- A transcript from The Hour of Judgment radio series -
Copyright (c) 1995 Kevin Solway & David Quinn
- Rev Keith Colbert - Anglican Priest
- Rev Patrick Doulin - Anglican Priest
Hosts: Kevin Solway & David Quinn
This is an absolutely classic conversation, full of humour and insight into the Christian mentality. Some of those who listened to the program said afterwards that my introduction at the beginning of the program (where, after having just introduced myself, my mind went a total blank) was the best part and it all went downhill from there. But I disagree. I think the whole show was seamless from start to finish.
After dealing with Buddhism last week I thought it would be interesting to provide a contrast with a show on Christianity. As we had already done a program with Catholics (a demo tape produced a couple of months beforehand and which subsequently went to air later in the series), the Anglicans seemed to be the obvious choice. So I contacted the media office of the Anglican Church and asked for two of their most intelligent and serious spokespeople to discuss the fundamentals of Christianity. Reverend Keith Colbert was the name they gave me.
Keith was willing, if a bit reluctant, to take part. His hesitance seemed to stem from an uncertainty about the intention and purpose of the proposed program. When I told him that we were interested in the question of what constitutes the ethical life and what reasons exist for a person choosing Christianity as a way of life, he seemed to think that he was not the right person for the job. He suggested that we contact someone who was academically qualified on the subject of ethics. Heaven forbid! All we wanted were a couple of ordinary priests - men who were supposedly God's representatives on earth and charged with the spiritual welfare of humanity. We wanted to examine these important issues in a direct and personal fashion, and not in the bloodless realms of academic theory. Keith managed to put his doubts aside and lined up a colleague, Reverend Patrick Doulin, to accompany him. The date was set.
When Keith and Patrick arrived on Sunday, we all knew immediately that it was going to be a difficult evening. For it was clear to all of us that we were opposites in every way. Keith and Patrick are conservative middle-aged men with families, while Kevin and I are scruffy men with beards. And as the ensuing conversation makes clear, we totally disagree on virtually every point concerning wisdom and the spiritual path.
David: Hello again and welcome to The Hour of Judgment. This is David Quinn speaking . . . this is David Quinn speaking . . .
Kevin: Tonight on the program we're talking to a couple of Anglican priests: Reverend Keith Colbert and Reverend Patrick Doohan. Is that right? Doulan. Tonight we want to really get to the nitty-gritty of Christianity. We can imagine that there are some young people out there listening to the program. Some of them, hopefully, are wondering what they're going to do with their lives. Perhaps some of them might even want to live a wise and noble life, like people in the past occasionally did. What reasons can you give these young people to be an Anglican? Who's going to tackle that tricky one?
Keith: Oh, Patrick, you're so kind. I'm Keith, for the benefit of all the listeners. Why would they be an Anglican? I suppose it's one of those things that each one of us makes our own choices about. There's a basic sort of tag that you can call Christian and that's what we're baptised as. At various times in life people make various choices about the tags they hang on themselves and each of the denominational tags have some peculiarities about themselves which may appeal to individuals at some stage of their life and so they hang it on themselves. Why an Anglican? I suppose it's really a question about what is the individual genius, if you like, of the Anglican.
Kevin: I tell you what. First, why a Christian?
Keith: Why a Christian?
Kevin: For example, we have Buddhism which claims that there is no God. So Buddhists believe that there is an Ultimate Reality that can be realized. An enlightened man or an enlightened person understands this Ultimate Reality and is in tune with it. But there is no belief in any kind of creator in Buddhism. There is no actual concept of a personal God. So we have a very stark difference here between the Buddhists, who believe that by a gradual step by step process they can come to a personal understanding of Ultimate Truth, and the Christians, who live a life of faith.
Patrick: This is Patrick speaking. You seem to be getting very deep there, rather deeper than I thought we were getting originally. You started off by asking about choices and I picked up on that word and wrote it down because it seemed that as far as I was concerned - and I suspect with Keith too, and a lot of people we know - that there really didn't seem to be much of a choice. We were born into families where the Christian faith was the faith of the family and Christian practice was the practice of the family. I suspect a lot of our listeners have not had that background and therefore do have this opportunity to choose. We grew up in families that had this sense of security which said there is a God and this God has a plan for creation and we need to find out what that plan is so that we can cooperate with it and find out what particular things he's given us to do.
Kevin: But let's look now at the young person who today does have the choice. They can go to the library, for example, and they can pick out books on Buddhism or they can pick up books on Christianity. They can decide for themselves whether God exists or doesn't exist. Are there any compelling arguments today to become a Christian?
Patrick: You talk about those choices and I said we didn't have any choices, but of course as time goes by you make the choice to stay with the decision you made earlier, to look at others and say, "No, no that doesn't speak to me of what is either the Truth, or what is helpful to me". I guess one of the things that Christians are often accused of is that they need a prop in life. They can't stand on their own feet. They have to have some kind of support. I'm quite happy to be accused of that. I think a lot of Christians have had experiences in life that has shown them you can't stand on your own.
