Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Bible Beliefs

I have decided to start my fundamental belief blog entries with the Bible. Why? Well, in my own personal experience, how you view the Bible has an overwhelming impact on your approach to Christianity and on your theological beliefs.

Like most protestants, I grew up with a divine, literal view of the Bible. First and foremost, the Bible was seen to contain the very words of God (i.e. it had divine authority). As a child, I could almost envision God reaching down and holding the hands of the Bible's authors to ensure they got everything exactly as God had intended. So with that perspective, when you read something in the Bible, you read it as if it was God himself (I know...herself, itself, whatever) was standing there mouthing the words along with you. So you didn't question the logic or rationale or applicability to today's world and culture, you just accepted it as God's words. (As a sidebar, it is interesting, isn't it, that we assume the Bible must be read literally - it is as if we have concluded that the authors of the day, even if one still believed that God was the author, couldn't have written in metaphorical language.)

And not far behind the divine authority thinking was the literal thinking. Yes that's right...the Bible is to be read literally unless the language is CLEARLY metaphorical. So the earth was created in six days (not five or seven) . Adam and Eve were real people in a real garden (apparently having a lot of sex since they needed to populate the entire planet...but as a child, this didn't really mean much I guess), and there was a real tree with apples and a real snake going around convincing people to take a bite. And of course there was a flood and an ark...how else to explain the extinction of the dinosaurs? And yes, that Red Sea parted upon command, and there was a guy named Jonah who was actually swallowed by a whale and lived there for a few days (And why not? You couldn't beat the rent I bet.). And that's just a few highlights from the Old Testament. Wait for the New Testament...Jesus was born of a virgin, a star lead people to Jesus, Jesus walked on water, turned a few loaves of bread into a feast for thousands, turned water into wine, physically rose from the dead, and so on, and so on.

And I'm not kidding...I saw it all as literal (except for those few parts of the Bible that the preachers and Sunday School teachers didn't like so much or couldn't explain...so those were a little more fuzzy and confusing). "Come on" you must be thinking. And to my own defense, let me say (with all modesty), I'm not a stupid or gullible person. But when you grow up on this stuff and it is taught to you the same way that 2+2=4 is, it tends to have quite an impact on your normally rational brain.

Now like many, though, as I got older, certain things didn't seem to make as much sense. But, to be honest, since I didn't dwell on those types of questions that much (otherwise, I'd being going to hell, right?), there weren't a lot of Bible stories I needed to come up with a rationalization for. But things like Adam and Eve populating a planet, for example, you start to question. And not eating certain foods or mixing different fibres in clothing...oh yeah, those we were able to justify as being "Old Testament teaching"...the New Testament overrides all that law stuff...well, except for the Ten Commandments, and that verse on homosexuality, and...well, you get the idea. And of course, then there was the Revelation material. Parts of that just didn't seem right...I couldn't envision all those coloured horses, for example. But don't get me wrong...I got to watch all the classic end times movies as a child (you remember the ones...where the characters were forced to get 666 branded on their wrists or foreheads - or with embedded microchips if it was a really advanced movie; and who could forget that guillotine in the middle of town chopping off people's heads who didn't get "the mark" - more than one person went running up to "get saved" after seeing that). So regardless of how strange some of it read, there was a lot of Revelation that you were sure was going to happen (somehow)...you were still waiting to hear that trumpet (literally!).

And then I read a book called The Pagan Christ by Tom Harpur, who argued, amongst other things, that many of the Bible's stories were essentially based on earlier Egytology stories. To be honest, I didn't particularly enjoy the book or respect Harpur's research and writing skills. But, the book did trigger my interest so, for that, I owe it some gratitude. My next stop down the Bible prospecting path was a book called Misquoting Jesus, by Bart Ehrman. This was a very interesting book focused on textual criticism of the Bible. From this book, it was clear to me that the words that are in the Bible have changed so much over the hundreds of years since they were written that if they ever were the "direct words of God", they aren't anymore. Several books later, I came across Marcus J. Borg's Reading the Bible Again for the First Time. This is a fabulous book that I would recommend to anyone who has read or may read the Bible. This book, along with several others written by Borg (which I will refer to in future blogs) have helped shape my current thinking to a large degree. I won't be able to do this book any justice in this short form, but suffice it to say that my fundamental belief statements below have been heavily influenced by and drawn from a lot of Borg's material.

