Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Life in a Glass House

Name of Allah written in the style of Arabic c...Image via Wikipedia
The issue of Islamic Fundamentalism is on my mind this morning. I recently posted the recording of Dr. Durrani, a Muslim doctor who spoke to our church last August. A couple of people have warned me about Muslims trying to act "moderate" or tolerant and to watch out for them. Others have told about trouble passages in the Koran. "You've got to watch those Muslims because they've been taught it's OK to lie to infidels to get their way." I watched Kite Runner this weekend and Ty and I were both struck by the brutality of the Taliban (stoning adulterers at halftime of a soccer game), raping young boys (while pronouncing death the appropriate penalty for bein homosexual). But, as I watched that, I had to remember that there are stonings and people being struck dead in our very own Bibles.


What is easy (and convenient to forget) is that radical Islam is not so different from Christianity (and Judaism) just a short time ago. The practices we find so brutal and even incomprehensible were done in the name of YHWH and God by Christians and Jews. The stoning of the adulterers at the soccer game was hard to watch. But, we read over passages in the Bible promoting stoning without batting an eyelash. The Taliban guy ranting about the sins of the adulterers said something to the effect "The punishment of throwing stones at them is appropriate because by committing this sin, they have thrown stones at Allah's house.". How is that so very different from what we hear from Christian pulpits today saying God will send people to eternal torment for their sins? Give me a few hits with a rock versus being tortured eternally any day. Forced conversions to Islam and trials for heresy? How about the Inquisitions and the forced conversions Christians have done all across the globe? Troubling passages in the Koran? How about selling your daughter in to slavery as sanctioned in Exodus or putting someone to death for working on the Sabbath as Exodus 35:2 reads or the entire book of Leviticus for that matter?


I've been told that the moderate Muslims, the tolerant Muslims are really just covering up for the "real" Muslims. The same could be said for moderate or progressive Christians. Are the real Christians the Fred Phelps and the Pat Robertsons or are the real Christians those who do not use the Bible to condemn women, gays, blacks, Jews, etc?


At one time, Islam was known as a religion of peace and tolerance. And, I believe it is still- at its core. There are those who have hijacked the religion (IMO) to suit their own purposes, just as there are those still hijacking Christianity. Progressive Muslims must speak out against their intolerant fundamentalist brethren, just as Progressive Christians must do within our faith tradition. But, I will not take part in condemning all of Islam because of the actions of their less enlightened vocal minority. Those who live in glass houses...


Peace,
Brian




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43 comments:

Don said...

Your comments about Biblical atrocities reminded me of a quote in the book I am currently reading, "If Grace Is True". Gulley & Mulholland are talking about infallibility of the Bible and saying that we must "weigh" the truth of the stories we read. They relate the story of Joshua entering the "Promised Land", and being told (by God) to destroy every living thing (genocide?) in Joshua 10:40. Doesn't get much worse than that! Every major religion has its fundamentalists which destroy the basic teachings of belief. Nice Post!

brian said...

Yeah, Don. It's amazing how we gloss over those stories of genocide and rape (killing everyone except for the virgins and keeping them for yourselves in the book of Numbers). But, is the "true believers" of Islam flying planes into towers really any worse? Maybe we can gloss over those stories because we're so familiar with them. But, if you really think about it, there is some shocking behavior in the Old Testament ordered by G-d Himself. That is if you take it literally and inerrantly which is just one thing Muslim Fundamentalists and Christians Fundamentalists have in common.

Jeff said...

It's really hard to make an accurate blanket statement about anything in life because there are always a lot of other issues intertwined in it. Culture and Politics often intersect with religion.

I hope you don't think from my comments that I think Islam is 'Bad' or anything. My feelings about Christianity are just as mixed, maybe even more so.

brian said...

Jeff,

You're absolutely right. Everything in life is interdependent and that leads to a lot of complexity. When it comes to Islam, the fundamentalists are reacting to a number of factors, political, sociological, economic and religious.

I don't think from your comments that you find Islam "bad". But, I know more than few people who do think Islam is bad. The point I was really trying to make is that we cannot assume Islam is bad because of a few verses in the Koran or by the actions of their most radical followers. By that standard, we'd have to conclude Christianity is "bad", too.

