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Redemption - Personal Or Universal?


tariki
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I've spent a little bit of time recently on yet another forum, this time Islamic. It has been good to see first hand that not all Muslims spend their days looking for the next American flag to burn ( :o ), that many are in actual fact engaged in living much like myself.

 

One particular thread that caught my eye was entitled "Salvation in Islam", and this was contributed to by an assortment of Jewish posters. One post in particular stood out..............

 

 

Judaism, by contrast, has little to no emphasis on personal salvation or the afterlife.

 

The purpose of Life, and human existence, is to serve G-d through works.

 

The emphasis is thus not personal but universal: world redemption.

 

This is achieved by living per G-d's Teachings (Torah) for ethical human behavior: justice, compassion, love.

 

My own particular interest revolves around the doctrine of Apocatastasis, or the eventually reconciliation of ALL things in Christ. This Jewish posters reference to "world redemption" (rather than "personal" redemption) seemed to relate to this in some ways.

 

It does often seem to me that much Christian doctrine concerns the relationship between the individual "soul" and God, that salvation revolves around this relationship only. It does seem that the "inter-being" aspect, the "universal", or "world redemption" side of the equation is often missing, or added as an afterthought.

 

It also seems to me that in much Christian theology our world is looked upon somewhat like the Titanic, and the "gospel" is the lifeboat. Get in quick before the world sinks - or is "consumed by fire"! At best, we hear of a "new world" dropping down out of heaven, prepared for those - and only for those - who lept into the lifeboat!

 

So, personal redemption.....or world redemption. Even "universal" redemption"?

 

Either/or......OR......both/and.

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Personally, I don't hold to redemption concepts because they infer that God somehow lost this world and/or the human race and had to buy it back. To me, "this is my Father's world" and he is still the creator of all. So I don't put much stock in the notion that God had to "pay" to redeem something that has always been his.

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Personally, I don't hold to redemption concepts because they infer that God somehow lost this world and/or the human race and had to buy it back. To me, "this is my Father's world" and he is still the creator of all. So I don't put much stock in the notion that God had to "pay" to redeem something that has always been his.

 

billmc,

 

Words are powerful things. They can mean various things to different people. "Redemption" for me does not have the same connotations as it seems to have for you, in fact it suggests various things, and relates to a multitude of "teachings"/"doctrines" within different Faiths.

 

It just seems to me that we experience ourselves as "suffering" - to varying degrees - and we seek to go "beyond" such suffering. "Salvation"....."Enlightenment".....? What seems involved is a dying to self. Islam means submission, seeming to imply a submission to the will of God. Christianity speaks of the kenosis of Christ, His self emptying for the sake of the world, and of our need to follow in His footsteps, "not I, but Christ lives in me". Buddhism's unique teaching is of "anatta", no-self. All are pointing in varying ways to a dying to "self".

 

My question in a way revolves around the reason we pursue some sort of "religious/spiritual" life. If it is purely to achieve a personal salvation, in a way it could be seen as the self "sacrificing" itself to save itself! For me, a one dimensional view of self, and a sacrifice that is in some way bogus. (At best such a way is just self denial, another thing entirely.)The "self" truly has to die!

 

I think we all "pay" some sort of price if we ever truly sacrifice our own interests for the sake of another, either the world or another "self" - and to me this would be to follow in the footsteps of divinity.

 

Anyway, just rambling.

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Yes, Tariki, words are powerful and they can mean different things to different people. I was just going with the standard Chrtistian usage:

 

Redemption - the purchase back of something that had been lost, by the

payment of a ransom. The Greek word so rendered is

_apolutrosis_, a word occurring nine times in Scripture, and

always with the idea of a ransom or price paid, i.e., redemption

by a lutron (see Matt. 20:28; Mark 10:45). There are instances

in the LXX. Version of the Old Testament of the use of _lutron_

in man's relation to man (Lev. 19:20; 25:51; Ex. 21:30; Num.

35:31, 32; Isa. 45:13; Prov. 6:35), and in the same sense of

man's relation to God (Num. 3:49; 18:15).

