Is God still communicating with us today? What has God been up to with different cultures and throughout history? It is an adventure of the most divine proportions for both Man and God, one we can only now discover in an era of global connectedness.
God: An Autobiography, As Told To A Philosopher, is a revelation for today and uniquely does not dismiss other revelations and spiritual truths.
By accepting God's multiplicity, taking God out of the box, and paying attention to what nurtures your soul, you may discover a deep spiritual avenue that transcends doctrines.
What's On Our Mind- Show host Scott Langdon and Dr. Jerry L. Martin discuss these questions.
Related Episodes: [Two Philosophers Wrestle With God] Eastern Religions [Part 1] [Part 2] [The Life Wisdom Project] Tuning In To God with Dr. Jeanine Diller; [What's On Your Mind] Spiritual Judgment
Related Content: [Video] Does God Still Speak To Us?
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 96.
Scott Langdon This is episode 96 of God: An Autobiography, The Podcast and another edition of our series What's On Our Minds. I'm Scott Langdon. In today's episode, Jerry and I focus our attention on episodes 91 through 95 and talk about what God had to tell Jerry about God's many revelations to humankind, and how God told different cultures, different things. While that might sound out of step with one or more belief systems, the question becomes- what if it is true? What if God did come to humankind to communicate in various ways and is still doing so today? Thanks for spending this time with us. I hope you enjoy the episode.
Scott Langdon [00:02:05] Welcome back, friends, for another edition of our series called What's On Our Minds, and that's where Jerry and I get to chit chat about some of the things that came up in the last few episodes. Jerry, I'm glad to talk to you.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:02:16] Yeah, we've had some very interesting episodes recently, I think. So, we should have a good discussion today.
Scott Langdon [00:02:22] We should- yeah. I'm really looking forward to it. Episodes 91 and 92, where the ninth dialogue between you and Richard Oxenberg, and in that you really kind of focused more on the Eastern religions and how God was revealing God's Self and learning and communicating all of it through the Eastern religions, kind of in a broad way. But you know, how God was revealing God's Self through that part of God's revelation and what God was saying there. And then we did something new with episode 94, and that is we introduced a brand-new series we're calling the Life Wisdom Project, and we had as our guest, as your guest, in a wonderful interview, a beautiful conversation with Dr. Jeanine Diller.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:03:07] Yeah. Jeanine's a wonderful person, who I know personally, as you can tell from my calling her Jeanine, and I'm excited about this series because we are trying to figure out, you know, what are the implications for how we should daily live our lives in God book? And so, we're going through chapter by chapter, episode by episode with different guests. Jeanine Diller will be our first guest for the first, I think, two episodes, but then we'll take it from there with some other people who have insights into how we should live informed by God: An Autobiography.
Scott Langdon [00:03:45] I think it's a wonderful idea and it's great to have other folks who have read the book and who have been listening to the podcast offer their thoughts and their experiences, too. It's always great to have folks do that, and that's what we do in What's On Your Mind, in the sense that anyone who is a listener, we invite them to email us at email@example.com and give us comments or thoughts about their experiences with God or lack of experiences with God, you might say. You know, some doubters. And this week, in last week's episode, this most recent edition of that, we had a wonderful email from Barbara. And Barbara, we talked about it, was really sincere about her dealing with the book and taking it in, and she just was really skeptical about whether your message was from God or not and gave us some scriptures to sort of back up her position on it. And in the end, I just really felt like this wasn't from God. It was a difficult email to digest, but we talked about it, and I thought it was interesting.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:04:55] Yes, I took it very seriously from, we might say, this is a very high honor when I say this about someone, that I would say Barbara is a person with an open soul. And an open soul means that they're trying to take in whatever divine signals are coming through them. They're trying to do it. She may not have an open mind, but she has an open soul. Otherwise, you wouldn't have been writing in, and I commend her for that. So someone who thinks, wait a minute, wait a minute, this doesn't sound like God as I understand God, this must be from some bad source, and, so, to write that in, I think any email, anybody's thoughts, as long as they're sincere, which Barbara certainly was, it can be negative, it can be condemning us, it can be praising us, or just coming from a left field in some direction, if it's sincere, then let's hear it because it's worth talking about. And Barbara certainly was where she thinks, hey, wait a minute, this can't be God, and I give her credit because I, you know, gave her long response, the longest response I think I've ever given anyone, kind of retracing in part the biblical story, the history of revelation, you might say.
