Statement of Faith Evaluation: Joyce Myers

I have been asked to evaluate a second Statement of Faith.  This one has been published on Joyce Myers’ web site:

I wish to make a few quick observations before getting started with a point by point evaluation.

Myers’ Statement does not include enumerated points, so I have assigned numbers to each point, for ease of reference.  The structure of Myers’ Statement is that she presents her point and then offers one or more biblical references in support of her position.  She normally cites the Amplified translation of the Holy Bible for her biblical quotations.  I don’t really care for the Amplified translation.  What they choose to “amplify” I too often find to be the wrong interpretation.  Sometimes they have nice phrasing, but I always pull up one or two other translations to get a more rounded feel for the passage.

I frequently check translations against one another, and feel it is a good habit to develop.  Young’s Literal Translation is a quick way to see if more modern translations are deviating far from the classic interpretations of the original languages (typically Hebrew or Greek).  I also like to compare Hebrew bible quotes to those prepared by a Jewish organization, although this can take more time to parse out the meanings.

I found this evaluation to be much easier to make than the previous one.  My opinions still differ on a number of points, but I generally find Myers to offer a more mature sense of spirituality than found in my first Statement evaluation (that of Josh.org).

However, I still think one of the more important tasks we each face, is to bring our theology up to the level of the Rooftop Garden, as spoke of by Prof. Ron Miller (http://www.ronmillersworld.org/tag/theosophical-society/) or as close as we can bring ourselves to this, as often as we are able.  It is a big world and we have to learn to live together peacefully.  No matter one’s religion-spirituality, if we can’t even get that first, most basic “rule” right, we are not even heading in the right direction.

To that end, whilst considering statements of faith and theological premises upon which to base our lives, I suggest we compare these to the two extremes in the Stage of Faith continuum.  One one extreme is the Tribal-Warrior mentality (Ron Miller’s “Basement”) in which everyone who fails to think as we do is seen as an enemy, and the preferred way of dealing with enemies is to kill them.  At the other extreme is Unity Consciousness (Ron Miller’s Rooftop Garden), and here one does not even perceive enemies, because at some fundamental level, we are all the same, and we are all interconnected each one to the other, and to-and-through the Divine.

I find this to be a very effective tool of discernment.  When evaluating a religious-spiritual-theological tenet or proposition, ask with which extreme it is more consonant.  To the degree it resonates with the Tribal-Warrior world view, it is likely to be in error, and damaging to our well being;  and to the degree it resonates with the theme of Unity Consciousness, it is likely to represent highly refined spirituality, and constructive to our well being.

So with these brief words of introduction, let us being the evaluation of Joyce Myers’ Statement of Faith.

1) The Bible is the infallible Word of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit, and contains every answer to man’s problems.

2 Timothy 3:16-17

New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE)

16 All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.

Erik’s opinon:  First of all, do recall this is not Paul writing this.  This is another reasonably late letter, and we can expect it to convey more evolved/refined Christian theologies.

You’ll have to spend some time defining “inspired.”  This is the key word in this passage, as I read it.

But as I read the rest of the verses, it does NOT speak to infallibility.  It speaks to practicality and usefulness.  I can agree that scripture is often both practical and useful.  Also inspiring.  But NOT infallible.  In fact, it clearly is not;  at least not in any literal sense of the word.

I supposed one might argue the inspiration is of an infallible nature and any errors are because frail humans are unable to carry the Holy Content perfectly.  But I find this to be a unconvincing argument.  God has to speak to we frail humans, and to do so must use the limited resources we have available to us.  I think this is part of what is being pointed at with the stories of people dropping dead if they see or touch God.  We are like little thin wires that when suddenly exposed to a giant amperage (large electrical current) simply melt in half!  As the thin wire is unable to carry a giant electrical current, we too are unable to carry the full impact of “God.”

2 Peter 1:20-21

New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE)

20 First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, 21 because no prophecy ever came by human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

Erik’s opinon:  Another late book.  (Not written by the Apostle Peter.)  Therefore, evolved and proto-orthodox theology will be expected.  As we see here.  I simply disagree.

Go back to the “thin wire” analogy.  There is a thing called a wire-fuse.  All this means is it is a thin wire.  If the circuit flows too much current, it will burn through (melt) the wire.

We humans are thin wire fuses.  We can only understand from the experience of our senses.  It is nice to think otherwise, that somehow God can make our brains non-human, or function at a super-human efficiency, or some how otherwise violate the physical limits into which we were born, in these animal-bodies.

But asserting does not make it so.  And that is how I read this.  It is a circular argument, which I take to mean were we not human, we would be able to understand in super-human levels of comprehension.  Sure, I can agree with that.  But *those* persons are no longer human.  *We humans* must deal within the limits of our ability to comprehend, and we can maybe stretch this a little bit through our apprehension, perhaps because it engages our unconscious to a higher degree.  But this is not going to be enough to suddenly make us super-human and able to understand the direct-feed of the Mind of God.

The main trouble with the argument this scripture presents, is that somehow we need not (worse, in fact, *can not*) interpret scripture.  But this is nonsense.  We *must* interpret scripture.  The printed words have no intrinsic meaning of their own, nor are they able to somehow project us into the God-Mind.  We have to use our tiny human brains to provide the meaning to what we read (and for that matter what we experience).

The only other argument that I see one might make is this refers specifically to, and is limited to, prophecy.  But as we discovered in a previous conversation, we were unable to really define what “prophecy” means.  Waxing metaphoric, I will again bring up the idea that were God himself to sit down and read the scripture to us, *we* *still* have to use our tiny minds to bring meaning to those words.  God cannot talk beyond our comprehension – actually, He may if He so wishes, but we won’t understand what He is saying.

And I do NOT see how this defends the argument for the scripture being infallible.  Is this to say that the Holy Spirit will work with us and within us and through us until we are able to finally “get it”?  This may well be true.  I think I can believe something along those lines – however, that is *still* the human working to reach understanding.  It is not the scripture/Holy Spirit forcing us to a higher order of perception that we are capable of achieving.

In other words, we are created human, and human we remain so long as we are here.  I don’t see how we can easily get around this limit.  (Mysticism is one means, I suspect.  But it is notoriously difficult to understand what a mystic is trying to share of their own experience of the Divine, so this too shares a related difficulty.)

