The ancients wondered whether gods were subject to constructs of Time and Fate. Today, we question whether God can change rules like E = mc2 or if He works in rhythm with the universe, yielding to the laws of nature.
Join host Scott Langdon as he connects Dr. Richard Oxenberg and Dr. Jerry L. Martin in this discussion for the series: Where Two Philosophers Wrestle with God, Dialogue Five- The Big Picture, investigating the implications and the big picture of life.
Is existence meaningless and no one in control as the nihilists believe, or are the absolutists correct in an absolute reality capable of controlling everything? Join us somewhere in the middle, a twilight zone located at the crossroads of philosophy, history, and our understanding of God.
Consider the world's religions as exploratory points of interaction between humans and God, seeking to understand His nature, developing a joint project of self-discovery and fulfillment, leading to the big picture of it all.
Dr. Oxenberg has written: On the Meaning of Human Being: Heidegger and the Bible in Dialogue.
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]; The Nature Of Divine Reality [Part 1] [Part 2]; Purpose [Part 1] [Part 2]; Revelation [Part 1] [Part 2]; [Dramatic Adaptation] God Explains Polytheism In A Way I Understand
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 75.
Scott Langdon [00:01:08] Hello, I'm Scott Langdon, and welcome to God: an Autobiography, the podcast. This week, we offer you part two of the fifth dialog between doctors Jerry L. Martin and Richard Oxenberg. Here in episode 75, Richard and Jerry continue their discussion about the God beyond God and what the implications are regarding the relationship between the God of this world and human beings. In this episode, Richard, as he has previously done, points specifically to a couple of sections of the book giving page numbers and even reading portions for context. In an effort toward an even broader contextual framework for part two of this conversation, I'd like to begin with a clip from Episode 18 of this podcast. This clip is from the audio adaptation of Jerry's book, which can be found anytime for free by beginning with episode one and continuing through Episode 44, and is the audio version of page 95, which Richard references in this episode. In this clip, as is the case for the entire audio adaptation, I speak the voice of Jerry, and Jerry, who heard the voice, speaks the voice of God.
Jerry Martin in the book, voiced by Scott Langdon [00:02:32] [Page 95 of God: an Autobiography, as Told to a Philosopher / Episode 18] "The ancients posed the question: Do the gods rule the world, or does the world, in some respects, rule the gods? Perhaps even the gods are subject to Fate and to the whims of Time. 'Is that view, right, Lord?'"
God in the book, voiced by Jerry L. Martin [00:02:49] "Yes, something like that. There is a rhythm, a framework, a pattern to the universe that I must yield to, work within, accommodate to, (and) respect. I work within fixed patterns, patterns larger than the laws of nature to achieve My goals."
Jerry Martin in the book, voiced by Scott Langdon [00:03:07] "That makes You sound small, Lord."
God in the book, voiced by Jerry L. Martin [00:03:10] "No, that is not accurate at all. I am very large, very large indeed, about the largest "thing" you can imagine. But I am bounded. Remember that I can do anything I care to do. In that sense, My will is not limited. But what I care to do is shaped by, exists in a light of, boundary conditions."
Jerry Martin in the book, voiced by Scott Langdon [00:03:31] "And some of these conditions involve time."
God in the book, voiced by Jerry L. Martin [00:03:34] "Yes, that's right."
Jerry Martin in the book, voiced by Scott Langdon [00:03:36] "Do the actions of human beings affect what is 'timely' for You?"
God in the book, voiced by Jerry L. Martin [00:03:41] "Yes! That is correct. I cannot move at a pace greater than the human reactions. That is why it is important for you to tell My story, My history of interactions with humans from My side. You will see that a development in God is really a response to, (and) conditioned by, the development of (human beings) and their response to Me."
Scott Langdon [00:04:14] That was a clip from episode 18 of this podcast where I was speaking in the voice of Jerry Martin, and Jerry was the voice of God. Here now is part two of dialog number five between Jerry Martin and Richard Oxenberg. We continue the conversation with Richard speaking first. I hope you enjoy the episode.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:04:41] "I am the point of interaction," this is page 60. "I am the point of interaction between man and the world."
