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Scripture As Mind Of Christ


Mike
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Hi all,

 

Just thought I'd submit some musings for further discussion on the question of "What, for us, constitutes scripture, and what function(s) does it serve?" I have to confess that I don't feel obliged to limit "Scripture" to the traditional canon. As progressives we are expanding the boundaries of Christian faith all the time. Why, for instance, is Amos scripture, yet not Dionysius? Jude, not Bonaventure? If one function of scripture is to create a snapshot of our tradition by which to create vital dialogue, then it would seem our "canon" can (perhaps, must) be broad indeed.

 

To me, the authority of scripture seems to come from at least three sources: (1) its historical/cultural place in a living tradition; (2) its moral guidance and the value of its narratives (not excluding the potential value of counter-examples); (3) the perceived spiritual attainment of the writers (i.e. the text's virtue in matters of spiritual practice and realization).

 

A sentiment is often found among progressives, also, that perhaps there is a source that transcends even these three -- the person of Jesus, his life; or, perhaps more mystically, his mind (let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus). What constitutes scripture is the mind of Christ. I like this approach. Of course, it's very ambiguous, or deeply subjective. But perhaps that's just the nature of the creature we're dealing with. Ultimately, how could the mind of Christ not be an inward, subjective realization? Does that make it less valuable, any less real? I think not.

 

I've been thinking about this issue after opening to the introduction of a book on Tibetan Prajnaparamita literature, which I found to be of potential help. Buddhist philosophy is methodically non-essentialist. By this, it means that it does not look for pre-given essences in things -- it does not look to words alone to express what is true in things. It looks for truth as embodied -- incarnate, even -- wholly given, without grasping at definitions -- without attempting to define what something independently is "in itself." This also means that truth -- especially ultimate truth -- is not an object that we can hope to circumscribe and hold in the palm of our hands; truth is found in the fluid, dynamic, intimate reflexes of our awareness. Truth is the purity of all phenomena as they are; thus as a mind is pure, truth is actualized (an untruth can only be obscuration, illusion).

 

"The nature of the dharma wheel of the scripture is defined as 'the cognizance of a disciple that appears either in the form of a buddha's speech, whose main topics are the causes, the results, or the nature of nirvana, or, the cognizance that appears as the collection of names, words, and letters that serve as the support for such speech.' ... In other words, in dependence on the dominant condition that is a buddha's wisdom and the causal condition that consists of the relatively pure mind streams of certain beings to be guided, this wheel of dharma is nothing but the very mind of these beings that appears for them in the form of words and letters." (Gone Beyond, vol. 1, p23)

 

Thus scripture in this view is not essentially divorced from the mind(s) in which it appears. It is not something other than the wisdom of the sage, appearing through the depth of understanding and ability of the disciple, as words and letters. The truth and purity of scripture appears not as something other-to, but as actualized in the truth and purity of the mind of the practicer. Also, there are many shades of grey in the level of understanding that a scripture may convey. There are, then, from a conventional point of view, higher and lower scriptures (doubtless somewhat arbitrary).

 

I wonder how this perspective might influence one's understanding of Christian scripture. "Buddha's wisdom" -- and I speak only in reference to the formal method being employed here -- can have a clear correspondence to the Mind of Christ, the minds of Christian disciples, and what it means for scripture to be scripture.

 

Peace,

Mike

Edited by Mike
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In other words, in dependence on the dominant condition that is a buddha's wisdom

IF I understand, then any text that is coherent? resonates? with the teaching of Jesus and works in the same way as Scripture, not as something outside the experience of the persons involved, is functioning as Scripture.

 

It is not something other than the wisdom of the sage, appearing through the depth of understanding and ability of the disciple, as words and letters.

A work of art in a museum is not art until there is a viewer.

 

I think this does bring up the issue of "authority" which might be related to the idea of higher and lower Scriptures. Is Cool Hand Luke a lower Scripture in comparison to Martin Luther King's letters?

 

When I gave a sermon in August, I used a passage from (drum roll please) The Shack as one of the Scripture texts.

