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

104. The Takeaway | Series: Two Philosophers Wrestle With God | Dialogue 11 [Part 1]

December 08, 2022 Jerry L. Martin, Scott Langdon, Richard Oxenberg
GOD: An Autobiography, As Told to a Philosopher - The Podcast
104. The Takeaway | Series: Two Philosophers Wrestle With God | Dialogue 11 [Part 1]
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

What is the takeaway from God: An Autobiography, and the Two Philosophers Wrestle With God series? Look at the history of all religions, God's experience with human beings, love, and ego. Unlock the mysteries of evil, suffering, and creation with an evolving God. Understand the takeaway from this revelation saved for this particular time in our and God's history.

Join Scott Langdon as he connects Dr. Jerry L. Martin and Dr. Richard Oxenberg for a profound philosophical, and spiritual discussion from Two Philosophers Wrestle With God, Part One of The Takeaway.

Dr. Martin is a philosopher, founding chairman of Theology Without Walls, and author of the true story God: An Autobiography, As Told To A Philosopher. Dr. Oxenberg is a professor and has many publications on ethics and religion, including On The Meaning Of Human Being: Heidegger And The Bible In Dialogue.

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

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Related Episodes: [Dramatic Adaptation]
18. God Explains Polytheism | 29. God Explains The Self Behind The Self | 39. Upset By God, I Stop Praying | 40. God Explains Infinite Worlds And Their Purpose [Two Philosophers Wrestle With God] The Essential Project Of The Divine: [Part 1]; [Part 2]

Related Content: [Video] Does God Still Speak To Us? | What's Wrong With Ego? | God, What About Sin?

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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 104. 

