Author Archives: Paul Inglis

About Paul Inglis

Paul Inglis is a long time member of the Uniting and Anglican Churches in Australia. He recently retired as the Community Minister for Dayboro and Mt Mee Uniting Churches, just north of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. He accepted an invitation to become the Queensland's first Uniting Church Community Minister and continued in that role for more than 10 years. Previously he had been a State primary school teacher, school principal for 11 years and then Lecturer in Education at the Queensland University of Technology for 25 years. He has served on UCA Assembly, Synod, Presbytery and Congregational Councils. In retirement he is actively involved in family, church, and community. His commitment to 'progressive' Christianity emerged from contact with the late Professor Rod Jensen who founded the Lay Forum in 2004 and from his experience in ministry with people seeking an authentic faith. Paul's PhD from the University of Queensland is in Adult Learning.

Who was Jesus? Evidence from beyond the Bible

This eBook examines the history of Jesus’ life, from where he was born, where he grew up and whether there is extra-Biblical evidence for his existence. Available as a free eBook from the Biblical Archaeology Society in Washington.

This particular book is actually a series of small books by several authors –

  1. Did Jesus exist? Searching for evidence beyond the Bible.
  2. Jesus’ birthplace and Jesus’ home.
  3. Has Jesus’ Nazareth house been found?
  4. Did Jesus marry?
  5. Was Jesus last supper a seder?

This is one of 24 free eBooks  downloadable from:

Biblical Archaeological Society free eBooks

As I like the forensic search for evidence from reliable sources, I have enjoyed reading the first of these and look forward to going through some of the others:

  • Israel: An Archaeological Journey
  • Ten Top Biblical Archaeology Discoveries
  • Jerusalem Archaeology: Exposing the Biblical City
  • Paul: Jewish Law and Early Christianity
  • The Dead Sea Scrolls: Discovery and Meaning

 

We are interested in opinions about these publications.

oOo

 

Street Talk about Faith

Street Talk

Rodney Eivers – January 2018

I was out in the front garden the other day weeding my row of Autumn crocuses which make an impressive display when they all blossom at once after a good shower or rain.

A woman passed by on the footpath and, as happens, one exchanges greetings. She was impressed by the crocuses and asked to have a close look. I had, regrettably, been a bit too vigorous with the weed pulling and yanked up one of the crocuses, bulb, roots and all. I offered this to my new friend, indeed offered her a whole spadeful of bulbs of the easily grown plant. Jenny (let’s call her that) took the single bulb saying that this would do for now and she had some potting mix just ready for it.

We carried on talking and discovered that we shared an acquaintance, a fellow who attended one of the local Uniting Churches. Jenny who knew this person fairly well and the interests he had in the activities of his congregation, perhaps assumed that he and I might have common perspectives and said, “You are involved with Emmaus?”

Now although I do not shy away from talking about my personal philosophy of life and its linkages to Christianity I am all too careful about coming across as preachy, dogmatic, or even “bible-bashing”.

On impulse my reply was, “Oh, I am aware of Emmaus but I am into “progressive” Christianity”.

At this point Jenny was turning away, about to resume her evening exercise.

She halted, turned back and asked “ ”Progressive” Christianity? What’s that?”

As you can imagine I could easily have used this as a licence to waffle on. It can be difficult to encapsulate “progressive” Christianity in a sentence or two.

I simply replied though, “It’s the Jesus Way with the supernatural removed”.

“How can you remove the supernatural from Jesus?” was her next question.

Anyway, this went on to an extended conversation which at one point led to Jenny remarking, “I visited the Vatican once and I was not impressed. What would Jesus have thought of all that pomp and wealth? I felt nearer to the gospel when visiting the catacombs and the history that they represented.”

As our chat drew to an end Jenny noted. “You can disregard all those rules in the Old Testament. The New Testament gives us only two rules to live by.”

“Yes,” I said, “Indeed, “Love God and Love Your Neighbour””

At that Jenny turned again and went on her way.

