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lucid
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Hi. I just found this forum today, and it looks very nice from what I've read so far. One thing I was looking for but didn't see was how a progressive Christian would interpret the Biblical accounts of miracles. I come from a fundamentalist Christian background (Assemblies of God to be precise), so I was taught that all the events described in the Bible happened exactly as they are described. Do you think the Red Sea actually parted? that five loaves and two fishes fed 5,000? that Jesus rose from the dead? Are these real physical events? Are they metaphors for events that occur in the soul? Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

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I was taught that all the events described in the Bible happened exactly as they are described.  Do you think the Red Sea actually parted?  that five loaves and two fishes fed 5,000?  that Jesus rose from the dead?  Are these real physical events?  Are they metaphors for events that occur in the soul?  Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

 

welcome lucid. consider that "physical events" and events "that occur in the soul" are not separate; that they happen upon a continuum, web-like, so that if you tremble any part, the whole web trembles. consider then that 'events that occur in the soul" are just as *real* as those that manifest as "physical events", and that the one gives "birth" to the other. maybe trying to decide either/or is not necessary.

 

 

lily

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I agree that it does not matter whether or not they actually happened. My understanding of story telling in biblical times involves a different standard of truth than we purport to have today. Saying that the Red Sea parted today would be something to prove - video, witnesses, etc. I think that then it could have been used to make a point, to clarify what the author was trying to get across (perhaps - only God could do that, God was clearly on our side). People, I think, understood that as part of story telling. This explains some of the differences in the gospels... many bible commentaries will reference the audience for which each gospel was primarily written to explain the stories told, the references made, etc.

 

Sorry for the poor explaination... Marcus Borg is much better than I at expressing this. Try The Heart of Christianity - you may find clear answers in the first chapter!!! :P

 

Welcome to the board, by the way!

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Thank you for the welcome. But...

 

I do not agree that it does not matter whether or not they occured. It bothers me that a significant portion of the population believes that natural laws can be preempted to give them favor. That strikes me as a dangerous way of thinking and being. I'm not saying that life should be a quest to accurately know every single little fact throughout history all over the world. I am claiming that deliberately shielding anything from the light of reason will hamper spiritual growth. Just to be clear and careful, I am not saying that the light of reason is the brightest light; only that a person hiding from the light of reason is nowhere near ready for the light of God. I also think that the only way for a person to believe any of the miracles of the Bible is to refuse to be reasonable, to refuse to grow up. Also, these specific irrational beliefs are not the only way to be unreasonable. Please do not infer that I think that not believing them automatically makes a person reasonable.

 

Cunninglily, I see what you're saying about soul events and physical events being on a continuum. An illumination of the soul of John Doe will be accompanied by a change in the physical matter that he is made of. His speech will be different, so his voice will vibrate the air differently. His facial expressions will be different. People will see and hear him differently, they might react to him differently. Grudges may disappear "miraculously"; relationship wounds may be "healed." OTOH, grudges may emerge out of nowhere; relationships could be rendered null. As all this occurs all the atoms and molecules dance along accordingly. What you don't see are people coming back from the dead, you don't see gravity defied. The natural laws of physics and biology are not violated, but something very profound, sacred, and creative occurs that works within the bounds rather than crassly (and futilely) trying to break them.

 

Cynthia, I understand that things are different today from how they were thousands of years ago. I don't have a problem with the authors of the Bible or the Bible itself. The Bible isn't going anywhere, nor would I wish it to. My problem is only with Christians today who in spite of all that we've learned in the past 2,000 years, still insist that everything happened just like the Bible says. Today we have methods of proof not available to Biblical times, so the nice (I would say lazy) thing to say is, "Well, we just can't know." Oh come on. Let's go on a little imagination ride. Suppose 300 years from now Professor Frink invents a device that can accurately reconstruct a visual image of the past as far back as we like. A great assembly is called for the unveiling of the device. The first demonstration will be to verify or debunk the parting of the Red Sea. On one side of the assembly are the believers in the parting (yes, they'll still be around in 300 years) and on the other side are the hellbound skeptics. Now to the central question of this story: just before the experiment is carried out, which side is going to be more nervous?

 

Well I hope that made some sense and wasn't too heavy handed.

 

Jay

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when I say it doesn't matter, I mean that I think getting caught up in whether or not the bible is literally true causes people to miss the whole point. The point of Exodus is not that the Red Sea parted for 5 min and 31 sec at a max. width of 31.7 meters and a minimum width of..... have fun in the time machine, but I honestly couldn't care less. If the bible were literally true (and I know you're not arguing this :) ), then it wouldn't contradict itself... as it often does...

