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Jake

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Everything posted by Jake

  1. Jake

    My Perspective On Point 1

    Discuss Point 1 of the TCPC 8 Points... "By calling ourselves progressive, we mean that we are Christians who have found an approach to God through the life and teachings of Jesus." Although I have not posted much lately, I have been lurking. I have always been a little concerned that this section of the forum seems to get little attention compared to others, since this section of the forum is the defining statement of "Progressive Christianity". I have been uncertain whether or not to describe myself as "PC" or as a "Christian Mystic", or "Spiritual yet Agnostic" or just plain confused. I decided to take a page from billmc's book and work my way through the questions pertaining to each of the 8 Points, so that I might better understand my own faith and approach to Christianity. 1. How does language “an approach to God” fit your spiritual needs? At the risk of some deep theological theorizing that has been explored by greater minds than I, I can accept this language. If God is manifest in action, as a blessing then God's presence is revealed through acts of love and liberation beyond the confines of human understanding. Jesus is the manifest happening of God in action. Jesus lived in complete harmony with the initial aim of God. I will not testify that he is exclusive in this harmony, or that his is the only method of achieving it, but he is the one I am most familiar with and have chosen to follow. 2. What language would you have used for you own spiritual journey? A work in progress. My journey is one of questions without many answers. I am at sea level between the heavenly realm of "certain knowledge", and the eerie depths of "absolute ignorance". 3. Do you feel as the life and teachings of Jesus have brought you closer to an experience of God? How so? I would find it more accurate to say that the life and teachings of Jesus have given me a different perspective on an experience of God. I was raised in the church, but had no experience of God. I turned my back on the teachings of that particular church. Later on I had an experience that I know was of God. Jesus has since become the instrument through which I experience the continued presence of God. The initial experience of God stands outside of anything I can grasp intellectually. 4. How does the absence of salvation language help or detract from your spiritual path? It is respected and appreciated. The salvation language tends to turn faith into a repent/reward scenario. True faith should exist beyond the expectation of a reward for compliance. The salvation language also presupposes that there is something inherently flawed in the character of humankind, something we need to be saved from. I do not believe we are a flawed creation in need of salvation, just confused creatures in need of guidance. 5. How does the Jesus of history or his teachings affect your understanding of God? That's a loaded one, because the Jesus of history differs greatly from the Jesus of the Bible. The Jesus of the Bible differs greatly from book to book within the Bible itself. I would say the teaching of Jesus are paramount to the understanding of how I honor God in my life, how i worship God, and how I engage the rest of God's creation in my day to day life. It brings me closer to the presence of God in my life, but God continues to remain beyond any hope of understanding. 6. How might our understanding of who and what we are, as human beings, change if we remove the need for the sacrifice of Jesus as the Pascal Lamb, our redeemer? I have a little gnostic bend to my understanding of Jesus, and the necessity for his sacrifice. That being said, i don't think his sacrifice had anything to do with our salvation, or redemption from our sins. It is an example of the Aqedah story that is common on all Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam). It was necessary to assure his influence on the world, it was necessary to free Jesus from the confines of his physical body, and it was necessary as the final lesson of conviction in his faith of God, but I do not feel that it was as a sacrificial atonement for our sins. That is a Pauline and Johannian theme, and cannot be attributed directly to Jesus in any academically defendable manner. 7. What is the difference between savior, hero, master, teacher, or prophet for you? I think I have illustrated above my dislike for the term savior, or the concept of sacrificial atonement. In his message he was a teacher, in his practice of the presence of God in daily life, he was a master, in his courage facing his accusers, and in facing his death he was heroic, and finally his call to action, to love God, love one another, and follow him, he was prophetic. I hope I don't come off too scattered or confused, but rational and religious never really seem to exist for long on the same playing field for me. Faith, by nature, sometimes requires a suspension of rational thought or proven knowledge. If it didn't, we would call it something other than faith.
  2. Jake

    Help!

