DiscoverReligion & Spirituality

This Much We Can Believe: Christianity For The Critical Mind

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Worth reading 😎

“Although the author’s effort was respectable, I do not assume that this rational movement would have a great effect within Christianity.”

Synopsis

The faith still remains intellectually vulnerable so long as we cannot answer the following questions in ways credible to the critical mind:

• How could a mere man on this infinitesimal speck of earth be a God who created and sustains an infinite universe (or multiverse)?

• Can the Christ—now as “God-the-Son”—be floating about in the heavens somewhere still as a physical man?

• If our entire galaxy is an invisible dot in an infinite cosmos, how could the Godhead – the Mystery behind all infinity and eternity -- impregnate a Jewish peasant girl and exit her womb as a mere human being who is also that universal God?

• Moreover, how can such an endless universe be ruled by a Trinity of mere persons?

• Finally, how can human beings resurrect from their graves in the flesh? Would this not resemble something like The Night of the Living Dead where the corpses in different stages of decomposition rise out of their graves to walk the earth?

It is now time to explore the non-mythical answers to these questions while the primeval symbols strike home in ways both diabolical and divine……

The aim of the book, as announced by the author in the preface, is to bulletproof beliefs so they could withstand scientific scrutiny; by beliefs, I suppose that the author means the Christian Ideology. He firstly suggests that there has to be some deeper allegorical interpretations of the Bible and religious texts, ones that uncover the underlying wisdoms we need as human beings. The author claimed that he would replace questionable beliefs with more credible alternatives. Now, if true, then this act would be revolutionary; the book shaped some large boots to fill right in the beginning.

I am fond of the writer’s employment of philosophy to back up his ideas; there is a very respectable effort present to support the different claims, which is very interesting. The author moves on in his progress to tackle different beliefs held within Christianity, such as the birth of Jesus Christ, Resurrection,…

The author attempts, in an immaculate and organized manner, to decipher the available textual tradition into an understandable, rational series of events that could be acceptable by a “logical” mind; he shows us how he perceives revelation realistically. Eventually, there appears to be some call for a moral Christian reformation in our days. I imagine some more orthodox believers to reject such notions, and others might even view this as heresy; being beyond this religious realm, I can observe that the author’s attempt was respectable and well-thought, yet it lacked in some aspects: “Why did the god of Christianity present you with such textual traditions if you were to understand them although their obvious meaning is different? Was your god lying to you? Where do you draw the line with metaphorical understanding? Why should we not just continue with this thread of thoughts to rationally justify the existence of God as a creation of human minds, an ideal to look up to? Why not also rationally suggest that the gospels were a manifestation of the collective consciousness of Jews back then? Why do you need religion then?” Whether I like the style of the author or not, these, and much more, are loose ends that the writer should address more comprehensively.

Although I think this rational movement is a respectable effort, I do not think it is as effective as other analogous movements, such as that of Maimonides; i.e.: I don’t think it would have that much of a significant effect within the Christian realm, one which somehow is more based on emotions. Also, I was not fond of the prevailing liberal and leftists touch.

This was a good read.

Reviewed by

First of all, Hello!
My name is Hassan Zayour and I am currently majoring in Electrical and Computer Engineering, double majoring in Pure Mathematics, and minoring in Philosophy at the American University of Beirut. My favorite activities are reading and writing.

Synopsis

The faith still remains intellectually vulnerable so long as we cannot answer the following questions in ways credible to the critical mind:

• How could a mere man on this infinitesimal speck of earth be a God who created and sustains an infinite universe (or multiverse)?

• Can the Christ—now as “God-the-Son”—be floating about in the heavens somewhere still as a physical man?

• If our entire galaxy is an invisible dot in an infinite cosmos, how could the Godhead – the Mystery behind all infinity and eternity -- impregnate a Jewish peasant girl and exit her womb as a mere human being who is also that universal God?

• Moreover, how can such an endless universe be ruled by a Trinity of mere persons?

• Finally, how can human beings resurrect from their graves in the flesh? Would this not resemble something like The Night of the Living Dead where the corpses in different stages of decomposition rise out of their graves to walk the earth?

