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Bringing together the voices of top scholars and church leaders -including Marcus Borg, Diana Butler Bass, John Dominic Crossan, Helen Prejean, and John Shelby Spong-pastors David Felten and Jeff Procter-Murphy present a lively and stimulating tour of what it means to be a "progressive" Christian.
Based on the bestselling DVD course of the same name, Living the Questions explores matters many churches are afraid to address including the humanity of Jesus and homosexuality, and examines in a new light traditional faith topics such as the Bible, atonement, salvation, the rapture, and more.
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Publication Date: 2012
David M. Felten was trained at Boston University School of Theology and Jeff Procter-Murphy at Claremont School of Theology. They have more than forty years combined experience in local church ministry. David and Jeff continue to collaborate on sermons and new resources for www.livingthequestions.com, a DVD series and curriculum in use by nearly six thousand churches and other groups across the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand to bring together, equip, and reeducate thinking Christians.
“I’m so grateful for Living the Questions. These progressive voices offer less rigid and more expansive approaches to Christian faith, and make room for people who practice critical thinking and question the gatekeepers. They help us see that questioning the gatekeepers is exactly what Jesus was all about.”
“Among the most dynamic and talented clergy in the world, David Felten and Jeff Procter-Murphy speak with high levels of credibility to the deep and abiding human hunger that yearns for a Christian future.”
“A welcome book that is bold (without being contentious) and courageous (without needing to be triumphant), Felten and Procter-Murphy give voice to a faith that provides a profound alternative to the dominant ideology of ‘American Christianity.’ Attention should be paid!”
“A rich, wise, helpful and important book—virtually a manifesto of progressive Christianity.”
“This has been sorely needed for years. Felten and Procter-Murphy provide an unusual clarity about the issues that commonly confuse and divide people in our churches today and then open a pathway to a more vital and even exciting way to approach the Christian faith in the 21st century.”
“Calls Progressive Christians to live out their authentic mix of faith and doubt, to practice nonviolence, to stand in solidarity with the poor, to eschew the idolatry of wealth, and to seek ‘justice and inclusivity in a culture dominated by suspicion and fear.’”
“Felten and Proctor-Murphy salute the mystics of the past and some of the present moment who help us to be more open to the Divine, to let go of our clinging to ancient dogmas about God and Jesus, and to surrender to ‘not knowing’ all the answers.”
“Most people in church grew up listening to those who claimed to have all the answers. Who knew that the questions were more interesting, that ‘living’ them is true faithfulness. Felten and Procter-Murphy have given the class such superb resources that no one is in a hurry to graduate.”
“Amidst the impression that Christianity has an unchanging, singular vision of the world, this book shows how the Christian tradition actually involves a rich, dynamic and diverse conversation where critical reflection, differing opinions and honest engagement with the biggest questions is happening under the very nose of the dogmatists.”
DesertRatTucsonTucson, AZAge: 55-65Gender: male5 Stars Out Of 5Great read for the progressives among usSeptember 20, 2013DesertRatTucsonTucson, AZAge: 55-65Gender: maleQuality: 5Value: 5Meets Expectations: 5This book will be an eye-opener for many (particularly those with more "classic" or "conservative" views), but hopefully they will take the time to read and think. For the more progressive readers (and that's religiously progressive, not necessarily a political designation), there is a lot to read that reaffirms what we may have already been wondering / thinking about. I don't think anyone will agree with everything in this book (nor should they), but the whole point of the book is to ask questions and think about other possibilities.
PlesionGender: male1 Stars Out Of 5New Package for the Leftover LeftAugust 21, 2012PlesionGender: maleQuality: 1Value: 1Meets Expectations: 2You have to give this book credit, it announces its real purpose immediately: you're in the land of "We Love Everybody, But We Hate the Religious Right." The authors claim that in a Bible study setting they spoke of the Adam and Eve story and stated it isn't literally true, and then someone shouted "I just knew you were one of those d-----liberals!" Oh, please. I've been in hundreds of churches, and the only time I've ever heard the word "d---" is when a liberal pastor uses it for shock effect (except it doesn't shock anyone in a liberal church, but it makes them feel superior in knowing you wouldn't hear "d---" in a Baptist church or Assembly of God). Of course, ripping up the straw man known as Uptight-and-Stupid Religious Right Guy is the whole purpose here, so don't expect him to be presented accurately (don't expect Christian agape either). The Preface continues: "There was panic" in the Bible study. Sorry, but this is obviously a blatant lie. Church people don't "panic" when confronted with liberalsÃ¢â¬âit happens way too often to be frightening, since we hear our faith smeared in the media on an hourly basis.
