The God Thing

I was giving a lecture last year, with about 200 people in the audience. Part of my talk was devoted to an overview of the scholarship that has knocked the foundation out of a belief in Jesus as the “only begotten Son of God” and the sacrifice for the sins of the world. The presentation was well received and the questions lively and thoughtful. Most of them were from people who wanted further clarification of what they saw as a demotion of Jesus. Others were more interested what my perception might be of the future of Christianity. There seemed to be no rancor in the room and plenty of positive feedback and there seemed to be genuine excitement.

I did notice one gentleman in the back of the room who started to raise his hand a couple of times but never held it up long enough for me to call on him. But when I left the podium he headed directly for me. He waited a minute for some of the others to move away and then he moved close and almost in a whisper said: “So what do progressives do about the God thing?”

I thought it was interesting that the entire audience seemed very comfortable redefining Jesus as an enlightened, wisdom teacher as opposed to the traditional role that the church officially collared him with 1600 years ago. But this man felt compelled to ask that question about God in private and then did not feel comfortable to wait around for a meaningful conversation about it.

I suppose I should not be surprised. I remember a woman who was very active in the church I led several years ago. She had come out of the Southern Baptist tradition and had to make lots of adjustments over the years she was part of the congregation. She was there in large part because of our openness to LGBT community in our early years. But she moved along the progressive road with some ease as we deconstructed the traditional Jesus story and redefined his new role. She seemed at ease when we changed the way we did Sunday morning gatherings and even seemed comfortable as we wrote our own liturgies, sang different kinds of music and regularly had great speakers from different faith traditions. But when it hit her one day that I had long ago moved past a “being in the sky” who answered prayers, who guided us personally, who comforted us when we were down, who had expectation about how we should act, believe and think and who ultimately required our worship and adoration…when she realized that I did not believe in that kind of God, our relationship took a major downturn.

According to more recent Pew surveys, in spite of the increasing number of people who classify themselves as non-religious or spiritual but not religious, somewhere close to 90% of our population still say they believe in “God.” However I would guess that if we put 100 people in a room who said they believed in God and asked them to come up with a statement that defined and described this thing they called God, there would be close to 100 different statements and probably some red knuckles when the conversation was over.

I also suspect that even if a group of progressive Christians gathered to discuss the same subject, we would have a hard time agreeing on what we mean by the term God. It would be easier, I presume, for most of us to agree upon what we did not mean. We might be willing to let go, for example, the idea of some anthropomorphic being who may or may not respond to our prayers and supplications. Most of us would probably reject the idea of a supernatural theism that has haunted Western Christianity for over 1600 years. But things might start getting tense when we tried to decide if God is a separate entity or whether we believed in a non-dualistic creation, and “God” is in all things. We might resort to terms like pantheism, panentheism or even something called creatheism, (God is a holy name of Ultimate Reality), but I doubt even in this select group that we could agree on descriptive characteristics of God that would fit everyone’s perspective or anyone’s perspective for that matter. We might wonder if so many of us say we believe in “God,” why is it so difficult for us to agree on what we mean?

The challenge is that we are talking about a supreme Mystery that is virtually too big for most of us to even fathom. Every day, between our space travel, our amazing telescopes (including the Hubble) and the growing understanding of our universe, scientists find new and truly awesome information about our universe and have more questions. What we do know is that there are thousands of solar systems in our Galaxy and the number could be up to a billion solar systems. An average galaxy contains between 100 billion and 1 trillion numbers of stars. Our own Milky Way galaxy seems to contain about 200 billion stars; and that is only an average number of stars according to scientists today. Now picture this…there are virtually billions of Galaxies in our universe.

Scientists tell us now that if you make a circle with your thumb and finger, about the size of a half dollar, and look through it into the sky you are looking at over a billion solar systems, any one of which could support life. Hold on to that thought and then let’s try and move to some description of God. The challenge of course is many of us want some sense of a personal God. But when we talk about a personal God, even for those who truly feel that they have had an experience of something they may want to call God, we are not describing God; we are describing our experience of a Great Mystery.

