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Questions For Our Universalist And/or Liberal Christians


Guest Serene Agnostic Atheist
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Guest Serene Agnostic Atheist

I've been viewing things that many of the Universalist have written over the past few months but still have some questions. Maybe these things have already been answered but perhaps its been in an area of discussion that I haven't followed so I'm starting this here so it can all be laid out in one thread. :-) Please forgive me if some of these have been answered. First though, in case any eternal torture believers make their way here I am laying this out right away because I don't want this topic sidetracked over the following issue:

 

I DO understand not believing in a place of eternal torment because the OT does not teach it and it can be explained in the NT as not literally. Quite simple really...Hell/Sheol is where one is buried when they die, and since Hades will be destroyed it cannot be eternal AND since Ghenna is a LITERAL VALLEY that used to be a place of refuse, it is an earthly place so...please no discussions of ETERNAL TORMENT need be revisited on this thread, since the majority of the BIBLE does not teach this! So if you are a believer in eternal torment and want to hash it out with the universalists and others....please start your own thread.

 

Okay, that being out of the way, onto my first question:

 

You have stated that the bible is not to be taken literally but yet at the same time (and this may not be true of all universalists) believe the fantastic and almost unbelievable events concerning Jesus as real. Do you really believe that Jesus is god and that he died for sins of the world? Which brings to mind a question in this same line, if he was only tortured and died for just a few hours....how could he have truly made a sacrifice?

 

Thank You.

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Okay, that being out of the way, onto my first question:

 

You have stated that the bible is not to be taken literally but yet at the same time (and this may not be true of all universalists) believe the fantastic and almost unbelievable events concerning Jesus as real. Do you really believe that Jesus is god and that he died for sins of the world? Which brings to mind a question in this same line, if he was only tortured and died for just a few hours....how could he have truly made a sacrifice?

 

Hello SAA :)

 

Thank you for starting this thread... it should be a wonderful discussion.

 

My understanding of Jesus... in short... no I do not read the Gospels literally. Jesus is very important to me.. He is the "Word made Flesh". But I do not need a virgin birth, and a physical resurrection to believe this.

 

For a greater understanding of my approach you may want to check out the two following threads:

 

The Silly-Putty® Bible, The Catch-22 of a malleable bible

http://www.ex-christian.net/index.php?show...&hl=Silly+putty

 

Leaving Jesus is not Leaving God! – long thread you may want to start on page 7-8.

http://www.ex-christian.net/index.php?show...%20Jesus&st=140

 

SAA... I'm not sending you to these threads to escape your questions. I truly welcome this discussion. But these two threads addressed some of your questioning and the answers I gave - over several posts - may help you understand my particular viewpoint.

 

Other universalists will have to weigh in with their own point of view.

 

This discussion topic should be very enlightening for all of us and I intend to keep my eye on it. Thanks - once again - for starting the thread.

 

:)

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Okay, that being out of the way, onto my first question:

 

You have stated that the bible is not to be taken literally but yet at the same time (and this may not be true of all universalists) believe the fantastic and almost unbelievable events concerning Jesus as real. Do you really believe that Jesus is god and that he died for sins of the world? Which brings to mind a question in this same line, if he was only tortured and died for just a few hours....how could he have truly made a sacrifice?

 

Hello SAA :)

 

Thank you for starting this thread... it should be a wonderful discussion.

 

My understanding of Jesus... in short... no I do not read the Gospels literally. Jesus is very important to me.. He is the "Word made Flesh". But I do not need a virgin birth, and a physical resurrection to believe this.

OM, I think there may be a slight distinction that needs to be made between Liberal Christianity and Universalists. I've always understood Universalits to be part of the Unitiarian movement. From what I you are not part of the Universalist movement, but rather a part of Liberal Lutherans as you've posted elsewhere. Universalists are a specific chuch body. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unitarian_Universalism

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My family sometimes goes to our local UU church, and I can't tell that they have anything to do with Christianity. There are people of different religions there, but all the songs and sermons are about general spirituality. The pastor is openly gay and calls himself a "mystic agnostic". Their ad in the Sunday paper says "Born right the first time.".

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My family sometimes goes to our local UU church, and I can't tell that they have anything to do with Christianity. There are people of different religions there, but all the songs and sermons are about general spirituality. The pastor is openly gay and calls himself a "mystic agnostic". Their ad in the Sunday paper says "Born right the first time.".

 

Okay....I need to get even more specific here...LOL

 

We have 2 Universal churches in my area; Unitarian Universalist (no religions whatsoever) and a church called Unity Church where it is very liberal, accepting of homosexuals, people of other religions, and teachings of all religions are prevalent but Christianity is the overall theme. It is the Christian Universalists and Liberal Christians that this thread is addressing.

 

 

Ok, thanks. I don't know anything about Christian Universalism, but you have sparked my curiosity. Interesting... I went to their website to see if they had a local church, and it pointed me to our Quaker meeting hall.

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Edit: OH NO :eek: Thanks alot to you Brits and Canadians on the board your spelling has rubbed off on me. LOL

 

You should be more on your guard ~ you especially don't want to let my spelling rub off on you ;)

 

Great idea for a thread. I still find overlaps for myself with many beliefs that could be held by liberal christians and universalists - although I wouldn't any longer adopt the title 'christian' - mainly because I see the term as so closely sealed up with a believing that 'Jesus is god incarnate and he died on the cross as a substitute for my sins' - which I don't.

