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"As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And Matthew got up and followed him.
This is a funny interview of Bart Ehrman by Stephen Colbert on the Colbert Report. It's definitely worth the 6 minutes to check it out. If you don't know Bart, he is a scholar who went to Wheaton College to pursue the evangelical ministry, but through his study there, and his subsequent Ph.D studies at Princeton, he ended up writing multiple best selling books about the many errors and contradictions in the Bible. I find his scholarship to be excellent.
Welcome. This project is designed to promote awareness and understanding about the various types of people who classify themselves as "progressive Christians" and participate in "progressive Christian" communities. All voter data on the associated surveys is completely anonymous and completed in partnership with Survey Monkey.
Now to those of you who know my theology, you will know that I don't literally go for the heaven / hell and king / throne imagery in this parable - but I don't want to get into a big exegesis about that in this post. What I do want to get into though is the points Jesus is making. He's making two points (1) love ain't about intellectual beliefs (2) if we want to "believe in Jesus" we do that by serving "the least of our brothers and sisters." That's how we show that we "believe" (properly translated as agree) in what Jesus was saying...
Here's the Bible parable I'm talking about:
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I specifically created this blog post to offer a resource for you to simply send to anyone you know who is confused about the evolution vs. creationism debate.
by Jesse Dooley
|5 Points of Jesus 101|
Do you want to make a major positive impact in this world? Do you appreciate the message of love from Jesus, but not necessarily all the ambiguous conditions and pre-requisites that some folks add to it? Well there's good news...we can in good conscience follow a philosophy which is much less about what we believe, and much more about how we believe.
When Jesus spoke of "belief" he used words that translated in Greek to the word πιστεύω (pisteuō) and from the Hebrew word אָמַן ('aman) - and these words had a bit of a different meaning from what we understand today when we use the word "believe." To Jesus, belief meant to trust, commit to, or be steadfast in. In other words, to Jesus belief was action related, and not merely an intellectual agreement.
Jesus once said in a parable:
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If you want to be a follower of Jesus, here are 7 things you can think and believe with confidence.
This post is Part II in a series on morality, and this installment uses the topic of LGBT for a muse. I don't plan to go into depth specifically on the issue of homosexuality, as I have already done that in this post. Instead, this time I want to take a specific swat at delineating the biblical topics of homosexuality from sexual immorality - as I think the two are often tossed into the same bucket which causes a lot of confusion.
In Paul's letter to the Galatians, which most scholars accept as authentic, Paul writes the following as he tee's up his Fruit of the Spirit doctrine:
"Now the works of the flesh are these; adultery [sexual unfaithfulness], fornication [sexual immorality], uncleanness, lasciviousness [unbridled sensuality], idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, and revellings [orgies]…"
Wait? Did Paul accidentally forget homosexuality in his magna carta of sins? No, of course not. While it's clear that Paul has real issues with sexual morality, he does not comment here on the issue of two people of the same sex in a loving and committed relationship. This is because:
I recently received some direct feedback asking why I (or anyone with similar views as me) felt the need to keep the word "Christian" in my religious designation. They asked "why not just call myself something different all together to avoid confusion, and keep the word Christian sacred for people who believe all of the cornerstone creeds of Christianity?" He referenced my manifesto: Am I a Christian? where I say that I don't require bible inerrancy, virgin birth, a trinitiarian God, fulfilled prophecies, or a literal resurrection, to identify with Christianity ... And he asked why not just call myself a "Jesusist" or something totally different to remove any ambiguity?
So I proceeded to read the article (which was sent to me by a "fundamentalist" friend following a discussion we had about my thoughts about Noah's Ark being the ancient Semitic cultures bid at re-purposing much older Mesopotamian Ark story, as a method to share their theological insights).
Now I'm going to admit something here and probably render myself pretty much irrelevant to a huge cross section of American cool people, but I have never once watched The Office, even though no less than a trillion people have told me that I absolutely HAVE to watch it!
So I began to wonder just what a comedian, who plays a super-nerd, in a show about working in an office, could possibly have up his sleeve to enlighten Oprah about? And my curiosity got the best of me, so I clicked on the episode to see what was up ... And to my delight, it was very interesting!
Here's the question of the day: Is Bishop Jack Spong a Heretic? Or is Jack Spong a hero? Or perhaps is he both?
For those who don't know who Bishop John Shelby "Jack" Spong is, he's a retired Episcopal Bishop of Newark, New Jersey. He still preaches in churches and writes lots of books on Christian subjects. And he still says the traditional Christian creeds and wears his clerical vestments with pride. But when he discusses Christian theological subjects, many folks become bewildered by his controversial positions when compared to many American mainline traditional interpretations. Some people call Bishop Spong a Christian, others a heretic, and others call him an atheist. Given all the controversy that surrounds him, Bishop Spong has articulated his thoughts into "12 points" (or theses) and they're listed below. Can you come to a conclusion of your own based on just these points?
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by Christian Evolution
OK, maybe some folks do believe that donkey's talk, but for today's purposes we are going to discuss a non-talking donkey.
Numerous study averages show that about 20% of Americans regularly attend a church. But interestingly, that number is steadily declining on a track to become only 10% by 2050.
