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BillM

Theism - What Would It Take?

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Branching off from our thread on Agnosticism, I've wondered what it would take for me to be a theist again. Back when I was a theist, I was an external theist. In other words, I believed in God because of what the bible said, or what the Church said, or what Christianity said. A good, common definition of a theist is someone who believes in God as a supernatural being who is personally involved in our lives. I believed that way for many years, yet, in hindsight, I found little evidence that God personally loved me or that he listened to and answered my prayers or that he had some kind of great and wonderful plan for my life. In fact, I left theism because the evidence for such a God was so paltry.

So what would it take for me to be a theist again?

I guess it would have to take mystical theism. I mean, consider the mystics in the bible. God personally appears to Abraham and Moses and speaks to them (according to the biblical record). God personally appears to Jesus, talks to him, answers his prayers. Jesus, who is God in Christendom, personally appears to Saul and speaks to him. Nothing in these theistic accounts is "hearsay." These people claimed to experience the personal, living God. And these experiences changed them. That's what I would need in order to be a theist again. I'm not going to trust in hearsay. If God is truly personal (as theists claim he is), then he should personally appear and speak to me. There should be some evidence that convinces me that he exists and is real, at least as a "person" (or three persons as Christians say he is). I'm 58 now. To date, God is a no-show for me. As a theist, I had to trust the testimonies and experiences of others. No longer. I won't hold to second-hand faith. I tend to believe the adage, "The invisible and the unreal often look pretty much the same."  

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Hey BillM!

As a theistic mystic, I'll try to offer some thoughts:
 

9 hours ago, BillM said:
9 hours ago, BillM said:

Nothing in these theistic accounts is "hearsay." These people claimed to experience the personal, living God. And these experiences changed them. That's what I would need in order to be a theist again. I'm not going to trust in hearsay.

 

This is something I agree on more or less. I think that the key line there is "experiences changed them" - someone elses experience doesn't have the transformative power a personal one does, even if I were to believe their experience-story. It would be just a matter of believing a claim, whether I believe it or not doesn't have much of a transformative impact on me. So, yes, the transformative part can not happen by trusting in somebody elses story. I personally see the transformation to be the point of the experiences. Experiencing something fancy doesn't really do much if it doesn't change me in the process, the impact of the experience fades away quickly and then it starts to feel unreal and distant like a fading memory. If nothing would change in the process, it would be just a religious version of getting drunk. I want more than that.

 

Personally, I was spiritually pretty much blank for the first 18 years of my life and then I had this one life-changing experience. I've been more or less a mystic ever since. I have no idea of how to replicate the process for someone else though. The question of why some people experience stuff and some others don't is a question mark for me. I don't know and I don't want to fall for easy answers, so I prefer to keep the question open.

 

9 hours ago, BillM said:

A good, common definition of a theist is someone who believes in God as a supernatural being who is personally involved in our lives. I believed that way for many years, yet, in hindsight, I found little evidence that God personally loved me or that he listened to and answered my prayers or that he had some kind of great and wonderful plan for my life. In fact, I left theism because the evidence for such a God was so paltry.

 

Yup, faith gotta be a two-way street. If there is never any recognizable activity from God's part, it would be as good as make-believe. On the other hand, I think mystic's faith is a mix of both, faith and experiences. Building the theism on just experiences without any faith in it doesn't really work either, most of mystical experiences are explainable as psychological phenomenons anyway.

 

I recognize that pondering the essence of mystical faith doesn't do much to convince an outsider, though. I know how it sounds like when someone describes theirs, but I have no way of really giving anyone the key to it. People either find it on their own or they don't. Why is it so, I don't know.

Edited by Jack of Spades

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Hi, Jack. Nice to meet you!

I've had many experiences of awe and of the sublime. And they continue. But I've only had one mystical experience that I would call religious in nature. Without going into all the details, the experience that changed me made me feel that I was okay with What Is, with the Universe, so-to-speak. This experience contained no optical visions or auditory manifestations, only subjective feeling. No scientific evidence whatsoever. But it certainly seemed real. Real enough that it convinced me that I and everyone else is okay with What Is. I didn't have to take my shoes off or speak in tongues or fall off of a horse. I didn't have to do anything. That was what was so freeing to me.

So now, though I'm concerned about how we treat each other and our planet, what someone believes or doesn't believe isn't that important to me. My experience transcended beliefs. It was truly what Christians might call "grace". But you are right, IMO, that my experience is binding on no one else. It seemed meant for me because that was what I needed at the time. I don't use it as a gospel to transform anyone else. I struggle to even put the experience into words. Ineffable. In all honesty, it may have been a psychological phenomenon, just random firing in my brain of certain neurons, a hallucination. If so, it was a good trip. :) 

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23 hours ago, BillM said:

I guess it would have to take mystical theism. I mean, consider the mystics in the bible. God personally appears to Abraham and Moses and speaks to them (according to the biblical record). God personally appears to Jesus, talks to him, answers his prayers. Jesus, who is God in Christendom, personally appears to Saul and speaks to him. Nothing in these theistic accounts is "hearsay." These people claimed to experience the personal, living God. And these experiences changed them. That's what I would need in order to be a theist again. I'm not going to trust in hearsay. If God is truly personal (as theists claim he is), then he should personally appear and speak to me. There should be some evidence that convinces me that he exists and is real, at least as a "person" (or three persons as Christians say he is). I'm 58 now. To date, God is a no-show for me. As a theist, I had to trust the testimonies and experiences of others. No longer. I won't hold to second-hand faith. I tend to believe the adage, "The invisible and the unreal often look pretty much the same."  

My issue with this mystical theism and the issue for any 'progressive' believer is that if one has already come down on the side that the Bible is not the revealed word of God and should not be taken literally then is it still possible to go back to that source to cite examples of the theistic God appearing or speaking to humans? So, I'm not sure that the Bible can be a reliable source in this instance: Abraham may be a mythical figure and the books of Moses were written long after his death. As for Jesus, and I have not gone back to do the research, but does the NT have God appearing to Jesus and talking to him? It has Jesus praying to the Father (and not having his prayer answered in the Garden), it has Jesus pleading for the Father on the cross with no answer (of course one can also question if such stories should be taken literally) but it is one way: human seeking the Divine not the Divine communicating directly to the human (at least I think that is the case as I write this). Paul is a different case but it is a voice, not an appearance, correct?  And the OT and the gospel stories are 'hearsay' since the stories were not  written by those involved. Except for Paul, all these accounts are hearsay. 

