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Jesus - Inclusive?


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Much is made in Progressive Christianity about how we should be inclusive of others. The idea is that no matter one's race, religion, sexual orientation, political affiliation, social status, culture, etc., we welcome all to be part of...fill in the blank, community, God's kingdom, the church, God's people. Often, Jesus is held up as our standard for such egalitarianism.

 

Yet, even if we no longer hold to a belief in hell or everlasting torment, there are still plenty of scriptures attributed to Jesus where he speaks of those who are not inside the kingdom, of those who are late, of those who are not prepared, of those who don't join into the party, of those who are, dare I say it, damned.

 

What do we, as PCs do with these non-inclusive accounts where Jesus seems to teach against universalism or to say that there are people who are not going to be included, who are not, for lack of a better term, going to make it? How can we speak of Jesus as our role model for inclusivity when he was not always inclusive?

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For me, I don't look to Jesus as a role model for inclusiveness because I don't think he was/is one in particular. We can imagine that sort of Jesus if we want to, but as you point out Bill much of what Jesus says is clearly not inclusive talk and I think it is pretty clear that Jesus was preaching a message intended only for the Jewish people. Then Paul came along and began to broaden Jesus' message and sell it to the gentiles.

 

However, whether as a Progressive Christian or as a Humanist, I see inclusion as a better way forward for the world.

 

I think that what we should do with Jesus' non-inclusive accounts is acknowledge them and recognise they were made by a man who lived in a different time, culture and situation. I am fine with Jesus being wrong about some things- after all, he was only human!

Edited by PaulS
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All are welcome, but once one chooses to follow Jesus the path is set.

 

In Luke 9:49, Jesus says "Anyone who is not against you is for you" when speaking of outsiders, but in 9:62 He says "None who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit forvthe kingdom of God".

 

Progressive Christianity does not mean one can change Jesus' teachings according to whim, intellect, imagination or political correctness.

 

Much of what Jesus taught is difficult and uncomfortable, but Progressive Christianity is still Christianity. Dogma and doctrine can be revised as Scripture is better understood, but we cannot simply discard Scripture out of ego, cowardice or people-pleasing.

 

If one looks at the history of Christianity, most of the problems were caused by substituting the political correctness of the time for Scripture.

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Burl,

I would beg to differ on what it seems to me is your opinion of scripture as relates to progressive Christianity. PC, at least on this site, has no such requirement that one accept all the writings or reported teachings in the NT as either original, accurate, or the Word of God. Not even the 8 points of PC are set in stone and have in fact been modified with time. My tie to Christianity is in that i found an approach to God through some of the reported teachings of Jesus. Whether Jesus really existed or not (though my view is that he did) or that he said all the things that are attributed to him (though my view is that he probably did not) is of little importance to me. What is important to me is the reported teachings that have contributed to a profound and positive transformation in my life and a connection to the source of all being.

 

Personally i try to nether accept nor discard the writings attributed to Jesus on face value. Rather i find that some of the reported teachings speak to me in a testing or a practical application in my life. Those i allow to integrate into and grow in my life. The others that neither speak to my reasoning, intellect or for the most part , my personal experiences , i merely allow them to be. Perhaps they may someday speak to me, perhaps not. The same can be said of me of the teachings in other books.

Joseph

 

PS i don't know if Jesus was inclusive or not as some of the writings can be interpreted to suggest yes and others no . Basically i can't speak for Jesus but i have found being inclusive to have many positive benefits.

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Joseph, you make a point which, to me, is important but which can also be somewhat challenging. In fact, it references the thread I started on the role of Jesus for PCs. Of course, you well know that no one person speaks for all PCs, so our answers can be, and are, quite varied in this respect. Back when I was an evangelical, I considered Jesus to be my Lord and I considered that most, if not all, of the red letters in my Bible were his authentic teachings. So Jesus was, for me, a person to be obeyed, to be followed, to be imitated.

