In a Thread, on the fb page of my friend Mike Morrell, I was asked for an example of ‘Spiritual Danger’

(https://www.facebook.com/michael.w.morrell/posts/630406186987266)

My Response:

David, sorry for the delay in responding.

As I said before – I think that you have asked a very good question. Allow me to attempt a response.

I have a few ideas that I would like to put down here – but before I begin, I think that it would be appropriate to summarize the whole of it, at the beginning: the answer to your question….it begins – and ends – with *Love*.

Before I endeavor to unpack this – let me deviate just a moment, and in doing so, talk about a certain Puritan theologian whom you might have heard of – Jonathan Edwards.

Edwards, during his time, was effectively demonized by his ‘rivals’ [Liberals/’Old Lights’/Unitarians-Universalists] who greatly feared him. They feared him, because they understood, not just the scope of his intellect – but also the depth of this own engagement across the spectrum of belief systems. One might argue that he was, in certain ways, an ‘inter-faith’ explorer in his own time. If you think that this is an outlandish assertion, then I would encourage you to explore the work of Gerald McDermott, who is a professor at Ranoke College. (http://roanoke.edu/Academics/Academic_Departments/Religion_and_Philosophy/Faculty/Dr_McDermott.htm) McDermott has recently published an *amazing* book about the theology of Edwards (http://www.amazon.com/Theology-Jonathan-Edwards-Michael-McClymond/dp/0199791600)

I agree with McDermott, that his rivals/opponents purposefully demonized him, because they knew what he was capable of – in terms of opposing them. They conspired to malign him ‘existentially’ in the eye of the public imagination, and they did this by purposefully agreeing among themselves that any time they themselves spoke of him, or were asked about him, that they would only speak about one thing about him: his still-famous sermon, “Sinners in the hands of an Angry God”. Even today, in school, if you ever hear about Jonathan Edwards, this is all you hear about, and you are left with the image of an angry, ‘fundamentalist’, oppressive and backward Puritan. This coupled with the legacy of the Salem Witch Trials, has caused monumental damage to the legacy and understanding of the Puritans & Puritan theology.

I said all that – because if you will look at the work of McDermott (in the link above) you can see that Edwards was a ‘interfaith agent’ and had a comprehensive understanding of Non-Christians religions that greatly surpassed any of his peers. Mcdermott shows in his Theology book that Edwards isn’t just a Conservative per se – but that he speaks across all dimensions of Christianity; Protestant, Catholic, Liberal/Conservative and Even Pentecostal/Charismatic traditions. In addition to McDermott’s other books about ‘Interfaith Evangelicalism’ – he writes of Edwards “interfaith” work in his book “Jonathan Edwards Confronts The Gods” (http://global.oup.com/academic/product/jonathan-edwards-confronts-the-gods-9780195132748?cc=us&lang=en&) where he writes on Edwards interfaith work, specifically.

I went into detail about Jonathan Edwards, because it is important to note that the very center of Jonathan Edward’s theology – is the issue of Love; which I said before, is the center, itself, of an understanding of not just Christian theology, but an understanding of how Spiritual Danger exists in the Universe.

It may or may not be a stretch for you to utilize your imagination insofar as to see, from a systematic standpoint, how love could be the center of everything. I would refer to this as the ‘first step’ of an “interfaith” Christian response to the question of, not just the nature and prime existential essence/causal existence of Christianity, but of also an apologetical response which would seek to give an answer and a reason for not just the existence of such an ‘ontological center’ as being the crux for the whole of Creation – but also for the authenticity and the ‘inner harmony’ of a response, which would argue that Christian faith is the best and most sensible answer for it as well.

If we can first use our imagination to posit that the *issue of Love* is the center question which is woven into the ‘woof and warp’ of the whole of all inter-dimensonal reality – then we can, secondarily, move on – to then ask two more important questions – which ( I believe) can adequately serve as a engaged response to your question; one, that at the very least, bears some degree of consideration of its confrontive possiblities.

