Ernie (38 years of church pastoral leadership) wrote, "Book is remarkable with more knowledge of biblical literature and history than most ministers including yours truly."
Laurie (pastor of a small local church) offered "For your fun and engaging approach - abundant praise. And know that it's a fine book to use with small groups."
Wayne (ordained seminary professor) calls it "a thesaurus of great reading, good thinking, and delightfully provocative writing."
The goal of the book is to motivate saving the many Christian churches from themselves so that in unity the Church will motivate saving the world from itself. We don't have a lot of time.
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Read an Excerpt
FINDING JESUSTo Learn Abba's Worldview
By David Christian
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2011 David Christian
All right reserved.
Chapter OneBLIND SPOTS
"Jesus' message about the kingdom of God, it seems to me, is not that complicated. God's will for the earth, God's passion for this world, is very different from what we see around us. To his hearers he said, "Can you see that?" And he sought to open the eyes of the blind, to set free the captives and oppressed, to proclaim the jubilee of God." – Marcus Borg (1)
We are all acculturated. We can't avoid it. It is so natural and normal that we tend to be unaware that we have been acculturated. We grow up knowing we know the way things are. I grew up in a 98.6% Republican Midwestern suburb and still wonder how Wendell Wilkie lost to FDR.
It's a good thing to be acculturated, allowing us the comfort of belonging, of not being an outsider – a foreigner. Immigrants find comfort in congregating with other immigrants from the same culture until they have become acculturated in their new surroundings. And that takes a while.
Whenever we experience, actually or vicariously, anything counter to what we grew up "knowing", it comes as a bit of a jolt. Little jolts make us less naive, contribute to what we call maturity and a proper perspective. Little jolts can be fun; big ones, however, are something else.
It has taken me a lot more years than it should have to recognize my early assumption that male domination is the way things are and should be. It hurts to admit that when I was first married, I forbade my wife to have a telephone because she would be constantly calling her mother. It is to my wife's credit that she quickly found a peaceful way to adjust my assumption. She was much less surprised than I was when her mother, an aunt, and an uncle arrived unannounced to stay for a visit.
Of course that sort of thing is no longer the way things are. At least not in such bizarre and petty forms. But I fear that the assumption of male dominance is so deeply ingrained in our culture that I won't be able to get you to recognize it as a blind spot that keeps us from seeing what I see as the way Jesus defined and lived out the Will of God, which is the goal of this book.
There's that old story of the lost tourists stopping to ask a local farmer how to get where they wanted to go. You probably remember the farmer's answer. She said, "You can't get there from here. You have to go somewhere else first." [If I tricked you, if "she" surprised you, running contrary to your assumptions, please come with me as I go "somewhere else first."]
WELCOME TO SOMEWHERE ELSE
Jesus said, "The Pharisees and the scholars have taken the keys of knowledge and hidden them. They have not entered, nor have they allowed those who want to enter to do so. As for you, be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves." – Gospel of Thomas saying #39 Charles Darwin said, "We can explain how the beauty of a butterfly is useful to that butterfly in pursuing its way of life. I can come up with causes for this and it's up to you to believe that God created these things through these causes or not." – quoted (p. 107) in Einstein's God.
It took a long time for anthropologists to accept The Descent of Man by Charles Darwin, possibly because he wasn't an anthropologist and what could a biologist know about anthropology? I understand their reaction. If I were a highly trained, committed and hard-working anthropologist, I would have a hard time accepting a theory that runs counter to what over many years I have written in books, taught to my students, and argued through with my colleagues.
I hope I wouldn't have recruited the Church to attack Darwin, as was done back then, and is still going on with parts of the Church to this day. But I certainly would do whatever else I could to defend my professional life. If I could, I would "tweak" his theory, thereby adding to my reputation and bank account. But as widely accepted as Darwin's theory of evolution is today, I'm not dumb enough to risk my professional reputation by trying to overthrow the whole theory.
Besides, if I were an anthropologist, I would know that despite the tons of evidence dug up by archeologists to track our evolutionary progress, plenty of unanswered questions remained for me and my fellow scholars to argue about among ourselves. For example, why did the brand of ape that evolved into us trade in the fur coat that all apes wear, settling for a layer of subcutaneous fat? Or, when the mild and moist Miocene turned into ten million drought–filled Pliocene years, destroying the forests and forcing tree dwellers down into the savannah, why did our ancestors start walking upright when all our ape cousins retained the greater foot speed of quadrupeds? We were a lot slower than the quadrupeds who chased, caught, and ate us.
