what do you want first, the good news or bad news?

good news bad news cartoon by nakedpastor david hayward
Sure Jesus. I’ll tell you what the bad news is. But first let me remind our readers what good news means.

News means the communication of a current event. The story of the New Testament makes it clear that what happened in Christ accomplished something. An event significantly newsworthy occurred that changed everything. It happened in history, but its report constantly makes it contemporary and relevant to the hearer. And the news is that it is finished! It is consummated. The Christian message, the story of the Christ, is that God is no longer separated in the Heavens, but among us, in us, through us, between us, as us in the loving collective. This is the Spirit. This is why it is good news. Which explains why it was secondary to Paul whether the message got a good reception or not. Paul rejoiced in the fact that the news of a present reality was published. It could not be altered by whether or not it was believed. For Paul, the event changed everything, changed the world, and the world now hears this good news. In fact, Paul claims it’s already been heard. This is why we are all equal. This is why there is no longer any dividing wall and we are all children of the same family. It is finished!

Now, Jesus, this is the bad news. Some people are going to change it into a good plan. A good prescription. A good suggestion. A good formula. A good proposal. They’re going to change the news into a possibility depending on whether or not they believe it. They’re going to package it into a program to sell and that it all depends on whether or not they buy the product and use it. They’re going to change the good news into a marketing scheme to make bad people into what they want them to be. It’s bad news because they’ve turned free information into a costly proposition. They’re going to change something free and finished into something pricey and pending.

Of course, we already know that the real good news is so robust that not even our deviant mutations can alter it.

Thanks to my friend Dave Murray for the cartoon idea.

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  • Rob Grayson

    An open question, without preconception or intent to entrap: would you say you’re a universalist?

  • Some might call me that. But that has so many definitions.

  • LOVE!

  • Rob Grayson

    Thanks for responding. If you’re open to discussion, what definition of a universalist are you happy to apply to yourself?

  • It is good news.

    That Jesus forgave the whole world on that cross and desired that all would come to Him. Very good news!

    But that all do not, is sad news.

    Why don’t they? Who knows. God knows.

  • Wikipedia’s definition of Christian universalism is interesting: “Universalism can refer to the beliefs that all humans either may or will be saved through Jesus Christ and eventually come to harmony in God’s kingdom.” For me, the way I describe it in my post above with the cartoon is a better way to understand it. Rather than “may” or “will” I would say “is”, and I wouldn’t use such language as “saved”, etc…

  • Old Adam: why would they have to come to him when he came to them?

  • Rob Grayson

    So, do you believe that all humans are saved and will eventually come to harmony in God’s kingdom (substitute another word for “saved” if you prefer), irrespective of any particular response on their part? If so, how do you square that with passages like the one where Paul and Silas answer the Philippian jailer’s question, “What must I do to be saved?” (Again, not trying to catch you or anyone else out – just interested to understand exactly where you’re coming from on this.)

  • I don’t square with them. I’m not trying to harmonize the bible stories. The larger picture as I see it is how I explained above. The bible stories are our attempt to explain this present reality.

  • Rob Grayson

    OK, thanks for answering.

  • I would like to hear more about Paul’s message that the Good News has already been heard.

  • Kathy: “… the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven…” (Colossian 1:23). I believe Colossians, though not written by Paul himself, is nevertheless Pauline.

  • Thanks David. what does “nevertheless Pauline” mean?

  • “pauline” means it was written by one or more of his people and the theology is essentially his.

  • Gary

    “Of course, we already know that the real good news is so robust that not even our deviant mutations can alter it.”

    David thank you for putting to words something which I have been grappling to flesh out. I too could be called a universalist though I have not found a definition of it that totally suits me. Perhaps we need to have another discussion on the meaning of the word “IS”. 😉

  • Carol

    Here is something even more *mysterious*: the Good News has been Eternally Present since Christ Jesus is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8).

    We all know that the Christ Event took place in human history in only a little over 2000 years ago, don’t we?

    Biblical text can be very difficult to understand since it is Revelation from a God with whom one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day (2 Peter 3:8).

    An unmediated encounter with the Holy One does not leave one with a dogmatic TOE (theory of everything) to announce to the world. It leaves us in awestruck silence with the disconcerting question, “WTF was that all about?”