    I don't know whether it is funny, or sad, but probably both, that gay friendly seems to be the indicator light for progressive faith communities.
  3. Jake

    What Is Scripture?

    Best post on the topic.
  4. Jake

    A New Christianity For A New World

    I am blessed to have a friend who is a Carmelite Friar. He turned me on to Brother Lawrence. Here is a link to a website where you can download Brother Lawrences Lettters and the reflections on them. Practice God's Presence Hope you enjoy.
  5. Jake

    What Is Scripture?

    LOL, I was afraid i had the wrong word, and no time to find the correction. Fortunately, you read my intention. Thanks. I understand Timothy to be refering to the Talmud, and specifically the Gemara, or the section of the Talmud refering to Rabbinic Law. The OT had not been compiled yet, so any NT reference to it is impossible. Although there are overlaps between the OT and the Talmud, the entire body of work is a very different thing.
  6. Jake

    What Is Scripture?

    I look forward to reading that thread. Some facts about the Bible that always got in the way of understanding it as the inerrant and literal word of God: There was no Bible to reference when the authors of both old and new testament where writing. The text were canonized by the Roman Empire in 325, after years of debate on ther content, and even a few murders and excommunications occuring as part of the canonization process. The original text were mostly in Greek, written as sequential letters, no capitals, no spaces, and not punctuation.*my sunday school class did a lesson on this. we were each given a letter, written with no spaces, no punctuation, and no capitals. We were asked to insert the accents where necessary. The differences in finished product was staggaring. at least 4 conflicting versions from 10 people, ranging from a love letter,to a nasty break up letter. All texts from that era of history were meant to be heard, not read. The general public was illiterate. Therefore, the accuracy of the text could only be verified by it's telling, and we will never know how it was originally read. All chapter and verse markings were inserted in translation for the sake of cataloging and filing, not to signify specific depth or meaning of any specific passage. There are undeniably specific and signifigant contradiction within the text, within the behavior and words of certain key characters, and in "eye witness" tellings of the same event (i.e. conflicting resurrection accounts) From Ye old King James Version preface: "The Bible is not simply one book. It is an entire library of books covering the whole range of literature. It includes history, poetry, drama, biography, prophecy, philosophy, science, and inspirational reading." "Since the Bible was written by many men over a period covering 1,500 years; and since the last author of the Bible has been dead 1,900 years, there are definite prolems with understanding the exact meaning of certain passages of the Bible." Brian McLaren addresses the question of "inspiration" by asking if the Bible is a divinely inspired constitution, or a divinely inspired library? The approach changes the undestanding of the overall work drastically, without taking aware from it's value or vitality. Personally, I like the Mizpah approach, meditating on each story, in the place of each character, and trying to take value each one's experience and participation.
  7. Jake

    Reality Is Beyond Understanding

    reality is beyond understanding and, therefore, our discussions are essentially meaningless Very nihilistic thought. I would be disappointed if that held out to be fact. Nicely put, tariki. We can only comprehend with human comprehension. When we define God, God ends up looking alot like us. What if our exsistence, the whole process of creation, was for God to become self aware. God created us in "His" image in an effort to know "Himself" better. So every experience we have, every conversation, every individual and varied perception of reality, is God's experience. Everything we do, is for God, and done by God. Every person we meet, and communcate with is an extention of God, and when they speak to us it is through God's mouth and into God's ears. Wouldn't that make it true, that reality is beyond our understanding, yet make every discussion, act, or experience essentially, and infinitely meaningful? the world is exactly as it should be, that all is well and all is one, and that, therefore, all actions are also essentially meaningless. I refer to my response to the first statement, and again, nicely said, tariki. The world is exactly as it should be, in flux, constantly transforming and moving through the process of creation. All actions are essentially and infinitely meaningful because each act is an act of God in the process of creation. I see my own place in becoming open to participation in that transformation by being fully present in the world and in the presence of God.
  8. Jake

