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DavidD

"approach" Or "way"

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I don't know anything of how, "I am the way, the truth and the life," sounds in Greek, what ideas it came from or how it sounded to those in the first century. I just know how it sounds to me. It sounds secure. It reminds me of the narrow way being better than the broad way. "This is the way," sounds like someone has been there before.

 

"Approach" sounds less sure. "Approach" is like landing an airplane, where one has to be constantly on guard for wind shifts. It might be the right way. It might be a dead end. It might be disasterous.

 

I have found that flexibility in coming to God is important. There is no theology that substitutes for a living God. There is no historical figure that can do that, either. I don't think that God living in us is meant to be an abstraction. But how does one get there?

 

All religions give prescriptions for this. All are flawed, include Christianity, which one can confirm by looking at those who follow such prescriptions. I don't think a warning about that needs to be given in every sentence. Their ways are not worthless, but there is more to it than following a path, where God is like some statue at the end. I don't know what the best image is. Is it a courtship? Is it a spiritual awakening, but one where my beloved awakens me, with a shake, with a kiss, with some desperate alarm? Whatever it is, I'm not alone in it. God is with me in it. I'm not sure how, but I like the aspect of Christianity that has me following someone who went before. Whether He is Lord, brother, my friend Jesus, even my son as any person in need is my son, that is a matter of personal preference.

 

Knowing all that, is it so hard just to see Jesus as someone I follow to God, to the cross in some sense, too? Some of that might be lost in using "approach".

 

Of course the obvious reason to use "approach" is to deny that Christianity is the only way to God. OK, so there are others. Is Christianity worth following or not? If it's only one approach, if maybe it's worthwhile, but maybe not, why go this way? I'm not sure how someone who can't say "way", whether that's "a way", "the way" or "the one and only way" can paint a picture that makes me want to try that way.

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DavidD,

 

Thanks for your post, which I enjoyed reading, especially the way you weaved it around the two words "approach" and "way". Words are very powerful to me, and like you, they "suggest" different emotive responses.

 

"Approach"................perhaps I'll give it a go and see what happens?

 

"Way".................this is it, I'm going to give it everything!

 

You say the "way" makes it sound like someone has been there before, makes you feel more secure. In my own Pure Land Buddhist path ("way"!) Amida, the Buddha of infinite light and infinite compassion, has "walked the path before me" through ten kalpas of time...........not quite infinite but quite a long time! Amida is seen as both a personification of "tranquil nirvana" and as the source of boundless activities of salvation, working in infinite ways to bring each to the realization of enlightenment.( "Realization" rather than any "attainment". Enlightenment is "gift", "bestowed" not "earned".)

 

Anyway, your post did remind me of a poem written by the Christian Trappist monk Thomas Merton. His words to me express various things that unite the Christian and Buddhist path..............

 

"In one sense we are always travelling,

Travelling as if we did not know where we were going.

In another sense we have already arrived.

We cannot arrive at the perfect possession of God in this life:

That is why we are travelling and in darkness.

But we already possess God by grace.

Therefore, in that sense, we have arrived and

Are dwelling in the light.

But oh! How far have I to go to find You

In Whom I have already arrived"

 

Merton also speaks of "waiting to be healed", safe in the thought that even in our "unenlighened/unsaved/sinful" state, God yet choses to dwell within us.....and does so, fully. We need only the eyes to see.............or as Pure Landers would say, reach the state of "no-calculation" where "no working is true working".

 

Anyway, thanks again for your post.

 

:)

Edited by tariki

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I don't know what to think of it, but Spong talks about the I AM as sort of a pun (I don't think he used that word) of "I AM" as God, ie the Great I AM. So when "Jesus" (ie the John writer) says "I AM the way" he is talking about God and not Jesus. There are all sorts of references to the I AM. So I think it is interesting.

 

--des

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It seems the idea of Jesus saying "I am the way, the truth, and the light" is something the writer put into Jesus' mouth.

 

I like to think of it as Jesus saying "follow me, this is how you go." Rather than Jesus being *the* way. I see Jesus as showing the way (equality for all humankind) rather than being the way as Christianity as traditionally seen him.

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I don't know anything of how, "I am the way, the truth and the life," sounds in Greek, what ideas it came from or how it sounded to those in the first century. I just know how it sounds to me. It sounds secure. It reminds me of the narrow way being better than the broad way. "This is the way," sounds like someone has been there before.

 

"Approach" sounds less sure. "Approach" is like landing an airplane, where one has to be constantly on guard for wind shifts. It might be the right way. It might be a dead end. It might be disasterous.