    “First-hand religion is based on direct experience of the sacred, also called mystical experience. Second-hand religion is based on another’s experience, authority, or dogma. This distinction is often framed as the difference between spirituality (first-hand) and religion. (second-hand).” –John Davis

    “In mysticism that love of truth which we saw as the beginning of all philosophy leaves the merely intellectual sphere, and takes on the assured aspect of a personal passion. Where the philosopher guesses and argues, the mystic lives and looks; and speaks, consequently, the disconcerting language of first-hand experience, not the neat dialectic of the schools. Hence whilst the Absolute of the metaphysicians remains a diagram – impersonal and unattainable – the Absolute of the mystics is lovable, attainable, alive.” — by Evelyn Underhill – MYSTICISM (Chapter One)

    “My good children, a theologian is one who converses with God and not one who studies theology.”
    – Elder Ephraim of Katounakia

  • Al Cruise

    Among us,in us, through us, between us, as us, as us in the loving collective. After nearly 40 years of outreach/ mission/fellowship work on the street it is easy too see. Unfortunately for those who want to work good plan, they will never see, they will ask questions like “are you a universalist ” that’s the real irony here.

  • Rob Grayson

    Al, way to turn an innocent, open question into an “us and them” type membership badge. Bravo. Seriously.

  • but he might not have meant “universalist” pejoratively.

  • Rob Grayson

    Possibly, but let’s just say that’s a less than obvious reading of Al’s comment.

  • no i mean about you rob… you might not have meant it pejoratively.

  • Rob Grayson

    Ah, sorry David, my bad. I didn’t mean it remotely pejoratively. While I don’t think I could claim to be a universalist, I think I may be somewhat further along that scale than many of my local brothers and sisters.

  • Michael

    “An unmediated encounter with the Holy One does not leave one with a dogmatic TOE (theory of everything) to announce to the world. It leaves us in awestruck silence with the disconcerting question, “WTF was that all about?” ~ Carol

    LOL! I love that. The problem with a dogmatic toe is that it gets real sore kicking things and getting stepped on ;-P
    Blesings Carol!

  • David, the cartoon was funny but the paragraphs below did not resonate with me in several ways:

    (a) So God suddenly changed when Jesus was killed — suddenly “God is no longer separated in the Heavens, but among us.” ?? Not when Jesus was alive? So all those folks prior didn’t have their god among them?
    It took Jesus to die for no dividing wall?? Buddha’s death didn’t do that, Krishna’s death didn’t and many more. But then, I guess this is the standard Christian message.

    (2) “the event changed everything, changed the world…” really, I don’t see a drastic change in history. All over Asia, for instance and much today, things remained the same.

    I understand that the rest of your stuff is inclusive, but this makes a very Jesus-centric religion. But that is why they call it “Christianity” or was it “Paulanity”?

    This message does sound universalist but via a Christian mechanism, so still parochial in that way.

    Sorry, David, people hassle you from all sides — but then, when you put forth theology (and your paragraphs are theology), and we know theology can’t be tested to be accurate at all (it is pure speculation), then you invite disagreement. Nature of the beast, jump out of theology, and you jump out of that mess. I was actually surprised at your theological ventures here.

    There are progressive Christians who don’t focus on his death-resurrection myth but on his life and teachings; those that feel unChristian without resurrection explanations usually fall back into some sort of parochialism, IMHO. But I can see how it would be very hard to drop without being an open target. Who’d want to go that far?

  • Sabio: Thanks for your comment. I’m open to being questioned. And it is interesting to me that you find my theological ventures surprising because i have done it before, especially in my z-theory. this is just more of the same.

    what i mean about jesus is that it is an event that illustrates or makes manifest a reality. in this way it changed the world… metaphorically… and in the minds of believers…

  • Ah, so the Jesus Death-Ressurrection myth/story/metaphor is used by Christians to make God immediate — and no longer the spirit that needs appeased by sacrifices and obedience to tons of rules? You mean that God was always like that, but this story helped Christians see that? And not that some event actually took placed that rocked the cosmological world. Right?

  • um, well, kinda… I believe that Christ made manifest what always was.

