Making Monotheism

Making Monotheism December 27, 2017

A number of posts around the blogosphere have touched on this topic that has long been of great interest to me. To start with, Mark Ganville writes in his review of Lester Grabbe’s book 1 & 2 Kings:

Grabbe traces the development of monotheistic Yahwism from a polytheistic context where Yahweh was one among many gods, a ‘son’ of El, to the monotheistic religion of the DH.

Izaak de Hulster has blogged about the subject of his book, Figurines in Achaemenid period Yehud, on the use of idols by monotheists in Judaea in the Persian era.

Richard Beck talked about Open Theism and whether God, as conceived of within monotheism, should be envisaged as omniscient.

Daniel McClellan shared his article, “Cognitive Perspectives on Early Christology.”

A number of classic books related to Christology, divinity, and monotheism have recently been re-released.

And Philip Clayton talks about being a Christian process theologian.

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  • John MacDonald

    Deuteronomy 32:8-9 says:

    8 When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance,
    when he divided mankind,
    he fixed the borders of the peoples
    according to the number of the sons of God.
    9 But the Lord’s portion is his people,
    Jacob his allotted heritage.

    – It is sometimes not noted that “The Most High” and “The Lord” are two different Gods, among many other Gods (Hector Avalos).

    • The first commandment is “I am the Lord thy God and thou shall not have strange Gods before Me.” This is the basis for the conviction that there is only one God, a belief that leads to the knowledge of unity, which once accomplished influences and helps us in our daily lives. There is only one God appearing before us, and this one God is for everyone embodying the secrets for successful living in an all-pervading consciousness. In the awareness of one subtle energy form that is everywhere at the same time, we realize that God is always present in the power of pure consciousness.

      Carl Sagan, an American astronomer, cosmologist, astrophysicist, astrobiologist and author said, “A new consciousness is developing which sees the earth as a single organism and recognizes that an organism at war with itself is doomed. We are one planet.” To expand this beyond the Earth there is one pure consciousness that many call God who created us out of an all-pervading energy; therefore, there are innumerable forms of energy in this one ocean of energy. God is in all of us as spirit, soul or call it consciousness; therefore, we need to stop fighting over who created the world and respect the Divinity within everybody.

      • John MacDonald

        How do you read “sons of God” in the passage I cited, which I think the Dead Sea Scrolls renders as “sons of El”?

        • The infinite is endless with many dimensions. The infinite is still one even though we have many levels and I feel the collective is God with everything inside God and God inside everything. With infinite possibilities we also have infinite names, titles and ways to express the total of everything we label God. The Trinity is three labels according to different functions of the same God so these titles might be different like the notes of a chord are different, but they make one sound or comprise one God.

          • John MacDonald

            Elyon seems to be a separate and superior deity from Yahweh. Discoveries in the 1920’s in Ugaritic, a related language to Hebrew, suggests that the Hebrew Gods were somewhat derived from pre-Israel Ugaritic culture, where El may have been a separate deity. In other cultures, like the Sefire inscriptions, El and Elyon are listed as separate deities in a list including other gods. Deuteronomy 32:8-9 seems to identify Elyon as “The Most High,” and Yahweh as his son. This would be reflective of gods having offsprings in other related ancient cultures. The editors of the Masoretic text were clearlly uncomfortable with the apparent polytheism, so they changed “sons of God” to “sons of Israel.” I’m not sure how any of this has to do with the Trinity, as you seem to think?

          • I noticed you refered to the one God with a capital and the other gods in lower case showing a lesser status. In that instance the chord would be the one sound that is composed of and includes other notes in a chord. Each note contributes to the one sound and each one has its own sound individually or individual purpose.

          • John MacDonald

            You seem to be doing textual and intellectual contortions to make your interpretation fit. It would be odd to see a sophisticated “Trinity Type” model of early Jewish theological understanding emerging out of a traditional Ugaritic model where the gods have divine “parents” in the usual, ordinary sense of that word. The simplest explanation of Deuteronomy 32:8-9 is that Elyon is the “father” of Yahweh in the straightforward, everyday sense of that word. The concept of a “Trinity” is a relatively late theological development.