It is now time to explore the non-mythical answers to these questions while the primeval symbols strike home in ways both diabolical and divine……

INTRODUCTION

                       INTRODUCTION:

                       SPIRITUALITY WITHOUT SUPERSTITION


I don’t believe in God because I don’t believe

in Mother Goose

_____Clarence Darrow  

 

Faith is believing what you know just aint so                         _____Mark Twain                                                                                                                                                                                   

But spirituality need not be blind or irrational; instead it could be what the most profound depths of human experience reveal as sacred and divine. In fact, every scientist knows ultimate reality—the noumenon dwelling beyond unaided sense and reason— is unspeakably more expansive and fantastic than any literally interpreted myth. At the zenith of reality mere words fade into complex equations, and images into unknown dimensions. There is where even the skeptic can experience a sense of the mysterium beyond verbal explanation alone.

This book is therefore not for those preferring literalized fables to explain the mysteries of existence. Such believers may find all they wish at their nearest house of worship. Nor is this book for the postmodern nihilists who believe there are no lasting values or objective truths. The book is addressed instead to the critical thinker who still has spiritual needs: the agnostic seeker, the believer losing her faith, the God-intoxicated atheist, the monotheistic Muslim or Jew pondering the absurdity of a man being Godor having  a personified Trinity of gods.

This however, is not an atheist’s handbook. For beneath the most bizarre biblical stories, profounder truths wait to be unveiled. There are many things religious scholars know that the public does not. Even the educated clergy dare not tell their flocks all they learned in seminary. This book will reveal not only what scholars know –- but also the way to a higher synthesis both believable and beneficial to the non-gullible. In so doing, we will find objectivity consists not of lacking strong convictions, but in the willingness to improve our convictions when the evidence demands.

But why bother at all with writing to critical thinkers on the subject of religion in the first place? And why single out Christianity among the major religious faiths? Moreover, in an advanced age of science in our 21st century, why is there a continuing prevalence of fundamentalist beliefs at all, especially in a first world country like the U.S.? How can what seems obvious as myth remain so ingrained as truth in the human brain?  This seems especially curious when in the universities postmodern thought sees all religion and the like as mere social constructs or “language games”. Let us briefly examine these questions before we go on.


WHY LITERALIZED MYTHS I ADVANCED CIVILIZATION?


The present generation of Darwinian anthropologists  now agree that religion is an irritatingly obsolete but  stubborn…human tendency. Our religious orientation  seems so deeply rooted and pervasive, it cannot be   understood simply as a cultural intervention.

_____J.F. Haught. Deeper than Darwin (p.105)


Why are there still supernatural beliefs in a modern and postmodern world? As mentioned in previous works, there is evidence religion and supernatural beliefs could be literally ingrained—i.e. hardwired into the very neurology of the human brain and has largely remained so (even if latent) since the beginnings of humankind. 1, 2, 3 Aside from neurological studies, there is paleontological and archeological evidence of spirituality within the very roots of humanity. Mines of red ochre (known for decoration and sacred rites) were discovered in Zambia and in Kenya, dated to even before modern humans appeared. 4 Pregnant female fertility figurines date back to the Cro-Magnon. Signs of cave bear cults were found dating back to the time of Neanderthal. 5 Prehistoric cave paintings are now seen as influenced through the spiritually altered minds of shamans.

Such evidence implies that human beings were spiritual creatures from their very beginnings. Without modern medicine or methods of science, raw spirituality could well have been the prime means of healing, solace, group loyalty, and cultural cohesion, especially through times of famine, pestilence and untold hardship for those many millennia, and thereby neurologically hardwired by evolution as a necessity for our species’ survival. Does neurology then rule out a higher power? Not necessarily. Such complex traits programed into our DNA cannot be so easily explained away. (Why not just stay at the microbe stage, which is far more suited for survival?)

Today, many may no longer have the genes or may lack the upbringing for spirituality (i.e. the ‘nones’); but even many of them will believe in astrology or ghosts and the like. However, up to eighty percent in the United States alone admit to belief in God, not to mention an even higher percentage within developing countries. In fact, humans became this semi-secular population for only a minuscule amount of time. But what of the future? Nietzsche predicted that someday civilization might lose its spirituality—which would then usher in the age of nihilism resulting in the destruction of all meaning and value in life (to be taken up in Chapter 11). 

However, though the religious response might lie dormant through disuse in many of us today--once it is triggered and maintained, all hell can break loose as it did throughout history and still does in large parts of the world. When activated, it can become the most powerful psychological force in humankind. What secular teachings could make persons blow themselves up as radical Islamists do today—or on the other hand create a Gandhi or a Martin Luther King?


