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The Square Root of God July 20, 2013

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…And now for something completely different.


The Square Root of God: Mathematical Metaphors and Spiritual Tangents
– Timothy Carson

OK.  Not completely different.  (There’s nothing new under the sun.)  I certainly found some similarities here with works like Bell’s “What We Talk About When We Talk About God,” Rollins’ “The Idolatry of God,”  and a few whispers of Dowd’s “Thank God For Evolution.”  Still, I’ve never read anything quite like this.

While these pages are assuredly from the perspective of a “Jesus person,” I believe most of what’s written here would be of interest to those of other faith traditions, as well.  We look at “God’s universal presence in all time and space,” against which backdrop “Jesus emerged.”

Mr. Carson starts by telling us that “Thinkers from every world civilization throughout history have somehow connected mystical spirituality and mathematics.”
Hmmm.  I did not know that, but reading of the connections is just amazing.

We look at intersubjectivity and objective reality, and that “what we observe is filtered in unusual ways by the worldview we already hold.”  We begin to see “the limits of any human endeavor to interpret the hidden nature of reality.”
Timothy takes us on a journey through quantum physics, religion, philosophy, music, art, time, space, pantheism vs. panentheism, and mathematical equations as they relate to and reveal that which we call “God.”

In the chapter titled “Number 1” we read from the Old Testament books of Deuteronomy, Genesis, and Exodus.  Here we find that “The essential metaphysical pronouncement  is that there is but one ultimate and seamless reality and it’s source.  There is one… irreducible, undivided unity… a singularity that is the simplicity within every complexity.”  “Even chaos has a hidden symmetry.”
It is from here we examine the Christian doctrine of the Trinity.  We are led beyond both Unitarianism and Trinitarianism (I’ve been in those battles.  They’re not usually pretty!) to a mathematical metaphor that suggests that God can never be the product of addition. As it is expounded upon, our author’s proposal  would seem to satisfy Unitarians, at the same time retaining a sense of Son and Spirit in a way that would be palatable to many Trinitarians.  We delve deeper into the ways that “mathematics and theology inform one another.”
There are also discussions about Thomas Jefferson, Plato, prime numbers, Shema, the Nicene Creed, healing, prayer, spiritual centering, the medical arts, and genetics.

In “Circle Up,” we examine (you guessed it) the circle.  We’re reminded that every point on the circumference of a circle, although in different relationships to each other, are equal peers due to their identical relationship to the center.  “Circles are built into the structure of the universe in countless ways.  Circles are everywhere.”  “From planets to stars, galaxies to atoms, matter and it’s energy are oriented to and shaped by the centers that hold them.”
Some of the ramifications and spiritual applications may come immediately to your mind.  Others may surprise you.  The story of “The Prodigal Son,” metaphysical harmony, variation of relationship intensity, grace, Jews, Christians, Islam, Buddhism, the arrogance of exclusivism, and rainbows all add to this mind-expanding section.  We see how the “exclusivist, universalist, inclusivist and tolerance models” are all “found wanting.  What is needed is something else, something more.”

Next up is “A Piece of Pi.”  This chapter follows, of course, the discussion of the circle.  Here, Pi becomes a metaphor of Christ, each being a “key” to unlock, although not fully disclose, a mystery.  We look at “the anomaly in the web of time and space” that is the emergence of Jesus within history, and the related failings of classical theism.
We also survey the speed of light, sacred wisdom, parables, the Torah, the Gospel of John, and the two greatest commandments.  And, as some other books have done, we look at the total insanity (my words) of traditional penal substitution.

“Shape Beneath the Shape” focuses on geometry.  We inspect the “interplay of lines, circles, squares, triangles and multiple combinations thereof.”  We consider the “primary distinction between Newtonian and Quantum physics.”  Through the work of Picasso, we see that “the underlying truth of a thing disrupts how we are accustomed to seeing it.”  This principle has been a repeat offender in my continuing escape from religious fundamentalism.
There’s a good piece on the double entendres in the Gospel of John.  Plus, we see how the term “saved” has been grossly misunderstood as we talk about the nature of salvation.  Here’s a good quote from this chapter: “Faced with a choice between the God of classical theism or no God, people are choosing the latter, no God.  Fortunately, another pathway is available.”
Also included: Jacques Maritain, Freud, Jung, the Samaritan woman, Kabbalah, the Tree of Life, Process Theology, M.C. Escher, J.S. Bach, “The Matrix” (OK.  Who hasn’t used that one?!?!?), the Gospel of Thomas, Galileo, and “Inception.”

