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The Soul Of Christianity


AletheiaRivers
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AMAZON BOOK REVIEW: THE SOUL OF CHRISTIANITY by Huston Smith

 

In 1996 Bill Moyers devoted a five-part PBS special to the work of now-Syracuse professor Huston Smith, the child of missionaries, author of THE WORLD'S RELIGIONS, and a PBS television producer and filmmaker. In THE SOUL OF CHRISTIANITY: Restoring the Great Tradition, Smith turns his pen to a defense of the essentials of the Christian faith.

 

Weaving together thoughtful deductions, history, personal anecdotes, insights from others, poetry and pertinent hymn lyrics, Smith looks at the Christian worldview, the foundational points of Christian theology, and the three branches of the church today. In writing, he says he rarely had to reach for his Bible to check its quotations, for they were "in my head and in my life."

 

This is accessible --- but by no means light --- reading. In Part One, Smith enumerates the fixed points of the Christian world, including its infiniteness (which includes the finite) and its order. There are two distinct ways of knowing, according to the Christian worldview: the rational and the intuitive. "After we have done our best to understand the world, it remains mysterious but through the shrouds of mystery, we can dimly discern that it is perfect."

 

In Part Two, Smith engagingly recaps the foundational points of Christian theology: the incarnation, the atonement, the trinity, eternal life, bodily resurrection, hell and the virgin birth. On the incarnation, "Christ was the bridge that joined humanity to God." He offers a beautiful interpretation of the atonement ("the most powerful demonstration of the sender's love is to let its receiver know that the sender suffers the pain the recipient suffers") and a moving look at the symbolism of the cross.

 

His thoughts about the trinity are compelling. On Christians believing in the trinity and yet being monotheistic, he reminds us, "H20 can be ice, water, or steam without losing its chemical identity." He later adds, "If then, love is not just one of God's attributes, but his very essence --- and it may be Christianity's distinctive mission in history to claim just that --- at no point could God have been truly God without being involved in relationship."

 

In Part Three, Smith examines three divisions of Christianity today: Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and Protestantism (over 900 denominations in the United States). He briefly illumines each. In Catholicism, he touches on the roles of Mary and the Pope, the Church's defense of human life, and the importance of the sacraments. Smith shows how the Eastern Orthodox Church differs from the Catholic Church in both the extent of its authority and the means by which it reaches its dogma. Smith looks at two aspects of the Protestant Church: justification by faith (faith as a response of the entire self) and the Protestant Principle (warning against idolatry, or "absolutizing the relative").

 

Smith admits, "Christianity is such a complex phenomenon that it is difficult to say anything significant about it that will carry the assent of all Christians." Some Christian readers will disagree with Smith's points, especially on the exclusivity of Christianity and inerrancy of scripture. "There's a new mood in Christendom," he writes, "a more conscious, general recognition that though for Christians God is defined by Jesus, he is not confined by Jesus." Smith also asserts, "Only a minority of Christians...now claim that all non-Christians will go to hell." His take on biblical inerrancy ("The chief Protestant idolatry has been bibliolatry") will also be open to debate among more conservative believers.

 

Writer and philosopher Dallas Willard calls THE SOUL OF CHRISTIANITY "a unique achievement for our times" with good reason. Christians and non-Christians looking for an accessible yet scholarly overview and defense of the Christian faith will find this a thought-provoking and discussable book.

 

--- Reviewed by Cindy Crosby. [...]

 

I haven't bought the book yet, but I will have it by tonight! :lol:

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What Was Jesus' Core Teaching? - Let God's constant, unstinted love flow through you unobstructed.

- By Huston Smith (Excerpted from "The Soul of Christianity")

 

"Everything that came from Jesus’ lips worked like a magnifying glass to focus human awareness on the two most important facts about life: God’s overwhelming love of humanity, and the need for people to accept that love and let it flow through them in the way water passes without obstruction through a sea anemone.