          • John MacDonald

            And it’s not as though, in our earliest sources, we have a Godhead where all of the individual deity components are working together as an expression of the Godhead. For instance, in Exodus 20:5 God says “I am a jealous God.” What would God be jealous of except for the attention/devotion of humans being given to other gods? Yahweh sees himself as being in competition with these other gods, not “one with them.”

          • If god is jealous wouldn’t he be a lower case god and the God that is inclusive would be upper case. Your arguement that “Trinity is a late theological development doesn’t make sense could you be more precise. The theory that the earth revolves around the sun is an evolution of the theory that the sun and all planets revolve around the earth. Is it wrong because it came later?

          • John MacDonald

            One of our earliest sources, Mark, portrays Jesus as a fallible human prophet who was unable to do miracles at home. Mark writes:

            “Then Jesus told them, ‘A prophet is without honor only in his hometown, among his relatives, and in his own household.’ So He could not perform any miracles there, except to lay His hands on a few of the sick and heal them. (Mark 6:4-5)”

            Jesus is hardly an omnipotent God here. The New Testament narrative is that Jesus was exalted after his death. Before that he was just a fallible human prophet predicting the end of the age:

            “Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have happened (Mark 13:30).”

            Similarly, Paul was an apocalyptic thinker who believed the resurrected Jesus was the “firstfruits” of the general “harvest of souls” at the end of days, which was imminent:

            “But each in his own turn: Christ the firstfruits; then at His coming, those who belong to Him. (1 Cor 15:23)”

      • John MacDonald

        The rule not to have any gods before Him seems to imply there are other gods who the people could choose, but they better not. It also makes little sense for God to say next that he is a jealous God if there are no other gods to be jealous of. Genesis in parts also presupposes other gods: ““Let US make mankind in OUR image, in our likeness’ (Genesis 1:26).” Here is an interesting blog post on this topic:

        • “One God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all…..” Ephesians 4:6 NRSV
          “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe_____and tremble!” James 2:19 NKJV
          “There is only one God.” EPHESIANS 4:6 NLT
          “The lord our God, the Lord is one!” Deuteronomy 6:4 NKJV
          “For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things.”Romans 11:36 BBE
          “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou has sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.” John 17: 21 -23
          “The Lord is God, in heaven on high and here on earth;there is no other God.” DEUTERONOMY 4:39 BBE

          • John MacDonald

            It is linguistically meaningless to speak of an entity that is fully (100%) God, and also fully (100%) human and fully (100%) holy spirit, because this would imply a an entity that has 300 % being, which is mathematical gibberish. And the Trinity doesn’t fit the evidence. For instance, when, in Mark, Jesus prays to God in Gethsemane in desperation to not make Jesus go through with his mission, is Jesus praying to himself?

          • Your math is correct but your interpretations of what I am saying are off. I never mentioned Jesus by name but we can consider him in the Trinity which is not 300%. I think you are defending that there are many gods. I am stating that there is one God call it Quantum soup, infinity or pure consciousness. All there is, is God, otherwise there is no God because if there is anything that exists which is not God, then there is no God; therefore, God is the source of all things that means positive as well as negative. All things and circumstances are generated out of energy, the power of the universe is energy that can’t be created or destroyed, it just changes form. The individual minds in this energy create the negatives we call evil, for the reason that the root of this evil is not seeing the unifying force, withholding love and condemning others. The opposite is love, a magnet that attracts and unites the best of everything in a greater and greater good. We do not create this expanding wholeness because it is a divine idea, but we can become aware of this divine reality that has existed since before the beginning of time by opening up and accepting it, when it creates a wonderful moment that is new and good in our lives. We are in the present moment eternally, but sometimes not aware that we are in eternity, which continues whether we are conscious of it or not.