Or why did we abandon our canine teeth – "natural primate daggers" – in favor of the pebbles that became our first weapons? And where on the savannahs did we find the stones? And if you really want to get nosy, why were we the only evolving apes to take up frontal sex, including becoming the only ones to indulge in that intensely aggressive sex we call "rape"?
Has what you were taught in school about evolution given you convincing answers to these questions? I didn't have a clue until a while ago in my local library when I casually picked up and checked out an old copy of a book originally published in 1972. Exhaustively researched, insightful, carefully reasoned, easy and amusing reading, this book answered for anthropologists all those unanswered questions and more with a "truth ... so simple and obvious that when you hear it you'll be kicking yourselves for not having seen it sooner." And you'll join me in wondering why this book hasn't become a standard in the teaching of human evolution.
The book, in a reference to Darwin's classic, is titled The Descent of Woman, and was written by someone who was not an anthropologist, or even a biologist like Darwin. An avowed feminist and writer for television, Welsh author Elaine Morgan laid no claim to originating her answers. What she did was look at existing evidence without being blinded by eyes that only see through an androcentric (male) focus.
Not blinded by male-centered bias, she was operating on the assumption that the survival and the continuing successful evolution of the human species requires focusing, not just on men, but on all three groups of people needed for continuation of the species – women and children as well as men. She found a theory involving evolutionary changes in the females of our species, a theory not widely accepted by other scholars but one that would explain our surviving the Pliocene difficulties. It also answered several other questions that have had inadequate explanations to the present day. What it took was shifting away from a blinding androcentric worldview.
Why have you anthropologists essentially ignored this book? The law of scholarship requires response – either disprove it or accept it.
I returned my library copy of The Descent of Woman, a 1972 original, after reading it twice. I now own the 2006 sixth paperback reprint of the 1985 revised edition which I have only read once. I recommend it highly. I will even forgive you if you put aside this book (temporarily, of course) to read The Descent of Woman by Elaine Morgan. You will come back to my book not only aware of the blindness that can be caused by a male- dominant worldview but also cautiously open to reading about other views that may be blinding us to seeing the Jesus of this book and the God revealed through that Jesus.
SEEING THE WAY
Jesus said, "If your leaders say to you, 'Look, the Kingdom is in heaven,' then the birds of heaven will precede you. If they say to you, 'It is in the sea,' then the fish will precede you. Rather, the Kingdom is inside you and outside you. When you know yourselves, then you will be known, and you will understand that you are children of the living God. But if you do not know yourselves, then you live in poverty, and you are poverty." – Gospel of Thomas #3 "I could even say God sneaks up on us, but the fact is God is always there; we just have trouble seeing God, not because we keep looking in all the wrong places – there are no wrong places – but because we are looking at the wrong angle or we are wearing the filter of our expectations. We expect to find God in a certain place in a certain way; we expect signs from heaven; we expect to find God where we want God to be. In fact, I'm sure that experiencing the divine depends on each person's life circumstances or background or interests." – James Autry (1)
This book being for readers willingly playing a game with a rule calling us to suspend for a while our disbelief, I ask for patience with the following parable about a modern blindness that affects each one of us.
As we travel along the road of life, we see what we see comfortably – sharp and clear. But along the road comes someone who sees the road as a route to somewhere we know can't be there. Our new companion, claiming that we have blind spots that prevent us from seeing the real route, somehow peels away our blindness. Suddenly, miraculously, the partial blindness of which we were unaware falls away and we can now see that which we never realized had been there all along. It's downright exciting; but like all things different and unanticipated, it can be disquieting or worse.
If unable or unwilling to accept our new vision, we may return to our partial blindness, rejecting not only our new-found vision but also rejecting the crazy, dangerous companion who helped us glimpse it. The scarier and more painful the new vision, the worse will be our treatment of the rejected companion.
Almost as often as he told parables, Jesus would go on to describe the reality represented in his parables, which reality had become "seeable" through the parable's story. The explanation of my parable about journeying with partial blindness can be summarized as "Paradigms power perception!"
