Jacques you expressed what my concerns had been
spot on. Thank you for sharing your experience.
Thanks also for the well wishes & I pray for your continued growth also.
I have felt deeply troubled since my last discussion on the kundalini thread in regards to
St Therese of Lisieux. It seems to me that
Christianity is a religion based on martyrdom.
The foundation of the religion is based on Jesus suffering & dying on the cross for the redemption of the sins of others.. I have been told God is Love. Then on the other hand any suffering that we experience is because God permits it for our spiritual growth.
That our full glory in Christ occurs after death.
That St Therese wanted to die since her early days . She used the sufferings she experienced
to surrender deeper into Jesus. Believing that her glory would occur after her death as a martyr.
When I explore my beliefs I find I don't believe this. I question whether my beliefs are
For me life a great love/gift of God.
We are born into existence through God's Love.
That our bodies are the temple of God and
so great care should be given to them. To me this includes addressing our sins. This
desire for death or for great illnesses, as a way to be closer to Jesus & be a martyr, seems sinful.
Am I way off base here, cause my understanding
of martyrdom & Christianity makes me want to run away from Christianity as
quickly as possible.
i can understand your doubts. Especially because i came from nearby Hindu religion, where there is not taken much care about karma. (Btw, the only Hindu Karma Yogi i know is Mahatma Gandhi. Are there others too? ) They do not care much about suffering for others, unless they ave already the union with God.
For me then also a lot had changed regarding suffering and sacrifices.
You said you have the impression that Christianity is a religion of martyritum. i wouldnt subscribe that, because otherways we would have about 2,5 billions of potential martyrs here on earth. On this "Spiritual Superhighway" called Christianity everybody has his own way, his own line, his own destiny, and yes, a few of them might become martyrers, a very few of them.
But dont forget: if someone is distine be be a martyrer, God transforms and shapes this person gradually and then gives this person the capability to do so.
Similar with suffering: God gives you the will and capability to do that. If you dont feel the desire to suffer, to suffer for yourself or others, then probabely this fate is not ment for you. Dont force yourself in a direction that is not ment for you. Leave it to God. If He/She/It wants transform in this way, then simply let it happen. ("Jesus, i trust in you" ) Examples for suffering Christians with the God given "desire" to do so are for instance Sr Faustina, who was _eager_ to suffer for Christ and others, and Padre Pio ("I m not happy and i suffer if i do not suffer!") And when God gives you this capacity to suffer or make any kind of sacrifices, you feel this as YOUR OWN WILL !!!!! You do this out of love, love for others or love for God, /Jesus.
See it this way: if you have a person that you love very much, you do not hesitate to spend this person one of your kidneys, if needed for surviving. and if you love this person very very much more, you are even ready to die for this person. Out of love! Not out of some duty .
The same with God!
I'm not understanding why you pick out one part of Christianity and use it as a characterization, Mary Sue. Your very next paragraph in the post above where you said this would also be a good characterization.
But . . . yes, our full transformation in Christ does occur after death. It doesn't follow that martyrdom is the goal of Christianity, however. Bliss made some good points about this. We are called to die to our false selves to grow in the Spirit, and that is a kind of martyrdom, though not literal.
Hi Mary Sue,
I can see why you might think Christianity is a religion based on martyrdom, if by martyrdom you simply mean dying for your beliefs. But Christianity is much much more than simply dying for your beliefs…Muslim fanatics die for their beliefs on a regular basis, but their martyrdom and the martyrdom of Christianity have nothing in common.
As with many things in Christianity you have to see how the pieces fit together, otherwise they simply seem arbitrary and authoritarian. These concerns of yours must be seen in light of Original Justice and Original Sin.
The Catholic teaching on Original Justice is that in addition to human nature (human nature consists in the union of a mortal body from the earth and an immortal spirit from God), God also granted us gracious gifts that took us beyond our ordinary nature. These gifts took the human nature of Adam and Eve beyond the realm of any other creature and allowed their human bodies to attain immortality. The greatest gift however was that human beings were made like God by grace and thus were able to befriend God – something an ordinary creature cannot do. In addition Adam and Eve would eventually grow even deeper in communion with God until they experienced the Beatific Vision – This means that they would eventually ‘See God Face to Face’ and ‘Know Him as He Knows Them’ – This was mankind’s destiny.
When Adam and Eve sinned they lost these supernatural gifts and fell down to the realm of ordinary nature. This ordinary human nature now suffered death, as all creatures do, and had the additional problem of concupiscence to deal with, which is an inordinate propensity to fulfill the desires of the flesh in opposition to the spirit.
Man was no longer a child of God and had become simply another creature, but unlike other creatures man had an immortal soul and thus an immortal destiny – but without supernatural grace man cannot spend his immortal destiny with God and thus would be separated from God for all time – we call this eternal separation hell.
But God loves us and desired to bring us to salvation and so He did something to save us. When Jesus became a human being He redeemed human nature in Himself and invited others to participate in His human nature and thus gain the supernatural grace that man had lost through sin. In addition Jesus willingly underwent the consequences of Man’s sin, which is the death of the body, in order to offer this pure sacrifice to God as satisfaction for the sin of mankind. Jesus’s death was truly the death of an innocent (none of us can claim the same), and He willingly laid down His life for us. By doing this he merited a superabundance of Grace which He happily shares with the world in order to bring them to salvation.
Right, so what does this have to do with Christian martyrdom, desiring death, suffering and the like?