These two questions are
1) The Nature of Love and
2) The meta-relationship of our selves to the Universe itself.

In speaking of Love, to make the assertion that it could be the center of the Universe is to make a radical and confrontive assertion itself. Especially if we understand Love to have definition; to have objective structure; to have contours, to have the capacity to invoke vulnerability; to have a critical, intrinsic necessity to be *reflective* – or to have the essence of reciprocity as a crucial, integral component. If we agree to love – we must also agree – rationally – to danger. To authentically love – is to create both vulnerability and the potential for two relational entities to hurt one another. In a universe where Love is the center – then danger & vulnerability are intrinsic, necessary and possible consequences to an authentic love being practiced and engaged with.

Allow me to make a foray; allow me to rhetorically re-contextualize the ‘Christian story’ of the World, and how it came to be – in it’s present situation.

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In the beginning – was the Divine Essence. This Divine Essence sought relationship and it created entities, through which it could share communion. In sharing this communion, it sought an ‘authenticity of relationship’ – the depth and full contours of which we can possibly seek an approximation of, in understanding how it feels and know and experience real love.

Because authentic love inheres in reciprocity – the Divine Essence limited itself and its own power over the agents that it created – and gave them Free Will – so that their response to it, itself would be itself authentic and not servile, embodied and not token, meaningful and not trivial.

One day, one agent – who was the very center of the main substation of the very power, and glory, and love of the Divine Essence…rebelled…short-circuted…disingaged.

This caused a tremendous tear in the very fabric of the universe itself – so great, that we cannot, in our present state, even understand the scale, the implications, and full consequence of it.

So great was the damage and disintegration of the explosion that resulted – the very universe was scarred and broken; so much so – that the damage was so great, that these same agents within it were rendered incapable of a future relationship with their creator. The universe itself…broken.

This was the first great Fall.
The fall of Lucifer

Then the Divine Essence sought relationship again. It created something greater then it had ever created before – and created it in its own image; a concept which itself is beyond the limiting capacitance of language. This time, as well, it sought authenticity – and it accepted relational vulnerability.

And again, an Agent Rebelled.
The Fall of Man.

But the Divine Essence knew, even before it Created, either the first or the second time – and Loved or was loved – that it would be Vulnerable, and that that would entail Cost. And so the Cost was calculated – and a plan was made to make a Payment, which would forever pay the cost of the Offense of any Rebellion – against any Authenticity of Love ever rejected again. But for reasons that we are not given a way to understand – this payment only worked for the secondly created…

Christ.
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Now, you have

1) first allowed me to engage you in the ‘experiment’ of imagining the whole of the Universe as being oriented around the Love, and

2) allowed me to tell you the story of how that Love had consequence and invoked danger, offense and cost to an entity which sought an authenticity in it

3) The third question, is to question our relationship to the universe, itself.

Mike has argued for an ‘anthro-centric mediative model’ – which is another way of saying that he believes that any and all interpretive boundaries, or offensive dynamics are strictly to be found or resolved exclusively within the human existential state and/or cognitive agency.

Now, I understand that this, essentially, relates back to a ‘Buddhist model’ which argues that all brokenness does not come from the disabuse of Authentic Love (as I have argued, here) but rather from Passion itself. Love is merely a subset of potentially destructive energy itself, which must be (in the Buddhist ontological model) appropriately controlled, and eventually completely negated. In the end – for Buddhism – Love is not the answer – it is the part of the problem. And is it not true, that, for a Buddhist, at the end of their lives, they must completely abandon all sense of love, themselves? All love/passion must be completely transcended. If I am incorrect in this assertion, then please correct me – but I believe that this is the end-state of the Buddhist answer for all that is wrong with the Universe.

The Christian answer stands in stark difference to this: rather then its full, eventual removal – Christianity teaches that Authentic Love made a complete transformation of Love possible – through Redemption – specifically through the ‘scape goat act’ of Christ upon the Cross. (for more on this, you can read René Girard’s writing on the idea (http://girardianlectionary.net/res/iss_12-scapegoat.htm).

