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Your Method Of Searching, Seeking, & Studying


Nick the Nevermet
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I'm behind on reading threads here, and there are many (and I mean MANY) that I want to respond to. In trying to figure out what to respond to first and why, I decided instead to start a new thread based on a central thing that kept coming up: the question of method.

 

Put simply, how do you seek & study, developing your beliefs and faith?

 

There's a great sociology article called "The Extended Case Method", by Michael Burawoy. Now, it's sociology not theology (let alone any other element of religion), but it advocates a wonderful method to study:

 

  1. Find your favorite tradition / belief system (or in sociology, your favorite theory)
  2. Study it, deepen your knowledge of it, learn it until you can reflexively think in terms of it
  3. Now the fun part: actively look for things that "break" your favorite theory. Look for things that disprove it, or that it cannot answer, etc.
  4. Attempt to "extend" the theory, reconstructing it to deal with the problem.

 

Now, this takes a lot of intellectual honesty (and I've not always been up to the task), but it's a method of intellectual study that works for me.

 

Applied to Christianity, I'm learning up on Reformed Christianity right now as I've mentioned before. Why? Because it was what I was raised in, and even if I didn't explicitly know Calvinist theology, a lot of what I took for granted was Reformed. So, I've read some Karl Barth, I'm reading Calvin right now, and I'm reading some history to put it in context.

 

At the same time, I'm looking for ways to break Reformed Christianity. I'm reading up on Calvin's theodicy, which I find... well, consistent at the very least. I'm worried that the rejection of works may throw the baby out with the bathwater. And so on.

 

So, intellectually, I'm extending my knowledge of religion through this manner. Who knows if I'll stay Reformed in my approach?

 

As for spiritually, that's a bit messier for me. I pray, and I practice contemplative prayer, and sometime this month, I'm returning to Church for the first time in about a decade (I'll post about that in another thread).

 

So... yeah. That's me. How about you?

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I'm behind on reading threads here, and there are many (and I mean MANY) that I want to respond to. In trying to figure out what to respond to first and why, I decided instead to start a new thread based on a central thing that kept coming up: the question of method.

 

Put simply, how do you seek & study, developing your beliefs and faith?

 

There's a great sociology article called "The Extended Case Method", by Michael Burawoy. Now, it's sociology not theology (let alone any other element of religion), but it advocates a wonderful method to study:

 

  1. Find your favorite tradition / belief system (or in sociology, your favorite theory)
  2. Study it, deepen your knowledge of it, learn it until you can reflexively think in terms of it
  3. Now the fun part: actively look for things that "break" your favorite theory. Look for things that disprove it, or that it cannot answer, etc.
  4. Attempt to "extend" the theory, reconstructing it to deal with the problem.

 

Now, this takes a lot of intellectual honesty (and I've not always been up to the task), but it's a method of intellectual study that works for me.

 

Applied to Christianity, I'm learning up on Reformed Christianity right now as I've mentioned before. Why? Because it was what I was raised in, and even if I didn't explicitly know Calvinist theology, a lot of what I took for granted was Reformed. So, I've read some Karl Barth, I'm reading Calvin right now, and I'm reading some history to put it in context.

 

At the same time, I'm looking for ways to break Reformed Christianity. I'm reading up on Calvin's theodicy, which I find... well, consistent at the very least. I'm worried that the rejection of works may throw the baby out with the bathwater. And so on.

 

So, intellectually, I'm extending my knowledge of religion through this manner. Who knows if I'll stay Reformed in my approach?

 

As for spiritually, that's a bit messier for me. I pray, and I practice contemplative prayer, and sometime this month, I'm returning to Church for the first time in about a decade (I'll post about that in another thread).

 

So... yeah. That's me. How about you?

 

 

Nick, that's cool, learn to question what you've been taught and listen to the answers with an open mind. Start at the beginning though, don't question what the religion tells you, question the basis of religion. Be skeptical, honest and not afraid to admit that you may be making a mistake believing. Don't be afraid to question authority. It has worked for me and I am free and not afraid of death any longer.