 

I think that the miracles described express the writer's (and/or their cohorts) experience of God. They were trying to make a point. Did it "really" happen? I don't think it's lazy to say, "I don't know"... I don't know exactly how heat causes egg protein to string together.... I make pretty good scrambled eggs.... enough pertinent information - I don't need the biochem to benefit.

 

Anyway, I may not be expressing this well, but I agree with you that if you must have literal truth you will be nervous if a test is devised. I don't think you'll find many people here who take the bible literally. Myth/Metaphor is true... more true, over time, than "fact". Joseph Campbell explains this well - there is an old thread that you may enjoy....

 

As for natural laws changing for the "favored"... I wish everyone would spend more time worrying about being on God's side rather than fighting about whose God is bigger or which side "He" is on. :angry:

 

Peace -

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Thank you for the welcome.  But...

 

 

I hear what you're saying...

 

and I apologize for being all fancy schmancy paradoxical...

 

it's just that we don't know what we can do as fully manifested Sons of God...not yet. So, I hesitate to say that miracles do not and can not happen...or that we know all there is to know concerning "physical laws".

 

On the other hand, yes, I agree with you. The greater part of scripture is profitable for instructing us in the events that take place within the inner man as she struggles to enter the Kingdom of God. In fact, I just read something today in my studies written by Moses Maimonides...let me see if I can find it...

 

"Every time that you find in our books a tale the reality of which seems impossible, a story which is repugnant to both reason and common sense, then be sure that the tale contains a profound allegory veiling a deeply mysterious truth; and the greater the absurdity of the letter, the deeper the wisdom of the spirit".

 

 

lily

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To Cynthia, I agree with you that this is not something to get stuck on for any extended period of time. It's just that being new to the forum, I didn't know how anyone here interpreted the Bible. I also agree that there is tremendous value in myth and have great respect for the work of Joseph Campbell as well as Carl Jung. I just think that there has to be a clear move from a literal interpretation to an allegorical interpretation in order for the deeper value of a myth to be appreciated. It's good to see that the forum participants here have already made this move. But I also think that it's important for an understanding of this world to acknowledge the fact that millions are still wandering around in the deep dark woods of thinking that humanity began 5,000 years ago by two people popping out of the dirt. Is that a good thing or a scary thing?

 

To cunninglily, there is certainly a lot of untapped potential available to us. We don't know what future abilities we can realize as we go through accelerated consciousness growth in the coming decades. There is a fine line though between seeing real possibilities and delusions. Sometimes the way to see the line is to cross it, realize it, then go back having learned something. One such example of crossing the line (in my unprofessional opinion) is in the book Putting on the Mind of Christ by Jim Marion.

 

"If we want to create something good in our lives, we must think about it clearly and then put some emotion into it. The higher vibrations will then precipitate like rainfall out of the astral plane into the physical plane and manifest what we want...Jesus was such a master of this ability that he could literally manifest things 'out of thin air'."

 

Now that quote is "repugnant to both reason and common sense" and I can see that there is something to it, but the presentation is so offensive ("literally manifest") that Mr. Marion's credibility is blown as far as I'm concerned (and why oh why did Ken Wilber write the forward?!). But maybe I'm being too critical; it's supposed to be about the Love isn't it?

 

And yes I will have fun in my time machine :) .

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There is a difference between a lie, falsehood, fairy tale and myth (or mythos). If you are asking are these stories LITERALLY TRUE, did they really happen the way they are described to have happened? Well I think most of us (but not all) would say we don't think so. But are they true in some other sense, do they speak to us, do they describe some basic truth of live/the spirit, well then the answer is that most of them ARE true.

 

For example, most Biblical scholars do not think that there was a person named Job who experienced what is literally described, BUT that doesn't mean that the story is a lie or falsehood. It describes faith without preconditions (ie Job loved God despite his life going to hell.) But do I really believe God and Satan had this little deal? no.

 

Another, I think it is likely that Jesus healed thru God (I think these things may happen today), but even if he did not take a look at the stories about healing of blindness. All of them say things like "his eyes were opened". What does this mean? He saw who Jesus was?

He realized the truth? Those words are powerful from a metaphorical standpoint.

 

Yes this goes against the literalist views. But if you take the literalist views you see LOADS of contradictions that you must (usually) write off. And if you pick and choose (this story is literally true this one is not) well, then I think you are in a different problematic situation.

 

I also think that perhaps as modern folks we think about things differently than the ancients in terms of how to determine whether things were true or not. As some Native American story goes: the Indian says "I don't know if this really happened but it is true." Or as Worf (in Star trek- hehehe) says when asked if the stories are true. "I have studied them all my life and have found they contain many truths."

