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______________________ LIFE, FAITH, ETCETERA

List December 6, 2015

This is not one of those online-generated mimes.
This is an actual church sign here in Fort Wayne.
(Only the name has been blured to protect the, well, I’m not sure.)

list

I couldn’t help but think, “What an anemic, petty and pathetic little god.
A narcissistic entity no better than (actually worse than) that fellow who flies around in a sleigh.
He’s actually quite selfish and immature, much like the omnipotent “Q” from Star Trek.

I do not believe this at all represents The Divine that Jesus spoke of.
I can tell you one thing:  This is not a god I’d have any desire to show up at 10:00 am on a Sunday morning to worship.

—————————

Q
“Q” as portrayed by the talented and quirky John de Lancie.

 

Three For The Journey December 29, 2014

This is very unusual for me, but I’m currently reading three books at the same time.
Three authors.  Three different general topics.  Three points of view (at least).
Yet, the way the messages of these books compliment each other, and even overlap at times is amazing.
I’ve not finished any of them yet.  Still, I can already recommend each one.
The three books are:
Brian McLaren’s “We Make The Road By Walking: A Year-Long Quest for Spiritual Formation, Reorientation, and Activation,”
Peter Enns’ “The Bible Tells Me So… – Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable To Read It,” and
Eckhart Tolle’s “The Power Of NOW: A Guide To Spiritual Enlightenment.”

walking

First up, the McLaren offering.  I briefly mentioned this is a previous post, “Left Behind.”  My ninth McLaren book, this is a “devotional” of sorts, meant to be read at the rate of one chapter per week.  It has suggested scripture readings to accompany each chapter, as well as discussion questions and ways to “activate” the principles discussed.  It’s great for an individual, but it’s even better for a small group. (We have 4 guys in our discussion group.)  If you don’t identify as a “Christian,” or you’re not really into reading the Bible, you may still enjoy the practical, real-world life lessons found here.  In fact, Christian or not, Brian’s book will help you see the Bible in a way you may never have before. These are discussions that have the potential to change the world we live in by changing the individuals reading the book.
I’ve just finished chapter 13, which concludes the first section “Alive In The Story Of Creation.”  The material just keeps getting better and better. So far, we’ve dealt with mostly Old Testament material.  We’ve looked at the stories, when and why they were written, what the authors were trying to convey, and how these stories can provide meaning for us today.  We see how, through time, the biblical authors express an evolving understanding of God. This explains so much as we see them move from a previous view of many gods, to a view of one “tribal” god, to the God Jesus spoke of (who was very different from what many OT writers thought!). Our group has had some really good chats, complete with some disagreements.  I’m certainly the most, well, “left-leaning” of our group.  We have some really different conclusions we’ve drawn, and can disagree very, very strongly sometimes. But we generally take the approach so wonderfully stated by Rob Bell:
“You can hold something with so much conviction that you’d die for that belief, and yet, in the exact same moment say, ‘I could be wrong.’”
Find out more about “We Make The Road…” Click HERE.

bible

I purchased “The Bible Tells Me So” based on a recommendation by Rob Bell.  Many people, usually non-Christians, think the Bible is a really, really awful book.  I totally get that.  But, as Peter Enns points out, the Bible isn’t the problem.  People not knowing how to read the Bible: That’s a BIG problem.  I love the Bible.  It’s a wonderful book.  But I believe with all my heart, many “christians” need their Bibles taken away.
Yes.
I said that.
And I mean it!
They simply do not know how to read the book.  And that one but powerful truth has been the source of untold tragedy, suffering, violence, hatred, prejudice, injustice  and death.  With scholarly adeptness, spiritual respect, and no small dose of humor, Mr. Enns offers a gold-mine of biblical information that is sorely needed.  Again, this is a great read for anyone wishing insight and understanding for what is arguably the most famous, and most misunderstood book in all of history.  If I was king of the world, I would decree that no one reads the Bible without reading “The Bible Tells Me So…” as a companion piece.  Of course, the Catholic tradition already has books in their Bible that Protestants do not.  So, maybe we could just stick Peter’s book right in between the Old and New Testaments.  (No, I didn’t think that would fly.)
It’s clear through the parables of Jesus, but we actually see through the entire Bible that “God likes stories.”  There’s a reason the Bible doesn’t lay out everything in bullet points.  A story does not need to be 100% historically accurate to be “true.”
The Bible has often been wielded as an object of terror. When approached and read responsibly, the Bible is truly an awesome book!
Mr. Enns helps us to quit jumping through all the hoops, trying to make the Bible “behave.”  We learn to accept the Bible on its own terms.  Part of that is admitting there are blatant contradictions.  And that’s fine, because we can also clearly see that each writer had their own viewpoint as well as their own agenda.  One of the strong take-a-ways (which many Christians acknowledge verbally, but certainly not in practice) is that “Jesus is bigger than the Bible.” The material here is fascinating, educational and entertaining.  Put this on you “Must Read” list.
Get more info on “The Bible Tells Me So.”  Click HERE.

