Is it time for you to share your story and experience with God?
Hear profound communications from readers responding to God: An Autobiography, As Told To A Philosopher, inspired by the pivotal moment of faith when Jerry, a philosopher, and nonbeliever, sent prayers of gratitude to the unknown.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin, author of the true story and recorded communication with God in God: An Autobiography, As Told To A Philosopher, and Scott Langdon, discuss a letter of concern from reader Barbara.
Jerry and Scott share some surprising responses to Barbara's letter of spiritual discernment and provide insight into historical responses to revelations and spiritual practices like praying through the scriptures.
This conversation takes us outside tradition and opens the mind to spirituality beyond religion. Is God giving contrary responses to prayers, and have we already heard the last divine word? What if God has more to say to us right now? What is your story? We want to hear from you!
Read God: An Autobiography, As Told To A Philosopher.
Begin the dramatic adaptation of God: An Autobiography, As Told To A Philosopher
Related Episodes: [What's On Your Mind] Trusting God; Is God Hiding?; Seeing With Divine Eyes; Mindful Moments; God's Frequency; Spiritual Living; A Relationship With God; Spiritual Judgment
Related Episodes: [Video] Does God Still Speak To Us?; God-Centered Prayer; How Do You Live With God?
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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 95.
Scott Langdon [00:01:00] Welcome to God: An Autobiography, The Podcast. I'm Scott Langdon and this is the ninth edition of our series What's On Your Mind? Jerry and I take every email we receive very seriously and always welcome your thoughts, comments, and especially your concerns. This week, Jerry and I spend time with Barbara's email of concern about Jerry's book God: An Autobiography, As Told To A Philosopher and addressed why it might sometimes seem as though God gives contrary responses to prayers for guidance. Since Jerry is simply reporting what God told him, we turn our attention to the history of God's revelations to humankind and ask, has the last divine word finally been spoken? What if God has more to say to us right now? Thanks for spending this time with us. I hope you enjoy the episode. Welcome back, everybody. This is What’s On Your Mind. This is the ninth time we're doing this. Jerry, it's good to see you again.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:02:07] Good to see you, Scott.
Scott Langdon [00:02:08] I keep saying it's good to see you, and I guess if you're listening on whatever podcast format you're listening to, you're saying, why are you seeing? Well, we're filming this over Zoom, getting the audio that way. And it's a beautiful time we live in to be able to have those kinds of technological jewels at our fingertips. But here we are and we're able to talk about another wonderful episode of What's On Your Mind. We've got a really interesting email today. I can't wait to get into it.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:02:34] I think it's fantastic. From a woman named Barbara.
Scott Langdon [00:02:38] Yeah. Barbara writes in with a concern and it's-- when I read through the email and your response to it, a lot came up right away. A sense, first and foremost, though, that Barbara is really sincere about wanting to do what she believes God has in mind for us to do. I mean, her heart is very sincere in that. And it's an email that's a little bit different than the ones we've done before where people have talked about their experience or maybe even pushed back a little. Barbara does push back some. I'll read the email and then we'll talk about what your response is and maybe see if we can shed some light on the in-between.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:03:21] Yeah, we'll take it from there.
Scott Langdon [00:03:23] So Barbara writes in, and she says this: “I was intrigued when I started reading your story, but here towards the end, I am extremely concerned that the voice you hear is NOT God’s. You are changing scripture and the very nature of God. This type of message is wrong and not of God. I could write pages as evidence, but instead I leave you with a couple of straight forward verses to think about. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. 9 Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. Malachi 3:6 For I am the Lord. I change not.” She says, “Be very careful. The warning of false prophets who would rise up and teach doctrines contrary to the Word of God is still in effect.” She also quotes First John, chapter four, verse one “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” She continues, “When you receive insight or a voice that teaches different truths than the Bible teaches, you have gone astray. Unless, of course, you’re making it all up. Then you’re teaching false doctrine knowingly. The Bible teaches about that also.”