Scott Langdon [00:01:08] Hello and welcome to Episode 104 of God: An Autobiography, The Podcast. I'm your host, Scott Langdon. After several weeks away, we've returned again to our series Where Two Philosophers Wrestle With God God for part one of the 11th dialogue between doctors Richard Oxenberg and Jerry L. Martin. After having focused their discussion on the essential project of the Divine in dialogue number ten, Richard and Jerry turn their attention now to what we might glean from the revelation to Jerry in our own everyday lives. It's a two part discussion we're calling The Takeaway, and we begin this week with part one. I hope you enjoy the episode. We begin with Jerry speaking first. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:02:00] Hello, Richard Oxenberg. We're going to continue our dialogues about God: An Autobiography. What is the agenda for today? Where do we begin? 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:02:09] Well, I thought that what we were planning to do today was to kind of some things up a little bit and think about the takeaway of the book. You know, where do we go from here? What is the book telling us finally when we put it all together? And one of the things that I was thinking, which you've mentioned yourself, is that the book is not a theology, right? It does not present a systematic theology. Right? 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:02:40] God uses the term revelation. I hesitated to use that term myself, although I do believe it's God speaking to me with the message, because revelation usually is taken to mean the founding book of a religion. This is not a religion being founded. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:02:58] It's not a religion being founded. Nor is it a systematic theology. Right. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:03:04] That's true, too. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:03:05] Right. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:03:06] It's not a chapter and verse. I was going to say about the first point that a friend of mine, when I first described the book to him, said, “Oh, it's a revelation about revelations.” And I thought, well, you know, you've really kind of got it right there. But in addition, you're right, it's not a kind of systematic metaphysics. You found a metaphysics underlying here, I believe, but it's not laid out as a theology. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:03:46] Well, I guess what I was thinking is that it certainly has, you know, even though it is not presented as a systematic theology, it has all kinds of theological implications. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:03:57] Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:03:58] And in some sense, that's what we've been exploring in our talks together, the theological implications of the book. And so I thought we might today just kind of summarize some of those, at least as I've come to see them. You know, I can imagine that different people reading the book might come to different theological conclusions about it, or at least potentially different ones, just as people come to different theological conclusions about the Bible. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:04:27] Yes. What we've been doing is an awful lot like Biblical theology. You take a text, you know, that you think has some standing, in this case because I'm saying God told me this, and you try to think of, okay, what big picture does one get out of this about the most fundamental issues? About us, God, the universe, life and so forth? And, you're right, Biblical theologians go and pick texts that they take to be most salient and put them together in a coherent way. So they always necessarily move beyond the text because that's the job of Biblical theology. It's not just to say, well, there's this, that and the other thing, you know, a basket of verses, but, there are certain fundamental themes that emerge, and that's what you, and I, and us have been doing in these dialogues. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:05:26] Yes. I've sort of pulled out what I take to be five different points, five or so different points that the book and the whole seems to be making, theologically. And I thought we might explore, or just discuss each one of those points, and of course, if there are more points that I missed, you can chime in as well. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg And I guess I also just ought to say that one of the fascinations that I've had with this book is that it reflects my own theological thinking long before I started. In many ways, it does not. Not in every way, but in many ways. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:06:06] I've been struck by that because I know some of your views, your own views, and thinking. As you've done a careful read of God: An Autobiography, you have found an amazing number of passages that you could have written. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:06:25] Right, they reflect thinking that I have already done, myself, independently of the book. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:06:31] Yeah, that are very basically a whole of different parts, and so forth, that's all in the book. At first I thought, where's Richard getting this? But you pull out the verses here over, and over of these points about wholes and parts. It's a kind of metaphysical thinking, but it's not ungrounded in the text. It's right there in the text. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:06:53] Yes. Well, you know, in that regard, I'll tell you something. A kind of experience I had, I don't know if we'll call it a revelation, or what have you. You know, I grew up in a Jewish family. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:07:04] Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:07:05] And when Jews look at the crucifix, of the image of Jesus hanging on the cross– you know, I think they find it, somewhat. I found it as a kid, kind of frightening. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:07:18] Oh, really? 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:07:19] Look at the Augustinian theology, and it seems like the message of the cross is, well, this is what I would do to you. You know, I wouldn't do it to him, but I would do it to you if I didn't have him to do it, too. Right? 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:07:35] Right. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:07:37] And then one day I remember looking at the image of Jesus on the crucifix and and all of a sudden, the meaning of it changed in my mind. Yes. And this is what I would do to you, to this is what I would do for you. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:07:56] Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:07:56] I think that most Christians, that's the Christian way of experiencing it. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:08:00] Yes. Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:08:01]That this is what I would do for you, not what I would do to you. But then I had yet another switch, which is directly related, I think, to your book. And again, this is something that came to me before I ever read your book, and it went from- this is what I would do for you, to this is what I am doing with you. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:08:24] With you. With you.

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:08:25] I am going through all the pain, and all the suffering, and all the problems of existence with you. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:08:31] Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:08:32] And I came to think of this, in my own mind, at what I call the participatory nature of God. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg That God is a full participant in the creation. Not only in the good parts of the creation, but in all the suffering, and all the anguish, and all the problems. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:08:55] Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:08:55] And this is fully expressed, I thought, in your book. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:09:00] Yes, it is a repeated theme, and God says at one point, otherwise, I would have been (I can't remember exactly how I put it) and having set all of this up, and would have stepped back, and been a kind of cruel observer. You know, of, oh, look at all the sufferings these people are going through, isn't it ashame? But not affecting Me, because I'm eternal, unchanging, perfect. Well, that's certainly not the message of God: An Autobiography. We are God in the thick and thin of everything right with us. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:09:32] Yes. And I think one of the things that turns people off to traditional religion is just that image of God as a kind of cruel observer who has the power to make everything better, but for some reason that nobody can fathom just chooses not to. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:09:53] Right. Right. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:09:55] And I guess, traditionally, classically that comes to be called the problem of evil in theology.

