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24 October 2007: The Fourth Fundamental: Miracles and the Resurrection, Part V

Something clearly happened to the band of Jesus’ disciples at some point following his crucifixion that was profound, life changing and deeply real. We have no written records between 30 C.E. and 50 C.E. from any source that purports to describe what that experience was. However, we can chart some dramatic changes that occurred in …

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Q & A:

Thank you for being the light that you are,

shining forth with your truth as your heart guides you to do.

Thank you, too, for so eloquently and clearly stating so many of

the thoughts, feelings, and beliefs about Jesus and modern

Christianity that have been rolling inside me since I was first

old enough to understand what I was being taught in the Lutheran

churches. I fully believe that Jesus was the true embodiment of

God, or Spirit, or whatever name you choose to give to that

Universal Source, and that Jesus was the mirror that reflects

the "Christ nature" that is available to each one of us. I am

also of the belief that Mohammed, Buddha, and founders of other

religions expressed a similar God presence that spoke to people

whose traditions were different than those of the Jewish

background from which Jesus came. Because of this, I believe

that a true and dedicated follower of Islam or Buddhism or

Hinduism or any other religious tradition, though they are not

"born-again Christians," can express the same Christ nature that

Christians associate with a true connection with God or Spirit

or Universal Source; when they transition from this human life

to what they call paradise, nirvana, or enlightenment, they are

speaking about the same thing that Christians mean by "heaven."

I am interested in hearing your thoughts on other religious

traditions and their similarities to or difference with your

vision of a personal connection to God.

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10 October 2007: The Fourth Fundamental: Miracles and the Resurrection, Part V

Did Jesus literally and physically walk out of his grave, restored to life, on the third day following his crucifixion? Those who drafted the Five Fundamentals thought so and insisted that anyone who did not say a convincing “yes” to that proposition could no longer claim to be a Christian. The resurrection of Jesus in …

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Q & A:

I am a member of the Spiritual Quest group at St. Mark's

Episcopal Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. One of the topics

we have been studying is the ancient Wheel of the Year and the

relationships of pagan beliefs, customs, and celebrations to

those of Christianity. At the vernal equinox, we found a

variety of very interesting stories, one of which follows: In

Rome, about 200 years before the birth of Christ, there was a

wide range of what we today would call "mystery cults." Attis

and Cybele held their vernal equinox rituals at the same place

where St. Peter's Basilica now stands in the Vatican - the

center of Catholicism today. Attis was also known under various

names such as Osiris, Dionysus, Tammuz, and Orpheus. The Attis

and Cybele festival had a death or day of blood, three days of

semi-death, then a return to life for the deceased. Attis'

mother was called Nana and she was a virgin - no surprise there.

Attis was crucified on a pine tree and his followers ate his

body; his blood was spilled or released to renew/redeem the

earth. Attis was both a sacrificial victim and a savior, his

death and re-birth intended to bring salvation to mankind. Most

researchers will declare that Attis is clearly the prototype for

Christ. (This information is from

target="_new">Ireland's Druidschool Web site). It appears

that the Christian churches tried to win over the pagans by

taking over or blending in with their celebrations at these

particular times of the year pertaining to the sun, moon,

fertility, harvest, and otherworldly observances like Halloween.

Does the church calendar have any meaning? Does it really

matter? How does all this complicate our understanding of God,

Jesus, and our ministry in the world? And, lastly, what do you

think about it?

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3 October 2007: Unexpected Serendipities from Australia

My lecture tour of Australia apparently tapped into a spiritual hunger that seems to be omni-present in that land. Book store lecture events in Sydney, Melbourne, Malvern, Frankston and Adelaide drew standing room only crowds that were limited only by the size of the bookstore. Some of them, in Sydney, Frankston and Adelaide, seeing the …

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Q & A:

I have been reading your books and weekly Internet essays for a long time. I even had the chance to meet you when you lectured in Houston, and I attended other lectures you gave here, all of which have enriched me. Here is what lies heavy on my heart now: It occurs to me that the Episcopal Church has not heretofore established a rule (I do not know if "rule" is the correct term) that gays and lesbians can't marry one another, or a rule that would prevent a gay or lesbian person from becoming a priest or bishop. Otherwise, why are certain bishops trying to get these rules carved in stone in an either/or way? It also occurs to me that those who favor these rules are the ones who are breaking away from those who do not favor them and/or who have blessed the marriages and appointed the bishop. What comes to mind is the cause of the first schism in the Church, between Western Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. That came about when one side, the Romans, acted without following established practice, which was that all decisions must be made by unanimous consent of the bishops. The debate at that time was about whether the Holy Spirit came from the Father or from the Father and the Son (the filioque clause). Rome, not Constantinople, caused this schism, at least according to what my Orthodox friends told me when my wife and I took the pilgrimage to Russia in 1988 to celebrate the millennium of Christianity in Russia. It's ironic that the ones who do not wish to break away from the others are the ones being blamed (and cursed, I assume) for creating the threat of schism in out time. I guess they are doing this so they can claim the properties owned by the Church and be in the position to force the departure of the "dissenters." In view of this, I urge the ones who do not favor the new rules not to take a defensive attitude in this affair, but, instead, continue to open their doors, minds, and hearts to those who do, with the hope that all will realize that it is Christ's Church. Before I end this message, I want to ask a question about the deadline. Who gave any bishop the authority to set a deadline on another bishop for the settlement of any issue that confronts the Church? To me, this is another example of the anarchy mindset that has befallen our government and now our Church. Thank you for your efforts in support of those who others want to marginalize.

