Saturday, January 21, 2012

THE GREATEST SIN?.... June 6, 2010

The ultimate sin, for which one can expect finally only God's consuming fire of judgment is to reject God's grace and forgiveness.
(Edward, Again I find myself using your essay as a kick start for my personal reflection process. I wrote this all without having you personally in mind. I am writing with what I hear are the beliefs and claims of most presentations of Popular American Christianity. Please read them as such for the sake of our non-threatened friendship. Jim)

Hi Edward. There is surely evil(sin) in the world and its effects are frightfully observable. To make what you describe as somehow the heart  or height of sin seems to  be a practical example of 'swallowing a camel while choking on a gnat.'  At any reasonable village gathering it would not be on the list of evils threatening  the village.  Sometimes evil  is obviously generated by the behavior of humans.  (I've shared that I strongly suspect that another origin of it is in the Sacred origin of everything that is.) To ascribe the most  awful evil , the only one capable of  totally separating a human from its Sacred origin, as being a human conscientiously unable to agree with an abstract intellectually presented  interpretation of a one time happening in the  past  strikes me as cold,  unreasonable and unlike God. I think genuine 'conversion' ,which would include  being convinced of one's accepted standing with God shows that God's 'grace and forgiveness' is not something that is intellectually chosen or decided but one that comes through the irrational process of conversion which I wish to elaborate on below.

Deciding to accept the 'grace and forgiveness' of God is not how the earliest 'believers'  in Jesus came to be so. This comes from  my sincerest effort to understand the story that has affected my life as much as most  others. It was not  any  intellectual rationale or  unquestioned   pronouncement that was the source of the initial 'grace' experienced in the presence of Jesus. It was, or would certainly seemed to be to the converted one,  the  'impact of a  life' that  was so full of 'something beyond explanation', so exemplary of  divine love that  they were  awed beyond measure, overwhelmed with what  could only be described as a  'presence of God.'    I  believe this experience really happened to many  who knew Jesus of Nazareth.  I like to think many of us would have been like them.
Saul(Paul's) Conversion Experience
Grace(I think in contrast to the way it is primarily used and implied in your essay), has often been understood, even in  orthodox Christian circles, as something coming unilaterally from the Sacred, the very opposite of  a logical   human argument to be  reflected on and chosen.   The  thread of origins of both Christian  and other religions is that the most profound,and perhaps the only fully genuine ,conversion  is something that is experienced as 'done to the person'  not 'done by them' or a product of  their rational choice. I believe the metaphors you quote of Paul were originally 'experienced'  irrationally and not 'ideas or posited truths'  on which a person is asked to  make a  rational decision. Hear the story of  Paul's conversion and  of Peter's dream conversion to the premise that 'God is not a respecter of persons.' Moses is another outstanding example. And I will offer my own conversion experience in Aug '85 as a possible example of what I am seeking to describe.  Religious conversion that  is the most real article is not a rational experience(though hopefully the rational function is maintained enough to register what happened so that it can be reflected on critically  for a long while afterward.  It comes from a 'movement  of the Spirit.' 

I now am convinced that such conversion  is a very 'natural' happening involving both  the human and the Sacred. Otherwise it is breaking into the human psyche, which is who we are,  from another world without any respect for the integrity of the human psyche .  It would be as if aliens  injected us with a drug that changed our values and our minds. This is even  how  it may initially seem to the converted.  But it will, if the ego does not fully surrender its role, bring with it the strong conviction(at least on reflection)  that this is something  alive in  and a part of ones larger Self, including all unconscious aspects. It is  not simply a foreign invader possessing ones psychic apparatus which would be a kind of mind rape.  I think with the historical development of  a far stronger  human ego(one that originally was constantly overwhelmed by the unseen forces  that cause irrational conversion) has made  religious conversion of the type that happened due to the  level of Spiritual life that Jesus symbolized very unlikely.   The strengthened human ego has gone now to another extreme( We simply are not as quickly and repeatedly superstitious as our more primitive forebears. We have the historical record to show that, such the capacity to think far more objectively as in the scientific method.) Our over inflated individual and collective ego is  now  convinced  that nothing beyond  its awareness, reasoning  power and logic  can or does ever happen. This is a dangerous attitude that in our day can lead to technological disasters like an oil  hole in the ocean floor gushing death to a large piece of the planet.

One might(if willing to take it out of historical  context)  take that  as a reason Paul could say that some  'turned away from his truth' but  such a state of mind is not one that a person can be rationally condemned for. Because  it is an unconscious state of mind.  And we all live in a far more 'unconscious state of mind' than we can possibly know. (To me this is the foundation for present day true humility. If that awareness will not make a person think twice about every assertion and easily accepted 'belief' nothing will.) Another way of describing authentic conversion whether ancient or modern is that an archetype of the Collective Unconscious is activated and is experienced directly in consciousness(not being told or preached to about it) by the converted. This is the 'kind of personal conversion' that is the foundation for any collective religious faith. It is certainly and clearly the kind  that supported the origins of Christianity. I think American mainline and conservative Christianity agrees with this premise but, in my view, do not accept the implications of it. It says yes that is what conversion was like originally but that is not how it  can happen anymore. (Edward, it is a broader  parallel to the old Church of Christ doctrine that ' revelation only happened in the apostolic age. Now it is much more rational and actually totally contained in a book.')