Paradigms are patterns. The patterns we have been taught or learned from experience to accept as the way things are in the world make it difficult for us accept ("see") anything that runs counter to what we have come to expect. We even tend to warp new experiences to fit our previous paradigmatic assumptions.
Jesus, in his Sermon on the Mount, to get people to reinterpret their Hebrew Scriptures, uses over and over the word-pattern "You have heard that it was said ... but I say to you...." (Matthew 5.21-48). In this book I want to use that same word-pattern that Jesus used, but I only want to use it this once: You have heard it said "Seeing is believing," but I say to you "Believing is seeing." Think about it!
We want to see it, experience it, before we believe it. We doubt something somebody tells us; we can't see it because it is outside the box, beyond what we believe, what we assume without question is the way things are in the world. We say we have to see it to believe it.
But, as scientists know and tell us, unless we can put aside our box, our assumptions of the way things are in the world, we may not be able to see what else is truly there. An experiment would only reveal what we expect it to reveal. To see what is truly there, we need to put aside, for the moment at least, our beliefs, because "believing is seeing." And it's never all that easy. Our assumptions about the way things are in the world are so ingrained, so comfortable, that we have trouble recognizing them and even more trouble putting them aside.
Part I of this book concerns a number of paradigms commonly accepted without question, especially in the Western World. My purpose in discussing them is not to get you to toss out a lot of patterns that you have ingrained and have found to be useful; rather it is to insure that we recognize and put aside at least temporarily those we hold that may inhibit our understanding ("seeing") the Jesus who is described in Part II.
As Henri Nouwen says, "It takes courage to move away from the safe place into the unknown, even when we know that the safe place offers false safety and the unknown promises us a saving intimacy with God. We realize quite well that giving up the familiar and reaching out with open arms toward the One who transcends all our mental grasping and clinging makes us very vulnerable." (2)
One Elaine Morgan, of whom you just read, suggests, "The innovators who really raise hackles are the ones who tell them they have been on the wrong track all their lives – the ones who say: 'The truth is so simple and obvious that when you hear it you'll be kicking yourselves for not having seen it sooner.'" Then she goes on to say, parenthetically, "(In practice they are much more likely to kick the innovator.)" (3)
LOGS VS SPECKS
There are a lot of blind people in the Bible, but there had to be many more around in Jesus' time who didn't make it into the Bible. Those who did make it, although usually nameless, were the ones fortunate enough to gain sight through the efforts of Jesus and his disciples. Some seemed to be cured almost effortlessly; others required special treatments – just like us today.
One of the easy Bible cures was known by name – Bartimaeus, son of Timaeus. Perhaps familiarity with his name was due to his accepting his cure and leaving his spot on the road to Jerusalem where he begged for a living to become a follower of Jesus, a member of the Jesus "family," which the scholars like to call "the Jesus Movement" and which we now call our church congregation.
To be able to see what Bartimaeus became able to see, we too need to be cured of unquestioned assumptions that cause our blindness. Jesus used a loud metaphor to express some irritation over the common inability to understand his teaching:
"Why do you see the speck in your neighbor's eye, but do" not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, 'Friend, let me take out the speck in your eye,' when you yourself do not see the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor's eye." (Luke 6:41-42)(Luke 6:41-42)
Over many years this hypocrite has been helped to see a lot of logs which kept me from seeing the Jesus of this book. Descriptions of those logs follow. Do you recognize any of them?
EYE LOG 1 &ndash GENDER
"For progress is indeed nothing else than giving up of the female gender by changing into the male, since the female gender is material, passive, corporeal, and sense-perceptible, while the male is active, rational, incorporeal, and more akin to mind and thought." — 1st century Jewish philosopher Philo "[I]t is to be hoped that most of the preconceptions that have dominated Scrolls research for so long will simply fade away and new ideas will be brought into play and previously unused sources given their proper scope. When this is done, individual beings, the facts of whose lives tradition has distorted beyond recognition or who have been otherwise consigned to historical oblivion, will spring immediately to life and a whole series of associated historical fabrications and accusations evaporate." – Robert Eisenman (1)
Excerpted from FINDING JESUS by David Christian Copyright © 2011 by David Christian. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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