Welcome back to 'Common Ground'. If you're joining us for the first time, here's a quick intro: This is a space where we delve into the deep stuff, the nitty-gritty, the questions that often leave us pondering. The goal is simple: to create a higher resolution understanding of issues that often get reduced to soundbites in the media.
Now, why is this important? Let's take a step back.
I remember a time when my 6 kids were younger, all energetic bundles of joy, were sprawled on the living room floor, immersed in an intense game of Jenga. As I watched them, a simple yet profound realization dawned on me. Just like that tower of blocks, our understanding of complex matters is a delicate balance. Remove one block or add misinformation, and the entire structure wobbles.
That's what we're trying to avoid here at 'Common Ground'. We're building our tower of understanding, block by block, with patience, empathy, and the mutual respect that allows for differing viewpoints. We're not shying away from the big questions or difficult topics. Instead, we're embracing them, treating them as stepping stones towards a better understanding of ourselves and the world around us.
Today, we're diving into an exploration that's close to my heart - the intersection of faith and science, the evolution of belief, and the questions that guide our journey. No matter where you stand on these issues, I invite you to join this exploration with an open heart and mind.
Buckle up and get ready for some thought-provoking insights and, hopefully, a few 'aha' moments. Let's get started.
The Evolution of Faith
Isn't it striking how life's most significant elements don't follow a linear trajectory? They twist, they dip, they soar, they loop back on themselves. Faith is no different. It's not a static piece of our lives, solidified like a sculpture. It's more akin to a dance, ever-moving, developing, and adapting in sync with the music of our experiences.
Every person we meet, every triumph, every setback, every awe-inspiring moment, shapes us in subtle yet profound ways. And our faith? It's a companion on this journey, a dynamic presence evolving with our changing understanding of the world.
Let me take you back to a pivotal moment in my life, a moment that transformed my faith from a seed into a blossoming tree. My older brother, my confidante and best friend, was involved in a terrifying accident. The details, as painful as they were, aren't the heart of the story. It's about the change that took place in the hospital corridors, in the hushed whispers, the worried glances, and the silence that fell when words failed.
As a child, my concept of faith was a simple construct. It was a list of dos and don'ts, recitations of prayers whose depth I couldn't fathom. The image of God was a stern, distant figure, aloof and unapproachable. But, the experience with my brother brought a seismic shift in my understanding.
As we hovered on the brink of losing him, faith became my lifeline. I found myself engaged in a deeply intimate conversation with the divine. The critical line separating life and death, hope and despair, became a fertile ground where my faith evolved from mere belief into a personal spiritual journey.
During those long nights in the hospital, I discovered God not as a distant celestial being but as an intimate presence, a source of strength amidst the turmoil. God was in the comforting hand of a nurse, the shared tears with family, the quiet moments of reflection in the chapel.
The experience shook me to my core, but it also laid the foundation for a deeper, richer faith. It transformed from a childhood belief into a more nuanced understanding, one that acknowledged the messiness and complexity of life and still found beauty, love, and divine presence in it.
Like a tree, faith grows over time. It draws strength from life's experiences, spreading its branches towards the heavens while grounding itself with strong roots. That's the marvel of faith; it's not a relic of our past self but an evolving part of our identity.
Faith, like life, is a journey, not a destination. It transforms with us, reflecting our growth, our learnings, our struggles, and our triumphs. Through its evolution, we discover not just a deeper sense of the divine but also a deeper understanding of ourselves. The evolution of faith, it turns out, is also the evolution of self.
The Unanswered Questions
If faith is a journey, questions are the signposts we encounter along the way. They guide us, challenge us, and often, they make us uncomfortable. They nudge us to look closer, delve deeper, and confront the aspects of our faith we'd rather skirt around. But here's the thing about questions - the ones that unsettle us the most often lead us to the most profound realizations.
Have you ever found yourself shying away from a question that felt too daunting, too heavy to bear? A question that challenged your belief system, nudged you out of your comfort zone? It's like knowing there's a shadowy corner in your room but being hesitant to shine a light on it.
What if I told you that these very questions hold the key to unlocking a deeper understanding of your faith?
In my journey, it was asking, "Why do I hide my faith?" that propelled me into a new dimension of understanding. It wasn't an easy question to confront. It challenged me to dissect my fears, insecurities, and the perceived judgment of others. Yet, delving into it brought me face to face with the essence of my faith - the conviction to uphold my beliefs despite external pressures, the courage to let my faith guide my actions openly.
