According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

Saturday, June 23, 2018

The Problem of Being



Introduction

The challenge of reading the bible obliquely, or without context, is oftentimes confusing with contemporary data we know which may conflict with this kind of reading. It is a problem of hermeneutics (or, biblical interpretation) when our reading relies on traditional religious views and understanding of the bible to the exclusion of contemporary data sets we now know and continue to accrue.

As example, the Genesis story of creation becomes very different when applying an evolutionary approach coupled with historical anthropology, modern archeological knowledge, and comparative literary redaction to its pages. When doing so the question which then arises is how do I read the bible without relativising its teachings to my particular line of thinking? Or, how might I take what I believe and allow those beliefs to adapt to the challenges of contemporary studies when applying those same studies to the biblical text?

One approach is to carefully rethink how this new information might then relate to God's plan of salvation and our participation in it. Though the bible's narratival stories may provide inspiration we do not need to lose such stories when dismissing the ancient's description of their world as they then knew, understood it, and tried to explain it. Rather, we might take the substance or framework of their expression and reapply it with the same vigor for the worldly era we live in today with all the challenges that that may bring to us when we do so. For instance, the problem of the refugee and foreigner in the bible is every bit as relevant today as it was then. Our challenge is to act in a way worthy of God's love as opposed to the world's way of dismissing community/corporate/national responsibility for a problem we have no sympathy towards based upon public policies, laws, and attitudes. When differing from these societal mores we find ourselves in conflict with friends, family and  public opinion not unlike God's prophets of old when proclaiming God's Word against the indifferences and disobedience they saw occurring in real time within their own societies.

Consequently, when updating older theologies with newer content we might attempt to make a more correct application of God's Word to contemporary society by delineating not only the positive take-aways from God's mercy and love, but also the corrective behaviors to the negative actions we must desist from reproducing by redirecting ourselves towards more humane attitudes and activity. Further, some of the biblical ideas/ideals/beliefs we once held about biblical expectations might improve  our sense of being in the world while others may need to be let go as they do not add to the Spirit of God's love and grace. This is the whole concept behind re-analyzing biblical studies anyway... to act in corrollation with the Spirit of God rather than upon our own religious folklores and belief sets held in error with the Word of God.

In The Problem of Being I attempt to provide an example of how our reading of the bible might be challenged when updated with newer information within a constructive understanding of redemption. It is but a beginning point, not an ending point, as the problem of hermeneutical description and application will always require a more sophisticated approach than what we normally give to it. But then again, like any philosophical approach to older life-belief systems, we might gain immeasurably from a differing approach which might be wider than our own rather than thinking we won't be blessed if attempting another (supposedly unbiblical) approach. As baseline to biblical interpretation I might suggest the overall theme of God's Love, Grace, and Mercy as helpful guides. Or another, expressed in popular parlance, WWJD, "What would Jesus do?" On the reverse side, when these guiding principles are negated by contrary theologies, dogmas, or teaching then I would submit those resultant doctrines, theologies, religious expressions, and beliefs need to be challenged and dismissed. Peace.

R.E. Slater
June 24, 2018

* * * * * * * * * *


The Challenge of Reading the Bible in a Contemporary Setting

The evolution of the biologic species and habitat of Homo sapiens challenges the biblical story of Genesis depicting the ancient mindset of early human development. In every way the earth's records support the former discovery so that as a follower of Jesus one must determine how to read the Genesis story in light of this discovery. It challenges not only the process of creation - whether immediate or mediated by creational conditions - but also the doctrine of original sin as to what it is, what it means, and why the Christian gospel centers it within the biblical record so deeply. Given the plethora of evolutionary studies on group sociology and personal psychology of human beings however sin's origins we see the effects of "sin" everywhere about.

Too, the story of an original couple makes for a great narrative but the reality it seems to be speaking to in the ancient mind is that we have estranged ourselves from one another and from our Creator God. However that estrangement came to be it does seem to be a very ancient estrangement. The bible declares the causing factor to be disobedience - but perhaps from an evolutionary frame it may refer to the continuing trait/instinct/habit/behavior modes/etc of not listening to the God of Love who seeks redemption and healing in all things human and creational. So here again we see another age-old dilemma the bible speaks to time-and-again in its own way through the experiences of more ancient socieites driven by their own insights and longings.


Then there is the mythical figure of Satan in the mythical Garden of Eden who is blamed for all things going bad. Again, in the modern mindset this may be a metaphor for choosing not to love regardless of its evolutionary origins. Which also brings us to the idea of "free will" likewise described in the pages of Genesis by the actions of its literary figures. And yet, this struggle of will is not limited to humans alone but to those things or beings we describe as angelic or divine each striving with the other in a complex of swirling interactions and relational results. Some of which bring nurture, nourishment and well-being while other interactions deflect all that is good in life by robbing others of these precious states of being. By bringing not "heaven" but "hell" to an earth torn by our humanness when we seek our own will and purposes and not that of the other.


As such, though an evolutionary approach to the bible seems to present a great difficulty to its reading, it might also suggest that there are other ways of reading the biblical script without throwing the bible and its stories "under the bus" as we say. That in someway, with the right perspective, we might be able to gain from the ancients some wisdom to the age old problems of who we are, if there is a God, and if so, where is He/She/It, and why is this world we live in the way it is? All basic questions asked of humanity through its ages again and again and again within the dystopia of its civilizations morphing with other civilizations in heightened cycles of enlightenment and destruction.


