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Everything posted by Realspiritik

  1. A quick note . . . Jesus has just reminded me about the Oasis Network, which some of you may already know about (http://www.peoplearemoreimportant.org/). They describe themselves in this way: "The Oasis Network is a growing movement building a sense of community outside of religious affiliation through human empowerment, intellectual exploration and humanitarian service," and as far as I can tell it's a movement that blends atheism with spirituality. Thought you might be interested.
  2. The history of humanity on Planet Earth is filled with new ideas, new philosophies, new religions, and new ways of relating to each other and to God. Christianity has had many different branchings and turning points over the centuries. This, too, is part of life. At some point, though, the branchings become so different from their origins that they become, in effect, or a new or different philosophy with nothing in common with the "root" except for a few vague ideals such as love and peace. When the doctrines change drastically compared to the root, when the spiritual practices change drastically compared to the root, then something new is created and it's best to be honest about the changes and not cling to the old words just for tradition's sake. For those who wish to follow the path being espoused on this thread, I would suggest that you not only stop using the word "God," but that you consider letting go of all reference to "Jesus" and "Christianity" as well. Be honest with yourselves and free yourselves to explore what it is you wish to be and wish to create. You wish to be free of all that Jesus taught, so stop referencing Jesus. Find yourselves a new mentor, one who better reflects your goals and your ideals. Perhaps you'd be happier referencing only the Buddha. I wish you gentlemen the joy and happiness of your own choices. May be find comfort in what you seek. God bless, Jen
  3. Hello Paul, This morning, I've been going back through all the Progressive Christianity threads one by one to get a statistical sense of how often you've posted there and exactly what you said. I went back a little over two years. Hey, did you realize you're quite an active poster on the P.C. thread? I counted 20 threads where you made at least one comment, and two more (both started by Burl) where you've been . . . how shall I put this . . . argumentative with Burl. I stopped counting when I got to this comment you posted on a thread called "Revealed Truth vs. Evolving Truth," which was started on 28 March 2015. Here's what you had to say at that time: So I guess you've justified yourself in a way that works for you. You know . . . you're starting to remind me a lot of the apostle Paul. You've very eloquent and you do seem to relish a hearty debate. But as for aligning yourself with the most challenging of Jesus' teachings (a thinking relationship with Mother Father God (i.e. faith); a focus on the science of healing (i.e. miracles); a rejection of status addiction in all its insidious forms (i.e. rejection of doctrines of chosenness and narcissistic specialness); an insistence on seeing the soul as the best and most beautiful aspect of one's human self (i.e. rejection of a non-Platonic theory of soul); and an insistence on keeping your eyes and ears open at all times for messages from God (i.e. introducing the spiritual practice of listening to your own soul-based intuition)) . . . maybe not so much. But hey . . . I think we can all agree Jesus was probably a nice guy. Well, I'm off to work. Enjoy your day! God bless, Jen edited for clarity
  4. Paul, your reasonableness knows no bounds. Please be aware that I fully understood the comments you made to me in the past about "fervent, genuine faith." I fully understood the point you were making, which is why I did my best to counter your beliefs with scientific logic and fact. I fully understood the attack you were making and I completely disagreed with you because I've done my neuroscientific research. I wonder if it's occurred to you that the man who lived as Jesus was himself a man of "fervent, genuine faith" who did everything within his power to live a life of commitment to God (as he himself understood that commitment to God). Since you've made it plain that you believe all "fervent, genuine faith" is cut from the same neuroscientific cloth (without any evidence to support your position), and that the fervent faith of an ISIL leader is no different from the fervent faith of a non-violent Christian (or a non-violent theist of any other religious stripe, for that matter), may I infer from your comments that you equate Jesus' fervent faith with the fervent faith of an ISIL leader? May I infer that you equate the fervent faith of people such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and Malala Yousafzai with the fervent faith of an ISIL leader? If I may not so infer, please explain to me exactly who you think Jesus was, what you think his teachings mean for people today, and why you believe you think it's possible to separate Jesus' teachings about God from the rest of his moral, educational, social, and scientific choices.
