Thursday, December 31, 2009

'Tis (Still) the Season - 2

Well...while I've been dinking around on the internet this morning, much to my's been snowing!  More than a dusting...less than a dumping...but enough to be a pain in the rear as far as cleaning off the car etc. etc. etc.  I grow steadily less and less fond of winter, the older I get.  But anyway...the dinking around led me to several links that pertain to this "who was Jesus" anyway topic. 

Dena posted a recent devotional by Richard Rohr that discussed the Cloud of Unknowing...especially the part about the cloud of forgetting and not living in a Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil mindset.  It piqued my interest and I went looking for stuff about the original, written long ago, book The Cloud of Unknowing...and for Richard Rohr CD's and books on Amazon.  I came upon some of his videos on You Tube.  The following two videos pertain to Jesus.  Who he was and what he came to accomplish.  The first is called Jesus Scholarship and the second one is entitled What Did Jesus Really Teach? They are both short...under ten minutes.  There are also other Rohr videos available on You Tube......HERE and HERE and HERE



Wednesday, December 30, 2009

'Tis (Still) the Season...

'Tis (Still) the Season...yes indeed. It must be. Proof of that is the continued presence of our crooked Christmas tree, a tree that grows crookeder and crookeder each day it remains here in the same (warm) room as the pellet stove. It is is still standing in front of the sliding glass door that leads to the patio. That in itself could be deemed a Christmas miracle...that it is somehow defying gravity by remaining upright. I've nicknamed the tree FUBAR.

So the holiday season seems to be a good time to take a look at know..."the reason for the season."  Several things have found their way into my inbox/web browser that have given me pause as I ponder Jesus.  Who he was.  What he did. Etc. etc. etc.  So in this post and the next couple of posts, I am going to take a closer look at that question. 

In a recent email to annie I wrote the following about pondering the virgin birth:

I am not ready to give it up...and I still get all choked up when the angels announce in the Christmas story...fear not for I bring you tidings of great joy...that shall be for all people....for unto you is born this day in the city of David, a savior who is Christ the Lord. I'm not ready to give that up.

To which annie replied:

like you, i'm not willing to give up the virgin birth - although, it doesn't really make a particle bit of difference to me. whether 'miraculously' conceived or not, Jesus remains a Unique Son, the only manifestation of what it means to be fully human and fully divine, not merely in Essence, but also in experience. to say that he is our brother, that we are equally divine, will never diminish his role as the Firstborn, the One who blazed the trail, pierced the veil for the rest of us. he will always have 'the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus the Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father'. it would be a spirit of jealousy that would need to bring Jesus down or elevate ourselves, deny his uniquely individual role in human history that no one else could ever fulfill. it's hard to explain how i view 'let this Mind be in you that was also in Christ Jesus'... he didn't think his divinity something to be grasped or lorded over anyone - yet he never shied away from saying, "I and My Father are One". there was no false humility there - no self-aggrandizement, yet no self-abasement either.

annie said that, for her, it really does not make any difference whether Jesus was miraculously conceived or not.  Somehow, it does make a difference to me...a big difference.  I am unwilling to give up the belief that Jesus was somehow God in the flesh... a way that I am not.


Jesus has been likened by many to other "god men" myths in other cultures.  A quick trip to google and I come up with the following list of names....

*Attis of Phrygia     
*Horus/Osiris of Egypt    
*Krishna of India
*Mithra of Persia   

There was a recent thread on beliefnet's Christian to Christan Message Board that discussed this topic in depth.  Actually, that is where I got the link to the section on Religious Tolerance entitled Were events in Jesus' life copied from other saviors/god-men/heroes?....

More on this...tomorrow.....


Monday, December 28, 2009

Anne Lamott on Prayer

Tomorrow it's back to work after four days off for Christmas.  I would really like to know how four days can go by so fast. 

And alas...alas....while I did do some blog "research" and "organizing," I did not post as much as I had planned.  And the time is tick, tick, ticking am going to post a few Anne Lamott quotes that deal with prayer (which was a recent, pre-Christmas topic here) The first two are from her book, "Plan B, Further Thoughts on Faith."  The last one is from her book "Traveling Mercies." 

I've been (very slowly) reading her three latest books...marking page after page with florescent green post its so I can come back later and find the "quoteworthy" quotes. The woman is brilliant.  I plan to write more about her in the future.  Her thoughts resonate.

But tonight, in lieu of a post that might require much writing on my part, I am going to post what she has to say about prayer...and perhaps a comment or two here or there. 

About answers to prayer:

The problem with God, or at least the top five annoying things about God is that He or She rarely answers right away.  It can take days,weeks. Some people seem to understand this--that life and change take time. I, on the other hand, am an instant message type. 

Uh huh...yep...I know just how she feels. 

....when you pray, you are not starting the conversation from scratch, just remembering to plug back into a conversation that's always in progress. 

Perhaps why Paul reminds us to "pray without ceasing?"

And from Traveling Mercies:

Here are the two best prayers I know:    
"Help me, help me, help me" and "Thank you, thank you, thank you."  A woman I know says for her morning prayer, "Whatever" and for the evening,"Oh, well,"

And now since it is definitely time for bed, my bedtime prayer might as well be...what else...

Oh well...

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Of Maps and Theology - 2

When I read the Gospels, I notice that Jesus wasn't real big on the theology of the day. In fact, his harshest words were to those who put theology ahead of relationship, who used doctrine to exclude and persecute. The Pharisees had their theology down pat...and because of that they missed the truth that was right in their midst. They "searched the scriptures to find eternal life but they would not go to Jesus"

Saul, before he was Paul, was content to be driven by the doctrines of the the point he played a part not only in the persecution of Christians, but also in the murder of Stephen....and perhaps others.

Jesus promised that when he went away, the comforter would come...and that the comforter would lead us into all truth. He declared that his sheep knew the voice of the real shepherd and another they would not follow. Sounds like a relationship to experience...a personal encounter with the creator and sustainer of the universe. I don't think that relationship can be reduced to a map...a set of doctrines guaranteed to get you where you want to go.

This reminds me of the story of how Jesus, after his resurrection, met the disciples on the road to Emmaus. They knew the theology, yet it was through a direct encounter with the risen Lord that he "he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures." And I don't think it was the theology lesson Jesus gave them that caused "their hearts to burn within them." I think it was the personal experience of spending time with Jesus, the companionship, the relationship, the sharing of a meal...the fact that "he talked to them on the road" as they walked and "opened to them the Scriptures."

CS Lewis makes the point that theology is the map" based on the experiences of hundreds of people who really were in touch with God" and that our "thrills or pious feelings" are somehow second rate...."very elementary and very confused." But if God is really interested in us emulating the experiences of others rather than following his indwelling spirit, why the encounter between Jesus and Peter? Peter asked about John's future spiritual journey.

"Lord, and what shall this man do?"

And what did Jesus say? Pretty much; mind your own business.

"What's that to you? YOU follow me."

Theology might help us figure out what it is we believe at a particular point in the journey (sometimes by so glaringly revealing what we don't believe) In the long run, though, I have to "sit at the feet of Jesus" and allow him to open my mind to understand the Scriptures.