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:04:50] Yes.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:04:51] Right? And then you ask, "Lord, what do You mean by point of interaction?" And God says, "I am the medium through which man understands the world." And then you ask, "Is mind the medium?" And God says, "Yes." Mind is a fluid in which human beings and the natural world exist. So I am, I mean, what God is kind of saying is that God is imminent within our very consciousness.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:05:20] Yes.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:05:21] Right? That God is the medium or the mind between us.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:05:25] Yes.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:05:26] And there there's another place where God says to you, this is page 95, "I cannot move at a pace greater than the human reaction to me."
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:05:36] Yes. Yes
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:05:38] And that's extraordinary.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:05:40] Yes. (Laughing)
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:05:42] "That is why it is important for you to tell My story, My history, My interaction with humans, from My side. You will see that a development in God is really a response to, (and) conditioned by, the development of (human beings) and their response to me."
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:06:02] Yes. Yes
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:06:03] So this is like a very tight integration.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:06:07] Yes. Yes.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:06:08] Right? Between--
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:06:09] Yes. Very. Yes.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:06:10] God developing and human beings developing.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:06:13] Yes.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:06:14] Such that, and the sort of the interesting conclusion that comes out of this, is that the religions of the world are explorations of the nature of God, not only on the part of human beings but on the part of God as well. In other words, the religion of the world can almost be seen as exploratory.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:06:41] Yes.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:06:41] Right? Rather than God simply revealing some grand truth to human beings--
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:06:46] That's a good point.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:06:47] There's a kind of mutual exploratory process taking place.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:06:52] Yes.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:06:53] And that exploratory process, is it expressing itself as the various religions of the world?
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:07:01] Yes. Yes.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:07:02] So that God has different dimensions of Himself--
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:07:06] Yes.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:07:07] As different religions emerge.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:07:09] Yes. Yes. Yes. I think that's exactly right and is rather different from, I guess, at the beginning of all of this hearing from God, I certainly had a revelational model. That seemed like my experience. God speaks to me, and I assume God spoke to Jeremiah, and whomever the Vedic Seers were, and so forth that came to them in whatever way God came to them (may not have been a voice) but a purely revelational, one direction from the Divine to the human period. But the account in the God book that, you know, that slowly emerges, and I slowly come to understand, is it's very much more like a familiar thing with human beings. You know you and I talk with one another, and our very thoughts come out of that talk. They weren't all the thoughts we had beforehand, necessarily. Right? And our characteristics start shaping in response to one another. So that one can become a better person, or worse person, or a more mature person, or whatever, you know, through the interaction. And this deep way in which in, God: an Autobiography, God is a person, though also much more than a person. God also has cosmic responsibilities, for example. But, God is a person in a very vibrant sense, growing and developing in interaction, just as persons do. As human persons do.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:08:43] And the project, which is a joint project--.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:08:49] Yes, yes.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:08:49] Of God, and human beings, and maybe other things that aren't mentioned. So, there's this joint project that's taking place between human beings and God, and it's a project both of self-discovery?
