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Deborah

Hungry To Learn And Grow!

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Hello!


As a way of introduction let me share a little of my story.


My parents raised me within evangelical/conservative Christianity. I was born in Germany and moved around a lot (within Europe), seeing my father was a missionary.


At the age of 8 (1990) we settled in Australia (Mandurah WA, hello PaulS ;-)). Here we discovered the charasmatic stream and were members of the AOG for 6 years.


Those years were formative especially for my personal spiritual journey. During those years I experienced the Divine in ways that sound rediculous when I recount them, they felt very real to me and still do.


But is was also here that I was instilled with fundamental theology, us/them mentality and a certain sense of fear that was guised as wisdom.


When my parents divorced and my mother re-married to a C3 pastor, we moved away from the AOG movement and joined C3 (Christian City Church headed up by Phil and Christine Pringle in Sydney).


Initially those were good years as well and if it weren't for personal issues I may never have questioned their system and culture.


But a faith shift crept up on me and I went with it (kicking and screaming mind you).


It happened to be C3 that got the burnt of my faith shift.


Now I realise it's not so much C3 that I was criticising, but religious systems on a whole and the fundamentalist convictions that come with them.


As a result I left C3 and have been roaming ever since. I visit a church regularly but have not commited anywhere.


Mainly because I am looking for something specific that just isn't around a lot. An emergent church would be great!


But seeing that is hard to find, here I am, looking for an online equivalent.


It gets pretty lonely when there are not many others willing to engage in conversation and spiritual quests. And I'm so full of questions and theories that I'm bursting at the seams!


When I read some of your stories and the welcoming responses I was moved to tears, it seems loneliness is a very real and strong emotion...a feeling that is new to me but resonates with those of you who have a similar background.


I look forward to meeting anyone who is interested and look forward to building relationships as far as possible via this media.


Warm greetings,


Deborah




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Welcome to the community here at TCPC, Deborah! I'm glad you found us!

 

I, too, know what it is like for common Christianity to take our experiences of the Divine and try to fit them into boxes or into a rigid framework. One of the things that I appreciate about this community is that we are encouraged to be where we are at in our journey and there is no "orthodoxy" that says what we must believe or not believe. This approach allows for a great deal of diversity, but most of us feel that is a good thing. We each bring something unique to our discussions. Can it take the place of a brick and mortar assembly? I don't know. But I have often had someone here say something to me that was just the right thing at the right time to either confirm my journey or to gently challenge it.

 

We look forward to what you bring to our fellowship here. Again, welcome.

 

BillM

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Welcome Deborah,

 

It really is a small world - to think you used to live here 25yrs ago and now you live on the other side of the world!

 

I hope this forum can offer you some of that community of which you seek. I completely lost faith/belief in Christianity nearly 30 years ago and really could have benefited then from a site like this. Apart from no internet in those days, I had no idea Christianity even existed outside the framework of fundamentalism and biblical literalism.

 

Enjoy it here.

 

Cheers

Paul

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Thank you BillM!

Certainly looking forward to everybody's input and gentle challenges! ;) Feeling welcome already!

 

And hi Paul, yes, it's a small world for sure! Was searching like crazy for fellow seekers in the Mandurah/Bunbury area, hoping to find an emerging congregation of some kind, but was not able to find anything. Do you have any suggestions?

My husband, 2 children and I will be coming back to Australia in June/July next year and I'm already probing the waters.

A church that is comfortable with questions would be a good start...

Do you still fellowship somewhere?

 

And yes, I am glad I have found this site and hope I that can discover some sense of community here seeing as finding suitable churches is quite difficult...

 

Thanks again for your welcome, looking forward to interesting conversation...

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Deborah Greeting and salutations to the force within you that swings the pendellum back and forth giving you insight from both sides. It seems you have found the good and limiting nature of Christianity.

The church has had a dim, narrow view of nature, man, and God for over a thousand years so I place it at the base of the mountain. Mark Twain expressed it well when he said, “The so-called Christian nations are the most enlightened and progressive ... but in spite of their religion, not because of it.” The Church has opposed every innovation and discovery from the day of Galileo up to our present time at one time even the use of anesthetic in childbirth was regarded as a sin because it avoided the bible’s curse against Eve. Every step in science has been unremittingly opposed by the narrow-mindedness, superstition and the limited understanding of our church leaders. The power of church authorities was challenged by great men, women and mystics who moved our Christian faith forward as far as it could go at the time. The work of Copernicus was banned by the church and Galileo was held in custody and threatened with jail for declaring that the earth revolved around the sun. He was found guilty, and sentenced by the Inquisition on June 22, 1633. On the next day his prescribed imprisonment was commuted to house arrest where he remained under arrest for the rest of his life. “It is so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood,” Ralph Waldo Emerson said. Nicolaus Copernicus said, “To know the mighty works of God, to comprehend His wisdom and majesty and power; to appreciate, in degree, the wonderful workings of His laws, surely all this must be a pleasing and acceptable mode of worship to the Most High, to whom ignorance cannot be more grateful than Knowledge.”

