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Response to the God Question- A Word to the Spiritual Seekers

Have you done much thinking "outside of the box?" We are being enjoined on all sides to do so. In fact the plea to "think outside of the box" has become such a cliche that it has lost most of its power to startle us into thinking in new ways. But it is still a useful image.We live inside boxes, assumptions as to what is true and how things are to go. "What I believe is the only truth" and "We've always done it that way" is the hue and cry of those who are quite happy within their boxes or are afraid to peek out.

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Topics: Theology & Religious Education. Resource Types: Articles.

God In Disguise

So many of my relationships suffered from the not-knowing of such a truth: that absolutely everyone and everything we meet along the journey is God-in-disguise waiting to show us the way to liberation. All that separates me from remembering this universal wisdom are my own (often buried) thoughts, judgments, fears and beliefs. If I stop making up stories about other people who don't look, talk, sound or act like me, I usually find another man, woman or child who just wants to love and be loved.

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Topics: Spiritual Exploration & Practice. Resource Types: Articles.

Jesus Did Not Die for Us, Jesus Lived and Died for Us

In the April 1995 issue of Theology Today, theologian Murray Joseph Haar lamented what he regarded as a "rampant" sickness within the American church. He wrote, "The symptoms of this illness sound like this: 'Jesus died for my sins, His pain my gain, He died to set us free, Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away my sins, I have decided to accept Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior." With words like these, many Christians proclaim and define their faith in the efficacy of Jesus' death on their behalf. I contend that these words of faith indicate precisely the nature of the sickness at the heart of American Christianity." He calls the sickness, a "rampant, individualistic, self-serving redemptionsm." (1)The sickness continues today. The common understanding and frequent statement of many Christians is that "Jesus died for us." Standing alone, that is a distortion of the Christian faith, for it separates the life of Jesus from his death. A dramatic depiction of this separation is seen in Mel Gibson's film The Passion of The Christ. In the film the passion of Christ was almost entirely limited to his death. There was no understanding that his death was the consequence and fulfillment of the passion of his life.

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Giving Thanks for the Good, the Bad and the Surprising

Ian Lawton is pastor of C3/ Christ Community Church in Spring Lake,West Michigan and on the TCPC Executive Coucil. What does it mean to live as if I am surrounded by miracles, even though the kids are fighting, the mortgage is overdue, there seems no end to global conflict and my back hurts? Who should I be grateful to, and for what?

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Topics: Spiritual Exploration & Practice. Resource Types: Sermons.

Honest to God

The common belief in God is usually called theism or more precisely supernatural theism. It is the concept that God is a Being in heaven who created the world and from time to time intervenes in the world to assert his will. In her book The History of God, Karen Armstrong states that this concept of God is evident in the history of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It is this concept of God which the atheist authors of the five books deny. It is my contention that Christians should also be atheists about such a concept of God. If I were asked by a pollster if I believed in God I would, as an ordained clergyman, say No!

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Topics: Theology & Religious Education. Resource Types: Articles.

God Talk

At the forum last year, Wes Seeliger posed for us the basic issue of our day: the question of God. It is not about how you get saved, or what are the sacraments. The question is what do you mean by the term “God”? Are we ready to talk about God?

People sometimes ask me about what I believe about God. I finally learned to say that the question of believing does not interest me very much.

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Resource Types: Articles.

God, Darwin, and the Church

In his review of Philip Kitcher's Living with Darwin (TPC May/June 2007), Robert Cornwall suggested that his readers pick up the challenge to "reconcile a dynamic supernaturalism with evolutionary science". I think that Cornwall has identified the most important test facing the churches in the developed nations of the world. While evangelical and fundamentalist Christianity is thriving in Africa and parts of Asia, in Europe over 90% of the people have little to do with religious organizations. Are the churches in the United States bound to follow the path taken by the older industrialized nations? Or can we welcome people to whom evolutionary science makes more sense than a divine creator or an intelligent designer? Most progressive churches do welcome people who are convinced that Charles Darwin got it right, but the acceptance they receive is a bit like what gay and lesbian people get from the military. As long as no one addresses the subject directly, everybody can get along. The Christians who are satisfied with this approach are able to accept Darwin when they are in a conversation about science and to accept God as the creator when they are in church. They would rather not think too much about the apparent contradiction. If pressed, they usually take what a trained theologian would call a deist position. God set the whole universe in motion, including the capacity of life forms to evolve into new species. Never mind the implication that God's design allowed for viruses and earthquakes that kill millions of people. When pressed to confront the logical contradictions in accepting both Darwin and God, such people tend to respond vaguely with talk about mystery. Mystery is the last refuge of determined believers when faced with gaps in their logic.

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Resource Types: Articles.

A Gigantic Global Drum Circle

There is a vitality, an enlivening energy that occurs when your vision manifests in action. Because you are the only one of you that has ever existed and ever will exist, this action is unique and essential to the evolution of Life. If you stay awake to this vital energy, and keep the channels of awareness open, you have realized the greatest success that a person can achieve. Don't get me wrong. It's rarely neat and tidy. It's not always satisfying. In fact there is usually a divine dissatisfaction about following your bliss. It is this blessed unrest that raises your life above the steady hum of the daily grind and makes your life work exceptional.

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Resource Types: Articles.

