LifeWalk

______________________ LIFE, FAITH, ETCETERA

“They can’t all be true” April 16, 2015



OK. I don’t usually just post a link to another blog.
BUT, here’s an exception for a REALLY GOOD article by Roger Wolsey:


4no3

Perspective

 

 

Notes From (Over) The Edge November 21, 2014

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“Jesus basically did only two things – he showed up for life, and he lived authentically and true to his nature.
Guess what?
You can do that too!”

      “Notes From (Over) The Edge
      [Unmasking the truth to end your suffering]
      — Jim Palmer

OK.  First. the negative.
About a third of the way through the book, I almost stopped reading.
Why?
Redundancy.
There’s a lot of that here.  A lot of redundancy.
I’ve made that complaint about one or two other books.
For me, it’s a bit off-putting; the redundancy and all.
To be fair,  this is a book of “Notes,” and many times our thoughts have reoccurring patterns as we re-visit and clarify our own understanding.
FYI, I didn’t stop reading, and neither should you.

The second negative isn’t really a negative.  It’s more of a where-in-the-world-did-this-come-from thing.  There’s a particular idea that Mr. Palmer asserts (and repeats a number of times).  Of course, I’m not against believing something “just because I choose to believe it.” Which, bottom line, pretty much covers most, if not all, of our beliefs.
He does, also, advise the reader to “take everything written here loosely like a breeze or a whisper,” so he’s certainly not claiming to have things “nailed down.” That’s a big sign he’s worth listening to.
I considered mentioning the concept I’m referring to here, but I’ve decided to let you discover it for yourself.

And now, the positive:
“Everything else!”
This is a powerful book filled with powerful concepts.
If “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free,” then get ready for a boatload of freedom.
This is going to have to find somewhere to fit in my top 5 list of books, which means it will have to knock something else out.
This is not a “Christian” book (as if there were such a thing), though it is certainly about the life and teachings of Jesus. Nor is it exclusively for those of a Judeo-Christian background. If you’re a human, you can benefit from reading this book.

You should know that an “end to you suffering” is not synonymous with an end to pain, misfortune, or other troubles “life” may bring your way.  The suffering Jim is talking about is the kind caused by not accepting life on life’s terms.  It’s always been hard for me to “flow with it” without giving up hope.  There’s an old Steve Taylor song called “Since I Gave Up Hope I Feel A Lot Better.”  There is a lot of truth to that song, and for me, those were the two options:  Struggle with life, holding on to hopes and dreams, or just give up and say “The hell with it.”
“Notes From (Over) The Edge” helped me continue on a path I’d already started, where I can see another option.  An almost hidden (to me), yet painfully obvious option called “living.”
Something I didn’t see (or couldn’t admit) for most of the years I spent in institutional religion was all the baggage.
So much BS.
So much dung passed off as godliness.
So many yokes that were anything but easy.
So many burdens that cannot possibly be considered light.

Jim Palmer, too, was an active, educated, bible-preaching “believer,” who, in many ways like me, lived and taught much he now knows was not just less-than-helpful, but downright damaging.  Damning, if you will, to both the speaker and the hearer.
But we were where we were, and now we are where we are. And life is what life is. And “God and life,” Jim reminds us, are inseparable.

Jim’s understanding, as relayed in this book, seems to incorporate teachings I’ve learned from some Buddhist meditation classes that my wife and I recently attended (which have also been very beneficial to me).  It’s my belief that some other traditions (possibly Ancient Greek thought and/or Islam) are also represented here.  (Jim can correct me if I’m wrong.)
Of course, truth is truth, and all truth is God’s truth.
Truth, as Jim tells us, is simply “the way things really are.”  Much suffering is experienced when we, knowingly or not, fight that truth.

There’s no way I can “review” all the ground covered in this book, but one of the most important for those who have been involved in the Christian religion is section 3: “Christianity’s distortion of the person, message and truth of Jesus.”
I’ve said before, many/most people in Christianity (and the principle is probably similar in other religions) are read to from their scriptures, and at the same time, hand-fed a meaning said to be attached to those passages.
Once that is done, it can be nearly impossible to read those passages differently.  But, if you can detach what you’ve been taught something says from what is actually written, well, it’s like being born again.
“Notes From (Over) The Edge” can assist greatly with that rebirth.