now

The 3rd entry here is one I’m reading due to the impact Barry McGuire said it had on him.  It’s had a similar impact on many others.
I recently reviewed a book called “Notes From (Over) The Edge.”  I’ve little doubt that the author of that book has read “The Power Of NOW.”  A lot of information in that book could have come directly from this one.

The message/theme of this book is one I’ve been hearing many places, from many sources; Christian, Buddhist, and others.  It is a message that Christ also proclaimed.
Essentially: Life is Now.”
We spend (waste) so much time reflecting on the past, or projecting into the future that we truly miss life.
It’s not just that life is now, but also that “God” is now.  Any relationship I have with the Divine is now.  It’s in this moment.  It’s in this breath.
Eckhart Tolle helps us connect to that breath.  That breath that is now.  We learn to “listen” to our bodies.  We are taught the benefits, and limitation of our “minds.”  We become able to step outside our conscious thoughts and look at them objectively.  We start “watching the thinker.”  We  recognize that we are not just our thoughts.  There is a “true self,” an authentic self that is beyond the mind.  “All the things that truly matter – beauty, love, creativity, joy, inner peace – arise from beyond the mind.”  We can start to observe our thoughts without judgment or commentary.  This higher dimension of consciousness is what the author calls “presence.”
These are also principles my wife and I were taught in our recent meditation classes.  Accessing the power of now is said to be seen in the words of St. Paul, “Everything is shown up by being exposed to the light, and whatever is exposed to the light itself becomes light.”
I believe there is a “oneness” to all that is.  If “all” came from one God, then all must inherently be connected to that single Divine… well, Divinity.  At least part of living out our oneness with all else that is one is accessing the power of now.

I’m writing these thoughts and reviews right now from the hospital.
My wife is currently in surgery.   A little over a year ago she was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Today, we hope that will all be soon behind us, as she is having her “port” removed. (You can Google info on that, if you don’t know what it is.) She’ll be out of commission for a few weeks, and there will be pain, but it’s still a step forward.
Anyway, it’s been a rough ride at times.  Though some may belittle our faith, and others may think we’ve lost it, I can’t imagine going through this without it.

Books like the ones listed here, or rather the paths to which they’ve led, have been an integral, sustaining, life-affirming part of the journey.  The platitudes and somewhat blind devotion of my religious past would have been hard-pressed to sustain me through these times.  I’ve often seen them fail people while the people they failed engaged in some major cognitive dissonance trying to maintain what they falsely perceived as “faith.”
I thank God for those who are able to put their thoughts and insights to paper, including the ones mentioned here.  I’m thankful for my friends and associates, of various faith traditions, with whom I can have the “hard” conversations without feeling we’re in competition or trying to convert each other.
My biggest “thank-you” going out to Divinity is for my wife.  We can’t choose how long we’ll be around for each other, but we have each other NOW.  And whether we’re living in “this” now, or a now in some other form of eternity, the truth is Now is all we ever really have.

Buy “We Make The Road…” Click HERE.
Buy “The Bible Tells Me So.”  Click HERE.
Buy “The Power Of Now.”  Click HERE.

Quotes from all three books, intermixed, more of which will be added later:

– We are in the early stages of a new moment of emergence, pulsing with danger and promise.

