Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Nature and Destiny of Existence: Introduction

The title of my long reflection is, of course, a reference to Reinhold Niebuhr's famous theological tome--one of the best and deepest! I love reading all kinds of theology and philosophy--at least the parts I can comprehend;-);
And that is a "how" that goes on "forever,"
I am a pretty average guy and I've never stopped wondering how it is that famous theologians and philosophers of all stripes and spots think they know so much about Ultimate Reality. The Reformers and the Catholic Church, for instance, thought they knew God's reality and will so well that they executed (by drowning and burning) other Christians who didn't believe in infant baptism! Yet these same theologians and philosophers who "knew" God's eternal nature and hidden decrees didn't even know the basic nature of our local solar system or why people get sick (must be God's will).

And then there's the opposite extreme: the other Know-It-Alls, those of Nontheism who while being, also, only finite conscious mammals are sure, to a strong degree that there is no objective Meaning, no Purpose, no Truth, no Goodness in the Cosmos. We humans are a brief fluke of cosmic chance, one evolutionary twig on the natural selection bush (according to Stephen J. Gould, the famous Darwinian biologist).

Seems rather presumptuous. Of course, I've had my own times with humankind's dear friend, Pride, too--when I thought I "knew" much more than I actually do. As I get older and older, I know less and less.

So if you are misguided by the title of this reflection and think I am going to pontificate about knowing the Ultimate nature of everything and the whys and wherefores and to-dos for all, etc., you are about to be disappointed or relieved.

My goal here is very personal and very basic. Rather, by the love of God, I hope to share my own narrative experiential theology--how I have experienced God (at least in my own perception) and what difference that has made in me and my limited influence on others and the world.

For those who want the quick short version, rather than my own long-winded journey, here's a quote:

And when all my hopes in them and in all men were gone, so that I had nothing outwardly, to help me; nor could tell what to do; then, O then, I heard a voice which said, "There is one, even Christ Jesus, that can speak to thy condition": and when I heard it, my heart did leap for joy. (...) Thus when God doth work, who shall let [i.e., hinder] it? and this I knew experimentally. My desires after the Lord grew stronger, and zeal in the pure knowledge of God, and of Christ alone, without the help of any man, book, or writing. For though I read the scriptures that spake of Christ and of God, yet I knew him not, but by revelation, as he who hath the key did open, and as the Father of life drew me to his son by his Spirit. Then the Lord gently led me along, and let me see his love, which was endless and eternal...
The Journal of George Fox

I think George Fox's statement (of his experience in life, his spiritual search, and encounter with what he perceived to be Truth) says its best.
Even though
I know all the naturalistic vultures;-) are circling waiting to pick Fox's experience clean until there are only factual bones of meaninglessness left.

Well, each of us takes our life journey and what trail we walk makes all the difference...

To be continued


Hystery said...

I think, maybe, I just hit upon a point where our communication snags. When you say "non-theist" and "atheist" do you mean someone who is certain there is no Divinity? Because I would agree with you that such a belief is a bit arrogant. How could we possibly "know" that? How do you prove non-existence of that which is beyond human knowledge? I know there are many non-theists who make the claim that spirituality is no more than delusion but I'm just not that confident in our intellectual skills as a species to make that claim. I trust that what I and other spiritual people have experienced is real to us regardless of the number of explanations used to dismiss those experiences. I can't explain my spirituality but I know it matters.

When I use the word non-theist(for myself), I mean that I reject dependence on theism as a primary means of describing that which is Ineffable or Real or True. I don't *think* this Nature has a personality that would be recognizable as such to us as persons but then I don't claim that I *know* that either. We experience what we experience, I guess. What if what I experience is different than what you experience? So what? What right to I have to deny your personal knowledge? If I believe anything, I believe that none of us are given complete knowledge but must depend on each other.

Daniel Wilcox said...

Hi Hystery,

I guess this then is our greatest divide. Despite all the horror of church history and the twisted convoluted doctrines, etc.--
I do with all of my mind and all of my heart think/choose (not know--how could I possibly "know")
that Jesus is the Image of the Invisable Ultimate Reality; that Love is the ultimate reality, the ultimate truth,
matter, energy and chance, not nature, not the myths of various other religions (though there is Light from God in some of their stories).

Check out my latest blog which I just uploaded.

As you already know, I take a very dim view of any form of Nontheism. I suppose that is partially because I studied so many forms of Nontheism at university (and many tomes since). I have reached crisis points in my life such as in the abyss of Reformed theology in which I seriously again consider maybe Camus is right--existence is absurd.

But then I in the end I come back to Jesus as the picture of Ulitmate Reality because for me love, peace, equality, patience, joy are ultimately true.

Thanks for dialoging. I deeply appreciate your friendship even if we live and perceive Reality so diffferently.

Now if you were to become Reformed, I might not;-)