October Brought New Visitors!

Good Morning! Visitors from Slovenia were welcome new visitors to Book Readers Heaven last month! So happy to continue to have individuals from different countries visit. Thanks so much for the 9805 visitors to my two blogs!

I think my new computer is responding to all my needs, but now the weather becomes a problem. With heavy rains or snow, there are times I can't get a signal...and I lose days... but at least I was able to confirm that it is weather rather than my old computer that was causing some of the problems...LOL

I'm already backlogged into next year! I have stopped accepting new requests except from a few regulars so I can try to catch up... Remember if you haven't seen your review, I appreciate being reminded and try to fit it in quickly. There really is no way to do first-come, first serve anymore. As I mentioned earlier, I've turned to selection of books by length to try to get as many books a week as possible...Sorry, no blog tours for the rest of the year...

I am now wading through leaves when going in and out. With acres of trees surrounding my cabin, there is no way to keep leaves cleared. Even the rain conspires to keep them heavy and slippery... I'm dreading a bad winter given the early cold that's already here...If you see less of me, you'll understand Please?!!

Will travel to Australia, a continuous visitor, to learn more soon! Watch your health as we move into colder weather, at least where I am! LOL Take care...always! Best, Glenda

Friday, November 21, 2014

Discussion with Lee Harmon, Author, The River of Life... Come and Share our Thoughts... Added to Personal Favorites!


Welcome to Lee Harmon, Author of multiple books, including The River of Life... First, let me express my thanks for giving me another chance to read your work! I'm certainly happy to learn more about your personal story especially...

First, Readers, let me give you a little background by sharing a few quotes from the Introduction in this book:
  • I am an agnostic Christian.
  • I believe in God; I just don't think we know squat about Him.
  • I am a Christian in search of God.
  • I am also a liberal Christian


Ok Lee, I looked up and refreshed my understanding of what agnostic means: 
a person who believes that nothing is known or can be known of the existence or nature of God or of anything beyond material phenomena; a person who claims neither faith nor disbelief in God. 
If, as you say, you are agnostic... Why do you spend so much time and effort to discover more?

 That’s a rather strict definition you have there, but for the most part, it describes me! While it’s true that I do not believe we have sufficient knowledge yet either in religion or in science to understand the truth behind our creation or our God-experiences, I believe we are progressing in both areas. The world is shrinking. Religions are coming together, sharing knowledge and recognizing our commonalities and strengths. I think that when science and religion can fully appreciate one another, we will take a great step forward in understanding. Perhaps, as Einstein put it, we will someday know the mind of God. So I am not agnostic in the sense of believing God cannot be known, only that we are not there yet.

Somewhere in my memory, it seems like I've learned that God cannot be known. I've never quite accepted that.  You know, if God is Love, then we know Him... but, then, I tend to get simplistic about my emotions...


We’re probably closer in agreement than you imagine. Yes, God is Love. The day we simplify our concept of God, the day we manage to gather all his attributes  under one umbrella, that’s probably when we’ll come to know him better. John’s Gospel does this very well.

In your explanation, you lump in several different concepts that I'd think deserve more attention... "Personal God" for instance... My memory indicates that you described the indwelling of the spirit...but that it didn't last long... Bottom line, do you have God's spirit within you, as you understand it?

The short answer is yes. However, I don’t make a distinction between God and Spirit. God is Spirit (John 4:24). I also have no reason to believe I have ever experienced a personal God. There is no supernatural intelligent being speaking to me, as far as I’m aware, so its easier for me to imagine the Spirit in pantheistic terms. My thinking has often been influenced by powerful and timely waves of emotion or feeling, to the point where I call them deeply spiritual experiences, so I do believe I share common God-experiences with others whose lives are guided in the same manner. I just don’t know who or what this guide is. Let’s call this mystery the Spirit, or if you prefer, we can simply call it God.

Curiously, your description of having His Spirit within you, as defined in your book, struck home for me. Many years ago, I was involved with a business group that met to discuss the very topics we are discussing... With one added issue... They baptized in the Holy Spirit... Many spoke in tongues...

For me, my baptism came when I was alone, reading...And it was just as you described it. It was an overwhelming touch of warmth and love...during which I think I prayed for anybody and everybody and have no knowledge of how long it lasted. But it was short... I spoke in tongues and have, on occasion, revisited that experience... Like those you mentioned, though, this is not an ongoing activity... But, of course, I have not been a member of a group or church where this was part of their experience in worship...

