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5 November 2009: The Origins of the New Testament, Part V: Interpreting the Life of Paul

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 …

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Q & A:

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.

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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 …

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Q & A:

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?

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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 …

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Q & A:

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?


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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. …

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Q & A:

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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8 October 2009: An Evening of Beer and Theology — A Lutheran Experience

With this description, the Rev. Dawn Hutchings, pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church in New Market, Ontario, invited members of her congregation and any interested people in the community at large to join her at this congregation’s regular Monday night feature. This activity would not take place in the church, however, but in the second-floor …

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Q & A:

Carter Sinclair, via the Internet, writes:

We were having a discussion at church last night about theism and worship. How is the Eucharist relevant if theism is taken away, or more appropriately, how can our Episcopal liturgy and worship change to reflect the loss of theism?

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1 October 2009: The Origins of the New Testament, Part III: Placing the New Testament Onto the Grid of History

The books of the New Testament did not drop from heaven, fully written, in the King James Version! Yes, that is a caricature, but it still has a tenacious hold on the minds of many Christians. This conviction guarantees that current, competent biblical scholarship will always be a source of much controversy in traditional religious …

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Q & A:

Robert Fujimura of Omaha, Nebraska, writes:

A book I read on acupuncture claimed Taoism has five gods, which were translated into English as five spirits. I was surprised and asked some Chinese and Japanese people about this and found out that in their worldview gods are spirits. I am interested in making Christianity into a national religion by having only the New Testament in the Bible with the Old Testament being relegated to being an appendix. The emphasis should be on the love and grace of Jesus. What do you think?

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24 September 2009: The Origins of the New Testament, Part II: Dating the Jesus of History

In order to understand the New Testament with any real integrity, it must be placed into its historic setting. The events in the life of Jesus of Nazareth did not happen in a vacuum, nor are these events history as history is now defined. Not only was Jesus born in, shaped by and interpreted through …

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Q & A:

Bruce Wilson from Maple Ridge, British Columbia, Canada, writes:

I am deeply troubled. I cannot picture God, a supreme Santa Claus, who lives above the sky. I cannot see this as a male entity, as a judge, as a creator of all the universe. This image of a jealous, angry and vengeful entity is repugnant to me. This leaves me with no one to pray to, no one to give me spiritual comfort, no one to love me unconditionally (except my dog). Why do you keep referring to a God when, over the many years that I have read your books and weekly bulletins, you have said the very things about this entity that I quote above?

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17 September 2009: The Origins of the New Testament, Part I: Introduction

I launch today a series of columns that will appear regularly over the next twelve to eighteen months. As I always do in this column, this series will augment the essays that are time sensitive and that seek to illumine contemporary issues through my theological lens. Last week’s column on the health care debate is …

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Q & A:

Deb McCollister from Nebraska writes:

Militant fundamentalism in any family of faith seems to threaten our world. Readers of your newsletter are aware of Christian scholars who examine long-held assumptions. Can you tell us about penetrating scholarship in other faith walks, study that examines history while seeking meaning and deeper truths?

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10 September 2009: Seeking to Understand the Rhetoric of the Health Reform Debate

I went to my local post office in New Jersey last week only to be confronted by a group of demonstrators who had set up a table filled with pamphlets and information about the communist plot to take over health care in America. Several slogans were quite visible on their posters. One said “Stop Socialist …

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Q & A:

Shirley Krogstad from Hendersonville, North Carolina, writes:

If you had to name one "belief" of yours that has evolved or grown the most over the last ten years, what would it be?

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3 September 2009: The Study of Life, Part 6: Rethinking Basic Christian Concepts in the Light of Charles Darwin

As I retraced Charles Darwin’s steps through the Galapagos Islands, I contemplated anew his impact on traditional Christian thinking. I had been working intensively on Darwin for about three years in preparation for my book on eternal life. Darwin, more than anyone else, had shaken the foundations of belief in eternal life by defining human …

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Q & A:

Karen Hutton from Pleasantville, California, writes:

Is there any purpose in staying a member of a traditional Christian Church if you no longer believe the things the church regards as its core beliefs? Why have you stayed with your church, given your criticisms of many of the basic aspects of Christianity?

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