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:04:50] Well, I'm certainly not making it up. This is--.
Scott Langdon [00:04:53] Right.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:04:54] I'm reporting accurately exactly what happened to me and exactly what God told me as I understand it, as I heard it. I take this email from Barbara very seriously. First, I do agree with you, Scott. This is a very sincere woman. She, you know, she read the book and then wrote to us about it. And so, she is serious about these issues and serious about living her relationship with God as best she can possibly can.
Scott Langdon [00:05:35] Yeah.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:05:35] And she's concerned that I'm not, you know, that I'm mistaken and she's trying to save me from that problem.
Scott Langdon [00:05:44] Right.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:05:44] So, and you think about all of this. How do we even know anything about God? How do we even have the idea of God? Well, it's from a religion of some sort, usually the one, you know, that we grew up in, and that is what we know about God. And that, you might say, is God to us. And so, this is how it works. This is mainly how any ideas of God and there are a lot of ideas, but they're each transmitted to people in churches, congregations, synagogues and other institutions of faith. And that's how we know it, and so it's natural that his one's whole religious world, you might say, in that church. Well, anyway, I responded to Barbara very seriously: “Thank you for your very pertinent comment, Barbara. Let me tell you a story. The Five Books of Moses formed a complete scripture, and some people thought it was the end of God’s communications. But God continued speaking to the people of Israel, and so came the histories, and the prophets, and the wisdom literature. It is didn’t all fit neatly with what had come before. The priests and prophets argued about it. Some books don’t mention God at all. And that surely covered everything and so people thought, as they put it, “the age of prophecy is over.” But then came John the Baptist, and the Jesus of the gospels; and, although Jesus was an observant Jew his whole life, what he said did not match some people’s understanding of what had already been revealed, and so there were more debates, and now, surely, as his followers in Jerusalem thought, God had nothing to add. And then came the improbable experience of Paul, who had never even met Jesus and had to argue with his Jerusalem followers, who included such authoritative witnesses as Peter and James, the brother of Jesus. And so, we have said for two thousand years, that now at last every divine word has been spoken.” Well, I write more to her. Let's pause there, because that's quite a story, isn't it? When you retrace these successive phases of revelation, you know, each one a kind of surprise.
Scott Langdon [00:08:29] Right.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:08:29] Have been like to live through.
Scott Langdon [00:08:32] Right. Right. I think one of the things that pops out the most in your response to me as someone who grew up as a Christian is, I think stepping back for a second and thinking about what Jesus on Earth and his teaching at the time would have been greeted with. I mean, we already, you know, realize he was politically no good for the Pharisees in this Sadducees in Rome. But why? You know, what he was speaking, how he was speaking. It's not that there weren't dozens of messiahs before him and dozens of messiahs after him, all of whom would preach some kind of you know, God is on our side and we will, you know, violently take care of the rulers that are dominating us. But Jesus came with a completely different way of talking about that. But at the time, can you imagine? Here is a new revelation. Here is God on the planet in a completely new way. And it must have really freaked everyone out at the time, too. This is completely against what we know. This is completely against how we know God and all the revelations that God has given us before. This can't be so.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:09:50] Yeah, even his closest disciples, people like Peter and the others, would question Jesus. You know, they had trouble getting it. Jesus normally was not contradicting specific things that had been taught, but he was speaking in so different a register that, and of course, in parables and so forth, that even his closest followers would ask him for explanation. What do you mean? They could tell that this Jesus was super special and spoke with authority, as it sometimes said about him. That doesn't mean they understood it or found it easy to accept.