2) There is one God, existing eternally in three persons: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

John 10:30; John 14:26; Philippians 2:5-7

Erik’s opinon:  I’ve written to this pretty thoroughly in the past.  I think people make too much of this and worry about it too much.  I don’t think the bible really supports this idea, but I don’t see any great harm in believing it either.  Of course, I’m just as likely to switch to an understanding of the Quadrinity (four-part) of the Divine if that makes for a more useful and practical tool for what I am trying to do in the moment.

3) God is Love and He loves all people. It is His desire to reach out to those who are poor, oppressed, widowed or orphaned, and to heal the brokenhearted.

Erik’s opinon:  Naturally, I would agree.  I would go further, saying this is the entire point!  I do so from a Universalist perspective however.  What limit does Joyce Myers see to God’s Love?  If she feels there is any, it is not addressed here.

Psalm 68:5-6

5 Father of orphans and protector of widows
is God in his holy habitation.
6 God gives the desolate a home to live in;
he leads out the prisoners to prosperity,
but the rebellious live in a parched land.

And, Psalm 68:21-23, reads:

21 But God will shatter the heads of his enemies,
the hairy crown of those who walk in their guilty ways.
22 The Lord said,
‘I will bring them back from Bashan,
I will bring them back from the depths of the sea,
23 so that you may bathe your feet in blood,
so that the tongues of your dogs may have their share from the foe.’

Erik’s opinon:  We see God, not as God is, but as we perceive God to be.  This is one part a stage of faith thing, and one part our culture.

1 John 4:16

Erik’s opinon:  1st John is not to be confused with the Gospel of John.  Many scholars find the letters of John to be later, as they describe an established church, and the disagreements between groups, leading to internal conflicts.  In this way, it shares some similarities with books/letters such as 1st and 2nd Timothy, Titus, 1st and 2nd Peter, etc.  Just recall when reading these, they depict the later stages of the early Christian movement, and after the proto-orthodox views are beginning to exert themselves over other understandings of what it means to follow Jesus.  In any event, I think her case is stronger, citing the entire section:

1 John 4:7-21

God Is Love

7 Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.

13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Saviour of the world. 15 God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. 16 So we have known and believe the love that God has for us.

God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. 17 Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgement, because as he is, so are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. 19 We love[b] because he first loved us. 20 Those who say, ‘I love God’, and hate their brothers or sisters,[c] are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister[d] whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. 21 The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters[e] also.

[b] 1 John 4:19 Other ancient authorities add him; others add God
[c] 1 John 4:20 Gk brothers
[d] 1 John 4:20 Gk brother
[e] 1 John 4:21 Gk brothers

(4) Man is created in the image of God but separated from God by sin. Without Jesus we cannot have a relationship with God.

Erik’s opinon:  So much for Universal Love, or Universal Redemption?  😉 heheh.  She doesn’t say here, just wondering where that question is going.  This point (what I numbered #4) is particularly interesting because what normally follows is we are subject to Original Sin, and therefore vile in some basic way, as opposed to be basically good, and subject to errors (“sins”).

So we’ll hold that question for now.

Quoting this scripture from Genesis is an example of why I like to have several translations available, and when dealing with the Hebrew bible, a translation or two which deal specifically with the Hebrew verses from a Jewish perspective.

Genesis 1:26

Amplified Bible (AMP)

26 God said, Let Us [Father, Son, and Holy Spirit] make mankind in Our image, after Our likeness, and let them have complete authority over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the [tame] beasts, and over all of the earth, and over everything that creeps upon the earth.

Erik’s opinon:  I get suspicious when I see “amplifications” which I do not believe to be scripturally supported.  In this case, inserting the observation:  “Let Us [Father, Son, and Holy Spirit]….”  Really?  I seriously *doubt* the Hebrew scripture says that!  Being as they really like that “One God” thing so much 😉 heheh.  So let’s look at a couple other translations to see what we find, and if we think this “amplified” translation really fits properly.  In so doing, we will also recall the Amplified translation is the one to which her web site links, so we may presume it is her preferred translation.  Therefore, it will be useful to see if we agree with her position, and it may be useful in trying to figure out her “stage of faith”:

Genesis 1:26

New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE)

26 Then God said, “Let us make humankind [Adam] in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”

Erik’s opinon:  Hmmmm….. Now we do NOT see a reference to the Trinity.  Nor would we expect to see one.  The NRSV is one of my favorite translations.  Now that we have cleared that up (or may, after seeing another translation or two) my eye is now drawn to the business about “in our image” and “likeness.”  What is that all about?  For *that* we need to look at the Hebrew and see if we can’t figure out what the key words mean in the original language.

Bereshis 1:26

Orthodox Jewish Bible (OJB)

26 And G-d said, Let Us make man in Our tzelem, after Our demut: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon ha’aretz (the earth).

Erik’s opinon:  My first attempts are to type “Hebrew tzelem demut” into a search engine and see what pops up.  The Hebrew word “tzelem” (image) denotes appearance, while the Hebrew word “demut” (likeness) denotes similarity in form and deed.  Here is an interesting Jewish perspective on this verse, which I think is useful:

http://ohr.edu/explore_judaism/ask_the_rabbi/ask_the_rabbi/4917

So we can now clearly see there is nothing hinted at in the Hebrew speaking of a Trinity or multiplicity in the Person of God.

So that settles that aspect of the verse.  However, I do note that this verse does NOT address or support the point made in her statement of faith.  We will have to read more broadly to get to that point.  I cannot answer why she would choose to show as support verses which do not even address the statement she has made.

Here is one web page that gives a reading closer to the Hebrew:

http://hebrewdivinenames.webs.com/elohim.htm

Or we can use one of the Jewish translations on the Bible Gateway web site (the same site Joyce Myers’ links to).  Perhaps she doesn’t wish us to read the next verse?:

27 So G-d created humankind in His own tzelem, in the tzelem Elohim (image of G-d) created He him; zachar (male) and nekevah (female) created He them.

This brings up questions of gender, as well as how to interpret the use of the word Elohim, which is a strange combination of male, female, and neuter language in the Hebrew.  The subtleties of the answers get into far more ancient Hebrew grammar than I can follow, so I have not been able to form my own solid opinion on this point.  However, I will observe that the early cultures from which this creation myth partially borrows, and changes in uniquely Hebrew ways, suggests to me there may well have been a very early form of polytheism going on during the pre-literate age.  This word Elohim may be a shadow of that.

On the other hand, the rabbi offers a very good point, in that this points us to the active agent aspect of God (or Adam, as the case may be).  So we have to give that serious consideration too.

