Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A Message from Tyler Perry in South Africa, 1/8/2007

It's Sunday morning. I'm sitting here in South Africa watching the sun rise. I'm aware that the time is seven hours ahead of the east coast and that most of America is asleep, but I wish that I could wake you all up to see this. It is so peaceful here. In a few hours I will be heading home and I will take from these ten days a lifetime of memories.

It started with the invitation from Oprah to join her here for the opening of her school. I was a little reluctant to come and spend New Year's here because I have been in church every New Year's night since I can remember. Well, I can honestly say that this was truly more spiritual than being in any watch night service that I've ever been in. This entire trip has been unbelievable. From the time that I left, I have been having unforgettable memories. Like, getting to have several conversations with the most eloquent man that I have ever met--Mr. Sidney Poitier. He has so much class and grace. The wisdoms that he left me with on this trip were worth the trip alone.

Then getting to this continent and being greeted by African drums? WOW!
And the spirit of all the invited guests. It seemed that everybody
that I spoke with left me with something that I could use in my life.
I know that God was here.

The New Year's Eve bash was too much for your senses to take in. I can't even begin to explain how beautiful it was. It started with an African choir singing native songs and then ending with "Amazing Grace" and "Oh Happy Day". It was the clearest night that I had ever seen and with the biggest moon. It was as if God, Himself, wanted to show off the heavens to us. At midnight I stepped away and said a prayer. When I turned around Mary J Blige was taking the stage and she rocked the place. Then there were several impromptu performances--Patti Labelle then Baby Face. He sang "If I Could Change The World". This was all unsolicited mind you. Then India Arie sang, then Tina Turner closed the show with "Simply The Best". I danced until the sun came up.

The next day we left Sun City and headed to Johannesburg. We drove through some of the townships. The poverty was heartbreaking, but the
children were so happy. Someone said to me, "I wonder what they
dream about". It didn't take me long to find out.

As many of you know, after educating thousands of children in America, Oprah has opened a school here for girls. And when I saw these children, my God, you had to see their faces and hear their stories to understand. When we got to the school, these girls (12 and 13 years
old) talked about how they dreamed about not just becoming doctors and teachers, but discovering the cure for AIDS, or becoming President, or the Minister of Education. I have never in my life seen so much gratitude and so much hope.

Then the next day I got to meet Madiba Nelson Mandella! Life changing, life changing is all I can say. I also went to Robben Island and saw where he was in prison. I stood in his cell. I don't think that my life will ever be the same after that visit.

I know that this is a long email this time, but hear me when I say this--Let 2007 be the year that you follow your dream. Don't let anybody tell you what you can't do. With the help, grace and favor of God you can live your dream and bring it to pass. Believe in yourself. All of you who have stopped dreaming, go find it, dust it off, get back at it. It's never too late. That dream that has been
nagging you and won't let you rest will lead you to your destiny.
It's how God moves. Go for it! It is possible! Faith can take you to fruition?when you believe.


Biblical Understanding of Marriage

Dear President Bush:

The Presidential Prayer Team is currently urging us to: "Pray for the President as he seeks wisdom on how to legally codify the definition of marriage. Pray that it will be according to Biblical principles. With any forces insisting on variant definitions of marriage, pray that God's Word and His standards will be honored by our government."

Any religious person believes prayer should be balanced by action. So here, in support of the Prayer Team's admirable goals, is a proposed Constitutional Amendment to codify marriage on biblical principles:

A. Marriage in the United States shall consist of a union between one man and one or more women. (Gen29:17-28; II Sam 3:2-5)

B. Marriage shall not impede a man's right to take concubines, in addition to his wife or wives. (II Sam5:13; I Kings 11:3; II Chron 11:21)

C. A marriage shall be considered valid only if the wife is a virgin. If the wife is not a virgin, she shall be executed. (Deut 22:13-21)

D. Marriage of a believer and a non-believer shall be forbidden. (Gen24:3; Num 25:1-9; Ezra 9:12; Neh10:30)

E. Since marriage is for life, neither this Constitution nor the constitution of any State, nor any state or federal law, shall be construed to permit divorce. (Deut 22:19; Mark 10:9)