Keith: Like Patrick, I was born into a family which made certain assumptions which were basically Christian. My education was here in Brisbane, at Brisbane Grammar School mainly. I quickly came to realize that there were many, many ways to choose in life. I was fortune enough as a young person to be exposed not just to Anglican ways of doing things, but also to various other Christian ways of doing things, and I was exposed to Buddhism, and a tiny bit of Islam, and a fair dose of Rationalism. All of those things had some sort of expression within our family circle which was pretty wide. So I suppose by the time I was twenty, I had pretty consciously sifted through - as much as a twenty year old can - the alternatives I was being offered. What I chose was something different to anything that had been put in front of me as a small child. But then, as Patrick hinted, we tend to re-assess these things as time goes on. So I've always had a very profound respect for Buddhist spirituality - it's informed my own spirituality a great deal, particularly zazen. I've also had a great respect for the Rationalist's point of view - even though I think the Rationalists point of view is very limited, I can nevertheless feel the force of it. I still come back to sitting in the Anglican expression, because for me it is the most convenient vehicle whereby I can express my spirituality.
Kevin: Okay, let's again put ourselves in the shoes of the young person who wants to do the right thing. If they put a foot wrong now, they might go wrong for life, and this would be a terrible thing to happen. There are many, many different beliefs and clearly they can't all be right. At the very least, all but one of them must be wrong - logically. So this person who lives in fear of Hell - Hell being his conscience - wants to make the right choice. If he believes in God and there is no God, well then he has wasted his life. If he doesn't believe in God and there is a God, similarly he's in trouble - if you go by the Bible, anyway! So what can we tell this young person? Does God exist? Are you certain yourselves of God's existence? Presumably, as Anglican priests, you are messengers of God. This is your job I presume, as priests, to be God's representative on Earth, or at least to be an intermediary between people and God. Are you certain yourselves that God does exist in a personal form and what reasons can you give this young person?
Keith: I'll let Patrick field that first. It's interesting that we were talking about some of these very things on the way in, weren't we?
Patrick: Well, I can say that I'm quite certain that there is a God, and I would say that to anyone who . . . they have my word for it, for what that's worth. I don't think I could give you any logical argument that would prove what I'm saying. In the end, you make a leap of faith - either to have a faith or not have a faith. You make some kind of leap which you can't necessarily substantiate to another person.
Kevin: Well, anything we do has reasons for it. If we take a leap of faith - and we take leaps everyday in all sorts of matters, even if it is just a physical leap across something in the street - but there is always a reason for us leaping. What reasons do you have for taking a leap? Is it purely because it's painful where you're standing and if you leap somewhere else it's not so painful?
Patrick: No, I don't think it's that. I think that for me it's a matter of commonsense. I try to understand what's going on around about me. I try to understand the universe. I try and understand what people are discovering about the universe and how it all fits together and what we're doing here. And it seems to me that it's not commonsense to believe that it's all accidental. It seems to me that it is not commonsense to believe that there isn't a "something" behind it all and for me that "something" is God. And I want to fit in as best I can to his plan for the universe and the little bit I have to do with it.
David: If we look at the Buddhists - the Buddhists in India or the Hindus in India - they would say that it is commonsense to believe that there is no God and that the universe and everything that we see is a result of causes. So they don't feel the need to evoke a creator God to explain everything. They say it is commonsense that there is no God.
Patrick: So we disagree about what commonsense is.
David: Right. Commonsense is telling two opposite things, isn't it?
Patrick: Well, for them . . . for me it would appear so.
David: Yes. So how do you resolve that dilemma?
Keith: I don't think you do. I don't think you do resolve it. Everyone has their cultural background.
David: So you're saying the whole thing is uncertain?
Keith: I'm not saying it's uncertain. I'm saying that I approach things slightly differently. I come to the same conclusion as Patrick, but I approach things from the point of experience and my experience of life. My life can be interpreted in any way I choose. If I choose to interpret it in an entirely Rationalist way then I'm forced to find an awful lot of phenomena and coincidences which are unexplained by any kind of rationality, whether it be psychological explanations or whatever. Once I choose to interpret my experience by placing something I call God into it, then it all falls into place. The experience of life is not something which is subject to rational analysis. There are so many things in our lives that aren't rational - like falling in love, like music.
Kevin: This is called the God of the Gaps.
Keith: No. Not at all.
Kevin: Well, I think it is. You're saying that the things you don't understand--
Keith: No, no, no, no, no. The interpretation of what I see. The interpretation of my daily experience of life. How do I make sense of this? How does it all hold together?
Kevin: Exactly. So the things that you don't understand--
Keith: No, no, no. I do understand each individual phenomenon, or if I can't understand it, I can go and find a test tube and find out. There's no problem about that.
Kevin: Well, take love. Love is not so easy to understand as an individual phenomenon.
Keith: This is the point I'm making. How do we interpret what love is? We all experience it and we all know what it is. You know, you get the little kids coming along to us and they say, "How will I know when I'm in love, Daddy?", and I say, "Don't worry. When you are in love, you will know". And then when they're fifteen or whatever, they say, "I see what you mean." It's one of those things that goes to the gut of every human being, regardless of their thought systems. I'm simply using this as one example of something that does not lend itself to rational analyses.
Kevin: But I think it does. I think it does.
Keith: Ah, you see, I think this is where we would disagree.
Kevin: I can think of lots of reasons to explain the phenomenon of love.
Keith: I don't think that any of them are adequate.
Kevin: You haven't heard them yet.
Keith: I've been listening to arguments to explain love for thirty or forty years.
David: I think instead we should look at the question of whether God actually explains anything. Because, Keith, you're using the argument of God as the fundamental rational explanation of everything. Now I'd put it to you that it's actually no explanation at all, because at bottom God is some sort of "thing", it has some sort of identity--
Keith: Has it? That's an assumption.