            I feel Jesus the son in the Trinity was aware of the unity of one God and said, “I and the Father are one.” In the medium of the ocean of pure consciousness, the Holy Trinity is in equilibrium, which is a Christian term used to express the three subtle forces in nature. This Holy Trinity contains the force that freezes the water to make icebergs so that it may manifest itself in the form of creation so pure consciousness may materialize. The Holy Trinity is; the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost and is the Christian symbol for God from which the universe emanates, has its growth, realizes pure consciousness and merges in the end. When the Holy Trinity is in equilibrium it transcends the limitations of time; past, present and future; the genders; masculine, feminine and neuter; and the mind; conscious, subconscious and unconscious. When the equilibrium is disturbed, each principle of the Holy Trinity has the opportunity to express itself. This is the emergence of being from non-being or what we refer to as creation where pure consciousness without qualities takes on qualities on the physical plane. The primordial waters are a theoretical expression showing the creative spirit of God bringing order out of what seems to be chaos; there is still oneness, but the awareness of this oneness in all things becomes lost in the individual awareness of the parts. God, the Father is used in the pervasive sense that is the pure consciousness that is all pervading and as Christians; we say God is all knowing because he is all pervading. The Witnessing Consciousness, God the Father is everywhere, He lies quiescent in every entity; therefore, He is all seeing and all pervading. In our model God the Father is the ocean of pure consciousness and in this ocean of pure consciousness, God the Father allows the Holy Spirit, or the Holy Ghost, as you may call it, to operate. God the Father is the primary cause of creation; the Holy Ghost is the secondary cause because the Father allows the Holy Spirit to give qualities to the all-pervading consciousness. The Holy Spirit is not all pervading so only the Father can be the material cause while the Holy Ghost is the operative principle or the force that freezes the water. It is allowed to operate and is sheltered in the pure consciousness so the Holy Ghost can only work as much as the Father allows it to. In the Christian theory of creation only the Father is the instrumental cause, the pure consciousness does nothing, but allows the Holy Spirit to act. He said, “Let there be light and there was light.” The Father is a 100% and in that 100% are different expressions of the 100%. The finite is in the infinite, in the finite is infinite. Jesus main concepts were the divinity within and love. I feel both lead to unity because love unites and the divinity wihin is a part of the one divine energy or ocean of pure consciousness mentioned earlier.

            I don’t think you want us to add up all the different gods you mentioned at 100% each that would be more than 300%.

          • John MacDonald

            I’m a little confused by your interpretation. You talk about how you think the 3 persons of the Trinity are different, but if the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are also One, what characteristics do they share in terms of which they would be One?

          • John salutations to the Divinity within you, I feel your sincerity. In a company we might have 3 CEO’s managing the company but they are all a part of the company with different functions and one owner. We can’t describe infinity but I feel we need to answer the intelects questions the best we can to quiet the mind so we can feel the divinity within, the infinite within our finite beings. (in the finite, infinite)

          • John MacDonald

            It’s the perennial mystery (some would say lack of conceptual clarity) of the Trinity. If the three are One, (a) in what sense are the three One, and (b) in what sense are the three unique individuals? I’m not sure how your analogy of the company applies here, because you posit five entities: 1 company, 3 CEO’s, and 1 owner, so it is confusing as to which is God, which is the Holy Spirit, and which is Jesus?

            Let’s try it in a different way. Given your view of the Trinity, who died on the cross and what did it accomplish (if anything)?

          • The Father is the all encompassing subtle energy of creation, The Holy Ghost in the Father and gives the pure consciosness qualities so we have finite matter. Jesus is in the finite with the experience of being one with the infinite subtle energy. His main teachings are about love and the divinity within which is our connection to the Father.

          • John MacDonald

            I still think you are using words like “all encompassing,” “pure consciousness qualities,” “in the finite … being one with the infinite” … etc, Without really understanding what you mean by them. For instance, what does it mean when you say:

            “Jesus is in the finite with the experience of being one with the infinite subtle energy” ?

            – What does it mean to be “one with the infinite?”

          • Ed Senter

            What do you mean by “the divinity within”? Was Jesus’ death just an unfortunate consequence of his teachings?