 

The church has built a wall around a small part of the infinite and has called it God with itself as the authority. I think when the church did this they divorced science and expelled it from their walled compound out of ignorance to the fact that science is describing the same phenomenon while updating its discoveries. I feel everyone is the authority of their experience of the infinite which is expanding in relation to their awareness. In my mind the people who say they know God are expressing their experience which is not the total view because they would not be able to talk, write or express it in anyway. To know the totality of eternity one must become one with it beyond the mind in a state of unity. I hope you enjoy, grow and learn from the diverse views expressed on this forum, I find them enlightening myself because they are challenging.

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Sorry Deborah,

 

I don't really know if there is any kind of emerging church in Mandurah. Googling 'Progressive Christianity Western Australia' seems to throw up some possible places to contact for further information.

 

I moved here about 10 years ago and had no interest in Christianity. I grew up as a fundamental Christian but abandoned it around 19 years of age and never looked back. My intro to PC started about 2009 (at the age of 40) when I first experienced suffering anxiety - firstly about money issues which then morphed into anxiety over Christianity (it's a long story), my rejection of it, my eternal future, etc (now that was 9 months or so of Hell! :)).

 

For me personally I have no desire to go to a church but do enjoy my fellowship here. Here feels safe, friendly, fairly non-judgmental, and the right pace for me. Also, I save most of my philosophizing about Christianity for when I have a few red wines and Sunday mornings are too early for that! :D

 

Cheers

Paul

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Deborah Greeting and salutations to the force within you that swings the pendellum back and forth giving you insight from both sides. It seems you have found the good and limiting nature of Christianity....

To know the totality of eternity one must become one with it beyond the mind in a state of unity. I hope you enjoy, grow and learn from the diverse views expressed on this forum, I find them enlightening myself because they are challenging.

 

Thank you Soma, yes, I did indeed have good experiences within evangelical circles and even parts of their theology were healing when it came to love, grace, humility and the like.

My mother was an example of how a human being can be an evangelical believer without exhibiting a condemning spirit. She was full of grace, her eyes were warm and kind and loving. People from all levels of society and all sorts of backgrounds and religions loved being with her...she must have embodied Jesus somehow, because the same was true for him. Those things are attractive to me and is perhaps the reason why I find myself attracted to this Christ.

But the rigid evangelical worldview, like any other world view, is a mixed bag. The strict dogmas and fundamentalist views were responsible for the unhelpful baggage, not the personal experiences (in my case).

So it's the unhelpful baggage that I'm wrestling with. As I'm reading and exploring I'm noticing that even Jesus was not easily put in a box, which annoyed the pharasees endlessly.

So I guess I have given myself the permission to also look outside of the box. Some of the stuff within the evangelical box is usefull, but there's plenty of usefull stuff outside of it too, surprise, surprise. Coming from a rigid evangelical background (within church circles) even saying that feels heretical :P.

And yes, I agree with you, until we shed this body with its limits and truly become one with 'God' we will only ever see in part. I am grateful for every additional piece of learning while I am here, and am open to new ideas.

What's your story? Why the progressive Christianity and not some other form of progressive thinking?

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Sorry Deborah,

 

I don't really know if there is any kind of emerging church in Mandurah. Googling 'Progressive Christianity Western Australia' seems to throw up some possible places to contact for further information.

 

Thanks Paul, yes, I have googled...it's harder to find than I'd hoped. But I will not give up! Thanks anyways ;)

 

I moved here about 10 years ago and had no interest in Christianity. I grew up as a fundamental Christian but abandoned it around 19 years of age and never looked back. My intro to PC started about 2009 (at the age of 40) when I first experienced suffering anxiety - firstly about money issues which then morphed into anxiety over Christianity (it's a long story), my rejection of it, my eternal future, etc (now that was 9 months or so of Hell! :)).

 

Yes, I can recognise the distress, it really is a sort of hell isn't it!...I used to lie awake at night fearing that I was being influenced by doctines of demons and being deceived...the horrible thing about being deceived is that you don't know that you are...now there's a scary thought :wacko: and one that gives the church an incredible amount of power...because of course they are not the ones who are deceived, only those who think differently are deceived. The pharasees were good at dishing out that one too...Jesus had an evil spirit according to them.

Anyways, that's years ago though and I've developed beyond that, thank goodness!

How did you develop beyond your anxiety? Did PC help you in that? I asked the same question to Soma: What attracted you to PC, why not some other form of progressive thinking (not assosiated with Christ)?

And yeah, I guess you could fully call this forum church. I mean, define church! You call it safe, friendly, non-judgemental, with space to go at your own pace...sounds like a church I wouldn't mind going to :P. If you could take this forum and get together in real life, would you? I would. I'd even prefer it to the traditional idea of church gatherings. And then exactly the way you put it...with a glass or two of nice red wine and a rich cheese platter to feed the cosy conversation atmosphere! And who says this has to take place on a Sunday morning! Dude, sleeping in on a Sunday morning is 100% therapeutic! :D

How about your wife? Did you share this journey together?

