Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Splash du Jour: Tuesday

Once we move outside the boundaries of dogmatic Catholicism and Hinduism, both positions can be seen to have deep flaws. Consciousness is universal, and if there is a such a thing as God-consciousness, no one can be excluded from it. By the same token, no one can lay exclusive claim, either. If Jesus rose to the highest level of enlightenment, why should he be unique in this regard? Buddha may be his equal (hundreds of millions of followers believe so), along with Vedic rishis like Vasishtha and Vyassa, who didn’t happen to have religions named after them.
-- Deepak Chopra, The Third Jesus: The Christ We Cannot Ignore

Have a great Tuesday!


Arukiyomi said...

Allow me, if I may trespass on your thought inspiring blog, to give a Biblical answer to one of Chopra's questions here.

Why can someone be unique in this regard? Because they are unique in their being.

It's quite simple really.

And because of this simple Biblical fact, Jesus never actually rose to "enlightenment." The thing that makes Jesus unique is not that he rose to "enlightenment" but that he descended from it to come to show us, not simply that there is a way, but that he, and only he, is it.

If you value the Vedas and the Bible, it is not helpful to distort what they teach but simply state what they do say.

cipriano said...

I guess where I would start off, in any sort of response to this comment would be to ask what the term "Biblical fact" means.
Aren't all of the statements of the Bible intended to be statements of "faith" rather than "fact"?

Anonymous said...

I guess I am puzzled by your comment too, arukiyomi. I don't understand what you mean by “distorting” what the Vedas and the Bible teach. You suggest "simply stating" what they “do say.”
But what good is that if they “say” one thing to you and quite another to me? The underlying assumption seems to be that we all see the same meaning in the passages.
But we don’t.

Or I wonder if you mean that merely reciting the passages rote will lead to some kind of satisfaction. Some sort of higher Truth.

Isn't it important to consider that all of the "facts" or "statements of faith" or simply "content" of the Bible have been subject to translation, historical contexts, interpretations, evaluation and "distortion" throughout their existence?

Please comment if I am mistaken, but it is my understanding that even Biblical scholars who believe there was divine inspiration involved in the creation of this text will say today that they were written by men. Fallible men. Men who interpreted and gave varying shades of emphasis, tone, symbolism, to the words. Humans. . .rather like us.

To me, spiritual texts - regardless of creed - are – bottom line - made of language. Language is an iffy thing. Imperfect as a means to communicating thought. (If you don't believe me, think about how you are responding to this comment and how someone else might respond to it...) The best we can do is carefully look at it. Maybe try to consider what its purpose might have been. Consider what methods of craftsmanship shaped it. Examine historical context.
These are all tools of language-based communications.

The certainty with which you offer your comments, arukiyomi, are not so much what I am asking about as HOW you arrived at these conclusions. The fact that there are three responses here though – this seems to me to be a step in the right direction.
A movement toward a healthy and civil dialogue.
And greater understanding.

Arukiyomi said...

Well, all Chopra or any of us know about Jesus will be based, almost entirely on the Biblical texts as we read them in their original versions - and they are by far the most verified historical texts from that period that we possess.

So, what I meant was, that if Chopra is serious that Jesus rose to enlightenment, I presume that he came to this conclusion through study of the Biblical texts. If he did this, he would have also come across Jesus' claims to be more than Buddha claimed to be, perhaps more (I have not read their writings) than Vasishtha and Vyassa claimed to be i.e. the one and only God and the one and only way to him. Either Chopra accepts both or he accepts neither. To do so is not to represent the only Christ we know of i.e. the Biblical Christ, but rather a 'christ' of his own invention.

My comment is meant to highlight a very common and lamentable trend among writers like Chopra and that is the tendency to accede to some of Jesus' claims (usually the ones that can conveniently be accepted without a need for personal change) while denying others.

As I said, for Chopra to claim Jesus reached enlightenment but then claim that he was not unique in this regard is to pick and choose from a religious text i.e. to distort it from its scholarly agreed hermeneutic. That is what I mean by distorting.

Of course, Biblical scholars do accept that the Biblical texts were written by fallible men. But they are in no dispute over their historical veracity, particularly the New Testament. In other words, if you doubt them, you will have to doubt every other historical text we possess. There's more textual evidence, for example, that Jesus was crucified for example than that Julius Caesar was assassinated. No one questions the latter fact though. And no one questions the fallabilty of those who wrote that fact down. Curious.