          • John MacDonald

            As I understand him, John K’s position seems pan-religious/meditative, so Jesus doesn’t have any special status, but is just another manifestation of what we see cross culturally in the various meditative/religious traditions throughout the world. I think the closest position to John K’s position in Christianity would be St. John of the Cross’ “Dark Night of the Soul.” The Dark Night narrates the journey of the soul from its bodily home to union with God. It happens during the night, which represents the hardships and difficulties met in detachment from the world and reaching the light of the union with the Creator. There are several steps in this night, which are related in successive stanzas. The main idea of the poem can be seen as the painful experience that people endure as they seek to grow in spiritual maturity and union with God. John K’s “divinity within” is what we can cultivate to overcome the subject/object dichotomy and, in such “transcendence,” experience “oneness” with the “infinite or “God.” I don’t find this argument persuasive as a way of connecting with God (if there is a God), since a similar thing can be accomplished with drugs, and so there is nothing special in meditation or prayer or anything else in achieving this end.

          • John Kuykendall

            John did a very good description of where I am coming from except the trancedent experience, which can be accomplished in many ways even in just being. Meditation, prayer and drugs are not that special unless they give you an experience that goes beyond the mind. Many dab in the techniques or drugs, but they only get a sample that points to something bigger. They get a taste but not the whole experience which is very illusive because the mind is so strong it even uses the techniques or drug to make it an even more attractive cage limiting our experience.

          • John MacDonald

            John Kuykendall said “We can’t describe infinity …”

            In the time I’ve been investigating “The BEING Question,” I’ve seen people describing God using terms like “Infinite,” “Being,” “Absolute,” etc., without “pinning” down what these terms mean. Hence, some gravitate toward “Apophatic Theology” because in this approach they don’t have to define their terms. If you are invoking terms like “Infinite” without being able to give sense to it, I question whether “Infinite” means anything to you besides being an empty abstraction. As Hegel said, “Being” is the most all-encompassing category, and as such the most meaningless.

            I also notice you tend to use a lot of analogies trying to explain God. Analogies are helpful in showing a system of concepts may be com-possible (they don’t logically negate each other), but showing a Threefold analogy is com-possible doesn’t demonstrate it is expressing “Trinitiness,” in the sense of “God is a Trinity” – in such a way that God is both “essentially” One AND “essentially” Many (What does “essentially” mean here?) I don’t think your CEO/Company analogy shows how God is essentially Many, but still essentially One.

            Finally, if you do get a logically consistent expression of the Trinity of God, this doesn’t mean such an explanation actually applies to the God of reality (if there is a God), rather than just the God of your speculation. I can, for instance, posit an invisible, immaterial magical leprechaun that created the universe, etc., that is not logically impossible, but that is hardly evidence that such a leprechaun exists. In this way, imagining a logically consistent Trinity hardly implies that this system of concepts applies to The God Of Reality (if there is a God).

          • Infinite is easy the dictionary defines it………………..Define infinite: extending indefinitely : endless; immeasurably or inconceivably great or extensive : inexhaustible
            God is abstract with different meanings for different people and since you think there are many gods you must have many abstractions for God. None of them prove there is a God or not a God. The Trinity is just an abstract symbol used to show that duality is in unity. Jesus used abstract symbols, parables and words as a tool to point to what can’t be described or grasped with the finite mind, but I feel it can be experienced as Jesus said, “I and the Father are one.”

            Love is an abstract word and Jesus uses it because I think he was trying to show us that in love duality finds unity and they are not in conflict. I would define transcendence as going beyond duality and experiencing unity and attachment as an attraction to duality. We live in the material world of duality and there is nothing wrong with that and it is fun, but in times of pain and suffering we seek relief, which I feel we can receive by transcending duality, atonement=at-one-ment with the Father. In many myths, stories, symbols, analogies the Father is used in science we can use Quantum soup, subtle energy or pure consciousness or your magical leprechaun to point to One God. I see how many people don’t understand the trinity and how they think there are many gods if that abstraction brings them peace and love great, the symbols are only signs pointing to a reconciled paradox or connection of opposites in our own presence of being. If people are in conflict with their identity, restless and don’t have peace and love, I say place your attention on whatever symbol brings contentment, compassion or bliss. As Joseph Campbell says, “Follow your Bliss.”

