March 23, 2011 § 35 Comments
In this Blog’s prior Post, “Responding to God’s Goodness”, certain attitudes and perspectives and duties, obligations, and responsibilities for us were identified based upon that attribute of His. The same approach will be applied in the present Post concerning God’s Grace. Doing so reveals much overlap regarding what this attribute requires of us if we are to fulfill our purpose in life to know Him. These include unconditional giving and being of service to others. However, additional requirements follow as well.
Perhaps the most important thing to be said regarding any of God’s Attributes is that His Grace, if rightly responded to, evokes from us profound gratitude. As previously discussed in the prior Post, “God’s Goodness, Grace, & Mercy”, God derived no benefit from Creation. As All-Perfect, Simple, Singular, and Unlimited Being, He lacks and, therefore, desires nothing. Thus, God’s Creative Power and Act serves to benefit us solely. His selfless and unconditional gift, likewise, bounds us to give and be of service to others (see, “Responding to God’s Goodness”). But even more fundamentally, the gift garners our sincerest thanks and shapes our attitude and perspective towards God and, as a result, the world in general. In this sense, understanding His Grace paves the way for our further grasping of all of His other Attributes and our obligations that follow from them. In fact, it is because we have come to terms with God’s Grace that we seek fulfillment of our purpose in life to know Him to begin with. It is the foundation and starting point of our spiritual quest to sow and develop a loving relationship with our Creator. If unable to understand the meaning of God’s Grace and follow through on the responsibilities which it entails, we will inevitably fail to recognize our purpose in life. Or in the case that we coincidentally assent to belief in that purpose but don’t grasp the context of His Grace from which it originates, we will be unable to respond authentically or effectively towards it. In this case, regretfully, the importance of properly responding will be missed.
To not realize and, thus, fail to fulfill our purpose in life to know God is obviously unfortunate; for this results in the wasting of our lives. Regardless of our material accomplishments, if these are not pursued and realized as a furthering of our relationship with Him, they prove meaningless as not having been carried out in accordance with our purpose. To those also unfamiliar with their purpose, a materially accomplished life may seen enviable, fulfilling, and successful. But to accomplish lesser material things in absence of doing so within the context of our fundamental purpose in life amounts to nothing more than a missed opportunity distractingly clothed in meaning.
As to authentically responding to our purpose in life to know God, for those who recognize it, the most meaningful thing that can be said is the sense of urgency it entails. While those are unfortunate who do not understand their purpose, perhaps even more tragic are those who have identified it but, inexplicably, either don’t respond at all or do so only half-heartedly. Among these are also those who, feeling that time is on their side, profess to plan on responding at some time in the future.
To incorporate a material analogy for this spiritual malady, consider the naturally athletically gifted potential baseball superstar who, does not give his craft the respect it deserves. He is lazy, seldom practicing to refine his talent. When he finally musters the will and energy to do so, he acts begrudgingly and without maximum effort. He is aware of his potential, for others are outwardly envious of his skill. Perhaps he reads the newspaper articles which tout him as the second coming of Mickey Mantle; maybe he overhears his teammates’ and fans’ praise. But his response to his opportunity is lethargic. So far, he has excelled based on his natural ability alone; and he is only 23 years old. Baseball players, he rationalizes, sometimes play into their 40s; and their “prime” is commonly not reached until their late 20s or early 30s. Further, he has other interests aside from baseball; partying with women and friends, fast cars, and travel in the off-season to exotic locales. Thus, there is no sense of urgency to his calling as a potential perennial All-Star.
Eventually, the ball player’s lack of respect for his skill and the game in general catch up with him and becomes apparent to others. Regretfully, his potential is never realized. He is despised as ungrateful, arrogant, and lazy. He is characterized as “wasted talent”. Some adopt a more forgiving perspective and describe his case as “unfortunate”. They point out that talent such as his, coupled with his fans’ and the media’s adoration early in his career, exposed him to the dangers of an inflated sense of importance and feeling he has already accomplished enough. Regardless of the perspective from which his disparaging originates, the ball player’s case is truly unfortunate; more so than the career minor leaguer who loved, respected, and revered the game but was never quite good enough to break into the Big Leagues, let alone attain superstardom.
What can be gathered from the above analogy and how does it relate to our more important spiritual subject matter? Our example’s failure to fulfill his purpose as a ball-player is attributable to his lack of gratitude for the opportunity with which he was presented. This manifested a sense of entitlement which prevented him from acting to take the necessary steps to fully realize his potential and fulfill his purpose.
