3 comments on “Satan is ‘more intelligent than us,’ don’t converse with him – Pope Francis

  1. Don’t Take it Literally

    1. In conversation with Steven J. Gelberg (Subhananda dasa), Dr. Larry Shinn explained:

    “In the Christian tradition, the notion that Jesus is the one who comes directly from God’s right hand and is God in person, has been a notion that Christians, of course, have fought over for centuries. That is, what does that mean? At the least it means that he was a human being whose words and deeds were directly inspired by God Himself. At the most it means that he was God Himself, that he was God who chose to take a human form, that he was God-man. And Christians have, as I said, disagreed over the proper interpretation of that notion for a long, long, time. But the important point I’m making is that however Christians resolve the divinity-of-Jesus question, they all do assert that they can come to know God’s will by listening to the words of Jesus and by observing Jesus in action, buy observing his life. So he serves as a mediator between a divine which cannot be seen and human beings. So, the idea is that God is so transcendent that people cannot aspire to know Him or to see Him directly, but He can be known and understood through Jesus who is God in human form.”

    Steven J. Gelberg asked: Other than Jesus himself, are there other examples of the role of guru in Christian tradition? For instance, what about the role of the Abbot in the Catholic monastery. Isn’t he the spiritual leader or guide of the community of monks?

    Dr. Larry Shinn responded: “No, the Abbot does not play that role exactly. Of any personages in the Catholic tradition, the saints come closest to playing the role of guru, because one can appeal *through* the saints to God. But one does not pray *through* the Abbot to God.

    Steven J. Gelberg explained: “I’m thinking of the Abbot in this regard not exactly as one through whom the monk reaches God in prayer, but as one who provides spiritual guidance.”

    Dr. Larry Shinn answered: “Yes, but then it’s always assumed that the Abbot can make mistakes. The Abbot is not thought to be infallible in his role as a spiritual guide. Also, Abbots are replaced; it’s not a role that one has forever.”

    Steven J. Gelberg responded: “I suppose my concept of the Abbot as guru related merely to his practical function as director and guide.”

    Dr. Larry Shinn explained: “Yes, but in that sense the meaning of guru becomes too broad. When we speak of the idea of ‘guru,’ we mean one who acts as a channel between the worshipper and God. The Abbot is not the one who presents God directly to the various monks of the monastery. It is Jesus who does that. There’s no confusion over that role. The monk never assumes that the Abbot is in the disciplic line of Jesus. For the Catholic, the Pope comes closer to the role of guru, inasmuch as he sits in a kind of disciplic succession from Peter, the disciple of Jesus. When the Pope speaks ex Cathedra, he is understood to be revealing authentic Christian wisdom. In that sense, he comes closer to the role of guru.”

    Steven J. Gelberg: “But then what is the meaning of Jesus’ alleged statement, ‘No one comes to the Father except through me…’ ?”

    Dr. Larry Shinn:

    “There are different interpretations of the phrase ‘through me.’ Christianity is not a monolithic tradition. Some Christians interpret ‘no one comes to the Father except through me’ in very literal terms: that Jesus came as a sacrificial lamb whose blood washed away the payment of all previous and future sins. I have no idea what the percentages are, but my suspicion is that those kinds of Christians are in a distinct minority — those who view him as ‘the way’ in terms of blood payment. But, you see, having made that payment, their prayers and their worship are directed entirely to God, not to Jesus — except for those few who have divinized Jesus to the point where Jesus and God become almost synonymous. But I would say that those Christians are in the minority. A more common understanding of ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father but by me,’ is that one comes to the Father through the *example* of Jesus — walking in his footsteps one comes to the Father. ‘If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.’ (John 8:31) In that sense ‘through me’ is understood metaphorically, not literally.

    “In practice itself, there is seldom worship of Jesus as being, somehow, the only channel through which one can reach God. In the largest Christian tradition, Catholicism, Christians pray through Mary and through the various saints. There are many channels in that sense, but those channels are never understood to be exclusive channels — that without them one cannot approach God directly in deep prayer. The Reformation, in fact, made this point: we are all priests to our brothers. The fellowship of priests, in which we all, in a sense, have that same task of directing others to God directly, becomes a strong theme in Christian piety. So, again, Jesus becomes, for some, an *only* channel through blood payment, or an only channel in the sense that we must somehow approach him as an intermediary to the Father. But that is rare in Christianity. The more common understanding is that one can and must approach God directly in prayer; one doesn’t depend on Jesus as the only conduit.”

    2. A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada said:

    “To be nonviolent to human beings and to be a killer or enemy of the poor animals is Satan’s philosophy.”

    Srila Prabhupada was merely using Christian terminology to make a point.

    God is omnipotent! God doesn’t have a competitor! If you have a 100-watt light bulb, there is no such thing as a 100-watt “dark bulb” to cancel it out. Darkness is merely the absence of light. Similarly, what theologians call “evil” or “Satan” is merely the absence of God or good.

    The word “satan” merely means “adversary (of God).” Satan is allegorical, not literal, depicting a living entity being cast out of the kingdom of God.