With that, I will attempt to summarize the essence of my fundamental beliefs about the Bible:

(1) The Bible is a human product - capturing the experiences of the ancient Israel community and the early Christian community and their responses to God and Jesus. It does not contain the very words of God.

  • As such, it is not a divine product (i.e. not the very words of God).
  • It contains these ancient communities' "stories about God's involvement in their lives, their laws and ethical teachings, their prayers and praises, their wisdom about how to live, and their hopes and dreams. It is not God's witness to God (not a divine product) but their witness to God. (1)"
  • Specifically with respect to the early Christian community's stories, the gospels (i.e. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) are the product of a "developing tradition" (1). That is, in the time between Jesus' life and the time when the gospels were written, there was an evolution of thinking about Jesus' life, message and mission. As a result, the gospels "contain some material that goes back to Jesus and some that is the product of the early Christian community - to use a vocal analogy, the gospels contain more than one voice: the voice of Jesus and the voices of the community." (1)
  • With this belief statement, I do not deny the concept of inspiration, but I do not see it as direct inspriration of the words. I believe the authors had God-experiences (in a variety of forms) which inspired them to write their books/letters. But the words and thoughts are their words, not God's. Having said that, I also do not deny the wisdom and insight we can get from the Bible (more on that in belief #3 below).
  • My reasons for concluding that the Bible is a human product as opposed to a divine product are many. Overall, though, to claim that the Bible has divine authority seems to me to be an arrogant and almost incomprehensible argument. If it has divine authority, how does one explain the inconsistencies and errors in the Bible itself? How do you reconcile this with the canonization process that took place where man (or men) decided what would go into the Bible? How do you deal with the changes to the texts that have been made over the years as a result of translations and mass production of the Bible? How do we justify the suggestion that God stopped communicating to man in any form that should be documented and seen as sacred as of about 135 CE (nothing from folks like Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Graham)? And does it make sense that God only spoke to Middle Eastern men (i.e. no women and no other ethnicity)? These are just a few of the types of questions and considerations which have led me to conclude that the Bible is a human product (maybe more on this topic specifically in a future blog entry).
  • Interestingly, with the view that the Bible is a human product, it allows one to read and appreciate the sacred writing of other major religions and recognize them for what they are - a human response to "the sacred" (a term Borg uses a lot in reference to God, and a term which I have grown fond of) reflecting their language and culture.

(2) The Bible contains a mixture of history and metaphors. As such, it should not be (and was never intended to be) read literally. Instead, readers should adopt a "historical-metaphorical approach" (1) to gain a more complete understanding and appreciation of the Bible and the meaning of its stories.

  • The Bible clearly contains some stories that are grounded in history. Likewise, there are clearly metaphors and metaphorical narratives in the Bible.
  • After adopting my first belief about the Bible, there was a bit of a domino effect. If the Bible doesn't contain God's words, then I don't need to see the words themselves as literal, infallible and absolute truth. Instead, the words are related to the time and place of the authors and grounded in the culture of their time.
  • As such, the Bible should be seen through historical and metaphorical lenses (1).
  • The historical lens refers to reading the Bible in the context within which it was written. For example, understanding the state of political and social dynamics of the time sheds a great deal of light on the Biblical texts. (Reflecting on my experience within Christianity, it seems to me that we tend do this only for certain passages that we would like to "explain away" - for example, the role of women in the church, etc.) It should be noted, however, that the danger in just employing a historical approach is that it will become only a factual, scientific view of the texts looking only for the historical meaning and thereby not addressing (or ignoring) texts which are "saying something about God or about events that go beyond the boundaries of what is deemed possible by the modern worldview" (1) and not interpreting the potential meaning of the text for current-day readers.
  • The metaphorical lens recognizes that much of the Bible's language is obviously metaphorical and that the Bible contains both history and metaphor (i.e. some events really happened and, in other cases, there may be little or not historical factuality behind the stories). As such, it seeks to understand the metaphorical meanings of the text, regardless of the historical factuality of the events themselves. The metaphorical lens emphasizes that the Bible can be "really true" even if not "literally true". As a lens, it emphasizes "seeing, not believing - the point is not to believe in a metaphor, but to see in light of it" (1). The danger with adopting only this lens is that the reader's imagination will "roam too freely, producing uncontrolled, fanciful interpretations that have little or nothing to do with the actual text" (1). So the metaphorical approach is balanced by the historical approach as well as the "discernment of the community" hearing the metaphorical meanings being suggested.

