Monday, October 27, 2008

Revelations from Eby...

Recently, I picked up one of Keith's hard copy studies from Preston Eby. It is number 82 in The Candlestick to the Throne series; a study on Revelation that has been going on for several years.  I was somewhat taken aback when I read the following:

Sin, sorrow, and death are God’s great cosmic object lesson! God could have made all of us like robots, programmed to be holy and to act righteously at all times and under all circumstances. But should He have done so, the one thing we all would lack is character. We would be holy, but without the knowledge of why we are holy, or the understanding of the consequences of not being holy. We would not be holy because we desired holiness, or because, with knowledge, understanding, and wisdom, we chose to be holy. God didn’t want robots! He wanted sons and daughters!

God, in His omniscient wisdom and knowledge, understood fully the difference between good, evil, holiness, and life. He planned for us also to understand! Not by being told, counseled, or trained like animals, but by experience. Oh yes, experience is the best teacher! Our heavenly Father purposed to take us a route through which we would learn experientially the true nature of all things, that through the interchange of good and evil, and the deep dealings of the Holy Spirit, every man and every creature ultimately would be brought to the place where they would knowingly, willingly, and eternally choose and cling to the way of life, light, and love! Aren’t you glad!

God deliberately gave to man an area of autonomy — self government — POWER.

I can see some merit in this plan.  There was a time I couldn't. Worded this way, I can even sort of agree that it might be a good idea.... although I still really don't like the suffering parts.  It provides an explanation for the age old theodicy question...the question Beth thinks she's found the answer to when she dons her "YOUR GOD IS DEAD" T-shirt.  Why is there suffering in the world?  The answer? So we learn experientially to cling to the way of life, light and love....,

In his book "Is God To Blame?" Gregory Boyd expresses a similar thought:

God’s plan has always been that we would align our will with his will. But because his plan is a plan of love, this alignment could not be preprogrammed or coerced. The possibility of rejecting it had to exist. If love is the end, freedom must be the means to that end.

God created the world out of love and for the purpose of love. But as all emotionally healthy people intuitively know, love must be chosen. And choice means that a person can say no. Unless people can choose not to love, they can’t genuinely choose to love. The possibility of the one is built into the possibility of the other. Love simply cannot be coerced or programmed into people.

Gregory Boyd is not a universalist. Like C.S. Lewis he believes that "There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, "Thy will be done," and those to whom God says, "All right, then, have it your way." As a universalist, I believe that God will never say...have it your way. The hound of heaven will relentlessly dog every single soul ever born. He will hunt them down, overwhelm them with his love and goodness until they willingly and joyfully bow their knee to Christ.  Some may take longer than others but he has time on his side...

Regardless of Boyd's stand on UR, aren't these guys both saying that there is an area, a dimension, a sphere, a realm of autonomy, self government...freedom?

In "Man Is a Free Moral Agent" Eby says the following:

Where do these man-made preachers get the notion that man is a free moral agent? Indeed, he may be free in some minor things that concern his personal conduct, but concerning God's eternal purpose for him He is not free to do his own will.....

Does that mean we are totally free?  Another one of those age old paradoxes that has never been fully sorted out and agreed will/determinism.  Our choices are not unlimited. Of course God imposes his will on us sometimes.  Often...even most of the time....virtually all the time.   We even pray that he forces his will on others...and oftentimes he does.  Oftentimes there may only be ONE choice based on the overwhelming influences and our character and nature and those things he blinds us to...but sometimes, sometimes we must have a choice, a real choice, not a psuedo choice to demonstrate to ourselves (and if you hold to the open view to demonstrate to him) what we've learned.  Otherwise, we ARE simply robots and our "training for reigning" is akin to "animal training." And if we choose the opposite of life, light and love?  Well, we have to repeat the lesson again and again until we get it right...and then we get to move on to the next one. 

... For the mystery of godliness belongs to those who are willing, not to those who are overpowered. --Gregory of Nazianzus

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A Great Irony...

In yesterday's post about Fr. Robert Rohr's thoughts on Eckhart, I closed with the following quote ...

    I am willing to hear truth today wherever it comes from, as long as it does not compromise the Gospel.

    Me, too.....

    Even from Preston Eby.  Let me explain.

I have been ticked off at Preston Eby for ten years.  Even in spite of the fact that his Savior of the World series made a huge impact on me in the early days of coming into UR. I just could not choke down his teachings on suffering and processing during the period of time I was (in varying degrees and levels of intensity) estranged from God.  I hated his emphasis on suffering. Expect to suffer, don't be surprised when you suffer, you WILL suffer.  And his teachings on sovereignty made it even worse. There was no way you could cut the suffering short.  Not with a cheerful attitude, not by being a good student and learning the lessons quickly that the suffering was designed to teach.  Nope...nothing could get you out of the slow, meticulous killing off of the flesh.  

He has always been one of Keith's favorite authors. We have several shelves of a bookcase filled with Eby's teachings.  One thing for sure about Preston Eby; he is a prolific writer. Another thing almost as certain was the inevitability of a heated discussion taking place between Keith and I any time we talked about Eby's teachings.  I didn't understand a lot of what he had to say and most of what I did understand, I didn't like or I disagreed with.  Sometimes vehemently. 