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:10:00] Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:10:01] You know, if God is all good and all powerful, why does He allow all the evil to exist? And your book presents an answer to that question, I think, and that is that suffering is inherent to the nature of God. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:10:16] It's the nature of the universe, the nature of real life, the nature of your reality, to be real. One thing has to be material, and therefore, you might say imperfect, and subject to decline, and entropy. As we become biological beings, as those develop, well, biological beings are sentient and sentience invites suffering. That's how it is, and God is alive, isn't just a kind of mental computer, a kind of divine computer up there. But God suffers the same way that, oh, my gosh. Well, and since part of the backdrop to God: An Autobiography, is that we are both the same and different from God. God is right here in us. It's not that God is just sympathizing from afar. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:11:11] Right. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:11:11] God is right here in us, going through it. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:11:13] Going through it with us. Yes. That our going through it, is God's going through it. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:11:18] Is God's going through it. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:11:19] You know, as I guess I understand it, it's not as if-- and this is, again, a somewhat new way of thinking about God, at least compared to traditional ways. It's not that God sat up on some, you know, architectural throne and said, should I create a universe with suffering or without suffering? 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:11:48] Right. Right. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:11:53] And then said, well, I could have one without suffering, I could have one with suffering, I guess I'll make one with suffering. It's this is, and I guess another way of putting it is it's almost as if the God of the book is understood in organic terms. In other words, God is a living entity, so to speak. Who has a nature that God Himself is subject to, right? 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin Yes

Dr. Richard Oxenberg God had to determine God's nature, God had to deal with His nature. Right?

Dr. Jerry L. Martin Yes. Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg And the nature is just what it is- it presents various problems, and those problems have to be addressed, and in some respects, we are called to participate in addressing those problems with God. Right? 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:12:52] Well, you can put it that way. You've got to be careful with that kind of language. The t God is beyond God isn't sitting up with, “Oh, gosh, I've got problems.”

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:13:03] Right. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:13:04] Everything's placid and fine, it just isn't quite real. There's no actual world, no people, there are no events there, no progress, regress or anything else for there-- And God's nature, He says at one point, I'm like a variable looking for a function, this mathematical image. And that was a bit beyond me. I said, “Is it like a mortar looking for bricks, something like that?” This is just what God is. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg Right.

Dr. Jerry L. Martin Yeah. It's just what God is. It's not that mortar is sitting there with a problem. Because mortar is something that holds bricks together. So God is a being whose role is, whose nature and role is to create a world or worlds, and work with human beings in those context to actualize the divine nature and the world's multiplicity of values that making a real world now makes possible. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:14:08] Yes. And the creation-- Just as God doesn't decide that there will be suffering as opposed to that there won't be suffering, God also, at least as I read it, doesn't decide to create as opposed to not to create. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin Exactly 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg The creation emerges out of God with a kind of necessity.  

Dr. Jerry L. Martin Yeah. It's automatic.

Dr. Richard Oxenberg It’s automatic. And this is what I guess I meant when I said that there are problems that have to be solved, that creation presents the problems that then have to be addressed. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:14:39] Yeah. Once you create, you have all the specific problems of a real world. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:14:43] And so, in that sense, we're all in it together. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:14:48] We're all in it together. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:14:50] And, that to me anyway, does a pretty nice job of resolving the traditional problem of evil. That is so fundamental to so many, that is a difficulty in so many religions. Because what happens, I think for many people, is they say, well, either I have to buy this traditional idea of religion with a God who seems to be a cruel observer, to use your phrase, or I have to reject religion altogether. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:15:16] Yes. Right. Yeah, that seems like the either / or. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:15:20] And the book presents a kind of, I won't even say a middle ground between them, but in a Hegelian output.

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:15:28] Aufheben, aufgehoben, but, anyway…

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:15:32] Something like that. Right?

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:15:34] It rises up above. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:15:35] Rises up above and allows you to have both. Yes, there is suffering in the world, but that doesn't mean that God is a cruel observer. The world, and it doesn't make the world meaningless. Right? It actually, in some sense, lends meaning to the world. 

 Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:15:53] It's the opposite. It's what the meaning of the world is.

