These are times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.
The Glory Has Departed
Norma Boeckler, Artist in Residence
Bethany Lutheran Church Live Worship.
Monday, December 31, 2007
Christians have a weapon far more powerful than the combined crafts and assaults of the apostates: the Word of God. Conservatives should not aspire to take over the reigns of power. We end up accomplishing only what we concentrate upon (and often not even that).
When the Cloaca Maxima of Hell, Fuller Seminary, got ministers, members, and mission boards to think about numbers, all the energy and focus turned on "How do we increase our numbers each year?" Gone was any thought of being faithful to the Word of God and the Confessions. In a few years, Biblical and Confessional thinking became the enemy.
Nevertheless, the great power of the Word is revealed in the demonic hatred of the apostates toward any semblance of fidelity to the Scriptures. The wrath and vindictiveness of these people can be stunning. They are not nice people, as they pretend. They cry out "Slander!" when questioned about their false doctrine and run the crudest slander machines on the planet, making the secular politicians look tame.
Believers only have the Word and the Confessions. Satan cannot tolerate ordinary, weak, fallible humans having a weapon that will always defeat him, so he rages without mercy. He will tear apart pastor's families, divide friends, ruin people financially. All this is cloaked with sanctity, but there is no doubt about the malice behind it. That is why so many are afraid of synodical apostates. Pure poison is beneath the buttered words.
Therefore, believers will always seem to be in a weak and losing position. Faithful pastors will get the two-point calls to Forgotten Lutheran and Misbegotten Lutheran, in Buffalo Chip, Oklahoma. People will sneer at their misfortune, as they should. As Luther said, "What the world loves, God despises; what God loves, the world despises."
A faithful layman or pastor will fulfill the dream of Archimedes: "Give me a place to stand and with a lever I will move the whole world." The lever for the faithful pastor or layman is the Word of God. Archimedes' hyperbole is reality with the efficacy of the Word.
The Invocation of the Holy Trinity is calling upon the power of God. The Absolution is the Promise of God fulfilled. The Creed, the liturgical service, and genuine hymns all support the proclamation of the Gospel, justification by faith alone. The Votum is a prayer by Paul and by the pastor for all the worshipers in the Lutheran service. The Aaronic benediction is not a sign-off, a time for grabbing the coat, purse, and kids, but the blessing of God Himself: the Holy Trinity, God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. Each time we hear those words we should think of the Trinity implicitly taught already in Numbers 6--The Lord, The Lord, The Lord.
Who can predict what one baptism will accomplish when accompanied by the nurture of the family (and even without it)? One believer marries another or converts the spouse. In a few years, that one baptism has turned into 100 family members as people gather for the funeral of a matriarch or patriarch. Some family members drift away from the Gospel, but others are converted by marriage or association. No one will write this up in Time, Newsweek, or the National Enquirer: Baptism in Steam Corners, Ohio lays foundation for 100 Christians.
Lutherans have forgotten the cross. The cross consists of those experiences directly related to being faithful to the Word. Cancer is not bearing the cross. Heart disease is not bearing the cross. Nor is homework, as one seminary student suggested.
When the synodical pope kicks congregations and pastors out for questioning his ambiguous political statements, that is bearing the cross. When the district popes remove pastors for questioning Church Growth doctrine and support known false teachers, that is bearing the cross.
The Wisconsin Synod ministerium has an informal communication system (much like a prison) called the Grapevine. The pastors are deathly afraid of the Grapevine. The apostates feed excuses for their fellow-apostates into the Grapevine and pitch slander against the faithful in the same way. For example, the former seminary president was called senile by the Grapevine, because he opposed the NWC-DMLC Anschluss. While he was dying of a stroke, a highly respected pastor was called brain-damaged for writing against Church Growth. He published his article before the stroke, but the Grapevine does not care about facts.
We should be afraid of God, not the Grapevine.
For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word. Isaiah 66:2 KJV
Benefits of Being a Faithful Pastor, Ascending Order
1. Frequents moves. The adulterous (whether spiritually or carnally, often both) cannot abide the Word of God. They keep pastors moving.
2. New friends. The political pastors will not associate with anyone tainted by dissent from apostasy.
3. Lasting friends. Those who love orthodox Lutheran doctrine are united across synodical lines.
4. Renewed friends. Some people turn away when the painful truths are made known, but return to say, "It's worse than anything you ever said or wrote."
5. Knowledge that God's will is accomplished through His Word alone and never apart from His Word.
6. Seeing God at work in the Means of Grace, pastoral visitation, and teaching.
There is an abundant supply of evil people in the visible church. As Rauschenbusch said, religion is powerful. When united with good, it is a powerful good. When united with evil, it is a powerful evil.
However, God is just. Time wounds all heels.
The temptation is great to compromise for a better position, a chance to leave the cares and concerns of a congregation. The warped and twisted nature of our world is revealed in that pastors long to leave the Means of Grace to sit around at synodical meetings dealing with everything except the Means of Grace - and for higher pay and benefits. The rich, black suits and oreo collars! The new model cars! Housing allowance! Trips around the world on the synod's budget! Hobnobbing with the nabobs of Wikiletics! Name-dropping: Maxwell, Sweet, McNeal, Warren--at a seminary reunion!
Unfortunately, ministers are not encouraged to think of their work as worthwhile. Even if no one else thinks so, each minister should realize the power of God's Word and the wisdom of the Confessions.
Reading small histories has always been a hobby. Booklets tell about one small group of Lutherans, a group of missionaries, a district, a synod that emerged from various trends and merged into a new one. My dissertation was about the Augustana Synod, which lasted 100 years. The puzzle is figuring out who those leaders were. Many mother churches are gone, due to demographic and doctrinal trends. I wonder, "What remains?" Those who liked to strut about because of their power are forgotten by everyone. The Word of God remains forever. When those leaders were faithful, the Gospel bore fruit one hundred-fold. The faithful of those years embarrass the mods of today. The faithful are forgotten but God's work and will remain. The faithful win by losing.
How the WELS Apostates Won Big with Leonard Sweet, Kent Hunter, and Waldo Werning
I put together material about the infamous Leonard Sweet, Kent Hunter, Waldo Werning conference promoted and canceled by WELS Church and Change. The WELS conservatives celebrated their brave stand and the results in 2005. I started to take notice of Leonard Sweet because several WELS contacts let me know about the proposed event in advance.
Step by step, this is how the apostates won by losing. Take note, Hot Air Merchants of the Right. You may learn something from the Left.
First the apostates proposed the most obnoxious speakers they could find. Sweet is so fatuous, Left-wing, and ridiculous that a mildly Lutheran minister should have fits over the Methodist guru. Kent Hunter is a Lutheran version of the same model - the Church Doctor, as he calls himself. If Hunter has been helping his own LCMS, here is some news - the patient died under your care. His elder brother in promoting WELS/LCMS/ELS Church Growth is Waldo Werning.
By the way, the Church Growth Movement--favored so much by Werning and Hunter--is moving into New Age mysticism, through Leonard Sweet and his pal Rick Warren. Just study Leonard Sweet's website for proof. Or his vita for a Robert Schuller conference: "LEONARD SWEET, Ph.D. Morristown, NJ - Leonard is author and founder of Wikiletics, a futurist, a semiotician, and a preacher who communicates the gospel to a postmodern world." (He forgot to list - Hippy Gasbag.) More content can be found on the Sweet website.
Second, the WELS apostates played the role of victim when the furor forced them to cancel the 2005 Church and Change conference. The Leonard Sweet-hearts sent their letters to Charis/Church and Change, and their names were omitted from the published letters. Critics sent their letters, which were also published - with the names included. How convenient. The Sweet-hearts could remain a closely knit and secretive group while their opponents were revealed. The whole withdrawal process was done not in the spirit of godly contrition. Instead, the leaders were resently, self-pitying, and accusatory.
Third, the conservatives suffered from a collective case of premature celebration. They won! Charis (the journal) was crushed. Church and Change was no more. The deceivers at WELS headquarters really pulled the wool over the critics' eyes. While the critics were high-fiving across the country, the apostates were making Church and Change an official part of the WELS.net website, not just part of Wisconsin Lutheran College/Charis.
The conservatives forgot that Wayne Mueller was voted out of office, waited for the new VP to refuse to serve, and then voted back into office. He turned that defeat into victory and even saw his defeat omitted from the magazine's account of the convention. The canceled conference was a minor setback.
Fourth, when the 2007 conference was set up on the WELS.net website, no one objected. The conservatives--who tire easily and often--did not put up a fuss. There may be some hope. The Church and Change jumpword is gone from the WELS website. Church and Change has the same website as before, but the lack of an official link is telling.
Conclusion. The apostates have won in all the denominations by being persistent. They retreat two steps and then move three steps forward a bit later. They lose the vote on the third day of the convention and reverse the vote on the fourth day, when everyone is packing up the suitcases and heading for the airport. The apostates have won by avoiding the doctrinal battles in favor of the political fights. That is where their Father Below always wins. As I heard so many times, "He is not a false teacher. He is a nice guy." One WELS circuit pastor defended a Fuller Seminary graduate by saying, "I drank a lot of beer with him in school." I never determined how beer consumption made someone a sound teacher.
|This is fun, getting rid of conservatives!|
Leaving A Church Behind
Congregation Prepares For A New Beginning
By KATIE MELONE | Courant Staff Writer
December 31, 2007
WATERTOWN — - It was the last Sunday service at Christ Church. Unable to go "further in a church that continued in a false gospel," the entire congregation, including the rector and church leaders, will sever ties with the national Episcopal Church and reform under a new name: New Hope Anglican Church.
