Christian J, asked an important question regarding the Bible. How do we know we are not being deceived by spirituality or by “spiritual” books?
I think it is actually a very deep an important question about whether spirituality is bound to deceive us. What is superstition and what is not? I don’t think there is an easy or reasonable way to get rid of superstition. But sometimes superstitions point to the Truth, even though they look a like mere superstitions. The pragmatic conclusion is that words, books, or traditions are true when they point to true facts.
Myth and Spirituality open our minds to God.
Our imaginations can conjure up any god, and conjure up sacrifice that this god requires of us to be made whole, to pass this test of life. We learn to look at our lives with our imaginations. We try to make sense of the drives inside us, and the rules we are required to live by in order to survive and thrive. Our imagination plus our innate understanding is our conscience.
Mormonism is based on the proposition that a person who is following his own god can be alerted to the presence and love of God through spiritual experience. This unquestionably the case. How I would convert people to Mormonism was not much more than telling them to to imagine God, and imagine how he loves us. Once they were still, and felt this powerful loving feeling, they were ready to tacitly accept nearly anything else I told them about God.
This phenomena can be chalked up to the thrill that comes with theism — in meeting God for the first time — that shakes up the consciousness. Mormons are pointing to God as our Father, which is the same God Jesus spoke of. God is real because he we feel that He shows up when we imagine his love. Mormonism is practically about continually seeking the presence of this God through spiritual communion. All of the rituals and beliefs are simply myth that allows people to open their minds to God.
Mormons take the myth of the Fatherhood of God more literally than reason allows.
Where Mormonism goes a bit off is that, although they clearly point to the Holy Ghost, they don’t clearly point to Christ, and they don’t make absolutely explicit that the Father is not literally our father, but only spiritually (Bultmann would say “mythically”) our Father. As God, the source of all things, it is impossible to imagine this mystery as necessarily human in form, or even material at all. It takes a lot of belief to see god this way. It takes a lot less belief and faith to see God as something mysterious and absolute outside of the universe.
The Fatherhood of God is a critical part of Christianity, for those who have experienced the unconditional love of a Father, Christianity shows us how Christian leaders are to behave toward their followers, it shows us how God should love us. If our father’s did not give us unconditional love, this myth might actually go haywire and hide the true face of God.
But, if we don’t see Fatherhood as a myth or allegory, we won’t recognize that God is most simply the source of ALL things, good, evil, pain, joy, etc. When we understand that God, as source of all, is indifferent to our forms of right and wrong, justice and injustice, we start to see what the love of God must mean, i.e. that it means that even though there are actually living ideals of right and wrong, good and evil, we are saved from these ideals unconditionally. This is what relentless love is all about. We cannot be saved from the Good or the Evil. There needs to be some fact that transcends them. This is Christ.
Seeing Christ is a puzzle for human psychology.
Anybody can understand that “the greatest of these is love” and that we should seek after “whatever is praiseworthy” but it is difficult to understand what Paul was saying about Christ. I think explaining Christ is similar to explaining how to solve a Rubik’s cube (something that I have never learned to do.)
Some people can solve the Rubik’s cube intuitively (many who you would not expect), some people need specific directions, some people need some education before they even understand the directions, some people can’t do it at all. I think that if there was a powerful educational push in America, we could probably get about 60% of our kids to solve the cube. But if we didn’t explain the instructions at all, we would probably only have like 10-20% success.
Mormon-Style instructions are creative, and help people and tell us about how to solve all kinds of other puzzles, but they are not that clear on solving the Rubik’s cube. Evangelical-style instructions are those of Paul which were focused 100% on the simple solution to this puzzle, even though they don’t provide as clear direction on what to do after you solve the puzzle. This was Joseph Smith’s knock on Christianity, in a much more intellectual way, it was also Nietzsche’s.
Christ is not a Spiritual Fact
Christ is not a spiritual fact, it is a fact of the logic of the love of God. If you accept the fact of God, i.e. one ultimate source of everything. I don’t think it makes sense at all to accept the myth that “God loves humanity” without also accepting that there must be a Christ. This is the fact that allows the man who kills his brother in anger to see clearly that, although he is guilty, his live is actually worth living and that the source of the universe accepts him. This is also a fact that can in reality melt all contention between spouses that is caused by competing theories of justice, if they both focus on it at the same time.
The spirituality that happens after people feel the love of God spiritually (i.e. psychologically), or recognize Christ intuitively, is confusing, because it is the same sort of spirituality that pagans had before Christ. It is not necessarily any more evil than anything else in the fallen world, but it is not Christ. Thus, Christians will be driven to other mythic gods merely because of their human psychology, and honoring these myths is not necessarily evil or bad, unless it distracts us from the fact of Christ. It turns out, that it is not so easy to remember that you are saved, and our spirituality will get in the way of the enormous advantage that the knowledge of salvation is.