Shuck and Jive

Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Mary Was Smart; Peter Was Dumb


It is not likely that you hear the Gospel According to Mary read in church. Most people haven't even heard of it. Unfortunately, we don't have all of it, but enough of it survived to give us a glimpse of the vast diversity of early Christianity. In this Gospel, Mary Magdalene is telling the rest of the disciples what Jesus showed and told her in a vision. The guys (especially Peter) don't appreciate what she has said because it is too deep for them for one, and well, she's a
girl.

Here is how the Gospel ends:

1) When Mary had said this, she fell silent, since it was to this point that the Savior had spoken with her.

2) But Andrew answered and said to the brethren, Say what you wish to say about what she has said. I at least do not believe that the Savior said this. For certainly these teachings are strange ideas.

3) Peter answered and spoke concerning these same things.

4) He questioned them about the Savior: Did He really speak privately with a woman and not openly to us? Are we to turn about and all listen to her? Did He prefer her to us?

5) Then Mary wept and said to Peter, My brother Peter, what do you think? Do you think that I have thought this up myself in my heart, or that I am lying about the Savior?

6) Levi answered and said to Peter, Peter you have always been hot tempered.

7) Now I see you contending against the woman like the adversaries.

8) But if the Savior made her worthy, who are you indeed to reject her? Surely the Savior knows her very well.

9) That is why He loved her more than us. Rather let us be ashamed and put on the perfect Man, and separate as He commanded us and preach the gospel, not laying down any other rule or other law beyond what the Savior said.

10) And when they heard this they began to go forth to proclaim and to preach.

This second century text reveals that early followers of Jesus were not of one mind regarding who he was and what it was they were supposed to do about it. It is this period of Christian history that is most exciting. This was when the various mythologies regarding Jesus were being created and promoted.

This gospel is not more historical (nor less) than the other gospels. The point is not that these gospels reveal much about the historical person of Jesus, someone we know very little about. The canonical gospels don't reveal much about Jesus either. They, like the
Gospel According to Mary, are theological statements. They do tell us about the movements that flourished and fought with each other in his name.

Obviously, Mary's group didn't win the political battle. The winners who went on to call themselves "orthodox" claimed to be the true believers and when they sealed their victory in the fourth century, they exterminated the "heretics" and burned all their books. Yup, that was Peter's crowd. As Levi in the text says, "Hot-tempered." They still are.



I wonder what the church might have been like if Mary Magdalene was the first "pope" rather than Peter?







Register now for the Jesus Seminar on the Road in Elizabethton, September 12-13. It is all part of Expand Your Mind Week.


During the Saturday morning workshop, Hal Taussig, a Fellow of the Jesus Seminar, will explore with us the
Gospel According to Mary and introduce us to what Christianity might have been (and possibly could still become).



36 comments:

  1. From your link, I found this

    "Karen King states that the theology of the Gospel of Mary is as follows:

    . . . the Gospel of Mary communicates a vision that the world is passing away, not toward a new creation or a new world order, but toward the dissolution of an illusory chaos of suffering, death, and illegitimate domination. The Savior has come so that each soul might discover its own true spiritual nature, its "root" in the Good, and return to the place of eternal rest beyond the constraints of time, matter, and false morality. "

    Wow that says a mouthful, and I can definitely relate it to our times. It is hard to imagine that they were going through the same struggle.

    Now if you could just explain "the Good" and "false morality" to me.

    Jesus and the Bible are helpful in finding your roots in the Good, but I suppose other divine/spiritual texts are as well.

    John, I wish I could come to the Jesus Seminar. It sounds like it's going to be alot of fun. I'll be taking a state-mandated exam in order to teach physics that Saturday morning.

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  2. I'll be taking a state-mandated exam in order to teach physics that Saturday morning.

    Whoa! That would fry my mind. Good for you! I'll be sending good vibes your way!

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  3. John wrote: "This gospel is not more historical (nor less) than the other gospels."

    Historians use criteria to measure the accuracy of a manuscript. So they would disagree that the Gospel of Mary should be considered as historic as the other gospels. Dating is one criteria, and the Gospel of Mary was written in the late second century. The book of Mark, according to some historians, could have been written in the 60s. This is very significant since there would still be people alive that witnessed the events. So a historian would consider Mark as far more historically significant.

