in conversation with Tom Harpur
Here s an email exchange that s occurred between Tom Harpur and myself that some of you may find interesting. On August 19, 2006, I sent an email to Mr. Harpur to inform him of my blog entry concerning his book (click here to read it). I thought he might be interested, but never expected to hear back from him. But on August 20, 2006, he wrote me back:
Thank you for sending along your coments re. The Pagan Christ. I do believe these issues ought to be the forefront of religious discussion in Canada and elsewhere at this critical moment Significantly, the sources of Gnosticism--while there are several tributaries, ultimately flow from much earlier and in a veritable ocean from ancient Egyptian theology. The first Christina theologians were Gnostics and The Gospel of Thomas, for example, is now considered by many, including myself to have been collated much earlier than Mark. By the way, early in 2007 my new book on the Gospels, TURNING WATER INTO WINE--The Mystic Meaning of the Jesus Drama will be published by Thomas Allen. It is an allegorical exegesis of the 4 gospels.
Good to get to know you.
Then, on September 2, 2006, he sent me another email in response to someone s comment about Tom Harpur (click here to read it). Tom wrote:
I read the chat on your website re. my book, The Pagan Christ, with interest, especially the long quote from a former pupil of mine, Dr.Victor Shepherd. Shepherd was a very bright student all those years ago and I felt he had real promise. He now, I understand is a leading light in United Church evangelical circles. You and your followers must realize that this is going back 35 years or more. During the intervening time, I travelled the world for The Toronto Star (12 years) and produced thousands of Star columns and in all now 21 books, 10 of them bestsellers in Canada. One bestseller in Canada on religion is remarkable, ten is unheard of. But the point is this: as a thinking person why on earth would anyone hold the same opinions and views on such a complex subject as theology today as in 1969? They would, only if they had fudge for brains! What I believe today comes out of rich experience of the world, a lifetime of solid scholarship and study as well as much prayer and reflection. Certainly I have found a richer more intellectually and emotionally satisfying faith as a result than the dry and naive approach I once had. It also seems to make sense to many many hundreds of readers around the globe who have writtten to say thank you. Just thought you should know this. I respect Shepherd's stance today as I do yours. But, I could never go back to what once seemed engraved in stone and much holier than the position of just about everybody else!
I responded to Tom Harpur on September 5, 2006:
Dear Mr. Harpur:
Thanks for your email. I am thrilled to be in conversation with you and consider it quite an honor. I respect the intensity of your spiritual search and the exciting discoveries you ve so articulately shared with so many people through your prolific writing.
I want to comment on a couple of items in your email. First of all, I don t have followers . But I do have a few readers of my blog who represent a very wide range of opinions along the theological spectrum. I want you to be assured that even though I may have a theological position, I endeavor to hear and understand all people and allow them a voice on my blog. Secondly, I agree with the spirit of your response to the Shepherd quote. I think it would be unfair for me, let s say, if I disagreed ideologically with you, to blame it on your spiritual experience or lack thereof. It is dangerous to assume that you think the way you do because you were unwilling to continue to ask for and submit to a second touch from our Lord. It does smack of spiritual superiority. Thirdly, I also agree that spiritual maturity must include intellectual curiosity and growth. Deeper and broader understanding of truth must be desired and realized.
I would like to know if you would be willing to allow me to post this email exchange with you on my blog. I think it would be helpful and interesting to my readers, as well as to yours.
Blessings on you and your work as we all endeavor to understand and live the truth.
Later the same day, Tom Harpur responded to me:
I very much appreciate the spirit in which you have opened this dialogue about my book. Some of the "Christian" response has been one of rudeness and even insult---prompted clearly by deep fear. When one's beliefs--whatever they are--take first place over the truth the entire cause is lost, in my view. I wish more of my Christian brothers and sisters really felt that way too.
If you see any good, any value in posting our exchange please do so by all means. I should also alert you that a companion to The Pagan Christ is on its way. It's a radically new look at the Gospels in the light of my thesis that they are entirely an allegory--or rather a collection of allegories whose primary referrant is not a 2000-year old saviour figure but each of us, the journey of our soul, TODAY. It will be published in mid-February near the beginning of Lent, by Thomas Allen Publishing, Toronto.
I wish you and yours every blessing in the Spirit,
Thought you d like to see it. Comments?