Oct 082013
 
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The Secret Teachings of Jesus

Hello, I’m Keith Campbell, independent priest of the Home Temple, and welcome to GodSmarts.
I’d like to start this episode with a joke. The full joke is very long, but in the interests of time I’m going to abbreviate. A man was wandering by a monastery on a high hill when he heard a very strange, beautiful noise. He was so intrigued by the noise that he climed all the way up the mountain, found the abbot and asked him what was making such an unusual noise. The abbot told him sternly, “i’m sorry, but I can’t tell you. You’re not a monk”. The man went on his way, but his mind was so obsessed about the source of the sound that he finally climed back up the mountain and asked what he had to do to become a monk. The abbot told him he had to travel the world, count all the grains of sand on the beaches and all the blades of grass in the fields.
So he wandered the world for many years, counting all the grains of sand and all the blades of grass. Finally, many years later, he returned to the monestary and was made a monk.He could hardly contain his excitement as he was finally lead to the secret door where the strange sound came from. What he saw there was absolutely amazing, but I’m afraid I can’t tell you about it. You’re not a monk.

Secrets have often been a part of religion. Last time we looked at the recently discovered Gospel of Thomas, and I explained why many scholars think it’s a very important look at the authentic teachings of Jesus. But the Gospel of Thomas says that some of Jesus teachings were secret. The very first verse says:

“These are the secret sayings which the living Jesus spoke and which Didymos Judas Thomas wrote down.” – Thomas 1

Did Jesus have secret teachings?

There is very good evidence that he did. Jesus would take his disciples aside to explain the secret meanings of his parables, that the public didn’t get to hear. “You have been given the opportunity to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven” Jesus says, “but they have not. (Matt 13:10-11, NET)̀

The Greek word used for secret here is “musterion”, which means “to shut the mouth”. It referred to the sort of secrets that the initiates of the mystery schools were taught. Jesus said that some of his teachings weren’t for the unspiritual.

“Do not give what is holy to dogs or throw your pearls before pigs” – Matthew 7:6 NET Jesus says.

When his disciples figured out who he was,
“…he instructed his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.
(Matt 16:20, NET)

When he was transfigured on the mountain with Peter, James and John,

“As they were coming down from the mountain, he gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. (Mark 9:9 NET)

But haven’t all these secrets been revealed to us in the Bible?

Probably not.

We’re told at the end of the gospel of John that There are many other things that Jesus did. If every one of them were written down, I suppose the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written. (John 21:25, NET)

We’re told that,
“To the same apostles also, after his suffering, he presented himself alive with many convincing proofs. He was seen by them over a forty-day period and spoke about matters concerning the kingdom of God. (Acts 1:3, NET)

But we don’t know a single word of what he said.

Paul told his readers that he couldn’t teach them the deepest spiritual truths.

“I could not speak to you as spiritual people, “ he says, “but instead as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready. In fact, you are still not ready, (1Cor 3:1-2, NET)

So Paul’s epistles only gave spiritual milk, not the solid meat of the mysteries, but as a “steward of the mysteries of God.’ (1Cor 4:1, NET) Paul only explained “… spiritual things to spiritual people. (1Cor 3:13 NET)

Many of the early leaders of the church mentioned these secret teachings. Origin said that just like the Greek mysteries, Christianity had it’s secrets.

“But that there should be certain doctrines, not made known to the multitude, which are (revealed) after the exoteric (outer) ones have been taught, is not a peculiarity of Christianity alone, but also of philosophic systems, in which certain truths are exoteric (outer) and others esoteric. (inner)” (Origin Contra Cesum: Book I Chap VII)

Basil also mentioned the Christian mysteries – the oral teaching passed on from the apostles saying that:

“the awful dignity of the mysteries is best preserved by silence. What the uninitiated are not even allowed to look at was hardly likely to be publicly paraded about in written documents.” (Basil of Cesaria: On the Holy Spirit, Book XXVII)

And Clement of Alexandria talked about

“ the gnosis (secret knowledge) itself is that which has descended by transmission to a few, having been imparted unwritten by the apostles.” (Clement of Alexandria: Stromata Book VI Chapter VII)

One of the most famous gnostic teachers, Valentinus, a man who nearly became bishop of Rome, claimed to have been taught the secret teachings of Jesus by a disciple who learned them directly from the apostle Paul.

We assume that Jesus purpose was to publicly proclaim his message to the world, and then to die on the cross and rise from the dead, leaving his clear message in the Bible for everyone to read. We assume that because this written message – the outward message, is all that modern Christianity has to offer. But from these clues, it appears that Jesus also had a deeper, spiritual message that was only passed on to a few of his most spiritual disciples, and by them to their own select disciples. This is the way that spiritual discipleship has worked through much of history. Many of the Rabbis of Jesus time had inner circles of disciples with whom they shared their deepest teachings.

So what are these secret teachings of Jesus? And how can we know what they are if they aren’t spelled out in the Bible?

Well I’d like to tell you. But you’re not a monk.

Until next time, I’m Keith Campbell for Godsmarts. See you soon.

Just kidding. Next time, we WILL try to see what clues we can discover about Jesus’ secret teaching.

 

 

 

 

May 252013
 
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Now that I have better audio equipment, I wanted to start making some public domain music and hymns that I can use during google hangout meetings and presentations without running afoul of copyright. To test the equipment, I did a quick recording of the Latin hymn/round “Dona Nobis Pacem” (grant us peace). Here’s me singing three tracts.

