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Christian Atheism


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A number of years ago I used to read some of the maverick theological writings of the Australian writer, Robert Brinsmead. One of his most challenging articles was entitled, Christian Atheism. It was his contention that the Church's dogma and ritual of worship was a substitute for a living experience with God. While people didn't seem to be able to experience God during the days of the week, the church created ways to experience Him at least one day a week. On Sundays people could know God's presence as he spoke through the pastor or priest. He could tell people what God wants and does not want them to do; how to commune with His Son; who is going to heaven or hell; and, of course, how much they should give to the church. The church theology gave assurance that all had been carefully worked out, and which passages of the Bible affirmed the absolute correctness of the church's teachings. Now everyone can be happy (as long as your salvation is in the right church). People can go their way, keeping certian commandments, and not have to worry about where God is -after all, you will get to be with Him again next Sunday.

 

I believe what Brinsmead was describing was the church of, what I would call, the outer-world. Somewhere early on in church history it lost sight of the soul and spirit. Today the church seems to be all about the outer-world. Even when it does good, it still lacks soul. It's my belief that living beings can not survive if they have lost their souls. Even common sense tell us that the soul is in the inner-world, and it is there we must begin looking. I am not saying that all that religion offers is unredeemably evil. But if we are not careful, we will allow outer-world beliefs distract us from looking within, to our souls.

 

I will try to write more on this subject later.

 

Bob the facilitator

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I see the church today challenging people to experience God throughout their week, instead of just on Sundays. I think it is one of the major challenges of the church,

though, because a lot of us allow the distractions of life to fill up our time we could be spending on a relationship with God.

 

Thanks for posting!

Janet

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Robert, I agree there are many weekend Christians who have jaundiced eyes during the week, but spend a small portion of Sunday thinking of another life. I feel we have to start somewhere and thank God we have Christians who have Christ as a life style and attract the jaundiced eyes to look at what they have spiritually.

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I see the church today challenging people to experience God throughout their week, instead of just on Sundays. I think it is one of the major challenges of the church,

though, because a lot of us allow the distractions of life to fill up our time we could be spending on a relationship with God.

 

Thanks for posting!

Janet

 

Yes, Janet, I agree that the church is, and always has, encouraged people to pray, minister, and seek God every day of the week -within the pramaters of the church's belief system. What I find odd, however, is that it seems to be those individuals who devote themselves to good works within the churches who seem to be look for something more. What more do they want? It doesn't seem to me they are looking for answers, especially when they turn to groups like TCPC. I think they have questions, and I don't think they want answers so much as support for an inner journey to their souls. This is a journey toward their own individual experience with God. I don't think the church (institutional) can direct such sojourners. They must seek within, and only the individual can pursue the journey within.

 

I'll try to write more later.

 

Bob the facilitator

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Robert, I agree there are many weekend Christians who have jaundiced eyes during the week, but spend a small portion of Sunday thinking of another life. I feel we have to start somewhere and thank God we have Christians who have Christ as a life style and attract the jaundiced eyes to look at what they have spiritually.

 

I don't think most Christians have "jaundiced eyes", but rather suffer from a cultural unconsciousness. Actually, there are many good chruch going people who feel some kind of emptiness or insecurity about their salvation, but can't quite seem to figure what the emptiness is. They listen to the sermons, they go to Bible studies, join committees, do evangelism, worship and pray -and some just go to church on Sunday, and still can't rid themselves of the gnawing emptiness and insecurity they feel. They can't solve the problem because, I believe, the whole history of western culture has created an American church that is caught up in looking for a visible kingdom, ruled by and absolute God, who is the same for everyone everywhere.

 

The reality of our soul, however, is that there is God behind God and faith behind faith (sorry, I can't remember who first said this). There is the God and faith we know religiously, and their is the God and faith we know within ourselves, in a crisis, in dark regions of our psyche, in our pain, in our anger, in our quest to know if God really exists. And, if God really does exist where does he/she dwell? These questions can never be answered by traditional religion. Jesus may have participated in some levels of his religion, but he always looked to the living experience of individuals to find God. He called God his Father. He didn't mean Joseph. God his Father referred to a relationship of the soul, because the kingdom (or realm) of God is within.

 

As one reads the gospels it is clear that religion (or church) was more a place of conflict for Jesus, than of faith. In the latter part of chapter two of Mark's gospel Jesus is found leading his disciples out into the grainfields on the Sabbath. Criticized sharply by the Rabbis, Jesus said that man was not made for the sabbath, rather the sabbath was made for man (Sabbath is a metonymy for the whole Jewish religion). It is not by the institution of religion that we find God, but by a religion that supports the efforts of people in their attempt to find God within.

 

I will try to write more later.

 

Bob the facilitator

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Bob,

 

I think what you have written in your last post here is most meaningful.

 

It seems to me it is all about focus. If the focus is in the right place, being within rather than without, everything else will fall in place by the work of the Spirit and the without will reflect the proper actions that can only authentically come from within.

