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Jack of Spades

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Everything posted by Jack of Spades

  1. Very often in the Bible, any given topic gets addressed from two (at least seemingly) conflicting points of view. That is very characterical for the Bible, and the topic of "unity vs separate" is not an exception. If we put together the entire picture in both Jesus's life and his teachings, there is plenty of unity-talk, but also an unmistakable element of separation from God. f.e. In pretty much every single prayer Jesus utters, he talks to God the Father as a separate person who has a will independent from his will. What I'm trying to say is, in my point of view, what you say is indeed part of the message of the Bible, but not the whole story. If one chooses only the unity - element, the picture becomes recognizably different from the picture that the life and teachings of Jesus paint. I think both of these versions about God are lacking, if we use the Gospels as the measuring stick: 1) Picking all the separation - verses and painting a church-art style picture of God, a human-like figure sitting on a cloud, separate and distant from mankind. 2) Cherrypicking only the unity - parts and ending up painting a picture about impersonal life flow of the universe that connects everything but is really nobody in it's own right. I don't find either one of those pictures to be in harmony with the Gosples, or the New Testament. There has to be more dimensions to the story to make it fit to the entirety of the message of the Gospels. To make sense of that conflict, I find harmony in some "layer" - like thinking, which I'm not too great at articulating but it's somewhere in the direction of being both in unity with God and separate being from him. I guess I think that the unity and separateness are in different "layers" or something.
  2. Jack of Spades

    Freethinkers

    Does "freethinkers" refer generally to people who think freely in some undefined sense, or the freethinker movement? I think historically freethinkers are a counter-movement against state churches in Europe, thus the "free" in the name refers practically to freedom from the state churches. If the movement has a US version, I have no idea what they do. In Finland, where I live, freethinkers are practically militant atheists and are actively (and arguably successfully) campaigning against the institution of the state church. The past chairman of the freethinkers organization, who resigned from it, called the group "The worst nutjob sect I have known" suggesting that the freethinkers (at least in Finland) tend to attract the most militant, most tribalist type of atheists. From the little I have personally met them, they are not particularly nice people. They are mostly Dawkins - type militant atheists.
  3. I think the post is a perfect demonstration of the overlapping ideas of Christianity and New Age / Buddhism - type of spirituality. I'm generally speaking sympathetic of the kind of spirituality you talk about but what I don't sign into is the rejection of theism, or at least, blurring of the concept. I think "Christ in me" is not a separate concept from personal level interactions with a personal, external God. Rather "Christ in me" is a channel for those interactions. I don't see "Christ in me" as an alternative concept for the classic "relationship with a personal God" - concept.
  4. I wonder if the divide to progressive/liberal Christians and conservative Christians is actually all that religious in nature? The reason why I'm asking is this observation: If I talk to a conservative Christian, I can much better predict what they think by being familiar with the party positions and the rhetoric of the Republican party and the conservative political media, than by being familiar with any particular theological tradition. The same with liberal / progressive Christians and the Democratic party and the liberal media. The impression one gets is that the root of the division is actually political in nature, rather than religious or theological. For the record I'm not an American myself, I am a North European with years of interest in everything America. I used to plan to move there etc.
  5. Jack of Spades

    USA liberal / conservative - divide

    It annoys me when people treat their churches being overtaken by nationalism and racism as a mere image management problem. One could as well treat it as a case of "By their fruit you know them." I think there has to be something profoundly wrong with the movement to begin with, if it so easily falls into such destructive ideologies. Maybe the Evangelical movement was shallow and empty to begin with and the nationalism just filled the vacuum? On a personal level, I consider such public failures welcome warning signs to stay away from such religious movements (The Catholic Church and Evangelicalism being the prime examples). In my experience and knowledge, religious movements going wrong like that is almost never a case of "good people lapsing" but rather such failures are cases of deeply rooted spiritual and moral corruption being revealed by the public failure. Bad fruits come from a bad tree.
  6. Jack of Spades

    USA liberal / conservative - divide

    Sure, the US religion has been exported globally, in fact I grew up in a family that was member in a revival movement with traceable roots to the US evangelicalism (called Viidesläisyys or literally "the fifth" - that family history probably explains some part of my interest in the US culture). What I meant was, the US Evangelicalism seems to have become so political and so filled with political "Americanism" that it's not probably the kind of a thing too many people abroad would be very welcoming of. It's practically the same situation as with the Russian Orthodox church. Why would someone in say, Germany, want to convert to a religion that's filled with Russian nationalism? If not as a political pro-Russia statement
  7. Jack of Spades