For some, oppression, injustice, human cruelty, civil war, or revolution becomes the lynchpin to asking these questions. For others, simple comparative reading between literary-philosophic-scientific compositions does the same from the times of the ancient Greeks to modern man. But however we live this life we must live it as showing light and love to one another rather than the sin and evil which lives alongside us moving us to do otherwise. It is the most ancient of struggles and the one we think of as being the closest to the divine-human struggle to abide within as we, in our own gardens, either bring blessings or great harm to others. It is as much a moral imperative as it is a spiritual dilemma and one, should we be able to answer its challenges, might find the kind of salvation promised to us in the bible through God Himself who offered Himself up through Jesus as both example and expiation for our burden of sin that salvation from evil might be found and lived within the power of His Spirit. For alone we are unable, but with God, by God, of God, and through God we might.

R.E. Slater
June 23, 2018


REFERENCES


Genesis 1

The Creation

1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was [a]formless and void, and darkness was over the [b]surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was [c]moving over the [d]surface of the waters. 3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.

6 Then God said, “Let there be [e]an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” 7 God made the [f]expanse, and separated the waters which were below the [g]expanse from the waters which were above the [h]expanse; and it was so. 8 God called the [i]expanse heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, a second day.

9 Then God said, “Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so. 10 God called the dry land earth, and the gathering of the waters He called seas; and God saw that it was good. 11 Then God said, “Let the earth sprout [j]vegetation, [k]plants yielding seed, and fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit after [l]their kind [m]with seed in them”; and it was so. 12 The earth brought forth [n]vegetation, [o]plants yielding seed after [p]their kind, and trees bearing fruit [q]with seed in them, after [r]their kind; and God saw that it was good. 13 There was evening and there was morning, a third day.

14 Then God said, “Let there be [s]lights in the [t]expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years; 15 and let them be for [u]lights in the [v]expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so.16 God made the two [w]great lights, the greater [x]light [y]to govern the day, and the lesser [z]light [aa]to govern the night; He made the stars also. 17 God placed them in the [ab]expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, 18 and [ac]to govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness; and God saw that it was good. 19 There was evening and there was morning, a fourth day.

20 Then God said, “Let the waters [ad]teem with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth [ae]in the open [af]expanse of the heavens.” 21 God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarmed after their kind, and every winged bird after its kind; and God saw that it was good.22 God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” 23 There was evening and there was morning, a fifth day.

24 Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures after [ag]their kind: cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth after [ah]their kind”; and it was so. 25 God made the beasts of the earth after [ai]their kind, and the cattle after [aj]their kind, and everything that creeps on the ground after its kind; and God saw that it was good.

26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the [ak]sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the [al]sky and over every living thing that [am]moves on the earth.” 29 Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the [an]surface of all the earth, and every tree [ao]which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you;30 and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the [ap]sky and to every thing that [aq]moves on the earth [ar]which has life, I have givenevery green plant for food”; and it was so. 31 God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.


Wikipedia - Homo sapiens

Homo sapiens is the systematic name used in taxonomy (also known as binomial nomenclature) for the only extant human species. The name is Latin for "wise man" and was introduced in 1758 by Carl Linnaeus (who is himself also the type specimen).
Extinct species of the genus Homo include Homo erectus, extant during roughly 1.8 to 0.1 million years ago, and a number of other species (by some authors considered subspecies of either H. sapiens or H. erectus). H. sapiens idaltu (2003) is a proposed extinct subspecies of H. sapiens.
The age of speciation of H. sapiens out of ancestral H. erectus (or an intermediate species such as Homo heidelbergensis) is estimated to have taken place at roughly 300,000 years ago. Sustained archaic admixture is known to have taken place both in Africa and (following the recent Out-Of-Africa expansion) in Eurasia, between about 100,000 to 30,000 years ago.
In certain contexts, the term anatomically modern humans[2] (AMH) is used to distinguish H. sapiens as having an anatomy consistent with the range of phenotypesseen in contemporary humans from varieties of extinct archaic humans. This is useful especially for times and regions where anatomically modern and archaic humans co-existed, e.g. in Paleolithic Europe.


Wikipedia - Being
[Excerpt] Being in continental philosophy and existentialism
Some philosophers deny that the concept of "being" has any meaning at all, since we only define an object's existence by its relation to other objects, and actions it undertakes. The term "I am" has no meaning by itself; it must have an action or relation appended to it. This in turn has led to the thought that "being" and nothingness are closely related, developed in existential philosophy.
Existentialist philosophers such as Sartre, as well as continental philosophers such as Hegel and Heidegger have also written extensively on the concept of being. Hegel distinguishes between the being of objects (being in itself) and the being of people (Geist). Hegel, however, did not think there was much hope for delineating a "meaning" of being, because being stripped of all predicates is simply nothing.
Heidegger, in his quest to re-pose the original pre-Socratic question of Being, wondered at how to meaningfully ask the question of the meaning of being, since it is both the greatest, as it includes everything that is, and the least, since no particular thing can be said of it. He distinguishes between different modes of beings: a privative mode is present-at-hand, whereas beings in a fuller sense are described as ready-to-hand. The one who asks the question of Being is described as Da-sein ("there/here-being") or being-in-the-world. Sartre, popularly understood as misreading Heidegger (an understanding supported by Heidegger's essay "Letter on Humanism" which responds to Sartre's famous address, "Existentialism is a Humanism"), employs modes of being in an attempt to ground his concept of freedom ontologically by distinguishing between being-in-itself and being-for-itself.
Being is also understood as one's "state of being," and hence its common meaning is in the context of human (personal) experience, with aspects that involve expressions and manifestations coming from an innate "being", or personal character. Heidegger coined the term "dasein" for this property of being in his influential work Being and Time ("this entity which each of us is himself…we shall denote by the term 'dasein.'"[1]), in which he argued that being or dasein links one's sense of one's body to one's perception of world. Heidegger, amongst others, referred to an innate language as the foundation of being, which gives signal to all aspects of being.

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