 

Time after time, as in his story of the shepherd who risked ninety-nine sheep to go after the one that had strayed, Jesus tried to convey God’s absolute love for every single human being and for everything God has created. The hairs of each head are counted. God notices the death of each and every sparrow. And not even Solomon in all his glory was as majestically arrayed as the lilies of the field. If the infinity of God’s love pierces to the core of a being, only one response is possible--unobstructed gratitude for the wonder of God’s grace.

 

Stated slightly differently, the only way to make sense of Jesus’ extraordinary admonitions as to how people should live is to see them as cut from his understanding of the God who loves human beings absolutely and unconditionally, without pausing to calculate their worth or due.

 

We are to give others our cloak as well as our coat if they need it. Why? Because God has given us what we need many times over. We are to go with others the second mile. Again, why? Because we know, deeply, overwhelmingly, that God has borne with us for far longer stretches. Why should we love not only our friends but also our enemies, and pray for those who persecute us? “So that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the unrighteous as well as the righteous.” We must be perfect, as God is perfect.

 

We say Jesus’ ethic is perfectionistic--a polite word for unrealistic--because it asks that we love unreservedly. But the reason we consider that unrealistic, Jesus would have answered, is because we do not allow ourselves to experience the constant, unstinted love that flows from God to us. If we did experience it, problems would still arise. To which of the innumerable needy should limited supplies of coats and cloaks be given? When we run into mean bullies, are we to lie down and let them tromp over us?

 

Jesus offered no rulebook to obviate hard choices. What he argued for was for the stance from which we should approach those choices. All we can say in advance as we face the demands of our extravagantly complicated world is that we should respond to our neighbors--all of them that we think might be affected by our actions--not in proportion to what we see as their due but in proportion to their need. The cost to us personally should count for nothing."

 

 

Any thoughts regarding what Smith has said in the above quote?

Edited by AletheiaRivers
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What Was Jesus' Core Teaching? - Let God's constant, unstinted love flow through you unobstructed.

- By Huston Smith (Excerpted from "The Soul of Christianity")

 

"Everything that came from Jesus’ lips worked like a magnifying glass to focus human awareness on the two most important facts about life: God’s overwhelming love of humanity, and the need for people to accept that love and let it flow through them in the way water passes without obstruction through a sea anemone.

 

Time after time, as in his story of the shepherd who risked ninety-nine sheep to go after the one that had strayed, Jesus tried to convey God’s absolute love for every single human being and for everything God has created. The hairs of each head are counted. God notices the death of each and every sparrow. And not even Solomon in all his glory was as majestically arrayed as the lilies of the field. If the infinity of God’s love pierces to the core of a being, only one response is possible--unobstructed gratitude for the wonder of God’s grace.

 

Stated slightly differently, the only way to make sense of Jesus’ extraordinary admonitions as to how people should live is to see them as cut from his understanding of the God who loves human beings absolutely and unconditionally, without pausing to calculate their worth or due.

 

We are to give others our cloak as well as our coat if they need it. Why? Because God has given us what we need many times over. We are to go with others the second mile. Again, why? Because we know, deeply, overwhelmingly, that God has borne with us for far longer stretches. Why should we love not only our friends but also our enemies, and pray for those who persecute us? “So that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the unrighteous as well as the righteous.” We must be perfect, as God is perfect.

 

We say Jesus’ ethic is perfectionistic--a polite word for unrealistic--because it asks that we love unreservedly. But the reason we consider that unrealistic, Jesus would have answered, is because we do not allow ourselves to experience the constant, unstinted love that flows from God to us. If we did experience it, problems would still arise. To which of the innumerable needy should limited supplies of coats and cloaks be given? When we run into mean bullies, are we to lie down and let them tromp over us?

 

Jesus offered no rulebook to obviate hard choices. What he argued for was for the stance from which we should approach those choices. All we can say in advance as we face the demands of our extravagantly complicated world is that we should respond to our neighbors--all of them that we think might be affected by our actions--not in proportion to what we see as their due but in proportion to their need. The cost to us personally should count for nothing."

 

 

Any thoughts regarding what Smith has said in the above quote?

