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AslansTraveller last won the day on May 24

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About AslansTraveller

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  • Birthday 03/06/1956

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    Theology, Science Fiction/Fantasy, Spiritual Formation, Jacques Ellul, Liberation Theology
  1. Sorry I've come to this discussion so late, but the line that hits home for me is: "Scripture is narrative that moves (hopefully) one to a relationship with the Divine;" That's the key. Our spiritual life is a pilgrimage, a story, a journey. The Scriptures is the telling of the story of a particular people to whom Christians belong by their choice. The Bible is not a book of propositions and rules (I've always thought the development of numbering the lines of the Bible was unfortunate. What other type of book has such numbering? Law Books.) It is not just rational mind, but heart and feeling and will and body and companionship and all aspects of our humanity. God speaks to us through all these aspects. All is grist for the mill. In His love, He works hard to reach us no matter where we are. He works to find a way to us and that way may be different for each of us as we are all different people.
  2. Excellent! And for me that is a key point. It isn't just referring to Jesus for a set of proposed ethics to which to give intellectual assent, but to be involved, related and relating to a living Person, Someone who guides, loves and comforts here and now. Turning to Jesus just for a set of suggestions about how to behave is, in my experience, pointless. The world is full of great ethics, great and wise sages and their ideas and guidance. Big deal. But as a Christian, I believe that Christ will work with us, directly and lovingly through the Holy Spirit to give us what we need to follow Him. It isn't just a matter of "being a nice guy". There of plenty of nice guys, Christian and not Christian. Christ offers a reality and relationship which is far more than that.
  3. And this is an excellent example of what I'm getting at. I'm not saying all disease is demonic. But I'm unwilling to say our medical science is so all powerful that we can explain it all. Maybe Jesus was using language familiar to his audience. Or maybe we're using language familiar to ours. Maybe we're both using metaphors neither of which are totally descriptive, but are useful in dealing with a problem. After all, we can't see a demon, we can't pull one out and nail it to a specimin tray. But then, we can't do that with a "destructive thought pattern" either. Exorcism is a complex ritual that often gets results. So is psychological counseling. Let's be humble and admit that none of our human fields, not psychology or religion, are sufficient in and of themselves. They each bring insights, knowledge and practices that we need.
  4. Prayer is an excellent subject, all too often neglected or oversimplified ("Prayer is where I give God his marching orders, isn't it?"). A couple of very good resources I've found: 1) Prayer by Richard Foster. Excellent overview of the many types and purposes of prayer. Written by a man who knows his stuff. 2) Prayer of the Heart by George Maloney. Personally, I've found great peace and blessings with the basic "Jesus Prayer" as used by the Eastern Christians and a bunch of other folks for about 1500 years. Lord Jesus Christ (on the inhale) Son of God (on the exhale) Have mercy on me (on the inhale) A sinner (on the exhale). The real value isn' t just what's being said, but when used as a meditative prayer (simply keep repeating it, anywhere at any time). It sort of "clears a spot" in the mind so that you can quiet some of the ever present mental noise and quite possibly hear God when S/He's talking to you with that "still small voice"
  5. Dear Jesus, In the posts above, you neglected to mention another possibility: that there is both possession and mental illness. Now, which is which and how do you tell? Francis McNutt, a long time professional in the healing ministry advises that anyone doing that sort of ministry have a knowledge of psychology and/or advisors who have such training to that the difference can be detected. It doesn't have to be "either/or". M. Scott Peck, author of People of the Lie was a psychiatrist who, despite all his training and experience, found that there were some cases (not all by any means) which made no sense unless we used the concept of "evil". He found it made some issues and how to work with them clearer. Good book, check it out. One of the errors of the past is what Isaac Bonewits' has called "monothesisism", i.e. the mental bias that holds there is only one explanation for a phenomenon, only one set of tools to work with it. The fundies make that mistake when they blame all mental problems on demons. Seckies (the secularist version of fundamentalists) make a similar mistake when they blame no mental problems on demons. We all need some humility. And if you don't think there are "stranger things on heaven or earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy" (be it religious or materialist), just look into modern physics. If that doesn't convince you anything is possible, you just aren't listening.
