We Are Called to Atheism by Abraham and Jesus! (Sunday Homily)

drone victims

Readings for the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Gn. 18:20-32; Ps. 138:1-3, 608; Col. 2:12-14; Lk. Ll:1-13. http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/072813.cfmhttp://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/072813.cfm

Today’s readings about Abraham bargaining with God and about Jesus teaching his followers to pray raise some vital questions about God’s personality and existence. Abraham’s compassionate God seems to conflict with the warlike God who appears elsewhere in the Bible.

So who’s right? Should we be afraid of God? Or can we trust him? Is God warlike and punitive or kind and forgiving? If he’s our “Daddy” (that’s what “Abba” means in Jesus’ prayer: “Our Daddy who transcends everything”) does our experience show him to be abusive or loving? Today’s readings help us wrestle with those questions. In fact, they call us to a holy atheism.

But before I get to that, let me frame my thoughts.

Last week the government of Pakistan released a classified document revealing that scores of civilians had been killed in dozens of CIA drone strikes between late 2006 and 2009. That period mostly covered the final years of the Bush administration. However as we all know, such strikes have increased under the presidency of Barrack Obama.

Citing the leaked report, the London Bureau of Investigative Journalism said “Of 746 people listed as killed in the drone strikes outlined in the document, at least 147 of the dead are clearly stated to be civilian victims, 94 of those are said to be children.”

Meanwhile, the United States has consistently denied that significant numbers of civilians have been killed in drone strikes. It claims that “no more than 50 to 60 ‘non-combatants’ have been killed during the entire, nine-year-long drone campaign.” Our government argues that such numbers are tolerable because the strikes protect Americans from the terrorists actually killed in the drone operations.

That’s the logic our government has adopted as it represents our country where 78-85% of the population claims to follow the one who refused to defend himself and gave his life that others might live. The logic of most American Christians says that killing innocents – even children – is acceptable if it saves American lives. Apparently, that’s the American notion of salvation: better them than us.

However that way of thinking is not what’s endorsed in today’s liturgy of the word. (And here I come back to those questions I raised earlier about God’s personality and existence.) There in Sodom and Gomorrah, Yahweh refuses to punish the wicked even if it means that as few as 10 innocents would lose their lives in the process.

Better-us-than-them is not the logic of Jesus who in teaching his disciples to pray tells them that God is better than us. God gives bread to anyone who asks. Yahweh acts like a loving father. He forgives sin and gives his children what they ask for. In fact, God shares his Spirit of love and forgiveness – he shares Jesus’ spirit of self-sacrifice – with anyone who requests it.

Elsewhere, Jesus says something even more shocking. Yahweh doesn’t even prefer the good over the wicked, he says. He showers his blessings (not bombs!) on everyone. Or as Jesus himself put it, God makes the sun rise on the virtuous and the criminal; his rain benefits those we consider evil as well as those we classify as good (Mt. 5:45). We should learn from that God, Jesus says, and be as perfect like him (Mt. 5:48). In fact, we should consider no one “the enemy” not even those who threaten us and kill us even as Jesus was threatened and killed (Lk. 6: 27-36).

How different is that from the way most of us think and act? How different is that from the God we’ve been taught to believe in?

Yes, you might say, but what about those other passages in the Bible where God is fierce and genocidal? After all, the Great Flood must have killed many good people and even children. And God did that, didn’t he? What about his instructions (more than once) to kill everyone without distinction. For example the Book of Joshua records: “Thus Joshua struck all the land, the hill country and the Negev and the lowland and the slopes and all their kings. He left no survivor, but he utterly destroyed all who breathed, just as the LORD, the God of Israel, had commanded (Joshua 10:40). What about the Book of Revelation, which many Christians argue predicts God’s total destruction of the world? What about that violent, pitiless, threatening God? Is that the “Abba” of Jesus?

