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Christianity - a question

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Stephanos
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25 posted 05-18-2004 06:10 AM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Raph:
quote:
I'd have to diagree, it wasn't the GOD of Judaism but the LAWS of Judaism that were the path to the God.



There is truth in what you say.  But a half of a truth, is still only part of the picture.  The restrospective aspect of the New Testament tells us (in so many words) that the typical Jewish response to the Law was an inappropriate reliance upon externals, a tendency of treating God as if he were a debtor, and a general feeling of self righteousness and superiority.  They kept rules, but forgot about what the rules were really about.


Here's something that many people are not clear about, when it comes to the Old Testament.  The rules always were secondary to relationship.  It always was supposed to lead to a greater revelation than just "try harder".


That's why in addition to Paul telling us that the law was "a schoolmaster" to lead to the Messiah, we also have much foreshadowing, and mixtures of something deeper than the law tucked right there in the words of Old Testament prophets.  Such as ...


"I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings"  (Hosea 6:6)


and


"With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow down before the exalted God?  Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?  Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil?  Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?  He has showed you, O man, what is good.  And what does the LORD require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God."  (Micah 6:6-8)


and


"You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it.  You do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.  The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit.  A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise"  (Psalm 51:16,17)


Such passages suggest to me that the most insightful Jews understood that the Law (expressed by words like "sacrifice", "burnt offerings", "oil", "rams", etc...) was nothing in itself.  It was rather right heart in relationship with God.  
  


quote:
I'd also argue against christianity as we know it being natural at all let alone 'the most natural thing in the world.' From the hand of Saul of Tarsus to it's concessions to Roman audiences there is little evidence of a 'natural' progression.



I never suggested that Christianity is essentially the same as Judaism.  It is radically different in many ways .. which is why it didn't turn out to be just another jewish sect.  But that doesn't mean that the "natural progression" isn't there.  Just like, having never seen it, you could hardly guess or anticipate a tree coming from a seed.  



quote:
While it holds similarities, Christianity and it's rituals are enough of a variance from Judaism to be included with the other examples. I'd also argue, and billions of Jews would agree, that the fulfillment of Judaism has yet to arrive.



I guess it depends upon which view you hold, as to what the Jewish religion actually was.  Was it a man-made world view, culture, and way of life?  Or was it a revelation given to a group of people from God himself?  In other words, is there any objectivity to it, or is it all subjective?  Does it stand upon it's own, or is it defined by the Jew who claimed it was defined in Heaven?  If you hold the first view, then I guess ultimately the Old Testament means what the Jew says it means, and therefore must be fulfilled according to his liking.  If the latter view is held, (Which is what the Jews themselves actually claim) there is at least the possibility of misinterpretation ... even that "billions of Jews" might have gotten it wrong.



quote:
Ah, but you say sin notwithstanding, which I assume agrees that those who are sinful are no better than beasts. If so, in christian thinking, an unbaptized child, has the original sin hanging over his head. Therefore the priest's comments were in accordance. A sin is a sin.



Your assumption is one which is unnecessary ... even unsupported by the Bible.  It's too simplistic.  To me, your reasoning goes like this ... "God tells us that sin may ultimately ruin us .. therefore he hates us as if we were already ruined and beyond redemption".  You might reply that the Bible does teach that we are already "ruined", that sin has made our righteousness "as fithly rags", and that the Church has always taught human depravity alongside the doctrine of original sin.  And you are right, in a sense.  If left to our own devices, the fatal wound of the fall would invariably result in irreversible ruin (hell).  But what God tells us about our own vantage point, he denies from his own.  The Christian view is that Christ loved us "while we were yet sinners" and "at enmity with God", enough to die for us and bring us into a new standing with him.  Now in light of that, how can you say that God thinks we're no better than animals?  If that's the case, he thinks very highly of such "animals", enough to give the life of his son.  



quote:
And if god can hold men in contempt than a child as well.