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The doctrine of hell can certainly instill a lot of fear in us. For many years, I was of a Baptist flavor and was never quite sure whether I believed all the right things enough to escape the fiery pits. I mean, they say to believe in Jesus, but exactly what must be believed about Jesus in order to have the right beliefs?

 

Then I drifted into Calvinism which assured me of "once-saved-always-saved" or that I was chosen for salvation before the foundations of the earth were laid. But as that doctrine really painted God in a harsh light (IMO), I gradually came to believe in annihilationism. There is exactly quite a bit of scriptural support for this notion, that the wicked die and that is the end of them.

 

Exploring still further, I found the doctrine of universalism. That doctrine also has a lot of scriptural support, the notion that Jesus' death was efficacious enough to save everyone.

 

Of course, all of these doctrines are predicated upon the belief that we come into the world damned for hell in the first place (the doctrine of Original Sin). But as I explored progressive Christianity more, I came to believe that while we do in fact come into the world as selfish creatures, we are not damned from birth. That notion no longer makes sense for me and really makes God out to be an unjust monster.

 

Add to this that, a few years back, I had a mystical experience in which I experienced God's unconditional love and, thankfully, I no longer fear hell, even if Jesus did teach it. At this point, I am agnostic about the heaven/hell scenario. I'm more concerned about the kingdom on earth and the notion that many people waste their lives on things that are just not worth it.

 

As always, my 2 cents.

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Greetings Deborah,

 

Welcome to the community. You weren't alone with those sometimes sleepless nights agonizing and days where past friends were okay with you as long as you bought the story or kept your views to yourself. It no longer disturbs me and i find i can accept them as they are even if i am rejected by them. Now whose got the love. :):lol:

 

Joseph

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What's your story? Why the progressive Christianity and not some other form of progressive thinking?

I label myself Christian, but I am attracted to all kinds of thinking even backward thinking can make a point. The problem is thinking has got me into a lot of trouble, not only with the pain and suffering, but with the hard lessons that repeat if you don't get it the first time. The sixties was a great instructor which taught me many lessons on different levels. Went to Catholic shool my whole life, got a working scholarship for high school sports, but was kicked out of school my senor year so sports were erased. Then my partents kicked me out of the house and dis-owned me, thinking I was a communist because I was against the war. My senor year at the university, I was in pre-med and our government arrested me for having long hair, lied and mess up my records so I would never get into medical school, but everytime I found I was rejected from something good, I was re-directed to something better. Went over seas for 20 years searching. I studied the philosophies and spiritual practices of the many religions of the countries I lived in. The people, teachers and spiritual practices were all beneficial all pointing to the same place, but one experience will sum it up. In India I was trying to learn sitar, but couldn't get the concept of no beat, the western rythems were so ingrained in my mind. All the spiritual philosophies at the top of the mountain recognize and say the same thing, I found science and humanism also holds the same concepts so I brought it all into my Christian upbringing and it all has made me a better Christian.

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How did you develop beyond your anxiety? Did PC help you in that?

I asked the same question to Soma: What attracted you to PC, why not some other form of progressive thinking (not assosiated with Christ)?

If you could take this forum and get together in real life, would you?

How about your wife? Did you share this journey together?

PC (this forum and various authors) definitely helped me overcome my anxiety. By learning more about biblical scholarship and an alternate view to understanding Jesus & the bible (which I never knew existed) my anxiety eventually dissipated.

 

What attracted me to PC was that it provided what I saw as a much more sensible approach to christian scripture, and one which didn't require me to suspend logic and reason. I don't say that to sound demeaning to Christians that do hold those beliefs, but rather that those beliefs didn't meet my test and made no sense to me whatsoever.

 

I wouldn't mind a get together of the likes of this forum, but I have an almost phobic disinterest in rejoining any 'organised' religion, PC or not. I'm happy with the 'Church of General Life' and occasional discussions/forum with others.

 

As for my wife, although we shared some of the journey it was a little hard for her to understand. She comes from a totally non-religious family and never understood the grip of fear my childhood indoctrination had in coming back to haunt me. I find it funny in fact I find that most adults I talk to now have no understanding of fundamental Christianity. What I thought was the norm for Christianity, is actually not all that normal here in Australia. Of the 61% of adults Australians who say they are Christian, less than 15% of that number actually regularly attend Church. And then of that small number of Churchgoers - how many are actually fundamentals? So to me it seems the number is actually quite minute in the big picture of things. That has also helped me understand that the fundamental view of Jesus and the bible is really quite a minority.

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Yes, I also never knew that alternative views existed, amazing isn't it? How could we have missed that for so long!?

A whole new world opened up to me when I started investigating what else is out there...and there's a heck of a lot, even just within the "Christian" faith. I was so naive, and glad to have become more aware, what a freeing (though also frightening) experience!

