A Christian Pastor Responds (Part 3)

Pastor Mike Clawson responds to your questions.

You can also read Part 1 and Part 2.

Several of you wanted to know about how I interpret the Bible if not “literally”.

Miko asked:

If the Bible shouldn’t be read literally, then how should it be read? If the literal Bible isn’t the underpinning of the Christian faith, then what is?

And yinyang wanted to know:

If the Bible isn’t the literal word of God, do you believe it was inspired by God? If so, are there any parts you believe weren’t? Which ones, and how can you tell?

And EnoNomi had an even more radical suggestion:

Do you think the Bible could stand to be re-edited to reflect the more humanist and modern beliefs held by many Christians (such as yourself?)

Now, I’ve actually already addressed these questions in some detail in this post on my blog, but I’ll do my best to provide a more concise answer here. The short answer is that I read the Bible narratively and contextually. In other words, I view the Bible not as a static document of timeless truths and absolute, unchanging commands, but as a (yes) divinely inspired (not dictated) yet complex compilation of diverse genres (e.g. history, poetry, mythic narratives, prophecy, etc.) that tell a dynamic, unfolding story of God’s interactions with humanity. Thus to actually read the Bible as the kind of book it was always intended to be, we have to read it with an eye to the symbolisms, the metaphors, the literary genre, the historical/cultural context, and the ways God accommodated his revelation to the limited understandings or peculiar worldview of his original audience – realizing that what God revealed to “them, then” is not necessarily what he would reveal to “us, now”.

So, for example, when I read the creation accounts in Genesis 1 & 2, I don’t need to read it as if it was ever intended to be literal scientific account. The poetic structure, the genre similarities with other ancient near eastern creation myths, the symbolic langauge, etc. instead tell me that it is meant to be read as mythic narrative that conveys deeper theological truths.

But don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean that I want to read every part of the bible “symbolically” or “metaphorically”. There are other parts (the OT histories or the synoptic gospels for example) that perhaps are meant to be read as “literal” history. Though even here we need to be careful, because “history” as it was written in the ancient world is not the same as what we think of as history in our Modern sense. Even in these histories we need to keep an eye out for symbolisms and narrative editing intended to convey a theological point (for example, the way several gospel accounts are deliberately arranged and edited to parallel Old Testament narratives, so as to convey the theological message that Jesus is a new Moses leading his people out of slavery). However, to identify this kind of editing is not to say that I think the gospels are complete fabrications or myths that grew up around some charismatic Jewish preacher. One of the things that distinguishes me from Modern liberal Christianity is my skepticism of their attempts to extract a pared down “historical Jesus” from the gospel texts. Not that I think historical study of Jesus and his context is a bad thing at all, but I do think some of their redactive methodology and a priori philosophical assumptions are suspect. My own study of the historical context of Jesus is more in line with scholars like NT Wright who, like myself, tends to step on the toes of both liberals and evangelicals.

Now, regarding the moral commands in the Bible, the Levitical Laws for instance, I don’t have to assume that these are God’s unchanging commands for all time. Instead, if the Bible is a dynamically unfolding story of God interacting with humanity at various points in our historical development, then it seems to me that God therefore has to deal with us differently depending on the culture and circumstances we faced at the time in order to move us along to the next step of our moral development. A lot of what he told the Israelites 3500 years ago doesn’t necessarily apply to us today, because frankly, we’re not nomadic pastoralists trying to find land to settle in anymore (at least, most of us aren’t). And we, being much further along (in some ways) in our moral development as a species, shouldn’t be so quick to judge the morality of another era. Parts of it seem barbaric to us, but was actually amazingly progressive for that time period. And perhaps God knew that it was all that they could handle at that point in history. Perhaps we should look not so much for absolute commands, but to the direction of the moral trajectory they are pointing towards (which I believe is towards increasing love and justice in the world).

Anyhow, I hope you can see why, if we read the Bible this way – as an ongoing narrative – it would be misguided to try and rewrite the Bible to fit our Modern sensibilities or to just edit out the parts we don’t like. If the Bible is a story, then to throw out those parts would be like throwing out the first few acts of Hamlet because they’re not as current as the last act! There’s value in the story – in knowing where we’ve been and where the story is headed. Thus my job, as someone who is trying to live my life within this grand drama that God is directing, is to continue the drama as best I can from this point forward, in resonance with what has gone before, but not just slavishly repeating the lines from the first act again either. Rather I have to move the story forward, keep it heading in the direction scripture points us to. If I were to just throw out the first part of the story simply because those people weren’t as far along as we are now, I might lose the sense of moral trajectory and have a harder time figuring out where the story as a whole is headed.


[tags]atheist, atheism, Pastor, Mike Clawson, Bible, Christian, God, Genesis[/tags]

  • Mriana

    In other words, I view the Bible not as a static document of timeless truths and absolute, unchanging commands, but as a (yes) divinely inspired (not dictated) yet complex compilation of diverse genres (e.g. history, poetry, mythic narratives, prophecy, etc.) that tell a dynamic, unfolding story of God’s interactions with humanity. Thus to actually read the Bible as the kind of book it was always intended to be, we have to read it with an eye to the symbolisms, the metaphors, the literary genre, the historical/cultural context, and the ways God accommodated his revelation to the limited understandings or peculiar worldview of his original audience – realizing that what God revealed to “them, then” is not necessarily what he would reveal to “us, now”.

    I hope you can see why, if we read the Bible this way – as an ongoing narrative – it would be misguided to try and rewrite the Bible to fit our Modern sensibilities or to just edit out the parts we don’t like. If the Bible is a story, then to throw out those parts would be like throwing out the first few acts of Hamlet because they’re not as current as the last act!

    Well, if we read them as narrative, then we cannot take them as anything more but stories. So why bother with them? Except as maybe as interesting and some enteraining stories. Song of Solomon is HOT SMUT! (for it’s time esp. and pre-modern Jackie Collins) I never did like Hamlet and that silly ghost. :roll: Ah, but that was the times and the audience it was written for, so even with the Bible we have to take that into account too.

    The audience was different back then. The majority of the morals even, were written for the people of the times and most are not appropriate for today- ie slavery, homosexuality, women (sorry, we aren’t property), plus a whole lot more. So, the Bible can only be read as fiction and nothing more. In that light, reading it as literature is the only way to read it, IMHO, but it’s morals and alike are far outdated.

    I have a three more questions for you in light of the Bible, narrative, and alike. You’ve surely heard of the Jesus Seminar (Westar Institutite: westarinstitute.org has a lot of info on it as well as Free Inquiry this past month). Well, the Biblical Scholars, who attended the Jesus Seminar, deduced that at least 80% of what is attributed to Jesus saying he did not say, possibly more. What is your feeling on that?

    What do you think of Robert Funk’s 21 Theses of a new reformation westarinstitute.org/Periodicals/4R_Articles/Funk_Theses/funk_theses.html where we (in the Christology part and I’m abbrivating some of it.) Jesus should be given a demotion, the virgin birth is an insult to people to day, etc etc. Spong does the same thing with his twelve theses dioceseofnewark.org/jsspong/reform.html (scroll down) and the first being

    1. Theism, as a way of defining God, is dead. So most theological God-talk is today meaningless. A new way to speak of God must be found.

    3. The biblical story of the perfect and finished creation from which human beings fell into sin is pre-Darwinian mythology and post-Darwinian nonsense.

    6. The view of the cross as the sacrifice for the sins of the world is a barbarian idea based on primitive concepts of God and must be dismissed.

    I paraphrased Funk and only quoted a few of Spong’s to peak your curiousity. So to get the whole jest of the theses, it’s best to copy and paste the links.

    I wholeheartedly agree with the majority of these assessments for it’s a time that is long gone and doesn’t really apply today in light of science, better education in general, and lack of tribal and nomadic living (the list goes on). So, yes, theism is dead and I have no clue why some people still cling to it and take the mythological literature in the Bible literally.

  • Darryl

    The kind of Biblical interpretation that Mike does has some very ancient precedents, but it really got its start in a systematic way in the 18th C. among theological liberals that realized they could not rationalize the contradictions and errors of the Bible and their own disbelieve in miracles with traditional Christianity. Mike’s view is actually a step backward from the heyday of that intellectual movement, since he wants to be free to pick and chose which parts are literal and which are not, while retaining a belief in miracles. This brand of interpretation emerged when scholarly Protestants got religion and when wide-eyed Evangelicals got education (the Lutheran went to a tent revival, and the Pentecostal went to college). The welter of Christian sects have arisen simply by making a smorgazbord of their traditions. I could care less how they do what they do, but they can’t expect me to see any reason in it.

  • Steven Carr

    Did Jesus really talk to Satan in the desert?

    And did Jesus really ascend into the ‘sky’ – (which is the Greek word that early Christians chose as beng the best word for their concept of Heaven)

    Wright, of course, has never read a New Testament story he did not believe literally happened.

    But if we look at the NT using the same tools we use for the Book of Mormon and the Koran, we find the same patterns emerging

    See http://www.bowness.demon.co.uk/mirc1.htm for examples

  • http://groundedinreality.blogspot.com Bruce

    Thus to actually read the Bible as the kind of book it was always intended to be, we have to read it with an eye to the symbolisms, the metaphors, the literary genre, the historical/cultural context, and the ways God accommodated his revelation to the limited understandings or peculiar worldview of his original audience

    So then how do you know that Jesus’ resurrection isn’t just symbolism? Why do you believe that Jesus really rose from the dead but that Genesis isn’t an actual account of creation?

    One man’s symbolism is another man’s delusion.

  • Steven Carr

    The genre of the Gospel of Mark is not history.

    It has none of the markers that ancient historians used to let the readers know that they were reading history.

    It is anoynymous, has no mention of sources, no provenance, no prefix, no attempt at chronology. no nothing.

    The earliest Gospel has to be read according to the genre it was written in – which was not the genre of history.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    Funny thing, but I kind of expected to be discussing these issues with atheists here, not with liberal Christians. :)

    Not that I mind dialoguing with you Mriana, but you’ll have to give me a while to get back with you on all that. I have a wedding to do this afternoon.

