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The Teachings Of Jesus


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Point 1 of the 8 Points of Progressive Christianity says "By calling ourselves progressive, we mean that we are Christians who have found an approach to God through the life and teachings of Jesus." Interestingly, though we now have 17 pages of discussion concerning the teachings of Tao Te Ching on our Christian forum, we don't really have a similar ongoing discussion of the teachings of Jesus. Therefore, I thought it might be timely and beneficial to open a discussion on the teachings, not of Christianity, but of Jesus of Nazareth. And I thought it would be good to begin with the oldest gospel, Mark.

 

According to Mark, after being baptized by John, Jesus' first public teaching was:

 

After John had been put in prison, Jesus went to Galilee and preached the Good News from God. "The right time has come," he said, "and the Kingdom of God is near! Turn away from your sins and believe the Good News!" (Mark 1:14,15 GNT)

 

1. What did Jesus mean by the Kingdom of God?

 

2. What did he mean by the Good News?

 

3. Can we still relate to the notion of a kingdom today? If so, how?

 

4. Do you think Jesus' proclamation was an anti-Temple statement?

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Point 1 of the 8 Points of Progressive Christianity says "By calling ourselves progressive, we mean that we are Christians who have found an approach to God through the life and teachings of Jesus." Interestingly, though we now have 17 pages of discussion concerning the teachings of Tao Te Ching on our Christian forum, we don't really have a similar ongoing discussion of the teachings of Jesus. Therefore, I thought it might be timely and beneficial to open a discussion on the teachings, not of Christianity, but of Jesus of Nazareth. And I thought it would be good to begin with the oldest gospel, Mark.

 

According to Mark, after being baptized by John, Jesus' first public teaching was:

 

After John had been put in prison, Jesus went to Galilee and preached the Good News from God. "The right time has come," he said, "and the Kingdom of God is near! Turn away from your sins and believe the Good News!" (Mark 1:14,15 GNT)

 

1. What did Jesus mean by the Kingdom of God?

 

2. What did he mean by the Good News?

 

3. Can we still relate to the notion of a kingdom today? If so, how?

 

4. Do you think Jesus' proclamation was an anti-Temple statement?

 

Bill,

 

Just for the record.... While we have 17 pages of the Tao ( a little over half way through) which comes more under point 2 and interfaith dialog, there are literally many hundreds of pages (over 15,000 posts) on this forum discussing Jesus's teachings and you are certainly welcome to continue an ongoing single thread discussion on the subject at this time. I for one would be most happy to contribute in both capacities. (said as Admin)

 

For some of the questions you asked above, i would refer you to a thread discussion found here.

concerning what Jesus meant by the kingdom of God and Good News. In my personal view, the answer to 3. is yes and the how is only by personal experience as it cannot be seen with the physical eyes. The physical world is to me a place where there will always be suffering, tribulation, liars, whore-mongers, etc. but when one finds the kingdom within, a new and present world emerges and these old things pass away for that person yet one is able to enter into both worlds bringing healing to those in need. Not speaking of the afterlife unless that definition can include being dead to self while still present in the body. (said as member)

 

Joseph

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Just for the record.... While we have 17 pages of the Tao ( a little over half way through) which comes more under point 2 and interfaith dialog, there are literally many hundreds of pages (over 15,000 posts) on this forum discussing Jesus's teachings and you are certainly welcome to continue an ongoing single thread discussion on the subject at this time. I for one would be most happy to contribute in both capacities. (said as Admin)

 

Thanks, Joseph. Likewise, there are many posts of Taoist/Buddhist beliefs spread throughout the forum as part of more Christian topics. There is, of course, nothing wrong with this as seeing things through the eyes of others or from a different viewpoint is often beneficial. But unlike the Tao section, there is no central section for discussing the teachings of Jesus and perhaps a category such as this may be helpful to people who are interested in how progressive Christians view the teachings of Jesus. (said as member) :)

 

For some of the questions you asked above, i would refer you to a thread discussion found here.

concerning what Jesus meant by the kingdom of God and Good News.

