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24 March 2016: Charting the New Reformation, Part XIV – The Third Thesis: “Original Sin” Pre-Darwinian Mythology – Post Darwinian Nonsense (Continued)
It was Charles Darwin, who was the primary voice sounding the death knell on Atonement theology. Darwin’s work did not just attack the literal details of the Bible’s creation story. That was but his first perceived target. By the clever scheme of suggesting that each of the seven days in the creation story might well …
I have only just found your work and in the last couple of months have read three of your books and there are two more on my shelf waiting for me. It is hard to express how grateful I am and how much it means. I had heard your name back in the early 90s when my world crashed down around my ears, but since my parents were fundamentalists, it wasn’t something I could pick up off the bookshelf. It is too late for me to find belief again, but even so the 30 years old pain that has directed so much of my life is finally finding some relief. A short background: for the first 25 years of my life, my faith was the foundation of my entire being. It was only when I found myself running away from my husband, who was violent to my children, that I suddenly came crashing against something I had never had to look at before – that the church insisted that the reality was not what I could see in front of my face, but only what they could imagine was the “real’ existence in the heavenly realm. So for the first time, I was brutally confronted with a division between God and truth. I had always thought they were the same thing. My God was truth so the church fell away from me (in fact I was asked not to come any more). My parents agreed with the church and sided with my husband. (My father even suggested that I should be exorcised). So I was 25, naïve with three children under five with no community, no family, trying to find air in the vacuum. I tried here and there to find a framework for my profound spirituality. Eventually I just wore out and literally drifted away, leaving everything behind me. I had nothing to give me reality. I lost my children because suicide attempts don’t look good in custody courts. They went back to live with their father with devastating consequences. Two of them now, as adults, never even speak to their father (or go anywhere near a church). I am sure this is a horror story often repeated in the history of the church. For me, my entire journey is about losing truth. I know now that I will never recover from that loss. The God-shaped hole is ferocious in my case and I cannot fill it. Right now I cannot find anything to believe in at all. Not love, not hope, not relationships, not anything; perhaps respect, perhaps that is all. So now my task is to deal with the death of truth and to find a way to walk forward anyway. So to read your work is almost, almost enough. To see that the truth I was fed was not even true on its own terms. To see that there are people who can find truth while looking at the damage of the church full in the face and naming the lies as such. To sense your great compassion for those who left or were left, even though it mattered more than anything. Somehow your work makes it ok. If I had had access to it 25-30 years ago, I would not be where I am now. I would probably be in exile as your term perfectly captures it. I would not have had to lose truth; but it’s ok anyway. It gives me some strength. A way to hold up my head, a way to stop crying to the long invisible people, who were so wrong about what truth was – to put that finally to rest. To know that it is not up to them. Somehow I still needed to know that it wasn’t true. That I was actually ok. I hope you have understood something of what I am trying to say.
17 March 2016: Charting a New Reformation, Part XIII – The Third Thesis: “Original Sin” Pre-Darwinian Mythology: Post Darwinian Nonsense (Continued)
The perfection of God’s world was described again and again in the text of this Genesis story. We read in Genesis 2 that the world was a fertile garden, but it lay fallow without a person to till it. To overcome this problem, Adam was created. Then we are told that “every tree that was …
I love your recent columns introducing your new series on “Charting a New Reformation.” So much of it resonates with me. I am reading Paulo Coelho’s book, The Witch of Portobello and finding so much in it that speaks to me. Especially loved the idea in your column that one can be a non-theist and, at the same time, a committed Christian. That very much describes me. As a young adult, I went on a silent church retreat in which we were urged to listen for God’s voice. The only voice I could hear was the sound of the wind, the rustling of the leaves, the call of the doves and the quietness of the South African countryside. I felt terribly inadequate and ended up helping the cook with the food in the kitchen! It was only years later when I started to read the writings of Richard Rohr that I realized that God had been there all the time, in those sounds and also in the music that I love so much! What a wonderful discovery to make. God bless you in your ministry.
10 March 2016: Charting a New Reformation, Part XII – The Third Thesis: Original Sin “Pre-Darwinian Mythology – Post-Darwinian Nonsense” (continued)
In the fourth century of this Common Era, when the creeds of the Christian Church were being formed, people reading the Christian Bible assumed that it was “the inerrant word of God.” They were certain that God was the author and that the Bible could not, therefore, be wrong. They also had no sense of …
I am French and Catholic. I agree with most all that you think, but and I do not speak good English. I have taught classics and am a Ph.D. in religious history, religious antiquity religious anthropology. I send you a text maybe you could understand it or know somebody who can help you. There is an error in the translation from Greek to Latin (and so in all the languages after) of an important verse about marriage and divorce in Matthew 5:32. Big consequences (indissolubility of marriage and so on). Even if I know myself that I can know what I do, it is important for other people to have an image less deformed of Jesus: there are many different levels and ways. I would like to meet you if you go in France, maybe with a group?
