates you need to reflect on all that in light of the criteria I have expressed in the paragraph on comment 1.) Those are not my words, Matt, they are extractions from Christ’s words. Who do you say He is? If you say he is God then you must honor every word he has spoken. To be his disciple means to hear every word and to act on it (i.e. believe it -- conform your mind and will to it). A significant part of that doctrine is of course, that we must love one another and that we must love the Lord. I have never stated otherwise.
(And on the abortion front, that means I must love the fetus. The fetus is an other, is my neighbor.)
And to love another means to bring them into the light – into the light of……yes, truth.
Christians have done it for millennia. You can too. ‘It is loyalty to do His will’. Talk to the Lord about it.
Remember, ‘a time will come when men will not heed sound doctrine.’ I pray that you will not be among such men. This btw is NOT some mere blue-meme stuff. The above extractions are Clear-meme! It don’t get any better. It’s what’s been termed the Splendor of Truth. ‘Put on the worldview of Christ’ St. Paul would say today, I’m thinking.
Briefly now, because of an already long post: certainly God is mystery and our knowledge of Him is limited, but what He has made known of Himself through the revelation and teachings of Jesus and through the teachings of the church throughout the centuries – a church that his H. S. guided and yet guides – is not to be dismissed or denied or harrumphed away. Let us not subtract from the amount of light He has made available to us. That would be to embrace more mystery than we need to. That puts us moving into the courts of those who do not have the light of Christ. Does it not?
As for Christ having made adjustments to the thinking of the scholars of Judaism regarding some distorted practices – I like to believe that He made all the changes that were necessary to be made. And, I like to think that the adjustments He made should NOT undermine the entirety of what he taught. In my mind it is foolish to believe we cannot accept with authority what has been revealed to us in NT scriptures because of some faulted logic that if the OT was in need of clarification, then the NT must also be. That makes little sense to me.
Popsi-cola (as some refer to me -- those poets who, I take it, believe that things go better with Coke.)
p.s. Must be neat, Matt, being married to one of the Rolling Stones! Wild, wild horses……couldn’t drag me away. Lol, even if they cantered (not quite a double entendre, I realize.) Ha, and I’m sure you like the fact that your bride is NT.
p.p.s. Samson: Drink POPSI – It’s ‘The Real Thing!’. If you can’t get it in Scotland, go online. It’s available at SP -- at least until the webmaster evokes my license….. because of my license.
p.p.s. All: Well, St. Paul was able to be all things to all men. I have endeavored to speak in my yellow-meme voice in responding to a yellow-meme. I don’t know how I’ve done; I do know I am far from a St.Paul, but you can see (I hope) that I gave it a shot anyway. By definition (someone’s) yellow-memes are ‘more evolved’ so naturally it always appears to be better to be yellow-meme; and if not, to at least put on the appearance of being yellow-meme. But -- when you add some yellow to blue it can make you green
– and not with envy -- with nausea. Aiyee. Double Aiyee!
If in this post you have heard His voice…..harden not your heart.This message has been edited. Last edited by: pop-pop,
Moved Reply: I'll let you two gents (kenosis and pop) continue to hash things out, but do wish to point out that we've strayed quite a ways now from POTUS 2012. I don't know what to suggest about that, as it seems you're already off to the races in a snowballing exchange.
I will note that the early Christians began without a New Testament nor the kinds of precise doctrines we have today. There was a simple message and a few practices to celebrate the message, along with a very simple ethic of love. Of course, human nature being what it is, distortions arose, and doctrines were developed in response. As such they did play a role in steering people away from the weeds, as kenosis noted, and in doing so, they did highlight as truth aspects of the Christian message that had not been highlighted quite so clearly.
A long time ago we had a discussion on the importance of dogma.
- see http://shalomplace.org/eve/for...10135/m/56010395/p/1
Maybe there's still something helpful there, and maybe some of these posts can be transferred there?
Doctrines/dogmas are obviously part of the kataphatic dimension of Christianity, the other important part being the apophaptic dimension and its emphasis on mystery. We do need both, and they do need to be kept in balance, as overemphasizing either to the detriment of the other causes problems.
Moved Reply: Phil, if you think the discussion would be better moved to another thread, I have no problem. I'll leave that to you
Pop-pop: Thanks for the reply. I'm on like hour 18 of coding for the weekend and I haven't had a chance to really read it in detail or process it, but hopefully tomorrow.
Moved Reply: “Can two walk together unless they are agreed?”
I’ve spent a bit more time in reading your post. It seems to me, having done so, that perhaps what is in play there is your desire to reconcile the issues surrounding humility and certitude, and/or perhaps to offer a gentle corrective to my ‘sword and spear’ behaviors.
And so you write: “The program that I would recommend to help avoid the pitfalls of our own imaginations or the temptations to follow our own wills and corrupt the revelation of Christ, it is not a program that sets out to protect by erecting walls around dogma and defending them with sword and spear. Instead I think the defense is Humility. It is not to think too much of our own capacity to understand, or to put too much stock in our own speculative theology. It is rather to embrace our lack of knowledge, our lack of understanding, and our lack of ability to do anything apart from God”.