  • OK, no need for further theological refining. But it seems clearly different from those that believe he was a sacrifice required to make something happen in the real world.
    I remember, when I was a Christian and when it was important for others to feel I was still a Christian (even if peripherally), how much I worked on my theology. And when I tried to explain my new athletic gymnastics in Christian theology, my orthodox Christian friends did not care because it was clear that I simply was not one of them. Getting the story right, is so important for so many types of Christians. And for those types of Christians, when they leave, they still struggle to get it right. Until someday, they really don’t care about theology any more.

  • The death of Christ is a metaphor for the death of the remote separate God of Heaven…

  • Caryn LeMur

    Sabio: I like your phrase about ‘athletic gymnastics in Christian theology’. And I like TOE, as Carol posted. Great concepts.

    I think that every time I attempted leaping from one base to another within scripture, to create some new TOE, that it failed. It was an ‘athletic’ endeavor, indeed… lol.

    My own personal explaination of Christian theology now closely resembles a child explaining the fire in my fireplace: “Caryn… it moves, it wiggles, it eats wood, it is warm here but hurts too close, and the smokey stuff hurts my eyes.” Our grandchild makes observations and uses limited words, and simply has no need for an inculsive TOE (for fire).

    In a similar manner, I can say that Jesus paid for the sins of the world. Sure. Jesus removed the curtain between us and God. Yep. Jesus poured out the Holy Spirit on Pentacost. Good. All sins will be forgiven mankind except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Now, the smoke begins to hurt my eyes. How did Enoch walk with God? Why does just asking God for mercy give forgiveness? What really is prayer? oops, the fire is too hot now….

    I am glad I abandoned the TOE approach to Christianity. I have no great answers; no great TOE. I think that I have moved from the TOE approach to a much more pragmatic approach: Do we watch over the widows and orphans in their distress? Do we feed the hungry and give water to the thirsty? Have we matured to know that some questions have no answers? Do we welcome questioners, seekers, and counter-culture people with faith? Do we pray to an almighty God and yet allow a child’s skinned knee to interrupt our prayer time… with a hug… with a bandaid… with launching them again bravely to chase the butterflies once more…?

    I guess I am glad I gave up my ‘athletic gymnastics’ in pursuit of a ‘TOE’…. very glad, indeed.

    Much love in Christ always and unconditionally; Caryn

  • Carol

    Caryn, I, too, find no delight in dogmatic theology, but sometimes we have to meet people where they are at and that is where most formal (i.e. “churched”) Christians are at. I am amazed that so many cradle Christians have no knowledge of contemplative or speculative theology or the importance of myth to religion. “A myth is not something that never happened, it is something that happens all the time”–an archtypal, rather than a discrete historical event, although, since it also “happens all the time”, it is also “historical” in some sense. Ancient and contemporary indigenious people know that the “meaning” of the myth is more important than the historical details. That is why there are obvious differences in the Gospel accounts of the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus.

    Every authentic religious Tradition has a Christ-figure. Krishna is the Christ-figure in Hinduism.

    There is both little story religion and Big Story religion in all of the Great Religious Traditions. In Christianity the Jesus of history is the little story. Jesus is a gnostic guru and rabbinical moral teacher in the little story. The Christ of faith is the Big Story. Christ Jesus is the Savior, not just of the church, but of the Universe. The religious little stories differ; but the Big Stories revealed in all of the Great Religions, the Wisdom Traditions, have much in common. When the Protestant Reformers proclaimed the Bible the only source of Revelation (Sola Scriptura=biblicism), even radically opposing it to Tradition, the Teaching of the Early Church Fathers (Patristics) and the Saints, they effectively ended the development of Christian doctrine with the small story. Catholics know about the Patristics, but most don’t read them. How many Western Christians can you name who know anything about the Cosmic Christ introduced, but not fully developed, by St. Paul, especially in Colossians?

    A little story *Churchianity* has replaced the Big Story faith that began in the Apostolic Age and continued to deepen and evolve in the Patristic Age up until the 16th century, when Scripture and Tradition where radically opposed and Scripture became the magisterial Authority for Protestants and Tradition became the magisterial authority for Catholics resulting in an impoverishment of the Christian Religion in the Latin/Western Church.

