Engaging concept of divinity deeply
Thinking About God: Reflections on Conceptions and Misconceptions; Dr. Stephen M. Lampe; Millennium Press; Ibadan; 2014
HAVING penned the classic books, The Christian and Reincarnation, and Building Future Societies: The Spiritual Principles, Stephen Lampe’s new effort comes as a meeting point for atheists, religious fanatics, agnostics, free-thinkers, believers of diverse faiths, and scientists. His aim is to take everyone from the level of mere talking into the sphere of reasoning. The Book’s cover is attractively adorned with the colour purple which in the view-point of those who delve into the radiance and evolving essence of colours is at present seen as an image of lightness. It contains 384 pages and demands from all rational creatures a reappraisal of our conceptions of issues such as earthly sojourn, faith and faithlessness, humanity and Creation in relation to God.
As the author put it, “To get it right about the conception of God is to get it right about everything. It seems obvious that human beings cannot begin to think aright about God if they do not even know their own existence and in the absence of the knowledge of Creation.”
As is apt in moral philosophy, Lampe provides our power of deep thinking and reflection with stand guard and guidance. His ambitious objectives form our guard and can be summed up as “To encourage individual spiritual contemplation, provide greater reflection about and deepen our understanding of God, and how He relates to us creatures; also to develop conviction about both what it means to be human and what the purpose of earthly sojourn is.” Our guide is clearly deduced from Lampe’s declaration. “I can embark on writing a book of this scope and depth only because of my good fortune in coming across and recognizing the unique significance of the work, In the Light of Truth: The Grail Message by Abd-ru-shin, civil name Oscar Ernst Bernhardt (1875-1941). ‘The Grail Message’ is a unique source of knowledge that, in my view, is absolutely essential for truth seekers, regardless of current beliefs or unbeliefs.”
With our guard and guide presented, where then in our great expectation of an unusual reading lies the author’s personal input? Perchance his names that speak volumes have the answer; his first name readily brings to the minds of theologians the Biblical namesake noted for fearlessness, simplicity, and a genuine concern for humankind’s spiritual fate. The second name means lamp in the German language and stands for a device for giving light or producing radiation for specific purposes.
Contemplating the Book’s arresting stand-point
Lampe’s immediate and rousing call is objective. “Those who call themselves believers in God need continually to clarify the nature and content of their beliefs for clear elaboration of what concepts of God the believer has. Ditto ‘serious-minded and well-intentioned atheists and agnostics’ should review and ascertain, from time to time, the reasons for their unbelief. They should want to know if wrong conceptions of God hitherto presented to them might be responsible for their position.” From quotes used as opener, ‘The truth is incontrovertible…’ – Winston Churchill and ‘The right to search for truth implies also a duty…’ – Albert Einstein.
Lampe goes on to put forward outright his stance on God. “It is wrong to presume that religions necessarily reflect the true Will of God. Any attempt to think about God relying exclusively on religions will very likely lead to false conceptions, and I have already pointed out the tendency unfairly, to ascribe to God the problems that are of religion’s making.” His stance could ruffle many people’s feathers due to the beliefs and views that they hold dear without examining the veracity. Perchance this is likely to be a controversial book, regardless, everyone simply must read it – the book contains all the rights and wrongs of mankind’s views on God.
The Book’s subject-matter
The introduction subtly leads the reader to chapter one, an overview of the complete reasoning in the book which is given with great skill. This introductory chapter whets one’s appetite for a detailed revelation of engaging topics like: ‘The Human Being and Human Purpose ‘, ‘Creation and Subsequent Creation ‘, ‘The Will of God ‘, ‘Beyond the Scriptural Portrayal of God ‘, as well as, ‘The Omniscience of God ‘, ‘The Love and Justice of God ‘, ‘Making sense of the Trinity ‘, Praying and Prayers ‘, ‘God and Miracles ‘, and ‘God and the Problem of Evil ‘.
In 17 chapters, these topics and more are discussed in an uncommon manner which sustains one’s interest and curiosity. No doubt, the strength of methodology of the book is a blend of the unusual revelations and essential concern to illumine every mind.
Pertinent questions raised and answered by Lampe are compelling. Some are: ‘How would we know realities beyond the grasp of the human brain? Is it the case that the physical body is only the outermost cloak of an essence that is called spirit or soul that is beyond the possibility of probing by Science? Is God “in heaven” or is He everywhere as implied by the literal meaning of the word “omnipresent”? How did evil come into the work of a perfect Creator? What does this Free Will entail? What is Intuition? Where is “the Beyond” in relation to the physical space all around us? What sustains evil in our world?’
Lampe’s strong arguments against the misconceptions of God reveal a string of incisive points of view. The following extracts give food for thought. ‘Only those whose beliefs are shaky and whose motives are impure employ violence and other vile means.’
