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In Love's Lure: God's Project People: A Third Millennium Vision, author John Ford seeks to bridge the gap between theology and science by examining how God's Word speaks to us in the present and transforms our modern understanding of truth, spirit, and love. With his intimate knowledge of Scripture, Ford helps us explore the nature of Godhead and Jesus's life and teachings as they contribute to the redefinition of faith-truth lies in what God says to us now, and in following his loving example.
Every disaster and mishap should be regarded as an opportunity for the outpouring of love and represents a chance to work tirelessly for positive change. We are all engaged in God's ongoing venture to create beings in harmony with him, but how we let his work touch our hearts is always up to us.
We are. (As we had not then sent our incarnated Son and Holy Spirit into the world, Abraham could not have conceived of our triune nature. We, therefore, inspired him to think of us as one.)
The New Jerome Biblical Commentary indicates that the Genesis account of creation was one among several similar myths current in Mesopotamia in the prehistoric era of the patriarchs. Their origins may date back to beyond 10,000 BC. They all seek to provide some explanation for the creation of the conditions under which the human race then found itself. They tend to attribute those conditions to supernatural beings, gods, over whom people had no control, and who had to be propitiated.
The Bible provides the account of how one man, Abraham, concluded that there was only one God and founded monotheistic Judaism. The Bible traces the development of Judaism to the point where God intervened through the incarnation of his Son,and describes something of the earliest years of the new religion, Christianity, which he founded.
Existing evidence suggests that primordial people believed in supernatural beings and in the existence of some form of supernatural, spiritual existence underlying the material world. It seems reasonable to conclude that it is natural for people to have a belief in some form of god and in spiritual beings.
In a rational world, where science has taught us so much about matter, we are faced with the fact of the big bang and our subsequent creation and development through the process of evolution. Scientists regard the bang as a singularity, behind which the human mind cannot penetrate.
We therefore face three possibilities:
1. the bang was caused by some force, some great first cause, of which science has no knowledge, but which theists call God; or
2. it had no logical cause, and there is no God; or
3. reason cannot determine whether God exists, and perhaps the answer does not matter, as it is irrelevant to our existence.
Cynical Voltaire, for me, hit the nail on the head. He said that God defined would be God finished, and that, if God had not existed, man would have invented him. The creature can hardly define its creator, and anything which the time- and space-bound human reason can define can hardly be infinite and eternal and beyond the singularity of the bang. Any god who could be defined by the human mind must have been invented by it. God has to be accepted not by reason but by faith and assumption #1 is an act of faith.
So, too, is #2. The human mind can no more prove that God does not exist than it can prove that he does exist.
Faced with these two conflicting acts of faith, it is tempting to choose #3 and decide that there is no need to choose #1 or #2, because both are irrelevant to our existence.
The French mystic Pascal suggested that any act of faith was to some extent a wager on the unknown. He argued that a wager on the Christian faith was justified, because the odds were eternity to nothing: if you bet against and lost, you were doomed to eternal separation from God; if you bet against and won, you would gain nothing, since you would soon be dead anyway.
I prefer to look at the effect on human conduct of adopting #1 or #2. There is ample evidence in human history of religion as a force of hatred. Christians have been as guilty of atrocities as adherents of other religions. But there does seem convincing evidence that the force of Love has a benign influence on the human personality, and that a belief in Love/God as the great first cause does exercise a beneficent influence on people. Those who believe in and love the God revealed by the resurrected Christ see this clearly. Those who have no Love in them cannot see it. Looking at the world about me, I prefer to take my cue from those who show Love and, therefore, plump for #1.
We are a personal being. We exist in infinity and eternity.
The Israelites seem from the beginning to have thought of God as a personal being. The Genesis myth has God creating man in his image and thus, by implication, regards the human personality as having a divine quality. It is possible that the earliest human thoughts about God arose from people's observation of the element of personality, which distinguished them from other creatures. The human personality seems to transcend matter. It cannot be measured in terms of height, breadth, length, and weight. It is not time- and space-bound in the same way as matter; nor is it really definable. Its qualities suggest that it might belong to another form of being. What we know about animism and the belief in spirits among primordial people indicates that they were very much aware of the forces of nature over which they had no control and saw in them evidence of the existence of an underlying spiritual state of being.