If our fundamental problem is that we are born in a fallen state, devoid of Grace, and thus are living lives destined for separation from God, then we need to be born again in order to be given a new life. Just as a baby is born and then grows to maturity, so too are we born into the Life of God and must grow to maturity – our final maturity is only possible on the other side of death and so Christians know that ultimately death will be the gate through which eternal life with God will meet them. But remember, death is still an enemy, it is contrary to the plan of God for human beings. Paul says that through the death of Jesus death has lost its’ sting. This is because even though it is an enemy, it can no longer hurt us and instead, it is the gateway to eternity with God.
But there is another side to this coin – just as we are born and grow to maturity in the New Life, so we die with Christ at Baptism and then allow that death to seep through our sinful nature until finally the entire sinful man is dead. Both the growth in life and the growth in death are processes – both of which find fulfillment only after the death of the body. When Christian Saints speak of suffering and death as positive instruments in the hand of God it is because they are the instruments of New Life, killing the sinful man as they simultaneously bring the Divine Life into the godly man.
As Phil says above, we are not killing our True Selves, but rather we are killing the false self, the sinful self, and by willingly allowing that sinful self to suffer and die we are infusing our body and soul with the very Life of God. That is why St. Paul says that for him to live is Christ (infusing his body with the Divine Life by putting to death the sinful nature) and to die is gain (because the process will be brought to completion and He will see God face to face).
This is true, but life is also tainted by the fall and our own sin.
This is true, but because of the fall we are born creatures of God and invited to become children of God but through grace and not nature.
This is true, but only when we experience the New Birth.
This is also true, but if you put your life at risk to save a baby from a fire this is virtuous and meritorious.
As it must, and this is where heroic martyrdom and suffering find their place in the Christian life.
We cannot fully see God this side of death and so for a Christian to die is gain, not because death is something to look forward to, but because it is the final enemy to conquer in order to gain eternal life. In addition, to suffer for no reason is pointless, but to suffer in order to kill the false self, or do some good for another person is not pointless. The kind of suffering that takes onto one’s self the suffering and/or sin of others is meritorious and virtuous. Let me give you an everyday example, (rather than a “super-work” of a Saint), I work hard for my family and “suffer” as I do this. But through working hard and “suffering” I deal with my own selfishness and laziness and I also provide for my family who depend on me, thus my suffering is meritorious and helps me draw nearer to God and my family.
Hope this puts some things into perspective and I’m happy to chat more about this if what I said still leaves you wanting to run for the hills.
Much Love in the Lord Jesus,
I just came across this article at the website for 'Roman Catholic Spiritual Direction'. It addresses the theme we are discussing.
Yes, excellent, Jacques. Not much I can add. Except that in the overall picture you build of Christian doctrine, I can't help finding certain details troubling. I still find the idea of human immortality on earth, or a heavenly translation because of death's absence, hard to fathom. But that may be because sin and death are now so ingrained, it's hard to imagine otherwise. Also, are you saying that animals died on earth before the Fall? Surely this would spoil our innocence somewhat - the presence of death in a pre-fallen world, or in our genetic ancestry, would surely taint us, don't you think, and make our own bodily immortality seem, well, kind of half baked, even undesirable. Also, are you saying that animals and plants don't survive death, that they don't have immortal souls and don't enter an afterlife? I really don't like this at all. Nor can I accept that other creatures can't "befriend God." Who knows what intimacy other creatures have with the divine! This exaltation of humanity to the detriment of other creatures is quite troubling for me, not least because it leads to a kind of anthropomorphism of God and a separation of humanity from a unified, holistic energy field which many experience as a metaphysical reality. His eternal plans are surely for all life. Where indeed might all this leave extraterrestrials?
A lot of this theology works well in a world before Darwin, but I think struggles for credibility these days, despite the speculative attempts of some to reconcile evolutionary theory with church doctrine.
Sorry for the off topic diversion, but you opened up a lot here, details of which bother me quite a bit.
Ah Stephen, I can always count on you for a good bit of back and forth. Let's see where this goes
I think part of the problem stems, not from inconsistencies between Darwin and Christianity, but rather, from the misapprehension, so prevalent at all times in Christian history, of heaven as the final abode of those who die in Christ. I’ll explain this further, but first let me discuss the point that death existed in the universe before the fall of mankind.
That death existed before the fall is clear, though not always readily explored, from the text of Genesis 1 itself. The universe (I owe this insight to Jimmy Akin, a catholic apologist) is entropic. God creates the sun and stars to provide light on the earth and thereby creates realities that break down through the law of entropy as they live out their intended purpose, eventually burning themselves out.
The plants that are given for food produce living fruit which can then be picked and eaten, thereby experiencing the death of the fruit; even the seed is an embryo that is alive, but can be killed by being eaten. God created the seasons, thus bringing cold and snow that would naturally kill insects and animals unable to sustain that kind of temperature change. And let us not forget that carnivorous dinosaurs existed millions of years before any human beings and thus animals ate other animals. Death is and was a natural part of God’s creation, and thus should not be seen as unnatural to the intentions of God.
Adam and Eve, though seemingly immortal, are not so by nature, after all God plants a tree in the garden, the tree of Life, and unless Adam and Eve eat from this tree they suffer the natural consequences of created realities, that is death.
All of creation is subject to this same law of entropy, and though this term was not known before the modern era, it was historically known as “corruptibility”:
Saint Athanasius had said the same thing nearly a thousand years before Thomas:
I don’t think this would have negatively impacted on original innocence since death is a natural part of the created order and Adam and Eve would have been grateful to have been raised above this natural order through relationship with God.