Scott Langdon [00:10:35] I think that one of the things that also pops up here for me is a question about why we feel like we need to be so intent on having the whole revelation that we've got it. You know, even if it's a group or if it's an individual. Now, I know that for a long time that idea really weighed heavy on me. And it was the idea that I had to have the right argument to defend my faith. That's what I grew up with. You must have the right, you know, defense of your faith. And I think I understood that to mean something a lot different than what Saint Paul talks about, which is the scriptures from which a lot of that talk is derived, you know- put on the armor of God, you know, so that you can have this defense of your faith. And to me, that translated to you must have the best argument. And to have the best argument, it seemed like you had to have the revelation all wrapped up. Like, here's how it is, here's the story. Everything else is not the story. So, we have to weed out what is the story and what's not the story. And it's either in or it's out. And that kind of thinking dominated me for a really long time. And I wonder what you think might motivate that?
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:11:55] Yeah. What strikes me is the nature of one's religion, one's spiritual life is about what's ultimate and most vital for one's existence. And you need to, to live a spiritual life, you've got to take it in with body, soul and mind and live it thoroughly and deeply. And it's hard to do that and also think, oh, well, there are a lot of views. Those mindsets are two different modes of being almost. Religiosity demands so much of oneself that you have got to commit yourself to it totally. And I think it's very natural that there are these other views to think they've got it wrong. And if you think in terms of heaven and hell and so forth and an afterlife, that they're going to go to hell. One of the people who I heard from early on, he did an interview with me, and he had been grown up in some kind of Anabaptist sect. I'd forgotten which one. It had the word free in it- maybe Free Brethren or something like that. But they rejected the doctrine of the Trinity, and he grew up being taught that all those people believe in the Trinity are going to hell. Because that's a total-- and then he went to seminary and thought, oh, well, a lot of it kind of looks like a Trinity, doesn't it? There's a Holy Spirit and the God, the father, God the son. Well, anyway, I take that part of it is that these belief systems then do become somewhat competitive with one another. And since you stake your whole life on your religion, then you've got a field, you've got to say, when yours is right and the other one is wrong. And it leads to the problems that we know of religious wars, you know, and so forth, but a lot of conflict. And one has to somehow, this will be something we'll need to explore as we go along, how you do this- how you give yourself with full devotion to God or the spiritual world, as you best understand it, and at the same time, don't become embattled denouncing others and entering into that mode of life, which is itself not very spiritual.
Scott Langdon [00:14:37] Right.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:14:38] But I have more to say to Barbara. So let me go on with that. Now, I said to Barbara: “Now suppose God decided to say more, and let’s suppose that some of it fit easily with what had already been revealed and some was more puzzling. The hard question is this: Are we in a position to say that God could not decide to say more? Are we in a position to determine what He could say and what He could not say? As you know, when God says things that do not fit my prior beliefs, I argue with Him. And, when I do that, He tells me to open my mind a little wider and, instead of saying, “no, no, that can’t be so,” try to understand how it CAN be so. We can’t insist that God fit inside our box, our worldview, our theology. It is up to us to fit inside His. The right relation to God is one of humility, and that includes humility of belief.” Does that make sense to you, Scott?
Scott Langdon [00:15:59] It does. And when I think this through, I'm reminded of something we've talked about here a couple of times in short before, in other episodes, and that is my taking this job. And so, the idea that you, God, talk to you and you talk to God, that is not an experience I have had. And often when we hear such things, we go, okay, that's a little cuckoo, whatever. So, I thought I needed the money, I'm going to take the job, but I realized very quickly that I just couldn't do that. I couldn't keep up with that kind of scenario. But I asked myself the question as an artist, as a human being, as someone interested, but fueled with, I think, the curiosity that comes from being an actor and being a writer and the things that I do, just this curiosity, and the question was- Well, what if it is true? Let's proceed that way. Now, that can only take you so far as well, because eventually what happens is the fruit that it bears is bad fruit. Okay, well, what does good fruit mean? And it comes down to that situation where it's discernment. Right. I mean, if you've got something that you feel is from God, test it out and see if that is bearing the fruit. So, if there is more to say and someone is professing or is somehow you have this feeling that there is something new to be had, to be heard, when you test it out in that way and say, well, what if it can be true? If we look at it that way, we already know- well, what if it can't be true? That's a bad thing, and a lot of destruction will happen. But if it can be true, then we look, we play it out, but we don't just put our blinders on and say, well, I just believe this guy, no matter what. We play it out and see what kind of fruit does it bear?