Just as a diamond is formed under intense heat and pressure, our faith often crystallizes in the crucible of questioning. It's in the wrestling, the doubting, the soul-searching, that our faith evolves from a mere acceptance of what we're told to a deeply personal conviction.
So, I invite you to embrace the questions that you've been avoiding. Give yourself permission to lean into the discomfort, the uncertainty. The exploration may feel challenging, even unsettling. But remember, growth and comfort seldom walk hand in hand.
The question you're hesitating to ask, is it about God's existence? The problem of evil? The dichotomy between faith and science? Or maybe it's more personal - are you wrestling with how to manifest your faith in your day-to-day life?
Take a moment, close your eyes, and think about that question. It's been in the back of your mind, but now, bring it to the forefront. Acknowledge it. Confront it. Ask yourself:
"What am I avoiding and why?"
Remember, it's okay to question. It's okay to doubt. It's okay not to have all the answers right away. These questions are not a test of your faith, but an invitation to deepen it. They are the catalysts for transformation, the stepping stones towards a more profound, more personal understanding of your faith.
The journey towards truth is not a smooth highway but a path strewn with questions. And each question, no matter how uncomfortable, is a guidepost, leading us closer to our destination - a faith that is resilient, genuine, and uniquely ours.
Because in the end, it's not about finding all the answers, but about having the courage to ask the questions. And perhaps, it's in the process of seeking that we truly find.
What is a Miracle?
In this exploration of faith and the intricacies of our universe, let's delve into the term 'miracle.' It's a word that often elicits images of divine intervention, celestial anomalies that break the laws of nature as we understand them. But I'd like us to ponder a simpler, yet equally profound perspective.
Miracles, as I see them, aren't exclusively about the defiance of scientific principles. Instead, they are the good, unexplained phenomena that sprinkle our lives. Miracles are the names we attribute to the positive occurrences that we can't logically decipher but which stir up awe, admiration, and deep gratitude within us.
To illustrate this, let's revisit my brother's near-death experience. The unexpected recovery that baffled doctors and filled our hearts with hope and gratitude was, in my eyes, nothing short of a miracle. This incident wasn't just a medical anomaly. It was a significant, inexplicable event that transformed our lives and resonated with our understanding of 'miracle.'
So, here is my proposition: we are surrounded by inexplicable events. If they bring positivity and joy, we categorize them as miracles. However, when these events cause turmoil or disaster, we attribute them to misfortune, acts of God, or Mother Nature's wrath. Strikingly, we never label negative outcomes as miracles.
Could it be possible that the decrease in perceived miracles is not due to their disappearance, but rather our increased knowledge? As we learn more about the universe, as science advances, we demystify many phenomena that our ancestors would have labeled as miracles. So, in a sense, the frequency of miracles is inversely proportional to our understanding of the world.
Yet, even with our ever-increasing knowledge, there will always be phenomena beyond our comprehension. Concepts like love, peace, patience, and kindness elude concrete explanation, maintaining an air of miraculousness.
Hence, by this definition, miracles are real. They exist today, and will continue to do so as long as there are things beyond our understanding. Miracles are not a thing of the past; they are part of our present and our future. They remind us that, despite our strides in science and technology, we are still awed by the unexplained, still moved by the wondrous, and forever humbled by the miraculous.
Goodness is a concept that permeates all aspects of our lives, from our daily interactions to our grandest ambitions. It's also a cornerstone in science, where we're constantly striving for better outcomes, improved results, and more efficient solutions. But what does it really mean to be good, and how can we strive for better, or even the best?
Just like the building blocks of life and the principles of science, goodness isn't black and white—it operates on a scale. There's good, there's better, and then there's the best. This scale isn't static, it's dynamic, changing as we grow, learn, and evolve. What we perceived as 'good' in our teenage years might seem naïve in our thirties, and what we perceive as 'good' today might evolve as we gain more life experiences.
In the realm of science, the pursuit of 'good' is embodied in the constant striving for truth. Scientists spend lifetimes chasing answers, pushing boundaries, and questioning the status quo—all in the pursuit of 'better' and ultimately, the 'best'. They test hypotheses, validate results, and keep refining until they get as close to the truth as possible.
