Extras

Knowing a person

(I feel this first paragraph should be read slowly!)  You can never properly know a person. You must listen to them; reveal something of yourself to them – time and time again. Both ways must proceed with caution, not assuming that you understand; speak of yourself discretely, little by little; you must even be prepared to be challenged – be changed; and you must be appreciative of the other.

For Christians, their God is the pattern for this interaction – for this developing relationship. With God, there is the Self whose self-expression is complete – in the person of the Word, and whose total response is Love a person of love. And this is what is meant by the Christian doctrine of the Trinity – three in one God.

It is the pattern for the growth in our relationship with others, with God and even with ourselves and the world. This relationship of an interpersonal nature, with a person, is also the paradigm for our knowledge of anything, our struggle for the truth in any area of knowledge or in the attainment of skill. We can never know completely, we can never master anything, but this gives us the confidence and the assurance of the supreme case of this knowing – very God, the ultimate mystery.

But if experiencing the other, from start to finish is the way of dialogue and understanding and appreciation, then as Christians we realise that God has, or should I say is, the one who reveals Himself by joining our humanity, from conception to death. And this communication is transforming of our own selves and elevating the potential of our humanity. Meanwhile His spirit enables us to respond to God wholeheartedly, by our love and self-giving to others.

Each ingredient in a dish affects the whole, each course affects the quality of the meal; every player is important to the overall outcome – be it a team game, a group expedition, a multi-task project or a game. The stain on a dress is easily noticed, a clonk in an engine indicates a fault, a mispronunciation draws attention to the speaker, a crash makes one realise the dangers of flying; quite often it is a mistake that stands out – like a sore thumb. We should learn from them.

We rarely think of all the people who play a part in the smooth running of things – like public transport, the health service, a building project, the arrangements for a party, the fun of an outing. But when each person plays their part well, then the final result is satisfying – each ingredient affects the whole.

My way of life has an influence on the people around me, the way a group works together contributes to the manner in which the whole community is and the way it develops – in the long run this affects the way a nation is and the way of the world – where it is going! My way of life impacts on how the world is, although only in a very small way, but things comprise a vast number of small things (atoms), there are billions of individuals but each like an ingredient -little you and insignificant me – has a role and a responsibility, and so be the best you can!

Creation

Out of a religious context, people usually use the word ‘creation’ about how things come from what has gone before. A scientist might say: the light rays from the symmetry and curvature of a human face falling on the retina of my eyes triggers a set of neural responses resulting in physiological changes etc., I would say: when I first saw that face I felt drawn to that person.

A scientific explanation doesn’t mean any other way of putting it is wrong; it is just different. The religious usage of ‘creation’ is that it is an action of a divine being in originating and sustaining things from non-existence. Because it is the activity of God it cannot really be understood by us; we experience it in our sense of the contingency of everything or our basic uncertainty in life. There is a danger, I think, in talking about ‘creation’ in religion that it is put in the past – God created; whereas God even now is making us and sustaining us.

There are references in the Bible to creation. I don’t take these as literal explanations of how God creates, but more as poetry. For example: one of the refrains in the poem occupying most of Genesis chapter 1 is, ‘and He saw that it was (very) good,’ which is about God’s relationship to the universe and all in it; and in the story-line in chapter 2, it says ‘the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being’ (Gen 2:7), which is to remind us that we must be grounded and pragmatic, but also elevated with transcendent ideals.

Incidentally, I like to express a similar idea to suit my own thoughts as;
Without God creating continuously, there is nothing, nothing, nothing at all; it is God’s Power that is giving existence all the time and God’s Idea that makes each the kind of thing it is!

 

The Process of thinking


God is still creating and the world is changing: my way of seeing things is also constantly changing. Theology is a process of searching to interpret and express one’s experiences and their significance. A person who thinks that they fully understand the meaning of life has stopped the search, lost the excitement and given up the adventure of living. The adventurer who journeys through life with curiosity and examines his findings critically, he is doing theology.

Although we all have very similar paths through common experiences we also have differences one from another. We are much the same in that we all go through birth and physical growth, eating and excreting, experience selfhood and relating to others, undergo pain and euphoria, enjoy sex and sleep, might know ageing and approaching death. But we have different family connections, there is variety in our food, in culture, in language, in self-perception and with our relations and surroundings, with different attitudes to pain and health, to our sexuality and its acceptance and with different dreams (or memories and interpretations of them) and we don’t all have the same attitude to approaching death and beliefs about the after-life. These differences between peoples and individuals produce different theologies – different ways of trying to express the deeper beliefs that we have.