And about that map...the one of the Atlantic Ocean. The one that contains the wisdom of so many others? Well, thanks but no thanks. When it comes to learning about oceans and such, I think I will do my learning on the beach, waves flapping against the shore, ocean mist spraying my face, wind whipping through my hair, sand between my toes. Learning by experience, not by hearsay.

beach 3

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Of Maps and Theology....

In Mere Christianity CS Lewis tells the following story....

In a way I quite understand why some people are put off by Theology. I remember once when I had been giving a talk . . . an old, hard-bitten officer got up and said, ‘I’ve no use for all that stuff. But mind you, I’m a religious man too, I know there’s a God, I’ve felt Him: out alone in the desert at night; the tremendous mystery. And that’s just why I don’t believe all your neat little dogmas and formulas about Him. To anyone who’s met the real thing they all seem so petty and pedantic and unreal!’

Now, I agree with this guy. CS Lewis does too...sort of...but not exactly... because he then goes on to explain the benefits of theology (aka dogmas and formulas) In fact, he stresses that a grasp of theology is just about an absolute necessity for the average person to progress spiritually.

The guy in the desert got a glimpse of the real God. To turn away and study theology, CS Lewis explains, is to focus on something "less real." Less real is somehow good? He goes on to compare it to standing on the beach looking at the Atlantic Ocean. When you turn away from the real ocean to study a map of the ocean you are turning to something less real but somehow more beneficial. How so, you (may) ask?

Well...the map is made up of the experiences of many, many people who have experienced the Atlantic Ocean over a long period of time...looking at it, sailing on it, flying over it, swimming in it. The map is the sum of their experiences all put together. And besides, if you actually want to get somewhere...well, you need a map.


So he reasons that while direct experience with the real God is exciting, it isn't really going to get you as far as incorporating the compilation of a whole bunch of experiences with God into a set of doctrines. Would that be "the more the merrier" school of theology?

Lewis says:

...if you want to get any further, you have to use the map. You see, what happened to that man in the desert may have been real, and was certainly exciting, but nothing comes of it. It leads nowhere. There is nothing to do about it.


There is a lot here that I disagree with. First of all, I don't think a direct experience with God "leads nowhere." When we base our beliefs on the theology of others, what do we use as the benchmark when we come upon opposing views? I read somewhere that there are roughly 38,000 Christian denominations. Do you think that's because they agree on theology? If they do, then why are there so many of them?

Lewis believes in free will. But what about Calvinists who believe in God's predetermination of any and all events? And what about the different views of the atonement? Of communion? Of Baptism. I see a lot of issues that can come up if we base our beliefs on theology. The biggest issue being WHOSE theology do we go with?

I've heard Keith say....

A man with an argument is no match for a man with experience

And I can speak from my own experience of coming to the Lord. At the time, I knew enough about theology to be very confused by it. I was exposed to theologies that disagreed about key points like those mentioned above. What finally clarified my understanding? More theology? Not at all.

God was gracious enough to tap me on the shoulder during a crisis and shout out the proclamation of his existence in a silent whisper. No one else in the room heard it but me. In the still small voice scripture talks about he simply said, "See, I really am here." When you hear the voice of God, theology goes out the window. When you know that it was Him who spoke his truths to your heart, theology is second rate revelation.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Amen Revisited

The following quote from Mother Teresa came from the World Prayers website I mentioned in my last post on prayer. 

Prayer is not asking.
Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God,
at his disposition,
and listening to his voice in the depths of our hearts.

mother teresa - in her own words

Yeah...I like that.  I'm not there yet, of course, because my prayers are often made up of "please help me" and "please do...or do not (depending on the situation)...allow this or that happen." But "thank you" peppers my prayer life as often as "please" so I am getting there.  This quote also reminds me of a tidbit definition I found while looking around the world wide web for commentary on the word "Amen."

From Questions and Answers on the Liturgy of the Church of England

Q. What is the meaning of Amen at the end of this and other prayers?
A. It means, so let it be, or, my heart agrees with my tongue.

Hmmmm....something to think about.  How many times does the heart disagree with the tongue?! And not just in prayer...but in our everyday interactions with others...our family, our friends, our peers? How many times are our words insincere...simply "lip service" meant to appease, convince, placate, manipulate?  And what about the opposite end of the spectrum?  Those who, without hesitation, "speak their minds" with little thought of who might be hurt?  Sometimes in our human interactions "telling it like it is" might not always be the best policy?

But when we pray...especially when we pray....shouldn't our hearts agree with our tongues? It's not as if he is unaware of what dwells within each and every heart. Eloquent, pious, high sounding words offered up in the best "king james english" are not going to fool him one bit. When we pray I think it is best to "call a spade a spade" and bare our hearts to God.  Another snippet from a book called Religious Instruction For Young Children by Elizabeth Mayo touches on that thought...

The meaning of "Amen" is, "So be it," or "So it shall be;" and when we use it, we declare that we believe what has been said to be true.  We give our assent to it.  By this word, we mark, that we have joined in spirit in the prayer or praises offered up by another.  What mockery and impiety to use this solemn word at the end of prayer, when our thoughts and wishes have been wandering after other things. 

And in another snippet from The Companion to the Book of Common Worship by Peter C. Bower

......"Amen," a Hebrew word meaning "So be it!" or "I agree!"  "Amen" does not mean, "I'm finished now, so you can open your eyes."  Rather, "Amen" means "I am with you" or "I concur," and, therefore, belongs by definition, to the assembled congregation.  "Amen" is a word to be spoken or sung by the people, not the leader. 

So perhaps we should not mutter "Amen" during corporate worship if what we've been contemplating is nothing more spiritual than what entree we will order when we hit Denny's for lunch after the service.

More on Amen in my next post....

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


I came upon a web site a while back...World Prayers.  Self described below:

The objective of this website is to gather the great prayers written by the spiritual visionaries of our planet into an online database representing all life affirming traditions. Many of these prayers have been used for hundreds if not thousands of years. Others are from spiritual contemporaries in today's intricate global fabric. Though these sacred verses arise from divergent paths, voices, languages, cultures and heritages, they all carry within them the same burning flame - the same impassioned love for life and the divine mysteries.

There are hundreds of prayers on this site "representative of all life affirming faiths and spiritual practices." They are divided into the following categories:

Prayers of devotion, surrender, love, praise and offering.
Prayers of thanksgiving, initiation, affirmation and blessing.
Prayers of petition, supplication, calling forth and healing.
Prayers of reflection, contemplation, being and teaching.

The site is searchable by author, tradition, source, type, keyword and quote.  There are more than a dozen traditions listed...

Many of the prayers were more poemlike than prayerlike. Many (most) expressed my own thoughts and beliefs, worded a bit different than I might put it...but still expressing a viewpoint, an understanding of God that I share.  Prayers that I can wrap up in my own heart and mind with "Amen."

I've heard Keith say many times that Amen is the equivalent of "Those are my words."  Meaning that the prayer so reflects the  heart and beliefs of the listener that to add anything would be redundant. 

I like that.  I've experienced that many times with prayers...and with quotes, which are snippets of encapsulated truths...broken down to their lowest integer.  My favorite quotes are those which take profound truths and express them in a bare bones fashion...not all dressed up and wordy.

Tomorrow I am going to look a little more closely at the word "Amen" and pepper the post with some quotes (a few a bit wordy) and interesting facts that I found in the "virtually" unending resource library available on...the World Wide Web. 