What I've always been curious about was why and how that experience is not ongoing... My own thoughts was that, no matter what, we live in this world... And this world is just not able to sustain that devotion, unfortunately... But, no matter what, the majority of time I've felt the indwelling of the Spirit... Then, quickly have to admit, that I have also gone through times when I no longer felt His Spirit and lost myself in despair... 


It’s special, isn’t it, this Spirit? These are the experiences which convince me that we are more than matter. And yet, we can’t grab them and hold on, we can’t quite keep the emotions from slipping away. I would love someday to hear about your speaking in tongues. 

What is your opinion about why (1) there are so many, many different religions, and (2) why individuals find it so hard to accept the religion of somebody if it is not theirs?

  I like to think that there are many facets of God, and that while the different religions have focused on different facets, they share in the worship of the same God. But this may be idealistic thinking. I have no way to know if this is truly so, and I cannot even say for sure that we have a creator. So, if we ignore the more obvious answer to your question—that most people feel more comfortable in the religion of their upbringing (my own heritage is Christianity, and I’m not throwing that away!)—the more truthful answer is that we tend to construct God in our own image and after our own needs. Our Christian Bible is conducive to this diversity, since it contains so many different opinions of God. A person preferring an authoritarian God will have no trouble finding him in scripture; a person seeking a benevolent or critical or distant god will likewise find ample backing in scripture. But if we move on now to the second part of your question, I’m finding that exclusivity is declining. As I said before, the world is growing smaller, and appreciation for alternative religions is growing. The fundamentalism of the last century is raging against the night, it isn’t going to go gently, but it is yesterday’s religion and it is on the way out. We see this trend even in Islam and American Christianity.

You indicate that you have seen God...but then go on to describe how you've seen him work in other's lives. Has God worked in your life and can you give a specific example?

     Glenda, God is whatever drives us to do Godly acts. By this definition, God is working in every life. I prefer to give you a vague example in my own life, because Jesus teaches us that a greater joy is found in secret acts of compassion, but there is a young family that I helped out a while back and their happiness is evidence to me of what a little compassion can accomplish. I later discovered that my act of kindness was precisely one that Jesus had promised was necessary for the Kingdom of God to prosper. And do you know what? Jesus was spot on in his assessment of how to live life in the fullest (what John’s Gospel calls eternal life). This drives me to further compassion, and the cycle repeats. Jesus’s way, giving in to Spirit, simply works. God makes our lives better from every angle.   While I may agree in principle, I find it hard to accept that God is in those who criminally act against other humans... Just my opinion, of course...
5.    
      The Christian Trinity--Linking the three as one, God... We could maybe break out God and say He exists. We could claim there was a man called Jesus, even if we doubted He was the son of God... But how would you explain Spirit, if not as part of a merged trinity?

5      I gave a very brief example of the Trinity in my book. I tend to think of the Father in terms of our creator; the Son in terms of human incarnation (of which Jesus is the primary, but hardly the only, example); and the Spirit as that mysterious spiritual link between us, the link which drives us to compassion and kindness. “Incarnation” may be a strange word for human consciousness on a Godly plane, but it is descriptive, and we have no definitive explanation for this mystery either. But are these three really the same being, or in any way related? Is any one of them dependent upon the other two, as you suggest? I must reemphasize my agnosticism, ha!

Considering the Great "I Am" has always made me consider God as the Father... But there is still a distancing, a respect demanded from the role--at least that's how I felt since my own father was killed before I was born. Jesus then became the human manifestation of the Father's love to which I could relate and know a personal Jesus as my Savior... Then we were told that the Spirit would remain behind, would be given to us once we accepted it. And I do believe that an individual must be open to that acceptance and the gifts it provides. So I'm not agnostic in that regard because I have a personal connection... Or, like I said earlier, I've had a personal connection and know it exists. I'm never quite sure, however, how and where and when it is when I don't feel it...or turn away due to my own will... Perhaps that is what you are describing?


I love to hear about God-experiences such as those you describe! However, the explanations for the experiences are often a bit too assumptive for my taste. For example, suppose you fall to your knees and pray for forgiveness and suddenly a calm comes over you. Did a man who died 2,000 years ago and now lives in heaven hear your prayer and grant you peace? Or is something else happening? The Spirit requires much more study.

I recommend Something More. That is the book I was reading when I was baptized...if you can find a copy, that is...

You are a liberal Christian. I must admit until you spoke of it as you did in your book, I had not thought about this much, except as those who were especially vocal in their beliefs... From your reading, is there such a statistic of liberal versus conservative Christians...and what approximate percentage that each holds?

