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Matthew Fox's 95 Theses

I'd say this was in honor of Easter, but I actually ended up finding these during a chat with _storyteller_ last night. . .

Matthew Fox, whose book Original Blessing outlines the fundamentals of "Creation Spirituality," posted his own "95 Theses" a few years ago. Storyteller and I were discussing theology, and I was looking up something good from Fox as a quick reference and found this.

Fox was a Dominican priest for 34 years, until he was silenced and then expelled from the order by then-Cardinal Ratzinger, head of the Congregation of Doctrine and Faith (called the Office of the Holy Inquisition until 1965). (http://www.matthewfox.org/sys-tmpl/htmlpage20/)


This is the Christianity that I can embrace.


* * * * * * *
Like Luther, I present 95 theses or in my case, 95 faith observations drawn from my 64 years of living and practicing religion and spirituality. I trust I am not alone in recognizing these truths. For me they represent a return to our origins, a return to the spirit and the teaching of Jesus and his prophetic ancestors, and of the Christ which was a spirit that Jesus’ presence and teaching unleashed.

1. God is both Mother and Father.

2. At this time in history, God is more Mother than Father because the feminine is most missing and it is important to bring gender balance back.

3. God is always new, always young and always “in the beginning.”

4. God the Punitive Father is not a God worth honoring but a false god and an idol that serves empire-builders. The notion of a punitive, all-male God, is contrary to the full nature of the Godhead who is as much female and motherly as it is masculine and fatherly.

5. “All the names we give to God come from an understanding of ourselves.” (Eckhart) Thus people who worship a punitive father are themselves punitive.



6. Theism (the idea that God is ‘out there’ or above and beyond the universe) is false. All things are in God and God is in all things (panentheism).

7. Everyone is born a mystic and a lover who experiences the unity of things and all are called to keep this mystic or lover of life alive.

8. All are called to be prophets which is to interfere with injustice.

9. Wisdom is Love of Life (See the Book of Wisdom: “This is wisdom: to love life” and Christ in John’s Gospel: “I have come that you may have life and have it in abundance.”)

10. God loves all of creation and science can help us more deeply penetrate and appreciate the mysteries and wisdom of God in creation. Science is no enemy of true religion.

11. Religion is not necessary but spirituality is.

12. “Jesus does not call us to a new religion but to life.” (Bonhoeffer) Spirituality is living life at a depth of newness and gratitude, courage and creativity, trust and letting go, compassion and justice.

13. Spirituality and religion are not the same thing any more than education and learning, law and justice, or commerce and stewardship are the same thing.

14. Christians must distinguish between God (masculine and history, liberation and salvation) and Godhead (feminine and mystery, being and non-action).

15. Christians must distinguish between Jesus (an historical figure) and Christ (the experience of God-in-all-things).

16. Christians must distinguish between Jesus and Paul.

17. Jesus, not unlike many spiritual teachers, taught us that we are sons and daughters of God and are to act accordingly by becoming instruments of divine compassion.

18. Ecojustice is a necessity for planetary survival and human ethics and without it we are crucifying the Christ all over again in the form of destruction of forests, waters, species, air and soil.

19. Sustainability is another word for justice, for what is just is sustainable and what is unjust is not.

20. A preferential option for the poor, as found in the base community movement, is far closer to the teaching and spirit of Jesus than is a preferential option for the rich and powerful as found in, for example, Opus Dei.

21. Economic Justice requires the work of creativity to birth a system of economics that is global, respectful of the health and wealth of the earth systems and that works for all.

22. Celebration and worship are key to human community and survival and such reminders of joy deserve new forms that speak in the language of the twenty-first century.

23. Sexuality is a sacred act and a spiritual experience, a theophany (revelation of the Divine), a mystical experience. It is holy and deserves to be honored as such.

24. Creativity is both humanity’s greatest gift and its most powerful weapon for evil and so it ought to be both encouraged and steered to humanity’s most God-like activity which all religions agree is: Compassion.