DonaNobisPacem

May 232013
 

 

baubataI’ve always enjoyed pretty much everything Leo Babauta writes, and I’ve featured him as one of the recommended “gurus” on this site. He can be a bit extreme with his minimalism, but that makes him a good yardst

ick and exemplar of the principle. I wouldn’t want to copy his lifestyle, but I know I should move a lot further in that direction.

 

Anyhow, his latest post introduces a new, free book on contentment.

 

You’d be foolish not to download it immediately. It included a complete program on finding contentment. I certainly intend to try it myself. I recommend you do also.

 

Aug 212012
 

here I am lord

If Grace Is True: Why God Will Save Every Person, by Philip Gulley and James Mulholland. I first encountered the writing of Philip Gulley and James Mulholland when writing an article on universalism in an earlier blog post. The other day I re-read that post, and decided to go looking for the book. I’m tremendously grateful that I did.

In a way, this book picks up where Rob Bell’s Love Wins leaves off. Where Bell asks probing questions about the idea that God will eternally punish people in hell, Gulley and Mulholland passionately chronicle their journey to the conclusion that He will not.

ifgraceistrue

Support PathsToKnowledge. Click on the image above to see this book in our Amazon store.

The book is written in an unusual dual first-person. The two Quaker pastors combine their experiences into one whole, while continuing to use “I” to communicate the experiences, leaving the reader to guess to which of the authors any particular experience may belong. The book begins with a faith-changing experience one of the pastors had in preparing the funeral sermon of a troubled woman who died while on the very threshold of returning to her faith. In a flash of insight derived from the parable of the prodigal son, the pastor realized that God wasn’t waiting for her to cross that threshold, but had run out to meet her.

Along the way, Gulley and Mulholland come to trust their own experience of God as a supremely loving being and subordinate their understanding of scripture to that experience. This leads them inevitably to the conclusion that not all of scripture portrays God properly. A view of scripture where all scripture is equally perfect and inerrant is discarded.

Other universalist authors (such as Rob Bell to a degree) believe they can stay within the boundaries of an inerrant view of scripture and still hold to universalism. It’s an intriguing project – and If Grace Is True has a nice appendix presenting the universalist view from scripture and church history.  But ultimately I think these two pastors take the more honest approach. The love of God and the love of our neighbor are the two principles by which any other principle is to be judged, and even scripture must bow to the principle of love.

I’ve quoted this before, but let me present a brief exert of this book to give you an idea of it’s heart:

I had rejected the image of a wrathful, powerful God anxious to punish the wicked in the fires of hell, but I was left with a benevolent but feeble God who had no choice but to destroy the ones he loved. Hell was another Holocaust, where once again millions would be thrown into the furnaces while God stood by powerless and defeated. When confronted with the inconsistency of an all-powerful God incapable of accomplishing his desire, I drew a careful distinction between what God wanted to do and what God was able to do. God was not free.

I defended our freedom to reject God–but denied God’s freedom to reject our rejection. Acknowledged that God can have mercy on whom he will have mercy, and compassion on whom he will have compassion, but I quickly defined the persons and situations in which God could be merciful and compassionate. My God was shackled, powerless to act.

This shackled God was not the God of Jesus.

Simply put, this is a wonderful book, for anyone who is ready for it. Universalism makes the gospel into the really good news, and alters our view of everything around us – for the better.

Jun 072012
 

While all of Regina’s books have been first-rate, this latest one, “The 8 Minute Organizer”, may be the most useful one yet. Because I’m so naturally disorganized myself, I’m something of a junkie for books and systems to bring some kind of order to my world. Regina’s other books have been very helpful for that – giving me organizational tasks that I can schedule throughout the year on my way to perfect neatness. But I’ve never seemed to accomplish them all. Some projects are just a bit large and intimidating.

The genius of this book is that it has broken down organizational tasks into 8 minute sprints – units of work short enough that they don’t scare me and that I have no excuse not to incorporate into my day. Unlike previous books that grouped organizational tasks by time of year – this one is organized by the area of your home. Pick the bedroom, bathroom, kitchen or your files – and there’s a chapter full of eight-minute mini-tasks focused around that area. You can pick the room most in need of attention. Or, as Regina suggests, you can pick one that’s not quite as intimidating and build up your skills.

the eight minute organizer

Support PathsToKnowledge. Click on the image to buy from our Amazon store

There are several things I especially like about Regina’s approach. First of all, she’s called the “Zen Organizer” for a reason. There’s a definite undercurrent of calm, meditative philosophy in her books. You aren’t just organizing so that you can cram more stuff into your life. You are trying to achieve a healthy balance and a strong and calm mental and physical foundation for peace and tranquility. She even has advice on diet, exercise and meditation. You’re not just bringing order to your stuff. You’re bringing order to your life.

Another thing that’s a personal preference of mine is that I don’t like to be given TOO many choices in how to approach something. Or if there are choices, I want to be pointed at a “preferred” option. If I’m given the opportunity, I can tend to get lost in choosing the perfect organizational tools and systems instead of actually organizing. Regina tends to just tell you what to do, and I like that. Sure there are choices, but she’ll often indicate her personal preference, so I can just follow the clear instructions and get right down to business.

If you’ve had trouble getting started in organizing because your life is just too chaotic, this may be a perfect book for you.

 

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