Ligon Duncan on the Non-Negotiables of the Gospel

Christian Skepticism endorses:

monergism.com

This site contains some of the most valuable God-centered resources a Christian Skeptic could ever want. Whether you peruse the copious free items or purchase something from their excellent online store, your worldview will never be the same!

Start Here to become a Christian Skeptic

We wanted to highlight this compilation by Paul Manata - The Philosophy of the
Christian Religion
- an excellent online resource for the development of the
well-considered Christian worldview.

Good Blogroll (from Pyromaniacs)

  • Colin Adams
  • Charlie Albright
  • Aletheuo
  • Scott Aniol
  • Tom Ascol
  • Derek Ashton (TheoParadox)
  • Zachary Bartels
  • Tim and David Bayly
  • Rick Beckman
  • Tyler Bennicke
  • Bible Geek
  • Big Orange Truck
  • Andy Bird
  • John Bird
  • Bob Bixby
  • Timmy Brister
  • Fred Butler
  • Calvin and Calvinism (Classic and moderate Calvinism)
  • Cal.vini.st
  • Bret Capranica
  • Nathan Casebolt
  • Lane Chaplin
  • Tim ("The World's Most Famous Christian Blogger"®) Challies
  • The Conservative Intelligencer
  • The Contemporary Calvinist
  • The Conventicle
  • Craig's Blog
  • Deliver Detroit
  • Daniel (Doulogos)
  • William Dicks
  • The Doulos' Den
  • Martin Downes
  • Connie Dugas
  • Doug Eaton
  • Nicholas Edinger
  • Brother Eugene
  • Eusebeia
  • Stefan Ewing
  • Eddie Exposito
  • Expository Thoughts
  • Faces Like Flint
  • Reid Ferguson
  • Peter Farrell
  • Bill Fickett
  • Fide-o
  • Foolish Things
  • Chris Freeland
  • Travis Gilbert
  • Ron Gleason
  • Go Share Your Faith!
  • God is My Constant
  • Phil Gons
  • Joel Griffith (Solameanie)
  • Matt Gumm
  • Gregg Hanke
  • Jacob Hantla
  • Chris Harwood
  • J. D. Hatfield
  • Michael Haykin
  • Tony Hayling (Agonizomai)
  • Steve Hays and the amazing "Triablogue" team
  • Scott Head
  • Patrick Heaviside (Paths of Old)
  • Marc Heinrich's Purgatorio
  • Sean Higgins
  • Illumination (Rich Barcellos and Sam Waldron)
  • Inverted Planet
  • Tim Jack
  • Jackhammer
  • Craig Johnson
  • Alex Jordan
  • The Journeymen
  • Justified
  • Lane Keister (Green Baggins)
  • John Killian
  • David Kjos
  • Ted Kluck
  • Patrick Lacson
  • A Little Leaven (Museum of Idolatry)
  • Janet Lee
  • Let My Lifesong Sing
  • Libbie, the English Muffin
  • Light and Heat
  • Greg Linscott
  • Bryan Maes
  • Brian McDaris
  • Doug McMasters
  • Allen Mickle
  • The incomparable Al Mohler
  • Jonathan Moorhead
  • Ryan Moran
  • Stephen Newell
  • Dean Olive
  • Dan Paden
  • Paleoevangelical
  • A Peculiar Pilgrim
  • Jim Pemberton
  • The Persecution Times
  • Bill Pershing
  • Kevin Pierpont
  • Matt Plett
  • Wes Porter
  • Postmortemism
  • The Red and Black Redneck
  • Reformata
  • Reformation 21
  • Reformation Theology (sponsored by Monergism.Com)
  • Reformed Evangelist
  • Remonstrans
  • Carla Rolfe
  • Tony Rose
  • Andrew Roycroft
  • Eric Rung
  • Said at Southern Seminary
  • Seeing Clearly
  • Sharper Iron
  • Kim Shay
  • Neil Shay
  • Brian Shealy
  • Ken Silva
  • Tom Slawson's "Tom in the Box"
  • Tom Slawson's other blog
  • Doug Smith
  • Richard Snoddy
  • Social Hazard
  • SolaFire
  • Rebecca Stark
  • Kevin Stilley
  • Cindy Swanson
  • Talking Out Of Turn
  • Justin Taylor's "Between Two Worlds"
  • Robert Tewart (StreetFishing)
  • TheoJunkie's Thoughts on Theology
  • Theology Bites
  • Through the Veil
  • Three Times a Mom
  • Voice of the Shepherd
  • Jared Wall
  • Adrian Warnock
  • David Wayne
  • Jeremy Weaver
  • Steve Weaver
  • Über-apologist James White's legendary "Pros Apologian" blog
  • Brad Williams
  • Doug Wilson
  • Writing and Living
  • Ryan Wood
  • Todd Young
  • Thursday, February 12, 2009

    New Bahnsen Apologetics Web Series

    I just saw where AnswersinGenesis, with Covenant Media Foundation is beginning a New Apologetics Web Series with Greg Bahnsen, Ph.D.

    This should make for some good reading.

    22 comments:

    Jim Clark said...

    From the above link:

    "Rather than merely presenting various scientific and historical evidences for God, Dr. Bahnsen methodically showed that the Christian God must be presupposed in order to make sense of anything whatsoever! The things we take for granted such as science, morality, and even the very laws of logic used in such debates, only make sense in the Christian worldview with the biblical God at its foundation. Thus, God must exist!"

    Come on! To make such a statement you must completely misrepresent the worldviews of others. I agree that a Naturalisitc/Atheistic worldview has obvious philosophical problems. But a New Age / Eastern Mystical Worldview can answer all those problems, as well as the problems of Christianity.

    That was a terrible argument, typical of Apologetics, logical fallacies and circular reasoning.

    Puritan Lad said...

    Jim,

    You must be more specific. Hinduism denies the existence of the physical universe, so that's out. Which Eastern Mystical Worldview are you referring to?

    Jim Clark said...