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Gary Sigler on the Old Testament...

Okay...back to the All Scripture or Every Scripture series I've been haphazardly writing for the past week or so.  Last night, I visited the Heart to Heart message board on Gary Sigler's website.  I go there once in a while...and every once in an even longer while, I post there.  So many places to read and little time :)  But anyway, one of the threads at the very top of the page was called WHAT ABOUT THE BIBLE? 

It was a thread, started by Gary...and I am going to copy and paste it below.  It really...really....goes along with this whole series. 

What about the bible?

Many throughout the years have thought the bible was the word of God. The bible has been used to justify genocide, to keep women in subjection to men, and all sorts of heinous crimes.

The bible in the Old Testament portrays God as a tyrant who destroys everything and everyone who does not do as he says. Can this Old Testament portrayal of God really be the Father of Jesus? I say NO! The men of the Old Testament were listening to their ego talking to them and not God.

I will give you Two examples. In Num 15:32-36 the bible says: 32 “And while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man that gathered sticks upon the sabbath day. 33 And they that found him gathering sticks brought him unto Moses and Aaron, and unto all the congregation. 34 And they put him in ward, because it was not declared what should be done to him. 35 And the Lord said unto Moses, The man shall be surely put to death: all the congregation shall stone him with stones without the camp. 36 And all the congregation brought him without the camp, and stoned him with stones, and he died; as the Lord commanded Moses.”

1 Sam 15:2-3 “Thus saith the Lord of hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt.

3 Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.”

In Numbers 18 the Lord said to kill a man who was gathering wood on the Sabbath day probably to keep his family warm.

In first Sam 15 you can see the lord was getting revenge and so he ordered all of them killed. Does this really sound like the God of unconditional love who orders us to forgive and to love our enemies?

God in Genesis imaged Himself in man and man was the image of God, ever since man has been trying to make God in His image. It is the ego that is a tyrant and revengeful.

This is the main reason they wanted to put Jesus to death. He opposed the Old Testament concept of God. His teaching absolutely repudiated the tribunal concept of God in the old testament.

Jesus said of the Old Testament scriptures John 5:38-40 And ye have not his word abiding in you: for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not. 39 Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. 40 And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.

His word abiding in us that He has spoken to us is the truth. We can know the scriptures but if He has not spoken in our hearts our knowing is in vain. What He speaks to us will always be according to his divine nature of love and forgiveness. I love the bible but the bible connected to the carnal understanding of man will always kill and divide.

I have a message on this subject you can find on my website at

Gary Sigler
Just sharing the "Good News"

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Blind Side...

Keith and I went to the movies this afternoon.  Something we do maybe 4 or 5 times a year.  He is a big movie, not so much.  I'd seen trailers for this movie and it struck me as a movie I would like to see.  I can't remember the last movie I saw...although it was probably sometime in late August.  Like I said...Keith is a big movie, not so much. 

For one thing, when I watch a movie it seems to get stuck in my head and I keep mulling it over and over and over.  I've been mulling this movie for the past few hours. 

The movie is based on the real life story of Ravens tackle Michael Oher and the Tuohy family.  He was a homeless teenager, son of a crack addicted mother, from the inner city Memphis projects. Through a series of unlikely events, he ended up at an affluent Christian school where, through another series of unlikely events, he was befriended by and taken in by the Tuohy's.  It changed his life forever.

Michael is one of thousands and thousands of young black men born into similar circumstances.  Young men whose lives seem doomed before they even begin. So many of them...too many of them to help.

It reminded me of the Starfish Story that I posted a while back on this blog

A Zen monk was seen by his disciple by the sea, where the tide had washed ashore hundreds of starfish. It was clear that they would soon die from exposure. The monk was tossing the starfish, one at a time, back into the sea, in a slow and meditative manner.

"Why are you bothering?" The disciple asked the monk. The young disciple looked at the large number of starfish that were succumbing. "It won't make any difference"

The monk stopped for a moment, and looked down at the starfish in his hand. "It will to this one," he replied, as he tossed it into the sea.


Friday, December 18, 2009

All Scripture or Every Scripture That Is - 4

So anyway, as I was saying in my last post...

Beth, my little agnostic, has a big problem with the OT. Heck, as recently as a few years ago, I had a huge problem with the OT. How many people have rejected God simply because of what they see him depicted as in the OT? Go to any of the skeptic sites on the internet, that dissect and criticize and defame God because of how they see him depicted there.

We'll skip any and all digression about Beth...and get back to the OT and the God we see depicted there? I wrote the following a year or so ago...

I've come to believe that there are two voices of God in the OT. One is the true God, the other is the voice of the god of this world...Satan, the carnal man....whatever you want to call him/it. Part of our spiritual journey is to learn to identify which god is which...and discerning this in the pages of the OT is one of the biggest challenges.

I think it is evidence that we are the offspring of God...and that the holy spirit is working within to give us discernment when we are repulsed by the stories of the atrocities in the OT....the seemingly schizoid behavior of God....loving and compassionate one minute....ready to smite and punish and reject the next.

So when the children of Israel "heard God" tell them to wipe out the Amalekites, or the Canaanites...or when Abraham "heard God" tell him to sacrifice Isaac, it was not THE God, it was the voice of the impostor (however you see him...Satan, the carnal man....whatever you want to call him/it) Even the ten commandments warn us about other gods.

My "rule of thumb" has become to filter everything through the image of the invisible God we see in Jesus. There are four gospels in the Bible. Four times, the same story, with little discrepancy is told, and retold. Four chances for us to see it and get it right. THIS is the picture of the invisible God....the face of God is the face of Jesus. If what I read in the OT does not line up with that....out it goes.

I know the stories are there for a purpose....perhaps to instigate this rising up within us that cries out that it does not jive with who we know God to be. The beginning of the journey to discernment that leads us to the true God of light and love....just may begin in the OT when we begin to see that something is amiss. The pieces to the puzzle just do not fit.

 And later in the thread:

About the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil having two fruits. Does the text say that? I think that it is one and the same fruit whether we are eating from the good side of the tree (church going, God fearing, legalistic Christian) or the bad side of the tree. We are not supposed to eat from the Tree of Knowledge at all...but rather from the Tree of Life!!!

I think strict adherence to doctrine of the total, complete, inerrancy of the Bible comes from the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. We exalt the Bible to the point of blocking out the voice of Life which is living in each and every one of us...the Holy Spirit...the Spirit of the Risen Christ....which tells all of us that something is not right in the party line view of God in the OT.

Some people react to that belief by becoming atheists....wanting no part of that God. Others react by simply ignoring the OT and become New Testament Christians...Red Letter Christians. Others react by trying to make sense of the atrocities in the OT by claiming that His ways are above our ways and that all God's judgments are good no matter how they appear to us or how heinous and unfair they seem. God's acts in the OT are often referred to as atrocities because the ARE!!!!

Others strain their ears and try to listen to the voice of the Living God... ....the Voice of the Good Shepherd.... THE VOICE....and accept what He is whispering to their heart. I believe that it is only with His help that we can truly discern the truth in the scriptures. We tend to cling to the Tree of Knowledge....which is, I think, the root of the inerrancy view of the Bible. Just write it down and tell me what to believe.