As they saw spirits as neither time-nor space-bound, people thought of them as eternal and infinite. Can we reasonably think of God as other than both?
Outside us there is nothing. We are a light shining in darkness. We are the ground of all being. We are the great first cause.
The opposite of "being" must presumably be "not being" (i.e., nothing).John put it beautifully in his gospel. The image of light shining in the dark is so graphic.
By the middle of the first millennium BC, particularly in India and the Far East, people began seriously to study what they considered the spiritual ground of their being and sought to tune their own personality into it. They felt that all the suffering and disharmony in the world must be the result of a breach between matter and spirit, and that a conscious attempt should be made to attain to a state of "at-onement" (meaning a state of being at one with) with the latter. Thus began the movement known as mysticism. Its adherents developed techniques of concentrating on achieving unitary knowledge of the ground of our being. Buddha and his followers achieved notable success, and mysticism, or "The Perennial Philosophy" as Aldous Huxley described it in his brilliant study, has played an inspiring part in the development of Judaism, of Christianity, and of Islam. It cannot reasonably be disregarded as a fact of human experience; nor, as the agnostic Huxley concluded, should the experience of those who have achieved unitary knowledge be ignored as mere self-delusion.
Being infinite and eternal, we are beyond the comprehension of your finite and time-bound mind. You must accept that we shall remain a mystery, at least so long as you retain the limitations of your humanity on earth. Nevertheless, the impact of our energy does provide you with insights into the nature of our being.
God created matter to provide the environment under which personalities/souls could be created. He must then have known that by making them time- and space-bound and giving them minds operating with similar restrictions he was cutting them off from direct knowledge of him. I imagine that a reason for this was his desire to give them free will. Had we been born with unitary knowledge of God, we could hardly have achieved it voluntarily and would have been automatons. He did, however, want to give people clues about himself, which they could understand if they so wanted. These clues seem to lie within the impact of his energy.
We are three persons in one God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Each of us loves the others, and in pouring out Love on the others, increases his capacity to love. Love is thus created in the furnace of our Love.
For centuries the Israelites held to their belief in God as one in defiance of the convictions of their neighbors and enemies. It had been the rock on which their nation had been founded and on which it had survived. The incarnation of God's Son in the person of Jesus was a break with the past, even though Jesus had, through his ancestry, education, and culture, come out of the past. The earliest Christians were mostly Jews. There is little indication in the New Testament that they saw in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit the three persons of the triune God. That concept seems only gradually to have come to the fore. The so-called Johannine comma, the expansion of 1 John 5:7–8, by the words "because there are three who testify in heaven, Father, Word and Holy Spirit; and these three are one," does not appear until the end of the fourth century AD.
Nowhere in the Bible do I sense that the writers accepted and understood the dogma of the Trinity. Francis of Assisi gave me my first insight through his understanding of the nature of Love. He saw clearly that Love grows through its outpouring, and that the recipient of an act of Love thus becomes the creditor of the doer, not the debtor. He knew nothing about atomic reaction and could, therefore, not think in terms of chain reactions, as we might do.
Love requires more than one person to be active. A unipersonal God could neither know nor be Love. That God is triune is what makes him Love, and the source and creative furnace of Love.
Individually and collectively, we are the force of Love. Where Love is, we are. Wherever Love is not, there is the darkness of nothing, of not being.
That God is the force of Love follows logically from what has gone before. In the dark, light is wherever it is visible. Anything it hits glows with its beams, even if they are reflected. The same appears true of Love. It shines within the human personality. In God it is an aspect of his personality and being. It cannot be separated from him. He is the force that Love is. He is that which makes being being. As Jesus reiterated, he is life. In the realm of the spirit there is no life without him, just as in the dark there is no light, where nothing is touched by light's beams.
As the personality of artists is visible in their works, so our triune personality is visible in our creation. As a thought is alive in the mind of the thinker, our creation is alive in us.
Great art holds a mirror up to nature and conveys something of the personality of the artist. This is conveyed through a transfer of feeling, attitude, and emotion. This is particularly so in music. We can recognize the great artist in his work. Great artists seem alive in their works. If that is true of the human personality, must it not be true of God's? I am sure it is. If we look at his creation with Love, we see it shot through with Love, and the tapestry of human history glows with Love's golden threads. It is alive in God. It is alive with God.
