The Ideal Of The Holy

The Ideal Of The Holy

Albert Einstein said, “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed. This insight into the mystery of life, coupled though it be with fear, has also given rise to religion. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive forms — this knowledge, this feeling, is at the center of true religiousness. In this sense, and in this sense only, I belong in the ranks of devoutly religious men.”

Rudolf Otto wrote a book entitled ‘The Ideal Of The Holy’ in which he attempts to explain the spiritual experience that Einstein describes and what Otto goes on to refer to as the numinous, which he believes is a sign which points to the deity and could be likened to the voice of God that beckons man to his true center.

The sub-title to Otto’s book of ‘The Idea of the Holy’ is ‘An Inquiry into the Non-Rational Factor in the Idea of the Divine and its Relation·to the Rational’,  In the book Otto points out that numinous is not rational or reasonable but it not irrational or unreasonable, it is simply outside of those categories.  You might call it is super-rational.

It is this numinous experience that the atheist lacks.  Because he has not experienced it, it is impossible for him to understand someone who has experienced it like Albert Einstein.  Einstein had experienced the Totally Other which was beyond his explanatory powers to communicate it to those who had not experienced it, those that he referred to as dead or blind. Otto’s book is the best attempt I have seen to put the experience into words.  You can get a PDF copy at the below address.

http://churchsociety.org/docs/churchman/046/Cman_046_3_Harvey.pdf

Paradigm shift and the Loss of Faith

The Logic of Believing In A Supreme Being

The problem with believing in a supreme being or God is that it no longer fits in our paradigm.  Our paradigm used to be one of kingship or feudalism, now it is one of democracy and egalitarianism both of which does not fit well with a belief  in a supreme being.  What is a paradigm? A paradigm is a framework of beliefs containing the basic assumptions or ways of thinking, that are commonly accepted by members of a culture.  Often  paradigms are held subconsciously by the group.  They are looked upon as just the way things are, or reality itself.

Under a feudal paradigm it was much easier to believe in a supreme being because it seemed normal and natural.  It actually reflected our culture.  However, that is no longer true.  In the west today, the dominant paradigm is democratic, which leaves the West open to atheism and agnosticism.

The loss of faith in the 20th century is largely the result of a paradigm change from hierarchy to  democratic and has little to do with evidence for or against God, nor does it have much to do with one’s intelligence.  The decline of faith and its institutions has more to do, for the larger part of the population, with paradigm changes and group think.  Being a believer in God in a democratic society is much harder than having faith under a feudal or kingship paradigm.

This brings us to the question, is it logical to believe in a supreme being?  For many, the answer would  depend on the paradigm that they have accepted.  If you accept the hierarchy paradigm, the supreme being would be the one on the top of the pyramid or hierarchy, and it would be reasonable. If you accept a democratic paradigm, logically you cannot have a supreme being, for all beings are equal.  A hierarchy would seem strange and maybe unreasonable.

The big question, is does reality or nature support one paradigm more than another?  When this question is asked the democratic paradigmatic is totally void of evidence and seems to be totally opposite of a paradigm based on nature.  There is nothing democratic about the universe.  Everything in nature represents hierarchy moving from the simple to the complex.  In this, the natural paradigm supports a hierarchy of being.  Taken to its logical conclusion it supports a supreme being paradigm.  In this, it is reasonable to think that nature would reflect its creator and the created order.

The end of a democratic paradigm can be seen when you attempt to force a hive of bees to live without a queen.  The obvious outcome is the death of the hive.  This might explain the reason why, that when a democracy fails it usually is replaced by a totalitarian system ruled by a hierarchy.  We see the force of paradigms at work in Western culture and we are witnessing the demise of the hive for accepting a paradigm which is contrary to the natural order.