– Realize deeply that the present moment is all you ever have. Make the Now the primary focus of your life.

– Canaanite genocide is par of Israel’s story of the past – not a historical account of something God did.

– I believe that the Spirit of God works everywhere to bring and restore aliveness.  Sometimes institutions welcomed this nonviolent spiritual movement and were strengthened by it.  Sometimes they co-opted, smothered, squelched, frustrated, corrupted, or betrayed it.

– Before Christianity was a rich and powerful religion, it claimed that everyone, not just a select few, had God-given gifts to use for the common good.  It exposed a system based on domination, privilege, and violence and proclaimed in it place a vision of mutual service, mutual responsibility, and peaceable neighborliness.

– Christians today have an obligation not to “follow the Bible” here.  For Christians, Jesus, not the Bible, has the final word.  The story of God’s people has moved on, and so must we.

– Eventually, through the biblical library, we find a beautiful new vision of God being revealed.  God desires justice for all, not just for us.  God is leading both us and them out of injustice and violence into a new way of reconciliation and peace.

– Jesus was living by a different interpretation of the old stories.  He freed [people] from both passive, pious complacency and desperate, violent action [for] something better: faithful, peaceful action.

– God comes off as a bit touchy.  When provoked, God wasn’t bashful about killing or plaguing his own people.  If we read this anywhere else, we would call it genocide.

– You believe this mind-made fiction is who you are. You would rather be in pain than risk losing the familiar unhappy self.

– Sweating bullets to line up the Bible with our exhausting expectations isn’t a pious act of faith.  It’s actually thinly masked far of losing control and certainty… a warning signal that deep down we do not really trust God at all.

– Shifting my thinking on the Bible did not mean I was losing my faith.  In fact, I had the growing sense that God was inviting me down this path, encouraging it even.

– Enlightenment means rising above thought. You still use your thinking mind when needed, but you are free of the involuntary internal dialogue.

– My decision to go through door number three would eventually come to make me an outsider in my own community.

– I gained a Bible – and a God- I was free to converse with… disagree with.. [instead of a god] like an abusive, drunken father you don’t want to wake from his nap.

 

Buy “We Make The Road…” Click HERE.
Buy “The Bible Tells Me So.”  Click HERE.
Buy “The Power Of Now.”  Click HERE.

 

Everything Must Change September 11, 2014

EMC

Everything Must Change
(When The World’s Biggest Problems and Jesus’ Good News Collide)
– Brian D. McLaren

This is not a quick and easy read. At least it wasn’t for me. But this is potentially one of the most important books you may ever read. The is one of 4 or 5 books I would like to see in everyone’s library.
More importantly, I’d like to see it in the hands of every “young” person between 18 and 30. I totally believe the future of the world as we know it depends on the issues addressed in this book.

“Everything Must Change” is written by a Christian, predominately to a Christian audience (although many fundamentalists doubt this target audience is “Christian” to begin with). But, the issues and principles here apply to every human on the face of the planet.  And they effect every human and non-human on the face of the planet.

Some issues covered are:

* The Prosperity Crisis – Environmental breakdown caused by our unsustainable global economy.  One that does not respect environmental limits, while creating great wealth for about one third of the world’s population.

* The Equity Crisis – There’s a growing gap between the ultra-rich and the extremely poor, most of whom are growing in envy, resentment and hate of the rich.  The rich become fearful and angry as they seek to protect their wealth.

* The Security Crisis – The danger of war arising from resentment between the groups at opposite ends of the economic spectrum.

* The Spirituality Crisis – This is the failure of the world’s religions (especially Christianity and Islam) to provide a framing story that could bring healing or at least reduction to, the previous three crises.

This is another book that will help readers see how we’ve misconstrued so many of Jesus’ teachings.  Brian helps us to hear Jesus’ words more in alignment with how his first listeners heard them.  We see that we have a “framing story” that desperately needs changed.  So we revisit “the essential message of Jesus.”  In doing so, we re-examine metaphors like “The Kingdom of God.”  We consider our human situation in connection with the message and purpose of Jesus

In one section, Mr. Mclaren likens our past religious attempts at understanding to those of someone piecing together a puzzle.  We’re trying to fit it all together according to the picture on the lid.  The problem is, we have the wrong lid!