“Give my regards to our friend,: I said.
“Yes”, she said. “I’ll do that. Happy New Year!”

***

The moral of this story is that there may be many people, such as those who marked “no religion” in the recent census, who are willing to talk about issues of faith and their philosophy life but do not readily do so. In some less direct way they need to be invited. Assuming that we see promotion of the Jesus Way as being a path to a better world let’s not be afraid to share and practise our philosophy. The key though is to acknowledge that whatever view of life is held by those we chat with, it is valid for them and we would be wise to recognise that as such.

Overdue or overdone? ‘Fire and Fury’ and Trump

Certainly a great read…well written and enthralling …. especially for US citizens who would know all the characters! My reading of Fire and Fury: inside the Trump Whitehouse by Michael Wolff was biased by my personal dislike for Trump and all he stands for and so I enjoyed it immensely. What does that say about me?

The final word of Wolff is:

Trump, in Bannon’s view, was a chapter, or even a detour, in the Trump revolution, which had always been about weaknesses in the two major parties. The Trump presidency—however long it lasted—had created the opening that would provide the true outsiders their opportunity. Trump was just the beginning.

If this is just the beginning, what is the world in for? How do ordinary people deal with the current crisis of leadership in the world’s major economic and military power? Or is there no crisis?

The bewilderingly repetitive description of most of Trumps closely aligned campaigners and political leaders as less than really impressed by Trump and often privately very critical of his actions and words, demonstrates the amount of political power games were at play in his election. Trump moved rapidly from a ‘no chance’ in early 2016 to ‘ a likely winner’ by the end of the campaign towards the end of 2016. Much of this can be attributed to alliances and back room deals with media. There were some fateful incidents along the way:

On May 12 (2016), Roger Ailes was scheduled to return to New York from Palm Beach to meet with Peter Thiel, an early and lonely Trump supporter in Silicon Valley who had become increasingly astonished by Trump’s unpredictability. Ailes and Thiel, both worried that Trump could bring Trumpism down, were set to discuss the funding and launch of a new cable news network. Thiel would pay for it and Ailes would bring O’Reilly, Hannity, himself, and maybe Bannon to it.

But two days before the meeting, Ailes fell in his bathroom and hit his head. Before slipping into a coma, he told his wife not to reschedule the meeting with Thiel. A week later, Ailes, that singular figure in the march from Nixon’s silent majority to Reagan’s Democrats to Trump’s passionate base, was dead.

Trump’s failure to offer condolences to Aile’s wife, Beth, was typical of many undiplomatic slips and the funeral with only close Aile’s allies present showed the way in which the Republican Party was imploding and now needed trump to survive.

The president had surely become the right wing’s meal ticket. He was the ultimate antiliberal: an authoritarian who was the living embodiment of resistance to authority. He was the exuberant inverse of everything the right wing found patronizing and gullible and sanctimonious about the left. And yet, obviously, Trump was Trump—careless, capricious, disloyal, far beyond any sort of control. Nobody knew that as well as the people who knew him best.

The Trump campaign was a giant exercise in bluff and bravado. He rationalised that he was a gift to the USA and the world, that he was one win away from turning the US problems, and inevitably those of the rest of the world, around.

But it is not just the story of the election campaign that enthrals. It is the events that have followed too.

Global liberal leadership had been all but paralyzed by the election of Donald Trump—indeed, by the very existence of Donald Trump. But it was an inverted universe in the Middle East. The Obama truculence and hyperrationalization and micromanaging, preceded by the Bush moral militarism and ensuing disruptions, preceded by Clinton deal making, quid pro quo, and backstabbing, had opened the way for Trump’s version of realpolitik. He had no patience with the our-hands-are-tied ennui of the post-cold war order, that sense of the chess board locked in place, of incremental movement being the best-case scenario—the alternative being only war. His was a much simpler view: Who’s got the power? Give me his number. 

