Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Problem

The problem is finding a church that we feel comfortable with --- where we can hold to our truth without being viewed as weird or an outcast.

I think novelist and spiritual teacher Joseph John (JJ) Dewey says it well:

It is interesting to watch a debate between a "new ager" and a "born-againer" [Born Again Chrisitian]. The "born-againer" will quote scripture after scripture to back up his beliefs and the new ager will smile as if the guy is from the stone ages and preach back his philosophy quoting no authority, but his heart. Consequently, the two are not speaking each other's language and both go away from the discussion feeling that the other is as far down the enlightenment scale as you can get.

One of the problems is that the sincere religious person has felt 'soul contact' while reading the scriptures and because of this is not about to drop his belief in the closest link he has to the Spirit. On the other hand, many "new agers" have not even read the scriptures, or had them forced upon them while they were young, and do not identify with this feeling. Instead, many of them have received some spiritual contact while reading other books that teach enough 'truth' to draw the inner voice.

What the true seeker must realize is that God has spoken to many different people in many different ways and even though the vocabulary and definitions may vary, the core truths are the same.

Here are a few examples of religious issues that concern me because I disagree with the "traditional" mainstream view:

The Cross. I am skeptical of the mainstream view that Jesus "died a Penal Substitutionary death for the sins of the world" . Call me a "new ager" if you want, but this is not consistent with my understanding of God.

Salvation. I believe salvation is available to everyone because Christ lives in all people, knocking at the door of their hearts. They may not call this presence "Jesus" but it is essentially the same. This position is not quite a "philosophy quoting no authority, but (my) heart" because there is plenty of support for it. However, my view is not what I am calling "mainstream".

Eternal Hell. I believe in "hell", both in this life and in the life to come, but I do not believe in an eternal hell that someone might be condemned to because of what they did or did not do or believe during a relatively short human lifespan. I believe that God is good and that this goodness is not consistent with that kind of punishment. I do believe that some things are temporary and that these will be destroyed. As Jesus said:
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:19-21)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Why Engage The Christian Community?

Having children changes everything (almost). We have two pre-school boys and we want to find a spiritual home where the boys can learn about a religious tradition and develop spiritual values for themselves as they develop into young adults. Here are some reasons why we want to find a Christian church to serve as this home:

1. History: My wife grew up in a Methodist church and I grew up in a Baptist church. We appreciate many positive benefits from these experiences. It is our tradition.

2. Availability: The Christian Church is by far the primary religious organization in our town, county, state, region. It is the way most people seek God in this area. We have two large churches within a 5-minute walk from our house. If we are to ally with a well-developed organization to help our boys develop spiritually, it is the obvious (if not the only) choice we have.

3. Good people, good fellowship: There many good people in Christian churches, people who will love and help the boys throughout their development. We will see a community of people devoted to living God-centered lives

4. Good preaching: The messages (lessons, sermons, bible stories, etc.) are generally good and full of truth.

5. Good singing: The music is uplifting and heart-opening.

6. Youth programs: There are many programs for youth. The boys can be part of a youth group. Or they may want to be involved in the music somehow.

7. Redemption: We will be exposed to the message that all human beings fall short of the glory of God and thus need God to have a good life now and after death. The boys need to learn what it means to repent, and that they need to repent and to receive God's grace and redemption.

8. Jesus: We will be brought into direct contact with the healing power of Jesus.

9. Prayer: The boys will learn about prayer --- turning our concerns over to God --- and we will all experience the power of prayer.

10. The Bible: We will be exposed to the Bible which is full of tradition, wisdom and God-inspred, truth-filled messages.

So you may say: this all sounds good, so what is the problem (i.e. why not just join a mainstream Christian church)?

This is addressed in my next post (see above).

Monday, April 14, 2008


Inspired by a a post by Theo Geek called Adherance to Doctrinal Statements , I started this blog to create a place to organize my thoughts concerning (1) truth and (2) religious tradition.

I want to explore how my family and I can respect and benefit from Christian traditions while remaining loyal to God's truth. God's truth for me being the Truth as in "I am the way, and the truth, and the life (John 14:8)". Thus I find God's truth in places other than the Christian Bible and in interpretations of it that are different from most "mainstream" churches in the USA.

So you may ask: why is it important to me for my family and I to engage the Christian community?

Let me include this sketch of my spiritual journey up through 1993.

1951 --- born
1953- 1958 --- Baptist Church – Sunny, clean, happy, joyful. Alcoholism.
1958-1963 --- Baptist Church – “God is your conscious” said one Sunday School teacher. Alcoholism. Unhappiness. Repetitive prayer.

At age 11, I listened to sermons urging sinners to repent and believe and be saved, or if they did not believe, then they would go to hell forever. I thought of my father and realized that he was exactly the kind of person the minister was talking about, and that if what he was saying was true, my father would spend forever in hell. I thought about it seriously, but immediately realized that I did not believe this “gospel message” as it was presented. And I realized that it would do no good to pretend I did and make a profession of faith, because this would be false, and God would know that --- so I wouldn’t be saved anyway. So I pretty much just walked away and quit attending.

1964-1970 --- rock & roll, drinking, sports, girls, more studious.
1970-1974 --- college, science, math, computers, heavy meat and sugar diet, less and less exercise, academic success. Agnostic.
1974-1977 --- got married, began full-time job, began taking exams, studying until 3am in the mornings. Still agnostic. Attended country church – long services – emotional preacher – anti-intellectualism. Good fellowship in a way. My wife was unhappy because of my lack of faith.

1977 --- Spiritual awakening. Initiated by reading books, especially “Be Here Now” and listening to tapes. Many powerful experiences on all levels --- spiritual, emotional and mental. An opening to the spirit, through devotion to God. Made a number of changes (“methods”) to facilitate closeness to God --- fasting, walking, quit caffeine, quit meat, yoga, vegetarian diet, more exercise, slowing down, worked less, closer to nature. Saw the one truth manifested in Christianity as well as Eastern religions, joined Baptist Church, was baptized. Prayer, singing (“I have decided to follow Jesus”).

1978-1983 --- Continued practicing these methods, and working on relationship with my wife. Began to realize that I did not fit in with the other members at our Baptist Church. Started counseling with my wife. She was unhappy with some, maybe most, of the changes I was making. And she was also unhappy in general.

1983 --- My father died.
1983-1985 --- My anger started erupting into our marriage and I was sometimes cruel to my wife. After a very difficult decision-making process, we decided to move. This created more stress as I had decided not to be the one compromises all the time and she was unable or unwilling to compromise much either.
1985-1987 --- My wife was hospitalized as an inpatient for depression. I went into Al-Anon for Adult Children of Alcoholics and private counseling. Difficult divorce was finalized in 1987. Started meditating.
1988 --- Diagnosed with diabetes. Learned how to live on my on. Continued meditation, practicing more formal (mostly Buddhist) meditation. 12-step programs.
1989 --- My mother died.
1990-1993 --- Masters program in Mathematics, teaching assistant. Summers at Meditation Center. Yoga and meditation, and the other methods (see above).