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Jack of Spades

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Everything posted by Jack of Spades

  1. Christianity is not a religion.

    To put it another way: "Christianity should be about mysticism, rather than about ritualism or moralism." My peeve with the phrase is that mysticism is seen as opposite of "religion", whereas imo, it is one building block of religion(s).
  2. Christianity is not a religion.

    I can see why claims like "Christianity is not a religion" are so controversial, but on the other hand, I kinda like this particular one. But I think it's too simplified to take at it's face value, and here's why: Let's for arguments sake say that this was true, that Christianity is based on supernatural connection between man and God. Even if that was the case, I think that the claim would still be oversimplified. Even if it was entirely possible to practice Christianity as a living, organic, inborn spiritual life, void of man-made sets of rules etc., it would still also be possible to practice the same religion as a man-made version. For example, I am confident that one could teach a smart monkey to cite the credos, the prayers and follow the crowd in worship and so on. It's infinitely easier to teach a human (especially a young human) to do the same, to practice a religion as a matter of social programming, no supernatural elements involved. A surface level copy of the original. By "surface" I don't mean it to lack intellectual, or philosophical depth, but rather to lack the supernatural element. Also, a pure supernatural religion and a pure man-made copy of the supernatural religion would be just the extremes, likely in practice there would also be various mixtures of both. And because of the hopelessly biased human nature, everyone practicing the socially powered version of the religion would be absolutely confident that their version of the religion is the actual supernatural version of it, it would be impossibility to tell the two apart in a meaningful way. Even if this unique, organic, supernatural faith is there, it would always be intermingled with this man-made, socially and psychologically programmed version of the same religion. In some cases more so than in others. And also, both of them would claim to be the non-religious religion.
  3. Decline of Christianity in the West

    As an ex-Charismatic Christian, I admit having a bias against theologians. My formative years were spent in an environment where the accepted view on theologians was that of the bad shepherds who wanted to extinguish the fires of revival, the nitpickers who wanted to force everyone to use meaningless, theologically correct phrases instead of speaking from the heart about the life-changing works of the Holy Spirit in their lives, the lazy club of elitists who had little interest in actually spreading the Word, and the vain worldly intellectuals, protecting jealously their worldly academic reputation from anything that would be inappropriate for their prestige in their universities, instead of daringly embracing the cross of Jesus and being mocked for it. Nowadays I of course realize that such view on theologians is hopelessly simplistic, and was as much a product of the revival movements arrogant self-perception as the true original form of Christianity, as it was a product of actual reality of how theologians are like in real life. Theologians are as diverse group of people as any. But yet, even so, I can't help feeling a little bit like such propagandistic stereotypes might occasionally have a dose of truth to them.
  4. A spin-off from the Theism-thread. Let's make this a thread of it's own for more input on the topic: I would be more welcoming for the idea of re-inventing Christianity, if I saw it work in practice the way it's supposed to work. The reality in practice for kicking God out of the church doesn't seem to live up to the promise. The State Church in my country has pretty much done this, embraced the liberal, moralism-focused, humanistic, downtuned-in-supernatural - version of Christianity, and has done a lot to distance itself from more "judgy" branches of Christianity and yet that has done nothing to help the decline in numbers, the decline has continued steady. Also, a necessary note, we are here talking about a phenomenon that is massive in scale, one that is a (maybe even "the") defining phenomenon of our time in the West, so trying to summarize it to be a result of any one factor risks being a grotesque oversimplification. Historically speaking, social and cultural changes of this scale are always very complex in detail, and tend to have many overlapping dimensions going on simultaneously within them. Personally, I have been interested in the phenomenon and studied it a bit and it seems to me that the standard reaction from Christians, when it's brought up, is the blame game. "It's the other team who's ruining this thing". I think such hijacking of the phenomenon for a propaganda weapon against some other versions of Christianity is not a particularly good approach. The statistical reality seems to be that to much of my dislike - may I add - it actually seems to be the more fundamentalist - leaning branches of Christianity that have survived the process better than the more liberal ones. Historically, The United States decline of Christianity, that seemingly begun in 90's, is a curious phenomenon. In Europe, the churches used to be part of the old order, they were the trusted allies of the monarchies who ruled the continent for centuries, and when Europeans finally kicked the kings down from their thrones, their allies, the churches (perhaps deservedly) got their status damaged in the process too and apparently have never really recovered from the blow. On the other hand, Christianity in the United States never had this problem, due to it's historical lack of state religion, and for a long time it seemed to make an exception in the western world. But, that too is now changing, for reasons which remain a bit of a mystery to me. I have some theories, but they're little more than guesses.
  5. Decline of Christianity in the West