F. If a married man dies without children, his brother shall marry the widow. If he refuses to marry his brother's widow or deliberately does not give her children, he shall pay a fine of one shoe. (Gen.38:6-10; Deut 25:5-10)

Theological Diversity - Reason vs. Metaphysics by Carlyle "Kirk" Herrick

Theological Diversity - Reason vs. Metaphysics

Today there is great concern in the United Methodist Church over theological
diversity within the Christian Faith; can it be accommodated within
permissible boundaries of faith, or is it heresy? Must we understand the
New Testament literally, or may we understand it metaphorically? A literal
understanding invokes 1st century metaphysics, while a metaphorical
understanding may deny metaphysics, but accommodates 21st century reasoning.
A majority of members of Troy Conference are sympathetic with the idea that
diversity should be explored, and in 2000 created a Critical Issue Team to
explore theological diversity. Explorations have not yet been described.

On the other hand, for more than three decades and with wide publicity, an
informal organization of Methodists known as the "Good News Movement" has
been accusing The United Methodist Church of deserting scriptural integrity
by embracing theological diversity. They vigorously defend scriptural
integrity, and define it to require a literal reading of the New Testament
portion of the Bible as inspired revelation - the actual written Word of
God, which does not allow diversity.

As far back as 1975 United Methodism was seen to be a sick denomination.
Membership had declined by one million in seven years, and worship
attendance had declined proportionately. At that time Good News claimed this
condition to result from weak, ineffective ministerial leadership. Since
most ministers personal theology can be largely determined by knowing which
seminary they graduated from, and the decade they graduated, Good News was
convinced that our seminaries bore a major portion of the responsibility.
Their mantra seemed to be - we have sick churches largely because we have
sick seminaries.

The membership slide has continued up to the present time, but,
philosophically and theologically, not much else has changed since then. In
2001 a prominent Methodist pastor, the Rev. Robert W. Thornburg, dean of
Marsh Chapel at the Methodist-founded Boston University said "The
denomination has a serious split in identity between a more liberal clergy
and a more conservative laity. Acknowledging the diversity (that difference
between clergy and laity) is not particularly courageous - it's realistic.
There is a serious identity problem in the denomination as a whole."

In this case I believe the word liberal intends to indicate that clergy has
some reservations about a literal reading of biblical scripture. Good News
avers that the reservations are taught in seminary, and that opinion seems
to be widely accepted in Methodist circles. In one example, students at
Candler theological seminary complained that one professor openly declared
his disbelief in physical resurrection. An additional corroboration of the
clergy-laity split comes from the voting records of the several recent
General Conferences which suggest that a majority of delegates have
consistently supported the Good News positions.

I am personally aware of a substantial dissatisfaction among Methodist
pastors with some details presented in the biblical scriptures. In part this
awareness arose from my contact with pastors while I was a lay member of
Troy Conference some time ago. During my service on conference boards and
agencies, I had private conversations with many pastors, and in more than
half of these contacts pastors unexpectedly confided to me that they no
longer believed the stories of Jesus' virgin birth or physical resurrection,
as they are recorded in the Gospels.

Those pastors were closet dissenters from a literal reading of those
scriptural details. They preferred to read those details as metaphors. A
public admission of those - probably heretical - views could deleteriously
affect their professional future, so they stayed in the closet. It seems
apparent that those pastors do not preach those views from the pulpit,
otherwise their laity would ultimately come into agreement and we would not
have the existing separation of theological views between the pastorate and
the laity. This raises two important questions. What happened to the
pastors/seminaries to change their theological outlook? And why didn't the
same change take place in the laity? Answers to these questions should help
us to understand the theological diversity problem more completely. As the
search for answers begins I recognize that biased treatment might sometimes
occur because I am a 21ST century person. By being aware of the
possibility, I hope to avoid bias and deliver an even-handed discussion.

The United Methodist Book of Discipline requires unity among members in
accepting a Confession of Faith which is derived from a literal reading of
the New Testament portion of the Bible. The Book of Discipline also embraces
Wesley's familiar dictum "as to all opinions which do not strike at the root
(core) of Christianity, we think and let think." In other words Methodists
are free to explore theological diversity which does not involve scripture
derived from a literal reading of the Bible. That freedom is manifestly not
broad enough to cover the views of the closet-dwelling pastors.

