“That of God” as a replacement for the soul

March 6, 2017 § 23 Comments

Traditional Christianity believes that humans have an immortal soul that is our identity before God, that God judges us (our soul) on the scales of our sinfulness and our faith, and that the soul suffers an ultimate and eternal fate based on that judgment. In this tradition, the soul is a spirit-reality that is separate from the body, which has somehow been “poured” into the body as a vessel. In life, the soul is capable of learning and of making moral choices, and it continues to exist after death, retaining consciousness, memory, and identity. In the afterlife, it is still capable of joy and of suffering.

Liberal Quakerism has pretty much rejected this paradigm with its obsession with sin and a judging God and we have jettisoned the soul along with it.

But it seems the liberal Quaker impulse still wants to retain some kind of transcendentalism that would elevate the human above the mere material. Without belief in a soul and a deity—or something equivalent—we would be a secular humanist society rather than a religion. A lot of us are actually quite uncomfortable with Quakerism as a “religion” and do think of us as a humanist society. But enough of us have enough of a “mystical” temperament to want some transcendentalism in our faith. And some of us have had actual mystical experiences that demand something more from Quakerism than soul-less humans and a secular humanist society.

I think that this is where Rufus Jones was coming from. Both a mystic and a scholar, he sought to understand the mystical experience, so he studied it. And in that study, especially his study of neoplatonism, he found the notion of the divine spark. He also wanted to place his own mystical experience in both the mystical traditions of the world (or at least, of the West) and in his own tradition of Quakerism. He accomplished this by defining “that of God” as a divine spark after the neoplatonists, even though George Fox never had any such idea in mind when he used the phrase. Thus was liberal Quaker “theology” born.

To satisfy this impulse to the transcendental that some of us feel, we liberal Friends have run with this idea. I think we have seized upon “that of God in everyone” partly as a replacement for the metaphysics of the soul and the sin-salvation paradigm it undergirds. We understand this “that of God” implicitly as a kind of divine spark, or at least as some aspect of the human that is capable of apprehending a spiritual reality, which was previously the function and demesne of the soul.  We have replaced belief in a soul with belief in “that of God in everyone”.

We also have replaced the theology of sin, judgment, and salvation through Christ’s atonement for our sins on the cross with an extremely simple theology that posits “that of God in everyone” as the source of our “mystical” experience, our testimonies, and just about everything else.

Both the soul and “that of God” are metaphysical speculations about the nature of the human. So far, liberal Friends have done little to elaborate on this speculation. Lots of questions remain unanswered. Where does the soul/that of God come from? The syntax of the phrase “that of God” suggests it comes from God, but we have done almost nothing to define the God that “that of God” is “that” of. We just glibly avoid the traditional theistic, supreme being definition.

And what about the afterlife? The primary and ultimate purpose of the soul, after all, is to give us a vehicle for life after death. Liberal Friends don’t talk much about the afterlife. I suspect that we don’t even think about it much. I think about death a lot, but not too much about life after death.

This is a natural consequence, I think, of our focus on direct, immediate experience of the Spirit. When what really matters is happening right here, in this life, in this body and mind, in this meeting for worship, in this moment, why fuss too much about the life after this body and life pass away?

“That of God” connects us to both the communion of the present and to a “Presence” that deserves a capital “P” but not much more detail than that. This connection partakes of the transcendental, if not of the eternal, much as the soul does. Did. It doesn’t get us to heaven, but it gets us somewhere in that direction. And it doesn’t get us to hell.

For another advantage of the soul cum that-of-God is that it’s not scary. The idea of a soul with an afterlife is scary; scary as hell. Who wouldn’t trade divine judgment for a nice little divine spark?

This fear helps to explain why, after decades of relying more and more on this little phrase, we have yet to elaborate on what “that of God in everyone” actually means. The vaguer it is, the nicer it is. Venture into the swamps of metaphysical speculation and you might just end up in hell. It’s going to be wet and nasty, for sure.

