Statesboro, GA, USA
It has been an enjoyable interchange. And I do appreciate your humor and your courtesy.
Let's continue ...
I never said that one finds salvation without Jesus. However, conflict between Christianity and other religions occur because of limited definitions of Jesus Christ. Hastily answering the question "What and who is/was Jesus?" is the problem. As with God, defining Jesus creates limited mental scenarios which give rise to the type of questions children always ask, the most common being "What happens to the people who've never heard of him?"
No, you never said that But are you adquately addressing the problem of a too wide, non-specific definition of Christ? I've conceded your point about truth in other religions ... even Christ at work in other religious settings. How I marvel and appreciate how gracious God was to the Magi, (in the Nativity story in the Bible), who were probably Babylonian astrologers. Here was a very eastern, even occultic pagan tradition, out of which came ardent worshippers of Christ. The wideness of God's power and influence are astounding, and often, from unexpected quarters, we see such examples. Of course, Babylon did have a strain of influence through the Old Testament Daniel, of the One True God. And who knows but that example of Daniel didn't create a crude but passionate following outside of Israel, of Israel's God? But if not, can we realistically imagine that the discovery of Christ by the Magi, merely resulted in them returning home to the same religious expressions, without reform, correction, or renunciation? I can't.
You've already rightly said that Christ, being the Son of God, was also a historical person. That alone, warrants close attention to what he said and did. You've already rightly said that trumping up historical faults with the Bible is avoidance of the issue. So, what best makes sense out of the kinds of things Jesus actually said? The attempt to harmonize Hindu/ Buddhist philosophy with Jesus, is an enterprise which tends to leave us with large portions of text, unexplained and unelucidated. And worse, those excerpts in their own context, if read in an ordinary way, deny or contradict the all-inclusiveness of Eastern religion.
And don't misrepresent my use of the word "ordinary". It would be very easy to take my description of "ordinary reading", and make it seem unimaginative or unspiritual, and the sycretistic way therefore "extraordinary". What I really mean by "ordinary", is the most common and contextual way we would read any text. It is not flying away from the text to force it into another system, or a preconceived view, but reading as you would read other narrative / historical texts.
The same phenomenon happened, I think, with your use of "spiritual" versus "physical". The connotation of the word "spiritual" (in the sense of being the opposite of unspiritual) is a positive one. So if your intepretation of a scripture is more "spiritual", and mine more "physical", you seem to gain by the positive connotation of the word, because mine is assumed to be unspiritual. But the word spiritual, as the opposite of physical, is a totally different sense of the word. And the positive connotation shouldn't be counted on. Actually spiritual and physical are both neutral words, as far as being sacred (ie spiritual) is concerned. A demonic spirit is "spiritual" in one sense, but nevertheless devilish in nature. A loving mother breastfeeding her infant is "physical" in once sense, but nevertheless can be sacred. I just wanted to clarify that.
So, this "ordinary" way of reading and understanding text, is what is lost, when one tries to allow the Hindu/Buddhist system to absorb the Christian God, as it has millions of other gods. Others refer to this different approach of things as "exoteric" versus "esoteric" interpretation. Sadly, "exoteric interpretation" is maligned with bad connotations again ... of being too-strict, narrow, unimaginative, unspiritual. "Esoteric interpretations", however, are laced with positive descriptions of being liberated, enlightened, unbound by man's rules, spiritual etc ...
While there are spiritual truths in scripture, and deep symbolic poetic interpretations (I have nothing against that). They still must not ignore or contradict the ground-level interpretation, of what was done or said in space-time. If the spiritual contradicts and actually refutes the physical, then we have gone astray, by dividing the word of God against itself into a Kirkegaardian dualism. And it's not that I'm against speculating and seeing what truth may be seen in scripture. But unless a person has truly wrestled with the New Testament words as simple reportage of a historical person who claimed to be divine, I don't think he's really fitted for such speculation. Because there is no corrective anchor to keep one away from the rocks.