  • http://www.skepchick.org writerdd

    Mriana, I consider Bishop Spong to be an atheist, even though he doesn’t call himeself one. I mean, if he is not a theist (and he isn’t) and if he doesn’t believe in the supernatural (and he doesn’t), then how is he not an atheist? I’ve read several of his books, so you don’t need to tell me what he has written about. But if you agree with him and if you also consider yourself a Christian who is not an atheist, I’d be interested in hearing how and why you explain that self identity.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    Well, if we read them as narrative, then we cannot take them as anything more but stories.

    BTW, you say this as if it’s a bad thing! :) What’s wrong with stories? IMHO, stories are a far more powerful and appropriate way for God to communicate with us than just through whatever more propositional genres we Moderns might prefer.

    And story doesn’t always have to mean “fiction”. There are such things as “true stories” too. :)

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    The genre of the Gospel of Mark is not history.

    It has none of the markers that ancient historians used to let the readers know that they were reading history.

    It is anoynymous, has no mention of sources, no provenance, no prefix, no attempt at chronology. no nothing.

    The earliest Gospel has to be read according to the genre it was written in – which was not the genre of history.

    Interesting, and what do you make of Luke which has nearly all of those things?

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    So then how do you know that Jesus’ resurrection isn’t just symbolism? Why do you believe that Jesus really rose from the dead but that Genesis isn’t an actual account of creation?

    One man’s symbolism is another man’s delusion.

    Well, you study… you inform yourself on how to recognized different types of genres and interpret them properly. It’s not that hard actually; unless of course one is just content to make blanket statements and not actually put in the intellectual work necessary to inform oneself.

  • Mriana

    writerdd said,

    May 19, 2007 at 12:59 pm

    Mriana, I consider Bishop Spong to be an atheist, even though he doesn’t call himeself one. I mean, if he is not a theist (and he isn’t) and if he doesn’t believe in the supernatural (and he doesn’t), then how is he not an atheist? I’ve read several of his books, so you don’t need to tell me what he has written about. But if you agree with him and if you also consider yourself a Christian who is not an atheist, I’d be interested in hearing how and why you explain that self identity.

    I respect Jack very highly. He is my mentor. :D I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, we think an awful lot alike, but I don’t love the Bible like he does. Spong calls himself a non-theist. I agree with him and I call myself a non-theist. I never once said I was a Christian. I said I am a Spiritual Humanist, but that doesn’t mean I can’t ask questions nor does that mean I cannot study the Bible in a critical method.

    We have CSER as a fine example of that possibility and they have been involved with the Jesus Seminar for many years with Robert Funk until his death and now Robert Price, an Secular Humanist who attends the Episcopal Church did Jesus Seminar and I think he now does The Jesus Project with CSER. Christianity does not have a corner on the literture of the Bible or the mythology there in it. It’s open to a critical study of it, which I’ve done for 20 years under people like Spong and Price. The Episcopal church does not kick people out just because they are non-theists.

    BTW, you say this as if it’s a bad thing! :D What’s wrong with stories? IMHO, stories are a far more powerful and appropriate way for God to communicate with us than just through whatever more propositional genres we Moderns might prefer.

    Nothing, if they are studied as just that. Genesis is a good example of an amazing story, but it is pure myth. Yes, I know, but the majority of the priests and bishops in the Episcopal Church will tell you this, thus you’d be odd man out there. :lol: Just teasing. They’d treat you with respect, I’m sure. They may or may not tell you directly their view though.

    A true story would not be fiction, it would be non-fiction or even a biography, but not fiction. The Bible is fiction, even you said that. However, very few Biblical Children’s stories are classified as non-fiction. They are placed in Religion, sub-section Children. It avoids dispute.

  • Steven Carr

    Any historian is only as good as his sources, and Luke uses the Gospel of Mark as his main source.

    So Luke is not good history.

    Luke is also anonymous, also never names sources, and never discusses how he sifted out the ‘true’ stories from Jesus from the many false ones.

    So , even by the standards of ancient history, Luke is a bad historian, even if he is the closest to an historian that the Gospellers have,

  • Miko

    Mike C,

    I’m also going to ask about historicity: there are quite a few posts above about it, as well as examples of multiple pieces of fictional literature written in the period in which empty tombs and crucifixions feature as prominent plot elements. I’m not going to ask you to explain this away, however. Instead, my question is: suppose that at some point in the future you are convinced by the evidence that the New Testament accounts of Jesus were either intended as fictional for the earlier accounts or based on earlier accounts only for the later accounts–how would this affect your Christianity?

    And regarding morality, you wrote:

    And we, being much further along (in some ways) in our moral development as a species, shouldn’t be so quick to judge the morality of another era. Parts of it seem barbaric to us, but was actually amazingly progressive for that time period. And perhaps God knew that it was all that they could handle at that point in history.

    First off, our species is essentially where it was a few thousand years ago in every respect, so I’ll assume you mean further along in our moral development as a civilization. Then, my main question: you’re saying that god told people to kill anyone who wore garments made from more than one type of thread because he didn’t think they could handle realizing that it was completely irrelevant? That he told them not to suffer a witch to live because he thought it would lead to better results than saying “by the way, there’s no such thing as a witch” would? That he felt justified condemning homosexuals to death and demonstrating his wrath upon two entire cities as a result because of his confidence that 2,000 years later some small fraction of Christians would realize that he didn’t really mean it anymore?

  • Mriana

    Stephen, yes, the author of Mark wrote first after Paul, and the author of Luke built on it, but why am I sensing anger in your posts? Granted, I don’t always agree with Mike, but when I do, I have said so. We all have our opinions and yes, I am coming at him with Spong’s philosophy (or what I know and understand of it).

    I think it’s better to come at Christians with what you know and understand than with anger. Yes, I get a bit frustrated sometimes with what he says, but he has not said one bad word with the perspective I come at him with. There have been times I come at him with things that I don’t agree with Spong with too and Spong would not necessarily agree with me, but Mike is being very nice about it. He has not once demanded we believe what he says.

    I think Mike can see that we are very well educated concerning what we know and respects it, even if he does not agree, so why are you upset? Or at least it sounds like it. When it is my opinion, I try to put it in “I messages” in hopes it sounds less agressive.

  • Steven Carr

    I’m glad Mike has not demanded that we believe the falsehoods that he preaches.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    The Bible is fiction, even you said that.

    I said parts of it are fiction. Other parts, in my opinion of course, are non-fiction. I try to resist treating the Bible as if it is one uniform document – either all literal history (as my conservative upbringing would tell me) or all fictional stories (as you and others here are suggesting). It’s just far too complex of a book for that kind of all or nothing approach. (Not to mention that it’s not even really one book, but a compilation of dozens of books written by numerous authors over the span of a millenia or so).

    Others here may call that “picking and choosing” but personally I think it is just a matter of good scholarship and having a respect for one’s source material. Treating with a level of complexity and nuance, and understanding it for what it is rather than trying to make it fit into our preconceived theological systems (whether conservative or liberal).

    BTW, I’m very grateful for you and Steven – you guys are really doing a good job of helping clarify why my views are not quite the same as classic liberalism. I’m hoping that people can see why my views don’t really fit well into either a conservative or liberal theological mode. I tend to take fire from both sides – which I hope is an indication that I’m on the right track! ;)

  • Mriana

    BTW, I’m very grateful for you and Steven – you guys are really doing a good job of helping clarify why my views are not quite the same as classic liberalism. I’m hoping that people can see why my views don’t really fit well into either a conservative or liberal theological mode. I tend to take fire from both sides – which I hope is an indication that I’m on the right track! ;)

    I don’t know if you are on the right track or not, but who am I to judge. :D You’re very welcome for the help.

    Steven Carr said,

    May 19, 2007 at 3:28 pm

    I’m glad Mike has not demanded that we believe the falsehoods that he preaches.

    I’m very greatful too. If he did, I would not be talking to him, but I rather be polite toward him and avoid calling them falsehoods, since he is trying hard to be polite to us. You know, he could very well say the same thing about our opinions too, but he’s not. He has apparently heard the various views and is being very respectful of them. I think the least we could do is try to be respectful of his, even if we don’t agree. We can say we don’t agree, and Mike and I have both said that to each other a few times, but there are respectful ways of doing that.

  • Steven Carr

    Well, as far as I can see, Pastor Mike is unable to explain why he has more faith than disciples who were allegedly given the power to raise the dead, or the early converts to Jesus-worship who scoffed at the idea of God choosing to raise corpses.

  • http://crazyrainbowunderwear.blogspot.com yinyang

    So, not meant to be read literally, yet still inspired by God (oh! but there are parts that were edited to serve a theological purpose)… doesn’t actually make me feel better. Because if stories of stoning, genocide, and plagues were inspired by God, then why worship Him?

    Oh, riiiight – the difference between their morals then, and our morals now… or something like that. ::sighs:: Just forget I asked.

    I have a headache now.

  • Steven Carr

    MRIANA
    He has apparently heard the various views and is being very respectful of them. I think the least we could do is try to be respectful of his, even if we don’t agree

    CARR
    Why should I respect falsehoods, even when I respect the person who is preaching falsehood?

  • Mriana

    OK let me rephrase that, Carr, we can be respectful of him, since he is respectful of us. So, he hasn’t said this or that that is convincing, but you never know when he may say something that makes you go, “humm…” and have you scurrying to go research it. The research may point out something you never thought about OR you maybe able to point out something he hasn’t though about.

    You’re both human, but at the same time, if he came at you the way you appear to be coming at him, would you appreciate it?

    Steven Carr said,

    May 19, 2007 at 3:39 pm

    Well, as far as I can see, Pastor Mike is unable to explain why he has more faith than disciples who were allegedly given the power to raise the dead, or the early converts to Jesus-worship who scoffed at the idea of God choosing to raise corpses.

    It is possible he is going on the theory they are eyewitness accounts, but from what I understand, they are not, esp given the time period Paul wrote (50-60 years after JC died), the Gospels were written after that, and Paul never met Jesus, but rather met someone who said he had.

    Even so, I have heard some Christains justify that they have more faith than the disciples because they never meeting Jesus. That’s a big leap, even IMO, given when they were all written. Mind you, I am surmising, given the POVs I have encountered in my lifetime.