As for the statements of the Bible being faith rather than fact, I would therefore respond with a respectful, no. If the Bible consists of statements that are not true (and by true I mean universally true) then the book is pointless and has no more value than any edition of Chicken Soup for the Soul will have in a few thousand years time - a historic fireside book of homilies. Not to mention that it would be self-contradictory. According to the Bible, the resurrection of Christ is historical fact and Paul attested that if this was not so, faith in Christ would be pointless.

And, anonymous, it is revealing that you question the certainty of my comments without commenting on the certainty with which Chopra asserts that "no one can lay exculsive claim" to God-consciousness. Christ is the only incarnate form of the only God and, rather than comment on the fact that I assert it, why not take up the more formidable challenge of commenting on that instead?

cipriano said...

This is a lively discussion and so I just want to bound in here for a bit of Splashage [← This should be a word in the dictionary. Admit it!]
I come from a history of being a severe religious-heathen/drug-addict and then a [rather sudden] born-again Christian, and then a Bible-college scholar [4 years, full-time and no fooling around, graduating from a fully accredited college with Honours] and then being a minister in a church and preaching every Sunday, and then being summarily de-frocked [my license revoked] because of “revealed” sin in my life and then doing further years of Biblical study on my own [these studies being nowhere completed] and concluding that the most reasonable approach to the Bible and all-things-Biblical is one that is “non-literal”.
Someone reading the above synopsis may conclude that because I have [or “had”] sin in my life that this in itself proves me unworthy of having anything relevant to tell anyone else about the Bible or Jesus or God.
I have sadness toward any such person.
The “truth” is, I have no more degree of “sin” in my life than anyone who would suggest such a thing… and furthermore, the Bible itself declares this, whether interpreted in a “literal” sense or “figurative.” [Rom.3:23].
At any rate, I have come to the conclusion that we would get further along the road to “Truth” [none of us ever arriving] if we all got together and just breathed in the smoke of the conflagration, than argue about the words that engendered the initial need to pull the Fire Alarm!

With this in mind, I think it is very important to distinguish between statements that are made “in faith” and statements that are made with a nod to “reason.”
My sentiments in the current comment-progress fall resolutely toward the statements of “anonymous”… but only because I have chosen to live my life based upon what I can understand using my reason, rather than appealing to my faith.
The word “chosen” is very important.
My “choice” does not make me superior to anyone else [including my friend, arukiyomi]…. does not make me better, more smart, or more further along the Road to Truth. No more than his non-choice makes him superior to me.
But my choice does distinguish me.
It distinguishes me from another person who may choose to live their life, subscribing to beliefs grounded in “faith” concepts.

I have come to a place in my life where I refuse to believe in a God that would give us a mind capable of such wonderful sensible reason, in every aspect of our scientifically-lived lives… and yet ask us to utterly relinquish these capacities the moment they touch upon such crucial aspects of these same lives [ie, our concepts of HOW to live and how to die]. A God whose GREATEST CONCERN remains our belief in the unfathomably unbelievable.
That entire paragraph [above] is a description of faith.
For some people, they can live their entire lives living that way, and remain congruent with their inner being. [Not in cerebral conflict with their own minds].
For instance, they can live their lives believing that God heals, [while everyone they know and love, horribly dies of cancer, or some other disease, of which prayer and fasting availeth NOTHING!].
God protects the faithful.
But yet, most often… the faithful are the most afflicted. I know all of the Scriptures that claim otherwise… I have concluded that it is rather futile to memorize and quote them.
What I am saying is this: Isn’t the “rhetoric” getting a bit moldy? A bit DUMB?
I could go on.
I could take every single line that one of these respondents have written, and utterly demolish it. But what would be the purpose?
I could take any statement… such as this one, The thing that makes Jesus unique is not that he rose to "enlightenment" but that he descended from it to come to show us, not simply that there is a way, but that he, and only he, is it.
And I could say, “What is the evidence you have, for saying this?”
But what is the point?
There IS no evidence!
The evidence is of things unseen!
What is the point of my asking to see it. The whole question is illegal to a person a faith!
The only evidence needed is what you choose to believe about it. And the only reason you choose to believe anything one way or the other about it is because of your cultural conditioning and intellectual susceptibility. If you were born in Afghanistan to Muslim parents, or born here in America and brain-dead or retarded, you would not believe it.
So → you would therefore be damned to hell?
That is ABSURD!

