I realise that the format of my blog is unusual. It is said that there is a book in each of us waiting to get out. Instead of writing a book I started developing a web site over 16 years ago. When people publish a book there is always a ‘cut off’. My understanding has changed quite dramatically over the years and as those thoughts have changed my blog has reflected those changes, but I have felt for some months that it was time to draw a line in the sand – but new thoughts and ideas just kept coming! In “Another Watershed – April 2016” I have described something of the impact of a lengthy discussion between Rob Bell and Richard Rohr.
It was in July 2016 that I read an article by a pastor I have known well for some 35 years. He wrote:
True science, real mind-blowing science, comes from the endless birthing of new understanding by those who’ve caught on that life is full of surprises, and the surprises never stop coming to those who seek with an open mind. If only religion caught on to that in its search for God too, where instead of nailing God in a box and telling people that’s all there is to know about him, it would let God reveal himself in his way, with new and endless surprises. (my highlighting).
He went on to say that science is now pushing boundaries into areas where no one has trodden before. Old concepts suddenly become antiquated and quaint as new interpretations of the universe blow the old views to pieces.
I was reminded of what John Shelby Spong, a retired Episcopal Bishop had written in December 2015:
The explosion of knowledge over the last five hundred years in the West has rendered most of the biblical and creedal presuppositions to be unbelievable. They rise out of a world that no longer exists. Yet churches continue to operate as if eternal truth can be placed into these earthen vessels, proclaiming that in both the Bible and the creeds ultimate truth has been captured forever. The result is that Christianity seems less and less believable to more and more people. Can we separate the Christ experience from the dying explanations of the past? If we cannot then surely Christianity will continue its relentless journey into a declining irrelevance.
This is an extract from “Charting a New Reformation: The Twelve Theses”.
I had been familiar with some of the work of Spong and others after my contact with the Progressive Christian Network in the UK some 13 years ago. His views seem to be somewhat extreme. I’m no scholar – but after living outside of ‘traditional’ Christianity for over 45 years, they seem to me to make interesting reading!
It was also in July 2016 that Paul Young, the author of ‘The Shack’ posted an article by Richard Rohr on his blog entitled, “Transformation is More Than a Change of Mind”. In the podcast with Rob Bell (see “Another Watershed – April 2016”) Richard had suggested that Christianity hasn’t made a very good job of exposing the ego. In this article there is an emphasis on the process of letting go. He writes:
The Achilles heel of organised religion might be that we tend to tell people what to see instead of teaching them how to see, and the thing we often miss is that transformation is not merely a change of morals, group affiliation, or belief system – but a change at the very heart of the way you receive, hear, and pass on each moment.
Do you use the moment to strengthen your own ego position or do you use the moment to enter into a much broader seeing and connecting? Two very different ways of seeing!
It was in October that Drew Downs posted a series entitled, “31 days of Choices”. He said that he had been influenced by a discussion between Rob Bell and Peter Rollins entitled, “Shall we talk about God?”. I have created a series of bullet points “What does it mean to believe in God?” based on some of what Drew has written.
Since then I have watched a presentation (almost 2 hours) on YouTube that Rob Bell gave last summer entitled “Everything is Spiritual” where he gives an interesting picture of Creation following the “Big Bang”. Much of it fitted with what I have been learning about some of the modern views of science.
In January 2017 I was introduced to Bruce Lipton and his “Biology of Belief” and his work on Epigenetics. Now in May I have listened to Greg Braden talking about New Scientific Discoveries. I had long had doubts about some aspects of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. I now have even more unanswered questions!
I have been attending local Progressive Christian Network meetings in Brighton and was given the link to the March Newsletter. One article that immediately attracted my attention was, “Where is Progressive Christianity Heading?” by Andy Vivian. Here was an overview that I could really relate to. I have been in touch with Andy and he has given me permission to include his article on my blog as long as I make it clear that the formatting is mine and not his. Andy has used four strands or paradigms:
- Evolutionary Spirituality
- Emerging Church
- Radical Theology
- Atheistic Christianity
He suggests that all four paradigms emphasise the role of religion in supporting humans to live generous and compassionate lives, and that all four place such a life above a particular set of religious beliefs about God. I have been able to spend a significant amount of time with people who come from each of these strands, including a couple of Bible College students who subsequently became atheists.
Radical Theology is said to be the one that stands out as the most open approach, while the other three all have an element of egotism about having found the True path.
That for me really rings true. See “What does it mean to believe in God?”.
It must be obvious that like so many older people, I am convinced that there is a spiritual dimension to life, but I’m no longer sure what I really do believe!