Shuck and Jive

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A New Reformation, Part 2: Fox

Here is my second post in honor of Calvin's birthday regarding the reformation of the church. Check the sidebar under "Celebrating Calvin's Birthday" for my posts on this theme. Yesterday, I published Bob Funk's 21 theses. I think they are right on and I greatly admire Funk's no nonsense, take no prisoners, straight talk.

Matthew Fox wrote a book a few years ago entitled A New Reformation: Creation Spirituality and the Transformation of Christianity. Fox included his own 95 theses and posted them on the Wittenberg door!

Take time to look these over. I included all 95 in this post as they are all gems. If I had one of those church signboards, I would put these 95 theses up one at a time for the benefit of the good folks in Carter County, Tennessee.

In regards to my theme of vows for membership and leadership, I especially like theses 8, 25, 28, 30, 34, 39 & 69.

I am thrilled that Matthew Fox is going to be in Asheville, North Carolina in a couple of weeks for the third annual Creation Spirituality Communities Event, Breathing Compassion, July 16-20. It begins with a "Hot and Holy" Cosmic Mass on the 16th at 7 p.m.

I plan on taking in the entire conference as a continuing education week. There is space for you, too! If you think the church is in for Reformation, come join us!

Here are my posts from last year's conference:
Via Positiva in Greencastle
Dangerous and Deviant
I Want to be an Ancestor

Matthew Fox pictured at right posting his 95 theses at Wittenberg. Martin Lu
ther was the original radical who started the Protestant Reformation in 1517 with his 95 Theses.

The following is from Yes! Magazine.

Like Luther, I present 95 theses or in my case, 95 faith observations drawn from my 64 years of living and practicing religion and spirituality. I trust I am not alone in recognizing these truths. For me they represent a return to our origins, a return to the spirit and the teaching of Jesus and his prophetic ancestors, and of the Christ which was a spirit that Jesus’ presence and teaching unleashed.
1. God is both Mother and Father.

2. At this time in history, God is more Mother than Father because the feminine is most missing and it is important to bring gender balance back.

3. God is always new, always young and always “in the beginning.”

4. God the Punitive Father is not a God worth honoring but a false god and an idol that serves empire-builders. The notion of a punitive, all-male God, is contrary to the full nature of the Godhead who is as much female and motherly as it is masculine and fatherly.

5. “All the names we give to God come from an understanding of ourselves.” (Eckhart) Thus people who worship a punitive father are themselves punitive.

6. Theism (the idea that God is ‘out there’ or above and beyond the universe) is false. All things are in God and God is in all things (panentheism).

7. Everyone is born a mystic and a lover who experiences the unity of things and all are called to keep this mystic or lover of life alive.

8. All are called to be prophets which is to interfere with injustice.

9. Wisdom is Love of Life (See the Book of Wisdom: “This is wisdom: to love life” and Christ in John’s Gospel: “I have come that you may have life and have it in abundance.”)

10. God loves all of creation and science can help us more deeply penetrate and appreciate the mysteries and wisdom of God in creation. Science is no enemy of true religion.

11. Religion is not necessary but spirituality is.

12. “Jesus does not call us to a new religion but to life.” (Bonhoeffer) Spirituality is living life at a depth of newness and gratitude, courage and creativity, trust and letting go, compassion and justice.

13. Spirituality and religion are not the same thing any more than education and learning, law and justice, or commerce and stewardship are the same thing.

14. Christians must distinguish between God (masculine and history, liberation and salvation) and Godhead (feminine and mystery, being and non-action).

15. Christians must distinguish between Jesus (an historical figure) and Christ (the experience of God-in-all-things).

16. Christians must distinguish between Jesus and Paul.

17. Jesus, not unlike many spiritual teachers, taught us that we are sons and daughters of God and are to act accordingly by becoming instruments of divine compassion.

18. Ecojustice is a necessity for planetary survival and human ethics and without it we are crucifying the Christ all over again in the form of destruction of forests, waters,
species, air and soil.

19. Sustainability is another word for justice, for what is just is sustainable and what is unjust is not.

20. A preferential option for the poor, as found in the base community movement, is far closer to the teaching and spirit of Jesus than is a preferential option for the rich and powerful as found in, for example, Opus Dei.

21. Economic Justice requires the work of creativity to birth a system of economics that is global, respectful of the health and wealth of the earth systems and that works for all.

22. Celebration and worship are key to human community and survival and such reminders of joy deserve new forms that speak in the language of the twenty-first century.

23. Sexuality is a sacred act and a spiritual experience, a theophany (revelation of the Divine), a mystical experience. It is holy and deserves to be honored as such.

24. Creativity is both humanity’s greatest gift and its most powerful weapon for evil and so it ought to be both encouraged and steered to humanity’s most God-like activity which all religions agree is: Compassion.