Edited by Harry
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Hi Nick!

 

That's an interesting theory and it is, basically, what I have been doing all of my life. I have studied many religious systems and have ultimately thrown most of them out. I was worried about this mode of "study", sometimes, wondering why I could never settle on anything. I've studied eastern philosophies (Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism), Kabbalah, and more recently, Christianity.

 

I am actually attending a Reformed Church right now, but not sure how much longer I will be there. I've attended for a year and half. I've read the first two books of Calvin's Institutes and many, many Reformed books (Sproul, MacArthur, Spurgeon, Piper, Whitman, etc). This system has many problems, IMO. The main things about it that bother me are the exclusivism (God choosing only "some" for salvation), the idea that most of humanity will spend eternity in a firey hell and it was actually God's sovereign will that determined that. Some of the teachings are very disturbing.

 

Lately, I have been studying Progressive Christianity through authors like Spong and Marcus Borg & Father Thomas Keating. I have really enjoyed it, so far. I consider this my new path.

 

As I said above, I was somewhat concerned that I could never "settle" on anything, but lately I am finding that it doesn't matter. I have learned a lot about many different paths and there is some truth in all of it. I have, lately, been more open to embracing the good in all of it, rather than just pitching the whole system, because I have found flaws. No human organization is going to be perfect. We just need to take the good and true that we find in it and try and apply to our lives.

 

I am 65 years old, and at this stage I am finding true spirituality is actually very simple. God is love, absolute and unconditional love. When we are in that place we are connected and reflecting the God in us.

 

I've started meditating again and practicing contemplative prayer. Those disciplines help keep me connected to the love.

Edited by Marsha
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Nick,

 

You pose the question, “How about you?”

 

First, as to the proposed method of study, I think that is a worthwhile approach to religion, except for the “disprove” point. I don’t think the basic question of the existence of an external God or creative force can be proved or disproved. Something that is supernatural could not be tested by natural means.

 

It seems to me, one should find a belief system that works for them and recognize that it is likely to be idiosyncratic and not completely consistent with any particular religion or denomination. But, I don’t think that minor differences should deter one from participating in a church.

 

I attend a PCUSA church. There are things that I don’t agree with (like the virgin birth), there are many things I agree with (the emphasis on social justice) and there has been nothing espoused that I object to (which is the stopper for me). The issues I do not accept (again, like the virgin birth) are relatively trivial in the grand scheme of things. So, on balance, I find it worthwhile.

 

FWIW, I have not formally ‘joined’ the church, although I have regularly attended for about ten years as joining would entail affirming some things I cannot accept in good conscience (those trivial issues) and others about which I am agnostic.

 

George

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"I don’t think the basic question of the existence of an external God or creative force can be proved or disproved. Something that is supernatural could not be tested by natural means."

 

In Western intellectual approaches, this may very well be true yet is does not answer the question "Can God be experienced?" This is the journey that many, including myself, over the centuries. This basic question is the foundation for the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) as well as the outcome of Eastern practices. George Fox, the founder of the Quaker movement in England, asserted that God CAN be personally experienced without the use of intermediary worldly things such as buildings, priests, books, music, creeds, etc. Independent of those external things, including intellectual searching, I may add, one is freed up from dogmas, proofs, systems, theories, etc. and can then clear the clutter out of the way thereby making room for a Divine Experience. Yes, I read to deepen my understanding of my Faith and Practice, but that does not put me into contact with the Source. For that, I need only to relax, sit back, clear my mind of all of the worldly noise, and be at that place where my edge meets the edge of the Infinite One. Empty mind...Open heart. Whether we search ourselves painfully or quietly in meditation, our own Inner Life will deepen over time as long as we seek the One who has many names but cannot be named.

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Regarding objective proof that God exists, I was reading this, from Ken Wilber, the other day. I think he believes that even subjective experiences can be proof of the existence of God, when those experiences are compared and we find many similarities.