Listening to others and speaking with them, we can make our own journey, our own personal search – you can do theology as I do my theology: even reading this could be helpful!

 

The world

I want to say something about the world of which I am trying to give some explanation. Although the world is being created by God to be good, it is not seen as good in every aspect, and for many people the disasters and evil in the world are a serious problem.

In the New Testament the word ‘world’ sometimes refers to this good place God is making, and sometimes to the inadequate and ‘messy’ world made so, particularly by human misdemeanours.

I see the world as unfinished, God’s creating of it is in process. Now an artist needs control over the tools and materials that are used, but, among everything else, God is creating us humans with quite a degree of freedom that affects us and our environment, and often impacts negatively; and in some remarkable way limits God’s creating process.

Together with the unfinished nature of the universe, this negativity makes the world not only incomplete but also deficient. Though this is not to say that we humans aren’t responsible for injecting and upholding the incompleteness that is in the world. Religious people sometimes refer to others as belonging to the secular society, and to everything that isn’t religious, as secular. But believing that God is creating the whole world (apart from the sin that we humans bring into it), I like to think that the secular is sacred, if you could but see it that way!

 

Doubt

I want to distinguish two kinds of doubt. In impersonal matters, doubt is an uncertainty about the truth of some statement. For example, doubting the existence of the loch Ness monster, or that there are more people in Shanghai than in New York. These are statements which dont much affect your life and in that sense are impersonal. But there are many things that do impinge upon the way we live. For example, being uncertain about your success in an exam or interview for a job, or whether or not someone is being honest with you. These are personal matters.

Some of our doubts can be resolved fairly easily. Suppose you have a regular income, a mortgage that you are paying off monthly, but you are not sure whether to increase the amount you pay each month or put regular amounts into savings; now this can be worked out mathematically once you know the interest rates and the amounts involved. You could also solve the question of the population of Shanghai and New York by looking it up in a book or on the internet (though you can’t always believe what you read).
Some of our doubts cannot be sorted out like this because nobody knows for certain. For example opinions differ whether ‘an apple a day keeps the dentist away’. But there are questions about the meaning of life, of death and the existence of God about which we have to decide. I say we have to decide, because whatever we say on these issues, we decide about them by the way we live our lives. These matters of uncertainty are what I have called personal matters.

 

Doubt about the world

The world is like evidence: you see footprints in the mud – someone has walked there. The world is significant; that is to say, it is important in itself but also points to something else. The world as a whole and all its parts are significant

Now there are two aspects of being significant: one that is what it is itself and another that is what it indicates – like the direction of a pointing finger and the finger itself. This is true of every reality, whether it is society, the sun, a stone or a subatomic particle. But everything also is contingent i.e. dependant on so much else – there’s no ultimate reason why it should have come about and there is doubt about its future. Now if the whole world is significant, then it points to something that has reality but is not dependent on anything at all – the world is a sign of Absolute Reality (god). But this is not a proof of God’s existence, because I began with the assumption that the world <b>is</b> significant.

Anything like an argument should begin at the other end: look at the world; everything in it and everything about is has reality, but everything in it depends on something else and there is uncertainty about its continued existence. People who believe in God and want proof, use this line of argument to say that there must be some being that has reality without contingency.

This is not really going to convince anyone; but you could test out the hypothesis by living as though God existed and seeing if it works; after death you’ll either know nothing or you’ll know you were right: try it!

 

Dissatisfactoriness

There is a dissatisfactoriness that one feels or ought to feel with regards to how things are in one’s own life, in the world around one and in the whole universe of people and nature in general. It is a feeling, and likely a reasonable one, that arises because of one’s hopes, expectations and, to some extent, an understading of an ideal.
This origin of dissatisfaction is an indication of its ‘nature,’ as one might call it, of not being something at all but rather the absence of anything: a lack of fulfilment, a shortfall of what should be. And this way of viewing it is consistent with the view of wickedness and sin in the Bible and particularly in the New Testament, where the Greek word used of sin, amartia, etymologically means ‘missing the mark.’
Evil appears to us often as something quite positive, powerful and strong; it is best likened to a vacuum (a particular absense of something) the strength of which you may experience as the suction of a vacuum cleaner or of a suction pad. But it is not (you may have learnt in science at school) the vacuum that is strong but the air outside that has its own pressure of positive reality – just as sin is the absense of the overall good of creation and of human life. There is a Latin phrase used in the theology of the Catholic Church – omne ens est bonum. This translates as ‘all things are good.’ Afterall God is the creator and sustainer of everyhting and, as we might say, nothing can exist without him; so it is that everything is good and it is the absense of reality that is evil. But there is still more to be said about the absense of how things should be in our world – through its unfinished nature and through our behavioural deficencies (we don’t always do what we should!).