25. There is a priesthood of all workers (all who are doing good work are midwives of grace and therefore priests) and this priesthood ought to be honored as sacred and workers should be instructed in spirituality in order to carry on their ministry effectively.

26. Empire-building is incompatible with Jesus’ life and teaching and with Paul’s life and teaching and with the teaching of holy religions.

27. Ideology is not theology and ideology endangers the faith because it replaces thinking with obedience, and distracts from the responsibility of theology to adapt the wisdom of the past to today’s needs. Instead of theology it demands loyalty oaths to the past.

28. Loyalty is not a sufficient criterion for ecclesial office—intelligence and proven conscience is.

29. No matter how much the television media fawn over the pope and papacy because it makes good theater, the pope is not the church but has a ministry within the church. Papalolotry is a contemporary form of idolatry and must be resisted by all believers.

30. Creating a church of Sycophants is not a holy thing. Sycophants (Webster’s dictionary defines them as “servile self-seeking flatterers”) are not spiritual people for their only virtue is obedience. A Society of Sycophants — sycophant clergy, sycophant seminarians, sycophant bishops, sycophant cardinals, sycophant religious orders of Opus Dei, Legioneers of Christ and Communion and Liberation, and the sycophant press--do not represent in any way the teachings or the person of the historical Jesus who chose to stand up to power rather than amassing it.

31. Vows of pontifical secrecy are a certain way to corruption and cover-up in the church as in any human organization.

32. Original sin is an ultimate expression of a punitive father God and is not a Biblical teaching. But original blessing (goodness and grace) is biblical.

33. The term “original wound” better describes the separation humans experience on leaving the womb and entering the world, a world that is often unjust and unwelcoming than does the term “original sin.”

34. Fascism and the compulsion to control is not the path of peace or compassion and those who practice fascism are not fitting models for sainthood. The seizing of the apparatus of canonization to canonize fascists is a stain on the church.

35. The Spirit of Jesus and other prophets calls people to simple life styles in order that “the people may live.”

36. Dancing, whose root meaning in many indigenous cultures is the same as breath or spirit, is a very ancient and appropriate form in which to pray.

37. To honor the ancestors and celebrate the communion of saints does not mean putting heroes on pedestals but rather honoring them by living out lives of imagination, courage and compassion in our own time, culture and historical moment as they did in theirs.

The cover of Matthew Fox's lastest book: A New Reformation: Creation Spirituality and the Transformation of Christianity

38. A diversity of interpretation of the Jesus event and the Christ experience is altogether expected and welcomed as it was in the earliest days of the church.

39. Therefore unity of church does not mean conformity. There is unity in diversity. Coerced unity is not unity.

40. The Holy Spirit is perfectly capable of working through participatory democracy in church structures and hierarchical modes of being can indeed interfere with the work of the Spirit.

41. The body is an awe-filled sacred Temple of God and this does not mean it is untouchable but rather that all its dimensions, well named by the seven chakras, are as holy as the others.

42. Thus our connection with the earth (first chakra) is holy; and our sexuality (second chakra) is holy; and our moral outrage (third chakra) is holy; and our love that stands up to fear (fourth chakra) is holy; and our prophetic voice that speaks out is holy (fifth chakra); and our intuition and intelligence (sixth chakra) are holy; and our gifts we extend to the community of light beings and ancestors (seventh chakra) are holy.

43. The prejudice of rationalism and left-brain located in the head must be balanced by attention to the lower charkas as equal places for wisdom and truth and Spirit to act.

44. The central chakra, compassion, is the test of the health of all the others which are meant to serve it for “by their fruits you will know them” (Jesus).

45. “Joy is the human’s noblest act.” (Aquinas) Is our culture and its professions, education and religion, promoting joy?

46. The human psyche is made for the cosmos and will not be satisfied until the two are re-united and awe, the beginning of wisdom, results from this reunion.

47. The four paths named in the creation spiritual tradition more fully name the mystical/prophetic spiritual journey of Jesus and the Jewish tradition than do the three paths of purgation, illumination and union which do not derive from the Jewish and Biblical tradition.

48. Thus it can be said that God is experienced in experiences of ecstasy, joy, wonder and delight (via positiva).

49. God is experienced in darkness, chaos, nothingness, suffering, silence and in learning to let go and let be (via negativa).

50. God is experienced in acts of creativity and co-creation (via creativa).

51. All people are born creative. It is spirituality’s task to encourage holy imagination for all are born in the “image and likeness” of the Creative One and “the fierce power of imagination is a gift from God.” (Kaballah)

52. If you can talk you can sing; if you can walk you can dance; if you can talk you are an artist. (African proverb and Native American saying)

53. God is experienced in our struggle for justice, healing, compassion and celebration (via transformativa).

54. The Holy Spirit works through all cultures and all spiritual traditions and blows “where it wills” and is not the exclusive domain of any one tradition and
never has been.

