Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
[This is from my reaction to a discussion re George Keith on facebook. Thoughts?]
The core implication of the scriptures we have: "God talks to people. Here are examples, illustrative stories, some wild ideas we've gotten that way." The Bible also includes examples of people misunderstanding what God had in mind.
This isn't the sort of communication you'd find in a technical manual: 'Figure this out and your gadget will work.' But that's how people try to use scriptures when they think of them as a source of authority, as if there could be any authority apart from God. It also seems as if w'all [isn't that a nice coinage, so much like 'wall'?] try to use our collective agreements in an analogous way... and hence we end up with Meetings (and churches) where few people believe God exists -- yet they follow a process that [like reading scriptures] requires God's participation to work right.
How to describe an enlightening usage of scripture and personal intuition, in which we neither make an idol of scripture nor wander aimlessly away from what God might tell us through it? The reconciliation of Keith & Bownas?
Perhaps, then, lack of "faith" (as people typically misconceive it) is less of a barrier to God than self-righteousness and habitual disrespect for what we imagine, rightly or wrongly, to be what people of another religious faction actually believes.
Though people want to say what they mean, even make sincere efforts to do so, what we say isn't necessarily what other people will understand from our words -- particularly when they've become set in their assumptions. Didn't Jesus say that saying "Thou fool!" to each other was bad practice?
Forrest: You have packed some heavy judgments into two short paragraphs, with no or very meager explanation. Would you care to explain for this dim wit what you are trying to say?
Forrest, your discussions and questions are timely, especially for us where as a silent Meeting we sit in the expectation that God will speak, and yet some in our Meeting say they are nontheist and some even declare they are atheist.
Recently we have given up on holding business meetings, and have seemingly taken a sabbatical from the idea of a meeting of the minds. I feel we are definitely not in the same ballpark. The process toward reimagining our Meeting at the end of the Sabbatical period of 6 months is now being discussed. However I have serious doubts that what will emerge will satisfy our need for faithful and committed worship.
I can only pray that God will help our unbelief.
I'm better at posing questions than answering them.
I suspect (as Jacques Ellul said) that God is silent when people aren't listening, when they don't want their unbelief helped because they believe they're doing fine. A side affect of what Julian called God's "courtesy."
For those of us who want to know God better, it can be frustrating, because the people they'd like to help and be helped by (lovely people, most of them!) are simply no help.
I've seen inspiration readily given when groups of people are seeking and expecting to find it in scriptures -- or in Quaker worship, for that matter. I sometimes find it on my own -- I don't think I'm supposed to sit smugly alone with it; but it can't always be easily shared with people who aren't looking. "People don't see 'x', when they're too busy seeing 'y'."
I knew an extremely competent and conscientious Clerk who sincerely tried to find God. The last I heard of her, she still couldn't recognize anything that matched what she thought God should look like. It can be like wondering where you've put your glasses because you're wearing them.
What we need may be less "belief" than trust. Here we are with God in eternity... not entirely understanding God (of course) and so very much overpowered that we much need God to be gentle with us. And hence that Divine "courtesy" that so frustrates us.
So yes, pray that God will help; and trust that this is exactly what God intends, what God is subtly doing as well as possible.
Thank you Forrest, for your suggestion that what we need may be less "belief" than trust.
That helps me.