Losing one's religion

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Re: Losing one's religion

Postby alyoshka » Mon Oct 10, 2011 10:23 pm

tentative wrote:Alyoshka,My comments were not directed at you, but the assumptions that have been made in this whole thread. It's the same issues that arise in any discussion of religion and the construction of an effigy of creation we call god.


My apologies. In regards to your view on our being images of God, maybe you should shift your focus away from sentience and toward being made for and called to wisdom. This is what it means to image God: to stand up to God in wisdom. Being tselem elohim is not some raw quality of our existence but a gift and a call.

In regards to God who you call a construction and an effigy, I would say that God is the one that we wrestle with, the greatest one we could possibly face in the dispute where wisdom is born. The one who has spoken wisdom from the beginning and quells our dispute just as God quells Job's (Bob).

We are all called to this. This is our special status as human beings and yes, our (possible) authority over the world. (But a rule of wisdom, not human autonomy or exploitation or anything like that.)
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Re: Losing one's religion

Postby alyoshka » Mon Oct 10, 2011 10:39 pm

Bob wrote:I think we'll have to accept that we have different approaches to this question. Silence is in my view the more faithful approach


God subdues us with wisdom, yes, that is a given. Fear of God is a given (in the cae of Job).

But we are not to stop with this humility. No, what God really teaches in the book of Job is that we are to arise as humankind in confrontation with God, in the dispute where wisdom is received and born.

Dispute not unto death, but unto life. Where the result (wisdom) does produce silence, yes, but where the point is to speak out. (What Job is praised for is not his humble silence but his bold words like the fiery breath of Leviathan.)

Bob wrote:The very nature of the address out of the storm is a correction of Job's justification of his complaint and presumption, that he is being treated unfairly


I admit this is what we are led to believe. But in truth Job thinks that he has been let go. That his being made in and called to God's image has been revoked. Don't get me wrong: I absolutely believe that we need to learn the lesson that you have learned from the book of Job, but we must also realize that it is not quite it, that more is needed than the fear being put back into Job. What Job needs is consolation about dust and ashes.

Bob wrote:Yes, we are at odds here. God as the very ground of life, breathing into us the spirit of life which makes us a “living soul”, installs faith in life (and God). Job only wants to die and looses therefore his faith and rejects life under such circumstances. But life is the very gift of God, who can claim that it would have been better not to have lived than to suffer? That which seeks to make us think that way, is evil. Many can't believe in the God of theology and philosophy, but they do have a basic faith in life. That is, in my view, the basic belief in God. It is when they are caused to question that, when even perhaps theology suggests a God who could put any basic faith in life in question, that evil occurs.

This is witnessed when atrocities are carried out which are so horrible, that any faith is immediately questioned and death, rather than the God who brings life in abundance, is considered to be a deliverance from grief. People who long for death, or see death as the solution to problems, carry evil into the world. Any of us who only sees death, perhaps by war, as the solution to a problem, must accept that he is moving away from life and the further we go down that road, the less likely it is that we are serving a greater good, that is: Life.

When you have the feeling that theism is doing that, it may be time to cease being a theist, even if you don't want to become an atheist.


I wouldn't deny that you raise an important problem. That we must maintain our connection to the ground of life. But we must also maintain our connection to our vocation and end as well, for these connect us to life as well.

The ground/foundation is indeed important, but in the case of Job, it is not the problem. Job's ground in God (his fear of God--and hence humble silence) remains firm, what Job loses is his sense of his present and future worth (his vocation and his end as humankind, not his beginning). Job is right to speak out about this in lament, and God's answer is that Job is called to speak out, to face God in the dispute where wisdom is born.

Job feels that this vocation and his end in life have been revoked. It is regarding these, not Job's ground in God, that Job needs to be consoled.

But yes, if we were to lose our ground in God that too would be devestating. But again, not the only thing that in losing can produce sin and death.
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Re: Losing one's religion

Postby omar » Mon Oct 10, 2011 11:35 pm

Hello Aly,

--- I don't know about that. There is justice. There is God's will. These aren't the same. Not entirely.
O- But as Bildad asks: Does God pervert justice?". If God is just, then by definition it follows that His will will be just, that His actions will be just, otherwise we have no reason to hold God as the root of Justice, of the Good, of what is Right. It is for this reason that Bildead rises the objection to Job.

--- There is a plan for creation that goes deeper than justice.
O- A plan that, if you could be used as a witness, actually justifies the suffering of Job. As you said, there is a reason, and if there is a reason then there is a justification. So going back to you, I think that you understand what is at stake in a theodicy, even if you are inconsistent when confronted with the case of Job.
I think that you have a good idea here but in this sense:
1- There is a plan for creation.
2- This plan is incomprehensible to man, as His ways are not our ways.
3- Yet while it cannot seem just to us mortals, to our intelligence, we nonetheless feel the terrible, the awe-inspiring power of God. God does not answer to JOb's intelligence but appeals to that pre-rational core of Job. God's actions, so we could say, go deeper than our sense, our idea of justice.
So is God just? Not necessarily by our standards. By His standards, who knows but Him? There is a gap, a schism between our ways and His ways. But any talk about "justice" is ususally taken from the perspective of man. What benefits man is just. What impiges against man is unjust. God does not demonstrates His justice before JOb. He brags about the rest of reality. But justice, I think, requires the Other. It can only be between two minds. The fact that the Universe is amazing, a well-oiled and designed machine that inspires awe, does not add or detract from the moral worth of God. My watch can be accurate without having to be righteous. THe designer of such watch can be morally bankrupt without affecting the design in any way. The qualifier thus is earned only through interaction. GOd could not have been just before the creation of man as it is in the eyes of man that such quality is given. So as much as we depend on God, on this count, God depends on us.

--- But yes, as a theist I would have to, in some way or another, see evil as arising within this context. Within the context of God's plan or design of creation that is. Thus in the final analysis, yes, evil could be pinned on God, either on God's will or God's justice.
O- Yes, we agree. But I argue that "evil" is a perspective of man, not a quality that is inherent in the acts by God. Suppose for example we consider a deserted island. A tsunami rolls by and wipes 50% of the trees out to sea; would such a botanical catastrophe be held as an evil? That said, human history cannot show God's omnipotence or cannot show God's benevolence towards man, the dreamer of justice. Given the magnificence of the Universe, lack of power does not seem to be the root cause of human suffering. The Book of Job dwells over the possibility that it is benevolence that is lacking and that would be a reason why God does not mind torturing poor Job on a wager. But in that day, before the storm, Job feels connected to that power. It came to meet him. The morning Sun does not explain to our intelligence why millions die of hunger under it's light, but we feel, before it, sometimes, as with Job, that it rises according to a beautiful and intelligent design. Beyond the chaos of the dying, we conclude, must exist a purpose, a plan that is just as intelligent as the plan that rule the measured movements of the starts. Job allows himself to lose the perspective, the seat from which, to judge what is right or wrong for the sake of sustaining that overall idea that ultimately, beyond the chaos of his own life there is a design, a purpose an order that in the final analysis MUST justify his own life, must redeem his and all suffering, even if it is beyond the scope of his intelligence, his station.

--- I would tend toward an anthropological origin of evil however. God willed humankind. Humankind brought evil into the world. Thus I don't see God as responsible for evil. No more than the parent is culpable for the sins of the child or the child for the sins of the parent (as your Ezekial passage points out).
O- Old apology. It leaves out suffering caused by natural disasters, or even natural phenomena, such as droughts, viruses etc.

--- There is a period of infancy, yes, where the parent must take responsibility, but rearing a child is always going to be a risk. A balance between over-parenting and under-parenting. Letting the child learn on its own, the hard way, is sometimes the best way.
O- Nevertheless, you never as a parent put your child's life at risk. My daughter lives in an enviroment, like most children, where she can, by her own actions and choices, either burn, electrocute or poison herself. Yet, as a good parent I take away her possibility to make those choices. I have barriers that curtail the effectivity of her choices. This does not destroy the existence in her of freedom but it limits the damage that can come from her freedom.

--- Hold up. You're assuming God tests Job to "impress" the satan. Yes and no. God has faith in Job's commitment, absolutely.
O- God is omnisense- he needs no faith for what he knows and sees.

--- The satan, however, does not.
O- It would be Satan, who could be said, holds by his faith in the corruptibility of man that Job is unrighteous.

--- The satan in its wanderings on earth has developed a low opinion of humankind, one far from God's own (that humankind is made in God's image and deserves a crown).
O- Not so fast. God, in the Bible, destroyed the world through a flood...that does not seem an affirmation that man could right himself. And He believed this even after. Jesus also assumes this idea, this belief, that overall, man is unrighteous, that man is undeserving, that by his own will he cannot save himself even if he could...the low opinion about mankind extends to the entire Heavenly Host.

--- So yes, it is to "impress" the satan. But it is not out of boastfulness that God does it.
O- Say it as you will, the wife still would find it morally repulsive that you would smack her repeadedly just so that you, the husband, to "educate", perhaps, a friend, or enemy, that you are faithful and loyal even when you have no reason to be.

--- I believe the book is designed to be read in two ways. The obvious way is that Job will struggle with his fear of God, or his commitment/faith or whatever you want to call it. As the satan says, "Job will curse You to Your face."
O- I think the Satanic accusation is not that Job is not fearful or loyal, but that JOb is what he is because he has been given ample reason by God to be such and such. More broadly, the case is that human obedience to God is rendered in exchange for something. The Bible is a story where God and man enter into covenants, contracts and exchanges. Man gets this or that favor and God gets mankind's loyalty. That is nothing to brag about, Satan says. But what if man was loyal even when he has no reason to be loyal? That would be impressive but it is also improbable, if not impossible.

--- But there is another possibility! Job never loses faith in God at all but rather Job loses his fear of humankind, and it is this that God restores.
O- When? When he says to Eliphaz and his two friends that they have NOT spoken what is right and that Job had to bail them out? God restored his integrity before men, not his faith in these men who were obviously wrong in the whole matter.

--- The first corresponds to Job's fear of God being on the line, the second with Job's fear of humankind. i.e., believing that he
has been let go is tantamount to believing in the worthlessness of humankind, or that humankind is not to be feared. As God's speeches show, this couldn't be farther from the truth.
O- Job does not speak for the integrity of humanity but for his integrity. He knows that there are wisked humans, but he expected to be weighted different from them when put on the scales. The rewards were not due to humanity qua human, but according to their deeds and choices.

--- Be careful. The test was that "Job would curse God to God's face." Thus the test isn't over, and Job hasn't proven a thing, until God confronts Job and Job shows he won't curse God.
O- ...I agree.

--- Job is asking "What is humankind?" and he has concluded "Not much".
O- Where does he says this? Does he say that of his own integrity, his own faithfulness and loyalty to God? Because if so then JOb would not have have the gall to request an audience with God.

--- Job once believed he was made and called to God's image, that he was crowned in glory and honour.
O- But not by his nature, but by his choices, his acts and deeds. He earned that crown.