And maybe a certain amount of redundancy isn’t all bad.
Maybe we need to hear truths over and over until they replace the lies in our own minds.
I can only hope more and more of us join Mr. Palmer in going over the edge.


Buy the book.  Click HERE.

Some Quotes:

– You must rethink your entire way of approaching the matter of Truth. Currently you have it framed in the idea of having “correct beliefs.” Correct beliefs are the Booby prize.
– Your mind creates a preference, makes an attachment, constructs an interpretation, offers a response, and each of those responses conditions your way of thinking, acting and being in the world. [But] you are not your mind. You are responsible for managing your mind. The mind doesn’t always get what it wants.
– The “son of man” or “son of Adam” means a human one in solidarity with all human ones.
– We exist within a sea of energy that connects all atoms. Everything we experience has a single interconnected source.
[Doesn’t that line up with the Christian concept of God being “in all and through all?”] – ed.
Buy the book. Click HERE.

– Repent is another term that is often misunderstood. [It’s not] being sorry for your past wrongs, turning from your wicked ways… “Repent” means a deep and profound shift in perception. It’s like the scales of ignorance fall from your eyes. [It] literally means “beyond the mind.”
– Jesus would have never signed off on the modern and made-up gospel of the Christian religion.
– People knew the reality of God long before there were sacred texts. Enoch “walked with God,” and yet there was no Bible or prescribed set of doctrines to govern his experience of God.
– One does not have to be able to read the Bible, the Koran, the Sutras, the Bhagavad Gita, the Tao Te Ching, etc. to be enlightened. You can be illiterate and one with God. There is something to learn from this.
Buy the book. Click HERE.

– Jesus did not launch into heady theological diatribes or pedantic teachings about God. Instead, he invited people to notice the birds of the air and lilies in a field, or told stories about a father and his sons or a hidden treasure.
Instead of accumulating more theological information in your head, return to your regularly scheduled life and start living it as each moment requires — nothing more, nothing less.
– Fundamentalism doesn’t just apply to ultra-conservative, fundy Christians. I’ve met progressive and liberal Christian fundamentalists, Atheist, Agnostic, and Humanistic fundamentalists, Buddhist, Muslim, and Jewish fundamentalists, and New Age fundamentalists. [They all think] someone has to be “right,” which means someone has to be “wrong.”
Buy the book. Click HERE.

– The “will of God” is simply to be your Self, and to be in the present moment and respond as the situation requires. Just live your life. The fundamental way Jesus lived his life was that he simply did the next thing and responded to situations as they required.
– There was a historical Jesus before institutional Christianity got ahold of him and did their extreme makeover. He was a much better Jesus than the on Christianity produced.

Buy the book. Click HERE.
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The Road To 60 September 13, 2014

Overhead-Road-Sign2

My wife, Kathleen, is about to turn 60.
In about 4 months, Lord willing, I will do the same.
The last 12-month stretch of the road to 60 has been, as most of my readers know, a rough one. Next month, October 22nd, will mark one year since Kathleen was diagnosed with breast cancer. The following days, weeks and months were quite intense.
Test after test.
Surgeries.
Chemo, which seemed to damn near kill her.
Radiation.
Pills.

The human mind always tries to make sense of things. That’s just part of what it’s supposed to do. But sometimes, there is no making sense of things. Others try to help you figure it all out with well-meaning but all too often meaningless platitudes.
“Just trust in the Lord.”
“It’s all part of God’s plan.”
If you’re lucky, you’ll avoid hearing anything like “You need more faith,” or “God’s trying to teach you something.”
I may have glanced at it briefly, but I never really went down the path of “Why, God?
I’m not belittling those who go there. It’s a natural place to go. It’s just that in my journey, I’ve learned that’s usually a fruitless endeavor.

People, especially Christians (especially Western Christians) too often seem to think God owes them an easy life.  When trouble hits their world they start questioning God’s “goodness,” or even if there be a “god.”  What many of us, in our comfy little lives, apparently fail to realize is that trouble is always hitting someone’s world.
Someone’s father is dying.
Someone’s sister is going through a divorce.
Someone’s little boy is being kidnapped or murdered.
“Their” bombs are killing our families.
“Our” bombs are killing their innocent children.
The world can be, as those famous prophets “The Temptations” have said, a “Ball of Confusion.”
But, God is still good while all this is going on…
Until it’s “me.”
Until it’s my family.
My life.
Then it’s suddenly “Where is God?!?!?”

