Monday, April 04, 2005

Whatever is good...

I believe the Kingdom of God is here, and that when Jesus said "The kingdom Of God is in your midst..."(Luke 17) He was not teasing us. God created everything so everything, in it's purity, is perfect and should be celebrated. What I am out to do here is find the good, find the pure, the perfect things in life and set my mind on those things. When we talk about the Kingdom being here... now... I get excited, this means that when we feel pain here it matters. When we are sick here it matters... God is not silent in the storms of our life. His Kingdom is here, it is about partenering with Him to reconcile the world to Him and do away with whatever turned this life created to be pure and beutiful into a land drenched with death and oppretion. I want us to realize that jesus is not our ticket to heaven... He is the answer to the question the redeemer of broken lives and the way to a life worth living... HERE and NOW!

13 comments:

Danny said...

Let's start at the beginning of your post.

You said the "Kingdom of God is in your midst." How can the kingdom of God be in our midst?" There are still children dying. The righteous are still perishing and the wicked still ruling (see Ecclesiastes). I guess I just don't understand how the world could be bad and this whole "kingdom of heaven" be good and it be in our midst. It just doesn't make any sense.

You also said, "God created everything." If God created everything then God created evil and is inherently evil and is therefore a flawed being. How can you worship such a God?

You said, "Everything should be celebrated?" That is easy for a fat white American to say who has reason to celebrate. What about those kids dying in Africa and the poor areas in Urban Los Angeles and the Bronx? Should they celebrate for this great God that they serve as well?

The previous paragraph also deals with the idea of finding things that are "good" "pure" and "perfect." For every good and pure thing that you find, I could find five kids who died for no good reason. What does GOd say about that?

Then you go on saying that God cares about us feeling "pain and when we get "sick" he cares. He is not "silent" in our storms. Have you ever read the book of Job? God wasn't real loud in that story. He never even gave Job an answer as to why it is all happening. It seemed like God was pretty silent in the storm of his life.

Why do we need to partner with a God that we already established as inherently flawed? Why do we have to attach a label to doing good for really no good reason? He has been undoubtedly silent in my life and the life of many thousands of other people. If God really wanted to reconcile himself to us, why doesn't he just call us by his own name. I want to evaluate him based on who he is. He supposedly came once before in the form of a man. Tell Yahweh to come again cause I want to have a conversation with him.

If God is about the here and now then he would be here. And I don't see a thing.

WES ELLIS said...

Cameron,
thanks first of all for commenting on this blog. You've given me quite a bit to respond to. realize first that these questions haunt me as well they are unanswerd to me. I can only give insight and that is what I will do in response.
You said "How can the kingdom of God be in our midst? There are still children dying. The righteous are still perishing and the wicked still ruling." HARD QUESTION!!! I did say in my blog that I believe that the kingdom of God is about doing away with those things, doing away with the impure and getting down to the atomic essence of things the "real" essence of life.
You asked also, "If God created everything then God created evil and is inherently evil and is therefore a flawed being. How can you worship such a God?" the problem of evil has been in question for centuries. I follow with the conclusions of Saint Augustine on the subject and say that evil is not an entity that was ever created it is simply anything apart from God. I believe that God created in us something beutiful, no "sin nature" nothing "evil." I believe He created a nature in us that is to be beutiful and perfect and within it is a capacity to sin not a "nature of evil." You might simply refer to this as "free will" I think there may be somethige deeper to it but I am still searching. This sustains God's goodness and I will say, though it is still a little sketchy, it explains the problem of evil. What do you think?

About God being "silent." I will say I think I can relate to this. I think first of all that God is revealed in people. I see people come to my aid and there is something mystical in when a person helps another person. I will also say that though it may seem like a copout answer I see God moving and Yelling through the scriptures (the bible). I think that all over the world God is using His people to answer their cry. it might be hard for a "fat white American" to see God when you might think you have no need for him. But look deep at the broken pieces of your life, the scars you carry from past hardship, you may find that if you examine those parts closely you will see God crying out to you longing to redeem you from that. I see this in my life often. That is the Kingdom of God, that healing redeeming power. No the job is not finished but I believe it's life giving water is all around. God is compassionate and that word should be the loudest one when the church is at work for the kingdom.