David: But you're using it as an explanation, you see.
Keith: I said that whatever it is that I'm calling God, I haven't given a definition to it yet. I wouldn't even try, because to me--
Patrick: Although, the scriptures do try to--
Keith: Oh, the scriptures do! Of course, they do!
Patrick: --by saying, before anything else there was God.
Keith: Yeah. God is.
Patrick: God is. That's the starting point--
David: But God has some sort of reality--
Keith: Yeah, but beyond being reality everything else is speculation, isn't it? If you're going to start describing God as being like this coffee cup, or God is like anything else, then it's speculation.
David: Alright, but if one describes the spiritual path as, say, the process of getting to know God - in this sense, we can say that God is something. It's some definite something or other, rather than something else.
Keith: Christians - and not only Christians, but other religious people as well - will approach God in terms of personality.
David: Okay, imagine a person who conceives of God as a horrible frothing monster who likes to eat people. Say this God created the human race in order to eat people. Now, would you say that that is a legitimate concept of God?
Keith: To that person it's legitimate.
David: So in other words, God is not anything at all? It is whatever is conceived of in someone's mind?
Keith: No, not at all. What is reality apart from the construct that we make of it? We each construct our own realities. The sociological construction of reality is one of those profound things that goes on in every person. And you have no way of understanding my construct any more than I have of understanding your construct. So, in the end, all our reality is the creation of how we go about it. You know, reality is almost the most difficult thing in the world to describe.
Kevin: Okay, what you're describing now is quite a popular philosophy these days. I think the New Age movement agrees with the idea that reality is what each individual perceives. But do you accept that some people are wiser than other people? For example, a person who is completely insane will have a certain vision of the world which is warped in some way or another. That's the reason we call them insane, because their view of the world is warped relative to other people's view.
Keith: Relative to my view.
Kevin: Do you agree that it is possible for a person to be perfectly wise or to approach being perfectly wise? Is there some such person - call him a God-Man or a Jesus-person - who sees truly what is really there and doesn't project things unnecessarily onto reality? Do you agree that such a person is possible - a person whose mind is truer than other people's minds?
Keith: Oh . . . sorry, Patrick's bursting to say something.
Patrick: No, I'm not bursting, I'm just . . . again, I'm really saying that this is not really the direction I see us coming from. I'm a bit confused here. I see God as wanting desperately to reveal Himself to as many people as possible. I don't see Him revealing himself as a monster - of which David talked about earlier - because one thing we would say about God is that He is love. This person you were talking about, who is wiser than everyone else, is only wiser because God has decided to reveal more to him. As we read through the scriptures there are individuals - Abraham comes immediately to mind - whom, for no good reason at all, God seemed to have chosen as the person He would reveal Himself to more fully than He had to anyone else previously.
Kevin: So we're agreed that some people are wiser than others?
Patrick: Or more seeing.
Kevin: More seeing. Same thing. So in other words, what a wise person believes to be true has more validity than--
Patrick: What is a wise person? What is a wise person?
Kevin: A wise person is a person who sees Absolute Reality, or God, perfectly. I'm not a Christian, so I don't have a conception of a personal God, but I do have a conception of Ultimate Reality and just for convenience I give this Ultimate Reality the name of God. This is not an unusual thing to do. Now, a perfectly wise person, say the Buddha--
Patrick: Or Jesus?
Kevin: I've already used the example of Jesus, so let's, just for a bit of variety--
Keith: Let's try Mohammed the Prophet, then.
Keith: Why not?
Kevin: I don't think he's a good example.
Keith: Ah! Yes, but you see, this is the problem when you start getting religious. There is an obsession of the West with Buddhism, and Hinduism, and they miss Islam.
Kevin: For good reason.
Keith: Ah! You see, this is a pro-cultural prejudice. They miss Islam because Islam is difficult. So instead they go to Buddhism, and Buddhism is a nice soft thing which you can sort of . . . it is so different. What's wrong with us approaching Mohammed the Prophet and seeing him as a wise person?
Kevin: Well, I don't think he was wise.
Keith: Yes, but that's only your personal opinion.
Kevin: I'm pretty wise.
Keith: Your personal opinion is of no more worth than anybody else's.
David: Not if Kevin is wise.
Keith: What's the problem? What's the problem? Why do Westerners have so much difficulty approaching Mohammed the Prophet?
Kevin: Well, I can give you some good reasons. He orchestrated an awful lot of wars, and when--
Keith: Oh, but so did many other people in our history! We don't have a problem approaching them.
Kevin: Well, I do.
Keith: This obsession with Buddhism! If we want to start approaching other ways people approach Reality, what about the Animist perception?
Kevin: Well, just a minute. We have to get back to the main point. You were saying--
Patrick: Wisdom. Wisdom.
Keith: Wisdom. How do we judge wisdom?
Kevin: Just a minute, let me make this point. If I can just butt in here.
Keith: It's your program.
Kevin: You said before that one person's point of view - and specifically my point of view - is of equal value to everybody else's point of view. Now would you say the same thing of Jesus? If Jesus was sitting here in the room with us, would you say to him: "Look, this stuff you're saying about God has no more value than what anybody else is saying. Your words have no more significance to those of, say, Hitler"? Would you seriously put this to him?