    Puritan,
    To understand the Hindu assertion that the Physical universe is an illusion it is essential that you consider the concept of both Absolute Truths and Relative Truths having their place, rather than one or the other. (Have a read of my post at http://theparadigmexperiment.blogspot.com/2009/01/absolute-relative-truths-do-you-have-to_16.html , to understand this)
    Without this understanding, Hindu teachings (specifically Advaita Vedanta) are bound to be misunderstood, so too for other Mystical traditions which frequently use similar concepts.

    Advaita Vedanta teaches that in the Absolute sense the only thing that exists is Brahman (Sat-Chit-Ananda, Existence-Consciousness-Bliss), yet we perceive that there are many realms, many beings.

    Although Creation is discerned as not real for the one who has achieved the goal, it is yet real in that Creation remains the common experience to others." (From Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, 2.22)

    "The half-wise, recognizing the comparative unreality of the Universe, imagine that they may defy it's Laws, such are vain and presumptuos fools, and they are broken against the rocks and torn asunder by the elements by reason of their folly. The truly wise, knowing the nature of the Universe, use Law against laws; the higher against the lower; and by the Art of Alchemy, transmute that which is undesirable into that which is worthy, and thus triumph. Mastery consists not in abnormal dreams, visions and fantastic imaginings or living, but in using the higher forces against the lower, escaping the pains of the lower planes by vibrating on the higher. Transmutation, not presumptuous denial, is the weapon of the Master." (The Kybalion, Chapter 5, Page 43)

    God Bless,
    Jim Clark

    Sean said...

    "Although Creation is discerned as not real for the one who has achieved the goal, it is yet real in that Creation remains the common experience to others." (From Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, 2.22)

    So, in other words, the physical world doesn't exist, it's just that most people think it does, since we haven't reached the goal, and since we think it exists...it does?

    Jim Clark said...

    Hi Sean,
    Consider the assertion that the material world is soild, we all percieve it as such, yet thanks to modern Science we know that in essence matter is mostly empty space.

    Knowing that matter isn't soild doesn't enable us to ignore the rules of matter, it does however let us know that the apparent reality is only a Relative truth.

    Mystics from many ages and lands have proclaimed that there is a reality beyond the world of appearences.

    Sean, to specifically answer your question, you must consider that a Relative truth is still partially true, despite the fact that it is false in the Absolute sense.

    Mystics directly percieve Non-Duality, yet the rest of us experience Duality.

    The lifespan of this world is bearly a grain of sand in an ocean in the view of Infinity, yet this world has purpose and meaning. Eastern Mysticism present's the long-term goal, New Age gives baby-steps to help us live this life to the fullest.

    Take care,
    God Bless,
    jim Clark

    swordbearer said...

    Jim,

    1. How about defining for us your views of Ultimate Reality (/God), Man, Epistomology, Morality and Life after Death...

    (This will be useful in discussion as you seem to advocate a mixture of Eastern Mysticism and New Age philosophy)

    2. " you must completely misrepresent the worldviews of others"

    Specifics?

    3. "But a New Age / Eastern Mystical Worldview can answer all those problems, as well as the problems of Christianity."

    a. We shall see...
    b. Specifics?

    4. "That was a terrible argument, typical of Apologetics, logical fallacies and circular reasoning."

    Your answer is typical of those who say Christians "misrepresent the worldviews of others"... and give no specifics, then go on to suggest their own worldview (even one which on the surface seems to be a conglomeration of other's worldviews, without providing either the basis for belief or the specifics related to the belief) has all the answers and can stand the test of scrutiny.

    4. "Mystics from many ages and lands have proclaimed that there is a reality beyond the world of appearences."

    It's interesting that the "reality" referred to or described by mystics is usually never the same.

    Besides this, mystics have no basis for knowing that their "reality" is other than their own imagination or deception.

    Jim Clark said...

    Hi Swordbearer,
    Thanks for responding.

    "1. How about defining for us your views of Ultimate Reality (/God), Man, Epistemology, Morality and Life after Death..."

    Ultimate Reality / God - Brahman /Sat-Chit-Ananda/Existence-Consciousness-Bliss. By definition Infinite, Indescribable Love. Creator / Dreamer of all beings, beyond words or definitions, Eternal, Omniscient, Omnipresent etc etc. This is a common description of God as found in the writings of many different philosophical/religious groups. In particular I use the language of Advaita-Vedanta.

    Man - Multidimensional beings existing as Physical, Mental, Emotional, Spiritual etc, with the non-physical aspects having just as real an existence as the physical, in the sense that there are Subtle-Bodies which exist beyond the scope of the naked eye (for most of us) which correspond with these aspects of Self, and these Subtle-bodies correspond with Astral and higher realms. The Soul as such is the Astral body possessing individual characteristics and tendencies. The Spirit is the Absolute aspect of Man and is identical to God, with a relationship of microcosm to macrocosm. In Vedanta the Spirit is known as Atma and God is known as Brahman, it is said that Atma is identical to Brahman, also it is said that there is no Atma, only Brahman.

    Epistemology - Well, I've never studied formal, classical western philosophy, so my understanding of this word is only very vague. I believe it has to do with what is knowledge, how can we know anything etc, yes? Well, answering this fully would involve writing a book. In short, there are a number of different approaches I take in arguing for the Eastern / New Age worldview. You have philosophical points, using reason and logic, you have Scientific evidence which supports this worldview. You have anecdotal reports of individual experiences. Some of these reports have particular importance, such as Near Death Experience reports.
    From my previous dialogues with Christian's, I see that most Christians view the Bible as God's revelation to Man, hence this is seen as the Absolute knowledge. I challenge this view, as do many others. I have been very unimpressed with the Apologetics that I have read and listened to (Josh McDowell, Lee Strobel etc).
    I would be interested in learning more about Epistemology, perhaps you can bring me up to speed?

