OM : re-imagining the Logos

Before Time itself was measured, the Voice was speaking. The Voice was and is God. This celestial voice remained ever present with the Creator; His speech shaped the entire cosmos. [John 1, The Voice]

OM. The eternal Word is all: what was, what is and what shall be, and what beyond is in Eternity. All is OM. [Mandukya Upanishad]

lattice-dynamic-mt-doveExclusivism cries foul on my right, and pan-anythingism beckons on my left. Christianity demands that I conform to its interpretations of “the way, the truth, and the life”, as Eastern philosophy calls me away from māyā, my illusions. But I engage the fracas, because I believe a re-imagining is not an optional extra. And specifically, re-imagining the bankrupt Modern Christian tradition.

A key theme for any student of Christian scripture is that of the Logos. This Greek term is known to most as “The Word” of John 1, and gives name to a new translation of the New Testament, The Voice. According to John’s gospel, Jesus Christ is in fact “The Word”. This synthesis of ideas – A divine personage equated with divine language – is a very powerful concept, and has certainly held my imagination for most of my life.

And herein lies the problem. What the current (pseudo)-Orthodoxy would have us believe is that God is the Bible. This is made so because of an overbalanced emphasis on the written Word as opposed to any other conception or revelation

  • The spoken, prophetically uttered word.
  • The creative, revealed word, Rhema.
  • Wisdom, Sophia or Chokmah.
  • Nature as revelation, from Aquinas who said “Revelation comes in two volumes, the bible and nature”.

This trend, to reduce the Logos to a mere written document, is not new. Keeping it simple, here are 4 key events:

  • 1440 BCE (approx): In the Hebrew tradition, it began as soon as Moses was handed the 10 commandments. And issuing from this, tome upon heaving tome of thou shalt nots: the Law and the Scribe.
  • 419 CE: In the 3rd Century, the Canon was decided: certain books were specially chosen, and by direct implication all other writings demoted. I’m not saying that Augustine’s Synod of Hippo did not make some good choices, or that simply anything can now be regarded as inspired. But the problem with canonisation is not what treasures it rounds up in its net, but the ugly circle of exclusion that it draws.
  • 1440 CE: Mirroring God’s first foray into publishing, after Gutenberg’s pioneering invention of the printing press at the onset of the Reformation, the literal became increasingly available. Oral culture began to die off as literacy became synonymous with civilisation and progress.
  • 2009 CE: In this age of digital networking, the crisis is being multiplied, as communication happens in a technologically mediated, and increasingly disembodied fashion: whether real-time remote communication (telephonic or video), or as reduced, narrowband digitext (SMS, blogs or email), or reproduced media like audio or digital streaming. In all cases, as communication become increasingly virtualised, it is abstracted from its source: intimate, incarnate communication between beings, in time and space, and primarily via our vocalisation.

As it stands, the Logos of Modern Christianity bears less and less resemblance to the sublime Original, whose “speech shaped the entire cosmos”. It is discredited by its coupling with Literalism, Legalism, Fundamentalism, Technology, and Colonialism, in short, Modernity, and shunning a living cosmology. It is in urgent need of re-imagining; if this is not forthcoming, it will die. Our current concept of the Living Word is deeply tainted by modernism.

omNow, according to ancient Hindu tradition, the universe (Brahman) is a vibrating entity, and the word given to that vibration is “OM”, or “Aum”. This sounds strange to Western ears, but the more I explore the idea, the more similar it seems to be to what we have in the Greek “Logos”. Compare the Mandukya Upanishad: “OM. The eternal Word is all …” and the New International Version of the Book of Hebrews: “The Son [Logos] is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word”.

On the surface these two ideas may not appear that similar. But that is primarily because of the more cosmic, less historical, and more impersonal nature of the Eastern notion, and the western bias towards time, history and personality, rather than metaphor, poetry and eternity. But as far as representing the Divine in terms of sound and language, the similarity cannot be overlooked.

Swami Krishnananda, who wrote a series of lectures on the Madukya Upanishad, asks,

“Why do we chant Om? To establish a connection between ourselves and that which exists by its own right and which manifests itself as a sound-vibration in the form of Om…The recitation of Om is the speaking of a universal language.”

The larger significance of this investigation has to do with a general (Christian) Western mistrust of the East, acknowledging this and asking afresh, what might the East have to contribute to our Western Culture, including religion? Clearly this conversation goes back to the 1960’s Cultural Revolution and before, but I do not feel it has been given a fair hearing.

The mythologist Joseph Campbell, notes in “The Masks of God: Oriental Mythology”, that the original Garden of Eden as described in Genesis contained two trees: The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and the Tree of Eternal Life. And that the “knowledge of good and evil” tradition went westwards into the monotheist religious traditions, while the “Eternal life” tradition went eastwards, into Hinduism, Buddhism and other oriental faiths.

“The two limbs … form a single tree at the base … Likewise, the two mythologies spring from one base in the Near East. If a man should taste of both fruits he would become … as God himself (Genesis 3:22) which is the boon that the meeting of East and West today is offering to us all.” (p 9)

It was Campbells hope that the reintegration of these “completely opposed mythologies” would yield “a boon”. I am intrigued by this assertion, and cautiously optimistic that it may be instrumental in leading the West out of its spiritual morass.

Before you dismiss me as a hopeless syncretist, or heterodox mystic, I would ask you to consider vibration from the point of view of western science. A hard distinction between matter and energy has ultimately proved impossible to make. The paradox, for instance, of light as both wave and particle, has been accepted by science for almost a century.

The implication of this is that the universe may in fact be comprised of energy – expressed in waves – and not simple inert matter. This is one for the philosophy of science to wrangle over, no doubt, but recent developments, such as string theory, are starting to imply that there may be no such thing as “matter”, at least in the western sense of atoms being like little billiard balls, with a discrete dualism between solid form and empty space. Strings, although too small to be empirically observed, are supposedly characterised by their distinct vibrational qualities, and put together in certain configurations, make up subatomic particles; which means everything that exists.

Krishnananda explains, “In the beginning, Om is supposed to have been the first vibratory sound that emanated as the seed of creation.” As such, OM can be taken to be an icon of the Universe.

logosIn short, even western science recognises the impasse of our Modern notion of Logos. Could it be that the way forward is to reconnect with the fundamental nature of the cosmos, by opening ourselves to ancient wisdom, including that of the East? I certainly feel that Eastern Culture and Religion can likewise benefit and be challenged by the Christian Tradition, in many ways.

But before I criticise my neighbour (and I will at the right time), I need to look hard at my own back yard. I am inclined to think that our outmoded western ideas around the glorious Incarnate Word, might themselves need salvation, and that this might be in the form of an eastern cousin, OM. I do not see it as too far fetched to read the presence of that “imperishable syllable” in Paul who said the Romans: “the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.”

