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10 November 2011: Facing the Political Realities of Institutional Church Life in the Launch of Re-Claiming the Bible for a Non-Religious World

On November 8, 2011, my publisher, Harper-Collins, released my newest book under the title Re-Claiming the Bible for a Non-Religious World.  The date of a book’s release is always a significant day in the life of an author, not unlike, I can at least imagine, the way a mother must feel when she gives birth …

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Q & A:

I have just finished Stephen Patterson’s excellent article in “The Fourth R” (thank you for turning me on to this great publication) entitled Was the Resurrection Christianity’s Big Bang? Much of the article reminded me of your arguments concerning how the original Jesus experience was interpreted through the Jewish tradition and liturgy of the first century.

Patterson refers to the second prayer of the Eighteen Benedictions from the traditional Jewish liturgy (Blessed be you, O Lord, who makes the dead to live), serving as a critical lens through which the earliest confession regarding the resurrection surfaced. Would you please comment on this idea?  What are these Eighteen Benedictions and how sure are we that they date back to the first century, making up an important part of the context that found meaning in Jesus’ life and death?

By the way our summer book club at the First Presbyterian Church of Hastings, Nebraska just finished a lively and rewarding study of Jesus for the Non-Religious.  Thanks for your good work and leadership.

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3 November 2011: The European Economy and Germany’s Role in Re-Shaping it in the 21st Century

One of the signs of our radically interdependent world is that the economic problems of Europe have become the primary catalyst in the American stock market fluctuations over the past few months.  We have thus become quite familiar with talk of Greece’s default, with downgrades on Italian banks and with constant rumors of the collapse …

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Q & A:

Your writing has been an answer to a lifetime of doctrinal searching...and that is not hyperbole!  Raised by a traditional, but very liberal Lutheran pastor father and mother, I was eventually ordained and am recently retired.  I thank you for the three books, which I highly recommend that people read sequentially...This Hebrew Lord, Liberating the Gospels and Jesus for the Non-Religious.  These books have finally let me "land" my Christology after all these years!  My question:  Though I am very comfortable with the whole concept of the panentheistic being "in whom I live and move and have my being,” I find myself continually wanting to worship and praise and live in THANKSGIVING and GRATITUDE for all that I have and all that I experience.  Is it not strange not to direct this "thank you" to an anthropomorphic being (this shows my traditional influences)?  Sometimes I feel like I am sending out “thank you” notes with no addresses.  As we approach Thanksgiving, I am encouraged to ask you how you handle this personally, if I might.  I would so appreciate your thoughts on this.  Thank you again for your immensely helpful work.

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27 October 2011: Why I Wrote “Re-Claiming the Bible for a Non-Religious World”

Several years ago, while in England, I was invited to participate on a two-hour television program hosted by Melvin Bragg, now Sir Melvin Bragg, on the UK’s ITV channel. The topic was the future of religion in general and of Christianity in particular.  There were three other panelists one of whom was Christopher Hitchens, well …

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Q & A:

Thank you for your series on the origins of both the Old and New Testaments.  I find your explanations and interpretations very valuable.  My question is as follows:  I notice you refer to the authors of the gospels by the name of the person to whom the “book” is attributed.  Does the gospel “according to Mark” mean something like the gospel description that came from the community or communities that identified with the disciple named Mark or possibly some other Mark?  Most of my early education in fundamentalism held that the disciple named Mark wrote down all of his experiences into what is now called the Gospel of Mark and it was most accurately translated into the King James version of 1611.  My perception is now that some person or persons educated in the Greek language was/were the scribe(s) who recorded a collection of oral stories containing some accuracies and a lot of distorted memories all with an agenda (or agendas) of some kind.

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20 October 2011: My First Mentor: Robert Littlefield Crandall

One of my favorite characters in the New Testament is an obscure man named Andrew.  While he is supposed to be one of the twelve disciples of Jesus, there is no content attached to his name in the first three gospels, Mark, Matthew and Luke, other than the fact that he was the brother of …

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Q & A:

I've just finished reading your book, Eternal Life and just before that Jesus for the Non-Religious. My spiritual seeking had taken me away from Christianity to traditional philosophies such as Advita (literally means non-duality). However, since being introduced to your work, I have a renewed desire to look deeper into my own faith tradition for the truth that Jesus was trying to convey to humanity, whereas in the past, I had all but given up on the Bible.

The Gnostic Gospel of Thomas seems to be more in tune with the mystical experience of the Jesus/God experience you talk about in your new book.  Could you please give us your take on this gospel?