Or this statement: the Biblical texts as we read them in their original versions - and they are by far the most verified historical texts from that period that we possess.
That is certifiably absurd.
Do you have any idea of the DECADES of time frame between the writing of the Gospels and the alleged timing of the events described? LEGENDS accrue in similar time-frames, even in our current day and age!
If you can give ONE verifiable reference to the veracity of the historical accuracy of the New Testament stories [much less the Old] I will personally videotape myself eating my cat’s next hairball in a hotdog bun!

Some of us choose to live our lives based on faith.
For others, such a prolonged delusion does not prove to be intellectually congruent with what their inner reason can verify as being tenable.
Burn me at thy stake, but I am of this latter breed.

Arukiyomi said...

no one needs to burn anyone Cip. Thanks for coming on board here.

Two points I'd like to hear your or anyone's thoughts on.

1. I said "most historically verified" texts from that period and you judged it as absurd (with caps!) Could you enlighten me as to why you say this and let me know what more verifiable texts we have? I've heard that we have more extant copies of the NT and also earliest copies i.e. closest to the event than any other of that period e.g. Caesar's Gallic Wars. Am I wrong. If so, please infom me.

2. I think we've lost the plot a bit as to why I commented originally. My comment is not about Jesus per se (although I could talk about him all night as you can probably gather), it's about Chopra (and you put the man in the limelight) picking and choosing bits of Jesus' life i.e. not giving us the full picture of what he is claimed to have said and done. I called that distortion and encouraged Chopra to state what texts like the Bible do say, especially because Chopra has scant little else to go on. Do you not consider this a valid point irrespective of what you or I believe about Jesus?

cipriano said...

Hi Arukiyomi:
I want to respond more in-depth to your comments, your questions, sometime when I have a bit more time than right now... but for now I just want to say that I think you have raised valid issues in all respects.
We do seem to have perhaps veered from original points, and this is due to my propensity towards.... veerage... when it comes to these topics. I am more excited and passionate nowadays in my spiritual renaissance [my re-born-agained-ness] than I ever was when I used to go door-to-door telling complete strangers about Jesus. [<-- This is true, I used to do this, on a team].
However, just quickly now, I would say about the Chopra comment [the original thing] that in a book the size of his The Third Jesus [where I got this excerpt out of] the author is not going to be cross-referencing and footnoting every comment he makes in the book. Let's face it, his publishers [and I, as a purchaser/reader] both know that anyone who buys Chopra-books is not looking for scholarly data, as much as they are simply buying a book that will ring true with what they are attempting to learn about spiritual things.
In this sense, however, evangelical and/or fundamentalist believers do the very same thing. They buy books written by authors like Max Lucado or Philip Yancey or [good heavens] Joel Osteen, because they want to read something that they know will agree with their preconceptions about the subject matter.
In this sense, I do not buy a Chopra book in order to be convinced of something. I buy and read a Chopra book because I think he is more along the lines of where I myself am in my own spiritual journey. Chopra himself has come from the narrow-mindedness of prescriptual [<-- should be a word, admit it] religion into the more open-mindedness of spirituality. I like Chopra because his form of spirituality is not dogmatic nor exclusivistic, and he is aware of the fact that there will forever be many many things about spirituality that we simply cannot know, and never will know. I posted his comment simply because I liked it, and to me it rings true with where I currently live, spiritually speaking. But I would also have posted it if it had come from Dr. Phil, or Larry King, because it would still be just as "true" to me if spoken by either of those [basic] buffoons.

Cold Molasses said...

Arukiyomi, I have to jump in on this. The whole "simple Biblical fact" and "historically verified" statements got me going right away...as it did with Cipriano. Below I've posted a copy of a post I did on my own blog a few months back to explain why we don't give much credence to those types of claims anymore:

I grew up believing that the Bible was the inerrant, literal, divine words of God. As in "everything is accurate", "no errors", "if it says it in the Bible, it must be right", etc. It is interesting then to consider things like:
- The mustard seed is not the smallest of all seeds on the earth even if Jesus said it was;
- Mark says Jesus was crucified the day AFTER the Passover meal was eaten while John says he died the day BEFORE it was eaten.
- Luke says Joseph and Mary returned to Nazereth just a month after they had come to Bethlehem, whereas Matthew says they fled to Egypt.
- Paul says that after his conversion, he did NOT go to Jerusalem, whereas Acts says that was the first thing he did.