 

Respectfully, this approach of searching the forum for a topic and then referring the link negates the purpose of this thread which is to, hopefully, discuss the teachings of Jesus sequentially through the gospel of Mark.

 

In my personal view, the answer to 3. is yes and the how is only by personal experience as it cannot be seen with the physical eyes. The physical world is to me a place where there will always be suffering, tribulation, liars, whore-mongers, etc. but when one finds the kingdom within, a new and present world emerges and these old things pass away for that person yet one is able to enter into both worlds bringing healing to those in need. Not speaking of the afterlife unless that definition can include being dead to self while still present in the body. (said as member)

 

Do you think that the disciples and maybe even Jesus himself first thought of the kingdom as a physical one on earth?

 

If so, what might have changed their minds?

Edited by billmc
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I have to admit that at first glance, I am a bit put off by Jesus initial message. After all, I live in democracy where having kings and kingdoms are usually seen as an outdated, more primitive form of government or control over people. And growing up in a Christian environment, I am more used to the message of repent being followed by warnings of bad news than of good. :(

 

Perhaps like Jesus audience, Ive been biased towards his message and what it means by my own culture and religion and I long to hear it without all the baggage that goes with it. In order to do that, at least for me, I dont want to jump too far ahead in where I think Jesus is going with his teaching, so Ill try to stick with just what we know of that setting.

 

Kings and kingdoms were the normal form of government for that time. History has demonstrated that many of these were not very beneficial to the people who were governed, especially towards the outcast and poorest members of society. I suspect that Jesus message has something to do with this because the proclamation of good news often implies that people are living in the midst of bad news.

 

I also find it interesting the Jesus message is not just about, supposedly, what God is doing or going to do, but invites human involvement. Repent. Change how you think, which, hopefully, leads to changing how you act.

 

Lastly, I think it is possible that Jesus message is anti-Temple. For the Jews, the only way to get sins forgiven was through the Temple sacrificial system. Jesus seems to declare that all that is necessary is personal repentance, though there may also be a national repentance involved.

 

But I appreciate the urgency of his message that God and whatever Gods kingdom is is not far away and that this is good news.

Edited by billmc
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(snip)

Respectfully, this approach of searching the forum for a topic and then referring the link negates the purpose of this thread which is to, hopefully, discuss the teachings of Jesus sequentially through the gospel of Mark.

 

 

 

Do you think that the disciples and maybe even Jesus himself first thought of the kingdom as a physical one on earth?

 

If so, what might have changed their minds?

 

Bill,

Please suffer me and read just the first post of that thread for answers to some of the questions you posed. I think you will find it appropriate.

 

I am certain from the writings in the Gospels that Jesus knew it was NOT a physical kingdom. In the Greek it is quite obvious to me, Also he is recorded saying that his kingdom was not of this world and other numerous things mentioned in the link i provided in my last post.

 

As far as the disciples were concerned, i think , not before for most of them but after his death, it was made obvious to them and Peter himself had tasted of it for himself. Just as today all did not understand the kingdom because as Jesus is recorded saying... Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. That which is flesh is flesh and that which is spirit is spirit. Though i have used writings here to make my point, it is not true to me because of the writings alone. Words cannot show the kingdom to another. they can only point to that which must be experienced to 'know'.

 

Joseph

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Point 1 of the 8 Points of Progressive Christianity says "By calling ourselves progressive, we mean that we are Christians who have found an approach to God through the life and teachings of Jesus." Interestingly, though we now have 17 pages of discussion concerning the teachings of Tao Te Ching on our Christian forum, we don't really have a similar ongoing discussion of the teachings of Jesus. Therefore, I thought it might be timely and beneficial to open a discussion on the teachings, not of Christianity, but of Jesus of Nazareth. And I thought it would be good to begin with the oldest gospel, Mark.