 SO WHY FOCUS ON THE JUDEO-CHRISTIAN WAY? 

Unknown to many, and being reaffirmed in academia, many traditions and rites of Christianity were drawn from beyond Judaism alone.  Not long after Jesus’ death, a floodtide of mysterious sects swamped the Roman areas affecting Christianity per se’. And the New Testament repeatedly tells of its own mysterious roots: “Before Abraham was born I am.” (John 8:58); “God’s natural expression was never without witness in any tribe or nation.” (Acts 17: 26). “God came even before the advent of the Christ. For such salvation was destined before the creation of the world.” (Ephesians 1:4)  Moreover, Christian history also has its mystical side comparable to the mystique of Far Eastern religions (though largely neglected today). With its roots in a more universal spirituality, Christianity can thereby provide an expanded glimpse into religion per se’. 

In fact, could the underlying Mystery beneath all surface myths—the noumenon of ultimate reality beyond words and images—contain the same truth mystics diversely call the Godhead, or Brahman, or the Tao that cannot be named?  This ultimacy we call “God” is by definition universal, not merely some local god. And by definition, to render what is infinitely divine as literally finite is idolatry. Hence, the course of this study shows no disrespect to the other great religions, each of which deserves volumes of study space here forbids. Moreover, being not of the other faiths forbids me the audacity to scrutinize them as critically as I will my own Christian faith— but to protect and expand—not destroy.


PAST ENDEAVORS

There were times when religions had to re-examine themselves, times when growing knowledge surpassed simplistic teachings. Philo, and later Maimonides, helped Judaism keep up with new knowledge in ancient and medieval times.  Augustine and Aquinas did the same for Christianity during such times.  In fact, Augustine once warned against believing blindly without knowledge. In his De Genesis ad Literal he stated: “Many non-Christians are well versed in natural knowledge, so they can detect vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn.” He added that biblical interpretation must be informed by the current, relevant knowledge of the times. (1: 19-20. Chapter 9. p.408)  And during Galileo’s persecution, his friend Cardinal Baronio wrote: “The Bible tells us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go.” 

In our current age of science, similar endeavors were made to bring Western religion out from its dark and medieval stage. However, the apologetic efforts of traditional theology too often remained mythopoetic in its writings, and often grasped onto the philosophical fad of the times. My namesake, the embattled 19th century Jesuit George Tyrrell, once wrote that those seeking after the true Jesus were seeing “only their own reflection at the bottom of a deep, dark well of their own making.”  

Liberal Christians by the turn of the 20th century envisioned a moral evolution of humanity toward total salvation. They could not foresee World War I, the Great Depression, World War II, and all the worldwide wars, genocides, and decadence thereafter. (Yet, liberal thinkers still maintain that man is not a fallen species.) Moreover, each time the sciences discredited a biblical myth, liberal worship retreated further from spirituality, often doing so while putting nothing in place of beliefs deserted. This lack of belief and spirit, combined with humanity’s ongoing decadence, paved the way for a staunch fundamentalism preaching man’s total depravity along with blind faith in biblical inerrancy—and at this time that literalistic face of Christianity takes prevalence in almost all public media in the United States. 

Meanwhile, the alleged “new” atheists, heeding only the supernatural literalisms, recoil from what they see as absurd. And because they both see literalisms only: atheists and fundamentalists become as two dark steeds galloping in opposite directions—one toward the obliteration of faith— the other the obliteration of mind.  The morals and messages behind the teachings are too quickly ignored when atheists and fundamentalists alike heed only the most absurd surface writings.


THE NEW PROGRESSIVES 

In 1998 Bishop John Shelby Spong proposed a “New Reformation” citing his Twelve Theses condemning all literalized Christian beliefs while putting little back in the vacuum he left behind. Taken as it is, this approach could be called a deconstructive progressivism. Since then, Spong has written excellent, scholarly books on biblical criticism for the educated public. However, in his recent book Unbelievable, he came back to his Twelve Theses with a vengeance, offering no solutions to all the beliefs he discredited.  Conversely, this present book will expose no questionable beliefs without putting more credible alternatives in their place. In fact—rather than diminishing Christian beliefs--we will actually expand on them. (See also the “Open Letter” answering Spong’s Theses at this book’s end.)

