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MOW

Gospel Of John

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Hello everyone

 

It's been awhile since I've posted. I was curious about pregressive Christian's take on the Gospel of John. It seems that Progressives tend to prefer the Synoptic Gospels and Consevatives like the Gospel of John more. Does this seem true?

 

 

MOW

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I'm not really sure how either party 'prefers' one or the other. Perhaps conservatives are a little more inclined to revel in John, whereas perhaps Progressives value the synoptics a little higher for their relative biographical nature of Jesus, as opposed to John with its strong theological bent.

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Hi Mow,

 

Good to hear from you again after so long a time. Hoping all is well with you. Personally as a PC i lean toward the Gospel of John but with a different slant/understanding or interpretation than most may have come to from reading.

 

Joseph

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Joseph,

 

I reckon I have a bit of an idea but would you care to expand here or elsewhere what you take away from John?

 

Cheers

Paul

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Paul,

To me, many important things are confirmed with my own experience.

 

Things like in John 14 thru John 17 where among other things Jesus says, I and my Father are One. and then he prays that we may be one even as he is One. and such pointers as i am in the Father and the Father in me. (said not for his own benefit)

 

 

And various other statements such as I pray not that you should take them out of the world but to keep them from the evil one. ( this negates the literal great catching away myth) and hints at a different understanding. Those who experience the oneness are in the world but in a sense not of the world. We were not meant to be snatched away but rather to inhabit the earth.

 

And this is life eternal that they might know thee (God) through Christ.which was exemplified in Jesus. (and others of course)

 

And much much more. It would take volumes to explain but is not complicated.

 

joseph

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Jack Spong has been promising a book on John for some time now, which shouldn't be far away.

 

Thanks for sharing, Joseph.

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Joseph ,what, in your opinion is "The Word " i.e." In rhe beginning was the word"? Also "the living water" mentioned to the woman at the well?

 

 

 

MOW

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Mow,

 

To me "The Word" means "principle" such as in vital principle or animating force. "the Living water" is that same principle and is in my view synonymous with the word "Christ" in that it is in essence as " being smeared together with God" or in a sense being One with.

 

Joseph

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Thanks Joseph, That a good interpretation.

I guess one of the things PCs have a problem with is " no one comes to the Father except through me". I am sure there must be a way PCs can interpret that statement in a more progressive and inclusive way.

 

 

 

MOW

Edited by MOW

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Mow,

 

I agree. In my experience, if Jesus indeed said that, i believe he meant that no one comes to the Father except by the same spirit that was in him. I believe he was speaking as Christ and not as Jesus the man. Christ is the anointing or "a smearing together with God" which is necessary to communicate or be in conscious connection (oneness or realizatiion) with God. That connection or what Christians label as manifested in Jesus, the man, as Christ, is the spirit in which all men have their being .

 

Different religions use different words but to me it is just different labels pointing to that experience which is really beyond mere words. Essentially John 1:9 says Christ is "the true light that lighted every man that comes into the world". So in a sense, there can be no separation except in ones mind because that light is the very source or essence in which we have our being. (all men/women without exception) However, it seems obvious to me that all have not come to the realization that that presence is always present within and is what sustains them.

 

Joseph

Edited by JosephM

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There always seems a stark reality check when I hear fundamentalists interpret the above sentence to be loaded with their entire theology (all are dirty sinners, all are born condemned, all must repent and accept Jesus as Lord so as to avoid eternal suffering).

 

What then of people who have never heard of Jesus, little children who have not asked God's forgiveness for their wretched birthright, what even of people living after Jesus but pre John's writing (around 100 CE)?

 

Answers range from "we don't know" to "we just have to have faith in God". But clearly in those circumstances the fundamentalist belief in Jesus being the ONLY way seems to have huge holes.

 

Like Joseph says, IF Jesus did say this then much has been lost in translation if we take the literalist's view.