 

Just this morning we decided to visit my father-in-law's church again, which is very evangelical and moralistic...it was hard not to be demeaning while sitting there, I guess I have a lot to learn in that regard.

It just worked me up so much that I've decided that I will not go there again. I guess I'm also developing a kind of allergic reaction to that kind of church. A bummer really, because most of the people sitting in those pews are very warm, friendly people, it was the preach that annoyed me to no end. I guess it will always be a mixed bag. I realise though that I am not yet ready to give up on traditional church set-ups yet, still wrestling through that one. As I mentioned before, would love to find a gathering that has the same mentality as this forum...

 

And yes, I see what you mean with "church of general life". I had to learn that life itself is a great teacher, why limit that to one person in a pulpit? Everyone becomes your teacher, very enriching (if you can allow it without fear)! Amazing how "afraid" evangelicals are, and that despite the fact that they believe in an almighty God, who in Christ did not shy away from the very world evangelicals shy away from! I used to be there, still boggles my mind.

 

What an interesting notion, placing the minority opinion within the whole...then it almost seems cultish. I can't help but feel that perhaps this was never Christ's intention...if He had any intentions at all in that regard... amazing what we humans devise up. I think the them/us mentality is one of the hardest to get out of our system, it is so programmed into us, not sure whether I'll ever be able to get rid of it. Right now I feel that the evangelicals are the "them". Gee wiz!

 

Do you sometimes feel lost? If not, have you been through a phase where you felt lost and how did that develop?

(I'm in a phase where I feel lost, the world is so big...feel like I've jumped from a little pond into the pacific ocean!)

Is it just a matter of acclimatising?

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Add to this that, a few years back, I had a mystical experience in which I experienced God's unconditional love and, thankfully, I no longer fear hell, even if Jesus did teach it. At this point, I am agnostic about the heaven/hell scenario. I'm more concerned about the kingdom on earth and the notion that many people waste their lives on things that are just not worth it.

 

 

Hi Bill! (I hope you don't mind the lengthy response :wacko:)

I can so relate to your story! And I also embrace (and still wrestle with) a form of universalism and at the same time am looking at different theories of the atonement...why Jesus' death means so much to the Christian faith. I am also agnostic about heaven and hell, although I have a few theories that I am more comfortable embracing than the theories I grew up with.

What are your theories, if you have any?

There are two people I have found who's thoughts on the subject really resonate with me at this stage of my journey...if you're interested, may I have your thoughts on them?

Have you heard of Brad Jersak? He wrote the book "A more Christlike God, a more beautiful gospel", where he suggests that we not only have gotten the end of the story wrong, but also the beginning (my rephrasing). Makes a whole lot of sense to me. His lecture on this sums it up nicely:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9VwP7df9BuY&feature=youtu.be

And Kevin Miller, director of "Hellbound?" who questions the retributive notions of hell and how they do not fit in with Jesus' teachings on love, forgiveness and mercy...which makes me question Jesus' other stories that do mention hell...have we perhaps misunderstood them due to mistranslations, misinterpretations and misunderstandings of culture and context?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9p4JZhniNRw

I enjoy listening to them because they wrestle with Christian ideas, theologies and scriptures...while being careful not to throw out the baby with the bathwater...something that at this stage still means a lot to me. There's something about Christ that attracts me. You say you felt God's unconditional love. I resonate with that and I can't shake that Jesus somehow has some role to play in that...just trying to figure out in which way. I can sense that my heart loves Him, the feel of Him, His essence...so I want to find a theology that resonates with that inner experience. Perhaps that is an impossible search. But I enjoy the search, even though it can be a little over-whelming at times.

Sorry, I feel like I'm rambling. Don't talk about this with others much, so I'm overflowing with thoughts!

Having mentioned what other people think, here are my two cents ;) (copied and pasted from other posts):

On the nature and heart of God. I believe that if Jesus was the exact representation of God, then I have reason to believe that God was never against us, but always for us.

If Jesus did not shy away from our mess, but met us there, then why wouldn't God have the same heart towards our brokenness?

So in that line of thought, my theology is starting to shift away from an angry God that Jesus had to save us from (as though God were schizophrenic), to a mercyful God who's heart broke when we broke and became flesh to show us that God is with us in our pain and does not condemn us for it, quite the opposite...Jesus went all the way, to the grave and beyond, the deepest misery, reached to the darkest parts of the universe to show us that nothing can stop Him from pursuing us and bringing us home, where we belong.

So whatever the theology around Jesus is, for me it has to be something along those lines...

I bet that in reality God will top even that!?

And what about hell?

What is hell exactly?

Our broken state? Our misery? Our pain? And all the consequences thereof?

Then yes, I believe in hell and I see it all around me and in my own life...and Jesus met me there and has the keys (what do you think He intends to do with those? Lock us up for failing miserably or set us free in grace and forgiveness?)

And how about in the after-life? If God is love and revealed in Christ, then for me everything He does needs to fit within a loving/restorative/healing paradigm...so also hell... whatever that may be.

