“There is a great advantage in proving the existence of God . . . by means of the idea of God. For the method enables us at the same time to come to know the nature of God, in so far as the feebleness of our nature allows. For when we reflect on the idea of God which we were born with, we see that he is eternal, omniscient, omnipotent, the source of all goodness and truth, the creator of all things, and finally, that he possesses within him everything in which we can clearly recognize some perfection that is infinite or unlimited by any imperfection.” Renee Descartes

What was arguably learned from the Catholic experience is that despotism by Scripture or Papacy is not the best way to find the Christian ‘experience’ or to share it with others. Religion begins with an internal desire for God’s Grace and a willingness toward the rejection of sin.To wit, the following position on the Friends’ Movement is well stated:

“From what I have said . . . we are dealing with a type of religion which may appropriately be called mystical. This word is a loose and fluid one. It has various meanings. I am using it to signify that God is essentially a God who reveals and communicates Himself, and man is essentially a being with spiritual capacities and therefore susceptible within himself to the “radio activity” of the life of God.”

On an earthly level, it seems fairly obvious that there must be an inclination toward Scripture before it can even become meaningful to the believer. This initial inclination must be on an inward spiritual level. Even if Scripture awakens the Spirit within us, the Spirit is spatiotemporally primary. There must first be a Spirit to receive the voice of Scripture which is, by its nature, external to the Spirit that accepts or rejects it.

Whether one is Christian,Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish or otherwise, I think one is forced to accept that there is something within our internal human constitution which makes us capable of accepting or rejecting theological thought. It is this element of our humanity where religious aspiration can begin. If we deny our own internal capacity for understanding our Maker, we render ourselves open to the inherentfalsity of a merely propositional religion. To be truly free in philosophy and basic humanity, we must form our own spiritual postulates before becoming amiable to those of higher human/fleshly authority.

Being, for the most part, a radical empiricist, I am inclined to say that our Faith is a purely experiential matter that is indeed primary to the Reason that may be presented by way of Scripture or fellowship. Faith (after experience) is like a flame placed upon the kindling which is our physical body and physical experience— Fellowship (with the entire human community) and Scripture become the fuel for a full illumination of the world in which we move about and through which we can become morally accountable to our Maker.

Nevertheless, one might well argue that if one is capable of having knowledge of the Scriptures, then one has knowledge of God. The interaction with the Scripture itself could be deemed to be the ‘religious experience’ per se’.

In fact, an Evangelical might well argue that a face-to-face confrontation with Scripture is the only ‘true’ religious experience worth theological mention. However, what the person does with the experience, in terms of conduct and judgment, may render inconsistent observations on the part of the beholder of such a person. In other words, the hypocrisy of higher human authority goes a long way to destroying the notion that Scripture, as presented by Man, must be the only source of Divine Revelation. Perhaps it is at this level, of the acknowledgment of rampant hypocrisy, that moral accountability can begin since our acceptanceorrejectionofdirect religious/theophanic experiencebecomes the touchstone for what determines ‘moral’ conduct.

It is probably also the case that we are held to a higher standard of accountability once we have had the ‘religious experience’ and, then, reject or ignore the knowledge gained from the experience. I have to believe that those unfamiliar with such experiences, if this be fully possible, cannot be justly held to the same standard of those who know then reject.

In this regard, the general revelation that I aspire to can be controversial as it infers that there may be adequate grounds for coming to understand the nature of God within the parameters of human reason. To the extent that human reason is itself God given, I personally see no need for theological concern. In my view, we must trust that God will not allow our reason to be taken to any place that we cannot voluntarily return from. This is much in the same sense that we should not be tempted beyond what we can handle.

The choice to sin or to deviate from the ‘natural light’ of our reason becomes a voluntary aspect of our humanity — not a frailty in the gift of reason or conscience. As indicated below, I do not believe that we can use humanly derived fears about deviations from Scripture as a firewall between God and those that he, within his exclusive omnipotence and omniscience, may wish to speak to in a manner other than that which was chosen for us.

I certainly do think that the acceptance or rejection of God is a moral activity of each individual’s spirit and mind. The rejection of God bears a direct moral cost.Similarly, the acceptance of God would render moral reward. In this sense, Faith and Revelation become moral behaviors at the level of human acceptance or rejection. By “behaviors,” I do not mean conduct in a physical sense. Rather, I mean the mentalistic and spiritualistic mechanics of acceptance and rejection of inward revelation. The physical works that flow from this acceptance or rejection become the touchstone for moral accountability and judgment before our Maker.

Now, I am aware of other criticisms that one might well level against the notion of ‘inward revelation’. It may be contended that this presupposes a purely subjective standard upon which one might determine the nature, veracity or quality of the ‘religious experience’. One might even wish to supplant Scripture as the tether upon which our inward revelations are bound. I am inclined to reject this notion.

It seems to me that the ‘revelations’ to Adam, Moses, Saul or others, are indicative of an open and quite direct communication line between the created and their Creator. But for the receptivity (forced, voluntary or otherwise) of Saul, Moses or others, the word of God would not have borne out the effect that it did. In order to have an open line of communication, it seems that there must be an initial acknowledgment of the fact that God is indeed speaking to or through one’s spirit/person. This initial acknowledgment and acceptance is a revelation involving fear, immediacy and a need for further responsive behaviors on the part of the person being spoken to by God. Certainly, we are not more or less human than Moses or Saul. We probably just to a better job of failing to be receptive to our Higher Destiny and God’s call to each of us.

