All Paths Lead to God: Transformative Progression

In another one of his cogent articles, the Slackivist (Fred Clark) addresses the question about whether “all paths lead to God.”  His ultimate conclusion is that it is an underhanded question, indicative actually of a path away from God because its focus is not conducive to reaching God.

I get his point.  The “path” toward an omnipresent being is only a “path” in sense of “direction” (trajectory) toward godliness by what one makes of the journey and the elements along the path: transformative progression. After all, how can there truly be a path (linear prescription) to a being that is everywhere?  His reference to the story of the Good Samaritan was spot on as an illustration.

The Slackivist has thought a lot about paths, especially the “nature” of paths in both spiritual and physical senses, where unfortunately the spiritual sense is bound by the physical roots of the metaphor.  The thing that strikes me most is that the paths referenced by his “catechizing inquisitors” (bloody awesome term!) and in his replies (being bound by the inquisitors’ frame) are all established paths.  That is, the “paths” already exist by the time we get there, and that “following” any such path to God implies staying within the bounds of the pre-hewn trail.

So while I completely agree with the Slackivist that “Do all paths lead to God” is the wrong question, it really only goes wrong because of the physical referent (well, besides the pharisaical motivation).  It actually could be a legitimate question — one that opens the door to exploring a walk or journey where a “path” has been already blazed or it is in progress of formation — if one can maintain “path” in the abstract and its destination as more about “heaven” as the resulting condition of knowing God rather than a fairy-tale happy place.

I think that even the teaching that “narrow is the way that leads to life” does not necessarily imply a given trail with prescribed rules for how one places his feet in order to constitute a valid step along a path.  The destination is in the trajectory.

The trajectory of a path is really only its goal: to know God and, thereby, be Godly.  And since God is infinite and omnipresent, that leaves a ton of knowing to do that we can never, ever exhaust.  Every issue, every moment is a getting-to-know-god opportunity.  As I wrote in my Letters to Laurel,

It’s like, getting to know God is progress toward knowing the details of Him. For instance, if I say I know someone, the first question one might ask is “How well?” “How well” you know a person is in the details!! The nuances. And in every single possible context. But if you’re concentrating on “knowing God” by how you deal with your own earthly concerns, you’re really only USING GOD to know yourself, not Him.

Yet, as with progression toward any goal, some general rules or basic things need to be part of each footfall that support the eventual fulfillment of the goal. There are general characteristics regarding path-walking, where a path is marked by some basic things you have to achieve in order that there be forward momentum (progress): loving & love, humility, honesty (especially the intellectual variety), sincerity, pureness of heart, to name a few.

These things are necessary because they are both evidence and manifestation of knowledge of God.  Without these milestones (an important one articulated in 1 John 4:7-8), you are using yourself as the measure of your progress, which is a self-serving fantasy of your own making.

While it is true that we all share some fundamentally common obstructions to godliness at the atomic level, what composes the current obstructions each of us has is specific to our individual experiences and resulting perspectives.  To address the commonalities, there can be general prescriptive recipes; but there can’t be a single, prescribed path because we each have different abilities, needs, and configurations of sin that compose our obstructions — as vast & varied as the infinite omnipresence of God.

So someone can refer to “paths,” but what they really should refer to is guidelines for path-walking.  What amounts to the resulting path is only the consequence of the footfalls manifested by the tread of one’s choices.

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3 Responses

  1. A reply to a facebook inquiry:

    Oh man, I’ve got a ton o’ thoughts on that. Let me *try* to summarize in brief. (stop laughing)

    While I don’t claim to be Christian (anymore), I still believe that the Bible is chock full of spiritual truths grounded in the heavily mystical roots of the Jewish faiths. This is one of those.

    The fact is, with our free will, we attempt to will things to happen. Even if we weight ourselves down with lots of rules, strictures, and dogmas, those are only attempts to work out holiness as a physical trait, hoping that an empty habit translates to spiritual metamorphosis.

    But the fact is, divinity is a spiritual trait — and we cannot buy it or earn it. We have to ‘be’ it, starting with where we place our values, thoughts, and devotion. Devotion to ritual & rules is confused with devotion toward actually getting to know the Divine being.

    And “getting to know” God is the whole point. It’s the key, because to know him, you have to approach him.

    A passage from my blog:
    It’s like, getting to know God is progress toward knowing the details of Him. For instance, if I say I know someone, the first question one might ask is “How well?” “How well” you know a person is in the details!! The nuances. And in every single possible context. But if you’re concentrating on “knowing God” by how you deal with your own earthly concerns, you’re really only USING GOD to know yourself, not Him.

    Consequently, as you come to know God (approach the Divine), you find yourself in an altered environment, one that folds in and supersedes the physical plane all at one time.

  2. “And in the generations gone by He permitted all the nations to go their own ways; and yet He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with good and gladness” (Acts 14:16-17).

    Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, that every mouth may be closed, and all the world may become accountable to God; because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin. But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets (Romans 3:19-21).

    So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs but on God who has mercy. (Romans 9:16)

  3. […] How things are accomplished in both the Bible and the Constitution are very rarely specified, but rather we see guidelines for conducting, recognizing and regulating activity to establish a path. […]

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