1 Timothy 2:5

1 Timothy 2

New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Catholic Edition (NRSVACE)

Instructions concerning Prayer

2 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings should be made for everyone, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity. 3 This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, 4 who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For

there is one God;
there is also one mediator between God and humankind,
Christ Jesus, himself human,
6        who gave himself a ransom for all

—this was attested at the right time. 7 For this I was appointed a herald and an apostle (I am telling the truth,[a] I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.

8 I desire, then, that in every place the men should pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or argument; 9 also that the women should dress themselves modestly and decently in suitable clothing, not with their hair braided, or with gold, pearls, or expensive clothes, 10 but with good works, as is proper for women who profess reverence for God. 11 Let a woman[b] learn in silence with full submission. 12 I permit no woman[c] to teach or to have authority over a man;[d] she is to keep silent. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing, provided they continue in faith and love and holiness, with modesty.
Footnotes:

[a] 1 Timothy 2:7 Other ancient authorities add in Christ
[b] 1 Timothy 2:11 Or wife
[c] 1 Timothy 2:12 Or wife
[d] 1 Timothy 2:12 Or her husband

Erik’s opinon:  Started out great!  Kinda blew up at the end and went all Patriarchal on us!  And so we see the need to take these later letters with a grain of salt.  Use that which speaks to love, and leave behind that which speaks to human concerns of keeping others in their “proper” place, or otherwise spreading hate or discontent.  This section is also an example of why I say the New Testament is not the “infallible” word of God – quite the contrary, it holds a lot of fallacies, as well as contradictions and errors.

But refer back to Prof. Ron Miller’s paper on Truth vs. Fact.  We each bring our own set of lenses through which we read scripture.  As did those (humans!) who wrote it, and those (humans) who copied and re-copied the scriptures over the centuries.  We are well advised to discern and understand all these lenses we are able to reasonably identify.

As to this offering support of her statement of faith, at least it *does* whereas the Genesis quote does not.  However, I find this to be another circular argument.  She is using a late letter written from the proto-orthodox perspective to support the orthodox position which survives to this day.  I would prefer to have wider attribution to the claim, and not one who in the next breath is talking about the need for women to sit down and shut up.  So I’ll grant this supports her position, but I find the source suspect.

(5) We can have a personal relationship with God through salvation, God’s free gift to man. It is not a result of what we do, but it is only available through God’s unearned favor. By admitting we have sinned and believing in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, and accepting Him as Lord, we can spend eternity with God.

Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 5:1; Romans 3:24

Erik’s opinion:  To frame these letters, we begin by recognizing that Ephesians is a later letter, and was *not* written by Paul.  Among its concerns are keeping the Body of Christ (the Church) “pure.”  There was no such Church in Paul’s day, and he would not have even seen a need for such a thing, given that he appears to have expected the bodily resurrection to happen during his own lifetime.  So like many other late letters/books of the New Testament, Ephesians should be read with the understanding the theology it expresses is fairly well developed, and in some cases is also being used as a suppression of alternate forms of early Christianity.

The letter to the Roman’s *was* written by Paul.  This is the nearest writing of Paul which survives that attempts anything approaching a systematic theology.  It is however, not a systematic approach, and Paul is not trying to outline his full thoughts on Christian Theology.  He is writing to address concerns regarding his apostolic teachings to the gentiles (and in this sense is a type of limited-theological presentation), and also to pave the way for a fund-raising initiative he wishes to pursue upon his arrival in Rome, in the hopes of acquiring funding for a series of missions to the West (Gaul/France, and Western Europe in general; and I would assume the north west coast of Africa as well).

Ephesians 2:8-9

New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE)

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— 9 not the result of works, so that no one may boast.

Romans 5:1-5 (Joyce Myers specifies verse 1)

New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE)
Results of Justification

5 Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have obtained access [by faith] to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

Romans 3:21-31 (Joyce Myers specifies verse 24)

New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE)

Righteousness through Faith

21 But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, 23 since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; 24 they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement [or: place of atonement] by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; 26 it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus [or: who has the faith of Jesus].

27 Then what becomes of boasting? It is excluded. By what law? By that of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since God is one; and he will justify the circumcised on the ground of faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. 31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.

Erik’s opinion:  There is a lot contained in her summary of these verses:

  •     a) We can have a personal relationship with God…
  •     b) through salvation, God’s free gift to man.
  •     c) It is not a result of what we do, but it is only available through God’s unearned favor.
  •     d) By admitting we have sinned…
  •     e) and believing in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ…
  •     f) and accepting Him as Lord…
  •     g) we can spend eternity with God.

 

In my view, I ask what one wishes to declare by this observation?  Is this to say there is only *one* way to God?  Is it to say that *only* expressing faith is sufficient?  Is there Universal Redemption, or not?  Are people doomed by accident of birth, or predestined to damnation and therefore predestined to ill-fated births?  These are the types of questions that come to my mind when I hear talk of there being only *one* way to God.  The primary problem is there are now billions of people on the planet.  It is simply unrealistic to believe all them can possibly become Christians, of any flavor.  So are we to say that God damns billions of people?  Most of whom realistically have no chance of becoming Christians?  That seems really cold and unloving.  To my mind it is in fact antithesis to what I imagine to be the nature of God (love).

So this is the backdrop which *I* read into people quoting these kinds of verses.  But let’s try another way of looking at the points she seems to make in her summary.

  •     a) We can have a personal relationship with God…

What aspect of God?  Certainly not the most extreme aspect, that of the Ineffable.  Of the “spark” of the Divine which dwells within each of us?  How so?  Is this in kindling loving relations with as many people as we can?  Or is there another aspect of the Divine, which resides in the realm of Spirit and is able to manifest in our physical realm as well?  Perhaps this is what she means.  I do believe we have the ability to address a personified aspect of the Divine.  When my spiritual back is against the wall, I pray to Jesus;  when working with healing prayers I may invoke the healing power of Archangel Raphael;  etc.  Furthermore, I understand these to be real forces at play in our physical universe; not merely imaginary flights of fancy or metaphoric representations pointing toward a reality beyond our grasp.

  •     b) through salvation, God’s free gift to man.

Is she refining her definition of our personal relationship with God to only that which takes place through “salvation”?  This may be an aspect of that relationship, but I cannot see it as the only access.

  •     c) It is not a result of what we do, but it is only available through God’s unearned favor.