 

"The mystics ask you to take nothing of mere belief. Rather, they give you a set of experiments to test in your own awareness and experience. The laboratory is your own mind, the experiment is meditation. You yourself try it, and compare your test results with others who have also performed the experiment. Out of this consensually validated pool of experiential knowledge, you arrive at certain laws of the spirit--at certain "profound truths", if you will. And the first is: God is. . . ." -Ken Wilber
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First, as to the proposed method of study, I think that is a worthwhile approach to religion, except for the “disprove” point. I don’t think the basic question of the existence of an external God or creative force can be proved or disproved. Something that is supernatural could not be tested by natural means.

 

The disprove comment was sloppier than it should have been. In sociology, the value of the extended case method was to show a way to do social science without doing "hypothesis testing," as long as one actively looks for inconvenient facts. But anyhow, yes: Trying to prove or disprove God empirically is not a good use of time. I am, however, quite comfortable anchoring myself in reformed Christianity at the moment, critically looking inward at it; the deeper I go within the tradition the more critical I strive to be. Being critical of and challenging beliefs, thinkers, and traditions doesn't require "disproving" them in an empirical way.

 

 

That's an interesting theory and it is, basically, what I have been doing all of my life. I have studied many religious systems and have ultimately thrown most of them out. I was worried about this mode of "study", sometimes, wondering why I could never settle on anything. I've studied eastern philosophies (Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism), Kabbalah, and more recently, Christianity.

 

I am actually attending a Reformed Church right now, but not sure how much longer I will be there. I've attended for a year and half. I've read the first two books of Calvin's Institutes and many, many Reformed books (Sproul, MacArthur, Spurgeon, Piper, Whitman, etc). This system has many problems, IMO. The main things about it that bother me are the exclusivism (God choosing only "some" for salvation), the idea that most of humanity will spend eternity in a firey hell and it was actually God's sovereign will that determined that. Some of the teachings are very disturbing.

 

Lately, I have been studying Progressive Christianity through authors like Spong and Marcus Borg & Father Thomas Keating. I have really enjoyed it, so far. I consider this my new path.

 

I need to read Sproul sooner or later, but I want to prepare first, if that makes sense, since I know I viscerally disagree with some things he claims. There is a great article entitled "Onward Christian Liberal" by Marilynne Robinson, which sadly appears to not exist online in any form (this confuses me :blink: ). The reason why I recommend it to you is that it's a manifesto for a progressive and distinctly Calvinist Christianity. I don't agree with everything Robinson claims, but it's wonderfully written, and she's got a great talent for making an argument that Calvinism supports a progressive political agenda (you'll especially be amused by what she has to say about predestination).

 

 

Also:

I am 65 years old, and at this stage I am finding true spirituality is actually very simple. God is love, absolute and unconditional love. When we are in that place we are connected and reflecting the God in us.

 

I've started meditating again and practicing contemplative prayer. Those disciplines help keep me connected to the love.

 

And

 

Yes, I read to deepen my understanding of my Faith and Practice, but that does not put me into contact with the Source. For that, I need only to relax, sit back, clear my mind of all of the worldly noise, and be at that place where my edge meets the edge of the Infinite One. Empty mind...Open heart. Whether we search ourselves painfully or quietly in meditation, our own Inner Life will deepen over time as long as we seek the One who has many names but cannot be named.

 

One of my weaker areas is spiritual practice. I recognize this, but it's hard. I'm very grounded in cognition, which is a double-edged sword. The other one I'm working on is community. More on that when I finally get around to the personal stories sub forum.

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"I don’t think the basic question of the existence of an external God or creative force can be proved or disproved. Something that is supernatural could not be tested by natural means. "

 

I beg to illuminate, but to keep it simple I use examples. What if God is external but not completely. What if it is shown by physics to be necessary for there to be an energy containing outside-of-time dimension? What if the answer was a sort of panentheism, where inside (us, the universe) is only part of a necessarily bigger whole. And that within that bigger whole (but outside of us) was an energetic source?