    Morality - I wrote an article about Morality in New Age/Eastern Mysticism (http://theparadigmexperiment.blogspot.com/2009/01/moral-ethical-and-psychological.html), here's one of my favorite quotes from the Bhagavad-Gita:

    "Lord Krishna said: Fearlessness, purity of inner psyche, perseverance in the yoga of Self-knowledge, charity, sense restraint, sacrifice, study of the scriptures, austerity, honesty; nonviolence, truthfulness, absence of anger, renunciation, equanimity, abstaining from malicious talk, compassion for all creatures, freedom from greed, gentleness, modesty, absence of fickleness, splendor, forgiveness, fortitude, cleanliness, absence of malice, and absence of pride, these are some of the qualities of those endowed with divine virtues, O Arjuna. (16.01-03)"

    The Spiritual seeker attempts to apply these principles as much as is practically possible in the particular circumstances he finds himself. Of course, we fail in many respects, and from these failures we learn and grow. In a sense Morality is Absolute in that it stems from knowledge of God, yet we must apply it in a Relative way specific to our environment. Morality is difficult for most people but becomes natural and instinctive as one progresses Spiritually.

    Life After Death - Upon death, we find that our Subtle Bodies and Consciousness leaves the physical body, finding itself outside the body yet still very much alive. Generally a bright light will shine to lead the Soul towards the higher worlds (generally the Astral Dimensions), often there are loved ones waiting to help with this crossing over. The light is an actual Conscious entity, many people will perceive it as an Angel, Christ or God. The light beams out unimaginable Love to the Soul, which is beyond anything experienced during physical life (for most of us, there are those that can experience this on earth).

    Some Souls either reject the light or don't notice it and either become lost in the physical world, or in a dark mind created hell in the lower Astral planes. These are known as lost Souls and are known to sometimes cause trouble to people with Drug and Alcohol problems, eating disorder, other mental illnesses and those that play with Ouija boards or attempt amateur séances. However, these "lost souls" will eventually call out for help, at which point help arrives, and they move on to the process which should have started at death.

    Upon entering the light, the Soul is given a Life-Review, whereby they re-experience every detail of their entire life, feeling the consequence of all their action, thoughts and words on others, seeing the full chain reaction of their life. Depending on their state of Consciousness (not merely an intellectual state, more to do with the realization of Love and it's practical application) they most likely spend time in an Astral Heaven with beings of a similar level of development, such a life will be wonderful by comparison to Earthly life and will not simply be a holiday as such, but will involve work and development of a sort. Eventually, most Souls will choose to re-enter a Physical world to continue their Spiritual Evolution.

    Some advanced Souls may move beyond the Astral plane to Higher Spiritual worlds, of which we can hardly envision. And some, fully realized beings will either immerse themselves in the Infinite, or choose a place to serve God whilst remaining fully liberated.

    There is no eternal separation from God for those who reject Him whilst on Earth, their is however Divine Justice which in perfect balance and as an emanation from Divine Love brings consequences for selfish actions performed on earth.
    This view of the Afterlife is supported by the majority of NDE's (there are a few exceptions), accounts of Astral travel, reports through Mediumship and Trance, accounts of various Mystics from various cultures and time periods, and the Sacred writings of many different Sects.

    (This will be useful in discussion as you seem to advocate a mixture of Eastern Mysticism and New Age philosophy)

    "2. " you must completely misrepresent the worldviews of others"

    Specifics?"

    The Greg Bahnsen website claimed that a Christian worldview needed to be presupposed for any philosophical debate. This assumes that the Christian worldview is the only Spiritual worldview available as an alternative to the Naturalistic worldview. I would like to challenge this. Virtually all attempts to discredit Non-Christian worldviews by Christian Apologetics that I have seen have misrepresented the doctrines and beliefs of others in the process (whether or not this is deliberate I cannot say).

    "3. "But a New Age / Eastern Mystical Worldview can answer all those problems, as well as the problems of Christianity."

    a. We shall see...
    b. Specifics?"

    There is not the room for this here, but we can begin dialogue if you wish. Just quickly, the major problem of Orthodox Christianity is the problem of eternal separation from God for the unsaved. This proposes an Infinite punishment for a Finite crime. Further more, many Non-Christians are devoted to Love, Truth, Peace & Justice. Simply defining Non-Christians as being Sinners who have rejected God is over simplistic. I wrote an article on this: (http://theparadigmexperiment.blogspot.com/2008/10/philosophical-problems-with-traditional.html).

    4. "That was a terrible argument, typical of Apologetics, logical fallacies and circular reasoning."

    "Your answer is typical of those who say Christians "misrepresent the worldviews of others"... and give no specifics",

    Well, comments in these sections are generally rather brief. You guys can comment without specifics because you generally all share similar beliefs, as I'm on your ground (so to speak it is fair enough that you ask for more information, however there are space and time restraints).

    "then go on to suggest their own worldview (even one which on the surface seems to be a conglomeration of other's worldviews, without providing either the basis for belief or the specifics related to the belief)"

    Question, have you examined the common elements in the Mystical traditions? Many people accuse me of having a pick and choose belief system, but closer examination changes this. I think you will find their is no contradiction between the Advaita-Vedanta philosophy and the New Age teachings (I define New Age slightly different to other, I can explain this later).

    “has all the answers and can stand the test of scrutiny.”

    Well, I believe it has and can, and I welcome dialogue.

    "4. "Mystics from many ages and lands have proclaimed that there is a reality beyond the world of appearances."

    It's interesting that the "reality" referred to or described by mystics is usually never the same."

    On the contrary, there is a remarkable consistency in their teachings, they do naturally use different symbols and culturally specific language however.

    “Besides this, mystics have no basis for knowing that their "reality" is other than their own imagination or deception.”

    Well, this can be thrown straight back at you. Off course you have arguments for your worldview, I similarly have some for mine. We can discuss this over time if your willing.

    Thank you for your time,
    I look forward to talking in greater detail in the future.
    God Bless,
    Jim Clark

    Puritan Lad said...

