Archives For Phyllis Tickle

The Words of Jesus….

December 22, 2012 — Leave a comment

This is a continuation of the previous post about the words of Jesus taking front and center in Christian living.  Last time we talked about  how the red letters came about in our Christian bibles and about an organization dedicated to putting them back in their proper place in Christianity.  This time I want to tell you about a couple of books that put the red letters front and center.

Words of JesusThe first is a book by Phyllis Tickle entitled The Words of Jesus. This book which was published in 2008 was the first time I have come across something dedicated entirely by the words coming from Jesus’ mouth (at least as reported in the Gospel text). Phyllis Tickle is a firm member of the emergent movement and therefore one of my current favorite authors. This book was a rather ambitious undertaking as she admits in the preface. It is broken down into categories including:

  • Words of Public Teaching
  • Words of Private Instructions
  • Words of Healing Dialogue
  • Words of Intimate Conversation
  • Words of Post-Resurrection Encounters

I have used this book on several occasions as a way to find a particularly verse I was looking for. If you browse Amazon you will see it gets its share of low ratings from those who say all the words in the Bible are just as important as any others and also from those who say only their bible version is the “correct” one (she used several different versions).  As Tickle points out in her book pulling the red letters away from their surroundings in the Gospel text allows us to see them without prejudice of others interpretation. But to some degree they also then deny us the wisdom of the early fathers. I have most often used this book as a way to find a particular verse and then go to the gospel text for further understanding.

Red LettersThe second book in this area is a recent one entitled the Red Letters edited by Timothy Beals. This book is pure red letters and is organized in two distinct sections. One is the words are presented in chronological order as they were spoken. The second listing is by topic including: Kingdom and Creed, Hearing and Doing, Warnings and Woes.  This book resides on my Kindle beside the one above as a ready source for finding a particular verse for further study.

I would recommend both of these works to anyone serious about the teachings of Jesus. As pointed out above they do put all the emphasis on the unvarnished words of Jesus and then leave it up to you to understand the meaning. You do that by searching your heart and also looking at the surrounding text while keeping in mind that the surrounding text is just one man’s understanding of the words.

As I have mentioned several times on the blog over the years I believe it is up to each of us to come to our own understanding of what Christianity is all about and what the words of Jesus mean to us. While there have been literally thousands of theologians and such that have written their opinions very few of them seem to agree with each other.

If you want to know what Christianity is supposed to be about you must get that information directly from the foundation and that is Jesus. Any other source, which is always another person’s interpretation, is secondary at best.

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In this second post about the first major reconfiguration of the Christian church I will be covering some ancillary info about just who was affected by the Dark Ages and will be talking a little about the person “saved” the church for a later resurrection.

First of all I have found that the term “Dark Ages” has many definitions and stated causes. For purposes here I will define the period as between the fifth and the tenth centuries. Many, looking at different cultural aspects, expand it to include four hundred years beyond that. Generally speaking this was a very dreary period of intellectual darkness and economic depression that occurred in Europe following the collapse of the Roman Empire. “Barbarians at the gates” was a very descriptive way of saying what happened. Basically barbarians took down the mighty empire and intellectual and spiritual leaders pretty much vanished as a result.

Why did the Roman empire collapse?  Again there are many different explanations for it. Some, with very pointed agendas, say the church itself was the primary cause and particularly the papacy. I fall more in line that it was caused by an economic collapse due to spending an inordinate amount of  money required to reign in the many different populations and their lands that were taken over by the empire. Military spending gobbled up more than half of all the resources available. There was just not enough left over to maintain stability within the empire. In other words they just grew too big.

One thing worth noting about this period was the it actually only affected about 20% of the world’s population, primarily those in what we know today as mostly Western Europe. Up until this study I ignorantly presumed that it was a world wide event but in reality most of the world was unaware of the Dark Ages.

The Dark Ages was the time when the Christian church radically moved from a period of great power as an empire religion into its monastic period of hunkering down. I also believe that this mammoth change in the church allowed it to survive until a later more enlightened period known as the Renaissance. Gregory the Great was the person who primarily lead this change. He was the Pope from 590CE to 604.

Here is how Phyllis Tickle described the move from the early church into the Dark Ages:

What politically and culturally would very swiftly spiral down into the Dark Ages was already at work peeling the Christianity of the Early Church away from the laity and inserting into the resulting vacuum a kind of animistic, half-magical form of a bastardized Christianity that would characterize the laity and much of the minor clergy over the next few centuries.

It was primarily due to Gregory’s beliefs in a monastic lifestyle that really saved most of the early church documents and practices from also being bastardized. These things were held in trust in remote abbeys and nunneries waiting for a time to spring anew and that would take more than five hundred years to come about! It is only because of Gregory that we maintained most of the documents we have about the early Christian church before this time. The church might have looked very different today without them.

A Giant Rummage Sale…

November 22, 2012 — Leave a comment

Anyone who has visited this blog in the recent past know that I am pinning great hope on the “emergent” church being able to rescue the current Christian establishments from their focus on believing things about Jesus as opposed to of “being” a Christian through our actions. I was very disheartened when I discovered the statistic that almost no one can tell the difference between a Christian and anyone else in the population. People who call themselves Christians live their lives pretty much like everyone else. In fact they actually divorce more often than non-Christians! Something has to change to move the church and its current occupants to be more Christ like. I am praying the emergent church will be able to do that.