The point is that none of us can do anything more than describe our own experiences of this Great Mystery that sometimes feels so real to us. To move from our experience to description of what God is or what God wants is just something that we must admit is beyond us. As Dr. Gordon D. Kaufman, concludes in his book, In Face Of Mystery: “…In religious myth and symbols, and in theological doctrines and reflection, we are dealing with matters of profound, ultimately unfathomable mystery; the ultimate meaning of human life, the final truth about the world and our place within it, is simply not available to us humans.”

So what do progressive Christians do with the “God thing?” First we admit that whatever it is, if anything, it is a mystery beyond our comprehension. We can rename “it” as the Supreme Mystery, Ultimate Meaning, Unity or…but I believe that it is time to reject the dualistic idea of two realms…the real and the mysterious, the natural and the supernatural. I believe that we can live our lives in such a way that we can intentionally create opportunities to experience that “God Thing.” I now experience the supreme mystery almost every day of my life in some place, in some thought, or with someone.

Secondarily it is time, once again, to admit that there is no one, nothing outside of myself that needs my praise, my thanks, or even my obedience. I can choose to live in harmony with the operating forces of the universe or I can ignore them. It will not affect what happens to me when I die. However, I also know that there are certain practices in my life that will help me see, hear, taste and feel the awesome miracles that are always around me and within me, every day, wherever I go.

And finally, we must learn to be comfortable in midst of the unknown. Like all humans, I often find myself clamoring for answers, clarity and security. If we want to be open to the awesome experiences of creation we must be willing to live in the face of the Ultimate Mysteries. I close with another one of my favorite quotes that hangs above me in my office:
“…what is called knowledge is everyday parlance is only a small island in a vast sea that has not been traveled…Hence the existential question for the knower is this: Which does he love more, the small island of his so-called knowledge or the sea of infinite mystery? “(Karl Rahner Foundations Of Christian Faith (New York: Crossroad: 1982), 22–23)

Review & Commentary

  • Gerard Devine

    In spite of the mystery of it all, I feel comforted to know there are others who no longer allow the Churches to decide how we live. At 66 I am more open today to this Mystery in my life than ever before. As a recovered alcoholic I struggle with how the prayer thing works. There is a non-human entity that helps me, day by day, to stay sober. Am I making it up? How are the millions of recovered addicts/alcoholics able to stay clean and sober? This belief in a non-human entity is the only thing that seems to help. I guess I am looking for the security of an answer rather than choosing to live with the mystery.
    Kudos to the work of all associated with the Progressive Christianity movement. I see Jesus now more like Gandhi, as a powerful influence in the world for good.
    Thank you for your insights.

    • Gary Vance

      Hello Gerard. As a pastor, much of my ministry has been reaching out to those whose lives have been wrecked by addiction and other destructive behavior. I appreciate the author’s acknowledgment of the great Mystery and the human inability to fully perceive the depths of spirit. However, I cannot disallow my own personal experiences that affirm the 2000 year traditions and teachings that flow from the Gospels and Epistles. Much like the Apostle Paul, I had a life changing encounter with the spirit of the resurrected Christ. The abiding Presence of the Holy Spirit has guided, comforted and transformed my life from a rebellious and discontented soul to one who gladly follows the Way of Jesus. Gerard, I must have the fullness of the Gospel message of Jesus as Savior, Lord and Deliverer as I labor with people who are not finding help from the physicians and psychologists. I know this reply flies in the face of those whose message is focused on deconstructing the more traditional message of Christ, but you summed it up Gerard when you point out that belief in “a higher power” is the only thing that generally helps deliver the addict. Jesus is alive and well and still in the business of transforming the lives of those who place their trust in Him.

  • H.