    We need to revisit the ecclesiastical development of Christianity from the 16th century to the present, but that is not going to happen as long as Western Christians persist in following the Pope, Calvin, Luther, Wesley, etc. instead of Jesus the Christ.

  • Carol

    Sabio posted: Ah, so the Jesus Death-Ressurrection myth/story/metaphor is used by Christians to make God immediate — and no longer the spirit that needs appeased by sacrifices and obedience to tons of rules? You mean that God was always like that, but this story helped Christians see that? And not that some event actually took placed that rocked the cosmological world. Right?

    Well, Sabio, you got it right and stated it beautifully, up to the last sentence.
    Something did take place in time/space human history, but the DETAILS are a bit unclear since the 1st century Christians were not that into little story historicism (getting all the facts and chronological order) as they were in expressing and passing on the Big Story myth (meaning) of the Christ-event. Their consciousness had been expanded and they were no longer majoring in the minors like the “quest for the historical Jesus” 19th and 20th century theologians were.

    The Good News is that the Evolutionary Christianity movement is reconnecting with Big Story Christianity. Of course, it is still highly speculative and it will have to go through a process of separating 5o0 years of syncretic cultural accretions from the foundational Teachings that make Christianity uniquely Christian, in the sense that Judaism is uniquely Jewish, Buddhism is uniquely Buddhist, Hinduism is uniquely Hindu, etc. If the Holy One had been less prolific as a Creator and had not blessed us with all of this diversity life would be much simpler, no?

    BTW, I forgot to mention pastoral theology which is where truth and love, orthodoxy and orthopraxis, meet. Either without the other is a diminshed version of the Christian faith.

  • @ Caryn,
    It sounds like you have found a very inclusive, open understanding of your Christianity that works well for you. I think that is fantastic.
    T.O.E.s are indeed suspicious in theology but only because theology is totally contrived. T.O.E.s in physics are suspicious too, when they don’t offer testability. [ String theory has a bit of that.] — Sorry for the distraction into science.

    @ Carol,
    Darn, I almost said it correctl

    Of course something happened, a would-be apocalyptic cult leader [he encouraged followers to leave family and give away money] got unexpectedly killed. But cult leaders killed or even innocent killed by ruling powers has happened by the millions. So, as you said, this real event happened, or the whole story was contrived as a myth to help free up the religious people of that area at that time in history and for political reasons, it spread.

    So it may not just be “DETAILS”, as you yelled out, but whole cloth fabrication of the majority — certainly the majority that was used to make it a religion of its own.

    Like Karen Armstrong, you seem to have the tendency to tell religious people around the world that their faiths are true in a mystical oneness sort of way that misunderstands their own texts and traditions. You tell people how you want it all understood. It is of course comfortable to feel you have a understanding of the REAL intent and deep ground of ALL religion, but you may be wrong at best or at worse, preaching to all those who believe their religions for radically different reasons then you think they should why they are wrong while thinking you are not.

  • Carol

    Who says I think others are wrong while I am not.

    Where all Great Religions agree, I am 99% certain that we all got it right. That is called consensual confirmation as in we have reached a consensus in spite of our diverse cultures, temperaments and historical exeperiences.

    As for the theological diversity, I found a belief system that, when mystically interpreted, transforms me into a more caring, accepting [not perfect] person. It may not work for others. Actually, although the Trinitarian and Christological Mysteries are the theological foundation of my faith, I borrow from the spiritual Traditions of many faiths–Judaism, Sufism, Buddhism even Shamanism [my totem animal is the wolf], which horrifies most formal Christians.

    There is a litmus test for true religion–It is always about the power of love, not the love of power.

  • Gary

    Good conversation David, Sabio, Caryn and Carol. Very thought provoking and helpful.

  • I loves this!

    An unmediated encounter with the Holy One does not leave one with a dogmatic TOE (theory of everything) to announce to the world. It leaves us in awestruck silence with the disconcerting question, “WTF was that all about?”

    Abosutely. I’ve had 3 experiences like this;

    1 my first encounter with Jesus. 2nd the Lakeland Outpouring of The spirit. 3rd this year under the Grace teaching of Joseph Prince.

    “WTF was that all about?”

    Haha! Yes brother, it’s like, what now then?!