GOD: An Autobiography, As Told to a Philosopher - The Podcast

66. Purpose | Series: Two Philosophers Wrestle With God | Dialogue 3 [Part 2]

March 17, 2022 Jerry L. Martin, Scott Langdon, Richard Oxenberg
GOD: An Autobiography, As Told to a Philosopher - The Podcast
66. Purpose | Series: Two Philosophers Wrestle With God | Dialogue 3 [Part 2]
Show Notes Transcript

Analytical and energetic dialogues of philosophical and spiritual discussion between Dr. Jerry L. Martin and Dr. Richard Oxenberg about God: An Autobiography, As Told To A Philosopher. A profound conversation of philosophy, sciences, and religion daring to consider God's perspective in the series Two Philosophers Wrestle With God. The third dialogue covers God’s purpose and intention for a new revelation in this new age.

Richard Oxenberg received his PH.D. in Philosophy from Emory University in 2002, with a concentration in Ethics and Philosophy of Religion. He has written and published numerous articles on these subjects, many of which are available online. His book: On the Meaning of Human Being: Heidegger and the Bible in Dialogue, was published by Political Animal Press in 2018. Richard currently teaches at Endicott College in Beverly, MA. 

Read God: An Autobiography, As Told To A Philosopher.

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Related Episodes: [Two Philosophers Wrestle With God]
The Big Picture [Part 1] [Part 2]; The Nature Of Divine Reality [Part 1] [Part 2]; Purpose [Part 1] [Part 2]; Revelation [Part 1] [Part 2]; Jerry's Story [Part 1]

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Scott Langdon [00:00:17] This is God: An Autobiography, The Podcast. A dramatic adaptation and continuing discussion of the book God: An Autobiography, As Told To A Philosopher by Jerry L. Martin. He was a lifelong agnostic, but one day he had an occasion to pray. To his vast surprise, God answered- in words. Being a philosopher, he had a lot of questions, and God had a lot to tell him. Episode 66. Hello and welcome to God: An Autobiography, The Podcast. This is episode 66 and I’m Scott Langdon. This week we continue with our series Where Two Philosophers Wrestle With God and bring you part two of the third conversation between Dr. Richard Oxenberg and Dr. Jerry L. Martin. Here, Richard and Jerry, focus their conversation on what is at the core of God's intention for a new revelation in this new age. If you have any questions or comments about this or any other episode, please email us at questions@godanautobiography.com. I hope you enjoy the episode. We begin with Richard speaking first. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:02:02] You know, whether we're thinking about, well, what's going on in this book, what is at the core of the revelation? I came up with three things. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:02:13] Okay. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:02:14] And they all seem to relate to one another. One is the notion of God as fully participatory in the creation. I got is not sort of standing out somewhere, just sort of observing it all unaffected by what's going on. Right? You know, if you get anything else about me, get this I am a suffering God. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:02:42] I'm what God?