Scott Langdon [00:06:14] Right.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:06:14] Which has repeatedly been something new, and I ask her to go pray about it. And to her credit, she did go pray. That's the open soul side. Then she came back- no, I prayed, and it's not God. And I said, well, maybe it's not for you. Although I suggested she read through just in case there's something there for her, because that's my own personal belief about God: An Autobiography. Parts of it may be off-putting to this or that person, but I kind of feel that for each person there's something in the book that's for that person. That's just my personal belief.
Scott Langdon [00:06:54] In Episodes 91 and 92, they are the two parts of the ninth dialogue between you and Richard Oxenberg. That dialogue, when you're talking about the religious traditions that come out of the East in this sort of broad way, and what God was revealing and learning through all of that revelation, I'm not sure if you two said this to one another, or if you and I said this at another time, or maybe even sort of off the air, if you will, but I think you told me that someone had seen this book or read the book and said to you, "It's a revelation about revelations."
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:07:34] Yes. Yes. An atheist friend, who I at first just described the experience, but I described something of the content, and he said, "Yes, I see. It's a revelation about revelations." And that was precisely accurate. You know, as it turned out, that has been helpful to me because that's part of the explanation for why God: An Autobiography, although it's revelatory, is not the foundation of a new religion.
Scott Langdon [00:08:01] Right.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:08:02] It's not rejecting the other revelations. It's putting them into their proper understandings or into a larger framework. That's what this revelation does, the revelation to me, is puts them all in a context and explains what God was doing. And that's why the book is God's story, God: An Autobiography, what God was up to with these different cultures. And it's an adventure for God, and it's an adventure for the cultures, and it's now an adventure for us now that we have so much understanding of the diversity and multiplicity of cultures, their distinctiveness, and what they have in common. It's a revelation also for our times in that sense, for the era of global connectedness.
Scott Langdon [00:08:53] I know for me, during the pandemic, so much of my life took a different route. I mean, it did for everyone, really. Didn't it? I mean, things that we had planned that we would do and things we had lined up whether you know, it be somebody's going to retire and now you can't. I mean, in all kinds of scenarios, you fill in the blank for you. But for me, I know that it forced me to be at home and to work here from my house and to learn, lean into skills that I might have thought one day I might use if given the opportunity. But now I was sort of forced to get another set of skills and really try to sharpen them and do a task. And the other thing that it did was it showed me and helped me understand that framework for the time period that we are in, meaning with the internet and the technology and the way we are communicating, now. We've talked a couple of times now, you and I, we've only seen each other in person this whole time we've known each other a handful of times. At the very beginning, I came to your house a time or two and but it's all been done via this sort of virtual world that we are now starting to lean into. And the more opportunity to see things differently and the more we give ourselves permission to see things differently and to see that information that's out there-- I never wanted to change my belief system, which we would call, you know, we talked about last week, as faith or belief. You know, I don't want to change my faith. I wanted to shake up my belief system. It was being shook up, and now it's a more inclusive opportunity to be in tune with God. The language that I use, the way I see things has been expanded. I don't feel like I had to shut one thing out in order for another thing to come in. I felt like I've included it and it's expanded.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:10:57] Yeah. More inclusive, I think, is the wonderful expression, very precise and captures what's going on here. It's not that you have to throw out anything you have come to believe as long as you think it continues to resonate with you as truthful. You don't have to throw it out. In fact, you should hang on to it. Any truth that you have is precious, and you should hold on to that. But there's more truth than maybe what you got from one tradition or one location in the globe on a map of the world. You had what was available to you and you made the most of it, hopefully. That's what we hope each of us do. We take in whatever truths, and here we're talking particularly about spiritual truth, that's available to you, and you make the most of it. And I like William James' phrase. I'm going to talk about him next week, the great American philosopher who wrote the book The Varieties of Religious Experience. But he talks about, "That truth vouchsafed to you." It's his expression. You know, some truth has been put in your hands, and that may be just the truth for your life. And while you can start adding to that and putting that truth in a larger perspective and therefore see it differently, that's all valid, nevertheless, you don't want to lose it. So, you're doing both simultaneously. And if your possession of the truth feels competitive with every alternative aspect of the truth, then you're kind of limited. At that point, I would say, you might, like Barbara, have an open soul, but maybe not an open mind, maybe a kind of closed mind, because she seemed to have the sense that her beliefs are the only beliefs that have any grain of truth in them. And that's not quite-- certainly not compatible with the message that I received.