Soon after the  initial conversions based on the actual physical presence of Jesus and  his death (and the archetypes these stirred)  it seems clear  that another kind of conversion began to happen.  It was through these much more 'group or political'  conversions that Christianity went on to be a world wide political power and  very much a kingdom of this world. We can see such conversion happen at various levels in and out of Christian conversion  throughout history. It is based on  Group dynamic, on peer influence, on various political  propagandizing and  evangelizing; on individuals  being taken up into some  mass consensus.  This can and does happen repeatedly in both  religious and secular movements.  A present example of such a psychological phenomenon would be  a person  becoming  a devoted, highly motivated, religiously zealous 'tea party' member.  Here, as in other 'more than rational' devotedness to a political persuasion, the convert is solidly convinced that his belief is only based on the solid facts of history, the constitution and logic.  He has a valid and certain 'truth' to tell that explains why things are the way they are.(These are the initial  properties of religious conversion also.) But it is quite obvious to the 'non convert'  that the convert's  zeal is at least as much grounded in irrational emotion.  This is a good parallel I think to what much Christian religion conversion became, very likely  even in these texts quoted  from Acts. These sermons were very different than what people heard from Jesus, as portrayed  in the gospels. These are words of a movement headed toward becoming arguably the strongest institution in the  Western world.

I will emphasize that every ' most genuine depth conversion' experience is a direct encounter with the Collective Unconscious and it has the downside of at first being interpreted as a 'one and only and for all time truth'. It is the essential work of the conscious and logical  human ego to work on the contents of such a conversion experience to separate the healing redemptive elements from the destructive exclusionary 'inflated'  ones. As Jung said, 'Any fool or genius can receive a revelation or vision' but it is what is done with it by  the reasoning  human ego consciousness that determines if the final result is a collective treasure and blessing  or just another truly crazy person. ( I suffer now with  what verdict is yet to be reached on my experience. This is like a crucifixion between two opposites. I am totally alone with it and know it. And I can do nothing but submit...and even choose to.)

Going back to a main point. Someone for sincere reasons  not accepting  an intellectual premise, having to do with  interpreted events long past that obviously carry an emotional archetypal charterer, does not issue in the level of evil or sin, if any at all, that  much present  day 'historical'  Christianity ascribes to it, and that your article claims. There are so many real and treacherous kinds of evil behavior and happenings that we  all agree the Sacred strongly laments. But to declare the most egregious to be the incapacity or even the unwillingness to agree with an abstract philosophical proposition  misses nearly entirely the present day critical psychological/spiritual situation and need of Western humanity. If any American village met to discuss the evils that threaten its community life would someones unwillingness to agree with any abstract intellectual statement about the nature of Jesus of Nazareth  be on the top ten concerns (even if the village were Christian)?   Should  it be what is considered the 'greatest sin' for humans that  claim to care about each other? Besides it is not likely that anyone who actually 'sees,understands and is moved' by an image of a gracious and forgiving God would ever even consider rejecting such a notion. So that being named as the 'greatest sin' becomes rather irrelevant in our post modern human experience.

On Sun, 06 Jun 2010 05:59:00 -0400 "Edward Fudge" <> writes:

Edward Fudge

Click here to view any of 1100 past gracEmails on 100 popular topics.

A gracEmail subscriber, having read in previous gracEmails that Jesus made peace between God and the entire world, asks whether anyone can reject God's love and the reconciliation resulting from it.
* * *
The gospel is the good news of our salvation (Eph. 1:13). It is the announcement that God has "made peace" with every human being who will ever live, through the blood of Jesus Christ (Col. 1:19-20). In the life and death of Jesus Christ, God was "reconciling the world to himself" (2 Cor. 5:19). From the work of Jesus Christ "there resulted life to all" (Rom. 5:18). The Creator has issued a general pardon to his rebellious creation. Because of Jesus Christ, the slate is clean for the entire world. Jesus "made purification of sins" and, having completed that assignment, "sat down at the right hand" of God in heaven (Heb. 1:3). God has made us his ambassadors -- commissioned to tell the world about God's forgiveness and to beg them to be reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:20).
Sadly, not everyone accepts this reconciliation. Not all receive God's grace (2 Cor. 6:1). When Paul announced the good news in a synagogue in Antioch, people responded in two distinct ways. Some who heard were drawn to the message and Paul urged them to continue in the grace of God, knowing that God was working in their hearts (Acts 13:43, 48). Others argued with the gospel announcement and spoke evil of it (13:45). Paul told them that they had repudiated the word of God and judged themselves unworthy of eternal life (13:46).
To reject God's grace and forgiveness is the ultimate sin, for which one can expect finally only God's consuming fire of judgment (Heb. 10:26-27). The same principle also applies to those who never hear the good news of God's forgiveness. God will judge them by the light they did have. Those who reject God's love, however they have known it, also cut themselves off from eternal life (Rom. 2:8-12). God desires that all people be saved and that none perish (1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9). Surely we should wish the same thing. Yet the mystery of evil is that some people reject even so great a salvation as this, and for them there will be no escape (Heb. 2:3).
Copyright 2010 by Edward Fudge. Permission hereby given to reproduce, reprint or forward this gracEmail with attribution and without financial profit.

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