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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Be pure of mind

Jesus used Poe's Law often.

There are many things Jesus said in sarcasm or tongue-in-cheek that his devoted but frightened followers actually take seriously.

For example, do you really think Jesus believed that looking at a woman and experiencing sexual attraction was equal to adultery? Do you really think Jesus felt that those "guilty of" masturbation should feel offended and cut their hand off or that those "guilty of" looking at an attractive woman should feel offended and poke their eyes out so as to avoid ending up in a garbage heap? Do you really think Jesus felt that people should fear the one who can destroy both body and soul rather than just those who can only destroy the body?

Or is it possible Jesus was making fun of the absurd claims of purity by the self-righteous traditionalists and making use of Poe's Law?

Do not get me wrong. I am not making an argument for not regulating our behavior or exercising appropriate social tact as we deal with many of our biologically induced responses. We can exercise a reasonable degree of self control, and that should be more than sufficient. But an obsession with a fake standard of purity as if God required such antiseptic brains strikes me as not only absurd but also as responsible for a great deal of over reaction that actually makes those problems even worse.

I have never met a porn addict, for example, who was not also deeply entrenched in and energized by dark shame and self loathing at a very personal and private level. They have no clue how it is their shame combined with a false standard of purity that causes them to give up the impossible and then give in to their miserable inclinations with utter hopelessness. They might even hide it by dismissing the entire conflict altogether.

They would simply be better off thinking to themselves something like, "WOw!," and then 3 seconds later moving on into more worthwhile activities. Do we realize how much sexual damage we do to others by being so extreme in our absurd standards?

Friday, December 14, 2012

Accept Jesus as your personal savior or else...

Accept Jesus as your personal savior or you will burn in hell for all eternity.

This sounds way too much like the criminal organization of heaven. Where the real threat is from God who is making us an offer we can't refuse of turn or burn whereby we must join the organization and offer it our loyalty in order to escape the mayhem that would never come our way if it were not for the very one also making us the offer of grace.

If God's love is insufficient on its own to bring us into fellowship then it is insufficient for everything. Creating all this fearful drama is ridiculous.

To think that any one's eternal destiny is fully dependent upon their acceptance of unverifiable terms is not just absurd, it is insane and abusive beyond measure.

That is not good news. That god should not be worshiped, he should be indicted for racketeering.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

A little bit about my personal life

In this show I share aspects of my personal experience that shaped my self-perception in a way that brought me to a fundamentalist faith and how changes in my self-perception brought me to a new and different faith.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Intelligence, maturity, love

I think it was Socrates who thought it was a sign of intelligence when you can understand a notion you do not agree with, but I disagree. You actually have no moral justification to agree with or disagree with an idea you do not understand.

Perhaps something is lost in translation but it seems to me it is a sign of maturity when you can genuinely understand an idea you do not agree with to the satisfaction of those who hold it dear. Sadly most people begin critiquing the faults of an idea before they give themselves an opportunity to genuinely appreciate it from a standpoint that is not their own.

What do you have to lose by simply understanding an idea you do not agree with? Is it really difficult or is it just repulsive? Maybe our consistency is in part due to our willful and deliberate blindness.

My friend Warren Aldrich said, "It seems to me that the value of understanding is about the person who you are conversing with. Having this idea be abstract is nice but when it's in relationship to another it becomes love."

Well said Warren.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

So what do you think of speaking in tongues?

Speaking in tongues is an excellent practice - it is also a myth. There is absolutely no evidence of any sort that any claim to an actual language is ever a part of it. That is just stuff people make up in their attempt to justify it as some sort of spiritual gift. But I contend that it is ignorance and nonsense.

However, I also speak in tongues. WHY? you might ask.

I believe the actual and original practice of speaking in tongues was the mere enunciation and vocalization of pure gibberish. It is an excellent way of connecting with the inarticulate part of yourself.

Praying in tongues is a way of saying what you need to say but have absolutely no idea how to say it, what to say, or why you should even say it. It is an emotional release. It allows you to feel that you have really gotten it off your chest. It is an act of faith that God knows what is in your heart even if you don't and by deliberately opening your mouth and letting phonemes proceed you can actually develop the habitual sense that you have successfully expressed your deepest self even when you have no clue what your deepest self is thinking or feeling.

I highly recommend it, but I do not for a moment think that it is anything supernatural or an actual language. It is merely a useful therapeutic practice.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

A spiritual coment about the political season

It is not possible to be a liberal without becoming entangled in denial, delusion, hallucination, anger, anti-social behavior, grandiosity or paranoia.

It is not possible to be a conservative without becoming entangled in denial, delusion, hallucination, anger, anti-social behavior, grandiosity or paranoia.

It is not possible to be a libertarian without becoming entangled in denial, delusion, hallucination, anger, anti-social behavior, grandiosity or paranoia.

It is not possible to be devoted to ANY distinct philosophy without becoming entangled in denial, delusion, hallucination, anger, anti-social behavior, grandiosity or paranoia.

Responsible living and responsible thought never settles into fixed modalities of thinking but is always searching for the balance in the strengths and weaknesses of multiple modes of perspective. Engage your brain and discover a whole world of ideas that have merit outside your own little box.

Sure they will all accuse you of belonging to "them" and not "us" but in time it will rub off on others in ways they had not expected.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Is love being kind and thereby a tad dishonest?

On my facebook page I posted the following statement:
Love. Oh that we were truly experts at it. We would then help others see they are loved not because we are so nice but because they are indeed so truly lovely. We might never succeed at it but wouldn't it be wonderful if we were so good at loving others that when they get to heaven and find the love of God their reaction would be unremarkable.

I received a positive response that raised this question which I have paraphrased like this: 
But are we really lovely? True that love is redemptive and I enjoy what you say about those things but we are not really lovely, we love because we were first loved?

My response:
Not to get overly semantic. It is true that being loved is a prerequisite to acquiring the ability. But that only explains how we acquired the courage to engage in the behavior. When we have been loved and realize that the reason God loves us is because we are lovely that is when we dare take the courage to take another look at ourselves all the way down to the very core.

With new eyes, where we once saw imperfection and failure we now see potential and developmental progress. We see ourselves differently and while becoming totally honest we experience a paradigm shift that alters the significance of that which we feel no need to deny. After a while we discover that all those issues that made us feel unlovely were either misunderstood, total lies, out of focus, or issues irrelevant to our essence as authentic loveliness.

In time, we start to see the truth. YOU ARE LOVELY independent of your ability to see it. God loves you, not because He is nice but because He is honest. You begin to see that the major energy behind any stalled development, any bad behavior, and everything we might label "sin" is merely a case in point of the pathology of a person trying to survive the lie that they are not already lovely.

Love begins to heal us when we experience it. Next it takes on more healing power when we reflect it. But its power is unleashed 100 fold when we realize love is an expression of an honest evaluation and the kindness of love is not just "nice" it is appropriate to the value previously hidden from our eyes. It was hidden because we thought all that other stuff, real as it may or may not be, had something to do with who and what we are in our essence. And now we see it does not. Everything that goes wrong, every mark that is missed is ether the result of an underdeveloped potential or the result of a destructive burden created by living in the lie that you are not lovely.

We discover that living loved is the only honest way to see ourselves and others. Living loved enables us to grow towards our potential without unnecessary delay and it lifts the burden of the lie of ugliness off our backs so that our performance may become unencumbered.

Love is not just nice it is honest.

Friday, September 7, 2012

How do we change how someone else thinks?

Some people, when they hear you say something they do not agree with, will insist that you document all your assertions and come up with a compelling proof in a point by point compelling argument. If you fail to do this to their satisfaction they feel fully justified in dismissing you and your ideas. This is so true when discussing theology, politics or getting down to the bottom of a dispute or settling a personal grievance.

I have found that when anyone attempts to do this (document and explain detail by detail), it always gets bogged down in details, gets to where no one can ever see the forest for the trees unless they already see them, and only results in more robust spin leaving both people and their opinions even more divided.

Speaking in summary is therefore, strange as it may seem, the only way to get to the point. And the point sits their unproven and uncompelling. Discussing details at that point helps us to merely somewhat appreciate how the point was reached. I have come to the opinion that the strategy of a detailed point by point discussion not only fails but the failure of it then also degenerates into a dishonest habit for avoiding responsible thinking. We enable ourselves and others to use the failure of such a strategy as the detailed sequential argument, that we can take advantage of failure and justify digging in our cognitive stubbornness.

A solid well expressed sequential argument is a useful tool, but only for those interested in understanding how another thinks without necessarily having any interest in being convinced, without having any concern with defending a contrary point of view. It is also useful to those who are already convinced of an opinion but wish to sharpen their understanding of how it can coherently be grasped.

But here is the truth about how opinions are formed in the real world. All of us have gotten to our perspective as the result of a lengthy history in developing it in a process of confusion and various possible explanations that eventually gel into some form of coherence and then we settle into an opinion. It is RARE that it is by looking at the details in a sequential argument for something we do not agree with and then arriving at the proper change in thinking through what we see as a compelling conclusion. Anyone who claims they come to an opinion that way on a regular basis is either naive, not self-aware, or they are simply not being honest with themselves.