This is a popular view.  We cannot bow enough, say enough prayers, burn enough incense, sacrifice enough lambs and doves, to secure God’s “favor.”  I wonder if she would include securing God’s “love” in this observation?  It seems to me God’s love is a free gift, to everyone, even those – and perhaps *especially* those? – who are wayward souls (thinking Prodigal Son parable).

From that perspective I can see the point.  But the flip side is to say that our actions and intentions mean absolutely nothing.  We can “have faith” and then go on to be a mass murderer, and all is well.  I do not agree.  I, in fact, do *not* think all would then be well.  But I think this plays into the theme of Universal Salvation (or Redemption) much better than the popular view of “being saved by our faith and God’s Grace.”

In the scheme of Universalism, we retain our freedom of choice and the responsibility to pay for our behavior.  I suspect that love is the greater part of this, so that a heart-felt act of redemption may “pay off” more than a single act of hate.  But if one returns to a life of hate, they are no longer walking toward God, and they will at some point have to resume that journey (perhaps from square one;  perhaps not).

So I see the subtle points, the shades of grey, are both important, and instructive.  We *are* saved purely by God’s Grace.  But *we* have to continue upon that path to grasp the redemption.  If we turn away, the Grace remains, but we have not taken hold of it.  Yet it will always be available, for whenever we are ready to live that way of life.

  •     d) By admitting we have sinned…

Yes, if she means “error” which is what the word originally meant.  No, if she means Original Sin.  Because I do not believe Original Sin ever happened.  We are created as we are, full of sin as we are, because that is how we were *intended* to be created.  We are a work in progress.  By learning to overcome our proclivity for “sin” we enter the process and experience of becoming the more evolved spiritual beings we will eventually mature into.  It must be this way.  This is the only way we can become the mature, enlightened spiritual beings “God” wishes us to become.  (I am waxing metaphoric again, heheh….  It can be a useful tool.)

I go further.  I say that God is unable to “create” us as perfect beings.  For us to *be* us, we must undergo the process of evolution, and painfully learning to distinguish good from bad, and to *desire* to choose good over bad.  We are created through this *process* and cannot be replicated by a singular “instant” of creation – not even by God.

  •     e) and believing in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ…

I wonder what she reads into this?  Is she taking the position of what seems to be Paul’s understanding, that Jesus became Divine upon his resurrection?  Or does she take the view of the author of the Gospel of John and say that Jesus was/is the Logos, and pre-existent before the forming of the universe?

I personally prefer the Divine upon Resurrection idea.  This means Jesus lived a human life, from birth to death.  This means when he says we too can do as he did, and even greater things, it actually *means* something which we can really hope to obtain.  Otherwise, if he said that as God, he was lying to us or making fun of us, and both seem out of character, so I doubt that was the intent.

  •     f) and accepting Him as Lord…

As JHVH?  Most likely not.  Most likely as a hard to define aspect of the Trinity.

  •     g) we can spend eternity with God.

What then, I always have wondered?  Life without growth seems dull and even dreadful if lasting sufficiently long (as would be “eternity”).  My personal assumption is that we continue our spiritual growth.  Either reincarnated in a physical life, or continuing along a one-life existence in the spiritual realm.  But either way, more growth, more refinement of our spirit.  Perhaps to one day become united with the One; with God, perhaps even that Ineffable aspect of the Divine, some distant Age of Age.  We are all guessing about such eventualities.  So there is no point is beating one another up over one’s preferred believe in this regard.  The most likely thing is, we are all wrong, and it will be far stranger and far more fascinating that we can ever imagine.

As strange as it might seem, I think I generally agree with her, but that I mean it differently than does she.  Yet I still feel that we would be in general agreement as the the nature (or ontology) of the Divine.

(6) We believe in water baptism, as taught and demonstrated by Jesus, as the way for believers to identify with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.

Matthew 28:19; Romans 6:4; Matthew 3:13-17

Matthew 28:19

New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE)

19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

Romans 6

New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE)
Dying and Rising with Christ

6 What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.

5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For whoever has died is freed from sin. 8 But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

12 Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. 13 No longer present your members to sin as instruments[a] of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments[b] of righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

Erik’s opinion:  This is fine.  I personally see more in the act.  On one level it reaches to our ancestors and the theme of an encounter with the Divine which is set outside of time.  We baptize to die, and in dying, are able to re-shape ourselves into a new creation, and we are in a sense “re-born” when we come “back to life.”  In this sense baptism is a symbolic death.  We are symbolically resurrected (in Christian parlance) into a new life.

In the Roman’s passage I wonder if a psychological reading is useful?  I cannot believe Paul thought he and others had literally died, when baptized, so he must mean something else.  I seem to read this as dying to the errors of our past, and no longer carrying these errors into our future life.

Interestingly, that Jesus was baptized by John is almost certain.  We see this in the redaction cited in Matthew chapter 3:

Matthew 3:13-17

New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE)
The Baptism of Jesus

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfil all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved [or: my beloved Son], with whom I am well pleased.”

It is presumed that one who baptizes is greater than the one who is baptized.  Hence editing the story to show that John as hesitant to baptized Jesus.

A second note is that some early manuscripts read “And *now* you have become my son” (or even become God’s *adopted* son).  This is a turning point for those who argue Jesus become Divine upon his baptism.  Some, of course, say he was conceived as Divine, or even was pre-existent as Divine.  As I have mentioned previously, I prefer to think of Jesus as fully human from birth to death, and not as pre-existent (although I love the poetry of the opening of John’s gospel, and use it in my liturgy), and not Divine until his resurrection.  I like to think this because I feel it offers us the greatest hope.  We are human.  Perhaps if we strive sufficiently we too may be able to approach something of the life Jesus modeled for us.  Jesus did say we can do even greater things that he did.  I have always taken that as a true statement;  but if he said that as God, it is false.

So, basically I think she and I are in agreement.  Unless she takes this as a requirement.  I do not see that to be the case.  On the other hand, when I finally found a church with whom I could honestly relate, I did choose to be baptized “into it.”  It is, however, symbolic.  This is not to say it lacks importance or that it lacks meaning.

(7) The Baptism of the Holy Spirit is a gift from God. He helps empower the believer to develop the character of Christ and live every day in God’s will.

Matthew 3:11; Acts 2:4

Matthew 3:11

New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE)

11 “I baptize you with [or: in] water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with [or: in] the Holy Spirit and fire.

Acts 2:4

New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE)

4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

Erik’s opinion:  I agree.  Charles Perdue once told me he sometimes thinks of the Holy Spirit as the “force” or “energy” of God active in the world.  This is as good a definition as any I have heard.  I certainly tend to think of the Holy Spirit as the “active agent” of God in this world.  It is also a means of thinking about the Holy Spirit without requiring the Trinity, if one is so inclined.

