The New Covenant Group - and Some Rather Intriguing Ideas

It happened again.  Steve Shives (no, he and I are NOT an item!) was a guest again on "The Place," a video podcast produced by the New Covenant Group.  I saw that on my YouTube feed and figured that, despite the 2-hour-plus running time that I would give it a shot.

And it could be a good thing I did.  The NCG had another guest as well, one Michael Dowd.  Initially, listening to him speak, I wasn't sure I was going to warm to a guy who seemed to be trying to couch atheistic concepts in religious language.  I'm generally not a great fan of any kind of spirituality or any approach which attempts to promote such thinking ... until he made one statement which surprised me with both its originality and its potential to create connections between the believing and atheist communities:

I'm a secular christian, a christian naturalist.  What's the difference between a secular Jew and a fundamentalist Jew?  Secular Jews still value the tradition, the language, some of the ritual, the ceremonies, certainly the value of the community.  They just don't interpret any of it in a otherworldly or supernatural way any more.

That's the way I am a christian.  I deeply value my heritage, my tradition, the forms, but I don't interpret any of it literally in a supernatural or otherworldly way, and I don't value the bible or any ancient text over current evidence [emphasis mine].  I think that's collective insanity when you do that.  Every word or every scientific fact that is discovered is a revelation of reality, so I say science, that evidence is modern-day scripture, and if we value ancient texts over current evidence, we're going to have a very skewed understanding of what's real and what's important, which are the two questions which every culture needs to address to survive: what's real, or how things are, and what's important, or which things matter.

What impressed me with this is the linkage which Michael is attempting to make, NOT with the evangelical community (who would probably turn him off before he got more than a paragraph in), but the moderate to liberal christian audience, who might be far more likely to be receptive to his message.  It may be this kind of approach which will provide some kind of bridge/link/connection/whatever-you-want-to-call-it which could give those believers who are NOT fundamentalist a window into how WE see things ... and maybe push at least some of them further in our direction.

Frankly, I think Mr. Dowd has something valid to say, and I think he is worth your time.  Yeah, this whole thing is two hours, plus and technically it has a few problems.  Trust me, though: there are some jewels in here which I think we need to at least consider in terms of any approach to the non-evangelical community.

So please, give a look and tell me what you think.

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Comment by Dyslexic's DOG on November 21, 2013 at 6:56am

I also like Connie Barlow and MIchael Dowd's website

Comment by Dyslexic's DOG on November 21, 2013 at 5:21am

Well Loren, I do appreciate Dowd's belief that scientific truth is his god's truth.   Though I've been talking with some Catholics who have exactly the same worldview as Dowd.

One of them is a scientist.

Dowd's concept is identical to that of the US founding fathers who were Deists. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, both saw God as being in Natural Laws and had a dislike for Scripture.

Dowd is only bringing back the concepts that helped formed the US constitution.

He is also basically a Humanist.

With scientific evidence being our scripture and the reality of nature as being God.

Yes: I have to admit that I have great respect for Michael Dowd.

I hope his beliefs take over from the Christianity in America.

It's possibly the best hope that the US has of being a Clever Nation.

Thanks Loren.

He's a Christian Humanist.

I am an Atheist Humanist.

We are almost the same.

Comment by Loren Miller on November 20, 2013 at 5:46am

No argument at all, DD.  The New Covenant Group make for a very interesting bunch of people, indeed, and I've been fascinated with them from the first time I ran onto them.  They seem to want to take a real-world approach to christianity, and indeed, that WOULD blur what have been ordinarily some very well-defined lines between atheism and belief.

The important point is that These People Can Be Reasoned With.  We can have a conversation with them, a RATIONAL conversation, and a meeting of the minds is a realistic expectation.  If that were to happen, the evangelicals could find themselves and their extremist positions out in the cold, with next to no support from their more moderate brothers.  What happens then?  Good question, it shows you're interested.  Now, if there are no other questions, class is dismissed!

Seriously, despite Dowd's assertion that the atheist/believer schism is a false dichotomy, I see it as being very real and potentially very dangerous to both parties.  The problem is that we, almost by definition, will take a reasoned approach to it.  I have no such trust the the more radical believers will be as rational ... but having rational believers on our side of the ledger is damned important.

Because I still think this business could get damned ugly.

Comment by Dyslexic's DOG on November 20, 2013 at 12:30am

Well Loren, a very interesting discussion indeed.

Though there appears to be a general consensus as I have stated many times in the last 20 years.

Apologists are nothing but Liars and Artful Dodgers.

It seems funny to have Christians agreeing with this.

Though in Christian moderation, some like myself wonder where they will draw the line.

Are they Christians because they believe that Jesus is the "Irrefutable Son of God" and can grant them an afterlife through belief in him..

Or they are Christians because Jesus was such a perfect example of how a human being should be and the afterlife and his being the "Son Of God" is only a possibility that can be refuted by skeptics.

The line becomes very fuzzy indeed.

These extremely moderate Christians are bordering on agnosticism.

Though I think that is a good thing, for the same reason you do.

It blurs the movement toward Atheism and it is no longer a quantum leap in world view.

It also make Atheist views more acceptable to the general public, because there is only 10 degrees difference from their own moderate world view..



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