  6. Mmm, I'm not sure your analysis applies to the 9/11 terrorists. They weren't poor people, they were fairly well off men of Saudi citizenship. They weren't the type of poor, jobless young men that keep showing up in Britain and Iraq, for example. The question is: are we, America, innocents being attacked by those envious of our God given blessings, or is there something about our foreign policy that is getting folks upset? Good point. I haven't read that book, but have heard that his work with Malachi Martin should make one cautious. Martin is a man whose veracity has had some questions applied to it. (He's written books claiming that the modern leadership of the Catholic church is dominated by Satanists and Freemasons!). But let's please remember: the symptoms he describes could be natural organic causes that looks like possession or it could be possession that looks like natural organic causes. It may be a matter of the filter you are looking through, right? I definitely agree with you on the value of Frankl and his work, though. As for JosephM's comments, I just can't get my mind around them. Maybe I'm not spiritual enough, I don't know. As a Christian, good and evil have value as labels. For good or ill, I don't want to reach a point where I could be detached about brutality and rape, for example. I know there are many traditional spiritual disciplines (Eastern Christianity and some forms of Hinduism and Buddhism, come to mind) that aim for a sort of detachment or apatheia that frees us from that sort of emotional reactionism. I may be misunderstanding that, but I'm not sure I like it.
  7. I fear we're getting a little too ivory tower here. Of course there is good and evil. We all know it, we all work with that as an assumption, even when we don't admit it during intellectual discussions. Consider: child rape, genocide, torture for fun. What do we do with those things? They are evil. We know it and we act upon that knowledge in our day-to-day lives. Without the categories of good and evil, we are silenced. How can we criticize racists, fascists, dictators, Bush, without acknowledging such categories? Can we absorb them under some sort of "just the flip side of good" cliche or go "Posh, the all embracing God doesn't worry about such things" or (worst of all) you can't have good without evil (who says? Of course you can!). Of course not. All too often we mistake the common sloppy use of the terms ("My side is good, yours is evil") for a reson to retire the terms completely. Yeah, so Sister Nancy Ignatius told you dancing was "evil". Her being wrong doesn't make that term any less meaningful or useful. If you want a good approach to this, try M. Scott Peck's People of the Lie. Peck, started out as a fairly average psychotherapist who discovered in his work that there were people whose approach to life, whose attitudes, whose actions could only be understood by using the category: Evil. Is there a Satan, a personalized source of evil? I think it's possible, but that isn't a deal breaker. He might be a symbol, a metaphor for our own worst instincts. And blaming him for all our troubles doesn't get us off the hook. Remember the Garden of Eden and Jesus' temptation in the desert? What did Satan do? He talked. That's all, just talked. If we fall for it, then we are the one's who give him power and influence. Even if Satan exists, that doesn't reduce our own responsibility for the choices we make.
  8. It is a fascinating subject. I know C.S. Lewis addressed it in his "Space Trilogy". Basically he had a solar system full of life, but only earth was fallen (we were called the "Silent Planet"). It allowed him to portray unfallen cultures on other planets, and he did a great job. I have read quite a few short stories over the years that have addressed the question. Some have Jesus incarnating as one of the natives to offer salvation, others have it being our job to carry the Gospel into the universe. No solid agreement, so the creative field is open. Until we have definite contact of one form or another it will all be speculation. But that can be good. Speculation in this area is a fun and creative way to deal with the question: how does God relate to us, what are that relations forms and boundaries? I am really undecided on this question. I believe there is extraterrestrial life. I believe God loves and relates to them as He does to us. But the exact nature . . . ahh, there's the fascinating part.
  9. I can understand and sympathize with this idea, but I wonder about four things: 1) How does this fit in with the idea of being "yeast"? Would we want a denomination where all the progressives gather, emptying their influence from the other denominations? Isn't better that we be scattered about, keeping other denominations from being dominated with theocrats to whom we've given a clear field? 2) One of the problems with some denominations (UU and UCC come to mind) is that their voices can all too easily be dismissed "oh, yeah, those liberal nut cases!". 3) A "progressive denomination" could all too easily fall into it's own symbols, language and jargon and become 'seperate' from other Christians and thus unable to influence them. This is already a problem in the type of jargon used by many progressives, and an unwillingness to use 'traditional' Christian language, thus alienating non-progressives. We want non-progressives to hear us and get our message, don't we? If we become to seperate, we wind up only preaching to the choir and what's the point in that? 4) If this should be done, how about gathering in one alredy established denomination? The UCC or MCC or UU? Why go to all the work to build a structure, administration, etc. when such structures already exist?
