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Rodge
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What is the meaning of "Sacred and the Oneness and Unity of all life" in your 8 Points? Is it just a way to refer to God without using the word? The "Oneness of life" seems to say that everything that shares a name is united by that name, so we could also refer to the "Oneness of grapes" or the "Oneness of solar planets"? The same question arises with the "Unity of life." But the phrases are probably intended to mean something more than that. And what meaning is attached to "Sacred," especially with that capital S?

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Rodge, Both ancient and modern philosophers have deduced that reality is a dynamic unity if you are comfortable with the word God think of it as that because words are symbols leading to a meaning beyond the word. If you rather not use the word God, Einstein expresses unity in his statement below.

 

"The human being is part of the whole, called by us the ‘universe’,
a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts
and feelings, as something separate from the rest — a kind of optical
delusion of consciousness.

This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires.
Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle
of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature
in its beauty."
— Albert Einstein

 

The word sacred has many meanings so if you have something that you hold sacred you can apply it. I feel is is capitalized to emphasize its importance the same as you posting in bold words that are important to you. Joseph Campbell uses the word sacred to describe what can't be expressed, "Your sacred space is where you can
find yourself again and again."

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Soma,



Thank for responding to my questions, but I’m afraid you didn't really address my uncertainty. It might be helpful if I outline my assumptions that lie behind my questions.



First, I assume that the goal of this web site is not just to sponsor a theological seminar, but to strengthen the Christian church.



Second, I assume that an institutional religion is drawn toward asserting its possession of “truth,” that it has a more correct understanding than its rivals.



Third, I assume that institutional Christianity has been discredited over the centuries by having various claims disproven. (Not so much a problem when the church had a monopoly on spiritual, political, and scholarly power, a monopoly that has been torn down, especially since the Renaissance, with the advent of the scientific method, public education, political independence, and mass communication.)



Fourth, I assume that there can be no confirming proof (validation by impartial observers) of any spiritual claims, since proof requires physical tools and spiritual claims involve non-physical phenomena.



Fifth, there is a fundamental difference between “God” and “Jesus,” one being an abstraction and one being a specific person. Or, to put it another way, one being incapable of being proven and one being potentially capable of being proven.



Sixth, there has been an evolving understanding of the divine that moves from the concrete toward the abstract, from the spirit that lives in the volcano to theistic and mono-theistic divinity to the extreme abstraction of “Ground of Our Being.”



Seventh, this trend toward abstraction has made it increasingly difficult for most people to identify with the concept of divinity.



Eight, the man named Jesus, being specific and human, continues to be identifiable to most people.



Ninth, institutional Christianity should turn away from unprovable claims about the existence and nature of “God” and “Christ,” and instead focus on trying to uncover the significance of the teachings of a man named Jesus. (This does not mean denying “God,” but just testifying about personal experience without projecting it onto others.)



Those are the assumptions that have led me to this site. It seems that you recognize the importance of Jesus as a guide. As does Bishop John Shelby Spong. But, in calling for a Christian revolution, Bishop Spong still seems to trying too hard to give meaning (if not a definition) to the concept of “God.” Bishop Spong’s historcial correctness about the Bible is one thing, but his arguing for theological correctness bothers me, because I think it involves false claims and poor strategy. It just doesn’t seem promising to me to go up to Fundamentalists who have experienced what seemed like the presence of Jesus, and tell them that they couldn't really have experienced that. It seems more promising to engage them in a discussion about what we know about Jesus and what that means.



So, I followed Bishop Spong to your web site, and was immediately baffled by what you were claiming regarding the divine. To be frank, my suspicion was that it was just the kind of intellectual word play that would further isolate Christianity from most people, but I don’t want to jump to conclusions. Can’t ypu just focus on Jesus without drawing boundaries around something as subjective and unprovable as our experience (or non-experience) of the divine?