I wonder what changed them? Was it a Divine appearance/communication from the theistic (external, supreme being) God or was it a human sensitivity/insight 'into' divinity immanent in creation? The latter (perhaps even the former) is not evidence and comes with no guarantees: it is faith (which is a different beast).

Actually as a theist, I never expected a personal appearance/communication with God, however I always 'believed' that God was with me and, for lack of a better description, that he loved me: I believed I was his 'child'  (as were we all). I talked to God but never expected to hear back - if I did I probably would have dropped dead :+}

 I am no longer a theist, more comfortable with panentheism but I believe that Reality is love and what we are to incarnate but therein is the mystery: I have never know love that is not personal. Do I believe that God is an external supreme being? No. Do I believe that God is Love? Yes and it can't get more personal that being love. For me, it is visible and real when looked at by faith 

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16 hours ago, Jack of Spades said:

Yup, faith gotta be a two-way street. If there is never any recognizable activity from God's part, it would be as good as make-believe. On the other hand, I think mystic's faith is a mix of both, faith and experiences. Building the theism on just experiences without any faith in it doesn't really work either, most of mystical experiences are explainable as psychological phenomenons anyway.

I recognize that pondering the essence of mystical faith doesn't do much to convince an outsider, though. I know how it sounds like when someone describes theirs, but I have no way of really giving anyone the key to it. People either find it on their own or they don't. Why is it so, I don't know.

I guess it depends on what kind of recognizable activity from God one expects: for the first disciples it was the simple call, of a man they were only beginning to know, that was transformative. For others along the way, it was the same man who called, challenged, told stories/parables. He spoke, they listened and for many it resonated in their lives: the transformative experience was in and through a man (someone known as a man, perhaps a rabbi but certainly, for the non-theist, a man). No 'recognizable God activity, unless 'seen' by faith, yet certainly not make-believe - since it was transformative.

I do like the idea of faith and experience. Perhaps the faith readies one to see 'into' the experience, perhaps it is the experience that emboldens the faith.

I have read some of the mystics (not all, some) but it seems it is always their insight (faith, reflection, looking deeply at what is) of which they write and from that make (faith) statements about God - rather than the recording of divine appearances or communications/conversations. For me, the rain falls on all (so to speak), God does not have favorites and there is no one on one communications. However, there are those among us who can see in the created order, the One who resides with us or in whom we live (but again, this too is faith). This seems to be the report and the reality of the mystics.

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1 hour ago, thormas said:

I guess it depends on what kind of recognizable activity from God one expects: for the first disciples it was the simple call, of a man they were only beginning to know, that was transformative. For others along the way, it was the same man who called, challenged, told stories/parables. He spoke, they listened and for many it resonated in their lives: the transformative experience was in and through a man (someone known as a man, perhaps a rabbi but certainly, for the non-theist, a man). No 'recognizable God activity, unless 'seen' by faith, yet certainly not make-believe - since it was transformative.

I do like the idea of faith and experience. Perhaps the faith readies one to see 'into' the experience, perhaps it is the experience that emboldens the faith.

I have read some of the mystics (not all, some) but it seems it is always their insight (faith, reflection, looking deeply at what is) of which they write and from that make (faith) statements about God - rather than the recording of divine appearances or communications/conversations. For me, the rain falls on all (so to speak), God does not have favorites and there is no one on one communications. However, there are those among us who can see in the created order, the One who resides with us or in whom we live (but again, this too is faith). This seems to be the report and the reality of the mystics.

 

Well, speaking only for myself, but I have countless one on one communication - experiences, and I've known over the years some other people (even if I discount the obviously not-well cases from the number) with similar experiences. It's not that rare, many Christian denominations accept such stuff as a normal practice of Christianity. In Neopaganism, that sort of "talking with gods" - mysticism is also fairly common.

 

To be honest, I don't recognize the description of mystics you speak of there. Stories of divine appearances, communications with God and experiences are the 101 of both books written by mystics and something self-identified mystics often recount in irl conversations. 

 

Excuse me if this is a misinterpretation but from what you write there, I get the impression that you're attempting to interpret the theistic mystic accounts to fit into a non-theistic narrative. I think it's more accurate to address them separately and respect the difference. Some people's (including my own) mystical experiences are undenidably theistic in nature, and some other peoples insights or experiences are not. I don't think it's advisable to try to force them both into one or the other narrative. I can live with the idea that some people have experiences that are incompatible with mine, having some mysteries in the realm of spirituality is kind of inevitable in my opinion.

Edited by Jack of Spades

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18 hours ago, BillM said:

Hi, Jack. Nice to meet you!

I've had many experiences of awe and of the sublime. And they continue. But I've only had one mystical experience that I would call religious in nature. Without going into all the details, the experience that changed me made me feel that I was okay with What Is, with the Universe, so-to-speak. This experience contained no optical visions or auditory manifestations, only subjective feeling. No scientific evidence whatsoever. But it certainly seemed real. Real enough that it convinced me that I and everyone else is okay with What Is. I didn't have to take my shoes off or speak in tongues or fall off of a horse. I didn't have to do anything. That was what was so freeing to me.

So now, though I'm concerned about how we treat each other and our planet, what someone believes or doesn't believe isn't that important to me. My experience transcended beliefs. It was truly what Christians might call "grace". But you are right, IMO, that my experience is binding on no one else. It seemed meant for me because that was what I needed at the time. I don't use it as a gospel to transform anyone else. I struggle to even put the experience into words. Ineffable. In all honesty, it may have been a psychological phenomenon, just random firing in my brain of certain neurons, a hallucination. If so, it was a good trip. :) 

 

I am familiar with the "difficult to put in words" - part of it. I can recall having a bothering dilemma of what to call my own first spiritual experience, as it didn't seem to fall neatly into any category of orthodox experiences I knew of back then. Nowadays I just describe the feeling, it was as if something that had been a distant idea, came close to me. Actually, during the moment, I saw it in my mind as an impression, something invisible that had been far away, came close. That's the exact feeling and I'm well aware that it might not make all that much sense for an outsider, but nowadays I tend to prefer authenticity over orthodoxy when recounting it.

 

Then there is the question of interpretation. Continuing from my own example, if I interpret my experience in theistic, or Christian terms, it was that God had previously been a distant idea to me, but in that moment, he came close to me as a spirit and my faith in God became a living, interactive thing, not just a distant idea. That experience itself wasn't all that theistic really actually, but it changed something in my life permanently, shortly after I began seeing visions etc stuff.

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2 hours ago, Jack of Spades said:

Well, speaking only for myself, but I have countless one on one communication - experiences, and I've known over the years some other people (even if I discount the obviously not-well cases from the number) with similar experiences. It's not that rare, many Christian denominations accept such stuff as a normal practice of Christianity. In Neopaganism, that sort of "talking with gods" - mysticism is also fairly common.