Om shanti Om. (Om, Peace, Om)

Amen.

Published by Nic Paton

Composer of music for film, television and commercials.

56 thoughts on “OM : re-imagining the Logos

  1. Beautiful.

    Our language fails us in so many ways, perhaps no greater failure is in how we have reduced “logos” in the NT to mean scripture. Peter Gomes, in his latest book “The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus Christ” (a great read, btw) says that Jesus came not proclaiming scripture but the Gospel. This is a loaded statement, and when unpacked I think speaks to what you are going for here: the Word is far bigger and robust than the “word.” Jesus warned the religious of the day that they are mistaken for seeking life in the pages of scripture.

    Leonard Sweet hosted our clergy conference a few weeks ago and gave a stirring talk about the church recapturing its reliance on prayer. He spent a great deal of time deconstructing our modern assumptions that what is REAL is only that which is seen, visible, concrete. He talked of string theory, for example, and argued that what is REAL and truly powerful is what is unseen (the wind blows where it will).
    He closed with an illustration that will live with me always. He had us all stand (about 400 of us) and join hands. He said that he has heard that when a sail boat hits the wind just right, experienced sailors will tell you that there is a “hum” that resonates from the boat as it practically hydroplanes across the water. The hum is the intersection of everything coming together – it is invisible but is the sign of great power and force. As we stood holding hands, he led us in signing “Joy to the World” in a very slow, drawn out tempo. As we all got into sync, sure enough there was a noticeable “hummmm” resonating up through the sanctuary. Powerful.

    grace and peace,
    Chad

  2. Chad, resonance is very, very rare in sailing but possible. I grew up sailing and heard of it but never experienced it It occurs more frequently in sound waves.

    I used to work for an experimental energy company that a technology that harnessed these frequencies. Let me just say that there is a lot more there than we realize.

  3. Jonathan, thank you for adding some personal experience to that (I have very little, and certainly nothing that approached the realm of resonance).

    Do you think the Church might achieve a form of resonance more often if we were less divided and more unified in our singing (and by “singing” I mean much more than just “singing”) to God?

  4. Chad, I have a very different understanding of unity than most so I don’t want to assume we’re talking about the same thing. For me, unity has to do with dignity more than belief.

    The concept of resonance has to do with tuning, like a stereo. It’s a combination of many factors working together that are ALREADY there. It’s just getting them in tuned correctly. And its about removing the impedance in the system.

    1. Great discussion and wonderful article—I’m feeling resonances…!

      In the body we call it Chi; and when you can feel and follow your Chi you learn new ways of responding to the world, your metabolism learns how to respond better, your brain learns what actions to choose to further that positive energy in your body/soul. you eat better, the mood is better because your thyroid makes happy juices!

      In music it is harmonics, and readily available to any choir with a good room and focused practice. It’s the way a violin’s wood vibrates through its construction that makes the difference between a Stradivarius and a knock-off.

      Feeling it and cooperating with others to produce it is great—it does take a lot of self-discipline and awareness of the body & feelings–something our Logos culture is weak on, unless it is explicitly sexual in focus.

  5. Nic- How synchronicitous! For the last two days I have been reading some articles by Raymond E. Brown concerning the Gospel of John. In several of the articles, Brown mentions the misinterpretation of the Logos by western theology. He points out the source of the term and explains its origin in his own words. Most interesting. However, In my reading I was led to a link:
    http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/john.html
    In this collection there are quite a few articles which discuss the origin of “logos”. To quote from one of the articles:
    In John we find the culmination of Greek philosophy that has created the Jesus that we are the most familiar with today. A fully-formed Hellenized Jesus has emerged to become an equal with God. The Gospel of John (ca. 120 CE) is complex and mystical. It’s purpose is to propagandize the message that Jesus is God Himself, creator of the universe……By the beginning of the Common Era, the Logos was a deeply felt and intricate part of Greek thought despite its mystical and sometimes confusing machinations. It was well established that the Logos was a divinely felt presence of God, but no philosopher could find a more practical implementation for how the Logos actually mattered to humans and their lives. “

    I would recommend taking a look at this and other articles on the site.
    I agree with you:
    “As it stands, the Logos of Modern Christianity bears less and less resemblance to the sublime Original, whose “speech shaped the entire cosmos”. It is discredited by its coupling with Literalism, Legalism, Fundamentalism, Technology, and Colonialism, in short, Modernity, and shunning a living cosmology. It is in urgent need of re-imagining; if this is not forthcoming, it will die. Our current concept of the Living Word is deeply tainted by modernism.
    Nice post!

  6. Jonathan,

    We are talking about the same thing. I’ve read enough of your reflections to know that when I say “unity” you and I are, um, unified. 🙂

    peace,
    Chad

  7. Chad,

    Not to nitpick, but you said “Jesus warned the religious of the day that they are mistaken for seeking life in the pages of scripture.”

    Not exactly. He really was saying that they had missed the point of the scriptures:

    John 5:39 (ESV): “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me.”

    The reason why I am bringing it up is because the Scriptures bear witness, which is the real point, and this witness is divinely inspired. So Jesus wasn’t saying that anyone is mistaken for seeking life in the scriptures, he is saying that the scriptures don’t give life – He does – and the scriptures can show you this.

    I’m just a little worried that we swing the pendulum the other way and not see the value of the scriptures, in their canon form, as we have them today.

    Interestingly, Jesus precedes this statement saying that these religious people “do not have His word abiding” in them. In the light of the post, that is an interesting statement.

    Nic,

    Many have said that the Bible IS The Word, or we could say God, which we know is not what real and traditional theological teachings around the subject say. One thing I’ve noticed is that the whole “positive confession” movement made things even worse. Thankfully, this movement appears to be dying and is relegated to TBN and small pockets of the church (even though it appears big). Unfortunately, much of its influence does remain. But most of Christian theology is quite clear on the point of inspired word and special revelation.

    What I wanted to say was that I do see the Holy Spirit’s working in some of the events you’ve mentioned. Firstly, the canonisation of the NT was, I believe, a Holy Spirit event. It was the Holy Spirit who guided the whole process, I believe. I see that there was a need for the “tradition” or “oral teaching” to be put down in written form for future generations, for it to maintain its integrity.

    Secondly, putting the Bible into everyone’s hands by the printing press was, for me, another Holy Spirit event. Unfortunately, Oral culture had led to some very serious problems with the Church and its theology (we all know the history). The Church’s “oral culture” came largely in the form of “tradition”, as I’ve mentioned above, which the Catholic church still holds on much of an equal playing field as Scripture. We can rely on tradition in some ways, but when it has as much authority as scripture (or, we could say, when oral tradition has as much authority as scripture) we tend to run into problems. And remember, scripture only has its authority because of God and Jesus. What I’m really saying is the NT we have today is a very clear form of the original oral teaching of the Apostles and Jesus (although not word for word) and I am thankful for that – knowing full well that I would have been taught a Jesus that is not the Jesus I know was this left to oral tradition only.