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"Ninth, institutional Christianity should turn away from unprovable claims about the existence and nature of “God” and “Christ,” and instead focus on trying to uncover the significance of the teachings of a man named Jesus. (This does not mean denying “God,” but just testifying about personal experience without projecting it onto others.)"

 

The most fundamental aspect of being a Christian is to follow Christ's teachings and in his time on earth he mainly taught about love and the Divinity Within. We Christians know all the stories, we know about Jesus, but we don't understand his teachings because we don't understand love or the experience Christ was teaching us.

 

"'Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?' Jesus replied: '"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: "Love your neighbor as yourself." All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.'"
-Matthew 22:36-40

 

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
-Matthew 6:19-21

 

"What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?"
-Matthew 16:26

 

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God."
-Matthew

 

How wonderful for Christians to know that Jesus Christ speaks to us enabling us to understand our true self so that we may love, be at peace, accept and forgive others, and experience the unity of the Infinite without judging, or trying to persuade others to join our group. Most Christians know all the stories, but they don't know what Jesus was teaching so they promote a cult of personality instead of living the life and bearing the fruit which are the actions we do in this world with love, happiness and peace that is the proof. We don't have to project Christianity or our personal experience on others because everyone is also doing the Lord's work just being themselves. As Christians we need to commune with the Divinity Within so we can learn from others and stop preaching, projecting rules, judgements, damnations and our opinions. It is sad when we Christians talk more about sins than the spirit.

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Hi Rodge,

It seems to me you may have made too many assumptions concerning PC. If you review the 8points of PC, I think you will find it very different from institutional religion . It makes no claims of being more correct but rather encourages an individual journey of discovery without formal doctrine or dogma.

 

Here is an excellent thread by members on what Progressive Chrisianity means to members in their own words. http://tcpc.ipbhost.com/index.php?/topic/2457-just-what-is-progressive-christianity-to-you/

 

Bishop Spong shares his personal study and views but doesn't dictate what one must or must not believe.

 

Joseph

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Soma,

 

Thanks you for responding to my post. You seem to be agreeing with my statement that institutional Christianity should "focus on trying to uncover the significance of the teachings of a man named Jesus." You don't seem to be agreeing with my argument that institutional Christianity should turn away from a focus on "God" and "Christ." But you don't say why I am wrong. You assert "The most fundamental aspect of being a Christian is to follow Christ's teachings" without explaining why you refer to Christ's teachings rather than Jesus's teachings. You refer to the "Divinity Within" rather than "inner spirituality" without explaining why you use the reference to divinity. You refer to "the unity of the Infinite" and "the Lord's work" without addressing my argument that those are precisely the sort of god-words that institutional Christianity should avoid proclaiming. But then you conclude by urging that we "learn from others and stop preaching, projecting rules, judgements, damnations and our opinions," which was my point completely. Perhaps I don't understand your purpose, but you include a set of Biblical quotations as what seems to be like the proof texts that Fundamentalists love to abuse. I can read your comment as a testimony to your personal beliefs, but I'm having trouble understanding what strategy this suggests for the institutional church..

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Joseph,

 

My assumptions were not directed at Progressive Christianity. They were intended to lay the foundation for what I'm trying to understand about Progressive Christianity. Is it a theological seminar, or does it aspire to have an impact on the institutional church? If the latter, then it needs to assert something. I think there is often confusion between how words are intended and how they are received.

 

Let's take Bishop Spong as an example. Is it his intention purely to testify for personal beliefs, or is it to persuade? When he talks about the need for Christianity to change, when he more recently calls for reformation of the church, he is obviously an advocate. There are two aspects to what he writes. First are arguments about facts — when various passages were written, the environment at the time they first appeared, etc. Some of the evidence is circumstantial, but this is an effort to discover concrete facts. The other aspect of his writings deal with the nature of the divine. Here, there are no facts. That's also true about the theological content of most sermons preached in Christian churches today. The excuse is given that these are all merely testimonials to the speaker's faith, the speaker's personal beliefs. But that's not how they are heard. The wording of claims about facts regarding the historical Jesus and the wording of claims about the power of God is the same. "If you don't accept Jesus as your Savior, you will go to hell" is not heard as a testimonial, but a judgment. "After you die, you will be with God in Paradise" is not heard as a personal testimonial, but as a promise.