  5. Paul, I've watched how you reply to my posts over the years, and I've learned that you've made your decisions about God and Jesus. Nothing I say will change your position -- indeed, I'm not trying to change your position. You have free will (a comment that will no doubt make Romansch blanch in horror) and you have chosen to use your free will to willingly and intentionally break the rules of the site's protocol on many occasions. So please don't play the humility card and imply it was just an accident that you broke the site's rules about posting contemptuous remarks about Jesus on the Progressive Christianity site. You knew what you were doing and you chose to do it anyway. This is why I said I don't see any change in your core belief systems. If your core belief system had changed, you would not have taken the opportunity to use Burl's Good Friday post to attack the very foundations of Jesus' teachings about who we are as human beings and how we can be in relationship with God despite our difficult lives, despite the tragedies we all face, and despite the many religious doctrines that can lead us farther away from God (rather than closer). You ask, "how is asking questions or making valid points (to me anyway) questioning some of these beliefs to be regarded as insulting?" PaulS, if I have to explain to you why your comments about Jesus and his ministry are so deeply offensive to those who look to Jesus for guidance in how to seek answers to some of life's ultimate questions in life, then you hold such a radically different understanding of Jesus from my own that you and I have no common ground for dialogue at all. I forgive, Paul. God bless you. Edited for typo(s).
  6. Paul, I think I was typing my post as you were typing yours, so my post just above (#58) was not in response to your most recent post. Just wanted to let you know.
  7. When using Google Canada as a search engine, and punching in "clinical implications of spirituality to mental health," a bumper crop of scholarly articles immediately pops one. A 2014 paper that I found helpful (Clinical implications of spirituality to mental health: review of evidence and practical guidelines by A. Moreira-Almeida, H.G. Koenig, and G. Lucchetti) talks about the importance of using clear definitions in these discussions. The authors of the paper point out that some researchers have proposed that spirituality be defined to include "positive psychological constructs such as peacefulness, harmony, meaning, purpose, and satisfaction in life." Moreira-Almeida et al, however, suggest that while spirituality is often related to these psychological constructs, it is not equal to them. They go on to say this: Although not all researchers who are investigating the overlap between spirituality and mental health would agree with Moreira-Almeida et al's definitions, some do. I personally find that clear, evidence-based definitions such as these can help lessen the amount of conflation and confusion that can take place during discussions about the specific yet different roles that spirituality, religion, and religiosity play in our lives. One aspect of the journey that most people agree about on TCPC is the extent to which religiosity (defined by the Canadian Oxford dictionary as "the condition of being religious or religiose") and the extent to which being religiose (defined by the Canadian Oxford dictionary as "excessively religious") can adversely affect our ability to treat ourselves, each other, and our relationship with God is kind, gentle, healing ways. Our brains are hardwired through System 1 thought processes to seek out relationship to the sacred and the transcendent. We ignore this biological reality at a cost.
  8. Hi Soma, I enjoyed reading the article you posted above. I found this quote especially relevant: 'The real problem of course is not lack of skepticism in the beliefs of others but skepticism regarding one's own beliefs: as Feynman again memorably put it, "The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool."' I work very hard, as I think you do, too, to be open to new questions, new problems, and new ways of looking at our relationships with ourselves, with each other, and with God. God bless, Jen
  9. What I'm wondering about (again) is why TCPC members who are very clear about their lack of belief in God and their lack of interest in Jesus' highly theistic teachings are again posting on the Progressive Christianity forum, which is supposed to be reserved for those whose views are aligned with the 8 Points. I looked at Paul's comments about Jesus on Burl's thread about Good Friday. Here's what PaulS had to say: I find the sentiments behind these words deeply offensive and I can't help wondering why these words were ever allowed on the Progressive Christianity forum. Burl was speaking of Good Friday, which is, if nothing else, a time for Christians to discuss questions about mystery and miracles and non-Materialist physics. He posted in the correct place for these questions (when addressed from a Christian perspective), yet PaulS could not, it seems, restrain himself from making fun of questions that are deeply important to many Christians, including many progressive Christians, and also many Christians (such as myself) who have not closed both their hearts and their minds to the vast mysteries of God's quantum universe (which, in case I need to remind anyone here, constitutes 95% of all matter in the universe, and about which we, as human beings, know almost nothing, which puts us in a most precarious position when we INSIST we're right about how the universe actually works). Personally, I'm not as traditional in my Christian understanding as Burl is, but I support Burl's right to actually BE a Christian on the official Christian forum and