Good questions. They’re good because they make us face up to the fact that the Bible is ambiguous about God. No, let me put it more strongly. The Bible isn’t just ambiguous about God. It’s often plain wrong – at least If we adopt the perspective of Jesus and Abraham in today’s readings.

After all, Abraham’s God is not genocidal; Joshua’s is. Jesus’ God is not genocidal; Joshua’s is. Those Gods are not compatible. One of them must be false. Or as Jack Nelson Pallmeyer writes in his book Is Religion Killing Us? “Either God is a pathological killer or the Bible is sometimes wrong about God.”

Today’s readings show us that both Abraham and Jesus agree.

The Abraham story is about a man gradually rejecting Nelson’s Psychopath in the sky. Israel’s furthest back ancestor comes to realize that God is merciful, not punitive or cruel. Or as the psalmist puts it in today’s responsorial, God is kind, true, and responsive to prayer. God protects the weak and lowly and is distant from the powerful and haughty. In today’s reading from Genesis, we witness Abraham plodding slowly but surely towards that conclusion.

It’s the realization eventually adopted by Jesus: God is a kind father, not a war God. If Abraham’s God won’t tolerate killing 50 innocent people, nor 45, 40, 30, 20, or even 10, Jesus’ God is gentler still. That God won’t tolerate killing anybody – not even those threatening Jesus’ own life.

All of that should be highly comforting to us. It has implications for us, politically, personally and liturgically.

Politically it means that followers of Jesus should be outraged by anyone connecting Jesus with our country’s perpetual war since 9/11, 2001. A drone program that kills the innocent with the targeted flies in the face of Abraham’s gradually-dawning insight about a merciful God. The war itself makes a complete mockery of Jesus’ total non-violence and the words of the prayer he taught us. Those supporting “America’s” “better them than us” attitude are atheists before Jesus’ God and the one depicted in the Abraham story.

Personally, what we’ve heard this morning should drive us towards an atheism of our own. It should cause us to review and renew our understandings of God. Impelled by today’s readings, we should cast as far from us as we can any inherited notions of a pathological, punishing, cruel, threatening and vindictive God. We need that holy atheism. Let’s pray for that gift together.

And that brings us to today’s liturgy. In effect, we’ve gathered around this table to hear God’s clarifying word, and symbolically act out the peaceful world that Jesus called “God’s Kingdom.” We’ve gathered around this table to break bread not only with each other, but emblematically with everyone in the world including those our culture considers enemies.

I mean if God is “Our Father,” everyone is our sister, everyone, our brother. It’s just that some couldn’t make it to our family’s table today. But they’re here in spirit; they’re present around this altar. They are Taliban and al-Qaeda; they are Iraqis, Afghanis, Yemenis, and Somalis; they are Muslims and Jews; they include Edward Snowden and Trayvon Martin. They include those children killed in U.S. drone strikes. They are you and I!

All of us are children of a loving God. Jesus’ “Lord’s Prayer” says that.

Now that’s something worth celebrating.

Published by

Mike Rivage-Seul's Blog

Emeritus professor of Peace & Social Justice Studies. Liberation theologian. Activist. Former R.C. priest. Married for 40 years. Three grown children. Four grandchildren.

16 thoughts on “We Are Called to Atheism by Abraham and Jesus! (Sunday Homily)”

  1. Congratulations on your holy atheism Mike! Too long we have swallowed without chewing all sorts of nonsense just because it was in the bible or some priest said it. I like reverend Leo Booth’s idea that we write a letter to our old God, and fire Him, giving all our reasons for doing so. I append to this that we should write a want ad that seeks a new God, and gives our ideas of what we want that new Deity to be like. Then we might end up with a Higher Power of our own understanding…

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  2. Hi Mike!

    You wrote: “ we should cast as far from us as we can any inherited notions of a pathological, punishing, cruel, threatening and vindictive God.”