 

I think this picture would go a long way down the route of 'proving' God's existence. I will probably be writing more on this subject, but for now I have an introduction on the Welcome page.

 

Carl

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Perhaps for me, how we go about "deepening our beliefs" begs the question just a little bit. I tend to drift along the apophatic line, the way of unknowing, of "resting in the mystery"........rather then seeking explicit "beliefs" to guide me. Which I suppose can sound a bit of mumbo jumbo and "new agey", yet is in fact deeply grounded in the Christian tradition. Also it is deely grounded in my own experience.

 

Long ago in my own "fundamentalist" days I knew a man who was the genuine article in terms of a loving spirit. There was a light in his eyes and he was liked by most who met him. Yet, alas, when the subject of religion came up the light would die, and "doctrine" seemed to take over. I reflected on this a lot at the time, and a lot since, and the only conclusion I have been able to reach is that often we can be "saved" - or be led along the path to a "new creation" - in spite of our beliefs rather than because of them. I've come to recognise it as "grace", the work of the "Living God", Who comes in all shapes and sizes, the "nameless one", often not recognised at the time - or ever, it seems, by some....

 

And looking back at my own life, and the determinations that sometimes were made, and the direction I determined to go. Now I look back and give thanks that most never came to fruition, or did in ways beyond expectation.

 

So St John of the Cross says......"If we wish to be sure of the road we tread on, we must close our eyes and walk in the dark"..........and Thomas Merton speaks of "the road to joy that is mysteriously revealed to us without our exactly realising it."

 

If you wish to know the truth, then cease to cherish opinions says a zen master in the same vein.

 

It seems all to do with the "false self" we consider ourselves to be, a persona that we seek to craft into some sort of image we have in mind, that we can eventually take credit for, and be admired for. It begins to become apparent to me, in so many ways, that when we just let go, smile benignly at the antics of such a self, and rest in the grace of that which accepts us just as we are, that paradoxically a true transformation comes to be, we become who we are, the old Tom, Dick or Harry we have always been........which is the final paradox.

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Perhaps for me, how we go about "deepening our beliefs" begs the question just a little bit. I tend to drift along the apophatic line, the way of unknowing, of "resting in the mystery"........rather then seeking explicit "beliefs" to guide me. Which I suppose can sound a bit of mumbo jumbo and "new agey", yet is in fact deeply grounded in the Christian tradition. Also it is deely grounded in my own experience.

 

Long ago in my own "fundamentalist" days I knew a man who was the genuine article in terms of a loving spirit. There was a light in his eyes and he was liked by most who met him. Yet, alas, when the subject of religion came up the light would die, and "doctrine" seemed to take over. I reflected on this a lot at the time, and a lot since, and the only conclusion I have been able to reach is that often we can be "saved" - or be led along the path to a "new creation" - in spite of our beliefs rather than because of them. I've come to recognise it as "grace", the work of the "Living God", Who comes in all shapes and sizes, the "nameless one", often not recognised at the time - or ever, it seems, by some....

 

And looking back at my own life, and the determinations that sometimes were made, and the direction I determined to go. Now I look back and give thanks that most never came to fruition, or did in ways beyond expectation.

 

So St John of the Cross says......"If we wish to be sure of the road we tread on, we must close our eyes and walk in the dark"..........and Thomas Merton speaks of "the road to joy that is mysteriously revealed to us without our exactly realising it."

 

If you wish to know the truth, then cease to cherish opinions says a zen master in the same vein.

 

It seems all to do with the "false self" we consider ourselves to be, a persona that we seek to craft into some sort of image we have in mind, that we can eventually take credit for, and be admired for. It begins to become apparent to me, in so many ways, that when we just let go, smile benignly at the antics of such a self, and rest in the grace of that which accepts us just as we are, that paradoxically a true transformation comes to be, we become who we are, the old Tom, Dick or Harry we have always been........which is the final paradox.

 

Thanks for this post.

