Theology Thursdays: Pre-Destination and Self Determination... The Reason For The Hope That Is Within Me - Part II (November 11, 2006)
How many of us really know or understand what we are saying when we state that we are ‘trying to find our purpose,’ or what ‘we were born to do?’ Whether one believes in God, a Supreme Being, or a Creator or not, does not negate the fact that 1) none of us made ourselves physically and 2) none of us is born with the conscious understanding of the anatomy and physiology of our bodies, or the ability to explain our inner workings to others. This requires time and the help of others. Through learning – conversation, observation, reading and experiencing – we all (Atheist, Agnostic, and Believer) grow into varying levels of the knowledge of self.
This knowledge of self is manifold – biological, historical, genetic, spiritual and emotional, for instance – the complete essence of which constitutes the nature of our being.
So when we speak of our selves or “I,” and in terms of purpose, we must realize we are getting into a very complicated subject, which requires great care.
In Ezekiel 37, and Surah 36: 78-79 of the Holy Qur’an we see a picture of hopelessness among the people and how it is addressed by the “Creator” or “Lord.” The implication or interpretation that one could gain from these passages is that the ultimate hope of the human being lies in his or her understanding or realization that the purpose of their existence precedes them in the very mind of the Supreme Being.
For those who don’t believe in such a process or Being, the dynamic is not totally dissimilar; after all, most would generally agree that existence precedes awareness, and knowledge, and most certainly understanding and wisdom. Remember, wisdom is the right use of the understanding of knowledge. This only takes place over time.
So, one way or another, we all are dependent upon a Creator or creative process that occurred in the past and which results in our manifest existence in the present. In that form of dependence we are not self-sufficient. No one can deny this, whether they deny a Supreme Being or not.
The individual - either one who believes in "God", or who does not accept or deny the existence of a Deity, most certainly is aware of themselves to one degree or another, and although many will argue over the meaning of purpose, and how it relates to rationality and the reasoning process, it is very difficult for anyone to deny that over time, each one of us, comes into knowledge and insights regarding our own make-up, compares ourselves with others, and develops a value system.
Through these three things: a knowledge of our physical being, our relationships to others, and what we believe is right, wrong, good, bad or most suitable to circumstance; we determine what it is we should or should not be doing at any moment in time. We all deal with purpose in that we live in the past, present and future in our existence, realizations, objectives and intentions. There is no getting around that, regardless of our worldviews.
Generally speaking, most of us think of purpose in an individual sense, less in terms of a collective sense, and probably a smaller group of us think of purpose in terms of the best relationship between the individual and the collective.
Think of this in terms of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and the Black experience in America.
Did this event of enormous magnitude have a purpose? And, can it give purpose?
The Holy Qur’an states in Surah 38 verse 27, “And We created not the heaven and the earth and what is between them in vain…” One of the meanings of ‘vain’ is that which has no real value or deep significance. In Surah 90 verse 4 we read, “ And We have certainly created man to face difficulties.” In Hebrews 5 verses 8 to 10, we read, “Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.”
In the scriptures, a massive slave trade and slavery experience is pictured. One can read about it, in part in the Book of Joel - in the second and third chapters - and throughout the book of Exodus. It was predicted, before it occurred in the 15th Chapter of Genesis, in the 13th and 14th verses. It involves a people who endure almost unimaginable suffering, at the hands of an evil tyrant and nation. In the book of Exodus, the wickedly wise leader is called Pharaoh. But what was Pharaoh’s purpose or the purpose of his existence, and what was the same of the great nation he led which was most responsible for the suffering of the Children of Israel?
According to Exodus 9: 13-16 (bold emphasis mine): “13 Then the LORD said to Moses, "Get up early in the morning, confront Pharaoh and say to him, 'This is what the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me, 14 or this time I will send the full force of my plagues against you and against your officials and your people, so you may know that there is no one like me in all the earth. 15 For by now I could have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with a plague that would have wiped you off the earth. 16 But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”
One of the greatest paradoxes of life is the purpose of suffering. These verses and others make that apparent. All of which are instructive to interpreting why Blacks have gone through what they have over the last 400 plus years.
I have yet to get into the deeper meaning of the name of this website, BlackElectorate.com. Much of it revolves around the second word, “Electorate.” I have two definitions of that word in mind: one ‘political’ and one ‘spiritual.’
The spiritual definition can be found in numerous verses, studied together. Of these verses, some that are particularly important are Romans 9:11 and 11:28; Matthew 24:22; Matthew 24:31; 1 Peter 1:1-2; and Romans 11:7. How all of these verses relate to the following verse – Romans 8:28–30 – gets to the heart of BlackElectorate.com:, “28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.”
The connection between these verses, the purpose of this website, and pre-destination and self-determination can be found in 2 Peter 1:10 which reads (bold emphasis is mine), "Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall,"
So where does self-determination as individuals and Black people fit, in a worldview that accepts pre-destination and election? Well, just as we all are born and become aware of our existence and nature over time – becoming conscious of what took place before we consciously realized it – we also, whether we accept a Divine purpose for the suffering, contribution and history of our people, are born into a collective context. And all of us are faced with making a decision of how we are going to interpret and understand our past and present condition and how we will behave regarding it, in the future.
That is where free-will and determination comes in. The overwhelming and vast majority will have the power to accept or reject any interpretation or understanding of the past and present, for most of our lives. How we decide what meaning we will hold fast to, and what intentions and objectives will guide our view of the future, is for the most part, a decision we make. Even in the worst of situations, we have that power.
Anyone who carefully studies the suffering, endurance, attitude and thinking of many enslaved Blacks and Jewish holocaust survivors, for instance, will realize this. The same can be said of many of those who are imprisoned or afflicted by serious illness, but who maintain a positive mental attitude and outlook.
If we as a global Black elect or electorate would properly re-conceptualize our view of suffering and its purpose, in the individual and collective lives of our people – in the past, present, and future, we would replace much of our hopelessness, sarcasm, doubt, self-hatred, and lack of trust in one another. It also would be a precursor to us taking back what was stripped of us in slavery (which we are still groping to recover) – our individual and collective will power and belief in ourselves.
If we would only understand how our history suggests the outworking of a Divine plan, or how our suffering and contribution qualifies us for personal, community, national, and global leadership we would have the ability to synthesize our separate worldviews and critiques of Black life which divide us more than empower, inform and unite us.
I frequently refer to I Peter 3:15 which reads (bold emphasis is mine), “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,” I try to live by these verses in public and private.
There are more detailed reasons that I could give, for ‘the hope’ that is within me, but it all boils down to two concepts, pre- destination and self-determination. In these two principles and capacities, lie the power of Black people to completely rise from not only our current circumstance, but any scenario we may find ourselves.
What is the reason for the hope or lack thereof within you?
Thursday, March 22, 2007