One of the "Connecticut six," the half-dozen churches in the state diocese that disagree with national leadership on departure of scripture, including the appointment of a gay bishop, the congregation will trade its historic building on the town green for a free community room at the Thomaston Savings Bank around the corner.
The Sunday service will be held at the bank, starting Jan. 6, until they find or build another house of worship.
"We need to celebrate today, but we need to recognize there is a dying," the Rev. Allyn Benedict said in his final homily at the church. Reading off an overhead projector, church members sang hymns enthusiastically, clapping and raising hands in acknowledging their faith. They hugged one another, wishing peace.
The church was founded under the Church of England in 1764. In 2003, Benedict and several other Connecticut rectors clashed with Connecticut Bishop Andrew D. Smith, who supported the naming of V. Gene Robinson as New Hampshire's bishop. Robinson is gay. Benedict and Christ Church leaders also feel the national church is rejecting scriptural authority and traditions of the church.
In cutting affiliation with the national leaders, the congregation has agreed to give up its church buildings and property, estimated to be worth $7 million, and its name, "Christ Church Parish." The congregation also ended its participation with the other Connecticut churches in a protracted legal battle against national leadership over church real estate, deciding that "it's not worth living under this oppression just for the property," said Paul LePine, the senior warden. Four of the "Connecticut six" have also ended their connection to the national church, LePine said.
"It's a tragedy when relationships fail," LePine said. "There's a relief of being free of that dysfunctional relationship we've been in for many years."
LePine's daughter, Rachel, 15, commented that while leaving is the right thing to do, "it is sad."
"That's kind of why we named it New Hope," she said.
"We're just moving on to where we're supposed to be," said Chris Varian, who was married at the church and has been a member for three years. "It's a transition. It's a lot of history and a lot of memories. It's bittersweet."
Contact Katie Melone at email@example.com.
Saturday, December 29, 2007
Wisdom from Above
Romans 5:1 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:
The Wise Men or Magi have always been a problem for liberals. They are so closely woven into the birth of Christ that one must eliminate all the miraculous elements of Christ being born if this one item is omitted or explained away.
There are several requirements for the Wise Men to be true historical figures.
1. Some culture had to view the stars, planets, and comets so that their view of the sky suggested a change in the future.
2. Something had to happen in the sky to lead the Wise Men to Jesus.
3. There had to be interaction between the Wise Men and Herod.
Rationalists want to prove that all of God's actions are substantiated by human reason. We can now point to several candidates for the Star of Bethlehem. There are two sources for this. One is the evidence left behind by Asian star-gazers, who recorded celestial events with great diligence. Unfortunately, their vocabulary was rather imprecise. We know of several "guest-stars" appearing at the time of Christ's birth, but we do not know if the Chinese and Koreans were referring to planets, planetary conjunctions, comets, or supernovas. But they saw something remarkable and recorded it. The second source is the sky itself. The years before Christ can be reproduced in planetiariums.
We also know that the ancients were as religious as we are secular. Where our society looks strictly at non-religious causes, the ancients always looked at divine intervention.
No one can prove that the Wise Men met with Herod. Most of history is lost forever. We might be blessed by that fact. Even recent history is hotly debated. In reading about the Battle of Leyte Gulf in WWII, I noticed that scholars were not sure of why Halsey chased the decoy fleet heading north (abandoning his position guarding the area of the landings) or why Kurita abandoned a battle he should have won for the Japanese. We have access to many living witnesses, but still the debate continues.
When Kepler identified the Star of Bethlehem as real, his fellow scientists disregarded him as being a mystic, too religious. His calculations were easily reproduced, but rational proof does not make a believer out of a scoffer. In fact, Kepler hardened people against the Star of Bethlehem by being correct. We can see that effect in all topics involving the Gospel.
The real issue is why the Star of Bethlehem happened. God made sure that the Jews and non-Jews knew of the Savior's birth. The angels sent the shepherds to the manger, where they worshiped the baby Jesus. The Star of Bethlehem sent the Magi to Herod, who was given a chance to repent. Instead, he sought to murder the Savior and slaughtered the new-born babies to make sure.
Herod was very religious. He knew that his reign as a non-Jew meant the Messiah was coming. We can imagine how secure he felt when the Magi added to his fears by identifying the Star of Bethlehem with the Savior.
Everyone expected a powerful king. For a king like Herod, that meant unemployment for him. Jesus' power would come from His everlasting reign and the constant growth of His Kingdom, as Isaiah 7 and 9 predicted.
During Christmas and Easter I think of Jewish Christians I know. The Old Testament leads people to Christ. One doctor said to Mrs. Ichabod, "Merry Christmas. I mean it. I am a believer." He was thrilled to receive Jesus, Priceless Treasure. That is how the Gospel works. I do not know how he was converted from Judaism to Christianity, but he felt compelled to communicate that to my wife. And a book about the Christian faith was a gift he really wanted.
The Gospel is so powerful that it creates its own opportunities. No one has to force them. Some people are made to feel guilty that they are not out on the streets knocking on doors. One victim of this thinking said, "If I don't witness to my faith, God won't let me grow." I quickly assured her that God is not mean, petty, and vindictive: He is not at all like a Mission Board chairman.
The power of the Gospel is visible at Christmas, when people are especially aware of God becoming flesh, dwelling among us, full of truth and grace. People are more generous. Strangers are especially friendly and helpful. Christmas reminds people of God at work among us through Jesus the Savior, just as Easter reminds us of the Savior's triumph over death.
Jesus is the wisdom from above. Faith in Him means receiving all His benefits daily through the Holy Spirit at work in the Word. Daily forgiveness is the Gospel message. God has blessed us by giving us certainty in this forgiveness. We know that we are forgiven and inherit eternal life because the Instruments of Grace (Means of Grace, Word and Sacrament) give what God promises.
That is very important to realize and emphasize. We are not forgiven because we feel forgiven, feel exhilerated, feel anything. In fact, we can be suffering the worst emotional stress and turmoil and yet know this forgiveness is ours because it is based on the bedrock of Christ, not the quicksand of our emotions.
Prayer Is Not an Instrument of Grace
We are not forgiven because we pray for forgiveness. Prayer is the fruit of salvation, not the cause of salvation. If we make prayer the Instrument of Grace, then how much is enough? Those who pray long and hard for assurance often find people who say, "Oh no, you are not really praying. You have to pray in tongues, like the Apostles. Then you will be an Apostle." From there they move to dancing in the Spirit, being slain in the Spirit, sacred laughter, and miraculous golden dental work. (No joking.) And they raise the dead (but on another continent).
Not from Membership
We are not forgiven because we belong to the right organization. Sadly, people are taught put their trust in a man-made organization, to worship it a infallible, and to assume the leaders make all their decisions with perfect divine guidance. I am not just talking about the Wisconsin Synod. The Church of Rome is just as bad, perhaps worse.
We are not forgiven because we are perfect. All the forms of Pietism emphasize works and outward performance of religious duties (but indifference about doctrine). Teaching perfection will always create Pharisees who see themselves as without sin or people in despair. Not surprising, the Mormons pretend to be perfect and suffer from the highest emotional stress, measured in many different ways.
Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:
Thursday, December 27, 2007
Waldo Werning was also invited to the 2005 Church and Change conference, as well as Kent Hunter.
As I said to several WELS and CLC pastors, "I think the Indians have us surrounded, Tonto." Each one said, eventually, "What do you mean US?"
In searching for a photo of Werning, who must be 90 years old, I found this information from a district of the ELCA. Three of the authors are Fuller Seminary Church Growth gurus of the worst sort. I imagine the unknowns on the list are clones.
Regular evaluations serve the purpose of keeping congregations on course with their missional objectives. The following resources and sample evaluations can provide a beginning for your congregation to fine tune its ministries to be in line with its missional objectives. They can also assist congregations with established evaluation patterns to keep their processes moving and growing as contexts change and new missional opportunities present themselves.
Avery, William O., Revitalizing Congregations, Alban, 2002
Easum, Wiliam, Growing Spiritual Redwoods, Abingdon, 1997
*Barna George, Habits of Highly Effective Churches, Regal, 1999
Branson, Mark Lou, Memories, Hopes, and Conversations, Alban, 2004
Cahallan, Kathleen A., Projects That Matter: Successful Planning and Evaluation for Religious Organizations, Alban, 2003
Ferguson, Dave, The Big Idea, Zondervan, 2007
Foss, Michael, Power Surge, Fortress, 2000
Foss, Michael, A Servant’s Christian Leadership Manual For Tomorrow, Fortress, 2002
Goodwin, Steven, Catching the Next Wave: Leadership Strategies for Turn-Around Congregations, Augsburg, 1999
Herrington, Jim, Leading Congregational Change, Josey-Bass, 2000
*Kallestad, Walt, Turn Your Church Inside Out, Augsburg, 2001
Mann, Alice, Raising the Roof: The Pastoral-to-Program Size Transition, Alban, 2002
Mann, Alice, Can Our Church Live? Redeveloping Churches in Decline, Alban, 1999
Minatrea, Milfred, Shaped By God’s Heart: The Passion and Practices of Missional Churches, Josey-Bass, 2004
Nessan, Craig L., Beyond Maintenance to Mission: A Theology of the Congregation, Fortress, 1999
Oswald, Roy M., Discerning Your Congregation’s Future; A Strategic and Spiritual Approach, Alban, 1996
Poling-Goldene, David, Discovering Hope; Building Vitality in Rural Congregations, Augsburg, 2001
Schwartz, Christian A., Color Your World with Natural Church Development, ChurchSmart, 2005
Senge, Peter M., The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of The Learning Organization, Currency-Doubleday,1990
Sitze, Bob, Not Trying Too Hard: New Basics for Sustainable Congregations, Alban, 2001
*Werning, Waldo, 12 Pillars of a Healthy Church, ChurchSmart, m2001
Wood, Gene, Leading Turnaround Churches, ChurchSmart, 2001
Walt Kallestad is the pioneer of Entertainment Evangelism in ELCA. He earned a D.Min. at Fuller Seminary, just like WELS' Larry Olson. Kallestad's church is Community of Joy in Phoenix. I went there with Mrs. Ichabod. We were appalled.
