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JosephM

True Gospel message? (enlightenment from one progressive Christian perspective)

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30 minutes ago, thormas said:

I know one 'element' of Christianity 'won out' and presented their version. But I also recognize that we are not dealing with 'history' in any traditional sense of the word. 

Then what have we been discussing for days!  You say the 'gist' of Jesus is accurate as portrayed by the Gospels - I say there is room for error because a particular element of Christianity won the day and their writings are what eventually became regarded as accurate (or accurate enough).  But even then, what their actual writings were and what the end product we finally received looks like, could be very different things.  For me it is not always enough to say that because the Gospels seem to present a 'gist' of Jesus that they are necessarily accurate of that 'gist'.  But that only becomes a problem (in my opinion) when it causes people to believe what I consider harmful to others.  But that is how things speak to me.  I think you see it similarly, except you put a little more validity to it because it speaks to you or resonates.  Much resonates with me too but I still regard it as a personal thing and not necessarily accurate of Jesus.

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50 minutes ago, PaulS said:

Then what have we been discussing for days!  You say the 'gist' of Jesus is accurate as portrayed by the Gospels - I say there is room for error because a particular element of Christianity won the day and their writings are what eventually became regarded as accurate (or accurate enough).  But even then, what their actual writings were and what the end product we finally received looks like, could be very different things.  For me it is not always enough to say that because the Gospels seem to present a 'gist' of Jesus that they are necessarily accurate of that 'gist'.  But that only becomes a problem (in my opinion) when it causes people to believe what I consider harmful to others.  But that is how things speak to me.  I think you see it similarly, except you put a little more validity to it because it speaks to you or resonates.  Much resonates with me too but I still regard it as a personal thing and not necessarily accurate of Jesus.

Exactly, it is the 'orthodox' version (for example differing from gnosticism or Marcionism versions on issues like secret knowledge or the Jews) but what is consistent in the versions of the 4 gospels is the gist (the essence of who Jesus is and what he does) and actually that same gist is present in some other gospels, for example, the sayings gospel of Thomas. There seem to be differences (again gnosticism) but there is also a consistency on the essence of Jesus. What I argue against is someone who 'sees' or creates a Jesus whose essence is so at odds with the NT gospel, that he supports, approves or justifies the 'sinful' actions of Christians.

Merely because someone 'sees' this, it does not follow that ii is accurate. You seem to think it does and it is. and, as you have demonstrated, people have used their 'versions' to justify the harm they have done throughout the history of Christianity.

 

Edited by thormas

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1 hour ago, thormas said:

Exactly, it is the 'orthodox' version (for example differing from gnosticism or Marcionism versions on issues like secret knowledge or the Jews) but what is consistent in the versions of the 4 gospels is the gist (the essence of who Jesus is and what he does) and actually that same gist is present in some other gospels, for example, the sayings gospel of Thomas. There seem to be differences (again gnosticism) but there is also a consistency on the essence of Jesus. What I argue against is someone who 'sees' or creates a Jesus whose essence is so at odds with the NT gospel, that he supports, approves or justifies the 'sinful' actions of Christians.

Merely because someone 'sees' this, it does not follow that ii is accurate. You seem to think it does and it is. and, as you have demonstrated, people have used their 'versions' to justify the harm they have done throughout the history of Christianity.

The orthodox version which developed from the proto-orthodox version as Erhman would say.  The gist of the 4 x Gospels being relatively consistent is not surprising - that's why they were chosen by those who won the day as the 4 x gospels representing Christianity.  

But what I actually think is that because the 'gist' is somewhat vague (if everyone wrote a paragraph on the gist I am certain there would be differences) and there are elements of the Gospels that are either contradictory or at the very least very open to interpretation, that there is risk in saying that the Gospels are an accurate representation of Jesus.  I agree they are pretty much all we have, but that doesn't mean that haven't excluded an essential view or actiosn of Jesus that could provide some differences in understanding him.  You are content acknowledging elements could be wrong, but in general the Gospels 'speak' to you.  I think there is room for error, irrespective of whether the teachings speak to one or not.  Certainly others come away with a different gist of Jesus - you seem to fail to acknowledge that, but rather simply say they have understood the gist wrongly.  That seems to be denying them the fact that the Gospels speak to them differently.

Further, I don't know that the gist you believe is the same as Jesus' necessarily.  Again, there is room for error because:

a) we're relying on the only versions we have, but we do know there were alternate or various other voices drowned out in the decades following Jesus

b) we don't know and can't validate the accuracy of the original authors of the gospel or the writings.  We might be able to make an educated guess, but it's not 100% (which you acknowledge), but this does create room for error (e.g. should I believe one must accept Jesus to get to God, can I have a hissy fit and attack a legal business if I think it goes against what God wants, etc).

c) who knows how any originals were amended or tampered with over the extensive decades between their alleged penning and the oldest actual copies we have.