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:15:57] Right. So it's interesting, you know, you can't quite call it a pantheism, you can't quite call it a panentheism, even. It's almost, we don't have the word for it. Again, I would just say a participationism. You know, there's this divine reality that we all participate in, and in some sense, the dialectic between the human and God is (and we'll get to this maybe a little further down in my notes) integral to that participation, to making it work out. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:16:35] Yes. Yes. Yeah, God is a person, and I'm told the personal is interpersonal. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg Right. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin I can't be a person, nobody can be a person all alone, actually. The personal is interpersonal, and the little neonate discovers how to be a person by interacting with parents and then later other children and so forth. But, yeah, it's all interactive. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:17:06] Right. Right. And I guess the other point I pulled out of the book is that is that a present, a reality? The universe is teleological in its very nature. Right. So the sort of Newtonian idea of this sort of modern, mechanistic materialism is rejected. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:17:31] Right. It's not just a big, big clock. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:17:36] Right. Right. Everything, including God, is striving for a kind of fulfillment. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin Yes.

Dr. Richard Oxenberg Right? And this is true even of the God beyond God? 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin Yes.

Dr. Richard Oxenberg Because the God beyond God creates in order to fulfill Itself, and then sort of, you know, it's fascinating to think about it, every moment of the creation, every point in the creation has its own teleological dimension to it. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:18:08] Yeah, that's a very interesting implication, Richard, that it's not just in some big way the world is teleological, but all the way down to you and me, and the molecules, and at every moment. That's very arresting because that's how we live life. Right? It's moment to moment. And each moment has a kind of teleological thrust to it, and a lot of the trick of life is to be, you know, in tune with that properly.

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:18:41] The tendency to interpret the world mechanistically, that is a tendency of the modern mind as a result of the scientific revolution. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:18:51] It's very powerful, that interpretation.  

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:18:53] Once again, we have to sort of, the book is telling us that's wrong, and it makes sense that it's wrong.

Dr. Jerry L. Martin Right. Right. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg I mean, if we all came out of a mechanistic universe, where did we come from? 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:19:06] Yeah. Well then some people like to-- I read a blog of some guy who likes to call us 'wet robots.' I don't feel like a wet robot. I'm making decisions, I'm having experiences that the robot doesn't have. You know, whether wet or not wet. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:19:23] And wetness does not capture the idea of teleology. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:19:31] No, that's that guy's attempt to conceive- well, we're organic, organic is just a wet robot, but of course, that's no account at all, I mean, of what life is. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:19:43] And so that idea, and this is very significant, it seems to me, you know, that idea of the universe as a mechanism is a deeply flawed interpretation of the universe and of what life is. If we begin with that interpretation, with that fundamental understanding of the universe, we can't help but fail to understand things.And that's going to lead us in wrong directions. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:20:11] Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:20:13] And so that, once again, I think, is very significant. I think all throughout the book, there are little moments that one could take that phrase or that statement and write a whole book around that.

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:20:28] Right. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:20:29] I mean, I think you say here's a quote from page 166, (Episode 29) "Even on the level of physics, it is love that holds the world together and provides its energy." Right, I mean, the implication of that, at least as I would see it, is that although we don't experience the physical forces of the world as having a kind of subjective dimension, nevertheless, there is some kind of subjectivity to them. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:21:07] It's what some thinkers have called an 'inside.' We see everything from the outside, as we see one another, from the outside. But we can talk to one another, but we don't talk with these elements, but they have a kind of inside, a kind of interior thrust of their own. They aren't just billiard balls being banged around the table. They're actually doing something. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:21:36] Yeah. And I think some of the quantum physicists have suggested that that's how it must be. You know, finally, if we ever come to a time when we get a true full model of what's going on, we would begin to see, we would have to recognize that, what I call a subjective dimension, to materiality. David Bohm, I think. Is it him who wrote about the implicate order of nature? 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:22:04] Yes. Okay 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:22:06] Something like that. Yeah. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:22:08] And recently, philosopher Thomas Nagel's book Mind and Nature (Mind and Cosmos). So Nagel just says it's clear that there's also mind, and physics leaves that out, that just says a mechanistic nature simply cannot be an adequate metaphysics, can't write a philosophical story or the whole understanding of reality. So we've got to go back and work some more, he's saying. He doesn't know exactly how to fill that out, he's not a religious person, but he says there's more to the story, folks. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:22:45] But there's so much to be done. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:22:47] Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:22:48] From a metaphysical point of view. And it's almost, you know, it's hard to do it. And, I think Kant expresses one of the reasons it's hard to do it, which is that the categories of the understanding through which we tend to understand things really don't allow for us to make-- to understand the subjective in quite the way. In other words, it's almost like we force the world into these categories of causality and so forth. Right? And the subjective dimension of things, it's almost our minds are not yet-- God, at some point says that man is not the, may not be the, ultimate end. Right?