    Jim Clark: "From my previous dialogues with Christian's, I see that most Christians view the Bible as God's revelation to Man, hence this is seen as the Absolute knowledge. I challenge this view, as do many others."

    Is that a "subjective truth" or an "objective truth"

    Truth is never subjective, by definition.

    swordbearer said...

    Jim,

    First, let me thank you for your substantive response. It was helpful. I will do my best to address your positions (instead of generic ones) though just as you have “never studied formal, classical western philosophy” , I do not claim infallibility in distinguishing between eastern religious beliefs and particularly those which may not be “purist” in the sense they combine some aspects of various worldviews, so please feel free to correct me on your specific views and we’ll move on. Hopefully, through dialogue we can better understand and evaluate each other’s beliefs and truth claims.

    I have several questions for you:
    1. Would you agree with the statement that “to realize one’s oneness with the cosmos is to pass beyond evil; and the cosmos is perfect at every moment”?
    2. What is the ultimate ground/basis for ethics and morality? What is the motivation for a person doing good?
    3. Is it important for a person to choose good over evil, truth over falsehood, etc.? How does one know that the opposite might not be a better or swifter path to reaching their goal?
    4. Should one alleviate suffering in the world?
    5. Is Brahman personal or impersonal?
    6. If love is an attribute of Brahman, is Justice? Power? Goodness? Truth?
    7. If forgiveness is a quality of those who possess divine virtues, then doesn’t Brahman have to distinguish(judgment, values, justice, etc.
    8. You quote that “…freedom from greed, gentleness, modesty, absence of fickleness, splendor, forgiveness, fortitude, cleanliness, absence of malice, and absence of pride,…” are some qualities of those who possess divine virtues. Does this mean Brahman distinguishes in these areas? If one shows malice to another individual, is there no justice to the individual to whom malice is done? If so, how?
    9. If Brahman is not just being, but creates
    10. You have defined the nature of man. Would you present your view of the origin and purpose of man?
    11. What do you mean by “for most of us” when you state “… Subtle-Bodies which exist beyond the scope of the naked eye (for most of us)…”
    12. If the goal is to pass beyond personality and distinction, why do acknowledge and give yourself to these things at all?
    13. As far as epistemology, how do you know that your reason and logic is not an illusion (and that science itself is not part of that illusion)?
    14. On what basis are your holy texts to be accepted as truth?
    15. On what basis can one determine the credibility of near death experience reports?
    16. If “The light beams out unimaginable Love to the Soul,” does this include all souls and does it include include love toward those “invididual characteristics and tendencies” that are not in keeping with qualities of divine virtues?
    17. On what grounds do you challenge that the Bible is God’s revelation to man?
    18. If Brahman created human beings, what stops Brahman from taking on human form himself?

    Puritan Lad said...

    Jim Clark: "In short, there are a number of different approaches I take in arguing for the Eastern / New Age worldview. You have philosophical points, using reason and logic,"

    Response: How can you support the ideas of "reason" and "logic" in a worldview where sensory experience is an illusion?

    Jim Clark: "you have Scientific evidence which supports this worldview."

    Response: I beleived that this has been addressed here before, but...

    a.) What Scientific Evidence?

    b.) How can you support the use of "science" in a worldview where sensory experience is an illusion, where the physical universe is merely an illusion, and where uniformity cannot be proven?

    Jim Clark: "You have anecdotal reports of individual experiences. Some of these reports have particular importance, such as Near Death Experience reports."

    Response: If this were a valic argument, then Christianity has more. However, this is known as a Argumentum ad verecundiam. Finding people who agree with a worldview is not proof of it's truth. I'm convinced that a person can come up with the most absurd and ridiculous theory imaginable, and still find a number of followers, including many with PhDs.

    Jim Clark said...

    Hi guys,
    Great to hear back from you again. Swordbearer, I'm going to take my time to respond to your comments, but will do so soon.
    Puritan:

    "Truth is never subjective, by definition."

    Well yes, the word Truth implies Absolute nature, however to live in this world it is essential to have Relative Application of Perception of Truth as well. So yes, truth doesn't change, but perception and application of it does. When someone says Relative truth this is implied, rather than having to state application and perception every time.

    Surely, you understand that a black & white approach to life is impossible, let alone philosophically flawed. Question, did you read my article? I raised a few brief examples in it, I could produce more if it helps.

    "Response: How can you support the ideas of "reason" and "logic" in a worldview where sensory experience is an illusion?"

    The above question shows your failure to undestand the concept. If this concept is not grapsed than virtually everything I say will be misunderstood, let alone all Mystical teachings and most of New Age.

    In relation to your last two questions (about Scientific and Anecdotal evidence), I will address them briefly in my lengthy reply to Swordbearers comments.

    God Bless

    Jim Clark said...

    Swordbear,
    In response to your questions:

    "1. Would you agree with the statement that “to realize one’s oneness with the cosmos is to pass beyond evil; and the cosmos is perfect at every moment”?"

    In the Absolute sense yes, this is the teachings of which I follow. All existence is seen as merely a Dream within the mind of God, however God does not change His Absolute nature as a result of the dream. In Him, there is no Evil, so in Self-Realization evil does not exist, there is no duality (hence Advaita-Non Dual-Not Two). However, there is the Relative truth that Duality appears to exist in the realms of manifestation (which are in the Absolute sense seen as dreams).

    It is clear that there is much suffering and ignorance in the world (Christians use the term Sin rather than Ignorance). It is an unavoidable philosophical point that God must in some way allow for this, regardless of which belief system you follow. Christians explain this by saying that God had to allow free will for meaningfull existence and both a portion of Angels and Mankind in general chose to rebell against God and thus Sin was created, Evil came into existence. Similarly my belief system (I will clarify here for future understanding that I use the phrase New Age slightly different to many in that I gound it firmly in Eastern Mysticism, it is true that the New Age movement is currently not well defined in some regards, and it has lower aspects of which I am personally quite critical, ie soft, wishy-washy, selfish (ie The Secret)) holds that Duality and free will is essential for meaningful existence in this world. We must accept that although there is much imperfection in this world, God made it possible, thus in a way it is perfect at every moment, despite the problems. This should not take away from the striving to make the world a better place, more that regardless of what appears to be going on in this world, there is always purpose and meaning to be found in these lessons of life.

