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The Word Of God And The Treacherous Sea Of Language


tariki
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Hello everyone. I have been meandering through a couple of threads on another Forum and was reminded of a few words I wrote a while back while debating something completely different(apologies to Monty Python).I had posted......

 

But once again, the treacherous sea of language, and heaven help us if we rely too much upon it. Perhaps why for Christianity the Word of God is Jesus Christ, a Person........and not a book.

 

Another member of the Forum - a devout Catholic who had impressed me with his knowledge of Catholic theology and of the Early Church Fathers - responded by saying....Spot on

 

I have tried to follow the debate between Mike and David (tried being the operative word, as I normally lose the plot at the first bit of heavy logic) and the idea of the integrity of the human person is some sort of issue. This made me reflect back to some words of Thomas Merton (again!) who spoke of the idea/concept/reality of the "person" was now perhaps one of the main areas where interfaith dialogue needs to zero in on. Merton himself made some sort of start with an essay entitled "Transcendent Experience - Who is it that has a transcendent experience?" (Who knows just where his thought and faith in Christ may have taken him had he lived longer..........)

 

It does seem to me that the "Word" of God as Person holds some sort of key to the communion of Faiths. As Neon Genesis said on another thread, sola scriptua became the buzz word (or words!) at the time of the Reformation, while Christ seems to have been around a little while longer according to the prelude to St Johns Gospel.

 

My own "in house" interest in this comes from a set of dialogues in a book on Pure Land teachings that involves dialogue between committed Pure Landers and Christian Theologians. Amida = Christ is seen as some sort of option. Whether Amida is really Christ...........or Christ is really Amida........well, I suppose this would depend on what side of the fence you start from! Though whats in a name, a rose etc etc

 

Anyway, what do others here think of all this? It just seems to me that the "Word" as Person holds hope for further dialogue - even genuine communion - between the faiths. It does seem a fact of history that sola scriptua has led to a splintering of the Protestant movement into a multitude of differing groups. "The proof of the pudding is in the eating" as has been said! And maybe while we wait for some agreement to be reached, the divine as Person can communicate with each person as each is able to understand and respond.

 

I have posted this on the Debate and Dialogue section so therefore all are welcome. Just how much I will join in myself will depend on the responses......to be honest, I have to say that the debates here lately have made me feel rather sad. But let no one be deterred!

 

:)

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I agree. A Christocentric faith is very firmly advocated and authorised by Scripture, but there is no authority whatever in Scripture for a Bibliocentric one.

 

To me the reason is simple; a perfect Bible, perfectly authored by God, would lead to us plating it with gold and bowing down to it, albeit with the best of intentions. Evidence for this is the willingness of many Christians to do just that, even with an imperfect Bible. Or, as +Tom says, the Reformation did not go far enough in identifying what is meant by God's authority; it simply replaced a human Pope with a paper one.

 

http://www.ntwrightpage.com/Wright_Bible_Authoritative.htm

 

Therefore, to me, the first question to ask advocates of Sola Scriptura is; on whose authority? The irony of their position is that this authority has to be assumed or interpreted, but is not actually written.

 

As for the communion of faiths, I think the trick there is to learn to accept and embrace our differences, rather than trying to reconcile them. The first we can do today; the second will take rather longer to achieve.

Edited by Anglocatholic
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Wonderful points tariki and Anglocatholic,

 

Actually this subject is a sensitive one to many but it is in my view one that each Christian must work through at some time for him/her self. I wrote a whole chapter in a book on false premises of the church sysytem of which this subject was one that got me excommunicated from the church system i was involved in using the Bible as its own authority to suggest that it never referred to itself as, nor was, the "Word" of God. If one has the patience, it can be read free at

http://www.home.fuse.net/mattioli/GodBook/page12.html

Anyway, it is, in my opinion a necessary topic at some point in ones journey. Tariki, thanks for bringing it up and perhaps others will take it in a direction that will benefit some or even themself.

 

Welcome Anglocatholic to TCPC.

 

Love in Christ,

Joseph

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As for the communion of faiths, I think the trick there is to learn to accept and embrace our differences, rather than trying to reconcile them. The first we can do today; the second will take rather longer to achieve.