Here's an idea...

Is truth painful? I would say in some cases yes. And yet it promises to set us free.

So what about hell? What if Jesus' gehenna was something along these lines?:

 

What if hell is the painful encounter with Truth, that in metaphorical terms burns away all of the ignorance that has been shielding us from experiencing the pain of reality?

What if all of this happened within an unconditional, non-judgemental, loving Presence ("God is a consuming fire")?

What if hell is the equivalent to experiencing the pain we have inflicted on others?

For example...We are reminded of each moment and the history leading up to it (from our own and the other person's point of view) and then not only feel our own pain of the moment, but also the pain of the other person involved.

Wouldn't that instantaneously cure us of all malice and anger and bitterness and immediately foster understanding and empathy and forgiveness?

And as such we will have experienced a fair measure of inevitable pain (truth hurts) while at the same time being reconciled to our enemy within a moment of time.

What if that's all that hell is? Then I'd still rather avoid it...follow Christ into the ministry of reconciliation here and now, love others as I love myself now, empathise now, give people the benefit of the doubt now while I only see dimly...and thereby avoid that kind of Gehenna in the first place, not just for myself, but for the other person also.

 

I could live with that kind of a hell and it would fit comfortably with the view of a loving God as well as with a just God, would it not? 

 

If hell is something like that, then it really does bring it right into the here and now, because I agree with you...bringing the Kingdom of God to earth is what Jesus was all about, I want to join in that effort!

May I have your thoughts?

And another question, how did the mystical experience happen? May I hear the full story?

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Greetings Deborah,

 

Welcome to the community. You weren't alone with those sometimes sleepless nights agonizing and days where past friends were okay with you as long as you bought the story or kept your views to yourself. It no longer disturbs me and i find i can accept them as they are even if i am rejected by them. Now whose got the love. :):lol:

 

Joseph

 

Thank you Joseph for your warm welcome!

Yes! That is a loving attitude for sure! Then you are further than I am. I struggle in that area...at least concerning individuals who (genuinely) preach fundamental controlling material. It so rubs me the wrong way that I have trouble keeping my attitude right towards the messenger. Full well knowing that most of these individuals are doing what they genuinely feel is right. I'm still trying to figure out why it bothers me so much. Did you get any insights along your journey? And how did you manage to transition from being disturbed to accepting the situation and the individuals?

Thanks for your input!!!

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I label myself Christian, but I am attracted to all kinds of thinking even backward thinking can make a point. The problem is thinking has got me into a lot of trouble, not only with the pain and suffering, but with the hard lessons that repeat if you don't get it the first time. The sixties was a great instructor which taught me many lessons on different levels. Went to Catholic shool my whole life, got a working scholarship for high school sports, but was kicked out of school my senor year so sports were erased. Then my partents kicked me out of the house and dis-owned me, thinking I was a communist because I was against the war. My senor year at the university, I was in pre-med and our government arrested me for having long hair, lied and mess up my records so I would never get into medical school, but everytime I found I was rejected from something good, I was re-directed to something better. Went over seas for 20 years searching. I studied the philosophies and spiritual practices of the many religions of the countries I lived in. The people, teachers and spiritual practices were all beneficial all pointing to the same place, but one experience will sum it up. In India I was trying to learn sitar, but couldn't get the concept of no beat, the western rythems were so ingrained in my mind. All the spiritual philosophies at the top of the mountain recognize and say the same thing, I found science and humanism also holds the same concepts so I brought it all into my Christian upbringing and it all has made me a better Christian.

 

Wow, what a story! Very summed up I assume :). You really have searched and tried many ways of thinking! That would make you well-rounded. May I asked what your compass was all these years? Do you know what I mean with that (I mention it in my profile description)?

When you have so much input from the outside, do you have a way of sifting through all the new information so that you don't lose the sense of your own person?

You remind me a little of my father. He was born in Feb 1950 and was a progressive thinker for his time, which also got him into trouble. So he's used to a lot of rejection. Can be a lonely life though. How are you coping?

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May I asked what your compass was all these years? Do you know what I mean with that (I mention it in my profile description)?

When you have so much input from the outside, do you have a way of sifting through all the new information so that you don't lose the sense of your own person?

You remind me a little of my father. He was born in Feb 1950 and was a progressive thinker for his time, which also got him into trouble. So he's used to a lot of rejection. Can be a lonely life though. How are you coping?

 

I was born in 1948 and I am lucky because my compass was shattered, I guess you can call it baptism if one thinks baptism is an introduction to spirit consciousness. That is when my life started as a leaf blowing in the wind as I went with the flow. As a young idealistic kid I became a monk and was sent to Morrocco to teach meditation and yoga. There really is/was nothing to fear as the Holy Spirit is universal and takes care of us giving us exactly what we need. Muslims, Buddhist, Athiest and especially the common people took me in since I was young and alone, taught me, took care of me and helped me mature opening the doors so I could feel the wind, the spirit flowing through everything and was taught to enjoy the moment that there is nothing to fear. It seems to me that once we get rid of the fear and obstacles occupying our mind everything becomes clear. I don't think we need a compass just a still mind, quiet so we can hear God whispering sweet nothings. The emphasis is nothing.