A lack of gratitude, even in the case that we understand that we exist to know God, results in our inability to do so. It prevents that which is required; an authentic and urgent response. Thus, we see the importance of fully understanding God’s Grace. To fail to is erroneous in itself, which is unfortunate, but what this failure leads to is even more so; an inability to respond to God’s gift which, in turn, culminates in our failure to fulfill our purpose in life. With this defective attitude and perspective, the foundation and primacy of God’s Grace to our ability to effectively know Him is absent. While we may coincidentally grasp other of God’s Attributes, such as Goodness (again, see “Responding to God’s Goodness”), and therefore are equipped with the necessary guidance for right day-to-day thought and action, Grace inspires us to seek to do so at all. As a backdrop, it shapes our attitudes and perspectives towards thought and action thereby ensuring that these are carried out authentically. Short of coming to terms with God’s Grace, we cannot fully identify our purpose in life or effectively follow through on the quality of the response which it requires. Absent this understanding, we cannot start on our path to fulfillment of our purpose; and once started, without it we are unable to continue successfully.
More regarding God’s Grace can be drawn from our above analogy of the ungrateful, underachieving, and unfulfilled ball player. He is insulting to all those whom he relates relative to his purpose; all of his teammates, other less, equal, and more skilled players, his fans, and most importantly, the game itself. The last of these insults, as spiritual analogy, is akin to a slap in the face of God. But for God’s gift of Creation, we would not exist, have a purpose in life to know Him, or have the ability to fulfill that purpose. Thus is accentuated the urgency of our response to God’s gift. Not doing so immediately and with a quality that incorporates all of our heart, mind, and soul, is an insult to Him. Thoughts had and actions carried out knowingly incompatible with our purpose in life represent ingratitude which, if we don’t admit, at least exhibit. Each wandering thought, a lack of thanks; every shortcoming of action, an ungrateful gesture; given the gift, on it we spit. Would we not seek to respond appropriately to a person who holds open for us a door by expressing thanks as we quickly walk inside? To act otherwise would imply disrespect and solicit the ire of those present. Yet what triviality is this compared to our purpose in life. God exists. He Created to be known. Our purpose in life is to know Him. He stands at the door which He has opened. What is our response? Through it with gratitude will we we hurry? Or shall we turn a blind eye and assume a cold shoulder while instead seeking another door at which to knock?
I sincerely hope that my tone in this Post hasn’t taken on an heir of condescension or spiritual arrogance and grandiosity. This was not my intent. Let it be known then that while written for all to consider, it was directed at none other than myself. For 35 years I existed as the unfortunate example who did not know his life’s purpose to know God. While now I know, I presently live as the even more tragic one who does not always respond as authentically to my purpose as I should. As for the baseball analogy, while grateful for the talent required to have played a long time and at a relatively high level, I did not have the potential to be a superstar (couldn’t hit the slider).
In the next Post, God’s Mercy will be addressed. As we will see, it aligns more with His Attribute of Goodness with respect to its spawning of our duties, obligations, and responsibilities of day-to-day life versus the present Post’s handling of Grace that, as was hopefully demonstrated, evokes from us more of an attitude of thanks and perspective of gratitude which, in turn, acts as the basic foundation for our spiritual quest.
March 20, 2011 § Leave a comment
In this Blog’s prior Post, “Social Justice, Not a Bleeding Heart”, a shift of perspective was suggested with respect to our relationships with others. This entailed our obligation to be of service to those less materially fortunate in an effort to assist them with fulfillment of our common purpose in life – to know God. The Post focused on our attitude towards things of this world and called on both the well-to-do and lacking to re-evaluate what is essential to realizing our lives’ purpose. This new perspective and attitude proposes a new foundation from which questions of social justice can be addressed.
In the present Post, additional principles will be discussed which follow from God’s Attribute of Goodness. In future Posts, His Attributes of Grace and Mercy will likewise be considered. These attributes were identified in a prior Post, “God’s Goodness, Grace, and Mercy”. Some of these further principles deal with our obligations to others while some relate to more general things of which to be mindful in day-to-day life as we attempt to align our thoughts and actions with God’s Will. In either case, both allow us to further our purpose in life to know God.
As was mentioned in the latter above mentioned previous Post, the greater problem of evil surfaces when addressing God’s Goodness. Here again, this issue will not be fully dealt with and no theodicy will be advanced. Evil will be given its due in time. What will be said is that the world, as a manifestation of God’s Creative Power and image of His Attributes including Goodness, is likewise, inherently good. What then follows from God’s Goodness with respect to our relationship with Him and the world? One answer lies in our attitudes towards perceived hardship and suffering as well as faith and trust in God. Additionally, our perspectives can be shaped concerning giving and being of service to others, life’s sanctity, animal rights, and environmental responsibility.