 

Anglocatholic,

 

I think what you have said here is spot on! There was a phrase I heard once.....The beauty of difference

 

I believe that there is a verse in the Quran where God/Allah says something like........Had I have wanted to I could have made all alike, but have chosen not to. Finally all will be revealed, but in the meantime compete together in kindness

 

"Compete together in kindness".....now there's a thought!

 

Mentioning Islam, without seeking to discredit, at one time it was explained how it and Christianity differed in as much as according to Islam the Quran itself - and only in the Arabic language -is the revealed "Word" of God, and Mohammad was the means by which it was revealed; in Christianity, the "Word" is Jesus Christ, a Person, and the Bible the "inspired witness" to the revelation. I thought at the time how this, to me, gave Christianity the edge. Once again, no discredit to Islam, I am virtually ignorant of it as way/faith/religion.

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Mentioning Islam, without seeking to discredit, at one time it was explained how it and Christianity differed in as much as according to Islam the Quran itself - and only in the Arabic language -is the revealed "Word" of God, and Mohammad was the means by which it was revealed; in Christianity, the "Word" is Jesus Christ, a Person, and the Bible the "inspired witness" to the revelation. I thought at the time how this, to me, gave Christianity the edge. Once again, no discredit to Islam, I am virtually ignorant of it as way/faith/religion.

 

I am struggling with Islam at present. I have known many Moslems, for many years, and never had any problems. However, on Monday night I had an extended conversation with 7 or 8 very fundamentalist Moslem women, and it has left me in a lot of turmoil. My next door neighbours are also fundamentalist Moslem, but we generally get on very well. However, today when I saw them I felt very angry.

 

I know this is projected anger from the extended attacks I suffered on Monday night, and that I have to resolve this for myself, but it is not easy. I tried very hard not to diss Islam in return to these ladies. I said that I do not have the right to judge anyone but myself, but in actual fact I feel full of judgement, and full of condemnation, for people who can tell me to my face that my faith is corrupted and that Christ will stand on the day of judgement and condemn me before God. That takes a lot of patience, and yet I took it. I said it was untrue, and I said they had been told a pack of lies about our faith, but I said that I would not disrespect their faith or their prophet, whatever they said about mine.

 

I drew a line when they tried to tell me that Christ is not God. I said, don't go there; that is not negotiable, and it is best not to discuss it. I tried my best throughout to find areas of agreement. They tried to find ways to discredit me, my Scriptures, my faith and my Lord. Very challenging indeed.

 

I am trying to remember that moderate people of any faith have more in common with one another than with fundies of any faith. Similarly, fundie Christians actually have more in common with fundie Moslems than with the rest of us. Some of the language used was very familiar indeed from encounters with evangelicals.

 

It is easy for me to understand that Christianity is about far more than fundamentalism, but in relation to other faiths the temptation to stick everyone into the same box, and close the lid on it, is very strong.

Edited by Anglocatholic
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I wrote a whole chapter in a book on false premises of the church sysytem of which this subject was one that got me excommunicated from the church system i was involved in using the Bible as its own authority to suggest that it never referred to itself as, nor was, the "Word" of God.

 

Welcome Anglocatholic to TCPC.

 

Love in Christ,

Joseph

 

Thanks, J. :)

 

Fortunately for me, the 39 articles are very clear on this point.

 

VI. Of the Sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures for Salvation.

Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.

 

If it is not written, then it cannot be required of me, or any other Anglican, to believe it. Anyone can choose to do so, if they want, but that does not make it a Biblical belief.

 

The irony of 'Bible believing' Christians is that the ultimate foundation of their belief is not Biblical, but is rather in direct contradiction to what the Bible actually says, which is to build on the Rock which is Christ, not the sand which is anything other than Christ.

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Anglocatholic,

 

I feel that your admitting to feeling "full of judgement" is a credit to you, and far more refreshing than the pious humbug that passes - or poses - for instant "forgiveness" in many. That's the way forward. Walk on!

 

I would aslo add, that personally I'm not happy with your constant use of the word "fundie", but then, that could be just pious humbug on my part.......I'll leave it to the moderators.

