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I have been posting in another thread about rebuilding after deconstruction:

That thread has so far been about whether people believe deconstruction is real or whether there is something deeper.

 

Even if we haven't gone through "deconstruction," our faith may not look like orthodox Christianity. I asked the following, and it was suggested I start a new thread -

 

So which elements of traditional Christianity do each of you still embrace? Or is there an overarching statement of faith you can make that supercedes the faith presented in the Bible.

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I have been posting in another thread about rebuilding after deconstruction:

That thread has so far been about whether people believe deconstruction is real or whether there is something deeper.

 

Even if we haven't gone through "deconstruction," our faith may not look like orthodox Christianity. I asked the following, and it was suggested I start a new thread -

 

So which elements of traditional Christianity do each of you still embrace? Or is there an overarching statement of faith you can make that supercedes the faith presented in the Bible.

 

Personally I found an approach to God through the teachings of Jesus as recorded of the sermon on the mount especially concerning forgiveness, non judgement and measuring. Those teachings alone to me were enough to rid my consciousness of the guilt barrier and with the reaching the end of my ability to reason the mysteries of life (deconstruction or surrendering of what i had previously thought i knew) to God, experience the coming of (what I now know as ) Christ in my life. Do I look like orthodox Christianity? No. I look more like the 8 points of progressive Christianity almost void of dogma and doctrine and to me now, as PantaRhea well said, "listening in silence supersedes the contents of the Bible." This is my

personal experience and view and if you ask me to tell you which element(s) I embrace of Christianity, I would answer in one word, CHRIST. The context of which i am unable to put in understandable words but is transforming in nature and can best be understood by the testimony of my life.

 

Joseph

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I have been posting in another thread about rebuilding after deconstruction:

That thread has so far been about whether people believe deconstruction is real or whether there is something deeper.

 

Even if we haven't gone through "deconstruction," our faith may not look like orthodox Christianity. I asked the following, and it was suggested I start a new thread -

 

So which elements of traditional Christianity do each of you still embrace? Or is there an overarching statement of faith you can make that supercedes the faith presented in the Bible.

 

1. There is a God. I have ideas about God, but Iam not God. I have to listen.

 

2. Jesus asked us to listen.

 

3. Jesus then asked us to act.

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Even if we haven't gone through "deconstruction," our faith may not look like orthodox Christianity. I asked the following, and it was suggested I start a new thread -

 

So which elements of traditional Christianity do each of you still embrace? Or is there an overarching statement of faith you can make that supercedes the faith presented in the Bible.

 

Hi AllInTheName,

 

First, I'd just like to say that I've noticed you have a way of asking some of the toughest questions in the nicest way. I think that's awesome! :)

 

As for the question you've asked . . . how much time do you have?

 

I'm a bit leery of short answers to complex questions. Things have a way of getting codified into codes and creeds made of concrete when we try to write a shorthand version of our faith. (I think here of the Nicean-Constantinopolitan Creed, more commonly known as the Nicean Creed. I think also of the Chalcedon Creed.)

 

Having said that, I would have to say that I find much of the United Church of Canada's "New Creed" pretty good. (The United Church of Canada is Canada's largest mainline Protestant denomination, with roots in a 1925 union of Presbyterian, Methodist, and Congregationalist churches. It's also Canada's most liberal church, with a strong ethos of social justice, and a strong (if recent) focus on the distinct needs of the aboriginal community.)

 

So here's the New Creed:

 

We are not alone,

we live in God's world.

 

We believe in God:

who has created and is creating,

who has come in Jesus,

the Word made flesh,

to reconcile and make new,

who works in us and others

by the Spirit.

 

We trust in God.

 

We are called to be the Church:

to celebrate God's presence,

to live with respect in Creation,

to love and serve others,

to seek justice and resist evil,

to proclaim Jesus, crucified and risen,

our judge and our hope.

 

In life, in death, in life beyond death,

God is with us.

 

We are not alone.

 

Thanks be to God.

