1. Illinois
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    03 Sep '07 17:39
    This is a quote from Dallas Willard's book, The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God. I thought it might be interesting for both Christians and non-Christians alike.

    ---------------------------------

    "The Old Testament experience of God is one of the direct presence of God's person, knowledge, and power to those who trust and serve him. Nothing--no human being or institution, no time, no space, no spiritual being, no event--stands between God and those who trust him. The "heavens" are always there with you no matter what, and the "first heaven," in biblical terms, is precisely the atmosphere or air that surrounds your body ... it is precisely from the space immediately around us that God watches and God acts.

    "When Paul on Mars Hill told his Greek inquisitors that in God we "live and move and exist," he was expressing in the most literal way possible the fact learned from the experience of God's covenant people, the Jews. He was not speaking metaphorically or abstractly.

    "The same is true when Jesus chided Nicodemus, who took himself to be a "teacher of Israel," for not understanding the birth "from above"--the receiving of a superhuman kind of life from the God who is literally with us in surrounding space. To be born "from above," in New Testament language, means to be interactively joined with a dynamic, unseen system of divine reality in the midst of which all of humanity moves about--whether it knows it or not. And that, of course, is "The Kingdom Among Us."

    "Perhaps we all are far too much like Nicodemus. In a church service we may heartily sing the grand old hymn, "O Worship the King ... Whose robe is the light, whose canopy space" :

    "Thy bountiful care, what tongue can recite?
    "It breathes in the air; it shines in the light;
    "It streams from the hills; it descends to the plain;
    "And gently distills in the dew and the rain.

    "But do we actually believe this? I mean, are we ready automatically to act as if we stand here and now and always in the presence of the great being described by Adam Clarke, who fills and overflows all space, including the atmosphere around our body?

    "At no place, I think, does our contemporary mind-set more strongly conflict with the life and good news of Jesus than over the understanding of space. If we are to make sense of Jesus' teaching and practice of the kingdom of the heavens, we must understand what spirit and the spiritual are and how they are in space.

    "Confusing God with his historical manifestations in space may have caused some to think that God is a Wizard-of-Oz or Sistine-Chapel kind of being sitting at a location very remote from us. The universe is then presented as, chiefly, a vast empty space with a humanoid God and a few angels rattling around in it, while several billion human beings crawl through the tiny cosmic interval of human history on an oversized clod of dirt circling an insignificant star.

    "Of such a "god" we can only say, "Good riddance!" It seems that when many people try to pray they do have such an image of God in their minds. They therefore find praying psychologically impossible or extremely difficult. No wonder.

    "But the response to this mistake has led many to say that God is not in space at all, not that "old man in the sky," but instead is "in" the human heart. And that sounds nice, but it really does not help. In fact, it just makes matters worse. "In my heart" easily becomes "in my imagination." And, in any case, the question of God's relation to space and the physical world remains unresolved. If he is not in space at all, he is not in human life, which is lived in space. Those vast oceans of "empty space" just sit there glowering at the human "heart" realm where God has, supposedly, taken refuge from science and the real world.

    "This ill-advised attempt to make God near by confining him to human hearts robs the idea of his direct involvement in human life of any sense. Ironically it has much the same effect as putting God in outer space or beyond. It gives us a pretty metaphor but leaves us vainly grasping for the reality. We simply cannot solve the problem of spirit's relation to space by taking spirit out of space, either beyond space or "in" the heart. We must gain a deeper understanding of what "spirit" is.

    "The spirit and the space most familiar to each one of us are contained in our own personality. The necessary path of understanding lies in reflecting on our own makeup.

    "I am a spiritual being who currently has a physical body. I occupy my body and its environs by my consciousness of it and by my capacity to will and act with and through it. I occupy my body and its proximate space, but I am not localizable in it or around it. You cannot find me or any of my thoughts, feelings, or character traits in any part of my body. Even I cannot. If you wish to find me, the last thing you should do is open my body and take a look--or even examine it closely with a microscope or other physical instruments.

