December 17, 2017

Fr. Michel Quoist: “If each note said…”

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If each note of music were to say:
one note does not make a symphony,
there would be no symphony.
If each word were to say: one word does not make a book,
there would be no book.
If each brick were to say: one brick does not make a wall,
there would be no house.
If each drop of water were to say: one drop does not make an ocean,
there would be no ocean.
If each seed were to say: one grain does not make a field of corn,
there would be no harvest.
If each one of us were to say: one act of love cannot save mankind,
there would never be justice and peace on earth.

The symphony needs each note.
The book needs each word.
The house needs each brick.
The ocean needs each drop of water.
The harvest needs each grain of wheat.
The whole of humanity needs you
as and where you are.
You are unique.
No one can take your place.

• Michel Quoist
Keeping Hope

Comments

  1. There is a Talmudic saying: “He who saves one life saves the world”. Same sentiment, I believe. As much as we here in the USA like to believe in the individual, there is much to say and meditate on when we think of the Body of Christ. It is not the individual but the collective that is the focus of scripture, but the collective grows from, and out of, the acts of the individual. Not too many sermans being preached on THAT one, eh?

    • Quoist’s metaphors could be expanded ala Paul: the body needs each cell, each member, each part.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > It is not the individual but the collective that is the focus of scripture,
      > but the collective grows from, and out of, the acts of the individual.

      I like Rudyard Kiplings’ way of explaining this [Law Of The Jungle]:

      Now this is the Law of the Jungle — as old and as true as the sky;
      And the Wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the Wolf that shall break it must die.
      As the creeper that girdles the tree-trunk the Law runneth forward and back —
      For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack.

      “the Law runneth forward and back” is a nearly perfect expression IMO; trying to divide things and divine their ‘fundamentals’ so often undoes or looses what they are. And we are so often surprised that when we do this we find nothing there; it is a hard lesson to learn, that we often create the absence with the mode of our asking.

      Watching a wolf in a cage will tell you nothing about wolves.

      He that breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom. — Gandalf

      • Off topic, but it makes me smile to see a reference to the Jungle Book. I loved it so much as a kid, and I remember this poem well.

  2. That poem is pure beauty. Thanks for sharing it.

  3. Beautiful.

  4. “The spiritual life, rightly lived, is a constant movement towards the particular. It becomes more specific with every moment.” – Fr. Stephen Freeman (from “recommended reading”)(wow)

  5. From a general “worth of human life on earth” & “little things making a difference” viewpoint this sounds real nice.

    But as far as Christian eschatological substance, barring universalism it’s just flat out untrue. All the metaphors in the world won’t change that. Sorry. I wish I could HONESTLY confess otherwise.

    A drop of water can be missing from the ocean, and it’ll still be the ocean. The waves will keep right on crashing.

    The symphony may lose a unique voice (or a few billion) and it’ll keep going. In the end, everybody else will just keep right on singing.

    Any wonder about human uniqueness is shattered by the actual content of Christian eschatological theology, and I’m shocked at how effectively people can ignore that. Nothing personal aimed at this group.

    How does one “keep hope” in the face of this?

    • Why bar universalism when it may be more true than not? And without those few drops, the ocean is not the same ocean as with them. The symphony is not the same symphony, etc. …

      • That’s exactly right. The symphony and ocean aren’t the same.

        • Ah, but maybe they are the same. From our human perspective, an ocean that’s missing one drop of water isn’t that big a deal, not like a symphony without a note. But perhaps that one drop carries more significance than can be seen by our puny eyes.