--- Now he believes he is worthless and destined to the ash heap.
O- But unjustly.

--- Job thinks he has been let go, that God has revoked his status/station as tselem elohim.
O- No. That God has acted unjustly, treating a friend like an enemy, for no reason, no change in the righteousness of God's friend.

--- To tie into the previous response, this is another way of phrasing it. Job thinks/laments that his righteous example has failed to save the rest.
O- It was not an example. He laments that his righteousness have served him for nothing before God.

--- That humankind, righteous Job included, is destined to the ash heap. This is not true of course, but it is what Job believes.
O- But even if Job may agree that some humans deserve the ash heap, he disagrees that it should be the righteous like himself. He doesn't disagree with the program, but is claiming that the program has not been followed as advertised in his own case. And he is right. It was a temporary exception.

--- I am in accord with the Christian belief. Job loses faith in it for awhile, given his treatment, but God restores Job's faith in it in the end.
O- His faith in GOd? Yes. His faith in the intelligibility of God? Not so much.
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Re: Losing one's religion

Postby Bob » Tue Oct 11, 2011 5:40 am

tentative wrote:Hi Bob,
What we don't know about God is at least weighed down by what we know about humankind – which is enough to install humility in anyone.
Except for those who continue to prop up their clay idols and declare that they "know" god, his attributes, his plan for humans before and after life, and all the rest of the religious drivel that keeps humans enslaved to an ideal and not life.

Hi tentative,

I hope you are keeping well...

Yes, I feel too that the fleeting experience of the numinous is often called knowledge, although those sages who have lived a lifetime with such experiences normally “rise” to their knees and the recognition that they know nothing and have nothing to teach. It is what I wrote when entering the discussion, that theism, including the polytheism of Hinduism and Hellenism, has for me always made use of the metaphor and the analogy to describe the otherwise ineffable, that which is experienced but not located, that which is present but not defined and always mystical. Thomas Moore has written extensively on the language of the soul in “Religion Of The Soul”, which is a fascinating lecture, just as his “Care Of The Soul” and numerous other books I have read from him are.

The point I made about theology continuing to play on words and speculate, building one speculation on another and forming dogmatic towers, is what I feel constitutes the misuse of religious power. I don't doubt at all that the clerics believe it is for the best of the church and the believers, but it has lost the original spark of inspiration and moves gradually but steadily away from that origin and becomes something that has to have a wall around it to protect it and theologians to guard the entrance.

Take Care
Bob
The only wisdom we can hope to acquire
Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless.
TS Eliot
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Re: Losing one's religion

Postby alyoshka » Tue Oct 11, 2011 9:28 pm

omar wrote:O- But as Bildad asks: Does God pervert justice?". If God is just, then by definition it follows that His will will be just, that His actions will be just, otherwise we have no reason to hold God as the root of Justice, of the Good, of what is Right. It is for this reason that Bildead rises the objection to Job.


Justice isn't an instigating act or will, hence why I see 'wills' in God that are prior to or that have nothing to do with justice. Justice comes after, when the righteous are rewarded and the wicked are punished. That is justice, or is what I would call justice. But as such justice can only be willed, or God's will can only be called 'just', when it deals out these retributions. Justice is a response to a human will that is itself a response to a more prior divine will.

Thus in the case of Job, in God's testing of Job, there is something other than 'justice' going on. (In fact, it is precisely justice that is temporarily revoked.) What is God's will here? My suggestion is that God is trying to reconcile the satan and humankind. God is not willing justice but reconciliation. The satan, in wandering the earth, has lost faith in humankind. God is trying to bring them back together again. To create a connection, just as you said Job receives in the end with God.

So to further clarify, while I would say that God has a reason for testing Job, or that God's action is justified, I would not say that God's will is 'just' in this case. The word 'justified' is misleading here, for God's will is in fact reconciliatory. (There is not necessarily justice in reconciliation. In fact, an important part of reconciliation is often forgiveness, which has a logic that defies the rigorous returns of justice.)

omar wrote:I argue that "evil" is a perspective of man, not a quality that is inherent in the acts by God. Suppose for example we consider a deserted island. A tsunami rolls by and wipes 50% of the trees out to sea; would such a botanical catastrophe be held as an evil? That said, human history cannot show God's omnipotence or cannot show God's benevolence towards man, the dreamer of justice. Given the magnificence of the Universe, lack of power does not seem to be the root cause of human suffering. The Book of Job dwells over the possibility that it is benevolence that is lacking and that would be a reason why God does not mind torturing poor Job on a wager. But in that day, before the storm, Job feels connected to that power. It came to meet him. The morning Sun does not explain to our intelligence why millions die of hunger under it's light, but we feel, before it, sometimes, as with Job, that it rises according to a beautiful and intelligent design. Beyond the chaos of the dying, we conclude, must exist a purpose, a plan that is just as intelligent as the plan that rule the measured movements of the starts. Job allows himself to lose the perspective, the seat from which, to judge what is right or wrong for the sake of sustaining that overall idea that ultimately, beyond the chaos of his own life there is a design, a purpose an order that in the final analysis MUST justify his own life, must redeem his and all suffering, even if it is beyond the scope of his intelligence, his station.


So if a tsunami wipes out an island of people it is not evil per se, but only evil because this is how human beings perceive it? That in truth, there is a grander scheme that could justify it all? You say this yet you go on to challenge my view of the anthropological origin of evil by calling upon the evil caused by natural disaster, which you just said isn't evil.

For the sake of consistency, shouldn't your response to the anthropological origin of evil be that evil is only in the perception of human beings? That evil per se does not exist and that it therefore has no origin either in human beings or in nature?

In regards to whether natural disasters cause evil I would say that they do not. Rather, the suffering they result in is part and parcel to a wild creation. We are told point blank that it is a wild world that must be subdued. That means danger lurks around every corner. There are seas that rise up and an earth that shakes. Also animals that bite.

It's not evil when a lion eats a lamb or when a tsunami wipes out an island. There can be terrible unfortunate events in nature that may cause us to question God but they are not indicative of evil. Rather of wildness.

What is the difference? What makes human killing evil? I would say because in our being cultured we know better. Knowledge of good and evil and the power to discern between them are important qualities for human beings. (This is not to say that the animals and the elements don't have wisdom/culture too, or can't have wisdom/culture, but that part of their wildness means they don't always know better, and aren't culpable for what they do.

omar wrote:--- There is a period of infancy, yes, where the parent must take responsibility, but rearing a child is always going to be a risk. A balance between over-parenting and under-parenting. Letting the child learn on its own, the hard way, is sometimes the best way.
O- Nevertheless, you never as a parent put your child's life at risk. My daughter lives in an enviroment, like most children, where she can, by her own actions and choices, either burn, electrocute or poison herself. Yet, as a good parent I take away her possibility to make those choices. I have barriers that curtail the effectivity of her choices. This does not destroy the existence in her of freedom but it limits the damage that can come from her freedom.


Yes and no right? It's a delicate balance and at some point you're going to have to let your daughter cook or cross the street or go out on her own. I believe the analogy is like learning to ride a bike. Yes, run behind and hold on as they start, but at some point you must let her go and risk her fall. There's no escaping it unless you hold on forever. And that's overparenting, an evil in its own right.

omar wrote:--- Hold up. You're assuming God tests Job to "impress" the satan. Yes and no. God has faith in Job's commitment, absolutely.
O- God is omnisense- he needs no faith for what he knows and sees.


Depends what you mean by omniscent. Does God see into Job's heart and know the quality of it? Absolutely. Does God know precisely how Job will react or what will transpire? I don't think so.

omar wrote:--- The satan in its wanderings on earth has developed a low opinion of humankind, one far from God's own (that humankind is made in God's image and deserves a crown).
O- Not so fast. God, in the Bible, destroyed the world through a flood...that does not seem an affirmation that man could right himself.


Then why did God spare Noah? Why didn't God wipe us out completely so as to start from scratch? Of course God keeps faith in humankind, or affirms that man could right himself.

omar wrote:Jesus also assumes this idea, this belief, that overall, man is unrighteous, that man is undeserving, that by his own will he cannot save himself even if he could...the low opinion about mankind extends to the entire Heavenly Host.


Indeed, on the whole humankind is a let down. Hence Job's fear that God has at last let us go or fired us. But there is a difference, for example, between Eliphaz's idea that "human beings are born to trouble" and human beings, more often that not, being bad at what they were made/called to do. The latter leaves room for redeeming examples such as Noah, Job, and Jesus Christ. It is because of these that God holds on (versus letting go of us completely). It is because of these that God maintains our call to being tselem elohim. (These righteous few save the wicked many from the ash heap.)

omar wrote:--- So yes, it is to "impress" the satan. But it is not out of boastfulness that God does it.
O- Say it as you will, the wife still would find it morally repulsive that you would smack her repeadedly just so that you, the husband, to "educate", perhaps, a friend, or enemy, that you are faithful and loyal even when you have no reason to be.


Maybe. If the wife is not on board with God's work of reconciliation then yes, she would be repulsed. If not, maybe she would understand and would be happy to take it.

I guess the question is, how else is the satan's faith to be restored so as to be reconciled to humankind? How else than by the example that Job is made to set? There is no other way in this case.

omar wrote:--- I believe the book is designed to be read in two ways. The obvious way is that Job will struggle with his fear of God, or his commitment/faith or whatever you want to call it. As the satan says, "Job will curse You to Your face."
O- I think the Satanic accusation is not that Job is not fearful or loyal, but that JOb is what he is because he has been given ample reason by God to be such and such. More broadly, the case is that human obedience to God is rendered in exchange for something. The Bible is a story where God and man enter into covenants, contracts and exchanges. Man gets this or that favor and God gets mankind's loyalty. That is nothing to brag about, Satan says. But what if man was loyal even when he has no reason to be loyal? That would be impressive but it is also improbable, if not impossible.


The satan's argument is that Job's fear/obedience is out of desire for reward. Thus, if the reward is removed, so too will Job's fear be removed. That is the test. Will Job keep fearing God when there is nothing in it for him? The satan, having no faith in humankind, thinks not. Human beings are only in it for themselves.

I agree though about covenants in the Bible. It's justice that you describe. Job will be rewarded if he does what is right. That is God's will (or one of God's wills).

omar wrote:--- But there is another possibility! Job never loses faith in God at all but rather Job loses his fear of humankind, and it is this that God restores.
O- When? When he says to Eliphaz and his two friends that they have NOT spoken what is right and that Job had to bail them out? God restored his integrity before men, not his faith in these men who were obviously wrong in the whole matter.


God restores Job's sense of himself as humankind in the speeches from the whirlwind, not verse42:7 which you speak of here. God does it by, in the first speech, undermining Job's knowledge, and thus Job's resigned belief that he is destined to the ash heap. In other words, God gives Job hope in the resurrection of the dead. God also does it by, in the second speech (but in the first as well), encouraging Job to stand up in his righteousness/wisdom, like Behemoth and Leviathan, to God even.

