A Possible Gospel And New Testament

More Fun Than Fundamentalism.

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Monday, May 29, 2006

Gospel, Chapter Four: Alpha, Omega, and the Kingdom


In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God; and the Word was One with God from the beginning. All things came into being through the Word that was born to give the nameless form; truly without it not one thing came into being. What has come into true being is the life that is the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness will not overcome it. True light has come into the world; and anyone with eyes to see may testify. Cf. John 1:1-9


We will come into the presence of the One in whose presence we dwelt before the world existed: then, like a flower in the night. And the One will dwell in us as we have dwelt within the One: the circle opened like a flower to the light. Cf. John 17:5

Parables of the Mustard Seed and the Yeast

“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” Mat 13: 31-32

“The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.” Mat 13:33

Hear the parables: The kingdom of heaven is the fruit of One act of creation. Like bread from yeast and flour, it rises from simple things.

Here we stand – yet all is in ferment. The tree will rise to greater heights, casting wide branches and catching flights of life greater than any that have come before.


Therefore tell not the tall tale of an Other-God with a divine plan and preconceived notion. We are the ones with divine plans and preconceived notions. God is just going, just running; knowing the direction.

God may be looking for a running partner.

Runner II: Seabiscuit

There is something transcendentally earthbound about a horse hurtling down a track, racked through the heat and dust with a desire that imposes its whole must upon a body trippingly muscled forward, bent low as a bullet train but on the fast track of a rippling four limbed ballet that flies through time in moments that can’t last long, his perched jockey an alert evanescence of finesse all soundless and slender in the teeming air while lending his own light and guiding leaning into that same twelve hundred pounds of really meaning it, and nothing else. At best, every man and beast is a hot dream that sometimes startles dust pounding down the rails, like comet trails that leave no trace of us, echoing the blind and blinding thunderblast that once crashed earth blazing into being, and still wills creation’s run in us by our sheer love’s must running down a dirt track, faith-first, a gathering strength of momentum spending itself vanquished and perfectly mindless with calm fury.


Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Gospel, Chapter Three: The One

God is the One in whom “we live and move and have our being.” Acts 17:28 God is the Wholeness of the whole story that holds the story of each little life; the greatest Context that exists. God is the only One that is: Being in the immensity of its full power for inclusiveness and creativity, including and yet beyond what we are able to know.

“A mediator involves more than one party; but God is one.” Gals 3:20

The One and Only says, I AM; and before that One there is, nor has there ever been, an Other. Long before the idea of Other-God ever was, I AM. Cf. Ex 3:13-15, John 8:58

When God spoke from out of the whirlwind, it was with the whirlwind’s voice. God is the Whirlwind. Cf. Job 38 There is one true god, and there is no Other-God before the One. Cf. Exodus 20:2-3.

Other-God is from pantheon central casting: full of vanity, jealousy, vengeful wrath, and self-centered conceit. If it is not worthy of you, how much less is it worthy of God?

Worshipping Og is like a man who carved a figurine of himself, perfecting his own face and form, and then lost it crossing a field. Later another man inherited the field, found the carving, and admired it. He called out to his family and they fell huddling to the ground, adoring the small figure until its image filled their sight. Their worship darkened and replaced their awe in the face of the blue sky, the green earth, the round of the stars, and the spirit moving over the waters.

Seek amazement and not worship. The being of the only One is awesome, and in that awe, there is knowledge of God. Worshipping Og is like a child playing with a toy and imagining that it knows the things known by those who have put away childish things. Cf. I Cors 13:11

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Gospel, Chapter Two: The Anti-Creed

Intro: This is only a statement of disbeliefs that I’ve posted because commentators were wondering where I stood in relation to the subject of belief. It is meant as an overview and by no means fully substantiates its assertions. I’m not asking anyone to accept these disbeliefs on my say-so! That would make it a creed and not an anti-creed.

