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Common Sense Christianity


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This book was written in 1989 by a progressive Christian from a Methodist background. The book is available for FREE here:

 

http://www.religion-online.org/showbook.asp?title=3145

 

Would anyone here be interested in going through this book, discussing and critiquing it?

 

bill

 

"C. Randolph Ross has a degree in analytic philosophy ...". Many, many times I have quoted major figures from analytic philosophy on these threads, with very little success. I'd be interested IF the discussion is not diverted.

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"C. Randolph Ross has a degree in analytic philosophy ...". Many, many times I have quoted major figures from analytic philosophy on these threads, with very little success. I'd be interested IF the discussion is not diverted.

 

I have no options for moderation here, Minsocal, so I can't guarantee no diversions. :(

 

However, for those interested in discussing this book, I'd suggest reading the first two chapters. Randy lets us know right up front where he is coming from. If these two chapters seem too "unbiblical" or too "liberal" for some folks here on the forum, these folks would probably not enjoy the discussion.

 

My desire in discussing it is not to make the book into some kind of new sacred scripture, just to consider what the author says, compare it to our own journeys and concepts, and to see what may help or what may hinder us. A discussion doesn't mean that we have to agree, but we should be respectful and agreeable in our disagreements.

 

So let's see if at least one other person is interested and, if so, we can begin.

 

Thanks for your interest.

 

bill

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I have no options for moderation here, Minsocal, so I can't guarantee no diversions. :(

 

However, for those interested in discussing this book, I'd suggest reading the first two chapters. Randy lets us know right up front where he is coming from. If these two chapters seem too "unbiblical" or too "liberal" for some folks here on the forum, these folks would probably not enjoy the discussion.

 

My desire in discussing it is not to make the book into some kind of new sacred scripture, just to consider what the author says, compare it to our own journeys and concepts, and to see what may help or what may hinder us. A discussion doesn't mean that we have to agree, but we should be respectful and agreeable in our disagreements.

 

So let's see if at least one other person is interested and, if so, we can begin.

 

Thanks for your interest.

 

bill

 

OK, let's take a trial run here. From the Introduction:

 

"By "common sense" I mean the shared world-view, or basic assumptions, with which we approach and understand our universe. I mean a common sense as to how this universe works."

 

This is what Edmund Husserl called "the natural attitude". A background against which we test our version of reality. Jung called it the collective (shared) unconscious. John Searle, a major figure in analytic philosophy, calls it (you guessed it), the (shared) Background.

 

What does science add? It now seems clear that the human mind is NOT a blank slate. Now, what I have been saying over and over again is this. What is "written" in our genetic code produces tendencies that can be evaluated as 'good' or 'evil', but nothing in our genetic code is inherently 'good' or 'evil'. Valuation is a very tricky subject. Darwin got it right.

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It now seems clear that the human mind is NOT a blank slate. What is "written" in our genetic code produces tendencies that can be evaluated as 'good' or 'evil', but nothing in our genetic code is inherently 'good' or 'evil'.

 

Coming from a fundamentalist background, Minsocal, I'm not familiar with the other philosophers you've mentioned. I've heard of Jung, of course, but have not studied him. Probably something I need to do.

 

What Ross is alluding to is that, due to a number of things (culture, religion, upbringing, advances in science, and, yes, probably genetics), we don't have the same common sense that the writers of the scripture had. Nor do we have the same common sense that the council of Nicea had. Unlike the writers of the scriptures, we don't see ourselves living in a three-tiered universe on a flat earth with God just beyond the stars and clouds. Nor do we, as moderns, see angels behind every church and demons behind every bush. When we ourselves or our children are sick, we don't usually try to have demons cast out. Most of us don't attribute the weather to the hand of God. Our common sense has changed through time. So what Ross is saying is that we cannot simply "import" the "common sense" of the scriptures into our modern worldview. It needs to be "translated."

 

Now, as to the blank slate, I would agree, we don't come into this world with an empty harddrive. It seems to me that millions of years of evolution have left alot of stuff deep in our psyche. To me, one of the blessings and curses of this is that we DO have the capability to choose good or evil. While we may have some information imbedded in a hidden folder of our consciousness, we have not, as the apostle Paul seems to claim, been programmed to do nothing but evil. I don't believe we have a "sinful nature" (as the NIV calls it) that CAUSES us to do evil things against our will. But makes a big deal about this, but I don't find his arguments convincing. We CAN choose.

