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4/28/2017 3:28 pm  #1


Relationship with God

To me it seems that the major goal of Christianity and Islam (and I also speculate Judaism) is to teach and ask people to love others as they love themselves. Moreover, even if we don't believe in God's existence, if people simply follow this commandment the world would be much better. Then if this is so what is the point of pursuing God and having a relationship with him?
Especially given the fact, if any God is to be worthy of following, he should be valuing that major commandment (Love). In this way, even if we don't believe in God but still follow the major commandment (Love) then we should not be even worried of going to hell. So then why should one go after knowing God? Why shouldn't one just reduce religion to an attempt of refining people's character; to make them more affectionate and kind?

 

4/29/2017 7:28 am  #2


Re: Relationship with God

Obviously I can't speak for Muslims or Jews, but Christians believe the goal of human existence is to be in a perfect relationship with God, and that no other end will make us truly happy. If you have even a vague understanding of Christianity*, it's pretty clear that God is anything but an entity arbitrarily "tacked on" to the main goal. Loving one another is necessary - in fact, if you don't "love your neighbour as yourself" and strive to "be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect", that is a sign that your relationship with God is not right - but it isn't in itself the ultimate goal of human existence.

Of course "the world would be much better" if people simply followed the command to love one another, but two points should be made here from the perspective of Christian theology. Firstly, this command is itself tightly connected to knowing and loving God, for a few reasons but especially because (a) God is the source of all good including all that can love and be loved, and the gift of love itself, (b) loving God perfectly will lead to loving the creatures he has made and loves, in the same unqualified sense in which he loves them, and (c) loving your neighbour perfectly is not possible without the grace of God - and thanks to original sin we are not born in a state of grace and must receive it as individuals. In other words, a right relationship with God is necessary for a right relationship with other people. Secondly (and more succinctly) Christians don't limit themselves to wanting "the world to be much better"; they want all people to eternally share in the perfect life of the Holy Trinity, fulfilled in heaven but begun in the world by the grace that brings faith, hope and love. Our hope is a little more cosmic than mere humanitarianism.

So clearly the idea that trying to have a relationship with God could ever be removed from Christianity is hilariously off-base. But from your post it also seems you haven't got a distinction between "knowing God is irrelevant" and "knowing God is not strictly necessary to avoid hell". It is worth noting that saying "non-believers are not automatically disqualified from salvation" (which I do believe, and was explicitly taught by Vatican II) is very different from saying "it doesn't matter at all whether or not someone acknowledges God and pursues a relationship with him in this life". We want a relationship with God because of who God has revealed himself to be (primarily, for Christians, in the person of Jesus), not because we're frightened of what he will do to us if we ignore him.

_____________________________
*To clarify, that isn't an insult - if society as a whole has a crap understanding of the fullness of the Christian worldview, Christians themselves are largely to blame. In the media we are known far more for jumping on hot button issues than for presenting Christianity as a whole.

 

4/29/2017 8:04 am  #3


Re: Relationship with God

Thank you for your comprehensive response.

I have two points to make.

The first point is that it is impossible for anyone to claim with 100% assurance not only God exists but also that Christianity is true. This is why I assumed maybe it is not a bad compromise that at least people follow the commandment of Love. Because we are able to teach them in this regard without going through the whole impossible cycle of proving God and proving Christianity for that matter.

The second point is that, I am aware of Christian's view on the nature of men and the fact they need the grace of God to do be able to Love. That is also similar to Islam's view but on different grounds*. However, the problem is take a Christian nation, United states for example. They don't seem to be any better just because they are Christian. Or That I have not seen a single miracle happening, someone getting healed, or miraculously changing on the inside, something that you can only attribute to God. Again the same things are in Islam but I have never observed such things. So  what am I to make of such observations? Let's say that I need some evidence to prove that it is exactly the case that you are mentioning; That God's intervention is required for a person to be changed and show cases when it happened. However, if we cannot show this, the compromise that I suggested do not have these issues and also people do not need to be worried about the afterlife. Because if I have understood you correctly, "non-believers are not automatically disqualified from salvation".**

*Even within Islam there are people who have sacrificied their lives for the sake of justice. What higher sacrifice can people make? How can you explain their action? They surely did not believe in the role of christ as christians do; They just believed him as a prophet of God who was not cruicified but rather was saved by God from crucification and ascended to heaven.