    I agree. I wouldn’t say we need “holy atheism” but simply that we should stop being idolatrous. i.e. We need to stop worshiping the false God of the Constantinian Shift, who is a God made in humanity’s image, according to these typical tenants of human societies:

    – that justice and righteousness are achieved simply by recognising a guilty party and punishing them,

    – that death, which will come to all of us, is the ultimate proof of God’s vindictiveness

    – that we are justified in doing anything to save our earthly lives, including depriving earthly life from others.

    Importantly, IMO, the seeming contradictions in the Bible about God’s loving character are not reasons to second-guess the Bible. Rather, they are opportunities to correct our own mistaken beliefs about sin, justice and death. And to not update our understandings of these three is to be destined to repeat the mistakes of violent Christendom.

    I have written elsewhere about this (e.g. http://www.jub.id.au/my-theology-overview/quick-overview/part-1/is-god-vengeful/ ), but in a nutshell:

    Death. Regardless of whether it occurs as a result of a genocidal command of God, a Great Flood or the ubiquitous aging process – death is a precious gift. It means the “wages of sin” have been paid in full. Death ushers in (or is at least a significant step closer to) the perfection and bliss we rightly expect from the Creator. We should rejoice for those who die (see John 14:28, Phil 1:20-23). Murder and suicide are wrong not because of any terrible effect on the one who has died but because of the terrible effect on the one’s that are bereaved. Of course, this is madness and raving to those of the world. Unless one is born from above it is impossible to accept this.

    Justice. What the world calls “justice” – the inflicting of suffering on those we deem guilty of sin – has the overall effect of multiplying violence and vengeance. In contrast, GOD’s justice is like social justice and restorative justice – it brings healing and peace when eventually we submit to it. This applies to the physical death that God has ordained for each of us too – it brings healing and peace both to the surviving community (when accepted as loving discipline and instruction) and to those who have died.

    Sin – the essence of sin towards God is distrust of Him and His ways. The essence of sin towards other human beings is our making them “the other” and then inflicting retribution. “Retribution” is where make ourselves feel safer, vindicated and stronger by punishing another we have decided is responsible for making us feel scared, shameful and fragile. Punishment of a retributary nature is always sin. (In contrast to punishment of a disciplinary nature, which is punishment done for the child – or sinner’s – ultimate benefit).

    If we have the faith of Jesus then even whilst we are voluntarily submitting to retribution from those of the world (for the sins they mistakenly impute to us), we know that in heart and mind we are always “more than conquerors” because of our faithful Creator and His enabling Spirit.

    The reason people think the Bible has God acting “pathologically.. cruelly… and vindictively” is because they fail to make the distinction between retributive versus disciplinary punishment. Hebrews 12 talks about a loving “Abba” whose discipline of us is evidence of His love for us. Of course, this makes no sense if we don’t believe God’s plan for our welfare transcends and continues past our physical demise. (That’s were the historical and bodily resurrection of Christ turns our pessimism on its head!)

    Thanks Mike for the opportunity to articulate what I believe.

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    1. John, your replies are always so thoughtful and helpful. Thank you. Don’t you think combatting idolatry means adopting an “atheism” before those false Gods — even if they are proposed by the Vatican, Pat Robertson or the Taliban? And do you think “Joshua’s God” was administering “disciplinary” or “retributive” justice to those he ordered slaughtered? Is God that sort of disciplinarian? Pallmeyer’s judgment is appropriate, I think. “Either God is a pathological killer or the Bible is sometimes wrong about God.”

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      1. Mike, a question: If God was a “pathological killer” would that simply mean that God wills death for some or all? But hold on never mind the Bible, EVERY DAY REALITY seems to indicate that God wills death! And not just for some! If God is all powerful and created every capacity, circumstance and limitation of humanity – is not God ultimately responsible for all our deaths? Is not God then a “killer”? More to the point, if God is a “killer” is God necessarily “pathological”? (or to use my prefered word, “retributary”?)

