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What About Books?


steve
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I really would like to start a reading group. I think that maybe it could get some people to open their minds a little more and may even ‘win’ over some new libs. I love to debate and talk, and I miss it so much. Does anyone have any good ideas for a starter book and ways to start and run a group.

If you have ever held a reading group or ever been in one or ever read a book or ever thought about reading one, please give me some of your ideas.

I thought that maybe I would start with John Shelby Spong’s 'Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism.'

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Steve:

 

I would like very much to be a part of a reading group. My experience is largely with face-to-face groups, I was a Great Books adult discussion facilitator for ten years. Using the message board to communicate has one advantage: the responder would have had to read the material sufficiently to formulate a thoughtful response.

 

Elsewhere here I have suggested reading "The Course in Miracles". I am working on this book at the moment, and would be happy to respond to fellow readers.

 

Your choice of Spong's book goes to the initial treatment of a topic which has gone a long way these past years to challenge the interpretation of the Bible contained in "The Fundamentals" edited by Torrey in the 20th Century which has so influenced Christian Churches even today. That may be a good place for progressive Christians to start rethinking Christianity for the millenium ahead.

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hi guys,

 

i'd love to be a part of your reading group! i am a member of several other groups and we usually establish membership first and then let each member choose a book in turn. it works well, we usually put together the reading list for the coming 5-6 months (for the keeners who read ahead :) ) i find this also eliminates the potential debate over which book to read next- we just leave it up to the next person on the list. if new members join along the way, their names are also added to the ladder. perhaps it might also be helpful to set a timeline so that discussion can begin on a certain date - just a few thoughts.

 

as for the discussion - maybe the person who selects the book could decide on 2-3 questions/topics for the group? would keep it interesting and again, kind of organized in the context of online discussion etc.

 

keep me posted and count me in! steve, sounds like you're the ringleader here!

 

cheers,

andréa.

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Well, I guess to my mind, Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism is old news. So much new material has come out since then and frankly Spong was overly strident in that book anyway. And, again to my mind, the Course of Miracles is more New Age than Christian.

 

So, I'd recommend we consider Spong's, Why Christianity Must Change or Die: A Bishop Speaks to Believers in Exile; Marcus Borg's, The God We Never Knew: Beyond Dogmatic Religion to a More Authentic Contemporary Faith; C. Joseph Sprague's, Affirmations of a Dissenter; or John Cobb's, Reclaiming the Church: Where the Mainline Church Went Wrong and What to Do About It.

 

Or, if you really want to focus upon the Bible, I'd recommend Marcus Borg's, Reading the Bible Again for the First Time: Taking the Bible Seriously but not Literally; or Unveiling Empire: Reading Revelation Then and Now, by Wes Howard-Brook and Antony Gwyther.

 

That said, I'll participate in whatever is decided. : )

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Steve and Brother Rog;

 

Great! I am acquainted with several of Bro. Rog's list, and would like to discuss any of them at length. Count me in and keep me informed.

 

Brother Rog:

 

Your comment on "The Course in Miracles" is intriguing. Is there something unfortunate about New Age and Christianity? Does it differ in some way with "Progressive Christianity" with which we are concerned? I have found The material in the curriculum very helpful and practical. Most recently I was amazed how effective it was in correcting my anger over a commercial transaction which had all the attributes of a Senior Scam. To me it was even miraculous. Such face-validity carries a lot of weight with me.

 

Jeep

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Well I must admit that I was actually trying to get some ideas for a reading group in my area (Decatur, IL). But I would be more than happy to take the credit for coming up with an online reading group.

I have re-read Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism, and I have to agree that it is rather outdated. Maybe more to the point it just wont suit us very well. So maybe we should start with Why Christianity Must Change or Die. I have read this book as well and it was very interesting and very helpful to me on my journey.

So I guess we can all decide on what we would like our first book to be, my vote goes to Why ... Change or Die. Who know, we may have started a really big thing for this site. An online reading group would be a great thing to have. Let’s do it!

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comment here guys? .... in a safe and kind way?

 

spong isn't old news to everyone - not at all. and in a progressive context - what are you meaning to say? just curious. do you feel it's irrelevant or not worth reading? or simply outdated and meant to be read in some sort of historical context? (ie: "late 20th century progressive christian thought"- i think that might be a humanities grad class 10 years from now :)

 

i think that having read it doesn't mean we can't read it and see it a new light....

 

----like all books n'estce-pas?

 

it's why my vote goes to each of us choosing a book in turn. i'd love to get that kind of exposure! who knows what you'd pick! you're each a million miles away from me in so many ways. besides, i've got some great picks up my sleeve.

 

a wee observation: 25 people have read this thread and 4 have posted. i've read the 'get to know one another' thread and there are *alot* of new people here (myself included) who found this site in an attempt to explore, learn, read, chat...i'd hope to not alienate anyone - ever.

