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About FrErikWeaver

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  1. I would suggest the following as well worth reading (and some audio-visual references too)... "Stages of Faith: The Psychology of Human Development and the Quest for Meaning" by James Fowler. I think this addresses a critical point. Our level of consciousness governs the types of perceptions and choices we have available. I found this book both useful for evaluating my own stage of faith, as well as that of others, which helps me better communicate with them (or so I like to believe, hehheh). Anything by the late Prof. Ron Miller! He has several books, of which my favorites are "Unpacking the Parables: The Wisdom Teachings of Jesus" and "The Gospel of Thomas: A Guidebook for Spiritual Practice." I have yet to read his book on Paul, but I'm certain it will be excellent. He also gave eight talks to the Theosophical Society, which I cannot recommend highly enough! http://www.ronmillersworld.org/updates/eight-talks-from-the-theosophical-society/ Prof. Bart Ehrman Again, pretty much anything of his is good. HIs textbook reads like a textbook and is very dry, but excellent and used by a great number of seminaries. He also has a number of courses sold through the Great Courses series (http://www.thegreatcourses.com/tgc/search/search.aspx?searchphrase=ehrman). His popular books tend to have an atheists tone to them, IMO. But the content is quite good. Reading/watching a selection of his materials will provide one with a good understanding of modern historical-critical analysis. I just finished Bishop Spong's "Jesus for the Non-Religious" and despite the large volume of materials I have read on modern historical-critical biblical analysis, I found he offers a number of new and insightful observations regarding the construction of the gospels. It is well worth reading just on that point alone. Everything I have so far read by Stephan Hoeller has been quite good. In particular I would recommend: "Gnosticism: New Light on the Ancient Tradition of Inner Knowing" "The Gnostic Jung and the Seven Sermons to the Dead" And, of course, C.G. Jung! "Answer to Job" is an incredibly thought-provoking read! For me personally, I found "Inner Christianity: A Guide to the Esoteric Tradition" by Richard Smoley to be a pivotal book. This was the book that awoke me to the viability of Esoteric Christianity, and more generally, of the importance of the path of Mysticism in my own religious-spiritual experience. In some ways, this is one of the most important books I have read because it changed my the course of my life. (Of course, the way was prepared by the dozens, or more realistically, hundreds, of other books I read in the course of my religious studies program, and of my ingestion of comparative religions.) I would also highly recommend reading, "The Upanishads" as translated/edited by Eknath Easwaran. And, of course, I have to recommend reading a variety of the translations of the Gospel of Thomas. These are a collection of saying attributed to Jesus. I find them both thought-provoking and inspirational. I have read perhaps half a dozen translations, most with editorial commentary. Prof. Ron Miller was of the opinoin that perhaps 1/3 of these sayings date to the lips of Jesus. Others are most likely from the 2nd century ce. These are among what I consider to be the most important books and other resources I have enjoyed. Erik+
  2. Hello all, A couple points in this conversation caught my eye... BillM, said: I would find Paul to be more misogynistic myself. Bear in mind, there were "two Pauls." By this I mean there is the apostle Paul, and there are those who wrote in his name, but were not themselves Paul (pseudepigraphic works). I think this is a very important distinction to make because "Paul" collectively wrote a very significant percentage of the New Testament (13 of 27 books = 48%). This being the case, I for one really want to know which books are thought to be written by the apostle Paul, and which are known not to be writtten by the apostle (to a high degree of probability - which is the best we can say of any ancient literature). There are differences in opinion, of course, but generally I find the following to reflect the normative assessment: Undisputed letters of Paul, written between 51-58 ce, listed chronilogically; (7 of 27 = 25%): First Thessalonians Philippians Philemon First Corinthians Galatians Second Corinthians Romans Disputed letters of Paul (modern scholarship seems to be about equally divided): Colossians Second Thessalonians Known NOT to be letters of Paul (thought to be pseudepigraphic by most modern scholars): Pastoral epistles (these are clearly of a later date; formal church hierarchy exists) First Timothy Second Timothy Titus Ephesians (Additionally, there is the book of Hebrews, which never claims to be written by Paul -or anyone else for that matter- but which was very early asserted to have been written by Paul - most likely so as to be included in the canon. One would be hard pressed to find any modern scholar who thinks Paul wrote Hebrews.) Personally, I only accept the "undisputed" letters of Paul as being written by Paul. When I read the evidence against the other letters, I find it to be convincing. However, it is possible there was a "Pauline School" and letters of Paul were in a sense managed by him, but not written by him. In addition, there are surviving "circular letters" which have blanks spaces into which the city/church being addressed was to be added at a later date. So there was clearly some kind of "industry" producing copies of the letters of "Paul." There is not an obvious answer to this question of authorship. One must weight the evidence and draw one's