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Melting Pot Notes

Melting Pot logoThe views contained in these pages are of a group of people within Christchurch who wish to express progressive Christian ideas as an alternative to the more 'traditional' formal views of the church.

Melting Pot 34 - How to Read Bible Stories - the Easter Story
Melting Pot 33 - Life's One Certainty - Death
Melting Pot 32 - Jesus is Late - the 'Second Coming'
Melting Pot 31 - What About Hope?
Melting Pot 30 - What About The Women?
Melting Pot 29 - How To Read Bible Stories
Melting Pot 28 -
Melting Pot 27 - What Do We Teach Our Children?
Melting Pot 26 - Jesus and First Temple Theology
Melting Pot 25 - Migration and the Bible
Melting Pot 24 - The Fifth Gospel: Thomas, Gnosticism & The New Testament Canon
Melting Pot 23 - The Iona Multi-Faith Experience
Melting Pot 22 - Our Place in the Cosmos 
Melting Pot 21 - The Old Testament: Who Wrote It and When?

Melting Pot 20 - The Three Pauls (part two)
Melting Pot 19 - The Three Pauls
Melting Pot 18 - What's Left?
Melting Pot 17 - I Agree With Dawkins
Melting Pot 16 - Heaven And Hell 
Melting Pot 15 - Zealot or Messiah?
Melting Pot 14 - How Green Is My Faith? 
Melting Pot 13 - How Green Is The Bible?
Melting Pot 12 - The Eight Points 
Melting Pot 11 - Prayer
Melting Pot 10 - Worship
Melting Pot 09 - Are You Saved?
Melting Pot 08 - The Easter Parables
Melting Pot 07 - When Jesus Became God
Melting Pot 06 - Ways to God

Melting Pot 05 - Imaging God 
Melting Pot 04 - The Christmas Parables
Melting Pot 03 - Can We Trust The Bible?
Melting Pot 02 -
Melting Pot 01 - What Do You Believe? 

Melting Pot 32 - 14 January 2018
Jesus is Late - the 'Second Coming'

We explored

This material can be seen as a primitive understanding based on ancient Jewish ideas of good and evil and the ‘end of the world’, and prefer to consider Paul’s later spiritual understanding about Jesus’ life and teachings and how we live our lives of faith in community, with no expectation of any existence beyond death. Jesus is here now, in spirit, and we live our lives in God’s kingdom love!

The full set of notes on Jesus is Late can be downloaded.

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Melting Pot 29 - 17 September 2017
How To Read Bible Stories

‘How to read’ suggests, wrongly, that there is a ‘correct’ way – we bring our own ideas and contexts to our understanding -  ‘Interpret’, which must be recognised as subjective, has a better meaning, recognising there is not one pure Christian understanding; the ‘Bible’ will depend on the translation and denominational collection, which strongly impacts on the interpretation before you even start to read; ‘Stories’ – the Bible consists of many styles and genres of writings (eg poetry, songs, erotic literature, history, myth, letters, discourses or sermons, gospel and apocalyptic literature, the latter two examples of particularly common styles of their time). A better title would be How To Interpret Biblical Texts.

We were introduced to Narrative Analysis (or Literary Criticism), an academic technique where we were asked to read the Bible passage as literature (just as you would critically analyse Shakespeare). So you would look for
Setting: When is it set? Where is it set - what is the location?
Character: Who is in the story? What do we know about them (name, gender, age, occupation)? What personality traits to they have, how do they behave?
Plot - What events happen in the story (list the details)?
How is the story told? - What is the basic structure of the story?  Can you break the story down into smaller sections? Who is the narrator? Is it a character? Is the narrator anonymous, reliable? Is s/he omniscient or do they find things out with the reader? Are there any underlying themes, abstract ideas or ideologies?

It is important to ‘forget’ any preconditions or prior knowledge of the reading and treat this as if it was the first time you have read the text and met the characters. This was initially quite hard to do!