    Rather, I’m seeing it all as a clear move of God to keep what was the original teachings and tradition of Jesus and the apostles pretty much clear so that we could all follow it, through the written inspired scriptures. So I’m really saying is that these events weren’t all that bad, and I’m truly thankful for them.

    I’m not really going to say anything about OM, except to say that I still see Jesus as the culmination and grand Omega to all of revelation, seeking, spirituality and religion. Although, whether or not He is also the Alpha (or really to what degree He is the Alpha) is the real point to grapple with.

    1. I strongly disagree that the Holy Spirit guided the men who creaeted the canon. All evidence says _read Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza ‘s “In Memory of Her” for the best, deepest and exhaustive handling of this topic–that the men who created our canon , whether deliberately or not, quite systematically excluded women from positions of power in the church, and excluded books which included stories of influential female leaders of the early church, in the process of creating the Bible as we know it. Our voices were left on the editing floor; and my conscience says that can’t be the work of the Holy Spirit; just a lame effort by some scared, and scary men who had an investment in repressing 1/2 the race.

      1. Laura – what are the contents of that which “was left on the editing floor”, and how can we access them today?

        Or are we saying that women did not even partake in the excersise of literacy, remaining in th eoral sphere until recently?

        Have you read Starhawk?

      2. One problem I have with your statement, however, is “Our voices were left on the editing floor; and my conscience says that can’t be the work of the Holy Spirit” – don’t you fall fowl here of saying Gods Spirit only works in perfection, and moreover, *your* idea of perfection? Can God still not move in the patriarchal mess of it all? Does not God move and inspire in fact, always in a mess, a deficiency, an injustice, incompleteness? Many writers accept the partriachal canon and yet see a tremendously redemptive quality there, in Paul for example, rightly read.

        But I am not a “closed canon” sort, so can openly welcome additional wisdom, especially from voices once suppressed.

  8. Stray (great pic, btw),

    Your point is a valid one and I agree with you about being cautious of over-correcting. I especially like how you qualify the importance of scripture with the nugget, “in canon form.” That is, IMO, an important and often overlooked aspect of the nature of scripture and the way it should be “used” as a source of authority.

    I agree with you that the Scriptures bear witness to THE Word, Christ. They do not, in and of themselves, contain life. That is, in essence, what I was getting at.

    You state:
    Interestingly, Jesus precedes this statement saying that these religious people “do not have His word abiding” in them. In the light of the post, that is an interesting statement.

    What about that, in light of this post, do you find interesting? Are you familiar with Justin Martyr’s use of the spermatikos logos? Or, more concretely, the Stoics use of it. Not to say that Jesus was meaning the same thing as Justin later means, but I think it would be a mistake for us to assume that Jesus is referring to the written words of scripture alone.

    peace,
    Chad

    1. Absolutely, in light of Nic’s post, “His word abiding” in them would be a good warning for us – we must make sure we have not just the knowledge, the information, but the resonance, the prophecy, the music, of God abiding in us – abiding, living, breathing, taking residence. It gives the impression of naturalness, of moving together, of union with the resonance, the voice, the music, the prophetic, the very underpinnings of life itself – the fabric that knits life together – incarnated in a person, Jesus Christ.

      1. Stray – that is well put, oh penguinesque poet.

        I’d really like to have your take on “the music of God abiding in us.” Where and how do music and this resonance meet, for you?

  9. I’m not sure if Jesus was planning to have a best seller. I was recently reminded of the scripture (ironically) from John 14 where Jesus promises the Holy Spirit and not a book!!

    “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth.” John 14: 16-17

    Even though the scriptures are valuable, in my opinion, we need to balance the written word with other equally important ways of the Spirit, through other mediums, such as humanity, nature, the cosmos, the creative, contemplation, music and dance etc…

    St Paul in his letter to the church in Corinth was spot on when he said…
    “Clearly, you are a letter from Christ showing the result of our ministry among you. This “letter” is written not with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. It is carved not on tablets of stone, but on human hearts. “2 Corinthians 3:3

    Nic, I love what you are saying here about the vocal “Word”.

    It is breath. It is not only life, but the source of life. It is from before the beginning and continues to be heard. Jesus is the “Word” become “flesh”. Jesus as the” Word made flesh” is God revealed in human life. Personally, I see the Bible as inspired but I wouldn’t call it the “Word of God” as it is the word of man about the “WORD/GOD”.

    However, the WORD is within us (carved on human hearts) and expressed through our mouths, through our actions and has an effect throughout the cosmos.

  10. Dear Jonathan, Chad, Don, Stray and Andrew.

    Sorry to get here only now. I appreciate all the support. I was expecting more schtik I must say. It may still be incoming.

    Lots of good new ideas – resonance (YES!), the Greek sources of Logos, which I could have taken further – thanks Don, and overcorrection – we always need to be aware of where the pendulum is swinging.

    I’m rather tired right now, so I hope you don’t mind if I don’t take these up in more detail now, but thanks again to all for contributing, anchoring, critiquing, validating. I value the co-journeying.

  11. Just a comment on the prologue of John – something from a paper I did back in college. Based on Raymond Brown’s work ‘the Community of the beloved disciple’ – it would seem that the community out of which the book came comprised of both Jews and Greeks. This is interesting because the prologue could be read in both ways – in the beginning was the Word (and God said let there be light) as well as the greek context of the whole LOGOS theme.
    It’s interesting for me in that there’s an attempt at addressing the underlying mythology, or experience of both ‘cultures’ – a sort-of syncretism.

    Nic – as I said on the phone – I really like where you’re going with this, especially the comment on written word vs the whole eastern tradition. David Abram’s book, The Spell of the Sensuous is something along these lines as well – looking at how the evolution of a phonetic alphabet moved us to a more conceptual and rational approach to these things – how Judaism and it’s children were a religion of the book – Torah, Talmud, etc. as well as the Greek rationalism.

    Now the following is a bit ‘out there’ 😉 – but for me ‘modern’ music compared to more indigenous rhythms is a similar concept to Logos vs OM. One being more structured, rational and ‘square’, the other being a lot more primal, intuitive and ’round’ – but both point to an underlying need to move and dance – connecting with Rhythm – that which animates the Multiverse.

  12. Gavin
    I’ve been meaning to reply for some time. I want to thank you for taking the conversation forwards, and for going down that rabbit hole…

    I am going to follow up on the alphabet, phonetics, Steiner, and YHWH, soon.

