In this book Dr. Oord confronts the issues of good and evil in the context of a Christian’s faith in God. He deals seriously with these ancient questions without discounting honest, scientific observations about the randomness of reality. With precision and clarity, he addresses difficult and perplexing philosophical and theological concepts. Dr. Oord has written in other books on the topic of God’s love. Building on these prior works, he presents an accessible yet scholarly model for conceptualizing how God interacts with human lives and the physical world which he calls “essential kenosis”. While his approach is not traditional, it honors faith and interprets the traditions of scripture. I strongly recommend this most recent book by Dr. Oord along with his prior works. Thank you, Dr. Oord for providing a digital, advanced copy of your book.
Saturday, September 12, 2015
Wednesday, July 1, 2015
- To which Bible is one referring? When Jews use the word “Bible”, they are not referring to the same thing as Christians. Even among Christians, the word does not designate exactly the same collection of writings. Protestants, Catholics and Orthodox all mean something different by that word.
- The Bible is not one book. Bibles are collections of writings. These writings were written at various times in history and were written by many different writers. Each writing has its own history. Some of the writings are written by one person and other individual writings have a history of oral tradition, collection, and editing. These writings have things in common, but they also have their own separate and distinct perspectives and theologies. All of the writings are not saying exactly the same thing.
- Most, if not all people, cannot “just read it”. The protestant, Christian Bible contains works that are written in ancient Hebrew, Aramaic, or Koine Greek. Most people cannot simple read these languages. This Bible also has various textual histories and no one copy says exactly the same thing as any other. Most of the differences are minor, but some are quite significant. One cannot “just read it” because first someone has to decide which copy or text you will read. But even deciding upon a particular text leaves the question of translation. Most people have to rely upon a translation and there are many different translations.
- The meaning of these Bibles is not “self-evident”. One cannot simply “read it, and believe it”. With every reading, there is a person and community that are also interpreting the Bible. There is no reading without interpretation. Not surprisingly, there are many different interpretations and many different methods of interpreting Bibles. The interpretative history of Bibles is long and complicated, and, in some cases, outright contradictory.
- The various writings included in Bibles were not written in a vacuum. Each part was written within a particular historical, linguistic, cultural, literary, and religious context. The more one understands these various contexts, the more likely one will come closer to understanding the original meanings. Many of the great themes in Bibles can be appreciated and appropriated by all who can read or listen. However, to understand the details and nuances takes hard work. The more one studies, the more one will learn, and the more one will realize that no one person will ever completely know and understand everything about these religious works.
- Please, don’t “believe” it. Professing intellectual assent to the content of these writings can result in all kinds of crazy ideas and behaviors. Rather, I suggest one to read it, read what others write about it, study it. Let it challenge your thinking. Learn from the religious legacy of your own human ancestors. Ultimately, I hope that these writings will prompt personal, life experiences and greater awareness of our common life together in ways that will benefit human life. I do not think these Bibles are authorities over life, but rather testimonies to the ways humans have oriented their lives for personal and common good. Learn from these religious writings, but don’t imitate them. Be a real human.
Monday, September 1, 2014
My father’s name is Terah and I was born in the city of Ur, a very big city. Many travel from Ur on the river and cattle carts and donkey caravans as far away as Egypt. Date palms grow around the city and canals bring water for crops of barley, lentils, onions, and garlic. I was lucky enough to even learn to read and write a little from a local priest. I studied arithmetic, accounting, and Sumerian literature. I also learned about all of the gods of the city, tribes and people around Ur. All of these gods were confusing to me, but I learned from the priest about them and remembered his words. The priest spent quite a bit of time telling me about Sin, the moon god. Sin, also referred to as En Zu, is considered the ‘chief of the gods’ and the ‘creator of all things.’ His wife is Ningal and she bore him Shamash and Ishtar, gods of the Sun and Venus. My childhood imagination could see En Zu riding across the sky on a winged bull.
Early in my life Terah moved our entire family to Haran, a city that also had a temple to the God En Zu. Of course Sarah, my wife, came with us. Also, Terah’s grandson, Lot, came. There were many others also, family members, friends, and workers. It was a long and dusty trip. We took all of our sheep, goats, and donkeys. The donkeys helped us carry our belongings. Sometimes the women and children would ride on the donkeys. However, the trip was not much different than the life that we had living around Ur. We were always moving from place to place so that our sheep could graze and have water.
