Thought about Nontheistic Christianity

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YouWish
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Thought about Nontheistic Christianity

Post by YouWish » Wed Jan 30, 2008 2:32 am

I am not quite sure where this should go. I am not really sure if any of these boards apply to me. But anyway, I posted this on another forum, and it didn't receive many replies, so perhaps people will have thoughts here. Background- I'm an atheist, but I know Meta, and he said it was okay to post here, so here goes.

So I've been reading Spong, and Borg, and Tillich, and Whitehead, and a whole bunch of liberal Christian theology. In fact, apart from hanging out with the girlfriend, it's about all I've been doing over this entire three weeks of Christmas break. And I must say, I've been pretty impressed by it all. For instance, take a look at this passage from Spong's Why Christianity Must Change or Die:

"Yes, it is frightening to think that there is no heavenly parent in the sky who will take care of us. The realization is dawning that we human beings are alone and therefore responsible for ourselves, that there is no appeal to a higher power for protection. We are learning that meaning is not external to life, but must be discovered in our own depths and imposed on life by an act of our own will. We are being made aware that life is not fair and will not necessarily be made fair in this life or in any other.

"When the Jews were carried into exile into Babylon in the early years of the sixth century B.C.E., they knew they could never sing the Lord's song again, at least not the songs of Zion. They knew that God could never be worshiped in the future the way God had been worshiped in the past. They had to learn a new song or never sing again. That, I believe, is exactly the fate of the modern Christian. I believe the new song is developing, and I want to be part of the generation that will sing it. The replacement of the theistic God with the inescapable God who is the Ground of Being is, in my opinion, the prerequisite for sounding forth the mighty chorus of the future.

So I start here. There is no God external to life. God, rather is the inescapable depth and center of all that is. God is not a being superior to all other beings. God is the Ground of Being itself."

I don't know about you, but I find myself agreeing with those words. I know that I will never again be a theist, now that I have discovered the truth: the personal God is dead. Yet I still view the world through Christian glasses. Perhaps it is just an accident of my upbringing, but I can't help but think there was something special about Christ (though not to the exclusion of the other special people throughout history). Maybe a spark of the "divine" really was in Christ, and maybe I can speak of that "specialness" in terms of the "divine" without violating my reason.

In any case, I have begun to think rather heavily about these issues, and I am starting to once again view myself as a Christian, though in a radically different way than I would have understood that definition before. Once again, I am not blinding myself to the impossibilities of a theistic God; I understand that such a God can never be revived. I do, however, now think that the word God is useful, in the sense that it describes a state of being that I experience, which I could call "spiritual". As I believe Borg called it, I am now beginning to view God as the "sacred mystery at the heart of the universe".

Thoughts about this? Has anyone else felt the same way at times? Perhaps I am now leaning towards "nontheism" rather than "atheism".

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Re: Thought about Nontheistic Christianity

Post by Metacrock » Wed Jan 30, 2008 4:03 am

YouWish wrote:I am not quite sure where this should go. I am not really sure if any of these boards apply to me. But anyway, I posted this on another forum, and it didn't receive many replies, so perhaps people will have thoughts here. Background- I'm an atheist, but I know Meta, and he said it was okay to post here, so here goes.
I'm not that rigid about where things go. this fits fine here, or on adventure of faith.


So I've been reading Spong, and Borg, and Tillich, and Whitehead, and a whole bunch of liberal Christian theology. In fact, apart from hanging out with the girlfriend, it's about all I've been doing over this entire three weeks of Christmas break. And I must say, I've been pretty impressed by it all. For instance, take a look at this passage from Spong's Why Christianity Must Change or Die:
I ought to read that.


"Yes, it is frightening to think that there is no heavenly parent in the sky who will take care of us. The realization is dawning that we human beings are alone and therefore responsible for ourselves, that there is no appeal to a higher power for protection. We are learning that meaning is not external to life, but must be discovered in our own depths and imposed on life by an act of our own will. We are being made aware that life is not fair and will not necessarily be made fair in this life or in any other.
I don't think we have to think of it as being "alone" even if we don't see God as a big father figure. There is something, my father did come back to life when he had his big heart attack and at the same time I had the dream, at the very same time that was happening, that he came to me and said he would be ok. There is some kind of reality, even if we don't think of it as a parent.

