Progressive frustration

|

Even though I have found a church in town whose pastor has beliefs very similar to my own and whose congregation is active in the community and open to studying progressive theology, I find myself still wanting to explore what else is out there. Because that church has evening services, that does make it possible in theory for me to go there in the evening and also somewhere else in the morning, assuming that I am feeling particularly spiritual that day. As to why I would want to look elsewhere at all, well, maybe I don't want to be restricted to just one way of experiencing God, or maybe I am not sure if any one church really serves as a close match for me. Maybe I'm not sure how accepted I'll ever be in any church that I attend, so I hang back and visit multiple churches without becoming too invested in any of them. In any case, I have to say that while I haven't exactly run out of potentially interesting new churches in (or very near to) my city to visit on on Sunday mornings, I'm getting a little exhausted by the process.

I think I sometimes fool myself into believing that my definition of progressive Christianity is similar to everyone else's. But I'm not so sure. As I visit churches that define themselves as "progressive", I can see that while they possess none of the obnoxious and poisonous theology of religious fundamentalism, they also tend to remain on the other side of a dividing line that is important to me when I consider my own beliefs.

My definition of "progressive" is essentially Borgian-Crossanian. I don't take literally any of the miraculous elements of Christian mythologies. I don't believe in a literal virgin birth, or that Jesus walked on water or fed five zillion people with two micrograms of loaves and fishes, or that he was raised from the dead. For that matter, I don't believe that Jesus was God. In a nutshell, to me, an important element of what defines my conception of progressive Christianity is that I do not believe in what I consider to be the fantastical or the unbelievable.

This is the dividing line that seems to separate me from most self-defined progressive churches. While these churches by and large respect other faiths, do not preach a doctrine of hellfire and brimstone, value sexual minorities, and reject biblical literalism--all of which are wonderful virtues that separate them from fundamentalist churches--the sticking point for me is the matter of the miraculous. This is not a minor sticking point for me. I left religion as a teenager, in no small part because I rejected the notion of the miraculous. This continues to define my view of the world today, and I do not take this lightly.

There are many resources for finding churches that define themselves as progressive. The Center for Progressive Christianity is one of them. Another one is a book by Hal Taussig, titled A New Spiritual Home, which I have a copy of but which I have only skimmed through--except that the book has a potentially useful appendix at the end with a huge listing of progressive churches, which I have consulted.

Having visited a fair number of progressive churches on Sunday mornings, I find that most of them seem to reside on the other side of that dividing line of the miraculous that matters a great deal to me. It seems like most pastors at these churches preach as if they really believe that Jesus was raised literally from the dead. And when I hear talk like that, I start to feel turned off. That isn't what my religion is about. I seem to speak a different language. And I think sometimes that I am a fool to believe that I really have anything in common with any Christian community, no matter how progressive they seem to be.

There are some progressive churches that are farther afield that I would consider worth visiting on an occasional basis, although some of them involve going over a major and frequently congested bridge, and the thought of dealing with the traffic getting home doesn't appeal much to me. Is it worth it to go farther and farther away in search of the Holy Grail?

The problem of theology is complicated by a host of other factors, such as how worship is conducted and how friendly the congregation is. As for how worship is conducted, some denominations, regardless of how progressive they are, just won't seem to be a good fit for me personally; progressive Episcopal services, for example, just haven't suited me well in part because they are so focused on the Eucharist as the central element of worship. I don't have a high church upbringing and that type of service in general is not something that works very well for me. Meanwhile, I have visited at least one progressive church where I felt a certain theological kinship but where I did not feel all that welcomed. And so it goes, round and round.

When I started attending churches last year, it was a big adventure for me, attractive for its novelty as much as anything else. But over time, I have to say that the novelty has started to wear off. At first, I told myself that I would just ignore the parts that I heard in church that I didn't feel comfortable with, as long as the church was mostly progressive and otherwise satisfying. I was able to do that for a while. But I think that reading people like Borg, and attending churches that offer "Living the Questions" or "Saving Jesus" workshops, have set my expectations higher, and I stopped wanting to settle.

Sometimes I think I am getting value from this process, but I am becoming less sure. I'm not sure what I am getting by visiting different churches at all.

25 comments:

Grace said...

