There are 2 verses in the new testament that I believe finish scripture. Beyond the truth contained in these 23 words there isn’t really much more to be said.
“For in him we live and move and have our being” Acts 17:28
“For from him, and through him and to him are all things” Romans 11:36
To understand what it means to have your being in something I believe we can use the analogy of shapes.
Firstly, “being” is a verb that designates existence. That something is. It is in fact the most universal thing that can be said of anything. Every single thing has this quality of existence.
Now the question of existence is a dense and complicated question that has had many many texts dedicated to it. Many of the hardest, most dense and complicated texts have been written on this subject “Being and time”, “Being and nothingness” and pretty much all the existentialist texts deal with this question.
The problem isn’t so much in that we don’t know what it is. It’s like consciousness; we all know what is meant by this term but it’s difficult to pin down. So the difficulty is in how to enunciate or define this quality.
Now I’m not going to tackle that. I’m going to use an analogy inspired by another part of the first quote. Namely “In him we… move”.
So imagine a triangle. What is it within which the triangle moves and has its being? It’s space isn’t it. You could say that space – here 2-dimensional space – is the prerequisite for shapes. Before a shape can move there has to be an area that isn’t the shape for the shape to move into. This is self-evident.
We cannot imagine a shape without an outside. Try it.
A funny thing results from this. What is different about the inside as compared to the outside? Nothing except it’s location in respects to 3 lines. That is to say that the space on the inside of a shape is indistinguishable qualitatively from the space outside of it; the difference lies entirely within the context.
Also what are the lines? We shade them a different colour in our imagination but that’s a highlighting. That is to say that the shape of the shape is entirely arbitrary. That is the lines are merely highlighted space which could be highlighted any other way.
Where am I going with this? I am saying that the ultimate truth that all scripture was leading to and that finished scripture once it was uttered is the truth that all is God and God is all. Once this is known fully then there is no need for knowledge or prophecy. This is also the truth of the vedantic philosophy of Advaita.
What does Jesus do? This is key because here it would be so easy for him to remedy his situation.
To fix it.
Instead Jesus takes active steps to ensure his own destruction.
He actively participates in the conspiracy erected against him.
Essentially Jesus is saying to the so called powers of the world “Do what you can, come on throw it all at me, do your worst” and when the world refrains, when it draws back Jesus is there again to say to it:
“You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.” John 19:11
That is he says the exact thing necessary to not only make Pilate crucify him but to make him feel OK about doing it!
How is this powerful?
This is powerful because it doesn’t come from a lack. The bare narrative is this:
False-power exerts itself against real power.
Real power fully accepts and acquiesces in every action taken against it.
It simply sits there silent in the face of the noise or acts to increase the adversarial adversity of the adversary.
After false-power has exhausted itself, that is emptied itself into the silence, real-power forgives it and then shows it that there is nothing to be forgiven.
Real power cannot be hurt, there is nothing you can give it or take from it.
False-power finally sees that what had really been happening was it had been expressing itself to love and being accepted and included and shown that it is loved.
That this relationship of expression and appreciation, of love was behind the mouldy facade of the power relation.
So Jesus portrayed power most explicitly when he was dying on the cross and he still loved his adversaries in the statement “Forgive them father for they not what they do”.
The single event in history that displayed true power in all its raw, loving beauty was the crucifixion of Jesus and the character of Jesus displayed especially near his death.
From the common understanding of power this seems absurd.
They would have it that Jesus be some superhuman who dominates the situation, who safe-guards his life, who removes obstacles etc.
They would say that a man who was silent in the face of rebuke, who did nothing when spat at, who didn’t defend himself when fictional accusations and deceitful mis-interpretations were brought against himself…
They would say such a man was not powerful.
At most they may applaud him with resignation.
But Jesus’ pacificity was potent.
A beautiful example of how radical Christ’s pacificity was is in his exchange with Pilate.
Pilate’s wife had had a dream and begged him not to do anything to Jesus.
Pilate wanted an out, some means to save face in his struggle between the emperor and the jews, and not crucify Christ. This is the situation expressed in:
“So Pilate said to Him, “Do You refuse to speak to me? Do You not know that I have authority to release You and authority to crucify You?”” John 19:10
He’s saying, “Look, I’m the wielder of power here. I can let you go. I want to let you go. I wouldn’t be saying all this if I wanted to crucify you I would just do it!”
