A Second Look at Jesus

If you are certain that your understanding of Jesus’ person and ministry is correct because it comes from the biblical gospels, then your first reaction to this article is that I am writing fantasy. Let me reassure you that I am very familiar with the content of the bible, I have studied theology, and I served in parish ministry for thirty-five years with a rather traditional view of Christianity.

However, seeds for change were planted during my ministry, and in retirement I have had opportunity to study the writings of a number of prominent theological scholars who have helped me to understand the gospels as ‘time sensitive’ writings. This has led to a radically different understanding of Jesus and his ministry, a change that has stimulated my faith journey. I will attempt to summarize my journey.

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How do we know we have a soul?

The truth of the matter is that nowhere in the entire Bible are the terms “immortal” or “everlasting” linked with the word “soul.” Although it can be confusing because of our common usage of the word soul today, scriptures state very clearly that a soul is mortal, meaning that it dies. (Ezekiel 18:4, 20) Therefore, the Bible calls someone who has died, simply a “dead soul.”—Leviticus 21:11.

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John 3:16 incomplete without 1st John 3:16

I have friends who seem to think believing that Jesus died for them is all they need to do. Some of them even treat other people badly and when I say something to them about being more Christian they just quote John 3:16 to me. What are your thoughts?

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Talking Back to the Bible: A Historian’s Approach to Bible Study

Millennials seeking a new approach to spirituality, those who identify with the “emerging church” identified by Marcus Borg and others, anyone interested in Christ’s Jewishness and the elimination of anti-Jewish bias from Bible study, and women, LGBTs, and others who seek a Biblical approach that overcomes insistence on obedience to questionable Old Testament commands will be intrigued by the new book by Edward G. Simmons.

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When was the concept of the Devil introduced?

I can’t respond fully to all the questions, but let me share some thoughts. The pre-Christian world is a mighty big place, so I’m going to focus on the origin of what is called the satan in the Jewish tradition. An excellent book, by the way, is that of Elaine Pagels’ The Origin of Satan: How Christians Demonized Jews, Pagans, and Heretics.

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Do you “stand” on the bible or do you have a “stand” on the bible?

So, don’t mistake the liberal tendency towards tolerance (which allows you – in broad strokes – to believe what you want and do what you please) to remain silent when what you believe and advocate fails to respect the rights or freedom of others. You can claim that your “stand” is the definitive interpretation of what the Bible says, but so did the slave-owning, sexist, and racist Christians of the past – and so do the discriminatory, misogynistic dogmatists of today.

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Do Your Job – Part IV

Part 4 of a 4-Part Series

In his World Peace Day Message for 2017 Pope Francis states, “To be true followers of Jesus today also includes embracing his teaching about nonviolence.” This is a fine example of a bishop being what a bishop is commissioned to be by Jesus (Mt 28:19). He is teaching the disciples of Jesus “to obey all that I have commanded you.”

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Using the word “God” and balancing tradition and wisdom

These questions were put to me by an Italian philosopher on the occasion of the publication of my book on education, The A.W.E. Project: Reinventing Education, Reinventing the Human, into Italian. I felt they were deserving of sharing with an American audience as well.

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Do Your Job – Part III

Part 3 of a 4-Part Series

An institution is a humanly created means to achieve an end. All the activities within it are designed by human beings to reach that end. An institution is like a hammer. It is a tool devised by humans to do a job. But, the hammer in order to do the job for which it was developed, e.g. put a nail in a piece of wood, must be employed according to its own intrinsic logic. The handle is held and the head of the hammer hits the top of the nail. To use a hammer contrary to its own logic, for example, to hold the head of the hammer and hit the side of the nail with the handle, is to misuse the tool and render it ineffective to achieve the end for which it was created. Once the tool is chosen its intrinsic logic must be obeyed. 

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The Prodigal Pig

You can call me Wilbur. No, you are not hallucinating: I can talk. And yes, as you can see if you look carefully, I have been circumcised. And no, I do not recommend having it done unless you are an infant who won’t be able to remember.

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Do Your Job – Part II

Part 2 of a 4-Part Series

Contrary to the reigning mythology about Catholic popes and bishops, they are not doing their job and have not been for a long time. To understand the truth and tragedy of this sentence, it first must be stated what the job of bishops is, for without this information it cannot be determined whether bishops are doing their job or not. In fact as opposed to the myths and PR that have arisen around bishops, bishops have a particularized job description, which was given to them by Jesus Himself. It is precisely set forth in Jesus’ Great Apostolic Commission in Matthew 28:16-20 to the Apostles, who are the predecessors of the College of Bishops and of hence all legitimate bishops.

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Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism: A Bishop Rethinks the Meaning of Scripture

A controversial author brilliantly reclaims the Bible from the literal interpretation of fundamentalists

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Faith in the Fog: Making Peace With the Messiness of the Bible

I’ve often wondered if my growing skepticism would eventually lead me to abandon faith altogether.
As it turns out, diving all the way in to my deepest doubts and fears hasn’t led me away from Christianity, but instead has revealed a richness and beauty to the Christian faith I had never known. It now resonates on a much deeper level, and seems to speak more profound truth than it ever did before.

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Why Weren’t We Told? A Handbook on ‘progressive’ Christianity

Progressive Christianity is not new. It has been around for two hundred years or more. But the anger and disappointment of those who have encountered it only recently is palpable: “Why weren’t we told?” This international collection of cameos and articles on the themes and issues addressed by progressive Christianity is a response to that cry.

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The Once and Future Scriptures: Exploring the Role of the Bible in the Contemporary Church

Can we learn to take the Bible seriously without taking it literally, to be honest about its historical, literary and religious character? Can the Bible serve as a source of faith, hope, and wisdom? In this book, academic theologians engage in a public conversation about the kind of Bible we have. This is not a book of answers, but a dialogue about topics such as the relationship between science and religion, the authority of scripture, and the impact of critical biblical scholarship on liturgy.

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Re-Claiming the Bible for a Non-Religious World

For two hundred years, scholars have been analyzing one of the most important books ever written—the Bible—and overturning much of what we once thought we knew. Everyday Christians, however, are not privy to this deeper conversation. It is for these people that renowned bishop and author John Shelby Spong presents Re-Claiming the Bible for a Non-Religious World, a book designed to take readers into the contemporary academic debate about the Bible.

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Do Your Job – Part 1

In the U.S. the most successful profession football coach by far is a man named Bill Belichick. He is an intelligent man. Over the thousands of football pre-game and post-game press conference he has had across the decades, he has talked about nothing except his team and the recent or up-coming game of his team. This has not made him a darling of the press. In fact it is quite the opposite. Even when there has been another one of those daily “breaking news” social scandals in the nation or in the National Football League—social scandals being the meat and potatoes of what is passed off as journalism today in North America, Belichick will not speak to the press about them, even if the people involved are on his team. He just says, “My job is to be a football coach. All that other stuff will be handled by the League Administration.”

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Birdlike and Barnless, Meditations, Prayers, and Songs for Progressive Christians

Ready for a humble, hard-working Christian religion that is progressive, pro-justice, and pro-peace? Ready for faith that takes the Bible seriously because it doesn’t take it literally? Ready for a soulful expression of this kind of Christianity in meditative prose, poetry, ritual, and song? Ready to empty the barn of dusty dogma, and take wing with soulful celebration?

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