“Quest for Infinity”  starts us off by looking at “the medieval riddle of angels on the head of a pin.”  When I hear talk of medieval riddles, my mind instantly goes to “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.”
“What…is the capital of Assyria?”
Pure comic genius.  I digress.
In this chapter we’re taken back to the 1800s and early 1900s as we learn that the concept of infinity “was not in favor among the children of the Enlightenment.”  Some mathematicians actually became mentally unstable as they tried to solve the mysteries of set theory without the “key” of infinity.  We look at the concept of “naming,” which “held infinite new possibilities for breakthroughs, a joint venture of religious consciousness and mathematical insight.”  The big bang, the book of Job, and the Revelation of John of Patmos are also considered as we regard “an incomprehensibly distant past [and an] indefinite future.”

In the Conclusion, we are not only given said conclusion, but a summary of sorts.  We close with the “simple but profound truth” that we’ve been elaborating on all along.

Yes, I very much enjoyed this book. When I was first approached about reviewing this work, I found the title intriguing.  However, the first thing I do concerning an author with whom I’m unfamiliar is check out the bio.  When I saw he was a pastor at a place called “Broadway Christian Church,” I… well… didn’t have high hopes for the material.
Yeah.  Snap judgement.
It just sounded too fundie.  But, like not judging a book by it’s cover, you can’t necessarily judge the book by the name of the institution the author attends.  🙂
As I implied at the beginning, there were times when I felt the book may be too Christcentric for those who do not consider themselves “Jesus people.”  Taken alone, some statements might even seem to convey the very religious arrogance that the author actually stands against.  But, taken in it’s entirety this book should be of benefit to anyone seriously investigating the Divine Reality that many of us refer to as “God.”

– df

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

Quotes:

* As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shoreline of mystery.

* Every human system is approximate at best.

* God is in everything and everything is in God.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

* Concentric spiritual pathways circumnavigate the same center even as they perceive the other in separate space.

* There is always a God beyond our concept of God.

* The figure of Christ is taken to be a normative paradigm of what humanity can be, but at the same time a paradigm of what God is.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

* The navigator of the sacred realm discovers a God already there, immanent, yet not fully disclosed or revealed.

* Biblical language, like the language of other sacred scriptures, is destroyed by those who rush to literalize it.

* The images of God that once carried the sacred freight [have] ceased to work and [have become] impediments to faith.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

* “Where is God?”

* Unity and diversity, singularity and multiplicity are included in a seamless divine field.

* The square root of God = … (Buy the book.  Click HERE).

Visit “The Square Root of God” website: http://thesquarerootofgod.com/about/

To visit Timothy’s blog, Click HERE.


– – – Dr. Timothy Carson is a pastor and writer who lives in Columbia, Missouri. The author of four previous books, Tim builds bridges of understanding between historic forms of faith and contemporary thought.
When he is not writing about culturally relevant spirituality he is reading, taking in the arts, playing with raptors, traveling and otherwise contemplating the mysteries of the universe. – – –


 

Faith, Doubt, and Other Lines I’ve Crossed July 7, 2013

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FAITH, DOUBT, AND OTHER LINES I’VE CROSSED:
        WALKING WITH THE UNKNOWN GOD
– Jay Bakker with Andy Meisenheimer

———

This is a thoroughly enjoyable book.  Very readable.  Both thoughtful, and thought-provoking.

This is my second read from Jay Bakker, my first being “Fall to Grace.”  (You can read that review by clicking Here.

