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Ecumentalism

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Ecumentalism is the promotion of unity and cooperation between distinct religious groups and denominations in Christianity and in the larger sense the unity among all religions worldwide. Jesus modeled this by associating with all people and castes. He shows us unity by showing us the silent witness inside that sees the Divine and Beloved in everyone's eyes. He was not interested in converting people to his way of thinking or selling real estate in heaven, but to guide people who were ready to go deeper into themselves and the spiritual experience of unity. The spiritual experience can't be taught, but Jesus offered a way to the experience, where God's pure consciousness could be felt. Jesus showed a path to the ocean of God's pure consciousness, a journey of transformation to be in harmony. His consciousness takes us beyond the world to an ocean more real than the world of senses. Yes, the Kingdom of heaven where the world of opposites, good and bad does not grow. Jesus cuts through the nonsense that people use to offend, condemn and separate people to comfort the offender and the people offended. He showed us how to watch our own minds and not to judge other minds. The pairs of opposites, good and evil hold us to the shore while Jesus shows us the ocean of pure consciousness, which is the way to the other side beyond the pair of opposites. Jesus told us parables, because one cannot tell people or describe what it is like in heaven beyond the mind in the ocean of pure consciousness. Christ consciousness leads us to it, but it is up to us to dive in to see for ourselves. Jesus does not tell us what to do. He takes us to the edge of possibilities and we choose to dive in or not. He does not seek us out, but assist us when we are ready.

 

There are many advantages to having a sanctuary within where one can retreat at any time to an ocean of pure consciousness where one is introduced again and again to the joy and peace of pure love. It is in a state of love where one attains a higher awareness and a spiritual experience in the here and now. The higher states of mind exist along side the lower dimensions, but the higher levels are more loving, creative, and inclusive. The Divine wisdom not to judge those that judge and not to exclude those that exclude others comes from the higher layers of the mind. This spirituality is first experienced within then that person sees the divinity within every other person. This witnessing of Divinity is pure love in the here and now. “Love your neighbor as yourself."

 

First one witnesses the love inside then in others because one can't give love unless one has love. Love is a positive force with a purpose in the core of everyone's heart. It gives a spacious, free quality to the mind because it is without restriction and accepts without judgment. It is not trapped in the mind because it is witnessing the mind in spirit. Observing the workings of the mind does not impede it in anyway, but makes it sharper. The silent witness watching thoughts rise and fall on the ocean of pure consciousness soon dives deep within where everything is calm and at peace. We can't get rid of other people with their judgments and condemnations, but we can go beyond them. Self-love is self-accepting beyond the physical in joy, peace and harmony, a mind that that is efficient and aware. There is no way to this love and happiness because love and happiness is the way, but the art of witnessing the mind can enable us to use every activity of body, mind, and spirit to aid us on this path of love.

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Ecumentalism is the promotion of unity and cooperation between distinct religious groups and denominations in Christianity and in the larger sense the unity among all religions worldwide. Jesus modeled this by associating with all people and castes. He shows us unity by showing us the silent witness inside that sees the Divine and Beloved in everyone's eyes.

 

Thank you for putting this so well, Soma. The Quaker mystic Rufus Jones points out that divisions among Christians centered around theological differences create contending partisans. The fact that we are all Children of the Light, all spiritual beings, all born with the Light of God Within, minimizes those differences. As Jones mentions elsewhere in his writings, religion flows from the inside out and not from the outside in. When we look inward to our Spiritual Selves and connect with that Source, we come to the Place of all religions.

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As Jones mentions elsewhere in his writings, religion flows from the inside out and not from the outside in.

 

That's an interesting concept and, I think, a very true one. At least, that's how it ought to be. When religion becomes a way of life, rather than just a "Sunday" thing, it becomes something that dwells within us, rather than something that is imposed on us from the outside.

 

It's also interesting to note that the vast majority, if not all, of the criticisms of religion that I have heard tend to attack only the latter sort of "religion" - the one that flows from the outside in, which can thus be criticized as a kind of "brainwashing." Spirituality that comes from the heart can not be criticized as such, unless the argument is made that one is brainwashing oneself. Even if that's the case, I'd prefer to brainwash myself than have someone else do it for me, thank you very much :)

 

Anyway, ramble ramble, I liked what you said! :)

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I also like that quote 'from the inside out". A Christian doesn't have to say he/she is...........................actions speak louder than words.

 

The great personalities that have reached inside don't have to give sermons because their hearts speak volumes to the listener. The speaker and the listener at this level become one mind and hold a mutual love and respect for each other because the realizations that arise from this mutual consciousness are taken into the bloodstream and become a part of the listener's life and being. More is learned from this person's disposition and character than from what is said. Love you guys!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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There is a Quaker saying...'Let your life speak'. The point is the difference between Faith and fashion. Marcus Borg put this so well when he wrote that Faith should transform. When we enter upon a Faith Journey, we also struggle with our old ways, we seek, we become discouraged, but all along we slowly shed the layers of our old understanding. This is a hard road to follow and is as individual as our fingerprints...it's different for each and every one of us. Faith is not something that we arrive at by sitting in a church pew and listening to someone else's words. Faith is a direct experience with the Unseen. Once we sense that God is not only without, but within as well, Deep seeks out Deep. We come to understand that God is as close to us as our own breath...and always has been...regardless of creeds, books, priests, churches, temples, hymns, etc. God is with us all, here and now. All we need to do is close our eyes and speak to the Light Within. This is where the Source of transformation lies. Dr. Rev. Howard Thurman expressed this Truth as being the 'Island of Peace within our souls'. It is there for all to find.

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Russ you said it perfectly. It gave me goose bumps. I will only add something to keep this thread going.