 

I no longer hold to that viewpoint unilaterally. Like you, yes, there are some teachings attributed to Jesus that seem, to me, to be good, just, compassionate, teachings which, if put into place, might make us more mature humans and our world a better place. But I would not in any way say that all of the red letters are of this nature. Many of his teachings, as others have said, reflect the limited view of the man, given his time, culture, and religion.

 

So, for me, Jesus is more like a brother whom I have never met, but who others have described to me. Are these descriptions accurate? Who is to say? But my brother is my brother and has no authority over me. If I value whatever relationship I have with him, I have to consider, as I do, what information I have available and whether or not what is attributed to him does, in face, seem sensible and moral to me.

 

This is quite a different view of Jesus from when I was an evangelical. But it is where my journey has lead me and I'm fairly comfortable with this position. I have "freedom in Christ" to even question Jesus. My brother, not my Lord.

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Bill and Joseph

I generally agree with what you guys are saying, my emphases might be in different places, but that is fine.

 

I certainly take a Campbellian view on these things. in that religion, and certainly much that surrounds Jesus and the Bible in general can be described by the word religion, describes four aspects of our lives. And these are (my paraphrase) awe, society, science and psyche. ... assp for short.

 

Religion can give some of us:

  • a sense of awe; for me I might get it when I visit a great cathedral or listen to a piece of Bach.
  • science - an explanation of how the universe came into being and how it ticks. Plainly this aspect of religion has been superseded by the less dogmatic science of the last few hundred years. (note, I think people might be dogmatic but the process of science itself is quite agnostic).
  • society, religion has been historically guidelines and to some degree how society works. Again with a nod to Norm's oath, we have had many hard-won gains (at least in my opinion) from our traditional views.
  • and psyche ... a guideline how as individuals we may pass through life from babyhood to old age.

What I do have a general lack of understanding of is why as individuals some of us are tied (to some degree) to our ancient religions and have a need to interpret these texts in a modern light. While I think it is intellectually challenging and perhaps fun to see how we need to interpret ancient texts with a modern understanding, why not go to our modern scientific understanding in the first place?

 

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I suspect that the reason that religion is not shelved entirely for the sake of science is that there still exists within the human creature the notion of spirit or, for lack of better terms, the desire that we have to believe that life has some meaning and purpose to it. Science alone, IMO, cannot provide that. Within the evolutionary paradigm, we exist only to reproduce ourselves, red in tooth and claw. There is no higher meaning or purpose. There is no spirit. All there is in scientism is the physical realm. Everything we experience, so we are told, comes down to chemical reactions and neurons firing in the brain. While this is certainly true, such a paradigm doesn't really support our age-enduring desire to think that we are somehow special, somehow God's crowning creation, somehow the center of the universe.

 

I respect science highly as a tool to study and understand the physical realm. But I'm not ready to say that all that exists within the universe is physical matter. How could we be dogmatic on such an assertion? This doesn't mean that I believe in God as the Old Man in the Sky, or in angels or demons. It just means that there *might* be more to the cosmos than just what our physical senses tell us. So I'm not convinced that a modern scientific understanding is everything we need to mature as a species. Science tells us how to build a bomb. Can it tell us whether or not to use it if all we are is a collection of meaningless chemicals and neurons? I love good scifi because it raises these kinds of questions. Just because we can do a thing, should we? I'm not sure science alone can help us answer all our questions.

 

What do you think?

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All are welcome, but once one chooses to follow Jesus the path is set.

 

In Luke 9:49, Jesus says "Anyone who is not against you is for you" when speaking of outsiders, but in 9:62 He says "None who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit forvthe kingdom of God".

 

Progressive Christianity does not mean one can change Jesus' teachings according to whim, intellect, imagination or political correctness.

 

Much of what Jesus taught is difficult and uncomfortable, but Progressive Christianity is still Christianity. Dogma and doctrine can be revised as Scripture is better understood, but we cannot simply discard Scripture out of ego, cowardice or people-pleasing.