In addition the Book of Discipline embraces Wesley's process for engaging in
theological reflections; the well known Wesley Quadrilateral. Scripture is
the primary authority, but other theological authorities include tradition,
experience, and reason. The following quotation from the Book of Discipline
seems inconsistent with the earlier requirement of unity and the Wesley
dictum. "By reason we relate our witness to the full range of human
knowledge, experience, and service. Since all truth is from God, efforts to
discern the connections between revelation and reason, faith and science,
grace and nature, are useful endeavors in developing credible and
communicable doctrine."

By relating our witness, our beliefs, to the full range of human knowledge,
experience, and service, we broaden our theological outlook well beyond the
Wesley limitations, and we commit to recognizing and accepting additional
Word of God as it continues to be revealed with the passing of time. In
effect the two underlined sentences above outline a process for bringing
Methodism fully into the 21st century, a process which almost certainly must
involve a broader theological diversity than Wesley envisioned. However, to
my knowledge that process has yet to be implemented to any significant

This situation got me interested in the subject of theological diversity,
and as a result, and somewhat later, I entered into a season of theological
reflection with the goal of identifying the central core of the difficulty
obstructing implementation of the process, and with the hope of possibly
discovering a path to an acceptable resolution. My reflections began with
three assumptions; that God exists; that God is the creator of the Cosmos;
and that God is unchanging; only our perceptions of God change. I imposed
no scriptural restraints on the explorations, lest that restraint might
unintentionally obscure from view the real core of the problem.

After considerable thought it occurred to me that the central core of the
problem might lie in the nature of religions in general. All religions
appear to have originated when some persuasive and strong-willed person with
mystical tendencies, believes, and reports to the public, that they have had
a contact experience with the spirit world. The nature and content of that
contact experience generally gives shape and form to the details of the new
religion, including scriptures which may evolve afterward for the guidance
of the religion's practitioners. This is not a common experience; is not a
natural experience; hence it is considered to be supernatural.
Metaphysical - beyond physics - is another word for describing these
mystical events.

No matter how persuasive, and strong-willed a mystic may be, and how
convincing his encounter with the spirit world may be, a new religion will
not result unless these encounter events are reported in a social setting
where they are appealing and believable to other people. Contacts with the
spirit world have to be convincing to others, and they must remain
convincing afterward as time passes. For that reason, as well as to give
authority, the religious scriptures which they produce are usually cloaked
with an aura of divine origin (1).

To scriptures having this aura of divine origin, the idea of change is
unthinkable. In reality, however, change in the Cosmos is pervasive and
unavoidable, as I have written many times before, including that tiny corner
of the Cosmos were humans live out their daily lives. Unchangeable
scriptures do not keep up with the changes which are inevitable in the
cosmos and in human societies. Unchangeable scriptures fall behind the
inevitable increase in knowledge which means they lose transcendence, and
therefore the right to be called Holy. Ultimately, to aware and rational
minds, that loss of transcendence causes them to lose significance. As they
lose significance they lose rational practitioners; they tend to wither

The names of the mystics who originated all of the major religions of the
world are readily available in the historical record. A partial list, from
my previous work (2), includes;

Saul/Paul of Tarsus (Christianity)

Mohammad (Islam)

Rumi Mevlani (Whirling Dervish Sufi)

Joseph Smith (Mormon)

Mary Baker Eddy (Christian Science)

Charles Russell (Jehovah's Witnesses)

James Jones (Jonestown, Guyana commune)

David Koresh (Waco, Texas Commune)

The apostle Paul was the mystic who started the Christian religion as a
result of his encounter with the voice of Jesus as he, Paul, was traveling
on the Damascus Road. Paul's later writings suggest indirectly that he had
many additional mystical encounters as well. The Christian religion,
Christianity as it developed, appears to fit well with the descriptive
pattern of religions in general, as given in the preceding paragraphs,
particularly including the loss of Biblical transcendence and consequently
the right to be called Holy.