So in spite of how wonderful the idea seems on the surface, that approach is actually synthetic and contrary to our nature and regular routine as developing humans. This is why my approach when expressing my unconventional views has been to speak in generalities, and then to also offer a few details. I can give even more details when asked in a friendly and respectful manner. But I then refuse to be the one whose responsibility it is to convince someone of my perspective.

How another person thinks is THEIR responsibility and how they dismiss or reconsider what I have to say is THEIR responsibility. There is a sense in which it is not my problem and I only injure a person's ability to truly think things through for themselves by trying to do their thinking for them. Only you can go through the process that could possibly result in changing how you think. The generalities that I or others speak in can alert you to the fact that there are others who think differently than you do and the few details they give you can give you a few pieces of information that actually feel as if they are out of context from within your own point of view.

This might create in you some dissonance and that is sufficient for now. It then becomes your responsibility to decide if this is an issue worth your time to reconsider ON YOUR OWN. And if you decide to reconsider things you might inquire about ongoing details and eventually in time arrive at a new way of seeing things. You might after an honest and thorough consideration change your views some but still disagree with what you had considered. Or you might decide the issue is unworthy of your genuine consideration and move along. Hopefully if you do that, you will also be honest about the fact that you did not really sufficiently explore the idea so as to be able to definitively dismiss it.

Our confusion about how we and other people actually arrive at conclusions is part of why we end up talking in circles and resorting to mere spin. The other reason is that since people do not take responsibility for their own thinking and try to think for you, this means that talking in circles is as far as we can take it. When this happens it represents a breakdown in honest conversation.

Give honesty a chance, be prepared to enter every phase of your life with various paradigm shifts. Don't get stuck in defending various fixed beliefs that were embraced by a younger less experienced you.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Are Intellectuals dangerous; is all philosophy vain?

If a person has an IQ of, say, 180, they will be comfortable wrestling with the logic of concepts well suited to their capacity. On the other hand if a person has an IQ of, say 100, then they will only be able to comfortably handle ideas and concepts in a basically average way.

It is a completely responsible thing for the person with the 180 IQ to entertain and consider the ideas and concepts well within their grasp. It would actually be irresponsible for them not to. But the person with the 100 IQ cannot deal with those exact same ideas responsibly. As a population, we vary considerably in our capacity.

The problem of intellectualism does not arise until you get the highly intelligent person demanding that the average person agree with them. "Intellectualism" is for intellectuals only; they can deal with these things and they indeed MUST do so without silencing their peers of opposing opinions. But intellectuals of every and any opinion, persuasion or philosophy are violating others when they demand of them conformity and loyalty to their ideas.

How can a preacher demand of you that you forsake the philosophy of Jacques Derrida or Karl Marx, for example. If their philosophies are notions you cannot make heads or tails of? In honesty you should be allowed to decide for yourself what you will do with those notions. The intellectual must be free to express what it is they can and cannot accept but they can only offer it for your consideration. The intellectual must save the arguing and stronger language in discussions with their peers. It is not a fair fight if one shows up with an assault rifle and the other shows up with a pea shooter; and this is true without regard to which side of the argument might be "correct."

If there is an idea you cannot understand, then the only honest position you can take is, "I don't know what to think about that idea." You really have no choice but to move on and ponder possibilities until you can take personal responsibility for how it settles in you. And if some intellectual comes along warning you that you will be taken astray into doctrines of demons, you have no way of knowing if I that intellectual is the one actually manipulating you.

As I understand it, not all philosophy is vain, but philosophy becomes vain when it is forced upon others by an intellectual who knows full well that they are forcing these ideas on people incapable of appreciating the implications and the strengths and weaknesses of the ideas. This is also true when the person forcing the ideas is merely repeating the party line they have already bought into. When someone shares an idea inside their area of expertise but outside your area of expertise -- that is fully acceptable. But if they demand from you compliance and agreement to notions beyond your own area of expertise, then they are trying to make you fear the consequences while also presenting themselves to you in a vain manner where what they really want you to do is think to yourself, "WOW, that guy is one smart dude." This is  the essence of "vain philosophy."

We all need to be a bit more honest about what we do and do not grasp. We cannot save the world by using only those ideas intellectuals understand because we cannot in honesty all get on board. Nor can we save the world by telling the intellectual to shut up and leave us alone. Let us not in pour pursuit of a spiritual foundation get in a battle against the intellectual.

Love IS the answer for everyone, respect is the default mode for those who are different in capacity and opinion. We can leave the wonderful questions to those well able to ask and answer them. But we have nothing to fear from the intellectual until they actually arrive with demands.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Grasping for a theology I can trust

I have no desire to be a stick in the mud but I do not think any compelling argument can be made from what the early church believed about anything.

It is certainly interesting and certainly worthy of consideration, but it seems to me that Jesus no sooner disappears and power struggles, legalism and Gnosticism are already worming their way into the message as we see in the book of Acts and the letters of Paul. After 70 AD, Semitic perspective is eschewed and the church begins a tailspin deep into Greek philosophy. Once the original Apostles are dead there are no brakes to that trend and the church body as a whole redefines every New Testament word in terms of its Greek back story while adding an overstated drama inventing ecclesiastical meaning instead of seeing the biblical text in its actual historical context. I am not saying they did this out of deliberate intent to distort but simply out of an uneducated assumption that these words precipitated from a Jewish sect must obviously mean what they mean "to me." And thus was invented the tradition of unscholarly study of Greek where it is studied with rigid grammar and no research into linguistic significance except when confused. This trend continues to this very day. It will be hard to change it because it would require a great number of esteemed leaders to admit they were wrong.

We did not suddenly find ourselves victims of the heresies of Augustine of Hippo. He merely sealed the deal once and for all and the church has ever since been a cult of hidden anti-Semitic attitudes married to Greek Philosophy involved in horrific power struggles to reestablish absurd concepts or substitutes for apostolic authority. It is Augustine's false teachings that forever plunged the church into a required organizational structure as that remained the only way to sustain his paradigm. And yet it violates every principle Jesus and Paul taught about the nature of the relationship Christ has with the individual.

The Roman Catholic monolith could not establish its power grip until after Augustine. The so called Protestant reformers were themselves grasping for power. I can empathize as they required some sort of power to counter the Roman church. So as they saw it, they had no choice but to go no farther back than Augustine. In a sense Protestantism simply went back to the same poisoned root and became a different kind of Catholicism.

Back to my opening statement - I think the only arguments we can make are those that consider the possibilities and rely upon the potential for coherence when as many factors as possible are wrestled with.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Where does sin come from?

I certainly admit that all human beings struggle with questions of right and wrong. I certainly admit that for all of us by the time we become adults, we have acquired insecurities and fears that paint us into moral corners whereby we feel as though we absolutely MUST do, or must indulge in, or must have things we at another level recognize are wrong. This is the problem we often refer to as "sin."

But when we start to make up stories about how people are "born sinners" we are acting and thinking out of an ongoing fear and insecurity. We are not being honest about the role we play. It is a fearful and risky thing for us as caregivers of the next generation to admit that in spite of how deeply we love and adore our offspring, we also at times rob them of security, we also at times teach them to fear what we fear. We have modeled for them our own lack of figuring it out as we unwittingly justify our immaturity before their faces.

Now I do not blame any of us for doing this. I do not see a way out that stops every cycle suddenly and completely. I admit that this is the human condition that I also participate in. This is the human condition that each generation can only dilute by ever more embracing the love of God. We cannot break every cycle of human insecurity and fear completely but we can dilute it by living loved. Some aspects of our cultural heritage is a cycle we sometimes can only spin out of. We cannot always simply rise above it immediately and thoroughly.

But let us be done with this unbiblical notion that the reason we all grow up to be "sinners" is because we are born that way. We are not being honest or owning our responsibility in admitting that even in ways we had not anticipated, we raised the next generation to be this way. Even those of us who have done a commendable and spectacular job raising the next generation still lacked full and complete wisdom. Part of living loved is to accept our own role in this cycle and to embrace living loved for the sake of the next generation so that each successive generation might excel at living loved even more than our generation.

This is one of the strategies God had in mind when he designed us to live indwelt by His presence. Self control is a fruit of the spirit, it grows naturally when we abide in the love of God.

Doing the right thing will always be an option. Falling short of "the mark" is an inevitable part of a developmental process both individually and systemically as a people. But we only make it worse when we teach the next generation this false and unbiblical idea that they were somehow born this way. We are sidestepping and failing to be honest about our contribution to the ongoing problems of the world. We are also teaching them to disown their responsibility towards the next generation.

Learn to live loved, learn to be honest. Get rid of all that foolish theology that degrades us and accuses God of great evil. God made you lovely. He has no problem with you. He desires to redeem and restore all things.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

political perspectives

Sometimes I find it amusing that every single political philosophy is strongly adhered to mostly by people who have no clue how they distort the other political philosophies into some obtuse caricature. Could this be a sign that political philosophies are actually nothing more than maladaptive coping mechanisms? Do they give us hope in a world that does not really love?

