Jump to content


Photo
- - - - -

Many paths to God


  • Please log in to reply
53 replies to this topic

#1 Bob L.

Bob L.

    Junior Poster

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 58 posts

Posted 19 November 2014 - 04:15 PM

This is a hard idea for me to explain. Hindu people often claim that Christianity is just one of many paths to God. I've heard this idea many times before and dismissed it, but yesterday it suddenly seemed more interesting. I wanted to find out how others feel about it.

 

As background, I grew-up as a Christian, but I gave-up on God in college and have considered myself an atheist most of my life. (I'm 48). In 2009 I had a breakdown that I understood to be spiritual, so I became an Orthodox. I quickly became disillusioned and stopped going to church in 2011. I've spent the last several years trying to understand what actually happened during that time.

 

Last month I thought I made a breakthrough. I realized one of my lingering suspicions about a friend were simply imagined. That realization helped me see that other memories and ideas from that period must also be imaginary. So I thought I was finally back to being a normal person again.

 

Unfortunately, a couple of days ago I realized that some seemingly paranormal experiences happened many years before I had the breakdown in 2009. So that made me wonder again about the possibility for supernaturalism.

 

(Sorry this is so long.) To get to the point, I have read enough history to convince myself that Judaism and Christianity evolved gradually from earlier forms of religions. Some Christians claim that God inspired his followers gradually and imperceptibly, but this seems to be an excuse to continue believing in God's involvement (much like intelligent design).

 

So I started wondering if something (a universal consciousness, our higher selves, etc.) interacts with humans through the subconscious where things like religious concepts are stored. A Christian naturally interacts through Christianity, a muslim through Islam, etc.

 

Just wondering if this idea has any following in Orthodoxy.



#2 Anna Stickles

Anna Stickles

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,365 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 19 November 2014 - 06:28 PM

The ascetics in our church teach us not to trust our suspicions about others since this is a temptation. Instead we are to struggle toward peace of soul built on the foundation of faith, hope and love first toward God and then toward other men.

 

We say that God, in whose image we are made, interacts with humanity in our mind and heart and soul. I have never heard anything about "storing religious concepts" but we are all created with a conscience that although it gets darkened is capable of recognizing and pursuing the good. God works with our conscience, and through the circumstances in our lives tries to lead us out of a fallen state of being darkened by sin and led astray by Satan, to a state where our intuition and conscience are clear and able to operate the way they were created to operate- without interference and distortion. But this takes a long time and happens as we struggle to live in obedience to the gospel and the teachings of the Church.

 

As human beings we all are created in the image of God and we all exist for the same high purpose of growing in our likeness to God. Christ teaches us what God is truly like, but this is a gradual revelation in the sense that our fallen state does not allow us to know this right away. It is like eyes that have been in the dark a long time and suddenly come into the light. They have to adjust to brighter light gradually. Orthodoxy also teaches that we cannot grow in God's likeness without his help and immediate presence and energy in our lives.



#3 Brian Patrick Mitchell

Brian Patrick Mitchell

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 719 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 19 November 2014 - 06:42 PM

Bob, it seems odd that you would, on one hand, entertain the possibility of "supernaturalism" on account of "seemingly paranormal experiences" and, on the other hand, deny that Judaism and Christianity are inspired by God on account of a strictly materialistic, anti-supernatural reading of "history." If your experience suggests to you that there might be something beyond the material world, why can't that something be responsible for creating the world and teaching man what to worship?

 

Christians, of course, believe in spiritual beings and agencies. We believe in the Holy Spirit and in both angels and demons, and we believe that these are all active in our lives, leading us one way or another.

 

We also believe that every "path to God" must lead to Christ, "for no man cometh unto the Father except by me." Christ is "the Way, the Truth, and the Life." Christianity teaches this way, this truth, the life plainly and fully. No other religion does. Whatever good there might be in them, they do not plainly point people to Christ as the model of human perfection, the kind of man we should all strive to be.  



#4 Bob L.

Bob L.

    Junior Poster

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 58 posts

Posted 19 November 2014 - 07:31 PM

The ascetics in our church teach us not to trust our suspicions about others since this is a temptation. Instead we are to struggle toward peace of soul built on the foundation of faith, hope and love first toward God and then toward other men.

 

We say that God, in whose image we are made, interacts with humanity in our mind and heart and soul. I have never heard anything about "storing religious concepts" but we are all created with a conscience that although it gets darkened is capable of recognizing and pursuing the good. God works with our conscience, and through the circumstances in our lives tries to lead us out of a fallen state of being darkened by sin and led astray by Satan, to a state where our intuition and conscience are clear and able to operate the way they were created to operate- without interference and distortion. But this takes a long time and happens as we struggle to live in obedience to the gospel and the teachings of the Church.