          • Christiane says:

            ‘more significance than can be seen . . . ‘

            perhaps that lone drop in the ocean came originally from the tears of Our Lord . . . or from the waters that flowed from His side?
            if not, we STILL know this about that lone drop of water: ‘for by Him all things were created’ and ‘in Him, all things hold together’ . . . plus the idea that He made that lone drop of water EX NIHILO (out of ‘nothing’)

            it is sad how much we take for granted, and in doing so, we miss a chance at examining the ‘ordinary’ around us with fresh eyes . . . taking things for granted is a kind of ‘blindness’ . . . the paradox of the Kingdom of Our Lord attempts to remove this blindness from us and replace it with a humility that recognizes how the last shall be first, and how wisdom is given to little ones that is withheld from ‘the wise’ . . . if we take the blinders off, we can see into the Kingdom’s mysteries and ponder them in the light of Christ

    • What do you mean by “Christian eschatological substance…???”

      • I mean……..the substance of Christian eschatology. The big picture and what it means.

        There are any number of views on the specifics of where this is all going. Life after death, life AFTER life after death, etc. But they all pretty much amount to the same sort of thing.

        And this isn’t at the expense of the present, but it’s unavoidable that it affects how the present is viewed.

        • David Cornwell says:

          Homer, I must be thick headed today, because I fail to see how this relates to the poem. Or how this has a special relationship to an afterlife or the resurrection of the dead into a new heaven/earth any more than it relates to the here and now.

        • David Cornwell says:

          Further: When I read the poem Christian eschatology didn’t even enter my mind.

          • I should probably shove a biscuit in my pie hole, BUT….. I think this is a case of GOD in the dock: how could a GOD who is responsible for eternal torment of {x amount of the particulars} be seen as caring for any of said particulars…. why pretend to care about them if they end up in judgment…?? How am I doing , Homer ?? That’s how I read your question, at least.

          • Greg, good question. Do you have an answer?

    • the actual content of Christian eschatological theology

      I’d love to know exactly what that is.

      • Eschatology.

        You know, that whole “last word” thing which basically says existence isn’t going to end well for a great many “unique” individuals. Heaven, new earth, whatever. A few billion lost souls can’t and won’t hold up the party, wherever and whenever it is.

        • So, orthodox “Christian eschatological theology” is 19th century doctrine of hell.

          Got it, I thought that was what was being referred to, but wasn’t sure.

          Also…lol.

          • 19th century? Please.

          • Apologies, I didn’t mean to be snarky. But I’m referring to the doctrine of hell in the same sense of how it was depicted in 19th century theology, Sinners in the Hands of An Angry God, all of that.

    • At first read, I was going to say “Curmudgeon alert”, as how anyone can take that beautiful poem and find fault with it is beyond me.

      But upon reading your words further and trying to understand them, I see you’re truly wrestling with this concept.

      –> “Any wonder about human uniqueness is shattered by the actual content of Christian eschatological theology, and I’m shocked at how effectively people can ignore that.”

      So you don’t buy into the last two lines of the poem, that you’re unique and no one can take your place? I’ll counter that with evidence that we are ALL unique and that no one can take our place, especially in certain instances. Many of my friends can interact with people and do things I’m ill-equipped for; likewise, I interact with certain people and can do things others are ill-equipped for. Just look at Saul/Paul: God used him to reach people who’d never been reached before and would’ve never been reached without his uniqueness.

      Using the metaphor of the poem again, a C-major is just a note, but if it’s missing from a piece of music where it’s intended to fit, that musical creation becomes worse. I think the analogy to our human uniqueness is a good one.

      • I’m truly not trying to be a curmudgeon. Yes, I wrestle with this. More than you would believe. And I don’t mean to stir the pot – but beautiful words like this make the tension and contradiction that I see between this and Christian eschatology all the more glaring.

        I love the poem. Human lives are far more unique and valuable than drops of water or notes of music. I completely buy into the idea that each human is unique. I just no longer buy into the idea that it really matters in the end in Christianity. Barring universalism, unique voices will fade away. God is prepared to eternally lose these voices, perhaps torture them for their wickedness. Period. I’m tired of looking the other way.

        This isn’t because I don’t pay attention to Christian theology. It’s because I DO pay attention to Christian theology – particularly the implications of eschatology. And please don’t tell me that I’ve just completely misunderstood thousands of years of Christian theology about human destiny, and that if I just go hug Jesus that these tensions disappear.