 

Body

My body is one aspect of me: I deliberately say aspect because too many people think of the body as a thing, like some possession; body is a way that a person exists. It’s how people know me, how I experience and live out my life; it is the aspect of my presence and activity in the world. In fact the societies that humans form are like bodies, in that they are how these collections of individuals have a united presence in the world and operate together, such as a chess club, a pressure group, a religion, a nation or a global organisation. The body is important for issues of human rights and responsibilities, of medical ethics, of genetic engineering, and the like.
On the one hand, by breathing, eating and drinking I take in other things with physical aspects; and they become part of what I am, so that I am made up of a variety of elements ranging from organs to subatomic particles. On the other hand, I surround myself with clothes, accessories and a range of possessions like gadgets, and books and a house; and they become loose expressions of who and what I am; I suppose my relationships with family and friends are also expressive though not possessed in the same way. The societies that can be called bodies also absorb and transform, have structures and external possessions as well as relationships with other individuals and social bodies.
The Christian Church is a society like this and with these functions, but I hope to say something about that later

 

Communication

There are so many ways that people contact each other; phone, video, email, and sometimes people can meet and talk. I thought of calling this section <i>media</i> or <i>expression</i> but they emphasise only one side of communication. When a creative person produces a work of art, a story, a poem, a film or even a mechanism or device of some sort, it is an expression of their personality. Because I believe God creates the universe and all its ingredients, I see these as expressive in some way of what God is like.
But communication is more two way. Someone says something to me, it would be rude not to respond at all; the phone rings, I answer it and I usually say something when I answer it, even if it is what we might call a cold call.
I think of all the people and the world about me as works of art, to which I want to respond – I want to respond, and say thanks for it. Sometimes I see that life as a gift – though, if things are going all against me, I want to complain; but either way I want to respond.

Catholic Christianity makes provision for this need to respond in specialised communications that are called sacraments. A sacrament is an organised event in which it is accepted that God expresses his self to us and in which we can make some response of thanks and appreciation. It’s a celebration. Just as for your mobile or internet usage you have a service provider, so the Christians advertise their services on their church notice boards. I must tell you more detail about specific sacraments some time later.

Church

From the time of St Paul, the church has been referred to as the body of Christ; and though out of fashion, it is well worth investigating. Ever since the time of Jesus on earth, and especially because of the emphasis on the risen life of Christ after His death, the very real presence of Christ in His Church has been believed and experienced.
But nowadays the human body, especially in Western and American culture has been misinterpreted; it is taken, at least ideally, to be something of a fairly particular shape (different for male and female), with flawless appearance and youthful sex-appeal – though this is not how most of us are, it is how we should want to be according to the advertisers. The Church is one of the ways that Christ is still present in our world today.
I guess most people thinking of Jesus as a baby or preaching and doing miracles, think of an attractive and healthy person, but we don’t know what he was like physically; but read of him agonising in the garden of Gethsemane, arested and tortured, then dying on the cross. The body of the crucified Christ was worn out with his selfless life for others and cruelly hurt by the damaged lives of most of the people of his time. This is the body of the Christ who died, rose and is actively present in the church today; a church quite defficient through its own selfishness and from the general failings of humanity; but trying to change itself and to open up the possibility of change to others. It should be a change from materialism and selfishness to a fuller and more fulfilling humanity – how Christians picture the glorified body of Christ,

Church again

The Church could be said to be: the netword of human resources initiated by Jesus with His followers for the implementation within the network itself and beyond it worldwide, of a style of personal transformation prototyped in Himself.
It is a network because it is not isolated individuls, but individuals interconnected by their own personal transformation within a differentiated structure for the said implementation.
It comprises human resources becasue it is made up of human individuals together with all non-human beings that contribute to human individuality and community
They are designated as resources because they are oriented primarily towards a particular task for which they are required.
It is called a style of personal transformation because it can be implemented differently and yet has uniformity at the level of the underlying principles.