not have to put up with this kind of abuse. Not only do I find PaulS's comments about Jesus to be filled with contempt, I also find them to contain multiple factual errors (though that's a topic for a different thread, I suppose). I note, Joseph, that you rushed to protect PaulS when Burl became slightly argumentative, and you disclosed to us your personal position "that [Paul's] belief system has indeed changed rather than using past bias to re-enforce his old beliefs." Since you feel free to tell the rest of us how we should perceive PaulS's belief systems, then I feel free to say that from my personal perspective there has been no change whatsoever in PaulS's anti-theistic belief system. Paul asks us to sympathize with his position. He says above on this thread: He's made the same statement many times in the past, as well -- that he wishes he could believe what some people do. I see no evidence to back up this statement. PaulS is still an avowed anti-theist and he still has nothing nice to say about those of us who've had personal experiences of God's presence in our lives. I continue to wonder about the motives of the individuals on this site who are perfectly candid about their anti-theism and their contempt for those who are trying to follow the teachings of the man who lived as Jesus. Why? Why do you do this? Why do you think it's okay to spend years on an (ostensibly) Christian site telling us how stupid we are (though I admire the many ways you've found to describe us as stupid without actually using the word stupid)? I know you like to hide behind the idea that you're following some of the humanist tenets that Jesus may have taught, but really, do you honestly think you're showing empathy and love and forgiveness towards people on this site when you say there's no difference between the faith of a loving Christian and the faith of a radical, hate-filled ISIL leader? Why is it okay for the anti-theists to profoundly insult the core faith of the Christians and then call us out and imply it's unfair for them to feel insulted in their own beliefs? Isn't this hypocrisy? Again, why do you do this? Do you really, honestly believe that you, the anti-theists, are the only ones who have ever had your world shaken to the core, the only ones who have the right answers to world-shaking events and the pressures of modern life? I sure hope you're not trying to SAVE us poor ol' demented Christians from the stupidity of our relationship with God, 'cause if you're trying to save us, then you're no different from the fundamentalist preachers you've struggled against and overcome. P.S. I'd like to point out that I've been a TCPC member since 2004, and many times I've stepped away from this site for months or even years at a time because I personally believe that endless arguments are not a fruitful way to follow Jesus' teachings. But from time to time I speak up because even Jesus, despite his empathy and his commitment to faith, healing, emotional courage, and relationship with God, was sometimes willing to call a spade a spade. Edited for spelling and addition of P.S.
  10. Hello, Mertonoia, Your post is most interesting, and, of course, one of the first questions I asked myself was what prompted you to write your post here, on the TCPC Progressive Christianity thread. You give no indication about the faith traditions and experiences that have led you to this point, but I assume there's a good reason for your choosing this forum. I disagree with advice given above by Steve, Joseph, and Tariki, but this is because I'm a practising cataphatic mystic with extensive personal experience of the Divine as well as academic knowledge of the various mystical paths and traditions. I've been where you are, and I can tell you that if you want to pursue this path, it's not a "final step" at all, but simply a turning in a new direction (as reflected by the name you've chosen). If someone had told me 17 years ago what the path of mysticism would actually be like, I would have saved myself a lot of embarrassment, grief, and heartache. There are definitely safety nets to make the journey easier (though it's never exactly easy), and I highly recommend those safety nets. I also don't recommend that you seek open advice from those who haven't walked this path and don't know what they're talking about. I made that mistake, too, and it's only because my guardian angel/guide is way smarter than I am that I was eventually able to repair the damage I caused to myself and others after I listened to some very bad advice. If you'd like to know more, I'd be pleased to send you my email by P.M. Or you can reach me through my website, if you feel comfortable with that. All the best to you, my friend. Jen
  11. Hello, JosephN. Nice to have you join us here! Many Episcopalian priests are happy to give a blessing in lieu of the bread and chalice. This is how I handle the Eucharist when I'm in an Episcopal church. There's plenty of theological room in the Episcopal church for those who choose not to partake of the Eucharist. Jesus called us to a thinking faith rather than a blind faith, so I think it's quite all right for you to have doubts about some aspects of the Episcopal service. For myself, I think of the Eucharist in purely symbolic terms, as a way to help us open our hearts to the generous gifts of a loving God. Having said that, I'm not in any way dismissing the importance or relevance of faith symbols. I think certain symbols can really help us on our journey. It's how you use those symbols that determines whether the symbols lift you up or shove you down. Part of the journey of faith and relationship with God is learning how to see God's cup as half full (filling you up!) instead of half empty (emptying you of all joy). I wish you much joy! Jen
