God part 2, OMNI

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God part 2.

          Well it’s been fifteen minutes since I wrote the title of this blog and I find an inner peace and serenity coming over me and the realization that I have little to say.

I keep coming back to an experience I had several years ago. An experience of not knowing. Here is what happened: I was sitting in my car—in a shopping center I think—when I felt a warm glow in my heart chakra and a very soft, loving voice telling me, “you don’t know anything.” To which I readily agreed. The warmth began to spread downward and ended in my base chakra and the voice spoke again, “you have never known anything,” from which I came to understand that everything I thought I knew since I first could know, I have never known. I was filled with a deep sense of peace and bliss which lasted for several hours. I was then told not to tell anyone about this at the time. As I write this I am filled again with that same peace and bliss.

I’ll get back to ya latter.

Omni

          All is such a simple word. Everyone in every language knows what it means and how to use it, so much so we don’t really think about it. There are two uses for ALL one which refers to describing a quantity within certain parameters and the other used when speaking of the Deity. This in itself is a revelation of the nature of our relationship to deity.

Used as an adjective, pronoun or adverb all of us know what it means when we use it. A quantity of people or things that we wish to communicate about, as something’s included and therefore excluding the rest of a certain class, event or action. For example: “All the food in the refrigerator;” as opposed to all the food not in the refrigerator or; the first being a limited amount of food and the second is an enormous amount, if we don’t limit it again with another qualifier such as; all the food outside the refrigerator but in the house, as opposed to all the food outside my refrigerator which is in the rest of the world. So with the temporal things in the world all is always used as a qualifier to denote this as opposed to that a setting of boundaries to limit the things we are talking about and make ourselves clear.

          We also use the synonym of whole: The whole apple means the same thing as all of the apple and every whole number between one and ten means the same thing as all whole numbers between one and ten. We may drop the qualifier of “whole” number to say all the numbers between one and ten which then includes fractions to as many decimal points as we wish which would make a huge amount of numbers but the last one would still be ten.

When it comes to God, we must first decide, as part of our definition, what are God’s parameters, if any. Are we talking about a God with limitations or one without limitations? Our current level of theological sophistication is rather new in the history of God talk. For centuries, God was always local and limited a God of boundaries. In many cultures throughout history and even today God—in some orthodox theologies, as we will discover—God is still considered local, partial, limited and only acts within a particular range of power. This local God treats his people better than those others by providing and protecting his people as long as they meet his requirements whatever they may be usually some form of acceptable moral behavior accompanied by sacrifices, worship and penance if required, further cementing the tribes identity as favored of their God. Not only was God limited but his adherents were also limited in number. Us few against the rest of ya.

In the Old Testament, the one God written about was considered local to the Hebrew people, who considered themselves the chosen people of the One supreme God, and all other gods were to be vanquished and put away from the camp, thus separating the deities and those who followed them. Does God have boundaries? Has he limited himself or have we anthropomorphized God by claiming we are the special people whom God only loves and cares for? This is an important question to answerer. If answered in the affirmative we actually create a limited God. If we say that God is love we limit his love to us his “special” people chosen by him to go to heaven and the rest be damned. We can see very easily by this the cause of all wars, strife, conflict, hatred, prejudice, and a love which has been turned upside down. In this view of God, God actually gives us permission to hate the “other” which of course is not love at all.

The breaking of this limited nationalistic God was the first hurdle the infant church had to jump over. We see this in the stories of Peter and Paul in the book of Acts. Peter was shown a vision three times of a blanket filled with unclean animals and was told to eat them. When Peter refused because it offended the religious teachings he was raised in, God told him to not call anything unclean; “When God says that something can be used for food, don’t say it isn’t fit to eat.” Of course this was talking about the gentile centurion Peter was later to meet. Being a gentile was bad enough but a centurion as well? God was really breaking the boundaries the Jewish religion had placed around themselves.

Paul, an example of the limited nationalistic view of God, may have gotten wind of this new vision of God, a God without boundaries. He saw it as his mission to wipe out the heretical new sect who had a different view of God than the one of the his “chosen” people. His conversion and subsequent assignment to the gentiles—those “unclean animals”—was the second step in the revelation that God is a God for all people and nations. But the idea that God had a special people did not die out, it was just moved to another group. The seeds of specialness did not take long to reemerge. In I Corinthians 1: 10-13. the ego/sin nature—which loves separation—had the Corinthians quarreling about what group they belonged to. People have a natural tendency to attach themselves to strong charismatic leaders and in doing so find pride in the feeling of being in the elite. Paul asks a very important question; “Is Christ divided?”

In the Christian tradition Christ is God. Therefore we can just as well ask; “Is God divided?”

I will leave you with one last quote by a contemporary Rabbi:

Deu. 6:4. Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God; the Lord is one.

“The basic credo of Judaism is that G-d is One. Not just that there is one G-d, but that his Oneness precludes the existence of anything apart from him. This is what I mean when I proclaim the Shema, Judaism’s central declaration of faith; ‘Hear, O Israel, Hashem our G-d, Hashem is One.” One. Alone. Nothing else.”

By Rabbi Yakov Asher Sinclair from Lens Work Extended # 84 Seasons of the Moon

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What is the Sin of Sodom?