The great irony is that Eckhart Tolle's teachings opened the door of my understanding to a lot of what Eby has been saying for years.  Ironic.  A cosmic joke.  God has a sense of humor. 

Now I am more appreciative of what Eby was trying to teach me and I am going to mine out what is there.  It might take me a while because, as I mentioned, he is a prolific writer.  He has series upon series, volume upon volume.  With a simple exchange of terms (such as carnal mind for egoic mind) I find his teachings complement Tolle's writings....providing the same theme from a totally Christian paradigm. Tolle is, afterall, not a Christian...and I am.  A more Christian understanding of living out of my new nature is a good thing.

Some of the writings I've added to my always, ever expanding queue are The Antichrist, series which gives a detailed description of the egoic nature, The Seed in Every Man, which discusses the christ within and Union by name a few.   

I'll post any profound observations. 

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Immovable Rock...2

As annie was saying in yesterday's post:

"God is not so much interested in our producing "results" as the results he produces IN us."

Yep...there have been some immovable rocks in my life.  There still are.  Nobody likes have us pushing against the same damn rock for years and years.  Seemingly nothing changes...and perhaps the changes in us are so subtle we don't even notice them.  Or perhaps we do.  I see changes in me as a result of some of the serious rock pushing I've done over the years.  Doesn't adversity introduce a man to himself?

And if God had flat out told the guy in this story that there was no way he was ever going to budge that rock....would his efforts have been as enthusiastic?  Thus, the changes God intended in/for the rock pusher would have never occurred.  A good example of this principle in action is demonstrated in the book of Ezekiel.

God gave Ezekiel an assortment of arderous busy work to complete in order to illustrate and symbolize the destruction ahead for Jerusalem. I'm sure his assignments also brought about some heavy duty changes in Ezekiel too...something God, no doubt, also had in mind.  Some of the things God required of him?  He commanded him to lie on his left side for 390 days, followed by lying on his right side for 40 days.  After that he was to lie on his back, arms bound, to illustrate the helplessness of Jerusalem against the Babylonian attack.  There were more unpleasant tasks that followed..tasks worse than pushing on a rock.  He was required to cook his food over cow dung, dig a hole in the wall of the city and do some pretty weird things with his hair that involved shaving and cutting and burning.  Worst of all, he was required to give up his beloved wife when God "took her"and not mourn her death.  This was to symbolize the grief the Jewish people would experience, a grief that God would not permit them to outwardly mourn.

If God had informed Ezekiel ahead of time that there was not a chance anyone would heed his words, would his efforts have been as enthusiastic?  Would he have completed his duties with as much resolve?  Would they have reaped the same results?  To coin a phrase Sister Helen Prejean, the nun of Dean Man Walking fame used in her article, "Would Jesus Pull the Switch":

God is a mystery, but one of the definite characteristics of God is that God is sneaky.

Isn't that the truth?  I may have used that quote in a post not too long ago...but it is so true.  So succinct.  God is sneaky.  He rarely tells us if the rock we are struggling against is ever going to budge. He simply says, "Keep pushing."

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Immovable Rock...1

I've been re-visiting some old posts saved on my computer.  Some of the posts were authored by me...some by others I've shared cyber space with on various e-lists and message boards over the years.  Some of the writings go back to the early days when I first became acquainted with the marvels of the internet. 

I've converted some of them to MP3 files using one of those text to voice programs that converts the written word to the spoken word.  From there it can be transferred to an I-pod or MP3 player to listen to while doing any of those other mundane but necessary activities we must do when not staring at a computer screen.  You walking or scrubbing the toilet or cooking supper.

The voice and flow of words sounds a bit like R3PO or Wally the Robot, but it is adequate and can be understood if you listen closely and if you remember it reads what is written...including some very long URLs. It also converts some abbreviations to what it thinks is the correct long word. Example: Gen. as in Genesis becomes General.  Col as in Colossians becomes Colonel.

As I was walking last night, I listened to the following excerpt from a post written by my friend annie.  She has posted the following several times in the years I've known her. 

 immovable rock

forgive me if i've shared this story before, but it's come around  again in my meditations (contemplations).  there was a man who lived near a large boulder.  God spoke to him and told him to go and push on this rock.  he did so.  it didn't budge.  but every day, God  repeated his instruction and the man obeyed.  this went on for years.  finally one day the man was exasperated.