          • John MacDonald

            John Kuykendall said:

            1. “Infinite is easy the dictionary defines it………………..Define infinite: extending indefinitely : endless; immeasurably or inconceivably great or extensive : inexhaustible ”

            – Can you explain the difference between “Infinite” and “Indefinite” ? I would think the “Infinite” would be more reasonably explained like the Latin word “perfectio,” meaning “complete.”

            2. “since you think there are many gods”

            – I’m as secular agnostic, I have no idea whether the “Theos” or “Ground” has the characteristics of a “Mind” or not; or, whether it is One, or Many, or both One and Many in it’s essence (although it is hard to see how this last characterization isn’t contradictory).

            3. “Jesus used abstract symbols, parables and words as a tool to point to what can’t be described or grasped with the finite mind.”

            – As I said, you don’t have a clear understanding of what you are arguing for. What is it exactly that the “finite mind” can’t understand? Is it something that an “infinite mind” could understand? What is an “infinite mind?”

            4. “I feel it can be experienced as Jesus said, ‘I and the Father are one.'”

            – How can you “experience” ‘I and the father are One?”

            – Regarding this passage yo cite from John,

            (A) I think in the Gospel of John Jesus presents himself as being subordinate to God. We read:

            ‘So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upwards and said, ‘Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.’ (John 11:41-42).

            The phrase “you sent me” seems to be Jesus’ way of identifying that he is in a subordinate position to God.

            (B). Jesus says it is God’s name, not Jesus’ name, that is to be glorified by his mission. We read:

            “Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say, ‘Father save me from this hour’? No it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” (John 12:27-28).

            (C) I think making Jesus an object of worship equal to God takes away from the selflessness of his mission and the fact that he wanted the glory to be on God. Chapter 17 of John’s gospel is the longest prayer of Jesus recorded in any of the gospels. In this chapter Jesus consecrates himself to the task that lies ahead, not for his sake, but for ours. This prayer of Jesus brings us to a closer understanding of the mind of Jesus, his relationship with God, and his selfless love of those, like us, in his care. I think in this regard, Jesus’ prayer life in the Gospel of John also provides a window into what John thought of his Christology. Jesus in his prayers is in petition and supplication before God, not equal with God.

            5. “I would define transcendence as going beyond duality and experiencing unity and attachment as an attraction to duality.”

            – It is a fairly common phenomena among spiritual practitioners of many disciplines to enter into feelings of presence and unity in their meditations, but this is certainly no evidence of an objective “Oneness Of All” beyond this subjective state of the human mind. All this is evidence of is a feature of the human mind to be able to feel a sense of unity in meditative and drug induced states, which does not imply there is an ontological Oneness beyond this subjective feeling/experience. We would not infer, for instance, from an LSD trip, that there actually are floating pink elephants lurking behind normal reality. In the same way, my “feeling of certainty” about this proposition or that has nothing to do with whether the proposition is actually true.