These two basic points that God makes are a confirmation that Job is still tselem elohim. That's the short of it anyways.

omar wrote:--- The first corresponds to Job's fear of God being on the line, the second with Job's fear of humankind. i.e., believing that he
has been let go is tantamount to believing in the worthlessness of humankind, or that humankind is not to be feared. As God's speeches show, this couldn't be farther from the truth.
O- Job does not speak for the integrity of humanity but for his integrity. He knows that there are wisked humans, but he expected to be weighted different from them when put on the scales. The rewards were not due to humanity qua human, but according to their deeds and choices.


There's a difference between the integrity and worthlessness of humankind. Integrity is having been perfect. Job's record of fearing God and turning from evil is spotless. Whether humankind is worth anything, or is worth saving from the ash heap despite Job's integrity, is a whole other matter.

omar wrote:--- Job is asking "What is humankind?" and he has concluded "Not much".
O- Where does he says this? Does he say that of his own integrity, his own faithfulness and loyalty to God? Because if so then JOb would not have have the gall to request an audience with God.


He asks it in 5:17-18. "What is a human being that you watch him?..."

There are many instances of Job's answer, i.e., he repeatedly says he is weak and will soon be no more and chapter 3 is an outright cursing of his human life but perhaps the best place is 2:8 where Jobsits in the ash heap.

Why would Job sit in the garbage unless this was his opinion of himself/humankind?


I know the standard answer. 'The ash heap is indicative of lament. In doing it Job is basically telling us that he is lamenting.' That's BS. In truth it is Job's estimate of himself/humankind and the paradigmatic expression of what troubles him.

omar wrote:--- Job thinks he has been let go, that God has revoked his status/station as tselem elohim.
O- No. That God has acted unjustly, treating a friend like an enemy, for no reason, no change in the righteousness of God's friend.


I've read it your way and admit its merits. I've said from the beginning that I believe the book of Job leads us to your view. Try reading it mine. It has certain advantages. Namely, it does not deny our being tselem elohim as I believe your view does (note the disparity, versus potential equality, that you stress between humankind and God, how we can't know the greater scheme where the evil we perceive is no longer evil).

omar wrote:--- That humankind, righteous Job included, is destined to the ash heap. This is not true of course, but it is what Job believes.
O- But even if Job may agree that some humans deserve the ash heap, he disagrees that it should be the righteous like himself. He doesn't disagree with the program, but is claiming that the program has not been followed as advertised in his own case. And he is right. It was a temporary exception.


Again, then why would Job sit in the ash heap? If he didn't think he belonged there why would he go there? You have to reconcile a rather sharp discontinuity between a Job who is happy to protest in chaps3-31 and a Job who timidly resigns himself so meekly to the garbage and never gets up in verse2:8. (If what you say is true, wouldn't we expect, at the start of chap3, for Job to arise from the dung heap in his protest? If this was his point, that he does not belong there?)
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Re: Losing one's religion

Postby Bob » Wed Oct 12, 2011 3:42 pm

alyoshka wrote:… we are not to stop with this humility. No, what God really teaches in the book of Job is that we are to arise as humankind in confrontation with God, in the dispute where wisdom is received and born.

Dispute not unto death, but unto life. Where the result (wisdom) does produce silence, yes, but where the point is to speak out. (What Job is praised for is not his humble silence but his bold words like the fiery breath of Leviathan.)

So you think that confrontation with God is fruitful – that doesn't seem to be the road Jesus goes down. Paul says he was obedient to death and calls believers to be of the same mind. There is a higher wisdom there, but it isn't in confrontation with God, but in confrontation with human power, showing it to be weak in the sight of holy spirit.

I couldn't find an example of Jobs words being like the fiery breath of Leviathan but Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary says this:
41:1-34 Concerning Leviathan. - The description of the Leviathan is yet further to convince Job of his own weakness, and of God's almighty power. Whether this Leviathan be a whale or a crocodile, is disputed. The Lord, having showed Job how unable he was to deal with the Leviathan, sets forth his own power in that mighty creature. If such language describes the terrible force of Leviathan, what words can express the power of God's wrath?

Also, in Chapter 38:
1Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said,
2“Who is this that darkens counse by words without knowledge?
3“Now gird up your loins like a man, and I will ask you, and you instruct Me!


And in Chapter 40:
1Then the LORD said to Job,
2“Will the faultfinder contend with the Almighty? Let him who reproves God answer it.”
3Then Job answered the LORD and said,
4“Behold, I am insignificant; what can I reply to You? I lay my hand on my mouth.
5“Once I have spoken, and I will not answer; even twice, and I will add nothing more.”


And in Chapter 42:
Job’s Confession
1Then Job answered the LORD and said,
2“I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.
3‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’
“Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.”
4‘Hear, now, and I will speak; I will ask You, and You instruct me.’
5“I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees You;
6Therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes.”


Although I agree that Job's present and future worth are restored by consolation, and that Job is right to speak out about this in lament, according to the text wisdom is found in listening to God's instruction – that is (bluntly) to shut up and listen.

I feel that this is wise for anyone, at any time.

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Re: Losing one's religion

Postby felix dakat » Wed Oct 12, 2011 4:41 pm

alyoshka-

Your comments are interesting, but I feel that you have over-intellectualized the issue to the point of obscuring the problem of evil which was the question in the first place. I consider Job's position morally superior to God's in the story because God unjustly inflicted suffering on the innocent. Job is conscious of that fact, which is why he holds God accountable. That's a position that would take courage. When someone you love suffers or dies, you don't find it any less evil because it was the result of a natural calamity. If it is a natural calamity that is merely impersonal, than either God is culpable because he allowed it or no one is culpable because God doesn't exist and moral categories don't apply. And exactly what is the exalted wisdom did Job take away from it? "Shit happens?"

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Re: Losing one's religion

Postby alyoshka » Wed Oct 12, 2011 9:16 pm

Bob wrote:So you think that confrontation with God is fruitful – that doesn't seem to be the road Jesus goes down. Paul says he was obedient to death and calls believers to be of the same mind. There is a higher wisdom there, but it isn't in confrontation with God, but in confrontation with human power, showing it to be weak in the sight of holy spirit.


Look at the story of Abraham, and how he confronts God about God's plan to destroy Sodom. Or look at the story of Moses, and how he confronts God about God's plan to destroy Israel on account of the gold calf.

Here are two fruitful confrontations with God.

And what about Jacob, when he wrestled with God all night, and the fruit was reconciliation with Esau?

We are called to stand up to God. If we didn't, we wouldn't be very good images of God now would we?

But you are right: obedient unto death as well. As I've said from the beginning, this confrontation happens within the space of an unyielding fear of God. Or within the context of a recognition of God's greatness and our humility/subdual before God.

Look at Abraham's words, for instance, as he confronts God in the scene mentioned: "Can I, who am but dust and ashes, have a word with the Almighty?"

The answer is YES! Abraham CAN confront God and live.

But the humility/subdual is there too. It is the beginning. (Fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.)

Bob wrote:I couldn't find an example of Jobs words being like the fiery breath of Leviathan


No passage. It's a matter of connecting Job's bold/fiery words from chaps3-31 and the statement made of Leviathan's fiery breath in chap41. The point is that Job is being compared to Behemoth and Leviathan, not to make Job feel small before them but to make him feel grand because likened to them. Because as perfect humankind Job is a sight to see. Like Behemoth and Leviathan he cannot be subdued (just as the friends failed to subdue him).

This 'boisterousness' is a good thing! It is what Job is praised for in 42:7 (not for his silence). Note: When God says Job spoke truly of God in 42:7 the true meaning is that Job spoke truly against God, just as the rivers of the Jordan raged against Behemoth... The friends were false because they did not rage against God like Job did (in the confrontation where wisdom is received/born.)

Bob wrote:Although I agree that Job's present and future worth are restored by consolation, and that Job is right to speak out about this in lament, according to the text wisdom is found in listening to God's instruction – that is (bluntly) to shut up and listen.

I feel that this is wise for anyone, at any time.


Yes, fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. But what is it that Job says precisely? "I had heard you by the ear, but now I see you."

Job is no longer hearing about God through a mediator but sees God himself. He has shown his quality or e-quality to God. His capacity to confront God and to live. It's not a matter of having listened, but of having at last seen.

Be careful with the final verse 42:6. Although it's everywhere translated "Therefore I retract, and repent in dust and ashes." no interpreter/translator seems satisfied with this rendition.

I would say a better rendering is "Therefore I dissolve, and am consoled about dust and ashes." Or something like that. A rendering with a whole other flavour, less humble and subdued and more consoled, which is what we are led to believe all along is what the book is about, i.e., Job's being consoled.
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Re: Losing one's religion

Postby alyoshka » Wed Oct 12, 2011 10:11 pm

felix dakat wrote:Your comments are interesting, but I feel that you have over-intellectualized the issue to the point of obscuring the problem of evil which was the question in the first place.


Never meant to obscure the POE. Rather, I meant to show that there are many valid responses to it. Many deep issues that it raises. About God's justice. About our status/station as humankind. About the world that God has made.

All of these responses are lament-worthy and could call for consolation. They are all possible responses to the POE, or problems that may arise because of it and give the POE a concrete expression in our lives.

In other words, the problem is never just the POE, rather it is these 'sub' problems that arise from it. That God is unjust. That humankind is trash. That the world is to be rejected.

Maybe there is a broader POE and response to it (versus a number of sub-problems and responses to those sub-problems). I don't know. My experience however is that the POE always becomes something else. No longer evil but God that is the problem. Or humankind. Or the world.
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Re: Losing one's religion

Postby felix dakat » Thu Oct 13, 2011 3:02 am

alyoshka wrote:
felix dakat wrote:Your comments are interesting, but I feel that you have over-intellectualized the issue to the point of obscuring the problem of evil which was the question in the first place.


Never meant to obscure the POE. Rather, I meant to show that there are many valid responses to it. Many deep issues that it raises. About God's justice. About our status/station as humankind. About the world that God has made.

All of these responses are lament-worthy and could call for consolation. They are all possible responses to the POE, or problems that may arise because of it and give the POE a concrete expression in our lives.

In other words, the problem is never just the POE, rather it is these 'sub' problems that arise from it. That God is unjust. That humankind is trash. That the world is to be rejected.

Maybe there is a broader POE and response to it (versus a number of sub-problems and responses to those sub-problems). I don't know. My experience however is that the POE always becomes something else. No longer evil but God that is the problem. Or humankind. Or the world.


Whenever I referred to the problem of evil above I always meant the question of how to explain evil if there exists a deity that is omnibenevolent, omnipotent, and omniscient.

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Re: Losing one's religion

Postby Bob » Thu Oct 13, 2011 8:44 am

Hi alyoshka,
Look at the story of Abraham, and how he confronts God about God's plan to destroy Sodom. Or look at the story of Moses, and how he confronts God about God's plan to destroy Israel on account of the gold calf.