      So, liberal Christians are vocal ones? Hmmm…I would have imagined just the opposite! No, you are right...the vocal ones are normally those we would call fanatics...no matter what belief they have...

I     I think it’s easy to confuse the definition of “liberal” as it pertains to politics with the definition as it pertains to Christianity. A liberal Christian is one who doesn’t think of the Bible as God’s inerrant instruction book to a chosen people, but rather takes a more pluralistic approach. It is, therefore, the fundamentalists who stand on street corners preaching hellfire, for God has awarded them the Truth, capital T, to share. But anyway, on to your question: I think it’s unanswerable. Yes, I oversimplify in my book, separating liberals from conservatives as if there are two distinct camps. But liberalism, even in the realm of Christianity, is a sliding scale. Mega churches such as that of Rob Bell (author of Love Wins) are quite liberal by conservative standards, yet still conservative by liberal standards. So while I cannot give statistics, I can say that Christianity itself is slowly shifting to the left. And this is a good thing, for after all, we do profess to take Jesus as our leader … and he was one liberal dude.

7.       I am one of those individuals who are confused by your "passion for the Bible" yet within your constraints. I would imagine you know the Bible better that many average Christians, why do you think this is so? Are you really like the Doubting Thomas that your "Dubious Disciple" implies?  

I    I am a “doubting Thomas,” yes. I grew up in a very exclusive Christian church, a church which is quite satisfying and helpful to some while at the same time painful and restrictive to others. Some members are very happy, others are miserable. It became clear to me, therefore, that this exclusive church does not hold all the answers, and that different people simply have different spiritual needs. So I began to examine the age-old truths—um, I mean Truths—held by my church, and I found them lacking. It turns out God doesn’t really want anyone to be miserable. But I didn’t stop there—I didn’t stop my research with the history of my own little church, but went on to study grander topics like the Bible, creation, and life after death in more academic settings. I was hooked; the Bible, especially, is an endlessly fascinating collection of opinions about God and God’s work on earth. Yet, this academic approach naturally brought an appreciation for the insights of others, others who shared diverse religious experiences and beliefs. Dare I say it a third time? The world is growing smaller. So, while Christianity remains my heritage and the Bible remains my passion, I no longer am able to consider its words to be more God-breathed than the holy books of competing religions. We are on this quest together. 

Yes, that is when my doubting started as well. We are a nation that speaks out against others who are different...but Jesus did not... Yes, there are those of other religions that also speak against Christians, but all do not... What happens, though, as we lose our faith, at least for me, we lose much more because of that doubt...

You use a reference of a tree which has two grafted branches...One is a mighty red maple built on the Bible; the other a Willow that is built on Jesus and reaches down to Earth... BTW, I thought this was an effective illustration... But, I wonder, given your earlier comment...Where would Allah and other gods be in conjunction with this tree?

  I    I smile as I answer this one, because you are trying to pigeonhole me! Au Contraire, I desire to learn more from you...
     
     This tree is not a religious construction; not really. Allah and the other gods are not on this tree because it is only a representation of those who look to Jesus as their example, and I do not tend to merge my discipleship of Jesus (which continues to grow stronger) with my religious beliefs (of which few remain). I am aware that the red maple side views Jesus in a more religious setting, so I guess by following their lead we could construct a similar tree alongside our Jesus tree for Mohammed, Buddha and others. The more religious branches of these trees would grow into red maples, reaching skyward, and the more humanitarian would grow into willows, bending earthward. Can we say, then, that in the forest are many trees, all of which contribute to the betterment of earth? Or is that too extreme--A demand for an answer?


It doesn’t hurt to dream! Look, I’m fully aware also of the harm that is done in the name of religion. It’s not all roses yet. But surely we can say that the more the leaves of these trees intermingle, the more we will understand one another and the less prejudice we will feel, so the more likely we can work together toward the Kingdom of God on earth.

        One of my earliest memories of my own thinking was that I thought that it was more important for God to be with us on earth than when we got to Heaven... It has never made sense to me that we should be put on earth and have only one goal--to look forward to an afterlife, an eternity... I gather that your feelings are somewhat like that, but, bottom line, how and why do you believe that the idea of Heaven evolved?