        My answer to this question is that it all depends on God’s MOTIVE. If, for example, God has ordained that we die in order to obtain some selfish benefit for Himself at our expense, then I would say Yes, God is “pathological” – and not just in the Bible in those unpleasant passages it is so easy to reject…. but in every day reality that none of us can avoid! Then the more tenable option becomes not some flexible partial atheism, but total atheism!

        On the other hand, if death is a gift, and to die is to enter another realm, and to enter that other realm is bliss…. and if both the pain and uncertainty of the transition from one realm to the next were necessary and rewarded – then I would say God is not “pathological” – neither in real life nor in those difficult Bible passages.

        So which is it?

        Well, we each have to work that out for ourselves I suppose. But we should take great care, I suggest, in the presuppositions we begin with.

        To illustrate, I suggest that if you and Pallmeyer are to make the case that that God is sometimes portrayed in the Bible as a pathological killer you need to show that God’s MOTIVE is sometimes portrayed in those passages as SELFISH – that He gets some BENEFIT AT OTHER’S EXPENSE by ordering the killings. I suggest that you for one have not done that to date.

        But you may say what about the proposition that God is portrayed in some places in the Bible as a God who wants HIS PEOPLE to be killers? I agree this would be very disturbing and unacceptable if true. But to prove this case, I think you need to rule out the proposition that God is merely ALLOWING His special nation, particularly at its inception, to be killers LIKE EVERYONE ELSE – because neither can they conceive of any other way to be.

        Consider the evidence for this latter proposition. Gen 9:6 in context sets a limitation on REVENGE – only the one who murders is to be executed – the revenge must not extend to his/her spouse, parents, siblings or children or clan. Similarly, “an eye for an eye” is limiting REVENGE. Both commands target this most huge and obvious problem of humanity, which ever threatens to spiral out of control without strong government to enforce a basic peace.

        Secondly, warfare is part of ordinary life in most of history. Without war there are no nations. Any nation’s rulers must send the troops to war if the nation’s existence is threatened – or that nation will be wiped out. Thus as soon as God announces He will make a nation out of Abraham, war is inevitable. God was not that keen to invest Himself in nation building judging by the long Biblical history before Abraham. I see this move as God’s experiment to demonstrate to all humanity that even with God at the helm, nationhood does not contain the answer to the human dilemma. The failure of even the nation Israel becomes the context for Jesus preaching God’s real preference – a kingdom of God not built on violence, not built on revenge, not built on self-preservation. However, this way requires huge faith in the goodness and providence of God – that all His ways (including our deaths) are love, and that we don’t ultimately need to kill to self-preserve because “though we die, yet shall we live!” For ordinary humans to exercise this kind of faith (even a mustard seed of it) requires Pioneer and Perfector of our faith to appear – i.e. the Kingdom of God only becomes viable – because it only becomes believable – after the revelation of the Incarnation, etc!

        In Joshua’s time, the prospect of living with no weapons at hand, without a loyal clan of willing warriors, without walled defences around your city – would have been unthinkable – akin to a modern nation existing without a military. It can’t be done. These days most of us are far removed from the reality of war, cocooned as we are in our huge societies, which need only a relatively small number of specialists to negotiate peace, remain vigalant and to operate our weapons of mass destruction upon which our security depends. But back in Joshua’s time, as I understand it, virtually all able-bodied men would be expected to take up arms at a short notice and fight to protect the nation. The only other options would be to exist in wildernesses as small mobile groups or exist as slaves of another nation. The former was Abraham experience in his lifetime, the slavery option was Israel’s experience in Egypt – and that wasn’t too bad until they became constantly mistreated. But after the Exodus, the nation of Israel needed their own considerable space, where God could try to shape them into a genuinely good society. The Israelites would have been quite reconciled to the need to battle others for some land to call their own. In other words, God does not need to ENCOURAGE them to fight – only to ALLOW – and sometimes to DIRECT or LIMIT – their indigenous expectations, commitment and culture of warfare.