    What you say is true, but if this explanation moves too far from the common sense meanings of the stuff in the Bible, there comes a situation where the theologians and the grassroot people who read the Bible by themselves, get disconnected from each others. The result will be a "theological peasant revolution" - and my sympathies will largely be with the "peasants". They would rightfully feel that the theologians are twisting the Bible, not explaining it.
  6. Decline of Christianity in the West

    In my early adulthood I got involved with a Charismatic Christian revival movement, and got a fine taste of what it looks like when a Christian movement is capable of beating the odds, expanding fast, getting new converts and activating the layman. It was a hands-on, all-in, very practical version of Christianity, and the feeling was that of involvement. They didn't re-invent the religion, just practiced it with a lot more intensity than usually is the case. It was Charismatic Christianity 101, like tongues, falling, laughing, lots of prayer etc. and of course attracted a lot of controversy. I still smile when I think about it, even though it was 15 years ago for me, it's my personal "Those were the days" - thing. In my opinion, that revival movement was a lot more at odds with the mainstream culture than any run-of-the-mill church was, but it was the one thriving. I am personally skeptical about being in step with the modern world being the magic trick for success. When you try to tune a complex machine, you might end up breaking it beyond repair. Sometimes diving deeper, and perfecting the original machines capabilities is the most workable option there is available. Or alternatively, burn it all down and start from the scratch, if too big of a redo is needed for it to be impractical to use the old model. I haven't yet personally figured out which one of those I would prefer. Part of me wants to go all-in with somewhat classic version of Christian religion, and the other part wants to forget about it and start over. I am still undecided, I gotta figure some personal beliefs out first, before I can figure out the tradition I want to practice, I guess...
  7. Theism - What Would It Take?

    Praying for the sick and going to doctor is not what I meant by supernatural-free theistic practice. That would be a perfect mix of both, natural life and pursuit for supernatural, the ideal way imho. I've met lots of Christians who don't believe that God heals, and don't pray for it. Just for an example. But again, I live in a rather secular place, so I might be biased to think that Christians generally are more rationalists than they globally speaking might be. Now that I think of it, maybe there is not a fundamental distinction, but rather the difference is in intensity. Or in the level of expectation in how much God is supposed to be interested in interventions. Let's take another example from our conversations earlier and use the trinity - doctrine as an example. Supernatural-including version of practice would be there to assume that God will somehow give a mystic understanding of it through faith. Therefore the fact that the doctrine on the surface-level is somewhat irrational, wouldn't be a problem, if there were a path to find a spiritual, mystical knowledge of this seemingly irrational doctrine. A supernatural free version would either 1) confess it as a blind faith - kind of a thing, it just is so without any explanation or 2) would seek to correct the seeming irrationality of it by ditching the doctrine. In my opinion, if all supernatural interventionism is rejected, faith becomes a rather authoritarian concept where things are just believed because someone says so and that's it. I find mysticism to be much more satisfying version of religion, the one I find most worthy of practicing. In mysticism, things that make little rational sense can be often understood in spirit, through personal revelation, kind of as a series of mini-enlightenments. It's neither blind faith on authority, nor figuring religion out rationally. It's just playing on an alternative playfield. I can accept that I don't understand some things I believe in with my brain, but mysticism provides me with an an alternative way, to seek to understand them through personal spiritual revelation.
  8. Decline of Christianity in the West