Reason, Faith and Certitude

Reason, Faith and Certitude

” From about half-past ten in the evening until about half-past midnight. Fire. The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob. Not of the philosophers and intellectuals. Certitude, certitude, feeling, joy, peace Peace.”[1] Blaise Pascal

Reason will never take you to the certitude of God. If pure, which it never is, it regularly leads to doubting. On the other hand, love will always lead to trust (faith) and acting on faith will lead to certitude. However, in the end certitude is a gift of God. Give to those who love Him and have true faith in the Christ.  The apostle John says, “He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son” ( 1 John 5:10).   In chapter  two of his letter John refers to this inter witness as an anointing of truth.

Moreover, Jesus also speaks about  it as a revelation from the father when he asked his disciples who they believed he  was in Matthews gospel. The conversation reads like this, “Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 16:16-17). This inter witness is the revelation in the believer’s heart through the spirit of God, which gives them certitude that Jesus is the Christ. This measure of faith cannot be accessed by reason alone or any human effort. It is a gift of God-given to all true believers. It is being born from above. It is given to all who truly put their faith in the Christ and love God.

The inter witness that Jesus is the Christ is not the same as the promise which Jesus made to his apostles that they will be led into all truth (John 14:16). The all truth promise was made to his apostles who form the foundation of the new temple of God (Eph 2:19-22). The early church looked to the apostle as the ultimate authority in matters of the faith and except for a few Gnostics heretics never claim, “the all truth promise”… It is obvious, that if every Christian had received the all truth promise” there would have been total unity and no division in the church from the beginning, which we know is and was not the case. Plus there would have been no need for the first-century  church to ask the apostles questions about the faith, as we see early Christians do in the New Testament. Many of the writings in the New Testament are made up of the apostles answering questions that were sent to them by individuals and churches.

From the above we gather when John said, “all of you know the truth” He was taking about the fact that believers had received through the gospel the revelations that Jesus was the Christ. (John 2:20-21). There is no reason to separate this faith experience from the acceptance of the gospel and hearing the word of God preached, for that Word is the bear of the Spirit. This simply means that if a person hears the gospel preached and believes it, the Holy Spirit will confirm their faith in their heart that Jesus is the Christ resulting in a certitude given by God.

[1]  Pascal conversion experience was recorded on a small piece of paper and sewed into the inner lining of his coat and was found after his death. It read, “The year of grace 1654. Monday, 23 November, feast of Saint Clement. . . From about half-past ten in the evening until about half-past midnight. Fire. The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob. Not of the philosophers and intellectuals. Certitude, certitude, feeling, joy, peace. The God of Jesus Christ. My God and your God. Forgetfulness of the world and everything except God. One finds oneself only by way of the directions taught in the gospel. The grandeur of the human soul. Oh just Father, the world has not known you, but I have known you. Joy, joy, joy, tears of joy. I have separated myself from him. They have abandoned me, the fountain of living water. My God, will you leave me? May I not be separated from him eternally. This is eternal life, that they may know you the one true God and J.C. whom you have sent. Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ. I have separated myself from him. I have run away from him, renounced him, crucified him. May I never be separated from him. One preserves oneself only by way of the lessons taught in the gospel. Renunciation total and sweet. And so forth.” (pp. 95-96

Why People Believe

Why People Believe

You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Matthew 13:14-15

People believe what they actually want to believe.  William James, the great psychologist and scientist, called this phenomenon the will to believe.  But before we look any deeper, we need to ask the question what is the will?  I refer to the will as your ‘want to’, which means that your appetite is very much a part of your will.  Your will determines what you want and what you seek.  It will also influence the degree  to which you want to do something or believe something.

If a person does not have the will to believe, he will not want to believe,  consequently it would be impossible for him to believe or even truly seek to believe.  We could say that a person becomes dead to anything he does not have a will to believe in.  They have eyes but don’t see, and ears but they don’t hear.  In this, I am not saying that if you have a will to believe, that you will believe anything.  To say that a person has the will to believe is simply to say he is willing to look at something with an open mind that is prepared to believe, if the evidence for it is there.  If there is no will to believe, no amount of evidence will convince a person to believe anything.

What about reason?  Reason only works when there is a will to believe or disbelief, because it reason is the handmaiden of the will.  The will summons reason to make up all kinds of arguments and excuses for believing or not believing.  For reason to work there must be a will and a presupposition that it can work from.  Reason does not work in a vacuum.