Trump has worked on the principle that the ‘enemy of the enemy is my friend’. Consequently in its simplest form his notion that Iran was the bad guy in the Middle East brought him into unquestioning support for Iran’s enemies. His lack of foreign power knowledge of relationships will be his downfall. This approach has given Russia an enormous amount of freedom in Eurasia and who knows where this will go.

We are going to see a lot of ‘prosecuting’ in the months ahead and all of this will only add to the hype around Trump and help books like this to sell. We must not forget that a key player in all the events around Trump has been Murdoch, at first opposed but later a friend and advisor. With friends like that, and advice from that quarter, we can expect trump to have plenty of wins in his attack on former friends.

This is a book that must be a significant artefact in the collection of Trump critiques. But the best book is yet to be written … after Trump slips into history.

oOo

 

 

 

 

Is Prayer acceptable to progressives?

Richard Rohr has recently put this practice into focus and offers this viewpoint:

Practice: Praying Always

Prayer is not a transaction that somehow pleases God but a transformation of the consciousness of the one doing the praying. Prayer is the awakening of an inner dialogue that, from God’s side, has never ceased. This is why Paul could write of praying “always” (see 1 Thessalonians 5:17). Prayer is not changing God’s mind about us or about anything else, but allowing God to change our mind about the reality right in front of us (which we usually avoid or distort).

When we put on a different mind, heaven takes care of itself. In fact, it begins now. If we resort too exclusively to verbal, wordy prayers, we’ll remain stuck in our rational, dualistic minds and will not experience deep change at the level of consciousness. Prayer is sitting in the silence until it silences us, choosing gratitude until we are grateful, and praising God until we ourselves are an act of praise.

Jesus tells his disciples, “Be awake. Be alert. You do not know when the Lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, at midnight, at cock crow, or in the morning” (Mark 13:33-35). Jesus is not threatening, “You’d better do it right, or I’m going to get you.” He’s talking about the forever, eternal coming of Christ now . . . and now . . . and now. God’s judgment is always redemption. Christ is always coming. God is always present. It’s we who fall asleep.

Be ready. Be present to God in the here and now, the ordinary, the interruptions. Being fully present to the soul of all things will allow you to say, “This is good. This is enough. In fact, this is all I need.” You are now situated in the One Loving Gaze that unites all things in universal attraction and appreciation. We are practicing for heaven. Why wait for heaven when you can enjoy the Divine Flow in every moment, in everyone?

oOo

Love wins over guilt any day

With a new year about to happen, it is good to reflect on our experiences of the old year and look to the future. This reflection from Richard Rohr is pertinent:

When Things Fall Apart
Friday, December 29, 2017

The word change normally refers to new beginnings. But transformation more often happens not when something new begins but when something old falls apart. The pain of something old falling apart—disruption and chaos—invites the soul to listen at a deeper level. It invites and sometimes forces the soul to go to a new place because the old place is not working anymore. The mystics use many words to describe this chaos: fire, darkness, death, emptiness, abandonment, trial, the Evil One. Whatever it is, it does not feel good and it does not feel like God. We will do anything to keep the old thing from falling apart.
This is when we need patience, guidance, and the freedom to let go instead of tightening our controls and certitudes. Perhaps Jesus is describing this phenomenon when he says, “It is a narrow gate and a hard road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:14). Not accidentally, he mentions this narrow road right after teaching the Golden Rule. Jesus knows how much letting go it takes to “treat others as you would like them to treat you” (7:12).

Transformation usually includes a disconcerting reorientation. Change can either help people to find a new meaning, or it can cause people to close down and turn bitter. The difference is determined by the quality of our inner life, or what we call “spirituality.” Change of itself just happens; spiritual transformation is an active process of letting go, living in the confusing dark space for a while, and allowing yourself to be spit up on a new and unexpected shore. You can see why Jonah in the belly of the whale is such an important symbol for many Jews and Christians.