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OM

Please help me out here: What does it even mean when you say Jesus is the “Word made Flesh.” What Word, and on what do you base this understanding of Jesus.

 

SAA

The last phase of my Christianity was in what is called “Universal Redemption” – so I understand quite a bit of this. Truth be told, once I was given “freedom” to question the Bible, it became transparent that there are serious issues with it. I basically got sick and tired of every Christian tribe using the same book to justify that what they believe IS right. Naturally, I wanted to know who was right …

 

In my opinion, the liberal strands of Christianity are nothing more than offshoots of various different Gnostic sects that the Catholic Church seemed so hard to suppress during the formation of the church. I don’t think they are True™ Christians in the sense of the Catholic word, but that’s neither here not there. To me, their Christianity seems more like a philosophy, like the Tao Te Ching or Socrates, but I don’t understand by what method they decided what to believe and what to reject. That seems counter to what the rest of Christianity stands for.

 

However, that said, I prefer the Gnostic Christians above the other tribes.

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Okay....I need to get even more specific here...LOL

 

We have 2 Universal churches in my area; Unitarian Universalist (no religions whatsoever) and a church called Unity Church where it is very liberal, accepting of homosexuals, people of other religions, and teachings of all religions are prevalent but Christianity is the overall theme. It is the Christian Universalists and Liberal Christians that this thread is addressing.

 

This is going to get interesting ... isn't it :grin:

 

OM, I think there may be a slight distinction that needs to be made between Liberal Christianity and Universalists. I've always understood Universalits to be part of the Unitiarian movement. From what I you are not part of the Universalist movement, but rather a part of Liberal Lutherans as you've posted elsewhere. Universalists are a specific chuch body. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unitarian_Universalism

 

Antlerman - technically you're right. There is a distinction. Technically Universalists consider themselves part of the Unitiarian movement. But... they get the name "universalist" from an overall concept embraced by many in mainstream Christianity.

 

I call myself a "universalist" in much the same way someone in Canada might call themselves an "American" because they live on the "American" Continent. Those who go to a Unitarian/Universalist church call themselves a "Unitarian" the same way we in America call ourselves "American".

 

Does this help?

 

SAA ... about

 

Unitarian Universalist (no religions whatsoever) and Unity Church - they are different. Unity is more "Christian" in it's approach. Several of my family members attend Unity - I used to.

 

Hope that helps... in the end there are many within Christianity who would call themselves "Universalists" but would not attend a Unitarian/Universalist church. My ELCA (Lutheran) pastor considers himself "Universalist".

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It helps, and it is to the Liberal and Universalist Christians to which I'd like this thread to go with.

 

I've read some from the "Leaving Jesus is Not Leaving God" thread and I'm finding it to be a spiritual thread. I'm not really seeking to understand from a spiritual sense so much as I'm trying to see how liberal and universalists come to believe that their beliefs stem from those of Jewish beliefs and the biggest factor in this is the life and death/resurrection of Jesus. If you do not take the bible as literal but allegory how do you justify a belief that the NT is in conjunction with the OT? Then of course, the questions that I originally posted. Sorry but it's like one question leads to more! :grin:

 

Good thread but I think if you take the Heaven / Hell issue away (quite rightly) then even if you do believe in the resurrection what is the point? If you don't believe in the eternal fire then what are you being saved from?

That goes for OT and NT views I suppose.

In the OT the Law given to Moses etc is the one the Jews believe in still isn't it to make you right with God. But even then what is the point if there is no hell.

 

The only point would be a dicussion on 'here and now' spirituality not the after life which you said you don't want ..so being a good boy i won't go there. :grin:

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I've read some from the "Leaving Jesus is Not Leaving God" thread and I'm finding it to be a spiritual thread. I'm not really seeking to understand from a spiritual sense so much as I'm trying to see how liberal and universalists come to believe that their beliefs stem from those of Jewish beliefs and the biggest factor in this is the life and death/resurrection of Jesus. If you do not take the bible as literal but allegory how do you justify a belief that the NT is in conjunction with the OT? Then of course, the questions that I originally posted. Sorry but it's like one question leads to more! :grin:

 

I have previously questioned O_M about his understanding of Jesus in relation to his being a 'sacrifice' - I think it was in the 'leaving Jesus' thread, and I think that exchange touches on some of your questions, I can't find it now - it's a long thread!

 

I think most liberal christians would read Jesus' death as literal and the resurrection as allegorical?

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If you do not take the bible as literal but allegory how do you justify a belief that the NT is in conjunction with the OT? Then of course, the questions that I originally posted. Sorry but it's like one question leads to more! :grin:

 

I have previously questioned O_M about his understanding of Jesus in relation to his being a 'sacrifice' - I think it was in the 'leaving Jesus' thread, and I think that exchange touches on some of your questions, I can't find it now - it's a long thread!

 

I think most liberal christians would read Jesus' death as literal and the resurrection as allegorical?

 

Yes you did Alice ... yes you did. Try this link:

http://www.ex-christian.net/index.php?show...cifixion&st=220

 

Our discussion around that starts at the top of page 12.

 

SAA ..This whole thing about the NTs relationship to the OT is not so much of an issue with me. When I came here - one of the things that confused me the most was this constant emphasis on "prophesy" etc...