Certitude, that confidence that enables boldness seems a contradiction to one’s being humble.
How can one be sure and yet be humble? Speaking with certitude about the things of faith, with an air of ‘authoritarian dogmatism’ you seem to be saying, is contrary to humility and meekness and to the fruits of the spirit which you enumerated in your post. When I do so, I exercise ‘my own imagination’ and ‘corrupt the revelation of Christ’. I also thereby ‘put too much stock in my own speculative theology’.
These days, certitude comes smear-labeled: ‘absolutist’ and seems contradictory to what a Christian should evince in his or her behavior – it simply seems totally inappropriate.
A Christian should have a good measure of self-doubt. You express that by recommending we Christians (I specifically) ‘embrace our lack of knowledge, our lack of understanding’. What it seems to me you are saying is that Humility and self-doubt should interplay.
Now, I agree that a good measure of self-doubt often attends humility and should. The issue at hand in discussing doctrine and dogma however, is really not one of self-doubt at all. What you recommend is not a manifestation of self-doubt; it is one of Christ-doubt and/or of Church-doubt.
When I quote from scripture or church teaching, and do so with a bold ‘sword and spear’ certitude, that causes a negative reaction in you -- and other readers too, I’d guess.
Am I failing to be humble? Quite the contrary. In humility I accept the fullness of the weight of Christ’s and the church’s authority regarding truth. I put faith – not in myself and my understanding -- but in the teaching of Christ and/or the church. To do the opposite is to show lack of humility. To doubt Christ (or the Church He guides via the H.S.) is to assert one’s own understanding of truth over that of Christ and/or the Church.
To ‘embrace our lack of knowledge, our lack of understanding’ per your guidance means certitude can never be had. It means the church can’t and doesn’t have it. It implies the H.S doesn’t -- or effectively can’t -- guide the church to know the truth. It means all theology is speculative. (If I were speaking with Samson I would say:swillian.)
To disregard the certitude of doctrine implies one’s own understanding of truth is, or might somehow be, more correct than Christ’s, more correct than the Church’s. To assert one’s own understanding is to believe that the wisdom and understanding of saints and scholars over the millennia is of lesser worth than one’s own. That is not humility.
A Christian can and indeed should have a bold certitude and confidence in what Christ and the Church teach. That certitude is based upon the authority of Christ (who do you say He is?).
Thus, if Christ has taught us that there is a hell, a judgment, an eternal reward or everlasting punishment, angels and fallen angels etc. etc. There is no need to doubt that – and if one does doubt any of that, well….that’s not self-doubt, that’s not holiness, that’s simply Christ-doubt; that’s unbelief, pure and simple. That’s not my speculative theology. That’s the official teaching of the church.
That contemporary men and women see no proof of any of this, or have so many questions of its validity or the epistemology of its understanding – should in no way undermine the truth. Evidently it does for you. It doesn’t for me.
If I were to follow the program you recommend, Matt, I would never have certitude.
p.s. Phil, I read through your Spiral Dynamics presentation. Nicely done! I learned from it. Thanks!
Moved Reply: Hi pop-pop,
I think you have your references mixed up here. Jesus said "I came that they may have life, and have it more abundantly." Of course he also said "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life", but I think in the context of this discussion the difference is meaningful. I actually feel like it gets entirely to the point I was trying to make, so I'm going to focus on it a little. And please understand I'm pointing it out not to try to say "gotcha!" but because it seems to me the misattribution contains in it the entirety of our disagreement.
Specifically, what seems operative to me is:
1) "I came that they might have life" vs "I came that they might have truth"
2) "Having life" vs "Having truth"
3) Truth as something you "have" vs Truth as Christ ("I am the Truth")
This seems important to me insofar as what I was trying to say about the meaning of being a Christian, that is, it is to have life, and to have the Fullness of Life in Christ. This to me says better than I could what I mean about Faith and Belief not being intellectual assent (to the "truth") but rather as being in a living relationship, or to have that mysterious living knowledge and experience of God. If we have Truth, it is because Christ is Truth, not because we possess truth as some abstract objective thing, any more than we possess Christ as an object of our understandings, who surpasses all understanding
I'm not sure I can even fully express myself on this, but for me that one dichotomy, having life versus having truth, truth as Christ versus truth as a thing, it seems to me it captures the essence of everything I wanted to say
Now, I think a lot of the rest of what you wrote I am more in agreement with you than you may realize. I am not trying to argue that we can know nothing of what is true, or that we can't be certain about anything. I am somewhat less ambitiously arguing for the idea that we should be more humble about the state of our knowledge than we often are. Nor am I arguing that doctrine and dogma are entirely without value, just that they are not themselves the end of the Faith, but a means.
So I agree without reservation that doctrine is necessary for the passing on of the faith, and that correct doctrine is useful as reproof against error, and as a guide to testing the spirits, and as a testimony to "Celestial things". All of those things are necessary, but my point is in all those cases it is a tool that we employ. My point isn't that we should abandon it as a tool, but that we must consider how best to employ it, both for our own sake and for the sake of being the best possible example of Christ's Love and Truth in the world.
