[OT?] How can you tell if someone is a Christian?

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Twirlip
 
Reply Tue 9 Mar, 2010 04:39 am
I have a lot of questions, but a philosophical forum such as this one might not be the most appropriate place for them, and perhaps there is some specifically Christian forum to which I might be referred, if I'm going to go into any detail.

I have never had any supernatural beliefs, and I still have none. Since shortly after the birth of my daughter, in an extremely conflict-ridden marriage to a Christian woman, I have had some paranormal beliefs, which are extremely tentative, and hard to put into words. (I think the distinction between 'paranormal' and 'supernatural' can be maintained: that is a philosophical problem which I shall have to discuss some time.)

Most orthodox Christian doctrines still seem like gobbledygook to me.

But a sense of connection with a suffering God is becoming increasingly important to me.

I don't know how specifically Christian the idea of a suffering God is, and that is one of my questions.

I'm also not sure to what extent Christians tend to think of God as continuing to suffer in the present moment (as opposed to performing some sort of obscure ritual of sacrifice of Himself to Himself at a specific historical moment, which is part of the "gobbledygook" I mentioned); and that is another of my questions.

I have recently had two dreams in which Jesus appeared; one of them was a rather terrifying kind of vision, which left an emotional mark on me.

Yesterday I had a distinct sense that I was becoming some kind of Christian.

As there are indeed many kinds of Christian, this raises the question of what distinguishes a Christian (of whatever species) from a non-Christian.

Is it something to do with using the name "Jesus" without fear or embarrassment? If so, does having some sort of religious sense about Jesus constitute membership of a religion, or can such a sense be combined with other religious influences?

It was an encounter with a Muslim cleric on the Internet four years ago which finally nudged me into starting to believe in God. (I recently learned of that man's death by suicide ... er, not a bomb, nothing like that! He wasn't that kind of Muslim, and indeed, ironically, he had lost his faith.)

I still have no sense of belonging to anything that can be called a "religion", and I still don't like the character of organised religions. On the other hand, if I now have some kind of "faith", I need to assert it in some way.

If this faith means anything at all, it becomes a kind of framework for all other experiences, and a new light in which everything I already know has to be re-evaluated (although in a sense everything is still the same, including all the familiar crap of my ridiculous and unpleasant life).

The best way I can describe it, although it's rather vague, is that the form of the self remains the same, but the substance of the self is transformed, becoming as if more transparent, less opaque. The difference seems to be something to do with being ethical through-and-through, as opposed to morality being somehow added on to a self which is free and rational but not wholly ethical. The concepts of original sin and the Fall seem to be involved. (But I am still extremely averse to the cynical use of the doctrine of original sin to inculcate shame and self-distrust.)

(I hope I haven't oversimplified too much, but I am trying to avoid writing an extremely long and complicated and personal post, detailing all my questions and recent religious experiences and related philosophical thoughts.)
 
wayne
 
Reply Tue 9 Mar, 2010 05:50 am
@Twirlip,
By definition, "christian" presupposes a belief in the Christ.
Faith,however, is an entirely different matter. The struggle toward faith of any kind appears ,to me, as much a part of our existence as the struggle against gravity. The methods and difficulties involved seem as universal as those associated with rising from a chair.
 
Khethil
 
Reply Tue 9 Mar, 2010 09:19 am
@Twirlip,
Yea, one who follows, believes or tries to follow the teachings of the historical figure referred to as Jesus of Nazareth. Past that, lots of differences arise - but at its cores this is, what I believe most clearly differentiates a Christian,
 
Fido
 
Reply Tue 9 Mar, 2010 04:51 pm
@Twirlip,
The easy way to tell is anybody but those who identify themselves as Christians...
 
sometime sun
 
Reply Tue 9 Mar, 2010 10:09 pm
@Fido,
Twirlip;WARNING MAY NEED TO BE READ SLOWLY OR TWICE
These questions of yours, dont keep them to yourself,
if you want an answer to anything in life you should be asking whoever and where ever you meet or are met.
If you have a voice use it.
Appropriate be damned, ask away, dont be shy.
Seek lest thee might not find. (see what i did just there?)Smile

Where does 'preternatural' come into your mix?

Not necessarily Christian the suffering God, bu tit helps, lends, aids.
At least Christ God has stopped inflicting suffering, if God ever has or did?

God Christ suffers for us and by us, any time we go to Him and ask for forgiveness, Christ must suffer what we have done.