Perhaps I am wrong...but if so I am confident that the Holy Spirit (whom Jesus promised would lead us into all truth) can right my course and show me the truth. I am trying to learn to put my faith in what HE is telling me...and not simply the words on a page.

Like I said, that was written a year or so ago...and I still see things pretty much the same.  A related post here on Mercy you might want to check out HERE. 


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

All Scripture or Every Scripture That Is - 3

Some of the following was written several years ago on the Beautiful Heresy Message Board.  It was a post within a thread that discussed  the Old Testament...and the inerrancy of the words written there.  So...and this feels kind of weird, let me quote myself...and then the peanut gallery will comment on the peanuts gallery's yesteryear musings.  Hmmmmm....

Beth, my little agnostic, has a big problem with the OT. Heck, as recently as a few years ago, I had a huge problem with the OT. How many people have rejected God simply because of what they see him depicted as in the OT? Go to any of the skeptic sites on the internet, that dissect and criticize and defame God because of how they see him depicted there.

Beth the agnostic?  Yep that was written several years ago.  The agnostic?  That might be a bit of an understatement.  You mean the angry, defiant teenager who wore the YOUR GOD IS DEAD T-shirt...last year?  The shirt she hand painted with angry red and black graffiti like letters?  The one she wore on her walk to the library one day...a walk that just happened to coincide with quitting time for the new pastor at our church.  As he was driving home, he saw her walking.  The t-shirt was impossible to miss.  YOUR GOD IS DEAD?  Them, there's fighting words for a United Methodist pastor.  He went around the block to try to find her and talk to her...but she was out of sight (no doubt offending people in the library with the sentiments expressed on her shirt)

And so she became the sermon illustration the following Sunday.  Being new he had no idea her mom..and sister...were sitting right there listening to the sermon. Distressing moment during a time I was sure things with Beth would never get any better and would never be okay.  Anyway...I am digressing big do I go back to the subject at hand or plunge farther into the valley of digression?  Hmmmmm.  Okay...lets plunge...

The following is a post I wrote...about a year EU chronicling the very upsetting experience.

A few weeks ago when Beth was at her angriest (I actually called the police on her when she was trashing her bedroom) she painted a shirt that said in big graffiti letters "YOUR GOD IS DEAD".  She wore it last week on her way to the library.  Part of it was anger at God....the other part was, of course, up yours defiance, and to get attention.  She wrote about it on her myspace blog....and a confrontation she had with a man who stopped to defend God.  He wasn't the only one who noticed the shirt .....and she got attention all right.  She made the sermon yesterday at church.  All three sermons!!!  About six hundred people heard about the girl in the Your God Is Dead T-shirt. 

The sermon was about "who is Jesus to you" based on the scripture when Jesus asked Peter "who do people say I am" "Who do you say I am?"  Peter answered, "thou art the Christ, the son of the Living God". 

The springboard was the "Living God" part....because from there he went on to say that the other day, when he was driving home he saw a girl walking down Market Street....wearing a T-shirt.....and he could not believe what it said.  Emily and I looked at each other.  OMG, we knew where he was going.  Yep...the T-shirt said, "YOUR GOD IS DEAD" He went on to say that he turned his car around to go talk to her but she had disappeared by the time he got back to where he'd last seen her.  He said he could not imagine how sad and lonely (and he used a few other adjectives) that girl's life must be to wear a T-shirt that not only said her God was dead but that YOUR God is dead too.   Em and I, of course, knew who the girl was....and the two youth leaders Emily is so close to and who Beth was very close to at one time knew...and another girl who is friends with Em (and used to be friends with Beth) 

Later, when the service was closing, Spencer (youth leader) asked if he could say something....and he said something about if you are here and do not know who Jesus is, ask one of us...ask the person who brought you....because, that girl in the T-shirt......I know that girl". "she's been to our home...she's been to this church".  He said some other stuff, too, about being Christ to people.  The pastor had no idea, I'm sure.  As I said, he is a new pastor there and I'm sure he thought the girls' parents were sleeping off Saturday night's hangover and definitely not sitting in his new sanctuary.  (It was the consecration of the newly remodeled sanctuary....big crowd Sunday) 

There were refreshments after the service, but I left right away.  Later I wrote him an email introducing myself as the mother of the girl in the Your God Is Dead T-shirt...and let him know that my other daughter, Emily, is very active in the church and in the youth group.  She is part of the youth leadership committee etc.  He wrote back today and said he would pray for Beth. 

Just another one of life's interesting moments.  Ya' gotta' wonder what was God's purpose in it. Shrug.

Still haven't figured out God's purpose in all of it, although I will say that things have improved somewhat with Beth.  Thanks to any and all (Jack) who prayed for her.  And please keep praying because she turns 18 this month which is sure to involve a learning curve for all concerned. 

Tomorrow...I'll get back to the topic at hand...

Monday, December 14, 2009

More All Scripture or Every Scripture That Is?

Okay, back to the slippery slope ....our musings about the inerrancy of the scriptures. When we begin to question which scriptures might be inspired and which ones are not...we seem to be fulfilling the common fundamentalist "slur" about picking and choosing.

My thoughts have been spurred on by many influences during the course of writing this series, including a conversation Keith and I had and, as is usually not the case, we agreed on quite a bit.  I invited him to write his thoughts down so I could post them here. In the meantime, however, back to the Quaker article I mentioned in my last post.

For Quakers, the Bible is a declaration of the fountain, the Spirit, and not the fountain itself. Therefore it is not the principal ground of truth; direct experience of the Spirit is the principal ground. The Bible may give secondary guidance, but even to read it properly we need to read in the Light of the Spirit.

Okay...two thoughts here. First of all I am reminded about the finger and the moon thing. A story I came across on the internet:

The nun Wu Jincang asked the Sixth Patriach Huineng, "I have studied the Mahaparinirvana sutra for many years, yet there are many areas i do not quite understand. Please enlighten me."

The patriach responded, "I am illiterate. Please read out the characters to me and perhaps I will be able to explain the meaning."

Said the nun, "You cannot even recognize the characters. How are you able then to understand the meaning?"

"Truth has nothing to do with words. Truth can be likened to the bright moon in the sky. Words, in this case, can be likened to a finger. The finger can point to the moon’s location. However, the finger is not the moon. To look at the moon, it is necessary to gaze beyond the finger, right?"

And how about the following quote from De Mello:

As we say in the East, 'When the sage points to the moon, all the idiot sees is the finger'.

Ahhhh....yeah...okay....I get the gist of that...see the implications and similarities to those who cling to total literal inerrancy of the Bible. 

Back to the Quaker article....

Second, for Quakers, the Bible is the record of others’ encounter with the divine, of the Spirit as it spoke through others. It is the record of revelation, not Revelation itself.


Quakers believe in ongoing revelation; if Spirit spoke through others in the past, why should that process have ended? Friends’ experience is that that process is ongoing, as Spirit continues to inspire our words and actions.

Sort of like the catch phrase for the United Church of Christ...."God is still speaking."

