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22 September 2016: Charting a New Reformation, Part XXXVI – Thesis #11, Life After Death

“The traditional understanding of life after death in Western Christianity was created on the premise of human uniqueness. Human beings were understood to be a special creation, made in the image of God, and endowed with an eternal soul. That perspective has not only been challenged, but destroyed by modern scholarship. Charles Darwin showed us …

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Q & A:

Teach me to pray. I have read Why Christianity Must Change or Die and it has been a great help to me as I could never get my head around the Bible. For the last 30 years I have followed faithfully eight of the Ten Commandments. When I become angry I sometimes swear and, like your book explains, I think the Fourth Commandment has never been followed.

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15 September 2016: Charting a New Reformation, Part XXXV – Thesis #10, Prayer (concluded)

Before prayer can be made real our understanding of God, coupled with our understanding of how the world works, must be newly defined. Before prayer can have meaning, it must be built on an honest sharing of life. Cornelia, the woman about whom I wrote last week, did that for me. Before prayer can be …

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Q & A:

I am a member of a United Methodist Church in Wheaton, Illinois. Over the years, I have taught many adult classes and would, in that process, include many of Bart Ehrman’s offerings in the Great Courses series. Currently, my class has six sessions of his course: After the New Testament: The Writings of the Apostolic Fathers, remaining and I had planned to present these this coming fall. I received a call from our Director of Care Minister, who is the scheduler for adult classes. She asked me to cancel this class because some persons, (unknown to me), but who are not members of the class, had complained about it. Earlier our senior pastor had mentioned to me that I should be “sensitive” to others’ feelings about this class and presumably, about Bart Ehrman,

My question: What is your professional opinion about the credibility and qualifications of Professor Bart Ehrman and what is your opinion about his scholarship as evidenced in his books and in his Great Courses classes?

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8 September 2016: Charting a New Reformation, Part XXXIV – Thesis #10, Prayer (continued), Prayer is Being not Doing

Prayer does not bring a theistic God to our aid. It does not protect us from danger, sickness or death. Life confronts us with the truth of that reality time after time. What then is prayer? Is it anything more than pious smoke and mirrors? I think it is, but before I could see that …

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Q & A:

How do you deal with the question that the universe is so old compared to our recent appearance on the scene? We seem to be very late in God’s creation. Secondly, if God loves all of us indiscriminately, why was there no great desire to communicate “His” words to all from the very beginning? Perhaps God has spoken to us all – to all cultures and we just need to look and come together to best “work out our own salvation.” I would appreciate your views.

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1 September 2016: Charting a New Reformation, Part XXXIII – Thesis #10, Prayer

“Prayer, understood as a request made to an external, theistic deity, to act in human history, is little more than an hysterical attempt to turn the holy into the service of the human. Most of our prayer definitions arise out of the past and are thus dependent on an understanding of God that no longer …

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Q & A:

I thoroughly connect with your developing New Reformation series which nicely builds on your book A New Christianity for a New World. It also parallels my own faith development. I am a lay Christian worship and discussion leader as well as an amateur poet. My recent book, Psalms for our Days, available on Amazon.com, is softly informed by my progressive, expanded sense of God, which you characterize as that “ambiguous, God-shaped hole.”

Recently a friend gave me John D. Caputo’s new book, The Folly of God, which details in dense a-theological verbiage your Reformation arguments. You speak of experiencing God with an evolving sense of awe, but without being able to describe God with “human language that…itself becomes symbolic, pointing to the illusion of truth, while no longer able to contain it” and to religious leaders, who search for the security of certainty, which always turns out to be just another bit of idolatry.” Caputo calls this (Ch. 9) the inspiration for “theopoetics,” a figurative (poetic) means to express with finite language what happens to us within the ineffable “Kingdom of God.” It is strange that you two contemporaries never reference each other’s discussions. I have been struck that many of my “contemporary psalms” serendipitously address many theopoetic Christian concepts.

I am hoping that your Reformation series will continue to help inform me as I prepare to lead a class on the first few steps of “Living in the Kingdom of God.” I’ll be addressing folks in my Lutheran congregation, who have not yet embraced the “laborious work of probing the ambiguous symbols of our faith story for new meanings.” Defining that bridge from the existing creeds and familiar doctrines toward more contemporary, meaningful concepts of life lived with an unconditional God, is a challenging undertaking. Most of my good Christian friends are neither poets nor theologians, but many have implicitly dismissed the orthodox God from their everyday reality as I have. Thanks for the way you strive for clarity along the path over this bridge.

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25 August 2016: Charting a New Reformation, Part XXXII– The Ninth Thesis, Ethics (concluded)

One of my favorite phrases, “Time makes ancient good uncouth,” comes from the poet, James Russell Lowell. No words capture for me quite so well the plight of ancient codes of law like the Ten Commandments. We still, however, have to make decisions in a complex world. How are we to do that? In this …

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Q & A:

With all the information available today, why can’t biblical scholars deduce, as you do Bishop Spong, that the New Testament writings are interpretive based on Jewish writings and on traditions? Why don’t they do the comparisons between the Old Testament writings to the writings of the gospel writers

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18 August 2016: Charting a New Reformation, Part XXXI– The Ninth Thesis, Ethics (continued)

Let me review the path we have walked thus far. We have exploded the myth found in the idea that the Ten Commandments or any other ancient code of law has been, or was dictated by God. This insight also proclaims that our laws always arise out of the common experience of the people. We …

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Q & A:

Your lectures at Bay View, Michigan, in 2004 and 2008 were life changing for my wife and me. Instead of joining the church alumni association, we are now members of the local Universal Unitarian Church. We have read nearly all of your books and look forward to your weekly emails. I have two questions about biblical names that my local theological mentors haven’t been able to help me with.

1. Why has the English-speaking church stuck with the Greek translation of Jesus’ name rather than the English translation of Joshua?

2. Joshua, Jesus’ namesake from the scriptures, was the epitome of obedience; further there is no mention of Joshua having a wife, nor is there any parental information. Wouldn’t this make Joshua the perfect name for the messiah and perhaps explain the lack of information on the marital state of Jesus?

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11 August 2016: The Unlikely Honored Guest at the Democratic National Convention

He was seated in the VIP box at the Democratic National Convention, held during the last week of July, 2016, in Philadelphia. He was surrounded in that reserved and exclusive seating area by the power-elite of the Democratic Party: A former President, the sitting Vice-President and the “second lady,” the spouses and children of the …

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Q & A:

I am from Mexico and I would like to know your opinion about Liberation Theology. Do you think that this theology is still an inspiration for the struggle against the social injustice?

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4 August 2016: Charting a New Reformation, Part XXX – The Ninth Thesis, Ethics (continued)

We have thus far relativized the mythical claims made for the code by which the people of Israel claimed to live, by noting that even the Bible reveals confusion about the source of the Ten Commandments. These laws clearly grew out of the common life of the people over a long period of time. They …

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Q & A:

I have read and appreciated several of your books and continue to read and ponder your articles. Based on the Twelve Theses that you are developing, I fail to understand what is left of “Christianity” that merits it calling it by that name. I accept the eight Points of Progressive Christianity and do think a reformation is needed. I am an Episcopalian, confirmed in the early 1960s and though I have difficulty with literal interpretations, I do cherish the liturgy, music and message. As a post-graduate in engineering, I respect science; accepting the theories of the “big bang,” evolution, etc. I am also aware of the struggle of the early Christians in reaching an orthodoxy and the later influence of imperial Rome on Christianity. It is the old conflict faith vs. science and I harbor both beliefs leading to a great deal of angst. My inadequate solution is to compartmentalize into rational and spiritual “boxes” to stay calm and carry on. Your Twelve Theses have added weight to one of the “boxes” and increased the angst. Do help me understand if one accepts your Twelve Theses, discounting a God, Jesus, prayer, life after death, etc., why would there be a need to hold on to the term Christianity unless it is as a bridge or point of departure? What remains of Christianity that isn’t already covered in the philosophy of ethics and morality? I am confused.

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28 July 2016: Charting a New Reformation, Part XXIX – The Ninth Thesis, Ethics (continued)

One of the ways the demise of yesterday’s religious power can be determined is to notice that things, once held to be ultimately sacred, now appear in jokes that cause people not only to laugh, but also to deal with the loss of the security of yesterday’s religious symbols at the same time. When James …

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Q & A:

I’ve just started reading your book Re-Claiming the Bible for a Non-Religious World and I’m finding it to be fascinating. I’ve always suspected that the Bible was a combination of folklore and revisionist history. Could you tell me how it is that you found that the virgin birth, the miracles and the ascension were all added 70-100 years later? Do you believe Jesus was the son of God or do you believe that this assertion was the product of years of embellishment? If you believe him to be the son of God, then do you think it’s possible that there were other sons and perhaps daughters of God?

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21 July 2016: ELIE WIESEL 1928-2016 R.I.P.

He changed the conscience of the entire world, yet he never held a public office. Even Nelson Mandela, perhaps the only other 20th century figure to move the world as deeply as Elie Wiesel did, finally achieved political power and served as the president of his nation, newly born out of intense racial strife. Wiesel …

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Q & A:

If developments in how we understand the way the world works means the death of theism and other theological revolutions, what does this mean for the welfare of those millions of Christians in the past who have believed on the basis of false concepts and beliefs?

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