The thing is, “The rain falls on everyone.”
That’s religious language for “shit happens.”

Through it all, as one who does still believe in God, I have hope.  I have faith.  (Not that those who don’t believe as I do can’t have hope and faith.)
BUT, it’s a very different hope and faith than I was raised with, or than I adhered to in the past.  It is not a hope or faith that requires life or God to be or act in a certain, narrowly defined pattern.  The Divine (by whatever name)  is not obligated to me because I quote some magical incantation from the writings of Saint Paul in the Bible.  That doesn’t mean I’ve stopped praying.  If anything, I pray more.
I believe Jesus clearly taught, and came to show, that what he referred to then (because of the culture he was born into) as the “kingdom of God” is here and now.  Being in that kingdom is a way of life.  It’s learning to truly be one with God’s good world, rather than planning an escape from it.  In this understanding, many Christians have been “left behind.”

How does that relate to pain and suffering?  Well, I’m not sure I know.  But I do know that even in my deepest dissatisfaction (and I’m one of those who is dissatisfied a great deal of the time) I retain some sense of, well, I guess I’d call it “ultimate peace.”  That peace that I can’t understand or explain.  A peace that’s there even when it’s not.  Yeah.  That makes no sense.  That’s the point.

So, the fact that my wife’s turning 60 this month is a pretty big deal.
Making it to 60, alone, seems to be an accomplishment.  Let alone being a cancer survivor.
She’s seen lots of pain in 60 years. Some of which I have been the direct cause.
But I know she’s had lots of joy and laughter in her life.
Some of which I believe I have also been the direct cause. 🙂
Next month will be a milestone.  We will discover if her system is currently cancer free.
(Yes, your prayers, thoughts and positive energy are requested.)

The road to 60 (or, at this point, almost 60) has taken us to some strange, horrible,
wonderful, awesome unimagined places.
For 35+ years, we’ve went most of those places together.
Whether in this realm or another; in body or spirit, or in some way I’m not yet aware, I’m
looking forward to the next 60 years I spend with Kathleen.
In my faith, in my hope, in my prayers we will be one forever.

RoadTo60
[Photo taken June 19, 2014 while joyfully attending
the wedding of Jean Capler and her wife, Jenny Austin.]

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

WHY? October 27, 2013



So often, when tragedy strikes in the life of a Christian (well, and many others, I guess) the first response is “why?”
“Why God?
Why is this happening to me/us/them?
There’s also “What?”
What is God trying to teach us?
What did we do to deserve this?”

I look back at when I was in the “Charismatic” movement. Everything was cut and dry. Life, even “life in Christ” often boiled down to the reasons why. Tragedy almost always was the result of a lack of faith, God’s punishment, or even demons in the pictures on your wall. [Yes, folks. We actually taught that.]

I am thankful for my faith in Christ, and I’m thankful that although it may not seem as comforting as my former theology, I find it much more real and grounded. I thank God for so many of the “stirrings” and teachings that led to, and have continued since, leaving institutional religion. Not the least of these is no longer focusing on “Why?”
I’ve said in the past, often the answer to “why?” is simply “sometimes life sucks.”
Good things happen to “bad” people.
Bad things happen to “good” people.
I don’t get it.
But, not focusing on “why?” helps move us on to “What now?”
For sure, that doesn’t keep you from being sick with worry. It can, however, keep you from wasting time on a question that likely has no answer. Certainly no discernible one.

I hate that bad things happen to good people; things they certainly don’t deserve.
I hate that life can be so fucked-up, bat-shit crazy.
I get mad at God. Terribly terribly mad.
And still, I pray to the very God I’m angry with.
The very God whom I’m not sure will grant my request.
And I believe that God is perfectly OK with that. I don’t need to feel guilty for some purported lack of faith.
Without some form of faith, I wouldn’t be talking to God in the first place.
People, I guess, mean well. But when someone is struggling, the last thing they need is pat answers, platitudes, and a handful of scripture quotes.
“Why” is a natural question.
It’s an honest question.
But in sorrow or tragedy, it’s not a very useful one.
I know it’s not useful for me.
I don’t care why.
I need to know “What now, God?”