 

According to Mark, after being baptized by John, Jesus' first public teaching was:

 

After John had been put in prison, Jesus went to Galilee and preached the Good News from God. "The right time has come," he said, "and the Kingdom of God is near! Turn away from your sins and believe the Good News!" (Mark 1:14,15 GNT)

 

1. What did Jesus mean by the Kingdom of God?

 

2. What did he mean by the Good News?

 

3. Can we still relate to the notion of a kingdom today? If so, how?

 

4. Do you think Jesus' proclamation was an anti-Temple statement?

 

First of all, I just wanted to say that I am very much enjoying the Tao Te Ching thread. I love seeing the interconnections between the various spiritual paths. I think it shows how connected we all truly are, at some level, and though our paths may be different, in some ways, many of the underlying principles are really the same. Actually, the differences may all be very superficial, with the underlying principles being what is truly "real".

 

I don't know if I have the knowledge to answer your questions, in an intellectual way, because I am a relative newbie to the subject. I looked at Joseph's link for the first question, and thought his answer was very good (and obviously well studied, which is wonderful).

 

Interestingly (to me, anyway :)), I came across a video on Facebook that one of my friends had linked, having to do with the subject of your first question. (I always wonder if things like that happen by chance!).. Anyway, the video was by Marcus Borg and his subject was "Christianity as a Spiritual Path". In the course of this video, he mentioned that the "Kingdom of God" could occur anywhere (even on earth) where everyone was following God (or I took it as meaning, a place where everyone had Christ consciousness). It's kind of like I have always imagined heaven, where everyone is perfectly united in this higher God consciousness. There is no ignorance, no hate, no sickness, no pain, no war, no sorrow....just pure bliss and perfect unity. Perhaps, that's a child's dream, I don't know, but it sounds heavenly to me...like the Kingdom of Heaven should be. :)

 

2. What did he mean by the Good News?

 

Traditionally, the Good News is Jesus and his perfect sacrifice for our sins. Trying to think of this in a more "progressive" manner, I would say the Good News is that Jesus is a spiritual path to that Kingdom of God, I mentioned above.

 

3. Can we still relate to the notion of a kingdom today? If so, how?

 

Bill, I understand what you're saying about how most of us think of a Kingdom and I would probably agree. Calling it the "Kingdom of God" is probably kind of archaic. Really...bottom line, both the King and the Kingdom are a state of mind or consciousness (I think?).

 

4. Do you think Jesus' proclamation was an anti-Temple statement?

 

That's a very interesting question. I came from a religion that worships in Temples (Latter-day Saints) and from that perspective, I wouldn't see the statement as anti-temple. LDS believe the temple is Christ and (the true temple) resides somewhere between heaven and earth, just as Christ acts as our intermediary. The Temple, in LDS theology, is where you go to learn the "secrets" of gaining eternal life with God. It's a stepping stone towards the Kingdom of God.

 

As for the Old Testament Temple, I am somewhat familiar with the rituals that went on there and I think it had a similar purpose. It was the "go between" (before Christ) to God. The Priest acted on your behalf to close that gap between God and yourself.

 

Those are just some thoughts off the top of my head. Not very deep thoughts! lol Just some thoughts.

 

I look forward to reading more about these things.

Edited by Marsha
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Hello,

 

I am new to the forum (today, actually).

 

As is correctly pointed out, Mark was the first of the Gospels to appear in written form.

 

Many textual critics have pointed out that the later gospel of Matthew relied heavily on the work of Mark and that this can be seen in the virtually parallel passages in both "books." Interestingly, Matthew changes the term kingdom of God to kingdom of heaven (Matt 4:17) in the corresponding passage, and in the rest that follow. Does this mean that the gospel writers had their own very subjective views on what the kingdom is or is it just Matthew's Jewishness and his reverence for the written name or title of God?

 

Could it be that we are trying to read more into the actual words we have in order to come to a conclusion that they did not intend. Would a Jew try to do what we are doing or would he/she see this as an invitation to debate and mine the scripture for personal revelation. (I do realize that Jews do not regard this as scripture and that the authors of the New Testament themselves are referring to what we call the Old Testament when they refer to scripture).

 

Since leaving the inerrantist fold I now struggle with things that I took for granted when taken from a legalistic point of view.

 

I look forward to hearing your views and mining your wisdom.

 

Peter.