        If you expect me to link this poem with Chrisian theology, then I need to see a radically different eschatology actively put forth. Which, IMO, can’t and won’t be done.

        • Thanks for these further thoughts and ideas, Homer. (And I’m glad I took the time to look past my initial reaction, and I’m glad you didn’t get offended by my initial reaction.)

          –> “I just no longer buy into the idea that it really matters in the end in Christianity.”

          Hmm…yes, on the surface, I’d agree. Just like a drop of water doesn’t seem to matter to an ocean, what does anyone matter in the end…? Dang, it’s Ecclesiastes again!

          But I do disagree. If that’s the case, then Saul/Paul didn’t matter. Nor did Stephen. Nor any of the 12. Nor the guy on the cross next to Jesus. Why, then, should we read their accounts, their conversions, their actions? And how about all the things (and people) John refers to that AREN’T recorded – so many they’d fill book upon book? Did they not matter?

          I’d put forth that any and all lives matter, as do any and all actions. Take my interaction recently with a clerk at Fred Meyer: a simple conversation led to a deep spiritual discussion and a potential renewed sense of purpose on her part. If my “drop in the ocean” hadn’t mingled with her drop, who knows where she’d be?

          This gets to something that my sister and I just recently talked about. We were speaking about a couple of musicians’ suicides (one being Stuart Adamson, lead singer of the 80s band Big Country, of who I was/am a huge fan). I commented that unfortunately for artists, a lot of their mental health is linked to “success”. Because they don’t believe their music/art is reaching an audience, they begin to lose hope that anyone cares. What I wish I’d been able to say to Stuart Adamson is: “You don’t know this, but you made a huge impact on my life, and even if no one else is still buying your albums, I still do, and I love the messages in your songs.” In other words, don’t think your “drop in the ocean” isn’t impacting others, because it is!

          So to say that one life doesn’t matter just isn’t true. A life matters, even if it looks like only a drop in the ocean; it matters to Christianity or to our fellow human beings.

          • Thanks for your gracious response Rick. Long response coming. Part #1.

            You’re misunderstanding me though.

            Sorry for taking this away from the theme of “good works” and practical love. But to me, it’s become nearly impossible to think that my good works matter for anything IN THE END the way that Christians tell me the story. While this poem isn’t ABOUT Christian eschatology, it makes no sense to me in light OF Christian eschatology.

            I absolutely believe that each and every life matters, and is unique and irreplaceable. I like this poem. I know the positive impact that people can have on one another, and that acts of kindness reverberate and echo and grow.

            My first encounter with the Christian faith was in the Reformed/Calvinist tradition (I didn’t know what that was at the time). Once I sifted through all the theological BS that tried to cover it up (which took years), I realized that they (we) didn’t believe that Jesus actually wanted to “save” everyone.

            In no sense would I have been able to make any sense of the poem in this post – that ALL had a beautiful unique part to play and that we were, in some mysterious way, part of the restoration of all things. That each person is one drop in a beautiful ocean of Goodness. Nope. False. Some peoples assigned part is to get beat down. Forever.

            I moved on. Angrily. I didn’t sign up for that garbage. But the damage was done.

          • Part #2

            Other traditions professed God’s love for all. Nice. But more of the same. The inevitable and ultimate loss of a person is still VERY real, it’s just explained by man’s decision to screw up and inexplicably damn himself. That I didn’t know who exactly would be “out” in the end is irrelevant. Human uniqueness is snuffed out. That’s the last word. Probably people I know and love. Maybe me, as my “faith” hung by a thread. Different explanation, but same tragic end.

            A kind of avoidance technique was to focus on the “here and now” kingdom of God and how Jesus loves little children. This is great, but incomplete. It didn’t change the ultimate view of the destiny of individual people, which remained tucked away but always present, a sort of fearful “invisible hand” hovering powerfully just out of sight. I tried to forget about it. Tried to explain it away. But it would always reappear. Eventually it just made my heart hard and fearful.