55. God speaks today as in the past through all religions and all cultures and all faith traditions none of which is perfect and an exclusive avenue to truth but all of which can learn from each other.

56. Therefore Interfaith or Deep Ecumenism are a necessary part of spiritual praxis and awareness in our time.

57. Since the “number one obstacle to interfaith is a bad relationship with one’s own faith,” (the Dalai Lama) it is important that Christians know their own mystical and prophetic tradition, one that is larger than a religion of empire and its punitive father images of God.

58. The cosmos is God’s holy Temple and our holy home.

59. Fourteen billion years of evolution and unfolding of the universe bespeak the intimate sacredness of all that is.

60. All that is is holy and all that is is related for all being in our universe began as one being just before the fireball erupted.

61. Interconnectivity is not only a law of physics and of nature but also forms the basis of community and of compassion. Compassion is the working out of our shared interconnectivity both as to our shared joy and our shared suffering and struggle for justice.

62. The universe does not suffer from a shortage of grace and no religious institution is to see its task as rationing grace. Grace is abundant in God’s universe.

63. Creation, Incarnation and Resurrection are continuously happening on a cosmic as well as a personal scale. So too are Life, Death and Resurrection (regeneration and reincarnation) happening on a cosmic scale as well as a personal one.

64. Biophilia or Love of Life is everyone’s daily task.

65. Necrophilia or love of death is to be opposed in self and society in all its forms.

66. Evil can happen through every people, every nation, every tribe, and every individual human and so vigilance and self-criticism and institutional criticism are always called for.

67. Not all who call themselves “Christian” deserve that name just as “not all who say ‘Lord, Lord’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven” (Jesus).

68. Pedophilia is a terrible wrong but its cover-up by hierarchy is even more despicable.

69. Loyalty and obedience are never a greater virtue than conscience and justice.

70. Jesus said nothing about condoms, birth control or homosexuality.

71. A church that is more preoccupied with sexual wrongs than with wrongs of injustice is itself sick.

72. Since homosexuality is found among 464 species and in 8 percent of any given human population, it is altogether natural for those who are born that way and is a gift from God and nature to the greater community.

73. Homophobia in any form is a serious sin against love of neighbor, a sin of ignorance of the richness and diversity of God’s creation as well as a sin of exclusion.

74. Racism, Sexism and militarism are also serious sins.

75. Poverty for the many and luxury for the few is not right or sustainable.

76. Consumerism is today’s version of gluttony and needs to be confronted by creating an economic system that works for all peoples and all earth’s creatures.

77. Seminaries as we know them, with their excessive emphasis on left-brain work, often kill and corrupt the mystical soul of the young instead of encouraging the mysticism and prophetic consciousness that is there. They should be replaced by wisdom schools.

78. Inner work is required of us all. Therefore spiritual practices of meditation should be available to all and this helps in calming the reptilian brain. Silence or contemplation and learning to be still can and ought to be taught to all children and adults.

79. Outer work needs to flow from our inner work just as action flows from non-action and true action from being.

80. A wise test of right action is this: What is the effect of this action on people seven generations from today?

81. Another test of right action is this: Is what I am doing, is what we are doing, beautiful or not?

82. Eros, the passion for living, is a virtue that combats acedia or the lack of energy to begin new things and is also expressed as depression, cynicism or sloth (also known as “couchpotatoitis”).

83. The Dark Night of the Soul descends on us all and the proper response is not addiction such as shopping, alcohol, drugs, TV, sex or religion but rather to be with the darkness and learn from it.

84. The Dark Night of the Soul is a learning place of great depth. Stillness is required.

85. Not only is there a Dark Night of the Soul but also a Dark Night of Society and a Dark Night of our Species.

86. Chaos is a friend and a teacher and an integral part or prelude to new birth. Therefore it is not to be feared or compulsively controlled.

87. Authentic science can and must be one of humanity’s sources of wisdom for it is a source of sacred awe, of childlike wonder, and of truth.

88. When science teaches that matter is “frozen light” (physicist David Bohm) it is freeing human thought from scapegoating flesh as something evil and instead reassuring us that all things are light. This same teaching is found in the Christian Gospels (Christ is the light in all things) and in Buddhist teaching (the Buddha nature is in all things). Therefore, flesh does not sin; it is our choices that are sometimes off center.

89. The proper objects of the human heart are truth and justice (Aquinas) and all people have a right to these through healthy education and healthy government.

90. "God” is only one name for the Divine One and there are an infinite number of names for God and Godhead and still God “has no name and will never be given a name.” (Eckhart)

91. Three highways into the heart are silence and love and grief.

92. The grief in the human heart needs to be attended to by rituals and practices that, when practiced, will lessen anger and allow creativity to flow anew.