Beginning with hardship and suffering, we are capable of changing our attitude towards them upon assenting to belief in the inherent goodness of the world. If, as they say, “all is good”, what room exists for these? Admittedly, the question seems naive and idealistic. For there at least appears to be countless instances of hardship and suffering; some profound and horrific. But credibility can be lent to this perspective when harkening back to the prior Post “Love – Material, Immaterial, & Divine”. Therein, it was recognized that the proper perspective to adopt when relating to circumstances in the world is to shed self-centeredness and selfishness. This entailed shifting our view of things away from how they affect, benefit, or relate to us, and instead focusing on how they should be perceived with an eye towards fulfilling our purpose in life to know God. Extending this viewpoint to what may be thought of as hardship or suffering then casts the circumstance in a whole new light. In this case, the situation doesn’t affect us but, rather, our relationship with God. When removing ourself as subject from the circumstance and, instead, replacing it with our relationship with God, the previously perceived hardship and suffering at least dims, if not altogether subsides. For there can exist no hardship and suffering in God’s relations; only goodness as has been previously demonstrated.
How then to characterize seemingly troubling circumstances? While in some cases easier to conceive of than experience, what these circumstances represent, actually, are opportunities; opportunities to further our relationship with God through the sowing of Immaterial Love. For that, is our purpose in life; our reason for being; our modus operandi as part of Creation’s humanity. If it seems extreme and unreasonable to believe that hardship and suffering doesn’t objectively exist, a middle ground can be had. Even if we assent to the subjective reality of troubling situations, it has to be admitted at least that these don’t affect the most important thing in our lives – knowing God. If we are burdened by hardship and suffering, these only relate to our self-centered and selfish individual self and not that for which we, as Self, were created. Material troubles may abound, but there exists none as insurmountable obstacle to fulfillment of our purpose in life to know God after at least our basic needs are met; and these, as were also discussed in “Social Justice, Not a Bleeding Heart”, prove to be few.
Another attitude capable of being shaped by God’s Goodness is our faith and trust in Him. This follows as a corollary and is closely related to our new-found perspective regarding perceived hardship and suffering as discussed above. Knowing that our perceived troubles can only exist subjectively with respect to us as self-centered and selfish individuals, coupled with the inherent goodness of the world, allows for having complete faith and trust in God. Although our individuality may be adversely affected by troubling circumstances, our relationship with Him, if we choose to pursue and develop it, remains steadfast. God’s Goodness serves as part of the foundation of His relationship with us which, as an attribute of His Infinite and Immutable Being, cannot be altered, compromised, or changed in any way. Therefore, whatever might confront us in the world, if responded to in accordance with God’s Will, serves only as an opportunity to better our relationship with Him. Knowing this, we can live confidently both materially and spiritually regardless of the circumstance in which we find ourselves.
In God’s Goodness we also find an obligation to act givingly and be of service to others. But for His Creative Power and Act, God’s Goodness would not be known. In this sense, His Gift of Creation represents the epitome of His Goodness. Thus, most fundamentally, goodness results in giving in emulation and imitation of God as Creator. To give is to manifest goodness, like God. There exists none in receiving in itself but for the response which the gift evokes. If received and responded to in accordance with God’s Will, further goodness rightly results. But the goodness sown is an effect of the response, not having received the gift.
Not all giving, it should be noted, is the same. Like all else in the world, it is qualitatively good by degree of its participation in God’s Attributes. To effectively give and infuse further goodness in the world requires right intent. The intent, paradoxically, is intention-less; unconditional. As God’s gift of Creation served to accrue no benefit to Himself as a Perfect and Unlimited Being lacking and, therefore, desiring nothing, so too must any gift that we bestow in turn. To give with conditions misses the point. In doing so, our perspective proves skewed; rooted in self-centeredness and selfishness instead of being focused on furthering our relationship with God. Its not merely about giving but, rather, selfless giving.
The idea that life is sacred serves as the context in which countless social and political battles are waged. Abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment, and war are but some of the examples. Recalling our purpose in life to know God, a precondition for its fulfillment is life itself. Where there is life, at least of the rational variety, exists the potential for the knowing of God. Thus, except in extreme and rare cases, how can the taking of a life be justified? Perhaps yet another future Post will address the specific circumstances in which the taking of a life is permitted. Generally speaking, suffice it to say for now that the above mentioned examples are all contrary to God’s Will. His sole purpose in having Created was to be known and preventing one’s ability to do so after the opportunity has been granted through life, cannot be justified.
