The challenge for a progressive Christian who has moved beyond such notions as virgin births and gods disguised in human form come to save us from ourselves is to remember that it is as much a historical development, as it is a theological one. That is, the attribution of a “Christ” title accorded a very human Jesus constitutes the imaginations — if not machinations — of an early Church; consisting of very human, second-generation followers of a 1st century Galilean peasant sage and itinerant preacher. And who all but drowned out the authentic voice of the one who was once born and dwelt among humankind.
Such an assertion is simply based on the fact the historical Jesus never self-identified as the “anointed one,” the Christ.
As such, if one were to remove the Christ-title from the various birth narratives of those secondary traditions of this religious movement, what would remain of the “Christmas story” that has become as prevalently assumed, as it has been unexamined? If we took the Christ out of Christmas, what might remain of the voice of one who was born and dwelt among us?
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The three major western religions, Judaism, Islam and Christianity, teach that time is linear but goes on for eternity. Many eastern religions tend to view time in repeating circular patterns. Both are guilty of undermining the message of environmental scientists who are telling us that we are simply running out of time. We have no reason to be certain that we will have an infinite number of chances to try again or that God will enter history and take us all away from a dying planet. The savior we are looking for is staring back at us from the bathroom mirror.read more
This past year, at my congregation on Cape Cod, we began to celebrate the seasons of the year as part of our affirmation of this good Earth. Our congregation’s proximity to the ocean sensitizes us to the …read more
Hebrew Scripture’s View of Life after Death It wasn’t until after the Babylonian Exile that the Pharisees accepted the idea of heaven and the resurrection of the faithful, but the Sadducees, the Essenes, and the community of …read more
For Christians grace is God’s gift of pardon. According to William Barclay the Greek word for grace was originally a military term. When an emperor came to the throne or celebrated a birthday, he would give his troops a donatirim (donation), which was a free gift that they had not earned; it was given out of the goodness of the emperor’s heart. This idea was picked up by the Christian scripture writers when they wrote about the grace of God. Grace is something that is unearned and undeserved – unmerited pardon.read more
Eschatology is the study of last things, the final events in history, the ultimate destiny of humanity, the end of the world. Major issues in eschatology include the rapture, the second coming of Jesus, the tribulation, Millennialism, and the last judgment.
Most of the Christian books I have read do not seriously concern themselves with eschatology, but the Left Behind series of books made it a popular topic. All twelve novels in the series made the New York Times bestselling fiction list – note: the fiction list. Prior to the Left Behind novels of the 1990s, Hal Lindsey’s 1970s bestselling books, including The Late Great Planet Earth, were also bestsellers.
One of the most reliable facts concerning Jesus is that he was crucified during the reign and by the action of the Roman procurator, Pontius Pilate, who served by appointment of the Caesar from 26-36 CE. The Roman senator and historian Tacitus referred to Jesus’ execution by Pilate in his Annals, which was written circa 116 CE. Beyond that, however, there is not much historical evidence.read more
The church sign can be easily read by anyone driving by: “You can’t be a devoted follower of Jesus unless you are part of a local church.” Does the church that posts this sign not trust the people with Jesus’s message? What is the meaning of “incarnation” if not “embodiment” by individual persons of the spirit of the Christ? Is the “Body of Christ” for members only?
The Apostle Paul created the metaphor of the “Body of Christ” as the community of followers. In 1 Corinthians 10:16-17, he explains the meaning of the ritually-shared meal: “The cup of God’s gracious benefits that we consecrate means that we are involved in the blood of the Anointed, doesn’t it? The bread that we break means that we are involved in the body of the Anointed, doesn’t it? That there is one loaf means that we who are many constitute one body, because we all partake of the one loaf.” In Romans 12:5 he says, “Just as each of us has one body with many parts that do not all have the same function, so although there are many of us, we are the Anointed’s body, interrelated with one another.”read more
In contemporary speech the word spiritual is more associated with personal or private experience, while the word religious is usually connected to communal, institutional, and organizational religious life. Those who identify themselves as spiritual but not religious reject traditional organized religion as the sole or the most valuable means of advancing one’s spiritual growth.read more
But what our guide told us next has stayed in my memory for the almost twenty years since my visit. With a shrug of his shoulders he explained, “Well, we need a site. An important event—we need to have a site. Do we know exactly where it happened? No. But we must have a site so that we can remember.”read more
Most people assume that the Bible is filled with stories of supernatural happenings and miraculous interventions. The accounts of miracles in the Bible are generally limited to three cycles of stories: the Moses-Joshua cycle in the Torah, the Elijah-Elisha stories that are recorded between I Kings 17 and II Kings 13, and the Jesus-Disciples of Jesus stories that are found in the four gospels. There is an occasional supernatural tale in other parts of the Bible, but these are the only areas where they are concentrated. Our concentration is primarily on the miracles that are attributed to Jesus in the gospels.
The reported supernatural deeds performed by Jesus during his ministry can be categorized into four groups: cures, exorcisms, raising the dead, and nature control. Interestingly, each type of miracle that is attributed to Jesus in the gospels also occurred in the Moses-Joshua and Elijah-Elisha stories.