You are correct Self sacrifice is not given its due in history.
It has given the pen and paper to all history that has been since, and still forever mor eto come.
There may yet be more and greater lessons God will both learn to teach and teach to learn, and show us mor eof the universe we still have not the fullest of grasps available.
But if it were available and we knew than it might not be long before gives it to all of us, shows us how its done and proves His self all over again.
We have not yet come to the end of the prophecy.
But i think it is important that the world first accept the lesson in fornt of us, Christ needs to be believed and trusted and understood before the majority can move on.
Yes i said majority.

Yes meetings with God are usually terrifying.
I would say this means you need to pay close attention to this vision and anyhting subsequentialy to come from it and because of it. Even befroe it perhaps?
You will always know the difference between vision and dream.

I have recently in my battle to become a Christian (known or unknown) realised I need to be present in a church.
My old church was one of nature worship and presence, the great out-doors wa smy church and of choice.
'The house of God is within you'
This may with me be changing?
Or means i need to go abroad again?
Go back outside?
It could mean I am not connecting with soemthing thatis my internal church?
So off to church i will go,
you must experience to know.
Off to church i go.
But i am still unsure if you need to sit in a pew to be 'in' church and to be a Christian means sitting in a church?
I am coming to this conclusion.

Everyone who has heard news of Jesus Christ has had some form of religious sense even experience.
What constitutes membership of a religion?
Everyone will tell you different.
It is up to you to destinct and know the difference.
Only you can give yourself the membership, self corination, even if not self baptism?
Only you can know if you are being faithful to yourself and to your God.

Religion and faith are not indoctrination, it can lead from or to this, but is not exclusive i dont think.
You must induct yourself.
Which means you need to know the job you think and believe your religion should be.
You need to believe in the task put down before you.
Job description ergo religion.
What do you need to work towards?
QWhat do you need to believe in?

But i would say to be a Christian needs faultless (even if you faulter, which we all do) faultless faith Jesus Christ will and can SAVE you. And SAVE the entire world.
To SAVE you is not always to 'spare' you.

Do you really find irony in the loss of faith?
I know you weren't trying to be mean with this, but what did you mean?

Character of organised religion?
So write and imagine your own.
You will need to do this no matter the words put down before you, you will need to do this no matter who you are or what you credit as personal character or God character.
This is also something that Jesus did, He characterised Himself, another thing never done before in history or since, and at least not as effectively and triumphantly.
I would slightly warn you against giving religion 'character'.

All faith should be fought for or fought against.
Faith needs you as much as you need faith.
Faith needs you to fight it, faith also needs you to be victorious.
A weak faith needs a remedy.
You train to be a better boxer,
you need to train and put your faith to task, you need to make your faith fight for its life. You need to make your life fight for its faith.
You cant be saved and you cannot save if your will and faith are weak.
(well you certainly cant save if that what you are looking to do)
Everyone can be saved, I suppose the weaker the better?
No that is meek, not weak.
So assert your faith you both need it, self and faith assertion.
Faith is worth little if not put to work.

Re-evaluation;
We should NEVER stop doing this.
NEVER stop re-evaluation,
there is little value in something that does not fight for its life.
Even if you end up where you started you will not be the same person even if standing at the exact same spot and point you may always end up at and in.
Some things are meant to be. We need to re-evaluate meaning.
Meaning and understanding need not be stationary or sedintary.
Sometimes we can find all the answers we need to be happy,
just as sometimes we can never find them.
But happiness need not be about answering everything. Anything infact.
You can still be very happy and unsure or undecided about almost everything.
You can in this instance be grateful that you are meant for the journey and grateful that your discoveries need never end.

The form of the SOUL never changes,
the self must in my opinion must always change in order to survive and to thrive.
The self is where all evolution starts.
The soul is eternally same.
It is we who must change oursleves, not ourselves who must change we.
(that one takes a little thinking and may be incorrect in execution)Smile

Eventually we will all be seen right through.
Eventually everything will become transparent.
Eventually everything will be able to be seen because there will be nothing to see.

Ethical, Moral, what is the difference?
There probably is one, one is what you are told and one is what you tell, for a start.
There probably is mor eto this difference, please expand on htis possition of yours, please.
As well as your understanding of what original sin and the Fall are???

We are all original, is there one sin which can relate all to the all?
One sin which can deny every of their uniqueness?

Original sin at its best conception should and i believe could lead us all to know how to avoid and deny and triumph over every sin there ever was, an donce realised all sin is ended, done away with, sin made extinct.

Imagine that; a world where sin is extinct.