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Hi again Peter,

 

It is my personal view that the kingdom of heaven and kingdom of God are used interchangeably in the New Testament yet are two different words in the Greek. Heaven denotes the elevated state and God denotes Divinity or the source. To me that doesn't really change the implication enough to alter what i personally gather from the Greek but i wouldn't argue the point as the kingdom to me cannot be found in words.

 

You might check this post of mine for more details if you haven't already? HERE

 

Joseph

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Hi again Peter,

 

It is my personal view that the kingdom of heaven and kingdom of God are used interchangeably in the New Testament yet are two different words in the Greek. Heaven denotes the elevated state and God denotes Divinity or the source. To me that doesn't really change the implication enough to alter what i personally gather from the Greek but i wouldn't argue the point as the kingdom to me cannot be found in words.

 

You might check this post of mine for more details if you haven't already? HERE

 

Joseph

 

Hi Joseph,

 

Thanks for sharing your view. I followed your link but didn't have the time to do it justice this morning. I will definitely be back later to give it the attention that it deserves.

 

In your concluding remarks there you remind the reader that the word Christ is not a name. I think that we all need to remind ourselves of this from time to time because we do tend to ignore the significance of the term when reading passages in the Bible.

 

I look forward to further discourse.

 

Peter.

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Christianity, it seems to me, concerns Jesus Christ. It does seem that many lean towards "Jesus", and many lean towards "Christ". Maybe it is in the historical Jesus that we are asked to "see" the Divine.

 

Myself, I lean towards "Christ", and it is "Christ" I see as the Way, the Truth and the Life. This is how, for me, Christianity opens to all the other Faiths.

 

As is my wont, a quote from Merton..........Christ alone is the way, and he is invisible. The "desert" of contemplation is simply a metaphor to explain the state of emptiness which we experience when we have left all ways, forgotten ourselves and taken the invisible Christ as our way. Merton's words, again for me, are amplified by Eckharts....."They do Him wrong who take God in one particular way; they have the way rather than God."

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Hi Derek,

 

Along the line of your post, I think the Upanishads said it very well. I paraphrase in my words... That which cannot be seen with the eyes, but that whereby the eyes can see: know that alone to be the Spirit of God (Brahman) and not what people here adore. What cannot be thought with the mind, but that whereby the mind can think: know that alone to be the Spirit of God and not what people here adore.

 

What i think it says is God is formless and cannot be seen. Christ which is that which is One with God is formless and cannot be seen, but is not what many people here adore. Rather many focus on a person or the man Jesus, which is form and is what many people adore rather than Christ.

 

It seems to me, that this is seen by progressive Christian thinking but i in no way speak for PC or anyone but myself in what i have said here. It is my own view only.

 

Love in Christ,

Joseph

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Forum threads have a way of taking on a life of their own, which is, I suppose, a good thing in that it stimulates conversation.

 

My original intent with this topic was to consider the teachings of Jesus, not to analyze what we mean or don't mean by the word "Christ". And I was hoping that we could do so from the book of Mark, not from the Upanishads or Brahman or Merton or Eckhart, etc. :) But, as I said, conversations take on a life of their own and, to be quite honest, the direction that this conversation is going doesn't appeal to me at this time. Right now, I'm more interested in the pragmatic teachings of Jesus, not in the metaphysical studies of divinity or in Christian doctrine down through the ages. But that is just me. Therefore, I'll turn it over to Joseph or any others who continue this subject and determine its direction in whichever way it goes.

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Bill, I really wish you would stay and lead the conversation in the direction you would like for it to go.

 

I am really interested in your answers to the other questions you posed.

 

Seems like we could have more than one conversation going on the same thread. It kind of gives it dimension, when these side issues are brought in (IMHO). But, I understand that you would like the main issues addressed, as well (which is fair)..

Edited by Marsha
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Bill, sorry to have had a hand in knocking your thread off topic! Initially I was just picking up on a few words of Peter in a previous post. I must admit that I tend to like threads that weave and wend, and remember with particular fondness a thread on a Buddhist forum that originally asked "Why are you not a Christian?" and ended with an in-depth discussion of kami-kazi pilots in WW2.... :D (I seem to remember another that delved into the various species of bull frogs, but not sure just what topic that began as) Sadly, this all mirrors my own dustbin of a mind, but I mean no harm.....

