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Reality And A God Of Love?


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This topic concerns a question that I've been mulling over in my own heart and mind and I'd enjoy and appreciate hearing the viewpoints of others on this topic. First, a bit of personal context: I believe that God, such as I experience God, is love. By this, I mean that God seeks my best - that I experience as fully as possible life, compassion, and being all I can be. And I also believe that God desires this for everyone. Nevertheless, the cold, hard fact of reality is that our universe and our own lives are marked by death, the cessation of life. Stars are born. Stars die. So do we. I have a hope of an "afterlife," but I don't think that such was Jesus' central message or the point of the earliest Christianity.

 

So here is my question: If you believe that God is, in some sense, love, what do you make of the life and death cycles of reality? Are they part of a loving God's plan? Is it death that gives life its meaning and purpose? If God's loving desire is that we experience life, and life abundant, then how does death fit into that paradigm?

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(snip)

So here is my question: If you believe that God is, in some sense, love, what do you make of the life and death cycles of reality? Are they part of a loving God's plan? Is it death that gives life its meaning and purpose? If God's loving desire is that we experience life, and life abundant, then how does death fit into that paradigm?

 

Bill,

 

As always you ask the tough questions. biggrin.gif

The following is only my subjective view to consider as one possible partial answer to your questions. It is true for me at my present level of understanding limited by the limitations of a conditioned vocabulary that i presently possess ... so here goes....

 

Life as i know it has no opposite cycle. Death is the opposite of birth not Life. The cycle of birth and death is merely a transforming cycle in the world of form. It is not the enemy it may appear to be. Yes, they are part of a loving (Love requires definition to make sense) God that can only be discerned subjectively and personally by communion with the very source of Life itself that is not subject to nor can be subject to Death. From this vantage point physical life or birth and death in form becomes less important. Why? Because it is not your true domain in the sense that it is temporal and is not you or what you are made of. It is only a life story or in a sense a covering of your true Self. Your domain (kingdom) is not of this world but it is in this world.

 

Death as you speak of does not give Life its meaning and purpose. Life itself is its own meaning. We as humans assign our own meaning to things. It seems to me, the search for a meaning is based on fear. Every philosophy, every religion, every individual doctrine embraced by the mind as a truth seems to me to have its basis in fear. While the answers to meaning cannot be found in the words spoken, it seems to me they can, however be found in the silence that embraces all sounds.

 

This world of beginnings and endings requires a non-attachment and acceptance of what is to experience Life. This moment i see from my left eye and that is good. The next moment my sight is gone in that eye and that is a new experience and it is good unless i am attached to the first moment. Birth and death is not experiencing life abundant but rather viewing it from the place where it receives its ability to do these things is life abundant. Christianity as with other religions speaks of dying to the self. It is the identification with this self that is suffering and death. In that identification the answers to your questions are unanswerable because that created thing cannot see past itself even as the ear itself does not hear past itself nor the eye see past itself. They are only channels for something greater.

 

Anyway, i took a stab at your questions and i have spoken my own view in perhaps deep words that may hint or point but i in truth, of course, can not answer them for you.

 

Joseph

 

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Bill great question. I feel the material world is where our bodies obtain life, ill health, unhappiness, confusion and death because our bodies came from dust and will return to dust. In my experience it is my invisible spiritual nature, which harmonizes, balances, cultivates and brings forth love and the good in my body and mind. When I don’t associate with pure consciousness in a harmonious state of mind, body and affairs, it seems I have to depend totally on the created world and I am subject to its pain and hardship. After becoming more and more involved with the external world and experiencing pain, the struggle of my flesh once again becomes a struggle for happiness. The nature of the flesh being self-centered, possessive, fearful, and always trying to force its will on others after suffering in the world, finally my mind returns on a direction back through individual consciousness to a path leading to the soul. Suffering makes me not happy with the material world so my mind leads me back through the depths of my own being to the kingdom of God. Death, I feel is the ultimate act of individualization because I have to go alone, no family, worldly goods ect. I can start learning this individualization on earth by dieing daily. Sleep, meditation, just being in the now and true love seems to remind us of this act because to love one must die. I hope to get to the point to welcome death as a spiritual opening to love and happiness. I feel when I die daily heaven is activated on earth.

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If you believe that God is, in some sense, love, what do you make of the life and death cycles of reality? Are they part of a loving God's plan? Is it death that gives life its meaning and purpose? If God's loving desire is that we experience life, and life abundant, then how does death fit into that paradigm?

 

Good Morning, Bill...

 

I believe there are two entities that we call God. One is a human, fictitious construct that all religions define according to their own doctrines, creeds, social systems, etc. and then there is the God that lies beyond that one. Some of the ancient gnostics used to refer this God as 'The Depth'. The Quaker mystic Rufus Jones referred to such a characteristic when he wrote 'Deep seeks Deep'. Yes, God is Love, but my little mind isn't capable of thinking in terms of God's plan, inteniton, wants for me/you/us and so forth. I personally don't ascribe human traits to my perception of God except for God's being a Spiritual reality within my life that connects me with the rest of humanity, all of life, and the universe. As we experience life as living beings, we also experience death as living beings and as Spiritual beings having a human experience, we experience life, death, and all that lies beyond as Spiritual expressions of an Infinite God.