This new book, written with Andy Meisenheimer, is such a huge encouragement.  It’s what I’d call a very “real” writing.  And for me, it’s easily relatable on so many counts.
There’s a lot discussed here; doubt, God, the Bible, heaven and hell, atonement, love, grace, relationships, society, church, theology.
We look at faith vs. certainty, reading the Bible differently, getting a new take on dying and rising with Christ, recasting eternity, rediscovering grace, standing for the oppressed, a self-centered view of God, and so much more. This is one of those books that, if taken seriously, has life-changing potential.

One of my favorite parts is in chapter one where we read about Paul in the book of Acts.  This is when he’s in Athens, and finds an alter with the inscription, “To an unknown god.”  Paul goes on to tell them that this unknown god is the God that Jesus came to tell us about.  Many Christians are familiar with this story, and the kinds of expositions usually given.  Here, our minds are expanded to a new possible understanding of this incident.  In part 12 (each chapter has numbered parts) we’re hit with what I found to be a beautiful revelation.  I won’t spoil it here.
Also in this chapter, I’m reminded of the times when what we read in our scriptures are quotes from other sources, as is the case with “in God we live and move and have out being.”  Here, Paul was quoting a Cretan philosopher named Epimenides.

In chapter two, we look at “Doubting Faith.”  Paul Tillich “believes that fanaticism and pharisaism are the symptoms of repressed doubt,” and that “doubt is overcome not by repression, but by the courage to embrace it.”  Jay says, as have I many times, “The more you find out, the less you know.”  “They don’t prepare you for this when you’re a Christian kid.”

The 3rd chapter is about reading the Bible.  It brings me memories of “Velvet Elvis,” and “A New Kind of Christianity.”  We read that “when we turn the Bible into an answer book, we miss out on the real story, the depth of all that the Bible has to offer.”  There’s a good bit on the writings of Paul, some material by Peter Rollins, and some quotes from Rob Bell.  We see that, for many, an “illiterate reading of scripture becomes God’s truth.”

Part of what we discover in chapter four is “Jesus’ version of fulfilling the law, in practice.”  Often, he “fulfilled the law by breaking it.”  There’s more insights into the “torn curtain” of the temple, during the crucifixion.  This is really good!
We also look at atonement theories, somewhat in the vein of Wm. P. Young, and some quotes from Sharon Baker’s book “Razing Hell.”  When we look at some of the teachings we grew up with, we have to ask “Does God practice what Jesus teaches?”  If so, we’ve gotten a lot of things wrong.

Chapter 5 is about eternity, and it opens with a Pete Rollins quote.  We also hear from Martin Luther King Jr., as well as James, Paul and Jesus.  In this chapter, concerning his alcoholism, Mr. Bakker says, “That’s when I finally got sober.  After I found out that I was accepted.”
I can so relate to that statement.  It was in the middle of a drug-induced stupor, when I was dangerously sexually promiscuous, possibly at the most irresponsible point I’ve ever been in my life, when I somehow realized that right there, right then, with or without any change in my life, I was totally accepted by God.  That doesn’t mean my actions were approved, but I, as I was, was both loved AND accepted by God.  No fear of rejection by God. Not even fear of death! THAT’S when things in my life started to turn around.
Yes, Jay Bakker, I really do get it.
Admittedly, there certainly was fear of the mortal consequences of my actions, here in this life. But I realized that would not be God “punishing” me. It would just be “sowing and reaping.” I thank the Lord that karma isn’t always the bitch she’s made out to be. 🙂
It’s truly a miracle (or multiple miracles) that I’m not dead or back in prison.
[And now, back to our review.]
There’s also some interesting material about when Jesus was reading Isaiah’s “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me” scripture.  What Jesus doesn’t say speaks volumes.

In chapter six we look at grace:  Wild, outrageous, vulgar grace.  We see how “we cheapen grace when we make it temporary, a ticket to an afterlife.”   “When we really understand it, we will always find grace offensive.”