 

So, IMO, Ross is saying that we cannot simply assume the common sense of people 2000 years ago and try to force it to work today. This is what the fundamentalists do. They assume that because the Bible is "God's words", then things in the Bible have an "eternal aspect" with little reference to the culture or context in which the Bible is written. The direction that Ross is going is this: the Christian scriptures DO NOT have the same common sense framework that we have today. Should we therefore throw them out? Or should we, using the best tools we have, attempt to extract some of the "timeless" truths from the scriptures and employ them today? Can we do that? Some would say no. That would say that, when it comes to the Bible, we must turn our reason off and operate solely on faith. Others, me among them, would say that if we are going to call ourselves Christians, then we NEED to do this, we need to be discerning and translate some of the truth found in the ancients into our time. And others, of course, say that we have outgrown ALL of these ancient truths, that because these truths were formulated with a paradigm that we can no longer accept, we throw the baby out with the bathwater.

 

Any thoughts on this?

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Coming from a fundamentalist background, Minsocal, I'm not familiar with the other philosophers you've mentioned. I've heard of Jung, of course, but have not studied him. Probably something I need to do.

 

What Ross is alluding to is that, due to a number of things (culture, religion, upbringing, advances in science, and, yes, probably genetics), we don't have the same common sense that the writers of the scripture had. Nor do we have the same common sense that the council of Nicea had. Unlike the writers of the scriptures, we don't see ourselves living in a three-tiered universe on a flat earth with God just beyond the stars and clouds. Nor do we, as moderns, see angels behind every church and demons behind every bush. When we ourselves or our children are sick, we don't usually try to have demons cast out. Most of us don't attribute the weather to the hand of God. Our common sense has changed through time. So what Ross is saying is that we cannot simply "import" the "common sense" of the scriptures into our modern worldview. It needs to be "translated."

 

Now, as to the blank slate, I would agree, we don't come into this world with an empty harddrive. It seems to me that millions of years of evolution have left alot of stuff deep in our psyche. To me, one of the blessings and curses of this is that we DO have the capability to choose good or evil. While we may have some information imbedded in a hidden folder of our consciousness, we have not, as the apostle Paul seems to claim, been programmed to do nothing but evil. I don't believe we have a "sinful nature" (as the NIV calls it) that CAUSES us to do evil things against our will. But makes a big deal about this, but I don't find his arguments convincing. We CAN choose.

 

So, IMO, Ross is saying that we cannot simply assume the common sense of people 2000 years ago and try to force it to work today. This is what the fundamentalists do. They assume that because the Bible is "God's words", then things in the Bible have an "eternal aspect" with little reference to the culture or context in which the Bible is written. The direction that Ross is going is this: the Christian scriptures DO NOT have the same common sense framework that we have today. Should we therefore throw them out? Or should we, using the best tools we have, attempt to extract some of the "timeless" truths from the scriptures and employ them today? Can we do that? Some would say no. That would say that, when it comes to the Bible, we must turn our reason off and operate solely on faith. Others, me among them, would say that if we are going to call ourselves Christians, then we NEED to do this, we need to be discerning and translate some of the truth found in the ancients into our time. And others, of course, say that we have outgrown ALL of these ancient truths, that because these truths were formulated with a paradigm that we can no longer accept, we throw the baby out with the bathwater.

 

Any thoughts on this?

 

Yes. First, I come from a progressive background. Thus, the two of us will unconsciously access different preferred aspects of our common heritage. In Jungian terminology, we access those archetypes that our own experience has emphasized. It has been argued elsewhwere that the two cannot be reconciled, but I believe they can. Jung argues that they must be reconciled as both are to be found in the collective unconscious.

 

Second, I have some difficulty with the word "truth". It's the way I am, I quess. I would prefer to use a wider selection of terms. The first of these would be "wisdom". This would be, as you put it the "timeless". When I read the Bible, I hear stories that sound so familiar. King David goes through a midlife crisis, etc. So, if you would, we can agree that we need to search out and find the wisdom contained in the Bible. I have found that my Hebrew friends, and Rabbis in particular, do a very good job at this.

 

Thus far, we are in close agreement. I will be reading more of Ross today, but I like what I've seen thus far.

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Yes. First, I come from a progressive background. Thus, the two of us will unconsciously access different preferred aspects of our common heritage.

 

Yes, probably so. I was shaped by my paradigm and it is probably futile to think that I can ever fully disengage from it. I tend to, rather, upgrade it as I see fit or necessary.

 

In Jungian terminology, we access those archetypes that our own experience has emphasized. It has been argued elsewhwere that the two cannot be reconciled, but I believe they can. Jung argues that they must be reconciled as both are to be found in the collective unconscious.
Although, as I've said, I've never studied Jung, I tend to agree with him. Despite our "separateness" of individual paths and personalities, we are all still part of the human equation, are we not?

 

Second, I have some difficulty with the word "truth". It's the way I am, I quess. I would prefer to use a wider selection of terms. The first of these would be "wisdom".