In the moments of insecurity and crisis, “shoulds” and “oughts” don’t really help; they just increase the shame, guilt, pressure, and likelihood of backsliding. It’s the deep “yeses” that carry you through. Focusing on something you absolutely believe in, that you’re committed to, will help you wait it out.

Love wins over guilt any day. It is sad that we settle for the short-run effectiveness of shaming people instead of the long-term life benefits of grace-filled transformation. But we are a culture of progress and efficiency, impatient with gradual growth. God’s way of restoring things interiorly is much more patient—and finally more effective. God lets Jonah run in the wrong direction, until this reluctant prophet finds a long, painful, circuitous path to get back where he needs to be—in spite of himself! Looking in your own “rear-view mirror” can fill you with gratitude for God’s work in your life.

Wishing all our subscribers to the UCFORUM a peaceful and contented New Year.

oOo

Fundamentalism is a new phenomenon

Writing in the October 2017 edition of New Scientist, Philip Ball argues that “today’s religious fundamentalism that denies evolution and Earth’s age is a peculiarly modern delusion”. Ball is a science writer and author of Curiosity: How science became interested in everything.

Ball asks “Did the religious revolution 500 years ago clear the way for the scientific revolution?”

In part it did.

Four years after nailing his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg castle church, Luther defended his strong movement of conscience to the 1521 Diet of Worms. Much bolder than Galileo’s weak defence of astronomy, Luther’s challenge to the authority of the Church in Rome contributed to the liberating of an enlightenment in scientific thinking that would not be held back any more.

Ball’s argument is supported by John Henry historian of science at the University of Edinburgh, UK. The Protestant Reformation opened the door to thinking outside the Bible. Robert Merton, in 1938, fuelled the idea of the Reformation opening up scientific thinking. he pointed out how Puritanism, an English strand of the protestant movement, fostered the work of Newton, Boyle, Hooke and others.

Pure reason, mathematics and measurement became the tools for understanding the world.

The notion that Catholic dogma was putting a brake on science is a myth based on the misconception that science and religious belief are enemies. Ball highlights the many scientific challenges promoted from inside the Church from the 1400s. Early Protestantism was not exactly ‘progressive’ on science either with Luther calling Copernicus a fool.

The forces for change are more complicated than sometimes reported – with numerous reformations with different origins occurring across Europe in the 16th Century. But one thing aided all of these reformations – the growth of the printing press. At the same time as reformers such as Calvin and Luther were evolving, so too were their reactionaries and it is too big a claim to say science progressed only because of the reformation.

When Galileo asserted that the Bible was not a book of natural philosophy, this viewpoint was not criticised as it would be today by a large section of the Church. 16th Century theology and Church teaching did not dwell on belief in the creation myth so much as how humankind should give God appropriate precedence in all things on Earth. That form of fundamental interpretation was left to a later age.

oOo

 

The search for the real Jesus continues

The December 2017 edition of National Geographic challenges skeptics about the existence of JC while attempting a fact vs fiction review of who he was. Author, Kristin Romey, herself an archaeologist, highlights the work of contemporary archaeology that throws new light on the man Jesus.

The difficulty of finding traces of proof for a person who lived 2000 years ago is acknowledged. The New testament texts, especially the Gospels (despite their divergent reports) remain as preeminent sources while being openly debated.

Tradition and archaeology inform each other in this search. Serious archaeology in the Holy Land is only 150 years old and has made shifts in perspectives in that time. Despite the emergence of some scholarly arguments against the existence of JC, few mainstream scholars today challenge his existence.

John Dominic Crossan, former priest and co-chair of the Jesus Seminar, supports the ‘existence’ arguments. However, stories of his miraculous deeds need considerable re-thinking.