(8) God gives all believers spiritual gifts. They are for the strengthening of God’s people (the Church) and proof of God’s existence and power to unbelievers. The gifts of the Spirit are active and relevant today.

1 Corinthians 12:4-11; 1 Peter 4:10

1 Peter 4:10

New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE)

10 Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.

And verses 7-11, read:

7 The end of all things is near [or: is at hand]; therefore be serious and discipline yourselves for the sake of your prayers. 8 Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Be hospitable to one another without complaining. 10 Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. 11 Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.

Erik’s opinion:  A couple of points jump out at me.  This passage opens with “The end of all things is near….”  This is similar to Paul’s belief, that he would be alive to see the return of Jesus, and the bodily resurrection of all Christians.  1st Peter is a later book, yet still holds to the “time is near” theme.  For myself, I cannot believe “near” or “at hand” means 2,000 or 3,000 years!  But reading the text within its own context, this is the meaning in which the following lines of advice are offered.  I don’t think I would have used this citation as support for Gifts of the Spirit.

1 Corinthians 12:4-11

New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE)

4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.

Erik’s opinion:  This is one of the letters of Paul.  It was written to a troubled group of new Christians, and prefaces the well known 13th chapter – the Love Chapter – and makes some of the admonishments of chapter 13 makes more sense.

This is a fine citation for the Gifts of Spirit.  And one could easily include all of chapters 12, 13 and 14 as support for these assertions.  Paul clearly felt these were a vital aspect of the form of Christianity with which he was experienced.  And I am among those who assert these Gifts may also be a vital aspect of the form of Christianity which we may experience today.  However, I would not go so far as to say that if one fails to have any such Gifts, one is therefore *not* a Christian.  That places too much pressure on others, and could become an instrument of killing their faith; and we are not supposed to stand in judgement of others anyway.

(Dr. Ron Miller offered a useful way of understanding the biblical statements about not judging others.  In his view it means we are not to judge their internal lives.  We do not know what people are thinking or feeling or whether they are being sincerely holy or not, as they understand being holy.  All of that is for God to judge.  We *can* [must!] however, judge behavior.  Behavior is external and may be rationally observed by a third party.  Judgement of external behavior is the basis of civilization.  We require it in order to have any hope of living together in relative peace.  And now for a tricky bit….  This is why Miller says we can judge certain religious behaviors to be “basement” or “tribal” mentality.  The behaviors we may objectively judge.  But we can never judge those person’s internal relationship with the Divine.  Most of us do the best we know how to do.  Most of us try to do good, most the time.  As I read recently, a Hindu yogi observed that the most tribal, magic-based observance of spirituality is that person engaging with the Divine to their fullest ability;  that person is radiating as much as the Divine Light as they are able.  So too the yogi and mystic.  So too you and I.  We all do the best we can, and we all radiate 100% of the potential of the Divine of which we are able, at any given moment.)

(9) Sanctification is the ongoing process of allowing God’s character to be developed in us.

Romans 6:19; Galatians 5:22-25

Erik’s opinion:  Both Galatians and Romans are widely accepted as letters of Paul.  Of the 13 letters which cite Paul as their author, seven are considered authentic and uncontested by almost all scholars (Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philemon).  This by the way, means that Paul is the author of nearly 25% of the New Testament!  With regard to the other letters, almost no scholar believes Paul wrote 2nd Thessalonians, 1st & 2nd Timothy, or Titus.  The same is true of Hebrews, few scholars think Paul wrote this book (as I mentioned previously, Hebrews is a sermon).  I personally think Paul *only* wrote the seven uncontested letters.

There is a Wikipedia article which offers some interesting insights to the word “sanctification.”  Among these are that sanctification is a result of doing works, whereas justification is a result of faith, by which I am assuming they mean Divine Grace.  Also interesting is how this may apply to the process of theosis (important to Eastern Orthodox Christianity) whereby humans may evolve to the point of embodying divine properties.  In any event, as is so often the case, we find there are many words with a great many shades of meaning, and this can make it difficult to tease out what specifically others may mean in their use of the word.

If we take a more generalized view of the word “sanctification” I would be in agreement with her premise.  I’m actually inclined toward the Eastern Orthodox view, that of theosis, and in that light see the human life of Jesus as a prime model and example of this process.  If we take the view that Jesus was made Divine upon his resurrection, and not before, this becomes an even greater possibility of each of us.  It may also point us toward an understanding that this process of sanctification is one in which we are engaged for a span of lives (be these in the physical or spiritual realm, or some combination thereof).

Quite interesting.

Galatians 5:22-25

New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE)

The Fruit of the Spirit

22 By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.

Romans 6:19

New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE)

19 I am speaking in human terms because of your natural limitations [or: weaknesses of the flesh]. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctification.

Here is the full passage, verses 15-23:

Slaves of Righteousness

15 What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, 18 and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms because of your natural limitations [or: weaknesses of the flesh]. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctification.

20 When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 So what advantage did you then get from the things of which you now are ashamed? The end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Erik’s opinion:  Paul waxes a little poetic here.  We become as slaves to God, and see that on one extreme lies sin and error which lead to death, and on the other extreme is committing our lives to the process of sanctification, of embodying to ever greater degrees those beliefs and behaviors which are modeled for us by Jesus.  I may quibble here or there with a word or how one chooses to interpret a phrase, but with the over-arching meaning, that of theosis, I am in agreement that this is a process in which we are engaged, if we wish to emulate the life Jesus modeled for us.  I see this as an admirable goal.

I myself stop short of beating ourselves up for simply being human.  To err is indeed human.  And let us not forget the other half of that saying:  To forgive is Divine.  I find that does sum up a lot of scripture, and points us in the right direction for proper and useful interpretation of the texts.  Do the best we are able.  Understand that we will err.  Recognize this, and when we become aware of no longer being on the path, return to it.  We are a process of Becoming.

(10) Divine healing is active in the lives of people today through Jesus, who is the Healer. Healing includes physical, mental, emotional and spiritual restoration.

Luke 9:11; Matthew 9:35; Acts 10:38; Matthew 10:1

Matthew 9:35

New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE)

35 Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness.

Matthew 10:1

New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE)

10 Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness.

Luke 9:10-11

New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE)

10 On their return the apostles told Jesus all they had done. He took them with him and withdrew privately to a city called Bethsaida. 11 When the crowds found out about it, they followed him; and he welcomed them, and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed to be cured.