Then again, sometimes I find it irritating.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Do you feel loved?

I'm am not really sure exactly how, step by step, my thinking evolved. But from the time I was 19 until about 30 I often felt totally abandoned by God. I was a disciplined disciple doing the things they told me would work. I read my bible from cover to cover several times each year. I had a few different translations on tape and was often listening to those tapes whenever I was alone. I even read the Greek New Testament through every year at least once. I attended the Change The World School of Prayer and learned how to pray for an hour or more every day. I would even practice getting out of bed several times in a row and begin praying so that whenever I got out of bed my first thought would be to pray. I read through all the church fathers whose works were available in English and read many early church documents written in Greek.

But the roller coaster never ended. And to be honest, the issues and personal problems were not making any progress. I finally gave it all up and concluded that there were 2 huge differences between me and many others who were not on that same roller coaster. 1) Many of them were not recovering from the debilitating emotional abuse I was seeking to recover from, and 2) God does not really work that way, even for those who claim He does - when I would ask them specific questions, their stories were just too full of holes for me to buy into anymore.

That was when I realized that the only iron clad promise I had from God was that he lived inside of me in deep mystical union with a non-verbal joy and love for me - all I got from Him was His loving presence. Nothing else was needed or promised. I came to realize that I was looking for confirmation of His love in what I imagined He did or how I imagined He was orchestrating my circumstances. However, When I began to simply abide in His presence living loved, the roller coaster ride ended.

To experience the indescribable sense of the indwelling Christ fully in love with you and full of joy at our union is to know of a love that cannot be talked about. Come to the embrace and know it for yourself, is all I can say

"I can do all things through Christ" was a phrase that changed in its meaning. I no longer ask God to do anything for me or to change my situation, I simply get up and do it myself if possible.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Live Video Blog coming in August

More details will be forthcoming, but starting on August 12 there will be a live video stream on Sunday and Wednesday evenings. The live show and on demand repeat streaming will be found at The New Covenant Group but they have given me full freedom to create and manage the content.

I am interested in doing a show that includes considerable dialog with those who are comfortable thinking for themselves. If you would like to be a guest on the show let me know by contacting me on facebook.

Offer your questions about issues raised on my blog. Offer an opposing point of view, speak you mind. Express you agreement and add a few insights of your own.

My goal is to sustain a dialog that is useful for people struggling with faith, who value scientific, academic, and spiritual honesty, and who are not necessarily bound to traditional perspectives. I look forward to your interest, and as mentioned, more details will be added or edited in as the date arrives.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Drew Remembered

Today I have been thinking of my friend Andrew. We first met in 1964 at a dance when I was in 7th grade. He was a good guitar player, loved The Doors and The Beatles. He had a nice Epiphone ES-335 or similar guitar. And had a string of songs he had written. We collaborated on finishing them as well as polishing some songs I had written.

We became best friends and spent a great deal of time together perfecting our collaboration. About the time we had worked together for 3 years, Drew, his preferred nickname, ran off to NY city on a drug binge and had not been seen for months although I spoke to him on the phone several times urging him to return. I was worried for him but also to be honest a bit ticked off that my band, The Djinn, was not having good luck finding a replacement guitar player. We were all exceptional musicians for our age. Michael was an amazing drummer (he died as a young man from a brain tumor), Phil - somewhat of a geek who could improvise on the saxophone and built his own keyboard from a kit and knew his modalities as well as he understood physics, Gary on bass could play anything he heard, and I was on lead guitar.

While he was gone I had Drew's open reel tape deck and that was when I fell in love with the recording process. Drew showed up one day at my house, all spaced out and with a couple of tunes he had written that ranged from awesome to horrible. It definitely showed the timeline of his drug binge and his ongoing song writing.

I urged him to get help, he thought he was absolutely fine. I was only in 10th grade at the time. I decided to walk him home from my house (about a 3 mile walk) and on the way we encountered another friend of mine who was struggling with various issues. Drew gave him some drugs much to my objection. I said to him, "Drew you can ruin your own life but please do not ruin other lives too."

I was hard pressed and did not know what to do. I did not know what the right thing was to do. But I finally called the State Police and reported to them what I had witnessed. Drew was arrested and drugs were found on him and our friendship was over.

Drew struggled with substance abuse his whole life and died last year from liver problems. Today I realize he needed real help, not legal problems. But I do miss him. I miss his guitar playing talent. We could have been an amazing team. But unfortunately, Drew was in his own private hell.

Oh how I wish I understood more about love back then. I wish I knew more about what Drew needed to be independently self affirming. I miss my friend, I lost him in many ways. But he, lost so much more than I, he lost himself.

Drew, I love you and I will never forget you. You are a shining star to me.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Was it near death or out of body or was I crazy? I do not know and I do not care

I have not spoken of this often. Mostly because when I first spoke about it, I was uncomfortable with the responses it seemed to attract. You see, I felt that this experience taught me something I was profoundly unacquainted with and in deep need of. But when I talked about this experience, people seemed to be more drawn towards a fascination with the experience itself and ignored the impact it had on me. So I stopped talking about it. But recently I have been asked to talk about it some more.

I grew up in a home that was for me emotionally abusive. I never felt loved by my parents. As I reached the age of adulthood I was a deeply troubled and dysfunctional individual given to very rigid coping mechanisms and not a few compulsive bad habits. I would not easily admit to it but I was full of self loathing and felt so inadequate to life. But I “knew” that for my own protection I had to keep a good front and keep those sorts of feelings quiet. I did not express them in any significant detail. Instead I became a hyper conservative, rigid, hellfire breathing and hostile fundamentalist Christian. I attended Bob Jones University and loved it even though poor health and a lack of resources prevented me from finishing my degree at that time.

I was particularly hostile because I could be good at it. And being a person of above average intelligence I had what seemed to me to be a very persuasive and well formed theology. To be honest, I was not trying to be a hypocrite, nor was I trying to be difficult. I was actually hoping that this faith that made so much sense to me would deliver me from the agony of my wretched existence. I had hoped it would make me pure, make me godly, that it would turn me into someone God could love.

One night past midnight in the mid to late 1970’s as I sat on my couch I was reading from the Acts of the Apostles and the part about how Peter preached after Pentecost and so many responded to his very effective message. As a young want-to-be preacher I was jealous of his effectiveness and knew I just did not have it in me. And I knew why too. I was a disgusting useless excuse of a human being. I was a harsh husband and father with little to no empathy and I knew the struggles in my heart made me a person no God could ever love. So how could I expect that I could ever be a real preacher like Peter?

As I sat to think it over a series of hypothetical questions came to my mind. I no longer recall how the questions came about but I will never forget the questions nor the way I reacted to them. The first question was: Let us pretend that something has gone terribly wrong in heaven and by some twist of events, Jesus will have to spend eternity in hell and the only possibility of getting him out is for me to stop being such a disgusting low life excuse of a human being. Well, I knew that was impossible. And that provoked the following question: So as it turns out I would stand by and let Jesus spend eternity in hell rather than change?

I knew the answer. My reaction to this was that I embraced the “obvious” reality that I was truly a deeply disgusting human being and that now I clearly understood the extent to which I was willing the universe should suffer without my making a change. I became even more despondent and my self-loathing reached an unprecedented peak. I fell to my knees and prayed one of the most sincere prayers I had ever prayed in my life. I begged God to do away with me. I begged him to put me in hell immediately and to rid the universe of my existence. I hated myself more than ever.

And then suddenly, I was no longer in my body.

I was floating in the emptiness and blackness of space. There were no stars or any source of light. There was no up or down, I was simply suspended in a weightless blackness and in a body of sorts but not my earthly body. I heard a voice saying, “How willing is the Father to give the Holy Spirit to those that ask.” When I first heard that my reaction was to be repulsed. The thought of a Holy God and my disgusting self in the same place made me feel beyond sick; it was in a sense the very torment of hell to even think of the idea. And then I heard it again, “How willing is the Father to give the Holy Spirit to those that ask.”

The sickness would not go away and I resisted, until finally I humbly asked. In the distance what seemed to be millions of miles away with perfect vision I could see a small source of light rushing towards me at great speed. It was so far away that it took several minutes to get closer even though its speed was amazing. Just as it was about to reach my body it suddenly turned into luminous water and it splashed all over me and I was suddenly drenched completely with a rush of water. But more than that what grabbed my attention was the physical sensation of being caressed and surrounded with love and a voice that spoke quietly and repeated for nearly five minutes or so saying, “Bob, I love you.”

I shouted out several objections but the voice simply came back without any change, “Bob, I love you.” None of my objections were addressed and yet I knew they were not ignored, they were simply completely irrelevant. I finally let go of the objections and remained in that love quietly and at rest.