 

Seriously, I do in a sense see what is "unique" to the historical teachings of Jesus as being merely parochial, of interest only to those specialising in Judaic history around that time. What is universal in the teachings is just that, universal.

 

Like Marsha, please stay....Hopefully you can continue with this thread in the mode you intended.

 

All the best

Derek

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I have to admit that at first glance, I am a bit put off by Jesus’ initial message. After all, I live in democracy where having kings and kingdoms are usually seen as an outdated, more primitive form of government or control over people. And growing up in a Christian environment, I am more used to the message of “repent” being followed by warnings of bad news than of good. :(

 

Perhaps like Jesus’ audience, I’ve been biased towards his message and what it means by my own culture and religion and I long to hear it without all the baggage that goes with it. In order to do that, at least for me, I don’t want to jump too far ahead in where I think Jesus is going with his teaching, so I’ll try to stick with just what we know of that setting.

 

Kings and kingdoms were the normal form of government for that time. History has demonstrated that many of these were not very beneficial to the people who were governed, especially towards the outcast and poorest members of society. I suspect that Jesus’ message has something to do with this because the proclamation of “good news” often implies that people are living in the midst of “bad news.”

 

I also find it interesting the Jesus’ message is not just about, supposedly, what God is doing or going to do, but invites human involvement. Repent. Change how you think, which, hopefully, leads to changing how you act.

 

Lastly, I think it is possible that Jesus’ message is anti-Temple. For the Jews, the only way to get sins forgiven was through the Temple sacrificial system. Jesus seems to declare that all that is necessary is personal repentance, though there may also be a national repentance involved.

 

But I appreciate the urgency of his message that God and whatever God’s kingdom is is not far away and that this is good news.

 

Like the others, I hope you stay around & post more :)

 

As for me, I'm extremely hesitant to get into how Jesus fulfilled versus replaced the law, which I think is related to your comments about Jesus being possibly anti-Temple, as its an area that I don't know well at all and get lost in easily. Its a worthwhile discussion however.

 

That said, I do think his teachings could be described as trying to reconcile humanity and God, and that in doing so he showed that human authorities (be they Rome or anyone else) necessarily fell short of true, perfect righteousness. And that's part of how I think about what the Kingdom of God is: no human kingdom/government/social order. The next thing out of his mouth, however, was not that we must then spend every day thinking about how horrible and without merit humanity is, but rather we must act with compassion and brotherhood as much as possible (and call out those in power who are opposing those ideals).

 

I realize none of this really speaks to the matter of what is unique, but it's what I have to offer at the moment.

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Apologies again for drifting "off-topic", but in my own defence my own dustbin of a mind seems to pick up connections. Maybe by drifting a bit we are able to get out of a particular groove? Anyway, whatever, again I pick up on a phrase....how Jesus fulfilled versus replaced the law, and unlike Nick the Nevermet (hi Nick!) I do not hesitate........which perhaps brings to mind the phrase "fools step in where angels fear to tread".... :D ...or is it :o ?

 

Anyway, I have my own history of being "born again", and remember from those far off days the words often spoken by my ardent fundamentalist friends....."We are not sinners because we sin, we sin because we are sinners." For me, my own mind makes the connection with the often declared aim of the Buddhist way.....that the bottom line is enlightenment, and that morality is a by-product of wisdom rather than being its source.

 

The doctrine of Original Sin sees us as being born in a state of alienation from the Divine and until such alienation is healed all that we are and do will be tainted. Therefore "sin" does not refer to isolated actions, rather "sin" is a symtom or manifestaion of the state of alienation in which we find ourselves. One of my mentors, Thomas Merton equates sin with the identity-giving structures of the false self....therefore the focus of sin is shifted from the realm of morality to that of ontology. For Merton, the matter of who we are always precedes what we do. Therefore sin is not essentially an action but rather an identity. (For anyone interested, most of the last paragraph is gleaned from the book by James Finley, entitled "Merton's Palace of Nowhere", sub-titled "A Search for God through Awareness of the True Self".)

