The Bible is not the fourth member of the Trinity! YOU ARE! Jesus
said "I am the light of the world" and "YOU are the light of the
world." Jesus intended that the world would see the truth of God's love
and acceptance for all people in the people who followed Jesus, not in
a book. See John 17: 20-23.
Bible is a book (a collection of books). To make the Bible
absolute is idolatry and opens the way for the Bible to be manipulated
like any other idolatrous religion for the benefit of the religious
leaders and experts. The Bible can be translated wrong,
distorted, twisted, taken out of context, manipulated by "ignorant,
evil and unstable people" ( 2 Peter 3:16), and made to say things that deny the good news of God's love in Christ for all people.
Jesus said in John 5:39, "Search the scriptures, for in them you think that you
have eternal life, but they bear witness of me." Read Luke 24:27, 44-45 to see how Jesus saw his relationship to the Bible.
Paul spoke of "living letters", he was not talking about what he had
written but about people whose lives expressed the presence of Jesus in
their hearts: 2 Corinthians 3:2-3, "You are our letter, written
in our hearts, known and read by all people; being manifested that you
are a letter of Christ, cared for and served by us, written not with
ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone,
but on tablets of human hearts." To call Paul's epistles "Living
Letters" is to ignore Paul's own opinion about his work. To call
a very inaccurate and badly translated version of the Bible "The Living
Bible" is just as mistaken and spiritually ignorant.
"FROM JESUS TO CHRIST"
is a recent 4 hour documentary that was shown on Public Broadcasting
during Easter Week in 1998. Visit this PBS web site for an
overview of the documentary and for information on obtaining a video
copy of the program. This program was well researched,
demonstrated excellent scholarship, and was shown with explanations and
pictures that made it the best material that I know to give you an
honest and objective look at Jesus, the Bible, and the beginnings of
See August 14, 2001, related update on
"WORD OF GOD"
"ENCOUNTER WITH JESUS"
This update added on March 19, 2002:
Sunday, March 17, 2002, was St. Patrick's Day, and my pastor, Rev.
Barry Wichman, asked me to tell of my personal encounter with Jesus in
the worship service today. In preparation for my brief remarks, I
spent some time meditating and thinking through where and how I really
have encountered Jesus and met God along the way in my life.
How would you describe your own personal encounter with God?
I thought about what I could say about my encounter with Jesus, I
realized that my own view of Jesus and understanding of Jesus are
changing constantly. Nothing in the past is adequate to express
the way I perceive Jesus today.
often are tempted to try to remember some unusual or extraordinary
event when we met God, like Moses at the burning bush or Paul on the
road to Damascus. Most of us, however, cannot recall anything
nearly that spectacular to tell about meeting Jesus.
the Gospel of John, Jesus gives us a lot of clues about meeting God, as
when he said, "If you have seen me, you have seen God." Jesus
also gave unexpected clues to meeting him when he said that: "Inasmuch
as you have done it to the least of these, my brothers and sisters, you
have done it to me." (Matthew 25:40) How would you describe the
Jesus you have met in other people?
Jesus in other people reminds me that I can also encounter Jesus within
myself. What kind of Jesus do you encounter within yourself?
THE IMAGES OF JESUS MYTHOLOGY
images associated with Jesus such as shepherds, priests, kings,
prophets, angels, illnesses caused by demons and evil spirits, physical
miracles in nature and in people and many others create problems for us
in developing an image of Jesus that is relevant to us in the modern
world. You probably have never met anybody who looks remotely
like the pictures of Jesus in Bible storybooks or in church art.
But you have met Jesus in other people and in yourself.
People, including yourself, are your window to God and your portal on the road to Jesus.
to find Jesus in the ever-growing mountain of biblical studies,
debates, controversies, confusions, contradictions and exhaustive
exhausting research has seemed futile to many people today. Too
much material is piled around us to tempt us, and we give up before we
really get started in searching for Jesus in the theological pile.
No two biblical
experts agree on biblical research, translations, or any of the details
of the traditional Jesus story. Marcus Borg viewed this scene,
and in 1994 he wrote a very influential new approach about "Meeting
Jesus Again for the First Time."
See the vast work of Joseph Campbell on "The Power of Myth"
in videos and books and in extensive interviews with Bill Moyers on television.