  • http://olvlzl.blogspot.com/ olvlzl, no ism, no ist

    Carr, I have just answered the the third of distortions by bloggers who identify themselves as atheists of things I have written on blogs. The last one turned a piece I wrote about professional Skeptics and their double standards into an attack on atheists ( the theme of his blog seems to be non-stop whining about wrongs done to atheists). He quotes a comment from the thread on the piece I wrote, I will call the commenter X. Now, I know he read what X. had to say but he must have seen where I corrected X’s lie that I had targeted atheists by pointing out that the word “atheist” didn’t appear in the piece and that I had specifically said that the subject was professional “Skepticism”.

    What do you suggest I say about this atheist liar? Since he’s the third (that I know about) wouldn’t the standards current on atheist blogs require me to attribute the habit of lying to all atheists?

    I am going to give you a bit of advice, this constant bigotry against Christians, the stereotyping, the exaggerations. They’re getting really, really old. I don’t have any problem with you telling the truth about specific things people have said and done as long as you attribute those to the person who did them, but I’m getting fed up with the non-stop promotion of bigotry. Try substituting other words in these threads “Jews” comes to mind. Or “Wiccans”. See what happens.

  • http://rpkthoughts.blogspot.com Robert

    According to practically all christians, the Bible is the “Inspired” word of god, put together written over many centuries, then eventually canonized, categorized, and organized by men (most likely NOT inspired but motivated to organize the christian faith)…. Why then have there not been other books added that could also be “Inspired” by God today?. Why did god simply Stop inspiring people to write other scriptures for the bible? or have they just been ignored? I know some will claim well it’s says not to add or subtract from the bible… But how many people realize that pertains to that particular book of the bible not the bible itself… And that it was done that way to preserve that book since there were no such things as copyright protection :) except for the use of fear and intimidation.
    IMO the bible sounds like it should be a living book capable of having other books included that are also inspired in today’s terms… Surly an all powerful god would be capable of such a feat.

    Finally, Do you accept the Gnostic texts as well? There are some very interesting stories in there too.

  • Darryl

    Others here may call that “picking and choosing” but personally I think it is just a matter of good scholarship and having a respect for one’s source material. Treating with a level of complexity and nuance, and understanding it for what it is rather than trying to make it fit into our preconceived theological systems (whether conservative or liberal).

    If you can’t fix it, feature it.

    He has apparently heard the various views and is being very respectful of them. I think the least we could do is try to be respectful of his, even if we don’t agree.

    This is an odd notion—respecting someone’s views. I respect people as people, and people when they act nobly; but I have no duty to respect their views. Did you respect the views of the recently deceased Jerry Falwell on homosexuals? In my view, it would have been immoral to do so.

    The confusion and frustration I sense in some of the comments is no doubt a result of having to come to grips with the convoluted and quite inventive rationalizations that theologians have spent so many years developing. The dilemma for the would-be intellectual believer consists in how to construe the Bible in ways that suit our modern ethical sense without undermining its authority on all the points of faith. It’s a Jeffersonian hermeneutic using closed eyes rather than a razor blade.

  • http://www.skepchick.org writerdd

    Mriana, thanks for clarifying your beliefs in response to my question.

  • Mriana

    This is an odd notion—respecting someone’s views. I respect people as people, and people when they act nobly; but I have no duty to respect their views. Did you respect the views of the recently deceased Jerry Falwell on homosexuals? In my view, it would have been immoral to do so.

    Of course not, Darryl, and I did rephrase that, but then again, Farwell did not respect my views or other people’s with similar views to mine either. He would have said I was going to hell for my views. I did not respect Farwell because of the way he treated others. His behaviour was deplorable. When it comes to intolerance, hatred, discrimination, prejudice, denying human dignity, and imposing those views one cannot respect that person’s views or the person.

    However, Pastor Mike has not done any of those things. I respect him for that, but that does not mean that I accept any or all of his views. It just means I respect him for his behaviour. As I said, there have been a few times Mike and I have disagreed respectfully. IMHO, one can respect a person for their actions, but they don’t have to accept their views.

    IMHO, Pastor Mike has given each of us dignity and respect without coming at us with prejudice or hatred for our views. If he had any problems with the views on this board, I seriously doubt that Hemant would invite him nor would he even agree to be here. Even so, I did wait to see what he had to say and how he said it first before I addressed him or asked a question.

    His behaviour toward us has been exemplary for a Christian. Many Christians would not have dared come on here and have been as civil. I seriously doubt an Evangelical Fundie preacher would come here and be civil. Farwell certainly would not have. So, I think we should give Pastor Mike some credit, at least concerning his behaviour and return the favour, by disagreeing with a little less hostility. (Note: I’m not scolding everyone, just those who appear to be a bit hostle in their posts.)

    That’s just my opinion, of course, but a little more assertiveness and less aggressiveness would be nice to see. As I said when I rephrased that, we can respect him, since he respects us.

    writerdd said,

    May 19, 2007 at 8:17 pm

    Mriana, thanks for clarifying your beliefs in response to my question.

    You are very welcome. :)

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    It’s interesting to see how many people here seem to be offended or angered simply by the fact that I hold the beliefs I do. I’m not trying to convince you all of anything. I’m not telling you that my beliefs are superior or that you all are wrong for holding the beliefs that you do. And I hope I’ve shown that the real life implications of my beliefs leads me to a practice of justice in love in the world. Beyond that, I’m simply explaining what it is that I believe and why – purely in the interest of furthering mutual understanding. So I’m rather mystified why doing so has brought out so much scorn, ridicule and hostility. Is this really the kind of attitudes you want atheism to be known for?

    Let me clarify that I’m not sticking my neck out here just so you can go on and on about how I’m stupid, deceitful, and possibly immoral for even suggesting that God may exist or that the Bible might have some truth in it. I’m really not interested in debates where we just try to poke holes in each other’s belief systems. That’s not the purpose of these posts. I’m more than happy to reply to clarifying questions or honest curiosity about my beliefs – but I’m done replying to the host of comments that basically boil down to “You’re stupid. Prove to me that you’re not.”

    Anyhow, I just got done doing a wedding and I’m dead tired, so I’ll respond to those questions that demonstrate a genuine desire for dialogue tomorrow.

    BTW, thanks for the kind words and your attempts at defending me Mriana. I do appreciate it.

    Peace,
    -Mike

  • Mriana

    BTW, thanks for the kind words and your attempts at defending me Mriana. I do appreciate it.

    Peace,
    -Mike

    You’re welcome. I’m just sorry you’ve been treated so poorly by some people, esp when you have tried to reach out in friendship. I’ve never been one to stand back and watch others who try to show respect and kindness be treated with hostility and rudeness by others, no matter who the people misbehaving are. I compliment where compliment is due and vise versa, no matter what their personal labels maybe and most of all I try to look at people’s hearts.

  • M

    That’s not the purpose of these posts. I’m more than happy to reply to clarifying questions or honest curiosity about my beliefs – but I’m done replying to the host of comments that basically boil down to “You’re stupid. Prove to me that you’re not.”

    I agree. It’s amazing how so many people claim to be “tolerant” yet they turn around and attack someone for not agreeing with them-even if that person is doing it in a respectful way. If you guys want to shed the “angry atheist” image, then start treating others the way you want to be treated. You want people to stop stereotyping you, don’t do it to others.

  • Steven Carr

    MIKE C
    It’s interesting to see how many people here seem to be offended or angered simply by the fact that I hold the beliefs I do.

    CARR
    If Pastor Mike claimed that over the past 20 years, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had been the best football team, would he demand that we respect that belief?

    nd if we laugh at somebody claiming the Buccs are the best football team, should that person say he was mystified, as he was only explaining his beliefs.

    Mike believes falsehoods – such as a corpse rising from the grave.

    Why should we not attack such beliefs with the same frustration that we would would attack people who believes absurd things about politics or sport?

    Why are his beliefs immune from criticism simply because they are religious beliefs, as though religious falsehoods should never offend or anger anybody?

    What has anybody said to Mike that would not be perfectly normal discourse iin the fields of politics or sport?

  • Steven Carr

    MIKE
    Anyhow, I just got done doing a wedding and I’m dead tired, so I’ll respond to those questions that demonstrate a genuine desire for dialogue tomorrow.

    CARR
    MIke has no genuine desire for dialogue. He has already stated ‘As I’ve said, I’m not here to persuade you or anyone else to agree with me. I only want to clarify and explain my own views. ‘

    He is here simply to preach his own views and he doesn’t care if people do not find them persuasive. All he wants to do is explain his own views.

    Mike also said ‘I’m not really interested in getting into an argument about biblical exegesis with you here on an atheist website’

    He is not interested in dialogue. Mike is a ‘reasonable’ person ie he listens carefully to what others say, and declares he was correct anyway, without discussing what they had to say.

  • Steven Carr

    MIKE
    Anyhow, I just got done doing a wedding and I’m dead tired, so I’ll respond to those questions that demonstrate a genuine desire for dialogue tomorrow.

    CARR
    MIke has no genuine desire for dialogue. He has already stated ‘As I’ve said, I’m not here to persuade you or anyone else to agree with me. I only want to clarify and explain my own views. ‘

    He is here simply to preach his own views and he doesn’t care if people do not find them persuasive. All he wants to do is explain his own views.

    Mike also said ‘I’m not really interested in getting into an argument about biblical exegesis with you here on an atheist website’

    He is not interested in dialogue. Mike is a ‘reasonable’ person ie he listens carefully to what others say, and declares he was correct anyway, without discussing what they had to say.

  • Miko

    It’s interesting to see how many people here seem to be offended or angered simply by the fact that I hold the beliefs I do. I’m not trying to convince you all of anything. I’m not telling you that my beliefs are superior or that you all are wrong for holding the beliefs that you do.

    I have to say that I for one am thrilled to have you here. I’ve always found clergy fascinating since they’re the most likely to have thought about their beliefs rather than just inherited them. Sometimes when I drive by a church/mosque/etc. I think about dropping in for a chat, but I’m always afraid of having holy water thrown at me or being exorcised when they find out I’m an atheist. So the online format works great. ;-)

  • Loren Petrich

    Pastor Mike Clawson is happy to cite “context” when it seems to be on his side. But if some historical context is *not* on his side, it’s another story.

    Lord Raglan’s Mythic-Hero profile is an example of historical context that Pastor Clawson may not appreciate, because Jesus Christ fits it remarkably well — he’s way up there, alongside the likes of Oedipus, Perseus, Hercules, Romulus, Krishna, and the Buddha.

