Re: the effect on the audience.
I just used the look-inside feature on Amazon. Let's take chapter one, paragraph one, sentence one of CB's book:
"The words above are from the Gospel of Thomas, recovered in 1945 amid the Nag Hammadi scrolls in the Egyptian desert and now largely accepted as an authentic teaching of Jesus."
Now, anyone who's done even a little reading knows that statement isn't true. There's a whole range of opinions about the authenticity of Thomas. Even the Jesus Seminar thinks the last two-thirds of the saying she quotes (at the top of that chapter) doesn't come from the real Jesus.
So the effect on the audience is to convey the impression that the author is unreliable.
Kevin, you said it earlier: transcend and include.
I'm not sure what you're referring to as "Traditional Christianity," here, so maybe you could clarify. I think of religion as traditions of wisdom and worship passed along from one generation to the next to help people grow in relationship with God. Not sure how this all relates to the youtube video and your response.
Right, there is no either/or involved in considering the ontological and teleological aspects of the human condition per se. What I was suggesting, though, is that those aspects may very well apply in an either/or fashion to the different categories (neediness vs sinfulness) of the human condition. For example, even if our sins (past AND present) result in some ontological rupture or wounding, need they necessarily also account for our radical neediness, which might otherwise be accounted for in teleological terms?
So, WHAT the doctrine is getting at --- our radical neediness & that we sin --- is essential. THAT the Incarnation meets those needs and reconciles our relationships is also essential. As I said, though, the literalistic accounts of past events regarding some of the HOWs and WHYs are not essential. For example, one might ask, was human reality ever truly edenic? Is that what the Fall necessarily entails? And, of course, substitutionary atonement, for example, is also not essential.
But that's exactly why Cynthia's alternate interpretation of that verse need not be taken as necessarily obfuscating the ontological meaning of Jesus's "the Father and I are One." ?
Jesus' place in the Trinity is not in dispute? Regarding the interpretation of John 10:30, as with most Bible verses, exegetes struggle with interpretation from several angles (hence my reference to minority views referred to exegetical matters). In this particular case, Calvin most quickly comes to mind. One might check out the different commentaries.
From Bracken's discussion, the John 10:30 take away was the moral union within a community and the bond of love which can unite human beings with one another and with the triune God. From Cynthia's discussion: "There is no separation between humans and God because of this mutual interabiding which expresses the indivisible reality of divine love."
Perhaps Cynthia did intend this in as heterodox a manner as you received it? I can't make that case though from what I've read.
pop-pop, perhaps my recent follow-up comments re: original sin shed some light on your questions? If not, please feel free to inquire further.
If, by supernatural evil, you mean a demon, I would not consider that an essential belief of Christianity. But neither do I consider belief in demons to be unreasonable. Scott Peck certainly raised my own sneaking suspicions regarding the devil. This interview with Fr Benedict Groeschel is also interesting (and he is a sober, serious, intelligent and holy man). In my view, if the devil as construct is not literally true, arguably, it nevertheless remains, in some ways, a useful construct. At the same time, if it is indeed true, arguably, it also remains, in some ways, an overused (too often misapplied) construct. [I realize that I didn't answer where I stand.]
But that's not a criterion for the "authenticity" of any Gospel?
Kevin, it is good to see you here, my friend. Well said, regarding Cynthia.
It does seem to me that, as Phil characterized it, she's needlessly pitting sophiology and soteriology against each other. And this may come from too severe a critique by her of the West, in general. To some extent, this is also reminiscent of (and not wholly unrelated to) the old alternating over- and under-emphases on justification and sanctification. That aside, her exposition of sophiology is splendid. She doesn't claim to demonstrate that Jesus was not celibate only that it would not matter either in the way or to the extent that so many seem to imagine (preoccupied as they've been with pelvic Christianity).
Good to see you back, JB.
Just to be sure I'm understanding you, here, you do not hear CB denying the reality of Original Sin?
Jesus' place in the Trinity is not in dispute?
Not to my knowledge, among most traditional folk, that is. As you know, he's considered the incarnate Word/Second Person of the Trinity.
Prior to saying that, she said, "While he (Jesus) does indeed claim that 'the Father and I are one' (John 10:30)--a statement so blasphemous to Jewish ears that it nearly gets him stoned--he does not see this as an exclusive privilege but something shared by all human beings." I really dislike the term, "exclusive," here, as that's anathema to postmodern ears, and sweet perfume to those who loathe the idea of Jesus being the one and only incarnation of God. "Exclusive" gives the wrong impression. His union with the Father is indeed "exclusive" in the sense that none of us is one with the Father as He is, but that's not the best way to put it. Jesus never, ever taught that we already enjoyed the same kind of union with the Father that he experienced.