Keith: I think that when you and I sit down and talk about these things, yeah. It's a fair enough thing for me to say that one person's opinions are as good as another, because we're all talking from equal levels of ignorance. But when we're dealing with people who have what you're talking about - wisdom - well, wisdom is a very difficult word. Where do you define it? How do you know you've got it? Especially, how do you recognise it in another person? I mean, no one, I think, would dare to say that they are wise. It's a judgment made by others. It isn't one you make of yourself.
Kevin: Ah, no, I disagree. I seriously believe I'm wise.
Keith: Your welcome to do so. Others may disagree.
Kevin: If other people told me I was wise, this is definitely no logical reason for me to believe that I am actually wise - just because other people might tell me that I am. David and I have recently met Zen Masters, for example, who have been ordained as Zen Masters, but in actual fact they don't themselves feel that they are qualified to be Zen Masters. And I don't feel that they're qualified to be Zen Masters either, but nonetheless they have been given the piece of paper saying that they are. This is no valid sign of wisdom.
Keith: No, it's not really about wisdom though, is it? A Zen Master is a trainer - a spiritual trainer. He's gone through a process of training within the system - it's a system I admire, I do admire it - but within the system he has reached a point where the system says to him you may teach others. That's fair enough.
Patrick: Can I get back to Christianity for a moment?
Kevin: Go ahead.
Patrick: It seems to me that a fair number of the prophets have said what you have just said, Kevin, namely: "I have no qualifications to be a prophet, but I know I am one". And the wisdom that comes from the prophet is that he has a message from God.
David: That's right.
Patrick: He doesn't deserve it in any way, but he's got it.
David: Jesus claimed that he was wise and none of the religious leaders around him took him too seriously. They actually threw rocks at him and chased him away and all the rest of it. When they asked him for his authority, he basically claimed it on his own bat.
Patrick: No, he claimed it from his Father.
David: Well, I could just as well claim that I am wise by my own Father.
Patrick: The only word to be called God is Father that--
David: Well, I could call God, "my Father". So how do we distinguish the true wise man from the claimant?
Keith: What about what Jesus said about wisdom, "Wisdom is authenticated by her children". That's a quotation. The only time he spoke or used the word wisdom. This was what he said about wisdom, that it was authenticated by her children. This surely is the great test of wisdom, isn't it? The offspring of wisdom.
David: Alright, you're saying--
Keith: Look at the offspring.
David: You're saying the actions--
Keith: Look at the offspring.
David: You're saying that the actions and effects of a wise man's life is the test, or the evidence, or result of his wisdom.
Keith: Look at the result of it. Look at the result of it.
David: But in order to judge whether the actions of a wise person are actually wise, you still have to be wise yourself. In effect, it's no different to judging the wise person himself. The initial problem remains.
Keith: I don't think one person decides if someone is wise. Keith Colbert is not going to stand up and say Joe Blow down the road is wise, and the rest of the world is going to beat a path to Joe Blow's door, are they? Wisdom is something which is discerned by a culture, by a tradition, by history. Most wise people are dead before they're recognised, aren't they?
Kevin: Do you seriously think that society is qualified to judge who is wise and who isn't?
Keith: Who else is?
Kevin: Surely, only the wise man is qualified. Surely!
Keith: The wise man knows enough to know that he doesn't know.
David: Are you wise yourself?
Keith: I would never claim wisdom. Never. I seek the wisdom of others.
David: So we can't really take seriously that point of view then.
Keith: . . I . . . sorry, I got away . . .
Patrick: We may be perceptive . . .
Keith: Oh, we may be perceptive, but wisdom is more than mere perception, isn't it, Patrick?
Patrick: I'm just trying to give you an answer to it.
Keith: Yeah, wisdom is far more than perception. I may be able to recognise wisdom when I see it.
David: You may be able to, even though you're not wise?
Keith: I may not be . . . I may be able to recognise wisdom when I see it.
David: How so?
Keith: That's a deep spiritual activity which I cannot again give a rational analysis of. It probably is a combination of wisdom being . . . it's resonate. Resinous, isn't it? Resinous.
David: Okay, let me put it this way. I define wisdom as a very extreme position - you're either totally wise or you're totally ignorant. God is something that you know totally, or not at all. So you can't be partially wise.
Keith: No shades of grey?
David: No. Not in this matter. God is something that you know perfectly well or not. And only someone who understands God perfectly well, and who therefore has the authority of God, can actually make a judgment upon anybody else who claims wisdom.
Kevin: I think the reason why knowledge of Ultimate things is either all or nothing is because God or Ultimate Reality is an absolute. Here's an illustration: a drop of water is never partly boiling - it's either in one state or another state. And so it's the same with knowledge of ultimate things. Either there is knowledge of it or there is no knowledge of it. You can't be half-way. Does this make any sense to you?
Keith: This touches on what I saying at the beginning as to why I live a life of faith. It is the way I interpret the experiences in my life. You know, I can resonate with what you're saying there. Whether I can actually articulate it all is another question, isn't it? It's an absolute knowledge within myself. I may be quite dumb in being able to explain it to you, but I know it.
Kevin: You're talking more of an intuitive knowledge here.
Keith: Hmm. Yeah.
Kevin: Is this reliable? I mean, some statements by Jesus occur to my mind just now - things like: "Do not think I came to Earth to bring peace, for I came with a sword to separate one man from another. A man's enemies shall be the members of his own family. A son will hate his own father--"
Keith: That's an observation of reality.
Patrick: This proved to be right.
Keith: This proved to be right. But that's just the way life is.