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  4. I'd ssy it was left out of the Bible because it shows just how sexist most people in the church are.

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  5. John Shuck how I love you, let me count the ways.

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  6. Give that monkey a banana.

    Gender authority was a huge issue. The "winners" were the sexists (ie. authors of I & II Timothy and Titus-- documents that did make the Bible and subordinated women). Those are late texts. The community that those documents came from might very well be "the adversaries" mentioned in Gospel of Mary.

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  7. Paul,

    Thanks. I should be more precise. When I say "historical" I meant journalistic. Mark's story is not an account of someone's life who happened to be named Jesus. It is a theological proclamation about a composite character who is more important theologically than historically. GMark is like GMary and all the others. Jesus even has a fictional name, "God saves."

    Most mainstream scholarship would agree with the above.

    GMark is earlier than GMary. True enough. GThomas (at least parts) may be earlier than GMark. Q (parts of Luke and Matthew and not in Mark) are earlier still.

    Scholars may fish around and think they have found an historical tidbit that goes back to a guy who they think might have been named Jesus, but there isn't much there.

    Here is a fun book. Even Dr. Monkerstein would like this one. Robert Price and The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man.

    Here is an article by Price:

    So it seems quite likely that not even the Q source, not even Q1, goes back to Jesus. If it does not, what have we left? If there was ever a historical Jesus of Nazareth, questing for him would be like looking for a needle in a haystack. We can no more be sure there was a historical Jesus than we can be sure a historical Moses stands behind the stories and sayings attributed to him.

    Silence in Heaven

    We end with a nearly absolute skepticism or agnosticism about the historical Jesus. And the irony is that it is the research, the methods, and the implications of the most up-to-date mainstream New Testament scholarship, thought by most to make a genuine historical Jesus available to us for the first time, which lead us, when taken to their logical conclusions, to that skepticism. The work of John Dominic Crossan and Burton L. Mack tends to repristinate some of the most radical critical positions long ago dismissed by mainstream scholars, namely that there was no historical Jesus, or that the New Testament Jesus is a composite figure based on various biblical and historical prototypes, or that in an earlier gospel version Jesus escaped death on the cross.


    Price was the most skeptical of the Fellows of the Jesus Seminar. Each fellow has his or her own view. As a body, the Jesus Seminar did vote on a database of sayings and deeds that they felt were from the historical Jesus.

    I am not speaking for Taussig or Dewey or the Fellows of the Jesus Seminar when I tend to agree with Price. That is how I see it now.

    Jesus, at least as I have come to view him, is a composite of mythology, legend, and possibly some sayings of actual wandering sages, rabbis, and rebels. That is why I think, it is so hard to pin down who the historical person was, if he was.

    But then, I may change my opinion tomorrow.

    Now, if folks are interested in exploring who Jesus is for them, come to the Jesus Seminar on the Road. It will get you to thinking...

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  8. John,

    Thanks for the informative last post and your opinions. I think you clearly stated them. You wrote: Jesus, at least as I have come to view him, is a composite of mythology, legend, and possibly some sayings of actual wandering sages, rabbis, and rebels.

    I just finished the book, No Doubt About It: The Case for Christianity by Winfried Corduan and am in the middle of The Case for the Real Jesus by Lee Strobel. Both have compelling evidence (in my opinion) that Jesus was an historic figure and the Gospels were biographies about his life.

    The following are some quotes from "The Case for the Real Jesus" and Lee Strobel's interview with Michael Lincona. First, Lincona points out that "historians of antiquity don't look for absolute certainty; we look for probable certainty. He continues with the "Three R's for doing good history: Relevant sources, Responsible method, and Restrained results."

    The list that Lincona gives for relevant sourcers are: "New Testement writings; a few secular sources who mention Jesus, such as Josephus, Tacitus, and Pliny the Younger; the apologists, who were the early defenders of Christianity; and even the Gnostic writings."

    Restrained results "means that historians should not claim more than the evidence warrants. This is where such scholars as John Dominic Crossan and Elaine Pagels get on thin ice."