Werning, like Valleskey and Bivens, has affirmed and denied his study at Fuller Seminary. I assume he went there but did not inhale. His books are derived, if not outright copied, from Fuller Seminary. He recently got an award from his pals at the beehive. WELS is still using his materials.
Barna's book title is derived from Covey's. How original. Barna is the official mascot of Fuller Seminary. He loves them. They quote him. The Lutheran synods (ELCA-WELS-LCMS) quote him as if he just came down from Mt. Sinai.
I added an asterisk to the people clearly identified with Fuller Seminary and the Church Growth Movement. Does anyone wonder why ELCA pastors are joining the Eastern Orthodox and the Church of Rome?
rlschultz has left a new comment on your post "Enough To Make Me Eastern Orthodox, If I Were ELCA...":
Occasionally, readers here at Ichabod ask you to substantiate a claim that you make. Yes, WELS is still using Waldo Werning's material. I can back that statement up as my WELS congregation recently used "Your Service and Giving - It's All About God and You!" in our latest stewardship drive. The leaders used the guide "Ambassador Briefing". Both can be found at http://www.healthychurch.com/bookdesc.htm#GROUP
This is Werning's website to obtain the discipling materials.
Where's Waldo? - In a WELS Ambassador Briefing.
GJ - Occasionally? Daily the same person ignores a mountain of evidence and says the same thing. Funny, he is always anonymous while the pleasant communications are always signed.
START OF VERBATIM QUOTATION FROM CHRISTIAN CONCERNS
Quantum Spirituality: A Postmodern Apologetic
by Leonard Sweet
Quotes from the book
Quantum Spirituality is available as a free download from Leonard Sweet's web site, here: http://www.leonardsweet.com/Quantum/index.asp
Leonard Sweet is scheduled as the keynote speaker for the (sort of WELS) Church & Change 2005 conference to be held in November.
As the book is described at Leonardsweet.com:
Already called "a spirituality classic," Quantum Spirituality: A Postmodern Apologetic is the book that launched what today is called "postmodern publishing" as well as Len's ministry to postmodern culture. A book written in a circle, the reader is invited to begin anywhere, stop anytime, and end wherever. This was Len's "coming out" book as a postmodern disciple after his 1987 knockdown, drag-out Damascus Road encounter with God, who (as he describes it) "knocked me off my high academic horse and said, 'Sweet, are you going to get a mission for the world you wish you had or the world that's actually out there.'
The author of this web page will have comments written in red. The black, in general, are quotes from the book, Quantum Spirituality: A Postmodern Apologetic. The page numbers are listed with Sweet's page numbers first and the pdf file page numbers in parenthesis. Extra commentary from other web sites appears in purple. I will keep my own commentary to a minimum, as I believe the book speaks for itself, if you can wade through its rhetoric. I encourage you to download the book and read it for yourself. It is somewhat challenging, as the author sometimes intentionally hides what he's really saying. And, in between the few clear statements are words, words, words.
He begins by saying that he wants to start a "New Light Movement" as a Christian alternative to the New Age movement. The book tries to use modern physics (quantum physics) to show that the mystics had it right all along.
NOTE: This page doesn't read well in Netscape, for some reason. If that is your normal browser, try using Microsoft Explorer instead.
New Light Movement
P 1 (1) The Christian mind is failing to comprehend the times, our times. The New Light apologetic chronicled in this book is devoted to enfranchising and energizing Christians to connect their faith with the indigenous historical place in which God has chosen them to live. It aims to jolt Christians into a sense of their own time, out of their fashionable out-of-itness. For the God who exists beyond time is the God who lives, moves, and has being in this time.
P 7 (5) The nascence of this hermeneutical consciousness, or what Max L. Stackhouse would call a "metaphysical-moral vision,"24 I am calling the New Light apologetic. It is already present in bits and pieces, here and there in this discipline and that discipline, in this denomination and that denomination, in this thinker and that thinker. The NewLight apologetic represents a Christian alternative to the largely Old Light "New Age"movement.
P 7 (5) The emergence of this New Light apologetic is a harbinger and hope that anew, age-old world is aborning in the church, even that the church may now be on the edge of another awakening. Amidst all the cliffhanging circumstances and conditions of the church, the Spirit is at work. All around there is evidence that the church is learning to dance to a new rhythm, to adapt the metaphor of Harvard Business School professor/economist Rosabeth Moss Kanter. The New Light movement is characterized by bizarre, sometimes anxious alliances of a ragbag assortment of preachers, theologians, pastors, professors, artists, scientists, business leaders, and scholars. What ties their creative piracy together is a radical faith commit ment that is willing to dance to a new rhythm.
P 117 (84) The danger of evaporating the individual self in the "wholeness" of the group is one of the key differences between the New Age movement and the New Light movement. Please take note of this sentence. The difference is not that one is true Christianity based on a crucified savior who died and rose again and that one is New Age. No, the difference is that the individual is not lost in the group!!!!! Understand what he's saying here. He is saying, as he said on page 7 (5), that his brand of spirituality is "Christianized" New Age! Both reject individualism. But New Age posits in its place a cosmic Oneness. Fritjof Capra celebrates the time when "all individuality dissolves into universal and differentiated oneness." Hence the New Age madness of "You are god." Not so New Lights. The Christian tradition has invested heavily in the process of individual identity formation. It never sacrifices the individual for the community. Indeed, individuals often have access to deeper truths than the established authorities and larger communities. But this access is combined with, not opposed to, membership in the community. Community deepens and harmonizes the individuality of each member. Mathematician/philosopher Alfred North Whitehead pointed this out in his illustration of the cathedral of Chartres, whose sculptured figures on the cathedral porch retain their individuality while adding beauty to the whole.
p. 123 (88) Communities have souls, not just individuals. The modern era downplayed a biblical doctrine of salvation that had this communal dimension. In contrast, the New Light movement is concerned about the salvation of ensouled communities as well as individual souls, and the salvation of community souls relating synergistically to one another.
P 124 (89) Second, New Light embodiment means to be "in connection" and "information" with all of creation. New Light communities extend the sense of connectionalism to creation and see themselves as members of an ecological community encompassing the whole of creation. "This is my body" is not an anthropocentric metaphor. Theologian/feminist critic Sallie McFague has argued persuasively for seeing Earth, in a very real sense, as much as a part of the body of Christ as humans. This book takes much of its "theology" from quantum physics, which theorizes that at the subatomic level, particles somehow are everywhere all at once. They are so small that they lose their locality. They seem to somehow be in "communication" with every other particle in the universe. Because these particles make up everything, and seem to be completely connected to each other in some way, they've earned the nickname "god particles." Sweet feels that modern science validates the idea that God is IN everything. God is IN the rock. God is IN the tree - a very weak distinction from typical pantheism, which says God IS the rock. God IS the tree.
P 124 (89) Second, New Light embodiment means to be "in connection" and "information" with all of creation. New Light communities extend the sense of connectionalism to creation and see themselves as members of an ecological community encompassing the whole of creation. "This is my body" is not an anthropocentric metaphor. Theologian/feminist critic Sallie McFague has argued persuasively for seeing Earth, in a very real sense, as much as a part of the body of Christ as humans.65 We are all earthlings. Indeed, in the biblical view of creation human earthlings do not stand at the apex of God's handiwork. Above us are the angels. The medieval great chain of being preserved this emphasis by placing humans at the midpoint, not at the peak. The world of nature has an identity and purpose apart from human benefit. But we constitute together a cosmic body of Christ.66
(p 195) The footnote: 66. Sec Matthew Fox, The Cosmic Christ: The Coming of the Cosmic Christ: The Healing of Mother Earth and the Birth of a Global Renaissance (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1988).
Here, he gives credit for this idea to Matthew Fox's book, The Coming of the Cosmic Christ. Here is a review of that book at Amazon.com:
Uniting mysticism and spiritual development with ethical and exemplary witness, the "creation spirituality" articulated by Matthew Fox presents an inspiring vision of an alternative Christianity for the postmodern world. Freeing himself from the chains of stale Christian dogma while protesting the cold emptiness of agnostic modernism, Fox fashions a theology and spirituality that combines mysticism with a "first world" liberation theology. Fox is a panentheist, experiencing the Divine in all of nature and humanity. The Cosmic Christ is that incarnation of God in the universe and especially in Mother Earth. He develops a relevant, postmodern interpretation of the Paschal Mystery, imaging Mother Earth as Christ crucified, resurrected, and come again. Fox's union of mysticism, science, and art, and the four spiritual paths he outlined in "Original Blessing" open up individual and communal possibilities for a spirituality that is inwardly personal and contemplative, yet outwardly driven by justice and compassion. If you want to reconnect to a progressive Christianity, this book ties together ethics, myth, and theology like no other.
