It is both useful and healthy that we address our personal cosmic vision first and foremost. We need to understand the assumptions we have made as we internally constructed our definition of both reality and, if we are spiritually inclined, the spiritual world.
In a very powerful subconscious way, many practicing Christians retain that fundamentalist bias and live religiously with an internal image (something imagined) of a spiritual reality not seen but “known” by like-minded friends and family as a reality that exists; the very reality where God “is”, where Jesus “is” and to many, where Satan “is” or “wants to rule.”
This is often referred to within the believing community as a personal “witness” or “testimony” of what God’s spiritual kingdom looks like. This is one of the principal recognitions of God that the “I know” declarations assert. Some of these declarations are based on mutually-believed theological assumptions made within specific communities.
For many Christians, this imaginatively real circumstance readily assumes a male-dominated patriarchal “order of things.” In mortal or human terms I call that internal image of the spiritual world a “mental construct” – a perceived spiritual reality born out of our imagination as prompted by religious persuasion from others…
Constructs of Reality and Society –
What does that fundamentalist reality resemble most?
God as Boss of the Universe?
A kind and benevolent divine version of Caesar?
God as the Head of a Patriarchal Order prejudiced against women?
God as a power who cannot look upon nor tolerate sin with the least degree of allowance?
or how about a non-fundamentalist view with God as …
A Divine Author of Compassion?
Possessing androgynous aspects that reflect equally all aspects of being human?
A Higher Power focused almost entirely on our love one for another and against any kind of hatred or condemnation?
Such constructed realities – what each of us personally has imagined the spirit world and realm of God to be – serves as the context for how we practice religion and exercise our own moral choices.
Although for all or most Christians the realm of God truly exists, we do not all agree on what that existence means or how it impacts our lives. For many Christians, the spirit world exists in some other difficultly-perceived dimension and only interacts with our own world in supernatural ways.
This is consistent with a view of a purely supernatural, all-wise, all-knowing and almighty God who at times intervenes in the affairs of mortals in dramatic or not-so-dramatic ways.
Thus some believing Christians easily accept and live according to the idea of an invisible Jesus/God personage who is vitally invested in human life and directs forces of good against that other supernatural power and source of evil, Satan.
Regarding Satan as an opposition to God, these believers talk about spiritual warfare, evoking images of the spirit world as some sort of zone of conflict in which Satan and God operate simultaneously for and against human life. Those who do so seem almost oblivious to the mental action of making Satan a god who – like the Father – is everywhere, omnipresent and forever asserting his contrary will.
On the other hand, others see Satan more as a conceptual part of their attempts to get a grasp on the idea of the existence of evil. Evil for them is not something we are tempted to do by a supernatural Satan. It is more an active part of life that serves as a kind of resistance or counter force against our intention or tendency to behave in an independent manner – acting in a ways that reflect the highest good theme.
Other practicing Christians do not see the supernatural Jesus/God as a personage who exists “somewhere else” outside the sphere of mortal perception and who communicates spiritually from a distance through the Holy Spirit.
Taking a cue from Jesus’ words, “The kingdom of God is within you,” they have a sense of God being omnipresent. They also have a sense of the on-going constancy in which the Holy Spirit is an uninterrupted and steady influence toward good works and a desire to live for the highest good of all concerned.
A similar discord exists between biblical literalists regarding God as the “Boss of the Universe” who is commanding humans to behavior based purely on obedience and morality as opposed to a non-judgmental God who fully encourages positive human behavior as a consequence of total agency.
To literalists, Satan becomes the direct opposite and yet needful counter to the goodness and righteous-requiring Commander-God; a supernatural reality who tempts mortals to both “sins” of commission and of omission.
To non-literalists Satan represents among other things the natural mortal tendency to self-focused, self-interested acts that disregard the good of anyone else. In this regard concepts of laziness, selfishness, arrogance and intolerance, for example, represent an awareness of evil and its impact on their actions.
In my opinion, we, as a Christian society are strongly impacted by our own internal imagery – imagery that began for many of us in childhood.
Many of us, as Dr. Marcus Borg has written, have never gotten away from our pre-critical naiveté that still forms our internal Imaginative spiritual reality.
Many literalists won’t admit it but they tend subconsciously to imagine that Moses looked like Charlton Heston’s movie character;
that the good versus evil portrayals in Exodus portrayed by Edward G. Robinson, Debra Padgett and Yul Brynner were what it was really like
… that 600,000 Israelites walked away from Egypt on a grand camp-out trek.
This is part of how our minds and imagination respond when the story of Moses comes up.
Our internal imaginative interpretation of reality is always up, always running. The curtains of our internal stage are always pulled back as we “look and see.”
Most of our internal religious constructs are inherited. What well-meaning but spiritually immature Christians have tended to do is hide behind the more simple acceptance of their own myths …
… of an inerrant Bible containing the once-spoken will of a Judgmental God who cannot tolerate sin with any degree of allowance;
.. .a god more interested in obedience than experience;
… a God limited to rewards or punishments as He presides over a conflict with Satan,
The God of Compassion taught and patterned by Christ contrasts that Old Testament either-or mindset.
Realizing the total implication of “the kingdom of God is within you” ought to unleash our willingness to trust the internal sense we have of God’s reality.
Otherwise, we’re left to wait on extra-ordinary external events such as miracles or perceived “divine retribution events” – from which we may then say, “Aha! There is a God. Or God DOES exist.”
Many are left counting on a rapturous event to validate and vindicate that spiritual construct created from tattered worn out wineskins that were of greater value to a society more rapturously superstitious.