In chapter 4, a young man from Khayelitsha, South Africa, delivers a very weighty message to a group of pastors and evangelists from America.  It is a message every pastor and evangelist needs to hear.  If you’re a “missionary,” please read this chapter.  Even if you don’t want to buy the book, borrow it from the library.  Borrow it from me.  Just read this chapter.

It seems many people shy away from politics and religion.  As Brian states, “A lot of us are very happy to go through life knowing as little as possible about economics, politics, and ecology.”  The thing is, these are both the problem, and part of the solution.  For me personally, my politics are intrinsically tied to my faith in Christ.  Yes, we pray.  But then we help bring God’s will “on earth as it is in heaven” by taking action: Action that can help bring about equality, justice, and environmental responsibility.  I believe a proper look at the teachings of Jesus will reveal that very thing.

This was my 9th Brian McLaren book.  My “Comrades” and I are getting ready, as a group, to read Brian’s latest, “We Make The Road By Walking.”

If you’re someone who cares about the future of your children, your children’s children, and so on; I would suggest you read “Everything Must Change” and seriously consider the message it contains.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.


Quotes:

– Not only am I often unsatisfied with conventional answers, but even worst, I’ve consistently been unsatisfied with conventional questions.

– Part of what it means to be “a new kind of Christian” is to discover or rediscover what the essential message of Jesus is about.

– Many of our religious institutions have taught us to see no horizon for the message of Jesus beyond the soul of the individual.
Buy the book. Click HERE.

– The way of the kingdom of God calls people to a higher concern than self- or national interest: namely, concern for the common good.

– We can no longer deal with global problems as discrete unrelated issues.

– Jesus bursts on the scene with this scandalous message: The time has come!  Rethink everything!  A radically new kind of empire is available.

– Theocapitalists have tended to see the rich as morally good and the poor as morally culpable for their own poverty.
Buy the book. Click HERE.

– Many of our current eschatologies, intoxicated by dubious interpretations of John’s Apocalypse, are not only ignorant and wrong, but dangerous and immoral.

– We don’t have a violent “Second Coming” Jesus who finishes what the gentle “First Coming” Jesus failed to do, but we have a poetic description of the way the gentle First Coming Jesus powerfully overcomes through his nonviolent “weakness”, a prince of peace whose word of reconciliation is truly mightier than Caesar’s sword.
Buy the book. Click HERE.



 

 

The Great Emergence May 20, 2014

thegreatemergenceThe Great Emergence
– Phyllis Tickle

“Every five hundred years, the church cleans out its attic and has a giant rummage sale. Well, not exactly. But according to Phyllis Tickle, this is an accurate summary of the church’s massive transitions over time. According to the pattern, we are living in such a time of change right now.” [From the back cover.]

The subtitle is “How Christianity Is Changing and Why.”  This book originally came out in 2008, six years ago.  But, when you’re discussing events in time spans of 500 years, six years doesn’t mean the material is “dated.”  In fact, this book is extremely relevant.  I’ve seen the name Phyllis Tickle pop up again and again in other writer’s materials.  I’ve wanted to read something of hers for some time now.  I’m very glad I finally have.

Phyllis takes us back to 1st century Christianity, through The Dark Ages, The Great Schism, the time of Luther and The Great Reformation, and up to today.  She shows us the constant influence of religion on society, and society on religion.  We’re shown how the automobile radically changed community and consensual illusion.
We see the influence of Karl Marx, Einstein, Oriental Christianity, Darwinism, Gutenberg, Wycliffe, nanotechnology, family, the birth control pill, Buddhism, theology, orthodoxy, orthopraxy, orthonomy, Alcoholics Anonymous and a whole lot more.
Chapter 5 may be my favorite, and it include a great section on “Rosie the Riveter.”

This book is, for one thing, a history of the Christian church.  When you hear someone espouse a particular belief and say “Christianity has always believed this,” please, check your facts!  Truth is, there are and have been many Christianities, and Phyllis helps us sort through much of Christianity’s evolutions.  There are some nice diagrams involving the quadrants of “Liturgicals,” “Social Justice Christians,” “Renewalists,” & “Conservatives.”