Here are two fruitful confrontations with God.

And what about Jacob, when he wrestled with God all night, and the fruit was reconciliation with Esau?

We are called to stand up to God. If we didn't, we wouldn't be very good images of God now would we?

I would distinguish between the examples you have given, which is also why we have so many examples in scripture. Abraham's language is fitting to the way the story is introduced, Chapter 18: “17 And JHVH said, Shall I hide from Abraham that which I do;  18 seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?” Here it is clear that Abraham (and all physical and spiritual children) is being prepared as a blessing for the earth.

22 And the men turned from thence, and went toward Sodom: but Abraham stood yet before Jehovah.
  23 And Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou consume the righteous with the wicked?  24 Peradventure there are fifty righteous within the city: wilt thou consume and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein?  25 That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked, that so the righteous should be as the wicked; that be far from thee: shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?


The right to stand before God doesn't automatically mean that he will be successful in his petition, and I don't think that Abraham is “confronting” God, as much as he is asking to learn: Can it be that God would do this and that, and because God is schooling his servant, he goes along with it. This is one attribute of JHVH which Joseph Campbell said was the “trickster” in God. It is for the good of Abraham and finally of the world that we comprehend reality and accept that life is change and suffering, but that we can find a way through it.

Moses does wield the sword against those he had freed, and some say that it was a whole new generation that finally occupied Canaan. The whole story of JHVH is full of this kind of stunning cruelty against those who misbehave, and it is finally a reason for many to turn away from Theism. The only answer, and it is in my view the answer, is to understand that these stories are archetypal myths for us to learn by. If we would take it literally, we would become schizo. But if we understand that life does confront us with situations which we would like to avoid, the ability to stand in the face of disaster and seek a path onwards is practical wisdom and the wailing of widows can only serve the ritual separation from the past.

Jacob is a prime example of this principle. He is scared to death and he is convinced that his brother will destroy him. In the night, he struggles [jihad] with the Angel and will not let go, and receives the new name and a dislocated hip which will remind him of that struggle for the rest of his life. But he is able to approach his brother and all turns out good. This struggle is typical for many situations in life and we have to accept that such struggles change us. We tend to want everything to go on as before, but life changes us and that is what the story is teaching us.

Yes, fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. But what is it that Job says precisely? "I had heard you by the ear, but now I see you."

Job is no longer hearing about God through a mediator but sees God himself. He has shown his quality or e-quality to God. His capacity to confront God and to live. It's not a matter of having listened, but of having at last seen.

Be careful with the final verse 42:6. Although it's everywhere translated "Therefore I retract, and repent in dust and ashes." no interpreter/translator seems satisfied with this rendition.

I would say a better rendering is "Therefore I dissolve, and am consoled about dust and ashes." Or something like that. A rendering with a whole other flavour, less humble and subdued and more consoled, which is what we are led to believe all along is what the book is about, i.e., Job's being consoled.

It is of utmost importance for us to understand reality and not to cling to illusions, only in that way will we be able to move on – and that is what this story would have us do. Many have said, “But what about the children who died!” However, the story is straightforward here: “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.” Be thankful for what you had, but don't cling to that. Move on. That is a lesson which millions of bereaved people cannot accept and they become unable to live on in a wholesome way. Life tells us that our children are gifts, but not possessions.

Take Care
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Re: Losing one's religion

Postby omar » Thu Oct 13, 2011 5:48 pm

Hello Aly,
Sorry I didn't get back to this earlier but I see you've have had good company.

--- Justice isn't an instigating act or will, hence why I see 'wills' in God that are prior to or that have nothing to do with justice. Justice comes after, when the righteous are rewarded and the wicked are punished. That is justice, or is what I would call justice. But as such justice can only be willed, or God's will can only be called 'just', when it deals out these retributions. Justice is a response to a human will that is itself a response to a more prior divine will.
O- The key factor is the fuzzy meaning of "after". Because of this, you place a time of your choosing to judge God's actions as either just or not. But again the time of retribution can be anytime. (As I said before, "Justice is in the eye of the beholder"). The Bible recounts in many places how the people would suffer but kept their faith God who they believe would eventually rewarded as accorded and deserved.

By the principle of retributive justice, God was just to do as he did to Job. As Job says: The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Even his life is not of his own merit. But retributive principles also dictates that one sticks to their end of a contract. Job is part of the people of the covenant and as such, entitled to the expectation of justice from God when he acted in a righteous way (righteous in accordance with the giver of the covenant). But he also knows that this covenant has only the merit or right that God entitles it it to have, so that quite frankly he is as entitled to expect God to keep His end of the contract or that God may rip the contract all to hell. As you said, God may simply "fire" mankind and have nothing to do with it. That is His prerrogative, His right, since He gave it and He can also take away.

With this in mind Job curses the day of his birth, his life, for he is left almost to the point that he believes he has no recourse. Job is between two opinions within himself. If God has withdrawn His covenant (and given the "rewards" he has received for his good works, Job is entitled to this belief) then this painful life gives us no recourse and it would be better, if you object to it's sufferings, not to be born at all. But he also believes that a mistake has been made, that he can plead his case with God and either demonstrate his innocense or be shown how he has come to deserve his sufferings. The second is the dominant mentality of a believer, while the first can only lead to agnosticism.

When God does confront him, Job has no case to make for himself, even though he is invited because if he had a case, if he could justify himself that would still leave him with no recourse, with no contract or with a contract giver that may or may not uphold his end, which is just the same. Here is how God puts it: "Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself?" What would his victory serve him for when he cannot save himself. It is the Darth Vader argument: When Lando Carlisian objects that taking the princess with him was not part of the deal, Vader turns to him and asks Lando that "perhaps you think you're being treated unfairly?" Lando says no of course, because he is not in a position to bargain. And at the end that is how Job resolved the issue, by despising himself, humbling himself and Praising God.

But mark this well- This is not an answer to the question but it's deferral. As you say "it can only be called just...", so Job decides not to call it unjust even if he feels it. That said, let's look outside of Job- how many die in expectation of deliverance? Job, an innocent righteous man was rewarded. But what about those who were not? Those who died brutalized in the expectation that God would be just?

--- Thus in the case of Job, in God's testing of Job, there is something other than 'justice' going on. (In fact, it is precisely justice that is temporarily revoked.)
O- I agree. Even God laments that Satan "incited me against him to ruin him without any reason", that is to say without any justice.

--- But What is God's will here? My suggestion is that God is trying to reconcile the satan and humankind. God is not willing justice but reconciliation. The satan, in wandering the earth, has lost faith in humankind. God is trying to bring them back together again. To create a connection, just as you said Job receives in the end with God.
O- Hmmm....Perhaps it isn't that God is trying to get Satan to have faith in mankind as a whole, for even God does not, but to stop using man as a justification, perhaps, for himself, because if Satan is right, then are we really better than him, a rebel at heart? I think that the conversation between them might have been about Satan's refusal to obey, his open rebellion against God. Think of Genesis; there Satan does nothing but speak the truth. It causes man to rebel, as it pursues it's own self-interest. In order to gain the power of eternal life man disobeys even the prohibitions set by God. In Job's case something similar. Satan again speaks the truth. The difference is that Job was wise enough to stop loving himself above God at the right time, ultimately for the same reason however, the maintenance of at least a measure of control.

--- So if a tsunami wipes out an island of people it is not evil per se, but only evil because this is how human beings perceive it?
O- No. If it wiped 50 villages, some with children, then it would be an evil. My point is that tsunamis, earthquakes and hurricanes have been a part of earth's history even before man made his entrance. But it is only after man that now these phenomenons have achieved a moral gravity. And it is not how it benefits or threatens just anybody, but how it affects the innocent. If an earthquake destroyed a maximum security prision, reserved only for those on death row, people would call that Divine Justice. When Abraham is bartening with God about those cities, his issue is not with the destruction of a city filled with humans, but a city that may have had some innocent human beings. Once God takes care to evacuate the innocent, Abraham has no further comments on the destruction of the cities.

--- That in truth, there is a grander scheme that could justify it all? You say this yet you go on to challenge my view of the anthropological origin of evil by calling upon the evil caused by natural disaster, which you just said isn't evil.
O- I said that evil is a POV provided by intelligent minds that are necessary to make the distinction. Maybe His ways are not our ways, His Justice completely different from our idea of justice, but if so then there is no covenant between God and His People and no communication possible. What then is left for a man like Job in his hour of suffering? Nothing. But Job believes that God has made a covenant with man and that it rest on an agreement about what righteousness is. God in the prologue calls Job "righteous" and throughout the dialogue with his friends Job defends his integrity, his innocent, his righteousness as he tries to convince them that his sufferings are all undeserved, unjust, not just according to him or his friends ideas, but even God's ideas, which were in place in their covenant with God.

--- In regards to whether natural disasters cause evil I would say that they do not. Rather, the suffering they result in is part and parcel to a wild creation. We are told point blank that it is a wild world that must be subdued. That means danger lurks around every corner. There are seas that rise up and an earth that shakes. Also animals that bite.
O- But also we are told how those of God are inmune to the venom of the snake. Why go through this little exception for one and not others?

--- It's not evil when a lion eats a lamb or when a tsunami wipes out an island. There can be terrible unfortunate events in nature that may cause us to question God but they are not indicative of evil. Rather of wildness.
O- A wildness by design, wouldn't you say? After all isn't God the Intelligent Designer of this wild earth? Death is is an unfortunate, but natural event, and yet it is from this that we seek, and supposedly have been granted salvation from. Death itself may not be indicative of outright evil, but resurrection is indicative of it's very opposite. That in itself is an injunction against that which is natural, even by God.

What is the difference? What makes human killing evil? I would say because in our being cultured we know better. Knowledge of good and evil and the power to discern between them are important qualities for human beings.
O- But you wouldn't say the same about God?

--- Yes and no right? It's a delicate balance and at some point you're going to have to let your daughter cook or cross the street or go out on her own. I believe the analogy is like learning to ride a bike. Yes, run behind and hold on as they start, but at some point you must let her go and risk her fall. There's no escaping it unless you hold on forever. And that's overparenting, an evil in its own right.
O- I don't think, my point is, that Adam and Eve were not there yet. I don't liken them to adults but to babies. If I let my daughter eventually to handle fire, electrical appliances and cleaning supplies, it will be because she knows good and bad, right and wrong ways of doing things. But A&E by definition did not know of any of this.

--- Depends what you mean by omniscent. Does God see into Job's heart and know the quality of it? Absolutely. Does God know precisely how Job will react or what will transpire? I don't think so.
O- Fair enough.

--- Then why did God spare Noah? Why didn't God wipe us out completely so as to start from scratch? Of course God keeps faith in humankind, or affirms that man could right himself.
O- In this man, Noah, or that other man Job, but God says of mankind as a whole after He destroys the world by the flood: "Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood.