    Lincona also says we need to be aware of biases (even our own) and how to keep bias in check.

    Lincona then goes on to list five facts that indicate the conclusion that, historically speaking, Jesus was rose from the dead.

    1) Jesus was killed by Crucifixion. Even skeptics (Crossan, Tabor, Ludemann, and Ehrman) call this fact.

    2) Jesus' disciples believed that he rose and appeared to them.

    3) The conversion of the Church persecutor Paul

    4) The conversion of the skeptic James, Jesus' half-brother

    5) Jesus tomb was empty

    I wish I had more time to go over the reasoning that these are most likely historicly true, but I have to go to band practice at church... maybe I will write more on my own blog. The book No Doubt About It also has some good stuff, but I gave it away, but I recommend it.

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  9. Hi John,

    I have to agree that each gospel writer reflects a theological interest. The gospels were not written to be complete histories, or biographies of the whole life of Jesus.

    But, I don't feel that it follows from this that the canonical gospel writers had no interest for the general truth of what they were sharing relating to the life, and ministry of Christ, either.

    Also, what do you think about gnosticism, in general? (I'm especially concerned with the gnostic's teaching that the material world is evil.)

    Do you think it possible that the eventual resolution of the canon was not just based in an arbitrary desire to solidify power, but also came out of concern for truth, and a realization of some real problems that were seen in these gnostic texts. And, what part did God's guidance play into all this for the church?

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  10. I'm not ready to throw out Jesus completely. As of now, I believe that he was probably the greatest minister and prophet that ever existed and he probably was the most Godlike figure to ever walk on the face of the Earth. He offers people love and hope and teaches them compassion. The secular historians may have not recorded his history, but I believe many of Jesus's followers and apostles/prophets did. Islam teaches that many politicians and scholars changed and distorted some of the early works in the Bible. Mormons believe this as well, but they still use the KJV of the Bible.

    Now I have always had a hard time believing the story of being born a Virgin, Ressurection, the Atonement, Noah's arc and other stories that seem completely impossible in the face of modern science. But, I'm definitely not prepared to argue my case, so I'll keep doubting and searching and trying to have faith.

    I have come to realize in my short life that many Christians are really genuine, caring people and are more likely to stand up against corruption and evil. That alone says alot to me about who Christians are.

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  11. Rachel:

    But, I'm definitely not prepared to argue my case, so I'll keep doubting and searching and trying to have faith.

    I have come to realize in my short life that many Christians are really genuine, caring people and are more likely to stand up against corruption and evil. That alone says a lot to me about who Christians are.


    Good call. Me too!

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  12. Thanks, Paul. Even as I try to clearly state my views, they are always temporary. When I say I may change them tomorrow, I mean that, as I have changed them throughout my life.

    For those who find Lee Strobel and the other person you mentioned persuasive, great. I don't particularly, but it is good to be exposed to a wide variety of viewpoints.

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  13. Also, what do you think about gnosticism, in general? (I'm especially concerned with the gnostic's teaching that the material world is evil.)

    I am not sure what gnosticism was. I think it was a lump term for "heretics."

    As far as my personal belief, I don't think the material world is evil (or even fallen for that matter).

    I think it is sacred, holy, and infused with the presence of God.

    The folks that I find who teach that the material world is evil often tend to call themselves "orthodox" Christians.

    They don't like sexuality, want to escape this world for some heavenly realm, and think we are headed for an apocalyptic end. That sounds more like the evil of gnosticism that you mention.

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  14. Rachel,

    I don't want to "throw out Jesus" either! I love him in all of the variety of his manifestations!

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  15. Grace,

    You wrote:

    Do you think it possible that the eventual resolution of the canon was not just based in an arbitrary desire to solidify power, but also came out of concern for truth, and a realization of some real problems that were seen in these gnostic texts. And, what part did God's guidance play into all this for the church?

    As far as motivations are concerned, we all think we are doing what is true, good, the will of God, etc. But just because we think it, it doesn't necessarily mean we are.

    Again, I challenge the phrase "gnostic" texts as if they are all the same. The texts recently discovered are showing a great divergence between themselves. The old category of gnostic is less helpful.

    Finally, in regards to what part did God's guidance play into all this for the church?