  12. I know that feeling. It's very frustrating.
  13. Dear Thormas, Just to be clear so you know where I'm coming from in my statements about the historical Jesus . . . please don't feel you need to point out to me the difference between biblical scholars and theologians. I have a recent Masters degree in theological studies from a reputable Canadian university, and my bookshelves are groaning with biblical studies texts (including many of Ehrmans's), as well as theology tomes, ancient history texts, the entire 2014 5-volume New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis, many issues of Biblical Archaeology Review (which is the only magazine I subscribe to!), and right now I'm eagerly awaiting the delivery of wonderful next book about the history of ancient Samaria. (I hope it arrives today!) My statements above are not guesswork. They're based on solid socio-historical research. You may not agree with my interpretation of the information available to us at this time, but I'm not going to worry too much about that, since no one interpretation can be said to be "the one correct truth." I won't go into the other points you raise because Joseph does not want any discussion or debate to held about the historical Jesus. I do agree with you, however, when you say that Jesus was "a very bright, even a brilliant?, insightful man, steeped in the faith of his people and standing on the shoulders of those who came before him." Absolutely.
  14. Thank you, Joseph. I apologize for any offense I caused you. I reiterate that I was not challenging your personal journey or your personal relationship with God (which I have never done on this site) but was challenging only an interpretation of certain facts about the historical Jesus, an interpretation which has come to be accepted as truth. There is a vast difference between challenging an interpretation of some facts (which is what I did) and challenging another person's core worthiness as a child of God (which is what I did not do). I'd like to point out that you have many times allowed Christians to be attacked at a deep core level (not at the level of facts, but at the level of faith and relationship with God) on this very forum (that is, on the Progressive Christianity forum, as opposed to the Debate forum). This is one of the reasons why, despite being a member of TCPC for 12 years, I have felt uncomfortable posting regularly. I wish you well, Joseph.
  15. Hi Burl, How do you see the strength of Jesus' faith in relation to timelines, especially with regard to the many years and eras of geological time that came before Jesus' life? I know this is a question many theologians (including Paul) have wrestled with. Do you have any thoughts on the timeline question?
  16. Hi, Thormas. You raise some important points -- points that have been debated by biblical scholars and historians with no clear consensus. There are many clues in the gospel accounts of Jesus' life that indicate he was not the simple Aramaic-speaking carpenter from Galilee that we've been told to see. Paul, of course, is of no help when it comes to the life of the historical Jesus. The Gospel of Mark is especially rich in small details that aren't obvious to us today, but no doubt were obvious to the audience for whom Mark wrote. Authorship and dating of all the gospels is also not as clear as we might like, but I find the evidence for an early date for Mark -- early to mid 60's -- compelling. In Mark, we have Jesus described in two ways: as a physician (Mark 2:17) and as a carpenter (Mark 6:3). Theologians have chosen to see the second reference as a literal description and the first reference as a symbolic description. But are you certain the theologians are correct? If the theologians are correct, then how do they account for the family of Jesus described in Mark 6:1-5? A first century Jewish family with four surviving sons, an unknown number of sisters, and a widowed mother who had not remarried almost certainly describes a wealthy family with resources and good nutrition, since the average lifespan of a 1st century Mediterranean male was about 35 years, many children were lost to death or slavery early in life, and there was tremendous pressure of Jewish widows to remarry unless they were fortunate enough to have personal means, societal influence, and the protection of Augustus' marriage law reforms (which were all too brief). This is just one example. There are other examples which, when added together, imply that Jesus was born into an educated, wealthy family -- in which case, he almost certainly was literate. Who do we imagine wrote the parables? These are short but brilliant works of literature that demonstrate an in-depth understanding of both Jewish and Hellenistic rhetorical devices. It cannot be stated that Jesus didn't write anything down. Many assume Jesus was only the carpenter and not the physician (though I don't see any reason why he couldn't have been both). The case for Jesus' having been exactly what Mark said he was -- a physician -- increases the likelihood that Jesus was both educated and literate.