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Literalists will have a hard time not only with John 1:9 but with Ephesians 4 where it says " And One is God The Father of all, and over all, and with all and in us all" (Aramaic Bible) One can pick and choose certain writings to make a case but only by ignoring others. it seems to me, translations from the original language and past meanings plus church interference makes a literalist view very problematic indeed. Therefore the answers given us as you point out Paul, have no other backing than the statements of men saying we just have to accept or have faith the Bible as God's literal words to us.

 

Joseph

 

PS I think the number one false premise of the church system that creates a foundation for that immovable position that makes it difficult for the individual to get past is the false premise that "the Bible is the Word of God" period.

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John was my favorite Gospel when I was a fundamentalist. Now it's my least favorite; it should never have been included in the Bible.

 

I was an atheist for two decades, and because of that experience I have a fresh perspective on the Bible. I'm not limited by any preconceived notions; there are no "givens." The Bible is certainly not a cohesive "book" by any means. It is a loose collection of writings from dozens of authors over a period of several centuries, and well over half of it was stolen from the Jewish religion and has nothing to do with Jesus. Also, there were dozens of gospels in the two centuries following Jesus, so the "four" Gospels is just a random number. It was a bunch of Roman politicians in the 4th century that, for political reasons, invented this "sacred book" called the Bible. Jesus certainly had no Bible, and when he referred to scripture (i.e. Jewish writings) he often contradicted it (e.g. Matthew 5).

 

So, if you look at the "four Gospels" with no preconceived notions, you will notice that John is radically different. The other three narrate events and have lots of miracles and parables of the humble servant Jesus. In John we have an arrogant Jesus who keeps saying "I Am this or that", even equating himself with God. And, of course, the first chapter of John is pure Gnosticism (nothing against Gnosticism, but many other potential books of the Bible were rejected on grounds of having Gnostic influence).

 

Yes, I'm a heretic. But I love Jesus (who also was a heretic who started a new religion).

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When I think of John's Jesus I think of a divine way of being that is incarnate in human flesh. It is a specific way that is divine, the way of love. It seems to me that the gospels were meant to be documents to aid in the community in being able to discern and plug into the divine spirit. So the "only through me" posture seems to mean that where you find love flowing through people, you find God. Where you find less than love, you fine less than God.

 

So, (one of) the question(s) that they may be dealing with: who speaks for God, and therefore to whom should we listen? The answer: those who live in love, regardless of who they are or where they've come from. The "truth" that is love becomes the measuring stick for authority.

 

(Of course, trying to figure out what love looks like in context makes thing messy real fast.)

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As Gardener quite correctly notes John should not have been included in the canon - it is far too gnostic and can have only been included for its many reference to Jesus as the Son of God - rather convenient.

 

It must likewise be also remembered that John was written near the turn of the 1st century, some seventy years after Jesus and much theological thinking had flowed under the nascent Christian communities.

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I think there is wisdom in all the books, howbeit it is often difficult to discern and separate. Personally, i would make a case not for removing books but rather adding all the books including those that were omitted like the gospel of Mary, Judus, Thomas, Phillip, etc. I am for allowing the reader to make up their own mind on what speaks to them rather than a church system doing the selection and interpretation for them. The contradictions reveal and confirm to me that the books are the word of men concerning things of God and man and should be read as thus without the claim .of biblical inerrancy.

 

Placing certainty in the uncertain to me is a dangerous thing. Reading any book and gleaming some positive personal inspiration or insight that confirms ones own personal experience seems to me more healthy than any blind acceptance.

 

 

Joseph.

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I've been thinking of another take on the other thing the Gospel of John is known for, namely the "born again" statement. Perhaps there are other ways of being "born again". I'll give three examples.

 

In a small biography of Karl Jung that I have,Jung tells the story of a church warden . The man was mean ,intolerant and rigid and from age 40 onward became even more fanatical and rigid. He became ,in Jung's words " a darkly lowering pillar of the church." Then suddenly,one night, at age 55 he sits up in bed and announces to his wife that he is just a"plain rascal".He then spends his final years in riotous living blowing through his fortune.