Okay, there may be some truth in what the priest said ... though very poorly expressed in my opinion (then again, all I have to go on is what you say ... but if you quote this priest like you quote the Bible, I may be missing something)             .  For God sees this child's life, not within the confines of time, in freeze-frames, but as a whole.  Transcending time, he knows who this child will be when he or she grows up.  So this child, having yet committed no wrong, is still in the same general predicament as all of us ... as one who will end up sinning, willfully and eagerly, and therefore apart from the Grace of God, is destined for ruin.  But it is the very grace of God which has declared that "God so loved the world", even this very child, "that he gave his only begotten son".  Does that sound like God deems this child no better than a beast?  Hardly.  Half of the truth always ends up being wrong, because it is only half the truth.  Mercy still triumphs over Judgement.
  


quote:
A merciful God would accept the uniqueness and indivulaity of his creation and allow more than one path.



You must mean by "allow more than one path", that God should make all paths the same.  But they are different paths, with exclusive and contradictory claims.  That's like asking God to let A = non-A, just becuase we want him to.  And the path of Christianity has nothing to do with God not liking diversity.  Diversity is still allowed.



quote:
It also sounds like a number of other religions because, in essence, they all teach the same principles.



They all teach the same morals.  I agree.  I recognize common truth in all religions.  But to say that morality is the "essential" teaching of all religions, is to misunderstand them.  Really you seem to be saying not so much about these varying religions, but that, to you, morality is the most important aspect of them all.  But foundationally, why is morality so important to you?  



quote:
My path is a direct one, me to God. If he can't accept that, then where lies the mercy?



Who is God?  You've denied the need for such cumbersome things as dogma and doctrine.  Since you value morality, and claim a direct link to God, I'm assuming that your God must have a high moral standard, and must value things like "compassion, kindness, and love".  So tell me in more definite terms, is God moral, amoral, or immoral?  Let's pretend that I'm interested in getting to know more about your God ... help me understand him.  


Does your God accept as equally valuable any path, even one of abject immorality?  Wouldn't he have to do so in order to be "merciful", according to your definition of mercy?  You obviously hold a standard that says that morality is better than immorality.  Does your God hold that same standard?



quote:
But as an omniescent and all merciful God one would think he would be ABOVE the petty emotions of his lowly creations. We are created in his likeness correct? If men can be open-minded and accepting of change I'd like to assume a diety capable of the same.



He may be above our emotions, but he is certainly not below them.  Moral indifference is usually a contemptible thing in most cultures.  Are your moral views about the necessity of compassion and love also "petty"?  Remember that in praising love, you are automatically rebuking hatred.  In elevating compassion, you are at the same time chiding any lack of it.  I guess for God to be above such "pettiness", he would have to be for love and hatred, an advocate of compassion and cruelty?


Stephen.

[This message has been edited by Stephanos (05-18-2004 06:41 AM).]

Stephanos
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quote:
Considering these things, and Adam and Eve as young impressionable children, isn't there room for leeway at the beginning of all things?



First of all, the Genesis story is doubtless a synopsis, and puts the events in a simple parabolic form.  But rather than insisting upon how vulnerable they were, weak, and unprepared, and all of that ... what about the fact that they were in daily communion with God, in an unfallen state?  Such a privileged state of affairs would render them only more accountable in my opinion.  The contrast of sin and holiness must have been great.  Even the scripture doesn't seem to be ambiguous when God said "Do not eat.  For the day you eat of it you shall surely die".  Those in the dark, often stumble with some measure of excuse, but those in perfect light have to choose their stumbling.  I once saw a T-Shirt which read "Lead me not into temptation.  I can find it well enough on my own."  If any quote could be used as evidence of divine treason it would be that one.


I'm just not so sure that the "punishment doesn't fit the crime" complaint is all that valid when it comes to what happened in the Garden of Eden.  It was the same complaint that was given in the Garden after the sin was found out... it's "the woman you gave me".  In other words, "It was something in your providence, God, that was defective.  I won't consider my own willful transgression.  You didn't set me up right."  


Stephen.  

Essorant
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27 posted 05-18-2004 07:57 PM       View Profile for Essorant   Email Essorant   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Essorant's Home Page   View IP for Essorant

Didn't some bugs and birds and beasts probably eat of that tree before Adam and Eve?  
Aenimal
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quote:
..and a general feeling of self righteousness and superiority.  They kept rules, but forgot about what the rules were really about.



