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-12-

(A Summary)

 

While our understanding of life, the universe, the human body and mind all continue to improve and change; our views about God and His revelations remain rooted in superstition, ignorance and fear. If God is to continue to help us and influence a positive and ethical growth in our modern world, we must strive to view Her in an Image that is logical, relevant, and constructive to our times. While God's truths may be infinite, our perceptions of them are not. We still need God to help us on our way, but the truth is, we are now capable of doing many things for ourselves that we once depended upon God to do. One must believe that this is the way God intended it.

We can choose to follow God in the faith of our fathers, or, we can come to know Him in the light of our times. We can view God as we are told to view Her, or, we can meet Him as She wants us to see Him - relevant and present in our everyday lives.

All any theology can do is interpret what it perceives to be revelation in a manner that is useful and inspirational to the people it serves based upon the enlightenment of its age. Augustine, Aquinas, Luther and Calvin did nothing more than this. Theologians, the churches and their clergymen, are no more infallible than any other learned men in our world. In the end religion is not about truth, for no man can know or declare the truth of God. Religion is about inspiration that can help us to be whole. God cannot be contained in a church or a tabernacle any more than Her Image can be conveyed in a doctrine, a book, or a "word". The reality of God's Image, and Her Word, are in the reality of what is! It is the responsibility of theology to make God's presence visible in the reality of what is.

Theological speculation is nothing more than suppositions; the truth of which, are manifested in the affects the beliefs have upon the society they influence. The reality of any theology is not in its words; but rather, in what individuals accomplish with the practical applications of the words. We cannot proclaim religiously "all men are created equal," if our society tolerates inequality. We cannot say, "all men are children of God," if our religious beliefs exclude those who may differ from us. We cannot proclaim our love for God and abuse what is of God, that is, the men and women made in Her Image as well as the creation that comes from His hand. Religion will fail us if we live lies and contradictions. Belief can only be truth when it is a tangible in our reality.

 

It is the task of a responsible theology to present religious ideals which encourage love, tolerance, equality, justice, compassion and harmony; for these are the messages contained in the collective revelations. Collective revelations are the universal themes and messages contained in the philosophical and religious ideals of all peoples which offer inspirational guidelines to help us live in harmony and grow emotionally as well as psychologically.

Towards that end, theology must take responsibility and examine the psychological implications of its suppositions if it is to serve God by encouraging good mental as well as spiritual health. It is hard to picture a God of Love using guilt as a motivational tool, for we now know the psychological dangers of guilt. * It is hard to see a God of justice, mercy and forgiveness in religions that condemn homosexuals to hell, or, blame the poor for their plights, or, call for capital punishment, or, deny salvation to any who may differ in their religious concepts.

Jesus really gave us a standard for evaluating the credibility of any religious faith. It is not the articles of faith professed by a religion that should be the standard of judgment, but the fruits of that faith in the reality of our world. A declaration of words, even words of faith, are nothing but empty promises at best, and lies at worst, if they are not a part of the reality we live. To be a Christian, in terms of the Gospels, has nothing to do with what we believe; but rather, how we live. In His farewell discourse in the Gospel of John, Jesus didn't talk about worship, faith, prayer, or even moral platitudes; for he seen only one commandment :

This is my commandment: Love one another, as I have loved you.

(John 15: 12)

 

In the Gospel of Matthew, when Jesus is actually addressing the subject of a final judgment, he mentions nothing about worship, about prayer, about faith, or about the laws of any religion. He tells us:

      When the Son of Man comes in his glory and all the angels with him, he will sit in state on his thrown, with all the nations gathered before him. He will separate men into two groups, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep on his right hand and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right hand, "You have my Father's blessing; come, enter and possess the kingdom that has been ready for you since the world was made. For when I was hungry, you gave me food; when thirsty, you gave me drink; when I was a stranger, you took me into your home; when naked, you clothed me; when I was ill, you came to my help; when in prison, you visited me."

Then the righteous will reply, "Lord, when was it we saw you hungry and fed you, or thirsty and gave you drink, a stranger and took you home, or naked and clothed you? When did we see you ill or in prison or come to visit you?"