Which reminds me....I visited Beliefnet this weekend and there was a post on the Christian to Christian message board about the Bible. The guy who started the post was in the opposite ditch of Biblical literalists. He found little if any value in the Bible. I felt moved to respond....and this is what I said:

I think it is just as misguided to claim that God DOES NOT/CAN NOT/ WILL NOT speak to us through the scriptures...the Holy it is to say that he can ONLY speak to us through the Bible.

God has said plenty to me through the Bible...which is ever alive and ever new upon each reading. However, I have heard him speak through other writings, old and new, secular and holy. I have heard him in the lyrics of a song, the script of a movie, conversations with others...sometimes unbeknownst to them....and I have heard his still small voice speaking in the depth of my heart. There is a Christian denomination (United Church of Christ?) whose tagline is, "God is still speaking." Which begs the question...are we listening?

I heard a quote a long time ago that stuck with me...and I paraphrase it here since I didn't actually write it down at the time.

You can read the scriptures in the King James Version, the Concordant Literal or the original languages but unless you read it "in the spirit" you will never hear Abba speak.

More on all of this tomorrow....

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Christ of the Abyss...

This morning, via a message board for bloggers called Authority Blogger, I happened upon a blog....Adam Snider - Writer For Hire.  The author is based in Edmonton, posts on Authority Blogger and has written a Christmas post entitled, Taking Christ Out of Christmas, from the perspective of someone who is not Christian...yet not at all militant about it.  Check it out.

The picture he used to illustrate his post is rather...ahhh....eery?  At first glance, I thought it was a mountain like structure somewhere. A religious Mount Rushmore of sorts.....picture taken from afar...and that the bits of green were actually patches of wild brush.  When I investigated the photo, it turns out that it is actually a submerged statue of Jesus called Christ of the Abyss.  As I look at it a bit more closely I can see that it is obviously not a mountain sculpture. Duh.  The thought that this is submerged is really kind of eery...or is it?  Any thoughts? 

And giving credit where credit is due, this photo was taken by vgm8383 and resides on Flickr.

There are three well known casts of this statue in various underwater places plus other casts in lesser known locations above and below the waterline.  There is  more info on the statue\...where else...Wikipedia.   

Christ of the Abyss


And below another pic from the State Library and Archives of Florida


Christ Abyss 2

Saturday, December 12, 2009

None But Jesus....

While bouncing around on a few different blogs tonight, I came upon the following remark on the Decompressing Faith Blog. It is a response to a meme about religion.  First question...what is your home religion? Questions two and two other religions that interest you.  It was the answer to the first question that caught my eye. 

 1. Jesusism. I don't like to call it Christianity, because it's 98% not traditional Christianity (i.e. what percentage of the bible consists of words Jesus actually said?).But what I can say is that no matter how I have stretched my boundaries, Jesus has a grip on me that I can't shake. I have tried to walk away, but have had no peace until I have returned to him. I have no real explanation, except to say that is where I fall and I'm happy with it.

Indeed.  Even though I "window shop" other belief systems...and find bits and pieces here and there that enhance my faith...practical things that open up the scriptures to me, yet.....Jesus has a grip on me that I can't shake. Reminds me a bit of what Beatrix said a few weeks ago on a Thomas Merton list where I am a member. 

Still our god-imagery is rich in its  diversity all around
the world. Perhaps there are many "faces" of God,  as
some wise folk have suggested. I have followed the
Continuum of  these faces come down through the
ages, but Jesus is ours!

I do think there are "many faces of God" down through the ages...and...I don't quite know how to reconcile these many faces with the Bible's clear teaching that Jesus is the name above all names.  I don't discount the path to God others follow....around the world and down through the ages....but for me...there is "none but Jesus."  At church, we often sing a song by Hillsong...."None But Jesus." Video and lyrics follow...


In the quiet
In the stillness
I know that You are God
In the secret of Your presence
I know there I am restored
When You call i won't refuse
Each new day again I'll choose

There is no one else for me
None but Jesus
Crucified to set me free
Now I live to bring Him praise

In the chaos in confusion
I know You're sovereign still
In the moment of my weakness
You give me grace to do Your will
When You call I won't delay
This my song through all my days

All my delight is in You Lord
All of my hope
All of my strength
All my delight is in You Lord
Forever more

Friday, December 11, 2009

All Scripture Is or Every Scripture That Is...

And moving right along this path to sure article ended up in my inbox the other day, that...imagine...goes along with this series. The article is called A Quaker Response to Christian Fundamentalism. The article can be found at the Quaker Universalist web site

Like yesterday's post, the article addresses more than the inerrancy question. It takes an overall look at the main differences between Christian Fundamentalists and liberal Quakers. As I read the article I found that the beliefs of liberal Quakers fit quite nicely with the beliefs of other more progressive faith groups. In many (most) areas, their beliefs are the antithesis of the beliefs of Christian Fundamentalists. It might be interesting to look at the article in a bit more depth and talk about some of the other issues it addresses....issue like original sin, the Holy Spirit, Jesus, Salvation and relations with other religions. But for this post, let’s just hone in on the inerrancy thing. The author of the article mentioned something I have never heard before. There are scholars who believe 2 Timothy 3:16 might be mistranslated.

We all know the traditional rendering….

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,

The article explains:

How do Friends view the Bible? Not surprisingly, early Friends were not fond of 2 Timothy 3:16; moreover, a number of them did not accept the standard translation of this passage as correct. Early Quaker theologian Robert Barclay, among others, argued that an ambiguity in the original Greek version of the passage allowed it to be translated as, “Every scripture inspired by God is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” This translation opens up the possibility that only some passages in scripture are inspired by God, while others are not. Interestingly, the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible gives this alternate translation in its footnotes

And it is not just in the footnotes of the New Revised Standard Version. I found the following information on the Tyndale Archive of Biblical Studies. The article compares many different versions and their translation of this verse.

In this category, the verb "is" does not appear immediately following the word "Scripture." It is restrictive because the statement refers only to Scriptures that have been inspired by Yahweh. It suggests that there are Scriptures that have not been inspired by Him. It also suggests that Yahweh can instruct other servants throughout later times to write. Again, the translators have taken a stand, whether or not they accept the implication.

BNT - Every divinely inspired scripture is also useful for teaching the truth, for the refutation of error, for moral correction, and for training in the good life. (Barclay New Testament)

DRB - All scripture, inspired of God, is profitable to teach, ...( Douay-Rheims Bible)

LBP - All scripture written by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is profitable for doctrine, ... .(Lamsa Bible)

NEB - Every inspired scripture has its use for teaching the truth and refuting error, ... .(New English Bible)

REB - All inspired scripture has its use for teaching the truth and refuting error, ... .(Revised English Bible)

WTNT - For all scripture given by inspiration of God, is profitable to teach ... . (William Tindale Newe Testament)

EDW - All Scripture, divinely inspired, is indeed profitable for Teaching, ... .(The Emphatic Diaglott)

IV - And all Scripture given by inspiration of God, is profitable for doctrine, ... .(Inspired Version)

WAS - Every Scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, ...(Worrell New Testament)

HBME - Every Divinely inspired and useful writing was intended for teaching, attestation, and education in righteousness, ...( The Holy Bible in Modern English)

TCNT - Everything that is written under divine inspiration is helpful for teaching, ... .(The Twentieth Century New Testament)

And there are several other translations that are very similar.

American Standard Version
Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness.

