Jun 1, 2010

Truth Beyond The Sacred Texts, Dogma & Dogmatic Teachers

"Prove all things: hold fast to that which is good."--1 Thessalonians 5:21
Subject: Is It Possible That Truth Lies Beyond the 'Scare Us (Sacred) Texts (SUST)"?

Introduction: In answer to the question, is it possible that truth lies beyond the 'sacred scare us texts (SUST)', and those who teach and are sworn and bound to protect the contents of the texts, I believe that the answer is yes? Sacred texts serve a dual purpose. The author and publishers of the texts often intend to pass on information that they believe to be true or would be of interest to their reading audiences. Sacred texts are also used to frighten individuals, families, groups and nations in order to bring them into conformity, compliance and servility.

Point 1: What Is My Motivation?
The point of this paper and my position, make no mistake about it is simply to say this: We should free ourselves from texts, organizations and individuals, who before us were enslaved, by questionable, error-prone, unproven, borrowed and often misinterpreted texts and dogma, and to pull out all of the stops in our quest for what is real.

Sadly, many individuals and organizations are holding on to tradition and as a result are hoping to bind or hold us hostage within their versions of untested and unproven dogma that usually derives from their versions of sacred texts. As far as they are concerned, what they believe and have been taught to believe is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth – and nothing else matter. And furthermore, if you don’t accept what they believe as the incontrovertible truth, you are considered to be an apostate, heretic, reprobate or hopelessly lost human being.

It does not matter to them , that there are hundreds and in some instances thousands of others like them who believe that they have a monopoly on truth (even though what they believe contradicts what they happen to believe). If you would ask either camp, how can this be? The answer that you would likely receive would be simply this, the other side(s)s is wrong and what I believe is right!

How can all intolerant teachers, groups or organizations be correct? Perhaps absolutists would be a more appropriate term, because their egos are so large, that it is completely inconceivable to them that they could be wrong. This phenomenon might explain why the region in the world, the Middle-East, where the 3 major religious groups of the world continue to duke it out almost on a daily basis. Each group, Christian, Muslim and Jew, seem to have a mandate to kill, steal and to destroy (There are believed to be about 2 billion Christians in the World and 2 billion Muslims in the World, and these figures represent the majority of the world’s population).

The area that I am talking about in the Middle-East is a hot bed of war, where you will find entrenched hatred, murder, Jihads, intifadas, intolerance and believe it or not secularists? If you were to listen very closely to what each group has to tell, what they are really saying, what I have read, understood and come to believe is true, and nothing else matters.

I was in a discussion with a young Christian zealot a week ago. He argued that there was no such thing as an unjust person. Like most zealots, he didn’t want the other side (me in this instance) to get a word in edge-wise and he continued to talk over my protestations to the contrary. As he talked, he stumbled by making a reference to what he referred to a just person. I asked, going back to his original premise, then what would be the opposite of a just person?. Checkmate, he was quiet from that point on!

Why was he behaving in such an obtuse and arrogant manner? It would appear that he was simply doing what too many religious people have been taught to do, talk without listening or thinking, and to simply repeat the verbiage that he or she had been taught.

When dealing with fanatics and zealots, always keep in mind that they expect you to throw humility, knowledge, wisdom and logic out of the window, and instead to depend upon their reasoning abilities and to simply accept what they have to say. I don’t think so, besides how arrogant can any human be to harbor such an attitude, that what I have concluded represents the facts. At best, we are all speculating about something that we believe that exists, despite the lack of empirical evidence (perhaps) to the contrary, to support our conclusions.

I hope that I will be one of the individuals that will be able to save religious organizations from the intense embarrassment that I believe is about to overtake them, Muslim, Christian, Hebrew and other.

Religious Cubism perhaps? Many of us, regardless of our religious persuasions have been taught that certain sacred texts, holy books and teachers – take your pick- are inerrant and not to be questioned. And we have been taught that if we were to question what we had been taught, regardless of our religious persuasions or belief system(s), that the wrath of God, Allah, Krishna … take your pick, would come down and swat us.