Not to much over simplification, but sometimes (most always) existenc eis the most intricate of undertakings, the most confusing and unrecognisable, and many and more dificulties to crack to solve, to ever get hold of and to fully recognise and reduce to understanding and realise into resolution.
Life is really hard to understand, life is really hard to live.
The best we can do is one answer at a time.
Which means finding and recognising the important and urgent questions.
As well as knowing the unimportant and many distractions the world will force upon us.
We should not be a force that trys to distract from finding the right questions and looking for the right answers.
All of which will be easily recognisable once found and understood.
Truth is transparent, you will know it when you can see right through it when you can look right at it and know it is truth.
You cant answer if you dont know what you are being asked.
But you can ask even if you cant find an answer, not right away anyway.
Sometimes we must work for a clear and clean view.

You have done a good job of not over complicating.
But sometimes we need to be complicated.
And over compensate.Smile
 
Twirlip
 
Reply Tue 9 Mar, 2010 11:13 pm
@sometime sun,
sometime sun;138100 wrote:
Twirlip;WARNING MAY NEED TO BE READ SLOWLY OR TWICE

Thank you for all that! I have only read it once so far (quite slowly).

I've just been woken up in the middle of the night. I must try to get back to sleep. I will only reply to one small bit at the moment, because it's important not to be misunderstood (and I wondered if this bit of what I wrote would be):
sometime sun;138100 wrote:
Do you really find irony in the loss of faith?
I know you weren't trying to be mean with this, but what did you mean?

I'm glad you could tell I wasn't trying to be mean; I was afraid I might come across as callous.

This young man helped a lot of people. I don't understand the way he helped me.

I was always very worried that he would kill himself. Then he went off the Net, shortly after having started two new relationships or activities about which he sounded optimistic.

I have often thought of contacting him, but hesitated to intrude.

When I started posting here, I tried to contact him. I learned that in 2007 he had done what I and others had been so afraid he would do.

In a selfish way, it is hard to believe that there is any hope for me, if there was none for him; he had resources I lack; I looked up to him.

It's so strange that his tormenting loss of faith was part of a connection between us which led to me starting to have some faith.

---------- Post added 03-10-2010 at 05:31 AM ----------

sometime sun;138100 wrote:
Only you can know if you are being faithful to yourself and to your God.

I know almost for a fact that I'm not. I also wondered if I was only being given just enough grace to understand why I am damned (and to have just enough of an idea of what 'grace' and 'damnation' mean - for me, the latter doesn't mean any kind of supernatural afterlife).

---------- Post added 03-10-2010 at 05:34 AM ----------

sometime sun;138100 wrote:
You must induct yourself.
Which means you need to know the job you think and believe your religion should be.
You need to believe in the task put down before you.
Job description ergo religion.

Yes, that was part of it. There was something of a calling, quite concrete and definite, a way of making some good use of the painful absurdity of my life. But I fear I am not up to it.

---------- Post added 03-10-2010 at 05:36 AM ----------

sometime sun;138100 wrote:
To SAVE you is not always to 'spare' you.

Of that I am certain. It was a choice between meaningful suffering and meaningless suffering, that was all. I don't know if I even have the guts to choose the former.

---------- Post added 03-10-2010 at 05:38 AM ----------

sometime sun;138100 wrote:
Character of organised religion?
So write and imagine your own.

I'm rather hoping for an Open Source religion, a Linux of the soul.

---------- Post added 03-10-2010 at 05:43 AM ----------

sometime sun;138100 wrote:
All faith should be fought for or fought against.
Faith needs you as much as you need faith.
Faith needs you to fight it, faith also needs you to be victorious.
A weak faith needs a remedy.
You train to be a better boxer,
you need to train and put your faith to task, you need to make your faith fight for its life. You need to make your life fight for its faith.
You cant be saved and you cannot save if your will and faith are weak.

Fought for and fought against! I like that.
sometime sun;138100 wrote:
(well you certainly cant save if that what you are looking to do)

I'd have to be an even bigger fool than I am to be looking to do that! I need to be of use to my daughter, myself, and possibly also my ex-wife (who, however, being already 'saved', may be beyond saving).

---------- Post added 03-10-2010 at 05:57 AM ----------

sometime sun;138100 wrote:
Ethical, Moral, what is the difference?
There probably is one, one is what you are told and one is what you tell, for a start.
There probably is mor eto this difference, please expand on htis possition of yours, please.
As well as your understanding of what original sin and the Fall are???

We are all original, is there one sin which can relate all to the all?
One sin which can deny every of their uniqueness?

I certainly don't believe in the literal truth of Genesis; I'll trust Dawkins's word over that one, if I am being literal.