"God, every day for years i've been pushing on this rock just like YOU told me to.  it hasn't moved even a fraction of an inch.  either i've failed, or i  didn't hear you correctly, or you have cruelly given me an impossible task to perform!" 

but God spoke to him.... "son, I told you to PUSH on the rock.  I never told you to MOVE it.  you think that you have  wasted your time, that you haven't accomplished anything in all of these years.  but, as you pushed on the rock, you have grown strong and what I intended for you has indeed been accomplished".

i can't count the times i've railed at God for allowing "unnecessary" suffering into my life or the lives of those i love.  it makes no more sense to me than pushing the rock did to the man in the story.  but, through it all, we are humbled, we learn mercy, patience,  endurance, faithfulness - we grow strong in the Lord and the power of  his might.  i hate things that are "unfair" or don't go as they should".  but, after the dust settles, (with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight) i can see God working all things together for good and i  feel stupid for railing at him - kind of like when you lose something and blame whoever else is there, your spouse, the kids, the dog.....  and then find it. 

with that in mind, i'm trying not to behave like an ass when things go "wrong", choosing to not be discouraged by  years of apparent "failure" when circumstances disappoint.  nothing is ever wasted in God's economy - as with the leftovers from feeding  the 5000, he gathers up every fragment.  he redeems the years that  the locust has eaten.  none of our efforts are wasted.  God is not so much interested in our producing "results" as the results that he  produces IN us.  just musing...  -annie "God is not so much interested in our producing "results" as the results that he  produces IN us." 

Damn...I hate it when she says that!!

More of my thoughts on this to follow...

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Noah Levine and Brian Welch 2

And to any nay sayers who think that Noah, being a Buddhist and all, could not possibly be heading (let alone leading others) in the right direction, I say...that's silly. Isn't it right there in The Shack? In the same conversation yesterday's quote originated.....

Jesus: “Who said anything about being a Christian? I’m not a Christian….. Those who love me come from every system that exists. They were Buddhists or Mormons, Baptists or Muslims… I have no desire to make them Christian, but I do want to join them in their transformation into sons and daughters of my Papa, into my brothers and sisters, into my Beloved.”

So there you have it...from the lips of the Jesus character in the Shack. And from scripture?

Isaiah 65:1 "I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me; I was found by those who did not seek me. To a nation that did not call on my name, I said, 'Here am I, here am I.

Hosea 2:23 -"I will sow her for Myself in the land. I will also have compassion on her who had not obtained compassion, And I will say to those who were not My people, `You are My people!' And they will say, `You are my God!' "

And then Paul repeats these verses in Romans:



My belief is that all knees will bow to Christ. All tongues joyfully proclaim that he is Lord. Scripture says so. It refers to Jesus as "the name above all names"...above Mohammed, above the Buddha. Christ is the the head of the body but we are all part of the body...Mohammed, Buddha, Noah Levine. He is a missionary of a different sort...

More tomorrow....

Monday, October 20, 2008

Noah Levine and Brian Welch....

One of my favorite quotes from the Shack takes place during a conversation between Mack and Jesus.

'Does that mean,' asked Mack, 'that all roads will lead to you?'
'Not at all,' smiled Jesus... 'Most roads don't lead anywhere. What it does mean is that I will travel any road to find you.'

And there is no example of Jesus' ability and determination to travel any road to find us that is more perfectly illustrated than in the stories of two men I happened upon during my cyber trips this weekend.

Noah Levine and Brian (Head) Welch. Two very different guys...yet strikingly similar. Two very different paths but again, strikingly similar. I have no doubt that God is using both of these men to reach people who would not respond to someone more traditional and mainstream. These two guys both lived in the "worlds" they are now trying to enlighten...punk rockers and heavy metal fans...those walking on the dark side of both of these similar, yet distinct, worlds. Noah and Brian were both prisoners of the dark side.

Brian Welch

A Beliefnet article written about Brian Welch earlier this year sums it up:

On the outside, things seemed great for guitarist Brian "Head" Welch. He was a member of one of the most popular heavy metal bands of the '90s, Korn, he had lots of money, and he was partying with some of the biggest names in the music industry. But behind the fame, Grammy Awards, and Billboard hits, Welch was battling many demons--an addiction to crystal meth, depression, and what he described as evil of a spiritual kind. It was only after hitting rock bottom that he found what he believed was missing in his life--God.


About Noah Levine Wikipedia says: a youth he had several periods of incarceration. His first book, Dharma Punx, in large part details Levine’s teenage years filled with drugs, violence, and multiple suicide attempts - choices fueled by a rebellious nature and identification with punk rock and culture. His substance abuse started early in life - at age 6 he began smoking marijuana - and finally ended in a padded detoxification cell in juvenile prison 11 years later.[ It was in this cell where he hit “an emotional rock bottom” and began his vipassana practice “out of a place of extreme drug addiction and violence.” While incarcerated, he saw for the first time how the practice his father taught him gave him the tools to relieve the fear and uncertainty that pervaded his life.

Noah Levine is a Buddhist teacher who studied under Jack Kornfield and other well known Buddhist teachers. His father is also a fairly well known Buddhist teacher.

And they have both written books about their experiences....\

Noah Levine is the author of two books:

Against The Stream

against the stream



Brian Welch has written a memoir about the story of his life with Korn and his conversion to Christianity. The book is called

Save Me From Myself

brian welch picture storyology

More about these guys to follow....

Sunday, October 19, 2008

To My Friend Brian...