 

An African American bishop, and protege of Oral Roberts ( I can't think of his name) one night while watching TV decides there's no such thing as hell. He starts preaching this to his congregation and is thrown out of the church. Despite this he refuses to budge ,starts his own church and now preaches universalism.

 

A friend of mine's wife ,who grew up Evangelical, suddenly decided one day that she no longer believes in "original sin"

 

"Born again" can perhaps have more than one meaning. Indeed I think someone on this forum said we can be "born again throughout our life.

 

Mow

Edited by MOW

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Mow,

That part of the Gospel of John has been meaningful to me.

To me, being "born again" so to speak, is to awake from our conditioned and programmed unconsciousness to a concious realization of our innermost being which in my experience is one with and connected to the source of all things. It is to me a reawakening to that which always has been and is, yet 'seemed' to have been lost or far away but when realized is known that it never was not present. Perhaps it can be for some a one time experience for lack of better words communicated as a re-birth, for some it might be continual and for some sporadic experiences throughout their life.

 

Just my own thoughts and experience.

Joseph

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Enjoyed all your views. I think John turn Jesus into God, and I the part in John 6 about eating his flesh and drinking his blood was over the top, I'm sure you realize RC really believe they are consuming his flesh and blood, literally, not all of them of course. I like John when I see Jesus as a man of God, full of the Spirit of God, but not to read it as though he is God himself.

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I, too, tend to see the gospel of John as the least "historical" of the accounts of Jesus. It contains none of his parables which dominate the synoptic gospels. It doesn't mention the kingdom of God, which was his central message in the synoptics. In John, Jesus' central message is about himself and the necessity of believing in him. That, to me, is quite a different focus from how he is portrayed in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Plus, as has been pointed out, John's Jesus mentions being born again one time to one person, but this message has somehow been the central theme of conservative Christianity, while often overlooking most of what Jesus taught about the kingdom of God.

 

It does, however, present an interesting study of how religion changes over time. For better or worse, Christianity might not be what it is today without John's (and his community's) interpretation of Jesus. For while I doubt that much of John goes back to the historical Jesus of Nazareth, many of John's teachings about "Christ", about what it means to be anointed by God (or as Joseph says, smeared together with God) are indeed powerful and life-changing. Nevertheless, I do try to keep in mind that John is more about Jesus interpreted than Jesus remembered. John has a theological goal, which I believe is to portray Jesus as worthy of worship as God. I doubt the rest about Jesus and his humanitarian teachings would have survived in that deity-worshipping world with John's deification of Jesus of Nazareth.

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It seems to me the real value of the Gospel of John is as Bill points out, more about the Spirit (Christ the anointing) than the historical Jesus. While to me i think the Gospel of John contributes more to separating the man from the Spirit, the one being temporal in nature while the other being integral to God (the Divine), it has through the teachings of the flesh and the men of the organized church system made the historical Jesus the man as God.


I liked the Gospel of John and do not believe this was the intention of John. Much that is recorded as said by Jesus within speaks of the differences between the flesh and the Spirit which John records as the light that lights ALL men (women) that come into the world. Also he points out that there is a part if us that is in the world but not of the world. Jesus also in one of his very few mentions of the kingdom of God within that book says that the flesh cannot see the kingdom of God (3:3) and the kingdom is not OF this world (18:36). Jesus is recorded speaking that true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth and does not say men should worship him but the statement "I and my Father are One" (10:30) which i believe anyone speaking from the Spirit could say has been interpreted from a flesh standpoint of view negating much writings that speak to the contrary within the same book. I think it should be interpreted in the light of John 17:20-21)


Anyway, thats my 2 cents and thanks Bill for bringing that up.,

Joseph

Edited by JosephM

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Joseph, you bring up some good points about some of the themes in John. One of them, as you have mentioned, is the dualism found in the flesh/spirit paradigm. Speaking only for myself, I would interpret “flesh” as “human effort apart from God’s enablement”. And I would interpret “spirit” as “an awareness or receptiveness of God’s presence and power in our lives”. This is why, for me, when Jesus speaks of flesh and spirit, I think he is referring to the notion that we are made to “run on God” and not be totally self-sufficient. Therefore, it makes sense that if we are bound up in self-ish lives, we aren’t aware of or participants in God’s kingdom, because God’s kingdom is about the good of all, not just about what we get out of it.