own conclusions. The letters known to be written by the apostle Paul actually are very supportive of women, and include recognition of women as deacans and as highly involved in the church. This may be due to the likelyhood that early "churches" were located in private homes, and in the Greek culture of that time the home was largely the sphere of influence of the woman of the house. I personally find that more likely than the observation that Jesus' following included presumably well-to-do women who were among his followers and supporters from Nazareth, because I'm convinced there was no direct contact between Paul and Jesus, and not even any early contact between Paul and the Disciples of Jesus (I favor Paul's testimony in this regard over the author of Luke/Acts). It is also possible Paul personally held women in far higher regard than most of his day. He does seem to express the idea that all are one in Christ, and that apparent differences seen in this life will soon be of no consequence or importance. Most likely of all, in combination with this point, is I think, that Paul saw little reason to worry about such matters. If his letters are accurate reflections of his thoughts, Paul was convinced the second coming of Jesus Christ was near. He fully expected to be alive to see it. This is the same reason he said to remain married if you were already married, and not to marry if you were unmarried (although he also observed if you couldn't stop your sexual desires, it was then better to marry). So for these reasons, I do not read Paul himself as a misogynist. However, some of those who wrote in Paul's name (or wrote forgeries, if you like) were quite clearly misogynist. But I believe these developments took place after Paul's death, after the church had taken on a formal structure (part of which would tend to preclude equal treatment of women, given the 1st-2nd century culture). Perperual Seeker, said: Paul was a member of the Sanhedrin, was he not? Most scholars deem Paul was a former Pharisee. His writings (the letters in the New Testament) are the only early examples of this group, although it must be noted, his surviving writings are more specifically from the perspectice of an ex-Pharisee. My understanding is the evidence for Paul being a member of the Sanhedrin is thin. Consider the source: if we are to believe that Paul more clearly understands his travels and when he spoke with the Disciples of Jesus, we must then find the books of Acts to be lacking in accurate detail (clearly, at least one of these authors is mistaken); so why would we think Acts is more accurate with regard to correctly identifying Paul as a member of the Shanhedrin? It seems pretty clear that Acts was written without a great regard for what its author considered minor details. Reading Acts Ch. 23, I find the evidence turns on a single word, that of calling members of the Sanhedrin as "brothers." But this may simply mean "men." It does not mean that Paul identified himself as a member of the Sanhedrin. I rather doubt it, for were this the case would he not have said as much? In the same text (Acts Ch. 23) he identifies himself as a Pharisee, and a son of Pharisees. This is also an example of the importance of looking to the original language (Greek in this case) when trying to pin a meaning on the turning of a single word. Doing so is always a precarious perch, IMO. Not only need we deal with sorting out the various meanings of the word given in the text, we have to consider alternate words which may have been substituted over time. To my mind, such a close reading -turning on a key word- is always suspect, and we should also consider the context of the text. And even doing this, there is always some doubt. (This works both ways of course - we might use this logic to argue in support of the conclusion Paul was a member of the Sanhedrin. Which is why in this case, I also ask mself, were this the case, would not Paul have made a declaration to this effect, as he did with regard to his being a Pharisee?) With regard to sorting out the major groups -Sadducees, Pharisees, and Essenes- I think this web page I stumbled across might be useful: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/History/sadducees_pharisees_essenes.html The other major group which is not mentioned on the above web page is the Zealots. The Jewish historian Josephus states that the Zealots “agree in all other things with the Pharisaic notions; but they have an inviolable attachment to liberty, and say that God is to be their only Ruler and Lord" (Antiquities 18.1.6). It was the Zealots who led a rebellion against Rome when the Romans forced imperial cult worship upon the Jewish people. Thus began The Great Jewish Revolt (in 66 ce). This revolt was ultimately crushed by Rome, resulting in the destruction of Jerusalem and of the Temple in 70 ce. And with the destruction of the Temple, the Saducees came to an end, along with priestly cult worship - no Temple, no sacrifice. From these ashes the Pharisees grew in influence (being based upon an oral tradition, as opposed to Temple sacrifice) and in the view of many scholars, rabbinic Judaism was born. With blessings, Erik+
