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Introduction to These Essays

The Evolution of My Own Theology Over the Years

The Church has always been a teacher. It has developed answers to some of the deepest questions the human mind can ask. But there are always more questions. There is still a great and wonderful mystery to life itself and to the universe we find ourselves in. With constant changes in language and rapid growth of knowledge, each generation must develop its own answers within its own time. This somewhat random collection of  100 essays (as of Dec. 2018) is my own attempt to articulate my growing understanding of the fundamental questions of life.  I wrote them for myself during my reading and questioning. They have been -and still are –  my learning exercises over the years and have become meditations for me as I reread them.  As such they are snapshots in time, and they are still a work in progress.  I created this blog in July, 2012 with 37 essays that were mostly written between 2004 and 2012.  These earlier essays are all listed in the July 2012 blog archive.   After the surprise of reaching my 90s, I have added a few reflections on my becoming old in spite of my still younger feelings about myself, starting with the essay, The Man in the Mirror.   In the last few years, I have quoted at length especially meaningful passages (to me, at least) from my readings.

I grew up in the Christian church. My father was a Methodist minister, so the liturgy and hymns have been a wonderful heritage all these years. At 15, as a high school sophomore at Mount Hermon School in Massachusetts, I had my first formal Bible class, reading the story of Jesus in parallel versions of the Gospels – discovering early how those first gospel writers borrowed from others. Then in college at DePauw University, although a Math and Physics major, I took a detailed “Synoptics” course which has been a base for me in all my later Bible study. I learned early that I should not take the stories literally. They all reflect very real human experiences of God, but in the language of the poet and story teller, interpreter, and even mystic.

And with the experiences of life, including wonderful marriages, the birth of children, the death of a 16-year-old daughter and the death of my first wife, the larger questions persist as to who I am and why.   My early answers reflected the traditional concepts of Incarnation, Atonement,  Salvation, Grace, and so on. When I was 39, I discovered Bishop John A.T. Robinson’s Honest To God, which confirmed many of my own questions and suggested answers that began to redefine my understanding of God.   Many later theologians have extended Bishop Robinson’s thinking, and I have been especially influenced by the writings of Paul Tillich, Marcus Borg, Bart Ehrman, Walter Wink, John Dominic Crossan, Matthew Fox, Karen Armstrong,  Larry Hurtado, Lloyd Geering, and Val Webb, to name just a few.   But it was the writings of Bishop John Shelby Spong that first articulated for me what I felt I had been trying to say myself all along.   As a Biblical scholar, Bishop Spong with his The Fourth Gospel  finally gave me a new and meaningful understanding of the Gospel of John.  Also Michael Dowd’s Thank God for Evolution, with his easy style also had me saying, “Yes, that’s what it’s all about!”   More recently, Dawn Hutchings, Pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Newmarket (Toronto), Ontario, Canada, in her blog, pastordawn.com, is a significant new voice for Christianity in the 21st Century.

I am indebted to all those whose books have shaped my own thoughts, such that I can no longer separate my own words from theirs.  These essays were written as separate essays at different times,  so I recognize that there is repetition of ideas and phrases.  I am reminded of the story of the preacher who when asked how he could preach a different sermon Sunday after Sunday, replied, “O, I just preach the same sermon; I just shout in a different place!”

Loren Bullock

July, 2012,  December, 2014,  December, 2018

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