 

Religion has become a matter of family tradition, a moral habit with some social benefit because it appeals to the emotions and the mind, but true religion satisfies the unit consciousness not by words, but by action and reflection. It not only gives emotional energy and intellectual stimulation, but also takes the sincere beyond the mind to experience the soul. Therefore, one should not be lost in the words alone, but in the experience, the realization of those words. The spoken and written words are not the goal; the end is not in the words themselves because they are just the rule, the standards that show the way to a blissful, loving experience in life. Contemplation teaches without the noise of words because its obvious goal is the intimate union with Christ consciousness. This union with Christ is like a drop of water losing itself in the ocean, yet there are as many approaches to this ocean of pure consciousness as there are Christians, churches and temples.

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Fascinating, Soma.

 

Help me understand. Since my source for understanding Christianity is the Bible, we may be at odds. But here is my effort to communicate and have a dialogue, if you be willing?

 

It is true Jesus sat with people of all sorts, but help me understand how this modeled a concept of the "unity among all religions", wasn't Jesus was quite explicit declaring He was the only path to God, "...no one comes to the Father but through Me."Jn 14:6 ?

 

For certain God loves us, but it's unclear what you mean by "...the Divine...in everyone's eyes". Help me, did you mean that we are in any way Diety, or, that we may have the knowledge of who God is and our relationship with Him?

 

There is a unity in all creation, as well as great diversity and complexity, and I do find only one final spiritual unity. But unity must not be sought simply for the sake of Unity. For then, wouldn't it certainly be meaningless? Jesus shows us the path to God, to understanding the spiritual unity when we face God to confess, when " ...every knee shall bow... and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord" Phil 2:10, 11.

 

If Jesus is not interested in converting anyone, why would He say, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God"? This is talking serious conversion! A conversion from seeking answers inside an insufficient self to finding sufficient answers in the sufficiency of Christ.

 

The real world, where our real senses relay the real world to our real brain, is definitely real. Nothing is more real than something that is already real. What is more real than real? Heaven will be real, but it cannot be more real.

 

Heaven certainly will exclude evil, and Jesus certainly cuts throught the nonsense. But won't cutting through the nonsense likely offend? Much of what each of us may say, may well offend the other. Sometimes the more we cut through the nonsense the more offensive we may become. The offended may have even been the sinner. Being offensive does not inherently mean being the sinful agent.

 

What is pure consciousness? Is that like pure mysticism?

 

Jesus actually does seek us out individually and personally (after all He knows exactly who you are) and knocks, offering His gift of knowledge, peace, love and salvation. All we need do is merely accept His personal gift, personally! He will not wait forever.

 

Thank you for allowing me to ask these questions. I realize they appear critical, perhaps they are. So, I hope we can discuss them critically. I could go on asking them. I am confused on one level by it. On another level I am more troubled. God created a reasonable universe. We should be able to reasonably understand it and discuss it without leaping to a higher, undefinable mystical level of consciousness, since our current level of consciousness is all that God requires.

 

I hope you, or anyone else for that matter, feel moved to respond and help the discussion toward reasonable answers.

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Help me understand. Since my source for understanding Christianity is the Bible, we may be at odds. But here is my effort to communicate and have a dialogue, if you be willing?
To the religious leaders of His day, Jesus said, "You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life" (John 5:39-40).

 

The Bible says, "God is everything." Therefore, God exists in me, and because of this I can recognize other beings in which God exists.

 

In him we live, and move, and have our being.... "We are his offspring." —Acts 17.28 NIV

 

For from him, and through him and to him are all things. —Rm. 8.36 NIV

 

There is one God who is father of all, over all, through all and within all. —Eph. 4.6

 

God is love, and anyone who lives in love, lives in God, and God in him. —1 Jn. 4.16

 

Everything meets in God, because everything was created by Him and in Him
.

 

Having considered that everything is God, or pure consciousness, we are now ready to turn to the question of how this vision of life helps an individual with his or her own possibilities in life. Understanding the unity of the world amidst its many challenges and threats gives us insights into the growth and flow of all natural life. The more we understand God’s divine outlook, the more we will be delighted, successful and victorious in our new beginning because holding mentally to a positive attitude creates success in this victorious process called “living”. It gives us access to every good.

When we are trying to bring balance in our lives, trying to solve problems, we can get positive results by thinking of Christ and his consciousness. He said, “Lord let thy will be done.” Let pure consciousness flow through my mind in the form of ideas, feelings and insights, and let the divine results appear. This attitude is healthy and much more relaxing than rushing about trying to force people, things and situations our way. God can only do for us what He can do through us, we our just a part of His divine plan. God’s intelligence will work out the details and work through us for our success, if we let Him. Unity is powerful because it gives us a positive attitude, the sense of peace in the midst of chaos and access to everything that is good. We can't know everything, but we can know how to live our lives. Our spiritual evolution is not by our biological genes, but by ideas. Ideas don't hurt anyone so let us be open to the Holy Spirit.

 

"To the religious leaders of His day, Jesus said, "You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life" (John 5:39-40).

 

The mere reading of the Bible does not make us a Christian, and the direct experience of the soul can't be realized by the mere hearing of words or by reasoning alone. The Bible has to be read with an open mind to gain the indirect knowledge about the soul and then we have to act to bring that knowledge into ourselves in an actual experience.

 

"What is pure consciousness? Is that like pure mysticism?"

 

To answer this question I would say quiet your mind and go into deep prayer. I don't know what pure mysticism is because I don't use that terminology. Pure consciousness is the all pervading pure consciousness of God that is how I use it.

 

The Bible refers to what I call the Christ Conscious experience as “the illumination” or “being in the Light” or “in the Spirit.”

