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Common Sense Christianity by C. Randolph Ross

C. Randolph Ross has a degree in analytic philosophy from the University of Virginia and has spent time in theological studies at Yale Divinity School. After seminary he has served full time in a United Methodist parish in upstate New York for five years, then spent part time work in churches while holding down secular administrative work spending ten years wrestling on the issues which have produced this book. Published by Occam Publishers, Cortland, New York, 1989, copyright by C. Randolph Ross. Used by permission. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted and Winnie Brock.

The author finds himself compelled by Scripture, reason and experience to disagree with much of what constitutes traditional doctrine.

The author lays the groundwork in Part One, the first four chapters.

Chapter 1: Common Sense
The author demonstrates how our "common sense" has changed over the years.

Chapter 2: The Bible
The author looks at why we cannot simply assert the truth of the Bible over our modern common sense and shows that Biblical literalism/inerrancy is an approach to the Scriptures that is unacceptable both to our reason and to our faith.

Chapter 3: The God Who Goes "Zap"
The question of whether we can conceive of God as going "zap" -- intervening in the physical processes of the world in particular instances -- is examined. This forces us to confront the problem of suffering, for this is where this question matters the most. He concludes that neither our reason nor our faith in a loving God can allow us to conceive of God as acting in such a capricious way.

Chapter 4: Miracles and Religious Significance
The author considers different ways of "explaining" miracles, but points out that miracles are in fact not religiously significant -- a point apparently recognized by Jesus himself.

In chapters five through nine, the author assesses the adequacy of traditional Christian doctrine about the resurrection, the divinity of Jesus and the identity of Jesus. He also examines the relationship between faith and doctrine.

5: Can This Be Christian?
Ross concludes that we have a good general idea as to what Jesus said, and we proceed from this to develop two rules of Christian belief -- to identify when a belief is appropriate for Christians and when a belief may be required of Christians.

Chapter 6: The Resurrection: Historically Probable, Religiously Insignificant
The author looks at the resurrection and concludes that indeed some special experience took place, but that the resurrection does not have religious significance for us today.

Chapter 7: The Question of the Divinity of Jesus of Nazareth
The question of Jesusí divinity is considered. Jesus' divinity is not Biblical. It is logically impossible (as opposed to a paradox), violates our common sense, and is unnecessary and even unhelpful.

Chapter 8: Being Right Vs. Being Christian or The Distinction Between Faith and Doctrine
The distinction between faith and doctrine is highlighted. Faith is the way we live our lives, doctrine is the intellectual explanation of this, so one may have a valid Christian belief that is not factually accurate, if this belief leads one into right relationship.

Chapter 9: Who is Jesus of Nazareth?
The consideration of traditional themes is continued by examining the titles used to answer the question "Who is Jesus of Nazareth?" Looking at traditional titles such as "Savior", "Lord and Master", "Son of God" and "Messiah", we find none of them satisfactory. What is meant by Jesus as "the Christ" is explained.

Here is presented a proposal for a new interpretation of our faith that is in keeping with both the message of Jesus the Christ and our common sense.

Chapter 10: Jesus as the (Functional) Christ: Indisputable, Sufficient, and Sacred
The author pursues the theme of Jesus as the functional Christ, as he through whom we focus our understanding and faith, he whose life and message are central to the way we choose to live.

Chapter 11: Talk About Talk About God or Prolegomena to any Future Metaphysics
The author asks whether our common sense allows us to discuss God in the first place, and he demonstrates that in spite of a few extremists, it does indeed. Then he looks at the straightforward rules of language for talking about God or anyone else, and at what kind of verification is appropriate.

Chapter 12: God: Concepts and Images
Ross talks about God. He notes some aspects of reality that point towards God. He addresses a few questions about the nature of God before suggesting a few images that might help to communicate our understanding of God.

Chapter 13: Why Jesus of Nazareth?
The question of Jesusí authority is considered. Several reasons are put forth to support the choice of Jesus of Nazareth as our compass, but it is recognized that in the final analysis it is a question of values, of the heart.

Chapter 14: Reconstruction: Sin And Salvation
A look at some more traditional doctrinal themes to see if a positive reconstruction for their use today can be found. It is concluded that the continue our use of the concept of "sin" must be continued, but that the ideas of "original sin" and "salvation" are too tied up with an unchristian view of God and must be discarded.

Chapter 15: Reconstruction: Christian Myth
The author proposes the category of Christian Myth as a positive category for those aspects of the Christian story which exemplify or reinforce Christian values but which can no longer be taken as true. There is no reason for this to be seen as a negative classification. He looks at various aspects of the Jesus story to see what would qualify.

Having removed some of the lesser stumbling blocks of archaic doctrine, the greater stumbling block to living the way of Jesus of Nazareth as our compass is considered.

Chapter 16: The Stumbling Block: Living The Faith
Some of the themes of a Christian life are described briefly: self-acceptance; right relationship with God, self and others; and a balance between passion and perspective.

Chapter 17: Possessions and the Use of Money
What does it means to live faithfully specifically with reference to possessions and the use of money? Two alternative ways of living faithfully are explored: the radical response and the uncomfortable middle.

Chapter 18: The Economic System
The question of wealth in the consideration of economic systems is pursued. The conclusion is reached that neither in the capitalist systems nor in the socialist systems are the solutions to be found. Neither is in itself the problems nor the solution. The challenges confronting our own democratic capitalism is considered.

Chapter 19: A New Spirituality: The Sacred, Worship, Prayer, Work, The Church, and Where We Go From Here
A brief consideration of the new spirituality which we need to encompass the whole of life, along with a look at the sacred, worship, prayer, work, and the nature of the Church.


Appendix A: The Canon, the Christ and the Historical Jesus

Appendix B: Biblical Scholarship and the Resurrection: Did He or Didnít He?

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