These are just a few examples of "differences" within the Bible text. Now I'm not suggesting that any of the above differences are significant to the overall message of the Bible, but it is impossible to claim that these types of differences don't exist (i.e. the inerrant idea falls apart).

Combine this realization with the fact that we don't have the original texts to determine the exact original wording...oh wait, we don't even have the first copies of the originals...oh wait, we don't even have copies of the copies of the originals...oh wait, we don't have copies of the copies of the copies of the originals. Most of the earliest texts we have were made centuries later than the originals. Take Galatians as an example. The first reasonably complete copy we have dates to about 200 C.E. - some 150 years AFTER Paul wrote the letter. Given the fact that it had been copied for 15 decades to get to that point (more on that later), how accurate was it at that point?

With that as context, it is easy (at least it was for me... surprisingly!) to realize the the Bible is a very human book. Just as human scribes had copied (and changed) the texts of scripture, so too had human authors originally written the texts. The Bible was written by different authors at different times, in different places to address different needs. Many, no doubt, felt "inspired" by their experiences (perceived or real) of God to say what they did, but they had their own perspectives, beliefs, views, needs, desires, understandings, theologies, etc.

With that, you quickly come to the realization that the Bible doesn't give "the answer about Jesus" nor does it give a foolproof answer to the questions of the modern age - abortion, women's rights, gay rights, religious supremacy, etc. You realize that we need to figure out how to live and what to believe on our own...without setting up the Bible as a false idol - or an oracle that gives us a direct line of communication with the Almighty.

Need more? Let's step back for a second. Let's go back to Judaism. It was unique among the religions of the Roman Empire in that its religious "instructions" were written down in sacred books. It stressed ancestral traditions, customs and laws, and maintained that these had been recorded in sacred books, which had the status of "scripture" for the Jewish people.

Similarly, Christianity was also a "bookish" religion. This importance of written texts, however, does not mean that all Christians could read books...quite the contrary, most early Christians, like most people throughout the empire (including Jews), were illiterate. The texts (many of which were in letter form) were very important to the communities though...they were meant to be read aloud to the community at community gatherings. But most Christians couldn't read them themselves. Interesting isn't it?

Note that the texts weren't one big book...just many individual writings. At what point did the Christian canon of scripture get formed then? In the mid-second century, a philospher-teacher named Marcion (later declared a heretic) was the first Christian that we know of who produced an actual "canon" of scripture - that is, a collection of books that, he argued, constituted the sacred texts of the faith. It is interesting to note that Marcion was completely absorbed by the life and teachings of the apostle Paul, whom he considered to be the one "true" apostle from the early days of the church.

Some 30 years later, the bishop of Lyon in Gaul (modern France), Irenaeus, opposed Marcion and wrote a five volume work against heretics such as Marcion and the Gnostics. He claimed that Marcion and other "heretics" had mistakenly assumed that only one or another of the gospels was to be accepted as scripture (e.g. Marcion had suggested Luke). He claimed, in summary, that because there are four corners of the earth, four winds and four pillars, that there are four gospels. So, near the end of the second century, there were Christians insisting that there were four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) - no more and no less.

Debates on the Christian canon continued for centuries...long, harsh and drawn out debates about which texts were authoritative. The first time we can find a list of the 27 books of our New Testament was in the second half of the fourth century. The powerful bishop of Alexandria named Athanasius (in 367 C.E.) wrote his annual letter to the Egyptian churches and in it, included advice concerning which books should be considered scripture, and excluded all others.

So how did the communities get those books? How were they put into circulation? There was no desktop publishing back then remember! No, the books had to be copied by hand. The copyists, by the way, in the early centuries weren't trained to do this kind of work, but were simply the literate members of the congregation who were able and willing. As a result, the multiple copies of the texts that were produced were not all alike - since the scribes inevitably made alterations (e.g. changing the words by accident or by design). So anyone reading the books in early Christian centuries wasn't completely sure that he was reading what the original author had written.