  3. I think this is an excellent question, as well as an important one. If you are up to reading a book, see if your library has "Universalism, the Prevailing Doctrine of the Christian Church During Its First Five Hundred Years: With Authorities and Extracts" by Dr. J. W. Hanson. (If not, Amazon.com offers it for about $10.) Among the conclusions offered by the author (who was well respected for his work in biblical Greek, and while the book is somewhat dated, my bishop reports to me, the author wrote a frequently used lexicon for graduate students to this day) are that a number of critical terms were mistranslated as the prevailing language switched from Greek to Latin. Such as? The concept of eternal damnation! Dr. Hanson builds what I find to be a convincing case that Universalism was actually the founding belief in early Chrsitianity (meaning during the first four centuries - by about 500 c.e. it had largely completed the shift into the concepts which we have inherited). This means that you are on very solid ground believing that the earliest beliefs held across the early Christian movements were far removed from ideas such as "eternal damnation" and the whole "eternal fires of hell" messages which are so popular in some churches today. Hell and eternal damnation have much more to do with controlling the general population, than they have to do with the original teachings of Christianity. At its core, these ideas come from a combination of the Latin and pagan influences, and a strong feeling there was a need to "control the barbarians" through fear of what may come after physical death. Hanson offers a number of quotations from church fathers which read to the effect that what they personally believe, and what they say publically, are often different. And the themes of "eternal damnation" is among those for which this was frequently true. If you only have about half an hour, and have not already, you may wish to watch this sermon offered by Bishop Spong: +Spong gives a very concise and informative presentation of the way people understand the bible. One of the "take away" ideas is that the bible is not really God speaking to us, but rather, the bible is a collection of stories which demonstrate how we relate to God. In other words, the bible is *not* a Top-Down communication, but is instead a Bottom-Up effort to grasp the meaning of the Divine as it applies to our own life. James Fowler speaks of this in his excellent book "Stages of Faith." The level of our consciousness greatly influences our thoughts and how we interpret the world around us. This includes our interpretation of God. (All of Miller's talks come to this point in one way or another.) A tribal god hates the same people we hate. But Jesus spoke of his Abba, who is a God of Love. Contrasting these ways of seeing the world, we see a progression across the bible, which reflects the level of consciousness of those persons writing the various books and letters of the bible, and of their audience. (+Spong speaks to these points.) As humans we have limitations. And to damn us for being human, over which we have no control, is a very un-Godly act! Therein, I personally think your answer is to be found. And if you like watching extremely good lectures, I find I always recommend watching the eight talks that the late Prof. Ron Miller gave to the Theosophical Society over the years: http://www.ronmillersworld.org/updates/eight-talks-from-the-theosophical-society/ All of Miller's lectures are amazing and they always challenge me to raise my consciousness to a higher level. While all of his talks are extremely good, and I recommend them all without reservation, with regard to your question you may find starting with these speak to your heart most directly (just my opinion): A Very Different Christian Story Unpacking the Parables Guess Who's Coming to Diner: The New Pluralism The Gospel of Thomas But what about "Faith"? Prof. Ron Miller speaks to this point in "A Very Different Christian Story." Read the book of James. It is not very long. James is purported to have been Jesus' brother. Maybe. Maybe not. We cannot know for certain, but what some do say (including Miller) is that the "voice" of the author of this book sounds a great deal like that of Jesus. So we might reasonably conclude the author was close to the teachings of Jesus. What is interesting is the emphasis on what we *do* and specifically how this stands in contrast to what we *believe.* I find this quite interesting, and it is one of the books in the bible I suggest Fundamentalists read when they are willing to consider the strength of the "Faith Alone" argument. For my part, I think the "Faith Alone" argument fails. But read the book of James, consider what Prof. Miller has to offer, and place this in perspective with works such as Dr. Hanson's "Universalism" or +Spong's many works, and see what conclusion you come to. And by all means, follow up your original post if you like. This is an important topic, and I'm sure there are many who have similar thoughts and feelings but who have not expressed them publically. To do so takes guts! And know that you are blessed! Erik+
  4. Hello, I found this forum because it is linked to from +Spong's web site. In the past few months (it is currently Sept. 2013) I have found that I agree with perhaps 95-98% of +Spong's points. One cannot expect to completely agree with the views of others, but I obvously find his perspectives pretty comfortable. I have enjoyed most of the YouTube interviews with him that I have watched so far. I came across an excellent sermon he gave ( ) discussing the bible as a lens upon human psychological development. Much of the Hebrew bible is written from the perspective of a tribal god. Tribal gods hate who we hate. Jesus' message was radically different. His Abba was one of Love. This is a much more highly refined sense of spirituality. This is a reflection of the human understanding of God changing over time. Another person, who ranks high on my list of favorite speakers, is the late Prof. Ron Miller. He gave a number of talks to the Theosophical Society (http://www.ronmillersworld.org/tag/theosophical-society/), and I highly recommend them to one and all. He is (was) an amazing speaker! I am always challenged to raise my level of consciousness when listening to him. I love to read, so I think it is appropriate by way