Never gonna give you up..

 Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down, never gonna run around and desert you…  Yes, I just lured you in with a Rick Astley song.  For whatever reason I thought that set of lyrics was pretty relevant to what I am going to cover in this relatively brief post.  My recent post “Who’s in control?” garnered the biggest single day number of hits for this blog.  It also had a good number of comments and email responses.  It seems my Christian friends have taken issue with my position that as human beings we are not wretched, worthless, disgustingly sinful beings.  That we are not building up a debt of sin that will justify eternal torment and punishment forever, which can only be paid and forgiven by belief in the death and resurrection of Jesus.  That all of our actions and imperfections somehow get erased by faith alone.  Well, aside from the fact that the words of Jesus himself contradict the concept of faith alone in favor of “what you do to the least of these my brethren you do unto me“,  it really doesn’t portray God as has often been the Christian position that God is love

So, is God love?  I believe so.  Mostly because no science has been able to prove what causes love and that particular feeling or emotion is the thread that weaves humanity with a concept of morality.  So what exactly is love?  The Apostle Paul, who as most of you know I have been pretty critical of, wrote one of the most inspirational chapters of the Bible and it happens to be perhaps the greatest description of love.  The chapter, for those of you who may not have guessed it, is 1 Corinthians 13.   As the Bible has multiple translations this chapter reads differently from version to version.  The most obvious difference is when comparing the KJV and the NIV.  (to those not familiar – the KJV is the King James Version which was translated in 1611 and the NIV is the New International Version which was translated in 1984. These are the 2 best-selling translations)  The KJV doesn’t use the word Love, it uses the word Charity.  To the skeptic this would seem to be a problem, but not to me.  Charity is, after all, a tremendous example of unconditional love.  When one exercises charity, they give for the sake of giving, with no expectation of reciprocation.  There is no doubt that is love.  So, if God is love, why not use 1 Corinthians 13 as a description of God.  For the sake of brevity, let’s just take the core of  the chapter which are verses 4-7 and replace the words “love” and “it” with “the Lord” (note- I am removing a few “it’s” for the sake of flow):

The Lord is patient, the Lord is kind. The Lord does not envy, does not boast, is not proud.  The Lord does not dishonor others, is not self-seeking, is not easily angered, keeps no record of wrongs.  The Lord does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  The Lord always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Now I ask you again: Is God Love?  If so, than we have never been rejected, nor will we ever be.  Why else would a word like “Father” be invoked so often?  The way I see it, our Eternal Father never gave up on you, me or anyone else.  It seems that for many people it really is the other way around. 

For the Lord your God is a merciful God; he will not abandon or destroy you.. – Deuteronomy 4:31

Yet Another Paradigm

King James Version of the Bible

Image via Wikipedia

Lately, I have had something tugging at my soul due to some pretty deep discussions with a few of you. So much so that I have begun to rethink what my beliefs really are (not that they have ever actually been crystal clear to begin with). For the better part of 2 years now I have been restricting my religious studies to that of Rabbinical Judaism (Torah, Talmud, Mishna and Kabbalah). The knowledge and sense of fulfilment that I have felt in this process is beyond words. However, for some reason I have felt something was missing.

Then while I was delivering a charge in the Lodge (remember I’m a Freemason) something, as if by Providence, clicked while I recited this line in the charge right as my eyes gazed upon the open Bible on the altar. For those of you who do not know, every Masonic Lodge has an altar and while the lodge is at labor (or the meeting is in progress) the Bible is open.

Finally Brethren, be ye all of one mind and may the God of love and peace delight to dwell with and bless you.

Yes, I just quoted the Apostle Paul.

Freemasonry uses the Holy Bible as its rule and guide in life. When a man is Raised to the degree of Master Mason he is presented with a Bible. Not just any Bible but, a Masonic Bible. Now, before you conspiracy nuts get all crazy on me, a typical Masonic Bible contains the following:

  • Record Pages to record the dates a man goes through the various degrees of Masonry.
  • Essays on the importance of the Bible as the Great Light to ALL Masons
  • Concordance on Masonic principles and tenets and where to find them in the Bible
  • The Old Testament*
  • The New Testament*

*The translation used by Masons is the King James Version.

As I finished the charge I found myself staring at the Bible. As I did, all the recent discussion I’d been having started to replay in my head and I realized that I’d been leaving out the central point within the circle of Freemasonry. Freemasonry has always been a “Fraternity of men under the Fatherhood of God”. We use symbols and allegory much like the teachers of antiquity. The Torah has always been viewed by the Jews as more than just a literal text. Much literature exists – especially for the Torah – on the various ways to discover the hidden meanings in the text. So I got to thinking… I’ve been paying no attention to the Christian Scriptures (New Testament) as it was my belief that Jesus was only a radical rabbi who was the victim of the tyrannical Roman Empire.

But, wait a minute…

With the exception of Luke and Acts, all the books of the New Testament were written by Jews. Some of which were highly educated and some of which were not. All of them knew Torah and all of them wrote about Jesus. So if these men knew of allegorical meanings within text and they wrote about a man who always taught in allegory (parables), what is the possibility that the books of the New Testament also have hidden allegorical meaning? (The most obvious of these is Revelation of course).

With this in mind I put all my Rabbinical Torah Commentaries, Talmud, the Zohar, and my (dusty) Christian Study Bibles into a cabinet and for the last 2 weeks been using my Masonic Bible (refer to the above). It contains no study notes or commentary within the text. It is just the Old and New Testament and it is in the beautiful KJV translation (to be honest I prefer KJV because it forces you to focus on what you read). I focused strictly on the text itself without any commentary or other distractions to unearth the message one layer at a time. I can see allegory and I see a messianic message as well. Keep in mind that when I say messianic it is in the context that Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Zerubbabel were messiahs for their time. The life, teachings, and death of Jesus had a purpose and a significant impact on just as broad a scale, if not broader, than the others. His failure to bring upon the long-awaited Messianic Era leaves me to believe that another figure will rise to the occasion. Whether it will be Jesus returning, all of them returning together, or  someone else altogether remains to be seen.

I have to be honest. I feel a comforting familiarity with reading the Gospels and Epistles again. I saw some things I’d missed before and have a new perspective on things now that I’ve sanitized myself of the dogmatic teachings I grew up with. There is wisdom, beauty, and hope.  I see parallels of  the same wisdom in Proverbs, beauty in the Psalms, and hope woven through the lives of patriarchs in the Torah. I will keep studying… The quest goes on.

© Nelson Rose, The Quest for Light