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Do you sometimes feel lost? If not, have you been through a phase where you felt lost and how did that develop?

(I'm in a phase where I feel lost, the world is so big...feel like I've jumped from a little pond into the pacific ocean!)

Is it just a matter of acclimatising?

Deborah,

I abandoned Christianity at 19 because I thought it unjust and man-made. When I started working I started to see the world in a different way and I felt anger toward Bible God, which in hindsight was probably more anger about feeling deceived all those years and wanting something to be true but knowing that it wasn't. I did feel a little lost because I had grown up in this community of like-minded believers for 19 years and now I wasn't part of their circle any more, but fairly quickly my work and life moved on and I didn't really give Christianity much more thought. All of those friendships pretty much went by the way

 

The second time around I was 40 and it had more to do with anxiety and depression (i.e. mental health) than it did about Christianity itself. That was a very dark period and I felt completely lost, but thankfully I did come out the other side and I attribute that to a couple of people, plenty of reading, and participating in this forum.

 

I don't think one can 'make themself' feel any better or acclimatized to new beliefs but I do think it's a process that people go through and over time, the means we use to adjust see us through and we come out the other end feeling relatively at ease. I hope that makes sense.

 

Cheers

Paul

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Hi Deborah,

 

What are your theories (of the atonement), if you have any?

 

My theories (such that they are) is that Jesus was killed for challenging the religious and political authorities of his day. I don't believe his blood purchased God's forgiveness, as I believe God has always forgiven sins. Forgiveness is not for sale. I find no sense or comfort in the notion that God had to kill Jesus in order to forgive me. I want nothing to do with a God like that. If God cannot forgive my sins simply because he is a forgiving God, then I don't care a God that has to punish someone else in order to be on good terms with me.

 

Have you heard of Brad Jersak? He wrote the book "A more Christlike God, a more beautiful gospel", where he suggests that we not only have gotten the end of the story wrong, but also the beginning (my rephrasing). Makes a whole lot of sense to me. His lecture on this sums it up nicely.

 

Yes, this makes a whole lot of sense to me also.

 

And Kevin Miller, director of "Hellbound?" who questions the retributive notions of hell and how they do not fit in with Jesus' teachings on love, forgiveness and mercy...which makes me question Jesus' other stories that do mention hell...have we perhaps misunderstood them due to mistranslations, misinterpretations and misunderstandings of culture and context?

 

I'd agree. At the heart of Jesus' message and ministry is the notion, not of punishment, but of transformation. Repent. Change. Transform. His gospel, IMO, is about personal and social transformation. The doctrine of hell says that a time comes when God is no longer interested in the transformation of his creation. Instead, he just punishes them forevermore. What kind of parent would ever punish their child with no hope for repentance or reconciliation? How just would it be for God to punish people infinitely for finite sin?

 

On the nature and heart of God. I believe that if Jesus was the exact representation of God, then I have reason to believe that God was never against us, but always for us.
If Jesus did not shy away from our mess, but met us there, then why wouldn't God have the same heart towards our brokenness?

 

Exactly. I've said, in the past, that if God couldn't look upon sin, and if Jesus was God, then people should have exploded or melted in Jesus' presence. But such was not the case. He enjoyed being with sinners and they seemed to enjoy being with him.



And what about hell? What is hell exactly? Our broken state? Our misery? Our pain? And all the consequences thereof? Then yes, I believe in hell and I see it all around me and in my own life...and Jesus met me there and has the keys (what do you think He intends to do with those? Lock us up for failing miserably or set us free in grace and forgiveness? So what about hell? What if Jesus' gehenna was something along these lines? What if hell is the painful encounter with Truth, that in metaphorical terms burns away all of the ignorance that has been shielding us from experiencing the pain of reality? What if all of this happened within an unconditional, non-judgemental, loving Presence ("God is a consuming fire")? What if hell is the equivalent to experiencing the pain we have inflicted on others? I could live with that kind of a hell and it would fit comfortably with the view of a loving God as well as with a just God, would it not? If hell is something like that, then it really does bring it right into the here and now, because I agree with you...bringing the Kingdom of God to earth is what Jesus was all about, I want to join in that effort!

May I have your thoughts?

 

Well, as you know hell/hades/gehenna/tartarus is a deep and lengthy study. But I distillate it into this: Most of Jesus' teachings are parables pitting, not destinations of heaven and hell, but wise living verses wasteful living. People, according to Jesus, invest their lives wisely in God and one another, or foolishly in selfishness or worldly systems. To symbolize a wasted life, I think Jesus chose the burning dump of Gehenna outside of the city of Jerusalem. Supposedly, the fires there burned day and night, and once your trash was thrown in there, there was no getting it back out. So I think Jesus used Gehenna as a powerful metaphor for a wasted life, for a life that does not seek the kingdom of God. Christianity and the church has changed Gehenna into a literal place (inside the earth?) where God punishes the wicked and unbelievers forever and ever with no hope of reform. It is indeed a powerful and frightening image. But it in no way paints God as just, loving, merciful, or compassionate.