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:02:44] A suffering a God. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:02:45] Oh, it's a suffering God. Yes. Yes. That's almost the essential truth in the, you know, statement in the whole book that we saw when we suffered, God suffers or when God just looks and we're going the wrong way. You know, it's like a parent. Their kid becomes a drug dealer or something. The parent suffers so that God suffers in these many ways. When tragedy strikes us or when we go wrong. And so, God, I mean, that's a way in which God's destiny, you might say, does depend on our action. God can't be felicitous unless we're doing well and living well. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:03:24]  Right. And also, I got it that it's the other way, too. That um in other words, when God suffers for us in some sense empathically. As a mother suffered for a child. But in a sense, we suffer because God suffers. In other words, the disintegrating aspects of God are invested in our reality that we have to wrestle with that because that stuff is part of the reality of the God that we are all part of. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:03:58] We're all enmeshed in. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:04:00] It's God suffering. Our suffering is God's suffering and God's suffering is our suffering. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:04:04] Yeah. It could be a downward spiral. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:04:07] We're trying. We're working it together. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:04:09] Yes. I hadn't thought of flipping it that way. That is the implication. But that sounds right. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:04:16] So that's what I would think of as the participatory nature of God. That book makes a big point of that. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:04:24] Yes. Yes. That's crucial. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:04:27] God is not this, simply this timeless entity. Well maybe sometime in the future we'll talk about time.Right.I guess the second thing that I was thinking of as I was reading through it was the notion of once again coming to a new understanding of the religions of the world, of the world's religions. On the one hand, it's not an exclusivist understanding with one religion standing up and saying this is the one and only truth. On the other hand, it's not a dismissive understanding which we say that since one of them can't be the truth, therefore none of them have any truth, therefore, none of them have any job. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:05:08] Now, it's not that at all. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:05:11]Right. It's a new conception of the religions as being truly divinely inspired and being paths toward the divine. And each of them having a place to play and a role to play in human spirituality. And I guess the last thing that... 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:05:32] The challenge for an individual is defined. Oh, which of those religious paths or some other path even though they might be philosophical or Yungian psychology or something for a given individual find find out which path is the divine most accessible to that individual. And it might be the religion they were born into. But it might not. They might be called to a different religion or just or as I say, to one of these alternative paths to be philosophical or to be some kind of inspired poet or or or just go help people, you know, give a life of service without thinking a lot about a theological dimension or anything like that. But just be a giving person. There might be any number of things. The challenge for the individual is to figure out, well, what does God want me to do? And we figured out in part from our side by, well, what do I personally find? You know, where do I find God? Do I find it here or there? And I've had experiences when I was going through this, when I was sort of hyper sensitive spiritually of going into, in this in case it was a synagogue, the one I'm thinking. And feeling the divine palpable, almost as if I walked into a wall, you know, and just the divine. And I had the opposite experience in a kind of downtown church of some sort. And I went and just started... you know I was curious in this space, I knew nothing about religion until God talked to me and I started paying attention. I'm looking at the walls, you know, what do the posters say? You know what's going on here? And suddenly felt I was suffocating. There was no oxygen in this room. I literally raced out of the room, back to the street. So anyway, those are just personal reactions. But you can find yourself. I don't report in the book and said, well, I gave a talk subsequent to the book to the Won Institute for Buddhist Studies. And in fact, I delayed the invitation for a while cause I thought, well, Buddhists don't believe been God. Isn't this going to seem very wrong to them? Very low level spirituality to them, to literalistic and so forth. But the person inviting me who had heard me give a talk at AAR persisted. And so, okay. I went and in fact we had a good discussion. But one story that came out of that was they just hired a Jewish psychologist. A woman who was a psychologist. She was Jewish. And I wonder, how did you end up with a Won Buddhist? Won Buddhism is a 20th century Japanese kind of sort of inspired inspirations to people who founded this particular branch. Well, she was downtown Philadelphia it started raining and she ran into - there is this building she runs in to get out of the rain. It's the Won institute of Buddhist spirituality and it just kind of comes upon her. This is where I belong. And I've come to think, well, you need to pay attention to moments like that. You could think, oh, well, that's silly. You know, it's just a place out of the rain. On the other hand, you kind of learn more if you sort of trust it and have trusted it and went so far as to end up working with them. This is, you know, her career. So anyway, it's not just there are those religions, each doing their own thing. We as individuals have a relationship to those religious doors we can open or not open or or happen in our lives to find open sort of waiting for us. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:09:19] Yeah. And my own sense and dealing in this idea of different religions are being both available as different religions, but also respecting coming to respect one another, not simply in a political sense. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin No.

Dr. Richard Oxenberg It's okay for people to believe what I don't believe. But respecting one another as having revelatory significant content. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:09:47] Yes. And therefore being able to learn from one another if we so choose. I don't find here any mandate of people that they have to go study of all the religions. It's perfectly fine just to do your thing, but be aware that it's not the only divine avenue. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:10:03] Right. But I get the sense that as the religions adopt that view of themselves, in a sense, the hard edges of their religion begin to soften. And it's not simply that they now we have opportunities for individual to hop from one religion to another. But the religion themselves will modify their understanding of them, of themselves. Right? Recognizing that they have a particular focus, but their particular focus is one focused within a much greater whole and that's changed their understanding of the meaning of that focus as well.