        But could not God have directed Joshua to at least spare the children? I would reply, Are you sure God didn’t spare them? What I mean is What kind of life do children have when all the adults have gone? Can orphanages and foster families love those kids with their strange language and culture, loneliness and grief? Would that really be “sparing” them? To preserve their physical lives despite their misery would arguably be in their best interests certainly IF there is no life hereafter. But on the other hand, if “eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of humanity conceived what God has prepared for us” in the next life… then to spare them great heartache now is the most merciful option.

        I know I haven’t covered all the options and all the issues in these few short paragraphs, but I hope I have covered enough to make this point: that your logic makes sense GIVEN YOUR PRESUPPOSITIONS – but that, IMO, you don’t seem to allow for other – and I suggest, MORE BIBLICAL – presuppositions. i.e. Could it be that you are not allowing the Bible to explain itself? or better, that you are not allowing Jesus’ revelation to influence your theology enough?

        Best wishes.

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      2. Again, what you’ve written here is so very thoughtful and makes me reconsider what I’ve written. However, I think we’re starting from very different places regarding the Bible. I’ve come to the conclusion that the Bible is not the “Infallible Word of God valid for all time.” Instead it is the word of human beings trying to understand the transcendent dimensions of human life. And it’s flawed. In fact, I’d say along with Nelson-Pallmeyer (in Is Religion Killing Us? ) that any person arriving from another planet and reading it would conclude that the Judeo-Christian tradition is extremely violent — and it’s God highly problematic as far as violence is concerned. The alien arriving would have to draw the same conclusion about the Holy Koran. As understood by so many Jews, Christians, and Muslims, both “holy books” are devastating as far as their contributions to wars, massacres, and holocausts are concerned. The world would be better off without such interpretations which have carried the day. I also think our ideas of God are quite different. Your comment seemed to communicate an idea of a God “up there” orchestrating human events, micromanaging the universe, and then telling someone to write down what he’s done. I have a hard time accepting that. I see death as part of life; for me doesn’t involve God killing us. On the other hand, telling Joshua to kill everything that moves is another kettle of fish — a very primitive understanding of God.

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      3. Hi Mike,

        Thanks again your reply, so gracious as always!

        It seems we agree that “we’re starting from very different places (/presuppositions) regarding the Bible.” However, whilst (in your words) “our ideas of God are quite different” I feel our ideas of God are more similar than different…

        Regarding the Bible….

        I think

        “the seeming contradictions in the Bible about God’s loving character are not reasons to second-guess the Bible. Rather, they are opportunities to correct our own mistaken beliefs about sin, justice and death” and our interpretations of the Bible itself, in the light of the Gospel.

        Whereas you think –

        “that the Bible is not the ‘Infallible Word of God valid for all time.’ Instead it is the word of human beings trying to understand the transcendent dimensions of human life. And it’s flawed.”

        A major reason for your view is the seeming support for violence in the Bible: you write:
        “as understood by so many Jews, Christians, and Muslims, both “holy books” are devastating as far as their contributions to wars, massacres, and holocausts are concerned. The world would be better off without such interpretations which have carried the day.”

        I heartily agree that “the world would be better off without such INTERPRETATIONS” but I believe that these are demonstrably false interpretations. Furthermore, rather than humanity’s violence flowing from religion, I think we have overwhelming evidence of a different origin for human violence. Human violence comes from fallen humanity itself, which is very capable of being IRRELIGIOUSLY violent, often has been and continues to be. I would say, even with God being a Peace-Maker, even with the Old Testament revelation and EVEN with Jesus’ Gospel message, humanity has pursued revenge and violence as fundamental organising principals for human society, and has twisted the revealed character of God and the peaceful message of His Word to justify such violence.
        I mentioned why I think humanity is addicted to retribution earlier in this thread – “retribution is where make ourselves feel safer, vindicated and stronger by punishing another whom we have decided is responsible for making us feel scared, shameful and fragile.” I think these intrinsic motivations in fallen humanity is both highly self-evident and sufficient to account for the violence in the world, and importantly these motivations exist independently of the Bible and the Gospel.