In life, the pursuit of goodness takes a similar form. It's about recognizing our actions' impacts on ourselves and those around us, understanding the difference between right and wrong, and making choices that align with our values and principles. Goodness, in this context, is not just about personal gain; it's about contributing positively to the world around us, treating others with kindness, and striving for a world that's better than the one we inherited.
But why does this matter? Why should we strive for better, for best? Why should we care about right and wrong? Because, like science, life is a pursuit of truth. It's about growing, learning, and becoming the best versions of ourselves. It's about making choices that align with our principles, with the highest good we know.
The 'power' in Plato's quote could be knowledge, resources, skills—anything that we have at our disposal. And the 'measure' is how we use this power to create goodness in our lives and the lives of others.
As you navigate your life, keep in mind the scale of goodness. Ask yourself: How can I strive for better, for best? How can I use my power for the greater good? In this pursuit, you'll not only create a positive impact around you but also find a profound sense of fulfillment and purpose.
The Highest Good - God
As we delve into this idea of goodness, I think it's important to acknowledge what, or rather who, I consider to be the embodiment of the highest good – God. For me, God isn't just a distant entity or a metaphysical concept. Instead, I perceive God as an ever-present force, the ultimate embodiment of goodness, a standard against which everything else is measured.
We have various standards in life for different things. For instance, in science, we have a standard meter that serves as a universal reference for measurements of length. In cooking, a teaspoon or a cup is a standard measure. We rely on these benchmarks because they provide us with a consistent point of comparison, a baseline from which we can operate.
God serves as my benchmark in comprehending goodness. This standard isn't rigid or unapproachable, but rather, it invites growth and maturity in our spiritual journey.
"Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ."
God's standard isn't a mechanism to induce guilt or a sense of failure; instead, it guides us towards our highest potential of goodness that we, as humans, can reach.
In the same vein, Romans 12:2 reminds us not to conform to the pattern of this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. This transformation allows us to discern and embrace God's will—His good, pleasing, and perfect will.
And so, we continue in this process of growth and understanding. Like Paul expressed in Philippians 3:13-14, we forget what is behind and strain toward what is ahead, pressing on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus. In this way, we navigate our understanding of goodness, continually striving to align more closely with the standard set by God.
"Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."
God, like the greatest good, is omnipresent—present everywhere—and timeless, meaning it's essence transcends the confines of time. This omnipresence and timelessness make Him the ultimate judge. However, this isn't a judgment that's harsh or condemning, it's a judgment that encourages self-reflection, humility, and a strive towards becoming better versions of ourselves.
Understanding God as the highest good also helps in contextualizing our world and our existence. When we look around and marvel at the beauty of nature, the complexity of life, the mysteries of the universe, it becomes easier to appreciate them as expressions of the highest good, expressions of God.
And this understanding isn't meant to negate or diminish the importance of our individual and collective pursuits of goodness. Instead, it elevates these pursuits by giving them a sense of purpose and direction. As we grow, learn, and evolve, as our conception of 'good' changes, this standard serves as a compass, constantly pointing us towards the highest good.
In this light, I invite you to contemplate your understanding of God, of the highest good. And in your journey of faith, let this understanding serve as your compass, guiding you towards greater wisdom, compassion, and love.
Sin and Self-Judgment
When we talk about sin, many may picture a divine being wagging a finger, awaiting punishment.
But let's step away from that for a moment, and instead consider sin in a new light.
Sin, as I've come to understand, is akin to 'missing the mark'. It's when we fall short of the standards we've set for ourselves, standards that are often guided by our understanding of the highest good - God.
But here's the thing – when we miss the mark, it's not God standing over us, judgmental and condemning. More often than not, it's us who are the judges, us who feel a sense of guilt, disappointment, or regret. It's a reflection of our own inner conscience recognizing that we didn't meet the standards of goodness we aspire towards.
To illustrate, let's think back to when we were kids learning how to ride a bike. Remember those initial attempts? The wobbly starts, the skinned knees, the inevitable tumbles? Those falls didn't mean we were terrible, nor did they make us any less worthy. They were simply part of the learning process. We saw where we went wrong, picked ourselves up, dusted off the dirt, and tried again, always aiming for the goal of riding smoothly and confidently.
Similarly, when we 'sin' or miss the mark, we are given an opportunity to learn and grow. We get to reassess our actions, understand where we veered off track, and figure out how to get back on the path of goodness.