With regard to your most recent post:
I'm not quite sure I agree with equating humility with doubt, although the fact that you heard me as doing so is undoubtedly a failure of communication on my part, rather than yours, and trying to tease out the nuance might be beyond me right now. We can be humble about things even if we are certain of them.
And to be sure I did not intend to suggest that we should doubt all doctrine, or that all theology is speculative. I certainly do not doubt the truth or correctness of the doctrine that Christ died for my sins, or the correctness of the doctrines concerning Christology and the nature of Christ's Divinity. I accept them fully as part of my Faith. I don't doubt that they are true, but at the same time I do doubt that I understand them perfectly, if that makes sense. That might get to the idea I have in mind a little better. In any case, not every situation in which we encounter some novel interpretation or new idea or circumstance is as clearly delineated as a matter of doctrine as Christ's nature.
Hopefully this helps clarify my position
P.S. Sorry Phil I was originally going to try to move this over to the old dogma thread, and if you would be so kind maybe you should move all of the last posts there, but it's been too much work just trying to get my thoughts together so I'm going to post it here
Moved Reply: You all continue with this tangent as long as you'd like. I will eventually have a bit a free time to move some of these exchanges elsewhere and will post a link when I've done so.
Moved Reply: Matt,
Okay. You have paid attention and indeed have caught me in a misquote, strictly speaking. I should have looked up the scriptural reference to be correct, instead of talking from the top of my head. You software guys are trained to pay attention with your coding, and so the habit pays off – paid off in this instance that’s for sure.
Here’s a reference that doesn’t literally say “I came that they might have the truth” – not exactly that’s for sure, but see how it comes out contextually. Jesus in speaking to Pilate says: “The reason I was born, the reason I came into the world is to testify to the truth.” (JN 18:37) So, what you point out as misattribution on my part….well… not really (imo, of course).
But anyway, based on your original post, you kind of express that you disagree a tad or more (probably more methinks) with my style of ‘sword and spear’ and my considering truth so paramount (which I indeed do as you correctly surmised). You rather prefer emphasis on the Fullness of Life in Christ. And you write that you prefer humility as a defense of the faith rather than ‘sword and spear’.
It’s a free country of course (for awhile yet anyway) and we are all entitled to our preferences. Also true, is the fact that we have different graces and ‘calls’ (as we see them) and wisdom too, I guess. The body has many parts and different functions.
Truth you say is a tool and “we must consider how best to employ it [truth], both for our own sake and for the sake of being the best possible example of Christ's Love and Truth in the world.”
Allow me to explain where I am coming from with sword and spear and thereby the reasons for my not being the best possible example of Christ’s love in the world. It may make it easier for you and other readers and the Lord to bear with me.
To me, looking out on the world, both the secular and the Christian, I see truth under attack and under distortion. Not the ‘Fullness of Life’ being attacked mind you (not directly) but the truth being attacked. I see so many instances of folk, Christian folk, believing they have that ‘fullness of life in Christ’ and yet -- they preach and evangelize and politically endorse laws for pro-abortion rights or for gay marriage or for homosexual clergy; they preach Jesus as an avatar-like wisdom figure for western civilization and of no greater significance than Buddha or the Hindu gods of eastern civilizations; they preach the non-existence of hell or eternal damnation, the devil, angels, judgment, free will and personal responsibility, etc. etc. I even see these days our Derek and his 300 believing “there isn't really an individual self to possess free will”. And I hear him say ‘People are waking up’. That’s all quite scary to me.
The Catholic politicians, the Protestant ministers, the Pannikar–type theologians, clergy and laity of all denominations they all believe in Christ and the Fullness of Life that he brings. ????? Truth .... is up for grabs. Aiyee! says me.
So, Matt, that’s where I am coming from and why I swashbuckle. Btw, I don’t see much speculative theology in all the above, but you’ve introduced ‘speculative’ for a reason, I’m sure.
Relative to humility, offering Derek for instance some fraternal correction, in my mind is humble.
And yes, certainly doubt is not the same as humility. I kind of realize that. I wasn’t intending to imply it was the same. But there is a kind of false humility that folk sometimes get confused by and so can remain silent when they should speak out.
Meantime, in many ways we are in harmony despite our differences in style and wisdom -- and humility.
I wish you and Derek the fullness of life in Christ. Lol, truthfully!
No valid theology, speculative or otherwise, begins by dismissing or disdaining or in any way denigrating doctrine and dogma – the fruit and testimony of 2000 years of the activity of the Holy Spirit in guiding the church.
Similarly, no authentic Christian mysticism is operative outside of the boundaries of doctrine and dogma. Christian mysticism has devotion to and intimacy with Jesus Christ as its focus. It is He who has taken the church as his bride and He who has sent the Holy Spirit to guide it. Devotion to Christ must necessarily entail devotion to his church and its doctrine and dogma.
“Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste. Any house torn by dissension falls.” (Lk 11:17)
Amen to your post above, Pop. That's one of the reasons dogma is important.
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