Origins pt. 3

In my last "Origins" post we talked about issues of race, and how those issues have opened my eyes to the diverse and existential worldviews of my friends and neighbors.  I said: Reality is relative...  

And a couple of my online friends pushed back (always welcome!).  What exactly do I mean?  What are the implications?  Well, I don't want to get too consumed with that question because there are books and books on the nature of reality, and every one of them is written by an author/scholar/philosopher more capable than I.  I said to Nate:
Reality itself is sort of unknowable, isn't it? We only know what we see, hear, touch, taste and smell? Reality is simply the framework in which all of us, human and animal, perceive. So perception is the only reality beyond an empty objective universe beyond us. But then, we (I) don't believe in an empty universe beyond us. I believe the cosmos is filled with the presence of the Holy Spirit of the Creator. But God's perspective is not the same as humanity's. And yes, perhaps God's is "righter," because it is whole-er, truer, bigger. But God's reality and perspective encompasses all of our individual perspectives... perhaps making them all true? Making them all an incomplete portion of truth? Not wrong. Not in gradation of truthfulness, one from the other, but "in partial truth." God's is the whole, because God's is all.
Now slow down, because I can think of all sorts of knee-jerk arguments to this reasoning, based on the godview I grew up with.  I know what you're thinking.  "The wisdom of God is foolishness to humankind..." and vice-versa.  So this is my foolishness: God created everything good "in the beginning."  GOODNESS was created.  All that is good is created by God.  So rather than twisting our perceptions to understand what we are supposed to believe is, why don't we instead try orienting our perceptions to recognize what is good?


Humankind is limited, finite, and faulty.  God is unlimited, infinite, and perfectly good.  I think the quest for understanding the "TRUTH" of reality is an adventure in missing the point.  What's important to me is understanding the "GOODNESS" in reality.  Goodness is love.  God is love.  This is the absolute truth.  Not necessarily in some frilly, "new-agey" way, but very specifically in the eternal personality of Jesus Christ.

Okay, enough talking in circles, I'm not convincing anyone who doesn't want to be convinced.  I get that.


*     *     *

The next issue that stretched my worldview and spirituality was feminism.  One of my favorite quotes: “feminism is the radical belief that women are people.”  But I grew up with very narrow views of women’s roles: complementarian versus egalitarian ) which is what I have become.

I remember arguing in college with a good friend over whether women should be allowed to preach and lead in churches.  I’m ashamed to say how vehemently I advocated for male dominance.  But that was the only form of Christianity I had experienced.  Just a few years later, I took a college course called The History of Women’s Rhetoric.  The class was focused primarily on the first women of the American abolition movement, a brave and radical group of Quakers, Congregationalists, and other progressive Christians of their day.  

I was so moved and convicted over what I read that I almost immediately chose to make a change.  That was the first time I chose to change a theological belief because of personal conviction, rather than biblical or theological convincing.  I know, it scared me too!  None of that class reading offered strong religious arguments – it was primarily sociological.  Later I would learn enough to validate those gut-feelings theologically, but it was important for me to experience spiritual (and moral) conviction apart from a “biblical safety net,” so to speak.

Have any of you experienced this?  I had a friend "come out" and explain that he didn't seek to justify his decision theologically before coming out.  He knew what was right and good for him and chose not to be yoked to something that did not resonate as true.

Is this a slippery slope?  What happens if we're just picking and choosing what we want to believe?  

But is that really worse than forcing ourselves to believe all sorts of nasty things that turn our guts sour (like God-directed genocide, misogyny, slavery, polygamy, war, infanticide, etc...)?

Big questions.  The point being, I made a choice based on what I believed to be good, rather than what I believed to be biblically literal.  I trust God to be good enough to understand that decision.  More importantly (and this is SCARY) I ACTUALLY BELIEVE that the Holy Spirit led me to that decision.  That's right, a liberal, relativist little heretic like me actually believes that the Spirit of the Living God is actively moving in us, speaking to us and through us, and leading us in truth (Truth) and righteousness.  "How unprogressive!"

More decisions to come.  I haven't made close to half of them...

6 comments:

Al said...

In my journey I kind of feel like a little kid wanting to run away from home, but not being willing to let go of the front gate. I see the grandness of what is beyond, but am a little scared about letting go.
But I still have to agree with you.
It seems that our understanding of the character of God is based on our theology--and that gives us a pretty skewed understanding of God sometimes. Instead, I am realizing that I know God to be good, so my theology has to line up with that. If my understanding of a particular biblical passage indicates that God isn't good "(like God-directed genocide, misogyny, slavery, polygamy, war, infanticide, etc...)", then it is my theology and understanding that are faulty, not my view of God. Rather than twist my view of God to line up with my view of scripture, I need to re-evaluate my theology so it agrees with who God is.
And yes, I also feel that deep awareness that God's Spirit is the one leading me along on this journey.

Joan Ball said...

I love you thinking and your expanding beyond dogma to a fuller understanding of God. I too believe that the Holy Spirit is alive and working to guide and counsel-as promised. I also believe that the Holy Spirit of God is not the only voice whispering in our ears. Leads to the question: How you test the Spirits? Said another way, how do you assure yourself that it is the Holy Spirit of God and not Screwtape you're listening to?

David Golden said...

"Good"ness as an expression of my love and care for others is generally an easier one. Yes, slavery is wrong, I think I've got that figured out. If I'm deciding "good"ness as it affects ME I have to be more careful: It feels great to save up wealth on earth; is that the Holy Spirit urging me? It feels great to eat ice cream instead of my vegetables; who's telling me to do that? If it feels good, do it?

Al said...

'Good' point, David. When we think of God's goodness, we don't tend to see it as selfishness on His part, but rather being beneficial for the person He is being good to. I would say the same needs to hold true for us.
I think the situations when I am concerned about theology being contrary to God's goodness are when the results aren't good for the little guy. Like wars against a group of people (the Crusades, abortion doctors, Muslims, gays, or whomever). That is where I think God's goodness trumps my limited understanding of some portion of scripture.

Peter said...

David, well said. Just because it "feels right" doesn't mean it is. My next post is going to address some of the parameters - even biblical parameters - with which I evaluate "good."

Al, looking out for "the little guy" seems like a good point to start from!

welovetea said...

Peter, thanks for the comment on my blog! :) My twin sis & I live in Oregon together in the Portland area, but at the moment I'm wrapping up a Masters in Religious Studies here in the UK.

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