    A New Christianity For A New World

    I found myself in the same predicament. "Membership" in the church seemed to mean adherence to a set of beliefs that I did not agree with on a gut level. Sola Scriptura simply did not survive against practical knowledge and actually, real world experience, not when taken literally. Conflictingly, on a gut level, I cannot dismiss scripture as being purely allegorical in nature, either. This contradiction is the catalyst for my own faith. I cannot yet comprehend what is God, and in this life never will. God is always, entirely, and everywhere. I am more concerned with becoming open to God's intention for me than I am with adherence to any specific doctrine or dogma. Marsha, you mentioned Presence of God, and Centering Prayer. Are you familiar with Brother Lawrence, or the Carmelite tradition?
  9. Jake

    Looking For A Place To Rest

    Thank you all. I will do my best to work within the guidelines. I have enjoyed some great conversationson here in the past.
  10. I used to post here frequently, but I took a break from the forum for some more internal reflection. I still do not know that i belong here. I do not identify with the term "Christian". I am a Jesus Freak. I look to his life and teachings for guidance, but I look to many spiritual advisors, from numerous faith disciplines for guidance. I do not agree with the organized Western Churches, or our American Christian Industrial Complex, or most of the politico/economic front that advertises itself as "Christianity" in this country. So, to the moderators, do I have a place here to commune with others, or as a self-proclaimed "other than Christian" should I refrain from participation in a forum that uses the title "Christian" and the statement "We are Christians..." in it's guidelines?
  11. Jake

    A New Christianity For A New World

    That would appear to be one of his topics, and one where I agree with him. He emphasises "thinking outside of the box". Christianity has gotten itself in to a bit of a rut. There is so much negativity associated with the label. Especially Western/Americanized Christianity. Christians are more known for what they are against, rather than what they stand for. The current mainstream church offers nothing satisfying for the majority of the spiritual seekers. Statistically, 60% of Christian conversions and alter calls are prodigals returning, not new converts. McLaren proposes that maybe we have gotten it wrong from the beginning. He does not suggest definitive answers, but he does put accepted doctrine up against the Jesus and scripture litmus test agin and again. He most frequently finds church doctrine lacking across the board denominationally. He started as an English professor, not as clergy. His approach to the Bible is to treat it as the divinely inspired library of a community engaged in the search for God, rather than as a Constitution of Law. Sorry if I am over explaining. He is a worthwhile read.
  12. Jake

    Route 66 Spirituality?

    Great Donovan quote. Briam McLaren put that in the intro to his latest book.
  13. Jake

    Life And Teachings Of Jesus

    I also like the comments on John 14. I think it gets used as an evangelical battering ram too often, and not taken in context. In John 13:33 Jesus begins explaining to his disciples that he will be leaving them soon, and the path they are to follow once he is gone. Many of the references from these chapters of John have ben used to bolster obedience to church doctrine under penalty of Hell. If taken in historical context, and viewed as Jesus' words to 12 disciples, at a specific time in history, we can easily see the references to "my Father's House" as a reference to the temple. Jesus, in the same chapter, had just run the money changers out of the temple. That same temple was destroyed by Rome in response to a Zealot uprising in 70AD. In it's place a new house, in the body of Christ, would be formed. I veiw this historical perspective, and Jesus' words to his followers to reflective of the unity of man after the destruction of the old exclusionary ways of the Jews in that era. He was inviting mankind into a new understanding of brotherhood, through his example, rather than an invitation to a new exlusive, and exclusionary club. Just my thoughts on the usual mis-application of scripture, and an alternate understanding. Interesting that John 14 is the verse often quoted in defense of "born again" Christianity as the only way, rather than John 1:9, or 3:17, or12:32, or 21:22, or Romans 2:1-29 which all emphasize that God shows no partiality, that other's views should not matter, if we follow Jesus, or Romans 15, when Paul says that "God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all." I don't know about anyone else, but I believe God's mercy is great enough to encompass all, not just those of us who have been baptised and said the magic words. Sorry. lecturing and monologuing again.
  14. Jake