Danny said...

Let me first respond generally to your answers. First of all, thank you for not trying to show me how wrong I am and how right you are. I appreciate your humbleness in these endeavors. Your take on theology is a very interesting one that I do not hear most typical Christians speak of. The typical Christian answer that I usually get from annoying fundamentalists ringing my doorbell is that I have to get saved before this sink ships and I die like I’m in a bad version of Titanic.

You began by talking about the kingdom “doing away…with the impure” and “getting down to the atomic essence of things.” First of all, I would say God was not very good at physics. He inspired men to write that the earth is the center of the universe. It seems to me that egotistic men of Israel were writing this and not Yahweh. What would you say is the atomic essence of “real life?”

Then we tried to deal with the problem of evil. Here you cited Augustine. I would be very interesting to read about what he has to say about it. I’m always interested in hearing what the church fathers have to say about their own religion. It takes a person deep down into what people were thinking about in the early patristic era. Just cite for me in your next post where he says this.

In continuing with this problem of evil you said that you don’t believe God created us with a “sin nature.” If you believe this then how do you refute Romans 3:10-18 and the corresponding cross references in the Old Testament that says “there is none righteous?”

I’m not sure what you’re saying about the “nature of evil.” You just said he created us perfect and with a capacity to sin. That doesn’t sound perfect to me. It sounds to me like the smell of Christian apologetics.

And yes, I believe there is a type of social structure created that those who are better off should help those who are less well off. My question still stands: why do you need God for this? Why do you need church? Let’s just all move to India and start helping people because it’s the right thing to do. I’m not going to do it just because I’m going to be “rewarded” for it later on in life. To me that’s just good old Protestant selfish motives.

And finally I must say: You don’t even know me! Why are you talking about the broken pieces of my life? Just because I do not follow in your religious sentiments, I’m broken? If God really wants to redeem me, he will come down to earth himself and show himself to me.

To speak more generally as a conclusion to the matter, it’s a hard subject. The Christian religion, especially the dogmatic evangelicals, do little to deal with the problem. Christianity has become largely a religion concerned with words and intellectual assents as opposed to real action as it seems the original Jesus of Nazareth would have intended. Jesus was a good teacher. He came at a time when the Jews needed a Messiah. He gave them a great message of hope. He gave the people the message that they needed to hear.

My problem with the idea of the resurrection, beyond the conflicting accounts of the synoptic gospels and the confusing nature of why it happened, is the ruckus that it did not stir. Few writers beyond Josephus and Pliny the Younger ever speak of these Christian’s originally known as the way. Supposedly according to your (I believe Luke) beloved Doctor who said he appeared to 500 people. Why only four accounts? Why not at least twenty accounts? Why not ten?

Hopefully one can see the problems associated with the historicity of Christ. I do believe he existed and was a great teacher when Israel needed him most. But there are numerous Gnostic gospels and other apocryphal writings that never even made it into the Bible? How do we know the canon is even correct? What made those at the Council of Nicea so special? Why is hell spoken of so little in the Old Testament? Where did people go before Jesus came to earth? All of these questions are major theological roadblocks on the road to Christianity and I’m not buying.

WES ELLIS said...

Danny, I want to say thanks again you are stretching me alot. These questions are very deep. I feel a little guilty of unfair assumptions I do not know that you are "broken" I appologise. I know I'm broken and I was hoping you could relate.

About Augustine. Augustine was acctually not a christian at the time He came accross these ideas. He was a philosopher. He studied Manachaeism and decided their view on God was not the perfect holy sort of god he felt there had to be. He followed Manichaeism for nine years and then found the studies of plato on the subject. Neoplatonism were the roots of his conclusions. I will work on finding his writings on the subject and be sure to get them to you.

If I sound I am speaking christian appologetics I am sorry. I do not mean to sound that way. I really don't think arguing the validity of the bible, though it may be important and carries it's value in some other way, is what will satisfy those who do not believe it. I simply want to introduce the sort of life Jesus was talking about when He said "...Life more abundantly..." and pour that into other peoples lives.