I completely agree(deep breaths..it happens)except, (oh you saw it coming) that I would also apply this line of thinking towards Christians as well. One set of rules replaced for a new set and billions of followers who've forgotten their meaning and too often have an air of superiority and self righteousness. Which is my problem with many Christians, (or arrogant pundits of other religions for that matter) how quickly one can dissect other religions and philosophies to justify their own.

Nietzche once wrote of christian scholars : They advance their conjectures as blandly as dogmas and are hardly ever perplexed by the exegis of a Biblical verse. Again and again they say " I am right for it is written," and the interpretation that follows is of such impudent arbitrariness that a phililogist is either stopped in his tracks, torn between anger and laughter, and keeps asking himself: Is it possible? Is this honest? Is it even decent?

No it is not. His words are harsh but this is the kind of thinking I've argued against.

quote:
It is radically different in many ways .. which is why it didn't turn out to be just another jewish sect.  But that doesn't mean that
the "natural progression" isn't there.


The reason it didn't turn out to be another jewish sect was it's Romanization/paganization. It's partly because of this that I argued against a 'natural' progression. It's an offshoot, no doubt, with its bizzare history and deviation from it's roots (not just the OT but Pauline thought from Jesus' teachings), makes it seem more a product then a progression.

quote:
If the latter view is held, (Which is what the Jews themselves actually claim) there is at least the possibility of misinterpretation ... even that "billions of Jews" might have gotten it wrong.


Again Stephanos, I agree with this logic, but again it  applies to Christianity. Through critical thought and historical evidence scholars have shown that there is at least a possibility of misinterpretation within Christianity.

quote:
The Christian view is that Christ loved us "while we were yet sinners" and "at enmity with God", enough to die for us and bring us into a new standing with him.


Then why not eliminate the ritual of baptism as a cleansing of original sin? Why is it the sin or a need for cleansing still  mentioned if we have earned a new standing with God?

quote:
(then again, all I have to go on is what you say ... but if you quote this priest like you quote the Bible, I may be missing something)


I'm not entirely sure if I've been complimented or  insulted. I've never misquoted the bible, if that's the assertion, while you may argue my interpretation of the words I think I've clearly shown I am a student of Christianity and theological study. Whether you agree with my opinions or not. As for the priest, it's an accurate quote, one doesn't forget a comment like that.

quote:
You must mean by "allow more than one path", that God should make all paths the same.  But they are different paths, with exclusive and contradictory claims.  That's like asking God to let A = non-A, just becuase we want him to.


Can you not see a fault or 'air of superiority' in thinking that? What's to say that's not exactly what Christianity is? That Pauline thought is a great example of everything you just said?

That in their failure to adhere and fulfill the Law of Judaism, he  and his followers abandoned it for a new ideal instead, one that would suit their lifestyles?

quote:
They all teach the same morals.  I agree.  I recognize common truth in all religions.  But to say that morality is the "essential" teaching of all religions, is to misunderstand them.


I never said that morality is  the 'sole' teaching of all religions, morality was mentioned but I spoke of principles, all religions while the words vary, teach similar principles that will lead adherents to the godhead.

[QUOTE]Who is God?  You've denied the need for such cumbersome things as dogma and doctrine.  Since you value morality, and claim a direct link to God, I'm assuming that your God must have a high moral standard, and must value things like "compassion, kindness, and love".  So tell me in more definite terms, is God moral, amoral, or immoral?  Let's pretend that I'm interested in getting to know more about your God ... help me understand him.[QUOTE]

Stephanos, I never claimed a direct link or any desert visions. I said the path I've chosen is a direct one I haven't claimed it as the RIGHT one.

Listen I don't know everything about you, and were you to offer your life story it would not capture your true essence or make me understand you completely.  

In that respect the Bible, Kuran,Upanishad, and various other sacred texts and religions cannot reveal the Godhead. Spirituality isn't be taught, it's  felt. I'm moral because I respect my fellow man to the best of my ability. I'm not perfect, nor am I trying to be, my life is about finding balance.