**"it doesn't matter at all whether or not someone acknowledges God and pursues a relationship with him in this life". That is not something that can be easily attributed to people. If I am person who is trying to have a justified belief, I need to spend a lot of time to reach a point that God indeed exists. It is only at that point that I can ignore or acknowledge God because before that I don't even know if he indeed exists. That is tough bar to pass.


Another note: As with everything that is being misused, take science that is used for unjustified purposes, the same thing is true with religion. Then maybe, we could also avoid the down side of religion as well. Because at least from what I have seen, people usually end up with obsession with insignificant details and rituals and yet not do follow the love commandment.

 

Last edited by nojoum (4/29/2017 8:29 am)

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4/29/2017 8:20 am  #4


Re: Relationship with God

Alexander wrote:

Secondly (and more succinctly) Christians don't limit themselves to wanting "the world to be much better"; they want all people to eternally share in the perfect life of the Holy Trinity, fulfilled in heaven but begun in the world by the grace that brings faith, hope and love. Our hope is a little more cosmic than mere humanitarianism.

Can you describe more what that perfect life means and entails? What are higher gifts and goals for human beings other than self-sacrifice and Love? What else can be added to us human beings?

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4/29/2017 9:07 am  #5


Re: Relationship with God

nojoum wrote:

The first point is that it is impossible for anyone to claim with 100% assurance not only God exists but also that Christianity is true... If I am person who is trying to have a justified belief, I need to spend a lot of time to reach a point that God indeed exists. It is only at that point that I can ignore or acknowledge God because before that I don't even know if he indeed exists. That is tough bar to pass.

Well, sure. But a Christian doesn't need to claim that they can prove that God exists or that Christianity is true. The notion that the way to a relationship with God is one of purely philosophical arguments is, from a Christian perspective, simply false, and on the flip side a rational conviction of the fact "God exists" or "Christian teaching is true" does not necessarily lead to the kind of relationship God wants. (See the letter of James, for example).

If Christianity is true, God wants people to come to him in a particular way which may not be compatible with treating him primarily as an object of scientific scrutiny. If you have particular concerns/questions/objections about God or religious belief, bring them to a capable priest/pastor, or independently research what Christian thinkers have said on the question. But if not, it doesn't seem especially helpful to get obsessed with meeting a particular standard of evidence before being willing to open yourself up to the possibility of a relationship with God.

nojoum wrote:

The second point is that, I am aware of Christian's view on the nature of men and the fact they need the grace of God to do be able to Love.

Not "to love" - to love perfectly, as we are loved by God, and to avoid sin. The operative idea here is that unless your life is properly ordered, you will inevitably screw up, and it can't be so ordered without that relationship to God. As for the argument "Christians don't always, or even often, seem better", I don't find it convincing. You can certainly be a Christian, or at least call yourself one, without actually having much of a relationship with God - as Jesus himself points out (Matthew 7:21) - and in any case the fact that someone fails to live up to Christian moral teachings is not a sign that these teachings are false. We are always free in this life to reject God and lose his grace by sin, and all Christians do this with varying regularity.

As for the idea that the US is a Christian nation... well, maybe as a Brit I am biased but I don't find the claim convincing, unless you only mean that a lot of people in the US would check the box "Christian" if asked about their religious beliefs. A country that ended up with Donald Trump as its leader can't have been overwhelmingly informed by a Christian spirit, to say the least.

nojoum wrote:

...at least from what I have seen, people usually end up with obsession with insignificant details and rituals and yet not do follow the love commandment.
 

I disagree. I know people obsessed with details and rituals, and while they can be infuriatingly rigid at times, they are usually loving people overall. But in any case, most Christians I know aren't obsessed with these things, so you might just have met a "bad batch". Also worth noting that whether a detail is "insignificant" is at least slightly subjective - often there is a reason behind the apparent "obsession", though it may not be obvious to others.

