Wednesday, September 17, 2014

ACT's Spiritual Research Project

As a confessional Christian, I am on a long-term project to observe, understand and document the archaeology  of the three religious complexes (Hinduism-Buddhism, Judaism-Christianity and Islam) as these movements migrated across the globe. 

Other ancient belief systems that contribute to a deep-time understanding of human religious cognition includes voodooism in West Africa, Zoroastrianism in Iran, Afghanistan and India, aboriginal beliefs in Australia and other primitive non-theological systems of beliefs based on drug-induced altered states of consciousness. 

The explosion of human migration promoted by intentional trade and incidental missions led to encounters that resulted in both great violence and tender humanity, enriching and devastating each other's cultural traditions. 

By tracing their evolution of doctrines as they coped with the challenges of scientific, technological and medical advances, we are better able to determine when, how and why specific teachings emerged to dominate each religion as if they were original beliefs of their founders. I seek to understand the evolution of beliefs to expose fiction from fact as much as history can attest and rebuild a more robust framework of belief with integrity.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Thoughts about Consciousness and the Wisdom Faiths of the Axial Age

Hinduism and Buddhism are concerned with satisfying karmic debt. The Hindu quest is for the right guru and the Buddhist quest is to be awakened for parinirvana.

The Christian Gospel announces the stunning news that at a moment in geohistory, God is revealed in the  person and teachings of Jesus from Nazareth. The historicity of the incarnation makes the Gospel uniquely relevant to the urgent issues in a scientific age. This makes the Christian Gospel worthy of consideration for both Hindus and Buddhists.

The Christian faith embodies revelatory truths rooted in geohistorical events that culminated in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, the Christ. Such a belief is neither verifiable nor falsifiable by any discipline of human inquiry, including the empirical sciences.

Christianity is a faith that seeks understanding and not a faith that results from understanding. Thus, the primary impulse to believe in the metaphysical must have been hard-wired in our minds. Indeed, contemporary neuropsychology suggests that the human brain is evolved for religious cognition. Our minds are optimized to interpret metaphysical signals that machines and our natural senses are unable to measure.  Thus, belief in God finds corroborative support in our interpreted experience of the divine. This universal desire to make sense of our experience as human beings, who long to understand more than we know, marks us as the religious animal.

One of the most important questions Christians may ask of its own tradition is, “Did God reveal himself outside the Judeo-Christian cone-of-experience?” How can we account for the fate of the 99+% of humans who ever lived, and who died without having heard the Gospel because they existed outside the geohistory of the biblical faith? Does being born in the wrong time or wrong place doom one to damnation? How does the limited cone of experience generated by any religion, say Christianity, with its focus on Palestine from c.1500 BC to AD 30, count as a universal revelation of God to creation?

Another area worth observing is the effort made by many Buddhist communities to engage the maturing disciplines of the neurosciences. Both Hinduism and Buddhism have long been concerned with the nature of human consciousness  and its collateral effects on personality, emotions and memory. The sense of a unified consciousness that we all experience (unless we suffer from schizophrenia, multiple-personalities or other forms of memorial dementia) as colonies of trillions of individual cells, let alone the mitochondrial cells within our somatic ones, cannot be readily explained scientifically. Indeed, in consciousness studies, neurotheology is as much a resource as the philosophy of mind and the neurosciences. The achievement of trance in Hindu rituals and altered states of consciousness in Buddhist meditation remain little understood by modern science and beyond the scrutiny of even powerful machines such as functional MRIs. There is much debate concerning the veracity of interpretations of what these machines measure. Do they measure the cause or the effects of such meditations and mind-controls? Are there Christian analogues practiced by medieval mystics, long forgotten when the Church adopted modern philosophy in its theological doctrines? Can an interdisciplinary approach yield a more holistic understanding of what these ancient religions seek to convey?

These and other such questions are well beyond the scope of this introduction. But I hope to convey the immense amount of interesting work that remains to be labored over by investigators and practitioners of these living faiths. The Christian world ought not to fall behind in understanding how we think and what transpires when our brains are traumatized by physical or psychological stimuli. As we learn to delay our demise and live longer, the essence of what it means to be human, to be alive and to prepare for death takes on new dimensions of urgency.

What we can begin to answer is how the Gospel of Jesus Christ can be relevant to a Hindu or a Buddhist seeking alternatives or simply curious about what other faiths of the Axial Age have produced. Although the basic quest of the Hindus and Buddhists reflects those of other faiths, only the Gospel of Jesus expressly claims a divine will to reconcile us to our maker.

I hope this introduction to the great wisdom beliefs of Hinduism and Buddhism has helped you begin to think through a set of worldviews shared by a quarter of the human race.

Perhaps … if the Buddha met the Christ,
there might not have been a need for Buddhism at all.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Do we sin because we are sinners or are we sinners because we sin?