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:10:48] As long as they are able to keep their focus, there's nothing against their bringing right into their midst. The other points of view they can have, you know, say a Christian congregation, let's say the Methodists can bring in somebody to talk about Gandhi's spirituality, for example, or about Buddhism. And so on. There's no reason we have to, we can study…we can all read the poetry of Rumi, and yet go back then to our Methodist worship, because that's mainly we're doing. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:11:22] Yes. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:11:23]  In this Methodist church. So it's a kind of Methodist church without walls. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:11:28] I was just listening to actually a YouTube discussion with Matthew Fox, the Christian theologian. who was talking about how he got into some trouble with his Dominican order by starting a little school or movement in which he invited all these people from the different religions,. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:11:46]  Right, right.  

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:11:47] To participate and enlighten everyone. I guess the third point that came to me as I was looking at this, which is related to everything we've just discussed, is the notion of... I suppose what we might think of or what I began to think of it, the integrative thrust of God right? Now we live in this world of enormous diversity and it's almost amazing that reality is capable of such diversity. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:12:51] Yes. Yes, that's right. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:12:52] And yet all that diversity somehow emerges from a unity and can harmonize with itself in almost an infinite variety of permutations. And the pursuit of that harmony is, in a sense, the goal of life in various ways. You know, and there's no end to that. All those permutations. And somehow it seems to me God is saying that it is through the relationship. A harmonious relationship with God that we are best able to engage in that integrative process and achieve that kind of harmony. And that's why it's important that we not simply throw all the old religions out because of imperfections. We continue this process of trying to get clearer and clearer about the nature of human religion and spirituality. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:13:57] Yeah. But meanwhile, our job is just to do our thing. It reminds me of the story of the guy who is a tuba player in an orchestra, symphony orchestra. And one time he got sick. They're doing, I don't know, Aida or something. And he goes, so since he's sick, he just goes out and sits in the audience and listens to the music, says to his friend afterwards, "It's amazing. You know, the part that's going oompa oompa oompa. But it's also going da da da da da da da da da da" you know the whole of Aida is there." He just never had any idea. Nevertheless, he's still a tuba player. I mean, that's his job is to go back and play the tuba. If he does his job, then Aida. You know. And so the musical metaphor seem to come up often in the book because harmony is a powerful metaphor itself. And it's and it allows one to appreciate the full diversity. The particulars all have to stay there. The tuba has to do its oompa, oompa, oompa. And meanwhile, all these other instruments are doing their particular thing. And yet it does make a meaningful whole. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:15:15] Yes. And this is then related to a discussion that's also in the book. And maybe we'll pursue this a little bit more fully in another session. The ego, right? Which is separative. Our ego is what separates us from everything else. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin Right. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg  A sense of being our ego is what separates us from everything else. Right. That's necessary. But the danger then is that we can become so wrapped up in reality as presented to us by the ego, that the tuba player comes to think that the tuba's the world.

Dr. Jerry L. Martin Yes. I know a tuba player. And he comes close to that. The really good part is the tuba. (Laughing)

Dr. Richard Oxenberg Tuba! That's what's really important here. Right? (Laughing)