There are many passages in the New Testament which represent

Christ's sufferings under the idea of a ransom or price, and the

result thereby secured is a purchase or redemption (comp. Acts

20:28; 1 Cor. 6:19, 20; Gal. 3:13; 4:4, 5; Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14;

1 Tim. 2:5, 6; Titus 2:14; Heb. 9:12; 1 Pet. 1:18, 19; Rev.

5:9). The idea running through all these texts, however various

their reference, is that of payment made for our redemption. The

debt against us is not viewed as simply cancelled, but is fully

paid. Christ's blood or life, which he surrendered for them, is

the "ransom" by which the deliverance of his people from the

servitude of sin and from its penal consequences is secured. It

is the plain doctrine of Scripture that "Christ saves us neither

by the mere exercise of power, nor by his doctrine, nor by his

example, nor by the moral influence which he exerted, nor by any

subjective influence on his people, whether natural or mystical,

but as a satisfaction to divine justice, as an expiation for

sin, and as a ransom from the curse and authority of the law,

thus reconciling us to God by making it consistent with his

perfection to exercise mercy toward sinners" (Hodge's Systematic

Theology).

 

This comes from Easton's Bible dictionary and, as I said, I reject the doctrine. But then, I reject the atonement also. ;)

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yes, you're perfectly within your rights to insist upon dictionary definitions! :D I'm just very wayward.I tend to see words in terms of ideas (within the various faiths) and seek to relate them to each other. Not as an academic exercise, but because I find it fruitful within my own life.

 

My life/faith is centred as such on Pure Land terms/definitions. I tend to seek out the ideas within other faiths.

 

Anyway, all the best

 

:)

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I'm not insisting on dictionary definitions, Tariki. :D It's just that words don't "hang in the air" by themselves, just waiting for us to pluck them and to assign to them whatever meanings we want to. You can do that, but then the words become meaningless to others and communication becomes difficult.

 

My point is not to confine you to one and only one definition of redemption, just to say that the historic/traditional meaning of it with Christianity doesn't mean much to me.

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I'm not insisting on dictionary definitions, Tariki. :D It's just that words don't "hang in the air" by themselves, just waiting for us to pluck them and to assign to them whatever meanings we want to. You can do that, but then the words become meaningless to others and communication becomes difficult.

 

My point is not to confine you to one and only one definition of redemption, just to say that the historic/traditional meaning of it with Christianity doesn't mean much to me.

 

O.K! You win..... :D

 

New topic heading....

 

Salvation - Personal or Universal?

 

Per wikipedia...

 

 

In religion, salvation is the concept that, as part of divine providence, God saves people, both:

 

from biological death, by providing for them an eternal life (cf. afterlife).

from spiritual death, by providing divine law, illumination, and judgment.

The world's religions hold varying positions on the way to attain salvation and on what it means.

 

The theological study of salvation is called soteriology. It covers the means by which salvation is effected or achieved, and its results. Salvation may also be called "deliverance" or "redemption" from sin and its effects.

 

Some religions claim that salvation can be attained by using only inner human resources such as meditation, accumulation of wisdom, asceticism, rituals, or good deeds. Other religions teach that humans can be saved only through the grace granted by an external personal agent (God, a bodhisattva, an avatar, etc.)

 

The pantheistic religions of the East regard salvation as an impersonal merging with the Absolute. In contrast, the three largest monotheistic religions of the worldJudaism, Christianity and Islamassociate salvation with freedom from the bondage of sin and the reestablishment of personal communication with the creator. There are some basic differences among those monotheistic religions on how sin is to be overcome by humans, on the identity of Jesus Christ and the role he plays in salvation, and what one's attitude toward him should be.

 

P.S. I would just say, from my own understanding, that......The pantheistic religions of the East regard salvation as an impersonal merging with the Absolute is highly questionable.

 

P.P.S. Just saw the words "salvation may also be called.......redemption" Ooooops! :P

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tariki is on to something. I like and incorporate both. When I am in my conscious state in the physical realm I like the personal view because I can serve in the physical realm with love. It is easy to love a person, Deity, or something concrete, but hard to love the abstract. Christianity is great in this realm because I have a personal relationship with Christ. I can love Him and serve Him and serve his creation. When I quiet my mind in mediation I come to the Universal God where I remember what God is like in the present. I feel the Creator and Creation are one and the same. I gain a momentum in silence that I can use to serve the Creator in Creation. Creation was created out of the Creator so they are one. I feel the Eastern Religions are more adept at teaching the interior life, but I see the teaching of silence and the journey to the soul in Christian Mysticism. May all spiritual tools be made available to everyone.