I won’t go into much more of the details, but I spoke to this comforting voice and that voice spoke back. We talked about many things and conversed for about a half an hour. During that discussion I completely forgot to ask any questions about how to change, I totally forgot about how disgusted I was with myself. The time came for this to end and I was told I was going back. I said goodbye and expressed gratitude and relief for having been so loved. And then just as suddenly I came to. I was back in the living room lying on the floor.

But strangely, although the voice was gone, the presence was not. I tried to re-engage in conversation. Nothing. Nothing but presence; nothing but living loved. It made no sense to me but I did not fight it. It took me over 10 years to work my way through a paradigm shift in my thinking about God, about theology. But there were two things that were deeply ingrained from that moment forward. I had lost all ability to hate myself. I still had struggles and disappointments; I was still in need of working through my problems. But it was merely work to do; there was no risk of not being loved. And I knew I was not unique; I knew every human being was just like me; loved with a love that cannot be expressed.

From time to time that presence seems unusual. I remember one time walking into a busy bank to make a deposit for my employer and as I entered the outer foyer it sounded to me as though someone was singing through a loud sound system inside the bank which seemed quite unusual. But as I entered the bank no singer could be seen and no one seemed to hear what I was hearing. I listened to the words and it was a song of delight and celebration over the beauty in the existence of everyone in that bank. When I realized what was apparently going on there was silence.

I have no idea what actually happened. Maybe I am simply an emotional whacko. I have no need to think of that experience as real or fake. I do not care. But from that day forward I have lived loved and it just does not stop.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Is it true that salvation is by grace and not works?

This is a question some evangelical Christians talk about quite a bit. I must apologize for sounding arrogant and yet I must say that a lot of what I hear them say strikes me as absurd nonsense. The question seduces them towards a very anti-works view of the Christian lifestyle all in the interests of never contradicting the concept that it is all by grace, not by works. And yet they speak about works in a very controlling manipulative way tied to duty that they never reconcile with their "grace" concepts.

I also blame Western popular notions of determinism as having set us up for this conundrum and because the truly random or freedom of choice is in too many ways inconceivable we give in way too much to the influence of determinism and end up denying a well developed freedom of choice as it can operate within a universe of apparently deterministic physics. In my opinion, the extremes of an out of balance determinism lead some Christians off the clear path into the ditch on one side into a false belief in Universalism or into the ditch on the other side into a false belief in exclusionism.

Calvinism is an example of deterministic exclusion. God does everything, controls everything and therefor those He has chosen are in and those He has not are forever damned. Period, you do not get a vote and have no influence on the outcome. Deterministic Universalism differs from standard Calvinism only in the extent and efficacy of the atonement, but both rely on a deterministic view. In Deterministic Universalism you still have no real say, do not get a vote and have no impact on the outcome.

I regard both Calvinism and Deterministic Universalism as false views of scripture. They are false in that they focus on the activity of God and dismiss all scriptures that speak of human activity as having any bearing.

Personally I think the problem gets even worse when we find nondeterministic verses in the bible and try to use them to deny the truth of the universal efficacy of Christ. Theology becomes a jumble of incoherent and absurd claims that we settle into for lack of thinking. And we settle where it seems most fair or grammatically correct. We tend toward a lucky break version of God's grace or an all inclusive view of God's grace, but we completely dismiss our own participation as having any relevance.

This is the reason I embraced Universal Reconciliation and rejected Universalism. I do not believe all are saved; I believe some are and everyone else will be eventually. In the mean time there is this tension between the universal provision of God including His universal intention and plan and the freedom of choice that humans have in their subjective limited particular awareness. And so human beings come as individuals one at a time at their own time into the provision God has for all.

As I understand it, this false pure-determinism has also given Christians a false understanding of the tension between grace and works.

Think of it this way: Can you make the decision to walk down to the nearby store? Yes you can, but only if you can walk and if there is a store to walk to nearby. But the work and effort of walking does not in and of itself create your ability to walk nor does it create the store. If you are well able to walk to a store that is actually there then you can be reasonably assured that should you choose to go to the store it will indeed happen.

In a similar way salvation is hard work, it involves facing lies, changing your mind, dealing with attitudes, learning to be honest with your self, with others, with your past, with your struggles, discovering ways in which we are not being loving, learning to live loved, learning to incorporate these changes into your consistent behavior, and so on.

Grace is the universal gift of God to make certain that whatever you require for the hard work of salvation is fully and completely supplied at no cost and with no conditions whatsoever. All you require is the willingness to receive it and to put it to work from deep within you. God has made absolutely certain, that all you need is there and that as Christ himself personally indwells you at the core of your being that given enough time and effort to discover "truth about life and living" that the very character and life of Christ will indeed without exception work its way out until you arrive at a point where you are the real you and totally Christ like.

You did not invent this process, you did not create the love God gives, you did not create the efficacy of the transformation You did not create Christ or the possibility of being like Him in character. If God had not created everything as He did, if God had not created us in His image as He did -- most importantly if God did not love as He does -- then salvation would not be possible no matter what effort you put forth. But because God has provided exactly all as He has, it is absolutely true that whoever starts this process will discover that the process itself propels it toward full completion.

So it is true that we are saved by Grace and that not of ourselves. But this does not change the reality that we must each as individuals face the issues, deal with them, agree to the changes, accept the abiding relationship, and so on. There is a great deal of work for us to do. If we do not do it, it will not get done. But that work is merely work we should do, it is therefore meritorious only in the subjective reality of human experience but in light of the objective reality of God and His creation, it is not particularly meritorious in light of the fact that it fully depends upon God providing all that He has. Without that reality, none of our efforts could ever make any difference whatsoever.

So works and grace do not trump each other. Both are very real and very true. The possibility, the process and the success of salvation are predetermined by God, but it is engaged in and received by the effort of the individual. As it is written, work out your own salvation.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Discovering your worst enemy

When I was growing up, I thought my dad knew everything. He was like a god to me and I thought he was right about everything. Now it is true that he was always highly critical. I have no memory of him ever offering any praise for anything I did during my years growing up. As I reached 18, it simply made sense to me that I was just an inept person very inadequate to life.

I was 28 before I realized he was so very wrong and so very abusive. And that was when I came to hate him. I hated him for every word of criticism he gave that destroyed my confidence and my every moment of depression in my life. Someone very dear to me told me, "He did not raise you, he lowered you." But to be honest, in spite of all my emerging anger and hatred towards him, I still felt like an incompetent idiot. I tried convincing him I was not an idiot but that did not seem to impress him at all. In fact I once said to my father that he was way too critical of me while I was growing up and that I needed more encouragement and recognition of my accomplishments. He responded by saying in as honest a voice as I ever heard him say, “Obviously I was not critical enough, after all, look how you have turned out.” 

Then one day I discovered the truth. The truth is – it was me who destroyed me – not him. Yes, me, I did it. I discovered it one day when someone else very critical in nature accused me of being stupid over something I knew a great deal about and that they knew precious little. I noticed that it did not hurt me at all to hear them tell me they thought I was stupid. So I asked myself, “Why did it not hurt me?” My answer was this: it did not hurt me because I did not regard their statement as credible and I did not believe them. That’s right; I knew better and knew I was not stupid. You see - hateful, abusively critical words cannot hurt you unless and until you believe they hold some sort of validity. 

That was when I realized that I was my own worst enemy. No not deliberately, and I cannot blame my child-self for lacking the sophistication to appreciate and understand the alternatives or the dynamics. But it still remains that I was the one doing all that damage. When I decided that various hostile events in my life actually said something valid about me – that is the very moment in time that the damage to my self-esteem occurred.

Our perception of ourselves is not affected by anything anyone says or anything we go through unless we at some level agree that what it says about us rings true. Others may throw verbal knives at us, but we are the ones who catch them and then stab ourselves by thinking they are true. Just as a hot poker will not burn you until it touches your skin, so too, words cannot do damage when you give them no credibility. 

This is good news. This means that if I am the one who gave those lies credibility, then I am also the one who can work through a process of exposing those lies until I no longer believe them. And that is what I did. Forget dad; forget trying to get him to change his tune. I will simply change my tune and I will discard the notes that fail to ring harmoniously true. I will feel good about myself based on MY opinion, not the opinion of others too self absorbed to recognize the loveliness of their child.

Strangely, as I independently moved forward, my father, before he died, came to see me as quite capable in ways that he grew to depend upon. But I digress; my point is that I had to take complete 100% responsibility for what I accept as true about myself. I had to accept the role that I and I alone must decide what aspects of criticism are valid and what aspects are not. Of course I make mistakes; I am not perfect. And many a genuinely honest person has helped me to discover some of my shortcomings. So I am not closed to all feedback simply because it might be critical or uncomfortable. But I have discovered that the only criticism that has any validity is the objective criticism that helps me see what I might not be doing procedurally correct or developmentally not quite fully formed. But all that criticism that seeks to bring me down a level as if I were some inferior existence or that seeks to place me into a category that eliminates me as a valuable human being are completely bogus.