We looked at the second creation story in Genesis 2 and 3, and there were some surprising outcomes as a result of the technique. We were able to read the story in new ways, and even pick out where later additions had been made to the original text.

We were so enthused that we will repeat the session with a different text next Spring.

Here is a copy of Robin's talk on How To Read Bible Stories - Narrative Analysis.

There is also a set of additional notes including an example of annotated text.

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Melting Pot 27 - 23 April 2017
What Do We Teach Our Children?

If you do not hold a literal reading of the Bible, how do you approach Bible stories with children? How do you prevent children from putting Jesus into the same basket as Father Christmas and the Tooth Fairy? Jude Hamon gave an overview of recent (this century) research into how children learn with some surprising results which challenge long held perceptions. We followed her introduction with a general discussion.

Here are the full notes that Jude collated for What Do We Teach Our Children? or there is a two page Summary Document.

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Melting Pot 26 - 19 March 2017
Jesus and First Temple Theology

A sessison led by Rob Hilton.

Melting Pot 25 - 19 February 2017
Migration and the Bible

We looked at the highly topical issue of migration and how it relates to the Bible discussing what migration is, noting that the Bible is a collection of writings written largely by migrants, and focussing on particular texts about migration.
Of particular interest was the information concerning the two Hebrew words which describe a migrant (with reference to how integrated they were) which modern translations do not always translate consistently and use words (such as alien) which have a different meaning to that of the original text giving a very different interpretation than that intended.

Here are Robin's notes on Migration and the Bible.

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Melting Pot 24 - 22 January 2017 
The Fifth Gospel
: Thomas, Gnosticism & The New Testament Canon

We look at the development of the Early Church as well as the New Testament Canon with books and letters bouncing in and out of the approved (Orthodox) list until finalised in 379CE.

One of these was the Gospel of Thomas, rediscovered last century amid the 'Dead Sea Scrolls'. Tied in to a Gnostic approach to faith, we explore the idea of Gnosticism which, in it's early form, can chime with modern thinking.

Here are the notes for The Fifth Gospel.

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Melting Pot 23 - 11 December 2016
The Iona Multi-Faith Experience 

During the Year of Listening at Christchurch, Chris and Gary Knamiller had spent a week with te Iona Community where the theme had been 'Multi-Faith'. They wanted to put their experiences into te Melting Pot and had a series of questions to get us thinking: basically - What Is Religion?

Here are the questions from the Iona Multi-Faith Experience and also notes from the session.

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Melting Pot 22 - 13 November 2016
Our Place in the Cosmos

Bob Brunswick challenges us to consider how small we are. Where is God amidst the Chance of Evolutionary Creation?

Here are the notes for Our Place In The Cosmos

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Melting Pot 21 - Sunday 09 October 2016 
The Old Testament – Who Wrote It And When? 

Robin Hamon led the session giving background to the language and formation of the Hebrew Bible and the cultural context of it's writing. 

Here are the notes from Who Wrote The Old Testament? which includes additioanl material about the canons of various versions of the Old testament. We also had a copy of the notes from the Introdusction to the Old Testament from the Good news Study Bible © United Bible Societies 1997.

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Melting Pot 20 - 22 May 2016 
The Three Pauls (part two)

Because we didn't get to the end of the notes at our last session, we spent more time looking at the material. In particular we looked at some texts in the Letter to the Romans.

We also considered some material from Richard Rohr about Easter.

Here are the extended Notes for The Three Pauls (part two), along with the notes concerning Love Not Atonement

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Melting Pot 19 - Sunday 14 February 2016 
Women And Hats – The Three Pauls 

Of the 27 books in the New Testament, 13 are attributed to Paul. Scholarship suggests that seven books are genuine, three questionable, and three unlikely to be by Paul; modern scholars are moving to a seven six split. 