I think all "true" religions are basically the same at their core.

Christianity has a checkered past and I've struggled to not throw the baby out with the bathwater. I've had to reinvent and rediscover Christianity several times over to not chuck the whole thing out. Christianity has evolved and continues to evolve. In the form I first learned Christianity, I would have rejected it along ago. I'm sure there are Muslims who go through the same struggle. Just as those of us who have stuck with Christianity have extended "grace" to the excesses of our religion, I'm just saying we should extend that same grace to the Islam and its followers.

Peace,
Brian

Jeff said...

It's confusing for me, because I tend towards that view, but when I actually sit down and think about it, the end of that train of thought for me is that religion is useless, there's no point in having specific beliefs, and so on.

And to me, that's upsetting, because I almost feel like it's a kind of religious nihilism.

brian said...

Interesting perspective, Jeff. I can see how you could see it that way. But, I look at it this way. Religions are expressions of spirituality. There is an underlying truth that religions attempt to express. None expresses it perfectly because ultimately all are systems invented by people. Personally, I study several religions and find a lot of good in all of them. I also find bad in all of them.

I don't see it as a religious nihilism at all. Not to sound elitist, I think that when people grow in spirituality, they tend to move beyond religion. It doesn't mean you have to chuck the levels you were at before. But, you do transcend them. You can still understand things from that level. But, you also see them from another level.

For me, I still embrace Christianity because it expresses some deeper truths (although imperfectly). Also, I was born and raised Christian and I find community at Nexus. But, I don't subscribe to all of the particulars of Christianity (if anyone could even nail down what those are given that we have about 30,000 denominations).

There are those who say they are spiritual but not religious. But, I'm not sure it's all that easy to jump right to that. I think religion is important for most people and to try to skip levels. Have you heard much about Spiral Dynamics? I think just as people have evolved (are evolving), individually, we have to pass through these stages.

http://www.spiraldynamics.org/Graves/colors.htm

A great book on religious transcendence is "The Transcended Christian".

Jeff said...

I'm generally skeptical of formulas meant to categorize human behavior. I'm curious what Maslow would say about the fact that I used to buy cigarettes instead of food when I could only afford one of them. :)

I put The Transcended Christian on my Amazon wishlist. From the sound of some of the quotes in the reviews, he may (to a degree) be describing what I already believe. I can't say the question of whether Jesus was wholly God, wholly man, or both at the same time really keeps me up at night when there are people doing without food and medicine.

The only one that I spend a lot of time thinking about is basically whether there's some kind of god, and whether that god figure is primarily loving or primarily judgmental. The rest, I presume, will become clear after shedding this mortal coil.

Anonymous said...

I am a muslim--thankyou for a thoughtful post. There are more than a billion muslims--60% of them in Asia. If all were terrorists-we would be living in a hellish world!!!

There is a lot of misunderstanding about Islam, muslims and the Quran.--It is understandable when the taliban of Afghanistan and the Wahabism of Saudi Arabia are put up as examples of Islam---however this is not the Islam of the people--or of the Quran. Each chapter or surah of the Quran (except one) starts with the phrase--In the name of God, the most compassionate, the most merciful--this is to remind the readers that the highest value is placed on the qualities of compassion and mercy. That these values must be kept in mind when reading the text.

It is important that we muslims--and especially our youth--have a correct understanding of Islam. Efforts are being made within Islam. (though--there are many denominations within Islam---from the mystics, to the progressives, "average joe" or mainstream to the conservatives, fundamentalists and "puritans")

brian said...

I understand your skepticism Jeff. Those personality tests that are meant to put people into neat little boxes turn me off. In one sense, this one (spiral dynamics) is no different. I don't think most people are pure orange, or green or red or whatever and certainly whole societies are not. But, I still think the system is useful for understanding, in general, the development of human consciousness, at least for me. As I was reading yesterday about blues versus oranges versus reds and our political climate, it was making a lot of sense to me.

You say "The only one that I spend a lot of time thinking about is basically whether there's some kind of god, and whether that god figure is primarily loving or primarily judgmental. The rest, I presume, will become clear after shedding this mortal coil." Talk about something that used to keep me up at night! That literally kept me awake all night long more than once when I was a child.

