Statesboro, GA, USA
Stephanos, as I've implied before, I don't put my faith in scriptures which are not direct accounts of something Jesus Christ said.
You do understand that when the New Testament documents were compiled and written, many of those who knew Jesus or his disciples personally, were alive? These were direct accounts, in the sense that that's how written accounts were typically processed in those days.
Events ---> oral tradition ---> unofficial writings ---> official writings/ compilation.
Seeing that the New Testament documents have more manuscript attestation (and closer to the events they describe) than any other examples of Ancient literature, and that gnostic documents only appeared much later, how do explain the lack of an alternative story among the early writings? There is no such manuscript support for a more "real" account of what Jesus said and did.
So historically, do you really have much to support the idea that these documents are not accurate descriptions of what Jesus really said, other than a "hermeneutic of suspicion"?
Much of your argument stems from the idea that one cannot stay true to Christian orthodox beliefs if they also believe my philosophies, but I am not interested in Orthodox beliefs or in sticking with tradition, nor do I consider dogma to be of great use.
That's fine. You must choose for yourself, and I respect your responsiblity to choose. But I only wanted to clarify and underscore that your view is indeed heterodox, and not compatible with the Christian scriptures ... and in that sense, it cannot really be called Christian. It's just better to admit such (if that's really true) than to patronizingly try to absorb the Christian History into another system which denies that very history, in any actual sense, but tends to uphold it, only in a mystical sense that contradicts the texts.
And I believe you have admitted that such is what you are presenting since 1) you have denied your confidence in the New Testament scriptures, rather than directly discuss them in their own context, and 2) have denied the importance of "dogma" based upon your own philosophical views- while Christianity has asserted from the beginning that dogma (though not everything) is essential.
If I have "dodged" scripture, it's because it was written by someone other than Jesus, and I take it with a grain of salt. I don't put my faith in "the doctrines of men" as Ron says. One of Jesus's huge frustrations was always that people just didn't seem to be "getting it", and I don't think that that changed much after his death.
But that's simply one more Christian article of faith that you deny ... that God was able to "inspire" writings that accurately reflect both history and truth. In that sense, your belief is non-Christian, or perhaps pre-Christian. I won't call it "unchristian" because of the association of that word with meanness. And I know you are sincere.
How are you even sure that Jesus was frustrated that people didn't seemed to be "getting it", if you don't trust the very history that records such episodes? And what's more how do you even know what "it" was, that Jesus was trying to convey, if you don't have an accurate history out of which you may know it? What "gospels" are you going to refer me to? The pseudepigriphal writings? Those are more doubtful than any of the apostolic Christian texts.
The only way you can identify what is the body of Jesus' teaching is, by historical texts, or by complete revision ... saying that it was really something more like Hinduism or Buddhism than anything else. But you've taken your foot out of history, if you do that. You say you can't believe the history, because it is doubtful ... but how can you believe the one you're making up?
I do think that Jesus is the only way, but that whether or not people want to call him that makes no difference. Jesus forgives all sins, including semantic ones.
You have to at least understand if someone calls you by another name, they could be calling you a nick-name, but it's a greater possibility they may not know you. You haven't addressed that possiblity with Jesus, historical or supernatural. The scriptures do not say that his name is unimportant. Do a word study on the name of God in the Old testament and New. Then do a word study on the name of Jesus in the New Testament, and note the seeming importance attached to the language used. When I meet someone, I get introduced to the name at some point, either early or later. And often with the learning of someone's name, misconceptions are disspelled, and new understanding comes.
I'm not saying that someone can never know Jesus, without knowing his name first. But I am saying you're going too far by suggesting that Pantheism is just another way to "know Jesus".
However, the historical figure of Jesus was only one aspect of his many dimensions, and to consider his physical personage more important than all other aspects is, I think, dodging the real spiritual issue.
I don't consider his physical personage "more important" than other aspects. I just don't accept the one, at the expense of the other. A view of Jesus which denies the physical / historical personage is, I think, dodging the unity issue. History and spirituality need not be at odds.
I don't deny the "spiritual" aspect of Jesus. We can talk about the spiritual nature of his words, his deeds, his divinity, ad infinitum. I can talk about love, grace, peace, universal brotherhood, sacrifice, beauty, cosmic wonder, etc.. etc.. But you have only tended to discuss Christian spirituality, in the context of another system ... not on it's own terms.
In the link to wikipedia you posted, did you scroll down to the part where it talks about Buddha Nature? I never read a sentence which involved destruction of the Self. How can you destroy something which doesn't exist?
That's my point. I mean that Buddhism destroys the self, in a philosophical sense, by denying that it ever existed. You just restated what I was saying. Buddhism denies individuality, while Christianity affirms it.