To be honest, I don't recognize the description of mystics you speak of there. Stories of divine appearances, communications with God and experiences are the 101 of both books written by mystics and something self-identified mystics often recount in irl conversations. 

Excuse me if this is a misinterpretation but from what you write there, I get the impression that you're attempting to interpret the theistic mystic accounts to fit into a non-theistic narrative. I think it's more accurate to address them separately and respect the difference. Some people's (including my own) mystical experiences are undenidably theistic in nature, and some other peoples insights or experiences are not. I don't think it's advisable to try to force them both into one or the other narrative. I can live with the idea that some people have experiences that are incompatible with mine, having some mysteries in the realm of spirituality is kind of inevitable in my opinion.

While I respect your belief, the idea of one on one with the Divine raises questions: such as why are some chosen and not others? Of course it is easy to say, who know or not my problem but the bottom line is it suggests a favoritism which in turn seems to be odds with the experience and teachings of Jesus. Again, many/most (?) mystics do not tell of such one on one communications - rather they speak of their insights/reflections of the divine in human experience. And again, I don't see Jesus reporting one on ones, so if not him, why anyone else? I ask this in part because the reports of mystics, such as yourself, create questions about the Divine, humanity, relationships, justice and on and on - and I think they have to be taken seriously and addressed. 

A further thought is that it is rare - compared to all those in the history of Christianity and also others throughout history. It is rare and many who have had that experience in my tradition (Catholicism) are considered saints. Also, there are those preachers who said they just talked to God and he wants us to contribute to his or their church?? So, rare indeed.

Could you share a book on 'recognized' mystics that speak of appearances and direct communications? Experiences and insight/reflection on that experience seems to be more the situation but I too will check some of my books on mysticism.

Not sure I'm trying to do that but, as you mention, not all mystic accounts are theistic as even Eckhart seems to move from and between a theistic and a more panentheistic description of the God he 'encounters' in creation - which also makes it even more complex and interesting. However, isn't an experience of the divine an experience of the divine? If we separate the two (theist and the non theist experiences), what does that say about the One who communicates? God is God is God, correct?  Perhaps the difference says something more about the human, not the divine 'side' of the experience. Not sure. 

I'm all for mystery but it doesn't mean we can't or shouldn't try to grapple with the questions and differences. 

 

Edited by thormas

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I'm not sure if you care to do this but I would be interested in descriptions of your communications with the divine.

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2 hours ago, thormas said:

While I respect your belief, the idea of one on one with the Divine raises questions: such as why are some chosen and not others? Of course it is easy to say, who know or not my problem but the bottom line is it suggests a favoritism which in turn seems to be odds with the experience and teachings of Jesus. Again, many/most (?) mystics do not tell of such one on one communications - rather they speak of their insights/reflections of the divine in human experience. And again, I don't see Jesus reporting one on ones, so if not him, why anyone else? I ask this in part because the reports of mystics, such as yourself, create questions about the Divine, humanity, relationships, justice and on and on - and I think they have to be taken seriously and addressed. 

A further thought is that it is rare - compared to all those in the history of Christianity and also others throughout history. It is rare and many who have had that experience in my tradition (Catholicism) are considered saints. Also, there are those preachers who said they just talked to God and he wants us to contribute to his or their church?? So, rare indeed.

Could you share a book on 'recognized' mystics that speak of appearances and direct communications? Experiences and insight/reflection on that experience seems to be more the situation but I too will check some of my books on mysticism.

Not sure I'm trying to do that but, as you mention, not all mystic accounts are theistic as even Eckhart seems to move from and between a theistic and a more panentheistic description of the God he 'encounters' in creation - which also makes it even more complex and interesting. However, isn't an experience of the divine an experience of the divine? If we separate the two (theist and the non theist experiences), what does that say about the One who communicates? God is God is God, correct?  Perhaps the difference says something more about the human, not the divine 'side' of the experience. Not sure. 

I'm all for mystery but it doesn't mean we can't or shouldn't try to grapple with the questions and differences. 

 

 

Sure, there are legitimate philosophical etc. questions worth addressing, no doubt about that. 

 

I'd say there is a pretty good case in the Gospels for the view that Jesus communicated directly with God:

- John 12:28 - Jesus asks God to speak and he does.

- Jesus often times receives knowledge, such as "he felt this or that in his spirit". (f.e. John 13:21). 

- Jesus speaks about his father (John 15:15) who teaches him. There is little doubt that the Jesus of Gospels is a theist, so a literal interpretation of what he says about being taught by God is a fair interpretation, imo.

- Also, Jesus has a rather personal conversation with a demon in 5:1-13. It doesn't add up to think of Jesus being in more intimate terms with bad spirits than with God.

 

If by "recognized mystics" you mean Catholic mystics, I am sure you know more of such books than I do. It's been years since I have read any new Christian books at all so I don't even have very many to recommend, but out of the ones I happen to know, I would recommend something like:

- "Riding the Third Wave" by Kevin Springer and John Wimber. (It's a collection of stories of power experiences by Christian pastors, 15 or so different accounts.)
- "Prophesy! A Practical Guide to Developing Your Prophetic Gift" by Bruce Collins (prophecy is a dramatic word, but it's basically a guidebook for Christians about hearing God's voice)
- "The Breaking of the Outer Man and the Release of The Spirit" by Watchman Nee. (Not exactly on the topic, but a worthy take on modern times Christian mysticism)

 

Those are all from Protestant Charismatic Christian authors. I tried to pick a geographically diverse sample (1 American, 1 European and 1 Asian author) for some cultural variation there. Those are probably the best books on the topic of communicating with supernatural I can recall reading. The rest I can think of are biographies.

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2 hours ago, thormas said:

I'm not sure if you care to do this but I would be interested in descriptions of your communications with the divine.

 

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

Edited by Jack of Spades

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Thanks, I will check this out.

For now:

Pertaining to the citations from the Gospel of John, I have some questions/disagreements: 'troubled in his spirit' does not on its face suggested 'communication' with the divine; many of us are so troubled and one can understand the gospel writer capturing this in Jesus also. Speaking about what one learned about the Father also goes to the religious education and community on whose shoulders Jesus stands and from whom he also receives insight. However the passage is interesting and I want to check some biblical scholarship on it. As an aside, I would feel comfortable saying also that I have heard from the Father but it was never in a direct one on one (it was in and through my faith community and later in and through the writings of still others and always in the experience of love); does Jesus suggest one? It is always difficult to 'separate' the historical Jesus from the post Easter writings of the early Church. 