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§ 23 Responses to “That of God” as a replacement for the soul

  • It is this language of all-or-nothing light or darkness, good or evil that may fall heavy and foreign on our modern ears. We may not be at ease thinking of others or ourselves as sinful. If we have come from other than Quaker Christian traditions, traditions which claim that sin is inescapable throughout one’s life, it may seem an intolerable as well as archaic doctrine. If we neglect to learn what early Quakers meant by sin, we may miss out on the opportunity to grasp the message in their writings.

    from the essay “To Stand Still in the Light” at https://patradallmann.wordpress.com/

  • […] in everyone’ is dangerously specific, if not horrifyingly evangelical. Steven Davison in his Flaming Sword blog argues persuasively that while early Friends used ‘that of God’ in the context of a bigger […]

  • Jim Schultz says:

    Unless you understand that you are a soul and how it relates to your physical body, you are not going to understand who you are or why you do the things you do. The needs of our souls are completely different from the needs of our bodies. It is necessary to understand each in order to prioritize them when conflicts between those needs occur.

  • Jim Schultz says:

    I’m not sure what is meant by “Traditional” Christianity. Most denominations will claim that they are in lock step with traditional Christianity, unlike the church next door. To get any place you have to throw out all “traditional” Christianity concepts(creeds) and open yourself to a new revelation of soul and sin. The Quaker Process can handle that if we are honest with ourselves and each other.

  • Man, by nature, is dead in trespasses and sins; quite dead, and his conscience wholly dark. That which giveth him the sense of his death, and of his darkness, must be another thing than his nature, even the light of the spirit of Christ, shining in his dark heart and conscience. It is the seed of the woman which not only destroys, but also discovers, all the deeds of the serpent (Penington, Works, I, 113).

    The early Friends loved the truth and so were open to seeing themselves as they were without having known/received Christ, that is, as they were in the human condition. That willingness to see the truth of their fallen condition cleared the way for them to receive new life in Christ, the Truth. Once having received faith in Christ, they were in a new condition: no longer “born…of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (Jn.1:13),a new birth from “the higher power”:

    The soul must be in the higher power, higher than the flesh, which stains the man, spirit and body, and the powers of wickedness. So the light being turned to, man receiveth the spirit of God, which sanctifies him, the spirit of sanctification in Christ Jesus the sanctification and redemption. So every man that cometh into the world has a light from Christ Jesus, the way out of the fall, the second Adam, and receiving the light he receives his redemption and sanctification, whereby his spirit,body, and soul are sanctified (Fox, Works, 3, 168).

    • treegestalt says:

      It does depend utterly on what you mean by “by nature”. Human beings are not hatched fully-developed “by nature”; they don’t reach spiritual and/or ethical maturity except from a long nurturing processes. We aren’t naturally “natural” except as beings nourished by love, which ripens inwardly under influences from “outside”. But the seed of the Kingdom is “closer than our jugular vein” as the Koran has it. There is no life left sans God, so as to be “naturally” ‘dead in sins.’

      I’m not denying, of course, that the Children of God can be (and are) perfect brats while growing up…

  • Don Badgley says:

    This is deep stuff Friends. This blog post has helped me immensely and the comments that followed have as well. We seem somewhat hamstrung by the limitations of words and jargon and the desire to give more credence and authority to our long dead Quaker saints than to our own present Experience.