 

For me, this puts all the "teachings of Jesus" in a context. The context being one hinted at by William Blake, when he said "If moral virtue were Christianity, then Socrates was the Saviour". To take them merely as morality turns them, for me, into platitudes, platitudes that can be found throughout religious texts of a multitude of faiths. The nitty gritty comes when the context in which they are found is understood/believed in/trusted. Personally I've found the better context to be Buddhist, mainly because I have a very weak mind that is easily led, and there are far too many loud voices in the Christian faith banging drums that mean that I can't hear myself think - then there is the voice of those who seem only to want to engender fear in, and condemnation of, anyone who would dare question their own particular whims and interpretations of scripture.

 

So, again, for me it is "who" Christ is, rather than what Jesus taught, that is relevant. No doubt, the two intertwine, but that Christ is one with the father is the key. It is why long ago I left the "quest for the historical Jesus" behind. For me it was a dead end, irrespective of the wonderful books by those like E.P.Sanders and a few others.

 

So for me, the "law" is a set of platitudes written on tablets of stone, and seeking to "fulfill" them is only to by-pass and ignore our basic/fundamental alienation from the divine. As the Good Book says "all our righteousness are as filthy rags" which many resent as being very unappreciative of the Divine, but realy its just telling it like it is! The key to "fulfilling the law" - for me - are the words of St Paul..."Not I, but Christ lives in me"........or....Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. .... Our false self must die "in and with Christ". And for me, the "true self" is invisible.....

 

The inner self is as secret as God and, like Him, it evades every concept that tries to seize hold of it with full possession. It is a life that cannot be held and studied as object, because it is not a "thing". It is not reached and coaxed forth from hiding by any process under the sun, including meditation. All the we can do with any spiritual discipline is produce within ourselves something of the silence, the humility, the detachment, the purity of heart and the indifference which are required if the inner self is to make some manifestation of his presence. (Merton, from the "Cistercian Quarterly Review 18")

 

We must all find our own way, hand in hand with grace and mercy, each unique.

 

All the best

Derek

Edited by tariki
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Apologies again for drifting "off-topic", but in my own defence my own dustbin of a mind seems to pick up connections. Maybe by drifting a bit we are able to get out of a particular groove? Anyway, whatever, again I pick up on a phrase....how Jesus fulfilled versus replaced the law, and unlike Nick the Nevermet (hi Nick!) I do not hesitate.

 

Howdy :)

 

Anyway, I have my own history of being "born again", and remember from those far off days the words often spoken by my ardent fundamentalist friends....."We are not sinners because we sin, we sin because we are sinners." For me, my own mind makes the connection with the often declared aim of the Buddhist way.....that the bottom line is enlightenment, and that morality is a by-product of wisdom rather than being its source.

 

The doctrine of Original Sin sees us as being born in a state of alienation from the Divine and until such alienation is healed all that we are and do will be tainted. Therefore "sin" does not refer to isolated actions, rather "sin" is a symtom or manifestaion of the state of alienation in which we find ourselves. One of my mentors, Thomas Merton equates sin with the identity-giving structures of the false self....therefore the focus of sin is shifted from the realm of morality to that of ontology. For Merton, the matter of who we are always precedes what we do. Therefore sin is not essentially an action but rather an identity. (For anyone interested, most of the last paragraph is gleaned from the book by James Finley, entitled "Merton's Palace of Nowhere", sub-titled "A Search for God through Awareness of the True Self".)

 

For me, this puts all the "teachings of Jesus" in a context. The context being one hinted at by William Blake, when he said "If moral virtue were Christianity, then Socrates was the Saviour". To take them merely as morality turns them, for me, into platitudes, platitudes that can be found throughout religious texts of a multitude of faiths. The nitty gritty comes when the context in which they are found is understood/believed in/trusted. Personally I've found the better context to be Buddhist, mainly because I have a very weak mind that is easily led, and there are far too many loud voices in the Christian faith banging drums that mean that I can't hear myself think - then there is the voice of those who seem only to want to engender fear in, and condemnation of, anyone who would dare question their own particular whims and interpretations of scripture.

