Monday, November 11, 2013

Dennis Muses on Intelligent Theology



dop·pel·gäng·er

 noun \ˈdä-pəl-ˌgaŋ-ər, -ˌgeŋ-, ˌdä-pəl-ˈ\
                          : someone who looks like someone else
                           :  a ghostly counterpart of a living person
                                :  a double
 or alter ego
           

Recently I met with a highly educated Episcopal Priest just to talk.  I had the opportunity and was feeling the need to see and hear what a man in his position would have to say about Biblical topics that I have come to understand in a far different way than my meager WCG training in all things Bible.  WCG trained itself to be good Bible readers, as you have heard me say over the years.  COG ministers are mere Bible readers with no desire to dig deeper into the texts, background, history or intent of what they quote to frame their beliefs. If they had the desire they would have to keep it to themselves.  Only in a secure religious setting can one speak freely of  Biblical realities. Beliefs are framed by proof texting and COGs compete with each other by proof texting better than the competition.  It's a ridiculous approach and why under trained men like Dave Pack and Ron Weinland make fools of themselves with hubris and ego centric ministry.  

To the point.

We talked about the Gospels and the Priest comment to me was that the Gospels are full of contradictions. Neither birth stories no resurrection accounts are eyewitness accounts and are muddled, but they still have good meaning for us.  He noted that if he did not have the desire for Jesus in the picture, he'd be a great Buddhist.  Sigh...

We talked about Genesis and evolution and the Priest agreed that the Adam and Eve story is mythological and not really the origin of human beings.  It was a comment that came with the idea that anyone should be able to understand that.  I got the feeling he'd not understand anyone taking it as literally true. The creation story is not really about science of course but it has some good lessons for us.  We didn't talk about what those might be.  It didn't matter if Genesis wasn't literally true, which it isn't and wasn't in his view as well and held my tongue when thinking of just how much the story being literally true did mean in the New Testament and later in the Church with the concept of Original Sin.  One can't be held as guilty because of the Fall of humans in the Garden if there was no garden and no man or woman actually "fell."  Sigh...

The Priest fully understood the rancour between Peter, James, John and Paul in the New Testament and that none of them agreed with each other much .  But again, there was good in it all.  Sigh...

When it came to Revelation, he noted  the Book of Revelation was never written for us.  It was written for them and the "soon" and "things that must shortly come to pass" was for THEM, not US.  Revelation is a strange book and not for us to get too concerned about today.  We both noted how many "preachers" make fools of themselves with false predictions.  Little did he know how hot a topic that was for me but he understood the actual place Revelation should have in the modern Church.  None.   Sigh...

He recommended a book or two that might help and as I looked through the one he took from his shelf , which he thought was just awesome and true, it was obvious the author was well versed in Buddhism and Buddhist thought as relating to the Gospels.  Sigh....

It was obvious he knew what most who take the time and have the theological inclination can come to see and understand about the Bible.  He made it very clear he understood it was a man originated book as there can be no other kind, and that it was certainly not written by any God literally.  Yet there were many good lessons in it if you skip the crazy parts which he noted as easily found.   Sigh...

All I can say  is that the experience was interesting with a touch of regret.  Of course the Episcopal Church is sacrament oriented. It has no interest in the strange and weird ideas of those like a Dave Pack.  It is not interested in Prophecy Coming Alive! It doesn't beg for money and expects to be around a very long time. I found a grave in the Church Yard going back to 1700's and it was filled with both Revolutionary and Civil War..oops, War of Northern Aggression soldiers.  It's just there for people of faith and provides a setting that serves that need.  I don't find the congregants particularly Bible literate.  They leave that to the Church. The members have lives apart from Church and yet the Church provides much in ways of social opportunities and excellent works in places like Haiti and the community, God forbid.  Having attended, it is orderly with not much room for straying from the Liturgy or Homily.  The Homily is short and to the point.  No Dave Pack or Ron Weinland, Bob Thiel or James Malm would get an inch in the Episcopal setting.  And this crowd would not be inclined to the personal views of a Dave Pack on everything from himself to what they should or should not eat.  With forty or fifty lawyers in the audience Dave would have to be a different kind of human being. 