More on Fox's beliefs, here: http://www.faithnet.org.uk/Theology/cosmicchrist.htm
Fox believes we need to embrace a new cosmology; one that is built on the foundations of modern science but one which also includes a mystical awareness of the interconnectedness of all things. This new 'cosmology' will be expressed largely through art (creativity). (This is also what Leonard Sweet suggests)
Fox believes we are out of touch with the planet (we have forgotten our 'original blessing' of 'healthy soil, living forests, singing birds, clean waters and healthy DNA in our reproductive systems' (Fox p.17)), and ourselves. The symptoms of this can be seen in the following ways:
MOTHER EARTH IS DYING (As discussed above)
THE MYSTICAL BRAIN IS DYING (We currently value 'left-brain' activity (analytic and verbal reasoning) more than 'right-brain' activites (synthetic, sensual and mystical tasks). Both left and right brain activities need to embraced (and valued), in all aspects of society.)
CREATIVITY IS DYING (Human imagination and creativity need to be reawakened. Imagination is an important part of finding solutions to our current problems ('The left-brain cannot go it alone!' (Fox p.21).)
WISDOM IS DYING (We need to listen to all the earth's wisdom. We must move away from a 'parts-mentality' (E.g. We only study sociology or psychology or science or art or maths or religion). Ignoring the 'mystical brain' means, 'No attempt at integration, or the understanding of the whole that is wisdom, is made (Fox p.22).)
THE YOUTH ARE DYING (Young people have often been ignored when decisions have been needed to be made in society but they have an important part to play in the world. The child in society and in ourselves needs to be acknowledged and embraced as an important part of the whole. Adultism is currently killing the planet; the young are bored, disillusioned and despair at their future.)
NATIVE PEOPLES, THEIR RELIGIONS AND CULTURES ARE DYING (Colonial exploitation and Christian missionary activity have gradually destroyed the cultures of those who celebrated the earth and lived in harmony with it ('They have been robbed of their own cosmology by a white society and religion that felt it had outgrown cosmology' (Fox p.26). Much wisdom has been lost in the process.)
MOTHER CHURCH IS DYING (Christian fundamentalism (patriarchy) has killed the 'mother' in us all by devaluing the body (the earth) and the mystical traditions within the Church ('It is dying on top of its own treasure of mystics and prophets, of good news and wisdom stories' (Fox p.28)). Much of what constitutes religion has become authoritarian (a slave to creeds) and unwilling to allow the mystic within us all to take it beyond fundamentalism and matricide.)
MOTHER LOVE (COMPASSION) IS DYING (We need to be compassionate as God is compassionate.The Church needs to be 'born again' into the spirit of the Cosmic Christ ('... an awakening of passion with God and in all God's creation and children, especially the suffering ones... a shared interdependence , an intuition of and sense of awe for the wondrous fact that we all live and swim in one primordial womb' (Fox p.32). Mystical experience (notably silence/reflection) is vital for achieving this.)
OUR MOTHER EARTH IS DYING BUT NOT DEAD (Things are bad but our 'mother' is not dead - yet. Whether things get better depends on our ability to change)
The solution to these problems is 'mysticism' (the ability to reflect on the wider aspects of life (and not simply a withdrawal into solitude!)). Fox calls mysticism a 'resurrection story for our time'. Just as Jesus died and rose again so we can begin a 'new life' with each other and the world (and through this give 'life' to a dying world). Just as the earth is our 'mother' (she gave 'birth' to us), so we are the womb of God, the place where the Cosmic Christ can be 'born' in the world. Fox believes mysticism has been largely ignored in the Christian Church because the emphasis has generally been on 'left brain' activity (dogma/creeds), rather than the more experiential facets of understanding, and relating to God, the world and each other. As such, the Christian faith has lost much of its life and vitality. Fox also believes Christians have forgotten (or ignored) the mystical aspects of Jesus' message in that he taught God's Kingdom on earth now and developed in people compassion, awe, affirmation of the world as a whole, employed his right brain, was self-critical, developed heart knowledge, was a feminist, was a panentheist (God in all; all in God), used birthing images, used silence, experienced darkness/nothingness and was a 'child at play'.
These are Matthew Fox's beliefs. Please note how very, VERY, New Age this is. This is what Sweet is endorsing!!
P 124 (89) In an ecological model of the church, the earth is not separate from us; indeed, we are in symbiotic relationship with the earth. Creation spirituality is of tremendous help here in weaning us from this homocentric warp.67
(p195) The footnote shown above: 67. Books on creation spirituality include Matthew Fox, Original Blessing: A Primer in Creation Spirituality Presented in Four Parts, Twenty-six Themes, and Two Questions (Santa Fe, N.M.: Bear and Company, 1983); Fox, Creation Spiuiutality: Liberating Gifts for the Peoples of the Earth (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1990); Ron Miller and Jim Kenney, Fireball and the Lotus: Emerging Spirituality from Ancient Roots, Santa Fe, N.M.: Bear and Company, 1987). See also other volumes in the Creation Spirituality Series published by Bear and Company issues of Creation. A Magazine of Earthly Spirituality for an Evolving Planet published by Friends of Creation Spirituality and other resources available from Friends of Creation Spirituality, P.O. Box 19216, Oakland, CA 94619.
This is Matthew Fox, again - with the idea of the coming Cosmic Christ. He advocates the idea of panentheism, which Sweet picks up on and endorses (see below). Do you understand the implications of his endorsement of Creation Spirituality?
P 124 (89) So woven together are the destinies of heaven and earth that it is impossible for us to sin against one part of the body without doing damage to the whole body. No one suffers alone, as Pythagoras perceived when he said that if there is but one suffering soul in the universe, all other souls will be affected with suffering until that one suffering soul is restored to health. An ecological model of community is something on which even sociobiologists can agree with Christians. Edward 0. Wilson argues that we humans require life around us, that we cannot do without the living world any more than we can do without food or sleep, because our ancestors who survived were the ones who harmonized with what was around them. With nothing around us, we die.
Quantum spirituality bonds us to all creation as well as to other members of the human family. New Light pastors are what Arthur Peacocke calls "priests of creation"--earth ministers who can relate the realm of nature to God, who can help nurture a brother-sister relationship with the living organism called Planet Earth. This entails a radical doctrine of embodiment of God in the very substance of creation. (This is completely New Age!!!)
See the following sources for more understanding of Creation Spirituality:
Matthew Fox's CreationSpirituality.com
What is Creation Spirituality? from here: http://theoblogical.org/dlature/itseminary/creaspir/whatis1.html
Ten Principles of Creation Spirituality from here: http://www.tumc.org/csprinciples.html
1. The universe is a blessing, that is, something God created and we experience as "very good." (not cursed - no sin of Adam)
2. Humans need to relate to the universe as a whole as we are a microcosm of that macrocosm.
3. Everyone is a mystic, born full of wonder and capable of recovering it at any age and of not taking the awe and wonder of existence for granted.
4. Everyone is a prophet, a 'mystic in action' who is called to interfere with what interrupts authentic life. We are called to the margins of the status quo to interrupt systems that marginalize other humans, creatures and our Father, the Earth.
5. Everyone is an artist. Art as meditation is a primary form of prayer for releasing our images and empowering the community and each of us. Art finds its fulfillment in ritual, the community's art.
6. Everyone and everything expresses divinity. All humans are all children of God; therefore, we have Divine blood in our veins and the Divine breath in our lungs; and the basic work of God is Compassion.
7. Divinity is as much Mother as Father, as much Child as Parent, as much Godhead [mystery] as God [history], as much beyond all beings as in all beings.
8. We experience the Divine in all things and all things are in the Divine. This mystical experience supplants the experience of the Divine as separate and unattainable.
9. Humans have to dig and work at finding the deep self, the true self, the spirit self. This is the spiritual journey. It is not so much about "adding on" as it is "letting go." If we do not undergo the spiritual journey, we live superficially out of fear or greed or addiction or someone else's expectations of us.
10. The spiritual journey is an ever-expanding spiral encompassing four paths.
Via Positiva: Befriending Creation - wonder, delight, revelry Via Negativa: Befriending Darkness - emptiness, sinking, suffering Via Creativa: Befriending Our Sacredness - creating, awakening, birthing Via Transformativa: Befriending New Creation - coming home, doing, justice
Endorsement of Creation Spirituality is present in the United Methodist Church (Leonard Sweet is a leader in the United Methodist Church), as in Trinity United Methodist Church's Statement Regarding Creation Spirituality here: http://www.tumc.org/creation.html
Trinity's clergy support Creation Spirituality, a movement that draws on ancient spiritual traditions and contemporary science to awaken authentic mysticism, revitalize Christianity and Western culture, and promote social and ecological justice. Creation Spirituality teaches that God permeates all things and that humanity is created blessed, not tainted by original sin.
Panentheism (As in Creation Spirituality, above)
P 124 (89) The OxfordDictionary of the Christian Church (1974) identifies the difference between pantheism and panentheism: Pantheism is "the belief or theory that God and the universe are identical"; panentheism is "the belief that the Being of God includes and penetrates the whole universe, so that every part of it exists in Him, but. . . that His Being is more than, and is not exhausted by, the Universe." New Light spirituality does more than settle for the created order, as many forms of New Age pantheism do. But a spirituality that is not in some way entheistic (whether pan- or trans-), that does not extend to the spirit-matter of thecosmos, is not Christian. A quantum spirituality can in no way define God out of existence. (He denies pantheism - everything is God - in favor of a slightly different idea that we are all IN God. This term - panantheism - is what Matthew Fox uses. You saw above the endorsement of Fox's ideas. I strongly encourage you to download Sweet's book and read this for yourself)
Panentheism is further explained here: http://www.websyte.com/alan/pan.htm
This universal arrangement is not pantheism (all is God), but panentheism, a term devised by Karl C. F. Krause (1781-1832) to describe his thought. It is best known for its use by Charles Hartshorne and recently by Matthew Fox. Panentheism says that all is in God, somewhat as if God were the ocean and we were fish. If one considers what is in God's body to be part of God, then we can say that God is all there is and then some. The universe is God's body, (remember above, where he was arguing that the earth is Christ's body) but God's awareness or personality is greater than the sum of all the parts of the universe. All the parts have some degree of freedom in co-creating with God. At the start of its momentary career as a subject, an experience is God--as the divine initial aim. As the experience carries on its choosing process, it is a freely aiming reality that is not strictly God, since it departs from God's purpose to some degree. Yet everything is within God.
