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9 July 2008: The Lambeth Conference 2008: Expect Heat, Not Light
The bishops of the world-wide Anglican Communion, together with invited ecumenical and interfaith guests, will convene on the campus of the University of Kent in Canterbury, England, on Wednesday, July 16. This gathering is called “The Lambeth Conference,” because it was originally held in Lambeth Palace, the official residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, just …
How do you believe there is an actual God rather than just
principles by which the universe operates? I feel like everyone has
the equivalent of a radio receiver in their brain and almost everyone
can at least get static on the "God channel" for lack of a better
analogy. They at least know there is really something there because
they can hear the static or maybe even hear a bar or two of music once
in a while. Other people have really good reception and can actually
tune into the God channel and have a dynamic experience. I, however,
don't even get static. All my life people have been telling me that I
can use the radio receiver in my brain to listen to someone far away
and hear the music of life. But because I don't even get static, I
have no way of knowing whether they are lying to me and just want to
control my actions, or whether they are delusional and truly believe
there is something there even though there isn't, or whether there
really is something there but my tuner/receiver isn't sensitive enough
to pick it up. I can tune in mathematics, physics, chemistry; all
these things I can believe in even when I don't understand all the
math behind the physics. But I can't tune in "God." My question is,
"How do I do that? How do I get any kind of reception?"
It is historically very difficult for a majority culture to understand the emotions felt by a minority culture living in the same land. In the 1850s a group of white citizens asked Frederick Douglass, a freed slave, to speak at a 4th of July celebration in Pennsylvania. He declined, saying “What does your 4th of …
25 June 2008: Beauty, Wonder and Excitement in New Mexico
I am now convinced that there are no sunsets more beautiful than those that blaze through the evening sky in New Mexico. Perhaps it is the juxtaposition of the New Mexico desert with its high sky against mountains that rise to 7,000 feet in the Santa Fe-Los Alamos area that makes these sunsets so exquisite. …
You continue to write articles that both excite and
amaze me. My respect for you, as I have often said, started when you
were my bishop in the Diocese of Newark. Every time I heard you speak
you challenged me and widened my spiritual world. I find today that
often in my prayers I fall back into the humanizing of God to assist
me in relating in some way. When I watch our church being torn apart,
however, I realize how limiting my humanizing is. In your columns I
see in the Episcopal Church a way to a new Christianity and that
enables me to enter my parish and celebrate the Eucharist interpreting
what I hear said so that worship becomes much more personal for me.
I feel that the Church must believe what we say every Sunday, "Thou
shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy mind, and
with all thy soul. This is the first great commandment and the second
is like unto it, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these
two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."
18 June 2008: The Origin of the Bible, Part VIII The Priestly Revision of the Jewish Sacred Story (B)
While the first wave of Jews entered the Babylonian Exile around the year 596, a second wave came in 586 after a rebellion was put down by the Babylonians and all of the identifiable descendants of King David were executed. Both groups of captive people carried with them their sacred story, which at that time …
I've been much concerned over what seems to me great damage done
by those religious leaders who believe that they KNOW the mind and
will of God — usually based upon a literalistic and uncritical
bibliolatry. I wonder whether you would agree with, disagree with,
amend, or consign to oblivion the following line of thought.
As Immanuel Kant showed quite well, I think, we humans cannot claim
knowledge of anything that transcends the realm of our ordinary
spatio-temporal condition. I think this is so, and it helps to
explain why, in matters of theology having to do with gods or God,
there are so many different and conflicting views prevailing in
various human traditions — traditions of humans who are
obviously quite rational beings. On the other hand, I find it
interesting that, when it comes to basic moral rules, the major world
religions come up with rules or principles that are astonishingly
similar. They are not identical, but there is much overlap and
agreement, I believe, on the most important things. But our basic
moral principles are learned through ordinary human experience —
becoming aware of the consequences of this or that sort of behavior.
Even St. Thomas Aquinas believed that revelation was not required for
humans to learn what he called the "natural virtues." To conclude, as
I have, that one cannot claim to KNOW the nature, mind and will of
God, does not, however, mean that one may not EXPERIENCE a reality
that calls forth one's reverence and commitment. I have come to the
point of regarding much of what is in the Bible as myth, as legend, as
tribalistic propaganda — and, indeed, some passages that if
taken as God-inspired, would imply a God that is not worthy of our
devotion. There is in the Bible, however, a great deal that inspires
an awareness of that which is, indeed, worthy of our ultimate
commitment and devotion. I think in this connection of the basic
message of the great prophets, and of what Paul Tillich called "the
picture of Jesus Christ." A renunciation of absolute and dogmatic
claims of knowledge and an appeal to our ordinary experiences of what
makes life sublime might, I think, lead to greater tolerance —
and openness to the spiritual riches of other traditions.