Sorry but I have so busy with running the ministry of and completing my dissertation (I successfully defended my doctoral dissertation at Princeton on the topic, Do we sin because we are sinners or are we sinners because we sin?) is an interdisciplinary proposal for a kenotic theological doctrine of moral cognition, one that accounts for the salvific status of amorals who suffer post-natal brain trauma resulting in declarative memory loss and false memory, infancy deaths as well as preconscious retrocausal urges such as found in victims of Tourette's syndrome. The subtitle is - Cognitive Nolition, Neuroscience and Kenotic Soteriology) that I did not check to approve some of your comments till now.

I shall remember to break up the paragraphs so that it will be easier to read.

Ben, I have visited and spoken to the Christian Graduate Fellowship at Oriel College in Oxford and plan to visit Oxford again in October.

In about a week, I will be visiting Malaysia to speak on these topics (check out the ACT website above):

Location: Canaanland Book store
Dates: Sat Aug 01, 2009
Times:10.30 am - 12.30 pm
Description:How China Nearly Became A Christian Nation?

Do you know that the Gospel arrived in China during the Tang Dynasty in AD635, the same year it arrived in England?

In AD 635, missionaries from the Syriac Church arrived in China with the Gospel. It was embraced by the emperor of the Tang dynasty. In AD 781, a large stone was erected to commemorate the arrival of the Illustrious Religion. By the 13th century, the Mongolians came to power in China. Genghis Khan married a Christian wife, Sorkakthani, mother of emperor Kublai Khan. Kublai hosted Marco Polo and asked the pope to send 100 teaching monks to evangelize China - they never came and Marco returned to China just after the Great Khan died. What happened after that?

ocation: Canaanland Book store
Dates: Sat Aug 08, 2009
Times: 10.30 am - 12.30 pm
Description: Christian Belief In A Post-Modern World

Is it still unreasonable to believe The Bible in an Age of Science?

Christian theology through the Church ought to welcome responsible articulations of scientific knowledge as natural scientists within and without the Church discover (investigate) divine disclosure (revelation). If science is discovery and theology is confessional, knowledge can only assume the status of wisdom when it becomes understanding. Knowledge shaped by wisdom provides true understanding.

Location: Canaanland Book store
Dates: Sat Aug 08, 2009
Times:2.00 pm - 4.00 pm
Description:The Dead Sea Scrolls

The Discovery of the oldest Bible in the world in 1947 : What does it mean for Christians in 2009?

The Dead Sea Scrolls, more accurately known as the Qumran Scrolls, are the remains of 813 scrolls and manuscripts written in Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic. 220 of them represented the Old Testament. These are the oldest known Hebrew text of the Bible with some text dating back to about 250 BC. Prior to 1947, the earliest text of the Bible was dated to AD 895. In 1947, a shepherd boy discovered some of them in a cave at Qumran, along the west coast of the Dead Sea in Israel. Subsequently, 11 caves yielded over 100,000 fragments. This discovery has significance for Judaism and Christianity. The scrolls (i) tell us about early Judaism (forerunner to Rabbinic Judaism and 1st century Christianity); (ii) explain the circumstances which led to the Christianity’s rapid Hellenization and Rabbinic Judaism’s resistance to Hellenization; (iii) show that modern translations of the Old Testament are reliable to an uncanny level of accuracy, and affirm that the LXX was a faithful translation; (iv) attest to the accuracy, historicity and antiquity of the New Testament texts, and its nexus to the Hebrew culture; (v) show that Christianity is a stream which flows from a common river, as a corrective to the stream of Judaism, and lays full claim to the faith of Abraham and Jacob, Moses, Noah; and (vi) serve as textual bridges between the two Testaments of the Christian Bible.

Dates: Mon Aug 03, 2009
Times:8.00 pm - 10.00 pm
Description: This is a special invitational only lecture on the Old Testament for Project Timothy which will be hosted by Community Baptist Church.

Topics include:

Biblical chronology
Prehistory – Gen.1-11
Oral History – Gen.12-50
Documentary History -
Theology themes: Hebrew Bible & Judaism
Doctrinal application (Christaintiy):

Chronology of events:
Theocracy-Nation of Israel
Kingdom of Israel (Saul, David, Solomon)
2 kingdoms of the North and the South
Assyrian/Babylonian Province of Israel
Intertestamental Roman Province of Judea

Political and Religious Hegemonic Empires in and over Palestina:
Roman (50 BC-AD 500)
Byzantine (AD500-1500)
Ottoman (AD 1500-1900)
British (1900-1950)

Chronology of Doctrinal Christianity
God is one
0. Abrahamic Covenant – Pre-Judaic
00. Jacobean (Israelite) Promise
Exodus – miracles of plagues
Sinai covenant (From Hebrew et al, to Israel)
1. Mosaic Judaism
YHWH – abba (Father)
2. Davidic Judaism
Exile and Return
The Samaritan Problem
3. Rabbinical Judaism
4. Intertestamental Judaism

Please elt your friends know if they happen to be in Malaysia in August