Panentheism gives all that one could want: an all-encompassing, growing, perfect God, everywhere present and containing everywhere within himself; and the reality of oneself and others, freely deciding within God, responding to God's overtures in the process of co-creation. Theism denies that the world (including us) shares in God's being. Panentheism recognizes that everything shares God's being (or becoming) but that God's being operates from innumerable relatively freely-choosing centers or perspectives of existence. God and the world, which is God's body, are interdependent.
Or from this Christianity Today article: What you need to know about New Age beliefs:
New Age spirituality says: God is either in all things or he is all things.
Christianity says: "For by him all things were created ... all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together" (Col. 1:16-17). We worship the Creator, not what he's created (Rom. 1:25).
Be wary of: Panentheism, which says "God is in the tree," or pantheism, which says "God is the tree," as opposed to theism (Christianity), which says "God created the tree and holds it together by his power."
New Age spirituality says: We're on a continual journey to "know all" by achieving cosmic consciousness (also referred to as Nirvana, "going clear," Christ-consciousness, individual divinity, or fulfilling the dharma).
Please note that "Christ Consciousness" is a New Age term and has been used for many years. If Sweet meant something orthodox by this, he should have explained himself fully. Instead, he endorses the men who have blatantly used this term to refer to a Gnostic "Christ."
P. 48 (38)New Lights offer up themselves as the cosmions of a mind-of-Christ consciousness. As a cosmion incarnating the cells of a new body, New Lights will function as transitional vessels through which transforming energy can renew the divine image in the world, moving postmoderns from one state of embodiment to another.86
(p179) Footnote: 86. I am grateful to David Spangler for his help in formulating this "new cell" understanding of New Light leadership.
David Spangler is a prominant New Ager. Here is one of his quotes from here:
David Spangler, for instance, has stated: Christ is the same force as Lucifer... Lucifer prepares man for the experience of Christhood. (He is) the great initiator.... Lucifer works within each of us to bring us to wholeness, and as we move into a New Age ... each of us in some way is brought to that point which I term the Luciferic Initiation ... for it is an invitation into the New Age. (David Spangler, Reflections on the Christ p.44-45)
And, David Spangler according to Britannica Online
New Age movement : Birth of the movement
In 1970 American theosophist David Spangler moved to the Findhorn Foundation, where he developed the fundamental idea of the New Age movement. He believed that the release of new waves of spiritual energy, signaled by certain astrological changes (e.g., the movement of the Earth into a new cycle known as the Age of Aquarius), had initiated the coming of the New Age.
Sweet also quotes & endorses Spangler here:
P 232 (143) Only when the paranormal and spiritual combine in ways that foster ethical and philosophical development "of the highest order," as metaphysician/author David Spangler puts it, will the differences be illuminated between "psychism and mysticism, information and insight, knowledge and wisdom, and sell-development and service."42
(p 212) Footnote: 42. Private correspondence between the author and David Spangler.
P 63 (47) Metanoia can mean, literally, "after thought." What metanoia does is turn our minds after the mind of God, transform our consciousness so that it is connected to the divine consciousness, tune us into a logos logic. In other words, metanoia enables a metanoized self to think God's afterthoughts. Metanoia bestows on the believer a Logos-Christ consciousness, a logos logic that is based not on dialectic and struggle, but on harmony and wholeness.
P 70 (53) Faith is the synergy of the most powerful united fields in the universe--reason and emotion, mind and body, cognition and action, theory and practice, object and subject, spirit and matter, spiritual and physical senses --working together to form Christ consciousness experiences. Faith makes a metanoized mulch of all dichotomized selves and heals all discursive dualisms (one of the worst of which was "sacred" and "profane"), all disastrous separations that threaten our existence.
P. 71 (53) Quantum spirituality is more than a structure of the intellect; it is more than a structure of emotion; it is more than a structure of human being. It is most importantly a structure of human becoming, a channeling of Christ energies through mindbody experience.
P 74 (55) A stranger approached a little boy flying a kite so high it was out of sight. "What are you doing?" the stranger asked. "I'm flying a kite," the boy replied. "How do you know there is a kite?" "I can feel the pull of it" was the reply. How do we know there is a living Christ in a postmodern world? We can sense the pull of the Christ consciousness. We can experience the depths, the energy, the ecstasy of life. We can see his face in the faces of those we touch, as Jacob was the first to notice: "To see your face is like seeing the face of God" (Gen. 33:10 RSV). Postmoderns feel in order to think. Partly for this reason postmodern theological understandings need to be built on aesthetic categories, the most basic of which is beauty. Thirteenth-century scholastic philosopher/theologian/saint Thomas Aquinas defined beauty as a triangle of three interlocking, interacting components: radiance, harmony, and wholeness.
P 77 ( 58) New Light believers are a people possessed, bursting with energy that comes from a sensual experience of God's presence--and absence. New Light believers are a possessed people: Possessed by a higher power, possessed by a Christ consciousness that is a heartfelt knowledge of God's love and forgiveness; possessed by a "sober intoxication" (in the early words of Jewish philosopher/community leader Philo of Alexandria), even a "divine intoxication" (in the words of New England poet Emily Dickinson).
P 123 (88) The church is fundamentally one being, one person, a communion whose cells are connected to one another within the information network called the Christ consciousness. No congregation or denomination can go it alone in being the body of Christ. No congregation or denomination is accountable only to itself. To be "in connection" and "in-formation" is to be related to other Christians and the shared culture of all Christians and to grow a set of organic relationships and coalitions around a common love for God and a common desire to do what Jesus did and go where Jesus went.
P 148 (105) The power of small groups is in their ability to develop the discipline to get people "in-phase" with the Christ consciousness and connected with one another.
P 278 (237) The New Age movement tells postmodern culture that all people have within them what it takes to get them through life- their mind power, their higher consciousness, their "getting in touch with themselves" is going to do it for them. "Wrong!", to quote country-western singer/guitarist/composer Waylon Jennings. It is Christ's power, the Christ consciousness, our getting in touch with who Christ is, that is going to do it for us.
What, exactly, does Sweet mean by Christ Consciousness? Could he mean something completely orthodox? Given the number of times he quotes and endorses Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (see below), it seems very unlikely - especially given his endorsement of Fox's Cosmic Christ, which is along the same lines. Matthew Fox also argued for the Christ Consciousness. You can find a number of interesting articles here.
What is Christ Consciousness?: "THE HERMETIC MYSTERY OF CHRIST"
In the context of hermetic and metaphysical philosophy, what do we mean by the words Cosmic Christ? In addition to this and mystically, what does the essence of Christ represent? We have to understand that the essence and nature of the Cosmic Christ is universal and beyond the scope of any kind of investigation because in itself it is not and never will be a personality, something that can be objectively proven due to the fact that it has never been an individualized Energy. How could it be? The Essence of the Cosmic Christ is simply the REGENERATIVE and RECONCILING aspect of the force of pure Being and the Soul Essence within each one of us. Hence in itself, it represents the unfolding energy of wholeness in human nature. In other words, Christ Energy is a divine Energy that brings and blends together the essence of Soul and Spirit within each one of us (to use a symbolic image, we could say that Christ Energy brings together and "marries" the Permanent and Spiritual Witnesses within each individual.
Edgar Cayce On The Christ Consciousness
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (known as the father of the modern New Age movement)
P 25 (20)Every age proclaims itself in one way or another at the "turning point in history," a turnpike of accelerated change on which everyone is undergoing a "crisis in meaning" or a "crisis in consciousness." We can all get a little too pleased with our knowledge, with our place in history, with our living, as Eve is supposed to have said to Adam as they left Eden, "in a time of great transition." Paleontologist/geologist/philosopher/Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, however, argues that there are times when humanity is actually perched on some chronological fulcrum: "But there are moments when this impression of transformation becomes accentuated and is thus particularly justified."
P 60 (46) Great souls have depth, and begin in depth. As early as 500 B.C., the pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus, the first to use Logos as a term for the underlying coherence of the cosmos, brought together spirit and the depth dimension in his concept of "the deep": "You could not discover the limits of the soul [psychel] even if you traveled every road so deep is its measure [logos]." Quantum spirituality does more than join together as one two words in all their complexity and nuance: energymatter, mindbody, spiritmatter (as Teilhard de Chardin called it). It also argues that the deep matters of faith begin in the realization of what Albert Einstein called "the law of the equivalence of mass and energy."
P 106 (76) God makes things make themselves. Twentieth-century Christianity's major voice/philosopher/geologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
P 113 (81) Christian identity is multidimensional. Embodiment works both ways, including both individuation and aggregation, personity (as it were) built out of community, a yoking and splitting that Teilhard de Chardin called not only compatible but inseparable. In the words of biblical scholar Robin Scroggs, "The individual is not complete apart from the community; the community suffers loss if an individual leaves or does not participate."41 (Robin Scroggs is a very liberal theologian, as are nearly all the theologians that Sweet quotes)
p 226 (139) One is ready for threshold experiences when there appear on one's list things that are truly breathtakingly wonder-full, such the wonder of who you are (Augustine said, "Man himself is a greater wonder than any wonder done through his instrumentality"), human consciousness (Pierre Teilhard de Chardin accorded the awe-inspiring phenomenon of consciousness the deepest religious significance), a tree (World War I casualty/poet Joyce Kilmer's first pick), the big voice of a little cricket, West Virginia, unselfishness, and God's continuing love.