‘ God is portrayed in some books of the Bible as one who was only concerned with the weal and woes of Israel. Such confused portrayal provides ammunition for atheists and shake the faith of thoughtful believers. To think aright about God one must seek beyond traditional scriptures.’ ‘It is a mistake to think that everything is possible with God. He cannot contradict Himself!’ ‘God does not punish! Neither does He threaten and tempt. He is also presumed to punish people for the sins of their parents and grandparents, which does not sound like, and is not, Justice!’ ‘If we were as intuitive as we should be there would be no arguments regarding life after death and the existence of God.’ ‘The concept of God loses its significance for all those who overuse the word and for them it is as if God does not really exist, contrary to what they imagine.’ ‘Only careful weighing and examining of the old and whatever new teachings one comes across leads to genuine conviction. And with genuine conviction comes the abilities really to embrace whatever is true regardless of its source.’
Uncovering Lampe’s new ground
His expostulations on the new knowledge are in effect an exposition of their advantages and not only underline Lampe’s convictions; they also seem to form the underlying reason for the book. Clearly his style of argument in affirming God and the laws of Creation is not so much fanatical as pertinacious. The following excerpts summarize his firm stand.
• ‘The Laws of Creation, for our purpose, may be discussed as the following inter-related and complementary Laws: The Law of Movement; The Law of Reciprocal Action; The Law of Attraction of Homogeneous Species; The Law of Spiritual Gravity and The Law of Balance.’
• When individuals or groups deviate from these Laws of Creation, they invite chaos and confusion, as is the case today in much of the world.’
• ‘The truth is that some”fruits” we now harvest, whether they are good or bad, were planted in some distant past, in previous earth-lives. On the other hand, some”seeds” we are now sowing may not be ready for harvest until a distant future, in the Beyond, or in another earth-life.’
• ‘God did not create hell…the beautiful and hellish sections of the Beyond arose out of the volition of human beings exercising their Free Will rightly or wrongly. We may also note that we encounter forms of hell right here on earth.’
• ‘To wish the Soul of a departed person eternal rest is really to curse it!’
• ‘A cycle is closed with each receiving, whereas we start a new cycle whenever we give. For these reasons, it is always better, more blessed, to give than to receive.’
• ‘Since God does not need anything, it follows that He certainly does not need our tithes and donation. To think such contributions are for God is delusional and blasphemous.’
• ‘Those who believe that Jesus died as a sacrificial lamb to carry away our sins are for this – (the one who sowed the seed must reap it) and many other reasons mistaken. He came to teach us the true Will of God, His Father.’
• ‘These days, many who consider themselves sophisticated have turned the intellect into an idol and given it free rein and even doubt the existence of the Spirit…With the domination of the intellect, man could no longer understand what is beyond the earthly concept of space and time, which amounts to his severance from spirituality, from the real Paradise.’
• ‘Evil can only be wiped out and will be vanquished through the mechanism of the Laws of Creation and not through any arbitrary actions on the part of, or imputed to God.’ For, arbitrariness is unknown and alien to God. His Laws have been perfect from the very beginning. It is these Laws which are the expression of His Will that He uses to govern His entire Creation, which is why no one, no matter his station in life, is spared in the effects of their application! Ignorance about this and by implication non-observance of this Will manifesting in His Laws, is what has turned our world upside down and plunged it into chaos and confusion we are experiencing today.
• ‘Our urgent task and the greatest favour we can do ourselves is to keep our thoughts pure and to develop a strong volition to understand and to do the Will of God in everything and at all times. By so doing, we would be guided to meet our earthly needs (not wants) and to fulfil our spiritual purpose.’
A Straightforward Survey
The merits of the book are quite obvious. It is an illuminating work that should clarify views on God that are all jumbled up in many a mind. Lampe’s endeavour to set the record straight is commendable; ditto his candour in the objections to some age-long views. By thinking about God, he goes much more further than the millions who pray to, talk of, praise, or deny God without ever really reflecting about Him. The book makes light, interesting reading, being clear and definite. It offers avenues to elaborate on the theme with the 45 intriguing references provided.
Obviously in good faith, Lampe digresses on few occasions from the main topic into varied areas that though are of interest, may not easily be assimilated or apprehended by readers that fall within the group of those who are concerned only with the material world or physical necessity, and to whom Money is the god.
The author’s analysis of the self-imposed obstacles to World Peace – the rampant materialism of modern society, shows great perception and critics plus the provoked will not but admire Lampe’s use of appropriate examples to buttress points and support views. Whoever examines the book and claims not to gain immensely by acquiring a clear concept of God is advised to reread it with an unprejudiced mind and the book will transform into a wonderland. It is a collector’s item in its brilliant defence of God and students of theology, philosophy of religion and ethics will find it an invaluable source of information.
• Laniyan is co-ordinator, Ephesus Literary Bureau, Ota, Ogun State, Nigeria