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Thanks, gentlemen, for your responses. You have each given me valuable food for thought.

 

I, too, believe that "this life" is not all there is, that there is a "more" beyond the physical, now and in the "hereafter." All of the great religions and some of what we know about the nature of our universe point to this hope, yet I really wouldn't be too dogmatic on what that "more" looks like or what it consists of.

 

And I also admit that we "see through a glass darkly," that what we call God is enshrouded in mystery and that our words about God are, at best, stabs in the dark, struggling to find language for the ineffable. We could, of course, simply admit that we have no answers and that all God-talk is foolishness, a waste of time, log off this board and do other things. :D But the Unknown still calls to us, does it not? The Deep still calls to deep, and we find ourselves forever drawn to explore the great Mystery that we call God or Reality or even Life. So while I am certainly not so foolish as to expect a definitive answer to my "hard questions," I do find that I enjoy the foolishness of asking questions that religion has said are off-limits. I've grown most in my journey, not when I've found the right answers to my questions, but when I think or hope that I'm asking the right questions. :)

 

I'm not at all afraid of death. Whether "I" take another form, whether "I" am absorbed into a bigger "I Am", or whether "I" simply wink out of existence, it really doesn't matter to me. My belief are not heaven-bent on my personal survival. :) But, yes, I do look for meaning in my life and I suspect that most other people do also. It may be an inherent flaw in our species, but denying it, IMO, gets us nowhere.

 

Part of this, coming from Christianity, is the notion that "God is love" and that "Jesus gives us life." Certainly, we can argue over definitions and interpretations and discuss what love is and what kind of life Jesus gives us, but would such arguments help us with the meaning of a loving God and a life-giving Christ?

 

So all I am wondering about about is, in the face of these old cliches about the nature of God and the purpose of Jesus, how do we as humans (and even as Progressive Christians) deal with stark reality that these cliches go against our experiences of reality and the way the universe is? It is easy for an evangelist to stand in a pulpit and tell people that God loves them. But such a message would sound rather hollow in the rooms of a cancer ward, would it not? My sister-in-law, who turned 40 yesterday, has just been told that she has a disease which will probably take her life within the next 3-5 years. She is a devout Southern Baptist and I'm sure she is on the top of everyone's prayer list at her church. Is the typical message that God is love and that Jesus comes to give us life insufficient to really give her hope? Is the message only applicable post-mortem? Or do we simply chaulk it all up to God being a mystery and admit that we are just wrangling over empty, meaningless words that are a waste of time? Am I asking the wrong questions?

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Good Morning, Bill...

 

By questioning, probing, challenging, and searching our own faith, we begin to peel away the patina that has formed by social and cultural definitions. Faith is transformational. Our Faith is our Journey and our Journey is our Life. As we follow our own individual Faith Journeys, we continuously refine our own Faith until the Essence begins to appear. For the ancient gnostics and the founder of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), God can be known and experienced directly, personally, and individually without the need for clergy, books, creeds, dogmas, buildings, symbols, statues, or symbols. Here we diverge. The Christian faith as presented by the various denominations is a variety of rituals, not personal experiences and certainly not very transforming. This forms a gulf between the Seeker and the Sought. Religion can become a barrier to our own personal experience with God because religion itself can become a substitute for God. When we reach a point in our lives when our Faith must show its timber, this is where people will either feel empty or assured. God is within each and every one of us...Quakers refer to God Within as 'The Light'. All we have to do is close our eyes and seek out that Light. When found, we will know The Depth and possess a Faith that is our own Infinite Spirit.

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Bill,

 

It seems to me Russ has spoken well and it seems to be in agreement with my spirit. Last night i meditated on your further questions and though the answers were always there, the moment i attempted to put them in words i created an image that was no longer the experience. Our words create a construct and that is all they can do and focusing on the words and meanings can become a barrier to the actual experience. It seems to me the Tao says it well in the first verses.

"The tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao

The name that can be named is not the eternal Name."

 

In my experience, the undoing of constructs reveals the experience that is always there. In the experience there is no question as all is self evident. Excuse any abstractness in my foolish choice of words.

 

Joseph

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This topic concerns a question that I've been mulling over in my own heart and mind and I'd enjoy and appreciate hearing the viewpoints of others on this topic. First, a bit of personal context: I believe that God, such as I experience God, is love. By this, I mean that God seeks my best - that I experience as fully as possible life, compassion, and being all I can be. And I also believe that God desires this for everyone. Nevertheless, the cold, hard fact of reality is that our universe and our own lives are marked by death, the cessation of life. Stars are born. Stars die. So do we. I have a hope of an "afterlife," but I don't think that such was Jesus' central message or the point of the earliest Christianity.

 

So here is my question: If you believe that God is, in some sense, love, what do you make of the life and death cycles of reality? Are they part of a loving God's plan? Is it death that gives life its meaning and purpose? If God's loving desire is that we experience life, and life abundant, then how does death fit into that paradigm?

 

Billmc, your questions must have been mulled over by many throughout the years. Perhaps the final answer was the one given to Job - basically "who are you to try and work it out? Did you create the world?" And away went Job to don his sackcloth and smear himself with ashes! I know myself that after reading many a book on theodicy and believing myself to have many an "answer", one evening it just took a screech of tyres and a dog struck down to knock the "answers" out of me. Obviously far far worse in our world, yet the cold reality of the dogs whines did it for me.