    That is an interesting question. One could make the case that God is still speaking. That the texts rediscovered, our new awareness of early Christianity, methods of higher criticism, and so forth, is part of God's revelation to us.

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  16. John wrote: "Thanks, Paul. Even as I try to clearly state my views, they are always temporary. When I say I may change them tomorrow, I mean that, as I have changed them throughout my life.

    For those who find Lee Strobel and the other person you mentioned persuasive, great. I don't particularly, but it is good to be exposed to a wide variety of viewpoints.
    "

    Comparing the two books: No Doubt About It and The Case for the Real Jesus I found the former much more persuasive. Strobel's book uses appeal to authority by interviewing those considered to be highly respected experts. His experts give other types of arguments, so it is not all just assertions in the book. On the other hand, Corduan in No Doubt About It uses reason, logic, and evidence to make his arguments for an historic interpretation of Jesus. I much prefer the latter and highly recommend it!

    You said you may change your views tomorrow. The question that follows is: what evidence would you accept that would change your view that Jesus was physically resurrected?

    And to use the Golden Rule, I should answer that myself. I base my beliefs on logic, reason, and objective evidence. As Lincona points out, you are weighing evidence for probabilities. To change my mind, the historic evidence (ancient manuscripts) would have to be presented that supported a Jesus based on myth and legend that outweighed the historical evidence of Gospels being a biographical account.

    Or, another way, is to use logic and reason to show that my criteria for evaluating history is incorrect. Not being an historian or trained in history, I could be looking at the evidence using invalid criteria.

    So far, the evidence I have seen is overwhelming towards the Gospels being a biographical account of Jesus. If this is the case, and the accounts of Jesus resurrection are factual accounts, we have to come to some theolgical conclusion about God.

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  17. Hey Paul,

    You wrote:

    You said you may change your views tomorrow. The question that follows is: what evidence would you accept that would change your view that Jesus was physically resurrected?

    As a bare minimum, if there were independent sources (other than gospel accounts that are theologically motivated.)

    Let me ask you one:

    "What evidence would you accept that would convince you that Mohammed ascended to heaven?"

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  18. You have hit the nail on the head. Gnosticism seems to have made these inroads into the church, even among the orthodox. (Have you read any of Bart Ehrman's recent book relating to the popular DiVinci Code?)


    I'm honestly trying to understand the appeal of it all. How can it be "good news" to regard our bodies as evil, and exciting to learn about things like crosses that supposedly talked, walked around, and reached to the Heavens.

    God's bells! What more can I say??
    I'm definitely out of the loop, here.

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  19. I believe "Orthodox" Christians do a good job holding high standards and morals.

    "They don't like sexuality"

    Don't you believe that promiscuity and sex outside marriage is a big problem for today's youth and family structure?

    "(They) want to escape this world for some heavenly realm. "

    Where is the harm in preparing for something beyond this life?

    "and (they) think we are headed for an apocalyptic end. "

    By the way things are going in the world, it seems like we are.

    Here is a short documentary of the type of role model young girls have (ages 8-12). Do you agree or disagree that moral decay is a problem in our country/world? And if so, what can we do about it?

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  20. John,

    You responded to what evidence you would accept to change your views: "As a bare minimum, if there were independent sources (other than gospel accounts that are theologically motivated.)"

    Can you clarify what you mean by theological motivation? You surely can't mean anything that is theological motivated must be rejected as historic -- that would include all writings from the Jesus Seminar.

    I am looking for a good reference for these sources. I have a new copy of No Doubt About It on the way from Amazon. I may put up the results on my own blog later.

    Besides the multiple sources, what else would you need to change your views?

    You wrote ""What evidence would you accept that would convince you that Mohammed ascended to heaven?""

    The same criteria I would use for the acceptance of an historic Chist: using standard historical methodology to determine the probability of its historic accuracy.

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  21. Paul,

    If you really think that it is an historical fact that Jesus rose from the dead, fine. I have no need to argue with you.

    You have a need to argue with me. I think that is revealing. You come over to a stranger's blog, mine, then link to your own, with your own apologetics. Something is obviously at stake for you.