    This proclamation of victory over traditional Christian world view is rather premature, as the claimed absurdity is not true even mathematically. It would be if there were only linear sets of numbers. Think of a clock for example, how much the time is after you add 12h + 12h + 12h? By this logic the clock would show 36:00. Is it a matter of truth or perhaps sometimes a matter of context too? (For the record, I'm not that much into rationalist apologetics but that particular example wasn't exactly a shining victory for anti-religionism by even it's own rules.) Thinking of religions as mere ancient peoples attempted truth-claims about the natural world (aka Reductionism) is a somewhat propagandistic anti-religion philoshophical tool and it completely misses the point that in some cases, the founders and pioneers of the religions themselves were well aware of the rational dilemmas of their teachings. f.e. Paul calling his own teachings "foolishness" as opposed to the wisdom of Greek philosophers. The ancient people were surprisingly smart and knew surprisingly lot about the world at times. So the "religion is only ancient peoples truth-claims" is indeed reducing religion into something it in fact by any credible measurement of historicity, is not. Yes, it might include such truth-claims, such as creation myths, but that isn't the whole essence of religion, not even in the heads of the people who found them.
  9. Theism - What Would It Take?

    Whether supernatural theism is the de facto dominant form in the West is a bit arguable. I think there is a distinction between a form of theism that confesses to supernatural dogmas, yet practices only the kind of stuff that sticks within the realm of humanly possible, and the kind of theism that includes active pursuit for supernatural reality in it's practice. A fine study case is what people think of prayer, do they think it has the power to change the reality, or is it a form of self-therapy. One talks about supernatural, the other one (at least tries) to walk the walk too. When rationalism and scientific world view are the cultural truth, the pursuit for supernatural seems to create a false dilemma of having to choose between supernatural and reason. I believe this to be one underlying reason for why supernatural - focused Christian groups in the West are prone to descending into irrationalism. Such as snakehandling, refusing to take meds as a show of faith, or numerous forms of wierd ritualism. These groups have on some level believed the false dilemma, and think that they have to reject reason in order to believe in supernatural. Personally, I refuse to believe that I have to choose between being a normally functioning, thinking human being and that of actively embracing spiritual, supernatural reality. I take the nature of Jesus to be the model with this, both human and God (spiritual) at the same time. Jesus walked on water, but didn't refuse to use boats. The Western false dilemma of supernatural insists that I would have to do either one and there is something inconsistent in doing it both ways.
  10. Theism - What Would It Take?

    Yeah it's a biblical set of rules, but not *the* biblical path. There are many versions in the Bible too. Act seems to promote more the inner experience - route. Traditional Christianity aside, theism can mean pretty many things. Panentheism, pantheism, animism, beliefs in oneness etc. are scientifically and rationally about as credible beliefs as theism generally (not any particular form of it). I wonder, in the modern world, has the concept of theism became so polluted with images of both traditional Christianity and the counter-images (= attempts to ridicule the traditional Christian image of God) by atheists etc. that any more flexible form of theism is the collateral damage of this war of images? To me it seems like theistic Christians are eager to market their God with images of fear (sinners go to hell etc.), whereas a group of culturally very influential atheists are marketing their atheism by attaching images of shame (ridicule, absurdity, parody etc.) to Christian God and by extension, to idea of gods generally. I think due to these ideological dynamics, theism has become a battleground of images of fear and shame, neither of which is particularly appealing feeling. Such subconscious images are a powerful cultural and emotional force when it comes to appeal of beliefs, as they can determine how we subconsciously feel about such beliefs.
  11. Decline of Christianity in the West

    Finland. Finland still technically has a Lutheran state church. The culture is very non-religious and secular nowadays, though, just like everywhere in Northern Europe.
  12. Theism - What Would It Take?

    He clearly hasn't. If there was verifiable proof of God, that would have been figured out by now. What follows is that either there is no God, or God has chosen an unnatural aka supernatural way and expects us to follow the unnatural path, that works by some other rules than by the rules of rationalism. Basically the alternative rules offered seem to be either some piece of revelation or a personal experience, or mix of both. On another note, I just read your starting post again to remember where this all started, and I can now see that I missed something in it. I feel like the bar you set up for mystical theism to be valid is extremely high. It's practically 'mysticism' to the degree of it being verifiable proof. The requirements you set there for the mystical experience to be credible is proof by natural senses. Mysticism usually means inner experience, not natural senses. The logic there is that of rationalism, not that of mysticism. It would be a super intense, extreme form of mystical experience which is not how it (either ever, or very rarely?) works in real life. My apologies, I got hung up on the word 'mystical theism' from the start and have assumed thus far that we're talking about an inner experience here. I think that since your bar is set to "verifiable by natural senses" - it's a good bet it's never going to happen, you just said it yourself that "by it's own admission" Christian tradition promises no such thing. I am afraid we have been talking about a slightly different things here all the way.
  13. Decline of Christianity in the West