I don't recall offhand the gospel source for the demon conversation. If it was his temptations during his 40 days, it has been suggested those are 'typical' temptations for one with such power or relationship with God and it is a literary devise used by the writer; otherwise one would have to think that upon his return and after a fair amount of time, Jesus retold the experience for the express purpose of it being passed on. And other instances of Jesus speaking to demons that he casts out seems to be part of the accepted religious understanding (of sickness) and his worldview. 

John 12:28 is intriguing for it seems to be such a communication but with John being the most 'theological' given his arranging of the miracles, referring to them as signs and his heavily theological introduction, there is a part of me that does not take John at face value. What follows is the "when I am lifted up" piece which is definitely post-resurrection awareness and the idea of all nations drawn to Jesus is definitely early Church; Jesus 'came' for the Jews first and foremost. So intriguing.

Having said this I recognize that if one is a theist, he/she might also accept the gospel writings in a way that I and other, non-theists do not. And my above questions and interpretations, perhaps reflect this difference. Which is fine as I am just trying to grapple with a different understanding of mystics. Our experiences and our beliefs can differ but Love must reign in one's life or all is folly.

 

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Jack of Spades experiences seem very close to my own.

Thomas, i wouldn't get too hung up on what you might consider favoritism. Even in the NT Peter is recorded as hearing directly from the Father himself when asked "Whom do men say I am ?"  by Jesus. What looks like favoritism can be found in many examples throughout the Bible but yet it may not be as it seems. Our understanding is limited and i have seen the works and gifts in people you would least likely expect it to come from.

As BillM says he is not looking fo hearsay but rather personal experience and i am in much agreement. Before my first memorable experience, the lyrics in a song that went " You'll never know that it true til it happens to you" were  imbedded in my mind. I wasn't looking for words or knowledge but rather for something to happen to me. Something internal that would transform me. That seems to me to be a key to mystical experiences. It seems to me,  sometimes, we only find what we are looking for.

Joseph

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Joseph,

Two points: first not so much hung up as curious how advocates of 'one on ones' with the Divine explain why they, and not others - many of whom are extraordinary people, 'close' to God and doing God's work in the world- are so 'blessed' or gifted. After all, in the history of Christianity, in the history of the world (given the overall numbers) such divine communications are very rare. I am interested in how things affect other people, especially those not part of (in this case) such a select few. And, for lack of a better way to put it, I am interested in 'intellectual rigor:' when one makes a statement, such as these divine communications, it is interesting (important) to see how they respond to those others. Seemingly, ones who have had such an experience has thought about it and, being touched by God, should empathize with others and want to address (explain) them. Plus, as mentioned earlier, the don't "get too hung up" seems to be come from "who knows" why this happens. Not very helpful. 

When discussing favoritism you cite Biblical examples but many, theists and non-theist alike, do not read the Bible this literally or consider it a divine work, so it is an appeal to those writing from an ancient world view that is not shared by moderns. And, if taken literally, how is it that what look like favoritism is not "as it seems?"  Actually, "it seems so" - especially when lined up against stories of a God's whose rain falls on all, a God who knows (equally?) the number of hairs on each of our heads and a Father who scolds a blessed son and longs for the prodigal (who is anything but blessed at the moment). If one remains a theist like Jack (you or others here), I get literal references to the Bible but if one has moved away from theism, is it still valid to take passages literally to support a position?  However, be it favoritism or human choice -  those who 'hear' and to do God's work do not typically fare well in the world (which must be perplexing to or simply ignored by those (cf. Oral Roberts) who preach 'abundant life' christianity.

Those who have moved from theism (and those who remain too), recognize the idea of natural gifts: some of us are bigger, stronger, better looking, natural athletes, musical or artistic prodigies, etc. - and some hone those gifts or develop other talents. And if one, like Jesus,  Buddha, MLK, Eckhart, etc. are 'gifted' or develop a sensitivity and insight into what we call divinity - most of us can accept that. But to say one (as traditionally or theistically understood) is 'blessed' by or 'favored' by God, seems to be a supernatural intervention that is at odds with the God called Abba and something that many theists and non-theists no longer accept.

Second point: the entire Bible is hearsay - with the possible exception of some of the letters attributed to Paul. There is enough research to establish that Moses wasn't the author of the "Books of Moses" and many other OT books were written centuries after events and then put into earlier setting with seemingly prophetic insights. So too the NT: all were written at least 40-70 years after the life of the historical Jesus. With the Bible, if taken as the work of human authors, we are dealing with stories about the insights of human beings and a human community concerning the divine. However, if one accepts divine authorship of the Bible (which many do), the entire bible is hearsay. I do recognize that personal experiences like the ones you, Jack or others report are not hearsay but first hand reports.

All cards on the table: I am not a theist and therefore there is no divine 'intervention' in the world and no 'selection' or favoritism in God. I take the bible as a human creation, the human story of individuals in community who 'saw' something 'More' at work in the created order, responded to IT and were so taken that they formed a relationship/ covenant in response to the Divine present in existence (Emmanuel).  My question with stories of personal communications or appearances of the Divine to an individual is what does this say about God (and everything else) and given the religious meaning of such 'communications' why haven't we all heard from these people? If one looks at biblical history, after such divine encounters: Abraham started a religious nation, Moses saved that nation and led them to freedom, David made them a Kingdom, Mary gave birth to their new King, Jesus saved everybody and Paul became a new man and he and others extended the new covenant with God throughout the world even at the risk of torture and death. Where is the modern equivalent for those who say they have had direct encounters with the divine? The God of the Bible is a God of people, not just individuals - his 'appearances' are for the salvation of his people; his communications are All part of 'salvation history.' It seems, given the biblical reference and throughout the history of Christianity that people so 'blessed' are driven to save the people, to be for the people. Given this one must at least wonder about any 'divine communications and divine appearances' to individuals that are not part of a continuing salvation/healing of the people of God (everybody?); whose encounters with the divine seem to be for them (and perhaps a few others). 

I have heard too often Church leaders and preachers literally say they just spoke to God and He wants them to contribute, others whose 'revelations' seem to invite the hate and prejudice they ascribed to even before the 'Divine communication,' others who, having had their one 'communication' now feel free to always speak for God (yet it is so unGodlike) and still others who speak of their private encounter but seemingly it is for them and not for the people of God. If it is truly from God, if it is truly God - or one believes this - then, given the biblical accounts (especially if one looks to them) the divine appearance or communication is never meant (only) for the individual: it is for the people, all the people. We shall know 'them' by their works on behalf of the Father for (all) the people. If not, perhaps it was not. 