Paul was changed by that encounter on the Damascus Road, and that change
made his description of the encounter appealing to religious Gentiles. It
was also believable because, in Paul's time, in the first century A.D., it
was definitely a metaphysical world in which myth, magic, and miracles (the
3 M's) were readily accepted to be common every day events. Consequently
Christianity received a firm beginning from which it spread rapidly, and
from which a great wealth of 3M detail gradually emerged. To put it more
accurately, Christianity gradually adopted a great wealth of existing 3M
detail previously developed by other religions.

Beginning in the year 325 the Council of Nicaea selected, from a plethora of
candidate scriptural materials, a portion which contained that great wealth
of 3M detail, which was later canonized as the New Testament section of the
Holy Bible. The very end of that section quotes God as threatening to
deliver pestilence to anyone who makes additions to it, and damnation to
anyone who subtracts from it. That gives the Bible an aura of divine
protection and authority. Timothy 3:16, "All Scripture is inspired by
God .," is another source which adds to the divine aura of the Bible.

I suggest that this aura of divine protection, authority, and authorship
surrounding the Bible is the core difficulty with theological diversity in
Christian churches, including the United Methodist Church. Therefore, to
deal with that difficulty, one must first deal with the aura. There is no
question about the full acceptance of the aura in the year 325, but there is
published opinion that a capitalist culture such as ours causes auras of all
kinds to decay (3). If that loss of reality is real it could generate the
degree of closet theological diversity that I encountered earlier. That
raises the question of how much reality that aura retains today in the 21st

Perhaps dealing with the individual components of the aura will help to
assess that possible erosion of aural reality. The word aura can have either
a physical or a metaphysical content depending on the nature of the subject
under consideration. In this case the subject, the Bible, is metaphysical, -
meaning beyond physical reality - and its aura carries a heavy load of
metaphysical implications. It implies inerrant communication from God to
man; the possession of ultimate truth; the validity, the social
acceptability, of the 3M events; a sole source for God's Word, the Bible;
and an unchanging nature for God's Word. We will discuss with each of these

Because these implications arose long ago in a time when the world condition
was perceived to be static or unchanging, the aura carries that added
implication. Then one can summarize the present situation by saying that the
biblical aura is attempting to bring a set of metaphysical static world
understandings forward in time from the fourth century to the 21st century
where there now exists a physical explanation to match each metaphysical
implication, and where change is perceived to be pervasive; where stasis
does not exist. However before we undertake a detailed comparison of the
metaphysical and the physical we need to add one important item to the
nature of the physical.

The 21st century is illumined principally by science and the myriad new
physical facts about the nature and structure of the Cosmos which it is able
to reveal. It is important here to understand that all science depends
completely upon the steadfastness of God. Science depends absolutely upon
the unchanging character and the unwavering application of the laws which
God established to rule the Cosmos. They are the only feature of the Cosmos
which remains unchanging. That steadfastness permits science to unveil a
continuing stream of new physical facts about the Cosmos. Since God is the
creator of the Cosmos, and since God is known, in part, through actions and
achievements attributed to God, these new facts about the Cosmos become
additions to the Word of God (4). Then, as a consequence, science is
properly understood to be a conduit for revealing Word of God. Science
brings forth Word of God that was previously concealed from our view as it
comprehends new details of the Cosmos through inspiration, experience,
experiment, reason, and logic.

Are the metaphysical implications of the biblical aura a part of God's Word?
Perhaps not exactly, but so closely that most religious people regard them
to be the de facto Word of God. Now when we compare the implications of the
aura with the physical facts of today, we recognize in them the equality of
a common origin; both have come from God. We recognize that we are comparing
the Word of God from two different eras in time; eras separated by two
millennia. Since both are from God divine preferences should not enter into
the process of making choices between the two, only human personal
preferences should be involved. This overt comparison of the Word of God
generated in two different eras in time is a novel experience which I
believe has not occurred before. This is truly unexplored territory; is
truly transcendent. I feel the presence of holiness and figuratively I take
off my shoes.

