Friday, June 4, 2010

beyond what is commanded, probably not good

Spirituality trades in mystery and seek experiential, firsthand encounters of the divine. Religion, meanwhile, frequently comes across as overly dogmatic and absolutist. Religion too often imposes blanket rules and regulations on us without considering context or social and environmental dynamics.
Burke and Taylor, A Heretic's Guide to Eternity, p 59

Read the New Testament, and you'll read many commands. Jesus tells us to do many things, and so the writers of the Epistles. Some are specific, others more general.

One thing I have not seen suggested or commanded in the New Testament is that we are to "seek experiential, firsthand encounters of the divine".

That doesn't mean such experiences may not happen. The Apostle Paul's conversion was brought on by such an experience, and he seems to have had other visions and supernatural experiences after that. He relates a bit about a man who was taken to Heaven itself, and many think he is talking about himself, which I'm not sure of that way or this. I have heard of accounts of people in the more recent past who have had similar experiences.

But while being open to such experiences may be acceptable, actively going to look for them is not ever commanded in the Bible. More importantly, in all of the practical things the New Testament tells us to do, none of them involve any kind of 'spiritual practices'--trances, mind-emptying meditations, repetitive prayers (in fact, Jesus' words against prayers of "vain repetition" may be considered against such a practice), isolation, labyrinths, or others.

Also, we may ask, how does one know that one is experiencing a "firsthand encounter of the divine"? Let us be real, if there is a divine, is there not also a diabolic? Does the Bible not tell us that the the Devil and demons can appear as "angels of light"? Is any man so true and experienced at the spiritual that he can know when he's dealing with the good or the evil?

This is particularly important, I think, when we consider the last part of Burke's and Taylor's paragraph. Religion says that there are things that must be believed, and says there are moral absolutes that apply to all people at all time. Christianity that is based in the Bible certainly says such things. It is as wrong for a man to sleep with another man's wife today as it was for King David to commit adultery with Bathsheba, the wife of another man. Murder is as wrong now as it was when Cain murdered his brother. Lying, stealing, dishonesty in business and other relationships, and worshipping false gods and idols, all were wrong long ago, and there is no reason to think they have suddenly become right today.

I know the New Testament's words about the Law being abolished or replaced can cause confusion. Much of what is now not followed are more like ceremonial laws, or things that the Old Testament Law called unclean but are no longer so. There are people who have dealt with it in more detail than I currently can.

The statement against dogmas and rules shows an astonishing amount of arrogance on the part of Burke and Taylor, as they essentially say that they need no guides when they deal with the spiritual, that they can venture into such things on their own, that they can determine for themselves if what they experience is really divine, and not devilish. Such arrogance should be avoided, as should, I think, any unbiblical attempts to push oneself into the supernatural. If God chooses to give you dreams and visions, or even prophecies, all well and good, but that is God's choice, not yours to take upon yourself.

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