Bible in Basic English
Every holy Writing which comes from God is of profit for teaching, for training, for guiding, for education in righteousness:

Hebrew Names Version

Every writing inspired by God is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction which is in righteousness,

And the online Greek Interlinear Bible at Scripture For All agrees with the above renderings.


And what are the implications of this…if indeed the verse means what it appears to mean in the examples listed above? 

Let’s talk more about that….tomorrow…..

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Slippery Slope - Don't Go There....

Fred Plumer's essay, Don't Go There, gives three examples of these "don't go there" places.

The first example is a woman who reamed him out royally in a break out workshop on the second night of a four day conference. Her beef? What he had mentioned briefly the night before in his keynote address...musing about whether Jesus was born of a virgin. Although she was not the least bit put off by some of the other progressive thoughts and actually agreed with him on most, the virgin birth was (as my friend Kathy used to say) a hill she would die on.

The next incident

This time a man, who had attended one of my speaking engagements, caught up with me as I was getting ready to leave. We stood outside by our cars in the cold and talked for twenty minutes. He was completely engaged and amicable until I questioned the need for Jesus to be the one and only unique God in our world. This man got red in the face and said, "Don't go there!" and I didn't. Interestingly, we had talked comfortably about other parts of the Christian story, how they might have come to be and why it was okay to let them go, or simply let them be myth. But for him it was unthinkable to let Jesus only be an enlightened man, a teacher and a prophet. For him, Jesus was God and that was a "don't go there."

And the final incident he talks about was one of his own "don't go there places"

Recently, I was on a conference call with a highly respected seminary president and three other people. As we were discussing the future direction of TCPC, he suggested that one of the things I might want to consider is moving past being an exclusively Christian organization and shift more towards a Unitarian Universal perspective. It was as if the wind had been knocked out of me. At first, I could not respond. Although I didn't say it out loud, my first thought was "don't go there!" When I finally was able to respond, I mumbled, "But I love Jesus." And no one was more surprised by my response than me.

The author's take on this....

.....if we dig deep enough, most of us seem to have a "don't go there" spot in our beliefs and traditions - that place where we lose a little of our otherwise rational thinking. And I suspect that it is often our inability to get past those "don't go there(s)" that holds back our personal growth and change.

Or as he said in the first essay about progressive religions, we must

"let go of the need for dogma or inflexible belief systems" and "learn to move with the flow of the spirit,"

And now, since you can't see me, let me just say that I am wearing my question mark face, shrugging my shoulders and shaking my head. Truth is, I don't know where the line is drawn between faith and dogma...between inflexible belief systems and moving with the flow of the spirit. I don't know...but since the purpose of this blog is not to tell you your answers...but rather to pique your questions,  I will leave you with this one...

How do you know which hills to die on?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Still More on the Slippery Slope (3)

So what did Jesus mean when he talked about the preference for "old wine"? Was he talking about their preconceived ideas? Long held beliefs? Perhaps their cherished prejudices? Their spiritual inertia? Most of us prefer the old wine, the familiar...the home sweet home of our religious beliefs.

Recently I've come across several quotes and articles that talk about the Bible...inerrancy...literalism etc. Since this is an area where many are leery of new wine, I thought I might delve into it a bit in this haphazard "series."

I came upon an interesting quote, by happenstance, in the writings of Preston Eby. The quote was by Paul Mueller

There is a wonderful truth that is about to break in upon the minds and hearts of the Lord's elect, and that is the blessed truth that it is God's intention to write His complete word upon the tables of our hearts. The entire scripture, including the Gospel of Christ and the inspired word of truth divinely ordained for our growth unto perfection, the manifestation of the sons of God, and the propagation and administration of the kingdom of God, is all to be written upon the tables of our hearts. The fact is, the Bible as we now know it will one day become obsolete for us. The blessed book that we carry around, study and sometimes memorize, is to be imparted into our lives so that we are truly 'epistles...known and read of all men.' This is not to downgrade the Bible or to denigrate its effectiveness, authority, and inspiration. The book we call the Bible is, for the most part, the inspired word of God, and we are truly and deeply grateful for all it means to us. However, our respect for the Bible will not alter the great truth that it is God's intention that we become His living word. Every truth that has been given by the Spirit will eventually become a part of our lives, so that we will not need to turn to chapter and verse for guidance and truth, but rather, that truth will be written and engraved upon our lives so that we do by nature all the truth the Bible contains to the glory of God. From Preston Eby's The Lamb's Book of Life Part 1

Did you catch the part that declares that the Bible is...FOR THE MOST PART...the inspired word of God. what "part" IS NOT the inspired word of God...and how do we tell the difference?

I mean, after all, if you start to throw out the parts of the Bible you don't like you might as well throw out the whole thing. Can you really pick and choose? And what if the parts that are not inspired are actually our beloved pet verses? The ones we cherish...the verses that go right to the heart of our beliefs?

I came across a blog post last night on The Christian Universalist called Father Forgive Them. The blog is well worth checking out. It is owned by Logan Geen, a very smart young man who has interesting, well researched opinions about a lot things and he writes about them articulately. In this particular post, he talked about some writings he'd come across on the web that dispute whether the words of Jesus from the recorded in Luke..."Father forgive them for they know not what they do" were actually spoken. He listed links to several articles...seemingly unbiased (like the Net Bible) which explore this loaded question.

Bottom line...this oft repeated phrase from Jesus is not found in some of the earliest manuscripts. Some think it was added by a scribe to go along with the words spoken by Stephen when he was being stoned. Logan says the following...

I don't know if I'm being intellectually honest here or if what I say makes sense-whether I have a case for accepting the verse or am simply keeping it just because I "like it" and "I just don't know from a historical POV, but I do know the spiritual depth behind those words is indeed very real."

And all of what I just said reminds me of another essay written by Fred Plumer, the guy who wrote the essay that birthed this series. It is entitled " Don't Go There" and we will talk more about it....tomorrow.....

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Progressive Faith and the Slippery Slope 2

I am going to start today's post with a snippet from yesterday's post....

The point is that it is always easier not to question or doubt. It is usually easier to ignore the truth if it requires that we change. It will often be easier to stay in the same place.

Uh huh...but how often does God call us to the easy place? Does he ever allow us to stay in the same place or is he always beckoning us to grow. Is there such a thing a "ssdd" with God?

Ever hear of the theory of inertia?

I read the following on Wikipedia...

The law of inertia states that it is the tendency of an object to resist a change in motion. An object will stay at rest and or stay in motion unless acted on by an external force, whether it results from gravity, friction, matter, or some other source.

Another definition...

The tendency of an object to continue in motion at the same speed and in the same direction, unless acted upon by a force.

Which brings to mind a quote...

Lest he should wander irretrievably from the right path, he stands still." William Hazlitt

Get the picture? Camping out on our island is a kind of spiritual inertia. Unless acted upon by some other source we might be content to stroll the beaches of our island forever.

Is this what Jesus was talking about in Luke 5 when he said:

"But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. And no one, after drinking old wine wishes for new; for he says, `The old is good enough."' NAS

Two commentaries on this verse…

And beside, men are not wont to be immediately freed from old prejudices. John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

"The prejudiced person will not even try the new, or admit that it has any merits. He knows that the old is pleasant, and suits him; and that is enough; he is not going to change" This is Christ's picture of the reactionary Pharisees. Robertson’s Word Pictures

As Fred Plumer noted in his essay we might have to "let go of the need for dogma or inflexible belief systems" and to "learn to move with the flow of the spirit,"

More tomorrow....