Acts 10:36-38

New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE)

36 You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all. 37 That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.

Erik’s opinion:  I agree.  I personally believe all healing first comes to us as spiritual, and then this sometimes also is carried into our emotional, psychological, or physical experience.  But the healing itself is always initiated in the spiritual realm.

As a sidebar, the subjects of spiritual healing and the role of the Holy Spirit as active agent in the world, are among the few areas which I *disagree* with what I understand to be Bishop Spong’s biblical interpretations.  Bishop Spong presents *all* the miracle stories surrounding Jesus as metaphors, which seek to find “big enough” ways of expressing the Divinity the disciples felt as present, and perhaps emanate, in Jesus.  I find there is a lot of truth in this observation, and it is a very useful means of interpreting much of the New Testament.

(A great deal of which are really re-tellings of stories found in the Hebrew bible, which are then “wrapped” around the person of Jesus, and through which, the rich theological associations of those earlier stories are applied to the reality Jesus presented to 1st century Jewish persons.)

However, I am unable to let go of the “placebo effect.”  There is clearly more involved in our healing and maintaining health than at first meets the eye!  This includes our Intention, Will, and I will argue, that it also includes our Spirit (and by extension, that of the Divine, to which we are connection through the in-dwelling “spark” within each of us).

(11) The Bible describes hell as a real place. It is a place of suffering and a place of permanent separation from God for those who die without accepting Christ. God’s desire is that no one be separated from Him for eternity, which is why He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to earth.

Hebrews 9:27

Erik’s opinon:  This is a sermon.  I do not personally consider it “scripture.”  It may well be the only reason this book was included in the canon was because it was thought Paul wrote it.  However, he did not.

Revelation 20:12-15

Erik’s opinon:  This is apocalyptic literature.  Very symbolic.  It also pertains most directly to the 1st century, and more specifically to the period following the death of Nero (he is the Beast, 666).  Like other literature of this type, it is a message of hope, that no matter how bad things are now, they will get better.  We just need to hold firm.  Therefore, I discount the symbology used should one try to literalize it.  I do not think Revelation should be taken literally.  I do take it as a message of hope;  but not of fear or retribution/punishment.

John 3:16-18 (and through v. 21)

16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

17 “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgement, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. 20 For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. 21 But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”

[NOTE: Some interpreters hold that the quotation concludes with verse 15.]

Erik’s opinon:  We can cite this if we wish.  However, bear in mind it is John, so it is the last conical gospel, and as such will reflect the more evolved theology present in this group of Christians, circa 90-100 ce.  Sometimes it is less than useful, as in the pejorative “the Jews.”  Other times it is very poetic and metaphoric (for example, the opening verses, which I find are among the most beautiful in the New Testament).

However, I would read this in the sense of the Universalists.  The “condemnation” is not going to be “eternal” as in forever-and-ever.  It is to the end of the “age.”  A long time perhaps, but not eternal as we think of the word today.  But I don’t read the identified verses as speaking of hell, anyway.  They seem to be speaking to our own state of rejection of the Divine.  Of course we are (self) damned whilst in this state!  But I do not see “hell” as the logical conclusion.  I see a state of self-imposed exile, until such time as one desires to return to the Light.  Then one may begin working toward that goal, reunion, and resumption of the state of communion with the Divine.

(12) Jesus will return and take all those who have accepted Him as Savior to be with Him for eternity.

Acts 1:11; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17; Hebrews 9:28

1 Thessalonians 4:13-17

New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE)
The Coming of the Lord

13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. 15 For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died. 16 For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever.

Erik’s opinion:  This is an authentic letter of Paul.  It is a fairly famous passage in which he speaks of rising up into the sky to meet Jesus when the bodily resurrection takes place.  Metaphorically, I can read into this “rising up” and “cloud” imagery, themes of ascension, and of raising our consciousness to that of heavenly heights.  It is expressive and beautifully poetic language.  And it conveys the meaning quite well, I believe (the importance of elevating our consciousness to the heavenly level; and eternal spiritual life).

However, if suggested as meant to be understood literally, I have a number of issues with this interpretation.  First, turn to the occasion of the letter.  People were quite distressed that some of their loved ones had died physically before the return of Jesus.  They were concerned those who had died were forever lost to them, and would be unable to live in the Kingdom to come, as would the living, upon Jesus’ return.

They believed this because this clearly appears to be what Paul taught.  Paul himself fully expected to be alive when Jesus returned and the general bodily resurrection took place.  Paul’s prove of this is that Jesus was the “first fruits” and what comes after the first fruits of the harvest?  The rest of the harvest!  This seems to have been self-evident to Paul.  And perhaps were we living at that time, we too would have thought so.  But some 2,000-years later, no.  Clearly not.

With regard to going up into the “clouds” – then what?  And in the same line of thinking, how can we *literally* understand the ascension story of Jesus?  Did he literally go up into the clouds?  Up and up?  And then what?  Into orbit?  Sucked by gravity into the center of the sun?  Or just floating around the vast void of space?

Clearly what made sense to a 1st century mindset, no longer carries any *literal* validity given our understanding of the universe and of cosmology.  If we are to pursue an adult understanding of Christianity we must be able to include our understanding of the universe and world in which we live.

These are the types of questions with which we must struggle as adult Christians.  This is Christianity 300.

Hebrews 9:28

New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE)

28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

Erik’s opinion:  I don’t have much to say about the book of Hebrews.  I have previously observed it is really no more than a sermon, and should be given the same weight as any other sermon one might hear today.  This particular verse “toes the party line” of the proto-orthodox of the 1st century and (lower case o) orthodox church dogma to this day.

But I have another thought.  I recently listened to Dr. Ron Miller’s presentation to the Theosophical Society concerning the Gospel of Thomas.  He made a great many wonderfully inspiring observations, as Miller always does.  The one this passage brings to my mind as I write this is that the “second coming” of Jesus, as well as the establishment of the “Kingdom of God/Heaven” may very well be found not in the clouds, but in our own consciousness.  As we raise up our consciousness to parallel that which may be found in heaven, we are engaged in the process of helping to bring about the Kingdom of Heaven.

I find this to be a fascinating idea.  And it dove tails quite well with that of theosis (essentially embodying the Spirit of Christ within ourselves; using Jesus as our model) and “putting on the Mind of Christ” as Paul said.  In this sense we each are the vehicle through which the second coming of Christ will take place.