    The history of the state church in my country follows a pattern; the theologians get busy with academic theories and completely distance the folk people from their religion, then there is a folk revival that rejects their intellectualism. The theologians bitterly oppose the folk revival, and the folk revival crew stops listening to them altogether thinking they're just worldly philosophers and chooses their own leaders. The theologians strike back in trying to restore the hierarchy (in the old times, sometimes with legal persecution, in modern times it's more of a concentrated propaganda effort and shutting out from the church). There is at least 3 times I can recall when it plays out the exact same way, Pietism of 1800's, Evangelicalism-influenced revival of early 1900's and the Charismatic movement around the late 1900's.
  14. Theism - What Would It Take?

    The whole topic in the Bible is rather messy. On one hand, Jesus says that you see Christ in a fellow man, and to serve a fellow man, is to serve God. In another occasion he says that the world doesn't have the Holy Spirit (God's presence in them) and this is why they reject him. Then he gives his followers (some version of) Holy Spirit to perform miracles, and yet soon after the Spirit comes (again?) at Pentecost. The people hearing Apostles receive Holy Spirit, but some of them don't until they are baptized. Paul refers to Christ in us as an exclusive thing for believers. The traditional Christian theology offers the answer that these are two different things; Imago dei (everyone), and Christ in us (not everyone). Then some versions of Christianity go further and make 3 distinctions, Imago Dei, Christ in us, and special power presence of the Holy Spirit. This sounds to me like saying that going to a field is never escapism and going to a forest is always escapism. Kind of misses the point in my world view. The accusation that seeking spiritual is escapism only makes sense if we have already decided that there is no any kind of supernatural reality to be found. It's possible to be escapistic in ones seeking of supernatural reality, but it's not that different to me than the difference between working and workaholism. The state of the mind is what makes the difference. In some cases it's the subjective access to something that makes the difference between a fantasy and a reality. Saying "When I grow up, I will be a king" can be childish escapism, but it could also be something else, if said by someone in an actual royal family. While the royal child might not have entirely realistic grasp of what being a king will be like, the statement itself is not nonsense.
  15. Theism - What Would It Take?

    It wasn't meant to be a dogmatic statement. Rather an eyewitness description of a mystical experience. Based on what I know about history (quite much) and archeology (very little), I find it rationally unlikely that Genesis is literally true. I do believe in spiritual "dimension". I don't believe it to be a separate dimension/plane in a way shamans think of it, but rather I see it as something that is intermingled in our world. I think my life needs them both. But for the natural part, I'm not so sure if I need Christianity or any other religion to teach me that. That's something humans can figure out on their own pretty much. We have our hearts and heads for that, and I think putting them in good use gets us going pretty well in figuring out the natural world. A fair point. There are lots of historical and present day accounts of miracles though, so we can't say that such occasions are a completely unknown thing, although the credibility of the accounts is another story. The way I see it is that the supernatural and the natural are not opposed to one another, yet they are not one and the same either. Saying that they are one, is in my opinion a leap I wouldn't take. Jesus was both, a man and a God, but his humanity didn't make him God, nor his divinity didn't make him a man. His supernatural existence didn't make him a man, and his natural body didn't make him a God. The two existed together, in harmony, in the same space, but were not the same. To say that they existed in separate dimensions is pretty close.
  16. Theism - What Would It Take?

