This is my favorite Christmas song. The Trintarian doctrine is so well expressed this song could be used as a Creed. Charles Wesley's greatest work!
hear the music
...all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were Baptized into his death.? We were therefore burried with him in baptism into death in order that just as Christ was raised from the death through the glory of the father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him in his death we will certanly be united with him in his resurrection.For we know that the old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be rendered powerless, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.--because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.Now if we have died with Christ we believe that we will also live with him, for we know that since Christ was raised from the dead he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him; the death he died to sin he died once for all; but the life he lives he lives to God. In the same way count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Chrsit Jesus.(Romans 6:1-5)
Moltmann's theodicy is the great strength of this work, in that it directly engages the protest atheism of the mid twentieth century without negating the powerful emotional impact of its claims. We are returned to the cross as the heart of the Christian message repeatedly - it is no accident that Luther features so strongly and so positively in these pages. Further, the rigour of his penetrating search for the implications of the cross for God himself has led him rightly to the trinity, and stands as a rebuke to the western tradition for neglecting this understanding of God for so long. The atonement is necessarily a trinitarian event/process. The sense of God identifying with human beings in Christ is also very strong. Moltmann develops a theology of the atonement with a cosmic scope, and does not fall into the trap of individualising the work of the cross.
This last criticism I think is valid on the surface. Mostlamann doesn't spend a lot of time focusing on individual piety I think the implications for the individual are obvious and it's up to the individual to step into a relationship with God. For me I find Chrsitman can be a great way to do what but only if you overlook the commercial crap and read a book like the Crucified God..We might complain that Moltmann's doctrine of God suffers from an overdose of Hegelianism, by presenting the history of the world as God's history, the process by which he realizes himself. By rejecting impassiblity and divine aseity, does he allow a compromise of God's freedom? This having been said, is God still as impersonal as he ever was under the scholastics? Further, the God presented here seems almost dependent on, or at least intrinsically tied to, the world. His is a vulnerable God. Moltmann's trinitarian reflection leaves him open to the charge of tritheism - however, he more than responds to such a charge in The Trinity and the Kingdom of God; and he is recapturing a biblical emphasis, after all.While the cosmic vision of Moltmann's theologia crucis is admirable, it says almost nothing about individual salvation - in fact, it almost non-soteriological. He describes God's judgement in the terms of the "giving up" of human beings to their godlessness, as in Rom 1 (p.242). The atonement is achieved not by any substitutionary work of Christ but by his identifying with human beings in their lostness, by solidarity with them. In the end, his panentheism leads him to a universalist model; and the preaching of the cross becomes a following of God's example in identifying with the lost and godforsaken.
6 Who, being in very naturea]">[a] God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very natureb]">[b] of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near."
From that time on Jesus began to preach, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near."
Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.
Mr 1:15 - Show Context
"The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!"
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.
Mt 7:21 - Show Context
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
6 Who, being in very naturea]">[a] God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very natureb]">[b] of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
Much of the work that measures religiosity uses items that are specifically designed to determine positive valency. For example, the Francis Scale of Attitude toward Christianity (Francis, 1978; Francis & Stubbs, 1987) assesses how positively people feel about God, Jesus, the Bible, prayer and church. Using this instrument, a number of studies have demonstrated a positive association between a positive attitude toward Christianity and a range of positive psychological categories, such as happiness (Francis, Jones, & Wilcox, 2000), general psychological health (Francis, Robbins, Lewis, Quigley, & Wheeler, 2004) and life satisfaction (Lewis, 1998). In particular, several studies have now confirmed the link between a positive attitude toward Christianity and better self-esteem (Jones & Francis, 1996).In other words a fairly large body of work already exists documenting the relationship between acceptance of Christianity and good self esteem. Measurements of things like happiness and self esteem are standard and have long been demonstrated by well validated measurement instruments.
By way of contrast, the Rejection of Christianity Scale proposed by Greer and Francis (1992) was designed to assess negative valency. The authors of the measure presented 32 negatively phrased questions to a sample of 875 fourth- and fifth-year secondary school pupils attending ten Catholic and ten Protestant schools in Northern Ireland. The questions that received the lowest item-rest-of-test correlations were rejected, leaving a scale of 20 items generating alpha coefficients of 0.94 for the Protestant sample and 0.90 for the Catholic sample. This scale has been shown to have internal consistency reliability among Northern Irish undergraduate students (Lewis, Maltby, & Hersey, 1999) and Welsh undergraduate students (Robbins, Francis, & Bradford, 2003).