25. There is a priesthood of all workers (all who are doing good work are midwives of grace and therefore priests) and this priesthood ought to be honored as sacred and workers should be instructed in spirituality in order to carry on their ministry effectively.

26. Empire-building is incompatible with Jesus’ life and teaching and with Paul’s life and teaching and with the teaching of holy religions.

27. Ideology is not theology and ideology endangers the faith because it replaces thinking with obedience, and distracts from the responsibility of theology to adapt the wisdom of the past to today’s needs. Instead of theology it demands loyalty oaths to the past.

28. Loyalty is not a sufficient criterion for ecclesial office—intelligence and proven conscience is.

29. No matter how much the television media fawn over the pope and papacy because it makes good theater, the pope is not the church but has a ministry within the church. Papalolotry is a contemporary form of idolatry and must be resisted by all believers.

30. Creating a church of Sycophants is not a holy thing. Sycophants (Webster’s dictionary defines them as “servile self-seeking flatterers”) are not spiritual people for their only virtue is obedience. A Society of Sycophants — sycophant clergy, sycophant seminarians, sycophant bishops, sycophant cardinals, sycophant religious orders of Opus Dei, Legioneers of Christ and Communion and Liberation, and the sycophant press--do not represent in any way the teachings or the person of the historical Jesus who chose to stand up to power rather than amassing it.

31. Vows of pontifical secrecy are a certain way to corruption and cover-up in the church as in any human organization.

32. Original sin is an ultimate expression of a punitive father God and is not a Biblical teaching. But original blessing (goodness and grace) is biblical.

33. The term “original wound” better describes the separation humans experience on leaving the womb and entering the world, a world that is often unjust and unwelcoming than does the term “original sin.”

34. Fascism and the compulsion to control is not the path of peace or compassion and those who practice fascism are not fitting models for sainthood. The seizing of the apparatus of canonization to canonize fascists is a stain on the church.

35. The Spirit of Jesus and other prophets calls people to simple life styles in order that “the people may live.”

36. Dancing, whose root meaning in many indigenous cultures is the same as breath or spirit, is a very ancient and appropriate form in which to pray.

37. To honor the ancestors and celebrate the communion of saints does not mean putting heroes on pedestals but rather honoring them by living out lives of imagination, courage and compassion in our own time, culture and historical moment as they did in theirs.

38. A diversity of interpretation of the Jesus event and the Christ experience is altogether expected and welcomed as it was in the earliest days of the church.

39. Therefore unity of church does not mean conformity. There is unity in diversity. Coerced unity is not unity.

40. The Holy Spirit is perfectly capable of working through participatory democracy in church structures and hierarchical modes of being can indeed interfere with the work of the Spirit.

41. The body is an awe-filled sacred Temple of God and this does not mean it is untouchable but rather that all its dimensions, well named by the seven charkas, are as holy as the others.

42. Thus our connection with the earth (first chakra) is holy; and our sexuality (second chakra) is holy; and our moral outrage (third chakra) is holy; and our love that stands up to fear (fourth chakra) is holy; and our prophetic voice that speaks out is holy (fifth chakra); and our intuition and intelligence (sixth chakra) are holy; and our gifts we extend to the community of light beings and ancestors (seventh chakra) are holy.

43. The prejudice of rationalism and left-brain located in the head must be balanced by attention to the lower charkas as equal places for wisdom and truth and Spirit to act.

44. The central chakra, compassion, is the test of the health of all the others which are meant to serve it for “by their fruits you will know them” (Jesus).

45. “Joy is the human’s noblest act.” (Aquinas) Is our culture and its professions, education and religion, promoting joy?

46. The human psyche is made for the cosmos and will not be satisfied until the two are re-united and awe, the beginning of wisdom, results from this reunion.

47. The four paths named in the creation spiritual tradition more fully name the mystical/prophetic spiritual journey of Jesus and the Jewish tradition than do the three paths of purgation, illumination and union which do not derive from the Jewish and Biblical tradition.