          • Thank you for telling me you are agnostic. I think I was using the wrong language as you are not interested in the experience beyond the mind. Finite objects are in the infinite but can’t be the infinite, but the infinite penetrates them as Quantum theory reveals oneness in the universe where it demonstrates that everything is connected in a Quantum soup where we can’t decompose matter into independently existing smaller units. There are no separated building blocks because everything is connected in an energy web connecting the various parts to the whole. I was trying to show you this with the symbol of the Trinity because I thought you were debating more gods in a religious fashion, but I don’t think you saw the finite in the infinite. The infinite has many different, intricate relationships with the finite objects depending on what dimension the interactions are taking place on. As humans we understand the universe in our different relationships as the observer.
            I am debating the experience has to be beyond the mind because the finite mind can’t grasp the infinite, but we can experience the infinite that penetrates our being if we can get beyond the mind. I don’t think LSD would work because you are using a finite drug to shock you to the infinite, but it will fall short and I don’t think it will get beyond the material gravitational pull of the finite. There are many methods to go beyond thought by Buddhist, Hindus, Christians, Sufis, agnostics and atheists. You seem to have a good mind so I see why you would not want to depart from it. I can say I have a good mind, but who is thinking I have a mind demonstrating that the observer of my thoughts is not the mind, call it consciousness or soul if you like. The soul can’t be destroyed and goes on forever so is not finite similar to the irrational number pi. It has no end or conclusion. Pi is a constant that can’t be made into a fraction or impossible to divide it from itself. The soul is another irrational, indivisible comparison that some of use to express who we are; a soul with a mind and body and not a mind and body with a soul. The soul transcends the mind and some irrational numbers are also known as transcendental numbers because they can’t be expressed with a rational coefficient and are uncountable because they are unaccountably infinite. There are no rational numbers are irrational, but we assume that irrational numbers exist with their unaccountably infinite characteristic that doesn’t have an exact value. We accept their existence because of proof even though we can’t find the ending point even with our computers, but it allows us to use irrational numbers to help us in our expressions.
            I see where you think it is irrational to believe in one God or many gods, but it is hard to understand why you are in a debate that is about one God or many gods. If we switch to math in your mind you believe in irrational number when they are not rational and we can’t evaluate them. I get that some think that belief in God is irrational because there is no evidence, but so is the probability of intelligent life in the universe, but like irrational numbers there is not sufficient evidence for God. We accept irrational numbers and use them to help us explain equations; in the same way we can also use the model of one whole to help us deal with our reality and problems to relax our mind.

            If it is rational for us to accept irrational numbers and use them to help us, it is also rational for humans to accept the existence of God if it assists them in life.

            God is irrational because there is not sufficient evidence for the existence of God.

            The same is true of irrational numbers because they have an infinite number of numerals, but they exist because they help us in our lives

            The thought of the infinite helps us as a model to help us in our lives

            For that reason, God as the infinite exists because irrational numbers exist

            Pythagoras believed that all numbers were rational, but there is a story that Hippasus proved that 2 was an irrational number. As the story or myth goes the followers of Pythagoras couldn’t accept irrational numbers and supposedly drowned Hippasus in the ocean as punishment.

            I am sorry I can’t be more rational and thank you for being civil of irrationality.

          • John MacDonald

            John Kuykendall said:

            ” I don’t think LSD would work because you are using a finite drug to shock you to the infinite, but it will fall short and I don’t think it will get beyond the material gravitational pull of the finite. ”

            The plain truth of the matter is that the human brain is capable of feeling what you would call “Oneness,” either through prayer, or meditation, or drugs, etc. As far as we can tell, this is a purely normal physiological phenomenon, and so there is no reason to posit an “Infinite (whatever that means)” that we are in contact with during those states. Religious/meditative practitioners cross culturally report being able to cultivate “feelings” of “oneness” with the “universe” or “whatever,” but all this implies is that the brain is capable of “feeling” such as state, not that the brain is in contact with an all encompassing infinite entity.

            Brains are the same cross culturally, so it is not odd that we would encounter this phenomenon cross culturally. The technique of self referential metaphor works (as Jung saw) in the same way. Humans mirror the world to describe their subjective states (e.g., I am “Boiling Mad”). And so, the use of metaphor in this way is “cross cultural” because the planet at one place has similarities to the planet at other places (eg., mirroring anger with fire).

            The fact that humans can induce a sense of “Oneness” through meditation, or prayer, or drugs does not imply there is an all encompassing infinite “Oneness” or “God” that the practitioner is sensing.

          • John MacDonald

            The point is, we don’t have to posit “God” or the “Divine” to explain feelings of “transcendence” in meditation, prayer, or drug use, as a purely physiological phenomenon.