 

Again, my own mother, after a slight stroke, asking me "why is this happening to me?" ( in a "little girl" voice, dementia having robbed her of her normal mind)........asked and gave the same answer.

 

Since, I have come to realise that "answers" - to a very real extent - deaden any genuine existential answer to suffering, deaden too our own capacity to respond with love and compassion to the reality around and within us. Suffering needs a response ( as Walt Whitman wrote.....Agonies are one of my changes of garments, I do not ask the wounded person how he feels, I myself become the wounded person, My hurts turn livid upon me as I lean on a cane and observe. ) not an observation, or a theodicy, a theoretical "answer".

 

The Buddist foundation for this can be found here........ Link

 

The thing is about Buddhism - and like all faiths/religions - it has many mansions. Certain of its teachings would suggest that the response to suffering should be a detached inperturbability, others suggest that enlightenment itself consists of "when happy laugh, when sad cry". All I know is that to anticipate the "answer" can lead to trying to ape it, desperately trying to be unperturbed when the heart is breaking inside, or trying to cry when we think we should be sad, when the compassion is just not in us. It can all lead to a falsity, and the building of a persona that is only a lie.

 

In my opinion we need to know ourselves. So really I have no answer to your questions, and in a sense have avoided them. But really this is as close as I can get.

 

All the best

Derek

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Bill wrote

So here is my question: If you believe that God is, in some sense, love, what do you make of the life and death cycles of reality? Are they part of a loving God's plan? Is it death that gives life its meaning and purpose? If God's loving desire is that we experience life, and life abundant, then how does death fit into that paradigm?

Derek

In my opinion we need to know ourselves. So really I have no answer to your questions, and in a sense have avoided them. But really this is as close as I can get.

 

I wasn't going to respond because I don't believe that there is a God that we can talk about; our highest value here is love/compassion, so it is not inappropriate to to say that God is love. If we are to be like this God then we say and do those things which bring us closer to that goal: to feel and show compassion/love. It is as Derek says, I think, that we must get to know ourselves by whatever journey works and in that process experience compassion for ourselves whether through experiencing God or finding it through meditation. When we find compassion/love we be can with others, compassionately as we enjoy daisies and bee stings, life and death, in abundance. Death: it is an experience which we can feel as abundantly as we experience birth.

 

What does it mean? As much as you want it to mean.

 

Take Care

 

Dutch

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Thanks again, all, for your responses and your input on this subject. As I’ve said before, and as you have reminded me, this is not a problem I am going to solve. At the same time, as has been stated, this is not a problem that is going to go away and I dare to hope that while PC cannot once and for all answer this problem, perhaps we can further the conversation on it a bit and, perhaps, take it in new directions.

 

With that in mind, I offer the following reflections. Again, these are not answers, simply musings about directions we may or may not want to go as PCs on this subject. But, as usual, these are only my thoughts on the subject.

 

1. This subject is worthy of consideration and conversation. It is not simply a detached logical or theological equation to be solved. It goes to the heart of what we experience as human beings and who or what we believe God to be. When I helped my sister bury her 8-month-old baby son, the words furthest from my mind (and my lips) were, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” As PCs, many of us are iconoclasts and we often try to help people see or experience God in new ways. While we may affirm the cliché that God is a mystery, I don’t think it is beneficial or humane to sweep this subject under the rug. Though there are some on this forum who might think that human suffering is illusionary, most people experience it as real enough, so much so that they are left emotionally, psychologically, or spiritually crippled. And others, seeing suffering, are compelled to do what they can to minimize or alleviate it.

 

2. As the ancient story of Job shows us, images of God are important. Most biblical scholars think that Job is probably the oldest book of the Hebrew scriptures. This, to me, would imply that Job reflects the earliest and most anthropomorphic understanding of God found in the Bible. Job is little more than a pawn in a game between Yahweh and Satan. Yahweh is suckered into Satan’s game with little thought as to how the game might turn out for poor Job. And Yahweh’s answer at the end of the game, “Who are you to question what I do?” is one of the most heartless responses I’ve ever heard to the problem of human suffering. If any god thought that he would be worthy of my worship by replacing my dead wife and children with subsequent wives and children, I would tell that god what he could go do with himself. Such a god would obviously have no understanding of human relationships and compassion. Nevertheless, the overriding truth of the book of Job is that God’s ways are not open to human understanding and that God is enshrouded in mystery.

 

3. Yet, while acknowledging the mystery and “hiddenness” of God, historic Christianity (and I would hope PC also) says that, in Jesus of Nazareth, something of God is revealed to humanity. In other words, something of God is known, revealed, or experience in the life and teachings of Jesus that we, as humans, were not aware of before. This, to me, is the overriding claim of the gospel writers and most of the other NT writers – that the God who was once unapproachable, enshrouded in mystery, and completely beyond human ken has somehow been “incarnated” and made known in the person from Nazareth.