 

anyway - food for thought. i'm in. even if we read the tao of pooh. ;)

 

maybe admin could get involved for this site and create a new section for the reading group- selection, dates for discussion etc...

 

what do you think?

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For what it's worth, here are a few books that I'm currently getting into that I'd personally love to receive input about from my peers in this community of like/and unlikeminded thinkers!:

 

 

* Engaging the Powers: Discernment and Resistance in a Wordl of Domination, Walter Wink

* Divinity & Diversity: A Christian Affirmation of Religious Pluralism, Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki

* The Peaceable Kingdom: A Primer in Christian Ethics, Stlanley Hauerwas

 

That said, it seems that the original poster of this thread has voted in favor of Spong's Why Christianity Must Change or Die. Perhaps we could have consensus on that at least for now?

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Steve:

 

I'm on board(no pun intended).

 

I will immediately prepare some thougts on rereading this important resourse which was the basis I believe for Bishop Spong's "Twelve Theses" a la Luther's "95" five hundred years ago.

 

This is great!

 

Jeep

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I have retrieved my copy of "Why Christianity must.." and reread the preface and Chapter 1. It reaffirmed my reasons for becoming an exile and for affiliating with the "Church Alumni Assn." I can recall the struggle over Creeds in the Presbyterian Church 50 years ago, and my own struggle with reciting the Creed in vogue in Lutheran Church circles, and sweating over the words redefining them to give them some semblance of truth for me. I learned of other's similar strivings in postings on this and other Message Boards.

 

Being in exile has several meanings. The one I am struggling with now is one Spong mentions as Chapter 2 begins: Is this a transition along the way to growing into God, a maturing process, or is God dead. Spong's First thesis addresses this question:"Theism as a way of defining God is dead...." Spong needs a way to communicate about God, apparently. I would agree. What is reality in theology?

 

Jeep

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Re: "What is reality in theology?"

 

I don't have time for a serious resonse at the moment, so how 'bout a flippant one?

 

In philosophy, the study of what is real is called ontology. That is rarely mentioned in seminary, but something called "cosmology" is often a part of traditional systematic theology (what is - or isn't - the earth, heaven, hell, etc).

 

An old philosophy joke comes to mind (from the logical postitivist/realist perspective): "If you want to know if something is real, kick it really hard!"

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Brother Rog:

I am really sorry that you have no time to explore this issue. I gather it is an established field of philosophy. I was wondering if it is an established field of theology? The quick answer I often hear is "God is". This seems to express the view of the Course in Miracles that the only reality is God. To move beyond this is to brook illusion. Is it possible that the hardness found in the philosopher's target is an illusion in the sense that physically it is 99% open space at the subatomic level?

Jeep

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This message will be in two parts. Part 1 is a response to Jeep's query; Part 2 are some of my thoughts about Spong's Why Christianity Must Change or Die text.

 

1) Jeep, as I stated above, Cosmology is how theologians generally work with matters of reality. The new agey Course on Miracles take on things is in some ways similar to ancient Gnosticism (that the spiritual realm is superior - at the least- to the created realm); in some ways similar to Buddhist thought (that all that we perceive via our senses is maya/illusion); and it is also reminisent of the Irish Bishop George Berkeley's assertion that "esse es percepi" i.e. that "existence is perception." Berkeley claimed that ultimatley, only God is real and all that we perceive via our senses is due to God constantly willing/dreaming those "entities" into "being" into our perception - but that ulitmatley, they aren't real in and of themselves.

 

I personally agree with contemporary physics which informs us that most of what exists in the universe is empty space and dark matter. But that doesn't mean that actual entities don't exist (even if one calls such things "ongoing series of events" - as process theologians do).

 

To my mind, the Christian assertion about all of this is that there really is a God and there really is a Creation of God (and that we, as part of that Creation, aren't God). Moreover, God is not synomous with the World/Cosmos (as pantheists claim), but, rather, that God is fully trancendent from Creation as well as fully immanent within it. This orthodox claim is really quite in sync with the Process theolgian's claim that it is best to view God in a panentheistic way (as opposed to theistic or pantheistic).

 

2) Some thought's on Spong's book [/i]

 

First of all, I appreciated that Spong was much less strident in this text than he was in his earlier, Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism.

 

I resonate and agree with much of what he had to say in this book.

That said, I do see some places to critique him.

 

Even though he briefly mentions Alfred North Whitehead and Process theology ONCE (on p. 63), his theology is largely Tillichian (perhaps his education is stunted at the early 1960s?) and it seems as if many of his problems with both theism and Tillichainism would satsisfatorally be addressed by Process theology. It is unfortunate that Spong seems so largely uniformed about the merits of Process theology, as the way he presents things, it's an all or nothing matter of either accepting traditional supernatural theism or rejecting it out of hand. It seems to me that process theology - or even the largely similar Openness theology within evangelicalism - offers a much needed third way that allows for the possibility of Buber's "I-Thou" relationship between God and humanity as well as affirming a viable and intellectually satisfying way for God to be active in human affairs. It is sad that Spong seems unaware of panentheism as an option for Christian believers. (For more info on Process theo., check out works by John Cobb Jr. or Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki; for info on Openness theo., read Clark Pinnock or Greg Boyd).