 

If one looks at the history of Christianity, most of the problems were caused by substituting the political correctness of the time for Scripture.

 

I think 'how' one follows that path is open to interpretation. The thousands of different Christian denominations would seem to indicate there are differences of opinion concerning such.

 

Exactly what the teachings of Jesus are/mean have been cause for argument for pretty much as long as Jesus has been dead. Disagreement started back with Paul and Peter and the only thing that is certain is that people form their own certain views. In light of biblical scholarship of the last couple of hundred years, there is much to question within our existing scripture today. So I don't see it so much as changing Jesus' message, but moreso trying to either understand it or coming to realize that just because it's in the NT doesn't mean it actually is from Jesus.

 

And whilst I don't think any material should be disregarded out of ego, cowardice or people-pleasing, I do think we can disregard that which is no longer appropriate. Once upon a time God-followers thought stoning people to death and smashing children's heads upon rock was of God. I think we can all move forward with the times and better understand that much attributed to Jesus has to be taken in context of his day, whereas many try to apply it to a world 2000 years older and many different cultures.

 

In my opinion, if one looks at the history of Christianity, most of the problems were actually caused by hard-headedness and the forthright opinions of many that doctrine had to be interpreted and applied in a specific way, leaving no room for a better understanding.

Edited by PaulS
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Bill

I was going to give a long reply ... point by point. But I think this will be more effective.

 

You are right science won't give us an answer as to whether we "should". It will though point to the underlying mechanisms and influences as to how we come to the "should" or not.

 

And depending on our dispositions this will be very scary or incredibly amazing.

Edited by romansh
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One of the first things to strike me as I transitioned from evangelical Christian to Jewish is how unremarkable Jesus' Jewishness is. I was prepared to look down on Jesus, but ended up having a lot more respect for him, as a Jewish man, than I ever had as a confessional Christian.

 

Confessional Christianity, I think, has been so remiss in understanding how much Jesus' message was intended for a Jewish audience, that key elements of his message - or, rather, the message attributed to the character of Jesus, if you like - are lost on the evangelical mind.

 

Whether or not you believe Jesus was an actual person is irrelevant to the pedagogical message of the gospel accounts, I think. From my perspective, the writers of these books were attempting to paint Jesus with the credentials of Moses, David and Elijah (Bishop Spong has done an excellent job illustrating this in several of his books - especially, Liberating the Gospels - Reading the Bible with Jewish Eyes). In so doing, they can advance newer theological improvisations based on the person of Jesus as mystic, reformer and candidate for Moshiach (the Jewish version, not the Christian). When you spend a few years going through the Jewish Festivals in order, as I have done, it is very plain to see how the stories in the gospels line up - particularly when you place them in their proper order (again, refer to Spong).

 

I say all this to illustrate a point that has been made many times on this forum; we glean what we can from the religious totems and writings. From a Jewish perspective, the gospel stories describe Jesus as the new Moses, set to liberate his people from the scourge of Roman occupation. The destruction of the Temple put a damper on those plans, so the newly emerging Jewish followers of Jesus fizzled out, and the first evolution of a Reformed Judaism died before it began in earnest. The next generation of followers of Paul, embracing the populist philosophy of Hellenism, grabbed the gospel stories for their own, gradually purging all sense of Jewishness from them.

 

So, now we have an opportunity to forge a new understanding, while clinging to the comforts of the traditions built over the centuries around all of these ancient religions. Inclusiveness seems to be one such innovation.

 

NORM

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Romansh, I don't at all mind a point-by-point discussion (it can be time well-spent). As you know, I'm a non-theist. To me, God is an ancient metaphor, a placeholder, not a being that we can seek and understand with the disciplines of science. I have had a few of what I would call mystical experiences of God, but these were experiences of CONNECTEDNESS to what is, not some sort of Isaiah experience of being caught up to the third heaven and seeing angels, etc. These experiences are descriptive of me, not prescriptive for others. But they convinced me that the Universe is truly the Uni-verse and not as disconnected as religions often teach (us vs. them, flesh vs. spirit, etc.).