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16 hours ago, thormas said:

Thanks, I will check this out.

For now:

Pertaining to the citations from the Gospel of John, I have some questions/disagreements: 'troubled in his spirit' does not on its face suggested 'communication' with the divine; many of us are so troubled and one can understand the gospel writer capturing this in Jesus also. Speaking about what one learned about the Father also goes to the religious education and community on whose shoulders Jesus stands and from whom he also receives insight. However the passage is interesting and I want to check some biblical scholarship on it. As an aside, I would feel comfortable saying also that I have heard from the Father but it was never in a direct one on one (it was in and through my faith community and later in and through the writings of still others and always in the experience of love); does Jesus suggest one? It is always difficult to 'separate' the historical Jesus from the post Easter writings of the early Church. 

 

Generally speaking on the topic, I think this topic of speaking with God is one piece in a larger meta-narrative; existence of supernatural reality in the Bible. When it comes to the question of supernatural in the gospels, the elephant in the room is the miracles. There are so many miracle stories that even if one thought that only randomly selected 10% of verses in the Gospels were true, chances are, that would still include an ample sample of miracle stories. I see the supernatural activity following Jesus as one of the fundamental elements in the Gospels, regardless of are all the accounts of miracle stories true or have some of them been invented later on. I see the big picture and the essence of the Jesus-story being fundamentally different in nature without the miracle-element in it. On the other hand, if we filter out the physical miracles first, then of course the idea that Jesus never spoke with God becomes much more credible and likely. But, if we keep them in place, it's not really a leap at all to interpret 1-on-1 with God into it at all. Crazier things have by that point already happened than some moments of face time with the God of the universe. That's my take on the bigger picture anyway.
 

16 hours ago, thormas said:

Speaking about what one learned about the Father also goes to the religious education and community on whose shoulders Jesus stands and from whom he also receives insight. However the passage is interesting and I want to check some biblical scholarship on it. As an aside, I would feel comfortable saying also that I have heard from the Father but it was never in a direct one on one (it was in and through my faith community and later in and through the writings of still others and always in the experience of love); does Jesus suggest one? It is always difficult to 'separate' the historical Jesus from the post Easter writings of the early Church. 


Just a thought, one could say that God speaking directly to someone is not really 100% direct communication either, even if I accept the concept of it. It comes through the proxy of human emotions, or human mind which can distort the messages. In the case of hearing God's voice, the proxy just happens to be one's own mind, not someone elses. Human heart is a complicated thing, and it can add it's own mud to the messages along the way.


The million dollar question that becomes the hot potato instantly with voice-experiences seems to be "how do I know which part of it is of God, and which part of it is just me?". For this reason, studying psychology has been part of my spiritual practice, as I try to understand my mind in order to separate the tricks my imagination can pull off from what I think to be God's voice. I see it as a lifelong journey to learn to better discern my own mind from the voice of the spirit.

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2 hours ago, Jack of Spades said:

 

Generally speaking on the topic, I think this topic of speaking with God is one piece in a larger meta-narrative; existence of supernatural reality in the Bible. When it comes to the question of supernatural in the gospels, the elephant in the room is the miracles. There are so many miracle stories that even if one thought that only randomly selected 10% of verses in the Gospels were true, chances are, that would still include an ample sample of miracle stories. I see the supernatural activity following Jesus as one of the fundamental elements in the Gospels, regardless of are all the accounts of miracle stories true or have some of them been invented later on. I see the big picture and the essence of the Jesus-story being fundamentally different in nature without the miracle-element in it. On the other hand, if we filter out the physical miracles first, then of course the idea that Jesus never spoke with God becomes much more credible and likely. But, if we keep them in place, it's not really a leap at all to interpret 1-on-1 with God into it at all. Crazier things have by that point already happened than some moments of face time with the God of the universe. That's my take on the bigger picture anyway.
 

Jack, that is indeed the crux of the issue. The theist (unless you define it differently) believes in the existence of an external, supernatural, Supreme Being. Whereas, the panentheist (for example) believes in Being (I AM) and as Paul says we live, move and have our being in God/Being: God is not a being, although Supreme; God 'Is' and all that is, is of God yet are also independent beings. In the latter scenario, there is no rationale for miracles (or other supernatural interventions) because God is immanent in creation. I don't take the Bible literally but do note the human insight of the immanent God. The Latin Fathers seem to see more of a 'distance' that do the Greek Fathers.

I too recognize the various miracles stories but have already commented (above) on the miracle of prophecy and there is valid, scholarly opinion (multiple denominations) that nature miracles might be library devises, and the healing miracles were 'wonders' because of the time. Even the signs of John are later developments and seemingly highly theological. And this is not to even delve much into the OT with miraculous events associated with the destruction of others of God's children who were not Israel. Then. of course, there is genesis: unless one totally accepts divine authorship, no one was there, so human invention - but magnificent poetry. So with this, I doubt there is an 'ample supply' when the biblical stories are studied. 

Indeed, the Jesus story fundamentally different without miracles but not fundamentally. Jesus is the God-man: a human so open to the Divine that the Divine lives or is incarnated/embodied in him and thus he is true God (Love) and true (and Fully) Man; he is/become Truly Human -True and First born Son of the Father. And in his life (and death) we are shown the Way to God and thus Healed (salvation). It is simply a low-Christological as opposed to the high-Christiology of traditional western Christianity.

So filter out the miracles, lose the idea of 'one on on'e communications with a Divine Entity (although many of us, myself included, speak to God - the insight into experience and reflection on it is a very human experience) but having God answer (like we are doing here) is not a very normal human experience and Jesus only works if he is truly like us, just like us). If we keep them (the supernatural, the miracles, etc.) in place, more and more feel the story doesn't resonate, doesn't make sense and simply turn (it is already happening); it is not and cannot be Good News if no one can hear it. As mentioned above, any 'one on one' cannot be for the one or the few, it must be for the people and it costs, sometimes dearly. Even Spock knew this :+}

2 hours ago, Jack of Spades said:

Just a thought, one could say that God speaking directly to someone is not really 100% direct communication either, even if I accept the concept of it. It comes through the proxy of human emotions, or human mind which can distort the messages. In the case of hearing God's voice, the proxy just happens to be one's own mind, not someone elses. Human heart is a complicated thing, and it can add it's own mud to the messages along the way.

The million dollar question that becomes the hot potato instantly with voice-experiences seems to be "how do I know which part of it is of God, and which part of it is just me?". For this reason, studying psychology has been part of my spiritual practice, as I try to understand my mind in order to separate the tricks my imagination can pull off from what I think to be God's voice. I see it as a lifelong journey to learn to better discern my own mind from the voice of the spirit.