Central to the whole discussion here is the question “Where now is the authority?”  The change of the base of authority has repeatedly caused great acts of violence and horror from the religious powers that be.  At one time, religious authority was in the monasteries and convents.  Roman Catholicism placed the authority in the papal system.  Luther told us the authority was not the Pope, but in sola scriptura.  Pentecostalism and Charismatic renewal, while keeping scripture as it’s base, said the authority was the “Holy Spirit” (personal experience).
Many people I know freak out at the thought of realizing the Bible is not the “end-all” in understanding God, but the real fear, the one that is always there during one of these 500 year rummage sales, is “Where now is the authority?”

Ms. Tickle takes us far into the past, brings us to where we are today, and then looks at where we are likely headed.  “The Great Emergence” is informative, entertaining and truly a delight to read.

– df

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

Some Quotes:

– Whenever there is so cataclysmic a break as is the rupture between modernity and postmodernity… there is inevitably a backlash.  Dramatic change is perceived as a threat to the status quo, primarily because it is.

– Every time the incrustations of an overly established Christianity have been broken open, the faith has spread.

– Pentecostalism’s demonstration of a Church of all classes and races and both genders became a kind of living proof text that first horrified, then unsettled, then convicted, and ultimately helped change congregational structure in the United Stats, regardless of denomination.

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

– No one of the member parts or connecting networks has the whole or entire “truth” of anything.

– Albert Einstein dominates every part of the twentieth century including, and more or less directly, religion.

– The question of “Where now is our authority?” is the fundamental or foundational question of all human existence.

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

– How can we live responsibly as devout and faithful adherents of one religion in a world of many religions? [Check out Brian McLaren’s “Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?“]

– One always picks up a bit of whatever it is that one opposes simply by virtue of wrestling with it.

– Thousands and thousands of godly and devout Christians fought for the practice of slavery as being biblically permitted and accepted.

– Life on the margins has always been the most difficult and, at the same time, the one most imaginatively lived.

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

– [Alcoholics Anonymous] opened the floodgates to spirituality by removing the confines of organized religion.

– Eventually free time will lead most of us to increasing awareness of our internal experience.

– The case had been clearly made that the journey of the spirit did not require the baggage of religion to be a worthy and rewarding trek.

– In the hands of emergents, Christianity has grown exponentially, not only in geographic base and numbers, but also in passion and in an effecting belief in the Christian call to the brotherhood of all peoples.

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

 

Picture This May 18, 2014

afewquotes

 

irreconcilable

 

bibleMess

goodNews

doesn't work

dramaticTurn

 

 

 

 

 

Finding Faith: A Search For What Makes Sense September 26, 2013

search

“Many people crave certainty.
They want dogma.
They want guaranteed answers.
This book is not for them.”
– Steve Chalke


This book may not be for “them,” but it is for pretty much everyone else.  So many people think they must abandon intellectual integrity in order to exercise faith.  Mr. McLaren shows, once again, that the two are not mutually exclusive.  In fact, good faith will make sense.
Brian, as a Christian, has a definite point of view, but he doesn’t discount other views, or disrespect those who differ.   He offers insights on various avenues of thought, and the logical conclusions (as he understands them) to which those avenues will lead.

Here is a book that is intentionally made so as not to be a cover-to-cover reading experience.  Brian sets up each chapter by giving a brief description of the material, and then telling us who would benefit from reading that particular chapter.  Very different.

Some of the questions addressed are, “Does it really matter what I believe?” “Can I believe in Atheism?” “Why are there so many religions?” “Aren’t all religions equally true?” “What is the relationship between faith and knowledge?” and, one of my favorites, “Don’t all paths lead to the same God?”

Early on we look at the strong difference between good faith and bad faith.  Here, McLaren states “I would rather have a wrong faith that is good than a right faith that is bad.”  So, yes, we are discussing again the importance of how you believe vs. what you believe.