    See how well your theory is accepted at any secular university history department. Answer. It won't be. It doesn't meet any criterion.

    If it is an historical fact, then everyone should affirm it. It should be a no-brainer, right? We should equally be able to say Jesus rose from the dead, Lincoln gave the Gettsyburg Address, Julius Caesar was assassinated in 44 BCE.

    When people (who are not bound up with needing it to be true for theological reasons) do some analysis of these texts, they discover that the Gospel Resurrection accounts are legendary or mythological. It is only because of theological myopia that we think otherwise.

    Mohammed ascended to heaven, Moses split the sea, a lotus bloomed everywhere the Buddha took a step are all of the same type.

    It obviously offensive to many people to say that, so I would advise them to read your blog and all the writings you have been promoting on my blog.

    Finally, The Jesus Seminar is not theologically motivated. They formed to be free from church dogma and control. I have been involved with the Jesus Seminar for six years and I have heard every piece of misinformation that can be heard from apologists.

    Folks who are interested can read for themselves.

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  22. Grace:

    I'm honestly trying to understand the appeal of it all. How can it be "good news" to regard our bodies as evil, and exciting to learn about things like crosses that supposedly talked, walked around, and reached to the Heavens.

    What is the appeal some folks have for studying English queens and kings of the 16th century or NASCAR or tropical birds? Some of us get our kicks from early Christian history.

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  23. Rachel,

    Regarding sexual ethics, I recommend a book I think you would appreciate. It provides ethical guidelines for people to make wise choices regarding sexuality. It is Marie Fortune's Love Does No Harm: Sexual Ethics for the Rest of Us.

    As far as the other points. I don't think putting one's hope in an afterlife is necessarily virtuous. What is wrong with this life? Isn't it amazing that we even exist? What more could you want?

    The apocalyptic types think it is a good thing that the world is in their view getting worse and worse. Then God will come and destroy everything except the true believers. Is that a virtuous ethic for preserving our planet, or for helping to promote peace and life for future generations?

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  24. Well, I guess you have a point, John. Afterall, I'm into first nation's type archery, and interested in dressage. :)

    But, getting back to another comment. I would agree that everyone associated with the Jesus Seminar is pretty free from church dogma, and control. That's for sure!

    But, on the other hand, do you think that all the fellows connected with the Jesus seminar are unbiased in their view, and totally objective in their scholarship, either?(I can dig up some examples if you want to talk about this.)

    Humanly speaking, I think it's almost impossible not to be conditioned by some type of bias. I don't know that truly, and completely objective scholarship exists out there.

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  25. Grace,

    I agree. We all have biases. So why single out JS as having more? The correction to biases is to put information out into the public sphere and critically review it.

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  26. John,

    I just don't want to single out the Jesus Seminar. And, personally, I think it's good for people in the church to know, and to try, and understand all the thinking that's out there.

    My concern would be, though, for spiritually seeking people coming into the church who don't understand that the opinion of many of the fellows of the Jesus Seminar doesn't really represent a consensus of all the scholarship that's actually out there.

    I'm also feeling that much of the Seminar's thinking has been influenced by an "a priori" embrace of philosophical naturalism, rather than just objective scholarship.

    Also, and I realize that I may be overstepping my bounds here, and you can totally chew me out if you want to, but I care, and can handle it.

    Your studies have evidently brought you to a conviction that Jesus as a man, let alone as the Son of God doesn't actually exist, well except, maybe as just this legendary, composite St. Nicholas type figure.

    How then will you be able as a Presbyterian minister to encourage people into an actual relationship with Jesus Christ as Savior, and Lord, and to the hope of the resurrection?

    The reality of the incarnation is the center of our faith as Christians. Is this whole disconnect troubling to you, John, or has your heart been totally hardened to it?

    I love you, and believe that you're about more than a pension, and a paycheck.

    Sincerely,
    Becky.

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  27. Well Dear Readers,

    It almost always comes to this when I post on the Jesus Seminar. The apologists and true believers come out of the woodwork.

    I'm used to it.

    That is why it is so important to have these kinds of events, and to have churches host them.

