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17 October 2013: We Have Had Our Run. It Is Time to Leave.
“We have had our run. It is time to leave.” Andy Pettitte, Pitcher for the New York Yankees They had four related careers that impacted the baseball world for two decades. In the history of modern sports this was a rare achievement. In their late teens and early twenties, these young athletes began playing baseball …
I have just finished reading your book Eternal Life: A New Vision. I found it clarified on an intellectual basis many feelings I've had toward religion (specifically Christianity which was my childhood experience- although minimally), but was unable to articulate such. I grew up near Highlands, NC. I was in total agreement with your assessments and overall beliefs expressed in your book until I got to the end where you address life after death. I may have missed something. In response to the question of life after death, your response is “yes, yes, yes.” While the discussion is somewhat vague, if you truly believe in life after death in a heavenly setting, then I don’t get it. If what you mean to convey is by living a “good life in all regards would result in your life’s work/contributions continuing on after death,” then I get it. I would be interested in any clarification offered.
10 October 2013: My Great Mentors – Number Seven: Clifford L. Stanley
He was my Professor of Theology, teaching me for two of the three years I was in Seminary. For me he was the major voice on that 1950’s faculty that had broken new theological ground. Most of the others were still locked in the dated Neo-Orthodoxy of Karl Barth, which was rooted in the despair …
I embrace the divinity of Christ but do not wish to rely on the virgin birth or the resurrection as proof of that divinity. My pride in this “position” is my Achilles, I know, or at least suspect. In the sense that I am a new Christian (though able to trace the source of my faith to early Anglican experiences in the All Saints Church of Parramatta in Sydney, Australia). I am open to holding Christ’s teachings high, yet, as you have probably gathered, I am “holding back” in my faith. Love of his word (as reported) and of the sacrament, together with the power of forgiveness in my own life and the hope and love that the Christians I meet share, have all made me wonder: am I a failed Christian, as I believe Christianity too important to be relegated to the world of fairy stories or is there a place for me and my ilk in eternity?
3 October 2013: An Adventure in Church Building in Springfield, Missouri
Springfield is Missouri’s third largest city. Its approximately 160,000 people occupy space in the southwestern part of that state, where this city serves as the county seat of Greene County. Tradition, not fully documented, suggests that it got its name from an early settler, named James Wilson, who offered whiskey to anyone who would vote …
26 September 2013: Part III Matthew: The Shadow of Moses Continues
Using the gospel of Matthew as our guide we have begun the task of opening the background necessary to grasp, as members of the current generation of Christians, the meaning of all the gospels. This is necessary because all of the gospels are Jewish books written by Jewish authors for Jewish congregations. They employ Jewish …
Do I get my child baptized into a church with which I profoundly disagree? Should I stand up and commit her to the ridiculous concept of original sin? To the human interpretation of evil and the devil? I have spent a year discussing this with my minister and I really want to proclaim no! I want to commit my child's life to a God of love, of forgiveness that is already waiting to be claimed, a God who is not dependent on repentance. I was nine years old when I understood that if God loves, then there can be no "hell," no final judgment. Just our own inability to comprehend that we are already forgiven for everything is enough. Then there is no scale from a little misdemeanor to irredeemable evil, just a degree of separation from God's perfection that we can only close through love.
19 September 2013: SYRIA, POISON GAS, MISSILE STRIKES AND PEACE?
It has been both an emotional and a political roller-coaster. The television newscasters and the print media informed us that a political debate was underway as to whether or not the armed might of this country should be used to punish the Syrian government for violating the universal condemnation against chemical warfare that has governed …
I work for the Dorset police here in Dorset, England. I do not come from a Christian family although I did attend a Methodist Sunday School as a boy. I have been searching to try and make sense of the Christian message and many of the complex questions that the Bible throws up. I have read a number of your books and I have to say that they are the first publications that make any sense to me. The question of the death of Jesus being a method of atonement from original sin has always been a major block to faith for me. I have in the past completed the Church of England’s Alpha courses, but the answers given by well-meaning clergy have never made any sense to me. The literalist view of the Bible in this modern day and age doesn’t aid understanding. I am halfway through your latest publication relating to the Fourth Gospel. I feel for the first time a sense of enlightenment with the view that the life of Jesus was to show us the vision of what we can be and to assist as a gateway into the mystical union with God. This at least gives a real purpose to Jesus’ life and work. My question is where can I, and others like me, go from here. I have yet to find a church organization that isn’t governed by restrictive creeds and regulations? If we do find a new faith and belief, where and what should the next stage be to becoming all that we are meant to be? Is it enough just to believe in a private and individual way? Do we need to find a group of like-minded people with similar views or is it sufficient just to go it alone? I am coming up to London with a good friend of mine in October to hear you lecture in Streatham. I am really looking forward to seeing you. Any advice you can give me on my “where next” question would be gratefully received.