 

I don't look at the Bible as a "proof text" of my faith... again going back to the Silly Putty thread. We had a long discussion about this. If you are interested in how I veiw these things... you may want to look at that thread.

 

The Silly-Putty® Bible, The Catch-22 of a malleable bible - Page 3 is where it picks up.

http://www.ex-christian.net/index.php?show...y%20putty&st=40

 

Again... I'm not trying to evade your questions. I just believe you'll get a good more context in these threads and then we can delve into things deeper.

 

Good thread but I think if you take the Heaven / Hell issue away (quite rightly) then even if you do believe in the resurrection what is the point? If you don't believe in the eternal fire then what are you being saved from?

That goes for OT and NT views I suppose.

In the OT the Law given to Moses etc is the one the Jews believe in still isn't it to make you right with God. But even then what is the point if there is no hell.

 

Robert ... you will really want to look through those other threads. Many of these questions are addressed in posts on page 3 and 4 of the Silly-Putty thread.

 

OM

Please help me out here: What does it even mean when you say Jesus is the “Word made Flesh.” What Word, and on what do you base this understanding of Jesus.

 

Thunderboldt, the Silly-Putty thread also addresses this.

 

One quote from that thread follows:

 

4. Why you feel the need to call yourself a Christian instead of choosing the label of another group?

 

This is the most difficult question for me to answer BECAUSE it is not my intent to offend anyone, or to suggest that since I experience things the way I do – you should as well. So PLEASE remember that I recognize the subjectivity of my own experiences.

 

Here goes – the concept of trinity is very real to me, it presents itself in nature, in life in general. As I experience the trinity (not as the fundamentalists choose to literalize it) the trinity is within all of life, all of creation.

 

How to explain this. It might help you to put this all in context if you know that I practice contemplative Christianity (this is the meditative branch of Christianity). I have also explored the eastern mystic traditions. But they never fit. In a concrete way I suppose I could say I call myself a Christian because the contemplative path of Christianity just “fits” better. I was raised Christian, it is easier for me to get my head around the literature and writings.

 

But, there is more… as I’ve said the concept of the trinity is very real to me. For me – subjectively – I see the trinity metaphysically defined in the first verses of John’s gospel. I won’t quote them all here, but John 1:14 is immediately applicable, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us”.

 

The three words “Word became flesh” are a metaphysical way of looking at the Trinity. The “WORD” represents the “Father”, the original idea, the original mind, the first thought. “Became” metaphysically speaking is the first thought in action, energy (or the Sacred Spirit) proceeding out from the first thought. And “Flesh” metaphysically speaking is the manifested result of the first thought. “Flesh” could not happen if energy had not proceeded out from the first thought, the first Word.

 

Think about when an artist creates something. First – before anything – the artist has to have the idea. Or the first thought. Second – the idea must be acted upon – the artist takes a canvas and paint and expends energy (or the sacred spirit). Third – because the artist had the thought and because the artist expended energy from the thought – there is an end product, a painting (or the manifested result of the first thought). This whole process is trinitarian in the sense that the painting would never be without the original thought and the energy which proceeded out from that thought in order to produce a painting.

 

In short – when I look at creation – I see this dynamic in play. I can not work in my garden, walk in the woods, hold an infant and not see that first, before anything else there was an idea. (Not an idea in the limited sense that we humans think of) But a first intention, a first awareness that there could be something more. And then, there was spirit (energy) proceeding out from this first intention. Because that energy was expended we have life, glorious life. We have creation. I see this dynamic at play in science, and I accept that there are those who study science and do not see it. I see this dynamic at play in math, and I accept that there are those who study math and do not see it. I see this dynamic at play in the arts, and I accept that there are those who study the arts and do not see it.

 

One thing that I think is important for us to consider is that (correct me if I'm wrong) fundamentalist Christianity teaches that the whole truth - for all time - is contained within the Bible. Because of this fundamentalist Christianity is not so much a path as it is a defined set of rules that must be met.

 

I don't look at my Christianity that way. To me it is a path - a long and winding path at that :)

 

To me the Bible is not a straight-jacket within which I must fit my spiritual life. My spiritual life is a constant unfoldment within which the Bible and the life of Jesus play key roles. Does that help you understand my approach to the Bible a bit?

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Now, I can see where if read as allegory, SOME of what the NT says is meant as spiritual lessons but I don't see how Jesus fits into the equation. If the bible's sole purpose is spirituality why does one need to say that they are Christian? And I mean this respectfully, but to me that would be like calling myself a Dumbledorian, because there are spiritual lessons in Harry Potter books.

Hi Serene..ity! :HaHa:

 

I think there are some spiritual lessons in the old testament, but I am not very familiar with most of them. Adam and Eve...and I have even heard Job to be allegorical. The myth is there to serve the needs of the community, to establish laws and to give people of that time hope. So there is some philosophical truths, some historical truths and many, many non-truths. Some writters were more 'enlightened' than others and it is reflected in the non-sense that pours out in many places.

 

Also, the need to be called Christian, IMO, has to do with community and ritual. If being a Dumbeledorian would allow you to have greater insights into the Harry Potter series, it might be helpful! :grin: I do understand what you mean though.

