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Stones & Bones

A children's book about evolution by the head of the Jesus Seminar's Polebridge Press.

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In Praise of the Secular

Now he has followed the lead of the Renaissance sage Erasmus, whose droll and counter-intuitive title "In Praise of Folly" similarly introduced a critical assessment of a conflicted and self-satisfied society. Our present paradox, Lloyd notes, is that willy-nilly we live in a secular society lately evolved from Christendom – one in which liberal spiritualities are under assault by both religious fundamentalists and militant atheists. But then, liberty has always fought an uphill battle against political and ecclesiastical tyrannies, and has always demanded a high level of individual responsibility. The personal freedom offered by secularism – which includes a free choice of spiritual pathways – is what Lloyd Geering sees as a beacon of hope as we strive to create the global society of tomorrow. Indeed, one may well see in this little volume an echo of one of Jesus' most radical and authentic teachings – the parable of the Leaven – the essence of which is the inspired insight that only when the sacred and the secular are made one will the Kingdom of God have come.

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Giving Thanks as a Life Changing Dynamic

Jesus was not born into a privileged life. He was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth and did not live under easy circumstances. But he still lived in gratitude. In fact he made giving thanks for life a foundational dynamic of his teaching. He seemed surprised by other people's inability to live happy, fulfilling lives with little or no gratitude. "Why do you worry so much about what you eat, what you wear?"

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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Just Ways to Repair an Unjust War

Full disclosure: I am among those who opposed the invasion of Iraq before it happened. I opposed it for Christian reasons. Moreover, I think those reasons have a pragmatic function: they would have prevented us from embarking on a pre-emptive war that has proved to be disastrous.

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The Wake I Leave Behind

Let's look at this as a comedy of errors…or as a cosmic joke on me. The point of this story is that how we look at the events that cross our paths effects everything about the cosmology we are constantly building (and revising) as we grope along the path through life.

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The Winter of my Awakening

During my winter sojourn in Sarasota, while attending these 2 ½ hour weekly sessions led by Meredith Jordan, I (and 65 others) embarked on an inward-turned journey to discover our true inner being, to let our outer life of busyness in the world drain away, to learn from today's living spiritual elders so that we too could assume the role of "elder" in our own sphere of influence. "Becoming an elder is quite different from becoming elderly," Jordan says. "It is a time when we focus internally on qualities of character, leadership and integrity, growing and sharing those traits. Being an elder means using every opportunity to give others something of what life has led you to understand and embody."

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Churches Have More than Just Good Music

Ten years ago George Carlin the comedian, wrote in his book, Brain Droppings, "The only thing good that came out of religion was the music."  When I ponder the
violent history of the Christian church, the religious wars that still
continue to plague our world, the divisiveness, the prejudice and the
bigotry that the church has perpetuated and continues to perpetuate in
the world today, I wonder if George Carlin is right. When I ponder the violent history of the Christian church, the religious wars that still continue to plague our world, the divisiveness, the prejudice and the bigotry that the church has perpetuated and continues to perpetuate in the world today, I wonder if George Carlin is right.

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A Subversive Prayer

The Lord’s Prayer is a universal Christian prayer. It is said in every corporate worship service worldwide and is used in the personal devotions of millions of people. Recently, I began to be aware that the prayer is so familiar I was saying it without thinking what it meant, and I wondered if other people have the same experience. The result of my thinking and wondering is this article.

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A Startling Vision for the 21st Century Church

Tom Thresher makes a powerful argument for a new kind of Christianity that transcends Christianity as we know it today. A fascinating discussion that may and open your eyes to a new vision of Christianity, even startling! 

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Jesus Through the Eyes of Rumi, a Sufi Mystic

Occasionally throughout history, someone comes along and moves a religion
from being a pond religion to an ocean religion.  Someone comes onto the
scene and blows the lid off the top of religion, reforming it, transforming
it.  Jesus was one such figure.

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Limits of Biblical Authority

A story about Jesus gleaning grain on the Sabbath provides us some important insights into whether the Bible’s authority is absolute or limited.

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What is Missing in Islam is Modern Theological Insights

All the ancient scriptures, including the Koran, need to be understood as historically-conditioned and culturally-conditioned. Without such an understanding the human rights abuses that their scriptures condone will still be seen as having divine approval. Modern believers need to recognise that religions are transient and that tomorrow’s landscape almost certainly will be very different.

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What I Like About You

This is a wonderful thoughtful article about religious pluralism and respect for others’ faith experiences

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Free, New Progressive Hymns

William Flanders makes his progressive hymns available for free on his website.

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Progressive Baptismal Liturgy

At the request of parents from different faith traditions who express a progressive religious faith, Evangelical United Church of Christ (Webster Grove, MO) revisited the questions and promises of their infant baptism ceremony.

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Josh’s Confessions

The dangers for Jews and Christians of believing in being divinely chosen.

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What Does a Progressive Christian Church Do With Its Children?

That question is at the heart of a project begun by several members of New Covenant Community (NCC), a TCPC congregation in Normal, Illinois. NCC is a union congregation affiliated with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), …

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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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