Learning Over 2 Years in Discussing God

involves endless clicking on hyperlinks to God… never really arriving at a destination, but nonetheless engaged in a lifelong journey through truth, not towards it.” (Jolly Beggar)

I like this – it speaks about the openness of one’s faith (and maybe this is how it should be?). In the past 2 years I have come to a few conclusions also – in the same vein:

(a) Why do I always need to be right – when I am so wrong. I have a limited understanding of God.

(b) I state my opinions and experiences and what I have learned about faith in God – but these are not absolutes. Each person varies in what they learn about God (from God). There is no one way to heaven or hell – just like none of us are the same.

(c) Not knowing the answer is an answer – and can be the most honest one.

(d) No one person should lord it over another concerning theological viewpoints – since we all hold limited viewpoints. The one that does this serves themselves.

(e) Faith that becomes closed is dead. Faith that is for sale is cheap and worthless. Faith that is exclusive is becoming the ‘broad road’. Faith that hurts another is selfish. Faith that follows only the system is a waste of good intellect. Faith needs to remain in the process of open-ness and searching- anything less is a lie we tell ourselves to make us ‘feel good’.

(f) All of us are a community of faith – sharing what treasure we have one with another – so we can have more fulfilled versions of God.

(g)  Faith is only as real as you allow it to be.

(h) It matters what we do with ‘truth’ and not what we think is ‘truth’ – it changes what we defend (ideas or people?).

(i) God is not looking for a defender – but we are looking for something to give us meaning.

(j) The ideas the church structure has defined narrowly (prayer, worship, fellowship, etc) are not at all simple and exist outside of buildings.

(k) God is love and when God is not love God is dead

I’ll leave it at that for now – God knows I could be here all day.

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25 thoughts on “Learning Over 2 Years in Discussing God

  1. You write: (a) Why do I always need to be right – when I am so wrong. I have a limited understanding of God.

    I will take you at your word. You are wrong about most everything that follows (a).
    fishon

  2. Thanks for the vote of confidence fishon – I knew I could rely on you for that. Care to step out on a limb and explain yourself or you gonna spout something and say nothing afterwards – and make us guess if what you said holds merit? How mysterious.

  3. “You are wrong” (Fishon)

    How so? If ‘I am wrong’ then explain where I fall off in your theological book? If ‘I am wrong’ then in comparison to what standard exactly? And if ‘I am wrong’ – who is ‘right’?

    I said God and His word first – so you can’t say that fishon.

  4. **Why do I always need to be right – when I am so wrong. **

    Validation. I’m not saying this as a personal attack, but across the board. It applies to me as well. If our position is right, and we convince those who are “wrong,” it gives us a sense of validation, and possibly even worth. We would clearly hold a piece of the truth, if we are right, and can be looked at as a source of knowledge.

    And this isn’t always a bad thing — think of a new scientific or medical breakthrough. Being right there is a good sense of validation, because it’s the payoff for the investment of hard work.

    **All of us are a community of faith – sharing what treasure we have one with another – so we can have more fulfilled versions of God.**

    I think you can expand this and say so that we can be more fufilled versions, as well. Not that we could be God, but so that we would be what we were originally created to be: images and likenesses of God.

    **It matters what we do with ‘truth’ and not what we think is ‘truth’ – it changes what we defend (ideas or people?).**

    Totally behind you 100%. If we feel that the truth is that God loves every one of us,and yet we absolutely can’t stand our office mate or something yet make sure to be kind to him/her, we are doing great things with that truth. We aren’t letting the “wanna hit the office mate” inclination win.

  5. I suppose it is human nature to want to always be right, yet it is much more freeing to hold onto the possibility of being wrong. If I think I’m right, I’m really only going to be willing to look at those things which validate my position, everything I read, every interaction I have is going to be filtered through my ‘rightness’. If, however, I allow for the possibility I could be missing something, I’m much more open to learning across a broader spectrum and not so set on seeing everything one way.

    I don’t see this as me replaying the same things over and over, however. It’s right for me to be Jewish, it would be wrong for me to be Christian. I’ve worked through all that in the past, so it’s not something I spend time on anymore. But, for other things, how I live my life as a Jew, how I interpret Torah, those things I leave open to possibilities I may not have yet explored

    I liked the d’var by Rabbi Artson for last weeks’ parashah where Avraham also left open the possibility he could be wrong.

  6. “We would clearly hold a piece of the truth, if we are right, and can be looked at as a source of knowledge” (OSS)

    But even science is not so closed to not consider that someone’s original finding may be wrong or due for a change. I think for me to think I am ‘right’ is to exclude others and their opinions – giving me more to teach than to learn. In theological circles this can be dangerous – this being an ultimate authority (ex: jim jones, koresh, or paul hill). Even the things I stated are open to debate – and this is a good thing (so we can all learn from discussion).