    I have figured that much out from the thread so far. For the record, I'm used to being in the minority in progressive/liberal Christian online talks. My path is rather different, but I am fine with "live and let live" when it comes to religion. I might disagree with naturalist Christians, but they're often enough good people, so I have a level of respect for their path. I call this "miracle gap" between the Bible and the reality of modern Christianity. I don't like trying to do intellectual aerobics in trying explain away the miracle gap, it's there and it's a bothersome observation. That however doesn't necessarily mean that it ought to be so. I've encountered plenty of wierd stuff, but I wouldn't call them miracles. The phenomenons I have encountered are the kind of things that make supernatural activity much more easier to believe in, but not the kind of things that would be undeniable miracles. It's rather so far been on the scale of "how likely this is to be a coincidence". The question for a supernaturalist is not that much "is the Gospel-style miracle action movie still playing" - it obviously isn't. The question is rather "how to fix it?". There is a case to be made that the seeming lack of supernatural activity is a result of poor spiritual state. I am aware that this approach can take an unhealthy form that results in very mean victim - blaming, but that's only the dark side of it. There is a much healthier way, which can be an inspiring call for a spiritual treasure hunt. I am not satisfied with what I have now, I am on the search for more.
  17. Theism - What Would It Take?

    I'm all for selective individualism myself. I just happen to emphasize a different side of the buffet. What interests me in Christianity is the supernatural, and spiritual experience. The moments of supernatural reality showing up in the midst of everyday life is an echo of the lost paradise that has somehow found it's way into a forgotten world. A reminder of sense of harmony from another dimension of everlasting peace and purpose, without a shred of conflict or suffering. For me, faith functions much more like an addiction than a rational, calculated choice of an investment. For an addict, it's not that important how much sense his addiction makes, if it makes some sense, that's great, but if it doesn't, it's not a dealbreaker. (Why you looking at me like that guys, it was a totally great metaphor, right?)
  18. Theism - What Would It Take?

    In the NT, it seems like the standard communication method is "feeling something in ones spirit", visions and dreams, though. Like f.e. Peter on the roof having the animal vision, or Paul seeing a vision of a Macedonian man asking him to come over etc. The quotes make my posts look much longer than they actually are I am dealing with a similar conflict myself. The God I know through experience and intuitions etc. seems to be much more of a peaceful, understanding and a nice guy than the God of the Bible, especially the OT one. On the other hand, especially teachings of Paul and some teachings of Jesus heavily resonate with me. So, I am caught in-between of Christianity and something else that I can't quite define. I have tried other religions, it doesn't work, too much of the Bible is indeed my religion and I lose that if I try any other approach. Right now I feel like I'm too Christian to be anything else, but not Christian enough to be a proper Christian either.
  19. Theism - What Would It Take?

    I don't think that love is God, although God is love. Thinking in theistic terms, God as a person, makes that distinction between God the person and love as an impulse and motive rather obvious and intuitive. The greatest command makes a lot more sense and is a lot more intuitive in theistic world view, imo. But, I pretty much already said in my previous post what my take on this is, so I'm reluctant to repeat it all over again. As for the Mary and Martha story. I've never thought of Martha as acting out of wrong motives, such as vanity (trying to impress Jesus, as you seemingly suggest). I see her as well meaning but misguided. The story is a microcosmos of the worshippers and the doers. The doers (Martha) want to guilt the worshippers (Mary) for "not being helpful" as they fail to recognize the value of their practice, yet Jesus sided with Mary in the story, calling her way to be the right way. My 2 cents on the question of favoritism: The biblical world view, if taken literally, is indeed exclusive. I don't personally see the world to be morally as black and white as it appears often times to be in the Bible. My personal world view has more shades of gray than what my understanding of the Bible appears to support. But in terms of my personal history, I can't help but to see a clear difference between myself before and after my first spiritual awakening - experience (regardless of what term I use to describe it). The difference wasn't as much a moral change (I didn't become a saint, far from it) as it was a spiritual change. There is a clear "before" and "after" in my life for how my spirituality and faith functioned. It's like a black and white still photograph versus a colored movie. If some well-intentioned fella had tried to explain to my before-self that I already have everything I'm supposed to have spiritually, and I'm totally fine, in order to make me feel better about not possibly feeling excluded, that would have been a huge disservice, if not a deception, as it is obvious to me in hindsight that I didn't by then yet have the whole thing working for me and things would change for me later on. - The decline of Christianity in the West, and theories for reasons/cures to the phenomenon would make a good thread of it's own, I think. Allow me to start one to keep this one more on the topic: http://tcpc.ipbhost.com/topic/3843-decline-of-christianity-in-the-west/
  20. Theism - What Would It Take?