    USA liberal / conservative - divide

    I wonder if the US Evangelical movement should be even considered part of global mainstream Christianity at all, but rather a some kind of a sect. The European versions of the churches that come from a similar theological tradition are far less political. The US Evangelical Church stands out as an outlier.
  8. Jack of Spades

    USA liberal / conservative - divide

    As the thread name suggests, I was talking particularly about the political-religious scene of the US. In the US, very many people appear to identify strongly with either one of the major political parties. A fair point, that's possible as well. I'm going to demonstrate the phenomenon with a more historical example, just to highlight it: The best historical example would be the Christian support for democracy and the concept of freedom of religion. In it's historical roots, democracy was a pagan invention, promoted by deists, atheists etc. while good Christians supported monarchy. Nowadays, the Western Christians more or less universally consider "god-given freedoms" in a democracy to be something of a Christian value to uphold and protect. Do you believe that Christians, during the recent centuries just independently ended up supporting freedom of religion over state religion and democracy over monarchy as a result of a Bible study done in a monastery? I think it's obvious that the political landscape changed, and the religion followed. In the present day US, I have heard many times Evangelicals talk along very anti-environmentalist lines claiming things like "People who worry about the environment do so because they don't believe that God is in control" expressing that environmentalism is a result of lack of faith etc. The idea quite transparently originates to right-wing anti-regulatory, pro "let the market decide" - type of political philosophy, but it has somewhere along the line mutated into something of a religious belief (which imo, has started as a religious excuse, then went on and turned into a belief). Please note that such a belief is by no means a coherent principle, which would be applied across the broad to all issues, just selectively to environmentalism. f.e. the Christians who worry about terrorism are, according to the same people, perfectly fine believers. Maybe because that fear is compatible with the right-wing political agenda... However, in more short periods of time, media and politics tend to drive emphasis, rather than changing core beliefs. But that's how it starts.
  9. Jack of Spades

    USA liberal / conservative - divide

    That's plausible, but is there something to support the idea that the change of heart happens in that order (the religion changes first, then the political views) and not the other way around (politics comes first, then the religion follows)? The reason why I suspect the "politics first" to be the case, is the heavy emphasis on political thought and the correlation between the political and religious topics people are interested in talking about. If I watch the American political media, and then follow religious people on social media, the correlation is obvious. The people seem to get their talking points from the political media and then shoehorn them into their religion. For example, the liberals tend to word their Christian message in a fashion that mimics the Democratic party line, like f.e. "The message of Jesus is to accept everyone regardless of their race, gender or sexual orientation." or the conservatives saying stuff like "Christians are not called to live in the political correctness of the world." - again mimicing the rhetoric of the conservative political pundits. Sidenote 1: To be clear, I'm not trying to address the technical substance of either one of those statements, but rather I'm trying to highlight the fact that the connection to political thought is very obvious and most likely both of the statements simply come from the talking points of the political media. It's highly unlikely that the ideas originate to some kind of a Bible study that somehow independently just happened to end up to an overlapping conclusion with a political message. Sidenote 2: Both of those are just examples, not attempts at capturing the whole story. Sidenote 3: I do realize that nothing is that simple and complex cultural phenomenons have multiple simultaneous dimensions but this is a phenomenon that's really hard to miss.
  10. Jack of Spades

    what is a progressive Christian, really?

    I think there is an inbuilt tendency into Lutheranism to pick up fights over the doctrine of justification by faith. Deep inside, every theologically educated Lutheran is secretly looking for a pope to fight with. Lutheranism is so defined by Luther's personal conflict against the Catholic Church of his time, that the whole concept of Lutheranism misses a key element of it's spirit if there is not some pope to fight against. What is "modern trends" of our culture, is somewhat arguable. If you live in an academic culture and go babbling about how God speaks to you directly, usually you lose your credibility and get labeled gullible or delusional. Rejecting the concept of supernatural as a practical element of ones every day life is culturally kind of a safe bet, especially for intellectuals and academics.
  11. Jack of Spades

    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).
  12. Jack of Spades

    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.
  13. 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.
  14. Jack of Spades

    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.
  15. Jack of Spades

    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.
  16. Jack of Spades

    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...
  17. Jack of Spades

    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.
  18. Jack of Spades

    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.
  19. Jack of Spades

    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.
  20. Jack of Spades

    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.
  21. Jack of Spades

    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.
  22. Jack of Spades

    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.
  23. Jack of Spades

    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.
  24. Jack of Spades

    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.
  25. Jack of Spades

    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.
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