For me, religious life is primarily about loving others, loving God (not Og, as per below); faith; and our experience, in undertaking this way, of an identity shift away from the self alone and toward experiencing our own identity with the One in whom each of us truly lives and moves and has our being.

1. Jesus Was Not God: It is doubtful that Jesus, as a wise and deeply sane person, could have thought that he was God - that his particular human body and personality were somehow specially identified with a Supreme Deity. Identifying oneself with God in this manner, and that later variation on the theme in which people have sometimes thought they were Jesus Christ, is not a hallmark of sanity.

2. This Is No Crusade: I reject the largely externalized view of Jesus’ message that resulted from this misunderstanding on the part of the early Christian church and which to date has been embraced and promulgated by the church as an institution.

I am committed to seeing through and past these dogmatic aspects of my tradition, which the larger world will never embrace, to identify and emphasize its truth and wisdom. Here is where Christianity can connect with the wider world rather than continue with its perennial delusion of expecting to conquer it. I look to Christianity’s powerful words and symbols to engage with others and not to preach to them.

3. Faith Is Unmediated: I recognize no Christ to worship and adore as God, but see Jesus as having tried to point us toward the way he undertook: loving others and loving God (Mark 12:29-34, Mat 22: 38-39) in a direct and unmediated experience of faith (Gals 3:20); and, in our own lives and persons, moving in a direction of increasing identity with the only One who is more than ourselves alone, and yet in whom each of us truly lives, and moves, and has our being (Acts 17:28).

4. God Is Not Other: I reject the West’s externalized view of God as Other as a misapprehension of Reality. Judaism’s embrace of a single externalized God was a step toward true monotheism; yet Reality is One, not two. There is not a shred of evidence for a Creator existing apart from creation. Creation is creating. We are steeped in God, we swim in God; and this one and only living God, God as Reality-Itself, is bigger than the anthropocentric attributes with which we have tried to invest it. Let us stand in awe of actual God and not fall to our knees adoring the god we have made in our own image.

Tell me: who knows the full context of WHAT IS?

Is this the only universe? Is “a universe” the only thing, or kind of thing, that exists in all-reality? We have not begun to grasp the fullness of what we are doing here.

5. The Cross Is Not An Other's: Life is suffering. I expect to participate not only in the joy of being here, but also to take the way of a cross I shoulder willingly.

6. Words Are Not Dictated: There is no such thing as scripture. The idea of scripture is a literal-minded outcome of belief in the Other-God. Jews, Christians, and Muslims have each imagined that the words of their most revered texts are the words of the imaginary Og; and, moreover, that theirs are the words of Og in some special and direct sense that elevates them above all other writings. This has set the stage for perpetual religious conflict, which ought to be a contradiction in terms.

Everything that has been written has been written by people. All versions of divine dictation, no matter how sophisticatedly rendered, are fictions. Yet there has been and will be further inspired writing. The more inspired the writing, the more the writer speaks from out of and for the sake of More than self alone.

7. The Spirit Is Not A Parrot: The ongoing relationship of human beings with the only living God, and no text, has been and remains the primary source and wellspring of inspiration throughout the world. It is given to all persons and all peoples.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Gospel, Chapter One: Angel

Small towns in northern New England tend to feature playgrounds and ball fields, but few large parks. Cemeteries can be one of the best places to jog or walk.

I am twenty-three or twenty four years old, pedaling my bike toward the two adjacent cemeteries where I jog. It’s a clear and chilly autumn night, the pre-dawn hour, when silence seems to gather, deepen, and pause. Stars are everywhere above and the moon is full.

The rare car is a fast, rushed glare of headlights, then back to such a concentrated quiet that the earth seems as alert and expectant as a meditating mind. I hear only the slender grating of my bike chain when I coast, how trees seem to breath the wind and toss back their branches in their sleep; and the odd dry leaf with curled stem, face downward, scuttering crab-like along the darkened pavement. Each sound is steeped in the meaning that comes with paying close attention, and I am steeped in dreamy air streams of autumn’s ancient pungencies: coldly warm, earthy but without form, seeming to implicitly remind me of things I never could have known but may somehow live to tell. I warm to the ride, pumping and gliding under intermittent streetlights past the gray and glassy stares of shuttered windows.