        One amazing exception to the ubiquitous violence in Western history was the first three centuries after Christ, which saw the most astounding change in humanity’s addiction and psychological reliance on revenge – in those who believed in Jesus’ message. Since the Constantinian Shift, however, the West has reverted to violence and revenge. I believe the West was only able to do this because Christians became confused and ignorant of what the Bible really said about God. My expectation and fervent hope is that a rediscovery of the true and straight-forward meaning of the Bible is underway and will result in the Kingdom of the God of Peace coming upon the whole world.

        However, I believe that prerequisite for the coming of the Kingdom of God is a belief in both Divine Revelation and Divine Peaceableness – and hence my desire to affirm both aspects together.

        If Divine Peace speaks to our heart / our values, Divine Revelation speaks to our minds / our reason. I see our values as more alike, Mike, than our rationales/logic.

        Your rationale about religion causing violence is shared by the “New Atheists” (I mean the Atheists who actively campaign against faith in anything supernatural). However, in my experience the New Atheist is closed to the argument that revenge and violence PREDATES organised religion, that humanity USES organised religion to LIMIT violence as much as to justify it, and that violence is INNATE in fallen humanity.

        Furthermore, I find it positively irrational that Atheists believe that the universe has no “First (uncaused)Cause”, that life could have arisen spontaneously, or that they can philosophically disconnect themselves from Social Darwinianism, in which violence is a valid response of the strong to the weak in human societies.

        Nietzsche saw correctly, IMO, that the only alternative to Social Darwinism and his own Will-to-Power rationale is the THEISTIC worldview. Rene Girard agrees with Nietzsche that it’s one or the other but Girard refutes Nietzsche’s preferred doctrine on the basis of a new understanding of the Bible – one that Jesus’ revelation makes possible. Have you read Rene Girard on why the resurrection of a sacrificed deity is almost a ubiquitous motif in archaic religions? Mark Heim’s “Saved From Sacrific(ing)” and Michael Hardin’s “The Jesus-driven Life” are both good reads about this and related issues.

        Regarding God…

        I think we agree more than we disagree. For example, I think that the Buddhist who says there is no God, and meditates and through greater awareness of reality finds humility, compassion, peace, wisdom, etc is finding out a lot about the Creator. They may say, “No, I am finding out about life and about myself!” or they may say, “What you call ‘God’ is just the reality of who I am.” I will answer back that I believe that that which they worship with no name (cf Act 17:23) is the Creator who has revealed Himself in the Bible and in whom we all “live and breathe and have our being.” Furthermore, I expect that in the next life when we all know quite a bit more, the Buddhist who “with patience in good work (sought) glory and honor and incorruptibility” (Rom 2:7) will be found to be ahead of many a Pharisee. The Buddhist’s semantic denial of God is trivial compared to the Pharisee’s behavioural denial of God expressed in his failure to love his enemy including his justification and participation in the fallacy of “just” war. The Buddhist has, I suppose, something like the “faith of Christ” (which justifies – see Gal 2:16 in a LITERAL translation of the N.T.), whereas the latter’s faith, though a model of modern evangelical orthodoxy is offensive to God and barren, even though he may agree with me on God being the First Cause and the Author of the Bible. In the next life, both will become more like the true Christian who, even in this life, knows the Reality of the Personal God and practices love for all, including through pacifism.

        What do you think Mike, do we agree more about God than not?

        Peace!