In Chapter 3 (my second favorite in the book) there is an absolutely wonderful chart of “The Four Stages of Doubt.”  These can simultaneously be refereed to as “The Four Stages of Faith.”  Sadly, people often get stuck in an early stage, and never move forward.  The refusal to move forward gives rise to dangerous fundamentalism.  This includes not only Christian fundamentalism, but also that of Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, Atheists, et al.  (Brian gives reasons to consider that believing there is no God is, itself, a “faith” position.)

Chapter six looks at polytheism, pantheism, dualism, good monotheism, bad monotheism, and (briefly) panentheism. We also examine the role of creation in revealing God, and how that relates to an “art gallery” experience.
In the seventh chapter, Brian “addresses a number of common objections or frustrations that people have with monotheism, regarding God’s personality, gender, subtlety, and the like.”  Is God personal or impersonal?  Relational or non-relational?  Male or female (Beyond semantics / Maternal imagery)? There’s a nice bit that addresses the fallacy of a question like “Don’t you think the Creator of the Universe has bigger fish to fry than answering the prayers of children and old women?”

Chapter 8 (my personal favorite) is “Don’t All Paths Lead to the Same God?”  I would actually suggest beginning with this chapter.  Brian has clearly (as have I) made belief in Christ his faith-choice.  But he does so, as I hope I also do, with true respect for those of other faith traditions.  
No religion
owns God or has a corner on the “truth market.”  There is a simple, yet great graphic in this chapter that addresses the subject of truth.

We’ve all heard it said “It doesn’t really matter what you believe.”
The thing is, what we believe can have world-altering consequences. What we believe does matter.
If you believe your God tells you it’s OK to fly planes into towers full of people, that matters.  If you believe your God tells you it’s OK to own people because of their skin color (or any other reason), that matters.  If you believe your God tells you it’s OK to withhold rights from a group of people because they don’t love who you think they should love, that matters. If, on a positive note, you believe your God tells you to love and care for others, be respectful, and take care of the planet, well, that also matters.
We’re told that , concerning the beliefs we consider, “We need open windows, but good screens.”
We’re given 4 guiding principles, and four screening principles. These 8 principles are more than worth the book price. This chapter should be required reading for… well, for everyone.  Really, the simple approach of this section, taken seriously, would go a l-o-n-g way in creating a more peaceful world.

There are, I think, some statements and sections that could initially appear as somewhat arrogant.  But if you give Brian the benefit of the doubt in those moments, there’s a clear overall picture of a man who holds his beliefs and strong convictions with sincere humility.  It’s like Rob Bell said, “You can hold something with so much conviction that you’d die for that belief, and yet, in the exact same moment say, ‘I could be wrong.'”

So, click one of the links, buy the book, pick a chapter, and dig in.
This book really is a buffet.  You can nibble, fully dine, or pig-out.
Be sure to allow time to digest, and get the full benefit of the nutrients.
Of course, you can always go back for more.

– df

Buy the book: Click Here.

[NOTE:  This is one of a pair of books.  The second (which I’ve not yet read) is “Finding Faith: The Search For What Is Real.”]

QUOTES:

* We are on a level playing field; none of us lives with absolute, unassailable certainty about anything; we all live by faith.

* The finding of faith and the growing of faith… ironically can feel like losing faith.

* [We see] Jesus’ consistent refusal to do things that would force people into believing in him.  Instead, he always allowed room for doubt and presented people with the opportunity to explore their questions.

* If you are born in India, you are probably going to “know” Hinduism is the true religion; if in America or Guatemala, it will probably be Christianity; if in an intellectual family in France, agnosticism or atheism; if in Iran, Islam; if in Israel, Judaism.  There are exceptions, but it appears clear that the majority of people choose their beliefs based on social acceptance, peer pressure, and other factors rather than on a sober independent investigation of the objective evidence.

Buy the book: Click Here.

* If a professed belief is not sufficient to promote action, then it would better be called an opinion or an idea or concept.

* As someone who deeply respects the Bible, I think we do it a disservice by implying that it can do something that no book can do.

* Isn’t conceit – the sense of certainty that I am already so right and superior that I don’t need to learn or listen –  the greatest possible barrier to faith?