I did have my doubts that all congregants would see or think of the Bible in the same way as the Priests do and he admitted to that being the case as well.  I once heard that the average well trained theologian is 50 years ahead of the congregation in what they understand about all things Bible and this is true. Very true. I'd say maybe 2000

I had met my Doppelganger...my ghost.  Maybe I was the ghost and he was the real thing.  I left with several emotions tugging at me.  I was a bit frustrated that we had such similar views but such different lives, though I always imagined myself in ministry from way back.  I went to Ambassador College really believing it was a Seminary if you can imagine that.  I was a kid and no one told me otherwise.  When I was at AC I would study at times at Fuller Theological Seminary and had an inkling that that might be a better place.  But with the world ending and Jesus coming soon, I stayed put.  Besides they ate pork and didn't keep the sabbath. I was a kid. It was not difficult to compare his relatively easy life of being kind and loving, generous and helpful to a very unique group of people with my own at this time.  I left having a chat with myself about it all just being a story.  He had his and I had mine.  But I had met myself in that office and it was an interesting experience and I left realizing what is uncommon knowing for the average congregant is common understanding when a man or woman is well trained in Biblical studies and can admit to the reality of it all. 

Just thought I'd share it...

30 comments:

Head Usher said...

"It doesn't beg for money and expects to be around a very long time ... It's just there for people of faith and provides a setting that serves that need."

Imagine that. A church that isn't led by a megalomaniac intent on building an ever-expanding empire to his own glory. Sigh...


"I went to Ambassador College really believing it was a Seminary if you can imagine that. I was a kid and no one told me otherwise. When I was at AC I would study at times at Fuller Theological Seminary and had an inkling that that might be a better place. But with the world ending and Jesus coming soon, I stayed put. Besides they ate pork and didn't keep the sabbath. I was a kid."

Some are blessed (in the secular sense) to have good insight, or at least one big idea that just so happens to match up well with reality. Others are lucky enough to have a good mentor, and are of sufficient disposition to be able to be directed by them. Right there with ya, for I was not among those fortunate souls either. Sigh...

Joe Moeller said...

Best and most true line ever in a film, occurred in the popular football movie "RUDY".

Rudy is in the sanctuary, praying, wondering what his future will hold and what he should do. The priest, who is fond of Rudy, sees him there and comes over to talk.

Rudy asks "what should I do". The priest replies with great wisdom...

"In 35 years as a priest and all of my theological studies, I have concluded only two great truths. ONE- There is a God TWO- Im not it" .

This disappoints Rudy a bit, as he was hoping that the priest/guru/shaman would be able to offer some supernatural insight into what actions he should take.

I Joe Moeller, do hereby admit to the same conclusions as this priest! There is indeed a God, and I am not it!

Your Friend,
Joe Moeller
Cody, WY

Allen C. Dexter said...

There have been many gods, all of them imaginary concoctions of men, including the one commonly worshiped here in the USA.

I think, deep down, many people realize that but remain in churches for the social and emotional support. I was tempted that way right after everything blew up with WCG, even attended a divine science church in Arcadia for awhile. It soon became apparent that was another dead end.

The Unitarian Universalists is another great social haven for people who are essentially agnostic or atheist and many in our freethought group have been with them for many years. I just can't stomach the semi-religious aspects of it.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your experience, Dennis.

I read Joe Moeller's comment and think it's sad that if the main character in the Rudy movie thought the priest was God!

But I'd add something to it and say, "If there is indeed a God, I am not it, and it sure as shit ain't Biblegod!"

Speaking of movies, I borrowed and watched "Whatever Works" yesterday.
I highly recommend it!

Byker Bob said...

Sounds like you found a theological soul mate there, Dennis. He is you, only the product of an Episcopalian background rather than a WCG one. I find myself wondering if eventually he, too, will need to walk away from it all.

BB

Head Usher said...