Mystical,

I've been away from the computer for a couple of days. So, I haven't had a chance to respond. I don't feel that we ever have to be afraid to deal honestly with any questions or challenges to faith. I'll read and study any idea that's out there, and don't feel personally threatened by at all.

There certainly was a time when I struggled with every line of the Nicene Creed, and even doubted the existence of God.

But, please be aware that there are many intelligent, thinking folks out here who have come to the historic faith of the church out of secular background, or through times of intense questioning and doubt. (All the orthodox Christians have not checked their brains at the church door.) :)

For me, the incarnation is the very center of Christian faith, that God entered fully into human life and suffering, that God in Christ fully absorbed all the consequence of our sin and brokeness into Himself, so that we might share in His life. He loves us this much, and is personally involved in our lives everyday.

It is impossible to have any church truly be Christian that has lost a sense of this reality. All that's left, Mystical, is this empty shell, traditional sounding terminology and ritual that has lost touch with the actual gospel.

Personally, if I actually believed in the way of Spong or some of these other authors, I would not waste two seconds of my time with the Christian church, let alone go into the ministry. God have mercy! What would be the point?

I know that the unitarian church has not met your need spiritually, although this denomination would seem to be more along the line of many of your convictions. I know this church doesn't seem, well, "Christian" enough for where you're at.

But, Mystical, the unitarians are actually an example of what happens when a church abandons the gospel, and loses sight of the reality of the cross. Overtime, even the familar Christian like God language, the outward forms, and ritual also die. There's really no true substance or point in it.

I realize that you have been deeply hurt and wounded by past experiences in the church, Mystical. But, I pray that you might at least keep an open mind.

Afterall, if God created the world, and everything in it, then is He limited by our own human perception, and opinion. Can we put God in a box?

To paraphrase the Scripture, "Why should it be thought impossible, that God could even raise the dead?"

Also, Mystical, please understand, that loving and accepting someone as a person, doesn't necessarily mean that we are going to agree with all of their opinions.

Just know, that you are certainly welcomed to sit beside me in the church, and for us to talk and share together anyday of the week.

God bless!

Mystical Seeker said...

For me, the incarnation is the very center of Christian faith

And for me, it isn't.

It is impossible to have any church truly be Christian that has lost a sense of this reality. All that's left, Mystical, is this empty shell, traditional sounding terminology and ritual that has lost touch with the actual gospel.

Grace, it may well be impossible for you to be a Christian without accepting certain dogmas. But you cannot speak for others.

Personally, if I actually believed in the way of Spong or some of these other authors, I would not waste two seconds of my time with the Christian church, let alone go into the ministry. God have mercy! What would be the point?

But you aren't me, are you?

Grace said...

No, Mystical I'm not. And, I don't want to say more that might just create needless offense.

God help and guide you in your whole life and seeking, Mystical.

Matthew said...

Mystical Seeker,

Beliefs and dogma are guides to help us discover who we are in Reality. They are not truth (in themselves) and, in the end, are thrown out, once we've found what we seek. I say this to help you in your doubt. No church, or way of believing things (Borg or Crossan), is enough. Reality is beyond our intellectual grasp...but involving and nurturing, none the less.

Since you're seeking, you are looking for something you haven't found. The challenge to finding is to look where we HAVEN'T already found...which implies you have to be willing to let in that which you currently reject!

Here's where studying other traditions, or other sets of beliefs is useful; it gives you a different vantage points from which to look at Reality...a chance for new discoveries. So long as you stay in your comfort zone, you'll never find.

I usually describe religion as a process by which we become whole- finding our being in Reality. This 'way' is a path of discovery, not a collection of thoughts and beliefs. It has no buildup of 'residue', nor doctrine that must be believed. It really does free a person, instead of locking that person into a particular way of looking at the world. It makes them loving, not judging.

Matthew

OneSmallStep said...

**It is impossible to have any church truly be Christian that has lost a sense of this reality. All that's left, Mystical, is this empty shell, traditional sounding terminology and ritual that has lost touch with the actual gospel.**

I would have to say this is very much not true. A church can be Christian without believing in the incarnation. As I said in a post a few down from this one, you can find the reality of God in Christ without believing that God became a human. I was raised in a church like this, and it was nowhere close to empty, or a shell, or any of that. Those people absolutely loved God, and loved what Jesus did, and lived it out daily.

