Post Number: 2183
|Posted on Saturday, March 25, 2006 - 11:17 am: || |
I still think you might like attending The Society of Friends/Quaker meetings. Have you ever done that? They have the unprogrammed and the programmed meetings. I like attending the unprogrammed. It is one hour on group silent meditation. Afterwards there is a discussion on one topic and each person gets only one chance to say his/her thoughts on that subject, do do not waste time or words, in Quaker meetings silence is golden.
Post Number: 3626
|Posted on Saturday, March 25, 2006 - 11:47 am: || |
Joyce, I am also interested in your answers to Chris's questions above.
If I am misunderstanding what you said, please correct me. I think I understand the Unity position to be that of each person finds truth for himself within the framework of the five pricniples you mentioned: "1) God's Goodness, 2) our oneness with God, 3) the power of our thoughts, 4) the power of prayer, and the fact that 5)we must practice these principles in order for them to work."
First, how does one decide what to do when one's internal understanding leads him to behave in a way that directly offends or opposes another person who likewise made her decision using these five principles? I realize this question is hypothetical, but I can see that these sorts of situations could increasingly occur as people interact with each other over time. Whose personal understanding of "truth" is "right"? If neither is more right than the other, what "authority" do you turn to for mediation, and how can you know that mediating authority is "fair"?
I have another couple of questions as well. On what basis do you know that all people are one with God? Further, how do you know that the Spirit who is guiding you is God's Spirit? Do you have any way to "test" the Spirit to see whether or not it is the Holy Spirit?
Thank you for answering our questions so patiently.
Thanks for sharing that you have some minor health issues. I am also praying for you!
Post Number: 13
|Posted on Saturday, March 25, 2006 - 1:46 pm: || |
I'm happy to try to answer your questions.... First, "HOW DOES ONE DECIDE WHAT TO DO WHEN ONE'S INTERNAL UNDERSTANDING LEADS HIM TO BEHAVE IN A WAY THAT DIRECTLY OFFENDS OR OPPOSES ANOTHER PERSON WHO LIKEWISE MADE HER DECISION USING THESE FIVE PRINCIPLES? "
I don't mean to sound flippant about it, but this happens to us all the time, no matter what spiritual path or authority we follow. In our day-to-day lives where more mundane issues are involved, as well as with spiritual issues. I have an ongoing situation right now with someone I work with---we just don't agree, on so many things. And it's very difficult. But I do think, and this was a long time coming for me, at some point, you have to decide: "Do I want to trust my own mind, my own ability to reason and try to handle my own life, my relationships with other people, resolve moral dilemmas, etc? Or do I want to hand my life over to someone else?" I don't want to just sit back and let God, or a church or religious authority make all my decisions. I have never wanted that. I don't think that is how human beings are designed to function. I think we are supposed to take responsibility. That was the whole problem for me with SDAism, extreme fundamentalist Christianity, or any other individual or organization who says that, you must hand over your life and all your decisions to some "higher authority" (and in that case, who defines the authority???). If I can't ultimately trust my own mind, and be willing to take responsibility for it, I will never really be free will I? So, for me, God is not some ultimate controlling figure that I must submit to. God is the Source of hope and inspiration, the source of life and energy and most of all, the source of the very mind that I feel that I should be using right now to make my own decisions, difficult or otherwise. It's just that, now I know I'm not alone, and I do have a source to look to when I need help in an area I'm not sure of.
Maybe I'm not understanding it right, but it has always seemed to me that the people who insist on an outside "authority" are really saying that our minds cannot be trusted, that we don't have the ability or the right to make our own decisions. I don't really agree with this. I think my mind is a vital part of who I am, and it is my responsibility to use it. So, no, I don't submit to an ultimate authority outside myself. I do believe that there is a guiding spirit within me that is (and always has been) there for me to use, and I am now trying to remember this, and call on it when I need it. Either way, however my life turns out, I will know that it was my decisions that brought me to wherever I go. That is an awesome responsibility, but it is also an awesome freedom and an awesome power, and it should be used thoughtfully and respectfully. I never used to look at life this way. All I used to see was that I was helpless and hopeless and that any person could trample all over me as they chose, because I had no idea how to change that. As it turns out, my main problem was in my outlook, my belief that I was helpless and hopeless and undeserving of anything good, and that people were lining up to walk all over me. As my attitude changes, I project that subconsiously to the people I interact with, and they in turn react to it with respect. This is not about controlling people, or about being controlled. This is about respecting myself and others. I'm not saying I'm an expert. I'm saying that finally, I've found an explanation and some concrete changes I can make in myself, that will affect my life in a positive way, and at the same time make me a person that other people can also appreciate and respect more.