And if one assumes Paul’s view that Jesus only became Divine upon his resurrection, we may be able to assume we too have the capacity to be as full of God as was Jesus.  Obviously, this is extremely rare.  There simply are not a great many “unity” minded persons in the world.  There are not many Jesus’ and Buddha’s.  But the important question this line of thought asks us to consider is what is the nature of the differences between us and Jesus?  Are we of a different *kind* (a different type of creature) or are we of a different degree or *quality*?  Or to put it more bluntly, was Jesus always God, and therefore something we may never hope to become?  Or was Jesus a human being -as are we- who so fully embodied and expressed God from the inside-out that he was able to transform a great deal of the world, even to this day?

I certainly do not *know* the answer to this question.  But for me it is far more hopeful, as well as practical and useful, for me to believe that Jesus was born and died human.  This means all of us may hope to attain that same degree or quality of the indwelling Divine.  As Jesus said, we can do even greater things than he!  And I like to take that statement as True.

Acts 1:11

New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE)

11 They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

…or more fully:

Acts 1:6-11

The Ascension of Jesus

6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 9 When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. 11 They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

Erik’s opinon:  Much of what I wrote immediately above applies here too.  We have to choose how to interpret this and similar passages.  Do we retain the 1st century understanding of the cosmos and hold to a childish (as opposed to child-like) belief in a three tier universe, with heaven above, and hell below?  (Christianity 100, we might say.)  Or do we read such passages in light of the scientific discoveries of the last 500 or so years, and acknowledge that Jesus floating up and up, eventually places him in orbit around the planet.  And then what do we do with him?

Christianity 100 is simple -as I say, childish even- but it is also very safe, and requires very little time, effort, or thought.  For some this is perfectly comfortable.  And that is fine in so far as it goes.  But there is also Christianity 200, Christianity 300, and for a very few, Christianity 400.

Christianity 200 is within the reach of just about anyone who can read and has access to the Internet or seminary books.  I see this as Dr. Ron Miller’s 1st Floor of Consciousness.  It is mind-logic driven.  Historical-critical studies play a large role in careful examination of the scriptures.  It is a view which takes a strong inclination toward Fact.  It is also aware or, and comfortable with metaphoric representations which are Truth-based.  But I still see it as primarily driven by intellectual curiosity and exploration.

Christianity 300 is where I see Dr. Miller’s 2nd Floor of Consciousness most at home.  This is the world of the soul, and emotions, and empathy.  Here the Truth of scripture takes on an increasingly vital role.  This happens after we realize that the mind and logic can only take us part of the way toward God.  Our intellect plays an important role in that it allows us to approach sacred scriptures as adults, as opposed to being restrained to a purely immature and childish perspective.  But Christianity 300 engages our heart, and it engages our spirit!  I agree with Miller that it really is a more spiritually evolved means of interpreting the world in which we are immersed.

Christianity 300 is also the highest most of us rise, certainly for any length of time.  But we are able to catch glimpses of Christianity 400.  That is Miller’s Rooftop Garden.  That is Unity Consciousness.  Here we have no enemies because we are all one, and it simply makes no sense to hurt yourself (including by hating/hurting others).

(The Hindu Upanishads are a beautiful example of the “Christianity 400” mode of perception.)

But Miller also invites us to consider a future world in which *most* people *do* hold this degree of spiritual evolution.  What kind of world would we live in if it was *normal* to embody and express and experience Unity Conscious all the time?  And that was the norm!  Might we describe this as having achieved heaven on earth?  Might we say that in a very real way Jesus had returned, or been fully re-born in all of us?  It is an interesting point to consider.

Attempting to ascribe a particular Stage of Faith to Joyce Myers’ Statement of Faith…

I’ll plot a horizontal line for each of Myers’ points, 1 through 12, and then along a vertical series of columns mark where each point seems to me to fall along the ranges of psychological-spiritual-consciousness continuums as described by several models of what may loosely all be called “stages of faith” development.  As a reminder, the following is a brief description of James Fowler’s Stages of Faith:

  • Stage 2:  (Mythical-literal)  Orientating oneself.  Relating to local community through stories.
  • Stage 3:  (Synthetic-conventional)  Expanding faith community;  becomes source of identity and values.
  • Stage 4:  (Individuative-reflective)  Self-identity is refined.  Meaning becomes categorical, systematic.
  • Stage 5:  (Conjunctive)  Encounters paradoxes of faith.  Universalize ideas.  Orientate to others.
  • Stage 6:  (Universalizing)  Extremely rare!  Extremely altruistic.  Sense of unity with all beings.

The first vertical column is for Basement-Tribal-Mythic-Literal modes of faith expression.  This is the most inflexible stage of development.  Things are black or white;  right or wrong.  Conflict resolution is achieved through violence (either physical or emotional or spiritual).  This is what I have designated Christianity 100, following the lead of Ron Miller, and I believe Elaine Pagels.  Scripture is assumed to be infallible and the literal Word of God.  To disagree with people of this mindset is to (them) to disagree with God.  God is frequently anthropomorphic:  a white-bearded God sitting on a throne in the clouds;  God is very hands-on, causing plagues and floods and bountiful harvests.

The second vertical column is 1st Floor thinking.  This I have designated as Christianity 200, and this is where the logical mind begins to critically examine one’s beliefs.  Fowler’s stages 3 and 4 seem to transition on Ron Miller’s 1st Floor:  at the early stages the person is purely or mostly “synthetic-conventional.”  This means they are simply adopting what they are told.  Later, as they move into stage 4, they will begin the process of internalizing these beliefs and struggling to make up their own mind about whether a given point is likely to be true.  In the early stage of 1st Floor thinking (Fowler’s stage 3) the person’s beliefs tend to be pretty common for the community in which they find themselves.  In the later stages of 1st Floor thinking (Fowler’s stage 4) the person will “see the other person looking at them, and they looking at the other person.”  This kind of “reflective” thinking promotes a multiple-perspective influence, and begins to move them into the next stage.