    Thank you for this article – as a progressive [not-quite-comfortable-calling-myself] Christian who is non-theistic, I truly appreciate this affirmation of the idea of Something Larger than ourselves … specifically that, far from being trite, over-used, a cop-out, or too vague to mean anything, the idea is actually profoundly mysterious and Its Reality will always lie beyond our attempts to define it. So grateful for this community!

  • Vincent Spiaggia


  • Larry Duncan

    What about Spong’s image of “the Ground of Our Being” (from Tillich, I believe), and “God is us, and we are God”. These concepts, as vague as even they are, seem helpful to me. But, just accepting the fact that our human minds can’t express this great unknown, and I don’t mind just admitting that “it is unknowable”, and whether I do or don’t clarify that total uncertainty ultimately makes no ultimate difference.

  • Fred Witters

    I choose to believe that God is a “state of mind”. We can choose to live a life that has meaning to a lot of people, or we can choose to live a life of disorder and meaninglessness. We can choose to have an open mind and discuss options that we face or we can choose to be close-minded and live our own little cocoon and stew in our own juice.
    Because we are self-conscious and make choices, we determine what we become. We are what we are.

  • Jean Conley

    Fred… Your message is profound and moving. I think I am particularly moved because it resonates with my spirit. In my experience, once I shifted from a God up there somewhere, there was a dramatic ‘shift’ that had to be made in my belief system. I began ‘questioning’ God and ultimately found it amusing how so many people define God as if they know God, they even know the mind of God. I am now becoming sensitive to theologians and religious who write books and attempt to tell their readers what God wants from them, how God feels. Really? I am now in a place where I do my best to distinguish between beliefs and facts. It is perfectly okay to have beliefs, but to realize our beliefs are just that has been so freeing. Like you, I am learning “to be comfortable in midst of the unknown.” -Namaste

    • nancy bracey

      So freeing, yes! So kind to one’s spirit, yes! So hard to “make the break,” so to speak, from the circle of friends who will remain in the church buildings only, and not move beyond.

  • John Bidwell

    I find this to be very beautiful, comforting, validating.
    Thank you for sharing in this amazing adventure of life.
    I certainly have grown to feel what to do about this God thing- is to enjoy it- allow it- celebrate it.
    Yes- knowing it is so beyond us- but also blooming within us.


  • Reinis

    Before Christianity became a part of my life, I viewed God very closely to the way described in this article. I thought that describing God using human language is more than inappropriate (and to a large extent I still feel the same way), I thought it was more like a parody than even a representation. And one thing bothered me particularly – I was certain that being a person means being limited in thought, space, time and possibility and since God by definition had no limits, it is silly to assume a person-hood for this entity.
    But that changed. After a number of reflections, over a course of time I slowly grew accustomed to this person of God, but I still felt strange about using these terms. It certainly took me some time, but right now I am quite certain that being a person is not another limitation, having this kind of agency, when applied to God, does not carry the same limiting implications as it does when applied to a human being. Of course what does it mean to be a person is a very enormous question in and of itself, but the way I see it, when applied to God, or the Great Mystery if you will, it becomes not a set of limitations, but an ultimate and unique manifestation of the creative power that we choose to call God. And in this light, the question Trinity can be seen from a more relevant perspective, however I will not go into this.
    In other words, to say that belief in a God who is capable of a person-hood is redundant (which at times seems to be the implication) to me seems to limit that same Ultimate Mystery that we are so fascinated by. Perceive not of personality in human terms, but extrapolate it to absolute creativity. (not that it’s possible.. but it’s a fun game 🙂 )

  • Vernon R. Wiehe, Ph.D.

    It is so refreshing to read your thoughts about who or what is God. I continually hear references in my Presbyterian Church to “God” and I want to shout out, “About whom or what are you referring.” I call it the “divine assumption.” Namely, the assumption is made we all know who or what God is; however, there never is any discussion of the meaning of this term. You essay helped me to realize I am not alone in my struggle with the concept of God.