 

I would agree that this is wise. ;) Why? Because, for me, "truth" as interpreted since the Age of Enlightenment seems to be an external, objective set of statements that should either be accepted or rejected based upon mental assent. I tend to see "truth" as "a way" or as a pragmatic practice -- which, I think, is what wisdom is. To me, wisdom goes beyond the mental assent of what is right and wrong to actually living out a "path" that one believes makes a difference, either personally or socially. So I find your choice of the word "wisdom" to be quite appropriate.

 

So, if you would, we can agree that we need to search out and find the wisdom contained in the Bible.
Yes, I would agree. This goes beyond trying to discern what is "true" or "false" or what is historical and what is metaphor to asking, "What does this mean? How does this apply or not apply to the human condition?

 

Thus far, we are in close agreement. I will be reading more of Ross today, but I like what I've seen thus far.

 

Sounds good, Minsocal. It would be nice if at least one other would join us in our discussion but I have no qualms about proceeding as is. We can discuss any part of the Introduction or Chapter 1 that you like. I would just ask, as you have suggested, that we stay on topic relating to the chapters. Ross does, IMO, a very decent job of presenting his paradigm in a logical and consistent manner. One chapter builds upon the other.

 

Nice chatting with you.

 

bill

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<snip>

 

Sounds good, Minsocal. It would be nice if at least one other would join us in our discussion but I have no qualms about proceeding as is. We can discuss any part of the Introduction or Chapter 1 that you like. I would just ask, as you have suggested, that we stay on topic relating to the chapters. Ross does, IMO, a very decent job of presenting his paradigm in a logical and consistent manner. One chapter builds upon the other.

 

Nice chatting with you.

 

bill

 

Yes, it would be nice if others joined in. I would like to give Ross a good reading as I think it is deserved. I'm digesting Chapter One at the moment.

 

Update: I have scanned Chapter One and it will take some razor thin definitions to sort out what he is saying. At this point, I'm not saying Ross is always right, but he is good at what he is doing.

Edited by minsocal
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Yes, it would be nice if others joined in. I would like to give Ross a good reading as I think it is deserved. I'm digesting Chapter One at the moment.

 

Update: I have scanned Chapter One and it will take some razor thin definitions to sort out what he is saying. At this point, I'm not saying Ross is always right, but he is good at what he is doing.

 

I agree, Minsocal, I don't assume Randy is always right either. But that is why a discussion of his book can be, IMO, highly profitable. We have the freedom, even with our different backgrounds, to pick out what is "wise" or "wisdom" from Randy's offering. This is one freedom that, becoming more progressive, I thoroughly enjoy. I no longer have to take an "all or nothing" approach to what others says, whether from the Bible or Ross or any other source. I can pick and choose what speaks to me, what I find worthy or meaningful.

 

I'll post a few of my own observations over the next few days. I've read the whole book through 2 times and some chapters about 5 or 6 times trying to understand.

 

But post as you like and I'll respond as I can.

 

bill

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Chapter 1 Common Sense

 

Interesting that Ross begins with this topic. The fact that Ross has a degree in analytic philosophy might have something to do with this. John Searle, from the same branch of philosophy, talks about common sense fairly often. What Ross seems to be talking about is what Searle calls the Background. Searle's thesis of the Background is somewhat complicated. Part of the Background is shared by all humans. Searle thinks there are two very special capacities shared by all humans: the capacity for reason and the capacity to treat other humans as something other than mere 'objects'. The other part of the Background is what Searle calls Local Cultural Practices and this is mainly what Ross is talking about. These are the assumptions and things we take for granted that are relevant to our our experience in our own time.

 

The key to understanding the Background is that it is applied automatically without conscious awareness. Without it, the world would be a constantly unfamiliar place and our capacity for reason swamped. It was Husserl who first suggested that we should periodically review our assumptions and things we take for granted.

 

I agree that local cultural practices change over time. I would add that these practices vary considerably across cultures. They do now, and did in the time of the Bible. As I understand it, parts of the Old Testament (such a Leviticus) are intended to protect the identity and continuity of Jewish local cultural practices from outside influences, particularly while in exile. Thus it would be something of a mistake to apply any interpretation of Leviticus outside of that intended application.

 

Now back to Searle. If we all share the capacity for reason and the capacity to treat each other as more than mere 'objects', we should find hints of this in the Bible. I say this because these are part of our inventory of human capacities that evolved over a vast period of time. They are, in Jungian terminology, the archetypes. These would be, in terms of human time, "timeless". Are we then justified in projecting the human "timeless" back onto God?

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>>Are we then justified in projecting the human "timeless" back onto God?