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I found this very interesting and more along my own lines of thought:

 

Jews are like everyone else. While we do not believe in original sin, the reality of sin is a major theme in our tradition. The most common Hebrew word for sin is cheyt, and it appears in the Hebrew Bible almost 500 times. Nonetheless, for most of the year, the topic of sin is rarely touched upon. But Yom Kippur is different.

 

On Yom Kippur, our Torah readings and liturgy focus on sin with a bluntness of language and an intensity of purpose that shake us out of our lethargy and redirect our thinking in radical ways.

 

On Yom Kippur morning, Jews throughout the world will read from the book of Isaiah, including the following passage: "God says: Cry aloud, do not hold back, let your voice resound like a Shofar: declare to My people their transgression, and to the house of Jacob their sin" (58:1).

 

There is no ambiguity here. Our sins are manifest, our wickedness undeniable. The passage proceeds to condemn false piety and to demand justice for the poor and oppressed, but stresses that only individual action -- sacrificing time and possessions on behalf of others -- can cure our sinful ways.

(my bolding)

 

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One association in my own mind is that of "bodhicitta", a Buddhist concept in the Mahayana tradition. It points to the reality that at some point our search for salvation/enlightenment must revolve around our heartfelt efforts towards the salvation/enlighenment of all.

 

Bodhicitta (also known as the Awakening Mind) means the aim to, on the one hand, bring happiness to all sentient beings, and on the other, to relieve them of suffering; this definition is consistent with the definition of seeking enlightenment, as enlightenment is the freedom from samsara. (Wikipedia)

 

So I would add to........sacrificing time and possessions on behalf of others , the sacrifice/surrender of "self" (and self interest) In my own experience it it still the surrender of self - in all its disguises and tricks - that evolves into the by-product of (selfless) "works". It might just be me, but self conscious determined act/s of "helping others" just creates a degree of judgement towards many others. (Obviously, the "concept of sin" , especially ones own, can help mitigate the possibility of such judgements.)

 

This would also involve for me what amounts to the "work" of belief, which I observe does more to create judgement of others, and divides one from another, than anything else. I still feel that the full implications of surrender to grace is missed by many. (my judgement!)

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I'm not a Buddhist (no surprise there, right? :D ) so while much of the language is foreign to me, a couple of the things you've said, Tariki, give me pause. And I ask that you forgive me if I misinterpret what you've written because, as I've said, the Buddhist language is not my own and my own religious language carries at least 2000 years of context to it.

 

>>This would also involve for me what amounts to the "work" of belief, which I observe does more to create judgement of others, and divides one from another, than anything else.

 

This rings true for me. IMO, most religions, especially revealed religions, are based upon a set of beliefs. And the more beliefs that a religion has, the more it will differ from other religions. This is one reason Christianity is so fractured into all the different denominations and sects -- they each hold to a certain list of beliefs and it is those beliefs in which they find their identity and differences, even their "gospel". Furthermore, when they believe that God or the Divine judges people according to their held beliefs, then people who follow that "God" are prone to judge others in the same way, as you have said. We become like the image of God we hold to. So the more "belief focused" a religion is, the more it will tend to divide and judge.

 

As to "helping others," I don't find it to create a degree of judgment in me, at least not in gauging their worthiness. Rather, suffering calls forth compassion in me, calling me to do what I can about it, which often is more of a "hand up" than a "hand out." What judgment is there is aimed, not at those who suffer, but at the whole of us as the human race that we can still allow needless suffering to go on and/or turn a blind eye to it.

 

>>To bring happiness to all sentient beings, and on the other, to relieve them of suffering.

 

This is, to me, at the heart of my religious philosophy. It is no longer about my search for the "right beliefs" which will save my butt from hell and get it into heaven. It's about realizing that I am part of something bigger, something that includes not only sentient beings, but our entire planet. I want to live responsibly and to encourage others to do so for the sake of, not only humans, but our home and fellow residents. Seen in this way, "salvation" becomes, IMO, too small a word. As I've said, it carries 2000 years of baggage with it and it usually refers to one's guaranteed happiness AFTER this life.

 

But I suspect that if humanity is ever to achieve oneness or enlightenment or "salvation," it must come from seeing ourselves as connected and letting go of the judgmentalism inherent in "belief systems." No two people are going to think or believe exactly alike. But we can, if we choose, come together to ACT for our common good. This is, to me, where the path of salvation is.