9.       How did the idea of heaven evolve? Well, in Greek, the language of the New
Testament, the word for heaven is also the word for sky. The god of the Bible dwells in the sky; he is the sky god, in contrast to other gods. We have not totally escaped this quaint view of God, for we still picture his home as being up in the sky. We draw clouds around the pearly gates (which, by the way, were never up in the sky at all in the Bible but down on earth). Now, the thing to note about the Bible is that it is not until Paul came along that anyone hoped we could someday float around up in the sky with God. In the Old Testament, the afterlife is lived in the underworld, a dreary, shadowy place. There are a couple of exceptions, a couple of people who were taken up to the sky to live with God, but they did not die. All those who die go down to the underworld in Old Testament lore. Then, about two centuries before Christ, the idea of a resurrection began to make inroads into Hebrew thinking. 

      You asked also about why ideas of heaven evolved, and it cannot be coincidence that such ideas developed during a time of great persecution, when it simply became clear that life was unsettlingly unjust. Therefore, if God were just, the rights could only outweigh the wrongs if we survived beyond death. Jews began to imagine that they would one day be brought up from the underworld to live again on earth, a splendid new earth under God’s control, when all the wrongs would be made right. You see this view of physical resurrection continue well into New Testament times, with the book of Revelation providing our clearest example. By the time of Jesus, many (though not all) Jews expected to be resurrected to live again on earth. But as Christianity escaped the bonds of Jewry and spread into Gentile lands, the dream grew even more. We dreamed of the sky. We wanted not only to live again, but to live with God up in the sky. Paul saw Jesus resurrected in this manner (he saw Jesus in a vision as a light from heaven) and I think he pictured the coming resurrection to be in like manner, since he assumed Jesus was merely the first of the general resurrection. Now, that’s about as far as I can take you on the journey of how ideas evolved about heaven, because the first century is really as far as my scholarship goes, but hopefully I’ve explained the foundation upon which legends of heaven and hell were built.

We have traditionally used Heaven and Hell to relate to good versus bad... almost any book that we've read for many years has always been to have good win out over evil... Soooo, if we eliminate Hell in particular, are you/we saying that there is no punishment of any kind for "bad" forces on earth? You refer to Gehenna, but then quote Matthew 5:22... Whether Gehenna or hell fire is used, it does mean death... Could you do a sort of flow chart to show Gehenna then he war...and then what happened thereafter?

 First, purge your mind of the idea that reward and punishment in the afterlife exist in faraway lands. That is simply not the way Jews (yes, Jesus was a Jew!) thought about the afterlife. Punishment and reward were imagined as very earthly, and whether the dream of Isaiah of a wonderful new world was to happen in the post-resurrection era or not is almost immaterial. The Kingdom was to be in this world, living among the same nations. So if you’re talking about the afterlife Jesus imagined, let’s get the underworld and the sky world out of the picture. Now, with that cleared up, and with the promise that the Messiah would replace the injustice of the prior era with an era of God’s rule, you can imagine what went through the minds of early Christians when the war came. The “bad forces” Jesus squabbled with were punished, the prior era (the temple era) was eradicated and thus Christianity was justified, verified, surely God-approved. But the world goes on after this division between “heaven” and “hell,” life and death, survival and Gehenna. Christianity in its infancy was never really about punishment or reward, but about a new world, establishing a new type of kingdom on earth, in the aftermath of the old era purged away by fire. But haven't we failed miserably???

Can we go on record here that you do not believe in a total acceptance of the Bible as the Word of God? Of course, one of the first questions I had personally was that women were not supposed to speak in church... Now, I saw two ways to thing about this... The Bible was not true...or after thousands of years we had moved so far away from what the Book said, that we would all be going to Hell since I can't think of any woman who is living and who goes to church that doesn't talk... LOL

 Yes, we can go on record! (smiles) The Bible is not the inerrant dictation of a supernatural being. It is a journal of a nation growing up and learning about God. It presents many different views and evolving ideas. But I have bad news about your speculation that women won’t be going to heaven. That would seem to be true, if the vision of John is to be believed, for this passage seems impossible otherwise: When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. –Revelation 8:1 Guess it's a good idea for me to think about the existence of Heaven then...


Why do you think that there is such a diverse difference of opinion and a seemingly inability to have retained the Bible as originally created. For instance, you mentioned and I'm aware of entire books that have been removed from the present book(s) used by religious leaders. And...pulling in a story

about which you didn't talk in this book--I've always wondered about the Tower of Babel... To me, this meant that God wanted us to be separated and speak in different languages for some purpose... But then later wanted us, through Christ, to love those that were different because of this Tower...Any thoughts?

 Are you asking why we don’t have the Bible in its original form, or are you asking why we can’t agree on what it means? Both I think, after all, if humans along the way could delete books and or interpret perhaps differently than intended, then, to me that supports that you can't believe literally...