    As for you musical comparison – I don’t think of that as out there at all. Its vey true that the West is in love with the linear, while the East, the cyclical. This too will be going into developing this theme.

    Still looking forward to the drum line. Oh sorry I meant “circle”.

  13. Gavin & Nic.

    so the Beatles, Bowie, Dylan, U2, Joni Mitchell, Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa, Weather Report & Miles Davis are tending to the more rational, linear & square?

    Russ.

  14. Russ
    When the blues came into being, it was already breaking out of the type of linearity pioneered in Sonata Form (The western classic-romantic highpoint of musical architecture). So the answer to your question must be negative.

    No cultural form is entirely linear, nor is any entirely cyclical. Music cannot exist without repetition. Nor can it exist outside of time. Attempts to create nonrepetative music (eg Serialism) were becoming “non-music” by the very chaos their totalitarian order induced, IMO.

    And as for music outside of linear time, well I do not believe that can actually exist. I suppose the (Greek?) notion of “Music of the spheres” is an attempt to objectify and idealise music – to remove it from time – but then again, once more IMO, this becomes non-music.

    Tully McCully said that digital sound should always be recorded through air, never directly, so in his famous Workshop, he plays his digital synths over a speaker which he mic’s. By so doing he brings the sound out of virtuality into vibrating waveforms, and therefore into the realm of the spacetime continuum.

    Music is Incarnate.

  15. Nic.

    thanks for your comments. i was kinda being tongue in cheek there – i don’t think eastern vs western or modern vs whatever type of music, fits the conceptual boundaries that were being laid out above. also, how the logos can be a less primal, intuitive and ’round’ than OM is greek to me.

    if a picture paints a thousand words, then a symbol paints a thousand pictures. words are symbols & we forget this when we start reducing something as profoud as the Logos/Christ to being something less intuitive or primal than OM.

    in the beginning was the Logos.

    that’s primal.

    of for a cuppa.

    russ….

    1. The greek concept of Logos is linked to rationality and reason (yes the concept is much deeper, but there isn’t space or time to go into that here). So in that sense it is more conceptual, more ‘heady’ than OM. Both are pointing to the same ground of being, but OM is a more experiential. This is the way I perceive the two – as is the metaphor of rhythm. It wasn’t a statement of dry fact, but a picture painted with words to try and convey my subjective experience of the two symbols.
      When I meditate on Logos – it’s an intellectual exercise and I perceive the Logos as something separate from me. When I chant OM – my whole body vibrates and I experience it.
      When I play ‘western’ music – even Jimmy – I think in 4’s. While there’s a definite groove, and a whole lot of creativity, it’s a whole different feeling to when I’m playing, say, Afro-cuban stuff. As the title of Efrain Torro’s book 2/3 or not 2/3 says – it’s kind-of somewhere in between 2/3 and 4/4 – more of a gut feel. Of course guys like Weckl will take that and westernize it – but hopefully you get where I’m coming from.
      It’s the difference between the more ‘shamanic’ and indigenous, and the more formal religious systems. Naked wisdom vs dogma – sure I’m stretching the metaphor, but it’s the only way I can articulate this.
      Neither are right or wrong – but I think that the ‘west’ is out of balance, and that’s where what Nic is saying comes in.

      1. Gav
        Thanks for the book title – sounds fascinating.

        “Koyannisquatsi” – Life out of balance, from the Hopi.

        Talking of rhythmic language, and totally hijacking this thread, I am fascniated by what the Andean Charango players do, I know nothing about it really, but it’s a sort of lag – they are always “late”. The style is to unenforce rigidity, to establish elasticity. Of course this is part and parcel of Western Classical interpretative skill as well.

        For what its worth.
        Hello?
        Hello?
        Yea, O thought so – that was a bit leftfield.

  16. Nic.

    yeah that late, slightly dragging feel is an interesting one. some of the greatest blues drummers utilise a similar stumbling kinda feel. i suppose the ultimate in control is being able to play on the front thru to right at the back, with feel & whenever one wants to.

    regarding the thread, what i meant to say was that any perception of the Logos being less intuitive & more linear & square, says more about the mental filters, assumptions & grids we bring to it, rather than the Logos itself. there are two tendencies that i am seeking to extracate myself from at the moment – over-intellectualization, as well as over-romancing & idealizing all things “eastern”. Christianity may have been usurped by the greek neo-platonists & others, but it’s roots are in the middle-east, the juncture between east & west. we’re occidental in our thinking but what we’re talking about – the Logos – isn’t.

    here’s to listening to Charango over rooibos!

    soon.

    ruzklowitz kid….

  17. Russ – we’re saying similar things, just differently. I’m focusing more on the greek concept, rather than the christianized version – but what we’re both saying (as far as i understand it) is that the concept of Logos points to the origin, the Source, as it were. The animating principal of all things – and so on. As you put it – the Logos ‘itself’. Om is about the the same ‘thing’ (to call it a ‘thing’ is simply to try and fit it into limited language). What I’m speaking about IS the mental filters we bring to ‘it’ and from a western perspective how we would identify more with the greek ‘lense’ of rationality. I’m arguing that the concept of Logos is a lense.

  18. Gavin.

    i think i hear what you’re saying, although it’s gonna be good to see you again in person after all these years – the last time was when you took over drumming duties with Rolf & the rest of the clan.

    regarding the thread, i’ve become quite suspicious of overt syncretism, for a number of reasons – we can talk more about that when i see. suffice to say that i sense that what underlays the Logos in the biblical sense is quite different to what underlays the OM. that statement requires a lot of unpacking but suffice to say that i think that Yahweh is distinct from the monism out of which OM & wider hindu belief springs.

    more soon & go well meantime.

    Russ….

  19. Interesting idea. But I think a little more attention needs to be given to the Johannine usage of the term logos. Namely, that that which is understood by various peoples of the world as the logos (whether it be the ancient Hebrew concept of the word of God effective in creation and proclaimed by the prophets; or whether it be the Hellenistic concept of Wisdom or Reason– and there can be little doubt that it was those two groups that John had in mind), the logos concept of the fourth Gospel is meant to redefine those understandings according to Christ. It seems to me that you are moving in the opposite direction…?

    As one biblical commentator noted: “The employment of the Logos concept in the prologue to the fourth Gospel is the supreme example within Christian history of the communication of the Gospel in terms understood and appreciated by the nations. As Paul stood on Mars Hill and declared, “That which you worship but do not know, I now proclaim, (Acts 17:23), so the Evangelist set forth to the world of his day thoughts familiar to all about the Logos in relation to God and the world…” (Beasley–Murray, The Gospel of John, 10).