"When the Jews were carried into exile into Babylon in the early years of the sixth century B.C.E., they knew they could never sing the Lord's song again, at least not the songs of Zion. They knew that God could never be worshiped in the future the way God had been worshiped in the past. They had to learn a new song or never sing again. That, I believe, is exactly the fate of the modern Christian. I believe the new song is developing, and I want to be part of the generation that will sing it. The replacement of the theistic God with the inescapable God who is the Ground of Being is, in my opinion, the prerequisite for sounding forth the mighty chorus of the future.

and yet we still worship
So I start here. There is no God external to life. God, rather is the inescapable depth and center of all that is. God is not a being superior to all other beings. God is the Ground of Being itself."

I'm not sure that means the same thing to Spong that it means to Tillich.
I don't know about you, but I find myself agreeing with those words. I know that I will never again be a theist, now that I have discovered the truth: the personal God is dead. Yet I still view the world through Christian glasses. Perhaps it is just an accident of my upbringing, but I can't help but think there was something special about Christ (though not to the exclusion of the other special people throughout history). Maybe a spark of the "divine" really was in Christ, and maybe I can speak of that "specialness" in terms of the "divine" without violating my reason.
I agree that God is not a being, and is the ground of being. Its' hard to think of that. It's hard to know what it means. That doesn't have to mean there's nothing there.
In any case, I have begun to think rather heavily about these issues, and I am starting to once again view myself as a Christian, though in a radically different way than I would have understood that definition before. Once again, I am not blinding myself to the impossibilities of a theistic God; I understand that such a God can never be revived. I do, however, now think that the word God is useful, in the sense that it describes a state of being that I experience, which I could call "spiritual". As I believe Borg called it, I am now beginning to view God as the "sacred mystery at the heart of the universe".

God is beyond our understanding. I think God is the source of consciousness, consciousness is a basic property of nature. That doesn't mean God is a being, or that "he's" conscious in the sense that we are. It would be like the consciousness of an amoeba compared to us, but we are amoeba.


Thoughts about this? Has anyone else felt the same way at times? Perhaps I am now leaning towards "nontheism" rather than "atheism".

I think its incredible and cool and neat that you discovered this stuff. Liberal theology is great.

I'm glad you came.
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Re: Thought about Nontheistic Christianity

Post by unred typo » Wed Jan 30, 2008 10:00 am

Hello YouWish. Interesting. Just really curious here. What do you think of the bible, Hebrew scriptures and the miracles that are reported there? :?
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Re: Thought about Nontheistic Christianity

Post by ZAROVE » Wed Jan 30, 2008 10:36 am

I find Spong particullry boring.

In his assessment of Christianity, about hwy it must "CHange or die" he take sstock of fallign Churhc attendance, mainly in Europe, and concludes that his new, liberal Christianity, wich abandon Theism and MEbraces mordern vaies, si th eonly way Christianity can survive.

The funny hting is, the Churhces that are growing, and growing tremendously rapidly and in great numbers, are never the Liberal Churches. Even those which do not go as far afield as Spong, and still accept Gods existance, and simply embrace modern or postmodern thinking are not growing, but shrinking, while the Evangelcial and Pentacostal Chruches, known for their conservitive memebrship and for their rather open emrbace of Theism, as well as strin Emphasis on God as Father, Son, and Holy GHost, are gainign numebrs in record time.

Look at all the modern MegaChurches. Not a one is a Liberal Church.

Look at all the rapid growth or planting CHurhces, or all the modern Mission Feild Churches.

Ahgain, eahc is conserviive in values, and eahc holds to a beleif in the same Theism that Spong has concluded modern man cannot accept.

His idea about how Christanity must change or Die runs contrary tot he evidence that I can see.

All this said, his appeals are also highly emotional and manioulative.

When you quote Spong as sayign this...


"Yes, it is frightening to think that there is no heavenly parent in the sky who will take care of us. The realization is dawning that we human beings are alone and therefore responsible for ourselves, that there is no appeal to a higher power for protection. We are learning that meaning is not external to life, but must be discovered in our own depths and imposed on life by an act of our own will. We are being made aware that life is not fair and will not necessarily be made fair in this life or in any other."

...You prove my point. Or rather Spong does.

Spong has this tendancy to Charecterise those who disagree with him as somewhat infirior to him.

In the case above, it is considered Frightnign to think of a Universe void of a Heavinly Father, so the counterceedant is that those of us who do beelive in such a Father beleive as a form of Secuity blanket. I was even recently acused f this by anothe rposter ont he old boards. If you read much of Spong, you find that this is how he sees peopel liek me, and he woidl describe me as afraid to let go of my THeistic God beause i ned the comfort of a Father figure. he, on otthe other hand, was brave enough to let go, and is urging us to muter that same courage.