 

For me, although I'm not too crazy about the parts that refer to Jesus as "the Word made flesh" and "our judge and our hope," I'm really happy about the section that calls us to practice our faith, and I really, really like what the Creed says about our relationship with God (i.e. that we trust in God, that we are not alone, that God is still creating, that there is a life beyond death, and that wherever we are, God is always with us.) This Creed isn't a required component of the United Church liturgy, but some churches, such as the one I attend, say it regularly. It has a positive, uplifting, encouraging tone, which I think is helpful for creating a strong sense of community.

 

For me, this sure beats the pants off the Nicean Creed, which I mumbled on my knees in the Anglican church for 20 years, but never felt comfortable with.

 

Jen

Edited by canajan, eh?
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The only way I was ever able to return to a Christian community was to find a church that made no use of creeds or dogma. I know this is a difficult statement to make as it can offend some, but that is not my intent here. I have associates in psychology that have chuches like this on their refferal lists because they frequently encounter clients looking for freedom of expresssion in a safe environment.

 

What we have left is kind of a smorgasboard that is difficult to capture in a general statement. Although many of my friends are Progressive Christians, the diversity of views is quite remarkable. That is simply proof that some church communities can be inclusive.

 

While I find theological discussions stimulating, more and more they are receding in importance to me. If I could say, here or anywhere, "This is who I am, and this is what I believe" and have it be just that, with no expectation that anyone else must accept what I believe, then I'm quite happy.

 

What I am suggesting is simply that each person has their own "creed" or their own understanding of God and Jesus. I prefer the term worldview. The problem with this form of radical pluralism is that it is not very efficient. A name tag does not suffice. People have to delve into the risky territory of understanding each other as unique individuals.

 

I am seeing hints that this form of radical pluralism may be taking root as a reaction to postmodernism. Suppose I said this: "Every thought I have today is real, as real as anything else God created." Every person is unique and that is how God created the world. This is what I was taught in Sunday School 50 years ago. This is what I believe today, so I say (with no prejudice and a bit of a smile), I failed deconstruction 101.

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I really appreciate all of the responses so far! I love hearing each person's story, and I learn something from each of them. About 3 years ago, I tried to explain my responses to each of the statements in the Apostle's Creed, because I no longer felt comfortable saying it without explanation. I like the creed you shared, Jen, with the same reservations.

 

I also agree with minsocial that in our personal journeys we develop our own individual creed. In another thread (Common Sense Christianity) we are discussing how our varied theological viewpoints don't matter as much as what we do with our faith. I appreciate, minsocial, that you emphasize listening. I hope to take some time on my upcoming holiday to spend quite a bit of time listening.

 

Joseph, I too, have found much to guide me in Jesus' teachings. If I take some of them metaphorically and downplay some of the threatened punishment I have found that they challenge me to be more than I am. And I like the "abundant life" that serving others brings.

 

I hope others choose to contribute, because the learning is enriched with every personal journey shared. If I don't respond quickly, it is not because I don't care - it is because I am away.

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I'm not sure I "embrace" any of the elements of Christianity - it's more like I hold some in an open hand. Is it possible to have faith without certainty?

 

There are those who say one cannot have faith without uncertainty. Put another way, uncertainty is the crucible out of which faith develops. As adult humans, we need to be able to tolerate some level of uncertainty in order to grow.

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I'm not sure I "embrace" any of the elements of Christianity - it's more like I hold some in an open hand. Is it possible to have faith without certainty?

 

In my view, Yes and No. Depends on your definition of 'faith' and from what perspective you are looking at 'certainty'. Define both and then ask the question.

 

Joseph

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In my view, Yes and No. Depends on your definition of 'faith' and from what perspective you are looking at 'certainty'. Define both and then ask the question.

 

Joseph

 

I'd be interested in your definitions as well. Faith and certainty have different conditions under whch they are satisfied. While some paint faith and certainty as overlapping constructs, many do not go along with this. For me, the two are different domains of human experience.