    Therefore, what I do think is very much worth considering in your excellent presentation of these two concepts is the idea that Om is a point of truth within eastern religion from which one can move to the revelation of God in Christ, as John does in his prologue regarding Stoic and Hebrew thought. To miss that aspect of John 1 is to miss the point all together.

    Also, the fourth gospel firmly places the logos in the realm of personal relationship: a knowable, rather than a distant God. “The logos became flesh, and pitched his tent among us” (John 1:14).

    If find your comparison between the “Om: the eternal Word is all,” and the passage from Hebrews problematic. First, there is a vast chasm between “being all,” and “sustaining all.” The former speaks of pantheism, the latter of essential monotheism. Second, the writer of Hebrews doesn’t use logos to describe Jesus (and your parenthetical is a bit misleading in that regard). That is a distinctly Johannine term in the New Testament. This is much more than semantics!
    I do agree with the tendency in some branches of Christendom to equate the Bible with God, and to have an overly exalted view of the printed page. But this I would argue is not the predominant view and that most Christians are can differentiate God from his book.

    Perhaps what is needed then is not to a “re–imagining of the logos,” but to return the logos to its proper biblical context.

  20. @Russ & Nic – definitely time for a drum circle 😉

    Jerry – this is what I’m talking about. The way you go about answering is firstly appealing to a book, and secondly going about it by essentially appealing to reason. Now you are attempting to argue a ‘biblical’ concept and therefore you need to set out a number of reasons. While on first glance, this may seem like a biblical debate, but it goes a lot deeper than that. It goes beyond a book to the very essence of life itself. In fact I just rephrased that sentence. I was going to say ‘meaning of life’ but then realized this is how we approach things through the lense of Logos (think – ology – comes from logos). In terms of ‘meaning’ – understanding, argument based on the rules of religion laid down in the book, and so on.
    Now the next question is ‘how dare I question the book’. If we get rid of the book then how do we know where to draw the line? (and so on – we’ve all either used or heard the arguments. In my case – both).
    Well the book too is Logos – the (W)word. Is the word God? Well isn’t that what it says? In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God and the word was God. Now if the word was God, and the word (if you take John a little bit down the line) was the Way – then the Word is both the ‘Thing’ and the lense to the ‘Thing’. And then what about God? Isn’t God also a word? Yes – now I’m doing some semantic juggling, but isn’t that the very thing that is happening in the prologue of John.
    So – what I’m getting at here.. (and there is a point other than playing with words)
    Perhaps the prologue of John is not so much a philosophical or theological statement to be thought about, but one of those mental mind-f…..- um Zen-like Koans that get your mind to shut the hell up while you move through the realm of words and concepts and ideas to the Transcendence that is beyond words and concepts, but is that which gives our hearts their rhythm, that which not only made all this happen, but is the happening, that which we cannot, and will never understand. We can only KNOW in our innermost be-ing.
    OMmmmmmm

    1. Gavin
      Thanks too for a strong response.

      Your central point appears to concern “that which we cannot, and will never understand”, as well as how we operate in the West within the framework of rationality and literality.

      I agree with your critique of the failings of western thought, and I also support your posture of adventure. However, at the moment we have differing conclusions; of course we both acknowledge that we are still en route and “conclusions” are always provisional.

      I’d seek a more middle alternative where certain things ARE knowable. So Jerry’s appeal to a book and an rational reading IS valid, if it is held in tension with your completely experiential approach.

      You would not be blogging if you really believed that written words or reason were useless, inappropriate or unacceptable … don’t you think you are being a little inconsistant here?

      1. This is ultimately about our bodily existence and adventure is what it IS about, since any learning we do involves moving through cognitive dissonance into a new synthesis, and, as an artist and a teacher of special ed. students, I can say long-term learning is a whole body experience. (not rote memorization). Words inform this growth and mark signposts along the way, but all concepts and theories at some point in our growth are confronted with conflicting evidence, and we are called to expand our original interpretations to include new information, or else try to avoid confrontation with facts that challenge us–which is at the heart of a lot of our political differences, I might add. There is no conflict between an experiential approach, and saying that there certain things which are knowable. It’s when we try to generalize and prescribe for others that we court trouble if we do not have humility about, as you say, the provisional nature of our conclusions.
        This is a most interesting line of discussion! I wish I had stumbled on it a year ago!

  21. Jerry
    Thanks for your well considered input.

    Jerry, you make some very good points. I agree that we should consider the context of Johns orginal use of the Logos concept. However, I do not feel I am moving away from his cosmic proclamation of the Word; I am trying to get nearer to it.

    But there is this Literalistic Cultural Bias standing in the way, which needs to be dealt with. Our recieved notion of Logos in the West is an abberation. One thing that is missing is the aural, spoken, timebound dimension which in my limited understanding, OM signifies. And like you, I think that this “imperishable syllable” is an icon pointing towards Christ, or at least, the deficiancies in our idolatrous conceptions of Christ.

    Your reservations concerning the centrality of relationship must be adressed, and I agree that a downfall of the Eastern conception is the impersonal nature of Brahman. But I think the Brahmanic concept is very powerful in many other ways, especially as it correlates to the Cosmic, (and potentially suprapersonal) nature of Christ.

    ‘there is a vast chasm between “being all,” and “sustaining all.’

    I don’t think there is, Jerry. That’s an uncalled for dualism. The fact that the Eastern way can be construed as passive, as being-oriented, as opposed to the active, “sustaining” way of the west, does not mean we should over differentiate being and sustaining. To me, to sustain has a lot in common with to be. I’d like to move this debate from being vs sustaining to a solid comparison of the Eastern vs Western way.

    I shall look into your claim that “the writer of Hebrews doesn’t use logos to describe Jesus”. Maybe I am reading it wrong…

  22. Hi Nic,

    Great discussion. Regarding the Hebrews 1:2-3 passage, the direct referent to “Son” in that passage is huios in the greek text (found in v. 2, and only by way of personal pronoun in v. 3). However, if you mean that the logos concept is implied in the writer’s discussion of prophetic speech now manifest in Christ, well then o.k. (However, I still tend to think that this is reading Hebrews through a Johannine lens and that this is unfaithful to the original text).

    Gavin,
    thanks for the input.
    My argument is essentially this: Whether or not you or I or anyone else WANTS John 1 to be a theological statement is irrelevant. Scholarship has sufficiently demonstrated that it IS a theological treatment of the incarnation of Christ and we can no more make it non-theological than we can declare a Stephen King novel to be non–fiction. It is what it is.

    Blessings all.