I know a large number of people who fancy themselves as open-minded that will look at any issue for the sole purpose of reinforcing their self-image of being open minded.  What they believe in is there open-mindedness.  However, they have none or very little will to believe other things.  These people usually only make a superficial search for the truth on any issue.  Very shallow thinking is reasons way of justifying their open-mindedness.

The reason there are few people who have a true will to believe is  because the human being senses that the will to believe, and the will to action, are so in intertwined they cannot be separated.  This means that the things you will to believe, you will act on and act out.  Your actions demonstrate and prove your will to believe.  This simply means if you do not want to act, you will not have a will to believe.  So the will to believe not only has to do with what you want to believe, but also in what you want to do.  The person that hates his neighbor will have a hard time embracing a deity that commands him to love his neighbor and forgive him.

The will to believe is also closely connected with need.  A perceived need creates an appetite and a will for something.  If a person does not perceive a need for something, he will seldom have an appetite or a will for that thing or person; e.g. the person who believes that they have no sin to be forgiven of, will rarely seek a God that offers forgiveness.

Jesus said, “If any man wills to do the will of the Father, he will know the teaching…”  Does this not say that a man approaches God, not through his reason but through his will?  If you want to do God’s will you will know the teaching, you will find God, when you will to find him.  If you do not know God it is because you do not want to.  If a person wants to know the true God they will seek him and find him.

In summary, the way to God does not begin with reason; it begins with the will of man.  Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”  He also said, “Let the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!”  And let him that heareth say, “Come!”  And let him that is athirst come.  And whosoever will, (desires) let him take the water of life freely”  Revelation 22:17.

 

Faith Versus Reason

Faith Versus Reason

To have faith is to confess bias.  However, all beliefs are grounded and based on faith, at least initially.  Our very language supports this, “I believe in reason.”  You must have faith in reason before you attempt to use it.  In the end there is a faith element in everything we believe and do, it all begins with faith.  But, in many cases the faith element is tacit, hidden or so small it remains unnoticed.  Sometimes it is referred to by other names such as a hunch, intuition or hypothesis, but however small, it is there.  Faith is the beginning of knowledge.  The affirmation “I believe” is the beginning of all thought.

Some seem to believe the way to true knowledge is by endless questioning and doubting.  However, this is a belief that in itself requires faith.  Should we doubt everything except our doubts?  Now, do not get me wrong, there is a place in our thought process for doubting, but doubting cannot be the beginning, goal or the end.  It must lead to faith, for it is faith that leads to truth and action.  For example, the agnostic is frozen between belief and unbelief by their doubting and in turn doubting their doubts, while the atheist believes their doubts, and is going nowhere.  On the other hand the theist believes their beliefs and should be open to the future of truth[1].  If skeptical-ism is taken to its logical conclusion it could lead to a stalled intellectual progress and a cynical view of truth and learning. If you question everything in the end you must question your truth and when your truth is overthrown by doubting “the truth” is not far behind and you are close to being thrown into the abyss of relativism.

Some might reply. what about science and the scientific method?  Do you not need faith in reason to believe in science and the scientific method?  Does not science have to assume (have faith) that nature has her laws for scientist to do science?  I believe this is called the uninformed of nature.[2] This belief cannot be proven because to prove it you would have to believe in it to attempt to prove it. This seems to point to the fact that all human knowledge must begin with faith on some ground (foundation) which is also to accept it by faith.

[1] If skeptical-ism is taken to extremes it can lead to a stalled intellectual progress and a cynical view of learning. There is a tendency for skeptical-ism to lead to radical relativism which guts the meaning of existence and leaves people cynical.

[2] The scientists claim they test everything by the scientific method. However, the scientific method is based on faith in the uniformity of nature and reason. Some have questioned reasoning but I know of none that have questioned the uniformity of nature, for to do so would be to question the whole enterprise of science.

From Jesus to Religion Chapter 2 A Forest of Symbols

A Forest of Symbols

“ Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden” (Gen. 3:8-10).