 

So, again, for me it is "who" Christ is, rather than what Jesus taught, that is relevant. No doubt, the two intertwine, but that Christ is one with the father is the key. It is why long ago I left the "quest for the historical Jesus" behind. For me it was a dead end, irrespective of the wonderful books by those like E.P.Sanders and a few others.

 

So for me, the "law" is a set of platitudes written on tablets of stone, and seeking to "fulfill" them is only to by-pass and ignore our basic/fundamental alienation from the divine. As the Good Book says "all our righteousness are as filthy rags" which many resent as being very unappreciative of the Divine, but realy its just telling it like it is! The key to "fulfilling the law" - for me - are the words of St Paul..."Not I, but Christ lives in me"........or....Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. .... Our false self must die "in and with Christ". And for me, the "true self" is invisible.....

 

The inner self is as secret as God and, like Him, it evades every concept that tries to seize hold of it with full possession. It is a life that cannot be held and studied as object, because it is not a "thing". It is not reached and coaxed forth from hiding by any process under the sun, including meditation. All the we can do with any spiritual discipline is produce within ourselves something of the silence, the humility, the detachment, the purity of heart and the indifference which are required if the inner self is to make some manifestation of his presence. (Merton, from the "Cistercian Quarterly Review 18")

 

We must all find our own way, hand in hand with grace and mercy, each unique.

 

I find myself agreeing with a lot of this.

 

One can find a similar argument about Christ in the reformed tradition. Barth said, and I don't think he was contradicting Calvin here, that Jesus didn't show us the way as much as he was the way, meaning he was the human incarnation of God's loving desire to reconcile humanity with the divine. Barth would absolutely agree with Merton's assessment of original sin, and his discussion of it in his Epistles to the Romans commentary goes down similar lines. The Good News is that through Christ we are reconciled with God / saved, and the Kingdom of God are those moments when we feel God's grace and the spirit flowing through us in our actions or in our perception of the world, those moments when we have more faith and are inescapably aware of God's will/plan.

 

In Sin Bravely, Mark Ellingsen (who comes at this stuff through Lutheranism, rather than Calvinism) makes a great point that in many ways we would be better off if we reject the dichotomy between good acts and bad acts in favor of acknowledging there is nothing but flawed actions. In his view, one can quite easily obsess about good vs. bad actions in a moralistic and narcissistic fashion that is not healthy, ethical, or even in his view particularly Christian.

 

Of course, none of this suggests that morality and Jesus' teachings on the subject are pointless or irrelevant.

 

So, I agree with a lot of what you said about Original Sin and Jesus, even if I'm still avoiding the discussion about the law, as I don't feel confident in my thoughts on that subject. Though, in short, I do tend to support the idea that Jesus Christ was a continuation of rather than a break from the law. I just cant support that argument as well as I would like.

Edited by Nick the Nevermet
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Have really enjoyed reading all of your comments. Many very insightful observations.

 

For me, my own mind makes the connection with the often declared aim of the Buddhist way.....that the bottom line is enlightenment, and that morality is a by-product of wisdom rather than being its source.

 

This reminded me of something Evangelicals often say about the "born again" experience. That following God's commandments is a by-product of regeneration, not a path to regeneration. You cannot "work" your way to heaven. I think there is some truth in that. In my experience, a relationship with God is more about surrender than any "doing".

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Thank you Nick and Marsha, there seems to be a broad concensus here.

 

In my own experience the heart of Grace is found in the verse from Ephesians, that says we were chosen before the foundation of the world. Desmond Tutu once said of these words: "Therefore nothing we can do can make God love us more, nothing we can do can make God love us less."

 

Put simply, for me "salvation" is a realisation, not an attainment. We come to see that which has always been. Otherwise, for me, salavtion is always reduced to "works", no matter even if those "works" are seen as "belief" or "acceptance" (of Christ) in "time".

 

Anyway, I'll just cut and post from another thread, as I have been "called away" in the midst of this post....From Thomas Merton.....

 

The reification of faith. 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......

 

For me, the "presence the Christ" is beyond definition, beyond creed, beyond words, and to seek to capture it and make it our "own" is lack of faith, not its expression. Perhaps this is one of the things at the heart of any "progressive", the recognition that to seek to impose our own definitions on any other human being is error. Each of us is unique.