 

Good question. My answer would be: I suppose that it depends on whether we think these “timeless” or “eternal” bits of wisdom come from God himself or whether we think that we invented them along the way as humanity progressed.

 

BTW, Minsocal, when I speak of God or Creator or creation, I am generally referring to the God who is behind the “face of God” that we see in the Bible. What I mean is that I believe in God as a Reality to which the “Bible God” sometimes points but who is not confined to just biblical images. So when I speak of creator or creation, I don’t mean a literal Adam and Eve or a 6-day creation, I just mean the birth of what we call conscious humanity in our history.

 

Spong seems to believe that we, as humans, invented God as a way of dealing with the angst of nonbeing. I’m not sure if I completely understand his definition, but he seems to be saying that God is a human invention that, like common sense, helped ancient people (and moderns also) to deal with the insecurities and unknowns of life. After all, if you believe that you have some kind of heavenly parent watching out for you, the world is not quite so scary. So Spong suggests, I think, that the idea of God itself is a sort of “common sense” that originated with humans long ago to help them to understand and cope with their environment and with each other. In Spong’s view, if there were no humans, there would be no God or no need of God.

 

I’ve said elsewhere that I tend to envision God as a mind behind the universe. So I disagree with Spong that God is simply a human coping mechanism. If humans were not here, God still is. That’s my operating assumption.

 

So I tend to think that the human proclivity to build structures of “common sense” comes from God himself, from the desire of the Mind (and our minds) to make sense of and understand ourselves and our universe. In the book of Genesis, what we see God doing is to bring structure and order out of chaos, to bring reason and purpose out of “formless and void”. I think that is what the structure of “common sense” tries to do. But what we fill these structures or frameworks with is very culturally biased.

 

Though I haven’t studied other religions and cultures extensively, I still think that there are “commonalities” amongst our different “common senses”, call them, if you will, truths or even your preferred term “wisdom.” There are certain nodes which seem to pass and propagate from one paradigm of common sense to another.

 

And this is where I think Ross is going: our common sense, our framework for viewing ourselves and our universe has changed since Old Testament and New Testament times, extensively so. And Ross is advocating, rather than throwing out the baby with the bath water, that we try to discern what from these ancient frameworks is indeed “wise” or worth keeping. We “know” that God doesn’t cause thunderstorm, give military victories, or demand sacrifices of blood. But despite the “static” in the old paradigms, there were gems there worth preserving. And those gems, Ross is saying, typically lead back to what Jesus taught.

 

Any feedback on this? Is common sense merely a human invention or is there something of divinity in it?

 

bill

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Pardon my interuption. I have not read the book but am enjoying your conversation.

 

Bill, I do not see Spong as you do (although Spong would agree that humans have what Jung would call archetypes of the collective unconsious). I see Spong being heavily influenced by Paul Tillich. Tillich would support what you are saying (that the Divine is something more than archetypes of the collective unconsious) and I think Spong would also.

Edited by David
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(snip)

 

Any feedback on this? Is common sense merely a human invention or is there something of divinity in it?

 

bill

 

Hi Bill,

 

If you are welcoming all comments, it would seem to me that common sense is solely a human invention and actually not so common as it implies. Common sense or good sense to me remains a subjective perception which is of course is subject to change based on history, societies, and individual interpretations. In my experience, divinity has no need for such a concept even though everything that exists does so by divinity.

 

Just something to consider.

 

Joseph

Edited by JosephM
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>>Are we then justified in projecting the human "timeless" back onto God?

 

Good question. My answer would be: I suppose that it depends on whether we think these “timeless” or “eternal” bits of wisdom come from God himself or whether we think that we invented them along the way as humanity progressed.

 

BTW, Minsocal, when I speak of God or Creator or creation, I am generally referring to the God who is behind the “face of God” that we see in the Bible. What I mean is that I believe in God as a Reality to which the “Bible God” sometimes points but who is not confined to just biblical images. So when I speak of creator or creation, I don’t mean a literal Adam and Eve or a 6-day creation, I just mean the birth of what we call conscious humanity in our history.

 

Spong seems to believe that we, as humans, invented God as a way of dealing with the angst of nonbeing. I’m not sure if I completely understand his definition, but he seems to be saying that God is a human invention that, like common sense, helped ancient people (and moderns also) to deal with the insecurities and unknowns of life. After all, if you believe that you have some kind of heavenly parent watching out for you, the world is not quite so scary. So Spong suggests, I think, that the idea of God itself is a sort of “common sense” that originated with humans long ago to help them to understand and cope with their environment and with each other. In Spong’s view, if there were no humans, there would be no God or no need of God.