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:23:30] And hope, what we can't do now maybe what we can do ten years from now. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:23:36] Ten years from now, or ten million years from now. So there's a general teleology, and the teleology we find at both the molecular level, and we find it at the personal level, the interpersonal level and the social societal level. Right? And it gets expressed, one of the quotes from the book that I keep going back to, because it seemed to me to express something fundamental about the book. You know, this is the Atman of God, the God beyond God speaking, on page 312, (episode 40), and He says/ She says/ It says, "This is the ultimate story, the meaning of it all. I have a project to complete… It is in the nature of reality that the world, the totality of worlds plus Me, is here for a purpose. There is a goal.” You ask, “What is the goal?” And God says, the goal is completeness.”The goal is completeness, connectedness, to create the many and to pull them back into the one.” To me, this gives us a sort of grand image of the teleological thrust. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:25:26] Yes. This is where we're aiming. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:25:28] Right. And it's not bringing them back into the one in the sense of bringing everything back into a homogeneous soup. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:25:37] Right, right, right. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:25:38] It's more, the way that I've come to think of it is, first you have this unactualized potentiality that is a kind of oneness, out of that emerges this grand diversity, and then the diversity is teleologically driven not to go back into the sort of undifferentiated oneness, but to create a kind of harmony. Right? The unity is... the unity we are driving for, if not a unity that will eclipse separateness and individuality, but that will complete it through relationship. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:26:26] Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:26:27] Through harmonious relationship. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:26:29] Yes. Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:26:30] And which we could call love. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:26:33] Yes. Which we could call love. It has a lot of practical dimensions, so just Hallmark cards don't answer all your questions. But love is a good aspect. You know, ask what's driving this? What is the motivation for pursuing a teleological purpose? Well, it's to tap into your loving nature, and there's somewhere where God says, "Remember, love is what actualizes a thing." It's what makes it real. Including God. You know, God loves us. We love God. That brings us both into our fullest being, no best when dealing just with one another. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:27:17] And I suppose, although there's not a lot of discussion of this in the book, we might say, or I might say, at least in my thinking about it, that the way that you actualize love societally is through justice. Right? In other words, the pursuit of justice is itself an expression of the desire for a loving society. What justice involves is giving to each what they need in order to participate in that loving society. A truly just person, cares about the other and not just himself. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:28:00] Sure. Sure. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:28:01] Right? And so, the pursuit of justice is itself an expression of love in that respect. Right? And so, once again, we can see the development of I guess, an ethical thrust here. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:28:25] Sure. Sure.

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:28:27] That the teleology of the universe has ethical implications, and it's not because God's commanding them. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin Right. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg It's because this is what makes for the good? 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:28:39] Yes. Yes. Yes. That's what fulfills the divine nature, fulfills our natures, fulfills the world's nature.  