Source Code: The Paradoxical Teachings of the Historical Jesus

 This work employs the critical-historical research of Crossan, Funk and other leading historical Jesus scholars in order to demonstrate that a language of paradoxical reversals informs the very texture of Jesus’ experience of the Kingdom of God of God. By showing how the same paradoxical structure can be identified within the deep structure of the most memorable parables and aphorisms of Jesus that have been handed down to us in the synoptic gospels, I argue that a language of paradox can re-activate the earliest memory of the historical Jesus prior to his indoctrination in the Christian tradition proper. And in offering an over-arching criteria for what is historically authentic about the many words that have been attributed to Jesus of Nazareth, I argue that it is possible to uncover a “source code” for the original teachings of Christ, and thereby provide a fruitful way in which to distinguish the Founder of Christianity – Jesus of Nazareth, from what was Founded – the Christian Church.    This work employs the critical-historical research of Crossan, Funk and other leading historical Jesus scholars in order to demonstrate that a language of paradoxical reversals informs the very texture of Jesus’ experience of the Kingdom of God of God. By showing how the same paradoxical structure can be identified within the deep structure of the most memorable parables and aphorisms of Jesus that have been handed down to us in the synoptic gospels, I argue that a language of paradox can re-activate the earliest memory of the historical Jesus prior to his indoctrination in the Christian tradition proper. And in offering an over-arching criteria for what is historically authentic about the many words that have been attributed to Jesus of Nazareth, I argue that it is possible to uncover a “source code” for the original teachings of Christ, and thereby provide a fruitful way in which to distinguish the Founder of Christianity – Jesus of Nazareth, from what was Founded – the Christian Church.       

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The Structure of the Real

 This article is a brief summary of my recently completed doctoral thesis, a work that reveals a radical new insight into the mind of Jesus of Nazareth.  By turning to the parables of Jesus that have been recorded in the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke), it is clearly demonstrated that the same linguistic structure – a stable pattern of “paradoxical reversals” (X is Y, as Y is X) informs all of Jesus’ most memorable teachings on the Kingdom of God. In other words, the same “stable pattern” of paradoxical reversals underpins all of the parables of Jesus that have been recorded in the synoptic gospels. And by offering a simple formula for what is historically authentic about the many words that have been attributed to the historical Jesus, it is now possible to uncover a “source code” for the original teachings of the one who is called the Christ and re-activate the “dangerous memory” of Jesus of Nazareth prior to his inscription in the Christian tradition proper.    

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Who Was The Historical Mary Magdalene?

This article suggests that the historical Mary Magdalene was a priestess of theGoddess Ishtar related by blood in some way to a wealthy Roman family. The present work looks for clues in Luke 8:2-3 and John 12:1-8 and invites your comments.By John Mitrosky (contact:gm.jm@sympatico.ca)

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Resource Types: Articles.

A Charisma for the Historical Jesus

This article seeks to claim that the Historical Jesus was indeed a exorcist-magician-physician-healer. What does this mean for faith today?By John Mitroskycomments are welcome at: gm.jm@sympatico.ca

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Topics: Jesus Studies. Resource Types: Articles.

Nurturing a Progressive Christian Spirituality

You cannot love and serve with a compassionate heart without eventually seeing those whom you are serving as your brother, your sister, your mother, your father, or eventually as yourself, even when it is “the least of these” who you serve. But if we do our serving because we feel that it something we are supposed to do “because the Bible says we should” or “because that is what Jesus did according to scripture,” or because it is our “duty,” we only separate ourselves more from the others. On the other hand, if we see our compassionate service as an opportunity to experience the “Realm of God” or “Sacred Unity” then our compassionate actions or practices become golden opportunities.

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Topics: Spiritual Exploration & Practice. Resource Types: Articles.

What is Progressive Christianity Anyway?

This article was first published in the January/Febbruary 2007 magazine The Progressive Christian. It is posted here with permission. It covers the topic of the growing momentum of something called progressive Christianity but also points out that it is a movement with many interpretations and definitions. It is still in the rather exciting period of self-discovery.

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Resource Types: Articles.

Practice, Practice, Practice!

Over the last five decades as I have searched for a meaningful spiritual path that might bring purpose, fulfillment and peace to my life, I have often reflected on that experience with mirth and awe. It must have been a funny scene fit for a Woody Allen movie. But the truth is, I know that my piano teacher was right. He touched upon a truth that goes beyond piano lessons. We will never discover what it means to become something meaningful unless we practice and practice-until it goes from our thinking to our being…

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8 Points: Point 5: Non-Dogmatic Searchers. Resource Types: Articles.

Build and Sustain Faith Communities by Feeding the Hungry

This presentation was given by Fred Plumer at the Common Dreams Conference in Sydney, Australia last month. It clearly lays out 8 steps and goals for churches and spiritual communities that want to build and sustain their communities by feeding the hunger that people feel for spirituality, purpose, a mission, and clear path.

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A Grand Event

It was a grand event and my only wish is that you could have all been there to share it with me. Since, Australia was a bit far…I will do my best to maintain that level of energy and enthusiasm about Progressive Christianity that those 1500 people infused in me and continue to help this organization grow and evolve with the rising tide of these crucial times. Now really is a moment in history where I believe we are at a tipping point, can you feel it? Will you help us tip the balance toward love, compassion and openness? I believe we can.

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Topics: Progressive Christianity 101. Resource Types: Articles.

God and Progressive Christianity

Progressive Christians are achieving great clarity about the historical development of the Bible and about viewing biblical passages in a metaphorical rather than a literal way. Using the word "God," however, continues to be an area of unclarity and outright confusion.

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Resource Types: Articles.
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