Entering the back gate, I am engulfed by the black cemetery grounds. I pass through the haphazard chatter of scattered leaves flattening beneath my tires, then knock the kickstand down unseeing into a soft leaf-pile that I can only feel has been raked into place there. I’ve parked beneath one of the dozen or so angels standing on pedestals at the ends of rows.

These are angels that I have known a long time, familiar figures from childhood summers. My cousin and I would roll down and play around the steep grassy hillside, while here and there among the rows our grandmother placed the bright, assorted flowers that we’d cradled over in her car.

Tall and white in the distance from which we usually saw them, the angels were imbued in meadowy greens and yellows when we happened to glimpse them through the shifting patterns of shade and swaying leaves in summer’s lazy breezes. Up close, these sentinels were plainly earth angels, with flakes of blonde-green lichen here and there along their robes and in their faces and hair. Fine brown weathered lines covered their surfaces, and they stood on unpretentious pedestals of brown or tan brick.

Now, in the dark, I look up into the angel’s face where I have parked and find myself transfixed. This sight is so loud it startles silence. She is luminously white, ablaze under a reeling backdrop of stars scattered like shimmering speckles among faint clouds and wispy strands of distant galactic mists. Her radiance seems not so much to reflect but to glowingly transform the moon’s borrowed light, making it her own, only frosted over some degrees colder- as the moon takes sunshine and turns it into moon-glow.

She is a beacon shouting directly into my face from out of all-engulfing space. Her plain eyes, pupiless, directed straight at me, give her the attitude of someone wide-awake but sleeping, like she is seeing everything without telling me. Shiveringly I too glow with something I have borrowed, not knowing how, making it warmer, making it mine; then step out across the lawn to start my run.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Gospel, Final Premise: A Spoken Word

"And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father--the one in heaven.” Mat 23:9

“Everyone who is fully qualified will be like the teacher.” Luke 6:40

“And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right?” Luke 12:57

Here and in the posts that will follow, I judge for myself what is right and what is wrong, seeing that everyone is salted with fire (cf. Mk 9:49); and that, as noted, inspiration-by-definition is uninspired. Inspiration does not confine itself to books designated as scripture by church councils and hierarchies. The spirit moves broadly over the waters. (Cf. Gen 1:2) The Word invites us to speak and does not sentence us to silence.

To write in this manner may even be to engage in a process similar to that which produced those writings that the church has labeled “scripture.”


As we saw in the 4/24 post, The New Testament was written decades after Jesus’ death by anonymous authors with access to second-hand verbal and written materials which were handed down to them. They wrote what came to them on that basis.

So will I.

The writers of the various books had distinctive perspectives. In John, for example, composed late in the first century and last to be written of the four gospels, we find a Jesus who has become more God than man. The scene of sorrow at Gethsemane where Jesus asks that if possible the cup pass from his lips is replaced with passages like John 12:27-28, where the Christ is portrayed as saying in effect that he does not suppose for one moment that the cup should pass from his lips. John’s Christ does not die with the agonized outcry of “My Lord, why have you forsaken me,” but with the simple and declaratory, “It is finished,” of John 19:30. Mission accomplished.

I too offer a distinct perspective.

The Koran so clearly draws on the Bible that scholars are certain that Mohammed was familiar with it. The angel said to have dictated the Koran to Mohammed in a cave was working with someone who was certainly inspired by the Bible as well.

I also find the Bible inspiring.