    "2. What is the ultimate ground/basis for ethics and morality? What is the motivation for a person doing good?"

    Knowledge of our true nature as Spirit, and thus knowledge of God. Recognising ourselves as Spirit we know we are not merely the Physical body, and we are not merely our Minds or Feelings, and thus to live merely for the physical body is living in illusion / avidya. Recognizing that the same Spirit dwells within all beings and that there is an interconnection between all life, it is a natural consequence to therefore serve all beings instead acting in ways that appears to gratify oneself at the expense of others. And, this knowledge states that true peace is found when you dwell constantly in the Spirit, so by giving up selfishness completely you gain the greatest thing in existence, Self-Realization, eternal Bliss, Peace, Joy and Love beyond intellectual comprehension.

    The Tao Te Ching gives an interesting point on Morality, it states that the lowest form of morality is doing good for fear of being punished, then doing good because you think you should, then doing it out of love and compassion, then finally doing it because it is natural and instinctive as their is no other option. This final state is the Non-Dual state refered to by Mystics. I see no difference in my explanation above to saying that the basis for morality is love of God. Love, Devotion, Selfless action, True Knowledge / Wisdom and Self-Realization are all One.

    "3. Is it important for a person to choose good over evil, truth over falsehood, etc.?"

    This is continually stressed through the Scriptures that I adhere to, as deliberate righteousness is a stepping stone to instinctive morality. In practical terms, I can back this up in my own life (I am not saying I am Self-Realized, in fact far from it. Only that morality come naturally after practicing if for extended periods of time.)

    "How does one know that the opposite might not be a better or swifter path to reaching their goal?"

    Well take Satanism (the genuine Religion started by Anton LeVey) for example, it encourages selfish action, hate, anger and abuse of the body. All these things lead to personal unhappiness, let alone the denegration of Society. Satanism is a philosophy of Ego, the direct opposite of true Spirituality.

    "4. Should one alleviate suffering in the world?"

    Yes, this is stressed by most of the great teachers. There are a handful of so-called Realized Masters who seem ambigous on this (Osho for example), I am skeptical of these people, but I will not make further judgment as I have not looked to deeply into these cases.

    All the Scriptures which I adhere to constantly stress the importance of serving others. Surely relieving suffering of all beings is the foundation of Buddhism, yes? Buddhism is extremely closely related to Hindu Advaita-Vedanta/Yoga/Tantra. Yes, Buddhist's have philosophical disputes with Hindu's, but the common ground is very firm.

    Here's the thing, in the Absolute sense there is no liberation, no bondage. No enlightenment, no ignorance. However, in the Relative sense we do not realize this, thus we must strive for the eradication of ignorance and it's consequences, and for the realization of truth. However, also, we must acknowledge that all things have meaning and purpose, this life has purpose.

    So we should be balanced between wanting to transcend the problems of this world, and simultaneously accepting and joyously embracing this life. The Yoga Vasistha say's something along the lines of "Truth is found halfway between the Real and the Unreal", ie a balance of Absolute and Relative truth.

    "5. Is Brahman personal or impersonal?"

    Impersonal, however this doesn't mean devoid of Consciousness, or uncaring. It does mean however devoid of Name, Form or limitations. Personality is usually associated with limitations, strengths and weaknesses, ultimately God must be Infinite by definition. Infinity is by definition impossible to understand intellectually, as our normal states of consciousness rely upon limitations of Space and Time. It is possible to use Infinity philosophically to compare different models, however we can only approach it intellectually, we can not enter into it through reason and logic. Those that have deep Spiritual experiences say that there experiences cannot be described fully in words, as Space and Time were not restrictions during the experience.

    This also does not mean that God cannot take Personal form or that we cannot experience God personally.

    "6. If love is an attribute of Brahman, is Justice? Power? Goodness? Truth?"

    Yes, these are some of the attributes of God.

    "7. If forgiveness is a quality of those who possess divine virtues, then doesn’t Brahman have to distinguish(judgment, values, justice, etc."

    See below.

    "8. You quote that “…freedom from greed, gentleness, modesty, absence of fickleness, splendor, forgiveness, fortitude, cleanliness, absence of malice, and absence of pride,…” are some qualities of those who possess divine virtues. Does this mean Brahman distinguishes in these areas?"

    I'm not quite sure what the question is, except to say that to reach the state of the Absolute one must eradicate the lower tendencies and cultivate the higher. Once this state is reached, there exists no alternative.

    "If one shows malice to another individual, is there no justice to the individual to whom malice is done? If so, how?"

    There is always justice, no one ever gets away with anything, regardless of how it appears. This is not to say that there is no forgiveness or transmutation of karma. The exact workings of Divine Justice is not for me to say exactly, except to say that the consequences must always be in proportion to the crime/sin/action for it to be Justice. This is in contrast to revenge, which is done out of anger and is often unproportional to the origional action.

    There are slightly different theories as to the workings of Karma, but I will leave this for today as it would take some time, and I am not an expert in this area.

    "9. If Brahman is not just being, but creates"

    I think you left this question unfinished.

    "10. You have defined the nature of man. Would you present your view of the origin and purpose of man?"

    Well, this is an open question for me. I do not believe we have enough evidence to say exactly. The Naturalistic explanation of mainstream Science fails in many ways, however it does give much information for consideration. The Creationist / Literal Biblical version similarly fails in many ways. New Age has a general Creation Myth which involves the emanation from thought/idea to substance, and eventual immersion in matter and subsequent forgetfullness of our true nature. This is all very complex, so I will leave most of it for today.