 

There's a few ways I can read. The least dangerous to me is to agree with you that we can be saved in spite of our beliefs. Indeed, that explains a great deal of my continuing fascination with Reformed Christianity. While determining what one believes is important, a purity test would be ridiculous.

 

The more challenging element is of course pointing out the dangers in deciding for oneself where one should go next. I don't have as much of a defense on that point, though I recognize the problem here. While my post doesn't mention resting in mystery or being moved by the Holy Spirit, those are important, even if I'm not quite completely sure how to integrate them into what I talked about in my original post.

 

If I'm reading your post correctly, it creates an interesting problem: how does one determine the difference between one's false self and ... I don't know what the right terminology would be (acting in the Spirit?). It's not an unanswerable question, but it's one that needs to be taken seriously, just as the question that one needs to take the question seriously of how to (again, my terminology is limited) limit how demanding one's false self is on a given individual.

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Thanks for this post.

 

There's a few ways I can read. The least dangerous to me is to agree with you that we can be saved in spite of our beliefs. Indeed, that explains a great deal of my continuing fascination with Reformed Christianity. While determining what one believes is important, a purity test would be ridiculous.

 

The more challenging element is of course pointing out the dangers in deciding for oneself where one should go next. I don't have as much of a defense on that point, though I recognize the problem here. While my post doesn't mention resting in mystery or being moved by the Holy Spirit, those are important, even if I'm not quite completely sure how to integrate them into what I talked about in my original post.

 

If I'm reading your post correctly, it creates an interesting problem: how does one determine the difference between one's false self and ... I don't know what the right terminology would be (acting in the Spirit?). It's not an unanswerable question, but it's one that needs to be taken seriously, just as the question that one needs to take the question seriously of how to (again, my terminology is limited) limit how demanding one's false self is on a given individual.

 

Nick,

 

I think it has been observed by many that any "path" involves paradox. Words have to be used.

 

For me the "problem" is non-existent in the sense that any attempt to "determine the difference" is of the false self. The "true" looks after itself, being the only true existant. It is not a case of looking at two options and trying to decide, given our current state of play! At most, we can seek to rest in an ambience of faith......trust........supplication.......openess........mindfulness.......expectation.

 

A Buddhist monk once said that at the moment of release/enlightenment "effort falls away, having reached the end of its scope." For a few years now I have been reflecting on and seeking to live the Pure Land path, that seems to investigate the "scope of effort" and the part it plays. Really, not seeking to sound "mystical" or anything, but I'm not really able to say more than I have, which sums it up. I just watch my false self at work....in the warm light of an infinite compassion, and basically get on with it!

 

At best I have to resort to quotes, and the words of Stephen Batchelor, who contrasts the use of empty gestures born of psychological and social habits, with free expressions of ethicsl integrity......

 

.....occasionally we act in a way that startles us. A friend asks our advice..............instead of offering him a consoling platitude or the wisdom of someone else, we say something that we did not know we knew. Such gestures and words spring from body and tongue with shocking spontaneity. We cannt call them "mine" but neither have we copied them from others. Compassion has disolved the stranglehold of self. And we taste, for a few exhilerating seconds, the creative freedom of awakening.

 

So, alas, I offer you the words/wisdom of "someone else"........ :D

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Nick,

 

I think it has been observed by many that any "path" involves paradox. Words have to be used.

 

For me the "problem" is non-existent in the sense that any attempt to "determine the difference" is of the false self. The "true" looks after itself, being the only true existant. It is not a case of looking at two options and trying to decide, given our current state of play! At most, we can seek to rest in an ambience of faith......trust........supplication.......openess........mindfulness.......expectation.

 

A Buddhist monk once said that at the moment of release/enlightenment "effort falls away, having reached the end of its scope." For a few years now I have been reflecting on and seeking to live the Pure Land path, that seems to investigate the "scope of effort" and the part it plays. Really, not seeking to sound "mystical" or anything, but I'm not really able to say more than I have, which sums it up. I just watch my false self at work....in the warm light of an infinite compassion, and basically get on with it!