The concern is that the proxy is 'one's own mind.'  The hot potato is best resolved with a look at the biblical history (whether taken literally or not): the one who hears the voice of God, does not hear for themselves but as prophet/teacher/messenger/instrument for the people of God.  Once heard (be it voice or insight), once seen (be it divine appearance or the human situation and suffering), there is always, always, always a call to Act now, despite the risk, embarrassment or lost to oneself. If one is not 'called' to act - not for self but for the other, for the people of God, I think the million dollar question has answered itself.

At least I think................at this time.

Edited by thormas

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1 hour ago, thormas said:

Jack, that is indeed the crux of the issue. The theist (unless you define it differently) believes in the existence of an external, supernatural, Supreme Being. Whereas, the panentheist (for example) believes in Being (I AM) and as Paul says we live, move and have our being in God/Being: God is not a being, although Supreme; God 'Is' and all that is, is of God yet are also independent beings. In the latter scenario, there is no rationale for miracles (or other supernatural interventions) because God is immanent in creation. I don't take the Bible literally but do note the human insight of the immanent God. The Latin Fathers seem to see more of a 'distance' that do the Greek Fathers.

I too recognize the various miracles stories but have already commented (above) on the miracle of prophecy and there is valid, scholarly opinion (multiple denominations) that nature miracles might be library devises, and the healing miracles were 'wonders' because of the time. Even the signs of John are later developments and seemingly highly theological. And this is not to even delve much into the OT with miraculous events associated with the destruction of others of God's children who were not Israel. Then. of course, there is genesis: unless one totally accepts divine authorship, no one was there, so human invention - but magnificent poetry. So with this, I doubt there is an 'ample supply' when the biblical stories are studied. 

Indeed, the Jesus story fundamentally different without miracles but not fundamentally. Jesus is the God-man: a human so open to the Divine that the Divine lives or is incarnated/embodied in him and thus he is true God (Love) and true (and Fully) Man; he is/become Truly Human -True and First born Son of the Father. And in his life (and death) we are shown the Way to God and thus Healed (salvation). It is simply a low-Christological as opposed to the high-Christiology of traditional western Christianity.

So filter out the miracles, lose the idea of 'one on on'e communications with a Divine Entity (although many of us, myself included, speak to God - the insight into experience and reflection on it is a very human experience) but having God answer (like we are doing here) is not a very normal human experience and Jesus only works if he is truly like us, just like us). If we keep them (the supernatural, the miracles, etc.) in place, more and more feel the story doesn't resonate, doesn't make sense and simply turn (it is already happening); it is not and cannot be Good News if no one can hear it. As mentioned above, any 'one on one' cannot be for the one or the few, it must be for the people and it costs, sometimes dearly. Even Spock knew this :+}

 

This was an interesting summary, I appreciate it. My gut reaction to reading this is that if the divine nature is understood to be part of us, and external God is rejected, then the command to love God and thy neighbor, turns into "Love thy neighbor and thy neighbor". God as a separate, distinct receiver of our love disappears from the picture and the command to love God is interpreted as just another form of saying "love thy neighbor". 

 

1 hour ago, thormas said:

The concern is that the proxy is 'one's own mind.'  The hot potato is best resolved with a look at the biblical history (whether taken literally or not): the one who hears the voice of God, does not hear for themselves but as prophet/teacher/messenger/instrument for the people of God.  Once heard (be it voice or insight), once seen (be it divine appearance or the human situation and suffering), there is always, always, always a call to Act now, despite the risk, embarrassment or lost to oneself. If one is not 'called' to act - not for self but for the other, for the people of God, I think the million dollar question has answered itself.

At least I think................at this time.

 

I think this goes back to the same question of the meaning of loving God. If loving God, contemplating God, seeking experiential, direct experiences of receiving God's love and loving him back, is seen as both possible and virtuous practice in itself, then the outcome does not necessarily need to be outwardly action for the good of someone else. Deepening intimacy with God would be a perfect outcome of such experiences, if we accept the idea of loving God himself to be a virtue.

 

I think there is a distinction between that of holy life, and that of just being a good, helpful, productive member of human race. Holiness includes the idea of love and devotion to God himself. Don't get me wrong, I think the world of people who do good for others, but when it comes to the concept of holiness, for example when we think about lives of saints, loving thy neighbor is the second part of the first command, rather than the whole story. The saints (and their protestant informal equivalents) spent usually the first part of their walk devoted to private worship and prayer, and only after such period became more focused on doing good to other humans. If we re-interpret the "loving God" part to mean "love thy neighbor" in another, cryptic form, that would mean that the classic first part of saints path is little more than wasted time.

 

I am well aware that there is biblical ammo to make the case both ways, but let's throw one in the game: The story of Martha and Mary (Luke 10:38-42) is a popular counter-punch for the idea that only doing good for others is valuable. Jesus reprimanded the woman who was more focused on serving her guest (and who perceived her sister to behave selfishly) than the one who was focused on chatting with him. 

 

To summarize: I think that whether we accept theism or not, has an impact on our view on the essence of Christian love aswell. Theism adds more dimensions to the idea of love, it becomes a triangle (or actually a square, if the devil's kingdom is included in the picture too), not just a simple binary choice between selfishness or selflessness.

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apologies for mistakes as I was on the run: library was meant to be literary and the first fundamentally is the following sentence should have been deleted: the Jesus story is fundamentally different without miracles but not fundamentally.

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2 hours ago, Jack of Spades said:

This was an interesting summary, I appreciate it. My gut reaction to reading this is that if the divine nature is understood to be part of us, and external God is rejected, then the command to love God and thy neighbor, turns into "Love thy neighbor and thy neighbor". God as a separate, distinct receiver of our love disappears from the picture and the command to love God is interpreted as just another form of saying "love thy neighbor". 

Explanations and making oneself clear are always tricky in these areas. I don't think I would say the 'divine nature is ...part of us' (although I see how you got this from my writings), rather divinity is immanent in - yet still More than - creation. I say this to differentiate panentheism from pantheism and from the understanding that we are 'self-expressions' of God coming to know himself; we are not God, we are the children of the Father. Yet to seemingly contradict myself, it is by incarnating the divine nature and being the divine nature (i.e. Love) we become what we are born to be: truly and fully Human, yet still 'of' the Father.

I think you have it with the commandment: one can only love God by loving your neighbor (whatever you do to the least....). If one loves, they love God (it is one and the same); love is 'doing' what God Is. This is incarnation: Love in humanity. God has no need to be a distinct, separated receiver of our love: the need is ours, to love; the need is for our neighbor, to be loved. Where and whenever we love, there is God (the two great commandment are one).