    A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada similarly drew an analogy between the biblical and Vaishnava teaching on the Fall from grace:

    “When a living entity disobeys the orders of God, he is put into this material world, and that is his punishment… The real fact is that the living entity is eternal, and the material world is created to satisfy his false existence… The individual is thinking that he is independent and can act independent of God. That is the beginning of paradise lost, of Adam’s fall.

    “When Adam and Eve thought that they could do something independently, they were condemned. Every living entity is the eternal servant of God, and he must act according to the desire or will of the Supreme Lord. When he deviates from this principle, he is lost. Losing paradise, he comes into the material world…

    “That is the process of transmigration, the rotation of the cycle of birth and death. This is all due to disobeying God… Having rebelled against the principles of God consciousness, we are cut off from our original position. We have fallen.”

    Following biblical tradition, St. Augustine made a distinction between the earthly and the heavenly, the temporary flesh and its bodily appetites versus the spirit and peace of the soul. Describing the predicament of the soul in a physical body in the material world, Augustine similarly wrote:

    “And so long as he is in this mortal body, he is a pilgrim in a foreign land, away from God; therefore he walks by faith, not by sight.”

    Augustine said the soul “needs divine direction, which he may obey with resolution, and divine assistance that he may obey it freely…”

    These doctrines are all consistent with Vaishnava theology.

    The Vaishnava practice of offering one’s food in devotion to God has favorably been compared to the Eucharist. Episcopal priest Reverend Alvin Hart says, “It’s like the Mass, where the Host is considered nondifferent from the body of Christ…”

    The peaceable kingdom doesn’t exist here in the material world, which is a temporary and inferior reflection of a higher reality, and which is filled with miseries like repeated birth, death, old age, and disease.

    The peaceable kingdom exists in the spiritual world, where life is eternal and full of bliss.

    3. In a 1980 essay, “Immortal Longings,” Ravindra-svarupa dasa (Dr. William Deadwyler) writes:

    “Selves are beings that experience, centers of consciousness, subjects. Matter does not experience; it is without subjectivity; it is completely an object. Selves live; matter is lifeless. When the selves enter the alien, material energy, they acquire and animate bodies made out of lifeless matter.

    (The word “inanimate” literally means “without spirit” in Latin!)

    “Now the self thinks of itself as a product of nature, as an object created and destroyed in time. As the body is damaged by disease and injury, as it disintegrates with age, and as it dies, the self thinks, ‘This is happening to *me*.’

    “Thus, the self enters the interminable horror of material existence, a nightmare of carnage from which it cannot awake. As one body is destroyed, nature transfers him to another, to undergo a similar destruction.

    “The self moves blindly through these bodies, driven by an overwhelming appetite for enjoyment… through interminable bodily incarcerations, hurtling us over and over into forms that fill us with fear, suffer the onslaught of injury and disease, disintegrate while we still occupy them, and are destroyed.

    “In reality, none of this happens to us, but we have erroneously identified ourselves with the body and have thereby taken these torments upon us. Death is an illusion we have imposed upon ourselves by our desire to enjoy this world.”

    4. In college in the spring of 1985, during the course of a casual armchair theological discussion, John Antypas (half-Jewish and half-Protestant) said Krishna devotees are merely repeating familiar Christian theology, the apostle Paul writing:

    “…if you live in a fleshly way, you will die. But if through the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, then you will live… death, where is thy sting?”

    Like Christians, Vaishnavas also believe that souls in this world have fallen from grace, that this world is transitory, and that there is an inner conflict between one’s carnal and spiritual natures.

    In 1985, during the course of a casual armchair theological discussion, John Antypas (half-Jewish and half-Protestant) said Krishna devotees are merely repeating familiar Christian theology. John merely saw belief in reincarnation, rather than vegetarianism, as a point of contention.

    The biblical verses about “eternal life” in New Testament Christianity don’t make any sense unless the only alternative is temporary or transitory life, or repeated birth and death… eternal damnation is also an “eternal life,” too!

    John asked, why couldn’t the soul just be transferred permanently to either heaven or hell at the end of one lifetime, and then he caught himself and realized what he was describing is very similar to reincarnation.

    (Right. For one brief lifetime, you’re gonna get a whole eternity of reward or punishment?! In an essay on Christianity and reincarnation entitled Christian Metempsychosis, the 19th century American philosopher Francis Bowen of Harvard, admitted, “An eternity of either reward or punishment would seem to be inadequately earned by one brief period of probation on earth.”)

    John later explained his reasoning behind his saying the soul being transferred permanently to either heaven or hell at the end of one brief lifetime is very similar to reincarnation:

    If you accept the premise that the conscious self is different from the physical body, that the conscious self is the observer within the body, then, at the time of death, the conscious self has merely shifted vantage points.

    He later said, “I’m so glad to hear there’s no eternal damnation…”

    Anantarupa dasa, who took his present birth in Ireland and came to Krishna Consciousness from an Irish Catholic background, likes to tell Christians, “We’re not that different from you.”

    Again, the word “satan” merely means “adversary (of God).” This is *our* predicament in this material world.

    “The only devils in this world are those running around in our own hearts, and that is where all our battles should be fought. ”

    — Mohandas Gandhi

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