    If in fact, “the Spirit of Christ by which we are guided is not changeable”, then we need to trust to that. Regardless of our personal theology or resulting terminology, be it “soul” or “that of God”, the Experience of the Divine Source is a constant. It is transcendent, immanent, infinite and eternal. For me the fleeting moments I am given in the Light defy the limitations of words even as they call me toward a ministry, of words and behaviors, that proclaims the Light. Thus we gather. Thus we worship. Thus we order our lives. It is enough

  • kfsaylor says:

    I can testify to a witness of what “that of God” is. It is the direct and relatively continuous experience of immanent self-conscious being anchored in and the conscience being informed by and sustained itself in itself; so that conscious no longer takes up habitation in outward political, religious, and economic ideological and institutional constructs and sensation and perception for meaning, purpose, and identity. This is the eternal and essential nature of immanent self-sustaining. The direct experience of the inshining Light in the conscious and conscience (the seat of God or Immanent Presence) is the knowledge of eternal life even when the things of the bodily nature stop functioning. When there is no longer eyes to see, ears to hear, mouths to speak, tongues to taste, nerves for touch, a brain for reflecting thoughts, feelings, will, sensation and perception… when these have all stopped with the decay of the body, that Light (immanent Presence) that is experienced and discovered unto human beings in their conscious and conscience so that they live in that eternal Presence in their daily walk on this earth and in this time … that inshining Presence is the very conscious and conscience that sustains and carries over beyond the death of the physical body and all its functions. Salvation, consciousness is not lost it is saved, is discovered unto human being in the power of the visitation of the inshining Light upon and into the conscious and conscience. In this Light, I am come out of identification with outward forms and it is discovered unto me the second coming of Jesus Christ, which is come and is coming, that saved self-conscious itself in itself that discovers unto me even more … eternal life and heaven even here on earth in this time and in this moment. This Life that is “that of God” is transformed self-conscious being itself in itself that is experienced in itself to the knowledge and grace of salvation and resurrection.

  • Ellis Hein says:

    I have a couple of things upon to place in this comment.

    First, There is an excellent issue of QRT (Quaker Religious Thought) concerning That of God in Every Man — What Did George Fox Mean by It? The main article and rebuttals are by Lewis Benson, comments by T. Canby Jones and Francis Hall. It is Vol. 12, No. 2, Spring 1970 and reprinted in Autumn 1982.

    The other thing concerns Steven Davison’s account of the fear and trepidation liberal Friends have in approaching the subject of the soul and our accountability before our Creator. If you read the writings of the early Friends, you find ample testimony of the process they went through to be made into the people of God we can all admire today. Edward Burrough described it thus:

    “And by this light of Christ in us were we led out of all false ways, and false preachings, and from false ministers, and we met together often, and waited upon the Lord in pure silence from our own words, and all men’s words, and hearkened to the voice of the Lord, and felt his word in our hearts, to burn up and beat down all that was contrary to God; and we obeyed the light of Christ in us, and followed the motions of the Lord’s pure Spirit, and took up the cross to all earthly glories, crowns, and ways, and denied ourselves, our relations, and all that stood in the way betwixt us and the Lord; and we chose to suffer with and for the name of Christ, rather than enjoy all the pleasures upon earth, or all our former zealous professions and practices in religion without the power and spirit of God, which the world yet lives in. And while waiting upon the Lord in silence, as often we did for many hours together, with our minds and hearts toward him, being staid in the light of Christ within us, from all thoughts, fleshly motions, and desires, in our diligent waiting and fear of his name, and hearkening to his word, we received often the pouring down of the spirit upon us, and the gift of God’s holy eternal spirit as in the days of old, and our hearts were made glad, and our tongues loosed, and our mouths opened, and we spake with new tongues, as the Lord gave us utterance, and as his spirit led us, which was poured down upon us, on sons and daughters. And to us hereby were the deep things of God revealed, and things unutterable were known and made manifest; and the glory of the Father was revealed, and then began we to sing praises to the Lord God Almighty, and to the Lamb for ever, who had redeemed us to God, and brought us out of the captivity and bondage of the world, and put an end to sin and death; and all this was by and through, and in the light of Christ within us. And much more might be declared hereof, that which could not be believed if it were spoken, of the several and particular operations and manifestations of the everlasting spirit that was given us, and revealed in us.” (Works of Fox, Vol. III. p.13)

