Tuesday, October 16, 2007

stepping towards God

There’s some conversation on the net I breezed through concerning god (little “g” on purpose for the moment). No links, not needed. This woman is going through 12-steps as a spouse – husband’s a heroin addict trying to pull his life together.

I know from discussion that God is and through the 12-step program because of my teaching. Atheists have tried to can the government support of the program based upon the Separation and Establishment Clauses, but to no avail – the government just cannot do the job without them (AA, Nar-Anon, etc). I have never read the program or even a description of it. Alright, FINE. HERE. A description of the 12 Step program. Happy?

These are the original Twelve Steps as suggested by Alcoholics Anonymous (Narcotics Anonymous changes in parentheses).

1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol (over the Addict)—that our lives had become unmanageable.

2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

6. Were [We’re?] entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His Will for us and the power to carry that out.

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics (to others), and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Well, seems the God-less out there have a point – sure be a lot of God being established and not separated in them thar steps. Bummer that, eh?

Where was I? Oh yeah, I was marginally in this conversation. This woman is going through the program for the support she receives. Tough situation for her, but seems dedicated. So she is on Step 3 (I don’t know, but I believe that she completed the program before) and she writes, “I gotta figure out what god is, give my life to that person, place, or thing, and render some writing about it fit to show folks at tomorrow's meeting.” (Step 3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.)

Fair enough. But I was struck by two things. First, she presented God as a common noun. Elsewhere, same post, “… it isn't always so goddamned complicated.” I always cringe when I see God’s name slapped around like that. I know it’s common, I know most people doing it really do not mean it as insulting to God – I know all of that, but it doesn’t lessen my reaction.

So I left a comment: “the first step in understanding god is to spell it with a capital g ... God.”

Comment from an interested 3d party comes in, and I respond with, “i consider God to be a discrete entity - although you are correct in that He may not be classified as a person, place, or thing. but isn't that a noun? can we not use a capital to denote honor, or to suggest a specific entity, like a name which just so happens to also be a common noun? there are, afterall, many competing gods through history. my point, … is that, for me, the first step to understanding God is to remove this entity from a common designation, and thereby begin to give Him a shape, a form, a physical presence in my life. i then can learn and attribute to Him qualities. i am not making those up out of convenience - i am searching the Bible to understand. in the end result, yes, i have imbued quite a human form upon God - but i can't relate to a cloud, i don't feel responsible to an ethereal mist.”

Another poster adds, in part, “Have you ever read the Bible? I am not being rude, just curious.”

The owner of the site then writes, “It's good you've found your God, Clyde. Mine is more of that ethereal mist kind...and that disembodied thing isn't interested in capitalization.

“Just so you folks know, all further debate in these comments is stopping...looks like it's going in a direction that my god isn't interested in having me go.” She was nice about it. Even added, “Love you guys!”

No hard feelings, but I was struck by something. It felt as if her quest to identify God was truly because she has to due to Step 3. There doesn’t seem to be any open inquiry, unless the inquiry leads to information consistent with her pre-existing feelings. Will that persist through Steps 5, 6, 7, and 11 as God makes more appearances?

I remember when, as an adult, I heard a sermon and let it resonate for months. It finally struck me. God finally got through my objections. Here’s the summary of it.

I spent lots of time reading about the alleged contradictions in the Bible, reading the “lost books,” comparing Greek translations and dismissing the entire KJV because the Lord’s Prayer is presented twice in identical English but the original Greek differs (somebody wrote what they wanted to write!).

Then this sermon comes along. The guy points out that no major religious figure ever claimed to be the Son of God except Jesus. Good point. Now, he went on, you can spend all the time you want working to disbelieve, working to find the faults, but let me ask you this: What if He (Jesus) is right? Can you really afford to be wrong?

It was a complete “duh” moment for me. I decided to stop fighting – just for the meantime – and focus purely on believing. The Bible began to talk to me. I saw through the parables, understanding their meaning before I ever read supporting materials to ensure my understanding was correct. I felt Paul in the Roman prison: the cold, damp cell, his hunger; his moments of loneliness.

You want to find out who God is? Quit arguing, quit applying your standards, drop your preconceived images. Open the Bible. I started with the NIV New Testament, but I avoided the Gospels. I didn’t feel it appropriate to Jesus’ words. I wanted the other guys. I read Galatians through Jude, skipping Hebrews.

The bottom of this page gives you full text chapter by chapter.

By the time I was done with those books, I found myself spiritually prepared to read the words of Jesus. It was the most amazing thing. So I read the Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Acts feel into place. I continued through the rest of the NT, re-reading the books I had finished not too long before, and then read Revelation.

Here’s the homepage to that link above with all different Bible versions in full text plus references to supplement your understanding.

What’s the best version? Whatever one speaks to you. No such thing as “one best one.” I just like the NIV.

Read a chapter or two a night. Ask God to help you understand it – before you start and after you are done. Night after night after night. After a month, you’ll already be several books into it.

I always find that reading an intro to a book sets the stage nicely. Here’s the same introduction I use for Galatians, and you can select any book under the drop downs for OT and NT.

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