  • Stephne

    It’s been my experience that progressive Christianity gets in its own way at times. Meaning it is so wide open and liberal that the scales tip too far to the right. In my opinion, it need more balance to it. Yes, God is a mystery beyond our imagination — but He/She is also very personal, intimate and does guide and direct out steps when asked. Yes, Jesus was a wisdom teacher, but so much more than that. Progressive Christianity has thrown the baby out with the bathwater in my view. There is a way to move forward with healthier images of God and who Jesus was/is without watering down our religion and cheapening it.

    • Fred Plumer

      Stephne, Thank you for writing. We are often of accused of “watering down” or of taking the easy route by others so I wanted to take the time to respond to your comments. First, when one actually tries to walk the path following the teachings of Jesus, like living a life of love, of forgiveness, gratitude, non-judgment and an active compassion willing to risk on behalf of another, as examples, they usually find life far more challenging than holding on to a religious belief system. Secondarily, I am not certain what you mean that “Jesus was far more” than that. We believe that he had a profound and unique experience of the Ultimate Reality and was willing to risk his life to teach others how they might do the same. Do I need him to be more than one in whom I can put my faith that his way can lead to a life changing experience of the Ultimately Reality some may choose to call God. Is it necessary for him to be more than that for us to be willing to follow his way? Thirdly, while a minor point, I think is important to recognize that nothing that is generated from our organization is done without the support of some fine biblical and theological scholars, not that they all agree of course. And finally it is my personal belief that a fundamental goal of Jesus’ teachings was and is to discover “boundary-less living” without divisions or tribal mentalities so that we might discover the Divine presence in all life. Any beliefs that do not support that objective seem to be something other than his own. Thanks again for writing and I hope this has been helpful for a better understanding about us.

  • Brenda

    I was one of strong faith believing in God in the traditional sense, until a prayer I had being praying for years and years did not happen and my faith crumbled. All the biblical promises, ask in my name and you will receive, if you live according to my word, blah, blah, in my opinion are lies and only gave me a false sense of security. I have of course come to terms with the situation I have had to accept, but I cannot get over the disappointment of unanswered prayer. So who is God really ?

    • Gary Vance

      Brenda, God is our Heavenly Father. For reasons not always made known to children, parents don’t grant every request.

  • Bill Gebhardt

    New Testament Scholar John Dominic Crossan has four questions that, in my opinion, reinforce the role our presuppositions play in our concept of God.
    1) What is the character of your God?
    2) What is the content of your faith?
    3) What is the function of your church?
    4) What is the purpose of you worship?
    For an expansion of those questions, turn to page 25 in Felton and Proctor-Murphy’s Living the Questions, The Wisdom of Progressive Christianity (HarperOne).

    I agree on the apparent futility of trying to comprehend the incomprehensible but for me there must be some sort of purpose. Thus I take comfort in what is found in both Old and New testaments, Love God and your neighbor. If the Jews can practice Midrash, so can I. And I do this without any expectations of rewards in any afterlife. I am rewarded in the “here in now”. Celebrate life.
    Bill Gebhardt

  • Stephen Myers

    I have learned to embrace the mystery. To find inspiration in the vast unknown reaches of space and the human mind. Meister Eckhart, 13th century Christian mystic, said “The eye with which I see God and the eye with which God sees me are one in the same eye.” I think we should look within ourselves to find our god.

  • Gray Skelton

    Now, my friends, it is time to be honest. If you have reduced Jesus to a role that suits your philosophy, then stop using the term “Christianity.” Call it “Paulianity” or “Peterianity.” Peter and Paul are Biblical persons who wrote parts of The Book. They did not claim that they “and the Father are one.” But leave the unenlightened, superstitious, traditional whatever we are in your estimation the claim to Christianity. I will not argue with you. I just ask for basic honesty. Thank you, Gray Skelton.