            No, in the end one act of love either cannot or will not save all mankind in the powerful way that I hear in this poem. Now or ever. Not in any version of Christianity that I’ve seen. I can’t count how many articles I’ve read about how Christianity NEEDS hell. How Jesus NEEDS hell. Human uniqueness and fulfillment of vocation be damned. Literally.

            I mean, tell Joe Blow in hell (or annihilated) how valuable and unique he is and how unique his part is in the divine symphony. That he is irreplaceable. It’s either flat out untrue (since the “symphony” continues on), or creation is eternally incomplete. Either way, the loving acts done to and for him are irrelevant. They don’t matter. And it kills me inside.

          • Thanks for the two-part response, Homer. This is one of those discussions that’s drifting toward the “best discussed over dinner and a brew” as the back-and-forth is difficult via comments on a blog.

            Admittedly, my drift toward the semi-heretical concept of universalism gets me past where you are currently stuck and angered. Jesus saves, of that I have no doubt. He is “the way,” of that I have no doubt. The how and when and why and who he saves, however, has become more interesting and mysterious to me. Seriously, he’s only going to save those who said the sinner’s prayer at some point before they died? Seriously, he’s going to save the sinner’s prayer person, only to let them backslide and go back to the abyss? If there IS a hell, I’m hoping it has few inhabitants. It seems odd to me that God would create too many souls that end up only in hell. I mean, what kind of parent would have multiple children and then cast more than half of them into the Pit?

            But I digress (and more reason why this would be best in a face-to-face over a steak and a beer). Bottom line: I still believe God loves us all, wants for ALL of His creation to be participants in his plan and his creation, wants for all of us to bear fruit for Him in the form of love, grace, forgiveness, peace, patience, etc. etc. I truly believe one cup of water given to one thirsty person is vitally important to humankind and to God.

        • Homer, I don’t have time in this response to try and answer your question, which will obviously involve more than a simple reply.

          But you have suggested an area of inquiry that I will consider for future posts.

          In the meantime, let me posit a suggestion from nature and see what you think. The created universe runs according to certain principles, which guarantee that nothing is wasted. That which dies decays and provides the stuff from which new life springs. Forest fires seem like catastrophe and devastation to us, but they are essential to replenish the ecosystem. Etc.

          Is it too hard to conceive that the God who promises both judgment and new creation will find something of value in even what looks to us like the most useless life for the purpose of bringing life and newness in the ages to come?

        • It’s the end results of hell and heaven that are bothering you, isn’t it? Or certain interpretations and understandings of them, which I loosely called 19th century theology above, or could also call middle ages literature/centuries of telephone tradition.

          • Yes, that’s what bothers me. Where is the power of “good works” in the end? I know what 1 Cor 15 says at the end, but I can’t see how good works aren’t “in vain” the way that I see Christians wrap up this story.

            19th century creation? Really? Come on.

          • Homer,
            I agree. Outside of universalism, things are grim. Whatever is consigned to hell is obviously not of any eternal value, or necessary for harmony in heaven.

            I’ve stopped trying to fight it. I’ve become a confirmed universalist, not on the basis of scripture or tradition, but on the basis of my own conviction. I believe in the crucified and resurrected Christ, and I believe he has and will redeem everyone and everything. I don’t know how to make it all fit together, but I can’t live a sane and hopeful inner life without both, so I choose both.

          • There have been Christian thinkers with minds far greater than mine, and possibly yours, Homer, on both sides of this issue. David Bentley Hart and Jurgen Moltmann are just two of the brilliant Christian thinkers who also are universalists; I’ll leave it to them, and those like them, to do the heavy lifting. But for my part, I’m learning to trust the hope-giving and paradoxical ability of Jesus Christ to reconcile things that seem irreconcilable.

          • I wish I could have been where you are with it Robert.

