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4/30/2017 9:31 am  #11


Re: Relationship with God

nojoum wrote:

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.


* 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.

First of all, please do not worry about your tone and offending me, these are great questions. Secondly, I would like to say that I have great respect for some of the Sufi saints such as Rumi whose quotations I love. Having said that however, I cannot say why Shams did what he did since I am not familiar with him or his writings (I could speculate but that would be just that).

In terms of Christ however, first of all if you read the passage where he talks to the rich man https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+19%3A16-30&version=RSVCE he is referring him to give all his riches to the poor and then follow him. The point here is not to gain a disciple or even benefit the poor but to highlight to the rich man how much attachment he had in his heart for his riches. These attachments then take center stage in our heart, where God should be. God is more concerned with who you are in the deepest part of your heart than any good you can do or perform. But who can then know Him without any attachments in their hearts? Interestingly, Jesus says here that what is impossible for man is possible for God, which leads us to the fact that we can only be redeemed through God Himself rather than ANYTHING we could do (even giving up all our riches), which is what Christ accomplished on the cross.

I think you are missing the fact that God is not only Loving but also Merciful, a Great Judge and the Most Holy and the only one worthy of worship. That means we need to be holy to even be in His presence and only way to do that is through Christ (please do not see this as an attempt to undermine other religions etc, that is NOT my intention). Even if you love every human being with all your heart you still fall short of God since that does not make you holy. So no, you cannot get to God if you only love human beings. What Christians believe is that we are redeemed through the cross of Jesus Christ to God which makes us holy and love God and that in turn makes us love our neighbours as ourselves. There is no secret there to knowing God and having a relationship with Him, the death of Christ on the cross makes it available for all as long as you have faith and freely believe in it.

 

5/01/2017 2:55 pm  #12


Re: Relationship with God

Jason wrote:

First of all, please do not worry about your tone and offending me, these are great questions. Secondly, I would like to say that I have great respect for some of the Sufi saints such as Rumi whose quotations I love. Having said that however, I cannot say why Shams did what he did since I am not familiar with him or his writings (I could speculate but that would be just that).

I think it would be interesting for you to know that it is Shams who ignited that unquenchable fire of love in Rumi. At the time of their meeting, Rumi was around 40 years and a ordinary religious teacher. Who can know how Rumi's life would have played out had he not met Shams?

Jason wrote:

In terms of Christ however, first of all if you read the passage where he talks to the rich man https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+19%3A16-30&version=RSVCE he is referring him to give all his riches to the poor and then follow him. The point here is not to gain a disciple or even benefit the poor but to highlight to the rich man how much attachment he had in his heart for his riches. These attachments then take center stage in our heart, where God should be. God is more concerned with who you are in the deepest part of your heart than any good you can do or perform. But who can then know Him without any attachments in their hearts? Interestingly, Jesus says here that what is impossible for man is possible for God, which leads us to the fact that we can only be redeemed through God Himself rather than ANYTHING we could do (even giving up all our riches), which is what Christ accomplished on the cross.

I think you are missing the fact that God is not only Loving but also Merciful, a Great Judge and the Most Holy and the only one worthy of worship. That means we need to be holy to even be in His presence and only way to do that is through Christ (please do not see this as an attempt to undermine other religions etc, that is NOT my intention). Even if you love every human being with all your heart you still fall short of God since that does not make you holy. So no, you cannot get to God if you only love human beings. What Christians believe is that we are redeemed through the cross of Jesus Christ to God which makes us holy and love God and that in turn makes us love our neighbours as ourselves. There is no secret there to knowing God and having a relationship with Him, the death of Christ on the cross makes it available for all as long as you have faith and freely believe in it.

I can now clearly see the link and reason why we are supposed to have relationship with God. I also went back to your previous replies and now picture is more clear. I think I am affected by two things:

1. in Islam, generally there is more emphasize on rules and ought-to-do's and ought-not-do's  and people just stay at this level. They just want to keep the law in appearance without keeping the spirit of the law. That's why I disliked it and thought that putting an emphasize on the Love commandment might help. Regarding Christians, in was mostly through comments by right-wing people on the internet which seemed hypocritical. Even in such cases, the way to solve the problem is not take God out of the picture; rather it is by putting emphasize on the spirit of the given laws.