I can't tell you what myGod is because it is undefinable. The closest I can come is to say that it is one of balance. The universe is full of opposing forces and it's in balance that harmony is created. There is no such thing as perfection. Humans, gods and universe alike.
Stephanos
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quote:
I would also apply this line of thinking towards Christians as well. One set of rules replaced for a new set and billions of followers who've forgotten their meaning and too often have an air of superiority and self righteousness.



I see the same thing.  And sadly, even what (or who) is right and true, can be misfollowed.  But that is certainly not true of all.  There are saints in this world whose light makes me feel ashamed of my own.


quote:
Nietzche once wrote of christian scholars : They advance their conjectures as blandly as dogmas and are hardly ever perplexed by the exegis of a Biblical verse. Again and again they say " I am right for it is written," and the interpretation that follows is of such impudent arbitrariness that a phililogist is either stopped in his tracks, torn between anger and laughter, and keeps asking himself: Is it possible? Is this honest? Is it even decent?



Isn't it apparant that Nietzsche was bent on discrediting the Christian religion, and not really concerned with accuracy in that regard?  He was trying to demolish an ideology that he disagreed with, because it denied him the absolute autonomy that he craved for, and wrote about in "The New Morality" and other writings.  So, this quote, like others is very vague and doesn't hit anything in particular.  You can't just lump all biblical scholars together in one group and then criticize them based upon philology ... especially if you don't even bother to mention their mistakes or errors in any detail.  Nietszche. as a rhetorician, was wise not to get too specific with his tirades.  Is this honest?  Is this even decent?


quote:
not just the OT but Pauline thought from Jesus' teachings



So Pauline thought is at odds with Jesus' teachings?  I've heard this line of argument before, and I personally think it's unsubstantiated.  Can you provide some specific examples?  Then we can talk about it.
  

quote:
Through critical thought and historical evidence scholars have shown that there is at least a possibility of misinterpretation within Christianity.
  


I know there IS much misinterpretation within Christendom.  Even Jesus seemed to predict that such would be the case.
  

quote:
Then why not eliminate the ritual of baptism as a cleansing of original sin? Why is it the sin or a need for cleansing still  mentioned if we have earned a new standing with God?



The biblical teaching is not that water baptism (a symbol of an internal truth) cleanses us from sin, but that apprehension of Christ by faith does.  It is believing Christ that gives cleansing and forgiveness.  Baptism is a rite or sacrament given to express by an outward picture, an inward reality of regeneration.  Just like a marriage ceremony outwardly demostrates an inward commitment.


We could talk about the scriptures, but I honestly think that if any ecclesiastical organization teaches baptism as a means to forgiveness, they are erring scripturally.  Though I will not go so far as to say that Baptism is not important, for it was commanded by Jesus and the apostles, as a means of publicly professing faith.


Even though Christ has provided the way unto the Father ... that path must be entered upon and traversed.  It's not an automatic process.  There may be money in the bank, but I'm still required to believe that there is, to pick up a pen, and write a check ... or it doesn't benefit me.
  


quote:
As for the priest, it's an accurate quote, one doesn't forget a comment like that.



then I say the priest was not expressing the truth ... and that he was expressing an idea which is really foreign and incongruous with Christianity.  I believe I can sustain that quite easily from the Bible.
  


quote:
That in their failure to adhere and fulfill the Law of Judaism, he  and his followers abandoned it for a new ideal instead, one that would suit their lifestyles?



Historically Paul was an exemplary Jew ... a Pharisee of Pharisees.  Failure to adhere to the Law could never have been the reason Paul left Judaism.  Where do you get that idea from?  Give me something besides conjecture.


As much as the Jewish converts to Christianity were persecuted, you say that they took on this new thing to "suit their lifestyles"?  I honestly can't see how this can be logically believed.  It is not disputed historically (even among unbelieving biblical scholars) that the early Christians risked life and limb and suffered tremendous persecution in order to identify with the Christian Church.