 

I have found that flexibility in coming to God is important. There is no theology that substitutes for a living God. There is no historical figure that can do that, either. I don't think that God living in us is meant to be an abstraction. But how does one get there?

 

All religions give prescriptions for this. All are flawed, include Christianity, which one can confirm by looking at those who follow such prescriptions. I don't think a warning about that needs to be given in every sentence. Their ways are not worthless, but there is more to it than following a path, where God is like some statue at the end. I don't know what the best image is. Is it a courtship? Is it a spiritual awakening, but one where my beloved awakens me, with a shake, with a kiss, with some desperate alarm? Whatever it is, I'm not alone in it. God is with me in it. I'm not sure how, but I like the aspect of Christianity that has me following someone who went before. Whether He is Lord, brother, my friend Jesus, even my son as any person in need is my son, that is a matter of personal preference.

 

Knowing all that, is it so hard just to see Jesus as someone I follow to God, to the cross in some sense, too? Some of that might be lost in using "approach".

 

Of course the obvious reason to use "approach" is to deny that Christianity is the only way to God. OK, so there are others. Is Christianity worth following or not? If it's only one approach, if maybe it's worthwhile, but maybe not, why go this way? I'm not sure how someone who can't say "way", whether that's "a way", "the way" or "the one and only way" can paint a picture that makes me want to try that way.

The early followers of Jesus spoke of being followers of "the way", i.e., the way of Jesus. To me, following in the way of Jesus means following his example, his priorioties, his compassion and his single-minded devotion to his "Abba". Interestingly, he never said a word about homosexuality or gay marriage, never spoke of himself as "savior", never spoke of a prosperity gospel, never spoke of excluding those who came to him, and even sought out those who were excluded. He never said anything about starting a church, either!

He did say a lot about the kingdom, which is all-inclusive, unconditionally, radically, welcoming, and embodies love and justice. His way was also the way to the cross or the way of the cross, which I believe means a whole lot different for some than for others. I believe it meant to risk and to be faithful to one's call to serve and to love, which is never easy. For Jesus, it meant being faithful to this vision of the Kingdom, no matter how dangerous it was, no matter who he pissed off, no matter that it led to his death. He could have said, "Uh, gee, guys! I've kinda got other plans for the weekend." Instead, he went to Jerusalem knowing the likely outcome if he remained faithful to his vision and his message; his "Way".

 

And, there are many who do not observe Christian practices as such, do not worhip in Christian churches or communities, and do not even know of Jesus, but are nonetheless followers of his 'way' in that they practice compassion, seek to relieve suffering, and seek justice of those who are denied it. They are not Christians by their own definition, nor are they to be 'baptised' for their parallel paths, but they were certainly following the same way as Jesus. Witness Marcus Borg's Jesus and Buddha: the Parallel Sayings, and Thich Nhat Hanh's Living Buddha, Living Christ for example.

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Looking at the first study question for point one, it is interesting to me that the word "approach" is used and not "relationship." I think that says a lot. Perhaps "relationship" would be considered an evangelical trait?

 

To me, one of the central characteristics of Christianity, was that God wants us to be in relationship with Him/Her, that we need that connection in order to give to others. However, I can see how emphasizing this aspect could appear to some as claiming power instead of sharing. And one thing I've become more aware of, is that when public officials declare a personal relationship with God or Jesus, they're usually the ones with a sense of entitlement, an imperialist attitude toward the world. The least I can do is try not to align my voice with that stance.

 

Not sure if I'm making sense. Hopefully not stepping on anyone's toes.

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That last post didn't come out quite as I meant...trying to talk myself out of needing a personal connection to God. Truth is, I do need it. The word approach seems to imply something more tentative or sporadic, as Tariki noted. However the Progressive wording includes the term "experience of God" which pretty much covers relationship.

 

 

It's a bit distressing to see that this website is not safe from trolls & spamming. Maybe the moderator is on vacation.

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Hi Rivanna.

 

I think the word "relationship" is a good one. The earliest meaning of "relate" is to "bring back" or to "restore" or "to connect."

 

All of these meanings, I think, are appropriate and true.

 

We live a life that is disconnected from God. To "relate" to God, is to reconnect to God.

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Thank you, Kay.

 

Enjoyed looking at Neosnoia-- do you contribute to it? Also some good links there.

Didn't know Brian McLaren had a website. I've seen some of his writing and really admired it.

Edited by rivanna

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Hi Rivanna. Neosnoia is my blog.

 

I was looking for a relatively unique domain name. "Neos-noia" is a made up word that means "new mind."