    I made a point to Yael that I think resonates what I mean by that sentence: ‘you have to be wrong in order to validate being right’. I have a plethora of mistakes concerning who and what I thought God meant in the teachings – and I’ll bet I still have a long ways to go. But I am willing to be ‘wrong’ so that I can find the perspective that best defines ‘right’.

    An example could be something like ‘judge how you want to be judged back’. If I call someone names and demean their character in order to find some satisfaction to feeling ‘I am right’ – then am I really being ‘right’? But if those mistakes are made, and they get made, then maybe we learn that this idea within judgement is the same idea as ‘do unto others as we want done to us’ – and I sure as hell don’t want someone calling me some names to get a ‘good feeling’. Then we change what we know about judgment in the teachings of Jesus by trying and testing it.

    “I think you can expand this and say so that we can be more fufilled versions, as well” (OSS)

    Agreed – what good is knowledge without it’s actualizing counterpart – experience.

    “If, however, I allow for the possibility I could be missing something, I’m much more open to learning across a broader spectrum and not so set on seeing everything one way” (Yael)

    This is the exact point I am making. I have to make sure to allow room for others to speak into my writings or ideas – so that I may see something I never knew. I have had experiences with this – concerning some of the things OSS, yourself, and other bloggers have talked about. I found that what I thought i had nailed down was not so – others were developing better interpretations than I was – and I started to learn more by being open-minded.

  7. Jason, what I see you striving for here is the ultimate open position. I see this in much of your writing, and I myself strive to be open in some areas also. But I think it is an impossible and self defeating goal, especially to the degree you seem to be aiming for (only the last four points you make show that you stand for something). Now, I know that you do stand for some things, and some of the most important things IMHO, but should we have to be open even on those things we firmly believe?

    I agree that we are wrong to pursue a position of “complete rightness” (equate that to absolute righteousness), but I do think our goal should be the “continual search of rightness”. And along the way, should we not be striving to find certain things that we can hang our hat on?

    While I agree that we should not push our beliefs onto others, we should be ready and able to give good reason for the core things that we believe. We don’t have to be pushy, be we should be able to say that; “I am interested in your position, but this is where I stand on these things and I am not budging unless you (or God) are able to show me I am wrong.”

    Standing for certain beliefs will certainly turn some people off, but do you really want to interact with people who will not allow you that?

  8. “but should we have to be open even on those things we firmly believe?” (Ken)

    Depends on what we firmly believe and how that effects the world around us. If we are talking about some doctrinal statement of faith – that in effect impacts very little of ‘what we do with our faith’ (ex: Jesus is the son of God/son of man) – then that’s up to each person.

    If we are talking about ‘loving our neighbor’ then I think we need to stick to the idea but discuss what it is and how it looks. No need to lose something we hold dear to our faith.

    “And along the way, should we not be striving to find certain things that we can hang our hat on?” (Ken)

    I agree with you here – but even the stand we hang the hat on gets improved from time to time.

    “be we should be able to say that; “I am interested in your position, but this is where I stand on these things and I am not budging unless you (or God) are able to show me I am wrong.”” (Ken)

    I see. I would say it depends on what we are being questioned on. If I am being questioned on the actual teachings of Jesus – then I am ready to discuss that and lay down a perspective that I hold to. If someone does not like it – well – like you said – I am open to discussion on this but does not mean I need to change my value (unless a better interpretation appears).

    However, if we are discussing dogmatic articles of the faith about who or what God is – well I am not about to rest my personal foot anywhere as of yet. Also, these things do little to change the way I treat my neighbor or my value system – they usually are those ‘it is or it isn’t’ beliefs (ex: trinity, God is man, Bible has no errors, hell is a real place, Jesus was 1/2 man & 1/2 God, etc). And those beliefs cause division for no good reason except to say ‘this side is on the right side of the line – that side is on the wrong side of the line – or as I say – orthodoxy is stagnating the faith.

    For me, it’s all about focus – and there are certian things I fight for and stand for (ex: residential school process in Canada and finding out what happened to approx 50,000 missing Indian children – a genocide) – because they need to be heard and justice has to begin somewhere. However, most of the things I get involved in derive from the values I hold and cherish – oddly enough defending the oppressed is one of the high ones on my list (or the poor). But I got that from Matthew 5 (blessed are the poor in spirit) as a focus.

  9. “Standing for certain beliefs will certainly turn some people off, but do you really want to interact with people who will not allow you that?” (Ken)

    Yes. I always do. My beliefs don’t hurt people though and neither do I ascribe to the idea they should. I am here to discuss and learn – nothing more and nothing less. I cannot control what another thinks or believes and I am cool with that – but I state almost too clearly what I stand for a lot of times…the only people to bail have been Christians so far.

