“It’s acceptable today to express skepticism—just why I’m not sure—but not outright disbelief. I’ve hunkered down behind the cloak of skepticism for years. Now seems the time to shed it. While taking this overt action may invite criticism, even ostracism, fortunately today no longer burning at the stake (Hallelujah!).”
“If an infinite and perfect God (by definition) exists outside of time (history)—always has, does and always will—while finite mankind exists in time (history) how can there be any intercourse or relationship or even awareness between the two? Thus, for us finites, God—assuming God—musts be unknown, even unknowable. To God as presented we must be, if anything, but a blink of an eye: Poof!”
”Well, what about the Church’s historical presentation of Jesus of Nazareth? What about it? People have been worshiping gods, and the God of the Hebrew Bible for some time prior to his appearance in the public domain and since. For the Christian Church, Jesus, the Christ, represents God active in history. It’s their solution to how we can know God. For the Church, Jesus—declared fully human and fully God by this institution—is the necessary “bridge” connecting the finite to the infinite. For many it’s a persuasive argument; for what appears to be a growing number it seems to fall short. We will take up this serious Jesus-God relationship in depth in Chapter Seven. It is of course an important—critical—subject within Christianity. But here it’s a subsidiary aspect of the central question, the conundrum, of God vs. the idea of God.” (The Prologue)
“The main Cristian proposition my intellect (rightly or wrongly) anguishes over is the Christology, the theological nature and character of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ. In fact, it is more than just that. It’s the very believability, or truth, of the claims Christianity makes about this indispensable prerequisite historical religious figure I wrestle with. Here is a mustard seed in the granary of history. But in milling it the Church has transformed it into a finished four both pungent and potent appearing.” (Chapter Three)
“The late American mythologist Joseph Campbell said that myths guide us through time and the trials of life; God is a manifestation of the mind [a coming into being, or evidence]. Divinity is what we think—the idea; faith—the subjective reality—is what we experience. If this be the case, then the decline in religious identification and church attendance as evidenced earlier is no doubt due in some part to the nature of the experience of faith in the Church today versus our thoughts about divinity be those thoughts considered orthodox by the religious establishment or not. At least here in the West, the Christian myth is apparently not serving many of well today as we ‘move through time and the trials of life’.” (Chapter Five)
“Some whose career and/or orientation is today religious deplore the pursuit of a historical Jesus as if there was something to fear from this. But if Jesus was truly a man as well as true God (as the Council of Ephesus in 431 specified), there must be a historical side to him that is worth pursuing. Interest in the historical aspects of Jesus is not a recent pursuit. Almost 200 years ago now, the German liberal protestant theologian and writer David Friedrich Strauss’ (1808-1874) 1836 book, The Life of Jesus, critically Examined, scandalized Christian Europe with its portrayal of the Historical Jesus.’ And more recently as the late Catholic priest and Biblical scholar Raymond E. Brown pointed out, if Jesus does not have an historical reality, Christianity becomes myth.” (Chapter Seven)
“R.R. Reno, editor of the conservative periodical First Things recently wrote, ‘We are living in a strange historical moment. The culture of the twenty-first century West lives at a greater remove from the perennial human desire to obey divine authority – a far greater remove – than any culture in human history.’ Mr. Reno describes our public culture as one of limited horizons and a pessimism that finds countless reasons why nothing new or bold can be done. ‘Sustainability’ is our default aspiration. In a world without divine authority, tomorrow can only be a recycled version of today.
I certainly can’t argue with Mr. Reno. I would only ask about the causation producing this condition. Mr. Reno implies it lies at the feet of cultural change. But for well over a millennium the Church, broadly speaking, was highly influential in cultural norms and their formation. What has brought about this apparent (sudden?) fall from religious cultural influence?” (Chapter Nine)