2 hours ago, Jack of Spades said:

I think this goes back to the same question of the meaning of loving God. If loving God, contemplating God, seeking experiential, direct experiences of receiving God's love and loving him back, is seen as both possible and virtuous practice in itself, then the outcome does not necessarily need to be outwardly action for the good of someone else. Deepening intimacy with God would be a perfect outcome of such experiences, if we accept the idea of loving God himself to be a virtue.

I think it is fine to 'think on' or contemplate God if one means trying to understand something and make (somewhat) intelligible what we mean and believe about God. However, I don't think there is virtue or purpose in loving or seeking direct experience of God nor is there virtue in loving God back. If John is correct, if God is love, then substitute love for what you just said about God: what does it mean to love love or seek direct experience of love or loving love back? The only thing to do with God, the only thing to do with Love .......is to love and we don't love love, we love others, our neighbors. Over the years I have come to see that there is no need to worship God, the only worship worthy of God is to love, to love your neighbors, his children. That is living worship when we (referring to Catholicism) do not 'receive' the body of Christ but we ARE the body of Christ, the body of God in the world. In my tradition, there were monks who locked themselves away to contemplate God, pray for the world, seek direct experience ....then there were the Benedictines who taught me in college. There was contemplation in their community but they went out into the world to teach, to run farms, to work the fields, to befriend college kids. I never had to guess who lived the great commandment of love. Can one deepen intimacy with God? Can one deepen intimacy with Love? If God is Love,the only deepening is to do it, to be Love in the world, to pick up the cross, let selfishness die and allow Love to come to life by giving it away.

 

2 hours ago, Jack of Spades said:

I think there is a distinction between that of holy life, and that of just being a good, helpful, productive member of human race. Holiness includes the idea of love and devotion to God himself. Don't get me wrong, I think the world of people who do good for others, but when it comes to the concept of holiness, for example when we think about lives of saints, loving thy neighbor is the second part of the first command, rather than the whole story. The saints (and their protestant informal equivalents) spent usually the first part of their walk devoted to private worship and prayer, and only after such period became more focused on doing good to other humans. If we re-interpret the "loving God" part to mean "love thy neighbor" in another, cryptic form, that would mean that the classic first part of saints path is little more than wasted time.

I don't think there is a difference as long as "good, helpful, productive member of human race" means a loving man or woman. Good god, if we all were, it would be heaven! God is holy, God is love, therefore, Love is holy. There is nothing else. If one loves, there is no greater devotion (which means love). For the saints and for God (I suspect), there is no second part of the commandment, the two are one: Love! As an aside, I think there is a wisdom in panentheism that is obscured in theism: there are not two, the one resides in the other.

As mentioned, the walk or the contemplation/study is fine but one still must be the good Samaritan daily and always: one doesn't put the love of neighbor on hold till worship/prayer are complete. I don't see the division of parts in the lives of Francis, Benedict, Theresa  or the lives of the saints among us who are never recognized. The first part is never wasted (man the self-transcendent being is always questioning, always trying to understand, always reaching beyond self) but it should be on the job training.

2 hours ago, Jack of Spades said:

I am well aware that there is biblical ammo to make the case both ways, but let's throw one in the game: The story of Martha and Mary (Luke 10:38-42) is a popular counter-punch for the idea that only doing good for others is valuable. Jesus reprimanded the woman who was more focused on serving her guest (and who perceived her sister to behave selfishly) than the one who was focused on chatting with him. 

To summarize: I think that whether we accept theism or not, has an impact on our view on the essence of Christian love aswell. Theism adds more dimensions to the idea of love, it becomes a triangle (or actually a square, if the devil's kingdom is included in the picture too), not just a simple binary choice between selfishness or selflessness.

I believe the story is one with Jesus' encounter with the rich young man: one should always be primarily concerned with God. Or as been said here: one should always be primarily concerned with Love over wealth, status, impressing others (guests), etc.  

Theism had value of course, but traditional theism, in its consideration of God, emphasized one 'side' or certain 'attributes' over others. John Macquarie coined the term 'Dialectical Theism" (he likes the term better than panentheism) and he does a fine job of always considering both sides in a consideration of God. Traditional theism overemphasized  transcendence over immanence, supernatural over natural, Jesus' divinity at the expense of his humanity etc. and that is proving a bit fatal for Christianity: numbers down, people defining themselves as spiritual not religious, cafeteria Catholics in the US, and of course progressive Christianity, Spong and others trying to suggest a change that reaches people in today's world (radically different from the world that gave birth to traditional theism). 

Enjoyable conversation Jack, thanks.

Edited by thormas

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7 hours ago, thormas said:

Joseph,

Two points: first not so much hung up as curious how advocates of 'one on ones' with the Divine explain why they, and not others - many of whom are extraordinary people, 'close' to God and doing God's work in the world- are so 'blessed' or gifted. After all, in the history of Christianity, in the history of the world (given the overall numbers) such divine communications are very rare. I am interested in how things affect other people, especially those not part of (in this case) such a select few. And, for lack of a better way to put it, I am interested in 'intellectual rigor:' when one makes a statement, such as these divine communications, it is interesting (important) to see how they respond to those others. Seemingly, ones who have had such an experience has thought about it and, being touched by God, should empathize with others and want to address (explain) them. Plus, as mentioned earlier, the don't "get too hung up" seems to be come from "who knows" why this happens. Not very helpful. 

Thomas

Perhaps you are just curious as you say. I don't know the answer to why?,  so i restrain myself from attempting to answer that question intellectually . To me, no explanation is required.  So while i might try to empathize with those  who require an intellectual answer, i cannot supply one. In the state of conscious divine connection, at least  in my case,   all questions including those of why one and not another fail to arise. No doubt i am not very helpful in that area to one who requires such.

Joseph

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Indeed I am curious. 

Not simply an intellectual answer...........any answer. I simply believe there is a necessity to attempt to explain such things so others can understand and perhaps move forward one way or the other...............oh well.

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11 hours ago, thormas said:

God is love, therefore, Love is holy. There is nothing else. If one loves, there is no greater devotion (which means love).


I don't think that love is God, although God is love. Thinking in theistic terms, God as a person, makes that distinction between God the person and love as an impulse and motive rather obvious and intuitive. The greatest command makes a lot more sense and is a lot more intuitive in theistic world view, imo. But, I pretty much already said in my previous post what my take on this is, so I'm reluctant to repeat it all over again.