  10. “a lifelong journey through truth, not towards it” I really like that.

    I’m tracking with you on all of this. Here’s the one that relates most to where I’ve been in my thoughts and meditations lately…

    (j) The ideas the church structure has defined narrowly (prayer, worship, fellowship, etc) are not at all simple and exist outside of buildings.

    I think it is more commonly believed that “the church” has progressed in its understanding of prayer, worship, fellowship, etc. (i.e. the accumulation of “wisdom” and literature over the centuries). But I think you are right, it has actually been the opposite… a “narrowing”, and it started from day one. Even the disciples themselves in the very presence of Jesus wanted to define and structure things. It didn’t take the early church very long to simplify it and “take it inside”

  11. “I agree with you here – but even the stand we hang the hat on gets improved from time to time.” (Jason)

    I know too well the dangers of just accepting the “party line” on things concerning our faith. But I do think there are certain things that we must decide on before we can follow Christ. Jesus made some awful bold statements like “I am the way the truth and the light” that demand a response other than “well I like some of what the guy teaches”. I am not saying that you are saying that, I am just making a point.

    “However, if we are discussing dogmatic articles of the faith about who or what God is – well I am not about to rest my personal foot anywhere as of yet.” (Jason)

    While our knowledge of God is limited, I believe He has provided all that we need to make a clear choice. I may not know exactly what I should do in all situations, but I do know what He values (love, truth, charity, etc.). I have enough understanding of God to say that He alone is worthy of praise.

    You say it is all about focus, and I agree. You list certain things that close to your heart and that you fight for, and I have my list also. Everyone will be directed to the care and love of others in their own circles. Yet I believe our focus is to be on God.

    “My beliefs don’t hurt people though and neither do I ascribe to the idea they should.” (Jason)

    How then do you reconcile that Jesus warned us that we would be persecuted? To take a stand on something you will offend some. To not take a stand on anything you will offend some. That is just the way it is. He did not promise that it would be easy, but He did say it would be worth it.

    “the only people to bail have been Christians so far.” (Jason)

    I know that feeling, and it is not a good one. Funny though, I have yet to have one person come and sincerely try to understand why I left the fold. I was there at one time too, I just pray that some will come around. How foolish it all is to me now.

  12. “How then do you reconcile that Jesus warned us that we would be persecuted? To take a stand on something you will offend some” (Ken)

    I would still say what I believe doesn’t have to hurt anyone and that has nothing to do with persecution (per se). My beliefs don’t require I seek out to be disliked – it may happen – but if someone wants to be offended about my freedoms – then so be it. As far as I am concerned Christians mis-interpret the idea of persecution a lot (almost like if they don’t receive it they aren’t being Christian).

    Fact of the matter is – persecution is only persecution if it is un-called for and is based on the goodness of a people group and not a revenge thing (ex: the holocaust). If someone wants to get offended over the words I say – they literally have to be trying to ruin my life before I call it persecution (ex: trying to get me fired, bothering my family, or physically attacking me).

    I also don’t think Jesus is looking for us to be ‘persecuted’ – but warns us that in standing for ideas like peace, truth, mercy, and justice this can very well happen (since certain powers that be don’t like some of this stuff and want to keep their status quo and power). I think what I write will not get me persecuted (that’s almost laughable) – but what will get me persecuted is defending Aboriginal rights and physically getting involved (since I am messing with a status quo/power issue).

    As far as I am concerned I see the church structure persecuting more people in the name of God (ex: Kevin Annett – former United minister) than vice versa – for what I would call ‘shading the ideas of truth and justice’. I can name handfuls of people the church has ‘leaned on’ for being theologically different than what is expected of a church leader in certain denominations. You see now we got a real problem. Cause if those people call the church out on this – the church claims it’s being persecuted – when in fact it’s recieving it’s fair share of the sh*t it dealt out. Persecution is a very muddled idea in our faith and rightfully so – it’s hard for me to find one clean denomination that isn’t proposing narrow ideas and short listed versions of what this faith is about (and then they shun their own prophets I would say – who call for change – but rather than change they get run out the building).

    So how do we define what persecution according to the gospels is? The church claims one thing and people that ‘leaned on and coerced’ claim another – but somewhere in this mess someone is being ‘persecuted for their stand’.

    I take a stand – but I stand for ideas like peace, mercy, justice, and the search for truth – and like I mentioned earlier the only people that even come close to restricting me is other Christians (because I have to be wrong for them to righteous for some odd reason – but no one attacks me or ruins my life). It’s funny that you don’t see what I stand for.