“I am the one who comes from what is whole.  I was given from the things of my father.  For this reason I say, if one is whole, one will be filled with light but, if one is divided, one will be filled with darkness.  Whoever has ears should hear.  There is light within a man of light and it shines on the whole world.  If it does not shine, it is darkness.”  Jesus - Gospel of Thomas.

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12 October 2011: Richard Dawkins and His Challenge to Christianity

Recently, the New York Times ran a major interview with Professor Richard Dawkins of Oxford University under the banner headline of “A Knack for Bashing Orthodoxy.”  This world famous professor is now better known for his attacks on what he believes is the religious expression he calls Christianity than he is for his obviously brilliant …

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Q & A:

Since giving up the theistic God that I had for most of my life (I'm 71+) and its attendant dualism, it is as though I have had all the pieces, but they never fit together before.  Frankly, it was so easy to change that I wonder why I never arrived there before.  The paradox and ambiguity that so troubled me before no longer seem to be of concern.

I am finding that another result of this new relationship is that I am also experiencing a much greater sense of responsibility for reaching out to those around me, friends and otherwise.  Is this a response that I am correctly perceiving?  Second, I wonder if there is now continuing reason to believe in the efficacy of intercessory prayer.  If so, would you speculate about how it might work?

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6 October 2011: Phyllis’ Garden Revisited (10/14/2011 Update)

A Note from the Publisher: This article (originally published on 10/6/2011) was updated on 10/14/2011 with information on the current whereabouts of Phyllis Weller.  Please read on… We went to see Phyllis when we were in the United Kingdom this past summer.  Some of you will remember Phyllis for I have written about her before.  …

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Q & A:

I would like to know how you reconcile the story of Creation with the scientific view.  I find it impossible to believe that the earth and everything else was created in seven days, but if I don’t believe it I begin to doubt everything.

 

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29 September 2011: Troy Davis and the Debate over Capital Punishment

Wednesday, September 21, was a consciousness-raising day in the United States.  It is always a conscious-raising occasion when a high profile public execution is about to take place.  The people of this country favor the death penalty for murder, the polls tell us, by about a 64 per cent majority, but there is a deep …

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Q & A:

I read the account of Joseph in one of your recent columns.  I have also read previous opinions of yours in regard to the biblical character of St. Joseph and it seems you think he did not exist.  If so, who was Jesus’ father, assuming you also do not accept the myth of the virgin birth?  You also point out that Jesus has several siblings.  They must have had a father.  What is your opinion?

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22 September 2011: Walter Cameron Righter 1923-2011: A Great Bishop

He was one of the most courageous men I have ever known.  He lived out the stereotypical strength of character that he inherited from his German ancestors.  Even though people experienced him as kind and gentle, on his broad shoulders the Episcopal Church’s struggle to achieve equality for its gay and lesbian members literally pivoted …

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Q & A:

Thank you for your comments on the tragic happening in Norway.  It brought to my mind this question:  Was Adolph Hitler simply a madman with egocentric ideas or did WWII and the Holocaust simply exhibit the extreme end to what centuries of anti-Semitism, wars between rival nations and ambitions of tyrannical national leaders could lead to in Christendom?

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15 September 2011: Signs Appear That the Toxic Political Atmosphere in America is Beginning to Lift

The president has made his dramatic appeal to a joint session of congress for a jobs bill and the Republican House of Representatives leaders John Boehner and Eric Cantor appear to be receptive at least to some of his ideas. The first Republican presidential debate is now history. The candidates were consistently negative about all …

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Q & A:

My name is Victor Fuentes, I live in Ottawa, Canada.  I am a graduated lay minister of the United Church of Canada, originally from Central America.  I have read some of your books and I have a lot of  admiration for your contemporary interpretation of the Bible.  I would like to know if I can get a transcript from your lecture on The Terrible Texts of the Bible (Burke Lecture).  I am going back to my country and I would like to reproduce the lecture in Spanish with your authorization.  Thank you.

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8 September 2011: The Gladstone Library – A Final Visit

In the United Kingdom about ten miles from the ancient Roman city of Chester, inside the northern edge of a country called Wales, is located an institution that calls itself “The Gladstone Library.”  It also serves as a conference center, run by a board of trustees and loosely related to the Anglican Church.  This library …

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Q & A:

We appreciate that you don’t want to throw out the Bible, but rather to “rescue it” and focus on its message of love.  Do you think there will ever be a day when the Bible will include not only the Old Testament and the New Testament, but also the “Newest Testament” that might reflect modern Christian thought?

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