The seventh chapter has us “Speaking Up for the Marginalized.”  We see, as many are painfully aware, how the “church” has so often been on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of civil liberties, and the wrong side of… well, just the wrong side all around.  We’re told that it wasn’t until 1967 that a non-white person could marry a white person in every state.  Much of “christianity” believed, as Bob Jones preached, that “segregation was preserving God’s plan for the different races according to the Bible.”  We look to the Bible to see how the church in Antioch was treating the “minority,” and how one believer (Paul) had to confront another believer (Peter) over his two-faced hypocrisy.
Here’s a good quote from this chapter:
“Separate but equal.  Remaining a pure people.  Not mixing seeds.  We look back now and think, That’s crazy.  Who could support that?  Who could possible think the Bible could be used to justify a ban on interracial dating?
The answer is – we did.
Christians.
Are we doing the same thing now?”
So, yes, we discuss LGBTQ equality in this chapter.

We re-discover some of the Bible’s parables in chapter 8.  The lost coin.  The lost sheep.  The lost son. Here again, of course, we step back and see things from a new perspective.  This is good stuff, people!

In the ninth chapter we look at what we call “the church service.”  Jay purposes that this is “an unnatural experience of God, just like the art gallery is an unnatural experience of art.”  “It’s amazing how quickly you lose touch if you’re always in a Bible study and everybody’s always talking about Jesus and Christianity.  When we hear mega-church preachers say something that seems out of touch with reality, we have to understand that they don’t live in the real world.  Christians live in a false world, one without the people that Jesus cared about.”

M. Night Shyamalan offers up some great food for thought in chapter 10.  We also learn from the example of Alcoholics Anonymous, as well as the 18th chapter of Matthew.

Chapter 11 addresses, among other things, death, suffering, grief, hope and hopelessness.  I think of all the cliches and platitudes that are frequently offered to those experiencing grief.  I know people may be trying to be helpful, but  “Death is a tragedy.  It’s important to walk through that grief without being bombarded with assurances that everything is okay.”  It’s important to say “This is horrible and awful.  It wasn’t God’s plan or God’s opportunity to make something good.  It was simply a tragedy.”

“Losing Belief, Finding Faith” is the title of chapter 12.  Here we compare and contrast faith and belief.  We discuss the “appeal of certainty.”  It’s easy to see why so many fall for fundamentalism.  But “certainty helps us cover up our brokenness and fears.”  It “allows God to become our alibi for hate and judgement.”  It causes “theologians and pastors [to] become lawyers, arguing nuances and loopholes that the original writers would never have imagined.”
“The freedom to have faith instead of beliefs is, to me, one of the most beautiful things about following Christ.”
We also look at the dangerous idea of “all or nothing.”  This is an idea that I’ve found destructive in most areas of life. (Check out “Do One Green Thing,” by Mindy Pennybacker.)

In the conclusion, we read the familiar story of Mary and Martha, again gaining a fresh perspective.  We take another look at bibliolatry, and the anti-Christ damage it continues to cause.
Then Jay wraps up this outing by looking at that which is of “infinite, ultimate concern,” and how our lives can truly be transformed.

In these pages, we walk with Jay as he discovers “something deeper and more lasting than the evangelical framework [he] inherited from [his] family and church.”  The story is both universal, and quite personal.  We touch on his relationship with his famous parents, including the deep pain of losing his mother at the end of her 11-year battle with cancer.

This really is an amazing read.  Interesting stories, and life-giving perceptions.
Don’t pass on this one.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

—————–

Seriously, you should read this book, wherever you are on the spectrum of belief or unbelief. Give it to friends and family. Start conversations around it. Then, tell Jay how much you love it. As a real shepherd of real people, Jay needs our encouragement.
– Rob Davis: an atheist’s review of Jay Bakker’s new book

—————–

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

* Doubt keeps me from thinking I’ve got a handle on God.

* I’ve found peace in the mystery.

* That any of us act like moral giants is pretty insane. We all add to suffering, and we ignore it. We know that our chocolate is picked by child laborers, diamonds are mined for slave wages, iPhones are assembled in inhumane working conditions. We can ignore all that, but we freak out when someone sleeps with their secretary.

* You would think that relationships would be more important than theology.