P 259 (162) Something can be all new, yet nothing of the old be lost. The Christian tradition of old-new thoughts mandates a strict diet of "re-" words, preferring instead the prefix "in-" á la "inscendence" (Thomas Berry's version of "transcendence") and "involution" (a substitute for revolution first encountered in Teilhard de Chardin's diary dated 12 November 1919). The Third Testament is thus no simple extrapolation of the First and Second Testaments into the future, but a divine inbreaking into the historical moment through which Alpha beginnings and Omega endings (see below) converge. The Third Testament is everything new about the old, old story. Or in Teilhard's more mystical phrasings, a "descendent divine involution" combining with the "ascendent cosmic evolution." Please note that Sweet is endorsing Teilhard de Chardin's cosmic evolution theory!! See below.
"Quantum Spirituality" by Leonard Sweet is basically a re-working of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin's philosophy. It's more obscure than Teilhard, but if you dig into the way that Sweet uses the language, it's basically the same thing. He is combining modern Science with Christian terminology to explain his idea of God being in everything. As he said, his "New Light apologetic" was a Christian alternative to the New Age Movement. Also, as you see above, he seems to be endorsing the idea of a coming evolutionary "Omega Point."
Teilhard de Chardin's Evolutionary Philosophy from here: http://www.kheper.net/topics/Teilhard/Teilhard-evolution.htm
According to Teilhard, Consciousness and Matter are aspects of the same reality, and are called the "Within" and the "Without" respectively. Evolution is the steady increase in the "Within" or degree of consciousness and complexity, through a number of successive stages: the various grades of inanimate matter; life or the "Biosphere"; man or thought or mind, the "Noosphere" (Teilhard's cosmology reflects the Christian anthropocentric bias in having man as the first species capable of self-reflective thought); and finally the uniting of all humans in a single Divine Christ-consciousness.
Teilhard thus follows the evolutionist understanding of an evolutionary progression from inanimate matter through primitive life and invertebrates to fish, amphibia, reptiles, mammals, and finally man; always an increase in consciousness. With man a threshhold is crossed - self-conscious thought, or mind, appears. But even humans do not represent the end-point of evolution, for this process will continue until all humans are united in a single Divine Christ-consciousness, the "Omega Point"
TEILHARD, DARWIN, AND THE COSMIC CHRIST from here: http://www.trosch.org/for/teilhard-keene99l.htm
Teilhard (1881-1955) taught that humanity is evolving into another form, and that "all that arises; converges". Humanity, he said, is converging toward an Omega point, at which collective consciousness will find a new unity. According to Teilhard, Christ is the force behind a collective "Christ consciousness" of Man, which will culminate in the emergence of a "Cosmic Christ" - the true parousia.
Teilhard de Chardin and the Omega Point: An excerpt from the Encyclopedia Britannica from here:
Teilhard's attempts to combine Christian thought with modern science and traditional philosophy aroused widespread interest and controversy when his writings were published in the 1950s. Teilhard aimed at a metaphysic of evolution, holding that it was a process converging toward a final unity that he called the Omega point.
View of the Bible
p. 257 (161) The Word of God is not to be exclusively identified with the words of the Bible.
259 (162) The message of Jesus is so profound that the world is still deciphering it thousands of years later. God's purposes are veiled and understood only "in the fullness of time." Truth often unfolds as slowly as a symphony. A note struck early on might be picked up much later and developed fully even later than that. The music of truth may take centuries to play itself out. Not all of God's communications are released overnight. Indeed, many of them may be in the process of being created as we go along.
Pagan/New Age Ideas
P141 (101) In the modern era worship was demystified and denatured. Postmoderns are driven by desire to explore and celebrate an ever-deepening intimacy with the Great Mystery that is the universe. Liturgies of the earth--fire, land, wind, and water--can restore the biological and physical rhythms of the planet to our computer-programmed consciousness. Outdoor earth rituals can also provide worshipers with experiences of connectedness to all earthlings: What the Sioux Indians call the creeping people, the standing people, the flying people, and the swimming people. All earthlings must be incorporated into the body of Christ in more ways than just through the "blessing of the animals." We must find ritual ways to make earthlings' presence felt, their participation solicited, their voices heard, if the ideal of ecological worship is to be realized.
P. 300 (254)
7. Stand in front of a picture of a family member who has died. Recall joyful memories of them and laugh. With the breath you took for that laugh, your loved one literally became a part of you. In every breath there are more than a million atoms breathed personally at one time or another by every breathing earthling that has ever lived.
8. Hold your Bible and breathe meditatively. (This is nothing less than Transcendental Meditation - the type of meditation designed to get you to an "altered state" where you become aware of the one-ness of everything) The breathtaking, nay, breathgiving truth of aliveness is more than Methuselean in its span: Part of your body right now was once actually, literally part of the body of Abraham, Sarah, Noah, Esther, David, Abigail, Moses, Ruth, Matthew, Mary, Li ke, Martha, John, Priscilla, Paul... and Jesus.
9. Keep breathing quietly while holding your Bible. You have within you not just the powers of goodness resident in the great spiritual leaders like Moses, Jesus, Muhammed, Lao Tzu. You also have within you the forces of evil and destruction. The youthful comrade and confidant of Joan of Arc was Gilles de Rais, a marshall of France and one of the wealthiest men in Europe, who was condemned to the stake in 1440 for the crimes of witchcraft, heresy, sodomy, and the sexual abuse and murder of over 140 children. Resident in each breath you take is the body of angels like Joan of Arc and devils like Gilles de Rais, Genghis Khan, Judas Iscariot, Herod, Hitler, Stalin and all the other destructive spirits throughout history.
10. Gather a group together for a Navajo breathing ceremony. Stand in a circle, everyone facing the center of the circle. If there are any present in special need of prayer, ask them to "center" the circle. Place your hands in the center of the backs of those standing on either side of you and observe silence. Get in touch with one anothers' breathing patterns. Now breathe together as a circle, bending the knees slightly as you inhale, straightening up as you exhale. Keep doing this until the circle becomes one breath.
P 125 (90) Third, New Light embodiment means to be "in connection" and "information" with ancestors and ancestral memories. One of the most significant things that can be said about New Lights is that they know their ancestors--not in the name of individual fulfillment, as in so much New Age raijing and raping of others' religious traditions (while at the same time reaping little benefit from its own) but for the sake of communal identity and integrity. In the same way earth is now receiving light from that Big-Bang moment when the stars first clapped together, so the church must allow in light from its first ancestors, who have now become as numerous as the stars. In the doctrine that Jesus "descended to the dead," the early Christians extended the gospel's boundless compassion even to those who had already died. The greatest Eastern Orthodox theologian of the twentieth century, Georges Florovsky calls this the church's "ecumenicity in time," which needs to exist alongside its "ecumenicity in space." Unfortunately, relations with the dead are no longer normative features of the church's existence. In earlier days we were able to make concrete connections in time though doctrines like purgatory, or the solemn reminder of the churchyard cemetery, or, in rarer cases, the coffins of prominent parishioners and lionized preachers buried under the sanctuary floor. The closest moderns came to extending connectionalism in time was on ETC Sundays (Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas) or memorial dedications, when bulletins listed who gave Easter lilies, Thanksgiving baskets, Christmas poinsettias, or memorial contributions--all of which inserted into sacred space an economic criteria for remembrance.
View of Other Religions
P 114 (82) All religions have something to do with the whole, the totality. Parts have no existence apart from wholes. In the modern era religions largely succumbed to the Enlightenment's fragmented, fetishistic love for the part. This is the essence of sin: Mistaking the part for the whole, or separating the part from the whole. Sin is falling into the trap of synecdoche--taking a part for the whole (pars pro toto) or the whole for the part (totum pro parte), the sin of individualism and the sin of collectivism.
P 130 (93) Modern nuclear families "stew in their own juice," as process theologian/Anglican priest Norman Pittenger puts it; so too do modern nuclear congregations. We must enlarge the family circle if our churches are to become nuclear-free zones. Just as physicists cannot understand truth by one model alone--that is, either the wave nature of light or the particle nature of light--so one model may not suffice to understand God completely. In fact, Bohr's Complimentarily Principle, which he used the yin/yang imbalances to symbolize, says that both features can't be brought into existence at the same time even though both are true. One can be a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ without denying the flickers of the sacred in followers of Yahweh, or Kali, or Krishna. (!!!!!)
P 130 (93) Fourth, New Light embodiment means to be "in connection" and "information" with other faiths. To be in-formation means to know each other's songs almost as well as one knows them oneself, and to enlarge the community to include those whose conceptions of God differ from ours in form. To be in connection means to be able to sing, not only selected stanzas, but all the verses.
P 131 (93) A globalization of evangelism "in connection" with others, and a globally "in-formed" gospel, (What, exactly, is a globally in-formed gospel?) is capable of talking across the fence with Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Muslim--people from other so called "new" religious traditions ("new" only to us)--without assumption of superiority and power. One Caribbean theologian has called this the "decolonization of theology."~ It will take a decolonized theology for Christians to appreciate the genuineness of others' faiths, and to see and celebrate what is good, beautiful, and true in their beliefs without any illusions that down deep we all are believers in the same thing.
