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thoughts of heresy?

i thought you said that you'd come find me
i thought you said you'd be home by now
i heard you sing that you'd come back here
so i wrote to remind you somehow

i have been having thoughts lately. thoughts that in some eyes would make me a heretic. but what do you do? as i read my bible, it tells of God being shocked, and at other times changing his mind. but i know that some would say that every last thing is known to God. but how can this be? i mean- sometimes God used other nations to punish israel, and was then upset because that nation went too far; God was shocked. this tells me that not everything is set in stone.

i don't think that this makes God less omniscient- his will will be done. however it seems that we Christians are allowed to help carry that will out. it encourages me to know that God who can do whatever he wants, is willing to let someone as small as me to be a genuine part of it.

i understand the heretical part of this- but i do not know how else to justify the parts of the bible of God changing his mind, and even being shocked.

In my opinion, you have to be "heretical" in order to truly understand this whole Christianity thing--or, to realize that you can never truly understand it, and that you actually shouldn't. That's the only reason why I still believe: I've embraced heresy.

i think we should understand why we believe. if everything fits except one part- then it is wrong. seeking knowledge at all costs. i am just trying to be consistent with what i read- when it comes to God's character anyways.

I agree: we should understand why we believe. But understanding our motivation for believing and understanding a belief system (orthodoxy) are two different things. Because the Bible seems to communicate conflicting views about God's character, and because various belief systems pick and choose between these views, I think that you have to be unorthodox (or "heretical") in some way in order to try to glimpse God's character. However, I think that for us, in this lifetime, God is essentially unknowable, and that our glimpses of his character are merely that.
(Sorry for writing a book about this. I'm not really sure when I became a theologian.)

i might disagree- there must be some sense that we can know God. God calls us to do so. and for me- there must be some way of reconciling the seemingly contradicting things of God's persona- for if not, i cannot just 'go with it.' if i cannot find a way to make it fit- then Christianity seems as if the head is scyschophrenic, and thus not worth me following.

so onto reading i go

there is a view that says that God can be shocked, and still know everything. it is the 'two lense' view. in it God is 'here and now' and also future bound. but that makes me wonder if his schock is disingenuine or not. or if it is- then is God still schizophrenic or not. and it does not make me feel comfortable that God would be ok with persistant evil and allowing it, especially if there is no good that can come from it. it does seem impossible for a God who abhors evil in every sense.

i think as long as people try (or want) to attach human characteristics and what-not to God that it will be an invitation for further confusion.

i don't know if this will help or not -- you're not the most open minded person i've ever met, bill -- but i know from personal experience that needing divine intervention always results in divine intervention.

some people would, i think, then attribute the feelings of gratefulness and love that emerge from such small savings as a sort of imperfect mirror of something that they think of as love

instead of, say, seeing God as having intervened upon a serious disorder and restored a much-needed balance.

that's been my experience.

i think i understand what you are saying johanna. but i am not sure if i am attibuting human characteristics to God. it seems that we are made in his image- there has to be some connection there, right?

"shock" is a human attribute we express through symbols, based upon our own experiences with what we term as "shock"

a derivative of a derivative that has been named by a derivative of...God.

all i'm really saying is that the further you get away from God, the harder it becomes to understand. the beautiful thing is that the mystery abounds -- we get peeks every now and then -- but trying to paint a portrait of God, outside of our own experiences?

i loved it so much when my mother finally left the church and started taking us to interfaith meetings. i would go into all of the rooms -- the Hindu shrine, the Buddhist shrine, the Quaker room (there were something like 99 religions represented by this one temple they had there)...and the more I looked, the less of a face God (in my experience) had.

We think in those human terms; but what's the origin of the word "image?" Maybe, even, there were no words in our language that could accurately represent what was truly meant?

Another thing to consider is that words are essentially meaningless; they are not the truth of a thing in and of itself -- they, in fact, mean nothing except "what a thing is not."

...So "love" becomes "not hate."