12 September 2013: Part II: The Gospel of Matthew. Exploring the Shadow of Moses in Matthew’s Portrait of Jesus
I return to Matthew’s gospel today to lay out the case for its basic Jewishness. As I suggested in the opening column in this series last week, we must see all the books of the New Testament as Jewish writings before we can properly begin to understand them. Matthew is by every measure the most …
I have enjoyed your books and essays and particularly enjoyed meeting you and hearing your recent lectures in Omaha, Nebraska. Many of your ideas resonate with me and make it possible for me to continue to consider myself a Christian. Something I struggle with, though, is how to continue to attend and receive inspiration from local church services. The services seem to have a lot of superficial, meaningless praise songs and seem to be focused on an external, supernatural God; those concepts just don’t work for me. I’m sure that in your travels, you have worshiped in many different settings. Have you found a way to get past things in church services you cannot agree with but still have a positive and inspirational experience?
5 September 2013: Introducing the Gospel of Matthew. Part I: The Gospels are Jewish Books
The Bible is the Christian Church’s sacred text. We read from it at every worship service in almost every Christian tradition. It is apparently a rather popular volume for every year since the invention of the printing press it has been the world’s best-selling book. It might well be, however, the world’s least understood and …
Help! I am a Unity Minister of many years. I am married to a born-again Christian. Also, fundamentalists come to my Church where I teach positive Christianity. I need clear, precise, irrefutable answers to the ignorant claims of fundamentalists. It's crazy making to try and discuss faith, intelligent, loving, constructive positive Christianity with fundamentalists. They shut down quickly and don't hear long answers. Have you got any quick answers? Can you think of Bible references as authoritative sources? Here are some of the twisted mis-beliefs:
1. How do you suggest answering the “born-again “claims that other faiths are the anti-Christ?
2. The absurdity of the “spiritual warfare” in which we are here to eliminate Satan from infiltrating this world and establishing other faiths which are all “false prophet” faiths. Hence, we must guard against hearing other churches that call themselves Christian, but don’t believe the “born-again” message.
3. How would you simply address such close-minded, book-burning, ignorant pagan concepts teaching that fundamentalists claim are wholly biblical and are ready to die for and take you with them? Unless you believe exactly like “born-agains,” you are going to hell. What?
4. In short, using the Bible itself, how can we simply show that the “plan of salvation” is just religion gone too far? That the “born-agains” most treasured doctrinal points of fundamentals, their main bragging points, their absolute “words of God” are biblically ignorantly and literally false?
29 August 2013: On the Importance of Being Ordinary
Over the past few years, while working on my recent book, The Fourth Gospel: Tales of a Jewish Mystic, I became fascinated with how the author of John’s gospel develops the characters in his narrative. There are more memorable characters in the Fourth Gospel than anywhere else in the New Testament. The disciple Thomas is …
Theology is a rational, deeply human, attempt to explain our experience with God. Theology is, therefore, never primary; it is always secondary to experience. Theological explanations can thus never be eternal. All explanations not only will change, but must change when knowledge grows and by so doing will always invalidate previous conclusions. Theology can never …
I heard Bishop Spong speaking recently on Radio Australia about his book on the Fourth Gospel: Tales of a Jewish Mystic. The Bishop said he was a Christian, but he also said that he did not believe in the historical interpretation of scripture. He pointed out how “Christians” in history were not acting as God would have it. He said he would like to meet with people of other religions who had “experienced God” in their own faiths and to explain to them his experience of God from the Christian perspective and then to listen to their explanations of their religious experience with a view to getting a dialogue going and not saying “my version of God is right and yours is not.” He said that this is in the interest of having a peaceful world. But how can “religions” or “faiths,” if you like, agree on the nature of God when their doctrines are so opposite (actually Christianity is not a religion, it is about having a relationship with God, through the Savior Jesus, the Christ). Jews, Muslims and Buddhists don’t have this aspect going on at all. But he did not say in this interview that Jesus has said that the only way to the Father (God) is through him, I am the gate, etc. The Bishop also didn’t mention that Jesus came to take away the penalty for sin (which all humans have as part of their natures) and that the thing that separates humankind from God is sin. (God cannot be related to sin in any way and Jesus removes that barrier – other religions don’t do this at all.) Bishop Spong is clearly an intellectual type, who apparently ignores some of the most important parts of scripture in order to promote his own version of God. For what reason or purpose he does this is not clear to me. I hope I can have these questions put to him for an answer. I don’t see how Jesus’ words agree with his, especially about having a holy relationship, through Jesus’ death and resurrection, with the true and living God.
15 August 2013: On Building a Christianity without Security or Creeds
One of my readers, Henry Gael Michaels, has shared with me an anonymous story on the meaning of God with which I open this column. It also reveals, I believe, what is wrong with all theology. I am grateful for this gift. This is his story. The mystic was back from the desert. “Tell us,” …
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