Lee’s biblical insights are always challenging and inspiring. This one is the best explanation of the Sodom episode in the Bible I have ever read.

Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life

The sin of Sodom? That’s obvious, isn’t it?

No, it’s not.

The Bible does tell us what the sin of Sodom was . . . and it’s not what you’re thinking!

In the book of Ezekiel, God says:

Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed, and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen. (Ezekiel 16:49–50)

There you have it. The Bible says that the sin of Sodom was arrogance, overindulgence, indifference, lack of charity for the poor and needy, and haughtiness. It’s all about self-centeredness and lack of love for the neighbor. Not a word about homosexuality.

Oh, yes. It also says that they “did detestable things.” And though Old Testament law does say that sex between two men…

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God, a short introduction

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The passion of Light

God, a short introduction

I am about to introduce a someone who literally needs no introduction. Because this Person/Being/Spirit has been written and talked about for eons non-stop even by those who don’t believe He/She/It exists.

Just ask anyone you meet: some will be ready and willing to tell you just who God is and even the more reluctant if pressed will tell you what they think even if it is just; “God is very personal to me and I have no wish to talk about it.” And then others when asked will immediately try to convince you that their definition is the correct one with severe penalties for not marching to their drummer.

Wars have been started and been ended by those who have decided to call this ONE by a certain name. There is no other topic that has brought so much peace and love to so many people and the exact opposite to others. Homes and nations have been divided and brought together by just this single definition.

In fact so much has been written and spoken thru the centuries, perhaps billions upon billions of words in every language that there is really no need for this post. And yet I find I must define myself if not the ONE I’m discussing. When we define God we are at the least letting people know where we stand on the topic and in some respects who we are and even how we intend to live our lives.

            “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.

            The history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion, and man’s spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God. Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God.

            For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like.”

            From; The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer

          It is not that we are the same as the ONE and yet there are many religious traditions which tell us just that, that as we come to accept this sameness we actually become more human and oddly enough Godlike—“partakers of the Divine nature.” (2Peter 1.4) In this we are our conundrum. We even find our definitions are highly anthropomorphic in nature, after all, all we really know is ourselves as humans, hence the argument by some that we have created a god in our image and not the other way around.

When we say for example, “God is love,” we have picked the highest emotion humans are capable. When we attempt to define love we may point to people we see as exemplars of this quality and yet we still must realize that the best humans can demonstrate falls far short of Love when applied to Love as an infinite being who does not have love as a quality along with other qualities but is love itself that is infinite and unknowable.

The mystery.

In the west very little is said about the unknowableness of God. It is part of the western ocean of theology we swim in that God must be defined. However the Eastern Orthodox emphasizes the mystery and unknowableness, preferring negations to affirmations.

God is not.

Not this.

Not that.

The best we can do when it comes to knowing God is to say what God is not. “God is not a bully,” is an example.

Buddhism goes so far as to eschew all concepts including the concept of a divine being in favor of direct perception of Reality of everything preferring to live in the certainty of NOW, which of course is the only “time” any of us can know. In fact the only place any of can know God.

Also from the east comes another mystical tradition of the most ancient Hindus:

“So also the mind must be trained to take to right ways. It will gradually grow accustomed to good ways and not return to wrong ways.

D: What are the good ways to be shown to the mind?

M: Thought of God.” From Talks with Raman Maharshi.

In this brief summary of the possibility to know and not know God we encounter the two broad themes of every theology; the imminence and transcendence of God.

The following descriptions and definitions are not meant to be a survey of all the various traditions and their similarities or dissimilarities, that has been done many times over and is far beyond my desire to pursue such a course. Several years ago I read in a blog somewhere a statement by Brian McLaren which really challenged me. He said to this effect that everyone should write their own theology. I also remember the disagreements about this coming from the idea that “regular” people did not have the capacity to do such a thing and the resulting dangers of everyone coming up with their “own theology” was very unhealthy for their faith and maybe the faith of the church at large. This did get me to thinking about all the different theologies I had read over the years and wondering if I could really articulate what I now believed.

I realized that if asked to do this right after bible college and my short time in seminary I simply would have regurgitated everything I had studied at those institutions. I then understood I had been doing that during those many years of writing papers, being graded and thus subtly by their approval or not directed towards the proper way to see and understand God, according to the Wesleyan Methodist tradition with a bit of the Charismatic movement thrown in, both very fundamentalist traditions.

What do I believe now? This is in the classical sense an apology, not trying to show others as wrong or even to prove myself right but to explain what I have come to believe up to this point in my life. That last sentence is itself a big departure from the fundamental views I was schooled in. When I studied other faiths and belief systems it was always with the understanding that ours was the best and the only true way to look at and understand God. I no longer believe this. I’ll save that discussion for latter when I talk about Divine Inspiration.

Is it possible to know God? Yes to an incredible degree as seen in the lives of many individuals who were given the talent to express in their life and words enough to give us a glimpse thru the window of the unknowable. Theirs was not book knowledge but direct emotional connection. But like explaining the sunset to a blind person all that can be said is “you can’t see it until God opens your eyes.”

 “He was not born blind because of his own sin or that of his parents,” returned Jesus, “but to show the power of God at work in him.” John 9.3