Wednesday, February 21, 2007

More fun with justice -- human or divine?

Here's some more from Heather (posted in the comments yesterday):

I'm currently reading a book by Thomas Talbott, called 'The Inescapable Love of God,' and he's arguing for a Universalist Christian viewpoint, with firm support from the Bible. He mentions what you mention here -- the verses that say God hated, or showed his wrath -- it was a human way of speaking. I know MBE mentions in Science and Health [p. 349:13], that words are sometimes inefficient, because it's using a material means to describe the spiritual (which is roughly what she says).

What Thomas argues is that God's love can be experienced as severe or wrathful, depending on one's perception. When you love someone, you want them to be perfected. So if your five year old hits another child, there is punishment involved to correct the behavior. Which is exactly what Thomas argues -- God's love appears as wrath to one who is unwilling at that time to relinquish the sinful viewpoint or false self.

So God's love would be experienced as wrath when someone is clinging to the carnal mind, because the carnal mind is incompatible with the true sinless self. And the 'wrath' is necessary in order to show how self-destructive the carnal mind is. And thus, there is no contradiction between love/mercy and justice/wrath. It's the same action; the interpretation depends on one's mental position.

These are interesting points. I would take it one step further, differentiating between spiritual justice and human punishment.

In Christian Science, God is not anthropomorphic, meaning He's not just a bigger version of us. He doesn't personally get involved in perfecting us, because to Him, we're already perfect, in His image. The perfecting process, as Talbott implies, feels like a process only because we're unclear on our own current perfection. God doesn't cause the process or send it. God doesn't devise punishments for us to teach us a lesson. God exists, in His own perfect reality, and draws us to Him through the bond we have to Him as His creation.

When a five-year-old hits another child, the entire event exists only in the mortal concept. As human adults, we put a stop to it because this is the best way to approximate spiritual harmony in this existence. This is "human justice patterning the divine" [Science and Health, p. 542:19-22], but it is not a spot-on reflection of divine justice.

Divine justice requires the child to move beyond the need to hit another, to understand that there is never any need to harm another, to know throughout their being that harmony is the law and they are an expression of that law. This makes it as though the hit never happened.

The one who was hit, as well, needs to learn the spiritual truth that they were never vulnerable to pain or anger and that it indeed never touched them. For this reason, in the spiritual equation, no retribution or payback is required because complete spiritual resolution makes it a literal non-event.

In the human, however, we have devised a legal system that does require individuals who harm another to make up for it somehow. They can't make it like it didn't happen, but they can pay damages or apologize or right the balance, and this we perceive as human justice. It's an approximation of the divine law that destroys the event's effects entirely.

Humanly we try to negate the effects of the event in an attempt to approximate the divine. As we all know, though, this is not a perfect system since often the perpetrators are not willing to make amends, and often the victims continue to feel the effects of the event. This is where spiritual justice and mercy can step in to heal the situation.

To paraphrase Talbott's words in Heather's message: When you love someone *humanly,* you want them to be perfected. When you love someone *spiritually,* you know they are already perfect. God is Spirit and sees us as already done. The law of Love in action spurs us to know this more fully, so we are uncomfortable until we figure it out. This is not God sending punishment, but our own perfect nature insisting on realization.

To me, rather than thinking of God as a judge and jury meting out punishment in an apparently arbitrary fashion (because some people do seem to get away with stuff!), it's more that God is self-existent in His own reality of harmony and we need to see our own alignment with that.

Even as oil rises to the surface when mixed with water, our very natures mandate that we rise through the mortal concept and perceive spiritual reality. Like Heather says, the churning may feel like punishment or wrath while we're sorting things out, but it's really just the refinement of our own self concept. God, unchanging and unchanged, is there, ready to greet us.

Your ideas and inspiration are welcome! Please comment below or Contact Laura.
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At 2/21/2007 07:59:00 PM, Anonymous Heather said...

**Divine justice requires the child to move beyond the need to hit another, to understand that there is never any need to harm another, to know throughout their being that harmony is the law and they are an expression of that law** Agreed. And I think it mirrors a concept of justice found in the Old Testament: saving those who are oppressed. Taken to the ultimate, spiritual step, one is rescued by understanding the spiritual reality: that there is nothing capable of oppressing us, as God has made all and He has made all good. God didn't create us to be oppressed, or create anything with the power to oppress us. After all, "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom."

Thank you, Laura. :)


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