REDEEMING CHRISTIAN CONCEPTS

Jacob Needleman – in (excellent) conversation with Dean Alan Jones, here
a

CHRISTOPHER PAGE at In a spacious place wrote yesterday of Jacob Needleman, Professor of philosophy for 5 decades at San Francisco State University

It is not necessary to agree with every aspect of Needleman’s reading of Christian doctrines. The important thing is to see that there may be other ways of looking at some key Christian concepts. Rather than tossing the doctrine, it may be possible to understand it in a new way.

Perhaps most important Needleman suggests two reasons it is difficult for so many people to open to the possibility of seeing Christian concepts in this transformative way.

First, Needleman suggests that in order to see through religious language to the deeper meaning to which the language points, “One has to treat religious language as one would treat a person: you have to learn to listen to what someone is really saying.”

Second, Needleman warns that “To peek behind the wall of language does take some maturity and experience.” So he says, if the concepts of a mystical text seem incomprehensible, or even offensive,

you may need to go live a little more and come back later. It can’t be explained to you any more than music can be explained to you. I can show you melodies and chords and talk about music theory, but that’s not going to enable you to grasp Mozart. The same goes for the deep feeling that connects you to God.

The deeper things of life require patience and time to germinate in the depths of our being. If we allow our reactivity to certain surface irritants in the concepts or language, we risk missing the depth and mystery the spiritual traditions hold for us.