48. Thus it can be said that God is experienced in experiences of ecstasy, joy, wonder and delight (via positiva).

49. God is experienced in darkness, chaos, nothingness, suffering, silence and in learning to let go and let be (via negativa).

50. God is experienced in acts of creativity and co-creation (via creativa).

51. All people are born creative. It is spirituality’s task to encourage holy imagination for all are born in the “image and likeness” of the Creative One and “the fierce power of imagination is a gift from God.” (Kaballah)

52. If you can talk you can sing; if you can walk you can dance; if you can talk you are an artist. (African proverb and Native American saying)

53. God is experienced in our struggle for justice, healing, compassion and celebration (via transformativa).

54. The Holy Spirit works through all cultures and all spiritual traditions and blows “where it wills” and is not the exclusive domain of any one tradition and
never has been.

55. God speaks today as in the past through all religions and all cultures and all faith traditions none of which is perfect and an exclusive avenue to truth but all of which can learn from each other.

56. Therefore Interfaith or Deep Ecumenism are a necessary part of spiritual praxis and awareness in our time.

57. Since the “number one obstacle to interfaith is a bad relationship with one’s own faith,” (the Dalai Lama) it is important that Christians know their own
mystical and prophetic tradition, one that is larger than a religion of empire and its punitive father images of God.

58. The cosmos is God’s holy Temple and our holy home.

59. Fourteen billion years of evolution and unfolding of the universe bespeak the intimate sacredness of all that is.

60. All that is is holy and all that is is related for all being in our universe began as one being just before the fireball erupted.

61. Interconnectivity is not only a law of physics and of nature but also forms the basis of community and of compassion. Compassion is the working out of our shared interconnectivity both as to our shared joy and our shared suffering and struggle for justice.

62. The universe does not suffer from a shortage of grace and no religious institution is to see its task as rationing grace. Grace is abundant in God’s universe.

63. Creation, Incarnation and Resurrection are continuously happening on a cosmic as well as a personal scale. So too are Life, Death and Resurrection (regeneration and reincarnation) happening on a cosmic scale as well as a personal one.

64. Biophilia or Love of Life is everyone’s daily task.

65. Necrophilia or love of death is to be opposed in self and society in all its forms.

66. Evil can happen through every people, every nation, every tribe, and every individual human and so vigilance and self-criticism and institutional criticism are always called for.

67. Not all who call themselves “Christian” deserve that name just as “not all who say ‘Lord, Lord’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven” (Jesus).

68. Pedophilia is a terrible wrong but its cover-up by hierarchy is even more despicable.

69. Loyalty and obedience are never a greater virtue than conscience and justice.

70. Jesus said nothing about condoms, birth control or homosexuality.

71. A church that is more preoccupied with sexual wrongs than with wrongs of injustice is itself sick.

72. Since homosexuality is found among 464 species and in 8 percent of any given human population, it is altogether natural for those who are born that way and is a gift from God and nature to the greater community.

73. Homophobia in any form is a serious sin against love of neighbor, a sin of ignorance of the richness and diversity of God’s creation as well as a sin of exclusion.

74. Racism, Sexism and militarism are also serious sins.

75. Poverty for the many and luxury for the few is not right or sustainable.

76. Consumerism is today’s version of gluttony and needs to be confronted by creating an economic system that works for all peoples and all earth’s creatures.

77. Seminaries as we know them, with their excessive emphasis on left-brain work, often kill and corrupt the mystical soul of the young instead of encouraging the mysticism and prophetic consciousness that is there. They should be replaced by wisdom schools.

78. Inner work is required of us all. Therefore spiritual practices of meditation should be available to all and this helps in calming the reptilian brain. Silence or contemplation and learning to be still can and ought to be taught to all children and adults.

79. Outer work needs to flow from our inner work just as action flows from non-action and true action from being.

80. A wise test of right action is this: What is the effect of this action on people seven generations from today?

81. Another test of right action is this: Is what I am doing, is what we are doing, beautiful or not?

82. Eros, the passion for living, is a virtue that combats acedia or the lack of energy to begin new things and is also expressed as depression, cynicism or sloth (also known as “couchpotatoitis”).