Peace,
Brian

brian said...

Anonymous,

Thanks for your comments. It's always good to hear from an actual Muslim. Unfortunately, I don't know many personally.

Salaam,
Brian

Kansas Bob said...

Great post Brian! As a onetime Christian fundamentalist I resonate with much of what you wrote.

IMO, it seems that the middle is where one might find some "truth" (not the quotes). I don't think that faith is all about the extremes - saying all infidels go to hell and saying no one goes to hell seems to be two different faces of fundamentalism that see faith in black and white terms.

I see gray in faith and while I believe that I am right about faith I am open to the idea that I might be wrong and Muslims might be right.. or maybe faith is all about responding to God in the best way that you know how.

Not wanting to start an argument.. just reflecting on how many see faith in black/white and left/right terms.

Shalom, Bob

brian said...

Bob,

Of course I have to take exception with your characterization of the belief that none go to hell as "fundamentalism". But, actually my post wasn't so much about faith as it was about religion.

To believe that someone is going to hell, one would first have to believe in such a place (or state of mind). To believe G-d would send a person to such a place or place them in such a state of mind one would have to believe in a G-d capable of doing this. Not believing in either, does not represent Fundamentalism, in my mind. It's simply not believing in something. Fundamentalism is an attitude that your way is the only way to "salvation" or "enlightenment". Fundamentalism is believing that you have all of the answers. Fundamentalism is believing in the exclusivity of your path. Fundamentalism is believing you could not possibly be wrong.

I simply don't believe anyone is going to eternal torment for a myriad of reasons (I will not torture you by citing all of them here). I do not believe I am wrong. If I did, I'd change my POV. However, I do not try to force that on anyone. I don't think you have to believe what I believe to be a "good person". And I don't tell anyone they will not be "saved" because they don't believe what I believe. For that reason, I think I am different from a Fundamentalist.

Kansas Bob said...

Thx Brian. I might define fundamentalism a bit different.. I would say that it is an attitude (generally on one issue) that that says your way is the only way on a specific issue.

I may be wrong but some groups that I would deem fundamentalists in their thinking are:

+ atheists - minds closed to the "possibility" God's existence

+ creationists - refuse to accept anything but a literal approach to Genesis

+ evolutionists - except maybe the ones that allow God to be factored into in the theory

+ legalists - hold to an rigid interpretation of the scriptures

+ universalists - see hell and the afterlife in all or nothing terms

I guess what I am getting at is the idea of black and white or right and wrong thinking. This kind of thought seems to separate instead of unite.

But I may be way off.. just wish people were more open minded.

And for the record I think that you may be right about hell.. I hope you are.. I just don't see hell as a black or white issue the way you do.

Shalom, Bob

brian said...

Hmmm... Bob... I hate to disagree with you. But, hell, in this sense anyway, is a black and white issue. Either there is eternal conscious torment of people or there is not. Black or white. Now whether only some go there or none go there. Then you're getting into gray. Hopefully, we're not looking at all go there ;-)

There are two types of people in the world (intentionally ironic)- those who believe some will be sent to eternal conscious torment and those who believe none will be sent. We cannot both be right.

I don't see how taking a stand on an issue and saying you believe what you believe is right is fundamentalist thinking. Yes. I guess it does divide. But, we can't all be of one mind on every issue. The important thing is to respect each other, to treat other with dignity that we deserve as children of G-d. But, we will never have absolutely unity on every topic and I don't think that's the goal.

But, hey, maybe I am a fundamentalist on this issue. If so, I'll accept that, by your definition. I firmly believe that G-d will not send any of Her children to be eternally and consciously tormented and I'm not likely to be swayed on that one.

Peace,
Brian

Kansas Bob said...

Wasn't trying to sway you Brian.. I know better :)

What I am trying to say is that fundamentalism isn't confined to the literalists, legalists and terrorists.. bunch of "ists" there.. but can also be applied to other narrowly defined trains of thought.

I suggest that most evangelicals are much more fundamentalist that they believe that they are.