 

"Make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose." Philippians 4:2

 

To follow in the steps of Jesus Christ does not mean that we worship Jesus as an idol, but that we follow him as our divine example, a consciousness embodying the deepest meaning of life. To follow Christ we need to make real our own inner meaning of life as Christ did as an example for humanity to love. To do this we need to make an effort with sincerity and devotion equal to Christ's, to live our own life in a perfect way. It is easy in the face of conflict to give up one's real meaning and to take an easier path of imitation with no responsibility for the self. Just take marching orders and do as others say. Had Jesus done this he would have been a good carpenter and not the rebel who loved and brought changes in the social conditions of his time? He overcame the barriers between men and religion, and he resisted the divisions and separateness of the time to exemplify a higher interpretation of experience. He came to pull humans back into the true meaning of oneness.

Jesus does not look up to God and devote himself to Him as an object. He said, "I and the Father are one", because his religion is not extroverted, but in the deepest and innermost levels of his own consciousness. God to Jesus is the internal subject, not the external object because his consciousness is united internally in perfect harmony with the divine will of the Father. He loves God as his subject and the world as his object because God as pure consciousness created the world and is in it as the base for everything. Jesus led an active life of charity because the external world is the object connected to the subject by verbs and actions. Jesus knows that the all-embracing pure consciousness incorporates and pervades the material universe so with this knowledge he transcends dualism. He summed it up when he said, "Let Thy will be done." He was requesting the 'doer I' part of the mind that deals with dualism to get out of the way and let pure consciousness flow through him.

 

Let us be good Christians and try to expand and give insight. We are not the judge and jury to decide who is good and who is bad. We are to find our own inner peace, joy and way to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. God is all that matters, not what religion others think is right because the truth that God is one is fulfilling, universal, available and applicable to all. Spiritual harmony may be hidden from us for a while, but it cannot be taken away because sooner or later everyone will be healed and have the ability to see through this illusion of duality and materiality.

 

Many Christians are losing the battle against a persistent bad habit, an addiction, or a temptation, and are stuck in a repeating cycle of good intention, failure, and then guilt. Let us lead them out of their mental misery with love.

 

"The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control." (Galatians 5:22-23)

 

"Walk by the Spirit, and you will not fulfill the lust of the flesh." (Galatians 5:16)

 

May we all relax and feel the Spirit.

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So far I do not see much discussion on topic (ecumenicalism or ecumenism, not ecumentalism). The history of ecumenism is filled with attempts to bring religious people together. The discussion does show why this is so difficult. I look at the difficulty at the level of “how we know what we think we know”. DavidK states that his source of understanding Christianity is the Bible. Without knowing DavidK I think that this represents a large divide between Progressive Christians and other forms of Christianity. Soma responds with a common Progressive Christian approach by stating that “the mere reading of the Bible does not make us a Christian” and Soma seems to lift up his goal for the world religions as being “Christ Consciousness”. My point is that Progressive Christians will tend to take some version of Soma’s argument and say that “the way you know what you think you know” is not by giving ultimate authority to the Bible.

 

This is important for the ecumenical movement. There are obviously many issues to be discussed but a primary issue has to do with the role of the Bible. I think that Soma is being naïve if he thinks that “sooner or later everyone will be healed and have the ability to see through the illusion of duality and materiality”.

 

From a very practical point of view the ecumenical movement should be based not upon a vision of unity but should be based upon a vision of plurality. There is a huge difference. Plurality assumes that some people will assume that “the mere reading of the Bible will make them a Christian” and those people will somehow have to be included in the ecumenical movement. However, as I have said before we are not going to go to the same Sunday school class. DavidK and I can share not only the same name but we can share quite a bit in the name of Christianity as long as we accept plurality as a goal and not unity. The world of duality may not be “real” in the ultimate sense but it is sure effective in the ecumenical movement. Those that can only speak in terms of ultimate unity will not be able to actually, effectively bring people together. I am grateful the TCPC is talking in terms of plurality and not unity.

 

One of the best discussions I have seen on topic is Diana Eck’s book “Encountering God, A Spiritual Journey from Bozeman to Banaras”. She states “One can argue that the greatest religious tensions in the world in the late twentieth century are not found between the Western and Eastern traditions….they are the tensions that stretch between those at the opposite ends of the spectrum in each and every religious tradition….very often the religious conflicts that flare up have less to do with what one believes than with how one believes what one believes”. Progressives in every religious tradition have a different approach to “how one believes what one believes” than those that look to their scriptures for ultimate authority and end up making an idol of those scriptures. Although we may all at times feel that sense of unity that Soma talks about the real world of ecumenism will continue to be seen with this “dualism” and require pluralism as a response.

Edited by David

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Diana Eck describes how pluralism stands between unity and relativism. She says:

 

“Relativism…means a lack of commitment to any particular community or faith. If everything is more or less true, I do not give my heart to anything in particular. There is no beloved community, no home in the context of which values are tested, no dream of the ongoing transformation of that community….The pluralist, on the other hand, stands in a particular community and is willing to be committed to the struggles of that community….there is no such thing as a generic pluralist. There are Christian pluralists, Hindu pluralists, and even avowedly humanistic pluralists---all daring to be themselves, not in isolation from but in relation to one another….The challenge for the pluralist is commitment without dogmatism and community without communalism. The theological task, and the task of a pluralist society, is to create the space and the means for the encounter of commitments, not to neutralize all commitment….the joining together in a new “world religion” based upon the lowest common denominator or pieced together from several religious traditions is not the goal of pluralism. In some ways, it is the very antithesis of pluralism….We do not enter into dialogue with the dreamy hope that we will all agree….but to produce real relationship, even friendship, which is premised upon mutual understanding, not upon agreement.”

