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23 April 2015: “Resurrection” A Reality or a Pious Dream? Part I

On Easter Sunday, a couple of weeks ago now, I was in my parish church, St. Peter’s in Morristown, New Jersey. I was not alone. Into that church, at one of its four Easter services, came about 300 % more people than we normally would have on a regular Sunday morning. I have no reason …

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Q & A:

For many years, I have been in the process of trying to preserve my Christian heritage on the one hand and on the other conflicted by the many absurdities of Christian mythology. As a stubborn seeker, scientist and psychiatrist, it has been my joy to find my beliefs summarized in your life's work, which I am thoroughly reviewing and studying.

You have given me new hope and it is my mission to use science to provide a grounded base for hope. I find in you a kindred soul which is helping me write the song I will leave behind for my loved ones still in the delusional denial of life's existential anxieties by holding onto myths that they truly don't believe.

I wish you Pacce e Benne, peace and goodness, the ancient traditional Franciscan blessing and I look forward to further discourses with you and meeting you personally. 

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16 April 2015: Prejudice: An American Reality and an American Tragedy

It is time that we as a nation stop pretending and face the facts as they are. The evidence is overwhelming. Despite concentrated efforts to perfume intolerance under code words like “states’ rights,” “voter fraud,” “conservative values” and even “religious freedom,” this country is still caught in a web of ancient prejudices. In our public …

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Q & A:

I have read in a number of places that the books in the New Testament were not written by the people named. Is this true? Were the actual authors of Matthew, Mark, and the other gospels among the twelve disciples of Jesus? 

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9 April 2015: Part XLVII Matthew: The Meaning of the Passion opens into the Meaning of Resurrection

The drama of the cross races towards its conclusion. It is a story that runs counter to the cultural expectations. Shaped by the “Servant” figure, drawn from II Isaiah, the image of messiah portrayed in the story of the cross is not that of a powerful winner and a victorious leader, but of one whose …

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Q & A:

You frequently mention that the Bible was originally written in Greek and is called the Septuagint. I'm not competent to read anything in Greek and wonder if there is an "un-Bowdlerized" translation into English of the Septuagint's language. I'd like to read it as it existed before all the secretaries and clerks, etc. from King James' enormous, and obviously politically-motivated, "Committee" got their hands on it and decided of what the Canon would consist and also before the Roman Catholic Church's "Censors" made their mark on it. So far, my favorite version of the Bible that I've read is the Jerusalem Bible. I'd appreciate your comments and recommendations.

Thank you.

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2 April 2015: Part XLVI Matthew – Other Minor Characters in the Passion Drama

Once we begin to see the Passion narrative not as history, but as liturgy that was created to interpret the meaning of Jesus, the literal imprisonment that has been imposed on this story begins to break apart. When that happens the account of the cross reads very differently. Those who know no other way to …

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Q & A:

I very much appreciate your lectures, books and weekly newsletter. You have greatly helped me to understand and appreciate the scriptures. This being said, I am troubled by the influence of Paul on our understanding of Christianity. Paul, as we know, never met Jesus. His understanding came to him by way of visions after the death of Christ. Many of his teachings seem to stand in direct contrast to what we attribute to the historical Jesus and his original disciples. Much of what Paul allegedly preached then became canonical Christianity. Many examples come to mind. His condemnation of Judaism heightened anti-Semitic prejudices. His teachings regarding women perpetuated their marginalization. His literal understanding of the blood and body, being that of Christ, during the Eucharist is still believed today. Finally, his focus on heaven, atonement and salvation totally diverted us from working to bring God's kingdom to earth as instructed by Jesus. I would appreciate your comments.

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26 March 2015: Part XLV Matthew – Judas Iscariot Person or Myth? Part II

There are at least three traitor stories in the Hebrew Scriptures. They were all well known to Jewish readers of those scriptures. They would not, however, have been familiar to those Gentile Christians, who became the majority in the Christian movement by the year 150 CE. Most Christians, through the centuries, therefore, tended to be …

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Q & A:

Years ago your book, Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism, changed the way I think about this man we call our Savior and Lord. I'm a 90 year old homemaker and I can no longer bear to watch the evening news. We are all children of God. Why isn't this present generation being told the gospel truth?

I listened to the Nicene Creed being broadcast in our Lutheran worship service last Sunday-centered on "People of the Second Century" and thought about how the world has changed since that creed was written! How can anyone say "we believe" when we don't even know our own beliefs? I couldn't help but wonder what you'd think of my own version of the Nicene Creed. It might go like this:

I believe in one almighty God, maker of heaven and earth and all that is seen and unseen.