  • Paul Smith

    I have found a quite stimulating approach to the challenge of “what about God” in the “The Faces of God” as articulated by American Buddhist mystic and philos0pher Ken Wilber. It is based on the three major perspectives in viewing any occasion: third person objective, second person intersubjective, and first person subjective. This gives us an objective way to think about the infinite face of God in panentheistic, evolutionary impulse, ground of being terms, an intersubjective way of relating to the intimate face of God in, not supernatural theism, but integral mystical theism that opens up to the many personal forms in which the divine comes close to us, and a subjective perspective of our own divinity, the inner face of God. This then does not discount the experience of the multitude of mystics of every religious tradition who have found a “presence” with them, and a vast inner openness within them that bears the imprint of the ultimate and infinite mystery. I have developed this application of integral philosophy to Christianity in greater detail in my book, Integral Christianity: The Spirit’s Call to Evolve.

  • Judy Warnock

    Wow, t his really summarizes exactly how I feel about “religion” and “God.” How can I get a copy? I can never articulate my thoughts well when having discussions with Christians. Having this around would definitely help me.

  • Judy Warnock

    Nevermind–I was able to print it out. Thank you for your well reasoned article.

  • Billy Corsbie

    Regarding this question, I recommend the book CHRISTIANITY WITHOUT GOD

  • Billy Corsbie

    With regard to this matter, I recommend the book CHRISTIANITY WITHOUT GOD by Lloyd Geering, a former Presbyterian minister in New Zealand who teaches theology at the University there.

    • Fred Plumer

      Billy I agree and often recommend Dr. Lloyd Geering and any other of his books. Another book that people have found helpful is Gretta Vosper’s book, With or Without God, although it is hard to purchase since it was published in Canada and has not be republished. Thanks for writing.

  • Lois Curtin

    I was first raised in a Southern Baptist Church and ended up with too many questions. Jim Adams was my Rector for several years and changed my life and beliefs. For years he did not use the word God. I have come to believe that a great part of the Great Mystery is Love. True love does make the world go round. If all people truly loved and cared as Jesus taught then we would be living in a world of peace and feeling the ‘Kingdom of God’ with us now. There would be no war, no hungry people, no homeless people, no prejudice, etc. because if everyone truly loved as Jesus taught we would all take care of each other and live a ‘heavenly’ experience.

  • Houston Markley

    I enjoyed your essay and find it moves us away from the two-story conception of God. Two 20th Century theologians, Rudolph Bultmann and H. Richard Niebuhr, wrote incisively about “GOD”. Both understood that GOD is a universal experience. Not only is this experience present in the depth and mystery of the Cosmos, but it is also present in everyday living (ordinary reality). Bultmann reminds us that we experience GOD in our everyday care for the provision of living, in our longings, and our impulse toward knowledge and action. Yet all of our provisions and impulses are up against a limiting power. This is also the experience of GOD or reality. Bultmann goes on to say, “It is the courage to designate that dark enigma, that sovereign power as God, as my God”. This is the beginning of faith (trust). Niebuhr in a 1943 essay, Ultimate Trust and Faith in God, begins by saying, “The belief that something exists is an experience of a wholly different order from the experience of reliance on it”. He notes that all our ideals, causes, values, and gods are doomed to pass. He asks the question, “What is responsible for this passing that dooms our human faith to frustration? My friend, Gene Marshall’s commentary on this essay, answers, “The very actuality that is responsible for the passing of all things, is the one actuality that is not passing. This point is made by Buddhism as well as Christianity and Judaism. The existence of this “Reality” is not in question. This is indeed the Supreme Reality with which we must reckon. But how can we trust it?” Niebuhr responds, “The strange thing has happened that we have been enabled to say of this reality, this last power in which we live and move and have our being, ‘Though it slay us yet will we trust it’. This very Christian way of courage and faith, has enabled me to say yes to life over the years. .