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26 September 2007: Pitt Street Uniting Church, Sydney, Australia The Face of Tomorrow’s Congregation

Some twenty years or so ago the leaders of Australia’s Uniting Church, a body that came into being in 1979 as a merger of Methodists, Presbyterians and Congregationalists, with samplings of some other smaller Protestant bodies, decided that the Pitt Street Uniting Church of Sydney was doomed and probably should be closed. Its empty pews …

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Q & A:

I was a Christian once - for about 18 years, or most of my

adult life. But then I read the Bible honestly and realized it

was mostly evil. I am now Pagan/Hindu and will never be a

Christian again. I know you agree that there is much evil in

the Bible. You even reject basic Christian doctrines like being

born in sin, the vicarious sacrifice of Jesus' blood for those

who believe and heaven and hell. How then are you still a

Christian? The depiction of Satan in the Bible is far better

that the depiction of God. If the Bible reflects God in any way

truly, then he is a monster and Satan is a hero for rebelling.

Don't you agree? So, why are you still a Christian?

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19 September 2007: Common Dreams, Sydney, Australia, 2007

It was the best conference I have attended in my entire career. Entitled “Common Dreams” and attracting 1500 plus people to Sydney, it was the brainchild of a committee of about a dozen people representing various Christian groups in Australia. Chaired by Rex Hunt, a Uniting Church of Australia pastor from Canberra, and Greg Jenks, …

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Q & A:

In your inspiring book Jesus for the

Non-Religious, you make the case that the healing miracles

were not literal events but were instead meant to convey that

Jesus "opened people's eyes to see what life could be." I could

not agree with you more. However, John Crossan says that

healing was part of the ministry of Jesus (see page 332 of

The Historical Jesus). I cannot envision this healing

ministry in a literal sense. So, from your perspective, how did

Jesus "open people's eyes?" What would a day in the life of

Jesus of Nazareth look like? You make a profound case for Jesus

as the breaker of tribal boundaries, prejudices and stereotypes

and religious boundaries. How did this look in practice? If we

were to take a video camera and follow Jesus around, what would

we see? How did a Jewish peasant people, who more than likely

kept exclusionary boundaries themselves, experience boundary

breaking as life-giving? How can we understand the Jesus

experience without resorting to the examples of metaphorical

healing stories?

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12 September 2007: If Christianity Cannot Change, It Will Die.

Author’s note: While in Australia, the Sydney Morning Herald invited me to write an op-ed piece on the future of Christianity. I found that a particularly interesting thing to do since both the Roman Catholics and the Anglicans of Sydney seem to me to live in a time warp and most of the citizens of …

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Q & A:

In an interview with BeliefNet, Hans Küng said that the Vatican knew for decades about sexually abusive priests and the bishops" mishandling of them. In you opinion, why did they allow the situation to continue for so long?

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5 September 2007: A Public Letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Rowan Williams

Dear Rowan, I am delighted that you have agreed to meet with the House of Bishops of the American Episcopal Church in September, even if you appear to be unwilling to come alone. It has seemed strange that you, who have had so much to say about the American Church, have not been willing to …

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Q & A:

This week, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC)

television program Compass, hosted by Geraldine

Doogue, ran a production on Interfaith Ministry. It was based on

a book written by Peter Kirkwood and published by ABC Books in

Sydney, Australia. Now I am reading the book — The

Quiet Revolution — and it is an inspiring story

indeed. I had never heard of the Parliament of the World's

Religions, so I am moving into a set of stories completely new

to me.

Despite the glamorous report presented through the television

lens, the movement may have much goodwill building to do. Given

that I live in a far-flung part of the world, I feel the need

not to invest too much hope in it yet. On the other hand, this

is no time in the life of the planet to be timid and doubtful.

Perhaps you might comment on the movement and provide some

guidance to those of us unfamiliar with, but not averse to, this


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29 August 2007: Why Should People Pay Any Attention to the Christian Church on Sexual Matters?

In recent decades the primary battles that have been fought in the Christian Church have not been about theology, but about issues of human sexuality. Huge debates polarize the Church on whether priesthood will be limited to males; the morality of birth control and abortion; who has the right to decide on what birth control …

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Q & A:

I attended your recent lectures in Austin and realize I forgot to ask you a question that has been increasingly on my mind: How does the concept of "worship" figure into your vision of a new Christianity? For a long time I have felt that God doesn't need my worship or praise, and to think that God does need my worship and adoration seems silly. (I think that "worship" and "adoration" are different from feeling a sense of gratitude and connection to God.)

My church has been having some serious discussions regarding worship changes and I've heard some folks say that worship shouldn't be about us — it's simply about praising God. Well, I think that worship is very much about me and about the other worshipers as well — it's about drawing us closer to God, about the community called the church, about inspiring us to care for others, etc. Creeds that I can't say, prayers of confession that beat people up, hymns focused on atonement messages, and an emphasis on liturgy and ritual over spirituality only impede my relationship to God. Am I just spoiled and self-centered to want a more meaningful and more relevant worship experience?

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22 August 2007: The Fourth Fundamental: Miracles and the Resurrection, Part IV

The idea that one can raise a deceased person to life entered the biblical story in two narratives from the Elijah-Elisha cycle of stories. It is then picked up and repeated in the gospel tradition. Was this meant to be read literally? Did Jesus really raise the dead? Is it biologically possible to bring back …

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Q & A:

I have enjoyed your writing for some time. As a

devotee of the philosopher Spinoza, I would be interested in your comments on

this very special man.

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15 August 2007: The Fourth Fundamental: Miracles and the Resurrection, Part III

In this series we first sought to identify the places in the Bible where miracles seem to appear in groups. There are only three: The Moses-Joshua cycle of stories, the Elijah-Elisha cycle and the Jesus-Apostles cycle. We then raised the question of whether there might be a connection between these three biblical collections. To destabilize …

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Q & A:

Why is the Friday before Easter called "Good Friday"? Where did the term originate?

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