The authors go on to assure us that, like all good progressives, they are not out to destroy the faith but to make it deeper and broader. What follows in this toxic book is neither deep nor broad. It isn't new, either. What they label their "revolutionary re-visioning of Christianity" is precisely what the "panicked" person in their Preface says: dismantling the faith to suit their political agenda.
If you'd care for some insight into the authors and their agenda, visit their churches' websites. David Felten is at The Fountains United Methodist in Phoenix. I quote from their About Us page: "If you're looking for a `What We Believe' page, you're going to be disappointed. Seems that United Methodists aren't that big on requiring its adherents to believe a bunch of stuff in order to be part of the movement. . . . We are keeping the Faith and dropping the Dogma." Further down the page, however, the church does state its dogma: "We at the Fountains seek to model Jesus' radical inclusivity and hospitality by welcoming and affirming all people regardless of age, sex, race, ability, or sexual orientation." Trust me, these authors who boast about their "undogmatic" Christianity would eagerly show you the door if you were to question this "radical inclusivity." The authors know, of course, that no church shuts its doors to people on account of age, sex, race, or ability. But they have to strike the pose of openness to contrast themselves with those horrid Religious Right types. In fact, as I read through the book, I realized that there is something essentially destructive about the Religious Left: it isn't trying to help people build a life-enhancing, heart-enlarging faith, but trying to show that the other side (evangelicals and fundamentalists, though the authors always use "fundamentalists," for obvious reasons) is stupid and mean-spirited.
According to the book, "the Bible is full of colorful characters, lying, cheating, sex, hate, war, sex, betrayal, murder, sex, letters, poetry, history, sex, great ideas, lousy ideas, and more sex." In case you lost count, "sex" is mentioned five times, which lets you know up-front that sex is a critical issue for the liberal church, and were it not for the liberals' frequent announcement that "whatever your sexual practices, God approves," the liberal churches would never get any media coverage. Following this, the book tears into the whole idea of the Bible being divinely inspired, brings up the 1925 Scopes evolution trial (evil fundamentalist versus smart liberals), and puts the reader in the position of wondering: Do I side with those Right morons who believe the Bible is the inspired word of God, or do I side with these hip, cool Lefties who are wide-open about sex and join them in mocking the Religious Right?
If you join these cool liberals and the "re-visioned" religion in this book, here is what your faith will consist of: endorsing whatever the farthest left wing of the Democratic Party is pushing for, which at the moment will mean reducing your carbon footprint, marching in gay pride parades, standing on your church lawn waving signs that say "Stop Global Warming!" and e-mailing your Congressperson to encourage him/her to vote for expanding welfare. This is the positive part of their agenda. The negative is: badmouth Christians who disagree with you, distance yourself from them at every opportunity. Talk constantly about love and acceptance, but confront Christian conservatives with spite and malice.
Mingled in with all this open contempt for the people they detest, the authors do utter one bit of truth: the mainline churches are declining in membership, which has been going on since the 1960s, when they traded in faith for political activism. That activism is such a clichÃÂ© by now that it has to be repackaged as "progressive" and "inclusive." (I find it amusing that the book doesn't acknowledge that the authors and their denomination, the United Methodist, are part of the declining mainlineÃ¢â¬âi.e., the mainlines ARE "progressive" and "inclusive," yet they are shutting down churches right and left due to membership loss.) This watery political religion will temporarily attract a few confused, shallow-minded seekers who get a kick out of pastors and Bible scholars who denounce other Christians, but it has no staying power.
And speaking of denouncers: John Shelby Spong, who is quoted by the authors with slobbering approval, was Episcopal bishop of Newark, now retired. While he was bishop, membership in his diocese dropped by half. That is hardly an achievement for any progressive to boast of. The sad fact is that this form of religion, used as a tool by cynical politicians and journalists, does not feed the heart or mind, nor provide any certainty in a confused and confusing world. People need God, and political activism will not meet that need.
I suspect that the real audience of the Religious Left is not the mass of unchurched people, but the theophobe cynics in the media and academia. The progressive clergy imagine themselves being patted on the head and told, "Very nice churchÃ¢â¬âdoesn't resemble Christianity at all!"