Tearing down boundaries, barriers and walls

Exploring critical challenges to our presumptions on life

Recently a friend sent me a message asking for my comments regarding an article that made the radical assertion that Jesus isn’t the only way to heaven.

Instead of simply forming a singular response to my friend, I think this subject is worthy of pondering and sharing widely. It’s worth pondering if for no other reason than this claim of “Jesus is the only way” is the fundamental assertion of Christian supremacy for hundreds of millions of people.

Believe in Jesus? Yes? Then OK you get to go to heaven. No? Well then hellfire and brimstone for you my dear friend. Sorry about that eternal suffering stuff but what are you going to do since the good book clearly says so.

Or does it?

The assumption that Jesus is the only way to heaven arises primarily from a singular verse in the Gospel of John which proclaims: “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6).

If you have spent anytime exploring other religions, then you probably know that Christianity isn’t alone in this bold interpretation of its sacred scriptures that they have the only true path to God.

Yep, pert near every expression of faith has followers that can point to a verse in their sacred scriptures asserting that they alone have the one true way to God.

Again, the most generous of those holding this position will be sorry that you going burn in hell, but hey what can you do? After all its right there in the BOOK!

But how does that assertion’s claim resonate with the understanding that God is love? I just don’t see it.

In my advanced years after lots and lots of theological wrestling with concepts, creeds and traditions, I’ve come to the conclusion that this practice of drawing barriers & boundaries around the access to God is pretty much like drawing barriers and boundaries on the Globe. Yeah, I’ve concluded it’s a human trait to draw barriers & boundaries not a Godly trait.

The poet that wrote the book of Genesis made a very bold assertion very early on in this amazing book that attempts to convey how Creation came to be: “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). Now that verse resonates for me with the concept that God is love.

So, if everything and everyone of God’s creatures (yes including you & I and even those that don’t remotely resemble you & I) is deemed by God to be “Very Good” then where do we get the warped idea that we can create boundaries and barriers when God has not? On what basis do we get to judge and exclude others from God?

This concept of desiring to exclude others from being a member of God’s Good Creation is an ancient sin. I’m confident that archeologists can point to cave drawings which convey this very same concept: I’m on the inside and you are on the outside so just go ahead and die. It’s like we never outgrew the childhood cruelties practiced in the school yard except now we do it with weapons of economic deprivation or environmental degradation or mass destruction or at least erecting walls isolating us from “them others”.

This argument is played out exceeding well in chapters 10 & 11 of the Book of Acts where Peter is castigated by his fellow early disciples for having the audacity to go to Gentiles with the Good News. His response is one that guides much of my current understanding on a faith filled life: “who was I that I could hinder God?” (Acts 11:17)

There’s a basic human failing which is to attempt to be God or direct God or limit who God can love.

Who am I to think that I can limit God? Yeah, that’s a really tough question which if we are honest enough to raise it then it should knock us back to reality when we get tempted to be supreme over others or any of God’s good creation.

In full confession, I’m hopelessly Christian but for me that simply and totally means being a follower of Jesus not human dogma and creeds. So as to the common assertion that God is limited to reaching humans with the message to live a life rooted in love only through Christianity, who are we to hinder God?

So, returning to our opening verse of John 14:6. I find it helpful to my life faith journey to re-phrase it this way:

Jesus came to show me the truth about the way I am to live.

The way is first and forevermore rooted in the practice of sacrificial compassionate love seeking justice for all of God’s Good Creation.

As to boundaries and barriers? On my better days, I know that God would say tear them down.

Walls and barriers are of human origin

Tearing down boundaries, barriers and walls

Exploring critical challenges to our presumptions on life

Recently a friend sent me a message asking for my comments regarding an article that made the radical assertion that Jesus isn’t the only way to heaven.

Instead of simply forming a singular response to my friend, I think this subject is worthy of pondering and sharing widely. It’s worth pondering if for no other reason than this claim of “Jesus is the only way” is the fundamental assertion of Christian supremacy for hundreds of millions of people.

Believe in Jesus? Yes? Then OK you get to go to heaven. No? Well then hellfire and brimstone for you my dear friend. Sorry about that eternal suffering stuff but what are you going to do since the good book clearly says so.

Or does it?

The assumption that Jesus is the only way to heaven arises primarily from a singular verse in the Gospel of John which proclaims: “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6).

If you have spent anytime exploring other religions, then you probably know that Christianity isn’t alone in this bold interpretation of its sacred scriptures that they have the only true path to God.

