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Inspiration


GeorgeW
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I am curious what people mean when they describe something in a religious context as 'inspired.'

 

I think this can be, and maybe is, used for a range of meanings. I think the traditional meaning is the human writer/speaker is expressing the will of God. A weaker use might be that the human writer/speaker is motivated ('inspired') to contemplate a divine meaning or understanding. Maybe there is a middle-ground meaning that the human writer/speaker is influenced by God but not acting as a spokesperson. I think all of these presuppose the existence of God in a traditional sense.

 

This term seems to be more problematic in the middle area of those who are somewhere theologically between conservative Christian and atheist. I have heard some who, as an example, do not believe every word in the Bible to be inerrant word of God, use the expression in reference to the Bible.

 

I am not addressing the metaphorical use in which something is as good as if it were divinely inspired (a song, a book, an apple pie, etc.), nor am I addressing the more mundane meaning like 'Susan was inspired by her mother to write this book.'

 

I would be interested to know, if you use this term, what you mean?

 

George

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I would not use the term in a religious context because I think it is limiting. Inspired can refer to the arts, either performance or composition. I think insight to a seemingly intractable problem is often experienced as inspired. Play in sport can be inspired. All these and more are filled with the breath of the divine. All epiphanies. All revealing of God.

 

For me, now, this moment, is the only time heaven can come to earth and is the only context for inspiration.

 

Maybe I don't understand what you mean by religious context separate from daily living.

 

Dutch

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George,

 

When i use the word inspiring in a religious context it can apply to writings, speech or sights. Of course i find areas of the Bible inspiring but do not accept it as the inerrant word of God. Some of the Bible i find downright depressing. :unsure: Some posts here are inspiring and in religious context it is no different in meaning to me than in non-religious context as in - stimulating or exalting to the spirit or Tending to arouse or exalt or uplifting, encouraging, exciting, Since i believe God is all in all to me there seems no need for differentiating religious context and other context.

 

Joseph

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Guest billmc

I would be interested to know, if you use this term, what you mean?

 

My religious background, George, taught me that "inspired" meant "God-breathed", something (usually refering to the scriptures) having its source in God. Interestingly, the Bible speaks more of people being "inspired" than it does of writings being "inspired." It speaks much more of people being Spirit-filled than it does of the inscripuration process.

 

But my understanding and experience of the term has shifted somewhat over the last 10 years or so. For me, though words are often futile attempts to render the abstract into concrete terms, I would defined being "spiritual" as having a deep sense of connectedness. For example, when Jesus tells the Samaritan woman at the well that God is Spirit, I don't think Jesus was saying, "God is an etheral, disembodied ghost." Rather, because her question was centered in her understanding of the physical locality of God, I think Jesus was saying, "God is connected to everything everywhere. Therefore, where you worship is irrelevant. Worship is an attitude of the heart, not a GPS location." :)

 

Therefore, to me, when I think that something (or someone) is "inspired," it means that it makes me feel or experience a heightened sense of connectness, either to God or to others or even to the wonderful mystery of life and creation. So, as Dutch and Joseph said, my experience of the spiritual or the inspired blurs any supposed lines of sacred and secular. In fact, the more spiritual it is, at least in my experience, it causes me to let go of the boundaries in order to embrace the bountiful. Things, events, and people that I experience as "inspired" make me want to tear down more walls and hug more people. They make me more thankful that I am part of all of this Mystery and they help me be more conscious that nothing truly separates me from God or others except ego.

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I am curious what people mean when they describe something in a religious context as 'inspired.'

 

I know what is supposed to be meant by "inspired" in the religious sense. As billmc stated, I've always understood it to mean "G-d breathed."

 

But, now I never view it that way. I don't really think that what we consider to be G-d interacts with humans in that manner. So, when I use the word inspired, I mean it to refer to how I might react to a human act of kindness, for example; it inspires me to do likewise. Or, when I hear a particularly profound statement, such as

 

Worship is an attitude of the heart, not a GPS location.

 

I am inspired to change my attitude.

 

Some paintings, music and theatrical drama can inspire me to think beautiful thoughts - or thoughts of despair. Yes, I believe inspiration works both ways.

 

The bottom line, for me, is that inspiration is a wholly-owned subsidiary of human behavior. Nothing divine about it. When I read the words attributed to the character of Jesus in the Bible saying that it is better to love your enemies rather than hate them, I am inspired by the very human nature of that sentiment.