The function of sin is so that God can express an aspect of his character that can only be expressed through forgiving.
It’s not even that there is anything to forgive because it is God Himself that in the biblical narrative establishes man and supports man, even incites man to become His own adversary (David incited by God to number israel, the law’s function being to make sin increase etc).
For a long time I wondered about this. I could see that the biblical narrative had God doing this but I couldn’t see what for.
It’s so that love could express itself as power and as true power.
Most people think that power is what is portrayed as power. That is as front.
They think that power is attempting to make the world conform to their will, being able to remove discomfort etc… All that they think of as power is really the absence of power in that they wouldn’t do what they did if they didn’t already have a lack, a vulnerability.
Even the act of giving commands hides the truth that he who issues the command is not the sole wielder of power. The commandee has to acquiesce.
Then people call power the acts of coercion employed to bend the victim’s will but this act is itself the evidence, the effect, the symptom of the fact that the person they are being used on is actually not under their control, is not under their power.
Seeing this is the key to understanding the Gospels. It is the key to understanding Jesus and by proxy God.
What is the law for?
The law is not for what you think it is for!
See most people believe that the law is something we are supposed to use as a guide; something we are supposed to try to fulfil. This is a total error.
The law is there to show us how weak, powerless, futile and wretched we are. In fact the main purpose of the law is to show us how we don’t even have control over ourselves!
In relation to sin the law is there to make us sin more!
What is sin? It comes from the Greek word “hamartia” (missing the mark). I believe it was a term used in archery. All the law is, is a mark set up for us to fail at hitting!
Anything can become a law.
Do not eat sugar, stop smoking, work harder.
We constantly bind ourselves up in law without even noticing it!
Ultimately the purpose of law is to bring us to Christ by making us realize how powerless and wretched we are so we cry out to him to save us!
“Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
(In fact read Romans 7 and 8! Paul says it much better than I do!)
The law is there to make sin appear sinful (Romans 7:13), to make sin bear fruit unto death (Romans 7:5) so that death will have its perfect work in making us die to this world of sin and death so that Father can make us live in Christ!
Forget the law, move on from the school-master and walk with Him who fulfilled the law!
The law can become an idol to us that are in the grace of God because we are supposed to walk by faith and not by sight. The law is a very visible comfort; it puffs you up, it makes you self-righteous, arrogant, disdainful, and ultimately it will kill you! But that is good because you die to death only so that you live to life!
“But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.” 1 John 2:27
I watched a documentary called “The Unbelievers” on netflix recently. It followed Richard Dawkins and Lauwance Krauss as they toured various auditoriums and rallies.
One thing I quickly noticed was the religious fervour of these atheists. I saw how dogmatical and evangelical they had become.
These are the signs of belief systems that have lost their kernel of belief. They are the death-throes of an ideology.
That ideology is Positivism.
Man stubbornly clings in his deluded pride to the belief that he can know everything. As he loses the faith in his pride he clutches out to others to confirm that “Yes, yes! I’m right aren’t I? We can know can’t we?”. To confirm that he is who he thought he was.
This is why the Atheist doesn’t just enter into combat with the theist but both theist and atheist join forces against philosophy.
Philosophy points to both naked emperors and says “None of you are wearing clothes you buffoons!”
Philosophy says “To answer the question “where did the universe come from?” you would need to step outside before the event and watch the fucking thing”
Philosophy says “Empiricism is your base assumption! All you can do is observe and describe. What you call an explanation is merely taking a description to a more general or specific level”
And Philosophy finally says, gritting it’s teeth and wiping the sweat off it’s brow “Atheism is a meta-physical claim. You are actually making a claim about what came before the big bang. A claim you have no means of falsifying!
“And sure Hawkins picture of how you could dig something out of nothing was pretty. The story it presented was one among many non-falsifiable stories. No different in verifiability to the God hypothesis.