I suspect that if one claims to be an authority on the existence of hell then they must be one who has come back from the dead.. other than that it is all just (potentially well informed) speculation.

Like I said.. I make room in my thinking that you are right about hell.. you are a bit brighter than I am :)

Kansas Bob said...

And what if hell is not really a place where God torments people? What if it a place where the torment comes from within instead of without? Can you make room for that kind of hell? Just wondering?

Shalom, Bob

brian said...

Bob,

I completely agree with you about the -ists and the -isms. Generally, I avoid them like the plague. But, there are a few things I feel very strongly about. The dignity of human beings (because they are made in the image of G-d) and the nature of G-d Herself. Because of my belief in the nature of G-d, it would take more than a little evidence to persuade me that G-d would condemn His children to eternal torment.

My belief in the non-existence of a place of eternal conscious and intentional torment is based on reasoning, intuition and revelation And, I do not see much reason to believe otherwise. Generally speaking the idea of hell was invented by the ruling class to keep the masses in line. It crept over from the pagans into Christianity between the time of the writing of the Old Testament (where there is NO mention of after death torment) and the time of Jesus.

I simply see very little reason to believe in such a thing, Bob. Not to be trite about it. But, I don't believe in Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny either. I just don't see the evidence for it. Had I not been taught to believe in such a thing since the time I could think, such a thing would never have entered my mind.

I realize there are things I feel very strongly about and I don't see a problem with that. The idea that all ideas, religions, values are equal is a false idea. And, there is nothing wrong with feeling strongly about certain things, as long as you allow others to right to disagree. Some ideas are more right than others. And some things are mutually exclusive. There cannot be the existence of a place of eternal torment and, at the same time not be the existence. So, while I can't say absolutely that I am right and those who believe otherwise are wrong. I can say that one of us is right and one of us is wrong. But, I'm willing to respect them, fellowship with them and value their right to hold their opinion.

brian said...

Yes, Bob. I can make room for that type of torment- torment from within. Some are undergoing it right now here on this plane. And, I believe there is evidence that that may continue after death. That's why I'm very specific when I talk about hell to say I don't believe in eternal conscious torment inflicted intentionally by G-d. That's what most Christians see Hell as. It's G-d's pay back torture chamber. The place where G-d gets even by torturing G-d's "enemies". That, is what I reject categorically.

My personal belief, some will experience the presence of G-d as pleasant, some will experience it as not pleasant (at first). I believe we all undergo a "judgment". I don't think people automatically pass from this existence into an existence of eternal bliss.

Kansas Bob said...

As always I am enjoying the dialog Brian.

I don't think that the stretch between a hell that has "torment from within" is that far from one where the torment is external because God created us with the ability have "torment from within".. either position involves God having either an active or passive tole in the torment.

And I guess I don't see the logic in a temporary time of judgment or hell as I see time as a part of creation and see no evidence that it exists after death.. but I could be wrong.

Shalom, Bob

brian said...

Agreed on the time thing, Bob. But, I can't wrap my head around timeless existence which I guess is where the idea that whatever state you die in either bound for heaven or bound for hell lasts forever.

To me, it's one VERY large leap from G-d allowing suffering to G-d purposely creating a chamber of horrors and then keeping people alive to suffer interminably. And, I do not believe that G-d would allow suffering to continue "forever" (whatever that means in a timeless state). Talk about something that defies logic. What purpose would that serve? Eternal suffering with no chance of redemption? If temporary hell makes no sense, does eternal hell make more sense?

Kansas Bob said...

"If temporary hell makes no sense, does eternal hell make more sense?"

I don't see the logic in anything temporary after death.. but then again I am still on this side of death :)

IMO, the torment of hell is from within and not from without.. but I would be happy if it does not exist and everyone in the afterlife loves God.. hmmm.. does that mean that God will make people love Him?

brian said...

Depends on what you mean by G-d, Bob. That is one loaded word.

According to Talbott (who I agree with on this point), sane people do what is in their best interest. Make that sane, fully informed people.

It's only in one's best interest to love G-d because in a sense, we are all One and G-d is what is at the core of each of us. Talbott titled his book "The Inescapable Love of God". I think a better title might have been "The Irresistible Love of God".

