What is the goal of Christianity?
In the reading the first of John Cassian's Conferences, I was struck by how clear Cassian and Germanus were about their goal. Abba Moses asked them what their objective was, and straightaway they were able to answer. Their goal was the Kingdom. And Abba Moses was pleased with this answer.
This was c. 400 in Egypt.
Is the goal of Christianity today not the Kingdom? And if not, then why not?
I also believe the goal of Christianity is the Kingdom of Heaven. That begs the question, though, just what is meant when we speak of the Kingdom? In practical terms, what is the difference between a "kingdom" and "land" ? Is it just the presence of a king in the middle of the land that makes it a kingdom? What is the relationship between a king and his kingdom? And further, what is meant by "heaven" ? What is heaven, and what is the relationship between Heaven and God? Is Heaven God's natural place? I have my own ideas about these questions, that I've reasoned over the years with various metaphysical explanations. I'm interested in others' answers to the original question, though. What is the goal of Christianity?
I like the image of King David subduing all his enemies, then creating harmony and justice in the land (2 Samuel 8) - an image of our ego, pride, passions, false self etc. subdued by Christ reigning in our hearts.
So the kingdom idea is good, but a kingdom at peace, in harmony, at rest in the beloved king.
Interestingly, David's first act after creating harmony was an act of compassion and kindness to a member of Saul's family, his old adversary.
It's interesting in itself to note that this is not a question that is often asked in so explicit and direct a form.
I imagine many evangelical protestants would say the goal is "to be saved."
Interesting too that, after worship, the first statements of the Lord's Prayer are Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done. This sounds a little like Christ giving us a goal.
Another suggestion, one I've heard from evangelical pastors, is "to be Christ-like."
"the aim of the Christian life is the acquisition of the Holy spirit that we may be transfigured into a likeness of Christ" St Seraphim of Sarov.
i utterly believe this to be true.
I guess what I'm asking, georgina, is, why would we want to be Christ-like?
From John 17
There are several related intentions Jesus is expressing in this, his "last will and testimony." I think they could be considered "goals" he sets out for us:
- union with the Father and one another in Christ
- knowledge of the glory of God made manifest in Christ
- witnessing to the world of this love and glory
Sounds good to me!
These and the goals mentioned above seem to all be correct - the idea being that living a life of Christian spirituality will lead to some kind of union with and/or knowledge of (same thing) the unknowable and infinite Father.
Do you guys think that this is at all possible through other faiths, such as Buddhism or Hinduism? I know the Catholic Church officially teaches that this is possible to some degree - what do you guys think? And how do you think this happens?
Golly, Paul, you ask BIG questions.
I take seriously the teaching of Jesus that he is the one who "shows us the Father," and that "no one knows the Father but the Son an anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him." (Mt. 11:27). So it would seem to be up to the Son to choose who comes to know the Father (as He intends the meaning of this statement). Who among us can say with any assurance that he does so only to Christians?
Inter-religious dialogue has enabled the recognition of the divine at work in all the world religions, but in different ways. These differences are not merely a matter of linguistics or cultural biases; rather, the differences in language reflect something of the differences in experiences. Do these all qualify as knowledge of the Father, or are there some distinctive marks we should be looking for in that regard?
More big questions!
Because to be like Christ, that is full of love and compassion, to be humble and gentle, "He thought it not dishonour to empty himself taking the form of a servant" Phillipians. This is to become our true selves, what we were originally intended to be. In that way we can help in the redemption of the world.
Phil, I like your 'biographers metaphor' on the differences among the world religions. Do you remember that? It was on the "One Voice movie" thread. That movie portrayed a superficial equation of all religions, and you said:
The message certainly seems to be a positive one, only...that they seem to blur the distinction between the consciousness of the human spirit and that of the divine, at times. Also, at some point, one has to ask why, if all these different pathways attest to the same kind of experience, they have, traditionally, maintained themselves as distinct from one another? Why don't they all collapse into some kind of mystical synthesis? The New Age movement attempted to do just such, but it doesn't hold together very well, the main reason being that there are different kinds of experiences of God and the deep self being attested to by the world religions and metaphysical traditions. Nothing wrong with that, in my opinion, but it does leave one inquiring if, among these various pathways, there is one favored by the divine?
Yes, to inquire such pushes up against the inclusive spirit of the video and, indeed, of postmodern thinking, but it is an important question nonetheless.
E.g., who knows me best and is best qualified to write a biography of me? My siblings? My children? Coworkers? Friends? My wife? - They've all experienced the common and open aspects of my life, some moreso than others. In my case, at least, only my wife would know me most fully and so would be best qualified to write my biography. I am one man known similarly and differently by a number of people. That's true of everyone. Why should this not apply to God as well?
