Revelation (a response to Elise’s question)

This is a response to a question Elise had about my understanding of how God reveals himself to people, and how I understand atheism in all of this. Please believe me when I say that I am just like the next guy trying to figure this stuff out. This post represents my best current thinking, and I am not at all 100% sure my thinking is solid, but I am just doing my best I can.As a Christian, I do not believe Christianity is the ‘One True Religion,’ and all others are absolutely false, but rather that Jesus spoke the clearest revelation of spiritual truth than all others. All religions have some truth to them, some more than others, but to me, Jesus’ teachings and the God of the Old Testament, who I believe to be one and the same person, seem to me to be the most purest written revelation that is available to men. That is why I believe it was called the good news. Its the clearest, most direct answer to how to live the spiritual life. All religions, including atheism, are like lights in darkness – some are brighter, some are darker – I simply want to follow the brightest light of all.

I mention atheism as being a religion too, and one that contains some truth, albeit stated in the negative. However, I think there is a lot of semantic confusion and emotion associating those two together, so I think it would be better to call atheism a ‘world view’ instead. The reason I call it a religion is because it is the belief that their is no God, as opposed to the deist, who believes that there is one. Science cannot prove or disprove the reality of either one, but there is enough evidence that points to the existence of God as being a valid hypothesis.

For a moment, I would like to speak about atheism from my humble observations, prompted by Elise’s questions. Please realize that I am an outside observer trying to understand people who do not believe in God, so take what I say with a grain of salt as being one who must observe others, but has no personal experience. My tentative understanding comes from about 10 or so friends of mine who were open to me about their beliefs and their motives behind their decision to be atheists. What I am going to say is uncomfortable to me because I am interpreting other people’s behavior and not my own, so I feel like I am not speaking at all from the controlled observation of my own mind and heart where I can test and retest and observe over and over again the same spiritual and mental activities. Nevertheless, here I go…

I believe that many atheists have found some real truth in not believing in a God. I have talked to many who describe the God they don’t believe in, both friends and acquaintances, and I have to admit I would not want to believe in the God they describe either, and if that’s the only version of God I knew, then I would be right to reject Him too, either on logical grounds, or on some other reason, like He seems more demonic then divine. After leaving the Calvinist church I accidentally started attending, I couldn’t think of a better description of their God then ‘demonic’ or irrational, or even insane – at any rate, the choice of not believing in Him anymore or just wanting to distance yourself as much as possible seems to be a pretty sane thing to do. I had two friends of mine that both lost their Christian mothers to a disease early in life, and they both admitted that this terrible tragedy had a lot to do with their loss of faith in God. Out of their whole family, their mothers were the closest to Him, and they died, leaving their young children behind. Is this how a loving God treats his faithful believers? That kind of God kills faithful and unfaithful alike on what appears like a whim. More likely, there is no God at all, and that life just happens, that’s all, right? I can understand why they believe this, and why they take that path.

Ok, back to more comfortable ground… In the end, though, I know one thing for certain – that I am human and imperfect and often wrong. I misinterpret events, I misunderstand people and their actions all the time. You’d think after living with my wife for 6 years, I would accurately interpret her motivations for her actions correctly, but do I? Hell no! We both misunderstand each other’s actions from time to time. Am I sadly missing that empathic gift? Am I just flighty and unaware of the world around me? Probably! Whatever the case, she in many ways is still a mystery to me. I’m trying to understand her, and I do more and more each day, but she will forever be mysterious in many ways. But I am drawn to mystery when it is benevolent. I KNOW she loves me, and I know I love her, so I trust we can work around the misunderstandings. I met my wife under great conditions, but I have also talked to couples who met each other and had terrible first impressions. However, in time they grew to know each other better, and ended up really liking each other after all.

When you have very little knowledge of someone, or only know part of their story, can you judge their motivations good or bad with integrety? Can you take someone else’s word about them to be complete truth? Isn’t it true that when you first fall in love with someone, you see no faults in them and think them to be a god. Isn’t this also the same error of judgment? First impressions, passing experiences, random encounters, out-of-context knowledge, aren’t these are all terrible sources to draw upon to judge a person good or evil, divine or demonic? Wouldn’t integrity lead you to suspend judgment until more reliable information is in?