I have been on email lists with Brian for about four or five years now.  Without the miracle of the internet, the odds would have been overwhelmingly against us ever knowing each other.  He lives in Ireland.  I live in Pennsylvania.  Like I said, odds would not have been good. 

I first met Brian on the Wider Universalist Fellowship...and have been on several other lists with him.  He is a moderator on Emerging Universalist, group annie and I started about 2 years ago. It has been a pleasure to share cyber space with him. I've never seen him get pissy..or flame anyone...or demean anyone's beliefs.  He is quite knowledgeable, well read and a very likeable guy.  He has a twin here in the US...born of a different mother, of a different race...but that is a joke between Brian and the other Brian...B2...who has also hung out on the same e-lists for the past few years.  They often express very similar beliefs, nearly identical beliefs...and so the joke about being twins was born.  Oh...they are also about 20 or so years apart in age...but no matter...they are spiritual twins.  

So, my life has been enriched because I've known him.  But there is one thing I am especially grateful to him for.  He has faithfully prayed for Beth the past few years...and been an encouragement anytime I turned to my "buds" on the list for some uplifting.  ( A disclaimer here...I am also very grateful to all my wonderful EU friends who have been so supportive during these tumultuous times with Beth. It has been a rough few years)  In his responses about Beth, he often said he had a soft spot in his heart for her...and sometimes he closed by saying he was holding her "in the light." It usually brought tears to my eyes.  It is bringing tears to my eyes right now.  He sent the following post to the list during what I hope was the worst of the Beth saga....

Haven't been online for a couple of days, Cindi, so I'm just reading this now. I'm glad you found Beth and that she's OK. This is such a long, hard journey for you guys, and to be honest I didn't think it would turn out anything like as rough a ride as it has. From thousands of miles away, there's not much I can do except offer verbal empathy and support and of course keep all of you in my prayers. Beth is surrounded by a network of people who love her and are looking out for her, even if they aren't sure precisely how to help her...and there's a wider community of folk here who will make sure that Beth's heavenly father doesn't forget his beloved daughter.

More than ever, I'm holding our Beth in the Light...


Today, when I was reading through the google preview of Letters To My Friends by John Conley, the following excerpt from one of the letters immediately made me think of Brian.  And I post it here on my blog, with appreciation to John Conley for writing it...and to my friend Brian for faithfully holding Beth in the light of God, in whom there is no darkness....

The Stillness is a healing breath. Does your loved one hurt? Close your eyes now. Breathe deeply. Breathe slowly. Be comfortable. Now imagine your loved one with all her pain, all her sorrow standing before you. Breathe in her pain deeply and slowly. Hold her pain in the Stillness at the end of the in breath.

God is Light by Murali Now, as you breath out, surround your beloved in light—radiant, bright light. Send it through your eyes. Send it through your heart. Send it through every fiber of your being.

Again breathe in the pain and sorrow of your loved one. Notice your own pain and sorrow rising to meet that of your loved one. You see resentment. You see disappointment. Anger. Perhaps you even see loathing or hate. It is nothing compared to the Stillness. Breathe all the pain, yours too, into the Stillness at the end of the breath. Now, again, breathe out light—healing, radiant light to your loved one.

Keep doing this, and you will feel the Stillness deepen in your heart. You will grow calm as your heart, mind, and body meld into the Stillness. Now, instead of breathing in the sorrow of your loved one, see her radiating light back to you and see yourself breathing in the light she sends. Now sit in Stillness, healing and being healed, as long as is comfortable.

This meditation is one of the most power I know. It can turn my pain into joy, even when the outward circumstances of my life are not all that I would like. This mediation is ancient, probably more ancient than I know. I read that a Buddhist monk first taught a version of it a thousand years ago. But I imagine he may have have heard if from someone else who heard it from someone else who heard it from Stillness. Make it your own and you will come to know that even though you may have but little control over your life, you have control of your heart’s response to life.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Rabbit Trails...

Oh, for more time to listen/view/read/do all that piques my interest!!  But there is only so much time and as much as I would like to, I can't.  I think about being more disciplined. Perhaps if I could muster up a bit more discipline, I would get more done...but the rabbit trail method has worked so well for me up to now.  God has taken me on quite the diverse, eclectic journey via google. I've seen many sites along the way and learned so much. I doubt a more disciplined approach would have birthed the theology I now hold (with a light grasp) and I wouldn't know the God I know. 

I've also thought of getting more organized and methodical in my writings.  I read many of the blogs online devoted to writing and blogging. Many recommend an outline as the first step when writing a post, complete with bullet points, opening paragraph, ending paragraph etc. You know, decide what it is you want to say and put it down on paper. I've thought about doing that...and still may.  I usually lecture my kids about doing just that when they have a paper to write for school; however, I seldom (never) practice what I preach.  I usually just go with the flow with writing, with research, with reading and listening.  I start typing and see where I end up.  Like Alice, I  just follow the rabbit down the hole to wonderland and follow him where ever the rabbit trail leads.  There is no plan or rhyme or reason to what I read/do/listen/view.  I will probably continue to use that same method to spite of good intentions to get more organized. 