    Edward Burrough is not the only one that could be mentioned. Fox’s own process of being made fit for the ministry God gave him is another prominent example. So yes, there is a travail to undergo when we come to the light of Christ. But the outcome is worth it. For then we have a witness within us, the life and righteousness of Christ within us, that can’t be tarnished by all that the world can and does throw at us. (And no, this is not the same thing put forth by evangelicals. But that is another subject.) This life and righteousness of Christ within us is a living and growing reality that we must embrace by intent, that is, it doesn’t happen by accident. When you must, by definition of being a liberal Quaker, be vague and all embracing, you, again by definition, exclude the source of this very life and righteousness that made early Friends into the people of God. For the power of that life and right-standing before God comes only by turning to the light of Christ that calls us out death and darkness to be remade into the image of God.

    • treegestalt says:

      My wife’s Episcopalian rector said something once I believe is true: That every virtue has a ‘sinful’ distortion that resembles it very closely.

      When we strive to be perfectly righteous (or to be perfectly rebuilt in our image of what Christ ought to look like) we can indeed achieve the righteousness of the Pharisees.

      Even if we become “perfect” in the sense which Jesus actually specified: That we become like God in loving (genuinely well-wishing and supporting) each person, “Just” or “Unjust” — That does not happen “by accident” as you put it, but neither does it happen by deliberate striving.

      Defining for yourself what “a liberal Quaker” must necessarily mean, unnecessarily limiting what the true source of life and genuine righteousness must look like and how it needs must operate… you’re likely to miss chances to see the hand of God at work, loving (in the best sense) all people as-is. Yes, we shouldn’t be content with sinfulness, which implies harm to-self-and-others — but it’s a painful and harmful mistake to continually pick at what we take for imperfections in our making.

      Remember that one perfectly-legitimate interpretation of Genesis changes the familiar “In the Beginning God created” to “When God began to create,” implying that He ain’t done yet.

      • Ellis Hein says:

        Defining for myself what a liberal Quaker must necessarily mean was never my intent. I thought I was repeating back what I was reading in this blog post, in the comments preceding my comment, and in the posts from other blogs. If my definition is deficient, please correct it.

        Now to the issue of achieving righteousness and being remade into the image of God. Lewis Benson, in Catholic Quakerism, page 25, had this to say: “The gap between the vision of moral truth and the power to do it is the bugbear of Protestant ethics, but it is totally absent from the teaching of Fox, Penn and Penington. This leaves no room for the plea, “I know what God wants me to do but I haven’t the power to do it.” The choice is between obedience and disobedience. There is no third position where man is suspended between a vision of moral truth and a lack of moral power to perform it. Penington said, “as the soul in faith gives itself up to obey, so the power appears and works the obedience … the power never fails the faith.”‘” And Fox stated, “So here were three states and three teachers. God was the first teacher in paradise ; and whilst man kept under his teaching, he was happy. The serpent was the second teacher; and when man followed his teaching he fell into misery, into the fall from the image of God, righteousness, and holiness, and from the power that he had over all that God had made; and came under the serpent whom he had power over before. Christ Jesus was the third teacher ; of whom God saith, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, hear ye him :” and who himself saith, “Learn of me.” This is the true gospel-teacher, who bruises the head of the serpent the false teacher, and the head of all false teachers and false religions, false ways, false worships, and false churches. Christ, who said, ” Learn of me,” and of whom the Father said, ” Hear ye him,” said, ” I am the way to God, I am the truth, I am the life, and the true light.” So as man and woman come to God, and are renewed up into his image, righteousness, and holiness by Christ, thereby they come into the paradise of God, the state which man was in before he fell ; and into a higher state than that, to sit down in Christ who never fell. Therefore, the Son of God is to be heard in all things, who is the Saviour and the Redeemer ; who hath laid down his life, and bought his sheep with his precious blood.” (Works, Vol. II, p.144)

        This is not about striving in my own strength to obtain an ideal portrayed by some holy teacher of days gone by. I am talking about hearing and responding to the inward teaching of the light of Christ. It is in this process of in faith giving ourselves up to obey this voice that we find that the power to obey, the power never fails the faith.