 

Now, I think testimonials are important, and they should be offered up. Offering a space for exchanging personal testimonials is worthwhile. I'm just trying to understand if the goal of having this web site is more ambitious. Is it trying to advocate some theological concepts and dismiss others? Is Bishop Spong testifying that a theistic God doesn't work for him, or advocating that it shouldn't work for others? This is not a hostile question, because my personal beliefs are close to his. But I now see that I erred in once thinking that there could be "right" answers to spiritual questions, and I fear that Bishop Spong, and, perhaps, Progressive Christianity, are making the same mistake.

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Rodge words are not as important to me as they are for you. I can call it fruit or an apple, I really don't care if I just want to eat it and enjoy becoming one with it. After one bite to discuss the apple becomes boring when the sweetness is beyond words. I think consciousness raising involves keeping an open heart, exploring creativity, and being open to mind-expanding ideas. If you want to talk about the Spirit or Divine and their difference I can't answer that because I see them as words pointing to the same thing. I am not about changing the church because I am about being true to myself and expanding myself as a Christian then the Christian Church expands too. I can't speak for Bishop Spong, but I enjoy his writings because they expand the concepts in my mind as a Christian. I can't speak for Progressive Christians because each one is different and is giving me a piece to the puzzle that speaks truth to truth.

 

Chapter 41
When a superior man hears of the Tao,
he immediately begins to embody it.
When an average man hears of the Tao,
he half believes it, half doubts it.
When a foolish man hears of the Tao,
he laughs out loud.
If he didn’t laugh,
it wouldn’t be the Tao.

 

Cheers

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Soma and JosephM,

 

Thank you for your responses. They are helpful to my understanding of the purpose of the web site, and I respect your goals. To me, they raise very fundamental questions about the nature of Jesus's message. To me, it sounds very similar to Buddhism, in that it is focused inward, toward personal spiritual growth. It is difficult to know the authentic Jesus, since what we know is filtered through the understanding of those who heard him and the understanding of the emerging Christian church. But that image is of an outward mission, based on inner spiritual truth, but focused on being motivated by that inner truth to reach out to others, spiritually and physically. To me, that commandment to bring the "Good News" to others, to minister to the needs of others, is the heart of an active Christianity, in contrast to the passive Buddhist approach.

 

You have a right to call this web site whatever you wish. But, because I am interested in words and their meaning, I'm not sure that "Progressive Christianity" is what you're about. To me, "Progressive Christianity" refers to the effort to cut through the dogmas and errors promulgated by the emerging institutional church, and return to the message spoken by Jesus. That message, as I perceive it, embraces the reality of inner spirituality, and stresses its importance, but does so in the context of community, in the equality of every person's inner spirituality, and in the need to reach out with respect and care for all others. It is helpful for me to know that this is not the approach you take, so thank you for the clarification.

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Rodge,

 

We have thousands of recorded affiliated churches and organizations/communities that believe they are doing just that without a lot of doctrine and dogma that PC sees as more of a roadblock in spiritual growth than asset to the same. If you read the 8 points carefully you will find PC finds more grace in the search for understanding and more value in questioning than in absolutes. On the contrary to your conclusions stated above Progressive Christians are reaching out both as individuals and community and on their journey are helpful and care for others and do embrace the reality of inner spirituality. They are also active in respecting and caring for the integrity of the environment we live in. While it may sound like i am defending the label, the reality is, it needs no defending. Perhaps you have missed the point of PC by focusing on this forum (discussion board) alone and would get a better feel by examining our main site more thoroughly at http://progressivechristianity.org/

 

Joseph

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JosephM,

 