--- Maybe. If the wife is not on board with God's work of reconciliation then yes, she would be repulsed. If not, maybe she would understand and would be happy to take it.
O- Why would she be happy? Only if it seem like a reasonable cause of her sufferings; she would think of it, for the sake of a noble reconciliation, as justified. Thus we leave now the realm of the POE and just have an act of justice.

--- I guess the question is, how else is the satan's faith to be restored so as to be reconciled to humankind? How else than by the example that Job is made to set? There is no other way in this case.
O- If that is even the goal. Nothing is said for example, at the end, as to what effect this whole exhibition has had on Satan.

--- I've read it your way and admit its merits. I've said from the beginning that I believe the book of Job leads us to your view. Try reading it mine. It has certain advantages. Namely, it does not deny our being tselem elohim as I believe your view does (note the disparity, versus potential equality, that you stress between humankind and God, how we can't know the greater scheme where the evil we perceive is no longer evil).
O- I have tried throughout to find common ground...I wouldn't be a good reader if I didn't do that. But one cannot go from a desired condition or consequenced, to determining it's merits. It may lead to gerrymandering, retracing boundaries and definitions until they fit our goal. So, I know the benefits of your view, but they are only actual benefits if the fall in accordance with everything else.

--- Again, then why would Job sit in the ash heap? If he didn't think he belonged there why would he go there? You have to reconcile a rather sharp discontinuity between a Job who is happy to protest in chaps3-31 and a Job who timidly resigns himself so meekly to the garbage and never gets up in verse2:8. (If what you say is true, wouldn't we expect, at the start of chap3, for Job to arise from the dung heap in his protest? If this was his point, that he does not belong there?)
O- If leprosy was his infirmity maybe it had nothing to do whatsoever with what he thought of himself or about mankind fundamentally. I doubt that he sat in a dunghill, first of all because that would go beyond the Law of God. Humiliating oneself before God would not be a strech, but this was done through fasting, shaving one's beard etc, not sitting on shit. Ancient settlements would have had pyres to discard trash. I wouldn't doubt that lepers were pushed to the outskirts of society and that like the homeless today, they would have had to scavenge for their substinence. Near by, I am sure, Job could have found ashes. Sitting on them naked might have had a symbolic value, humiliating himself before God (42:6), but also medicinal (2:8) to stop bleeding that he might have induced by picking at his scabs with a piece of shard. Job initially lies in ashes but out of the belief that this would have had a certain effect, ie aliviate his suffering. He performed the rite, though like Paul when he repented publicly, he did not believe that he was guilty. He performed the rite out of perfunctory concerns so that no stone was left unturned. But this is early in the dialogue, and I think that as his ordeal went on, only then did he gather the convinction that this was wrong of God to do to him.
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Re: Losing one's religion

Postby alyoshka » Thu Oct 13, 2011 10:05 pm

felix dakat wrote:Whenever I referred to the problem of evil above I always meant the question of how to explain evil if there exists a deity that is omnibenevolent, omnipotent, and omniscient.


Fair enough. But the problem of evil is a problem. One way out is to find a satisfactory explanation that lets the troubled one uphold the existence of evil and God. Another 'way out' is to deal with the many subproblems that may arise, e.g., that God is unjust, should that be the troubled one's conculsion.
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Re: Losing one's religion

Postby alyoshka » Fri Oct 14, 2011 7:28 pm

Bob wrote:The right to stand before God doesn't automatically mean that he will be successful in his petition


Hi Bob,

Without getting into the details of each particular case (Job, Abraham, Jacob, Moses,...) I wonder if we step back a minute if we can determine what it is, if anything, that you have against my view.

So leaving the book of Job and all of these other texts aside, do you think there is something inherently wrong with my belief that human beings are made and called to Godlikeness? Granted, this idea has been twisted, for example, into justifications for exploiting nature, among other things, but if we understand how God rules is it wrong to think that we are made and called to take up that rule? To be God's representatives on earth with the full wisdom and power of God?

That's my basic faith, and it's a faith that I believe is expressed from the very beginning (Genesis 1) to the very end (Jesus, who as a human being does impossible things and calls us to perform even greater deeds).

I also believe it would be a serious blow to a human being who earnestly believes this to suddenly have, or feel like, this belief has been undermined. That the call to fulfill this role has been revoked.

This is why I've been talking about this in a post about "Losing one's religion", primarily because I see the undermining of our status/station as humankind as a serious religious loss. One that doesn't register often enough on our religious radars even though it is a constant theme, I think anyways, in the Bible, and in the book of Job especially.

So anyways, this is more of a point blank question on human Godlikeness, that we are made and called to image God or to be like God. Do you agree? Do you accept that this is, or should be, a fundamental part of the Judeo-Christian faith?

Once we've established this common ground then we can talk about what it means to be like God.

Does it mean confronting God when we perceive injustice, that we are called to stand up to God even? What kind of rule does it entail? Something like a democracy or more like a benevolent dictatorship?

It will also raise the question of the disparity between humankind and God. Or how that disparity is to be characterized. Is it one where God's wisdom is inaccessible to ours, as I believe you (or at least others on this site) have suggested? Or is it more of an ontological disparity, such that God is God and we are only ever God's image? If the latter, which I would suggest, is there any wisdom or power that is beyond our grasp? As mentioned already, the example of Jesus seems to suggest not. While he is the son (or image?) the wisdom and power he holds is the same as the father's.

Bob wrote:It is of utmost importance for us to understand reality and not to cling to illusions, only in that way will we be able to move on – and that is what this story would have us do. Many have said, “But what about the children who died!” However, the story is straightforward here: “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.” Be thankful for what you had, but don't cling to that. Move on. That is a lesson which millions of bereaved people cannot accept and they become unable to live on in a wholesome way. Life tells us that our children are gifts, but not possessions.


I agree with you that our children are gifts and not possessions. That we must not cling to the gifts in our lives as though they were possessions but, rather, once the gifts are called back we must deliver them up (as Abraham delivered up Isaac) so that they remain gifts. (Or so that they keep the 'grace economy' running.)

But I don't think this is the teaching of the book of Job. This is perhaps what Job clings to in the beginning, or is what allows him to keep faith in God when his children and wealth are taken away (indeed, he declares as much as you note), but I certainly do not see this consoling Job in the end. Job knows this from the beginning. Thus it seems likely that he requires something else for consolation in the end (i.e., a confirmation of his status/station as humankind).

Also, I would argue that Job receives his children back in the end and that they are more beautiful as well. Job does not have to 'move on' but rather he is fully restored and then some. The book teaches resurrection of the dead, of Job and of Job's children. (It is notable that the LXX adds a final line to the text after Job's death: "And Job experienced the resurrection of the dead," or something to that effect. But indeed, that the children are resurrected is not something I can easily prove.)
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Re: Losing one's religion

Postby Bob » Fri Oct 14, 2011 10:15 pm

Hi Bob,

Without getting into the details of each particular case (Job, Abraham, Jacob, Moses,...) I wonder if we step back a minute if we can determine what it is, if anything, that you have against my view.

So leaving the book of Job and all of these other texts aside, do you think there is something inherently wrong with my belief that human beings are made and called to Godlikeness? Granted, this idea has been twisted, for example, into justifications for exploiting nature, among other things, but if we understand how God rules is it wrong to think that we are made and called to take up that rule? To be God's representatives on earth with the full wisdom and power of God?


I think you will find that my basic stance is that we are called to know what IS, nothing more first of all, but that. It is about the Isness of experienced life and “God” is the ineffable aspect which surrounds and works through us (“For in him we live, and move, and have our being”). This is in my view the mystery behind all theistic religion. Job is a classic attempt to deal with basic questions of life, although there have been a number of editors working on the story, keeping it fresh and giving it more and more depth. The Book-Religions are primarily spiritual literature evolved out of verbal traditions and gathered in a way that a timeless story takes us through a number of spiritual experiences by which we come to be aware of what IS.

That is basically the “godlikeness” of humanity, but the clothing we give our gods is human. We are continually anthropomorphising phenomenon, whether its the behaviour of animals or the mysteries of nature, we assume intent in what we perceive as being “done to us” rather than understand that things happen, and that we can even work out the chances that they will happen. I remain by my stance that whatever challenges or breaks down our natural trust in life is “evil”, not whether children suffer or only adults, or even only men, or whether ten or ten thousand people suffer. It is what these things do to our basic and necessary faith in life, whether we are encouraged or disparaged by what we experience.

Whether there is another aspect to our awareness, that is something I'm not sure about. Some hope that our awareness will carry on after our body has perished, but we seem to be very much our bodies. There is a chance that our awareness or our soul/spirit isn't in our cells but elsewhere – but where is proof of that? Our prime task is to understand what IS and to live NOW. That stands contrary to what you have written it seems.

I also believe it would be a serious blow to a human being who earnestly believes this to suddenly have, or feel like, this belief has been undermined. That the call to fulfill this role has been revoked.

This is why I've been talking about this in a post about "Losing one's religion", primarily because I see the undermining of our status/station as humankind as a serious religious loss. One that doesn't register often enough on our religious radars even though it is a constant theme, I think anyways, in the Bible, and in the book of Job especially.

So anyways, this is more of a point blank question on human Godlikeness, that we are made and called to image God or to be like God. Do you agree? Do you accept that this is, or should be, a fundamental part of the Judeo-Christian faith?

I think we spend too much time worrying about our status without knowing basic issues like, who am I really? What is this “I” that I throw about and am so proud of? Is it more than a grammatical necessity? To what degree am I only a part of what is happening? These are old issues, I agree, but issues that haven't really been cleared up. Western society seems in a hurry to get past them and move on to more important things which will please our ideas of individuality and grandeur, but we are trailing a tail of unsolved questions behind us over which we are continually stumbling, because our movements are necessarily spiral movements.

In so much as we can overcome the endless thoughts and our mediocrity, we could become aware that the Ineffable is indeed in what we live, and move, and have our being, and come to appreciate the nature of life as this planet, since that is what we are collectively. As such, we are all “God” disguised as single human beings, playing a game called existence. There is a lot of promise in this life, if we could overcome our preoccupations which are slowly taking the floor out from under our feet, destroying the shield in the stratosphere, and polluting the air and water we live off of. We seem to be struggling for survival, which means in a hierarchy of needs, that we are far removed from self-actualisation at present. However, awareness, waking up to reality, seems to be necessary in that situation and might even bring the quantum-leap with it.

Does it mean confronting God when we perceive injustice, that we are called to stand up to God even? What kind of rule does it entail? Something like a democracy or more like a benevolent dictatorship?

It will also raise the question of the disparity between humankind and God. Or how that disparity is to be characterized. Is it one where God's wisdom is inaccessible to ours, as I believe you (or at least others on this site) have suggested? Or is it more of an ontological disparity, such that God is God and we are only ever God's image? If the latter, which I would suggest, is there any wisdom or power that is beyond our grasp? As mentioned already, the example of Jesus seems to suggest not. While he is the son (or image?) the wisdom and power he holds is the same as the father's.