* There are strong reasons for making a faith commitment to the atheist position.

* Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear. [Thomas Jefferson]

* Monotheism has apparent downsides too… crusades, holy wars, jihads, division, controversy, bigotry, confusion, contradiction, overwhelming complexity.

* We aren’t proving anything here; we are simply suggesting that if human beings have a seemingly incurable, innate, cor hunger and thirst for spiritual meaning, that that is at least evidence – though certainly not proof – that there may be a reality corresponding to the desire.

* It is wise not the close the door too fast on theism.


Buy the book: Click Here.

—————-


the four stages

For a better understanding of the chart, and an overall great read,
buy “Finding Faith: A Search for What Makes Sense.” Click HERE.

 

The Square Root of God July 20, 2013

sqroot


…And now for something completely different.


The Square Root of God: Mathematical Metaphors and Spiritual Tangents
– Timothy Carson

OK.  Not completely different.  (There’s nothing new under the sun.)  I certainly found some similarities here with works like Bell’s “What We Talk About When We Talk About God,” Rollins’ “The Idolatry of God,”  and a few whispers of Dowd’s “Thank God For Evolution.”  Still, I’ve never read anything quite like this.

While these pages are assuredly from the perspective of a “Jesus person,” I believe most of what’s written here would be of interest to those of other faith traditions, as well.  We look at “God’s universal presence in all time and space,” against which backdrop “Jesus emerged.”

Mr. Carson starts by telling us that “Thinkers from every world civilization throughout history have somehow connected mystical spirituality and mathematics.”
Hmmm.  I did not know that, but reading of the connections is just amazing.

We look at intersubjectivity and objective reality, and that “what we observe is filtered in unusual ways by the worldview we already hold.”  We begin to see “the limits of any human endeavor to interpret the hidden nature of reality.”
Timothy takes us on a journey through quantum physics, religion, philosophy, music, art, time, space, pantheism vs. panentheism, and mathematical equations as they relate to and reveal that which we call “God.”

In the chapter titled “Number 1” we read from the Old Testament books of Deuteronomy, Genesis, and Exodus.  Here we find that “The essential metaphysical pronouncement  is that there is but one ultimate and seamless reality and it’s source.  There is one… irreducible, undivided unity… a singularity that is the simplicity within every complexity.”  “Even chaos has a hidden symmetry.”
It is from here we examine the Christian doctrine of the Trinity.  We are led beyond both Unitarianism and Trinitarianism (I’ve been in those battles.  They’re not usually pretty!) to a mathematical metaphor that suggests that God can never be the product of addition. As it is expounded upon, our author’s proposal  would seem to satisfy Unitarians, at the same time retaining a sense of Son and Spirit in a way that would be palatable to many Trinitarians.  We delve deeper into the ways that “mathematics and theology inform one another.”
There are also discussions about Thomas Jefferson, Plato, prime numbers, Shema, the Nicene Creed, healing, prayer, spiritual centering, the medical arts, and genetics.

In “Circle Up,” we examine (you guessed it) the circle.  We’re reminded that every point on the circumference of a circle, although in different relationships to each other, are equal peers due to their identical relationship to the center.  “Circles are built into the structure of the universe in countless ways.  Circles are everywhere.”  “From planets to stars, galaxies to atoms, matter and it’s energy are oriented to and shaped by the centers that hold them.”
Some of the ramifications and spiritual applications may come immediately to your mind.  Others may surprise you.  The story of “The Prodigal Son,” metaphysical harmony, variation of relationship intensity, grace, Jews, Christians, Islam, Buddhism, the arrogance of exclusivism, and rainbows all add to this mind-expanding section.  We see how the “exclusivist, universalist, inclusivist and tolerance models” are all “found wanting.  What is needed is something else, something more.”

Next up is “A Piece of Pi.”  This chapter follows, of course, the discussion of the circle.  Here, Pi becomes a metaphor of Christ, each being a “key” to unlock, although not fully disclose, a mystery.  We look at “the anomaly in the web of time and space” that is the emergence of Jesus within history, and the related failings of classical theism.
We also survey the speed of light, sacred wisdom, parables, the Torah, the Gospel of John, and the two greatest commandments.  And, as some other books have done, we look at the total insanity (my words) of traditional penal substitution.

