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The Manhattan Counters

Americans United for Separation of Church and State have together drafted a point-by-point rebuttal to The Manhattan Declaration, a right-wing Christian manifesto published (with 200+ prominent signatories) last November.  Our MANHATTAN COUNTER-DECLARATION aims at providing clarity on the issues they address, and defending the values they profess to (but fail) protect by means of their document.  We want to launch our Counter-Declaration so that the religious right can get busy responding to good arguments for a change, instead of spending all of their time composing bad ones of their own.  Progressives, moderate Christians, humanists, atheists, and other religious leaders are tired of being on the defensive and are putting forward our own agenda for the future.

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The Human Faces of God

What should thoughtful Christians do with texts that propose God is pleased by human sacrifice or that God commanded Israel to commit acts of genocide?  What about texts that contain historical errors or predictions that have gone unfulfilled long beyond their expiration dates?  In The Human Faces of God Thom Stark moves beyond notions of inerrancy in order to confront such problematic texts and open up a conversation about new ways they can be used in service of the church and its moral witness today.  Readers looking for an academically informed yet accessible discussion of the Bible’s thorniest texts wil find it a thought-provoking and indispensable resource. 

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Is Progressive The New Liberal?

Is “progressive” the new liberal? The word progressive is frequently used these days referring to “non-fundamentalist” churches.  I used it as a theme for our Lenten sermon series: Progressive Christianity takes a fresh look at traditions and rituals. You may see the word used in newspaper and magazine articles.  What does it mean?  Is progressive simply the “new liberal”?  My perspective is yes and no. “Progressive Christianity” does not lend itself easily to definition.  It is more of a movement; a path; an approach than a belief system. It is often more interested in spirituality than religion. Unlike the “liberal churches” of the 1960’s and later, it is not necessarily closely aligned with one political perspective.  So how might we describe “progressive” Christianity?

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With or Without God

Invisioning a future in which the Christian church plays a viable and transformative role in shaping society, Gretta Vosper argues that if the church is to survive at all, the heart of faith must undergo a radical change. Vosper, founder of the Canadian Centre for Progressive Christianity and a minister in Toronto, believes that what will save the church is an emphasis on just and compassionate living-a new and wholly humanistic approach to religion. Without this reform, the church as we know it faces extinction.

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Covenant Economics: A Biblical Vision of Justice for All

In this insightful new study, Dr. Horsley contends that God intensely cares about economic justice. As followers of the Heavenly Father, we, too, should be deeply concerned about this vital issue. Horsley divides his book into two sections: “Economic Justice and the Common Good” and “The Renewal of Covenantal Community.” A “distinctively covenantal concern for economic rights and mutually supportive and cooperative community,” he asserts, “runs strongly throughout the Pentateuch, the Prophets, the Gospels, and the Letters of Paul.”

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The Passion of the Greeks: Christianity and the Rape of the Hellenes

Vallianatos’ book addresses a crime of the past that still affects us today, and whose rectification could facilitate a more humanistic future. He reveals the censored history of the conflict between Christianity and ancient Greek culture (“Jerusalem versus Athens”) in late antiquity.

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An Introduction to A Radical Theology

Romanticism, Marxism, pre and post war German theology, non-realism and the nineteen sixties death of God movement, and now many contemporary writers around the world- they have all reshaped our ideas about God, giving it the rich diversity of experience and expression it comprises today. Tracing the history of the key idea in Western thought from its origins through to the present day, this is the story of the intellectual journey that remade God in the image of man, so that he might become one of us.

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Is God A Delusion?: A Reply To Religion’s Cultured Despisers

“Is God a Delusion?” addresses the philosophical underpinnings of the recent proliferation of popular books attacking religious beliefs. Focuses primarily on charges leveled by recent critics that belief in God is irrational and that its nature ferments violence Balances philosophical rigor and scholarly care with an engaging, accessible style Offers a direct response to the crop of recent anti-religion bestsellers currently generating considerable public discussion.

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Slaves To Faith

Based upon the author’s twenty years of classroom and clinical study, Slaves of Faith explores and explains the emotionally laden dynamic at work in the fundamentalist mind. As Dr. Mercer posits, the fundamentalist is fundamentally driven by anxiety layered over a fragile sense of self-identity constructed upon a system of beliefs that is both logically inconsistent and highly suspect in light of modern science. As a result, the fundamentalist completely rejects modernity while battling mightily in the arena of national politics and culture to bring about a world that aligns more closely with the fundamentalist worldview.

