|Christ said ,'My yoke is easy(it fits)|
I think a person could respond by 'believing and even trusting ' this layout and never be actually touched by the unseen and indescribable forces of the Sacred, the forces that can now be explained as coming from the Collective Unconscious. The 'gospel' message above seeks a conversion by reason with the most significant feeling involved being the relief that, 'now I do not have to wonder or worry about being OK with God.' I do not say that is a small thing, it was a great awakening to me in the early 1970's, but I fear it tends to shut down any serious search for a relating to God that involves the human at a much deeper level than primarily the intellect or reason. I'm glad I hear in this message that a strong use of ego-consciousness is expected to be maintained. Which is not the case with some versions of 'gospel response'; such as those emotional ones often referred to as charismatic where often reason is fully abandoned giving one a strong emotional rush not unlike an episode of being drunk or under the influence of a mind altering drug.
|Peter's vision transformation to accept 'all as clean.'|
Other Acts conversion stories are more spontaneous involvements of the human ego with nearly overwhelming Unconscious forces. These would be ones involving visions and voices. Surely these latter ones have to be considered 'deeper' and 'more thorough' and 'more compelling' transformations of the individual's inner life. These are the kind that might send the transformed person into isolation for years such as Paul's three years in Arabia after his visions. Such direct experiences of the Sacred are sure to set one reeling and having a need of much serious inner reflection to establish 'normal' emotional and spiritual equilibrium. Such personal transformations are always the basis for new human religious movements. After that the movement, no matter how grand-even that of Christianity- risk becoming intellectual , routinized and institutional followings and eventually an 'ism.' (I am not at all minimizing the good that comes from such movements but emphasizing they become less and less effective avenues of 'deeper personal transformations' as time goes on.)
Once again consider the compelling and far more than intellectual visions and dreams of Jesus, Paul and Peter. These three even in scripture descriptions experienced direct 'never exactly like this before' encounters with the Sacred and the others more of a 'one mold fits all' experience. Such watered down versions of the original always runs the risk of something becoming a movement and later an institution. This does not say any of this latter development is without purpose, meaning or transforming power but it is still second hand and can then be 'packaged' to pass on through the generations. It never began like that is the point I wish to make. The 'original' conversions were not primarily an intellectual 'pattern or request to believe' that was experienced by the founders, including for sure Jesus.
|13th Century Painting of Jesus' Baptism|
4. You suggest basically for one to look on the 'outside of themselves' and 'to the past' rather than to the 'inside of themselves' and 'the present' to find their connection to God. I don’t think you can justify such an approach to ' acceptance and salvation' with God from the NT picture, as best as we can know it, of the life and words of Jesus. Nor is the path you suggest one that has come down to us as examples of serious mind altering religious conversion in either the Bible or other Sacred or secular literature. (I think of William James' classic look at religious conversion in Varieties Of Religious Experience(1902). This is a must read for all serious students of individual religious transformation. James was likely a 'believer' in the deepest sense of that word himself? )All these examples involve a dynamic of the numinous(there is no better word) forces of the Sacred being active with and upon the ego, leaving the person 'knowing'- not 'believing' -that they were fully engaged and thus accepted into the world of God. This 'new' world compels one to full awareness that there is more to reality than the ego alone can establish. I think such direct assurance can frequently be missing in your general presentation of a response to the gospel. Most hopefully the kind of 'conversion' I describe assures her/him of the benevolent nature of the Ultimate God. But somewhere it will confront a person with some shadow sides of the Sacred.(Another thing most orthodoxy simply does not allow for.) A consultation with the Old Testament Job personality would put us on the unwelcomed but appropriate path in this regard.
|William James' Varieties of Religious Experience|
Edward, you and others have found a systematic intelligently reasoned way that seeks to avoid an attitude of 'pride in works and accomplishment' that is quite counter to early America and its religious views. That is a great and positive accomplishment but as I have noted above it remains now out of balance by relying on 'correct reason' and an overly intellectual approach to religious themes that are far more matters of the heart and inner experience in their deep and distant beginnings. We need in our day a 'restoration movement' but one that seeks a restoration of a more balanced use of our fundamental human psyche potentials. One that seeks to honor both the hard won capacities of the ego consciousness via science and critical thought and one that humbly returns to our ancient human origins by taking seriously the 'inner man' , the heart , including the unconscious psyche, the place that Jesus and other on-track spiritual teachers have always pointed to as the place to find God and His Kingdom. This, among other things, means a restoration of our capacity to hear 'symbolic' language in both our ancient texts and in our dreams, intuitions and occasional visions. I would add also our experience of what seems to be those moments when 'matter and energy' or 'spirit and matter' intersect leaving the human observer stunned and in religious type awe. Such are those moments when events in our environment are just too 'so-so' for one to assess it as simply coincidence. This kind of 'meaningful coincidence' was named 'synchronicity' by Jung. It is a phenomenon that seems to be universally reported in the anecdotes of all human culture. These things together are the balance that the natural world, it seems to me, is now demanding out of great need and that the Collective Unconscious is seeking from us all.
