Shuck and Jive

Friday, April 02, 2010

Heresies for Holy Week: Day 5

Rev. John Wilde is a Presbyterian minister, friend, and yes, heretic. But only his friends can call him that. He blogs at the John Wilde Blog among other places. The heresy I am posting today is not from any of his blogs, but a comment he wrote on one of my posts.

How do I know it is heresy?


Snad liked it.

Maybe you will too!

Magic Jesus believers refuse to acknowledge what is totally obvious. The people who wrote the Gospels KNEW they were writing fiction. I'm not saying that they created Jesus. But it's clearly similar to the historical novel genre of our times. If people today want to believe in a magical Jesus, that's their right although many are forced into such belief when they really want to acknowledge reality.

They don't have to force it on others who want to be a part of a Christian Church for all the right reasons: compassion, justice, parties, dancing, singing, meditating, peacemaking, eating, drinking, thinking, sharing, welcoming, making friends. reconciling, laughing, crying, liberating and more.

'Nuff said.


  1. Wow! That makes me every bit as influential as Parker Williamson!

  2. i love what Alexander Shaia writes: The four progressive paths of Quadratos correspond to the four gospels and the four great questions of the spiritual life. Each gospel’s question and practice is revealed within a particular landscape and its human experience.
    First Path: How do we face change?
    Climbing the Great Mountain of Matthew
    Second Path: How do we move through suffering?
    Crossing Mark’s Stormy Sea
    Third Path: How do we receive joy?
    Resting in John’s Glorious Garden
    Fourth Path: How do we mature in service?
    Walking Luke’s Road of Riches
    For more information, visit

  3. "Wow! That makes me every bit as influential as Parker Williamson!"

    But hopefully slightly less of teh crazy. :)

  4. A pre-comment: it seems here that it is OK for people to call me superstitious - defined as believing that Jesus is fully human and fully God, believing that Jesus literally rose from the dead, etc. But if I say that the beliefs of someone do not fit my definition of Christian people go wild.

    And having mentioned wild, I will respond to John Wilde. First I think that the writing of the Gospels was a much more complicated process than writing fiction. If there is any indication from other sources, like Paul, these people really believed this stuff. Having said that I think a Gospel is a special form of literature that has a wide variety of purposes. One (you can see it in Luke/Acts) is to get the Roman Empire off the back of Christians. Another is to speak to a particular group, Christian Group. Gospels weren't written as evangelistic tools.

    In any case I wouldn't call John Wilde a heretic. By my definition (personal definition) John is apostate or not a Christian. And BTW I don't claim to speak for the Church. I speak out of what I believe.

    Now you can all get all upset at me. But just remember that means you get to call me names and I don't get to say what I think (or I guess call others names.)

    Is superstitious better or worse than apostate?

  5. @Bob

    Is superstitious better or worse than apostate?

    If it is nothing more than name-calling on the blogging playground, it probably doesn't matter. You can engage in your superstition and I engage in my apostasy and all is well.

    But we both know that there is a sub-text in our very public conversations. Associated with names and labels are political realities.

    Parker Williamson has just used his influence on his website (and I noticed in his news that my secretary happens to receive) to call me out specifically as a heretic and to call on my presbytery to do something about that.

    That is more than name-calling. That has intended material and political effects in this world.

    The context for this little drama was a post I made about a paper written about five clergy who are "in the closet" because they know they are "apostates" and/or "heretics." That is the political reality of the church.

    My long-sufferring EP gets contacts every now and then from BFTSs who call me apostate and heretical and demand that he fix their problem.

    Bottom line, Bob. If your ministry is threatened because of your "superstition" I will be the first to come to your defense.

    It would be nice if we could allow for freedom of theological exploration of those very matters such as the resurrection of Jesus, the reality or non-reality of supernatural theism, and so forth. I think those are fascinating questions that many are interested in exploring.

    I also am aware of the costs associated with that type of open discussion.

    Do I get snarky? Do I get defensive? Do I use words that are offensive to folks who believe like you do, but also (hopefully), wouldn't use open dialogue to hurt someone politically? Yeah, I do. I probably will continue to do so until the playing field is level.
    The field won't be level in my view until every clergyperson has the freedom to be be honest and forthcoming about these important questions.

    I don't know if it is better but it is far safer to be superstitious rather than apostate.

    But I'll take apostate any day.

  6. Well if people really want to get rid of you or me (I have my quirks as well) sending a note to an EP just won't do the job. As you said to Parker, if he really cares he would bring allegations against you. I have to admit I don't know of anyone who has been kicked out of the denomination for theological reasons in the 30+ years I've been a pastor. All of which makes me think that Alan is right: sex is more important than theology.