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The Ordinary God: Notes from the Far West of Ireland

That is what this book is about. The ordinary, everyday God. The ‘God’ that comes instinctively to most of us. If we’ve had a religious education, from schools or parents, we may need to drop a lot of stuff that has been drilled into us. If what we think we know about God doesn’t feel right, or doesn’t feel true, then it probably isn’t right and isn’t true. Like love, this is a subject where we do better to trust our gut feelings.

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Religionless Religion: Beyond Belief to Understanding

In these perilous times when the very survival of the human species is at stake, there is a desperate need for wisdom to provide guidance. The sacred literature of the world’s major religious traditions is a source for such wisdom, but it has largely been misinterpreted and misunderstood, and, thus, instead of being a source for wisdom, it has been a source for confusion and conflict. The ancient scriptures, for the most part, were written in a language which is quite different from ordinary language. It is a mythological language, which is symbolic, and therefore its meaning is hidden. In the Bible, for example, there are many narratives that appear to be historical, but they are history that has been mythologized, and therefore their surface meaning is not their real meaning. Clyde Edward Brown clearly illustrates that the correct interpretation of the world’s religious texts would lead to a different concept of religion. Instead of belief in the literal truth of texts that have been misinterpreted, the emphasis would be on having those religious values, such as social and economic justice, which are common to all religions.

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Patience With God: Faith For People Who Don’t Like Religion (or Atheism)

Author Schaeffer (Keeping Faith) adopts a feisty tone in this essay about evangelical Christianity and aggressive atheism. In the first half of the book, he rebuts justifications from both sides, taking aim at the ideas of such celebrity atheists as Richard Dawkins as well as religious leaders like Rick Warren. Schaeffer asks each side to allow for an evolving religion in which allegory takes precedence over literalism. In the second half, he gives space for his own memories, recalling moments that led him to a middle path of “hopeful uncertainty.”

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Paul Among the People: The Apostle Reinterpreted and Reimaged in His Own Time

In Paul Among the People, Sarah Ruden explores the meanings of his words and shows how they might have affected readers in his own time and culture. She describes as well how his writings represented the new church as an alternative to old ways of thinking, feeling, and living.

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Biblical Christianity is Bankrupt

Biblical Christianity is bankrupt. I use ‘bankrupt’ in the exact sense of the term. A business that goes bankrupt still has value and is capable of producing useful goods or services. It still has an inventory and trained professionals in its employ. Until the day insolvency is declared, it also usually has a façade—a bright and upbeat demeanor by which its clients and the community at large assume it to be relatively healthy. The only thing wrong is that a bankrupt business is no longer able to accomplish its purpose: to be successful. It is precisely in this sense that I suggest Bible-centered faith is bankrupt.

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Show Us God

By: Gary Wiburn.  Last week I spoke of our defining identity here at First Presbyterian as being four things:  a Christ-Centered faith, a place of Creative Celebration, of Compassionate Caring, and Inclusive Community.  These are some of the primary ways in which we understand ourselves as a Center for Progressive Christianity, which means nothing less than trying to embrace the essential teachings of Jesus.

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Fraying Claims: Challenging Progressives beyond Their Chosen Response to the Burning of the Koran

The truth of the matter is that the scriptures of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are filled with violence, divisiveness, condemnation. So, too, are they filled with passages that condone the destruction of property and persons of other belief systems and nationalities. True, too, is the reality that such content can, and as Jones has reminded us, will be used for appalling purposes. The pastor in Florida is only doing what he believes his God expects him to do. It’s a God he would deny for no one. Not for his president, Barak Obama, who pleaded with him on behalf of Americans around the world, not to go ahead with his plan. Not for his evangelical brother in the faith, Rick Warren, who has called it a “cowardly act”. Not for any “progressive” Christian like me or Diana Butler Bass who drives a car with a COEXIST bumper sticker on it, each of the letters formed from the symbol of a different religion

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Walk the Talk, Talk the Walk

At some point life began to tip the scale and what I lived began to impact the way I believed. Two events were weighty in the tipping: the death of a neighbor boy because of child abuse and a young woman who had lived with us showing up at our doorstep after being beaten by her new husband. These experiences led me into becoming an advocate for women and children who had been abused. Sometimes people I worked with wanted to know where I went to church. When I invited them it seemed nothing in the liturgy touched anything in their reality.

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Anything Under the Sun: Shaping Contemporary ‘Sunday Morning’ Experiences

Only when our liturgies have about them the flavour of story can we expect them to have the resonance we would like them to have. The challenge of our liturgies is to retell our personal experiences in the light of our Australian experience of the natural seasons. Our preaching should be intellectually and theologically honest – keeping what we know and what we believe, together – delivered in conversational or ordinary language.

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