I guess another way of thinking about Dennis' OP is that the only thing new about comic books is the pictures. The ancients also had a hankering for heroic supermen, so just like Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster, the ancients too made up their own. That in itself shouldn't come as a surprise.

BUT...how many of the ancients thought the comic book characters of their culture were accurate historical accounts rather than just metaphorical fables or allegories of morality, intended to reinforce the values whereby virtue could be obtained within the context of that culture? More to the point, why do so many today assume that ancient comic books contain accurate historical accounts? Who is Yahweh if not the ultimate comic book hero? Who is Satan if not the ultimate comic book villain?

Just because we may believe that with great power comes great responsibility doesn't mean we also have to believe in a literal guy named Peter Parker who moonlights as a webspinning crimefighter in NYC. So, archaeologists don't undertake expeditions to the north pole in search of the site of the Fortress of Solitude. And yet, some will undertake expeditions to Ararat in search of the site of Noah's Ark, as though that weren't equally silly.

Why can't we see the bible as just an ancient anthology of the best-loved Jewish comic books as they existed at that time, and not substantially different from the 20th century's classic comic books, which are also mostly the product of Jewish minds? Why can't we see them all, and potentially value them all, as the metaphorical moral fables all of them so obviously are?

Speaking metaphorically, I think it's a sad fact that in our 21st century global village we're so profoundly confused at the societal level that it takes advanced degrees before the average person can tell the difference between the front page headlines and the comics section of their own Sunday newspaper.

Anonymous said...

Pulease Dennis do you actually give credence the rantings of an Episcopal priest?

James said...

Good article Dennis.

I saw myself decades ago in your story. My conclusions was that the god of the bible was no god. No god could write such a cluster fuck of contradictions within a book.

If there is a god, he is us. And god never wrote a DAMNED BOOK!

Anonymous said...

The priests are way ahead of the congregations simply because they keep the people in the dark to keep the money coming in.

Anonymous said...

"The secret to success is knowing how to hide your sources".

Albert Einstein, as quoted in "Albert Einstein the Incorrigible Plagiarist".

Many Christian concepts were plagiarized from the pagans and the typical Christian is none the wiser although the historical record is as clear and indisputable as Einstein's plagiarism. So why don't people know about it? Because they accept what they are fed without doing their own research. Simple as that.

SH.

DennisCDiehl said...

Anonymous said...
The priests are way ahead of the congregations simply because they keep the people in the dark to keep the money coming in

That would be grossly untrue with regards to these men and women in ministry. That is the classic WCG/COG "they only do this because they want to really do that.." mindset.

They are way ahead of the congregation because they have chosen to actually study the topic of theology for years. For better or worse, congregants have other things to do and do find where they end up to be where they wish to express their own faith and hope lead by an enducated human being. In the Episcopal Church, for example, people usually know far more about what is perhaps historical and what is a myth with meaning but not meant to be science. There are conservative Episcopalians and there are very liberal ones. Not all like the writings of Bishop John Spong, but they respect his work. In WCG/COG land, it is all or nothing. Either one is all right or all wrong, which is stupid and not connected to reality.

DennisCDiehl said...

In my own experience writing here, and I have always thanked Gary for letting me do so, I can say that few if any have ever offered any real fairly well thought out response to such topics as the conflict between the New Testament Apostles such as Paul vs everyone, the literal versus the mythicist view of some things, why Genesis 1-11 is literally true versus why most theologians admit it is not or why the Book of Revelation is not for us today versus "oh yes it is and here is the proof."

No one explains why the birth stories do match, which they don't or why the resurrection accounts are coherent and not a jumbled mess. No one comments on Bible contradictions when they are clearly shown to exist. When I note that Matthew copies 94% of Mark and Luke copies 54% and thus that is called copying and not eyewitnessing , no one thinks that's interesting.

If Jesus is the "God of the Old Testament" few wonder how he went from a serial killer to loving the little children and challenging the Sabbath. (The NT however does make some of Jesus actions to be wrong when they were not in the reality of judaism. The author knew nothing of the customs or views when he wrote.)