    However, well-documented heroes usually score VERY low. They often have obscure parentage, nobody ever tries to kill them in their infancy, they are usually not exiled, they are usually not repudiated at the end of their careers, etc.

  • Mriana

    Oh grow up, Carr! Three posts in a row that is nothing but hurling stones (insults) at a man who has done nothing to you? That’s really nice. :roll:

    Doing weddings IS part of his job requirements! Not to sit here on the net arguing with you. He has to do his job. He volunteered to come here and answer questions not debate. IF I were a Humanist Celebrant, who came to answer questions about Humanism would you accuse me of things because I left the net to go do a wedding or any other job requirement? That would be very sad if you did.

    Why should we not attack such beliefs with the same frustration that we would would attack people who believes absurd things about politics or sport?

    Why are his beliefs immune from criticism simply because they are religious beliefs, as though religious falsehoods should never offend or anger anybody?

    What has anybody said to Mike that would not be perfectly normal discourse iin the fields of politics or sport?

    1. Because he’s not imposing them on you. He came here wanting to be friends and tell you what he believes. In return, we obviously can tell him what we believe or what others believe who were more liberal, because he thanked us for that. Making friends is a give and take deal, in which you try to find some common ground so you can be friends and get to know each other. Thus, IF you want to make friends and show people atheists are not mean, cruel, hateful, angry people it is important to share with each other, not attack. He’s not here to be attack. He can go somewhere else to do that. He just wants to make friends.

    2. It has nothing to do with religious beliefs, politics, or sports, but rather making friends, thus in the effort to make friends, his ideas are immune from critism. He did not come here to offend anyone, but to say, “Hey, let’s get to know each other.”

    3. What is not a perfectly normal part of the discourse of sports and politics? The sharing of ideas, which I have made a great effort to do by pointing out what my various friends and others I respect believe, and in some cases what I believe, then asking what he thinks. Sharing in order to make friends, not debate, is the idea here. I think that is very commendable.

    Granted you may not be a Humanist, but as a Humanist, I think it’s fair not to attack someone who is willing to share in order to make friends. I am not insecure in my beliefs, in which I cannot say, “OK let’s talk and hopefully become friends.” Religion does not offend me. It’s people’s attitudes and behaviours that offend me. Therefore, Pastor Mike has done nothing to offend me. He has not offended me because he has not said, even once that I must convert to be his friend or acted like some pompous Religious Reich idiot.

    He has accept my secular views about religious texts and my views about religion without argument or insisting I’m going to hell for them, but rather he politely said, “I disagree, but that’s ok.”

    I don’t know about you, but personally I’d rather show him Humanism IS about reason and compassion. That Humanism is NOT anti-religion or anti-God, but rather about the human being, who deserves dignity and compassion, not hate and scorn for their beliefs. I rather show him Humanism IS about inquirying freely into other areas of life and other subjects. For it is through the Human that we experience life, friendship, and the Other.

    As a Spiritual Humanist, I want to show him that what Bishop Spong told me IS true: “Humanism is not anti-Christian or anti-God. It is through the human that we experience the Holy, the Other. The Divine is the Ultimate depth of the human.” Of course, Jack didn’t know at the time I was considering and studying Humanism, but I still want to share this with Pastor Mike.

    Can you say the same about atheism and your behaviour? Have you shown him anything that is good about atheism?

    CARR
    MIke has no genuine desire for dialogue. He has already stated ‘As I’ve said, I’m not here to persuade you or anyone else to agree with me. I only want to clarify and explain my own views. ‘

    He is here simply to preach his own views and he doesn’t care if people do not find them persuasive. All he wants to do is explain his own views.

    Mike also said ‘I’m not really interested in getting into an argument about biblical exegesis with you here on an atheist website’

    He is not interested in dialogue. Mike is a ‘reasonable’ person ie he listens carefully to what others say, and declares he was correct anyway, without discussing what they had to say.

    He is here to clarify his views, show people that not ALL Christians are hateful and discriminating against atheists, Humanists, agnostics, or other non-religious people. That they are not so insecure about their beliefs that they cannot answer people’s questions and share each others views. He is here to show others that not ALL Christians feel that their God is being threaten by opposing ideas. He is just expressing his human concept of God, nothing more. In return, he is giving us dignity and respect by not screaming, “You’re going to hell unless you repent.”

    As a human, he deserves dignity and respect just for that. So, let him express his concept of god. You can say, “I see it his way” or what have you without making it sound like you are being angry and hateful.

    Expressing his views is not really all he wants to do, I agree. He listens to the other side too, when their views or the views of others are expressed as a means of sharing, just as people do when they try to make friends with someone else. I feel it has been a very good exchange between him and myself. He has learned a little about Religious and Spiritual Humanism (whether he knows it or not) in exchange for sharing his views. Neither one of us has preached to each other, but rather shared our values and beliefs.

    No, he doesn’t want to argue or debate, but share and make friends. What have you given him in return except anger and scorn? I hope I have given him something to take home with him in which he can say, “I don’t agree with their views (or at least one’s views), but Humanists are very nice people who do follow their motto of reason and compassion.” He has not once said he is right and you are wrong, just that he hopes he is on the right track. There is a difference. Example:

    I tend to take fire from both sides – which I hope is an indication that I’m on the right track! ;)

    This is not saying ‘I’m right and you’re wrong’, it is hopeful thinking. Nothing wrong with that. It is a positive outlook in the face of opposition. Something Paul Kurtz might even appreciate, but only because it is optimistic.

    Try turning it around a little bit and see this as a means of showing the positive parts of being an atheist. Try asking a question that is on common ground with what he is talking or has talked about, “OK this is what (insert some prominent atheist’s name here) says about this or that. What do you think?” This turns the anger and frustration into, “OK I can dig this person and I like what he says about X. What is your opinion?”

    I’ve done that many times by inserting Price, Spong, Funk, and other people’s names and ideas that I respect. It’s like saying, “Here’s something from me, now please share with me something from you so we can get to know each other.”

    It’s not boxing where two people duke it out in the ring, but rather a gift exchange. The gift is friendship without any expectations or strings attached. Well there is a small expection- that he takes back with him the idea that Humanists are not bad, hateful, evil people who want to get rid of religion. He, of course, wants us to see that not all Christians want to hit people over the head with their beliefs and force them to convert.

  • http://olvlzl.blogspot.com/ olvlzl, no ism, no ist

    Paul Kurtz optimistic? Do you get comeons from CSICOP? They’re in a state of hysteria because the things they don’t like are more popular AFTER THIRTY YEARS OF CSICOP ACTIVITY! And that’s just that branch of his empire. Paul Kurtz is a phony.

  • Mriana

    olvlzl, no ism, no ist said,

    May 20, 2007 at 10:59 am

    Paul Kurtz optimistic? Do you get comeons from CSICOP? They’re in a state of hysteria because the things they don’t like are more popular AFTER THIRTY YEARS OF CSICOP ACTIVITY! And that’s just that branch of his empire. Paul Kurtz is a phony.

    Yes, I do get email updates from CSICOP. I also get Free Inquiry and Skeptical Inquirer, not to mention, a mod on the CFI forum. You are welcome to your opinions about Paul Kurtz, but I do see him as optimistic.

    Did you follow his recent heart surgery and what he said about it? I think he faced it very well and a lot of people, including myself, sent him emails of encouragement and support, which I’m sure helped him through it a lot.

    Oh yes, I’m sure you are saying, “Oh, she has to say that since she volunteers for them.” No, I don’t, but if I did not think highly of Kurtz and the work of CSI, I would not volunteer for them. However, I personally prefer the CSER branch of CFI.

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  • Steven Carr

    MRIANA
    He came here wanting to be friends and tell you what he believes.

    CARR
    Yes, he has come here to tell us what he believes.

    What good is that? A Pastor believes in God? That is not news, or even worth mentioning.

    What I want to know is, is what he believes true?

    If he says he believes in a corpse rising from the grave, then I will pay him the courtesy of actually caring whether what he says is true or not.

    That is true respect.

  • http://olvlzl.blogspot.com/ olvlzl, no ism, no ist

    Mriana, perhaps I’m just a bit ticked off at Kurtz because I found out one of his boys told a whopper of a lie about something I wrote, I’ve demonstrated that it’s a lie and he refuses to correct it. I’ve read enough of Kurtz stuff to know that officially, he’s supposed to correct himself. Though I think the “sTARBABY” cover up was never really ackowledged by Kurtz either, when it is a basic violation of what he pretends he’s all about.

  • http://crazyrainbowunderwear.blogspot.com yinyang

    I apologize for the unkind tone of my previous comment to this post. I realize that there are better ways to disagree than by ridiculing another person’s opinions in that manner. I’m ashamed of myself for having engaged in behavior which I find to be unpleasant.

    Although his answer left me scratching my head in confusion, I thank Pastor Mike for answering my questions. :)

  • http://www.myspace.com/anthonyandricks Anthony

    Just from reading these posts, i’ve been thinking about culturally what it means to be angry, or respectful of other people’s views/opinions. I think this is complete nonsense (and i’m only speaking of the verbal here, not advocating violence). Would there be the same feeling if I had used a different intonation or level of sarcasm against a neo-nazi even if he were being extremely respectful while communicating his views? if both views are harmful to society in different ways, then why should it matter if i’m speaking with a xtian or a nazi?

    I think this is a very effective tool of rhetoric that has been used to shield xtianity and all religions–making others feel as if they have to respect the beliefs that are illogical and harmful. It has slowed positive change out of respect for irrationality. I think it’s time to stop believing we cannot sound angry. We can sound and be as angry as we need to be in order to bring about change. Of course be angry, be loud, and do whatever you can without violence in order to further the cause of science, logic, and reason.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    Thanks again for the lengthy defense Mriana! :)

    BTW, I totally agree with this:

    As a Spiritual Humanist, I want to show him that what Bishop Spong told me IS true: “Humanism is not anti-Christian or anti-God. It is through the human that we experience the Holy, the Other. The Divine is the Ultimate depth of the human.”

    And I am interested to respond to some of your stuff from Spong, et al. I promise I will soon (tomorrow at the latest). I’m just finding it a little difficult to keep up. It’s hard carrying on a discussion where a dozen people are firing questions and/or accusations at you and each is expecting a personal reply! :)

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    I apologize for the unkind tone of my previous comment to this post. I realize that there are better ways to disagree than by ridiculing another person’s opinions in that manner. I’m ashamed of myself for having engaged in behavior which I find to be unpleasant.