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:28:49] Yeah. And then another dimension of this in the book is the discussion of what impedes that. Right, because there is apparently, and the book once again expresses this, as I say, you know, you could write volumes and volumes exploring it, there seems to be something about the creation of individual beings that creates selfishness. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin Uh huh. Yeah. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg That selfishness, this is in a sense part of what I mean or what I meant, when I said that there is a problem. The creation itself creates a problem that then need to be resolved. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:29:38] Right. Right. Yeah. One of the quotes you were pointing to was, "We enter a world of desire." You know, that's what it is to be born into the world. You're born in as an individual, as you're saying, and very much guided by your desires, and part of the challenge of love is to have those desires not be one's total preoccupation, you know, with just one self-aggrandizement. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:30:12] Right. And this then gets expressed in the book in terms of what I guess we might think of as the danger or the temptation that is a function of the development of the ego. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:30:28] Yeah. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:30:29] Right. And how would you express that? I mean, how--

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:30:32] Well, when I ask about the ego, God makes the distinction between ego in the normal sense, which is a function of personality. We all need a good, healthy ego. You know, you need self-respect. You need to be able to stand up for yourself. But, there's an ego that is described as, you know, aggressive, defiant of God's will. You know, I'm the only way, you know, everything's got to be my way. Plundering others, you know, and that, I think it's likened in that exchange with God to cancer. Cancer is a cell that cares only about itself, and all these cells that function organically in the whole body, but the cancerous cell just decides- why don't I go take over everything? Of course, the cancer kills the body, so it's not a successful strategy even for the cancer, except in the short term. But the organic analogies, I think, are very apt here, since God is a living being, we are living beings, and a lot of evil is... it's as though one of our organisms isn't doing its job. Because, you know, you're talking about the complexity that one seeks. Our bodies are examples of tremendous complexity. But it's got to be complexity within a unity that's functional and that's achieving our teleological goals, right? Because that gives us a healthy life that sustains all of our systems, including our brains, and our mentality, and our moral systems, and interpersonal systems, and so forth. And it's always very sad when an organic disorder, I know people have this sometimes with late-life problems, illnesses, their personalities sort of change, and they become sort of mean. It's a person who was kind, is now not in command of themselves and turns mean. Well, that's, these are the perversities that can happen, and often, of course, the worst one is not when it happens, just the sad case of an organic malfunction causing a personality change. But where a person willfully, you know, insists on just being bad, and there is that malevolent impulse also as one possibility for each human being. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:33:13] Yeah. Yeah. So there are a couple of quotes along these lines that I think might be interesting to bring up here. On page 53, "Ego is destructive. Separatist. Defiant of my will, self-satisfied and self lustful." And I suppose what we understand by self lustful is it wants everything for itself. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:33:35] Yes. Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:33:35] It's not open to the other– So in that sense, the ego, or we might think of it as the engorged ego. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg Inflated ego. Right? Is it... Can become opposed to love, shut off, cut off from love, and therefore fails to achieve the teleological purpose. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:34:05] Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:34:06] Of life in the universe. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:34:07] Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:34:08] Right. And that is the, as I understand it, that the book's way of expressing the origin of evil. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:34:16] Yeah. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:34:17] Right? The evil is a function of the engorged ego. Right? The ego that is, in some sense, unaware of its relationship with the whole. I think of it as related to the Hindu notion of Avidya, ignorance. That the ego, you know, sees itself as completely self-contained and fails to recognize that it is a part of this greater whole, and therefore, you know, if it's just totally self-contained and the rest of the universe is just something in opposition to it, then the ego developes this almost warlike stance with the rest of reality. Right? And feels that the only way that it's going to secure itself is by conquering everything else. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:35:12] Yeah. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:35:13] And that the origin of evil.

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:35:20] Maybe. Some other forms of evil, you could probably put everything under ego if you wanted to. But the person who values spontaneity and constantly causes problems for others, not because he's trying to take over or overgrandize, but he thinks spontaneity or artistic creativity or something like that, existential authenticity is the primary value. The value that person is devoted to, that can lead them to all kinds of horrible things. I'm just thinking there, probably taking that organic metaphor, the reason cancer is not the only disease, you know, things can go wrong. And there can be people just deprived of love and therefore they want to lashback. You know, or got fired from their job or something, and so they want to lash back at everybody. And so that's not exactly aggrandizing the ego, but it's also a kind of the part malfunctioning vis-a-vis the whole.  