The good news for them is the freedom represented by God sending His son. The freedom found in the life, death, and life of Jesus. The freedom that sin/death have been dealt with, and conquered, and that God is victorious.

Mystical,

Could part of what's driving this be that you might've "settled" when you were a fundamentalist? If you simply accepted certain portions because you liked the others, there would be a chance that the accepted portions would sneak back in, until you're back on "blind faith."

The other thing is that in the churches I've visted, the sermons seem to aim for the lowest common denominator, in a way. A lot of people don't do the type of studying or research we do, and in order to appeal to the largest possible audience, the sermons must be geared towards those who might read the Bible two or three days a week, as opposed to someone who knows what the Greek words mean.

So it's possible that you might not find what you're looking for in a church itself, because many might not be like you, and want to get that in-depth.

Then again, I've visited very few progressive churches.

Andrew said...

"It seems like most pastors at these churches preach as if they really believe that Jesus was raised literally from the dead. And when I hear talk like that, I start to feel turned off."

I had a chance to see Borg live and in Technicolor a few months back. He was fantastic. He did stress a number of times that the point of the miracles is not the miracle, but what the story is saying. I agree with that. I did sense at times though that he did not merely disagree with people who believed the miraculous... there was a subtle twinge of disdain (my perception).

If both sides of the view can agree that the supreme point is the message and not the miracle, can there not be a little more grace given from both sides?

To the miraculous side, anyone not believing in their validity must be a backslider (or not even really Christian). To someone who only considers miracles to be metaphor, a believer in the miracles is often put on the level of a buffoon. Are not both these positions a fundamentalist trap?

I will admit, that I would probably fall on the side that believes the miraculous occurred. But so what? Even if the miracles happened, they never seemed to be the ticket that brought about lasting change.

(Personally, I just don't see the manipulation of matter as being all that fantastic. My PDA/Phone would have been outrageously fantastic to someone merely 30 years ago - to me it's just annoying).

Just to be clear, I do believe the message of Jesus to be the ultimate point. If all of the miracles were just metaphor, the gospel does not lose one ounce of its power to change the world.

Mystical Seeker said...

Matthew,

I usually describe religion as a process by which we become whole- finding our being in Reality. This 'way' is a path of discovery, not a collection of thoughts and beliefs.

What you say makes sense. Personally, I've always wanted to stay connected to the Christian tradition because it is the most comfortable for me and I felt drawn to the idea of being immersed in a religious tradition. I think I got tired of seeking and wanted to find something once in a while. But on the other hand, ideally, perhaps the journey should be celebrated instead of focusing on the destination.

One Small Step,

Could part of what's driving this be that you might've "settled" when you were a fundamentalist? If you simply accepted certain portions because you liked the others, there would be a chance that the accepted portions would sneak back in, until you're back on "blind faith."

Interesting possibility. I wonder if there is something to that.

The other thing is that in the churches I've visted, the sermons seem to aim for the lowest common denominator, in a way. A lot of people don't do the type of studying or research we do, and in order to appeal to the largest possible audience, the sermons must be geared towards those who might read the Bible two or three days a week, as opposed to someone who knows what the Greek words mean.


Yes, I think there is much to that. Most congregations probably have a diversity of thinking, and my guess is that pastors have to negotiate a minefield of different levels of knowledge and different theologies.

I'm beginning to wonder what it is that I think I achieve by going to church at all. I want to be drawn upward and into the depths by the worship experience. That's a tall order to fill.

Andrew,

I do think that Borg provides a way of trying to reconcile the various kinds of thinking about these issues. I appreciate his effort in this manner, and his gentleness and his generally non-confrontational manner, although you may be right about the twinge of disdain as well. Regardless, though, I think his approach can go a long way, although, many people on the other end of the spectrum don't appreciate what he is trying to do and simply dismiss him as one of those Jesus Seminar people.

Frank said...

I use a CNN Alert to find comments on Progressive Christianity, Crossan, Borg, Taussig, etc.

Give my background as a missionary and teacher, it took me a long time to find a local church where Progressive Christianity is being given a whirl. I found it by word of mouth and then found it again in Taussig's book.

