Dear Neale... Firstly I would like to say that I love your books, it is the first model of the divine that makes sense to me. I was raised Christian and I find the idea that God is a jealous, wrathful, judgmental God that requires salvation through strange, incomprehensible technicalities to be very distasteful. My question relates to Jesus and things he said.
In your books you claim he was a fully self-realized human. I believe this far more than the Christian 'son of god - exclusive bridge to heaven' model. But some things he said still confuse me. "Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven." Matthew 10:32.
He also tells his disciples to go cast out demons in this chapter. So I am wondering, do you think he really said this? If so, what did he mean by it? It seems a clear implication that he has the final say about salvation, and that he believes in demons...something I don't think a fully self-realized human, according to your model of the divine, would believe or say. So how do you account for this discrepancy?
Much as I love your books and want them to be true, it is hard to let go of the Christian fear of rejecting Jesus as the son of God that was instilled into me from an early age. Keep up the good work.
Dear Dan: I am wondering which part of the Bible you believe is the truth? Do you suppose it might be the Book of Deuteronomy, where it says that if a man marries a woman and finds that she is not a virgin, and if her family cannot prove that she was a virgin before her marriage, "she shall be brought to the door of her father's house and there the men of her town shall stone her to death."
Now you might say, "Wait a minute. This is God's Law?" And the answer, as it is found in the Christian Holy Scripture, is yes. The Bible also says that, if found to be in an adulterous relationship, both the man and the woman are to be taken to the city gates and also stoned to death.
And the Bible is concerned about other real life matters as well. Apparel, for instance. A woman "must not wear men's clothing...for the Lord your God detests anyone who does this," the Bible says. Also, "Do not wear clothes of wool and linen woven together."
Then, too, only certain people are welcome in God's house of worship. If you happen to be a child born out of wedlock, you cannot go there. Did you know that, Dan? The Bible makes this very clear. It says that no illegitimate child, "nor any of his descendants may enter the assembly of the Lord, even down to the tenth generation," may enter into a House of the Lord.
And, did you know this, Dan?: If a certain part of a man's body happens to be injured in an accident or as a result of war, he may similarly not join with other worshippers of God in a House of the Lord. The Bible says: "If a man's testicles are crushed or his penis is cut off, he may not be included in the assembly of the Lord." Yes, these are words right out of the Bible. Turn to Deuteronomy 23:1-2, New Living Translation. "Oh," you might say, "one of those modern Bibles." Yes. The King James Version has it this way: "He that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord," but it means the same thing.
And the Bible has some startling news for women who take some of those self-defense classes that are offered these days. They can find themselves in a lot of trouble with some of what they learn in those classes.The Bible says: "If two men are fighting and the wife of one of them comes to rescue her husband from his assailant, and she reaches out and seizes him by his private parts, you shall cut off her hand. Show her no pity."
The writers of the Bible also had some thoughts about children who don't obey their parents. These are probably not thoughts that many mothers would have. Dan, do you know what the Holy Bible has to say about children who don't obey? Kill them. What? you might say. But God says to kill them. Now, you might not believe that, but it's right there, plain as day:
"If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him, his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. They shall say to the elders, 'This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a profligate and a drunkard.' Then all the men of his town shall stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you."
I guess that would do it, all right...
So, Dan, you will excuse me if I am not quite totally convinced that what the Bible contains is worthy of our acceptance literally, or is even accurate. But let's look, now, at the exact verses from the New Testament to which you refer...
As with some of the other Bible passages noted above, I am having a hard time believing this passage is to be taken literally. It is not my inner knowing that there is only one path to "salvation" -- or that "salvation" is even needed. What have we done from which we need to be saved? How serious are the sins of most of us that God would deny us entry into heaven because of them?
In the case of this Bible passage, it seems to be not even a case of sin or offense against God. The passage seems to suggest that even the righteous --- that is, those who have never committed any offense against God; the clean of spirit, the pure of heart --- even they cannot "get into heaven" unless they "acknowledge" or "confess" Christ. This means that all the world's truly wonderful, giving, caring, compassionate, generous, and loving Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, etc. have absolutely no chance of returning to God in heaven. No chance whatsoever. Why? Because they chose the wrong creed!
Do you believe in a God like that? Is that your honest, innermost Knowing about God, Dan? Or is it possible that in this passage, as in so many others, the Bible has been written as an allegory, or an allusion to a larger truth?
Do we really think, if we accept Jesus as having been God in human form, that God in human form would be so mean-spirited and vindictive (violating, by the way, all of His injunctions on how we should behave!) as to say: "If you don't proclaim me as the Lord and Master, I'm going to tell on you! I'll never let you into heaven! That'll teach you to not believe in me. Boy, are you gonna be sorry!"
Is this the kind of "Savior" you believe in? Supposing your not having believed in Jesus was a simple mistake? Suppose you just grew up in a culture that simply did not embrace this doctrine? Or maybe never even heard of it??? (As with many cultures years and years ago.)
What does Jesus say to them? "Sorry. Too bad my missionaries didn't get to you savages before you guys died, but, well, them's the rules. So here you are, and I gotta tell God to send you to hell because you never acknowledged me as your Savior."
Do you think this could be the way it really is, Dan?
You wrote..."Much as I love your books and want them to be true, it is hard to let go of the Christian fear of rejecting Jesus as the son of God that was instilled into me from an early age."
Wow...Is it abject fear that keeps you "believing" in Jesus, Dan? If it is fear, then is your "belief" really belief...or is it simply intimidation? If a man puts a gun to your head and says, "Swear to me that I am the greatest," and you swear that he is, do you believe it...or are you just saying that to stop him from killing you?
You do know, don't you, Dan, that testimony that is coerced by the police, out of fear, is thrown out of Court, yes?
Sending God's love all ways,
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