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Former monk Crossan a voice in contemporary Christian dialogue

By: lance benzel The Gazette
April 30, 2014 Updated: May 1, 2014 at 8:48 am
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It's a threat made plain through much of the Bible: Heed God's will or be clobbered.

But how do threats of violence jibe with the idea of an all-forgiving God? And can they be reconciled with Jesus' exhortations to be peaceful and to "turn the other cheek"?

Those will be among the provocative questions explored Friday as renowned New Testament scholar and theologian John Dominic Crossan visits Colorado Springs to deliver a talk entitled, "Is God Violent? How to Read the Christian Bible and Still Be a Christian."

The free public talk, which is part of First Congregational Church of Colorado Springs' J.W. White Lecture Series, is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Friday at Armstrong Hall at Colorado College.

A former Catholic monk, Crossan, 80, is perhaps best known for his scholarship seeking to uncover the historical Jesus, and his ruminations skirt controversy at every turn.

In 1991, a New York Times story about Crossan and like-minded scholars vaulted him into the public eye - earning angry responses from many Christians.

Since then, he's been celebrated as an influential voice in contemporary Christian dialogue and has delivered scores of talks across the country, often hosted by Christian churches.

Crossan emphasizes Jesus' call for what would now be termed social justice - the idea that the lowest among us deserve an equal share of rights, privileges and resources - and he discourages a literal reading of Christ's bodily resurrection, arguing that its power is undiminished when understood as metaphor.

But while he's been pilloried as a nonbeliever, Crossan calls himself a Christian and says his questioning goes to the heart of the faith.

To illustrate, he contrasts the New Testament's promises of redemption with the blood-soaked passages of its final book, Revelation, in which he says Jesus appears not as a champion of the poor and disenfranchised, but as a Rambo figure.

"The Book of Revelation is probably the most savage book in all the literature of all the world's religions," he says. "Did Jesus change his mind, or did we change Jesus?"

To learn about other events planned with Crossan this weekend, visit the First Congregational Church's website, http://fcucc.org.

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