Essay Archives View as a list
16 April 2009: Life-Changing Moments in Duluth, Minnesota
Duluth, Minnesota, is a small city of less than 100,000 people at the southwestern corner of Lake Superior. It is known as one of the colder parts of America, receiving as it does those massive flows of Arctic air that sweep upon this nation out of Canada. Duluth is inhabited by hardy souls who are …
Do you believe churches would speak with lesser timidity against injustice if they were not beholden to the government for their tax-exempt status? I know some churches have spoken out on certain issues that have provoked an investigation by the IRS, and they fight to maintain their tax-exempt status. You have written about paying taxes and have listed several reasons why you are not offended at having to pay your tax. It seems that church buildings occupy some prime real estate and taxes, especially local taxes, would go to the systems that help the poor and needy, improve health care, education and so on. Isn't it time churches pulled their weight and cut the government apron strings of their tax-exempt status?
9 April 2009: Watching the Demise of a Great Institution
We are watching today the tragedy of the demise of the Roman Catholic Church. It is a sad spectacle, but hopefully not one that cannot be reversed. It is not of recent origin. There was a high-water mark for this church in the middle of the 20th century under the leadership of the great Pope …
I am 87 years old and first discovered your writings within the last ten years. I've read all your recent books — some twice — and find them challenging and inspiring, but I have a question. You frequently exhort your reader to "live life to the fullest," to "love wastefully," and "to be all you can be." There is clearly a distinction in your mind between "living life to the fullest" and "to be all you can be," but it is not obvious to me. In my mind they are pretty much the same. Can you explain how they differ (or direct me to a reference in your books that explains it)?
2 April 2009: The Origins of the Bible, Part XXIV: The Book of Ruth
There are three books in the Hebrew Bible that are designated as “protest literature;” that is, they are all representative of a literary device used by an anonymous author to make a point, human or political, in a particular moment of history. The three books are Jonah, Job and Ruth. None of these books ever …
Thanks for your scholarship, which has opened my eyes to much about Jesus. I've read a number of your books and struggle to find the "hermeneutical key" that tells me how to decide what Jesus really said and did and what was read back into his life from later tradition. Do I turn to the Jesus Seminar people for that (The Five Gospels)? Or can you refer me to one of your books? I remember reading in your work that there's enough original/historical material in the gospels for one to find Jesus, but how do you know what's what?
Three books of the Bible, Jonah, Job and Ruth, are known as “protest literature.” We treated Jonah in the section of this study on the prophets. We turn now to Job and Ruth. To those outside the traditional religious circles, the Book of Job is probably the best known book in the Bible. It raises …
The Church of England apologized to Charles Darwin last fall, nearly 150 years after he published his most famous work, for its initial rejection of his theories. The church conceded that it was over-defensive and over-emotional in dismissing Darwin's ideas, and it called "anti-evolutionary fervour" an "indictment" of the Church.
The bold move is certain to dismay sections of the church that believe in creationism and regard Darwin's views as directly opposed to traditional Christian teaching. The apology, which was written by the Rev. Dr. Malcolm Brown, the Church's director of mission and public affairs, says that Christians in their response to Darwin's theory of natural selection repeated the mistakes they made in doubting Galileo's astronomy in the 17th century. The statement read, "Charles Darwin: 200 years from your birth, the Church of England owes you an apology for misunderstanding you and, by getting our first reaction wrong, encouraging others to misunderstand you still. We try to practice the old virtues of "faith seeking understanding" and hope that makes some amends."
Opposition to evolutionary theories is still "a litmus test of faithfulness" for some Christian movements, the Church admits. It says that such attitudes owe much to a fear of perceived threats to Christianity.