Radical Paul – 1 Thessalonians (<54CE), 1 Corinthians (54CE), 2 Corinthians(55/56CE), Galations (56 or 54CE), Romans (56/57CE), Philippians (55-62CE), Philemon (61-63 or 58-60 or 56-57CE). 
Reactionary (Pseudo) Paul – Ephesians, 2 Thessalonians, Colossians written in the years following his death (at the hands of Nero in 67CE). 
Conservative (Anti) Paul – 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus written in the first half of the second century, perhaps fifty or more years after Paul’s death. 
There is a fourth ‘Narrative Paul’ found in Acts, written by Luke some thirty years after Paul’s death, but it does not always harmonise with the Radical Paul. 

Here are the extensive notes for The Three Pauls

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Melting Pot 18 - Sunday 17 January 2016 
What’s Left? What do you believe and why? 

Following many of the previous Melting Pot sessions, where we have deconstructed much of the ‘traditional’ view of the Christian Faith, we now seek to distil what it is we do believe in. 

Here are the template notes from the What's left? session. 

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Melting Pot 17 - 13 December 2015
I Agree With Dawkins (well not completely . . . )
The continuing irrelevant Science and Religion debate!

We explore our understanding of faith in a Scientific world, trying to probe the mystery of existence whilst avoiding the supernatural. We delve into Dawkins' book 'The God Delusion' and wonder at the psychology at play when looking at faith.  

Here are the notes for the I Agree With Dawkins session.

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Melting Pot 16 - 15 November 2015
Heaven And Hell - Is there Really 'Eternal Life'?

Exploring our ideas around two quotes:
God Loves Us. Here’s how the traditional story goes . . . God offers us everlasting life by grace, freely, through no merit on our part. Unless we do not respond in the right way. Then he will torture you forever. In Hell. What?
Rob Bell – Love Wins (2011)

There is no supernatural God who lives above the sky or beyond the universe. There is no parental deity watching over us from whom we can expect help. There is no deity whom we flatter into acting favourably or manipulate by being good. There are no record books and no heavenly judge keeping them to serve as the basis on which human beings will be rewarded or punished. There is no way that life can be made fair or that a divine figure can be blamed for its unfairness. Heaven and Hell are human constructs designed to make fair in some ultimate way the unfairness of life. The idea that in an afterlife the unfairness of this world will be rectified is a pious dream.
Eternal Life: a new vision, beyond religion, beyond theism, beyond Heaven & Hell - Bishop John Selby Spong 2009.

Here are the Introductory Notes used at the meeting.

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Melting Pot 15 - 18 October 2015
Jesus - Zealot or Messiah?

Taking our information from the book Zealot by Reza Aslan, we explore the historical contect of the times when Jesus of Nazareth was alive, trying to understand the ruthless political situation, the power of the religious authorities, the huge social inequalities and the ferment of messiahanic expectation.

You can download both the Introductory Notes as well as a Historical Timeline which seeks to give that context of the times and asks how we might respond to this information within our own understanding of Jesus. 

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Melting Pot 14 - 13 September 2015
How Green Is My Faith?

A follow-up to the previous session, recognising that being a 'Green Christian' is not abn opt-in, and attempting to challenge ourselves regarding our 'Green-ness' under six headings: Transport & Travel, Energy, Food, Consumerism, Finance, Waste.
The results of our hour together can be found in the How Green Is My Faith notes, which formed the basis of the On-Line Harvest 2015 service.

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Melting Pot 13 - 05 July 2015
How Green Is The Bible? - What the Bible really says about the environment.

Robin Hamon led our thinking on ‘How Green Is The Bible' giving us a fascinating insight into the research he has done in recently completeing his Masters Degree in Biblical Studies. We looked at three passages from Genesis, Romans and Revelation to explain previous Christian thinking about the subservient role 'Nature' has played within creation. Detailed notes from his How Green Is The Bible talk, effectively a transcript, are available. 

