Sunday, April 29, 2012

My Faith at 65

Faith in God, the transcendent, ultimate Reality

That despite all the chaos, evil, suffering, and pain observed, the ultimate nature of existence, God, is essentially Love—relational, giving, kind, good, patient, forgiving, humble, truthful, trusting, hopeful, meek, generous, peaceful, faithful, protecting, rejoicing, unselfish, honorful, courteous, enduring…

Jesus, the Chosen One, came to proclaim the Realm/Reign/Way of God and when rejected, endured the cross of excruciating pain and suffering for the joy set before him, in order for humans to see/experience how much God loves all of us, every last one of us, and loves his creation. (The pronoun is used in the generic sense and is not asserting God is male. For God created Human, male and female he created them in his image.)

*I suppose in a starkly objective sense this view of ultimate reality is an impossible dream--to think Love is essential, is ultimately true, when millions of years of natural and human historical fact claim/show the contrary, and often the major religions deny by theory or their contrary behavior.

But great minds from Plato to Whitehead, from Paul to Henri Nouwen/Martin Luther King Jr. have looked at the brute facts and still rationally averred that ultimate truth is greater than cruel fact, love greater than hate, creativity greater than destruction, good greater than evil, mercy greater than judgment, eternity greater than temporality.

Existence, the Cosmos, nature, the visible world is in creative process. God is wooing the visible to become the eternal in a relational dance of love. Evil, chaos, suffering, and pain...are the demonic, the Satan (Hebrew: “adversary”) over/through which Goodness and Truth and Love must suffer to vanquish.

To live the Good News, to participate in the “Kingdom of God” is to long for, to change, to create toward becoming…eventually to perfection. This is a cosmically long process, not understood in depth by the NT writers who thought Christ would return within their life-times, how the writer of Hebrews understood prophetic truth that the “end of the ages” had come then. “But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” Hebrews 9:26 ESV

Yet 2,000 years later we seem only a little bit closer (and sometimes not when one sees the horrific world news). But we don’t look to this present age, not at its tragic evil. No matter how many thousands or millions of years last, we look to the future, to God’s realm “..we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18 ASV

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Friday, April 13, 2012

Plugging the Spiritual Sieve

Growing up in fundamentalism and evangelicalism of the Christian religion, we were continually warned about the “slippery slope of doubt and liberalism.”

My subsequent trials and steep learning curve of a university education at the University of Nebraska and Cal State Long Beach, and the many 'travailed'-roads of a spiritual journey
through lots of theological and scientific tomes and evangelicalism’s too many ‘easy-isms’—all that, has brought me too close to the dangerous cliff of a faith'd demise.

Which shows the question of the truth of that fundamental “truism” is both yes and no.

Slip and slide...

However, this short blog reflection is based not so much in the slippery slope metaphor,

but more in other striking images,
that of the “spiritual sieve” of Christianity--

How so much of religious faith is drizzling down through millions of small holes.

Or that of a wide funnel
and the eventual swirling down
at a hectic rush of all that used to provide
security and hope.

Or it's like an individual who runs around in his upward-bound basket of faith,
trying to patch the balloon above to keep the helium of his beliefs from leaking out
all the puncture wounds caused by secular learning.

Or like the boy in Holland who stuck his finger in a hole in the dike to keep out the flood of the sea.

But here in the bulwark of Christianity, tragically, there are thousands of holes to be plugged in order to keep the flood waters of fact and rogue waves of speculation--yes, the ocean of doubt, evil, and nothingness from drowning everyone.

And every thinking believer needs to run around constantly sticking his faith fingers in those endless holes, trying to stop dark gushing seawater from washing in and drowning us all.

A few of the Jagged Holes of the "Unholy" from the perspective of my childhood--

We were never "young earth creationists" in our family. My dad was a history major in college, and eventually earned 3 degrees. He considered Neanderthal and other ancient primates related to homo sapiens to be real, not the nefarious lies of atheistic scientists. So we accepted some form
theistic evolution.

But we strongly opposed natural selection. When I grew up, I constantly fought against Darwin's ‘unholy’ inundation; this ‘evilution.’

We Christians learned over and over again that Atheists held to this false ‘theory’ because of their sinful ways, that anyone could see there was no factual basis for Darwin’s concept, and it contradicted Genesis and the New Testament.

But in my first science class--Geology at the University of Nebraska, I quickly discovered, the whole issue was much more complicated and the evidence for secular science very overwhelming.

And I was totally turned off by the lame arguments that creationists used against evolution and for a world-wide Flood. After I completed my term paper on the latter, I was never the same, indeed, had moved into a modern scientific outlook.