83. The Dark Night of the Soul descends on us all and the proper response is not addiction such as shopping, alcohol, drugs, TV, sex or religion but rather to be with the darkness and learn from it.

84. The Dark Night of the Soul is a learning place of great depth. Stillness is required.

85. Not only is there a Dark Night of the Soul but also a Dark Night of Society and a Dark Night of our Species.

86. Chaos is a friend and a teacher and an integral part or prelude to new birth. Therefore it is not to be feared or compulsively controlled.

87. Authentic science can and must be one of humanity’s sources of wisdom for it is a source of sacred awe, of childlike wonder, and of truth.

88. When science teaches that matter is “frozen light” (physicist David Bohm) it is freeing human thought from scapegoating flesh as something evil and instead reassuring us that all things are light. This same teaching is found in the Christian Gospels (Christ is the light in all things) and in Buddhist teaching (the Buddha nature is in all things). Therefore, flesh does not sin; it is our choices that are sometimes off center.

89. The proper objects of the human heart are truth and justice (Aquinas) and all people have a right to these through healthy education and healthy government.

90. "God” is only one name for the Divine One and there are an infinite number of names for God and Godhead and still God “has no name and will never be given a name.” (Eckhart)

91. Three highways into the heart are silence and love and grief.

92. The grief in the human heart needs to be attended to by rituals and practices that, when practiced, will lessen anger and allow creativity to flow anew.

93. Two highways out of the heart are creativity and acts of justice and compassion.

94. Since angels learn exclusively by intuition, when we develop our powers of intuition we can expect to meet angels along the way.

95. True intelligence includes feeling, sensitivity, beauty, the gift of nourishment and humor which is a gift of the Spirit, paradox, being its sister.

Comments

( 18 comments — Leave a comment )
watcher457
Apr. 11th, 2009 04:05 pm (UTC)
That is beautiful. That is a religion I could follow, though I disagree a bit in that love of death is not good. You shouldn't want death, as you have so much life to experience, but you certainly can have a greater appreciation for it than I feel he is suggesting.
oakmouse
Apr. 11th, 2009 05:53 pm (UTC)
I agree; I think that one could easily be misinterpreted or misused. Also, unreasoning terror of death and insistence on the preservation of life and youth at any cost is behind a number of the most severe problems in our society.
qos
Apr. 11th, 2009 06:15 pm (UTC)
His comment about love of death is a bit out of context here. He also wrote:

"The creation-centered spiritual tradition does not teach fear about death. In fact, the trust one learns about love, life, and ecstasy and the pain that accompanies every layer of ecstatic living carry through the death experience as well. Death too can be trusted. And in a real sense we are entrusted with death so that we ought to be reverencing that aspect of living as much as any other aspect. The hospice movement in our time is a movement of persons who are dealing with the truth of death in just such a wholesome way. The very awesomeness of death experiences unveils for us -- and for some people for the very first time -- the cosmic depth of our lives, the cosmic connectedness of our lives." (Original Blessing, p. 86)

What he writes in the theses about the love of death has more to do with a cultural embrace of violence, warfare, and destruction that are violations of spirit and a fundamental love for creation and humanity.
watcher457
Apr. 11th, 2009 07:37 pm (UTC)
Ah, I see. That is more acceptable to me. Lovely.
oakmouse
Apr. 12th, 2009 08:27 pm (UTC)
That makes a good deal more sense. I was a bit concerned because those of his writings I've read had a bad case of dualism, and this looked as though it could be more of same.
wlotus
Apr. 11th, 2009 05:42 pm (UTC)
#5 hit me hard. When I see the difference between whom I was when I worshiped a punitive God and whom I am becoming, I agree.
qos
Apr. 11th, 2009 06:17 pm (UTC)
If you haven't read "Original Blessing" I would strongly recommend it. It utterly transformed my perceptions about Christianity. I thnk of it as reclaiming the essence of the Christian message from centuries of organizational exploitation (both deliberate and inadvertent).
oakmouse
Apr. 11th, 2009 05:55 pm (UTC)
Most of these are quite good. It's not a form of Christianity that mainstream denominations can accept, but it's pretty well in keeping with some of the groups in the Independent Sacramental Movement. (To which you now have ties should you choose to use them, courtesy of your ordination.)
qos
Apr. 11th, 2009 06:17 pm (UTC)
I'm definitely interested in discussing the Independent Sacramental Movement in more depth.