However, influenced by writers like Spong and the radical relativism of postmodern thought, there is now a faction of progressives refusing all conviction or even curiosity. They seem satisfied staying with the mystery of unknowing. Liberal Christians who do take a stance do so almost solely on ecumenism and social justice. Contrarily, their spirituality remains largely confined to just the questions. Advancing religious tolerance and social justice are commendable pursuits. But it should be obvious that a total lack of spirituality cannot be called religion. We need not let this stand. We must therefore ask: in what kind of spirituality can the progressives and the critically minded believe?


 SPIRITUALITY BEYOND THE MYTHS                                                   

 We should keep in mind that the poetry of Scripture uses imagery and metaphor to portray truths often too profound or mysterious for prosaic discourse.  But how much of spiritually can we define beyond the metaphors? Eminent scientists like Louis De Broglie and Arthur Eddington, enamored with the mathematical elegance of the cosmos, wrote of the universe controlled by an enigmatic “Intelligence” similar to the Logos of the ancient Stoics. 7 The late Stephen Hawking, even as an atheist, wondered:

"What God-like force breathed fire into the equations and  played a role in the creation of our Universe, approximately 13.8 billion years ago? He further stated, “You cannot understand the glories of the universe without believing there is some Supreme Power behind it. The universe does  not behave according to our preconceived ideas.”

Contrary to the fears of fundamentalists, science itself can help expand our limited vision to more of a God’s-eye-view of creation. We then can extend our partial perspectives to cosmological and geological time. We will then find we were created not from just the dust of the earth—but from the very dust of the stars. We will see what we call God goes beyond just lawgiver of the commandments—to bestowing the laws of nature into the entire universe. It is worth reiterating here what was revealed in my previous work Tapping Your God-Source:  In the words of Einstein.                     

"The most beautiful experience is that of the mystical. It is the power of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer stand rapt in awe is as good as dead."                                                         

 When asked about his belief in God, Einstein did not speak of a super-human, white-bearded man floating about, but stated:

"God is a mystery, but a comprehensible mystery…. There are no laws without a lawgiver, but how does this lawgiver look? Certainly not like a man magnified."

But he did sense a universal presence.

"Everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the universe—a spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble."

Critical thinkers remind us that terms like “spirit” do not point to anything we can support with objective evidence.  Such criticism is valid because we use such terms without definition. However, the philosopher Wittgenstein reminded us to first define a term the way it is most consistently used. The term “Spirit” is more realistically used to depict a vital force or energy. According to both the Bible and science alike: in the beginning it was this birthing energy moving across the cosmic deep creating the universe. In microcosm an energized, ecstatic consciousness vitalized the prophets, and also the worshipers at Pentecost. Such vital energy can be therefore observed in the universe and experienced within ourselves.  Therefore, in these writings the term “spirit” does not imply some Casper-like male ghost floating about. (In Jesus’ Aramaic language the term is feminine.) 

Neither need the term “spirituality” imply some ghostly kind of mystification. “Spirituality” today is a more expanded term for “religion” in the sense that it goes beyond formalized worship by having respect for all great religions, and a reverence for nature. and the mysteries beyond dogma and myth. Living a spiritual life in this sense means living a life of reverence and being part of something greater than the profane or the mundane, a life transcending petty concerns, a life expanding its vision beyond one’s finite self alone. Carried to its apex, spirituality can reconnect us internally to commune with the Mystery we call “God”—the ultimate Source from which we finally emerged. 

 Then how do we bring that awesome Power seen by the scientist and philosopher—that universal “Intelligence” or “Spirit” we of lesser minds call “God”—down to earth in a way intimate with persons? How is this possible in a Christian vein? My earlier work reminded us that according to science the center of the cosmos exists everywhere—which also agrees with medieval mathematician and mystic Nicholas of Cusa who wrote;

"The Godhead is like an infinite sphere sphere  whose circumference is nowhere nowhere and center is everywhere. And If we conceive of what we call “God” as the Source in the center of the cosmos—this God-source exists within each one of us as well." 

Even Einstein agreed with such power being within us when he stated, "There are universal patterns, powers and and wisdom at the core of our being, and the  universe vibrates with our every act and thought."

Nor do we stray from Scripture in finding this power of the heavens also dynamic within ourselves, for the Kingdom is within us (Luke 17:21), and we are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16-17, 6:19), which was “breathed” into us in the beginning (Genesis. 2:7). “And it continues to fill humanity with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and craftsmanship.” (Exodus. 31:3). “For it is the Spirit in man and the breath of the Almighty that gives them understanding” (Job 32:8).