 

I’ve said elsewhere that I tend to envision God as a mind behind the universe. So I disagree with Spong that God is simply a human coping mechanism. If humans were not here, God still is. That’s my operating assumption.

 

So I tend to think that the human proclivity to build structures of “common sense” comes from God himself, from the desire of the Mind (and our minds) to make sense of and understand ourselves and our universe. In the book of Genesis, what we see God doing is to bring structure and order out of chaos, to bring reason and purpose out of “formless and void”. I think that is what the structure of “common sense” tries to do. But what we fill these structures or frameworks with is very culturally biased.

 

Though I haven’t studied other religions and cultures extensively, I still think that there are “commonalities” amongst our different “common senses”, call them, if you will, truths or even your preferred term “wisdom.” There are certain nodes which seem to pass and propagate from one paradigm of common sense to another.

 

And this is where I think Ross is going: our common sense, our framework for viewing ourselves and our universe has changed since Old Testament and New Testament times, extensively so. And Ross is advocating, rather than throwing out the baby with the bath water, that we try to discern what from these ancient frameworks is indeed “wise” or worth keeping. We “know” that God doesn’t cause thunderstorm, give military victories, or demand sacrifices of blood. But despite the “static” in the old paradigms, there were gems there worth preserving. And those gems, Ross is saying, typically lead back to what Jesus taught.

 

Any feedback on this? Is common sense merely a human invention or is there something of divinity in it?

 

bill

 

bill,

 

Feedback, yes. Although the language differs, the concepts behind the language do not. I assume God to be the ultimate cause of all that is. I have no proof of this and do not hope to offer any such proof. It is just the place where I get my starting point.

 

Common sense, as I see it, is both timely and timeless. This is what I hoped to convey in my previous post. We live in a world that is BOTH different and familiar. We transition, transform, evolve and change. These words are negative to some and stimulating for others. It has been asked, here and on other threads, can God also change?

 

I draw a lot of inspiration from Micah 6:8. "... walk humbly with your God." For me, the conversation continues, the timeless God and the time based human in conversation. Awesome! If God speaks, God listens. To listen reguires change! On both parts.

 

myron

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Hi Bill,

 

If you are welcoming all comments, it would seem to me that common sense is solely a human invention and actually not so common as it implies. Common sense or good sense to me remains a subjective perception which is of course is subject to change based on history, societies, and individual interpretations. In my experience, divinity has no need for such a concept even though everything that exists does so by divinity.

 

Just something to consider.

 

Joseph

 

Hi Joseph,

 

I do welcome comments, my friend, but our comments are (we hope) directly related to the book discussion. And, actually, Ross makes the same statement that you just made, that common sense is not so common. :rolleyes: The links to his book are found in the OP and it is really quite light and enjoyable reading. I'd be thrilled if you'd join our conversation, Joseph, but I would request that you at least browse through the relevant chapter so that we all share the same context, even if we have different conclusions.

 

But I think that Ross is making a similar argument (in the best sense of the word) that you are making: that common sense changes from age to age and from culture to culture and that, because it does so, it's not profitable to force God (or divinity) into any one "common sense." So what Randy is asking, in his book, is how can we understand the concept or reality of God (or divinity) that comes down to us, born out of a "common sense" that is so different from our own?

 

bill

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Although the language differs, the concepts behind the language do not. I assume God to be the ultimate cause of all that is. I have no proof of this and do not hope to offer any such proof. It is just the place where I get my starting point.

 

Common sense, as I see it, is both timely and timeless. This is what I hoped to convey in my previous post. We live in a world that is BOTH different and familiar. We transition, transform, evolve and change. These words are negative to some and stimulating for others. It has been asked, here and on other threads, can God also change?

 

I draw a lot of inspiration from Micah 6:8. "... walk humbly with your God." For me, the conversation continues, the timeless God and the time based human in conversation. Awesome! If God speaks, God listens. To listen reguires change! On both parts.

 

myron

 

I couldn't agree more!

 

I'll post a few of my own thoughts a little later. Gotta go mow my Texas lawn!

 

bill

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Just a few of my thoughts from Chapter 1:

 

Ross said: "The great truths of the Christian faith are timeless, but the way in which those truths are expressed must fit the understanding of a particular time and place." This is, to me, the "market niche" of Progressive Christianity. We need to discover or discern what the "great truths" of our tradition are and then find a way to express them in our particular time and culture.

 

Ross said: "We do not serve God by abandoning our intellectual honesty." Thumbs way up for this. I'm tired of the brand of Christianity that says that no matter how nonsensical or paradoxial something in our faith is, we "just need to believe." This doesn't mean that I think I have to know everything in order to believe. But it does mean that I can assert that my heart cannot accept what my head tells me is impossible or meaningless.