    Life And Teachings Of Jesus

    Deleted duplicate post included in post 12..... JosephM
  15. Jake

    A New Christianity For A New World

    I have read Spong and Borg. I agree that Spong tends to tear things down more than build them up, but that may be necessary to a better understanding of scripture. I find that he does not engage in doctrinal answers so much as evokes those questions that force us to think outside of conventional biblical understanding. I am working through another reading of Brian McLaren's "A New Kind Of Christianity: Ten Questions that are Transforming the Faith." In this book, McLaren challenges our preconceptions of our faith, most of which we learn by the 3rd grade level, and never challenge, modify, or even look at again. He does not propose to provide answers, just to provoke thoughtful study and meditation, as well as to encourage more open conversation, outside of "the Bible says it, I believe it, end of discussion". That unfortunate response, frequently provided by clergy, tends to send people running, rather than welcome them in. McLaren's first question is "What is the overarching story line of the Bible?" Most of us have been taught to think of the Bible through the eyes of roman-greco imperialism. We veiw the Bible, and humanity within the context of the age old Platonic/Aristotlian philosopher's arguement of spirit vs flesh. We start with Eden, or the Platonic Ideal, then we suffer The Fall from grace, or the Platonic Cave of Illusion. This leaves us in the present, or the Aristotelian reality. From here we either go to Hell, for "eternal conscious torment" or we are saved, and return to that Platonic Ideal or Heaven. If we can free ourselves from this understanding of the Biblical narrative, we open ourselves up to a whole new understanding of scripture, and a new understanding of God. How does this relate to Spong? Spong, in his "New Christianity", seems to call us out of the church industrial complex, and back into a faith driven by people, for the benefit of people, here and now. But alas, I am falling into my tendancy to monologue and lecture. I look forward to reading more posts from others on this topic.
  16. Jake

    Perspective On Point 4

    Perhaps I didn't communicate clearly. I should not have used the word attend. I agree with you completely on inter-faith attendance at any service. Where I find issue is with a non-catholic receiving the host from the priest. Traditionally , that privilege extends to practicing catholics in good standing only. I made this error once and it offended a number of people.
  17. Jake

    Perspective On Point 4

    Discuss Point 4 of the TCPC 8 Points... By calling ourselves progressive, we mean that we are Christians who invite all people to participate in our community and worship life without insisting that they become like us in order to be acceptable (including but not limited to): * believers and agnostics, * conventional Christians and questioning skeptics, * women and men, * those of all sexual orientations and gender identities, * those of all races and cultures, * those of all classes and abilities, * those who hope for a better world and those who have lost hope; * without imposing on them the necessity of becoming like us. I think Point 4 poses a bit of a paradox when related to the 4 questions below. The point clearly states (bold lettering is mine) that we “invite all people to participate in our community and worship life without insisting that they become like us in order to be acceptable…”. There can, and should be a distinction made between community and worship. Although I whole-heartedly welcome all people, regardless of race, sex, color, creed, religion, etc into my community, I do not necessarily believe that all should share the same house of worship. Hopefully that rational will be clear in my answers to the 4 questions. 1. Can you think of a type of person who might make you uncomfortable if one sat next to you during a church service? Yes, I can. I would be uncomfortable if a person of another religious persuasion attended the same church as I do and had no intention of embracing or respecting the worship service of that church. It is the same as my response to whom I would welcome to my table for communion. As an example, I don’t feel it is appropriate for a non-Catholic to attend and participate in the Catholic communion service. It shows an intentional disrespect to their customs and traditions, regardless of my agreement or disagreement with those customs and traditions. I would not attend a Mosque, with rosary in hand, kneel on a mat, and begin the Our Father, either. I have no issue with any chosen path to God or any method of worship, as long as it never infringes on another person's path to God or method of worship. I do not feel that all paths need to be pursued in the same house of worship. 2. What would you be willing to change in your church if it meant making more people feel welcomed or comfortable? Music? Order of worship? Style or time of worship? Number of services? The services that I attend now have their format through popular consent. If I am in need of change, I can attend a different church service. Personally, I enjoy a variety, and I attend different houses of worship for that reason. I think the operative word in the above question is willing. As Christians, a defining characteristic should be our willingness to welcome and offer comfort to everyone in our day to day lives. That should come from the individual, not from the pulpit. Arguments over how we worship God have divided the Christian Church into over 1500 varieties already. I would hate to be a contributor in those politics because of a dislike for organ music or the omission of one word in the Nicene Creed. 3. What would you be unwilling to change? Unwillingness should not be a term that the Christian mind is familiar with. Any change, or decision not to change should be approached with compassion first, and all other motivating factors taken second to compassion. If compassion is the motivating factor in change then I am open to anything. 4. How long do you think people should attend your church before they can hold positions of responsibility? People should be given responsibility when they ask for it and when they have shown a history of reliability that demonstrates they are up to the task. I don’t feel it is fair to set a timeline on personal responsibility. I would hate to saddle someone with more responsibility than they need, and I would hate to see someone stubbornly shoulder too much out of control issues, distrust, or the like. I am considerably more concerned with allotment of responsibility in my community than in my church.
  18. Jake