    However, I will say this:
    1) I believe this current Universe is most likely at least Billions of years old, maybe Trillions, maybe Eternal and Infinite. I thoroughly reject the young earth theory.
    2) I believe Man has purpose and meaning.
    3) I believe that life adapts Consciously (not necessarily with Self-Consciousness), and I believe that this is what the overall evidence supports.

    "11. What do you mean by “for most of us” when you state “… Subtle-Bodies which exist beyond the scope of the naked eye (for most of us)…”"

    I mean that some people possess the ability to see the Subtle bodies, whilst to most they are invisible. This ability can be developed by anyone, but it comes naturally to some, particularly it goes through the family.

    "12. If the goal is to pass beyond personality and distinction, why do acknowledge and give yourself to these things at all?"

    This can only be understood with a concept of both Absolute and Relative truths. If you haven't already read my article (http://theparadigmexperiment.blogspot.com/2009/01/absolute-relative-truths-do-you-have-to_16.html) on this can I recommend that you do, although I'm thinking I'm going to have to write a part two to it.

    "13. As far as epistemology, how do you know that your reason and logic is not an illusion (and that science itself is not part of that illusion)?"

    I'm really not sure what your asking here. Can you clarify?

    "14. On what basis are your holy texts to be accepted as truth?"

    I believe they are philosophically sound, consistent with experience and often contain truths which have only recently been varified. However, I do not expect the Universal acceptance of particular texts as infallable in the same way that Christians expect it of the Bible. More overall, I argue for the general acceptance of the principles and teachings found in them, rather than individual Scriptures. You will see that ISKON (the Hare Krishnas) have similar reasoning for their teachings to those adopted by Christian Apologists, I do not advocate their approach either.

    "15. On what basis can one determine the credibility of near death experience reports?"

    In many cases they occur whilst Doctors and Nurses declare the person to be medically dead (ie no heart-beat, breathing or brainwaves). Going further, in many cases the person is resucitated after a significant period of time has passed. Tests have been done whereby those that experienced a NDE and claimed to have witnessed their own rescusitation from outside the body have been asked to give descriptions of the process and this description has been compared to the guesses of the general public. Overwhelmingly those that had a NDE gave very accurate descriptions, compared to the guesses of the general public which for the main part were generally wrong. Many Doctors and Nurses have described how upon rescucitation the patient was able to describe things that were said and done in other rooms of the hospital well away from the patient, as the patient described leaving his/her body and traveling in the Subtle bodies.

    The vast majority of NDE accounts support the New Age version of the afterlife. Some Christians have proposed that these accounts are Demonic illusions, but I see this as Absurd. I have written several posts on NDE's on my blog.

    "16. If “The light beams out unimaginable Love to the Soul,” does this include all souls and does it include include love toward those “invididual characteristics and tendencies” that are not in keeping with qualities of divine virtues?"

    People who have had these experiences say that they did not feel judged by the light, but recieved complete acceptance and compassion. So yes. This does not mean that there is no Justice, or consequences for our actions however.

    "17. On what grounds do you challenge that the Bible is God’s revelation to man?"

    Well, in my opinion Biblical Apologetics is built mostly upon circular reasoning and logical fallacies. The arguments used to support the infallability of the Bible are weak and can all be individually addressed. I have found in previous dialogues with Christians that when I have questioned the Bible that I have hit a brickwall and the dialogue has ended. I have been told repeatedly that "The Bible has withstood countless attacks, and countered them all". I would hope that you would be willing to discuss the Bible in detail over a period of time with me so that we all can move forward in our work.

    "18. If Brahman created human beings, what stops Brahman from taking on human form himself?"

    Many people believe He can, the most common explanation for Avatars such as Krishna are as personal manifestations of God. Whether or not God can take human form is not for me to say, however I am willing to discuss it further.
    As for Jesus, I see good enough reason to question outright Historical existence, let alone question literal Christian doctrine as to his Divinity.

    Can I recommend that you read the Bhagavad-Gita (the following link has an excellent translation: http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/gita/agsgita.htm If you read a different version just steer clear of the ISKON (Hare Krishna) version, as it is very poor). It contains answers to many of these questions, it constantly stresses the importance of morality, serving others and devotion to God. I have for quite some time held the Gita as my favourite Scripture and it is the foundation of my belief system.

    I am not the most well qualified person to comment on the exact nature of Brahman, I do feel however that I can help dispell common misconceptions. Many times the concept of Brahman is confused with the neutral concept of the Absolute as put forth by some Occultists. Such a neutral (good and evil being part of the same thing) approach is only put forth by those that practice Black-Magic, and is intrinsically different to the concept of the non-existence of Evil in the Absolute.

    My hope is that extended dialogue can lead to a greater understanding from all sides of the issues at hand. I am also very interested to see whether resolution is possible to some of these questions, whether the arguments can be taken to a logical conclusion. For this to happen, both sides would have to be willing to admit when and where they are wrong. In this regard I lay down a challenge to everyone, if your beliefs are true than they should withstand all criticism. Similarly, my goal is to be a genuine truthseeker without bias, so I welcome criticism as I believe that truth should be able to counter all responses. Of course, these dialogues can go on forever without conclusion, so I'm particularly interested in focussing on the primary issues, and attempting to bring them to conclusion.

    As you can see I have left a few questions open for space and time reasons, but if you insist I am happy to pursue them further. Also, Puritan, I'm running out of time for today, so I'm going to have to answer the rest of your questions later. I thank you all for taking the time to speak with me, and I look forward to further discussions in the future.

    God Bless

    swordbearer said...

    Jim,

    How does one know that God is love? (and that he loves humanity)?

    Jim Clark said...

    "How does one know that God is love? (and that he loves humanity)?"

    Primarily from personal experience, also the anecdotal accounts of others, various sacred writings and various philosophical arguments. A common element of all the Spiritually advanced people that I know and have met is that they give out an Unconditional Love. The major common element of Spiritual experiences is the feelings of Love, warmth and peace that envelop you.