 

All the best

Derek

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Indeed Muslims and Islam have become a huge issue in our modern political landscape. I do not look favorably on Muslim fundamentalism, then again, I tend to not look very favorably on fundamentalism within my own faith tradition. I am reminded however of the rich esoteric tradition within Islam, Sufism, which I hope to continue looking into in more detail in the future. Sufi masters, as mystics in other religious traditions, tend to look beyond sectarianism and see divine truths behind the formal structures in other religions. As such, as I have read, even the teaching of the Incarnation of Christ need not necessarily be something that Muslims must oppose, as our Christian doctrine may parallel the descent of the Koran in Islam. But as long as we are hung up on the formalities, we risk missing the substance, if I may use such Aristotelian language. Both faiths have as their starting point God and his revelation, or rather, manifestation, in Jesus or Muhammad and the Koran. The Muslim creed is 'there is no god if not God, Muhammad is his envoy.' For Christians 'there is one God, the Father, and one Lord, Jesus Christ.'

 

Peace to you,

Mike

Edited by Mike
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It seems that Buddhism has far more variety in it than I realized. Id always thought it was more of a philosophy, abstract, with no personal savior to relate to.

Tariki says that for Pure Landers, Amida = Christ is seen as an option, and the Word of God as Person holds hope for further dialogue - even genuine communion - between the two faiths. The divine as Person can communicate with each one of us as we are able to understand and respond.

 

I think its an important point to keep in mindGod as person is the Word or Logos -- perhaps also the bridge within Christians. As I understand it, Catholics focus their worship on the Eucharist, while Protestants center their worship on the reading/interpretation of the bible. Nowhere in scripture is the word of God equated with the bible; the holy spirit is a higher authority and cant be contained or confined to the bible or church doctrines.

 

When Jesus says, 'I am the truth,' he indicates that in Him the true, ultimate reality is present; that God is present, unveiled, in His infinite depth and mystery. Jesus is not the truth because his teachings are true; his teachings are true because they express the truth which he is. The truth which makes us free is neither the teaching of Jesus nor the teaching about Jesus. The words of Jesus, if taken as a law, are not the truth which makes us free. They point to the truth, but they are not a law of truth. How do we reach this truth? By participating in His being. The truth which liberates is the power of love, for God is love... --Paul Tillich (perhaps he is to me what Merton is to Tariki - ha!)

Edited by rivanna
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rivanna and all,

 

never say never! I said I was signing off for a while, but obviously I intended to take a peep at odd moments. Thanks everyone for your interest in this. I think in true dialogue each side must be open to change, even vulnerable......which in part is what my other thread was about, "Acceptance and Vulnerability". Part of the point I was making in my opening post on this thread was the openess on the possible meaning of "person". "ego" as "false" self, "old man in the sky" distinct from "creation", a False God? It seems fundamental to me that relationship has some sort of ultimate reality, yet "non-duality" for me also holds the key.........once again, non-duality not as the opposite of duality but as embracing it. Pure Land theology (or is Buddhology? :D ) becomes very complex at times, even though directed at the "foolish" self!

 

I feel I'm getting a little lost here, but I did wish to emphasise the side of this thread that was suggesting that it is in the word "person" and what we would mean by this that seems to hold some sort of opportunity for genuine dialogue for well intentioned people of all faiths. If we simply identify with our "false" self - the "ego"? - then surely our idea and concept of God as "Person" would suffer accordingly by simple projection?

 

Anyway, I'm off again!

All the best

Derek

 

P.S I have a little book by Paul Tillich, "The Boundaries of Our Being"......I may dip into it during my break!

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If God is not a person, then praying is not possible-- wouldn’t that be so? I don’t see this as a confusion of words vs reality, but then I’m not able to follow all the intricacies of Buddhist analysis re language.

I think the process of meditating or praying takes us out of the ego, beyond the false self to re-merge with the ground of being, the source -- connecting to God through a direct mystical encounter, as Jesus taught. The still small voice of compassion we can sometimes hear within ourselves in response. I don’t know about the other major world faiths, but I would imagine they conceive of the divine as personal, able to hear and understand us as no one on earth can.