    Here is one of my favorite quotes from Jesus Seminar Fellow, Roy Hoover:

    "Those who insist upon the unaltered retention of traditional forms of religious understanding and language and who retreat from the challenge posed by the actual world after Galileo want to direct the Christian community into the confines of a sacred grotto, an enclosed, religiously defined world that is brought completely under the control of scripture and tradition; and they want to turn the ordained clergy into antiquities dealers."

    Some of us are not content with dealing antiquities.

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  28. I had a friend tell me this,

    "We all have beliefs and faiths,
    and our beliefs and faiths are not better than another person's beliefs and faiths, but may only be different.

    Tolerance of all, is the key to harmony."

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  29. John,

    This is about more than just the Jesus Seminar. Awhile back, you shared with me your moving personal witness of knowing Jesus as Savior, and how much a relationship with Him meant in your life. You shared that also with your presbytery. What happened?

    I really believed you. I'm sad.



    Rachael, I think there is some truth, and validity in about every belief system out there. We can almost always find some common ground. But, at the sametime, I cannot think that all truth claims can be equally true, and valid. I'm feeling truth by it's nature doesn't contradict itself.

    For instance, if Islam teaches that it is blasphemous to affirm that Jesus died on the cross at all, and the Christian faith is declaring the opposite view, are both speaking equal truths?

    I think tolerance means to accept, and respect the equality of persons, but not necessarily to affirm the equality of ideas.

    I'll be out of town for a few days, and may not be able to comment. Definitely think we should hold each other, and everyone in prayer.

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  30. First of all, I spell my name
    R-a-c-h-e-l, not R-a-c-h-a-e-l. The most respectful thing you can do to show a person you care is to get their name correct.

    Fine you have your beliefs, and you strongly believe that your belief is the correct, true belief. Guess what, it is still your belief! So hence, you will never be able to convince someone that your belief is the correct one just by saying it is so. You can only share your beliefs and provide evidence that support your beliefs. People always will come to their own beliefs. Perhaps you will be successful in convincing people of your belief in the divinity of Christ. If you do, hooray for you! I don't have a problem with Christ. Like I said, I believe He gives people hope and teaches people the way of God. I don't understand why the part of him dying on the Cross is vital for a person to know and love God and to choose good over evil. But, that is my belief! To just say that your belief is more true does not convince me. You are going to have to work harder than that.

    "For instance, if Islam teaches that it is blasphemous to affirm that Jesus died on the cross at all, and the Christian faith is declaring the opposite view, are both speaking equal truths?"

    Who is to say?Again, it is a matter of faith!

    "I think tolerance means to accept, and respect the equality of persons, but not necessarily to affirm the equality of ideas."

    True that. To respect the equality of persons is to respect their right to have their own beliefs and ideas. Again, just by saying your belief is the correct one is not convincing.

    "I'll be out of town for a few days, and may not be able to comment. Definitely think we should hold each other, and everyone in prayer."

    I will pray that everyone in the world will wake up, lay their differences aside, and fight the true Evil that arises from the Transnational Corporate Economic Global System we have. The big powers' that run and control the world disregard morals, divine values, and the teachings of prophets and instructions by God.

    If you are following the news at all, my guess is that people are going to wake up after Iran and Russia pool their efforts and destroy America.

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  31. Grace,

    Obviously I have disturbed with you what I have written. Being disturbed may not be so bad. Jesus, in the Gospel of Thomas said,

    "Those who seek should not stop seeking until they find. When they find, they will be disturbed. When they are disturbed, they will marvel, and will reign over all. [And after they have reigned they will rest.]" Saying 2

    So this doesn't become personal, about me or you, let me try to put it in a larger perspective.

    The Church has had a conflict with Reason for centuries. In this conflict, there have been (for sake of convenience, four responses):

    1) Reject Christianity as unreasonable. Europe has basically gone here. Many Americans have as well. They are as Bishop Spong calls them, "The Church Alumni Association." They call themselves atheists, agnostics, and skeptics. For them Christianity is a lost cause. They are a growing tribe.

    2) Defend the Christian Confessions against the inroads of Reason. Here you find the apologists of varying stripes. They see Reason (higher criticism and science) as a threat to the church and to faith. Usually they practice some kind of smoke and mirrors to show that traditional dogma is reasonable. Lee Strobel, referenced in this comment thread, NT Wright, and others are here. They are some of the most vociferous opponents to the Jesus Seminar for instance.