This post is a good example of the rabbit trail method.

Last night before I konked out, I picked up Eckhart's book, Stillness Speaks, which was in the basket by my bed.  I read it a few months ago...but most of Eckhart's books can be read in snippets....perhaps they are better read in snippets with time to reflect on what he says.  I read the two page introduction.  A sentence jumped out at me. You know that feeling...that quickening...when something resonates with your spirit?  So this morning I got up before 6:00 (ever the early riser...even on weekends...and truthfully, 6:00 is sleeping in a bit because during the week I am up about 4:40ish) and looked something up on google about order to write a blog post about it. 

And from there I was off and running.  First,I found a delightful book on google books, which is posted there almost in its entirety.  It is called "Letters to My Friends" by John Conley.  I will post some of the thoughts from the book later.  Then from there I visited other blogs and websites and came upon a really interesting character named Noah Levine.  He is a former punk rocker/rebel/drug addict/prisoner/convicted of three felonies by the time he was 17. Out of desperation, he turned to meditation (his dad was a Buddhist teacher) and has become an unconventional teacher with a prison ministry.  Pretty cool.  I may write about him too. 

Damn...I love the internet :)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Richard Rohr's Thoughts on Eckhart

While doing a bit of research on Richard Rohr for the last post, I realized that I have run across him before in my Internet travels.  He wrote an article entitled Eckhart Tolle and the Christian Tradition. It was a well balanced article...and Fr. Richard stated that rather than something new age, as many Christians believe, Eckhart is teaching something quite old...

The process—and that is what it is—that he is teaching, can be traced through the Greek and Latin traditions of contemplation, the apophatic tradition in particular, and the long history of what was sometimes called “The Sacrament of the Present Moment” (Brother Lawrence, OCD, Francisco de Osuna, OFM, Jean Pierre de Caussade, S.J.).

So why does it seem so new age? Fr. Rohr explains that the church got off track in the years around the Reformation of the 16th century, and after the Enlightenment of the 17th-18th centuries. The focus became more about being right (and proving it)and less about the more spiritual aspects of religion.

So for at least 400 years, we have had neither an understanding of infused nor acquired contemplation! It is such foreign terrain to almost all Protestants, and most Catholics and Orthodox that they immediately think it is heresy or even pagan, when in fact, it is the solid tradition of the first 1400 years of Christianity!

Following are a few assorted (very balanced) thoughts of Fr. Rohr about Eckhart, his purpose and what he is trying to teach us. The question is; are we ready to learn it. 

        • Eckhart Tolle is teaching a form of natural mysticism or contemplative practice.
        • He is teaching a morality and asceticism of recognizing and letting go of “the self that has to die” (Matthew 16:25), which he calls ego and Jesus calls the “grain of wheat” (John 12:24) ; so that another self can be born, which he would call “consciousness” and we would call the person born again in Christ, or something similar.
        • He is giving us some practices (Similar to how John Wesley gave “methods” or Ignatius gave “exercises”) whereby we can be present to the grace of the moment and stop the “passions,” the “egocentric mind,” or the “prideful self” which keeps us from true goodness (or God, as we would call it). Each tradition uses different language for what is to be overcome, but it is always
          some form of “un-love” and selfishness (which he calls ego).
        • He does assume and imply a worldview that is foreign to many, if not most Christians. 
        • Tolle is probably not pantheistic (all things are God) as much as panentheistic (God is IN all things).
        • His brilliant understanding of the “pain body,” as he calls it, is actually very close to the Catholic notion of Original Sin.

Fr. Rohr believes that Eckhart provides Christians with opportunity for us to understand our own message at deeper levels.

He goes on to say that he is

          ....willing to hear truth today wherever it comes from, as long as it does not compromise the Gospel.

          Me, too.....

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Because It Is Holy? Part 3

I ended the last post in this series with a quote from Bill Chappelle:

Wow. ... That's a good question. ... Is `I don't know' an acceptable answer?”

Unfortunately, many of us...and that includes me...think that we do have the answer.  THE answer.  And "I don't know" is usually not it. Once we are sure we have THE answer, that's where learning  and revelation stops,doesn't it? 

annie and I have talked about the difference between knowers and seekers...We both have a sincere desire to be seekers, but in a way, we are all knowers.  I guess part of the trick of being a seeker is holding our beliefs in outstretched hands...rather than clutching them tightly to our chest...and hanging on for dear life. 

debra, from EU, has been sending devotionals written by Richard Rohr. The one she sent the other day was entitled "How Deep Is Your Desire to See?"  He talks about this knower/seeker stuff.

We must never presume that we see. We must always be ready to see anew. But it's so hard to go back, to be vulnerable, and to say to your soul, "I don't know anything."

Try to say that: "I don't know anything."

So...then I don't know is an acceptable answer?  According to Fr. Rohr it is.  He goes on to say:

Maybe you could think of yourself as an erased blackboard, ready to be written on.

Well, there you go...not only will God write his laws on our heart, he will write his revelations on our blackboard..our erased blackboard.  