6. I also think your 'one and only' view of 'understanding and responding' to 'gospel' entirely under rates the Sacred's higher estimate of the Human. It suggests to the human that all that is important about God and oneself is on the outside of themselves, both in actual space(out there) and in History(back then). It leaves the human with 'nothing to contribute' which is not what the deepest and best part of our humanness desires and longs for. We want to give something to the relationship, something that sustains the relationship just as much as it depends on the Sacred doing its part. This is not something that falls into any category of 'prideful works' but is the 'need to love', in Tillich's definition to 'reunite with that from which we have experienced separation .' The human needs to know they are an essential part of that process and that God also sees it that way and is mutually appreciative. I see Jesus going about accepting the gifts and contributions of others as just as important as what he brought to them.
|William Blake's Job And God Almighty|
We can learn so much from the story of Job. Job is pictured throughout as being consciously aware that he has done nothing to deserve the horrible way this 'out of control' egoistic aspect of God is treating him. Yet he also knows he is in no position to force the All Powerful One to see that Job's righteousness and sense of justice is exceeding that of God. Job can only hope and trust against this negative aspect of God that God will consult His own omnipotence and 'repent' and evolve to a higher state of consciousness Himself. To do that the story strongly suggests that 'God would need to become human', thus setting up the incarnation of God in the Human which later the central theme of the Christ story.
The gospel appropriately tapped would assure the human that the real and needed 'miracles' lie within him/herself, even the kingdom of God. And that God's great motivation is to nurture this unfolding of creativity and consciousness of Human personality to the Glory of God. And furthermore that God is in great need for this unfolding of consciousness in the human in order for God to unfold and be the fully conscious God that has always been God's potential.
In short Edward, this sincere 'view of gospel' you present rather strongly moves against the possibility of a human learning that the relationship that the Sacred seeks , longs for and needs with him/her is a fully mutual one.(Recall that Jesus asks toward the end of his ministry for his admirers to call him, and be his, friends; and not servants of a master. This would have been a great challenge to them and is just now one that humans may be capable of accepting.) This demonstrates the great importance of the individual Human person and what lies in him/her waiting to unfold for the benefit of God and Humanity. This is speaking of truly 'right relationship' whether between humans or between God and Human. If it is not this way(mutual) between God and Human how is it possible for any Human to Human relationship to advance to this higher place in spiritual/psychological development? And does this not explain why most of the human to human encounters thus far in the world have been and are 'non-mutual', even as we debate like this about just how Human and God can genuinely find and embrace each other?
Note: If what I am saying on this subject sounds like something 'harder' to do than Edward’s thoughtful description, let me assure you that anything that sounds unduly 'hard' about it is completely modified by it being so totally 'natural' to our human nature's needs and longings. Or as Jesus put it, contrasting his ideas to the religion of his day. "My 'yoke' is easy(or it fits.)" When something truly 'fits' it completely ceases to be hard. It becomes most rewarding and quite amazingly simple. It is just that when something which is very much in harmony with our deepest nature has been nearly completely lost to us, it sounds complicated and foreign when we try to describe it.
On Sun, 28 Aug 2011 03:59:00 -0400 "Edward Fudge" <email@example.com> writes:
Through the years, various Christian groups have claimed some unique understanding, experience, or application of original Christianity that makes them more acceptable to God than other Christians. This claim often becomes a selling-point for persuading other believers to abandon their own groups and to join the superior group. So what should we make of this? Is one's acceptance by God made any more likely by joining a particular Christian group?
More acceptable? In the entire history of our race, there is only one short period, in the life of one man, that God accepts and approves without qualification. It consists of approximately 12,000 days -- "the days of his flesh" (Heb. 5:7). It is the earthly lifetime of the incarnate Son of God. In this unique sequence of human today's, Jesus of Nazareth heard God's voice and did God's will, never hardening his heart even once (Heb. 3:6-8; 10:7-10). Here alone is seen the perfect "doing" that can pass unsinged through the fires of judgment. Only here is seen the perfect "dying" that exhausts the curses of a broken covenant and offers the Father the flawless fruit of a faithful heart.
This, not our own experience, comprises "holy history." God accepted the life that Jesus lived and offered. He accepted Jesus because he lived it. And God accepts us because Jesus is our representative. His obedience, his blood, and his now-risen and glorified life secured our acceptance by God and assure God's approval of us. Jesus obeyed, and we are pronounced righteous (Rom. 5:19). He died and we are reconciled (Rom. 5:10). He arose and we shall pass safely through the great judgment day (Rom. 5:10).
The performance that makes us acceptable to God is finished -- the gospel proclaims that news. All we can do is believe it and respond in trusting obedience and praise. Seen in gospel light, our own achievements are as ephemeral as morning fog. The everlasting gospel frees us to die to our own accomplishments and claims and to trust wholly in Jesus Christ. His faithful life and death are the grounds of our acceptance. We could not possibly be "more acceptable" than we are in Jesus Christ.