  • Jack B.

    Awesome and amazing to know that I am not alone. The theistic “God in the sky” is gone and although I have felt a huge void since laying this concept down, I have hope that a new expression will unfold. Peace and all good to all of you!

  • FK

    This article articulates my thoughts – not exactly- but mostly. I am at peace with living with the mystery – the unanswerable questions. My beliefs have evolved from the fundamentalism of the Bible Belt to more of an open-ended, mystical faith. I have felt like and probably am a misfit – unable to find a church community with which my spirit can resonate. After discovering the Progressive Christian concepts, I no longer felt alone. Thank you for boldly verbalizing the concept of a mystical, awesome, mysterious higher power and our unexplainable oneness with it.

  • Karen Stanley

    well done, and I agree except for one point: How can you state with certainty that how we live, whether or not we are in some kind of harmony with the forces of the universe will not affect what happens to us when we die? Do we KNOW what happens to human energy when we die? And why is it not possible that harmony leads to a different “next” than non-harmony?

    • Fred Plumer

      Karen, I see absolutely no reason to assume that there is nothing after we die. The difference is that if our belief system presumes that if we must believe in Jesus, even as a teacher, so that we get to go someplace after we die, where other believers are, we are missing the point. However if we learn to live our life in harmony now, in a non-dualistic way, without the divisions of ” them and us,” the divisions of God and us, divisions between nature and us, or what I call boundary-less living, we just may discover that heaven is right here, available right now on this extraordinary planet. What happens after that could very well be a sweet gift, as many people who have had “near death experiences” have reported. It is will always be a great Mystery. Thanks for writing

      • Fred Plumer wrote:

        ‘What happens after [we die] could very well be a sweet gift, as many people who have had “near death experiences” have reported. It is will always be a great Mystery. ‘

        Like Hell it will. With love, let me suggest that what happens after we die could very well be a terrifying shock along with total agony, as Jesus Himself explained:

        23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.

        24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.

        25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.

        26 And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence. Luke 16:23~26 KJV

        It will all be a ‘great mystery’ to those who have made themselves fools, until the day of their judgement, when it will be painfully clear. And for eternity from that moment, there will not be a moment’s rest or relief. Repent and be saved.

        In fear for your fate, Peter Warner.

  • Stuart G. Leyden

    Glad to know that Gnosticism is still alive.

  • Paul Veliyathil

    Thank you Fred for articulating what I have experienced about God for a long time. For any one who might think that Fred’s views are too progressive or even heretical, I want to point out that it is very ancient and quite biblical. During his “God discussion” in Acts 17, Paul says: “We are not far from him…in HIM we live, move and have our being.” Each of us whether we are atheists, agnostics, theists or otherwise, ALL of us swim in the unfathomable vista of the MYSTERY and MIRACLE, we call God. A CONSCIOUS connection to that mystery, changes EVERYTHING about our lives.

  • George Benson

    One problem I have with Progressive Christianity articles including those from Bishop Spong is that they do not seem to consider that there is anything outside the USA. For example, how big is a “half dollar coin”? I have two 50 cent coins from different countries which are vastly different sizes; one about 15mm diameter and the other about 30mm.
    On the front of one of Bishop Spong’s books it says “the nations best seller” Which nation ? Neither I or any of my friends had heard of the book till I came across it in the local library.