  13. Jason, I do see that you stand for something and I have recognized that. Here is what I stand for;

    – God alone is worthy of praise. He is the creator of the earth and heavens and all that is in them.
    – Jesus Christ is God’s only begotten Son and my Savior.
    – Through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, I am able to know God and follow the life and ministry of His son. My life is a sacrifice in response to what He has done for me.
    – Everything else in my life is a gift from God and to be cherished and learned from. My wife and family, friends, and good things God provides are to be loved and cared for mostly, but not as much as my God. Loss of these people and things is tragic but not to be overly mourned as I have put my trust in God only.

    “It’s funny that you don’t see what I stand for.”

    You may be right. I am confused about who you are. You say you are a Christian, yet I see you standing for humanity first. Is that you or do I have it wrong?

  14. “You say you are a Christian, yet I see you standing for humanity first. Is that you or do I have it wrong?” (Ken)

    It’s true. But as Paul notes loving your neighbor fulfills the commandment – and actualizes the beliefs you contain. I see no problem with working for humanity’s betterment – I actually think this was Jesus’ gospel message. If we can re-call from most statements of faith – Jesus was human – and I really loved his message within the parable of the sheep and goats about the reality this faith should take.

  15. Societyvs,
    I wrote you an extensive reply, but I guess it got lost in space. I addressed your conclusions a-k one by one. I spent a good part of my morning doing it. I thought it well done and not abusive, which I can sound in my writing sometimes. That is a lack of writing skills.

    I am not going to do it all again. I may, however, take a look at a couple of them and redo??

    Make it a great tomorrow.
    fishon

  16. I am going to question your statement of faith if that is alright?

    “My wife and family, friends, and good things God provides are to be loved and cared for mostly, but not as much as my God” (Ken)

    I find this interesting – what would God want you to focus on? Humanity or Himself? I am not saying the belief in God isn’t instrumental to what follows afterwards – it obviously is – but does God want the focus to stay on Him? It’s just something about the focus you have here that is kind of strange – not saying God isn’t important – but I see someone pushing us towards interaction in society/community for the betterment of that which is within our realm.

    Also, how do you define worship of God? Is worship an act of actually praising God or of actions that praise God?

  17. Jason, I don’t have time to answer in detail but I stand by what I said. God is to be praised alone. That is clear throughout the Bible. Yes, we are to love others and to the point of real personal sacrifice, but if God is not number one in our life we will not be able to love others as we should. He is the source of love and we draw upon that source. Without Him we would not have life. It is our anniversary so I am going to go love my wife with the love of God, and a little human passion 🙂

  18. **But I am willing to be ‘wrong’ so that I can find the perspective that best defines ‘right’. **

    Which makes sense. THere’s only so much time one can spend deciding on the path before just going down a path, no matter what it is. I want to say Thomas Edison learned thousands of ways not to make a lightbulb? Either way, you are embarking on an action.

    ** also don’t think Jesus is looking for us to be ‘persecuted’ – but warns us that in standing for ideas like peace, truth, mercy, and justice this can very well happen (since certain powers that be don’t like some of this stuff and want to keep their status quo and power). **

    I agree. When fighting something evil, it often doesn’t go quietly. We can see in history that often just actions were origianlly considering unpopular, and people suffered a lot of persecution. Those in power really liked the status quo.

  19. Jason, I think you should know by now that we share a life mission to love and care for others. I do not believe that I am limiting that mission by putting God as my number one focus of love and praise. In fact I am sure that I could not be any more loving and charitable without that focus. God is the source of all truth and love so how can we go wrong by trusting in Him alone and making Him number one in our life?

  20. Hi society
    Ken does have a good post over at his blog. I think it answers this well. It is hard to reconcile the ways of the world with the ways of God. What we are called to do is communicate the gospel to a depraved world. That comes from knowing the gospel better each passing day.

    I see the world as a counterfeit bill. It looks OK from a distance but when you draw attention to certain specific aspects, you realize it’s false. The counterfeit detectives spend most of their time studying the real bills so they can detect the flaws in the counterfeit ones more quickly.

    As Ken says, God first and God alone. Then we face the world, but keep coming back.

  21. ‘I see the world as a counterfeit bill.” (JJ)

    Define what ‘world’ means? Because the world is not ‘bad’ per se but aspects of humanity have made things bad. When I look at that trm ‘world’ I am reminded of what that used to mean to me (Evangelical version) and what I think now. But how do you define world?

    “As Ken says, God first and God alone” (JJ)

    I agree with Ken on this – I have no problem whatsoever with our central focus being God – I am not sure why this is even a question? Isn’t this an absolute given for someone to even have faith? No, for me the question always remains where we go after that focus – or bettter yet – what that focus makes us do and think.

  22. Jason, I don’t think we are much different in the way that we believe that faith without action is dead. I do know there is something different in the way we approach the faith, but I am not here to say that you are wrong. God works in each of us personally, and I trust that he is working in you at least as much as He si in me. Maybe more.

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