 

Hi Aletheia,

 

The thing that struck me most was the quote..."The cost to us personally should count for nothing." Boy...is that hard to admit...and yet so important for us to learn. We/I are always trying to 'measure' what effect, if any, our lives and words are having on others. But I believe Smith is saying, "just do it...and don't worry about any kind of reward.

 

After reading that line...I feel like praying,"God...help me to step out of the way".

I think that the ONLY way anyone will see God's love in action is through we feeble,fallable human beings. God help us!

Thanks for sharing this with us.

 

Blessings

Jerry

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A long time ago I read Smith's opus, "The World's Religions " at least that's the title I remember. In it he describes the basic features of five great religions and relates them at their philosophical roots in some very important ways. I believe it was published in 1953, and I still point to this book as the beginning place on my "real" spiritual journey.

 

flow.... :)

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A long time ago I read Smith's opus, "The World's Religions " at least that's the title I remember. In it he describes the basic features of five great religions and relates them at their philosophical roots in some very important ways. I believe it was published in 1953, and I still point to this book as the beginning place on my "real" spiritual journey.

 

flow.... :)

 

 

 

Hi Flowperson

 

I enjoyed your post about Smith's book,"The Wolrd's Religions". I've never seen the book, but I am going to look for it since you said how instrumental it was in helping you begin your "real" spiritual journey.

Over the past three or four years, I too have begun what I would call my "real" spiritual journey. And sometimes...even now,it's a bit frightening to me. Mainly because some little voice in the back of my mind sometimes says..."look what you've given up to get here".

But then a much louder, saner voice says,"Yes...but look what you gained by giving up your fear of God that the church so often taught you".

And I guess that's where I am now...still learning...still fasinated by God..and sooo

enjoying the 'freedom from fear' that my present spiritual walk gives me.

Thanks for sharing with us about your journey...I'd would be interested in hearing more about how you came to where you are now spiritually.

 

 

Blessings to you,

 

Jerry

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The Worlds Religions is a great book. I've read it a couple of times. It's basically a primer about the worlds major religions. It covers Christianity, Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Judaism ... I've forgotten the rest. :huh: It's not a book about spirituality per se, but it does give a good introduction into all the major religious traditions.

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I didn't think that I still had the book, but I do. It's called , " The Religions of Man". I did some disposing of stuff and moving three years ago and didn't think that I still had it. But I'm a sentimental older fool, and held onto it because it has been so important to me.

 

When I read it I somehow magically and, I suppose , mystically understood some basic truths about the wholeness of humanity. This is the "one" thing that evil does not want any of us to understand, and is at the very core of Jesus' messages to us.

 

It was first published in 1958, and the Harper paperback version that I have was published in 1965 and has, believe it or not, a rainbow on the cover! Find it and read it yesterday!

 

Additionally I would recommend, " The Phenomenon of Man " by Pierre Teilhard DeChardin". It was also written and published in the 1950's and caused quite a stir since Teilhard was a priest and Catholic missionary in China beginning in the late 1920's. His views were very unpopular with the conservative elements of the church and he was all but excommunicated for his opinions and work on the book. I believe that you will also find it to be a book that will change your traditional viewpoints and encourage you to "think different" about all of this stuff. Have fun!

 

Oh, and there are no shortcuts for your journey. You and I and everyone else are unique and what I have found along my long strange trip cannot be like yours or theirs, but I can recommend some takeoff points for you. Remember that the mansion has many rooms.

 

flow.... :)

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What a corporate thing to do to change names like that. Very difficult to figure out who or what to sue these days. 

 

No wonder we're all so confused all of the time! Thanks for the clarification, Fred!

I'm guessing it was an inclusive language thing.

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I would be willing to bet that it was Huston Smith that decided to change the title. Why? My guess would be to change the implication of the title: That it's not man's religions, but the world's religions. He does see the major world religions as being "divinely inspired" (ie: more than something made up by men). I believe he thinks Christianity holds a special place though.

 

Of course, I could be wrong and I certainly don't want to attribute anything to Smith that he didn't do or say. It's just my impression based on what I know he's said about religion. He thinks the term "religion" has gotten a bad rap.

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