 

4. This brings me to consider how we might look at, discuss, and possible reframe the problem of theodicy from the life and teachings of Jesus. Most of the material I have read or listened to concerning theodicy approaches the problem from the standpoint that God is all-powerful, all-loving, and all-good. If these claimed characteristics of God be true, then when evil, when human suffering? But I wonder how the problem might be reframed, if it can be, if what we know about God is seen, not through the eyes of the whole biblical narrative, but through the life of Jesus? For instance, though the biblical writers claimed that Jesus did some miracles to alleviate human suffering, he certainly didn’t heal or help everyone. He didn’t give his disciples the cure for cancer. He didn’t fix the world. And even if we consider the miracles of raising the dead, these people, it would have to be assumed, would someday suffer and die again.

 

5. Lastly, yes, I want to believe that God is love. And, yes, I don’t know exactly what it means to say that, even though I hear it from Christianity and churches almost incessantly. Granted, we PCs are hesitant to speak in absolutes, but if we do say that God is love, what does that mean? If we, as PCs, tell people that God loves them, what are we saying about God’s nature from a practical, experiential viewpoint? Would we do well to retreat into the OT viewpoint that God cannot and should not be described? Or would we, perhaps, do better to approach the nature of God from what we can see in the life of Jesus and our own experiences of love?

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I wasn't going to respond because I don't believe that there is a God that we can talk about; our highest value here is love/compassion, so it is not inappropriate to to say that God is love. If we are to be like this God then we say and do those things which bring us closer to that goal: to feel and show compassion/love.

 

That makes sense to me, Dutch. As soon as we move away from the nature of love (which, again IMO, is to seek the best or to affirm life) to a "Being who is loving," then we are faced with why this "Being" seems to love some and not others. This "Being" seeks the best for some, but not for all. This "Being" affirms life for some, but not for all. This "Being" plays favorites. This "Being" sometimes commits the most unloving and immoral acts possible against humanity and the world...and yet is said to be love or loving. Bigtime cognitive dissonance.

 

But we don't have to argue over the nature of love, especially when, as you have said, we see it as compassion. Love always seeks the best for all; it always affirms life; it is never unloving and its nature prevents it from being immoral because it is selfless.

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(snip)

 

1. This subject is worthy of consideration and conversation. It is not simply a detached logical or theological equation to be solved. It goes to the heart of what we experience as human beings and who or what we believe God to be. When I helped my sister bury her 8-month-old baby son, the words furthest from my mind (and my lips) were, "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life." As PCs, many of us are iconoclasts and we often try to help people see or experience God in new ways. While we may affirm the cliché that God is a mystery, I don't think it is beneficial or humane to sweep this subject under the rug. Though there are some on this forum who might think that human suffering is illusionary, most people experience it as real enough, so much so that they are left emotionally, psychologically, or spiritually crippled. And others, seeing suffering, are compelled to do what they can to minimize or alleviate it.

 

I don't think anyone by their answer here is sweeping anything under the rug in case you might be inferring that by the comment "While we may affirm the cliché that God is a mystery, I don't think it is beneficial or humane to sweep this subject under the rug." I'll assume that i'm taking that out of context and that's not saying that those who affirm the cliche are sweeping anything anywhere. There is indeed a slant on my part in your next sentence to view suffering as a type of illusion although i also have experienced it as real enough, yet it to me does not seem reasonable to assume that that person viewing that way is not compelled to do what they can to alleviate or minimize that so called suffering in others who may not see it that way by grouping them separately as " And others".

 

(snip)

 

 

5. Lastly, yes, I want to believe that God is love. And, yes, I don't know exactly what it means to say that, even though I hear it from Christianity and churches almost incessantly. Granted, we PCs are hesitant to speak in absolutes, but if we do say that God is love, what does that mean? If we, as PCs, tell people that God loves them, what are we saying about God's nature from a practical, experiential viewpoint? Would we do well to retreat into the OT viewpoint that God cannot and should not be described? Or would we, perhaps, do better to approach the nature of God from what we can see in the life of Jesus and our own experiences of love?

 

It seems to me very difficult to explain exactly in words what it means that God is Love. It is indeed an experience. Personally i do not see it as a cop out. As a PC i personally don't go around telling people that God loves them because the Bible tells me so. lol. If they can see something in me that speaks to them then that will say more than any words i can say or the Bible story says. Jesus's life story pointed to things for me but it is my own experience that essentially describes God and love to me. Retreat to the OT viewpoint or approach differently? I never cared for 'either' 'or' choices myself but words are cheap and to me experience is precious and transforming.

 

just my 2 cents,

Joseph

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I don't think anyone by their answer here is sweeping anything under the rug in case you might be inferring that by the comment "While we may affirm the cliché that God is a mystery, I don't think it is beneficial or humane to sweep this subject under the rug." I'll assume that i'm taking that out of context and that's not saying that those who affirm the cliche are sweeping anything anywhere.

 

I'm referring to the typical answer to this subject found in Christendom, Joseph, the answer that "God's ways are past finding out" or that God is a mystery and, therefore, renders this "answer" a non-answer. In other words, many Christians claim absolutely that God is love, but when asked about why there is suffering, they immediately retreat into the claim that God is a mystery. Why is God NOT a mystery when it comes to love but a complete mystery when it comes to suffering? See what I'm getting at?

 

There is indeed a slant on my part in your next sentence to view suffering as a type of illusion although i also have experienced it as real enough, yet it to me does not seem reasonable to assume that that person viewing that way is not compelled to do what they can to alleviate or minimize that so called suffering in others who may not see it that way by grouping them separately as " And others".