You've given us an example of a "minority report" interpretation, but I'm not sure why such deserve honorable mention, here. As you noted earlier, the mainstream Christian tradition affirms an ontological union of being.
The obfuscation I refer to is CB's "There is no separation between humans and God because of this mutual interabiding which expresses the indivisible reality of divine love." This totally evades the issue of Jesus's distinctive relationship with the Father by presenting us with a statement about Jesus's experience of divine union. It tells us nothing about Jesus, really, except that he experienced the unitive stage of spiritual growth. Her statement is undeniable, but does nothing to justify her contention that Jesus's union with the Father is not "exclusive." See what I mean?
Hope that clarifies. Perhaps you could read some of what she wrote as critically as you are reading my responses? ( and poke)This message has been edited. Last edited by: Phil,
I understand what you are saying but we are talking past each other somewhat. She's only saying that the bond of love is not exclusive. Whatever it is that makes Jesus the only son of God and so on and so forth is not being denied. It just ain't what's being talked about in this verse per other reasonable interpretations (based on esoteric exegetical stuff like the gender -neutral vs masculine- of certain nouns and such). See what I mean?
As I receive what Cynthia is saying, I am focusing on her interpretation and commentary on John 10:30 ALONE. It is already abundantly clear to me from having read what she has explicitly affirmed in this book (quotes above and elsewhere) that she does not have a heterodox take on the Trinity. An alternate interpretation of John 10:30, whether by Cynthia, Calvin, Erasmus or via Joe Bracken, would NOT, in and of itself, deny the ontological union. The alternate interpretation only suggests that that particular verse happens to be talking about something else, in the case at hand, about LOVE.
I'll let my contributions to this thread speak for themselves ... revealing that my critiques, like my affirmations, have been equal-opportunity.
Again, Cynthia well articulates the essentials of the faith re: Christology, even soteriology vis a vis affirming our finitude and neediness and Jesus' efficacious role in reconciling and empowering us. She affirms what I affirmed and raises the same questions I asked, answering them in much the same Scotistic way that I have in all of my writings. This minority view is not heterodox. I don't mention it seeking honor or approval but because it best articulates the truth, celebrates the beauty, preserves the good and fosters the fellowship with which I resonate in my life of faith!
"No" that Jesus has traditionally been considered the incarnate Word/Second Person of the Trinity, or that CB is denying Original Sin? The latter, it would seem.
I think you're right that we're talking past each other re. John 10:30. As I noted in my opening post, I was unable to get past the first three chapters, so it's good to read some of the clarifications that came later in her book. Her left jabs against "orthodoxy" and "Western" Christianity along with her placing the New Testament as one source alongside the Gospel of Thomas, Nag Hammadi collection, Syriac liturgies, Celtic poetry and Chinese "Jesus sutras" also turned me off, as did her stating that the Christian East emphasized sophiology over soteriology (highly dubious). These and other points destroyed any possibility of this book presenting a "transcend and include" Christian spiritual teaching. Instead, the general spirit of the opening chapters suggests that we really haven't properly understood who Jesus is and so she (with all these new, non-traditional resources) is going to correct the tradition on a number of matters.
I count myself as one who is open to Christian contemplative teachings and inter-religious insights, and so if CB turns someone like me off after only 3 chapters, then perhaps she could have benefited from a little more editorial feedback. I especially expect more from one who is an ordained minister in a church.
- - -
BTW, JB, you might read over your own critique of the Marion book, [Putting on the Mind of Christ. Recall, that CB gave this book a sound endorsement and spent the better part of a chapter on it.
- 9th post down -
You'll note that I've since taken a less harsh stance re: Wilber with my correction of his notion of the integral: AQ | AL | AT (kairos)
As my own religious epistemology has been better developed in recent years, I have more facility with drawing distinctions and can better engage, parse, disambiguate and nuance what I think others are saying --- affirming what I can, critiquing what I must, discriminating between flaws and fatal flaws. Hence, I'm much less inclined to offer such wholesale categorical dismissals and can better navigate my immediate visceral reactions, whatever their valence. In that light, my language toward Wilber was too harsh, my critique of Cynthia, even-handed.
Regarding those thoughts of Marion's, which Cynthia cited, I let her spin stand on its own merits. Marion's approach was flawed in its uncritical use of Wilber, but that part's easy enough to correct. The bigger problem was his lack of academic rigor and that resulted in some highly idiosyncratic reformulations of various faith essentials. Best I can discern from her treatment of Marion's thrust, she focused on his emphasis on transformation, which had a concomitant deemphasis on, you guessed it, let's just call it, the soteriological. Now, I see no little irony when advocates of nondual approaches get overly dualistic when juxtaposing such as sophiology and soteriology. But that doesn't diminish, for me, an otherwise valuable, even eloquent, exposition on sophiology.
