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20 October 2016: Bishop Spong and My Painting
I am really not comfortable writing this article. There is a sense I am writing an obituary and nothing could be further from the truth. Bishop Spong is a beloved friend and he is apparently doing well in his recovery. I suppose I am a little nervous knowing that he will be reading what I …
13 October 2016: Thanks to Bishop Spong
Have you ever been pressured by friends or family to buy into today’s modern evangelical spin on Christianity? Or, have you ever been pressured not to share the latest scientific discoveries or academic scholarship for fear of disrupting the simple faith of others? As a child I was sent to Christian school and bible study …
Dear Faithful Readers: Bishop Spong is now home in New Jersey and continues to recuperate from his stroke. Until he is back to his writing we will continue to publish Weekly Essays, some from his treasure trove of past essays and some from guest authors. This week we are pleased to offer you this article …
Hearing you in public and reading your wisdom inspires me to reconsider my Christian upbringing in a more progressive way, thank you.
The Cross, an instrument of death, repels me as a barbaric way to symbolize Christianity. Were a modern day Jesus or a female equivalent to die from gunfire, would it be appropriate for the resulting places of worship to feature guns on top of their buildings, for religious leaders to wear guns around their neck, for the guns to be featured in earrings and other accessories, all for honoring the new messiah?
29 September 2016: Charting a New Reformation, Part XXXVII – Thesis #11, Life After Death (continued), Survival is the Essence of Life
It was in the Amazon rain forest that I first discovered just how deeply survival dominates every living thing. Sunlight and water are the prizes which guarantee the survival of plant life. So in that rain forest I saw vines that would snake across the forest floor until they came to the darkest part of …
Perhaps this letter has been gestating for some time. One day several years ago, my doctor (a devout Jew) asked me if I thought Jesus was the “real” son of God. My answer (as I awaited the bolt from heaven) was that no, I thought that his life was of such astounding wholeness that people designated him that way.
Then came your support/endorsement of Gretta Vosper (then I read her books). I’d read your book, A New Christianity for a New World, as soon as it came out. Then came your discussion in your weekly articles calling for a new reformation and Bingo! I was not crazy or a heretic. I have never believed that God would come down and heal one person because of an abundance of someone’s incessant prayers. Why heal one and not another? Why stave off a storm from one location and have it afflict another? Why are these and so many other things attributed to God? Well you gave voice to all my thoughts and doubts. I understand what you are saying about the new liturgies to encompass these new insights and I can’t wait. BUT, what are we to do in the meantime? Most prayers invoke a God who doesn’t act in that way, but I am still called to prayer.
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 …
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.
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 …
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?
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 …
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.
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 …
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.
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 …
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
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 …
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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