Mar 27 2008

March 2008 Newsletter

Published by under Newsletters

Sea of Faith                         Newsletter       


    Dunedin                                          March  2008

Karen Armstrong’s take on the Golden Rule

Guided by Ian Fleming, we took a look at a reflowering of the Axial sages’ Golden Rule discovery as it occurred in Rabbinic Judaism, Christianity and Islam.      (The Axial sages Armstrong treated in her book “The Great Transformation” were the Buddha of India, Jeremiah of Israel [Judah actually], Confucius of China and Socrates of Greece.)

However, a major purpose of her book was to attempt to apply the sages’ insight to today’s world. She says:
“Our technology has created a global society, which is interconnected electronically, militarily, economically and politically. We now have to develop a global consciousness, because, whether we like it or not, we live in one world. Even though our problem is different from that of the Axial sages, they can still help us. They did not jettison the insights of the old religion, but deepened and extended them. In the same way, we should develop the insights of the Axial Age.”

We will be teasing this out to see if indeed this is the basis of a viable spirituality for our own era.

Meeting arrangements  – an update:

The Maori Hill women who have provided our meal for us very acceptably ever since we started meeting there, have told us they wish to give up doing this by the end of this year.   This adds a new factor into the discussion that was opened up in last month’s Newsletter.  It means that staying with the present arrangement, beginning with tea, is not one of the options.  Instead of simply thinking of a slight modification, we should start with a clean sheet, to ask ourselves, “What is the most suitable time for us to meet” Thoughts about this expressed to a Committee member would be most helpful  [The committee is: Bruce Spittle, Geoff Neilson, Andrew Meek, Gretchen Kivell, Ian Fleming,  
Don Feist  and Graham Batts.]
A Website of our own:

Just a brief reminder of this. It is at:<
From the Editor:

Late last year I read John Shelby Spong’s latest book: “Jesus for the non-Religious”.  As with all his books, there is quite a bit of overlap with previous books.  Overall, I didn’t get as much out of it as I did from “The Sins of Scripture” or “A New Christianity for a New World”  – but don’t let me put you off; there’s a lot of good stuff in it.   Two sections that I particularly appreciated were:
1. Where Spong outlines how and where the development of a religious capacity fits into human evolution, and how this led to a theistic view of God being the norm. [Spong defines this theistic view as: “a being, supernatural in power, dwelling outside this world and able to invade the world in miraculous ways to bless, to punish, to accomplish the divine will, to answer prayer and to come to the aid of frail, powerless human beings”]. 
2.   His account of how and why first the early Christians, and then the gospel writers, relied heavily on worship material from the Old Testament  to provide them with a way to talk about and to make some sense of, the suffering and death of Jesus. This part of each of the gospels, therefore, is strong on liturgy and light on history. 
I would welcome comment for the Newsletter from anyone else who has read this book –  or any other relevant book you’ve read recently.
Spong, writes clearly and interestingly – even when you disagree with him.   Here are a few quotes from the book that I marked for myself:
“I cannot understand why it is not today universally recognised that propositional statements can never capture eternal truth. ….  Explanation always places perceived truth inside time-bound words and time-warped concepts.  To identify the ultimate truth of God with the explanation of that truth is to confuse the ultimate with the transitory”.                     [p. 9]
“It is so important psychologically for human beings to believe that a supernatural power directs the affairs of life that people cling to irrational beliefs long after any apparent credibility of those beliefs has been intellectually demolished.  What else could account for such things as the enormous resistance among religious people to evolution, which seems to offer no place for an intervening deity?  Even with DNA evidence showing connections with other life forms and radiometric measurements showing the date of the origins of planet earth, frightened religious folk still seek to suppress this truth … “                                                           [pp. 65-66]
“ … miracles are a late-developing part of the Jesus story ….  an expression not of super-naturalism but of the inadequacy of human language to be a vehicle for making rational sense out of an ultimate God experience. …..   [H]uman beings can talk about God only by heightening human events until they become supernatural realities similar to what we expect God and God’s actions to be.”                                                                                           [p. 69]
“ …. the followers of Jesus had no [adequate] language through which to talk about this profound God experience, so they reverted to the best thing they did have, which was the language of liturgy, in which human beings believe themselves to be united in spirit with whatever they think God is.  Any attempt to literalize this liturgical language of worship is to miss completely the meaning of the resurrection experience.”                                [p. 122]

Chairman:    Geoff Neilson   –    Phone 489-6727  –    Email:
Newsletter Editor:   Donald Feist  –   Phone 476-3268   – Email: <>
Branch Website:

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