 

Frankly, Joseph, I don't at all understand what you are saying in the above paragraph. Would you be so kind as to rephrase it or explain it?

 

It seems to me very difficult to explain exactly in words what it means that God is Love. It is indeed an experience.

 

I agree. Our experiences are always flattened out when we try to put them into words. But as experiences are not directly communicable, words are often the best way we have to communicate our experiences. Therefore, I don't consider them to be "cheap." They are, granted, limited. But they are also expressions of who we are and what we have experienced. Perhaps the day will come when we will have some sort of neural interface with each other (like a Vulcan mind-meld) where we can truly "know" the other and their experiences. But until that day, all we have is words. Of course, we also have actions. But we can't do actions on a public bulletin board. :)

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(snip)

But we don't have to argue over the nature of love, especially when, as you have said, we see it as compassion. Love always seeks the best for all; it always affirms life; it is never unloving and its nature prevents it from being immoral because it is selfless.

 

Interesting..... A different view.

 

In my experience. Personally, i do not see Love seeking anything. It to me seems to be complete already. To me, within the human experience i see that humans have a very subjective view of the word 'unloving'. It seems to me that what is loving or unloving depends on the point of view or whose perspective you are speaking from based on a life of conditioning and unique experiences along with a myriad of other variables. 'Immoral' is another highly relative and controversial word. I DO like your description of love as selfless. That for me has no point of contention. However, IF life with a small l is what your talking about meaning the cycle of birth and death in the physical then i might disagree with the statement that love ALWAYS affirms life. It seems to me that love might affirm death in the physical. To set up standards such as these and define these things with affirming words MAY just be another fictitious construct of that which cannot be known in words or at best merely be creating another religion?

 

Anyway, enough of my rambling as i'm certain i have spoken more than enough for the mind to ponder.

Joseph

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Thanks for your responses and input, Joseph.

 

To set up standards such as these and define these things with affirming words MAY just be another fictitious construct of that which cannot be known in words or at best merely be creating another religion?

 

That would certainly not be my intent or recommendation.

 

All I'm really saying, getting back to my opening post, is that we have ALREADY inherited a religion called Christianity which, in general, says, usually quite dogmatically, that God is love but which has no satisfying answers or responses to people who suffer the harsh realities of life.

 

Whether the problem of theodicy is simply a human construct or an unanswerable question inherent in Christianity, I don't know. PCs have, over the past few years, helped people to find new and fresh interpretations of God, of Jesus, of the Bible, of Jesus' death, and even of the church. All I am suggesting is that some PCs might want to discuss new and fresh interpretations concerning the issue of theodicy. Certainly not all PCs would be interested in doing this, but some might. The goal would not be to find and enshrine THE answer to theodicy, just to foster a conversation that lets the world know that we are not blind, deaf, and dumb to the issue.

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I'm referring to the typical answer to this subject found in Christendom, Joseph, the answer that "God's ways are past finding out" or that God is a mystery and, therefore, renders this "answer" a non-answer. In other words, many Christians claim absolutely that God is love, but when asked about why there is suffering, they immediately retreat into the claim that God is a mystery. Why is God NOT a mystery when it comes to love but a complete mystery when it comes to suffering? See what I'm getting at?

 

I'm sorry Bill. You used the word "as PC's many of us" and in the next sentence "we" so i assumed you were speaking of us in PC rather than the typical answers found in Christendom. Thanks for clarifying.

 

 

 

Frankly, Joseph, I don't at all understand what you are saying in the above paragraph. Would you be so kind as to rephrase it or explain it?

 

That makes two of us ...laugh.gif Anyway, i am of the slant that true suffering is illusory in that it can only exist by stepping out of the present reality by comparing the past with the present and mentally judging it more or less desirable or undesirable. What is suffering for one may not be for another. I interpreted your words, and possibly incorrectly, that said "there are some on this forum who might think that human suffering is illusionary" Here you defined one group on this forum (which i admit to being slanted to or included in) Then it seems you followed by defining a second group as "most people experience it as real enough, so much so that they are left emotionally, psychologically, or spiritually crippled" and then went on to say in a new sentence starting with "And others, seeing suffering, are compelled to do what they can to minimize or alleviate it." It seemed to me you were trying to define people into boxes/groups as if they are distinctively different. Perhaps you were not? Anyway, I fit into at least 2 groups so maybe you could define a new word for me.biggrin.gif

 

I agree. Our experiences are always flattened out when we try to put them into words. But as experiences are not directly communicable, words are often the best way we have to communicate our experiences. Therefore, I don't consider them to be "cheap." They are, granted, limited. But they are also expressions of who we are and what we have experienced. Perhaps the day will come when we will have some sort of neural interface with each other (like a Vulcan mind-meld) where we can truly "know" the other and their experiences. But until that day, all we have is words. Of course, we also have actions. But we can't do actions on a public bulletin board. smile.gif

 

Extremely poor choice of words on my part to call words "cheap" even though they are certainly free to use. Your choice of "limited" is a much better word in my view. With my limited words. i am at a loss to even begin to express accurately who i am and what i experience. I can tell you a life story that i have played a part in and witnessed but that would not add to the reality of who i am as that story has only served to occasionally also confuse me. Anyway, i like your mind melt thing. Seems very efficient. For now, we can enjoy mild bantering with words, second guessing each other, and being a part of a story with a beginning and end if we are so inclined.smile.gif

 

Thanks for sharing,

Joseph

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Thanks for your responses and input, Joseph.