    Although his answer left me scratching my head in confusion, I thank Pastor Mike for answering my questions. :)

    No problem yinyang, I wasn’t really offended. I assumed that I had just done a poor job of communicating to leave you so confused.

    Let me see if I can help clarify just a bit. You said:

    So, not meant to be read literally, yet still inspired by God (oh! but there are parts that were edited to serve a theological purpose)… doesn’t actually make me feel better. Because if stories of stoning, genocide, and plagues were inspired by God, then why worship Him?

    Truthfully, I don’t have a good explanation for every disturbing thing in the Bible. Even with some of these new interpretive lenses I’m still left with big questions about parts of the Bible. (Though you might be interested in my reply to Richard Wade about a very similar question here.)

    However, part of my answer is that the Bible is a story of God working with us where we are at, not where he’d like us to be at. We might prefer that God not deal with people who are violent and unjust and all that, but where is he going to go to find such people? The stories in the Bible are like that because humanity is like that, and the Bible is a story of humanity – without all the gore and sex and violence edited out. It’s raw and real and shocking, because that’s how things really are.

    It’s difficult for me to accept that God sometimes seems to condone this behavior (there are a few parts of the Bible where I really hope that the Israelites just used God as an excuse for their violence, and that God didn’t really tell them to do it); but on the other hand, it also actually strengthens my faith to know that God is a God who will step into the violence and mess of human existence and actually work with it – try to make something good come out of it. Like I said elsewhere, I prefer that kind of earthy God – a God who’s not afraid to get his hands dirty. :)

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    IMO the bible sounds like it should be a living book capable of having other books included that are also inspired in today’s terms…

    Interesting suggestion Robert! And I agree, to a degree. In some ways that’s the whole point of Christian theology over the past two millenia – the conversation started by the Bible continues and we each get to contribute our own little bit to it. I believe the Holy Spirit is still inspiring each of us with new truths, and new applications of old truths to a new context

    It’s just difficult to know which bits of the conversation would be appropriate to put on the same level as the original scriptures. According to the Roman Catholic Church anything the Pope says when speaking ex cathedra is on the same level. According to the Orthodox Church the ancient ecumenical creeds are on the same level. But then the Protestants, having been burned (literally and metaphorically) by these kind of assumptions, have reacted by pulling back and saying that only the original documents count as being truly inspired.

    Personally, I don’t know. I’m not about to start putting a “thus sayeth the Lord” on everything I say or everything theologians I like say – seems rather dangerous. But on the other hand, I’m not going to say that God is not still speaking in and through people today in similar ways as he did back then. I think it’s obvious (to me at least) that he still does. It’s just hard to know exactly when.

  • Mriana

    Steven Carr said,

    May 20, 2007 at 2:14 pm

    CARR
    Yes, he has come here to tell us what he believes.

    What good is that? A Pastor believes in God? That is not news, or even worth mentioning.

    What I want to know is, is what he believes true?

    If he says he believes in a corpse rising from the grave, then I will pay him the courtesy of actually caring whether what he says is true or not.

    That is true respect.

    I’m not even going to discuss it with you anymore. Show him whatever you want to show him, but I really hope it is your best foot forward and not something else.

    olvlzl, no ism, no ist said,

    May 20, 2007 at 2:45 pm

    Mriana, perhaps I’m just a bit ticked off at Kurtz

    Why do I get the feeling I brought up something that triggered something else that really should not be discussed here? I’m sorry, but I cannot discuss such things other places, so forgive me if I do not ask what it was about. It was probably before my time as a volunteer anyway.

    Mike C said,

    May 20, 2007 at 5:56 pm

    Thanks again for the lengthy defense Mriana! :D

    BTW, I totally agree with this:

    As a Spiritual Humanist, I want to show him that what Bishop Spong told me IS true: “Humanism is not anti-Christian or anti-God. It is through the human that we experience the Holy, the Other. The Divine is the Ultimate depth of the human.”

    You’re welcome. Although I get the feeling it was a waste of space, but then again, I don’t know… A few people seemed to have listened. I’m also glad you like what Spong said to me too. :)

    And I am interested to respond to some of your stuff from Spong, et al. I promise I will soon (tomorrow at the latest). I’m just finding it a little difficult to keep up. It’s hard carrying on a discussion where a dozen people are firing questions and/or accusations at you and each is expecting a personal reply!

    I know the feeling. I sometimes have similar problems. I have teenagers, mod a board, help admin. another, and play on yet another, besides coming here. It can get overwhelming, esp after your kids become teenagers. The terrible twos are nothing! The twos were easy compared to teenagers! Anyway, I’ll be anxious to read your response though.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    Would there be the same feeling if I had used a different intonation or level of sarcasm against a neo-nazi even if he were being extremely respectful while communicating his views? if both views are harmful to society in different ways, then why should it matter if i’m speaking with a xtian or a nazi?

    Well Anthony, if you really think that there’s no effective difference between a progressive Christian like myself (who advocates peace, social justice and tolerance because of my religious beliefs), and a neo-Nazi, then there’s really nothing more to be said is there? Why even bother conversing with someone who you think is so thoroughly misguided and dangerous?

  • http://olvlzl.blogspot.com/ olvlzl, no ism, no ist

    Mriana: Why do I get the feeling I brought up something that triggered something else that really should not be discussed here?

    Is there something that shouldn’t be discussed here? I always abide by the house rules, a blogger is the one who gets to decide what they have on their blog.

    You can find some of the details at my blog if you’re curious, though not all of them. I’ve got a lot more information than I’ve posted about this affair. And Paul Kurtz seems to keep cropping up all through it. It involves a blogger pretending that a post I did about pseudo-Skepticsim was an attack on atheists, and leaving out the first half of my argument to distort the second half. I don’t like people lying about what I wrote.

    I’ve acually always gotten along with the atheists I’ve known, some of whom are in my immediate family. I don’t like the kind of fundamentalist atheism I’m seeing on the blogs, it’s just a bunch of bigotry.

  • http://www.myspace.com/anthonyandricks Anthony

    Well Anthony, if you really think that there’s no effective difference between a progressive Christian like myself (who advocates peace, social justice and tolerance because of my religious beliefs), and a neo-Nazi, then there’s really nothing more to be said is there? Why even bother conversing with someone who you think is so thoroughly misguided and dangerous?

    I was never conversing with you.

    Xtians… always want to play the victims. I did not mention you in my comments at all, just thoughts after reading the comments. Of course there’s a difference between you and a nazi (now i have to address you specifically) but I believe that the opinions of a nazi are wrong and i believe that advocating an irrational belief in a god is wrong. both are harmful to society albeit in mostly different ways. I think it’s funny how you took my comments to mean Xtian=nazi but not surprising because most xtians seem to like to feel persecuted, like biblical prophecies are being fulfilled or something. I always laugh when the majority tries to portray itself as persecuted. I suggest you read my comment again to see the actual point before you distorted it for PR purposes. My point is that you have to react, sometimes with anger to bring about change and that using a harsh tone is not wrong in these cases. I mean…think of a sit in with people shouting “hell, no! we won’t go!” but if they had to be respectful of what they disagreed with, they’d be quietly chanting, “exuse me sirs, but if it isn’t too much trouble, we’d like to stay here until we see change” (maybe in a British accent).

    Religion has used the self-preserving mechanism of requiring respect for outlandish claims for which there is no proof for far too long. It’s time to strip away that respect.

    You can call your beliefs “progressive” or whatever you wish to call them to try to make them relevant, but for those who require the use of logic and reason it is still nonsense. progressive xtian = progressive irrational.

    I apologize to those of you who will be offended at the fact that I don’t feel the need to sugar-coat.

  • Mriana

    olvlzl, no ism, no ist said,

    May 20, 2007 at 8:38 pm

    Mriana: Why do I get the feeling I brought up something that triggered something else that really should not be discussed here?

    Is there something that shouldn’t be discussed here? I always abide by the house rules, a blogger is the one who gets to decide what they have on their blog.

    My dear, I feel, even though I only volunteer on the CFI forum, that I am a representive of CFI. I will not discuss something I know nothing about nor will discuss anything that has been put an end to on the forum for whatever reason. As for the Blogger, Paul Kurtz was not the main topic of discussion, I only made a positive reference to how I see Kurtz as an optimist in relation to my post. Nothing more. What happened between you and CFI is between you and CFI, IMHO, should not be discussed here, as least not by me esp when I know nothing about it. It’s just my own personal ethics, I hope you can understand that.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    I was never conversing with you.

    Xtians… always want to play the victims.

    Very well Anthony, I apologize for bothering you.

    BTW, while I agree that many Christians do tend to have a persecution complex. However, you may want to read this before you assume that I am one of them.

    Peace,
    -Mike

  • http://rpkthoughts.blogspot.com Robert

    Personally, I don’t know. I’m not about to start putting a “thus sayeth the Lord” on everything I say or everything theologians I like say – seems rather dangerous.

    lol, very true… I can see where this could be quit the quandary :) but I do appreciate your openness and honesty. These posts have been quite enlightening and interesting. If I’m ever traveling through you area I’ll be sure to stop by (maybe even attend a service! ;) Again thanks for the participating in these Q&A’s.

  • Mriana

    My second assumption- that people are not quoting the whole blog, but rather something is wrong with Hemant’s blog appears to be correct. :(

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  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    Thanks Robert. It’d be cool if you wanted to drop in sometime. :)

  • Tommy Huntsman

    It is the work of the Holy Spirit to help us KNOW that “ugh” means “ugh” and not “ugh”. This is known by 5th graders. To say that what God would say then is not neccessarily what God would say now denies the work of that Holy Spirit to guide us in the understanding of His Word. To deny the Spirit means to deny the existence of God. I had some questions, but they cannot be answered here.

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  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    Okay Mriana, I’m sorry it took so long for me to get back to you on these questions.

    You’ve surely heard of the Jesus Seminar (Westar Institutite: westarinstitute.org has a lot of info on it as well as Free Inquiry this past month). Well, the Biblical Scholars, who attended the Jesus Seminar, deduced that at least 80% of what is attributed to Jesus saying he did not say, possibly more. What is your feeling on that?