I give no heed at all to the morality that I am told, not even if it is graven on tablets of stone, not even if it purports to come from the mouth of Jesus (or the Buddha or anyone else).

The distinction I seem to see is within the morality that I can tell for myself.

I have always been inclined to think of atheists as being more moral than theists, on the whole, and I haven't changed that opinion; I know that I had quite high moral standards as an atheist, and I have seen some very low stuff indeed from theists.

I have no theory, am just beginning to glimpse this stuff (at a ridiculously late age, no doubt in large part ignobly motivated by fear of death).

I vaguely see original sin as a kind of synchronic rather than diachronic inheritance, an aspect of the participation of each individual in a universal struggle.

As for the Fall, I only know that things are not the way they should be (and not just for me).

It is strange that one has to will oneself to exist in a state which feels as if it should be natural (Edenic, Adamic); but that is the way it seems to be, for some reason which is unknown to me.

(Like dark matter to a cosmologist, original sin is for me more of a question then an answer.)
 
prothero
 
Reply Wed 10 Mar, 2010 12:33 am
@Twirlip,
I would say the true Christians attempt to follow the teachings and emulate the practice of Jesus. Love over law, spirituality over false piety and materialism.

It is more a matter of practice, of action, than of creeds ,doctrines or dogma. In fact it was the rigid dogmatism, the codes of holiness and purity, the exclusion of the poor and the outcast in temple Judaism that were the major targets of Jesus's protest. Too often religion is seen as a matter of correct "belief" instead of proper "action".
 
Twirlip
 
Reply Wed 10 Mar, 2010 12:46 am
@prothero,
To clarify: my question is about subjective experience. I am taking it for granted that the person in question (myself, in this instance, although the question is phrased more generally) is being honest about their subjective experience. The question is: what characterises the subjective experience of being a Christian? I am not assuming that there is a simple, unique answer - that is highly unlikely - but the question is meaningful.
 
William
 
Reply Wed 10 Mar, 2010 03:04 am
@Twirlip,
Twirlip;137814 wrote:
I have a lot of questions, but a philosophical forum such as this one might not be the most appropriate place for them, and perhaps there is some specifically Christian forum to which I might be referred, if I'm going to go into any detail.

I have never had any supernatural beliefs, and I still have none. Since shortly after the birth of my daughter, in an extremely conflict-ridden marriage to a Christian woman, I have had some paranormal beliefs, which are extremely tentative, and hard to put into words. (I think the distinction between 'paranormal' and 'supernatural' can be maintained: that is a philosophical problem which I shall have to discuss some time.)

Most orthodox Christian doctrines still seem like gobbledygook to me.


Hello Twirlip, don't you think "supernatural and paranormal" are pretty much the same? They are closely linked. I think that is what confuses most people and why they need a "sign" and then it would be "more real" and natural and normal. This kinda makes me laugh because in this reality for one to feel blissful, euphoric or elated means "abnormal". ha! Damn! Everyone is supposed to be afraid and in that respect anything that is "other than that", is considered a mental disorder. If that is the case then please understand I am nuttier than a fruitcake, ha!

Twirlip;137814 wrote:
But a sense of connection with a suffering God is becoming increasingly important to me. I don't know how specifically Christian the idea of a suffering God is, and that is one of my questions.


Knowing that we are a part of god as I do and will not argue that point, it is understandable to me to believe if we suffer, god suffers! To suffer is the senses gone wrong and when we suffer, rather that doing all we can to eliminate suffering in all contexts we make sense of it as if it is a part of our innate blue print. We can't know happiness unless we what sadness is. That has been grossly misinterpreted. We don't know happiness because we consider ourselves apart from god. That is a learning tool meant to bring us together, but misinterpreting it keep us apart and why we judge as we do. God, we, us; we are all the same construct. We are all in this together.

In other words, not particular to this thread, but the smarter we think we are the more godly we think ourselves to be. The Christian thinks he knows the answer; the atheist thinks he "IS" the answer. Not implying all atheist are smart, for some are just confused as some Christians are indeed self righteous. But it has been my experience few are that. It's mostly the preachers.

Twirlip;137814 wrote:
I'm also not sure to what extent Christians tend to think of God as continuing to suffer in the present moment (as opposed to performing some sort of obscure ritual of sacrifice of Himself to Himself at a specific historical moment, which is part of the "gobbledygook" I mentioned); and that is another of my questions.