As I said at the outset, I came to this Internet representation of Progressive Christianity out of curiosity born of Bishop Spong's relationship with it. I have read the 8 points and agree with most of them. Over the years, I have come to believe that the greatest sin may be certainty, a fixation on current belief that denies the possibility of change. And it is especially sinful when it leads to trying to impose one's certainty upon others. I think that is compatible with your 8 points. What bothers me about the 8 points is that you assert the value of "following the path and teachings of Jesus," with which I agree. But you define that path as leading to God. That's not the word that you used, so I inquired about your meaning, and you confirmed that the references are to some sense of divinity. That, I think, is unnecessarily limiting in the context of openness in the 8 points. I would have preferred that it say "{We] believe that following the path and teachings of Jesus can lead to an awareness and experience of what it means to have the unearned gift of human consciousness." I think the existence or non-existence of divinity is a matter of personal faith which can be testified to but cannot be offered as a universal truth for others. Traditional Christian churches, and you, seem to limit the discussion with an affirmation regarding the existence of divinity, and I think that's a false claim and a strategic mistake for the Christian church (and those who seek to preserve and strengthen it).

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Rodge,

 

The 8 points were changed in 2011 and point 1 now reads " We believe that following the path and teachings of Jesus can lead to an awareness and experience of the Sacred and Oneness and Unity of all life" Those words are not set in stone but many affiliated churches and in leadership roles felt that those words were more appropriate for now. As you know, the word progressive typically means "happening or developing gradually or in stages; proceeding step by step" .Also as you are aware, all Christians do not necessarily whether progressive or otherwise hold the exact same beliefs. I am merely a member posting as Joseph here and i certainly do not limit the discussions here to any affirmation regarding the existence or non-existence of divinity. My words speak for me only and the same goes for the words of others. They carry no more weight than the words of you (Rodge) here except when signed as JosephM (administrator/Moderator) and then those words are limited to my role as administrator or moderator and not doctrine or dogma or beliefs. I as others here offer nothing declared as universal truth.That disclaimer is and has been documented HERE It seems to me that you have made some assumptions concerning PC that in my view are misleading that i believe a more thourough study of the entire site including the home site i previously mentioned will clear up.

 

Joseph

 

PS. It is my view that we are all at different stages in our journey and i am not of the persuasion that one is higher or lower, or more or less correct. It seems to me, we are just at different perspective points of viewing reality. Your views have been stimulating and provoking of thoughts to consider. Thanks for that.

Edited by JosephM
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JosephM, We agree on so much, and I appreciate the time you've taken to reply respectfully. Despite its critics, I believe that the institutional church performs an important function, and I am concerned for its future. I worry that its future is threatened by a reluctance to take a progressive (evolving) approach to religious ideas. I applaud Progressive efforts to clarify facts about how the Bible was created historically, and its logical challenges to the concept of a theistic God. But I see evidence of a reluctance to let go of the idea that there is some universal truth regarding the existence of some kind of divinity. While I recognize the personal truth of each person's faith decisions, I will continue to insist that there can be no universal truth regarding the existence (or non-existence) of divinity, because there is no way to verify such claims.

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" I think the existence or non-existence of divinity is a matter of personal faith which can be testified to but cannot be offered as a universal truth for others. Traditional Christian churches, and you, seem to limit the discussion with an affirmation regarding the existence of divinity, and I think that's a false claim and a strategic mistake for the Christian church (and those who seek to preserve and strengthen it).Rodge

 

The declining church attendance is declining more day by day and it is sad Christianity through the churches has become soulless and can no longer feed the Divinity within as Christ taught. If we are divorced from the spirit within then all we have are religious leaders who manipulate and abuse their authority, having been caught not following basic morality. The people accepting the Church as an infallible guide believe whatever the Church teaches and do what the church authorities tell them to do even when religious-based bad behavior is increasing. It is pitiful when those who claim to be religious fail to speak out against child abuse, women and minority discrimination supporting bullying tactics to humiliate people in hating others and different religions. Attacks on women’s rights, war, pushing for dogma in science classrooms and withholding medical care and food from the elderly, and poor in favor of tax breaks for the wealthy is not the Christianity that Jesus taught. A soulless church can't teach people how to get in touch with the Divinity within so it is no wonder that people are straying away from the church with nothing to offer and going back to God.