On top of the copying challenge in general, ancient Greek texts (including all the earliest Christian writings) had no marks of punctuation, no distinction between upper/lowercase letters, and no spaces used to separate words (scriptuo continua). Obviously, this made it difficult to copy and read. "Godisnowhere" could be different things depending if you were an athiest or a theist (work at it...you'll get it). Similarly, how about lastnightatdinnerisawabundanceonthetable ...normal or supernatural event?

To illustrate the challenges this caused, the third century church father Origen, once said "The differences among the manuscripts have become great, either through the negligence of some copyists or through the perverse audacity of others; they neglect to check over what they have transcribed, or in the process of checking, they make additions or deletions as they please."

This explains why authors would sometimes call curses down on any copyist who modified their texts without permission. With this context, re-consider the often quoted Revelation text "I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book; and if anyone removes any of the words of the book of this prophecy, God will remove his share from the tree of life and from the holy city, as described in this book." So this might not be a threat to believe everything in the book (as is often the claim associated with this text in many sermons!), but instead a threat to copyists of the book.

So even if you believe that Biblical texts are the very words of God, the challenge would be to determine what portions of the texts go back to the original authors. Here are 2 examples of texts which many biblical scholars don't think go back to the original authors:

The story of Jesus and the women taken in adultery (you know, where Jesus writes something in the ground and the accusers go running) appears in only one gospel (John 7-8). It is interesting to note that the story isn't found in our earliest manuscripts of the Gospel of John, its writing style is very different from the rest of John, and it includes a number of words and phrases that are otherwise alien to the Gospel. Interesting...perhaps a later addition to the text based on oral traditions of the time? If so, should this text be considered part of the Bible?

And now the last 12 verses of Mark. Before these verses, the story of the women encountering a risen Jesus is told and ends with Jesus fleeing the tomb and saying nothing to anyone "for they were afraid". Then the last 12 verses where Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene who tells the disciples, appearing to 2 others and finally to the 11 disciples. Jesus commissions them to go forth and proclaim his gospel. Very moving and powerful passage that is quoted often in many of today's fundamentalist churches. One problem..the passage wasn't in the original text (they are absent from the oldest and best manuscripts of Mark), the writing style varies from the rest of Mark, and the transition between the previous verses and the last 12 is hard to understand (in reference to Mary Magdalene), and there a number of words and phrases not found elsewhere in Mark. Without the last 12 verses though, the ending is a little abrupt. How could that be the ending? So scholars think that a scribe added an ending.

Let's get back to the canon itself. Near the end of the fourth century, Pope Damascus commissioned the greatest scholar of the day (Jerome) to produce an official Latin translation - which came to be known as the Vulgate. It became the Bible for the Western church that Christians read, scholars studied and theologians used for centuries.

In the early 1500s, a Dutch scholar named Erasmus produced and published an edition of the Greek New Testament. For the most part, in doing so, he relied on a mere handful of late medieval manuscripts, which he marked up as if he were copyediting a handwritten copy for the printer. In fact, he relied heavily on just one 12th century manuscript for the Gospels and another 12th century manuscript for Acts and the Epistles. For Revelation, he borrowed a manuscript from a friend, but it was impossible to read in places and had lost its last page...so Erasmus used the Vulgate (remember the Latin version translated by Jerome) to cover that last bit of Revelation. Erasmus' work is important since his New Testament was the primary source for the King James Bible created a century later, and became the standard form of Greek Biblical text to be published by Western European printers for more than 300 years. Hmmm...all that based on texts that were not of the best quality and produced some 1100 years after the originals.

One interesting story about Erasmus' text. It apparently didn't contain the Trinity verse..."There are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word and the Spirit...". This caused some outrage but Erasmus claimed it wasn't in his source texts and unless a Greek text could be shown to him with that verse in it, he wouldn't add it. So the story goes that a Greek text was produced (literally PRODUCED for that very reason). So, true to his word, Erasmus added it to the next version of his New Testament.

In the mid-1500s, another scholar (over a 30 year effort) produced a New Testament based on hundreds of texts available to him. The result was over 30,000 variations from the New Testament that was otherwise accepted as being the authoritative version (i.e. essentially the text that Erasmus had produced). Since then, more than 5,700 manuscripts have been discovered and catalogued. With these manuscripts, along with thousands of copies of the Vulgate and other texts discovered, schollars say there are more than 200,000 and maybe up to 400,000 variants known today. In summary, there are more variations among our manuscripts than there are words in the New Testament.