One of the major proponents of the emergent church is Phyllis Tickle.  In her book entitled The Great Emergence she shows us that every 500 years the church remakes itself in a major way.  Here are some of her words from that book:

The only way to understand what is currently happening to us as twenty-first-century Christians in North America is first to understand that about every five hundred years the Church feels compelled to hold a giant rummage sale. And, he goes on to say, we are living in and through one of those five-hundred-year sales. Now, while the bishop may be using a bit of humor to make a point, his is nonetheless a deadly serious and exquisitely accurate point.

Any usable discussion of the Great Emergence and what is happening in Christianity today must commence with yesterday and a discussion of history. Only history can expose the patterns and confluences of the past in such a way as to help us identify the patterns and flow of our own times and occupy them more faithfully. The first pattern that we must consider as relevant to the Great Emergence is Bishop Dyer’s rummage sale, which, as a pattern, is not only foundational to our understanding but also psychologically very reassuring for most of us. That is, as Bishop Dyer observes, about every five hundred years the empowered structures of institutionalized Christianity, whatever they may be at that time, become an intolerable carapace that must be shattered in order that renewal and new growth may occur. When that mighty upheaval happens, history shows us, there are always at least three consistent results or corollary events. First, a new, more vital form of Christianity does indeed emerge. Second, the organized expression of Christianity which up until then had been the dominant one is reconstituted into a more pure and less ossified expression of its former self.

 I will be spending the next few posts looking at the three previous remakes of the church and how it changed as a result. I am a lifelong history buff and a thorough believer that if we don’t understand history we are more prone to be repeating the same mistakes over and over again.  Next time we will start with the first major remodel of the church in the sixth century.

Rummage Sales

June 25, 2012 — 2 Comments

Before I get into the “details” I wanted to throw out another unique way of looking at church history.  Here is the way  author Phyllis Tickle describes church history in her book entitled The Great Emergence :

The only way to understand what is currently happening to us as twenty-first-century Christians in North America is first to understand that about every five hundred years the Church feels compelled to hold a giant rummage sale. And, he (Rev Mark Dyer) goes on to say, we are living in and through one of those five-hundred-year sales.

Now, while the bishop may be using a bit of humor to make a point, his is nonetheless a deadly serious and exquisitely accurate point. Any usable discussion of the Great Emergence and what is happening in Christianity today must commence with yesterday and a discussion of history. Only history can expose the patterns and confluences of the past in such a way as to help us identify the patterns and flow of our own times and occupy them more faithfully. The first pattern that we must consider as relevant to the Great Emergence is Bishop Dyer’s rummage sale, which, as a pattern, is not only foundational to our understanding but also psychologically very reassuring for most of us.

That is, as Bishop Dyer observes, about every five hundred years the empowered structures of institutionalized Christianity, whatever they may be at that time, become an intolerable carapace that must be shattered in order that renewal and new growth may occur. When that mighty upheaval happens, history shows us, there are always at least three consistent results or corollary events. First, a new, more vital form of Christianity does indeed emerge. Second, the organized expression of Christianity which up until then had been the dominant one is reconstituted into a more pure and less ossified expression of its former self.

While Phyllis Tickle calls the current age the Great Emergence from what I can glean it is also analogous with Harvey Cox’s the age of the spirit. The term emergence has been overused already and its meaning therefore is not yet solidified. We will get into that in future posts. I may also flesh out just what those five hundred year milestones are. A rummage sale seems to be a very effective way of describing the about-faces that the church has done throughout its history.

Until the next time I bid you peace….

The Words of Jesus

November 12, 2009 — 1 Comment

Words of Jesus Book 183x250

I found an interesting book a while back by Phyllis Tickle entitled “The Words of Jesus”. Phyllis Tickle is the founding editor at Publishers Weekly and is author of more than two dozen book about Christianity. In this book she attempts to take the red letters found in the Gospel accounts and separate them from the surrounding text. She does this, among other things, in order to find “parallels in the accounts.  The book does a pretty good job of separating Jesus’ words into five categories: Public Teachings, Private Instructions, Healing Dialog, Intimate Conversations, and Post Resurrection Encounters.

Looking at the red letter in each of these categories was helpful in understanding some of the words. My reasons for doing so in the blog are pretty much aligned with her’s. Since she does a much more eloquent job of explaining this I will use her words here:

–The Words of Jesus by Phyllis Tickle pp 53-54–

What I am suggesting here—and with some trepidation—is that the time may have come in popular Christian conversation for us to speak of the differences in authority between the words of Jesus and those of even His most inspired followers. All of Christian Scripture depends from the Gospels, and whatever comes after must be received through them and in terms of them. We Protestants in particular, with our historic preoccupation with Pauline theology, would do well to remind ourselves of that obvious truth several times a day.

It is the correct and proper business of followers to try to discern the meaning of God’s words. Jesus Himself teaches the holiness of that endeavor. It is not, however, correct and proper business for followers to discern the meaning of God’s words only or equally through the discernment of other followers, even inspired ones, who have preceded them in the process. Better always first to honor and do discernment on the words spoken by God, and thereafter to inhabit—even add to-the historic lines of descent that discernment has subsequently taken.

The New Testament, like the Tanakh, is a living thing, not a static one. Its words are the basis for an going but divinely directed revelation. Jesus Himself makes that clear. “I still have many things to say to you but  you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but will speak whatever He hears…. I have told these things to you in metaphors. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech, but will tell you plainly of the Father”  or “I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Comforter and Advocate, the Holy Spirit, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you”.

The beating heart of that revelation, as any biblical actualist will tell you, is in the Gospels, not in the epistles or the history or the prophecy. It is the Gospels we must enter first if we are even to try to understand all that has come after them, and continues to come, even to the end of the Age. Amen.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a more diverse understanding of Jesus’ word and the circumstances around when they were spoken.