I'm curious. Since you view nothing on the other side as temporary, just how do you view it? If Heaven is a big old party lasting forever, is Hell torment lasting forever?

As I said, existence without time is something I cannot fathom. So, I cannot explain my temporary suffering POV. As I said, I can make an allowance for that, I'm not saying it's necessarily so. But, my point is this. Suffering, without end and with no chance of escape is pointless and sadistic. Suffering in this life can at least be seen as learning experience and is temporary and with limits. The Hell Christians posit is beyond anything we've ever seen or imagined on this plane and they claim it's the creation of a God who is pure love. The very thought of it makes me ill.

Kansas Bob said...

Didn't mean to hijack your post Brian with a discussion of hell.. but I guess one thing lead to another :)

All I really mean by "loving God" is simply responding to His love.. I guess after we die we might all love Him.. that is one of the possibilities.. but what do we do with the possibility that some may not love Him after death.. do we say that it doesn't matter? To me it is logical to consider that possibility when we contemplate the afterlife.. I think that our thinking is just as narrow as the fire and brimstone folks if we don't at least consider the possibility that all may not love God.

Reiterating, to me it is just a matter of not being locked in 100% to one POV.. then again you might be right about hell and maybe there is no room for doubt.

I appreciate you Brian.

Shalom, Bob

brian said...

Bob,

I hope you're not taking me the wrong way. There's plenty of room for others to doubt. But, this is one issue where the doubt, for me, is just about gone. I'm 99.99% sure on this one. How's that for leaving room for doubt?

My view of G-d has evolved tremendously over the years (as has my view on a lot of other things). The way I see G-d now there is no possibility of not loving "Him". G-d's love is inescapable and irresistible. I believe C.S. Lewis called G-d the Hound of Heaven. If one views God more like the God I grew up with, an external being in the sky much like Zeus with the long beard and the throne, there's a lot of room for not loving that guy.

brian said...

Oh, BTW, Bob. It's not hijacking. I love when we get a conversation going. Besides, how many threads have I hijacked on your board?

Kansas Bob said...

I hear what you are saying Brian.. glad you are 99.99% sure.. at least there is that .01% of doubt :)

For me, I like the mystery of leaving it in God's hands.. hell is not a deal-breaker for me.. neither is God's judgment on all but Noah and his family.. guess I don't have a deal-breaker when it comes to God.. not that I know of right now any way :)

brian said...

Deal breaker? I have no deal breaker either, Bob.

I'm very comfortable with mystery in a lot of areas, Bob. Much, much moreso than I have ever been. I was the guy who had to know everything for certain, have everything proven. Not anymore.

Maybe tomorrow (soon anyway), I'll post more on why this is so personal for me and something I simply cannot just leave to "mystery" though. I've written about it before. But, it's probably worth saying again.

I simply don't see a reason to leave this to mystery though. I think it goes to the core of the meaning of life for one thing. Are we here only for a moment and the ultimate goal is to escape the flames of hell? I think that's a question worth pursuing. Also, of the evidence were 50/50, yeah OK "mystery". But, I see no evidence of an eternal state of conscious torture outside of the (questionable) interpretation of a few passages of scripture in the New Testament. I've got no problem with you leaving it to mystery though.

Peace,
Brian

Kansas Bob said...

I think that the question of hell begs the question of why do we need to know? What difference does it make whether hell exists or it does not exist? Here are a few scenarios:

Fundamentalist A sez that the existence of hell motivates them to preach the gospel.

Fundamentalist B sez that the existence of Hell creates an untenable picture of God.

Both use the bible to support their positions.. each believe that thy are correct.. nothing changes because it is not about hell.. it is about something else.

Fundie A doesn't need hell to exist to motivate them to share their faith.. they just need to have love for people.

Fundie B doesn't need hell to not exist to see God as a love.. they just need to understand the cross.

Feel free to deep six these thoughts.. not sure that they make sense to anyone but me.

Shalom, Bob

brian said...

Bob,

I won't deep six your thoughts. But, I'd like to add a little to Fundy B's scenario.