I think that life does provide a basic law, basically the golden rule, and on that one can build the basic eight or ten commandments which ensure a collective existence. It is essentially the way it is. Without this basic law, there is no collective existence but only survival of the fittest. I have often spoken out in my “chamber experience” against the fact that it doesn't always work out, but I have almost always found myself confronted with the role I myself play in the situation I am bemoaning. So I think it is important to have an address where we can bring these petitions, but I have to be aware that it may be thrown back at me.

I agree with you that our children are gifts and not possessions. That we must not cling to the gifts in our lives as though they were possessions but, rather, once the gifts are called back we must deliver them up (as Abraham delivered up Isaac) so that they remain gifts. (Or so that they keep the 'grace economy' running.)

But I don't think this is the teaching of the book of Job. This is perhaps what Job clings to in the beginning, or is what allows him to keep faith in God when his children and wealth are taken away (indeed, he declares as much as you note), but I certainly do not see this consoling Job in the end. Job knows this from the beginning. Thus it seems likely that he requires something else for consolation in the end (i.e., a confirmation of his status/station as humankind).

I think that you are projecting something onto the story which may have substance, but I can't see it at present. If the rule with our children or other relatives is the way we have described, then it is so in all stories, if they are to be true to life. Also, even if Job would have more children, the first are still taken from him. There is no magic here performing the reappearance of our favourite watch, believed to have been smashed but the magician. Those who are gone are gone forever – Job knew that and celebrated his new children, but the shadow of those lost still remains.

"So the LORD blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning: for he had fourteen thousand sheep, and six thousand camels, and a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand she asses.
He had also seven sons and three daughters (he previously had seven sons and three daughters)
And he called the name of the first, Jemima; and the name of the second, Kezia; and the name of the third, Keren–happuch.
And in all the land were no women found so fair as the daughters of Job: and their father gave them inheritance among their brethren.”

Take care
The only wisdom we can hope to acquire
Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless.
TS Eliot
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Re: Losing one's religion

Postby alyoshka » Fri Oct 14, 2011 11:25 pm

Thanks for the detailed response Omar. Let me pick up on a few crucial themes.

Justice.

I agree with you that "the time of retribution can be anytime." My points about justice were 1) that it is purely retribution, that is, justice is the moment when the righteous (at last) receive their reward and the wicked their punishment. And more importantly 2) that justice is not the end-all and be-all of God's will.

When I say justice "comes after" my intention is not to pin it down but to simply say that it is retributive, where the 're' implies an afterward-ness. Justice may come at anytime as you point out, but it must come after the good or bad deed has been committed. (As I tried to put it, justice is always a response to a human response to God's original call.)

I think a better term for God's will, or the end-all and be-all of God's will, would be grace, or love, or something like that. Such a will can employ justice but it can also revoke or withhold it (primarily in the case of forgiveness and patience). I also very much like the term wisdom. Indeed, wisdom is with God from the beginning. She is the first of God's ways..

Satan/the satan.

I think the scene between the satan and God is critical to understanding the book of Job, and that it is also open to vast interpretation. I also think it is easy to bring our preconceptions to the table, as you may do in your reading, and that these might mislead us. For instance, you seem to suggest without any real textual support that the satan is "a rebel at heart," or that it is already engaged in a rebellion against God. I think such a move conflates the satan with Satan, and that this is a dangerous move given how it impacts everything else.

In fact, most commentators say that the satan here is a faithful servant of God. A divine functionary and not a rebel at all. I would be more inclined to this reading than to yours given how God responds to the satan and how the satan responds to God. (We can tell that the satan is bitter, but the bitterness is not directed against God. And God can almost be read as tender toward the satan. As trying to console... "Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him on earth! A good man, righteous and true...", i.e., "Take heart in his example...")

Natural 'evil'.

I get your view now. It is not that evil is only in our perception, as I first construed it, but that evil can only be recognized once there is human perception. Is that correct? I still don't think there is natural evil though. A lion eating a lamb isn't evil, it's simply being a lion. Same with the sea wiping out a village of innocents. It's just being the sea.

Now if we define evil as suffering of innocents, pure and simple, then yes, there would be evil in these instances. But I'm hesitant to make that identification. I feel that evil isn't just the fruit, like the suffering of innocents, but that it comes from an evil heart, you know?

Wildness.

I often wonder why this term doesn't have a stronger presence in theology. All the talk is about freedom, yet the Biblical view is not that we are created free but that we are wild, and that we are to be subdued or cultured in our wildness (not oppressed, although it quickly becomes this in a fallen world). What is more, it is human beings who are tasked with the work of subdual.

Is the world wild by design? I don't think so. In Genesis 1 God never says "let there be water" but rather the water is already there from the beginning. In other words, it is not creatio ex nihilo but rather God started with elements that were already there and that are wild. (Something akin to the chaos monster of other creation myths.)

God's first words are words of subdual. They subdue what is there and harness the power of what is there to create. What is created is wild, yes, but not in virtue of its design but because of what it comes from, the material that it is made of (dust and water I would say). God's words of subdual create a garden, or a cultured/cultivated space in the wilderness. They also create new creatures in that domain which can quickly fall back into wildness (plants, animals, human beings even). The ongoing work of humankind is to expand that garden space. To subdue everything that God created but that is or can always fall back into wildness.

This raises your point about how righteous ones are to be immune to the wildness of creation, e.g., to the venom of the snake. How so? It all comes down to our power to subdue, our potential to speak the word that tames, and that in taming brings creation under or into our control. The sea will part or calm itself at our command. The earth will rise up and protect us when we ask it to. Just as that originally wild, not creation but substratum (?) responded to God's word and empowered it.

Now, there is an important difference. That is, it's not the innocent per se that are immune, but the wise. The ones who speak words of righteousness and can subdue. The innocent, while innocent, may not have what it takes to subdue the serpent or the sea.

Problem of Evil.

What does all of this have to do with the POE?

It's a wild world by nature, not by design. God is working within this context and so are we. It takes wisdom to subdue the wildness, to tame it, and human beings were made and called to do this work. But we also, instead of subduing, oppress. We have turned on the world and we have turned the world against us. We have turned on each other. We have turned on God. We have not just reverted back to wildness but we have become evil. With evil hearts committing evil deeds.

Can God subdue it? Can God get it back under control and back on course? God's word has always been there, from the beginning. It seems to me that the onus is on us to empower it, to take the power away from evil purposes and return it to where it was always meant to be.

It seems to me that it has always been on us. We can't blame God or wait for God to fix our messes. That's not the way it works.

Anyways, just some thoughts for what they're worth!
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Re: Losing one's religion

Postby omar » Sat Oct 15, 2011 3:00 pm

Hello Aly,

Justice

Justice cannot be a simple moment when someone is given his or her due, what they deserve. Absent of that moment, the idea of what is just remains, even if never fulfilled. The Good, Plato may have said, is not realizable here on earth but it doesn't have to be for it is as idea that it perdures.
As an idea, justice is in every action of our will. As Socrates may have said, we do what we think (idea) is just. We do what is right. So justice can and does permeate every movement of a being. You may not see it as justice because I think you are moving into a strictly judicial process model. But that should not be the definition we use. God is much broader and so should the ideas we associate.

Justice need not come only after a deed has been committed (an eye for an eye...) for as Jesus taught, it could be everything we will (do onto others...) which would require your thoughts into everything you do and even how you think. In Jesus view, even thought becomes a deed, so when are we not under judgment? When are we free from the idea of justice?

As for Grace, I must admit that I myself thought of editing my last response to talk about it. Here is what I would say. Grace is of God. Grace is a Gift. Nothing in us earned us God's favor. It was His Grace. And if a man lacks this blessing, God's Grace, you could say that he is cursed. Grace is the good in itself. So too should we see the suffering of innocents as an unconditional evil- if I cannot justify why something bad is happening to me then it is not just something bad (like falling off a bike), but something evil, for we do not know why or why not, for it strikes us indiscriminately.

Satan/the satan.

You say that my "rebel at heart" description of Satan lacks textual support. That is fine. It was just a characterization of Satan, or how I think the Bible presents Satan. In the OT his role is more passive. You might even say that he is a lackey of God, an angel who nonetheless has a very strange role as an accusser. But as we roll along to the NT Satan does take on a role much more indenpendent of God. Long gone are the little chats between the two. Now you have a comming war between the forces of Satan and the forces of Jesus. But from Genesis to Apocalypse, what I see is a being that stumps the plans by God. He temps, successfully, Adam and Eve; he challenges, and some might say with reason, the distinction of righteousness as something other than vulgar self preservation; and in an epic conflagaration we find him as the adversary of God, not just the accusser of man.
This is how I see it, but I think that I have better scriptural support to draw this characterization than you do in drawing the duality "satan/Satan". And we already discussed this before for your thesis.

Natural 'evil'.

I understand how you, that there should be a connection between evil and a human heart behind it....but is it really that different? Suppose a man that takes a baby and smashes his skull against a wall because the baby is a jew...now would be a deed beyond justification. Nothing that man could say could justify his deed. It is a deed that comes from a heart that is hardened against the image of God in the child, the child's spirit and most importantly, the child's innocence. Now we look at Afrika and that starving child sucking on a dried tit. We could say that the lack of rain is not evil in itself and that it is just a weather pattern consistent with the region and the time of year, or even greater cycles. Maybe we are simply going through a periodic 50 year dry spell in a 200 year cycle. If God could do nothing about then there is no evil, and God is just impotent. But if God is capable of changing even this pattern and does not then he is responsible for that child's suffering. That is the argument in it's purest form. Able but unwilling, or unable and willing. Weak or Callous, take your pick, but neither one is usually accepted and so the POE.

Wildness.

I agree with your characterization of creation as something that perhaps contained properties not created by God, and that it is something meant to be subdued. For a time I thought that this could explain Satan as a virtual emanation from that wild material, pure brio, pure wildness. But the more I studied the Bible what I saw is Satan as a materialists, as a sophist, using reason against itself, bringing up the contradiction of the world...Satan speaks about what is in fact the case. God speaks of what is available only through faith.
While it is attractive to speak of subduing something in us, like Paul, I have come to the belief that this was never meant for us and that we treathen our health if we try to subjugate that other part of us, that natural brio. That if you lose it you live a life in shadows, in grey hues rather than in the full spectrum of the raimbow.
Plato asked once who was better: A man who could do no wrong or the man who could. I think that God would have agreed...otherwise why use clay at all? Why a race of men instead of a race of angels? Something is in us that is wild, but it should be tempered by reason, yet not eliminated compleately by it.
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Re: Losing one's religion

Postby alyoshka » Sat Oct 15, 2011 4:36 pm

Bob wrote:I think you will find that my basic stance is that we are called to know what IS, nothing more first of all, but that.