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Deborah, you asked about my mystical experiences. I've only had 3 of them and one of them I never share publically. These experiences are descriptive of me and my journey, but not prescriptive for anyone else. And they are extremely difficult to put into words so that you could "step into my shoes." Nonetheless, I'll offer them and you can make of them what you will.

 

The first happened about 10 years ago when I was extremely frustrated with my Christian religion. Because I was raised a conservative fundamentalist, I thought that Christianity was mainly about whether you went to heaven or to hell when you died. And I'd been taught that it was correct beliefs that were the determining factor for destination. But with over 30,000 different Christian denominations, each of them claiming to be the "true Christians", how was I to know what the correct beliefs were? I entered a dark night of the soul which lasted for a number of months, in which I feared that God would/could kill me at any point, sealing my eternal fate. One night, as I lay in bed, I felt that the only sane solution for me was to no longer believe anything. So I told God that I no longer believed in him. I told him I no longer believed in Jesus. I told him that if he was real, he could kill me and send me to hell. I no longer cared. There are many other things that I told him in my despair and anger that are not fit to print, even here. Let's just say I was very blasphemous. And when I was done, I waited for lightning to strike.

 

But instead of lightning, I felt as though warm water was starting to flow around my body. The feeling continued until it felt as though I was being buoyed up. I felt, perhaps, like a leaf on an ocean. It didn't matter what I did. It didn't matter what I believed. I just felt as though I (and everything that exists) was part of this huge ocean and that I was okay. Floating on and in this ocean had nothing to do with me, per se. There was no fear. There was no confusion. There was only the sense/feeling of "all is well." This lasted for, perhaps, 15 minutes or so. And then the water started to recede, leaving me laying there on my bed. See, I told you it wouldn't make any sense. But this experience conveyed to me that I was okay with "God", with Reality, with What Is, whatever name you want to put with it.

 

The second experience happened when I took my son to the Johnson Space Center in Florida. We were watching an IMAX movie called, "Through the Eyes of Hubble." The movie starts on planet Earth and, using images from the Hubble Telescope combined with computer enhancement, it takes a 3D journey to the farthest reaches of our known universe. As I sat there, holding the hand of my 7-year-old son, he seemed to take on a gold glow. It sounds strange to describe it now. I was suddenly amazed that in this stunningly vast universe, there was only one of him and how fortunate I was to be his father. We are so, so, so small. And we are so, so, so unique. Tears were streaming down my cheeks at the beauty of our universe AND the capability that we have to have and treasure loved ones in our lives, even if it is for an extremely short amount of time. And then I was struck by the notion that God feels the same way about each of us. In this vast universe, we are each unique individuals that, IMO, God loves. The value of a thing is determined by its rarity. I was amazed at how rare each and every one of us is. We may be earthen vessels to each other, but are we golden vessels to God? Does God see us shining in his eyes, in his kingdom?

 

Well, that's the gist of these two experiences. I really didn't seek them out. I have no idea if there will be others. But one assured me that I am okay with God, and the other reminded me how rare and precious we all are. And those these experiences are mine alone, they lead me to believe that you, too, are floating on the ocean of God and that you are a unique and rare creation. Rejoice!

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Thank you Joseph for your warm welcome!

Yes! That is a loving attitude for sure! Then you are further than I am. I struggle in that area...at least concerning individuals who (genuinely) preach fundamental controlling material. It so rubs me the wrong way that I have trouble keeping my attitude right towards the messenger. Full well knowing that most of these individuals are doing what they genuinely feel is right. I'm still trying to figure out why it bothers me so much. Did you get any insights along your journey? And how did you manage to transition from being disturbed to accepting the situation and the individuals?

Thanks for your input!!!

Well Deborah,

 

My journey took me through 4 years of Bible College through correspondence and through the role of evangelist , prison minister, sunday school supereintendent and fill in pastor. Since i was conditioned to pass on what i was taught i can relate to the predicament that infects the fundamentalist since you could say i was also a propagator of passed down teachings and part of the "herd instinct". When one is blind, it is easy to lead the blind and in doing so, upon awakening by the grace of God, how can one have other than compassion for those still asleep. As Paul is recorded saying in the NT.... " For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?" When one gets that understanding in their heart, it is easy to look beyond the messenger of ignorance. Simply put, it is easy to understand the plight of those who are essentially brain washed by" the story" when you were once also a partaker..