    I addressed a little bit already in the other thread regarding the Jesus Seminar and the reliability of the texts. Though I’m not in principle opposed to looking at the Gospels and the person of Jesus through a historical lens – personally I find the Seminar’s methods and philosophical presuppositions rather suspect and thus I find myself disagreeing with many of their conclusions. It is also rather signifcant that the Seminar, while trying to present itself as a universal scholarly “consensus”, in fact deliberately excluded or ignored several major biblical scholars from their process and work. (That Wright article I linked you to in the other thread has more on that.)

    The final product that the Seminar produced (their Scholars Version of the gospels) is rather telling as well. When you take all the verses that these scholars thought should be included somehow Jesus comes out looking very much like a 20th Century liberal scholar and not much like a 1st century Jewish radical.

    What do you think of Robert Funk’s 21 Theses of a new reformation westarinstitute.org/Periodicals/4R_Articles/Funk_Theses/funk_theses.html where we (in the Christology part and I’m abbrivating some of it.) Jesus should be given a demotion, the virgin birth is an insult to people to day, etc etc. Spong does the same thing with his twelve theses

    I know that you have a great deal of respect for these men Mriana and that their views have positively shaped your life and I want to respect that. There are a few things that I definitely agree with them on:

    1) I think it’s a good thing to always be rethinking our beliefs in light of new knowledge. One of the strengths of Christianity actually IMO has been it’s ability to adapt itself to new cultures and new understandings. The history of theology reveals that Christianity has never been a static thing, but has always been growing and adapting to meet its times. The word theologians use to describe this is “contextualization”, while, within the emerging church, we often talk about “re-imagining” the gospel for a postmodern world. A applaud Funk and Spong for highlighting areas of Christian theology that may need to be reimagined.

    2) I especially agree with Funk’s section about “God’s Domain” (#12-18). His vision of what the kingdom of God is all about is very much in line with my own, and I find it fascinating that we can share a very similar eschatological vision even though we disagree on the metaphysical foundation that we think gets us there. Anyhow, I find much common ground here on issues that I think are probably just as if not more important than those metaphysical issues.

    However, and this is just speaking personally and honestly, I find myself somewhat turned off by some their suggestions and especially the tone in which they’re presented. Let me list my concerns:

    1) Both lists seem excessively negative. My impression was that they were more focused on criticizing and excluding the views that they thought were wrong than they were with casting an affirmative picture of what we should believe in. Again, this feels like a narrower tent than I’m comfortable with. If they wanted to talk about how pantheistic or panentheistic conceptions of God can supplement and enrich our theistic ideas, that’s a conversation I’d be interested in (and perhaps Funk and Spong do that elsewhere), but these theses at least seem primarily about just stating flat out that theism is completely wrong (without even really giving much reason why). As I stated in another thread, I’m just not very interested in that kind of “this is why the other side is completely wrong” type of arguments – I want to hear your positive alternative (though I realize the irony of saying that in the context of explaining why I disagree with Funk and Spong ;) ).

    2) I detect quite a bit of Modernistic “chronological snobbery” in their statements. Many of their theses take the form of “Well, we used to think this way, but now that we have modern science we know better.” The problem with this attitude is two-fold:
    a) It often mis-represents what people from other times and cultures actually did think so as to more easily dismiss their views as “un-scientific”. This is true for example in #2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10.
    b) Many of the beliefs they say are now “outdated” have nothing to do with a “scientific” worldview. Belief in theism or belief in miracles are based on philosophical arguments that have little to nothing to do with science and science adds nothing to the discussion – for goodness sakes, people knew that virgin births and resurrections didn’t happen in the natural world back then just as well as we do today! You don’t need science to tell you that women don’t get pregnant without a man and that dead people usually stay dead. That’s why they called them miracles in the first place!

    3) Funk and Spong act as if the church has failed to ever consider any of these issues before, and now that they have it should just be obvious that all these ideas are outdated. But of course volumes of rather sophisticated literature has been written about nearly all of these topics from ancient times until now, and not all of these philosophers and scholars think that the traditional beliefs of the church are quite so incompatible with Modern science. Hopefully Spong and Funk realize that there are other potential ways to resolve these questions, otherwise the exclusivity of their claims seems rather hubristic.

    Anyhow, as you can tell, I’m not persuaded by many of their claims and I just don’t see the need to view the world in such stark Modernistic terms. I think I’d echo with what Rowan Williams, the current Archbishop of Canturbury, said in reply to Spong’s theses:

    It is no great pleasure to write so negatively about a colleague from whom I, like many others, have learned. But I cannot in any way see Bishop Spong’s theses as representing a defensible or even an interesting Christian future. And I want to know whether the Christian past scripture and tradition, really appears to him as empty and sterile as this text suggests.

    Actually, I’d highly recommend that you read Williams’ entire reply to Spong. You may not agree with him, but he at least gives an intelligent and kind critique – an alternative perspective if you will, and one that is probably a lot better than what I’ve tried to briefly come up with here.

    And again, I don’t want to diminish the positive aspect that I see in their writings or the positive effect they’ve had on you. For all that I disagree in some areas, there is truth there too.

    Thanks again for the conversation!
    -Mike

  • Steven Carr

    MIKE C.
    2) I detect quite a bit of Modernistic “chronological snobbery” in their statements. Many of their theses take the form of “Well, we used to think this way, but now that we have modern science we know better.”

    CARR
    This is very true.

    In those days, Heaven was thought to be somehow above the earth, so that some special people could , in some way not quite understood, ‘ascend’ to Heaven, by travelling into the sky and then beyond.

    As the author of Acts knew Jesus was a special person, he knew that he must have ascended into Heaven (an early Christian theme – see Romans 1).

    So he wrote a scene where eyewitnesses see Jesus ascending , until a cloud hides him from view.

    Now that we have modern science we know better, but it was natural in those days for authors to write such scenes, and to portray them as being witnessed.

    I think one of the Roman Emperors was described as ascending from his funeral pyre.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    BTW Mriana, what do you think of this suggestion?

  • Mriana

    Again, this feels like a narrower tent than I’m comfortable with. If they wanted to talk about how pantheistic or panentheistic conceptions of God can supplement and enrich our theistic ideas, that’s a conversation I’d be interested in (and perhaps Funk and Spong do that elsewhere), but these theses at least seem primarily about just stating flat out that theism is completely wrong (without even really giving much reason why).

    It’s only as narrow as one makes it. Spong is a non-theist and I believe Funk is an atheist. I do know Funk is a Humanist and very involved with CSER. I really don’t see pantheism, panentheism, or panendeism (panendeism.org/default.aspx) supplementing theism, esp panendeism. It would not be my bag to do so at least, esp one were to mix panendeism with theism. More on panendeism: panendeism.com/ There is a heavy use of science involved with this concept, but it fits my life long concept far better than any theism.

    Panendeism is a sub-category of Deism. It is based on the speculation that the universe is a part of god, but not all of god and literally means “all in god”. Some panendeists have established numerous additional beliefs, some of which are quite detailed, and use more specialized terminology to describe their beliefs. However, any deist who believes that the universe is a part (but not the whole) of god, can be considered a panendeist.

    I see god as part of the universe. In it and in everything. It is the source of all life. Much like I said before about ruach. Once the Divine Spark is extinguished, we die and return to the earth. This of course is NOT theism and I can see no way panendeism could supplement theism.

    The term PanenDeism was first coined by Larry Copling in 2000 as a way to differentiate between the deistic conception and approach to belief that he had in mind vs. the theistic conception and approach that had become common in the Process Panentheism movement.

    Panendeism is a more apt term then Panentheism because it is NOT a theistic belief. It is not supernatural either.

    What is the difference between Panentheism and Panendeism?

    Panentheism is based on a Mythic or Theistic approach to the belief in “God” where Panendeism is based on a Post-Mythic or Modern approach to the belief in “god” or “Spirit”. Panentheists tend to see God in personal terms and rely on scripture and tradition as the basis for their belief. Panendeists on the other hand view the relationship between “god”, and humanity as transpersonal and rely on reason and experience as the basis for their belief.

    Panendeists do not rely on scripture and tradition. It is reason and compassion fits in very well with that belief too. However, they do study the various philosophies, much like Humanism does. Theism would change the whole concept and place a supernatural view on it. Panendeism is not a supernatural belief nor a theistic belief. The dualism you see in theism is not in panendeism. Panendeism includes nature. Panentheism would fit with theism much better, but NOT Panendeism.

    From the second source:

    A spiritual devotion based on Reason, such as that offered in PanenDeism/Process Deism, is not just an interesting proposition- It will become a critical component of our very survival as a species as future technology continues to blur the lines of accepted societal ethics.

    Reason, experience, and science are the biggest components to Humanism. I think our founding fathers, a lot of them Deists would take offense at the idea of mixing theism with deism. There is no doctrine to panendeism, so it fits very well with Humanism, esp since it is based on reason also. The only thing I would change the definition is that I see It within everyone and everything in the universe, not us within It. I have held such a view ever since I was a young child.

    Belief in theism or belief in miracles are based on philosophical arguments that have little to nothing to do with science and science adds nothing to the discussion – for goodness sakes, people knew that virgin births and resurrections didn’t happen in the natural world back then just as well as we do today!

    Have you read Spong’s article on Beliefnet? http://www.beliefnet.com/story/88/story_8862_1.html “The Theistic God is Dead–A Casualty of Terrorism”
    I esp like this:

    God is not an external, supernatural entity, ruling the world from above the sky. God is rather the Source of Life, the Source of Love, the Ground of Being. It is a non-theistic definition. Life has taught us that theism is dead. There is no supernatural God directing the affairs of history. Atheism, however, is not the only other viable conclusion. Supernatural theism is nothing but a human definition of God.

    My answer is Humanism, thus his reply to me about Humanism in a letter he sent me, which I dearly appreciate. So, IMHO, science IS VERY important and IF Christians know a virgin birth is not possible, then why do they believe in it?

    Hopefully Spong and Funk realize that there are other potential ways to resolve these questions, otherwise the exclusivity of their claims seems rather hubristic.

    I don’t know. I think they are rather dead on, because IMHO, we have outgrown the supernaturalism theism in this modern day and age. Science has taught us a lot in many areas of life, including the neuro-psychological study of transendence.

    Actually, I’d highly recommend that you read Williams’ entire reply to Spong. You may not agree with him, but he at least gives an intelligent and kind critique – an alternative perspective if you will, and one that is probably a lot better than what I’ve tried to briefly come up with here.