Scott Langdon [00:13:36] Returning to Barbara's email for just a second from last week's episode. Going back and preparing for this week and listening to those episodes again, when I thought about Barbara and how sincere she was in her desire to sort of right this seeming wrong. You know, you were doing something that seemed wrong, and she felt compelled to get in there. And you came back with a very lengthy response, as we talked about, and she decided to go ahead and pray about it- she would do that. And then she came back and said, "I'm sorry. You know, I've prayed about it, and I just don't think that it's from God. So, you know, good luck," you know, and that's kind of where it left. And I started to think about a couple of things, the first of which is when, I think it's Chapter six in the book, I'm pretty sure, but when you see a display of this other author's work who says, you know, "God, talk to me." And when you read through the book, just thought, "This seems like a contradictory message, God, so what is up with this contradictory message?" And I kind of feel like that in a way with Barbara, that this duality is so present, and I don't know what to do with it. Which is, if Barbara prayed about it and the answer was, it's not from God, then it seems like God is giving a contrary message. He's giving it to you, which is, "Yes, it is from Me, " and to her, "No, it isn't for Me." I don't know what to do with that.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:15:08] Yeah, that's a wonderful question, Scott. And that's the dilemma, in a way, we're all in. We get different messages and with each one, there's the question of how valid is this message? And there are various ways of trying to check that out. And then there's the question of, well, if this is one message, how does it seem to contradict with another? And one of the keys, you know, I argue with God all the time. The book has a lot of arguments in it. God would say things didn't make sense to me. In part they just weren't compatible with my sort of conventional assumptions about God and so forth, but also sometimes they just seem to be contradictory. You said this, but now you're saying that. And I was repeatedly told to think more both and not either or. You don't have to pick two apparent incompatibles, you don't have to pick one. They can both be true. And then I was given the challenge- don't think why they can't both be true, think how they can both be true, and what will that tell you? And of course, sometimes we all know something's true because, well, in this context, it's true, but in that context, it's not so true. Or you give different medicines for the same disease, sometimes to a different person, and that's because people's bodies aren't identical. So, there are all kinds of reasons, there are different projections. I learned this in school at one point, to my surprise, we had always had one way of mapping the world if it was in the classroom. And then I saw another that looked like an orange peel. I guess that's what they call it, the world and carved up that where Canada is not huge, it's its actual size. And since the world is a globe not flat, you know, not a two-dimensional surface, you had to project it that way. So, there are multiple map projections, and you might say they would appear to contradict each other. And Canada big on one, little on another. But no, you have to understand a larger context, but also, and fundamentally, the message that God tells me in God: An Autobiography is God came to different cultures showing different aspects of God's Self to different cultures for reasons that are explained in the book and in the podcast selections. And that tells you itself something about God. God is- has a multiplicity. God isn't a simple being but is a very complex being with many aspects. Just as the same, especially a complex building, can look very different up close, from afar, and from this angle, from that angle, they're all true of the building. It does look this way from that angle and the other way from another angle. But you have to accept that multiplicity. But, nevertheless, they're all true of the same building.
Scott Langdon [00:18:21] Right.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:18:21] And God is even more complex than the Taj Mahal, let's say, and therefore can be experienced in more than one way. But not just arbitrarily, but God is actually communicating something different culture by culture. And God may be communicating something different to Barbara. And that's one reason I think well of Barbara. We're going to think a little more adequately and be a little more spiritually, as belief-wise, open as she is spiritually in her openness of soul, then she could have a bigger view and maybe a richer experience of the Divine than she does have just with one set of one text and one set of doctrines. But she may have just what God has shown to her, this may be just what her life needs. So, she doesn't want to just throw that away or say, "Oh, well, here's something else that says something different, therefore mine is no good," or you're going to throw up your hands. And some people do this, "Well, one says A, the other says B, and then C and D and E, and so, you know, how would you pick? Let's just throw them all out, some people make that move. They're just hopeless. Well, no, they're not hopeless. Just listen to the one that speaks to you and listen with a kind of discernment so that you can tell this isn't just some wayward voice or your own ego or your own desires or something, or the kind of emotional message that appeals to you but take in what comes to you. And the whole thing ultimately for the individual, is making a connection with the Divine. Making a valid, genuine connection with the Divine, however conceived in terms of a personal God or some Brahman or whatever. But look for that genuine connection. If you have that, then in terms of your spiritual life as a human being, you're doing the right thing. You're a winner. You might say you're coming out ahead.