Do be aware that, for the New Testament especially, it’s very difficult to speak of “an original,” since these books were always in a state of transition. John’s Gospel is a good example, as it shows clear signs of its construction over a period of dozens of years. It’s a little like asking which baby picture shows the original me. Worse yet, each addition or subtraction or scribal error tends to change the flavor of the writing. One well-known example of this comes from the Gospel of Luke, verse 23:44, where it describes Jesus praying in anguish, with his sweat like drops of blood falling to the ground. This verse is not in all variants, and we don’t know which is more original: the version of Luke with Jesus in agony, or the version without agony. Its addition or subtraction radically alters the picture of Jesus between Gnostic (where Jesus is non-corporeal, sent from heaven) and traditional (Jesus is of the flesh, able to feel pain). Which is the original flavor of Luke’s Gospel? We don’t know, and since Luke nowhere else in the passion narrative shows Christ in agony, we don’t know whether to classify Luke as Gnostic or orthodox. 


This is a good place to move on the second half of your question, about the Tower of Babel, since these early myths are also shrouded in mystery. We often assume the story of the Tower of Babel traces back to the ziggurats, and thus was influenced by Babylonian stories (the Jews were held captive in Babylonia for many years). But we don’t know. Unable to trace the myth’s ancestry with any certainty, we have a hard time nailing down just what it meant to its Hebrew storytellers. But I can tell you a little about what it meant in Jesus’s time, because you are 100% correct that the Jesus movement was perceived as reversing the scattering of the nations at the Tower of Babel. Acts 2:2, describing the arrival of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, is the exact opposite! Instead of scattering the nations and confusing their languages, the nations came back together and began to speak in tongues that everyone could understand! This reference to the Tower of Babel could not be missed by first-century readers familiar with the Hebrew Bible.

If we accept there is no Heaven to go to...and if we accept that God is here with us on earth right now...then can we be expected to not fear death and a possible ending of everything? It seems that the Christian faith has been built surrounding heaven (salvation and reward) and hell (fear of eternal torture. If this is not true, why in the world would we have evolved into such beliefs?


First, let me emphasize that I am not suggesting there is no heaven. I personally can see no benefit to believing in hell, but belief in heaven can be a great comfort. However, I am suggesting that those who wish to follow Jesus need to pull their eyes down from the sky and realize that Jesus didn’t come to coerce anyone into heaven or rescue anyone from hell. 

Jesus’s purpose was to establish a Kingdom of God on earth. His dream was very earthly, and our participation in the Kingdom of God today is very earth-bound.

 So why do we believe in heaven, if it isn’t emphasized strongly in the Bible? Well, we want justice, and life just isn’t fair if there is no afterlife. We also fear death, and the thought of an afterlife is comforting. It’s not hard for me to understand the enticement of heaven. It’s hell that baffles me. It’s absolutely fascinating to trace how the Greek idea of Hades infiltrated Christianity, and how it snowballed from there through the centuries. I can recommend several books on the topic for those interested in pursuing this. But why did these graphic ideas of eternal torture evolve? Perhaps the threat of eternal punishment helped the Church control its subjects through the centuries, or perhaps humanity is merely a depraved animal who likes to focus on torture, or perhaps the pain for some becomes so great that vengeful dreams are unavoidable. I can at best speculate.

Have you read The Harbinger? That author refers back to the earlier destruction in 70 C.E. and builds up to a statement that the U.S. is heading in the same direction... I had to stop reading that book for awhile but there has always been references to a second coming...and other futuristic happenings... Now let's face it, the world is getting worse and worse, can we expect the individuals, even combined together, to bring about what we all have heard the second coming would be...peace on earth...lamb and lion laying down together, etc.?

 I haven’t actually read the book, no. But let’s dispel the myth that the world is getting worse. War casualties are decreasing, violent crime is decreasing, world hunger is decreasing, poverty is decreasing, life expectancy is rapidly increasing. Life on earth is getting better every year. So can this trend continue until we turn earth into a paradise like the garden of Eden? OK, I have my doubts that this lofty goal is fully achievable, but we can certainly press toward the dream of Jesus. We can continue to make life for others better and better, and in doing so, make our own lives more meaningful and joyful. That is the beauty of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.

Ahhh, not sure about this one...Sex Trafficking is increasing, including pedophilia and other sex crimes...Drug use is making our youth unable to think clearly and make proper choices... Complete separation of church and state is mandated, which results in confusion, misunderstanding, lack of ability to find where individuals fits in the world of today... Corporate control has become much worse and even leads to governmental criminal frauds...  medical control for poor brings fear and resentment and is definitely soul-crushing, governmental is being led by those who espouse Christian views, leaving us asking..."what the???"