Kevin: But if the ordinary person goes on their gut feelings and intuitions, and they meet this man who's coming out with this pure venom--
Patrick: I'm not sure if it was venom or whether it was reality. This is how it's going to be if you decide to take the path I'm leading on. Everyone will think you're foolish. Your parents will disown you, your wife will divorce you, and that's what I've come to do to you.
Keith: I mean, look at what happened to Jesus right in Mark's Gospel there. There's a story about how Jesus is doing some things in a house and a message comes in, "Your family's outside", and Jesus's mother and his brothers and his sisters are all outside, and they're saying, "Come on home. You're embarrassing us. They all say you're mad". Jesus had the same rejection within his own family as he's talking about to other people. So what's surprising about it? It's just there.
David: Is this the spiritual path that you're describing? Anyone who travels along the spiritual path faces this rejection by--
Keith: Yes, everyone does. It doesn't matter what tradition you're in, either. You can be in any tradition and anyone who walks in the spiritual path finds this rejection by people who do not consider that that is an appropriate way to behave.
David: Yes, but we're living in a world where there is close to a billion Christians.
Keith: Hmm, yeah.
David: So, someone who travels the Christian path won't find much rejection, will he? Instead, he'll find a billion soul mates!
Patrick: Oh yes, it can be very comfortable in countries such as this.
Keith: Yeah. It can be.
Patrick: It can be comfortable to be a Christian if you only move around in Christian circles and don't allow yourself to go on a program like this.
Keith: Oh, yeah.
Patrick: There are many parts of the world where Christians are under threat of martyrdom--
Keith: Like the Gold Coast. It's easy to isolate yourself in a like-minded community and have a comfortable life.
Patrick: And that's a real danger for us, I think.
Keith: It's a danger for everybody, but it's easy to do that. But it's not hard to find a community of people that are nothing like you.
Kevin: But what I was trying to illustrate, though, was the unreliability of the intuitions or the gut feelings. There are so many things that Jesus did which the people of today - and Christians especially - would be totally repulsed by.
Patrick: I'm not sure that's true.
Keith: No, neither am I.
Kevin: Not only his statement: "I came to set fire upon the Earth and how I wish it were already kindled", the fact that of his twelve representatives - his main representatives that he chose - not a single woman was chosen among them. I mean, this is very politically incorrect!
Keith: So what?
Keith: Political correctness is the invention of the late twentieth century. I don't see the relevance.
Kevin: Well, I mean, if people go on their gut feelings, what are the feminists going to think of Jesus?
Keith: I don't give a damn what the feminists think of Jesus, frankly. It's totally irrelevant.
Kevin: Are either of you married?
Patrick: Both of us are.
Keith: Yeah, both of us are. And both of us have daughters.
Patrick: When you're quoting Jesus, you are in fact quoting people who are quoting Jesus.
Patrick: You're quoting men of the first century, who were probably politically correct as things were in the first century. And I would think that as St Mark and St Luke and people like that were hoping to get anyone to read their books, they wouldn't have said anything so revolutionary as to say that Jesus chose Mary Magdalene or one or two of the--
Keith: Or Mary the Might of Cuzor.
Patrick: They're actually mentioned as being around.
Keith: I mean, the people at the foot of the cross are women.
Patrick: Yes, and the first person who saw Jesus after his resurrection was a woman.
Kevin: I tell you what--
Patrick: They dare to tell people that.
Kevin: We'll have a short musical interlude and we'll come back with the subject of women.
Kevin: Okay, back to the subject of women. I can see you're dying to talk about it. Now, both of you are married?
Keith: Yep. Both got daughters.
Kevin: Yeah, yeah. Now, firstly, I was brought up with the impression that to live a good Christian life involved being a single man. Particularly, I'm thinking of Paul's advice where he said: "How I wish you could be single like me".
Patrick: Did he say that?
Kevin: Well, words very close to these. He said: "If the burning is too great - if the pain is too great - then you should marry, for it's better to marry than to burn".
Keith: He said that to women, actually.
Keith: Young widows.
Kevin: Whatever. Obviously, the message is - and it seems commonsense to me, being a wise man - that marriage should definitely be a last resort of the spiritual person. Have you given this any thought? Obviously, you don't agree with it. You don't? I can see some shaking heads.
Keith: I can feel the force of the argument. I suppose in . . . Patrick, you speak. I come from my own life experience of having very seriously considered the monastic life and chosen to be a married person. So there was a very serious consideration. Celibate life was a very serious consideration to me. I feel the force of the argument.
Kevin: I put it to you that it is impossible to love God, or Ultimate Reality, and to love a woman - in the human sense - at the same time. You can't have two Masters, because you'll love one and hate the other. This is a biblical teaching, but it's also commonsense. You can't have two Masters. Either you love God totally, 100%, with your whole life - or nothing.
Patrick: I think you love God through your life. I think to say that I'm going to dedicate myself absolutely, and 100% of my time, to the pursuit of my love affair with God, to the exception of all other things, is not to live a godly life. I think God places us in this world, and marriage has been around for a very long time - if not marriage, then certainly relationships with family have been around for a very long time - and I believe that I express myself as a child of God, and as a Christian, perhaps best of all in my relationships with my wife, with my children, with my congregation, and with my friends.