Remember, the guilt or regret we may feel is not a verdict. It's a compass, nudging us back towards our own highest good. It's a call to recognize our missteps, to learn, to forgive ourselves, and most importantly, to grow from these experiences.
So today, I invite you to reflect on a moment when you felt you 'missed the mark'. Think about it not as a failure or a sin in the damning sense, but as a learning opportunity, a stepping stone on your journey towards becoming the best version of yourself. Because in our journey of faith, growth, and understanding, these 'missed marks' often turn out to be our most powerful guides.
Jesus' Forgiveness: The Path to Self-forgiveness
When we falter, we often fall into a pit of self-condemnation. We feel as if we've missed the mark so gravely that we can't possibly redeem ourselves. The thought of God being angry or disappointed in us might creep into our minds, making us question our worthiness. But remember, God is not a celestial entity watching us, ready to judge our missteps. God represents the highest good, the ultimate standard we strive towards.
So then, where does Jesus' forgiveness come into play? It's not because God is mad at us, nor because Jesus needs to forgive us on behalf of God. Instead, Jesus' forgiveness symbolizes the self-forgiveness we must cultivate within ourselves. His message of unconditional love and acceptance serves as a reminder that even when we fall short, even when we've missed the mark, we still have the ability and the right to rise, to dust ourselves off, and to attempt to reach for the highest good once again.
Jesus lived his life as a testament to this understanding, reaching out to those who felt lost, condemned, and unworthy. His teachings emphasized that no one is beyond redemption and no mistake so grave that it can't be forgiven. His message was and is one of love, forgiveness, and hope - not from an external deity, but from within ourselves.
Thus, Jesus' forgiveness should not be perceived as an external validation of our worthiness, but rather a reminder of our own power to forgive ourselves. His forgiveness stands as a beacon of hope when we feel hopelessly lost in our own guilt and regret. It's a symbol that reminds us of our own inherent capacity to be merciful and forgiving, especially towards ourselves.
So, when you miss the mark, when you falter, don't dwell in the guilt or the regret. Instead, look towards Jesus' teachings of forgiveness, not to seek His pardon, but to remind yourself that you can and should forgive yourself. Your missteps don't make you unworthy, and they certainly don't put you beyond redemption. They are part of your journey towards the highest good, lessons to learn, and grow from.
Remember, the path to redemption isn't about seeking forgiveness from God or Jesus; it's about learning to forgive yourself, brushing off the dust, and having the courage to aim for the highest good once more. With self-forgiveness comes the courage and the strength to try again, to strive towards becoming a better version of yourself. That's the true essence of Jesus' message of forgiveness.
The Interdependence of Faith and Science
There exists an age-old narrative that places faith and science on two opposing ends of the spectrum, creating an unnecessary rift between the two. But what if we were to look at them as complementary instead of contradictory? I firmly believe that faith and science coexist, and not only that, they are interdependent.
Imagine you're in a basic math class, right? You've just been taught that 2+2 always equals 4. It's a fact, a standard. But here's a thought: without believing in a kind of moral grounding, a commitment to truth, could we as easily agree that 2+2 equals 4? What if someone insisted it equals 5 and had no qualms about bending truth?
That's where faith and science start doing this fascinating little dance. Let me explain.
Science is like a curious kid, constantly poking around, asking questions, and trying to figure out how the universe works. It needs a set of ground rules - standards - to make sure everything stacks up. And that's exactly what a standard is, right? It's like a mark of what's good and right.
Now, strip away that standard. Suddenly, science gets a bit shaky. It's like pulling the rulebook away during a board game. Chaos. That's where faith steps in. To me, God is like the gold standard of good, the ultimate 'right'. So, in this way, God is kind of the final referee, measuring up all our discoveries, experiments, and theories.
So, science needs a standard to do its thing, and God - the ultimate good - sets the bar. That doesn't mean every scientist needs to go to church on Sunday. It's more about the big philosophical stuff that underpins our quest for truth and our striving for what's good. That feels a lot like faith to me.
Think of it this way: science helps us get to grips with the nuts and bolts, the 'how' and 'what' of life. Faith, on the other hand, helps us make sense of the 'why'. They're different routes, but they both lead us to the same place: truth.
Instead of getting in a tug of war, faith and science can actually boost each other up. They're like two sides of the same coin in our search for truth, for understanding this mind-boggling universe, and figuring out our place in it. With faith, we set the standard, find the higher purpose. With science, we develop the methods to uncover the universe's truths.