Scholars who study Jesus divide into two opposing camps separated by a very bright line: those who believe the wonder-working Jesus of the Gospels is the real Jesus, and those who think the real Jesus – the man who inspired the myth – hides below the surface of the Gospels and must be revealed by historical research and literary analysis. Both camps claim archaeology as their ally, leading to some fractious debates and strange bedfellows. (Romey)

Archaeologists have succeeded in showing the influence of Rome’s first Christian Emperor, Constantine, in developing the ‘church’ in his building and organisational influence. But proof of links between Bethlehem and the Nativity are scant. Once again Constantine in the 4th Century was responsible for identification and veneration of key sites in the Holy Land. What credence can we give to this?

However, the search for Jesus has produced more evidence in Galilee which had been subjugated by Rome 60 years before the birth of Jesus. John Dominic Crossan’s The Historical Jesus in 1991, presented an influential thesis inspired by new archaeological discoveries that Galilee, more urbanised and Jewish than at first understood, had a more significant role in Jesus’ formation than previously thought. He argued that Jesus was a wandering sage, living a counter cultural lifestyle, and challenging the old rules of cleanliness and wealth and status seeking.

Romey’s article goes on to explain how recent (late 20th Century) digs have brought to light evidence for homage to Jesus in the first century homes and meeting places. Similarly, the discovery of a boat, a synagogue and the Magdala Stone from the time of Jesus have only enhanced the speculation about the real Jesus.

But it is in Jerusalem that many lines of evidence attest to the way Jesus died and this is also more consistently reported in the Gospels.

For progressive Christians this search for evidence is important to having a better understanding of Jesus, his life and teaching. The integrity of the arguments are important to following a man of substance and applying his principles personally.

oOo

CIFS helps with cult advice

CIFS is a non-profit association, founded in 1996 by a small group of parents whose children were recruited into cults.
Supporting each other in similar situations soon led to a greater understanding of the common practices and thought reform used in all harmful groups, and the damaging after-effects on those who leave these groups.

CIFS soon grew in numbers to include former members, friends, families and individuals working together to increase awareness and educate the public regarding the potential dangers of becoming involved in cults.

Cult Information and Family Support has grown to be at the forefront nationally in offering support and information to people affected by cults and cultic relationships.

CIFS advocates to have stronger laws enacted by policy makers to protect Australian citizens from the untold harm these groups inflict on individuals families and our society.

For more information go to: CIFS

Cults grow in an uncritical environment

ABC News reports on a cult making its way in Australia.

Providence is a religious group founded in 1978 in South Korea by Jeong Myeong-seok. A self-proclaimed Messiah who sometimes refers to himself as Pastor Joshua, he is a former “Moonie” or follower of the late Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church.

The group also goes by other names including Jesus Morning Star (JMS, which also happens to be the initials of the founder’s name), Christian Gospel Mission and The Bright Moon Church.

Headquartered in South Korea, Providence claims to have 300 affiliated churches and more than 100,000 followers in its home base. The group also boasts a worldwide following of over 10,000 and operates in a number of other countries including Australia, the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, South Africa, Japan and Taiwan.

Providence was set up in Australia in 1997 and has established branches in major cities including Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Canberra.

for more on this go to: The bizarre world of Providence cult

Recommended reading: God is Near: Trusting our Faith

Michael Morwood, author of Tomorrow’s Catholic and Is Jesus God? speaks to progressive Christians in a voice that is easy to understand, that resonates with their experiences and offers hope and encouragement to critical thinkers.

Michael calls on the reader to ask themselves some serious questions about how their faith or thinking about faith was shaped. How did the reader get to their current world view? The key question is: How is it that our Christian faith, which should be a privilege for us and a source of great peace and encouragement, is experienced by many Christians as a burden, as something restrictive, and, as such, is rejected?

This book can be used for personal or group study. It is structured in a way that the reader can interrogate the issues and question oneself along the way. Each chapter has a useful summary.

Chapter Topics:

  1. The God who is near to us
  2. Jesus: Revealer of the nearness of God
  3. The Eucharist: How close really is!
  4. The Church: called to be witness of God’s presence
  5. Prayer: Deepening our awareness of God’s nearness.

oOo