Faith and Modern Culture

December 26, 2018 at 11:15 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

It’s astonishing how old our religions are, for the most part.  Yet what we consider old or ancient really isn’t.  The universe is supposedly between six and twelve billion years old.  Cities and agriculture are supposed to be twenty thousand, at most.  Writing might be between four and six thousand years old.

We’ve had the possibility to construct a familiar place for ourselves here in our wild little world.  But now we’re running up against the boundaries of our self-centered consciousness and nature’s full and seamless integration.  The more we evolve our languages, cities, laws and –ugh-=armies, the more we imprison ourselves outside of the seamless integration of all Being.

Instead of evolving and growing within the web of all existence–and beyond our imaginations–we chain ourselves to a local time and place:  oil, automobiles, television, guns, nation-states and religions.

wall-us-mexicoIn Illuminating Islam’s Peaceful Origins, Mustafa Akyol discusses two current nonfiction books, released this year.  Each endeavors to shift the ponderous fixture of contemporary western society’s view of Islam as essentially violent or terrorist to something more peaceful.

It’s a heavy lift.  Akyol is forced to admit Islam’s violent episodes or tendencies, while unconvincingly explaining them away as situational reactions to the temporary geo-political reality of the 8th century.  I’ll have to read the works in question before I make up my own mind:  Prof. Juan Cole’s Muhammed:  Prophet of Peace Amid the Clash of Empires and Jack Miles’s God In The Qur’an.

We come to these authors with our questions about history and ideas and faith.  However, faith is something that reaches beyond history or ideas of what is known, demonstrable as fact, truth.  Otherwise, what would be the value of faith.?  Faith takes our consciousness beyond the familiar icons of modern life and culture, and of history and philosophy.

When we stand upon all we know as educated human beings with our grasp of science, history and agriculture, when we look beyond the highest structures of culture and civilization, then we can extend our vision only by faith.  Faith is what we see beyond the total sum of everything we know.

“Unless a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” – John 3:16

It is useful–necessary– to study history and science and clarify and refine our understanding of human awareness, understanding of culture.  But what we need is an experience that sets our vision beyond all these things.  We can learn about differing views of God in history, but God is the God of the present, and beckons us to know Him ultimately in our experience.  It’s an experience that includes everything we know, and shapes our knowledge into an enlarged view of the present.

“6I am the God of  your father, the God of of Abraham, the God of of Isaac, and the God of of Jacob….  14Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel “I AM has sent me to you.””–Gn 3:6, 14.

So Moses is sent back to the people of Israel, and to Pharaoh to explain what God wants now.  Needless to say, this seems difficult for Moses, because what God wants now isn’t what everybody else is trying to arrange at the moment.

Like us, the Israelites and the Egyptians had their history, their culture, their laws and their economics.  All these forces shuttered their visions to what they already knew and experienced a priori.  But God was to lead them out of the status quo, and that took faith.  Moses had to sell them on the idea that God had a new story, a new reality, a new present for them now.

 

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