WORLD NEEDS ADULT FAITH

  1. Fundamentalism, in terms of people having a simplistic faith, has become a problem for all of us. As a person’s world view progressively narrows, they become more and more judgmental, intolerant, and even dangerous. In some cases people are willing to kill themselves and others for their religious cause.

    As our world becomes increasingly complex, people seek simple answers in order to cope, and so fundamentalism is spreading everywhere. The solution is for people to develop an adult faith.

    By integrating the thinking of James Hayes, a former Catholic archbishop, Friedrich Von Hugel, a nineteenth century theologian, and Gordon Allport, a Harvard psychologist, we can outline ten characteristics of an adult faith which could apply to Christians, Jews, Muslims, Bahais, or any other faith-based tradition.

    First of all, a mature faith is open. It honours the basic freedom and autonomy of other adults, knows that our world is complex and ambiguous, and therefore respectfully listens to others and tries to understand their viewpoint. Then it speaks its own truth freely. This “dialogical” rather than argumentative approach represents a middle path between saying nothing and being authoritarian, that is, trying to impose our faith on others. 

    Secondly, an adult faith is searching. The adult believer distinguishes between constructive questioning (the search for truth) and destructive questioning ( the desire to disprove the truth). Constructive questioning is essential to progress in faith and normally produces greater clarity, broader horizons, and deeper ownership of one’s beliefs. The adult believer is wary of anyone who tries to shut down the quest for understanding.

    A mature faith is also informed and comprehensive in its world view. Ideally, adult believers know the scriptures of their tradition well, and supplement this with ancient and modern spiritual classics. Adult believers should also become familiar with at least one science, and scientific methods of investigation, to keep their faith from becoming superstitious and ungrounded.

    An adult faith is humble. It is a pilgrim faith that never believes it has fully arrived. It is open to ongoing learning and conversion, rather than the faith of someone who has all the answers.

    Fifthly, a mature faith is critically evaluative. While it immerses itself in its culture, it critically evaluates the social order in light of the demands of human rights, responsibilities, and justice.

    An adult faith is also decisive. In spite of cultural complexity, the mature faith is not paralyzed. Rather, it is able to make sophisticated judgments and to take appropriate action for the common good.

    Seventh, a mature faith is integrated, that is, it integrates the sacred and the secular, faith and life. It acts the same whether inside or outside the synagogue, church, mosque or temple. It is consistently moral and just.

    Adult believers also have a differentiated faith. That is, they don’t believe that all religious traditions are the same, so that it doesn’t matter which one you belong to. They make critical discernments about the different truth claims between major world religions and also the diverse claims by the various branches within each tradition. At the same time, the adult believer focuses on similarities more than differences and builds bridges between and within traditions.

    Adult faith is also personal. Adult believers struggle to come to their own conclusions rather than just simplistically accepting what is handed to them by religious authorities. They wrestle with whether or not assertions by those in authority make any sense to them based on their own personal life experience.

    Finally, knowing their own limits and the limits of others means that the adult believer’s faith is simultaneously compassionate and communal. They know that they and others cannot do it all alone, they need human support. They know that being a part of, and being accountable to, a supportive religious or spiritual community is essential to maintaining an adult faith.

    What the world needs now is not just love but also adults with an adult faith.

DOGMA-KOANS

Catherine of Siena pondered 

two most important 

human states: being and non-being

and thought: God reveals God 

by revealing humans to humans

no one understood that

but she died at 33

Doctor of Church.

In Christ reside

all treasures and wisdom,

primary model of universe’s design

God’s plan: evolutionary unfolding of Cosmic Christ

Divine Love, the heart

of evolutionary universe

constantly giving birth.

Every human relationship a birth, a search

for love, love of self and God

the summum bonum, greatest good

Love the focal energy

giving meaning to all.

With Jesus Law is written 

on hearts not stone tablets 

outer authority: scripture and tradition 

balanced with Inner Authority: True Self.