Where we focus certainly does impact what we see, you got me there. You’ll find this same difference in opinion between Christians everywhere. I’m reminded of discussions I’ve had about Christ’s Second Coming. Premillennialists believe Christ will return before the millennial reign and postmillennialists believe Christ will come after the millennial reign. A premillennialist tends to attach little emphasis to this world and its politics. Her mood is one of expectancy and anticipation, for the day Christ returns to establish his kingdom. This world is going to get worse and worse, she imagines, until finally God steps in with a glorious return on the clouds. Then, we’ll have 1,000 years of Godly rule. Postmillennialists, on the other hand, imagine that Christ’s reign during the 1,000 years is spiritual in nature. Human participation is therefore required; Christ aids us in establishing a Christian kingdom on earth, and will not return until the 1,000 year reign is complete. While premillennialists delight in the moral decline of the world, because it means Christ’s return is imminent, postmillennialists consider it their optimistic, Christian duty to redeem the world, to aid in reformation, so as to Christianize and make the world suitable for Christ’s return. He can’t come until we set things right. So while my own understanding of the Second Coming matches neither of these views, you can guess which group I’m more comfortable with! I dream of all Christians being unified in striving toward the Kingdom, but it’s a little disheartening when so many feel there’s no point in bothering to try.

I was all ready after reading The Late Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsey. After that didn't occur, I more or less accepted what makes sense to me--we will never know when, if, why...

When you talk about unifying Christians, do you see that in doing so, that leads anywhere related to, say those who believe in Allah, Mother Earth, and other gods?

 Yes, I absolutely do! Remember, human compassion and love is not just the common denominator between liberal and conservative Christianity. It is at the core of all major religions. When we Christians can hold hands with Muslims and Wiccans in achieving this goal, we will know that we have finally grown up. And Jesus, if he lives up in heaven, will look down and smile.

Lovely, optimistic thought that I wish I could accept wholeheartedly...at least not totally. It seems to me that anybody who pays the least attention to the news, albeit if done for ratings...all we hear about is the criminal acts of violence of one against another...People killing people... Drugs killing people... Suicide bombers... School violence... Women and children stolen to become slaves... A government that cannot even work together but is divided, hatefully it seems, on bigotry, hatred, power, and pure stubbornness...

I wonder, dare I ask the question? Does my reading of fiction versus your reading of mostly religious books, give us a different perspective? Many writers are seeing the issues in the world and are writing and speaking out against them in some of the most powerful books I've read... One of them comes immediately to mind is that by Charles Anderson who spoke and wrote out about the treatment of service personnel in hospitals--that is, if they are hurt by criminals and druggies, they are not permitted to bring charges--that has brought thousands of medical personnel, who were afraid to talk, to Dr. Anderson's site and he's working on submissions for change at the governmental level... I could go on and on... ???

I’m not na├»ve, Glenda. I hear what you’re saying. There is no other word to use besides “evil” to describe much of what goes on in the world. If I didn’t see the evil, I wouldn’t feel so great a need to embrace the dream of Jesus. We Christians are called to make a difference; that is what it means to be the salt of the earth, the light of the world. That said, your theory about the differences in what we read may make sense because good fiction requires a fully-developed antagonist, while liberal Christian scholarship needn’t focus on evil. I don’t have to dwell on the dark side, making my optimism easier. So let me say to those who fight from the trenches: you are appreciated. Together, we will make a difference.

One Final question Lee... This book is written to try to move Christians toward one goal. Would you mind my asking, how has this worked within your own family, based upon what your description of your early Church was like. Do you or can you feel free to talk to others without being "knocked down" from time to time? And what do you do?

My own family's version of Christianity is very afterlife-oriented, Glenda. I would say one of the more extreme sects in this matter. While they recognize that Christians are called to perform acts of kindness, they do not see such acts as contributing to the Kingdom, but rather to serve as examples of Godliness which might lead to the opportunity to share their religious beliefs. They see themselves as "strangers and pilgrims" in this world (Hebrews 11:13), not invested in the cares of the world, and live for the day of Christ's return. So I, with my this-worldly emphasis on the teachings of Christ, am definitely a black sheep. We chat amicably about our beliefs but pretty much agree to disagree, since in our case there is little or no hope that we can ever share a common Christian goal. My book is not written for my own family, haha!


