Why is it worth it to be in a larger denomination

A front page article in the San Francisco Chronicle tells the story of two Lutheran churches that were kicked out of the ELCA several years ago because of decisions to ordain gay pastors. Now the ECLA has changed its tune, is allowing gay pastors, and is asking these free thinking congregations to rejoin them. One of the two churches has decided to return to the ELCA fold. But the other one is not so sure. The pastor, Susan Strouse, explains one reason why:

There's also the question of what the next Great Debate will be, Strouse said. What progressive position will First United take, and will it bring expulsion?
If a congregation has gone its own way for over a decade, having explored progressive values without having to subject itself to the authoritarian control of a denominational theology police, why should they now put their own independence once again at risk by rejoining the denomination? The church in question has seen itself as a place where people who have felt excluded from organized religion could find a home. Would re-joining the ELCA be consistent with that mission?

The Bible without certainty

I ran across a review of a boot titled The Rise and Fall of the Bible that might be worth checking out. The author of the book points out that lots of Americans buy the Bible without actually bothering to read it. In so doing, they confer the status of holy icon to the Bible, something to be revered rather than actually read. Of course, if many of those Americans were to actually read the Bible that they revere so much, the actual details of what the Bible is really like would contradict the image that they have of it as an infallible instruction book. In the midst of its sublime beauty and moral passion one would also encounter its flaws, its contradictions, and its moral failings. For a lot of people, it is better to remain blissfully ignorant.

I am not familiar with the author of the book, Timothy Beale, but he is a Christian who

would rather see his co-religionists embrace the fact that the Bible is full of contradictions and inconsistencies and come to regard it not as 'the book of answers, but as a library of questions,' many of which can never be conclusively resolved.
He also makes the point that the Bible is "poetry, not pool rules."

This is, of course, a point I have tried to make many times myself in this blog. I might have to take a look at this book.

An excerpt from a soon-to-be-published book suggests that humans may construct the concept of God out of an innate human tendency to ascribe intentionality or consciousness to whatever we interact with in the world, even when there is clearly no consciousness behind it.

I'm not sure that this is necessarily a novel idea. It is hardly news that religions have often anthropomorphized nature or otherwise assigned divinity to it (remember the Egyptian sun god Ra?) There has been a lot of speculation about a "God gene", and of course the existence of such a gene (or some inborn tendency for humans to believe in a deity) is itself no proof that God doesn't exist; after all, the existence of our inborn ability to conceive of space and time does not mean that those are merely mental constructs, or the fact that our brains are wired to conceive of light doesn't mean that photons don't exist. Nevertheless, it is an interesting thought to ponder--that humans are inclined to believe in some kind of greater spiritual reality.

There is also a flip side to this, though. Just as the atheist might dismiss belief in God as merely the human tendency to assign consciousness to that which is unconscious, I can imagine the Tillichian theologian offering the same criticism, but from the opposite angle. If we think (a la Tillich) that God is not a being, but rather being itself, then giving God the traits of human--like consciousness and a human-style personality might be seen as a huge theological mistake, as a kind of idolatry. This is not because God doesn't exist, but because one is conceiving of God in a limited sense as a being rather than as the ground and depth of being itself.