Guest post: Did Jesus Exist? from Galen Watson

Galen Watson became a friend of mine after he provided a review copy of his novel, The Psalter. It’s a five-star thriller, reviewed here so don’t miss it!

Galen recently posted a bit of his research about where scholarship stands on the issue of whether Jesus existed as a flesh-and-blood person. I often find people attracted to the shock value of mythicists claiming that Jesus is a complete fabrication, so I thought I would share Galen’s post, just to let you all know where scholarship on the topic really stands.


“Virtually all modern scholars of antiquity agree that Jesus existed.” –Wikipedia on The Historicity of Jesus. That’s simply a fact, undisputed by reputable scholars. Argue what you may with opinions, anecdotes or undistinguished sources, but it is a fact that virtually all reputable scholars and historians (atheist and Christian) agree that the person of Jesus existed.

“Today nearly all historians, whether Christians or not, accept that Jesus existed”. –Professor Graham Stanton, King’s College London and Cambridge University

“He certainly existed, as virtually every competent scholar of antiquity, Christian or non-Christian, agrees”. –Bart Ehrman, James A. Gray Distinguished Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

“There are those who argue that Jesus is a figment of the Church’s imagination, that there never was a Jesus at all. I have to say that I do not know any respectable critical scholar who says that anymore.” Richard A. Burridge, Dean of King’s College London and Professor of Biblical Interpretation.

Theories of non-existence of Jesus are “a thoroughly dead thesis” –James GD Dunn, Lightfoot Professor of Divinity in the Department of Theology at the University of Durham.

“In recent years, ‘no serious scholar has ventured to postulate the non historicity of Jesus’ or at any rate very few, and they have not succeeded in disposing of the much stronger, indeed very abundant, evidence to the contrary.” in Jesus: An Historian’s Review of the Gospels by Michael Grant 2004 ISBN 1898799881 page 200

Spiritual Retreats Around The World

by Virginia Cunningham

Sometimes, the trappings of modern life do not seem conducive to spiritual practice. With our many responsibilities and distractions from the divine, it can be necessary to take time out to reconnect with all that we call holy. While there are ways to find the space for contemplation and serenity in everyday life, we know we need more than that at times.

Here are some of the most accommodating places in the world to realign our higher selves:


Little Portion Hermitage

Blessed with the backdrop of a truly inspiring Ozark mountain vista, LPH is a unique Eureka Springs getaway founded in Northwest Arkansas by a well-known Christian musician. Not surprisingly, this location offers music as a source of spiritual renewal in addition to its vibrant ministry.



Ananda in the Himalayas

One of the most legendary meditation retreats in the world, the sprawling Ananda is a worthy destination for pilgrims from any faith. Nestled over 3,000 feet above the sacred Ganges River, Ananda will make anyone feel closer to God. While the center’s foundations are Buddhist, teachers also provide lessons in yogic breathing, which can be incorporated into most faiths.


Conception Abbey

Combining a Benedictine monastery and an influential seminary school, this abbey in Conception Junction, Missouri provides personal guidance as well as a well-known oblation program. The Abbey operates under the mandates of the Benedictine order, meaning visitors should expect a strict regimen of silent communal prayer and warm fellowship.

Image Courtesy of Adrian Wewer/Wikimedia Commons


Holy Isle

Just off the coast of Scotland’s west side (near the Isle of Arran), Holy Isle hosts meditation retreats in an enclave called the Centre for World Peace. Though founded by Buddhists who promote the Tibetan practice of Kagyu meditation, all faiths are welcome to find themselves within the confines of this location’s grassy, wave-beaten parameters.

Permanent residents of Holy Isle live in total silence, just to give you an idea of the ethos of this truly special place.


Magic Falls of Southern France

Close to the tiny village of Montsegur, the waterfalls of Southern France attract seekers from numerous faiths, especially those seeking the feminine energy of the Virgin Mary. While Lourdes is a more obvious site for pilgrimage, the outskirts of Montsegur are much more private, yet are also reported to have strong healing tendencies.


Timber Creek Hearth House

A sister retreat of sorts with the Buddhist Shantivanam retreat of Easton, Texas, Timber Creek is a more recent retreat center that reflects the efforts of the spiritual to bridge the differences between faiths. Deep in the woods of Drexel, Missouri, Timber Creek provides spiritually-awakening trails in green pastures, a generous library of awakening books and audio selections, and the mentorship of co-founderTom Jacobs.

Image Courtesy of Brocken Inaglory/Wikimedia Commons


Big Sur

It doesn’t matter what your background is, it’s difficult not to be inspired by the truly beautiful coastline that extends around Big Sur, California. Its nature trails, waterfalls and mountains alone will make even the most hard-hearted visitors renew their connection with something greater, or even find it for the first time. Steeped in ancient Californian wisdom, Big Sur is the home of Esalen, an institute famed for its unique marriage of New Age spirituality and mystical psychology.

Again, while even the most humble corner of the cosmos may be the site of personal revelation, there are some locations that seemed especially sacred. With faith and hope, you will find some answers in the peaceful midst of one of these hallowed locations.


Virginia Cunningham is a freelance health writer in Southern California who specializes in yoga, alternative medicine, natural supplements, and skin care. She has traveled to spiritual retreats all over the world to see Geshe Gyatso speak.

