Sunday, August 28, 2011

ACCEPTABLE TO GOD... august 28, 2011..response to Edward Fudge

Hi Edward.(Edward's full essay below.)  I fully  feel the thrust of your beautiful statement of a response to The Christ and its emphasis that we can never attribute our human ego consciousness for any ecstatic state and connection we come to have regarding God. But without elaboration here are some reasons that I do not believe such an explanation will be sufficient for the future of Christian faith for  post modern people.

Christ said ,'My yoke is easy(it fits)

1. It strongly suggests that there is a way we can fully identify with God through the intellect alone. I'm sure if someone said, 'Yes ,I hear what you are saying and I believe that what Jesus did alone is what can and does make me rightly and fully connected to God.' You would feel compelled to congratulate them and suggest, 'Well then you are just as saved as can be and what you now believe is more important than anything else you will ever learn or experience in being connected to God through the one life and death of Jesus His Son."  I'm saying this would be a perfect example of 'salvation by intellect' and thus salvation by the 'work and assent of the ego consciousness.'  No unseen and unknown factors from the unconscious or spiritual realm are being  solicited or expected in this model. It is pretty much all about the use of human intellect to become 'accepted' with God. It is a model of responding based nearly entirely on being able to comprehend evidence given and consciously 'agreeing' with a particular intellectual interpretation of the meaning of the ancient Sacred story of Jesus. If we could go back 2000  years I doubt that we would ever hear it laid out like this in church history until relatively recent times. 

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.'
2. I'm suggesting that neither Jesus, Paul, Peter or other personalities close to Jesus made their assured connection with the Sacred through the nearly pure intellectual way you are suggesting one might today. For it  solicits no living and direct experience and encounter with the Sacred, that which at first appears to be the total 'other'. We may have little to go with about Jesus' encounter with the Sacred but it may have been a 'vision' of a dove and a 'voice' of God at his baptism or the 'appearance of angels' and 'visions' after a long period of fasting that were involved in his transformation to a conscious awareness of the Sacred. We have stories of both Peter and Paul being  practically overwhelmed by disturbing 'dreams and visions' that were central to their 'conversions.' It may be that after the formal Christ movement was underway a less complicated 'pattern' and 'ritual' of response was suggested to others that then became a standard for the masses. This may be the 'kind of conversions' we are reading about for example in Acts of an intellectual response to a specific 'message'  about the Christ story, like the 3000 being baptized.  These hardly compare to the ominous appearances of the Sacred that the three individuals above had. 

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
3. If you were to suggest to a person that 'The Christ ' you are speaking of here is not only the human Jesus of Nazareth but also a collective 'image of God' such as 'messiah' and 'son of man' etc that became attached to him after his death; and that image potentially can live within a person.. e.g. the 'Christ who  lives in me' of Paul; then I think you would be more likely offering a person a general  yet informal path for the connection of their Soul with the Sacred. But the person would need to develop some ' spiritual practice' to explore and 'seek' for the 'Christ Within' and sincerely be expecting, but not demanding, a revelation 'now', not in the past, of the 'grace of God.' I think in your model you promise too much too soon and the only thing you suggest that one 'use'-which is also a kind of 'doing', no matter how you cut it- is their reasoning/intellect factor. If they asked you for evidence of the 'truthfulness' of your claim and its 'one and only' certainty you would begin to give them 'reasoned'  and 'materialistic' evidences. At least this is what I assume. That's what I would have done 30 years ago.

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
5. This description of 'receiving God' via an intellectual assent  to an interpreted 'meaning' of an ancient historic event  is a great example of the kind of influence the Age of Reason, beginning in the 1500's,   has had on all Western people, including our religious thinking. The thrust is that 'reason and intellect' is the preferred and reliable path to any kind of truth. The Reformation was part of this same emphasis so protestantism leans far more on reason than did the prevailing Catholicism which was much more informed by intuition, feeling and image. But much of that had become superstition and no longer anchored in actual religious experience, so there had to be a swing to reason to counter balance what had become religious magic and  superstition. Then our 'restoration movement ' beginning in early 19th century America continued this move toward the elevation reason and intellect as the correct approach to the Sacred. Some have considered that indigenous movement as a microcosm of  the macrocosm of the social, political and religious spirit America of that era. For the 'restoration movement' was not obligated to the protestantism of Europe or to Catholicism but could take on the rugged, independent and for sure 'thinking' emphasis that inspired the American pioneer spirit. You and I admire all that but have now seen how the 'good news' , even as an intellectual construct you suggest here, got rather lost and convoluted in the various parts of that religious movement. We may now be seeing a winding down of the energy of 'that' American spirit(and its sponsoring archetypes) as we have also seen the parallel religious movement dwindle from its original life and appeal.

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
Your presentation( and once sincerely mine) tends to make the Human an empty shell with nothing to do in the face of an all powerful, un-needing , even if benevolent, God. (The Book of Job can help us to understand why 'such a God' would eventually not be one that humans would have any yearning or good cause to relate to anymore. But the Job story also can imply that God is about changing Himself as well. And the Book of Job shows the beginning of the need in God's self for a higher consciousness and moral standard.) The primary human responses that are suggested in your model are to 'believe' some metaphysical statements ( e.g. Jesus died for/because of your sins) and  the physical reality of an unnatural , supernatural, past historical event(e.g. a literal physical resurrection from the dead) that is counter to our best reason and reflection on the creation.  The only other response that is admitted for the human is  to 'obey',  to 'submit'. This pretty much says to the human, 'do and believe as you are told' and  'step out of the way' for the important one in this relationship is God.(That sounds precisely like the God that Job dealt with.) All of this flies in the face of what we  gather from most of the Jesus story who saw himself, as human, in full cooperation with the Sacred('I and the Father are one.'), not an insignificant something to be pitied and rescued from its own self-caused misery and sin. This conflicts with the fundamental idea of Christianity that we 'are to be' and 'can be' like The Christ.  

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? 
Blessings, Jim
Christ said ,'My yoke is easy(it fits)
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" <> writes:

Edward Fudge

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.


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