Kevin: But, surely, the demand to live an absolute life - as a complete sacrifice to Truth - surely we have to love all people - and I'm not talking about love in the human sense now, I'm talking about a far loftier form of love - we have to love all people and all things equally. Now, it's definitely not the case in a marriage situation that you love all women. Certainly, spiritual love is very limited in a normal human marriage. It's impossible to give free love to the whole world when you're in a married situation. It's definitely a barrier.
Keith: I don't agree. You're hinting that somehow or other that there's a tie up between sexuality and the ability to have a sexual expression with someone.
Kevin: I'm thinking more in terms of emotional desire.
Keith: Well, I mean, whether it's a consummated sexuality, or whether it just something that goes on in your pornographic little mind, it really doesn't matter, does it? You're hinting, though, that there has to be some sort of sexuality in it.
Kevin: No, no. Emotional desire, that's all.
Keith: If you're saying that you can't love women . . . most men, who aren't gay, have the same inhibition applied to them in their relationship with other men. But this is not because they're married to another man. It is simply because there are societal taboos. Are you suggesting that it's not possible for man to love other men?
David: I think what Kevin is saying is that love of anything at all hinders love of God.
Kevin: Emotional human love.
Keith: This is an ancient heresy. It's been around since the beginning of Christianity. Was it the Remanicies, was it? Remanicism? Augustan of Hippo had to deal with this thing and he was very attracted to it himself. And people took the view that you had to be totally disassociated from the material world. That the material world was evil and destroyed your relationship with God. It's a heresy which pops up not only in Christianity, but also in other forms too. It's always a heresy because if we - and we're assuming the existence of God for the purpose of this discussion - if there is a God who has a relationship with His created universe, then how on earth can we say that that which God created, or is responsible for, is evil?
Kevin: Okay, I'll tell you. The problem with emotions - all emotional desires - is that they're based on a basic misinterpretation of reality. Whenever there is an emotional desire, it comes from a feeling of a "self" or an "I" that believes that it is lacking something - it's lacking love, it's lacking warmth, it's lacking approval. These are the normal human feelings that people have which come out of their ignorance. If people knew what their self really was, then they wouldn't have these feelings of lacking. I put it to you that all the emotional desires and loves are themselves taking us away from the material world. They're taking us away from the real world as it is. So I put it to you that everyone in the world today, living with all their desires and loves - just normal human life - is actually running away from the real world. All the religions are doing the same thing.
Keith: Jesus talks about forgetting yourself. I don't hear Jesus talking about--
David: He talks about giving up one's life.
Keith: Yes. Those who would wish to have their life must be prepared to surrender it. In various ways.
Patrick: Don't you do that in a love relationship?
Keith: Of course.
Patrick: You surrender, you give, you forget yourself.
Keith: A love relationship which is based upon what you're going to give me isn't a love relationship. That's seeking gratification, isn't it?
David: You're suggesting that there can exist some sort of unconditional love between two people.
Patrick: I would like to think that that's the ideal - not just in a marriage relationship but in all relationships. I'm there to give something I've got to you.
Keith: Loving is something you give. It's not something you get. Something that you are offering . . . even if it's just your response.
Kevin: It's a feeling, isn't it? Love is a feeling.
Keith: No, not necessarily. Love can be an act of the will. Something I decide to do.
Kevin: But when we feel . . . you know you were saying how--
Keith: Are we talking about Agape? Or are we talking about Eros? What sort of love are we talking about?
Kevin: Agape. Infinite love. This is the only true love. All the other loves are based on the idea of the finite world, the limited world. There's only one spiritual love, and all the other loves are opposed to it. They're incompatibly opposed to it.
Keith: Oh, no . . .
Patrick: No, I don't know about that. You're suggesting that our lives are opposed to what God's will is. I mean, God has put us here and I believe He's given us the emotions. And within the limitations of our present life, our expressions of love are expressions of who we are here and now.
David: Alright, when you look at some of Jesus' sayings, he was urging us to give up everything we hold dear. He said somewhere along the line there: "What is most valued among men is detestable in God's sight". And what is most valued among men is love. You see?
Patrick: Did he say that? Or are you just assuming? I don't think he said that.
Kevin: It's in the New Testament somewhere.
Patrick: Ah ha!
Kevin: But not only that, he would tell his disciples: "If you want to be my disciple you have to give up everything you have, everything that gives you belonging, an identity, everything--"
Keith: That's not what he said, of course. That's just an interpretation of what he said.
David: Well, everything you hold dear.
Kevin: Everything you love.
Keith: No, again, that's not what he said.
David: We must have different New Testaments, I tell you. What about hating your mother and father? "Whoever does not hate his mother and father, brothers, sisters, wives, or even himself, cannot be my disciple".
Keith: Your running into all sorts of problems with translation, aren't you?
David: Yeah, but . . .
Keith: The word "hate", which is written in Greek--
David: Alright, but the--
Keith: Hang on. You see, this is the problem. It is a serious problem when you start fiddling about with an English translation from a Greek Bible which was recording something said in Armaic.
David: Yes, but there are dozens of these sayings.
Keith: I know. I know.
David: And they all point to this one thing. He was asked what is the greatest commandment, and he said that it was to love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind--
Keith: And the second was to love your neighbour as yourself!
David: Well, alright, but we are talking about the first one.
Keith: Yes, but don't forget he said the second one.
Patrick: There's not even a comma.
Keith: There's not even a comma there.
Patrick: There's no full stop, it just goes straight through.
Keith: The question was, "What must I do to be saved?" The answer was, "Love the Lord your God and love your neighbour as yourself". He didn't make a distinction. On another occasion Jesus said, "Love your enemies".
