Comments: opinion

So we have the usual split - moral teaching vs 'saving souls' and miracles. It ain't like that. What we have, as a base line, in the life of Jesus and in his parables and teaching is, at the very least, a gauntlet thrown down to his society and to ours. 'This is how it should be. No reward for being nicey nicey. Living with radical cost towards others. Facing a God who demands we forgive and give. The old order upset. The new order based on our giving everything. No more respect for elders and betters.' It is a radical demand, and goes with a radical offer of life in astonishing fullness. It has little to do with saved souls, little to do with pay-back theology theories. It is far above an ethic, though based on one. It cannot be evaded by mental reservations over supernatural or not supernatural debate. And something as simple as the Golden Rule it ain't - though like all suggestions for living well, it includes it.

Posted by Rosemary Hannah at Saturday, 9 April 2011 at 7:22pm BST

Reading David Lose's article brings to my mind the greatly different impressions one gets from reading (and listening to) Bart Ehrman vs. Marcus Borg. Ehrman went from a strong fundamentalism in his youth to his present lack of faith. While he claims that his loss of faith was brought about by the problem of theodicy, not by his discovery that the Bible is not literally true, Ehrman's writing has the sense of someone who nurses resentment that he was made to believe a lie. Borg, on the other hand, as a scholar and a man of faith, can quite readily say that the Bible contains some things that are factual, much that is true as metaphor though not necessarily as history, and even some things that are not really true even as metaphor. But Borg can also acknowledge the Bible as the Word of God (upper case 'W'), even though clearly the words of men (lower case 'w'). Ehrman sees the Bible as a human product to be debunked, while Borg sees it as a human product that functions sacramentally--as a channel of God's grace and revelation, regardless of its human flaws. As Anglicans we can accept that bread can be the body of Christ without becoming literal flesh, that wine can be the blood of Christ without becoming literal blood, and that flawed human words can become for us the Word of God without needing to be literally true.

Posted by Bill Ghrist at Saturday, 9 April 2011 at 9:04pm BST

False dichotomy! 'Saving souls' and miracles isn't the only alternative to moral teaching. There's also metaphysics, mysticism and ceremony--the fun, juicy stuff. Admittedly not to everyone's taste but there is a large minority of people yearning for religious experience--most of whom would never dream of looking for this 'spirituality' in Christianity because churches have expunged every bit of the numinous in order to engage in endless moralizing. So they poke around with New Age bs looking for religious experience--because Christian churches have failed them.

It isn't hard to see why churches are losing members. When religious participation is de facto as well as de jure optional, when people have choices, they will not choose to go to church to get some clergyperson yapping at them about giving, forgiving and other platitudes about 'living well.'

Posted by Harriet Baber at Saturday, 9 April 2011 at 10:01pm BST

I enjoyed Monday's addition to the Good Book and the ensuing discussion, I must say.

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Sunday, 10 April 2011 at 12:04am BST

Absolutely on the money Harriet Baber...while churches have trashed ceremony dear to our forebearers, they have indulged in non-stop moralizing. No wonder younger people are turned off in droves.

I live in a wonderfully diverse ethnic city. Once, a very dear friend of Polish descent kidded me about getting a gig in an Episcopal parish that still reeked of it's 'Englishness' complete with a men & boys choir. "Oh, you go to "Ethnic Church" now!" And the place is packed on Sundays.

Posted by evensongjunkie at Sunday, 10 April 2011 at 12:14pm BST

Half the people polled in the United States don't accept the evidence for human-caused climate change. Only 39% accept evolution as the explanation for how life has developed on Earth. 27% think that the President wasn't born in the USA. Yes, let's celebrate the joys of believing without evidence or even, with St. Paul and the Birthers, against the evidence.

And what's with Brad Ehrman's resentment at discovering the murky origins of Christianity? It's not as if he were a gay kid who had half his life distorted by religious authorities in confident possession of Truth who counseled him to keep as quiet about his sexual orientation as the tradition does -- couldn't let a few facts of life cast doubt on the age-old story.

No, Borg's is the Anglican solution (according to Bill Grist) -- keep the Bible in one hand and science in the other: it's all good. Until someone wants to use the Bible to claim power and authority -- how do you counter them? It's your opinion (belief) against theirs. Do we apply the Mammy Yokum test: "Good is better than evil because it's nicer"?

Christians are used to contradictions in the Scriptures -- the incompatible Nativity stories in Matthew and Luke, St. Paul in Acts and in his authentic letters (not to mention the fence-mending qualifications of pseudo-Pauls), two Creation stories that reflect nothing of what is known about the workings of the universe. . . They all fit into a Sunday school pageant -- Adam and Eve, shepherds, Magi, and all. It isn't so much Truth as familiarity that glues it all together. It’s a grand story, but it’s been presented as based on fact. The implications for evangelism are different if it isn’t actual history, but rather another national epic.

Posted by Murdoch at Tuesday, 12 April 2011 at 11:11pm BST
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