I will go out on a limb here (even though you may think this is a bit extreme) and tell you that, yes, I think that I am just as capable and my mind is just as reliable as any other person's, and that there is nothing wrong with me making the decision to be my own authority, to put my own reasoning ahead of anyone else's opinion when it comes to making decisions for my own life. That is not to say that I think I know everything, or that I won't seek advice and consultation on issues that I am unsure of and need more information on. But I am no longer willing to accept any other person's opinion as my final authority. That is a big change from SDAism. I have learned to trust myself.
Your next questions: "ON WHAT BASIS DO YOU KNOW THAT ALL PEOPLE ARE ONE WITH GOD? FURTHER, HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT THE SPIRIT WHO IS GUIDING YOU IS GOD'S SPIRIT? DO YOU HAVE ANY WAY TO "TEST" THE SPIRIT TO SEE WHETHER OR NOT IT IS THE HOLY SPIRIT?" All I can say is, I have CHOSEN to believe it. I have "tried on" a variety of belief systems, including the Christian system as taught in most churches. I have tried to believe a variety of ways. In no case was I able to be convinced one way or the other (although certainly some seemed more WRONG than others), and eventually I came to the realization that it really is a matter of "faith." You have to make what you believe is the right choice for you, based on your best information. There is no "PROOF" of anything. Even if you say, "Well, the Bible says such-and-such....there's your proof." First, you have to decide to accept the Bible as your authority. YOU have to make that decision. All these various belief systems have come about because people have determined in their own minds what they thought the "truth" was. I am no different. That's why I say that "truth", in this sense is relative. I think that, ultimately, through these various systems, the people are connecting to the same source, the same God, and I don't think there are various gods or spirits. It's all one, all interconnected. (A lot of this type thinking I have learned through studying quantum physics---a discussion for another day). Again, I know that you may not agree with me on this, but that's okay. We each have to make our own choice. That's probably been the most profound discovery I have ever made: We all have choice, and we all have the right to make it. I also believe that God (as I perceive God) would not and does not condemn people for making the "wrong" choice. This is where I disagree with Christians who say "Jesus is the only way." I say, "Jesus is ONE way," but not the only way.
Hope this clarifies my thinking a little more for you. Thank you for your interest, and your prayers.
Post Number: 1181
|Posted on Saturday, March 25, 2006 - 2:39 pm: || |
I am still interested in the Unity view of God.
I ask the following questions because they get to the very heart of who Jesus is and what He did at the cross. But before discussing Godís mercy and grace, I need to understand if Unity views God as a just God. Much depends on whether God is a just or unjust God.
Would God be a just God if He had no moral law? Would God be a just God if He condoned perjury, theft, assault, molestation, rape, murder, etc.?î
Post Number: 72
|Posted on Saturday, March 25, 2006 - 4:35 pm: || |
The substitutionary view of the Atonement was mentioned on this thread. I just want to remind people that not all Christians historically have subscribed to this. I hadn't realized you could have the gospel without the "angry God" concept that people sometimes see in the substitution theory of the Atonement, till I discovered the Eastern Orthodox.
For a balanced and very historical view of the Atonement read Athanasius "On the Incarnation" written in 318 AD. You can find this on http://www.philthompson.net if you're interested.
Post Number: 14
|Posted on Saturday, March 25, 2006 - 7:44 pm: || |
Hello again, Chris,
I can give you a couple of "official" quotes on the nature of God. First, from MY church:
"God is absolute GOOD, everywhere present." And from the Unity headquarters web site:
"God is the source and creator of all. There is no other enduring power. God is good and present everywhere."
I can also tell you that my own personal view is that anything other than absolute GOOD would not be God. I'm not sure if I understand exactly what you're asking, but I think you're getting at the really difficult question of "Does God, by definition, have to be a vengeful God, a punitive God, a punishing God?" In other words, is justice defined as always exacting payment from people for their wrongdoing? MY OPINION on this is an emphatic NO. Revenge is a human reaction, a human need, and I think that God is not human and does not act in human ways. I know from experience that my point of view doesn't set well with lots of folks, because it is a natural human reaction to want people to pay when they have hurt someone. But, punishment is not the best way to deal with wrong-doing. Teaching a person to feel and understand the pain they have caused others is what is needed in order to change behavior, and change the heart. Punishment only serves to anger and inflame, and confirm for the wrong-doer that the only way to survive is to use more violence. Would I be angry and want revenge if someone did a terrible injustice to me? No doubt! I have, I do. This is human nature. I am human, and I don't believe in beating myself up for it. But, I still contend that it is better to strive for a higher (and sometimes unattainable) ideal, than to settle for the status quo of "This is how we've always done it." This is where Unity has helped me the most. By showing me that forgiving is not a weakness, it is not giving in and condoning injustice. Forgiving is letting go of the pain caused by the injustice, and trying to follow the example of Jesus who, even as he was dying said, "Father forgive them, FOR THEY KNOW NOT WHAT THEY DO." Believe me, this is not an easy attitude to practice, but I am slowly beginning to see that this is the way we are led to by God. And unless and until more people can take this "higher road", we will never see an end to injustice, hatred, violence, greed and fear. Yes, it seems impossible at times, but to give up trying and just re-join the 'dog-eat-dog' world, or to just give up period, and be a doormat---these are not satisfying options either. Neither spiritually nor in any other way.