Ashley said...

I don't know exactally where to start in this response I have clustering in my head.

First of all Danny, I would recommend that you read "Heaven is a Place on Earth" by Michael E. Witmer. In his book he answers, or at least addresses the various issues you have presented here.

I think the first one of the questions I saw that you asked and I want to try and take a stab at is your question about God creating everything, and why it is evil yet he is still good. God created everything, yes. He created everything good and saw that it was good. God created humans in his image, which shows that we are properly related to God. God did create us with a free will though. Prior to the "fall of man" humans remained good. When the fall of man occured, one could say we were alienated from God. Now we are apart from God, which is why we can be evil and he remains good, pure and righteous. We cannot dwell with God in his righteousness.

This next part is something I have come to a personal conclusion about, I have not read it anywhere or heard it from anyone, so you by no means have to agree with me, not that you would anyways.

Because we are evil beings and cannot dewll with God in his righteousness he went to the only posible solution to being with us. He sent his son, Jesus to be a sacrifice for us. This was following the Old Testament laws of forgiving sins, sacrificing the life and blood of a pure, blemish-free, inocent lamb, (Jesus was refered to as the lamb of God). I believe that until the time of Jesus people could not dwell with God, because of their evil and God's goodness. This is why I believe that the reason why Jesus said so many times that the Kingdom of God IS in our midst was because he knew that he was the final sacrifice to forgive us of our sins so that we may dwell with God, and that this was what the world needed to make it so that we can dwell with God. God cannot dwell with evil, just as light cannot dwell with darkness, but through Jesus blood we are made good and we are now in the light. So yes, we are evil, and yes, God is good, and yes, we can dwell with God, through the sacrifice of Jesus.

Does that make any sense to you? I'm not sure if that even all makes sense to me.

WES ELLIS said...

Ashley
Your answer does make since but I'd like to address a couple of things.
You said " Now we are apart from God, which is why we can be evil and he remains good, pure and righteous." though I respect this view I do not want be an advocate for it. I do not believe we are at all apart from God. If we are than where do you think He is? Are you saying that He is not here? I believe we live in him “we live, and move and have our being.”(“we can’t get away from Him” the message) (Acts 17). We are surrounded by Him. Heaven and hell is not about separation from God in distance it’s about separation from God in definitions. We are separated from God not in distance but definition. It says in the scriptures that God is not far away He’s here.

I do not believe we are evil! We are created good. We have capacity to do evil things but to say that man is evil and leave it at that might raise questions about God’s character.

Other than that I enjoyed your comment and it seemed right out of my own heart. I don’t want it to seem that I am degrading your view and if I have mistaken what you were trying to say please correct me. Thanks.

Danny said...

I just finished reading the excerpt from amazon.com on “Heaven is a place on Earth.” To make a few comments on the book itself I would begin by saying that he has an interesting theology. Most of us think of Christianity in terms of going to a “better place” or some sort of “alternate reality.” In my own view of spirituality I believe there needs to be a certain amount of self-realization. This is not some individualized “experience” of God. It is the idea that we need to “free our minds.”

This is an obvious allusion to my favorite movie of all time: The Matrix. In this movie Neo is given a chance to escape from this world to see what lies beyond it. He finds that the real world is not so “picturesque” as they once thought it to be. Instead, they find what Morpheus refers to as the “desert of the real.” This new life that they must life is not entirely disconnected from the Matrix, but they are attempting to free people from the corruption of the old system. They go in and out every now and then to save more and more people from this system that has controlled them for so long.

Religion is one of those things that attempts to lay down stringent legalistic ways that we can one day “make it.” It is by no means excluded to Christianity. Brahmin priests in the Hindu tradition said that they had the answer. Buddha believed he had been enlightened by the path that would lead to heaven. Every culture has come to find their identity in the divine in a different way.