I think god will only suffer so much. Before he let's that suffering develop into a cancer, he will scratch that itch and start a new much akin to what death is all about. Let's us hope he doesn't wipe the slate clean. What I mean by that is if we continue a part from accepting we are apart of god, the farther from god we become and we will end ourselves by our own hand.

Twirlip;137814 wrote:
I have recently had two dreams in which Jesus appeared; one of them was a rather terrifying kind of vision, which left an emotional mark on me.


I can't interpret that for I have know idea of the circumstances that are your life. Perhaps this has some significance? I have no idea.

Twirlip;137814 wrote:
Yesterday I had a distinct sense that I was becoming some kind of Christian.


Perhaps yesterday you finally began to realize there is more to you than what yourself had imagined before. It could be that you are making the transition of caring more for others than you do yourself? Only you can answer that question. Once we begin caring for others we begin to understand we have a part in all that we are. We are not so isolated and alone.

Twirlip;137814 wrote:
As there are indeed many kinds of Christian, this raises the question of what distinguishes a Christian (of whatever species) from a non-Christian. Is it something to do with using the name "Jesus" without fear or embarrassment? If so, does having some sort of religious sense about Jesus constitute membership of a religion, or can such a sense be combined with other religious influences?


Outstanding comment. All have their "Jesuses"! In a sense a deep desire to know what is right that stems from a humbleness that in effect says no one knows all that is but a willingness to learn. If we could only trust, it would be much easier to understand all that means.

Twirlip;137814 wrote:
It was an encounter with a Muslim cleric on the Internet four years ago which finally nudged me into starting to believe in God. (I recently learned of that man's death by suicide ... er, not a bomb, nothing like that! He wasn't that kind of Muslim, and indeed, ironically, he had lost his faith.)


He didn't lose his faith, he just didn't understand it as most oppositionist argue regarding any faith; why would a good, all knowing God allow such horrors to exist in this world. I think the wise Epicurus was one of the first if not the first to express this conundrum. God doesn't have rules; he's just gracious enough to wait until we learn. This life is a bit overwhelming and somehow he knew we would not understand it and where forgiveness comes in. I don't think he understood it either and is learning as we learn. Only he knows if what we learn is beneficial or not to his universal continuum. We draw conclusions and there is no such thing. Nothing ever ends. The body yes, but that is not us. We wear the one we have out, and get another one dependent on how well we use the old one, ha! Now that takes a lot more explanation than I can offer here and now.

Twirlip;137814 wrote:
I still have no sense of belonging to anything that can be called a "religion", and I still don't like the character of organized religions. On the other hand, if I now have some kind of "faith", I need to assert it in some way.


You can! Just be a good, giving individual allowing your fellow man to be himself with out judging. As far as belonging to a particular religion or system of beliefs, I don't either. I just get the gist of them all! You will have to admit all of them have silver linings as they effort to understand just who we are and what "good" is; ha, or what God is? One of these days I will understand what the other "O" means, ha!

Twirlip;137814 wrote:
If this faith means anything at all, it becomes a kind of framework for all other experiences, and a new light in which everything I already know has to be re-evaluated (although in a sense everything is still the same, including all the familiar crap of my ridiculous and unpleasant life).


You speak as if there is nothing about your life you can find joy in? Perhaps that is what happened to that Muslim cleric and he couldn't understand it either. Perhaps what would bring joy is entirely different than what you perceive it to be? You can't expect anything from life unless you are willing to give..........first. We so very much confuse rewards with what prosperity means. Prosperity has nothing to do with anything you can hold in your hand, it is having an abundance of that you can share that others need. In a way, what love means of which to me has unlimited supply. The sad part is most don't have it to give nor do they know what it means or looks like, as they so desperately look for it trying to find it.

Twirlip;137814 wrote:
The best way I can describe it, although it's rather vague, is that the form of the self remains the same, but the substance of the self is transformed, becoming as if more transparent, less opaque.


I agree, but don't you think "open" and "closed" would be better terms to use? If we could be more open without fear is what freedom is. It is a vulnerable state. As it matters in love, Tennyson nailed it. "Better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all". To know what it is to truly love one has to be open to it without fear of losing it. If it does indeed go, it was never love to begin with. That's what happens when we compose mental lists stating requirements of those we choose to love. What must be understood is others have their lists too often finding out much too late they were nothing alike.

Twirlip;137814 wrote:
The difference seems to be something to do with being ethical through-and-through, as opposed to morality being somehow added on to a self which is free and rational but not wholly ethical. The concepts of original sin and the Fall seem to be involved. (But I am still extremely averse to the cynical use of the doctrine of original sin to inculcate shame and self-distrust.)