The existence of a place of eternal torment awaiting most of humanity of this life does matter greatly. It matters in how we perceive G-d. If G-d is going to eternal torment His enemies, it implicitly gives us permission to as well. If G-d is unwilling or unable to truly forgive, it gives us permission to be the same way. I think people become like the G-d they serve (or at least they should). People who believe in Hell, I believe are probably more likely to support capital punishment (it's nothing near as bad as G-d treats His enemies)a, probably more likely to give up on people and probably more likely to look down on people of other faiths because after all, they're worthy of eternal punishment anyway.

The very thought that G-d could create creatures hopeless bound for eternal torment (Calvinism) makes this life unbearable for a lot of people. Even if they can convince themselves that G-d will somehow spare them, they are sensitive enough to the fate of others to not be able to sleep or even function with the knowledge that as they walk down the street the vast majority of the people they see are hurtling toward a fate a billion times worse than anything we've ever been able to create on Earth.

Yes, for many of us, it does matter and it matters greatly.

I think the "it's a mystery" position is a compromise. For me, it was a way station. I was stuck there because I had to be. People who have been taught the Bible teaches this can't just chuck the Bible. However, their human sensibilities won't allow them to really accept what they feel they have to believe. So, they reach the compromise position of "I don't know." I think this is based on the tension between what they perceive the Bible to say and what they feel in their hearts is right and just.

Sorry, if this comes across as me trying to convince you. I'm not. Just as I know you are not trying to convince me. I'm simply sharing my observations.

Peace,
Brian

Don said...

Brian-I find myself with you on this issue (big surprise to you). Especially in regard to Bob's idea:

"What difference does it make whether hell exists or it does not exist?"

IMO, if I believe that it doesn't matter about hell, my beliefs about who or what God is doesn't matter as well. My whole belief in the non-existence of ECT is predicated on my belief in the unconditional love of God. If hell's a non-issue to me it's because of my belief about God.
Bob & Brian- I have really enjoyed the conversation here. Thanks for keeping it on such a genial plane.

brian said...

Don,

As I said in my comment to Bob. It makes a huge difference for some of us. Right here and right now. One fear of those who insist on an eternal hell is that it is the only thing that keeps people in line. Well, I've found that since I know longer have that belief, I think I'm a "better" person than I was before. Weird, huh?

Peace,
Brian

Kansas Bob said...

Like Don, I have been enjoying the conversation too Brian.. helps that we each respect each other :)

The mystery position may be a compromise position Brian.. I see that as a good thing.

About "It matters in how we perceive G-d."

On the flip side of your position I think that universalists can be guilty of making God into their own image of what a God of love looks like. I make room for a God who is love even though He allows self-inflicted suffering before and after death.. I don't believe that God causes suffering before of after death.

The indictment against God is often "How can a God of love allow suffering?" I think that your position basically moves the question to the afterlife. Maybe it would be helpful to answer the before death question first?

I really don't understand why God allows babies to be born addicted to crack.. or any of the many ways that the innocent suffer.. it doesn't make sense to me. I could get angry about it and blame God for the suffering.. instead I look at the cross and understand that He is a God of love.. and find that I can deal with the unanswerable questions.

I guess I think that we need to deal with the hells on earth and maybe then we can deal with the afterlife stuff.. the issues are not all that different.

Shalom, Bob

brian said...

Bob,

The hell you present, is not the hell I was taught about nor the Hell of Dante and I daresay not the hell most Christians believe in. A hell where G-d simply allows suffering rather than a place prepared to inflict suffering is a different kettle of fish. It reminds of of C.S. Lewis', The Great Divorce. I leapt for joy when I read that book because a Hell I could escape from was much more palatable for me than what I had been taught.

However, for me it raises the question of the purpose of eternal suffering and G-ds inability or unwillingness to stop suffering that is so obviously pointless.

Suffering on this plane at least makes a modicum of sense. Free will, learning, growth, experience and it's limited. Suffering (and only suffering) "eternally" is something that would require a lot of evidence for me to believe in largely because I simply cannot even imagine what the point could be.

Kansas Bob said...

Maybe my view of hell is not the orthodox view of hell but, IMO, it is one consistent with the scriptures. If you want to debate the traditional view of hell I am not your guy.. to reiterate.. I see suffering pre/post death as something that is not inflicted by God. I am okay if you don't want to discuss that though.