The problem with each and every one of those systems is rules. Absolutes. Things have to be this way and not any other way. This often come out when we believe we are “‘reading the text straight,’ and if someone disagrees with us it must be because they, unlike ourselves, are secretly using ‘presuppositions’ of this or that sort.” N.T. Wright argues that “this is simply na├»ve, and actually astonishingly arrogant and dangerous.”1

All this to say, that a religion is dead unless it is a way of life. I would agree with what the idea that Weinstein brings up about “devotionals” and “prayers” being the end of the Christian life.2 I just have a problem believing that the Christian religion is totally true and everything else is false. Why else would Paul have quoted Greek philosophers in Acts 17. There had to be some truth in what they were saying. In continuing in the tradition of the Hebrew prophets I believe that followers of Christ need to stop bringing “meaningless offerings” that are “detestable” to God (Isaiah 1:13).

In short, I really enjoyed reading that excerpt from Wittmer’s book and will look into further when I have more time.

Works Cited:
1.Wright, N.T. How Can the Bible be Authoritative? 3.
2.Wittmer, Michael. Heaven is a Place on Earth. 19.

Danny said...

Let me now take some time to address your first point, Ashley. The main overarching thesis, as I understand it is, “God creating everything and the world is evil yet He is still good.” Besides the obvious contradiction within the above statement I also saw a number of problems within your answer to this alleged statement above. The flow of thought in this statement is inaccurate. Let’s look at it:

Part A: Your Argument:
Premise: God created everything good. We have free will and are made in the image of God.

Inference: Man, as a free being made in the image of God, before the fall was good.

Therefore…when man fell, by eating the fruit, they were no longer good.

Inference: Therefore, man is alienated from God.

Therefore…man cannot be with God because God is “good” and man is “evil”

Part B: Problems with your Argument
Now, let us speak of this logical puzzle piece by piece.

1. Let us first speak of the overall nature of attempting to talk about something logically. In order to do so there must be a logical chain of events. Let me give an example:

a. I have a blue cell phone
b. Wes has a blue cell phone.
c. I am Wes.

This is an illogical flow of thought. Just because I have a blue cell phone (the premise being true) and Wes also has a blue cell phone doesn’t automatically make me Wes. Let’s try again:

a. I have a blue cell phone.
b. Wes has a blue cell phone.
c. Therefore, there is a possibility that I am Wes.

Here there is no jump to conclusions. There is ample time given to investigate. There are some questions that have to be answered before this final conclusion can become true. Very rarely will things be so cut and dry as the first example. In the same way, let’s look at yours:

a. God created everything good
b. Man fell away from goodness
c. Falling away from goodness means separation from God
d. Man is separated from God.
e. Therefore, man is evil and God is good.

Notice that there is no premise implying that God is anywhere good. The question that comes up in my mind here is, how could man fall away from goodness if God only created good? If God only created good (which would be implied based on the premise “everything is good”) then there is no room or possibility of evil.

The presence of evil suggests that your God is powerless, unable or uncaring enough to stop evil. He allows it to happen and as a result man is separated from God. This does not make God good. In fact, it brings up a major question. If God created everything good, how did evil enter into the world? How do we define evil here?

From this we can conclude that your conclusion is unfounded.

2. Your premise is also flawed. If we see later on in the logical puzzle (which we do) that Man fell that means God created us with the capacity to be imperfect. Therefore, by your own terms, God created an imperfect being. Therefore, everything is not good in the universe.

3. Also, your premise contains the word “good.” This word doesn’t mean a whole lot except to the person that is saying it. For instance, I can say I’m good at baseball. This is a “relative statement.” The reason it is relative is I’m comparing myself to others around me and I consider myself good. Now if I went to the MLB and tried my bat against Randy Johnson I would no longer consider myself good. To use the word “good” in an argument doesn’t really mean a whole lot. The person using the word must qualify it or the person receiving it won’t understand what the person is saying.

4. Another problem with this line of argument is that if God created “everything” did he create the problems of AIDS in Africa? If he didn’t, does he not at least allow it to happen? Why would a loving God allow those things to happen? This is not a lame excuse for me not to help those people. I am all for helping those people, but why do we need the name of a particular deity to do it? Why can’t we just help them because it is the right thing to do? According to your conception of the Almighty we were originally created good anyways. Why can’t we just work harder at being good and drop all the dogmatism?