P 131 (94) The interfaith embodiment of a quantum spirituality is based not on the Enlightenment search for what the world religions hold in common but on the multitudinousness and uniqueness of each particular vision of truth.
P 236 (146)A surprisingly central feature of all the world's religions is the language of light in communicating the divine and symbolizing the union of the human with the divine: Muhammed's light-filled cave, Moses' burning bush, Paul's blinding light, Fox's "inner light," Krishna's Lord of Light, Böhme's light-filled cobbler shop, Plotinus' fire experiences, Bodhisattvas with the flow of Kundalini's fire erupting from their fontanelles, and so on.53 Light is the common thread that ties together near-death experiences as they occur in various cultures.
Understanding of the True Gospel?
P 79 (59) It takes more than one "conversion experience" in life to keep up "passion-at-a-distance," to maintain a faith that effervesces from the depths of being and endures to the end. Multiple conversions and deep-flow experiences can arise from the curious, the consequential and the otherwise uncommon moments of life. This has no more, or no less, to do with salvation than the heart has to do with pumping lifeblood into the organism. Mega- and micro-flow experiences are what keep the fire of ecstasy alive, the pot boiling, the heart hot, the rapture alive. Of course, the subtlest form of "works righteousness" is the notion that we are "saved" by our religious experience. God has not redeemed us by doing something in us. God has redeemed us by doing something for us in the person of Jesus Christ. Grace is not a subjective event but an objective reality. Nevertheless, that objective reality takes on multidimensional life and power, polymathic vitality and victory, only when it is mediated, registered, claimed, and connected.
p. 80 (61) God did not send us a statement. God sent us a story. God did not send us love. God sent us God's only Son who loved. God did not send us a principle. God sent us a person who embodied those principles. Jesus did not say, "Follow the way." Jesus said, "I am the way" (John 14:6). The gospel is not the excitement of an idea (though it may begin that way). The gospel is the flow experience of a living person. The kingdom of God is not a place or a principle (which is what many physicists mean by "God"). The "kindom" of God is a person (Jesus Christ), and the "kindom" of God is a people (the Christbody community). We must have more than a principle within, regardless of what John Wesley's brother Charles's 1749 hymn says ("I Want a Principle Within"). We must have a person within. We must have a divine consciousness within. (We could agree with this if he meant the Holy Spirit - but given his other ideas, I'm not sure that's what he means)
P 114 (82) All religions have something to do with the whole, the totality. Parts have no existence apart from wholes. In the modern era religions largely succumbed to the Enlightenment's fragmented, fetishistic love for the part. This is the essence of sin: Mistaking the part for the whole, or separating the part from the whole. Sin is falling into the trap of synecdoche--taking a part for the whole (pars pro toto) or the whole for the part (totum pro parte), the sin of individualism and the sin of collectivism.
P 117 (84) The discovery of truth moved in the modern era toward the privacy of individual illumination and away from community, tradition, and authority. America's romance with "individual salvation," which maximized self-interest and dismembered spirituality, began with the Puritan heresy making the individual self, not the communal individual or the social self, the sole interpreter of God's word. Through his epistemology and ethics Immanuel Kant did more than almost any modern figure to enthrone the autonomous individual at the center of the universe.
P 123 (88) Communities have souls, not just individuals. The modern era downplayed a biblical doctrine of salvation that had this communal dimension. In contrast, the New Light movement is concerned about the salvation of ensouled communities as well as individual souls, and the salvation of community souls relating synergistically to one another.
These notes are not an attempt to be exhaustive, but just to give you the flavor of the book. Besides what I've mentioned, the book also goes into odd environmentalism, where Sweet attempts to prove that the First Commandment is not "You shall have no other gods before me" but "Care for the earth." He tries to show that Jesus is the four elements, Earth, Wind, Fire and Water, well known in paganism. There are several quotes from Thomas Merton, the Catholic mystic who became a Zen Buddhist and believed that any spiritual experience was a good one. There are also extensive footnotes, many of which read like a Who's Who of liberal theology and New Age spiritualism.
I believe it is obvious that Leonard Sweet has endorsed a New Age spirituality in this book. It seems that is what he means when he says the church is learning to "dance to a new rhythm." I find no indication of any understanding of true salvation in this book. While Christian terminology is used, on close examination, it doesn't seem to mean the same thing as we would mean.
I don't believe that I have pulled any quote out of context (like leaving out where he refutes what was quoted), but I encourage you to read the book for yourself and make your own judgment.. As I mentioned, the author uses many, many words, and much of the book is confusing. It is not my intent to slander him. Instead, I just hoped to weed through the extraneous and let him show us his beliefs in those places where he is more clear.
While there is certainly "postmodern" thinking in the world, I believe it is evidence that we are nearing the very end of the age. In my opinion, perhaps the best way to reach postmoderns is with warning of approaching judgment, not by attempting to reach them through "EPIC" worship (What Sweet advocates in his other books. Explained here). Sweet and other postmodern writers say that your spiritual journey is more important than the destination, and of course, that's certainly true for anyone immersed in mysticism, but the Bible says the Holy Spirit convicts of sin and judgment:
John 16:7-8 But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment.
If the Holy Spirit is active in someone's life, he should become concerned with the consequences of his sin. Perhaps the message for these days is simply this: Jesus is coming soon! Are you ready?
END VERBATIM QUOTATION FROM WEBSITE
GJ - Sweet was going to be the featured speaker for Church and Change in 2005. Here is what WELS AnswerMan said about that:
The Church and Change conference is put on by leaders of a number of WELS congregations, but it is not sponsored by WELS. Church and Change people have, however, reported to our Conference of Presidents in regard to their activities and WELS does send one of its administrators to attend the conference. The Conference of Presidents has in the past urged discretion on the part of all WELS affiliated organizations who use speakers from outside our doctrinal fellowship. We do not have a web link to connect you to information on the speaker.
GJ - Note that WELS never does anything wrong. The leaders should just "show discretion." The conference was canceled and conservatives rejoiced. Church and Change was finished. Or was it? A WELS pastor and a WELS layman told me that Church and Change no longer existed. And yet, I found the link on the WELS.net website, which was used to register people for the latest conference. Someone has read Sherlock Holmes, "Church and Change was hidden in plain sight. Elementary, my dear Watson."
GJ - More information: In searching for WELS and Sweet, I found these comments on some kind of Internet chat. This seems to be the person who blew the whistle on on WELS, Prophecy Fellowship:
LLeeApril 21st, 2005, 12:53 PM
Thanks so much for the prayers!!!! Wow, I'm in awe of God's timing. He had you praying right when I needed it! Yesterday I finally got brave and posted the link to my paper on the Yahoo group. (I didn't use my name) Most of the leaders of my synod belong to this group. It started an instant firestorm. Some people were outraged, and others immediately started defending their right to invite whomever they want.
What a mess it all is. Thank you sooooo much for your prayers! (As I've been attempting to write this, I've been continuing to get e-mails. I've been responding privately - not to the entire group). Ack.
LLeeApril 26th, 2005, 01:12 PM
The fallout from what I did continues. I'm not sure where it will lead. There are pastors who are now publicly saying they WANT this man to come, even though it is now known widely that he (Sweet) is completely New Age.
I can't imagine what God is going to do with it all. As it turns out, there just "happened" to be a meeting scheduled for yesterday and today for our pastors who are concerned over the direction our synod is heading. They expected up to 250 pastors to attend (a huge number considering the size of our synod). The organizer of that group contacted me to ask if he could post my paper on his website. I definitely added fuel to the fire. Amazing how the timing of everything fits together.
I am praying for God to help me have and keep the right attitude. It's so easy to fall into "look what I did." Yet, if anything good comes from this, it was all God's doing.
Edited because I can't spell!
Church and Change compiled letters against the Sweet invitation and published them. As Mao said, "Let the flowers bloom, so their heads can be cut off." Here is the link:
The same folks also copied the positive letters from Sweet-hearts and posted them. Note the difference. The supporters are anonymous while the critics are named. How fair and balanced is Dr. John Bauer, PhD. There is one critical letter in this link, and the pastor is named. See for yourself:
Church and Change, Part Deux.
Here is a WELS blog supporting Sweet, the Moose Report:
Doctrine of Fellowship Misapplied?
Church Door Symposium Cancelled!
Due to the brotherly concerns expressed by numerous clergy and Synod officials around the issue of church fellowship, the 3rd Annual Church Door Symposium has been cancelled. Although the Executive Director and the members of the CHARIS Board of Directors disagree with the judgments that hosting non-WELS speakers represents a violation of Scripture and WELS doctrine, concern for maintaining harmony in the church, coupled with concern for the continued success and vitality of CHARIS and Wisconsin Lutheran College, override any reasons for taking a stand on this issue at this time.
I’m not quite sure how hosting non-WELS speakers constitutes prayer fellowship and a violation of Scripture. Pretty soon we’ll get to the point where just talking to people who are non-WELS will be breaking fellowship.
It is an unfortunate fact that great confusion exists among clergy and laity alike around applications of the church fellowship principles.
“Confusion” is an understatement.
Rather than contribute to this confusion, the leaders of The CHARIS Institute have decided to cancel this year’s symposium. Our prayer is that we will find a way to resolve this confusion about church fellowship so that CHARIS can again host outstanding scholars on relevant subjects in the future without controversy.
May God guide us to live and work in the freedom of His Gospel so that we can be salt and light to a dying world.
This symposium was on evangelism. Apparently it is breaking fellowship by bringing in those who have effective evangelism programs that actually work because they are not WELS. Our synod is losing members faster than they are gaining them. You’d think they’d be open to new ideas. There is a serious danger here in this fellowship misapplication. Those planning to attend have lost the opportunity to learn about other evangelism methods to win souls for Christ.