    3) Ignore Reason and continue on doing Church as if the Enlightenment never happened. The majority of clergy in my denomination are here. They don't care about higher criticism or science that much as far as their Christian faith is concerned. Higher criticism and science detract from their other agendas such as keeping church people happy in their traditional beliefs, embracing social justice causes, or growing their communities.

    4) Embrace Reason (higher criticism and science) and try to reframe or reinvent the symbols of faith and the tradition in a way that not only makes sense in light of Reason, but gives 'heart' to Reason. Michael Dowd would be here along with many other progressive theologians and Christians.

    There may be many subgroups of each of the four positions, but this is a simple sketch.

    I put myself in camp number 4. Those who might find the JSOR or the Michael Dowd event interesting would likely find themselves here as well.

    I hope the church doesn't boot out the 4s. They will likely become 1s and then we will have further polarization between the 2s and the 1s. The 3s are asleep and as such let the 2s set their theological agenda. Maybe they will wake up.

    I should add that the statement you mentioned here still is a statement of my heart. I read it again, and it works for me.

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  32. Hey, I just checked in at my son's computer. Sorry about the misspelling of your name, Rachel.

    And, thanks for honestly sharing your thoughts. I don't think I'm the one that can convice anyone of the reality of the incarnation. (It's way above my paygrade. :) )

    I think only God's spirit can ultimately bring anyone to faith. Although, there are plenty of good books out there written by Christian apologists, and theologians. I'm sure you're aware of them, too.

    I guess we will have to agree to disagree for now.

    ((John)) only the Lord can understand your mind. He searches, and knows all of our hearts. But, how someone can feel they are able to have a relationship, and be encouraged, and helped by a composite legendary figure who may never have existed at all...I can only say that I'm not able to understand your thinking. It seems totally confusing to me, and not really rational. What more can I say, friend.

    I think it is through the reality of the incarnation that we can truly know God, and understand His love for us. Apart from this foundation, I see no compelling reason at all to do church. We have nothing to say.

    If all that you believe is true, I think Christianity really is unreasonable, and a waste of time. I would personally see no real cause to perserve the institutional structure of the church, but would probably be working to reveal this falsehood myself.

    I honestly have not found that most Christians do reject reason, or science. But, we can understand the limitation of both, and the finiteness of our own mind as well. There are many committed Christian believers who are scientists, themselves.

    You can be sure that I'm not in favor of booting anyone out of the church, though. IMO, we should hold on to each other, and trust God.

    My belief is that everyone who sincerely looks for truth, and truly wants to know, and serve God, will find Christ, in this life, or in the next.

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  33. Grace, bless your heart, I think you misunderstand where Our John is coming from. I'm not going to even try to speak for him, but in a nutshell, I read the same things you did and did not come away with an impression that he was either (a) lying or (b) changed his mind or (c) thinks that the idea of Jesus as Lord and the work of the Jesus Seminar to learn more about the historical fact are somehow contradictory. As Presbyterians, we take seriously the commandment to love the Lord our God with all our mind and will analyze and contemplate and debate and explore not as a way to undermine faith, but in order to further faith.

    FWIW, BTW, my personal opinion is that the Quran's retelling of the story of Jesus' crucifixion as a slightly distorted version of the Christian story. We teach that Jesus was crucified in order to be killed and permanently silenced. Yet, after some sturm und drang, Jesus turned up more alive than ever, and will some day return. The Quran says that while Pilate & Co. crucified Jesus in order to kill and permanently silence him, Jesus was not in fact dead in the sense we humans understand, because Jesus is alive and with God and will some day return. As was tried to be expressed at San Jose, the Quran is the only holy text (outside of the New Testament) to acknowledge Jesus' being sent by God, the Virgin Birth and the Second Coming of Jesus.

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  34. ((John)) only the Lord can understand your mind.

    Not true. In addition to the Lord, my mind is understood by the following:

    Virginia Woolf
    Shirley MacLaine
    Shecky Green
    and my dog, Snickers, (when we mind meld).

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