The third column is a Miller’s 2nd Floor, and what Elaine Pagels called Christianity 300.  By now we have discovered that the mind can only take us so far.  If we are to progress in our spiritual development, we must begin to engage our heart and spirit.  Empathy for others is a hall mark of this stage of faith.  As we begin integrating how we imagine others feel, we also begin to integrate others views of the world with our own.  This can be a very confusing and chaotic period, and may last for many years, as we try to discover and then incorporate a vast amount of new and often conflicting spiritual apprehensions.  It is common to switch back and forth between two or three stages of faith (Fowler’s stages 3, 4 and 5;  Miller’s 1st and 2nd Floors).  Coming out the other side of this confusing period, a person tends to gravitate toward unifying themes.  Increasingly the integration in taking place internally, and it is my opinion this is the stage (Fowler’s stages 4-5) that one turns to esoteric, or inner, forms of spirituality;  largely due to the large number of conflicts and contradictions one now sees in the outer-exoteric-dogmatic traditions of one’s religion.  And seeing these outer trappings as “religion” and what is happening inside oneself as “spiritual” is I suspect one hall mark of this shift in perspective.  (This is preparatory to beginning to tickle the “mystical” or “unity” level of consciousness.)

The last column is extremely rare!  This is Ron Miller’s Rooftop Garden, Christianity 400, Fowler’s stage 6, and engaging on the path of the mystic.  Unity of All is perceived as the ultimate reality.  Enemies are no longer able to exist.  This is Christ Consciousness or Buddha Consciousness.  Most of us will do well to catch occasional glimpses of this beautiful Rooftop Garden!

——–Basement——–1st Floor———2nd Floor————Rooftop
——–Christ. 100——-Christ. 200——Christ. 300———-Christianity 400
——–Tribal————–Logic-Exoteric–Empath-Esoteric–Mystic-Unity-Transcendent
——–Stage 2————Stage 3-4 ——Stage 3-4-5 ———Stage 6
Point—–|——————-|——————–|———————-|
1)–A—Myers—————|——————Weaver—————|
2)–D—Myers <====> Myers   [ Weaver: not particularly important. ]
3)–A—–|——————–|—————–Myers+Weaver—–|
————|——————–|——————–|———————-|
4)–D—Myers—————|—————–Weaver—————-|
5)–D—Myers—————|—————–Weaver—————-|
6)–a? —|———–[<=== Myers+Weaver ===>]—————|
————|——————–|——————–|———————-|
7)–A? —|———–[<=== Myers+Weaver ===>]—————|
8)–d?–Myers <=======> Myers———–Weaver————|
9)–A? —————–[<=== Myers+Weaver ===>]————–|
————|——————–|——————–|———————-|
10) A———————————–Myers+Weaver
11) D—Myers—————————Weaver
12) D—Myers—————————Weaver
Point—–|—————|—————|—————|
(Value)–(1)————-(2)————-(3)————-(4)

As you can see, I also took a guess as to where my own beliefs stand in comparison to Joyce Myers.  Now I have to point out there is *great* risk of misinterpretation when I try to read into the very brief summaries Joyce Myers has written about the points contained in her Statement of Faith.  So we really do need to take my assumptions about her internal world with great heaps of salt! 

I cannot read her mind nor hear heart, so I may be completely misrepresenting her opinions.  I can only read her statements and plot them against my own, as best I can guess her position, stated and unstated.

Immediately following the point number (1 through 12) I have added one of the letters A, a, d, or D.  Sometimes I have also added a question mark (?).  The question mark indicates I feel uncertain about whether I am properly interpreting her position.  On the points without the question mark, I have a higher confidence that I do understand her position reasonably well.  (I may, of course, be mistaken in my appraisals.)  The letter “A” means I believe she and I are in strong agreement on that point.  A lower case “a” means I am less certain we are in agreement, but I think it is more likely we agree than disagree.  Similarly with the D and d.  In each case I believe she and I disagree on that point, and the more-so when I use the capital D, than when using the lower case d.

On the very last horizontal line I have added a “value” 1, 2, 3, or 4.  This is because I am of the “Thinking” psychological type (as per Jung), and would like to describe these comparisons in some logical, enumerated fashion.  Having plotted Myers’ view and my own on the chart, I can then assign a point value to each of us, for each point, and then compare these to one another.

Point    Myers    Weaver
=====—=====—======
1)…..    1 …………    3
2)…..    1.5 ………    3
3)…..    3 …………    3
4)…..    1 …………    3
5)…..    1 …………    3
6)…..    2.5 ………    2.5
7)…..    2.5 ………    2.5
8)…..    1.5 ………    3
9)…..    2.5 ………    2.5
10)…..  3 …………    3
11)…..  1 …………    3
12)…..  1 …………    3
=====—=====—======
Total..    21.5 …..    34.5
Ave. ……. 1.8 ……….. 2.9

Population Distribution:
1 ……….    5 …………..0
1.5 …….    2 …………..0
2     (none for either person)
2.5 ……    3 ………..    3
3……….    2 ………..    9
3.5  (none for either person)
4     (none for either person)

So, it would seem on average that Myers is solidly on Miller’s 1st Floor of Consciousness, and I would seem to be solidly on the 2nd Floor.  When we look at the population distribution, we see the primary difference between the two of us.  My scoring for Myers place nearly half of her values under the Basement-Tribal column, whereas most of my scores are on the 2nd Floor.  This is primarily the result of my opinion that taking a *literal* interpretation of the New Testament is usually a poor choice.  I do not believe the Hebrew bible or the New Testament ought to typically be understood literally, and it appears to me she does.  This is clearly seen in that nearly half of my 3’s coincide with *all* of her 1’s and 1.5’s.  So on about half of her Statement of Faith we are pretty far apart.

So I believe I would characterize this Statement of Faith as being primarily written from a 1st Floor-Christianity 200 perspective.  However, significant portions fall into the Basement-Christianity 100 view of the world.  Thankfully not in what seems to be a violent interpretation, as with some groups, but in frequently taking a very literal view of the bible (both Hebrew and New Testament).  And there are a few jumps up into the 2nd Floor-Christianity 300 view of the world too.

In that regard it is rather interesting.  I have read that people can “float” one stage of faith, but not really two stages.  And this makes sense to me.  I would expect that the majority of persons drawn to her teachings are in the 2nd Floor stage of faith.  The potential clashes and misunderstandings between those in the Basement and 2nd Floor might be quite interesting!

I am totally biased, of course, and perhaps even more importantly, she is not here to define her position.  And I would observe that the numbers do *not* mean anything beyond a means of scoring the results mathematically – in other words, neither a higher nor a lower score is “better” – they are however quite different from one another.  And that is I think the safest conclusion to draw.  Myers and I share a small number of views, and differ on most of our views regarding Christianity, specifically; and I suspect regarding spirituality in general.

Of course, this is just my opinion.  I may be mistaken.
Erik+

Advertisements


%d bloggers like this: