Essay Archives View as a list
3 September 2015: Windsor, England – A Confrontation Over the Meaning of Resurrection
On one stop near the end of my lecture tour of Europe during this summer, I confronted a person whose question drove me back to the series I had been developing in this column about what the Bible actually says about the resurrection of Jesus. It thus helped me to re-orient myself to the discussion …
27 August 2015: Engaging the Established Presbyterian Church of Scotland
“Resurrection-Denying Preacher to Return to Scotland.” That was the headline of a story published in the Glasgow Herald about a week before I was scheduled to lecture in the Cairns Church in Milngavie, a constituent member of the established Presbyterian Church of Scotland. The Senior Pastor of that church, the Rev. Andrew Frater, together with …
In First Corinthians 15:3 Paul says, “He died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures.” While I believe the doctrine of substitutionary atonement has warped Christian teaching at least since St. Anselm. I see that this statement of Paul’s forms a reasonable basis for it.
What do you think Paul had in mind in writing these words?
20 August 2015: Paris in the Spring – Part II, The Book Launch
We continue today the chronicle of how my books came to be published in French. In Part I, I described how the translator and the publisher came together. Today I want to look at what happened after that connection was made. With the help of stories in magazines such as Evangele & Liberte and Le …
Since and shortly before retiring from corporate life some 15 years ago, I have read prolifically...attending to certain subjects, previously far removed from my radar...eastern faiths, Christianity, evolution and philosophy. From Osho to Camus, CS Lewis to Tolstoy, Alan Watts to Einstein, John P. Meier to Marcus Borg, Pascal to Voltaire and countless others in between. In recent weeks I have come upon and then devoured your book Why Christianity Must Change or Die. It is clear to me that this book is the singularly most important book of all that came before it. This is to thank you profoundly for giving voice to my own thoughts which troubled me, but could not be fleshed out as vividly and convincingly as you have done.
Throughout my personal journey of “Awakening,” I’ve maintained a list of phrases and life-lessons which most resonated. The words are perhaps 20% my own, 40% paraphrased and 40% direct plagiarizing. The most recent entries (not in chronological sequence here) are from your text and serve to remind and encourage me and all readers that human evolution is still underway, especially as regards to the Christian faith and particularly how today we can view, admire, worship and give eternal thanks to the Nazarene for his teachings and perhaps most of all for his example. I am forever in your debt sir.
13 August 2015: Paris in the Late Spring: Part I, A Publication
Imagine waking up on your birthday in Paris, France. It is mid-June, the air is fresh, and the sun is warm. You can smell the croissants baking. You are in the company of your wife, the person with whom you share your life so completely and with whom you are still deeply in love. That …
6 August 2015: Understanding Ireland’s Vote Approving Same-Sex Marriage
Her name is Muriel. She is the 86 year-old widow of an Irish farmer living near the city of Kilkenny in the southern part of the Irish Republic. She is the mother of seven children, six sons and one daughter. Her youngest son, Peter, now runs the family’s cattle farm, making this family’s economic life …
I wanted to let you know how much your books and writings have meant to me over the years. I promised my mom, a very devout Catholic, on her death bed that I would not give up on God even though so much of what I have always been taught has been along the lines of fantastical stories that seemed so hard to swallow. Thinking, probing or studying has felt much like the scene from The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy gets to peek behind the curtain at the Wizard…so disappointing! I am trying to give my children something they can cling to for hope in times of sadness or struggle in their lives, but they are now far too educated to take literal church teaching seriously. I believe the answers are unknowable, but I think that physicists are close to getting a glimpse and I think you too, are on the right track and to borrow a biblical metaphor, I see you as a courageous voice of truth in the wilderness. Keep on keeping on.
30 July 2015: Thoughts on Baptizing Chapman Thomas Brinegar
This past summer in a lovely chapel quite literally on the coast of Maine, I had the pleasure of baptizing Chapman Thomas Brinegar. A baptism is something I hardly ever do as a bishop, but this baby was the son of very close friends, making my participation in it possible. I used the baptismal liturgy …
My name is Sharan Melters. I am a Dutchman, 67 years old, married and living in Haarlem, a small city near Amsterdam. I studied psychology and philosophy at the University of Amsterdam. After finishing my studies, I worked for 40 years as a teacher at the University of Rotterdam (Hogeschool of Rotterdam). Among other things, I taught the students about violence, love relationships and child abuse, which are my areas of expertise.