For by and large, what blocks spiritual teaching is the assumption that we already know, or that we don't need to know.

How about a third thing that blocks spiritual teaching...things we don't want to know.  Oh but sometimes that is because we are clutching our beliefs too tightly. We don't want to let go of what we already KNOW.

We have to pray for the grace of beginner's mind. We need to say with the blind man, "I want to see."

At one point in the Euthyphro, Socrates declares,

We must go back again, and start from the beginning to find out what holy is.

Sometimes, we do too.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Because It Is Holy? Part 2

The Euthyphro records a dialogue between Plato's teacher, Socrates and another young philosopher named Euthyphro.  The conversation is about holiness..piety. Euthyphro is in the process of prosecuting his own father for murder. One of the family's slaves killed another slave. Euthyphro's father had the (still living) slave bound and thrown in a ditch while he awaited advice from a seer about what to do with him. In the meantime, the slave in the ditch died from neglect.  In Greek society, slaves were truly a dime a dozen.  Fathers were revered.  Still, Euthyphro was convinced the gods were displeased and felt it was his duty to prosecute his father.  He seems quite confident in his ability to make judgements and act accordingly...not to mention he knows the will and opinions of the gods.  Euthyphro is certain he knows what piety is and what it demands.

I've known people like him. They see only blacks and whites, never any shades of gray.  Everything is either right or wrong and there are clear cut, no-brainer boundaries separating the two.  They see no extenuating circumstances, no reasons, no excuses. They are judge and jury and they know instantly if anyone has stepped across the line. There is no mercy of the court. There is little compassion, only judgement. In my life, I have seen them show up as believers and non-believers.

So Euthyphro is sure he is doing the right thing. He tells Socrates that this kind of decision is

"only for a man already far advanced in point of wisdom"

Sounds like a know it all to me....

And perhaps to Socrates as well because he continues to question how Euthyphro knows with such surety what is holy...what is pious.  Euthyphro replies:

"If I did not have an accurate knowledge of all that, I should be good for nothing, and Euthyphro would be no different from the general run of men"

Hmmmm, pretty full of himself!  

And so the conversation about holiness goes round and to define it, what it is exactly...a discussion that never really reaches a conclusion or an agreement.  Euthyphro seems sure he has all the answers but Socrates, in his search for an answer, keep tripping Euthyphro up with questions.  At one point Euthyphro declares,

"I simply don't know how to tell you what I think.  Somehow everything that we put forward keeps moving about us in a circle, and nothing will stay where we put it." 

Must be very disconcerting for a guy who knows everything to not be able to keep track of the conversation.  He is ready to quit talking  and tells Socrates that he has a million things to do (getting ready for the prosecution and all) and he must end the conversation then and there...and they can continue "another time"....but Socrates declares:

"As for me, I will never give up until I know."

According the book I mentioned in yesterday's post, there are some questions that come up in the course of this dialogue between Socrates and Euthyphro; questions we need to ask ourselves. 

  • What is the connection between God and goodness or holiness?
  • Is God bound to some kind of moral code?
  • If God commands torture (war/jihad/sacrifice) is it good? Is it wrong?
  • If torture etc. is wrong regardless of whether God commands it, does goodness have an existence independent of God?
  • Does the belief that God cannot violate a standard of goodness lessen his omnipotence?
  • Does God limit himself because it is not his nature to command actions that are not "good"?

As the comedian Bill Chappelle declares:

Wow. ... That's a good question. ... Is `I don't know' an acceptable answer?”

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Because It Is Holy?

Beth has been reading Plato.  She's been taking the book with her every day to her "cloistered" school and when there is free time or during lunch she reads Plato.  She mentioned a few quotes from the book the other day while we were in the van.  One was something about the nature of an object carried...can't quite remember the gist of it...and can't really make sense of it from what I've read online. 

The other quote she mentioned stuck with me and is, in a way, a key factor in the consideration of the POE.

"Is what is holy holy because the gods approve it, or do they approve it because it is holy?"

Make gods singular and it is a question that can be easily transferred to Christianity and to our view of scripture and of God.  It is actually an age old question (as evidenced by Plato, an ancient Greek philosopher, including it in his writings) And it is a question that I have discussed on message boards..and in real life... more than once when the topic turned to the Old Testament and the God (supposedly) portrayed therein; the God who tortured Job, commanded jihad, demanded sacrificial blood sacrifices, and orchestrated penal substitutionary atonement. 

In the book Good Ideas from Questionable Christians and Outright Pagans, the chapter entitled, Why Ask Why?, deals with the Euthyphro and TheaetetusThese compositions contain dialogues, recorded by Plato, between his teacher, Socrates, and the namesakes of both writings, Euthyphro and Theaetetus. 

In this post, we will deal with the Euthyphro, the book Beth is reading and the source of the "what is holy" quote above. 

In the"Good Ideas" book, there is an interesting discussion about the Socratic Method, defined by Wikipedia as:

....a form of philosophical inquiry in which the questioner explores the implications of others' positions, to stimulate rational thinking and illuminate ideas. This dialectical method often involves an oppositional discussion in which the defense of one point of view is pitted against another; one participant may lead another to contradict himself in some way, strengthening the inquirer's own point.