    "For many years in Moscow there was a scientific institute where the brains of great Communists--leaders, scientists, and artists--were preserved and slices taken to be analyzed under the microscope. Technicians hoped to find the secret of great Communist personalities right there in their great Communist brains. Of course, they found nothing of personal greatness there. They were looking in the wrong place and in the wrong way. To be sure, the brain is a relatively more important and interesting piece of flesh, but nothing of intellect, creativity, or character is to be found in it.

    "That very unity of experience that constitutes a human self cannot be located at any point in or around this body through which we live, not even in the brain. Yet I am present as agent or causal influence with and about my body and its features and movements. In turn, what my body undergoes and provides influence my life as a personal being. And through my body, principally through my face and gestures, or "body language," but also verbally, I can make myself present to others.

    "The human face, and especially the eyes, are not just additional physical objects in space. We say that the eyes are the windows of the soul, and there is much truth to it. They and the face and hands are areas in space where the spiritual reality of the person becomes present to others. There the inmost being of the individual pours forth, though of course the person is no more literally identical with his or her face or eyes than with lungs or toenails or brain.

    "Interestingly, "growing up" is largely a matter of learning to hide our spirit behind our face, eyes, and language so that we can evade and manage others to achieve what we want and avoid what we fear. By contrast, the child's face is a constant epiphany because it doesn't yet know how to do this. It cannot manage its face. This is also true of adults in moments of great feeling--which is one reason why feeling is both greatly treasured and greatly feared.

    "Those who have attained considerable spiritual stature are frequently noted for their "childlikeness." What this really means is that they do not use their face and body to hide their spiritual reality. In their body they are genuinely present to those around them. That is a great spiritual attainment or gift.

    "Now, roughly speaking, God relates to space as we do to our body. He occupies and overflows it but cannot be localized in it. Every point in it is accessible to his consciousness and will, and his manifest presence can be focused in any location as he sees fit. In the incarnation he focused his reality in a special way in the body of Jesus. This was so that we might be "enlightened by the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Cor. 4:6).
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    04 Sep '07 08:04
    Hmm, what shall I do today?

    Well, I'm too important to die but there is that inevitable problem of the dead body looming up. I know, I'll invent something called a soul or spirit and that'll solve it, after all, human conciousness can feel a bit like something that will live on ...
  3. Illinois
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    04 Sep '07 15:151 edit
    Originally posted by Sepia Tint
    Hmm, what shall I do today?

    Well, I'm too important to die but there is that inevitable problem of the dead body looming up. I know, I'll invent something called a soul or spirit and that'll solve it, after all, human conciousness can feel a bit like something that will live on ...
    Better a witty fool than a foolish wit. Eh?
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    04 Sep '07 17:29
    Originally posted by epiphinehas
    Better a witty fool than a foolish wit. Eh?
    Indirectly, I was quoting an idea from the satire "Scepticism Inc." written by a philosophy graduate, and as I read your post I wondered how much the author would be willing to bet that his metaphysical proposition was true.
    If you haven't read the book that won't make sense.

    Of course in the face of declining church attendance, particularly in the UK, it is no surprise to see the theologists and others trying to redefine their doctrines to be fitter for purpose in the current age. Your author wants to portray God as some disembodied conciousness occupying space, almost suggesting some sort of definable property (metaphorically similar to electricity in wires I guess) able to beam in like a Star Trek character when the need arises.

    This is all very well but a large number of people find God absent, whether they are seeking or not, with hardly the accessibility such theology infers.
  5. Illinois
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    06 Sep '07 03:011 edit
    Originally posted by Sepia Tint
    Indirectly, I was quoting an idea from the satire "Scepticism Inc." written by a philosophy graduate, and as I read your post I wondered how much the author would be willing to bet that his metaphysical proposition was true.
    If you haven't read the book that won't make sense.