  23. (from the Kena Upanishad)
    There the eye does not go, nor speech, nor mind. We do not know That; we do not understand how It can be taught. It is distinct from the known and also It is beyond the unknown. Thus we have heard from the ancient (teachers) who told us about It. These physical eyes are unable to perceive that subtle essence. Nor can it be expressed by finite language or known by finite intelligence, because it is infinite. Our conception of knowing finite things is to know their name and form; but knowledge of God must be distinct from such knowledge. This is why some declare God to be unknown and unknowable; because He is far more than eye or mind or speech can perceive, comprehend or express. The Upanishad does not say that He cannot be known. He is unknowable to man’s finite nature. How can a finite mortal apprehend the Infinite Whole? But He can be known by man’s God–like nature.

    That which speech does not illumine, but which illumines speech: know that alone to be the Brahman, not this which people worship here.

    That which cannot be thought by mind, but by which, they say, mind is able to think: know that alone to be the Brahman, not this which people worship here.

    That which is not seen by the eye, but by which the eye is able to see: know that alone to be the Brahman, not this which people worship here.

    That which cannot be heard by the ear, but by which the ear is able to hear: know that alone to be Brahman, not this which people worship here.

    That which none breathes with the breath, but by which breath is in–breathed: know that alone to be the Brahman, not this which people worship here.

    1. Gavin
      These words do have beauty and truth, but I couldn’t imbibe them neat. I could not make them my “primary text”. What I miss in the Eastern Way is (and you will probably not like this) but, ethics. I want to hear “that which none breathes with the breath”, to see the “smile of the beyond”, but I really do miss the concreteness of Jesus.

      For example (and it’s just the first text that comes to hand), “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” I can relate to that more readily than the high degree of abstractness in the Upanishad.

      I’m not saying there is no ethical content to Eastern Scripture, nor that I reject it, and I am saying I love the Eastern poetic, and am committed to it.

      It’s just that both these spheres – “East” and “West”, need each other, and I am after all, for very sepcific reasons, a follower of Christ and his tradition.

      1. Sure – just like my ‘gift’ is to create a certain amount of chaos, so we all have our offering – that’s what makes it interesting 😉

    2. Wierd; as a feminist I must point out that it is ridiculous advice to prescribe for others that knowledge of God must be distinct from finite knowledge—-this is impossible, since we think with seratonin, dopamine, Vitamin D, oxygen, and as someone with thyroid disease that was mistaken for depression, I must assert that the Western goal of somehow “transcending” our thoughts is a very misleading image, that leads directly to misuse of the body in search of spiritual understanding. It is, I might add, the particular bent of male psychology, which is designed to take risks that are really only present in the developed world in armed conflict or sports. Thus, its bias is present even in the Upanishad. Women, if I may generalize after many years of study and embodiment of this state of being, tend to seek a wisdom that is equally “beyond” current understanding, but is so because we seek to connect with the Other as present in community with people we have differences with. It seems that men work out their differences with fighting over terminology, and this is the dominant mode of much intellectual thought in the West, but it has its limits–as osmeone mentioned above when he suggested a drumming circle at that point in the discussion!
      In seeking to connect with the men they had conflicts with, the first wave of feminists were characterized by others as focused on gender differences; ie radical separatists. That was the nature of the debate required by the culture after centuries of repression, but right away feminist thealogians started making new connections and re-imaging in our OWN images, leading to our deeper self-understanding, leading to today’s more synchronistic, pluralistic ways of thought. There is a qualitative difference in the approaches. When I was at seminary one of my professors, with a twinkle in his eye said, it seems we can divide theologians into 2 types, the Lumpers and the Splitters! That is, those focused on divisiveness and distinctions, and those trying to see cohesive connections in a creative way. I would submit that women tend to be Lumpers, and this is reflective of the fact that we use both sides of our brains while thinking, at a statistically proven higher rate than men. We can benefit from Splitters, and vice-versa.
      Perhaps it is an over-generalization but from this woman’s point of view, the world seems right now to need more cohesive, healing thought that creates immmanence–spirit embodied,– rather than aiming for “transcendence”, which so easily degenerates into escapism, semantic headtrips and political impasse. I appreciate the connections being made here between Hebrew, Greek, Eastern and American thought. Here’s to the search!

      1. Hi Laura – thanks for your impassioned, and overtly feminist POV, it is greatly appreciated.

        (Moves wad of tobacco to side of mouth) I don’t like the sound of these ‘ere “lumpers” and those thar “critters”.

        (Hits spitoon square) For me the “neural” paradigm – the web of connections between holons, is a better way. In fact I define intelligence as being the ability to percieve connection. And I think the “feminine approach” is well placed in this sphere, as men have the weight of reason and fact to get over.

  24. Nic – yes – we need to write about this stuff – but sometimes an extreme view is needed in order to create that balance. So – I shape-shift where necessary. Besides – consistency would imply that I have a particular position 😉
    Someone the other day asked me whether I believed in re-incarnation. It irritated the hell out of them when I refused to commit to a certain belief. I have had experiences where it certainly seems as if i have lived before – but why is it necessary to put that in the box of belief? I have found it far more beneficial to hold these things lightly, to use a mythology to perhaps illustrate a point, or to help give me direction when I’m not sure which way from here – ‘for the heroes of all times have gone before us..” (JC)
    I have found that the writings, mythologies and practices of ‘the East’ (Buddhism, Taoism, The Upanishads, Zen etc.) have been very useful in both articulating some of what I have experienced as well as creating balance with the theological and philosophical approaches that I was used to. The path of unlearning 🙂
    So – to see you looking at the Upanishads etc. is exciting and I look forward to seeing where you go with it all.

    Jerry – hmm – I knew you would say that 😉

  25. Nic – I’ve been thinking about what you wrote about ethics, as well as Jerry’s comment on scholarship. When it comes to Eastern literature – there is no one text. There are also a number of texts which contain a number of practices which are a whole lot more concrete than a lot of christian teaching. There is also a lot of emphasis placed on a teacher/mentor or guru and a lot of it is an oral transmission. Now I certainly don’t want to pitch east against west, but one of the things I have found is that the emphasis is not so much on a ‘code of ethics’ but rather a set of practices that transforms you. Your action in the world (ethical conduct) is then not so much about conforming to a set of rules – good and bad action, and if you mess up then you’ve sinned, but rather a constant practice until you naturally flow with things – much like we practice scales or parrididdles so that when you’re in the groove, you’re free – you don’t have to think about what you’re doing – you just do whatever comes naturally.

