Category Archives: hermeneutics

Submission is a Risky Business!!!

Being submissive is part of being a human being.  Something as simple as subscribing to the social contract requires a submission to restraint, the failure to do so resulting in the problems our President demonstrates for us daily.  And submission is a fundamental tenet of most religions.  A friend reminded me this morning that Islam means “submission” and Muslim extremists have certainly taken that seriously!  And in the Christian faith we also see obvious examples of “submission” to God that has nothing to do with any “God” that I know of.

The problem with submission in these two religious traditions is that the word is not looked at closely, paralleling an equally grievous problem that the one looking at the word is not looked at closely.  By this I mean, when we approach religious tradition, we approach it with baggage and have the predisposition to interpret this tradition only in accordance with this baggage.  That means we will interpret it in terms of unconscious needs, many of which can be ambivalent at best and many just abysmally ugly.  Therefore, submission is often a “surrender” to an idea of God that is simple and self-serving and therefore subject to the abysmal darkness.

This notion itself puts on the table the essential dimension of spirituality that I’ve spent most of my life oblivious to.  It is complicated.  It is so complicated because it is a matter of the heart, a matter that addresses the inner most depths of our being which are totally beyond the grasp of simple reason, making it even beyond the grasp of this futile effort!!!  Approaching spirituality from this perspective is humbling because it requires realizing at some point…and this is tough to put into words…we aren’t even doing the approaching but it (i.e., It, or He, or She) is approaching us.  We are in the grip of a mystery, the mystery of life, and “submission” to this mystery will involve some daily surrender in which we understand that we don’t have any complete knowledge of what is going on but a firm conviction that there is “some method to the madness” of the life we are living and are witnessing others live, even in the cosmos itself.

Nikos Kazantzakis in his book, “Report to El Greco,” wrote, “We must surrender to a rhythm not our own.”  This mistake that many religious people is that they “surrender” or submit to ideas that are very much just the rhythm they already are and, calling it “God” allows their ego to take this delusion and practice their arrogance. This does not necessarily make them “bad” people.  It just makes them human.

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Two other blogs of mine are listed here which I invited you to check out:

https://anerrantbaptistpreacher.wordpress.com/

https://literarylew.wordpress.com/

https://theonlytruthinpolitics.wordpress.com/

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Thinking “Deeply” Out of the Box

One of my followers on this blog, and a personal friend, shed interesting light on this notion of “thinking outside of the box.”

“It seems likely to me that thinking outside the box is impossible without then thinking from inside a larger box which contains that previous box. So what we encounter is a collection of telescoping boxes. The most we can hope for is that with each escape from a box that holds us captive, we are then held captive in a more liberating box.”

This gentleman’s observation and the subject matter I’ve put on the table here brought to my mind the Christian notion of “the fall” and the resulting fate of being able to only “see through a glass darkly.”  For, this “fall”, if one deigns to approach it from a metaphorical/mythical dimension, was our expulsion from the blissful of unity with all things, i.e. the Garden of Eden, into the realm of symbolic form.  That Divine spark with which we are born, that “Christ child,” needs to enter into the world of form so that we can experience the joy, and the frustration, of the human enterprise.  Aesychlus, thousands of years ago, referred to this event as “having been banished thought-ward” as he began his heroic journey.

But becoming a “thinking human being” is both a joy and a curse.  We can have the joy of human consciousness as we revel in the incredible mystery of our brief sojourn through this time-space continuum.  But the “curse” is always a temptation, that mistake of taking our thoughts too seriously and falling into the delusion that with them we have captured reality.  This makes me think of a bumper sticker I saw recently, “Don’t believe everything you are thinking.”

My reader is very astute.  We never can escape “the box” but with awareness of our confinement to human form for this brief moment we can allow our reality to be more fluid and can be less obnoxious about our view point.  And, alas and alack, this even applies to me as I discourse here and even, occasionally in real time!

This makes me think of a verse from W. H. Auden:

In the desert of my heart,

Let the healing fountain start.

In this prison of my days,

Teach this poor man how to praise.

 

Opening up the “Closed Canon”

One of the bedrocks of the conservative faith of my youth was the “closed canon.” This meant that the Bible was the “final” word of God and must be taken completely and used as a rule book. This gave rise to a popular bromide, “God said it, believe it, that settles it.”  This mind set left no room for heart felt, intuitive interpretation of the scripture as the Bible was not seen as literature but as “fact.” This approach to “the Word” was static, allowing no dynamic flow of spirit to take place and preventing the Pauline “Word” which is “quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

This belief presents a Word which is only a word, a mere “object” and not a dynamic process. Furthermore, it reflects the belief in a static, objectified god who is not really a “God” but a mere “thing” among other “things.” This belief also reflects the materialistic drift of our culture for the past few hundred years in which mankind sees himself as separate and distinct from the world, not realizing that in this uncritical approach to his faith he is seeing and experiencing himself as separate and distinct from God. “God” is not a “thing”. I am not a “thing.” I am a process and even here, at this moment, I am merely discoursing about another “process” which I prefer to describe as a “Process.” As W. H. Auden noted, individually and collectively, we are but a “process in a process in a field that never closes.”

But, alas and alack, I suddenly find myself up to my halo in still another blasphemy—relativism! When you begin to see the Word of God as a dynamic process that can never be “closed”, you have opened Pandora’s box and various dimensions of “uncertainty” make their escape. The doubt, anxiety, and vulnerability that begins to seep into the heart explains why the certainty was so rigid. It kept the “demons” at bay. But, until these “demons” are released, they live in the hidden recesses of our heart and inevitably lead to projections onto the outside world. Our beliefs reveal as much about our own heart as anything else. When you see a “true believer”, you are face to face with a scared little child who is terrorized by the fragility of his little life. He has glommed onto dogma and can never let it go without experiencing some of that terror which predicates his existence in the world.