 

Your welcome and thank you.

 

 

 

That would certainly not be my intent or recommendation.

 

All I'm really saying, getting back to my opening post, is that we have ALREADY inherited a religion called Christianity which, in general, says, usually quite dogmatically, that God is love but which has no satisfying answers or responses to people who suffer the harsh realities of life.

 

 

I guess i differ in that do see a Christianity that has satisfying answers to people. True it is not the Christianity that you quoted or many make it out to be with their dogmatic and 'pat' answers. However the answers i see in Christianity are not in words but rather in a union with Christ that goes beyond language. It can be seen in fruit and actions by others but has to be subjectively experienced to provide an answer that is satisfactory for what looks like a harsh reality of life. It cannot be spoken, only subjectively experienced by the talking creature you might refer to as "me". Logically i could say in words if Jesus spoke truely and indeed said in effect you must die to self then tell me who is there to suffer? And who is there to even ask the question? The answer is in Spirit and flesh and blood cannot reveal it by an answer of words. It is a mystery only to the flesh. Spirit knows.

 

 

Whether the problem of theodicy is simply a human construct or an unanswerable question inherent in Christianity, I don't know. PCs have, over the past few years, helped people to find new and fresh interpretations of God, of Jesus, of the Bible, of Jesus' death, and even of the church. All I am suggesting is that some PCs might want to discuss new and fresh interpretations concerning the issue of theodicy. Certainly not all PCs would be interested in doing this, but some might. The goal would not be to find and enshrine THE answer to theodicy, just to foster a conversation that lets the world know that we are not blind, deaf, and dumb to the issue.

 

It seems to me that you are correct "PCs have, over the past few years, helped people to find new and fresh interpretations of God, of Jesus, of the Bible, of Jesus' death, and even of the church." To me that is only a starting point to aid in the undoing of human constructs and conditioning that cloud what everyone already has intimate access to. PC doesn't look for absolutes (Point 6). This focusing on questions rather than absolutes, in my view, serves to bring us to the point where we see that the quest for answers is never ending as one answer creates 2 more questions. Then it seems a point comes where we realize that we can't know by all our study and questions and words and we become in effect "empty". At that point we see that in truth we are in fact full and complete in Christ already and in need of nothing.

 

Just my own perspective,

Joseph

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As I've indicated previously, my own way is opening as much as possible to existence as experienced now rather than attempting explanations..............explanations that are "satisfying" either to myself or others. If pressed, it is the rather orthodox "answer" (at least, orthodox in some quarters) that in creating, the Divine has recognised the necessity of free will, the probability of its misuse, and the acceptance/responsibility for such. That such a recognition leads to the divine willingly sharing our suffering - not merely commiserating with us from up on high, but in us/as us. (I recognise that this last presupposes a deeper, more mystical vein of Christian affirmation than that more commonly found among the faithful, yet the vein is there, it is traditional, it is of long standing.)

 

For me, seeking to keep on a Christian hat, this relates to faith. Faith as opposed to belief. Faith is (for me) a letting go and letting God; in a sense, resting in the mystery, in a sense childlike. Belief is a clinging to, and in my experience will never stop seeking confirmation of its content, will never rest content, will even begin to assert that black is white if the comfort belief brings seems challenged. Faith instead asks for nothing.........if it seeks "confirmation" in peace of mind, or good health, world peace, or whatever, then it is leaving the mystery and seeking "sight". If we insist on such things as the price of our "faith", it is only belief that we have - at least, that is how I see it.

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That's interesting input, Derek, a lot for me to mull over.

 

I've been doing some reading on this topic lately and one of the strong themes that I hear time and again, next to the free-will POV (which certainly goes against the orthodox notion of God's sovereignty), is that, in some way or form, God suffers with us. Whether God did this 2000 years ago or does it today through the companion of the Spirit, the notion is that God is with us in our suffering.

 

Not to be crass, but for the life of me I simply don't see how this "answer" is supposed to be helpful. Whether a person is alone in their suffering or whether they suffer with the company of others, they still suffer. The company doesn't negate the suffering or the evil. For instance, while I suffered with my sister when she lost her baby, did my participation in that lessen her suffering any? I don't know. I doubt it. Losing a child is losing a child. I don't think it is the kind of burden that can be shared.

 

While I would agree that being in the company of others who have suffered can help us to cope somewhat with it, it doesn't alleviate the suffering and, unfortunately, offers no answer as to the "why" of the suffering, IMO.

 

Perhaps many people don't want to feel alone in their suffering and it seems to be the nature of suffering that we do feel alone in it. But I'm not sure how therapuedic it is to believe that God suffers with us when God is supposed to be able to do something about it. If I could choose a friend who could either suffer with me or one who could deliver me from suffering, I know which one I would choose. :) I know, that is a selfish thing to say. But, after all, the most popular notion of Christ is a Savior who delivers people from eternal suffering...in the hereafter. He can't seem to do much about suffering in the here and now though. And I can't help but wonder, if he won't do anything about suffering here and now, why should we trust him for a suffering-free hereafter?