 

I have rejected being called a Christian because I don't like the concepts that word brings forth in people's minds. The majority of Christians have an unspoken agreement to what the word entails and I choose to break away from that agreement. I still like to find insights from it because it is what I know more than other spiritual teachings. But, it means nothing more to me than many other modern day thinkers on spirituality. Other than knowing that people were pretty intelligent back then also and modern day thinkers many times use the words of the ancient teachings.

 

Edit: Oh, I couldn't agree more with O_M about the trinity. It really makes perfect, allegorical, sense to me also.

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The three words “Word became flesh” are a metaphysical way of looking at the Trinity. The “WORD” represents the “Father”, the original idea, the original mind, the first thought. “Became” metaphysically speaking is the first thought in action, energy (or the Sacred Spirit) proceeding out from the first thought. And “Flesh” metaphysically speaking is the manifested result of the first thought. “Flesh” could not happen if energy had not proceeded out from the first thought, the first Word.

 

O_M

 

Ok, then I would like to ask you this: Does it bother you at all that the first verses of John (about Jesus being the Word) aren’t in any earlier manuscripts? It was just forgeries that the scribes added to get around some “tricky” doctrinal issues.

 

I guess what I am hearing is that you like the metaphysical concept of the idea, whether it has any basis in “reality” or substance? What I am “hearing” is that no matter what the reality of Jesus is/was, you go with the ideas the resonate with you. Do I understand more or less correct?

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I have rejected being called a Christian because I don't like the concepts that word brings forth in people's minds. The majority of Christians have an unspoken agreement to what the word entails and I choose to break away from that agreement. I still like to find insights from it because it is what I know more than other spiritual teachings. But, it means nothing more to me than many other modern day thinkers on spirituality. Other than knowing that people were pretty intelligent back then also and modern day thinkers many times use the words of the ancient teachings.

I'm still here, just sitting back a little since I've already taken so much of OM's energies already answering my exhaustive questions in other threads. I do want to comment on this to say I agree in large part with this. I think people who say that because the Bible isn't "infallible" it has nothing of value to offer, are being a bit severe. You have to understand contextually what is reflective of historical cultural politics, verses those things which are timeless spiritual principles. The whole notion of infallibility began in the 2nd century BC as a reactionary movement against Hellenization. Today as then, most people approach "sacred" literature as religious stories reflecting human ideals of spirituality. "God" is a symbol of the sacred. A particular religion can also an intergral part of cultural's identity.

 

I accept spirituality as a purely human experience, not as some external, divinely guided pursuit with a long list of mandatory regulations. I can certainly see where some can adopt the religious symbols of Christian mythology as part of that human experience of spirituality, just as I can of people adopting other mythologies for the same reason. Like NB, I find embracing those Xian symbols a hindrance at this point because of past associations. But I respect those who approach it this way, and who strive to reclaim that spiritual language against the political tides, as an important part of their experience.

 

I've said this elsewhere but will add again here: Mythologies are not lies or falsehoods. Mythology exists as something on a different plane than the temporal and as such it serves as a vehicle of transcendent experience. The fundamentalist is religions' greatest enemy because they reduce Mythology to the plane of the temporal, where science and reason can examine it and call into into question, thus destroying it's power. My grievance is with those who do this, not those who embrace the sacred through mythology.

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I'm still here, just sitting back a little since I've already taken so much of OM's energies already answering my exhaustive questions in other threads. I do want to comment on this to say I agree in large part with this. I think people who say that because the Bible isn't "infallible" it has nothing of value to offer, are being a bit severe. You have to understand contextually what is reflective of historical cultural politics, verses those things which are timeless spiritual principles. The whole notion of infallibility began in the 2nd century BC as a reactionary movement against Hellenization. Today as then, most people approach "sacred" literature as religious stories reflecting human ideals of spirituality. "God" is a symbol of the sacred. A particular religion can also an intergral part of cultural's identity.

 

I accept spirituality as a purely human experience, not as some external, divinely guided pursuit with a long list of mandatory regulations. I can certainly see where some can adopt the religious symbols of Christian mythology as part of that human experience of spirituality, just as I can of people adopting other mythologies for the same reason. Like NB, I find embracing those Xian symbols a hindrance at this point because of past associations. But I respect those who approach it this way, and who strive to reclaim that spiritual language against the political tides, as an important part of their experience.

 

I've said this elsewhere but will add again here: Mythologies are not lies or falsehoods. Mythology exists as something on a different plane than the temporal and as such it serves as a vehicle of transcendent experience. The fundamentalist is religions' greatest enemy because they reduce Mythology to the plane of the temporal, where science and reason can examine it and call into into question, thus destroying it's power. My grievance is with those who do this, not those who embrace the sacred through mythology.

You have a wonderful, and profoundly expressive, way with words Anterman. :thanks:

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I want to post my opinion on what I perceive as happening when we reject the bible. These are just my opinions and are not to be taken as "The Truth" For me, when I rejected the bible, I did so on a literalist belief. There is no way it makes sense in this context. So, that is what I fought against. I jumped to the other end of the spectrum and fought and fought against this understanding and I still will. But, I missed something when I did that. I completely rejected it because I thought if it didn't read the way that I was taught it should read, then it was trash. I didn't consider that this teaching was not the best way to read it. My understanding had nothing to do with the bible itself. It's when I realized that is when it came together for me. My perceptions are just that...my perceptions. There are profound philosophical truths that are in there but I never saw them. The bible did not change...I did. I also realized that when I rejected the entire thing I was still being a literalist. Of course, I reject the supernatural elements of the bible as ever occuring as a literal event, but I think sometimes fantasy can help a lot in understanding a metaphysical or philosophical truth. This is why when I returned I wrote my signature line as such: The bible; when I believed, I was blinded to what it wasn't. When I no longer believed, I was blinded to what it was.