I'm no more likely to dismiss Cynthia out of hand just because she saw value in Marion's works than you are likely to give Marion a second look just because Bernadette Roberts thoroughly rebutted him.
But I liked that review you wrote of Marion's book. Gut knowledge is worth paying attention to, imo.
As I've noted above, my problem was much more than her use of Marion's book. Obviously, you're more forgiving and tolerant of the kinds of things that bothered me. I also hold her to higher standards of scholarship than, say, a Jim Marion, as she's an ordained minister with years of experience in academia. But . . . 2,000 years of spiritual writings in Christianity, she chooses Putting on the Mind of Christ to talk about spiritual transformation??!!
Phil, I'm curious, when you write Amazon reviews, do you only award either 1 or 5 stars?
Ha, well I've written very few, and I think they're mostly 3 or 4 stars. E.g., I gave Bernadette Roberts' The Experience of No-Self 3 stars, which might surprise you. I think my only 1 star is The Death of the Mythic God. If I were to write an Amazon review for The Wisdom Jesus, I'd have to first finish the book, to be fair, and that won't happen as I wasn't enjoying the book enough to keep reading it.
Hardly any book is totally worthless, and I know this one is not. What's happened here is that I've shared my criticisms, and we've had a long discussions about them. That gives a skewed picture of things, for sure. Nevertheless, say I were to complete the book and think all the rest was excellent, the criticisms I've shared from the first three chapters are enough to keep me from recommending it to anyone. Books on spirituality and theology need to be more than 97% OK, imo., especially if they presume to be based on recent scholarship about Jesus. Matters of faith are serious indeed; one small wrong turn and it can make a huge difference down the road. Of course, mature, discerning Christians can sort things out for themselves, and will do so.
Really? No sources are cited, here, but of course we'll just have to take her word for all this, I guess.
Yes indeed! Almost certainly a distortion of the truth about Jesus's sexual life. If she says so . . .
We discussed The Da Vinci Code at length way back when:
Not much in the way of reputable scholarship support's Brown's fanciful views about Jesus; I'd much prefer to take my cues from the patristic writings and "orthodoxy."
Bah! Johnboy, surely you see the fallacious thinking here? Neither the early Church nor the patristic writers would have been scandalized by a married Jesus, as I've noted elsewhere. We're much more likely to be formulating "house of cards" foundations through excessive reliance on the Gospels of Thomas and Mary, the Jesus Sutras, The Da Vinci Code, etc. than through orthodox teachings about him. Note, again, too, how CB is going to set the whole tradition straight now.
OK, I'm archiving this Kindle ebook now lest I succumb again to the temptation of reading in it and being needled to annoyance.
It's an exasperating book, isn't it? There's been so much discussion of it here, I went and took it out of the library. (I wasn't going to spend $9.99 of my own money on it.) But yeah, she makes these astounding claims without offering any evidence.
Hello Phil. Please forgive me for not responding sooner. I'd been checking back. But I just realized that my last post was the last one on page 1. It didn't occur to me to look for a second page.
I believe I see your point. I said I didn't understand why congruence to Traditional Christianity would be used as a touchstone. I meant that standards have limits. If a precept or a practice doesn't measure up the only thing we can say for sure is that it doesn't measure up within the domain of the standard. My comment was more a question about the standard being used. Use a different standard and things may not look so non-standard. The youtube video gave me the same feeling.
It seems to me that from the broadest possible perspective there really are no absolutes. Meaning and value exist in the relationships between things. A thing by itself - unto itself - is an illusion.
Again, a thousand pardons for not responding sooner.
I thought maybe Johnboy and I had scared you off.
If we don't use traditional Christian doctrine as a touchstone for evaluating works on Christian theology and spirituality, then what standard do you suggest we use instead?
And, granted that things in and of themselves and outside of relationships with other things are difficult to characterize in terms of meaning and value, but I'm not following what this has to do with "absolutes." To my understanding, absolutes do exist in the realm of nature, as the laws of physics make clear; these are inviolable "givens" about how things go -- e.g., the law of gravity, thermodynamics, etc. Something similar exists in the realm of Christian theology via the doctrines that articulate meanings implicit in the revelation of Christ. Orthodoxy isn't just one standard among other equally valid ones, at least not in the Apostolic Tradition that is expressed in the New Testament, the creeds, and Sacred Tradition. See what I mean?
The things that scare me the most these days are the economy and politics. I find myself repeating "it is what it is." :/
Re: Touchstones, standards and absolutes. Whether natural and physical or abstract and symbolic aren't value and meaning always based on past experience within some context? When something totally new comes along, if it's significant enough to grab our attention, don't we apply existing standards to evaluate it and assign meaning to it? And if it's significant enough to affect our lives don't we consider these effects in our evaluation? And isn't this how standards get modified or created?