Edited by minsocal
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I'd be interested in your definitions as well. Faith and certainty have different conditions under whch they are satisfied. While some paint faith and certainty as overlapping constructs, many do not go along with this. For me, the two are different domains of human experience.

 

I define faith as in hebrews 12. Now faith is the the substance of things hoped for the evidence of things not yet seen. I realize that many define faith more as belief but in my experience 'faith' is having the evidence in substrate even though it is not yet seen with the eyes or made manifest. From that perpective no such thing as doubt or uncertainty can arise. The question of uncertainty simply does not exist from that position of faith.

 

Joseph

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I define faith as in hebrews 12. Now faith is the the substance of things hoped for the evidence of things not yet seen. I realize that many define faith more as belief but in my experience 'faith' is having the evidence in substrate even though it is not yet seen with the eyes or made manifest. From that perpective no such thing as doubt or uncertainty can arise. The question of uncertainty simply does not exist from that position of faith.

 

Joseph

 

Well, we seem to be saying much the same thing but then not. Faith could come from two sources (at least) and not one. It could come from reason (top down processing as with Kant) or it could come from "bottom up processing" as with Whitehead. The quest for pluralism launched by Jung as an ethical challenge continues today. I do not think either source can be denied.

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Janet & All,

 

I think it is worth me saying that in spite of any views, definitions, or beliefs I may seem to have, or hold, or post here, is that which I embrace more than anything else and is found in what I can only refer to in language as Christ. And that is more about "living the compassionate path" than it is about having a belief system. This, I believe is what TCPC.org is all about and it should be clear to all members and participants regardless of differing beliefs that TCPC values living that path above being right, or wrong, making more or less valid posts, saying something that is accepted or rejected, or any positions, or points of view. Knowing this, it is possible for us to, rather than focus on a lot of board guidelines, remember what it is that we are all about, so that our behavior is ruled not by opinions or what we say we believe, or think we believe or even know we believe, but rather by our mutual compassion for each other.

 

Joseph

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Hi Janet and everyone, finally got my act together and got onto these boards.

 

This is a great question and, as some of you may know, I am quite passionate about finding some kind of common ground, some core, as a theologian friend of mine puts it, some kind of orthodoxy, that brings all Christians, whether liberal, conservative, progressive or literalist, together. For me this question lends itself to this search.

 

I have found one sentence that, so far, all sides have agreed on. It is simply "Jesus was and is the fullest revelation of the Divine". Very Borgian isn't it? Yet it seems that people of all types of Christianity, so far, will accept this basic one sentence common denominator. Of course, there are many nuances to this statement, and perhaps that is why it works. For a progressive I see this and think "yes, fullest, not only" and thus continue in my pluralistic mindset. A fundamentalist may take this sentence in a very different way. But that is okay. At least we have, perhaps, a concept that all Christians can accept as being essential to being a Christian.

 

(I should say, before anyone posts this, that, yes, this is all about labels, compartmentalising, seeking, in a way, institutionalisation etc. One could make a valid argument that none of this matters, it is all semantics, and we should just concentrate on living a Christ-like life without concerning ourselves with this issue. But, for me, I am seeking a fellowship with not only people of other faiths but all non-theists and, particularly, fellow adherents of Jesus, whose condemnation of our kind of Christianity breaks my heart, not because I seek approval from fundamentalists or conservatives, but because I see the message of the one we worship being so distorted into a product of hate, and I HAVE to try and change that (good luck right))

 

Anyway, my two bobs worth.

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JosephM @ Jun 5 2009, 06:46PM

 

Janet & All,

 

I think it is worth me saying that in spite of any views, definitions, or beliefs I may seem to have, or hold, or post here, is that which I embrace more than anything else and is found in what I can only refer to in language as Christ. And that is more about "living the compassionate path" than it is about having a belief system. This, I believe is what TCPC.org is all about and it should be clear to all members and participants regardless of differing beliefs that TCPC values living that path above being right, or wrong, making more or less valid posts, saying something that is accepted or rejected, or any positions, or points of view. Knowing this, it is possible for us to, rather than focus on a lot of board guidelines, remember what it is that we are all about, so that our behavior is ruled not by opinions or what we say we believe, or think we believe or even know we believe, but rather by our mutual compassion for each other.