Conversely, I believe that it is imperative that we not only question sacred texts, but we should also scrutinize the teachers of these texts, as well as look for truth in other places such as in history books, scientific books, ourselves…! However, one should only do so, if he has an interest in knowing what is true or real – we owe that to ourselves. One should never live their lives for some other person, or according to their nebulous mantras and positions!

Jesus said, according to the writers of the Gospels, to his disciples “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free”. And, he promised in the book of John, that he would send back another comforter (paracletos) to go alongside them, and that it, paracletos, would guide them into all of the truth", those aspects of truth that they were not exposed to during the time that they spent with Jesus. And what was that truth?

At the time, Jesus' Apostles were in need of comforting, Jesus having just announced that he would be soon be departing. Jesus informed his Apostles, 'to include his Chief Apostle I Am Ready ... Peter', that there was more to be revealed than they understood at the time. Again, not every thing that was to be revealed had been revealed at the time

This begs the question to a thinking mind, what exactly did he mean, and when was the rest of what was to be revealed to be revealed? Was the truth that he was referring to, what took place on the day of Pentecost, the day when the Holy Spirit descended in Jerusalem in the Upper Room? Or, was Jesus referring to Constantine’s Canon, a compilation of 66 books that most Christians subscribe to and hold as the inerrant word of God? Or better yet, an often contradictory library of books written by disparate authors at different times.

I have some propositions, questions and issues that I would like to raise. When we consider the Christology of Jesus Christ and the ultimate meaning of his life, based upon what we read in the canon, his life’s purpose was to bring redemption to fallen humans, set them on a proper course in life and explain what each human being's primary objectives in life ought to be.

And if we are to believe what was passed on to us literally, and that the ones who passed the information on to us did not have some personal or nationalist objective in mind which would have caused them to embellish what Jesus might have said: His purpose was to bring truth to all mankind a truth that applied to all mankind regardless of racial distinction, nationality, cultural ethos …. However, there are some problems?

Problem #1 is essentially this, if the sacred texts held or hold exclusive truth, how come different sacred texts fail to agree?Problem# 2. How come the purported purveyors of truth all have a tendency to disagree with each other? Within various sacred communities, faith-based and otherwise, various teachers and writers rabidly argue over the voracity and failures of each other's teachers and their separate texts?

When you think in terms of the arrogance of the so called purveyors of truth, and even in the manner in which we have been conducting ourselves in the past, in religious circles, it leaves a lot to be desired. Typically, religious groups hold that whatever texts or texts that were raised to believe in or have been taught from are the only ones that are true. The same holds true for a Bedouin in the Sahara as it would for a Catholic in New York City. Most have been taught to believe that only their teacher ..., was truly sent by God.

A friend of mine from Persia, years ago, placed his child in a local Catholic School in the Cupertino area, even though he was Muslim. He explained it this way, I placed my son in a Catholic School because from what I read, Catholic schools were the best schools in America – besides that there weren’t an abundance of Islamic Schools in this area of California in 1984. On the other hand, he instructed his juvenile son not to believe anything that the Catholic school teachers taught him about God.

I inquired, why not? He explained, that Christians are Trinitarian. And from the Holy Quran, followers are taught there are only one God and none other besides him, and therefore, ergo, from his religion’s point of view, Christians were heretics and apostates because they essentially believed in more than one God. Conundrum?

How many of us believed, initially, that what we had been taught all of our young lives by our parents or ancestors was all that there was, only to discover later in life that everything that our well-meanings parents taught was not absolute after all. In fact, some of what our friend at school was taught by their parents, ideas that differed from what we were taught by ours was more concise.

And what is the bigger problem here? I believe that the bigger problem is, when it comes right down to something that is so important, our lives, that we have been willing hostages and are purveyors ourselves of ideas that we have not adequately explored or tested ourselves while passing them on to others. It is a fact that what was written down was the whole truth in deference to all other sacred and non-sacred texts, one can easily recognize the problem that I am discussing in my context.

