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jesse stephen bangs wrote, quoting myself:

> > As you've probably gathered, theology is an interest of mine :-) The
> > Christian culture/church that I come from encourages people to think
> > for themselves in matters of faith, and my faith is very much
> > tailored to my own preferences in analogies, explanations and
> > favourite verses, yet remains fully congruous with mainstream
> > Christianity.
>
> This is just what I do.  A lot of my views have been pieced together
> from C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, and Francis Schaeffer, making a
> belief system midway between orthodox and liberal.

I get a lot of inspiration from talking to friends about religion in
general, and certainly not just my Christian friends. I am slowly
describing my theology on my website, and a great deal of what's there
had its birth in email conversations. As for the website stuff, no-one
has ever given me much feedback on it so I don't know whether what I've
written makes sense, has a good pace, is thought-provoking, or not.

> > > > In the language (not necessarily connected to either of the
> > > > stories) the culture is basically monotheist. The word for 'God'
> > > > /roKi/ is a
> >
> > Should be /rOKi/. I actually like this as a word for 'God'. A friend
> > once jokingly criticised it on the grounds that you can't _swear_ a
> > word like that!
>
> Ironic connection:  In Yivrndil, the word for "eagles" is /roki/!

Of course, this is only a visual coincidence, due to the peculiarities of
SAMPA. /K/ and /k/ don't really have a lot to do with each other.

> BTW, although different people groups in Aratasa have different
> religious beliefs, magic is necessarily the same for everyone, and it
> follows my idea of how "ideal" supernatural events work.  There is no
> latent or neutral power which can be drawn for good or evil, but
> rather good and evil spiritual entities which can be summoned for
> various purposes.

Mmmm, I don't bother much with good and evil spiritual entities. As for
magic, well, everyone has their own view of what magic is, so naturally
I won't pretend to pass judgement on all of these views. But one of the
most common views sees magic as something that actually manipulates
spiritual forces and directs events toward a desired outcome. From a
Christian perspective, this goes *very* much against the grain of what
prayer is all about because it places the practitioner in control
instead of God. The purpose of prayer is not to so much for *us* to
change the world, as to give *God* a chance to change us. Furthermore,
there is no such thing as a "skilled" prayer more likely to be answered
than an "unskilled" one. The Bible says, "Tremendous power is available
through a good man's earnest prayer", so the virtues that make fore
effective prayer are earnestness and purity of heart, not skill. There's
a philosophy of priorities built into prayer that differs from the
philosophy built into the traditional view of magic (I repeat: I am well
aware of alternate views on magic to which my comments do not apply), and
I think that this, rather than 'good and evil spiritual forces', is why
the Bible condemns the practise of magic. After all, if you could just
make things happen by casting spells, would you bother to bring your
concerns before God?

The use of ritual in prayer can be a very valuable thing, and the Bible
does not condemn it. What it *does* condemn is the use of ritual to
manipulate spiritual forces without submitting to the authority of God
as one must in prayer. However, even if they don't think of them as
rituals, almost everyone uses rituals in prayer. Even if you just bow
your head and close your eyes, that, technically, is a ritual. It's
got nothing to do with manipulating spiritual forces, and everything to
do with creating an environment in which the experience of prayer is more
easily entered into. More sophisticated rituals exist (and the best ones
are those that you discover yourself because then they are tailored to
your individual persona) which help to make prayer into an experience
that truly engages one's whole mind. I use some of them myself, and I
find them very helpful.

My favourite spiritual writer of this century is Henri Nouwen. He writes:

  "Just as artists search for the style that is most their own, so people
   who pray search for the prayer of their heart. What is most profound
   in life, and therefore most dear to us, always has to be properly
   protected as well as expressed. It, therefore, is not surprising that
   prayer is often surrounded by carefully prescribed gestures and
   words, by detailed rituals and elaborate ceremonies. [...] Where do
   we look, what do we do, to whom do we go [...] to discover how we
   [...] - with out own history, our own milieu, our own character, our
   own insights and our own freedom to act - are called to enter into
   intimacy with God?"

One of my plans for the theology of my website is to write a detailed
philosophy of prayer, including the difference between prayer and magic.
This post may be considered a preview of what I intend.

> This really should move to conculture.

Some of us, however, do not subscribe there.

--
web.       | Here and there I like to preserve a few islands of sanity
netyp.com/ | within the vast sea of absurdity which is my mind.
member/    | After all, you can't survive as an eight foot tall
dragon     | flesh eating dragon if you've got no concept of reality.