Here is the link I have quoted.
GJ - I see a familiar name associated with the Moose Report.
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
brucefoster has left a new comment on your post "STS Union Service Getting More Interesting":
Do you have additional information on Archbishop Weakland? Calling him a pedophile seems a stretch. The only reported fornication was with a 27 year old man. Mortal sin yes, Pedophile no.
GJ - Here is one link about Weakland. The author is a conservative, pro-life Roman Catholic. I doubt he would invite Weakland to speak anywhere.
Here is a second, even more hostile response to Weakland. And I quote:
Along with Cardinal Bernardin of Chicago, Archbishop Weakland has led the push for a far more distinctively "American Church", as independent as possible from Rome. Associated with this 'push' have been Weakland's highly controversial policies and views on abortion, homosexuality, AIDS education, sex education, clerical pedophilia and feminism. Presumably these developments would make the American Church more American. That it would also be less Catholic is equally clear. Whether it would be Catholic at all remains an open question. That is what makes Archbishop Weakland's invitation to Australia - even to a liturgical convention - more puzzling. That the invitation will be construed as an act of support for him and of his less than solidarity with the Holy See can hardly be questioned.
From the same source:
Less than a month later, Milwaukee's diocesan paper, the Catholic Herald reported the Archbishop's views on clerical pedophilia (May 26, 1988): "Not all adolescent victims are so innocent. Some can be sexually very active and aggressive and often quite streetwise. We frequently try such adolescents for crimes as adults at that age." The prosecutor of the Fr Pecore case, Milwaukee's Assistant District Attorney, criticised the Archbishop for perpetuating the "victim-must-share-the-blame syndrome."
In spring 1989 Weakland called on all archdiocesan schools to teach students how to use condoms as part of an AIDS education program. Despite the U.S. Bishops' statement that "teaching on chastity, not condoms" was the appropriate response to AIDS, the Archbishop retained the condom policy. He also approved a graphic sex education program "Valuing your Sexuality" which teaches 6th-9th grade students, for example, that "There is no right and no wrong" when it comes to contraception, abortion or sex before marriage. All of Milwaukee's Catholic schools are required to provide AIDS and sex education on the above lines to retain diocesan accreditation.
In a published interview in the Milwaukee Sentinel (May 21, 1990) headlined "Weakland: Pro-choice could be OK", the Archbishop replied to a question on whether a person could be a good Catholic and hold a pro-choice view about abortion: "Yes. There are possibilities there. One could reconcile their stance with a Church position. I think that is a possibility."
Weakland is known for saying that children had sex with adults because the children wanted that activity. That could only come from a profoundly disturbed man - just the guy to speak at a public forum sponsored by Wisconsin Lutheran College (WELS). Of course, WELS went into damage control right away. They claimed it was not a public function, even though it was a public forum, a series of lectures which included other Roman Catholic priests. Also, WLC is not a WELS college when WELS wants to disavow anything (like Charis or Church and Change).
I once held the publicity brochure from WLC in my hand. It was not a "private luncheon for a few," as they tried to claim. If it had been, the apostasy was the same, as everyone realizes.
Exactly how this developed is difficult to tell. One does not just bump into an Archbishop at the YMCA and invite him over for a carefully orchestrated public forum. Considerable effort went into this shameful debacle. It not only compromised the Lutheran position on the Antichrist, but also managed to include the worst of all Roman Catholic prelates (except perhaps the San Franscisco apostate).
The ELS was silent, as always. The ELS only disciplines those who disagree with WELS.
I have a question for those who act shocked and doubtful every time I post some well known information - Would you want Weakland speaking at your congregation? More importantly - Would you want those WELS leaders who invited him and lied about the event to speak at your church? Would you like the ELS leaders who stifled themselves to serve you Holy Communion while clearly and openly despising sound doctrine?
jeremy has left a new comment on your post "STS Union Service Getting More Interesting":
Please substantiate your claim that there have been women leading worship at Trinity Chapel at Bethany Lutheran College. As a recent graduate of the college, I find this hard to believe, unless it's practice has changed in the past few months.
GJ - I am glad to repeat what is public knowledge. Professor Kuster organized a chapel service at Bethany around 1996 where women were the lectors. There was a fuss about it, so Bethany said, "If the seminary objects, we won't do it again." Notice the patronizing tone. The WELS/ELS approach about their depredations is to say, "For those who are weak in faith, we will abstain for their sakes." Very thoughtful.
The practice stopped after Kuster's experiment. But that was just the first attempt. More will come in the future, perhaps more from WELS. See below.
WELS? According to my source, who works in the prison system, once as a guard over WELS DP Ed Werner--A WELS DP in state prison? Yes--James P. Tiefel organized a chapel service at Mequon with young women as lectors. The former prison guard was a student there and an eye-witness. But wait, there is more.
James P. Tiefel arranged the pan-denominational worship conference at Carthage College (ELCA) where women taught men. Same difference. Then there is the Church and Change hive meetings, where ministry teams (men and women) teach. The ELS has not been known to object to this, to Church and Change, or anything else of substance.
Now there are women giving communion. I do not know the whole story, which is just more of the same anyway. The WELS approach is that it is not wise, not that it is wrong. The ELS is a little antsy about it.
Watch what Team Kelm is doing in WELS and you will see the future of the Wisconsin Sect and the Little Sect on the Prairie.
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
The story below is "The Mail" from John Mooy, of Interlochen, Michigan, about his father mailman Nat Mooy (1905-1985).
World Net Daily ^ | 10/13/2006 | John MooY
Posted on 12/25/2007 6:34:12 PM PST by clilly54
The original server has been overwhelmed, so I'm using the Fark mirror to post. Watch out, the comments can get a little on the wild side, as most of the members are younger. Still worth posting.
'It was your dad that answered all those letters that the kids wrote to Santa every year'
Background: Tim Russert's Wisdom of Our Fathers has hundreds of stories men and women tell about their fathers, including the one below. It's a remarkable book--to learn more, see my co-authored column America's Father Hunger (World Net Daily, 10/13/06).
The story below is "The Mail" from John Mooy, of Interlochen, Michigan, about his father mailman Nat Mooy (1905-1985).
"As a young boy, I sometimes traveled the country roads with my dad. He was a rural mail carrier in southwestern Michigan, and on Saturdays he would often ask me to go on the route with him. I loved it. Driving through the countryside was always an adventure. There were animals to see, people to visit, and freshly-baked chocolate-chip cookies if you knew where to stop, and Dad did. We made more stops than usual when I was on the route because I always got carsick, but stopping for me never seemed to bother Dad.
"In the spring, Dad delivered boxes full of baby chicks. Their continuous peeping could drive you crazy, but Dad loved it. When the peeping became too loud to bear, you could quiet them down by trilling your tongue and making the sounds of a hawk. When I was a boy it was fun to stick your fingers through one of the holes in the side of the cardboard boxes and let the baby birds peck on your finger. Such bravery!
"On Dad's final day of work on a beautiful summer day, it took him well into the evening to complete his rounds because at least one member of each family was waiting at their mailbox to thank him for his friendship and his years of service. 'Two hundred and nineteen mailboxes on my route,' he used to say, 'and a story at every one.' One lady had no mailbox, so Dad took the mail in to her every day because she was nearly blind. Once inside, he read her mail and helped her pay her bills. And every Thursday he read her the local newspaper.
"Mailboxes were sometimes used for things other than mail. One note left in a mailbox read, 'Nat, take these eggs to Marian; She's baking a cake and doesn't have any eggs, and don't stop to talk to Archie!' Mailboxes might be buried in the snow, or broken, or lying on the ground, but the mail was always delivered. On cold days Dad might find one of his customers waiting for him by the mailbox with a cup of hot chocolate. A young girl wrote letters but had no stamps, so she left a few buttons on the envelope in the mailbox; Dad paid for the stamps. One busy merchant used to leave large amounts of cash in his mailbox in a paper bag for Dad to take to the bank. On one occasion, the amount came to $32,000. It's hard to believe, but it's true.
"A dozen years ago, when I traveled back to my hometown on the sad occasion of Dad's death, the mailboxes along the way reminded me of some of his stories. I thought I knew them all, but that wasn't quite the case.
"As I drove through Marcellus, I noticed to aluminum lamp poles, one on each side of the street, reflecting the light of the late-afternoon summer sun. When my dad was around, those poles supported wooden boxes that were roughly four feet off the ground. One box was painted green, and the other was red, and each had a slot at the top with white lettering: SANTA CLAUS, NORTH POLE. For years children had dropped letters to Santa through those slots.
"I made a left turn at the corner and drove past the post office and across the railroad tracks to our house. Mom and I were sitting at the kitchen table when I heard footsteps on our porch. There, at the door, stood Frank Townsend, who had been Dad's postmaster and great friend for many years. So of course we all sat down at the table and began to tell stories.
"At one point Frank looked at me across the table with tears in his eyes. 'What are we going to do about the letters this Christmas?' he asked.
"I guess you never knew."
"'Remember, when you were a kid and you used to put your letters to Santa in green and red boxes on Main Street? It was your dad that answered all those letters that the kids wrote every year.'
"I just sat there with tears in my eyes. It wasn't hard for me to imagine Dad sitting at the old oak table in our basement reading those letters and answering each one. I have since spoken with several of the people who received Christmas letters during their childhood, and they told me how amazed they were that Santa had know so much about their homes and families.
"For me, just knowing that story about my father was the gift of a lifetime."