 

Joseph

 

Jesus here.

 

"Living the compassionate path," as you've described it, Joseph, is the great challenge at present for all people, regardless of their faith tradition (or lack thereof). God is calling to all people to choose the compassionate path. This is why "inclusiveness" feels right to Progressive Christians. This is why traditional orthodox Christian claims for preferred status with God are being rejected. This is why a feeling of not wanting to attack others seems relevant to Progressive Christians.

 

The problem I'm seeing from where I'm standing is that "the compassionate path" (not the phrase itself, but the concepts being expressed) is sounding a bit too linear. We use the word "path" because it captures the idea that faith is not a goal but a journey, a journey that must be chosen each day, a journey that moves forward like time itself. And this is true. From the point of view that faith is a journey and a process, the word "path" is useful.

 

But the word "path" also tends to conjure up in people's minds a picture. It conjures up a picture of a paved highway, or a forest track, or a yellow-brick road. Highways and tracks and roads have clear-cut lines, clear-cut boundaries. They have a beginning and an end. There may be side-roads that branch off the main highway, but even these have clear-cut beginning and ending points.

 

The compassionate path, however, is very ill-defined, very non-linear. This is because the key component of the compassionate path is relationships. Relationships between people (and here I include God as "people") are unpredictable, and funny, and eye-poppingly puzzling. Yes? Sometimes relationships hurt. Sometimes relationships confuse. Sometimes relationships have big-time communication glitches that have to be resolved before the hurt and the confusion are healed.

 

Sometimes you have to let people hash things out. Sometimes the problem is just that two people are using the same word to mean very different things. Words like "faith" and "love" are especially prone to misunderstanding. One person's faith is another person's brainwashing. One person's love is another person's co-dependency.

 

The compassionate path is -- like all things in God's Creation -- a group project, a team affair, a community effort. It's a group of committed human beings (angels in human form) who combine and blend their respective strengths -- and ABSENCES of strengths! -- to make not a path, but a riotous and beautiful garden. (Sorry for the mushy metaphor. Can't help it. I think God the Mother and God the Father's creation is too gorgeous to not use metaphors from nature). The garden is weeded and watered, and is anchored by some nice structural elements to provide a solid and consistent "framework". (Examples of the fixed structural elements would be God's love for you, and God's unshakeable forgiveness for you). But there's also room for different kinds of plants that have different needs and different ways of growing and changing. (Examples of the plants would be you.)

 

So there has to be a balance of things. The key word is balance. This is the concept that keeps getting lost in the discussion here. There has to be a balance between logic and emotion. There has to be a balance between honesty and kindness. There has to be a balance between anarchy (people saying hurtful things with no limits being imposed on them) and conformity (people saying nothing at all, really, because they're too frightened they'll be accused of not conforming).

 

None of these questions is easy, and none can be solved with simple maxims. The only way "forward" (I use the word "forward" advisedly, since it actually feels as if you're spiralling around and around, even though you're changing and growing the whole time you're wandering around and around) -- the only way "forward" is through the relationships you have -- the relationships you have with your friends, your community, the strangers you meet, and, of course, God.

 

Ideas are important. Words are important. Poetry is important. All these things are important to "the compassionate path." You can't take away the ideas, or people won't have a starting point to build their relationships on. On the other hand, you can't have ideas alone, you can't have belief alone, you can't have theological speculation alone. Ideas only make sense when they have to answer to the wisdom of relationship. The smartest portion of your entire being is your heart -- not your mind, but your heart. Your mind is very smart, and I don't want anyone to accuse me of dissing people's logic or people's minds. But the heart thinks, too. The heart thinks, the heart remembers, the heart understands. The heart is differently smart. You can't ignore the needs of your heart and expect to find wisdom.

