A Religious Liberal Blog

This site hopefully can provide some vehicle by which I can comment, complain, and once in a while praise the state of religion in this country and around the world from a liberal protestant perspective.

Sunday, September 17, 2006


Terry Mattingly has a set of three questions which he thinks will nail someone as a modernist, which apparently must be a bad term.

Are the biblical accounts of the resurrection of Jesus accurate? Was this a real, even if mysterious event, in real time?

Given the diversity of the texts that's a hard claim but since there is a hedge in this question, terms like real and mysterious, this capture a range of options, including Paul's confused description at the end of 1 Corinthians, a description and a confusion that I'm likely to go with.

Is salvation found through Jesus Christ, alone? Is Jesus the Way or a way?
I'm sure I'll get nailed, since I don't see Jesus as the sole means of salvation. I don't see how one can get a monotheistic account that limits God's saving work to a single time period, a single religion, etc.

Ultimately I question whether the NT seeks to do such a thing either. "Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet."

"When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all." 1 Cor 15:24,25,28 Monotheism is never compromised. Even the instruments of God's saving work are subordinated to God's purposes.

This is why I get baffeled when folks speak of a Christian God or a Muslim God. There is no such thing, only Christian descriptions of God and Muslim descriptions of God. They may or may not provide resources for life, but God ends up being larger than this.

Is sex outside of the sacrament of marriage a sin? Until marriage is seen as an act of God, not of the church, which is marked by love, committment, mutuality, etc then marriage is no indicator of the morality of sexual relations. I'm a modernist afterall.


At 2:38 AM , Anonymous Tim said...

I would have thought the first two questions make one a "resurrectionist", not a "modernist", let alone the latter being a bad thing.

"The Way or a way" is a fallacious question. If you want a third slant on John 14:6, try reading it as `no-one would get to know the Father if I didn't do what I'm about to'. (Requires a metaphysical view of "through" in some translations.)
I suspect several universalists I know must have some similar kind of way of working around it.

There's an argument that `if there is only one God, He has to be God of both muslims & christians and...'. This is only sort of true as stated, I think. He's God *over* all humanity; however, He is not *the* God *of* muslims. Right? Otherwise, either I'd be a muslim (eek), or I'd at least see no benefit in being of any particular revealed religion, or there wouldn't be blatant contradictions between various religions' descriptions of God (how can one God have a Son, Jesus, in Christianity, and yet NOT have a Son, "just a prophet", Jesus, in Islam? How can Abraham get his offspring mixed-up between OT and Islam? How can there be multiple gods (Hinuism)?) I suppose insofar as Christians are capable of not living up to God in all His flexibility (eg putting Him in a box, constrainingor misrepresenting one way or another), that's the gap whereby Christianity might have "got it wrong" too.

At 9:00 AM , Anonymous Michael said...

Re: Jesus is the only way.
Henry Cornellius Agrippa, writting in about 1531, deals with it by saying that when we die, we just get to hang out until judgement day. During this time when we don't have anything better to do, if anyone was good, and therefore warrented a paradisey holding place, Jesus will preach to them, they'll accept him, and all will be good. :-) He claims that many of the church fathers agree, and I'm in no position to check up. He says that even evil people may have a shot - and recounts that Pope Gregory the Great prayed for one of the Roman Emperors and got him out of hell and into salvation - and all because we aren't yet to the Day of Doom. :-)

At 11:51 AM , Anonymous D. C. said...

Re Jesus supposedly being the only way: That's always struck me as a breathtakingly presumptuous claim, bordering on blasphemy. (I'm sometimes tempted to respond to people who assert that claim: Who died and made you God?)

At 1:31 PM , Blogger Ed said...

Agrippa was an occultist, not a theologian, though perhaps he is representing commonly accepted beliefs of the time.

I think "is violence a sin" would be a neat question to add to that list. Might split people up into different camps than the sex one.

At 10:42 AM , Anonymous Michael said...

Of course he wasn't a theologian, but he was an academic. He's obviously read the fathers; he quotes Augustine *constantly*. And he did have a local abbot review the book for him, and his bishop gave him the go-ahead to print it. :-)

At 11:20 AM , Anonymous 4thepeople said...

Hello to all the people on this blog:

May I impose upon you just a bit?

I've posted a diary on DailyKos that comments on the Pope's recent speech at Regensberg. I have never, ever tried to drum up traffic for one of my diaries before. But the fact of the matter is, I am profoundly saddened by this controversy, and I honestly think I have a perspective that lends some insight (and dignity!) to the discussion. The diary can be found at Violence, Truth, and the Perfection of Allah -- Pope Benedict's Dilemma.

If you would, might you take a look? And if you think it adds something of benefit to the discussion, please either link to it, or post it elsewhere, as you think fit.

Peace be with you all.

At 7:32 AM , Blogger Bill Baar said...

Ratzinger, who now has price on his head I fear, by those who would hijack Islam for political purposes, put it best in Salt of the Earth, p32,

How many ways are there to God?

