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30 September 2010: Anti-Muslim America! – The Meaning of our Current Political Anger

Early in my career, I had a colleague, now deceased, named The Rev. Joseph Kellerman, known to his friends as “Jody.” This man served then as the rector of the Episcopal Church of the Holy Comforter, a suburban middle-class congregation on Park Road in Charlotte, North Carolina. He was also a well-trained specialist in the …

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23 September 2010: China Revisited, Part III

There are no Gideon Bibles in the hotel rooms of modern China. There are not even books expressing the beauty of Buddhism, Taoism or the writings of Confucius. There is not even the last will and testament of Conrad Hilton! The emphasis of this nation is almost totally on material well being. I experienced religion …

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Q & A:

What advice would you give to a person who is experiencing a health crisis (from which he or she may not recover) with regard to involving God in his/her recovery or death?

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16 September 2010: China Revisited, Part II

Visiting modern China during the summer of 2010 was a transforming, enlightening and even a fearful experience for me. I had not been to China in 22 years. Our journey began in Shanghai, China’s second largest city with 20 million citizens. Embracing the size of China’s cities was the first surprise. Chongqing, known as Chungking …

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Q & A:

At a recent Jesus Seminar meeting I heard a comment something like this, "Jesus went to John to be baptized as he wanted to become a follower of John. Jesus became divine when he came up out of the water and God called (made) him his son." What do you think?

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9 September 2010: China Revisited, Part I

I first went to China in 1984.  In that year we could only visit Hong Kong and the New Territories.  The Cultural Revolution, led by the “gang of four” and fuelled by those called “The Red Guards”, had thrown the nation into a paroxysm of paranoia from which it was still emerging.  Suspicions ran high. …

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Q & A:

I'd like to take the opportunity to let you know that both my husband and I, Catholics, have been enjoying your newsletters and your books. We have evolved away from the institutional church's thinking (although we still go to church and sing in the gospel choir) and look to scholars like you to inspire and inform us. A Presbyterian friend of mine with whom I have shared your newsletter asked if I would pass this question on to you. Would you please give it some consideration?

The attached letter came from Bill Millen:

Pastor Terry Jones and other members of the Dove World Outreach Center, a Florida church have planned an "International Burn a Koran Day" this September 11.

Pastor Jones writes: We are unconvinced that the "nice" church is winning against the Kingdom of darkness. God and God's people were not always sweet and loving to people and practices that were evil. We hope you will be interested in the book "Islam is of the Devil," a challenge to the Christian Church in general to come out of sleepiness and apathy. We hate the Koran.

This letter concerns me on many levels:

  • Lumping all of Islam as evil
  • Inspires hatred of a group of people
  • Burns more than a book — it burns a way of life, a people.

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2 September 2010: The Origins of the New Testament, Part XXXVI: Johannine Epistles and the Book of Revelation

We come this week to the final chapter in our three-year-long walk through the 66 books of the Bible. We conclude with the final pieces of the Johannine literature: the three epistles that bear his name and the book of Revelation that is also attributed to John. Since I treated the gospel in more detail …

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Q & A:

Mick, via the Internet, writes:

Hello, I have followed your columns for a number of years and have also read a couple of your books. It's because of your point of view that I have been able to redefine my atheistic ideas (it's hard to accept a magical Santa Claus in the sky) into what I guess you could categorize as (for lack of a better word) a modern forward-looking Christian willing to believe that whatever God is, we can only scratch at the surface.

I have a question or concern with some statement you made in the column, The Origins of the New Testament, Part XXI: Introducing the Gospel of Matthew. You state that the author of Matthew appears to be the leader of the synagogue, followed the liturgical patterns and observed the high holy days of the ongoing Jewish tradition, had a deep knowledge of and appreciation for the Jewish Scriptures and the Jewish expectation that the Messiah would come to and for the Jews. Then you state, "The fact is that Matthew quoted the scripture in a fast and loose way." To me these two statements seem to contradict each other. Would a leader of the synagogue with a deep knowledge and appreciation of the scriptures really play willy-nilly with their meanings to tell his story? Do you plan to address this as the discussion of Matthew continues? I usually agree with and follow your explanations and arguments but this one has me wondering. Any comments? Please keep up the great work.

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26 August 2010: The Origins of the New Testament, Part XXXV: The Epilogue of John

The last chapter of John’s gospel, known as the Epilogue, is not believed by most scholars to be part of the original text of this gospel. A careful reading of chapter 20 makes it clear that this was how the original evangelist chose to end his story. Listen to his closing words: “Now Jesus did …

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Q & A:

Evelyn Evans, via the Internet, writes:

I am an Anglican, but having accepted the concept of a non-theistic God, I feel uncomfortable attending church with all its outdated forms of worship. To leave the church, however, is to lose my "church family" and the human contact, as well as my part in the church's ministries, all essential to the expression of God's love. What shall I do?

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19 August 2010: The Origins of the New Testament, Part XXXIV: The Raising of Lazarus and the Identity of the Beloved

We began this study of John with the assertion that the author of this gospel was writing a highly symbolic, interpretive account of Jesus of Nazareth. He created this account some 65-70 years after the events he is describing, which marked the end of Jesus’ earthly life. He tells his readers time and again that …

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Q & A:

Anne Harrison from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, writes:

How does one respectfully answer or relate to dear friends who want to debate an issue (such as the "sin" of homosexuality)? I know they are trying to "convert" me!

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12 August 2010: The Origins of The New Testament, Part XXXIII: The Gospel of John

If I had to give my readers one clue and one clue only that would unlock the Fourth Gospel and allow its honesty and wonder to flow forth, it would be that in reading John one must always keep in mind that the author is not writing history or biography. Indeed, this author is constantly …

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Q & A:

Mitzi Roberts, via the Internet, writes:

Thank you for your enlightenment. I find the more we try to define God, the more likely it is that we are on the wrong page. The more I read of your teachings, the more I know that we must not try to understand, but to accept that we will never understand on this plane. The Bible tells a beautiful story and I love my Episcopal upbringing, but I don't have to take everything in the Bible and prayer book as "gospel." At 76 years, it is so comforting.

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5 August 2010: The Origins of the New Testament, Part XXXII: Introducing the Johannine Material

The last series of books that I will consider to complete our study of the Bible’s origins is referred to as “The Johannine Literature.” It consists of five books: the Gospel of John, the three epistles, I, II and III John, and the Revelation of John. There was a time when people generally assumed that …

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Q & A:

Bert Knapp from Granbury, Texas, writes:

I have just finished reading your latest book, Eternal Life: A New Vision. I believe the thought you stated, but I have been afraid and almost ashamed to admit it. I am 81 years old and my journey of faith has involved many changes. I certainly enjoy reading your weekly columns and look forward each week to reading your latest series on "The Origins of the New Testament." After reading your book, however, I am curious about your position on prayer. I will appreciate receiving your thoughts.

A grateful reader.

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29 July 2010: The Origins of the New Testament, Part XXXI: The General Epistles — James, I & II Peter and Jude

When we come near the end of the New Testament, we run into four small books that bear the names of well-known figures in the gospel tradition. They are James and I Peter, each of which consists of five chapters; then there is II Peter with three chapters and finally Jude with only one. James …

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Q & A:

John, via the Internet, writes:

For some time now, I have been reading your weekly essays and I have read many of your books. Your understanding of the Bible and your insight into it are remarkable. I am challenged by your thoughts. However, I read a lot about what you no longer believe, but what do you believe? Regarding Jesus, I would like to see, in a page or less, what your basic belief really is. Do you believe in any of the basic doctrines that we have been taught since childhood?

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