There have been so many attempts to point out the true original texts over the years, I won't even attempt to summarize. And there are many very interesting examples of texts from our accepted form of the Bible that scholars question in terms of their authenticity.

Given that the Erasmus text (which really is a key source to our modern Bible) was based on poorer quality manuscripts than many we have today, it isn't surprising that many "Bible-believing Christians", when faced with these facts, choose to pretend there is no problem and that God inspired the King James...not the original Greek!

Now don't get me wrong. Even though I now see the human nature of the Biblical texts, I do not deny the wisdom and insight we can get from parts of the Bible. I see the Bible as a sacred document for Christians (not just Chicken Soup-like as you suggest it would be if not factually true). It is the foundation document for our faith with which we should be in "continuing conversation" and from which we can better understand the character and will of God. Having said that, while I do not deny the concept of inspiration (although I do not see it as direct inspriration of the specific words), I think the Bible's words and thoughts are ultimately human words, not God's.

And, given this view that the Bible is a human product, as Christians, our interaction with it should be both from a critical viewpoint (i.e. deciding and discerning what passages are relevant to our time, or discerning/interpreting meanings of texts) as well as from a more open viewpoint whereby we allow ourselves to learn from and be shaped by the wisdom in the Bible. As such, I believe, for Christians, the Bible is a core document within our religious tradition and we should seek the wisdom and meanings of its texts - not seeing them as God's literal, inerrant words, but as a document that captures the experiences of the ancient Israel community and the early Christian community and their responses to God and Jesus, which is important within the Christian religion.

Hopefully this VERY LONG post helps you better understand why people like Cipriano and myself react when we see things like "simple Biblical fact" and "historically verified".

cipriano said...

Wow, Cold Molasses.
Thank you for this comment. I very much appreciate your addition to this thread.
Just as there is a Christology "from above" and a Christology "from below" [the former emphasizing that Christ was in heaven as God and then descended to earth to become man, and the latter idea being that Christ was a man, born of natural means, that grew to become enlightened, even "approved" of God].... just as there is both of these theological systems existing in their own well-defended validity, so is there a Bibliology "from above" and a Bibliology "from below". [The former assuming that God basically dictated the words of the Bible to man, and subsequently guided and directed the selection of which of these writings should become canonical, and the latter idea being that the Bible is a compendium of stories and legends accrued as a result of the religious experience of various and sundry fallible writers. Subsequently selected and rejected on the basis of human choice.

Obviously, you and I, cold molasses, have come to believe that in both cases, the latter ideas are those we find to be more tenable, and this has occurred as a result of our own study into the matter[s].
What I find interesting, or at least conspicuous, is that rarely does one encounter a purely intellectual predilection to these matters suddenly morphing itself into a state of faith. [C.S. Lewis may be an exception, perhaps]. What I mean is, I think it highly unlikely that you or I will see Youtube-footage of Christopher Hitchens or Richard Dawkins singing "Kum-Bay-Yah" around any campfire any time soon!
However, it is more and more of a common occurrence in our day and age to see many people of faith turning to what I will here call a more intellectually satisfying understanding of what was formerly sustainable by faith alone.
This trend [I believe] is a side-effect of the explosion of information that is now available to us. The dissemination of that information. The secular bookstores lining their shelves with books outlining the truth about Biblical authenticity, etc.

Think about it. As little as ten or fifteen years ago you simply did not see the displays of theologically relevant books [yet written from a non-faith perspective] on the shelves of bookstores, as are readily visible today.
The true believer may claim that this is a sort of onslaught of the enemy of our souls. In other words, as the time of Jesus's return to Earth gets nearer, this rouses all of the atheist-types, and they figure they better start publishing their blasphemies so that more and more people can be led pell-mell from a life of faith into the horrid realization that they are now left behind [with The God Delusion under their arm, all shiny-covered…] to suffer The great Tribulation and be beheaded.
However, there is another way of looking at the scenario, and it is this. → In this day and age of religious idiocy and barabarism and faith-based atrocities, people are weary of subscribing to life-and-death information that was written by people riding around on camels and to whom the striking of a match would have represented a technological breakthrough unheard of in their day.
What I mean is… if ANY other branch of science remained this steeped in its veneration of the past [as religion is]… we would still be cutting people open and bleeding them to death without the aid of anaesthetics, instead of doing proper and humane surgical precedures. We would be walking in sandals, instead of flying in jets. We would be tying a letter to a horse instead of discussing this over the internet.
In every other area of science and human achievement, we strive toward advancement and greater levels of knowledge.
Except regarding religion and/or faith-based beliefs. These cannot be touched.
Obviously, when we touch them, we disturb others, who do not want them touched. But one day [like the chimpanzee that finally realizes if it pokes that stick into the hole in the tree, it will come out with ants on it and he can then eat them]… one day we poke into these issues OURSELVES… and the light turns on and we can finally declare, “Holy moly! This is awesome!”
This stuff makes some sense now!