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:09:08] Yes.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:09:08] I just want to circle back--
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:09:10] Yeah.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:09:11] To the God beyond God to talk about those negativities. Right? For a moment, because this is something that I've spent a lot of time thinking about. Right? If there's negativity in the universe, by negativity, we mean pain, and suffering, and loss, and all the various horrors that (you know) we're subject to. And if everything emerges out of some ultimate reality, then the potential for that negativity must emerge out of that ultimate reality.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:09:47] Yeah.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:09:47] Right? And so if that ultimate reality to God, beyond God, as we were saying, has a need to create, has an impetus to create, can't not create, so to speak, because it would just go against Its fundamental nature- right? And if in the course of that creation, the negativities of existence emerge- right? They emerge from that creative process itself, and I see that in the book in terms of the emergent God, speaking of His feeling of loneliness. Right? That all of a sudden, once He has become an entity unto Himself, apart from the God beyond God, one of the first experiences is an experience of being alone. Being all alone, no longer a part of this whole. Right? And then therefore, there is a kind of natural ontological project that is inherent to the fundamental ontological situation, which is that the negativities of existence need to be addressed as best as they can be addressed. Right? In other words- so, these negativities can't be simply wished away.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:11:15] Right.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:11:16] Because they are part of the ultimate reality. They're not relative.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:11:19] Also, there is another factor, though.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:11:21] Yeah.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:11:23] It might not be correct to sort of retro check all of the negativities into the God beyond God as if that were the sole source of everything. Because once you make a world, you have the hard resistances of material reality. And I'm told elsewhere, as you know, that the world wouldn't be real unless it were like material.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:11:47] Right.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:11:48] And material has its own limits. It's again, much like the person who has the ideal statue and then tries to put it in marble, but the marble has its own resistances, imperfections, etc.. So the statue may not come out as perfect as the idea. So it wouldn't be right quite to say, well, the negativity was in Michelangelo, the negativity is in the material. And I'm told--
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:12:19] Right, but in this case, in this case, the material itself emerges out of the God beyond God. Right? It's not like it comes from someplace else. Right? The material--.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:12:30] Yes, yes.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:12:30] The, I mean, within the pool of potentialities that is the God beyond God, is the potentiality to produce this resistant material which both is needed to embody the reality of the God beyond God, but also creates this negativity. So the negativity is inherent in the materiality that emerges out of the God beyond God.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:12:58] Yeah, but God cannot make the material. At least, this is what I'm told- that God cannot make the material out of ideality. The material, you know, the material has to be material. And it's in the nature of material. It's not as though God could have made a more perfect material.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:13:15] Right. No, I'm not saying- yeah.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:13:17] Organisms that didn't- weren't resistant to age and disease, for example, if we're going to have organisms, they have those, and I'm told God doesn't make up the laws of nature, even. God--
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:13:30] Right. So, so I think that--
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:13:32] -- cannot violate E = M C^2 either, you know? But you're not challenging that. You're not questioning that part?
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:13:39] No, no, I think I'm agreeing with that. I'm just- I'm just trying to draw out an implication of that.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:13:44] Yes?
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:13:45] Which- And the implication of that--
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:13:48] Yes.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:13:48] Is that given that, given that the negativity is, in a sense, an inevitable aspect of the reality of what we're dealing with, there is an ontological project.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:14:05] Yes.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:14:07] That everything that emerges (right) is given as an assignment, which is to figure out or try as resolved as best we can this negativity.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:14:17] Yes.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:14:18] Right?
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:14:18] Yes.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:14:19] And that project can be both a daunting project, but also an inspiring project, right?
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:14:29] Yes.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:14:29] And you know, it's what allows for greatness, right? If there weren't anything resisting greatness, what would greatness be, right?
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:14:37] Yeah, no- it makes for all the positive goods also. To be actualized--
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:14:40] Right. Right. So it's a wonderful picture, and let's get to yet another point.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:14:46] Yes.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:14:49] Which is that the book seemed to be doing this sort of interesting and fascinating job of finding an intermediary between Absolutism, a kind of absolutistic way of approaching religion on the one hand, and Nihilism on the other.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:15:15] Yeah. Yeah.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:15:15] And in Nihilism, which says nothing matters, there is no God, everything's garbage, everything is pointless, right? Right?
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:15:23] Right.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:15:23] No, on the one hand. But you know, and the Nihilism- always sort of, there's this interesting dialectic that takes place between the absolutism and the nihilism. Right? The Nihilism says, "You know, well, there's nobody completely in control then it's a meaningless." Right?
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:15:42] Right. Right.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:15:43] And the Absolutist say, "Well, if we are going to avoid believing it's all meaningless, we have to have this absolute reality that's in control of everything.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:15:53] So they feed into each other.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:15:55] Right.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:15:55] I mean each is the view of the others' nightmares. Gives the other nightmares.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:16:01] Right. And the book finds an interesting middle way between those, it's almost a Hegelian synthesis. Right?
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:16:08] How do you see that?
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:16:10] In that, on the one hand, God, the God of this book, even the God beyond God, is not in total control, right? God is subject to God's own nature.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:16:26] Yeah.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:16:27] That nature is ultimately good in the sense of, if you could get in touch with it, you would experience that feeling of benign shelter, and peace, and love, and so forth, right?
