July 04, 2011

Will this be on The Exam?

Jesus' message here is being packaged as a new 'covenant', to a First Century Jewish ear... but what's in it for us 21st Century goyim?

Is this our Ticket to Heaven (Make sure you've got one when you die? Because if you don't, God will be really sad... not to mention you?) Well, Jesus has so far said nothing whatsoever in this book about anything of the sort.

There is, of course, the Jewish (Pharisee) doctrine of the resurrection, which Jesus apparently shared, as presented in Daniel & the Maccabee books. (Once Jews had encountered persecution & martyrdom for their religion, this previously tacit issue had become a serious concern to them.)

Since this doctrine included a Judgement, to separate the martyrs from their persecutors, and reward them both accordingly... that too became a popular element of both Christianity and Islam.

Especially the part about Eternal Torment for those annoying friends of yours. This has been a powerful incentive for conversion... but has also worked to discredit the very idea of God. And so, over the years, it has been softened in the public mind to something like: ~"God doesn't care what you believe, so long as you've been A Good Person."

In so far as what you believe affects what you do and who you become, I expect that it does matter. But God is hardly in a rush to tell you about anything you don't care about, and there is plenty of time.

The crux of this all, as I see it, is that God is compassionate. Eternal punishment is not. Neither does it make sense for God to make "His" favor contingent on getting The Right Answer. If you want to know how things be, ask! And be prepared to find yourself answered in some way.

[Recently reading The Science of Diskworld, I picked up a handy phrase for a concept I've always found useful: "lies-to-children". A "teacher" is a "liar-to-children" because, after all, a simple, partial truth is a whole lot more use to a child than either being left in pure ignorance, or given a bewildering full explanation. And it's been a Quaker commonplace, from our beginnings, that "God is here to teach us 'Himself'". Just remember, while you're learning, that whatever you've learned may be subject to overwhelming attacks of Changing Perspective, with luck.]

So the main reason I can see, that we're still being advised to do as Jesus says here-- is that nothing else makes any sense. We really are part of the same Mind as everyone else; we can't harm them without harming ourselves; and there's no one but God worthy of our anger. You have a right to be angry at God... but if you are, which of you is more likely to be right?


At 10:39 p.m., Blogger mark said...

My conclusion is that Jesus came to save mankind as a whole from self-destruction through demonstrated teachings such as "love your enemies" and "turn the other cheek" and also the individual people who identify with these teachings and practice them in daily living. the widespread idea of claiming (and believing) a creed for salvation (by faith alone) with no life practice to back it up is pure poison to the Church. And Jesus clearly said that the Devil lives in our hearts, not out there somewhere reigning over a "hell" full of tortured souls. Hell is willful separation from God.

At 12:29 a.m., Blogger forrest said...

We've come so close to collective self-destruction, as it is! My only reason for thinking we won't get there... has been that it would be all too easy; it's saving us that's the challenge.

But unless more people catch on, and soon, it looks like lean times for awhile.

At 6:51 a.m., Blogger Random Arrow said...

“...a simple, partial truth is a whole lot more use to a child than either being left in pure ignorance, or given a bewildering full explanation...”

I’m certain I’m not discerning the nuances here. En media res here as I am.

The things that our children absorb and discount intuitively. And hopefully without damage. That some native American mothers thump their young children on the head to make them scream so as to make them healthy warriors with enlarged lung capacities is certainly a partial truth. From the mothers’ perspectives. We judge for ourselves whether this is a feature of pure ignorance. I’m not sure there’s any full explanation of anything. For adults. No less for children. Which means that learning to live with the child-like and simple – “I don’t know” – as a statement to children is good enough when it’s both true and communicated by parents with a felt-sense of trust and love. Verbal explanations are never proxies for felt trust and felt love.

Perhaps the most child-appropriate story of all is that God exists. And an ideal Garden promises the glory of simple trust in trustworthy parental love. Until Darwinian observations of real life enter in. The observable deaths of far more offspring and children than survive is a painful interruption of the childhood story of God as our benevolent image-Partner. Children may make their own Darwinian observations at earlier ages than we adults know. Or want in our adult fantasies. I agree with the advice to hearken to changing perspectives. Since perception itself is a dirty bag of tricks.

I’m not dismayed. Not given to despair. I’m a bit Edmund Burkean about the necessity of hating where one must hate as a function of loving where one must love. A time for everything. If Jesus is the embodiment in expression of any abstraction, then Jesus embodies that one – a time for everything. That’s about as metaphysical as I get. I suppose I’m a fighting Quaker. If Quaker in any respect.

I don’t know how I came to the baseline feeling that I know and always knew that “God” is merely my own statement constructed arbitrarily in my fallibility and in my wishfully-thinking desire to fit and fashion and re-fashion “God” as a model of the world and of reality. “God” is just a statement. I can’t say how freeing it is to admit this. How simple. How childlike. I trust the Holy Spirit inwardly lifelong to correct my erring statements of “God” as a model of reality. Corrections many times over. While I trust Reality to continue unabated no matter how errant my statements. Again, simple. Childlike,



At 12:42 p.m., Blogger forrest said...

Verbal explanations are not intended to be "proxies for felt love and trust," they are supposed to be "the best information we've got for your purposes."

A programmer may have an algorithm that will crank out a known-to-be-exact answer within a few times the age of the universe. He'll prefer an "heuristic" method that gives a likely answer within his lifetime, providing something he'll have time to test.

An example the authors gave of "lies-to-children" was the classic 'solar-system model of the atom.' Or Newton's physics, which is still good enough for getting pretty close predictions of where to expect large solar system bodies to be in the reasonably near future. (The longer-time chaotic dynamics we get in modern computer simulations are consequences of those equations with their inverse-square relationship.) Or the idea that planets move in ellipses; close enough for government work (and so were epicycles) but eventually subject to catastrophically large error via the gravitational influence of everything else in the system.

"That God exists" is as much knowable fact as "that dog exists".

One can be initially mistaken about what a dog looks like and what behavior to expect if you pull this but then one can get more familiar with the details via meeting dog and seeing what happens as you interact. Defining "dog" as if it were an abstract thing could confuse the issue as much as if one took descriptions of God-- and mistook them for a definition.

At 2:25 p.m., Blogger Random Arrow said...

Good responses all. Especially the background source of lies to children. Sorry, my fault on that one. I saw it. I clicked on “The Science of Diskworld,” nothing happened. Forgot it. Clicked elsewhere. Came back. Forgot the whole context. Thanks for laboring a bit. On words as proxies for love, all I meant is the simple mistake of speaking the truth, but without speaking the truth in love. Wherein I’m guilty. I agree with your other usages: best information / algorithms. These too can be elaborated forms of love – a love of interacting. I don’t expect reciprocity! Maybe I’m not quite pan-psychic enough? More on the other stuff later, I hope.


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