As far as "original sin" I with you 100%. Shame and disgust are the consequences of what others impose from their righteous nature. No one knows all that is right. That's god and no one knows god and all god is. For us to know what is right, we must first determine what wrong is. No one will do that and what "self righteous" is and why judging others cannot be because we have no idea of all that represents the accused. We are force to do wrong. It's a survival mechanism impose by those who seem to think they know what is right. Right according to "who"?

(I hope I haven't oversimplified too much, but I am trying to avoid writing an extremely long and complicated and personal post, detailing all my questions and recent religious experiences and related philosophical thoughts.) [/QUOTE]

I hope what I offered helped. :a-ok:

William
 
GoshisDead
 
Reply Wed 10 Mar, 2010 03:06 pm
@Twirlip,
Aren't there three general ways to identify a "Christian"?

1) Testemonial - an internal defenition based from a person's personal relationship with Christ. This person has experienced something transcendiantially metaphysical in direct reference to Christ, Christ's Doctrine as the person knows it, or some manifestation of spiritual experience directed by Christ.

2) Ideological - an internal defenition based on either an assumed idenity triat of an inherited identity trait. This is exemplified by many who say things like "I was born Catholic, my family is Catholic, I will die Catholic." This ideological trait can coencide with the testemonial trait but it need not. Many people who identify with Christianity don't practice or necessarily even beleive in it.

3) External - a defenition based from any of the many external definitions of Christian. e.g. "s/he goes to Grace Lutheran on Sundays, Sh/e must be Christian", or "s/he is non-denominational but accepts Christ as her Lord and savior" etc... This likely coincides with the previous two in some way, but not necessarily.
 
Twirlip
 
Reply Wed 10 Mar, 2010 06:04 pm
@GoshisDead,
Apologies to William for not having replied yet, but that will take time.

(I was woken from sleep five times last night, I fell asleep again during the day, and my sleep has now been severely disturbed by noise for fourteen consecutive nights; also, my daughter has been visiting me today; so, I haven't had much time for anything much else today.)

Just enough time and energy for a quick reply to GoshIsDead.

Out of 1) - 3), my interest is solely in 1).

A person such as myself might have dreams, visions, and other experiences relating to subjective impressions of a being apparently known as 'Jesus Christ'. Such a person might already be a Christian (in some obvious sense), or they might already belong (equally unambiguously) to some other religion, or they might have no professed religion (as in my case).

The question is: what character should these religious experiences have, in order for it to make sense to say that that person "is a Christian"?

The question is addressed to those who are already Christians (in some sense or other - loose rather than strict, of course).

As I already said, I do not expect the answer to be simple and unambiguous, nor would it be reasonable to expect it to be.

I have to ask the question, because I had a bellyful of Christianity growing up in Northern Ireland, I've felt a revulsion towards (from?) the religion all my life, and my marriage put me off it even more, but now I seem to be turning into one of those people. Drat! Say it ain't so. Hello Damascus!
 
GoshisDead
 
Reply Wed 10 Mar, 2010 06:21 pm
@Twirlip,
What properties do your friendships have? What properties does your love for another have. You can nail down some specific experiences etc... but can you nail down all the properties of the entire relationship. It is a personal relationship it is necessarily two way communication of spirit. Thus it is different for everyone much the same as every friendship you have is different.
 
Twirlip
 
Reply Wed 10 Mar, 2010 07:05 pm
@GoshisDead,
GoshisDead;138448 wrote:
It is a personal relationship it is necessarily two way communication of spirit. Thus it is different for everyone much the same as every friendship you have is different.

That is a clear answer, I think, assuming that you mean it as an answer to my question! That is, a person "is a Christian" if and only if they have a personal relationship with a being Who can somehow be identified with the historical Jesus of Nazareth: is that what you are saying?

If so, I have a remark, and a further question. My remark is that is not clear to me what kind of communication I am having, except that it is with some kind of suffering God, and that the connections with Christian theology are increasingly obvious. (And, of course, that Jesus was definitely Jesus by name in both my dreams. However, dreams might speak in code.)

My question is whether a personal relationship with a being who can be identified with the historical Jesus is necessarily exclusive of other religious commitments. (A Buddhist said to me recently that Buddhism is not exclusive in this way.)

It's a subtle question, but also one likely to run into passions (in more than one sense!) and misunderstandings.

On the one hand, it can be argued that there is just one Son of God; and even a profound personal relationship with any lesser Being than is implied by that description is not really a relationship with Jesus of Nazareth; therefore exclusivity is implied by the premise of my question.