 

I'm very skeptical of what I consider to be supernatural claims. I suspect that Nature is all that there is. But I also suspect, as Newton said, that we have just barely begun to explore Nature. Barely. So I think that science, not religion, will lead the way forward for human maturity. At least, it has the capability to do so. However, we are, for the time being, stuck in an age where the majority of humanity still needs the walkers that religion often provides. Most are not ready to walk upright on their own. They need, in their view, the hand of a heavenly Father.

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If we recognize that Jesus, a 1st C Jew, 'came' for the Jews - then it would seem to follow they were his (primary) focus. However it does seem that others were included and welcome (by him or by in the stories create about him): Samaritans, Romans, the sick, the shunned and the sinners. It appears he was concerned with the imminent Kingdom and 'battling' the religious authorities of his day, so that would help to explain the stark distinction between the saved and the not so saved.

 

Paul did spread the message to the gentiles but, although they came after him, the Gospels (and the earlier oral traditions) appear to tell the story of Jesus as a man who was amazingly inclusive for his (and any) day. I agree that he was only human and, as mentioned, focused on the people of god, but he certainly seems to have had 'incarnated' Love/God to an extraordinary degree. And God or Love by its nature is inclusive.

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Bill, I just saw your latest post. I too am not a theist, more a panentheist agreeing with Paul that we live, move and have our being in God/Being. So I agree that god is no being and I allow that the objects (things) of science differ from the subject of faith. I have never had mystical experiences of god and I also am skeptical of supernatural claims - simply because if we are in/of Being or, conversely, Divinity is in the midst of humanity, there is no need for a miraculous in-breaking of the supernatural into the so-called natural world of man. I however, do not believe that nature is all that there is (at least taking the word as commonly defined): science will lead to greater knowledge of 'nature' but it will not lead the way to our maturity. Rather, I suspect that as we mature, as we become wise, we will use and direct science to better serve humanity.

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Good thoughts, Thormas. Thanks for sharing. And, BTW, welcome to the Message Board for Progressive Christianity! Glad you're here! :)

 

FWIW, by Nature, I don't mean just the material realm. As we know, things do exist which are not material, but they are nonetheless real. What I mean by Nature is just that they are not what we would call supernatural i.e. things which are generally in opposition to Nature, things which, at their core, violate the laws of Nature.

 

But, as I mentioned, I by no means think we have all of Nature or all the laws of Nature explored or understood yet.

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Thanks Bill and can you give me an example of Nature so I'm on the same page?

 

Hmm. Just an off-the-top-of-my-head stab at it. Nature: the Universe as it really exists, much (but not all) of which can be verified by the senses and science.

 

For instance, horses are a part of nature. Everything in our senses and sciences tell us that they exist and are at least part of this small dot in the Universe. Fairies are not part of nature. They do exist in legends, myths, and stories. But their existence cannot be verified by our senses or sciences. Rocks are part of nature. Magic crystals, as far as we know (important clause), are not part of nature. Saint Nicholas used to be part of nature. I suppose his ashes, if they exist, still are. But Santa Claus is not a part of nature. He is a supernatural legend. The claims made about Santa Claus not only cannot be verified by science, but violate space/time to the best of our understanding.

 

Ghosts may or may not be a part of nature. There are many anecdotal claims that they exist, but, IMO, no hard evidence to claim with absolute certainty that ghosts are part of nature. However, is it possible that consciousness can somehow/sometimes survive death? Does science currently have the tools to make this determination? "Ghost Hunters" on TV says 'yes'. I remain skeptical. Ghosts, at this point, generally fall into the realm of the "supernatural" which means that they are not subject to nature's laws. Currently, they are not part of nature, but people claim that they exist in a "supernatural realm" which cannot be proven, only asserted.