Do you mean by this that it is our mission to discern what is lasting or stable in life? Like the Greek sages who postulated water, fire, etc, as this enduring substratum? And that in discerning what 'IS' we will have established a basic connection or trust in life, or in what matters, the breaking down of which is evil or is caused by evil?

Or do you mean something more along the lines that what IS is constantly changing, and that as human beings our responsibility is to stay on top of this, and to be aware of what IS at any time so that we can live properly (or informed) in the NOW?

Neither (if either approximate your position) would be contrary to what I say, I don't think. While I would say that we are more than just metaphysical speculators or discerners (whether of what is enduring or what is changing) I do think that awareness is important. We need to be informed. We need to understand what we are dealing with if we are to make wise decisions. We need to realize the damage some of our less informed actions are causing.

There's also a crucial gap between understanding what IS and living NOW. How do you negotiate this difference? Or how do you move from one to the other? Answering this may allow us to come to a method of decision-making or rule, which would then bring us closer to the idea that I'm expressing where we are called to stand up to God in the confrontation where wisdom is born/received, where the whole of creation is called to arise in response to the call, and to empower the rule of wisdom.

Bob wrote:I think we spend too much time worrying about our status without knowing basic issues like, who am I really?


That's interesting. I must say that I'm not speaking out of a desire to feed my ego, at least not wholly. I certainly don't want to preach a reckless self-aggrandizement or human-aggrandizement.

I also think that a crucial part of the question "Who are we?" is vocational, i.e., the question involves the question/s "What is our status/station?" They are not separable, or answerable, individually. We can't steam ahead to the latter and ignore the former for to answer the latter is to answer the former (or perhaps it is a spiral as you suggest).

Now, I'm not saying you aren't making a valid critique. But rather I wonder if your critique applies to me. In regards to the confusion I would take full blame, for I often speak of our human status. But what I really mean when I say this is vocation, or even station. I like the word station, as it includes status and calling.

Understanding the human station is to understand who we are. It is a question of status and vocation (and even nature and end).

Bob wrote:Also, even if Job would have more children, the first are still taken from him. There is no magic here performing the reappearance of our favourite watch, believed to have been smashed but the magician. Those who are gone are gone forever – Job knew that and celebrated his new children, but the shadow of those lost still remains.


We may have to agree to disagree here. But as a word in protest I would suggest that while you have declared your faith in life I wonder how strong it is. It seems to me that a fully-formed faith in life would believe in the resurrection of the dead, in fully restored bodily life of the deceased, even if they have passed away into ashes spread to the four corners of the earth. It would not say that those who are gone are gone forever, for that is to deny life and to affirm death instead. It is to give death the final word and to have faith in death.

(Job is consoled about dust and ashes in the end. He believes that even if ashes are in his future a saviour will come at last who will restore his flesh, and that with his own (restored) eyes Job will see God, the one who has made his resurrection from the ashes possible. 19:25-26)
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Re: Losing one's religion

Postby alyoshka » Sat Oct 15, 2011 5:51 pm

Justice.

It is clear I have a narrower sense of justice than you. For me, justice, while it is doing what is right/good, it does not exhaust right/good action. Doing what is right involves wisdom, and wisdom goes deeper than justice, even as justice is an 'arm' of wisdom. Wisdom also involves forgiveness, consolation/comfort, patience, charity, etc, none of which are easily accounted for in/by justice. (Indeed, treating others how we want to be treated means acting wisely, not justly, for it involves doing such things as offering forgiveness, charity, comfort, etc, which are not moves of justice, at least not in my narrower sense of the word.)

So while you worry that I am narrowing God in my narrowing of justice (you say "God is much broader and so should the ideas we associate"), in truth I am trying to describe God's action in a broader term than justice, namely, wisdom (which I intimated is my preference over grace or love even). And while I am worrying that you are confining God's action to justice, in fact justice is a broader term in your mind, and incorporates the very things that I am afraid might be lost (forgiveness, patience, etc).

Our critiques of each other make sense given our presuppositions/definitions of justice. I think we may be saying the same thing about God. What we are arguing about is the range of justice.

Satan/the satan.

The problem is that it is neither Satan nor the satan in Genesis. Rather it is the serpent. So it is not simply a distinction between the satan and Satan that you conflate, but also the serpent. While I can understand why you disregard or would minimize my distinction between the former two, I cannot understand the latter, or equating the serpent with Satan.

How would you reconcile a statement from Jesus that we are to be as wise as serpents for instance?

To compare our moves, you take the clearer definitions of Satan from the NT and then apply them to the predescessors the satan and the serpent, assuming the same character to be active throughout.

I, on the otherhand, would see a development, or degradation, at work, where the serpent as a wise creature degrades to the satan who is still faithful to God but has lost faith in humankind to Satan who has indeed rebelled against God.

Indeed, this is a conversation we had before. Which makes the most sense? A steady Satan character throughout or a Satanic development? We would both have a heavy burden of proof placed upon us. Interesting conversation. We certainly don't need to rehash anymore than we already have.

Natural evil.

Fair enough. I would opt for the weak reading. But let me qualify that by saying I would also maintain the omnipotence of God. Maybe a distinction would be helpful?

If we rule oppressively, is that true authority or rulership? Or if we serve purely out of self interest, is that true obedience? And finally, if our power is not exercised in true authority or obedience, is it true power?

All true power is God's. God is omnipotent. But that doesn't mean there isn't 'power' out there in a fallen form. 'Power' that isn't really power at all, even though it can pack a punch. Power without power so to speak.

So yes, in a very important sense God is weak. A lot of 'power' has been alienated from God (or has never been reconciled to God) and is no longer (or never was) true power.

Maybe you won't like this distinction however. Either way, it doesn't answer the question of natural evil. Rather it aims again at the idea that it is on us to reconcile all 'power' to God, which presupposes forces at work that are not. It is up to us to restore all power to true power. And as you say, can be construed as an answer to the POE.

Wildness.

I'm glad you don't see Satan as an emanation from the original wildness. Satan is a force of evil. The wild, while they can become evil, they can also possess wisdom, and can be learned from, even as they need to be subdued, or even as they are ripe for further culturation.

For instance, the serpent you would call Satan is described as "the wisest of wild creatures", indicating that we can learn from those who are wild and that they are not to be thought evil as dangerous as they may be. (But no doubt you would render it "the craftiest" or "most devious"!)

Also, while I want us to be subdued by wisdom, I would never want to quench that inner wildness. I don't think God does either. God doesn't appeal to Behemoth and Leviathan for their culture or calm, but for their unwillingness to be subdued. I think we are on the same page on that front, i.e., where you say there is something in us "that is wild" and that "it should be tempered by reason, yet not eliminated compleately by it," I agree wholeheartedly.

Again, to me 'wildness' is a better term than 'freedom'. It needs to be subdued by wisdom, yes, but never oppressed or subjugated as you put it. That 'natural brio' is crucial, and is what I've been arguing for all along (I believe that Job loses his, and God has to restore it, which God does by encouraging Job to stand up to God like a geber, i.e., a virile male).

Thanks Omar. We still have our differences clearly but I think on the most important points we agree.
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Re: Losing one's religion

Postby Arcturus Descending » Sat Oct 15, 2011 5:58 pm

Alyoshka wrote:

Innocent suffering should not lead us to question God, but rather it should lead us to question ourselves, innocent though we may be. We should be wondering whether God has at last realized or accepted our true worth, and that far from being crown-able in glory and honour our proper place is the ash heap instead.

But suffering, innocent or otherwise, for me, ought to have us questioning our 'concept' of our belief in god, which in turn it follows that we would begin to question our self and our beliefs, how the way in which we view god may actually be illogical if thought out further and may also point out our narcissism for us.

I think we ought to be, much more, focusing on and wondering how we as human beings see others and working on accepting them - and ourselves - as being worthy and acceptable human beings. If we see human beings as being in a trash heap, we are all equally responsible for that vision.

I wonder if a god who may have created us, sees itself and how human beings view it as being more important than how those creations view one another and relate to one another? I may not have expressed that too well.
“How can a bird that is born for joy
Sit in a cage and sing?”
― William Blake


“Little Fly
Thy summers play,
My thoughtless hand
Has brush'd away.

Am not I
A fly like thee?
Or art not thou
A man like me?

For I dance
And drink & sing:
Till some blind hand
Shall brush my wing.

If thought is life
And strength & breath:
And the want
Of thought is death;

Then am I
A happy fly,
If I live,
Or if I die”
― William Blake, Songs of Innocence and of Experience


“No bird soars too high if he soars with his own wings.”
― William Blake
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Re: Losing one's religion

Postby alyoshka » Sat Oct 15, 2011 6:44 pm

windwalker wrote:
Alyoshka wrote:

Innocent suffering should not lead us to question God, but rather it should lead us to question ourselves, innocent though we may be. We should be wondering whether God has at last realized or accepted our true worth, and that far from being crown-able in glory and honour our proper place is the ash heap instead.

But suffering, innocent or otherwise, for me, ought to have us questioning our 'concept' of our belief in god, which in turn it follows that we would begin to question our self and our beliefs, how the way in which we view god may actually be illogical if thought out further and may also point out our narcissism for us.

I think we ought to be, much more, focusing on and wondering how we as human beings see others and working on accepting them - and ourselves - as being worthy and acceptable human beings. If we see human beings as being in a trash heap, we are all equally responsible for that vision.

I wonder if a god who may have created us, sees itself and how human beings view it as being more important than how those creations view one another and relate to one another? I may not have expressed that too well.


You'll have to understand the words of mine that you cited within context. I believe there are many valid responses to suffering. One is to question God, as you suggest here, and to, following this, question ourselves or our other beliefs.

It is also possible (Ivan Karamazov) to not question God but the world God created. It is possible to question it and reject it without ever questioning God.

It is also possible, as I suggest here, to question our station as human beings, that maybe we aren't deserving of a crown but rather of the ash heap.

I agree with your assessment though that instead of focusing on the problem we should be focusing on the solution, if that indeed is what you are saying.

The problem is that with Job, for example, he was a perfect human being all along. He knew what he had to do to be worthy and he did it. The problem is, he seemed to prove unworthy nonetheless. Thus he lamented his lamentable condidion as humankind, and it was necessary for God to console him by convincing him otherwise. That as perfect humankind he is of the highest esteem, and that God holds Job in this esteem.
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Re: Losing one's religion

Postby Bob » Sat Oct 15, 2011 9:29 pm

Hi alyoshka,

Do you mean by this that it is our mission to discern what is lasting or stable in life? Like the Greek sages who postulated water, fire, etc, as this enduring substratum? And that in discerning what 'IS' we will have established a basic connection or trust in life, or in what matters, the breaking down of which is evil or is caused by evil?

Or do you mean something more along the lines that what IS is constantly changing, and that as human beings our responsibility is to stay on top of this, and to be aware of what IS at any time so that we can live properly (or informed) in the NOW?