So the seemingly impersonal acumen behind the laws and powers of the vast universe can become personal when working within and through persons themselves. We do not stand separate from such cosmic power; we are an integral part of it born from the very dust of the stars. The concept of this Power centered also in persons is what theologian Paul Tillich was getting at when he referred to God “as the Source of personhood acting in beings according to their special nature whether in humans or in plants.”  Likewise, the God of the Jewish theologian Martin Buber—the “Ultimate Thou”-- becomes “Absolute Person within the psyche, to know and be known, and love and be loved by us.” 10

Christians became captivated by the resurrecting power personalized and channeled through the figure of the Christ. (“I am the door. If anyone enters through me, he will be saved.” John 10:9) Scientists the caliber of Werner Heisenberg and Wolfgang Pauli agreed with Jung that though we are not all sages or mystics, we still can have archetype symbols as our entries or channels to the divine 11  Through the portals of godly persons and personified gods many have sought to personally break through to this the underlying Mystery. We will learn more of the Mystery becoming both universal and personal when we probe behind the biblical tales and personae in the coming chapters. 


ADDRESSING THE MYSTERY OF MIRACLES                                      

A main religious barrier to the critical mind lies in supernatural miracles. The skeptic Hume defined this problem quite nicely: In his Dialogues on Natural Religion he stated, “If nature is orderly there can be no miracles. If there are miracles nature is not orderly. But nature is orderly, therefore no miracles.” Hume here used the argument of excluded middle i.e. there is either general order or interjected miracles (no if’s, but’s, or maybe’s).  

However, we can look at the total workings of the universe as both orderly and miraculous, for the order throughout the cosmos is itself miraculous, not to mention the whole amazing anomaly emerging originally from a realm beyond the laws of physics, beyond even space and time— then progressively advancing into stars, galaxies, planets, life, and consciousness.  Why not instead pure chaos? Why not just nothing at all? Regardless, the Source of this vast and tremendous cosmos cannot be anything like a person created in our own image. (Should we think the Christ, now purportedly one with God, as still a mere man floating about?) 

Moreover, we cannot plausibly explain it all away by calling it just chance-accident Omnipresent lawfulness throughout the entire cosmos is the extreme opposite of accident. Even given endless time, could a monkey blindly striking typewriter-keys finally complete the entire works of Shakespeare verbatim?  There would have to be some ingenious cumulative order underlying the confusion. Even random mutations spring from complex genotypes and are necessary for a species’ long-term survival in a changing environment.  

So, neither can we call it all blind mechanism. Any alleged “mechanism” constantly evolving—even bursting—into ever-higher complexity from chaos throughout the universe must be programmed by something beyond what can be cursorily explained away. Can a “machine” explode—then have its pieces reunite blindly into a more complex “machine”? One star did this and created our solar systems and life. And there are trillions of stars. 

What then of miracles in the Bible and those in peoples’ lives? Let us define miracles in peoples’ lives as extraordinary religious events beyond coincidence or chance-accident alone. The religious response itself –when powerful—is an event beyond the mundane be it ecstatic, consoling, or mystical.  Here we are tapping into our source-connection to the greater Mystery of which we are a part. This deeper connection can result in physical and mental healings, the overcoming of strife, and rebirth into a more beneficent lifestyle. (The term “rebirth” here does not mean just verbally accepting Jesus, nor does it mean regressing to being infantile. It means behaviorally rising from a life of addiction, crime, or unhappiness—into a new life of beneficence and fulfillment.)  

So, it is now time to bypass the folk tales of fundamentalism, the confines of theological circles, the hair splitting of scholarly purisms, the confusion of radical relativism, —and do so in order to bring scientific thinking to Christian traditions in normative ways. We will also further incorporate the positive revelations in theology of which the public largely knows nothing. In fact, average churchgoers’ border on illiteracy in biblical scholarship, theology, and the history of their faith. The work of scholars in biblical criticism did well in revealing historical and textual understanding of the Bible, which should be quite enlightening to laypersons craving credible knowledge. We will pursue that scientific course of endeavor

.          

BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION  

A question remaining unanswered by progressives today is: what can it mean to the educated mind that the Bible is divinely inspired? If what we call the Godhead is by definition infinite and eternal, what language of inspiration could be bestowed from there onto mere human writers? Science can relate the farthest reaches of knowledge only in mathematical equations beyond speech or imageable dimensions. Likewise, the profoundest experience of the religious mystic becomes equally unspeakable and unimageable. Even Jesus, while trapped in human form, could speak only as a bit of infinitesima within the infinity of our universe. He therefore spoke all things in parables (Matthew. 13: 13-14, 34; Lk 8: 9-10).

We could rationally define biblical writings as the worshipers’ attempts to cope with the mysteries of existence as related to their primitive lives in a dangerous and mysterious cosmos. But there we can find writings opposing Jesus’ teachings by issuing commands to pillage and slaughter even women and children, which can be inspired by naught but the demonic side of man. We must keep in mind that inspiration comes through fallible human beings with minds largely trapped in the culture of their times (the present writer included).  So it looks like we might have to more carefully define what it means to be divinely inspired?

If there are sacred teachings and rites that can help human beings withstand suffering and evil, and do so better than all other means, such writings could rationally be called sacred in our lives. In fact, it just might be possible to reach down deep inside the psyche or soul – that proverbial “kingdom” within the depths of self-- and draw up a striving after goodness and truth expressible in a poetry of illumination defying literal description. And if such profound inspiration can emerge from something Greater and More than we can conceive – then it could be called divinely inspired indeed.  

That understood, many biblical writings were not meant to be literally inerrant in the first place. Psalms were meant to be sung and Lamentations chanted. Books like Daniel and Revelation are rife with symbolic meaning. Much of the Bible contains the imagery and metaphor of poetry, which is why its passages are called “verse”. Remember, even Jesus is said to have stated he preached all things in parables.  If all that is not enough: the original biblical writings were never found, and the rest went through many ancient translations and editing by copiers influenced by their own culture and times.

Therefore, in much of the biblical interpretations to follow it will be essential to distinguish fact from fiction and the symbolic from the literal using the methods of science, history and critical thinking to help us along. We will consider a story non-literal if it was meant as parable, poetry, symbol or song, or if extremely improbable in the light of history or science. 

However, even if such a story did not take place literally it could still be far richer in moral and allegorical meanings than could its literal reading. As stated in Jeremiah 23:29: “Is not my word like fire declares the Lord, like a hammer that shatters rock?” It is a Jewish teaching that a single verse has multiple meanings just like the pieces that fall when a hammer shatters stone. That understood, this book will also avoid “cherry-picking” by using stringent criteria with four modes of biblical analysis:

External Validation: We cannot plausibly use the circular argument: “the Bible is true because the Bible says it’s true”. Are there non-biblical validations as well, e.g. historical documents, archeological finds, etc.? Can any literal interpretation be corrected or expanded upon by scientific knowledge? 

Internal Coherence: When biblical verses contradict each other (as often occurs): which version would be the earliest and most original teaching (To be later discussed)? Which conflicted passage makes the most sense? Do the moral statements obey Jesus’ moral teachings, or are they anti-Christ (e.g. bigoted or violent)? And for Jesus’ sayings and acts to be authentically his own—they must at least be Jewish.

Relevancy: Even if not literally true, what is the moral to the story? Can there be symbolic significance? What relevance does a given teaching have for the biblical writer’s culture and times— and for our own? How would the writer express those teaching had he today’s knowledge?  

Personal Benefit: Look again for the moral to the story. How could we personally receive the most benefit from the teaching today?  

A good maxim to keep in mind is the Wesleyan Quadrangle: Scripture, Tradition, Reason, & Experience. We can interpret the Quadrangle as the ability to test the writings of Scripture and tradition through reason and experience. I would add the amplified reasoning and observations of science.

  

BLIND VS. ENLIGHTENED FAITH

At this point the believer might ask why not forget all of the above and merely believe in the Bible and/or Church dogma through just faith alone? The problem here is the normal definition of faith: i.e. to believe in something without the evidence. But would this not be better called a fervent hope? At its worst, blind faith and mindless obedience can come from belligerent dogma reaping ignorant superstition, bigotry, even atrocity as history and current events repeatedly reveal. 

 This cannot be emphasized enough: One who can believe the absurd—can do the absurd.

 Most all of the religious atrocities were committed by those with beliefs that were false and blind. Vivid examples are found in the Hebrew Testament, in Christianity’s bloody history, and in radical Islam today. (Such will be discussed in Chapter 8). Faith could be more positively defined as our trust and confidence in something tried and tested to reveal truth and reap benefit in our lives. Therefore, why does faith have to be blind in the first place? Cannot faith instead be open-ended and constantly growing as our knowledge and experience grow with it? This would not be blind--but enlightened faith.