Dr. Jerry L. Martin And the others could quiet down. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg Think of making that tuba sound. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin Yes, yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg And, umm that's the danger, right? 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:16:06] Yeah. I, um, when I pray about ego, you know, what's wrong with the ego? I'm told there's a kind of good ego and a bad ego or good sense and a bad sense in the good sense as well. You need an ego that's part of your art, your engine and your armor for dealing with a difficult world. You know, we often talk about how you need self-esteem and, you know, this kind of thing and a firm sense of your own purpose and to be committed to that of the bad sense. And you use the word, Richard, separatists. You know, when it's separativeness and rebellion and effect refusing. It's as if the tuba player said, "well, I'm not going to pay attention to the script because I could just make the tuba louder and more dominant and do all kinds of stuff that would drown off the others out." Yeah, well, it's that ego that's completely self preoccupied, doesn't see itself as part of a whole of any kind part of interpersonal relations or anything else that kind though, is what we have to avoid. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:17:15] Yeah. I found another good quote here that expresses that from page 148, section 28 of the book. Again, God speaking, "The material world. The sense is ego and so forth is deceptively powerful. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:17:30] Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:17:32] “It's easy for it to seem like the only thing that matters. In fact, like the only thing that is really real.” Our ego and our right. And the whole one of the big points of spirituality is to get us beyond that. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg To recognize our connection with what stands beyond the ego without doing away with the ego. Right? 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:17:58] Right. But ego, like the tuba, has a particular role. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:18:03] Right. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:18:04] To help us navigate the world. Give us some defenses against the slings and arrows that might be showered upon us. And to help us stand for what we're standing for or pursue our projects with some degree of single mindedness. But it's limited. And the other part of that quote is of the natural world seems so very real at one's own physiology, one's own body, one's own bodily desires. And though the worldly goods that we're surrounded with as well as the worldly dangers, it's very easy to think. That's the total level of reality. And it's a lot of reality. You know, the, what God told me, it always cuts in between two points of view because there are people who want to say, well, the world is something like an illusion. And I know I'm told at one point, if it's a mirage, it's a mirage, you can drink water from. It's a completely real thing, however you label it metaphysically. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:19:08]  In this context. In this context. The book goes into a discussion of sacrifice because sacrifice and surrender are really what the ego needs to do in order in order to relax. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:19:22] Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:19:22] Tends to have self involvement. Right? And through that it can then enter into a relationship to what stands beyond itself. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin Yes.

Dr. Richard Oxenberg Which, I suppose the meaning of love in some. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:19:36] Yes love always involves an element of surrender. Not just pushing the other person around or trying to use them for your own desires, emotional needs, physical lust, whatever. But to surrender a lot of that to the good of the other and to some might say the preciousness of the other. And our relation to God has those things, too, and our relation to other high ideals, things people fight and die for, things people sacrifice, you know, for. I know a guy who takes food to the people in India and just hates India and hates doing this the most mosquitos and all the horrors and even the encounter with often wretched conditions. That's a bit hard to bear. But he feels called to do this. And so he surrenders to that very uncomfortable call. So that's a lot of life. And. And it seems to be essential to our relation to God that, you know, that's why, as you know, I always pray "thy will be done". That's kind of the essential prayer. And most people pray. Give me this. Give me that. It's like "my will be done, God, my will be done." But to the extent you're doing that, you're not related to God is divine being at all. But it's the kind of to Santa Clause or a fairy godmother or something. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:21:08]  Right. And I suppose God's will, as it gets expressed in the book, is ultimately the will once again. I call it integrative, but, you know, as opposed, that ultimately means to create love, to create love out of. To recognize the forces of disintegration. And then deal with them in such a way as to bring harmony and integration in the vast variety of ways that we can do it in the world. Maybe with this discussion of God's will. That's a good time to stop this particular session. So, what we were planning on doing for our next one. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:21:51] Yes.

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:21:52] Talk a little bit about the nature of God as revealed in the book. And maybe that will be a good time to stop and look forward to that discussion. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:22:00] That sounds right. Richard, thank you for this discussion. I'll look forward to the next one. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:22:06] Yeah. 

Scott Langdon [00:22:21] Thank you for listening. To God: An Autobiography, The Podcast. Subscribe for free today wherever you listen to your podcasts and hear a new episode every week. You can hear the complete dramatic adaptation of God: An Autobiography, As Told To A Philosopher by Jerry L. Martin, by beginning with episode one of our podcast and listening through its conclusion with Episode 44. You can read the original true story in the book from which this podcast is adapted. God: An Autobiography, As Told To A Philosopher, available now at Amazon.com, and always at godanautobiography.com. Pick up your own copy today. If you have any questions about this or any other episode, please email us at questions@godanautobiography.com and experience the world from God's perspective as it was told to a philosopher. This is Scott Langdon. I'll see you next time.