    While we don’t share the same outlook on Jesus – I don’t see him as the central in the way you do, but rather like that illustration that Joseph Campbell uses about the central mountain of the world – ie. every mountain is the central mountain. So I see Jesus as a profound teacher/mentor/guru. While we may disagree here, I think there’s something to be learnt. One of the problems I see with christianity is that it has moved to a book/rule/dogma/orthodoxy based religion. So it’s more about right belief than ‘right’ practices. So instead of reading ‘do not judge’ to be a practice of constantly working at not judging, it becomes a law – so if you’re judge, then you’re ‘sinning’.
    Why I mention Jerry here (sorry Jerry – don’t mean to give you a hard time) is that Jesus faced a similar response from the scholarship of the day – the scribes and pharisees, the custodians of the book. He caused chaos in that he started reinterpreting everything in such a way that it was not so much about judging right and wrong, but transformational. ‘It has been said…. but I tell you…’.

  26. As time passes (all 27 years of it!) I become more and more convinced that the Bible is more metaphorical than I’ve been brought up to believe. In this sense, I see the relevance of Jesus’ self-proclaimed status as ‘The Way’, as stray pointed out by quoting John 5:39 (ESV):

    “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me.”

    I haven’t had time to read all the comments, but I will relate a story. Last night, my brother and I were watching a History Channel account of David and Goliath, and debunking the literal interpretation of the story. These days, my brother is becoming increasingly reliant on scripture and Christian practices to find his way in life (he’s just turned 30 and obviously past the party phase now).

    We got into a discussion about the literal interpretation of the scripture, and while we agree to disagree on the (somewhat fundamentalist) view that the world was created in seven 24-hour, Roman Calendar days, he claimed to believe that every Biblical character, including Adam and Eve, should be interpreted as, well, Gospel truth. Hermeneutics, I tell you. Could it be that Jesus (or at least some of the interventionist miracles he supposedly performed) was a symbol of humanity’s ongoing desire for salvation? And in an almost Truman Show-esque setup situation, what would the effects be of a whole society telling a man – from his infancy – that he was the Messiah?

    Clearly, the ‘me’ he was referring to was not the son of Mary and Joseph, but the Son of God. This would explain the violent, egoic reaction on the part of the ‘ordinary’ men and women that led them to believe he was proclaiming himself, the flesh-and-blood, to be the answer to life. The way I see it, anything other than a figurative interpretation, quite frankly, is ridiculous.

    Translation potholes aside, I also believe that this was the reason Jesus referred to himself as both the Son of God and the Son of Man.

    And yes, I’ve been watching Zeitgeist. 😉 Lovely discussion, people. I feel clever and spiritual.

  27. John
    “anything other than a figurative interpretation, quite frankly, is ridiculous”

    Fair enough, but I’d say that just as we hold in tension Son of God and Son of Man, we should hold in tension the Figurative (or metaphorical) and the Historical.

    For me there is no need to be either-or an this. As you can see from my comments I hold to a historical view of Jesus, but that does not mean I have to swallow every aspect of the biblical narrative that way. Nor does it mean I do not appreciate the metaphorical elements in the bible, for they are everywhere.

    And perhaps most importantly, it does not mean that you and I cannot have a conversation about it, even if we never agree. Diversity is central, and is welcomed.

    Yes, it is as you suggest, an adventure of hermeneutics – a playing with boundaries.

  28. Absolutely!! I find that any conversation about issues of spirituality and politics deserves controversy for the sake of controversy. There are PC ways to put everything, but repressing the questioning nature of mankind only makes it flare up later. I believe that discourse dwarfs fact in human relevance, and it’s my pleasure to be a part of this community.

    Time for another coffee.

  29. Pravda,

    Interesting post. While I respect your opinion, I would love to hear more about how you reached your conclusion that only a figurative interpretation of the gospels is reasonable?

    The allegorizing of scripture is not a new thing. Augustine did it with almost the entire old testament, trying to make all of it somehow a representation of Christ. Though there is much in the Old Testament that points to Christ (the tabernacle, and its furniture for instance), there is no sound basis for interpreting the gospels as such. Pravda, I’m not sure then what you mean when you appeal to hermeneutics, or on what basis (evidence or lack of) you declare Jesus to be a “symbol for humanities ongoing desire for salvation” ?

    I happen to not believe in a literal 24 hour creation ( the hebrew word “yom” is used throughout scripture and elsewhere to refer to an age or epoch, as in the Day of the Lord). But I do believe that Adam and Eve were real people. Jesus referred to them as such, as he did Job.

    Several things I would point out regarding your post:

    1. The fact that several extra biblical sources testify to the historicity of the Person Jesus Christ defies such an assumption (Pliny the Younger, Josephus, and Tacitus – all non–Christian, wrote of Jesus in ways that closely paralleled the gospel accounts).

    2. The history channel is not the best source for sound biblical scholarship. If you want to know what the experts in any field believe you are safest in turning to a consensus among the majority of scholars in this area. I know of no reputable scholarly theological journal that treats the David and Goliath story as a metaphor.

    3. “what would the effects be of a whole society telling a man – from his infancy – that he was the Messiah?” – Where do you get the idea that a “whole society”, or ANYONE EVER told Jesus that he was the messiah? This concept is not found in the gospels or in any other work that I am aware of. When Jesus does profess to be the messiah, he is crucified for it. Why would a whole society tell someone for their entire life that they were the messiah, and then when that person admits it, the same society has him executed? There is no logical basis for such an assertion.

    4. In regards to Son of God, Son of Man: Both are Messianic titles and both point to divinity. The OT references that Jesus drew upon for the title Son of Man come from Ezekiel and Daniel, wherein the Son of Man is clearly an eschatological, and Divine (cf. Daniel 7 and Ezekiel 4, 7, 10, 22, 40 – 48).

    My point is this: The Bible can stand critical scrutiny. The problem is that most hear the claims of some detractor and never take the time to further investigate those claims. If one is predisposed to not want to believe in the Jesus of the Bible and of history, then these claims provide a convenient out. After all, if the Bible is false, then we are not subject to Christ’s claim upon our lives. But if the Bible is true, then what we believe about Jesus becomes the most important truth we can possibly know. I believe it is true, and not because of “fundamentalism” but because I’ve searched these things out and found that their is in fact a substantial amount of evidence in support of it all. In addition, by believing I have experienced the power and presence of God in dynamic and tangible ways in my own life. It is worth noting that Jesus taught that faith follows obedience (see John 8). So perhaps friend, if your having a hard time conjuring faith in the Word of God, try starting with obedience to it. You might be surprised with the result!

  30. Jerry,

    Thank you for continuing to feed my questioning discourse on religious and spiritual matters. I confess, as I did with Nic in the above post, that I make controversial claims for their own sake, such as claiming that “anything other than a figurative interpretation, quite frankly, is ridiculous.” This, in my opinion, is the only way to get to know similar souls, really.

    However, I love that saying which goes, “don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.” While I don’t eschew Biblical claims in favour of that tired, overly intellectual brand of skeptical atheism, I do have enough good sense to know that the more we know, the less we know.

