By: Thomas Lee Abshier, ND
Thanks for reading my essay. I’m always pleased and surprised when someone takes the time to consider my words and make comments.
(Stephen) I wonder… when the church assembled the various texts into the Bible as we know it today, what process did they use to decide which bits to include and which bits to exclude? This took place several hundred years after the life of Christ.
You are probably familiar with the process. There were hundreds of Church Elders that assembled in 325 A.D. at the direction of Constantine. They used several principles, one being apostolic authority. They included the writings of men who had been in actual contact with Christ. The Old Testament books included those that were part of the Jewish scripture.
As I mentioned, the Bible does not canonize itself as divine. It is man who has decided that these words are divine. It is thus up to you and I to make the decision as to whether they in fact meet the standard of Truth. Each man must make his own decision, and regardless of the divine origin of the words used, God’s Truth exists and will prevail. Nevertheless, we want to know that we have chosen a true standard, and we use multiple methods by which to determine truth. One method is to look at the fruit of the lives of those who follow the standards. But, such a method has inherent limitations in such an application because the lives of men will always fall short of even the most perfect teaching. We could look at the method of assembly and note that man could have inserted his own erroneous standards and judgment in the process, and thus cast out anything man generated or approved as flawed. There is likewise, no proof that the process did in fact produce a flawed theological standard, since God is certainly capable of working miraculously in the mind of men, especially in a group where the limitations of every individual are overcome by the spirit operating on many. Literally, we cannot be sure based on the evidence of process that the Biblical text is totally divine. Rather, we must simply be convinced in our individual hearts of Truth. Each person must make his own choice and stand in front of God alone, naked, having only this life and his obedience to the still small voice within as his defense and evidence. We are in essence judged by ourselves, but the standard is Godly perfection, and the effect is automatic and just.
Whatever process was used to divine the authenticity and proper inclusion of Scripture, it included man’s limited perspective and knowledge. We can only have faith in the process to the extent that we believe that God in some way was miraculously present to guide the minds, hearts, and deliberation for inclusion. The typical Christian doctrine includes the concept of “the inerrant word of God”. I choose to adopt the spirit of what I see as the totality of the patterns of behavior as my standard of life. I realize that I can morph and change emphasis depending on my preconceptions. The extremity of such theological manipulation has been done by the homosexual movement who claim that the sin of Sodom was “Inhospitality”. The same errors of spirit can be made by anyone who proof-texts the scripture, looking for a verse that validates their pre-concepts of truth. Errors have been made and will be made that have had great societal impact; we have caused ourselves much pain over the millennia, but such is the nature of a free-will universe that is more about process and relationship than about dogma and obedience. God is more concerned about love, and relationship, than instantaneous perfection. All things will be put in proper order in their good time. God has built in the feedback mechanisms that produce the signal to inspire and direct future societal change.
Speaking about your physics theory, do you know the work of Rupert Scheldrake, morphogenetic fields? His observations started in Biology but include inorganic material science, physics and chemistry. In lay language, he finds that when something in nature occurs for the first time, it is more likely to happen again that same way. Thus, the patterns and structure of nature follow lines of “habit” more than fixed law.
This is a concept that deserves its own essay, which will have to wait until another time. I finished my essay on morality last night. I will review it and send it out if I can find a hotspot on the vacation, or send it when I return.
I believe there will always be a process of interpretation of the meaning of scripture, even for those who try to take the meaning of the words in the most literal sense. That’s the way language works whether one believes the language is “inspired” or not. There is also the matter of objectivity. With all things, and especially those things bearing an emotional charge, we cannot be truly objective. Cannot be done. I think we gravitate toward those beliefs and systems that feel comfortable and that work for us. It can be comforting for some people to believe that God laid out laws regarding sexuality which if trespassed cause suffering.
This concept, the consideration of objectivity is the central question of every discussion of Truth. We are inherently biased when it comes to judging Right and Wrong. Nevertheless, if God exists, and if there is an objective reality, then the trespass of those Laws will necessarily produce a suboptimal effect. It is our job as humans to discover, uncover, and magnify truth when we find it. I believe there are laws governing sexuality. It is not that I find those laws comforting; rather, I find them as simply obstacles to my humanity which if observed will shape me and society. If I/society judge the True Law wrongly, then a poor outcome will necessarily result, and this will reflect the structure of God’s universe, not man’s opinion. Even so, given our limited perspective, we must be open to the spirit that guides and informs us of the Truth of the feedback signal. Those who choose blindness, or a personal agenda, or a belief structure over Truth will remain unconvinced of even a direct, true, and overt move of God in such object-lesson symbols. There is no possibility of “proof” that removes all doubt until God chooses to remove the veil. There is ultimately only faith inside the world of name and form the way that God chosen to create it. Biblical Scripture even attests to this fact in the verse, “Without faith it is impossible to please God.”