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:36:30] Well, it's you know, and I guess what we might say, and in relationship to that is, once again, having to do with the participatory nature of things. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:36:46] Yeah. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:36:47] That a person who we might see as doing evil things, that probably, that evil impulse probably doesn't begin altogether with that person. Right. You grow up in a bad environment, in a society in which, you know, nobody cares about you, which you are almost forced to focus on defending yourself because you are under attack in many respects. So then you're going to grow up in a distorted manner. Right. And that distortion is going to have all kinds of negative, negative effects. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:37:26] Also an element of agency here. There's a tendency to treat the person who does wrong as if that person lacks agency, is just reactive. But you'll find people growing up in identical circumstances, some going out and becoming Unabombers or something, and other people helping the Red Cross. You know, I mean, it's there is some... and there are some people who don't seem to have suffered very much. You know, I mean, everybody suffered, and you can impute suffering, but they do terrible things. And it's a bit of a puzzle, but anyway, whatever the story on that is, that's an issue for social psychology or something. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:38:15] Well, I guess also, you know, at a more fundamental level, here's a quote we can pull out from page 180, (Episode 39) "The source of evil is falsehood, not living in the truth."

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:38:29] Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:38:30] So, you know and once again, that seemed to me to be related to the notion of Avidya, or ignorance. You know, there's a failure to, and this goes way back to Socrates and Plato-- 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:38:43] Sure. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:38:43] Right. That, to know the good is to do the good, and to fail to know the good or to do the bad, is a function of a failing,a failure to know the good. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:38:55] Yeah. A person doing bad, mistakes, let's say, his own self-interest for the good. And that's a mistake of knowledge or of understanding. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:39:39] And this leads us to my next point. My next little bullet point here.

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:39:43] Yeah. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:39:43] Which is that in some sense, the whole purpose of religion and the whole purpose of revelation is to bring human beings into a knowing of this greater truth? And the whole history of religion is a vehicle, at least religion, when it is not itself, you know, it become distorted. It is a kind of vehicle for the creation of harmony. Right? For leading people in the direction of harmonious life and an understanding of the call to harmony that is inherent to the universe.

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:40:36] And the form that knowledge takes, and different traditions, knowledge is characterized in different ways. But often in God: An Autobiography, the form that the knowledge takes is attunement. In other words, it's kind of getting yourself paying attention to the divine, and in connection with the divine. And so, that is to go back to your moment to moment idea, that moment to moment, you know, you're not alone, you might say, flailing around, but you're kind of in tune with, in step with, and that's where the harmony comes. You're in step with the divine, and the God does represent a teleological function for the world. God is moving forward, God is helping us move forward, and we do that best when we are in sync with the divine. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:41:32] Yes. And once again, as I am reading it, it's not as if you've got this fully formed God revealing himself to human beings. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin Right. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg Right? It's almost as if religion itself is evolving. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin Yes

Dr. Richard Oxenberg Right? And it evolves through this sort of dialectic of human beings coming into awareness of the divine, as they are able to come into awareness given their own development, their own situation, their own culture, and that accounts for the great diversity of religion that we see in the world. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:42:22] YYeah, their situations are diverse, and that God, in coming to them in their revelational text, is coming to them in the way that they are able to receive.That's not a fake thing, as though God's putting on a clown suit because these people believe in clowns. It's an actual sign of God that's being activated, you might say, when these people have the capacity to take that in. And God steps in and God, the people develop and God develops in that dynamic way you're describing, Richard. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:43:01] Yeah. So we have this quote from page 90 (Episode 18), "I came to all peoples, but arrived in different guises. I came to the American Indians as the Great Spirit, to the Moslems as Allah, and so on. I came to the Hindus in many forms, and hence their many stories.” Right. And if you just took that quote all by itself, you might get the impression, once again, that formed God over here who is putting on masks for the different people– Different masks that different people will best relate to. But that's not what the book is saying. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:43:42] No, no.  