David: Okay, let me give you my view of the situation. As I see it, Jesus did urge us to give up everything we hold dear for God. He did stress this.
Patrick: I would say more "hang loose" to everything we hold dear, not to rely on it, not to build your lives around it, be prepared to give it up if necessary. I don't think he really encouraged everybody necessarily to go rushing off into the desert and tear off their clothes and live a sort of hermit life, like John the Baptist. That wasn't what he was saying.
David: He was pointing with urgency. Urgency. He was saying that--
Patrick: Urgency. Can we say something about urgency and the New Testament? We started to talk about Paul earlier on. We have to remember that Paul lived in an age when there was an expectation that tomorrow was the end of the world.
Kevin: Right now is The Hour of Judgment!
Patrick: Oh, it is. And they didn't have two thousand years of waiting for it to sort of cool them down a bit. So sometimes, perhaps, some of the things they said were a bit . . . wild.
Keith: Over the top.
Patrick: Over the top.
Kevin: Well, no. Every moment that each one of us lives could be the last moment of our life, so there is a definite urgency involved.
Patrick: Oh, we do know that, yes. But if we really believe the world is going to end tomorrow, what's the point of getting married? Or having families? Or bringing children into the world? Or buying a house, or paying a mortgage? All that sort of thing.
Kevin: Well, you were saying before how it was God which gave us all these emotional attachments that we have - and presumably all the evil in the world comes from God as well - so why do you think we should preserve all of the marriages in the world, which can cause so much suffering to people? For example, you're married to one woman. Presumably, before you married her, this woman had other admirers. I'm just making something up here. Some of these admirers may have gone through an extreme amount of pain when the two of you got married. Their pain comes from their love of the woman. Their love never becomes fulfilled, for example, so they go through hell - maybe for the rest of their lives. So there's so much pain and suffering and hell that comes from human love.
Patrick: That hasn't been my experience, nor any I've ever heard of - outside certain novels.
Kevin: Well, jealousy is very common, isn't it?
Patrick: Oh well, it is certainly common on the television screen, but I don't know if that kind of jealousy happens in the real world.
Kevin: You're not serious?
Patrick: Maybe I've led a very sheltered life. I haven't been aware of people who come and talk to one about their lives, and their problems, and the way the cards are stacked against them. They're constantly telling me that they're living in pain - not from being jilted - but from no one responding to them.
Kevin: No, jealousy is a very definite human emotion.
Patrick: We're not getting support from Keith, so he must . . .
Keith: It's the stuff of Barbara Cartland novels, I know, but the real world's a little different.
Patrick: I know I'm very lucky to have got the wife I did, and there was probably a lot of other fellows who would have liked to . . .
Kevin: I'm sure.
Patrick: I'm not sure . . . I'm not sure they were really breaking their hearts.
Kevin: Well, you don't know this. People have been known to kill themselves over this sort of thing.
Keith: Ah, yes, . . . uhm . . .
Kevin: So, I would put it to you, that this emotional, human love comes from the Devil. By the word "Devil", I mean ignorance. There is no other evil, or Devil, than ignorance itself. So all of these things which are associated with pain and suffering, they're not good, they're not spiritual. They're not associated with spirituality. They can't be. Bad fruit doesn't come from a good tree. Jealousy and pain and separation - the pain of separation when your wife dies . . .
Keith: What are you saying there when you talk about love? Are you talking about this Agape love that we mentioned before?
Kevin: I'm talking about the feeling of love. The feeling of love.
Keith: Yeah, yeah, but we're talking about love. Are we talking about this Agape love that we were talking about before? This thing we give?
Kevin: No. I'm talking about human love.
Keith: Or are we talking about the desire to possess? Now, a lot of what people masquerade as love is, in fact, the desire to possess.
Kevin: Well, I'm talking about the feeling of love.
Keith: Yeah, but you see--
Kevin: Just that. That's all.
Keith: Yeah, but you see--
Kevin: The good feeling. The good feeling of love.
Keith: Yes, but this emotion thing isn't love itself, it's a symptom, isn't it? And it can, in some circumstances, with some people, lead them to desire possessing the object, whether it be a person or a thing. Now, this desire to possess and control creates all those evils you were talking about - and that is what was pointed out by Jesus as being undesirable.
David: Are you saying that a lot of marriages out there don't have this possessive element?
Keith: I think a lot of people in their marriages have a desire to control and possess their partner.
David: But a lot don't?
Keith: A lot don't. They have successful marriages.
David: So if their partner died, they wouldn't grieve at all in the slightest degree?
Keith: I've seen people who've been quite capable of letting go of their marriage partners.
David: No grief. I mean, no grief. If there is truly no possession at all, then there must be no grief in the slightest degree. It would be just like watching a cloud disappear.
Keith: All these things are along the continuum. And what is grief? Grief is frequently--
David: The suffering of a loss.
Keith: The loss of something which you hold dear.
David: Yes, that's right. So that's a possession.
Keith: No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.
Keith: You don't necessarily have to possess something you hold dear. It's just something which you value.
David: Well, you can only lose what you possess.
Keith: No, no, no. We're not losing it.
David: We're having a real difficult time here tonight!
Keith: We're using the word "loss" in different ways.
David: I'm using it in a very, very basic sense. Very, very basic. I mean, you can't lose something you don't possess.