Remember the 80s film The Gods Must Be Crazy <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gCQIGiXf0JA>? I'm sure it's affected my participation in this conversation.
As for absolutes (i.e., not relatives) and the laws of physics I remember from engineering school that gravity is an attribute of distance between objects having mass. And if memory serves mass is an attribute of matter interacting with the Higgs Field. So it seems to me that all natural and physical things owe their existence to some kind of interaction and relationship.
The two books by Cynthia Bourgeault that I've had the pleasure to read have affected me in significant ways. I'd say I have modified my standards to acoomodate the new things I've found in her words.
Kevin, I very much enjoyed "The Gods Must be Crazy," but am not sure what that has to do with this discussion.
Re. laws of physics . . . sure, there are all sorts of variables, but these are accounted for in the laws. The laws of physics are not about defining static substances, but of describing the lawfulness of dynamic relationships.
My sense is that you're not understanding the significance of orthodox Christian teachings, viewing them as simply one standard that is relative to others, with personal relevance being the critical factor in evaluating a work like Wisdom Jesus. There is a more objective dimension to Christianity, however, as expressed in its doctrines. These express standards discerned by the community, and, as such, are intended to present to us trustworthy indicators of God's truth and intentions to which we are accountable (not vice versa). Some aspects of this objective dimension of Christianity are not up for grabs; they are not merely relative standards to be modified when something else that is more personally interesting or relevant comes along.
Could you give an example of the kinds of standards you've modified as a result of CB's books? I'd be interested in hearing more about this.
Phil, Are you saying that orthodox Christian teaching has the final word for everyone on Wisdom Jesus?
Kevin, what I'm saying is that orthodox Christian teaching is the standard by means of which we evaluate the reliability of a teaching on matters of Christian faith and spirituality. Certainly, one can value apsects of teachings that stray somewhat from orthodoxy, and mature Christians are usually able to sort things out just fine. What's unfortunate about CB's book is her cavalier attitude concerning orthodoxy along with her contention that she's correcting mistakes concerning our understanding of Jesus that were made early in Christian history -- all that on the basis of how she regards the importance of the Gospels of Thomas, Mary, and other non-biblical sources. Whatever value there is in her sophiological analysis of Jesus' teaching is lost to mainstream Christianity because of this.
I asked you above what kinds of standards you've modified as a result of CB's books, if you don't mind sharing about this.
And, for me, where one draws the line between good and bad, right and wrong, sacred and profane has as much to do with one's sensibilities and personal preferences as with one's place in the world (real and perceived), its institutions (e.g., church) and with one's associations and relationships with others in community. Sometimes I'm content with the status quo. At other times I'm driven to ask questions and push boundaries. But regardless of my temperament, preferences and disposition or the teachings, precepts and practices of communities and institutions, the one common denominator I find in all normal people and communities is the operation of, what Bourgeault calls, emotional programs for happiness.
Have you read Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening? In that book - and this is one takeaway that has affected me significantly - Bourgeault provides a perspective on, what she calls, the False Self in Action. The idea is that consciously, our attachments and aversions can become the basis for hidden agenda that can be affected by triggering events that can lead to frustration which can become afflictive emotions that can generate internal dialogue and emotional turmoil. Subconsciously, the internal dialogue and emotional turmoil reinforces our emotional programs for happiness that are designed to ensure our security and survival, provide us with power and control and give us esteem and affection. These emotional programs for happiness then become the impetus for our attachments and aversions that become the basis for our hidden agenda...and the cycle continues.
When books or blog posts or headlines or someone's off-hand remark triggers an emotional response I think it's worth considering what emotional program for happiness may be at work. I may have had a sense about this before reading Bourgeault. But I credit Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening with helping me to incorporate it.
I recognize that some people regard as sacrilegious the questioning of some orthodox Christian teaching. For those who maintain strict observance of doctrine and dogma what counts for sacrilege may be considered by others as simply what mature Christians are able to sort out.
Where a person draws the line between strict observance of orthodoxy, casual observance and spiritual but not religious is absolutely a matter of their personal preferences, temperaments, and their emotional programs for happiness. And sure, what the community says matters too.
Yes, Kevin, I'm very familiar with teachings about the false self system, emotional programs for happiness, etc. I've taught and written extensively on this topic.
It's also a matter of conscience, which is different from preferences, temperament and false self attitudes.
I'm thinking we're talking past each other quite a bit in our exchanges, and that the points/objections I've raised in this discussion aren't that important for you, or else don't outweigh the value you find in CB's books. Fine with me, really. I posted my objections to dialogue with people about them, but you've not really engaged with me concerning any of them.
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