 

At best I have to resort to quotes, and the words of Stephen Batchelor, who contrasts the use of empty gestures born of psychological and social habits, with free expressions of ethicsl integrity......

 

.....occasionally we act in a way that startles us. A friend asks our advice..............instead of offering him a consoling platitude or the wisdom of someone else, we say something that we did not know we knew. Such gestures and words spring from body and tongue with shocking spontaneity. We cannt call them "mine" but neither have we copied them from others. Compassion has disolved the stranglehold of self. And we taste, for a few exhilerating seconds, the creative freedom of awakening.

 

So, alas, I offer you the words/wisdom of "someone else"........ :D

 

No apologies needed! Always throw in the names of thinkers that are influencing your comments when talking with me. I thrive off it.

 

And you make excellent points about paradox and how the entire act of making distinctions is part of the problem. And that quote from Batchelor is both brilliant and beautiful.

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  • 4 months later...

The main things about it that bother me are the exclusivism (God choosing only "some" for salvation), the idea that most of humanity will spend eternity in a fiery hell and it was actually God's sovereign will that determined that. Some of the teachings are very disturbing.

 

Hi Marsha,

I'd beg to differ on the above. How does 2 Peter 3:9 fit the mold you refer to above?

 

Doug

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Great thread. :)

 

Not sure exactly what my method of study is. It is catching a glimpse of something new, something sacred, and moving with it slowly, exploring it both intellectually and somatically, allowing both the conscious and unconscious mind to process it all. This allows for questions and doubts to be fully explored, understood, and at best, released. Eventually, many themes and threads converge on some basic insights whose implications can be further and further drawn out. Finding truth is to me a matter of peeling away the falsities and mystifications of language/thought and fully entering into the matter directly. I'm not looking for purely objectified answers, I don't think there are any ultimately. It is more a matter of learning to abide in the luminous truth of who/what we already are.

 

A lot of it has to do with picking one's battles. What is it that we are looking for? What is worth pursuing? What is the nature of the knowledge we seek? Objective knowledge? Subjective knowledge? Non-dual knowledge? Part of what motivates my thinking is trying to get to a place which need not be proved nor disproved, a place of realization, life, intimacy. Only a non-dual approach meets these requirements in a way that is satisfactory to me personally. It is an approach that moves away from all forms of essentialist, externalized, reified categories, and gives Mind a high place ontologically and epistemologically. But it is neither idealist nor materialist. In this respect I do not find modern Western categories particularly helpful or fruitful toward this end. We can objectify reality and try to figure it out from the outside-in, constantly running up against such a method's limitations. But ultimately, within a perspective of non-duality, none of that has any independent self-existence.

 

All this involves studying various source texts and commentaries that speak to whatever happens to be obstructing my awareness at the moment, and allotting time for practice, without which the reason for such studying is left unrealized.

 

Peace to you,

Mike

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I see trying to find the hole in something, whether a rather complete beliefs system, or a specific belief or idea of a concept, is consistent with scriptural admonation that we test all things, that they be of God. The first thing anything have to be if of God is of truth. It is not God, or the existence of God, we seek to prove or disprove, but any particualr belief or idea about God, that we can put to the test of truth.

 

I do actively look for those holes, whether in a doctrine I've encountered, my own or someone else's beleif or idea about God in some way. When an idea is forming in my mind, this seems to be right, before I add it to my store of beliefs, yes, I try to test it, find a way to disprove it, even if it is something I cannot prove.

 

Something I was told and adopted is a bit of advice for maintaining a proper relationship between faith and reason.

I can accept, believe on faith, something that had not been and/or cannot be proven true. However, I cannot accept, believe, on faith or any other grounds, something that has or can be proven false.