Since I head up the Church Education Team, we've had weekends with Crossan and Spong and have Taussig coming next February. Though still relatively small, we've grown because of Progressive Christianity as it emerges among us.

It has amazed old hands such as my wife (recoving Greek Orthodox) and me (recoving Southern Baptist) that we haven't lost a many of our long-time members. I wish you the same luck where you are.

BTW we attend in Clearwater FL.

Frank

Grace said...

One,

Apart from the reality of what we call the incarnation, how is it possible that Jesus conquered sin and death? How do we even have a real assurance that God loves us, or that He has and will triumph over evil?

I know there are many religious people out there who greatly admire the moral and ethical teachings of Christ, and are doing their sincere best to walk out the Sermon on The Mount. And, truly all faith teach some version of the golden rule.

But, there is a difference between all this, and actually knowing and worshipping Jesus as Lord, and coming to trust Him as Savior. Can we reject the work of the cross, and at the sametime be truly following Jesus?

One of the central teachings of the Christian faith is that none of us are truly capable of following the teachings of Christ, of wholly living by the golden rule. In our brokenness, we need a Savior.

Mystical, I realize all this is something you, and I guess mostly everyone who posts here has heard before and already rejected. Still, I would ask you to reconsider the historic witness of the Christian church.

Afterall, isn't it possible to also be blindly conditioned by post enlightenment, naturalistic kinds of concepts, to just trade one unquestioned dogma for another?

Also, guys, and I'm going to be honest, even though it may cause real offense.

I personally think it is a total scandal that we have more than a few clergy in our mainline denominations that have abandoned their ordination vows. Who are more committed to affirming folks in unbelief and heresy, than in actually preaching the gospel, and helping people come to faith in Jesus Christ.

Sadly,
Grace.

OneSmallStep said...

Grace,

**Apart from the reality of what we call the incarnation, how is it possible that Jesus conquered sin and death? How do we even have a real assurance that God loves us, or that He has and will triumph over evil?**

One of the definitions of God is His eternal nature. Part of that nature is that God cannot die. So even if you have an incarnation, you still can't have God dying, or God then has an "end" and is not eternal. The only element that died on the cross was the human portion of Jesus.

And even if there is an incarnation, no one knows the technical details of how sin and death were conquered. To you, it seems because you would say that God became flesh. But that ultimately just comes down to "just because." Sin and death were conquered through the resurrection -- which is also a "just because". But the resurrection demonstrated that neither had the last word, no matter how much power it threw against God. The "hows" of it aren't know, but it is known through the resurrection.

The assurance also comes from what Jesus said and did, and that God raised Jesus from the dead. Jesus was the proof of everything he said about God, and the first-fruits of what was to come. You don't need an incarnation for that.

**Can we reject the work of the cross, and at the sametime be truly following Jesus?**

Simply because one doesn't hold that Jesus is God does not mean that one rejects the cross. It doesn't mean that one denies Christ as a Savior. Rejecting Jesus as God doesn't mean rejecting any of that, so I'm unsure where you're getting that from.

**One of the central teachings of the Christian faith is that none of us are truly capable of following the teachings of Christ, of wholly living by the golden rule.**

Do you really think that this is how people understood the Sermon on the Mount at the time Jesus said all of that? The whole point of what Jesus was saying was to give a bigger picture of God. The Pharisees were the ones going around saying how bad everyone was, how much they couldn't live up to the rules. If Jesus was saying the same thing, then where was the attraction? Jesus was giving the instructions as though they could be followed. As it is, he said that the crowd was the light of the world/salt of the earth *at that very moment.* He said peacemakers were children of God, without any outside interference. That those who mourned would be happy later. Look at the parable of the sheep/goats -- the sheep did follow Jesus, wholly. The Samaritan did.

**isn't it possible to also be blindly conditioned by post enlightenment, naturalistic kinds of concepts, to just trade one unquestioned dogma for another?**

You can't "trade" an unquestioned dogma. If you aren't questioning it, then you're still in that dogma. Also, those who do start to question the dogma don't just fall into another one. You tread very, very carefully.

