Wednesday 2 March 2016

What special wisdom does life on earth offer to us?

Wisdom recognises that there are three things that we need to achieve. First of all our unique separate beingness, then the objective understanding of values, which produces the ability to understand the real quality and value of all things, and then the strength and integrity which is necessary to support the being and the understanding; and it is on earth that these experiences have been made available for us, to a degree which they may not be available for us in any other form of experience. That is why there is a wisdom that is able to grow from the earth which is so valuable.

To recapitulate: the special purpose of life on earth (for those who survive to adulthood, anyway) is related to three types of striving:

1. To develop as unique, distinctive individuals - we are not supposed to conform ourselves into one single pattern. Life is set-up so that we can (and almost must) become ourselves, more and more, by our choices and experiences; so that the Heavenly world has no replicas but instead multiple characters, each of whom is indispensable to the intended ideal.

2. We should develop, by our experiences, an objective understanding of values, based on the fullest possible range of experience. Obviously this does not mean deliberately sinning, nor does it mean scrabbling after experience. But it does mean that life is to be lived, embraced as an adventure (in our own destined way) - not a regrettable thing to be minimized or avoided for fear of doing 'something wrong'. Risk is intrinsic; and even as we do our best we know we will often or usually fail. A recognition of failure and repentance is our greatest friend and infinite saving grace.

3. Strength and integrity to sustain these qualities. In other words, we should aim at a courageous attitude to life - including repentance of our many failures in courage - no matter how timid we are by temperament or circumstance; we know and need to acknowledge as fully as possible that we are supposed to be courageous. Also that there is such a thing as integrity of living, such a thing as knowing what is right and making the correct decisions - this we need to strive for (while recognizing the objective fact that our own integrity is not exactly the same as other peoples' integrity).

In sum - life on earth has been well-designed and planned by God to achieve what he wants us to achieve in terms of our long term, ultimate goal - which is to become ever-more divine in the way that He is divine.

This goal entails a lot of trial and error type learning, which entails a lot of mistakes and failures - because this is the only thing which has the potential (no guarantee) to work for us (you and me, personally.

(Those individuals who do not need this difficult and painful type of learning  or who only need a little of it - include some of those who have a very short lifespan, including some of those who die (as divinely foreseen) in the womb or early childhood.)


David said...

It seems that the elevation of courage and fortitude in the face of life's trials would suggest that we are preparing to deal with yet more 'problems' beyond the Vale? I sometimes wonder whether my day dreams of heavens rewards are somehow profoundly misguided. If becoming a hardy, courageous sort is something life seems, at times cruelly, intent on hammering us into a certain mould of character (I once watched an LDS video that used this analogy, of a blacksmith working a metal rose, to explain how God uses painful experiences to mould our development...but it just left me horrified at the thought that we are somehow on 'the rack' of life's growing pains and God's lessons) then I'm not sure how this prepares us for a future heaven where there are no more tears, no suffering any longer? Or do I misperceive heaven? Rather it would seem an apprenticeship for battle with the devil himself or a sort of Spiritual Spartan training camp of mortality...but to what end? I am at a loss to understand how your constant migraines is in some way spiritually edifying or to your developmental benefit in some way, (rather it just seems an undesirable impediment to a contented and peaceful mind), why living with a chronic illness, pain or infirmity in senescence, loneliness and social isolation, dementia, etc. Eagerly awaiting the blessing and release of death, is of any value to the individual concerned? An 80 year old patient asked me this exact question recently. I didn't have a very satisfactory answer except to offer my heart - felt condolences at his plight. There are countless many elderly people living like this right now: thoroughly confused, alone and starved for companionship or meaning. Another patient, a middle aged bricklayer injured at work by a blunt head trauma, has spent over a decade living with chronic depression, altered personality post brain injury, unable to work or remember his appointments, extreme difficulty learning new things. What is spiritually edifying about that? What can he 'learn' from these mortal experiences when biologically he cannot?

Can you offer any wisdom concerning how to find 'value' in these painful experiences? I accept that William Arkles wisdom resonates as true but I really do struggle to make sense of the value of so much loss, pain and suffering and still feel that if there is a hidden lesson to be learned from such experiences it is still a most elusive thing to me. The best I can manage is to avoid despair at the plight of others by praying for them and asking heavenly father the same questions and reflections that I am presenting here in the earnest pursuit of 'wisdom.'

Many thanks.

Bruce Charlton said...

@David - What would you *want* from Heaven?

This is pretty much what I think about it:

My migraines are very obviously linked to cycles of creativity - so the benefits are fairly obvious.

But I am not going to try and explain specific instances or general cases - aside from the fact that such understanding would involve the big picture of life on earth and the far bigger picture of pre-mortal life and post-mortal eternity - and what we personally need, and what other people personally need. So any accurate answer would be extremely complex.

We can know the set-up and reasons for things in general. And if we know to know why specific bad things have happened to us, or our loved one, we can ask for personal revelation, and we may be told.

But it is not likely we will be told about other people that have little or nothig to do with us, and we certainly will never know about everything.

David said...