Roughly 4 years ago, I had a young minister come to me who was interested in becoming an ordained minister. I was in a library at the time, and a bit shocked at the question, wondering, why he was not taking this matter to the Christian Church where he belonged. This young man respected me and felt that frankly, I could guide him better than the church where he was attending.

I asked him among other questions, where did the Bible originate from? He replied, I don’t know, however, I have learned 10 sermons already and I would like to preach them. Without knowing the leadership in his church, I explained much of what I am writing in this treatise, i.e., why would you want to teach someone else about something that you cannot explain or defend yourself, its origin.

And what this young man wanted to do reminds me so much of most of the religious clerics, teachers and pastors that I know and read about. What happened was, someone handed them a book or papyri and told them that this was the truth (in some instances from God Itself and they ran with it).

Before becoming a Christian, over 37 years ago, there was one scripture in the Christian bible that caused me to finally move off of the dime, a scripture that was written by the Apostle Paul (ironically, a man who by his own admission never went to Jerusalem to be taught by the Apostles who preceded him, instead, he pretty much wrote his own Bible and followed his own path just as he did on the Road to Damascus).

The scripture that I am referring to is found in 1 Thessalonians, 5:25, wherein the Apostle writes in his (non-scriptural ) epistle to the Thessalonicans that they should test or prove everything, and then hold on to that which was good.

The fact of the matter is that in practice, the Apostle, like most every other writer in every other sacred book, The Bible, The Holy Quran, The Bhagavad-Gita … would expect you to do just the opposite, test everything including what he had to say.

Why was I such an oddball, when I decided to follow God? Frankly, I was not interested in joining any particular religious group and to embody their version of ‘the truth’. In fact I explained the same to my late mother in my late teens, i.e., that I believed in God, but did not believe in religion.
What I was more interested in at that time, and I am still of that mind todayis pursuing what is real, or as we often say is ‘the truth’.

The particular portal that I entered into was as good as any other at the time, the Apostolic Church. It is there and at that time that I launched my search for the truth. I was perfectly willing to obey the Apostle’s command, to obey the preacher, but in the back of my mind I still held that I would test things, and hold on to what seemed good (KJV), and on the other hand to discard anything that did not hold water.

Frankly, during my Christian walk, I have found many problems with the canon, the writers of the canon and many of the individuals who staked their lives upon what was and is written in the canon, including many of my well-intended and still trusted teachers - they were all sincere.

And many of them I know are sincere, on the other hand I also know that many of them accepted wholesale a book and teachings that they were given or provided with, having never done anything beyond, comparing scriptures with scriptures in order to test the veracity of the book itself.

And beyond that the most important problem that I discovered as a person who was simply seeking alter the truth, as most people are, was this: Given the myopic and narrow manner in which the texts were constructed, as well as the close-mindedness of the individuals who wrote the texts,
that this was not the model that a thinking person, who was merely seeking alter the truth, should follow!
And the same applies to other holy books besides the Christian Canon

During my last pastorate, in the 1990’s I introduced something new to the congregation, Talk Back. At the end of each sermon, even on a Sunday morning, my audience was encouraged to ask questions, to agree or disagree with the sermon prior to dismissal. I am pleased to know that other churches are doing the same thing today. People ought to be able to ask questions, and not to be stricken down for doing so – something that I was not accustomed to doing myself in the majority of the churches that I worshipped in.

In fact, as a pastor, a friend pastor told me that I must never utter these words: The Bible Contradicts Itself. Why? Because it does not, he said. Eek, I thought, he also believed that the Holy Spirit served a singular purpose, and that was to empower individuals to be witnesses. If you read the sacred Christian Canon that the Holy Spirit served only the purpose that he stated, his conclusion was categorically untrue.

So who is right, and which sacred text is right, or better yet is the one that you have been taught from, right? My answer to that and to all that believe that we must stop everyone who does not see things as we do, that I would rather err, if at all, on the side of grace, rather than insist on being right in the fact of all evidence to the contrary.

Rev. C. Solomon

to be updated, corrected and continued... So what is truth, what is absolute? Should Christians pay attention to cosmology...?

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