That Cherub faces exactly match the signs of the zodiac in Spring, Summer, winter and Fall seems to give no one room for pause in the thinking.

No one, who believes all the NT ideas are for us today, answers why all the "soons" "shortly" "day is far spent," "time is short," and so on are meant for us even though they are 2000 years out of date. Reading it as if it were written yesterday to you is not the way to go.

The only topic that fuels a debate of sorts is Evolution and that is usually just a shoot out between creationist views and just the science thanks perspectives. No one ever admits to have learned something new by the exchange because all folk do is argue their views. It's what humans do.

I get all sorts of private emails very defensive and accusatory in tone as to my motives comments. I get warnings about destroying faith and going to you know where. But all the person does is declare what Adam and Eve did or meant or said and never question the literalism of the tale.

If the story is not literally true then many NT statements are at risk as is the idea of Original Sin. The implications of THAT are just too much.

Anonymous said...

In COG land an individual or an organized church is either "pure" (all right), or else "tainted by 'the world,'" (all wrong). And everybody knows which church/splinter is the one that's already perfect (their own). It is stupid and unrealistic because it leaves no room for growth for anyone. So out of whack with reality is it that it cannot be anything other than propaganda, but this never seems to dawn upon "the elect." Year in and year out they keep repeating to themselves the same mantras, dictums, and clichés, as "truth" never realizing it's all propaganda from start to finish.

DennisCDiehl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ethan said...

Dennis-

When it comes to astro-theology, much of the bible probably is written in astrological symbolism. However the part about the four faces/four banners being astrological, I've never been able to successfully map one onto the other. There are different theories springing from different inspirational sources such as Gilgamesh and different ways of interpreting things, but here's what I've put together from the most common explanations:

Aquarius 21 Jan – Feb 19 Winter Man Second Front South Reuben
Taurus 21 Apr – 21 May Spring Ox First Left West Ephraim
Leo 23 Jul – 22 Aug Summer Lion Third Right East Judah
Scorpio 24 Oct – 22 Nov Fall – – – – –

Aquila 14 Jan – 28 Jan Winter Eagle Fourth Back North Dan

Maybe I'm not making the "right" connections, but I don't understand how Scorpio can be an eagle, or how Aquila can be spliced in when it's position overlaps Aquarius. The other thing I don't understand is how the two clear fits, the ox/Taurus and the lion/Leo aren't 90 degrees apart, but 180, so that messes up the pattern in a way that is never going to resolve nicely. You can see how I had to jumble the order of the bible stuff to match it up to the astrological stuff.

DennisCDiehl said...

anon said:


Aquarius 21 Jan – Feb 19 Winter Man Second Front South Reuben
Taurus 21 Apr – 21 May Spring Ox First Left West Ephraim
Leo 23 Jul – 22 Aug Summer Lion Third Right East Judah
Scorpio 24 Oct – 22 Nov Fall – – – – –

Aquila 14 Jan – 28 Jan Winter Eagle Fourth Back North Dan "

The Aquila the Eagle in the four equidistant signs is in Scorpio which is fall. The serpent and the eagle are smaller constellations in Scorpio for this "study"

Thus we get the Man face for winter, the bull for spring, the lion for summer and the eagle for fall.



DennisCDiehl said...

anon said:


Aquarius 21 Jan – Feb 19 Winter Man Second Front South Reuben
Taurus 21 Apr – 21 May Spring Ox First Left West Ephraim
Leo 23 Jul – 22 Aug Summer Lion Third Right East Judah
Scorpio 24 Oct – 22 Nov Fall – – – – –

Aquila 14 Jan – 28 Jan Winter Eagle Fourth Back North Dan "

The Aquila the Eagle in the four equidistant signs is in Scorpio which is fall. The serpent and the eagle are smaller constellations in Scorpio for this "study"

Thus we get the Man face for winter, the bull for spring, the lion for summer and the eagle for fall.



DennisCDiehl said...

I meant Ethan said. :)

Byker Bob said...

