Sunday, July 08, 2007

Having an Open Mind

MightyMorgan said...
Hi I just wanted to comment on the back and forth thinghy you had going on here. I will only speak for myself..but in that I speak for many other people that have searched for answers but never found them in the conventional teachings of the bible.The one thing that is so important to remember is that certain things speak to certain people.For me the bible didn't cut it. I could not relate it to the reality of my own humanity, it just didn't make sense.For years I struggled with the concept of God or a higher power. Because it was sort of laid out that religons in general seemed to have "exclusive" rights to God.I had to take my own journey through life, re-define what kind of a God I wanted..and ultimatly the Loving and caring higher power I choose to call God came into my life.It's easy to tell people what they should or should not do. To ask them to be what we want. But in the end it just keeps us all seperated from each other.Some people don't buy into the whole bible thing..and thats ok for them...always remember in any sitaution ask yourself....What would God do...preach or just love.
July 7, 2007 7:34 PM

My reply:
I believe in objective truth. From the late 1930's to 1945, Germans followed leaders who exterminated millions of people for having Hebrew, Christian Gypsy, homosexual, or genetic anomalies. Our knowledge of history is subject to distortion, error, mystery, or correction, but history itself does not change. I can pick and choose my interpretation of history, and I can even choose to deceive myself through selective acceptance of the facts; but what I believe does not affect the past.

The search for God resembles the investigation of history. If a transcendent, personal God exists, then God exists as an objective truth. What I pick and choose to believe doesn't affect God's attributes. We should search, therefore, not for an imaginary god who fits our specifications, but for the God Who Is. For example, do we imagine a "loving" god who lacks holiness? Do we imagine a merciful god who ignores justice? Or do we conjure a god who can function as a personal magician-in-the-sky, yet cannot create the Earth, life, and mankind? Doing so, we would betray ourselves as surely as would the leader of the worst counterfeit cult. We must follow the trail through whatever ground it leads, not just to whatever appeals to us. So the first ingredient in a search for God must be honesty, a willingness to submit to the truth, however unappealing it might be to us.

The comparison of investigating history to searching for God fails, however, where the heart comes into play. MightyMorgan correctly sought a personal connection. What good does a commitment to a religion do if the commitment exists only on an intellectual plane? Paul referred to such a losers when he said "knowledge puffs up;" it inflates the ego by giving a sense of accomplishment or the pride of acquisition; but it has no positive value. Practical religion must apply to life, to one's heart. The search becomes, ultimately, a search for a relationship. At the least, we seek an example to follow; at best, we seek a loving Provider-protector with Whom we can interact. Unfortunately, love and protection both require instruction and correction. Submission to truths whose basis we fail to grasp returns as a barrier. Just as we must submit to the truth, we must submit to instruction, correction, and even commission, if we seek a personal, relevant God with any integrity. The kingdom of heaven, to put it another way, is not a democracy; it is a family whose Leader has the right to train and to give assignments according to His own grand purpose.

"[C]ertain things speak to certain people." Indeed. As an English-speaking resident of Mexifornia, I've learned that you can speak to people only if they know your language. The literary approach of the Bible doesn't all come naturally to our Western mind set. The accumulation of knowledge about the biblical God's attributes took millennia. Only a few people who diligently seek God encounter Him; many of those people wait a lifetime for their encounters, and for others, one or two encounters have to last them a lifetime. Despite this, though all the silence, an undercurrent exists, God quietly moving mankind toward a great reconciliation. The New Testament reveals how some of the driest details of the Old Testament reveal that quiet evidence of God's involvement. God's language consists more often of action than of ideas.

Learning any language takes persistence. My daughter studied French, but it had no relevance to her and she has lost the skills she had learned. Soon, she will study Spanish, which has relevance in Mexifornia; but if she does not accept that relevance or does not diligently apply herself to its study, it, too, will fail to become part of her life. Her attitude does not diminish the value of learning Spanish when she lives in a state that Latinos will dominate within a few decades. Failure to see something's relevance does not render it irrelevant; but it can render one deaf.

Just as importantly, as a father and husband, I've also leaned one lesson that saturates the Old Testament: You can speak to people only if they listen. More precisely, people will benefit from your speech only if they listen. Again, failure to submit one's time and attention forms the primary barrier. Many non-Christians have accused me of being "closed-minded;" but in actuality, as a self-sufficient agnostic, I had to open my mind to become a Christian.

The subject of open minds brings me to a final point. Calvinistic faith holds that we do not open our own minds. Rather, God's Holy Spirit illuminates our minds. Spiritual things, Paul says, are spiritually discerned; and to the natural mind, they are foolishness. Even mature, experienced Christians appeal to God for understanding before reading the Scriptures.

The bottom line: For anyone seeking relevance in the Bible, persistence, willingness to submit to whatever one finds, and diligent appeals for enlightenment from God are essential tools to finding the relevance of the Bible, and to finding that elusive personal relationship with God.

Of course, it helps to have somebody provide the introductions.

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