LIVING IN THE PRESENT
Jesus is real at all to you, Jesus is present with and within you
now. Religion always seems to direct our thinking to the past
instead of the living present. Past experiences can become
enshrined in "holy" vaguely remembered compartments that give little
help in our daily living and relating to others. Whatever your
first or latest encounter with Jesus was like, what matters now is
today and what's happening now in your heart and mind. Is Jesus
real to you today?
has your experience with Jesus changed the way you see yourself, other
people, God, and your present purpose and goals in life? What has
your experience with Jesus produced in your life and in the people your
are highly personal questions that nobody else can answer for
you. They are questions that require looking within and
reflecting on what is happening now within you and around you.
JESUS LIVED IN THE PRESENT
In the time of
Jesus, all teachers were expected to base their teachings on what had
been said earlier by ancient experts in the Law and it's official
interpretations. Nobody was allowed to write down the words of
the teachers (rabbis). All instructions had to be memorized and
passed on from memory. Jesus challenged this bondage to the past
by teaching frequently that what had been written or taught before was
wrong and then added, "but I say unto you…"
lived and taught in the current culture and society of his time, and
his challenge to all ancient assumptions was dramatic and
radical. The important issue for us today is not copying the
teachings of Jesus about particular questions and actions and making
those teachings into absolute doctrines and unchangeable dogma for all
time. For one thing, we cannot be absolutely sure about the
wording or correct transmission, copying and translating of any of the
Gospel material. (See my web site and book material on "Hebrew and Greek"
"Translating the Gospels.")
follow Jesus is not to quote particular teachings as though the context
of Jesus was exactly the same as today. It was not. To
follow Jesus is to challenge the past and listen to the living voice of
God within through the Spirit of Jesus who has been given to you.
This requires a leap of faith that frightens all of us who are more
comfortable with the past than with the unknown present that unfolds
moment by moment all around and within us. We are threatened by
the insistent religious forces all around us that demand that we live
in the past as our only option to following the will of God.
the shackles of the past requires first of all a clear awareness of the
deadly power of the past mistakes that we have inherited in every level
of our being. Breaking the shackles also requires a clear sense
of something better that beckons us into a brave new world of trust,
honesty and love that the Spirit of Jesus abundantly pours into our
innermost being at every moment of our existence.
THE WHOLE WORLD IS CHANGING
world is changing rapidly all around us in breathtaking complexity and
in unexpected horrors and opportunities. Floundering about in the
uncertainties of ancient irrelevant prejudices and misinformation is
ignorance at its most dangerous. The living Spirit of Jesus is
available and is adequate as our guide and empowerment for these
incredible times of emerging new worlds.
to the old rotten vines guarantees only that you will fall into the
chasm of gloom and doom that drops away into the darkening mist
below. There is a "higher ground" and that place is already
within you. Stand on and affirm who you really are: a child of
God in the image of God. Nobody can ever take that away from you
unless you give it up yourself.
I am not trying to undermine or destroy anyone's faith in Jesus!
faith is not dead if you are willing for it to grow and expand to
include your present world. I call on you to recognize the
futility and irrelevance of living in the religious past.
Misinformation and ancient ignorance, no matter how revered and
time-honored, is still misinformed and ignorant.
current misinformation about GLBT people being taught and enforced by
many churches is the same kind of misinformation that has
misrepresented Jesus and clouded the minds of millions of people who
imagine only a dead bloody Jesus on a cross and never enter into the
present reality of the living Spirit of Jesus who is already within and
surrounding every one of us!
OUR NEW PARADIGM
envision an emerging new paradigm shift from dead orthodoxy and the
unrealistic inhuman demands of legalistic homophobic religion to a
lively person-centered spirituality that truly reflects the realities
of Jesus. Jesus demonstrated the essential attitudes for healthy
growing faith. Jesus was objective, logical, realistic and
you are following Jesus instead of following ancient misrepresentations
of Jesus, you also will be objective, logical, realistic and
practical. You will never find a traditional church where you
truly "fit in" unless you start your own home based small group and
seek only Jesus plus nothing.