93. Two highways out of the heart are creativity and acts of justice and compassion.

94. Since angels learn exclusively by intuition, when we develop our powers of intuition we can expect to meet angels along the way.

95. True intelligence includes feeling, sensitivity, beauty, the gift of nourishment and humor which is a gift of the Spirit, paradox, being its sister.

A New Reformation, Part 1: Funk


  1. John, I can accept all of them, but when I read,

    11. Religion is not necessary but spirituality is.

    I confess that my lip curled a little, just a little. I've been to churches which practiced a kind of new-agey (I'm searching for another word, but I'm not finding it) crap that really puts me off. If the folks who go there like that sort of thing, then fine, but I don't see that it has much to do with God. It seems to be more about affirming me, me, me. As I see it, faith must be much more about others, than about me.

    I guess I see spirituality as too broad a label to be satisfying to me, if we're talking about a relationship with God.

  2. That's funny! I understand what you mean and I had the same reaction.

    I think I understand what Fox (and others who say such things means).

    Religion is rules and dogmas and hypocrites. Spirituality is about freedom, justice, love, etc.


    Religion to me is about hanging in there with a community through thick and thin (religio bound together).

    Spirituality can be a little non-committal?

    I spoke about religion/spiritual thing on Easter, Easter for the non-religious.

  3. I thought you might be interested in learning about OUR Jewish traditions which embrace the real Christ. We are the Frankist Association of America. One of our members has a new book out:

    These are our teachings passed on through generations. If you can't afford the book you can see the website of one of our teachers -


    Beth El Jacob Frank

  4. John, your Easter sermon is lovely, especially since Easter is one of the days when the two-times-a-year folks show up. You gave them something meaty to chew over, at the same time that you fed your flock.

    Today, one of the readings from the lectionary was from Samuel, when Samuel goes to God with the demand of the people for a king. God lays it out for them why a king will be a very bad thing for them, but they want their king, and God gives them what they want, an earthly kingdom.

    ‘No! but we are determined to have a king over us, 20so that we also may be like other nations, and that our king may govern us and go out before us and fight our battles.

  5. Shalom Pascale,
    Thanks for the link.

    Thanks for the kind words, Mimi...
    ...that would be a bad judgment call all right in regards to kingship.

    A prayer we used in worship recently has stayed with me...

    "...don't ask from God what you can get from Pharaoh."

  6. That's a really good prayer.

    These thesis read, to me, like a sort of laundry-list of whatever caught Fox's attention as an undergraduate or something. I just didn't find them coherent, which made them a lot less compelling. I'm not sure why I should jettison religion but keep chakras. Anyway, its good to post, but not the epochal list that one might otherwise expect...

  7. A laundry list may be apt, but it was a list after a career of reflection. No "undergraduate" could write this.

    Fox has proven his mettle after 26 books, a battle with the Vatican, and a rediscovery and articulation of a theological system of thought, Creation Spirituality.

    As far as I am concerned, he is the real deal, and that's whether folks agree or disagree with part or all of his ideas.

  8. The list reads to me like a list of heuristics one picks up along the way. It takes time to pick them up. There is deep and understated wisdom in most of them.

    The problems with lists like this is that they don't really make sense until you've been on the way yourself for a while...

    One of my favorites:

    27. Ideology is not theology and ideology endangers the faith because it replaces thinking with obedience, and distracts from the responsibility of theology to adapt the wisdom of the past to today’s needs. Instead of theology it demands loyalty oaths to the past.


    A couple are too temporal, like the one that picks on Fascism. It is true, and it is likely singling out Rome's fascination for Gen Franco and their guardianship of Valle de Los Caidos, but does it merit a whole entry?

    OTH, maybe it does.

    It is symbolic of Rome's ancient envy of Empire. It is after all symbolic of all authoritarian Church models and their endless fascination with power.

  9. Good thoughts, Jodie. The individual items on Fox's list is a thesis. There is a lot of thought and experience, collectively and individually, that has gone into each one.

    I wondered if some of these now seem rather obvious (such as appreciation of other religions) which shows the change that people now take for granted.

  10. @ John

    Maybe I'm bragging, but I could have written this as an undergraduate. I may not have written it the same way, and I'm also saying that having read, by undergrad, books on creation spirituality, so the heavy lifting was done for me...but anyway, he is probably the real deal, I just wish there was some sense of how these theses fit together...that would be a lot more helpful than the theses (and this probably means I'll have to read some books)

  11. I would read his book Original Blessing, his primer on Creation Spirituality published 25 years ago. That is the book that got him in hot water with the Vatican.

    The book, A New Reformation, tells his story and fits these theses in that context.