 

"You shall love your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength" (Mark 12:30). Remember how I said that? People think I'm quoting the Shema here (Deut. 6:4), but they're not really paying attention. I changed the Shema. I added to it. I taught the need for balance between heart and mind. You have to balance the different aspects of who you are -- you have to balance your heart and your soul and your mind and your strength (i.e. your body). This is not dualistic. When you achieve balance between these different aspects of your core being, you will feel WHOLE. You won't feel dissociated. You won't feel splintered or fractured. You will feel WHOLE. And you'll find that compassion is pretty much like breathing -- you can't live without it, and you have to do it all the time.

 

I love you all.

 

Jesus

June 6, 2009

Edited by canajan, eh?
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Haidt (2003) on compassion.

 

"A more appropriate word may therefore be "compassion", which Lazarus (1991) describes as "being moved by another's suffering", and which Webster's defines as "deep feeling for and understanding of misery or suffering and the concomitant desire to promote its alleviation.

 

Compassion is elicited by the perception of suffering or sorrow in another person. Compassion appears to grow out of the mammalian attachment system, where it has obvious benefits as a mediator of altruism towards kin (Hoffman, 1982b). People can feel compassion for total strangers, and that is why compassion is shown on the far right of Figure 1, however compassion is most strongly and readily felt for one's kin, and for others with whom one has a close, communal relationship (Batson & Shaw, 1991).

 

Action tendencies

 

Compassion makes people want to help, comfort, or otherwise alleviate the suffering of the other (Batson, O'Quinn, Fulty, Vanderplass, & Isen, 1983; Batson & Shaw, 1991; Eisenberg, Fabes, Miller, Fultz, Shell, Mathy, et al., 1989; Hoffman, 1982b). Compassion is linked to guilt conceptually (Baumeister et al., 1994; Hoffman, 1982a) and empirically. People who are more prone to feel other people's pain are more prone to feel guilt, but are less prone to feel shame (Tangney, 1991)."

 

As indicated above, compassion is a fairly complex moral emotion. Haidt (2003) prefers the term compassion over empathy and sympathy. Compassion is part of a larger dimension of human capacities, i.e. the "harm - care" dimension. The title is almost self explanatory ... minimize harm and maximize care.

 

For me, the "harm - care" dimension seems to capture the scope of what Jesus taught very well. While compassion captures the suffering of others, I will suggest here that there is much more. Whitehead hit the mark when he he named "Joy and Sorrow" as ideal opposites. As a community, we need to share both, IMO.

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"I have found one sentence that, so far, all sides have agreed on. It is simply "Jesus was and is the fullest revelation of the Divine".

 

Adi - I agree with your statement for ME only. I think other people have found other revelations of the Divine to be more representative to them.

 

" I am seeking a fellowship with not only people of other faiths but all non-theists and, particularly, fellow adherents of Jesus, whose condemnation of our kind of Christianity breaks my heart, not because I seek approval from fundamentalists or conservatives, but because I see the message of the one we worship being so distorted into a product of hate, and I HAVE to try and change that (good luck right)) "

 

Me TOO!! Can we agree on what Jesus said about "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and your neighbor as yourself" as the way to abundant life?

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"I have found one sentence that, so far, all sides have agreed on. It is simply "Jesus was and is the fullest revelation of the Divine".

 

Adi - I agree with your statement for ME only. I think other people have found other revelations of the Divine to be more representative to them.

 

" I am seeking a fellowship with not only people of other faiths but all non-theists and, particularly, fellow adherents of Jesus, whose condemnation of our kind of Christianity breaks my heart, not because I seek approval from fundamentalists or conservatives, but because I see the message of the one we worship being so distorted into a product of hate, and I HAVE to try and change that (good luck right)) "

 

Me TOO!! Can we agree on what Jesus said about "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and your neighbor as yourself" as the way to abundant life?

 

Absolutely! As far as I am concerned Jesus stated that this was his greatest commandment and I don't wish to second guess that.

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