If I can’t even understand the motivations of my wife’s actions when she is alive and walking around right in front of my face, how can I with any integrity hope to understand God’s motivations behind events in the world with ANY certainty? I need to meet Him personally and find out. I also need to talk with other (reliable) people that have met Him personally. But, I cannot rely solely upon other people telling me about their experience with God because I need personal experience to make a good judgment, and I don’t trust other people to be 100% correct about their experiences anyway. I’m a skeptic – not one to be lazy and let other people take care of the most important things in my life, why would I let their ideas and experiences of God dictate how I treat Him or think about Him? In this mystery above all others, should I not be the chief detective? Can I rightly hate or love a God I never knew personally?

It seems many people hate the concept of God – They hate a conceptual being who, even though all powerful, allows good people to die and suffer. The problem is, they hate a conceptual idea, but have they ever really met God the person? Have they experienced Him? Do they know if He really is a mean person or a nice one? Do they know by experience if He is whimsical about the life or death of people? Do they really know if He is good or bad by talking with Him? When they pray to Him, does He tell them He hates people and likes randomly killing them? Does He tell them that he is uninterested in people and wants to be left alone, and if good people suffer, oh well? If we are imperfect and don’t even know the motives of our closest friends all the time, wouldn’t it be sensible to have God tell us himself (He is God, after all) that He kills or causes people to suffer because He’s a sick guy before we go off believing it with little or no understanding of the facts surrounding the situation? If I were before a judge and God were on trial, would my knowledge of all the truth surrounding each situation of suffering in the world be sufficient to condemn Him? No. I don’t even understand why my wife, my best friend in the entire world and the person I spend the most time with, does some of the things she does. I’ll give God the benefit of the doubt until I have more information. I will take action to find out too. Simply living life in limbo seems to be a self-destructive activity originating from that default nature of mine.

So what does this have to do with divine revelation? A lot. People get knowledge about God from second or third hand accounts if they happen to grow up with people who know about Jesus or the Old Testament. But the stuff they get 2nd or 3rd hand might be unreliable or just plain wrong. If all you know about God comes from an unthinking, close-minded ‘religious’ people that want to just believe doctrine without an open mind towards doubt, then you’re rejection of that ‘god,’ is a good thing. The god of ‘religion’ is an imaginary one in my mind. But maybe your information about God is not like that at all – it might be absolutely right. Maybe all some people have is nature and beauty to point to something divine, and they begin the journey to follow it. For some, the natural world on earth is enough to awaken a sensitivity to the divine that begins their quest to find its source. But others, enough inspiration can come from the idea that a extra-dimensional intelligent force had to be responsible for creating this dimension (the space/time/field continuum) – the container itself – before material that could be contained at all was exploded into it.

I believe each and every one of us will have personal, divine, clear revelation in our lives. God will reach out to us and try to draw us to Him. This means He will have to prepare us for that revelation. Preparing us for it might mean leading us to reject false concepts and beliefs about Him. I have believed for a long time that atheism is a good step – for some it is essential to reject the entire spiritual world view where an evil God is at the center of it all. This total rejection will prepare the way for the real revelation that could not be comprehended under the previously held world view. This process of preparation might take your whole life, or it may take only a moment. It took me 13 years. Why couldn’t I have received a better understanding of God? Blame that on the people who told you wrong things about God. God didn’t want them to, of course, and He told people in the beginning who had direct revelation about Him to tell their children about Him. But we have free will, and people decided not to. It seems to me that people made god into their own image from the beginning because of their own selfish, broken nature. Humanity has always been playing the ‘religion’ game. Religion has always been a tool of men who want power over people, either their physical lives or their spiritual ones. I am speaking of atheism as much as deism here. When they pass their incorrect information (either innocently or deliberately) down to their children, some kids finally realize it is not true. If you have not had a direct revelation from God, that is because you are being prepared. Why do you think time was created? It is a necessary invention to make freedom and love possible. Because man was given free will, and God needed our whole lives to draw us to Him, taking into account the time it takes to help us remove the lies we were told, and be drawn slowly towards the truth through whatever means necessary – the beauty and wonder of the natural world, literature, philosophy, etc. This life is about choice. What the consequences of choosing God are become dimly evident when you do in this life, but only in death will it be fully known.