I think I've pretty much covered your second question too: "WOULD GOD BE A JUST GOD IF HE HAD NO MORAL LAW? WOULD GOD BE A JUST GOD IF HE CONDONED PERJURY, THEFT, ASSAULT, MOLESTATION, RAPE, MURDER, ETC.?î What you describe in this question would not BE God. Any "being" that condoned such things would be sub-human, nothing more than a thug. But are you perhaps presenting here a view of God as more of a "Super-human judge" whose job it is to mete out punishment on a cosmic level?" I view God as a Source of Life and Love. We human beings, by our actions and behaviors mete out our own punishment. We have been hurting ourselves and each other for eons. A God punishing people would not change that. What we must do in order to change that is change our very consciousness... change our way of thinking. The real essence of God, for me, is the ultimate Source and Example of what Love is.... infinite Love, Unconditional Love, Love that is never withdrawn no matter how despicable a turn our actions may take. I could not respect, honor or worship that vengeful God of the Bible when I was a child, and, in fact, I was never able to even believe in that God. So, maybe it is just the difference in how people view the world. I don't believe that violence is the answer, and I would not want to follow a creed or philosophy that taught otherwise.
I realize this was more about how I feel than about Unity, but again, as I've stated, Unity does not dictate specifics so much as it encourages and guides us to find our own "truths" about the Universe. And I'm the kind of person who needs this. I was never happy with a lot of prescribed rules. I prefer to reason out my own answers rather than use someone else's.
Hope this answered your questions.
Post Number: 3631
|Posted on Sunday, March 26, 2006 - 12:03 am: || |
You're right, Joyceóa God punishing people would not change humans hurting one another. But a God who takes the punishment for us can change us.
Jesus told His followers that He was giving them a new commandment: to love each other as He loved them. He also said they were no longer to live by the adage, "an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth". Instead, He said, "Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other alsoÖ" and so on (Matthew 5:38-41).
If God had not taken the punishment for our sins, there would be no basis for His asking us to return good for evil. His breaking the curse of pain and evil by taking into Himself the natural results of our negative instincts makes it possible for us to be freed from the inevitable cycle of inflicting pain and vengeance on each other.
Post Number: 1183
|Posted on Sunday, March 26, 2006 - 12:28 pm: || |
"WOULD GOD BE A JUST GOD IF HE HAD NO MORAL LAW? WOULD GOD BE A JUST GOD IF HE CONDONED PERJURY, THEFT, ASSAULT, MOLESTATION, RAPE, MURDER, ETC.?î What you describe in this question would not BE God. Any "being" that condoned such things would be sub-human, nothing more than a thug.
Joyce, I agree with your assessment above. Indeed, any being that could condone such things would be less than perfect and would be no god at all. However, when you go on to state that God does not punish such evil you make him into just such a ìgodî that winks at evil. By creating a god that condones evil by refusing to punish it, you create an unjust god that is no god at all.
Joyce, recently there was a story in the media about a judge that let a confessed repeat child molester go without imposing any sentence upon him other than some out patient counseling. You probably heard some of this story over the last month because there was a huge public outcry at the injustice of it all. People demanded the judgeís removal because he was an unjust judge that did not deserve his position. Only a judge that can recognize evil and enforce the law is just. Where do our sense of justice and our outrage at the lack of it come from? It comes from the fact that we are created in the image God and have an innate sense of what is just and what is unjust. We have this understanding of justice because God is just and does not wink at sin. But here is the good news, not only is God perfectly just but he is also perfectly merciful, loving and full of grace.