The first implication is that of inerrant communication from God to man. The
inerrant nature arises because the Gospel Scriptures are delivered not as
possibilities or probabilities, but instead as actual events and
conversations which actually did occur. 21st Century parallels to those
Gospel events have not been reported. The conclusion is that parallels have
not occurred. That does not mean to me that the voice of God has gone
silent. It still speaks to us but we do not recognize it because today it
does not sound like a human voice. It speaks to us as
revelations/inspirations received in the human brain.

Quoting now from some of my previous work (5), "the Creator's unique design
for the human species included the implanting of a communications link in
the right half of the human brain. Because ideas arise there spontaneously
due to the design of the brain, they are of the Creator." It could be
fairly called a direct hot line from the Creator; we are wired for
revelation/inspiration. Most of us recognize communications as our
inspirational thoughts, but in a slightly earlier stage of brain development
these revelational/inspirational thoughts sounded like voices, usually
understood to be the voice of God. That is the good news."

The bad news is that the communication we receive has an informational
content that is something our subconscious mind wants to hear. The
information is greatly conditioned by our mental preconditioning, that is by
the thoughts that we think just before the message arrives. Our mental
preconditioning is partly determined by our humanity, partly by our world
view, by our past experiences, as well as by the task immediately at hand.
At this point it appears that the Creator's message is always the same; is
always an invitation to think any inspirational thought that pleases you,
any inspirational thought at all, good inspirations, or bad inspirations.
This communication link may provide revelational/inspirational thought, yes,
but inerrant dictated content, no.

The second implication claims ultimate truth for the scriptures. If ultimate
truth exists in reality, I believe it must have a dual nature, a nature that
involves both freedom from error, and infinite longevity. Otherwise it
cannot meet the definition of ultimate. Biblical scripture does not meet
either condition. As one example of many, the gospels abound with
contradictory assertions; with apparent error (6). Infinite longevity doesn't
exist in the present setting where the later Word of God often appears to
alter or amend the metaphysically based Word of God recorded in Scriptures.

The third implication asserts the validity, the social acceptability, of the
3M events included in the Scriptures. The first century worldview is
replete with myths; stories wherein gods stroll the earth passing out
impulsive dispensations to ease physical problems of human supplicants.
Christianity is no exception. In addition unusual or very powerful people
were often deified. Aside from Scripture, this kind of myth no longer occurs
at all in everyday life in the 21st century; it is not acceptable.

Magic appears in biblical scripture in several ways. First of all God is
portrayed as a magician who creates almost instantly; the entire creation
took only six days. Secondly God is portrayed as a magician, or miracle
worker, who periodically and temporarily changes or suspends one or more of
the laws governing the Cosmos in order to permit an event such as walking on
water, or changing water into wine for example. Neither kind of magic is
believable in the 21st century. God's Word about evolution tells us today
that humans have developed through a series of very tiny incremental steps
over a period of many millions of years (7). Furthermore we have no evidence
today than at any of the laws governing the universe have ever been
temporarily suspended. Indeed those laws bear certain inter-relationships
which would likely spell disaster for the Cosmos if one were to be suspended
even temporarily. In addition temporary suspension of even one law would be
incompatible with God's steadfastness.

Notice that in the matter of God's steadfastness, God's Word from the
21st-century agrees with God's Word from the first century. This translates
to the fact that it God's laws governing the Cosmos never change.

In addition to the scriptural miracles which would require suspending one of
the physical laws of the cosmos, there are also scriptural miracles of
healing by the physical intervention of a divine individual. Some people
today still use the word miracle in reference to unexpected healing events,
but these are rare events and they occur in the absence of any visible
divine presence. Healing refers to the restoring to proper function of a
human living system, a system so complicated that humans have only a very
limited understanding of its operational details. We do know however that
chance plays a very important part in those operational details (4). Chance
plays a part in stable maintenance of well-being, in the onset of illness,
and in the recovery from illness - in healing. The Biblical healing miracles
are not distinguishable from chance recovery from illness events.

In brief summary now, each one of the 3M categories, myth, magic, and
miracles, have been shown to be non participants in the 21st-century world

The next element of implication in the Biblical aura is the claim that the
Bible is the only source for the Word of God. On the previous page I
explained how it comes about that science is actually a conduit for the Word
of God. So, now the Bible is no longer the sole source for the Word of God.