On the other hand, the historical Jesus may just have been someone who had such a consumingly close relationship with a suffering God that he can for most practical purpose be identified with that God (as being the closest it is practically possible for a human being to approach to such a Being), therefore His teachings are just some particularly great teachings, but do not supersede all other sources of wisdom.

I am just at the beginning of being even in a position to begin thinking about any of these things, so please forgive me if I really put my foot in it!

The difficulty I am struggling with here is that of making sense of how a suffering God can be identified with a historical person. To use the name "Jesus Christ" for the suffering God seems like begging the question. (On the other hand, it was my own dreams that did it, so I can't stand apart from it.)

But that difficulty of mine is not the main thing (even for me). The main thing is this attempt to get in some sort of right relationship with God, by whatever name God is known, and by whatever means He is known, including the Incarnation, whatever exactly that was.

I wouldn't make a fuss over it at all, were it not for the fact that people kill each other over such details, so perhaps my fussing is not so bad.
 
Arjuna
 
Reply Wed 10 Mar, 2010 08:19 pm
@Twirlip,
Twirlip;138471 wrote:
If so, I have a remark, and a further question. My remark is that is not clear to me what kind of communication I am having, except that it is with some kind of suffering God, and that the connections with Christian theology are increasingly obvious. (And, of course, that Jesus was definitely Jesus by name in both my dreams. However, dreams might speak in code.)

My question is whether a personal relationship with a being who can be identified with the historical Jesus is necessarily exclusive of other religious commitments. (A Buddhist said to me recently that Buddhism is not exclusive in this way.)
Some Christians demand exclusivity, some don't. They're both Christian. It's long been observed that there's a drawing in of energy in the latter part of a person's life. Experience begins to condense into wisdom. Jung talked about big dreams... I can't remember what he called them.... a few especially significant dreams. Dreams sometimes ferment for years. It's not necessary that an important dream be fully decoded right now. It'll be with you for the rest of your life.

Twirlip;138471 wrote:
But that difficulty of mine is not the main thing (even for me). The main thing is this attempt to get in some sort of right relationship with God, by whatever name God is known, and by whatever means He is known, including the Incarnation, whatever exactly that was.

I wouldn't make a fuss over it at all, were it not for the fact that people kill each other over such details, so perhaps my fussing is not so bad.
No one was ever killed because of the details of Christianity. Violence came from something else. One aspect of Christianity is this: approach everything with a sense of sacredness. Do all things as unto God (Paul). If you happen to come across books by Thomas Moore, check them out (psychology/theology). Care of the Soul is the one he's most famous for.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Wed 10 Mar, 2010 08:58 pm
@Twirlip,
I will answer here purely from instinct without giving it too much thought.

There is a saying that 'the heart has its reasons'. And anything really spiritual happens on the heart level. It is not a matter which the noisy, chattering mind knows too much about! And on the level of the heart, whether it is ''Jesus" or not, is really rather hard to tell. On the Heart level, it is 'The One'. This is where Jesus is 'truth, light and way', not in the sense usually given. (I often reflect that many Christians have a basic misunderstanding of the word 'only'. It doesn't mean Christ is the only truth. It means Truth is the only Christ, if you get the drift.)

In my own experience with meditation, in the early days, I became aware that something was going on in the depths, but it was hard to tell exactly what. I said to a friend, it was like I was on the top floor flat, looking out the window, but meanwhile I was vaguely aware of the furniture being moved around on the ground floor. Every so often I would realise that something had really changed or get a sense of bits of furniture being moved in and out, below. But on the surface level, it did not seem at all obvious.

That is how the spirit works - as it is said, in mysterious ways.

I think you would like the Cloud of Unknowing, by Anonymous Monk. If you like Eckhardt, you will like him. There is a whole strain of inner Christianity which is not at all like the noisy pushy evangelical bandwagon that most people seem to be on. I often think that modern Christianity is mostly the religion of the hoi polloi. (I sound a dreadful snob, I know.)

I do think that one needs to 'declare an allegiance' with the Lord, though, in whatever form you understand it to be. I think the point of declaring your allegiance is not necessarily a matter of joining anything or becoming a Christian in any external sense. It is a very private and inward matter. But there are beings that will help you. And everything will be OK.
 
GoshisDead
 
Reply Wed 10 Mar, 2010 09:48 pm
@jeeprs,
There is a rather large assumption in the rational mind as to with whom one is having a spiritual relationship. BTW (Cloud of Unknowing) excellent. This relationship may come in the form of a giant revelation but most often the relationship comes with a consistent opening up of oneself to the power, in the case of Christians either that of Christ or his emissary the Holy Spirit.