To me, much of the material in the gospels and the New Testament as a whole rings true, or nearly so; and much of it rings false, as though these authors, and probably Jesus’ contemporaneous followers, did not always have ears to hear. (Cf. Mark 4:9, Luke 14:35) Therefore I will not only quote freely from the gospels, but will ring changes on many verses; write others that are inspired by gospel and other New Testament passages; and add original material.

They say Mohammed had a real angel. Mine is made only from stone - as we’ll see next post with Possible Gospel, Chapter One.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Gospel, Premise 3: Salt Still Has Its Taste

In order to separate the wheat from the chaff, we need to bring discernment to the words that we encounter. And in order to discern what is truly inspired, we need to recognize the elements of originality and wisdom that are present in true spirituality.

Jesus was the son of a carpenter. He was not a scribe, Pharisee, or priest of his day. And despite the heavy incorporation of church dogma and theology into their texts, the gospel writers seem to give us glimpses of certain strands from the oral traditions which they inherited concerning Jesus, which suggest that Jesus himself both demonstrated and spoke to the originality involved in genuine spiritual inspiration.

“He came to his hometown and began to teach the people in their synagogue, so that they were astounded and said, ‘Where did this man get this wisdom and these deeds of power? Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all this?” Mat 13:54-56

“They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” Mk 1:22

Then there are Jesus’ cryptic-sounding remarks about salt and fire:

“For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” Mark 9:49-50

“I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!” Luke 12:49

“Salt is good; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure heap; they throw it away. Let anyone with ears to hear listen!’ Luke 14:34-35

To have ears to listen to these verses is to hear that Jesus speaks of finding our own tongues; and so I adapt these verses into one as follows:

Salt has salt of itself or it is good for nothing. How can you season it? Therefore have salt in yourselves that is not borrowed. This salt has saltiness like light from fire, and lights the world.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Gospel, Premise 2: The Necessity of Discernment

Jesus said: “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” John 3:5-8

Jesus, speaking to the Pharisees who quote scriptural laws against working on the Sabbath: “I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save life or to destroy it?” Luke 6:9.

Jesus himself does not seem to have perceived the Bible as a legal document, but a text to be read discerningly.

Jesus, teaching in the temple: “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” John 7:24

Similarly: “Pay attention to how you listen; for to those who have, more will be given; and from those who do not have, even what they seem to have will be taken away.” Luke 8:18

Not all Bible verses are equally inspired. Those of us from scripture-based traditions cannot avoid the responsibility of bringing discernment to God’s Word as we encounter it both inside and outside the scriptural texts. Jesus asks us to bring our own hearts, minds, and experiences of life to the table in order to hear the Word rightly.

Before we think of judging the perspectives of others, we who come from scripture-based traditions might first want to reflect on how we pick our verses: what we emphasize, and what we decide to minimize or overlook.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

On Belief: A Clarification of Yesterday's Post Prompted by Dale's Comment

The Great Divides

First, I’d like to clarify that I’m casting no aspersions on church leadership past or present. In posting yesterday, my aim was not to imply that the only or primary thing that church leaders have been concerned with is their hold on spiritual authority and power – as if they don’t really believe what they’re telling people. Although there are hypocrites in every sphere of religion and spirituality, I feel certain they are in a minority. I think church leaders have for the most part sincerely held to the definitions, doctrines, and theologies they have propounded, even at the same time that doing so has effectively promoted the church’s authority by discouraging further sources of inspiration by definition and fiat, as per yesterday’s post.

Religious beliefs have and continue to work well for many people – but they also divide us; and a few, with no understanding of their faith, harm others in the name of their beliefs.

Religious beliefs are inherently divisive. For example, either Jesus is resurrected Savior and God, or he isn’t. People generally adhere to those beliefs they grow up with. These beliefs are not demonstrably true to others. So even though religion and spirituality, of all things, ought to bring people together, there’s a limit to what it can do toward that end so long as we make our beliefs the centerpiece of what we think it means to be a person of faith and spirit.

Other Absolutes and Baby Steps

True: Not everyone spends 40 days in the desert, which is to say that not everyone has a religious vocation. We need religious institutions that people can turn to for guidance.