Although not as hot of a topic as abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment, and war, animal rights also follows from God’s Goodness. Here a different type of life is concerned; but life nonetheless. Lacking reason and thus possessing a qualitatively inferior soul to that of humans, animals do not have the ability to know God. Their purpose in life is not the same as ours. Like all else in the world, animals are good to the degree in which they participate in His Attributes. While not “as good” as man, they still partake in goodness nonetheless. At the most basic level, their existence as animate beings is good enough. For life itself is awe-inspiring and remarkable regardless of its qualitative character. Endowed with an animated life force, animals occupy second place to humanity in Creation’s physical chain of being (read: physical as not inclusive of immaterial angels or other spiritual beings). That there exists anything at all other than the inanimate is profound in itself. What exactly is life?; the ability to ambulate, sense, desire, and reproduce? Life as a quality in general thus need be revered, respected, and protected. Like its human counterpart, although more exceptions exist, animal life should only be taken in certain rare cases.
Consideration for animal life provides for a convenient segue to that of plants and the environment in general. With the former, we still find ourselves in the realm of life, albeit still of a different kind. Just as human life represents goodness to a qualitatively higher degree than animal life, so too does the latter with respect to plant life. We need not belabor the point regarding the sanctity of life. Although the being possessing it may not have the ability to know God, as in the case of animals, or ambulate, sense, or desire, in the case of plants, the animate force and quality of life itself still warrants reverence, respect, and protection. Life – wonderful; life – mysterious; life – magnificent. Life!
The animate and living beings of Creation undoubtedly takes precedence over the inanimate and non-living. But even the latter is to be revered, respected, and protected in its own right. For it too, like all of Creation, is still God’s Handiwork. To speak nothing of the wonders of air, fire, and water, even a lowly rock can still be considered miraculous. For it was created by God; and created ex-nihilo out of nothing at that. Any aspect of Creation, regardless of how limited in its participation of God’s Attributes, still takes part. This by itself is awe-inspiring. At once, nothing; but through God’s Creative Power and Act, then at once something; existence; being. Its all remarkable and inexplicable. That it was created because God chose to do so is enough. All of physical Creation, from the apex of humanity down through the soil under our feet, is deserving in its inherent right to exist and flourish in accordance with God’s will, whatever that may entail.
Thus, environmental protection follows from God’s Goodness. If we are to respond appropriately to Creation as a whole, reverence and respect must be paid to the environment. Again, this may seem idealistic as in the above example of a rock, but a middle ground here too presents itself. If humanity as a whole cannot value the inanimate or the animate of plant and animal life, surely we can find common ground with agreeing on the value of human life in general; even in absence of agreeing on larger issues such as abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment, and war. From at least this most basic standpoint, although it short-changes the rest of Creation, it has to be admitted that animal, plant, and greater environmental protection need occur if humanity is to thrive and healthfully meet its basic material needs.
Much has been derived from God’s Goodness; attitudes towards hardship and suffering and faith and trust in God; and perspectives concerning giving and being of service to others, life’s sanctity, animal rights, and environmental protection. With the obligations that follow relative to these, much progress can be made towards fulfilling our purpose in life to know God; and all of this ground was covered concerning merely one of His Attributes. God’s Goodness has proven to be fruitful grounds for assisting with determining right thought and action towards many of life’s most pressing and contested issues. With this, I’m encouraged by the effectiveness and pragmatism of the Qualitative Theory of Truth (see that prior Page). It wasn’t long ago that I struggled mightily with making sense of these issues and trying to determine on which side I should stand. However, now armed with fundamental knowledge of God’s Existence, His Reason for Creation, and my purpose in life to know Him, I am not only able to take a side but to do so confidently based on a foundation of objective truth rather than subjective custom, convention, or societal norm.
In the next Post, God’s Attribute of Grace will be addressed. It wont be nearly as voluminous as the present Post dealing with God’s Goodness but will nonetheless add to our guide for furthering our purpose in life to know God through right thought and action in accordance with His Will.
March 16, 2011 § 1 Comment
In this Blog’s prior Post, “God’s Will is Love”, the idea that God is Love was considered. Although at one time I struggled with the concept, I have now turned the corner and assent to this view. From the idea that God is Love springs not merely one type of Love but, rather, three. These are Material Love, Immaterial Love, and Divine Love which combine to represent a chronological and qualitative hierarchy accessible to me in pursuing fulfillment of my purpose in life – to know God (see the prior Page, “The Qualitative Meaning of Life”).
A loving relationship is created with an object, either material or immaterial, when we percieve and experience its goodness as an image of God, its Creator. Understanding the difference between the first two types of Love – Material and Immaterial – can best be obtained through their contrasting. The former manifests itself when we become attached to something – normally other people, places, or things. Immaterial Love, on the other hand, exists when we seek to fulfill our purpose in life to know God through developing a manner of living in accordance with His Will. As its name suggests, Material Love is directed toward physical and tangible things in the world. By contrast, Immaterial Love manifests itself when God’s Attributes are emulated and imitated when acting in accordance with His Will. Material Love’s domain is the worldly; Immaterial Love’s is the spiritual. As examples, the former is experienced by Love of family; the latter, to use this example, by Loving God through through Love of family.