 

I really like Marcus Borg's books "Heart of Christianity" and the one on the bible "Reading the Bible Again for the First Time".

 

 

--des

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:P lucid - - - ok, so a time machine would be a lot of fun!

 

Can you imagine how disconcerting it would be to see what really happened? Talk about a game of "telephone" gone wild.... :blink:

 

I haven't read Jim Marion, but that sounds like new thought/unity/christian science theology.... it tends to strike me wrong too, but I think that I tend to take it too literally. (funny, given... :) ) I imagine that It can also be read metaphorically, but I would need help.

 

That's where the 8 points and progressive christianity appeal to me... I am not "called" to judge anybody's faith but my own. Except in deciding whom to follow. I can imagine that many sincere, godly people will find a time where new thought is appealing to them and brings them closer to God. We can agree on the "sum of the law" - love your God with all your heart.... and love your neighbor as yourself. Unlike people who interpret literally, I am free to, as I paraphrase Marcus Borg, to fully commit to my path without having to put down anyone elses'.

 

enjoying the discussion - :)

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I've really come to appreciate, from reading over at bnet, how many Christian denominations DON'T view the Bible as an inerrant literal historical document. I thought it was only Progs that didn't view the Bible this way. Lutherans, for example, believe that the Bible is "infallible" (that is is complete and perfect for working out the faith), but NOT inerrant. It has been weird listening to a few rather conservative Christians defending the reading of much of the Bible (like Jonah and the Red Sea) as story/narrative rather than as literal history. :lol:

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I'd say miracles are of the utmost importance. For example, if someone *really* was raised from the dead, one might put more stock in what he had to say instead of relegating him to a "good teacher" or having "Christ consciousness".

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For example, if someone *really* was raised from the dead, one might put more stock in what he had to say instead of relegating him to a "good teacher" or having "Christ consciousness".

 

I completely agree with that statement; that is a whopper of an "if" though. Also, I wouldn't knock "Christ consciousness" as merely New Agey mush outright. If I were ever to run into someone who claimed to be operating with Christ consciousness, I would listen very carefully. Not that I'd follow the guy, but I'd have found an interesting scene to witness. And that (sad to say) is a rare thing these days.

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After reading a few posts from "Jesus" in another thread, I'd have to say I was wrong. It's interesting for a couple of minutes, then gets really tired. I have a hunch that a truely realized/enlightened/Christed being wouldn't be so quick to tell you how realized/enlightened/Christed he/she is. (I hope I'm not bruising a non-existent ego). ((((((Why am I such a bastard?))))))

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After reading a few posts from "Jesus" in another thread, I'd have to say I was wrong.  It's interesting for a couple of minutes, then gets really tired.  I have a hunch that a truely realized/enlightened/Christed being wouldn't be so quick to tell you how realized/enlightened/Christed he/she is.  (I hope I'm not bruising a non-existent ego).  ((((((Why am I such a bastard?))))))

 

"Physicists have ‘proved’ rationally that our rational ideas about the world in which we live are profoundly deficient”. Gary Zukav

 

We need discernment. I no longer assume that because I don't or haven't experienced something that it can not occur or exist. We simply don't know everything. We can not even be sure that what we *see* as reality *is* reality, and can be reasonably sure that what we do see of reality is not all there is.

 

A *miracle* then, would only be some portion of reality visible or accessible that is not ordinarily perceived or accessed. Already there are those who heal "energetically"; who intuit disharmony in the body and literally diagnose by way of perception. Is this not "miraculous"? Is it not then possible that someone could so perceive reality from a mind/matter understanding that enables them to literally walk on water? I believe it is possible, and I believe that modern science bears this out.

 

So, though I agree that scripture is profitably understood as a "type" of what happens inwardly; a history of the transformation of the inner man...I do believe that this transformation ultimately makes possible "the greater things" that we shall accomplish, and that these things shall appear *miraculous* to those who can not yet perceive.

 

just thoughts,

 

lily

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Well I don't agree with DCJ's comments. (No surprise there.) I don't necessarily believe that the Gospel writers were taking God's dictation, so what they said was influenced by the times they lived and their unique goals. I'm not sure I like the term Christ Consciousness (as said sounds kind of NA).

 

--des

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All but one of the disciples died as martyrs for what they believed and wrote. I'm not sure what influences or goals may have directed them down that road.. either mass insanity or certainty of belief.

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>All but one of the disciples died as martyrs for what they believed and wrote. I'm not sure what influences or goals may have directed them down that road.. either mass insanity or certainty of belief.