**I personally think it is a total scandal that we have more than a few clergy in our mainline denominations that have abandoned their ordination vows.**

This isn't something they just wake up and decide to do one day. Why do you think so many who study in mainline theological schools can no longer hold to all the doctrines? Because they can no longer intellectually hold to them, and they see a lot of other people in mainline denominations with questions that can't be answered by just the doctrine.

Grace said...

One,

I think that it is because Jesus is fully God as well as fully man, that He has the capacity to "save."

The reality of God in Christ, and the atonement are connected.

Also, I'm looking at the totality of Christ's teaching. Didn't He also speak of the new covenant in His blood given for the forgiveness of sin, His death as a "ransom for many?" What about the parable of the poor publican and that self-righteous pharisee?

The publican went down to His house justified because He trusted completely in the mercy of God, rather than his own efforts, and good deeds. He saw his need.

I admit that many of the central truths of Christian faith are certainly beyond finite human minds to totally explain or understand. It's certainly not easy to discuss this all on a blog without really knowing the mind and heart of all the people that we're sharing with, where everyone is at.

What is your denomination, One, if it's ok to ask? My background is Lutheran. (It's unusual for me to meet someone who doesn't affirm the unique divinity of Christ, but yet accepts the resurrection of the Lord.)

I think that even clergy are human, and can struggle with honest doubt, have a crisis of faith. We should be loving and beyond supportive in those situations.

But, that's different to me than a deliberate decision by clergy to basically reject the Christian faith, and redefine the meaning of the creeds of the church.

Oftentimes, I've seen where there's even a scorn, a kind of mocking contempt toward those who do affirm the historic witness of the church.

On one blog in the past, I've read comments by a priest who actually calls himself a "high church atheist." It's beyond sad to me, One.

Katherine E. said...

MS, I appreciate your post. As always you are thoughtful and thought-provoking.

What I began to think as I read through was 'I wonder how she has experienced God in her thelogical-seeking in different churches?' Maybe you mentioned that and I missed it. ?? Does the theology sometimes get in the way of experiencing God's love/grace/community?

I'm sure you've probably written about that in previous posts that I haven't read. You are someone I respect and would love to read your experiences of experiencing God (so to speak!) if you are inclined to write about it...

Mystical Seeker said...

Frank,

Thanks for visiting my blog, and thanks for the comments. Clearwater is a little far away from where I live. :) It sounds like you found a great church.

Katherine,

You are very kind. I will have to think about what you've said. I have occasionally written about my experiences during Taize worship, which I do feel sometimes bring me closer to God. I guess my Quaker past makes contemplative forms of worship more attractive to me. I do find that when I attend church and I feel defensive about matters of theology it gets in the way of my ability to experience the Divine.

OneSmallStep said...

Grace,

**I think that it is because Jesus is fully God as well as fully man, that He has the capacity to "save."**

I'm not sure what section this is in response to. I think it's the part of the death on the cross, but I don't see how this addresses the fact that even if Jesus was fully God, the fully God part could not die, or that was not God. It was only the fully man part that died on the cross, so if Jesus were God, it wouldn't affect the death one way or another.

**Didn't He also speak of the new covenant in His blood given for the forgiveness of sin, His death as a "ransom for many?"**

The problem is that much of any of the atonement theories are pulled from Paul. There are five or six times where Jesus tells people that their faith has saved them, or uses parables where people's actions are the deciding factor, way before he ever died on the cross. Or take the parable of the Prodigal Son -- he was simply forgiven. No atonement was necessary. I believe the New Covenant is one of the few times Jesus references a meaning behind his death, as opposed to the various ways that Paul sees it.

The thing with the Pharisee is that he was proud. He was exalting himself above everyone else, and saying that he was better than them. One can be humble and still acknowledge the good things one does. The key is to not exalt one self. It doesn't mean that one is perfect, or that one doesn't need help.

And again -- the sheep were justified through their actions. The Samaritan was justified through his actions, and yet if that occured today, it would be said that he was still condemned to hell, because he doesn't trust Jesus: and yet this was the very man who had "heretical" beliefs under Judaism. Or the Beatitudes -- those are action driven as well.

The key here, at least for me, does tie in to the grace quote from Ephesians. What we do does play a part in one's salvation, not because someone earns it, but because one is created to do good works: by doing what Jesus has listed above, one is doing what one was created to do.