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Melting Pot 12 - 07 June 2015 

The Eight Points of the Progressive Christian Network Britain.

The following is taken from the Progressive Christian Network Britain website at http://www.pcnbritain.org.uk/about/the_eight_points, dated February 2015.

PCN Britain offers these Eight Points, not as a creed, but as an expression of the Christian life. We are people who

1  Seek God, however understood, guided by the life and teachings of Jesus
2  Affirm that there are many ways to experience the Sacred and that we can draw on diverse sources of wisdom on our spiritual journeys.
3  Recognise that following Jesus leads us to act with compassion and to confront evil.
4  Place hospitality at the centre of our communal and worshipping life and see the sharing of bread and wine as an expression of our common humanity.
5  Seek to build communities that accept all who wish to share companionship without insisting on conformity.
6  Know that the way we behave towards others is the fullest expression of our faith.
7  Gain more insights in the search for understanding than we do in certainty.
Work together within and beyond the Church to achieve a just, peaceful and sustainable world.

We discussed these points with interest. You can download the Eight Points Handout which lists the Eight Points along with some background, as well as the Eight Point Notes taken from the discussion.

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Melting Pot 11 - 20 July 2014
Prayer – What is it, is it any use, does it work?

We asked ourselves six questions.

1   What categories / types of Prayer can you think of?
2   What is Prayer?
3   To whom do we pray (& does it matter)?
4   Jesus Praying
5   Jesus teaching on Prayer
6   Is Prayer Answered?

You can read the notes and comments in the Prayer document.

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Melting Pot 10 - 15 June 2014
Worship - What is it and can we make it relevant?

Once more, religion gets in the way, and our formalised Sunday rituals become more and more divorced form everyday reality, the 'being' that is the real meaning of worship.

You can read the introductory notes and a brief report from the meeting in the Worship document.

Melting Pot 09 - 18 May 2014
Are You Saved? Seven Theories of Atonement - what is it and what does it mean?

Our minister, Rob Hilton, explores seven of the theories of 'Atonement' - what meaning is there in the death and resurrection of Jesus on the cross? The reaction of one person at Melting Pot: "I think the thing that really got to me was the dominance of what I would term 'negative' approaches which I found very depressing. When the message of Jesus' love and example is so positive and affirming I find it truly amazing that the church has been able to 'twist' this and make something so positive into such a negative force. Not how I want my religion / faith to be".

Many see the intervention of Anselm, Bishop of Canturbury across the turn of the twelth century, as a sad day for our understanding of the meaning of Jesus death. The 'Jesus died for my sins' idea was formalised by him.

Many today would simply say that Jesus died at the hands of the Roman authorities, with the active support of the Jewish temple authorities, because he spoke the uncomfortable truth about privilege and power and how God's love should be seen in (distributive) justice. He was upsetting the applecart! He was a troublemaker; he was a dissident.

An understanding of the post-Easter Jesus comes from a reading of the Easter stories as parable, and that makes sense of how we can have relationship with God, without the need for guilt or sin or wrath being appeased that are spoken of in more traditional understandings.

You can download and read Rob's precis in the Are You Saved document.

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Melting Pot 08 - 13 April 2014
The Easter Parables - what does 'Resurrection' mean?

An invitation to examine the Easter stories in each of the four Gospels (Mark, Matthew, Luke and John) and to identify  details in common or differences. In fact, there are only two details that are common to all four Gospel stories.
Although we can attempt to reconcile the stories as if they were recorded history, it is better to try and see beyond the stories to the truth underlying them: what is it that took Jesus' followers from the despair of the crucifixion to the joy of Easter and the power of Pentecost?

Resurrection does not have to be about believing the unbelievable: if you find the idea of a corpse being ressucitated difficult to accept, or if you are OK with that supernatural idea, it is in the past - simply ask the question 'what does it mean for me today' however you understand the new life of 'resurrection'.