After seeing the
Nazi distortions of religion to serve mass murder, Dietrich Bonhoeffer
predicted that a churchless religion-less Christianity would emerge
after the war. Now is the time for the prophecy of Bonhoeffer to
Update added August 14, 2001:
"WORD OF GOD"
God speaks through everything that God does.
speaks through all creation and all of nature (Psalm 19:1-3), through
you and every person you meet (2 Corinthians 3:3-6), through Jesus who
is called "the word of God made human" (John 1:1-14), and through
everything that God has done and continues to do.
limit the "word of God" to what was written in a book 2,000 to 3,000
years ago in ancient languages and concepts by people who were ignorant
of all of our present accumulated knowledge of psychology, biology,
astronomy, physics, and every other science is absurd at best and
deadly at worst. This does not mean that God does not speak
through the Bible. It simply means that what God says is not
limited to the Bible. Our grasp and understanding of the Bible is
severely limited, however, by religious misinformation and manipulation
that has clouded what we can know about God from the Bible.
continues to speak in the still small voice within "through the Spirit
of God who has been given to us." Love is the primary word of the
Spirit. (Romans 5:5) The Spirit of God gives love for your own
self, love for God, love for others, love for the truth, love for the
earth, love of life, and love in an endless variety of expressions and
GOD'S POWERFUL PRESENCE
week at Hunting Island Park on the beach in South Carolina with the
beauty of the ocean, sky, stars, plants and animals all around and with
family and friends present to celebrate my mothers ninetieth birthday,
I experienced the powerful presence of God and heard the word of God in
many wonderful ways that I will never forget.
still and know that I am God" can also be translated "Cease striving
(let go and relax) and know that I am God," as it is in the marginal
reading of Psalm 46:10 in the New American Standard Bible.
Getting away from your daily routine and letting go so that you can
move on opens the way for you to know God and experience God in a fresh
new understanding of yourself, others, and your place in the universe.
a week at the beach in South Carolina with family and friends, many of
whom I had not seen in many years, was a feast of learning and sharing
for me. There was time to rest and think. Time to look up
into the incredible clear bright night sky and see the Milky Way, a
zillion stars and several shooting stars as a reminder that God is far
greater and more dazzling than we ever imagine. Time to enjoy
sunrises and sunsets over the ocean. The heavens indeed "are
telling the glory of God."
PEOPLE MOST OF ALL
Over 50 relatives and friends were present for the big day of celebration on Saturday.
cousins for the first time in half a lifetime, sharing childhood
adventure stories, laughing, caring about each other, being startled
that all of us look so different now. It was all a word from God
to me. People have always been my best teachers, and I learned a
lot about myself, them, us, our world, what's happening, and that what
really matters most is people.
was blessed and encouraged to see my relatives and friends, because
they have accepted and supported me through all of the many personal
disasters and challenges that have resulted from my coming out as gay.
took lots of pictures, and when we look back on this event, we will
remember people most of all. That's as it should be. That's
the way it is. Life is about people. It was the same for
"MISSION TO AFRICA"
parents went to Malawi, Africa, for a year in 1979-1980 as Southern
Baptist foreign mission volunteers to help set up a printing
plant. Mother had written up her account of their ministry and
had given me the copy so that I could type it up and make it into a
book that she could share with others. At my son's suggestion, I
put the material into book form and had it printed with enough copies
for each family at the birthday party to have a copy. This was my
birthday present for my mother.
Mother's book and sharing it with the people at the party also spoke to
me a word of God that I needed to hear again. At the time, it
seemed like just a lot of work, but in retrospect I realize how much
God was saying to me and to others through this experience.
HEARING WHAT GOD SAYS
from the world around you, from people, or from the Bible or other
literature, you hear what you are conditioned and prepared to hear as
the "word of God." Who you see yourself to be and what you expect
to hear has more to do with hearing what God says to you than any of
your sources. God is speaking to you all the time. What you
hear and what you do about the word of God to you is totally up to you.
else can hear God for you. All people hear their own individual
"word" from God and then filter it through their personality and
experiences before passing it on to others. When anyone claims to
speak for God or claims that what they say is "the word of God,"
consider the real source of what they are saying. Personal
prejudices, cultural conditioning, and a thousand natural and unnatural
shocks of life contribute to how we see everything that we encounter in
is no objective study or teaching about the Bible or religion.
All writing and teaching are from somebody's personal point of
view. What is the real perspective of those who claim to speak
for God? What is your own perspective that colors how you hear
listening, sharing and enjoying my relatives and friends last week at
the park by the ocean said many things to me that I needed to
hear. The park is filled with little wild deer, whose presence
was a great joy to see. Birds were everywhere. Raccoons
prowled at night. God had a multitude of avenues to use to speak
to me. All I had to do was to let go and listen. I learned
a lot about God and about myself.
Click here to see article about Tommy Watkins, a gay black minister that I have come to respect and
appreciate for his life and ministry.