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There is certainly no misinterpretation in what you have said concerning belief. You point to some of the obnoxious consequences of the "born again", "accept Jesus" type of fundamentalist theology. Fundamentally, belief is not distinguished from faith, and the consequences follow. Belief seems more the clinging of the self to ideas - seeking to save the butt from hell, as you say.... :D - while faith is more a letting go.

 

I have quoted Merton's words before, regarding the reification of belief......Real meaning of the phrase we are saved by faith = we are saved by Christ, whom we encounter in faith. But constant disputation about faith has made Christians become obsessed with faith almost as an object, at least as an experience, a "thing" and in concentrating upon it they lose sight of Christ. Whereas faith without the encounter with Christ and without His presence is less than nothing. It is the deadest of dead works, an act elicited in a moral and existential void. To seek to believe that one believes, and arbitrarily to decree that one believes, and then to conclude that this gymnastic has been blessed by Christ - this is pathological Christianity. And a Christianity of works. One has this mental gymnastic in which to trust. One is safe, one possesses the psychic key to salvation......

 

I have sought to argue that the "presence of Christ", the "encounter with Christ", cannot ever be reduced to a particular theology, and - given that Christ is the light that lights everyone that comes into the world, the Eternal Word through whom all things are made - cannot even be confined to the creeds and teachings of any one Religion.

 

Merton's words point to the reality that for many, "belief" is a work of their own self. And since they cling to their own "choice" and "acceptance" of Christ, judgement of those whose choice is different follows, not to mention those who explicitly "reject" Christ - sadly, quite often, because of the words and acts of Christians throughout the centuries.

 

For me, we come to realise that we have always been loved and accepted by the Divine - chosen before the foundation of the world - and we do not initiate our salvation by the act of belief, or by accepting anything. And....

 

Faith does not arise

within oneself.

The Entrusting Heart is itself

given by the Other Power (Rennyo, from the Pure Land tradition)

 

Sorry to have gone on a bit, but really as you have implied yourself, fundamentalist religion - very often - brings misery to our world. Quite frankly the threads on various forums where each ardent adherent of a particular "holy" book seeks to disparage the "holy" book of another, the constant baiting, the bickering about contradictions in other pages but not in ones own.............. :o . As the Good Book ( :P ) says.... They search the scriptures daily for in them they THINK they have life.

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Although the language may differ, the concept is isomorphic:

 

The Sanskrit word Karma (or kamma in Pali, or Chenyuan in Chinese Buddhim) literally means action. In Buddhism however, karma mainly refers to one's intention or motivation while doing an action.

 

Every virtuous and non-virtuous word, thought, or action creates an imprint which at some point will be reflected back as either positive or negative karma. It is the karma of action that holds more consequence than the karma of thought. Also, it is one's intention, or mental attitude, that largely determines the weight of the karma.

 

 

I am the owner of my karma .

I inherit my karma.

I am born of my karma.

I am related to my karma.

I live supported by my karma.

Whatever karma I create, whether good or evil, that I shall inherit.”

 

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One's motive is important.
I have heard Eastern teachers say it does not matter if we are bound with gold chains or iron chains, we are still bound. Karma produces karma similar to action making more action. If we do something with a good motive we are still earning Karma so the teachers say to be non attached to the action and karma is not accumulated. To include Christianity in the equation I like the quote, "Lord let Thy will be done." You do it through me and the karma is yours not mind.
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I like Tarikis saying that belief tends to be divisive and seems more like the self clinging to ideas, as if we saved ourselves by our own efforts; while faith is more a letting go or surrendering to grace.

 

As Tillich wrote, Be reconciled with Godthat means, at the same time, be reconciled with others! But it does not mean try to reconcile others, as it does not mean try to reconcile yourselves. This is the message: A new reality has appeared in which you are already reconciled.

 

My response to the original question would be both/and, though on a smaller scale. The choice doesnt have to be between personal or universal salvation. To me, the personal connection to God and the helping-the-neighbor approach always go hand in hand to focus on one aspect exclusively doesnt work. Maybe the best outreach is those we see along our own path, like the good Samaritan parable. Jesus only healed those who wanted to be healed and trusted that he could do it.