Note some examples of how open-ended knowledge already enriched our faith: In ancient times “Yahweh: (or YHWH) could not be spoken or written because it was believed possessing one’s name gives magic power to curse the person named. Today, most of Judaism believes the Godhead cannot be named because such divinity exists ultimately beyond all words and images. The term “Logos” -- which devolved from its source in Stoicism to merely mean “word” – can now again mean also reason, wisdom, or cosmic law.  “Spirit” literally meant breath or wind.  Today we can see Spirit as God’s birthing energy e.g. the power that in the beginning moved across the face of the deep (Gen.1:1-2), or in microcosm, empowering the consciousness of the prophets and giving believers the inner-power of renewal into a better life.  Also, we no longer burn witches.


CAN EVERYONE HANDLE RATIONAL ENLIGHTENMENT?

As a psychologist, I have witnessed persons rise up from addiction or crime almost overnight from a religious conversion— a feat psychotherapy alone cannot match. I have also known those to whom too much knowledge and free thought brought only confusion and temptation, which took them back to self-destruction. Among the above were those lost in crime, addiction, desperation, or the inability to understand challenging concepts. I found many such persons needed the absolutes and confines of fundamentalism to keep them walking the narrow path without distraction. 

Here it becomes unfortunately a tradeoff between the lesser of evils: i.e. the reassuring absolutes of unquestioned beliefs or else a life of crime, addiction, or unhappiness. The undereducated, with little knowledge of science and critical thinking find the supernatural easy to believe. But surprisingly, there are those of higher education who will still believe literally in the myths and ceremonies for the same reason—it just feels great! Therein lurks evidence of the timeless wiring in the human brain where primeval symbols eclipse normal reasoning.

Therefore, some of the knowledge presented here will unfortunately remain esoteric to those who cannot handle it—but not through secrecy—instead through either inability or unwillingness to leave a compartmental world of literalized beliefs.  However, if enlightened faith is like a searchlight, blind faith is like a laser whose narrow focus and intensity is needed by those who would otherwise be unhappy or go astray. Although a searchlight can illuminate with broad expanse in its sweep – a laser can burn through steel. Those with blind faith are quite willing to sacrifice the expanse for such intensity. For the timeless religious symbols alone are those of ultimate concern regardless of their seeming absurdities to the skeptic–-- and therefore can trigger the ultimate response in the believer.  


BUT CRITICAL QUESTIONS REMAIN

The faith still remains intellectually vulnerable so long as we cannot answer the following questions in ways credible to the critical mind:  How could a mere man on this infinitesimal speck of earth be a God who created and sustains an infinite universe (or multiverse)? Can the Christ—now as “God-the-Son”—be floating about in the heavens somewhere still as a physical man?  If our entire galaxy is an invisible dot in an infinite cosmos, how could the Godhead – the Mystery behind all infinity and eternity -- impregnate a Jewish peasant girl and exit her womb as a mere human being who is also that universal God? Moreover, how can such an endless universe be ruled by a Trinity of mere persons? Finally, how can human beings resurrect from their graves in the flesh? Would this not resemble something like The Night of the Living Dead where the corpses in different stages of decomposition rise out of their graves to walk the earth?  

We could ignore all of this—but leaving these questions inadequately answered will spell the end of Christianity for the thinking mind. The remainder of this book will endeavor to answer these questions in ways believable to all who are not nihilists on the one extreme or literalists on the other. I must here caution devout Christians not to panic or run for cover. These are the questions the unbending are afraid to ask for fear of losing their faith. These also are questions liberal Christians failed to answer in their retreat from spirituality. But if a little knowledge can lead us away from blind faith, enough knowledge can lead us back to an enlightened faith on a more credible level. 

So, it is now time to explore deeply into the non-mythical fall of humankind, the mystery of Jesus’ two natures, the Trinity beneath the personae, the good and evil side of religion, the threat of postmodern nihilism, and hope beyond the grave, while the primeval symbols strike home in ways both diabolical and divine……







About the author

In 2015 the author completed his Oxford study in the philosophy of religion and is currently studying how Christianity can remain believable to critical thought in a scientific/postmodern age. view profile

Published on July 15, 2020

60000 words

Genre: Religion & Spirituality

Reviewed by

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