    I’ve read and I agree with Spong- Theism is dead. Williams seems very outmoded to me and prefers keeping control of people’s old ways of believing.

    I have to agree with these views highly:

    Theism, as a way of defining God, is dead. So most theological God-talk is today meaningless. A new way to speak of God must be found.

    Since God can no longer be conceived in theistic terms, it becomes nonsensical to seek to understand Jesus as the incarnation of the theistic deity. So the Christology of the ages is bankrupt.

    The biblical story of the perfect and finished creation from which human beings fell into sin is pre-Darwinian mythology and post-Darwinian nonsense.

    The view of the cross as the sacrifice for the sins of the world is a barbarian idea based on primitive concepts of God and must be dismissed.

    I also agree wtih the other points too, but then again, I see most of the Bible as “evolved” myth.

    Mike C said,

    May 22, 2007 at 3:42 pm

    BTW Mriana, what do you think of this suggestion?

    I wouldn’t blame Spong if he did become Unitarian. I’ve often thought of going to the U.U. myself just for the social aspect. However, in my city, the third largest in Missouri, there are more Pagans then Humanists. There are only twelve or so Humanists in this city, which is sad. That and the U.U. is on the South side of town, which means a scenic tour of the city by bus on a Sunday morning and walking several blocks after I get off the bus. Taking a cab for the once a month Humanists meeting there could get expensive after a while, but safer since they are in the evening.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    Thanks for the overview of panendeism. I hadn’t realized before that there was a distinction between that and panentheism. It sounds very intriguing. (Though BTW, if you’re interested, my friend Spencer Burke recently wrote a book called “A Heretic’s Guide to Eternity” that promotes a kind of Christian panentheism.)

    Anyhow, I’m still not sure why Spong et. al. thinks that anything about science or “this modern day and age” makes supernaturalism or theism “dead” or “outdated”. I mean, it’s all very well to say that if you happen to disagree with supernaturalism or theism, but what is the rationale? What does science or Modernity have to do with anything? I don’t see how these suddenly disprove supernatural or theistic beliefs or even make them irrelevant.

    He has also said that “Life has taught us that theism is dead.” But how has it done that? I guess I’m just not grasping Life’s argument. ;)

    Phyllis Tickle, another delightful old Anglican who is also acquainted with Bishop Spong, has described Spong as the closing book-end of the Modern era (with Martin Luther being the book-end at the beginning.) She says that his is probably the last great religious innovation based on the Modern “myth” of rational progress. Unfortunately for Spong, our society (and myself very much included) are now moving into a more Postmodern mindset where we are rather more skeptical of such hard distinctions between things like natural vs. supernatural, faith vs. science, or myth vs. reason. These categories don’t seem like such opposites anymore. A lot of us postmoderns are more interested in a both/and approach than an either/or.

    Anyhow, I don’t know if you’re already familiar with these categories of Modern and Postmodern or not – but if not, check out their Wikipedia entries for a brief overview.

    Peace
    -Mike

  • Miko

    Anyhow, I’m still not sure why Spong et. al. thinks that anything about science or “this modern day and age” makes supernaturalism or theism “dead” or “outdated”.

    My vote goes to telescopes, because they let us see so much further.

    Earlier on, you criticized polytheism because they placed gods in the universe, on Mt. Olympus, say; and, we now know there are in fact no gods up there. But the early Greeks were mariners, not mountaineers. Surely the peak of Olympus was about as unreachable to them as outside of the universe is to us. If not Olympus, the Roman’s planet-gods were certainly beyond their reach–but again it’s within ours.

    I don’t know about Spong, but I’d say that our ability to call distant galaxies our neighbors is a serious challenge to much of what the word theism conventionally denotes. Where will your god go if the ends of the universe cease to be a boundary for us?

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    I don’t know about Spong, but I’d say that our ability to call distant galaxies our neighbors is a serious challenge to much of what the word theism conventionally denotes. Where will your god go if the ends of the universe cease to be a boundary for us?

    Do you think it is likely or even possible that we would ever be able to get “outside” the universe? I mean, I’m a Star Trek fan too, and I’ve read my share of theoretical physics (Michio Kaku, Stephen Hawking, Lederman, etc.) but somehow I still doubt that this will ever be possible. For instance, how could temporal/spatial beings such as ourselves even exist in a meaningful way in a “place” that has no space or time?

    But who knows, if we ever did get “outside” maybe we would find God there. Given my beliefs, I have no reason to think that we wouldn’t.

  • Mriana

    (Though BTW, if you’re interested, my friend Spencer Burke recently wrote a book called “A Heretic’s Guide to Eternity” that promotes a kind of Christian panentheism.)

    ROFLMBO! Do you know how many times I’ve been called a heretic and an atheist who won’t admit it? I’m not saying you are calling me a heretic, but it’s funny that you brought that up.

    Anyhow, I’m still not sure why Spong et. al. thinks that anything about science or “this modern day and age” makes supernaturalism or theism “dead” or “outdated”.

    If you noticed my quote, Spong said it was. He even says it in his book “Why Christianity Must Change or Die”. You’d have to read his books to understand.

    These categories don’t seem like such opposites anymore. A lot of us postmoderns are more interested in a both/and approach than an either/or.

    I can’t see how those things go together, but then I’m a rationalist, too. Myth and reason together seem very illogical.

    Looking at your post-modernism link:

    Benhabib argues that postmodern critique comprises three main elements: an anti-foundationalist conception of the subject and identity, the death of History (and notions of teleology and progress), and the death of Metaphysics defined as the search for objective Truth – which can all have strong and weak variations.

    This does not quite sound like what you are talking about.

    Critisms:

    However, the most influential proponent of this critique is Jürgen Habermas, who contends that all responses to modernity abandon either the critical or rational element in philosophy, and that the postmodern condition is one of self-deception over the uncompleted nature of the modern project. He argues that without both critical and rational traditions, society cannot value the individual, and that social structures will tend towards totalitarianism. From his perspective, universalism is the fundamental requirement for any rational criticism, and to abandon this is to abandon the liberalizing reforms of the last two centuries.

    This argument is then extended to state that postmodernity is counter-enlightenment (see The Enlightenment, modern responses). Richard Wolin in his book The Seduction of Unreason argues that key advocates of postmodernity began with a fascination for fascism.

    The individual is important in Humanism and it is no totalitarian, so I can see why I haven’t appreciated what I’ve seen so far. I also appreciate enlightenment greatly.

    Folloeing the various links on the you gave en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Postmodernism

    The argument against the need for the term is that the “modern” era has not completed, and that the most important social and political project is still modernism’s project of ending counter-enlightenment and emotionalist tendencies, ignorance, superstition, resistance to technological and enhancement social progress. From this perspective, the realities of the modern era, and its philosophical underpinnings, are being challenged by a backlash from the same forces which modernism supplanted initially. Non-postmodernist thinkers and writers hold that postmodernism is at best simply a period, variety, or extension of modernism and not actually a separate period or idea.

    If postmodernism deals with a counter-enlightenment, superstition, and alike, I do hope it’s short lived.

    Critics of the idea claim that it does not represent liberation, but rather a failure of creativity, and the supplanting of organization with syncretism and bricolage this latter concept can only be described as anti-intellectual. They argue that postmodernism is obscurist, overly dense, and makes assertions about the sciences that are demonstrably false.

    Not saying a word.

    There are those who use very small and exact definitions of postmodernism, often for theories perceived as relativist, nihilist, counter-Enlightenment or antimodern.

    I’ll continue to bite my tongue.

    Influencer: Dada movement Year: c.1920 Influence: a focus on the framing of objects and discourse as being as important, or more important, than the work itself

    :lol: Why am I not surprised?

    Here it is again:

    The term postmodernism is used pejoratively if to describe tendencies perceived as relativist, counter-enlightenment or antimodern, particularly in relation to critiques of rationalism, universalism or science.

    As meaningless and disingenuous
    But don’t the postmodernists claim only to be ‘playing games’? Isn’t it the whole point of their philosophy that anything goes, there is no absolute truth, anything written has the same status as anything else, no point of view is privileged? Given their own standards of relative truth, isn’t it rather unfair to take them to task for fooling around with word-games, and playing little jokes on readers? Perhaps, but one is then left wondering why their writings are so stupefyingly boring. Shouldn’t games at least be entertaining, not po-faced, solemn and pretentious?

    – Richard Dawkins: Postmodernism Decoded

    He said it. I didn’t.

    The linguist Noam Chomsky has suggested that postmodernism is meaningless because it adds nothing to analytical or empirical knowledge. He asks why postmodernist intellectuals won’t respond as “people in physics, math, biology, linguistics, and other fields are happy to do when someone asks them, seriously, what are the principles of their theories, on what evidence are they based, what do they explain that wasn’t already obvious etc? These are fair requests for anyone to make. If they can’t be met, then I’d suggest recourse to Hume’s advice in similar circumstances: to the flames.”

    I always like Noam. To bad he’s gone now. :(

    Modernism I think is still alive and well:

    Modernity may be considered “marked and defined by an obsession with ‘evidence’”, visuality, and visibility (Leppert 2004, p.19).

    There have been two major answers to this question. First, an internal factor is that only in Europe, through the Renaissance humanists and early modern philosophers and scientists, rational thinking came to replace many intellectual activities that had been under heavy influence of convention, superstition, and religion.

    Which was a good thing. Too bad they didn’t have as much info on modernity as they did post modernity. I don’t know, maybe we come from two different worlds or ways of thinking.

  • Miko

    Do you think it is likely or even possible that we would ever be able to get “outside” the universe? I mean, I’m a Star Trek fan too, and I’ve read my share of theoretical physics (Michio Kaku, Stephen Hawking, Lederman, etc.) but somehow I still doubt that this will ever be possible.

    Get outside? Probably not. See outside? Maybe.

    For example, Sir Roger Penrose has advanced a theory in which we have a sort-of cyclic universe (it’s actually much more complicated than that, but I don’t want to talk about conformal geometry here) in which a major consequence is that space began expanding before the Big Bang because all matter was in the form of energy. One great consequence of having all your matter as energy is that time ceases to exist (because there’s nothing to measure it relative to) without space ceasing to exist. The upside of it all is that we should theoretically be able to see what’s going on “outside” the universe and “before” the Big Bang by looking at remnants within our own universe.