  • Dick Weaver

    Well-said, and a good discussion. Purely because I’m the philosophical type, I’ve been speculating lately on the idea that God IS the Universe–it works just as well to say the Universe is God. This removes the “theistic” or anthropomorphic qualities from God, with all that implies. It speaks to an energy or flow towards “life,” which can mean all sorts of things depending on the situation. A drawback to this outlook is of course the issue of Good and Evil. How do we define them, especially Evil? Good is that which brings life–whatever that may mean at a given point–and Evil is that which negates life or brings Death–not in the sense of the mortality of beings but in the sense of doing harm. Judgment or lack of it is something that we then need to work out–and for humans this may simply mean that perhaps there is no “ultimate evil” but that we evaluate Good and Evil according to how they affect us and life in general. I’m still working on this, and could certainly go on and on. The issue of mortality, heaven, and so forth can be understood differently, too. When we die, we become part of the Universe and the energy of the Universe in a different way than when we were living. Will we have consciousness of some kind after death? Why do we need it?
    Thanks! (I’m a minister in the UCC, and occasionally share these ideas with church members. Haven’t been lynched yet.)

  • Richard Ortiz

    Pure blasphemy! Makes me sick to my stomach. This is not Christianity or Christ centered. This article is lies from the pit of Hell. The enemy has twisted the minds of those who read this and it has nothing to do with the Gospel but brings people comfort in living an easy life of mind numbing bliss. The good fight isn’t easy. You can’t water it down to make it make you feel good about yourself so you can feel enlightened. Most of the comments here are of those never rooted in Christ. Seeds that fell on shallow ground. Getting your theology off of articles and human logic books rather than the inspired Holy Scriptures. Don’t be so easily fooled. You have been warned. Your faith in Christ and firm belief and righteous living will allow You to experience the real God not some mystery bag. God is a person a being not some concept or idea or mystery (a mystery is a thing not a being). If you believe in Truth believe it all the way not this watered down sack of lies.

    • Bless the Lord for your courage, Richard. Verily verily, I say to the rest of you:

      13 When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?

      14 And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.

      15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?

      16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.

      17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. Matthew 16:13~16 KJV

      12 If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us: 2 Timothy 2:12 KJV

    • Fred Plumer

      Richard I wish we could have a meaningful conversation but it is clear that you are operating with a closed paradigm that does not allow for meaningful dialogue. If that were not true I could ask you why there are two creation stories in Genesis that do not agree with each other. We might be able to wonder together why Noah loaded the boat twice, once with the animals two by two and then again with animals two by two except for clean animals. It might have been interesting to hear you explain to me if your God was more like the God of the Southern Kingdom or the God of the Northern Kingdom. As a student of the Bible you might have had some interesting thoughts about that. We could have chatted about why the Jesus of Matthew is so different than the Jesus of Luke. We might have even wondered together about Paul’s comment in Corinthians that Jesus’ resurrection was spiritual and not physical. But even though biblical scholars have known since the late 19th century that the Bible is a human product with all of the human limitations, you continue to believe that the Bible was written by God. And nothing is going to change that perspective. Admittedly I do not understand your perspective. I have spent over forty years studying the Bible and I see something very different than you. I have spent 50 years trying to understand what Jesus was teaching and I have a very different opinion about what I have learned than you do. Admittedly, I am still learning. You see I think that this is my responsibility to Jesus, to keep learning. But I want you to understand that I am at complete peace with what I have learned and how I live my life as a follower.However, I do wonder how you as a Christian, a follower of Jesus, can appear to be self-righteous, judgmental and angry. You seem to know a different Jesus that the one I come to know. For your sake, I am truly sorry about that.

  • Rev. Jerald Stinson

    Like you, Fred, I too wonder how Richard can be so filled with venom and hatred. Why is it so important to him to condemn others who look at life through a different set of lenses than he does? I think it is that very self-righteousness that is driving a lot of young people away from organized religion. I have been a UCC minister for 42 years, and most of my ministry I used terms like mystery, Spirit of Love or Ground of All Being to describe God. But Lloyd Geering’s books have helped me move to a position that I think is both very helpful and allies itself with the teachings of Jesus. Like Geering, I see God as a metaphor, not an objective reality. I think God is a metaphor for life’s most important and enduring values, and I personally find those values in the teaching and example of the historical Jesus. Others, in other religious traditions, have different pathways to those values for which I use the term God. Thanks for this article, Fred, and all that you write at