So, anyone who believes that he can demand absolute acceptance of ultimate truth based on scripture, a quote, a verse, disregards the foundation of the universe. This is why the form of government we have chose is so appropriate, since we can choose the symbols, truth, and mottos that reflect our current best-belief in truth. We are still each required to make an allegiance to something. Faith is required in every moment of life. Some arenas of life have such great cause-effect relationship that we disregard the concept of faith and assume objectivity (e.g. gravity), but in fact, we must learn each law by evidence or authority since nothing but faith, agreement, and law by obedience exists at the foundation of the universe. It is therefore wise to release as much of the human passion as possible to limit the clouding of our faith. The ultimate meditation is upon the Truth of God. It is Biblical Scripture which the Christian chooses as the object of meditation, as the focal point of prayer, asking that the Holiest of Spirits inform our mind and conscience of Truth, the essence of Godly application of a verse in its particular and universal sense.
Have a great weekend,
—– Original Message —–
To: Thomas Lee Abshier, ND
Sent: Friday, July 08, 2005 1:34 AM
Subject: Re: Continuing the Conversation
You are prolific indeed. I look forward to your essay on “morality” when you finish it. Your statement here is quite extensive. I have dropped in a few comments.
I wonder… when the church assembled the various texts into the Bible as we know it today, what process did they use to decide which bits to include and which bits to exclude? This took place several hundred years after the life of Christ.
—– Original Message —–
From: Thomas Lee Abshier, ND
Sent: Tuesday, July 05, 2005 9:55 PM
Subject: Re: Continuing the Conversation
Thanks for the elaboration on your perspective. I wrote you an essay on a tangentially related issue, “morality”, and haven’t finished it. I got caught fixing my boat, and writing my physics theory. Speaking about your physics theory, do you know the work of Rupert Sheldrake and morphogenetic fields? His observations started in Biology but include inorganic material science, physics and chemistry. In lay language, he finds that when something in nature occurs for the first time, it is more likely to happen again that same way. Thus, the patterns and structure of nature follow lines of “habit” more than fixed law. (Actually mainly fixing the boat… not much has happened but the boat since the time we started doing the boat. Actually it was the trailer that we finished, not so much the boat, although I did have to affix a new bow cap to it.) Anyway we finally got the boat into the water after a week of very strong work on it. We went out on 4th of July from about 6:15 to about 8:45 on the Columbia in our little 12-foot boat with a 6 horse motor. Underpowered for the Columbia, but we made it from Troutdale, Blue Lake/Chinook Landing area to the 205 bridge and back. 1 hr down and 1:40 back. That sounds like a fun adventure.
Anyway, regarding your comments about the moralistic nature of Christianity, and how moralistic I sound in my platform. I’d like to try to express something that few seem to understand about me and my perspective. Christianity cannot be expressed as a set of laws. Christianity has laws in it inherently because laws give a description of the general structure of how God built the universe. But, the law can never capture the full spirit of the God that made the universe; it will necessarily be truncated, a shadow, or a single slice projection. Yes, so far so good.
I’m sure you agree with me to this point. But, the place where I am almost sure we will disagree is that there are laws that confront our sexuality, which are given by God, which if we trespass, we will suffer. I believe there will always be a process of interpretation of the meaning of scripture, even for those who try to take the meaning of the words in the most literal sense. That’s the way language works whether one believes the language is “inspired” or not. There is also the matter of objectivity. With all things, and especially those things bearing an emotional charge, we cannot be truly objective. Cannot be done. I think we gravitate toward those beliefs and systems that feel comfortable and that work for us. It can be comforting for some people to believe that God laid out laws regarding sexuality which if trespassed cause suffering.
This particular area is a common dividing point between Christianity and humanism in all its forms. In particular, the common belief of the modern man is that things have changed, that we must be more modern. The moral rules regarding sexuality are considered by the “liberated modern man” to be a vestige of mythology handed down by a superstitious people.
The only question is whether the religion, scripture, way of God is True in this regard. If it is True, then its origin is irrelevant with regard to proving or disproving its validity. Note: I define Truth as, “that which God judges and has established as the way of spirit.”