    If Jesus Never Existed...

    From my layman's perspective, It is a far reach to claim that Paul never existed. Most of the research that I have read used the Judaic historian, Josephus, as a litmus test for historical relevancy. His work is detailed, archaeologically, and academically defendable. He goes into detail on John the Baptist, touches on Jesus, and gives Paul an honorable mention without the motive of promoting them. It is, however, widely acknowledged that a good portion of the work he is given credit for was actually written by other people.
  19. Jake

    If Jesus Never Existed...

    Price's book is on my future reading list. I just completed Gospel Truth, by Russell Shorto. He does a good job of presenting the case from a scholastic, theological, skeptic, and literalist perspective. It is a really good read for anyone into the topic. I'm a bit fixated on it myself. Most scholastic theories are generated with a variety of models. All of the known evidence is placed on a timeline. hen a theoretical model is generated using guesswork based on anthropological models, Greek crossover philosophies, even hypothetical documents to fill in the blanks. All arguments are incredibly weak on hard evidence, and isn't a scientist's guesswork no different than a Christian's faith? They both require one who believes in them to embrace the unknown. For myself, the scholastic pursuit of a historical Jesus has been faith enhancing.
  20. Jake

    Lukewarm Christianity

    I find most fundamentalist/conservatives to be spiritually lazy, and their judgement and condemnation of how others practice their faith to be to on the same level as playground name calling. They get all their answers from one source, don't ask any questions, and want to be told how to live their lives, one step at a time. By comparison, most PC's I have spoken to are considerably more educated about their religion, and considerably more open and courageous in the practice of their faith. If PC's are goats, then fundamentalists are sheep. You can herd sheep, but you have to lead goats. I feel sorrow for them in their misguided attempts to attain something better than this world. Love God, and love everyone, and maybe you can be a beacon for the next displaced fundamentalist you meet.
  21. Jake

    If Jesus Never Existed...