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      4. Dear John, sorry for not replying sooner. Peggy and I are trying desperately to prepare for our coming 5 month sojourn in India. And it’s all I can do to get out one post each week. That’s meant postponing replies here. And, yes, you’re right, we agree on many points — but most importantly in our shared search for truth and understanding. I agree too that Buddhism offers some wonderful insights. Over the last 15 years, my renewed practice of meditation under the tutelage of Eknath Easwaran has sensitized me to that. I’ve been committing to memory large sections of the Damapada. But here are a few more specific responses to your thoughtful note:
        1. I’m not sure what you mean by “second guessing the Bible. I’m not trying to “second guess” but to see that wonderful document for what it is.
        2. My study shows me that indeed it is not “the inspired word of God valid for all time.” And that’s not just because of its endorsement of violence, but because of so much evidence that it is a human work (valuably) recording one people’s attempt to articulate its relationship to the Transcendent.
        3. I don’t think Jews and Christians merely “misinterpret” biblical passages on violence. Just reading the relevant passages (e.g. in the Book of Joshua) yields a picture of a clearly violent and pathological God intent on massacre, genocide and the revenge you say is the human characteristic responsible for misreading the text.
        4. Revenge in the Bible is a motivating factor attributed to God.
        5. The “new atheists” are not the principal advocates of Social Darwinism. Anyone who promotes unbridled capitalism (whether they recognize it or not) is such an advocate — and that includes most Christians in the United States.
        So while we thankfully agree on many points, there are others where we seem not to. Dialoging about them is proving helpful to me. Thanks, John.

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  3. Hi Mike
    This is an extraordinary blog, an extraordinary question.
    I would like if I may delay comment because I am on the move, still in the social petri dish, or canary-in-the coal-mine, we call Ireland – in the IMF-ed Period, and your outrageous blog demands time to think. Think, when it gets harder. Jim
    Ps Sometimes btw I feel you post new blogs too often. Like cows eating mangel (beets) we never get finished with what we start.
    But this beast will be back at you. Jim presently in a rural setting.,,,sun in the morning and moon at night! And no advertizing.

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    1. Thanks, Jim. Always great to hear from you. I’ve been trying to blog less. But I consider the Sunday homilies the “anchor” of the site. They keep me focused on things important in terms of faith. Last week we had our Columban Reunion in Bristol, RI. I’ll be burdening you with another blog on that tomorrow. It was great fun.

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  4. “Ein Sof” is a Kabbalist term letting us know that we can’t ever even imagine God. Merton (The Inner Experience) agrees, as do most serious philosophers through the ages and across cultures. Atheism for gods in imagined forms, then, is simply good theology.

    What we can know of God, suggests Merton, is that of God infused into our spirit. We can listen to the spirit within. I think there is a place for missionary work that teaches the importance of listening to the spirit within, however that is accomplished: Sufi dancing anyone? :). Missionary work that promotes a known god is in fact the spreading of idolatry, as you point out (between this post and the prior one on the Columban reunion).

    Missionary work “in the spirit, and of the spirit” is desperately needed. We all need to be constantly working at listening to God as present in our inner spirit, rather than the false gods created by fallible human beings, often with good intentions, but in the end, always with poor (or worse) results.

    Thanks again for raising these issues,

    Hank

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    1. Thanks for such thoughtful reflections, Hank. I’m about to take off for 5 months in India where I hope to pursue what Merton found there — that Spirit you mention. I’ll take with me my well-worn copy of his “Asian Journal.” Yes, missionary work is vital if it explores the way people of deep faith and good will can work on the world’s genuine problems — starting from that all-important sense of unity and spirit within.

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  5. Thanks For Sharing this nice Topic

    Finally, Paul tells us who the true seed of Abraham is and the nature of that promise. We learned earlier that the Seed of Abraham was singular, one person, i.e. Christ.
    Next Paul says, “For you are all the sons of God by faith in Christ Jesus for as many of you as we baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Gal. 3:26-29).
    Those who accept God by faith and are baptized into Him become a part of that one Seed of Abraham who is Christ . We become one Seed with Christ, not many seeds, but one with Him. As the Seed of Abraham through Christ, we then become heirs/inherit the promise. The promise is salvation in Christ, i.e. the kingdom of God. See the post “Flesh and Blood Cannot Inherit the Kingdom of God.” The true seed of Abraham is Christ and the inheritance is the salvation in him to all nations (families of the earth) who are blessed in Him.

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