So, apparently I can’t talk about religion with anyone. I just made yet another really good friendship kind of awkward because I was honest about what I believe. Usually it just takes a long time for people to process and we are okay after that but their message is clear…
“No matter what, don’t talk to me about religion any more.”
But this friend, kind of accused me of just enjoying talking about religion and entering into the discussion just to break her faith down (and kind of implied it was “fun”). While I do enjoy discussing philosophy (which any good discussion of religion immediately enters the area of metaphysics), and I do have a highly analytic mind that tends to find flaws and analyze wording and semantics, and I train it to do that…but it’s far from “fun”. I have legitimate honest questions, and when someone gives me proof that doesn’t hold up or that I interpret in a different way…I don’t know what to think of that other than I need more or different proof.
So just in case TL;DR the point is this: Since I can’t find anyone to discuss religion with I’ve decided to “talk” to random people on the Internet about it, at least once a week.
So why not Sunday? While everyone else is in church I will write about my own thoughts on God. This week I have some specific thoughts on my mind directly related to my conversation with this friend, but next week I’ll kind of back up and explain the root of my beliefs and why I feel the way I do.
Okay, so my friend and I were talking and she said that there were three requirements for being a Christian. These were belief in Christ, being baptized, and for the life of me I can’t remember the third one. But I had heard this before, so I asked where in the Bible it talked about these things. She couldn’t remember exactly where so she said she’d get back to me later.
But first, let me talk about the first one. Often times John 14:6 is quoted in response to belief in Jesus as a requirement for worshiping the “right” God.
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
This seems nicely tied into a bow. He is making an absolute ultimatum. A completely exclusive statement saying anyone who doesn’t believe in me is wrong.
First, ask yourself this: Does this sound like the same man who says “Love your enemies”? Does it sound like the same guy who preaches love and tolerance of everyone every time he turns around? Taken as an ultimatum this statement is very exclusive.
So, to make it fit with the rest of Christ’s message (one of love and tolerance) doesn’t it make more sense if he means “My Father and I are one, if you know me then you know Him as well”. Now by that logic, if you know the Father then you also know Jesus.
Well look at John 14 as a whole:
Verse 7: “If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
Verse 10: “Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.”
Verse 20: “On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.”
So my next question: Is it possible to come to know God without knowing Jesus?
Verse 23-24: Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.”
Now, Jesus was an excellent teacher and role model. But I say again…is it possible to come to understand the teaching of Jesus (love for your fellow man, tolerance, and a relationship with God) without knowing about Jesus himself?
I say yes. I learn things all the time without a teacher. Now, it’s a LOT more difficult, but if you are from another religion that also believes in these things (read: most other religions) than it should be a lot easier. The textbook is different but the curriculum is the same.
So I ask again: Why is a belief in Jesus necessary for life? It is necessary to be a Christian, but I don’t think it’s necessary for God’s love or acceptance. I’ll just leave it at that.
So for baptism, she told me about John 3:3-5 where Jesus says
“Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.”
Baptism. Right. Fair enough. Except he goes on to say (in John 3:6-8):
“Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
So flesh cannot give birth to flesh. The Spirit gives birth to spirit, and we cannot tell where it comes or where it is going. We cannot tell when someone has been reborn in the Spirit…so this baptism is not physical but spiritual. There is another place also where it talks about baptism that was mentioned (I’m sure it is mentioned other times in the Bible, but these were the two called to my attention).
1 Peter 3:18-23 :
“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits— to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water,
and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God.“
So the baptism is a physical ritual that symbolizes a true spiritual awakening and baptism in the Spirit. The two are supposed to correlate (ideally) but the truth is that we can’t tell the movement of the Spirit so how can we know? We just go through the motions and kind of hope that we didn’t do it wrong.
So in conclusion, for today, don’t forget to err on the side of tolerance, all who are baptized through the Spirit know God, and it doesn’t require knowledge or belief in Christ because if you know God then by extension you know the entire Trinity.
We all worship the same God. We should love and accept everyone equally. We are all brothers and sisters in God.
Have a wonderful and spiritual Sunday,
Finally. Sorry I have been gone for so long. I have been moving, and then I was having trouble posting because my internet at my new place doesn’t seem to like WordPress much. I don’t know what changed but luckily I can post again. So…here we go.
Had the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner for my friend’s wedding tonight. It was…well a wedding rehearsal. The dinner part was…okay. But really the part I enjoyed was afterwards hanging out at my bro’s house with everyone. It’s so great to see all of my old high school friends again and talk about how they are doing in their lives. We have always been closer than just friends…more like a family, and when we get back together it’s like we never left. I hope we always stay that way…it’s a great feeling. It is especially great to have a support group outside of your family. I always feel like my family HAS to love me and support me, but my friends chose me. Or…well…we chose each other.
And one of them, who I have never really gotten along with kind of rubbed me the wrong way. Of course, she has been doing it for years so I don’t know why that would have changed. First she scolded me like I was five years old for using language she didn’t approve of. Which I respect the sentiment, and usually try and avoid using foul language around people who are bothered by it, but she could have been nicer about it. She also asked me if I knew about this big life changing decision she is making, and when I told her I knew already she launched into talking about it, and how she was kind of sad because if she did it she would miss going to our ten year high school reunion and seeing people’s reactions. I told her not to feel bad, that I would probably miss our ten year reunion too because I might be going to school far away. And she just kind of brushed it off and turned away from me. Self-absorbed much?
Then on top of that, if she does go for it, I feel like she is making a bad decision. I don’t feel like she has done everything she can with what she has. She has an amazing degree, and I assume a passion for what she studied in college, but didn’t do anything with it afterwards…I am guessing because it was probably too hard. I get that…I’ve written here before that I feel like I have never really challenged myself, and that I have always taken the easy way out and done just enough to scrape by. It is kind of funny, because I remember a time when she was in school that she made me feel like an utter failure for dropping out…and yet now I feel like she has completely given up on whatever her dreams were and is settling for a life-decision that she can’t take back. At least I am still trying to better myself and realize my dreams…although the last couple of weeks have been kind of bumps in my road. Thinking about all this tonight also reminds me of the best advice I ever got from my Dad and that was “You don’t fail until you stop getting up and trying again.” You hear similar things all the time, but coming from a man who barely graduated high school, dropped out of college, and still managed to create an amazing life for himself and touch so many people that my Mom’s church was full to overflowing with people to pay their respects when he passed was absolutely inspiring.
I just wish I was close enough to this girl to actually sit her down and say some of this and have it get across. But the truth is ever since I had a crush on her in high school we have never been close…maybe she thinks I still feel that way, I don’t know. I hate to see anyone in my adopted family, even someone who ruffles my fur more often than not, making such a permanent decision and not doing it for the right reasons.
But hey, maybe I’m wrong and she does have all the right reasons. Only God knows if she does.
COMING SOON: Review of Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim….once all the wedding craziness dies down.