    Good question, and I find myself at odds with most of the other posts on this board. I find the existence of the historical Jesus to be vital to my identification with the term Christianity. I find very little of value in the term Christian without a historic figure behind it. At this point it is scholastically accepted that the man did exist, and no evidence that he was a literary construct. Even the camp that claims he is a composition of several Messiah figures is on the very fringe of credibility. The search for a historical Jesus is an ongoing scientific endeavor and much has been discovered and written since the Jesus Seminar was founded in 1985 for the purpose of exposing the historical Jesus. No one is actually disputing his existence as a real person at this point in time and still retaining any academic credibility. It is also widely accepted academically that most of the New Testament accounts of Jesus are written with emphasis on the fantastic rather than the factual, and none written by anyone who actually knew him. Some statements in the Gospels are obviously pure fiction as well. There was no malicious intent to mislead followers in these fabrications of truth, but there was the intention of tying this man, Jesus, into the existing myths, legends, and religious practices of that time in history. While there are specifics of his life that can only be imagined using our limited knowledge of life in Nazareth during the 1st century and a whole lot of speculation there is one thing that remains immutable in my mind. At some point, a man named Yeshu lived, and the men and women that encountered him had a transcendent experience associated with him that was so profound they came to feel that he was touched by the divine. We may never know what that experience was, or who he truly was, and we can prove the historical inaccuracy of the scriptures associated with him, but we cannot deny the literal truth of his impact on his followers. So, without the historical man behind the myth, the movement would have never been spawned, and Christianity would never have been born, and we wouldn't have this discussion. Without the man behind the myth available for my contemplation I would probably stick to the Tao Te Ching. It is not the parables and the myths of the Bible that grab me. I find the Bible to be one of the most tedious and unenjoyable reads on my bookshelf when compared to other works in it's company. It has been by looking through the text and engaging in a deeper search for this man, Jesus that leads me to identify with the term Christian, and to understand just how radical and revolutionary he was before his message was edited, embellished, and institutionalized into the Jesus of the western Christian Church.
  22. Jake

    Sticky Questions.. Point 3

    I don't think I am really following you on this one, ada. There is a rich history and tradition in the church concerning the Eucharist and the Last Supper. The way it is practiced in some churches does involve an us/them directive that I also disagree with wholeheartedly, but there is an underlying spirituality to it that goes much deeper than a secret handshake among club members. I would be interested in how you celebrate the Eucharist, or Last Supper. What are your personal motivations behind it? Is it a communion of fellowship for you, or is it a deeply personal event in harmony with the God of your understanding?
  23. Jake

    Sticky Questions..

    Thanks for the input, ada. I am glad to see more activity and discussion on the 8 points that define PC. I'm not much on labels or defining creeds. I think both serve to create borders and limitations, but i appreciate the 8 Points and the related study questions for the contemplation, reflection, and the discussion they generate within a diverse community. My perspective on the points seems to differ from yours in detail, but I appreciate the opportunity to contemplate from a different point of view. Thanks, and hope to read more of your posts soon.
  24. Jake

    Non-Spiritual Books

    Just finished Abraham's Curse, the Roots of Violence in Judaism, CHristianity, and Islam, by Bruce Chilton. Currently reading Gospel Truth, by Russell Shorto, on the search for the historic Jesus. My friend, Brother Robert, a Carmelite Friar, told me about Practicing the Presence of God, by Brother Lawrence (available online for free), and it has altered how I view my day to day life. Bro. Robert also sent me Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening, by Cynthia Bourgeault. I would recommend Reinhold Niebuhr's The Irony of American History, and Andrew Bacevich's The Limits of Power, The End of American Exceptionalism as must read books for any thinking American. Peter Rollins is a young Irish author, theologian, and philosopher. His books, Faith Beyond Belief, The Fidelity of Betrayal, and The Orthodox Heretic, have all been mind expanding for me. Other must reads include anything by Bishop John Shelby Spong, A Generous Orthodoxy, by Brian McLaren, and Leslie Weatherhead's, Christian Agnostic. I also read the Bible daily, and frequently use gnostic writings for contemplative thought. Some of the best teachings of Jesus appear in the Gospel of Thomas, The Gospel of Philip, and The Gospel of Truth. For fiction, I read a lot of mystery/detective stuff by James Lee Burke, and everything by Chuck Palahnuik (Fight Club and many others)
  25. Jake

    Perspective On Point 3

    Alan, thank you for the response and comments. I appreciate the input and ideas concerning communion. It's a shame that some Christians cannot seem to see past their own dogmas. They make it difficult to embrace the label "Christian". We have probably driven as many people away from our way of life as we have encouraged through our own pride and exclusivity. Thanks again, Alan. -Jake
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