And given the cultural craziness that promotes a self-deprecating false humility, I have come to believe that an honest evaluation that any of us could give to ourselves would involve a comfortable recognition of our limits but an incredibly high estimation of our value and beauty as a human being.

What is the key to being healthy in how you think about yourself? That’s just it, there is no key. This is an open door and you are the only one who ever walks through it and the only one you should ever allow to walk through it.

I encourage you to accept 100% of the responsibility for what YOU decide is true about you. I encourage you to be honest about it. There is no need to pretend to be what you are not, but whoever it is and whatever it is that you really are, is already quite amazing. If you learn to be that gate-keeper at your internal open door, no one can ever knock you down in their attempt to get you out of their egotistical way.

Lesson two is very similar: be gracious to others. They might be struggling with this concept. It is more likely than not that others are unquestionably just as valuable as you are. Encourage them to question the negativity they borrowed from the assessment of others. And as you think of others, take 100% of the responsibility to make sure your thinking about them never attacks their immutable dignity as a human being without regard to how unacceptable their behavior may or may not be. I have become convinced that the only way to get bad behavior out of a person is to first find a way to convince them they are intrinsically inferior to the acceptable standard of being human. They are only acting out their core self-imposed truth.

When you love yourself for just being you, you end up with one of the best friends in the whole world. When you do not love yourself, you end up with an enemy who knows a bit too much about you. So stop being your own worst enemy; become your best friend. It is really the only foundation so that you can be a good friend to others.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

So many asked for what I actually believe

When people discover that I am a believer in Jesus and yet I do not seem to believe the sorts of things most other Christians believe, they often want me to tell them exactly what I do and do not believe. As I share that I want you to know that whatever it is that I believe, it is simply my opinion. And my opinion is certainly not binding on anyone, including myself. I believe what makes sense to me and as I grow and mature as a person that modifies and changes over time. Sometimes it changes radically. So for those of you who are curious, here are some of the things I do and do not believe as of my last edit.

• I do not understand the trinity. I neither strongly embrace it nor reject it. It is to me a mystery and I am OK with that. If it turns out to be true or if it turns out to be false it makes no difference to me. In the mean time I usually relate to God as a whole making little distinction between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I think it is possible that these 3 in 1 distinctions might simply be useful given the nature of God as a multidimensional being and the current limitations of humanity living in the perceptions of a 3 dimensional plus time reality. It could very well be that as a personality God is so multidimensional that His earthly interaction can be multifaceted so as to seem to us to be a trinity.

• I believe the person of God is unique. God alone was never created and everyone and everything else is derived from God. God cannot be fully understood by our minds. His ways and thoughts are not only unlike our ways and thoughts; they will always be so throughout all our existence. God remains forever a continuously discoverable but inexhaustible mystery. He nevertheless reveals Himself primarily through His character as embodied in Jesus the Christ and in all His creation so that we might know him relationally with authenticity and intellectually within the limits of our minds sufficiently useful to enhance our appreciation of this relationship.

• God has been misunderstood by the organized church and by so many others, including myself and you as well. The God many others talk about strikes me as no different from the Satan they talk about. So many see God as defined primarily by His power and licensed with the privilege to do whatever He arbitrarily desires to do with self-defining impunity. Although WHAT God is seems to strike most as truly impressive – and there is a sense in which God is an impressive entity simply being God – but His capabilities are largely involuntary and it makes more sense to me to commend and define God primarily for His voluntary character of love which is the foundation of His other character traits such as righteousness, goodness and mercy. For me it is His character that motivates His actions whereas His abilities are merely the means and certainty of His success. God’s character is not derived from His attributes. His character is chosen and every action He takes is an expression of His chosen character by means of His abilities.

• I believe the scripture shows a progressive revelation of God. I think mankind struggles with a mature and healthy concept of God and that God knew this and deliberately chose to reveal Himself in a progressive transition from our distortions into His true representation. It starts with God being much as we might imagine Him to be, scary, powerful and angry about sin. He starts out almost indistinguishable from the character of Satan being simply a more powerful and technically more righteous and different entity. That view of God progresses and falls apart in an unjust application of faith and a law that serves ultimately only to condemn us. Until we meet Jesus who finally shows us who and what God is really like. Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. I think that means that He is the anointed one which is a peculiar way of saying that the presence of God lives in and through Him in totality. And yet He came to us as a vulnerable human being retaining but emptied of His divine privilege. In Him is found the mystic union of the human and the divine.

• Jesus knew He would be murdered and accepted it because He had foreseen that as an opportunity to make a powerful redemptive point. For our sakes He allowed His death to be to us a sinless sacrifice. He died as the representative substitute for all mankind. He considered it a penalty He did not deserve but it was a penalty that those not in union with Christ or the immutable love of God would nonetheless feel must be necessary to believe we did deserve in light of the honest contrast between a life lost in selfishness to a life lost in authentic love. But the cross was an expression of our rejection of God Himself as well as an expression of what we originally imagined God to be like. Except that the punishment for sin was taken by Him instead of us. One could say we projected our guilt upon Him and in killing Him we exacted the punishment we imagined an honest self-aware sinner deserves. So Jesus became sin for us, in us and to us. But He did not save us from an angry Father God, but rather He saved us from our own delusions of an angry God that seems to make so much sense to a person who honestly confronts their life that has honestly compromised the demands of genuine love for others. Now that this issue of sin has been dealt with, the issue is hereafter moot. And since He could not be held in death’s power, He rose triumphant over death in the resurrection bringing us in mysterious union with Him through His death, his burial and His resurrection. Since when we did not understand God, we projected our self-hatred on God and imagined He must hate us. Jesus used that difficult to shake delusion by allowing us to murder Him and in so doing we murdered the only one who could not remain dead. He let us thereby in projection kill ourselves. Now the issue is settled, it is finished, we can cease our self-hatred, stop projecting it on God and reconcile with Jesus so as to start learning what living loved is really like.

• The Holy Spirit was poured out on Pentecost available to all. The Spirit of God is the Spirit of Christ and became an indwelling witness to the human spirit, effecting spiritual rebirth and being the power within us that derives both the fruits and the gifts of the Spirit in the life of those who abide in the mysterious union with Christ living loved. The presence of Christ within is self-evident and requires no one else to confirm it.

• I reject both the notion of man’s predetermined life and the concept of man’s free will. God alone has free will.  Only God can self-determine His endeavors in accord with His own character. Only God has the capacity and ability to self-generate how He will express His character. Human beings, on the other hand, have only the ability to choose among the truly available options insofar as they are aware of them and able to act. Having choices, not free will, gives us responsibility to choose wisely and lovingly. There is no responsibility without an ability to respond. I reject the notion of a sin nature as a teaching made popular by Augustine who embraced the notion because in his life of sex addiction he imagined this modeled everyone’s struggle with sin. Believing one has a sin nature only serves to constrain our options to act accordingly. That belief creates the non-victorious life. As humans we often operate with only partial knowledge and our most profound choices are choices involving our character, will we do what loves as best we can understand it, or we will do what appeals to our insecurities?

• We human beings are vulnerable and dependent creatures. On the physical and conscious planes we can creatively modify our environment and engage in relationships. But unlike God, we cannot create options that do not exist. And so we can only look to our physical and social environment for options and potential modifications. Our spiritual options are also narrowly limited. We do not know the actual limits. We can either reach out to an ultimate mysterious source of universal loving character or we can reach out for an ultimate mysterious isolated personal superiority. All spiritual quests are well formed or malformed pursuit of one or the other. Although we can and do pursue these spiritual quests we do not have it within ourselves to pursue universal loving character without first being unconditionally loved and adored. This is ultimately discovered in mysterious union with God. And so we derive our character from this spiritual strength either borrowed directly or indirectly from God or we seek some form of unloving personal superiority. Spiritually we are therefore receptive creatures, not self-generating.

• God, however, chooses His own character, requires nothing but Himself in order to act and can create whatever He chooses and requires in order to express His self-sufficient love. That is why He created you and me and this universe we live in.

• The spirit of God is the only true source of life of any and every kind. He created it of His own free will and it is sustained by Him unconditionally. Life cannot arise out of death, but death can be overcome by life.

• We were created as individuals and as a race to grow from full naiveté into participators of the divine nature. From the beginning it has always been God’s plan to prepare us to be His home, so to speak, and that He would live mysteriously deep within us as our spiritual energy and life. From within us He would generate all the character that would resonate with our mysterious likeness to Him having been created in His image. Jesus through His indwelling presence is our ultimate source of abundant life and our indismissible hope of eternally existing glory.

• Jesus can indwell people anonymously who have rejected the horrible lies commonly believed about Him.

• Lucifer is spoken of as an angelic spirit-being, and it is unclear to me if as such he is a personified figment of our powerful imagination or an actual creation of God. But I suspect he is little more than a figment of the natural imagination of a mind unconcerned with the spiritual quest of love. Satan represents the selfish rebellion of the quest for personal superiority. He represent the desire to be “like the Most High God” in terms of attributes but with no authentic attraction to His character. This is the very attitude of enmity with God and the spiritual quest for personal superiority violates and contaminates the genuine purposes of love and is in every way opposed to the self-chosen character of God’s love.

