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

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

Good posts, Jesse ... thanks for sharing your thoughts regarding religious authority. Many of us as Christians exist today because of the faithfulness of religious dissenters centuries ago.

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