 

Joseph

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There are missions, churches, temples, group meditations, songs, chanting, community service, hermitages, forest, streams and oceans and numerous other ways to worship. People are also doing their worship in prisons. I don’t think there is a better or best just different. We all are going through different things at different times and it is great that there is something somewhere when we need it. When we need to share we can find people who dive deep within themselves regularly and we can find people attracted to the physical. Sometimes we need the monk to talk to and sometimes we need the materialist or the person searching, but do not know how, what or where to begin. It seems it is all for us to grow individually. Social service is administered and the one doing the services seems to benefit the most. Robert that is why I like your post.

It is not by the institution of religion that we find God, but by a religion that supports the efforts of people in their attempt to find God within.

Edited by soma
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Bob,

 

I think what you have written in your last post here is most meaningful.

 

It seems to me it is all about focus. If the focus is in the right place, being within rather than without, everything else will fall in place by the work of the Spirit and the without will reflect the proper actions that can only authentically come from within.

 

Joseph

 

I think you understand my perspective. But I believe it is more than focus, it is a shift of the center of gravity of the personality (a view stated by Robert Johnson in one of his books on the quest for the Holy Grail). An inner world faith changes the entire experience of the individual. His/her life is an ongoing searching/finding of the kingdom in every experience of life, whether it is ministry, worship, or his/her job, relationship with your significant other, or your own inner struggle. This faith begins, not with religion, but through finding and relating to your soul. The soul is, I believe, God's temple. Again, it is not religion that will take us within ourselves, but the support of those who also find themselves called-out to an inner-world experience of the kingdom.

 

It is not the function of western cultural Christianity to lead us to an inner-world understanding of God. This is what religions have condemned as heresy for thousands of years. Only when we find the kingdom of God within our soul (that means our own human experience) can we begin the search to find God in all aspects of life. It is not by being a part of religion that discover faith, but by finding God in our very being, in every element of MY life. This means that we can finally accept what we truly are, a human being created by God. It is, I believe, through finally being able to accept my humanity that I am redeemed.

 

I will say more later.

 

Bob the facilitator

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Guest billmc

It is not the function of western cultural Christianity to lead us to an inner-world understanding of God.

 

I've found this to be true in my experiences also. Though western Christianity speaks the language of "personal relationship with God (or with Jesus)" and of "the priesthood of the believer," it sets up borders, limits, guidelines, and boxes that attempt to tell us what is legitimate and spiritual and what is not. Some people, because of where they are in their journey, may need those restrictions. But the mystics have reminded us down through the centuries that God is spirit and not about borders or locations.

 

To me, an "inner-world understanding of God" means that I have to open myself, not to the externals of the institutional church or to a heirarchal authority outside myself, but to my own experience of God within me. For me, this is "the undiscovered country." I have just barely begun to truly look inside. And what I find there both awes me and scares me at the same time.

 

It awes me because I'm finding that I have some experiences and convictions that do not line up with the Bible, the church, or orthodoxy, and yet seem, to me, to be sacred or divine or life-affirming. These baby-steps that I am taking are towards believing and experiencing that I am part of God, part of the sacred, part of the Life at the center of creation, and that nothing can separate me from that. And as this opens up to me, I can begin to see God at the center of everything.

 

But it scares me because this kind of exploration is an unknown to me and, as you have said, usually condemned as heresy. Western Christianity, having been heavily influenced by Augustinian thought, forbids us to look to the image of God within, telling us instead that we are fallen, evil, totally depraved, etc. It tells us not to trust ourselves, our own hearts, our own experiences. And if one is raised in this paradigm, then it becomes a bit scary to actually trust one's own experiences above the authority of others, even if that authority comes from the church or the scriptures.

 

And yet, for me, I dare to trust that God is behind this. This is not quite the God of my early understanding and, therefore on some level, might make me an "atheist." But is, to me, the God in whom we all live, and move, and have our being. It is the God who remains when all of my human concepts of God fall away. It is not me, and yet it is in me. Unlike the "God" of western Christianity who calls us away from being human, the God I am beginning to experience desires me to be fully human and, therefore, more and more in God's image.

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Unlike the "God" of western Christianity who calls us away from being human, the God I am beginning to experience desires me to be fully human and, therefore, more and more in God's image.

 

As James Joyce famously wrote, 'There is no heresy or no philosophy which is so abhorrent to the church as a human being.' I think you make a very good point about how the church consistently teaches us not to trust ourselves and to always seek some kind of external authority. The article you quoted on another thread pointed out how Isaiah has God saying, 'Come, let us reason together', a verse that makes no sense under the paradigm of total depravity.

 

To me faith is not really about believing in something external and out there, faith is trust: trust in life, trust in our own inner experiences, faith in the truths that we each experience intimately and individually. Ultimately that's what we all have to go on, because even those who say we can't trust ourselves are trusting their own judgment that they can't trust themselves!

 

It is striking to think that, once we reject that the bible (and other sacred books) is a literal revelation from God, all there is left is human authority. We can see the church and all the things we construct are just that: human constructions. Who are other people to tell us what we can or can't find meaningful? Where is their authority coming from?

 

Peace,

Mike

Edited by Mike
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