If we don’t get any of the most direct revelation, like being around with Moses, or Abraham, or David, or Jesus, or know the people with the second-hand knowledge who were first-hand witnesses to it, or have the Bible that talks about it, or at least know someone who has a Bible and told you about it, are you going to Hell? I don’t believe so. Moses and Abraham and David didn’t know Jesus. Are they going to Hell? What makes them ‘saved?’ If you don’t know Jesus, or know only of some religious form of Jesus that is worth rejecting, what determines your eternal destiny? I’m I doomed to Hell because I don’t believe or want anything to do with Jesus because I was told by someone else that He likes to kill innocent people? I don’t believe so. I believe it is not your good or bad behavior, but your appropriate response to the level of revelation you are given considering the conditions of the nature of the revelation. Some are only given a tiny bit, through the natural world or literature, some are given a little more by knowing the good news clearly and correctly – that God is alive and He’s crazy about everyone. But to those who respond and capitulate their lives over to the revelation, either dim or bright and follow it, allowing it to call the shots in their lives – they belong to God and He to them forever. Those who do not, choose not to knowingly. I don’t believe anyone’s eternal destiny will be a surprise to them. They will willingly choose to be with God or to be somewhere else. For some who understand nothing at all, such as stillborn babies or people whose minds are permanently gone, they will return to God who will be waiting with open arms – their choice to be with Him or not will be determined by some other means that is outside my knowledge.

Well anyway, that’s my best guess on these hard to understand issues! đŸ™‚

    2 Responses to “Revelation (a response to Elise’s question)”

    1. Elise
      1

      I read this post for the first time on the day you posted it and have been thinking about it ever since. I just finished re-reading it and I think I’m finally starting to forumlate a response……..

      I really like your approach to Christianity. It is what keeps me intrigued with this blog. I love your description of revelation and a personal relationship with God:

      “I believe each and every one of us will have personal, divine, clear revelation in our lives. God will reach out to us and try to draw us to Him. This means He will have to prepare us for that revelation. Preparing us for it might mean leading us to reject false concepts and beliefs about Him. I have believed for a long time that atheism is a good step – for some it is essential to reject the entire spiritual world view where an evil God is at the center of it all. This total rejection will prepare the way for the real revelation that could not be comprehended under the previously held world view. This process of preparation might take your whole life, or it may take only a moment.”

      I have a personal, divine, clear revelation with God. One of the hardest parts of this relationship is communicating with others about it in a way that is clear and objective. I respect my athiest friends so much and agree with a good portion of their world view – it is scientific, empathetic, and in-the-moment. I love that. And I have a really hard time feeling comfortable expressing my own belief in/relationship with God, because it is so un-scientific and removed-from-the-moment. When I express my faith, it so often feels like denying the tangible world. I suppoe this is exactly what I’m doing, but the relationship with diety is so real to me that I can’t pretend it doesn’t exist, even if it doesn’t hold up to anything scientific.

      My biggest complaint about organized religion is that “…people get knowledge about God from second or third hand accounts if they happen to grow up with people who know about Jesus or the Old Testament. But the stuff they get 2nd or 3rd hand might be unreliable or just plain wrong. If [what they] know about God comes from an unthinking, close-minded ‘religious’ people that want to just believe doctrine without an open mind towards doubt, then [the] rejection of that ‘god,’ is a good thing…” The boundaries of organized religion serve a purpose. For example, my own upbringing involved not drinking alcohol. Alcohol can of course be abused, and avoiding it completely allows one to never risk experiencing being out of control or removed from one’s conscious. The faith I was brought up in also mandates weekly church attendance. This weekly attendance forces members to partake of communion on a regular basis and to particicpate in a community of faith, both are arguably good ways to foster spiritual growth and a relationship with God. But the boundaries themselves also create ruts. Ruts lead to gaining knowledge of spirtuality without actually experiencing anything of a spiritual nature directly, fostering a second or third-hand knowledge of God.

      It is difficult to know how to find the proper balance between a community of worship and an individual relationship with God.

      Reply to this comment.
    2. Jonathan
      2
      Author Comment

      Elise – there are some interesting dynamics going on here that you talk about! I thought I would try to talk about it in another post because it seems like such an important line of thinking. It seems to me that the dogma enforced by a religious organization is a combination of their core beliefs (Jesus is God, and he is the only way to eternal life) and their perception of God (distant, requires obedience for interaction or deeply personal, and requires love for interaction).

      Reply to this comment.

Leave a Reply