Material Love is sown and had by all. Regardless of our spiritual disposition, or lack thereof, everyone has certain loves of people, places, and things. Although not always to be considered in a negative sense, this type of Love is self-centered and selfish in that it is defined by how the objects of our Love relate to, impact, and benefit us individually. Immaterial Love, on the other hand, is characterized by the shedding of self-centeredness and selfishness and adopting a perspective of how we are to properly relate to other people, places, and things consistent with God’s Will. The difference is one of perspective and intent and is denoted by Immaterial Love’s focus first and foremost to Love God which, as a byproduct, rightly results in our Loving things of the world as well.
Material Love is emotional, irrational, and rooted in feeling. It represents a sense of attachment to the object and is subjective. Happiness and pleasure are its result. It is spontaneously acted upon by the subject and is effortless. Material Love spawns gratitude and appreciation through a personal relationship with a familiar object. It is enjoyed through experience and fosters bonding with the object. A desire to retain the object possessed results and is intimate, passive, instinctual, and involuntary. Material Love’s objects are valued as ends in themselves. The object’s loss, which is sometimes entirely out of our control, causes pain and longing for.
On the other hand, Immaterial Love is logical and rooted in reason although sometimes faith. It is intellectual and detached from the object; a striving for; actualizing an end; fulfilling a purpose; realizing a goal. Immaterial Love is objective and manifests duty and responsibility. It is deliberate and mechanical towards the object and requires effort and discipline. Immaterial Love’s object spawns awe, respect, and wonder and is impersonal in that there is no relationship or familiarity. It is contemplated as an ideal and creates a separateness from the object desired but not yet possessed. Immaterial Love is casual, requires an act of the will, and is voluntary. The object, which cannot be lost but for our own choice to misplace it, is emulated and imitated as a means to its end. Failure to realize the object thus does not cause pain and longing for but, rather, may result in feelings of incompleteness, alienation, a lack of purpose, guilt, and remorse when action is taken contrary to God’s Will (see the prior Post, “Cosmic Otherness and Divine Irony”).
We graduate from a life of Material Love to that of Immaterial Love when realizing that the things of this world are not of utmost importance to our fulfilling the purpose of our lives. But ironically, when knowledge of this is had and our Material Loves are properly placed in the context of Immaterial Love, we are also able to garner more satisfaction from our lives through the objects of our Loves. This also allows for a more genuine and authentic interaction with the objects themselves which also benefit. Take for example, our love of family. Once pursued purely materially based on the perspective of how it relates to, impacts, and benefits us, our Love for it takes on deeper significance and meaning in light of the obligation we have to act based on the requirements of Immaterial Love. Against this backdrop, not only are we able to better fulfill our individual purpose in life but also create a more profound relationship with the beloved.
Just as we can progress from Material Love to Immaterial Love, so too is it possible to ascend to Divine Love. However, this requires nothing short of the spectacular as a result of a rare direct spiritual or mystical experience with God. Such experience is typically pure gift although some sages may infrequently, through rigorous and disciplined prayer, meditation, and contemplation, facilitate direct contact with God. In these states, His Essence is disclosed either fully or in part. What results is typically paradoxically described as ineffable noetic Oneness with the Divine. Those who are fortunate to have experienced these states consistently describe overwhelming feelings of Love which transform their perceptions of reality, themselves, and God. The take-away from these experiences is oftentimes a total transformation of a person’s worldview, way of life, and how they subsequently interact with others and the world. Upon the blessing of Divine Love, the barrier between Material and Immaterial Love subsides and it becomes possible to sow and develop Love for all things, either physical or spiritual, to the same qualitative extent. The oftentimes forced feeling or duty, obligation, and responsibility associated with Immaterial Love gives way to effortlessly Loving all things equally and unconditionally.
At this stage, we reach the apex of fulfillment of our purpose in life by truly knowing God. He is then loved to an even greater degree than material relationships which at one time represented the most profound quality of Love knowable. This newfound Love of God supercedes our prior material relationships but paradoxically also allows for our Loving of all things, either physical or spiritual, to the highest degree. Thus, both Material and Immaterial Love is inherent in Divine Love. But upon the blessing of Divine Love, our Immaterial Love changes from a feeling of forced duty, obligation, and responsibility to an effortless second nature. One who experiences Divine Love cannot conceivably act unlovingly in either a material or spiritual sense or in contradiction to God’s Will. However, in absence of a spiritual or mystical experience directly with God, our seeking to know Him remains characterized as Immaterial Love.