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The first commandment is “I am the Lord thy God and thou shall not have strange Gods before Me.” This is the basis for the conviction that there is only one God, a belief that leads to the knowledge of unity, which once accomplished influences and helps us in our daily lives. There is only one God appearing before us, and this one God is for everyone embodying the secrets for successful living in His all-pervading consciousness. In the awareness of God’s omnipresence we realize that God is all loving and always present so there is no need to fear either man or his developments because God has full power. It doesn’t matter how negative or bad life can be because similar to Noah we can go into the ark of God’s all pervading consciousness and find protection from the flood of cruel experiences that drown us in unbearable agony. The vigilance to stay in the ark of pure consciousness takes discipline, but satisfies our basic spiritual need by acting as a counter-weight to the ever increasing nervous, mental and physical tensions in modern life. This counteraction to the deterioration caused by our daily fight for survival helps us to grow healthier and more relaxed as we become calm, less inclined to agitation, frustration and a bad frame of mind. Therefore, the reassuring first step to know the meaning of God is to develop the conscious awareness of His omnipresence, which is ancient and as modern as the space age. Dedication to the recognition of this one God as an art and the unity of all things in His consciousness as a science will eliminate the stress and hustle of modern life.

 

In the ocean there are many currents (pluralism) some moving in the opposite direction, but if we look at the whole ocean the currents are viewed as one in harmony with each other and an intrinsic part of the ocean as a whole. This unity not only affects the ocean, but the earth and the atmosphere around it. We tend to see ocean currents as individual things and barriers, but in reality they are interconnected ecosystems and are continuous. Our individual lives are also like the ocean currents because they tell of one history that is interwoven in pluralism, and in this knowledge that we are part of something larger we find contentment, satisfaction and happiness in life.

 

Appreciating that God created all things, Christians transform their conscience to one of unity and harmony that attracts health and good fortune. A belief in the unity of all things provides the mind directed to this one God with life, meaning and power because it can rest and recharge the batteries of one’s physical and mental processes so it can better pursue life with renewed energy and clearer thought. The mind functions better with thoughts that there is only one, living and omnipresent God because it is not afraid. To understand and have honest relationships our minds need to be in a state of relaxation and to be able to access the deepest spiritual experience because the mind can understand and accept things, when it believes God created everything in unity with all things. This spiritual truth with sufficient evidence renews the mind and increases it’s capacity to grow in the conceptual knowledge of God.

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I would suggest that the different currents in the ocean represent diversity and not pluralism. I am frustrated about all of the talk about diversity as though the recognition of diversity is a grand religious goal. Diversity is simply a fact that is easily observed. It does not automatically call for any response. Pluralism however demands a religious response to the other. So I would suggest that the goal of ecumenism should not be diversity but pluralism.

 

I like Soma’s ocean analogy and I certainly agree that the Divine is one. Again Diana Eck is on point and makes a distinction between the exclusivist, the inclusivist and the pluralist:

 

“In the moments of quiet…I enter into my church…and pray. Ranjini, my Hindu friend, goes to the temple in prayer in front of the large granite image of Vishnu. Are these two acts of worship structurally or experientially the same, but theologically different?...There are at least three possibilities. Perhaps only one of us worships the “true” god, as the exclusivist would say. Perhaps only one of us sees God fully and the other but partially and dimly, which is an inclusivist position. Or, in a pluralist view, perhaps we honor the same God, whom Christians and Hindus know by different names, experience in different ways, and see from different perspectives and angles….God transcends our complete comprehension…this would leave room for the self understanding of both…and would be a pluralist view.”

 

It may or may not be possible to "go beyond" ourselves at times and not be tied to the cultural names, the different ways of experience and our different perspectives and angles but, if that is possible, it is not possible, or as I noted before even desirable, in our ecumenical relationships. We may all be a part of the same ocean but we are on different ships sailing that ocean. I am not sure that those that jump overboard into the ocean are of much use to those trying to transverse the ocean waves in relationship to other ships. Certainly if you have no ship you can not make a fleet of ships which I think would be the goal of the ecumenical movement.

Edited by David

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David, Thanks I wasn't clear about pluralism. I appreciate you clearing it up for me. You did a good job.

 

In our inner pursuit of truth and the outward performance of our holy deeds we notice others doing the same thing in a different way. It sure would be boring if we all did it the same way. The institutions or ships that propagate a certain path hopefully don't shoot at the other ships trying to navigate a way. The way is pursued by people of all faiths, surely some common ground must exist.

 

I like to pursue the common ground, but I don't think finding common ground is necessary, but mutual respect is. Hopefully we can learn and be inspired from other ships that come close to our shores. The ships sailing together can form fleets, but I don't think it is necessary to form a fleet as long as it is understood that each has a right to passage. The ocean is big enough for all ships, fleets and ship wrecks. May we learn from the maps that have been made from previous voyages and stop shooting cannon balls that just waste resources that can be better used.

 

The map never corresponds to the surface, but it can be a great help navigating the uncharted waters.

 

I think the fleet called Christian Buddhist are bringing balance to a stormy sea. I am not one, but I respect and understand what they are doing joining practices that only take them deeper and further along. The meditation is making them better Christians by helping them understand the mind so they can serve Our Lord and mankind better.

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Soma,

 

I agree with these comments and as always you have been able to say what you say very well.

 

Without pushing the ship/fleet/ocean thing too far (certainly not to the point of making it violent or military), I am concerned that the Unitarian Universalist Association has rejected the “ship” called the Unitarian Universalist Christian Association. They will no longer be accepted as an Affiliate of the Unitarian Universalist Association. They have also rejected the UU Buddhist Fellowship, the Covenant of UU Pagans and the UUs for Jewish Awareness. The rules of rejection state that Affiliates of the UUA must have a “functional connection with UU congregations, a broad focus, and proof that they work in collaboration or coalition with other groups”. Evidently the UUA proposed that these “theologically based groups” should form an “umbrella group” and then that group may qualify as an Affiliate. This to me is a rejection of pluralism and a misguided attempt towards unity.