• Human beings are the loveliest aspect of God’s creation. When God created human beings, He breathed into them the breath of His life. Humanity now bears the indelible image of God at our deepest core.  We have been created physically which makes us vulnerable to an assault on our physical wellbeing. We have been created consciously which makes us capable of a wide array of aptitudes, emotions, desires and awareness of an unknown limit. We are also created spiritually which allows us to draw our ultimate character from God directly or indirectly, or to fabricate our character from a quest to exploit our condition to achieve superiority to others. The image of God contains male, female and nongendered expressions of compatible similarities to our creator allowing for a meaningful relationship with each other and with our creator. We could not exist without God and our quest for superiority isolates us from God. We are incapable of living without a spiritual quest. And that quest will be some form of perceived superiority to others or some form of love towards our self and others. As human beings life currently saddles us with the tasks of sustaining our health physically, mentally and spiritually as social beings in a balance.

• I understand the story of Adam and Eve to be a representation that clarifies our origin as created beings made in the image of God and as beings that have “fallen.” I understand this in a Hebrew sense of being a description intended to help us relate to our condition rather than to know the actual historical facts. Our actual and factual history is both unknown and irrelevant.

• In a similar manner I understand the creation story to be a poetic attribution to God for having created all the heavens and the earth to help us relate to our environment in a manner that represents its true source and purpose but that the actual historical origin of all things is irrelevant to the biblical account.

• Being what is described as “fallen” we exhibit a character contrary to God’s character and contrary to our design. Because we must derive our character either from our perceived superiority or the character of God we are unable to lift ourselves out of our lost condition until touched by the love of God directly or indirectly in such a manner as we are able to embrace a radical paradigm shift whereby we invite God into a relationship that is permitted to transform us radically and completely in a process over time in which we subjectively participate step by step voluntarily.

• I understand God’s statement in the account of Adam and Eve wherein He says, “You will surely die,” to be an honest expression of the pain God feels in being isolated from the creation He loves and I do not take it as a threat. The quest for personal superiority alienates us from the heart of God and is spoken of as a spiritual death. I take that to mean that in such a condition we are incapable of making any lasting progress in deriving our character from the character of God until such time as we are reunited with Him. We are still, however, capable of responding to the love we receive from others and can thereby derive indirectly a love that ultimately is derived from God originally.

• Although concepts of atonement can help us draw analogies that help us understand the death of Christ, ultimately the death of Christ was an event, and no theory of atonement can explain it properly. It is ultimately a mysterious and inexplicable expression of God’s character that Jesus would willingly lay down His life, but it was certainly not anything God required for or from Himself. It was for us with an eye toward our redemption. It is in the cross that we are secured to a God who will not be deterred from reuniting with us and it makes no difference how that specifically happens or what theories we entertain. The event itself accomplishes it somehow and we are only asked to trust that the way back to God is fully cleared of any and all obstacles that might be in the way whether real or imagined. God endures as loving in need of nothing and more than ready to accept us back into full union with Him.

• I understand the blood of Christ to be an expression referring to His death, and although that death is mysteriously operative in our redemption and unencumbered return to God, I do not understand the blood to be some sort of magical substance effective to invoke in prayer or upon demons, but rather that the character of God in the event of Christ’s death is the very power that is represented in the expression, “The blood of Christ.”

• Although there is great benefit to bodily exercise and eating properly, and great benefit in educating ourselves and learning to socialize with each other with propriety and respect, and great benefit to learning more about ourselves and improving our self-image and sense of personal adequacy and purpose in life, our most fundamental need and our deepest root is to know what it is to live loved, to abide with Christ and to experience the outworking of His character from deep within as His love becomes what transforms our own character into an authentic and personally meaningful Christ-likeness. I reject the notion that we wear a “Jesus Mask” that hides our true nature from God but rather that the indwelling Christ transforms us so that what emerges is the real and authentic us, perfected in every way. Redemption is the process of becoming who we really are.

• True Christians, without regard to their personal development or theological understanding, are those in whom Christ lives. They are the ones who, as a subjective experience, have embraced the spirit of Christ with openness to the relationship that now results in the emergence from deep within them of the very character of God in a process of transformation that takes place inside each Christian in different sequences and at different rates according to the wisdom and knowledge of God who understands wisely the process required specifically for each Christian. It tends to be more efficient in those who understand that Christ lives in them as they abide in Christ learning to live loved. The process is not abortive in those who do not understand the process.

• Regeneration is an overly churched word that simply refers to the event of being mysteriously reunited with God deep within our spirit. It also results in our mysterious union with each other as the mystical body of Christ. We are one because it is the exact same Christ who indwells all true believers.

• Justification is one of those churched words that have been defined, even in Biblical Greek dictionaries a bit too much like a theological term. It is usually perceived only as a divine forensic term in reference to a pardon or an expunged record from God. But I contend that God has not really ever kept any “record of wrongs.” He is not dim-witted and unaware either as if He did not fully understand our complete and honest history. But I see the term as analogous. Our justification is an honest one. Through the indwelling Christ, the believer now has the character of God deep within working towards the outward behavior through the conscious mind. The transformation takes some time but deep within the Christian, in ways that take time to fully comprehend, is a character that only wants to do what loves and has only excellent reasons for wanting and doing what it expresses. It is only because the transformation from darkness to light takes its time to do a complete and thorough job that it takes so long to develop into its fullness.

• In my opinion, part of the Hebrew cultural approach to talking about the relationship between God and man is to talk on two planes of existence. There is the absolute and objective reality known only to God and in many ways difficult for us to express clearly, and there is the subjective experience of those who draw near to God. Care must be taken to distinguish the two when interpreting biblical texts. Hebrew culture prefers to use descriptive language in order to help us relate to the things it describes. In Western culture we tend to use description to explain how something works or how it is actually composed. What God has accomplished for us is for God a completed and fully endorsed reality. But what we understand of His works and the degree to which we are conscious of God’s presence and of the indwelling Christ is a relative and subjective perception. Although everything that is accomplished in God’s mind is our destiny, we can only experience it to the degree to which we have subjectively participated in it. For God our redemption is finished and complete. But to us we are in the process of growth in grace. We talk nonsense when our theology ascribes to God our subjective condition or when we ascribe to our condition God’s absolute and finished intention. Those who emphasize the objective and complete work of God give great encouragement to our hope but they can endanger the process by making us feel that there is nothing subjective for us to work out or struggle with. Those who emphasize the subjective experience of man can provoke us to good works but they can also discourage us into feeling as though we have a need to attain a stature with God that is in reality already a done deal. Keeping these in balance is not easy but over time we get better at it.

• Christian reconciliation to God is always a fully completed dynamic from God’s point of view as He sees the beginning and the end clearly, but from our point of view it is only through abiding with Christ in His unstoppable love that we come to appreciate, understand, and participate personally in working out our transformation. It often times requires so much effort that it feels like “salvation by works” but we are pursuing options laid before us, created by God and given to us as through lavished love. Our work does not make it so, our work makes it personal. God’s work makes it possible, makes it so, and it is the very character of Christ within us that creates the fruit of our progress.

• All theology is manmade and represents nothing more than a human opinion. God does not operate from a theological principle but rather only from His character of love. From God’s point of view this is well-nigh inexpressible, but our theology can more or less approximate an understanding to the degree we are personally capable of a relative subjective grasp of absolutes known only to God.

• Holiness is a condition of being engaged in the quest of God’s character of love with a singleness of intent sustained perfectly by the indwelling Christ.

• God has begun a good work in all who have been receptive to His spirit. It is God alone who accepts responsibility to see it through to the end. Our responsibility is to abide, live loved and allow the challenges in life to be the opportunities that increase our subjective grasp of our happy condition in Christ. None of our alleged imperfections are capable of being obstacles to this completed work and it is God who causes all things to work together toward our absolute subjective perfection. There are many in risky and dangerous circumstances who may or may not suffer various consequences and yet no one is in danger of being separated from the love of God. There are times when from our point of view it feels that way, and perhaps there are times when feeling that way can be part of our personal participation in rethinking our ways in preparing for further transformation. But as God sees it, the work is every bit as good as already fully completed.

• The work of discipleship is the work of helping people learn how to simply rest in the presence and love of God as they live in honesty before Christ and bear fruit toward their growth in grace.

• The practice of communion is not a time to think about sins nor is it the receiving of special grace, it is a time to remember how Christ loved so much that it cost Him His life. Think about sin on your own time and receive all the grace you could ever need in the person of Christ.

• There is no such thing as a Church in the sense of an organization. The universal (sometimes called the Catholic) Church is a mystical body made up of everyone in the universe who is joined to Christ. Your local church is everyone in your general proximity who is in union with Christ. It makes no difference who they are, what else they know or think. Organizations are useful man-made ways of getting things done through a group effort. Do not confuse one for the other. There is no such thing as church membership you can neither join nor quit your local church. Jesus does that for you and once it is done the only way to move to a different local church is to move to a different locality.