I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, who, for our salvation, was born of Mary and Joseph and was truly man, was crucified, died and rose to life and will come again and his kingdom shall have no end.

I believe in the Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father and the Son and who has spoken through God's person on earth since time began.

I believe in the international Israel of God and look for the resurrection of the living dead and an everlasting life to come. Amen.

As I wrote to you with regard to your essay “Two Popes Made Saints,” dare we hope that by placing Pope John XXIII together with Pope John Paul II in sainthood we can now bring unity to the Catholic world? Don’t you think a revision of the Nicene Creed might help? All people are colored - only the dead are white.

 

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19 March 2015: Part XLIV Matthew: Judas Iscariot – Myth or Reality? Part I

Among the best known characters in the New Testament is the one who is sometimes called “The Anti-Christ.” He is always painted in dark colors, as slinking around corners, shielding his face. It is said of him that “he would do anything for money.” In biblical dramas from Hollywood’s “The King of Kings” to Broadway’s …

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Q & A:

Can you explain to me how the Bible (God) sees Suicide? What is your point of view on suicide? I am 20 years old. I am an existential, anxious person who is standing at the gate of Suicide. I experience anxiety, stress, and depression in many ways in my life (especially in regard to my family). There is no love or peace in my family. I try to live according to the heart and will of God revealed by Jesus Christ (love, care, forgiveness, justice etc.) but nothing ever gets better. There is still a problem in my family and in my life. Now, I think about suicide. I so often think that if I die, my family would be in a better situation. Can you help me?

 

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12 March 2015: Part XLIII Matthew – The Passion Narrative: Discovering the Liturgical Outline

In Matthew’s story of the Passion of Jesus, based as it is on Mark’s original written passion narrative, we can discover by a close analysis the outline of a twenty-four hour vigil. This vigil, based on the pattern of the synagogue vigil of Shavuot or Pentecost that Matthew was the first to develop, consists of …

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Q & A:

I am a "fan," I suspect, eagerly looking forward to your weekly email. Your response concerning the Paleo-Indians touched on such a wide range of issues that I will have to re-read it often to plumb its depths.

I have a grave concern about the way it appears that current Christianity in all denominations is becoming irrelevant in modern culture. As an Episcopal priest, I try to use whatever insights I have in preaching a message true to the Scriptures and useful to my congregation. I sometimes fear that those insights are not consistent with the view of Jesus’ identity and importance that is proclaimed in the prayers of the Church. Do you have any suggestions of a way that Eucharistic people can proclaim a faith that suits modern understanding, at the same time doing justice to the ancient story?

 

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5 March 2015: William Maurice, i.e. Willie Mo, I Baptize You

It was a strangely emotional moment for me. I was in All Saint’s Church in Austin, Texas, holding in my arms a nine months old baby boy, preparing to baptize him. He was the first grandchild in my only brother’s family, a grandchild he would never see or know. My brother, William Conwell Spong, died …

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Q & A:

You often mention Elaine Pagels and Karen Armstrong. What are your thoughts on the writings of Joan Chittister – especially her book: Called to Question?

Also, I would like your opinion of the Network of Spiritual Progressives.

 

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26 February 2015: Part XLII Matthew – Identifying the Sources of the Passion Narrative

If we can demonstrate that Jesus never spoke the words, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” from the cross, but that rather the earliest gospel writers, Mark and Matthew, lifted those words directly and verbatim out of Psalm 22 in order to place them into Jesus’ mouth in the passion narrative, then …

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Q & A:

Recently I read your articles on “Atonement Theology.” While I agree with you, I am left with a question. All four gospels give considerable attention to the crucifixion and death of Jesus even more than to the resurrection. Atonement theology explains this. What is your explanation of the importance given to Christ's crucifixion and death in the gospels?

 

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19 February 2015: Part XLI Matthew – Entering the Passion Narratives

We looked last week at the passion narratives in the New Testament. We noted the additions, the deletions and the contradictions found in these central stories of our faith tradition. We asked the obvious questions. How accurate can narratives be when they do not agree with one another? This week, we press deeper into these …

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Q & A:

I was baptized and confirmed in the Episcopal Church in my teens. Eventually, I left because I could no longer accept parts of the Nicene Creed as literally true. Due to your writings and the modern liberal paradigm of our current Presiding Bishop, I have returned to the church. Unfortunately, I have met with some opposition from several clergy members who are concerned that my beliefs are not “orthodox enough.” One local rector actually “interviewed” me and refused to admit me to membership status. I am perplexed. I know some parishes are more conservative than others, but I hadn’t expected to run into this sort of trouble. Do you have any advice for me? I sure could use some help.

 

 

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