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soma, I think we agree, sort of. I agree about the existence of an inner reality that I would call 'inner spirituality" rather than "the Divinity within" because, to me, "Divinity" implies some kind of universal non-physical reality. But I think that we probably agree that this inner reality, whatever one calls it, is an essential part of the powerful message preached by Jesus. And I think we agree that churches calling themselves "Christian" often speak with disrespect and judgment regarding those who don't agree with their interpretation of Jesus's message. Where I think we disagree is that I don't place the blame the members of those churches for their beliefs ("people accepting the Church as an infallible guide"). What each of us believes is a personal choice, and my claim is that there is no way to validate one person's beliefs about spiritual truths over another's. My belief is that a theistic God makes no sense except as a projection of human desires. But I accept that some people believe they have experienced an intense and continuing relationship with a theistic God. There is no way to prove that my beliefs are more correct than their's, so I don't judge.

 

On the other hand, I focus my blame on the church, not its members. I agree with your indictment of teachings that seem to run so counter to what Jesus taught. It is outrageous, some of the ideas they present in the name of Jesus. The core problem, I think, is their claim to authority. All the variations boil down to the claim to possess the truth about a universal spiritual reality often called "God." I argue that it is false on its face to claim the ability to proclaim any universal truth about "God" because there is no way to prove or verify the correctness of all the competing claims. We rely on our evaluation of our experience and learning and insight to determine our personal truths. But universal truths about spiritual matters cannot be put to universal tests. The only tools we have to prove or verify universal claims are physical ("the room's temperature is 72 degrees" or "my baby was healed"), but physical tools cannot prove or verify experiential/spiritual claims ("the room feels too warm", "prayers to God healed my baby").

 

The solution, one that I would propose for Progressive Christianity, is not to challenge the personal beliefs of church members, but to challenge the universal claims of the church. Since the church knows that the existence and nature of God cannot be proven (or disproven), it is false witness to claim that the church's doctrinal proclamations are true, and it is bad strategy, since it damages the church's credibility when so many of its false claims to authority are discredited (for example, the Earth as the center of the Universe). My vision is of a church that presents no dogma, but uses Jesus as the center of gravity for a community that learns and grows by exchanging testimonials to a wide variety of personal beliefs, without judgment. Where the theists and non-theists and agnostics shall not lift up angry words against each other, neither shall they arm for war any more. I suspect that that's close to Progressive Christianity, if it could replace grand universal terms like "Sacred" and "Unity" with quiet personal terms like "sacred" and "unity."

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Rodge, those here who know me know that I struggle with this issue myself. It is fairly easy to define what one means to be progressive (often because we are well aware of what regressive or conservative is). But I believe that as far as "Christian" or "Christianity" goes, this website and this forum offer no definitions to this word. It is left up to each person to decide for themselves what being Christian and what Christianity means to them. That is probably as it should be because, from the scriptures, Jesus never teaches about being Christian and I believe Jesus sought to reform Judaism, not to start a new religion called "Christianity."

 

But it is also my conviction, after reading the scriptures my entire life, that Jesus was a very wise person in showing us how to relate to God and to others. His teachings on the kingdom of God illustrate this to a very high degree. If this is the case, if Jesus does indeed teach us how to live wisely, then his teachings (those of the historical Jesus as close as we can get to them) are very important to Progressive Christianity.

 

However, and this is not a judgment of anyone's salvation or standing with God or morality or spirituality, I have been told here by a number of the moderators that the historical Jesus is irrelevant to them. What they seem to emphasize, and again this is an observation not a judgment, is the Divinity or Oneness within that we all have which, essentially, makes Jesus irrelevant.