 

As human beings we all are created in the image of God and we all exist for the same high purpose of growing in our likeness to God. Christ teaches us what God is truly like, but this is a gradual revelation in the sense that our fallen state does not allow us to know this right away. It is like eyes that have been in the dark a long time and suddenly come into the light. They have to adjust to brighter light gradually. Orthodoxy also teaches that we cannot grow in God's likeness without his help and immediate presence and energy in our lives.

 

Thanks. When I said "storing religious concepts" I was referring to the way that people often hallucinate religious characters. I assume that when a child is exposed to religious concepts that evoke strong emotions (Satan, Jesus, etc.) then those concepts become the vocabulary of dreams and hallucinations. If some supernatural force communicates with humans through dreams and hallucinations then it would be forced to use the religious vocabulary of the receiver. Also a person who wants to express devotion to this spiritual force might feel more natural using the concepts of this religion without actually believing that religion at the conscious level. (This might be analagous to kissing an icon while realizing that the icon is not the object of veneration. It might also be similar to the way many atheists practice pagan rituals without belief.)


Edited by Bob L., 19 November 2014 - 07:33 PM.


#5 Bob L.

Bob L.

    Junior Poster

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 58 posts

Posted 19 November 2014 - 07:45 PM

Bob, it seems odd that you would, on one hand, entertain the possibility of "supernaturalism" on account of "seemingly paranormal experiences" and, on the other hand, deny that Judaism and Christianity are inspired by God on account of a strictly materialistic, anti-supernatural reading of "history." If your experience suggests to you that there might be something beyond the material world, why can't that something be responsible for creating the world and teaching man what to worship?

 

Christians, of course, believe in spiritual beings and agencies. We believe in the Holy Spirit and in both angels and demons, and we believe that these are all active in our lives, leading us one way or another.

 

We also believe that every "path to God" must lead to Christ, "for no man cometh unto the Father except by me." Christ is "the Way, the Truth, and the Life." Christianity teaches this way, this truth, the life plainly and fully. No other religion does. Whatever good there might be in them, they do not plainly point people to Christ as the model of human perfection, the kind of man we should all strive to be.  

 

That is a good point. Either I should be more skeptical of my own experiences or less skeptical of Christianity.



#6 Rdr Andreas

Rdr Andreas

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 5,032 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 19 November 2014 - 07:47 PM

I have to construe what has been said at post #4 in this way. What evidence is there that 'people often hallucinate religious characters'? I have not heard of this.  The second sentence, about a child, is based, as the post says, on an assumption: what is the basis of this assumption? Orthodox Christians do not express devotion to a 'spiritual force' but to the God Who revealed Himself to mankind. Orthodoxy is not a religion: it is revealed truth. This is what separates it from religions which are human constructs. There are no 'paths up the same mountain to God' as is sometimes claimed.



#7 Bob L.

Bob L.

    Junior Poster

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 58 posts

Posted 19 November 2014 - 08:17 PM

I have to construe what has been said at post #4 in this way. What evidence is there that 'people often hallucinate religious characters'? I have not heard of this.  The second sentence, about a child, is based, as the post says, on an assumption: what is the basis of this assumption? Orthodox Christians do not express devotion to a 'spiritual force' but to the God Who revealed Himself to mankind. Orthodoxy is not a religion: it is revealed truth. This is what separates it from religions which are human constructs. There are no 'paths up the same mountain to God' as is sometimes claimed.

 

O.k. thanks. So far that seems to be the consensus.



#8 Brian Patrick Mitchell

Brian Patrick Mitchell

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 719 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 19 November 2014 - 08:29 PM

Thanks. When I said "storing religious concepts" I was referring to the way that people often hallucinate religious characters. I assume that when a child is exposed to religious concepts that evoke strong emotions (Satan, Jesus, etc.) then those concepts become the vocabulary of dreams and hallucinations. If some supernatural force communicates with humans through dreams and hallucinations then it would be forced to use the religious vocabulary of the receiver. Also a person who wants to express devotion to this spiritual force might feel more natural using the concepts of this religion without actually believing that religion at the conscious level.

 

The way one has been taught to see the world will, of course, influence the way one understands one's experiences, whether awake or asleep. But the way Orthodox Christians are taught to see the world includes the reality of demons seeking to deceive us so as to lead us astray. We are therefore also taught to be on our guard against hallucinations, to not trust our dreams, and to reason whether such images and experiences accord with revealed Truth conveyed to us by the Church.