Isn't that just a cool thought? Faith and science, not at odds, but doing this beautiful tango, each leading us closer to the truth in their own way. For me, that's just another sign of how amazing and intricate our world is.
The Evolution of Perception
The Bible, our sacred text, is a rich tapestry of stories, teachings, and wisdom. It is also a mirror in which we see our faith reflected, growing, and evolving over time. This evolution of faith also leads to an evolution in our perception of the Biblical narratives.
Take the story of Adam and Eve for instance, the first man and woman according to our belief. As children, we may have accepted it at face value, seeing it simply as a cautionary tale about disobedience. But as our faith deepens and our understanding broadens, so too does our perception of this seminal story.
When we revisit the story of Adam and Eve as adults, we start to glean deeper meanings and insights from it. It transforms from a simple narrative of disobedience into a profound exploration of human nature, free will, and the concept of sin and redemption. We begin to see Adam and Eve not just as the first man and woman who made a mistake, but as reflections of ourselves, grappling with choices and their consequences.
We start to understand that their story is our story. Their struggle, their grappling with choices, their moments of weakness, and their journey of redemption are echoes of our own experiences. The realization that even in their imperfection, they were part of God's grand design, offers us solace and assurance. It tells us that it's okay to stumble, to miss the mark, because that is a part of being human. And it is in recognizing our mistakes, in striving to do better, that we inch closer to the highest good.
So, I invite you now to reflect. How do you perceive the story of Adam and Eve today? How does it compare to your understanding of it in your younger years? And more importantly, what does this evolution of perception say about your own journey of faith?
Our faith grows with us, and as it does, it brings a new depth to our understanding of the Biblical narratives. It's a journey of constant learning, of continuous exploration, and each step brings us closer to the divine truth, to the highest good. And that, in my humble opinion, is the essence of our faith.
As we come to the close of this reflection, I want you to take a moment to think about your own journey of faith. How have your perceptions evolved? How has your understanding of the world deepened? Have you noticed how the stories you once knew have taken on new meanings as your faith has grown? Therein lies the beauty of faith: it evolves with us, growing and maturing just as we do. It's a lifelong journey of learning and discovery.
These are not easy topics to grapple with, but their exploration is critical. It's only through digging deeper, through questioning and seeking, that we find higher resolution understanding. Just like the facets of a diamond that only reveal their true beauty under close examination, the complex concepts of our faith reveal deeper layers of wisdom as we delve into them.
The aim of this blog, "Common Ground," has always been to provide a space for this exploration. A space where we can dissect and discuss the difficult issues in a way that is comprehensible and relatable. A space where differing perspectives can find commonality in shared understanding. And most importantly, a space where you, the reader, feel empowered to engage in this journey of exploration and understanding.
As we journey together through the complexities of faith, science, and understanding, I hope that this space continues to serve as a catalyst for your personal growth, and a refuge where you feel seen, heard, and understood.
In our shared exploration of faith, let's continue to approach our unanswered questions with curiosity, to appreciate the miracles that science can't explain, to strive for the highest good, and to understand our missteps not as divine judgement but as opportunities for self-improvement. Let's continue to explore the interdependence of faith and science, and embrace the evolution of our perceptions.
I welcome you to comment, share your personal stories and aha moments, and share this blog with your friends. Let's enrich this space with our shared and individual experiences. After all, it's in sharing our journeys that we find the most common ground.
Join The Conversation
Now that we've traversed through these profound aspects of faith together, I'd love to hear about your personal journey. Your thoughts, your stories, and those precious 'aha' moments that helped you see things in a new light. Our collective wisdom is where the real richness of this conversation lies.
Have you experienced an evolution in your faith? Have you confronted unanswered questions that led to deeper realizations? What are your personal 'miracles', those good things that science can't yet explain? How has your understanding of goodness, sin, and self-judgment evolved over time? How do you perceive the interdependence of faith and science, and the evolution of perception?
Head down to the comments section below and let's keep this conversation going.
And if this post struck a chord with you, I encourage you to share it. Pass it on to your friends who may find these insights valuable. Let's expand this conversation to as many people as possible, for it's through these discussions that we will find the most common ground.
Remember, your voice matters. Your experiences, insights, and reflections could very well be the catalyst for someone else's 'aha' moment. Let's learn, grow, and explore together. Share your journey, and let's find our common ground.
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