Little research has been done to relationships between this measure and self-esteem. Since previous research has shown that there is a positive correlation between self-esteem and indices of religiosity designed with a positive valency (Jones & Francis, 1996), it is hypothesised that a negative relationship will be found between self-esteem and this measure of religiosity designed with negative valency.
A total of 279 secondary school pupils in Wales from years 9, 10 and 11 completed the 20-item Rejection of Christianity Scale (Greer & Francis, 1992) and the 25-item Coopersmith Self-Esteem Inventory (Coopersmith, 1981). One quarter (25%) were aged 13, one third (32%) were aged 14; 30% were aged 15, and 13% were aged 16. Males comprised 56% of the sample and females 44% of the sample.
The Rejection of Christianity Scale (Greer & Francis, 1992) is a 20-item Likert-type instrument, employing a five-point response scale ranging from ‘agree strongly’, through ‘agree’, ‘not certain’, and ‘disagree’, to ‘disagree strongly’. The scale measures negative valency toward Christianity. This scale is designed so that higher scores indicate a higher tendency to reject Christianity.
The Coopersmith Short-Form Self-Esteem Inventory (Coopersmith, 1981) is a 25-item instrument, employing a dichotomous response scale of ‘yes’ and ‘no’. The possible range of scores for this form of the Coopersmith Self-Esteem Inventory is 0-25, with higher scores indicating higher self-esteem.
Both measures achieved satisfactory Cronbach alpha coefficients (Rejection of Christianity Scale, .88; Coopersmith Self-Esteem Inventory, .80). After controlling for sex differences by means of partial correlations, the data demonstrated a small, but significant, correlation (r= -0.14, p <.05) between self-esteem (M = 15.3, SD = 4.9) and rejection of Christianity (M = 62.7, SD = 13.2) indicating that as teenagers’ endorsement of negative statements concerning Christianity increases, their scores of negative self-esteem also tend to increase.
The present study has explored the relationship between rejection of Christianity and self-esteem among adolescents in Wales. After controlling for sex differences a small but significant negative(References used by RCSE can be seen in link above).
correlation is found between high-self esteem and rejection of Christianity, as hypothesised. This finding strengthens the conclusions drawn from studies like that of Jones and Francis (1996), which demonstrated a positive correlation between high self-esteem and a positive attitude toward Christianity by demonstrating that the association is not a function of the valency of the measure of religiosity. Evidence of this nature appears to be suggesting that the Christian tradition is supportive of the development of self-esteem among young people rather than detrimental to it.
This scale has been shown to have internal consistency reliability among Northern Irish undergraduate students (Lewis, Maltby, & Hersey, 1999) and Welsh undergraduate students (Robbins, Francis, & Bradford, 2003).
...a 735 secondary pupils between 11-18 competed the Coopersmith Self-Esteem inventory and Revised Junior Eysenck Personality Questionnaire and a semantic differential index of God images in order to examine the relationship between God images and self-esteem while controlling for personality factors. The data demonstrates a significant corroboration between positive God images and positive self esteem, after controlling for individual differences in personality. (105)
Persons with high levels of self esteem may find it difficult to share the same religious belief. A theology predicated upon a loving accepting God is cognitively compatible with high self esteem, but it could be a source of discomfort for a believer low in self esteem. It does not make good cognitive sense to be loved when one is unlovable. Consequently the latter person can march to a different theology, one that is more consistent with his self image. (Benson and Spilka 209-210).
I was sitting in Adolescent Psychology class this morning and the topic was "self-esteem." About half-way through the class, the girl in front of me suggested that "more spiritual [which to theists means more religious] people have higher self-esteem than less spiritual [ie less religious or non-religious] people."
As most of us know, this is an extremely common theist argument against non-theists, particularly atheists. And, although I think the girl truly believed what she was saying...
But, the fact is that I REALLY disagree with her on this!