 

Ross said: "It should not be surprising that a theology which grew out of one common sense should not fit with a different common sense." To me, there is a difference between God and how we think about God. Our thinking and conceptualizations of God can quickly become idols if we don't realize that they are human constructs. I don't think we can avoid having them. But I think we must avoid carving them into stone and insisting that they are immutable for all time. This is where I think conservative Christianity has gone wrong, turning the Bible into "God's rules for all people for all time." While they are quick to say that the Bible condemns homosexuality, they ignor that the same exact passage condemns clothes made of two different fabrics or fields sown with more than one type of crop.

 

And my favorite quote from this chapter: "Instead of conceiving of God as acting through miracles (in the traditional sense) we will conceive of God as being present in the processes of our world, in the context within which we live."

 

This, to me, is the difference between supernatural theism and panentheism. One paradigm says that God is separate from his creation and must intervene, when and if he does so, from "outside." The other paradigm says that the universe is "in God" and that God works from within in.

 

Ross closes his chapter with the argument against common sense that is typically made by conservative, fundamentalist Christians: "The Bible is right, so anyone who disagrees with it is wrong. Period."

 

With that, Ross is ready to launch into chapter 2 where he asks, "What does it mean to approach the Bible faithfully? And can we do this in keeping with our common sense?"

 

Now, I've read the whole book a couple of times so I kinda know where Randy is going. But I find much in his opening chapter that gives us freedom to be "thinking" or Progressive Christians.

 

I guess my main concern about what Randy has written is this: We tend to throw our trash out. When something no longer works for us or is obsolete, it ends up on the garbage dump. I no longer have the 8-track player that I owned in high school. And my stereo doesn't even have a casette deck on it. In fact, while it still has a CD-player, it can play music right off a memory stick. Things change. That's progress (hopefully). But I'm a little concerned that if we just "throw out" older common sense and theology in light of newer understandings, do we lose something?

 

And, ultimately, won't our own common sense will be obsolete one day. Will future generations consider us to be "primitives" or "ignorants" as ascribe most of what we now hold to as superstition? Is there a way to "honor" past paradigms and consider them to still be sacred while admitting that 1) they no longer work for us and 2) what works for us now will not for our descendants?

 

Any thoughts on this, Myron?

 

bill

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(snip for brevity)

And my favorite quote from this chapter: "Instead of conceiving of God as acting through miracles (in the traditional sense) we will conceive of God as being present in the processes of our world, in the context within which we live."

 

This, to me, is the difference between supernatural theism and panentheism. One paradigm says that God is separate from his creation and must intervene, when and if he does so, from "outside." The other paradigm says that the universe is "in God" and that God works from within in.

 

Ross closes his chapter with the argument against common sense that is typically made by conservative, fundamentalist Christians: "The Bible is right, so anyone who disagrees with it is wrong. Period."

 

With that, Ross is ready to launch into chapter 2 where he asks, "What does it mean to approach the Bible faithfully? And can we do this in keeping with our common sense?"

 

Now, I've read the whole book a couple of times so I kinda know where Randy is going. But I find much in his opening chapter that gives us freedom to be "thinking" or Progressive Christians.

 

I guess my main concern about what Randy has written is this: We tend to throw our trash out. When something no longer works for us or is obsolete, it ends up on the garbage dump. I no longer have the 8-track player that I owned in high school. And my stereo doesn't even have a casette deck on it. In fact, while it still has a CD-player, it can play music right off a memory stick. Things change. That's progress (hopefully). But I'm a little concerned that if we just "throw out" older common sense and theology in light of newer understandings, do we lose something?

 

And, ultimately, won't our own common sense will be obsolete one day. Will future generations consider us to be "primitives" or "ignorants" as ascribe most of what we now hold to as superstition? Is there a way to "honor" past paradigms and consider them to still be sacred while admitting that 1) they no longer work for us and 2) what works for us now will not for our descendants?

 

Any thoughts on this, Myron?

 

bill

 

Bill,

Nice points...... Seems to be pretty well in line with Ross.

One point I do have is....

Your final question 'seems' to me to suggest that we are to "honor" or consider "sacred" past paradigms and hints a concern for our current paradigms not working for our descendants. In my view it seems meaningless to "honor" paradigms of the past or be concerned that current paradigms possibly will not work for future descendants. Much of traditional Christianity seems to me to be stuck by placing too much emphasis on "honoring" the past rather than just learning from it and moving on. To me Progressive Christianity refrains from entangling itself in such concerns and judgements. Sufficient seems to me to focus on Christ and what is given and before us now. While it is true we can learn much from the study of the past history and current science, there seems to be no need to consider how we look at others that are past or others will look at us. Considering past descendants as primitive or concern that future generations will consider us primitives or label us ignorant seems irrelevant to me and I didn't perceive Ross in Chapter 1 being concerned with this either.