Unfortunately, again for better or worse, the flesh/spirit paradigm has often been taken literally to refer to the distinction between temporary matter (which is considered by Gnosticism to be totally evil) and eternal invisible reality (which is considered to be totally good). It then follows that anything physical (including such things as sexual pleasure, the material world, and other things pleasing to the senses) is considered to be evil, while only “spiritual” things are considered to be from God and to be good. This, to me, imposes a false dichotomy upon us that can cause us to be consumed with forever separating things into the two boxes of “sacred” and “secular” or “religious” and “profane”. Furthermore, because the world is considered to be evil instead of God’s good creation, the focus of religion can focus on escaping this world for a supposed “different” world or existence (which we often call heaven).


Again speaking only for myself, I find this antithetical to much of Jesus’ teachings in the synoptic gospels where his focus about the kingdom is not upon leaving this world to “fly away”, but on transforming this world so that God’s will that we love one another and creation is done here and now.


Like you, I’m not sure that I would remove the gospel of John from our canon. But I do think that, if I could, I would add a disclaimer that says, just as I would with the book of Revelation, that these writings do not necessarily reflect the views of our best historical Jesus scholarship, that the “Jesus” found there is no longer “one of us”, despite all the claims of the Church that he is human. Jesus, in John, is God’s Superman, sent from another world to save our own. He looks like us, but he is not from here. Don’t get me wrong, Superman is my favorite super-hero, but I know he is fiction, not fact. He makes for a wonderful story that embodies some of our highest ideal of truth, justice, and the American way. But I don’t wait for him to swoop down from the sky to save me from life’s predicaments. In my opinion, Jesus shows us what it is like, not to be Superman, but to be a human who “runs on God” which leads him to embody God’s love and compassion for us and our world.

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Good points Bill. Thanks for the insights.

 

Joseph

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Bill,

 

Really enjoyed reading your post. Did not consider the persuasion of Gnosticism in the writing of John previously. Understand the goal of creating a "heaven on earth" where God's creatures live in harmony. Also agree that Revelations in written by a Jewish man for Jewish people. In my mind not an apocalyptic writing for today's reader. Near Death Experience stories are very prevalent today and while the flavor of the NDE is driven much by faith/belief background, people of all races and creeds are having them.

 

In your belief structure, have you ruled out an afterlife or reincarnation possibly to learn lessons we missed along the way?

 

Bob

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Bob,

 

Nice to meet you. I've enjoyed reading your various posts also.

 

To answer your question, no, I haven't ruled out an afterlife, nor even reincarnation. Discussion of topics like these always lead me to metaphorical language, so I think we go "deeper" into God at death, or experience less of a sense of separateness from God at death. And I think everyone has or will experience this, as I believe we now experience God "through a glass darkly" and that nothing can ultimately separate us from God. How long it might take for each of us to experience God clearly or to be consumed into God, I don't know. But this point-of-view is one of faith for me based upon where I think the scriptures point as a whole, upon experiences of some NDEs, and upon the testimony of other religions that seem to point to the notion of consummation or unity.

 

Nevertheless, IMO, I don't think Jesus' main focus, even in John, was to teach "how to go to heaven." Rather, I suspect his teachings on the kingdom are more about how to bring "heaven" to earth, where God's presence is an empowering and transformative influence.

 

Gnosticism tends to get a bad rap in conservative Christianity. Some gnostic notions (such as only "enlightened" people are "saved" or such as the physical flesh is inherently evil) I find to be abberations and extreme. But the notion that we can be enlightened or awakened to higher or deeper truth makes sense to me both conceptually and experientially.

 

BillMc

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