    Of course in the face of declining church attendance, particularly in the ...[text shortened]... absent, whether they are seeking or not, with hardly the accessibility such theology infers.
    In this particular instance I see no redefinition of doctrine. The doctrine remains the same, it is the individual's conception or misconception of what is revealed biblically which is at issue. Willard is using classic biblical language, through the root Hebrew and Greek, to flesh out the intended meaning of the authors regarding what is implied by "heaven" and "Kingdom of heaven", etc. Biblically speaking, there are several different meanings which can be applied to the term, "heaven," e.g., the "first heaven" being literally the air which surrounds the body. A more accurate understanding of what is actually inferred by the biblical account is what is being sought, rather than a manipulation of doctrine.

    I am familiar with the declining church attendance in the UK. I don't see redefining doctrine to be a tenable solution to the problem. Truth is not something which should be tweaked in order to appeal to a fleeing audience. What is needed is for self-proclaimed Christians to faithfully practice what they preach. If that basic integrity of self-proclaimed believers is present, so will the power of God. If the power of God is present, then the new converts will arrive.
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    07 Sep '07 00:35
    Originally posted by epiphinehas
    In this particular instance I see no redefinition of doctrine. The doctrine remains the same, it is the individual's conception or misconception of what is revealed biblically which is at issue. Willard is using classic biblical language, through the root Hebrew and Greek, to flesh out the intended meaning of the authors regarding what is implied by "h ...[text shortened]... the power of God. If the power of God is present, then the new converts will arrive.
    Do you think Willard makes sense?

    Why would he pooh-pooh the communists' bottled brains then not consider that some of the creativity, character or intellect might be there if the reations in a live brain was examined.... My understanding is that this is the cutting edge of current research...We may yet be able to establish those features as we understand more about how each reaction is triggered, and to me this whole argument is decidedly dodgy.

    Do you think he is right to suggest that God's physical and Spiritual make up should be the similar to a human?

    In the final paragraph you have quoted, do you think he drifts toward pantheism (or Matthew Fox's pan-en-theism) ?

    You are probably right to question my loose use of the word doctrine, but I had wondered if the book cited was in similar vein to works such as "Saving Christianity" by Hilary Wakeman, where a reworking of doctrine is proposed, but perhaps your answer indicates otherwise.

    With the "letting one's life speak" sentiments of your final paragraph yesterday, I couldn't argue.
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    07 Sep '07 02:21
    Originally posted by epiphinehas
    This is a quote from Dallas Willard's book, The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God. I thought it might be interesting for both Christians and non-Christians alike.

    ---------------------------------

    "The Old Testament experience of God is one of the direct presence of God's person, knowledge, and power to those who trust ...[text shortened]... Christ" (2 Cor. 4:6).
    Some people just can't and will not accept that it's all in the genes and the stored experiences in the brain. What the heck do these people have against the brain? What?
  8. Illinois
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    07 Sep '07 05:081 edit
    Originally posted by Sepia Tint
    Do you think Willard makes sense?

    Why would he pooh-pooh the communists' bottled brains then not consider that some of the creativity, character or intellect might be there if the reations in a live brain was examined.... My understanding is that this is the cutting edge of current research...We may yet be able to establish those features as we underst tting one's life speak" sentiments of your final paragraph yesterday, I couldn't argue.
    There is no doubt that a person's capability is determined by the make-up of the brain. Einstein, obviously, though perhaps not the most intelligent person ever to live, was at least more endowed than a person with down-syndrome could ever be, i.e. brains are not just flesh, but vary widely in their capability. Willard's contention, and I think his view on this is biblically solid, is that the essence of one's personality is independent of the brain's capability. The "me" which I know inwardly, and which you apprehend outwardly, cannot be detected or appreciated with technical instruments. Perhaps various manifestations of electro-biochemical events may be detected through instrumentation, but can such readings ever give us an intuitive sense of a person's character and personality?