Each stage: egocentric-ethnocentric-worldcentric 

involving greater care and compassion

hierarchy of love not power.

A Buddhist hierarchy: 

In first watch of night 

Buddha experienced previous incarnations

In second watch 

Buddha received divine eye of omniscient vision

In third watch 

Buddha understood Chain of Causation

At dawn 

Buddha reached perfect enlightenment.

Macquarrie versus Rahner: 

Buddha no “anonymous Christian”

Buddha teaches Christians

everything holy: 

frogs, poison ivy, enemies

so only one God, one truth 

one human and natural community.

Becoming a child

really hearing bird sing 

really seeing blue sky

makes real touch of Holy Spirit.

Splitting things 

spiritual/secular

led Church to “contemptus mundi”

world-contempt.

Church sinned against Truth 

when suppressed 

science as secular

science is search 

for God’s Truth.

Polarity-thinking misses much 

prayer-thinking takes in: 

ownership of my failings 

compassion for others’ failings.

Enneagram Five’s 

greatest gift and sin:

detachment

essence of Buddhism.

Relativists assume 

one interpretation of life 

good as any other.

If true

dogmas become dazzling mysteries

koans 

for pondering 

over and over.

Bruce Tallman

May 20, 2021

RETHINKING GOD AND EVIL SPIRITS

The older I get the harder I find it to say what our “ineffable” (unsayable) God is like. A long time ago I dropped the “God is an old man in the sky waiting to punish me if I do wrong” narrative. That god is really Zeus not the God of the Bible. All that the old man image needs is some lightning bolts.

Christians often say that “God is love” and indeed it says that throughout the scriptures. Lately I have been thinking that God is not just love, God is also wisdom, patience, forgiveness, trust, etc. In fact, the Dalai Lama said “My religion is kindness.” God is all virtues.

So, whenever someone is engaging in virtues or “spirits” like gentleness, peacemaking, compassion, justice, fortitude and goodness, God is manifesting through them. God is incarnate (embodied) in them. God is all these good spirits. This liberates God from being restricted to any one church or religion. Anyone engaging in these virtues/spirits, whether they are a believer in God or not, has God working in them, whether they acknowledge God or not.

As a believer, I can therefore comfortably relate to atheists or anyone who exhibits these spirits, basically to “all people of good will.”

On the other hand I am starting to think of evil spirits not as beings in red tights with horns and pitchforks (I never thought of them that way but I did not know how to say what they are either) but rather as spirits of lust, anger, gluttony, pride, deceit, greed, fear and so on. Anyone engaging in these vices has an evil spirit working in them.

God is manifest or incarnate in the world in anyone who has the good spirits/virtues working in them. And evil spirits are manifest/incarnated in anyone who has chosen to let the evil spirits listed above to go to work in them. So devils/evil spirits might manifest themselves as a greedy banker, corrupt politician or lawyer, schoolyard bully, etc. There are indeed evil spirits among us, just as God is among us.

3 Big Thoughts for March 12, 2019

  1. The more one pursues spirituality in the teachings of world religious leaders like Jesus, Mohammed, Lao Tzu and Buddha, the more one experiences oneness, interconnectedness and less separation.
  2. The new cosmology (the story of the origin and development of the universe and our place in it) that science is showing us: – things develop from matter (big bang, galaxies, planets) to life (plants) to sensitivity (animals) to thought (humans) – demonstrates that the whole universe is heading in a spiritual direction – the whole universe is moving inexorably towards more life and consciousness. This new cosmology can heal the former split between science and religion. Matter intrinsically moves toward spirit. The whole universe is bound for enlightenment!
  3. Contemplation does not kill your pain and anguish. In fact it increases your awareness of the false faith in things that most “normal” people put their trust in: money and possessions. Once you start to grasp the folly of this – the cultural trance or sleepwalking that is the status quo – it increases your grief for the all those who are trapped in it. You shed tears of compassion for your fellow human beings. “Compassion” means “to suffer with.” Contemplation leads to suffering with and for others.