            You summed up my thoughts well. Something that is confined to hell, Gehenna, lake of fire, Tartarus, Sheol, whatever, has no eternal value. If I give a cold cup of water to one of these, it is meaningless. It is in vain.

            My series of comments shows why I don’t post and choose to lurk instead. I tend to ramble, this is my last comment.

            I had a real emotional reaction to this poem. Not sure why. The beauty, hope, the power of the “good works” and the eternal value of all people that I got out of this poem just contrasted so powerfully with the crushing eschatological vision that destroyed my faith – I had to speak up.

          • Homer, I hope you continue to post comments I understood exactly what you were saying, and feel you added something important to the discussion today. Thank you.

          • The day I quit being a Young Earth Creationist was the day I discovered the Bible didn’t teach YEC (and subsequently how it was created over the centuries). Not at all because I wanted Evolution to be true, or to sin freely so there is no accountability. Nuh uh. But because the Bible did not teach YEC, and the Bible is true. (I was staunchly inerrant a few years back) The contradiction meant the doctrine had to go.

            I have a feeling Satan, and now Hell, are much the same way.

            The Bible does not teach Hell as we understand it today. Therefore our understanding of Hell is wrong.

            And there is no Hell.

            So what does the Bible teach? That’s the question.

          • Please keep commenting Homer, we need more voices and stories like yours. Hope to see you around still.

          • I agree with Robert F and StuartB, Homer. Lots of people ramble here. Don’t let that stop you from posting more frequently. I enjoyed the back-and-forth with ya. Wish it could’ve been over lunch or dinner, though! 😉

          • “But the damage was done”

            “And it kills me inside.”

            Homer, you make sense, you make perfect sense. The way you describe it makes sense too: It feels like a wound.

            It seems to be that the universe is vast and wonderful, and that humanity and human experience are vast and wonderful. Unfortunately so many of my early pictures of where God is and what God does in the world left me with a mental picture of grace extending only a short way into that vastness. The image this leaves in my mind strikes me down; I can’t bear it.

            It is difficult to get the viscerality this conjures, or its effects, pressed into words. The mental cloud this produces occludes hope, and I try so hard to keep hope in view.

            I think it is possible that Hell is believing in the doctrine of Hell and learning to contemplate it.
            I meant that as kind of a joke, but actually I’m a bit serious … I don’t know how to “deal” with it, except to stop snake-handling and drop the viper on the floor.

            The only way I know of getting away is to turn sharply back to the disarming and surprising declarations of God’s love in the Old and New Testaments, culminating in person of Christ, and to trust that grace is wider than I know how to hope that it is, and nothing like the narrow, parochial trickle I sometimes fear it could be. I hope that doesn’t sound glib. Ideas, once they’ve already pressed themselves on the imagination, don’t just change out like batteries. It’s not a “fix,” the truth is that it’s a mental leap for me, and I have to keep doing it and trying to find ways to keep my mind where I want it to stay. Sometimes I stay put and sometimes I don’t.

            I hope that makes sense.

            As everyone else said, please don’t feel you shouldn’t ramble. If people weren’t allowed to ramble here CM would have had my head ages ago.

        • Homer, I understand you have a problem of understanding, but I think it is much bigger than this poem. You speak of Christian theology and Christian eschatology as if these were simple and well defined concepts which everyone agrees on. Tain’t so and never has been. It is true that much of the western church for a very long time has embraced the idea of eternal torment at the hands of a “loving” God for certain variously specified individuals. I’m guessing at bottom this is what is bothering you and you somehow seem to think you are the only person in the world this bothers.

          First off, much of the generation of young people has written off the church for this reason and others like it, so you are far from alone. Secondly, not everyone in the worldwide church believes in the idea of eternal torment and never has, so there is considerable room for differing perspectives. You say you “need to see a radically different eschatology actively put forth.” So thirdly, take your nose out of whatever book is making you so miserable and look around. There are many highly intelligent scholars and thinkers giving this troublesome concept more attention than it has ever gotten before right now as we speak

          Finally, why are you barring universalism, whatever you think that means? Are you trying to look at all sides of the issue or is your mind already made up and you just want to vent the pain it causes. There are a lot of people here who have thought about your concerns. They won’t all agree with each other, except maybe that it is a difficult issue that absolutely needs attention if the church is to survive. At least bring an open mind to the table along with your concerns. They are good concerns.