Scott Langdon [00:20:46] One of the things that spurred me on to keep going when I first thought, you know what, I can't just do this job for money. I have to decide, you know, what am I going to do? And then asked the question, well, what if it is true? And that became interesting, and we kind of went from there. Once you ask the question, then there's going to be some kind of answer. The question becomes, are you-- and I asked this of myself, you know, I say you, but I ask of myself, if I ask this question, what if it is true? Well, then the answer is going to come to me. Am I going to be able to hear and discern that answer? Some of it, and maybe with Barbara, too, some of it is timing in our lives. You know, we've talked about how time really binds our experience here on the planet and how God reminds you, "Time is not what you think it is. We're not going to spend a lot of time talking about that," God said, "Just, trust Me, time is not what you think, and we have to sort of leave it there and trust that. But it does come into play, and I know that right now in my life I'm more apt to hear a message that might have always been there, but I hadn't tuned into, and you and Jeanine in episode 94 of the Life Wisdom Project, talk about the idea of turning the radio dial. Sort of that God has these radio waves that are out there, and we're sort of like the radio, and we sort of tune in the dial to pick up the station that we're on, that God is going to communicate with us. And one of the things that came up in your discussion is this sort of natural desire to return kindness with kindness. That you didn't believe in a being or a thing, but it was still a desire to be of service, somehow to return a favor. How natural is that desire?
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:22:53] Well, of course, that's exactly my story because God, as I see it, a wonderful love had come into my life after years of being divorced, and Ms. Right calls me on the phone one day, and I end up falling in love with her on the phone, she ends up responding, even improbably to me, and we end up, you know, it's a wonderful love. And so, I pray a prayer of thanks is about the first thing that happens in the story, and then I do pray to be of service. And this surprises me because I wasn't a believer. I was just praying because this felt like, you know, might just be a benign universe. The universe smiled on me that day. Well, thank you, universe! You know, that's why this is sincere. But then I, oddly enough, still not a believer, offer to be of service. And as Jeanine points out, I think somewhere in that discussion that made it a two-way relationship. Expressing a prayer of gratitude is a one-way statement from me to whomever--
Scott Langdon [00:24:05] Whomever. Right. Right.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:24:06] But when I offer to be of service. Well, that's kind of a little more directive, isn't it?
Scott Langdon [00:24:11] Yeah.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:24:11] I don't know what service meant. You know, this just spontaneously came out from my lips, the offer to be of service. And that, you might say, invites a dialogue because that invites whatever or whomever to respond to my offer of service. And I didn't get a response as far as I know at that point, but then the third prayer that is in our early podcasts was how Abigail, who's a professor in New York, and I'm running an organization in Washington, D.C, how are you going to make one life together? And Jeanine Diller and I discussed that, and so, again, without forethought, because I had no beliefs in anything in spite of this history, I asked for guidance. How is this going to work out? And that was the first time God spoke to me, and then it was only after God spoke to me that I became a believer in God. I didn't take it to be this or that religion because I knew there are a lot of them, and the voice just announced Itself as God, and even the Buddhist can have a God. So, you think that could be any religion? But I didn't pause over that. It's God speaking to me and responding and well, my worldview didn't have a place for God in it, especially not, you know, maybe the philosophers often have some rational principle behind the whole universe or something. But no, this is a God who can talk to Jerry Martin in the 21st century and whoa! You know? I just had no conceptual place for that, as though someone gives you something to carry in your car and you have no space in your car for this thing. What am I supposed to do with this? Where does it go, I've got no shelf room, got no niche for it. So anyway, I carry on from there with at that point, the problem, the problem Barbara has- how do I know whether to trust this voice? And my problem wasn't exactly hers, that I already had a text and I thought this was going to contradict some scripture that I follow. But I live in a secular, scientific world and whoa, this is weird. So anyway, I had to explore that, and then, of course, as time went on, God told me to do this, that and the other thing. So, I became a service, I guess.