 

Joseph

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I was born in 1948 and I am lucky because my compass was shattered, I guess you can call it baptism if one thinks baptism is an introduction to spirit consciousness. That is when my life started as a leaf blowing in the wind as I went with the flow. As a young idealistic kid I became a monk and was sent to Morrocco to teach meditation and yoga. There really is/was nothing to fear as the Holy Spirit is universal and takes care of us giving us exactly what we need. Muslims, Buddhist, Athiest and especially the common people took me in since I was young and alone, taught me, took care of me and helped me mature opening the doors so I could feel the wind, the spirit flowing through everything and was taught to enjoy the moment that there is nothing to fear. It seems to me that once we get rid of the fear and obstacles occupying our mind everything becomes clear. I don't think we need a compass just a still mind, quiet so we can hear God whispering sweet nothings. The emphasis is nothing.

 

Reading your story makes me aware of my own insecurity and how in fear I still clutch to certain tools (like a compass). I guess not even my fear is a problem for God...but I want to still my mind more, I am constantly thinking, mulling over ideas and concepts. No fear. It's just easier said than done :blink: but practice I shall! I think that is one of the main acquisitions along this journey, to stop being afraid...not just with lip service, but really, actually stop being afraid...perhaps the real deal is an inner journey that is not finished in a giffy! Patience! (Talking to myself here...)

Your story is inspiring...curious to see how mine will develop...

thanks for your input ;)

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Deborah,

I abandoned Christianity at 19 because I thought it unjust and man-made. When I started working I started to see the world in a different way and I felt anger toward Bible God, which in hindsight was probably more anger about feeling deceived all those years and wanting something to be true but knowing that it wasn't. I did feel a little lost because I had grown up in this community of like-minded believers

 

Recognisable!

 

 

I don't think one can 'make themself' feel any better or acclimatized to new beliefs but I do think it's a process that people go through and over time, the means we use to adjust see us through and we come out the other end feeling relatively at ease. I hope that makes sense.

 

Yes it does, thanks. I guess I just have to keep walking. I haven't yet found the ease you talk of, but perhaps there are no short-cuts...just got to face the music.

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Deborah, you asked about my mystical experiences. I've only had 3 of them and one of them I never share publically. These experiences are descriptive of me and my journey, but not prescriptive for anyone else. And they are extremely difficult to put into words so that you could "step into my shoes." Nonetheless, I'll offer them and you can make of them what you will.

 

Well, that's the gist of these two experiences. I really didn't seek them out. I have no idea if there will be others. But one assured me that I am okay with God, and the other reminded me how rare and precious we all are. And those these experiences are mine alone, they lead me to believe that you, too, are floating on the ocean of God and that you are a unique and rare creation. Rejoice!

 

FIrst regarding your earlier post about the nature of God's heart towards us and the nature of hell...I resonate with what you wrote on all of it. Feels nice to find another individual who is pretty much on the same page regarding those themes :) (not that that's a requirement for interesting conversation). But funny how I've missed that. So thanks for having taken the time.

 

And thank you for sharing your personal experiences with me, I managed to 'step into your shoes'. They moved me to tears. I can imagine how they would have felt to you. I know how weird it is to put mystical experiences into words. I recognize the sensation and always struggle to put my own experiences into words...words seem like paper-mache trying to convey reality.

 

It's when I reconnect with the sensation of my experiences with God that my mind stops churning and I feel completely ok, with no fear. Perhaps its a useless endeavor, but I'd like to get my brain to catch up to my heart and spirit. I guess that's why theology and spirituality is so intriguing to me.

Did you manage to find a theology and world-view that closed the gap between your mystical experience and your mind?

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Well Deborah,

 

My journey took me through 4 years of Bible College through correspondence and through the role of evangelist , prison minister, sunday school supereintendent and fill in pastor. Since i was conditioned to pass on what i was taught i can relate to the predicament that infects the fundamentalist since you could say i was also a propagator of passed down teachings and part of the "herd instinct". When one is blind, it is easy to lead the blind and in doing so, upon awakening by the grace of God, how can one have other than compassion for those still asleep. As Paul is recorded saying in the NT.... " For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?" When one gets that understanding in their heart, it is easy to look beyond the messenger of ignorance. Simply put, it is easy to understand the plight of those who are essentially brain washed by" the story" when you were once also a partaker..

 

Joseph

 

Hi Joseph,

You are very gracious, I want to learn from that. I fully get what you are saying. I also am very grateful that God has taken me on this journey...it surely was a gift, and not of my own doing...actually I spent the first few years struggling against it. Yet despite my stubbornness, here I am and glad for it! On difficult days though I'm tempted to get back into the boat where everything was clear cut...but I just don't feel at home there anymore. No use going back. I do have a heart for our fundamentalist brethren though, perhaps that is why it bothers me so much...

Do you think it is a useless effort to try and wake others up? I only ever talk about these things when they come up in a conversation and if there is interest coming from the other person. Most often than not the subject does not surface and if it does people often zone out. It's their perogative and I let it be.

Are you still in touch with fundamentalists? How do you deal with that? Do you feel a desire to wake others up? You've written a book on the subject so you are familiar with the backlash...has that made you stop trying?

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