I am confused though.. how does the suffering of the innocent (i.e. crack babies) on this plane make sense? It makes no sense to me.

I understand that you see eternity as a future thing but I think that this life is a part of eternity.. I simply can't throw out the complications of suffering in the present when I consider the future.. my actions today often have implications on the future.. it is just the way (IMO) that God designed things.

Shalom, Bob

brian said...

Bob,

I'm happy to discuss whatever view of hell you have or want to discuss. I'm just saying your view is not the view I talk about most of the time on my blog. Which is usually why I say "ECT" instead of Hell. Eternal Conscious Torment. I think it's safe to say the traditional view of Hell is G-d inflicting the torment.

Bob, I don't understand eternity. I'd be lying if I said I did. I can put together some words and I've read lots about timeless existence. Even from people who have experienced it. But, my mind can't go there. I still see eternity as endless time. I'm afraid unless I achieve some quantum leap in enlightenment that's the best I'm going to do until I shed this body.

Crack babies and suffering can be explained in an number of ways. I guess none of them completely satisfactory but at least they make sense at some level- karma is the most common. Natural consequence would be another. Free will (I guess maybe the same as natural consequence). And, suffering on this plane, at least CAN be redemptive. It's all temporary, it's all limited. We can learn from it, grow and we can even escape it. Suffering "eternally" I've never heard anything even close to a good explanation for that. Payment for sins (infinite payment?), glory of G-d (huh?).

Kansas Bob said...

I guess the main difference between your thinking and mine is that you separate existence before and after death. You change the rules between the realms and I see one as a continuum of the other.

You may be right Brian.. evil people might change after they die.. they may not only bow before God but maybe they will also profess a love for Him.. maybe everything will change and what we did before death will be meaningless after death.. it is also (IMO) a dark picture of a God who says that says that what we do today has no meaning tomorrow.. I find that God to be a bit untrustable.. but maybe I'm wrong?

Shalom, Bob

brian said...

I hope I'm not sensing sarcasm.

Just to clarify, I don't think the rules change before and after death, Bob. And, I do not separate existence before and after death. I think most Christians do. I am learning you do not. As I was taught, Christians see a line being drawn after death. You're in or you're out. You go to eternal bliss or you go to eternal punishment. You're in the "presence of G-d" or you're in eternal darkness. This Earth is neither pure bliss nor pure punishment for most of us. So, to me, that is changing the rules after death and drawing a line between the two.

I don't know what the rules are after death. I simply do not think it makes any sense that God would torment people "forever" or to allow them to remain in a state of torment "forever". I don't know what "eternity" means outside of this body. To me, it is changing the rules to think some people will experience pure Hell, torment after death for an "eternity"? No one experiences that now.

And I've never said that everything we've done before death will be meaningless. I'm surprised you'd imply that I have. Everything we does has meaning, more than most of us realize.

Lastly, the Bible says every knee will bow, every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. I know you know that. Why would you say "...they may not only bow before God but maybe they will also profess a love for Him.." (emphasis mine) There's no maybe about it according to the New Testament. Philippians 2:10 is pretty clear.

Kansas Bob said...

No sarcasm intended.. sorry if it was communicated.

I agree that everyone will bow to God but do not think that everyone will love God. From your response it seems that you feel that all will love God after they die.. maybe I am reading too much into your response though.

To me, saying that all will love God (once they see Him) cheapens what it means to love because there is no cost to that kind of free love.. I guess I am not a fan of cheap love.

What meaning do you think our lives on earth will have after we die? If it all pans out in the end and the person oppressed stands side-by-side with their cruel oppressor then what is the difference.. what did our life on earth matter? It seems to me (and I may be misunderstanding) that if it is all good than nothing is really bad and nothing we do here really matters.

Sorry if this comes across wrong.. I don't mean to be ultra-confrontive.. just trying to really understand where you are coming from and trying my best to put words to my thoughts.

Shalom, Bob

brian said...

Bob,

No worries, even if you were being sarcastic, it happens.

I don't have all of the answers. This reminds me of the days when I used to proselytize and the atheists would keep firing all the questions at me like my theology had to be complete and perfect before they could accept any of it. Yet, I am happy to share with you what I believe, at least what I believe now.