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:43:43] Right.? It's saying in a sense that the awareness of the human awareness of this, is one of the more fascinating, (and once again, it would have to be developed if you were to try and do a theology of it) aspects of the book that the God's understanding of God is proceeding along with the human understanding of God. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:44:11] And God's actualization. It's not just God discovers-- 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:44:16] Right. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:44:18] Some aspect. Oh gee, I hadn't noticed I have this feature, but that feature hasn't yet, is more in the level of potentiality, you know? But then it's actualized by this interaction, and then God, of course, discovers a capacity in the process of developing the capacity. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:44:43] Right. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:44:44] By responding to people, and there are specific examples of that given at different points in the book. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:44:52] Well, here's a quote from page 95, (Episode 18) which, you know, jumped right out at me from when I first read it, "I cannot move at a pace greater than the human reactions.”

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:45:04] Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:45:06] “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 men (human beings) and their response to me.” 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:45:27] Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:45:27] So the sort of dialectical relationship between the human being and God is really intimate

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:45:37] Very intimate and particular. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:45:40]  I mean, it sheds a whole new light on the famous Augustine.., that famous line by Augustine that God is closer to me than I am to myself. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:45:50] Yes. Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:45:51] Right? And the way Augustine meant that, I think, is that, you know, God is at the base of my own personal being, but when we look at it from the standpoint of the book, it's God is Himself dependent upon the human development in order to develop himself. But there is no development of God other than through the development of creatures who are receptive to God. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:46:23] Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:46:24] That's kind of what the book is saying. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:46:27] Yes, God becomes, just a couple of examples that come to mind, God becomes a lawgiver in relation to the people of Israel, and they tend to react. God has set norms in every culture. God is always normative, but norms don't always take the form of like Ten Commandments. In the interaction with the people of Israel. This side of God comes to the fore. I don't know what that, you know, interaction would be such that God's norms now become commandments. It might be the formation of a people and an, you know, who knows what. Or it could be they're kind of looking for rules. I dealt with people in work situation. I tend not to be very rule oriented. But I dealt with people who need rules. And okay, you know, one, two, three, four. Okay. I can give rules, too. And the Chinese, they react to the divine as sort of something like cosmic harmony of cosmic in the big sense, not just the universe and starry sky, but in the most fundamental sense. And God discovers. Whoa! From their sensitive reaction. I am cosmic harmony. And I now become cosmic harmony. I sort of step into the role. A bit the way, you know, if you read American history, Harry Truman becomes president. You know, grows in this enormous way, having been a somewhat obscure senator, and a vice president no one expected ever to be president, and now suddenly becomes a world shaping statesman. I mean, you know? And so it's a bit like that, that people given a role or given other people's reactions, respond and actually develop the capacities people are seeing in them or looking to them for. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:48:30] Right. Yes. And looking to them for becomes, you know, significant. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:48:35] Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:48:35] I mean, if you look at the Old Testament, if you look at the Bible, and God is law giver. In a sense, emerges in response to human beings as unjust. Right? It is-- I mean, the story, you know, God delivered the law at Mt. Sinai after having liberated the Hebrews from slavery. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin Yes.

Dr. Richard Oxenberg And at the injustice of slavery, that, in a sense, demands a law. That a law be given. There's harmony in the universe, but that. No, you must not do that. I mean, the Ten Commandments was all about what you shouldn't do. Right it's all, Tho shalt not, thou shalt not, thou shalt not, right? It's in the context of the experience of injustice, and all of a sudden these thou shalt not's have to emerge as a way of expressing, in a sense, the teleology of love in that context. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:49:41] Yes. Love sometimes requires commandments, while in the real world. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:49:47] Don't take Jimi's toy away from here. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:49:50] Right, exactly right. 

Scott Langdon [00:49:55] 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.

Theology, But Not A Religion
Dr. Oxenberg's Background
Participatory Nature Of God
Creation, Suffering, And Evil: The Meaning Of It All
Participation: The Person And God
Teleological Nature Of Reality
Harmony, Love And Justice
Ethical Implications, Ego And Evil
The Purpose Of Revelation and Religion
The History And Evolution Of Religion And God
Outro And Contact Information