Monday, 28 May 2007

Through a Glass, Darkly

"For in and out, above, about, below
'Tis Nothing but a Magic Shadow Show
Play'd in a Box whose Lantern is the Sun;
'Round which we Phantom Figures come and go."

- from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

- I Corinthians 13:12

It is hard for the human to imagine that what is tangible - what has texture and form and and smell - may be simply the shadow of what is REAL. And yet, don't we have a sense, in spite of what our bodies tell us, of a world more deep, more rich than the one we sense so concretely? And are there not, even in our merely dual world, evidences that there is something greater of which we may witness only a reflection?

For instance, take love. If you have ever been lucky enough to carry in your heart such a paradox of weight and lightness, then you must know the strain of communicating the thing materially. The evidences we are able to produce and witness (kind words, gentle touches, beautiful gifts) seem a pale smoke beside the richness of love as we know it to be. Even our own experience of such a thing must make us aware that there is more than just emotion in the grand landscape of love - something so deep and pure and real as to make us, in comparison, mere specks. And yet, after all, are we not elevated in our experience of love so as to be more than simple humans; more than beautifully orchestrated, fascinatingly scientific bodies; more than minds full of intelligence and philosophy and the amazing ability to learn? Have we not all, at times, woken to the awareness that what may be produced, spoken, even thought, is nothing more than the shade of what IS?

It will not be denied. Just as a Valentine's Day rose or a Mother's Day card is a paltry symbol speaking of a greater, less tangible thing, what may be sensed is little more than the reflection of what is REAL.

What is REAL?


And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM.

- Exodus 3:14

Saturday, 19 May 2007

On Knowing Truth

MarcoPolo asks, "What is the path to truth?"

(Thanks, MarcoPolo! It's so easy to get caught up with "what isn't" and forget all about the main issue: "what IS".)

If the ultimate source of truth be, as the Bible tells us it is, God revealed in Jesus Christ ('I am the Way and the Truth and the Life...' John 14:6), then The Truth must be revealed by him. Knowledge of the truth, as with all other truths, may be begun through reason. But pure reason is not enough in two aspects: the first is that we, being human, may only apply reason to our own realm. Our ability to reason is limited by our limited experience (the senses). The second is that our ability to reason is limited by our finite minds. We cannot comprehend even what may sense and must admit exists: infinity.

With reason as a beginning, but inadequate, how then may we progress to knowledge of The Truth?

'You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.' (Jeremiah 29:13)

What this describes is not a mental sifting through information, but a heart-search. It is the heart that opens heavy gate of the mind to let the light shine in. Reason and the senses are the dual sentinels that stand at that gate, able to both testify to the truth and to identify the imposter.

An act of the will allows The Truth to reveal himself. This is the only way The Truth may be known.

We ought to take note that the searching is not for knowledge, nor is it even for God in the religious sense; rather, it is a search for what God is, in essence.

What is God?
'God is light.' (1 John 1:5)
'God is love.' (1 John 4:8)

If those things be sought, then truth must be found.

Jesus explained to his disciples why he didn't reveal himself clearly, but spoke in parables to the people:

'For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn, and I would heal them.' (Matthew 13:15)

Notice the references to choice: 'they have closed their eyes' (a deliberate choice); 'and turn' (a deliberate choice).

I have spoken of a "path" to truth, but this is not quite accurate. There is a path we must take to make ourselves able to accept truth; but after all, truth must come where we are, because where it dwells we cannot go.

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Must the Bible Be 100% True?

Everything else is debated. History and science and geography and even language, are re-written daily. What can be considered "true" in our world is only what is socially accepted today. Why not the Bible, too? After all, there are a lot of people who consider its claims laughable. Why sacrifice credibility for the details?

If the Bible be only partly true, then we are left trying to decide which parts are trustworthy, and the Bible is rendered lame and disjointed, having no authority. It becomes a compilation of thoughts and experiences rather than the revelation by God, through history and culture and experience, of himself.

Then, is it necessary for God to be known through the Bible? What about our own personal experience of the Eternal?

I do understand the draw to focus simply on the individual experience of God. It is wearying to me to deal constantly with what must be dealt with if a perfect, holy God be communicated through the imperfections and complications of language and history. In addition, we are living in a period of history that is witnessing an unprecedented mistrust of the printed word. In a world thick with lies, it is indeed much easier to let go of the Bible as a revelation of God. It is so hard to obtain real, trustworthy knowledge about anything in 2007! Even doctorate-level study leaves so many questions that the experts argue bitterly about what may be known - so my measly B.A. offers me no intellectual authority. The temptation is almost overwhelming to give up and cease to strive for knowledge. Yet in so doing, humans become fools, denying our nature. We are not mere animals; the intellect, though imperfect, will not be denied.