Just recently, [two weeks ago], I attended a wedding, and of course, I saw aquaintances and friends I had not seen in a long long time. Some old friends I had not seen for at least a decade. Sitting around the table, one dear Christian friend of mine asked me about things, and soon [very soon] it emerged that I do not attend church any more. But I used to not only attend, but TAKE PART… officially… every Sunday. Hence, the interest level rises about 400 degrees.
More questions, about my belief in “God”… to which I respond with the statement that I am still a believer in “God” but, [I realize]… probably not exactly the kind of God that is causing my friend to nod his head up and down as he continues to ask me stuff.
So I say something along these lines.
And he asks me, well, what KIND of a God am I talking about then? To which I respond that the sort of “God” I now believe in is not exactly the 100% BIBLICAL one.
The head stops nodding.
I can see that I am not really “getting through” to the inner cranial area of my friend, the fleshy part, like. So I say… “I no longer believe that Jesus is this God’s LITERAL son.”
It was a rather ominous moment. My dear old friend was royally scandalized. I felt as though I might as well have concluded with, “And in the past few years I have been murdering people and so far have not gotten caught.”
The look on his face would not have changed much, had I added this last tidbit of info.
Our conversation was sort of over.
Only later [the next day] did I really stop and critically think of what happened there at that table. And here is what I have concluded.
When it comes to “conversion” and/or “belief” in Jesus as the saviour of one’s soul etc., here is the deal → THAT PORTION OF A PERSON’S LIFE IS SOMETHING THAT IS NEVER EVER SUPPOSED TO CHANGE.
When you get in, a door [that door is in the brain] is SLAMMED SHUT.
And locked.
It’s not supposed to CHANGE.
Unless one becomes more and more in love with Jesus…. to the point where you ask Him which cereal to eat in the morning [and you hear an answer]…. oh, THAT kind of change would be lovely to hear about after a decade-long absence… but the kind of change I described to my friend is simply… not acceptable.
It now creates a barrier.
We have…… umm….. religious differences, I guess.
Not only so…. but I have… umm… forfeited heaven.
How sad he must feel for me.
Because it is sort of a sad thing when you were going to go to heaven with your friend and all, but now, that same friend has just told you across the dinner table at a wedding that he has thrown away his only possible chance of ever getting there.

What happens to a lake or pond that has no inflow or outflow of water into or out of it?

Arukiyomi said...

@Molasses... thanks for taking the time to type all that out. I'm aware that you have little idea where I'm coming from so had to spread the info to cover all sorts of issues some of which were relevant to me and some not. Just a couple of questions I wondered what you would respond to:

What role, if any, do you give the Holy Spirit in the life of a follower of Jesus and the Bible?

If Christians down the ages can be strongly criticised (lampooned?) for manipulating the message of the Bible (Erasmus et al. good example), why not Chopra? Don't his claims about Jesus fall into exactly the same category of discourse?

@Cip: thanks again too for your response. I realise that I was naive in using the term "Biblical fact" to describe that Jesus was unique and that he came down (as opposed to went up.)

The story of your friend at the wedding left me sad. It left me sad for both of you. Did I detect a hint of genuine delight in baiting him? It came across that way to me?

I don't know what you're saying when you say that it is "never supposed to change" I've been a Christian for 25 years and I've never heard anyone say that. In fact, quite the opposite. As you grow in maturity, you're supposed to grow in your thinking of Christ and who he is.

Are you forgetting the fact that, the Bible aside, I have a relationship with this guy and discuss things with him on a daily basis. More than any text, the relationship I have with him convinces me that he is who those people said he is with their dodgy texts. What role does knowing Christ have, for you, in your understanding of the Bible?