    EDIT: I'll finish my response later...
  9. SubscriberAThousandYoung
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    09 Sep '07 00:03
    Originally posted by epiphinehas
    There is no doubt that a person's capability is determined by the make-up of the brain. Einstein, obviously, though perhaps not the most intelligent person ever to live, was at least more endowed than a person with down-syndrome could ever be, i.e. brains are not just flesh, but vary widely in their capability. Willard's contention, and I think his vie ...[text shortened]... sense of a person's character and personality?

    EDIT: I'll finish my response later...
    You can't have an intuitive sense of anything except through your brain.
  10. Illinois
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    09 Sep '07 02:071 edit
    Originally posted by AThousandYoung
    You can't have an intuitive sense of anything except through your brain.
    Biblically speaking, intuition is a function of the spirit, as a direct perception of truth. The spirit knows without having to acquire such knowledge through a process of understanding. Whereas the brain does engage in a process of understanding in order to arrive at a tentative knowledge, derived from the many intellectual tools available to intelligence (reason, logic, scientific method, etc.). It would be true to say, though, that it takes a corresponding spirit in order to intuit the spirit of another, which is precisely how we can intuitively know the character and personality of another person, yet not be able to adequately describe it (nor pinpoint exactly where it is in space). The essence of a person, his or her "deepest" self, is the spirit of a person, and it is that which is not localizable.
  11. SubscriberAThousandYoung
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    09 Sep '07 02:12
    Originally posted by epiphinehas
    Biblically speaking, intuition is a function of the spirit, as a direct perception of truth. The spirit knows without having to acquire such knowledge through a process of understanding. Whereas the brain does engage in a process of understanding in order to arrive at a tentative knowledge, derived from the many intellectual tools available to i ...[text shortened]... his or her "deepest" self, is the spirit of a person, and it is that which is not localizable.
    The Bible is a book of superstitions.
  12. Illinois
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    09 Sep '07 02:53
    Originally posted by AThousandYoung
    The Bible is a book of superstitions.
    And I respect your right to believe that, despite its being a blatant misconception, but even so it adds nothing to the discussion, unless of course you are able to embellish your position beyond the mediocrity of your statement as is.
  13. Standard memberKellyJay
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    09 Sep '07 02:57
    Originally posted by epiphinehas
    This is a quote from Dallas Willard's book, The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God. I thought it might be interesting for both Christians and non-Christians alike.

    ---------------------------------

    "The Old Testament experience of God is one of the direct presence of God's person, knowledge, and power to those who trust ...[text shortened]... Christ" (2 Cor. 4:6).
    You read anything else by Willard, he is one of my favorite authors.
    I actually met him once.
    Kelly
  14. Illinois
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    09 Sep '07 03:00
    Originally posted by KellyJay
    You read anything else by Willard, he is one of my favorite authors.
    I actually met him once.
    Kelly
    The Divine Conspiracy is the only one of his that I've read.

    How would you describe your meeting with him?
  15. Illinois
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    09 Sep '07 03:08
    Originally posted by Sepia Tint
    Do you think Willard makes sense?

    Why would he pooh-pooh the communists' bottled brains then not consider that some of the creativity, character or intellect might be there if the reations in a live brain was examined.... My understanding is that this is the cutting edge of current research...We may yet be able to establish those features as we underst ...[text shortened]... tting one's life speak" sentiments of your final paragraph yesterday, I couldn't argue.
    Do you think he is right to suggest that God's physical and Spiritual make up should be the similar to a human?

    If God made us in His image, yes. Being made in God's image does not denote an exact likeness, however, but we should be able to grasp some similarities at least, spiritually speaking.

    In the final paragraph you have quoted, do you think he drifts toward pantheism (or Matthew Fox's pan-en-theism) ?

    The God of scripture is definitely immanent within the universe while simultaneously transcendent of it (panentheism). Willard's treatment of this issue is meant to stress His immanence, but not in such a way as to equate God Himself with the universe itself.
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