Who is God?

Discussion in 'Abrahamic Religions' started by Gatekeeper, Mar 31, 2011.

  1. Paladin

    Paladin Purchased Bewilderment

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    You know, I was thinking about this today and it occurs to me that the question posed is, in itself, problematic. I mean, don't you think that to ask "who" is an attempt to compare the object under discussion to another identifiable object? What good is asking a question when we think we know part of the answer? Gatekeeper posits that the Ultimate Reality should be a topic of inquiry, and rightly so, from his perspective. However, I often think that the very methods we use to cognize and inquire affect the outcome.

    Maybe we should be open to questioning how we are questioning, isn't that what Kant was trying to get at? Isn't that what Thomas means when he posits that our greatest sin and cause of our perceived separation from God is pride?
     
  2. A Cup Of Tea

    A Cup Of Tea Well-Known Member

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    Well done, Paladin! Tried to give you rep, but to no avail!
     
  3. wil

    wil UNeyeR1 Moderator

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    To funny Paladin!

    When I saw the thread it screamed at me "Who?" HE ain't a WHO...HE aint a HE....

    but that is me, my viewpoint...find TOE find G!d...
     
  4. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    Yes.

    Always. As long as we remember there will always be more.

    Absolutely.

    Yes, yes and yes ... suffer little children and all that ...

    I once offered a definition of intelligence (that is, the operation of the intellect in the traditional sense as opposed to how clever someone is) as someone who never gives the same answer twice.

    I stand by that definition. When a question is asked, it should evoke a new process, not simply a repetition of what I learned yesterday.

    The Great Traditions give us the guidelines, but ... on the one hand, too much attention to 'the letter' of the tradition and the doctrine becomes restrictive, repressive and devolves into (conservative) fundamentalism; on the other, too much attention to 'the spirit' and the doctrine becomes vapid, self-referential and again devolves into (liberal) fundamentalism.

    So I think the question 'who is God' is a good one, it keeps one mindful, and God in min, which is no bad thing.
     
  5. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    Hi Wil —
    Oh, Wil ... Oh, Wil, this is where, to me, you seem to miss the whole point of Christianity, indeed, the whole point of the Abrahamic Traditions. :confused:

    "... Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord: and behold the Lord passeth, and a great and strong wind before the Lord over throwing the mountains, and breaking the rocks in pieces: the Lord is not in the wind, and after the wind an earthquake: the Lord is not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire: the Lord is not in the fire, and after the fire a whistling of a gentle air. And when Elias heard it, he covered his face with his mantle, and coming forth stood in the entering in of the cave, and behold a voice unto him, saying: What dost thou here, Elias?" 1 Kings 19:11-13

    If there is no 'He', there is no way the soul can know God, for the soul cannot know what it does not know, what is in no ways alike unto itself.

    If there is no 'He', then there is no 'Love'.

    And God, then, is reduced to an intellectual exercise in abstract (yet still inescapably anthropomorphic) concepts.

    That, surely, is the ultimate materialist response? God is nothing more than the sum of all things. In the end, God reduces to a satisfying theory and all knowledge, all advancement, all endeavour, will have come to an end.

    Given that we cannot aspire to God under our own steam, then we are dependent upon God coming to us ...

    ... and He does so how? As an abstract concept? No, not that. As natural phenomena (ToE)? No, not that.

    God reveals Himself to us through the medium of our own being. As our Moslem brothers and sisters say, "God is closer to you than your jugular vein".

    God comes and says "I call you friends and we can be one".

    Every word of Scripture, every Great Tradition, speaks of Union with the Divine.

    Nothing about 'theories of everything', that's just secularism explaining God away.
     
  6. radarmark

    radarmark Quaker-in-the-Making

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    Well,
    g!d may, indeed be the summary of all things (not limiting this to "material things"). I think I am half-way between wil and Thomas. I do not think that TOEs can ever explain g!d away. Why? They cannot explain the non-material, but mental or spiritual side of our qualia (that which we experience).