      • I’ll counter that with evidence that we are ALL unique and that no one can take our place, especially in certain instances.

        In a former life, I would argue that that can’t be true, because some people are uniquely created to be in hell and some people are uniquely created to be in heaven. Thus…no one is unique. And if you died tonight do you know where you will spend eternity? Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior?

        That’s a huge disconnect, barrier, chasm, whatever, to cross.

        And thankfully, for many Christians, and increasingly myself, the Cross crosses it.

        • which…explains so much. people’s views on good works. the borders. the environment. taxes. sustainability. a lot of it.

          because who cares. it’s all destined for destruction.

          as those poor and needy and “not us”.

          they don’t matter. hell awaits.

          that’s…horrifying

          • The doctrine of eternal hell is perhaps the worst mind and soul torture the human mind has ever devised.

          • Can I just free think for a second? As an exercise? And not worry about being heretical or blasphemous at all? Because I’m thinking through all this as well after reading Enns and others.

            Jesus does not save us from hell.

            Period.

            Few reasons…

            The Law was given to keep Israel safe and in check, moral order. To reference an older Chaplain Mike post about the ordering of the 10 commandments, it starts with recognizing God, don’t have other gods, don’t kill each other, don’t sleep (the language may be a lot more earthy) with each other’s wives, don’t steal, always remember the Lord’s Day, respect your parents, etc. That’s over arching, that’s Bill of Rights. And then from there, hey we are in a desert, don’t do these things that can harm all of us, let’s have order here.

            Jesus is not some scapegoat coming into an ancient Israelite camp in the middle of the wilderness, and taking upon himself the punishment we deserve for breaking some law, whether touching a dead person or having a discharge of blood or eating shellfish, and going outside of the camp to make amends or getting himself killed in place of some literal lamb that’s a sacrifice to appease the nostrils and angry blood lust of a deity.

            There is no concept of hell in the Hebrew scriptures. There is a grave, there is death, but not some literal hell full of the damned burning for all eternity.

            There is no concept of hell in the New Testament scriptures. Jesus doesn’t talk about it. He references an actual physical location that 1st century listeners and readers would/may have been familiar with, and compares it to a life or eternity without God.

            There is a ton of “fanon” (to use a Slactivist term) about hell post-NT period. Dante. Lewis. Many others. Centuries of “what if” pastoral writings in the Catholic church. All of which seeps into the public consciousness and literature. Folk lore. Pagan religions intermixing with Christianity. All of it.

            So, there is no transgression of an ancient Israelite law (that may or may not have really existed, if all this stuff was written/compiled in The Exile centuries later, AND may have been rewritten to fit the dynasty of one or two Kings of Judah), there is no “sin” in that sense of the term, and there is no destination of eternal punishment for someone who breaks those ancient dead (and finished) laws…

            Therefore Jesus does not save us from “hell”, and no God sends us to “hell”. By faith, we believe Jesus died and rose again, defeating death itself. By faith, we believe (as yet unseen) that when we die, we will one day be resurrected just like we believe Jesus was. BY. FAITH.

            And as a result, free from the fear of death, free from the fear of sin, free from the fear of damnation, we are now free to boldly love our neighbors, to work on making this world a better place, to enjoy life, to have joy, to give in marriage, and to tell everyone else we meet about this man named Jesus who we believe is God who was raised from the dead and who will one day raise us from the dead as well.

            That is eternal life. If there is a hell, it’s the opposite: not being raised from the dead.

