Trail Blazer Ministries
Base Camp for Life: A Spiritual Journey...

Who do I want to be: Intellectually and Morally Stagnant, or Virtuous?

10:02 PM
Someone asked me awhile back, “Who do you want to be?”
I responded, “Problem is, I'm battling that right now. I'm thinking of leaving a lot of what I held true behind me. This is my own issue, and personal struggle. The details of this struggle would fill a book, but the twitter version I guess would be, "Who is in control? God or me? I'd like to love the simple pleasures in life, and not be tied down to the future so much. Travel, enjoying just the moment with no destination in mind, just life in general. I've been that person, and want to be that guy.

During my trip to China in December of 2009, I read 3 chapters W. Jay Wood’s book Epistemology: Becoming Intellectually Virtuous (Contours of Christian Philosophy)
These 3 chapters when really studied did more for my clarity of thinking than any book I’ve ever read.

Jay Wood on C.S. Lewis…Hideous Strength
“…His consuming desire to be accepted by others, to feel a part of the inner ring, the power elite, eventually leads him to his relationship with his wife and—most relevant to our discussion—his ability to think straight.”

The last 6 months I’ve been battling hard questions. “What if I remain Christian just to be accepted?”
It’s hard to think straight when our paradigm is challenged.
“If I reject Christianity, will this negatively affect my relationships?”
Christians are called to the Buddhist idea of “dissolution of the self”. Our bodies, our flesh are evil; the only good comes from the spiritual. We are called to hate evil. (Amos 5:15)
“If nothing we do apart from Christ is evil; what is this ‘self?’”

These questions have plagued me in the last six months, making me depressed. How can I reconcile my serious doubts, with criticisms coming from the Christian community saying I’m “selfish” and just wanting to follow my “fleshly desires?”

The Saint Thomas Aquinas (born ca. 1225; died
7 March 1274) writes, “Happiness is secured through virtue; it is a good attained by man's own will.” “The good of the intellect is truth, and falsehood is its evil.”
But opinion and suspicion can be about both truth and falsehood. So I had to weigh my opinions with what I really know. Truth is I wasn’t sure of what I really knew! I believe no walk of life is immune..need for careful and reasonable thinking.

So now I’m faced with the question, “Can I be intellectually and morally virtuous, and walk away from Christianity?”

Some Virtues:
Love of truth
Intellectual Honesty
Tenacity of Belief (always searching for our beliefs)
Power to Perceive
To Introspect
To Judge
To Analyze
To Synthesize (some are better able to detect patterns and regularities, to draw disparate facts into an organized whole)
Imparting knowledge
Problem Solving

I can be morally vicious, or morally virtuous; the latter requires an unselfish pursuit of truth and belief. With this in mind I will try to be morally and intellectually virtuous as possible.
Sometimes emotions motivate intellectual activity. (I’m an emotional person)

From W. Jay Wood’s book, “Unresolved doubts leave us in an ‘uneasy’ and ‘irritated’ state that moves us to resolve our uneasiness by “fixing” (settling on) some belief.”

This uneasy state spurs us on an endless pursuit of the truth. For some odd reason this fact gives me peace. I can be irritated by some of my held beliefs, that’s what spurs me and all of us to avoid believing in what is false.

Many Christians tell me I must submit to the teachings of the church. (1 Peter 5:5) This passage mentions submitting to the elders, but not necessarily believing everything they tell me. Hebrews 13:17 tells Christians to obey their elders for they watch over our souls. Imagine if Martin Luther decided to follow Hebrews 13:17 literally. Without dissent, there can be no change.