        The next question that comes is “What is faith?” The faith of Abraham, which is the faith spoken of in scripture has three characteristics. 1. Abraham heard the voice of God. 2. Abraham believed what he heard. 3. Abraham acted in accordance. This is the faith Pennington is referring to above.

      • You know, the early Friends’ preoccupation—one might say obsessions—with sin and sinfulness just does not work for me. I am not saying that we humans do not sin, or that sin doesn’t matter, or even that the traditional Quaker solution for the problem of sin is false. This is a deep subject with many facets, so I can’t address it or them here in a reply to a comment. I can see, rather, that it deserves a series of future posts.

        But I want to touch on it here. My critique focuses on what I see as a false presumption of a “Fall” in which humans lost some original intimacy with God and became inherently disobedient—there was no garden, no Adam and Eve, no serpent; we started out as pre-human primates who were probably already capable of doing the wrong thing. Meanwhile, while sinfulness is inherent in “human nature”, so is love, community, cooperation, creativity, art, healing, and compassion. Why pathologically focus on the darkness within us without working at least as hard to raise up the light within us. It’s like being against abortion rights and also being against birth control and fully-funded and supported adoption services, or being for the death penalty and against fully-funded mental health services. I think there may be a causal relationship at work in these things, that preoccupation with the Fall has poisoned our religious imagination.

        My critique focuses on the kind of God presumed by this sin-salvation paradigm, also—a being who is defined primarily in terms of power, as a lawgiver, judge and punisher, whose wery “love” is inextricably entwined with violence, epitomized in the white hot focus point of Jesus’s death on the cross. I recognize that this was early Friends’ God, but he’s (sic) not mine.

        I’m a sinner. I’ve done things I feel terrible about. I feel judged by the Light in the face of those past trespasses and in the face of the lure to the wrong that I might feel in any moment of temptation. But taken altogether, my sins could not reasonably amount to a deficit so heinous as to warrant severe divine punishment from a heavenly judge, especially in the form offered by traditional Christianity, which is hell.

        Well, more later. I do struggle with my defection. I love Fox and the truth that early Friends brought to us, I treasure it. But this ubiquitous fetishization of sin just seems like a darkness to me. And I realize that it’s central to their identity, to their truth, that I am rejecting the very foundation of the Quaker movement, its origins. But that view of the world and of God just feels false and even dangerous to me. So I embrace the more positive direction that liberal Quakerism has been taking since Rufus Jones, seriously flawed as it is.

      • Don Badgley says:

        Regarding Benson’s perceptions of Fox and the meaning of “that of God in every man”, I am not scholar enough to even begin to doubt his premise. I accept that he is right about his interpretations of Fox and scriptures. Where I struggle is that these perceptions and interpretations do not align with my own experience. This may be the partly due to the antiquated language and paternal forms, but it seems deeper.

        The key discordance seems to be in the unwavering grounding of the Divine as a separate “Creator Being.” The God proposed, is separate and detached and striving to bring “man” back to “his” original state through Christ. “He” is a cruel judge. That ancient construct does not resonate with either my Experience or with my intellect. “He” is too small, weak and man-like to worship and the fact that this is the central surface message of scripture carries no weight for me.

        I too love Fox and the early Friend’s writings. For me these inform my present Experience but they do not define it. Our distance from the physical and earthly realities of the 17th Century make it imperative that we Experience and proclaim the Divine Light through the lens of our present reality. From that living perspective, I am able to reinterpret those old forms and not just understand them better but also to see beneath the surface to a clearer perception of that which is eternal and unchangeable.