The spirits of mankind, as with the angelic spirits, are naturally immortal because that is the nature of spirit…it is not corruptible by nature and thus will not naturally decay the way a body will. Of course God could destroy a spirit, but it seems from Scripture that He respects the free will of spiritual beings to retain their existence, even if that existence is separated from God.
Thus Catholic theology has always maintained that even when separated from the body for a time (between death and resurrection) the spirit of man is conscious, and aware of its’ state in relation to God (i.e. purgatory, heaven or hell). But this is always maintained as an intermediate state and not the final state of man…man is in need of a body and will have a body prepared for him at the general resurrection and will be given a place to dwell with God that is fitting for a being with a body i.e. The New Earth.
I’ll stop there for now as I doubt I’ll have any more time to write tonight, but will continue this discussion (hopefully) tomorrow.
Actually, just to clarify, that decay and death are part of the universe from the beginning is a given, but that man is elevated above this is troubling, especially since that grace would seem to me to be so readily compromised by the decay and death around him. Who wants to live forever in a world where everything else is dying? This is a deeply melancholy thought and not my idea of paradise.
But yes, please continue when you have time.
I found some more time, my wife exiled me from the kitchen as she is baking me some goodies for my birthday tomorrow
Well yes, since we both accept that theistic evolution is currently the best theory we have for how the world came about I just wanted to show that this in no way contradicts, or stands in opposition to, the historical Christian tradition. Really it only becomes a problem for fundamentalists and evangelicals who insist on a very literal reading of Genesis in which there was absolutely no death before the fall and even all the animals ate only herbs and fruit.
Now for some reflection (and postulation) on man, both in Paradise and in Eternity:
Historical Christianity had no problem imagining a world in which Man was meant for more than the rest of creation (at least at the point of their exultation above the rest of creation). Man is the microcosm of all creation, both the heavenly and the earthly. Through evolution God brought creation up to its' very apex, Adam and Eve...and then He took it a step further, by giving to man, a creature, something that exists only in the heavenly realm, a spirit. Man is the meeting point of heaven and earth. He is the highest reality in the created order and the lowest reality in the heavenly order; the union of all that is. But I don’t mean to say therefore that Man is better than the rest of creation, either the earthly or the heavenly, but simply to say that all of creation has its’ place, and this union is man’s place in the cosmos.
Now as to Man’s relationship with God. In order for true friendship, true relationship, to exist there must be a genuine relatability between the two parties. That is not to say Love cannot exist in the higher party, perhaps even some sort of affection in the lower, but a real substantial similarity must exist between the two in order to form the kind of bond necessary for true relationship.
Man in his fallen state can acknowledge God as creator, something that perhaps internally the whole of creation can do, but it would require something Divine for man to be a ‘Child of God’, as children always have something of their parent’s nature. Two examples, 1) an artist carves a statue, the statue is his creation, but it is not his child, he may love the statue, but no relationship can exist 2) a person might have a pet earthworm, they might love that earthworm, but the vast difference between the person and that earthworm make it impossible for the earthworm to have anything even resembling a genuine relationship with them. Thus all creation is a statue, an earthworm, in comparison to God.
This is why God gives Grace to Adam and Eve (and to the Angelic Spirits), because this Grace is the very Life of God Himself and it raises Adam and Eve up to a Supernatural nature. That is it makes them able to participate in the Divine Life and hence able to engage in real relationship with God. Man cannot have this by nature, because otherwise man would be Divine by nature, which is impossible, but man can be raised to this place by Grace through the direct action of God. Thus the destiny of Man, both by nature, being Body and Spirit, and by Grace, being made a partaker of the Divine Life, is substantially more than God has done for the rest of the material creation (at this time).
Now for some speculation...We do not know what the world would have been like if Adam and Eve had not fallen...some Eastern Orthodox theologians warn that this sort of inquiry is fruitless, perhaps even dangerous, since we have no direct knowledge of an unfallen world and thus no way to make accurate deductions about it...I don’t share their fear, though I understand their point, who can ever really know...but I happen to have some ideas and so I’ll share them...nobody can really prove I’m wrong anyway
If God created a good earth that included both life and death, then both life and death are beautiful in their own ways and entropy is not sin, neither is it something to be sad about when seen as an expression of the Divine. Perhaps modern physics has some insight here when it tells us that matter/energy is never really destroyed, but simply changes form and is endlessly present to the Mind of God.
If Man, by Grace, was raised above the entropic universe, to see with God the ever changing reality of Creation, but to be like God who is eternally unchanging, able to witness the beauty of Life and Death and the cycles of Creation without being subject to any of them...then Man really was given dominion over the earth and would participate with God in the continuation of Creation..Man is of the earth, able to interact with the material universe in a special and intimate way. Man is of the heavens, able to commune with the heavenly realm in a way unique to the material universe.
The angels also exist eternally in their own spiritual realm and who knows what their destiny is, but one would imagine that it is primarily related to the spiritual universe. Man is of the earth and our own destiny is caught up with the destiny of the material creation, though our spirits make us uniquely qualified to be a bridge between two worlds. And let us not forget that the Earth is not the only planet in the universe, and perhaps our destiny was/is not limited to this planet alone, but perhaps the ever expanding cosmos would give rise to an eternal playground in which the glorified man, united with the Father of All, would play a unique role in linking the material creation with the heavenly realm for all eternity. Perhaps in the future God would call other elements of the created order to share in this Life of Grace, who knows, but we need not limit ourselves here, and the possibilities are open for discussion and wonder.