 

I suppose there are many PC’s who do not feel a need to pray, for whom faith is fulfilled in outward, active service to others.

 

Anglocatholic said, “moderate people of any faith have more in common with one another than with fundamentalists of any faith…. As for the communion of faiths, I think the trick there is to learn to accept our differences, rather than trying to reconcile them.”

I agree, in fact might make that my new year’s resolution! Too often I’ve tried to bridge divergent types of Christians or let others nudge me in that direction, and it’s not my responsibility. It’s much easier to connect PC to Buddhism, than liberals and right wing conservatives within Christianity. Much of it has to do with politics disguised as religion. My better half is from a secular Jewish family, it’s enough that I’m a bridge in that sense.

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Anglocatholic said, “moderate people of any faith have more in common with one another than with fundamentalists of any faith…. As for the communion of faiths, I think the trick there is to learn to accept our differences, rather than trying to reconcile them.”

I agree, in fact might make that my new year’s resolution! Too often I’ve tried to bridge divergent types of Christians or let others nudge me in that direction, and it’s not my responsibility. It’s much easier to connect PC to Buddhism, than liberals and right wing conservatives within Christianity. Much of it has to do with politics disguised as religion. My better half is from a secular Jewish family, it’s enough that I’m a bridge in that sense.

 

Thanks, R. If we look at where we are the same, we can find a place of reconcilation and dialogue. If we look at where we are different, then we can only find a path that leads ultimately to violence and even war.

 

Christ did not bother trying to bridge divergent beliefs of his day; he always pointed to God, and to a higher purpose; that of having dinner together.

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Anglocatholic,

 

I feel that your admitting to feeling "full of judgement" is a credit to you, and far more refreshing than the pious humbug that passes - or poses - for instant "forgiveness" in many. That's the way forward. Walk on!

 

Thanks for the encouragement. I think judging others is my biggest failing, to be honest. I try not to do it, but it comes so easily. Mea culpa.

 

I would aslo add, that personally I'm not happy with your constant use of the word "fundie", but then, that could be just pious humbug on my part.......I'll leave it to the moderators.

 

Interesting comment; not pious humbug but perhaps something else; unfamiliarity. Does anyone actually find this term offensive? :)

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I am reminded however of the rich esoteric tradition within Islam, Sufism, which I hope to continue looking into in more detail in the future. Sufi masters, as mystics in other religious traditions, tend to look beyond sectarianism and see divine truths behind the formal structures in other religions.

 

Thank you for giving me a way forward, Mike.

 

I will look into Sufi Islam, and find out more about it. I am sure that mystics of all faiths have a huge amount in common, and this is perhaps the most productive area of study. :)

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It’s much easier to connect PC to Buddhism, than liberals and right wing conservatives within Christianity.

Do you think there could also be bridges built between Christians and atheists/agnostics? I personally would love to see some sort of Christian/atheist alliance formed that would help build a bridge between religious and secularists as I think it's important since according to recent surveys, atheists currently represent the most distrusted group in America and are distrusted more than gays are. There are also sites like friendlyatheist.com who are also working to help build understanding between Christians and non-believers.
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Do you think there could also be bridges built between Christians and atheists/agnostics? I personally would love to see some sort of Christian/atheist alliance formed that would help build a bridge between religious and secularists as I think it's important since according to recent surveys, atheists currently represent the most distrusted group in America and are distrusted more than gays are. There are also sites like friendlyatheist.com who are also working to help build understanding between Christians and non-believers.

 

I'll offer my opinion here because I'm assuming yours is an open question. I'm not sure what kind of dialogue can be built between Christians and atheists in the same way that there can be between Christians and Buddhists. Atheism doesn't have anything positive (in the propositional sense) to say or unite around, nothing intrinsically spiritual or contemplative to compare and share. I think atheists in America are demonized which is not good. So perhaps if Christians are concerned with being honest they will not contribute to this.

 

Peace to you,

Mike

Edited by Mike
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On the other hand, i believe there can be a bridge built between the progressive Christian and the atheist. The atheist statement of belief from the American Atheist site at http://www.atheists.org/about is ...

