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    • James Rowe Adams
    • In 1994, James R. Adams founded

So You Think You’re Not Religious? A Thinking Person’s Guide to the Church, 1st Edition

founder of (TCPC)

In So You Think You’re Not Religious, James Adams sets himself a formidable task: asserting the value of Christian faith and practice to skeptics, and overcoming their very reasonable objections. It’s perhaps in his favor that he’s an extremely reasonable man, and that many of these objections were his own, at other times in his life. A powerful and practical introduction to the church for newcomers and old-timers alike. Topics include belief, the creed, sacraments, prayer, and belonging.

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From Literal to Literary: The Essential Reference Book for Biblical Metaphors Second Edition

Pastors can use From Literal to Literary to look up words from the passages from which they plan to preach and receive insightful and intriguing understandings of the text.

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So You Think You’re Not Religious – A Thinking Person’s Guide to the Church 2nd edition

Many educated people shy away from the church because they cannot believe in these and other aspects of Christian tradition. And yet many of these same people search for what the church can offer: a caring community, supportive during people of grief and times of joy. James Adams reminds us that religious faith is not a matter of the mind, but of the heart.

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Better Than Believing: Christianity for Skeptics, Agnostics, and Atheists

The growth of a progressive Christian congregation may not lie in its ability to make believers out of skeptics or to talk conventional Christians into switching their loyalties.  Rather, the increase in membership is most likely to be the result of evangelism, that is, letting secular discover what others have found of value in the life of the church. 

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So You Can’t Stand Evangelism? A Thinking Person’s Guide to Church Growth

Offers a strategy for thoughtful evangelism that welcomes people just as they are.

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Jesus and His Friends of Little Faith

Je­sus says to them: “You of little faith, why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not perceive?” He appears to be irritated because the disciples fail to understand that he is speaking in metaphors and not referring to the fact that they forgot bring any bread to eat on another boat trip. People of little faith need constant reminding that they are not to take religious teaching literally but to look for the symbolic meaning, but they can learn.

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Reflections on Creating Open and Welcoming Communities

Reflections from one of the TCPC national forums about creating welcoming churches. Poses questions for congreagations to consider.

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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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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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What Can Progressive Christians Say About Resurrection?

[An excerpt from James Adams’ new book, From Literal to Literary.] Each year, when Easter roles around, many people outside the church experience a kind of wistfulness. They love the festival, but they don’t think that they …

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Who We Are and How We Got Here

TCPC Founder, James Adams, talks about the origins of TCPC.

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“Abba:” A fair interpretation or a putdown of the Jews?

Abba, the word for “father” in the Aramaic language appears untranslated in the Greek Scriptures and in most English versions. Some people have tried to make a theological statement based on Jesus’s use of Abba, which appears to have a similarity to a toddler’s expression of intimacy with a father, such as “dada” and “papa”.

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What Can Progressive Christians Say About “Sin” and “Original Sin”?

Some of our detractors have suggested that in our attempt to include all people, we have abandoned the concept of sin. Not so. In both the Hebrew and Greek languages, the word translated “sin” is based on a metaphor taken from hunting. Both the Hebrew chatah’ and the Greek hamartia originally meant that the hunter missed what he was shooting at. The arrow fell short of the target.

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Why TCPC Advocates Equal Rights for Gay and Lesbian People

If you look through the eight points that define what we mean by “progressive”, you will see that omitting a concern for these people would leave us with a glaring inconsistency.

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What’s In a Name?

More than one person took me to task for using the adjective “reactionary” to describe the point of view I found in the newsletter United Voice.

Although I thought that the description was accurate, I though I had best check up on myself by consulting with The Oxford English Dictionary. This is what I found: “reactionary, a. and n. [f. reaction (chiefly in sense 4). adj. 1. Of, pertaining to, or characterized by, reaction. 2. Inclined or favourable to reaction. Also, in Marxist use, unfavourably contrasted with revolutionary.” Under sense 4 of reaction, I found “A movement towards the reversal of an existing tendency or state of things, esp. in politics; a return, or desire to return, to a previous condition of affairs; a revulsion of feeling.”