 

This strikes me as somewhat odd because one of the things the Third Quest for the Historical Jesus has tried to do is to differentiate the "Christ of Faith" (a supernatural, gnostic view of Jesus) from the "Jesus of Nazareth", the man who actually lived in the first century. I, for one, appreciate this effort because I, personally, find the "Christ of Faith" to be unbelievable. So I'm far more interested in what Jesus may have originally done and said. And from what I can tell, his actions and teaching were very progressive, even by today's standards.

 

So I am a bit perplexed myself by the label "Progressive Christianity" when those who speak for it say that the historical Jesus is irrelevant to the PC movement. To me, if Christianity is to progress, then I am with Spong and Borg and Crossan and others who believe that we need to get past the "Christ of Faith" in incorporate the teachings of the historical Jesus into our personal and social lives. I find his teachings to be very socially relevant, especially in our time. And this is why Buddhism doesn't work for me. IMO, it is to far self-centric in focusing only on the inner self and a mystic "oneness with all" that, ironically, is not socially progressive.

 

The above views are mine alone.

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BillM,

 

You can't imagine how rewarding to find someone on the Internet with whom I agree so completely. I'm new to this site (although not as new to Spong), But I do wonder if "Progressive Christianity" is a misleading name for this site, which seems much more aligned with mysticism and Eastern thinking than with Jesus. I agree that worshiping "Jesus the Christ" is a tribute to the work of the early church, not to Jesus the actual person.

 

So the question we both probably struggle with is how to understand the historic Jesus, since we think he is central, not irrelevant. First, I think there is a fundamental difference between the authenticity of the Divine and the authenticity of Jesus. We have no writings of Jesus, nor any official records, nor any authenticated eyewitness accounts. But we are trying to investigate specific events in history, and we have many concrete clues about how the presence of Jesus affected his followers, and the process by which the concept of Jesus grew and changed over the church's early years. Although we cannot authenticate specific quotes, we can note which quotes attributed to Jesus seem consistent with the general message attributed to him, and which seem shaped to serve the evangelical needs of the growing church. I believe that our task is to discern these underlying themes that make up a coherent picture of what Jesus was teaching.

 

Now, about those themes. I think there is one group of themes that most scholars would agree with. For example, there is a theme that the presence of personal spirituality (I would call it "human consciousness") s ultimately more important than the physical body. And the theme that that personal spirituality is shared by everyone — not because some earned it and other didn't, but because we were all born as humans. The theme that we should honor this blessing if we want to experience our lives fully. And that we are dishonoring the blessing in ourselves if we do not honor and celebrate that same blessing in others.

 

But I think there is a different kind of theme about God. The difference is not that God is rarely citied, because it is a frequent theme. But I would note that the first set of beliefs are universal, that they can be understood and validated even if they conflict with a person's culture. Jesus can articulate these ideas in parables and simple sayings that are immediately recognizable. "God" is different. Whatever Jesus believed about the divine, the culture might have lacked the words necessary to explain it. And, even if the words could be found, the hearers might not understand it. "Father" (or "Daddy") communicates a close personal relationship, but not much information about what Dad is like. So, I conclude that it is much more difficult for us to discern Jesus's true feelings about the Divine. I would not base a religion on this uncertain foundation stone. But I would not actively deny it, either. This fits with my bias for focusing on the specific and de-emphasizing the abstract.

 

In short, Christianity without God and Christ, but very much with Jesus. That, I think, would be true Progressive Christianity.

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Hey Rodge,

 

This notion that Progressive Christianity should be something is false. What is important is that it is progressing, emerging, evolving. In order for that to happen, we must be open to change and respectful of other's ideas and beliefs. I believe the 8 points lay a foundation for this. I can believe in the "Christ of Faith" if it suits me. What makes me progressive is that I believe that you don't have to believe it at all. I do not believe that one's self-identification of Christian has to put a theistic God at the center. But I disagree with your assertion that true Progressive Christianity should not include "God and Christ". Historical Jesus' teachings very much include a relationship with God (Father, Daddy). As far as what the nature of Abba is, I think that you don't have to look much further than the use of Abba as a name for God. Jesus popularized this name for God. Jesus is saying that God is like a father. A relationship with God is like the relationship you would have with a father whom you would refer to Daddy. Of course, that may not mean the same for this day and age or to any individual. But I think this is a big change from Lord or Jehovah.

