I’ve been enjoying the Christian/non-believer dialogue being carried on via comments to my “Morality comes from nature, not God” post. Pastor Phillip Ross has stimulated some interesting cyber-conversation between himself and Church of the Churchless regulars, me included.
Today I’m in a pretty mellow mood. Last night’s election results filled me with hope that the divisions plaguing the United States can be bridged by moderates who realize that left and right can’t exist without a center.
I was in that spirit when I perused the latest comments from Phillip and others today. Rather than reflexively thinking, “Geez, that’s ridiculous” after reading some assertion of Christian theology, I did my best to comprehend Phillip’s frame of mind.
That is, rather than criticize his statements from my own perspective, I tried to get a feel for what it might be like to believe in God and Jesus as a devout Christian does (however, Phillip’s web site, Pilgrim Platform, is devoted to pointing out fallacies of the contemporary church—which points to the fact that these days it isn’t a simple matter to figure out what Christianity is and isn’t).
I’d like to be able to report that I succeeded in my empathic quest. But I can’t.
I was a political conservative in my deluded youth, so I feel that I understand how a right-wing Republican thinks.Likewise, I was a religious true believer for many years, even though at the time I wouldn’t have called my fidelity to the teachings of Sant Mat and Radha Soami Satsang Beas as such, so I feel I understand how a person of faith thinks.
Even so, a Christian mind such as Phillip’s is damnably tough for me to grok. I don’t say this critically. It’s just the way it is. There’s a gap between a fundamentalist Christian way of looking at the cosmos and my own perspective that is so wide, I end up gazing across the divide at a distant shadowy figure who is waving his hands and yelling faintly, “Do you get what I mean?”
No, I don’t. I’m sure this doesn’t dismay Christians like Phillip, because to them faith in Jesus is something you either have or you don’t. Sort of like a Zen satori. It isn’t explainable, defensible, comprehensible, rational, or explicable. Some get it, some don’t.
Why is this? In his November 7 comment, Phillip said that the main part of his religious outlook breaks into two halves, sin and forgiveness.
First, all have sinned. That's you and me and every biped. And the first evidence of sin is it's denial. Second, forgiveness comes through Christ alone. When we deny the first half, God denies the second half.
Well, I’m befuddled. The notion of original sin makes no sense to me. So not surprisingly, the notion that God had to send his son to suffer on our behalf for non-sensical sins also escapes me.
As do a lot of mystical precepts. The Buddhist “emptiness is form and form is emptiness” is absent from my store of adages that I feel I can explain. Yet Phillip, like most Christians, rejects a mystic approach to God. I’d mentioned to him that I had read widely in Christian mystical literature: Eckhart, St. John of the Cross, Cloud of Unknowing, and such.
We have a thorough reading of Christian mysticism in common. I, too, spent many years looking there. But God is not there. The God of the Christian mystics is "mystery, darkness, not-knowing, ineffability." You're right about that. But that is not the God of the Bible. That is the false God of Gnosticism.
What is the true God, then? And how would we recognize this divinity? Can’t rely on a direct mystical experience. That’s a Gnostic no-no. And you also can’t rely on reason, according to Phillip. That’s a Platonic no-no.
The effort to prove God is an exercise of Greek categories of thought trying to make sense of the biblical God. But, alas, they cannot. Paul speaks to this in Acts 17 and in First Corinthians, where he identifies Greek philosophy as foolishness, that is, lacking in discernment and good judgment.
What’s left? The Bible? But Phillip says, “The Bible offers no proof of God's existence.” So it seems that we can’t rely on the Bible to point us toward the true God, since it can’t even demonstrate the existence of any God.
For some reason, though, in his comments Phillip quotes passages from the Bible to support his argument. Somehow the same Bible that contains no proof of God’s existence can be relied upon to tell us what God is like and what he expects of us. I learned from Phillip that…
--God is a person
--God is jealous
--God does not answer all prayer
--God invades human history
And (bad news for me)…
--God is offended by being called a false name
This explains why, even though I’ve been praying to God for a convertible Mini Cooper S (unselfishly, because I’d occasionally offer joyful rides in it to other people), one hasn’t appeared in my driveway.
Phillip said that my cover-the-bases prayer to God/ Allah/ Jehovah/ Tao/ Buddha-nature/ One isn’t going to win me points with the jealous Christian God, a.k.a. The Only True God. God apparently wants to be called “God,” (in English I assume, not Aramaic) and nothing else.
You pray, "whoever might be out there, here I am. Show me." [either yourself or the Mini, I’m easy] But your prayer is an absolute affront to God. You call Him by many false names. It's like you want to talk to me, but you can't remember my name. So, you call out, "George, Pete, Sam, whoever you are." And I don't answer. Are you surprised that I don't answer? You shouldn't be. Generally speaking, when you don't call people by name, they neither listen nor respond.Hmmmm. About four hours ago my Tai Chi instructor, Warren, told a story about calling a phone company repairman “Ron” about twenty times before he said, “Actually, my name is John.” Yet John successfully collaborated with Warren on finding and fixing a broken wire on the roof of the Tai Chi studio, even though he kept being called “Ron.”
I guess John beats God in the humility department. As do I. If a neighbor’s house was on fire and they saw me passing by, I’d still run to assist them even if they mistakenly yelled “Help, Brad!” Apparently God wouldn’t do the same if you got his moniker wrong.
Nevertheless, during my meditation time this morning I spent a whole five minutes calling out to God. And only God. That was about as long as I could concentrate on talking to God before returning to mentally contemplating the oh so sweet election results.
I just checked our driveway. Twelve hours have passed. Still no Mini Cooper. This proves to me there is no God.
Phillip should approve of my conclusion. After all, he wrote in one of his comments that the only incontrovertible proof for the existence (and, I extrapolate, non-existence) of God is our own life—his, mine, yours. On that we agree.
Phillip finds that God exists. I find no evidence of that. He says tomahto. I say tomato. Each to his own. There’s nothing wrong with faith in God, nor with skepticism toward God. so long as believers admit that their belief is purely personal and improvable.
Phillip, you wrote, “I am just saying that the need for proof regarding God is resolved by meeting Him.”
Tell me: have you met Him? I assume so, or you wouldn’t know so much about him. Could you ask him why he has such a thing about being called the right name? Also, find out what name, in which language, he likes the most.
Send that info along to me. Then I’ll try my prayer again. Maybe he favors German and I should have been saying, “Gott, bring me a Mini Cooper.”
Hope springs eternal.