It sounds ever so exciting, but I hav contemplated a Universe without God, and investigated full Ahtiesm. Though I never became an Ahtiest, or ven an Agnostic, I have imagined this Universe, void of God the Father, and remained unaffected by fear. It is not a fearful thoguht to me if true, but I do no beleive it to be true.

And his is where Sping fails to impress me.

He depicts his view as a realisatin, and I cannot fault him on htis, as I myself am firm in my convicigons, but his Realisation in regards to those who do not share his vie s not as insightful as Saitn Pauls, or Saint James.

He does not accuratley describe in any of his works the actual thnkign of those of us who would dare to beleive in God. Worse, he misrepresents even his own support Philosophers. Tillich's theological work was not really in accord with Spong, and Spong himself often misrepresents the meaning of Tillich.

Metacrock said he doubted that Spong meant the sam ehtign by "Beign itsself" as Tillich did. I can tell him to rest assured that he is corrrct. Whereas Tillich did not see God as a spacifc personal beign because he viewed God as too transcendant to be so defined, and nstead focuse don od as the basis for all creaiton and continued existance, Sping ants to render God as nohign mro ehtan a Metaphorical representaiton of a purely naturalistic Universe.

The two are not the same thing.


And when SPong later attemtos to justify his thinkign by reflectign on the Babylonain Excile, and hwo they had to "Sing a new song" and how this is part f the natural progress of man, he betrays his own mystical allegience to Historical scientific progressivism, which in and of itsself is not a proven reality. Althoguh tiems do change and cultural views likewise change wiht them, there is no evidence that we progress r advance over itme,a nd stagnaiton is also possible.

If we follow SPong, we woudl stagnate, in fact.

On that note, an aside.

You say you will never again be a Theist, because you have discovered the truth. Well, what i what you have instead dicoveed is a pretty deception? Isn't it equelly possible that, althogyth you do not bekleiv in Gods actual existance, that you haven't really discovered the truth about anything, and have simply been mislead?

As a theist, I am expected to beelive that I am mistaken nd this is what spong, and you, woudl urge of me. I urge of you , then, the same thing, but I woudl say that Non-THeism ( A ridiculous word, we have Athism as a word) is a mistke.

I woudl also argue that Spongs Philosophy is not the best one to base ones beleifs around, as it has a series of Critical flaws.

I woudl also ask you to consider the Bible, and its wisdom. Even Spong says it has wisdom, but hten, if it ocontradict shis personal views ontings, he woudl delare the Bible wrong.

And you follow SPong.

Nevertelwss, when you say that you will never again be a THeist, I ask you to remmeber Proverbs 27:1.

Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.

One day, you may acutlaly beleie n God again, and we cannot knwo th future.

THe only certaintis we have are in the past, and of the preasent.

Althoguh you preasently do not hold to the beelif in God, and beleive SPings mateiral, I can hodl hope that you iwll one day be broguth into the truth, and realise that all of this is simply vainity posing as wisdom, but, I digress.

I know God, and thus know he exists.

You, however, have, form my view, fallen inot an error.

I will hope you will want ot discuss this then.

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Re: Thought about Nontheistic Christianity

Post by tiro3 » Wed Jan 30, 2008 3:29 pm

Brief, brief, brief.

Yes, God is the ground of all being, because He is the Creator that created from nothing.

God is much more than a "father figure". Though God can and does at times (when we let Him) relate to us in a fatherly manner, God is much much more than that and desires to relate to us with much more depth. Chrysostom (early church father) wrote that to him God was everything that he needed.

Thou art my Father, thou art my Mother, thou my Brother, thou art Friend, thou art Servant, thou art House-keeper; thou art the All, and the All is in thee; thou art Being, and there is nothing that is, except thou.
Chrysostom [Nicene & Post Nicene Father, no. 10, 1st ser., ed. Philip Schaff]

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Re: Thought about Nontheistic Christianity

Post by Metacrock » Wed Jan 30, 2008 3:38 pm

tiro3 wrote:Brief, brief, brief.

Yes, God is the ground of all being, because He is the Creator that created from nothing.

God is much more than a "father figure". Though God can and does at times (when we let Him) relate to us in a fatherly manner, God is much much more than that and desires to relate to us with much more depth. Chrysostom (early church father) wrote that to him God was everything that he needed.