 

Well I'd say certainty of belief, but I don't think you need literal miracles for that. There have been martyrs throughout time who died for what they believed.

 

--des

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Josh McDowell focuses on the resurrection miracle. Prior to the crucifixtion, the disciples were scared, afraid they were losing their earthly leader, even denied knowing Jesus (Peter).

 

Soon after, they were boldly preaching about a RISEN savior they had seen with their own eyes--at a personal cost of great persecution, even to the point of death, as DCJ pointed out.

 

The question is why? I believe it is because they had indeed seen their savior risen--touched Him, walked and talked with Him.

 

He goes on to say that it is hard to imagine any reason men would boldly preach about something that they KNEW was a lie. It certainly did not bring them a life of power, comfort, fame, riches (some reasons men would promote a lie). Conversely, it brought them shame, mockery, prison, and death.

 

His book "More than a Carpenter" is a great, easy read.

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He goes on to say that it is hard to imagine any reason men would boldly preach about something that they KNEW was a lie.  It certainly did not bring them a life of power, comfort, fame, riches (some reasons men would promote a lie).  Conversely, it brought them shame, mockery, prison, and death.

This presumes that the most important issue is the literal facticity of the resurrection, rather than the meaning of it. The resurrection is absolutely not a lie: the cross is always a place where what is lower is sacrificed to reveal what is higher, and the Cross of Calvary for Christians is the supreme revelation of this. The disciples knew beyond any doubt that they had experienced the truest thing in the universe. Everything you mentioned that Jesus' followers sacrificed is lower (power, comfort, fame, riches, indeed their own mortal life), and they now knew their own crosses must also lead inescapably to the renunciation of these things.

 

McDowell has touched upon a crucially important point: whatever the disciples experienced in Jesus must have been powerful enough to change the world. Any watered down version of Jesus' mission and ministry is clearly and obviously false. I do not believe the empty tomb stories are an exaggeration of the truth; I think it's the other way around.

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Sure there are various scientific explanations to "explain away" biblical miracles. It doesn't make them any less miraculous. For example, if the Red Sea parted because a strong windstorm or drought exposed a series of high ground areas that the Hebrews could "island hop" their way across the Red Sea.....

The miracle isn't how it happened, the miracle is that the people found their way out of slavery and to their own land, promised by God.

Or, the demoniacs of Jesus's day were not possesed by demons, but were most likely epileptic or mentally ill. Healing them is still a miracle.

Also, I know scientifically how my baby lambs came about, but seeing them born is still a sacred and miraculous thing.

I guess I am trying to say that my faith does not depend on "proof" of biblical miracles and my knowing that the bible is full of inconsistancies does not make it any less sacred, or helpful to me. I don't buy the argument that if I don't believe literally in the Virgin Birth, or any other happening in the bible, then my belief is "watered down" and insincere and there's no basis in Christianity being valid. The all or nothing way of seeing things puts God in a box.

As we UCCers are fond of saying.." God can blow the lid off any box, unfold it, and turn it into a dance floor!"

Dillo

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Dillo, nice post!!

 

>As we UCCers are fond of saying.." God can blow the lid off any box, unfold it, and turn it into a dance floor!"

 

I didn't know we were fond of saying this. I've never heard it before, and have been UCC for 15 years or so. You know what they say, if there are 6 UCCers in a room they will have 7 opinions. Or do they say that down in TX?

 

 

>Also, I know scientifically how my baby lambs came about, but seeing them born is still a sacred and miraculous thing.

 

The miracle of existence and creation are the biggest miracles in my belief. I know and accept the science of today but that to me makes in more awesome and bigger than my imagination.

 

Thanks, dillo,

 

--des

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I'll look into it. Recently my theological leaning has started drifting to the right

 

I know, Alethia...I've been reading some of your posts for the last month or so and pretty soon you're going to get lumped in with the rest of us conservative nuts! :lol:

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>This presumes that the most important issue is the literal facticity of the resurrection, rather than the meaning of it. The resurrection is absolutely not a lie: the cross is always a place where what is lower is sacrificed to reveal what is higher, and the Cross of Calvary for Christians is the supreme revelation of this. The disciples knew beyond any doubt that they had experienced the truest thing in the universe. Everything you mentioned that Jesus' followers sacrificed is lower (power, comfort, fame, riches, indeed their own mortal life), and they now knew their own crosses must also lead inescapably to the renunciation of these things.

 

Yes, I went into detail discussing myth vs "a lie, a 'story', etc.". IF you believe only "literal truth" can be truth, I guess we aren't really even able to converse so well-- I think it is the biggest thing that causes differences in our opinions here.

 

--des

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