I wonder how many are struggling on the rocks even now, ideologically speaking, overwhelmed by post-modern thought or Eastern philosophy . I wonder, for instance, if some professing Christians are now finding it difficult to even say that the statements "Jesus is the son of God" and "Jesus is not the son of God" must be mutually exclusive. The Bible says expressly that our faith stands upon the one, and falls upon the other.
Concentrating on the historical background of his physical personage is a rich, educational pursuit, but not central to his message of love. Spiritualizing Jesus's message is the most useful and productive thing anyone could possibly do with it, because spiritual truth is, really, the only constant truth. Everything else is in a state of constant flux and change.
This is an example of what I was mentioning before. Does the Bible seem to suggest that the historical aspect of Christ is "not central" to his message of love? I would say that it is central enough, that without it we fall into heresy. If you study Church history, Docetism was the error of those who divorced Christ from human history. It has been refuted quite thoroughly using the testimony of scripture. It was espoused mainly by the Gnostics, who leaned more toward such a "spiritual" interpretation of Jesus Christ. It's interesting that the Gnostics did not have much success in supporting their views from the earliest writings of the New Testament. They went on to write their views in additional texts (pseudepigraphal). Why? Because that annoying tendency for men to read texts, as if they actually meant what they said, made the apostolic texts inadequate for the purposes of Gnosticism.
Everything is in flux or change, including the space-time history of Jesus Christ? Consider the following scriptures, and ask yourself how central historical facts are, to the message of the gospel:
"Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.
(1 Corinthians 15:1-6)
"But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.
(1 Corinthians 15:12-17)
Again, if I may respectfully say ... The Hindu/Buddhist system can easily absorb the Christian History as just another "divine" text, without the need of it being historically or spiritually true. But that results in nothing but an emasculation of any text with exclusive truth claims. It deconstructs the text, as it were, and then says, "What it really means is ... Hinduism". When things in the historic text are pointed out, which tend to counter that view, the Hindu system has that covered. History is either denied, or made insignificant based on a fiat of Eastern Philosophy. Therefore it can be ignored, or reinterpreted in a purely aphoristic way ... divorced from reality, and the need to think about what Christ really said. Christ becomes a nebulous sage, that is admired for the generalized glow of persona and imagery, rather than for his very real body of teaching, and his very real actions.
but in dealing with something as complex and transcendent as Jesus's message, we must go way deeper than "what our minds naturally tell us."
Why do we have to abandon "what our minds naturally tell us" about a text, to go way deeper? We only have to do that if we accept the fracturing dualism that a Pantheistic view of The Bible creates ... a dichotomy between history and "spiritual" truth.
Eastern religions are not often based on historical events and places, but that far from renders them invalid or inferior to christian beliefs. A spiritual truth is a spiritual truth, regardless of its historical/sociological circumstances, and the sooner a person can cut the fat and get to the heart of what's most important, the better, which is what buddhism, Daoism, and Hinduism try to do.
I agree, and spiritual truths can even be derived from stories that didn't actually happen. Consider Greek Myths or Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. But when something really happened (as you concede the New Testament to be accurate in its history), is there any need to choose or divide? History and Spiritual Truth are equally important, why not accept both. The distinction, is artificial.
f scientists were to disprove (this is, of course, theoretical; i believe in all Jesus's miracles because my intuition tells me he truly was awesome like that) that Jesus had actually performed any of the miracles it was purported he did, it wouldn't matter in the slightest to someone who had benefited from his teachings and met him in their own heart.
Consider the scriptures I quoted earlier. Wouldn't you at least admit that the Bible (as a whole) says differently, if you take it as it reads? It would be more honest to say that you lean toward the Pantheistic view, rather than the Biblical one, than to try and say the Bible is really affirming the Pantheistic. Here is an example of where, to maintain your view, you'll have to completely disregard, deny, or trivialize a significant portion of scripture that plainly states that if Christianity were just another aphoristic philosophical religion, and not stubbornly historical, that such faith would be futile.
When moving from unknown to unknown, one develops a sense of humility about the ignorance of the human state of being, that we cannot truly "know" anything intellectually, and forces one to live a more spiritually virtuous life.