 

If I was going to form a group of people to help define unity for an ecumenical movement you Soma would be the chairperson. But unfortunately the call to unity never really gets beyond the making of the mission statement. You see this so often with ecumenical groups. They have fun creating the great sounding mission statement but the people calling for unity and making that statement then “jump ship” when the real work begins. That is because the real work can not be done based upon unity. A case in point involved the Episcopal Church and the Disciples of Christ as they became involved in the Churches Uniting in Christ (CUIC) formally known as the Consultation on Christian Unity (COCU) (I think the name change may show that the early hope for “unity” was abandoned—we can only hope for “uniting”, not “unity”). First of all, there were the creeds. The Episcopal people wanted the relationship based upon the Nicene and Apostles creeds which are very important to the Episcopalians. The Disciples however are founded based upon “no creed but Christ”. Then, there was the matter of Bishops. The Episcopal people have the idea that Bishops would have to be consecrated in the historic apostolic succession whereas the Disciples have a strong history based upon the “priesthood of all believers”. Related conflicts are obviously who has authority to officiate at the Eucharist/communion, etc. Yet having run into the “real work” of the ecumenical movement participants are hesitant to drop the expectation “that Christians should not be divided” and they revert back to those great sounding mission statements. But obviously that goal has to be thrown overboard back into that ocean of unity when the ships are really trying to work out how to sail the ocean.

 

I think that the ecumenical movement needs to look at pluralism as a goal and drop those great mission statements that talk about unity. If this was done then the UU Christians could have a pluralistic relationship with the Unitarian Universalists. If this was done then the Disciples could have a pluralistic relationship with the Episcopalians. To hope for unity is needlessly discouraging for all.

 

Having said this I should stress that my discussion of unity has been in relationship to the topic of the ecumenical movement. There are other discussions about unity that relate to an individual’s relationship to the Divine and Soma you have been most helpful to me during those discussions.

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It's interesting that when I mentioned I get my understanding of Christianity from the Bible, it was somehow interpreted to mean I assume I am a Christian because I read The Scripture. Nothing could be further from the truth. But it does raise an interesting question, from where do you get your understanding of Christianity? Soma used Biblical quotations, a bit out of context, Romans was the wrong chapter, and I'm not certain of where the Philipians quote actually came from, but he did credit the Bible. “The illumination” doesn't appear in the Bible that I can find, nor can I find "being in the light". Being "in the Spirit" is only mentioned when John was at the Isle of Patmos and he was prophesying to the churches. I am not certain how this fits into your thesis. Concluding that "God is everything" is simply a common Eastern pantheistic doctrine. Not only departing from what Scipture says, but from what actually is. God created everything but He did not become everything anymore than Van Gogh became a canvass and oils. His personal character, that is to say His attributes, eternal power, and His Divine nature can be discerned from all that He created, so that we are without excuse. (Rom 1:20)

 

Pantheism simply cannot address the unity and diversity needed to explain reality. It gives an answer for unity but not the needed diversity of existence. It leaves no room for variance since everthing is the same. There is no meaning for freedom. It is here that pantheism tries to explain it by intrdoducing cycles of this constancy likes the waves of the sea. But ultimately it offers no final solution for its final everthing is the same (equal). It leaves no meaning for morality because everything is finally equal, leaving us with situational ethics. And finally, pantheism (God is everthing) must begin with an impersonal beginning plus only energy particles and time which results in no true answers in regard to the complexity of existence or the unique personality of Man.

 

When it comes to religions, they may all be wrong, but only one can be right. They can't all be right (Pluralism). Only one philosophy, one religion, fills the need in all of the world's thought, whether East, West, new, old, ancient, or modern. Only one fills the philosophical need of existence, of being and it's the Judeo-Christian God, personal and infinite. Because He is really there, He really exists. There is no other answer.

 

We know Man is noble, we also know that Man can be cruel. We are all born profoundy guilty of imperfection and rebellion toward God. We need Jesus to represent us to the Father, to be spiritually reborn. As a part of the Trinity, Jesus is our personal intermediary (Savior). He will provide the personal victory by His grace. "The more we understand God’s divine outlook, the more we will be delighted, successful and victorious in our new beginning."(SOMA.) We personally have to know and believe that Jesus actually is our personal Lord and Saviour. Our behavior will then reflect our position with God, since it cannot be the reason for it.

 

Jesus said He would send the Holy Sprit to personally guide and assist us, so "...let us be open to the Holy Spirit."(SOMA) He was sent to encourage us in the way to put our personal faith in the personal-infinite God. We do not need to invent or imagine some other internal way. We will be just as likely to get it wrong. God is giving the answer to us, and our personal integrity seems threatened? What selfishness. What kind of insult is that to God? Why continue rejecting Jesus as the personal-infinite Son of God, Saviour, Lord, Prince of Peace, bright Morning star? God really exists as our personal-infinite God from whom a personal-infinite Jesus came to save us personally from our personal-finite, imperfect, fallen state. It is infinitly reasonable. Don't try to change Jesus from who He said He was.

 

Many are losing battles by ignoring God's truth. A believer is liberated by the Spirit of God and has inner peace, as well as peace with God.

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The Holy Spirit illuminates our minds and opens our hearts. Let us read the Bible with the Psalmist's prayer: "Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Your Law" (Ps.119:18).

 

I hope when we read the Bible, God speaks to us and touches our lives, giving us the power of faith, hope, and love. The Holy Spirit illuminates and reveals the whole truth. We know this if our heart is filled with love.