When you say "image" or "shock," two things occur:

my mind rummages through my experiences to remind me of what I associate with a word; but, also, I only know what you are talking about because I know what it is that you are not talking about

understanding this, to speak of God's character is to take God out of context of the universe. We can come up with descriptors:

perfect, all-encompassing...and is this not where we get worship from? We can't even adequately identify God's "perfection" because we never see beyond that tiny aperture

which is why it becomes so important -- at least, in my mind -- to have faith enough to witness the work of God so that we can collect and sort our impressions of our own experiences

On a more humorous note, I remember this guy from my freshman year of college -- John Rossamondo. Try as I might, I will never forget this pathetic, struggling little imp of a fundamentalist Christian. He wrote this editorial in the school newspaper (adressed to the largely secular populus of the school) that stated: Do not try to analyze God with your small, human mind! ...and which I, of course, immediately balked at and wrote a scorching (mostly bad) reply...

Your questioning's good, necessary; but I'd hate to see you spend years on a philosophy that could be revealed in less time by faith. Does that make sense?

Sigh...I should not try to write responses first thing in the morning.

To get back to your last comment -- having faith enough to believe that we are made in the image of God (and patience enough to try and understand what that means) is the course of a lifetime...because of, not despite, the things I mentioned in the last post.

this is from matt.

for some reason blogger isn't letting me post comments. I'm sending
it just to you instead. it's probably better that way anyway...

"In Christianity there are two conceptions of God, one which comes
from the Bible and which belongs to Christian life and experience, and
the other which comes from Greek philosophy. The first presents God
as the living God, full of concern and interest for humankind. The
second presents God as unmoved and immoveable." writes 20th cent.
Romanian Theologian Dumitru Staniloae. It is tempting to think of
them being in opposition, but to do so I think is to create a false
dichotomy. Staniloae continues: "[Orthodoxy] has sought to reconcile
both these ways of thinking about God by means of the doctrine of the
divine essence and the divine energies--by saying that while in his
essence God remains unmoved, he comes out of himself in his energies."
Bishop Kallistos Ware sums it up this way: "The essence signifies the
whole God as he is in himself; the energies signify the whole God as
he is in action. God in his entirety is completely present in each of
his divine energies. Thus the essence-energies distinction is a way
of stating simultaneously that the whole God is inaccessible, and that
the whole God in his outgoing love has rendered himself accessible to

Because God is unknowable in his essence, we must often use symbols
(and remember that the symbols are only pointers) and negative
language, saying what God is not rather than what He is. Religious
scholars call this the "apophatic" approach and I think this is what
Marianne and Johanna are getting at. It is a way of speaking that is
as old as Christianity and has always been a part of orthodoxy. We
see it especially in St. Dionysius the Areopagite, in the 4th century
Cappadocian Fathers (St. Basil of Caesarea, St. Gregory the
Theologian, St. Gregory of Nyssa), 14th century theologian St. Gregory
Palamas, but is also an important part of the Western mystical
tradition (for instance the author of the classic "The Cloud of
Unknowing"). The point of all this name dropping is to show that this
unknowable aspect of Christianity's understanding of God is
particularly orthodox.

It is interesting that the mystic who speak most earnestly about God
being unknowable, also are the one's who seem to have the closest
relationships with Him. God is most personal when he is most
mysterious. Part of his mystery is that he reveals himself to us.
The Nicene creed does not say "I believe that there is a God" or "I
believe that God is like such", but rather "I believe in God": our
belief is part of our personal relationship with God.

Because of His love, he gave us the beauty and grandeur of the created
universe and his Holy Scriptures. Indeed He actually entered the world
reconciling the World to Himself, making it possible for us to
participate in the divine nature of God. He gave us his good and life
giving Holy Spirit as a Comforter. He established His Church and His
Sacraments. He gave us the apostles, martyrs, saints, the teachers of
the ecumenical councils, miracle-workers, poets, artists, healers. He
gives us his very body and blood as food.

Because God reveals Himself to us and at the same time gave us
intelligence and thirst for knowledge, theology is possible. But
there is a danger that we go too far and create a nice rational
conception of God and then mistake that rational conception for God
Himself. That actually is what a heresy is. Originally, I belief,
heresy simply meant "belief system," and comes from the Greek word for
"to choose." It took on its present connotations precisely because
such belief systems are so dangerous.

