Arthur's Journal on God & Politics
What Does It Mean to be Christian in America?
A God of War
Apocalypse & End Times
Biblical Literalism
Christ Path
Conformity & Orthodoxy
Fear, Shame & Guilt
God & Politics
Goodness, Morality & Sin
Heresy & Heretics
History, Mystery & Doubt
Kindergarten Religion
Mental Spiritual Constructs
Mystical Christianity
Mythical Proportions
Passion of The Christ ...
Someone Else's Magic

why our television evangelists cannot preach sermons with depth in them

The divergence we experience with each other is very much a consequence of each of us taking the position that "your assumptions aren't as true as mine and in fact my assumptions are the truth and your assumptions are myth."

You offered a long drawn out verse from Hebrews (I assume) to clarify your point of view. However, as a citation of authority, it has no value to me because you and I apparently have differing attitudes as to what the Bible is and is not.

I don't agree that the Bible is a citable authority to justify our own value judgments. Since there is no "one true way" to read the Bible, there is no "one true assumption one can make as to whether or not either of us have an opinion that is valid or invalid.

Whether literalist or mystic, it would all come down to having to wait on God Himself to settle our disharmony and lay out the truth (with a capital T) once and for all. Without that, everything remains a function of prayer, tradition and reason.

I can insist that God speaks to me without conveying comprehensive mandates and commandments for all humanity and you can insist that such a vivid and on-going awareness of a personal revelatory relationship with God is not scriptural. Why, because the words I use compare me not to Jesus Christ, but to YOUR definition of Jesus as the Christ.

The only position you can take from that angle is that you possess a truth that I do not - a truth the comes out of Bible and tradition that insists that I cannot interpret Biblical wisdom in ways that differ from current custom.

The idea that early Christians interpreted the Bible in their own current custom that looks identical to our current custom is part of the flaw of an inerrant and unchanging Bible.

I have no problems with what is contained in scripture regarding contemporary life issues because I believe in the wisdom of the Bible and not the inerrant, inflexible and restricted "Word" that is supposed to be the once and forever exposition of God on every subject.

The Bible remains valuable to me not because I go there to see "What the Bible says" but to explore what the Bible contains in more than one Biblical verse and how that combined commentary enlightens my thinking.

The spiritual construct of a spirit world where God fights spiritual warfare against Satan and where everything is ultimately good or evil is a false construct. We are handicapped by more than 2000 years of a Catholic Christian distortion of a Jewish reality already confused and grown lethal by the time Christ came.

When you look closely, slowly and with a serious attention to detail, you do not find Jesus teaching or supporting the Judgemental God of Spiritual Warfare whose sons and daughters are conscripts in an age-old battle with evil and a who-knows-from-where empowered Satan. You do not find Jesus teaching that we should be good because God will get us or let Satan have us in one final either or confrontation.

You will find however Jesus not just saying the words in some projected 21st century fundamentalist notion: "The Kingdom of God is Within You." You will find Jesus preaching that internal kingdom and "The Father and I are one," then trying to convey in conceivable and believable ways - "and so are you."

Jesus did not make nor announce himself to be the Incarnated Almighty God who appeared in subsequent Roman Christian theology after Nicea. Priestly political and arrogant exposition on New Testament writings created that whole concept of God.

Jesus' repudiation of the God of the Letter of the Law and declaration of the God of Compassion truly became lost in the shuffle of necesity for political survival. It was replaced with a Christianized form of the Letter of the Law Judaism against which Jesus preached.

We have inherited that construct now in the 21st century. What well-meaning but spiritually immature Christians have tended to do is hide behind the more simple acceptance of the myth of an inerrant Bible containing the once-spoken will of a Judgmental God who cannot tolerate sin with any degree of allowance; A god more interested in obedience than experience; a God limited to rewards or punishments as He presides over a conflict with Satan, giving lie to the literality of an Almighty God who cannot tolerate sin and evil with the least degree of allowance- because Satan just keeps on keeping on.

That circumstance is why our television evangelists cannot preach sermons with depth in them and are left to resorting to form and sizzle above substance.

It's a false idea that God has set up a mortal circumstance where orthodoxy of belief and doctrine supported by inflexible adherance to a shallow spiritual absolute of scriptural innerancy are paramount to eternal progression - more paramount than the idea of existence as an on-going accumulation of wisdom. That circumstance relegates God, who is supposed to be all-wise, all-knowing and all everything, to merely a school master who has made of life a one-time-only final exam where your score is more important that what you've learned.

The reality is that God, the all-everything, is the true educator who created of this world a schoolroom, laboratory and field trips by which we can continually progress toward knowing more and more what God knows.

The comparisons between these two points of view leave we who contest the issue with an idea that God must and will justify one of us.