  17. Hey, Joseph. I was making dinner just now (baked buttercup squash - yum!) and it occurred to me that you'd taken offense because I claimed you had made a claim. And I was wondering . . . would it really be such an awful thing if you had made a claim? Because, from my perspective, it's impossible to be a human being and not make claims of some sort. I mean, Jesus made tons of claims. Even the claim that one doesn't make any sort of claim is, in itself, a claim. But, again, if say you didn't make a claim, then so be it. Back to making dinner . . .
  18. Joseph, I read your post more than once before I wrote my response, and you clearly state that you believe "Jesus did not feel the need to write anything himself other than to scribble in the sand once." I challenged you on factual grounds because it's relevant to a discussion about Jesus' faith and teachings (which is what this thread is about). I'm sorry, but I don't accept that facts should always be set aside in a discussion about faith and replaced with inviolable opinion. Opinion and belief are fine for many aspects about the journey of faith, but sometimes facts and reason are necessary, too. Isn't Progressive Christianity a movement that values both faith and reason? I'm not challenging your faith or your relationship with God (the important stuff, in other words!). But I am challenging a popular belief among today's Christians about Jesus' educational and linguistic skills (or lack thereof). If you hold those same beliefs about Jesus (and you seemed to indicate that you do) then I guess you and I will have to agree to disagree. What you wrote sounded to me like a claim, but if you insist otherwise, Joseph, then okay. You can have the last word on it and it won't ruin my day! God bless, Jen
  19. Thanks, Soma. Yes, those who follow Jesus' example of how to be in relationship with our beloved God will find not only the peace they seek, but the courage and strength to make a difference in the world in their own unique way. God bless, Jen
  20. I would careful about making the claim that Jesus didn't feel the need to write anything himself. Although it's common today for us to assume that (1) Jesus spoke primarily Aramaic, (2) Jesus was illiterate, (3) Jesus was raised in the small rural town of Nazareth, (4) Jesus' teachings are simple and uncomplicated and unsophisticated (in a scholarly sense), there's considerable evidence to suggest exactly the opposite about Jesus and his teachings. Another way to think about Jesus' teachings is to consider the possibility (indeed, I would argue, the certainty) that Jesus was raised by a wealthy, elite family with a priestly Jewish pedigree, and that a series of circumstances caused him to challenge everything he'd been taught about God. Looking at Jesus through the lens of, say, a committed doctor with Medicins Sans Frontieres -- someone who's highly educated but willing to commit his life to helping others who are in pain -- then his journey as a human being of faith, courage, talent, and commitment takes on more relevance to us today. If it were a simple thing to overturn a lifetime of religious and cultural teaching, to set aside a life of privilege for a life of hardship and rejection, to remain true to one's faith in God and not become a hypocrite, then I daresay we'd have a lot more people in the history of Christianity who could claim to understand what Jesus' parables meant.
