Essay Archives View as a list
17 December 2009: The Origins of the New Testament, Part IX: Paul on the Final Events in Jesus’ Life
“I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received.” With those words Paul set out in writing to the Corinthians the earliest account we have of the final events in the life of Jesus. Paul was not an eyewitness to these final events, since as far as we know he never met …
10 December 2009: The Origins of the New Testament, Part VIII: The Corinthian Letters
Paul was a complicated mixture of many things. He was a missionary who traveled hundreds of miles by foot and by boat to tell his story. He was, as we noted last week when examining the letter to the Galatians, an intense zealot who would fight vigorously to defend his understanding of the gospel. He …
3 December 2009: The Origins of the New Testament, Part VII: Paul’s Early Epistles, I Thessalonians and Galatians
In our Origins of the New Testament series, I now turn to the epistles of Paul since he was the first author to write any part of the New Testament. My plan is to divide the authentic writings of Paul into three broad categories. There is what I call “the early Paul,” best seen through …
26 November 2009: A Church Tower in a Shopping Center! A Restaurant in a Church! Is This Evolving Christianity?
I have just completed a whirlwind tour of the United Kingdom — nine lectures in eight days in places as far east as Colchester, as far north as Edinburgh, as far west as Exeter and as far south as London. This tour was under the auspices of a group called the Progressive Christian Network of …
A. Wiant from Gainesville, Florida, writes:
If we are to presume that being gay is just a personality trait of a minority of people and that gay people should be welcomed into the Christian community as "equals" (whatever that means in this context), how do we consider pedophilia as a perversion of the human condition to be segregated and punished if the source has similar roots in the mind? If this is so, why do we as a society feel that pedophilia can and should be treated and homosexuality should be considered a normal variation? (This is an academic question and does not reflect my own feelings in this matter.)
19 November 2009: Canterbury and Rome: Ecclesiastical Kindergarten Games
Let me see if I have this straight. The Pope has a clergy shortage and the Anglicans have a small group of alienated clergy who cannot adjust to women priests and bishops and who abhor the idea of homosexual people being welcomed into the Christian Church. Why not solve both problems at once? That seems …
The Rev. Dore' Patlian from Sarasota, Florida, writes:
I have long been an ardent admirer of your wonderful work to return Christianity to the root values of love, empowerment and healing of the body, mind and spirit. Anger and condemnation have no place in any church or group calling itself Christian. My question is, do you feel Paul and John, in particular, are responsible for much of the twisted doctrines of male domination, exclusion and hatred that are found particularly in Evangelical Protestantism? They did, as you point out, write nearly 80 percent of the New Testament, and Paul virtually invented Christianity as a religion.
12 November 2009: The Origins of the New Testament, Part VI: Paul’s Thorn in the Flesh
Have you ever wondered what Paul’s deepest secret was? Surely he had one. If you listen to his words, an agony of spirit is easily recognized, perhaps even a deep strain of self-hatred. How else can we read these words, “I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived …
Rob Friedman, via the Internet, writes:
How do you interpret the episode of Jesus and the money lenders in the synagogue? Taken literally, was his anger out of step with his message of tolerance and forgiveness? Or do you believe the story was devised by later generations with an anti-Jewish message?
The first person to crack the silence and write anything that we still possess about Jesus of Nazareth was the man known as Saul of Tarsus, who later changed his name to Paul. His conversion to being a believer in and a disciple of Jesus occurred, according to the work of the 20th century church …
Randy, via the Internet, writes:
I am a 50-year-old man born and raised in Texas. As a child I went to a traditional Baptist church. It seemed to me at the time that the people who spoke one way on Sunday did not act that way Monday through Saturday, and I lost interest as I got older. I felt a strong spiritual connection through my young adult years that I could never quite express or understand. In 2002 my wife and I sought out a hypnotist to stop smoking. It turned out (coincidence or Divine appointment — my thinking is Divine appointment) that she was a gifted spiritual teacher. After working on some other lifestyle and family issues with her, we really liked the personal accountability for creating our own lives through our thoughts and actions we found with her. In seeking out other like-minded individuals, she introduced us to the Unity Church. We have been involved in Unity studies since and I also play guitar every Sunday in the band at Unity Dallas now. Unity is how I first heard of you and subscribed to your newsletter several years ago and really enjoy it. I have read your praise of the Unity movement several times as a progressive way to look at Christianity and spirituality. You also do not seem to subscribe to much "magical" thinking, such as the virgin birth, physically raised from the dead, etc. Some of my favorite current authors are Deepak Chopra, Gregg Braden, Neale Donald Walsh, Eckhart Tolle and Abraham-Hicks, to name a few. So my question is: How do you see the possibilities of the unseen and unknown, such as mysticism and non-physical entities? Most of the people around the Unity Movement seem to embrace an unseen world and the possibility of miracles yet believe in science, evolution, etc.