This situation also reminds of Pope Francis:

“But what is scandal? Scandal is saying one thing and doing another; it is a double life, a double life. A totally double life: ‘I am very Catholic, I always go to Mass, I belong to this association and that one; but my life is not Christian, I don’t pay my workers a just wage, I exploit people, I am dirty in my business, I launder money…’ A double life. And so many Christians are like this, and these people scandalize others.“How many times have we heard – all of us, around the neighborhood and elsewhere – ‘but to be a Catholic like that, it’s better to be an atheist.’ It is that, scandal. You destroy. You beat down. And this happens every day, it’s enough to see the news on TV, or to read the papers. In the papers there are so many scandals, and there is also the great publicity of the scandals. And with the scandals there is destruction.”

2. I think another reason for the problem is the fact that I never managed to have successful relationship with God. It was not because I needed proof for God's existence or the truthfulness of religion; it was rather because I tried but still I could not manage it. Simply put the reason is that I cannot have one-way love relationship with God. I also want to be able to love back and show it in my deeds.Unfortunately, I could not do it which ended up in disappointment and me giving up the whole idea.


Also while we are on this topic, I think this is also an interesting verse to look at.
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Mark%2014%3A3-9
 

Last edited by nojoum (5/01/2017 3:02 pm)

     Thread Starter
 

5/01/2017 3:21 pm  #13


Re: Relationship with God

I would echo what Jason and Alexander said.  Love God is the first commandment and love your neighbor is the second.

Ultimately, we are for God as the ground and source of all things.  He is the center of the whole, the ultimate purpose behind all purposes, the Good itself.  So asking, "what is the point of loving God?" is a little like asking "What is the point of the point?"

I will also say that I am highly skeptical of claims that the world is made "a better place" by this or that initiative.  Human beings are very complicated and pushing on one place has unforeseen ramifications in another place.  It may appear at first that it is obvious that the would would be made a better place if we just emphasized "love one another," but I have watched as other teachings which seem to be obviously good have deeply negative consequences.  I suspect that detaching the teaching that we are to love one another from any teaching about a relationship with God, the forgiveness of Christ, the necessity of loving others in a particular way rather than whatever we feel like etc. will actually make the world a worse place.

For example, suppose that I am a pastor who teaches love love love every Sunday and nothing else.  Now suppose that I have a member of my congregation who tries really hard to do this but has various old habits and selfish pieces of his psychology.  Ultimately, he becomes extremely frustrated in his inability to love well.  Has my teaching helped?  I'm doubtful.  In fact, I've been to congregations that do more or less what you are suggesting and I think they were far less loving places than the places I have been that preach orthodox Christianity.

If you want some unsolicited advice, I think the attempt to have a relationship with God on your own is extremely difficult if not impossible.  Seek out the best priest or pastor you can find and become a faithful member of a religious community.  Ongoing relationship with God requires the sacraments received within the community of the faithful.

 

5/01/2017 5:53 pm  #14


Re: Relationship with God

nojoum wrote:

Moreover, even if we don't believe in God's existence, if people simply follow this commandment the world would be much better.

Because that presupposes there is something objectively 'better' about being loving/kind/affectionate as opposed to being the inverse. Theism would normally hold that these values must have some timeless transcendent character (true there may be other ontologies which could provide this).

Of course what we have here is the claim that atheism is incompatible with there being objective moral values not that said moral values are dependent on some form of religious praxis.
 

 

5/02/2017 2:45 pm  #15


Re: Relationship with God

Proclus wrote:

I would echo what Jason and Alexander said.  Love God is the first commandment and love your neighbor is the second.

Ultimately, we are for God as the ground and source of all things.  He is the center of the whole, the ultimate purpose behind all purposes, the Good itself.  So asking, "what is the point of loving God?" is a little like asking "What is the point of the point?"

To answer it on a personal level, I'm not worried about God. I can still be satisfied if I can be a small part in  improving the life of human beings.

On a global scale, the problem comes in where everyone thinks their God is the true God, his commands are the true commands and their religion is the true religion. Unfortunately, people are not open to dialogues in this regard because it would go against their God and religion. So even if Ideologically we assume God is the good itself, Who can claim to have the knowledge of God? Even if we realize that there are rational honest truthseeking people, the diversity of the existing religions and beliefs in itself shows the impossiblity of reaching certainty.

Proclus wrote:

I will also say that I am highly skeptical of claims that the world is made "a better place" by this or that initiative.  Human beings are very complicated and pushing on one place has unforeseen ramifications in another place.  It may appear at first that it is obvious that the would would be made a better place if we just emphasized "love one another," but I have watched as other teachings which seem to be obviously good have deeply negative consequences.  I suspect that detaching the teaching that we are to love one another from any teaching about a relationship with God, the forgiveness of Christ, the necessity of loving others in a particular way rather than whatever we feel like etc. will actually make the world a worse place.