        Don Badgley

      • treegestalt says:

        Anyone who prefers his theology nicely precisely moralistically-diced must miss an occasional nuance — and certainly will be bewildered by the sheer paradoxical inexorability of God’s love — though any human father of a small (not always Good) child, with or without theology, will likely feel a hint of it now & then.

        What I interpret of Howard Brods rhapsodic prose suggests that the Meeting (not necessarily each member) should embrace all _persons_ (except those differently-affectionate) regardless of the notions they bring with them — not their notions per se. Abe’s idea that he should sacrifice his first-born to the God of his fathers should be okay, (although the Property Committee might not accept his request to perform the ceremony in the Meeting House?)

        For the record, I’ve got to say that Abraham’s faith was shown by his repenting his initial decision to Do What Everybody Knows Is Right, By Gum — instead hearing and following God’s demand that he not sacrifice Isaac — and that the Biblical writers, alas, simply didn’t get it (although the people who first told the story were more familiar with the historical context, hence probably did understand the nature of his stand.)

      • Howard Brod says:

        Don, when you commented regarding Benson’s perceptions,

        “The key discordance seems to be in the unwavering grounding of the Divine as a separate “Creator Being.” The God proposed, is separate and detached and striving to bring “man” back to “his” original state through Christ. “He” is a cruel judge. That ancient construct does not resonate with either my Experience or with my intellect. “He” is too small, weak and man-like to worship and the fact that this is the central surface message of scripture carries no weight for me.”

        I think you are aptly stating the sentiment for a good many liberal Quakers who identify with the Apostle John’s sentiment when he said, “This, in essence, is the message we heard from Christ and are passing on to you: God is light, pure light; there’s not a trace of darkness in him.”

    • Thank you, Ellis, for sharing this quote, and for mentioning Lewis Benson’s essay on That of God. This prompted me to reread it and I plan to digest some of its main points in my next post. This essay is, I believe, indispensable reading for anyone who uses the phrase.

      • Ellis Hein says:

        Steven, I will look forward to the coming posts. You said, “Well, more later. I do struggle with my defection. I love Fox and the truth that early Friends brought to us, I treasure it. But this ubiquitous fetishization of sin just seems like a darkness to me. And I realize that it’s central to their identity, to their truth, that I am rejecting the very foundation of the Quaker movement, its origins….” I hope in your coming posts you will give a definition of “sin” and the differences between your understandings and that of Fox and the early Friends. Understanding what “sin” is has been crucial to my gaining life in Christ. This did not come through all the years of teaching I received from Evangelical Friends, rather through understanding the writings of Fox and the other early Quaker writings I have been able to get my hands on. Like Paul, like Edward Burrough, all my former achievements had to be discarded. The traveler in Stephen Crisp’s allegory had to strip himself of all his ragged clothing before he could pass through the door into the kingdom of God. But, like you say, this is too much of a subject to take up in a comment.

  • Walt Whitman famously proclaimed that the soul and the body are one.

    I like Marilyn Robinson’s assumption that Whitman was a practicing Quaker, of course, because his obsessively pursued poetical subject was consciousness itself. And, his grand opus “Song of Myself” is not a egotistical rant but rather describes the process of Quaker worship wherein one experiences unity with all of life through an expanded awareness of presence in the details of one’s personal experience.

    This would have also been Jesus’ point of view given the second-temple Judaism he grew up in. Judaism has no equivalent word for the soul. Ideas about resurrection in Judaism start appearing about 125 years prior to Jesus’ birth and arose mainly to make sense of those righteous and god-fearing individuals unjustly put to death by the invading Seleucid armies. Surely, god would justify those who had died so ignominiously by giving them more life (not putting them in a place called heaven!)

    In Judaism what will be judged (by God) after one dies is the community one leaves behind. And, of course, as persons are created in the image of God there must be “that of God” in everyone. This is why only God can take life away from someone. So, the Greek idea (Plato) which slowly creeps into Christianity, that religion is a personal affair and that each of us will be judged at some post-death future point in time really becomes more about Rome’s need to rationalize (through metaphysics) the spiritual life (and maintain social control) than anything the early followers of Jesus held to.

