Monday, January 12, 2009

Humankind, God, and the NEW CREATION

A Blogworld friend, author, psychologist, and deep thinker, John Doyle has been following a trajectory of thought based on his own reading of some of Paul's (of New Testament fame) thinking. This is remarkable not least because John happens to be somewhere in the atheist/agnostic camp.

On his famous blog "Ktismatics", John has done a whole series of posts on the concept of the "new creation" in some of Paul's epistles. The entire series of posts begins here and there is an index to the the whole series at the end of this post.

In commenting on one of those posts I had made the following statement -

“I’m sure that there are not ‘many’ gods or even more than one, but I’m equally sure that for humankind there have to be many gods even when we think there are none.”

- and John then invited me (perhaps in jest) to expand on the thought.

I admit to having been in a bit of a hurry and dashing that off without giving it sufficient (or even much) thought. Still, though crude, I can stand by the statement and try here to elaborate on the thought.

It's my own belief statement. I believe that God 'exists' i.e. is real. I don't think that the one that I have come to recognise as God is more than one but I could easily be wrong on that call.

The second half of my assertion is more difficult. Each of us is an individual and we know individually.

In an important sense my friend John Doyle is not the same as your friend John Doyle even when we are physically referring to the same person. I'm therefore sure, in my own pigheaded fashion that when I refer to Jesus that is not the same as when you do or when someone else does.

On a broader front, and perhaps more controversially, I think it is also possible that when someone refers to Shirdi Sai Baba they may in fact be thinking of the same one that I know as Jesus.

In fact, to broaden it out even further, it is possible that a person could be an atheist and still 'know' God...and that is not to say that God is not particular!

What do you think?

The New Creation in Paul: Galatians 6
The New Creation in Paul: 2 Corinthians 5
The New Man in Ephesians 2
The New Man in Ephesians 4
Doppelganger Theory in Colossians 3 and Romans 6
The New Creation in Paul - Summary Observations
The Return of the Ktismatically Repressed


john doyle said...

Well said, Sam. I'm sure there are things happening in the universe about which I'm completely in the dark. It's certainly possible that Jesus is one of those things. I think we're in agreement that the assertion "I believe Jesus is the son of the only God" probably isn't as important as a lot of other things we might say, think, feel, and do. And the truth or falsity of Jesus's unique status, as well as what changes he may have wrought in the universe, doesn't depend on what we do or don't believe.

Unknown said...

John, I think we left the need for orthodoxy behind somewhere way back there, and good riddance too!

My big question is 'how do we go about finding out what God really is like?'. My best guess right now is based on the assumption that God would have been interacting with mankind all along, so I'm looking for trends that may become visible when the 'purely human' stuff (religion, politics, culture...) is stripped off of ancient texts, but this approach can be very problematic.

When looked at that way I see something in Jesus view of God that really goes counter to the run of the mill, to a lesser extent too with an MLK, or Marx.

Any suggestions would be most welcome...

Unknown said...

"things we might say, think, feel, and do" And that brings up a whole new and interesting discussion. One traditional view is that we have to conform ourselves, or be conformed, to God's character. God is by definition 'good'.

Setting aside for the moment how such goodness is communicated to us by God, let's suppose there is a difference of opinion - God specifies X while my mind prefers X+, X- or even Y?

john doyle said...

Back to your idea that for humankind there have to be many gods. I'm guessing you meant that, even if there is only one god, people create multiple images of this god in their own heads and cultures. There are two extreme positions to take from this insight: the one god reflects all these multiple images as accurate but incomplete facets of himself; or else the essence of the one god has nothing at all to do with the image people perceive or imagine.

Unknown said...

"the one god reflects all these multiple images as accurate but incomplete facets" Yes, I think that ultimately this is the position of Hinduism and now also of some on fringes of emergent Christianity. Whether there is any accuracy to any of our ideas of god really is a Question. My own thought is that we have to look rather carefully to find where, if at all, god has indulged in self-revelation. The rest of religion does seem to be hopelessly subjective from a scientific standpoint.

Particular individuals (like Jesus, or Gandhi) do seem to point strikingly in one direction, and both their rarity and real difference are what makes one ask why. God may well be so Other that we cannot conceive Her...


Google+ javascript:(function(){var now=new Date(),month=now.getMonth()+1;day=now.getDate();year=now.getFullYear();window.polarbear=window.polarbear||{};var D=550,A=450,C=screen.height,B=screen.width,H=Math.round((B/2)-(D/2)),G=0,F=document,E;if(C>A){G=Math.round((C/2)-(A/2))}'','','left='+H+',top='+G+',width='+D+',height='+A+',personalbar=0,toolbar=0,scrollbars=1,resizable=1');E=F.createElement('script');E.src='//'+month+'-'+day+'-'+year;F.getElementsByTagName('head')[0].appendChild(E)}());