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Actually, the essence (i.e. gist) of Jesus is not vague at all for most Christians or many other human beings.

The paragraphs would capture the essence of Jesus; what they wouldn't contain is the interpretations of a Jesus, that you suggest are valid, whose actions and teachings provide approval for the harms you listed many posts ago. The Good Samaritan, the Prodigal Son, The Beatitudes, the Lord's Prayer, the healings and the Cross - are much more familiar than your fig tree, praying in the closet or even the Temple cleansing and - reveal the gist/essence of Jesus.

Of course there are contradictory elements, including what Sanders calls pericopes that are placed in different places by the writers for theological purposes and of course there are writings that need further explanation, including the aid of scholarly research (like the fig tree, the closet, the family and the cleansing) but ...........the essence of Jesus is consistent throughout. Whether he is portrayed as the Beloved Son at his Baptism or this is pushed back to the eternal Word present before creation; whether he is the secretive Messiah of Mark, the new Moses of Matthew or the exalted Lord of John - the essence remains.

 

Edited by thormas

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1 hour ago, thormas said:

Actually, the essence (i.e. gist) of Jesus is not vague at all for most Christians or many other human beings.

The paragraphs would capture the essence of Jesus; what they wouldn't contain is the interpretations of a Jesus, that you suggest are valid, whose actions and teachings provide approval for the harms you listed many posts ago. The Good Samaritan, the Prodigal Son, The Beatitudes, the Lord's Prayer, the healings and the Cross - are much more familiar than your fig tree, praying in the closet or even the Temple cleansing and - reveal the gist/essence of Jesus.

Of course there are contradictory elements, including what Sanders calls pericopes that are placed in different places by the writers for theological purposes and of course there are writings that need further explanation, including the aid of scholarly research (like the fig tree, the closet, the family and the cleansing) but ...........the essence of Jesus is consistent throughout. Whether he is portrayed as the Beloved Son at his Baptism or this is pushed back to the eternal Word present before creation; whether he is the secretive Messiah of Mark, the new Moses of Matthew or the exalted Lord of John - the essence remains.

 

Rather than vague I should say 'open to interpretation'.

I know you want to focus on the 'good' Jesus stuff (as outlined above) but just because the other aren't as familiar doesn't discount them or indeed acknowledge that they do confuse the image of Jesus at the very least, to some degree.

It seems this 'essence' you refer to is determined because of some stories but not all.

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9 hours ago, PaulS said:

Rather than vague I should say 'open to interpretation'.

I know you want to focus on the 'good' Jesus stuff (as outlined above) but just because the other aren't as familiar doesn't discount them or indeed acknowledge that they do confuse the image of Jesus at the very least, to some degree.

It seems this 'essence' you refer to is determined because of some stories but not all.

Not vague yet 'open to reading into the gospels what is not there.' As mentioned, certain verses and stories might need scholarly interpretation/assistance. If there is confusion, even questions like, "what the hell are these about?" - we go to the scholars, the professionals: the Temple acting out a parable, a highly symbolic act done in a very small section of a 25 football field sized Temple grounds that didn't even rise to the level of Jesus being arrested; the closet actually being a comment on public praying for show (ala the hypocrites, which still takes place today) vs. private or simply sincere prayer preached and practiced by Jesus himself; and so on.

The stories, listed above, go to the essence of Jesus that is consistent throughout the gospels. Many people might also know the other stories, even have question about them, but they don't leap to your conclusion: a Jesus whose words and actions give approval for the harm done throughout Christian history. Most don't conclude, "Hey, Jesus cursed a fig tree and turned tables over in the Temple so I have the green light to attack and bomb a building in which abortions take place and if anybody is hurt - burned, blown up or killed, I'm still right with Jesus." Rather, most Christians, even with much smaller 'sins' would say, "I have failed to act as my Christ in the world."

Such is not merely mis-interpretation: this is an inability to read what is 'there' or, if confused, a refusal to seek assistance in understanding passages that might not be readily understandable or, sadly, reading into the gospels for the justification they so need and desire.

So, no one is discounting anything; there is no problem with acknowledging confusion over certain passages and all the stories play a part and do get to the essence of Jesus (simply as in all lives, some stories speak more powerfully or are simply more familiar and remembered).

What is discounted are 'interpretations' that, in spite  of all the gospel stories presented, settle on 1 or 2 for justification for their own bad actions.