    I do not believe we should base our arguments upon a particular text or story, but on overall combination of several factors. For the individual, one Spiritual experience is all it takes to convince you. For arguing in public, a multi-faceted approach is necessary. I believe the formal reporting of NDE's in todays world is a major step in this.

    God Bless

    swordbearer said...

    Jim,

    You mentioned you would explain why it is that you must combine new age philosophy with eastern mysticism and how you believe they fit together. Would you do that for us?

    swordbearer said...

    Jim,
    I'd also be interested in hearing you define man's relationship with Brahman.

    Jim Clark said...

    Hello again everyone,
    Swordbearer, you asked:

    "You mentioned you would explain why it is that you must combine new age philosophy with eastern mysticism and how you believe they fit together. Would you do that for us?"

    Ok, as I believe in an Universal truth it makes sense that you would expect this Universal truth to be discovered by various people of different cultures at different times. In Material Science, two seperate individuals can set out to study the same topic independantly in different places and different times, if they both can set up the experiment correctly and control the variable then theoretically they should achieve the same results.

    Many scholars when comparing different Religious traditions focus on precise doctrines, myths and cosmologies pointing out the differences between them. However, the Mystics of these various traditions have allways pronounced that Absolute truth is beyond words and description, and all teachings are merely analogies to attempt to bring the seeker into a personal realization of truth.

    From this perspective it can be seen that at the heart of many different Spiritual traditions is the proccess of transforming the Psyche, banishing all lower qualities and cultivating the higher, producing purity and clarity. Once this is achieved the Consciousness can be expanded until it realizes it's true nature as Infinite Spirit.

    The above teaching is found Universally in many (not all) traditions. Of course different Mystics use culturally specific language and mythology which produces differences in doctrines and dogmas when human intellect interferes with the Divine teachings.

    Now, nothing that I have stated above is in conflict with Advaita-Vedanta (the core of so called Hinduism, more correctly called Sanatan Dharma), traditionally Hinduism is very liberal and progressive, whilst simultaneously being very deep & solid philosophically and practically.

    As soon as one takes a syncretic approach to Spirituality you are automatically in the realm of New Age. I consider myself a follower of Vedanta, yet I recognise the same wisdom in other teachings. If you were to attempt to write 1 book with all the knowledge in the world, you would soon find that you had written a million pages and not covered 1%. The Yoga Vasistha states that all teachings are merely word games to try and get the student into the Non-Dual state, so they themselves will know the truth.

    Now, in traditional India for example, before being qualified to learn and practice the various Yogic disciplines, you were required to fulfill basic prerequisites, in Yoga the first two steps were Yama and Niyama (moral codes and personal disciplines). Now, many people in todays western world would struggle to meet these prerequisites. For attaining this initial state we have more basic Spiritual teachings and principles to assist with the practical day to day issues. In todays world there are countless new modalities popping up, some of which are quite good. Essentially where I see New Age and Mysticism fitting in is that New Age gets one ready for Mysticism, New Age deals specifically with the precise and diverse issues facing individuals today. Alternatively, Mysticism is more focussed on the end goal, not saying it doesn't have immediate practical effects, more that it is very strict, too much so for many people.

    I am involved with the Satyananda Saraswati Yoga lineage, and I attend a local ashram when I can. In some ways it is too strict for many people, personally I love it. I also attend Spiritualist Churches, I see no problem with this.

    The traditional Yogic texts warn us not to specifically chase after siddh'is (for those of you that aren't familiar with the term, it's a sankrit word meaning perfection, used to signify a Psychic or Miraculous power), mentioning that they can be hindrences along the path. Spiritualism does specifically teach people to develop Psychic abilities. So this may be percieved as an area of dispute between the two paths. However I do not see it that way. Chasing after power over others or nature is indeed a hindrence to spiritual growth, and some people achieve these abilities without having the psychological and spiritual maturity to use them productively. This can in fact be very dangerous and reap terrible consequences. I have met a few people for whom this is the case.

    However, Spiritualism does not advocate such an approach, the use of Mediumship and such is specifically focussed on the practical uses of them in helping people heal and move forward in their lives. Whilst I agree that a Liberated Being could probably help more than the average Medium or Healer, I think most people can understand the help from a Medium far more than if they went to an Ashram to speak with a Swami.

    The appearance of Siddhis does not specifically mean that the person possessing them is Spiritually advanced, as they can be forced in various ways. The Yogic path recomends that we allow them to arise and dissipate of their own accord, as part of the natural process of evolution. However, these Siddhis do have practical uses, and I think it's important not to ignore the Relative whilst pursuing the Absolute. As we can't all live in Ashrams, there has to be true Spiritual teachings and practices available for all people, regardless of where they are at on their journey.

    There are many fields of knowledge that have sprung up that didn't exist in ancient times (as far as we know), so I see it as natural that we allow new information to grow, whilst keeping a solid basis in the unchanging Absolute truth.

    I hope this helps you to understand my view.
    Take care,
    God Bless

    Jim Clark said...

    "I'd also be interested in hearing you define man's relationship with Brahman."

    On a basic level our relationship can be expressed in relation of various analogies. The Father / Child analogy has been used in various cultures. We worship God, pray to God and Meditate upon Him. We recognise that what we percieve as ourselves is merely a finite form, part of His dream, but that our true nature is in His eternal Spirit.

    The deeper explanation of this is beyond me, you would need to speak to someone with a higher realization then myself to get a more thorough explanation.

    We see the hand of God in our lives, guiding us and supporting us, leading other to us that can help us in our path, and vice versa.

    God Bless

    Jim Clark said...

    Hi again,
    In response to Puritan's questions from yesterday:

    "Jim Clark: "you have Scientific evidence which supports this worldview."

    Response: I beleived that this has been addressed here before, but...

    a.) What Scientific Evidence?"