(3) The Bible is a sacred document for Christians. It is the foundation document for our faith with which we should be in "continuing conversation" (1) and from which we can better understand the character and will of God.

  • In this context, sacred does not refer to the Bible being of divine authority (see belief #1 above). It refers to the fact that the Bible is sacred because of its "status and its function. Its sacred status for Christians means that it continues to be the most important collection of documents we know. As sacred scripture it functions as...our foundation document, our identity document and our wisdom tradition. To be Christian means to be in primary continuing conversation with the Bible as foundational for our identity and vision...for the Bible is at the heart of Christianity." (1)
  • Given that the Bible is a human product, the "continuing conversation" should be both from a critical viewpoint (i.e. deciding and discerning what passages are relevant to our time, or discerning/interpreting meanings of texts) as well as from a more open viewpoint whereby we allow ourselves to learn from and be shaped by the wisdom in the Bible.
  • As such, as Christians, the Bible should be used to help us deepen our relationship with God (by better understanding His character and will) and transform us. This is done by seeking the wisdom and meanings of texts and stories from the Bible.

(4) The Bible is a mediator to God (i.e. a sacrament).

  • A sacrament is "a finite, physical, visible mediator of the sacred, a means whereby the sacred becomes present to us"(1).
  • As Christians, the words of the Bible can become a mediator to God, addressing us in the present...helping us better understand the character and will of God...helping us to transform our own lives and deepen our relationship with God.
  • For many, the Bible as sacrament is experienced in daily "devotions" (e.g. reading of the Bible and prayer). For others, it may be contemplations of specific Biblical passages or meditation upon the Bible.

In summary, I provide a quote from Borg's book "The Heart of Christianity":

"The Bible - human in origin, sacred in status and function - is both metaphor and sacrament. As metaphor, it is a way of seeing - a way of seeing God and our life with God. As sacrament, it is a way that God speaks to us and comes to us. Within this framework, being Christian is not primarily about believing in the modern sense of believing certain propositions to be true. To be Christian means a relationship with God, lived within the Christian tradition, including especially the Bible as the foundation of the tradition, as both metaphor and sacrament. The Christian life is about a relationship with the one whom the Bible both points to and mediates - namely, a relationship with God as disclosed through the Bible as metaphor and sacrament. To be Christian is to live within this tradition and let it do its transforming work among us." (1)



(1) Marcus J. Borg, Reading the Bible Again for the First Time (San Francisco, HarperSanFrancisco, 2001) and The Heart of Christianity (San Francisco, HarperSanFrancisco, 2003). Marcus J. Borg and N. T. Wright, The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions (San Francisco, HarperSanFrancisco, 1999).

Monday, August 14, 2006

My Fundamental Beliefs - Summary

This blog entry summarizes my fundamental beliefs (using the "Fundamentals Framework" established in a previous blog entry). The beliefs summarized here have been expanded upon in other blog entries within this blog.