Having been a former theist myself, I think it's more likely that religion [especially the monotheistic ones] impose low self-esteem on a person rather than bolster it!That's irrelevant, the thesis is that people reject Christianity because of their LSE, and he did fall away. It may have been due to his self esteem. Now observe his view of God and Christianity:
After all [and since I came from Christianity I will use that as an example], what type of messages does Religion send it's believers?He's confirming what Piedmont and the other researchers find, that negative God image is linked to rejecting Christianity, they also find that LSE is related to a negative God image. So in fact this may be confirming the original thesis thesis, Sky has unwittingly and contrary to his intent proved the thing he's trying to disprove. Of course its' only anecdotal and doesn't mean the thesis is proved. Yet, it does mean his argument is ineffective.
- I am not worthy of your love, Christ.
- Why do you love me?
- I'm a sinner.
- Jesus died to save my sins, therefore I deserve to burn in hell.
- I must humble myself before the Lord.
- Pride is a sin.
How in the world do those kind of messages correlate with positive self-esteem?!
It seems to me that they would do the opposite and make a person who is a TRUE believer [there are fakes among them, of course] think they'r * worthless.
Jesus died to save my sins, therefore I deserve to burn in hell.That's not just illogical, it's not Christian doctrine it's antithetical to Christian doctrine, but it's a perfect example of the demonstration of low self esteem given by Piedmont (see 107-109). It's illogical that because Jesus died for me I must deserve to burn in hell. There's a missing step in there: my sins deserve punishment but Jesus loves me, I am not my sins." I am worth dying for since Jesus did die for me, that means Jesus loves me in spite of my sins. But this obvious conclusion is clouded by the LSE to remove the "I am worthy" premises so the connection between God's love and one's unworthy nature is made. This is the very example in the Piedmont book, "how could God love a person like me? I am unworthy of love, therefore, God either doesn't love me or there is no God."
However, this argument, and similar ones [like religion makes people happier then not having one] sound like baseless, bogus, and more manipulative attempts to use emotion and fear to turn people to religion! Afterall, who does not fear unhappiness? It doesn't seem to matter to a lot of religious people whether these claims are true or not... it only matters that they create more sheep [or slaves - whichever you want to call it] for their religion.These claims are backed by hundreds of empirical studies, however, and I have demonstrated that and will soon (hopefully) have a book coming that about those studies. Of course it sounds bad to him he has LSE. All he's really proving is what I suspect that atheism is, at least for a lot of people, the product of LSE and psychological dynamics and unwillingness to do the hard work of re programing they way we years what's beings in the area of self esteem.
I see a lot of immorality and base cruelty in decieving people like this. [Although I don't think the girl was attempting to decieve people, I think she was one of the poor saps that believed the BS spouted from theologian mouths. And I feel sorry for her. - Which is how I tend to feel for a lot of religious people of late, sorry for them.]This is based upon the bad assumptions colored by LSE.
I think non-theism, on the other hand, lifts someone's self-esteem. It gives us an incredible amount of power to control our own destiny and our own lives, it helps us to see through BS [whether it comes from religion or popular culture], and it raises the value of humanity above "god" giving us an incredible sense of self-worth.This is of course an illusion based upon false premises which are in fact lies. Think about it, if LSE is leading one to reason poorly about God's love, so that love become an insult and hate and rejection of the source of love become liberating (because sin nature is now free run riot and is now confused with self esteem) then what's being experience dis not higher self esteem but a combination of temporary gratification of sin and revenge upon a father figure (God) who the skeptic hates for the alleged rejection he imagines to have been wrought upon him by God.
So... with that said... it is clear to me... that this religious jibber-jabber is founded on nothing and sounds supiciously like an outright lie.This little jibber jabber is based upon empirical studies. Notice he doesn't with any studies. Not a one of them. He does confirm what the studies show, the opposite of what he wants to confirm. The thing is this is not all good news for fundies. It may seem like it on the surface but not entirely. It means that the spiritual situation is mixed in with psychological dynamics. That means for the atheist it's not just a matter of "reason" and "logic" and being an atheist doesn't make him supiorior. Form the standpoint of Atheist Watch it proves my point, mocking and ridicule on message boards by atheists agaisnt Christians is probably the result of poor self esteem and their becoming atheists is a psychological problem not a logical truth or any kind of big liberation. For the fundie it means two things, they are failing to spread the gospel because they don't respect self esteem. The fundies do more to destroy self esteem than anyone (I say that having gone to fundie school and I became an atheist become of them). That means part of bringing God's love into the world is about loving people and healing them, it also means the spiritual and the psychological are mixed up together.