Hmmmm....sounds like a few conversations I've been involved in.  Anyway....the book goes on to say:

The dialogical method reminds Socrates that the quest for truth is an on-going process and that he should be open to any source—friend, stranger or opponent—who might bring him closer to the best possible answers.

Of the questions posed in the dialouges this book points out that:

Not only are these still open questions, many answers considered in these two dialogues twenty five hundred years ago still exist in some form today. Thus, we get a chance to see how ideas about these basic questions hold up under Socrates’ scrutiny and think through our own views on these topics.

And since this post that I thought would be a short little ditty, has turned into more of a thesis, I will continue these ponderings in another post.  In closing, a quote by Llyod Alexander:

   “We learn more by looking for the answer to a question and not finding it than we do from learning the answer itself.”  

Still looking.....


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Whence Then is Evil?

Beth and I have had a few conversations lately.  About the T-shirt, about some of the things that went on this summer....even some spiritual discussions.  The other night at dinner she told me that she wore the T-shirt to get people to think.  It works. 

Like Mother, like daughter.  I write here on this blog to get people (including myself) to think.  She scrawls words on a T-shirt or on a poster board...or, at her Dad's, she is even allowed to scrawl words and paint eclectic pictures on her bedroom wall. 

It is clear Beth has a problem with the way God runs his creation.  I think her issue with God is an old one and has been around a lot longer than the nearly 17 years she has been alive.  It has dogged Christians and atheists alike.  I was very active on a yahoo e-list a few years ago where we discussed it often and thoroughly.  Enough that we dubbed it with a nickname...


The Problem of Evil. 

How do you get around the problem of evil?  How do you come to terms with it?  How do you deal with it, explain it, understand it, live with it?  How do you forgive God for it? The following three statements are true..but they don't add up.

There is a God. 

He is good.

Evil and suffering exist.

Or how about the way an ancient Greek philosopher named Epicurus, worded the quandary...

"Is [God] willing to prevent evil, but not able? then is he impotent. Is he able, but not willing? then is he malevolent. Is he both able and willing? whence then is evil?"

I know the paradox so well.  I dealt with these questions myself for a long time. I told her this morning on our drive to school that for about five (recent) years, I was oftentimes totally ticked off at God. Between the POE, substitutionary atonement and my struggles with free will/predetermination, my relationship with God was very strained. For several years I was barely on speaking terms with him.  I read about him...talked about him...thought about him, but rarely talked to him.  When I did talk to him, all of my conversations with him were guarded, I didn't trust him, expected the worst from his hand. I had a major chip on my shoulder/axe to grind/bone to pick. I was pissed. 

But unlike Beth, I could not just discount his existence.  Believe me, there were times that I would have if I could have.  But, I couldn't write him off or explain him away as someone's fantasy. I KNEW he existed.  One day about ten years ago, he "touched" a tap on the shoulder accompanied by a whisper in my ear that said "See, I really am here."  After that there was no way to declare him dead.  It was just not an option. 

Did I find the answer to the POE riddle, the key to the lock, the missing piece of the puzzle, the explanation that made it all fit.  Nope. But I am still looking...

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Your God Is Dead 2

Sometime way back in August, I wrote a post about the T-shirt Beth made...the one that declared in big graffiti letters "YOUR GOD IS DEAD." A few weeks ago, she wore the shirt to school.  For some reason, on that particular day it really pissed me off and we had some words on the way to school. Well, in actuality, the only spoken words came from me.  She was mainly sullen and silent.  After I got over being pissed, I came to the conclusion that it was partly anger at God...and partly "up yours" defiance...with the added bonus of getting attention.

She wore the shirt on an after school walk downtown to the library.  She wrote about it later on her myspace blog....and about a confrontation she had with a man who stopped to defend God.  The following Sunday, I found out he wasn't the only one who noticed the shirt.  The new pastor at the UM church we go to noticed too...and she got attention all right.  She made the sermon the following Sunday at all three sermons!!!  About six hundred people heard about the girl in the Your God Is Dead T-shirt.

The sermon was about "Who is Jesus to you?" based on the scripture when Jesus asked Peter "Who do people say I am?" "Who do you say I am?"  Peter, of course, answered, "Thou art the Christ, the son of the Living God". 

Please note the "Living God" portion of this scripture because that was the springboard for his sermon illustration.  To my surprise, the sermon illustration was Beth! He began his story by telling us about "the other day, when he was driving home."  And how he saw a girl walking down Market Street....wearing a T-shirt.....and that he could not believe his eyes...nor could he believe what the T-shirt proclaimed in bright red and black letters.

Emily and I looked at each other.  OMG, we knew where he was going with this.  Yep...the T-shirt said, "YOUR GOD IS DEAD."  He said he drove a few blocks toward home but decided to turn around and go back to talk to her.  At this point, I thought he was the guy she wrote about on her blog but he went on to say that by the time he got back to where he saw her last, she had disappeared. He continued, telling us that he could not imagine how sad and lonely that poor girl's life must be to wear a T-shirt that not only proclaimed that her God is dead but that "YOUR" God is dead too.  