 

I chose my screen name because of accusations by a backwoods preacher that I was blinded by the world. I didn't realize that when I rejected the bible literally that I was still blinded. Hopefully, now, I have opened my eyes a little to what is true...for me.

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:phew: You guys are making me work way too hard today :)

 

 

Ok, then I would like to ask you this: Does it bother you at all that the first verses of John (about Jesus being the Word) aren’t in any earlier manuscripts? It was just forgeries that the scribes added to get around some “tricky” doctrinal issues.

 

 

Hello Thunderboldt:

 

I'm not sure what you mean by "forgeries" (and I really don't want to get into a long debate that ends up with neither one of being able to prove our point). It's just that "forgeries" is a pretty strong word. It wasn't uncommon at all in ancient cultures for scribes to pull things together - add things in later versions, etc... This can be found throughout the ancient scribal writings - not just in the Bible. The use of language that suggests something vicious was going on - such as the word "forgery" would imply - can work against getting to the underlying reality. :shrug:

 

Bottom line is that John is the latest gospel, that yes it has a lot of Greek influence. But that does not sever Jesus from his Hebrew roots either.

 

I guess what I am hearing is that you like the metaphysical concept of the idea, whether it has any basis in “reality” or substance? What I am “hearing” is that no matter what the reality of Jesus is/was, you go with the ideas the resonate with you. Do I understand more or less correct?

 

Yes... I really do enjoy metaphysical interpretation of the Bible - but (and this is personally very important to me) that is not the only - or primary way that I read the Bible. I learned metaphysical interpretation with the Unity School of Christianity. As I said earlier - many of my family members attend Unity churches. I also did, for a short while. But - it didn't fit me. As much as I enjoy metaphysicial interpretations of the Bible - to me they have to be balanced by context (all of context, literary, historical, source critism, etc...) That was missing at Unity and it is one of the major reasons I've gone to the trouble to carve out a place for myself within a mainstream congregation.

 

So then .... where does that leave me, you may all be asking :wicked:

 

Good question, because to me life is an ongoing journey and I generally refuse to be put in boxes. The choice of Open_Minded for my user name was not an accident - it is indicitive of my approach to these things.

 

For me... the historical Bible and the historical life of Jesus are puzzles without all the puzzle pieces. We will most likely never have all the puzzle pieces in this lifetime - so all the energy that fundamentalists put into nit-picking the Bible is beyond me. I don't understand it - quite frankly if I ever get so caught up in proving that one event in the Bible is foretold by previous Bible passages I want you all to take a lazer gun and shoot me ... OK :dead:

 

(Having said that - I have great admiration for people like Pritishd/SkepticOfBible - and others - who can stay with the fundies long enough to corner them. And I think that kind of nit-picking is necessary, I don't know any other way you could get a literalist to think through what s/he is saying.)

 

In my own life I have come to the conclusion that when reading anything ancient - whether it is the Bible, other sacred literatures or any other ancient writings - it is my responsibility to be educated about what I'm reading. But at some point one has to let go and accept that on a factual level one will never have all the historical answers.

 

That is not my primary purpose of reading the Bible - my primary purpose is the living truth within the sacred literature. Truth can not be confined to written words on a page, it must transcend the words and the pages. It must transcend time and space and culture. That is why I also enjoy studying other sacred literatures, because there are universal truths written by human beings in ancient cultures who had no way of ever communicating with each other. As I said in the Silly Putty thread. The wisdom is not in one persons interpretation of one sacred literature. Wisdom is in the common search - and the common answers that we find in that search.

 

As I understand fundamentalist thinking... it traps Christ in one 3 year ministry here on earth. All of reality, all of "Truth", in their estimation is limited to what happened in 3 short years, in the life of one that we call Jesus Christ. They would argue with me until doomsday (and they would do their best to bring doomsday on) that the above statement is not so.. But in the end... they are the ones investing all the energy trying to "prove" something that cannot be scientifically "proven". Why invest all that energy if one did not think that is where the truth resides.

 

What a waste of energy and time. They claim the Alpha and the Omega in Christ and then focus all their energy on a physical life that is obscured by 2000 years worth of history.

 

I am interested in the Alpha and the Omega, the Logos, the WORD, the Wisdom/Sophia, and yes - the WORD made flesh. To me that transcends all the nit-picking arguments. What does it mean to say that Jesus is the "only begotten son of the father"? Hell ... I don't know ... and frankly I don't care. I don't think Jesus would care.

 

Siddhartha Gautama was the Buddha's given name. "Buddha" literally means the "awakened one". His followers call him Buddha. They look at Siddhartha Gautama and see the "awakened one". They do not need a miracle to see this in him. They do not need their sacred literature to "prove" this... they simply see Siddhartha Gautama and acquaint him with "the awakened one".

 

I look at Jesus and call him the Word Made Flesh, the Alpha and the Omega. I do not need a creed, or a miracle or the Bible to "prove" that this is so. I see it him because I see it in his life, and because - yes - I experience it in my life.