One of my earliest memories around Haran is about looking into the sky and seeing the moon. The air is cool and it is dark. Looking up into the sky, the stars fill the night. They are shining bright and seem so close that I could reach up and grab one. The feeling of awe and wonder pour over me, lift me up, and all of the stars speak to me. They ask me, “Who are you to ask?” But I have to ask anyway. From where do you come? Why are you there? What are you? I ask all of these questions of the stars, and they ask the same questions back to me. All of the questions make sense to me, but some say I should not ask. However, this night is not about reason. The stars are speaking and I am flying across the heavens. Just like En Zu riding the winged bull. Flying on the overwhelming feeling of awe, peculiarity, hope…….feelings that have no words……flying without wings. As I flew without wings, I was outside of myself. When I land, the stars keep asking, but give no answers. It is I that must give the answer, maybe an answer of faith. I am not flying anymore. However, I have to make my answer work here and in all the places beyond where I have been found.
My father, Terah, died while we lived in Haran. It was a great loss. The one to whom I looked for guidance was gone. I now had to seek guidance from a strength within myself that included all the memories of my father, my past, stories of the moon God. I felt like I was outside of myself, looking at my life. Without my father, what was I to do? In the midst of this loss, I knew, in spite of everything, I needed to act for the sake of my life and my family. I needed courage to act.
I decided that I needed to leave Haran with all of my family. At night, the moon spoke to me. I would think about my father and all that he gave to me, but realized that even he could not give to me the land and the skies, the stars and the moon, the sun and the clouds. I could hear a great voice, a father, a god, maybe even the God calling me on to a new adventure.
But to take that first step toward something that I did not know was hard. Could I ever be sure that my plan was right. Most of the time life for me is ordinary and this ordinary life seems to hold me in place. Why venture out? Why risk a new thing? Yet, I still seem to hear --- yet it was not really a hearing --- an extraordinary call to a new place. But finally I could feel that it was not this extraordinary hearing alone that called me to a journey. It was also the ordinary experiences of life that were calling also. The birth of a child, the smile of my wife, the wonder of the land and the skies were leading my in the process of life. I simply needed to trust, to have faith for the first and the next step. With my father gone, I now had to be father. In the steps of faith, I became the father of many who also live a life of trust.
Experiencing Life: A Personal, Ecumenical, Christian Perspective By John R King, Jr.
Wednesday, August 6, 2014
Review of “THE NAKED JESUS: A JOURNEY OUT OF CHRISTIANTIY INTO CHRIST”
I found this book to be honest, conversational, questioning , and easy to read. As one who considers himself to be a Christian, I liked the following themes that I found in the book: equality, inclusion, love, a complete and fulfilled life through Christ.
The author does a good job of describing the shortcomings of the institutional church; but, I was not totally convinced about “the naked Jesus”. Can one ever really see “the naked Jesus”? Years ago, I read a book entitled “Which Jesus?”. It described the many different ways that Jesus has been understood throughout history. In “The Naked Jesus: A Journey Out of Christianity into Christ”, the author describes his way of seeing Jesus as “the naked Jesus”. If the reader sees Jesus differently, maybe the reader is not wrong even if he sees him differently than this author.
I liked the many questions posed in this book. I would recommend that every reader of the book try to answer those questions for themselves rather than only considering the possible answers offered in this book.
I heartily recommend those who want to take Jesus seriously to read this book as part of their understanding of Jesus. However, more than understanding, I hope for every person an experience of the ongoing journey of life as whole, complete, transformative. I hope for an experience of love.
(Disclosure: The author of “The Naked Jesus: A Journey Out of Christianity Into Christ” provided a free copy in pdf format for me to read in exchange for reviewing this book)
Thursday, December 12, 2013
I trust in God, our Caregiver, the primal ground,
creativity in heaven and earth and all.
And in Jesus, the Christ,
our Leader and Teacher,
anointed by the awareness of God,
born of Mary, low, but greater than any ruler,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
crucified, dead and buried,
gone from life in the shadows of memory,
on the third day raised from the dead,
raised into our hearts, our lives;
he is now our radicalized trust in God, our Caregiver;
from there he comes, always,
to judge us all.
I trust in Guidance by the consciousness of God,
the global gathering,
open participation with all,
a generous path to a complete life,
resurrection of the dead
and continuing abundant life.
Thursday, October 24, 2013
Why Some Do Not Need to Go To Church
1. The church is not a place to which we go.
Many Christians will agree with this idea. The church is made up of Christians everywhere. Christians are the church. All of the buildings in which they gather do not constitute the church. However, as many keep on agreeing, they also keep on saying that they “go” to church. Many of those who do not need to go to church anymore need a better way to describe what the church is doing when it gathers in a building and participates in a particular organization. I know. It is simply easier to say that “we are going to church”. But we really are not “going to church”.
2. Some of the reasons that Christians have gathered over the history of Christianity, are no longer completely valid.
- In the earliest years, Christians gathered to share their remembrances of Christ with each other. No one alive today has any historical remembrances of Christ.