    On the ther hand, the mental and spritual cannot be limited to a Judeo-Christian-Islamic interpretation. Why? That which should be the object of love, faith , and veneration cannot be limited.

    That is why (in terms of Western Monotheism) I have always believed in the Noahide laws (Sheva mitzvot B'nei Noach) are the most basic of all prohibitions. They are a little more "civilized" or advanced then the prohibitions of the Sanatana Dharma.

    But the inclusiveness of the Sanatana Dharma is clearly more "civilized" then any Western Monotheism (Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, or Bahai). So, perhap, by my criteria the "most advanced religion" is Sikhism.
     
  7. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    The way I see it, God must be more than the summary of all things if God is indeed Transcendent. And God must be distinctly 'other' than things, albeit their origin and end, and immanently present at all stops in between, if God is not to be subjects to the same order of determination that all things are?
    If God is indeed the summary of all things, then God is equally transient, contingent and so forth, and in the end, as Aquinas rightly argues, need not exist at all.

    And a ToE will always be anthropomorphic, would it not?

    Quite. Agreed.

    With two provisos:
    One is that the interpretations are unique in their own way and shape the tradition accordingly, its theoria and its praxis is very much its own, even though there might well be superficial correspondences between them. This occurs because both subject (people) and object (whosoever defined) are universal in their own domain.
    The assertion of some perennialists (ancient and modern) that there is an over-arching meta-tradition that can be substantiated in either theoria or praxis is false, it fails to observe the distinction between the universal and the particular – that universals cannot be comprehended in themselves.

    It's fine to think in these terms if you're not actually going to do anything 'muscular', but if you're going to 'walk the walk' then you have to pick a walk, and walk it. Most Perennialists/Traditionalists of the recent era (Guénon, Schuon, Lings et al) chose to become Sufis. Marco Pallis was a Tibetan Buddhist. Rama Coomaraswamy was a 'tradition Catholic' (at odds with VII), Jean Borella Catholic (I know a few others), Philip Sherrard was Orthodox ...

    The other is the reverse of the coin, really. Simply, that you can't cherry-pick bits and pieces from here and there and construct your own. Well, you can, but all you get is a blueprint and working model of your own short-comings.

    Just to be clear, neither of these two points are raised in opposition to Sanatana Dharma, although it does seem to fall into both categories. I don't think that's the case.
     
  8. radarmark

    radarmark Quaker-in-the-Making

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    Well, g!d may, indeed be the summary of all things (not limiting this to "material things").



    Yep, that is what I was trying to say. g!d must be greater than what we see (JMHO),



    I do not agree. H! must exist as something “beyond”. Remember, The Sainted Thomas was applying deductive logic (Aristotelian).

    I do not think that TOEs can ever explain g!d away. Why? They cannot explain the non-material, but mental or spiritual side of our qualia (that which we experience).


    Must, always, the nature of the beast.
    On the other hand, the mental and spritual cannot be limited to a Judeo-Christian-Islamic interpretation. Why? That which should be the object of love, faith , and veneration cannot be limited.



    Quite, agreed.



    Well, that really depends. Why? One does not have to believe in “The Universal”. Any more than one must believe in “Forms”.



    So? It does not matter the path they chose. What matters is their goal (IMHO).


    That is your opinion, and you are entitled to it. I just disagree. I need not stay a Methodist (what I was raised in), nor a Catholic (my Father’s religion), nor a Jew (my Mother’s). That is what we call free will. More importantly, that is a function of what g!d reveals to me. Not to Aquinas, not to you, not to Whtehead.



    Yes, it does… the eternal religion pretty much allows one to pick and choose (see Ramakrishna or Yogananda). That is the point,
     
  9. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    And mine.

    I think we're at cross-purposes here? I think God cannot be mutable, relative, contingent, ephemeral, etc., so I see 'God' as Absolute, Infinite.

    God exists in a class of One. That One contains all other classes, and transcends them ... I think we both agree to that, or am I reading you wrong?

