Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
I asked Martin Kelley about moving the 'friendly scripture study' discussions here. He's fine with it; one friend wants to keep it there; cross-posting is evidently okay to all.
So here's one from a few months back, what I was thinking then. (A few like this to start, then some actual scripture...)
I drifted away from this study over a year ago, because it was getting very hard to find the God I know amid all the theological rants of 'John'. I've got a longer love/hate relationship with that book than my similar relation to computers!
The Universe exists within a natural (& spiritual) order; it has a consciousness (aka “God”) immanent within (and transcending) each sentient being.
You may well enjoy Chuck Fager's excellent piece on this subject, as it applies specifically to Quakers and a self-definition once influential among us. Among other things, Fager considers that God might, and probably has, chosen various 'Peoples' for various Inscrutable Purposes.
The Bible provides a true story about God's ongoing effort to establish communication/communion/interaction with all human beings.
God creates a world that has creatures embodying God's own life. Unlike the angels, these creatures are created incomplete, designed to start out under extreme limitations and develop in an open-ended, variable way, into greater stature. I can't imagine how many times God may have done this...
Personally, I think people get too hung up on the "facts".
I heard that someone (presumably a well educated, white person) asked Black Elk if he "really believed" his people's creation stories. The obvious, though unstated question, was "are you really that ignorant?"
Black Elk responded, "I don't know if these things actually happened, but I know that they are true."
Aside from us having that level of sophistication... There is, after all, a desire to know "what really did happen?" The Bible, much of it, purports to be answering that sort of question. Therefore its falsity at a physical-truth level does call its larger validity into question!
Black Elk's stories (like Thurber's Fables, or the story of Adam, Eve, and That Bad Snake, etc) are true on an abstract level. Cognitive psychologists would say ~"There's a metaphoric mapping from any of these stories into significant aspects of the world we live in."
But the significant truths of the Bible aren't just more abstract... They're about Divine Intention-- or at least, human interpretations of 'What did God mean to accomplish by ___?'
They are less 'abstract theology' than 'examples of Divine/human interaction.' From the human side of the transaction, at that! (But if we were getting The Straight Poop of it from God, would we understand that better?...)
Oh, I'm not saying that the wisdom in the Bible is abstract theology. I do think that we can get to hung up on the intellectual analysys, only to miss the deeper Truths.
To quote Fox:"I saw also how people read the scripture without a right sense of them and without duly applying them to their own states...They could not know the spiritual meaning of Moses', the prophets', and John's words, nor see their paths and travels, much less see through them to the end of them into the kingdom unless they had the Spirit and light of Jesus."
Don't get me wrong, I read my share of scholarly tombs. But in the end, I find the greatest benefit when I read the Bible as if in meeting for worship. A kind if Quaker lectio divina if you will.
That's pretty radical, as a form of earthly government.
But this happens in the Gospel of John, in which Jesus is often portrayed acting and speaking as a stand-in for God! Not only does he wash Peter's feet; he won't let Peter stay his disciple unless he lets Jesus wash his feet.
"Get out of the way and let God help us? Let God do the things we thought we could accomplish ourselves?"
Well said! I would add: let God use us instead of us trying to use God.