* The only difference between you and me and the “scandalous outsider” is nothing more than the labels we use to separate us from them.

* The type of inclusion Jesus practiced gets you in trouble.  This type of inclusion gets you killed.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

* “I-think-my-God-is-the-God” idolatry.  This is true idolatry.

* Somewhere along the way, we got focused on who does what with their genitals and forgot about love.

* I didn’t want theology to ever become more important than people.

* Our rejection of those who don’t fit without our clear-cut worldview is destroying people. Jesus said we would be known by our love, but when it comes to the LGBTQ community, we are known by our uncomfortable silence, our fight against their civil right to marry, our moral outrage, our discrimination, and our stereotyping.

* When you don’t know what to say [to a grieving person], cliches are the first things that come to your mind.  It’s our way of saying, “Holy shit, I don’t know what just happened.”

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

* Rather than being humbled and baffled by grace, we draw lines around who is in and who is out. [If we’re going to get angry], let’s get angry at how undiscriminating grace is.

* Jesus talked with all sorts of people without confronting them about their sin and demanding repentance.

* I can see the appeal of certainty. It promises that you’ll never have to rethink things or be confronted with a reality that you can’t understand. With God, you don’t get certainty.

* I’m going to work to free people from hell on earth.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

* The idea of heaven didn’t work for me when my mom died.  I felt certain she was in heaven… but all I could think about was never being able to see her, call her, talk to her, for the rest of my life.

* “Hope that is seen is not hope,” Paul says.  Hope comes from a place of doubt.

* We need to give people permission to embrace death, tragedy, the meaninglessness of life.

* I am no longer concerned with an afterlife, though I am concerned with eternity.

* I’m not trying to save anyone from hell or win people to Jesus.  I’m just trying to follow Jesus myself, and help people find grace and peace and acceptance in their lives.


Buy the book.  Click HERE.

Also check out www.JAYBAKKER.com, and www.REVOLUTIONnyc.com

 

SIN July 4, 2013

sin       [From “Faith, Doubt and Other Lines I’ve Crossed,” by Jay Bakker with Andy Meisenheimer]


When people lose their jobs, aren’t promoted, are discriminated against, are treated differently, are described as “gay” as an insult, get kicked out of their churches, and are disowned by their families THAT is Sin!

The non-affirming of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters in the church is destroying families – at times with surprising violence – all in the name of God and holiness.
That is Sin!

Jesus said we would be known by our love, but when it comes to the LGBTQ community, we are known by our uncomfortable silence, our fight against their civil right to marry, our moral outrage, our discrimination, and our stereotyping.  A “welcoming-but-not-affirming policy is both self-contradictory and cruel.

________________________________________

The very notion of a “right” is that it places limits on the arbitrary power of the majority.  Equal rights shouldn’t be based on a vote. (via William Stacy Johnson)

The church historically has lagged behind government when it comes to issues of civil liberties.

The church should be on the front lines of the fight for the civil liberties of the oppressed.
The lyrics of the U2 song “Sunday Bloody Sunday” ask, “How long must we sing this song?” How long are we going to cling to outdated notions of homosexuality and refuse to accept LGBTQ people into our midst?

_____________________________

Jay Bakker

Jay’s new book is, so far, fantastic! I’m just in 7 of 12 chapters (14, if you count the introduction and conclusion).
The above post is mostly about marriage equality, but that’s just this chapter. A lot of other issues are covered in these pages. This is my latest “Must Read” that I will be highly recommending to any and every reader, especially those who acknowledge faith in Christ.
[Of course, the “church” has often been the entity which has perpetrated the most vile and unholy sin, all in the name of God, and all while deceiving itself into believing it was the force attempting to eliminate sin.
To be fair, it has also been those of the Church (albeit the non-“fundamentalist” portion) who have fought for, and died for, the dignity, rights, and humanity of the oppressed. Who have, in fact, fought the sin of religious control and intolerance. – df]

For a different topic from the book, see: https://www.dropbox.com/s/vvcr11lancq3see/Paul.docx

Buy the book. Click HERE.

 

 
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