Joyce, picture this: A judge sits in a courtroom with a confessed felon before him. The felon is guilty. The law imposes a sentence that makes it clear that wrong doing cannot be winked at, that justice is essential and good. The judge looks upon this convicted man with mercy and compassion and yet the demands of the law must be met. The judge stands up, lays aside his gavel, takes off his robe and sets it aside. The judge then descends from the bench to the man, embraces him, and says, ìI love you so much that I am going to accept the punishment for you.î The judge then allows himself to be handcuffed and led away. The man is free to go and is for ever changed by this experience.
Joyce, thatís what God did for you. The very same God that is just and does not wink at sin chose to take the consequences for your sin upon Himself. God didnít just wave the consequences and act as if justice isnít important nor did He push the consequences off on someone else. God took all the consequences upon Himself and bore the weight and consequence of every sin you have ever committed or ever will commit. Jesus, God with us, is the judge and the one who received the consequences of His own judgment. Jesus laid aside the prerogatives and privileges of Godhood and came down from Heaven to embrace us because He loved us to much to see us take the natural consequences of our sin.
He is embracing you, telling you He loves you deeply and truly. Joyce, right now Jesus is offering you a free gift of forgiveness, peace, and eternal life. Itís a free gift that He purchased completely and wants to give to you as a present that will never be taken away. This is wonderful news, but hereís the thing, only God can forgive sin and only by satisfying the demands of justice. If we depend on any other means for justification and forgiveness, then we are still dead in our sins and separated from the God who paid it all. Joyce, itís not about religion, itís about a relationship with the person who loves you so much that He was willing to pay your debt and set you free. Joyce, I truly pray that you will accept the forgiveness, peace, and wonderful joy that are being offered. There is no other relationship that can truly satisfy apart from the Jesus of the Bible.
Acts 4:12 (NASB)
12 "And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved."
Post Number: 15
|Posted on Sunday, March 26, 2006 - 12:40 pm: || |
It looks like this may be where we have to respectfully "agree to disagree". I get where you're coming from, and I follow your logic somewhat---I just don't agree with your conclusions. I still say that the only God I can believe in is not a vengeful God. And if I thought God were vengeful, I would choose not to have any part of it. In fact, when I did believe in that type of God, that IS the choice I made. I realized that I would rather go to hell than serve such a terrifying, demanding, and capricious despot. I made that choice at a time when I was still not altogether certain that he didn't exist, and it WAS a scary choice. But I felt so freed after I did it---I could never go back to such a belief. I know that for you and many other people, there is no problem with the atonement doctrine, but for me it's THE MAJOR PROBLEM. That's why I left it all. Believe it or not, I didn't leave because of Ellen White or the rules or the Adventist arrogance about being "God's new chosen people." I enjoyed feeling special, and being "in the truth." And, when I tried out new denominations, I felt very cheated initially because, I could no longer feel special, plus, I still had to contend with that most horrifying of doctrines (to me), original sin and the vicarious atonement. If it's not a problem for a person, or if they somehow feel bad enough, unworthy enough that they feel they deserve to die, then it probably is a suitable choice--for them. But for me, since I could never get past God the Father, I never really got to know or appreciate Jesus or his teachings. Now I can. Now that I know there is no jealous and angry God out to get me, I can really appreciate who Jesus was, and the magnitude of his teachings. But I always bear in mind that the Bible was written by human beings. It was their view of "how things are." So, no, I don't agree with everything that is written in the Bible, nor everything that is attributed to Jesus as having said or done. I use my own discretion based on what MOST of the writings indicate that his personality and character were.
I think that BECAUSE God is all GOODNESS, and not revenge or violence, is the only reason I can even attempt to return good for evil myself. A God that insists on revenge does not inspire me to love, only anger and hatred. That did not serve me well.
So, I do thank you for all your patience, in hearing me out, but I guess we have irreconcilable differences regarding the basics. And for me, that's okay. I don't think it matters to God, and it doesn't matter to me, that people can differ widely in their outlook and understanding of what Life is all about.
Post Number: 13
|Posted on Monday, March 27, 2006 - 4:37 am: || |
Joyce After reading your anwers, the only thing that a can say is that my heart is broken, I feel very sad.
Post Number: 16
|Posted on Monday, March 27, 2006 - 9:45 am: || |
It looks like this thread has pretty much run its course and come to its logical conclusion. I really do appreciate everyone's willingness to discuss and exchange ideas. It has been very enlightening and freeing for me, and has helped me to solidify for myself where I am in my journey. I wish everyone well and hope that you all find happiness and contentment in whatever path you follow.
If there is anyone who is interested in corresponding with me privately regarding more non-traditional ideas, I would welcome it. I am always open to discussion as long as it is not strictly for the purpose of trying to "convert" me. We all know what that's like, don't we... from our shared background of Adventism.
Blessings to All,