    That said, we could find god “out there.” I’m sure theists love the idea of some form of space existing independently of time. But: if the theory pans out and we are able to see what’s beyond the borders of space itself and we don’t see god waving back at us, he’ll have a tough time finding somewhere further out to hide.

    Of course, the theory is completely untested now, although it is in principle falsifiable. And it depends on Hawking being wrong in the sense that one of his earlier ideas that he now thinks is probably wrong would actually have to be right.

  • Mriana

    That’s the beauty of science- it’s always updating itself when it finds out it’s wrong.

    My exhusband insisted teh Bible was inerrant. I said, “Ok you believe a bat is a bird?” He said, “No, a bat’s a mammal.” Ah, but the Bible says a bat is a bird. He didn’t believe me until I showed him. Then I ran him down a whole list of things like that. He can’t believe it the Bible is wrong and still thinks the Bible is the best thing since fire.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    My exhusband insisted teh Bible was inerrant. I said, “Ok you believe a bat is a bird?” He said, “No, a bat’s a mammal.” Ah, but the Bible says a bat is a bird.

    I think they just used different categories back then. The Hebrews had a different way of slicing up the animal world than we do (since ours are based on Aristotelian categories). It’s just a matter of how you define the words. If your definition of “bird” is “any flying creature” then a bat is a bird.

  • Mriana

    I think they just used different categories back then. The Hebrews had a different way of slicing up the animal world than we do (since ours are based on Aristotelian categories). It’s just a matter of how you define the words.

    This is true. They did catagorize a lot of things and various people differently back then.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    If you noticed my quote, Spong said it was. He even says it in his book “Why Christianity Must Change or Die”. You’d have to read his books to understand.

    I’ll do that. I have one on my list, but I’m not sure how soon I can get to it. :)

    Regarding Postmodernism, I’m glad to see you read through all those quotes. It is many things, not all of which I endorse. However, reading through those critical quotes it seems that many of them either don’t really understand postmodernity or else were deliberately mischaracterizing it. For instance, “post-” is not the same as “anti-”, so post-modernism is not anti-modernism. Again, it’s a both/and approach rather than an either/or. It’s not a rejection of rationality or the individual, but it is a rejection of the claim that rationalism or individualism are the only appropriate ways of viewing the world. Postmodernism tends instead to be more communal and more open to diverse ways of knowing (i.e not just “reason”, but also through emotion, intuition, story, myth, image, etc.)

    Postmodernity, as it’s simplest, is a skepticism towards absolute truth claims. Truth, rather, is a construct of cultures, individuals and societies. It resists the absolutizing and totalitarian tendencies of “metanarratives” (like Communism, Capitalism, Fascism, Christianity, Enlightenment Rationalism, etc.) that oppress the Other by claiming that its view of the world is the only valid one. In contrast postmodernity, similar to the point I was making in my fifth post, affirms that there are many different types of rationality and therefore many different ways of looking at the world.

    It was actually born in response to World War II and the atrocities that came out of it, as well as many of the other ways that Modernism, science, and the so-called “Enlightenment” project has served to actually be a curse on society rather than a blessing. Keep in mind that the age of Enlightenment has also been an age of oppression, totalitarianism, colonialism, environmental destruction, nuclear war, mass genocide, biological warfare, scientifically caused disease (e.g. cancer), unsustainable habits of consumption, corporate exploitation and the widening gaps between rich and poor. The postmodern person looks at all of this and concludes that the Modern claims of inevitable scientific and moral “progress” are nothing more than a myth – and that while science and Enlightenment rationalism can certainly provide us a lot more toys with which to entertain and/or destroy ourselves, it is incapable of providing us with the ethical or spiritual resources to attain its own utopian ideals. The critics you quote say that postmoderns have given up on the Modern project prematurely, but after the horrific and bloody legacy of the 20th Century (not to mention our current misguided crusade to bring the great Enlightenment ideals Democracy and Capitalism to those “un-enlightened religionists” in Iraq) I see little evidence to suggest that Modernity will actually succeed if we just “give it a little more time”. Do we just keep giving it more time until it runs our entire civilization into the ground?

    Anyhow, sorry for the rant, but you can tell that I’m just a little skeptical about whether Modernity has really been so great for our society as its proponents claim. Of course, the solution is not just to reject Modernism wholesale, but to attempt to keep the good while moving beyond the excesses and absolutisms, and perhaps also recovering some of the babies of the past (like story and myth and healthy faith) that the Enlightenment threw out with the bathwater of superstition and blind faith.

    I don’t know, maybe we come from two different worlds or ways of thinking.

    That’s very likely. That’s usually how the cultural difference between the two is described.

  • Tommy Huntsman

    The bible says many terrible things about the homosexual. It is talking about the inner conflict that a person has with his feelings and his rational mind (god). This is to help the son understand his dad and the dad to understand the son. And for both to understand the truth about the whole thing. The spirit of the bible talks to the spirit of the man. The spirit of the man talks to the rational brain (god) of the man. Much like a man has a conversation with his wife. Except that you can kick the wife outside with the dog. A man is stuck with the spirit (emotions) he was born with and his rational brain must learn to deal with her. No divorce, till death do we part. A happy marriage between a man and his feelings. This is the spirit of the book. The Spirit of the Book is the promise of Eternal Life for those that choose to accept Him.

  • Mriana

    Mike C said,

    May 23, 2007 at 10:38 am

    If you noticed my quote, Spong said it was. He even says it in his book “Why Christianity Must Change or Die”. You’d have to read his books to understand.

    I’ll do that. I have one on my list, but I’m not sure how soon I can get to it.

    Great! I highly recommend “Why Christianity Must Change or Die” and “A New Christianity For A New World.” You may also find his artcles on Beliefnet interesting.

    We also learned from the age of Enlightenment. It was not all bad.

    The postmodern person looks at all of this and concludes that the Modern claims of inevitable scientific and moral “progress” are nothing more than a myth – and that while science and Enlightenment rationalism can certainly provide us a lot more toys with which to entertain and/or destroy ourselves, it is incapable of providing us with the ethical or spiritual resources to attain its own utopian ideals.

    Actually, I can say that science helps to contribute to morality. We would not have known how AIDS was spread if it were not for science. Safer sex and abstinance would not be promoted as much if not for that. A condom would still be thought of a means pregnancy prevention, when it helps to prevent more than that. Though not fool-proof of course.

    We would not know what contributes to cervical cancer in women, if not for science. Again, we go back to safer sex or abstinance. So in that respect the more we know, the more we can reinforce some ideals. However, I do not agree with the Religious Reich’s idea of promoting abstinance only. Teenagers have a tendency to not listen and follow their natural urges, too immature to control themselves. So, it is important they at least know that condoms make sex safer, but not safe.

    It is also not psychologically condusive to have anarchy either. Social Darwinism was not the best way to improve society. We learned from that, so utilitarism is not always the best policy to make the majority happy. Anything that oppresses people is not a good thing, just because it makes the majority happy. There are exceptions to the rule “The greater good of the majority outweighs the greater good of the one.” Even Tuvok went back to save the one at the risk of his own life. :lol:

  • monkeymind

    I can’t see how those things go together, but then I’m a rationalist, too. Myth and reason together seem very illogical.

    Horkheimer & Adorno, The Dialectic of Enlightenment

    Myth turns into enlightenment, and nature into mere objectivity. Men pay for the increase in their power with alienation from that over which they exercise their power. Enlightenment behaves towards things as a dictator toward men. He knows them in so far as he can manipulate them. The man of science knows things in so far as he can make them. In this way their “in itself” becomes a “for him”. In this transformation the essence of things is revealed as always the same, a substratum of domination.

    So, it’s a kind of inversion of Arthur C. Clarke’s observation that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from Magic.”

    Horkheimer and Adorno were writing the above in 1944, as refugees from Germany. So the idea that the Enlightenment had a tragic flaw, “reason’s disease” – the desire for power – was pretty clear to them.

    I don’t think you have to read a book full of dense critical theory, though, to see that technological progress is currently linked to a ruthless economic system. We are told that the loss of certain things is the “price of progress.” But there’s usually not a lot of discussion of what an acceptable price might be for a particular packet of “progress”. And those who end up paying the highest price are usually not consulted at all.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    I don’t think you have to read a book full of dense critical theory, though, to see that technological progress is currently linked to a ruthless economic system. We are told that the loss of certain things is the “price of progress.” But there’s usually not a lot of discussion of what an acceptable price might be for a particular packet of “progress”. And those who end up paying the highest price are usually not consulted at all.

    We’re seeing this kind of thing all the time where I live – in a small rural town that is slowly being overtaken by the Chicago suburbs. Every time a new cookie-cutter subdivision, temple to consumerism (i.e. strip malls), or landfill goes up we’re told that it’s just the “price of progress”.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    We also learned from the age of Enlightenment. It was not all bad.

    No, indeed not! As I said, postmodernism is not anti-modernism. I like penicillin and airplanes and TiVo as much as the next guy. :)

    Actually, I can say that science helps to contribute to morality. We would not have known how AIDS was spread if it were not for science. Safer sex and abstinance would not be promoted as much if not for that. A condom would still be thought of a means pregnancy prevention, when it helps to prevent more than that. Though not fool-proof of course.

    Science gives us the tools, but it doesn’t give us the wisdom to know how to use them. The same technology that can power a city can also blow it up. The same power that can cure diseases can also create biological weapons. It’s like that line from Jurassic Park “You were so concerned with whether you could that you never questioned whether you should.” Or what MLK said, “Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.” I’m all for science, but it seems we need something more than just science to achieve wisdom.

  • Miko

    Actually, I can say that science helps to contribute to morality. We would not have known how AIDS was spread if it were not for science. Safer sex and abstinance would not be promoted as much if not for that.

    I imagine that they’d have been promoted just as much. The Church was pro-abstinance long before AIDS. And in the absence of evidence, people always seem to guess that disease is related to morality, anyway. Back in the Middle Ages, the most common strategies to treat the plague were increasing church attendance, outlawing profanity/blasphemy, and encouraging couples to get married. As the clergy reported, they succeeded on each of these except for actually stopping the plague. How would things have been different if someone had been there to explain how disease spreads? Would they have cleaned up their open sewers and started washing their hands, or would they have decided that singing more hymns was the better way to go?


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