Thou art my Father, thou art my Mother, thou my Brother, thou art Friend, thou art Servant, thou art House-keeper; thou art the All, and the All is in thee; thou art Being, and there is nothing that is, except thou.
Chrysostom [Nicene & Post Nicene Father, no. 10, 1st ser., ed. Philip Schaff]

Hi Tiro good to see you here. thanks for coming. I agree with you. God includes consciousness plus more, a higher level we can't understand. So we can relate to God as a father, and as much more including a principle, the forms, the dialectic and more. But I think we have a problem when we start relating to God as a big man. we forget he's more that and we literaize the metaphor.
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Re: Thought about Nontheistic Christianity

Post by unred typo » Thu Jan 31, 2008 9:16 am

tiro3 wrote:
Brief, brief, brief.
Well, since you offered, but I have to ask: Fruit of the Loom, Hanes or Victoria Secret? :mrgreen:
Yes, God is the ground of all being, because He is the Creator that created from nothing.

God is much more than a "father figure". Though God can and does at times (when we let Him) relate to us in a fatherly manner, God is much much more than that and desires to relate to us with much more depth. Chrysostom (early church father) wrote that to him God was everything that he needed.

Thou art my Father, thou art my Mother, thou my Brother, thou art Friend, thou art Servant, thou art House-keeper; thou art the All, and the All is in thee; thou art Being, and there is nothing that is, except thou.
Chrysostom [Nicene & Post Nicene Father, no. 10, 1st ser., ed. Philip Schaff]
Hei, welcome! Soon the gurls will outnumber the guys! Hehe. Meta doesn’t have a welcome wagon thread but he’s just getting set up. I liked what you said about God but I have a problem thinking of him as servant/housekeeper. I think I would rather change that to Lord and master, since those didn‘t make his list there. His servanthood was to show us how to be, as he humbled himself, we should do likewise. No?

:?
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Re: Thought about Nontheistic Christianity

Post by Metacrock » Fri Feb 01, 2008 2:56 am

what does a welcome wagon say?
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Re: Thought about Nontheistic Christianity

Post by unred typo » Fri Feb 01, 2008 9:41 am

Metacrock wrote:what does a welcome wagon say?
Welcome, welcome, welcome, welcome, who told thee to flee the wrath to come?, welcome, welcome, what are you doing here? Have you come to torment us before the time?, welcome, welcome, welcome…stuff like that. Which you do all on your own, which is great but the thing about a welcome wagon thread is it puts all that in one place so you’re not clogging up a nice heavy discussion about, say, Nontheistic Christianity, and end up talking about the best cold remedies. Speaking of colds, I wonder how Wordgazer is. She must really be out of it because when I have a cold, I usually spend it bundled up sneezing on my keyboard, unless I can‘t lift my head off the pillow. (and yes, I have some addiction issues)

As a matter of fact, I just found out that I never answered macguy on my own thread about hell and that’s just not like me. We started off on Z and the whole thread turned dyslexic. But that is more a problem with the thread starter being inattentive and not paying attention. (I know, more issues) I really don’t mind when threads go down rabbit trails as long as the thing gets back eventually. Which I intend to do asap.

Youwish said:
“So I start here. There is no God external to life. God, rather is the inescapable depth and center of all that is. God is not a being superior to all other beings. God is the Ground of Being itself.
I don't know about you, but I find myself agreeing with those words. I know that I will never again be a theist, now that I have discovered the truth: the personal God is dead."
I think God is still there and you may have just lost touch with him, that’s all. God doesn’t do a lot of speaking in the New Testament. I could only recall three instances, once at Jesus’ baptism, (Luke 3:22) and once at the mount of transfiguration (Matthew 17:5) and once at the triumphant entry. The first two times he says basically the same thing, “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased, hear him.” Just after the resurrection of Lazarus and the triumphant entry into Jerusalem, John 12:28 records Jesus saying: Father, glorify thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.
Even at the cross, there are no recorded words, only thunder. John 13:3 says that Jesus knew “that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God”. We don't really hear from him again until Revelation and I get so confused about who said what there, I'm not sure I could find an actual quote. He's still there, alive and well though. As for taking Jesus without a personal God, wasn't that what Jesus was? An image of the invisible? This portion of John 14 is well worth the read:
John 14
1Let not your heart be troubled: you believe in God, believe also in me.
2In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there you may be also.
4And whither I go you know, and the way ye know.
5Thomas said unto him, Lord, we know not whither you go; and how can we know the way?
6Jesus said unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
7If you had known me, you should have known my Father also: and from henceforth you know him, and have seen him.
8Philip said unto him, Lord, show us the Father, and it suffices us.
9Jesus said unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet have you not known me, Philip? he that has seen me has seen the Father; and how say you then, Show us the Father?
10Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwells in me, he does the works.
11Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works' sake.
12Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believes on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.
13And whatsoever you shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
14If you shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.
15If you love me, keep my commandments.
16And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;
17Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it sees him not, neither knows him: but you know him; for he dwells with you, and shall be in you.
18I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.
19Yet a little while, and the world sees me no more; but you see me: because I live, you shall live also.
20At that day you shall know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.
21He that has my commandments, and keeps them, he it is that loves me: and he that loves me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.
22Judas said unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that you wilt manifest yourself unto us, and not unto the world?
23Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.
24He that loves me not keeps not my sayings: and the word which you hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me.
25These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you.
26But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
27Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world gives, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
28You have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. If you loved me, you would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I.
29And now I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, you might believe.
30Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and has nothing in me.
31But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do.


Paul also said we are taught of God to love one another. If you know how to love another person unselfishly, God taught you that.
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Re: Thought about Nontheistic Christianity

Post by ZAROVE » Fri Feb 01, 2008 11:04 am

BACK t the topic at hand...

Youwish beleives the modern Progresivist such as Spong, that CHristianity must change or die, and that if Christianity doens't embrace he values of modern society, such as sex outsid eof marirage beign OK, Homosexulity beign OK, abortion beign OK, and accept post-modern moral values, as well as abandon Theism , then it will die.


THe biggest critisism that can be leveled agaisnt this claim si the fact that those CHurhces which have embraced all of this are small and shrinking. They are dying. Before one says that then there is no hope for CHristianity, and it is inevitabely doomed, keep in mind, those CHurches that are growing, and are quiet larg ein membership, aren't those who emrbace the ultra-liberal position of SPong and company.

I still have ot ask, if Christiuanity must mebrace these thoughts, abandon Theism and MWbrace Post-Modern Philospophy and Morlaity, and abandon beleif in miralces, why is it that the Pentacostals are doign well? they are Growign by leaps and bounds. THey Emphasis the gifts of he Holy Spirit and Supernatural intercession as a Hallmark. Theymake it seem almost routine and expected. Spong thinks beelif in Miralce sis outdated n dimpossible for moidenr man to beleive, and yet the Pentacostals are one of the two fastest growign segments in CHristendom, an among the fastes =t growing religious movements orldwide.

The CHarismatic Episcopal Church ha smor emembers than SPong's Liberal Episcopal CHurch has. ( OK, Spong has no CHurhc of his own, but htose parishes, and bishops, that follow his ideas see the least amount of growth.)


Lets not forget the Evangelcials. They, too, are a fast-growing segment in Christendom, and they oreahc Miralceas ( though with a signifigantly less Emphasis on them) Conservitive moral values, and oppose the post-modern values that Spong says composes modern culture.

They unabashedly stand up for Traditional family values, oppose Abortion, claim Homosexuality is a sin, and do not think Sex outsid eof marirage is ever allowable, it is also sin.

The Evangelicals are also conservitive in other ways, financially and politiclly they endorse the very values Spong says are dyign away.
They also promenantly focus on God, the Father, The Son, and the Holy Ghost.

The Evangelicals are devout theists, and beeliv din a Personal God who wants a relationship with Man.

Accoridng to Spong, no modern, rational human beign in the 21st century can beleive in these things, and they are a stumbling block fo he growth fo the Churhc. In order to ensure the survival of the wornerful Tradition of CHristainity, those things must be abandined, and ony then will we see a healign int he Churhc and growth will happen, instead of decline.

To Spong and those like him, those hwo follwo Traditional Theology and Family Vlaues are in the past, and will die out as society moves beyind this, and thus one wudl expect CHurches htta teah htese htigns ot be small and shrinking, and his Liberal Chruches to be growing.

THe oposite is true.

I know Im beign repetitious, but thats becuase I think this needs ot be addressed.

Why is it that the CHruches that Embradc the very thigns that Spong and othe rliberals see as a STumblign block are growing, and htose which WMbrace the ony hope for the futute of the CHurch are dying?

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