 

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. – – –


 

Faith, Doubt, and Other Lines I’ve Crossed July 7, 2013

faith_doubt

FAITH, DOUBT, AND OTHER LINES I’VE CROSSED:
        WALKING WITH THE UNKNOWN GOD
– Jay Bakker with Andy Meisenheimer

———

This is a thoroughly enjoyable book.  Very readable.  Both thoughtful, and thought-provoking.

This is my second read from Jay Bakker, my first being “Fall to Grace.”  (You can read that review by clicking Here.

This new book, written with Andy Meisenheimer, is such a huge encouragement.  It’s what I’d call a very “real” writing.  And for me, it’s easily relatable on so many counts.
There’s a lot discussed here; doubt, God, the Bible, heaven and hell, atonement, love, grace, relationships, society, church, theology.
We look at faith vs. certainty, reading the Bible differently, getting a new take on dying and rising with Christ, recasting eternity, rediscovering grace, standing for the oppressed, a self-centered view of God, and so much more. This is one of those books that, if taken seriously, has life-changing potential.

One of my favorite parts is in chapter one where we read about Paul in the book of Acts.  This is when he’s in Athens, and finds an alter with the inscription, “To an unknown god.”  Paul goes on to tell them that this unknown god is the God that Jesus came to tell us about.  Many Christians are familiar with this story, and the kinds of expositions usually given.  Here, our minds are expanded to a new possible understanding of this incident.  In part 12 (each chapter has numbered parts) we’re hit with what I found to be a beautiful revelation.  I won’t spoil it here.
Also in this chapter, I’m reminded of the times when what we read in our scriptures are quotes from other sources, as is the case with “in God we live and move and have out being.”  Here, Paul was quoting a Cretan philosopher named Epimenides.

In chapter two, we look at “Doubting Faith.”  Paul Tillich “believes that fanaticism and pharisaism are the symptoms of repressed doubt,” and that “doubt is overcome not by repression, but by the courage to embrace it.”  Jay says, as have I many times, “The more you find out, the less you know.”  “They don’t prepare you for this when you’re a Christian kid.”

The 3rd chapter is about reading the Bible.  It brings me memories of “Velvet Elvis,” and “A New Kind of Christianity.”  We read that “when we turn the Bible into an answer book, we miss out on the real story, the depth of all that the Bible has to offer.”  There’s a good bit on the writings of Paul, some material by Peter Rollins, and some quotes from Rob Bell.  We see that, for many, an “illiterate reading of scripture becomes God’s truth.”

Part of what we discover in chapter four is “Jesus’ version of fulfilling the law, in practice.”  Often, he “fulfilled the law by breaking it.”  There’s more insights into the “torn curtain” of the temple, during the crucifixion.  This is really good!
We also look at atonement theories, somewhat in the vein of Wm. P. Young, and some quotes from Sharon Baker’s book “Razing Hell.”  When we look at some of the teachings we grew up with, we have to ask “Does God practice what Jesus teaches?”  If so, we’ve gotten a lot of things wrong.

Chapter 5 is about eternity, and it opens with a Pete Rollins quote.  We also hear from Martin Luther King Jr., as well as James, Paul and Jesus.  In this chapter, concerning his alcoholism, Mr. Bakker says, “That’s when I finally got sober.  After I found out that I was accepted.”
I can so relate to that statement.  It was in the middle of a drug-induced stupor, when I was dangerously sexually promiscuous, possibly at the most irresponsible point I’ve ever been in my life, when I somehow realized that right there, right then, with or without any change in my life, I was totally accepted by God.  That doesn’t mean my actions were approved, but I, as I was, was both loved AND accepted by God.  No fear of rejection by God. Not even fear of death! THAT’S when things in my life started to turn around.
Yes, Jay Bakker, I really do get it.
Admittedly, there certainly was fear of the mortal consequences of my actions, here in this life. But I realized that would not be God “punishing” me. It would just be “sowing and reaping.” I thank the Lord that karma isn’t always the bitch she’s made out to be. 🙂
It’s truly a miracle (or multiple miracles) that I’m not dead or back in prison.
[And now, back to our review.]
There’s also some interesting material about when Jesus was reading Isaiah’s “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me” scripture.  What Jesus doesn’t say speaks volumes.

