The Real Meanings of the Cross

My previous blog highlighted and critiqued the “payment” understanding of Jesus’s death, the notion that he died to pay for our sins. Some responses defended that understanding by referring to the role of animal sacrifice in Judaism prior to and in the time of Jesus. And at least one represented that practice accurately.Yes, animals were sacrificed in the temple. And sacrifices involved the shedding of blood. But sacrifice in Judaism was not about payment for sin. Its root meaning is “making … [Read more...]

Christianity Divided by the Cross

American Christians are deeply divided by the cross of Jesus – namely, by how they see the meanings of his death. At the risk of labels and broad generalizations, “conservative” Christians generally believe a “payment” understanding of the cross: Jesus died to pay for our sins so we can be forgiven.Most “progressive” Christians (at least a majority) have great difficulty with the “payment” understanding. Many reject it. Some insist that rather than focusing on Jesus’s death, we should … [Read more...]

Does Christianity Have a Future?

I have just returned from a lecture event in Houston with Joan Chittister and Dom Crossan. The theme was the same as the title of this blog. None of us tried to predict the future of Christianity, even as we all spoke about our hopes for its shape in the future.The question, “Does Christianity Have a Future?” is interesting to think about. And the answer is greatly affected by the time span, short or long. Will Christianity still be around a hundred years from now? Yes. Five hundred … [Read more...]

Response to Modern World-View Responses

I begin with a confession of electronic communication ignorance: I have not yet learned how to reply to “replies” to my blogs. I’m working on it. And so in this blog, I reply to a repeated theme in the replies.Namely, why do I not regard mystical experiences as divine interventions? I begin by recognizing that they feel like interventions. William James in his classic description of mystical experiences in his equally classic "The Varieties of Religious Experiences" lists as one of thei … [Read more...]

Christianity and the Modern World-View

“World-view” is a semi-technical term that names something we all have, whether we are conscious of it or not. It is a way of seeing reality – of what is real and what is possible. In German, where I think the notion was coined, the term is Weltanschauung – the way the world appears to us, how we think of it. Not just “world” in the sense of “the earth” or “the globe,” but the whole of reality.What is commonly called the modern world-view was born in the European Enlightenment of the 1 … [Read more...]

Continuing the Resurrection Conversation

I am pleased to see that my response to Tony Jones has generated a thoughtful response from him and many thought-filled replies from others. At the risk of continuing the conversation too long, I offer the following.I begin with a few additional and hopefully clarifying comments. Tony correctly reports what I said at an event that he attended. I am quite sure it was at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC, a lecture event that also featured Brian McLaren and Diana Butler Bass. I did say … [Read more...]

Response to Tony Jones about the Resurrection

In his October 4 blog, “No, the Writers of the Bible Did Not Expect It to be Taken Literally,” Tony Jones briefly contrasts his view of the resurrection of Jesus with mine. I agree with the title of his blog, but strongly disagree with his characterization of how I see the resurrection.His own view of the resurrection is clear: he believes that Jesus “materially rose from death” in a “physical” and “bodily” form (from his April 21, 2011 blog; italics added). He describes my view as “Jesus’ … [Read more...]