    Agreed.

    I think that was the point I'm trying to make?

    Again, I agree. The danger I was highlighting was inventing one's own path. Not saying it's impossible. I am suggesting it's an unwise endeavour ... very difficult to penetrate the veil in a world where the veil it becoming increasing opaque and impenetrable.

    Not sure I get you. You think we can invent our own religions?

    From the one palette, surely? From the Eternal Religion (and what religion isn't?) as they see it? The examples you offer seem to me to be founders of monastic orders within the umbrella of the Advaita tradition?

    I do agree that in the West, the Traditions have become inordinately restrictive in what it sees as orthodox, heterodox and heresiarch, and while most respondents here would be aware of such in Roman Catholicism, the same applies in the Orthodox patriarchates, as indeed Judaism and Islam. That is for two reasons I think: the first is an intense personalism — of Adonai, of Christ, of the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) — and a certain dynamism the further West you go. Or so it seems to me ...

    ... in fact I could argue that The Father was revealed to the Jews, the Son to the Christians, and the Holy Spirit to the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him), but thwn i'd have to do some serious theology to make that one stick! :rolleyes:

    I would say there are as many paths as there are people, but really, there is only ever One Path, but once again I'm brought round to wondering the value of inventing one's own. It would be easier to reinvent the Western Philosophical Tradition ...

     
  10. wil

    wil UNeyeR1 Moderator

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    blissfully blessed by principle and one helluva motivational speaker....

    ether that or sumtim else.

    I find it so interesting that folks can't enjoy what they have without putting down what others have.

    If you feel a need to feel better about your belief by stepping on others...me thinks there is an issue at hand.
     
  11. Gordian Knot

    Gordian Knot Being Deviant IS My Art.

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    Thomas I do believe we invent our own religions. Just as I believe that God was made in our image, not the other way around. Every religion that has ever come down the pike has been invented by mortal men. Defined by mortal men. Ordained by mortal men. Justified by mortal men.

    What is there anywhere to justify any of it? Faith is a matter of picking one of the paths that each of us finds best suited to our purposes.
     
  12. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    Well, I'm with Huston Smith who said the Great traditions contained the 'winnowed wisdom of human experience'.

    It depends what you're looking for, really.
     
  13. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    :confused:

    :confused:

    Who's putting who down? :p
     
  14. A Cup Of Tea

    A Cup Of Tea Well-Known Member

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    I think that it takes a long time to understand a religion completely, and if one disregards a few aspects of it it can skew ones understanding of the tradition as a whole. In this way I don't think one can pick and choose parts of a religion.

    But. I choosing one religion over another, adopting it completely is still valid. It might even be necessary for different reasons. Studying another religion, aside from ones own is also valid and might bring greater understanding about a great many things, but one must understand it from the traditions own perspective, not through the words of any other religion.

    I use 'one' too many times here, I sound like a fortune-cookie.
     
  15. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    I don't think one can ever understand completely, although I take your point.

    A true religion opens onto the Infinite, and who can comprehend the Mind of God, the Tao, the Void? The more you see, the more the horizon draws away.

    But, in light of a parallel conversation, it is possible to 'know' a religion in a moment, indeed, history presents cases where one has gone from nothing to something in a flash of inspiration. The essential message is simple, love overcomes suffering. Love is the means by which they all seem to agree we overcome what we call 'the human condition' ... as Wil might say, we can 'grok' it in a moment, but 'unpacking' that knowing, as my blessed course director used to say, appears to be a messy business.

    Quite true. This knowledge begs the question of why we choose what to embody and what to ignore. The part you choose to ignore might be the very thing you need to concentrate on. Psychology would seem to suggest this ...

    The term 'heresy' comes from the Greek verb 'to choose'. That was always its understanding. The 'error' was in over-emphasising one aspect in respect to the others, and thus distorting the 'picture', as it were.