 

It is also sad to see that Spong largely dismisses the very real virtues of intercessory prayer. Again, from a process perspective, intercessory prayer makes perfect sense and Jesus indeed modeled this in his many prayers to His father in Heaven. (See Suchocki's In God's Presence: Theological Reflections on Prayer). Spong would also do well to explore the wonders of Centering prayer.

 

Another observation is that this book seems largely aimed at Catholics and mainline Protestants but completly ignores the throngs (the majority really) of Baptists, evanglelicals, etc.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Steve:

I have now completed my rereading of Spong's "Why Christianity Must Change Or Die". The latter chapters of the book were quite revealing to me. I had originally read them with little of the insight I now possess as to the meaning of exile. Since then I myself have gone into such an exile and reading Spong's testimony of his experiences, I find patterns familiar to my own. I agree the future of a new Christianity is but dimly seen. I wonder if we should at some point take up hs latest book "A New Christianity for a New World". There he moves to a deeper presentation of what he sees ahead.

 

My concern at this point is the question of God. Spong states in the Epilogue: "I believe that there is a transcending reality present in the very heart of life. I name that reality God." So do I! I believe there was such a person as Jesus. So does he:"In you I see the meaning of God".

 

His god is not anthropomorphic, it's not the sea of faith of Don Cupitt, it's not the quantum electrodynamic field of the new physics, it's not atheistic, it's just non-theistic. ???

 

Jeep

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  • 2 weeks later...

Say, where IS everybody? I thought there were several people interested in discussing this book of Spong's. So far, there've only been 2 postings about this book. Any other thoughts or insights out there?

 

Or, are we already ready to move on to another book to discuss? If so, it'd be best to start a new thread devoted to each book we focus upon; e.g. The Heart of Chrisitianity: Rediscovering a Life of Faith, Marcus Borg, etc.. (Hint, that's my vote for the next book to explore! ; ) )

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Brother Rog:

 

I was wondering the same thing!

 

I finished rereading Spong's tome and am gong on to his continuation of the theme,"A New Christianity for a New World". I am active on his message Board and enjoy his essays, sharing them with Progressive Christians here in my retirement community.

I was thinking of Borg's book, but I will need to order it from Amazon if we tackle it. I've heard him speak on being "faithers" rather than "believer's". He is very convincing but faith is so productive of separation for me these days, that I have settled for "truster". God is so weak in the world these days, that faith just doesn't do it for me any more. So maybe looking at Borg will help. Count me in!

 

Jeep

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If you are interested in a reading group, you might try what I did. I joined a Unitarian church and started one as part of the adult religious education program. Now we have two of them at my congregation. Other denominations might work as well, but UU's love reading and discussing things.

 

We have been outside of the usual range of the titles you have mentioned. We are finishing up Karen Armstrong's The Battle for God: A History of Fundamentalism. Previously we have been through Paul Tillich's The Courage to Be; Michael Schermer's How We Believe; The Gospel of Thomas; Dinty Moore, The Accidental Buddhist; Ken Wilber, A Brief History of Everything; and parts of Why Christianity Must Change or Die.

 

An online reading group might be a fine thing, but I really like having a live one as part of my pursuit of ultimate concerns. Give it a try

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I would love to join the reading group. Just let me know which book, date, time, place... uhhhh... strike that last one. :D Anyway, I'm in. I have several of the Spong books mentioned. I also have a good one by Killinger-- can't remember the title exactly, something like 10 Things I was Taught Wrong. Really good read. I'm curious about Borg. Never heard of him till I came to this site, but he sounds interesting.

 

I know this is a progressive CHRISTIAN site, but I have also enjoyed some of HH Dalai Lama's books. Just a thought... :unsure:

Edited by DeborahDP
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DeborahDP:

I match your enthusiam for a Message Board Reading Group, but we seem to be largely lone enthusiasts. I wandered off the reservation suggesting "The Course In Miracles", set up my own topic with little response to what I proposed. I've since learned it to be "New Age" not "Progressive" theology.

 

So , you can see we are struggling with beginnings as far as the suggestion by Steve for such a group was moved.

 

Keep tuned!

 

Jeep

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DeborahP:

Good idea. I have done that with the first book, and have ordered what i assume to be the second, Borg's "Heart of Christianity" and I'll respond when I have read it. I have also followed the suggestion to start a book on my own, see "Course in Miracles" topic.

Jeep

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  • 2 weeks later...
Guest admin

OK... the forum is (finally) set up for book discussions here, so if you are still inspired to do so, feel free to kick off a few discussions. Put the title of the book in the subject line and define the basic perameters, e.g., when should everyone have the book read, or are you doing it chapter by chapter, etc.

 

Have fun ;)

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