Neither (if either approximate your position) would be contrary to what I say, I don't think. While I would say that we are more than just metaphysical speculators or discerners (whether of what is enduring or what is changing) I do think that awareness is important. We need to be informed. We need to understand what we are dealing with if we are to make wise decisions. We need to realize the damage some of our less informed actions are causing.

I don't think first of all that we have a “mission”, the calling I spoke of is more the challenge that life presents and a requirement if we are to make some sense out of our existence. We seem to need that, as if it is built in to our genes. But discovering what IS and differentiating that from what I and my peers assumed to be is what I'm talking about. We have all, even Jayson, experienced our own misunderstanding and misconception of reality, so that it begs the question as to what we really know and what the nature of reality is. At my age, you get a lot of opportunity to see that many of our assumptions mislead us into situations which show our misconceptions up in an embarrassing way. This is more than just information, it is about letting the life flow through me rather than causing “whitewater” and turbulence.

I have been through most of the religious and spiritual ideas which have been spread around, I can't claim to have understood everything but I think it was enough to make a decision about the direction of the rest of my life. I believe that many of our traditions have a basic truth and I am encouraged by someone I heard on radio (I didn't catch the name) who said that religions are different like paths and routes are different, but we all are travelling to a common destination. There is no need to argue about the route, we just need to discern the destination. Having been brought up Christian, I believe that the reality behind the word God is big enough to encompass all belief systems, despite their differences, because that is how I came to understand the love of God in Christ. The approach I have taken on, following many more intelligent people than me, is to understand the Bible and other scriptures and literature as timeless and therefore eternal truths about us NOW, showing us where we have arrived on our journey and where turbulence is draining or endangering us.

I have defined evil above, but perhaps in this context: Evil creates turbulence and threatens our reaching our destination, destroying the basic faith we all have at birth and which should refine (under duress) up until death. There is no right time or way to leave this life, but we should grow enough to be able to accept that exit. We should therefore be working on this refinement and maturity in our meetings, without delusion and escapism, but aware, assured and confident. That is the faith of which Christ spoke of.

There's also a crucial gap between understanding what IS and living NOW. How do you negotiate this difference? Or how do you move from one to the other? Answering this may allow us to come to a method of decision-making or rule, which would then bring us closer to the idea that I'm expressing where we are called to stand up to God in the confrontation where wisdom is born/received, where the whole of creation is called to arise in response to the call, and to empower the rule of wisdom.

What “IS” is always in “NOW”, otherwise it would be “WAS” or “WILL BE”. Both of which are only of secondary importance. That which “WAS” has past and if it was bad, it should not still be present in “NOW”. That which “WILL BE” has yet to be and will be influenced by what “IS”, so we have to concentrate on “NOW”.

I also think that a crucial part of the question "Who are we?" is vocational, i.e., the question involves the question/s "What is our status/station?" They are not separable, or answerable, individually. We can't steam ahead to the latter and ignore the former for to answer the latter is to answer the former (or perhaps it is a spiral as you suggest).

Now, I'm not saying you aren't making a valid critique. But rather I wonder if your critique applies to me. In regards to the confusion I would take full blame, for I often speak of our human status. But what I really mean when I say this is vocation, or even station. I like the word station, as it includes status and calling.

Understanding the human station is to understand who we are. It is a question of status and vocation (and even nature and end).

I question, in keeping with many wise sages, whether our concept of “I” or “SELF” is really in keeping with reality. How often do we find that second and third parties often have a different view of our “SELF” than we do? Can we distinguish ourselves from our surroundings, our family, our friends, or are we not in fact a connected happening within a interactive collective. Of course we all make decisions which give us the feeling that we are individuals, but this only goes to prove that we partake in what happens, rather than being victims of circumstance. There is even evidence to suggest that illness and accidents are not random occurrences, but we are all jointly moving the pointer on an ouija-board to say what we unconsciously want it to say, or making things happen which we unconsciously want to happen. This kind of influence is always moving us – which begs the question when, for example, children are abused by a member of the family. And isn't it nearly always someone close to the family when children are abused and murdered? What kind of evil is happening there?

It seems to me that a fully-formed faith in life would believe in the resurrection of the dead, in fully restored bodily life of the deceased, even if they have passed away into ashes spread to the four corners of the earth. It would not say that those who are gone are gone forever, for that is to deny life and to affirm death instead. It is to give death the final word and to have faith in death.

(Job is consoled about dust and ashes in the end. He believes that even if ashes are in his future a saviour will come at last who will restore his flesh, and that with his own (restored) eyes Job will see God, the one who has made his resurrection from the ashes possible. 19:25-26)

I don't know anything about resurrection, except what we are told, but those who leave us don't come back. This kind of magic isn't ours to use or hope for. Like I said, what can survive after death is not known to me, even if I have heard many fascinating theories from all sorts of traditions. The good thing about life is that it has to be lived in the present and can't be saved up for another day. Living in the past is just as illusionary, even though we might learn from experience or smile at past meetings and conversations. I feel that affirmation of life is an affirmation of NOW.

Take Care
The only wisdom we can hope to acquire
Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless.
TS Eliot
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Re: Losing one's religion

Postby alyoshka » Sun Oct 16, 2011 5:07 pm

Hi Bob,

You describe a simple and reasonable modus operandi. One chastened by your life experience and open to conversation and correction. One focused on the here and now but at the same time in touch with the past and future. One with a deep faith that grace/life will come so long as you don't block it out or break the connection, or so long as there aren't any obstructions in the way.

Indeed, when you say that "we should be working on this refinement and maturity in our meetings, without delusion and escapism, but aware, assured and confident," that sounds very close to what I would call the confrontation with God where wisdom is born/received.

Vocationally speaking, I don't think we're far off from each other.

It is still interesting to me though that you are willing to have such a faith, that wisdom or "life will flow through you" so long as it isn't obstructed, but that you won't extend this to the future. That you see an end to the flow of wisdom and life. (I don't think Jesus for instance accepted that inevitable exit. In fact, he said that he would rise 3 days later.)

But that would be extra baggage, so to speak, and would complicate your simple and reasonable view. I suppose it is one thing to believe that wisdom/life will come if you are mindful of your own fallibility and possible obstructions and another to believe that life will come long after you've passed away.

You know, I was talking to my brother about this just last night, about his own inability to believe in the resurrection of the dead. My argument was simple. He is an intelligent man, a man who rightly speaks up and whose words should not be discounted. Yet even he has been subdued in the past by words of wisdom, by words that have silenced him and compelled his obedience. And if that is possible, that is, if there are words of such power that can put one such as him in his place, then why not the sea? What is the sea compared to him that there would not be words capable of calming it or commanding its motions? And taking this even further, why not death? If there are words that can solicit the obedience of a human being such as him then is it not reasonable to think that there are words that can silence death? Words of such power that they would compell our very ashes to regather and reform, making us even more beautiful in the process?

That's the faith anyways. That such words exist. That such words have been spoken in the past and will be spoken again. That such words come out of the very process or the fulfillment of the vocation that I believe you describe.
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Re: Losing one's religion

Postby Bob » Sun Oct 16, 2011 9:08 pm

Hi Alyoshka,

You describe a simple and reasonable modus operandi. One chastened by your life experience and open to conversation and correction. One focused on the here and now but at the same time in touch with the past and future. One with a deep faith that grace/life will come so long as you don't block it out or break the connection, or so long as there aren't any obstructions in the way.

Indeed, when you say that "we should be working on this refinement and maturity in our meetings, without delusion and escapism, but aware, assured and confident," that sounds very close to what I would call the confrontation with God where wisdom is born/received.

Interesting that you say this, since many Christians tend to differ and consider me a heretic. I personally don't agree with them, but see myself in the way you have described. Only this week my wife and I spoke about the fact that Christians have often been excited about how inspirational the meetings were that I held (especially the last one) and yet tended to shy away. I tend to follow Christ's advice and dust my feet and move on, which doesn't exactly help the situation, but so it is.

I see the confrontation with God as God confronting me, rather than the other way around, and the chamber experience (Mt. 6:6) as the opportunity for that. I pray in as much as my ritual prepares me to listen rather than speak, although I do speak or chant at the beginning. After that I am more in meditation mode, watching and listening, concentrating on the breath, centred and relaxed. I would like to think that wisdom grows in that experience, but it is probably only to be found in a growing knowledge of myself.

It is still interesting to me though that you are willing to have such a faith, that wisdom or "life will flow through you" so long as it isn't obstructed, but that you won't extend this to the future. That you see an end to the flow of wisdom and life. (I don't think Jesus for instance accepted that inevitable exit. In fact, he said that he would rise 3 days later.)

I wasn't clear then, because I do not rule anything out, and like I say, I have listened to what other people have said about resurrection, but I can't decide how it is to be understood as yet. I have come across so many things that make full sense when I do not demand that they be literally true, but with the resurrection, I am inconclusive. I just haven't any reason to believe that the dead rise here and now, and bereavement always remains bereavement – whatever I believe.

But that would be extra baggage, so to speak, and would complicate your simple and reasonable view. I suppose it is one thing to believe that wisdom/life will come if you are mindful of your own fallibility and possible obstructions and another to believe that life will come long after you've passed away.

You know, I was talking to my brother about this just last night, about his own inability to believe in the resurrection of the dead. My argument was simple. He is an intelligent man, a man who rightly speaks up and whose words should not be discounted. Yet even he has been subdued in the past by words of wisdom, by words that have silenced him and compelled his obedience. And if that is possible, that is, if there are words of such power that can put one such as him in his place, then why not the sea? What is the sea compared to him that there would not be words capable of calming it or commanding its motions? And taking this even further, why not death? If there are words that can solicit the obedience of a human being such as him then is it not reasonable to think that there are words that can silence death? Words of such power that they would compell our very ashes to regather and reform, making us even more beautiful in the process?

That's the faith anyways. That such words exist. That such words have been spoken in the past and will be spoken again. That such words come out of the very process or the fulfillment of the vocation that I believe you describe.

Words are human, and I believe that they block our ability to receive. Communication is more effective heart-to-heart and lovers and friends need few words in their communion, and they are often abstract, poetic, soul-language. I believe that it is this soul-language that we have lost in attempts to be overly rational – which is the trap for believers and non-believers alike, it seems. If the soul communicates or is communicated to, we feel the message more than we rationally understand it. This is also an experience that inspired scientists have in common with gurus and inspired spiritual people. Inspiration hits us and we make words or formulae out of it – and thereby immediately falsify the immediacy of that inspiration. But it is all we can do.

I think that we just need to keep a beginners mind alive but with reverence and awe. Everything else will sort itself out.

Take care
The only wisdom we can hope to acquire
Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless.
TS Eliot
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Re: Losing one's religion

Postby Bob » Tue Oct 18, 2011 5:32 pm

I destinctly get the impression that I am a heretic - at least I'm not off topic ;)
The only wisdom we can hope to acquire
Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless.
TS Eliot
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