On Monday I talked about the seeming universality of the God concept, and the relative nature of religious traditions. One reality (God) behind all traditions that seem to be different only becuase experience of God must be filtered ("mediated") through cultural constructs. In Christian terms where does that leave faith in Christ? How can Christ be the savior, the one name by which we can be saved, if God is the same reality behind all religions? First of all I did not say that I think all religious traditions are the same. Nor did I say they are all equal. They are not alike becuase they are all tainted by the various cultural constructs we use to understand reality. We can't think about that which is beyond our understanding, the slight glimpse we get of it must be compared to that which do know. Secondly, I don't think all gods are God. I have been known to say "all God's point to God." That means the individual personages of various mythological traditions are place holders. They are not coterminous names or the same personage, they are sign posts that point beyond themselves to something else. That is true except for Jesus. By extension the God of the OT. The God of the OT can fool us.
First Jesus is a historical person who actually lived and breathed and walked the earth. I know there are despisers of who God fervently wish that was not true. They have brain washed themselves by concocting their own silly standards to convince themselves, but those are not the standards of historians. There's still an option for the skeptic to doubt the divinity of the person in history; after all it is an impossible thing. It's a incredulous thing. It's what Reinhold Niebuhr called "impossible possibly." They will have to do their doubting through the humanity of the historical guy becuase the evidence is simply overwhelming that he did live. I am going say to more on the incarnation as we get near Christmas. Getting on toward the end of next week I'll dwell more fully with that. Jesus is the unique point of the Christian tradition, without that we can just be Unitarians. We might as well, therefore, put our eggs in one basket so to speak, the Jesus basket as it were. Becuase he was a man in history Jesus offers a unique focal point for understanding the divine and his sacrifice on the cross as unique statement of solidarity between God and humanity. All the other figures of other faiths are either not divine (not suppose to be by their reckoning) or they were not flesh and blood. Zeus was not a real guy, he was a myth. Hercules might have been based upon a real guy or even two but he was not a object of religious devotion. There were examples of soldiers mainly who made votive offerings to Hercules because he was a symbol of strength but he is still a symbol. The real guy is forgotten and he's not the point of the Greek religion. He would be more analogous to a saint in the Catholic chruch rather than to Christ. Buddha was flesh and blood but he wasn't a "god." Hercules was not the divine logs, his death could never be a major symbol of God's solidarity with humanity. Alexander the great was a hybrid in that he was a historical figure but a legend grew up around the historical figure that he was a demi-god, he son of a god. He was not the embodiment of the universal logos. He was more like Hercules, more like a saint.
Jesus was not son of God in the same sense. Jesus son ship is eternal, and part of the Trinity and sort of what we might call "mega doctrine." He much more than just a saint-like figure to whom one can pray for intercession, he is much more than even though his role is intercessory. Jesus is the called the son of God in the Gospels not becuase he's vice President God but because it was an epithet of Messiah. The Greek Christians understood it in the demi god sense due to associations with Greek religion. It was the Platonic philosophy that triumphed in understanding the Trinity. Of cousre Jesus is also called the "only begotten son of God." That Greek word is mongenase meaning "foal." Or it might be translated "unique son." We are said to be children of God, ton technon theon. This means adopted children. We are children by adoption. Jesus was begotten by the father, not referring to his coming to be at a point in time, as the son of the Trinity is eternally generated, he's eternally being born and born constantly forever as the son. That's not the begotten part. The begotten part is the incorporation.
It's because he was a real historical figure that he can fit both roles uniquely, both pointing beyond himself to the one true reality behind all religions, and also himself being the employment of divine in the flesh. When I say by extension this brings in the OT God, what I mean is that the eternal generation of the son implies the father. The embodiment of the divine implies the transcendent divine that is pointed back to. That does not mean the images used individually in the OT are so closely identified with God that they are literalized. They remain metaphorical is obvious becuase they are so diverse. So the OT not only has the unique presentation of the one true God but also reflects the same relative nature that all religious traditions do of pointing beyond itself to the true reality behind them all. This is acknowledge in the Bible. Genises 14:18 we read "And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine; and he was priest of God the Most High." He's priest of God but Israel doesn't exist yet. He's dealing with Abraham, before the sons whose names would grace the twelve tribes. Of wast religion is he a priest that he is priest of God most high? Obviously there's something different in the relationship between God and religious traditions that we don't get. The God of the OT is the object of worship Jesus taught us to worship but he not teach us to literalize the metaphors of the OT. Nor did he sort out for us the canonical status of the books therein. We are not bound to think of God as the big meaning of the OT smiting and condemning and so forth. There's a very different picture of the OT God that emerges which I will discuss on friday.