“Shape Beneath the Shape” focuses on geometry.  We inspect the “interplay of lines, circles, squares, triangles and multiple combinations thereof.”  We consider the “primary distinction between Newtonian and Quantum physics.”  Through the work of Picasso, we see that “the underlying truth of a thing disrupts how we are accustomed to seeing it.”  This principle has been a repeat offender in my continuing escape from religious fundamentalism.
There’s a good piece on the double entendres in the Gospel of John.  Plus, we see how the term “saved” has been grossly misunderstood as we talk about the nature of salvation.  Here’s a good quote from this chapter: “Faced with a choice between the God of classical theism or no God, people are choosing the latter, no God.  Fortunately, another pathway is available.”
Also included: Jacques Maritain, Freud, Jung, the Samaritan woman, Kabbalah, the Tree of Life, Process Theology, M.C. Escher, J.S. Bach, “The Matrix” (OK.  Who hasn’t used that one?!?!?), the Gospel of Thomas, Galileo, and “Inception.”

“Quest for Infinity”  starts us off by looking at “the medieval riddle of angels on the head of a pin.”  When I hear talk of medieval riddles, my mind instantly goes to “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.”
“What…is the capital of Assyria?”
Pure comic genius.  I digress.
In this chapter we’re taken back to the 1800s and early 1900s as we learn that the concept of infinity “was not in favor among the children of the Enlightenment.”  Some mathematicians actually became mentally unstable as they tried to solve the mysteries of set theory without the “key” of infinity.  We look at the concept of “naming,” which “held infinite new possibilities for breakthroughs, a joint venture of religious consciousness and mathematical insight.”  The big bang, the book of Job, and the Revelation of John of Patmos are also considered as we regard “an incomprehensibly distant past [and an] indefinite future.”

In the Conclusion, we are not only given said conclusion, but a summary of sorts.  We close with the “simple but profound truth” that we’ve been elaborating on all along.

Yes, I very much enjoyed this book. When I was first approached about reviewing this work, I found the title intriguing.  However, the first thing I do concerning an author with whom I’m unfamiliar is check out the bio.  When I saw he was a pastor at a place called “Broadway Christian Church,” I… well… didn’t have high hopes for the material.
Yeah.  Snap judgement.
It just sounded too fundie.  But, like not judging a book by it’s cover, you can’t necessarily judge the book by the name of the institution the author attends.  🙂
As I implied at the beginning, there were times when I felt the book may be too Christcentric for those who do not consider themselves “Jesus people.”  Taken alone, some statements might even seem to convey the very religious arrogance that the author actually stands against.  But, taken in it’s entirety this book should be of benefit to anyone seriously investigating the Divine Reality that many of us refer to as “God.”

– df

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

Quotes:

* As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shoreline of mystery.

* Every human system is approximate at best.

* God is in everything and everything is in God.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

* Concentric spiritual pathways circumnavigate the same center even as they perceive the other in separate space.

* There is always a God beyond our concept of God.

* The figure of Christ is taken to be a normative paradigm of what humanity can be, but at the same time a paradigm of what God is.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

* The navigator of the sacred realm discovers a God already there, immanent, yet not fully disclosed or revealed.

* Biblical language, like the language of other sacred scriptures, is destroyed by those who rush to literalize it.

* The images of God that once carried the sacred freight [have] ceased to work and [have become] impediments to faith.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

* “Where is God?”

* Unity and diversity, singularity and multiplicity are included in a seamless divine field.

* The square root of God = … (Buy the book.  Click HERE).

Visit “The Square Root of God” website: http://thesquarerootofgod.com/about/

To visit Timothy’s blog, Click HERE.


– – – Dr. Timothy Carson is a pastor and writer who lives in Columbia, Missouri. The author of four previous books, Tim builds bridges of understanding between historic forms of faith and contemporary thought.
When he is not writing about culturally relevant spirituality he is reading, taking in the arts, playing with raptors, traveling and otherwise contemplating the mysteries of the universe. – – –


 

 
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