 

I suspect that Jesus of Nazareth used to be part of nature. But I find no convincing evidence, using our senses and our sciences, that his ghost indwells each Christian in a supernatural way, though this is the claim of many a Christian. For Christians, Jesus is the Second Person of the Trinity. I make no claim that there are two persons living inside me. And I doubt the claims of Christians that two people live inside them. That is, IMO, a supernatural claim with little to no evidence. Therefore, "Christ" to me, is a nature phenomenon where we feel connected to the Universe and to each other, especially when compassion is the means of connection.

 

Good question, Thormas. I hope this helps. How do you see it? Do you believe in the supernatural? Or the supranatural?

Edited by BillM
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PS - As I'm sure you know, Thormas, theism generally holds that God is a supernatural being outside of nature. According to this view, God created nature separate from himself and can only control or influence it through intervention from without. Because we are part of nature and live in it, God only shows up from time to time in divine interventions such as prophets or miracles. Most of the time, God is not here. It is usually thought that he is in heaven which, again, is a supernatural, not natural, realm.

 

The appealing thing about panentheism, at least my understanding of it, is that it posits that while God *might* be a supernatural being, nature is within God. God created nature within God's self. It is almost a feminine image of pregnancy. In this model, God works through nature, perhaps influencing nature. God's work does not break natural laws, rather God works through them. And, in this model, because we are part of nature which is in God, we are also in God, part of God. Therefore, God can work through us should we choose to work with him (anthropomorphic language, of course). I'm more comfortable saying that we should bring compassion and justice to bear upon the world in real, tangible ways (in order to get around the theistic language). IMO, the gifts of nature (not the claims of the supernatural) help us to do that.

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What I mean by Nature is just that they are not what we would call supernatural i.e. things which are generally in opposition to Nature, things which, at their core, violate the laws of Nature.

 

 

Here I extremely skeptical of your position Bill.

 

First what exactly are these non material things? (in opposition to nature or otherwise).

 

An exactly which laws are violated? bearing in mind these laws are descriptions of what we observe.

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First what exactly are these non material things? (in opposition to nature or otherwise).

 

Well, we can start with emotions. They are not material. But they are real. Thoughts and consciousness are not material, but they are real. Dreams are not material, but they are real. None of these things violate the laws of nature (as we understand them).

 

But what about claims of telekinesis? What about claims of clairvoyance? What about claims of the pseudo-sciences (astrology, tarot card reading, mediums). None of these claims are material. But is there any evidence to support the notion that they are real? Are they in accord with the laws of nature (as we understand them)?

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In Genesis It is said, In the beginning there was God so if anything was created it was created out of this energy we call God according to Christian doctrine with a dash of science. We interact with crude energy and when at peace can feel the ripples of a subtle energy, which some would say is a metaphysical science trying to explain the awe experience. Therefore, let's say Jesus says to his followers or Christians that if they reach heaven the place of awe and there are no non Christians there then they are not in heaven, but an alternative created by their own doctrine.

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Well, we can start with emotions. They are not material. But they are real. Thoughts and consciousness are not material, but they are real. Dreams are not material, but they are real. None of these things violate the laws of nature (as we understand them).

 

But what about claims of telekinesis? What about claims of clairvoyance? What about claims of the pseudo-sciences (astrology, tarot card reading, mediums). None of these claims are material. But is there any evidence to support the notion that they are real? Are they in accord with the laws of nature (as we understand them)?

 

Our emotions are writ large in our biochemistry, as are our thoughts or at least the experience thereof.

 

Despite the nonsense we come across, I am not aware of any reputable report of telekinesis, or clairvoyance and never mind the other pseudo-sciences you mentioned. Either way they are all written in the physical at least as far as I can tell. I linked to Susan Blackmore, she believed passionately in this nonsense. She even did a PhD on the subject but after twenty years of study and promoting the subject she realized there is no real evidence for these pseudo-sciences.

Edited by romansh
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Bill, thanks for the examples and I believe I get what you mean by nature.