 

I still challenge the term "The Church". I do not believe there is such a thing anymore. It's a way for people who do not got to "a" church to refer to what they perceive as a singular institution. It would be like saying "the Hospital" should stock up on more q-tips because when I went to Norman Regional Hospital, they were low.

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Rodge, David makes, IMO, a good point about relinquishing any God talk. Even for the historical Jesus, again as close as we can get to him, God and God's kingdom were extremely important. I suspect that Jesus' view of God, being a Jew in the first century, was quite anthropomorphic. And some progressive Christians, from John A.T. Robertson to John Spong to advocates for Process Theology, say that we need to leave supernatural theism behind. The question is, can we do this and still believe that Jesus somehow reveals God to us?

 

I think we can.

 

But I first have to clarify a couple of notions concerning what I said earlier. First, I'm not at all opposed to speaking of "God within" or the Divine Spark or some other concepts that describe God in panentheistic terms. Panentheism makes more sense to me than any other concept of God that I have found, but it is still a human concept of something (or Someone) that is mystery. So I have no problem with the "God within" paradigm or, as the apostle Paul said, "God was in Christ."

 

The question then becomes, what does that look like? What does a human life filled with God look like?

 

And that, in my opinion, is where Jesus comes in. He doesn't show us "God in human form", but he does show us what a human life full of God looks like. In his teachings, in his life, in his death, Jesus gives us what has historically been call a revelation of God.

 

Seen in this way, if we choose to do so, we are not confined to speak of God in the same exact anthropomorphic terms that Jesus did. But we are called, I believe, to live as Jesus did. He gives us an example of the right and proper way to live wisely with God, with each other, and with the world. Yes, we see in the gospel of John a Christ fully aware of his Divinity, but if we let this (I don't want to sound disrespectful) self-centeredness overshadow Jesus' teachings of social importance in the synoptic gospels, I think we miss something important. IMO, whether we feel divine or not, I think our ego must be secondary to how we treat others. We have far too many instances of people declaring them to be divine and then they seek worship, fame, or power. For Jesus, IMO, if he sensed his divinity, it lead him to love, serve, and sacrifice.

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Hi Rodge again and Bill,

 

It seems to me that PC does not seek to make Jesus irrelevant but some here including myself do place more importance / value / relevance on the recorded teachings attributed to the man named Jesus (historical Jesus). We cannot prove that an actual man named Jesus as described existed ( though i personally don't doubt it) but we do have purported teachings that when put in practice are powerful and in my view, life changing. Therefor for me it doesn't create in me a need to argue or dispute whether he existed as such or not. Frankly it makes no difference to me since many of the recorded words / parables / teachings have resonated and brought forth fruit in my life. So while some may get the the impression that the man Jesus is irrelevant to me or PC, that would be in my view somewhat inaccurate as all do not share in any view i may hold. But yes, it doesn't matter to me whether someone proves or disproves his existence since i have teachings attributed to him that i value greater than the man himself.

 

Just a clarification of my personal feelings,

Joseph

Edited by JosephM
placed emphasis on word teachings and spelling
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I'd also like to say that I agree with David that this website and forum has the right and freedom to call itself anything they want to. We do enjoy religious freedom here in this country. And this website/forum certainly does NOT speak for those who consider themselves to be progressive Christians everywhere. There are different PC groups on Facebook that have 1000/2000/3000 members. They are certainly not all active here.

 

Nevertheless, and again this is only my opinion and not a judgment (condemnation), I find the general atmosphere here to be more akin to Unitarian Universalism which, over the last 50 years or so, has also moved away from historical Christianity, God-language, and the teachings of Jesus. Only about 10% of their constituency confesses to be Christian. That's okay. It works for them. We generally go where we feel kinship and comforted. Human nature.

