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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. – – –


 

The Secret Message of Jesus September 28, 2012



“What if the core message of Jesus has been unintentionally misunderstood or intentionally distorted”


The Secret Message of Jesus:
Uncovering The Truth That Could Change Everything



Yet another powerhouse of insights from Brian McLaren!
Reading books like this make one amazed at how far off track “Christianity” really has become.
Reading books like this also give one hope for getting back on track.
Of course, we’ve lost much of what the original audience understood, but there was a lot that they didn’t readily understand either.
Jesus predominantly taught in parables, rather than outlines and bullet-points. And he almost always answered a question with a question. Not the best choice if your goal is to communicate facts.  It is, however, the perfect choice if the goal is interactive relationship.

I’m not going to give a chapter by chapter review here, but I will tell you about a few of them.

Let me start toward the end with a “bonus chapter” called “The Prayer of the Kingdom.”
This is a wonderful exploration of what we call “The Lord’s Prayer.”  It really puts the words of Jesus into context, giving then a fresh vitality, and making them as relevant as ever.  It frees this prayer from being just a repetitive tradition, and helps us see its truly revolutionary nature.  Understanding the proper applications of this prayer, we see it as a crucial part of Jesus’ “secret” message.

Chapters 19 and 20 view “The Future of the Kingdom,” and “The Harvest of the Kingdom.”  We find out the true purpose of the “warnings and promises” of the prophets.  There’s talk of the book of Revelation, and how “neither the Bible nor the teachings of Jesus are intended to give us a timeline of the future.”  We also gain a new perspective of the “harvest” metaphor which Jesus employed.

Early on, we look at “The Political Message of Jesus.”  So much of Jesus’ speech used terminology to directly address and refer to the political (and religious) structure of his day.”  Brian believes that the message of Jesus “has  everything to do with public matters in general and politics in particular.”  One of the interesting tidbits here is that Roman emperors would send out messengers to announce their “good news,” and proclaim that “Cesar is Lord.”  Again, we miss so many of the pertinent references that Jesus’ audience readily understood.  We also realize that “the Jewish people probably felt about their occupiers the way Palestinians generally feel today about the Israelis.”

“The Jewish Message of Jesus” reminds us that Jesus was a Jew.  To understand his message, we must understand the Jewishness of his message.  The Jewish people said very little about any kind of afterlife.  Their concern was how we act in this life.
They did expect the Messiah to set up a kingdom here and now, in this life.  They just were not aware of the kind of kingdom he was going to establish.  It wasn’t the dominionist theocracy of church and state they expected.
Another way He tried to set them free from many of their misconceptions was through his “You’ve heard it said…But I say to you” speech.

In “The Medium of the Message” we see the power of the parable.

“The Open Secret” shows us how “the message of the Christian church became a different message entirely from the message of Jesus.”  This chapter also looks at “Christianity” vs. “Paulianity,” and whether or not there really is any substantial conflict between the two.

With “The Language of the Kingdom” we discover the urgent political, religious, and cultural electricity that charged the language Jesus spoke with.  It was then “contemporary and relevant; today, it is outdated and distant… If Jesus were alive today, I am quite certain he wouldn’t use the language of kingdom at all.”

Elsewhere in McLaren’s book we rethink the meaning of “repent.”
We observe the “sad adventure in missing the point” that the church has taken.
We learn to “abandon the bad idea that some people are ‘clergy’ and others are ‘laity.'”

All in all, the secret message of Jesus wasn’t intended to be kept secret.  It has been lost, suppressed, distorted, and misunderstood for (as we read in appendix 1) a variety of reasons.

Ultimately, we are challenged with what kind of lives shall we then live.
Will we keep the secret, or be part of the reality it was meant to bring about?

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

——

From the product description:

In The Secret Message of Jesus you’ll find what’s at the center of Brian’s critique of conventional Christianity, and what’s at the heart of his expanding vision. In the process, you’ll meet a Jesus who may be altogether new to you, a Jesus who is…

Not the crusading conqueror of religious broadcasting;
Not the religious mascot of partisan religion;
Not heaven’s ticket-checker, whose words have been commandeered by the church to include and exclude, judge and stigmatize, pacify and domesticate.
——

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

 

SOME QUOTES:

– Each of us not only prays, “May your kingdom come,” but we also become part of the answer to that prayer in our sphere of influence.

– The secret message of Jesus has far-reaching implications for the widest range of subjects — from racism to ecology, from weapons proliferation to terrorism, from interreligious conflict to destructive entertainment, from education to economics, from sexuality to art, from politics to technology, from liturgy to contemplation.

– We are invited to begin living now the way everyone will someday live in the resurrection, in the world made new…[a future] that has in some way, through Christ’s resurrection, been made present and available now.

– God’s ultimate dream: Not the destruction of this creation, but the destruction of dominating powers that ruin creation.

– What if Jesus didn’t come to start a new religion–but rather came to start a political, social, religious, artistic, economic, intellectual, and spiritual revolution that would give birth to a new world?

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

– What’s crazy is thinking, after all these millennia, that hate can conquer hate, war cure war, pride overcome pride, violence end violence, revenge stop revenge, and exclusion create cohesion.  The kingdom of God never advances by or through war or violence.
(For a really good example of the futility of revenge, and the myth of redemptive violence,  Check out “The Hatfields and McCoys.”  One top-notch mini-series.)

– The [prophet’s] purpose is not to tell the future but to change it.

– Trying to read [Revelation] without understanding its genre (Jewish apocalyptic) would be like watching Star Trek thinking it was a historical documentary.