In the sciences and humanities, we use the term "orthodoxy" to
something like "current consensus" (or worse, as "conventional
wisdom"), a moving target that is at its best when it is subject to
change. Christian orthodoxy in its true sense is not some arbitrary
system that happened to win in some sort of religious survival of the
fittest. Orthodoxy is even less a philosophical system. It is
something bigger than ourselves and our ideas, but is expressed in the
community of the Church, and under the conditions of our historical
time. Orthodoxy is closer to medicine than mathematics: it is not the
solution to a philosophical problem, but the cure by which our
diseased and fallen selves are healed.

Yeah, yeah. I know I've been rambling for a while. But, this is the
perfect time of year to talk about this stuff, as it is Christmas
time, where we celebrate God's ultimate self-revelation. There is a
Byzantine Hymn for Christmas Day Vespers that goes:

How shall I tell of this great mystery?
He who is without flesh becomes incarnate;
The Word puts on a body;
The Invisible is seen;
He whom no hand can touch is handled;
And he who has no beginning now begins to be.
The Son of God becomes the Son of man:
Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and for ever.

So, sure, it is good try to understand mystery of God, but it is even
better to joyfully praise Him, to remember that while orthodoxy can be
translated "correct doctrine" it can also be translated "correct

I appreciate your comments on mystery and orthodoxy, Matt. Yes, you're right: in a sense, I was speaking from the standpoint of Negative Theology (as the trendy theologians like to call it). This is a kind of "orthodoxy" (defined simply as a belief system) that has struck a cord with me of late because it gives language to my latest form of alienation from God--and assures me that this alienation is a form of belief, and saves me from complete "heresy."

But--and maybe this is my background in the humanities talking--I still think that Christian orthodoxies are, in a lot of ways, arbitrary systems that have each won a "survival of the fittest" of sorts, even if this contest occurs only on a personal, individual level. Even my beloved Negative Theology falls under this classification.

I could talk for a long time about why I believe this, but it has a lot less to do with theology than with personal musings, so I'll save it. However, my personal musings are based on these two books recently:

"How (Not) to Speak of God" by Peter Rollins (of the Irish Emergent movement)

"The Prayers and Tears of Jacques Derrida" by philosopher and postmodern theologian John Caputo

Of course, I mention them because I highly recommend them, especially for a discussion of orthodoxy and how we should approach it in the twenty-first century. Let me know what you think.

Bill -- thank Matt for me.

I was, of course, offering my own point of view not for argument's sake but to share. That's what women do...anyway, I'll incorporate this into my study of the development of language and of the understanding of faith.

I take it all with a huge grain of salt because everything's been filtered through the male point of view and not the female.

It is not right.

two things strike me:

'love' is 'not hate'. so God does not love us, he just doesn't hate us? i think i am missing the point. if the point is language- then i sort of understand. i do think that some emotions or sights can be indescribable. but i think that some things can be described easily.

and what do you mean 'filtered through the male point of view'? i am not being an ass, i am really asking.

Ha ha...what's the appropriate response to that? Hmmmm...

"When is a man not being an ass?" The answer? When he is being himself.

What I meant, Bill, was that theology and the Christian experience have been filtered through men. Since women and men have different experiences and approaches to life, the fact that the Bible was put into words by men, translated over and over by men and theology is, in fact, the product of scholarship done by men (and let's not forget that language is, too, even these days) that it makes communication about this particular topic rough.

What I was trying to say in essence was not that 'God is not hate' so much as that having faith enough to experience God is to learn what is meant by 'God is love.'

What Matt seems to have gently eschewed is that because language creates reality and because that man-made reality is ultimately earth-bound, the experiential remains the essential component of God's mystery. Language can not truly convey the divine because it is too inadequate -- and a part of that inadequacy does stem from the exclusion of women in the formation of almost every theory that our society's based upon.

What concerns me is not that men have been in charge so much...I'm not that kind of feminist...because a lot of these men have earnestly sought truth. What concerns me is the exclusion of the female perspective: of women's experiences with God and the thoughts and ideas, the language and the truths that would have arisen from that.

Merry Christmas, by the way...!

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