 

As for the Mary and Martha story. I've never thought of Martha as acting out of wrong motives, such as vanity (trying to impress Jesus, as you seemingly suggest). I see her as well meaning but misguided. The story is a microcosmos of the worshippers and the doers. The doers (Martha) want to guilt the worshippers (Mary) for "not being helpful" as they fail to recognize the value of their practice, yet Jesus sided with Mary in the story, calling her way to be the right way.

 

My 2 cents on the question of favoritism: The biblical world view, if taken literally, is indeed exclusive. I don't personally see the world to be morally as black and white as it appears often times to be in the Bible. My personal world view has more shades of gray than what my understanding of the Bible appears to support.

 

But in terms of my personal history, I can't help but to see a clear difference between myself before and after my first spiritual awakening - experience (regardless of what term I use to describe it). The difference wasn't as much a moral change (I didn't become a saint, far from it) as it was a spiritual change. There is a clear "before" and "after" in my life for how my spirituality and faith functioned. It's like a black and white still photograph versus a colored movie. If some well-intentioned fella had tried to explain to my before-self that I already have everything I'm supposed to have spiritually, and I'm totally fine, in order to make me feel better about not possibly feeling excluded, that would have been a huge disservice, if not a deception, as it is obvious to me in hindsight that I didn't by then yet have the whole thing working for me and things would change for me later on.

 

11 hours ago, thormas said:

Traditional theism overemphasized  transcendence over immanence, supernatural over natural, Jesus' divinity at the expense of his humanity etc. and that is proving a bit fatal for Christianity: numbers down, people defining themselves as spiritual not religious, cafeteria Catholics in the US, and of course progressive Christianity, Spong and others trying to suggest a change that reaches people in today's world (radically different from the world that gave birth to traditional theism). 

 

- The decline of Christianity in the West, and theories for reasons/cures to the phenomenon would make a good thread of it's own, I think. Allow me to start one to keep this one more on the topic:

 http://tcpc.ipbhost.com/topic/3843-decline-of-christianity-in-the-west/

Edited by Jack of Spades
typos

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Thormas, I won’t address all of the passages you reference, and I’m doing this just from memory, but I seem to recall that at Jesus’ baptism, the skies part and there is a voice from heaven which says, “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.” There is another passage where Jesus says that he doesn’t speak anything except for what God speaks to him. Or his words are God’s words, or something to that effect. Paul doesn’t see Jesus, but one account says that everyone in Paul’s party heard the voice saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Another account says that Paul alone heard the voice. They say that if you talk to God, that is prayer. If God talks to you, that is insanity. Ha ha!

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To all: This is an observation, not a criticism. It seems to me that the bible is written from a theistic point of view. In the bible’s theism, God is, for the most part, in heaven (not here) and has to send prophets in order to speak to human beings. There are, of course, always exceptions. There are theophanies, a notion which most Christians apply to Jesus. But in the bible, generally, God speaks (either to a prophet or to people), and people hear. It is usually audible, inciting how transcendent (other) God is from us. I have never had that particular experience.

 

What I have had is, common to human experiences, intuitions, leanings, moments of unction, fairly strong influences that I should pursue a certain path. The problem is, how do I know that these things are not just *me* instead of *Divine*? Some would say that there is no difference. And while I might agree with that in theory, that is not the bible’s way of describing how God communicates. So, again, not a criticism, but if the god that speaks to me internally is not the God of the bible (who speaks externally, audibly and actually vibrates the air), then I’m forced to question if the god I experience is the God of the bible or Christianity. Thankfully, this god of my experience never tells me to kill my neighbors or to sacrifice my children or to treat slaves kindly. I suppose that you could say that the god of my experience is love, a kinder, gentler god. But the god of my experience, whether it is only a phantasm in my mind or some kind of all-pervasive Presence, is not much like the God of the bible, does not seem to be either Yahweh or the Father of Jesus. In fact, I’ve come to trust this Inner Light more than the portrayals of God in the scriptures and in the Christian tradition. For many, doing this would definitely qualify me as a heretic.

Lastly (because I’m not a fan of reading long posts, though I seem to write them far too often), I’m not sure that I agree with Jack’s comment that, in panentheism, “Love God and love thy neighbor” becomes *only* “love thy neighbor and love thy neighbor”. God is, for me, a place holder for all that is larger than myself. I no longer believe in God as a Person (or three Persons), but I do experience god as, for lack of a better term, the Connectedness of all things. Seen in this way, loving the Connectedness inevitably leads us to love our neighbors (and even our enemies) because we see that we are all connected on some level. The hard borders fall away while also being able to appreciate and be thankful for the differences in others.  

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Seems the whole story of God is the story of Love. In the NT: the Good Samaritan, the Prodigal Son, the acts of power (miracles) always healing, making whole, the one, long act of selflessness (i.e. love) that culminates on the cross, the giving of the spirit, the continuing presence. God is Love and or better God is the loving. The 2 great commandments are love - it is the be all and end all. And what is it that enables others to 'see' God in Jesus and later move to a full blown concept of Trinity: it is Love.  And when we say of a man or woman, "what a good person," what a selfless individual, how 'godlike' the are, it is all about Love. It is Love that we are drawn to, love that we celebrate and wish for others, it is love that overcomes, it is love that makes us truly Human. It is by loving that we image the Father. Put it together: it is and always was God: God is Love and I think the 'insight' is that Love is God. There is no distinction: essence is existence: love is not an impulse or motive, it is the Way. The great command got lost in theism.

So given the shades of gray comment, you do not take the bible literally - except is some places? For the minute if we take it literally (and perhaps even if we don't), the choice by God of certain individuals (Abraham, Moses, David, Mary, Jesus, Paul, etc.) is always on behalf of the people; it is never merely for the individual. If so, then any present 'one on one' would seem to have to follow: personal 'revelation' is only valid, only (and possibly) from/with God if it is on behalf of the people of God. If it is a '1 on 1' for the individual's sake ...........then, given the biblical witness, it is not. There is something about a light and a basket that rings true.

I don't deny that individuals the world over have life changing events, I merely question that they are (theistic) personal revelations by or a '1 on 1' with God. And I press, because I believe this 'stuff' is important, especially since it can impact others sense of self,  sense of God and understanding of everything. I believe in human experiences, human insights that are life changing and have everything to do with God/Truth/Reality but it is the man or woman seeing or finding (perhaps with help from others or even the created order) what was always there. And I believe it is a 'seeing through' so to speak, almost an "aha moment" when the immanent God, already and always present, in creation - is glimpsed. In the '1 on 1' the One is always there, the seeing is always possible - it is only necessary for the other '1' to finally see. No one is special, we all are; it is not exclusive, it is inclusive. 

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