29 October 2009: The Origins of the New Testament, Part IV: The Oral Period
Where did the story of Jesus reside in that dark tunnel of time where no records exist? That tunnel began with the crucifixion in 30 CE and lasted until Paul wrote his first epistle to the Thessalonians in about 51 CE. From those silent years we have nothing that has survived in writing. From the …
Mary Heins of Indianapolis, Indiana, writes:
As I read your description of the conference held in Porthmadog ("Wales: Where Visions of a Christian Future Are Being Born," June 25, 2009), I wondered if any mention was made of prayer. Do post-Christians, agnostics or even atheists pray? Is there acknowledgement of a higher being, perhaps a creator, a mind or consciousness? Prayer seems like such an important part of your life as well as many traditional Christians. The God I pray to these days is Spirit, the Spirit within which we live, move and have our being. This Spirit permeates all created life; it births life but also allows death, which is the passageway to the pure Spirit. Spirit is not all powerful, but is rather a guide, a way leading us. Spirit does not control natural forces of wind and water, etc., but I do not know Spirit's relationship to these elements. Clearly, this "image" is of my own conjuring, drawing from various sources, but for the purpose of directing, focusing and attaching my spiritual longings to "Another." What or who is the object of my prayer, if any, for such as those you describe in the Wales conference?
22 October 2009: Honesty and Dishonesty in the Health Care Debate
The debate on reforming health care in the United States seems to be winding toward a final decision. This debate has revealed new depths of irrationality, dishonesty and anger in political discourse. I recognize that the reform of our health care system is threatening to many, but there is no rational person who believes it …
MiddleAgedMama, via the Internet, writes:
I was raised as a Roman Catholic, but I left the church long ago and have never found another that suited me. My partner remains a Catholic, and when we adopted our children I agreed to raise them in that religion. Now the older child is six years old and is signed up for religious instruction in preparation for her First Communion, and I find myself wondering how to respond to the learning and questions she will undoubtedly bring home from her classes. When they teach her about the literal virgin birth of Christ, or the resurrection, or prayer, or God, or just about anything I remember from my own instruction, what do I say (if anything)? I don't want to undermine her instructors, but I also want to plant the seeds of the concept that faith cannot be opposed to knowledge. She recently asked who "the first person" was, and I could not honestly answer "Adam," as her teacher would no doubt say. What do you say to your own grandchildren about religion?
15 October 2009: A Manifesto! The Time Has Come!
Visitors: Read in full here I have made a decision. I will no longer debate the issue of homosexuality in the church with anyone. I will no longer engage the biblical ignorance that emanates from so many right-wing Christians about how the Bible condemns homosexuality, as if that point of view still has any credibility. …
John Compere from Baird, Texas, writes:
My wife and I recently retired and relocated from metropolitan to rural Texas. As independent thinking, mainstream Protestants, we have encountered a "theology" in some of the small fundamentalist churches with which we are not familiar. Jesus is believed to be God and is worshipped as God (i.e. not the son of God, or a person with the presence of God.) The Bible reference usually provided is "I and the Father are one" John 10:30. However, it is our understanding that the Greek "one" is neuter, meaning one in essence or nature, not one person or being. We would appreciate your comment on the origin of this "theology" and its scriptural basis, if any.
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