Hello and Welcome,
The growing community gathered on this site are a diverse group of pioneers who are sharing their journey forward in faith and spiritual practice. The way they are identifying the trailmarkers on their paths is reflected in the how each of them seeks to interpret and follow Jesus patterned biblical spirituality.
What is Jesus patterned biblical spirituality?
Jesus patterned biblical spirituality begins with Jesus. As the Word of God made “flesh” – perceptible and tangible to us, the character and purpose of God is made more present to us in the person and life of Jesus. After centuries of inspired teachings “about” God, the Godself is now revealed in a presence and an authority that Jesus said was given him by God and was over that of all others.
“I’ve received all authority in heaven and earth.”
At the start of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus makes clear that he interprets the words (small “w”) of others in the Bible. The authority he exercises began in his first teaching, the Sermon on the Mount. He sets the ground for that major message with a challenge to the literal words and common interpretation of Moses, including a revision of two of the Ten Commandments (Matthew 5: 21-48).
The Jesus pattern is a template then for how we approach an understanding of the writings in the Bible. If some texts do not appear to be in sync with the Jesus pattern – which is to say they don’t appear consistent with Jesus’ example and emphasis — we don’t give them the priority of texts that do follow Jesus’ teaching. Jesus, his pattern of life and relationships, mission and purpose is a template, a filter, and an interpreter of what is most important and vital in biblical spirituality.
How is biblical spirituality different from biblical religion?
Our interest is not in trying to “use” the Bible to form a uniform system of beliefs. We aren’t trying to create yet another system of behaviors and norms that preserve the purity of those beliefs and their correct practice, let alone an institutional structure to enforce and certify orthodoxy. Those are the ingredients of a religion. Patterns of religion may be helpful but only as they support our direct experience of God through the Jesus pattern.
Spirituality is that which explores our deepest sense of purpose, meaning, belonging, and relationships in life. Religion has developed a lot of teaching “about” Jesus. Biblical spirituality seeks to experience a direct connection with God and discover more of how Jesus doing that animated and directed his life pattern.
This site, this process of Jesus patterned biblical spirituality, does not require one to be a Christian or make any particular confession of faith…again that would be like promoting a religion. It has an inherent and distinctive relevance to those coming from the Abrahamic traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. But those of other religious backgrounds, perhaps most famously Mohatma Ghandi, have often spoken about the power of the Jesus pattern in their life and practice. Social and physical scientists, humanists, and agnostics may find much of interest in a biblical spirituality that is re-defined by the interpretative lens of the life and heart of Jesus.
In what ways is this relevant today?
Many, many people – across the religious spectrum and around the world – are restless in the religion of their origin or perhaps in finding a religion with which to begin. Some are trying to remain in their religious tradition, many are looking beyond traditional models. Kathy Escobar refers to the pattern in her book “Faith Shift.” Her practice of caring for people through this journey is so helpful. This site is designed to speak to those seekers who are on a journey, usually not of a linear or observedly direct nature, to explore how they might discover a spiritual practice that fulfills their yearnings and harmonizes with their experience.
While some people feel they must demolish the belief and social pattern of their religious communities of origin, most wish to retain elements of it … though perhaps reconstructed. Other beliefs may need to be dropped all together. Consider some of these:
- A teaching common in Jewish Scriptures, and evident among Jesus’ disciples (John 9), is Deuteronomic Retributive Theology. DRT for short and, as Barry Huff offers, it may be pronounced “dirt”. Dr. Huff has written extensively on the failing structure of God rewarding good behavior as God punishes bad. His work on the Book of Job masterfully develops Job’s journey with God through the darkness, doubt, anger, and fear. Inherent is reasoning that success, health, and wealth, must mean one is doing faith right as much as experiencing failure at success could be reasoned as the result of having done faith wrong.
- Deeply embedded in much of historic Christianity is that from our forebearers in the Garden we all suffer the inescapable stain of original sin. Danielle Shroyer brilliantly demolishes an idea of which Jesus never spoke and resurrects the opposite in God’s benediction in Genesis in her book “Original Blessing.” Being ransomed from the fate of original sin is the errant step-child of this false separation from God that can only be rectified by God requiring the substitutional blood sacrifice of God’s Son. The late Phyllis Tickle, a ground breaking author and scholar, famously challenged the whole notion of this type of atonement by telling an audience of pastors regarding such a God: “We don’t need that kind of Daddy.”
- God’s first words to humans involved a command to be fruitful and multiply. Nadia Boltz-Weber discusses this early blessing of our sexual expression and nature as far different that the guilt-ridden focus on “correct” and so-called “normal” behaviors in her book “Shameless.” Perhaps no existing model needs more demolition than the prejudicial, judgmental, and traditionally negative view on sex. The church’s historic view of sex has been two-fold: 1) don’t do it before marriage and 2) after you’re married we don’t really want to know about it
- Likewise, many religious traditions treat faith formation as a path of learning information, confessions of the church and tradition, and not fully, if at all, inviting the spectrum of human feelings that each individual may, at different times and in varied ways, experience. Sarah Heath writes on the essence of the spiritual journey from a biblical standpoint in “What’s Your Story; Seeing Your Life Through God’s Eyes.” Using a workbook format, where the reader shapes the process rather than conforming to it, reveals the dynamic of how experiences with God follow individual contexts rather than uniform definitions.
These five individuals, a renowned millennial bible scholar, and four dynamic female pastors, spiritual directors, and community activists, will be featured on this site in the next few months.
Enjoy the early posts on this site and please know that wherever you are on your spiritual journey, wherever you have come from and may be headed towards, you are welcome here…and accepted, respected, and loved by God and us.
Executive Director and Curator