Scott Langdon [00:27:19] One of the things that I got introduced to when the book came to the place of the Eastern religions and what God was up to there. As I was digging into the book and we were writing the scripts for the podcast and working on that back and forth, one of the things that was interesting to me was a revelation to me in the sense that there were some things that I always sort of knew or had experience with that I couldn't articulate in the language of the tradition I was growing up in and being raised in. And I don't think I ever felt that that was a shortcoming or an intentional thought of my parents or my youth pastors or anything like that. But just that to me, it felt like we were trying to talk about this unlimited God, you know, God, we said was omnipotent, omniscient and all of this. We teach our children to sing a song called God is so big. You know, and we don't want to put God in a box. We always kept saying stuff like that, and yet it seemed that God was always being put in this box. I always had that feeling, and so, almost having the permission to understand that there were other places that were articulating the same thing that I kind of knew was true, but in language that was different than I had ever heard, but now made sense to me. And so, some of these questions that were always, oh, well, just they're unanswerable questions. They're still, in a sense, unanswerable questions, but they're articulated in a way that I'm like, okay, I'm good with that mystery now.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:29:01] Yeah. I think that's a very important insight you came to that relates to exactly what we were talking about. You really have to look for where you find spiritual insight. It can be in the official precincts of the official religions- doesn't have to be. It might be a walk in the woods. or for me, in a way the conversion experience was falling in love. That was the big transformation in my life, and then while God spoke to me, then gave me a job to do, and I tried to be dutiful in doing that, but love was a spiritual avenue, you might say. And nature can be, of course church services can be, music, either sacred music or non-sacred music can communicate spiritual depths and heights that are wider and bigger than our doctrines. You put it exactly right. You can't put God in a box, and yet there's a great tendency, not just of churches, because they've got to run organizations and keep something going historically, but of each of us. As we form belief systems, and as soon as we attach ourselves to a belief, it becomes a kind of idolatry in our own minds. We start defending and looking for evidence for it and looking for ways to refute anyone who disagrees with it, and that's a rather futile activity. You need to try to think of- why do I believe that? Articulate the insights that come to you as best you can. Maybe sometimes the job is to do that, sometimes the job is just to let them inform your soul, let them form your emotions, let them inform your belief system, but without hammering out, you know, propositional formulae of beliefs, and sometimes it's to go do something. You're just supposed to go help your neighbors, you know, they're in trouble right now- go help them. And so, it can be any of these things and more. It's a long list, and so the task comes back ultimately to the individual. What truths have been sent my way? What can I discern? You've got to sort out the wheat from the chaff and so forth? Figure out what are the most valuable insights, what are the truest insights, and what do they imply for my life? Because ultimately it all comes back to one's own life. How am I supposed to live? Not just what beliefs am I supposed to hold, but how am I supposed to live, and of course, the message of God: An Autobiography as well. You need to live Godward, you might say, in connection with whatever visions of the Divine come your way and seem truest to you, you need to live in sync with that spiritual vision that seems truest to you. I say seems truest upon examination or reflection and so forth and getting your own emotional clutter out of the way, still seems truest. And then if you can line up yourself, and if your church does that for you, fine, if something else does it fine, but you know, take in and live by whatever facilitates your alignment with the Divine.
Scott Langdon [00:32:26] And I've come to a place of such peace about that finally in my life, because of this aspect of, the word that I use that you don't very much, faith- in the idea of faith. And we do use the same word in a sense because I think of faith as this fiduciary relationship, this trust, which is the word that you use a lot, is trust, and so the idea of having faith to me would mean that I'm going to be attuned to these things that you just talked about. Whether it's a religious experience or in a church or something, or it's something else. Maybe it's some work that you do, or just being by yourself and being available to how God might be speaking to you in God's way. And the faith part is that God's not going to lead me astray. That if I think, "Oh, this maybe is from God," and I walk down that path a little way, that God's not going, "I'm going to deceive him." You can trust that God's way will lead you in a way that you know is of God. And maybe there's going to be a bumper along the way. So maybe Barbara got to this place where that's all she can do right now. She prayed. She had an open mind-- open heart, and what she's getting back this is not of God. That's what you need to know right now and moving forward. So, when you say both/and that makes me feel a little bit better in the sense that I don't feel like I need to say, "This is true and Barbara is false, and Barbara needs to step it up and get her act together so she can be with God." I don't think I have to say that. I can say that's where Barbara is right now. That's where God's working with Barbara and I'm somewhere different because God's working with Scott and God's working with Jerry.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:34:12] Yeah, that sounds exactly right to me. Well, the first thing I said to Barbara, actually before I said, "Read on in the book, see if you can find something that speaks to you." But first I said, "Well, maybe the book isn't for you."
Scott Langdon [00:34:25] Right.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:34:25] You know? The book may not be for everybody. It's one set of revelatory experiences. There are many other revelatory experiences, and who knows which one, this or that, you know, individual needs, Scott or my next-door neighbor needs, or Jeanine Diller needs, and so forth. That's not for me to say, other than in a friendly way, make suggestions that maybe you should look in this direction or that direction maybe that would be helpful for you. But if you find the thing that speaks to you again after you've gone through it, discern careful discernment, that is not willful, or something like that, then, I think you're right, you can have a peace that if you're connected with the Divine, then that's the best you can do. It's like a bicycle built for two, headed in the same directions as God. What can you do better than that?
Scott Langdon [00:35:36] 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.