I believe my OAG ordination can be located within that larger tradition, btw.
oakmouse
Apr. 12th, 2009 08:30 pm (UTC)
Yes, the OAG ordination is located within that tradition, but the OAG is defunct and Shadwyn didn't have apostolic succession. You now have links to a living church and you also have apostolic succession. If you're thinking in terms of practicing non-mainstream Christianity, that may make a difference in how you're received.
amqu
Apr. 12th, 2009 03:47 am (UTC)
Several of his theses are very good. But on the whole, it's no wonder the guy in charge of doctrine kicked him out. Whatever you think about orthodox Catholicism, this guy is waaaay outside it.
qos
Apr. 12th, 2009 03:53 pm (UTC)
True. It's interesting to read Original Blessing and see the case he makes for his ideas being within the orthodox (small "o") stream of Christian tradition -- but it's also very clear that he is explicitly and knowingly challenging the dominant doctrines -- and culture -- of the Catholic church.

He was given the opportunity to recant and remain within the church, and he declined.
amqu
Apr. 12th, 2009 04:02 am (UTC)
And while I found many of his ideas to be in direct contradiction to the Bible, this one is kind of out of left field: "Since angels learn exclusively by intuition..."

You don't say.
qos
Apr. 12th, 2009 03:48 pm (UTC)
That one made me go "Oh really?" as well.
saskia139
Apr. 13th, 2009 03:41 pm (UTC)
I think he's quoting the traditional scholastic theology that angels don't reason from point A to point B as we do; they don't have to deduce or think things out by gathering facts, they simply *know* by direct cognition, gnosis, insight, intuition, because they are pure spirit.

Now, as to *why* he quoted it, I have no idea....
qos
Apr. 13th, 2009 05:58 pm (UTC)
That would match Swedenborg's description of angels and other spiritual beings understanding by "apprehension" rather than intellect.
alfrecht
Apr. 12th, 2009 08:28 am (UTC)
Thank you for sharing this!

I've enjoyed many of Fox's books, and I think he's an amazing spiritual person and philosopher/theologian. Since even what he has outlined here that you've given above is not "doctrine" as such, it is not very difficult at all to agree with it. I would not call myself "Christian" by any stretch of the imagination, but by Fox's definitions, I would probably fall into that category by his evaluation...and I'm all right with that.

It was amazing--the one time I heard Matthew Fox referred to at Gonzaga (except when Fox was speaking in N. Idaho one night when I was at Eucharist class, and one of the older ministry students sort of sneered at that) was in my mysticism class, I think--the prof (who I liked quite a lot) said in relation to someone asking about some book or other, "Well, as long as it doesn't have anything to do with Matthew Fox, it's probably all right to look at that." This really made me go "Eh?" I certainly knew all about the silencing and de-frocking (this was '99, after all, and Confession had just come out not long before), but I never thought that the prof in question was that doctrinaire. Alas.
qos
Apr. 12th, 2009 03:57 pm (UTC)
I heard Fox speak when I was a freshman in college (1983-84). I'd never heard of him before, but he was a guest of my college's interfaith chaplains group. This was prior to my existential crisis, and I was still a fairly conventional Christian, so I found his ideas somewhat challenging. I went to a smaller talk he did about Hildegard of Bingen and thought it sounded like he thought she was at least as important as Jesus, which puzzled and troubled me.

I wish I could go back in time and listen to him again with my current perspective. . .
( 18 comments — Leave a comment )

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