May 17 2010

May 2010 Newsletter

Published by under Newsletters



May 2010



Donald Feist talked about the book:

“Thank God for Evolution”

Don said:
One thing fundamental to this book is the distinction the writer, Michael Dowd,  makes between private revelation, for which the source is an individual and which can only be believed or rejected, and public revelation which is built up and tested and always subject to review in the modern scientific enterprise [taking science in a very wide sense, to include such things as history].   Dowd claims that he is a religious knower, rather than a religious believer because he relies on this public revelation, and no longer on the private revelation he once accepted.
Surely something to discuss here.

Later in the book he goes on to argue that evolutionary psychology, and knowledge of the stages through which the human brain has evolved, show that a lot of traditional Christian ideas of sin do not fit with the facts.   Scope here too, I reckon, for discussion.


A lot of what Michael Dowd says in “Thank God for Evolution” is built on “The Great Story” or “The Universe Story” which he believes is a much better basis for religion in the modern world than any of the stories in ancient books which offer an understanding of what humans are, and where they fit into the scheme of things.    Dowd tells of the transforming effect on him of hearing a lecturer,    “ .. who began by telling the scientific story of the Universe in a way that I had never heard it told before – as a sacred epic”.

These quotes from the book will, I hope, give you an idea of the story he is referring to:

“Here’s the whole story in one line:  You take a great cloud of hydrogen gas, leave it alone, and it becomes rosebushes, giraffes, and human beings”.

[Brian Swimme. quoted on  p. 133]

“The epic of evolution is the sprawling interdisciplinary narrative of evolutionary events that brought our Universe from its ultimate origin to its present state of astonishing diversity and organisation.  Matter was distilled out of radiant energy, segregated into galaxies, collapsed into stars, fused into atoms, swirled into planets, spliced into molecules, captured into cells,  mutated into species, compromised into ecosystems, provoked into thought and cajoled into cultures.  All of this (and much more) is what matter has done as systems upon systems of organisation have emerged over 14 billion years of creative natural history.”

[Loyal Rue, quoted  p. 84]

“Tell me a story more wondrous than that of a living cell forged from the residue of an exploding star.  Tell me a story of a transformation more magical than that of a fish hauling out onto land and becoming amphibian, or a reptile taking to the air and becoming bird, or a mammal slipping back into the sea and becoming a whale.  Surely this science-based culture, of all cultures, can find meaning and cause for celebration in its very own cosmic creation story”.

[Connie Barlow, quoted p. 142]

“For the Universe story to become our story, however,  amazement is not enough.  We need to feel relationship.  We must make a connection, sprout an umbilical cord to the Cosmos.  What out there can offer us such relationship?
Simply this: ancestral stars are part of our genealogy.  We can now know and feel a familial bond to the heavens.  Every atom in our bodies, other than hydrogen, was forged in the fiery belly of a star who lived and died and recycled itself back to the galaxy before our own star, the Sun, was born.”                      [ p. 89 ]


[There is a 15 page version of The Great Story version (click) and other material at What is The Great Story? (click).     The basic book on this subject is “The Universe Story” by Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry, 1992.


Stop Press
The University of Auckland magazine “Ingenio” has an interesting Letter by a scientist commenting on Richard Dawkins and an address he gave in March in Auckland. I will send a copy to anyone interested enough to ask for it.


Our Library …..

….  has just acquired some new books. Here is some information about them.

Radicals and the Future of the Church  –  Don Cupitt [1989]

The back cover says:  “In this book Don Cupitt writes for the first time about the church and what new-wave radical theology may mean for it.”
Chapters include:  “The Trouble with Believing”,   “The Only Christianity that We can Believe Now ….” ,  “  …Is Unacceptable to the Church”,  “Strategies for Christian Survival”  and “What is to be Done?”.

Life, Life  –  Don Cupitt [2003]

“In modern thinking people have increasingly come to see the world as primarily one of ordinary human life.  Don Cupitt argues that we speak of life very much as people used to speak of God:  faith in life, what life has in store for us, wrestling with life, etc. In Life, Life he has assembled some 250 of these life-idioms. Cupitt mines this database to develop a modern religious philosophy of human life.  In it, ethics and stories take the place of traditional supernatural dogma.”

Misquoting Jesus  –  Bart D. Ehrman [2005]

Sub-title:  “The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why”.
“How mistakes and changes shaped the Bible we read today.”
“World-renowned biblical scholar Bart Ehrman reveals the truth behind the many mistakes and changes that can be found throughout the [New Testament]”

Lost  Christianities  – Bart D. Ehrman  [2005]

Subtitle: “The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew”.
“In Lost Christianities Bart Ehrman offers a compelling look at the early forms of Christianity and shows how they came to be suppressed, reformed for forgotten.  Each of the early Christian groups insisted that they upheld the teachings of Jesus and his apostles, and they all possessed writings that bore out their claims, books reputedly produced by Jesus’ own followers.   …  Ehrman examines in depth the battles that raged between “proto-orthodox Christians” – those who eventually compiled the canonical books of the New Testament, and standardised Christian belief – and the groups they denounced as heretics and ultimately overcame”.

Without Buddha I could not be a Christian  –  Paul F. Knitter  [2009]

“In this landmark work, well-known theologian Paul Knitter explains how he looked to Buddhism to overcome a crisis of faith, becoming a stronger and more committed Christian in the process.
“Honest and unflinching,
Without Buddha I Could not be  a Christian is a moving story of one man’s quest for truth and spiritual authenticity.  From the nature of prayer to Christian views and life and death, Knitter demonstrates how Buddhist perspectives can inspire a more person-centred and socially engaged understanding of Christianity. With a renewed emphasis on religious experience above rigid dogma and ritual, an enlivened Christianity can result, with beneficial consequences for worship, social action, and engagement with the Christian tradition.”

Chair: Marjorie Spittle – Phone 481 1418 – Email: Marjorie
Newsletter Editor: Donald Feist – Phone 476-3268 – Email: Don

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