Then to turn this all around for a minute and imagine it the other way, what do we have? A God who created a world in which death and decay were normal, in which pain and suffering were part of the plan, even for creatures who can reflect deeply on their pain and feel their woundedness at the very core of their being...humans and animals (even plants) are no different in their basic existence and once they pass through the normal cycle of life they enter a completely different reality in which everything they experienced in their material creation becomes somehow unimportant to the rest of their eternal reality which is purely spiritual and ethereal. Angels in this scenario are far more blessed, never having had to deal with a material creation and the pains that accompany it, but then, material creatures can look forward to the fact that their material creation is by nature short-lived and they will enter spiritual eternity after a brief trial on a dying planet. Perhaps this is not what you would envisage, but this seems to me the logical alternative to the traditional Christian model, one that seems far less affirming of the divine origin of the natural universe and its’ place in eternity and makes far less use of the traditional Christian doctrines of the union of body and spirit, the Resurrection of the dead, and the Beatific Vision? I haven’t even included in this scenario how one would incorporate a reincarnational model as I feel this further alienates the traditional Christian categories and nullifies a great deal of the historical Christian witness.
I don't have time to respond in detail, Jacques. My general impression is that your defence of historical Christianity just isn't compatible with what I might call metaphysical ecosystems or evolutionary interconnectedness. That man stands at the apex of creation I would dispute, not knowing how, for example, whales, dolphins, certain plants, or any conscious being might relate to the creator, and also speculating that organic creatures exist in the universe who are more spiritually evolved than us. We have only our limited perspective on all of that, and it's a perspective which boxes off God to my mind. Historical Christianity as you describe it lags behind what might be affirmed metaphysically. Historical Christianity, again in your terms, has little to say about more evolved species elsewhere in the universe or the possibility of other forms of conscious relationship with the creator.
This too seems rather blasé, don't you think:
This sort of hasty logic doesn't take into account how we might actually "feel" about being surrounded by death.
Again here you jump to a very hasty conclusion. Why would the experience of material creation be totally irrelevant to that eternal reality? That's not what I envision at all. Material reality totally impacts the spiritual realms.
Here's what I think, and I'm going to be quick and simple. I am not in essence a human soul. I am a created soul having a human experience. My human experience shapes my soul but ultimately my soul transcends my human experience. Christ's life, death and resurrection allow me to live his divine life here and now, but also allow my soul to return to God in union, which, by necessity moved away from him at the point of its creation. I too don't go into reincarnation here but one can see how it may be relevant to a soul's evolution in conjunction with Christ's dynamic, enlivening action.
That's all well-said, Jacques. You have a real passion for theology, it seems, and have obviously been doing your homework.
To add to the discussion, some of the chapters from this book are relevant, if there's an interest.
[QUOTE]Originally posted by BlissInTheHeart:
What you have said here is comforting and for the most part spot on. Thank you. The only thing I find myself questioning
in what you have said is why does Jesus need
anyone to suffer for him? I don't see why intercessors are necessary.
[QUOTE]Originally posted by Phil:
Phil, this has taken a bit of sorting out for me. Some of this is about the death of someone near to me that committed suicide recently. St Therese's remarks about wanting to die & be with Jesus deeper, really triggered in me the issue of suicide.
Where the struggle for me is that I"m not so sure that for everyone this is only a process of dying to our false selves. And I need to spend some time coming to understand how Catholics understand Heaven.
Again, I should clarify something. (I do reply hastily at times.)
When I talk about the relationship between God and nature, I need to tell you I believe in nature spirits, animal, vegetable and mineral. Not only have I had some amazing encounters with these beings, but they appear in the stories and mythology of every culture from Native American to Classical Greek to Jewish folklore and beyond, and in the literature of great mythopoetic writers (Christian I might add) like Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and George MacDonald. The consciousness they bring to the natural world is deeply mysterious and allows them to "befriend" God at a level we cannot understand. That human beings see themselves as the only spiritual beings in creation and somehow at its apex is profoundly arrogant and displays a sad ignorance of the spiritual nature of creation in my view. These spirits allow animal and plant consciousness to extend into an afterlife or bridge the earthly or heavenly realms, just like man. Man is only the apex of creation to man. Try telling a tree he ain't all that.
If all this sounds very pagan, I don't apologise. Maybe my syncretism extends in that direction also.
A further point of clarification. I get upset seeing a dead bird on the road, and not because it reminds me of my own mortality. Even in an unfallen world, the fact that a little creature loses its life strikes a melancholy note, regardless of death's beautiful expression of the divine. No paradise for me!
[QUOTE]Originally posted by Jacques:
Thank you for your thoughtful sharing
I want to respond more after I have some
time to consider what you are expressing.
It's late & I must stop reading.
I'm going to be gone for a few
days. Here's something that stood out at
"We cannot fully see God this side of death and so for a Christian to die is gain, not because death is something to look forward to, but because it is the final enemy "...
I take what you are saying here as physical death. I had not considered this. Knowing this may indeed be why so many are so looking forward to death. Not necessarily
a suicidal (unconscious) desire. I don't necessarily
belief that this is a natural process but is one nurtured
by religions beliefs. Again I see how I need to look
at Christian understanding of Heaven and how do we know
what we are being told is true.
Happy Birthday, Jacques Attacques!
What age are you, or is that classified?