The leap from Material to Immaterial Love is a big one. I do not yet find it possible to have the same type of loving relationship with God as I do the material world, let alone a qualitatively superior relationship. It is difficult to ascribe the same level of gratitude and appreciation for God as I have for my material relationships. For example, the Love I feel for family is profound. I cannot fathom to live without them and would without second thought trade my life to spare their’s. The Love that I feel for God cannot, by contrast, properly be described as Love at all. It feels arbitrary, mechanical, and indifferent. Yet it should be that my Love for God runs deeper than it does for my material relationships. To Him I owe my very existence and acknowledge as the source and cause of all subsequent Loving material relationships themselves. Yet how can something be truly Loved which is not known, experienced, and enjoyed personally? In this sense, my Love for God ranks with the unfamiliar things of the material – unknown people, things, and foreign places.
Perhaps this is due to my familiarity with material relationships and my relative unfamiliarity with God. I have become attached to material relationships my entire life whereas I am just now beginning to contemplate and become familiar with God. So the journey continues.
March 13, 2011 § Leave a comment
In this Blog’s prior Post, “God’s Goodness, Grace, and Mercy”, knowledge of these Attributes were established. Now arises the question of what response is compelled from me in light of these attributes? What does developing a manner of life consistent with these qualities look like? And how specifically am I to understand myself and relate to others and the world?
Solely responsible for Creation and its Sustenance, God is the Master of our domain. Both physical and spiritual realms cease to be in absence of His Will. All that exists technically belongs to God. Though I am capable of making free choices and securing for myself a myriad of things in the world, I cannot ever rightfully call anything my own. Nothing that I procure or enjoy is properly mine. All that I possess is God’s – health, mental capacity, property, money, possessions, good fortune, etc. That I may be blessed with and enjoy these things does not equate their full assignment to me. They still remain His. I don’t possess these things but, rather, only establish a relationship of stewardship with them. As steward of God’s gifts, my obligation is to responsibly utilize that with which I am blessed consistent with His Will. There exists nothing that escapes this relation of stewardship – not even my own body and soul. My total being and very existence, like all else, belongs to God.
If my life itself cannot be considered to belong to me, what of my amassing of and utilizing property, money, and possessions? What exclusive right do I have to these things? How can they be considered my own? What follows from this perspective is a duty of social justice on both an individual and societal level. Thus, I am expected to utilize what I have for the good of others and society as a whole. At a minimum, I have an obligation to utilize my blessings as a means to fulfill the purpose of God’s Creation – to know Him – and also allow for others to accomplish this as well. My responsibility to God and the less fortunate is to seek to remove any hardship or suffering that may impede others from fulfilling their lives’ purpose. Thankfully, knowing God is not a materially extravagant proposition. Conditions for doing so merely involve providing others with the material basics of food, water, shelter, healthcare, and education. Ironically, a persuasive argument can be made that the opportunity to know God is better realized in a state of relative poverty rather than material comfort. But this should not be used to skirt my responsibility. A basic duty still exists for allowing others to enjoy a basic and reasonable level of subsistence free of any hardship, suffering, or obstacle which would otherwise prove too difficult for them to know God.
This begs the question of how and to what extent material things should be divided and distributed among us in an effort to ensure that all are able to fulfill their purpose in life. Similarly, what framework should exist, if any, within which a person can obtain and retain possessions of their own? These questions are the realm of political philosophy, politics, and social legislation and are well outside the intended scope of this Blog. But public policy by itself wont help. What is needed first is a new-found shared perspective from which to consider the questions. This perspective needs to delve to the most fundamental level of what is our purpose in life. Agreeing that it is to know God, in turn, we can then reason from that shared perspective to hammer out the details of how to accomplish the goal. From that perspective, the specifics would likely fall in line relatively effortlessly compared to the knock down drag out handling of the issue prevalent today. I admit that this starting point is rather idealistic and unfortunately not likely to be shared by all. But it is what’s required.
A foundation at the most basic level need be determined regarding what our material well being actually requires in order to fulfill our purpose in life. No one should be denied this opportunity but for their own freedom to choose otherwise. In principle, if our new-found shared perspective is kept in mind, this should not be a daunting endeavor. As the spiritual greats of the past and present have shown us, cultivating a meaningful and loving spiritual relationship with God is more often than not sown and developed in the midst of material simplicity. This state is one of disciplined moderation which shuns excess.