• The kingdom of God is within you. The gospel message is not a message about how to get saved or how to go to heaven. The gospel message is the good news that Jesus wants to abide with you and in you, everything else is bonus and pales in comparison.

• The unity of the “one body” does not depend upon being like-minded in theology but rather like-minded in recognizing the event of the death, the burial and the resurrection of Christ and the subsequent indwelling of the spirit of Christ permitting us all to live loved. These events alone are the basis of our unity. This is a bond only Christ can create. We need each other but when we cannot find a way to connect with each other based on what unifies us while respecting the proper boundaries of our differences as we encourage each other, then we all suffer the loss of participating fully in the gifts Christ has given to His church.

• Although the scriptures are spoken of by Paul as God-breathed, I do not know what that means exactly. None one does. The scriptures nowhere claim to be the sole authoritative document prescribing faith and practice. The Sola Scriptura argument was used by the protestant reformers to counter the claims of the Roman Catholic Church that they were the sole authority. There is no evidence that the scriptures were inerrant by any standard from that culture or any other culture. And standards of determining accuracy of a document do differ from culture to culture. The scriptures appear to be written by individuals who in so doing did not escape the biases of their common assumptions and they are only to be taken as an authentic witness moved and compelled to write is response to the presence of God. And even so, since it is the nature of language that words combine with domains of meaning and that the meaning is contained in the minds of those who use language and not a part of the language itself, there is no guarantee that any complicated scripture can be interpreted in a manner exactly consistent with the intent of the author. The nature of scripture has been radically overstated by Christian tradition and there exists no secular knowledge of language to substantiate the possibility of such claims as inerrant or plenary verbally inspired. Furthermore, the Christian culture has consistently ignored other forms of credible information and held the scriptures way out of balance at the cost of repeatedly denying solid scientific claims and ignoring insights garnered from other fields of study. The universe created by God’s breath, the human nature breathed into man and the biblical text are all god-breathed – whatever that means – and all three must be considered and interpreted by fallible human minds. Jesus made it clear that the scriptures point to Him and that He alone is a sole authority for faith and practice if there were ever to be a sole authority.

• There is plenty of evidence to prove that the scriptures have gone through a history incapable of preserving the text in its original form and furthermore there is no way the languages of the text can be understood in a manner consistent with modern linguistic knowledge about dead languages. We are therefore left with a text that possesses a clear witness to certain events but lacks metaphysical precision to undergird an authoritative theology. It is what it is and we can only make the best of it. The biblical text is not to be equated with the word of God which is a reference to Christ nor elevated to supersede the inarticulate reality of the person of Christ. To do so is bible worship.

• Jesus said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” Neither the scriptures nor the church leadership trump the authority of the person of Christ. Christianity is union with Christ - Christ in you, the hope of glory. Although there are perceptions and beliefs that will attend that subjective reality, those beliefs and ideas merely help us to make sense of something that is fundamentally what it is prior to any description of it. Jesus lives in those whose receptivity has embraced His activity. I see the church - both local and global - as those in whom Jesus lives. My local church is everyone within my proximity in whom Jesus dwells. Our unity is based not on our ability to agree on how to make sense of the reality of the indwelling Christ, but that we share this subjective reality with a need to make sense of it. And so we can share and compare notes - as it were. But we should not codify and require agreement and do other forms of mind control. Christ alone is at the helm of whatever it is He accomplishes where He dwells. I feel certain that even we do not know or understand much of what it is He is doing deep within us. Trying to "control" it probably gets in the way far more than it helps. Getting organized is also helpful in order to get things done, work on projects, and things like that. The first deacons were brought into being as a way of trying to organize getting food distributed to widows and orphans. That is a task far easier to get accomplished by organizing it, but it is NOT church, it is church people getting together to get something worthwhile done. If organizations could stay away from slipping into the identity of being a church in the mystical sense, that would help a lot. When we think of a group of people organized around a charter and a joint statement of faith as a church we displace the mystery that connects us to our true family - all in our proximity who know Him.

• Predestination is falsely claimed to be a reference to a predetermined trip but it only has to do with the final destination, and it in no way dismisses our freedom of choice. It is our adoption as children and our being conformed to the image of His son that is predetermined.

• The Mosaic Law was a superficial and shallow representation of God’s character. The Mosaic Law has been annulled. The only valid law is God’s character of love. The Christian is dead to the performance requirements of Law and alive in Christ being transformed by His abiding character.

• Faith is not mental assent to propositional truths or confidence in God. Faith is receptivity to the activity of the indwelling Christ. Faith is a work of participation in options sustained by Christ whose personal activity created them. We are not transformed by our faith but rather by the activity of Christ received by faith.

• Christianity is not a belief-system; it is the subjective discovery of living loved by the indwelling Christ. Christianity is trust in the very person of Jesus.

• God alone is immortal. Human beings do not become immortal until the resurrection at which time the mortal will put on immortality through our unity with Christ. The free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

• The final judgment is a happy day. That is the day when we will have all reached the fullness of Christ. None will be found wanting. The judgment will be thorough and have a level of authenticity that reaches to our depths.

• I find it absurd to believe that a person's personal eternal destiny is contingent upon their submission to a truth that cannot be independently verified and requires figuring it out in spite of its association with a bunch of crap from people who have rejected solid scientific breakthroughs in every generation for the last 2000 years in order to defend their already figured it out traditions? This is why I believe the Gospel is NOT ABOUT OUR ETERNAL DESTINY. Believing the Gospel now only determines who gets to subjectively experience the reality of Christ in this life. Part of what I am saying is, "I believe in Ultimate Universal Reconciliation."

• Our lifestyle is to be “filled with the Spirit” I take this to mean we are to live conscious of the presence of the indwelling Christ and with an openness to allowing Christ-like character to be expressed in all we do. This is not perfectionism; it is abiding in Him-ism. It naturally tends toward attitudes such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Although it is true that we cannot create such attitudes if we have not experienced them somehow modeled towards us, these character traits are modeled and nurtured by those who love us and by the presence of Christ, and because of the indwelling Christ these attitudes become an authentic expression of our own true self.

• Who am I? The question is often answered with what I do for a career and what accomplishments I might be known for or what abilities or possessions I have. But for me these things simply accompany my identity. My identity is comprised only of my character. That is who I am wherever I am with or without anything I might have accomplished or acquired. My identity is the character of Christ living in me transforming me into someone who will emerge eventually with different abilities and different skills from others but the same quality of character. That is my destiny and my identity is wrapped up in “who I am becoming,” not “who I have been.”

• Before I embraced Christ, my entire effort to be me was a solo performance and easily tossed to and fro by numerous external events and people. Now that I have embraced this mystical union as a free gift the “old man” is dead, I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer just me by myself, Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

• The concept of a sinful nature is an abusive and denigrating doctrine. There is no such thing. Evil is a quality of outcomes and a quality of character. Character is ultimately a habit of choice founded on personal values. Outcomes are either circumstances beyond our control or circumstances we have played a role in creating. Just because a car is useless without fuel does not make the car useless by its very own nature. So too, although mankind was always by design intended to be the dwelling place of God, and although loving character was always by design intended to be something we learned in relationship and not simply self-derived, no depravity of any sort is required in our very nature in order for sin to be a universal problem. The abuse and mistreatment we experience as well as our being without Christ until such time as we embrace Him is all that is required to explain our character flaws. It is for reasons perhaps only known to God that it is best that we embrace the life of Christ knowingly and voluntarily later in life. I contend that people who do not know Christ but nonetheless experience genuine love are fully capable of learning from that love and incorporating it into their character. Since love in all people is derived from their having been nurtured by it, I contend that all authentic love has its initial source in the love of God.

• Love should not be confused with affection. Love is a compelling awareness that the high and inexpressible value of a human being is something that is immutable and intrinsic to their mere existence, should not be violated and is worthy of honor and celebration. Affection is an emotion of happiness towards those we enjoy during moments we are enjoying them. It is only because love in its quiet moment experiences affection that we confuse them as being the same thing. It is possible to have great affection without love.

• The renewing of our mind is not the issue of changing propositions or even paradigms although those will certainly change. The Hebrew concept of mind is more focused on consciousness and awareness. The renewed mind is primarily a change of focus, and a change of awareness, rather than a change of belief system.

• God does not have a specific will for your life. There is no mysterious hidden path to find or options to discern as to which one is His preference. We are responsible to make our own decisions. God’s will is general and has to do with your abiding close with Him and your character development as one who loves your neighbor. But this is your life and the only wisdom you gain is by taking full responsibility for your own choices. If God ever has anything specific for you to do, a possibility, that is His problem and He will make it clear to you.

• The spheres of scientific discovery are not a threat to truth. We harm our credibility when we pick fights with science. Almost every generation of Christians has been up in arms about something that the scientific community is considering. In almost every case Christians have been wrong and they changed their interpretation of the bible without difficulty. However it takes the Christian community anywhere from 25 to 150 years to acknowledge their error. In the meantime the gospel and the faith lose credibility.