 

I'm glad you liked it. It's still under construction to some degree. It took me forever to decide on a template that is easy to read. :)

Edited by Kay

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Guest Michaeljc4

What's amazing to me is that we can hardly tease out what Jesus actually said in the Gospels, let alone take each and every syllable as some kind of inerrant truth (as so many folks try to do). I'm hardly an expert, but didn't Mathew put a lot of words into Jesus' mouth, things from the Old Testament? And John is completely different from the three synoptic Gospels...do we really think that Jesus had a conversation with Pilate? It makes for a great story, but is it likely to have actually happened? From what I understand, Mark is the closest to what Jesus may have actually said, but until we find a copy of the Q document (which is lost, so far as I understand it), we won't ever really know what Jesus said, let alone meant, let alone intended for his followers to do.

 

If I am out of my mind or way off base, someone please tell me. This is a fabulous website, by the way. Happy to have found it. :)

 

MJCIV

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I'm not an inerrantist, but I do choose to look at the words of Jesus in the Gospels as what Jesus actually said. There isn't anything that is attributed to him that I don't find amazing (and is actually why I'm Chrisitian). :)

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Kay, the only problem with that, imo, is that some of the stuff, has Jesus saying opposite things. For instance, Jesus says "Don't call me good. No one is good but God". Or he says "I am the way...", etc.

And there are points, where Jesus seems a problematic figure, calling people snakes, etc.

(I can understand about frustration, but why would my frustration with bureaucracy which I face

everyday be somehow petty and sinful while Jesus' is noble and so forth??)

 

I am still inclined to think that the best of what was said was really said or close enough anyway.

Certainly there is Truth there. To me that's enough. I don't think we are mostly getting exact quotes, even considering translations from various languages.

 

--des

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Certainly there is Truth there. To me that's enough.

--des

 

 

I think that is a good way to explain it. And I agree. One of my first moves from Conservativism to Progressivism was recognizing that All Truth is God's Truth, regardless of the source.

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Kay, the only problem with that, imo, is that some of the stuff, has Jesus saying opposite things. For instance, Jesus says "Don't call me good. No one is good but God". Or he says "I am the way...", etc.

 

Are you saying that some of Jesus' words (as attributed to him in the gospels) contradict each other? If so, I don't necessarily disagree. I just choose to look at the contradiction and see if there is some paradoxical truth or tension going on (that might be considered contradiction at first glance).

 

And there are points, where Jesus seems a problematic figure, calling people snakes, etc.

(I can understand about frustration, but why would my frustration with bureaucracy which I face

everyday be somehow petty and sinful while Jesus' is noble and so forth??)

 

I don't think Jesus would have considered your frustration to be petty or sinful. Jesus got angry and frustrated at injustice and hypocrisy. Much of the "meek and mild" Jesus, imo, is our cultural bias being read into an Ancient Near East text. Plus I think many of Jesus sayings have been misuderstood. For example, the "turn the other cheek" situation. Have you ever read Tony Campolo's take on that? Very interesting.

 

I am still inclined to think that the best of what was said was really said or close enough anyway.

Certainly there is Truth there. To me that's enough. I don't think we are mostly getting exact quotes, even considering translations from various languages.

 

And I agree.

 

Like I said, I'm not an inerrantist. But what I don't do is look at the Gospels and say "Well, we think this has been added later (a redaction), and so has this, so lets 'take these out.' Plus this is a miracle, so we'll ignore this part too." I don't discard any of it. I look for the truth in it. That's all I meant. :)

Edited by Kay

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>Are you saying that some of Jesus' words (as attributed to him in the gospels) contradict each other? If so, I don't necessarily disagree. I just choose to look at the contradiction and see if there is some paradoxical truth or tension going on (that might be considered contradiction at first glance).

 

I'm sure there is some paradoxical tension going on, as I don't think the Ancient Jews were quite as

dualistic as we are today. So it may have been paradoxical in some way (for instance the example I gave).

OTOH, I consider the first three Gospels as more what happened or at least our take on what happened and John as more interpretative, not necessarily a bad thing though. I just have a hard time with some of John's attributions to Jesus.

 

 

>I don't think Jesus would have considered your frustration to be petty or sinful. Jesus got angry and frustrated at injustice and hypocrisy.

 

 

Oh that's nice to know. No sometimes they aren't. I get angry, for instance, when I can't teach because

there is so much bureaucratic b.s.. I would guess that putting people first, though not worded like that, is

an important scriptural message. Whenever it was a choice between healing someone, say, and rules of the Shabat, he took people.