Is our obligation to provide everyone with such a reasonable existence too much to ask? For those whose needs are abundantly met, the question arises as to how much is enough to pursue and fulfill their live’s purpose? Are their life’s extravagances even beneficial in pursuit of the ultimate spiritual end? Shouldn’t we give back to those less fortunate to at least the extent that they are able to meet a basic level of subsistence to pursue their end as well? To this it might be argued, what of the more fortunate’s hard work and that of their families, ancestors, and nations? Why should others who maybe have not worked as hard benefit from the fruits of the well-to-do’s labor? Unfortunately, this all to common mindset is rooted in self-centeredness and selfishness. It assumes that the hard work employed is of no value if the blessings it obtains are not utilized and enjoyed by those who procured them. On the contrary, shouldn’t this be considered a gift to the accomplished in that they have an opportunity to in turn provide for others in order that they too may life meaningful lives? More to the point, is it not the well off’s actual duty to provide for others? As God provides for them, so shall they in turn provide for others. Is His example not most fundamental and profound enough? But for God, we wouldn’t exist to even contemplate the question.
And for those less materially fortunate, need they aspire to acquire the things which others posess as the object of their envy? For what use and to what purpose do they serve? Can’t they see that very little is needed to fulfill their purpose in life? What things do they actually require to know God? In today’s welfare state, should they even be trusted with the gift from others to wisely utilize that which has been given? Might they already have enough, albeit utilized frivolously, and should instead the gift be given elsewhere? How tasty need be the food they eat? How cold the water? How comfortable the shelter? How convenient and stylish the transportation? How entertained must they be?
Despite the differences of material circumstances and lives, these questions echo the same for the more and less fortunate alike. Is much at all really even necessary? To the miserly and prodigal alike, what do you really need?
March 9, 2011 § Leave a comment
In this Blog’s prior Page, “The Qualitative Purpose of Life”, God’s Qualitative Attribute of Perfection was pondered. Reasoning further regarding God’s Perfection and the contingency and non-necessity of Creation, we are also able to deduce God’s additional Attributes of Goodness, Grace, and Mercy. As it will be shown, these closely relate to one another and at least some overlap is apparent. However, each of these attributes can be discerned and contemplated individually.
Arguments are made that the world is wrought with evil and, therefore, God’s Goodness cannot be supposed. The larger problem of evil and whether He can be assumed to be All-Good, is not the issue of my focus here. Perhaps an argument opposing evil or a theodicy will be dealt with in another future Post. Suffice it to say for now that I do believe in the theistic conception of God as All-Good and inherently free of any evil capability.
Admittedly, what is commonly referred to as evil does exists in the world – hardship, suffering, and injustice, for example. What only need be mentioned presently is that there undoubtedly exists at least some good in the world. For example, consider Love and the presence of its values of acceptance, compassion, forgiveness, and understanding. These require an accounting for of the source of their goodness. For every effect has a cause; every end a means. As for Creation, but for God’s Goodness as origination of all else, no goodness at all in the world would exist. To differing degrees, all things are representative of Him as their Creator; all multiplicity is an image to some extent of God’s Being. While ultimately falling short of His Absolute Perfection, they are nonetheless at least good in and through their participation in God. Compared to God, Creation is imperfect. However, in that He Created all things, the individual aspects comprising Creation are still perfect in a sense.
Regarding God’s Grace, His Creation accounts for my and the world’s existence. Undoubtedly, existence is to be preferred to non-existence. As has been mentioned previously, Creation is unnecessary in the sense that it provides God with no benefit. It is pure gift, manifested givingly, selflessly, and unconditionally by Him.
With respect to God’s Mercy, it has already been mentioned that compared to Him, Creation is imperfect. While perfect in the sense that they are Created by God, as contingent and unnecessary multiplicity, all things lack God’s Absolute Perfection. Every aspect of Creation is subject to change, sometimes for the better as in the case of the laws of nature; sometimes for the worse as in the case of the misuse free will. Regarding the latter, I can elevate the quality of my life by choosing to align my will with that of God’s. On the other hand, I can descend to live a life in disregard of His Will in favor of my own. The choice is mine but regardless of that which I choose, I will for the time being at least continue to exist nonetheless. Like most, I generally consider myself to be a “good person” but I have been and in the future will be guilty of misusing my free will and making the wrong choice despite knowledge of the right one. I have and will sin; fall short; wander from the straight path. My rampant shortcomings represent an impassable gulf created between God’s Perfection and my imperfection. That He Sustains my existence nonetheless is almost inexplicable; yet God does.
The Mercy shown by God through this reality is further reinforced when it is realized that because of His Sustenance of my existence, I now have the opportunity to right my wrongs and begin living in accordance with God’s Will. Despite my shortcomings of the past and those likely in the future, His Mercy allows for my chance to attain a meaningful existence consistent with life’s purpose. Thus, I’m indebted to God not merely for His Gracious Creation and Merciful Sustenance of the world in general and my life in specific, but also for the second chance that God provides on a moment to moment basis, for which I am utterly unworthy and undeserving.