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Slippery Slope of Progressive Religion

Jim posted something from another group on EU last weekend. A quote by Karl Rahner...within the post... caught my I googled it. (What else does one do these days to find information?) And as so often was the first step in that proverbial journey of a thousand miles...around the vast expanse of the world wide web. I was everywhere....all over the place...and found so much blog fodder, mental musings, and so many interesting places to visit. I love technology!!

Anyway, the quote....

"...what is called knowledge in everyday parlance is only a small island in a vast sea that has not been traveled... Hence the existential question for the knower is this: Which does he love more, the small island of his so-called knowledge or the sea of infinite mystery?

I found the whole article at the website of The Center For Progressive Christianity  (note to self...check this site out more thoroughly. Lots of stuff there) The article was written by Fred Plumer, entitled Progressive Faith vs. the Illusion of Control. Following are some excerpts from the writing and, of course, some comments from me...the peanut gallery.

So Mr. Plumer reiterates the question Rahner poses in his quote...

Do we love the small island of knowledge more or do we care to sail the "sea of infinite mystery"? It is far easier and certainly more comfortable to stay on the small island of knowledge and be an expert in a familiar paradigm than it is to venture out into the unknown.

Ya' think? So what are my options again? Do I want to stay here on my cozy little home sweet home where I am safe and comfortable...or do I want to set out on a rickety, ramshackle raft without a map, headed for an undisclosed destination through possibly turbulent, treacherous, shark filled waters?

The author thinks that is why many cling to fundamentalism...that in fact that is why fundamentalism was birthed. The unknown is just so....unknown. No telling what might happen if we even think about venturing there.

A progressive faith is one that is willing to challenge the assumptions and to test the paradigm under which we are operating. It is not afraid to ask hard questions and to admit to doubt.

Are we talking atonement theories here? The inerrancy of scripture?

My own experience has demonstrated for me that if I ask God or the Ultimate Spirit a question, I may not get the answer but I will be led in a direction where the answer becomes apparent. It is usually my anxiety from worrying about not having an answer to an important question that keeps me from discovering that if I had relaxed, I already had the answer.

But, Mr. Plumer, I have found the answer is sometimes a very, very long time in coming and that in fact God may ease the frenzy to know long before he actually answers the question.

The point is that it is always easier not to question or doubt. It is usually easier to ignore the truth if it requires that we change. It will often be easier to stay in the same place.

Progressive faith is like learning to ski down a slippery slope. Some of us just do not like that sense of movement under our feet no matter how much fun others seem to be having. We are not comfortable, even frightened, with the pull of gravity down a slope because we feel like we have little or no control. But people who have become proficient skiers will tell you that with practice, skiers gain control by leaning forward into the tips of their skis, actually releasing to the pull gravity. This movement is opposed to everything that seems natural to most people. Most of us would rather sit back on our skis and drag our buttocks on the ground for control. Could it be that the mystery of God is like the pull of gravity encouraging us to lean into the tips of our skis, letting the pull of the mystery lead us into an incredible journey?

It is an exciting time to be alive. I believe that if we follow Jesus’ example and let go of the need for dogma or inflexible belief systems, and if we learn to move with the flow of the spirit, we just might have the dynamic experience of being launched into the "sea of infinite mystery".

Progressive faith may be scary, but it will always be exciting.

More on this...yep...tomorrow.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Happy Whatever You Wanakkah Revisited….

I recently wrote about the Gap’s Happy do whatever you wanukkah commercial. For anyone interested in learning more about the history of Christmas and the origination of some of our “Christian customs” check out the History Channel’s Christmas page.  Keith found this and sent me the link.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

More From Shane Claiborne....

I really like Shane Claiborne...

I came upon another one of his writings yesterday called What If Jesus Really Meant That Stuff? And we go....without further ado…and with, perhaps, a few comments of my own thrown into the mix…

To all my nonbelieving, sort-of-believing, and used-to-be-believing friends: I feel like I should begin with a confession. I am sorry that so often the biggest obstacle to God has been Christians. Christians who have had so much to say with our mouths and so little to show with our lives. I am sorry that so often we have forgotten the Christ of our Christianity.

Forgive us. Forgive us for the embarrassing things we have done in the name of God.

A recent study showed that the top three perceptions of Christians in the U. S. among young non-Christians are that Christians are 1) antigay, 2) judgmental, and 3) hypocritical. So what we have here is a bit of an image crisis, and much of that reputation is well deserved. That's the ugly stuff. And that's why I begin by saying that I'm sorry.

I want to invite you to consider that maybe the televangelists and street preachers are wrong — and that God really is love. Maybe the fruits of the Spirit really are beautiful things like peace, patience, kindness, joy, love, goodness, and not the ugly things that have come to characterize religion, or politics, for that matter. (If there is anything I have learned from liberals and conservatives, it's that you can have great answers and still be mean...

Well, isn’t that the truth and I think I will just leave this as is...and invite you to check out the rest of the article here....

Friday, December 4, 2009

Tony Campolo and Max Lucado on Hell...

This is sort of an afterthought about yesterdays post. I recently posted excerpts from a discussion between Shane Claiborne and Tony Campolo about interfaith dialogue. Within In the course of the discussion Tony said the following...

Catholicism would say that at the moment of death every person is confronted in that split moment with Christ and is given the opportunity of saying yes or no. To say otherwise is to say God has got to be a pretty unfair deity, to condemn three quarters of the human race to hell without them ever having a chance.

Max Lucado says something quite similar in his book Traveling Light

What of those who die with no faith?  My husband never prayed.  My grandpa never worshiped.  My mother never opened a Bible, much less her heart.  What about the one who never believed?

How do we know he didn’t?

Who among us is privy to a person’s final thoughts?  Who among us knows what transpires in those final moments?  Are you sure no prayer was offered?  Eternity can bend the proudest knees.  Could a person stare into the yawning canyon of death without whispering a plea for mercy?  And could our God, who is partial to the humble, resist it?

He couldn’t on Calvary.  The confession of the thief on the cross was both a first and final one.  But Christ heard it.  Christ received it.  Maybe you never heard your loved one confess Christ, but who’s to say Christ didn’t?

We don’t know the thoughts of a dying soul, but we know this. We know our God is a good God. He is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”  2 Peter 3:9 NKJV

He wants your loved one in heaven more than you do. And he usually gets what he wants.

 Grace for the Moment, Volume II Originally excerpted from

Traveling Light

Max is not a universalist…for sure….he makes it very clear in his book 3:16 The Numbers of Hope…but this is pretty close…or as Shane Claiborne says: " If those of us who believe in God do not believe God's grace is big enough to save the whole world... well, we should at least pray that it is.”

It is Shane…it is….

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Gates of Hell - Claiborne and Rohr...

While recently, I came upon comments from two preacher/teachers about hell. These guys might appear, on the surface, to come from different worlds (galaxies?)

The theme song from the Patty Duke show comes to mind when I think about these two.....

One pair of matching bookends, Different as night and day.

