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

70. Nature Of God And Divine Reality | Series: Two Philosophers Wrestle With God | Dialogue 4 [Part 1]

April 14, 2022 Jerry L. Martin, Scott Langdon, Richard Oxenberg
GOD: An Autobiography, As Told to a Philosopher - The Podcast
70. Nature Of God And Divine Reality | Series: Two Philosophers Wrestle With God | Dialogue 4 [Part 1]
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 fourth dialogue covers the nature of divine reality.

Do we need a new understanding of God- a new Genesis? This week's discussion challenges the traditional image of God with an evolving God, becoming self-aware, and learning to communicate. 

Rediscover the history of science and religion through the Big Bang, Creation, and Genesis from God's perspective as we look back in the book and continue the discussion of the philosophy of religion, and the Nature of Divine Reality.

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.

Begin the dramatic adaptation of God: An Autobiography, As Told To A Philosopher

Related Episodes: [Two Philosophers Wrestle With God]
The Big Picture [Part 1] [Part 2]Purpose [Part 1] [Part 2]; Revelation [Part 1] [Part 2]; [Dramatic Adaptation] God Takes Me Back To The Beginning Of Everything

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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. 

Scott Langdon Episode 70. Hello, and welcome to the 70th episode of GOD: An Autobiography, The Podcast. I'm your host, Scott Langdon. This week we continue with our series  Where Two Philosophers Wrestle With God by bringing you part one of the fourth dialogue between Dr. Richard Oxenberg and Dr. Jerry L Martin. In this episode, Jerry and Richard discuss the Creation story and how the version in the Book of Genesis in the Bible differs from the perspective God gave to Jerry, as he recalls in his book God: An Autobiography, As Told To A Philosopher. Last week we replayed episode 16, where God takes Jerry back to the very beginning of everything in order to provide some context for this conversation. Today, partway through this dialogue, I'll briefly interject in order to bring you a clip of the audio adaptation of the book as an illustration of the topic our two philosophers are discussing. Remember, you can hear the complete audio adaptation of the book any time by beginning with episode one of our podcast and listening through Episode 44. 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 Jerry speaking first. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:02:31] Well, hello, Richard. I'm glad to have a chance to continue our dialogue on God: An Autobiography. What are we talking about today? 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:02:41]  So I thought that what we would get into today… We've been talking about your experiences and the nature of the revelation. The understanding of God that is presented in the book-- 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin Yes.

Dr. Richard Oxenberg  Is rather different-- 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg Than some of the standard ways that we tend to think about God-- Both in terms of how it's been presented in the Bible, and, and really, I'm not sure I can think of any of the major religions that present God in quite this way. So I thought what we would do today is take a look, as in, begin the discussion, because I think there's very... a many varied discussion to be had about what the nature of the divine reality is ultimately like, and how that bears upon us.

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:03:26] Exactly. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:03:27] I just wanted to start by reading this little passage that comes at some point in the book. God is speaking to you and saying, "Now we need a new systematic revelation from bottom to top. Almost to start over again with a new Genesis, one might say, with a new gospel of John, and a new philosophical understanding of God.  The old one was only partially inspired and contains too much of the arrogance of human reason."

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:03:58] Yes. Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:03:59]  Right so, I thought we would maybe focus on the new Genesis. A little bit today, alright?

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:04:05] Yes, exactly. Yeah, that was a very, that was a very early prayer that you quoted before we got to the new Genesis. But yeah, where I was just trying to get oriented. What on Earth are we doing here? 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:04:10] Yeah. Right. Right. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:04:17] What is God doing with, with me, you know. Anyway, that was before the new Genesis actually occurred. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:04:26] So I thought it might be interesting, first of all, to read just a little bit from the old Genesis.

