Not Your Father’s Jesus: Contemporary Visions of Christianity

A reading book discussion series at First Parish Unitarian-Universalist Church in Bedford, Massachusetts during the winter and spring of 2001

Fundamentalists get most of the headlines, but Christianity has always been more than just “that old-time religion”. If it has been awhile since you paid attention to contemporary Christian thinkers, you may be surprised by what you find. This series looks at popular works by four leading-edge Christian theologians who balance intellectual honesty and rigor with a passionate faith.

We will meet at 7:30 at the church on the third Tuesday evening of each month for the rest of the church year. Our meetings will follow the Third Tuesday dinner and worship service, which begins at 6. The discussions will be led by Mallory LaSonde (a UU-Christian who is our student minister) and Doug Muder (a UU-Stoic First Parish member).

Click the links to find more detailed notes on each of the books.

February 20 Why Christianity Must Change or Die: A Bishop Speaks to Believers in Exile by John Shelby Spong

John Shelby Spong is the Episcopal Bishop of Newark. In the preface to this book he writes: “I write out of my faith commitment as a Christian and not in an attempt to create controversy. But where this faith has been corrupted into literalized propositional statements, I have become its exposer and its critic. I have come to regard the controversy that ensues not as negative. It represents a faith tradition in ferment, simultaneously dying and being resurrected.”

March 20 Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time: The Historical Jesus and the Heart of Contemporary Faith by Marcus J.Borg

Coming out of the Lutheran tradition, Marcus Borg is now a professor in the Department of Religious Studies of Oregon StateUniversity and a member of the Jesus Seminar. He writes: “For many Christians, especially in mainline churches, there came a time when their childhood image of Jesus no longer made a great deal of sense. And for many of them, no persuasive alternative has replaced it. It is for these people especially that this book is written. For them, meeting Jesus again will be -- as it has been for me – like meeting him for the first time. It will involve a new image of Jesus.”

April 17 The Powers That Be: Theology for a New Millennium by Walter Wink

Walter Wink, a Methodist, is a professor at Auburn Theological Seminary in New York, and has lectured on nonviolent political action around the world, particularly in South Africa. Wink’s book characterizes the current world order as a “Domination System” and finds in the teachings of Jesus an alternative to relationships based on domination and violence.

May 22 Creation Spirituality by Matthew Fox

After his theological views got him expelled from the Dominican order of the Catholic Church, Matthew Fox became an Episcopal priest, though he refers to himself as a “post-denominational priest.” His theology joins mysticism and social action, as a profound sense of awe at the wonder of creation leads to feelings of love and respect which motivate action to care for each other and for all living things.

Go to other course notes by Doug Muder