Yep, pert near every expression of faith has followers that can point to a verse in their sacred scriptures asserting that they alone have the one true way to God.

Again, the most generous of those holding this position will be sorry that you going burn in hell, but hey what can you do? After all its right there in the BOOK!

But how does that assertion’s claim resonate with the understanding that God is love? I just don’t see it.

In my advanced years after lots and lots of theological wrestling with concepts, creeds and traditions, I’ve come to the conclusion that this practice of drawing barriers & boundaries around the access to God is pretty much like drawing barriers and boundaries on the Globe. Yeah, I’ve concluded it’s a human trait to draw barriers & boundaries not a Godly trait.

The poet that wrote the book of Genesis made a very bold assertion very early on in this amazing book that attempts to convey how Creation came to be: “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). Now that verse resonates for me with the concept that God is love.

So, if everything and everyone of God’s creatures (yes including you & I and even those that don’t remotely resemble you & I) is deemed by God to be “Very Good” then where do we get the warped idea that we can create boundaries and barriers when God has not? On what basis do we get to judge and exclude others from God?

This concept of desiring to exclude others from being a member of God’s Good Creation is an ancient sin. I’m confident that archeologists can point to cave drawings which convey this very same concept: I’m on the inside and you are on the outside so just go ahead and die. It’s like we never outgrew the childhood cruelties practiced in the school yard except now we do it with weapons of economic deprivation or environmental degradation or mass destruction or at least erecting walls isolating us from “them others”.

This argument is played out exceeding well in chapters 10 & 11 of the Book of Acts where Peter is castigated by his fellow early disciples for having the audacity to go to Gentiles with the Good News. His response is one that guides much of my current understanding on a faith filled life: “who was I that I could hinder God?” (Acts 11:17)

There’s a basic human failing which is to attempt to be God or direct God or limit who God can love.

Who am I to think that I can limit God? Yeah, that’s a really tough question which if we are honest enough to raise it then it should knock us back to reality when we get tempted to be supreme over others or any of God’s good creation.

In full confession, I’m hopelessly Christian but for me that simply and totally means being a follower of Jesus not human dogma and creeds. So as to the common assertion that God is limited to reaching humans with the message to live a life rooted in love only through Christianity, who are we to hinder God?

So, returning to our opening verse of John 14:6. I find it helpful to my life faith journey to re-phrase it this way:

Jesus came to show me the truth about the way I am to live.

The way is first and forevermore rooted in the practice of sacrificial compassionate love seeking justice for all of God’s Good Creation.

As to boundaries and barriers? On my better days, I know that God would say tear them down.

Walls and barriers are of human origin

New Year Resolutions

Telling It Forward – A Progressive Faith Journey

New Year’s Resolutions

So, it’s that time of the year yet again.

Yep, time to resolve to do better in the coming year. Well at least to begin the New Year with the intent of doing better in some way, shape or manner.

But like usual, we’ve procrastinated and so we are “under the gun” and need to come up with an appropriate life changing resolution in the next 72 hours or so. You can almost hear the classic “Jeopardy” countdown theme playing in the background. Oh, the tension builds! What to do, what to do?!

Perhaps a bit of Gospel wisdom for a time such as this?

“Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able.” (Luke 13:24)

Strive…hmmm. The core truth of New Year’s resolutions may well be in the striving to be better.

But better at what?

Back to the Gospel:

“to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’—this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” (Mark 12:35)

Resolve to be better at loving others with compassion and justice at its core.

2019 really-really needs resolutions such as this.

But then you knew this truth already, didn’t you?

Using Scripture to promote evil? Oh human what have you wrought?