Looking back I see lots I disagree with in your meaty post. Do you have a pet? Don't dogs offer a relationship, love and affection? Other animals too? Artists most definitely have relationships with their creations. Poems and paintings very often speak back to their creator and demand nurturing to the point where the creator has to let them go, set them free. I experience this regularly. Doesn't all creation reflect the nature of God somehow, in its very being, it's liveliness, it's varying degrees of consciousness? Trees, I believe are very conscious and receive information from the universe which they use to glorify God and regulate energy on the planet. We are sons of God by supernatural adoption. That's how God deals with us. But every living thing is a child of God.
I'm slowly digesting your post, going back to it, picking up things and chewing on them. It is meaty. I hope you can make something coherent out of my fragmented responses. I'm a mythopoetic panentheist with a slow digestive track and the intellect of a budgie. I probably need seeds not meat . But again, don't let that stop you. Let it rip, my birthday brother...
Another fragment, I'm afraid:
I want to remind everyone that the Bible, upon which our theology is based, is a book of stories and poetry, more than theology. Psalm 8, for example, which I think Jacques refers to, is a poem, not a theological treatise. It is a great pity that the church has been shaped by theologians rather than poets, but oh that Western mind! The rational controlling mind! Jesus was a story teller, not so much a theologian. The world and the church would be so different if we had followed him in that way.
Stephen et al, theology can indeed be conveyed by poetry, story, and more formal rational, systematic reflections such as we find in some of Paul's epistles. The Psalms, which have been mentioned, are also rife with theological affirmations and assumptions.
A problem arises in Christianity when false teachings begin to be circulated and gain traction. We can tolerate a certain amount of theological diversity, but within the boundaries that are congruent with Revelation and its implications. Once these boundaries become seriously violated, then one runs the risk of losing proper spiritual focus and receptivity. That's where the more rational, doctrinal expressions came from, for the most part, as reason is capable of bringing clarity to these matters better than right-brain approaches, which can and do make a contribution as well.
The Church did not begin with a highly developed body of doctrine, but, rather, with a few core convictions that conveyed the essence of Jesus' message and the significance of his death and resurrection. In time, doctrinal layers were developed to clarify the meaning of these core convictions, usually in the context of responding to some false teaching or another. We, today, have inherited all that, and it's sometimes difficult to understand or appreciate the connection between the doctrine and the core teachings. Sometimes the issue the doctrine is addressing isn't as relevant today as it once was. Always, there is the matter of human intellectual laziness to contend with as well -- people just not engaging their minds very deeply in an effort to understand. Theology was never meant to be pitched to people whose minds are acclimated to 15-second sound bytes.
i would like to suggest you to read the diaries of sister Faustina. I think you can learn there a lot about this issue.
I see it like this: every spiritual master is suffering for his fellows. Christian masters (Jesus, padre pio sr. faustina, Hindu masters, etc.) they are given some souls from God on which they take care of and have the task to bring them to God. But these souls might have some problems, impurities, that block their way to God. Many of them are created by sins they have done. And in order to atone them, the easiest way is on the physical level. To pave their way and to accellerate their spiritual progress, all these masters take their suffering onto them out of love to them. (Btw, that is a criterium to select SERIOUS masters from others.) This is not the only way. The soles also can choose if they want suffer in pergutory to get rid of these blockages. For instance Sr Faustina was asked by Jesus if she wants to atonement her own sins by staying one day in pergutory or by suffering a certain sickness here on earth. She choose both, but Jesus told her that one is enough, and the He gave her support to be able to bear the sickness. One can also do some sacrifices by oneself to erase sins and impurities, for instance a fasting. Or, if you are inspired, you can do sacrifices to help others that you like and love. You do not suffer for Jesus, but you can choose suffering to HELP or SERVE Jesus to save OTHER souls.
Now, do not think that we only have this in Christanity. You also have this in Hinduisme. But here the justice is a little more hidden, and also sometimes taken by the master on himself.
Suicide: I have read a lot of near death experience of suiciders. Most of them face BIG problems in the beyond. Sorry to say this! Please pray for him/her ! Very important ! And if you are inspired, take this chance and do some sacrifices for him/her. This soul will be very very gratefull to you, believe me. I remember, that Jesus said to Sr Faustina: "You know, each grace of God needs a sacrifice".
And finally remember : "What you have done to the least of mine, you have done for me
Thanks Phil, I chose St. Thomas Aquinas as my confirmation Saint because, as you note, I am deeply passionate about theology. But I'm also deeply committed to mystical encounter and union with God, without which theology is simply a clanging cymbal. I believe St. Thomas unites these two realities in an exemplary way.
Those reflections of Arraj in that link you share, together with your own advice over the years, was what helped me move away from a fundamentalist creationism to embrace the Divine Wonder of evolution. I'm now a firm advocate of exploring the relationship between science, theology and spirituality
Yes Mary Sue, exactly, physical death is the final trial in this life, and those who have committed themselves to overcoming every hurdle to union with God are eager to overcome the final hurdle which is physical death.
Thanks Stephen, 33 years young as of yesterday
I'm not really sure what you mean by metaphysical ecosystems or evolutionary interconnectedness, though I can guess. I don't think that it is necessarily true that historical Christianity would be incompatible with these realities. Since historical Christianity is true at its very core I believe that any other truth will ultimately be found to be compatible with Christianity. The relationship between evolution and historical Christianity is a case in point - you might not think they work well, but I believe they fit perfectly well if one has the eyes to see the connection.