Of course, Em and I knew the identity of the mystery girl. And so did the two youth leaders Emily is so close to. The leaders who, at one time not that long ago, Beth was close to as well. 

At the conclusion of the service, Spencer (youth leader) asked if he could say something to the congregation.

"If you are here and do not know who Jesus is, ask one of us...ask the person who brought you...ask the pastor." 

He went on to talk about "being Christ" to someone...and then he said,

"Because, that girl in the T-shirt--I know that girl. She's been to our home...she's been to our church." The implication sort of hung in the air that perhaps, as a church, they had failed to reach the girl in the "YOUR GOD IS DEAD" T-shirt .

By that time, I was crying.  The girl sitting with Em (who used to be best friends with Beth) knew about the shirt and I leaned over and whispered in her Mom's ear, "That was Beth." She gasped a little.  She knows Beth and likes Beth. She was there when Beth had that "experience with the Lord" at Impact.  She has had a lot of trouble with one of her kids and is empathetic and kind. 

I'm guessing the pastor thought it was a pretty safe bet that nobody listening to his sermon knew the girl...and definitely nobody listening to his sermon had actually given birth to her.  As I mentioned earlier, he is a new pastor and my attendance is sporadic at best.  He probably thought her parents were sleeping off Saturday night's hangover and definitely not sitting in his new sanctuary.  (It was the consecration of the newly remodeled sanctuary....big crowd Sunday) 

There were refreshments after the service, but I left right away.  Later that day, I wrote him an email introducing myself as the mother of the girl in the T-shirt.  I let him know that my other daughter, Emily, is very active in the church and in the youth group.  She is part of the youth leadership committee etc.  He wrote back today and said he would pray for Beth. 

Just another one of life's interesting, ironic, you never know who might be listening moments. 

Saturday, October 4, 2008


When I signed onto my computer this morning, one of the first headlines I noticed on my AOL home page was about OJ Simpson's verdict. He was found guilty of kidnapping, armed robbery and ten other assorted charges, ironically THIRTEEN YEARS TO THE DAY of his acquittal of the murder of Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman. There are all kinds of articles on the internet about his guilt but one of the most eclectic articles has to be HOW EVIDENCE AGAINST LUCIFER AND OJ HAS BEEN DISMISSED. It is written by Mike Clute of God's Last Call Ministries.

Mike Clute is a former (?) 7th Day Adventist pastor who believes the god who was responsible for the horrendous things done in the OT was satan and not the one true almighty God...the God we whose expressed image we see in Jesus. When I explored the many articles at his site a while back, there were many of his writings I agreed with but not all...and one must, I think, read with discernment and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. With the enlightenment of some of the teachings of Eckhart Tolle, I'm not sure if I would disagree with more of his beliefs or not. He is very much into end times prophecy and seems to have a dualistic point of view. God vs. Satan. I still have not formed a definitive opinion on whether or not satan is an actual being or the manifestation of the carnal mind/egoic mind/painbody. It has been awhile since I've read there but when I saw the OJ verdict, the article I've linked to came to mind.

I revisited the article this morning. He attributes OJ's innocent verdict to the same unwillingness of many people to see the truth of the evidence about God and Satan and who is responsible for what. Even though the article is slanted toward supporting his point of view spiritually, it is filled with facts from the trial and excerpts from many of the books written on the subject. It is an easy read.

As I was reading the article again this morning, a statement I probably skimmed over the first time stood out as if it had been written in bold print, size 20 font. It was a remark reportedly made by Marsha Clark at the end of the trial...after the innocent verdict. Mike Clute writes:

I really liked Clark's comments about the verdict and its aftermath. She realized "I'm still here." She wanted everyone to see that she had put herself through "hell" for the right thing. "I had to believe that suffering was part of something bigger. Justice, like the will of God, doesn't always manifest itself on the spur of the moment. It doesn't always come when you think it should. You just gotta wait it out."


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

He Stoops Down....

Another excerpt from the Shack has got me thinking. I know The Shack is a work of fiction, but there is some pretty deep theology going on there in the guise of a story. I am thinking about the conversation at dinner the first night Mack is there at the shack. Jesus, Sarayu and Papa are asking Mack all about his children, his wife, his friends....
Suddenly Mack blurts out what appears to him as "obvious"...."you know everything I am telling you don't you?"
Sarayu explains:
“We have limited ourselves out of respect for you. We are not bringing to mind, as it were, our knowledge of your children. As we are listening to you, it is as if this is the first time we have known about them, and we take great delight in seeing them through your eyes.”
Papa also talks about when "they spoke themselves into human existence as the Son of God they became fully human and embraced all the limitations that entailed"
This reminds me of a verse in Psalms....18:35. The NCV renders it:
You stoop down to make me great.
And God did indeed stoop when he chose to join us here in this earthly realm...Immanuel....God With Us.