The Bible (see Bible Beliefs)
  • The Bible is a human product - capturing the experiences of the ancient Israel community and the early Christian community and their responses to God and Jesus. It does not contain the very words of God. (AGREE)
  • The Bible contains a mixture of history and metaphors. As such, it should not be (and was never intended to be) read literally. Instead, readers should adopt a "historical-metaphorical approach" to gain a more complete understanding and appreciation of the Bible and the meaning of its stories. (AGREE)
  • The Bible is a sacred document for Christians. It is the foundation document for our faith with which we should be in "continuing conversation" and from which we can better understand the character and will of God. (AGREE BUT I WOULD PUT MORE EMPHASIS ON OTHER BOOKS OF WISDOM AS WELL)
  • The Bible is a mediator to God (i.e. a sacrament). (DISAGREE WITH THIS CONCEPT)
God (see My 'More Than' God)
  • God is ‘more than’ language can describe…but within that constraint, I like “isness without limits” as a description of God (AGREE)
  • God is ‘more than’ can be proven with evidence…but even without irrefutable evidence, I believe that God is real (AGREE)
  • God is ‘more than’ just “right here”…God is an encompassing Spirit within which everything is, but God is also more than everything (AGREE)
  • God is ‘more than’ just the source of love, life and being…God is also personal, relational and can be experienced (DISAGREE WITH THE CONCEPT OF A RELATIONAL GOD)
  • The essence of God’s character is love, compassion, justice, and peace. (AGREE)
Jesus (see Jesus..."My God", man!)
  • There was a real, historical Jesus. (AGREE)
  • Our primary source about Jesus, the gospels, are the product of a developing tradition and include a mix of history remembered and history metaphorized. (AGREE)
  • I like the dual view of a pre-Easter Jesus and a post-Easter Jesus. The pre-Easter Jesus is the historical Jesus…that is, Jesus before his death (Jewish mystic, healer, wisdom teacher, social prophet and movement initiator). The post-Easter Jesus is what Jesus became after his death…that is, the Jesus of Christian experience and tradition. (AGREE)
  • Jesus was killed because of his social protest and the movement that was building around him, not because he was a mystic, healer and wisdom teacher. With that perspective, it doesn’t seem likely that Jesus saw his life purpose as “dying for our sins”. (AGREE)
  • I do not think Jesus was born of a virgin. I think the idea of a virgin birth is a metaphorical narrative that evolved as the tradition of Jesus developed following his death. (AGREE)
  • I believe that something must have happened at Easter, and it must have had startling and enormous power since it resulted in the whole Christianity movement. I think there were Easter encounters with Jesus (experiential realities involving Jesus) and Christians throughout the centuries have continued to experience Jesus as a living spiritual reality. As a result of these experiences, the post-Easter Jesus “lives” and “is Lord” (i.e. one with God) for us as Christians. Ultimately, the death and resurrection of Jesus is a revelation of “the way” – that is, an internal transformation which results in growth in love, life and being. (AGREE SOMETHING HAPPENED, BUT DON'T BELIEVE IT WAS AN EXPERIENCE...MAYBE A REFINED THINKING THAT BUILT MOMENTUM FOR THE MOVEMENT)
  • For Christians, the decisive revelation of God is Jesus (note that this does not require affirming that Jesus is the only adequate revelation of God). Jesus shows us, as Christians, what a life full of God is like, and is our ultimate sacrament of God. As such, Jesus is divine. (AGREE, BUT WOULD EMPHASIZE THAT WE CAN LEARN FROM OTHERS AS WELL)
Pathways to God (see The Way)
  • The enduring world religions are mediators of the absolute (the sacred) but, like Christianity, are not absolute in themselves. (DISAGREE THAT THEY ARE MEDIATORS)
  • Christianity, as one of the world's great religious traditions (and my personal religion), is my pathway to God. (SORT OF AGREE BUT I DON'T ALIGN MYSELF WITH THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION LIKE I USED TO)
