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...



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

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