In chapter six we look at grace:  Wild, outrageous, vulgar grace.  We see how “we cheapen grace when we make it temporary, a ticket to an afterlife.”   “When we really understand it, we will always find grace offensive.”

The seventh chapter has us “Speaking Up for the Marginalized.”  We see, as many are painfully aware, how the “church” has so often been on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of civil liberties, and the wrong side of… well, just the wrong side all around.  We’re told that it wasn’t until 1967 that a non-white person could marry a white person in every state.  Much of “christianity” believed, as Bob Jones preached, that “segregation was preserving God’s plan for the different races according to the Bible.”  We look to the Bible to see how the church in Antioch was treating the “minority,” and how one believer (Paul) had to confront another believer (Peter) over his two-faced hypocrisy.
Here’s a good quote from this chapter:
“Separate but equal.  Remaining a pure people.  Not mixing seeds.  We look back now and think, That’s crazy.  Who could support that?  Who could possible think the Bible could be used to justify a ban on interracial dating?
The answer is – we did.
Christians.
Are we doing the same thing now?”
So, yes, we discuss LGBTQ equality in this chapter.

We re-discover some of the Bible’s parables in chapter 8.  The lost coin.  The lost sheep.  The lost son. Here again, of course, we step back and see things from a new perspective.  This is good stuff, people!

In the ninth chapter we look at what we call “the church service.”  Jay purposes that this is “an unnatural experience of God, just like the art gallery is an unnatural experience of art.”  “It’s amazing how quickly you lose touch if you’re always in a Bible study and everybody’s always talking about Jesus and Christianity.  When we hear mega-church preachers say something that seems out of touch with reality, we have to understand that they don’t live in the real world.  Christians live in a false world, one without the people that Jesus cared about.”

M. Night Shyamalan offers up some great food for thought in chapter 10.  We also learn from the example of Alcoholics Anonymous, as well as the 18th chapter of Matthew.

Chapter 11 addresses, among other things, death, suffering, grief, hope and hopelessness.  I think of all the cliches and platitudes that are frequently offered to those experiencing grief.  I know people may be trying to be helpful, but  “Death is a tragedy.  It’s important to walk through that grief without being bombarded with assurances that everything is okay.”  It’s important to say “This is horrible and awful.  It wasn’t God’s plan or God’s opportunity to make something good.  It was simply a tragedy.”

“Losing Belief, Finding Faith” is the title of chapter 12.  Here we compare and contrast faith and belief.  We discuss the “appeal of certainty.”  It’s easy to see why so many fall for fundamentalism.  But “certainty helps us cover up our brokenness and fears.”  It “allows God to become our alibi for hate and judgement.”  It causes “theologians and pastors [to] become lawyers, arguing nuances and loopholes that the original writers would never have imagined.”
“The freedom to have faith instead of beliefs is, to me, one of the most beautiful things about following Christ.”
We also look at the dangerous idea of “all or nothing.”  This is an idea that I’ve found destructive in most areas of life. (Check out “Do One Green Thing,” by Mindy Pennybacker.)

In the conclusion, we read the familiar story of Mary and Martha, again gaining a fresh perspective.  We take another look at bibliolatry, and the anti-Christ damage it continues to cause.
Then Jay wraps up this outing by looking at that which is of “infinite, ultimate concern,” and how our lives can truly be transformed.

In these pages, we walk with Jay as he discovers “something deeper and more lasting than the evangelical framework [he] inherited from [his] family and church.”  The story is both universal, and quite personal.  We touch on his relationship with his famous parents, including the deep pain of losing his mother at the end of her 11-year battle with cancer.

This really is an amazing read.  Interesting stories, and life-giving perceptions.
Don’t pass on this one.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

—————–

Seriously, you should read this book, wherever you are on the spectrum of belief or unbelief. Give it to friends and family. Start conversations around it. Then, tell Jay how much you love it. As a real shepherd of real people, Jay needs our encouragement.
– Rob Davis: an atheist’s review of Jay Bakker’s new book

—————–

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

* Doubt keeps me from thinking I’ve got a handle on God.

* I’ve found peace in the mystery.