Malachi is the last book in the Old Testament as Christians organize the scriptures and it is the last voice to be heard in the Book of the Twelve as the Jews organize the scriptures. It will also be the last of the prophets to whom I will give major attention in this series. Of …
Thank you for the stimulation of your published works and weekly newsletter. My question concerns the pastoral care of those Christians who do not have the intellectual capacity or strength of character to tolerate the ambiguity of your message. Rightly or wrongly their "simple" faith sustains them and many would be fatally undermined should they be confronted by doubts concerning such issues as the virgin birth and the bodily resurrection. Is it right to leave their views unchallenged, or should gentle sensitivity necessitate a less direct approach? I am aware that I will appear patronizing in posing this question, but from your own pastoral experience how have you dealt with this matter?
It surprises me only that it was not first. New Jersey has a long history of supporting civil rights and equal rights of all its citizens, as well as opposing discrimination in any form. This state has, however, been a little slow in confronting its cultural homophobia. That is now about to end. One of …
I moved from being an atheist to a believer. I would never have been an atheist if I had paid more attention to the church I was raised in, the United Church of Canada. I saw Christianity negatively because of the bad example and message of the conservative churches. To be fair, though, my church should have presented its views better. When I investigated, I found that it was not just secularism applied compassionately, but there were theological roots to Liberal Christian beliefs contrary to what fundamentalists claim. I have since found that there are good and bad wings in the Lutheran, Catholic and Anglican churches. I wonder if it is fair to say that God does not ever intervene. I have heard of some things that defy logical explanation. On a modest point, my Dad almost died in February of 2005. Perhaps it was just the power of positive thinking, but after the United Church Hospital chaplain led a prayer, he improved and three weeks later I brought him home. He has since passed away but he got 17 more months of life. I saw in your records that you wrote an essay, "Why I am not a Unitarian." I tried unsuccessfully to retrieve that essay. Could you repeat it please?
5 March 2009: Titles, Paradigm Shifts and New Consciousness
Paul Tillich referred to it as “The Creativity of the Demonic.” It has long been my experience that conflict does not have to be destructive; it sometimes leads to new insights and even deep friendships. That lesson came back vividly to me recently when I found myself locked in an increasingly acrimonious argument with my …
Geoffrey Robinson, a Roman Catholic Bishop from Sydney, Australia, has published a book titled Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church: Reclaiming the Spirit of Jesus. He scheduled a book tour of the U.S., and apparently the Vatican pressured bishops in America to threaten him into rescinding his planned trip. He declined to accede to their demand. Any comment? Also I wonder if he has any relationship to your gay bishop, Gene Robinson. My blessings on your superb work.
26 February 2009: The Politics of Greed: A Response to a Theological Vacuum
There is much acrimony abroad today in the economic recession that has embraced our nation. The political landscape is filled with “victims” and “victimizers.” Some are overt, like Bernard Madoff and his newly poor clients, but others are vaguer, with victims wondering what has robbed them of their savings and financial future. The press has …
If, as you have suggested, there was no literal empty tomb and the miracle stories do not describe events that actually happened in history, what was there about Jesus that so deeply captivated the first disciples? Is there something about the Jesus of history to which I can point today that anchors one as a Christian to see Jesus as an icon of faith?
19 February 2009: The Rhetoric of the Stimulus Package
It has been fascinating watching our legislators in Washington debating the stimulus bill and seeking to reform the way stimulus monies have been spent thus far. My conclusion is that either memory is short or politics are blind. The Republicans, who controlled the White House for the last eight years and both Houses of Congress …
You mentioned that there are two sets of the Ten Commandments, and that one of them includes the injunction against boiling a kid in its mother's milk. I believe you said this version was in Deuteronomy. But I looked up the Deuteronomy version, chapter 5, verses 6-21, and I find no reference to boiling. In fact this recitation of the Ten Commandments appears to be in complete agreement with the recitation in Exodus, chapter 20, verses 3-17. Would you please explain where I would find the Ten Commandments recitation that includes the boiling the kid reference you described? Thanks.
12 February 2009: The Origins of the Bible, Part XXI: Jonah and the Prophetic Lesson Against Prejudice
It was a profound shock to the people of Judah when the City of Jerusalem fell to the army of the Babylonians in the early years of the 6th century BCE. This city had not been conquered by an invading power since 1000 BCE, when David himself had taken it from the Jebusites to make …
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