Is there not something distinct between your mind, your thought, and your will? Yet your actions are the product of all three acting in unison.
This thought came out of a comment on the Trinity in an anonymous book, We Believe, published privately in 1983 by a priest. It was obtainable through Dr. Mathias in Peterhouse College Cambridge. The writer thought of the mind conceiving as the Father, the thought conceived as the Son, and the unity of will between them as the Holy Spirit. It is a percipient analysis.
Are not the person who commissions and pays for a building, the architect who designs it and supervises the builder, and the builder three separate entities? Yet the creator of the building is none of them acting individually but all three acting together.
This metaphor of the creator of a building is more mundane but seems equally valid. God must be expected to convey his eternal truths through simple metaphors tuned to people's changing circumstances. Jesus's parables indicate how adept he was at so doing.
Love grows with its outpouring; and the capacity to love grows with use. Our personalities of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit create Love, spiritual energy, through their reactions to each other.
This is an amplification of the relationship of the three persons of the Trinity in paragraph 5 and leads into the following examples of how God's material creation holds a mirror up to the underlying spiritual reality.
Is not the energy of the sun produced through the reaction of its elements to each other?
This is one example of how our physical creation can be seen to mirror, albeit faintly, our underlying spiritual reality.
Another is the way in which the "quantum soup" of matter mirrors the state of heaven. In the former, all the elemental particles are interrelated and held together by the forces that govern the laws of physics. In the latter, all souls are interrelated and held together by the force of Love into a common relationship centered on us.
The church would seem much more relevant to people if Christian liturgies and preachers got away from the language and imagery of the Bible and used those of the third millennium AD. Just as students of art study the personality of artists through their works, theologians should look to God's creation for pointers toward a better understanding of him.
Jesus spoke of the "kingdom of heaven" and used the Judaic imagery of God as a sort of super monarch, because that was the way in which the people and he himself thought. In our day monarchy is mostly discredited as a form of government, and we think more in terms of states. Judging by the way in which our understanding of God's Love has grown over the past two millennia, I think it is more compatible with Jesus's teaching to regard heaven as a state of relationships rather than a hierarchical spiritual court. We are in heaven if we are at one with God in Love.
Human marriage at its best reflects that at-onement through Love, which governs the relationship between the three persons in our triune Godhead.
An old definition of "sin" was "missing the target." It is a sad reflection on our age that we concern ourselves so little with the ideal of marriage and concentrate so much on accepting failure and the second or third best. That God is incompatible with sin but loves the sinner gives us good reason to deplore the second best but at the same time to show every sympathy and consideration for those (most of us) who fail to hit the mark.
Traditionally the word "marriage" has been used to describe the union between a woman and a man. Marriages are essential in the creation of families. Families are the building blocks of heaven and the means for the continuation of God's Project People. The word should not be debased by use to cover other forms of civil union.
Love is outward-looking. The true lover joys in pleasing the beloved.
The longer I live, the more convinced am I that Grace, the God-given capacity to love as God loves, provides the answer to every moral issue. Without Grace we have no hope of living as God designed us to live. Paul summed it up beautifully in 1 Corinthians 13. Without the outward-looking Love, which is God, we are doomed to become self-centered. We cannot avoid sin by a self-centered act of the will. We can only avoid it when we are so in love with the Love, which is the impact of God on us, that our desire is to please him and to reflect on him and on others the Love that he beams on us. Love displaces sin.
We, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, experienced such joy in our relationship with each other that we wanted to extend it to beings outside our being and thus both to increase our joy and the capacity of our relationship to create Love.
We therefore entered upon our Project People to create a being in our image (i.e., with a personality with the potential to love as we love and thus to be at one with us in loving).
The traditional and biblical concept has God's act of creation as a fact of the past, and the adventure on which we are now embarked is the human race's redemption from its fall into sin and breach with its Creator. Over the past two hundred years our scientific discoveries and acquired knowledge have conclusively shown that this concept does not fit the facts and must be wrong.
We were not instantaneously created. We are the product of an evolutionary development, which has taken place over millions of years and which is still going on. Physically we have inherited the genes of species out of which we have evolved. Psychically we are influenced by those genes and also by the experiences of our ancestors and by our inherited culture, traditions, and knowledge.
Excerpted from Love's Lure: God's Project People by John Ford Copyright © 2011 by John Ford. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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