Conflict doesn't have to exist forever for what we do on Earth to have meaning. If someone harms you and you forgive him and reconcile, does that mean it didn't happen? Does it mean it doesn't matter? Do you hold a grudge forever so that the offense had meaning? I don't see why it's necessary for there to be eternal conflict and separation for our lives here to have meaning, as if reconciliation somehow makes our lives meaningless.

You and I see G-d differently. So, I have to try to keep my comments relevant to your view. Rather than assume, why don't you tell me what your thoughts are of what you mean by "cheap love" and what the cost of love should be. And, when the non-believer sees G-d, what are the possible options? Could He love G-d then? Would it matter? Is it too late?

As I said, the Bible clearly says all will confess Jesus is Lord. It says nothing about coercion and from what I understand the Greek implies that this is a voluntary submission, not a forced one. But, don't ask me to prove that. I read that in a book somewhere years ago and I can't remember which one. But, why would a omnipotent G-d need the pleasure of having His "enemies" bow before Him before He puts them to torture?

Kansas Bob said...

I think that you are right Brian.. we do come from a different perspective on the nature of things like God and love. To directly answer your questions..

Cheap love: love without substance.. in a sense it is a distortion of what it means to love.. this kind of love fails when it is put to the test.. think of the parable of the sower and the seed.

The Cost of Love: Jesus set the example for us.. deny yourself, take up your own cross and follow Him.. it is a high bar but it embodies what I think it is to love.

Your idea of reconciliation is a noble one that seems to indicate that everyone will eventually repent.. something that I think needs to happen for true reconciliation.

I hope you are right about that.. I would love to live in an existence where everyone repents.. where the cruel oppressor is transformed and apologizes to those they oppressed.. I like the picture that you paint Brian.. it is a great picture but I don't find it consistent with the reality that I experience this side of life where people are accountable for what they do.

Of course maybe once Satan is taken out of the picture.. that is (sarcasm alert!) if God refuses to forgive him.. people will be different.. I don't know.. maybe..

I sincerely wish that we lived closer Brian.. you are one of the most gracious people I know (online anyway).. I appreciate you.

In friendship, Bob

brian said...

Bob,

Have you ever read "Justice" in Unspoken Sermons by George MacDonald? Oh, I LOVE that sermon. If you haven't read it, I'll send you a link. It's pretty long. But, it puts into words what I cannot.

I agree that love is willing to pay a price. That is what Jesus did. Jesus is a beautiful, beautiful example of what love is. Jesus paid a price to get our attention/love. But, we don't have to pay a price to get His love. You seem to imply it's necessary to pay a price to have love. That confuses me. A mother loves her baby unconditionally. She would do anything for her. But, the baby doesn't have to do anything to get the mother's love. Yes, if we love Jesus, we will keep His commandments. And, if we love G-d, we will keep His commandments, not out of obligation, not out of duty but out of love and eventually, we will become enlightened enough to see because it's in our own self-interest.

I keep hearing a theme of accountability from you. Ironically, it's one of the objections I used to get to Christianity. People could not accept that you could live a life full of sin and causing pain and hurt and just say the Sinner's Prayer on your death bed (with sincerity) and the next instant be in Heaven with all forgiven. How would you respond to that, Bob? Most Christians I know reject the idea of karma (you reap what you sow) because they say Jesus took that away.

Kansas Bob said...

I think that our love is a simple response to His love Brian.. we love because He first loved us.

The accountability I am talking about is a simple response to His love.. a simple response to the Love Spirit (i.e. God's Spirit). It is not about performance or following a bunch of rules. I leave room for this simple response after death but I do not think that the response is an automatic one.. before or after death.

brian said...

Bob said" I think that our love is a simple response to His love Brian.. we love because He first loved us."

OK. I've got no problem with that.


Bob also said "The accountability I am talking about is a simple response to His love.. a simple response to the Love Spirit (i.e. God's Spirit). It is not about performance or following a bunch of rules. I leave room for this simple response after death but I do not think that the response is an automatic one.. before or after death."

Agreed.

Namaste,
Brian