    Some of the things Jesus said people use to assert He was a man but not God; others assert, from other things said, that He was God but not man. Others sought to resolve the mystery by choosing the Middle Way — accept all that He said and did as evidence of a claim to both humanity and divinity. That opened up a whole new raft of questions.

    Absolutely. Better to love than not love.

    Indeed. Who can fathom the Infinite?

    Oh, I couldn't have said this better.

    Well, this one doesn't think so! But you are succinct, I applaud you for that.
     
  16. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    I would qualify that with a 'some are', but then I hope you would expect me to say that, by now. ;)

    We tried flora and fauna and mineral images, we've elevated people to divine status, we've tried icons of every visible aspect of the cosmos. But there is something unique in the idea of man made in the divine image, because it means there is common ground between our highest idea of God, and our most profound contemplations on the idea of 'self'.

    If that's true, does it not leave us all in a rather hopeless situation? Agnosticism is the best one could hope for?

    Some believe otherwise. The jury will, inescapably, remain 'out' on that one.

    The teachings? The wisdom? The hope? To say nothing good came out of religion is to grossly overstate the case. To blame all the world's ills on religion is to do the same, much as people like to. (Although, in reality, politics would seem to be the real villain, especially as man shows the same propensity to kill his neighbour without the need of an assumed religious imperative.)

    Some of man's noblest aspirations, and greatest works, in every field of life and endeavour, have been inspired by religion.

    Yes it is. Our purposes may well be questionable, however.
     
  17. radarmark

    radarmark Quaker-in-the-Making

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    I do not quite agree. Spinoza and Leibnitz and Whitehead did not define g!d in terms of “our image”. You are free to believe what you want. But these three (let alone the thousands of their followers) pretty much disprove your assertion. It really does not matter what you or the vast majority define as “religions”. The fact that these three saw something different is enough to disprove your thesis.



    Not really. Faith is believing in something… if we (as I do) believe in something beyond your perception, that pretty much refutes your thesis.



    I do not quite agree… “parts of a religion” does not really make sense. “understanding of the tradition as a whole” also does not really make sense. Why? “Parts” implies a Chinese menu ( which traditions do not offer) nor does “whole” imply much beyond surrender to the tradition (unless one immerses oneself). One can “pick and choose” those things which resonate. One does not have to accept all of Whitehead’s teaching… nor all of Leibnitz’. Ditto for Laotzi and Buddha.




    See, I do not understand. Small r religion is small r religion… does it matter if it is Lutheran or Catholic or Hassidic or Sufistic? I do not think so.
     
  18. A Cup Of Tea

    A Cup Of Tea Well-Known Member

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    I'll read comments directed to me thoroughly at some point, but I just want to point out that my name is in some of Thomas quotes that I think maybe G-Knot wrote. Just to sort out some confusion.
     
  19. Eric H

    Eric H New Member

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    What if God loved each and every one of us as he loved himself, could God love us more than he loves himself?

    peace

    Eric
     
  20. A Cup Of Tea

    A Cup Of Tea Well-Known Member

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    I just want to make it clear that I have never practised a religion so my understanding of the 'concept' is more...intellectual. I simply shared my views on a whime.

    Thomas, how interesting that we seem to agree on so many points, if nothing else it would apply that we understand what the other one is writing! I know that on the Wil-Radar-Thomas scale I'm closer to your side, but there's so much I don't understand in any of your categories. Life is full of mysteries and discoveries!

    Radar, sometimes I think that you're talking about the spiritual and I'm talking about peoples understanding of the spiritual. I think that if I want to understand(!) what Whitehead said I need to understand all of it, thus, accepting all parts as parts of Whiteheadien. That does not mean that someone can't or shouldn't think critically, we're all accountable for our actions and our speech, but we shouldn't dismiss it until we understand it (and we can't understand the whole without understanding the parts which we can't understand without understanding the whole...).

    I don't think I understand your last point, I don't see anything I disagree with. Look Radar, I think this is pretty subjective stuff, I don't expect people to actually agree with me, I'll be luck if anyone understand me (yay for Thomas)!
     

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