Thanks for the thoughts and the personal stories and also for the book references.
Two things here: what is more important — a religious or spiritual vision or revelation from “the beyond” – or the teachings/ principles laid out in a canonical text?
We cannot say that some one never has a message or insight from God — there is a tendency among us humans to run to either of the two extremes. But there has to be a way of gauging the legitimacy of a message and that probably cannot be done (in our day and age) simply by another vision.
I think your mother-in-law encountered the religious version of the secular “If it feels good, do it!”…but she would not be the first or the last to have encountered that sort of analysis. While the phrase “If it feels good, do it” might be worthwhile for many situations (not all) and people – we don’t want it falling into the hands of psychopaths and certain other types – like a certain 14-year-old boy who told me “Speed limits were made to be broken.” And it probably is not the best gauge for a lifelong marriage partner. (Feelings are very temporal things.)
Her aspiring beau of long ago (the rhyme is unintentional) also probably – like all the rest of us – engaged in the situation where we look upon the exterior and not the heart (or we respond to our hormones, but never mind that possibility here!). He liked what he saw externally — and hopefully God found him someone more suitable for him just as your mother in law eventually did.
And while Samuel did in fact make that remark, it is nonetheless true that God had to call Samuel’s name several times (1 Samuel 3) – He is more patient with us than we are with Him – before Samuel caught on and decided that it was God who was speaking and thus should be acknowledged.
I liked the excerpt from the Rauser book…the issue of Abraham being asked to sacrifice his son is an endless headache or an endless puzzle for everyone who follows some version of the Judeo-Christian spectrum of beliefs. And the debate, when limited to just that one long-ago event, will never end. It may not be the best point for debate at any rate…
I am not sure whether or not I have ever heard God speaking, and I do not think that is something to be sought after. I did have “something” that came from “someone” or “Someone” occur which brought me back from “nothing” to religion again — that is, to believing in God first and then Jesus and Christianity eventually along the way…Because of that, I know that people who believe or say they have had some sort of “experience” will always insist that what they had was real (except for those who are consciously fabricating it for personal gain). And it was real …
If one categorically dismisses all of these events as delusional, one at least has to “prove” the delusion just as much as anything else. There are criteria for delusions or hallucinations, after all — prolonged period of time without sleep, lack of food, high level of stress, adverse reaction to drugs, various forms of dementia, etc…If these things do not exist, then claiming delusion might be just as false as the individual claiming to have had a legitimate spiritual experience.
The question, then, ultimately, is still what rule you use for judging the legitimacy (not the reality, in this case) of anything…
As I said, not everything is from God…Other religious founders have also claimed to have had “revelations.” Unless we want to say they fabricated them (always possible but same could be said for Abraham’s purported instructions from God) — my conclusion from them is not that they or I did not have a “real” thing — but whether the “real” event is from God or something/someone else.
And that goes with “evidence for the afterlife”. This supposedly is our main subject here. I recently viewed an online video from someone who claims to have been-there-done-that and has knowledge that demons are 13 feet tall. Great!! (But who cares or was measuring?? If Satan is “the father of lies” and lying is his native language, as Jesus said, then do we trust his measurements?) In other centuries there were stories about Atlantis, the Amazons, canals on Mars, how people on the other side of the world walked upside down (their feet on the ground which was on the flip side of the earth, etc) — people are and always have been endlessly curious about that which we have not yet seen or obtained experiential knowledge of (what is in that wrapped package with my name on it sitting under the tree? what will Santa bring me this year?) – and so these accounts will always be out there and eagerly snatched up by people. But endless speculation is just that…endless…
There are some things that we have not been given tons of info about – such as the afterlife, only that it exists and “there is a judgment coming”. And, thus we won’t know till we get there. In the case of these other examples, only time will tell…but Christmas is almost here.
MERRY CHRISTMAS, tomorrow!!