**What is your denomination, One, if it's ok to ask? My background is Lutheran. **

I don't have a denomination at this point. I would prefer not to delve into my religious upbringing, just to avoid the questions. However, it was one that did not believe Jesus was God. :) I have read the reasons behind that belief, as well as studied the verses used to support the Trinity. I simply wasn't convinced, due to other verses, as well as other possible interpretations of the Trinitarian verses.

**(It's unusual for me to meet someone who doesn't affirm the unique divinity of Christ, but yet accepts the resurrection of the Lord.)**

But you don't need Christ to be God in order to accept the resurrection. Just to sue Phillipians 2 as an example, in that because Jesus was obedience unto death, God raised him up. There are other sections where Jesus says I will raise up this body, but the key there is that the power to do this stemmed from God. Jesus could do nothing of himself.

Grace said...

One, maybe we can find common ground, here. I totally agree that saving faith in Jesus is going to produce good works, so to speak. The sheep show a relationship with Christ by their works.

When I look at the work of the cross, I'm seeing even more than forgiveness, but also a unity with Christ, that changes me, enables me to share in the very life of God. If Jesus were just a mere man, none of this would be possible. And, the sacrament of holy communion would make little sense to me.

One, I sense that you'v given this tons of thought. Maybe we just need to agree to disagree. :)

And, Mystical, many thanks for letting this discussion happen on your blog. I'm sure this is far from where you're personally at in your thinking.

I'll be off line for awhile with a flock of company coming over for the holiday.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.

OneSmallStep said...

Grace,

**I totally agree that saving faith in Jesus is going to produce good works, so to speak. The sheep show a relationship with Christ by their works.**

But it never says that the sheep had a saving faith in Jesus. They were as surprised as the goats were, by the outcome. Those same type of works can be done by atheists, or Muslims, or Mormons. Based on that parable, if all did what the sheep did, then all would be welcomed into the kingdom, regardless of doctrine or belief. The entire parable is work-based. However, it's not an "earned" based parable. The sheep didn't do those works to earn salvation, they did the works simply because, which is the reason that many often do perform good works, regardless of any sort of faith. So I'm not sure if the ground is common here. But maybe? If we had a Christian do good works, and an atheist do good works, both would be considered sheep, according to that parable. Jesus never once says there that the standard for who is saved/unsaved is faith.

**When I look at the work of the cross, I'm seeing even more than forgiveness, but also a unity with Christ, that changes me, enables me to share in the very life of God. If Jesus were just a mere man, none of this would be possible.**

Why couldn't God use a mere man to produce that unity? God took the mere man, who became a sacrifice, in order to fully eliminate anything not God-like. If anything, it might be even more just. One of the concepts I see in the Trinity is that Jesus was tempted by sin, but didn't sin. Well, not sinning is easy to do if one is God. God can't sin, or else God wouldn't be God. So to say one must act like Jesus, or one is condemned is an unfair position, because Jesus had an advantage in that behavior that no one else did. But if you have a mere man who didn't sin, then it opens possibilities to all the other "mere men." That does not mean that one can't not rely on God. As it is, Jesus was constantly directing the focus to God, and how to have faith in God for a humble life. I would see Jesus as more of the "ultimate example" of what a human is supposed to be, in comparison to Adam.

As it is, I don't really see the cross as "forgiveness," because people were forgiven way before Jesus was crucified, and told they had eternal life before the crucifixion. I see the cross as representing the destruction of sin. I don't see God punishing Jesus for our sins, either. What I see on the cross is Jesus taking on every single sin, whether literally or figuratively, and showing what sin's ultimate end is: it destroys itself, and God's power trumps sin's power. Was there punishment? Yes, because the natural result of sin is some sort of punishment. If you hate someone, it almost serves as its own punishment.

**One, I sense that you'v given this tons of thought. Maybe we just need to agree to disagree. :)**

Probably. :) What "set me off" so to speak was the assumption I was reading in your responses -- it seemed that you felt if someone didn't believe that Jesus was God, then they simply became a congregation that focused on ethics, and nothing else. The cross fell to the wayside, the resurrection, faith, all of it. And it became empty and such. Other than beliefs, I find no difference between a Trinitarian and a non-Trinitarian service. Both are focused on freedom, on God, and how God was seen through Jesus.