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:17:55] Yeah. And then the question of fruit is itself of discerning. Good fruit and bad fruit itself is a challenge and one has to approach it both with the kind of seriousness that Barbara brings to these questions, but with a little more open mindedness and sort of sensitivity to the possibilities that there are many good things out there, and another good thing might be being delivered here in God: An Autobiography, for example.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:18:55] [00:18:55] Well, my response to Barbara goes on: I say, “Finally, Barbara, I commend your reminder of that all-important biblical admonition to “try the spirits whether they be of God.” Anyone who receives a divine message is at risk of mishearing. That is why I have paid a great deal of attention to what the tradition says about spiritual discernment. My experience meets every test of valid discernment except one. Sometimes writers on spiritual discernment insist that, if what is disclosed does not match their own particular theology, it can’t be from God. Personally, I do not see that God is bound by their particular belief system.” And, you know, that seems the limitation. If you start off with discernment, it's usually in these writers, it's the very number one thing. You just throw it out immediately if it doesn't fit their own particular belief system. Well, that's not adequate. You haven't even tested the fruit as you were putting it, Scott. You have explored it. You haven't prayed about it. You haven't thought, do I need to open my soul a little wider? That maybe this is a new truth, an unfamiliar truth, that I need to take in. And then see, well, if you kind of test it out, you might say in your own life, let's see if I try to live this for a moment or think that way for a moment or live that way for a day, what happens? Is it better? Is it worse? Do I feel I'm veering off in some way? But the testing, the spirit is never just me to go check does it match a set of scriptures? Paul did not use that. There's no point at which Paul decides, I got to test this voice. In fact, the real experts in Jerusalem kept saying, you're wrong. You never met Jesus, you didn't hear his teachings, we heard his teachings. We can quote him, you might say, chapter and verse. But Paul didn't get into that because he's got his own direct connection with God through Jesus.
Scott Langdon [00:21:27] Right.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:21:28] The vision of Jesus he had.
Scott Langdon [00:21:29] Right. His particular experience. And we always talk on this program about paying attention to your experiences and being in touch with that experience, because that is the closest, I think, I can get to really knowing that I'm in tune with God is when I examine my experiences, not just in the past, you know, maybe what will happen in the future, but literally in the present moment of checking in right now, like, how is this going? How am I feeling? Am I in tune with God? What is my body telling me? You know, all kinds of things. Pay attention to the whole thing. One of the things that this brings up, it's not one of the things I think it's the essential thing, when I consider this type of predicament, and that is the idea of faith versus belief. And it has been my experience in my own life and also when I observe others in the faith I grew up in, that faith and belief seem to be interchangeable words and interchangeable concepts, and they aren't. When you match, when you say, well, that's my faith, a lot of the times we're talking about, well, that's, you know, what is your faith- I'm Lutheran. Or what's your faith- oh, I'm Methodist, or whatever it might be. You're saying, what is your belief system? But faith to me, and this is what I've been able to really relax into over the past two years, actually, of working on this project, is permission to explore knowing that God will never lead me astray. That is the faith. The faith is that fiduciary relationship with that which is more than me. That the otherness of God, that relationship between God and me, is a trusting relationship that when I move forward in the way that I believe is right, that feels right to me, that feels loving, it feels compassionate, or it feels this is trouble, and so maybe I have to fight in one way or another or stand up against the wrongdoing, inside, I know that look, this is tough. It's a difficult situation. Not all things are going to be smooth. but I do have this sense that it's going to be okay because God has promised to not lead me astray. And as many times I've had it wrong and thought, this is the way I got to go, and I felt that umph inside when I pay attention to my body, how I'm feeling and I know it's not the right way, and yet I still enter into the argument, Yeah, I got to get the right argument. Got to get the right argument. That has always made me feel bad inside at the root of it. A more compassionate open heart is much more easy and peaceful, and I feel more in tune that way. So why would I want to close off?