And the Word became flesh -Using scripture to promote evil, oh humankind what have you wrought?Terry in robe I have been truly ineffectual, as of late. Well ineffectual at least in the realm of my ministry as a public theologian tasked with awakening people to hear God’s call to turn away from our current destructive paths in order to live another way. Due to changing family dynamics, I’ve been deeply engaged in a grandparenting on an active daily basis, but truth be told I still have time in my weekly schedule for ministry. In full confession, I’ve been woefully neglectful of my ministry to you because quite simply I don’t yet understand how to be an effective communicator of truth in this dystopian “Age of Trump”. Trump lies nearly 10 times a day. His followers are being quoted as knowing this but despite the lies or perhaps because of his unorthodox behavior, somehow still trust him. Recently individuals who claim to follow him have performed acts of great evil and in response to the evil perpetuated in his name, his inflammatory rhetoric has only escalated. In turn, the rhetoric of his monetary sponsors has also escalated. One might say its because they are afraid that our society is finally awakening to their particular form of evil and they fear the results of this election going against them. I pray that it might be so. This past week, his monetary sponsors have published racist advertisements and to prove there are truly no boundaries to this obscene movement, took out billboard advertisements which essentially proclaim that Trump is the Messiah by employing the words from the beginning of John’s Gospel “And The Word Became Flesh”. This is nothing new, as in the troubled history of humankind, Evil has often misused the Christian Holy Scripture to promote or even to sanctify evil acts. This of course has also been done with the Holy Scriptures of every other world religion. Scriptures misused to promote every kind of evil act. This type of Evil movement only stops when we stop it. In human history, good and faithful have opposed Evil at the cost of their lives. Today, we can do it at the ballot box. I hope you do it. I know for some, it will be a far greater hardship than it was for me. For some, your registration will be challenged, I hope you persist. For some, your voting place has been moved, I hope you persist. For some, your voting place has restrictions which will make it physically challenging for you, I hope you persist. For some, perhaps like me, you will need to throw off the deep despair you currently suffer in order to act, I hope you persist. But act we must. For you see to oppose this modern evil human empire and all evil human enterprises throughout history is exactly why the word became flesh as John so eloquently expressed it the opening 14 verses of his gospel. Vote and then spend some time with this Gospel passage today and again on the tomorrows yet to be. May they help guide our life paths to be centered in compassionate justice for all God’s good Creation. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.    And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth (John 1:1-14)  

Do we live to worship or worship to live?

Scripture has some very challenging messages for us to wrestle with.


There’s one that comes from the book of Isaiah (1:10-18) and describes how very disappointed that God is with human’s intense focus on attempting to appease God through worship but doing nothing to change how they actually live.

It expresses the disturbing news that God has no interest in prayers and offerings from a people who reject compassion & instead embrace injustice.

The passage ends with the statement: “Come now, let us argue it out, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be like snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.”

Perhaps how we come to understand how God would have us live can be found through engaging in the difficult discussion of what we claim to believe and how we actually live.

Perhaps the willingness to encounter difficult truths through dialogue is the first step of discernment.

Stated another way, the “900 pound gorilla” in the room that nobody wants to talk about, is the justice dichotomy between how we pray/sing/worship & how we act/value/love.


Perhaps it is through this difficult dialogue, that real change in our lives is possible. 

Curse God or Persist?

There’s a troubling book in the Bible with an especially troubling passage that just rings vividly true for our current times.

(Job 2:7) So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and struck Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. And he took a piece of broken pottery with which to scrape himself while he sat in the ashes. Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.”

Did we do something that deserved being on the receiving end of all the Evil befalling us right now?

Perhaps yes or perhaps not. Sometimes Evil just is and does and inflicts harm cuz well that’s how it earned it’s name. At least that’s what the book of Job kinda indicates.

The question more critical to these times is what will our response me?

Do we simply curse God & die?

Or do we persist in our integrity and continue to strive for a just & compassionate society?

How can these things be?

Everyday, I get up in the pre-dawn hours because as an old man that’s what one does. It must be written down somewhere that old men don’t get to sleep in and that’s simply the way things are at this point in my life. So, accept it & get on with life, no sense in griping about for the simple reason who would listen, hey you’re the only up anyway.

Anyway, I get up and put on the coffee pot and while its working its magic, I turn to my computer and sure enough, 9 times out of 10, when I glance at the headlines, the words “How can these things be?’ are my first conscious thoughts of the day.

How can these things be?

Every-time you think that you’ve seen the worst depths that our human society can degrade to, well then what do you know here’s a new one to reset the record books on what are the known limits to our collective greed, depravity, insane violence or simply evil against one another or against God’s Good Creation, which by the way, includes every other human being among the rest of those creatures.

How can these things be?

Our collective response to these “new normal” news items is to shake our heads, utter a imaginative expletive or two, perhaps make an angry post on some social media platform or sign a petition, but ultimately as a society we choose to simply to sigh and move onto the rest of priorities of this new day.

How can these things be?

Is there another option? Is there perhaps a bit of Gospel wisdom to inform our lives this day?

In the 3rd chapter of the Gospel of John, there’s a story detailing how Nicodemus is bringing essentially this same question to the radical new teacher in town, a guy we call Jesus.

“Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?
“Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?”
(John 3:1 from the NRSV)

It’s curious to note that Nicodemus waited until nightfall to seek out the wisdom of Jesus. Perhaps his motivation to wait, till he can’t be seen by others who would judge critically of him, is a little bit like our hesitancy to ask these questions out loud. We too hesitate to ask why things are this way for fear of reprisal from the numerous members of the “Make America Great Tribe”. Whether the members of this provocative tribe live next door or occupy the next office or even sit in the next pew, we hesitate to be seen questioning our society’s new normal.

How can these things be?

How did our civilization ever reach the point of unleashing such destructive forces which have placed the future of human civilization very much in doubt?

How did it happen so fast? Were we asleep at the wheel? (Short answer: Yep.)

So, every-day, I start out with a little bit of despair tugging at the corners of my soul.

A much greater confession to make, is that the new question formed out of my despair is “How is it even possible to change our society’s destructive course in time to save the multitudes including my grandchildren?”

Yeah that puts me right there next to Nicodemus saying the same things to Jesus: How is this possible?

Yep me and Ole Nick slinking in under the cover of night wondering the same fate-filled question: How is this possible? How is it possible to have the faith that somehow God’s Holy Spirit will awaken enough people of Faith in time that we can turn our society away from running like Lemmings into the chasm of ultimate destruction?

Jesus says it’s quite simple: you must be born again of the Spirit.

Here’s where all my evangelical colleagues slap their high fives and triumphantly say: that’s what we’ve been telling you all along.

Not so fast, I reply to my evangelical colleagues, it’s not simply sufficient to state “I believe and therefore I am saved”, because you remember in that passage Jesus went on to say: “Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?”

You did not receive my testimony… There’s a difficult condemnation to receive this day.

Remember Jesus giving us the beatitudes?

Remember the commandments to care for the poor, to give food to the hungry and drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, and if you have 2 cloaks you must give one away and then of course there are the numerous commands to love compassionately without limit told to us again and again throughout the Gospels?

We haven’t truly received Jesus’ testimony until we live the way he told us to live.

So, put your high 5’s down because very few of us are there yet.

How can it be possible to turn our society from the path of greed driven violence and destruction in time to save our kids?

So yes, I start my day with “How can these things be?”

How is it possible that we have freely chosen to live in our modern consumerism to the extent that it is destroying God’s Good Creation?

It’s been increasingly difficult wrestling with despair over our rapidly deteriorating situation. It’s hard to see much in the way of progress in the work that I’ve been doing. So, in a period of despair this Summer, I thought that God was calling me in another direction. But I was wrong. The frustrating but critically necessary work of awakening faith communities to the Climate & Sustainability Crisis is exactly where God is Calling me to do ministry.

I have to tell you that my secular colleagues have a tendency to roll their eyes at the prospect that people of faith will rise up to guide our society into an ancient, and yet for us, a new way of living. A way of living that sustains all life rather than wantonly plundering the life systems of this one planet that God has placed into our care. This amazingly beautiful, complicated interrelated but fragile home of ours that we call earth.

How can it be possible to believe that God will awaken people of Faith in time?

Well, go ahead and roll your eyes.

Yeah, you’re right to observe that the pews are pretty empty now and it’s mostly grey hairs sitting there while the rest of society has concluded that the church is no longer relevant to modern day life.

But hey I accept the Gospel truth that God’s Spirit is alive and at work among us, even now, calling us forth.

Someday soon, the Church will heart the urgent Call to respond and will arise to lead our society forth to a new way of life. A way centered in sustaining God’s Good Creation for all generations yet to come. It will happen simultaneously with secular society realizing that they are missing the greatest truth about what is truly important in this life and in desperation they will seek out this truth.

So yes, I still start out most mornings with the question of “How can these things be?”

But on my better nights after a day devoted to this ministry whether frustrating or enriching, I end with the prayer: “Speak Lord for your servant is listening.” In time, a chorus of Faith filled voices will join in this prayer and together we will discern God’s calling us forth to guide our society to a better way to live. A way of life that nurtures instead of destroys, that loves instead of hates and that fills it’s days with acts of compassionate love.

Need some modern-day examples of following the way of Jesus?

Go to www.SustainingCreation.org and pick on the 48 actions towards a sustainable life, chose 2 or 3 and start doing them. Make sure you do these visibly in the bright light of day for all your neighbors to see the Gospel in action.

Perhaps it will help you to: receive our testimony.” And be born yet again this day and all the remaining days of our lives.

Who knows? Our kids may even cherish our memories for the day we arose to save their future and live a life well lived following our example of the vital lesson that we finally learned before it was too late