In my next Post, “Social Justice, Not a Bleeding Heart”, I will address the response required from me in light of God’s Goodness, Grace, and Mercy. Its a good start to identify His attributes such as these. But doing so in absence of my thinking and acting consistently with the duties which consequently follow from them amounts to impractical and useless knowledge for knowledge’s sake.
March 6, 2011 § Leave a comment
My new-found spirituality and identity as a Christian has thus far been bittersweet. I’m grateful for my faith and the understanding which it is beginning to allow. I’m excited and encouraged by the questions that it is beginning to answer and practical blueprint for living life which it is providing . Consequently, and most importantly perhaps, it has also blessed me with hope for the future. Having previously attempted to answer all of life’s “big questions” through reason alone, my head was aspin with abstract philosophical questions of metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics. My desire to understand was synonymous with a child’s game of Whack-a-Mole at the local Chucky Cheese’s. Questions would pop up and rarely be sufficiently answered, only to be replaced by yet further questions. Just when it would seem that some progress was made, a dizzying host of other questions would surface, the answers to which would seldom seem satisfactory and oftentimes conflict with others at which I had so confidently arrived in the past. And most disappointing, my approach rarely yielded any useful guidance for developing a manner of living consistent with my purpose in life.
But despite the frustration and confusion it would sometimes cause, my reason persevered long enough to finally see the truth of the Christian God and Christ as Savior. I wish that I was able to report that with my new sense of faith and understanding I have answered all of my questions and attained peace of mind. However, this has certainly not been the case. Again, I should stress that my faith has provided me with new understanding and provided me with hope. Posessing it now, I wouldn’t trade it for anything and look forward to building upon the progress that I have made. But the process has been painful to say the least, even at this early stage of acceptance and belief, at a time when many new faithful relate feelings of bliss and fulfillment with their new perceptions of reality and way of life.
The most significant hurdle that I’m trying to overcome presently is the profound and almost humiliating difference that exists between my view of myself and God and Christ. God is Absolute Unlimited Perfection. He lacks nothing. Christ, as fully human yet fully divine, perfectly exemplifies God-like thought and action in the world. How far from emulating and imitating God and Christ am I! The recognition that I am self-centered and ruled by desire and passion in pursuit of inconsequential material wordly things is a good start to furthering my spirituality and relationship with God and Christ. But its uncomfortable at the same time in that I sense on sometimes a moment to moment basis I am not as disciplined as I need to be to fulfill my life’s purpose. Its utterly disparaging, to say the least. This realization and its resultant discomfort isn’t solely mental unfortunately and sometimes takes on actual physical symptoms – anxiousness and an upset stomach.
Its difficult to express, but the feeling is most accurately and succinctly summed up as a “Cosmic Otherness”. I have feelings of anxiety as a result of my past, present, and no doubt future shortcomings and how these might relate to my Salvation. My ongoing preoccupation with the worldly and material and the desires and passions it elicits is most of the time to influential to overcome. I experience despair on account of not yet having had, nor likely to ever have for that matter, a Moses-like “burning bush” experience. This, in turn, causes feelings of incompleteness and insignificance. And I feel guilty when knowing the right thing to do in certain situations but not following through and actually doing it.
There exists a Divine Irony to all of this. While I realize that my faith has helped to identify my purpose in life and will hopefully allow for my fulfillment of it, a profound sense of alienation from the world has somehow ensued. I know that my past pursuits of financial security, knowledge, and pleasures of the material world are not things which matter most in life. At best, when considered for what they rightly are, these represent merely means through which my purpose may be attained through faith in and Love for God and Christ. What my calling requires, rather, is to develop a loving spiritual relationship with God and Christ as exemplified through service to others and Loving thoughts and actions of acceptance, compassion, forgiveness, and understanding. However, the material and worldly is all that I have ever known. Attempting to subdue my desire and passion for these things, or at least alter my perspective to no longer be attached to them, has created a significant and sometimes painful void in my life. For 35 years, the material and worldly was the context in which I lived my life. Spirituality and faith were things that I understood as abstract concepts but never experienced, let alone based a manner of living upon. But all this has changed with my new-found knowledge of and faith in God and Christ. Thus the irony – while the truth may set me free, it sure does feel like punishment at times.
So the sometimes frustrating and uncomfortable process plays itself out in which my relationships with the things of this world change in favor of hopefully those of the next. I understand that this challenge should not be viewed as a hardship but, instead, an opportunity to grow and develop my faith and understanding. But most of the time, having that perspective seems a lot easier said than done.