The last implication listed for the Biblical aura is the claim that God's
word is unchanging. That is true in the ultimate limit when it is fully
understood, but it is not true as it refers to Biblical scripture. The
arguments and explanations developed just previously indicate that Biblical
scripture is incomplete, and that God is continually augmenting and bringing
it closer to completion. So the science conduit helps bring us closer to
understanding God's (unchanging) intentions.

In final summary then, none of the Biblical aura which was accepted in the
first century worldview is accepted in the 21st century worldview. The
consequences are severe. In spite of the example set in the Old Testament,
the New Testament shut off the concept of continuing additions to God's
Word. In contradiction, other scriptures, rejected at Nicaea, have come to
light; have gained recognition as a part of the Word of God; and today
science is gaining recognition as a conduit for the Word of God. These
extra-Biblical sources for Words of God contest Biblical transcendence and
therefore the propriety of calling the Bible Holy. The Myth, Magic, and
Miracles, which are so prominent in the Gospels' are no longer a part of
life in a 21st century worldview. Similarly the concept of Ultimate Truth
has faded away, and with it faded the concept of inerrant communication
between God and man.

Those are the more recent Words of God, the hard facts of today. They do
contravene the fourth century aura of the Bible, and they do contravene the
metaphysical understanding of physical aspects of the natural world as
recorded in the Bible, and they do consequently contravene the propriety of
a literal reading of portions of the Bible, but they should not be
understood as contravening the significance of Christianity.

A few religious scholars have been able to fully embrace those new Words,
and propose a form of Christianity compatible with them (8). They create a
new aura for the Bible based on a metaphorical understanding of the Gospels;
an aura which restorers transcendence; an aura which restores the
designation of Holy. One should note here, however, that the future
continuing arrival of additional Word of God will likely require additional
changes in the understanding of Christianity.

Fully embracing those new Words, those hard facts, involves a great range of
theological diversity, and we have now discovered that to be a consequence
of the United Methodists Book of Discipline (UMBOD) where it requires us to
"relate our witness to the full range of human knowledge". Of course other
areas of the (UMBOD), which require a literal reading of the Bible, limit us
to a very, very, narrow range of theological diversity. Since I believe this
inconsistency to be unintended by any General Conference, I will not pursue
that subject further.

Based on the earlier allegations reported by the Good News Movement, I
conclude that many pastors, the ones called "liberal", evidently embrace
some portion of those more recent Words, while a majority of the laity,
those who read the Bible literally, must reject all of those newer Words. Is
that condition reasonable, or even rational, in 21st century America? How
is it explainable?

Now I have to admit that the aura of divine protection associated with the
Bible in the early centuries of Christianity was not the complete answer to
the problem with theological diversity that I had hoped for. However
working through the properties of that aura became the key that has led us
to the question which may itself complete the answer to the problem and is
now expressible in a form which we can recognize and which we can explain.

Restating the question: how is it explainable that pastors embrace some of
the more recent Words of God available in the 21st-century, but the majority
of the laity embrace none at all? I suggest that the major part of the
answer arises from the process by which we humans develop new knowledge, new
Word of God, in the 21st century.

It is the nature of scholarship and science never to claim absolute truth.
Science and scholarship deal only with present truth; that is truth which
represents our best current knowledge, but which is susceptible to later
modification by assimilating additional knowledge when it is later revealed.
It is the business of science and scholarship to be skeptical of present
truths, and to try to extend/improve them by a process usually beginning
with revelations/inspirations which lead to new discoveries.

That means that an initial discovery, after it is repeatedly confirmed by
other investigators, is often the basis for additional discoveries about the
same topic so that the body of information grows larger in repeated steps,
it evolves incrementally. At some point most of the investigators familiar
with the details of that topic will agree that the information that has been
uncovered is real; that the facts are truly real as they are presented. When
the investigators familiar with the details of the topic reach consensus
that the information is real, that is a crucial point, because that
consensus transforms that information into knowledge; at that point it
becomes Word of God.