Part C: General Questions about your Post:
1. Another misunderstanding that I had with your first point was when you said that being created in the “image of God” and that makes us “properly related to God.” What did you mean by being “property related to God?”
2. If God created us with free will why would he divinely inspire Paul to write Romans 9 and Ephesians 1? How does a Christian reconcile the idea between the omniscience of God and the free will?
3. Why did it God take 8,000 years (or so) after Adam to finally send his son to reconcile the world back to himself? If God really cared wouldn’t he have found a way to bring us back to his kingdom earlier?
4. What would you say is the heart of the Christian gospel message?

WES ELLIS said...

Danny
There's just one thing I'd like to say in response to your comment to Ashley.
You said"Also, your premise contains the word 'good.' This word doesn’t mean a whole lot except to the person that is saying it." I agree with this statement.
My only issue is that you are critiquing Ashley's use of the word good yet here we are in this forum talking about God. There are certain things that are not logicaly pure. There are certain things that simply cannot be said.

now lets stop there for a second and clerify. when I say "said" I mean it mure specifically that they way I commonly mean it. Yes there are certain things that can be uttered but in reality they carry no real truth value. When we talk about God we are simply making utterences. When I talk like this I do not dismiss that things that cannot be said should be thrown out I do not question their"meaning." We just need to understand them as utterences and take it's meaning contextually.

Now these things that "cannot be said" can still be "shown." "they make themselves manifest. They are what is mystical."

Imagine a sunset, assuming we've all seen one" now try to say it. Try to put it into words.You simply can't do it. Until the sunset was made manifest You had no thought of it. thoughts about these things cannot precede their manifestation so our words about them are logically "silence."

God and good are mystical, cannot be said. So Danny if you are be so facesiouse that we are to question our use of the word good then you are a hypocrite. Stop talking about God, if you are a logical posetivist, or play by the rules and understand these utterences in context.

WES ELLIS said...

Works cited in last comment:

"The Tractatus"
-Ludwig Wittgenstein

Ashley said...

Danny and Wes,
Let me say this in my own defense, I cannot remember if I said in my previous post, but what I said, I by no means declared as truth, as a matter of fact it was something that came to my mind as I was posting. To be honest, nothing was completly thought through and it was all fresh in my mind and I wanted to get others input on it. I am a much more talking with a group of people type of girl than a writing something down and letting others pick me apart that way. Finding the correct wording has always been an issue for myself.

Anways...

Wes,
When you brought up the statement I made about "Now we are apart from God", yeah one of thoes not knowing how to correctly word my thoughts. I think what I was trying to say that God could not dwell with-in an "evil" individual unless an atonement had been made, does that make sense? So more than we as is me and you, more so we as in the human race before Jesus sacrifice. Does that make sense to you? I am still weeding through the concept myself.

I agree 100% with what you said about evil and how we are not evil and were created good, but that we have the capacity to do evil things. When I said evil I think I was thinking more so along the lines that if we can do evil, we must to some degree be evil? Right?

Danny,

To start out I am a little confused to section B of your response, I just need to really read over it a few more times, therefore I won't say much on that for right now.

In response to section C.
1. When I said properly related to God, I was refering to the fact that because we are created in God's image we are able to relate to him, we can connect with him. The fact that he made us, we are in a sense related to him. Does that help?
2. Let me look a little deeper into it.
3. I don't have an answer to and I don't know if anyone as a human can even try to understand the ways of God. A question I have also pondered over, I just don't know if there is an answer we can fathom.
4. Do you mean the heart as in the emotion behind it or as the purpose of it? I will give my opinion on the later. I truly believe it is to declare that we are living in the Kingdom of God right now and that it instructs us how to do so.

I hope I answered some of the questions you presented to me. If not I apoligise, please let me know. I am always open to input. I am still learning and searching and discovering myself.

WES ELLIS said...

"I am still learning and searching and discovering myself."

Aren't we all...

I think you responded very intelligently to our arguements and I understand your confusion in putting your thoughts into words. I share your dilema.

Ashley said...

It's nice to know that I am not the only one who gets the heck confused out of them over writing a single paragraph.