Indeed, the receptivity and responsiveness of a Man becomes a manifestation of Faith and acknowledgment of theDivine acting within us. This is not a subjective matter since we do not nor can we claim accountability for the initial stimulus that leads us to an acknowledgment of a Divine interaction. Either we have had an experience or not. If we cannot claim credit or identify the specific origin for the stimulus, then we can only attribute the experience to God or the evil one. In either human event, the validity and nature of the experience are purely objective.

We cannot be mistaken about the raw experience of revelation. It seems that only our interpretation, judgments and receptivity can fall prey to subjective standards. Indeed, when dealing with the raw experience of God, regardless of the form of manifestation, we are certainly not left to the analytic frolics and detours that human language may make of our experience. One must also acknowledge the role of one’s ego and inclination toward spiritual vanity in assessing the meaning and impact of a direct one-on-one with God’s divine act of Revelation.

For this reason, amongst others, I must very respectfully submit that Scripture cannot ever bear the same qualitative primacy as the initial religious experience which prompted the actual writing of Scripture. Language, whether Greek, Hebrew, English or Latin, leaves room for ambiguity. This ambiguity can be compounded by the passage of time and the separation of others (through time, voluntary conduct or controversy over translation of Scripture) from those who originally had a direct interface with God. Further, one must have an experience of acknowledgment of God or a need for God before Scripture could ever possibly have an effect.

On a separate, but important, tangential point, it seems rather inconsistent with God’s omnipotence that we should ostensibly require God to speak to us through Scripture. The primacy of God’s power over all must necessarily overcome any conclusion that Scripture must be the only or primary way that God might speak to one.

Seemingly, it would be rather arrogant of us to presuppose that we might have the full intellectual authority to bind others to the conclusion that Scripture is the only way that they can come to know God. It is this very type of spiritual despotism that gave rise to the Protestant movement in the first place. Rather, we must kneel before the fact that God is not so limited — He speaks to his people in ways that are not and cannot be categorized or specifically delineated by purely referential treatments.

Certainly, we must all admit of the fact that He did not speak to Moses, Abraham, the Apostles or even us in the exact same fashion or with the exact same content. In Barclay’s Apology, we are even reminded that God obviously would not be limited in His ability to reach disabled and illiterate humans. No single man or church can place one over the other in an advantaged position when it comes to the Word of God as expressed through God’s Revelation. The Holy Spirit can speak directly to any one of us at a time appropriate to the Providence and Judgment of our Maker.

With the above points in mind, I think that it must be properly conceded that God reserves and bears the ultimate right and characteristic of being able to speak in a manner befitting only to Him and which may well lay well beyond our comprehension. Who might we be to so arrogantly limit God’s methods of speaking to any one of us or his People as a whole? It seems that it can be rather cogently argued that the whole of our human experience is a direct communication from God since he is the maker of all that is and can be perceived by us.

In this regard, certainly one might have accused the Jews of spiritual arrogance by pointing to their rejection of Christ as Savior. Were they not presented with a ‘new’ language from God? Were they not strangers to the ‘new’ and ‘vibrant’ way of speaking chosen by God? Was it not that Christ was a physical manifestation of God’s revelation to man? Should the Pharisees, Sanhedron, Priests, or others have precluded the possibility of a new ‘religious experience’ beyond that which was provided in the Old Testament? We must readily concede that no one could have precluded any method, mode or messenger chosen by God.

It makes no theological sense to limit God to methods of communication which remain palatable only to our tastes, desires, weaknesses, and perceptions of the world. We can only remain accountable for rejecting or accepting the modes that have been Godchosen for us on a personal level. If it be that Scripture was God’s way of reaching any one of us, then we must remain fully accountable to Scripture and, in this sense alone, Scripture may assert a necessary primacy in our lives.

Certainly, Moses was in no position to bear accountability to the primacy of Christ’s teachings, especially those which may have ‘changed the rules’. Moses and his people could only be accountable for those manifestations/revelations of God as chosen for them at that time and place. Religion should not be merely seen as the “concept of faith as intellectualadherencetopropositionalbeliefs.” Unfortunately, ‘religion’ has generally become just this.

As stated above, the traditional role or authority of priests and pastors propagates the a merely propositional religion whose ultimate message comes not from within but from the human purveyors of any given set of written or memorialized religious propositions. Again, the self-explanatory life of Christ and His unobstructed presence within each of us is the essential and only necessary religious proposition and the apodeictic response thereto.

Man truly need not bring to God what God already understands through the miracle and direct testament of His creation and the work of His Redeemer. We can only be accountable for our spiritual health or lack thereof before God since these are the only things left to the ostensible discretion of man. “Religion is the work of man. It is something for man to do. It consists in obeying God. It is man’s duty. It is true God induces him to do it. He influences him by His Spirit, because of his great wickedness and reluctance to obey. . . . [U]nless God interpose the influence of His Spirit, not a man on earth will ever obey the commands of God.”

The only possible avenue for truly mistaken theology has to be on the level of one’s philosophy. However, there isn’t much room for philosophical error since philosophy brings Man closer to his Maker. It is only in the development of propositions about philosophical experience that we fall short and commit what might be called “mistakes.”

Day in the Park -- Deep Green

Day in the Park -- Deep Green

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