Consensus is usually an imprecise diffuse process, drawn out over a
considerable period of time. There usually is no precise instant in time
when one can first declare, with certainty, that consensus has been
achieved. Because it is so nebulous to the people actually involved in
reaching consensus, the whole process is effectively concealed from public
view, not intentionally but simply for the lack of ombudsmen who can keep up
to date on the process for each topic under investigation and then alert the

What little contact the public does have with science, generally comes
through the print media. When significant new information is to be
published the media generally reports it using a standard format. First the
information is sensationalized as much as possible, and then a contrary view
is presented followed by the opinion that much more work is required to make
it useful. The media tries to create as much controversy as possible because
controversy boosts the sale of newspapers, but the result generally is
public confusion.

In addition to science, many other fields of scholarly learning also
contribute to our knowledge of present truth, and hence to the increasing
store of Word of God once they reach consensus. The scenario just outlined
for recognizing consensus in science operates in the same way in other
fields of scholarly learning to produce the same level of public confusion
about those subjects.

Of course consensus is simply a form of voting, and humans have always voted
to choose their theological principles. Christological orthodoxy was not
taught by Jesus, nor by Paul. Orthodoxy is decided within the community of
faith by voting, although the voting is usually carried out by church
leaders or scholars, and not by the general public. Perhaps the earliest
voting was done with Urim and Thumim; devices used by priests early in the
Old Testament to discover the will of God in particular cases. Consensus
came into first conspicuous use at the Council of Nicaea.

Unfortunately that first occasion is not a good example to imitate because
Emperor Constantine coerced consensus there by simply sending all dissenting
voters into exile; both physical and theological exile.

Since theological principles chosen by coerced consensus are naturally of
questionable significance, it is important that participating voters arrive
at consensus with a free conscience. People not connected to the consensus
process have no assurance that it was in fact a free conscience consensus
unless the process is drawn out over a very long period of time, and
involves very many voters, as usually happens.

The practical consequence of the diffuse nature of consensus is a public
which occasionally hears about the arrival of new information, but which is
completely unaware of the conversion of new information into new knowledge.
Still further, Methodist faith communities are largely unaware of the
instruction in the Book of Discipline which requires that our faith keep up
with new knowledge, which is also called new Present Truth; new Word of God.
I believe that the lack of awareness on those two levels is the main reason
that the laity still adheres to the fourth century view of the Bible. Some
level of scholarship is necessary for those who want to be aware, but it is
very rarely present.

This rather complete lack of awareness does not extend to all of the
professors in Methodist seminaries however. For the most part, professors
are scholars. Normally scholars are familiar with the consensus process and
the time variability on which it depends. Even so it is still quite
difficult for a scholar in one field (theology) to keep up with advances in
another field (science) and to know when a consensus has been reached in
that other field. Nevertheless some seminary professors do keep up with
science in a modest way through the media, and do become familiar with some
of the New Word of God. This completes our understanding and explanation of
how the theological differences between the clergy and laity do occur.

One additional factor deserves mention before we move to a conclusion. On
occasion some people prefer to ignore certain unpalatable facts and to live
their lives as though and those facts did not exist. That condition
doubtless operates to some extent in the minds of many laity people. Some
laity may see that attitude as protecting their faith in the fourth century
word of God. In support of this approach evangelist Charles Swindoll wrote:
"Attitude, to me, is more important than facts." In the mental arena where
facts are rejected or accepted, people will naturally tend to select facts
that they like. Author Margaret Attwood believes that people prefer stories
in which God is nearby rather than stories where God may be remote or absent

In summary one can say that any substantial degree of theological diversity
is a direct challenge to that part of the biblical aura which claims
ultimate truth. This essay could have ended much earlier by simply disputing
the existence of ultimate truth, then stopping at that point. Instead we
have explored the many variables necessary to a more complete understanding
of the theological diversity problem. The results of this assessment call
attention to the fact that, in addition to the Bible, we have multiple
additional sources for Word of God. They have produced newer, more recent,
Word but the laity is mostly unaware of it.