Guest post: from Volnaiskra

The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. –John 12:25

//An Australian acquaintance, David Bleja, happened to post this comment on my blog, in response to my review of John J. McGraw’s book, Brian & Belief. After you read his insightful comments, check out his excellent blog at


I share McGraw’s distaste for an idea of the afterlife that revolves around the slavish stroking of a divine ego. But the general death of self that he seems to consider so abhorrent is, for many, a sublime prize worth devoting one’s life to.

Many faiths, philosophies and scientific traditions stress that selfhood is a lie – a distortion of reality at best, a lonely prison at worst.

For example, Buddhism rightly points out that if a wave were to be obsessed about how unique and independent it was, it would be both wrong and unhappy, forever afraid of its imminent annihilation. If, however, it learned to see itself not as a wave but as a part of a great ocean, it would appreciate the true purpose, majesty and timelessness of its existence. Or, as Jesus said, a person obsessed with selfhood is to be pitied, just like a seed that frets so much about ceasing to be a seed that it never lets itself become a tree.

It’s not just the mystics searching for nirvana who long for dissolution of self. It’s also the lovers who long to lose themselves in orgasm, the parents whose focus on children gives their lives higher meaning, the fans who yearn to melt into the crowd in a rock concert, the patrons of S&M clubs who long to surrender entirely to the will of another, or the hippies who cultivate a sense of oneness with Gaia.

Of course on a basic, default level, we all have a strong instinct for self-preservation, and this is what McGraw seems to speak to in the quoted paragraph. That’s just part of human nature – but a part that comes largely from the more primitive, reptilian part of the brain. Many have found a worldview that centers around a preservation of selfhood is actually deeply unsatisfactory.

Guest Post: Did Jesus’ Death Save Us From Sin?

After reading the first of Christian Piatt’s Banned Questions series, I contacted him asking if I could borrow a page from the book as a guest page. Now, having read and equally enjoyed the second book of the series, I contacted him again, asking about running a second guest post from this book. I chose this short discussion by Phil Snider.

Phil was asked to answer this question: “Jesus forgave people of their sins before he died. How could he do this if he actually had to die in order to save us from sin?”

//For many years, I sat in church quietly wondering why God’s forgiveness was based on the idea that awful violence had to be inflicted upon Jesus in order for God to save us from sin. I was never comfortable with this idea, but I feared voicing my questions would make my Christian friends think I was a hell-bound heretic.

It was only when I went to seminary that I learned this wasn’t the only way to view Jesus’ death, and I’m glad to say I no longer believe Jesus had to die in order to save us from sin.

As it turns out, the idea that Jesus had to die on the cross in order for God to forgive our sins took nearly a thousand years to develop, and numerous theologians have pointed to its problematic implications. Chief among these concerns are questions related to God’s power and God’s character. In terms of God’s power, why is it necessary for God to sacrifice God’s Son in order to grant forgiveness? Is there, as Frederiek Depoortere says, “some higher authority or necessity above God with whom God has to comply in doing this”?

In terms of God’s character, can’t such a belief make God out to be “a perverse subject who plays obscene games with humanity and His own Son,” like the narcissistic governess from Patricia Highsmith’s Heroine who sets the family house on fire in order to be able to prove her devotion to the family by bravely saving the children from the raging flames?

Instead, my Christian faith is grounded in the affirmation that God’s love is unconditional, which leads me to believe that God’s forgiveness is unconditional as well. All of which means that Jesus’ unconditional forgiveness—offered before he died—is one of the things that makes him most Godlike!

Guest Post: Has God Become Abstract?

Shortly after reading Banned Questions About the Bible by Christian Piatt and others, I contacted Christian asking if I could borrow a page of the book as a guest post. I had my eye on this entry by Jarrod McKenna.

After pointing out that God is portrayed as less interventionist in the New Testament than in the Old, and has since become even more abstract, the question is asked whether this is a good thing or a bad thing?

//This question reveals two worldviews that bastardize the gospel, giving birth to cheap imitations. And as Ammon Henacy reminded us, “When choosing the lesser of two evils we must not forget they are both evil.” The two evils are following:

[1] God is elsewhere. This would explain the amount of evil, injustice, misery, and war in the world. God created all, but took some time off afterward, holidaying somewhere nicer, maybe by a celestial pool, while we suffer. The founders of the United States believed in a form of this called Deism. In this worldview, Jesus might be the deity popping back, seeing everything has gone to crap and then saying, “Believe in me and I’ll take you elsewhere, too.” The early church called this heresy “Gnosticism.” In this worldview, God is abstract because God is a secret “get-out-of-creation-free” card.

The other popular option that equally lacks revolutionary energy and impulse of the scriptures is that God is not far off because:

[2] God is everything. Now, if you’ve grown up in a worldview in which God is always absent, where spirituality has nothing to do with creation, and where your body was always seen as bad, this might sound like a better option. Sometimes called “pantheism,” it leaves us with no cosmic critique of the evil of injustice while affirming the goodness and sacredness of creation. Wars, empires, and violence in creation are all just a part of “God/Gaia/the Divine.” Jesus just shows up to “enlighten us.”

God is redeemer is the biblical vision that, in nuanced and elegant ways, radically affirms the goodness of the web of creation while providing an equally radical critique of all violence and injustice that has colonized it as an alien force. As Creating, Sustaining and Redeeming, the Trinity is dynamically involved in history and has acted decisively in the Incarnation, to heal the brokenness we all know, with the wholeness we sometimes feel. This will not leave us with “abstract ideas” but with an invitation to action, for by grace we can be part of God’s “intervention” of the Kingdom.