Oh, when we think in depth on the reality
Of life emerging everywhere on earth,
We share the restlessness and rich vitality
With creatures in our home of noble birth.
Probably few questions have led to more argument and more pain in modern religious life than the question, “Do you believe?” Today the question usually implies acceding to certain intellectual propositions. The tragedy is that the question is usually misapplied if we look closely at how certain concepts were used in our sacred texts.read more
‘Advancing’ in the spirit by which we can be fed;
Our search for truth is central in all that’s done and said;
In openness we search but it’s not for certainty,
For God is not restricted to our theology.
If our beliefs prevent our search
For new and different creeds;
Let us beware of narrow views
Where dogma often breeds;
With new, exciting facts we learn
Much love can come about;
Yes! Those who grow in their beliefs
Can sing in praise of doubt.
The questions before us in this e-bulletin are two: How important are beliefs in an evolving faith? and, Does community need to agree on belief? More generally, the issues pertain to the tie that binds community and the experience that underlies that tie.read more
I’ve been reading another smart and literate atheist arguing the absurdity of belief in God. Someone asked me once if I was threatened by the recent self-assertiveness of atheists and, surprisingly, I could offer a confident “no.” The fact is that I am heartened by the resurgence of atheism because I agree with almost all of it. The kind of shallow, or at least, immature systems of belief that atheism attacks, should be debunked and I feel like I play my own part in debunking them from the pulpit most Sunday mornings. But the arguments of the atheists never get to the real point or even address the heart of real faith.read more
I grew up long before computers showed us how they could handle millions of requests all at once. So in college I began to have serious questions whenever our preacher asked everyone to bow their heads and say a silent prayer to God. And our preachers back in the 50’s and 60’s did that a lot. How could God hear all those prayers being offered up at the same time? There were several hundred at our church and many more throughout Tupelo who were in church from 11 until noon on Sunday, plus in our state and country and around the world. Lots of prayers were being offered up all at once, so how did God sort them all out.read more
Rev. Sam Alexander is Pastor of First Presbyterian Church of San Rafael, CA. He is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, B.A., and Union Seminary in Virginia, M.Div. Sam has served congregations in Maryland and in the San Francisco Bay area and is currently Pastor of First Presbyterian Church of San Rafael. He serves as an Adjunct Instructor in Homiletics at San Francisco Theological Seminary. What they call, “his provocative sermons” have inspired, disturbed, and delighted his congregations.read more
It’s interesting to see what Jesus thought about beliefs. Jesus, in his parable of the Good Samaritan, makes it clear that the righteous one is not the Pharisee or the lawyer, who are learned and who know about the law, correct belief, or so on. The righteous one is the one who cares for his neighbor, who reaches out to the stranger in need.read more
For love is long-suffering and abounds in kindness. It is not arrogant or boastful. Love does not behave rudely. Neither self-serving nor quick to take offence, love never thinks the worst.read more
Belief is something you hold because you presume you have some facts. You believe in them. When I was in college studying chemistry, there was a chart up on the wall that had all of the components that make up matter. You could count them and some people actually memorized them. Those components were treated as facts and if you wanted to get a good grade you better believe that they were facts.read more
The Right Moral Way has not changed over time and remains psychologically sound. In a “Psychology Today” article entitled ‘The (Only) Seven Spiritual Principles We Need to Succeed’, Karl Albrecht reveals traditional key values for moral living that are still crucial in contemporary times.read more
Two perspectives are changing recently among progressive Christians that dilute the concentration on “getting to heaven,” the most common definition of “salvation.” First, fewer people still believe in hell, that is, that an all-loving God would condemn anyone to eternal suffering and separation from God. (It is curious that the belief in heaven persists even among many who don’t really believe in hell.) A more important change in thought is that God’s love as revealed in Jesus Christ is all-inclusive, meant for everyone, whether or not heaven or an afterlife of any sort exists. Diminishing is the view that there will be a sorting-out process depending upon each person’s “right beliefs.”read more
To believe, or give assent to, a fixed set of beliefs, such as, “I believe in God the father almighty….,” or the inerrency of the Bible is to cut off the possibility of growth. If you have all the answers you are not open to new thoughts or questions. Communicating with a fundamentalist is very difficult, and we are all fundamentalist in a variety of ways. But Leonard Cohen reminds us that “there is a crack in everything, that’s where the light comes in.”read more
Easter calls attention to the traditional, fundamental “beliefs” associated with the Christian religion – if only for a day. The secular world pays little attention to the nuances of Christian “faith” in a post-Christian world. Easter is a liturgical season that lasts for seven weeks. In Christian tradition, the time between the resurrection of Jesus and his “ascension” into the sky (Pentecost) replaces the time between the Jewish Feast of the Passover and the giving of the law to Moses on Mt. Sinai. Not only do most Christians concentrate on the resurrection story – often literally. Editorial writers for supposedly sophisticated secular media seem to feel obligated to attempt to find meaning in the traditional religious legend of a dead man walking out of his tomb. But “faith” does not mean “belief.” “Faith” means “trust.” “Faith” further means “confidence.”read more
Dogma and doctrine should not get in the way of practicing Love, who is God. Doctrines can be interesting: they help us understand the origins and background of our religion. But repeating creeds is not the price of admission into Christianity. Instead of caring whether the story of Jesus’ resurrection was a fact or a myth, let’s look in the story for inspiration to turn from the way of death to the way of life. Let’s care about our neighbors without jobs or health insurance, face the resentment in our hearts that needs to be released, become activist citizens, and learn to bring our careers in alignment with our highest values. Let’s gather in churches, soup kitchens, work-places, living rooms, and cafés to support each other in doing things that matter, and let go of old doctrines that don’t.read more
We are one with the creatures,
One with the plants,
One with the life of Earth.
Each tuft of desert grass
God gives a separate place
Profligate with space
That pilgrim feet may pass.