    Parapsychology, check out Dean Radin for example. This is not pseudo-science, but serious and valid Scientific Investigation. NDE accounts, there are many facets of this that provide strong evidence particularly for a New Age view of Consciousness. In this regard, the overwhelming evidence supports an relationship of correlation between Mind and Brain, whereby Brain is not the Cause of Consciousness.

    "b.) How can you support the use of "science" in a worldview where sensory experience is an illusion, where the physical universe is merely an illusion, and where uniformity cannot be proven?"

    The above question is invalid, as it shows you do not undestand the difference between Absolute and Relative perspectives.

    "Jim Clark: "You have anecdotal reports of individual experiences. Some of these reports have particular importance, such as Near Death Experience reports."

    Response: If this were a valic argument, then Christianity has more. However, this is known as a Argumentum ad verecundiam. Finding people who agree with a worldview is not proof of it's truth. I'm convinced that a person can come up with the most absurd and ridiculous theory imaginable, and still find a number of followers, including many with PhDs."

    A worldview should fit the facts, and information that cannot be studied Objectively should not be dismissed. Allowing for bias and variation in modes of reporting, anecdotal accounts are still very important, particularly for an individual.

    For example, countless times I have had experiences that could be referred to as "Supernatural", these for me give me Absolute proof of the existence of the Supernatural, however for someone else my accounts will not hold the same weight.

    Overall, however, when you consider that the majority of people have these experiences to some degree or another then they should be considered important.

    In regards to who has the most anecdotal evidence, well Christians can give their interpretation of the experiences of non-christians, and New Agers can give their interpretation, the question is then how do you determine which is correct. I believe reason can help in this regard.

    I wont assume to know at this point how you would argue this point, but in the past all Christians I have spoken with have used the Bible as the claim that their knowledge was Objective and hence dismissed others knowledge as Subjective. I believe this is shaky ground, as Apologetics is a flawed field, and the arguments can be countered.

    God Bless

    swordbearer said...

    Jim,
    Thanks for your responses. I will respond soon.

    Puritan Lad said...

    Jim Clark: "Parapsychology, check out Dean Radin for example. This is not pseudo-science, but serious and valid Scientific Investigation. NDE accounts, there are many facets of this that provide strong evidence particularly for a New Age view of Consciousness."

    Response: That's a matter of opinion. Perhaps you are unaware of the mountains of evidence that point to the failures of any sort of psychology. I'll need more than that.

    Jim Clark: "The above question [regarding the justification of science in an Eastern Worldview] is invalid, as it shows you do not undestand the difference between Absolute and Relative perspectives."

    Response: Teach me. I'm a willing learner, but don't send me a bunch of links. Short simple answers will do, assuming you have an answer. (All questions are valid. Perhaps you jusst don't like the question).

    Jim Clark: "A worldview should fit the facts, and information that cannot be studied Objectively should not be dismissed. Allowing for bias and variation in modes of reporting, anecdotal accounts are still very important, particularly for an individual... Overall, however, when you consider that the majority of people have these experiences to some degree or another then they should be considered important.

    Response: Your begging the question. So far, I haven't seen any facts. What about the millions who claim to have been born by the Spirit of the Christian God of the Bible? On what basis will you reject the importance of their claims.

    Jim Clark: "In regards to who has the most anecdotal evidence, well Christians can give their interpretation of the experiences of non-christians, and New Agers can give their interpretation, the question is then how do you determine which is correct. I believe reason can help in this regard."

    Response: You haven't given any reason", only unsubstantiated assertions. Beside, still haven't justified reason, logic, or sensory experience in your worldview.

    Jim Clark: "I wont assume to know at this point how you would argue this point, but in the past all Christians I have spoken with have used the Bible as the claim that their knowledge was Objective and hence dismissed others knowledge as Subjective. believe this is shaky ground, as Apologetics is a flawed field,"

    Response: Another unsubstantiated assertion.

    Jim Clark: "and the arguments can be countered."

    Response: Which is exactly what I'm waiting for you to do.

    swordbearer said...

    Jim,
    I thank you for sharing your thoughts and positions with us, and as I’ve given you an in-depth hearing, so too, I hope you will do the same with me, for I found your expression of an “open policy to new information”, your commitment to being a truth-seeker without bias, as well as your expressed and repeated desire to attain resolution on issues under discussion.

    I see that you are not only an intellectual but a man who is very religious, even confident of your ability to dispel many misconceptions, yet still admittedly unknowing and/or unsure in several key areas (uncertain as to creation; uncommittal as to the purpose of man; holding scruples as to God’s judgment; knowing yourself “not the most qualified” to comment on God’s nature, even confessing that aspects of relational knowledge with God are “beyond you”, etc.) What you worship without comprehension and confidence I am going to proclaim to you, for reasonable men would agree that credible worship demands a person know who it is they worship, and whereas you not only cannot name him but declare he cannot be named, I proclaim to you the true and living God whose glory includes his searching out and being intimately known among men.

    The maker of the world and everything in it is the God of limitless truth and holiness and not only does not create that which is illusory (/false) but opposes all which is evil (not of truth and righteousness), and thereby does not delight in the continuing collective wisdom (/fabrications) of man that are not in keeping with his truth nor does he approve of or accept the attitudes and sacrifices of all those who oppose the truth, no matter how rigorous or acetic they may be. While in times past, God in his patience bore and overlooked such ignorance and rebellion in anticipation of the fuller revelation of himself in his Son and of the future judgment that would come through his Son, the proof and testimony of which he has provided by raising him from the dead, God now calls all men to repentance. In the cross is found not only the infinite justice of God whereby he will not allow the guilty to go unpunished, but also infinite love of God where He himself in the person of His Son has provided the atonement needed by man but which we could not provide for ourselves It is in looking to both – the love and justice of God – that one is able not only to admit the willful (not just ignorant) aspect of his actions but also to find outside of himself a Savior who perfectly meets his needs.

    I encourage you to take to heart the matters I’ve spoken of as they will not only set you free from the endless search for new ideas, but will provide peace, rest and satisfaction to your soul which comes only through Christ.

    In His service and for His glory.