I agree with your point. However, when it comes to religions like Islam filled with rules and laws, people need to be more reminded of the core of these laws.

Proclus wrote:

If you want some unsolicited advice, I think the attempt to have a relationship with God on your own is extremely difficult if not impossible.  Seek out the best priest or pastor you can find and become a faithful member of a religious community.  Ongoing relationship with God requires the sacraments received within the community of the faithful.

I simply have no evidence to believe in miracles, rituals or things of the sort. The heart of man is not going to be changed with such things (for it were so simple, the world would not have been like this). My only hope is that maybe through sound arguments and gaining knowledge of God and myself, I can improve my relationship with God.
 

Last edited by nojoum (5/02/2017 2:48 pm)

     Thread Starter
 

5/02/2017 2:55 pm  #16


Re: Relationship with God

DanielCC wrote:

nojoum wrote:

Moreover, even if we don't believe in God's existence, if people simply follow this commandment the world would be much better.

Because that presupposes there is something objectively 'better' about being loving/kind/affectionate as opposed to being the inverse. Theism would normally hold that these values must have some timeless transcendent character (true there may be other ontologies which could provide this).
 

I'm sorry but I dont understand you. I cannot make any comments here.

DanielCC wrote:

Of course what we have here is the claim that atheism is incompatible with there being objective moral values not that said moral values are dependent on some form of religious praxis.
 

Well, I dont know if it true for sure. ( I read about in "The Last superstition", where Dr. Feser made that claim based on natural law conception of morality). I also did not go further into it simply because, if there is any account of morality to be favorable, it should include having love for one another (It does not matter if it is the perfect love as described by Jesus Christ).

Note: I understand my position is begging the question but I simply dont  find it important.

Last edited by nojoum (5/02/2017 3:09 pm)

     Thread Starter
 

5/02/2017 7:59 pm  #17


Re: Relationship with God

nojoum wrote:

I simply have no evidence to believe in miracles, rituals or things of the sort. The heart of man is not going to be changed with such things (for it were so simple, the world would not have been like this). My only hope is that maybe through sound arguments and gaining knowledge of God and myself, I can improve my relationship with God.
 

While I do believe in miracles and the power of ritual, my point was simply that building a relationship with God is best done in community along with others who are attempting the journey with you.  I only hope to encourage you not to give up the quest before giving it a try with the best community you can find (there are after all many bad ones).

Also, this brings up an important point relevant to your original question:  Why am I at all keen to press this point and encourage you not to give up?  Out of love for you.  Why?  Because I am convinced that the very best thing that could happen to you is to encounter God in a personal way.  If this is true, there is simply no loving someone without this dimension.  Everything else pales in comparison, so there is no way to understand how to love other people disconnected from the truth or falsehood of the claim that incredible blessedness or misery depends on one's relationship with God.

 

5/03/2017 9:47 am  #18


Re: Relationship with God

Sorry for not responding for a while, I have exams on the horizon at uni.

nojoum wrote:

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?

Certainly not, for the reasons I have given. If loving union with God is really what we are made for, the only thing that can bring us to perfection as human beings, it is sheer madness to put it aside for the sake of... well, anything. It is our highest end, and giving priority to some other end - even an admirable one, such as the pursuit of justice and peace - such that religion becomes an instrument to that end, rather than a relationship with the living God, will always be irrational (for some theologians, sin is often understood precisely as putting other goals before this perfect love of God). Not to say that we shouldn't pursue these goals, obviously, but we do so without compromising our relationship with God.
 

nojoum wrote:

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.

True, but again, humans are made for more than gradual improvement of this-worldly life - we were made to share in the far greater joy and life of God. I'm not disputing that great and valuable social changes can be achieved through secular means, but I am disputing that this can ever be seen as the point of human existence, for a Christian.

nojoum wrote:

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?

The saints are our preeminent example, and I do think anyone who seriously enters into friendship with God will improve. But, again, "improving moral character" is only one aspect of the Christian life. The saints do not merely become better people by secular standards, and often they seem far too extreme by those standards. First and foremost, they become people who love God. I keep stressing this, because it needs to be made clear that Christianity doesn't present itself as just another way to be a basically decent person, but as the way to God. Understood this way, it should be clear why none of your suggestions are quite hitting the mark.

nojoum wrote:

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.