          • John Kuykendall

            Do you identify with your mind when asked who is the real you? I agree with oneness and that we don’t have to use the God as a label.

          • John MacDonald

            The point is, just because we can cultivate the “feeling” or “experience” of a “subject/object transcending Oneness/Infinite/God” through meditation/prayer/drugs, this is not evidence that there actually is an ontological God or Oneness, any more than experiencing floating pink elephants on a drugged out LSD experience implies there actually are pink floating elephants hiding beyond everyday reality. And, historically, there are many instances where religious practitioners have used drugs to cultivate religious experiences, because prayer and meditation and drugs are all different paths to the same thing: Rastafarians use ganga in worship. There’s evidence Rastafarian ritual stems from older practices in Africa. Ancient Mexicans used peyote and psychedelic mushrooms. South Pacific islanders consumed kava. Some devotees of the Hindu goddess Kali worshipped with drugs. One medieval Muslim faction were called “the Assassins” due to their practice named by the Arabic “hashishiyya” or “hashish users.” Anyway, to get back to your question (John K asked: Do you identify with your mind when asked who is the real you?), the way it is true that you are more than just your mind is not really in dispute, but there is certainly no evidence that there is a God or a transcendent Oneness or a Universe you can mentally connect to or anything like that. This is all new age self realization speculation put forth by Oprah Winfrey and Deepak Chopra and Eckhart Tolle and the like, which is based on groundless assumptions and a lack of intellectual rigor in clarifying concepts.

          • John MacDonald

            John K said “Do you identify with your mind when asked who is the real you?” I would say that I believe in the mind/body unity, and do not believe there is a mind/body/soul. If there was a soul that was the essence of a person, I don’t think things like traumatic brain injury could leave us alive, but reduce us to vegetables with all hints of the personality destroyed. And there is no reason to posit life after death. When plants/fungus/bacteria/insects/hamsters/dogs/sparrows/chickens/etc die, that’s it. There is no life after death for them. Analogously, there is no reason to suppose the human animal continues on after death.

          • Energy is neigher created nor destroyed, it just changes form and we are beings of energy. Animals and plants are also beings of energy. We can’t prove there is life after death or no life after death so saying people are wrong or new agey does not prove life after death or no life after death. We can’t prove there is a God or not a god we only speculate. Socrates said, “The secret of change is to focus all your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” Jospeph Campbel said, “Follow your Bliss.” I say surf the energy wave where it takes you because it is difficult to stop it.

          • John MacDonald

            I just don’t buy into the whole new age energies/crystals/whatever stuff. It seems to me a trivial point to say there is energy in us which disperses as we die and decompose. There certainly isn’t any great existential truth in it. I agree we can’t know if there’s life after death, or a God/gods, or a soul, etc.

          • I said we are energy beings, all of us and everything is energy in different forms. There is no definition for consciousness so I define it as energy that carries information. When we die, our physical decomposes the energy is transformed into different energy formations. We speculate that we will become dirt or merge with the ocean of energy or an infinite other potentialites. We all can pick our speculation,hopefully it gives us peace so we can live without fear and anxiety. When we put down another speculation it does not make the one we choose any better so Christians who put down New Age doesn’t make Christianity correct.

          • John MacDonald

            Some people gravitate toward the New Age flavor of the month like Oprah, or Eckhart Tolle, or Deepak Chopra. Some prefer psychics, or crystals, or Tarot Cards, or Ouija boards, or Horoscopes. Others find themselves contented in one of the endless permutations of organized religions. There may be great “metaphysical (in the average, everyday use of this term)” truth in some or all of these. For me, as an agnostic, I gravitate toward Homer Simpson’s conclusion in the “Blood Feud” episode of the Simpsons. Lisa suggests that perhaps there is not a lesson to be learned from recent events, to which Homer agrees as it’s “just a bunch of stuff that happened.” Perhaps Johann Scheffler (also known as Johann Angelus Silesius), a German Catholic priest and physician, known as a mystic and religious poet, was flirting with Godlessness when he wrote “A rose is without a why. It blooms because it blooms.” Consider the contrast between this and the Principle of Sufficient Reason that says “Everything has a reason or ground.”