Let me explain why I am writing this letter to you. After a so-called “near death experience,” I embraced a spiritual religious perspective and started to read as many of the books about the subject as I possibly could, including yours.
I think it is a pity that relatively few of my fellow Dutchmen are acquainted with your work. I am motivated to change this situation by translating your books into our language. In the meantime, I finished the translation of Why Christianity Must Change or Die, and A New Christianity for a New World. Before I started to study your writings, I translated Melissa Rafael, The Female Face of God in Auschwitz and John Hospes, An Introduction to Philosophical Analysis.
I hope that you will appreciate and encourage my effort to enlighten the Dutch public with your post-rational inspiring reading of the Jesus story. In the meantime, it would be dishonest to keep silence about the fact that I struggled a lot with your point of view concerning evil (A New Christianity for a New World, pages 166-170). Please let me explain. You wrote, “So evil needs to be embraced and transformed as part of our quest for wholeness.” It startled me to read this and I did not understand your motivation. Embracing child abuse to become whole? Embracing the Holocaust to become whole? It is difficult to digest your opinion about this matter. But maybe I misunderstood. You would do me a favor writing a response to this letter of mine.
In this column, I turn to the Fourth Gospel to complete our journey through the New Testament. Our purpose has been to see what the New Testament really says about the resurrection of Jesus. When we examine the biblical texts in a thorough manner, we discover, sometimes to our astonishment, that what the Bible actually …
I am a relatively new Progressive Christian. I was raised in a fundamentalist church, but realized at the age of eight (sixty years ago) that something was not right. As a curious child, I attended a catechism with a Catholic school friend. When the minister of my church learned this from my parents, he chastised me in front of the whole Sunday congregation. This was not right and even at that early age I knew that. I never wanted anything to do with religion for many years. However, in my thirties, I stumbled on to the Unity Movement, which is where I first heard of you. I know that you are aware of this movement.
In my family, I have a Jewish sister-in-law and her daughter. The sister-in-law is, I guess, what is called “orthodox,” but the daughter is what she described to me as a “Messianic Jew,” one who believes Jesus was the messiah. Trying to understand them enough to get along can be trying because many times they can’t even get along. One thing I don’t feel comfortable asking either of them is: “Why are the Jews known as God’s chosen people?” Many people in this country seem to defend Israel and their actions simply because of this statement. Is it simply because the Jewish priests in the biblical days declared it to be so? I have tried to do some research but come away confused.
It was a brutal murder of nine people in an AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. The victims, including their pastor, who was also a member of the South Carolina State Senate, were gunned down by a racist killer who wrapped himself in the symbols and rhetoric of the Confederacy. This was not America’s first …
I have followed with great interest your series of articles on the Gospel according to Matthew, in which you set out your understanding and interpretation of the metaphors and biblical references within this gospel. I find your arguments entirely convincing.
As I understand what you are saying, your understanding is that this story was originally written to be read by people who were familiar with the Jewish Bible, and who could as a consequence understand Matthew’s references and his symbols. Our later “traditional” and “literalized” interpretations of the gospels have, in contrast, provided us with a very simple, story, but one that is no longer literally believable. Matthew’s narrative, however, sets out a clear objective within a simple story line. It was therefore, easy to respond to a non-believer’s question with a clear answer in a few brief sentences.
In contrast, the new way of reading the gospels appears to demand that the reader bring much thoughtfulness and insight to the task. There does not seem any longer to be an explanation which can be summed up with any brevity or which lends itself to such powerful images as the traditional story.
My question then is this: Is it still possible to tell this new story with the simplicity and boldness of the traditional gospel reading or should we approach this task differently and, if so, how might this be? Or am I missing some point?
“Ideas Have Consequences.” That was the title of a book that I was required to read early in my theological education. It was not a profound book, but its title was memorable. We speak today about how certain decisions often produce what we call “unintended consequences.” The world of politics is filled with illustrations of …
I wondered if you would be kind enough to comment on the related abuse both of women and of children. One person, defending this behavior, quoted the Bible in justification for his abusive action. In a very informed article in the New York Times, Dr. Dyson touched on the religious aspect of abuse. I would like to hear your response.
2 July 2015: An Open Letter to My Readers
This week, my column takes the form of a letter to my readers. It is an unusual format, but it speaks to the unusual occurrences in our nation this past week. I hope you will read it. I hope you will respond to it. JSS Dear Friends, I am just back from a lecture tour …
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