What would I *want* from heaven? I would want to stop feeling like I am going through hell, which is how I feel almost every day of my futile daily grinding job that seems to be almost completely pointless and dedicated to trying to make me solve the insoluble problems of other people's anxieties and depressions and then being made to take ownership for the wellbeing of others by managers of a system which is predicated on a nihilistic understanding of reality. I would like for them to leave me alone and to stop hounding me with targets. I would like to spend more quality time with my family and my partner and raise children unmolested by the savage pointlessness of western civilisation. I would like to be at leisure to worship truth, beauty, and virtue in the cosmos buy learning to play musical instruments, gaze at the stars, hike mountains and tell stories around campfires when the cinders crackle and spark with life. I would like to make my sweetheart laugh and delight in the joy that this simple wonder gives me on earth but in a place where evil isn't lurking in every nook and cranny, stealing goodness from the manifold joys and opportunities of life as we find in this mortality. I would like to let the 80 year old lonely man know comfort in the certainty that something better awaits this life instead of the fear and uncertainty I see in his eyes when he asks me "Why are we here? It makes no sense to me." I would like to live to see a world of perfect harmony or brothers and sisters, spirit children united in the service of love and appreciation of creativity and beauty. I would like to see my dead dog and old friend Cody and give him a hug and run with him in fallen leaves and golden sunlight and feel we are together in spirit. I would like to witness all these things and more but not just for me but for everyone and especially those who got lost somewhere along the way and couldn't dream or imagine big enough to see that childlike wonders are those fit for a God. I would like to find these things on Earth but I cannot and so I project them to a place called heaven that I yearn to reach some day. These are what I might *want* from heaven but I understand that this life has values: some hidden and some known, naturally my growth is predicated on discovering the unknown and hence I ask and explore but there are so many mysteries that I cannot penetrate...

Bruce Charlton said...

@CJ - I'm assuming you are trolling - if not and you are serious, then you should reflect on why it is I got that impression...

Calvin Jean said...

No, I'm serious. The doctrine of Predestination is the most important aspect on Protestant Christianity. In a nutshell it implies that God has beforehand, before the birth of the individual, predetermined whether the individual will end up either in Heaven or Hell.

Since the vast majority of the humankind will end up in Hell anyway, what is the point? What is the lesson the massa perditionis needs to learn for eternity in Hell?

Bruce Charlton said...

@CJ - "The doctrine of Predestination is the most important aspect on Protestant Christianity."

No it isn't. It is a small minority view.

"In a nutshell it implies that God has beforehand, before the birth of the individual, predetermined whether the individual will end up either in Heaven or Hell."

By my understanding, that is not true, and is indeed a horrible distortion of the Gospels.

"Since the vast majority of the humankind will end up in Hell anyway, what is the point? What is the lesson the massa perditionis needs to learn for eternity in Hell?"

People that end up in 'hell' - which may mean something different for you and I, since I adhere to Mormon theology, have chosen it - they have rejected salvation. Whether it will be a majority I don't know - it depends on choices as yet unmade - I think that most people will choose salvation when, after death they become aware of reality.

But I doubt it will be a majority who choose hell; except perhaps in The West, where I fear that many people have decided that good is evil - and will therefore shun Heaven.

Bruce Charlton said...

Note to S - Just so you know!

I don't routinely or for long publish multiple daily comments from one person (it is boring and annoying for other readers); also I don't publish comments subversive of the blog post or Christianity unless I have the time AND inclination to refute them; I don't usually publish comments that are telling me what to do, or giving me a shopping list of things to read, or linking to other sites which I don't have the time or inclination to check out first.

In sum, I am selective about what comments I publish - plus I don't feel I have to apologise or justify my policy anyway! This is my blog and my responsibility is to provide good posts (especially, above I want the blog to promote, spread, support, argue-for Mere Christianity) - comments must serve that purpose or else they won't appear.

Plus, to continue posting more than once a day for six years (more than three and a half K posts) I have to do this in a way that suits me.

e.g. I will be deleting this comment after a few hours.

Anonymous said...

You must be selective about what you publish - it is your blog. Sorry I rambled on.

What I sent you was something that seemed to challenge what I had always understood to be the case about everlasting punishment for damned souls. It gave a different interpretation of scripture I didn't know had ever been believed. I overdid it because I was learning about it whilst I was preparing my post. On reflection, that is why I wasn't more selective. The best thing would have been to read up, reflect and then write a concise post.

What it boiled down to in the end was that some people were saying that St Augustine mistranslated Greek words to mean "everlasting punishment", when they meant something else. Instead of "everlasting" the word aion (eon/aeon) means an unspecified, but possibly long period of time, and the other word beginning with 'K' - I forget what it was - meant a purging sort of punishment. (This seems more like the RC idea of purgatory, which, if sources I read are to be believed, was a concept thought up by St Augustine).

Interpreters said that the goats in Matthew 25 were being sent to a severe sort of A grade prison until they had learned to behave properly.

I've looked a bit more into this and found there are three opinions on hell, the one I grew up with - a final judgement and either eternal life with God or eternal damnation and torment. A second was that at final judgement, it would be eternal life or annihilation. Some people who believe this think that after death, people will be given another chance to accept God. The third view of hell was the place of purging and that sinners will be reunited with God in the end. This seemed to be largely based on the Greek meaning of words in Matthew 25.

These ideas were new to me, but I don't suppose they are new to you. I have not been looking into things spiritual for as long as you have. A well argued opinion on the subject would help my own thoughts. If you have already written on this subject, I'd be grateful for a link.



Bruce Charlton said...

@Seeker - This is not the best shop for line by line scriptual exegesis! I don't regard that as a legitimate way to read the Bible. Also, I adhere to Mormon metaphysics and theology, which has a very different conceptualization of Heaven and Hell. Only the sons of perdition go to something like the mainstream Christian idea of Hell, because they have chosen to. Normal sinners eventually go to a lower level of Heaven - a paradise that is better than earth, however lacks the living presence of Christ. But you can find out more if you want from