 

Also I think its true that words like redemption, salvation, sin, repentance etc need to be redefined and they are, in many books by progressive authors. As Jim Burklo says Am I saved? yes, sometimes. Am I damned? yes, sometimes. But Jesus gave me the good news that I have a choice between the two, throughout life and even through death….Salvation is the positive interpretation of life and the universe: choosing bliss intead of torment, recognizing that since my real Self is one with God who is eternal, I dont need to cling so desperately to my body or my ego. This is the salvation Jesus offered as he reminded his followers not to worry or clutch after transitory things-- the kingdom of heaven is among you, already available in this imperfect, often painful life.

Edited by rivanna
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Rivanna, as a connoisseur of quotes I loved the words you gave of Tillich....

 

“Be reconciled with God—that means, at the same time, be reconciled with others! But it does not mean try to reconcile others, as it does not mean try to reconcile yourselves. This is the message: A new reality has appeared in which you are already reconciled.”

 

Made me slip into gear and think of Merton's.......

 

True communication on the deepest level is more than a simple sharing of ideas, conceptual knowledge, or formulated truth...............And the deepest level of communication is not communication, but communion. It is wordless, it is beyond words, and it is beyond speech, and it is beyond concept. Not that we discover a new unity. We discover an older unity. My dear brothers and sisters, we are already one. But we imagine that we are not. And what we have to recover is our original unity. What we have to be is what we are.

 

:)

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I have heard Eastern teachers say it does not matter if we are bound with gold chains or iron chains, we are still bound. Karma produces karma similar to action making more action. If we do something with a good motive we are still earning Karma so the teachers say to be non attached to the action and karma is not accumulated. To include Christianity in the equation I like the quote, "Lord let Thy will be done." You do it through me and the karma is yours not mind.

 

Soma,

 

In Buddhism, attachement is related to afflictive mental states, including many negative emotions. In the words of the Dalai Lama (2005) "... a passionate state of mind, such as overwheming compassion, may be a highly virtuous, non-afflictive state." Joy and sorrow may be afflictive or non-afflictive depending on the context in which they arise. The primary concern is for one's ethical well being. This is very close to Judaism which is considered one of the worlds most highly developed ethical systems (when properly understood).

 

minsocal

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SOMA.......I have heard Eastern teachers say it does not matter if we are bound with gold chains or iron chains, we are still bound. Karma produces karma similar to action making more action. If we do something with a good motive we are still earning Karma so the teachers say to be non attached to the action and karma is not accumulated. To include Christianity in the equation I like the quote, "Lord let Thy will be done." You do it through me and the karma is yours not mind

 

MINSOCIAL.......In Buddhism, attachement is related to afflictive mental states, including many negative emotions. In the words of the Dalai Lama (2005) "... a passionate state of mind, such as overwheming compassion, may be a highly virtuous, non-afflictive state." Joy and sorrow may be afflictive or non-afflictive depending on the context in which they arise. The primary concern is for one's ethical well being. This is very close to Judaism which is considered one of the worlds most highly developed ethical systems (when properly understood).

 

I would just say that Buddhism is a Broad Church (!) that has flowed for 2500 years, ever since the historical Buddha claimed...."I teach this and this only, suffering and the ending of suffering".

 

My understanding is that enlightenment is always the bottom line, or the attainment of nirvana, release from the round of birth and death. Karma can indeed be wholesome or unwholesome, yet even wholesome karma leads to rebirth. It is only in the Arahat (those who are in his - or her- last birth) that wholesome karma becomes "supermundane" (lokut-tara-kusula) and does not lead to rebirth.

 

Such at least is the teaching as far as Theravada is concerned. The Mahayana becomes more murky and indistinct, until you reach the Pure Land, where the mind just tends to surrender......... :D , and Other Power takes over..... B)

 

(Always remembering that there is no self power nor other power, there is only Other Power)

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Yet nother perspective, this time from Muslim Theology:

 

The problem of evil, especially human suffering, exercised classical Muslim theologians as much it does Western philosophers, theologians and scientists today. The issue then was basically the same as it is now: If God is All-Good and All-Powerful, how do we explain the existence of evil? The theological school known as Mu'tazilism emphasized God's all-goodness and argued that since God is All-Good, God cannot be the source of evil. Rather, it is humans who inflict suffering on other humans, entirely on their own. In fact, the Mu'tazilites argued, beyond the original act of creation, humans are not at all dependent on God to do what they do but actually create their own acts! By contrast, the Ash'arite school emphasized God's All-Powerfulness and argued that if God did not control all the affairs of the universe, something other than God could bring about things that went against God's will. For them, whatever occurs had to occur because God willed it. Otherwise, God would be neither All-Powerful, in complete control, nor, ultimately, God.