  • For Christians, Jesus is "the way". He is the disclosure of what a life full of God looks like. This is who Jesus is for us...and we can say this without saying that God is known only in Jesus. (AGREE, BUT WOULD EMPHASIZE THAT WE CAN LEARN FROM OTHERS AS WELL)
Faith (see Faith Matters)
  • While faith should not be about believing things that go against our factual knowledge of the way things are, I do firmly believe that faith is a required component of a Christian life. (DISAGREE)
Sin, Salvation and Afterlife (see Revisiting Sin, Salvation and the Afterlife)
  • The concept of sin relates mainly to mankind’s natural separation from and lack of centering in God and God’s character. It is not about disobeying a set of “divine rules” and suffering the consequences (e.g. eternal damnation). (DON'T REALLY FOCUS ON THIS CONCEPT AT ALL ANYMORE)
  • Repentence is not about contrition and guilt, but about resolving to reconnect to and center oneself in God and God’s character. (DON'T REALLY FOCUS ON THIS CONCEPT AT ALL ANYMORE)
  • Salvation is about a personal transformation that results from a conscious and intentional centering of one’s life and identify in God and God’s character. The result is a life that fully loves and is fully lived; a life that is characterized by love, freedom, peace, compassion and justice. (DON'T REALLY FOCUS ON THIS CONCEPT AT ALL ANYMORE)
  • The afterlife is a great unknown, but I believe there is something after this life, and I’m hoping it is us dying into God’s presence – which would be the ultimate experience of and connection with God. (AGREE)
Prayer (see What About Prayer?)
  • Verbal (petitionary/intercessory) prayer feels ‘right’ to me – it is part of my process of thinking of and caring for others...but I don’t have an expectation that through these prayers I will change the mind or will of an ‘out there’ God so that He intervenes in the normal course of the universe. (DON'T REALLY FOCUS ON THIS CONCEPT AT ALL ANYMORE)
  • Meditative and contemplative prayers can be powerful ‘centering’ mechanisms that allow us to ‘pay attention’ to God and focus on ‘experiencing God’. I believe these types of prayer can impact and change the pray-er, which can then help the pray-er impact and help others . (DISAGREE ABOUT THE "EXPERIENCING" GOD CONCEPT RELATED TO ANY KIND OF PRAYER...UNLESS THE MEANING OF "EXPERIENCE" IS REALLY LOOSE)
Christian Routines (see Routines and Thin Places)
  • The core purpose of Christian routines (such as worship, Bible reading, prayer, attending church, sermons, etc.) is to help us encounter "thin places" where our hearts are opened to experience God and grow in compassion and justice. (DISAGREE WITH THE CONCEPT OF THIN PLACES UNLESS A VERY LOOSE INTERPRETATION IS GIVEN)
  • I don't think that Christian routines are requirements, nor do I think that they are always effective - but they can help us encounter "thin places". (DISAGREE WITH THE CONCEPT OF THIN PLACES UNLESS A VERY LOOSE INTERPRETATION IS GIVEN)
Christian Life Focus (see Transformation: What It's All About)
  • Christianity is, first and foremost, about a personal transformation - a transformation to a life that is centered in God and that is intentional about having a deepening relationship with the Sacred. The result of that personal transformation is a growth in love and compassion and life that can be lived more fully. (DISAGREE WITH THE RELATIONSHIP FOCUS OF THIS)
  • Christianity is also about a social transformation that should lead to the experiencing of the "Kingdom of God" today...that is, the way life on earth (yes on earth, not heaven) would be today if God was ruler. The result of this social transformation is a focus on justice for the poor and marginalized, an indictment of the religious and political elites and a resistence to oppressive cultural systems of unfairness and dominance. (DISAGREE, AS UNFORTUNATELY I DON'T SEE THAT THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION IN ITS CURRENT FORM IS EVEN CLOSE TO BEING ABLE TO DRIVE SOCIAL TRANSFORMATION AS ENVISIONED HERE)