 

Would Malcolm Muggeridge's book be part of this idea? A Third Testament: A Modern Pilgrim Explores the Spiritual Wanderings of Augustine, Blake, Pascal, Tolstoy, Bonhoeffer, Kierkegaard, and Dostoevsky

 

 

Take Care

 

Dutch

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Hi Dutch,

 

Good questions. I just want to clarify up front that I don't think readjusting the Christian canon (or creating a progressive canon, or whatever) in any united, official way is of any practical feasibility. I think this will remain a purely theoretical and/or personal/local exercise. Not surprisingly, Buddhism has no canon, or rather, different schools overlap -- different scriptures are emphasized over others, or not at all (depending on their historical and cultural distance from each other). And these were written over a long period of time during different historical periods, unlike at least the New Testament.

 

Although, if one looks to Catholic, Eastern, or even some Protestant traditions, the church fathers are relied on heavily and given authority -- if not on par with scripture, at least invoked for their historic interpretations and applications for the body of Christ that have defined the tradition. They seem to be implicitly 'canonized' -- the church as the steward of the bible, not the other way around.

 

IF I understand, then any text that is coherent? resonates? with the teaching of Jesus and works in the same way as Scripture, not as something outside the experience of the persons involved, is functioning as Scripture.

 

I think this is the gist of what I have got out of it. Scripture appears as the wisdom of God within the understanding of the practicer. Of course, deciding on what counts as a "higher" or "lower" scripture depends on one's pre-existing vision of reality. Various strands of Buddhism would disagree with each other on which scripture represents the highest teaching, even though almost all of these teachings dovetail with each other in some way, though there are also departures that cover a full spectrum.

 

But perhaps this is also where Christianity has headed? Interestingly, some later developments of the Buddhist tradition consider themselves the peak of a series of progressively unfolding higher teachings that the Buddha gave. The phrase "turnings of the dharma wheel" refers to these progressive unfoldments of the teachings of the Buddha, which are believed to have been given by the mind of the Buddha himself, even though the historical Buddha never actually developed them as such. Anachronistic, yes. But aside from this, is this so different from what we are doing at present?

 

 

Peace,

Mike

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Of course, Mike, scripture usually is a reference to books or writings that religions/faiths consider to be sacred or holy. In this function, these books/writings often seem as a conduit or, perhaps, a mediator between God (or a Higher Enlightenment) the reader/meditator/practicioner. But it seems that most of the "sacred communication" is one way, from the Greater to the lesser, with prayer being the corresponding communication/communion from the lesser to the Greater.

 

For me, however, though I realize the definition of scripture as "inscripturation" (writing), my experience of sacred communication goes beyond the bounds of physical books (no pun intended). For instance, I find evidence for God written in the stars and in nature. I also find it written in the DNA molecule. Also, when I look within, I find God's commands and desires of us, to love one another, written in my heart. Though these things are not technically scripture, I find them to be ways that I experience God speaking to me -- and that is the experience that I think sacredness is trying to convey.

 

Like you and Dutch, I have read other writings, and especially heard song lyrics, that, to me, seemed very much inspired, sacred, where I felt that God was speaking to me just as much as I experience it within the canon. But these other things are, admittedly, sacred to me alone and I know not how they come across to others.

 

I have also read things on this forum that have, at times, seemed very sacred to me, almost as if God were writing through the poster. Is this a heretical notion? I don't think so. If we live and walk in the Spirit, why can't God speak to us through each other if we would listen?

 

So, to me, though scripture usually refers to sacred writing, I find many things in my experience that speak to me just as much as the texts that we value. Wherever God speaks to me, it is there that I find scripture, though letters may not be present.

 

PS - As for "the mind of Christ", the term "Christ" on this forum is, imo, so nebulous that I can't really speak to the subject. Probably due to my background, I tend to see Christ as referring to Jesus of Nazareth, but this doesn't seem to be the general consensus here, so because I don't understand the definition, I find it difficult to talk about it.

Edited by Wayseeker
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Hi Bill,

I agree -- and I like that "scripture" can go beyond the written word, and that you can find it anywhere. That's because it's fundamentally part of what we are. If it weren't, then we'd have no capacity to discover it and embody it. The mountains are an oracle, the rivers a broad tongue.