I should discuss salvation and damnation and things such as this. That is rather crucial in dealing with the issue of "one true faith." Many good and well meaning people do not feel the need to be saved. Some wonder why is it not enough to jut be good and well meaning. Surely God knows that we are well meaning, if God looks upon the heart, so why do we need to conform to the ideological strictures of a particular religious view? Wouldn't God be extremely unjust to condemn someone who was well meaning? And aren't Christians really unfair to assume that all but those who follow their views are not well meaning?2) Unfair because believers in other religious traditions will not be saved?This is an often heard objection and it is not without merit. Why should God send someone to hell for all eternity, simply because he/she was born in a culture that is not open to Christianity, perhaps has not herd of Jesus, and perhaps even at a time before there was any possibility of hearing (say before Christ came to earth). Such a person would have no chance of being saved. Closer to home, a person in another culture who is very committed to the religious tradition he/she was brought up in, why should such a person suffer eternally just for being who they are? That is basically what it amounts to, everyone is proud of their own culture, and everyone identifies with his/her own religious tradition in a very personal way. Why should someone be condemned just for being who they are, being born and raised in the culture they were born into?
Sice hell is eternal, and sin is finite, it seems unjust to punish someone in a mannar that far exceeds the crime. Moreover, isn't the punishment unfair in the first place? Just to go to hell simpley for not being a Christian, this is very unjust becuase it means that who the person is and what they live for, and the nature of their intensions aren't even considered. To just whisk people off to hell forever, where there is no learning process so no chance to correct mistakes, is unjust."Gospel" means "Good News." The Good News is not that people are going to hell. The Good News is that God cares and provides a way to orient our lives toward him so that we can know him in this life, and in the world to come. I don't believe in hell as eternal conscious torment. I think the eternal aspect of it is the cessation of existence, forever. Those in hell cease to exist and they are forever gone. That's the eternal aspect not the conscoius torment. I will deal with that at another time. If one wishes to be reading up on it in the mean time my views on the subject are recorded here.
"All have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God." From a human perspective, relatively speaking from one human to another there are, of course, well meaning people. There are good people all around us, from a human perspective. Relative to the Divine however, no one is good, no one is capable of meriting salvation. We all have our sins, we all have our human frailties. We are all caught up in "height" (our ability through the image of God in which we were created to move beyond our human finitude and seek the good) and "depth" (our nature burdened in the sinful wickedness to human deceit). These are Augustinian terms and they basically mean that we are both, good and bad, saint and sinner. God knows the heart, He Knows what we truely seek. God is merciful and is able to forgive our trespasses. But, if we are really well meaning toward God we will seek the turth. If we are seeking the truth than God will make it plan to us.
Paul said "To those who through persistance seek glory, honor and immortality he will give eternal life.But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the good and follow evil there will be wrath and anger...first for the Jew and then for the gentile; but glory honor and peace for everyone who does good. For God does not show favoritism. All who sin apart from the law will perish apart form the law and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God's sight, it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.
Indeed when Gentiles who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirement of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences bearing witness and their hearts now accusing, now even defending them..." (Romans 2:7-15). New American Standard and other translations say "their hearts accusing, now excusing them..." Most Christians are afraid of this conclusion and they down play this verse. Often Evangelicals will come back and say "he makes it clear in the next passage that no one can really follow the law on their hearts." Well, if they can't, than they can't. But if they can, and do, than God will excuse them. God knows the heart, we do not. The verse clearly opens the door to the possibility of salvation (although by Jesus) thorugh a de facto arrangement in which one is seeking the good without knowing the object one is seeking (Jesus). In other words, it is possible that people in other cultures who follow the moral law written on the heart know Jesus de facto even if they don't know him overtly. Paul backs up this conclusion in Acts 17:22 Paul goes to Athens as is asked by the Athenian philosophers to explain his ideas to them.