I was waiting to see if you, too, considered yourself the black sheep... Most of the time I do... I rarely have even shared how I feel, especially now since I would have to declare myself a liberal Christian...LOL Once I wrote a letter to my brother about having been baptized in the Holy Spirit... When I never had any kind of response, other than I knew he had read it, I knew to keep any further comments to myself... Sad, yes... But I think if we feel "right" in doing what we are doing, that is the best that we can do. And even if we don't feel "right" at times, if we can hold on to knowing Jesus, then everything will work out... I do not believe we can judge another's relationship with God and, while it's great to find others that feel as we do, I have not felt it was part of the plan for everybody to be missionaries in the normal sense of the word... Most of my family would say that the most important thing to be concerned about is whether they "are saved" and "ready"...  This is what is important to me...
Lee Harmon, you have brought peace to my heart... I'm so happy we had this chance to discuss both your book and the ramifications of your beliefs on others, including family. May you find His strength to continue your work...

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The River of Life by Lee Harmon Directed to Christians But Also Worthy Study Guide for Everybody...

All the world is seeking, including me...and including Lee Harmon, whose web site clearly defines his position as The Dubious Disciple.  I learned something that has blessed me by reading his latest book... I, too, may fall under the same name... Although I've always considered myself more like the woman at the well...


If you are an individual who is seeking...for something you cannot define, this might be the perfect book for you to read... Most of us, if we admit it, question... Yes, we question many things that happen in our lives and in the world...

The amazing thing about this book, though, and I believe about his earlier books, although I've not read them, Harmon has a passion for learning more... While many of us simply question, he goes seeking. His intense research is obvious. And it appears to be more as a scholar than what you might expect from a pastor, priest or other church leader. Specifically, he is willing to explore all sources of documentation in order to provide the results of his research. I consider and recommend this as a must-read if you, too, are dubious...or, even, like me, always seeking for answers...

The River of Life:
Where Liberal and Conservative Christianity Meet

By Lee Harmon

Let me quickly point out that this book will be very controversial for many! Especially Christians... I'm of the opinion that if you cannot read a book that proves contrary to your beliefs, then, really, how do you have the knowledge to believe as you do... ??? Harmon strikes at the very heart of many of those beliefs... You are Warned... 

Tomorrow's discussion includes many of the books issues, so I hope you'll spend time here at BRH then, as well. Will if encourage you to read the book. I believe so...if you are the type of person who wants to seek to learn, to know more...


I am an agnostic Christian.
For the sake of full disclosure, perhaps I should define what I mean by agnostic. I believe in God; I just don’t think we know squat about him. I sense that we are linked by something mysterious, that we are more than matter. I am not agnostic in general, I am merely agnostic toward the Christian depiction of God, or any other personal god, feeling that inadequate evidence exists for one caricature to rise above the rest. Arguing about whether it is Shiva or Allah who is the Truth is a little like bickering over the color of Cinderella’s eyes. Yet I believe, because I have both seen and felt God. I have sat in the churches of various denominations and seen strong people reduced to emotional puddles and then lifted into radiance. I have seen kidneys given to complete strangers. I marvel at Mother Teresa’s mission of kindness in the name of God, though she herself felt estranged from the God of her church.
I am a Christian in search of God. Christian, because Jesus is my inspiration and Christianity is my heritage.
Life is a mystery. How do we explain our universe, life’s origins, and human consciousness? In the Christian Trinity, we have the Son (the mystery of incarnation, or God-in-us); we have the Father (the mystery of our creation and creator); and we have the Spirit (that “something mysterious,” the wave of meaning and purpose which links us). All three are astounding, beautiful, awesome. We Christians tend to combine these three mysteries into one, and then personify their union, though we have no evidential reason for doing so. Nevertheless, I am happy uniting all three under the heading of God so that a common ground exists for discussion.
I am also a liberal Christian, living in a conservative world. Most of my family and friends are conservative Christians. Conservatives consider apostolic tradition of utmost importance, meaning they seek to emulate the first-century church as best they know how. This is a noble goal, but it can lead to stringent intolerance for diluted beliefs. It’s the right way or the highway. Liberal Christians, on the other hand, find the creedal requirements which develop from such strictness stifling and contrary to observation and experience. We see God in many people and places, not just in Christian circles. This can lead liberals to a violent condemnation of narrow doctrine. Intolerance is intolerable.
And round and round we go. As a liberal Christian, I have both stooped to verbal aggression and felt the sting of attack. Both sides care so dang much that we can’t help squabbling, but this hardly puts a good face on Christianity. If the two sides could merely take one step backward, digging back to the Jesus we both adore, perhaps there could be a unity of purpose. Even though there can never be agreement about religious belief, the Kingdom could nevertheless advance. That is my hope in writing this book.
~~~

Harmon lays out where he is coming from right at the Introduction. He's open and honest with this, as well as with all of the book. In many ways, I thought of this book as his "personal testimony" for those who are used to being called upon to do so... Although, not many individuals did so, in most of the churches I've attended during my life... For that, I was much more appreciative and open to the book... Because the first chapter is called, "Heaven and Hell..."
It may seem strange that I begin
my book at the end. Isn't the
afterlife more of a destination
that a starting point?





Well, I'm not really starting here. I'm dismissing the topic up front as being of little importance to Jesus...


Harmon proceeds then to share his understanding of the stories related to Heaven, including those from the Bible. He quickly dismisses Hell...


And do not fear those who kill the body
but cannot kill the soul. But rather
fear him who is able to destroy both
soul and body in [Gehenna]. Isiah 66:24
~~~
Now if that doesn't set some readers off, I don't know what will! However, I must say that Harmon's argument, his belief, is based on historical evidence as well as his understanding of the Bible...including, most importantly, the background on the words themselves... For instance, reading the Bible historically, easily refers to "unquenchable fire" as simply that... fire, not Hell... I noticed that both Harmon and Cahn, in The Harbinger, both immediately went back to 70 CE in Jerusalem. It is apparent that was a significant time, don't you think? But do you know what happened then? And, are you familiar with the word, Gehenna? If you're like me, I'd never heard of it. This word alone was very enlightening to me...



