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April 15, 2014

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I find it awkward to be so positive of any particular interpretation of Scripture that the interpretation must trump a deeply held religious/spiritual experience.

Personally, I would employ reason with my faith to reconcile, when possible, experience-- even when that leads to questioning a deeply held interpretation.

No one can attest to what really happens after we die. The Bible, as a collection of texts, is inadequate to describe it fully. Even Jesus, who died and rose again, did not spend any time talking about what was on the other side. There are only hints at what may be in store, but no step-by-step guide as in "First this happens, then you meet this person, then this happens."

I believe we shall all be surprised, no matter what, and should not compare people's personal experiences against Scripture, since Scripture gives us really nothing to go on.

What's most frustrating about these books/accounts is that even when there are things that can be clearly pointed to as being contrary to Scripture, Christians will downplay it and then get angry at you for pointing them out.

I can't tell you how many times I've tried to critically look at these types of testimonies and have been told something to the effect of, "Well, God can use this..."

How do we deal with fellow Christians - actual born again people who usually know their Bibles very well! - who refuse to employ critical thinking skills in this area and instead embrace these sorts of testimonies because 'we can't judge' someone's experiences or 'God could use it' in someone's life?

It frustrates me so, so much that experiences are put over God's Word! And then those people criticize ME when I'm simply comparing the account with what God's Word says and pointing out any discrepancies!

Let's also not be too quick to assume there is no physical explanation or that near-death experiences prove that the physical isn't all there is. Just taking a quick look for possible explanations, I found this.

It's Sam Harris, of course, but you can't deny that his explanation exists. You've got to acknowledge it and contend with it.

The Apostle Paul went to Paradise and heard things that were either impossible to reiterate or not lawful to speak of. Either way, because of this, God gave him a "thorn in the flesh" (weakness caused by Satan), to keep him humble.
see 2 Corinthians 12:ff

In view of this, it is doubtful if any of the trips to Heaven we hear about are real. I suspect they are mostly hallucinations that align somewhat with a person's beliefs and naturally occur as people die.

Hmm. Seems to be a bit of a tendency toward denial that anything even a believer describes of a mystical experience cannot be real unless it matches the Bible.

Okay, maybe this might help: No matter who we believe wrote the Creation stories found in Genesis, the person was not an eye-witness. Yet, we accept it as authoritative.

It was, unquestionably, revealed to the person in a vision. Yet, we accept it as authoritative. Unless you wish to claim that LaMaitre's Big Bang Theory proves the truth of Genesis (something the priest-scientist did not claim-- and warned us from doing) then there is no proof at all of the truth in a Genesis, much less it's authority.

Where we stumbled in attempting to decode spiritual vision into language-- neither providing the concreteness we would like-- is in a choice that our own favored interpretation is the correct one. After all, these are matters of the soul and of our salvation, and authority is essential if we can trust, as authentic, knowledge of things spiritual.

Do any of us believe that the opening chapters of Genesis could survive our test for authority if revealed to anyone today for the first time? I don't. I would listen or read, and I would contemplate--seeking truth in it, but not finding any mark of authority, leave it as something of interest, but of uncertain value.

Perhaps more important than authority in our interpretation is the presumption that a description of the spiritual world can be adequately understood or expressed within the human mind-- on this side of the resurrection.

The troubling reaction which I would like us to reconsider is the one which immediately seeks to doubt, to disparage, to explain away, or outright deny a very personal spiritual experience of another person.

The assumption that persons do not receive visions is arrogance-- or perhaps envy. The concept that God does not find us in our souls as our souls seek Him is the theology of those who ascribe to a "watch-maker god" who has no interest in the watch, once made. I have no interest in a god who cares not for its creation and fortunately, that does not describe the One, True God.

Analogy:

You know nothing of music, of notes, chords, harmonies or even instruments, and are tasked with explaining the most beautiful song you ever heard. The song moved you, but you have no language for it, nor does your reader. There is the task of the mind of a person who is shown a glimpse of the spiritual realm, and our task in hearing or reading their experience.

Where does the matter of authority enter into that description of a beautiful song? It comes, I submit, in the nodding heads of those who heard the song with him. But visions are private, intimate things. The vast majority for no other purpose than an expression of love from the Author of love to a soul He created, lives, and intends to redeem.

