Monday, July 16, 2012
I belong to a facebook discussion forum which calls itself, "Celebrating Creation by Natural Selection", which will tell you that the group is comprised (in part) by people who believe that God uses natural processes (evolution) in his work of creation. But the site is often a launching pad for far-ranging conversations about God.
Because we have among our members many atheists (the friendly variety!), many working scientists and/or academics, and many Bible scholars, conversations can at times be challenging! The site has been helpful to me in formulating my thoughts within an environment in which half-baked theologies and ill-informed opinions will simply not fly! Intellectual integrity and honesty are highly valued.
It seems that much of my writing has shifted from blogging to conversing on this and other discussion forums. Yesterday, a friend named Marv posed a question about world religions (including our own) and the various feeble human efforts to understand our Creator. In assembling my own thoughts about this, and responding to another friend, Laurie Ann, I typed some comments that express a lot of my current thinking about my faith, and about Jesus. I share a bit of that discussion with you here, and I welcome your comments. ~
Marv: I am pondering a scenario where we admit that all world religions are man made. I marvel at the beauty of the universe by "celebrating creation by natural selection", and I stand in awe of that. I also firmly believe in a creator. This thought process leads me to the stunning conclusion that we may know absolutely nothing about who the creator is or how that should impact our daily lives. While that seems terrifying....it is also freeing. Wonder if any of you ever think about this? I won't be able to reply all day cause I'm off to Flatirons Community Church in Denver, Co. to try and figure it all out.
Cliff: Hopefully Flatirons Community Church will settle this mystery for us.
Yes, Marv, I think about that a lot. As I have indicated elsewhere, I am committed to following Jesus, whom I see as unique in world history. But even if I have overestimated his uniqueness, or significance, I can still conceive of no better life than the one that is inspired by Jesus. So I don't have much angst about whether I'm right about Christianity. I'll simply emulate and obey Jesus the best I can.
So it would not significantly impact my faith or my life if I were to learn, tomorrow, that all the world's religions are but feeble attempts to identify and worship the Creator (or creative force) and that the Abrahamic faiths are included.
Cliff: Last week, the oldest human culture (by carbon dating) yet discovered in the American continents was identified right here in my state of Oregon, and the dating (14K to 15K) confirms earlier theories that the aboriginal American populations date back 15,000 or 20,000 years. DNA evidence strongly suggests that these populations have been totally isolated from the rest of the human race for that entire span of time. Further evidence suggests that the combined American populations constituted up to 20% of humanity at the time of Columbus. And their isolation predates Abraham by at least 10,000 years. Yet, the paganism that developed in some populations resembles pagan beliefs in the rest of the world. And the sparks of monotheism which arose here is not unlike that which many of us hold to today.
If we insist that God's only authentic approach to humankind was to Abraham and his physical and spiritual descendants, we have to ask, did God not care about these Americans?
Laurie Ann: Cliff... why do you see Jesus as unique in human history? Do you really think there aren't other kind, loving and people committed to service to the degree Jesus was? If he was simply a good man who lived and died and that was it.... is there a reason to "follow" him vs following Gandhi or someone similar? I think you're an incredibly insightful, kind and gentle soul... just not sure what would cause you to follow some guy who lived 2000 years ago if he was just a man like any other man. If there's been no one else who has lived a life of service such as him in 2000 years -- that would be pretty sad.
Cliff: First, Laurie, understand that I do not consider Jesus to be "just a man like any other man." If I positively believed what you are writing, I might think again about paying him so much attention. I believe that Jesus is who he claimed to be ... the one and only unique Son of God. My point above is that, even if I am mistaken about that, following Jesus would still be a worthy life-long pursuit.
Was Jesus unique? What set him apart from other worthy models of kindness, love and service? The example you cite is Gandhi. And I share your high regard for Gandhi! However, the peace and non-violent resistance of Gandhi was employed by him in the service of a political agenda. Love and peace were, for Gandhi, subservient to his overriding goal of independence for India (or for the socio-political goals of other causes around the world which he supported). Laudable! Wonderful! He is right up there among my "most admired".
Jesus, however, extolled the virtues of love and peace without overarching agendas or causes. In the absence of such agendas (Jesus seemed utterly ambivalent about the Roman occupation, e.g.) Jesus nevertheless taught and (what is more impressive to me) exemplified the ways of peace, love and forgiveness for their own merit. Just because they are good. All other matters relating to social justice issues, or political oppression, etc., would self-resolve in the face of a band of loving peace-makers. (At least, this is how I read Jesus).
For example, much has been made here and elsewhere of the fact that the Bible does not crusade against slavery, that Jesus did not preach against slavery or the oppression of women or other societal injustices. But the whole point of Jesus's teachings is that these agendas and causes (worthy though they may be) are not the focus of one's life. Love is the focus. Social justice is the by-product. I believe that the elevation of womankind, and the abolition of slavery (where these things have occurred) have often been the by-product of the revolution of love started by Jesus. Humanism itself, and the rise of the worth and value of the individual human (which we all too often take for granted!) are the children of this revolution, imo.
Much more could be said, I'm sure. But will this do for starters?
Laurie Ann: ... Thank you for that explanation!
Posted by Cliff Martin at 5:10 PM