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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 …
5 February 2009: The Origins of the Bible, Part XX: I and II Zechariah, Primary Shapers of the Christian Story
If you were to search the Scriptures for a book called II Zechariah, you would not find it. There is only a single fourteen-chapter book called Zechariah, buried in the Bible between Haggai and Malachi. It is, however, not a single book by a single author, although that is the way it appears. Chapters 1–8 …
29 January 2009: Eternal Life: Pious Dream or Realistic Hope?
Do modern men and women, even those who still attend church, really believe in life after death? Or do they, as I suspect, only believe in believing in life after death? Recently I attended a funeral service in an Episcopal Church where the words of the fixed liturgy proclaimed with the confidence of yesterday that …
The news has been received that a California Episcopal Diocese (San Joaquin) has reached the second stage in voting to leave the national Episcopal Communion over the issue of homosexuality. The media is describing the anti-gay position as biblical, the pro-gay as being against Bible teaching. After reading Living in Sin and The Sins of Scripture, I can not believe that it is that simple. Reporters are not doing their job of careful investigation.
- Have these biblical stories and texts that are quoted to support the anti-gay position ever been read, analyzed, thoroughly debated and defended in bishop's conferences? These are supposedly intelligent people who respect scholarship. How can they support exclusion on such flimsy evidence?
- Am I wrong to think this struggle among Episcopalians might be a healthy thing, which resistance from the highest levels might be a way of teaching and illuminating facts and reality, exposing the prejudice for the evil it is?
- Where is all this going? What could or should be done to bring about a rational and acceptable result?
Your thoughts, your comments, would be very much appreciated.
22 January 2009: Lessons From the Obama Inauguration
In the days before the inauguration of President Obama, I happened to be reading a biography of the English abolitionist William Wilberforce (1759 and 1833), written by Eric Metaxas. The timing was fortuitous. Both illustrated for me how consciousness always changes, and revealed the role that institutional religion plays in betraying its principles and delaying …
I have been an avid reader of your works for a few years. I also read other prominent Christian leaders' works as well. As a Christian, settling issues such as the literary forms of the Bible, or the possibilities of different, broader interpretive methods poses a difficulty for me (your use of the Midrash tradition, for example — is this widely accepted in credible academic circles?). An example is in Timothy Keller's book The Reason for God. In his chapter on the reality of the resurrection, he has an approach to the Bible that I noted was different from yours. I noticed that his main scholarly source was a fellow named N. T. Wright. In particular, his interpretation of Paul's I Cor. 15:3-6 relies on this source for some key points that are at variance with the interpretation found in your book Resurrection: Myth or Reality? In that book you relied on some points from a scholar named Reginald Fuller. Since the two of you vary on the possibility of the literalness of this passage, I wonder if the different scholarship is the reason. Is it possible that Keller is right in saying that the most current scholarship is a good deal more friendly to a literal approach? He does do that and uses N. T. Wright on several points to shore this up. I find Keller to be open minded about quite a lot, and so would not group him in the same intellectual category as Pat Robertson. So about this whole scholarship and faith issues: what gives? What is the relationship between scholarship and belief? I ask this because I have found myself able to worship with those who hold to a naï,ve and wooden-headed literal interpretation of the Bible
15 January 2009: The Origins of the Bible, Part XIX: Micah, the Prophet Who Turned Liturgy Into Life
In my career as a bishop I have known churches that spent great time and effort on liturgy and worship. It was clearly the focus, the reason for being, of those congregations and their budgets reflected this priority. Altar hangings, clergy vestments and the garb of the supporting cast of liturgical characters were always coordinated. …
I had the pleasure of shaking your hand during several book tours in New Zealand and Australia. I have always been moved and inspired by your sharing and teaching. I trained as a theologian before having "a road to Damascus" experience with homeopathic medicine while in Divinity School at St. Andrew's University in Scotland. I have devoted the last 25 years of my life to learning, practicing and teaching this marvelous approach to health and disease. My love of theology, however, never waned, though I counted myself as a believer in Exile for many years. In 2001, I returned to shared communal worship in the Anglican tradition in New Zealand (where I am lay representative to the General Synod from the Diocese of Waipu) and in the Balmain Uniting Church in Sydney (where I serve as an elder and occasional preacher). My professional and personal life is enjoyed in equal measure in Australia and New Zealand. I attended the Common Dreams Conference in Sydney in August 2007 and very much enjoyed your contributions. I am aware that you are engaged in a study about life beyond death. I hope you will continue this exploration and share your findings in a book! The biblical scholar in me was inspired to suggest to your particular consideration of the conclusion that the historical Jesus probably said, "Let the dead bury the dead!" I remember first discussing this potentially troubling phrase in an undergraduate religion class at William and Mary led by visiting professor E. (Ed) P. Sanders, who had just finished his great work, Jesus and Judaism. As a class we had just read Albert Schweitzer's Quest for the Historical Jesus and were discussing the historical bombshell that it created and the continuing impact of modern biblical criticisms upon the "red letter" attributions to Jesus in the gospels. The "dead bury the dead" phrase seems to suggest that Jesus was perhaps disrespectful of the honoring of the dead required in the Jewish Law, but also the fact that such a radical pronouncement meant that it was what Jesus had actually said. Maybe the gospel writers preserved one aspect of Jesus' radical insight. Perhaps it was a way of teaching us that death is not where our focus ought to be. Instead our focus is best placed on the "now" and, as you often say, to love wastefully. I support your inspiration to write a book on death and everlastingness! (I recently prepared a sermon that summarized some of the main points of process theology and re-visited Charles Hartshorne's ideas about immortality being not a subjunctive continuing presence of a single being but rather could be conceived of as an objective immortality in the all-encompassing/never lostness of the mind of God. So perhaps some food for thought there!) Yours with respect and gratitude.
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