One of the main linguistic tools we will be using in our study of the contrast between religion and revelation is that of the symbol. In recent years, scholars have come to understand the importance of language in all areas of life. Language is the key that unlocks the door to what it means to be truly human. Along with this increased interest and understanding of language, there has been a corresponding increased interest and understanding of the importance of the uses of symbols in human communications. Increasingly, many scholars are coming to believe that symbols are not only the key to understanding much of the human language, but also the key to understanding the whole of the human enterprise. The importance of symbols can be seen in the statement of one author when he says, “To live is to live symbolically.” He said this because he realized humans live in a forest of symbols. In fact, he believes they are symbols themselves. Our very consciousness and identity are created and shaped by the symbols of our culture. Bernard Cook adds to our understanding of the importance of symbols when he says,

“For it is now becoming clearer that symbol is not something that humans use occasionally and for the most part aesthetically, even artificially. Rather, symbol is of the essence of all thought and all language. Even more basically, the very model of existing, which is distinctive of humans is symbolic; we are more than ‘symbol-making beings’ as Cassirer and Langer have insisted, We exist symbolically because the spiritual dimension of our being ‘speaks’ itself-though never with complete satisfaction-in our bodily-ness.”
“All this impinges strongly on the study of symbols, for inner consciousness, even on the level of the subconscious, is shaped and animated by symbols. More than that, the entire process of consciousness being translated into communication as a basis for society is a process of symbolizing. And conversely, the shaping influence of culture and society upon an individual’s inner existence is exerted through symbols of one sort or another.” The Distancing of God by Bernard J. Cooke (page 296, 299)

From Cooke, we can gather somewhat the importance of symbols, but we have yet to define a symbol. A symbol may be defined as “a word or object or thing or action or event or pattern or person or concrete particular…Representing or suggesting or signifying or veiling…Something greater or transcendent or ultimate: a meaning, a reality, an ideal, a value, an achievement, a belief, a community, a concept, an institution, a state of affairs.” The Power of Symbols in Religion and Culture F.W. Dillistone (page 13)

In the same section, Dillistone goes on to point out that the function of a symbol is to bridge the gulf between the world of the abstract and the concrete. In religion, the symbol is used to bridge or bring together physical facts and metaphysical truth without compromising either. Therefore, symbols are used to explain the unexplainable, yet never completely. Thus, the symbol always involves mystery, wonder, and paradoxes. This may help us to understand why God’s final and complete revelation of Himself is a person—in other words, a living symbol and not a written law. This could also be the reason why the New Testament witness has come to us in the form of story and not law as the Old Testament Torah. The God of Heaven and Earth could never reveal Himself through propositional truth. We cannot reduce God to a logic syllogism or lock Him in the narrow chambers of human reason and imagination. The only way one will come to know God is through reflecting on the symbol that mediates His image and presence, that is, His Son Jesus Christ.

Unfortunately, sometimes this one true symbol of God gets lost in a forest of religious symbols that we humans have made. I would like to think that man has done this out of ignorance. However, both Old and New Testaments bear witness to the fact that man has knavishly and knowingly subverted the symbols of God. The reason for this is obvious; man does not want to live in the presence of God nor in the presence of the pristine revelation of Jesus Christ. The simple truth is that man does not love the truth. He loves darkness instead of the light. “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil” (John. 3:19). In this passage, light stands for revelation, and Jesus confirms the fact that the majority do not want to live in the presence of revelation. So what does man do? He hides from it in a forest of religion and its symbols. We see this rejection of revelation in the story of Adam. When Adam sinned, he also hid in the forest from God. In this act, Adam prefigures the entire human race that would hide from God in its religious systems and symbols.