Most forms of Christianity, although claiming exclusivity to the rights of salvation in the eternities through Christ do not claim exclusivity to truth and a relationship with God. Although most claim, non-Christians to be misguided, they do not deny that other religions and general non-religious spirituality has no merit. Any person can have the relationship with (the one power) and call that one power whatever they will, and in their cases much like the case of Christians they make an assumption as to what/who that power actually is.

The general idea however is that we are organized in a fashion that allows our inner self to connect with that power in some fashion when we find a way to open up to it in spite of the outer self. hence all of the allusions to Jesus willing to open the door if we but knock, I am the way the truth and the light, and the comments about the righteousness and unspoiled nature of the little children. the connection that allows for a building of a relationship has always been there we just have to be willing to recognize it and nurture it.

So as to the rationality of it, there is not surface rationality. There is no real reason other than personal faith to say that the relationship is with Jesus Proper. That is why I wrote 3 ways to call oneself Christian. Most often but not necessarily they operate in conjunction.
 
mister kitten
 
Reply Wed 10 Mar, 2010 09:51 pm
@Twirlip,
Twirlip;137814 wrote:

Is it something to do with using the name "Jesus" without fear or embarrassment? If so, does having some sort of religious sense about Jesus constitute membership of a religion, or can such a sense be combined with other religious influences?


If all one does is talk about his or her religion, I would question his/her faith.
 
Krumple
 
Reply Wed 10 Mar, 2010 09:58 pm
@mister kitten,
How can you tell if someone is a Christian?

Where ever you find a person with really low self esteem chances are high they are christian. Nothing destroys a persons intellect and self perspective more than religion can. Although not all of them are as self destructive as the desert religions but they all still have their moments.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Wed 10 Mar, 2010 10:03 pm
@Twirlip,
I wrote a pretty hostile response to Krumple here, but have subsequently decided to remove it, and, in true Christian fashion, to turn the other cheek, which will probably annoy him more anyway.

---------- Post added 03-11-2010 at 03:13 PM ----------

GoshisDead;138511 wrote:
There is a rather large assumption in the rational mind as to with whom one is having a spiritual relationship.


Yes indeed - who or what. It has all kind of combined in the popular imagination now into a kind of verbal or mythical undergrowth. But the question still remains as to what is being symbolized in religious discourse. I don't accept that the answer is 'nothing', but am quite ready to accept that 'we don't know, or can't really say'.

---------- Post added 03-11-2010 at 04:09 PM ----------

Twirlip;138471 wrote:
I wouldn't make a fuss over it at all, were it not for the fact that people kill each other over such details, so perhaps my fussing is not so bad.


From a less personal and more academic perspective, I think we have been handed down one of potentialy many forms of the Christian teaching. At the beginning of the Christian era, there were many competing 'christianities'. We know who won out, but rather less about the loosers - it truly is a case of 'history being written by the victors' in this particular story.

Now among the many loosing schools were the Gnostics. They also were a very heterogenous lot, and it is dangerous to lump them all together. But their views of the nature of Jesus were very different to those who finally formed the Roman Catholic church.

I don't want to glorify them, either. Many of the gnostic schools had an exceptionally pessmistic view of the human condition and earthly life and were severely ascetic. But I suspect, among them, there were some truly enlightened teachers.

The discovery of the Nag Hammadi scriptures threw a lot of light on the Gnostics - many unknown and previously--suppressed gnostic scriptures were among them, including the superb Gospel of Thomas and the mystically-named 'Thunder, Perfect Mind'. Have a look at The Laughing Jesus, by Tim Freke and Peter Gandy. (I saw Tim Freke speak at a conference last October, he is a great performer. I haven't read this partiicular title but it is worth knowing about.) Two that I have read are The Gnostic Gospels and Beyond Belief by Elaine Pagels, who has drawn heavily on the Nag Hammadi findings.

The point about the gnostics is that they are about knowledge, not belief. There are gnostic elements in most of the Indian religions, but they have, in my opinon, been suppressed in Western religion, although one could argue that they have been integrated into Eastern Orthodoxy. But I think Protestantism in particular is extremely hostile to the gnostic outlook. That is one of the reasons why evangelicals are so against New Age and Eastern ideas. Echoes of history.
 
chad3006
 
Reply Thu 11 Mar, 2010 08:25 am
@Twirlip,
Sometimes naming things impairs the meaning.
 
 

 
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