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Posts Tagged ‘St Paul’

If we understand God to be, not a Thing but rather a dimension of our humanness, the ultimate meaning, a dynamic of the universe, a force revealed in various ways, we need not be afraid to reimagine the givens of our faith, test the truths and structures of our beliefs and invigorate the familiar tropes and practices of our religious life. (more…)

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If, like all scripture, the New Testament is soaked in allegory and metaphor, we are entitled to question a number of propositions, including the atonement theory, and their dependence on an anthropomorphic view of “God”. (more…)

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Who was Jesus?  That question, put by friend and foe, has been discussed, sometimes violently, for two millennia.  Despite Catholic doctrine, there is no easy answer.  The question comes up again and again.  Its difficulty lies in how we should regard the person at the central reference point of our faith. (more…)

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In which date order were the books of the New Testament written?  Chronological order, which makes clear, for example, that the gospels were written after St Paul’s creation of churches in Greece and Asia Minor, illuminates facets of the story of the development of the early Christian church, as a fascinating article by Marcus Borg demonstrates.

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Durer’s Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

Let fundamentalists believe what they want.  They must allow the rest of us to exercise our rights, too, and not be adversely affected by their convictions which, it looks evident, are mainly based on fear. (more…)

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Throughout human history believers have looked to “God” to answer life’s great questions but also aware of the paradox that “God” does not “exist.” Christianity makes the boldest claim: that “God” became a human, but remains divine.  The mysteries and further questions persist. (more…)

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Rereading one of John Shelby Spong’s many interesting books reminds me of things I knew but had forgotten.  This time, it was the undoubted fact that none of the four Gospels was written until after the death of St Paul and the end of his mission in 64 – 67 BCE.  The first of the Synoptic Gospels, Mark’s, was written in about 70 BCE.  That is 40 or so years after the crucifixion: time enough to tune the nascent faith system, so that is what happened, as the Gospels show.

As Bishop Spong makes clear, much happened in that first century to adjust the central message of Christianity.  Emphases changed, preoccupations altered and explanations fought with each other.  The focus on the Resurrection, for instance, grew and became ever more literalised as a physical event as the years passed.  Over the next couple of centuries, too, the message became modulated, by St Augustine for one, as the religion became an imperial church which needed Christianity to fulfil a certain role.  Things change: as religion is a human construct, this is inevitable, but we should not be frightened that this is so.  Rather we should welcome this.  It has potential for us.

Time was when the church condoned slavery and even had people executed as recently as 1861.  Large parts of Christian doctrine, such as substitutionary atonement, nowadays are considered absurd by right-thinking, educated people and we have all had opportunity in recent years to see that hell, for example, is not in some underground Hades but right here on earth amongst us. Faith is not blind.  It can see that some things are not quite as we described them before.

Believers who think that this kind of reasoning is cynical and treacherous have a point.  Yes, it does threaten the church, but ultimately for the good.  We shall end up believing strongly in a Christianity which is different, in important ways, from what it is now but no less valuable; and it will subsequently be changed again.  Change?  Christianity has seen it all before, and evolved to keep in synchrony with what good, thinking believers really believe.  It will do so again.

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