– I think of Jesus in his parables.  He seems more interested in stirring curiosity than in completely satisfying it.

– This idea — that the kingdom of God is about our daily lives, about our way of life — may lie behind the tension people feel between the words religious and spiritual.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

– The Greek phrase John uses for “eternal life” literally means “life of the ages… a higher life that is centered in an interactive relationship with God and with Jesus.

– But the kingdom of God raises the level of discourse to a higher plane entirely.

– Faith that counts, then, is not the absence of doubt; it’s the presence of action.

– Church and state with their sacred theologies and ideologies, like all other human structures of this world, will – given the chance – execute God so they can run their own petty kingdoms.

– The church no longer saw the demonic as lodged in the empire, but in the empire’s enemies.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

– There has to be a third way that is different from permissive, naive inclusiveness and hostile, distrustful exclusion.
Purposeful inclusion [is when the kingdom of God] seeks to include all who want to participate in and contribute to it’s purpose, but it cannot include those who oppose it’s purpose. To be truly inclusive, the kingdom must exclude exclusive people; to be truly reconciling, the kingdom must not reconcile with those who refuse reconciliation, to achieve its purpose of gathering people, it must not gather those who scatter.Buy the book.  Click HERE.


 

The Orthodox Heretic October 6, 2011


The Orthodox Heretic
and Other Impossible Tales
– Peter Rollins


This book is a perfect example of good things coming in small packages.  It’s a tiny hardback, black-cover (without the sleeve) that reminds me of my marriage manual.

This a book of tales; a book of parables.  Some are taken from the Bible.  Some are not.
Each one is a relatively short read, followed by a commentary.  There’s much wisdom here, as well as humor, suspense, and unexpected twists.
“In the parable, truth is not expressed via some detached logical discourse…
Parables subvert the desire to make faith simple and understandable.”

We look at “the true meaning of the phrase Word of God,” as Peter declares “it is impossible to affirm God’s Word apart from becoming that Word, apart from being the place where that Word becomes a living, breathing act.”

We view many of the parables of Jesus from slightly different perspectives, which can sometime render very different understandings.
Mr. Rollins believes, as do I, that we should not “treat the Bible as a type of textbook providing us with an ethical blueprint,” and that we must question “whether the Bible can be treated in this way without doing the teachings of Jesus a great injustice.”

The new insights on “turn the other cheek” were both eye-opening and, depressing.  We look at the kind of people Jesus was speaking to, and contrast that to the kind of people he was speaking about.  When we realize that “through the clothes we buy, the coffee we drink, the investments we make, and the cars that we drive,” we are often supporting slave labor and suffering, we can see ourselves not as the ones turning the other cheek, but rather, as the ones doing the slapping.
[That’s one reason my wife and I now only buy “fair-trade” coffee.  I know it may not be possible (or feasible) to eliminate all avenues of our negative footprints, but if we at least do something, we can make a difference.]

There’s a simply wonderful tale of a kind, well-respected elderly priest, and a jealous, self-absorbed prince who’s hell-bent on exposing the priest as a “coldhearted liar who sells the people lies in order to live.”  I had my wife, Kathy, read that one.  She didn’t see the “twist” coming, either.  It’s really good.
There’s also some fresh material on “the pearl of great price,” “the prodigal son,” “feeding the five-thousand,” and many others.

This anthology is, I think, perfect for short, meditative daily readings (or, as some prefer the term, “quiet-time.”).  It’s really not a book you should even attempt to read in one or two sittings, although it would be easy to do so.  At least half of the value of reading this book is the story-by-story personal reflection.
I didn’t know this was a collection of short stories when I ordered it. If memory serves me, I purchased this book on the recommendation of a Facebook friend. I do not recall which one. Whoever you are, “Thank You!” I loved “The Orthodox Heretic,” and will certainly be reading more writings of Peter Rollins.

– df

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

—————–

Quotes:

– The truth of faith is not articulated in offering reasons for suffering, but rather in drawing alongside those who suffer, standing with them, and standing up for them.  This is pastoral care at its most luminous.

– Religious belief can itself be a barrier to living the life of faith.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

– There is a Biblical injunction to question authority, regardless of who or what that authority is, when we believe that authority is not defending the persecuted.

– Christ is found in our interaction with others.

– Every description of God testified to in the Judeo-Christian tradition falls short. Refuse to let any conception of God take the place of God.

– We must question the difference between the heresy of orthodoxy, in which we dogmatically claim to have the truth, and orthodox heresy, in which we humbly admit that we are in the dark but still endeavor to live in the way of Christ as best we can.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

 

The Purpose of Parables July 21, 2009

Filed under: Relating to God,Religion,Scripture — lifewalkblog @ 2:24 am
Tags: , , ,

It’s important to remember that parables usually offer one, or maybe two main conclusions. Parables are stories that offer one central truth/lesson – all other details are incidental to that teaching.

A parable is not an allegory – so we should not attempt to determine what each character and action represents. The rich man/master in a certain parable, for example, who praises unethical behavior does not represent God.

The parable does not attempt to assign specific identities to each of its characters or elements. When we take that path we can wind up twisting and distorting the intended lesson of the parable.

Parables teach one fundamental value or insight about the kingdom of God and his grace – they are not intended as blueprints, offering specific details.

When understanding a parable, keep it simple! Don’t get involved in long, protracted, complex explanations. Such complexities almost always lead us away from the meaning Jesus intends.

G. Albrecht

 

 
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