Even in the beginning, when I did list my email address on the main site for which I wrote articles and made comment, I think I only received one set of accusatory or threatening emails, and I ended up kind of "turning" that individual in his opinions of me. That was, of course during my non believer stage.

What I've come to realize, and this relates to many, many battles, whether it be over conspiracy theories, or whether Jesus was actually God, literal creation vs God using evolutionary processes, the so-called conflicting doublets of Samuel, Chronicles, and Kings, New Covenant vs Old Covenant, is that there are some really strongly held opinions floating around out there. Because of this, some who hold them make it practically a vocation to defend their pet views in perpetuum. Consequently, some feel a calling to dominate, for whatever reason.


Citing an example that is not controversial here because to my knowledge it has never come up, a guy who believed there is only one God (unitarian view), and that Jesus is simply a created being, went on for literally years defending that view. He started his own folder on one forum, and people quoted him scripture after scripture "proving" he was wrong, but the man cited all manner of phantom or secret mistranslations, and supported his beliefs with conspiracy theories that nobody knew about, and wouldn't budge an inch. There was also once a lengthy wrestling match with a guy from New York who was absolutely convinced that your federal government had totally engineered 911.

Bottom line is this. Yes, I do have some opinions, based on my own due diligence, and research. No, I do not escallate them into private email or phone conversations. What you see on the blogs and forums from me is what you get. Because some discussions almost without exception end up with both parties walking away with the same views, it becomes not worthwhile investing a heavy amount of time in them. Basically, whoever insists on getting in the last word will be seen as coming away the winner. Persuading others to adapt my views, although some would probably see that as being my "duty" is just not that important to me. I am not retired or semi-retired and have a business to run, a condition which often brings unbelievable pressures.

My only suggestion to anyone who is sitting on the fence about this mythicism origin of Jesus theory is to at least read Bart Ehrman's book. People will try to discredit that in advance hoping that you won't want to read it, but if you listen to them, you will be missing out. Ehrman is a respected scholar, and as an agnostic, he is on the other team, a factor which should give pause for thought. I'd also recommend getting a good modern study Bible, and reading the footnotes to learn how easily so many of the alleged conflicts of the Bible disappear. The figures of the New Testament quote the Septuagint for their Old Testament references, not the King James, and there is evidence that the earliest versions of the New Testament "gospels" were written in Aramaic, in some cases not leaving room for literal translation into Greek. There will be remaining conflicts, of course, but these do not rise to the level that some want us to believe.

Beliefs are personal. Religion attempts to force uniformity. So often does non-belief. Forced uniformity causes inner conflict, and guilty consciences, two factors which, if you allow them, can kind of make life suck.

BB

Anonymous said...

The priests are way ahead of the congregations simply because they keep the people in the dark to keep the money coming in.

Well, on TV this week I heard a preacher using archaeological evidence to "prove" that the Bible has been recorded faithfully. That is just not true, and if they know their stuff they know that is not true. I guess he was a fundamentalist not an Episcopalean. But the Episcopalean ministers could educate their flocks better so why don't they? They have to preach what they people are willing to accept or they would see a mass exodus. Same problem some COGs are having I would think.

Anonymous said...

Dennis, some of the things you say we don't know much about so we can't "debate" you on the topic. That would explain a lot of the silence.

Anonymous said...

Pulease Dennis do you actually give credence the rantings of an Episcopal priest?

You have been watching too much TV. Whenever the media don't like what someone says they call it a rant--often before they have even read it! The truth is they just don't want people to read it for themselves.

Anonymous said...

When I note that Matthew copies 94% of Mark and Luke copies 54% and thus that is called copying and not eyewitnessing , no one thinks that's interesting.

Well, it's interesting but it's not something that I feel a need to dispute now that I've given up the bible for good.

Anonymous said...

A-non 1:21: Just google for sights that counter Dennis's topics and assertions. See whether they are respected by the majority of scholars. And, be sure your scholars are scholars, not apologists or researchers with bias.

Anonymous said...

Anon@ 6:50 and 1:23

Don't base your naive assumptions upon the status of the blindly deceived in your own COG congregation.