* That any of us act like moral giants is pretty insane. We all add to suffering, and we ignore it. We know that our chocolate is picked by child laborers, diamonds are mined for slave wages, iPhones are assembled in inhumane working conditions. We can ignore all that, but we freak out when someone sleeps with their secretary.

* You would think that relationships would be more important than theology.

* The only difference between you and me and the “scandalous outsider” is nothing more than the labels we use to separate us from them.

* The type of inclusion Jesus practiced gets you in trouble.  This type of inclusion gets you killed.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

* “I-think-my-God-is-the-God” idolatry.  This is true idolatry.

* Somewhere along the way, we got focused on who does what with their genitals and forgot about love.

* I didn’t want theology to ever become more important than people.

* Our rejection of those who don’t fit without our clear-cut worldview is destroying people. Jesus said we would be known by our love, but when it comes to the LGBTQ community, we are known by our uncomfortable silence, our fight against their civil right to marry, our moral outrage, our discrimination, and our stereotyping.

* When you don’t know what to say [to a grieving person], cliches are the first things that come to your mind.  It’s our way of saying, “Holy shit, I don’t know what just happened.”

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

* Rather than being humbled and baffled by grace, we draw lines around who is in and who is out. [If we’re going to get angry], let’s get angry at how undiscriminating grace is.

* Jesus talked with all sorts of people without confronting them about their sin and demanding repentance.

* I can see the appeal of certainty. It promises that you’ll never have to rethink things or be confronted with a reality that you can’t understand. With God, you don’t get certainty.

* I’m going to work to free people from hell on earth.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

* The idea of heaven didn’t work for me when my mom died.  I felt certain she was in heaven… but all I could think about was never being able to see her, call her, talk to her, for the rest of my life.

* “Hope that is seen is not hope,” Paul says.  Hope comes from a place of doubt.

* We need to give people permission to embrace death, tragedy, the meaninglessness of life.

* I am no longer concerned with an afterlife, though I am concerned with eternity.

* I’m not trying to save anyone from hell or win people to Jesus.  I’m just trying to follow Jesus myself, and help people find grace and peace and acceptance in their lives.


Buy the book.  Click HERE.

Also check out www.JAYBAKKER.com, and www.REVOLUTIONnyc.com

 

SIN July 4, 2013

sin       [From “Faith, Doubt and Other Lines I’ve Crossed,” by Jay Bakker with Andy Meisenheimer]


When people lose their jobs, aren’t promoted, are discriminated against, are treated differently, are described as “gay” as an insult, get kicked out of their churches, and are disowned by their families THAT is Sin!

The non-affirming of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters in the church is destroying families – at times with surprising violence – all in the name of God and holiness.
That is Sin!

Jesus said we would be known by our love, but when it comes to the LGBTQ community, we are known by our uncomfortable silence, our fight against their civil right to marry, our moral outrage, our discrimination, and our stereotyping.  A “welcoming-but-not-affirming policy is both self-contradictory and cruel.

________________________________________

The very notion of a “right” is that it places limits on the arbitrary power of the majority.  Equal rights shouldn’t be based on a vote. (via William Stacy Johnson)

The church historically has lagged behind government when it comes to issues of civil liberties.

The church should be on the front lines of the fight for the civil liberties of the oppressed.
The lyrics of the U2 song “Sunday Bloody Sunday” ask, “How long must we sing this song?” How long are we going to cling to outdated notions of homosexuality and refuse to accept LGBTQ people into our midst?

_____________________________

Jay Bakker

Jay’s new book is, so far, fantastic! I’m just in 7 of 12 chapters (14, if you count the introduction and conclusion).
The above post is mostly about marriage equality, but that’s just this chapter. A lot of other issues are covered in these pages. This is my latest “Must Read” that I will be highly recommending to any and every reader, especially those who acknowledge faith in Christ.
[Of course, the “church” has often been the entity which has perpetrated the most vile and unholy sin, all in the name of God, and all while deceiving itself into believing it was the force attempting to eliminate sin.
To be fair, it has also been those of the Church (albeit the non-“fundamentalist” portion) who have fought for, and died for, the dignity, rights, and humanity of the oppressed. Who have, in fact, fought the sin of religious control and intolerance. – df]

For a different topic from the book, see: https://www.dropbox.com/s/vvcr11lancq3see/Paul.docx

Buy the book. Click HERE.

 

 
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