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Farther, let your reading be continued and regular, not rambling and desultory.

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To taste of many things, without fixing upon any, shows a vitiated palate, and feeds the disease which makes it pleasing. Whatsoever book you begin, read therefore through in order: Not but that it will be of great service to read those passages over and over that more nearly concern yourself, and more closely affect your inclinations or practice; especially if you press them home to your soul by adding a particular examination of yourself upon each head.

Fourthly: Labour to work yourself up into a temper correspondent with what you read; for that reading is useless which only enlightens the understanding, without warming the affections. And therefore intersperse, here and there, earnest aspirations to God, for his heat as well as his light. Select also any remarkable sayings or advices, and treasure them up in your memory; and these you may either draw forth in time of need, as arrows from a quiver against temptation more especially against the solicitations to that sin which most easily besets you or make use of as incitements to any virtue, to humility, patience, or the love of God.

Conclude all with a short ejaculation to God, that he, without whom neither is he that planteth any thing nor he that watereth , would so bless the good seed sown in your heart, that it may bring forth fruit unto life eternal. Fred is a systematic theologian with an emphasis on the doctrine of the Trinity.

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He and his wife Susan have two children, Freddy and Phoebe. They are members of Grace Evangelical Free Church. SD: Would it be helpful if I review with you the major stages of faith or levels of consciousness? SD: The first stage we should consider is the Mythic stage. The Mythic stage is characterized by a strong patriarchal structure and focus on being a member of an exclusive group. If you are within the group you have to believe the group ideology.

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  • Everyone outside of the group is wrong. This is the tribal stage for the Jewish people described in The Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament. The strength of the Mythic stage is that those within the group learn how to care for and love other people in the group.

    What was so exceptional about the beginning of Christianity was that it cut across tribal cultures for the first time in human history.

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    A group identity developed with people of different tribal and ethnic backgrounds. You had pluralism within the group, but at the Mythic stage there is still attachment to the old tribal pattern of the group itself being exclusive. JW: Yes this exclusive in-group focus was true of the Old Testament Jewish culture and the Christian Catholic culture up to the time of the Reformation. SD: The next stage is the Enlightenment stage. The term Enlightenment is a term applied to the age in which we are living.

    It is exemplified by scientific thinking and discoveries during our time, such as Alessandro Volta devising the first chemical battery, as well as in the new political theory of democracy seen in the writings of Thomas Jefferson. Applied to individuals, the Enlightenment stage is the stage when individuals begin to rely on their own reasoning and inquiry into the meaning of their faith.

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    They withdraw their dependency on a group theology or a group text read literally. For many people when they first break out from Mythic stage group thinking into developing an individual understanding, this experience really does seem like Enlightenment. The shadow side of this stage is its ego self sufficiency.

    The ego understanding of what one believes seems like the only understanding possible. The shadow side of the Enlightenment stage is this reliance on ego self sufficiency will in the modern and post-modern cultures of the 20th and 21st centuries lead to devastating world wars and nihilism. JW: I have always been excited about the scientific discoveries of our time and convinced that science is simply showing us more deeply the extraordinary workings of our Creator.

    And the Enlightenment perspective is what helped me break free of the stale dogmatism of the Church of England. But please go on. SD: The next stage is the Egalitarian stage. And while we see great people of all eras have moved through all these stages, it will not be until the late 20th and early 21st centuries that we see the development of the Egalitarian perspective become widespread in first world countries around the globe.

    This perspective is what will allow a deep look at racism for the first time in human history.

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    This perspective is what will allow cultures to overcome rigid ideas about sexual identity and gender orientation. In the academy it is what will lead to the deconstruction of white, imperialist interpretations of history. The gift of this stage is its outlook of treating everyone equal.

    The shadow side of this stage is an indulgence in the idea that all beliefs are equal. The Egalitarian stage of consciousness in post modern culture has a shadow side that leads to moral ambivalence and in a paradoxical way a lack of real tolerance. That is you can only be tolerant of another faith, if you stand firmly in your own faith. JW: My experience is belief is only transformed when it is firmly held and tolerance only arises when one knows where one stands.

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    I understand what you are saying, please go on. SD: The next stage is the Integral stage. At the Integral stage one has learned to include the gifts of each of the preceding perspectives and transcend the limitations of those stages. At the Integral stage one has learned to include this deep experience of caring about others found in the Mythic stage. In the Integral perspective one has incorporated the importance of individual inquiry and exploration of faith guided by reason found in the Enlightenment stage. In the Integral stage one has also learned to incorporate the fundamental idea of the equality of everyone found in the Egalitarian stage.

    And as all the true and valuable ideas of the preceding stages have been incorporated, the limitations have been transcended. In other words, the exclusivity of the Mythic stage has been discarded, the ego self sufficiency of the Enlightenment stage has been discarded, the lack of any value being more important than another of the Egalitarian stage has been discarded in favor of what is valuable, what is true, good and beautiful.

    The experience of being transformed so that we experience being connected through our ground of Being with Christ in everything is the quintessential Christian experience of conversion or metanoia. He certainly had all the gifts of these early stages and had transcended their limitations.

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    And, of course, his level of consciousness was even higher—that is why we call him divine and human. JW: Tell me about this idea of structures of faith and how, if at all, they overlap with stages of faith. SD:What we see in the beginning of new, progressive Christian communities is that they develop a structure or capacity of inquiry into the meaning of faith.

    The early history of Methodism reflects this Enlightenment focus on new ideas and questioning and developing new understandings of the meaning of what is actually true and meaningful in Christian theology. JW: Yes, it has always been my hope that a renewal of faith would lead to people of faith working for social justice, which is in reality simply the expression in community of love as Jesus taught. May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? SD: The outpouring of social action by Methodism has indeed been impressive. Shall I go on to look at the second structure that evolves?

    SD: The second structure that evolves in Christian communities is a Social structure or the social capacity of the faith community. In a progressive community people still ask questions, but the focus of the community becomes the social fabric of the community, of creating social opportunities for people to get to know each other and like each other.

    This social structure within the faith community will become an important antidote to the anxiety and insecurity suffered later in postmodern society. JW: Yes, social support is so important. Jesus gathered his team of twelve friends before he ever began his ministry. SD: Often people who come to a progressive Christian community do so because they have become disenchanted with what seems like a superficial social, white middle-class culture of a mainline church, as occurred with you with the Church of England.

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    However, it is very easy for the mainline disenchanted to form a new community and unconsciously re-create a similar social belonging culture, which can end up being the same sort of static social fabric of the mainline church or even a social club or civic club. Though it thinks of itself as a new better version of church and can feel progressive for those who created it from the inside, from the outside it begins to look self satisfied, and maybe self-indulgent.

    If a progressive Christian community remains unaware of how it has become socially static, no longer actively reaching out into a wider community, then it will stop growing. JW: I have seen this happen with some Methodist churches that started off growing rapidly and now spend all their time, like my Church of England, trying to find someone to tune the organ and raising money to repair the roof. SD: The third structure or capacity that develops within a thriving faith community is a Faith structure. Within a faith community, over time, a group of people, maybe only two or three initially, emerge who wish to really deepen their faith.

    They want to live from their faith, rather than simply hold ideas about their faith. This group senses that there is something more than developing an intellectual understanding of faith, or learning to understand Scripture or belonging to a faith social group.

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    There is something deeper that they seek in their own faith journey and they look to their faith community to help them find a structure to assist them to grow further in their faith.