 

4/29/2017 9:15 am  #6


Re: Relationship with God

nojoum wrote:

Can you describe more what that perfect life means and entails?

Well, "no eye has seen nor ear heard", etc., so if you're looking for a map of heaven I'm the wrong guy to ask. But the fundamental idea is of being perfectly united to God, who is perfect truth, goodness, love, our creator and our final end - and therefore it entails perfect union with everyone else who is united to God in this way. How exactly this union works is not absolutely defined, but the concept of direct "Vision", of the reality of God taking the place of our ideas about him, has always played a key role. Abbot Vonier has a good book, called "The Life of the World to Come", which discusses some important ideas in our understanding of heaven.

nojoum wrote:

What are higher gifts and goals for human beings other than self-sacrifice and Love? What else can be added to us human beings?

Nothing. http://cdn.boardhost.com/emoticons/happy.png
 The perfect self-giving and recieving found in love is absolutely the pinnacle of human existence. It happens to be a pinnacle not found in human existence left to itself - only God is perfect love, and so the highest goal for human beings is union with God

 

4/29/2017 10:29 am  #7


Re: Relationship with God

First of all I would like to say that I too come from a Christian perspective and I second all what Alexander wrote.

I would however like to add is that from a Christian perspective God is more concerned with who you are from the inside and what love really means i.e. you could act piously and graciously towards someone and could be the greatest human being who ever lived (according to human standards) but if you do not really love from the inside you have fallen short, 1 Corinthians 13 comes to mind https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Corinthians+13&version=RSVCE

Add that with the greatest commandment https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+22%3A36-40&version=RSVCE that Jesus himself specified, I think you can see the picture. Interestingly Jesus did not reduce the commandment to a single command but to two commands because the natural outworking of one command leads to another. Love your God with all your heart, mind and soul results in loving your neighbour as yourself.

Also most christians I know of might only seem rigid but that is precisely because they love others and want the best for them from an eternity perspective. They do not compromise on some objective truth just because it is something the present age happens to consider "good". 

Last edited by Jason (4/29/2017 10:30 am)

 

4/29/2017 10:59 am  #8


Re: Relationship with God

nojoum wrote:

What are higher gifts and goals for human beings other than self-sacrifice and Love? What else can be added to us human beings?

The experience of love between the creator and you. This experience of the divine is irreducible and irreplaceable  and I think this takes primary importance over any other acts of kindness and gratitude you could show to other humans in need. It is also desire by God in the Christian tradition the most, and everything else, including his plans for you and how they might better other people's lives comes next. 

 

4/30/2017 5:18 am  #9


Re: Relationship with God

I think before going further with the discussion I need to clarify one point. My questions are asked on two levels; one that is a personal question and one that is on a global scale for the entire humanity. In answering I will try to clearly separate these two parts.

Alexander wrote:

Well, sure. But a Christian doesn't need to claim that they can prove that God exists or that Christianity is true. The notion that the way to a relationship with God is one of purely philosophical arguments is, from a Christian perspective, simply false, and on the flip side a rational conviction of the fact "God exists" or "Christian teaching is true" does not necessarily lead to the kind of relationship God wants. (See the letter of James, for example).

On the personal level, I think I don’t need exact justification for God’s existence or the truthiness of Christian teaching because It is so complex and difficult. I also agree with you that pursuing philosophical arguments might cause hindrance in knowing God on a personal level.
 
However, on the global scale, it is extremely difficult to convert everyone to Christianity or any other religion for that matter. Also, as you have noted, not everyone who identifies himself as a Christian is a true Christian. So, let us consider another scenario, in which leaders of every major religion, put the emphasize on the Love commandment and value the goodness of a person based on how much Love he/she has for others. Moreover, they also put much less emphasize on specific teachings of religion in regard of the conception of God and the relationship with him. Furthermore, assume (just for the sake of argument) that, as a result of this we have a world where we have less conflicts and people are more loving. Does the improvement in human relationships justify abandoning God? If not why?
 