From the perspective of Christianity, that's no bad way to describe the human situation in this life.
 

 

5/04/2017 12:06 pm  #19


Re: Relationship with God

nojoum wrote:

I think it would be interesting for you to know that it is Shams who ignited that unquenchable fire of love in Rumi. At the time of their meeting, Rumi was around 40 years and a ordinary religious teacher. Who can know how Rumi's life would have played out had he not met Shams?

 
Thanks, good to know.

nojoum wrote:

I can now clearly see the link and reason why we are supposed to have relationship with God. I also went back to your previous replies and now picture is more clear. I think I am affected by two things:

1. in Islam, generally there is more emphasize on rules and ought-to-do's and ought-not-do's  and people just stay at this level. They just want to keep the law in appearance without keeping the spirit of the law. That's why I disliked it and thought that putting an emphasize on the Love commandment might help. Regarding Christians, in was mostly through comments by right-wing people on the internet which seemed hypocritical. Even in such cases, the way to solve the problem is not take God out of the picture; rather it is by putting emphasize on the spirit of the given laws.

 
As you know, rules and laws are there just as a guide on what you ought to do or not, they are not there to in and of themselves to make a person into a better human being. We need something more, something that goes far deeper and transforms our hearts inside out. For Christians that transformation is in the person of Jesus Christ.
 
Also I would like to say that right-wing people on the internet do not represent Christians. As you might know, being right wing is a political stance and not a religious stance. Christianity, unlike Islam does not have any set political laws so people are free to choose what political policy they feel closer to. I know a lot of Christians who are left wing for various policies they like about the left.
 

nojoum wrote:

This situation also reminds of Pope Francis:

“But what is scandal? Scandal is saying one thing and doing another; it is a double life, a double life. A totally double life: ‘I am very Catholic, I always go to Mass, I belong to this association and that one; but my life is not Christian, I don’t pay my workers a just wage, I exploit people, I am dirty in my business, I launder money…’ A double life. And so many Christians are like this, and these people scandalize others.“How many times have we heard – all of us, around the neighborhood and elsewhere – ‘but to be a Catholic like that, it’s better to be an atheist.’ It is that, scandal. You destroy. You beat down. And this happens every day, it’s enough to see the news on TV, or to read the papers. In the papers there are so many scandals, and there is also the great publicity of the scandals. And with the scandals there is destruction.”

 
I think the Pope here meant it in the way to awake Catholics who might be treading into hypocrisy than a theological / philosophical position.
 
 

nojoum wrote:

2. I think another reason for the problem is the fact that I never managed to have successful relationship with God. It was not because I needed proof for God's existence or the truthfulness of religion; it was rather because I tried but still I could not manage it. Simply put the reason is that I cannot have one-way love relationship with God.

 
This is exactly where Jesus comes in, because he is the one who bridges that gap between God and us. This is what he said https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+11%3A25-30&version=RSVCE. Interestingly, the labour he talks about is exactly that, where you are heavy laden in following certain rules and regulations and they become your life instead of being a guide.
 

nojoum wrote:

I also want to be able to love back and show it in my deeds.Unfortunately, I could not do it which ended up in disappointment and me giving up the whole idea.  
 
Also while we are on this topic, I think this is also an interesting verse to look at.
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Mark%2014%3A3-9
 

 
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+25%3A34-40&version=RSVCE
 
So your deeds are not because you are motivated to feel good or even be afraid of going to hell but are due to your love of God. The anointing at Bethany is a perfect example, where what Mary did was to show her gratitude / love (since Jesus had risen Lazarus from the dead) to such an extent that she did not care what others might think of her or her actions. She was willing to give up her reputation and her wealth which unbeknown to her also prepared Jesus for his death. 

 

5/04/2017 1:59 pm  #20


Re: Relationship with God

Jason wrote:

So your deeds are not because you are motivated to feel good or even be afraid of going to hell but are due to your love of God. The anointing at Bethany is a perfect example, where what Mary did was to show her gratitude / love (since Jesus had risen Lazarus from the dead) to such an extent that she did not care what others might think of her or her actions. She was willing to give up her reputation and her wealth which unbeknown to her also prepared Jesus for his death. 

Thank you for this Jason.  I have frequently meditated on this passage, and you just added an angle to my considerations that I did not have before, especially the link between gratitude for Lazarus playing a role in the relationship between Mary and Jesus.

 

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