Shane Claiborne...modern day Jesus Freak hippie living in inner city Philadelphia founder of the New Monastic Community, The Simple Way. The other...Richard Rohr...a contemplative Franciscan friar, founder of the Center for Contemplative Action. One young...the other a bit past middle age. Do a search on google images and you will find pictures of these balding, the other with long hair....even long dreadlocks. But they both seem their own have taken to heart the "red letters" in the New Testament. Red Letter Christians.

So anyway, as I was scurrying here and there all over the world wide web the other day I came upon an article written by Shane Claiborne about The Gates of Hell. And later, in another corner of the internet, I came upon a quote by Richard Rohr....on one of the anti cult, "sound the warning trumpet blast" web sites.

Again, I would like to thank them and all the anti-cult, defenders of the "true gospel" web sites for providing the absolute best quotes....quotes that must take a lot of digging and searching. They provide gems that would take countless hours of searching web sites, reading books, listening to audio, watching videos. They post the quotes to prove heresy...but for heretics like me, they are a huge blessing. Just goes to show that sometimes God uses us in spite of ourselves...and not at all in the way we plan to be used. But I digress.

Let's start with Richard Rohr.....

From an interview with Stephen Crittenden of The Religion Report on ABC Radio National:

Stephen Crittenden: Let me just finally give another example from the opposite side of the ledger. There’s a great term called universalism. And I guess at base it’s the idea that in the end, no-one’s in hell, everyone’s going to heaven, that the crucifixion ultimately saved everyone and God’s mercy will gather everyone according to some .even Judas and Satan in the end will be saved. Often hearing John Paul II I thought to myself Actually at base, he’s a Universalist. Some of the things Benedict has written suggests the same. I think the vast majority probably of Australian Catholics these days are Universalists.

Richard Rohr: In effect, yes. Well, you know -

Stephen Crittenden: Which doesn’t mean they know they’re going to heaven, but they hope that everybody, including the Buddhists and the Hindus and the Jews and the Muslims, everybody will be saved.

Richard Rohr: Isn’t that a marvelous act of trust in the mercy and victory of God. If we say God is victorious, what else would God’s victory be? Is God so small that God’s victory can only win over a few? I think that’s the sad commentary on much of Christian history, but the wonderful thing is, that we find a constant sub-text, starting in the scriptures themselves, starting in Isaiah, of language of all, of language of everybody. It’s called apocatostisis in Greek, which means universal restoration. It was believed by any number of the early fathers of the church, taught in various forms, subtle forms very often, but you can see that it was a hope, it was a desire, it was the yearning of the spirit that God’s victory has to be this great, and has to be this big. It’s interesting, that like we in the Catholic Church have officially proclaimed many people to be in heaven, we call them saints. We have never proclaimed a single person to be in hell. Now that’s rather telling. We never said we are sure Hitler’s in hell, we are sure Judas is in hell, we’ve never said that. That reveals something; and I think it’s the hope planted in us by the Holy Spirit of the nature of God’s love. Is grace is true; we’ve got to take it to its logical conclusion. If you and I are loved, in spite of ourselves, then what’s the cut-off point of worthiness and unworthiness? Now I have to receive that, I have to surrender to that, but I think God has led all of us to surrender in spite of ourselves. So for God to allow that, God to do that, in death, after death, that’s easy for me to trust.

And now Shane Shane Claiborne on ministering to those trapped in hell on earth. I found this article on a blog called Out of Ur

I figure anytime you are about to talk about hell it's good to start with a joke, so here we go?.It was a busy day in heaven as folks waited in line at the pearly gates. Peter stood as gatekeeper checking each newcomer's name in the Lamb's Book of Life. But there was some confusion, as the numbers were not adding up. Heaven was a little overcrowded, and a bunch of folks were unaccounted for. So some of the angels were sent on a mission to investigate things. And it was not long before two of them returned, "We found the problem," they said. "Jesus is out back, lifting people up over the gate."

Yep…that sounds like something Jesus might do :-)

Shane talks about his views on the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats...and the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus....neither of which I totally agree with...but the point of this post is to talk about what I do agree with....

Nowadays many of us spend a lot of time pondering and theologizing about heaven on earth and God's Kingdom coming here (and rightly so!), but it seems we would also do well to do a little work with the reality of hell. Hell is not just something that comes after death, but something many are living in this very moment? 1.2 billion people that are groaning for a drop of water each day, over 30,000 kids starving to death each day, 38 million folks dying of AIDS. It seems ludicrous to think of preaching to them about hell. I see Jesus spending far more energy loving the "hell" out of people, and lifting people out of the hells in which they are trapped, than trying to scare them into heaven. And one of the most beautiful things we get to see in community here in Kensington, is people who have been loved out of the hells that they find themselves in - domestic violence, addiction, sex trafficking, loneliness.

So according to Shane, hell is not just an afterlife concept...but alive and flourishing in the land of the living. There truly is a hell on earth. And it is not just the ones listed above...the addicts, the abused, the exploited...the lonely, the hungry, the sick....but it is also those who have too much...who live in suburbia, in their own little selfish world of Me, Myself and I. He talks about the gates of hell.

Jesus reassures Peter: "The gates of Hell will not prevail against you."

He talks a bit about what he used to think this phrase meant...and what he thinks it means now.

Gates are not offensive weapons. Gates are defensive - walls and fences we build to keep people out. God is not saying the gates of hell will not prevail as they come at us. God is saying that we are in the business of storming the gates of hell, and the gates will not prevail as we crash through them with grace.

And now the part about suburbia....

Just as we are building walls to keep people out of our comfortable, insulated existence, we are trapping ourselves in a hell of isolation, loneliness and fear. We have "gated communities" where rich folks live. We put up picket fences around our suburban homes. We place barbed wire and razer-wire around our buildings and churches. We put bars on our windows in the ghettos of fear. We build up walls to keep immigrants from entering our country. We guard our borders with those walls - Berlin, Jerusalem, Jericho. And the more walls and gates and fences we have, the closer we are to hell.

Let us pray that God would give us the strength to storm the gates of hell, and tear down the walls we have created between those whose suffering would disrupt our comfort. May we become familiar with the suffering of the poor outside our gates, know their names, and taste the salt in their tears?

And in the New Jerusalem, the great City of God, "on no day will its gates ever be shut." The gates of the Kingdom will forever be open. (Revelation 21:25)

I wrote about this a while back on another post...about, in part, universalism.

Eventually everyone straggles though the gate.....every knee bows, every tongue confesses and every tear is wiped away.

In Revelation chapter 22 .... which is the very last “that’s all she wrote” chapter of the Bible, verse 17 says

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.

Huh? To whom is this invitation extended? Aren’t all God’s people already included in the “bride”? Could it be the ones still “outside”...the dogs, the sorcerers, the immoral, the murderers, the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying? The ones from verse 15? Who else would they bid, “Come”? Come and drink...without cost."

And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.

And the invitation remains open until the last “each in their own order” hold out straggles through the Gates...weary knees finally bow....joyful proclamations that Jesus is Lord. Tears of joy and repentance gently wiped away. Behold, he makes all things new.

The offer never expires, the invitation is never withdrawn, the welcome mat is never rolled up and put away, the Gate is never closed. The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.”