The only way such things as the above can be believed, is to say that the records of the scriptures themselves contain little historical truth, but much that is purely invented for political reasons ... and then to believe modern recontructions of the history (because there is no other alternative history written, by which to reconstruct Pauline and early Christian history).


The method in a nutshell:  The scriptures (a priori) can't be true.  But since we have no other history which would concretely refute what the New Testament says, we are confident that we as 19th and 20th century naturalistic scholars can reconstruct what must have happened.  Look beyond the "Jesus Seminar" method of scholarship and you might be surprised.



Stephen.
    
  
Aenimal
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I disagree with regards to Nietzche seeking absolute autonomy, it that were the case it would have served him well to discredit all religion. However in The Antichrist he praises Buddism, and offers an interesting comparison between it and Christianity.

His words are harsh, no doubt. And while I quoted them I applied it to a manner of thinking rather than simply to Christian scholars, in fact there are many I enjoy reading. It's the manner of thinking that applies logic and reasons in arguing against other faiths but fails to apply the same critical analysis to their own with which i share a distaste.

I'd respond to the rest of your comment, but haven't the energy? What could I say or propose that you wouldn't view as conjecture, entrenched in faith?

The fact of the matter is it's ALL conjecture because there are no definite answers. However, Christianity, unlike most religions, is recent enough to be pitted against historical fact, it's roots and development heavily documented. It's under this scrutiny that Christianity fails me where other religions might fail you. If it works for you by all means. I have no motive against you or your beliefs.

Maybe I'll come back to this and share with you why the more one delves into Saul the more doubts and suspicions arise. But for now I'll take my leave as religion is the last thing I want to think of today.
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quote:
I disagree with regards to Nietzche seeking absolute autonomy, it that were the case it would have served him well to discredit all religion. However in The Antichrist he praises Buddism, and offers an interesting comparison between it and Christianity.


Nietzsche Praising Buddhism speaks very little on the autonomy issue ... since Buddhism has nothing to do with a personal transcendent God.  It is essentially a non-theistic religion.  And taking Nietzsche as whole, it is obvious that his main theme was "breaking the chains" of the archaic idea that we must submit to the will of a personal God who determines what is right and wrong for us.  If this was not his main theme, it was surely one of the more prominent ones.  


quote:
It's the manner of thinking that applies logic and reasons in arguing against other faiths but fails to apply the same critical analysis to their own with which i share a distaste.



I too share this distaste.  


quote:
I'd respond to the rest of your comment, but haven't the energy? What could I say or propose that you wouldn't view as conjecture, entrenched in faith?



If what you believe is based upon good reasons to believe it, then why hesitate to bring it forth.  Don't shy away now that we've begun to speak of particulars ... particulars will determine if our positions can stand or not.  And I'll listen to what you say, and try to be open and honest, and respond.  If what you say is solid, then my responses should appear as weak and doubtful or in need of revision, and vice versa.   I'll put the question back to you as a friendly challenge  ... "What could you say or propose that I SHOULDN"T view as conjecture ... whether or not I do"?  


quote:
The fact of the matter is it's ALL conjecture because there are no definite answers.



So, you've shifted positions.  You just stated (in not so many words) that you feel further discussion is futile since I will (against reason) percieve what you say as "conjecture" rather than reasonably founded.  Now you're saying that it IS all conjecture and that no view is reasonably founded.  Come on, don't go there.  That's really not what you believe is it?  In my opinion, that's the easy way out of responsible argumentation.
  

quote:
However, Christianity, unlike most religions, is recent enough to be pitted against historical fact, it's roots and development heavily documented. It's under this scrutiny that Christianity fails me where other religions might fail you. If it works for you by all means. I have no motive against you or your beliefs.



Good.  You capitulated back to my way of viewing things ... that it's not all so nebulous and beyond knowing.  Now just bring forth some specifics, instead of a general comment that cannot possibly be refuted, and we might get somewhere.  If it's documented, let's hear your complaints.  I too have examined the history of Christianity and find it more than plausible ... I'm genuinely interested in what you find to be so doubtful and why.


quote:
Maybe I'll come back to this and share with you why the more one delves into Saul the more doubts and suspicions arise. But for now I'll take my leave as religion is the last thing I want to think of today.