However, man’s hide-and-seek game with God has far-reaching consequences. For the forest he hides in, not only hides him from God, but also from his fellow man and his very self. The forest divides men religiously, politically, and culturally. When the apostle Paul speaks about the dividing wall of hostility (Eph. 2:14), he was making reference to the forest of religious symbols that separated Jews and Gentiles. He points out to his readers that this forest of symbols has been done away with in Christ. In Christ, God has cut down the forest of religious symbols that keeps people divided religiously. He did this by replacing, or in many cases, subverting the existing symbols by changing one or more of their levels of meaning. All the symbols in the old order that spoke of the presence of God or symbolized His presence were subverted to point toward Christ as their fulfillment and their end. The master symbols of religion that fit this category are the symbols of mediation such as sacred laws, places, times, and priesthood. Before the coming of Christ, these religious symbols stood for or symbolized the presence of God and the unity of His people. However, after Jesus’ coming, they stood for the absence of God and division, which is the very antithesis of God. These religious symbols still stand as a dividing wall of hostility between religious people.

In the fore mentioned case of the hostility between Jews and Gentiles, it was the sacred “master” symbols of Law, sacred days, priesthood, and sacred places that formed the dividing wall of hostility. Jews could easily accept these symbols. However, Gentiles could not easily accept them for they had no inherent meaning to them because these symbols were tied directly to the history of the Jewish people. But now that God had invited the world to become His people, the symbols of God’s acceptance and presence would have to change. The new master symbols would be Christ Himself and His spirit-filled people. In order to do this, God would have to create a new history with new symbols. This He did by raising His Son from the dead. In this mighty act, God created a new world and a new humanity. He invites all of humanity to join His Son in a new exodus out of the old order into the new; an exodus out of religion into Christ. This exodus will be completed when His Son returns from on high to lead His people into the glorious freedom of the children of God. “But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John. 3:2). When Israel left Egypt in the first exodus of God’s people, there were many who were intimidated by their new freedom. Thus, they wanted to return to the security of bondage in Egypt. If you remember, this happened when Moses went up on the mountain to receive the Ten Commandments. Because he tarried too long, the people longed to return to Egypt and its gods. Was this not a foreshadowing of what would happen in the Christian movement? When Jesus was raised from the dead and ascended to the Father, he inaugurated a new exodus, an exodus out of religion. However, like the Hebrews, we find the people (Christians) were intimidated by the freedom they had in Christ and grew anxious over the fact that their Lord had tarried longer than they had expected. So many of them went back to religion and to the making of religious symbols, very similar to how the Hebrews had made the golden calf. God’s call today is for our generation of Christians to take up where the first generation of Christian left off: that is, in an exodus out of religion into the freedom of the children of God.

As we look anew at God’s new master symbols, we find that both of these, Christ and His people, are what we might call living symbols which are the most powerful symbols, for they are flexible and can fit into any cultural venue. This flexibility should be expected, seeing that God has invited the world to join His history. God’s history is no longer a history of a people, but rather a history of one man who now represents the new humanity that has been created by His resurrection from the dead. God now invites all to join in the history of His Son, which He is taking on to perfection in Christ.

Moreover, these living symbols of Christ and His people have the power to impart life, which other symbols do not have. “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing” (John. 6:63). No symbol, even the sub-symbols of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, have any life in themselves but rather point to the work of Christ and His life giving Spirit. Only Christ and the Spirit have the power to impart life. Even the symbol of the Bible apart from the Spirit has no power to convey life (2 Cor. 3:6). Regrettably, the church has often eclipsed the quickening symbols of Christ and His Spirit with the lifeless lesser symbols of ritual and form, at the same time claiming that this is Christianity perfected.
The implications of all this are incredible. The symbol of Christ among His people symbolizes that God is among His people. Not only is He among His people, but also He has accepted them in their sin, forgiven them and has given them the Spirit to deliver them from the bondage of sin and religion. This was all enacted and symbolized in the life of Jesus when He ate and fellowship at the table with sinners. Therefore, the symbol of Jesus in the world is symbolizing that the world has become a theater of God being with man and for man. Moreover, the symbol of Jesus as the Godman symbolizes and foreshadows the unity of God and man in the new humanity; Jesus Himself being the first fruits of that new humanity (1 Cor. 15:22). Therefore, in the resurrection of Jesus we have a promise and a preview of where God is taking humanity. “For we shall be like him” (1 John. 3:2).