 

Edited by thormas

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7 hours ago, thormas said:

The stories, listed above, go to the essence of Jesus that is consistent throughout the gospels. Many people might also know the other stories, even have question about them, but they don't leap to your conclusion: a Jesus whose words and actions give approval for the harm done throughout Christian history. Most don't conclude, "Hey, Jesus cursed a fig tree and turned tables over in the Temple so I have the green light to attack and bomb a building in which abortions take place and if anybody is hurt - burned, blown up or killed, I'm still right with Jesus." Rather, most Christians, even with much smaller 'sins' would say, "I have failed to act as my Christ in the world."

The only conclusion I am 'leaping' to is that many people throughout history have different takes on how they think Jesus would want them to act and they have arrived at this position with the help of the Gospels.  The Gospels simply do NOT provide a one, unmistakable, unwavering, indisputable, inarguable, Jesus. 

7 hours ago, thormas said:

So, no one is discounting anything; there is no problem with acknowledging confusion over certain passages and all the stories play a part and do get to the essence of Jesus (simply as in all lives, some stories speak more powerfully or are simply more familiar and remembered).

This 'confusion' HAS resulted in some Christians viewing Jesus differently to you.  History shows us that.  Whether that is a wrong interpretation or not is irrelevant.  I am saying the Gospels give people leeway to come to some different conclusions.  You seem to agree but then simply say "they are wrong".

7 hours ago, thormas said:

What is discounted are 'interpretations' that, in spite  of all the gospel stories presented, settle on 1 or 2 for justification for their own bad actions.

I don't think they are discounted but I think people are people and we all view things through the lense of our own knowledge, experience, cultural and social situation, etc. I think history has demonstrated there have been those who might think of Jesus as love but they also think of Jesus as approving of them fighting to 'protect' Jesus.  Much of this probably comes from the rest of the NT outside of the Gospels, but to me, to say the Gospels provide a single, irrefutable way to understand and know Jesus, is just too simple.

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Of course people have different takes as do the gospel writers (previous post) - however you have been talking about an 'interpretation or a take' that posits a Jesus who approves the horrible actions of Christians in their history. This is an 'interpretation' that rationalizes or seeks blessings for bad acts; this Jesus is not found in the gospels. Even your areas of concern are easily answered by experts if one is serious and concerned enough to seek answers rather than excuses.

However, now you admit it might indeed be a wrong interpretation (two steps forward)...........but it is irrelevant (four steps back). Of course it's not irrelevant: people have died because of these 'wrong interpretations' which have no basis in the text. 

We view things through our lens and if we want to talk culpability (a different subject) we can, but a Jesus who approves violence does not exist within the pages, regardless of the lens. 

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Let us move on to the larger texts of the NT if you are so inclined or even the idea of culpability. Or, simply let us drop this topic and move to a new topic now or a bit later - as this discussion has run its course.

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19 hours ago, thormas said:

.... this discussion has run its course.

Agreed.  

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On 9/15/2018 at 3:53 AM, Skye said:

I am choosing to believe what is written in the bible, instead of commentary and philosophical musings. Things that we might find unacceptable might be necessary for reasons we do not comprehend.

.....

Some of what is written might not be true, but overall if I choose to believe it all and there is x% untrue, it still might be a higher percentage of overall truth than if I start deciding according to my own logic what is truth or not. 

 

This is the view on Christian scripture that would make the most sense to me, if I chose to commit to Christianity again. I would be a "practical fundamentalist", I would rely on the Bible, not because I believe it to be infallible, but because it's the option that makes the most pragmatic sense.

 

By now, I have seen what the alternative is, in practice the alternative is leaving a vacuum in place and that vacuum then gets filled by something else, such as secular humanism, scientific world view, eastern religious philosophy etc. In theory, being open-minded and leaving things open is great but in reality, especially in communities (any setting where there are more than 1 person sharing the belief system), such vacuums have a tendency of getting filled pretty quickly.

Edited by Jack of Spades

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9 hours ago, Jack of Spades said:

 

This is the view on Christian scripture that would make the most sense to me, if I chose to commit to Christianity again. I would be a "practical fundamentalist", I would rely on the Bible, not because I believe it to be infallible, but because it's the option that makes the most pragmatic sense.

By now, I have seen what the alternative is, in practice the alternative is leaving a vacuum in place and that vacuum then gets filled by something else, such as secular humanism, scientific world view, eastern religious philosophy etc. In theory, being open-minded and leaving things open is great but in reality, especially in communities (any setting where there are more than 1 person sharing the belief system), such vacuums have a tendency of getting filled pretty quickly.