12 June 2008: The Origin of the Bible, Part VII: The Final Strand of the Torah, The Priestly Document (A)
Time after time we discover that it was the external events of human history that more than anything else shaped the content of those writings that would someday be called the Holy Scriptures. That should not surprise us since all books have human authors who live in a context of both time and place. Only …
What store or value do you put into or get from:
The Gospel of Mary (the mother of Jesus)
The Gospel of Mary Magdalene
The Gospel of Judas
The Gospel of Thomas
Can we open them to new meaning? Can we attribute to them the status
of Scripture? Can they contribute to or enhance the mission of the
Christian Church, which in your terms is to make us truly human?
Note: This column is based on the research of a student who is just completing the tenth grade at George Marshall High School in Falls Church, Virginia, a relatively influential and affluent suburb in the metropolitan Washington, D.C. area. The student’s name is John Lanier Hylton. He is my grandson. He challenged me to write …
You recently suggested that the split in Christianity today is
between those who assert yesterday's religious explanations and those
who find no meaning in yesterday's religious explanations and give up
on religion altogether. If that is so, is Christopher Hitchens' book,
God Is Not Great, a message from the religiously disillusioned?
If so how do those religious people who defend the past deal with that
Where is it that Christian people today focus their anger? One has only to look at the content of current ecclesiastical debates, listen to the rhetoric of church leaders or examine the issues upon which the church divides into two competing camps to have your answer. The two things that elicit the most fear, that …
I am among those who agree with you in regard to the great need for
transformation within traditional Christianity — indeed, a new
reformation is overdue and necessary for the Christian tradition to
survive the 21st century. I believe that Jesus came not to change any
of the Hebrew scripture or its tradition but rather to reaffirm its
true meaning in revealing the spiritual nature of human life through
his own demonstration within humanity. As such, his example created
something new. Have you ever considered officially joining a New
Thought community such as Unity Church of Practical Christianity? I
believe these communities closely reflect the spirit of the Christian
message and serve humanity well in providing a way in which we may
experience and live Christian principles more fully. Thank you so
much for the wonderful work you are doing.
21 May 2008: Christian Art: Reinforcer of a Dying Literalism
I did not realize how thoroughly biblical literature has shaped Western civilization until I took a course offered by The Teaching Company entitled “Great Artists of the Italian Renaissance” taught by Professor William Kloss of the Smithsonian Institution. I was certainly aware that almost all Western art up until the Renaissance had religious themes and …
Although I did not read it until adulthood, I have found the words
in the Gospel of Thomas to be true all my life.
V.3 Jesus said, "If your leaders say to you, 'Look the (Father's)
kingdom is in the sky,' then the birds of the sky will precede you.
If they say to you, 'It is in the sea,' then the fish will precede
you. Rather, the (Father's) kingdom is within you and it is outside
you. When you know yourselves, then you will be known, and you will
understand that you are children of the living Father. But if you do
not know yourselves, then you live in poverty, and you are the
V. 77 Jesus said, "I am the light that is over all things. I am
all: from me all come forth and to me all attained. Split a piece of
wood; I am there. Lift up the stone, and you will find me there."
What is your take on the Gnostic view, the Gospel of Thomas and
others? I know you try to avoid describing God, for God truly is
indescribable, but what you said sounded similar.
The name of the Torah’s fifth and final book according to the Bible is Deuteronomy. That name comes to us from the combination of two Greek words: “deutero,” which means second, and “nomas,” which means law. Deuteronomy thus means the second giving of the law and in that title the story of the book’s origin …
It's a small point, but in your January 30 essay you
refer to a "three-days-dead body." How do you and most others manage
to count three days from Friday afternoon to before sunrise on Sunday?
I know the usual explanation is that according to Jewish reckoning
what is meant are parts of three days (part of Friday, part of
Saturday and part of Sunday), but that is not how the average reader
would understand what you wrote. The obvious tie-in is to Matthew's
three days and three nights referring Jonah and Jesus, but do we need
to perpetuate the confusion just because Matthew could not count?
7 May 2008: Jeremiah Wright
The emergence of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright into the presidential campaign is, I am sure, an unexpected and probably unwelcome diversion for the Obama camp. It gets him, as they say, “off message” and lays bare those elemental places in the human psyche where race and tribe collide. People seeking to exploit this issue for …
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