            There is no hell we can go to. There is no Satan who rules it (another character largely made up after the scriptures were over). And in some ways, there is no sin we can commit. We’ve got lists of instructions from Jesus on how we should live our lives. None of which have any bearing on our standing with God.

            How is this not the Gospel? How is this not orthodoxy?

            How is this not Grace?

            /heretical musings, lol

  6. This is what becomes more and more clear to me thru both study and practice: Every single human being on Earth without exception makes a difference in the measurable level of spiritual consciousness, either to raise or to lower. It may not be noticeable any more than the level of the ocean is noticeably higher if you dump in a bucket of water, or indeed a drop, but even logic says it has to make a difference however small.

    It is not like one person has no hope of making a difference against all the millions and probably billions living their lives at fundamental and counterproductive levels of spiritual consciousness. The higher the level of consciousness attained, the more one child of God can counterbalance many at lower levels on the seesaw of life. This means it is not only important to transform to the highest level of consciousness possible in this lifetime, it is of utmost importance to a child and servant of God.

    Not everyone will see this. It makes no difference, and in the lower levels of consciousness is to be expected. This doesn’t mean that I must somehow get you to raise your level of consciousness, it means that I must somehow help raise my own level, and in that process your cork will be floating a bit higher on the ocean of consciousness, whether you are aware of it or not.

    This isn’t something I accomplish, it is a gift given that I unwrap and use and enjoy or not. There is no way I can set my goal as attaining a certain level and get there. Levels are also given, but I can set my direction and cooperate to the best of my abilities and take it like it comes as far as it goes. It would be a huge mistake to look at the map of levels of spiritual consciousness and use it to judge others and elevate the prideful self. Huge. Every act of kindness you let loose in the course of a day affects all of Creation for the good, whether anyone else notices or not. God notices. The effect is immediate even if unseen.

    • Except, to many, there are no degrees. There’s us, there’s them. There’s saved, there’s unsaved. There’s the saints, there’s the damned. I’m sure someone could say “good works earns rewards/crowns”, but the ready answer is “…which we put back at Jesus’ feet.” So, nothing again.

      What’s the highest level of consciousness? To be saved. Flip of the switch. Moment of decision. Anything beyond that is “eastern mysticism”.

      May our prayer as Christians be: there is no them, there is only us.

      • “What’s the highest level of consciousness?”

        Uh, that would be Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the four Gospels. I’m just guessing here, Stuart, but I’d bet a hundred dollars you aren’t there yet. I know I’m not. If you and I are dealing with here and now while looking at the example Jesus set, I would say there were degrees in between. I’ve gotten thru a few of those myself over the years and I’ve watched you do the same here in these pages. If, to many, there are no degrees between our level of spiritual consciousness and that of Jesus, the problem might be anal/cranial if you get my drift.

        • I see what you are saying, Charlies, and I’m not disagreeing, because that wasn’t what I was talking about or referring to. Christians believe in God, Jesus as God, therefore a higher level of consciousness.

          And I was separating out sanctification from the mix, being more and more like God.

          Consciousness, at least in the fundygelical circles/conservative republican liberterian tea party circles I’ve been a part of, is a liberal word that tends to denote eastern mysticism. I tend to filter my responses in response to that way of viewing things.

          We’re cool, lol.

        • Charles, as luck would have it, Slactivist quoted Peter Leithert about this concept today!

          http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/2015/09/03/purity-culture-isnt-just-a-sex-thing-its-a-do-nothing-thing/

          Leithert (emphasis mine):

          Evangelicalism is also a conversionist faith. The key crisis of life is the moment of commitment to Christ. In Woodlawn, most of the characters convert early in the film, necessarily so because the story is about the effect of the revival on race relations. But that means that the line of character development is flat. The really crucial character development has taken place in the moment of conversion. …

          Theologically speaking, character development is “sanctification.” A conversionist form of Christianity places less emphasis on sanctification than on conversion and justification. In films, that translates into drastic oversimplification of human psychology. For Evangelicals, there are only two sets of motivations, as there are two kinds of people: Saved and unsaved.