    This was an interesting summary, I appreciate it. My gut reaction to reading this is that if the divine nature is understood to be part of us, and external God is rejected, then the command to love God and thy neighbor, turns into "Love thy neighbor and thy neighbor". God as a separate, distinct receiver of our love disappears from the picture and the command to love God is interpreted as just another form of saying "love thy neighbor". I think this goes back to the same question of the meaning of loving God. If loving God, contemplating God, seeking experiential, direct experiences of receiving God's love and loving him back, is seen as both possible and virtuous practice in itself, then the outcome does not necessarily need to be outwardly action for the good of someone else. Deepening intimacy with God would be a perfect outcome of such experiences, if we accept the idea of loving God himself to be a virtue. I think there is a distinction between that of holy life, and that of just being a good, helpful, productive member of human race. Holiness includes the idea of love and devotion to God himself. Don't get me wrong, I think the world of people who do good for others, but when it comes to the concept of holiness, for example when we think about lives of saints, loving thy neighbor is the second part of the first command, rather than the whole story. The saints (and their protestant informal equivalents) spent usually the first part of their walk devoted to private worship and prayer, and only after such period became more focused on doing good to other humans. If we re-interpret the "loving God" part to mean "love thy neighbor" in another, cryptic form, that would mean that the classic first part of saints path is little more than wasted time. I am well aware that there is biblical ammo to make the case both ways, but let's throw one in the game: The story of Martha and Mary (Luke 10:38-42) is a popular counter-punch for the idea that only doing good for others is valuable. Jesus reprimanded the woman who was more focused on serving her guest (and who perceived her sister to behave selfishly) than the one who was focused on chatting with him. To summarize: I think that whether we accept theism or not, has an impact on our view on the essence of Christian love aswell. Theism adds more dimensions to the idea of love, it becomes a triangle (or actually a square, if the devil's kingdom is included in the picture too), not just a simple binary choice between selfishness or selflessness.
  21. Theism - What Would It Take?

    Generally speaking on the topic, I think this topic of speaking with God is one piece in a larger meta-narrative; existence of supernatural reality in the Bible. When it comes to the question of supernatural in the gospels, the elephant in the room is the miracles. There are so many miracle stories that even if one thought that only randomly selected 10% of verses in the Gospels were true, chances are, that would still include an ample sample of miracle stories. I see the supernatural activity following Jesus as one of the fundamental elements in the Gospels, regardless of are all the accounts of miracle stories true or have some of them been invented later on. I see the big picture and the essence of the Jesus-story being fundamentally different in nature without the miracle-element in it. On the other hand, if we filter out the physical miracles first, then of course the idea that Jesus never spoke with God becomes much more credible and likely. But, if we keep them in place, it's not really a leap at all to interpret 1-on-1 with God into it at all. Crazier things have by that point already happened than some moments of face time with the God of the universe. That's my take on the bigger picture anyway. Just a thought, one could say that God speaking directly to someone is not really 100% direct communication either, even if I accept the concept of it. It comes through the proxy of human emotions, or human mind which can distort the messages. In the case of hearing God's voice, the proxy just happens to be one's own mind, not someone elses. Human heart is a complicated thing, and it can add it's own mud to the messages along the way. The million dollar question that becomes the hot potato instantly with voice-experiences seems to be "how do I know which part of it is of God, and which part of it is just me?". For this reason, studying psychology has been part of my spiritual practice, as I try to understand my mind in order to separate the tricks my imagination can pull off from what I think to be God's voice. I see it as a lifelong journey to learn to better discern my own mind from the voice of the spirit.
  22. Theism - What Would It Take?