I think very analytically, which is often a surprise to those that know more of my spiritual, mystical perspectives in many ways. I aced my college class with one of the highest scores the proff had ever given, with all the extra credit work he provided to help raise the pass level in a course with a high fail rate, I completed the course with a 176! What I have come to is a position of, while we cannot reason our way to God (or proof of God's existence), God is not unreasonable. If an idea, belief, or concept we are considering fails any test of SOUND reasoning, logical process, then it unreasonable, and therefore to be rejected as false. I stress the soundness of reasoning, because there is a lot of fallacies of logic present in how many people think, process information and ideas.

A real difficulty is that according to studies in psychology into cognitive development, as much as 40% of people in our society never fully develop and master the capacity for abstract thought. Without that capacity, comprehending the soundness of reasoning is virtually impossible. The person is basically stuck at a literal and concretist/reductionist level.

 

I say virtually impossible, for it actually is possible for someone not strong in abstract thought to decide to study and apply the principles of formal logic to test ideas, and arguments for ideas and beliefs.

When I first opened the text book for my course in logic, I nearly choked, and wondered if I had made a serious mistake. I've never been a 'math' person, thought there must be something wrong with the part of my brain that processes math...I will drop in here that I was entering college at 52, my last formal education having been the 9th grade many years before, and not quite sure if I should be there, considering my kids had to figure out anything beyond basic math on their own because I couldn't help them. It was my second semester and I was repeating the intro-algebra remedial I was required to take to even be in college! When I opened that Logic text, I saw pages and pages of stuff that looked like algebraic equations and calculus formulas! By the time I completed that Logic course, the math fell into place...I not only got through the math I'd planned fairly easily, I actually ended up switching from a BA to a BS which meant even more math.

 

Now, I tell this to illustrate this point. I'm still not a math person, but learning the PROCESS of formal logic allowed me to be able to follow the similar 'grammar and syntax' of math. If one has to write out the tenets of a belief or doctrine or idea and arranged them according to a formula from formal logic, just like I still have to lay out on paper every single step of a math problem, by all means, do it.

 

Finding a hole doesn't always mean throwing the whole thing out, the baby with the bath water analogy. Sometimes you just need to change the bath water, find a "repair" for what ever is responsible for the hole, and fix it. Sometimes a foundation tenet here and there just needs adjusting. Adjust, then test again.

 

Jenell

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Hi Nick!

 

That's an interesting theory and it is, basically, what I have been doing all of my life. I have studied many religious systems and have ultimately thrown most of them out. I was worried about this mode of "study", sometimes, wondering why I could never settle on anything. I've studied eastern philosophies (Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism), Kabbalah, and more recently, Christianity.

 

I am actually attending a Reformed Church right now, but not sure how much longer I will be there. I've attended for a year and half. I've read the first two books of Calvin's Institutes and many, many Reformed books (Sproul, MacArthur, Spurgeon, Piper, Whitman, etc). This system has many problems, IMO. The main things about it that bother me are the exclusivism (God choosing only "some" for salvation), the idea that most of humanity will spend eternity in a firey hell and it was actually God's sovereign will that determined that. Some of the teachings are very disturbing.

 

Lately, I have been studying Progressive Christianity through authors like Spong and Marcus Borg & Father Thomas Keating. I have really enjoyed it, so far. I consider this my new path.

 

As I said above, I was somewhat concerned that I could never "settle" on anything, but lately I am finding that it doesn't matter. I have learned a lot about many different paths and there is some truth in all of it. I have, lately, been more open to embracing the good in all of it, rather than just pitching the whole system, because I have found flaws. No human organization is going to be perfect. We just need to take the good and true that we find in it and try and apply to our lives.

 

I am 65 years old, and at this stage I am finding true spirituality is actually very simple. God is love, absolute and unconditional love. When we are in that place we are connected and reflecting the God in us.

 

I've started meditating again and practicing contemplative prayer. Those disciplines help keep me connected to the love.

 

I think you've got it!

 

Jenell

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I'm very inquisitive about my faith so I've been studying the Bible, theology, and apologetics. When I study the Bible, I usually read up on the historical and cultural background of the text that I'm studying. Asking the Holy Spirit for guidance is important because I believe that He illuminates Scripture when one reads it.