 

Time and eternity

Assuming that God is active in the whole of creation all of the time, what are the characteristics of this activity? The answer I suggest is that God’s activity is relative to the element of reality on which it operates; for example, for a living being the activity is the maintenance of the unity of flesh, bones, organs etc. and support of the activity of each of these and of their components such as cells, molecules and all their subatomic particles. At times the divine activity might be called creation but at other time sustenance; it will be different at different times for the element concerned. All the while, with regard to everything (everything except God) there will be an activity of God relative to each.
Altough we believe that the reality of God is, in itself complete and stable, the same activity within our experience – from our standpoint – is different relative to our experience – changing and unstable. This is the mystery: the difference between time and eternity is genuinely beyond our understanding; and this is because we only experience time, and only a minute part of that.
Actually our ability to understand is further strained when we are Christian, because we hold that God is personally involed in some way in our world in the ‘case’ of Jesus Christ. It is proposed that with regards to Jesus, that person is both human and divine! This unity of two diverse natures, indeed, affects all of us because we each inhabit the same humanity that in Jesus is personally linked to God. Let me suggest a way of explaining this. Human nature is like a pattern/ an algorithm or like a basic software application; we are each made according to the pattern or share in our indivual way the one application; and this application or pattern has been altered by its union with divinity – what it is to be divine. That takes some thinking about, but thinking cannot dissolve the mystery that it is.

 

 

God and the evolving universe

This is a title for a summary of the thought of Teilhard de Chardin in The Christique.

The amorization of the universe. A personal experience of what it is to be human in this world: an experience of deepening involvement with, and as part of, the entire cosmos: an experience of heightened inner awareness of a Presence regarding my self ie. of cosmic convergence and Christic emergence; it is the overwhelming wonder at the uniting of these two.

A. The Convergence of the Universe
Nowadays we are aware of duration; and science tells us of change and development as well as decay and entropy; but duration has a direction towards [ever increasing] reflection and co-operation. [ awareness and application].

B. The Emergence of Christ
Christian love, of all ‘religious movements,’ has a universal role for three reasons: because of incarnation – it is tangible in the world; because of resurrection – it is significant across the universe; and because of the church as ‘body’ – it is assimilative of all.
The human sphere is extending and needs a centre while the Christian presence is a centre reaching out into a sphere.

C. The Christified Universe
The universe as scientifically evolving finds fulfillment in conjunction with Christ as mystical presence to produce a new element or milieu.

1. The consummation of the universe by Christ.
Human awareness of the converging universe triggers a certain optimism, one that wants to be greater, clearer and surer than the [merely] human basis can posit. But the Christian awareness is of a definite possibility, a majestic vision and an accepted certainty of utter fulfillment for the human universe – Christ saves!

2. The consummation of Christ by the universe.
Because the universe is an expanding centredness given a future by Christ, then by this evolution Christ becomes fulfilled as in reality the saviour of all in the future. ‘Cosmogenesis reveals itself along the line of its main axis, firstly as biogenesis and then noogenesis and finally culminates in the Christogenesis which every Christian ‘ (p96 ?).

3. The Divine Milieu.
A completely new psychic dimension. The closer the individual moves to self-fulfillment in Christ, that much closer she becomes immersed in the movement to the global unity in Christ. The distinction between action in and attachment to the world, and contemplation and mystic isolation is done away with.

4  The Religion of Tomorrow
Even the ‘religions of ahead’ like Marxism and Humanism haven’t formulated a vision of the future to match the biological reality of the convergence of humankind and what this world entails. (Science tends to predict a doomed planet and universe). Neither do the ‘religions of above,’ especially Christianity, provide a vision of fulfillment for the universe, but rather they are condemnatory of human development and speak in terms of escape from this world using the image of the cross [and resurrection] to support these attitudes.
The Christic reality connects Christian ideas to the evolving world, accepting a genuine incarnation. It couples the ‘above’ with the ‘ahead’ and amorizes the powers of love and progress and of diminishment and death, using the power of the cross and resurrection as the pledge of the incarnate amorization

5. The Promised Land
To counter doubts arising from isolation and lack of self-transformation there are three waves of evidence for the realisation of the Universal Christ, the Divine Milieu.

i. the coherence of the notion of the Milieu in both my mind and my heart: ‘for all the claims implicit in its expression, my faith does not produce in me as much real clarity, as much calm and trust, as the catechism still taught to children produces in the humble worshipper kneeling beside me’ (p100 ?)

ii. the contagious power of a form of Charity that enables loving God with the whole universe-in-evolution, and which is accepted by a growing number of people, at least embryonically.

iii. the superiority of the vision to the faith of the catechism. God cannot be less than the one who draws us to himself, and the world of whose evolution we are a part cannot be less powerful a force than our concepts’ and needs demand. God become the summit of adorability and the evolving world the extreme of activation.

6. And so
these elements of love of God and faith in the world combine together in me in a balanced proportion, not seen yet in others, which shows it is a viable balance and to me a proof that the balance – the vision- is possible.

 

 

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