          • Gary


            People like to use “New Age” words when convenient. I don’t view it as any big deal. Carl Sagan phrased the fact that elements like carbon (and heavier), were produced by supernovas. He could have simply stated it as I did. However, he poetically phrased what the Cosmos does, anthropomorphical, just like “J”. “Cosmos knows itself”. Even though Sagan was against “New Age”, he seemed to like to use “New Age” terminology when it was poetic, and convenient, to appeal to his TV audience.

          • John MacDonald

            The fact that stuff in us was made by supernovas is no evidence “the cosmos knows itself” in more than the trivial sense that people are constituted by material stuff and happen to be self aware. So are insects. There are plenty of elements like carbon (and heavier) that were produced by supernovas that constitute things that are not alive too. Anyway, we are born, we live, and we die and feed the insects and plants etc. Any inference beyond that is baseless speculation and guesswork.

          • Gary

            Take it up with Sagan. He said it, although in a very “higher plane”, “New Age” way. My point, everyone uses flowery words to explain stuff we don’t really understand. Certainly doesn’t prevent people from speculation and guesswork.

            The phrase “Anyway, we are born, we live, and we die and feed the insects and plants etc. Any inference beyond that is baseless speculation and guesswork”
            Reminds me of Ebenezer Scrooge “aren’t there workhouses and prisons? Humbug.” 🙂

          • John MacDonald

            lol – I agree with Socrates: I know that I know nothing (which Socrates clarifies as meaning “not wise with their wisdom, nor foolish with their foolishness”). Socrates gives the example of death, which we don’t know if it is a great nothingness or a wonderful adventure!

          • Gary

            “Your worm is your only emperor for diet. We fat all creatures else to fat us, and we fat ourselves for maggots. Your fat king and your lean beggar is but variable service—two dishes, but to one table. That’s the end.”

            Except Hamlet was in a state of depression. Not a state I would like to be in, continuously.

            Red State, Blue State, Deep State, Depressed State. Too bad that seems to be the only choices today.

            Of course, since I live in California, there’s also now the Hazed State. Thank you, Timothy Leary!

          • Gary

            “I say surf the energy wave where it takes you”… I say, I am not going to criticize anyone’s surfing energy waves to anywhere, until physics explains Dark Energy, why the expansion of the Universe is accelerating, or why my electrons’ wave function probability has a finite value at infinity. From that standpoint, we have a probability of existing everywhere.

          • I agree, I don’t know if we will get all the answers so we might as well enjoy the ride.

    • Gary

      Should include Psalm 82 in the discussion. A more direct reference, I think. And probably older than Deuteronomy.
      1 God has taken his place in the divine council;
      in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:
      2 “How long will you judge unjustly
      and show partiality to the wicked?

      (Yeah, some have said they are human judges, but that is just too much of a stretch). The polytheism to monotheism evolution seems to fit Deuteronomy’s final official King/priest/government housecleaning under Josiah. If there was any official thoughts about supporting polytheism, it was squashed by Josiah. (That is, until an Egyptian arrow opened up the discussion again 🙂

      • John MacDonald

        And also consider Ezekiel 8:14, with the women mourning for the slain deity Tammuz :

        ” 14 Then He brought me to the entrance of the gate of the LORD’S house which was toward the north; and behold, women were sitting there weeping for Tammuz.”

        • Gary

          I find the most interesting thing about Ezekiel 8, is Ezekiel 8:1. According to my commentary, “September 17, 592 BCE”.
          Of course, there’s also “See, they are putting the branch to their nose!”
          If you didn’t drop polytheism before, you sure would after this!

  • Keefa

    Greetings Dr. James McGrath

    I had the pleasure of reading your entire book entitled “The Only True God: Early Christian Monotheism in Its Jewish Context”[James F. McGrath]. After much reflection and dialogue, I found myself wondering how best to describe your Theology and Christology. How would you answer? Or is there an article that best describes your views?