Thank you for your comments. Sorry for my bad English. I teach classics and I can read English. Tell me if you read French if I have to answer from you!
3 March 2016: The Sources of Political Gridlock and Anger
It has been a very unconventional political primary season. In the last three weeks two public debates sank to what seem to me to be new lows in presidential politics. In the first of these debates three of the candidates called other candidates for the same office “liars” on fifty-two occasions in that single debate. …
I was sorry not to see you at the Parliament of World Religions held a while back in Salt Lake City, which was a joyous celebration of love, unity and togetherness as children of God. I wanted to ask your view and interpretation of the celebration of Holy Communion. What is its history? How would you interpret it since you do not subscribe to the blood sacrifice theory? Does it still have its usefulness or would you exclude it from a new progressive Christianity?
25 February 2016: Charting a New Reformation, Part XI –The Third Thesis: Original Sin – The Myth of the Fall
“The biblical story of the perfect and finished creation from which human beings have fallen into “original sin” is pre-Darwinian mythology and pre-Darwinian non-sense.” If one were to look at recent Christian history, one would discover that most of the ecclesiastical energy over the past 150 years has been employed against two perceived major enemies. The …
18 February 2016: Charting a New Reformation, Part X – The Second Thesis: Jesus the Christ
“If God can no longer be thought of in theistic terms, then conceiving of Jesus as ‘the incarnation of the theistic deity’ has also become a bankrupt concept.” Some years ago in conversation with the Dean of a theological seminary, he made what he surely thought was a safe assertion: “I base my faith on …
11 February 2016: The Anglican Communion R.I.P.
It was an historical illusion anyway, a cherished and romantic notion practiced in all kinds of theoretical venues. The idea that the lands that once constituted the British Empire would all have a single faith tradition was always little more than a lovely bit of pious propaganda. History has recorded the fact that wherever the …
I am an open-minded and lifelong truth seeker and enjoy your thoughtful commentaries on spiritual topics. Given my spiritual journeys to date, I think that one of the most profound spiritual ideas with infinite implications that I have recognized is that the words “God” and “Truth” are synonyms. It appears that most people, however, have not reflected on what the implications include. I would appreciate your thought on this issue.
4 February 2016: Biblical Literalism: A Gentile Heresy
The Book has Arrived! It has happened in my life twenty-five times before. It seems that one might get used to it after a while. That is not, however, how the emotional patterns work in the life of an author. The moment of the book’s birth is always accompanied by anxiety; sometimes even reaching the …
I admire your work and I am currently working on my master’s thesis on your views of Christianity and its future. I am at the moment dealing with your writings on atonement and Yom Kippur and finding them very intriguing and important for a better understanding of religion. You talk a great deal about consciousness and a probable “universal consciousness,” which might be the next step for human beings seeking God.
Lately I’ve been reading writings by the late Jesuit named Anthony De Mello and some publications of a non-religious spiritual teacher named Eckhart Tolle. If I am not totally mistaken, you find some mystical views of Christianity fruitful and I think these two fellows are bringing some mystical aspects, awareness and deeper consciousness to the modern era. So I would like to ask you if you’re familiar with their work and if you can relate to their thoughts in any way.
28 January 2016: Charting a New Reformation, Part IX – An Evolving God inside an Evolving Christianity
Today, I conclude the discussion of the first of my twelve theses posted on the internet in my hope to “Chart a New Reformation.” I began with the crucial task of reimagining God, which is foundational in all religious thinking. I have struggled to be careful with the way I use words. I have sought …
21 January 2016: Charting a New Reformation, Part VIII – God –“Not a Being but Being Itself” (Cont.)
It was a 6th century Greek philosopher named Xenophanes who wrote: “If horses had gods, they would look like horses.” Xenophanes was pointing to the reality, which all of us face when we try to speak of or to conceptualize that which we acknowledge as the ultimate reality, or what theologian Paul Tillich referred to …
I have a question about the concept of the “messiah.” I understand that this idea comes from the belief that we are fallen people, who need to be saved from original sin and also out of a culture of oppressed people, who were looking for someone to lead them to freedom. My question is this: What does it mean today? Was Jesus the messiah and, if he was, exactly what does that mean? We are still living in an imperfect world and from what I can see, Christians are no less sinful than anybody else. What makes Jesus more of a messiah than any other great religious leader?
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