So, what we hear from such stories can be interpreted by them, not us. All we can rightly presume of it is that God Is, and they know it-- and in telling us of their experience we know they were moved to show it.

What I am trying to say is not out of a vacuum of experience. I understand the problem, and saying no more than that, point to Abram who finds God speaking to Him in a vision. Abram then goes around building altars which God never asked him to build, much less use, but it was important to Abram. Who are we to mock Abram, or reinterpret his reaction to his experience as unbiblical, delusional, or unchristian? God did not protest.

No matter who we believe wrote the Creation stories found in Genesis, the person was not an eye-witness. Yet, we accept it as authoritative.

It was, unquestionably, revealed to the person in a vision.

Not necessarily. It was most likely centuries of oral tradition, with dollops of other cultural stories, finally put down on papyrus. The Epic of Gilgamesh contains much of the Flood story, and that was not an eyewitness account, either.

Crews,

"The vast majority for no other purpose than an expression of love from the Author of love to a soul He created, lives, and intends to redeem. So, what we hear from such stories can be interpreted by them, not us. All we can rightly presume of it is that God Is, and they know it-- and in telling us of their experience we know they were moved to show it."

Well said.

That a man who had left, in his life, his God behind, is, once again, speaking of Him, even chasing, is a work, a process, which belongs to God.

It seems to offend us that God would address our soul's pains, that He would, in some far away moment, in some unknowable place, say to us, simply, only, "You are my beloved".

The Living God, Immutable Love Himself, utters such to a soul, whom He owns, whom He bought, and we cry "Foul! Tis not enough!"

For most, the road to Damascus is not the road traveled. We wrestle. Bits. Pieces. We condemn, shame, and cast out, someone in the midst of that journey. We've too little faith in the Father's power and wisdom, in His Grace, and we've too much faith in form.

Grace.

What else is there?

What resume' will we hold up to God's Face, offer to His Hand?

John Moore,

Sam Harris regresses into anti-realism and mereological nihilism and levels the diagnosis of delusion upon Every Mind and this Pan-World.

Volitionality is undeniable, is perceived pan-mind, pan-world, and this bit of reality is only a start, but it is enough to reveal the lack of evidence which naturalism arrives at the table with.

Intentional thinking is, on Harris' view, non-entity. When someone, like Harris, tells every mind, pan-world, pan-mind that the unquestionable and unanimously perceived actuality of "I have a head" is delusion he had better come with something more than blind axiom. Should he ask for a proof that we do in fact have a head, that Pan-Mind's Perception, Pan-World, is not delusional at bottom, we'll have the argument won without having spoken a word.

This is the degree, the distance, which Harris will have to take Pan-Mind, Pan-World to task on. We know we have a head, just as, we know we motion within volitionality, just as, we know we think intentionally, just as, we know we exist.

And so on.

Undeniable.

Mind dependence becomes inescapable for should Harris argue for his head we find all his appeals to some head measured, or weighed, or pointed to, or whatever, will be appeals to the perception thereof. Mind dependence is no friend to naturalism for in the end if perception is thrown away for the sake of his presupposition (and it is), then “I have a head” is thrown away with it (and it is).

Pan-Mind, Pan-World perceives such undeniable actualities. If there is a proof or some new information to the contrary, then we may have at least the start of a reason to change definitions. Harris tells us (he implies) he has a proof that we are all delusional, but never presents it to us. All he has is his commitment to his presupposition and a kind of fear of embracing the undeniable world. His entire thesis is built atop a presupposition of naturalism and he convinces us that he is willing to deny the undeniable, and without evidence, without new information, should that be the burden of defending his presupposition. As we follow his line, we find that it will be - at bottom, in the end - mereological nihilism, and Pan-Mind's perceiving of "I exist" inevitably ends as a delusion, for "I"’s status of delusion-hood becomes inescapable, or, it will be God, and "I AM" becomes inescapable. Those who think they can hide in some middle arena do so only by blind axiom built atop equivocation and fear of committing to the necessary ends of one’s chosen vector.

Harris has no evidence to support his diagnosis of Pan-Psychosis, Pan-Delusion other than his commitment to his presupposition driving him to his conclusion despite his own acute and undeniable perceivings to the contrary, despite Pan-Mind's, Pan-World's Perceivings to the contrary.

He denies the undeniable.

He must.

Else: God

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