Like you, I also affirm the theological position called Panentheism, I think it has far more merit than either Pantheism or Deistic Theism. Since the Ground of Being that enlivens all of creation is the presence of God Himself it is true that all things are metaphysically connected and that evolution is the steady progress of God-Breathed Life. But I don't think one need necessarily jump from this fact to a naturally conscious universe. Perhaps you can explain a little more what you mean by these terms.
No intention of boxing off God, rather, I'm trying to use my God given intellect to reflect on the universe as I know it, while keeping within the bounds of revealed truth i.e. Scripture and Sacred Tradition. It is true that we can speculate about the consciousness of various other creatures, but here we are moving into the realm of metaphysics/philosophy (which are by nature more speculative, though not thereby less rational/intellectual) rather than theology (which is based primarily on revealed truth taken from the Scriptures). In my pre-Christian days I was quite taken with the possibility of the earth having been seeded by aliens, and read quite a bit about the alien ancestry of dolphins and whales (amongst other things) who are said to be from the Pleiadian constellation (See this link for a satirical take on the Pleiadians - I think a valid point made by the author of the piece is that these sorts of personal speculations about metaphysical and extra-terrestrial realities are often contradictory and there is no way to sift the truth from the error).
In the hierarchy of Truth the fluid and uncertain nature of metaphysical and philosophical speculations mean they are naturally relegated to a lower tier than theology. This is because we affirm theology based on Divine Revelation but be affirm metaphysics based on personal experiences and mystical intuitions. That is not of course to say that metaphysics, personal experiences, and mystical intuitions, cannot play a role in our definition of the Truth, but it must naturally be accountable to Orthodox Theology. There are many core teachings of the Christian faith that cannot be known intuitively except through Divine Revelation - The Trinity is a good example.
I don't think this is hasty logic at all. Perhaps it is a brief reflection, but certainly not a hasty one. Whether you accept my thesis, or your own, you still have to make sense of death as a reality that God created. How you currently feel about death cannot be divorced from the fact that you yourself are mortal, even if you say this isn't why death bothers you.
Does death bother God? If it does, why did he create it? If it doesn't then perhaps He is calling us to reflect on it from His point of view. This is what I meant when I suggest that the answer lies in understanding how death might be an expression of the Divine.
I read an interesting article a couple years ago on evolution as an expression of Christ's Kenosis. His self-emptying is expressed in every death because every death acts in service of the whole evolutionary ascent. This ascent ultimately resulted in human beings, and through them the great Incarnation and Kenosis of Christ Himself. Thus evolution is the great self-emptying, the great sacrifice of Christ that brings forth an abundance of life. When that bird dies and drops to the ground it is immediately given to the service of Life, the life of the insects, the worms, the microbes, the soil itself...no death is meaningless in this sense. Seen in this way the self-emptying of the sun and the stars, the self-emptying of the fruit and the seed, the self-emptying of the whole living creation, as it dies to self and produces new life, is a great testimony to the self-emptying God.
This simply isn't orthodox Christianity. I know you don't feel particularly bound by pure orthodoxy, but what you suggest would make major themes in the Gospels, Paul's Epistles, and various other parts of the Old and New Testament, meaningless. That is why the Church condemned this view, as Phil noted, theology exists to safeguard the deposit of faith and pull people back from serious error.
Creation itself cannot be the necessary separating point between God and Us, otherwise God, by creating us in the flesh, is directly responsible for our separation from Him. The Incarnation makes no sense in this model because Christ's Incarnation would thus, 'by necessity', move Him away from God. In addition, orthodox theology teaches that the Incarnation was necessary because Christ came to redeem human flesh by uniting human nature with the Divine nature...the bodily resurrection from the dead flows directly out of the theology of the Incarnation.
I don't think this (albeit brief) Philosophy of yours is robust enough. It pokes too many holes in Christianity without offering sufficient replacement. Neither does it explain how Christianity was founded by Christ in person and yet went so wrong from the very beginning of the Church age in the writings of His very Apostles.
It is hard to argue with your personal experience, but what I would like to know is whether or not your experience of these realities was physical or spiritual. Has an actual physical rock or animal ever communicated with you in the way another human being can - my assumption would be that they have not, since communication of this sort is believed to be a part of our spiritual nature in communion with our physical nature. Animals seem to lack the spiritual dimension necessary to communicate in a way that goes beyond instinct and very simple interaction - obviously with expanding ability as one moves up the evolutionary chain of being.
If however you are saying that you have encountered various spirit beings who seem to be related to various aspects of the physical creation, I have no problem with this. Is it not possible that rather than 'animal/plant/mineral spirits', these beings are Angelic Spirits in charge of various parts of the created order, animal, plant, and mineral, even celestial, and multidimensional. This is perfectly orthodox Christianity I believe. It makes good sense that in the grand scheme of creation God would place a multitude of spirit beings in charge of his creation...do not even we have our own guardian angels?
Again to emphasize, we are not the only spirit beings in creation. We are the only spiritual bodies in the universe, there are plenty of pure spirits in the universe. I wonder whether your point, that 'these spirits allow animal and plant consciousness to extend into an afterlife or bridge the earthly or heavenly realms, just like man', is based on a direct communication to that effect by these spirit beings you have encountered, or whether this is your interpretation of what it meant to encounter these spirit beings? Is this first-hand knowledge? Or is it intuited reasoning based on your personal experience of encounter?