And then, how much is lost if we lose the authority of the Bible! Through my experience, I can know with certainty that there exists a being full of love and worthy of worship. But without the Bible, there are no answers, no attempt by such a being at communication with my intellect, no reasons why the world about me and my heart within are so rich in loveliness and intricacy and yet so devastated by ugliness and selfishness. I can be certain of no savior, no one who is both able and willing to lift me out of the filth that I see all around and within. God I may know in my heart, but Jesus - he stepped into time, into space, into history. If there is no trustworthy record of the Christ, then I have no sure hope - just a blind, desperate cry to the one I have sensed. The Christian God becomes like every other God - a being who says "Come up to me"; not the one who shared the human experience - even death - in order to lift me up, to let me do what I could not.

While it is true that I have experienced God outside of the Bible, my sense of him comes and goes. It is trustworthy because it matches what I can know through cold, hard reasoned thought based on what may be read by me and verified by others in the Bible. I went through a long year of searching for God, during which he was silent to me and seemed infinitely far away. Without the promise and the appeal to reasoned knowledge I found in the Bible, I could not and would not have continued to search for him. Nor would I have known who such a person was when he did reveal himself warmly to my heart: I recognized him because of what I had read about him. The Bible continues to rearrange my assumptions about God, which can just as easily come from what I want to be as from my experience of him. My knowledge has to be continually pared and re-shaped so that I may know God as he is. Reason is not THE path to truth, else love and truth be forever separated, but it forms the fence that keeps wandering feet on the path. It tells us what truth is NOT.

If I can know God only in my deep heart, and not with my intellect, then why have I been created with the ability and the need to reason? How can I be sure that my experience of God is "real"; not merely a sense, an illusion? How can I be sure of my own sanity? Why should my God be the one who is, when others have believed in other Gods? Why should God be so subjective, when the world he created is not? If I may know such a God in a way that cannot be communicated nor made openly available to others for logical analysis, am I not arrogant to speak of him?

No, I cannot accept a God who speaks only to my soul. I am also body and intellect. I need a God who communicates with my senses, with my intellect, and with my deep self - all three, else even trusting him, I dare not trust my experience of him.

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

If we could see...

If we could see God, really see him - not with our eyes, because the eyes tell us nothing about a Spirit - but with our souls - what would happen?

We would fall on our faces before such a one. Our hearts would shatter, and all would flow out...
We would be humbled to the very ground. Not one of us would dare to criticize another, for we would be naked in our hearts before the Eternal one.
We would be fully willing, not only to die, but to live for the sole privilege of honoring his name.
No more would we get huffy and offended at obnoxiousness. No more would we seek our own justification.

We would seek Jesus, with every remaining breath.

I have seen him too little - fleeting glimpses that have taken my breath away and rearranged my thinking. But I have seen him, and he is enough. Only he is enough.

When I feel the howl of a vast wilderness in my soul, he is my comfort and my Friend.
I know and am known.

O, taste and see that the Lord is good! (Psalm 34:8)

Saturday, 5 May 2007

Ladies and Gentlemen, Presenting the Presidential Candidate for the Democratic Republic of Your Heart

Brothers and sisters of humanity, we have been the victims of a Great Lie. We have been led to believe that our salvation will come in the form of a mighty Leader, one who will arrive amid the unfurling of banners and the blare of trumpets, and tell us how to live. When we know how to live, then we will be free.
We are all too content to gloss over and ignore the lesson we ought to have learned from history - that the perfect rules don't add up to a free society.
If there ever was a beautiful and perfect political system, it is socialism/communism. Now don't you right-wingers jump all over me just yet. Democracy may be the best of the worst, but it is neither so pure in its ideals nor so faithful to the inherent value of humanity as is a socialist philosophy. Democracy says that there is no right or wrong, but only different needs, ideas, experiences. The one of these shared by the greatest number of people should rule. Socialism says that there is right and wrong, that equality is right and that oppression, even of one person, is wrong. It says that people are valuable based on their being human, and that the value of all humans is more important than the wants of any number of individuals.
But flying directly in the face of such ideals, we have the testimony of history. Have socialist and communist systems set humanity free?
Rather, they have been abused and used to oppress vast populations. 'Why?', the idealist cries. 'Why? What flaw appeared in the implementation of those ideologies?'
The flaw is in us, friends. The ideas are pure and lovely still, and they mock us from the bookshelves.
This is the reason that Jesus came. This is the reason that he refused to stand up and reject the oppression of the Romans over the Jewish nation. This is the reason he didn't deliver a new "Ten Commandments" for Christians. This is the reason he didn't lead a revolution to liberate the downtrodden. He wasn't trying to perfect the world, or your country, or anyone else's country. He knew that the problem wasn't in the world, or your country, or anyone else's country. He knew that the problem was in your heart and mine.
And that's why Jesus didn't ask you to elect him, or his followers, for government. He didn't ask you to stop people from having abortions, or from marrying gay people, or from shopping on Sundays. He didn't ask you to make people pray in schools, in government offices, or at football games.
He's not the Presidential Candidate for the United Nations of Earth, or for your country, or for anyone else's country. He's the Presidential Candidate for the Democratic Republic of your heart.