Dr. Jerry L. Martin Okay. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg And then talk about the creation as presented in your revelatory experiences, which I- and maybe compare the two and see if we can make some sense of some of the differences. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:04:51] Okay. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg So, here I have a- a holy scripture here. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin Okay, good. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:04:51] I'm going to read the first, the first chapter of the first book with which I'm sure many people are familiar. "In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth. The Earth was without form and void, and the darkness was upon the face of the deep, and the spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters, and God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light. And God saw that the light was good and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light day and the darkness he called night. And there was evening, and there was morning one day." The very beginning of the Book of Genesis. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:05:30] That's beautiful, isn't it? 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:05:32] Yeah. Yeah. Right. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:05:34]  Quite magisterial. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:05:36] Yes. And it certainly presents the image of a God who is fully in command of himself and of the creation that he's about to produce, right? And I suppose the words in the beginning, although I've heard they are subject to different interpretations depending on how you translate it– Right? But at least the way, the standard way of translating it-- that this is where it all begins, right? 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin Yes

Dr. Richard Oxenberg I think Augustine once quipped that any who question what was God doing before the beginning, right, are not thinking well or correct. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:06:17] Right. Yeah. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:06:20] Well, this contrasts rather sharply with the image of the creation that we get from your, your book.  

Dr. Jerry L. Martin Yeah. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg And I just thought I'd just take a moment to read a passage from that, and then talk about the differences if we might. This is on Section 14

Scott Langdon [00:06:48] At this point in the conversation, Richard references the section on Creation from the book, which begins on page 71. The audio adaptation of this section of the book is found in episode 16. Here is a clip from Episode 16, where God takes Jerry back to the very beginning of everything. In the dramatic audio adaptation of the book, I speak the voice of Jerry and Jerry Martin himself, as he does in this episode clip speaks the voice of God.

Dramatic Adaptation: Episode 16

Jerry Martin - voiced by Scott Langdon

The Voice of God - voiced by Jerry L. Martin, who heard the voice

The Voice of God [00:07:31] We should go back to the Beginning. Enter into Me, and experience the Beginning as I experienced it. Record what I say as I re-experience that moment.

Jerry Martin [00:07:46] I tried to still myself and yield to whatever experience I was about to be given.

The Voice of God [00:07:53] I am in the midst of Nothingness...

Jerry Martin [00:07:56] "In the midst of Nothingness?" My logical alarm went off. “Lord, how can I make sense of this?”

The Voice of God [00:08:07] Don't worry now about making sense of it.  Just listen.

Jerry Martin [00:08:13] I tried again to still myself and yield.

The Voice of God  [00:08:20] I am in the midst of Nothing.  I hear nothing, see nothing--because there is nothing.  I feel alone, very alone, except that I don't yet know what alone means. I feel growing strength, and Myself being drawn toward the light, just a glimmer at the "edge." I am in a kind of "pain" like stretching aching muscles. 

Two Philosophers Wrestle With God: Dialogue 4

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:08:54] Maybe I'll just stop right there. Those are two very different images of the beginning. Right? So maybe I'll just ask you- well what do you make that? 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:09:08] Well, you know, at the time, I was quite shocked by this because I grew up with Genesis, you know, and there's no other conception, as you say, that, of God that was remotely like this or the creation that was remotely like this, and in part, it's seemed to anthropomorphic. And when I ask about that, God says, well, that kind of language is the only way to communicate what this was like. You've got to grab for some language that we can use. But it was of a God who did not, who seemed to be coming into existence simultaneously with the world coming into existence, except there is that sense, well before God was in Nothingness and the nothingness doesn't seem to be quite nothing, Nothingness- you know, completely. Then one point I said maybe it's like a pregnant nothingness- a nothingness, full of potentiality? And I think God says, well, okay, that's, that's an okay way to say it. And then God and the world sort of explode together. The Big Bang and the world expanding in a microsecond. And God, trying to... Noticing that the God role is something, is somehow to orchestrate this. It's as though you find yourself in front of one hundred and fifty piece orchestra and they start tuning up and you realize suddenly, oh, I've got to give direction. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:10:40]  Right. But, and that itself is, you know, is an interesting image, and it's the image that adjusts itself- that the God who is speaking in this book, is somehow and I think, though, you know.... well, let me put it this way-- The God who is speaking in this book is somehow separated from the whole of being. Right, when you say that it's like you're in the middle of an orchestra and the orchestra is tuning up and you are the conductor and you've got to somehow get the orchestra, you know, to tune up properly- well the conductor is not the rest of the orchestra, right?  

Dr. Jerry L. Martin Right.