As many as there are people. For even within the same faith each man's way is an entirely personal one. We have Christ's word: I am the way. In that respect, there is ultimately one way, and everyone who is on the way to God is therefore in some sense also on the way of Jesus Christ. But this does not mean that all ways are identical in terms of consciousness and will, but, on the contrary, the one way is so big that it becomes a personal way for each man.

At 8:48 AM , Anonymous John B said...

If you "modernists" want to be universalists why don't you be people of integrity and join a universalist congregtion?

How can you affirm the ordination vows, "In covenant with other elders, will you be loyal to The United Methodist Church, accepting its order, liturgy, doctrine, and discipline, defending it against all doctrines contrary to God's Holy Word, and accepting the authority of those who are appointed to supervise your ministry?" when you don't accept its doctrine?

United Methodist believe, emphasis mine:

"Christ did truly rise again from the dead, and took again his body, with all things appertaining to the perfection of man's nature, wherewith he ascended into heaven and there sitteth until he return to judge all men at the day day." (Article III The Articles of Religion)

"The offering of Christ, once made, is that perfect redemption, propitiation, and satisfaction for all sins of the whold world, both original and actual; and there is none other satisfaction for sin but that alone. Wherefore the sacrifice of the masses, in the which it is commonly said that the priest doth offer Christ for the quick and the dead, to have remission of pain or guilt, is a blasphemous fable and dangerous deceit." (Article XX The Articles of Religion)

You have every right to believe whatever you want to believe, but not within the United Methodist Church.

At 10:52 AM , Anonymous Michael said...

Good thing I'm not a Methodist than. ;-) I'm a blashphemous deciever, a.k.a. a Catholic.

At 11:58 AM , Blogger Dwight said...

I agree, there are certainly disagreements to be had in religions, descriptions which end up clashing. And we can certainly develop means to evaluate them, but in a manner which recognizes that our descriptions are not God, that God is bigger than our religious systems.


Good Question!

Bill Baar
nice quote, is that from Ratzinger?

John B
I'm not a universalist. I neither believe that all religions are salvific nor do I believe that one religion can save all people.

I understand myself to be a pluralist, merely claiming that God is at work in other contexts other than our own in a salvific manner.

Nothing in your quote would suggest that Christ's work cannot involve people outside the religion. Some of the things quoted though I'd disagree with.

But it' why I'm in the Disciples of Christ, a non creedal denomination which affirms "no creed, but Christ". A church that does not promote liberty of thought is not one I'm going to give loyalty to.

At 2:39 PM , Blogger The Cubicle Reverend said...

Yeah I guess we shouldn't take Jesus at his word when he says he's the way, the truth, and the life and no one comes to the father except through me. Must have had his fingers crossed.

At 3:08 PM , Blogger Bill Baar said...


Yes, page 35 from Ratzingers book Salt of the Earth.

As for the comment about why isn't someone a Universalist, well, as a UU I ask that question of many who seem to me at least, to be in the wrong Churches.

I guess it's a good deal more complicated then I expect as the question never results in anyone joining.

At 10:19 AM , Anonymous Michael said...

Cubical Reverend,

I suppose that similarly *John* had his fingers crossed when he said, "In the beginning was the Word... and all things came into being by him." That might be to *universalise* the Christ, and not give him that limiting specificity he so desires.

At 5:40 AM , Blogger The Cubicle Reverend said...

I appologize,what I wrote sounded snippy. Not my intention.

At 9:35 AM , Blogger Jimbo said...

I think it took Jesus to educate John about what will allow us to be cleansed of sin. How would John know better than the Son of God? Jesus said that the only way was through him. Period, end of story. No debate. It is not for you to interpret with your filters. That is mighty convenient to do, but in the end is wrong. I may sound snippy too, but either you believe Jesus was the Son of God, and what he said is the truth, or you don't. Make up your mind and quit distorting what is fact.

At 1:21 PM , Blogger Elmo said...

I don' t see how John asserting that all things were created through the Word stands in opposition to Christ asserting that he is the only way to the Father.

All things were created through Christ and all peoplecan be saved through him. That doesn't mean that all people will be saved.

Some forget that while John 3:16 says only that the believer will live eternally, and doesn't speak explicitly of the non-believer, verse 18 deals with both.

"Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son."

That's pretty clear. And based on his other statments about belief in him, an expanded view of salvation that reaches people who don't profess Jesus to be the only Son of God is un-Biblical.

Of course, if you think the Bible is all figurative and/or metaphorical, then you can say anything and no one can refute it.

At 4:01 AM , Blogger Ari Rabin said...

Reading through the three questions it would seem Terry Mattingly's antonym of 'modernist' is fundamentalist.

The belief that Jesus isn't the only way to salvation isn't a 'modern' view; it existed in early Christian communites, though it was heretical to orthodox standards. Likewise a metaphorical interpretation of Jesus' resurrection is not modern. It also existed in early Christian communities. Again, these groups were dubbed heretical, but the fact that early Christian groups questioned a literal resurrection is quite telling of the Jesus mythos.

It might also be worth pointing out to people like Elmo who claim that the Bible says Jesus is God's only son:

Exodus 4:22, "Thus says the Lord, Israel is my firstborn son."

The Giant Otter


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