In other words, I advocate adherence to spirit, but a law given by the spirit cannot be neglected. I have come to believe that within the full depth of metaphor, history, command, teaching, wisdom, and example presented in the Judeo-Christian Bible is the legal framework which describes the skeleton of limitation and action within which the spirit functions. That’s a nice statement. I say again that one cannot be truly objective, especially toward things that one cares most deeply about. You care about what is said by the “full depth of metaphor, history, command, teaching, wisdom, and example presented in the Judeo-Christian Bible.” I am pretty confident that others who care just as deeply could reach different conclusions from the same material.
It is with that perspective that I seek to “legislate morality”. So then, would you make it a crime to be a homosexual? If in fact, the Judeo-Christian Scripture is True (i.e. reflects the mind and Way of God), then as thinking/moral people we should use the Christian Scripture as the basis upon which we legislate behavior. The same would be true if the writings of Buddhism, the sayings of Mohammed, or the sutras of Patanjali were absolute Truth. Each religion believes that the sacred writings of that path are in fact true. Some religions believe that they are simply one of many paths to God, and while they believe their path is true, they believe their path is not exclusive. Christianity supports those who do not interfere with or oppose the Scripture, i.e. the good works and lawfulness that is the same as would be expected of a Christian. But, Jesus made it clear that His path was unique, there was no other path that was identical to the path that He was creating for the believer to follow. This exclusivity is one of the most difficult aspects of Christianity. But, I believe God has made sufficient provisions for every man’s soul, that each man receives justice. That’s surprisingly generous. I believe that within each of us is a standard that lives and guides our hearts. Some of us have blunted that voice with wrong teaching. Others have followed their own passions and the siren song of self and lost their way. I do not believe we will look at God and say, “You are unjust.” I believe we already know the truth inside on some level, and we know the places where we will be found lacking. In other words, I believe the standard of perfection already exists in our present state.
But again, I believe the domain around which most of our tension regarding our morality is around the issue of sexuality. But, the issue of power creates a similar level of tension.
In this regard, you bring up the issue of war as a tool for enforcing one’s will or morality upon other people. This is not a Christian concept. In the Old Testament, the Israelites were given the authority to wipe out the pagans completely (in fact they were commanded to do so), because the pagans would be yeast that would ferment and pollute the Children of Israel. But, the Israelites did not obey God, and instead intermarried, and they, in fact, were seduced into the worship of the pagan idols and gods. They suffered terribly because of their disobedience and unfaithfulness to the True God.
But, the command to exterminate the infidels is no longer a relevant command in modern times. Jesus came and fulfilled the law, which was your original question, regarding change. He gave a new law, to love your neighbor as yourself, and love the lord your God with all your heart mind and strength. Then He stated that this as not a new law, because He declared that the entirety of the Law and Prophets (the Old Testament) was included in this one phrase.
The question we have to ask when we talk about going to war is, what is the purpose of going to war? Are we doing it to subjugate a people, to put them under the domination of the American rule? Are we warring against a religion to exterminate them, or to put them under the domination of Christianity? If this is the case, then we are not acting as Christians, we are acting as imperialists. In such a case to criticize the actions of people who were so motivated, as though they were the actions of a Christian, is imprecise. Such people are pretending to be Christians; they are acting as though they have the authority of God behind their actions. In reality, they are simply cloaking their motives is spiritual arraignment, and engaging in the same passions that have driven men through the ages.
A war that protects family, property, and life is a just war. It is what we would do to love neighbor as self. I do not know the motivation of the Bush Administration in terms of their Christianity, or their knowledge, of WMD’s, the al Quaeda connection, or their intent to use the 9/11 as a pretext for an imperialistic authorization. I do know that they have claimed to have acted on good faith. I have decided to trust that they have. But, if in fact, they have misused the trust and good faith that America placed in them to instead further a worldwide Pax Americana, simply to satisfy the dogs of passion in the human breast to conquer and control, then they are no better than the Huns or Moguls. As I said, Christianity is not in the name, but in the spirit. Either one acts it out, in which case the behavior is perfect, or one follows the multiple temptations of the human heart and shrouds one’s passions in the appearance or name of Christianity.
I do not believe declaring the nation to be a Christian nation will be effective, nor will establishing a creed of Christian conduct that all must abide will produce the results of a national brotherhood or a true nation of peace and prosperity. But, a wonderful world will arise when the people choose of their own accord to be led by the spirit of perfection, the Spirit of Christ Jesus.
In a Christian nation, men debate over the legislation that they choose to impose upon themselves. Each man should speak truthfully as he is led by the spirit to speak about the morality and righteousness of the various legislative solutions. Again, the point of their debate is to craft legislation that reflects the mind of God, and it is my thesis that the Bible has within it all the patterns that reflect the structure of life as God Created it.