Dr. Richard Oxenberg There's a kind of dualism between the conductor and the orchestra. And that's the, that certainly is one of the impressions you get with this story- that God somehow explodes into being. Matter of fact, it almost sounds like a description of a birth, right? 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin Yes, yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg Pretty much almost womb like, right? 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin Yes, yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg There is a kind of womb, and you use the word pregnant, (laughing) you know... 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin (laughing) Right, right. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg Yeah, you know, and it's almost as if God suddenly explodes and bursts out of this womb--

Dr. Jerry L. Martin Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg Not quite knowing what's going on-- 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg And along with exploding out of the womb is, well, the way that it actually gets presented. Let me, let me just read another passage because I just thought that this was fascinating. "Out of Nothingness I erupted, “created” Myself. At that point, I was just pure energy, pure creative force.”

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:12:17] Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:12:18]  “Pure Being, Being itself. Space and time were created as a result of My Being." This is just a process. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg Right? It's a process that is taking place... 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg And the process just explodes out at some point. Very much like the Big Bang in some sense. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:12:40] Yes, it's a lot like the Big Bang. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:12:43] "The physical universe spun out of Me by My overflowing." Right? "I am the to-be of all things. I was not yet a Person. I was not yet self-aware. I was amorphous energy flowing out radically in all directions." What a difference, what a difference between that and the Genesis story, right? 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin (laughing) Right. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg And so what we seem to be getting here... Is that the personhood of God crystalizes, right, out of this explosion– And in a sense, the personhood of God is a focusing of a being that is not yet or not yet fully the whole, right? More like the orch- the conductor of an orchestra where the orchestra is already there, the conductor doesn't quite know how the orchestra got there and all- or to put it another way, it's an orchestra in which one element of the orchestra suddenly becomes aware of itself, and then aware of the orchestra as outside of itself and of its need to create some kind of order among the orchestra. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:14:10] Well, that's one aspect of the picture. But the other aspect is that this physical universe, that is exploding like the Big Bang, or like a newborn coming out with arms and legs kicking, is also the world. It's also the world. And then God realizes, you know, it's if God, you know, is the mind of this vast, exploding body- I've got to figure out what to do with these flailing arms and legs or with these, you know, extraordinary movements outward of, of energy and mass and so forth, and so God is trying to figure out. So it's, it's odd, and as you know, Richard, it's a, it's a double, a double aspect that's constant through the book, the way in which God is the world and is us and the way in which we encounter God and that God is not just us and not just the world, but presents a personal side. And in other ways, we can be participatory in the divine. So they're, both of those aspects are always there, somewhat paradoxically. Paradoxical given how we ordinarily relate to physical objects around us. But, but, nevertheless, that's the sort of underlying story. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:15:39] So there is a lot of directions in which this conversation could now go and I'm going to take it in this direction for a moment, then maybe we'll move into another direction. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin Yeah.

Dr. Richard Oxenberg  Is Genesis wrong? Is, I mean in other words, is there, if there is some- is there or is there not some truth to the way in which Genesis presents the creation story.  In your, in your mind as you think about this. I mean if we compare these two, are we going to say- well, you know, the author of Genesis just, just got it wrong, and this is what really happened, and this was, you know, where this story came from, we can't say.  I mean, what, what would you say about that? 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin Well, that's not a question that I have asked myself. I tend to be trusting with regard to revelations and assume that they're each telling us something. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg Right. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:16:29] And I don't think one has to there... I don't think that implies one has to hammer them into one story and ask, well, what exactly is the right story? These are both rather metaphorical and majestic presentations. I mean, how is God going to communicate creation in a way that we're going to find it easy to grasp? It seems to me Genesis comes up later a little bit in prayer and all that we did was interpret the lines a little bit. But that was in the spirit of here, here is the, here are the truths, you know, somewhat articulated maybe differently from some particular theological tradition, but that, that did contain truths. But that's a little vaguer in my mind at this point. I remember something about a translation of some of the terms that God sort of fluttered over the waters (laughing) Like a bird over its young or something of that sort-- And one does have to be sensitive to these, almost like reading poetry, to these nuances of language. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:17:56] Right, right. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:17:58] That what God told me was what He now wants somebody to know. You know? The creation. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:18:07] You know, I think it's possible, and of course there's a point that it's made in the book overall, to see both of these different stories as different aspects of a greater truth. As different ways of pointing to a greater truth, and both of them have, in a sense, their purpose. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg  And, well, let's leave that aside for the moment, because, yeah, it's an interesting, to me it's an interesting question–

Dr. Jerry L. Martin Sure. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:16:45] How to...you know, in what way both of these, right, become significant, from a spiritual point of view?

Scott Langdon [00:18:53] 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.