"Fundamentals" Framework

I had initially envisioned this blog entry to lay out my own version of "The Fundamentals" in summary form. That is, I intended to document a series of concise statements which outlined my current beliefs across a variety of topic areas.

While this may sound like a simple feat, I would suggest that it is challenging, complex and at times daunting. So as I pondered this blog entry, I concluded that since my future blog entries are largely intended to expand on each of the "fundamentals" that were to be summarized here, I would likely end up wanting to change or revise the "fundamentals" in this blog entry as I work through the future entries.

So...I've changed my mind about the content of this blog entry. Instead of providing the specific fundamental statements themselves, I am going to provide the framework that I envision using to develop my "fundamentals". The framework will attempt to outline the topic areas and types of questions that I will address with "fundamentals" statements and that I will expand upon in future blog entries.

You will note that my framework is based on a Christian perspective. This bias, however, should not be interpreted as a criticism or snubbing of other religions. The fact is...I am a Christian...I have been one all my life, and consider myself to still be one (although one with different views then I have held previously). So I make no apologies for my "fundamentals" framework having that slant...that is a part of who I am (for more on my background see the "My Starting Point" entry previously in this blog).

As I complete future blog entries, I will return to a summary blog entry (see the "My Fundamental Beliefs - Summary" in the next blog entry) to update the framework with the actual statements along with a link to the blog entry which expands upon my thinking. Eventually, then, there will be a summary of my fundamental belief statements in one blog entry.

Confusing enough for everyone? Okay then...now onto my "fundamentals" framework...

Fundamentals Framework
The topics I intend to address include the following:

  • The Bible - Is the Bible the very "word of God"? How should it be read and interpreted? What is its purpose?
  • God - Is there a God? If so, what is the essence of God? What is his relationship with humankind? What is the nature of God?
  • Jesus - What was his mission and message? Why was he killed and was he "raised from the dead"? Was he born of a virgin? Was he divine (i.e. the Son of God)?
  • Pathways to God - Is there an exclusive path to God? How does one deal with the exclusive language sometimes attached to Christianity? If there are multiple pathways to God, are all religions essentially the same?
  • Faith - How much should faith be a driver in forming one's beliefs?
  • Sin, Salvation and the Afterlife - What is "sin"? Is there such a thing as "salvation" and, if so, what does it refer to and how do we achieve it? Will Jesus "come again"? Is there an afterlife?
  • Prayer - What is prayer? Why pray? Does God answer prayer?
  • Christian Routines - What is the purpose of the various Christian routines (e.g. going to church, worship, community service, daily "devotions" such as prayer and reading the Bible)? Are they requirements for Christians?
  • Christian Life Focus - What is the essential focus of being a "Christian"? Why be a Christian?
Other Topics of Interest
In addition to future blog entries on the above "fundamentals", there are other topics that are of interest to me and which I intend to address (I will likely scatter these types of topics into the blog as I feel inspired).

If I find interesting nuggets (e.g. quotes, links, cartoons, stories, etc.), I'll post them under the caption "Pay Dirt"...in keeping with my prospecting theme.

I am sure this framework will need to evolve throughout the life of this blog, but for now, this is my envisioned path. Now, I just need to decide where to start. Hmmm....

Sunday, August 13, 2006

My Starting Point

Before I get into the content of blog itself, I think it is important that I provide a brief overview of my background, as this will likely help to explain the position from which I am writing this blog.

As I start writing this blog, I am 36 years old. I am a male, married with no kids and one dog. I was raised in a fundamentalist Christian home, which meant, among other things, that I grew up believing in notions such as:

  • a literal understanding of the Bible as the "Word of God" (this has a huge impact on all other beliefs and emphases)
  • the exclusivity of Christianity in terms of providing a path to God
  • an emphasis on believing and faith
  • a focus on humanity's sinful nature, guilt related to that nature, and the salvation that is required as a result to enable you to spend the afterlife with God (i.e. rights and rewards)
  • a fixation on the afterlife (to the degree that if someone walked in and said that there was proof that there was no afterlife, I would have had no idea why I should be Christian - that was what it was all about)
  • an emphasis on "being good" by living in accordance with the Bible

The particular form of fundamentalism that I was part of for the first 25 years of my life was Pentecostalism. For the last decade or so, I have been associated with the Wesleyan denomination.

And while I grew up in a modern Canadian town in a modern household and have lived in a major urban centre for the past almost 20 years with a professional job, I haven't (until the last year or so) really thought about questioning any of the above notions. In that sense, I consider myself to have been a "natural literalist" (not even thinking to question the tenets of my faith...just believing it because that is what I grew up with).

And while I have been involved (sometimes heavily) in the churches I have attended over the year, as I have reflected in the last year or so, I would suggest that I have not been overly focused on theology or theological matters. By that, I mean that I didn't THINK a lot about my theological beliefs. Of that fact, I am not proud; having said that, I don't think that I am an "unusual" Christian in that regard (at least the Christians that I have been associated with in my lifetime).