Similar to the story of Noah's Ark, this story of Moses taking dictation from God to record Israel's law code is an example of ancient Bible writers borrowing earlier pagan ideas and overlaying their own unique slant to them. This concept took me a while to digest when I was first introduced to it, but these facts shouldn't cause anyone any strife. Rather they can offer a deeper and honest understanding about how Bible stories were developed, and liberate anyone who may feel that these words were literally spoken by the God of the Old Testament into the ear of Moses. Let's look a bit deeper:
There have been a number of surveys conducted about why many right-wing Christian's identify themselves as being against homosexuality, and while answers vary around the theme of "family values," the root cause is that most conservative Christians believe that they are justified (and even being obedient) to their Bible based beliefs. These beliefs are primarily fueled by verses like Leviticus 20:13, which states:
In Matthew 7:14 Jesus is recorded as saying "small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." Now to put that in perspective, today there are ~2 Billion self professed Christians on this planet, which is roughly 1/3rd of the world's population... But Jesus said only a few find life. Could Jesus possibly have meant 1 in 3 when he said a few? I mean, at best "a few" is 3 of 100 right? ;-)
Later in Matthew's Gospel Jesus is recorded as saying "not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father." This verse, along with the previous verse, make me wonder if perhaps there are a large quantity of professed Christians who erroneously think they're good-to-go? Because Jesus obviously cared more about what we do than what we say or believe (after all, the Bible says even the demons confess and believe in Jesus).
Now for the piece de resistance... Using some very official theological math, if 33% of the world's population confess to be Christian (which equates to roughly 2,000,000,000 people) but only "a few" will find life, this means that roughly 1,940,000,000 Christians in this generation are barking up the wrong tree (give or take a few million for standard margin of error of course).
So what's a Christian to do? Who better to ask than a lawyer:
In Luke 10-25 an expert in the law asked Jesus "what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus did something rare for him, and gave the politically correct answer of "What is written in the law?" In Matthew 19:16 someone asked Jesus the same question and Jesus answered in the same way, "keep the commandments."
Here's what we do know...
Before diving right into the differences between the Gospels of Mark vs. John, I want to take a quick step back for some context. I want to reflect quickly on a story about three men who were blindfolded in order to illustrate a lesson. They were asked to try touching something to see if they could guess what it was just by the touch (it was an elephant). One man was led to feel the elephant's trunk, and he thought it was a fire hose. The next man was led to feel the elephant's leg, and he thought it was a tree trunk. The third man was led to feel the elephant's body, and he thought it was a wall. Then they all were able to take their blindfolds off to discover that it was the same elephant that they had felt, but each man experienced a different part of that elephant and came to different conclusion about it's identity.
That analogy works great for spirituality too, as there are common denominators in all paths (from fundamental religious to atheist non-religious). And while they may have very different characteristics, they are all attempting to understand some of the same big ideas, and address the needs of humanity.
But there are others who feel differently. For example, some feel that Jesus is the one and only way to a place called heaven, and that anyone who doesn't accept Jesus in this lifetime is going to burn in hell for eternity. They believe that somehow heaven will be enjoyable for them knowing that some of their loved one's and most of humanity are being torched in the basement below because they had the wrong beliefs.
It's interesting that people can have access to the same texts, facts, and evidence, yet come to such different conclusions. But maybe all this confusion is not so surprising considering that even the writers of the four Biblical Gospels had their own take on things. A good illustration of this can be seen by contrasting the Gospel of Mark (which most scholars believe is the earliest gospel written) and the Gospel of John (which most scholars believe is the most recent gospel written).
For instance, in Mark's gospel of Jesus, it is recorded in chapter 4 verse 34 that in Jesus public ministry he never taught without using parables. But conversely, John's biography of Jesus contains not one single parable. Similarly, in the earlier three gospels Jesus flat out refuses to do what we call "signs," but in the Gospel of John it's "signs" that are the key part of his ministry.
Now that may be somewhat of a minor issue to a reader who really wants to believe that both Mark and John were direct eye witness apostles of Jesus who were doing their best to just report the facts. This would be important to substantiate their claim that they both wrote fully inerrant and inspired biographies of Jesus, only from differing perspectives. But a larger gap occurs when we consider that Mark doesn't contain one single "I am" statement (i.e., where Jesus directly refers to himself as anything special) and Jesus is never publicly acknowledged as the son of God while he is walking the earth. In fact, those who pester Jesus about his identity in Mark get hushed up quickly by him; so much so that the phenomenon is commonly referred to as the "messianic secret."
The Gospel of John however, is quite the opposite. Jesus is recorded as using seven bold "I am" statements, which today are used as the cornerstones of the entire belief structure of many followers. Our theological antennae always have to go up too when we start seeing seven of things, but that's another post for another day.
So let's step back and recap - and then look at something they both agree on:
- In John we see a self confident Jesus who proclaims his immense importance and divinity a number of times in the first person, as well as his status as the exclusive path to heaven. His role as teacher is minimized, and there's no use of parables.
- In Mark, Jesus only teaches in parables, which hardly anyone understands, and neither he or any of his disciples publicly proclaim any divine importance.
Notably however, there are a couple things they both agree on, and that's the exclusion in their stories of the virgin birth. Neither of the gospels mention it. For that matter as an aside, neither does James, the brother of Jesus. Paul, the key apostle of Jesus. Or Peter, the best friend of Jesus.
The point here is when we look at the Bible and The Gospels Of Mark and John, the virtue of humility should be the result. It requires a lot of faith to argue that both Mark and John are inerrant accounts of the same infallible story. It takes a lot of work to claim that they are only told slightly differently due to the personality and style of the tellers without regard to their personal motives, audiences, and understandings of the situation.
Therefore I would suggest the best policy when approaching anything to do with the subject of God (from evangelicals to atheists) is probably one of humility and graciousness. And we can have those discussions while jointly focusing on a common goal of making the world a better place for everyone to live, even if there are significant differences as we see in Mark and John's Gospels.
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by Christian Evolution