Thursday, May 30, 2013

Things I Wonder About

On the drive home from North Carolina we listened to a book on CD; Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife (Simon & Schuster) written by Eben Alexander, MD.  It is the recounting of a physician, a Neurosurgeon, who contacted bacterial meningitis and was in a near death coma for seven days.  If you have any interest at all in the subject, it was an excellent story, read by the author.  I recommend it, although I realize skeptics will find much to discount or challenge, but I found it interesting to see someone with such a background transform from this experience.
Perhaps because it supports so many of my concepts that I find much I agree with in his story.
First, I find it impossible to believe the known universe springs from some random event that occurred without purpose.  I don’t discount the “Big Bang” I just don’t accept it as a random, spontaneous occurrence.  To make this choice requires a conscious decision to accept, on faith, some higher authority.  Skeptics may call this foolishness, or perhaps a lack of critical thinking.   But without the ability to know, with 100% certainty, isn’t any position on the origin of our universe, one that is made based on some form of faith, or is it just a rejection of spiritual faith?
I accept the working of our brain as a big electrical computational device, but again I choose to believe that its design comes with some higher purpose than to just be the top of the food chain here on earth.  The questions of who we are, what purpose we serve, and why we exist are questions that no simple science can truly answer, for they demand more than the calculation of our chemical makeup, or the physical properties of the known universe.  At some level we are, and must be much more than a random collection of DNA molecules.  I wonder how we became more than the just the sum of our parts?
Finally, I have long questioned the relationship between God and the organized churches we have established.  I admit I’ve gone through a number of stages in my life when I was active and searching for answers and was a member of a number of fundamental churches.  I considered the roll of the church in the history of conflict, the expectations of the church hierarchy, the human aspects of the members, and the need for each church to establish itself as the “one legitimate” church to provide the path to salvation.  As I struggled with my beliefs, I came to reject the idea that a divine and all-powerful God would be so petty as to provide only one church with the keys to heaven.  What I see in most organized religions are the human needs to somehow be separate and superior to others.  I wonder how we can believe God would be that narrow?  I don't discount the value of organized religion, but I am unable to accept that one church, or religion is more valid than another.  I do condemn the human's who take advantage of the belief structure to further their political goals.


John said...

To EL: Ref your first comment: The fact is Judism was established by God long before the Roman Catholic Church (kind of an oxymoron in that the church at once considers itself Roman and Universal) and Islam. All can and do make the claim they were established by God. All have and will continue to have the belief they are doing what God wants, and are therefore valid in the eyes of God. The fact each is obligated to validate its charter is done through divine scripture. Each offer the only true path to heaven, implying that God has only offered one true path.

The defense stated in your second post that not all religions can be true is premised on the rather simple statement that A≠ non A. That suggests that God must live by the rules of logic we have established that cause fundamental contradictions between the religions. I don't accept that Heaven is so small a place that only the people who believe as I do, in the salvation of Jesus' sacrifice for my sin, will be allowed in.

I accept I cannot know and understand the enormity of God, but I place my faith and trust in his grace for acceptance. If another believes differently but lives within the structure of their faith will God condemn him or her for picking the wrong church?

I am glad you have a strong faith and belief in the Roman Catholic Church, as you point out the church today is not saying that only they have the keys to heaven, but let's not forget there was a time they did.

Blessed and Broken said...

Yes, God was involved with establishing Judaism. The Old Covenant. Jesus established the Catholic Church...the New Covenant. I have respect for Jewish people, we are sharers in the Old.

I am not sure of God's involvement in Islam...which was founded by Mohamed. As far as I know, our only similarity is the belief in one God.

I posted the second link because I liked the bumper sticker. I was hesitant to share because I am not familiar with that man or his beliefs.

I feel that you are trying to view Catholicism through Fundamentalist glasses. To suggest the view that "God is so narrow minded" not in accordance with Catholic teaching. God is a big God. While God has established or set forth commandments, principals, "you must be baptized by water" etc...we do not believe that He is bound by them.

We will never understand Heaven, at least not on this side of death. But too many people assume eternal life and I don't believe it is as easy as some religions make it out. I don't think it is wise to homolize in funerals that the deceased "has gone to heaven."

We are not the judge. No religion is the judge. That is God's part. It is up to us to "work out (y)our salvation with fear and trembling." Phil 2:12

John said...

First, lets start with an understanding and agreement that I don't single out any faith, or single church within a faith for specific criticism, and I certainly don't say that "God is so narrow minded" which appears to be a quote from someone other than me, as I say precisely the opposite.

I acknowledge that my view of Christianity is shaped by my fundamentalist background but you imply that my comments on the Christian faith are aimed directly at the Catholic Church, and because of my background the comments on Christianity are therefore not valid. That is an unsupported accusation, but the fact you feel so compelled to defend the Church as not being narrow, is something you should consider.

Since the Great Schism of 1054, the Catholic Church has not been able to reconcile itself into a single people with a consolidated theological view of its relationship to God as each side holds strongly to their views of what is right and in accord with God's will. My simple question is this: Is the separations of the Eastern and Western church the will of God, or the folly of man?

Finally, I agree completely that we are not the judge, but I disagree with your statement no religion is the judge, for there are many religions that do assume the roll of judgement on the faithful. Your final reference is an interesting one, especially in light of your position we are not the judge. Why did Paul write to the Philippians?

As with all Paul's letter's, he is writing to provide pastoral support and guidance. But the second chapter is addressing those things he views as deficiencies in their faith and how they should correct them, so in fact he was making judgements and passing them along. While only the most arrogant claim to make a final judgement as to who is worthy of entrance into heaven, church leaders do routinely make lesser judgements on the faithful, up to and including the decision to separate those who do not follow the rules from the body of the church.

In love, and with peace.

Blessed and Broken said...

I am just discovering your comment. I think there are 1000 people more adequate to respond to your questions. Though our brains work very differently, I will do my best in responding.

First, I misquoted you. I took your adjectives of "so petty" and "narrow minded" & reversed their application. We agree on that point.

Just because religions assume the role of judgement...does that make them the judge? No. God is the final judge regardless of what a preacher may preach.

I am not stating that "because of (your) background the comments on Christianity are therefore not valid." I am writing in defense of the Catholic Church to say that many of those opinions...or fundamentalist thoughts do not hold true in Catholic teaching. For example, the Church has never said "we hold the keys to the kingdom." It is likely there have been Catholics who have made this statement...but it is not the teaching of the Church. There is more to be said about salvation, but Paul speaks to that better than I.

To your question about the Schism (or the reformation, etc etc) was not the will of God. God wishes us to be one body. It was because of human weakness, sin, etc, that we are 100,000+ pieces.

Is salvation possible outside of organized religion? Yes. Is that the will of God? No. We are the body of Christ. He has established His Church to help us, provide community, to keep us closely united with Him & to hold fast to truth. There are not 100,000 truths. We dearly need the authority & structure for survival. If my children did not have authority or structure, there would be chaos. The family needs these things to survive.

Final thought...have you read Mere Christianity by CS Lewis? I have not (need to asap)...but it came up in conversation tonight and this quote seemed especially fitting: "at the center of each there is something, or a Someone, who against all divergences of belief, all differences of temperament, all memories of mutual persecution, speaks with the same voice," rejecting the boundaries that divide Christianity's many denominations.

John said...

I would offer one and only one comment. Your answer to the question is salvation possible outside of organized religion? Was yes. Yet to the question - Is that the will of God? You say No. The two answers are not possible. If salvation comes from God, as we both agree, then it cannot be against Gods will if it occurs outside the sanction of the Church, whether that be the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, or Presbyterian.

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