 

I know this discussion will continue... so I am going to let this go now. My brain is beginning to resemble mush and I think I'm loosing the ability to be coherent in what I am trying to communicate.

 

This discussion is wonderful though, and I do welcome your questions. Please be patient with me as I try to answer though ... this exercise is forcing me to put things down in very concrete ways. It is a good spiritual exercise, but it is also taxing. :grin:

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You have stated that the bible is not to be taken literally but yet at the same time (and this may not be true of all universalists) believe the fantastic and almost unbelievable events concerning Jesus as real. Do you really believe that Jesus is god and that he died for sins of the world? Which brings to mind a question in this same line, if he was only tortured and died for just a few hours....how could he have truly made a sacrifice?

:grin:Hi SAA! I think there is nothing supernatural as to the things Jesus did. IMO, he was a devoted social revolutionist and used insightful spiritual teachings as a psychological teaching to bring desperately needed social reform and emotional/physical healing. His life was a sacrifice in his dedication to promote all are humble/equal, to have strength under a gentle nature, and to lead is to serve. He was adamantly against complacency and condemnation.

 

His supposed torture was much more than a few hours, however... that is not the real issue. He taught where we live is within our self. He taught an internal locus of control in that what others have said and did to us was not an indication of who we are, but of who they are! If someone should slap your cheek, turn the other cheek... showing you refused to be 'contaminated' by their hate and vindictive nature within them, so it is done for self.. not for the enemy.

 

When the character of Jesus was sacrificed on the cross, he set a liberating example... even unto death... the sacrificial death shows the extent to follow this ideology. What would of happened if Jesus would of looked down from the cross and said... 'all of you should be annihilated for what you have done'? Jesus would have been 'contaminated' by their 'sin'... by having hate and vindictiveness inside of him. He refused to be 'contaminated' by their 'sin' upon him, and knew that is why they were acting the way they were, by the contamination of 'sin' in their own lives. So Jesus said spiritually, by the highest place of power and love... he forgave them for they knew not what they did! Jesus said that everyone is doing the best they know how, and if they would of known better... they would of done that. I call this grace. How can ANYONE be condemned for not doing better than their best? That's all we can possibly do! Therefore condemnation of any person can not exist! Did Jesus look down and say 'I condone or excuse this behavior'? No. Everyone still has to be accountable and responsible for their actions, as this is how we change for the better. Did he look down from the cross and say 'that's ok, I forgive you'? No, because he knew they weren't ready for it... however when we ask for it, we are told it was given a long time ago. What is wrong with this example to face our world too? It seems like many here are like this to me, in how they support each other and fight the condemning ways of the religious right.

 

Jesus is God in that we are all gods too. Jesus, the role model... who thought it not robbery to be equal to God. Kind of like the atheist movement? The character of Jesus seems to fulfill the fullness of God, that which we deem sacred, here on earth... as did Buddha and others too, IMO. All these teachings are respected in the NT, IMHO. Jesus didn't die for the sins, he took on all the sins of the world, and still showed the answer to overcoming them is by grace, so they have no effect on us... have no effect on the victim. And when the victim's perpetrator can be seen as the victim, the person that WAS the victim is now released from being the victim. This story, rather true or not, can be a very liberating internal experience... and isn't that what spirituality is really, a subjective internal experience? :shrug:

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Mythology exists as something on a different plane than the temporal and as such it serves as a vehicle of transcendent experience.

I am not aware of any mythology that does not attempt to affect the temporal in some way. Perhaps you can let me know if there is - it would be an interesting discussion. To me it seems that the “transcendent” part of it is just to cope with the hardships of life that we all face. No problem there!

 

OM

Yes, I use the word “forgery” deliberately, because given the context (I know you love that word) it’s transparently clear that the church at the time had a definite agenda, and as they ran into objections they changed the texts to favor their case. Not only in one instance, but multiple, so history shows us.

 

Had this not been the case, I would have been perfectly fine with your explanation that texts were pulled together as you have described. The mere fact that they stooped to these types of practices makes me discredit the rest of the book, even if it does contains some nuggets of borrowed Pagan wisdom.

 

Needless to say, I am in the Jesus was a myth camp, so I was just curious how you reconcile your beliefs on something that was forged for theological purposes. But now I see your rational of how to make sense of it all for yourself, so I doubt that I could add anything to the discussion that would be worth. Thanks for your well thought out response, and I am glad that you find some enlightenment from the Bible - I don’t. I can think of at least five other books to read for spiritual upliftment, other than the Bible. But hey, that’s just me!

 

I must say that I have gained some new insights into “liberal” Christianity through this thread and the others that you pointed out, and whilst I was agnostic about it either way, I now have a very definite opinion about the matter. The varying opinions of the “liberals” on the meaning of Christ have solidified my belief against any of it. I will attempt to explain why in another post at some point.

 

I appreciate that, and I do mean it in a non sarcastic way.

;)

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LOL...You all have given such wonderful explanations here that I could have avoided troubling poor O_Minded altogether! After I pondered NBBTL and Alice's posts and took out the word "christian" from the equation, a HUGE light went off and Antlerman you really nailed it even moreso with what you just posted.