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All too often I have heard people attacking gays and lesbians, saying that they are an abomination to God. I wonder if such people have ever bothered to check their Bibles for the meaning of the word. I did, and this is what I found.

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Responding to our Critics

People objecting to positions taken by The Center for Progressive Christianity play an important role in helping us to define more clearly who and what we are. One such person and I had an E-mail exchange that began with a message from him that arrived under the subject heading, “Are you Christian?” I have arranged our correspondence in the form of a dialogue:

Objector: Are you Christian?

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The War on Terrorism

In the grip of the grief, rage, and fear that were evoked by the September 11 attack on the United States, many people turned to God. Churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques were filled with worshipers seeking comfort and meaning in the wake of the tragedy. Seeking God in moments of extreme distress may be a healthy instinct, but such behavior has a dark side.

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The Story of the Magi: Biblical Origins of Anti-Semitism

When Alexander Pope wrote about the dangers of a little learning, he might not have had the Bible in mind. In the eighteenth century, few people realized or cared that Christians who knew the Bible primarily through what they heard in church were absorbing a prejudice against the Jews. What they learned from the Bible strengthened their spiritual well being by convincing them of their moral superiority to the Jews. Their sense of superiority was all the justification Christians needed for pogroms, expulsions, forced conversions, and violence directed toward Jewish people. The question for progressive Christians today is this: Can we learn from the Bible without perpetuating antisemitism? As an attempt to come to grips with that question, I will focus on one particular story, the account of the wise men following a star to Bethlehem.

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Some people have problems with metaphors. The poet John Brehm had one of these metaphorically challenged people in a freshman class that was studying Matthew Arnold’s classic nineteenth-century poem Dover Beach, which likens the decline of organized religion to the outgoing tide of the “Sea of Faith”. To her complaint that the expression confused her, the teacher gently asked what confused her about it.

“I mean, is it a real sea?” she asked.

“You mean, is it a real body of water that you could point to on a map or visit on vacation?”

“Yes,” she said. “Is it a real sea?”

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Confessions of a Conservative

In our declarations about the Jesus whom we
follow, Progressive Christians should insist that we conserve the best of what we know and
what we have always known: God loves everybody. For Jim Adams, that is a conservative position.

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Bailey White: Theologian

One of the first ideas that the advisory committee produced came out of the realization that some of the best theology written today appears in novels and short stories, cartoons and comic strips, poems and popular songs. One of our dreams is to assemble a group of artists, writers, poets, and composers who reflect on religious themes. One such person is Bailey White, who appears regularly on National Public Radio. I know her work best through reprints in “The Funny Times,” but my favorite of her stories I found in a volume called Mama Makes Up Her Mind and Other Dangers of Southern Living (Vintage Books).

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In Defense of

In my upbringing, I learned that the first Christian statement of faith was probably “Jesus is Lord.” The context in which St. Paul used the affirmation sounds as if he were quoting something that his readers would immediately recognize: “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit” (I Corinthians 12:3). To call Jesus “Lord” is to say that I have a relationship with Jesus. I am declaring my loyalty and acknowledging his authority in my life. That is very different from saying that “Jesus is God”, a statement that does not appear in the Bible.

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Risking Art, Risking Faith

Reflections on the TCPC 1999 Forum and the intersection of religion and creativity.

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How Do You Know What to Believe? The Risks of Perpetuating a Hoax, Online or Off

Interestingly, at least to me, the answers are similar. The perpetuation of an idea, the spreading, the evangelism, is always something that puts us at risk, personally. We live in a tension of wanting to make sure our friends find out something important but not wanting to confuse them in case it is irrelevant to them or misleads them if we are later proven to be wrong. This is related to what I call “the liberal person’s burden,” the burden of never being 100% certain of your own rightness. But to live in community we must share ideas (otherwise why bother to call it a community) so we risk, we reach out, we tell. Sometimes we miss the mark, many times we hit it when we attempt with a certain humility.

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