 

NORM

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I feel the Bible and religious beliefs are hypotheses, but when I have a sudden, intuitive perception or insight into the reality of something essential, a spiritual experience then I am inspired.

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Many of the words we use bring with them an assumption of our orientation to G-d. These assumptions sometimes lead to misunderstanding between people of diferent orientations.

Myron,

 

Yes, exactly. This is a problem with using traditional religious language in a new way without being clear that the intended meaning is different (see 'God' or 'Christ' as other examples).

 

George

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I think that inspiration can come from more than one 'source,' that can be considered as from a "higher" or a "lower" nature.

 

In religious thinking, that "higher" source is usually considered to be "God", or at least from "godly" kinds of things, such as love. "Lower" would in that context be considered from the devil, or evil spirits of some kind, or at least from mere "carnal", the baser desires of the "flesh".

 

In biblical scripture, "pneuma", "spirit" is used not only in reference to some spiritual being or entity, whether good or evil, but also to indicate a general psychological/emotional state of a person. Such as "spirit of..." anger, hate, greed, lust for power, melancholy, infirmity, grief, joy, love, compassion... What we might refer to as part of a person's mood, state of being at a particular time, or, more persistently, as a character trait or personality trait.

 

I think entirely too much emphasis in trying to interpret scripture as well as finding one's religious path is placed upon spirit, "pneuma", as spiritual beings, entities, that may act upon us, influence us, from some spiritual position outside of ourselves. This is often useful to us when we really don't want to own something about ourselves, or that we have done. The classic old "the Devil made me do it, so its not my fault, I'm not responsible."

 

Whether in context of a limited incident, or as a general trait, a person or even groups of people could be said to be moved to, inspired toward, some way of thinking or acting. I think it is dysfunctional and counter-productive to continue to think in such terms as our being at the mercy of these outside forces, beings and entities that are separate from ourselves.

 

This way of thinking reflects our cultural and religious roots in ancient ideas about a pantheistic reality. Among the Greeks at the time of the events recodred in the NT, people's lives were largely controlled by invisible agents of fate, daemons (translated in NT as "possessed by devils", some of which might even have a positive influence, such as the poet's "muse" and the intellectual's "genious". Unusually adept intellect or talent was seen as from a source "beyond" common human capacties. The word that has come down to us as "crafty", in the sense of someone possessed of a remarkable degree of cunning, usually used in a negative sense, actually derives from the idea that particularly talented craftsmen and artisans were so because they were favored by such spiritual beings. Such people were often viewed with suspicion, and at times the Church actually required those recognized as being of exceptional talent and skill ply their skills only in Church approved occupations...the poet, the musician, the artist, the skilled in architecture or stone masonry, could only practice their "uncanny" skills in service to the Church, to prove they were not working for the Devil.

 

All of this was rooted in understandings of "spirit" and "inspriration" of the culture at the time. Understanding this can help us in trying to understand and interpet anything pertaining to inspiration as it was integrated into early Christianity and the Church.

 

Jenell

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FWIW, I did a word search of the NT (RSV translation) for 'inspired.' I had 7 hits and in 6 of them "the Holy Spirit" was the agent of inspiration. One was inspiration from "the prophetic utterances." Then there is the well known 2 Tim 3:16, "All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness."

 

I think this is the context in which traditional Christians use the term 'inspired.' Further, I suspect that when a traditional Christian uses 'inspired' for a non-scriptural writing, speech, or composition (like a work of art), the implied, if not expressed, agent of the inspiration is God.

 

Clearly this does not seem to be the way that, at least, a small sample of PCs use the word.

 

I am not trying to close the discussion, but I do appreciate all of the comments.

 

George

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This I like. It expresses something I have felt for some time, but without the words.

 

Dark Vibrations: ecofeminism and the democracy of creation

Annual Howard Harrod / CRSC Lecture at Vanderbilt

Catherine Keller, April 6, 2005

 

Verse two is anything but nothing: as in the beginning elohim was creating the heavens and the earth, the earth was tohuvabohu darkness was upon the face of the deep, the tehom, and the ruach elohim was pulsing on the face of the waters. That spirit ruach is wind or breath, is God—though theology is at pains to reduce this spiritus creator to a mere exhalation of a great transcendent God above, always above, a birdy emission of a paternal deity. In the text the spirit moves before speech—vibration before the word.
(emphasis in bold added)

 

Myron

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