re: j: romans road

I didn’t answer the vocab questions in the last one to sort of keep it separate. The answers are interesting to me though and I’d like to go over them. Having read your response to Wayne, I know that the questions had different expected answers, but they are still good questions. =)

I have been thinking about how my faith developed and it seems like alot of what happened is I kept the same basic structures, I just changed the meanings of the words to suit my perceptions of reality.

I couldn’t hang out in Christianity for a while though. I was very upset at the short sightedness and unfairness in it. As I mentioned, it has only been very recently that I came across someone who both saw themselves as a Christian and was dealing seriously with questions. I have older people like you and Father Don, but there is a sense of separation there; that the process of accepting membership in the church is done.

I could recognize it and respect it, but I had no clue as to how to do it.

1. As it is written, there is none righteous, no, not one.
 -Romans 3:10

What do you mean by “righteous”?

“Righteousness” was one of the words that I had the biggest problems with and is one that I have the most trouble connecting with now.

Righteousness is following God’s word as laid out in the Bible and interpreted by the wisdom of his ministers in the modern church. A person who has accepted salvation through the Lord, Jesus Christ, will, through the presence of the Holy Spirit, have knowledge of righteousness.

The idea of righteousness bothered me because it seemed mostly to support the status quo. It didn’t and couldn’t involve conscious thought and a critical examination because that would be relying on your own judgment which is inherently flawed.

I was a particularly difficult child. I always disliked being told what to do. =) I think maybe some of my early senses of trust were disrupted somehow. Self-determination is important to me. There was judgmentality that seemed to go with righteousness that didn’t feel right to me.

Righteousness now? You know in the Tao Te Ching where there is a sense of getting out of the way and let things happen as they are supposed to? The movement to get out of the way is righteousness. There is a strong sense of selflessness in it.

Recognizing the limitations of what I can see is important though. That the world is a really big place and my ideas of righteousness will not be met all the time. I can use my ideas to make decisions about my life or I can project my ideas onto other people’s lives, but it is not my place to decide what should happen. Everything has its own season, so to speak.

2. For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.
 -Romans 3:23

What do you mean by “sin”?

Sin is not being righteous. That was the case before and it is the case now.

There is a line in the song “What It’s Like” by Everlast that says: “where you end up usually depends on where you start.” That’s pretty much my position. People make decisions based on what they know and where they’ve been.

I’m actually pretty close to a determinist I think. At least so far as the past is concerned. People do the best they can at any given moment and everyone is people. =) Sin is a pretty heavy word with a strong sense of judgment. I think that it can be used at times to recognize that an action was/would be unnecessarily hurtful…

I don’t want to make it sound like it is about the consequences though. Or even about a projection of what the consequences might be. That is important in the decision making process, but sin is about what parts of yourself you listen to when making the decision.

Right now I am trying to be honest about my religious beliefs and not try to project a picture that I think is better developed in the hopes of trying to garner admiration from my peers. The choice to try and not let “the smaller self” determine my actions is about righteousness and sin. Even though the consequences are probably minimal either way.

What do you mean by “God”?

This is a question I am reevaluating. My philosophy to date has been that God is the source of value. God does not make choices or think. God is, like gravity is; present and available to be experienced.

We do work here on facing our fears and learning to make choices based out of something else. That something that you can feel when you aren’t being afraid is what I have been calling God.

I have been wondering some about whether the something that I base my decisions out of might just be an intuitive understanding of how reality works. There is an emotional component to what I perceive, but I am not sure that precludes it having a rational basis.

I’m not really worried either way, it’s just words after all. It is the experience that is the basis of decision making, the words are just dressing it up to present it to other people.

4. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
 -Romans 6:23

What do you mean by the “death” that comes from “sin”?

I don’t know that I have ever met an evil person. I have met people who are suffering and dealing with their pain in various, sometimes counterproductive, ways. Evil though I haven’t met yet. The sort of evil in the movies where the villain finds causing suffering in others inherently gratifying and is psychologically stable.

Not really knowing evil people I don’t really believe in Hell. It doesn’t seem just for people to be damned for the circumstances of their lives. I think damnation should arise from personal choice.

At the same time I do sort of believe in Hell…

You know the part about “come on Earth as it is in Heaven”? When I talk about God being the thing that is expressed through you when you get out of the way, then that experience is sort of divine; Heaven so to speak. A general sense of rightness is what I usually get when I work from there. A peace with what is going on.

Well, peace in a sense. Not necessarily being calm sort of peace. I can be very upset or happy or whatever, but a sense of being at home with it. Of being present in it and open to it. Does that connect with your experience at all?

Getting caught up in my fears and working from there cuts me off from the experience of my life. It makes it less enjoyable. Hell is separation from God and in a real sense that is true. And you get to Hell by choosing to do so.

It still isn’t fair in my book since I think people often can’t see that they have other choices or their fears are more than they know how to overcome, but it is nice at least to know that everyone has the opportunity to change.

As for what happens when I die? Damned if I know. =) I figure I’ll find out eventually. I may spend eternity wallowing in a river of fire for what I believe. Facing that possibility was a part of letting it go for me. I don’t expect to be damned for not being saved, but it’s really beyond what I know.

5. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet
sinners, Christ died for us.
 -Romans 5:8

What do you mean when you say that “Christ died for us”?

This one has no real analogue in my current beliefs. Not believing in the necessity of salvation takes out the need for there to have been a sacrifice. I don’t think that the death of Jesus changed the metaphysical fabric of the universe.

There is still a sense of reverence when I hear about it though. A respect for his willingness to sacrifice for love of humankind. Also, the personal sense of connection: “Christ died for my sins”. That what he gave his life in opposition to is being personally expressed through me. Not solely through me, but uniquely through me as it is uniquely expressed through everyone. That much like the drive toward the divine takes different forms in different lives, but is the same struggle, so is the opposition.

6. That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth, the Lord Jesus,and shalt
believe in thine heart God hath raised him from the dead thou shalt be
saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with
the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith,
whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.
 -Romans 10:9-10

What do you mean by “saved”?

I wrote the other day about coming back to a desire for salvation.

I strongly identified salvation with the most exclusive of Christianity. It was “the experience” which bound them together as a group and was the basis for judging the rest of the world. Also it was an experience that I never had, though I tried desperately for it.

Salvation is putting your faith in God to guide your heart to righteousness. It is a recognition of the places where you have sinned and forgiveness for yourself. (I don’t think God forgives, because I don’t think God holds the resentment in the first place.) There is a real and deep vulnerability that I think is what appeals to me the most. A recognition of truths that make you uncomfortable and an accompanying change in your life.

I don’t see why this would just happen once, but I think that the experience can happen.

I feel in some ways like I have sort of stabilized where I am. These belief statements were born in their cognitive form mostly my freshman year. Learning to live with them has taken some work, but they are pretty stable now. The sense of instability that usually leads into a transition isn’t there and I suspect I could operate from this place for the rest of my life. Salvation is dropping below the assumptions and seeing a deeper truth.

I would suspect that from a Universalizing perspective, language is irrelevant anyway — action and being are the only things that matter.)

I think that is a part of I/R to an extent. Understanding how philosophical systems work and the multitude of different words that people use has been a part of I/R for me. I am also about an intuitive as they come though so playing with systems and mapping systems onto systems and switching between them is great fun for me. =)

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