These were pagan followers of another religion. Paul stood up and said to them, "Men of Athens, I see that in every way you are very religious for as I walked around and observed your objects of worship I even found an alter with this inscription 'TO AN UNKOWN GOD' Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you."He basically says that they are worshiping God, they just don't know who he is. That's why he says "I will make it known to you." He doesn't say "you have the wrong idea completely." Most Evangelicals dismiss this as a neat rhetorical trick. But if we assume that Paul would not lie or distort his beliefs for the sake of cheap tricks, we must consider that he did not say "you are all a bunch of pagans and you are going to hell!" He essentially told them, "God is working in your culture, you do know God, but you don't know who God is. You seek him, without knowing the one you seek. He goes on,(v27)"God did this [created humanity and scattered them into different cultures] so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out and find him though he is not far form each one of us." This implies that God not only wants to work in other cultures, but that it is actually his paln to do things in this way. Perhaps through a diversity of insights we might come to know God better. Perhaps it means that through spreading the Gospel people would come to contemplate better the meaning of God's love.
In any case, it does mean that God is working in other cultures, and that God is in the hearts of all people drawing them to himself. Of their worship of idols, Paul said "in past times God overlooked such ignorance but now he commands all people everywhere to repent" (v30). Now what can this mean? God never overlooks idolatry or paganism, in the OT he's always commanding the Israelite to wipe them out and expressly forbidding idolatry. It means that on an individual basis when God judges the hearts of people, he looks at their desire to seek him, to seek the good. That their status as individuals in a pagan culture does not negate the good they have done, and their ignorance of idolotry does not discount their desire to seek the good or the truth. IT means that they are following Jesus if they live in the moral life, even though they follow him as something unknown to them. IT also means that all of us should come into the truth, we should seek to know God fully, and when we do that we find that it is Jesus all along.
Heb. 8:10-12 "...I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts I will be their God and they will be my people. No longer will a man say to his neighbor 'know the Lord' for they will all know me from the least of them to the greatest. For I will forgive their wickedness and remember their sins no more." This passage promises a "personal relationship with God."The word for "to Know" is the Greek Term Ginosko, which means personal experiential knowledge. To give one's life to Jesus means to develop a personal relationship with Jesus. Jesus said (John) "My sheep know my voice..." Personal relationship means that it is more than a set of rules, more than an ideology or a belief system, but a matter of the heart, the emotions, religious affections. IT may not be through dramatic miraculous effects (although I do believe that that is open to all Christians) but it is deeper than mere rule keeping, and does make for a satisfaction nothing else can match.God acts upon the heart. Salvation is a matter of "knowing God" not of mere intellectual assent. What does it mean to know God? It means that being a Christian is a matter of experiencing God's love in the heart and of loving God and others. It is also a matter of being "led" by God through impressions upon the heart, and not merely a set of rules or a list of beliefs that one must check off. IT is the development of "religious affections."The excitement of knowing God is unequaled by anything else in this life.
Developing Personal Relationship with God.
This is very simple. God keeps it simple so all of us can do it. John tells us "...that whosoever believes on him shall be saved." (3:16). Belief is the first step. But believe doesn't just mean intellectual assent, it means to place our faith in him, to trust him, as said above to place ourselves into his death, to express our solidarity with him.
Paul says "...That if you confess with your mouth 'Jesus is Lord' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the Dead, you will be saved, for it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved....everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." (Romans 10:9-12).
Note that the resurrection is stipulated as a criterion of belief, and notice that it also says believe in your heart. Belief is not mere intellectual assent but is a decision of the will to trust in God. Does this mean we must believe in the resurrection to be saved? It at least means we must believe in the thing the resurrection points to, the new life in Christ, that we trust God to give us this new life and that such life is found in him. Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved. What does it mean to call upon the name of the Lord? It means, to place our trust in God and in Jesus as God's Son, as our savior.
The name of Jesus then becomes our expression of solidarity with God, that we state clearly that we choose God's way, we want to change our lives and we are ready to accept God's terms for life; that we respond to the solidarity he shows us by committing to solidarity with him.In Acts 2: 38 the mob asks Peter what they must do, in response to the miracles of Pentecost and Peter's sermon on Jesus being raised form the dead. Peter tells them "Repent, and be baptized everyone one of you in the name of Jesus Christ that your sins may be forgiven." Does this mean that baptism is a pre-requiset for salvation? I don't believe so. They were really asking a more general question than "how do I get saved." IN response to Peter's sermon they were asking in a general way "well, we curcified the Messiah, what can we do about it."