  21. My years of working with Jesus have brought me to an understanding of Jesus that's different from the understanding of most Christians. I know Jesus to be a soul who has a unique set of talents, and it's this unique set of talents that allowed him to develop his relationship with God in a way that few humans have ever done. But Jesus wasn't stingy with his skills. He did everything he could to share with others what he had learned about God. So, for me, he's an important teacher and amazing healer. But he's still a child of God, a son of God, not THE son of God. I don't see Jesus in everything. I see God everywhere, but I see Jesus only in certain aspects that relate to his life: in his teachings and also in the wisdom of other human beings who have learned to connect with God in the same way Jesus did. I think a lot of Christians are afraid that if they give up Paul's teachings about Jesus as the Messiah, and if they abandon later doctrinal teachings about the divine nature of Jesus, they'll be giving up the core of their faith. For me, the core of faith is relationship with God. It's what we long for, what guides us through our difficult lives. So if we're lucky enough to find spiritual and religious teachers who can show us how worthy we are in God's eyes (Jesus' view) as opposed to the much more common belief that we're somehow unworthy to know God except through restricted religious means (Paul's view), then we should consider ourselves blessed rather than diminished. Jesus' teachings about God become even more inclusive and more healing and more relevant to our lives when we understand Jesus as a humble child of God who lived a life (or part of life, I should probably say) of pure faith -- faith in God, but also faith in his fellow human beings. If Jesus could do it without being the only Son of God -- and if God "allowed" him to do it even though Jesus wasn't God or the Messiah (despite what many schools of religious thought, both Christian and non-Christian, have taught about saviours and intermediaries) -- then the same possibility is clearly open to the rest of us. How amazing is that?! This, for me, is why Jesus' teachings continue to be so important.
  22. Another way to interpret "Pistis Christou" is to look at the genitive "Christou" as being a possessive -- which is, after all, one of the most common uses of the genitive declension in Koine. So it would translate as "faith of Christ" or "Christ's faith," which turns the theology upside down and highlights what Jesus knew to be true: we're all children of God, we're all equally worthy of God's love and forgiveness (regardless of personal human belief systems), and, despite our human mistakes and misunderstandings, God has as much faith in our core ability to love as we have in God's. This core ability is intrinsic to the eternal soul, that is, the true self and lasting core consciousness of each of us. Faith is a two-way street. In so far as Jesus taught others about how to live in a state of full relationship with God ("entering the Kingdom" and accepting God's faith in us), his teachings were a major departure from the Law and the Prophets. To say that Christ has faith in us is a statement of universalism, inclusiveness, hope, healing, and relationship. It's a paradigm in which salvation isn't needed but love and trust most definitely are.
  23. You could check out works by Alister McGrath. He started out as a molecular biophysicist and is now a theologian and professor of science and religion at Oxford.
  24. Hi Annie, Thanks for joining the discussion! You're wondering if I ever provide explanations for the parables I write with Jesus. What's interesting about parables is that their purpose is to help readers ask new questions. Because the purpose is to open up discussions, help people think about common patterns in ways they may not have thought about the patterns before, and help add some extra puzzle pieces to the process of internal insight, there's really no right or wrong way to interpret them. Parables and revelation both use words spoken in a particular "timeless" style to talk about important topics, but the goals are completely opposite to each other. A parable seeks to expand the discussion and keep open the doorways of thought. Parables are much harder to misuse and take out of context than simple wisdom sayings (as in Proverbs) because someone who wants to misuse the teachings has to first understand the parable, and this isn't always easy for a person who's trying to subvert and control other people's thoughts. As you know, Jesus used parables in his mission of healing and teaching. On the other hand, the words of a revelation (as in John's writings) use authority and control to tell readers what is right and what is wrong. Revelations try to shrink the discussion and close off the doorways to questioning, doubt, and uncertainty. In a revelation, only the author of the revelation is given the authority to be "right." So while a parable always talks about a major pattern of human behaviour, it's up to each reader to do the hard work of figuring out what the pattern is and how the pattern may (or may not) be relevant to his or her own journey. Sorry for the loooooong reply. I hope I answered your question in a way that makes sense! God bless, Jen
  25. Omigosh, Burl, books AND music all in the same week? I dunno, the sky here might fall down. I completely agree with our wonderful statement above:" Belief is personal, but emotion is universal." The mystery of music -- its transformative power to communicate the language of the heart, its power to heal, unite, teach, inspire -- is sometimes the only reason I go to church. Mahalia Jackson: now there's someone whose generosity just makes me shake my head in awe and wonder and gratitude.
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