And as much you can reassure people that (even) the Vatican affirms that God can be known and move in all religions, we know you well enough that you won't compromise what you deeply believe and to what your mystical experiences attest.
...in Jesus Christ we encounter the decisive revelation of God. Only he has risen from the dead and only he has the authority to bless us with the Holy Spirit. This is unique among the world religions.
So we do affirm what is good and holy-leaning in non-Christian religions, but they are more shallow biographies of the divine.
I do remember that, Shasha. I've used that example in teachings I've given about world religions before as well. I am touched that you remembered that and have shared it on this thread.
We can surely say that conveying the knowledge of God that Jesus came to share with us is the responsibility of the Church, his Mystical Body. Here (ideally) one receives the proper educational and spiritual formation to become disposed to receive through faith what Christ came to offer us -- especially the gift of the Spirit and the Sacraments. Scripture, prayer, fellowship and service also form us in Christ, enabling us to come to know God as He knew God, even in this lifetime, to some extent.
We can state without hesitation that all this is Christ's plan and intent, but what we cannot rule out is that He might also choose to lead people through other means and religious traditions to "knowledge of the Father." That's his prerogative and no one and no religion (including Christianity) controls how he exercises it, or when (e.g., after death). I think we have to leave open the option that He might choose to do this with non-Christians. I don't see anything in scripture or Church teaching to suggest otherwise.
Yes, I totally agree. I'm not possessive of God. I'm possessive of chocolate cake. I don't want to share with people at my table when a piece of chocolate cake is placed in front of me. I wouldn't want to share my husband with another woman. But God...God is not for me to possess. I can share God with everyone...and sometimes I can't help but try!
And I resonated very much with what Judith MacNutt said once: "I believe that at the moment of death, Jesus greets every soul." So I just accept that the different world religions are part of God's drama and focus on my own personal responsibilities and vocation.This message has been edited. Last edited by: Shasha,
Since as has been demonstrated, it's very difficult to talk about Christianity without comparing it to other religions, what about other Abrahamic religions? Specifically, with Sufism, the mystical dimension of Islam, it is the goal of every Sufi mystic to develop a relationship of love with the One God and eventually experience union with Him. This is done, obviously, without the mediating role of Christ - God is approached directly without Jesus' humanity as a means of contact. Since I usually see Christian mysticism compared to Buddhism here due to the nature of the forum, the contrast typically talked about is realization of the self vs. realization of God. In Sufism, however, as I said above, it is still about relationship with God, and it's about relationship with God through love. What do you think might set Christianity apart from something like this, Shasha (or anyone)?
Hmm...I don't know Paul. That's a good question. I recall you have spent a lot of time studying some of the Abrahamic religions, is that right? Did you study Sufism too? What are your thoughts?
Not Sufism, no.
What I believe is that, as far as the three Abrahamic religions go, which worship the One God, that what the Law describes, Christ lives and manifests. Where the Law or Torah, in its commandments, describes the blueprint for the perfect man, or rather, the image of God, Christ IS that blueprint, fully and completely manifested AS man. I believe that under the Law, whatever degree to which you can grasp that Image in your consciousness and manifest through your actions, that is the degree to which you may commune with God.
I think the same applies to other religions as well. Every culture that has religion forms its own psychic "mold," so to speak, where the culture's ideas about God, mostly based on an idealized version of the cultural self, form a "place" - a little heaven of sorts - where whatever portion of God which resonates with those ideas may "dwell." If God is dwelling in ideas and ideals in one's consciousness, and that person brings those ideas into manifestation through putting them into action, he is in essence communing with God and co-acting on creation with God.
As I said, this basic principle is true in all pagan religions as well as the three major monotheistic religions. What I personally believe is that whereas pagan traditions are all somewhat incomplete, some more or less than others, the giving of the Law through Moses was a turning point, where we began to have all of the necessary "information" concerning God's own nature. The logic being that the more complete Image we have of God's own nature in the ideas we hold about God in our consciousness, the more our "little heaven" will be a suitable dwellingplace for God, i.e. more of God's nature will resonate with our own Image of Him.
I'm inclined to think that communing more fully with "as much of God" as possible is the best route, I can't really say what the effects would be of allowing only portions of your character to be harmonized (as in harmonic resonance) to God's own nature. That is to say, you may not have the CAPACITY to connect as fully with the divine if you have an incomplete Image built up on His nature. But then again, it's possible one might only resonate with certain aspects of God, but manifest that "portion", through actions and life choices, more consistently and with more power than many Christians do with their "complete image." This person would, I believe, because of his virtue and love of whatever part of God he has the capacity to understand, in essence be CLOSER to God and commune with him in deeper parts of his being than a Christian who did not live out his faith as actively.
Still no thoughts, Shasha?
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