Jack,

Just out of curiosity:

what do you mean by "the option that makes the most pragmatic sense" and in what way?

what is your view of God that would go hand and hand with a practical fundamentalism?

are you saying these (secular humanism and the others) are the only alternative to such fundamentalism? how about progressive Christianities?

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2 hours ago, thormas said:

what do you mean by "the option that makes the most pragmatic sense" and in what way?

what is your view of God that would go hand and hand with a practical fundamentalism?

 

I was agreeing with what Skye said. Enough of the stuff in the Bible resonates with my spiritual experience to think that I could at least imagine accepting the idea of considering the Bible to be the best available authority on matters of faith.

 

2 hours ago, thormas said:

are you saying these (secular humanism and the others) are the only alternative to such fundamentalism?

 

I think if you read the sentence again, you'll find the answer. I used in the same sentence two expressions suggesting otherwise "such as" and "etc."

 

2 hours ago, thormas said:

how about progressive Christianities?

 

I feel trapped by the question. This is a progressive-Christian friendly forum, so it would be disrespectful of me to post my list of anti-PC thesis here.

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1 hour ago, Jack of Spades said:

I was agreeing with what Skye said. Enough of the stuff in the Bible resonates with my spiritual experience to think that I could at least imagine accepting the idea of considering the Bible to be the best available authority on matters of faith.

I think if you read the sentence again, you'll find the answer. I used in the same sentence two expressions suggesting otherwise "such as" and "etc."

I feel trapped by the question. This is a progressive-Christian friendly forum, so it would be disrespectful of me to post my list of anti-PC thesis here.

Actually, when I was asking about the alternates I was wondering about your take on PC as an alternative. 

I think there are a variety of beliefs on this site, so you should feel free to offer your perspective on PC

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1 hour ago, thormas said:

Actually, when I was asking about the alternates I was wondering about your take on PC as an alternative. 

I think there are a variety of beliefs on this site, so you should feel free to offer your perspective on PC

 

Well first of all there seems to be no universal definition for PC so it's impossible to comment on it as a whole, but if we are talking about Sponge's version of PC, personally my core beliefs include theism and active supernatural so I can't really identify with a movement that considers theism and supernatural to be outdated concepts. To me Sponge's etc. religion is just secular humanism wrapped in Christian rhetoric. Not saying it's bad, there are far worse ideologies, but not my cup of tea.

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32 minutes ago, Jack of Spades said:

Well first of all there seems to be no universal definition for PC so it's impossible to comment on it as a whole, but if we are talking about Sponge's version of PC, personally my core beliefs include theism and active supernatural so I can't really identify with a movement that considers theism and supernatural to be outdated concepts. To me Sponge's etc. religion is just secular humanism wrapped in Christian rhetoric. Not saying it's bad, there are far worse ideologies, but not my cup of tea.

Fair enough. I think Spong's is more than secular humanism but he does move aways from traditional theism.

I like John Macquarie's idea of Dialectical Theism which he prefers to panentheism (but it is similar). I have always liked the idea that the traditional theistic concept of God is too small for the Reality (so to speak) of God. I have just found that some traditional theistic or fundamentalistic ideas are too static for me but I agree with an 'active' God although not understood in traditional supernatural terms.

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22 hours ago, thormas said:

Fair enough. I think Spong's is more than secular humanism but he does move aways from traditional theism.

 

It could be that labeling him a secular humanist is not accurate. 

 

My personal spiritual experience is so strongly theistic that I guess I lost interest in trying to understand Sponge in depth at the point when I had become convinced that he's not a theist. I watched some interviews and I think he had insightful criticism of Christianity, but I didn't really share the direction where he was going. If I dig deeper into what Sponge and his kind exactly means in nuances, that would be for educational purposes only, but not something I'm personally out to embrace. I'm personally going into the opposite direction.

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16 hours ago, Jack of Spades said:

My personal spiritual experience is so strongly theistic that I guess I lost interest in trying to understand Sponge in depth at the point when I had become convinced that he's not a theist. I watched some interviews and I think he had insightful criticism of Christianity, but I didn't really share the direction where he was going. If I dig deeper into what Sponge and his kind exactly means in nuances, that would be for educational purposes only, but not something I'm personally out to embrace. I'm personally going into the opposite direction.

If theism means or suggest a separate world in which God dwells and from which he intervenes in ours, then I am not a theist. If God is conceived of as a being, albeit a Supreme Being then I am not a theist.

If theism is panentheism (the world in God, ala Paul) then I'm all in. In such a view God is not necessary for salvation, God is necessary for man to become Human (thus he becomes Whole or is Healed or ...........is 'Saved"). God is not 'a being' but Being in whom we live, move and have our being. For me, for many, traditional theism is too small, too limited to embrace the Reality that is God.

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