It could be argued that an actual vision of “Hell” is a place of unredeemed emotion – Broken Love and that which has never been transformed. C.S. Lewis, incidentally, argues this, in his book The Great Divorce, describing a hell as being essentially ‘locked from the inside’ (http://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/1215780-the-great-divorce)

In conclusion, I must ask – do you really think that you, yourself are the very center stage and arbiter of the whole of the Universe? You have presumed that Love is the problem – and that it is not the foundational crux of the Universe itself; though you (if you are a Buddhist) have discovered that the source of so much pain in the world does come from Emotion itself. You have, in part found the right problem – but you have stumbled in finding the answer.

For your answer to work – it does presuppose a certain relational-ontological arrogance; it does imply a pride that the trouble with the Universe begins and ends…with you. Is this not potentially dangerous to believe itself? I argue that it is.

The Christian view is that we have been set down in an Amphitheater of Chaos – all around us, there is a clamor or blood and confusion; so much so that it is possible to hide in the shadows of it all – and not know how we got here or even how to get out.

In summation, my argument concludes as follows:

1) There is a danger in assuming that the problem with the Universe is merely Love/Passion, rather then it being not just the cause of all that is wrong (True) – but that it is also the Solution to it, as well (Greater Truth), and that this solution, has a distinct form and consequence as well (Supreme Truth).

2) There is a danger in the malformation of Love; which is the making of Love into something that does not have any vulnerabilities or consequences. Love is not just a dis-articulated cosmic wave that you surf in. It is not just a state that you get into, nor is it something that you become completely absolved from the influence of to reach a higher potential or state of awareness, inside or our outside it. It is not a state of cosmic bliss or boundless euphoria that you strive to plugin into. Absolute love is a Consummate personality – it can be offended; it can be rejected – just as it can be all the opposite of these things.

3) There is a danger in assuming that the Universe is oriented around you, and that you, yourself contain the potential to place yourself in correct relation to a presumed correct state of affairs. For Mike, he orients all error around the theater of his own mind – whereas, I argue that the Universe itself is broken and we are broken, and our own position, in relation to the Universe, is that we are characters in a much larger story – that is bigger then just our own contextual presences within it. This is a crude existential arrogance – and a prideful one at that; that I alone create all disorder in the universe, or that anyone on my own level (that of humanity) has this potential themselves. Mike wants to make it all about Him – and ‘his’ level. The roots of the conflict and disorder in the universe predate both him and humanity itself. Both the originative disorder and the solution are at a much higher ‘meta-level’ then his own self. This is a necessary compromise on Mike’s part – because he is not willing to make a ‘value judgment’ against any other belief system – and he must therefore put them all on the same level, and because he will not admit to a revealed, particular supremacy, he must participate, necessarily, in a universal acceptance of any thing and all things.

4) There is danger in assuming that all necessary forms of spiritual awareness are intact: or that it is not possible to be earnest in a search, yet still lost, in terms of a solution. It is very tempting to believe that all religions are True, and that they are only miss-practiced by a few. For reasons we cannot understand, some will always be blind. For reasons we may possibly understand – some could see, but made themselves blind. For reasons that are ultimately beyond immagination, all of us were blind, but some of us can now see. The danger is that you assume a Matthew Chapter 13 world does not exist. ( http://biblehub.com/matthew/13.htm )

5) Some in full and others, partial – all of the above ideas contain one central danger: the danger of ‘The Anthromorphological Rape of the Divine’ – the crass impositions of your your insecurities, ignorance, arrogance, presuppositions, assertion, ideas, onto what you feel the Divine Essence should be or even how it should relate to you. All of us have been guilty of this; often devout Christians included. We should all fear this. If you at least admit this fear….

then that is at least an honest place to move forward from.

Respectfully submitted

-m