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Thanks for that clarification, Joseph. Actually, I see it much the same way. Some Christians are "red letter Christians" and believe that everything in the gospels and in Acts are the very words of Jesus. Other people, after thoroughly researching the topic of the "historical Jesus", conclude that because his existence cannot be proven, nothing attributed to him is worth the time and effort to listen to or practice. And I have to concede that after all my studies, the "historical Jesus" may not have, in fact, existed.

 

But, as you have said, his teachings have proven themselves down through history when actually practiced. Christians and others who have tried to do what he taught, instead of just "worshipping Christ", have generally been an influence for good on lives and on society. So I'm not concerned about the topic of whether Jesus existed or not either. I'm more interested in whether his alleged teachings are wise and provable to be good.

 

My point is that I don't find the teachings of "the Christ of faith" to be sensible or good. He is far too self-centered ("I...I...I..."), wanting to be worshipped rather than followed, IMO. Far too exclusive -- "No one comes to the Father but by Me." Etc. I'm sure you know all of this. And it is this "Christ of faith" that dominates much of Christianity.

Of course, the Third Quest has sought to get as close to the historical Jesus as possible. As I said, I appreciate their efforts, not because they "prove" the existence of Jesus of Nazareth, but because, for me, they help me to separate superstition from wisdom.

Edited by BillM
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Fatherman and BillM,

 

Fatherman said, "This notion that Progressive Christianity should be something is false." But the 8 Points outline the something that this site's version of Progressive Christianity is. I'm just questioning whether "Progressive Christianity" is the correct name for what this web site is. I think what is progressive is to recognize the limits of claiming universal truths about divinity, and recognizing that there is no way to determine which are superior to others. The 8 points generally seem to support this approach, but I think the first Point misses that mark by using terms to try to define a certain view of divinity and exclude others.

 

Fatherman said, "But I disagree with your assertion that true Progressive Christianity should not include 'God and Christ'." And BillM concurred, saying, "David makes, IMO, a good point about relinquishing any God talk." But I did not say that the discussion should not include "God talk." To the contrary, I think I explicitly said that all sorts of testimonies about the existence and non-existence of God should be encouraged and valued. I just said that one should not be favored over another. I said that writing the 8 Points in a way that limits the discussion to "God talk" is problematic. It is valid to discuss one's personal belief in a theistic God, or a panentheistic God, or a non-existent God. I think I said explicitly that such discussion is valuable and helpful, so long as everyone is respectful of each other views. But I disagree when any individual, or the web site's goals, suggest that God of a certain nature exists, because such assertions cannot be supported.

 

Fatherman said, "Jesus is saying that God is like a father." That is clearly a metaphor, because "father" has no specific meaning beyond procreation, and even phrases like "He was like a father to me" don't use "father" in the biological sense. And the image intended by this metaphor is clearly a theistic God, which presents a real problem for non-theists. I continue to insist that Jess's inner experience cannot be fully shared or explained, but only hinted at through stories and metaphors. At best, we get a glimpse of how the Jewish followers of Jesus understood his words, and perhaps we are reading some words Jesus used to try to communicate his experience to followers untrained in theology. If your comments are intended to express your personal testimonials to these issues, that's fine. But if you are offering them as facts to buttress an argument, I disagree.

 

BillM said, "I think our ego must be secondary to how we treat others." This gets into morality, which is a whole 'nother discussion. I would just say that I think Jesus teaches us the importance of respecting the blessing of human consciousness in ourselves. And, since we are no more deserving of human consciousness than another person, we are obliged to extend this respect of the blessing of human consciousness to others. Otherwise, we are not following the teachings of Jesus; we are following the teachings of our ego. You suggest that our self-consciousness must be secondary to others. I disagree, because that suggests that we need not respect our own self-consciousness. I think the challenge is to try to find ways to respect both.

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