Another incredible implication is that man no longer has to hide from God in a forest of religious symbols, for he no longer has to try to justify himself before God or man. For in Christ, God has accepted him and forgiven him, not because of his religiosity, but because of God’s grace and the work of Christ. Because God has delivered him from the need to be religious, He in the same act has broken down the religious wall that separates man. Therefore, man has been reconciled not only to God though Jesus, but also to one another. Consequently, we must conclude that the division in the Christian church is an indication of just how far religion is from God. The Christian church, especially in America, is the direct opposite of revelation and its division is a symbol to all the world of its disobedience and its distance from God.

Here we need to ask this question. If Christ has removed the symbols of religion that divide men, what would be the consequence of reinstating the old symbols or symbols like them? The answer is obvious: division. When men have symbols in their belief system, other than divinely authorized ones, there will be division. For people will insist that others acknowledge their symbols in order for them to be acceptable. This is why the reinstating of unauthorized religious symbols is condemned so strongly in the New Testament. In the book of Galatians we find a group of Christians contemplating reinstating the symbol of Law into the Christian movement. In turn, the apostle Paul warns them, “You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace” (Gal. 5:4). Not only does Paul give this astringent rebuke, he goes on to reinforce the fact that the main symbol in the Christian faith is Jesus Christ. “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor un-circumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” (Gal 5:4-6). In this text we find that the only authorized symbols in the Christian movement are Christ, faith, and love. The symbol of circumcision, which is the symbol of the Law, has been negated in Christ. Law is never unauthorized Christian symbol, unless it is used as a symbol of Christ Himself, for He is the new Torah.

All other symbols of law must be rejected. Symbols like creeds, human traditions, and theological systems must not be imposed on believers as law. Even the New Testament Scripture must not be symbolized as law, for it is pure grace when mixed with a spirit of faith. Those who symbolize or image the New Testament Scripture as law will find it very difficult not to lapse into legalism. For the power of the symbol will negate and overcome any verbal effect to proclaim freedom from law. The symbol of law is one of the most powerful religious symbols because it has a cosmic counterpart behind it and is linked with the spiritual powers of sin and death (Rom. 7:7-25, 8:2, 2 Cor. 3:6-18, 1 Cor. 15:56,57, Col 2:13-15). Therefore, the symbol of law should be dealt with thoughtfully in the Christian movement, lest we crucify the Lord anew and insult the Spirit of grace (Heb. 6:4-6, 10:29).

There also are some psychological consequences to reinstating religious symbols into the faith of Christ. The most obvious would be that the more religious symbols a man has in his belief system, the more exclusive and rigid his religion will be. The danger is that this forest of religious symbols will become so thick that it will blind him to all new truth. Most religious people, especially those that are exclusionist, have layers of religious symbols that protect them from revelation and separate them from their fellow-man. The religious man fears revelation because it will strip away all the false symbols that he has trusted. It leaves him naked before God, stripped of all his self-righteousness. In this context, self-righteousness could be defined as all the religious symbols that men hide in, such as symbols that allow them to feel secure and righteous. The traditionalists hide behind the symbols of ritual. The fundamentalists hide behind the multi-level symbol of the Bible and the true church. Nevertheless, no matter how hard the religious man may try, he cannot hide his humanness behind these symbols because God is continually destroying them and exposing man’s nakedness. It is here, in his nakedness, that the religious man has the possibility of coming to faith and being clothed by God in the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ. However, nothing hinders authentic faith more than religion. In a true sense, religion is a vaccination against revelation.

In our quest for a better understanding of the distinction between religion and revelation, the symbol will help us immensely, for it will allow us to look at things from a different perspective. Most importantly for our study, the symbol will help us trace the evolution of the revelation of Christ from a simple way of life into a complex religious system. We can do this by noting when and why new symbols were introduced into the Christian movement. Through analyzing the introduction and meaning of new symbols added to the movement, we will be able to see the subtle shift in theology away from revelation to religion. We will begin that study in our next chapter