For now, I'll leave you with Jesus' own definition of eternal life, which has nothing to do with the afterlife:

And this is eternal llife, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent...John 17:3
                                                                     ~~~



For people around my age, we have lived through a number of times when "The Second Coming" was predicted to come... Are you still waiting, or has that already occurred, as clarified in this book? This detailed research is well worth your study and just may explain how and when your personal beliefs were formed...or, maybe just as importantly, why they were formed...

Are you aware of what is called "The Holy Spirit?" This is one symbol that people have used across the years... These others have a more personal feeling for me... 











What if the Second Coming already occurred? Harmon suggests that The Holy spirit is already here...

The spirit remains with us even today. The aion of God's rule began in Jesus's day, when the Spirit arrived from heaven, and continues through today. Do you struggle to feel its presence? If you have trouble connecting with the Spirit, try prayer. Yes, I'm serious, whether you are liberal or conservative. When I slipped from the rank of believing Christian into agnostic Christian, I confess that I forgot how to pray. I simply could not visualize anyone on the receiving end of my prayer, and felt silly trying. Nor could I bring myself to utter the skeptic's prayer: God, if you exist, save me from hell, if there is a hell. Many of you may identify with the class of Spiritual But Not Religious, yet you need not jettison the connection with the Divine that prayer affords.

Six more chapters continue on... And I would say, after reading it, Harmon covered the majority of questions that have bothered me through my life. The book is insightful, intelligent in presentation, objective, world-wide in thought. All this while proclaiming his beliefs based upon his scholarship and humbly presenting his thoughts honestly, logically, and with a caring for his readers, in my opinion. I was impressed. Most of the books I've read from Christians have declared what it is we should believe. Harmon merely provides the results of his efforts and allows the reader to absorb or consider and as you'll see tomorrow, allow questions to be raised about what he's written. The author may be a doubting Thomas, but then, the original Thomas had a pretty good career after he started questioning, don't you think?
Caravaggio — The Incredulity of St Thomas
Do check this out... It's highly recommended. For me, I was blessed by reading The River of Life. I wish for you the same...

But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out. --John 19:33-34

I believe a tricking river began that day, from the pierced side of Jesus. A river the prophets of Israel some anticipated. There came out blood and water. Water, we are told by John's Gospel, represents the Spirit. The blood, while it carries many deep symbolic meanings, represents the sacrifice of Jesus...


GABixlerReviews


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Author, blogger, computer programmer, liberal Christian. Check out my book blog at http://www.dubiousdisciple.com, where I review all kinds of religious books, and learn more about me and my latest book at http://www.thewayithappened.com. Then friend me on twitter and facebook!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Beauty of Fall - Photography by Adolfo... with a little music...

 The Beautiful View From My Home...


This Gold Over the Rainbow Sits Outside On My Patio!



Adolfo Caso... Thanks so much for Being My Friend
and Bringing Us Bits of Your Life Via Photography!
Glenda