of introduction to offer a few books which I thoroughly enjoy and/or find enriching... In terms of pure entertainment, I am a great sci-fi fan! This genre also includes "swords and sorcery fantasy" novels. I guess I tend to prefer longer works, provided they are well written. The titles that come to mind include: Dune; Chronicals of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever; and of course, The Hobbit / Lord of the Rings, which is perhaps my favorite book of all time. Of books that I have read which I consider "required reading" for anyone wishing to better understand faith development, James Fowler's "Stages of Faith" tops the list. In my opinion it should be required reading for anyone wishing to enter a ministry position. For that matter, I find it extremely informative for anyone who wishes to better understand their fellow humankind. On my spiritual journey: I was raised in the Midwest in several "flavors" of Protestantism. I spent a couple years in Baptist grade school. But pretty much as quickly as I was able I dropped out of church, and instead worshipped at the more common youth altars of drugs, sex, and rock'n'roll. Religion really had no bearing on my life for the next few decades. This is not to say I felt disconnected with my spirituality. Not everyone understands this, but I suspect it is pretty common. This is why we hear as a common phrase: I'm not religious, but I am spiritual. This makes perfect sense to me. And if mainstream churches fail to respond to this they are going to miss an opportunity to serve a great many persons. But that is a discussion for another day; as is the discussion whether mainstream churches even have the resources to adequately respond to this group. Flash forward to what I call my mid-life crisis. I simply felt I had ignored a more rigorous spiritual quest for too long, and that I had to find the deep end and jump in! This I did. I ended up with a religious studies degree, and was deeply committed to exploring comparative religions. Among the more beautiful and simultaneously informative sacred scriptures I have read are the Upanishads. I highly recommend the translation by Eknath Easwaran. But I was still experiencing a major problem. Despite my wide studies, I was unable to find any religion to which I felt I could identify. Was I destined to wonder the lonely path of a undefinable spiritual quester? A stranger in a strange land (the title of a sci-fi book I very much enjoy), with no home and no heritage? Then I read "Inner Christianity: A Guide to the Esoteric Tradition" by Richard Smoley. It was a pivotal book for me. This book helped me see there was a form of Christianity to which I was able to respond: Esoteric Christianity. One might call this Spiritual Christianity. To appreciate the difference with mainstream Christianity, one must begin by seeing there is an external Church and an internal Experience. The external, or exoteric, includes all the trappings of the organized, institutional Church engine, with its politics, accounting, land management, etc, etc. The esoteric, or inner experience, is the spiritual aspect of one's faith/practice. The outer, exoteric is "religion" and the esoteric, inner is "spirituality." One might say the exoteric is more objective and the esoteric is more subjective. Another point of refinement that makes a difference to me is understanding the experience of one's spiritual practice is also what some call mysticism. And of special interest to me is that mystics of very different religions often get alone better with one another than they do the exoteric counterparts in their own religion/faith. For me, mysticism offers both a means of drawing closer to the experience of the Divine in my life, as well as to draw nearer to other fellow seekers of the Divine, regardless of their outer expression in terms of religion. (My only hard limit is that one expresses God in terms of peace and love. I have no place for a God of Hate or Murder. In fact, I consider the greatest affront one may make to God, to be to commit murder in the name of God.) Once I came to these insights with regard to the esoteric, mystic, inner expression of spirituality, I was then able to accommodate its expression through the exoteric religious expression with which I was most familiar, Christianity. It was at that point I delved into Christianity deeply. For me, I found the Old Catholic tradition to be the best fit. I like that it centers its worship and ritual on the Eucharist (communion), and that it tends to discount "preaching" ad nausium. Having attended seminary I find I have a low tolerance for most preaching, because I now know the foundations of most of it are misunderstood; additionally, for me personally, they are usually not directed to where I find spiritual meaning. But to be fair, this is a matter of one's stage of faith. Those in an earlier stage of faith are more likely to respond to mainstream Churches. So to find a Church in which one is going to be most comfortable, one must match one's stage of faith to a church which is predominately of that stage, and preferably leaning toward the next stage of faith (so as to foster continued spiritual development). And for an Esoteric Christian, the choices are few and far between. Such is life on the tail of the third standard deviation! heheh That's a reasonable overview of my spiritual journey to date. I recently began writing a blog which I have entitled, Seeking the Divine Center: Troubling Thoughts & Spiritual Growth (http://eriksholisticcornucopia.wordpress.com/). Anyone interested in my thoughts or spiritual perspective can obviously find out a lot more about me by reading my blog posts. Guess that's it for now. With blessings, Erik+
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