 

I agree with your understanding of theism and I do not believe that God is a being, just a bigger, supreme being than man. I think this is human thinking over the centuries and still accepted by many today. But I think it is mistaken and misleading.

 

I guess in my understanding of panentheism God is also not a supernatural being, rather there is only Being and all that is, is 'in, of and because of' Being. I am not a pantheist in that I don't believe we or the world is God (this truth is evident to me when I look at my friends and know they are not God). I am more attracted to the paradox of the One and the many. I believe theism defines God as person: I don't think God is person like us, only bigger or supreme but I do believe it is 'accurate' to describe the relationship of the human to the Divine as personal. I think John hits on it in his gospel when he says that God is Love and Jesus calls God, Abba/Daddy. I have never known a true abba (daddy or mommy) or love that is not personal, that is not relational.

 

I also believe it is 'valid' in this understanding to say that Divinity in in the midst of humanity. So there is no need for a miraculous, supernatural intervention or in-breaking where God already is. And the footnote would add that no laws of nature were broken in this model. I'm not even sure God 'uses' nature but I do allow that Being 'calls' in and through creation to humanity to grow and Become Human.

 

Interesting what you said about bringing compassion (or Love - compassionate care) to bear in the world. I agree and without it we cannot be Human. It is interesting to note that love is always gratuitous and always transcendent. Meaning it is always a gift (when you love your baby, the baby has done nothing, is not capable of doing anything, to 'deserve' this love, rather you the parent freely gives or bestows it; it is a gift), always freely given (or else it is not love). And the one who gives it, doesn't own it. They give more than they have, more than they are and they, in turn, must receive it from others. Love transcends or is beyond - it is more that the person who gives it. A biblical description of God is that he is transcendent and he graces/gifts humanity. The transcendent is not outside the natural world: the 'More' is in the midst of creation, in the midst of humanity, 'giving' what is necessary for us to Be, to Live.

 

At least I think this is the case at this moment in my life.

Edited by thormas
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Thormas, I, likewise, am not a pantheist in that my wife assures me that I am not God. :)

 

I tend to agree with you that theism tends to view God as a person (or, in the case of popular Christianity, three persons). This view does lend itself to us projecting humans into the heavens and all the problems associated therewith. We far too often create God in our image.

 

The best theologians of our time, IMO, recognize that God can only be described in metaphorical terms of our experiences i.e. God is love, God is life, God is being. Doing so works for many of us who have not allowed a literal understanding of the scriptures to dictate to us what God is like. But it chafes those who think that the images in the Bible give us the most accurate information of God that we have, images which are authoritative and never to be challenged. Someone on this forum (I don't recall who) once said to me as I was struggling in leaving theism, (my paraphrase), "Your own understanding of God may be the truest one you ever have." I have found that to be true. None of us, with any authority, can tell another who or what God is. IMO, God, at God's best, is an experience for us. This, as you say, makes God deeply personal, for all of our experiences are deeply personal. Yet, experiences can be and often are shared. This is where metaphorical language can be helpful because most of us are familiar with metaphors. The error comes about when we interpret the metaphors as actual reality and then try to enshrine our personal experiences as doctrines and dogmas that can be forced onto others.

 

As a theist, I tried for years to relate to God as a being. I worshipped, I prayed, I studied, I confessed, I asked for forgiveness, I sought blessing, I sought protection. God was Someone outside of me who I tried to relate to through religion but, at least in my case, never really worked the way the Bible or the Church or Christianity claimed that he worked.

 

Then circumstances coerced me to consider what I believed was true about Reality, about Nature, about Life. My considerations are far from infallible. That's why I am still here (on this forum) asking friends, "What do YOU think?" But these considerations have lead to a relationship that, as you've mentioned, is deeply personal to others and the Universe, though I'm skeptical that God is a person.

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>>Thomas, I, likewise, am not a pantheist in that my wife assures me that I am not God. :) <<

 

Well, I guess we know who wears the panentheist in that family :)

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