And the king will answer, "I tell you this: ANYTHING YOU DID FOR ONE OF MY BROTHERS HERE, HOWEVER HUMBLE, YOU DID FOR ME." Then he will say to those on his left hand, "The curse is upon you, go from my sight from the eternal fire that is ready for the devil and his angels. For when I was hungry you gave me nothing to eat; when thirsty, nothing to drink; when I was a stranger, you gave me no home; when naked you did not clothe me; and when I was ill and in prison, you did not come to my help."

And they too will reply, "Lord, when was it we saw you hungry, or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison; and, did nothing for you?"

And the king will answer, "ANYTHING YOU DID NOT DO FOR THESE, HOWEVER HUMBLE, YOU DID NOT DO FOR ME." And they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous will enter eternal life."

(Matthew 25: 31-46)    

 

"Love thy neighbor as thyself" is part of the collective revelations and is universal in almost every religious ideal. It is the standard that Jesus set; and, if our religions encouraged us to live in the love that Jesus described we would have little need for the endless doctrines, words, and rules of religion. We wouldn't need to fall on our knees in worship, or sing elaborate songs of praise, for we would be living the love of our God in our interactions with each other. Living the Love of God in our interactions with the creation is what Christianity is truly all about. It is how the harmony of other religious ideals could be achieved, and the root of any theology that is responsible.

Somewhere along the line our religious and theological ideas have taken on the wrong dimension. They have become the tools where we cite what God is and declare Her will; yet, no man can know God and no man can declare His will. Theology should be the inspiration that can encourage US to find the Divine spark that is within our own souls so that we might live in the love and harmony to which Jesus referred. Religion cannot tell people what that spark is, for people must find it for themselves. A responsible theology can do nothing more than present ideals, which might act as a map to guide individuals on their way.

It would seem that in our Western world there is little left of the "Beloved" Image of God that is portrayed in the Gospels. While the Image is still proclaimed in the words from the pulpit; the reality is, we have created an idol to worship instead of a participating loving God. Too much of theology has us proclaiming our "Faith In" God, offering us excuses for human shortcomings. One only need look around to see that the living of one's faith is secondary to belief in the words.

 

We feel the concepts, which will be presented in this work, are but one of many ways in which we can improve our perspective of God and utilize our faith to improve our world by living the reality of faith. We acknowledge that there may be those who need more traditional, or for some more radical, ideas to motivate their spirituality. It is hoped that these particular theological concepts and opinions can be relevant to our world today and be useful in helping us to live in the directive of Jesus to "love."

But we also recognize: God's inspiration can take many forms. Faith should be nothing more than a catalyst; and we reiterate, it is not the beliefs that are so important but what we accomplish in those beliefs. Are we as individuals more compassionate, more loving, and better human beings because of those beliefs? Are the realities of our beliefs reflected in our everyday lives: in our interactions with each other including our families, friends, business associates and strangers we encounter? Do our religious attitudes help us to tolerate our differences, encouraging us to be harmonious with one another? Are our religious attitudes helping us to improve society for all, including those we may disagree with? Does our faith provide us with comfort without giving us excuses or scapegoats? Does our faith make us responsible for our own life? It is here believed that this is where responsible theology should lead, and, when it accomplishes these ends it is serving both its people and God no matter if we agree with its speculations or not. God's Kingdom has "many mansions" or different houses to achieve this end.

But we also must be careful of the "wolf in the sheep's clothing" which might lead us astray, even in the name of God. These are the manipulators, false prophets, and religious ideals, which lead to bigotry, intolerance, persecution, oppression, and the suppression of free thought. They are religious ideals that have us living in fear and guilt. They are religious ideals, which seek to control rather than guide. They are those who have the audacity to proclaim that they can speak for God!

It is for this reason, both men and women should be encouraged to constantly question religious ideals, including these presented. We welcome the exchange of ideas and encourage men to debate in hopes that we may learn even more. God has nothing to fear from our search or our questions, nor, have we anything to fear from God. In the end, it is human dogma that needs to be feared much more than God - and history has taught this lesson over and over!

 

NEXT-13-Reading referrals - Food for Thought on Practical Theology  

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