Peter tells them two things, repent (change your mind, express sorrow for sin and determine not to sin any longer) AND be baptized as an expression of surrender to God (in keeping with the Jewish custom). The key here is to repent, turn from the present course of life and follow Jesus. Baptism is something we should do. It is an expression of our faith, and a symbol that we place our hope in God, die to the old way, it is an outward symbol of placing ourselves in solidarity with God and in Jesus death. But the important thing here is to repent. And, "you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."Latter in Acts when Peter takes the Gospel to the gentiles for the first time, the house of Cornelius. He tells them (Acts 10:43)"... everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name." With that the Holy Spirit comes upon them while Peter is still talking. He does not tell them to be baptized, nor does God wait for that to give the gift of the Holy Spirit (which is the renewing of the spirit, the "born again" experience and empowering for service to God). So here again the common link is belief, which implies a commitment of trust.Eph 1: 13 "Having believed you were marked in him with a seal the promised Holy Spirit who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance unto redemption of those who are God's possession."Romans 5 "since we have been justified through faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ through whom we have gained access into this grace..."Therefore, "getting saved" is very simple, although it may be the hardest thing you will ever do. Just place our trust in Jesus and give your life to God. Actively determine to believe (place trust) in Jesus and his sacrifice on the cross, God's expression of solidarity with humanity.
a) to identify the human problematic,But not all religions are equal. All are relative to the truth but not all are equal. Some mediate the UTE better than others, or in a more accessible way than others. Given the foregoing, my criteria are that:
b) to identify an ultimate transformative experience (UTE) which resolves the problematic, and
c) to mediate between the two.
1) a religious tradition reflect a human problematic which is meaningful in terms of the what we find in the world.These mean that I am not interested in piddling Biblical contradictions such as how many women went to the tomb, ect. but in terms of the major claims of the faith as they touch the human problematic and its resolution.
2) the UTE be found to really resolve the problematic
3) it mediates the UTE in such a way as to be effective and accessible.
4) its putative and crucial historical claims be historically probable given the ontological and epistemological assumptions that are required within the inner logic of that belief system.
5) it be consistent with itself and with the external world in a way that touches these factors.
"This notion [Religious a priori] is used by philosophers of religion to express the view that the sense of the Divine is due to a special form of awareness which exists along side the cognitive, moral, and aesthetic forms of awareness and is not explicable by reference to them. The concept of religion as concerned with the awareness of and response to the divine is accordingly a simple notion which cannot be defined by reference other than itself." --David Pailin "Religious a pariori" Westminster Dictionary of Chrisian Theology (498)
"It is the experience of the transcendent, including the human response to that experience, that creates faith, or more precisely the life of faith. [Huston] Smith seems to regard human beings as having a propensity for faith, so that one speaks of their faith as "innate." In his analysis, faith and transcendence are more accurate descriptions of the lives of religious human beings than conventional uses of the word, religion. The reason for this has to do with the distinction between participant and observer. This is a fundamental distinction for Smith, separating religious people (the participants) from the detached, so-called objective students of religious people (the observers). Smith's argument is that religious persons do not ordinarily have "a religion." The word, religion, comes into usage not as the participant's word but as the observer's word, one that focuses on observable doctrines, institutions, ceremonies, and other practices. By contrast, faith is about the nonobservable, life-shaping vision of transcendence held by a participant..."
"It is the original pre-theoretical consciousness...Schleiermacher believes that theoretical cognition is founded upon pre-theoretical intersubjective cognition and its life world. The latter cannot be dismissed as non-cognative for if the life world praxis is non-cognative and invalid so is theoretical cognition..S...contends that belief in God is pre-theoretical, it is not the result of proofs and demonstration, but is conditioned soley by the modification of feeling of utter dependence. Belief in God is not acquired through intellectual acts of which the traditional proofs are examples, but rather from the thing itself, the object of religious experience..If as S...says God is given to feeling in an original way this means that the feeling of utter dependence is in some sense an apparition of divine being and reality. This is not meant as an appeal to revelation but rather as a naturalistic eidetic"] or a priori. The feeling of utter dependence is structured by a corrolation with its whence." , Schleiermacher the Theologian, p 4.