On the one hand He must justify the fundamental literalist on how many correct answers we have on our only and final exam before the bar of God= How many correct and how many incorrect; how many sins? whether or not a born-again moment occured; whether a myriad of inconsequential doctrinal hairs were split in the scriptural or God-approved manner.

Or, there will be no bar of judgement as we have had it taught to us; there will be no Rapture with Jesus coming in the clouds with an army of vengeful angels all looking like what the Crusaders must have looked like marching forward to battle the Muslims in medieval times; Tim LaHaye and the End Timers will have wasted theirs and many other lives in fantasy.

Rather, the God of compassion will be awaiting the return of each human singly asking the same questions every time:

What did you learn my son, my daughter? How are you going to use that learning for the future?

Or, God as we understand God will make known the reality of a construct quite different from any which have been imagined. That's why coming to know and commune with God is so exciting.

Behold, I send you forth as sheep
in the midst of wolves:

be ye therefore wise as serpents,
and harmless as doves.

Anxious For the Souls of Others
 As persons of faith, perhaps our faith is most tested when we are tempted to not trust God's processes. Like overbearing and over-protective parents, do we hover around someone else thinking we know more about what is spiritually best for them than God? Are we then failing to trust that God is at the helm?

This is not license to move about testing God by presuming to speak for Him and insert ourselves in between God and another soul. It also is not license to willfully decry the spirituality of anyone else as not equal to our own - AND - if we are not persons of faith, it is not license to go about tearing down religious attitudes in others.

For if we are not persons of faith, then why would we struggle to attack something we ourselves do not believe exists?

There are many Christians who are quite content to live in the simplest arenas of belief - who feel no need for deeper spiritual and mystical experience and have no hunger to come any closer to God than they are right now.

There are others who are so secure and established in a fixed and unchanging spiritual mode, that they truly are afraid of really exploring and testing what they really believe. In some cases, people like this will be critical if they encounter explorers, questioners and testers who are on a quest to come to know God as God knows them - in a highly personal and spiritual context.

Traditional formulas full of shoulds and should nots are like paved roads. There is much to see from the road, but you never know what meadows and mountains exist if you do not step off the road and make your own trail into a wilderness of opportunity.

One thought on personal spirituality:

It is one's own and is to be owned personally. Until you have personal ownership you will not have proprietorship. If someone else own's your spirituality, they are the ones who define your reality for you and discourage you from defining it for yourself.

Christian Evangelism needs a Redesign. 
A change in attitude and behavior is necessary in order for Christianity to maintain a strong and positive influence in the world. Though not in agreement with Bishop Spong who stated that "Christianity must change or die," I am in harmony with his understanding that literalist Christians may very well literalize themselves into inconsequential roles, or worse, becoming the cause of highly negative consequential events.

A preacher who labors based on an innerant Bible ends up, as Watts wrote, attempting to "tell God what to do and the people how to behave." For a long time the second part of that phrase had more impact than the first. However, attempting to tell God what to do because the Bible is inerrant reveals itself more and more as faulty doctrine.

Part of perception is that the interpretation of what we perceive is primarily driven by what we expect to see, i.e. our own internal assumptions. The assumption that the Bible is inerrant then drives the expectations one has as to what God does or will say, what God actually wills, and what God deems as important.

The logic of this is inescapable. If God were to somehow make known a concept not found in the Bible (and I'm not talking about a concept contrary to something in the Bible, but, for example a concept more apropos to 21st century living), how would a culture totally based on an inerrant Bible be ever able to accept it?

"Dogmatic" for me consists of rigidity and inflexibility. I am dogmatic when it comes to my perception of the Bible as something more than a law book limited to its literal statements. I am dogmatic when it comes to viewing the Bible as but one of many powerful means of achieving on-going communion with God.

A church full of Bibles is not a stable full of animals all wearing one harness. It is a place where each person has an individual relationship via his or her personal scripture with the source of the scripture. Otherwise we reduce the Bible to a course in Religion 101, denying ourselves the advanced knowledge to be gained through experientially living religion 201, 301, 401, 100001 and more.

Why would we deliberately remain in shallow water where only splashing is allowed when we can venture into deeper waters, learn to swim and discover the ocean?

What is true is that all religions conflict with each other. In the end, all we have are religions that some claim yes to a thing, and others claim no to a thing and so on and so forth. God cannot be and then not be. He either is or He is not. Therefore by definition, multiple religions mean multiple paths to God.

Literalists are left in an either/or world defined in black and white terms by an inerrant Bible and specific assumptions that cannot be proven. In this circumstance the human mind - where the Holy Spirit is truly sensed and experienced - remains tragically closed.

The American Christian is a journal based in Bay Center, Washington. 
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