  10. Very well put. I especially like the phrase you use "transformation centered Christianity". That is what real Christianity is about: NOT having a set of intellectual propositions to which you give intellectual assent, but a relationship of trust (another word for 'faith') and loyalty which moves you to a life of change and development. This is, fortunately, being reborn with works like Dallas Willard, Richard Foster and the reborn interest in the disciplines of the Christian life, the work of the Desert Fathers, the Orthodox monastics, even more esoteric folks like Gurdjieff, Mouravieff, Ourspensky, the Sufis and the like. It's the idea that being a Christian involves being changed. Not just in some hard-to-detect metaphysical way (being "born again") but in the day-to-day operations of life and heart and mind. It's a change of consciousness. This, of course, wouldn't be popular with more conservative folks, since the key to this sort of thing is "no more business as usual". What comes under examination is not just surface or exoteric matters (abortion, sexual morality, etc.) but the deepest assumptions of how we live (the profit motive, the place of political power, the place of ego, etc.). This is where St. Paul's phrase "work out your salvation with fear and trembling" is made real: not just saying the sinners' prayer and going back to business as usual, but the hard work of cooperating with God in the reshaping of who we are at the deepest level. When you're doing that sort of work everything is up for grabs. Very hard, very dangerous, very challenging, but very worthwhile.
  11. I've stumbled across Mr. Cutsinger in several books of Schuon's he's edited and an excellent book Paths of the Heart based on a conference between Eastern Christians and Sufi's (with a strong Traditionalist element) which took place not long after 9/11. I've found his work very readable and clear. I find the work of men such as Cutsinger and Smith especially good because they give an approach to religious pluralism/tolerance which doesn't involve any sort of "tossing the baby out with the bathwater" i.e. sacrificing elements that are valuable in any religion for the sake of some sort of ecumenical goal.
  12. I have come to the conclusion that I will never find a single church which will meet all my needs. Maybe that's unreasonable. Every denomination has something I don't like and every one has things I do like. So I think it's going to become a case of going where I need to go based on what I need at the time while maintaining my own personal spiritual practice on my own. In other words, I have to hunt for and gather what I need and not expect anyone to "give" it to me.
  13. "imperfect words"? No, I think you are speaking great wisdom. I have kept after this question"are all religions true?" and found much wisdom I hadn't realized before. What you have to say speaks volumes. In a way it was a conflict of head vs. heart. In my heart I couldn't really believe that others were all heading down the wrong road. Especially since I have found great wisom in other religions (the Sufi's especially). Meanwhile, my head (or actually, a fairly rigid and literal intepretation of the Bible) was saying "There is only one Truth! How can conflicting ideas all be true?" I did some diggiing and came across the work of Huston Smith and Frithjof Schuon, both of which have an approach I can handle: all religions are right in claiming exclusive truth (on the exoteric level, the worldly level of form) and all religions are united as expressions of the Absolute (on the esoteric, mystical, metaphysical level). Now this sounded contradictory at first: all are true, yet all can claim that only they are true. But in studying, it made sense. I was especially comfortable with it because it wasn't the sort of "ecumenism" I've run into before (often in the liberal context) which buys peace at the price of denigrating other religions (i.e. all religions are equally true because they're all wrong. or "I can believe in the truth of other religions by assuming mine is mistaken") In other words, my problem wasn't with the idea of all religions being true, but with the simplistic and shallow explanations of that idea. Thank you for your ideas. They are keepers.
  14. I think you're doing pretty well re: spam, compared to some. I visit another board which is so permeable, the spam shows up as "new members" and as new topics in the forum itself!
  15. I would agree with you pretty much. We are all fallen and fallible and none of us is doing what we should. The question thus is: are we like the Pharisee "Thank you God for not making me like other men . . ." or the publican "Lord, forgive me a sinner." I would look less for the performance of a set of rules than an attitude of desiring God, His love and presence while being fully aware of it all being gift, not earned.
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