 

In all of this, Muslim theologians never isolated a single attribute of God (All-Powerful, All-Good, All-Wise, All-Merciful) as the sole basis of God's actions. While Mu'tazilites privileged God's all-goodness, this was tempered by their recognition of God's wisdom, power, autonomy, patience and other attributes. Ash'arites appear stoic in privileging God's all-powerfulness, but only if they are seen as negating God's goodness, mercy, justice and other attributes. In fact, when Ash'arites speak of God's ability to do whatever God pleases, they are only speaking of what God can do. What God actually does will be based not solely on God's brute power but on the total composite of God's attributes. The same applies to Traditionalists and Maturidites.

 

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Just to be clear, my interests are focused on the notion of convergence in emerging ethical systems capable of incrementally reducing human suffering within the span of one lifetime for the individul on the one hand, and for future generations on the other.

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Just to be clear, my interests are focused on the notion of convergence in emerging ethical systems capable of incrementally reducing human suffering within the span of one lifetime for the individul on the one hand, and for future generations on the other.

 

Regarding the whole subject of Theodicy, one thing that seems impossible to do is to approach it as an academic subject. We all participate in suffering/evil in one way or another, to a greater or lesser extent. I would just say that the idea that the Divine truly shares in human suffering, rather than "looks down" upon it from a transcendent perch, is for me the most profound "answer" within the various Theodicies, and a necessary one. And that we ourselves can elect to "share" in each others suffering ("sharing the Cross of Christ", in Christian terms) is the deepest response.

 

I'm sorry to keep "having as go" at Conservative Theology, but I have to say that when the Incarnation is, in effect, limited to the lifetime of Jesus only, the whole meaning of the divine truly sharing in our suffering is lost for me. Unless the Incarnation has a true "eternal" dimension, then its significance fades. At least for me.

 

That Islam often - it seems to me - speaks only of the "transcendence" of the Divine, it does not offer - for me - the same depth as the Christian Faith.

 

Obviously, I pursue most of this within Pure Land thought, where "Universalism" is explicit. The notion of an eternal hell is for me the end of any hope of an adequate theodicy.

 

P.S. Minsocial, just reading through after posting this, and my first sentence could be construed as some sort of criticism of your words I quoted. "An academic subject." This was not - and is not - my intention at all.

Edited by tariki
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Regarding the whole subject of Theodicy, one thing that seems impossible to do is to approach it as an academic subject. We all participate in suffering/evil in one way or another, to a greater or lesser extent. I would just say that the idea that the Divine truly shares in human suffering, rather than "looks down" upon it from a transcendent perch, is for me the most profound "answer" within the various Theodicies, and a necessary one. And that we ourselves can elect to "share" in each others suffering ("sharing the Cross of Christ", in Christian terms) is the deepest response.

 

I'm sorry to keep "having as go" at Conservative Theology, but I have to say that when the Incarnation is, in effect, limited to the lifetime of Jesus only, the whole meaning of the divine truly sharing in our suffering is lost for me. Unless the Incarnation has a true "eternal" dimension, then its significance fades. At least for me.

 

That Islam often - it seems to me - speaks only of the "transcendence" of the Divine, it does not offer - for me - the same depth as the Christian Faith.

 

Obviously, I pursue most of this within Pure Land thought, where "Universalism" is explicit. The notion of an eternal hell is for me the end of any hope of an adequate theodicy.

 

P.S. Minsocial, just reading through after posting this, and my first sentence could be construed as some sort of criticism of your words I quoted. "An academic subject." This was not - and is not - my intention at all.

 

While I did not post the entire article, this appears near the end of it:

 

What I need here is solace and reconciliation with the fact of my creatureliness; the courage, honesty and dignity to acknowledge that I am not in control; yet the insight and fullness of soul to see in the enormity of what has happened that I am just as eligible for enormous good as I am for enormous tragedy. Here my reach is ultimately for something "outside the system," something capable of breaking all the rules, of defying the laws of probability and chance -- for me! This is the beginning of the theological impulse.