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I need to read Sproul sooner or later, but I want to prepare first, if that makes sense, since I know I viscerally disagree with some things he claims.

 

If you want to read Sproul, I would suggest that you read the books, Scripture Alone and Faith Alone. In these books, Sproul discusses the two key doctrines that Evangelical Protestants believe.

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Someone mentioned having, over the course of their seeking process, having taken up various different religious traditions, only to ultimately discard them as not being what they were searching for.

 

My experiences with other faith traditions, and other religions, had not bee about seeking some established path to follow, but more as that of picking each one up, studying it to try to understand it and how it meets the heeds of those that follow it, just to see what it is made of, and how its put togther, I guess I'd put it. There's no intent or thought from the start of it of considering staying there, following it as a path, but just to examine, understand, in a curious kind of way. Thus I never found myself having to struggle with any concerns some express, of me being drawn away from my present faith path and into some other.

 

Rather, I think what I'm doing in that is a sort of dialectic study process. While the term comparitive religious study generally seeks to find the parallels, commonalities, between different religious traditions, what I seem to be doing most is using what I learn about each to set out the perimeters of a dialectic examination, looking for central concepts and ideas that cannot be expressed directly, but which may appear in that central 'open space' between them all. If that makes sense.... Just as we might look at a number of examples and samples within biblical scripture to form an impression of a central concept or idea difficult or impossible to articulate directly.

 

So I'd add the use of dialectic to my important study methods.

 

jenell

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Guest billmc
Put simply, how do you seek & study, developing your beliefs and faith? As for spiritually, that's a bit messier for me.

 

Yeah, that’s me also. Mike Yaconelli wrote a book a few years back called “Messy Spirituality” that pretty much sums me up – I wanna follow Jesus, but I’m a mess. I believe, I doubt. I trust, I question. I sometimes have what I think are these great insights, but for the most part, I’m clueless. Mike said something like, “I’m an angel with an incredible capacity for beer.” My only hope is that God loves me anyway. For some reason, he gives me the grace to keep following despite my many stumblings.

 

Intellectually (with what little I do have), I’m a cherry-picker, I admit it. I was big on systematic theology when I was younger. I tried to find the theological framework that could hold the most data with as little cognitive dissonance as possible. I assumed that there was a place for everything and that everything should be in its place. Theology was, to me, a puzzle where all the pieces should fit.

 

Then life happened.

 

And it was like somebody took the puzzle of my life and shook the box so hard that nothing fit any longer. And I was so weary from the shaking that I didn’t even want to rebuild.

 

Nevertheless, something is shifting inside me. I don’t know what to call it. But Russ said something in another thread that echoes where I am. He said something along the lines that his faith is much simpler now that he is getting…more seasoned. A wise teacher once put it this way, “Love God, love others.” Simple. Easy to say. Not so easy to do, at least for me.

So now I’m cherry-picking. I still find theology interesting. But I’d rather experience God than think about God or argue about God. This doesn’t mean that I am against intellectualism, I’m all for learning. But, for me, knowledge about God and life is more about experience than about holding to certain concepts as empirical truth. So my cherry-picking isn’t so much about finding the right beliefs that align with a certain theological framework, it’s more about developing certain attitudes and practices – ways of living – that help me to experience God as love and to, hopefully, reflect that love to others.

 

But I’m still a mess.

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Billmc:

Then life happened.

 

And it was like somebody took the puzzle of my life and shook the box so hard that nothing fit any longer. And I was so weary from the shaking that I didn’t even want to rebuild.

 

Man, do I understand that!

Don't let anyone try to fool you....we are ALL a mess!

 

Jenell

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....we are ALL a mess!

 

 

I'm not OK, you're not OK, but that's OK!

 

Or as William Blake said (and I think I just might have quoted this before.... :D )..."mutual forgiveness of each vice opens the gates of paradise."

 

:)

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