 

Just my perception of your last paragraph but i could be interpreting it wrong.

Joseph

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Guest wayfarer2k
Much of traditional Christianity seems to me to be stuck by placing too much emphasis on "honoring" the past rather than just learning from it and moving on.

 

I think that's an astute and appropriate critique, Joseph. Much of traditional Christianity wants to "get back" to the first century, the fourth century, of even to "Old Testament style" worship, theology, and liturgy. So I agree with you that we must move forward. Maybe my choice of the word "honoring" was too strong, I don't know. But I sometimes hear of Christian or religious groups that seem to say, "Ah ha! WE'VE finally got it right! This is the way that God wanted it all along!" So I like what you said about "learning from it". I certainly wouldn't want to bronze it and put it on my mantle. But I do think that history can remind us to 1) stay humble but brave in our progress and 2) not to repeat the same old mistakes.

 

And, again, I wasn't saying, or didn't mean to say, that we should sit around worrying what our descendants will think of us in 500 or 1000 years. I think the old adage applies here, "Don't worry what other people think about you. They are busy thinking about themselves." :rolleyes: But I do think it would be helpful if, in retrospect, Progressive Christianity was seen as another step, however minute, out of the Dark Ages. For me, it's not a matter of worry or obsession, just a matter of seeing myself as part of a larger tapestry and hoping that what I and others do progresses humanity instead of devolving or dehumanizing it.

 

bill

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Bill and Joseph,

 

With a degree in philosophy, I'm confident that Ross is well aware of Whitehead and his views on change. Briefly, Whitehead agrees that change is inevitable and usually desireable. Whitehead adds that there will be those whose ideas are not yet ready for a new era, but these views lay a foundation for others who will take them into the future at the appropriate time. Whitehead agrees that we need to "honor" the past in the sense that the past contains the work of those who moved us into the future. To paraphrase Whitehead, "that which was important becomes trivial, and that which was trival becomes important." At times, Whitehead becomes almost poetic. He describes a God that "tenderly intervenes" at those moments of transition from one age to the next. He also describes the teachings of Jesus as a "light that has flickered uncertainly down through the ages". I take this to mean that Jesus captured that which was important from the past and provided the groundwork for generations to come. From a psychological perspective, I fully agree.

 

My own views align farily well with Ross. I am in agreement with the poet Robert Bly in that what is true "wisdom" will pass from one generation to the next. Like Whitehead, he is saying that we cannot destroy all of the past, only that which no longer applies. Where I differ from many on this board is in the value of inherited characteristics passed on from generation to generation by our DNA. Antonio Damasio, a highly regarded neuroscientist, sees "wisdom" in the very structure and function of the evolved human brain. This is exactly what Jung claimed.

 

In the end, it is a matter of balance and patience. As John Searle has noted, these days we just have to know a lot more to keep up.

 

Myron

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[

 

I guess my main concern about what Randy has written is this: We tend to throw our trash out. When something no longer works for us or is obsolete, it ends up on the garbage dump. I no longer have the 8-track player that I owned in high school. And my stereo doesn't even have a casette deck on it. In fact, while it still has a CD-player, it can play music right off a memory stick. Things change. That's progress (hopefully). But I'm a little concerned that if we just "throw out" older common sense and theology in light of newer understandings, do we lose something?

 

And, ultimately, won't our own common sense will be obsolete one day. Will future generations consider us to be "primitives" or "ignorants" as ascribe most of what we now hold to as superstition? Is there a way to "honor" past paradigms and consider them to still be sacred while admitting that 1) they no longer work for us and 2) what works for us now will not for our descendants?

 

 

 

bill

 

I have just completed reading the intro and chapter 1. The writer and I are definitely on the same page with regard to the idea that the Bible-times worldview has become a stumbling block to many who would possibly embrace the teachings of Jesus.

 

The term "common sense" is a loaded term for me, personally, in much the same way as "truth." I like the idea of using "wisdom" instead of truth, and I think "worldview" is less loaded than common sense.

 

I have had many conversations with an evangelical friend about throwing out things from the Bible. I believe it should be done prayerfully, with caution and respect, and conversation with other people who are trying to sort this out, too. Almost every Bible reader decides that some sayings from the Bible no longer apply. (button-wearing, head coverings, etc). However, I have personally found that instead of throwing out things, it is best to understand the historical context of them (the world-view) and figure out how that might apply today. Some of the scripture passages I have most wanted to throw out ("don't worry, the flowers don't") have actually become some of the most helpful and cherished to me when I take the nugget of wisdom and update the worldview. The nuggets of wisdom are what is sacred. This baby is too important for me to throw out with the bath water because often it runs counter-intuitive to my common sense (what I would do without Biblical guidance).