 

Yet, while, the theological impulse, however crude, may be the beginning of my relationship with God, it is only the beginning. And I must be careful not to mistake the menu for the meal. Whether I emphasize God's goodness or justice, God's power or wisdom, these mental abstractions will only take on concrete meaning for me in the context of my actual relationship with God. Ultimately, if the real goal of theology is to promote a living relationship with God and not simply to paint a pretty picture of God, perhaps the real value of what it has to say about evil and suffering resides not so much in how it mars or enhances idealized images of God but in how it enriches or impoverishes the human relationship with God.

 

For me, this echoes the quote from the Dalai Lama I posted previously. As odd as this might seem, my own spiritual path seems headed towards non-attachment to any one system of thought.

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For me, this echoes the quote from the Dalai Lama I posted previously. As odd as this might seem, my own spiritual path seems headed towards non-attachment to any one system of thought.

 

minsocial, not so odd. For along time I have myself choosen more the way of mentors. Yes, I do find freedom of thought within the Pure Land tradition of Buddhism, in its terms and broad outlook, yet I live a totally secular life, unattached to any church or temple.

 

Not so odd, when the we consider that the spirit is said to blow where it will, and Christ Himself spoke of the true prophet as being known by their fruits. Such fruits are evident in the lives of many, of various Faiths. My own true prophets have been, and are, Thomas Merton.......Thich Nhat Hahn........Shinran. There have been others. In their lives and words I hear a guide that breaks through any particular orthodoxy, or "theology of salvation".

 

Looking back, I have to witness to the words of Sant Keshavadas. The words seem to speak of the "living God" and "His" ways with us.....

 

Go ahead, light your candles and burn your incense and ring your bells and call out to God but watch out, becasue God will come and He will put you on His anvil and fire up His forge and beat you and beat you until He turns brass into pure gold.

 

Though I would judge that I'm more tin at the moment - rather than pure gold - I have to say that sometimes I feel I've been dragged through a hedge backwards, often kicking and struggling. And I would say, for "light your candles" etc we could add "build your theologies", "create your orthodoxies". The name of the game for me, is Grace and Mercy. Infinite Compassion.

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I'm sorry to keep "having as go" at Conservative Theology, but I have to say that when the Incarnation is, in effect, limited to the lifetime of Jesus only, the whole meaning of the divine truly sharing in our suffering is lost for me. Unless the Incarnation has a true "eternal" dimension, then its significance fades. At least for me.

 

This is one of the problems of the approach of revealed religions, the notion that God is a being who specializes in one-off's. He sends Jesus. He sends Moses. He sends Mohammud. He uses these mediators but he doesn't directly reveal himself to the rest of us or become "incarnate" in the rest of us. So God remains distant, an object of, supposedly, worship, but not a source of life and love that we can personally experience.

 

I appreciate your thoughts on theodicy, Tariki. It's this subject that drove me out of orthodox Christianity. If God is said to suffer, God suffers because God is in each of us. Therefore, if there is to be a remedy to suffering, it must come from each of us. We can't expect God to "reach down" and fix things for us, singing, "Jesus, take the wheel." ;)

 

As I've said previously, I don't believe in the "fall" of mankind into sin which required God to kill himself in order to somehow pay himself so that he could feel good himself about loving us. :D But I do believe that we are an immature species that is just on the cusp of understanding ourselves and our world and what we can do to make both better. Jesus "dying in our place" does nothing to change that, other than exhibiting self-sacrificing love. But I don't think his death changed our standing with God or "redeemed" us. Rather, as you have said (I think), it is dying to our own selfish "self" that is redemption.

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I believe that Redemption is personally gained, but universally available. The choice is ours as to whether or not we avail ourselves of it.

 

God created humanity with free will, we can make choices for ourselves. The legend of the Fall, explains both how we caim to have knowledge, and thereby concious choice, of good and evil, and how that knowledge and those choices lead us to suffering. The revalations of the Prophets have been guidelines for how we can deliver ourselves from suffering.

 

Jesus is often spoken of as "the Word Made Flesh", this can be seen as God made in the image of man, just as man was made in the image God. For me, this draws humanity closer to God. God having experienced life and suffering as a man is not remote from us. God is personal to us.

 

We become reconciled with God by choosing Redemption. Redemption is acting in a way congruent to God. As God is infinite there are many ways of Congruence.

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