- In the earliest years, as those who had a personal, historical experience of Christ began to die, Christians gathered to preserve their testimony regarding their encounter with Jesus. Obviously, this task is complete.
- Christians gathered to have the scriptural writings read to them because they could not read for themselves. They could not read for themselves because of a lack of reading ability and the lack of inexpensive, quick, easy, and readily available, printed reading material. Today we have the scriptures translated, printed, and recorded in many different formats. Gathering is not necessary to have access to the scriptures.
- Christian gatherings served a social purpose – a good thing. However, many now have their social needs met by gathering for work, gathering for meals in restaurants, for public performances, sporting events, bars, education, etc. Maybe what some Christians need is more time in a quiet place, out of the public eye, alone with the creativity of God leading their thoughts, alone with their prayers. Maybe we have overloaded with our gatherings.
- Christian gatherings were a source for learning. In Western Europe, learning was preserved by the church and was an important source of education through the early middles ages. Many great universities in the United States were started by Christians. Personally, I consider education as part of the cause of God. However, today, many forms of the church are viewed as being against education or as a proponent of a narrow, pinched version of education. Even in the realm of theology, the church seems to be a poor source of education and many times seems to be at war against its most creative theologians.
3. Individual gatherings may not be the priority that we have made it out to be. Read the Gospels. The concept of the Kingdom of God is much more prominent that the concept of the church. Today some call the Kingdom of God the “rule of God”, “the leadership of God”, or “the cause of God.” Maybe Christians, instead of going to church, should be the church where ever they go. Maybe Christians should do church. Act for God’s Cause! In every aspect of life, act for the common good.
4. Many will agree with some or all of these ideas, but still say Christians should gather as individual, specific, visible expressions of church. There is no problem with that. However, as long as such gatherings remain celebrations of the narcissism of small differences, hour long excuses for small talk, gossip, and fake bread with cheap wine, wasted money on buildings that are empty most of the week, groups with leaders compromised by the pay they need to live, and organizations dominated by self-important bullies who assume power based upon their wealth and contributions, more and more people will discover that they no longer need to go to church. Calling such gatherings as communion seems scandalous.
5. From a larger, global, off-earth, ecumenical perspective, the one church is made up of every Christian gathered on the land and under the vault of the starry skies. Where else would a Christian expect God to rule but in their lives, the very living Church. But it seems that God’s Cause has expanded beyond what is named "church" and thus God’s Cause transcends the church, guiding the freedom of thought in universities, cooperating and enhancing the creative healing of human bodies and minds by doctors and in hospitals, inspiring our political self-determination by the right of vote by all, to name just a few examples. So the church is of less import than many Christians would imagine. God's leadership in every human life is the goal and its creative manifestation is transforming human life and continues as humans make the best choices for the common benefit of all. May we focus on God’s Cause in our lives lest our hearts and minds are diverted in such a way that we make choices that lead to the consequence of a truly apocalyptic result, ending our lives and the earth. Why would one want to “go” to church when she can “be” and “do” church?
6. We do not have to separate our activities between what cultivates Christianity and what does not. God is in all; and, in everything we do, we can try to make a reflection of a Christian perspective. When we work for an employer or rent an apartment to a new tenant, every act we try to decide on the basis of common interest, these acts are our worship to God. When we take a step in a new venture in faith, God finds us in the journey. In ecstatic experiences, God finds us. When we see the beauty of nature, God finds us. We do not have to read portions of a Biblical writing or a few verses. We can read an entire book at a time. When we read Mark, God finds us. Meals, conversations, organizing trades to create a new home, corporate meetings, donations to those in need, celebrations, teaching, driving safely, advice to a friend, helping someone we do not know in the grocery store are all our devotions and examples of church, but more importantly, examples of God’s Cause in action. Universities, hospitals, governments, grocery stores, Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, and more are community organizations that help one connect and participate in community, those gatherings are our communion. Whenever and wherever we act for the common interest, even in the face of anger or malice, God finds us. He always finds us even when we do not “go” to church..
Sunday, June 16, 2013
Part of the reason we celebrate Father's Day is because of the care they give to children in the context of what we call family. Today, if you are a Father, we celebrate you. But there are families with single moms, people without children, adoptive fathers, non-biological fathers, missing fathers, two fathers, two mothers and more. We are all human and our children, all human children are part of our legacy and are the next step in the long human path. On this Father's Day, I celebrate Father and also all those who care for children, care given by taxes for education, care given by a concerned hand on the fevered brow of a child, and every kind of care in between. We are all part of the human family. Let us all care for our human children. We are family! May God, our Caregiver, bless you!