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:24:15] Yeah. You know, that's a wonderfully put. We should use, maybe-- I had never used the word faith, basically, I use the word trust, because that seems to be what it's about. And I guess maybe I share your sense that God gave us a kind of inner Geiger counter that helps us discern truth from untruth, but it's a Geiger counter hard to access and can be thrown off by verbalisms of various kinds that are thrashed about. And a lot of it- you talk about your body, seeing how your body feels, Scott. I think that's right on. The trust in God is not just a trust of the intellect, it's not just the mind or some kind of commitment we make mentally. It's the orientation of our whole being, mind, body, soul, right? Our whole being's orientation, and I think that's one of the keys to discernment is don't just think, well, here's some idea that's floated around or that someone else's said to me, and now I'm going to look at it and inspect it as if I could tell by inspecting it the way you inspect fruit or something, whether it's okay or not. No, you have to take it into your whole being and say, you know what it ultimately is- would living this way make sense to my whole being, all the parts put together, the parts of me? Would they all fit together with the parts, and of course were not just isolated parts where parts of relationships and communities and projects- cooperative projects. Does it make sense for those things? Do they work better? And so, and you never get, unlike the Geiger counter analogy, you'll never get a precise meter answer, but nevertheless, you can kind of tell. You can kind of tell.
Scott Langdon [00:26:25] Well, you do have more to say to Barbara. And in this sense, you are addressing the discernment issue, and I think it was a really good way to offer some further advice to Barbara about how she might be able to at least expand the possibilities that what you're saying has some merit.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:26:46] Yeah, part of my respect for Barbara is that her bringing up the issue of discernment- try the spirits, whether they be of God. And that's a crucial question, and that's the crucial question. So, you do the test of discernment, and she has really focused attention on that correctly, I think. But, now responding, having taken that in and sort of agreeing with that as the challenge, but not agreeing with the idea that that means corresponding to some prior text that a particular denomination has sanctified--.
Scott Langdon [00:27:33] Right.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:27:35] So I tell Barbara: “There is an old spiritual discipline called “praying through the scriptures” which means that you read carefully and let the spirit guide your understanding. My advice, Barbara, is to pray through this book, not so much to judge it, as to let God speak to you through it. God may have led you to this site for a purpose.” And so that's what I'm kind of trying to encourage her to do. You know, it's my own feeling, I've said this in various contexts that God: An Autobiography is not propounding a new religion, it's not propounding a theology. It's a set of communications from God that is distinctively relevant to our times and our global situation and maybe our personal situations. And it's my sense that there's a message for each individual. And maybe a different message for Scott than it is for Barbara. Maybe there's this particular message in that when she comes to it, she'll kind of know her inner Geiger counter will start registering something and- whoa, yes, yes, this sounds right. This sounds relevant to me. I needed to read thi. But do it prayerfully, don't just throw darts at a chart or, you know, put the text on the wall and throw darts and see what they land on. Read it quietly, almost reverentially, so that God can come through. You got to get the other clutter out of the way so that as reading it, God can come through. My saying, God may have led you to this site for a purpose. Indicates my own sense that Barbara may share that God leads us through life and that things we do that may seem incidental or accidental. May have a deep meaning. And you need to not just gloss over that possibility and say- oh, I glanced in that direction and then just went on. But you need to stop and pause. I'm always struck how when Moses saw the burning bush, he stopped to look. Many people may have thought, oh, that's weird, moved on, or this is a hallucination. Looks like it's burning, but that doesn't make sense. Move on. But no- Moses stopped to look. And it was only then. But the voice in the burning bush spoke to him.
Scott Langdon [00:30:38] 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.