 

> Much of the "meek and mild" Jesus, imo, is our cultural bias being read into an Ancient Near East text. Plus I think many of Jesus sayings have been misuderstood. For example, the "turn the other cheek" situation. Have you ever read Tony Campolo's take on that? Very interesting.

 

I haven't read Tony Campolo (I mean aside from the webpage). Yes, I think the meek and mild Jesus is almost an affront.

 

>I don't think we are mostly getting exact quotes, even considering translations from various languages.

 

 

>And I agree.

 

>Like I said, I'm not an inerrantist. But what I don't do is look at the Gospels and say "Well, we think this has been added later (a redaction), and so has this, so lets 'take these out.' Plus this is a miracle, so we'll ignore this part too." I don't discard any of it. I look for the truth in it. That's all I meant

 

Ok. I don't think it should be out either. But understood in context, however you do that. :-)

I kind of wish Revelations hadn't made the cut, due to current wierdnesses. (It almost didn't.) But that's not

the gospel, anyway.

 

 

--des

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I believe that Jesus gives permission to all his followers to put words in his mouth. There are some biblical verses I could point out here but that would take some time to look up. This was done a lot in the first 200 years before the Bible became fixed.

 

The Jesus Seminar has made it abundantly clear that most scholars believe many of the words of Jesus found in The Bible and in the other ancient writings are definitely words put in his mouth.

 

I believe that is one of the best things about our great wisdom tradition. It si flexible and innovative and changing and growing.

 

Are there contradictions? Of course there are. We are only human and we make errors frequently. We need correction after correction after correction as we evolve.

 

Jesus is definitely a real person with a real history. As The Christ, he is identified with an archetype which is dynamic and beyond our limited human knowledge. We lack the words to adequately describe the archetype of The Messiah. We try. We sometimes say some very wise words and sometimes say some very foolish words. We must keep evolving, keep progressing, keep trying to understand The Christ who is intimately and intricately and miraculously available to us and infinitely and mysteriously beyond us.

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Focusing on the discussion raised about the vocabulary in Point 1, I would definitely go with "way" as opposed to "approach". One huge reason is it links to the original vocabulary, as pointed out earlier in another post. Early believers followed "The Way".

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An approach to God through the life and teachings of Jesus seems to me to be a narrow one. Basing a religion on the teachings of one man is practiced by Islam and the Mormons. I would not be part of either religion because their focus to too narrow and one man's view can be highly prejudicial. In addition the historical validity of the life of Jesus as expressed in the Gospels is under attack by Bible Scholars, especially those of Robert Funk and the Jesus seminar who proclaim that they are 84% fictive. Many other Bible scholars are slowly debunking the Historical validity of the Gospels. Furthermore, Tom Harpur, Rhodes scholar and former Anglican priest claims that the teachings of Jesus come from Pagan sources. This does not prove that Jesus never existed but it does raise the possibility much of what Jesus said and did is attributed to him rather than being his personal acts and sayings.

 

What if we take the saying "I am the way and the light" and write it "I (Bold Italic) am the way and the light."?

What if Jesus was not referring to himself but to the God I (Bold Italic)? I use the bold italic to distinguish it from I the individual.

 

Is there such a concept as the God I (bold Italic)?

 

Lets look at some of the I Am sayings of Jesus. If I knew how to use it I would put the Bold Italic font on I and Me for these sayings.

 

I am the light that is over all things. I am all: All came forth from Me and all attained to Me. Split a piece of wood and I am there. Pick up a stone and you will find Me there. (Gospel of Thomas saying 75)

 

In this case, Jesus could not possibly be referring to himself as he gets into places he can't fit.

 

Some other sayings include

 

I am the light that is over all things. I am all: from Me all came forth, and to Me all attained. (Gospel of Thomas, saying 77)

 

I am with you always, to the very end of the age. (Matthew 28:20) Here Jesus could not possibly be referring to himself because he was with us for a short time. The God I is with us always.

 

I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. (Mark 12:26)

 

I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me will never go hungry, and he who believes in Me will never be thirsty. (John 6:35)

 

I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. (John 8:12)

 

I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)

 

The early Gnostic Christians knew what was meant by the God I. When I began to study Hebrew I discovered that the God I is much more visible than what you see in the translated versions. Shouldn't we be looking at the God I as an approach to Christianity?

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Bob d, you point about the I AMs in John is similar to what Spong says. He says that the term "I AM" is used for God in parts of the Hebrew scriptures. Therefore, perhaps, Jesus was talking about God, not himself.

It resonates for me. It certainly makes more sense. (IMO, anyway).

 

--des

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