    So I will say again, I enjoy chatting with you, as infuriating as you can sometimes be and I can sometimes be, but I'm not interested in bringing allegations. I have too much fun here.

  7. And Bob,

    I do probably overuse "superstition," and it usually refers to the people who are so rigid and obnoxious (like Parker Williamson) and for the really crazy stuff.

    The political reality exists. I would be curious (regardless of what you think about their views) of the clergy featured in Dennett's paper.

  8. I have to admit I don't know of anyone who has been kicked out of the denomination for theological reasons in the 30+ years I've been a pastor. All of which makes me think that Alan is right: sex is more important than theology.

    Actually, sex is more important than theology. Our ancestors got their game on long before they got their god on.

    I understand what you mean, though; prejudice is the key motivator in our current church skirmishes.

    Being a straight guy, I have privilege. I feel responsibility to use it. I am happy when my other privileged colleagues are forthcoming about their theological ideas. You'll get hassled and likely booted if you come out as gay (no matter how "orthodox" you are) but not if you come out as "heretical."

    So you theological free thinkers--come out, come out, wherever you are...

    While I am ranting, I think the whole heretical/orthodox dichotomy is a sham. It is a blight on humanity and the church.

    What other pronouncements can I make while sitting on the chair?

    Here's one:

    If there were no such thing as heresy, orthodoxy, or apostasy, there would be no superstition.

    If people didn't think they needed to defend dogmas they would not look to books or creeds for answers to problems. Every problem would need to be solved on its own terms without appeal to some kind of special revelation that not everyone accepts.

    Books and creeds are fine. They are sources of wisdom from our ancestors. They become superstition when they are substituted for thinking. That is why I usually reserve "superstition" for the act of using the bible as an excuse for either their own prejudice or for laziness in regards to thinking.

  9. John

    I think there's an anthem in there for you from another John:

    "Imagine there's no religion. It isn't hard to do.

    For me I will do my best to stick to Jesus and value his birth, life, death and resurrection.

    He is Risen! :)

  10. @John

    "Books and creeds are fine. They are sources of wisdom from our ancestors. They become superstition when they are substituted for thinking."

    I agree. I think there's far too much Bishop following, and rule rigidity, and not enough thinking.

    I think Jesus would agree too. Everything I read in the Bible concerning his words and his actions seems to point in that direction.


    "For me I will do my best to stick to Jesus and value his birth, life, death and resurrection."

    I agree with you too.
    He is Risen!

  11. John writes and you quote, "The people who wrote the Gospels KNEW they were writing fiction."

    So what do you make of how Luke starts his gospel? "Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught." How is this an intro to fiction? Or do you believe that this is a later addition that somehow completely mistook a piece of fiction for a historian's account?

    Or what Peter would write, "We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty." 2Peter 1:16

  12. Thanks John for sharing what some call my "apostasy" on your blog. I think honesty and thoughtful reflection on history and current events is a valuable trait. I will continue to say what I believe as I have for many years. Very rarely does anyone call me apostate or not a Christian for stating my beliefs as honestly as I can. The Bible and the Creeds are understood best as myth, metaphor, story, legend, ritual and amazing teachings about compassion, peace and justice.

    My dear friend Bob:

    I don't care about the apostasy thing if that makes you happy. But saying I'm not a Christian simply goes too far. And that's all I have to say about that.

    Alleluia. Christ is Risen.

    love, john + + "The spirit of liberty is the spirit of not being too sure you are right.” – Judge Learned Hand

  13. Dear TimeForThe Truth,

    People in ancient times shared stories in ways we moderns simply struggle to understand and appreciate. It was OK for people to say things really happened that didn't happen in any scientific or factual way. These stories contain great Truths which I find very compelling. This makes me a follower of the Messiah, a Christian if you will. I don't have to believe that things which I KNOW did not happen happened.

    I am thoroughly impressed with the wisdom of the storytellers. And I do believe that a remarkable human being, Jesus of Nazareth, did indeed live and teach and heal and reconcile and earn the wrath of the contol freaks of his time.

    It's OK with me if you disagree with that. Just don't judge.

    love, john + + "The spirit of liberty is the spirit of not being too sure you are right.” – Judge Learned Hand

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  15. Thanks John for linking to all 3 of my blogs and my website too. You are definitely my favorite heretic and I like being associated with your heresy since the time has come for honesty to prevail in the Church, the nation and the planet.

    love, john + + "The day will come when, after harnessing space, the winds, the tides and gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, humankind will have discovered fire." -- Teilhard de Chardin