 

Open_Minded....I'm sorry for the rehashing, I wasn't picking on you...truly I was just trying to understand and I have no idea how I missed the SillyPutty thread. Even so, it took reading that some non-christians get nuggets of wisdom from the bible to see this clearly.

 

I know you weren't picking on me SAA :) I enjoy our conversations, I really do. Sometimes I think I'm a bit obtuse for people - but for the life of me I can not understand the fundamentalist attitude that we must take the infinite and boil it down to the size of our puny little brains.

 

To me spirituality is a human condition - a wonderful human condition for that matter :) One could spend a lifetime exploring the infinite Sacred Oneness - interconnectedness, etc.. and never fully grasp it. And then humans (of many different religions and cultures) feel the need to squeeze all that wonder into the pint sized jar of theology. :banghead:

 

Please don't get me wrong - I can enjoy theology as well. But, it has it's place - a very limited one at that.

 

Anyway - because we are discussing something so completely beyond human capacity to fully grasp - I can't read the Bible the way most of you have been exposed to it. That is very foriegn to me. So - if I seem obtuse at times - refusing to nail things down too tightly just take it as part of my personality. In the end I've no desire to push something so wonderous and sacred into a corner.

 

But now I see your rational of how to make sense of it all for yourself, so I doubt that I could add anything to the discussion that would be worth. Thanks for your well thought out response, and I am glad that you find some enlightenment from the Bible - I don’t. I can think of at least five other books to read for spiritual upliftment, other than the Bible. But hey, that’s just me!

 

What are the books... we may have more in common than you think ;)

 

 

I must say that I have gained some new insights into “liberal” Christianity through this thread and the others that you pointed out, and whilst I was agnostic about it either way, I now have a very definite opinion about the matter. The varying opinions of the “liberals” on the meaning of Christ have solidified my belief against any of it. I will attempt to explain why in another post at some point.

 

I look forward to your post, thunderboldt, I really do :)

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Mythology exists as something on a different plane than the temporal and as such it serves as a vehicle of transcendent experience.

I am not aware of any mythology that does not attempt to affect the temporal in some way. Perhaps you can let me know if there is - it would be an interesting discussion. To me it seems that the “transcendent” part of it is just to cope with the hardships of life that we all face. No problem there!

Neither am I. That's the point of it. What I am saying simply is that Mythology is not to be treated as something that is real, tangible, scientific, historical, honest to goodness, genuine, hard, solid, earthly fact. Saying something like "As Buddha walked as a child, lotus blossoms sprung up in his footsteps," what is that all about? Historical fact or something else? That is a mythology. But it serves a purpose as a vehicle from the temporal to the transcendent. To elevate a hero figure provides inspiration. So yes, they are all about affecting the temporal world, because they exist outside of it. Their power to do so in the manner they do is because they transcend temporal events!

 

Personally, I think the tales of Jesus as an earthly personage began with Mark telling a hero's tale using Homer's Iliad and Odyssey as a model. I think "Jesus" was a name given to the sayings of the personified "Wisdom" in a collection of spiritual teachings and truisms. It began as, "Love your neighbor as yourself", then later "Jesus said, Love your neighbor as yourself." Then later, "As the Pharisees challenged Him, Jesus responded saying, Love your neighbor as yourself."

 

Did the original readers of Mark consider what he wrote to be a fraud? Did they consider Homer's Odyssey to be a fraud? Did they consider the stories to be something other than stories to tell a message? Later you had other "editions" of this basic hero’s tale told by "Mark" as a vehicle of communication of the spiritual teachings of "Wisdom" or "Jesus". They elaborated the story and you have the synoptic gospels of Matthew and Luke. They're full of contradictions, because it really didn't matter! It's like arguing how Poseidon couldn't possibly exist. The real joke is on those who made it an issue. It's a non-issue IMO, it's a mythology!

 

Are these gospels frauds and forgeries? I wouldn't consider them on whole as such. There clearly were forgeries in early Christianity, but I don't think there's evidence these were. I'd be curious to see the research you've seen behind John chapter one being spurious? My point it is my opinion that originally what was written was later approached to mean something literal and historical, and that is what we have inherited through Church teaching and tradition. Politics got into a myth system and you got "The Church". I also believe though that most mainstream Christians know this, but embrace the mythology because it has meaning to them. They will defend it as "true" because it is, on a personal level for them. That's how it works.

 

So, a little long winded, but does that answer your question?

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EDIT: Is this what I've been missing?

 

The bible as a whole is just a story about mankind and some people find it has spiritual value and/or lessons. Universalist Christians call themselves that by choice not as a must. You find spirtuality from the bible whether or jesus existed or not is beside the point.

 

Basically, I guess what has been throwing me is the "Christian" label as I am not having these same questions pop up about Notblindedbythelight nor Alice even though they find the bible to have spiritual nuggets. Eureka!!!! It's the Christian label causing me to stumble, not the fact that you all don't take it literally. NBBTL and Alice see it as a story with lessons be it spirtual or morality, I can understand that, it doesn't confuse me, it is the LABEL! :woohoo:

 

Hello SAA:

 

First... thank you for starting this thread. These types of discussions always lead to increased understanding on all sides :)

 

About the "Christian" label ... it seems to get in the way of many people not just you. Maybe because our culture is so infused with fundamentalism right now, people ask me more often than you might think why I choose the label of "Christian".

 

There are many dimensions to that question. The first one is, of course, related to my understanding of Jesus.