Keith: Okay. The absence of something which you value. Okay, if you want to avoid the word "loss". The absence of something which you value can cause a great deep sense of grief and sense of loss. I'm sure Patrick knows plenty of people who've - and they're mostly women - plenty of people who--
Kevin: Don't love their husbands.
Keith: --have lost their husbands twenty years ago and have lived on quite successfully. There is a sense of loss - there is a sorrow from the fact that the person that they valued enormously is not with them. It's not the reason for abandoning life.
Kevin: Therefore, the pain is intimately associated with the love.
Keith: Of course. If you're going to love, you have to be prepared to accept pain. And if you're not prepared to accept pain, you're not prepared to love.
Kevin: Look at all the bad things come out of pain. Again, I go back to what I said before--
Keith: What about the good things that come out of pain?
Kevin: Bad fruit doesn't--
Keith: What about the good things that come out of pain?
Kevin: --come from a good tree.
Keith: What about the good things that come out of pain? The knowledge that your appendix is falling apart and is going to kill you is given to you by pain. Without pain you will not know that there's something wrong in the state of Denmark.
Kevin: Okay, but there's a difference between physical bodily pain and emotional pain. For example, if I'm burnt by a fire, I get a pain which tells me to pull my hand away from the fire. This is hard-wired into us, if you like. It's part of what we are physically and materially. But the emotional pain is not something we necessarily have to experience. If we don't experience human love, if we don't experience this need, then we never experience the pain.
Keith: Yeah, but if you never experience the pain of rejection, you never discover what a bastard you are, do you?
Kevin: Well, if you are a bastard in the first place--
Keith: Yes. If you are, you're going to have to experience the pain before you discover something about yourself.
Kevin: Well, this is in the case of a person who is not perfect - who is an ordinary, ignorant person. If a person cruises through life without experiencing pain, they're never going to learn anything, it's true.
Keith: That's right.
Kevin: So there is a positive side to pain. But the pain itself comes from ignorance, and the pain itself is also the motivating factor for an awful lot of evil that goes on in the world.
David: Yes, and we are talking about the spiritual path. You two are suggesting that love - in whatever form - is part of the spiritual path, of the highest life there is. We're suggesting that that's not the case. Because all love is ultimately based on the self - love is a selfish thing.
Patrick: We're saying it isn't. We're starting from a God who gives. We say God is love, and God gives, and God so loved His creation that He gave His only begotten Son, knowing that His only begotten Son would go to a cross - and this was built into that pain, it was all part of the love.
Kevin: But you're interpreting that love now as a human love, and not a spiritual love.
Patrick: We're saying that there is a pattern of love that God has shown us, and we, as God's children, would want to try to be like him, if we could.
Kevin: Well, by saying God is love, do you interpret this to mean God is the love that is between husband and wife, or is this love far higher, more lofty?
David: Or completely different?
Kevin: A completely different form of love?
Patrick: I think in the relationship between man and wife - and in the relationship of love in other spheres too - we're reaching out towards that greater love. We are really wanting to have a relationship with God Himself. He gives us a sort of a glimpse of it through our ordinary relationships.
David: Now, again, you two are not claiming wisdom yourself, are you? You're not saying that you are totally wise.
Patrick: We're saying that we have a faith in this God, and this is what we believe about Him.
David: Well, wouldn't it be better, don't you think, to make an all out concerted effort to become wise? To me, it would be dogmatic to assume that wisdom is impossible to a human being. So, our first priority is to actually become wise and then, and only then, can one make judgments about whether love is good or bad.
Patrick: I'm concerned about how you measure this wisdom, and how you know you're wise. You say you're wise, Kevin. How do you know you're wise? What is the measurement? How do you know that you are and I'm not? I'm going back to that old subject again.
Kevin: Reason is the only measuring stick. There is no other measuring stick than reason. That is the answer.
Keith: That's a terribly Renaissance Western European answer to a question which is asked by cultures everywhere. Reason is a nonsense to people in other cultures. They look at it and laugh.
Kevin: It's a nonsense to people in our culture as well.
Keith: Yeah, see, what do you call reason? I mean, it is honestly - this is my Rationalist background coming to the fore here - it honestly is almost impossible to describe.
David: Well, I'll describe it as the burning desire for Truth.
Keith: What is Truth?
David: Knowledge of Ultimate Reality.
Keith: When do you know you've got Truth? Pontius Pilot asked Jesus that question, didn't he? "What is Truth?" And Jesus didn't say anything.
David: Yes, but if Jesus could become wise and understand the Truth--
Keith: And he didn't. He didn't. If he was wise - and I'm assuming for a moment that he was wise - he was wise enough not to answer the question.
Kevin: Not answering it is a form of answer.
Keith: Well, when you remain silent in the face of a question, you're throwing it back to the questioner to validate to themselves the question.
Kevin: It is also an answer.
David: Yes, it communicates something.
Keith: It communicates something more about the validity of the question.
David: Alright. Thanks, we'll have to leave it there. Thanks to Reverend Keith Colbert and Reverend Patrick Doulin. They were parish priests from the Anglican Church.
Kevin: And still are.
David: And still are.
Keith: At least until the Archbishop hears all this tomorrow!
David: If you want to make any comments or write to us - to either Kevin or myself - you can write to this address, it's P.O. Box 207, St Lucia, 4067. That's P.O. Box 207, St Lucia, 4067. Kevin and I will be back next week, where we'll be talking to physicists about the philosophical implications of physics. Until then, we'll see you next week.