    So, does primitive Christianity revived (Quakerism) need to have a theory of the soul to understand that image of God each of us is endowed with and how to bind and re-bind “that” to God? (BTW, the purpose of religion!) In this and other discussions, I find it more fruitful for Quakers to compare themselves to Judaism that Constantinian Christianity. It is the community that provides the path to righteousness and transcendence, and as anyone who has served Friends knows, judges our actions.

    Of course, George Fox railed against those preachers of his day that raised up sin as inescapable. For Fox, the greatest sin was self-delusion, believing that one is saved merely by following the teachings of her or his church. Friends the afterlife is the life we leave behind and our testimonies are the living transcendence of each of our lives lived in community.

    So, I don’t think the phrase “that of God” is vague at all. It is ultimately an image one can experience in worship. Does this image as illuminated by the Light lead of out of darkness and sin. Yes. Does it judge us. For sure! Can it also offer us redemption? Blessedly, it can. As far as what awaits us in the afterlife, for centuries Quakers have put their trust in the Light as they approached death. As George Fox said before dying into the Light, “It is clear, it is clear!”

  • Howard Brod says:

    I actually sense that liberal Quakerism, with Rufus Jones’ help, has settled on an honest perspective of the divine, based on all we can really say for sure – that there is indeed “that of God” within our being; a light and goodness that is available to each of us; a light that is the Source of all existence that we all long to join in Oneness – simply because we are part of it.

    Within our liberal Quaker meetings, this is enough to unite us all as we mystically experience this reality together. This prime reality is fully encompassing so as to allow us each to have ancillary “notions” drawn from our own unique experiences, beliefs, and needs; notions that help us each navigate this life without imposing those notions on others within our liberal Quaker meetings. And a liberal Quaker meeting at its best embraces and supports the varied spiritual journeys of all Friends within the meeting. Certainly, it would be damaging and a doctrinal ‘goose chase’ to establish any theology beyond the simple ‘that of God in everyone’ that liberal Quakers are well known for.

    Liberal Quakerism with this uniquely simple theology is indeed an amazing spiritual tradition for a modern world because it invites in practice all of humankind to unite in love and light as we experience ‘that of God’ in ourselves and each other. This Quaker thinks that’s quite enough.

  • treegestalt says:

    “that of God” aka “the soul” is not a metaphysical speculation, but an experienced reality. “Belief in” that reality sans the experience is a mental construct that may exist on its own, to some extent — but I think most people have at least some experience of the actuality, with varying interpretations of its significance.

    People with perfectly valid mystical experience still need interpretations and explanations, at least for any effort to communicate about it with other people — and possibly for their own efforts to somehow fit the ocean into the bathtub of ‘their own’ minds.

    I have strong doubts about people who claim to be receiving direct, undistorted signals from that Presence while still in full possession of (“by”?) their given human political prejudices… while I myself have to admit that while God isn’t distorting my signals, I’ve sometimes caught myself in the process.

    While the receiver (imagining itself to be functioning somehow ‘on its own’) is erratic, the Source is utterly trustworthy — and sending in myriad modes & levels, including a sense of which of our inputs we should currently accept as reliable vs which we should consider iffy, too much flavored by our own um, waste products. We can’t rely on our local, personal ability to distinguish… but so far as we trust God to help us sort, we get the best approximation we’re able (so far) to digest and accept. I think that’s good enough for human-work, not bad for us monkeys.

  • simonjkyte says:

    ‘Traditional Christianity believes that humans have an immortal soul that is our identity before God, that God judges us (our soul) on the scales of our sinfulness and our faith, and that the soul suffers an ultimate and eternal fate based on that judgment.’ Depends what you call traditional Christianity I guess. Predestination always ill-fits with this thinking.

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