Unhappily this newer Word of God describes the Creation to be much different
from the metaphysical explanations for the Creation that were imagined by
the writers of the Bible. Notice, however, that this newer Word of God deals
only with physical aspects of Creation, but does not challenge the morality
teachings of the Bible, which remain pre-eminent.

The existence of new Word of God plus the continuing flow of additional new
Word of God, raises the question of whether to leave Methodist theology
completely determined by a first century worldview and understanding of
God's Word derived only from the Bible, or whether Methodist theology should
be advanced into a 21st century world view. If the choice is to advance to
the 21st century, to evolve the Methodist faith base from a first century
metaphysical plus moral view to a 21st century rational plus moral view,
then the question arises about how to accomplish that change.

In an ideal world "Our understanding of theological truths comes through
reasoning with our brothers and sisters in constant dialogue and inquiry."
(10) In the practical world of today, the brothers and sisters are all
limited in their access to the new Word of God, so the results can hardly be
satisfactory at the present time.

To make them more satisfactory, scholarship is required to deal with the
ongoing task of discerning the arrival of consensus for each of the
theologically important items as they arrive almost daily. The general
church should undertake the task of identifying new knowledge as it is
established by consensus, as it becomes Word of God, so that church members,
the brothers and sisters, may be authoritatively informed, and then can have
opportunity to incorporate the new Word of God into their "constant dialogue
and inquiry".

Once the brothers and sisters of the faith have been provided access to the
full range of Word of God, they still need to take one additional
preparatory action, they need to adopt a theological diversity outlook broad
enough to encompass all of the new Word of God. Then they will be adequately
equipped for the task of discerning theological truths through the process
of reasoning in constant dialogue and inquiry. Still further in the future,
when the new Word of God is embodied in scripture, the need for theological
diversity will disappear.

As long as the definition for Word of God remains in its present form,
scholarship and science will continue to provide a flow of extra-biblical
Word of God; new/recent Word of God not contained in the Bible. It is the
existence of this new/recent Word of God that creates an interest in
theological diversity. The impact of reason on the present theological scene
is the element which produces the need to exercise theological diversity.

The conclusion of this exploratory effort is that the exercise of
theological diversity which is limited to including recent Word of God; is
theologically correct; is presently necessary; and cannot be viewed as


(1) an aura is a general impression of the character of any particular
topic. It may be undesirable or desirable, repulsive or attractive, or any
degree between the two. In earlier centuries objects of religious veneration
usually had an aura of access to divine intervention.

(2) Carlyle "Kirk" Herrick, EXPLORING THE WORLD OF FAITH I, On The
Significance Of The Gospels, unpublished, 2/1/2006, pg 3.

(3) Walter Benjamin, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction
1935/1936 essay, visit WIKIPEDIA for a summary.

(4) Carlyle "Kirk" Herrick, EXPLORING THE WORLD OF FAITH III The Quantum
Cosmos - God's Creation, unpublished 7/17/2006


unpublished, 3/18/2000 pg 3.

San Francisco 1992

(7) Carlyle :Kirk" Herrick, EXPLORING THE WORLD OF FAITH IV The Impact of
Evolution, unpublished, 9/15/2006 pg. 7

(8) John Shelby Spong, Eric Elnes, and Marcus J. Borg are the only ones
known to me. They propose a Christianity based on love of God, love of
others, and love of self.

(9) Excerpt: PBS NOVA program Faith vs. Reason, June 2006 Discussion of
spiritual beliefs. MARGARET ATWOOD
(Author): : We like the story with God in it better then we like the story
without God in it. Because it's more like us, it's more understandable, it's
more human. " BILL MOYERS: "More human with God?"
MARGARET ATWOOD: "More human with God because the story without God is about
atoms. It's not about somebody we can talk with in theory, or that has any
interest in us. So the universe without an intelligence in it has got
nothing to say to us. Whereas the universe, with an intelligence in it, has
got something to say to us because it's a mirror of who we are. "

(10) Rev John Edward Nuessle, GBGM, New World Outlook Sept./Oct. 2006, pg 7

Copywrite January 2007 by Carlyle S. Herrick, Box 5, 12 Bath St., Alplaus
NY 12008

Permission is granted to reproduce this manuscript wholly or in part with
appropriate attribution.