Jesus talked about abundant life…the more I’ve thought about it, the more Jesus was not talking about Heaven and Hell. I’ll conclude with some Brian McLaren quotes that are quite controversial within the Christian dialogue.
"...many Hindus are willing to consider Jesus as a legitimate manifestation of the divine... many Buddhists see Jesus as one of humanity’s most enlightened people.... A shared reappraisal of Jesus’ message could provide a unique space or common ground for urgently needed religious dialogue—and it doesn’t seem an exaggeration to say that the future of our planet may depend on such dialogue. This reappraisal of Jesus’ message may be the only project capable of saving a number of religions."
––Brian McLaren, The Secret Message of Jesus, p. 7

"I don’t believe making disciples must equal making adherents to the Christian religion. It may be advisable in many (not all!) circumstances to help people become followers of Jesus and remain within their Buddhist, Hindu or Jewish contexts … rather than resolving the paradox via pronouncements on the eternal destiny of people more convinced by or loyal to other religions than ours, we simply move on … To help Buddhists, Muslims, Christians, and everyone else experience life to the full in the way of Jesus (while learning it better myself), I would gladly become one of them (whoever they are), to whatever degree I can, to embrace them, to join them, to enter into their world without judgment but with saving love as mine has been entered by the Lord."
--Brian Mclaren
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Buddhism, Christianity and true peace

8:00 AM

In early December 2009 I had the chance to walk around the Forbidden City in Beijing. This trip in China made a lasting impact on me, and I've grown to understand myself, American culture and Chinese culture better.

The Manchu ancestors of the Qing imperial family followed a tradition of shamanistic practices based on their beliefs in supernatural forces. Over the centuries, those beliefs and practices were absorbed into the religions adopted from China: Daoism, Confucianism and Buddhism. This multiplicity of faiths led to a plethora of religious observances. The emperor attended all major sacrificial rites, while lesser ones were attended by officials representing him.

Over time, Buddhism became the primary religion of the Qing Dynasty. The Qing emperors supported the Yellow Hat sect of Esoteric Buddhism, an adherence which proved useful in diplomatic relations with Tibetan and Mongolian nobles. Esoteric Buddhism, besides providing the possibility of personal enlightenment, offered protection and preservation of the sovereign nation. The palace featured Buddhist altars in the private quarters of the emperor and empresses.

There is a lot a person can look up on the internet about the Forbidden City, including many pictures, information about the palaces, and the history. I won't go into all the detail of it's history and descriptions of palaces, but just a short overview of went on within it's gates.

A few facts:
1. The tradition of castrating male servants dates back over two thousand years. The Qing Dynasty started with 9000 eunuchs, reducing to about 1500 in 1908. Their testicles were mummified and stored in jars, to be buried with them after their death. Many eunuchs were harshly treated, or executed at whim. Corruption, power struggles and personal vendettas flourished.

2. Emperors were entitled to several wives and many concubines. (Qianlong had two official wives and 29 concubines). Concubines were well-educated women selected from the best Manchu families. Nightly, the Emperor would decide which concubine would visit him that evening. She would then be stripped, bathed and depilated before being carried to his chamber. The number of times a concubine was chosen secured her social standing.

I could go on and on about how the concubines killed each other, had affairs with eunuchs (they were called vegetarian affairs)and had the other concubines sons killed. It's ironic that this dark place called the Forbidden City had so many halls and palaces dedicated to Harmony. Here is a list of the palaces: Hall of Mental Cultivation, Palace of Earthly Tranquility, Palace of Heavenly Purity, Palace of Abstinence, Hall of Supreme Harmony, Hall of Preserving harmony, Hall of Imperial supremacy, Hall of Military Glory, Hall of Literary Brilliance, Imperial Garden, and Gate of Divine Prowess.

All these halls seemed to do nothing to really preserve peace. All this wealth, wisdom, and concubines reminds me of Solomon. The Biblical figure Solomon asked for wisdom, and because the Lord loved his request he was granted wealth and power. Unfortunately, this corrupted him and he took on 700 wives and 300 concubines. The Bible doesn't rebuke that he had that many wives, just that he started worshiping the gods of his wives and concubines.

Whether it was Solomon in all his glory, or the Emperors in all their glory; none were at peace. I enjoy reading Ecclesiastes, "All is Vanity, a chasing after the wind".

The book instructs us to live fully:
Ecc 9:7-10

7 Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do.

8 Let your garments be always white. Let not oil be lacking on your head.

9 Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun.

10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.
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