    Jesus of Nazareth, the man, was as real as Table Mountain, and hundreds of people saw him every day. No doubt. With “a symbol for humanity’s ongoing desire for salvation” I refer to the Jesus the ideal, the trope, the meme, the destination to which the human signpost pointed.

    In this sense, the legacy of Jesus the man was atrophied over time, but the Jesus meme was kept alive by an upswelling of ideals, a filling in of the moral blanks. The imperative, unwavering collective conscience which humanity has projected onto external symbols was speaking louder and louder as oral and written history diluted the Jesus story.

    Now we are here, again confusing the man with the meme.

    As individuals, we don’t see the world as it is. We see it as we are. We attract (more pop psychology embedded in that word, popularised by The Secret – indulge me) the physical reality that is on our mind, which captures the attention of our continual mental monologue. In brief, if you’re always thinking about ice cream, it wont be long before one is in your hand.

    To say ‘Jesus is alive’ is 100% true when referring to the meme, the legacy, the symbol, the Son of God. When I claim that the Gospels are somewhat figurative, metaphorical, I’m attempting to debunk the kind of destructive fundamentalist shortsightedness which claims that Jesus of Nazareth, the man, is still alive in some sense. As in, his cells and fibres are presently in some other heavenly dimension we have no way of proving exists. This is moot. Not that anyone in this forum upholds such views, but to me, it’s important to take a phrase like “Jesus is alive” or “Jesus saves” and make it your own. Like covering a song, every person’s understanding of the truth SHOULD be different.

    Every person’s conscience should forbid them from believing that which they don’t consider COULD be true for them. In other words, you need faith both within and beyond reason. This is the paradox.

    I feel like an ice cream.

  31. pravda,

    I too enjoy the banter and appreciate your erudition. I think this type of interchange is precisely what the church has for too long lacked. We have tended to shove dogma in people’s faces and expected them to digest it without pause or contemplation.

    I tend to think that in many ways the church must accept a good deal of the responsibility for the type of skepticism embodied by postmodernism, as we (as someone once said) we have tended to have answers to the questions no one was asking. And the ones that were being asked, well, you get the idea.

    This is the basis for my interest in this site, and these discussions. I wholeheartedly believe the church needs to be culturally relevant and able to engage intellectually those whose lives we hope to touch. However, I think the church (and I realize that I am using the term “the church” with great ambiguity), has swung the pendulum too far in the wrong direction at times in the “emerging church” movement. As an American I have seen those in my country who in trying to make the church and its message more palatable to an increasingly hostile society, have come up with something that is so very vague and pointless that it is bereft of any meaning or significance at all.

    I have truly enjoyed your comments…particularly the recent addendum.

    “While I don’t eschew Biblical claims in favour of that tired, overly intellectual brand of skeptical atheism, I do have enough good sense to know that the more we know, the less we know.”

    Very well said, indeed. And any friend of ice cream, is a friend of mine!

  32. Hi Jerry and Pravda
    Thanks for the chatter and the engagement. I think I might enter here from a slightly different POV – as a self confessed emergent.

    Jerry, I see the charge that emergents are making “the church and its message more palatable” quite often. While this might be so – (who doesn’t like chilling out with Nooma?) – palatability is not high on my agenda. I have emerged via a hard, energetic tunneling – my snout is full of mud and I’m bruised and often confused by the search.

    To be “palatable” is a marketing term. But I feel like I’m on a quest of spirit, not on a business venture. I’d say that evangelicals (if i may borrow that word briefly as representing an opposing, more conservative trend) are actually making the gospel palatable by selling a hard, heroic, unambiguous message – Mark Driscoll springs to mind here.

    In a culture which is addicted to celebrity, violence, consumption, and individualism, the emergent concerns are distinctly distasteful. Mysticism, Alternative worship, Ecumenism, Liturgy, Inclusion, Missional – these things are met by disgust by the evangelical majority.

  33. Hi again Nic!

    I am enjoying this enormously and learning much. And please pardon my over generalization.

    I suppose it’s all a matter of definitions isn’t it. I am just a bit weary of any movement that effuses the notion that “we have gotten it right, and everyone else has gotten it wrong.” Certainly the last thing the Church needs is more division. And I sometimes hear this notion coming from emergents and evangelicals alike.

    The truth is though, there are people who are making amazing strides in reaching the unchurched and doing it in ways that fly directly in the face of the notion that evangelical Christianity is broken and in need of dire reform. Tim Keller comes to mind. He’s planted a Presbyterian church in Manhattan targeting 20 and 30 somethings. His church is (I understand – I have never been there), traditional and Evangelical, if you define evangelical as EXCLUSIVELY teaching that Christ is the only way of Salvation and that all are in need of redemption, and as having a high regard for the inspiration and authority of the Bible. Critics said it could never be done, and yet today his church numbers in the thousands.

    Sometimes I wonder if in our search to find a “new way” we miss the beauty of quite old ways that work wonderfully well when employed with passion and conviction and suffused with the Spirit’s power.

    But then again, I’m just a traveler myself…and enjoying the journey enormously!

  34. Hi Jerry
    I’m really pleased that we have some flow here. Generalisation is not all bad – its a tool we use daily. All we need to be mindful of is that our generalisations are in fact just that, and that the truth will always lie beyond.

    I’m curious as to how you have the view that emergents “have got it right”. I suppose you might have run into people whose enthusiasm has become arrogance. (Maybe you are referring to me!).

    But by and large, there is a stream of emergents who are identified by their humility in the light of the forgotton past. And there are many many good people out there who baulk at what emergents are up to. I guess I can only speak for myself when I say that us cultural creatives need to keep the way open for more conservative opinions. It comes down to temprament, calling and vision.

    For me, I feel no qualms about surging onwards, unbridled enthusiasm, even if it means entering the unknown, the hinterland, the realms of heresy. I trust those with learning and wisdom will correct me if I go wrong. I remain open to the more conservative voices, and hope we can influence each other.

    I think your words about enjoying the journey are vital. There are those who are driven towards something or maybe away from something, those who are stuck and morbidly hold to what is past, but then there are the journeyers who feel “Gods pleasure” at both what is new and at that which is timeless.

    BTW I have prepeared a post on “Making the Gospel more palatable”, which I hope to post on emergentvillage. It’ll be a emergent pushback to the widely held view that emergents are worldly compromisers. I look forward to your input there.

  35. Hi Nic,

    Definitely not referring to you. That was just a comment I felt was due here, as we engage in comparing one ecclesiastical model with another. Like I said, I hear it from many corners, including my own. In fact, I’m sure that at some point along my own journey, I’ve been guilty of it myself.

    Personally, our interactions have been nothing but amicable and your (personally) ability to generate genuine dialogue is partly what keeps me coming back!

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