 

Just more thinking aloud.

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Bill, I'd just say that it was the in us/as us that my own way lies. As you say, a God who is merely sitting beside us, "sharing" our suffering, does little to alleviate it in any fundamental sense.

 

I often - on Buddhist forums - complain of the "non-dual thought police", those who seek to demonstrate their "insight" by picking holes in any duality of expression. Nevertheless, I have to say that it is within non-duality that any ultimate answer can be found (IMHO) (As I've said before, non-duality is NOT the opposite of duality, but embraces it. It enfolds the opposites, yet in a sense transcends them. This is a "reality" of experience, not of speculation or of the intellect at all)

 

Whenever the rabbi of Sasov saw anyone's suffering, either of spirit or of body, he shared it so earnestly that the other's suffering became his own. Once someone expressed his astonishment at this capacity to share in another's troubles. "What do you mean 'share'?" said the rabbi. "It is my own sorrow; how can I help but suffer it?"

 

Any "alleviation" follows from the capacity to indentify with others, from empathy, which must - if real - initiate active love.

 

I have to say that if we want a "suffering free" world then we will always have to seek elsewhere. I also have to say that much of what I post consists of aspiration rather than accomplishment, speculation not experience.

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I often - on Buddhist forums - complain of the "non-dual thought police", those who seek to demonstrate their "insight" by picking holes in any duality of expression. Nevertheless, I have to say that it is within non-duality that any ultimate answer can be found (IMHO) (As I've said before, non-duality is NOT the opposite of duality, but embraces it. It enfolds the opposites, yet in a sense transcends them. This is a "reality" of experience, not of speculation or of the intellect at all)

 

Derek, could you translate this into non-Buddhist language for me?

 

The only notions of dualism/non-dualism that I know come from the more Greek views where, in dualism, two equal forces or gods struggle against one another, one being good and the other being evil. Calvinists seem to lean more towards non-dualism, IMO, but they insist that God is the author of everything, even evil. Is this what you are pointing to?

 

I have to say that if we want a "suffering free" world then we will always have to seek elsewhere.

 

I agree. And yet the paradoxical claim of many Christians is that God indeed wants us to have a "suffering free" world someday. They look forward to a perfect world where, supposedly, every tear is wiped away. I say, where is the evidence for such a hope? If God couldn't accomplish it now through the power of the Spirit and couldn't accomplish it through the death and resurrection of Jesus, then what else and when else could he do so?

 

Bill, I'd just say that it was the in us/as us that my own way lies. As you say, a God who is merely sitting beside us, "sharing" our suffering, does little to alleviate it in any fundamental sense.

 

That is probably closer to my understanding also, Derek. I see no way to hold onto a theistic notion of God as an external being who is both all-powerful and all-loving. There is only so far that we can retreat into the "mystery" or unknown of God on this. It is one thing to say that we don't know much of God. But it is quite another to say that what we do know of God is contradictory, at irreconcilable odds. And this is the problem of theodicy. It doesn't affect atheists or deists who don't believe that God is in control. But for Christians who believe in a being who is all-love and all-powerful, this problem is, IMO, unsolvable, won't go away, and prevents people from taking spirituality seriously or meaningfully.

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Bill, my refrence to "non-duality" was an attempt to amplify the in us/as us, rather than the "alongside us", which we both seem to agree is unsatisfactory in terms of any theodicy. Clarify? :o I think as modern "westerners" we seem to begin with the primacy of the concrete "self" of time and space, and therefore any "God" easily becomes another being outside of us, "up there", and to a certain extent, therefore, an idol. Such could only ever be "alongside us"".Yet there is a form of consciousness, starting not from the thinking and self aware subject but from Being, ontologically seen to be beyond and prior to the subject-object division. Underlying the subjective experience of the individual self there is an immediate experience of Being.........It has in it none of the split and alienation that occurs when the subject becomes aware of itself as a quasi-object.(My thanks to Merton) The Biblical reference to this could be seen in Acts 17:28...."For in Him we live and move and have our being."

 

Alongside this we have the understanding of the latin word aseitas, meaning the power of a being to exist absolutely in virtue of itself, not as caused by itself, but requiring no cause, no other justification for its existence except that its very nature is to exist. It seems to follow from this that anything created by such would necessarily be contingent, existing in some secondary sense. The "subject-object" division could be seen to be "embraced" by Being, but having itself no ultimate ontological reality (at least, on the same terms as aseitas)

 

Sorry, that really is the best I can do and maybe I have again muddied the waters. I really am a simple soul, and I have to insist that my position is that life can be lived but not thought, that there is always a conflict within reason itself that only lived experience can take us "beyond", or "resolve".

 

I agree with you that the problem of suffering IS unsolvable at the level of reason, the only possible "answer" at such a level is the "compensation after we die" answer. For me - and I suspect for you - this is no answer at all. For me because it involves a betrayal of THIS world for an imaginary "other". As far as suffering preventing people from taking "God" or "religion" seriously, personally I'm not concerned. Suffering does cause human beings to take life seriously when it touches them. Each has to come to their own answers..........and I realise that when the suffering is too great, human beings are broken, not healed. (One of the cruelest claims of so called "religious" people is that no suffering is sent that is too great to bare.)