Happy Thanksgiving to you as well.

Grace said...

Hi, One,

I actually have a few minutes before the crowd descends. (LOL)

Maybe I can share in another way. As a Christian, I think a huge part of what we do as a church revolves around the fellowship and literal worship of Jesus Christ, as Lord. The sacrament of holy communion is all connected with this as well.

One, I think to do this while believing that Jesus was a mere man, nothing more, would seem, well, idolotrous, and make little sense...to me, anyway.

I can't see the benefit of affirming the Nicene Creed of the church, or using traditional God language, while somehow investing these terms with different, private meaning.

But, clearly, you and Mystical must see all this very differently, and I know from the deepest part of me.. I'm certainly not the one who has the ability to make any of this clear, or to impact your thinking.

God bless, One, and Mystical. Don't eat too much turkey. :)

John Shuck said...

"Grace" sounds suspiciously like Chris Larimer.

Excellent post and discussion, Mystical.

To be blunt, clergy and the church is largely not the place to go to find enlightened Christianity.

Institutions, bullies, and clergy who really do believe this stuff literally pretty much dominate the scene.

Many folks find "the church" in other venues, study groups etc. and go to worship for the pageantry if that is what they like, or the music, or the service to others, or the emphasis on social justice.

Few find in the worship experience itself the real stuff.

I suppose in the end people feel the need to justify all of the buildings and the authority by appealing to literalism whether it be hard or soft literalism (to use a Borg phrase) and just can't give it up.

The true wise one is not satisfied. The true Seeker, like you, is usually alone...

Keep on the quest!

Grace said...

Rev. Shuck

I'm not this Chris Latimer.

The reason I'm involved in church is to share in the fellowship and worship of Jesus Christ, to grow spiritually through the preaching of the word, and the sacraments, and just to serve and encourage others.

I think all Christians need to walk out their relationship with Christ in community. Because of job constraints, I feel like I"m not involved enough, really.

But, it's true if the gospel was not real to me, or if I didn't see the truth of the incarnation, I probably wouldn't see the point of being part of the Christian church.

But, Mystical, if you see any truth or reality to the witness of the church at all, feel drawn in anyway, I think you should still hang out with Christians.

You're always more than welcome to check us out, and what would you have to lose, anyway?? :)

God bless!

John Shuck said...

All right, Grace. So who are you? You have commented on my blog as well.

Grace said...

Hi, Pastor Shuck,

My actual name is Rebecca (Becky) I'm involved in the human service field, and work with needy kids at a residential school.

I came to faith in Christ as a young person, and have a background in the Lutheran church, actually graduated from an ELCA seminary, although not on the ordination track.

My focus was more in counseling and social ministry. I have an undergraduate major in anthro. focused in comparative religion. (As I've shared, there certainly was a time in my life when I struggled with pretty much every line of the Nicene Creed, and was totally uncertain if God was really there at all.)

Right now my husband and I attend the ecumenical chapel here at school. We're involved in looking for a new church home, since we'll soon be relocating. For me, it's pretty much between the Piskies or the Presbys. Sadly, the ELCA church in the local area had to close it's doors because of declining membership.

Besides folks like C.S. Lewis, and Dr. Billy Graham, N.T. Wright... I've been greatly impacted by the teaching of the Episcopal priest, Malcolm Smith. Do you know of him?

I'm totally blown away by the unconditional love and grace of God, the reality of our unity with Christ which this man stresses in his ministry.

Oh, also, my husband and I between us have six children. This has totally served to drive me to the Lord, and on my knees in prayer. (laughing)

God bless!

John Shuck said...

Thanks Grace (Rebecca)!

That is helpful. I have not heard of Malcom Smith. Many blessings to you in your search. Good for you in working with needy children. The world needs more people like that and like you.

I imagine that if we didn't talk too much about religion we would get along just fine! : )

John Shuck said...

Frank,

Hal Taussig visited our congregation in November 2006. He was great. Really a nice guy, a minister, and a scholar. Enjoy the seminar!

Grace said...

Thank you, Pastor John. Maybe I can come over and visit on your blog sometime. We can talk.:)

Mystical Seeker said...

The true wise one is not satisfied.

You know, John, that is actually a nice comment to hear.