We could be guided toward authentic connections, to borrow Dale's phrase, that are already there to be made - referenced by every world religion. These truths have no inherent or necessary relationship to our varying belief systems. And these truths are absolutes.

They are absolutes of experience that all of us know as human beings. It’s just that many of us don’t know that we know; or our knowledge of them is not as clear as it could be. Take, for example, love. Or faith. Or work. Of course today, most of us equate faith with holding to a belief system whose veracity can’t be demonstrated. But for myself, certainly, I have learned that this is not what faith is.

I hope there is a day when religious institutions offer guidance to people not in the form of propounded certainties and Truth claims that the whole world will never agree on; but on knowing what love is, what faith is, what work is all about, and what sorts of changes in our identities we can anticipate when we follow in the way of faithful love, whatever our background and tradition. If this ever happens, it will take generations. Before we can get there, we will first have to learn to thoroughly respect each others’ beliefs and disbeliefs as a baby step.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Gospel Premise 1: The Spirit Isn't Congealed

Inspired by Definition

The author of the Gospel of John writes at a time when the early Christian church is reaching the end of its first century of existence. In John we see Christian theology solidifying. And he clearly presents us with one idea of divine inspiration.

No longer does the spirit move over the face of the waters (Cf. Gen 1:2). It becomes concretized and personified – ready to become the third Person in a Holy Trinity:

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you for ever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. John 14:16-17

And how do you know who is filled with this true Spirit of genuine inspiration from God? Simple: anyone who espouses the belief that Jesus is Savior is filled with the Spirit; and nobody else:

“By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God.” I John 4:2-3 {Note: Scholars believe that I John was written by the author of the Gospel of John.}

Inspired by Edict

What do you think? To me, it was clearly in the early church’s interest to write books stating that, by definition, inspiration consists of adherence to its belief system. Once the church had grown into a more powerful institution, it was equally in its interest to declare these books “scripture” in the sense of constituting the official words of God. And it has manifestly been in the self-interest of the church, and later the churches, to declare the edicts and pronouncements issued by their own hierarchies in their own time to be God's infallibly inspired word and outlook on the issues of the day.

Yet there have been far too many examples of official church positions which the church itself over time wisely came to rectify, to suppose that all its present pronouncements can possibly be inspired. Indeed, those who imagine that the church is already perfect are a stumbling block to the church as it seeks perfection.

Official spiritual inspiration is a contradiction in terms. People with fresh, creative insights in any field are not typically bureaucrats who rise through the ranks to wield organizational power. Nor are staff meetings and committees generally the avenue by which such works arise. In religion and spirituality, those who substantially modify, transform, or initiate religious traditions, are those who experience some version of their own forty days in the desert. Their spiritual experiences, from a founder like Buddha or Mohammed, to an innovator like Martin Luther, are highly original. They go through something first-hand and in their own persons.


Usually we define things in terms of the properties and processes that we can see characterize them; then we stick to that definition. For example, we agree that an apple is a sweet, thin-skinned fruit that grows on trees. Likewise, inspiration is usually known by the qualities that seem to best describe it: it usually occurs to individuals in a spontaneous manner, generally when they are alone, and often following a period of intense struggle with an issue or problem. The outcome of the process is highly original and creative; and, in the case of spiritual inspiration, wise.

Of course it’s possible for a group of people to replace the definition of a concept according to those properties and processes which best describe it, by some other definition that they all like and agree upon. For many Christians, it has therefore been acceptable to understand “the inspired” or Spiritual as that which accords with their beliefs. But Christians need to be aware that this is what they are doing, and that any element of what the rest of the world calls “inspiration” which may be behind – I would say, is behind - their own tradition’s concept of inspiration, is in danger of being disregarded or even lost.

Spiritual authority is living water. Religious authority follows prescribed channels where it stagnates when not refreshed.