So your epistemology is that you can't know anything intellectually? Then why are you debating on a philosophy forum as if you really know that you can't know anything?
Stubbornness, unwillingness to hear, anger, lack of humility, can all be a result of dogmatic belief. But you can't say that's the cause. The human heart, sinful, and selfish is the cause. Am I ever that way? I'm sure I am, and when I'm a Jerk, I want to apologize. But you must understand that anti-dogma is one of the most doggedly dogmatic dogmas in town. Just think about Mike. I missed THE bus didn't I?
Dogma is a substitution for real spiritual knowledge and experience.
Another false dichotomy. It may be, but it need not be. Some of the most virtuous people I've known are very dogmatic as far as religious beliefs are concerned.
First of all, the aim of Buddhism is not to destroy or abolish anything, least of all the Self.
What about the teaching of anatta (no self)?
As to the "betterness" of enlightenment as opposed to other states of being, an experienced buddhist does not use subjunctive forms of grammar in reference to it. There is no "should be" "ought to have been" or "would be better" about enlightenment.
Perhaps with a monistic view of reality, it is hard to speak with subjective forms of grammar. But even if that's the case, Buddhist teaching is not without prescriptive language ... which emphasizes one thing and not another. Such prescriptive language, and even the word "enlightenment" itself holds the concept of "good / better" inherently. The Buddhist may deny such a connotation, but the attractiveness of his teaching depends upon it. The Buddhist himself also has to feel that enlightenment is a truly better path, or he wouldn't be urging and teaching others to take that path as well. Consider the bodhisattva of Buddhism: an enlightened teacher who out of compassion, has refused to enter nirvana in order to help others along the way of enlightenment. What sense would compassion make if there were no real category of "good"? Remember I am not arguing that Buddhists don't deny such in their doctrines, but only that they do so inconsistently with their practice and teachings.
I still don't see why you find Karma to be an irrational concept. It's very useful. As you sow, so shall you reap and all that good stuff, what goes around comes around, etc.
It's not irrational. But it is incompatible with the metaphysical views of Buddhism ... in which all actions and motives should really be indistinguishable, both pragmatically and morally. But here is this "thing" in the universe which sets up a hierarchy. A hierarchy within a monistic system makes no sense. If it stands "above" the monad of nature, then it has ceased to be monistic, and is more compatible with the Judeo-Christian view. Karma actually imposes a dualism upon a closed system ... a clue that something is wrong with idea of a closed cyclical cosmos.
Yes, Hindus do hold their arms very wide, but is there such a thing as "too wide" when dealing with infinity?
I would say so, seeing that infinity is literally everything. If everything is God, including contradiction, and non-truth, good and bad, life and death, etc ... then such a statement is indeed too wide to be meaningful. You even lose God in the mix. It's more irrational to say that everything is God, than simply to say everything is everything. Why else do you think that Hindus worship Kali, a female representation of God with fangs and skulls hanging about her neck? Because even the terrifying aspects of the universe, death, sickness, and cruelty, are all a part of what has always been ... what Hindus might call "god". Distinction has been lost so that ugliness and futility is also considered part of the divine.
Acceptance of Jesus depends first on determining who he is.
Again, saying that believing that the Biblical view of Jesus is "limited", and to proceed to absorb and Christianity into a Pantheistic worldview, is to accept something other than Christianity. The Gnostics were refuted by the early Church for that same kind of doctrine. One thing for certain, that view is heterodox. And it would be more consistent for you to just say, "I disagree with the Bible when it asserts the exclusivity of Salvation through Jesus Christ, and align myself more with a monistic, pantheistic world view."
But saying that God is neccessarily complex, and always too complex to be understood, is also putting a limitation on him.
Surely if something as little as a crumb may be simple and understood, someone as mighty as God can be too.
That is very true, Ess. We shouldn't confuse exhaustive knowledge with genuine knowledge.
[This message has been edited by Stephanos (12-27-2005 01:36 AM).]