I Christian Beliefs
I am. I know that I am in that I see and to some extent I know what I see; I think and to some extent I know what I think; I feel and to some extent I know what I feel; I smell and taste and to some extent I know what I smell and taste. However, I also recognize that at least on a subconscious level, I feel, I taste and I smell much more than I am conscious of. No one can do any of those things for me. In that, I am unique.
What I know is first perceived through my senses and processed by my brain; from that rudimentary start, the brain develops concepts and suppositions that become the building blocks of ideas and conversations with self and others.
The source of “I am”:
The physical “I am” is entirely the late organization of “stardust.” The organization of my stardust is largely dependent upon the most rudimentary of intermediary life forms, including scum and germs, apes, perhaps, and inherited genetics.
And, to say that “I am” is inadequate because neither I nor God is in fact merely existent, but I and God are in the process of becoming in so far as I or God is responsive to the world in which I live.
As to the rudiments of existence and God, I choose to follow the path that Spinoza laid down nearly 400 years ago as adopted and adapted by me:
The notion of anything as self – caused is illogical, as something cannot cause itself without having an essence prior to that causation. Spinoza began with the problem of logic as applied to God. My belief concerning the subject is strongly influenced by Hans Kung in his book, Does God Exist? In that I recognize that the existence of God can neither be proved nor disproved: it is therefore a matter of choice. For myself, the existence of God gives me a sense of purpose and strength for living, therefore I choose God.
I cannot say that I have experienced the presence of God. Nonetheless, I choose to believe in that believing holds the possibility of a future relationship.
There is nothing logical that can be said about anything being “self – caused.” One can make an argument that the ultimate being is “self – caused” but any logical proof of that ultimate being, God, will always fall short. Likewise, there is no logical argument that can be made that there is nothing “self – caused;” I am faced with the choice: to believe that there is such being beyond me as opposed to there is not. I see the question stated another way: is life meaningful or is it not? My choice will affect how and what I do and who I will become; I choose meaning as opposed to no meaning.
All physical existence is finite, having size, extent, and other physical characteristics attributable to it and the world in which we live in.
Substance is part of the nature of all finite being, and it distinguishes one manifestation of the finite being, such as color or number, from another manifestations of finite being.
Mode of being is the manner in which finite being is manifested.
I accept Spinoza’s notion of God as absolutely infinite. There can be no attributes of infinity. Attributes describe the substance and quality of things in existence, and therefore cannot themselves be infinite.
I do not wish to characterize God as Spinoza concluded, as coextensive with nature; that is a conclusion that I am not yet ready to make. I see it as unduly limiting the notion and the experience of God. I accept that one’s experience of God is greatly affected by one’s experience of their own father. For myself, I had polio at the age of 11 months and was hospitalized and isolated from my parents for a period of six months. I have spent a lifetime, 67 years, living with the sense of abandonment. My positive relationship with loving parents has not changed that. Likely, that is a contributing cause my inability to sense the presence of God. And understand that could change, and I permit the possibility not foreclosing the notion of my experience of God.
Therefore, nothing finite can be free and to the extent that anything is otherwise free, it must be infinite in nature to be self – contained.
Nothing physical can be eternal, as all physical being must have a beginning, and therefore, logically, an end. Eternal must be beyond physical being and therefore necessarily part of the existence of God.
The nature of physical being:
Logically, if physicality has a definite beginning, that being in God, then God must also have a beginning whatever that may be.
First, Orthodox dogma and I assert that Jesus was human, i.e finite.
I find that the acceptance that Jesus was human effects how I read the synoptic Gospels: as the story of a human being with my can relate.
I was raised as a Christian, and it is with Christianity that I relate at the core of my being. I agree with Matthew Fox that I am best served to stay with that which I am familiar (i.e., Christianity) rather than straying after things with which I have had no familiarity (i.e, Greek Orthodox Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc.)
It is the human Jesus with whom I most relate. In that I have been heavily influenced by Spinoza, Schweitzer, and Schillebeeckx.
I have heard and reject the notion that because Jesus was with God and was God, he had superhuman powers to do what is humanly impossible, and therefore cannot be expected of we mere humans.
I believe that the historical Jesus can best be found in the synoptic Gospels. The Gospel of John is heavily influenced by Gnosticism in that it perceives Jesus as spirit more than just physical and human. I believe that the Gospel of John best expresses the notion of man made in the image of God, more specifically, Jesus made in the image of God. In the same sense, we each are a son or daughter of God.
I believe that the apostle Paul can best be understood as making the Jesus story accessible to the Greek world, using Greek experiences culture, and more specifically, Greek religious practices, as, for example, the Dionysian rites. One must be careful, I think, about changing the historical Jesus according to the preaching and writing of Paul. In I Corinthians 13, Paul held, consistent with the teaching of Jesus, that of all of the spiritual gifts, the greatest is love. With that, I agree.
I see Jesus in the light of civil disobedience, including his paying the ultimate sacrifice willingly in his appearance before Pilate, his trial, the scourge, and his death on the cross.
I see evidences of resurrection in the personal experiences that reminded people of Jesus’ life with them, as the experience on the road to Emmaus, and his disappearance upon recognition.
Jesus taught, “by their fruits you will know them; a good fruit is not fall from a bad tree, nor a bad fruit from good tree.”
A great emphasis of Protestantism is about being saved by faith in Jesus as the son of God. However, Jesus taught, “inasmuch as you did it down to the least of these, you did it to me.” And, so far as being saved, salvation was not in obtained by a state of belief, but rather by a state of doing. Those that loved others were invited into the kingdom of God; those that did not love others were excluded from the kingdom of God.
As to the kingdom of God, it was not a future event. Rather, “the kingdom of God is at hand,” during the time of Jesus life and continuing to the present day.
The Christ is the meaning of the life of Jesus- what we attach to it.
As to the great “I am” of Orthodox Christianity, I am greatly influenced by Eric from who says that the Jewish Yahweh is better understood in the imperfect sense of the verb to be: I am becoming. That, I think, is one of the sources of the notion of the living God which pervades much of the Old Testament. That makes sense to me, and I adopt it.