 

A last story.....

 

Master Shaku Soen liked to take an evening stroll through a nearby village. One day he heard loud lamentations from a house and, on entering quietly, realized that the householder had died and the family and neighbours were crying. He sat down and cried with them. An old man noticed him and remarked, rather shaken on seeing the famous master crying with them: "I would have thought that you at least were beyond such things." "But it is this which puts me beyond it," replied the master with a sob.

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Bill,

 

This is such a huge topic; in an abstract sense, as I see it, the existence of evil and misery is the result of God giving us humans free will to create our own world, for better and worse. That, and the fact that natural laws remain stable...with only rare intervention from God (if any).

 

More personally, as Tariki suggested, God doesn’t promise us an easy journey through life, but he does promise to stay with us along the way, if we seek his/her presence.

 

You’ve said that you trust there is some benevolent form of afterlife, which is one helpful way of dealing with one’s own death (for me also), but there are so many other ways that we suffer, every one of us.

 

You referred to Job in the bible – for me, the profound impact of the story is the movement from second-hand belief to first-hand relationship with God. A direct experience of knowing rather than knowing about. “I had heard of you with the hearing of the ear, but now my eye beholds you.” God never does answer Job’s questions, but he does reward him for opening his heart and demanding to engage in dialogue with the Almighty. When Job’s friends sat silently and wept with him for a week they were comforting; when they started throwing around pious platitudes, arguing and getting defensive, they made him feel worse.

 

So though I think theodicy is a worthy philosophical topic, when we’re personally going through pain and suffering, whatever explanations we get from others are equivalent to Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar. What’s really needed is reaching out to God – in anger, grief, fear, envy, bitterness, despair, everything we’re feeling.

 

Job receives twice as many blessings as he had before. Maybe that’s a metaphor for the new closeness he felt to God, rather than suggesting that prayer actually can bring about change in external circumstances--I don’t know. To me prayer is affective more than effective, more about relationship than results -- it can transform us and clarify our lives.

Edited by rivanna
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Bill, my refrence to "non-duality" was an attempt to amplify the in us/as us, rather than the "alongside us", which we both seem to agree is unsatisfactory in terms of any theodicy. Clarify?

 

Yes, I think so.

 

I think as modern "westerners" we seem to begin with the primacy of the concrete "self" of time and space, and therefore any "God" easily becomes another being outside of us, "up there", and to a certain extent, therefore, an idol.

 

I agree. That has been my experience. Christianity typically says that God and humanity is separate, either because God created humanity separate from himself, or because sin separates us from God. But the funny thing is, as you have suggested, this "separate" God that we idolize often looks and acts just like us. :D

 

Sorry, that really is the best I can do...

 

Thanks. That is sufficient. I have, I think, a better understanding now.

 

I really am a simple soul, and I have to insist that my position is that life can be lived but not thought, that there is always a conflict within reason itself that only lived experience can take us "beyond", or "resolve".

 

Despite all my rhetoric, I'm a simply soul too. I like simple answers. :D And that is the main problem with theodicy -- there are no simple answers (despite what the fundies may say). Granted, people who suffer may wonder why. Why them? Why now? They look to an empty sky for, perhaps, reasons for their suffering. But I suspect that deeper in their questions of why is the question of where healing or comfort might come from. In my experience, oddly, the people that I have learned the most from and who inspire me most are not the "healed" or the "comforted," but those who, in some sense and in some way, continue life with their wounds, admitting that they have received no answers, have encountered a silent heaven, and somehow still found life worth the living.

 

As far as suffering preventing people from taking "God" or "religion" seriously, personally I'm not concerned. Suffering does cause human beings to take life seriously when it touches them. Each has to come to their own answers..........and I realise that when the suffering is too great, human beings are broken, not healed. (One of the cruelest claims of so called "religious" people is that no suffering is sent that is too great to bare.)

 

I really appreciate your last paragraph. This is much the way I see it also. That doesn't make us right, of course. ;)

 

I just found out that my father, who is 73, has bone cancer. He is refusing radiation so chances are that he is not long for this world. My sister thinks this is God's punishment on him for his failure to be the kind of father that he should/could have been. I refuse to succumb to that kind of theology. I don't in any way think that God is punishing my Dad for his sins. But neither do I expect a miracle from heaven to heal him. I have no answers for my father as to why he will suffer what will probably be a painful death. All I can do is to be there for him as I am able and to thank him for the good that he has done. I can't, in good conscience, promise him heaven, but neither will I warn him of hell. I don't know as I believe in those "places" anymore. But I do believe that love is real. And I hope that it truly does somehow endure forever.

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Bill, many thanks for the exchange of views. Sorry to hear of your father, and out of respect I'll say nothing of your sisters views except to echo the words of the great French novelist Albert Camus who wrote......"I would like to drive out of this world a God who has come into it with disatisfaction and a preference for futile sufferings."

 

Ultimately, when we see suffering it would be the ideal to respond to it by active love, rather than reflecting upon any particular "answer". Often it seems that "answers" held and arrived at too cheaply can deaden any such response. "Answers" also tend to divide, even to the point of creating the very thing they seek to have an "answer" for.

 

All the best

Derek

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