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:16:42] Yes.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:16:43] But nevertheless, out of that, nature emerges, inevitably, the potential for negativity, which is seemed to be a function of things coming apart from one another. And so that then gives us our project, our kind of cosmic ontological project, which is to create beauty, to create love, to create peace, to create good, out of, in response to, the negativity that is nevertheless inevitable. And this project is not only a project that we have been assigned to by God, but it's a project that God himself is engaged in. Right?
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:17:36] And in which we are copartner.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:17:38] And in which we are co-partners.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:17:40] Yeah.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:17:41] Right.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:17:41] So that to me, seems a very lofty vision. You know.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:17:46] Yes it is, it is. That's wonderfully put, Richard.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:17:50] I just want to read one last part to sort of sum up what we've been saying. God is speaking of the ultimate goal. Right? And he makes it clear that it's not a goal, like getting to the finish line.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:18:03] Right.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:18:03] Right? It's an ongoing goal. Right. It's a goal in a sense, of every moment.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:18:09] Yes.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:18:09] And moments within moments, right?
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:18:12] Yes.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:18:12] Right. And it's moving in a direction of more and more fulfillment, but in a sense, it's the project that is the point.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:18:22] That's exactly right. I mean, I'm constantly told, you know, it's a cliche, really, but the purpose of a song is not to get to the end.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:18:31] Right. Or you can even think of--
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:18:32] The purpose is -- More purpose, maybe, than a song.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:18:36] Right.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:18:37] But, it nevertheless has that feature. That meaning is in the moments.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:18:43] Or a football game.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:18:44] Yes.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:18:45] Right? The purpose of the game is the purpose of the touchdown is for the game, the game is not for the touchdown.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:18:52] Right. That's a great to put it. Yes. (Laughing)
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:18:54] Right? If we get assigned touchdowns to the team, to the game, it will kind of defeat the purpose. Right?
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:19:00] Yes, yes. (Laughing).
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:19:00] Right? So you have the goal for the sake of the game, not the game for the sake of the goal.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:19:05] It's like that comic program, the old Saturday Night Live, they'd report- "Yesterday's sports scores: 7346820..." (Laughing)
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:19:18] Right.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:19:20] Oh, yeah. That's really interesting.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:19:23] So, I'm just looking at page 312 here, and God saying- talking about the ultimate goal of it all.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:19:29] Yes.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:19:30] [Page 312 of God: an Autobiography, as Told to a Philosopher] "The goal is completeness, connectedness, to create the many and to pull them back into the one."
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:19:38] Mm hmm.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:19:39] And that sort of sums it all up. Right? So you've got the God beyond God--
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:19:44] Yeah.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:19:45] At which the many emerges. And it's a many, manifold many, right?
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:19:49] Yes, yeah.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:19:50] Many worlds, and many things within each world. Right?
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:19:53] Yes.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:19:53] Many gods. And somehow, the goal is always to bring some sort of oneness to this endless, infinite manyness, and it's a goal that never exhausts itself. You never finally come back. You never get to the point where it's all over. Right?
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:20:12] Right. As you say, the meaning isn't in the touchdown. The meaning isn't all oneness. It's in the living of the quest for oneness.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:20:25] Right.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:20:25] You know, from moment to moment to moment of living with our lives turned toward the divine, is one way it's put, but they're all that co-partnering minute to minute with the divine in bringing some kind of concert, you know, integration out of the many. Out of these disparate parts that keep, you might say, colliding with one another.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:20:53] So I thought that this might be a good time to wrap this particular session up.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:20:57] Yes.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:20:57] And I'm thinking maybe the next session we would do we w delve more deeply into this whole question of suffering and evil, which is a major philosophical category.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:21:17] Yes.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:21:18] Does that sound good to you, Jerry?
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:21:20] That sounds good. That sounds good, Richard. Well, thank you. This is a wonderful reading of the book and with many insights that had gone past me. And it's part of the value. Every text is richer than the, quote, author. Here, I'm mainly the transcriber. But anyway, I'm sure if the book has more in it than any one reader is going to quickly glimpse, including the guy who heard the voice.
Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:21:48] Well, it should. If it's coming from the great beyond. Yeah. (Laughing)
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:21:52] Yes, yes. Yes.
Scott Langdon [00:22:08] 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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.