          • ” . . . there are two kinds of people: Saved and unsaved.”

            Well, yeah, sort of, not exactly. This is dualistic thinking, the tree of knowledge between good and evil. serpent talk. It fits right in with the dualistic heaven/hell, saved/damned, either/or. It is low level thinking that got us off on the wrong foot then and now, and if anything it is this dualistic serpent thinking that Jesus came to save us from. Back to the Garden and the Tree of Life! Now!

            Translating into English has emphasized that word “save” and given us a heap of problems. It can denote “rescue” but also denote “heal”. Salvation as an English word is related to salve, and salve is a healing ointment. It is a lot more in accord with New Testament teaching to refer to people as being saved or not being saved. Even more in accord to say being healed or not being healed. Jesus came to give healing to our souls here and now. It’s still available, in spite of what you may have heard.

  7. This post and its comments remind me of my deceased friend Deana. She was everything a ‘proper Christian’ was not . . . she was Jewish, she smoked pot (probably dealed it, too, I suspect), had affairs, she swore like a sailor, posed as an artist’s model ‘au natural’ (this is actually respectable I’m told), and was sometimes in trouble with the law (never actually arrested, though, they couldn’t prove anything).
    She was my friend.

    We lived in the same neighborhood for many years, having not a whole lot in common (except we both drank coffee like fiends), but we got on fine. There was something wonderful about Deana: she loved animals. She would ‘save’ them and find homes for them, and if she couldn’t find a home immediately, she would bring them home and care for them . . . there was a ‘kindness’ in my friend towards helpless creatures, and maybe in part, we were such strong friends because Deana was kind enought to pay attention to my son who had Down Syndrome, when most of our neighbors were ‘not able to be’.

    I don’t know what happened to Deana after she died (cancer, she was in her late thirties) . . . there was a cremation and interment. But her soul and her spirit, by the standards of the time, might not have ‘made it’ through the pearly gates . . . except I think she DID . . . I think Deanie really made it . . . I wondered about this for years and then I read this: “God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. ”

    I’m trusting St. John here for backup. Heaven? Hell? Is loving-kindness vibrantly expressed towards helpless beings a sign of hope? It is for me. That, and a strong sense that my slightly tawdry, wildly eccentric friend’s genuinely kind heart was not totally cut off from the friendship of God and a final blessing of His great mercy.

    Small thing: an act of kindness. I know this.
    But who can know the depths of God’s mercy? I think my friend is safely home.

    • David Cornwell says:

      Yes. Well said.

    • I think your frirndnis with God. But hey, i no longer believe in eternal conscious torment, and am very universalist these days. Part of that comes from my own experiences with friends like yours.

      Btw, i was a studio art msjor in undergrad – worked from many different nude models. There’s even a professional association for them, though the folks i knew weren’t members. Yes, it is a respectable profession, though not to many out there. I got in big trouble with some of my housemates due to them seeing sketches from one of my figure drawing classes.

  8. David Cornwell says:

    As to some of the discussions above concerning hell and judgement and the waste that goes along with it:

    I suppose based on the testimony of scripture I find myself more optimistic about the worth of every single individual, and what that individual means to the coming Kingdom. The purpose of God through Jesus Christ is a redemptive one. We see through a glass darkly, and only in part, and much remains mystery. The narrative of the bible points to the ultimate triumph of this creation that God created as “good.” And what we are able see about the new creation is certainly “good.”

    One passage that bears this out, in my mind, is Philippians 2:1-11. which comes to its great culmination in verses 9-11 and the words:

    Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
    that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
    and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

    And so I cannot go to bed feeling hopeless for the lost souls of the world, and there are many of them. But I know God’s love is comprehensive and full, that on the cross Jesus has born the sins of the world, and that His love reaches into the even the depths of whatever hell might mean.

    And every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess. Is this universal salvation? I do not know. But I do believe that the testimony and prophecy of this hymn will be born out in the fullness of time.