I want to make it clear again that I do take a Panentheistic view of creation and thus I'm happy to agree to the profoundly spiritual nature of creation. I'm staring out the window at a great African Acacia tree. This tree, I can tell you, has presence, and I'm able to look at it and sense the great Divine energy that feeds into this tree...just on the other side of the driveway is a mighty Wild Olive that has the very same effect on me. This reality is present to me throughout the natural world...rocks, rivers, oceans, stars, they all sing forth the Glory of God. Even when they've been cut down, and used primarily in their rough natural form (for example to build a wonderful stone church with great trunk beams to support the ceiling), the reality of their spiritual foundation is not lost. Together their natural form and their spiritual foundation bring forth a multiform of original experiences of the Divine in Nature. But having said that I cannot speak about non-organic creation having its' own personal consciousness or communication, other than the communication of the Divine presence speaking through their unique forms.
I have 7 dogs But here we have the difference between a natural creaturely love and affection which I agreed was possible, and a Supernatural Love for God which is always Grace and never possible for a creature. This is where Protestant and Catholic theologies disagree.
Catholic theology always affirmed that relationship with God was a Supernatural Gracious Gift given to Adam and Eve. This gift was made possible, in part, by making Adam a rational animal, but this alone was not enough to make Adam and Eve able to Love God. In order to Love God, Supernatural Grace was necessary. That is why Christian Theology talks about us being Sons and Daughters through Supernatural Adoption.
All creation, including man, is simply a creation, until God grants it Supernatural Grace that raises nature to the level of the Divine. We become Sons in the Son by partaking of the Divine Nature. The Angelic Beings are similarly Graced in order to Love God. A rejection of this Grace in all rational creatures, human or angelic, results in the loss of that Grace, which is what we term 'The Fall'. The fact that animals do not sin and cannot fall is a good indication of the difference between animals, humans and angels.
Luther and Calvin got it wrong by suggesting that Adam and Eve had relationship with God by nature. Thus the Fall for Calvin resulted in the Total Loss of human nature and the destruction of Free Will which leads to his faulty system of Predestination...but I'm not going to get into that now.
This reality may have more to do with the artist and God than it does with the artist and the actual creation. It may also have to do with the energy of the artist invested in the creation, but this is still not Supernatural Love in the order described above.
Yes, certainly, reflect the nature of God, Glorify God, even allow an aspect of God to be seen as through a window, an Icon!...but none of this is a relationship in a personal sense, but certainly there is a relationship in the scientific or metaphysical sense.
Again, could this not be the ministry of the tree angels who manifest the energy of the Divine in and through the Trees and play the Botanical orchestra as a song of unending praise to the Lord?
As noted above I cannot agree that every living thing is a child of God. Children must be partakers of the natures of their parents, that is what a child is, the bearer of the nature of the parents. Supernatural Adoption is necessary to be made a Child of God. Also let me add that having the universe be an unconscious expression of the Divine Nature is not to denigrate or subjugate the universe in any way. It is what it is, a glorious mystical expression of the Divine through Material Creation. That God chose to raise that unconscious expression up through varying degrees of animal consciousness (not yet in a personal Love relationship with the Divine, but), continually expressing the Divine Image through multiple forms, is beautiful.
Finally this evolution produced a being capable of rationally contemplating the Divine in its very (human) nature through the infusion of a spirit into a body...but not yet able to Supernaturally Love God as God is, since that requires Like Nature i.e. the Divine Nature. This process is brought to a wondrous conclusion by bestowing on this creation Supernatural Grace and raising it up to the Divine Nature. Thus Man was made able to participate, freely, purposefully, personally and consciously in the Life of the Trinity.
I was actually just sharing from the theology I've gleaned over the years (and much of it recently through Catholic theologians), but I see how a great deal of it can be affirmed through Psalm 8. And yes this Psalm is a poem and needs to be appreciated as such, but every poem is a glimpse of a much deeper reality, one that can be expressed in various forms of poetry and also in lengthier prose. It should not be one or the other. If our poems are worth their salt they help us capture the essence of prose in a flourish of metaphor, simile and flowery beauty.
Ah Stephen, some of the most wonderful poetry of the Western mind has been expressed by the mystics of the Catholic Church, John of the Cross comes to mind. Through their great love of God and His Church they highlighted the essence of Love, but they never did so in opposition to the theology in which they were formed and nurtured.This message has been edited. Last edited by: Jacques,
Thanks again for the meatiness of your post. I figure the effort you put in deserves a considered response from myself, rather than the hasty, haphazard replies I've been dashing off thus far. Sorry about that. I do a lot of reading and writing through the day, mainly poetry and poetry related matters, and often don't have the eyes or energy to read too deeply on other subjects here at SP or elsewhere. I will try and respond, but if I'm slow or fail to get back to you, you must forgive me. You have given me a lot to think about and I do thank you for that.
Perhaps the major difference is in our apprehension of just how conscious the universe is...maybe that's something I can address more fully when I get round to it.
Thanks for taking the time to read through it all Stephen, no pressure with the reply...as God leads you
Just a quick note that has been bouncing around in my head since we started this conversation and one I feel might help explain where I come from regarding orthodoxy. I know I've shared parts of this on various others threads, but I feel it helps clarify why I'm so adamant about historical orthodoxy.
In my pre-Christian spiritual pursuits I was heavily invested in exploring the spiritual realm through marijuana and LSD, along side a very spiritual/mystical reading of the bible, prayer, and chakra meditation.