 

Robert Aitken began one of his essays with,

 

"In Western folklore, the ultimate secrets are imparted by angels, winged messengers who have no memory, as Dante says. They come forth as their communiques. Natural phenomena convey secrets to primal people--birds, animals, plants, waters, mountains, meteorological incidents."

 

I did not at first understand the significance of "no memory", but the meaning may be that things don't come forth merely as "themselves" -- what we label and objectify, but as subtle, nonverbal expressions of ultimate truth, transparent windows to the divine. They come forth as their message, no clinging to self, but belonging wholly to the ultimate.

 

PS - As for "the mind of Christ", the term "Christ" on this forum is, imo, so nebulous that I can't really speak to the subject.

Probably due to my background, I tend to see Christ as referring to Jesus of Nazareth, but this doesn't seem to be the general consensus here so because I don't understand the definition, I find it difficult to talk about it.

 

I can only speak for what it means to me, but I see the mind of Christ as the awareness that Jesus had, and the meaning of that awareness. In the abstract... bottomless, selfless compassion and acceptance beyond the divide of self and other.

 

Peace,

Mike

Edited by Mike
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I agree -- and I like that "scripture" can go beyond the written word, and that you can find it anywhere. That's because it's fundamentally part of what we are. If it weren't, then we'd have no capacity to discover it and embody it.

 

This is true, imo. For all of the "Bible thumping" that some Christians do about how inspired the Bible is, the scriptures themselves actually speak *way* more of *people* being inspired - breathed into by God or breathed upon by Jesus or filled with the Spirit. Perhaps this is why the apostle Paul referred to us as "living epistles." Or, as someone once said, "You may be the only Bible that some people will ever read." Being an idealist, I wish my life were the Sermon on the Mount or the 13th chapter of 1 Corinthians, but I know better. -_-

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Perhaps at this point I should advance the second part of the meaning of the text cited in the first post. Scripture is a manifestation in the form of words and letters of the Buddha's wisdom within the mind of the practicer. Yet, the Buddha himself is said to have never uttered a single syllable, he having no latent tendencies which would give rise to words, being free of delusion -- luminous, with nothing to cling to...In other words, being Selfless Wisdom itself. Therefore such words, as was stated, are the very mind of the practicer, under the dominant influence of supreme wisdom. We have silence (or Wisdom) becoming words and yet never ultimately ceasing to be silence. This is because neither "silence" nor "words" have any separate essence that would obstruct one or the other.

 

Peace,

Mike

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Mike

 

I try and take the Bible in the totality of what it says and try to live by it. I try and not to listen too much to scholars, who seem to be the new priestly class in this society and pick and choose what opinions I consider for my own understanding of scripture.

 

I think scripture is intended as it says, to be written on our hearts. Not bound in leather in a book. Ingrained in our very being.

 

I personally don't care when it was written, or by whom, or what was revised and even mistranslated. There are enough translations for serious discernment if anyone wishes to have the word challenge their sensibilities. I don't think scripture should only justify our personal beliefs. It should challenge us and make us feel uneasy, or as the Holy Spirit is supposed to do - convict us. We should not pick and choose it solely based on "scholarly" opinion which is filled with bias and presupposition.

 

I believe that scripture is a tough thing that ultimately is written in a stone that we cannot break, nor should we.

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Hi Matt,

 

I respect your approach. But if scripture is set in stone -- then we have some 2000 years since the last scripture was written. That's an awfully long time. If scripture is primarily about our response to the spirit -- then it seems to me that even under the view you have articulated there is room for more. Much has been written about Christ since the first century.

 

Peace,

Mke

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Scripture is not set in stone for me. Well it is inerrant in my opinion as to it's notion of what salvation is. I've read the Bible twice and hear people preach it everyday. I read it all the time. The more I read it the more I feel that it resonates with me. I hear it on this site and on Christian radio that I listen to from people that drive me crazy and wonder if they're reading the same thing. I think it is living and as much a reflection of the Word of God as the Rigveda is imminent in its existence. Like the Bhagavad Gita Krishna preached it to other races as he claims to have. Yet all of it is tapered with the cultures of its times.

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