    Sure, I don't mind recalling something. There have been occasions when I have asked God about something and soon after have a vision about the said topic. Sometimes it's an inner voice, like for example back in the days when I was a somewhat devout Charismatic Christian, I had a huge problem with some other people in my church breaking some of the behavioral codes, and I felt very conflicted about what to say to them and I asked advice in prayer and soon an inner voice said "Not a big deal". I was shocked about the message I had received as I had expected far more 'holier' advice, and that experience led me to question on the spot plenty of my 'good Christian morals' and played a part in a process that led me to distance myself from toxic fundamentalism type of Christianity. That's a one old example of mine, I hope it is the kind of a thing you meant to ask about?
  23. Theism - What Would It Take?

    Sure, there are legitimate philosophical etc. questions worth addressing, no doubt about that. I'd say there is a pretty good case in the Gospels for the view that Jesus communicated directly with God: - John 12:28 - Jesus asks God to speak and he does. - Jesus often times receives knowledge, such as "he felt this or that in his spirit". (f.e. John 13:21). - Jesus speaks about his father (John 15:15) who teaches him. There is little doubt that the Jesus of Gospels is a theist, so a literal interpretation of what he says about being taught by God is a fair interpretation, imo. - Also, Jesus has a rather personal conversation with a demon in 5:1-13. It doesn't add up to think of Jesus being in more intimate terms with bad spirits than with God. If by "recognized mystics" you mean Catholic mystics, I am sure you know more of such books than I do. It's been years since I have read any new Christian books at all so I don't even have very many to recommend, but out of the ones I happen to know, I would recommend something like: - "Riding the Third Wave" by Kevin Springer and John Wimber. (It's a collection of stories of power experiences by Christian pastors, 15 or so different accounts.) - "Prophesy! A Practical Guide to Developing Your Prophetic Gift" by Bruce Collins (prophecy is a dramatic word, but it's basically a guidebook for Christians about hearing God's voice) - "The Breaking of the Outer Man and the Release of The Spirit" by Watchman Nee. (Not exactly on the topic, but a worthy take on modern times Christian mysticism) Those are all from Protestant Charismatic Christian authors. I tried to pick a geographically diverse sample (1 American, 1 European and 1 Asian author) for some cultural variation there. Those are probably the best books on the topic of communicating with supernatural I can recall reading. The rest I can think of are biographies.
  24. Theism - What Would It Take?

    I am familiar with the "difficult to put in words" - part of it. I can recall having a bothering dilemma of what to call my own first spiritual experience, as it didn't seem to fall neatly into any category of orthodox experiences I knew of back then. Nowadays I just describe the feeling, it was as if something that had been a distant idea, came close to me. Actually, during the moment, I saw it in my mind as an impression, something invisible that had been far away, came close. That's the exact feeling and I'm well aware that it might not make all that much sense for an outsider, but nowadays I tend to prefer authenticity over orthodoxy when recounting it. Then there is the question of interpretation. Continuing from my own example, if I interpret my experience in theistic, or Christian terms, it was that God had previously been a distant idea to me, but in that moment, he came close to me as a spirit and my faith in God became a living, interactive thing, not just a distant idea. That experience itself wasn't all that theistic really actually, but it changed something in my life permanently, shortly after I began seeing visions etc stuff.
  25. Theism - What Would It Take?

    Well, speaking only for myself, but I have countless one on one communication - experiences, and I've known over the years some other people (even if I discount the obviously not-well cases from the number) with similar experiences. It's not that rare, many Christian denominations accept such stuff as a normal practice of Christianity. In Neopaganism, that sort of "talking with gods" - mysticism is also fairly common. To be honest, I don't recognize the description of mystics you speak of there. Stories of divine appearances, communications with God and experiences are the 101 of both books written by mystics and something self-identified mystics often recount in irl conversations. Excuse me if this is a misinterpretation but from what you write there, I get the impression that you're attempting to interpret the theistic mystic accounts to fit into a non-theistic narrative. I think it's more accurate to address them separately and respect the difference. Some people's (including my own) mystical experiences are undenidably theistic in nature, and some other peoples insights or experiences are not. I don't think it's advisable to try to force them both into one or the other narrative. I can live with the idea that some people have experiences that are incompatible with mine, having some mysteries in the realm of spirituality is kind of inevitable in my opinion.
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