 

"Your petitioners are Atheists, and they define their lifestyle as follows. An Atheist loves himself and his fellow man instead of a god. An Atheist accepts that heaven is something for which we should work now – here on earth – for all men together to enjoy. An Atheist accepts that he can get no help through prayer, but that he must find in himself the inner conviction and strength to meet life, to grapple with it, to subdue it and to enjoy it. An Atheist accepts that only in a knowledge of himself and a knowledge of his fellow man can he find the understanding that will help lead to a life of fulfillment."

 

Perhaps the limited definition of God and dogmatic approach by many Christians has been the barrier. In my personal insight, an Atheist is no more without God than the Christian. It is more a matter of differences in definition and awareness and level of consciousness. While orthodox Christianity may have a more difficult barrier to overcome before bridge building could start, IMO, a progressive may be well on the way. After all, how can a man know God unless God draw him and reveal Self. If a Atheist truly loves himself and fellow man, will not God be revealed in time?

 

Just a consideration to the question,

Joseph

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Neon,

 

This is probably straying from Tariki’s original topic-- but I’d agree with Joseph, it’s definitely possible for PC’s, if you’re talking about getting along together as human beings face to face. Many of my loved ones --family, friends and relatives -- are atheist or agnostic, in a private nonproselytizing way. If you’re talking about debating differences and working out some sort of public alliance, then I’m not so sure, no experience there.

 

I’d prefer the term secular humanism (may not be the same). I once hosted a Beliefnet dialogue group on Star Trek and religion, which included agnostics, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, etc. We just focused on what we all enjoyed and wanted to share and explore. It was a lot of fun.

 

Anglocatholic made a helpful point about how Jesus transcended the pitfalls of language-- “Christ did not bother trying to bridge divergent beliefs of his day; he always pointed to a higher purpose; that of having dinner together.” Also agree with her that mystics of all faiths have a huge amount in common.

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I'll offer my opinion here because I'm assuming yours is an open question. I'm not sure what kind of dialogue can be built between Christians and atheists in the same way that there can be between Christians and Buddhists. Atheism doesn't have anything positive (in the propositional sense) to say or unite around, nothing intrinsically spiritual or contemplative to compare and share. I think atheists in America are demonized which is not good. So perhaps if Christians are concerned with being honest they will not contribute to this.

 

Peace to you,

Mike

This is true that atheism is merely the lack of beliefs in gods. Even among non-believers, there's a lot of differences in how to approach religion. Some atheists like Richard Dawkins are anti-religious and think the world would be better off without it while others like the agnostic Bart D Ehrman are more supportive and some atheists are also Buddhists. I think there's a lot of confusion and misunderstanding on both sides that needs to be addressed somehow. Like there's a lot of atheists who think PCs are enabling religious extremists and consider PCs to be just as dangerous as the extremists and part of the "problem." But then there are other Christians who think all atheists are out to destroy religion and want to create a militant communist regime. I don't know how we could build a bridge but I think these issues need to be addressed somehhow. Edited by Neon Genesis
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Neon,

 

If you don’t mind, could you say where you read this -- “a lot of atheists think PCs are enabling religious extremists and consider PCs to be just as dangerous as the extremists and part of the problem” - ? I took a quick look at the friendlyatheist site but didn’t notice anything like that.

 

You mentioned that gays and atheists are both distrusted as groups. That is saddening. We have to question the source of those so called surveys. I can understand why many gays are atheist because of religious extremists’ negativity toward them. But I don’t see how anyone could associate their attitude with progressives. Tcpc’s Point 4 clearly affirms including those of all sexual orientations and gender identities, believers and agnostics, questioning skeptics, etc. Your bridge already exists, in principle at least. I hope you feel that everyone on this forum is open and accepting that way, as well.

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I didn't mean to imply that the Friendlyatheist site said those things about PCs but there are other atheists like Sam Harris who have made this argument. Here's an example of one Sam Harris' arguments against PCs which I strongly disagree with: http://www.beliefnet.com/Faiths/Secular-Philosophies/The-Problem-With-Religious-Moderates.aspx And I have felt very welcomed here. The people here have been very nice and I enjoy the discussions here.

Edited by Neon Genesis
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