 

Last fall, I tried to engage the tcpc message board in picking out the nuggets of wisdom we agree on, the teachings of Jesus that we follow. I found that there was some overlap, but that each of us is in a unique place to accept or reject particular teachings of Jesus. Each teaching of Jesus affects us very personally. IMO, this points to the complexity and wonder of God -- that God connects with each of us individually in our own way and time. However, it makes it difficult to develop a "Progressive Christianity" curriculum, which I was attempting to do.... :-) Believing there is only one correct way to interpret the Bible makes some things simpler, doesn't it?

 

I certainly hope the current worldview will become outdated someday. By and large, fear is still running this world. A perfect example is that my church (United Methodist) leaders were unable to agree to recognize/perform gay marriages at our last annual conference. Racial biases still exist. We still disagree about when life becomes life and whether assisted suicide is okay. I could go on and on, but I embrace the idea that my ideas are not the final ones in the history of human thought. My ideas about God are imperfect, but I am on a lifelong journey, a quest, to follow Jesus and reflect God's glory to the best of my abilities.

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[ Where I differ from many on this board is in the value of inherited characteristics passed on from generation to generation by our DNA. Antonio Damasio, a highly regarded neuroscientist, sees "wisdom" in the very structure and function of the evolved human brain. This is exactly what Jung claimed.

 

Myron

 

This is quite an encouraging idea. I had never heard it before. I am definitely trying to pass down "wisdom" gleaned from my life to my children by teaching them. I have watched the video "What the BLEEP do we know?", about intentionally rewiring pathways and evolving our brain responses to stimuli. It would be nice if we could pass down our individually evolved brain to future generations, but I don't think that's what you are saying...

 

Sometimes, because of what the media focus on, it is easy to see the world as getting greedier and more self-centered than ever before. I believe it is imperative to find a way to share the relevant teachings of Jesus, without the premodern worldview reoadblocks, in order to keep society evolving as a whole toward compassion and love.

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Hi AITNOP. I’d echo Myron and say I’d enjoy having you join our conversation also!

 

>>The writer and I are definitely on the same page with regard to the idea that the Bible-times worldview has become a stumbling block to many who would possibly embrace the teachings of Jesus.

 

That became a crisis of faith in my own life a few years ago. I greatly admired the teachings of Jesus (all except the hell stuff – another subject for another time) but I couldn’t get past a lot of the other stuff taught as “eternal truth” in the Bible. And in the setting I was in, it was a big no-no to remove the other stuff or to elevate Jesus’ teachings. After all, the Bible was, in that paradigm, “God’s words.”

 

>>However, I have personally found that instead of throwing out things, it is best to understand the historical context of them (the world-view) and figure out how that might apply today.

 

This seems wise to me. In fact, if I was to design some kind of “Progressive Christianity for Dummies” curriculum (ha ha), I’d take the same approach – focus on Jesus’ teachings in their historical context and then only give suggestions/options of how they might apply today.

 

>>Last fall, I tried to engage the tcpc message board in picking out the nuggets of wisdom we agree on, the teachings of Jesus that we follow. I found that there was some overlap, but that each of us is in a unique place to accept or reject particular teachings of Jesus. Each teaching of Jesus affects us very personally.

 

So true. Commonality…but diversity. And while I tend to harp on getting back to the teachings of Jesus, I am also the first to admit that Jesus did not give the same exact message to every person he encountered. He seemed to tailor his teachings to his particular audiences or conversations.

 

>>However, it makes it difficult to develop a "Progressive Christianity" curriculum, which I was attempting to do.... :-) Believing there is only one correct way to interpret the Bible makes some things simpler, doesn't it?

 

Yes, simpler, but also less colorful and less expressive of the beauty, richness, and variety that is in God’s universe, ourselves, and even in our scriptures. Keep thinking about this though. I think it would be helpful to some.

 

>>but I embrace the idea that my ideas are not the final ones in the history of human thought. My ideas about God are imperfect, but I am on a lifelong journey, a quest, to follow Jesus and reflect God's glory to the best of my abilities.

 

And I think that is what Randy is getting at also. He knows that common sense or “worldview” will change. But the rest of his book, as Myron has shared with us, is about what “flickers of Jesus” or “wisdom of the ages” is worth maintaining and preserving. It is a humbling and daunting task to try to determine that on any level, as you discovered with trying to find common denominators for your curriculum. But as has been said, these things become seeds for future generations. And they can bloom in our own generation amongst those of us who want to grow.

 

I look forward to hearing more from you, my friend.

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