“Oh begone from me you myth-mongers! All pushing your tales on me and swearing their true”
But these enlightenment fossils stamp their feet in childish tantrums; screaming at reality “YOU ARE KNOWABLE!” As if tantrums ever got ice-creams off a good mummy 😛
There are two types of thinker’s. I haven’t thought of a name for the second yet so I shall describe the first and most common. The Apologist.
The Apologist’s main concern in thinking and discussing are to come up with arguments for a concept or set of concepts they already believe in.
Richard Dawkins’ way of thinking – at least as he publicly displays it – is apologetic. His agenda is to convince people that God isn’t real. The thinking behind this is one in which a concept – atheism – is constantly analysed in order to discover more convincing arguments for it.
The thinking of most religious people is the same; which is why I lump Richard Dawkins and all stubborn atheists in the same bit of play-doh as Christian fundamentalists.
So when these people come across a new concept they don’t look at it with innocent eyes; immediately they are assessing it to see whether it can be used to confirm or deny their set of concepts.
Most of these people are obsessing over metaphysical conundrums which have been shown to be unanswerable for millenia. If, in order to ascertain the truth value of a statement you refer to experience, to what are you meant to refer to in order to ascertain the truth value of a statement concerning the causes of experience?
I believe there is an entity to whom – or to which – the nomenclature surrounding the divine is appropriate. That is to say that I do believe in a God. Rather I believe in The God of which we are all a part in a comparable way that your finger is a part of you.
There are a few romantic notions concerning our relation to God that I do not believe. One is that God created us because this implies that we are separate from God which I don’t believe is possible.
Another is that God created us like robots – that he made our gears and then set us into motion. I do not believe that because I believe that each and every motion of each and every particle of reality is related to God in the same way that my motions are related to me. Or at least those motions I am conscious of making because for God there are no unconscious motions.
This is all to say that I believe that everything and everything that everything does is a direct expression of God.
Now I come to the problem of consciousness. I would like to ascribe it to this supra-entity but I don’t know if I can. Consciousness seems to be quite special and there is a part of me that screams out “Sure God is conscious” but this could just be conscious-chauvinism. This is because it is perfectly reasonable to state that consciousness is a mere function of a much larger meta-construct. As I’ve said I don’t believe that consciousness is reducible to physics but I also said and believe that such a statement is unprovable. The question “How does consciousness come to be?” Is unanswerable for reasons Hume clearly states in his inquiry.
Ultimately this means that all of our anger, our need for justice isn’t to be directed at man just as you don’t shout at a finger for poking you in the eye. It also means that these feelings could be unreasonable because if God isn’t conscious then I don’t see how these feelings could be applicable to it… And anyway if these feelings were legitimate they are useless.
For example say someone murders your family. You want revenge – which you call justice. You get justice say in the guise of a death penalty. Does it bring your family back?
I think there is a divine plan to reality. This is a direct consequence of my belief in determinism. You cannot believe in determinism and not believe in fate.
As to providence – that is the belief that the divine plan is for our (or my) good – I do not know about that. Sometimes I look at experience, at the way it batters us with suffering at the way life is an oscillation of good and bad, happy and sad, and I see that it seems to be designed in such a way as to produce enlightenment. That the fundamental structure of experience leads us to let go, to surrender.
That maybe it’s not that the divine plan is for us to get what we want, or even to be happy. But that the divine plan is for our surrender. On a deep level the divine plan is for our deaths.
In Buddhism enlightenment is the cessation of suffering. Nirvana is the blowing out of the candle. It is a kind of death. A death that involves forsaking our desires, forsaking our vain attempts to control reality.
I’ve studied and been a member of a number of faiths/religions. Christianity and Buddhism being the two main ones. Christianity has the same theme if you will. It is about dying to yourself, forsaking your desires and surrendering to God. It is the same thing as Buddhism except Buddhists call God nothing.
Even Islam has the same kernel. Islam’s fundamental concept is submission. If you are a Muslim you submit your will to Allah.
What ever you submit your will to it all bears the same fruit. Almost all of what we call bad in the world is caused by people striving to attain their will. Striving to get reality to conform to what they want. It seems to me that reality is constituted in such a way that if you strive to get what you want you will inevitably reach dissatisfaction. You will be constantly confronted with a dead end until you forsake your desire and walk the path which is no path which is acceptance which is surrender, release.