 

David I feel you have an understanding heart. You understand what is right, good, and just. I am sure many people benefit form your mature wisdom.

 

DavidK seek wisdom with God and from His word and not words alone and you will find a hidden treasure. Illumination is the method used by the Holy Spirit to shed Divine light on all seeking people as they look into the Word of God. It is the written word of the heart.

 

Illumination

 

"The Lord openeth the eyes of the blind...." Ps. 146:8

"The entrance of thy words giveth light..." Ps. 119:130

"But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit..." 1Cor 2:10

""For god, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of knowledge..." 2Cor. 4:6

"God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth" Jn. 4:24

 

being in the light

 

'Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." Ps 119:105

"Thou shall decree a thing and it shall be established unto thee and a light shall shine upon thy ways." Job 22:28

"For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light" Ps 36:9

 

 

in the Spirit

 

"Build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God's love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ. Jude 20-21

"The true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him." Jn 2:23

"The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, ad sellf-control. Gal 5:22-23

 

David, God is infinite so he is subject to no limitation or external determination then why put limitations on God?

When we dwell in the consciousness of God as the infinite Power then no human, devil or evil can do us harm. God is the one Power, the All-powerful and the only Power that we acknowledge, nothing less than Omnipresence. When we’ve come to understand this fact and the interconnectedness of all things, we’ll know love; we’ll know ourselves; and we’ll know peace.

 

"One God and Father of all, who is over all, and through all, and in all. Ep 4:6

"There is only one God." Ep 4:6

"For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things." Romans 11:36

 

In conclusion I would say let us learn from others who have relations with our Lord. We don't have to imitate them, but if we learn, grow and love our Lord and God even stronger than before than all benefit. It only hurts ourselves to make God into a rigid plastic statue that glows in the dark only for the sake of saying we know the boundaries of God when God is infinite. Love

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When it comes to religions, they may all be wrong, but only one can be right. They can't all be right (Pluralism). Only one philosophy, one religion, fills the need in all of the world's thought, whether East, West, new, old, ancient, or modern. Only one fills the philosophical need of existence, of being and it's the Judeo-Christian God, personal and infinite.

 

I think a lot of people would disagree with you on that one. Namely the people who have been hurt by the Christian religion and the people who have had deep, meaningful relationships with the Divine through their own faiths. Or people like me who feel fulfilled by following Christ but understand that Christianity is not for everyone; that my way of connecting with God is different from others'; and that that's okay.

 

Because He is really there, He really exists. There is no other answer.

 

Well that kind of shuts the door on ecumenical conversation.

 

A believer is liberated by the Spirit of God and has inner peace, as well as peace with God.

 

I'm glad you're so fulfilled by your religion :) (honestly, not trying to mock)

 

My Buddhist, Muslim, UU, Mormon, Catholic, and Methodist friends are too :)

 

That's why I agree with David and Soma:

 

It only hurts ourselves to make God into a rigid plastic statue that glows in the dark only for the sake of saying we know the boundaries of God when God is infinite.

 

Again Diana Eck is on point and makes a distinction between the exclusivist, the inclusivist and the pluralist:

 

“In the moments of quiet…I enter into my church…and pray. Ranjini, my Hindu friend, goes to the temple in prayer in front of the large granite image of Vishnu. Are these two acts of worship structurally or experientially the same, but theologically different?...There are at least three possibilities. Perhaps only one of us worships the “true” god, as the exclusivist would say. Perhaps only one of us sees God fully and the other but partially and dimly, which is an inclusivist position. Or, in a pluralist view, perhaps we honor the same God, whom Christians and Hindus know by different names, experience in different ways, and see from different perspectives and angles….God transcends our complete comprehension…this would leave room for the self understanding of both…and would be a pluralist view.”

 

I'll close with a couple of quotes:

 

"God has no religion." -Mahatma Gandhi

 

and my personal favorite: "God is like a mirror. The mirror never changes, but everybody who looks at it sees something different." -Rabbi Harold Kushner

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Mckenna, Thank you for the quotes, they reflect the love and warmth of you heart. I agree the many paths will vary, but they all lead to unity and love of all. Salutations to the Love within you.

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Soma and McKenna - what beautiful responses. Thank you for your compassionate, teaching, and loving words.

 

I'd just add a simple thought. God is big. Many people try to make Him small so that they aren't so scared. I think they are just trying to figure out how to be safe. Totally understandable.

 

To me, a small, knowable God is much scarier than a big, ineffable God. To me, hard and fast rules conflict with my experience of the complexity and paradoxical nature of people and life. To me, learning about God by any name, is an act of faith. It increases my sense of TRUTH at the heart of it all, and it's so very beautiful.

 

Grace is that God will interact with all of us exactly where we are.

 

So.... let it be. Follow your path and let others follow theirs. Some of us - especially those here, find value and faith in discussions and consideration of differing views. Some people find that discouraging and disheartening. I, and I think most others here, have no desire to upset anyone's beliefs when they are working well for them.

 

Know thyself? To thine own self be true? All things will be well.... ;)

 

Godspeed all - glad the board is getting active again!

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Pardon my taking your words a bit too literally in regard to the way I read your initial writing of "the Illumination" and "being in the light". So many times I have found arguments built on the parsing of words and phrases in cults misusing the scripture, I was overly sensitive. Be certain there is a personal and infinite God. One who opens our eyes and illuminates our path, personally revealing his truth to us. Jesus said He is the Light and the Word and sent the Helper to guide us to Him.

 

That aside, pluralism is still very bothersome. Mckenna responded apparently certain that all religions could be right, but no religion actually makes that claim. And likewise, assuming I understand her comment correctly, the ecumenical conversation door is shut if we insist a personal-infinite God really exists! If we encounter other faiths and do not insist by reasonable argument that a personal-infinite God really exists, we deny the truth, other faiths will not understand us and any ecumenical conversation will be useless. Once we compromise on what Christianity really is, it ceases to be Christianity. I equally despise its misuse! We, as "fallen man", are susceptable to that sort of thing.