Edited by Brian Patrick Mitchell, 19 November 2014 - 08:30 PM.


#9 Rdr Andreas

Rdr Andreas

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 5,032 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 19 November 2014 - 08:32 PM

I completely endorse post #8 - we must have discernment.



#10 Bob L.

Bob L.

    Junior Poster

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 58 posts

Posted 19 November 2014 - 10:36 PM

The way one has been taught to see the world will, of course, influence the way one understands one's experiences, whether awake or asleep. But the way Orthodox Christians are taught to see the world includes the reality of demons seeking to deceive us so as to lead us astray. We are therefore also taught to be on our guard against hallucinations, to not trust our dreams, and to reason whether such images and experiences accord with revealed Truth conveyed to us by the Church.

 

o.k. I am familiar with those ideas. Of course I'm sure everybody realizes that this attitude only works if Orthodoxy is revealed Truth. It's essentially saying "who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?" But I don't mean to debate the beliefs of Orthodoxy. I don't think that is the purpose of this forum.



#11 Kosta

Kosta

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,517 posts

Posted 20 November 2014 - 01:22 AM

Every culture has its own peculiarities which may seem strange to others. In middleeastern culture the ginni are believed and have been witnessed to animate certain inanimate objects. In the Near East a person acting oddly may be said to have gotten the 'evil eye'. In China they may see bad luck as going against the rules of Feng Shuei. In India and in the secular West there's a belief in karma. In Greece, dreams as a source of an authentic vision is more readily accepted than in the Russian tradition.

Basically we interact and are shaped within the cultural norms we are raised in. Now I don't believe all religions lead to God. I believe all religions lead towards Christ. Jesus said, "you search the Scriptures for in them you think you have life, but they are which speak of me". That means all the writings prophecy Christ. And it's the reason why christianity actually recieves some of these pre-christian concepts and stories as authentic christian revelation.

#12 Rdr Andreas

Rdr Andreas

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 5,032 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 20 November 2014 - 09:20 AM

It would be useful to know if Bob L accepts that the Orthodox Christian faith is revealed truth.



#13 Bob L.

Bob L.

    Junior Poster

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 58 posts

Posted 20 November 2014 - 12:44 PM

It would be useful to know if Bob L accepts that the Orthodox Christian faith is revealed truth.

No, but assuming there is some spiritual force/consciousness/being that interacts with humans, I'm sure individual Orthodox might learn nuggets of truth. If any of those nuggets of truth can be explained instead of simply experienced, then they might have found their way into Orthodox beliefs. (Of course I believe the same thing about other religions.)

Atheist is probably the best label for me. I think Jesus was probably just a fanatical Jewish cult leader who thought he was a prophet of a coming Kindom of Heaven within the lifetime of his followers. Obviously he was wrong.

On the other hand, I have experienced things that seemed to fit the Christian story. So that's my problem. The most rational explanation is that my subconscious uses Christian imagery as its vocabulary, but sometimes I wonder if the source is a spirit of some kind instead of my subconscious.

#14 Bob L.

Bob L.

    Junior Poster

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 58 posts

Posted 20 November 2014 - 12:58 PM

Every culture has its own peculiarities which may seem strange to others. In middleeastern culture the ginni are believed and have been witnessed to animate certain inanimate objects. In the Near East a person acting oddly may be said to have gotten the 'evil eye'. In China they may see bad luck as going against the rules of Feng Shuei. In India and in the secular West there's a belief in karma. In Greece, dreams as a source of an authentic vision is more readily accepted than in the Russian tradition.

Basically we interact and are shaped within the cultural norms we are raised in. Now I don't believe all religions lead to God. I believe all religions lead towards Christ. Jesus said, "you search the Scriptures for in them you think you have life, but they are which speak of me". That means all the writings prophecy Christ. And it's the reason why christianity actually recieves some of these pre-christian concepts and stories as authentic christian revelation.

So multiple paths to Christ and then one path from there to God? That seems reasonable to me.

What do you think Christ is in practice? Like if I'm an Aztec or some other religion, how would my path lead to Christ and what would I find when I get there?

#15 Rdr Andreas

Rdr Andreas

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 5,032 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 20 November 2014 - 01:09 PM

Having regard to posts #13 and #14, I cannot see that this thread can or indeed should go anywhere. The site is, after all, for the study of Orthodoxy through Patristic, Liturgical and Monastic sources.