As I write blog entries, I will endeavour to point out the relevant portions of my background and the beliefs I have held most of my life. I will do this for two reasons. First, to help readers understand why I might be approaching a topic the way I am (that is, the perspectives that would have shaped my beliefs related to that topic for most of my life). Second, to help readers better associate with my starting point and recognize any similarities between their current beliefs and my "historical" beliefs - thereby (hopefully) increasing the relevance of the blog in helping them better assess their own perspectives in relation to my points of view, and decide whether the positions I put forward are worthy of their further consideration.

Entmoots and Such...

It all started with an Entmoot.

What the heck is an Entmoot you might ask? Well, in J. R. R. Tolkien's fantasy series "The Lord of the Rings", one of the races identified was Ents (essentially giant talking trees - see picture on right). Rarely, the Ents would gather for a discussion on matters of great importance - an Entmoot. And strange as it might sound, three friends of mine and I gather periodically for our own "Entmoots" (no, none of us is a giant tree, but we like to amuse ourselves by thinking we are meeting for discussions on matters of great importance).

Okay, back to the point. At one of our Entmoots (perhaps a year ago or so), the topic of spirituality came up (as it often does at such gatherings). But this time, two of my friends had recently read a book which had had a profound impact on them, causing a revolution in their thinking on things theological (especially - as a starting point - the concept of a literal interpretation of the Bible...more on that in a future blog entry). The resulting discussion was intriguing, yet scary at the same time. My first reaction was some combination of questioning, bewilderment and weak attempts at rebuttal. Future Entmoots continued down the same line of conversation, although with new books and thoughts being added as the Entmoots went by.

I finally decided that if I was to sit through more of these discussions and feel equipped to engage, I needed to dig in and read some of this nonsense my friends were talking about. I started with the same book as they did initially. While the book didn't result in the same form of revolutionary thought for me as for my friends, it was interesting to me. And with the benefit of having listened to various discussions at other Entmoots, I wandered off on my own exploratory journey of theology, God, Christianity, and so on. The result was encounters with such authors as Marcus J. Borg, John Shelby Spong, Bart Ehrman, Tom Harpur and others.

The result of this exploration - or PROSPECTING (in case you were wondering about the name of this blog) - thus far has been something of a personal reformation with respect to my views of God and Christianity (more on my background in the next blog entry). I consider the journey to be at its early stages only at this point, but I have moved far enough down this path, that I decided that I needed some forum to capture my evolving thoughts - hence, this blog.

Personally, unless I write something down, I find it difficult to completely formulate my thinking in a fullsome manner. So I intend to use this blog to help me accomplish this. My current vision (for lack of a better word) for this blog is to attempt to lay out my own set of "fundamental beliefs" and to use future blog entries to address each. I also anticipate addressing "random" related topics of interest. I'm sure this blog, like my thinking, will evolve over time, but for now, this is the direction I intend to pursue.

I invite your comments and feedback. Having said that, my intent is to not allow this blog to become a home for acrimonious debate. I welcome candid, comparative thoughtful discourse on the topics at hand, but would like this blog to be a model for how to discuss what can be contentious and emotional issues.

My hopes for the blog are similar to those found in the introduction to the book "The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions", by Marcus J. Borg and N. T. Wright (1):

  • That the blog will be "interesting and refreshing" to Christians and non-Christians and will help both to "grapple with points of view they might otherwise have dismissed without serious thought";
  • That the blog's content might help "shift logjammed debates into more fruitful possibilities"; and,
  • Somewhat selfishly, that the process of writing the blog will help me to "grow in [my] understanding of the subject matter, and enable others to do so as well".

With that, let's get started!

Notes (Throughout this blog, I anticipate making reference to, borrowing concepts, or quoting from books that I have read. I will attempt to provide credit where relevant.):

1. Marcus J. Borg and N. T. Wright, The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions (San Francisco, HarperSanFrancisco, 1999).