 

I look at Jesus and call him the Word Made Flesh, the Alpha and the Omega. I do not need a creed, or a miracle or the Bible to "prove" that this is so. I see it in him because I see it in his life, and because - yes - I experience it in my life.

 

If this is what I see in Jesus ... then what else should I call myself? (This is rhetorical question .... I don't expect an answer - for me the question is the answer :) )

 

Now that is the simple answer. But given the culture we live in today .. that answer doesn't point to what people are often asking on a deeper level.

 

Often people wonder that I can call myself "Christian" when I don't buy into all the literalist theology. This is a legitimate question on one level ... our culture seems over-run with literalists. But the reality is that there are many, many Christians who are NOT literalists. In an entirely different thread (One Verse at a time) we were discussing the documentary hypothesis - in fact SAA you were involved in the discussion.

 

From the website linked to earlier in my post to Serenity:
http://www.answers.com/topic/documentary-hypothesis

 

The documentary hypothesis is a hypothesis proposed by many historians and academics in the field of linguistics and source criticism that the Five Books of Moses (the Torah) are in fact a combination of documents from different sources rather than authored by one individual. Although the hypothesis is widely accepted (
the Vatican itself estimates that 90% of academics in the field of biblical scholarship support it
), it has a number of critics.

 

90% of academics in the field of biblical scholarship support documentary hypothesis - 90%. That number was surprising to me. Even though I know a handful of OT scholars - even though I know that seminaries of all mainstream denominations teach documentary hypothesis and have departments dedicated to the study of major world religions. Even though I know most mainstream pastors are educated in the languages of the Bible, documentary hypothesis, world religions, etc... that number was still surprising. It was surprising BECAUSE our culture is so infused with literalist thinking.

 

Now that statistic may reflect the "scholars" and pastors of mainstream churches. The statistic definitely does not reflect reality in the pews. But ... mainstream churches are starting to tackle these issues - they have no choice. The literalism in our culture demands that mainstream churches start tackling these issues at congregational level. 9/11 demands that mainstream churches start tackling these issues at congregational level.

 

As I've mentioned before... I spent many years of my life outside the church. I would have considered myself a Deist. Now I don't - and reclaiming the Christian "label" has not been an easy journey. It has taken much work on my part. I have had to deal with theological literalism. I have had to deal with all the emotional triggers one has to work through in reclaiming something that has been lost.

 

My own spiritual experiences have given me the strength to stay the course and see it through. Literalists do NOT have the right to Co-opt the Bible and the Christian tradition as their own vision. In order for the church to mature it will take a lot. It will take people like myself willing to stay and do the hard work from inside. It will take pressure from without - culture pressure put upon the church by people such as all of you.

 

In the end we each bring our piece of the puzzle to bear on the problem, and I can leave it at that. History shows that cultural maturation happens over centuries. I wish it happened faster, but it doesn't. We can each do our own part, take a long view of history and then let it be. :grin:

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When my deconversion was first begining to surface I had a conversation with a friend who was on the 'fringes' of my fundamentalist literalist church, it had occurred to me that a belief in a literal Adam and Eve was rather foolish - but I struggled to accept this ... I saw ahead of me everything I held to be true crumbling away if I acknowledged that the creation story wasn't 'literally true'.

 

That's coz I had a mindset that was completely caught up in a belief in the Bible as the word of God - a black/white view of the world that said you are all in or all out.

 

I remember my friend saying to me ...'just because it never happened don't mean it ain't the truth'. It took me ages to get my head around that!

 

It's the fundamentalist kind of thinking that leads people to think they have to 'throw everything out' and to those we've left behind assuming we have ... the number of friends who half expect me to become an agent of the 'dark side' is quite unnerving at times, like I'm going to nick their TV on the way out or something.

 

I thought of this today ~ In defence of Cherry Pickers ...

 

Fundamentalist christians have all kinds of cherries in the pie of life they bake and feast on. They don't examine the cherries - they all go in ... the bitter ones, the stones, the diseased and wormy ones, it ruins their pie but as long as they believe hard enough that it tastes good (and the occasional mouthful truly is) they can convince themselves it is - however bad it tastes.

 

The Bible is a bowl of cherries and I am resolved to cherry pick for my pie. I'll season it with a little Taoist cinnamon and sprinkle of some buddhist sugar if I fancy it - sometimes I'll add a little celtic christianity custard. I'll put in whatever I want and leave out whatever I want, and I'll eat it with whatever I want as well.

 

Because when it comes to it ... it makes sense to cherry pick, its only a fundamentalist mindset that says - its all or nothing. its only if someone is claiming that the bible is a magical written by god book that this applies - as soon as one accepts that it is a compilation of ideas about man's search to understand spirituality - it becomes clear that the way to use it is to cherry pick and it's as helpful to know what and why we discard some parts and why we keep other parts.

 

My name is Alice ... and I am a cherry picker ....

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My name is Alice ... and I am a cherry picker ....

Your entire post was wonderful! :thanks:

 

Hi Alice, my name is NBBTB...and I'm a cherry picker also.

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That's a good point, Alice - xtianity would indeed be a much more tolerable religion if people did pick out the worms and keep the good stuff (love thy neighbor, etc).

 

As for me, I can't seem to make anything decent with those biblical cherries - everything comes out tasting like bullshit!

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