#16 Bob L.

Bob L.

    Junior Poster

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 58 posts

Posted 20 November 2014 - 01:16 PM

Having regard to posts #13 and #14, I cannot see that this thread can or indeed should go anywhere. The site is, after all, for the study of Orthodoxy through Patristic, Liturgical and Monastic sources.

That's fine. I just wondered if this idea might fit into Orthodoxy somewhere. I know that Orthodox theology is radically different in some ways, so I thought it might. Thanks anyway. :)

#17 Rick H.

Rick H.

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,231 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 20 November 2014 - 01:54 PM

Bob, there are some gems lying on the surface as it relates to a conversation about consciousness in the following thread:
 

 
Here is a quote in that thread that I have always appreciated from Fr. Raphael:

 
"There are two realities to tie together. Otherwise we fall into one of two mistakes each just as serious as the other.

One of these realities is that there is the Body of Christ wherein is found Truth Incarnate. 

The other is that all that is good & beautiful must also be a reflection of Christ's Truth.

The Holy Frs struggled with these two constantly and often stressed one over the other according to circumstance."

Edited by Rick H., 20 November 2014 - 01:56 PM.


#18 Bob L.

Bob L.

    Junior Poster

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 58 posts

Posted 20 November 2014 - 02:32 PM

Bob, there are some gems lying on the surface as it relates to a conversation about consciousness in the following thread:
 
Consciousness and God's love - Man - Monachos.net Discussion Community

 
Here is a quote in that thread that I have always appreciated from Fr. Raphael:

 
"There are two realities to tie together. Otherwise we fall into one of two mistakes each just as serious as the other.

One of these realities is that there is the Body of Christ wherein is found Truth Incarnate. 

The other is that all that is good & beautiful must also be a reflection of Christ's Truth.

The Holy Frs struggled with these two constantly and often stressed one over the other according to circumstance."

Thanks, I'll check-out that thread. :)

#19 Lakis Papas

Lakis Papas

    Regular Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 616 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 20 November 2014 - 03:42 PM

Theology and Mysticism in the Tradition of the Eastern Church

 
by Vladimir Lossky
 

http://orthodoxinfo....ssky_intro.aspx

 

 

The theological doctrines ... can be treated in the most direct relation to the vital end—that of union with God to the attainment of which they are subservient. Thus they appear as the foundations of Christian spirituality. It is this that we shall understand in speaking of 'mystical theology'; not mysticism properly so-called, the personal experiences of different masters of the spiritual life. Such experiences, for that matter, more often than not remain inaccessible to us: even though they may find verbal expression. What, in reality, can one say of the mystical experience of St. Paul:

 

'I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth); such an one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth); how that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter'.

 

 
To venture to pass any judgement upon the nature of this experience it would be necessary to understand it more fully than did St. Paul, who avows his ignorance: 'I cannot tell: God knoweth.' We deliberately leave on one side all question of mystical psychology. Nor is it theological doctrines as such that we propose to set forth in the present work, but only such elements of theology as are indispensable for the understanding of a spirituality: the dogmas which constitute the foundation of mysticism. 


#20 Seraphim of the Midwest

Seraphim of the Midwest

    Conversationalist

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 133 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 20 November 2014 - 04:20 PM

Bob, Orthodoxy can be called many things.
 

If you read the Gospel of John all the way through (or perhaps watch a video depiction if you learn better that way), and follow the words of Christ, there is one thing that becomes very clear in his speaking.  He says, "In earnest I tell you" (also translated "In truth, I tell you" or "I am telling you the truth") over and over again.  He makes a very strong statement that those who wish to see the truth will listen, and those that don't.

 

In your writing, you keep distinguishing God from Jesus.  However, there is the Father (who is the God of Jesus) and Jesus (who is the son of the Father).  Both are God to us, bound in a way that is similar in the way that photons are both waves and particles at the same time, that is by their very nature and "substance" they are divine.

 

God rewards those who diligently seek Him.  And God is truth.  So, in a sense, if you are honestly seeking the truth, God will reward you.  If you do not love the truth (even when it hurts) then you are just deluded and there really is no point.  However, if you are seeking truth, God will reward you.  It may not come for a long time.  So, it is a test of stamina.

 

Often, people turn it around and act as if truth is God, and that is truth as defined by a limited perception.  That is effectively making God out of an imperfect "image" and is not in truth.  That is creating an idol.

 

Your question title is "Many paths to God" and I wonder out loud, what does "God" mean in the statement?  If you don't define your terms, then discussion will have limited (if any) usefulness.






0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users