The Buddha never said that he thought all people should be buddhists, or that everyone "ought" to be enlightened. In Buddhist thought, there is no "ought."
If I may say respectfully, you're going to have a hard time convincing me of the Buddhist view that there is no "ought" in the universe, if you can't convince me that there is no "ought" in Buddhism itself.
The "oughtness" in Buddhism, is subtle, as Buddhism is a religion of mildness and subtlety. But it is present nonetheless, through connotation and language. It really makes no difference whether Buddhists choose to proselytize or not, or even whether it is seen as proper in the Buddhist system.
Aside from the word "enlightenment" (in which resides the implicit assumption that light is better than darkness), consider the four noble truths. Nobility is hierarchically better than that which is ignoble. Consider the eight-fold path, which tells of right speech, action, livelihood, effort, awareness, meditation. What does "right" mean?
Subtle or not it's there. I see it. How else do you explain these things, without merely reiterating the dogma that there is no "ought"? I never denied that Buddhism asserts this, only that it does so inconsistently.
Karma is an inseperable function of Samsara, and it is exactly this state that buddhists wish to transcend; one cannot escape Samsara just by having more good karma than they know what to do with. Sure, the buddhist eight-fold path brings good karma with it, because it involves skillful action, but the aim of skillful action is to create the appropriate inner conditions conducive to waking up. The Buddha never said "Get enough good karma, and you'll be enlightened."
Okay, I'll accept that for now. I'll read more about Karma in relation to Samsara, Enlightenment, and Nirvana. Even so, the goal of "nirvana" is incompatible with the prescriptions of the eightfold path. How can "no self" have right conduct, or be "skilled"? And if the "oughtness" of these prescriptions are presented merely as an unfortunate part of the illusion of selfhood, then how can they be vehicles of escaping that very illusion?
Your depiction of Kali was very condescending and culturally insensitive. Death and sickness are universal facts of life, and Hindus do not try to sugarcoat them. Thus they are incorporated, very logically, into the Hindu cosmological ideas about how the universe works, and your perception of these elements as having the flavor of futility is not a reflection of Hindu sentiment, any more than in Ecclesiastes, where the themes of mortality and impermanence are also explored.
Not meaning to be insensitive or condescending. But Ecclesiastes does express futility, quite vividly. The point of contention for me, and the difference I think between the futility of Ecclesiastes, and that represented in Kali-worship, is that one is presented as the musings and vanity of life on planet earth, while the other is actually elevated as deity.
If you read Ecclesiastes, the "Meaninglessness" that the teacher expounds upon is set in antithesis to the purpose and power of God. And though the solution for this "vanity" is given as rays of sun peeking through nature's clouds, rather than all at once, the worship of God as redeemer is given at the end of the book as the solution. The writer of E. speaks of "evils" he has seen under the sun, and injustices. And thus the problem (much like that in the book of Job), is how an all-good God could allow such real injustices and evils to exist. A thorny problem, to which the goodness of God is set in juxtaposition, as a contrast. Such is the "spirit" and answer of Ecclesiastes, and Job.
The Hindu worship of Kali, conversely, does not juxtapose the goodness of God against the problem of "evil", rather it denies that evil exists, and places the problem not in juxtaposition with God, but in union, making God himself (herself, itself, noself) the composite mixture and denial of good and evil.
Whichever way you see it, Ecclesiastes and it's musings, are not placed upon the altar of worship. The fact that Kali, in all her destruction, is placed upon the altar of worship, is rooted in the perennial inability of Hinduism to distinguish between good and evil, or cruelty and non-cruelty ... Everything that is, becomes divine in such a system.
The shortest way to put it is that the underlying cosmology of Ecclesiastes and Kali-worship is wholly different, though descriptions of futility and death are going to be similar, in any culture. It is the meanings ascribed to evil and death, in Judaism and Hinduism, which are at odds.
A more accurate way to state the Hindu stance on Christianity would be "Oh, you mean you know the same God?"
But that would be mistaken. Their very definition of God is not the same in those systems. The infinite-personal God of the Judeo-Christian scriptures, is not the impersonal "ALL" of hinduism. For a hindu to admit to "knowing the same God" is linguistic osmosis, not conformity of knowledge.
And I'm not saying that Hindus blatantly or disrespectfully say that Christianity equates Hinduism. Nor am I saying that they see nothing true, or refuse to recognize truth in Christianity. I'm more addressing their total system, and how it leads to that belief.
The more vocal abductors of the Bible into a Monistic pantheistic system, in my experience, are Westerners who tend toward Eastern views, rather than Hindus themselves.
[This message has been edited by Stephanos (12-29-2005 12:43 AM).]