Now you might want to say, it is impossible with God’s grace for people to Love one another perfectly.

Alexander wrote:

Not "to love" - to love perfectly, as we are loved by God, and to avoid sin. The operative idea here is that unless your life is properly ordered, you will inevitably screw up, and it can't be so ordered without that relationship to God.
As for the idea that the US is a Christian nation... well, maybe as a Brit I am biased but I don't find the claim convincing, unless you only mean that a lot of people in the US would check the box "Christian" if asked about their religious beliefs. A country that ended up with Donald Trump as its leader can't have been overwhelmingly informed by a Christian spirit, to say the least.

But there are two points to add. First, improvement of human life does not require perfect love. You can have gradual changes in human life by small and gradual changes on the inside. Secondly, I need evidence to see indeed only through having personal relationship with God, one is able to improve (even a small change). That is why I mentioned a Nation such as USA as a failing example (again if you ask these people they will say they are true Christians). Then, do we have any other example showing the indispensability of Christianity in improving moral character?

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4/30/2017 5:57 am  #10


Re: Relationship with God

Back to the discussion on the personal level, I would like to thank Jason for his perfect response which is right on the spot.

Jason wrote:

Add that with the greatest commandment https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+22%3A36-40&version=RSVCE that Jesus himself specified, I think you can see the picture. Interestingly Jesus did not reduce the commandment to a single command but to two commands because the natural outworking of one command leads to another. Love your God with all your heart, mind and soul results in loving your neighbour as yourself.

From what I have heard on Christianity a major focus is on having love for another. As Jesus also mentions, these two laws are the sum of all law and prophets. Now again I have seen something very similar thing in studying the life of a person from Islamic world (Shams Tabrizi, A Sufi which I deeply admire and praise). In his life he puts great emphasize for Loving one another. He even says that to worship God is let go of all the self (Giving up all you have, even your life). He also makes the same objections that Jesus had for Pharisees, for the religious teachers and judges of his time. As with first Commandment of Jesus with respect to God, there is also one strange point regarding this man. He rarely accepts pupils and the strange part is the test that people should pass in order to become his pupil. The test is you must be willing to give up everything that you have. So for example, he would ask rich people to give up entirely their wealth. There was one rich person who actually gave up all he had and Shams in return gave all his wealth back to him and accepted him as his pupil. Now that is where my wonder and bafflement lies. What is there to teach the man who is willing to give his life? Did Shams want to teach him about God? What is so great about God that he made such tests for his pupils?* Or what Is it that Christ is asking? How can you love God? Is it not so that the only possible way to love God, is to love other human beings? What secret is lying here that I do not understand.

Dennis wrote:

The experience of love between the creator and you. This experience of the divine is irreducible and irreplaceable  and I think this takes primary importance over any other acts of kindness and gratitude you could show to other humans in need. It is also desire by God in the Christian tradition the most, and everything else, including his plans for you and how they might better other people's lives comes next. 

Alexander wrote:

Well, "no eye has seen nor ear heard", etc., so if you're looking for a map of heaven I'm the wrong guy to ask. But the fundamental idea is of being perfectly united to God, who is perfect truth, goodness, love, our creator and our final end - and therefore it entails perfect union with everyone else who is united to God in this way. How exactly this union works is not absolutely defined, but the concept of direct "Vision", of the reality of God taking the place of our ideas about him, has always played a key role. Abbot Vonier has a good book, called "The Life of the World to Come", which discusses some important ideas in our understanding of heaven.

Nothing.
 The perfect self-giving and receiving found in love is absolutely the pinnacle of human existence. It happens to be a pinnacle not found in human existence left to itself - only God is perfect love, and so the highest goal for human beings is union with God

It seems that I am like a person who has been blind from birth and is asking for people to describe the beauty of the world for him.

* I hope my tone regarding God does not offend you. I can to some degree understand the love that you have for God as Chrisitians. If it were not for the sake of honesty and desperateness to know the answers, I would been much more tactful and considerate with my words.

Last edited by nojoum (4/30/2017 6:41 am)

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