Monday, February 23, 2015

Here's a thought...?

Another gem from Richard Rohr! "The biblical tradition hopes to reveal that whenever the prophetic function is lacking in any group or religion, such a group will very soon be self-serving, self-maintaining, self-perpetuating, and self- promoting. When the prophets are kicked out of any group, it's a very short time until that group is circling the wagons around itself, and all sense of mission and message is lost. I am afraid this is the natural movement of any institution. Establishments of any kind usually move toward their own self-perpetuation, rather than "What are we doing for others?" In fact, the question is not even asked because self-perpetuation is presumed to be a high level necessity. Thus the prophetic and Pauline words for institutions were "thrones or dominions or principalities or powers" (Colossians 1:16). They consider themselves "too big to fail," usually because they are protecting their own privilege--which is too important to question." A challenge for all levels of church and institutions seeking others but who end up falling into the trap of protecting their own privilege.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Touching the Holy 4/5

4. Since I am the one person I will have an intimate relationship with for my entire life I need to take care of myself at least as well as I would care for others. Therefore, when I am feeling poorly about myself, I need to take steps to unconditionally accept myself and to help myself getting clarity and perspective in the same way as I would for someone else coming to me to empathy and support

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Touching the Holy .... 3/5

It has been a while since I summarized parts of this book here is part 3

3. I must be sensitive to irrational thoughts and willing to challenge and dispute them. thus I can affirm my self-respect and model it for those whom I wish to help. a common  example of this is the irrational belief: I must be perfect or successful all the time. This is ridiculous and impossible. Is based on such irrational beliefs as: if I make a mistake it undoes all that I have accomplished; it is all my fault; it means I am a terrible and unspiritual person; it will completely destroyed my reputation in everyone's eyes; it cannot lead to anything good

Monday, February 16, 2015

Sweeny, J. (2014) Inventing Hell: Dante, the Bible and Eternal Torment. Jericho Books

It has struck me interesting that arguments for and against faith while supposedly in opposite camps, look surprisingly similar in their construction, particularly when shaped by a theology or non-theology that lends itself to cliche and caricature. For instance when strong assertions to deny faith or inspire faith use a Dante fueled understanding of hell as their primarily source.

Described as being both disturbing and enthralling Jon Sweeney's book is both useful and interesting. "With gripping narrative and solid scholarship, Jon Sweeny charts hell's 'evolution' from the Old Testament underworld Sheol, through history and literature, to the greatest influencer of all: Dante's Inferno. He reveals how the modern idea of hell if based mostly on Dante's imaginative genius-but in the process, he offers a more constructive understanding of the afterlife than ever before.

"Full of the mysteries of Greek mythology, philosophy, and ancient religions, Inventing Hell will:

  • Show you that there was little agreement among Christians, before Dante, about the nature and extent of what we call Hell.
  • Illuminate for you the concepts of afterlife that existed before Dante, from ancient Judaism, Virgil and Plato, the teachings of Jesus, the early church, Islam and medieval theologians.
  • Demonstrate that Dante had various medieval apocalyptic sources to help him create the elaborate architecture of Hell that most people know today.
  • Shine a clearer light on the sort of Hell that Dante created." 
'Before we've done', Sweeney suggests, '...you may be shocked to realise that for seven hundred years we've simply taken Dante's word for it!' (pp 8)

This book has got me interested in :-
  • Jewish thinking of Sheol rather than a Christian redaction; 
  • Virgil pagan vision of afterlife;
  • Homer's and Hesiod's god Hades; 
  • Plato's myth of Er;
  • What Socrates says about the immortality of the soul; 
  • Similarities of retributive afterlife in the Qur'an; 
  • The influence of political contemporary's in Dantes world; 
  • Aristotle and Cicero's ideas of eternal punishment and
  • Aristotelian influence over medieval theologian Thomas Aquinas
Well worth a read!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Faith Development: As seen in scripture...

I'm really enjoying Richard Rohr's thoughts this week via his emails. Today he talks about 'An Evolving Faith'. I have always been fascinated by exploring Faith Development and found it a relief as I discover more of who and where I am!

Rohr suggests that 'the writings of the Hebrew Scriptures show an evolutionary development, a gradual coming to see how God acts in human life.God is not changing; it is our comprehension of God that is changing.' He identifies in 'Israel's growth as a people is a pattern of what happens to every person and to every people who set out on the journey of faith. They go through stages and gradually come to see how God loves them and what God's liberation does for them.'

"In the first stage, people start to experience the reality of God and God's love as more than abstract concepts. At the same time, however, they tend to believe that God's love is limited to just themselves, a select few such as a chosen people or the one true Church.

In the second stage, people begin to respond to God's love, but they perceive God's love as rather totally dependent on their ideal response. They believe that grace is a conditional gift, that God will love them if they are good, that God will save or reward them if they keep the commandments. 

In the third stage, people begin to see God's love as unlimited and unconditional, but they do not see further than that. They acknowledge that God loves them whether they are good or bad, and that God is gracious to the just and the unjust alike. But they still think that God is doing that from afar, from up in heaven somewhere. They do not yet see themselves as inherently participating in the process. 

In the fourth stage, they make the breakthrough to seeing that God's grace and love is present within them, through them, with them, and even as them! The mystery of incarnation has come full circle... It is all one stream of Love! 

... As Ken Wilber so brilliantly says, "Religion starts elitist, but ends egalitarian. Always!" I think it is almost a necessary pattern, but far too many stop half way."

I guess this is fits somewhere with a Thomas Merton quote I am chewing over

"He who attempts to act and do things for others or for the world without deepening his own self understanding, freedom, integrity and capacity to love, will not have anything to give others. He will communicate to them nothing but the contagion of his own obsessions, his aggressiveness, his ego-centred ambitions, his delusions about  ends and means, his doctrinaire prejudices and ideas"

Merton, T. (1973:178-179) Contemplation in a World of Action 

Monday, February 09, 2015

Finding the Golden Thread...

Here is what I am chewing over today.....

Richard Rohr is saying some interesting things about engaging with scripture, quoting Madeleine L'Engle he points to a 'common religious confusion' that comes from when people confuse partial and passing knowledge with eternal truth.

"Truth is eternal. Our knowledge of it is changeable. It is disastrous when you confuse the two"

He continues saying:

"We can only safely read Scripture--it is a dangerous book--if we are somehow sharing in the divine gaze of love. A life of prayer helps you develop a third eye that can read between the lines and find the golden thread which is moving toward inclusivity, mercy, and justice.... Any "pre-existing condition" of a hardened heart, a predisposition to judgment, a fear of God, any need to win or prove yourself right will corrupt and distort the most inspired and inspiring of Scriptures--just as they pollute every human conversation and relationship. Hateful people will find hateful verses to confirm their love of death. Loving people will find loving verses to call them into an even greater love of life. And both kinds of verses are in the Bible!" (Richard Rohr)

I wish Stephen Fry knew Richard Rohr!