The people sitting in my Episcopal Church (and yes there are quit a few of us on this group) are highly educated. They are University professors in religion, science, math, etc. There are respected scientists and even an astronaut in my congregation. There is a Dean of a Seminary close by. There are school teachers, scientists, movie industry actors and educated lay persons who look at both sides of the issues. They don't sit there and swallow everything the minister/priest says and hold him/her accountable when he/she says something stupid.

The priest/minister is not up there each week to keep the money flowing in because of what they preach. If anything, they are there to disrupt and disturb the thinking and actions of parishioners. Something that the ministers I was under for 40 some years in the COG never did.

Because most understand that it is about making the Kingdom of God tangible to the world around us today, we have many agnostics and atheists who identify with us. They see the needs of people in the community and the world around them and appreciate the channels we provide for them to put their talents to work. Again, something that most COG's do not do.

People give freely because their lives have been touched in one way or another. They do NOT give because some idiot stands up there and COMMANDS them to tithe 10/20/30% of their income so that he/she can build auditoriums and fake colleges.

Anonymous said...

My Episcopal parish has people with various levels of theological knowledge. Our priest is clear in his belief that some portions of the Bible should be taken figuratively.

I am our senior warden (head of our church council) this year and I can attest that he spends little time on pleading for money or demanding that people give more. In fact, sometimes I wish he would spend a little more time talking about money.

I know that many COG members would rather die than visit a non-COG church but anyone who is open to it would find a different world than what they are used to.

Stephen

Anonymous said...

Dennis - just wanted to let you know that I for one have benefited greatly from your postings. I may not comment here often, and no, I may not feel the need to publicly discuss why the birth narratives and resurrection accounts are a jumbled-up mess, but regardless your posts have helped me sort through a lot over the past few years. The way you break long-held beliefs down using critical thinking skills is much to be admired. Thank you.

Byker Bob said...

I'll have to admit that I really didn't know much about the Episcopalian Church until doing some reading here lately. Obviously, we are all aware of the controversies involving the ordinations of women and practicing homosexuals over the past several decades, and I once had a neighbor who had left the priesthood in the Catholic Church to marry a woman, one of his parishioners, with whom he had fallen in love. He still felt a strong calling, and had some sort of ministry in the Episcopal Church. I had shared my own past ministerial studies in the cult with him, and we developed a fairly good neighborly friendship, even though I was going through my atheist stage of recovery at that time, and generally shunned Bibles, churches, and members of the clergy.

I don't know what my opinion of the group as a whole would be at this time, I am impressed with the open mindedness, and the role the church holds in terms of nurturing and inspiring their membership, while not being overly intrusive, and not requiring members to check their minds at the door. Regardless of the varying opinions of the Bible here, I do prefer that there be emphasis on personal Bible study in church, although with proper emphasis on loving interaction with and ethical treatment of others, not legalistic obsessive compulsiveness or false elitism. Also, to me church is like a good reference book, checked out and used as needed as a resource of normal living. They don't get to take over my entire live, because that usurps the whole idea of a personal relationship with God.

I appreciate knowing about this group, and should church hopping seem appropriate in the future, might consider visiting one of the local Episcopal churches in my community.

BB

Anonymous said...

Don't base your naive assumptions upon the status of the blindly deceived in your own COG congregation.

This blog is hopeless. Whenever I disagree with someone they hastily assume I belong to a COG. Incredible. Talk about making naive assumptions.

Byker Bob said...

Anonymous Dude 9:13, remember, you are a ghost. We know that Redfox, Sweetblood, Joe, Gary, and I are Christians, we know Dennis has Buddhist leanings, we know that Allen, Head Usher, Corky, Retired Professor and some others with screen names are atheist or non-believers, and we know and can track identifying traits which aid conversation on anyone else who uses a screen name. If you use "anonymous", and you make a statement that appears to agree with a specific group, without a track record or evidence to refute conclusions, it's a natural assumption that if it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it is a duck. The unbelievable thing is that you would think that that is unbelievable.

BB