You can download the The Easter Parables document which includes a grid which examines the four Gospel stories, along with the 'answers' on page 3, and some introductory and closing comments.

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Melting Pot 07 - 16 March 2014
When Jesus Became God - the Creation of the Trinity

Although we never quite reached the trinity, we did thoroughly explore the history of the early church and it's elevation of Jesus from humanity to Godhead. The debate recognised that the divinity of Jesus came with a package of other ideas connected to 'salvation' and that it was a scary prospect for some to move away from the 'traditional conservative' teaching of the church. The question was asked 'What do we gain (or lose) by accepting the divinity of Jesus?' - and some saw the arrogance of such a position as a significant barrier to community with those of other faiths, and also to those who see the supernatural as fantasy.

"A really good liberating discussion. I didn't ever think I would be able to say I didn't think Jesus was divine under a church roof and not be shot down in flames. What a relief!"

You can download the paper: When Jesus Became God which explores the early history, along with two book reviews attached to the topic.

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Melting Pot 06 - 16 February 2014
Ways To God - Christianity and other World Religions

After trying to list the world religions with the most adherents, we explored two extremes views of religion (absolutism - one's own religion is the absolute and only truth; reductionism - all religion is man made) and then sought an understanding that contained more contemporary thought.
Finally, we asked the question: "Why become a Christian?"
A challenge for all of us is to celebrate our differences rather than to seek out and the security of our similarities.

You can download the notes: Ways To God.

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Melting Pot 05 - 19 January 2014
Imaging God - our understanding of the Creator

We explored a number of issues:

So what image of God do you have? How does it impact on your life and your lifestyle? What is worship?

You can download the notes: Imaging God.

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Melting Pot 04 - Sunday 08 December 2013
The Christmas Parables

We started the evening with a quiz - which of the items were included in the gospel stories, and which were later additions or fabrications through 'tradition'? You can play this yourself by downloading both the Christmas Parables Quiz and the Christmas Parable Answers (which also gives the Bible references for each item).

We then explored the two birth accounts, recognising them as parables, metaphoric prologues to each of the Gospels, each with their own truth within the fiction. The Christmas Parables explained is a summary of that background explanation.

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Melting Pot 03 - Sunday 17 November 2013
Can We Trust the Bible?
Where did it come from, and how to read it?

The group looked at part of the process that led to the formation of the modern Protestant Bible.
We explored some of the likely changes over time, and some errors of translation and transcription that have occurred over the centuries.
Where Did It Come From details some of that information.

We compared the literal-factual against the historical-metaphorical paradigm for reading the Bible and checked out two 'classic' stories - doubting Thomas and Peter walking on water - to find that we need to be more careful in our interprtations as the Gospel writers had particular agendas underlying there versions of the stories.
How To Read The Bible details some of that information

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Melting Pot 01 - Sunday 15 September
What Do You Believe? A gentle introduction to ‘The Creed’

The four meanings of faith:
# Assensus – Belief, giving mental assent to a proposition, believing a claim or statement is true
# Fiducia – Trust
# Fidelitas – Fidelity, loyalty, allegiance, commitment at the deepest level
# Visio – Vision, a way of seeing (the whole)

Credo (I believe) does not have to mean agreeing to the literal and factual truth (although this is the understanding for many/most today), but rather commit to, give my heart to. The words believe and belove are related.
(Ref: The Heart of Christianity, Marcus J Borg).

Those present were asked to consider the Apostles' Creed and try and decide whether they could answer: Yes, No, Don't Know or Need to Define, against the twenty five statements in the creed. With a range from 2 to 23 in the 'Yes' column, a good discussion followed.

This was very much an introduction to some of the ideas of Progressive Christianity, which gave permission to folk to step away from an earlier understanding of their faith and towards the emerging paradigm with a historical-metaphorical reading of the Bible.

You can see (and download) the introductory notes and also the Creed for your own use.

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