• Jesus is the only person with any authority in the church.

• Christian giving is motivated from love and not from duty or obligation. The Christian is free to give and free to not give.

• The only growth of a congregation that matters is the growth of their character of love. Organized fellowships are useful and for tax purposes it is a benefit to be organized as a "church" but such organizations are actually parachurch organizations. Congregations do not need more money than what is given to them willingly and without compulsion, what they need more of is love.

• Selfishness and the quest to be superior to others is the opposite of love. We need to be responsible about taking care of our own affairs and we should certainly strive to be developing toward our best, but life is not a competition, it is community. The wellbeing and success of your neighbor is not to be compromised as you seek to get ahead.

• The gospel is best spread by exhibiting the character of Christ in your love for others.

• God is not impressed with the performance of good works. This is not to say that God is not pleased. God is fully pleased with us at all times. If, for example, we feed the hungry, God is not pleased that we fed them; God is pleased that they are filled and that love was expressed in feeding them.

• Christian faithfulness and obedience consists in abiding with the ever present love of God as it nurtures our character motivating us to interact with others in accordance to the call of love.

• God is not the least bit interested in securing from us a greater commitment, more dedication, a more powerful devotion. Our lifestyle grows like fruit on the tree of simply abiding in the presence and love of the indwelling Jesus. We are at our best when we are living out the character and love of Jesus Christ welling up from His presence within us into our own hearts and out to the world. We do not copy Christ, we manifest Him. We do not follow His example, we follow Him.

• Prayer changes us. God needs no changes.

• Being spiritual is not a matter of how deeply connected we feel we are to God, but how well His love pours forth from us to others.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Faith is a WORK and so is righteousness

As I understand it, faith is not belief in a proposition. In the bible faith is a work. That is right I said it is a work. Faith is the work of receptivity.

Christians are radically and dare I say foolishly gun shy of this word "works." Now if I come over to your house and do a ton of work and you pay me for the work I have done with a check for $3,000. Next I will put forth a little bit of effort and get myself down to the bank so I can cash that check. Did I earn that $3,000 by cashing the check? No I earned it by doing the work at your house. Is cashing the check something that requires some sort of effort on my part? Yes. Does my effort in cashing the check create the $3,000? No, the $3,000 already existed in your account. Can I go down to the bank and endorse any piece of paper and turn that into $3,000? No, I can only endorse checks made out by someone who actually has the money in their account. Cashing that check takes a bit of faith on my part that the bank will honor it and that the check is good.

What about the righteousness that comes by faith? Is that work too? Absolutely yes!

So too, Jesus worked to create for us this awesome gift of His life within us. However we do need to embrace the gift. Everything it cost Jesus to make that gift available is work we never did. We can embrace Jesus all day long 24/7/365 but if Jesus has nothing to give us then all our effort spent embracing Him will amount to little more than a hug. BUT if Jesus had a great gift to give us, with a little effort on our part to receive what He has provided freely then we will receive all that He is offering us.

Faith is the work of receptivity of Christ's activity. In this way righteousness is a work of faith. The indwelling Christ has made me an offer. He is willing to live in me, He will stay with me, He will encourage me and tell me that He adores me beyond description. As I put forth the work of abiding in Jesus, His character begins to grow inside me. I do not create it by myself, Jesus creates it for me and in me. However, I receive this gift of real actual righteousness whereby I become a loving, Christlike person down to the depths of my genuine true character and I obtain this reality by faith in the activity of my indwelling savior.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Unconventional yes, but do I fit into a category?

I find it absurd to believe that a person's personal eternal destiny is contingent upon their submission to a truth that cannot be independently verified and requires figuring it out in spite of its association with a bunch of crap from people who have rejected solid scientific breakthroughs in every generation for the last 2000 years in order to defend their already figured it out traditions?

This is why I believe the Gospel is NOT ABOUT OUR ETERNAL DESTINY. Believing the Gospel now only determines who gets to subjectively experience the reality of Christ in this life. Part of what I am saying is, "I believe in Ultimate Universal reconciliation."

Oh but, Bob, now you are embracing a label and adopting an ___ism and becoming an ___ist. Isms and ists and labels are useful tools the brain uses to help us organize numerous variations on a theme. Anyone who thinks they do not live in labels or isms or ists is only kidding themselves and is either understandably unaware of how conscious coherence functions for human beings or has compromised intellectual integrity in order to sound free. The brain does not always work with labels at a conscious level, but it cannot function at all without them.

So this is my label, my ism, my ist. Nonetheless, my faith is in the person of Christ, not my concept of Him; and my life is found in the event of the cross and resurrection not the doctrine of atonement; and my hope is not in my concept of heaven, it is in the abiding and indwelling Christ.

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Core of Empathy

In Genesis, God says, "The day you eat of it you will surely die." Does that sound like a warning to you? It does not to me. To me it sounds like God's gasp of horror as He thinks on the impending outcome. The thought of losing fellowship with His babies makes Him gasp out the realization of the painful estrangement. The statement is an invitation for you to empathize with your loving heavenly father's contemplated loss.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Perception not behavior is often the key

Almost all our observation of others makes the exact same error. We make sense of others' behaviors as if they understand things the exact same way we do. So our understanding of their faults and their comely behavior is as if it is motivated by the exact same thing that would motivate us to behave that same way. I have found this to be true even of a great number of young psychologists. 

It rarely occurs to us that all of us, myself included, distort our perceptions. As a result, the vast majority of our "wrong" behavior is often the proper response to what we perceive. People who are hostile perceive the world as out to get them; anorexics see themselves as fat; productive people see the unproductive as lazy, and so on.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Christian Orthotoxicity

Ever since He left, most Christians believed He would soon return. After a while, they began to secretly doubt it would really be in their life time. That was when the serious mischief began and Christianity evolved away from its truly good news into a fear based controlling cult.

I think we are caught up in the snarled nets of tradition. Our goal was to discover supreme love to God and authentic love for all others. It was a dispensing of love to those going through the moments where love is so appropriate and to those who have lost faith in their loveliness. But our traditions acquired control hooks. And those unreasonable hooks are there, even when we do not think of them that way or mean to use them that way.

How do we reconstruct a faithful Christian tradition that conveys the redemptive outreach of love without the entrapment of the control net. It is so much easier when we are a community that is simply so busy functioning as a community that we do not stop to think of the duress or ever need to.

I cannot help but wonder if the answer comes in the risk of losing our organizational identity. The organizational "church" has to become a facilitator of the vision of Christ and His love but like John the Baptist, He must increase and our organizational structures must decrease yet without evaporating entirely. It is a decrease in our necessity to the process not in our active presence communicating love. That risk threatens our survival as organizations, but our survival as a body connected to each other only through Christ requires it.

I firmly believe that the church belongs to no man, is controlled by no man, that the church proper is every believer mystically connected to Christ. Having an organization with leadership has only to do with our earthly combined efforts. It is hard to get things done without getting organized, but the church and the organization are two entirely different things. The organization becomes a cult when it presents itself as the church.

What does that look like in practice? Can it actually work? It is entirely possible I am dreaming of a fantasy.

I still believe the church is just the people, I also feel the organizations are necessary and helpful. But they need to differentiate themselves from being identified as the church and let that identity return to the people in a manner we as organizations have no say or control over. Organized religion can help the church but it can never be the church.

The universal (Catholic) church is that mystical body made up of everyone who believes in Jesus throughout the entire universe. The church in America is made up of everyone who lives in America and believes in Jesus. The church in New York State is everyone who lives in New York State and believes in Jesus. The local church in Binghamton, NY is made up of everyone who lives in Binghamton, NY and believes in Jesus. The church in my house is made up of all the people who are in my house at any moment who believe in Jesus. Wherever 2 or 3 are gathered, there He is in the midst.

Organizations are manmade – every single one of them. The only true church is organic; it is living and breathing people. It is not what they think or what they write; it is not their creed or their charter, it is those very people themselves. They and they alone are the true church. Every single organization that claims to be a true church or a true local bible believing church is an imposter and an identity thief.

That local Baptist church is NOT a church, the people who meet there are but ONLY when they happen to be there. Your local church is always everyone in your proximity who knows Jesus. Never betray that loyalty. Do not get me wrong it is helpful to get organized and we need organized religion. But organized religion has NO spiritual authority whatsoever. It is just a way for people to get together and get some things done through a joint effort.

The gift of apostle, evangelist, pastor or teacher in the New Testament is a relationship role in the body not a job in an organization. It is fine for organizations to hire people to fill positions called by that name, but your pastor is the one person whose spiritual guidance is manifested in their relationship with you as you go through the various challenges of life.

The Roman Catholic Church is an usurper. The Anglican Church is an usurper. The independent fundamentalist non denominational church is an usurper. All organizations that claim to be a church in the New Testament sense are usurpers. The definition of Church in the bible never exceeds the domain of the flesh and blood human beings in whom Jesus dwells and always includes all of them within the proximate constraints of a particular context.