When the men who debate legislation are wise about the patterns of life and the prescribed pathways of righteousness as seen in scriptural metaphor, and when they also consider all the caveats of the humanists and doubters, that a most excellent breed of legislative regulation will arise.
Christianity is not a religion about Laws. Christianity is a religion about a relationship with the God of the Universe, with a God who incarnated and overcame death, with a spirit that connects back to that origin. It is a living religion. The Bible is not a book that captures all of God or restricts God’s largeness. Nevertheless, it provides a doorway, a keyhole, a passage, a metaphor to accurately introduce us in a tangible way to an intangible God.
If God created the universe, then God’s structure of the universe reflects His Mind and His Way. The desire of man to update morality to modern standards is appropriate if our laws are simply reflections of evolutionary standards generated by pressures associated with survival of the fittest, power, hierarchy, mating strategy, and class dominance. But, if scripture actually reflects God’s heart for relationship, life, and happiness then the laws in the Bible are best followed for optimizing the human experience.
I have no problem with Buddhism. It is a practical religion. I applaud anyone who strives to live peacefully and lovingly with his fellow man. I do not know the sexual ethics prescribed by Buddhism. I spent a stint in NSA (the Japanese Buddhism), but I would not call myself an expert in the finesse of that religion. I believe that the perfect religion must include an honoring of the actual spirit who created the universe, established its laws, and who was sufficiently invested in His creation to die in it, and powerful enough to break the bonds of death.
And of course, the difficult question is, “How one is to be sure or know which religion to follow?” Each person essentially follows the religion of his youth, which makes him damned if he did not find the true religion, and change prior to his death. That question drove me to search through 15-20 different religions. I had to find a religion that made sense and filled my heart. I was raised with Christianity, and did not understand why Jesus had to die for my sins. I ended at Christianity, and I simply accepted that the universe was built in such a way that this sacrifice was necessary in some important way. I’m not sure that the typical Christian answer to explain why Jesus died is strictly accurate, but suffice it to say, I can see enough of a glimmer of reason in the structure of the universe to say that I am willing to accept it as fact, necessary, and unique.
Well, there is a start at attempting to respond to your point of view.
Let me know what you’re thinking. Thanks for the conversation.
—– Original Message —–
To: Thomas Lee Abshier, ND
Sent: Tuesday, July 05, 2005 1:02 PM
Subject: Continuing the Conversation
It would be interesting if you could give a very short comment to each of the points in my last “treatise.” I am interested in your own thoughts.
I know what I said took off in a different direction than where we started. I had to go by “how it looks from here” because I don’t have the same education you do and cannot back up my statements with scriptural references.
So…… to back up to the beginning, where I visited your website and read your platform statement……. I have to say I felt a bit disturbed by what I read. Your platform struck me as being radically conservative, deeply fundamentalist. It struck me as representing the position of a radical minority, who because of the shifting winds of history, is now enjoying a rapid rise in political power.
In the progress or the journey of human affairs, it is wise to engage in continuous “course correction.” This is a natural part of life. We can see it in nature. Dynamic balance. When imbalances grow to a point, something changes and the system shifts to correct the imbalance. I believe this happens in society. Lao-Tzu wrote a famous series of observations on this point.
But it cannot work to say we must go back to an earlier time, we must get back the good ole days, we must follow the old code. Your platform struck me as being just as strained as a conservative Moslem platform. Both are attempting to revive and protect a pure way of life by applying a formula from the past. We cannot go back. We must go forward and correct our course as needed in a way that is appropriate for all concerned.
I think guidelines are a good thing. And I also think common sense is a good thing. Those who most lack common sense need the guidelines. I don’t like the sticky vibration I feel around the concept of “morality.” As I understand it, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam preach morality, where if you do good you will be rewarded and if you do bad you will be punished, and the difference between good and bad is not always clear. But one must toe the line or there will be hell to pay. There is a heavy vibration of judgment in this. The archetypal image of God the father with his white beard sitting on his golden throne in the sky fits into this.
As I understand it, Buddhism doesn’t shake its finger at you. There are plenty of guidelines in Buddhism. And I suppose if you look closely, Buddhism does many of the same things that all the other religions do but in its own way. However, there is one important distinction. Unlike the followers of the “moralistic” religions, Buddhists do not engage in slaughter of their fellow human beings.
I believe the reason for this is that Buddhists clearly recognize the tendencies of the human mind. Their contribution is very valuable in this regard. Only a misguided human mind would intentionally inflict suffering and death on others.
People behave according to their image and concept of how their God behaves. I feel it would be both powerful and helpful if this was recognized in today’s world.