 

Buddhism has the characteristics of what would be expected in a cosmic religion. It eliminates the personal God, avoids dogmas and theology; it worships both the natural and spiritual, based on a sense of the experience of all things. It makes no room for the human soul or God. Hinduism has unlimited resources for unlimited gods. Islam flatly denies Jesus as Saviour and Lord. The Mormon Church teaches that there are many Gods (Book of Abraham 4:3ff), and that we can become gods and goddesses in the celestial kingdom. The Roman Catholics puts the Church between my soul and the Lord Jesus Christ, denying reading and interpreting the Scripture under the personal guidance of the Holy Spirit, declaring that guidance belongs to the Church! I could go on, but you get my drift.

 

Understand only one religion can be true, or ALL are false, they cannot all be true. That is based on the teaching of each religion. Each of us must must make a personal decision, a reasonable decision, based on what actually is. That is why Biblical Christianity is true. It is the only one sufficient to answer our need because of what truly exists. We shouldn't withhold that truth from anyone.

 

Oh, and to Cynthia, God IS big. He is able to be with you on the personal level, all the time, forever, and you will understand each other. He can and will satisfy your need. Trust Jesus when He said he was the only way.

 

The Christian worldview (philosophy) answers the 3 basic universal philosophical questions adequately, sufficiently. The dilemma of "existence"; of "morals"; and how we know that we know.

 

"Is God safe?" To which C.S. Lewis responded, "No. But He is good".

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The Infinite God is a complicated situation that is so far beyond the grasp of languages that it cannot be expressed at all in an un-paradoxical manner, which is why it uses intuition. Throughout the different ages men and women have been intuitively aware of the existence of such a magnificent God, and among the saints and mystics of all times in all religions there is a common experience of unity. Ordinary men and women cannot see or feel this experience because they have not gone pass the ego. They are too busy trying to prove that they are right, better, superior or know when others don't. It is natural that this would happen because some people have developed themselves more than others and are use to feeling and seeing in a dimension distinct from what others know. We have read about many extraordinary things that have happened in our times and in other ages, but the ordinary people deny it because they just don't understand the experience. Cynthia I like your words and approach as I see religion flowing from you from the inside where love springs forth, not from the outside in.

 

Seeing God as omnipresent is the answer to our problem because it helps us to overcome the present conditions of the world. Quarrels among churches, among countries, religions and wars would end because we would see that there is only one God uniting us all. We live in God move and have our being in this One God so we must continually speak with all men, religions, philosophies and sciences about those things that exceed our understanding so we can grasp the inexpressible, the incomprehensible, the invisible and the ungraspable with our minds and representations.

 

As we climb the mountain to the higher layers of our mind we find the differences in traditional religions diminish because all paths that ascend lead to love and unity. Love and knowledge of God comes from inside and then is built into the life outside in a life of love and unity.

 

As Christians may we live a life of love and unity, not superiority.

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David - I love Narnia - that is my favorite quote from the series.

 

I think that Christianity is right.... that's why I'm a christian. BUT, I think that Christianity along with every other religion is man-made. Man-made organizations tend to go through trends where different aspects of faith are emphasized. God is God. Mystical people can have a mystical union even when it's not popular. Different religions go through different trends at different times. Hence, there is often wisdom that is consistent with your path that is easier found or discovered in another.

 

As for I am the way, the truth, and the light. Absolutely. I read that as follow me; do what I did; not so much intellectually profess my divinity or do the opposite of what I did and use my message to divide or exclude. Jesus is all about inclusion. At least the way I read and experience Him.

 

As for sufficiently answering questions, sure. But an expression of my faith is knowing that God is unknowable but trying to know as much as I can about Him - by whatever name. Sufficient is nice - and perfectly acceptable. It's just so much fun to learn more about God - I can't imagine excluding knowledge from people who live obviously Godly lives under whatever banner.

 

As CS Lewis also said - (paraphrase) if you do good under the name of a false God it counts toward God. If you do evil in the name of God, it counts towards evil.

 

Great conversation!

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I'd just add a simple thought. God is big. Many people try to make Him small so that they aren't so scared. I think they are just trying to figure out how to be safe. Totally understandable.

 

To me, a small, knowable God is much scarier than a big, ineffable God. To me, hard and fast rules conflict with my experience of the complexity and paradoxical nature of people and life. To me, learning about God by any name, is an act of faith. It increases my sense of TRUTH at the heart of it all, and it's so very beautiful.

 

Grace is that God will interact with all of us exactly where we are.

 

I love the sentiments you expressed here, especially the bolded part. I agree with you there. I flourish in the uncertainty provided by believing in a God too big even for our words, metaphors, images.

 

That aside, pluralism is still very bothersome. Mckenna responded apparently certain that all religions could be right, but no religion actually makes that claim. And likewise, assuming I understand her comment correctly, the ecumenical conversation door is shut if we insist a personal-infinite God really exists! If we encounter other faiths and do not insist by reasonable argument that a personal-infinite God really exists, we deny the truth, other faiths will not understand us and any ecumenical conversation will be useless. Once we compromise on what Christianity really is, it ceases to be Christianity. I equally despise its misuse! We, as "fallen man", are susceptable to that sort of thing.