 

The true solutions are not those which we force upon life in accordance with our theories, but those which life itself provides for those who dispose themselves to receive the truth. From "Raids on the Unspeakable."

 

And a little verse from my own Pure Land way....

 

Faith does not arise

Within oneself.

The entrusting heart is itself

Given by the Other Power. (Rennyo)

 

Sorry, must go!

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Tariki,

 

Does Merton say anything about works? I've read very little of him, but I would imagine that as a Catholic monk, he probably had a different view than the people I'm familiar with.

 

From my own reading and reflection Merton's understanding of "works" came itself from his understanding of the "false self", the self that seeks to clothe itself with "power, honor, knowledge" etc, in order to "construct its nothingness into something objectively real." Therefore, as I understand it, Merton would see any attempt by ourselves to "justify" ourselves by works to be empty. In my understanding, this is much in line with a lot of Christian thought, irrespective of any Protestant/Catholic divide. And Merton, certainly during his later life, was greatly attracted to the "eastern" faiths, particularly Buddhism, which I have said before, view "enlightment" as the bottom line, all else flowing from it.

 

One passage that I do think is relevant, and which I find worth reflection, is from his essay "Opening the Bible".....

 

If we ask the Bible, as we ultimately must when we enter into serious dialogue with it: "Who is the Father? What is meant by Father? Show us the Father." We in our turn are asked in effect: "Who are you who seek to know 'the Father' and what do you think you are seeking anyway? And we are told: Find yourself in love of your brother as if he were Christ (since in fact he 'is Christ') and you will know the Father (see John 14:8-17). That is to say: if you live for others you will have an intimate personal knowledge of the love that rises up in you out of the ground that lies beyond your own freedom and your own inclination, and yet is present as the very core of your own free and personal identity. Penetrating to that inner ground of love you at last find your true self.

 

There is much in these words, but relevant to "works" as such it would seem to imply that our "works" should be towards the good of others, and we ourselves should be indifferent to any "reward", and certainly to any sense of self-justification or pride ( which as I have experienced it, leads only to division between myself and others in self-righteous judgement)

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This is all very interesting. I just discovered Thomas Keating AND Thomas Merton, last night. Wow, what a wonderful discovery! I was surfing through some YouTubes and honestly can't even remember how I ended up there. But, I read a brief history of Thomas Merton and really liked this man, immediately. So sad, about his premature death. I found Thomas Keating in a joint interview with Ken Wilbur (who was also new to me). I love this whole new world that has been opening up to me! Enjoyed the last couple of posts, here, very much...good stuff!

 

Perhaps this is one of the things at the heart of any "progressive", the recognition that to seek to impose our own definitions on any other human being is error. Each of us is unique.

 

That's so true and not always easy to practice. I think I have judged myself, in the past, more than any other, because I have tried to force myself onto paths that were really not for me. I feel like I am finally seeing that...and what a relief it is to not feel a need to force a square peg into a round hole. :)

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Thanks.

 

I'm planning on getting to Catholic theology. But, I'm not there yet, so I will continue to ask lots of questions like a 5 year old. ;)

 

Nick, I'm not personally into Catholic Theology, nor its rituals. My own background is very low Church (can't begin to say HOW low!!) If I were to get into any particular theology it would perhaps be Eastern Orthodox, but I doubt I will ever do so. Its more that I open to particular "mentors", two in particular being Thomas Merton and Nyanaponika Thera, a Theravada monk. (The fact that instinctively I have a mistrust of monastacism is just one of those quirks that demonstrates that real life often has nothing to do with our own preferences!)

 

I love first and foremost the letters of Merton, maybe because much of there content escaped the vigilance of the censors. The volume entitled "The Hidden Ground of Love" was - and is - a revelation to me. So full of various gems of the spirit and set in a style that is never didactic, letters written to people of all faiths, and many of none.

 

You mention being like a 5 year old child, which is just how I feel each time I dip into the little "Pocket Merton" I carry around with me. I open it at random many times, and let the "spirit" speak.

 

All the best

Derek

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