No problem.  I'll be patient.


Stephen.  
  

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jOn4th4n - you said, "It makes me furious the way Christians don't even think about this. I mean, they mention the doctrine, but go no further than thinking, 'We are bad. We need God'. That's where my problem is - in the word 'need'. If we need God, how can He be morally justified in doing anything other than saving us?"

I was moved to post here.  With due respect to all opiners above for their various beliefs, which for them I am sure are valid in their own ways....I would like to offer something for you to consider.  

The Holy Bible says man was created in the image of God.  I believe that is true.  Christianity also teaches God is omnipresent and omnipotent.  If you take that truth and accept it, then imagine Almighty God in the form of a huge body (because we can't imagine what God really is) and that we are each the smallest most minute atom in that body -- now this is just an anology -- then with that in mind, we all make up the body of God, all living things, all created things.  Now if we could imagine that God is the blood, the brain, and the nervous system providing the rest of the body with what it needs -- then maybe we start to get a picture.  Also, if you take that one step further... white blood cells fighting off infection; e.g., the good versus the bad, then I think you'll begin to see what I'm getting at.  

I think we try to put God into an image of what we, in our limited perceptons, can comprehend, when, indeed, we will never be able to do that.  We would self-combust if we got close to the answer, I think.  So, if we are created in his/her/its (I'll use his because its common usage) image and that image is not really that of a man, rather, that etheral soul we cannot yet comprehend -- that is what I think contains the spark which connects us to God.  I think in Christianity, Jesus was our gift for that period of humanity to re-awaken our divine sparks -- to help open a door for us to be able to feel the nerve impulses from God running through us again (anaology here again).  For me, Jesus Christ was a man so surrendered to receiving these impulses that he was a true window to God and a gift for us to reconnect through his teaching.  Because the Bible teaches he was the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last -- I also believe he was everything in between.  In other words, I believe this Christ window has been provided to us throughout the history of mankind to help us reconnect -- I believe it came to all cultures and in all different kinds of religion.  How can we make Christ so small as to limit him to the historical Jesus?  If you were to really read (I mean with surrendered eyes) what the Bible reports were His words, they have layers of meaning.  The more you read in that way, the more you see (with different eyes) that Jesus never claimed to be God but he was God in that he reflected the nature of God because he was truly and completely surrended to God's will.  I call myself a Christain because that is my first language of spiritual understanding.  I am not a theologean, not a philosopher, and not skilled in these types of debates.  I just know that there is a master mind to it all and that our hearts will never be filled until we are walking in tune with the All that is All. Would it help to tell you I had what is called an "after-death" experience?  Sorry, I  ran on so much.  

Above all, I guess, is that I think churches teach us what we can understand when we are young and have gotten so bogged down in doctrines that the truth just gets burried.  Somewhere in the teachings in the New Testament, you'll find words, I think it's I Corinthians 13 ....something like...."When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 12Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known."  

My heritage is that of being a Quaker although I have gone to all types of protestant churches throughout my life and have studied the doctrines of Catholicism and other religions, too.  When I was young, I was taught that there was no intercessor between me and my God.  I see Jesus, the Christ, as my salvation because sometimes, I have trouble finding my way back to God and the Christ, the Holy Spirit, opens a door for me.  The way I read the scriptures, Jesus addresses this himself and refused to be called God, he only spoke of God as his Father, as Christains do in the Lord's prayer.  Though I believe because he was so surrendered to the impulses and fullness of his Father that what came out of him did indeed appear to be God.  Does this make any sense?  

A question I always struggled with despite my strong beliefs is that of the virgin birth -- but I got my answer to that, as well.  First, there are reflections of self-reproduction throughout nature, even in the animal kingdom.  Second, I received a vision of Mary being polinated like a flower by invisible forces (angelic host).  Now, I question no longer.  You have your own searching....what a wonderful quest you are on....and I am sure that if you truely seek, you will find, no matter what religion "speaks" to you.  





[This message has been edited by iliana (06-13-2004 12:50 AM).]

 
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