 

Buddhism has the characteristics of what would be expected in a cosmic religion. It eliminates the personal God, avoids dogmas and theology; it worships both the natural and spiritual, based on a sense of the experience of all things. It makes no room for the human soul or God. Hinduism has unlimited resources for unlimited gods. Islam flatly denies Jesus as Saviour and Lord. The Mormon Church teaches that there are many Gods (Book of Abraham 4:3ff), and that we can become gods and goddesses in the celestial kingdom. The Roman Catholics puts the Church between my soul and the Lord Jesus Christ, denying reading and interpreting the Scripture under the personal guidance of the Holy Spirit, declaring that guidance belongs to the Church! I could go on, but you get my drift.

 

Understand only one religion can be true, or ALL are false, they cannot all be true. That is based on the teaching of each religion. Each of us must must make a personal decision, a reasonable decision, based on what actually is. That is why Biblical Christianity is true. It is the only one sufficient to answer our need because of what truly exists. We shouldn't withhold that truth from anyone.

 

David...I respect your position but I don't feel like you really understood what I was saying. Where did I claim that all religions are right??

 

I'm trying to figure out how to explain this. See, to me, asking if a religion is "right" completely misses the point. To me religions are man-made constructs that use images and metaphors to try to explain the unexplainable. If someone asked me, "Do you believe your religion is right?" I would have no clue how to answer the question; I don't even understand the question. I view religion more like poetry than math. If someone says, "Am I right if I say 2 + 2 = 4?" I could say yes; that's a fact; there's no dispute. But if someone asked me, "Is this poem correct?" I'd say "Uhhh. What? What on earth do you mean?"

 

Yes, certain religious beliefs can be factually "right" or "wrong" if they depend on historical events (which is really only the western religions, as far as I can tell). And I will argue against someone's beliefs if I believe they are harmful. But if the religion provides someone with a genuine experience of the divine - then I just have to accept that that's the way God's reaching them.

 

I'll give a more concrete example. I have a friend who's Mormon. Now, when it comes to Mormon theology, I am in disagreement with them on pretty much everything. I don't believe virtually any of their accounts of historical happenings; and I believe I'm "right" in that sense, because I have genetic data, for example, on my side against their claim that Native Americans are descended from Israelites (if I'm understanding the idea correctly). I also have argued with this friend several times about their views on homosexuality, which I view as harmful (their views I mean). However, when I think of my friend's relationship with her faith - when I put myself in her shoes - I can't see how it could be wrong. It's so right for her - it connects her so genuinely with God - that it really doesn't matter if certain events are factual. And so I deeply respect her faith, because I know that it feeds her soul.

 

Likewise, when I look at my own faith from others' perspectives, it's sometimes hard to imagine why I believe what I do. But from my own perspective, my beliefs in God exactly match what I need them to be. I envision God the way I do because it's the best way I've found to connect with Him. I don't believe my theology is actually correct in describing the way God is because I think God is beyond our words and thus there is certainly a large piece of the puzzle that I'm missing.

 

It's like the story of the blind men all touching different parts of the elephant. The guy who touched the tail described the elephant as a whole very differently from the guys touching the elephant's legs, stomach, trunk, or tusks. We all have our own ways of viewing God and I don't believe any of us have the full picture. I think some of us have come close, and those are the people who are hailed as Spirit People as Marcus Borg calls them. I believe Jesus to be someone who was very intimate with God and saw a lot of truth, and I follow Jesus for that reason and also because my ancestors have been Christian for a long time and Christianity permeates my culture. For me Jesus is the fullest revelation of God but that doesn't mean, in my view, that God can only be known through him. Yes I know you'll disagree with me and throw Bible verses at me but I don't care; we have our separate faiths and like I've tried to stress I'm okay with that and I think God is too. I'm sure you believe in God the way that's the most conducive to a spiritual experience for you, and I am so, so glad for you for that.

 

Okay so that was pretty long...but I really wanted to make myself clear. I feel like Progressives run up this accusation all the time, that we're just saying "everyone's right," and I just wanted to clarify. I believe the sentiments I have expressed here are what is being said in the TCPC's Point 2: "By calling ourselves progressive, we mean we are Christians who recognize the faithfulness of other people who have other names for the way to God's realm, and acknowledge that their ways are true for them, as our ways are true for us."

 

Not the same thing as saying everyone's "right," whatever that means.

 

One more quick thing - I said you'd "shut the door on ecumenical conversation" as a reaction to your statement "There is no other answer." I don't see how you can argue with that. Saying everyone else is wrong does sort of make ecumenical conversation difficult.

 

God bless.

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Ecumentalism is the promotion of unity and cooperation between distinct religious groups and denominations in Christianity and in the larger sense the unity among all religions worldwide.

 

A lot of wisdom here as I have come to expect from you ...

 

but ...

 

I looked up "ecumentalism" at dictionary.com and came up empty!

 

No results found for ecumentalism.

Did you mean ecumenicalism (in dictionary) or Ecumenicalism (in encyclopedia)?

 

Dictionary suggestions:

ecumenicalism

Elementalism

ornamentalism

agenitalism

ecu mentalism

ecu-mentalism

 

I googled it and it did come up with a few references ((less than 100) so the word apparently is in use. As an ecumenist for my entire adult life, I wonder if you really mean "ecumenism?" I'm going to look that one up now!

 

American Heritage Dictionary defines Ecumenism:

1. A movement promoting unity among Christian churches or denominations.

2. A movement promoting worldwide unity among religions through greater cooperation and improved understanding.

 

I googled it and found over 1 million references. That is a ratio of 1000:1. Maybe you want to go with ECUMENISM?

 

Sorry for being focused on semantics here but I thought this little intervention might be useful.

 

love, john + www.abundancetrek.com & www.abundancetrek.com/blog + We are intimately, intricately and infinitely connected by a matrix of unconditional, unlimited and uniting love which is miraculous, mysterious and marvellous.

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Thank you, my spelling is not the best. It is ECUMENISM. I will have to correct all my errors now. Thanks for the heads up.

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