These spiritual practices resulted in a very positive series of paranormal experiences, mystical encounters, psychic knowledge, and an overflowing of love, peace and joy. I was encouraged through these experiences to write down the intuitions I was receiving and to teach others. Wherever I went I spoke of my experiences and my intuitions about God and Life. I spent most of my day reading scripture and writing poetry. Through my meditations I also had a deep sense of the consciousness of the universe, albeit in a more or less pantheistic sense. I too encountered various beings, and other spiritual phenomena that I cannot fully explain...
That said, this all went very wrong in the end (please note, I am sharing my experience, not indicating anything about yours, though I wouldn't share this if I didn't feel that there may be a possibility of a connection, but that is not up to me to deduce and I leave it up to you to make any connections or none at all as God leads you).
My belief is that my negative experience had a dual source; 1) I believe that I had accumulated far too much energy in the third eye chakra, which is known to produce hallucinations and psychosis 2) I believe I was being attacked and deceived demonically.
Once I managed to surface after a serious psychic meltdown I found myself drawn back to Christ. It took me a long time to trust my intuitions (not sure how well I'm doing even now) and have found great peace and security in orthodoxy. I had one relapse with marijuana in the +-13 years since I gave it up and it led directly to the only psychic attack I'd experienced since I came back to Christ.
Needless to say I feel Christian orthodoxy is a safety net, without which I had slammed myself hard against the rock of my own delusions. Thus I feel Christ gave us the Church and her teaching authority to keep us safe and safe is what I feel
Much Love in the Lord Jesus,
JacquesThis message has been edited. Last edited by: Jacques,
Best perhaps to ask by what criteria man is seen at the apex of creation if the world is holistically interconnected? By dint of his rationality, his ability to love and contemplate God? Perhaps. But from other perspectives, not so much. Sometimes I feel mankind is like a virus, breeding, spreading, choking the earth with its contagion. Biologically man is no different from anything else. Spiritually? Well, only as potential, but to say we are the only beings with a spiritual body in the universe...that's quite an leap. I'd be surprised if there weren't other physical beings in the universe who are spiritually more advanced than us. Even on earth, if we bring other criteria into our understanding, and think about trees for instance, how they regulate not just atmosphere but spiritual energy, how the earth channels energy, information, how crystals, rocks, stones are full of energy, we might begin to see spirit in these forms. Now you might say that still only man relates to God personally. But how can we be certain of this? By what criteria do we make the judgement? It's a purely subjective assessment. Creatures relate to God according to their own natures and we have no way of knowing how that might be. We only have our perspective. I contend that every living thing, including rocks, has a spirit. I really believe this. And that every living thing relates to God spiritually in its own way. Maybe not rationally, but I believe, lovingly. Not just metaphysically, but personally. I've had telepathic communication with trees, rocks. I'm not going to go into detail because personal experience isn't the best foundation for this discussion. But I wasn't on drugs, I wasn't psychotic, it happened spontaneously, and I didn't pursue anything. I don't believe it was angelic or demonic becsuse I've seen these beings and I've seen demons and I really believe these nature spirits are another order of being, the spiritual identity of creation. It's all very mysterious and not something I would pursue or develop because of the obvious danger of delusion. It just happens. And in it is a whole new way of understanding God, creation and just how spiritually limited man really is.
I'm not one for the hierarchy of truth, I have to say. I figure Catholics come to Catholicism not because the church tells them to, but because their personal experiences, their journey validate these teachings, are in line with them. But mine aren't. So why should I submit to every grain of "revealed truth" if my journey hasn't taken me there, especially when I believe the Christian revelation is ongoing and progressive, not just historical.
And yet it's pretty clear, as you yourself pointed out to Mary Sue, that death is the enemy. Or is it just the enemy to human beings or spirits-with-bodies? If death is the enemy, it's the enemy. No two ways. I emphasise again, if anything we are attached to dies, there is a note of sorrow. Death and sorrow go together. Christ has triumphed over death, yes, but still we weep. Even in the picture of paradise painted in the Bible, if other creatures are dying, there must be a sense of loss. I can't get over that. The death of another creature only loses its immediate affect when life is undifferentiated - eg for a new born baby, or in states of unitive bliss. Perhaps indeed babies offer a glimpse of the unfallen, and the fall is the emergence of Ego dominance. Theologians can chew on this. For now, I'll let it hang.
Surely the moment we were created we were ontologically separate from God, otherwise we would be God. God is absolutely responsible for this. And the fact that this ontological separation leads to a spiritual or existential separation is where we become responsible, but also indirectly implicates God. I don't have a problem with that. It's just the way things are and had to be in this created universe. And Christ wasn't created, was he, so he was never separate from God. Born, remember, not made.
My philosophy, which, as you note, isn't robust enough here because I don't present it systematically and probably never will, doesn't compromise my reading of scripture in the slightest. I never see it as meaningless. I simply view it with a different lens. I've said that before.
Ah, Jacques, how I long for a world where poetry nurtures and forms theologians and theology, not the other way about.
Don't drop that definition of poetry into a conversation with any contemporary poet btw...except me . See the link below. This is modern poetry, and says something about how my mind works:
I'm running out of steam, and there's an afternoon ahead of me. I think perhaps the universe is more conscious, more spirit-in-matter or even matter-in-spirit, than you give it credit. I feel totally comfortable with my Christianity in this context, very happy with my unorthodoxy, because I really love and try to live Jesus. I know you do too. We're just on opposite sides of the net, but we're playing the same game.
Love to you too, Jacques .
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