Then came classes in anthropology, books on biology and many discussions. After years of intense struggle and a constant study of religion and science, I finally bowed the knee to objective fact, to the overwhelming evidence of geology, biology, chemistry, and physics.

So much for religious dogma, Christian illusion.

I did so finally because I could no longer deny hard evidence. I wanted to find out the real truth, did think that all truth is God's evidence. I no longer wanted to hang onto the security of questionable religious doctrine.

But believe me, I came kicking and screaming (to reverse a phrase from C. S. Lewis) into an acceptance of modern Darwinian evolutionary theory with its emphasis on "survival of the fittest" and random mutations.

It's very hard for religious humans to give up, essentially, their whole understanding of the nature of life.

But, especially, after Francis Collins (a Christian evolutionist) and other scientists finished the Human Genome Project which again showed the high probability of common descent of humankind from primates, I realized I had lived in a delusion based on faulty, and at times, ludicrous arguments.

Better late than never, though I wish I could have gotten there years earlier.

Many anti-evolution Christian books were so weakly reasoned and so missing in substantive factual evidence. Some even put forth ridiculous views such as claiming God had hidden dinosaur bones in the earth to mislead modern scientists! At least my parents had never believed in that!

If I hadn't seen horrific ethics displayed by non-religious individuals at university, I probably would have changed sooner (but that's another article to be explained later).

It was at 11 years of age that I first encountered severe doubts about part of the Bible. The story of Elisha and the 3 Bears;-) Well, it was only 2, and it wasn't cute or funny--because on order of God, the bears mauled 42 kids (2 Kings 2:23-25)!

We were taught this story in Sunday School. I remember becoming very upset, and telling our teacher and the other elementary students so.

How cruel and unjust! All that the boys had done was only make fun of Elisha's bald head.

And the fact that the Bible repeatedly defended and condoned slavery also troubled my mind as I entered the teen years.

Still, I remember saying (when I was about 13 or 14), I would quit believing in the Bible if one comma was missing from the text. But then I discovered to my chagrin that punctuation was only inserted into Scripture in the late Middle Ages.

Later textural study opened huge wide holes in my spirit and mind.

And I learned scriptural transmission, literary interpretation, history, etc. until my balloon of faith in the Bible became one droopy stretch of plastic in a pig sty of natural slime.

In so many portions, there are horrific immoral, unethical, unjust stories like in Judges, Joshua, Samuel and Kings.

Theological Determinism:
Denial of the Good News for most humans by Augustinian-Reformed theology. Original Sin, Evil Infants, Predestination, Hell...

The first time I encountered a Calvinist was at a high school Bible study when the adult leader claimed that sometimes God would order us to commit immoral actions! And he told me personally that I should be willing to do what is immoral for God. Whew!

Then there was a famous Bible leader's almost obscene claim. That happened, when as a young adult, my friend and I visited a Presbyterian church.

The leader lectured the assembly that “every murder and every rape are planned by God” and that God only wills/predestines for a limited number of humans to be saved.

I became extremely upset and utterly confused! That was the first death knell for me of secure, simple Christian faith and the beginning of a death battle that has lasted through many years. I’ve survived, but at times I actually no longer wanted to live.

Obviously my faith changed drastically as I studied Christian history and learned that most Christians believed in determinism and that God had created most humans to be foreordained to eternal damnation for his own glory!

And that the Good News I had heard and loved and admired as a kid was a heretical aberration of orthodox Christianity!

When I read a large volume on the creeds of the Christian religions, I was horrified by their immoral ethics, and totally skeptical of their theological abstractions.

What did any of these complex, convoluted, despairing statements have to do with the Good News?

But after having already checked out Hinduism, Buddhism, and various forms of Atheism, and found them worse, I stayed with a form of liberal Christianity associated with Anabaptism, Quakerism, and the Enlightenment.

And I still experientially had inner trust in Jesus like when I had met him as a young person, the night I “asked Jesus into my heart.” Back then we were taught God loves everyone and Christ died for everyone.

But not a day passes now but which I need to do battle against the despairing determinism which is being promoted by famous Christian leaders of “limited atonement, unconditional election," and other such ilk which inundates modern Christianity.

This horrific hole is as vast as a galaxy.

A cosmic sieve into the abyss...

More unholy holes next time...

But for now, the wholly:-) Good News…

Despite the countless punctures which have emptied Christian doctrine and theology,
my experience of Jesus,
my trust in God, the Ultimate Reality,
my faith in ethical truth
my hope in human rights, justice, equality, compassion, honesty, fidelity, and so forth
are alive and well.

It’s not the holes in human religious constructions which count, but the whole Truth.

Thanks to life struggles and extensive learning I've gained a deeper, more complex faith in God.

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox